Changing weather, cooler temperatures, and color changes are all signs of the arrival of fall. There's something magical about the colors, sounds, and smells of fall. Students often find themselves more engaged in learning when they are surrounded by the beauty of nature. Whether it's studying the changing colors of leaves, identifying different animals, or learning about the life cycle of a pumpkin, outdoor lessons are inherently captivating.
Fresh air and natural surroundings can help improve students' focus and stimulate their creativity. Studies have shown that spending time outdoors can boost cognitive function and problem-solving skills, making outdoor classrooms an ideal setting for critical thinking activities.
Spending time outdoors has been linked to improved mental health and reduced stress levels. Fall's cool, crisp air and the calming influence of nature can help students feel more relaxed and connected to the world around them.
The hands on experiences and fresh air also invigorate students and engage them in their learning.
Fall is the perfect time to encourage physical activity among students. Hiking, nature walks, and outdoor games not only promote exercise but also foster teamwork and social interaction. Getting students moving in a natural setting can help overcome the hours of sitting in classrooms and keep them engaged.
There are many different subjects that can be taught outdoors. Each of these add a real world element to the students' learning and experience. Integrating social studies and science activities into your fall outdoor learning adventures can provide a well-rounded educational experience. To further enrich your fall outdoor learning adventures, try incorporating some math and language activities into the mix.
Here are some suggestions for social studies, science, math, and language arts that might be of interest.
• visiting local historical landmarks
* learning about fall harvest and traditions
• using maps and doing a geography scavenger hunt
• leaf identification activities
• studying the pumpkin life cycle
• weather monitoring
• learning about weathering and erosion
* keeping a nature journal
• stream study
• learning about seed dispersements
• nature math scavenger hunt
• using measurement skills outdoors
• fall data collection
• outdoor poetry writing
• nature journaling with descriptive writing
• vocabulary scavenger hunt (looking for examples in nature)
• reading fall themed books
Here are some preparation tips that will help make your outdoor sessions successful.
Select an outdoor location that suits your curriculum and learning objectives. Local parks, forested areas, the seashore, or even your school's own outdoor spaces can be transformed into effective learning environments. Make sure students are dressed appropriately for the fall weather. Layers, hats, and gloves are essential to keep everyone comfortable during outdoor lessons.
Tailor your lessons to incorporate the unique features of fall. Explore topics like the changing colors of leaves, the science behind falling leaves, the life cycle of pumpkins, or even Halloween-themed literature.
Bring technology outdoors by using tablets or smartphones for nature observation apps or taking pictures to document findings. This can enhance the learning experience and provide opportunities for digital storytelling.
Make sure that your plans are flexible and adaptable as the weather can be unpredictable and you may need to make changes quickly.
With preparation ahead of time and some back up ideas in case of change, getting outside to learn is worth the effort and will benefit your students.
Embracing the great outdoors during the fall season is a fantastic way to enhance your students' learning experience. The benefits of outdoor education are numerous, from improved engagement and focus to enhanced physical and mental well-being. By incorporating nature into your curriculum, you can create unforgettable learning moments and inspire a lifelong love for the natural world in your students. So, this fall, take your class outside and let the wonders of the season become your classroom.
Happy outdoor learning!
Have you ever had kids that just couldn't seem to get started writing or who would only write very basic sentences? The struggle to write descriptively is real for many younger children. They have limited experience with writing and often need support to get started. Here are 7 tips that may help to open the flood gates and get the ideas pouring onto the page.
1. Start with telling stories orally
Kids love to share their stories and adventures with others. They often get very excited when they have ideas to share and they are eager to go into great detail if others ask questions and want to know more. Using this idea and explaining that writing descriptive stories is just putting down on paper what they would share when telling someone a story may help them to get started. Perhaps they could imagine questions that others might ask and make some notes of these and the answers to use as they start their writing.
