Saturday, September 1, 2012

First Few Days of School

This week was our first three days of school, so I've been away from blogging for a few days.  The first week of school is one of my favorite times of the year - full of energy, excitement, and a new beginning.  I love introducing all areas of the classroom, watching kids explore the library, and getting to know all of my new students as learners and as individuals.  I love hearing about the sports they play, which subjects they love or hate, and what interests them.  In the first weeks of school, I work hard to build a strong sense of community, create a safe environment where students feel safe to take risks as learners, and create a buzz of excitement for learning, reading and writing.

Here are a few highlights from our classroom this week: 

Creating our class expectations: 
On the first day, students had time to identify their individual hopes and dreams for this new school year.  Then students gathered in groups to share their hopes and dreams as learners and identify what our whole class needs to do to help them achieve their hopes and dreams (rule/expectation).  After five minutes, all groups gathered together to share the expectations they identified as being the most important for our class.  
As a class, we discussed the patterns they noticed in the group expectations and students discovered that respect, work together, and listen were shared expectations among all groups.  The class decided to have three expectations: Listen when someone is speaking, Be respectful, and Work together.  Below is "Our Classroom Expectations" chart that students signed, agreeing to follow the three expectations they wrote as a class.

Building Community: 
During the first three days, we did various team building activities such as the "Silent Birthday Line- Up" where students have to get in line in order of the birthdays from January to December without talking at all.  Students really have to be creative and work as a whole team to succeed at this challenge in the three minutes they are given. We did this as one of our morning meeting activities this week and the students loved it! At the end of the challenge,  I asked students to reflect on what worked and what they would change if they did the challenge again.  

Another activity that students loved was Save Fred!  I read about this team building activity, that also teaches the Scientific Method, on The Fearless 5th Grade Teacher Blog.   We did this activity during Science this week and I will definitely be doing this activity again next year!  For this activity, each group has to work together to save Fred, the gummy worm, from drowning.  Fred doesn't know how to swim and his boat (a plastic cup) capsized and his life preserver (gummy lifesaver) is underneath the boat.  The group has to try to get the life preserver from under the boat and onto Fred without touching the boat, life preserver, or Fred with their hands. The can only use the four paperclips they are given.  The life preserver is a little small for Fred so all students have to work together to try to get it on him and have to try over and over again before succeeding.  I love this activity because it teaches students how to work together, take risks, learn from failure, and keep trying.  It also teaches the steps of the scientific method which we will be using all year in Science.  

Before giving students the materials, I showed them a Prezi to introduce the experiment and had groups write out their plan and hypothesis for the experiment on a chart I created for each table group. 
Once their plan was ready,  they received their materials and the fun began!  Here are some photos of them working together to save Fred: 

Welcome Back to School! 

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