Tag Archives: teaching

Team Building In The Classroom Part 2

25 Mar

HUMAN BINGO

This is a great game for when a group of kids gets together for the first time. We used it during the first week of school so that the students could get a little more comfortable around each other. Each student gets a sheet and a pen, and then has a designated amount of time to get BINGO on their card (You can change the rules to suit your needs and your time restraints, ie. first one to complete a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal row, first one to fill in the entire sheet, or the person who gets the most filled in within the time limit.) The hardest part about this game is making the Bingo sheets, and luckily for you, I’ve already done it for you!! There are 5 different sheets, each one with different questions so that no one can just copy off of someone else. Feel free to change the squares to suit your kids!

Bingo Sheet 1
Bingo Sheet 2
Bingo Sheet 3
Bingo Sheet 4
Bingo Sheet 5

NOSE JOUSTING

An activity that forces participants to be ok with feeling a little silly.

Everyone gets a strip of masking tape approximately 3 inches long. Everyone rolls their tape into a loop, sticky side out (like if you were putting it on the back of a piece of paper to hang up) and sticks it on their nose. When the teacher says “Go!” everyone begins “jousting.” To nose joust is to touch the tip of your nose to another’s, and see who’s tape “grabs” the tape off of the other persons nose. The student who loses their tape in battle places their hands on the shoulders of the winner and creates a train behind them (preferably chanting the name of the winner.) The winner then battles another winner, and whoever loses also joins on the train. The jousting continues until only 2 people remain with huge balls of tape on their nose. They compete in the final joust. This game is fast-paced, as it starts out with many jousts occurring at the same time, and is exciting because as more people join the chain, the chanting gets louder and the anticipation builds. It’s also great because “losers” immediately become part of a potentially winning team.

ALPHABET HANDS AND FEET

Divide students up into teams of five. They will need to play this game with bare feet. Groups can play against each other, or the clock. Use a felt tip (washable) marker and write 3 letters on each student: one on each hand, and one on one foot. Use these letters:

1. TDO
2. HYI
3. EHR
4. BFT
5. OCS

As you call out words from the list below, the group has to spell out the word using their hands and feet. The words must be shown to the teacher, or to another student you designate as a judge.

rest, fist, dice, trot, crib, boot, rich, host, shoot, first, drift, shirt, roost, shred, hired, forest, theory, bitter, bother, frosty, boiled, strict, thirsty, ostrich, october, boosted, shifted, hoisted, stitched

Happy team building, let me know how it goes!

My Favorite Student Stole My Wallet

23 Mar

A few years ago, my wallet got stolen at school. I can make a long story short, and briefly tell you what happened. Instead of locking my purse away in a cabinet as usual, I stored it in a desk drawer that day because I had forgotten my keys at home. During class, my cell phone could be heard ringing in the drawer, indicating that I had my valuables in there. So, unbeknownst to me, a student helped himself. Opened the drawer, opened my purse, and took my wallet. Left my phone, left my camera, just took my wallet. In my wallet was eight dollars, my license, my debit card, and my social security card (I know Mom, I’m not supposed to carry that with me. Lesson learned the hard way.) After discovering the theft, I quickly reported it to my principal, the police, and the credit card company, which informed me that $40 had been charged at a gas station around the corner. The wallet was already out of the school, passed from one student to another. An officer came to the school, and together we spoke to each student who was in my classroom. He told them that there was a surveillance tape at the gas station that they were in the process of reviewing (not true,) and what the consequences were if the person didn’t come clean. I told them that I didn’t care about the eight dollars, they could keep the cash, and I just wanted my cards back due to the hassle of replacing them. I advised the kids to get it back, and anonymously drop the wallet somewhere where it could be found, and no charges would be pressed.

Amazingly, they did exactly what I asked. The next morning, my wallet and all of its contents (minus the eight dollars) were on a table in the library. The $40 charge was taken off of my credit card, and the incident was forgotten.