2. Use the five senses
One of the things that I found worked well with my students was finding words that fit the five senses. Using colors, shapes, textures, sizes, sounds, smells, and tastes are just some of the ways they can describe what is happening. I created some graphics and examples to help them see this in action. Check them out here.
3. Paint a picture for the reader
Using paintbrushes to create a picture is another tool that I used for my students that helped them to think of descriptive words. I would ask them to imagine that someone wasn't able to see an object. Then I would say, "How could you describe it so that they could get a really clear picture in their mind?" This helped them to think about different types of adjectives, and actions that could make the picture come to life.
4. Ideas first, conventional spelling later
Many kids are afraid to write because they don't know how to spell certain words. If they don't take a chance and get their ideas down on paper because they are afraid of spelling words wrong, nobody benefits. I believe it is important to get ideas down first and worry about correcting spelling later. Often the invented spelling is close and the stories are still readable. If the invented spelling is way off, it may be necessary to help with some of the words to help the story make sense, but nothing turns a person off more than a page full of corrections. It is important to validate the effort and then choose when to do a published copy with corrected spelling. Treat the initial writing as a draft that may or may not go to published format.
5. Choose topics for writing
If kids have a choice of what to write about, they still need to have some ideas to choose from. I use a heart that is divided in many sections and I get them to write down things they enjoy or that they are passionate about. I actually give them 2 identical hearts so that they can draw on one and write words to go along with the images on the other one. These hearts are kept in their writing book so they always have a list of go to ideas.
6. Do some examples together
Having an example to follow will help some kids get started. Here is one that I often used.
The cat sat.
The cat sat on the mat.
The brown and white cat sat on the mat.
The soft brown and white cat sat on the mat.
The soft brown and white cat sprawled on the mat.
The soft brown and white cat sprawled on the welcome mat.
i could keep going, but I think you get the idea.
Provide a checklist and criteria
If you are planning on grading the students' work, it is important to provide a checklist or criteria so that they know what is expected of them. There are many different checklists and rubrics available. Here is a checklist that could be used for primary students.
Descriptive writing takes time for many students, but if they are given lots of opportunities to write, it will improve. I hope these tips help to open those flood gates for your students.
If you haven't figured it out yet, I am a fan of student led conferences. Since I was introduced to this format in the early nineties, I have been constantly blown away with the positive effects it has had on both my students and their parents.
If you haven't tried them before, I encourage you to do so. You will be amazed at how well they can work.
What are student led conferences?
Student led conferences are meetings where your students get to talk to their parents about their schoolwork, show what they're proud of, and talk about what they want to learn. It's like a special meeting where your students are the teachers, and their parents get to listen and learn about their progress. This helps them feel proud, confident, and more involved in their learning. It's a chance for them to talk together, celebrate successes, and make plans for the future. A small portion of the meeting time includes you, as the teacher. This is a time for sharing concerns, observations, and successes noticed in both personal and academic growth.
Benefits of student led conferences
There are many benefits with conducting student led conferences. Here are a few key ones.
Ownership of learning: The students become active participants in assessing and presenting their own progress, developing a sense of responsibility and accountability.
Communication skills: Leading a conference helps students to practice their communication skills. They learn to articulate their thoughts, explain their accomplishments, and express their learning experiences to a real audience.
Confidence builder: Successfully presenting their work and progress boosts students' self-confidence and self-esteem. This experience helps them recognize their abilities and builds a positive self-image.
Parent involvement: Student-led conferences provide parents with a deeper understanding of their child's learning journey. They gain insight into their child's strengths, challenges, interests, and overall educational experience.
Positive parent-child interaction: Student-led conferences encourage open and positive communication between parents and children. Parents have the opportunity to listen to their child's perspective and celebrate their accomplishments.
Self reflection and goal setting: Students participate in self-assessment and reflection activities, identifying their strengths and areas for improvement. They set academic and personal goals, promoting a growth mindset and a commitment to continued improvement.
What kinds of activities happen during a student led conference?
