Consider Play Based Learning Activities in your Classroom

kids-with-crayonsToday’s elementary school students often start out in all-day kindergarten classrooms. As these same kids advance through grades 1 -5, they are often expected to shoulder homework plus extracurricular activities like sports or music lessons. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently aired “A Minute for Kids” radio series and advised that parents should try not to over-schedule their children’s days.

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Creating a Classroom Makers Space

craft-sticksHave you considered providing a makers space in your elementary classroom? These designated areas that allow kids to tinker with various materials have been popping up recently in libraries and schools. Think about giving it a try with your students; the makers space concept is a great way to provide the opportunity to experience hands-on, collaborative activities.

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Tips for Communicating with Parents

Classroom readyCongratulations! Your classroom is ready to welcome students and a new year is set to begin. You probably have a plan for your classroom management and hopefully the first few weeks of lesson plans are in the books. Once you have nailed down the student/curriculum side of your job, it’s time to pay attention to another key element of teaching in an elementary school: the parents.

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Consider Supporting your School’s Parent Teacher Organization

Kids at carnivalFamiliar elementary school hallmarks include colorful playgrounds with pint-sized equipment, cheerful artwork displayed on the walls and understanding teachers that patiently offer hugs and encouragement as well as grades. Another defining aspect of the elementary school experience is the existence of a parent teacher group. Whether your school has an active PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) or PTA (Parent Teacher Association and yes, there is a difference), you should think about lending your support whenever possible.

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Bringing the Field Trip Back to the Classroom

Prairie platformSpring is the season for field trips. Hopping on a bus bound for the museum or zoo can be a welcome change from working in a classroom all day. Field trips also present exciting ways for students to make connections between what they learn in class and what is happening out in the world.

But what if the field trip didn’t have to end once everyone arrived back at school? Consider this forward-thinking trend in field trips: Extending the learning opportunities by bringing the destination back to the classroom.

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Encourage Students to Fidget and Move

Playing in classroomA typical school year is 180 days long in the United States, and for many students, the elementary school day lasts between six and seven hours. The Pew Research Center estimates that an average 1st-grader receives a minimum of 943 hours of instruction during those 180 days. When considering all elementary students across grades K – 5, it’s safe to assume that the average number of instructional hours may increase or decrease depending on grade level. Still, 900 – 1000 hours seems like a lot and how on earth do students that are 5 to 10 years old manage to sit still for so long?

The answer is simple: they don’t. Children are often restless by nature and can find it very difficult to sit still for long periods of time. Observe any elementary school classroom and you will likely notice lots of fidgeting. For example, during journal writing time the kids pore over their notebooks while standing, swaying or even hopping. When watching students take a test, expect to see lots of shoes kicking and tapping the floor.

Kids need to be able to move around. Some experts think that movement helps improve focus, so allowing students to repeatedly lean back and forth in their chairs while reading or going over flashcards is possibly a good learning strategy. As a teacher, it is up to you to find creative ways to let your students fidget while not becoming disruptive.

Easier said than done, right? Consider the following ideas:

  1. Board game fun. When students play board games in groups, make a rule that players hop or do jumping jacks when their game pieces move. For instance, when a student rolls a 5, he or she moves the game piece and then does five real jumps.
  2. Your classroom probably already has centers scattered around the room. Allow the kids to visit the centers several times a day, even if sometimes it’s just for five minutes. Increased movement may create a decrease in disruptive behavior.
  3. Replace chairs with exercise balls. This practice can become a little distracting because of all the bouncing, so one option is to have the exercise balls available every other day. Another strategy is to use the exercise balls right after lunch a few days a week. Don’t use up all of your free time switching between the two options; have the kids help with moving the chairs and exercise balls (don’t worry–they can do it!).

There are numerous small ways to increase movement throughout the day and help keep kids calm and focused. Have your students get up from their seats and walk to a rug to hear a story. Periodically turn on some music for a one-minute dance party. Set up a basket in a far corner of the room that students will walk to and turn in work. Show the kids how to clean and organize the classroom at the end of the day.

Be willing to let your students move around during all those hours of instruction; there are many creative ways to allow purposeful, non-disruptive movement.

Teaching with Tablets

Kids with tabletsTablets in the classroom are a hot topic, and I’m not talking about pads of paper. iPads are the main points of discussion and more and more school districts are requiring that every student, even those in the elementary grades, have an iPad or other brand of tablet to use every day in the classroom.

Are you ready to use this technology in your instruction on a daily basis? Do you know which apps are appropriate? How can teachers control what is happening on each individual iPad?

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