We all want students to do some meaningful activities to learn about veterans. You can still have fun and create engaging activities to get your students to see how important veterans are to our country.
Veterans Day Activities
I remember teaching first grade and just showing a movie about veterans around Veteran’s Day, but then I created an escape room for primary classrooms. The students were 100% engaged! They were learning and didn’t even know it! Students worked as a team to solve clues about veterans, opened a box and escaped the classroom to recess. They went home and talked about it to their parents.
During the rest of the week, I had students make pennants to display in the classroom. A veteran was invited to come speak to the classroom. She took questions from the students. During centers, students created a Veterans Day layered book and wrote about why veterans are so important to our country. We discussed how we should treat veterans.
Students can make a KWL chart at the beginning of the week to show what they know and what they have learned at the end of the unit. Venn Diagrams make a great way to help students identify the difference of Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. These two days are confused easily. Memorial Day honors the military personnel who died while serving. Veteran’s Day honors the persons who have served.
If you have never planned an educational escape room with your elementary students, why not try one this Halloween? You will find that the students are all engaged, excited to learn while solving clues and discover how to work as a team without a lot of direction from you. It takes about 45 minutes to set up the materials. This Return the Pumpkin Escape Room Mystery is designed with your K-2 students in mind! The download is editable so you can tailor it to your needs, or just print and go!
Hook Them Early
First, a video story creates a “hook” for engaging the students in the mystery right off the bat! Students will have to find their classroom pumpkin that Willie the Werewolf stolen. The video is only a few minutes long. The video will tell you to press play so you can read the first clue, but then you can press play to have some background mystery music while the kids use teamwork to solve the mystery and open a box to escape the classroom!
Each escape room provides 3 clues for students to solve. The average time for them to be able to beat the clock is 40 minutes. This classroom escape room has students finding bags of letters to form words. Students are encouraged to help each other. Not just their own team, but the other team too because they can’t open the box without both keys. Paper keys provided, so no need to buy real locks.
Once student solve all three clues, they will find the missing class pumpkin, receive a prize from the box and escape the classroom to a monster dance party, recess or the library. You get to choose!
Break OUT rooms or Escape Rooms encourage teamwork, academic skills, problem solving and require students to listen while following directions. Then there is also the incredible engagement aspect it provides. This is why many teachers like to use them for their evaluations.
Having a consistent morning routine will help students to begin their day knowing what is expected before they get to school. There should be a morning greeting at the door. This will dissolve any anxiety a student may feel in the morning about entering your classroom. I had two morning routines in kindergarten that lasted a week to keep them from getting bored. One week they would work in morning journals that reviewed concepts learned during the week. Then the next week, there would be hands-on manipulatives for students to practice math skills. Something simple for them to pick up and do on their own, like puzzles or tangrams. Positive morning routines will help set the tone for the whole day.
When students have a regular routine, several things happen:
1. Students feel safer and happier when regular routines are established in their lives. 2. Their learning improves. 3. Students develop independence, so it makes it easier for you to help other struggling students.
The next questions that many teachers have is “What should I have them do in the morning when they stagger in at different times?” There is no absolute answer to this question, but here are a few ideas:
Use a composition book for students to draw or write about choice topics each morning for a week. Then, slowly get them ready for writing on topics you choose that lead to them sharing their opinions.
Let students work in morning work themed journals that review math and literacy skills.
What does this mean for a teacher? We need to invest time and energy into where we will get the biggest return. Even though bulletin boards, fancy décor, and homework packets are great, they are not where you will get the maximum for student achievement. I’m not saying don’t do them. I’m saying spend less time on activities that don’t reach the highest academic achievement. So instead of spending two hours on personalizing cubbies, spend 30 minutes. Then, spend an hour and a half on planning for your small group activities.
Another great area to invest your valuable teaching time is in building relationships with your parents. Having a consistent communication with parents should be a priority. A strong relationship with parents will help you have a successful school year. Now with technology at your fingertips it is easier than ever! Using Class Dojo or Remind to send text messages or pictures is a great way to keep in touch with busy parents. Weekly newsletters are perfect for not only letting parents know about their child’s week, but help you get materials into your classroom for future lessons! Scroll down for a FREE Editable Newsletter Template!
When parents communicate: 1. Students feel like their parents are invested in education. 2. Reinforcement of class skills are increased. 3. Parent involvement improves.
The next questions that many teachers have is “What if I have a parent who never reads my communication?” Don’t give up! Here are a few ideas: • Send electronic and paper versions of your communication home. • Ask the student to remind the parent to look at your communication. • Pick up the phone and call them to let them know how valuable communication will be in the future.
Johnny Appleseed is famous for planting apple seeds across land while exploring and having an adventurous life. For older students, it is fascinating to have them research his life and find out WHY he really planted the seeds. They can discover that the apples were used to make HARD CIDER because they were too small and bitter.
Younger students learn about his love of animals, his real name (John Chapman) funny personality and kindness. For twenty years, I have taught primary students about Johnny Appleseed. At the end of each school year I would survey my class and most classes remember the week we learned about apples!