There are so many different kinds of activities that can be done during a student led conference. What you choose should be based on the following goal:
The goal of student led conferences is to provide an opportunity for kids to take ownership of their learning and showcase their progress to their parents or guardians. These conferences should empower students to be actively involved in the conversation about their education.
Here are some activities and components that kids can engage in during student-led conferences:
Tour of classroom centers and areas of learning
Work folder presentation and discussion
Goal setting and reflections
Interactive activities with parents
Meeting with the teacher
How to prepare ahead of time
Preparing for a student-led conference involves careful planning, organization, and collaboration between students and teachers.
It begins with introducing the idea to your students and letting them know what it is, how it works, and its purpose. It is important to make sure that your students understand what their role is and that they are prepared ahead of time. Explain the different components of the conference, such as work folder presentations, goal setting, and discussions.
Begin gathering work samples early on and allow your students to choose some of their best work to showcase during the conference. This could be assignments, projects, artwork, and written reflections.
Help students to assess their own progress, strengths, areas for improvement, and personal goals. Provide some worksheets or templates to help them to articulate these ideas.
Practice communication skills and role playing to help prepare your students for their role in the conference. Do activities to practice speaking clearly, making contact, and engaging with their audience.
Make sure that parents understand the purpose of the student led conference and how they can support their children during it. Set up meeting times and send out invitations.
Create a conference folder for each student that includes their work samples, self-assessment sheets, and any other relevant materials.
How I ran my student led conferences
Over the years, I ran my student led conferences in a similar fashion. I figured out what worked for my teaching style and I created a plan using that as my starting point.
Before the conferences were set to begin, I did lots of role playing with my students. The kids especially loved taking on the role of the parents for other students and it was fun to see how they rose to the challenge as they went through the motions of doing a conference.
Each child had a folder of work and an agenda to follow for the conference. Parents were informed ahead of time that the conferences could take up to 45 minutes, but that it was important not to rush the child. Some parents had more than one child's meeting, so they were told that If they had to leave for another appointment, they were welcome to return afterward.
During the conferences, I had my room set up with a separate area for meeting with me so that 3 groups could be in the room at the same time, but there was some privacy during the meet the teacher part of the agenda.
I always had a math or literacy activity for them to do together with their parents. It was fun to see how they used their skills or concepts for these activities. Parents were totally engaged in working with their children.
The end of the meeting was the best part because the parents wrote a letter to their child and then filled in a reflection sheet. The children beamed when they read the letters.
If you are interested in checking out the materials and forms that I used, you can find them here.
If you are wondering if student led conferences will work for you, I encourage you to give it a try. You may need to make some modifications along the way, but the benefits for the parents and children make it worth it.
Remember: The goal of student led conferences is to provide an opportunity for kids to take ownership of their learning and showcase their progress to their parents or guardians. These conferences should empower students to be actively involved in the conversation about their education.
Back to school is here for most teachers and kids now. Teachers in some places have already been in class for a month while others are about to return. It's a time to think about many things, but one of the ones we sometimes put on the back burner is student led conferences.
Planning now will make these meetings easier to prep for and they can also guide some of your teaching as you think about what kinds of assessments, projects, and curriculum content you might want to share.
From the first few days or weeks, you can be collecting information and learning about your students so you can best support them when it's time for conferences. Here are a few ideas to try right now.
Getting to know your students
Give your kids a chance to share things about themselves that will help you to better connect with them. Ask about their interests, hobbies, and preferences. Don't forget to give them a chance to also tell you about things that might be difficult or worrisome for them. Use the information gathered to create relationships and to inform your instruction based on interests and needs.
You could also try doing interest hearts. Fill in each space with an interest or passion. I usually do 2 copies - one for writing, and one for illustrations. Sometimes drawing is easier for younger children. These can be used as writing ideas for the first few weeks as well.
