Groundhog Day is a fun, low-stress holiday for the elementary classroom.
Teach your students about the history of Groundhog Day using myGroundhog Day Worksheet. You will find vocabulary definitions, think and respond questions, and a fun tongue twister about woodchucks. (Did you know a woodchuck and a groundhog are the same creature?)
Visit Groundhog.org, the official website of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, for pictures, articles and Groundhog Day ideas submitted by teachers. Show your class the official promo video for Groundhog Day. Students will enjoy seeing the excitement of visiting Punxsutawney for that day.
FREE online speed reading software helps all of your students become more efficient readers–but you need materials and a plan to make the most of this resource. Here are some tips from a National Board Certified teacher and speed reader.
For a full lesson on speed reading, read my blog entry on the topic. Here are the Cliffs Notes:
Speed read by tracking with your finger. Yes, just like you did back in first grade. Build up speed by sliding your finger more quickly under the text and challenging your eyes and mind to keep up. (The online version uses a computer program to flash the words on the screen.)
This helps because it focuses your eye. Without imposing focus, your eyes will just wander over the page, re-reading, skipping along, and generally wasting time.
It also teaches you not to read in your head. You know how little kids read aloud? Well, us older folks enunciate the words in our heads. As you learn to track your finger faster and read faster, you will read much faster than you could talk. Once you break the reading-aloud-in-your-head habit, you read much faster.
My favorite FREE online speed reading program is Spreeder. This tool is part of the terrific online speed reading course 7SpeedReading, which offers courses for individual users and educational institutions. Request a free trial here–just click on EDU Edition on the menu bar.
Spreeder helps your students train their eyes and brain to work together more efficiently. You can choose any text to practice with, although I recommend using their sample text first, because it explains the process. In a nutshell, you have students adjust the program to flash words at them very quickly–about double their resting reading rate. Students switch back and forth between fast and comfortable, building their ability to speed read in the process.
Spreeder is no fun unless you have ready access to interesting passages. I found a great source: Mental Floss. The website features is an offshoot of the magazine that helps clever people “feel smart again.” The site includes articles, lists and features about everything under the sun. Here is just a sample of what you can learn on MentalFloss.com:
Use the success of the Paddington movie to interest your students in the books about everyone’s favorite marmalade connoisseur.
Encourage students to see the movie–or show it to your class in May for an end-of-school-year treat. Critics have praised the movie, and it’s doing well at the box office. EW‘s Jason Clark wrote that the film is “closer to the madcap spirit of the Muppets and the lovingly rendered style of a Wes Anderson film than to standard multiplex family fodder.”
Thank goodness the movie did justice to Michael Bond’s wonderful books. There are so many to choose from, and your students will love them all. Paddington stories tend to have high reading levels–6.0 according to AR–so they make great readalouds. It’s important to expose students to text with more complexity than they can handle themselves, and Paddington stories are a fun way to expose students to more complex writing. You can ask students to concentrate on the story, or you can give them Paddington coloring pages to keep their hands busy while they listen.
There are many great Paddington books. My favorite, though, is the Paddington Treasury. This comprehensive collection of Paddington stories will keep your class entertained for an entire school year. The stories are sorted by category, so stories about mistaken identity are in one section and stories about food are in another. You can read similar stories together for a lesson on theme or mix them up for variety.
The Paddington Bear – The Complete Classic Series DVD gathers all the classic TV episodes into one affordable disc. It would be fun to have in the classroom, for a quick video break on Fun Fridays or as a handy bribe to help a sub keep control of the class.
I hope you and your class have a great time with Paddington Bear!
If you know you’re going to be absent, leave your sub plans in a conspicuous place–and write the location of the plans on the whiteboard.
Spell it out–“Sub plans are on my desk.” (Or the back table, or the podium, or the computer table–it’s surprising how many potential places there are to leave sub plans.)
If your absence was unplanned–perhaps because you woke up sick at 6:00 am–then you could email your plans to colleagues and ask them to place them in the room ASAP. Ask the colleague to either speak with the sub or write the location of the sub plans on the board.
Students and teachers know that the real new year is when school starts, but the actual new year is also an important milestone. It’s a good time to review progress and set new goals. Here are some tips for helping your students evaluate progress.
Print out as many benchmarks and data points as you can. Give students their most recent STAR test, their AR progress, and their results on benchmark assessments for the 3Rs. (Graded writing samples, scores from computerized assessments, etc.)
Show students their scores and give them a benchmark. Be honest with the kids–tell them what constitutes at, on, and above grade level.
Encourage students to set new goals. Choose a date for a new evaluation. The end of third quarter is a good time to reflect. Another good time is about three weeks before the standardized tests.
Give the students a log sheet where they can write their progress and goals. Students on or above grade level may be self-sufficient for this step, but struggling students will need help.
Show students how they can improve their scores and reach their goals. It’s the same advice we always give–read, practice math, focus on writing–but when that advice comes on the heels of a progress report, it might mean a little more. Encourage students to write their action steps on their log sheet.
Encourage students to show their progress/goal sheet to parents. You might want to require a signature and offer a reward for students who follow through.