Introduce Johnny Appleseed by reading a book about his life. Discuss the facts from the book. Share a video about his life because most students are visual learners, including a short video is a great way to hook your students into wanting to learn more. Then, have a different activity about apples during the week that will help them not only learn about Johnny Appleseed but the science of apples. Incorporate all subjects into your lessons. Here are some activities that are easy to plan, but hits standards:
Sort apples by color or a large graphing chart.
Make home-made applesauce. (My favorite easy recipe will be at the bottom of this post.)
Label the parts of the apple. (skin, flesh, seeds, stem, core)
Write a letter to Johnny Appleseed.
Count the apple seeds during math.
Incorporate the 5 senses by letting students smell and taste different types of apples.
Invite parents to send in apples. (I use these all week for the activities above.)
Have students think about their favorite color or flavor or apple. They can make a graph to see what kind was the class’ most popular.
Make apple glasses for students to use while reading about apples facts or apple books.
Have an APPLE PARTY! Invite parents to send in apples snacks to share with the class so students can see how many different ways apples are used for ingredients.
Here is my favorite EASY applesauce recipe!
First, peel the apples. Next, remove the cores out of all your apples, (you need about 1 apple per kid in your class) cube the apples and place them in a crock pot on high. Do this as a whole group activity in the morning. The room will smell SO GOOD!
I like to have parent volunteers cut up the apples in front of the students or just send them in already cut up in bags. Then, cut one apple to show them the inside and let the students pour the rest of the cubes into the crock pot. Finally, add about 1/2 a cup of Cinnamon Red Hots Candies into the pot. The red hots add some sugar and cinnamon flavoring. The red color makes the applesauce different and fun for the students. Even students who said they hated apples, eat it and LOVE IT. I leave it on high, mash it up with a potato masher later. About 30 minutes before you want to serve it (at the end of the day, so it had about 3 or 4 hours of cooking) let it cool off before giving it to the kids. It’s warm, but not hot. SO YUMMY!
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Pick a theme or color scheme that you will love all year!
Themed Classroom Decor
Picking a theme that not only you love, but inspires your students to learn is one of the most important decisions for a teacher! Your classroom decor sets the tone for your students all year. Teacher’s want it to be warm, inviting, and materials to be easily accessible to the students. Keep your theme calm, yet fun. Nicole Woody’s camping reading area is warm and inviting! What student wouldn’t want to curl up with a good book in a tent next to a camp fire?
Create a STEM Area
If you love a particular subject, make sure you incorporate your favorite subjects in a way to make you feel happy and inspired. Not only will you walk in to your classroom with an instant feeling of happiness, your students will see your passion and follow suit! Check out Lisa Taylor’s STEM area for ideas in your classroom. She also creates amazing STEM products in her TpT store! It is bright, happy and screams “MAKE SOMETHING GREAT” with the way she organizes using accessible bins with various items. This also makes clean up a snap for students to easily put materials away.
Check out The Fairy Tale Teacher’s classroom where imagination meets blooms of color to engage her students and set a happy tone to the school day! Using your imagination to design your room is a great way to model for your students how they should use their imagination. Not sure what theme to pick? Consider leaving the room a blank canvas and let the students choose a theme and maybe even a class name. You can invite the students help create the decorations or help write a grant to obtain materials they want for their room.
Bulletin Boards are the best way to spruce up a classroom! Rikki Heyman has utilized hers to make a “Smart Spot” and another to place her learning objectives, so students can clearly see the targets they should be aiming for during lessons. She said, “Creating a learning environment is a lot of work, but well worth the community I get to share it with…” Do you have a spot in your classroom for placing learning objectives? Her “Smart Spot” board is used for students to be able to locate flexible seating choices. What child wouldn’t want to be in this class?
Add Some Color
Sometimes all you need is some great colors to brighten up the walls of a dull classroom! I love the way this room utilizes colorful pompoms, blue hanging paper lanterns, various forms of lighting, and the cute chalkboard table stands. Adding pennants and lanterns are fantastic ways to transform a classroom into a positive environment for learning.
Don’t forget about your doors. They are the first thing your students will look at in the morning! Either decorate your door, or for younger students, have a choice for them to pick for a MORNING GREETING (Grab the freebie!) or GOOD BYE. If you don’t have time to greet the students in the morning, let that be a student’s job. It can change the mood of a student who had a rough start at home.
Travel the World
Want to bring Hawaii with you into the classroom for the year? Use this tropical themed classroom decor set that includes watercolors and real photos of Hawaii. Decorate some palm trees for holidays. Create a warm environment by using bamboo, beach colors and tropical decor in your classroom. Students can relax in beach chairs in the reading nook.
Colors make a Difference
Find you local home improvement store to find paint color sample strips. This will help you pick some colors that really go together, if you want to transform you classroom without having a particular themed room. You can find empty new paint cans there also. Use the paint cans as pencil holders, flower pots, spray on some chalk paint to easily use chalk to write table numbers, and use the lids for students to practice tracing circles. You can spray the lids with the same black chalk paint, add a magnet to the back and write your class schedule on the lids. So many possibilities! Whatever you decide, make it feel like your second home, because that is really what your classroom is to you and your students.