Over the course of the next few days, word traveled through the grapevine that one of my favorite students was the culprit. (For as much as my kids talk about not “snitching,” they unknowingly snitch on each other all the time.) Because of the relationship I had with this particular student, I was overwhelmed with conflicting emotions regarding the incident. My first reaction was “How could he do this to me? To me, of all people!!” My second reaction was, “Well, it was my own fault. If I had locked my purse up like I was supposed to, the temptation wouldn’t have been there.” Teachers at my school talk all the time about how our kids just can’t help themselves, they have been brought up by the street and will do what they need to do to get by. And as much as I understand that, the feeling of betrayal still stays with me, almost three years later. At what point should everything I’ve done for that kid outweigh eight dollars? Clearly, I thought we were there. And clearly, he did not. And that hurt.

This kind of thing happens all the time. Another teacher’s purse got stolen, and we matched up a muddy footprint to find the thief. My kids steal from teachers, other students, anyone. I’ve heard stories about a kid who broke into his best friend’s mother’s house and stole from her. What’s going on here? Are there no boundaries? If I went to one of my kids and told them that a stranger robbed me on the street, they would stand up and yell “Oh no they didn’t! Not from Mrs. M!” And it would be all I could do to keep them from going after the guy themselves. They would hate that I had been treated so disrespectfully. So why is it ok to do it themselves? The hardest part was the way the kids were so angry with me for calling the police. They were angry with me. Visibly so. Very obviously so. I seriously considered talking with them and trying to rationalize my actions, and then realized I didn’t owe them an explanation for doing what was right.

So, I’ll ask again. What’s going on here? What would you have done if this happened to you, because I still have a hard time wrapping my head around it.

Going Back To Our Future

22 Mar

There are all kinds of online tests to determine if you are right or left brained. Here is an interesting one that also gives recommendations on how to strengthen your weak hemisphere, and well as offers studying tips for how you learn best. While this is useful information to use with your students, it is also inspiration for a different kind of “left-brain” and “right-brain” comparison.

Who we are is greatly dependent on our past experiences. Our entire lives, leading up until right now, have influenced us and make us completely different than our neighbors, friends, and even family members. Our experiences are stored in our memories and affect future decisions and emotional responses. I like to call this our “Past Brain.”

On the other hand, we also have our “Future Brain.” That’s the side of us that has hopes, dreams, and goals. That’s the side of our brain that, though guided by our past brain, still has the freedom to plan out the next step. The half that allows us to try new things because it has no reference from the past brain telling it that it might be a bad idea. The two halves go hand in hand, and certainly influence each other, but while one might be filled with regrets the other has the ability to live freely.

So I asked my students to consider their past and future selves, and to brainstorm what makes up each side. Most of them, especially with some prompting, were able to list at least a few things that had great influence on them (both good and bad.) The future side was surprisingly more difficult, especially when I pressed them to try to be positive. Most of them saw little difference in where they had come from vs. where they were going. They clearly assumed that the rest of their lives, no matter how long or short, were going to continue on the same path that had gotten them in trouble and landed them there with me. That was saddening to me, especially since it was relatively easy for me to fill up my future side with new ideas and expectations. We ended up having a heart to heart about how YOU make your future, and only YOU can make it different from your past. Once they started allowing their future brains to separate from their past brains, they began to dream. And hope. And imagine things that their past brains believed only happened to other people.

Get the full lesson plan here!!
Get the brainstorming sheet here!!

Teachers Wear Masks…Remember “Miss Nelson Is Missing”???

17 Mar


Everyone has professional development days. Those days where every school in the state has professional development, and while the kids yell “We have no school on Tuesday!!” the teachers groan and mutter to each other that this professional development better be more interesting than the last one, where we learned about a great online curriculum…except our classrooms don’t have computers. See, unfortunately, because our school is not a public school, we’re usually left out in the cold when it comes to professional development. Usually, the principal tries to bring in someone interesting, and if no one is available, we come up with something “important” ourselves, which usually turns into a complaint session with no solutions. After sitting through countless numbers of these sessions, I asked the principal if I could have a few hours during the next session to do a little art lesson with the teachers. I explained that it would be a good way to get everyone to open up a little, have fun, and at the same time see how art (and the art teacher!) can be used for so much more than making pretty bulletin boards.

