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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Students Missing School - Part 2: Alternate Assignments

Throughout my teaching career, I've had parents and guardians approach me to ask what their child can do when they have to miss a day (or more) of school. Here is the second part of a two part series on how I handle students missing school. You can read the first post here

I often assign the students a writing journal to complete during their vacation. I've had many parents thank me for this because it becomes a wonderful keepsake of the trip that the parents can treasure for years to come. Plus - several parents have told me it's MUCH easier to ask a child to write about something they just did and are excited about than to write about some boring "stuffy" school topic. I realize there may be an assignment they simply have to do to get all of the standards covered, but I have found journaling to be a suitable replacement for many of the days the child is gone.

Is it absolutely necessary for the child to read from the basal during the week/s they are gone? Many times I've asked the parent to ensure they take enough reading material with that the child is able to keep themselves busy reading. This also gives parents a great excuse to get their child to read for 20-30+ minutes of time while in the car/train/plane. With the technology available today, it's easy to get several books on an ipad or kindle in seconds! Even simply reading the road map, brochures for the next place you're visiting, or other vacation relevant materials can be a great change of pace! {Ask the student to keep a reading log if you're concerned about how much reading they will actually do. I've got a freebie here that you can use!}

Depending on the age of the student, even math can be done without being in the classroom. One mother and I worked out a deal where their son helped work out the finances of the entire trip. He kept track down to the penny of how much everything cost. Yes, he still had to do some of the school math work to ensure he wasn't behind his peers or missing important skills - but he gained a great deal from this new real-world experience that I can't replicate as well in the classroom. 

Mapping skills can be a great way to get some social studies in. Students can guide the family using maps, plot out the various ways to destinations before the trip even starts, or learn historical information to present to the class on their return. 

I've even seen students do science projects while absent from school. Sometimes they track various plants and animals they see on their trip. These can be presented to the class upon returning OR students can create some type of report or display. I've also seen students dissect seashells, mussels, and clams. Oftentimes, these dissections are videotaped or photographs are taken and then these are shared with the class. 

I'm sure you all have plenty of other great ideas for students who are going to be missing school. Feel free to share them in the comments below. Or - maybe you're against students being able to do alternate activities while gone. Why do you feel this way? I'd love to hear various professional opinions!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Students Missing School - Part 1 {Talking to the Student's Family}

Throughout my teaching career, I've had parents and guardians approach me to ask what their child can do when they have to miss a day (or more) of school. Here is the first part of a two part series on how I handle students missing school.

First, I ask parents - is this a legitimate reason to miss school? 

We all get sick, and that is understandable. However, if your child is home "sick" and you let them play video games and watch TV all day - maybe you shouldn't let those options be available to the "sick" child anymore. It's amazing how quickly I've seen students want to come back to school when being home sick is "soooo boring". (I'm not suggesting students come to school sick, but I've seen far too many students work the system to the point of truancy!) 

Does your family vacation HAVE to fall during the school year? Yes, there are times where a vacation may actually be more educational than sitting in school. Or maybe you simply can't take a vacation during the summer months due to work and other commitments. Teachers understand these things. Can you try to take your vacation over a longer holiday break/weekend? That way your child will not miss out on too much material. Depending on the time of year, we may be covering a LOT of new material!

Please let the teacher/s know ahead of time that your child will be gone! Giving us a heads up at the start of the school year that you plan to take a vacation in February is way early, but we like knowing you will be gone and for approximately how long. However, please don't expect us to have your child's work ready immediately. Yes, we do have a rough year long plan of what we will be covering, but it's nearly impossible to know exactly what lesson we will be on months in advance. Many teachers only formally schedule out a week in advance. Some may go as far as a month, but even those can change. Heck - plans can even change as the day goes by! Please understand this and realize that your child may have a bit of make up work to do when they get back even if you thought you got all of it ahead of time.

Make sure to check your school's make-up work policy. Some schools require students to have all work turned in before they leave (or earn a zero), while others may have a limit on how many non-medical days a student can miss in a given year. It's important to know these as a teacher and be able to pass this information along to the student's family.

This post is geared primarily to parents and guardians. However, be on the lookout for the next post suggesting ways to hande make up work for students.

If you have further ideas or suggestions to share with parents, please leave them in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Appreciating Others with a Tree of Thanks {Classroom, Staff, or School-Wide Activity!}

Yea, yea - I know...Halloween isn't even here yet, but I've got a Thanksgiving activity for you. Actually, this is a great activity to do the entire month of November! That's why I'm sharing it a little early. :)

I don't know about you, but I always love a good "thank you!" When I randomly receive a sincere word of thanks from another person, it can change my mood for the entire day! That's how this came to be...

Last year I wanted our staff to be able to show their appreciation for one another. I went into super-sneaky-stealth mode and put this little poster up in our Teachers' Lounge. :)

(I swear we did end up with more leaves than this!
I took a picture after the first day, but then I spaced
off taking one before I took the tree back down. Ooops!)

The tree was a huge hit! It was so fun to read the compliments from one staff member to another, and it was even better to literally feel morale increase!

I could see this working for an entire school like we did, but it would work just as well in your classroom! Why not let your students show their appreciation for one another?! Or maybe you have a "wing" in the school where the students could participate. The opportunities are really endless!

So - how can you get in on the fun you ask? Simply click here or on the picture below to download your free copy. The hardest part will be cutting out the leaves, but I promise it's worthwhile! ;)

Make sure you take a look at Freebie Friday over at Teaching Blog Addict. They've got some great freebies you may want to use!
{Just click here or on the picture below!}

I would love to do more school-wide activities like this one, but something different each month. Do you have an idea?
Please share it in the comments below!