4. Do you need something more for your students to practice writing skills? Check out the K-3rd Writing Prompts Yearlong Bundle. This has 12 monthly themed journals with writing prompts, practice with opinion, narrative, letter writing and more. Each prompt has a Self Check Rubric at the bottom of each page.
5. Social Studies is another area that teachers lack materials for in K-1. The Kindergarten and First Grade Social Studies Bundle makes finding materials that meet the standards a SNAP! Also, there are journals, interactive notebook pages, home activities and crafts included in this mega bundle all hitting the standards.
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This summer you can discover fantastic space-themed events, as the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of America’s first steps on the moon. Neil A. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took those first steps on the moon as the rest of the world watched and cheered in amazement.
The moon landing marked the day American positioned itself as a global leader in science. Fifty years later, we remember this mission. So how do we get our students to feel the aw of this moment? If you visit NASA’s web site, you will find events all over American to attend celebrating Apollo’s 50th Anniversary.
As a teacher, I wanted to give students the opportunity to learn about the first time man walked on the moon. So I created a 2 week lesson plan that would dive into the event while hitting standards. I wanted parents to be involved, so I added a “HOME CONNECTION” project which included them making a rocket ship. I wanted to make those two weeks Apollo 11 themed in all the subject area, so students wrote about themselves going to the moon, made books, created a STEM Challenge of making a Lunar Lander, studied vocabulary, and made books.
Young students love pretending, so how much fin is it for them to pretend to be an astronaut who wants a job by filling out an application! Students love making little “space men” finger space holders on craft sticks for them to use during writing activities.
Moon phases are easily displayed on and “ipad” printable during science. The best way to really get your students to understand the event if to share videos with them from NASA. It will help them understand the how long ago it was when we visited the moon. You can talk about the importance of teamwork to get to the moon.
What are you going to do with your students to celebrate The Eagle landing?
One of many fantastic topics to teach in kindergarten is the alphabet! Students are like sponges in the classroom ready to absorb anything you put a song to when it comes to letters. As a kindergarten teacher, I was always looking for the most engaging ways to energize my students, so they would quickly learn their letters.
Letter Identification Activities
Sometimes I couldn’t find what I needed, so I would design it myself. I wanted students to have a lot of practice with each letter. In centers, it is not enough for students to write a letter. I wanted to help create a hands-on experience. So, we would use play doh to form letters, trace them on each other’s backs, and use rice or pudding in a pan to form a letter with our fingers. The class’ favorite way to learn about letter identification was to solve mysteries. It could be escape rooms, puzzles, or problems to solve as a classroom to find missing letters from the word wall. Anything that seemed “secret” was a hit!
Every morning my students would get a morning work tub with different activities. This would provide extra reinforcement with the letter for the week. They could choose a hands-on activity or their Morning Work Journal. Students played games, looked around the room for the hidden letters, and had to find all the letters for the week that were in a large pile mixed with other letters. They loved morning work!
The Next Step
Once students grasp letter identification, it’s time to work on the letter sounds. This is much more difficult than letter identification, but so rewarding!
Teachers are resigning from teaching in droves! I’m ONE of them. I loved teaching in the classroom. Being in the classroom for 20 years is one of my greatest life treasures. Now, like many teachers, I resigned and work full time out of the classroom, leaving my tenure behind. My field is still in education, but I’m out of the classroom.
WHY ARE THEY LEAVING?
While I can never talk on behalf of all teachers, I can share why I left the classroom. After meeting lots of other teachers who left the classroom, I found that we all had similar stories. The student behaviors are getting worse. You would think that would be the reason we left, but it is not. Helping troubled students was part of our vision. There’s an amount of pride in being able to help a student through their grief, anger, or loss. The reward it high. Some students we never think we reach, but years later, we receive letters of appreciation from them for our hard work.
So why? It is not about the behaviors, it’s about the lack of support from the administration and the district. There are many administrators who don’t have the best interest of the children in mind. Some have used a behavior situation to encourage a teacher to leave who they might not like, or they see that one teacher is talented with behavior problems and overload them with too many. The district doesn’t provide proper training for teachers to deal with severe problems. School counselors are busy doing lunch duty, testing or some other activity that has nothing to do with their job description. With many evaluations today, the teacher gets written up for not being able to handle behavior problems. How is writing a teacher up helping them learn how to handle a future behavior problem?
The lack of support is a helpless feeling for a teacher. Many teachers have had nervous breakdowns from being physically abused from the students and emotionally abused by their district who provide not support to the teacher. When you have to weigh teaching in a classroom with your own personal health, there is really only one option.
Yes, this can be prevented to where we can retain our most experienced and qualified teachers. Teachers need to gain the respect of being the professional in the classroom. They need to be taken seriously when they inform administration about behaviors. There should be a plan in place that EMPOWERS the teacher. The plan needs to provide the teacher with the knowledge of how to handle problems, insurance that they are not alone while dealing with severe behaviors, and real training prior to getting in the classroom that is on-going. Our students are in crisis! Our dedicated teachers are leaving! It’s time to fix the problem.