Now that's a good question. It's a hot topic among many Blogs whether the classroom has gotten burdened down with too many celebrations. From themed days to party days and holidays + tossing in children's birthdays and special events at school. What's a teacher to do? What say you?
February is a good time to discuss this as it's a party-packed theme month. I'm for everything in moderation. I LOVE themed days and find it very helpful in organizing my entire year. It keeps me organized, and helps me plan. It also motivates my students and keeps them interested as it makes learning fun. I also enjoy plugging in the various holidays.
We celebrate Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's as our big school-wide party days. 100 Day is another special event that the entire school takes part in as well as a Dr. Seuss Day in March with all sorts of special days planned around a March is Reading Month theme.
The "how you do it" is entirely up to the teacher. Or school gives a few guide lines. I enjoy the freedom and love dressing up. I have a Winnie the Pooh Pajama Day to celebrate A.A. Milne's birthday in January. We stress the letter P and reinforce or science study of hibernation. I also extend the 100 Day 3-digit number lesson with a 101 Dalmatian celebration.
I basically use these ideas as a theme, not a party day, to keep the craziness down. Everything we do is based around our report card standards even if it's a party or celebration day. You can have fun and learn at the same time.
I'd enjoy hearing what kinds of things you and your schools are doing and how you feel about parties, celebrations and holidays. For me I think part of the joy of being a child is igniting the imagination and pretending to be a princess or whatever, dressing up, doing extra special things on especially creative days. It's part of making memories at a special time in one's life.
I still remember those days when I was little 50+ years ago. They made a positive difference in my life.
Do You Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day?
January brings along with it the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I feel that this is as much about celebrating an awareness of unfair prejudice, and true "liberty and justice for all..." as it is about teaching about this icon for civil rights.
Just because my Y5's are really not familiar about what went on during this historical period of time, does not mean they are not familiar with prejudice. I think there is still all sorts of that kind of thing going on in an elementary playground: girls against boys, coordinated students against the clumsy, geeks & nerds versus the more popular students. It all still boils down to prejudice.
My little ones are very quick to exclaim: "That's not fair!" so I try to keep things especially "fair" in our classroom, at the same time letting them know that "life" really isn't fair and then try to equip them with some life skills so they can handle "life" when it sometimes rears its uglier side.
To introduce the topic of prejudice to my students, I read Dr. Seuss's The Sneechs. I pass out star stickers to the girls and not to the boys just because they are girls and then ask everyone how they feel. Surprisingly some of the girls aren't as happy about receiving a sticker as they might be, because they feel sorry for the boys. On several occasions, girls have even given their star sticker to a boy.
I then pass out lollipops to the boys, simply because they are boys and give none to the girls. Once again we talk about feelings. The topic of not being "fair" and feeling "left out" and "helpless to change things" always comes up. Since a few little lips tremble, and I don't want tears, I quickly give everyone star stickers and lollipops as we continue our discussion of how much better it feels when everyone IS treated fairly/equally.
I send a note home to parents about the entire "experiment” along with our new vocabulary words: prejudice, equality, civil rights, etc.
Do you celebrate Martin Luther King Day? How do you introduce the topic of prejudice to your students? Do you feel it's appropriate to celebrate this day?
For more ideas, check out my mini Martin Luther King Unit by clicking on the link.
Behavior Modification For December
The snow will soon be flying, temps will dip, and the wind will blow at a fierce rate, making recess not so fun. Keeping little ones cooped up can add to a sometimes crazy day, when children are excited about snow, the season, holidays, Santa and whatever else they may be celebrating or participating in.
To keep things running smoothly and my students on their best behavior, I try to have a few fun-filled behavior modification techniques that I incorporate into my day, no matter how filled with energy and excitement they are brimming over with.
I've compiled my favorites in this free booklet entitled December Behavior Modification. Peruse through it to see what fits your needs and teaching practices.
I hope you find some helpful tips to make your days stress free and less frantic and frazzled.
