Things have changed A LOT in the last few weeks and everyone’s norm is looking very different to usual.
One of the biggest changes for many families is children not being able to go to school. This is causing some stress and anxiety for parents as we don’t yet know what the rest of the school year will look like.
Many children thrive off routine and habit, and therefore some may struggle to be thrown out of their normal school day routine. It can also be difficult to keep our children’s brains active whilst they are out of the classroom.
I’ve compiled a list of 10 activities and games that I use in my classroom to warm up the students’ brains, and they can all be done at home!
#1 - Bulls and Cows
This game is based on Mastermind but with numbers instead of colours. Person A writes down a secret number and Person B has to guess what it is. After each guess, Person A marks the bulls and cows to help Person B with their next guess. The aim is to get to the correct number in as few guesses as possible.
B for Bull - means the right number, in the right spot
C for Cow - means the right number, in the wrong spot
Dash (-) means that number isn’t in it.
You can make this game as easy or as hard as you like. In Grade 5, we usually do 4 or 5 digit numbers.
#2 - Guess the Missing Number
Have two people stand facing away from each other. Give each person a card with a number on it (they can’t see each other’s). Multiply both numbers together and yell out this number. The players need to use this to guess the other person’s number. The winner is the first person to guess their opponent’s number.
#3 - Higher or Lower
Choose a number based on the age of your children. Give them two numbers that your magic number is between e.g. if your number is 175, you could say “my number is between 100 and 200”. If your number is 12 850, you could say “my number is between 12 000 and 13 000. Two players take it in turns to guess your number and you can only reply with “higher” or “lower”.
#4 - Greedy Pigs
My students LOVE playing this one during Maths Groups. Best played in pairs, children have two dice. They roll the dice and add the two together. They can have up to five rolls before their turn ends. Children add up their total and record it. The aim of the game is to be the first to reach 100. However, if a player rolls doubles during a turn, their score for that round is zero. Therefore you don’t HAVE to use all five rolls, you can lock in a score at any time during that turn.
#5 - Make the Biggest Number
You will need the dice for this one. Children take it in turns to roll one dice. They must then choose which place value column to lock in that number. Once a number is locked in it cannot be changed. Continue playing until all columns are filled. The aim can be to create either the largest or smallest number. To make this one trickier for older children, introduce decimal numbers with tenths, hundredths etc.
#6 - All About Me
Children draw themselves in the middle of the page. All around their drawing, they need to write down numbers that relate to themselves in some way, as well as equations to equal those numbers. These could include house number, shoe size, age, number of siblings, year they were born etc. So an example could be: Year I was born: 1000 x 2 + 12 = 2012
I hope you find these useful!
~ The Aussie Teacher Mum ~
About 18 months ago, a friend suggested that I start a gratitude journal. She didn’t do this for any other reason exceptthat she herself had started keeping one, and it had made a huge difference to her life, her job and just her perspective in general.
To really give it a good go, I decided to set myself a challenge. I wrote down (over a few weeks) 100 things that I am grateful for. It may sound like A LOT, but it’s incredible how easy it is once you step into a place of gratitude.
I felt calmer and happier about going to work, I felt more content in my relationships and friendships, and most importantly I felt really happy in myself.
Being a school teacher, I instantly thought of the positive impact that this could have on the lives of students.
When asked what they are grateful for, students of this generation have a tendency to focus on material possessions, such as their video games or new basketball shoes. In order to have students go a little deeper, gratitude needs to be explicitly modelled.
To do this, I always recommend starting off with a class gratitude journal. Each morning, write down 5 things that you, as a class, are grateful for. This is where you have the power to model the kinds of things we can think about. Each thing should have the power to promote a bit of a discussion too.
Here are just five examples:
Continue the class journal for a week or two, until you are confident in your students’ ability to find and express gratitude.
Then, you guessed it! Give your class their own individual gratitude journals. It can still be difficult at a young age to think of things off the top of their head, therefore I glue a “gratitude journal prompts” sheet into the front of their journal to guide them. This resource is available for free on my TPT store! See the link below.
Allow students to write in their journal at a time of day that requires some deescalation. I sometimes have their journals sitting on their desk on a Monday morning when they arrive at school as it doubles as a great way to focus them for the day. Alternatively, it can be a great activity to do after break time.
I hope you find it as beneficial as I do to implement a culture of gratitude into your classroom. Before long, it will become regular practice and the importance of ‘being grateful’ will very quickly become part of your students’ vocabulary.
~ The Aussie Teacher Mum ~
This completely goes against the traditional view of the classroom in which there is a teacher out the front asking questions and the students sitting at their desk raising their hand to answer them.
But traditional only gets us so far in our teaching practice. After all it’s 2020 and we now know so much about students and how best to engage them in their own learning.
