I teach “mapping” as a writing strategy to my college comp students. It’s a fun visual way for them to get their thoughts organized on paper, before they begin to write their essay.
A name map is a terrific way to introduce "mapping" to elementary students.
This is also a nice icebreaker for the first week of school and a great way to get to know your new students.
Children think of a symbol that represents them and draw that in the middle. I chose an apple as it’s sort of universal for school or teaching.
Branching out from the center symbol is a variety of things about the person such as hobbies, their favorite season, birthday, what they want to be when they grow up etc.
By having students use their two favorite colors to write their first and last names in the center of their object, everyone gets to know another “tidbit” about that person.
The completed activity makes a wonderful back to school bulletin board too!
Make sure you do a personal one of yourself, so that you have a sample to show your students as a way to explain things, as well as a means for them to get to know their new teacher. Includes an explanatory note home to families.
Sharing name maps is a nice activity to do after reading the story Chrysanthemum.
This is a wonderful back to school tale, whose main character is a little mouse named Chrysanthemum. She loved her unusual name until she started school and everyone began making fun of her.
My inspiration to do name maps, came from an art teacher’s “heart maps” that he did with his 4th graders at Riverside Elementary.
Click on the link to check out their awesome endeavors.
I hope you and yours have as much fun!
Click on the link to view/download Name Maps.
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“There’s few things as uncommon as common sense.” –Frank McKinney Hubbard
"They may not be easy to see, but these are 5 things I want you to know about me!"
That's what the sentence says at the top of the paper.
It's a quick and easy icebreaker for the first day or first week of school, that’s a terrific writing prompt for September, and fun way to get to know your students.
When completed, they make a cute back to school bulletin board too!
Make sure you do one yourself, so you have an example to share with your students, so they know how to do the assignment, as well as get to know their new teacher!
Older students can draw their own self-portraits in the blank oval.
Remind them that this is just a section of their face from the nose up, or even just their eyes.
They should color their hair and eyes to represent themselves.
I find that younger students are less overwhelmed if they have some sort of template to follow and have a bit more fun with the activity if they don’t have to start from scratch.
You also won’t have to listen to whining: “I can’t draw a face; or “I don’t know how to draw.”
Little ones also tend to draw a tiny circle instead of a big one, or they draw an entire stick body.
You can include the template in your “Welcome to school summer letter” or Open House packet, and have students return them on the first day of school, so they can share with their new classmates right away.
Another plus of doing it this way, is that parents can help little ones write down the 5 things.
If you don’t do a summer letter or before school starts Open House, hand them out the first day of class and send them in backpacks for a home-school connection to be returned in the next few days.
Gather little ones on the floor in a circle and have them practice coming up and sharing in front of their new friends.
Older students can stand up beside their desks and read their list.
No matter what my students’ ages, I always have them applaud each child’s sharing. This is a big deal for many “shy” kids.
Writing in different colored markers jazzes things up.
If you have the time, turn this into even more of a keepsake, by tracing your students’ handprint on flesh-colored construction paper. Fold it over and cut once for 2 handprints.
Glue them “holding” the paper in such a way that they can "flop" open to reveal the paper.
You can punch a hole in the top and hang them back-to-back and suspend from the ceiling or line them up as a cute border, just below the ceiling in the hallway.
Click on the link to view/download 5 Things Icebreaker Portraits
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"By learning you will teach; by teaching you will learn." -Latin Proverb
A kajillion years ago, just before I was student teaching, I had a professor ask us to bring 3 things in a lunch bag that represented us. We’d be sharing it as an icebreaker.
I really liked this idea and filed it away in my brain, thinking it would be fun to do with my “someday” students.
Many “some days” have come and gone and I’ve since seen variations of the “me bags” all over the internet and on Pinterest.
When I was an aide, only ½ a jillion years ago, I did a writing prompt with my 2nd graders: “The Cat’s Out Of The Bag.”
I had an “all about me” checklist, written on a cat’s belly, that they filled out and then read to their classmates.
Later, they colored, cut and glued the cat, to the outside of a brown lunch bag and hung them on the front of their lockers, so passer’s by could get to know them.
I thought this would be a nice twist to the icebreaker bags of long ago.