Communicating with parents
Set up ways to communicate with parents such as newsletters, email updates, or a classroom website. Share important information about the curriculum, classroom expectations, and upcoming events to keep them informed and involved. Some of this can be done at a Meet the Teacher Night.
During the first week of school, I often send home the following Getting Acquainted form so that I can get an idea about my student from the parents' perspective. It is interesting to see how kids can be very different in the home or school environment. This information form helps to see more of the whole child.
Sometimes parents want to help, but they aren't sure how best to do so. Home reading is an important part of the home/school connection, so I send home this letter so that parents have some support as they try to help their children with reading. This can be found in my Back To School Start Up Forms.
Having some goals will give kids some focus as they move forward. I like to start with celebrating what they can already do and then move to ways they can continue to improve or grow. Provide goal setting worksheets or templates for students to set personal or academic goals for the year. Encourage them to think about what they want to achieve and how they can work toward their goals.
Collect samples of work that show what your students are able to do at the beginning of the year as well as samples in the following weeks so that you can share how they have progressed. Formative assessment materials could also be used.
Don't forget to note the non-academic growth as well. Confidence, working with others, improved self esteem, and participation are a few areas to consider.
Get your students to help with this information collection. Let them know why you are collecting it and how they can help with the selections. This will help them to take ownership of their work and also prepare them to share their material with their parents when the time comes.
Next time I will share more about the actual student led conferences and why they are so beneficial.
The first weeks of school can be exhausting and overwhelming both for students and for teachers. It is important to make sure that these days are a mix of activities that help with the transition back into work mode, are fun and engaging, and also slowly reintroduce academic skills and concepts.
One of the most important goals is to create a positive and engaging learning environment where your students feel safe and the classroom community is one of respect and caring for each other. Here are 10 activities to consider:
1. Icebreaker Activities: Plan icebreaker activities to help your students get to know one another and build a sense of community. These can include "All About Me" presentations, "Find Someone Who", sharing circles, or partner interviews. Encourage students to share their interests, hobbies, and goals for the school year.
2. Establish Classroom Rules: Collaboratively develop classroom rules with your students. Discuss the importance of respect, responsibility, and cooperation. Create visual reminders of the rules and involve your students in creating a classroom rules display.
3. Name Games and All About Me Activities: Use name games and activities to help your students learn and remember each other's names. Play name games, create name tags, or use interactive name charts. Do activities that help them to share information about themselves. Create "All About Me" posters, collages, or shields. Try combining name acrostics with interests.
4. Daily Routines: Teach and practice daily routines and procedures, such as entering the classroom, morning routines, transitions, lining up, and using materials. Model and practice these routines to ensure a smooth flow of the school day.
5. Team Building Activities: Include team-building activities to encourage cooperation and collaboration. Assign the students group tasks or problem-solving activities that require them to work together and share ideas. This helps build relationships, create a supportive classroom community, and develop important social skills.
6. Classroom Jobs or Responsibilities: Introduce classroom jobs and allow your students to take on responsibilities within the classroom. Assign age-appropriate tasks such as line leader, librarian, or materials organizer. This encourages a sense of responsibility, promotes leadership skills, and helps them feel valued and involved in the classroom community.
7. Growth Mindset Activities: Teach and reinforce the concept of a growth mindset through activities and discussions. Help your students understand that their abilities can be developed through effort, perseverance, and a positive attitude. Engage in discussions about challenges, mistakes, and the power of "yet" (e.g., "I can't do it yet, but I will keep trying").
8. Math and Literacy Centers: Set up math and literacy centers with hands-on activities that review or reinforce skills previously taught. These centers can include puzzles, manipulatives, sorting activities, or small-group games that focus on essential concepts.
9. Arts and Craft Projects: Plan arts and craft projects that allow your students to express their creativity and personalize their learning environment. This can include creating classroom banners, designing name tags, or decorating bulletin boards with collaborative artwork.