So I prepared a mask lesson that would require each teacher to make an animal mask embodying characteristics that also applied to themselves. I wheeled out a cart that was loaded with supplies, and after completing a short brainstorm session, everybody got to work. It was really enlightening to teach my co-workers, and even more so to see how clearly their personalities and styles came out in their mask. One teacher finished in about ten minutes, even though he knew he had 45. He quickly cut, added some pipe cleaner whiskers, and called it a fox. At the other end of the spectrum, another teacher used every material available in every possible color, and created the most imaginative, beautiful creature that never existed. If anyone was paying attention, it was utterly obvious through the expression of these masks what it would be like to sit in each teacher’s classroom for a day and be taught by them.

The best part of the activity was the wrap-up. I had everyone view each mask, and write on a piece of paper adjectives and descriptive phrases that they felt it conveyed. When everyone read the descriptions of their own mask, they were surprised how other people’s interpretations were different than what they originally intended to express. What does this say about the messages they’re sending to their students without even knowing it? They say teachers have to wear many different hats, but I think it might be the “masks” that we wear when we’re teaching that have the biggest effect on our students.

Get the full lesson plan here!!
Get the worksheet here!!

There’s a Wocket in My Pocket

16 Mar

I was a pretty imaginative kid. When shopping with my mom, I pretended everything I touched I got to keep; as though there was a storage unit somewhere being filled up, and my fingertips were my price gun. I imagined that the swing set in my backyard was a rocket ship that could transport me anywhere in the world. I imagined that my breakfast cereal was alive. Each little Cheerio was a teeny tiny being that couldn’t swim…but as long as there were enough banana-rafts to go around, they would all be OK. Sometimes my imagination would get carried away. And sometimes, when I look at my elementary kids, I wonder where their imaginations have gone.

I have to be careful when I assign projects to the little ones. If they hear each others’ ideas, or if they catch a glimpse of another’s paper, they end up all making the same thing. Everyone’s robot will have laser eyes. Everyone’s dream house will have a gold roof and a front door made of chocolate. Not that these aren’t very imaginative ideas, but it’s like there is only room for one idea in their little heads, and once it gets in there, they can’t come up with their own.

That’s why I love the book “There’s a Wocket in My Pocket” by Dr. Seuss. The little boy in the story imagines that there are creatures all over his house, and they are constantly doing crazy things. I read this book to my kids, and then had them create their own Wocket. For the first time, I didn’t have to encourage them to be more imaginative. They did it on their own! By giving them colored scraps of paper and little other instruction, they were able to create the most amazing, unique creatures. Plus, I think they just like saying “Wocket.”

Get the full lesson plan here!

If the World Was a Village…

15 Mar

Many of you have probably seen the “If the World Was a Village of 100 People” statistics. I’ve always found them very interesting, and they really put things in perspective in a straightforward way. Plus, my kids could always use an eye-opening lesson in acceptance and appreciation. So I made a bulletin board. If I do say so myself, it is one of the best bulletin boards I’ve ever made. All of the pieces are hand-made from decorative paper. It was the longest lasting bulletin board in the history of my school, a place where things get ripped off the walls on a day-to-day basis. If you have the time, I highly recommend using this as inspiration for a board of your own.

The Single Most Important Tool a Teacher Can Have

12 Mar

My college roommate took an education course for which the professor had one main objective: that each student in her class would not pass until they had made a yarnball. She hailed the yarnball as the single most important tool a teacher could have. My roommate, who was not very crafty and even less coordinated, claimed the professor was crazy and cursed her throughout the entire process. She looked like a kitten in a yarn store, tangled in a wooly web for days on end. I haven’t talked to my old roommate in years, but if I did I would tell her how right her professor was. I love my yarnball.

I use my yarnball for all sorts of things. Sometimes I do team building exercises with the kids at the beginning of class, and the yarnball is the perfect tool. When I’m calling on students for answers, I’ll toss them the yarnball. They’ll know it’s their turn, and then they’ll toss it to the next person. Sometimes we use it just for fun, for Silent Ball or other games. Sometimes I use it as a reward, if a student is doing really well and wants to hang on to the yarnball for the period. I’ve even tossed it at a kid when I knew he wasn’t paying attention…

Make a yarnball. You’ll figure out how to use it. Here’s the instructions.
**Your yarnball will come out the best if you COMPLETELY FILL the center hole with yarn…don’t just do a layer or two.