What items are really perking up the start of your school year?
After a year’s hiatus from being in a classroom with students I can’t tell you how excited I’ve been to explore how to make this new situation (small classes of homeschooled students -ages 6 to 14- meeting with me once a week) work as well as it can for all involved. Most interestingly, the space where I teach is great but it’s not mine and I have to leave it the way I found it, every week. So, I asked my amazing colleagues on Twitter for advice and then I hit Target and Office Depot with an exploratory agenda and came away with a lot of ideas to try. In no particular order, here are the things that I’m loving now three weeks into the school year.
White board tape
Oh, yes, this is a thing, and thank you Scotch. I about fainted in the aisle at Target. And speaking of targets, I can write a target of the day on the table. I can write on the table. And leave it in front of them the whole class. And erase it. And put something different there next week. And remove it. And replace it.
Like I said, I have to leave my room the way I found it every week. This is some thick display board I used to make a question-word display. I put dry-erase tape down the middle and violá, I can change the target question for every lesson. Olé.
I went Post-It crazy. I got long ones. Regular ones. Tiny ones. They’re super sticky and they are my #1 low-prep way to get kids out of their chairs. Write vocab (like an opinion) on the Post-It and put it somewhere in the room and get kids moving to which one is their favorite, which one they agree with, which one is most like them, etc.
This isn’t my photo, but it’s exactly what I did. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but I had never tried it. I always used the Fruit Chooser but honestly, sometimes a little trick like this trumps the digital tool. The kids are loving it. My younger ones are liking it for a reason I had not thought of – it keeps my bilingual 6-year-old who is in the class from jumping in with all the answers! I love it because the kids never know who’s coming up next and they can’t think they’re being left out on purpose.
The shower-curtain word wall
Get this – I have never had a word wall. I had verbs up on the wall several years ago with images and I loved them, but the idea of a word wall has been something I’ve wanted to try for a long time. So I asked on Twitter, how can I pull off a word wall when I have to leave the room the way I found it? I got several great suggestions and tried most of them. I got a display board and hot-glued clothespins to it. (The words weren’t big enough to be helpful.) But someone suggested, of all things, a cheap shower curtain. Bingo! With the added problem that nothing with any weight will stick to the walls in my room, the shower curtain + sticky tack makes it happen! I bought a $2 shower curtain from Target and I cut off the magnets and holes for hooks. Then I cut the curtain in 4 pieces. I’ve made categories of sorts and we’re adding them as we go along. It’s working and I love it!
The Speak/Wait sign
This is an idea I got from Carol Gaab a long, long time ago and I don’t know why it took me this long to try it. She suggested it as a way to allow all learners to process so that the fast-processors weren’t jumping in with the answer before the slower-processors could get what was going on. And I use it that way with my younger class. But guess what my older class does with it? They decided they wanted it for themselves to tell me to wait for them to catch up with me in the story drawing before I kept going (my students write and draw everything I write and draw while storytelling). All I did here was print out a blank octagon outline on red and green cardstock, glued them on one craft stick, and wrote the Spanish words for “WAIT” and “SPEAK” on them.
The last teacher bag I’ll ever buy
Warning, this one’s pricey. I’ve loved the Artifact Bag Company since I bought my husband’s awesome lunch tote there. Ever since the Field Bag No. 705 came out it’s been on my Amazon wishlist and I’ve been saving and wishing. Months. It takes a lot of thought and tension for me to spend this much money on a bag, but Artifact’s bags are worth every penny (and more). This summer my husband surprised me with the Field Bag for my birthday and I’ve been proudly shouldering it ever since. Every time I heft it up I think, “Some guy in Omaha made this thing by hand and it.is.phenomenal.”
Pumpkin Spice Latte
“Starbucks’ most popular seasonal beverage of all time.”
Nothing says back-to-school like bringing your teacher pumpkin pie in a cup. Enough said.
Happy back-to-school, happy September, happy almost-fall, happy teaching, everyone!