10. Brain Breaks: It is important to include energizing brain breaks throughout the day to help your students stay focused and engaged. These can include quick physical activities, stretches, or movement-based games that allow them to recharge their energy.
Remember to create a balanced schedule that includes a mix of academic, social emotional, and community building activities during the first weeks of school.
These activities will help your students feel connected, engaged, and excited about the learning journey ahead. They may also help lessen your teacher overwhelm and stress as you make connections and develop relationships with your students.
Have you ever noticed how some teachers seem to have great control of the classroom situation and that the kids seem to be engaged in learning and happy to be with their peers? Other teachers seem to be constantly dealing with disruptions, and struggling to keep kids on task and engaged? One of the main reasons for the difference could be classroom management.
What is classroom management?
Classroom management refers to strategies and techniques used by teachers to create positive and productive learning environments in which students can effectively engage in learning activities. It involves setting and enforcing rules, maintaining order, fostering a sense of respect and responsibility, and maximizing instructional time.
Good classroom management usually includes setting clear expectations, using positive reinforcement, effectively communicating, and being proactive. The lessons are interesting and relevant so that the students remain engaged in their learning.
The importance of good classroom management
Having good classroom management is essential for several reasons:
• A well-managed classroom allows teachers to focus on teaching rather than managing disruptions, leading to more instructional time and improved student learning outcomes.
• Positive classroom management encourages active student participation and engagement, enhancing the learning experience. It creates a safe, supportive, and comfortable atmosphere that helps students feel comfortable expressing themselves and taking risks. It enhances the teacher-student relationship and promotes trust and open communication. Students feel motivated and confident to learn.
• Effective management helps shape positive behaviors, social skills, and self-discipline among students, promoting personal growth. It also reduces stress for both teachers and students, enabling a more enjoyable teaching and learning experience.
Optimizing learning, student engagement, emotional safety, behavioral development, a positive learning environment, teacher-student relationships, and reducing stress for both the teacher and the students all make for more effective learning and a happier classroom experience.
Without effective classroom management, the learning environment can be disruptive and chaotic and the students are not going to be as engaged in their learning.
Poor classroom management can happen as a result of inconsistent enforcement and consequences for broken rules and poor behaviors. Lack of communication or negative reinforcement can also cause issues in the classroom.
If students don't have clear and consistent rules and expectations for behavior, academic performance, and participation, they will not develop trust and respect for the teacher or each other.
Benefits of planning routines and rules for classroom behavior
Establishing routines and rules for classroom behavior provides numerous benefits. Consistent expectations, time management, smooth transitions, predictability, reduced disruptions, social skills development, and behavioral guidance are some examples.
Consistency is key. When rules and expectations are consistently applied, students understand the standards of behavior, leading to a more harmonious classroom. Routines and rules help establish a positive classroom culture and reinforce appropriate behavior. Preplanned rules also provide a basis for addressing behavioral issues, making it easier to correct misbehavior.
Clearly defined rules help minimize disruptions and maintain a focused learning atmosphere. Having planned routines eases transitions between activities, saving time and reducing disruptions. Routines and rules provide opportunities for students to develop social skills, respect for others, and responsibility.
When students know what to expect, they feel more secure and can focus on learning without unnecessary anxiety helping them feel more at ease in the learning environment
Involving your students in setting expectations can be valuable for promoting ownership and a positive learning environment. This collaborative process can take place at the beginning of the school year or at the start of a new term. Students can be encouraged to contribute their ideas about how they should behave and interact in the classroom. By participating in this process, students are more likely to take ownership of the rules and understand the rationale behind them.
However, while involving students in establishing expectations can be beneficial, teachers should still have a clear framework and authority to make final decisions and ensure that the expectations are conducive to learning and respectful behavior.
Rules and expectations around the school
Similar to the classroom, setting expectations around the school helps maintain a positive and harmonious environment. These expectations may include respecting school property, showing kindness to peers and staff, following school rules and safety guidelines, and being responsible for one's actions. Consistency between classroom and school-wide expectations reinforces positive behavior and fosters a cohesive school culture.