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wong's New Book - Great Professional Read!

If you are anything like me, you love Harry K. Wong's book The First Days of School. Each summer I pour through this book again. Sometimes I read it from start to finish; other times I just touch on the area/s I felt I needed the most help with in the previous book. If you don't know this book, you really should check it out! 

{Is it bad that I actually own three copies of this book? I thought I misplaced one, so I had to get another. The third copy was a professional development book given to me by one school district. I lend them out to colleagues regularly, but I always want them back!}

Harry and Rosemary Wong have done it again! They have a new book entitled THE Classroom Management Book. Within two days of receiving this book in the mail, I knew I HAD to read it! {Sadly there are some professional books I receive that end up sitting on my shelf for far too long.}

This book is a great read from cover-to-cover OR as one where you go to the table of contents and flip to exactly what you are looking for. Topics included are Classroom Management Defined, Before the First Day of School, For the First Day of School, Procedures for Students, Procedures for the Classroom, Procedures for Instruction, Procedures for the Special Needs Classroom, Procedures for Teachers, and Plans for the First Days of School.

There are some really great ideas in this book, but there are also some that are simply teacher tested and approved. You need to check it out!

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What do I need to read next? I love adding to my "to read" list and occasionally finding one that I have to read right away!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Halloween Ideas I've Collected Through the Years

Not being in the classroom this year has definitely been different. Knowing there is a "bigger" holiday coming up that many teachers and students across the country will be celebrating has me feeling a bit out-of-sorts. While I love my new position, I miss these fun activities in the classroom! {Although I'm not sure I'm going to miss the headache that often comes at the end of some of these days! ;) }

Anyway, I was going through some old pictures and found some misc Halloween ideas I've done in the past - some academic, some just for fun. Please read on because I'm sure there's something you can use with your students K-6 or even your kiddos at home!

Create jack-o-lanterns! But don't let your students off too easy! Before they actually start carving, make them earn that fun activity. :)
  • Any age group can make a quick estimation of how many seeds will be in each pumpkin when they are all done.
  • Older students can then find the mean, median, mode, and range of these seeds after all pumpkins have been emptied out. 
  • Your youngest learners may benefit from counting all of the seeds - whether from one pumpkin or from many!
  • Paint or dye your pumpkin seeds and turn them into an art project!
  • Let your older students practice their cooking skills. You may even be able to try a few different recipes and vote which one is the favorite!
  • Use the seeds as bingo covers. What teacher doesn't have some random Bingo games around? {Really, you don't?! No problem, here's a link to all the FREE ones on TpT! :) }
  • Use the seeds to graph various data. Perhaps graph what each person's Halloween costume will be or their favorite Halloween animal or simply graph a basic, every day topic!
  • Plant a pumpkin seed so your students can watch a new pumpkin start its life!

Now that you've done one (or maybe many!) of these ideas, go have fun carving that pumpkin! (Check out this cookie cutter idea if carving sounds like a bit too much work!)

Another favorite activity of mine (particularly when I taught ELL students - although many students can use the fluency practice!) was Readers' Theater. Here's a few links to ones you may find worthwhile:

And not entirely Halloween related, but nonfiction fun! Frog or Toad?

How about a game of Halloween Concentration? Click on the version that seems most appropriate for your child or students.

Here's my Halloween FREEBIE that is in my TpT store! Click here or on the picture to get your copy. (With over 25,000 downloads - I'm pretty proud of this product!)

If that's not enough, click here to see all of my blog posts that have something to do with Halloween. (There are a LOT of great freebies from other bloggers!)

AND - make sure to check out my Halloween Pinterest board here. There are over 100 posts and I regularly add new items, especially now that the season is upon us. :)

If you have some great Halloween ideas or freebies to share, please include them in the comments below!

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Friday, October 3, 2014

"BOO" Your Colleagues This Halloween!

This October I decided to share a little holiday cheer around our school. I started this fun little "boo"ing activity! We only started it on October 1st, and I would guess that it has already reached at least 15 people in our building. I'm guessing that means people are enjoying it enough to pass it on to others pretty quickly! =)

Now let's be honest here. I did not make any of this fun; I simply put it all together and got this fun activity going in my school.

You can get the "I've Been Boo'd!!" printable for FREE here.

The little Pumpkin Poop printable can be downloaded for FREE here.

Thanks to Samantha Lawrence and Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies for the amazing printables that saved me so much time!

How do you spread a little fun around your workplace?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Random Websites for K-3

It's been awhile since I've posted a list of some of the awesome websites out there. I know there are a TON of them, but no one has the time to find all the good ones. Hopefully this list will help you find at least one new one!

From basic letter sounds to 3 and 4 syllable words, is a great, interactive website where students learn phonics! Plus it's totally free!

If you've been following teacher blogs for awhile, you have probably already heard of GoNoodle. It's a completely free website where your students get five minute brain breaks. Greg over at Kindergarten Smorgasboard brags GoNoodle up all.the.time! Seriously! :)

Finally, there's Intervention Central. This website has great, free resources to help teachers with students who need academic AND behavior interventions. Simply click on the heading you would like to explore, and then notice how each area is divided into further areas. Once you find a topic of interest, click on it to see a detailed lesson plan. The website talks a lot of RtI interventions, but you don't need to do a formal RtI program to find these plans useful!

Want to see some of the awesome websites I've shared in the past? 
Click here!

Have you heard the big news in my personal life? If not, go check it out here!

Thanks for looking!
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