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A fun Community Building Puzzle that is a great activity to engage students in working together at the beginning of the year or any time you need to build community in your elementary classroom. Students color the puzzle pieces and cooperatively put the puzzle together.

The post Community Building Puzzle appeared first on What I Have Learned.

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Last year, I published a post with 20 ideas for the first day of school. It included MANY more ideas in the comments! This post is 20 MORE ideas for the first day of school and gives you even more things to do on the first day of elementary school.

20 MORE ideas for the first day of school

Here are 20 MORE tips that will make your first day back to school a success!

Note: Some links below are affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for more information.

1. Greet Students at the Door

Adults love to feel important and to know that they are seen. So do kids! Your students want to know they aren’t invisible to you.

So, first things first: Greet your students at the door. Meet them at their eye level and let them know you are excited to be their teacher. Introduce yourself, learn their name, and make this a positive start of their day.

Why not do this every day for the remainder of the school year?

2. Create a Puzzle

Kids love puzzles! It’s a great community building activity that encourages creativity and cooperation. Create your own giant puzzle pieces, or save time and sanity and get this one.

Students can color the whole piece or decorate the borders. They can write their name or list their favorite things. The possibilities are endless!

After they finish decorating, you can sit in circle time or have students sit at their desks. Use the pieces to introduce yourselves to each other and/or glue all of the pieces together and post it to a bulletin board labeled “A Perfect Fit…For a Perfect Year!”

3. Find Someone Who . . .

A classic icebreaker game! Make a list of characteristics/experiences your students might have in common.

Think of “Find someone who has the same color hair as you,” or “Find someone who has the same kind of pet.”

Don’t overthink it, but make it fun.

Students walk around the room, list in hand, and find other students that will have something in common with them. They write the name of the person they found next to the question.

It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s a great community building activity.

4. Read The Kissing Hand

If you teach a lower elementary class, such as Kindergartner or First Grader, you cannot miss this one!

Read the Kissing Hand.

For example, have your students trace their hands (they might need you to do that!) and cut it out. Glue a heart in the palm of the paper hand and folding the fingers down (but don’t glue the fingers!).

Teach your students “I love you” in sign language & give them a note with a chocolate kiss at the end of the day.

Make sure your kids take this “kissing hand” back home that same day to show their loved ones.

5. Ask Parents to Get Involved

We often ask students to write about themselves, but what about asking the parents to write something about their children?

You will receive insight into your children’s personalities that will help with individualizing your attention, care, and understanding of each student.

6. Create a welcome swag-bag

You love free gifts. I love free gifts. I don’t think there are many people who would not love a free gift. You want to know who loves them the most? Your students!

Create a little welcome bag with treats and gifts for each student. Give it to them right after greeting them at the door – see #1!

7. Use GoNoodle for Brain Breaks

Hey, teacher! (Hey what?) Are you ready? (For what?) To pop! (Pop what?) Pop See Ko! I love GoNoodle. Chances are, your students love it, too. If not, they will!

It is the silliest, goofiest way to keep your students active and giggling. Just pull up YouTube, get them out of their chairs, and shake off the jitters (and sugar… if you had a welcome back party or allowed them to eat the candy you just put in that welcome swag-bag above).

8. Social Contract

This is a great activity for your upper elementary students or middle schoolers.

Create four posters with one question on each. The questions should be something like “How do I want to be treated by the teacher?”, “How do I want to be treated by other students?”, “How do I treat the teacher?”, and “How do we solve conflicts?”

Have each student write answers to each question on a sticky note and place the notes on the poster. Once everyone has placed a sticky note on each poster, break the classroom into four groups. One group for each poster. Each group will then sort the sticky notes into commonality. The group will agree on and write the best answers (multiple) on the poster.

Display the four posters in a prominent place and tell your students that this is the Social Contract of the class. It’s a great way to build community and set boundaries. Your students will love it because they helped set the rules. It will give a sense of ownership and understanding of others, too.

9. Getting to Know You Small Group Craftivity

Break your students into small groups for a fun craftivity that will help them in community building and treating others with kindness.

In each group, have paper shapes that each student can cut out and decorate. On each shape, write sentences for the students to complete.

Make the sentences start with things like “I feel appreciated when…” or “I feel ___ when ___”. You can find a fun example already prepared for you here.