These rules and expectations may vary from class to class, but some expectations should be common for all students.
Some areas to consider are hallway behavior, bathroom use, assembly behavior, and playground behavior. Consistent expectations throughout the school helps reinforce positive behavior and contributes to a more respectful learning community. It also helps as teachers are often required to monitor other students during transitions or recess breaks.
Choose what works for you
There are many different ways of developing effective classroom management, so it is important to find what works best for you. Professional development workshops, webinars, educational websites, and various other online tools are available. Learning from respected colleagues is also very useful when looking for practical ideas.
Remember: What works for someone else may or may not work for you based on your teaching style, personality, and the class makeup. It is important to check out different strategies and systems and choose something that will fit with you and your students.
Next time I will focus on some classroom management activities and resources to help get the year started off positively.
Sometimes it can be challenging to find activities that engage kids as the school year ends or during the summer. Puzzles are fun to do and they help keep kids active and learning at the same time whether they are at school or at home. They can also be done at many different times of the year.
Puzzles can be great for challenging our brains
Puzzles can be fun to solve and they challenge our brains to think. They are a great way to make connections between what we know and what we want to learn or discover. They can be big or small, intricate or simple, for groups or for individuals.They can be done indoors or outdoors depending on the type of puzzle used.
Types of puzzles
There are many different types of puzzles available. Some require following clues, other require manipulating pieces. Some can be done wherever you are, and some require moving around or going to other locations. The type of puzzle you choose will depend on who is going to be solving it, what the purpose of the puzzle is, and how much time is available for it. If you are going to other locations, method of travel may also need to be factored in.
Here are some examples of different types of puzzle:
• puzzle hunt with encrypted codes
• following a timeline or identifying key objects or events
• scavenger clues hunt
• team puzzle hunt (In class or with other classes)
• unpublished geocache
Puzzle hunt with encrypted codes
This can be done in many ways. One of the simplest is to find different signs in an area and find the hidden word on each sign to lead you to the answer.
I recently did one of these with a group of students. It was done with smartphones, but it doesn't have to be that sophisticated. Pen and paper can work just as well. We moved around a park that had rocks with quotes on them. We needed to figure out the codes by counting lines and letters on each rock. The kids were broken up into groups of 4 and they were given a time limit to complete the challenge.
Solving math equations or answering questions to find the codes could be added for a more difficult form of puzzle hunt.
Following a timeline or identifying key objects or events (like in a local museum)
Following a timeline or identifying key objects or events (like in a local museum)
This could be as simple as going through an exhibit and putting events in the correct order, or answering questions about different objects located there. Questions or clues could be prepared ahead of time, and on a field trip to the museum they could be used as a tool for gathering information to be discussed as a follow up to the trip.
Create a scavenger clue hunt
Create a scavenger hunt for home or for the classroom that requires finding different clues for the final reward. Here is a sample from one that my granddaughter and I made for her younger brother and sister.
I have created a free template for you so you can make up your own scavenger hunt.
Team puzzle hunt
The class can be divided into groups of 4 and create riddles or clues for objects in the room and then have other groups hunt for the object. This could also be expanded to objects in the school as a whole and other classes could be invited to participate in solving the puzzles.
Using coordinates in the school vicinity, or a neighboring park or forested area, plan a geocaching adventure for your students. You can either hide more than one geocache and give different coordinates to each group of students, or you could create a multi-cache where they must find information to move on to the next location until they arrive at the final cache. If you make it an unpublished geocache, you can remove it afterwards and you won't need to ensure that it is far enough from other published geocaches.
Puzzles can be lots of fun, but they are also great ways to get outdoors and use critical thinking skills.
School is ending for some places, but other places have another few weeks to go before summer break. This is a time when energy is waning and kids are getting restless and distracted. Here are some ideas for ending the year with fun while still learning.
