Friendsgiving!

Right before Thanksgiving break last year, our 3rd grade students created and ran our first ever Friendsgiving! With a little guidance and scaffolding, they created invites, researched meal ideas, came up with a 4 course meal plan, manipulated recipes by doubling or even tripling them, cooked the food, made menus or ordering cards, created decorations, cleaned the cafeteria, and served the guests.

It was a huge success!

Being in a small community and considering most people still had to work, we were shocked at having a turnout of around 60 people!

This also created an opportunity for them to talk to family and community members about our Toy Drive PBL that was coming up. They had donation boxes at each table ready for those willing to donate for the cause. They were very persuasive and were able to get almost half of our donations for the Toy Drive by this event alone!

It was a wonderful day and really reminded me how truly grateful I am for my school, my students, my admin, and my amazing co-teacher (@luaus_and_learning).

Engaging way to Teach Vocabulary!

I should start off my saying that this is really an engaging way to have your STUDENTS teach vocabulary!

I used this strategy almost weekly for introducing new vocabulary to my students in 3rd grade. Our school uses the Journey’s curriculum for ELA, so my vocabulary words came mostly from there!

After introducing the new vocabulary words for ELA, my students are broken into groups to reteach two of the new words. They can do so however they choose (within reason, of course).

Some of the favorite ways included:

  • Modeling the word using play doh or other art mediums
  • Creating a Skit
  • Creating a mini-lesson to teach
  • Creating a short video (usual on Seesaw)

They LOVED doing this and it’s a really great way to grow those soft skills. While doing this activity they were working on:

1. Collaboration

2. Creativity

3. Communication and public speaking

4. Applying the new vocabulary words beyond the context of the book

It’s a great way to practice and engage students with their new vocabulary words!

Top *FREE* Motivators I use in my Classroom

Classroom EconomyOne of my favorite motivators is my classroom is Classroom Economy! You can grab all of the materials needed for this on their website! Basically, you are creating a micro society in your classroom by having students apply for jobs that help to make YOUR day easier! By doing their “jobs” they receive fake money that they can use during a monthly auction (you can do it as frequently as you would like). On the flip side, they receive “fines” of not following expectation and lose money. You can also have them “pay” to rent their desk areas or other materials in the classroom. For the auction, you can have parents send in knick knacks for the kids to bid on, you can purchase items yourself, or you can sell coupons. The coupons can simply be a no homework pass, no shoes for the day, lunch with a teacher, etc. My students LOVE auction day and take so much pride in their jobs! Another great part of this whole program is that the students can run it themselves, leaving you will less on your plate as a teacher! WIN -WIN!

Another strategy I use in my classroom is a wheel! One of my students actually helped me come up with this idea and I think it is genius! Basically, I set an amount of “points” the students needed to earn in order to spin the magical wheel! This is basically like the show Who’s Line is it Anyway because the number of points really doesn’t matter! For the sake of this post, let’s say I tell me students they need to earn 10 points and they we will spin the wheel. Every time the students are going above and beyond, I will add a tally mark to the board. Once they hit 10 points, it is time to spin! I use a wheel I created for this (found for free here) and a pencil and paperclip. I laminate this wheel or put it in a sheet protector. Then I use expo to write their potential prizes they can receive for spinning the wheel. Some FREE examples are: lunch in the classroom, Kahoot, extra recess, GoNoddle, board games, technology time, movie or clip, dance party, reading with flashlights, no homework, PJ day, etc. I use the pencil to hold the paperclip in place and then flick the paperclip. Whatever the paperclip lands on is their prize! Super simple, yet super effective! You can also set this up in a lot of different ways. You could have the magically wheel be spun after the students receive so many positive sub reports, or if they met a class wide goal. The possibilities are endless – have fun with this!

  • Secret Story

Okay, this one I have done with so many different ages, and at first, I did think it was a fluke, but it continued to work! In the morning, or before a lesson, I would the students I have a really funny story or picture about me or my family to share with them, if we have time. The story would usually me something silly I did in my past, or something funny my husband did, or even better, a story about my dog. The students LOVE hearing stories about my life, especially funny ones. So, they work hard, and by this, I mean they really HUSTLE to get their work done in order to have time to hear my story. When a student gets off task, I (or another student) usually reminds them that we are trying to stay on task to make time for the story. It literally works like a charm!

One example is, I told my students I would show them a picture of my hair when I blow dry it (it gets really huge and frizzy). They wanted to see this picture SO bad that I didn’t have to reinforce any behaviors for the whole day! Another picture example is when my husband went to China for work and had a picture of their toilets built into the floor. Obviously, since it had toilets in it, I knew the students would flip for it! That morning, I just shared that my husband had a really funny picture from China that he took just for them, as long as we get all of our work done today! Again, they KILLED it!

Some other big hits were about when I fried my hair when I was trying to go blonde, when my husband slept walked, when my dog broke out of our yard, etc. Basically, anything embarrassing, they LOVE! The best part about all of this is that I build an even stronger relationship with all of my students! They get to know me on a more personal level, and they also learn that everyone (even their amazing teacher ;)) makes mistakes and has embarrassing moments. I also like to add how I persevered in the story, or how I realized it didn’t matter what other people thought, etc. Another little tip about this one, make sure to really get into when you’re telling the story. Obviously tell a real story, but make sure to bring the drama, they love the suspense!  

Gold Stars

Alright, this is another tactic that seemed to be a fluke at first, but turned out to really work well! The power of FAKE gold stars (cue magical music). So how this works is that I will give “Gold Stars” to student who go above and beyond! Example: a student helps clean up their friend’s lunch tray, “20 gold stars to Ben for helping clean up!”. Okay, I know this sounds like nothing, but they eat it up! I have tried it with kids from pre-k to 4th grade, and again, it always works! The kids also keep mental notes of how many “gold stars” they can get! I will also say things like “100 gold stars to whoever can find my bluetooth remote!”. Again, they all go crazy for this. No, I do not give out anything tangible for the gold stars, but the kids still love getting them! You definitely need to sell this one with enthusiasm and act like gold stars are the bee’s knees for it to work. If you try this and find it successful, please let me know! I want proof that this isn’t just a fluke! 🙂

I hope you find these trips and tricks helpful! Again, at the forefront of all of this is taking the time to build positive and supportive relationships with students. They will always act, respond, behave in a much better way if they know they are cared for. All of these also work best with a huge amount of enthusiasm and positivity. If you are excited about it, I guarantee you can make them excited as well! Good luck and keep rocking the education world!