10. When I grow Up

What are your students’ dreams? What are their hopes beyond the first day of school, or the last day? Do they want to be a doctor, an astronaut, a Lego designer?

Ask them!

You can utilize a “When I grow up, I want to be ___” or “When I grow up, I want to ___” in various ways.

Make it part of a giant puzzle (see # 2) or an icebreaker (see #3).

You can use it as a calm-down time activity, either in circle time or at their desks. Ask each student and listen to their answers. Their dreams might surprise you!

11. Read The Name Jar

Read the book “The Name Jar”

Students love this book and will talk about it throughout the year. You can make a fun assignment from this, too. Have your students go home and find out how they got their names. It’s a fun, investigative activity they can do with their families.

After they find out how they got their name, have them write about it. It makes a great first writing assignment for the year.

They’ll learn and appreciate their own name, plus the names of their classmates. Another great community building activity.

12. Who Goes Where?

This one is really important and cannot be skipped. Before school begins, make sure parents know to show up with their kids on the first day of school. They can help with what we call the “who’s going where?” sheet.

It helps you know which students will be picked up by their parent, which students ride the school bus, and which students stay for after-school care (and who will pick them up later).

Each student has their own card. For students that have parents picking them up right away, take their picture with the parent. For bus riders, take their picture with a bus sign and the student. For after-school care, take a picture of the student, the parent that will pick them up, and the school mascot.

All the pictures are added to cards later, laminated, and attached to a binder ring to hang by the door. If students have different pickup days, you can write that on the back of the card as needed. This is a great help to remember who belongs to who and keeps your students safe!

13. Two Truths and a Lie

This is a fun icebreaker game to play. Have each student think of three “facts” about themselves they want to share with the class. Two of these “facts” must be true and one must be a lie.

The rest of the class has to guess which one is the lie. Prepare for some really off-the-wall answers and lots of laughter.

14. What I Really Want to Learn

Make a poster with the words “What I really want to learn” at the top. Have each student write something on it that they would love to learn during the school year.

It’s a great insight into their hobbies and interests. Use the ideas from the list as random activities and lessons throughout the year.

15. Summer Postcards

Before school starts, get a list of your students as soon as you can. Over the summer, send each student postcards.

Tell them how excited you are to meet them on the first day of school. Write them silly things about what you’re doing over the summer.

Make it adventurous or funny. Above all, make them feel valued before they even meet you.

16. Just Like Me

This is a variation of #3, but a fun icebreaker to play. Have the entire class sit in a large circle or oval. One student stands and tells the class something that they did over the summer (or over the weekend, if you play this at different times during the year) like “I flew on an airplane,” or “I went to the beach.”

If any other student (or you!) did the same thing, they get to stand up and enthusiastically say “Just like me!” Then, the next student stands and says something. The game continues until every student has had a chance to tell something that they did.

17. Human Bingo

Another great way to change up the get-to-know-you icebreaker. Make bingo boards with activity or characteristic squares. Each square should say something like “Flew on an airplane,” “plays the piano,” “plays soccer,” etc.

Give each student a bingo card. They go around the room to find other students that fit the square’s description. When they find someone, they write that person’s name over the square.

The first student to fill the whole board wins a prize like a homework pass or something similar.

18. Kindness Quilt

This is a craftivity your students will treasure throughout the year. Give each student a square of fabric they can decorate. Have them write kind messages and color their squares.

When they finish, take the squares and have them sewn together into a quilt. Hang the quilt up in the room as a kindness reminder. Your students will love that they helped create something beautiful for the class.

19. Self Portrait

On the first day of school, have your students draw self-portraits. Make it fun or silly with googly eyes or yarn for hair.

However they want to draw themselves, let them. Hang them up in the hallway as part of a large poster that introduces them as your students.

20. Dear Me

Ask your students to write a letter to themselves. Have them write about what they are looking forward to for the year, or what they might be nervous about or how they feel.

Keep the letters and give them back to the students on the last day of the year. They’ll be amazed at how much their handwriting improved, and how much they’ve grown during the year.

Even MORE Ideas for the first day of school

Here are a few more blog posts and ideas to get you started during the first few weeks of school:

The post 20 More Teacher Inspired Ideas for the First Day of School appeared first on What I Have Learned.

