I love finding new teaching resources or ideas, so thought I would share a few that I’m loving lately with you all!
First up: Attention Grabbers!
We all know how important classroom management is, right? During my time in my student teaching experiences and teaching now, I’ve had students fall off their chairs, wet their pants, use inappropriate language, and throw things across the room. When the unexpected happens, you need to have a routine to get your students back on track. In order to keep my students engaged but still on-task, I use a variety of attention grabbers throughout my lessons. If students are working independently and I want us to all come together again, or I need to give them a direction while they are still working, I simply choose from one of the following attention grabbers. They respond, and focus their attention on me, ready to listen. It’s a fun and easy way to gain students’ attention- I love the interactive piece here. Even if the students just have a short phrase to reply back to you, or if they clap so many times, they are still involved and are much more likely to turn their attention towards you, rather than you trying to talk over them (I’ve tried this… it never works!!)
Just a tip—> You want to make sure that you select only a few to interchange in the classroom. Your students will be overwhelmed and likely forget their role if you try to teach them all 20 attention grabbers that you found. Pick a few that you really like, depending on the students’ age level, and teach the students those select few at the beginning of the year so they know your expectations up front. The few that I’ve been consistently using with my 4th grade Guided Reading group are:
- Macaroni and Cheese (Everybody Freeze!)
- Ready to Rock?? (Ready to Roll!)
- Clap a certain number of times (students mimic your rhythm)
- If you can hear me, clap once, twice, etc. (continue until all students are quiet and ready)
These have worked really well so far this year and my students love them! When I was pre-student teaching in a 1st grade classroom, I always used “1,2,3, eyes on me!” Students would respond with “1,2, eyes on you!” I’m pretty sure that phrase became my motto for those 6 weeks. Another cute one I found that could work well with younger students: The teacher says- “Peanut butter” and the students respond with “Jelly time!” Because who doesn’t like peanut butter and jelly
Easy to make and easy to play, this game makes for the perfect way to review information with your students! I love this activity because it can be transferred across all curriculum areas. Use it to review math facts, vocabulary words, science content, etc. Begin by writing a single question on a card to start off the game- “Who has 2+2?” or “Who has a word that means to smile widely with happiness?” When this card is read, you should have another card with the answer on it (“I have 4. Who has…” and write another question to continue). Make as many cards as you want to, depending on the information that you want to review. For example, if I have 15 vocabulary words to review, I create 15 cards.
Here’s how it works: Give the starter card to one student, and distribute the rest of the cards evenly between all students. Let the student who has the starter card ask their question, the student with the correct answer will read their card, and then ask the new question they have on their card. Continue until all cards have been used! When I play this with my students, I mix up the cards so that students don’t read all of their cards at one time. I would much rather mix them up so that students have to pay attention the entire time to see if they need to read one of their cards, rather than just read their cards all at once and zone out for the rest of the game. My students always enjoy this activity and ask constantly if we can play it again!
I downloaded a free Bingo template from Google, printed and laminated cards (because you know you’re a teacher when…), and used Sharpie markers to write current vocabulary words on each square. The colors make it so much more appealing! I tried this activity with my students a few weeks ago as a fun way to review our vocabulary words, and they LOVED it. They asked me if we could play it for the entire class and skip reading our story (and they also asked the next 15 times we had class if we could start off with our game). This was such a fun activity to do with my students- I’m glad they liked it so much! Here’s how it worked: I would say a definition of one of our words, and the students had to think about what vocabulary word I was describing and look to see if they had that word on their Bingo board. It was a quick, yet simple way to assess whether my students remember the definitions of each word as they were searching on their board. It also let me know which words students knew right away, and which words we needed to review or practice again.
Frindle, by Andrew Clements, has been my chapter book of choice for my 5th grade guided reading group these past few weeks. Andrew Clements is one of my favorite children’s authors- his writing style is creative, yet easy to understand, and his stories are easily relatable to students’ lives, engaging them throughout the book. Frindle tells the story of a creative 5th grade student, Nicholas Allen, who can be a bit of a troublemaker and spends his days thinking of ideas to try in his classroom (like turning his 3rd grade classroom into a beach scene). All of Nick’s teachers so far have viewed his ideas as creative and imaginative- that is, until he arrives in 5th grade. Enter Mrs. Granger… his English teacher who isn’t about to let Nick get away with anything. Through a humorous series of events in her classroom, Nick begins to think about words and where they come from, eventually inventing his own word for pen: frindle. His friends and classmates quickly jump on board with Nick’s idea, much to Mrs. Granger’s dismay. Even though she assigns extra homework for Nick, makes him stay after school, and contacts his parents, he refuses to stop using his new word. And so the battle ensues between Mrs. Granger and Nick! Will Nick’s new word win over Mrs. Granger? Or will Nick grow tired of trying and move on? Read Frindle with your own students to find out! This story captures the attention of young students, inspiring them to follow their dreams and find creativity in everyday situations.
I also love the possibilities that exist with this book- students can work on using strategies throughout the book, such as identifying the main ideas, summarizing, or finding the problem, brainstorming possible solutions, then checking whether or not their predictions were right. Students can work in partners or groups to put themselves in Nick’s shoes and make up their own word for a classroom object (Borrowed this picture off Pinterest (as if I needed to tell you that) when I was looking for ideas to use with my reading group… there are so many wonderful resources out there!) They can make a poster to explain the word they created, or even make a poster to advertise Nick’s frindle.
Another skill that lends itself perfectly to this story: Comparing and Contrasting! Who doesn’t love a good Venn Diagram? Students can compare Mrs. Granger and Nick throughout the story- do their personalities change at all as the story continues? How are they alike by taking a stand for what they believe in? Frindle also provides an opportunity to ask thought-provoking questions to the students. I’ve been talking to my students about the difference between “Right There” and “Think and Search” questions. “Right There” questions are easy ones where the answer is directly stated in the text. However, “Think and Search” questions require you to put thought into your response; there may not be one “right” answer, instead the focus is on the thought process and deriving meaning from the information (not just reciting it back verbatim).
I have taught many of these skills (main idea, compare/contrast, etc) to my students earlier in the year, so I am loving being able to provide them with an opportunity to transfer these skills to another reading piece. I can asses their ability to use the skills both independently and with others as we work through the story together. My students have been engaged and excited about reading the entire time we’ve been working through this book. You know it must be a good book when all your students are arguing about who gets to read next
Lastly, this could also be a great opportunity for students to role play in the classroom! Students can take turns being different characters in the story, and interview each other. One student can play the role of the newspaper interviewer, and ask Nick questions, such as, “How did you decide to come up with this new word?” or “What direction do you see things heading in in the future?” This is not only a fun, engaging activity for students to do, giving them an opportunity to interact with the text, it also provides a quick opportunity for formative assessment as they are working. If students can answer questions about the story, this will show you to what extent they are comprehending the text.
These are just a few of the resources that I’m loving lately! What I’m not loving: MSA! I’m looking forward absolutely can’t wait for it to be over. I have been providing accommodations to students for the testing sessions, such as reading the test aloud or writing their responses, depending on the modifications listed in their IEP’s. Since all students have been taking MSA, I haven’t worked with my guided reading students the last two weeks, or had my typical schedule each day. I miss seeing my students each day and working with them… I am looking forward to when things go back to normal next week!
Question of the Day
- What teaching ideas have you used lately?
- Where are your favorite places to find teaching resources?
Feel free to share your ideas with us! After all, teaching is all about sharing with one another, not reinventing the wheel.