I have already learnt so much in my relatively short teaching career so far. Eight years ago, I had a very traditional view of teaching. Don’t get me wrong, I still feel like I did a good job in the classroom and my students made fantastic progress over those first few years. But I hadn’t yet explored my own contemporary view of teaching. Put it this way; I only received answers from my confident and competent students. So gold star for me, I thought! My students were learning what I was teaching! But in reality, many of those students may have already known the answers to my questions. And if they didn’t, they were always going to be the confident ones giving it a go. This left behind over three quarters of the class who could easily have gone an entire week without contributing a response or having a go.
Fast forward to my teaching practice now. I aim to promote a classroom environment where every student feels that their contribution is valid and valued, regardless of the correctness of their response. Not only that, I want my students to know that if they are in my classroom they are there to work hard not cruise along.
So how do I implement this strategy in my classroom? Paddle pop sticks! (Not sure what they call these outside Australia… tongue depressors?). Every student has a stick with their name on it, and they live in a container on my desk. When it comes to a discussion as part of a Math lesson, for instance, I simply take out a name at random and ask that student for a response. I then draw a second stick and invite that student to add anything they wish.
Now I’m sure every classroom has a student or two that desperately want their response heard, and often those students do have a lot of valuable contributions to make. As teachers, the last thing we want to do is silence these students or discourage their involvement in discussions. For this reason, I often (not always) invite anyone in the class to add their two cents.
So why the no hands-up rule? The answer is three-fold:
I hope you find this strategy as useful as I do!
~ The Aussie Teacher Mum ~
I was first introduced to the concept of task cards in the classroom a couple of years ago when perusing Teachers Pay Teachers. At the time, I hadn’t seen them used by any of the teachers at my school, and my students were unfamiliar with the concept.
The thing I love most about task cards is essentially you are consolidating skills and key learning, just like you would in any classroom setting. But the difference is, it is always interactive, engaging and the students get to move around whilst learning.
The moment I started using task cards in my classroom, I knew it was going to become a regular part of my teaching practice. The beauty is, the sky is the absolute limit when it comes to task cards. There really isn’t any area of the curriculum that can’t be explored and consolidated with a task card-based activity. Math, reading comprehension, grammar, spelling, you name it!
Recently, I thought it would be great to have an “introduction to task cards” activity where students aren’t necessarily consolidating their learning but just having a bit of fun learning the routine around task card sessions.
The cards contain lots of fun questions that your students will enjoy answering, and then when it comes time to do a learning activity using task cards, your class will make a positive association resulting in a productive and successful learning experience.
This resource is available FREE and ready to print and use on my Teachers Pay Teachers Store so jump over now and download.
If you like the resource and find it useful in your classroom, I would so much appreciate you taking a minute to leave me a review.
~ The Aussie Teacher Mum ~
I cannot believe it is almost that time again - the children are excited and the parents are even MORE excited because it’s almost time to go back to school.
* This post is relevant to my Australian readers as we start back at the beginning of the calendar year. However, I hope my readers from other parts of the world who start back in September can also take value from this post and lock away a few ideas for later in the year.
My Dad, whose teaching career spanned over 35 years, and I would always joke that it was around this time of year when the dreams began. Those ‘back to school’ dreams. They always had a similar theme involving something disastrous happening at the beginning of the school year. From memory, a couple of such dreams involved me turning up on the WRONG day; not being able to control my new class, and forgetting to wear clothes to school. Basically all your fears presenting themselves in those last few weeks before the big day.
Thankfully, I could always laugh about the dreams because I LOVE the first day and touch wood, it has always been a fun, memorable and successful day with my students.
Whilst many teachers tend to ‘wing it’ a bit on those first few days before routine really sets in, I have always found quite the opposite to be effective. Those first few days and in particularly the FIRST day completely set the scene for the entire year ahead. It is the perfect opportunity to kickstart those relationships with your students and between your students. So plan ahead!
Here are my SIX TIPS FOR A GREAT FIRST DAY BACK:
1. Visual Instructions Regardless of the grade level you are teaching, the first day involves lots of excitement and some apprehension from both the students and the parents. In some cases, this can be the first meeting with your students and their families.
I find it really effective to have a simple activity planned, with a list of 3-5 instructions on the board at the front of the room. This makes it possible for you to be completely available to greet students and their parents without pausing to explain the task over and over. In my experience, this is just a really simple way to create a seamless start to the first day.
2. Create a Class Display Whilst it’s tempting to have everything set up before the very first day (we’re teachers after all, we pride ourselves on being a tad too organised), this is a really important one for setting up a cohesive space for your new class community.