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Every year in our classroom, we do many community building activities at the beginning of the year, after a long break, and when we needed a reset. Many years I also had a community circle at the end of the day, where we would reflect on our day and get to know each other just a little bit better.

Throughout the years, I have collected questions that I could ask students to promote community. The questions below range from surface-level to more thoughtful and are great for any elementary grade.

Ways to Use these Questions to Build Community

There are many ways to use these questions throughout the school year. Here are a few ideas:

  • Community Building Circle at the beginning or end of the day
  • Think-Pair-Share after recess
  • Inside-Outside circle
  • Line of two groups of students who share with one student then move down the line
  • Musical Partners, where students find a partner, ask and answer the question and then trade questions
  • Have students choose a number and answer that question

The beauty of these questions is that you can use them to establish classroom routines around student sharing. Use them to practice expectations of taking turns and how you want students to move around the classroom.

You can also use them for journals! The possibilities are endless.

67 Questions to Build Community
  1. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream?
  2. What’s your least favorite type of candy?
  3. What’s your favorite television show?
  4. What’s your favorite class?
  5. What’s your favorite color?
  6. What’s your least favorite food?
  7. If you could move anywhere, where would you live?
  8. What’s your favorite movie?
  9. What’s your favorite vacation spot?
  10. What’s your favorite sport?
  11. What do you want to be when you grow up?
  12. Where do you want to go to college?
  13. What’s your favorite hobby?
  14. What’s your dream job?
  15. Who is most inspiring to you?
  16. If you could go to any point in history, where would you go?
  17. Who is your favorite person in history?
  18. What’s your favorite car?
  19. If you could be any animal, what would you be?
  20. If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
  21. If you could have one animal as a pet what would it be? 
  22. If you could be a wild animal, which one would you choose and why?
  23. If you could improve on any gift that you have what would it be?
  24. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
  25. If someone could predict your future, would you want yours predicted? Why or why not?
  26. If you could change one event in history, what would it be?
  27. What’s your favorite type of food?
  28. What are you most afraid of?
  29. What’s your greatest accomplishment so far?
  30. What motivates you?
  31. What would you change about today?
  32. What’s your favorite soda?
  33. What’s your favorite book or movie?
  34. What is something that you really want to do in your lifetime?
  35. What would be one of the first things you would do if you became president?
  36. What’s your first memory?
  37. What is one thing that you like about yourself?
  38. What is something you do that bothers other people?
  39. If you had three wishes what would they be? 
  40. What do you enjoy doing with your family?
  41. What is your favorite thing to do during recess?
  42. What do you like to eat in the lunchroom?
  43. What are you looking forward to learning about this year (week, month)?
  44. What are three things that you do every day?
  45. What is your favorite fairytale? 
  46. What is your favorite book character?
  47. What do you like to do on a rainy day (sunny day)? 
  48. Are you organized or messy?
  49. Name one thing you would like to have in the future. 
  50. If you could be any place in nature, where would you go?
  51. What is a positive quality that you have?
  52. Name something that you’ve done recently for the first time.
  53. Name something that you’ve never done, but would like to try.
  54. Tell about something for which you are thankful.
  55. If this week of your life were a movie or book, what would the title be and why?
  56. If you were a plant, what kind would you be and why?
  57. If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be and why?
  58. If you could have dinner with anyone living or dead, who would it be and why?
  59. If you were to have a tattoo for a week, what would it be and why?
  60. Close your eyes and imagine yourself ten years from now. Where are you? What are you doing?
  61. Pick a word to describe your future. Why did you choose that word?
  62. Talk about something happening in the world that concerns you.
  63. Talk about something happening in the world today that excites or inspires you.
  64. Talk about your favorite season and what you love about it.
  65. What superpower would you like to have and why?
  66. If you could change your name would you? What would you change it to?
  67. Talk about a funny or scary adventure you had with a friend.
Even More Sponge Activities for Your Classroom

These questions make great sponge activities or brain breaks. I always keep several ideas of activities we can to with an extra 5-15 minutes. Here are 80 different ideas!

The post 67 Questions to Build Community in an Elementary Classroom appeared first on What I Have Learned.

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Teaching with these states of matter picture books will enhance your science instruction and build students’ background knowledge about the properties of matter. Along with the states of matter, students can also learn about irreversible and irreversible changes.

