Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Don't Sit Down, Don't Sit Still!

Can you feel it in the air?  It is starting to happen all across America.  It turns once eager and attentive students into distracted, squirming, little lumps almost completely resistant to learning.  Of course, I am speaking of "Endoftheyear-itis".  At present, it is only a whisper at my school.  But, soon enough, we will begin to feel its full force.

This is the time of the year where teachers have to be more creative than ever.  Put on your tap shoes, people! Trying to gain and keep students' attention can be more challenging than ever.  So, I thought I would share a couple of things that I do in my classroom to keep students interested and moving.  A sort of "Survival Plan for Teachers".  I would love to hear what you do in your classroom, as well.  So please, leave your ideas in the comment section at the end of this post!

My absolute favorite go-to strategy, is taking any lesson and adding an opportunity for students to get up and move around the room.  I use Kagan's Cooperative Learning structure "Mix-Pair-Share" A  LOT!  If you are not familiar with this, here are the steps:

1)  Lay all the groundwork for this activity.  Mine are:  Walk at all times, don't stick with friends,  and you can only pair with the same person once.

2)  Tell students to "Mix":  This simply means that students begin walking around the room.  (You can also use music to indicate that it is mixing time.)

3)  Tell students to "Pair":  Students freeze and pair up with the person closest to them.

4)  Finally, have students "Share":  Students take turns as both a listener and speaker.

I use this simple structure to have students respond to questions or prompts about a lesson, share their writing pieces, and find fluency buddies.  

Here is a free graphic to take with you.

Also, we use it daily for something I call "5 Listeners".  This is where I type up a reading list of words that contain whatever spelling pattern we are working on, for example, the -th digraph.  Over the week, students add other words from their reading to their lists.  Everyday, we use Mix-Pair-Share to allow students to practice reading these words out loud with the support of a partner.  Their partner then signs their paper.  They may only have a person sign their paper once each week.  My students love doing this simple activity!

I love Mix-Pair-Share as a teacher, because all my students are busy and engaged at the same time.  That frees me up to listen in on the conversations that my students are having, and provide individual feedback. 

Another thing I like to do in my classroom is create Matching Games.  I just type up  cards where students must find their matching partner.  I've used this for vocabulary words and definitions, coin combinations that equal the same amount,  synonyms, antonyms, and compound words.  The possibilities are virtually endless. 

The activity, itself, is similar to to the one I described above, except that students must keep mixing until they find their partner.  Once again, big hit in my classroom.  You can find Coin Matching cards in my TPT unit, Counting Coins Made Easy with Differentiated Materials.   I have them with, and without,  the "Magic Money" system.  Click on the images below for more information on these cards, or the Magic Money system, that I have been using to teach coins for the last 9 years. 

My kids are also so completely engaged by poems, singing, and chanting at this time of the year.  I have several chants in this money unit.

I also have two other math units that allow students to practice what they've learned, but in a way that allows them to burn all of that energy.  If you have never used an "Around the Room" activity, you and your students will be hooked.  Click on the images to learn more.  You can read the entire post HERE.

Once again, I would love to hear what you do in your classroom, as well.  Please leave me a comment below.

If you are still looking for more ideas, Minds in Bloom has a "Kids Moving" link-up that you can check out HERE.

Have a great week,

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