There are LOADS of things you could do for a display, and you could even integrate it with your morning activity I mentioned earlier. For example, last year I had a large puzzle piece on every student’s desk. When they came in to the classroom, they decorated it with their name and all the things that make them unique (sport, siblings, favourite food etc). By the end of the morning, I had my class display ready to go! I put the pieces in a random order with the title: “Why fit in when you were born to stand out”. It turned out so well that we left it up all year!
I love doing this because it means the students are given ownership in the space and seeing something they’ve created being displayed on day one can decrease anxiety and help student settle in.
3. Send students home with a little something Now I’m talking about a big, extravagant gift to send home with your students. It could be a card, a letter, a little treat; just something to let your new students know that you are happy to be their teacher and excited for the year ahead with them.
I have done this at the end of the school year also but this only works if you are able to meet and greet your new class prior to the school year commencing (which isn’t always possible). Therefore, it would still be a great idea to have something ready to send home with students on the first day. Check out the photo below of the little card and treat I gave to my students last year. It probably cost a total of $6.00 in Smarties and an hour or so to print them and cut them out. Well worth it, in my opinion. The look on the students’ faces was priceless.
4. Introduce transitions and routines TODAY If there are certain ways in which you like things done in your classroom, I strongly suggest introducing them to students on the first day. It might be how the students come into the room each day, how they greet you or how they line up to go out for lunch.
Whilst you want to focus on the warm and fuzzy things today that will help to foster positive relationships with your students, making your expectations known from the very beginning will have a flow on effect that will last the entire year.
I usually pop a little slideshow together with some funny pictures, including a different expectation or transition on each slide. This allows it to become a fun, meaningful conversation with students as opposed to drilling a whole bunch of rules into them at the start of the year.
5. The testing can wait! It’s so tempting to get a head start on the long list of pre-assessment that needs to be done at the beginning of the year. But it doesn’t need to be done on the first day.
I made this mistake a few years back because there was a lot of pressure within my school to get everything done from the word go. And that year I went home feeling a bit disheartened that I hadn’t had that great first day with my students.
So put the testing aside, at least for the first day or two, and just enjoy being with your new class. This will allow your students the space to get to know you and really settle in for the great year ahead.
6. Write a class contract Lastly, have a brainstorm with students on the first day about all the things that make a classroom fun, supportive and welcoming. Write them all down on the board or on a poster and encourage students to add to it. Then have a discussion with students about the class rules that need to be enforced in order for your classroom to feel, look and stay this way all year.
I usually encourage all of my students to write down a rule or two on a piece of paper and put it in a hat. Over lunch time, I gather them all and condense them into a list of 8-10 class rules and turn them into a class contract. The reason for this is that all the students SIGN the contract. I find this a million times more effective to just having a list of rules hanging up in the room. The reason for this is that when students sign the contract, they are taking ownership of it, something that you can remind students of if you have a few that forget as the year progresses.
I hope you find these tips useful as you prepare to start a new school year! I hope 2020 is a fantastic year for you and your students.
Hi, welcome to my blog and more importantly, my very first blog post!
You might be thinking, what an odd photo choice for a blog that's going to be about educational resources for the classroom. Well I thought this first post is an opportunity to introduce myself to you guys, my readers, and explain why I'm here in the first place.
After all, blogs take time... something that we teachers tend to struggle to find enough of. In fact, it's the common denominator when you ask any teacher their biggest challenge: finding enough hours in the day for planning, assessing, reporting, creating and oh yes! Teaching. It's something I really struggled with in the first few years of my teaching career but once I got into the swing of things and learnt to manage my time (something I'll definitely be blogging about), I was able to rediscover why I got into teaching in the first place - to educate children and have a positive impact on their future.
Now back to the photo! In this photo, there is my husband Nic - we met in 2016, got engaged in 2018 and married in 2019. Fair to say it's been a busy few years for us. And to top it off, that darling little baby is our daughter, Brooklyn. We welcomed her at the beginning of this year. And how could I forget our two fur babies, our golden retrievers Harvey and Honey. This photo sums up my little family and everything that matters the most to me in this world.
I am fortunate enough to have some time out of the classroom to raise my daughter this year which is what sparked the idea for this blog. Creating educational resources has always been one of my favourite parts of the teaching vocation. But like I mentioned earlier, when do we find the time? I would often spend early mornings, late afternoons and many a weekend hanging out with my laminator. Whether it was activities for Math rotations, task cards to give my students a brain break, or my latest display - I was always creating in my spare time.
But teaching is SUCH a collaborative profession. Particularly now in the age of social media and the online space because it is so easy to connect with other teachers and educators. This is what sparked the idea to use my time off this year to create more resources that I myself love to use in the classroom, and make them available for other teachers!
It is my hope that you find them useful in your own classroom and maybe, just maybe, they'll make your life as a teacher just a little bit easier.
Thank you so much for being here and I look forward to bringing you on this journey with me.
~ The Aussie Teacher Mum ~