I’m not going to try and lie for a minute: I sat under my desk and took a couple deep breathes this week. I came back to school fully recharged, happy, and excited… but totally out of teacher mode. I slightly was eaten alive by my novel study group on Friday and realized I needed to ask them which activities we have done that made them feel successful and they enjoyed doing. They made a great list and helped me reground myself in instruction and behavior management after a long week and a relaxing break. At the end of our conversation one of my students asked, “are you actually going to do the things we like to do?” I told them I wanted to honor their preferences.First and foremost, they are what’s most important to me and secondly is their learning. If I am listening to them and doing activities that they like, while they learn, I am doing what’s important for us. After all, I planned for the actives at some point in our time together 🙂 Instead of sharing how to dress each outfit up and down, I’m going to share my students “top 4” learning activities they would like us to do more.
Shaving Cream Spelling
Every single one of my students ranked shaving cream spelling as their favorite activity. Now that I’m reflecting, they ask to do this all the time and I never make time for it. That’s going to change. If you haven’t done shaving cream spelling, it’s actually amazing. Research advocates for multi-sensory stimulation when learning and this does the trick! Before we dive right in, I explicitly teach them the expectations: you will have a tennis ball sized glob of shaving cream. spread it into a thick and square layer. use your pointer finger to write the words. we will check. gently erase & repeat. if you rub it in too hard, it will absorb into the desks… meaning you won’t have enough shaving cream to play with at the end. after the 10 words, whatever shaving cream you have left you can play with for 3 minutes. I will not give you any more than the tennis ball size.
I have never had a student fail to earn the 3 minutes of “play” time at the end. This is going to be our new Monday routine– learning our spelling patterns in shaving cream. Behaviorally speaking, this is also giving them a sense of control, the feeling of being heard and valued, and continuing to build and strengthen their sense of belonging and community within our classroom.
I was actually surprised by this request. One of my reluctant writers said his favorite thing we do is when I use to put a picture on the board and let them write about it. I haven’t even done that this year… This was something I did when they were in 4th grade. I will put a visual on the smartboard with 2 sentence starters and a word bank, and give them 5 minutes to write as much as they could. If they ask for more time, I would give them a max of 2 minutes. During any groups, if some students finished another assignment early, I would give them the option to continue their creative writing. I will usually find pictures from pinterest or google that are culturally relevant, incredibly weird, or represent humor. I will be starting this next week and am trying to decide to do a writing journal notebook or a weekly journal print out sheet. Thoughts? 🙂
White board review
For a while, I was very intentional about using white boards for warm-ups. Another student favorite. Almost all of my students ranked this in their top 5 and shared how it makes them feel like teachers. They either totally know the way to my heart or they totally know the way to my heart. For spelling I would (it hurts my heart that I have to say would… but we WILL be doing this next week) say a multisyllabic word aloud and then write on my white board how many letters are in it. As they are trying to fill in the letters (building academic resiliency and stamina), I will slowly flll in the blanks with tricky vowel combinations or letter patterns. I usually give them about 90 seconds per word and then we share and show. Sometimes we will turn it into a competition but that depends on the overall energy of my group. —> click for the white board set I use
(click pictures above)
I’m realizing that sometimes I get so wrapped up in life and everything outside of my groups that I’m failing to include the activities that I love and they love. Spelling ball is something me and our P.E teacher developed in a conversation and it’s so much fun. The rules: all students in a circle – one person says a spelling word & starts with the first letter – each toss is the next letter – until the word is complete. If a student says the wrong letter, the class can help and then they repeat the letters to that point. If a student doesn’t catch the ball, they have to run to the white board and independently write the word, and the rest of the circle finishes the speed spelling version. There are always so many laughs and excitement when we play this game… I’m hoping to play it every Thursday 🙂 —> click for the ball we use
I’m so excited to write students choice: in my lesson planner to make sure I’m including 1 of the 20 activities that they expressed they enjoyed doing. I need to make time for the learning activities that they find purpose and engagement in. I have a feeling that will cut down the time I have to redirect them or ditch my entire lesson to go into a social-emotional lesson. Although this last week was pure exhaustion, 14 hour work days, constant problem solving, moments of frustration, and challenges– I ended my day with reflection and a plan.
If you were still on winter break and are going back on Monday– you totally got this! Try to plan one activity that you know your students love and I think that will smooth out the transition. If you barely survived last week like me, dance to some Nelly and plan an activity that your students love 🙂
What is your students favorite learning activity? Let’s build each others toolkits!