Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bright Ideas: Recess Check-out Chart

Welcome to another month full of bright ideas. Today I'm going to share a quick idea to help keep recess equipment organized and know who has your equipment during recess, while also allowing everyone to have a turn using the recess equipment. Many of you probably already have a card pull chart (or some other type of color-coded behavior system) already in place in your classroom, and this idea builds on that concept. Here is a picture of my card pull chart....  Let's not discuss the fact that it is ripped and falling apart... This baby has been with me through 3 different schools over 8 school years, and is on its last threads.... I plan in making a new one this summer. Anyway, the card pull system is used school-wide at my school, so it's something I have to have in my classroom anyway...

Okay so about recess.... I was getting tired of my equipment being lost and scattered all over the playground and field, and I was tired of the same few kids always taking the soccer balls and kick balls. It was exhausting to try and keep track of who had and hadn't had a turn, and that's when my bright idea was born! Because my kids already had a number on the card pull chart, I just wrote each of their names and numbers on a large craft stick and stuck it in the card pull chart behind their cards, and quickly glued some pictures of the equipment on empty pocket envelopes, and created a recess check out chart!

Here's my recess check-out chart. As you can see, it's nothing fancy. And before you ask, no, I don't have the graphics available for you to print.... I might make a cutsie packet at some point, but I seriously just opened a blank word document, searched for the graphics I needed, and quickly printed them.  No time for cute fluff!

Here are my check-out chart rules:

1. You must be on green to check out equipment.
2. You can check out equipment once a day.
3. If you do not return the equipment at the end of recess, your stick is moved to the "lose a turn" spot for the week (or until lost equipment is found and returned.)
4.  If equipment is permanently lost or damaged, your stick might be thrown away or left in "lose a turn" spot for more than a week.
5. Only the recess chart helper or the teacher can reset the recess chart.

You can use these rules in your classroom, or use mine as guidelines to create your own. I think the rules are pretty much self-explanatory, but it will quickly explain how I use them. Every child starts on green each day, so rule #1 goes with that. If they can't follow directions in class, they can't take equipment out to recess. You can decide if you like this rule or not. It works great in my room, especially since I don't have a ton of equipment to begin with. Once they have had a turn, they must return the equipment to the recess basket, and put their stick in the "already had a turn" spot. That gets reset every day, so they know that they will get another turn tomorrow.... The great thing about this is that the kids are learning how to SHARE!! They are learning to plan ahead and play with others... I often hear them talking and making plans for who will check out equipment for which recess, and it gets them playing TOGETHER.

Rules 3 and 4 are rarely needed.... But for some kids, bless their hearts, it doesn't matter how many chances I give them, when they check out equipment, it doesn't come back (or worse, it gets kicked over the fence, into the road, and run over by a semi... True story!) so, for those rare occasions when they just can't follow directions, their stick goes to "lose a turn" for a while. If their stick is there a LOT, or if they damage multiple pieces of equipment, I have been known to throw their stick in the garbage can.... Again, this is rare, but it HAS happened. Yes, I'm *that* mean! Lol!

Rule 5 -- I am super forgetful and don't always reset the sticks at the end of the day, so I added a "recess chart helper" to my helper chart. The recess helper can reset the sticks if I have forgotten (which is pretty much every day...) Kids love to help, and I'm always thankful for their helping hands!

Thanks so much for stopping by. If you like this idea, please PIN it and spread the bright idea with others :)

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Friday, March 7, 2014

5 Star Writing {& a freebie}

This year, my school set a goal to improve in writing. I will admit, while I love doing writing activities with my class, I am definitely not an expert when it comes to teaching writing. I think that's because we don't have to take standardized writing tests in second grade, so I've never stressed about it too much. I have my kids write in their journals each day, but it's more just for leisure as it's not graded. And while we do write stories and stuff, it's just never been the biggest focal point of my instruction (perhaps because the math and reading instruction take up so much time every day!)

Anyway, my principal bought each of us a "four-square writing" book at the beginning of the year, and it's been somewhat helpful, but there was still something missing and I couldn't quite put my finger on it.... Until now!!

Last month, we had a training with all of the lower grade teachers, and one of our kindergarten teachers shared with us a great freebie she had found on TPT. It was exactly what was missing from my writing instruction.... Except that it was designed specifically for kindergarten, and revolved around only writing ONE sentence. I decided to make my own poster, and also a kid-friendly checklist for my students to complete as they work on their writing.
** please note, I tried to contact the original creator of the kindergarten writing posters, but she never wrote back to me, so I hope she doesn't mind me re-working  the poster to suit the needs of my second graders.**

Here is my version of "5 start writing"... I love that it is very simple and straightforward. I emailed the poster to my principal and he was nice enough to order them in poster size from our district print shop so that we can hang them in our classrooms. And while this was designed with second grade in mind, many teachers in our building ordered it for upper grade classrooms too, so it's very versatile and can be used across many grade levels. (There is also a kindergarten version that has the 5 steps for writing just one sentence if you want that one instead.)

This week, as my class was working on their "Cat in the Hat" stories for Dr. Seuss week, they had to keep revising their rough drafts until it was perfect "5 star writing" in order to be given the cute stationary to publish their stories. Many students are still working on their 5 stars and will continue working on their stories next week, as they refine their "5 star" skills!

This has been a great motivator in my classroom, and I hope it's something you can use too! What do you do for writing instruction??