Simplify and Share with a Snowman Narrative Activity

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

I know I have to finish blogging about Carl Jung’s learning styles, but I thought I would pause with a teaching idea before the holiday break. I will finish the other within the next several weeks.

I follow Becky at http://www.cleanmama.net; she is currently blogging about her new series Simplify the Season. She has great ideas and it gave me inspiration to share one of my “simplify” moments. It has been my goal over the last few years to live smaller and simpler; so I have been reducing the “stuff” collected over our twenty-eight year marriage.

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In one of my recent teaching years I reduced the number of my snowman collection! I decided to do a “musical chairs-grab bag” gift for my students; I chose 26 of my snowmen and put them in paper bags, while the kids were at lunch I placed one bag on each desk. Upon their return, I explained that there was a snowman gift for each one of them from my collection; I also add a little story about them as snowmen are my favorite and I always look for unique ones. I let them know they were getting a part of my unique collection.

snowmen

I asked them to stand at any desk they wanted and if they chose a bag right away they needed to move away from the desks as we circled them with music. Some chose a bag immediately and others played the game. When the music stopped they could pick the bag in front of them or continue playing. Each round became smaller as they circled the room. Once all the bags were selected, they opened them together to reveal a snowman.

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At this point, I added one more element; I told them that they could do a two-minute exchange if they so chose. I turned on the music once again to give them time to view the chosen snowmen. Once the music stopped they could return to their desk or exchange. Only one exchange happened as one was ceramic and the other plush and those two students wanted opposite of what they had picked.

The snowman gift was done on the day before our Christmas break. I believe when I do this activity again, I will have them write a narrative in January about the journey of their snowman. Now to write the objectives and rubric…..!

Merry Christmas!

Blessings to you and yours,

Tammy

More Ideas to Create a Classroom Atmosphere for Learning Styles Pt.3

Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.  ~ Proverbs 19:20, NLT

Here are some final thoughts about the classroom atmosphere for learning styles.

I mentioned the hard spaces in the classroom and have a couple more to address, but I will also include the soft spaces and other things around the classroom to consider.

Though many classrooms have carpet, it isn’t soft and comfy, it’s practical. Soft items generally need to be brought in.

·         A small couch if you have room and it is approved; an English teacher in one of the middle schools where I taught was able to do this and use it fairly among her students. She simply created a rotating schedule and allowed it to be used during work or reading time.

·         Floor pillows can be used in the same way. You may want to store them in a plastic garbage bag to help keep them dry and bug free. Use you room-mom by asking her to pick them up at the end of the week or every other week for a washing.

·         See if your Special Ed teacher or OT has a wiggle cushion or two that you can borrow. Many times they are used for kids with ADD or autism to help the “wiggles” when they are sitting in a chair. I had a student that fractured her tailbone and this was something that relieved the discomfort when she sat; she also used my high counter when she needed to stand for a while.

Did you ever consider your desk as a place you share with students? For me, that was a space for my stuff; the rest of the room contained all the items students would need for the day. I know possessive sounding, but I am a very organized person and I keep things that were off-limits to my students. Maybe some of you can relate. It was an approachable space for student, but they couldn’t help themselves to items in and around my desk.  

·         We all allow students to approach our desks when they have a question or need to check their work with us when we aren’t circulating the room. Kids need to know we are approachable while at our desks even if there are items or parts of our desks which are off-limits.

·         Allowing a student to sit near or behind your desk may help them concentrate on their work because they can’t see what is happening around the room .Pulling their desk up to yours won’t help because when you are there, they are paying attention to students coming to you and the work you are doing. Let them sit on the floor comfortably and out of sight from others. This is not a punishment, but a learning environment.

Addressing the window and lighting issues….

·         Everyone knows that good lighting is important. With that said; you my work in an energy star school and energy conservation may request that you turn lights out during the day. I had two set of lights in my room, one bay being brighter than the other. When I had all lights on it was very bright and gave some students headaches. I learned that my bright bay of lights worked for everyone in my room because the dimmer bay wasn’t bright enough and also gave students headaches. So, play with the lighting if you can, but always provide good lighting.

·         Some teachers like to bring in their own lights to bring in the warmer lighting we have in our houses. Whatever works for you and your students creates an atmosphere for good learning.

·         Some schools don’t allow for open windows due to climate controlled buildings. Sorry if this is where you are, fresh air is so nice to have if it is allowed.

·         Even if you can’t open the windows, consider how they work for you and your students. For some it is a distraction that brings on daydreaming (not always a bad thing if it gives your students an occasional brain rest). However, it is best to keep the students which are most distracted away from the windows.

·         Consider students who like space around them as good candidates for the window seats. They feel less “Claustrophobic” and feel they have more breathing space.