May you have a delightful December!
Some of the teachers in my school collect $20 from parents, others leave snack entirely up to each family to provide for their own child on a daily basis. I’ve found that when dealing with young children, especially my Y5’s, snack time is very important to them.
In the past, when I’ve left snack up to the parents, I usually had more than just a few who came with nothing at all, then I’m left with tearful little ones with nothing to do but rescue them by providing something. Sometimes when other children see what they are getting they often want that too. Some parents don’t seem to follow through with sending in a monetary donation as well.
I’ve found that the most successful thing for me has been the “Snack Sack”. My parents have commented that they really enjoy handling snack in this way as well. I send a note home to parents explaining the Snack Sack; depending on how many students I have, students are usually responsible for only one snack per month. If I have a large class, they might have to bring in snack every other month. The last week of the previous month I send home a calendar for the new month listing the students’ names on the day they will be providing snack.
I have 2 heavy-duty vinyl bags that can be thrown in the washer if need be, that say: Mrs. Henderson’s Snack Sack on them. One is used as a spare in case a child is absent. Parents are informed that there is no need to get a snack bag to me should this happen. I have a calendar posted on a small bulletin board so I know who to send the bag home with the night before.
The bag in their child’s backpack is an instant reminder that they will be bringing snack in the next day. The handles on the bag make it easy to carry. As soon as a child hands me the bag, I empty the contents, check the calendar and send the bag home with the next child. I have a few snacks on hand incase a student is absent. Directions for this procedure are listed in my Sub Folder as well.
Parents have commented that they really like this system because it’s easy on the budget, easy to do, they don’t have to remember, figure out, and provide a snack every day; and the children get a wonderful variety of nutritious snacks that are above and beyond what a parent would be doing on a daily basis. My students feel special as they get to be the Snack Helper for that day and everyone sings a "Thank You" song to them. Everyone HAS a snack and is eating the SAME thing so no tears or grumpiness.
It’s a nice learning opportunity that teaches responsibility as well. Many parents make it a quality-moment time with their child and allow them to go shopping with them to pick out the snack and beverage for their class. Some moms bake something with their child and make the experience even more memorable, especially if we are celebrating a theme day.
I figure out the Snack Calendar so that I'm sending the Snack Sack home with the children who are celebrating birthdays that month. I try to designate a day as close to their birthday as possible if we are not having school on THE day. This makes Snack Time even more special. However, I do not allow cake or cupcakes because of the mess and lack of nutritional value.
The Snack Sack has definitely been a win-win concept for the students, parents and even me as it has been truly hassle free!
Click on the link to view/print my class Snack Sack letter.
Click on the link to view/print a generic snack calendar to fill out.
How Are You Celebrating?
I was just reading an article that one school in the eastern part of the US has decided not to celebrate any of the fall “holidays” because of controversy.
I know that in many schools Halloween has “bitten the dust” for a variety of reasons, but I found it quite surprising that this principal is also forgoing anything to do with Thanksgiving as “not everyone celebrates it” and she doesn’t feel that it appropriately depicts Native Americans.
Personally, I’m glad that my school offers teachers a lot of lee-way in the various holidays, and has asked for a great deal of parent in-put in how we handle celebrating and studying about the various fall festivities.
There’s a huge amount of history, social studies and geography that can be covered in a variety of fun ways when dealing with the first Thanksgiving.
When I taught kindergarten we enjoyed being part of an all-school kindergarten Thanksgiving feast (4 classes), complete with either a pilgrim paper hat and collar or a Native American vest and headband. Children could choose which they wanted to be.
We played a traditional Native American CD as background music. Students sat on the floor in the cafeteria, with a long sheet of brown bulletin board paper as their “table”.
Some years my Y5’s have enjoyed a tempting Thanksgiving “Tasting” feast. To read that article, click on the link. I was wondering what everyone else is doing or not doing, and would enjoy hearing from you.