Here’s what you do:
Make up your own personal “Cat bag” and share it with your students so they get to know a little bit about you.
I included a family photo, (my students always thought it was cool that I have an identical twin), a small stuffed poodle to represent our pet Chloe, a tiny book because I love to read, a pen because I love to write, and paintbrush because I love art.
No matter what grade I taught, I always made samples.
My students really enjoyed getting to know me this way, as well as being able to “see” something and refer to it, as they worked on their own project.
Run off the note to the parents, along with the cute cat and “The cat’s out of the bag” squares.
Attach them to a brown lunch bag and send them home with students on the first day of school.
This is an easy and fun way to get to know your students, as well as give them some practice sharing in front of their new friends.
Click on the link to view/download The Cat’s Out Of The Bag packet.
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“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you can help them become what they are capable of becoming.” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Be True To The Red White And Blue
A big part of going back to school is teaching a variety of routines.
One of the things that my Y5’s were learning for the first time was The Pledge Of Allegiance.
Like many schools through out the US, we started our day with announcements.
Our principal’s voice would boom over the PA system and lead us in the Pledge.
My Y5’s were doing a wonderful job with memorization, but when I asked my little ones what they were saying, they were clueless, or had a very different interpretation of what some of the words meant.
For example, many of them thought indivisible meant being invisible.
I told them that it was important to understand what they were pledging, and asked them if they wanted to know what the words really meant?
Their curiosity was peaked and most of them raised their hands in agreement.
I designed My Pledge Definition Dictionary with kid-friendly synonyms they could understand.
As long as teachers are required to increase students’ vocabularies, why not start with these very important words!
This packet also includes a certificate of praise as well as a copy of The Pledge of Allegiance for students to practice tracing, as a means of memorization, so that they become familiar with the words.
Click on the link to view/download My Pledge Of Allegiance Definition Dictionary Packet
I feel that knowing about our flag is very important.
The Easy Reader booklet My Flag is a wonderful way to learn important facts about the flag, as students trace and then write key words, cutting and gluing matching pictures to the appropriate sentences.
The booklet can be used as an introduction to The Pledge of Allegiance or a review and has 3 different endings, which makes it very versatile.
Click on the link to view/download My Flag.
The 49-page Flag Activities Packet, covers the history of our flag, information about the flag, and includes links, articles, art projects, skill sheets and writing activities.
It’s a wonderful resource for something patriotic to do with your students.
One of my students' favorite activities was making their own personal flag. These are a great way to learn about your new students and make a terrific back to school bulletin board too.
Click on the link to view download the Flag Activities Packet.
Finally, the I’m Proud To Be An American Writing Prompt fits well at the beginning of the year when you’re teaching the Pledge, or looking for an activity for Constitution Day.
Use students’ finished pages as an easy bulletin board, or collate them into a class book.
Click on the link to view/download Proud to be an American Writing Prompt
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“I find that a great part of the information I have acquired was by looking up something and finding something else on the way.” –Franklin P. Adams
1-2-3 Read With Me!
Here are 4 easy readers that are great activities for the first week of school.
My First Day Of School, is a quick and easy activity that will engage your students on that busy first day.
Take their photo and include it, to make this a real keepsake.
I've also included a page for preschool, Y5's, 1st grade + a blank page for you to fill in whatever other grade is appropriate for you.
How Do You Go To School, helps reinforce how children get to school. Students will enjoy reading this booklet and sharing how they arrive.
To make it more personal, have students put an X by the picture on the cover, of how they get to school, then have them write the name of their school on the last page.
Children read the sentence using pictures as clues. They trace and write the key word, then cut and glue another picture to the matching numbered boxes.
The easy reader School, reinforces the idea of students liking school!
Children use picture clues to read the sentence. Students trace it and then write the main-idea word. Children then cut and glue a picture to the matching numbered boxes.
The packet includes:
- 14 word-wall word flashcards +
- Covers to make an Itty Bitty Word Book
- 3 picture cards,
- A class book writing extension with two different writing prompts
- 2 math skill sheets
- A graphing extension +
- A certificate of praise
Finally, We Go To School works on days of the week.