One last note:

Have sharp pencils ready every day. Do you have a student or few who are always sharpening their pencils? These kids like to be tidy in their writing and prefer a sharp pencil all the time.

·         If you have a time of day that you allow for pencil sharpening, mine was at the start of the day and after lunch, make certain students sharpen two pencils and then allow others to have a turn. Some students are fine with just two for the day.

·         I also make it one of my classroom jobs. I have one-two students sharpen a bin of pencils during those times so that anyone can grab a sharp pencil throughout the day. PS. I have two sharpeners in my room to speed up the process.

·         I have several hand-held sharpeners near the trash bin for quiet sharpening during the day.

·         You might want to keep an old sharpener designated for colored pencils. Colored pencils will clog-up and can ruin your sharpeners designated for just regular pencils. The handhelds are good for this purpose too.

This ends my posts on classroom environment. If you have others, please add them in the comment section. Thanks!

More Ideas to Create a Classroom Atmosphere for Learning Styles Pt.2

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Here are some more ideas to make your classroom more conducive to the learning styles.

The classroom has far more hard spaces than it does soft spaces so let’s take a moment to look at how some hard spaces fit into the day.

 Many newer classrooms have counter space. Some have moveable cabinets and some have stationary ones around the edges of the room. Of course we think to use these with space management in mind, but consider how they can help a student.

Set out the manipulatives for the day so students can see what is available to use. I know many teachers who use centers and if you are one of those teachers the manipulatives are probably out for the day. Upper grades don’t use centers as often so they need to think about aiding the students in this area. If your drawers or bins are clearly marked with the materials they hold then you may not need to use your counter space in this manner.

If you have high counters, you might want to think about allowing students to stand at the counter and work. This is helpful if a student refers to a helping poster in your room for the lesson. It puts them in proximity to the poster and gives them ample space to work. Some of your more fidgety student may just need a change in their routine and standing gets the blood flowing. Remember, movement is good for blood flow to the brain.

Allow students to work on the floor, laid out on their bellies or possibly leaning against one of the counters with a lap pad.

  • I had a counter high cabinet with a long top drawer; the drawer held some of my math manips and was opened after the lesson for use.Two of my boys sat under the drawer but were out-of-the-way of students walking up to grab items from the drawer. I believe this gave them a sense of privacy, the feeling of lowering the ceiling gave them a comfortable space to work. 
  • I had another one of my boys lay on the floor to take his tests. We had a discussion on how to reduce test anxiety and this was his way. He faced away from the class and it made him feel at ease and able to work within his own time frame.
  •  My only suggestions is to not let them work under the desks, it is not a good space, it is too cramped, and does not lend to good lighting.

Be sure to allow students the use of floor space that is designated for group time for individual and small group work too. This is probably common among most of us, we know the kids like the floor space and so we open it up to give space to the kids as they work.

In the next post I will finish up space around the room and add in a few other tips for your room and students.

5 Simple Ideas to Create a Classroom Atmosphere for Learning Styles Pt.1

Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—

Look around your room and begin to notice all of the places and objects that make your room conducive to the learning styles. Do you see them?

  • Perhaps you have a table in the back for small group reading time. This is the perfect spot to send students who need to talk through the process of the lesson.
  • How about headsets? Aural learners sometimes have the need to block out ambient noise; allow them to grab a pair when they feel they need them to concentrate better on their work.
  • Manila folders make great privacy dividers. Some kids need to feel that their space is just that; THEIR SPACE. Others need it to block out distraction of movement in the room. When appropriate allow them that privacy in their work time. You will find this in your solitary learning style kids as well as some visual learners.

Small things can make a big difference.

  • The smell of the room can also create a calming or energizing atmosphere. Adding some plug-in air fresheners can bring in any scent you want to create.
    • Peppermint wakes up the senses and alerts the brain. Have you heard that mints given at test time can keep kids focused and moving forward on test? It’s true. I always have mints on big test days.
    • I also tell the kids to have orange juice and peanut butter toast or an apple for breakfast. Fiber and protein keep the hunger away, a bit of natural sugar gets things revved up in the morning not to mention, it also wakes up the brain and keeps it focused.
    • The smell of orange is another energizing scent.
    • For a calming effect use something with eucalyptus in it.
    • To just freshen up the room, especially in the middle grades, use a scent of clean linen or the outdoors.

As with smells, sound can work the same way.

  • There are many great music CD’s you can use to create the same atmosphere as the scents. The music teacher will have some good suggestion and you may want to start there. Choose music without words to deter distractions and sing-alongs!

I will add more in the next post. Feel free to add some things that you use in your classroom to the comments.

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