Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Managing Extra Practice Work

I always like to have a go to activity for my students to use when they have completed their written assignments. I generally use a game and/or manipulatives-based activity for my math and literacy activities. However, there are other times (morning journals, Social Studies/Science Centers, etc...) when I need something for them to do if they finish early. I keep baskets of books on their tables for this purpose. However, last year I decided to add something more.

I wanted to make extra practice work available to my students. I generally make a couple of extra copies of the practice sheets we use during the week. I started collecting extra sheets after activities were completed. At the end of each week I began putting the extra pages into a tub. The tub was gold colored, so we began calling the extra work "Gold Tub Work."

Last year I just had my students take the extra practice pages home when they were finished. I began noticing that my students were not putting forth their best effort on this work, and I wasn't happy about sending home the ungraded papers. I knew that I needed a better way to manage this work and encourage my students to put forth more effort.

This past summer I watched  The "Pizza Papers" video on teachertipster.com. Mr. Smith puts extra practice pages into a basket. He has the students mark the pages with a "P" for Pizza Pages (I put a "G" on mine for Gold Tub) so they won't get confused with regular assignments. When the students finish the pages they put them into a pizza box. At the end of the month he pulls out a page. If the paper is done neatly and correctly the student wins a prize. I'm assuming that after he pulls a winner he discards the extra pages.

This was the idea I was looking for! I decided to start pulling my pages twice a week so my students would see the rewards quickly. I pull a page each Wednesday and Friday. I've used pencils, inexpensive toys, and bookmarks as prizes. I'm also working on some prizes that don't cost anything (lunch with a friend in another class, extra play time, an extra trip to the library, etc...). So far I have seen great results. Thanks Teacher Tipster!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Magnetic Letter Activity

It's 2012! I thought I would begin the year by sharing a literacy activity I've been using in my class. This activity was really easy to put together and my students really enjoy it.

I am always looking for fun ways for students to practice making words during literacy centers. I like using colorful magnetic letters. It really seems to engage the students.

In the past I've had them use magnetic letters to make words that I'd written out on note cards. After making a  word with the magnetic letters they practice reading the word before making the next word.

This year I did something a little different. I got this idea from watching a video on Teachertipster.com. Mr. Smith used photographs of words made out of magnetic letters. He loaded the photographs onto a digital picture frame. This is a great go to activity. Students can practice words quietly once they've finished other assignments.

While I would like to do use this activity, I have yet to find a reasonably priced digital frame. However, I love the idea of using pictures of words made with magnetic letters. One day after school, I took photographs of words I made with magnetic letters.

I put the photographs into a word document and made cards. I printed the cards on white card stock. Then I laminated them using my Scotch laminator (I love having my own laminator!)

Magnetic Word Cards

After I laminated the cards I used used magnetic tape on the back.  The front of my desk faces a carpet, where one of my literacy centers is located.  My desk is metal so it provides an excellent surface for magnetic activities. I decided to use these cards as a follow up activity at this center. I placed the cards in a baggy and used a magnetic clip to attach the bag to the desk. I also stuck all the necessary magnetic letters to the desk.

My students select a card and stick it to the desk. Then they find the correct magnetic letters to make the word. Finally, they practice reading the word. This activity gives them practice at building words and blending.
After winter break I am going to add dry erase sentence strips to the activity, so they can practice writing the words and using them in sentences.