Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Adding some SUNSHINE to a school year and a FREEBIE

Hey Dear Friends!

I've had a chance to get back into my classroom this week and begin preparing it for a new group of 3rd graders.  As I've been working in my classroom, I have time to reflect upon the new group of students I will have this school year, and how to make our learning community a positive and FUN  (yes I said fun) experience for every student.   

Do you ever feel like teaching at times is like the postcard below?
As a third grade teacher, in the state that I teach in, I do at times.  I feel like the the bar is constantly being raised for our students ,and that they are missing out on some important life lessons such as social time with others and just having time to be a "kid.  It makes me sad for our kids.  I LOVED going to school and enjoyed 2 recesses a day to talk with my friends.  I remember my 5th grade teacher teaching us how to make these little bunsen burners out of a coffee can for a day camping trip we were going to take. We even got to repel off of a small, small, cliff.   ( I know.. it's been decades since I've been in grade school.)

When I look at my empty classroom that is soon to be filled with new students, it's important to me to  incorporate activities throughout the year that will put a smile on their face and great memories from 3rd grade.   

Life has changed so much for the society in which we live and SO quickly it seems to me.  In my little learning community, I have had students who have parents with cancer, parents who have passed away from cancer, students who are  homeless, students who are home alone for long periods of time after school, students who come from broken homes, students who are being raised by their grandparents, students who may have a sibling that requires lots of extra care and assistance, and the list goes on and on.     Can you imagine being a student with one or more of those worries weighing on their little heart?  It breaks my heart, AND then we expect them to come to school and leave all those worries at the door and LEARN?    I don't know about you, but if I were going through some of these things I couldn't do that.

SO it's time to put some FUN back into learning.  For many of the students mentioned above, school is a "safe" place from those problems.  It's a place for students to visit with their friends and just be a "kid" for a little while each day anyway. 

I realize I may sound like I'm on my soapbox.  I apologize!  It's so important to me to  make sure my learning community is a safe, caring, and fun place for my students.

Here are just a few easy things I do/ plan to do  in my classroom to help encourage a positive and caring classroom environment:

1.  I LOVE to share with my students a funny story from home or maybe something my family did over the weekend.... Believe it or not... Students LOVE to see this "real" side of you.  I often have parents that comment  or e-mail me about these little stories as well because their child shared it with them after school.     I think it also helps my students feel more comfortable and at home in our learning community.

2.Sunshine notes

While it would be extremely difficult to give each and every student in my classroom a personal handwritten note about a success that day, I do pick 5 or 6 students daily to give handwritten sunshine notes.  These notes are short little notes from me that might compliment them on something that day, praise them for working hard in a particular area, and etc.  If I do 5 or 6 a day, by the end of the week each student in my room has received a personal handwritten sunshine note from me.   It's amazing what these little notes do for some of these students!   ( I just need to be a lot better about fitting these notes in on a weekly basis this year.  These notes do make a big difference.)    You can snag these little "Sending you some Sunshine" notes for FREE  HERE or by clicking on the photo below. I've included a color and black and white version.

3.  Warm and Fuzzy Jar
 A.K.A. marble jar

This works similar to the marble jar except that students get to put in those pom poms  for doing something kind for someone else.  Once the jar is filled to the top, the class gets a "classroom filled with kindness" party.
To make this project all you need are:  some pom poms- I purchased mine from the Dollar Tree
ribbon to go around the top of the jar
a jar- I stocked up on the plastic jars from Dollar Tree
the "warm and fuzzy" printable- you can download it for free from HERE

4. Brag Tags
 I started using brag tags on a regular basis with my students last year.  It was such a hit!  They looked forward to getting a new "tag" on their necklace.  I had a special place in the classroom in which all of the necklaces were placed.  Students could wear their brag tags on Fridays.  This was so great for inspiring a positive learning environment.  Students would give out compliments to others on the "earning" of a new tag.

These fabulous tags came from Corinna at Surfin Through Second and Miss Nelson from Run Miss Nelson's Got the Camera.  Click HERE. and HERE. for the links.

5.  Brain Breaks
I find my students start asking for these once the school year is just a few weeks in.  These are a great way to take a "break" for just a few minutes between subjects.  Students often have the opportunity for movement and social interaction during these brain breaks.  You can find them anywhere..  I LOVE using Go Noodle also for brain breaks.

Here is one of the  brain breaks I have in my classroom:

You can find this in my TPT store by clicking HERE or on the photo below.

These are just a few easily manageable things I have added to my classroom to promote a positive, fun, and caring learning atmosphere.   I would love for you to share some of your favorite activities to promote a fun and positive atmosphere for your students!!!


Kelly said...

Thanks so much for this post. I am moving up from 1st to 3rd. I wasn't sure if 3rd graders would think they were "too big" for different things. It's nice to know that they seem to like most of the same things that 1st graders do.

Thanks for sharing the sunshine notes. I'll have three 3rd grade classes, but I think I could use them with my homeroom class.
I'm Not Your Grandpa, I'm Your Teacher

jen said...

Hi Krista!
I love these ideas! Thank you for the sunshine notes--I'll definitely try to incorporate them into my room this year :)
I would love to do the warm fuzzy jar and the brag tags, but I'm not sure how to manage that in a departmentalized setting. I feel like I would need two sets of everything!
Thank you so much :)