Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Sports and Learning

Today is "Sports Day" at school, when you can wear your favorite sports clothing. The ONLY sport-type clothing I own are a handful of Iditarod t-shirts. When I taught second grade, I used the Iditarod dogsledding race to teach the kids many things, and they and their families had a great time and made lasting memories.

The Iditarod race takes place the beginning the first Saturday in March. We used to prepare weeks in advance. You can check out some of what we did here (although I haven't updated the site since I moved to fifth grade).

You can find out more about the Iditarod and how you can use it in your classroom here:

What I am thinking about today is how project-based learning is an effective way to get kids excited about learning and to actually learn. It takes a lot of prep work, but it is worth it. Past students AND their parents often reminisce with me about one of their favorite parts of second grade - The Iditarod. Some have continued to follow the race years after first learning about it in school.

Here is just a quick list of what the children learned through this exciting sport:

  • Reading (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Writing (fiction, journaling, informational, news stories)
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Time zones, 24-hour time
  • Maps, geography
  • Addition, subtraction
  • Statistics and probability
  • Singing, dancing
  • Northern lights
  • Water color painting
  • Technology - tracking mushers and dogs
  • Community service and volunteerism
  • American history
  • Current events
  • Point-of-view
  • Animal care
  • Alaskan culture
  • Marketing

I encourage everyone to take a look at this event and the great resources provided for educators on the Iditarod web site. And they have fun t-shirts!!


Friday, August 26, 2016

First Week 2016, and Beyond...

"A Fresh Page...A Fresh Start" by Kalyan Chakravarthy Licensed under a Creative Commons 
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC-BY2.0). Accessed 25 Aug. 2016. 

There were lots of great things happening during our first week of school. Teachers were feeling excited to work with students and families. Rooms were arranged to be appealing to the kids. It's always fun to reconnect with the building and district community. We also got to meet most of our new students at our annual Meet and Greet. The kids seemed excited to return to school. They enjoyed meeting up with peers and getting a first look at their new classroom and new teachers.

Obviously, that "new class feeling" doesn't last for the whole year as we get to know each other and get comfortable with our group. That's OK and normal. But how can we keep the year fresh and exciting even if it's not new? Here are some ideas:

  • Reserve some time during the year to try something new. Sometimes we get busy and fall back into the usual routine. Put in on your calendar now and lock it in. 
  • Plan to have your students take the lead in learning. Let them teach you and the class. 
  • Invite parents and other community members into school to share their knowledge and skills with the class. You might have scientists, artists, or chefs in your midst!
  • Inquiry - If you do not already engage in inquiry-based learning, do some research and find out how you can incorporate inquiry into your lessons. Even if you just start by trying one thing, your students and you will benefit.
  • Creative writing - "school writing" might be required, but don't leave out the creative writing, and give kids choices.
  • Reading - Read along with your students. Read lots and lots and have kids read lots and lots. And talk about it.
  • Go outside - There's so much to learn outside the classroom. Get out of that room!
  • Party Plans - A lot of schools have holiday parties. Many times the teachers and/or parents plan. Let the kids plan. As appropriate with age, give them a budget, available supplies, and time to meet. Make a food, decoration, and activity committee and let the kids work together to have the party they want. Have parents moderate the committee meetings and help the kids connect with all the parents for donations. The kids will learn great skills and have fun. 
  • Play music - in the morning, during the day, dismissal. Make some playlists that kids and you will enjoy. Also, it will help kids build memories - music sparks memory. When they are 50 and hear that song, they will think back to those great school days!

How do you keep the excitement going?