Being able to read (sight words) word wall words is a Common Core State Standard. I listed the parts of a calendar as part of my word wall and thought an easy reader that addressed this concept, would be a fun way to learn them.
I included a quick and easy schoolhouse days of the week slider in this packet as well.
I hope you find these easy readers a nice addition to your classroom activities. They work well for Daily 5 or a Reading/Writing center too.
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“Whoever retains the natural curiosity of childhood is never bored or dull.” -Unknown
1-2-3 Come Make A Pattern With Me!
Learning how to make, identify and extend a pattern are report card standards for our Y5’s.
They had fun doing that with all sorts of colorful manipulatives. I also used a variety of food during snack time.
They also glued mini-die cuts to a 1/2 sheet of construction paper each month, making a line pattern in their pattern booklet.
When we were out and about during field trips or for a fall or spring walk, I’d have them try and find patterns in nature as well.
Because I needed a “hard copy” to prove my students passed that assessment, I also needed to have some paper examples of them making and extending patterns, so I designed patterning skill sheets in every unit.
I just completed some anchor charts for you to laminate. You can use these as ways to whole group explain the concept.
Have students come up to the board and complete and identify the pattern.
Make this part of your daily calendar time, or plug in before or after you read a story. It only takes a minute.
You can also run off copies for your students as a worksheet, or use as an assessment when you are ready to evaluate their progress.
Because I used all of the colors and shapes, you can also take a moment to review those as well.
Click on the link to view/download the Pattern Anchor Chart Posters.
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“If we did all of the things we are capable of doing, we would truly astound ourselves!” –Thomas Edison
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Look Who's In Our Classroom!
One of my favorite books that I read during the first week of school was Chicka Boom.
My hallway bulletin board had a floor to ceiling palm tree on the side with a monkey hanging by it that would ooh ahh if you pulled its tail.
It was a great way to help anxious students calm down. “Do you want to hear my monkey talk?”
On the bulletin board was a monkey with each child’s name. During our Open House treasure hunt, students had to find their name.
Being able to recognize their name was one of our report card standards, so I was always trying to think of fun ways for my students to do that.
The caption on this b. board was: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Welcome To Our Classroom!
Another year, I skipped the b. board and used a wall to make the display even bigger because I wanted to include alphabet letters.
To get the wiggles out after reading the book, I pass out monkey masks and my Y5's played "Monkey See Monkey Do" and we copied the "Monkey In The Middle."
I know many teachers all over the country also read this book, so I wanted to design lots of activities for a variety of standards to go with it.
The Picka Chicka File Folder reinforces colors, upper and lowercase letters (Common Core State Standard RF.K1d) and shapes; as well as reading and writing.
Click on the link to view/download the 67-page Picka Chicka-Chicka Boom File Folder Packet.
Chicka Boom Boom Look Who’s In Our Classroom is an easy reader class book, that helps students get to know their new friends, reinforces name recognition, as well as upper and lowercase letters. (Common Core State Standard RF.K1d)
The 35-page Chicka Boom Trunk Tricks packet includes a variety of adorable Chicka Boom tree projects that reinforce letters, shapes, patterns, and other report card standards in a unique and fun way.
The packet includes:
- Keepsake handprint art activity
- Chicka Boom There's Enough Room booklet
- Name tree
- Vowel tree
- Count by 10's tree
- Color tree
- Pattern block tree
- Pinch & Poke tree
- Connect the ABC's tree
- Trace Race tree
- b & d tree
- Hide & seek letters tree
- Hide & seek name tree and
- A certificate of praise
Click on the link to view/download Chicka Boom Trunk Tricks
Finish up your Chicka Boom studies with this fun hands-on Chicka Boom snack.
To compliment all of the Chicka Boom activities I have a variety of monkey-themed activities as well.
Click on the link to view/download a variety of easy readers etc. This link will take you to the Monkey section, where I hope you’ll have a barrel of fun!
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“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why and pursued the answer.” –Bernard Baruch
Use the large road signs as gentle reminder posters for a wall.
Print double ones and hang them back-to-back with a piece of fish line and suspend from the ceiling.
Several “My students are out of this world” signs, hung from the ceiling, dangling down at various lengths in front of your back to school bulletin board, with your students’ first day photographs, would add interest.