We have been cooped up for months and we are itching to get outside. So are the kids. Take advantage of the weather and take learning outdoors. See my last post for ideas for math and social studies that you can do outdoors.
Outdoor activities don't all have to be linked to academics. This is a great time to get active with gym ideas, musical games, science experiments, and just having fun as well. It is also a great time to get kids used to the idea of doing things outside to expand and practice their learning during the summer.
The end of the year can also be a great time to get creative with projects. Science projects are a great choice because they can be done outdoors as well as indoors. Check out this one that my grandson's class did last year.
Board Games Creation
Creating board games for math or social learning situations can also be fun. These can be partner activities or team activities and once the games are created, you could have a games day where the different board games are played.
This free template can be used for creating different games or activities.
Create Memory Books Or Timelines
Create a timeline or a picture walk down memory lane. It is amazing to look back at everything that was done during the year, and creating a picture timeline will help with revisiting some of these special times and all the successes that were part of the year. This could also be done as a memory book or annual that could be taken home for looking back at throughout the years. An autograph or comments page could also be added so that each person could share some special thought or comment.
School Fun Day
School fun days are another popular event for year end. The senior students could create the different activities and run the events for the primary students in the morning, and then have their own events or challenges in the afternoon or on another day.
Beach days for the whole school or groups of classes are another popular choice for year end. Our school often did a school-wide beach day with many different activities and games. However, because it was the ocean, there was limited access to being in the water because of the large numbers of people to supervise.
In recent years, they went to the lake instead and had roped off areas so the kids could go into the water. There were lifeguards hired for the day to monitor the areas.
We are fortunate to live within walking distance from the ocean so I would take my class to the beach for a seashore adventure and a hot dog roast every year. This was a great time to do scavenger hunts, study in the tide pools, and just enjoy nature. It was a great culminating activity to our study of sea life. It was also fun to have a campfire on the beach and roast hot dogs and marshmallows. Many parents came along to join us, so it was a family event.
If you have access to the beach, I highly recommend trying this.
These are only a few suggestions to wrap up the year with fun and review. I hope they help to provide some inspiration as you come to the end of another school year.
The sunshine is here and kids are anxious to get outside, so why not take advantage of this and do some outdoor math activities and other lessons? Many different subjects can be done outside the classroom walls if you add in some creativity and movement. Here are 5 fun ideas for teaching math and social studies outdoors.
Taking Measurement Outdoors
Many classes study measurement in the spring. A culminating activity for this could be an outdoor event where teams practice linear measurement. Here is a resource that might help.
Outdoor Measurement Games Team Events
Working With Time And Racing
If you teach time in the spring, perhaps you could go one step further and introduce stopwatches. Timing different events can be fun and many different devices actually have stopwatches on them now.
You could have a fun day with different activities that need timing, such as running, filling different containers, wheelbarrow races, etc. You could also set a time to beat and have the kids do activities that have to beat the time. For older children, comparing times, looking at the data and maybe even figuring out elapsed time could also be included.
Because the kids are having fun and moving around, they won't realize that they are studying time, but they will be applying skills to real world situations.
Taking Mapping Skills Outdoors
Reading maps and understanding them is still an important skill in today's digital age. Many people rely on the maps feature in their vehicle or on their phone to get them from point A to point B, but they don't have a clear understanding of how to read maps on their own. Learning how to use mapping skills like directions and grids helps when using maps at places that don't have a digital option. For example, when you go to certain amusement parks, zoos, or other events that have activities and events spread out around the grounds, being able to follow a map is important. Just think of all the maps in malls, at parks, or even at visitor centers that have "You Are Here" indicated on them. Can you follow directions from there to get to where you want to go?
Teaching kids how to use these skills in practical settings requires practice. Here is a chance to get outside and actually try to use them to find things, locate different areas, and be able to help others to find them too. Creating maps of the neighborhood or school grounds can also work as practice using grids, directions, and even symbols and legends. Here is a resource that may help.