Use the smaller ones for a bulletin board boarder, or make bookmarks, a magnet, or cut slits and make pencil toppers for your students.
Hang the “Danger” sign on your door, and suspend the “Quiet Zone Testing” one, on your doorknob when you are assessing.
Use the “Think” sign as a cover for a writing prompt for a “What are your thoughts today?” journal.
Whatever you decide to use the signs for, I hope you find them helpful.
Click on the link to view/download Student Road Signs
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“ I touch the future; I teach.” Ms. McAuliffe
Grammar Can Be FUN When You Make It A GAME!
Since the Goin On A Bear Hunt Punctuation and Capitalization activities were such a huge hit, as promised, I made cat, dinosaur, frog and pig, cards too.
They follow the same format. The beauty of this is, that it empowers students and builds their self-esteem.
Repetition of some activities is important, especially with young children, because they can’t read directions.
Once the teacher has read, explained and modeled an activity and students have done it, they are good to go the next time around.
This independence makes them feel great and the teacher is freed up to work one-on-one with struggling students or ESL children.
A definite win-win all around, and the big reason I set up my tabletop lessons and easy readers the way I do.
By sprinkling the cards around the room and having children search for them, you help get the wiggles out, add some variety into your students’ grammar routine, and make correcting sentences a lot more fun, than simply handing out a worksheet. + it only takes a few more minutes and your students are now excited and ready to “get down to business!”
Because of this, these cards and recording sheets make great Daily 5 or writing center activities and help students nail the Common Core State Standard: RF.1.1
Each set also includes a certificate of praise.
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Do you have a back to school idea or teaching grammar tip you could share with us?
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If everyone took a moment to share, just think how full our bag of tricks would be, and how much easier our lives would become!
“It’s possible we could teach kids anything. I get them to live the concepts. My job is to push them. I want 30 Rocky Balboas, 30 students who are thirsting to learn.” -Joseph Vicari
A Fun Way To Get To Know Your Students
Stamp of Approval Stamps make a great icebreaker for the first week of school and a terrific way to get to know your students + they are an instant back to school bulletin board showcasing your new students!
Send a copy in your Welcome to School - Summer Letter, or tuck them in your Open House packet, so that they can be completed ahead of time, and then shared on the first day of school.
You can also show your example on the first day, so that your students can learn a little bit about you, and then send the stamps home as an assignment for that first day.
How to fill in a stamp:
Students can write, type (using a fun(ky) font), or cut out letters (like a ransom note), or use stickers to make their name.
This goes on the wavy line portion of the cancelled stamp, in the top left-hand corner.
The PLACE where they were born, goes around the top of the circle.
The YEAR they were born, goes on the bottom-middle of the circle.
The MONTH and DAY they were born, goes in the center of the circle.
Months should be abbreviated, unless they are 4 or less letters long.
Places and dates appear on real cancelled stamps; making it personal, makes this assignment more relevant and fun!
Students draw a self-portrait of themselves. (Just a headshot) This needs to be colored. Hair and eye color etc. need to be appropriate, so students can possibly guess whose picture belongs to whom, if the teacher wants to add that activity before the “real” student comes up to share.
Students need to think of their favorite things to do, their hobbies, or sports or “stuff” they are involved in, or possibly what they want to be when they grow up. Basically, anything that represents them or will help us get to know them.
After they have thought up their “list” they need to find pictures, clip art, or stickers of those things and glue them around their self-portrait.
Students write or cut out 3-5 words that describe them. These should be scattered around on their stamp.
Challenge older students to include a word that begins with the same letter as their name. i.e. I chose driven (Diane) for mine.
Students share their stamp with their classmates. I always had my students clap for each person when they were through.
Hang them in the hallway or on a b. board, along with the “Stamp of approval star student” poster.
To add some 3D effects, suspend some glittery stars of various sizes, from fish line, just above the board, at various lengths.
Click on the link to view/download Stamp of Approval Stamp activity
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“Teaching is a lighting of sparks and setting minds aflame;
it’s a creative mind that knows what kind of gasoline to throw on to get it glowing and burning even brighter the next day and the next…” -Diane Henderson