Mapping Skills Using Grids
Using Grids And Working With Scale
Understanding how scale works is an important skill when interpreting maps, blueprints, house plans, and other documents. A great way to practice doing this is using grid paper and measuring the perimeter or area of an object and then drawing it on the paper. It is important to indicate what the size of each square is so that the measurements match what is drawn on the paper. You could choose the school yard, playground, surrounding neighborhood or any other area or object for your topic.
Here is a resource that may help with understanding perimeter and area along with some activities to practice using both.
Perimeter And Area
Solving Math Word Problems
Word problems can be especially challenging for some kids, so taking them outdoors and actually doing some hands on work with them might help. I remember creating puzzles when I was geocaching that required people to solve math questions using objects in the park in order to find the coordinates. Something similar could be done in the school yard. For example, check out and find all the trash containers, swings, trees, signs, basketball hoops, hopscotch or foursquare marking, etc. Using these objects around the school yard, create math word problems that must be solved. You could work in pairs, individually, or even in teams to solve them.
The Sky's The Limit
These are only a few of the different activities that can be done outdoors to work on math and social studies skills. Depending on what you are studying and how creative you are, there are many others that can be done as well.
So get outside, have fun, and keep the learning going.
Spring time is here with it's changing weather and new life everywhere you look. This year the saying April showers bring May flowers is very true. We are still waiting for the warmer weather and more sunny days, but we do get hints of this every so often.
This is the perfect time for planting seeds inside and watching them grow. Kids are always amazed to see the first sprouts and watch the little seed turn into a plant. These plants can also be taken and placed in the garden when the weather warms up.
I still hear from former students about the beans or tomatoes they harvested from their little seed that they planted in class.
Different ways to plant seeds
If you are looking to do more with your seed, there are various ways to plant it so that the kids can observe it's transformation. Here are some methods we used successfully in my classroom.
One method that was fun to do with my students was the CD case method. We took empty CD cases and added some soil and the seed into the case and then made sure that the soil was moist. We placed the cases in a dish rack in a sunny place. Periodically we added a little more water to keep them moist. The clear cases made it easy to see the seeds sprout. Once the leaves started to form, we transplanted the seedlings into pots so they could continue to grow.
Another method we used was peat pucks in a tray. We moistened the peat pucks so that they expanded, and then we placed the seeds in the center of the pucks. We kept them in a tray and watered them regularly so they didn't dry out. When they sprouted and started developing leaves we placed the puck in a pot with soil in it so they had more room to grow.
Planting seeds in eggshell pots is another great idea. They can be transplanted with the eggshells right into the garden when they are ready.
Of course, there is always the more traditional method of adding soil to a small pot or cup and placing the seed in the soil. This is easy to do and it saves transplanting the seedling multiple times. It also works well as a gift for mothers on Mother's Day.
What do plants need for growing?
There is more to planting the seed and just letting it grow if you want your students to understand what plants need and how plants grow. Sometimes this can be demonstrated by having a seed that doesn't get what it needs as a visual reminder. Perhaps it can be placed in a spot where it doesn't get sunlight, or maybe it can be left to dry out. Another option is to overwater it so that the seed rots and doesn't grow.
Here is a resource that helps kids to learn about plants and their needs. It uses pictures and a small written exercise to help kids understand. This will help them take steps to make sure their plants needs are met and that they grow into healthy plants.
To make growing plants more interesting, it helps to keep a journal of what is happening. I created this little observation journal for our bean plant and it was a great reminder of all that happened as the seed grew into a bean plant. I also created a more generic journal that can be used with other plants. You can get a copy here.
There are so many different types of plants that kids can grow and study. Learning about the different life cycles and how the different types of plants grow is surprising for some kids. You can check out several different plant life cycles and resources here.
I hope your students enjoy learning about plants as much as mine did. Happy planting!
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.