These books align with the second grade NGSS standards for Physical Science. Understanding properties of matter and states of matter are in the second grade Next Generation Science Standards, as well as reversible and irreversible changes. In the standards, students are asked to describe properties of matter, understand the properties of solids, liquids, and gases, and that matter changes depending on temperature.

These books compliment our Second Grade Science Stations about the Properties of Matter and States of Matter as well as our Science Stations about Reversible and Irreversible Changes.

Books about Matter to Enhance Your Science Instruction

Matter: Physical Science for Kids – Andi Diehn
Age: 4-8 years
Grade: K-3

Everything you can touch and hold is made up of matter! This book explores the definition of matter and the different states of matter, plus the things in our world that are not matter. Children are introduced to physical science through detailed illustrations and fun language to convey familiar examples of real-world science connections.

What is the world made of? All about solids, liquids, and gases. – Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
Age: 4-8 years
Grade: PreK-3

This book is a fascinating exploration of the three states of matter, featuring rich vocabulary and simple, fun diagrams to explain the differences between solids, liquids, and gas.

What’s the Matter in Mr. Whisker’s Room? – Michael Elsohn Ross
Age: 6-9 years
Grade: 1-4

Everyone is a scientist in Mr. Whisker’s class where hands-on mini-experiments lead to big ideas. This book even includes supplemental projects for young learners.

Change It! Solids, Liquids, Gases, and You – Adrienne Mason
Age: 4-7 years
Grade: PreK-2

This book is a tool to teach physical sciences to young children. It takes the physics of matter- solids, liquids, and gases, and transforms it to an easy to understand science book for little ones.

Super Science: Matter Matters! – Tom Adams
Age: 7-10 years
Grade: 2-5

This book explores the elements of the science of matter in a fun, straightforward way. It includes comic-book style illustrations and explores atoms, molecules, reactions, elements, radioactivity, and other aspects of chemistry.

Matter: See It, Touch It, Taste It, Smell It – Darlene R. Stille
Age: 5-10 years
Grade: K-4

In this book, the states of matter are explained and demonstrated, and it even includes an experiment for you to try at home.

Many Kinds of Matter: A Look at Solids, Liquids, and Gases – Jennifer Boothroyd
Age: 6-9 years
Grade: 1-3

Solids, liquids, and gases are all around you. This book teaches all about the different states of matter and how to tell them apart!

Properties of Matter – Classroom Complete Press
Age: 10-13
Grade: 4-8

What is matter, and what isn’t? This resource breaks down the physical and chemical properties of matter. Readers will start my identifying atoms, particles, and molecules. Then, explore the states of matter, and determine if something is transparent, opaque or translucent. They’ll learn about physical changes and chemical changes that could happen in our own homes. Plus, they’ll get to complete their own experiment, too.

Changing Matter: Understanding Physical and Chemical Changes – Tracy Maurer
Age: 9-10 years
Grade: 4-5

This book explores how physical changes create different forms or states of matter and gives examples of the different states in an easy to read text. It also introduces students to the law of conservation of mass.

The Solid Truth About States of Matter with Max Axiom, Super Scientist – Agnieszka Biskup
Age: 8-14
Grade: 3-9

This book features a superhero scientist and covers matter, atoms and molecules, solids, liquids, and gases, melting, boiling, and freezing, evaporation and condensation.

Touch It! Materials, matter, and you – Adrienne Mason
Age: 4-7
Grade: PreK-2

This book teaches physical sciences to young children and is loaded with surprising facts, hands-on activities. It explores materials and their color, shape, texture, size, mass, magnetism, and more.

The Nature of Matter – Deborah J. Housel
Age: 6-9 years
Grade: 2-3

Anything that takes up space is matter. Learn about matter with this science reader that is easy to read, and even includes a fun and engaging science experiment.

Matter Comes in All Shapes – Amy S. Hansen
Age: 6-7 years
Grade: 1-2

In this book, early readers will investigate various types of matter that they see and experience in everyday life. Not only does it outline the states of matter, but it also shows how matter changes shape based on the container within which it is held. There are also components of the book that focus on irreversible changes.

Physics. Why Matter Matters! – Dan Green
Age: 10-14 years
Grade: 4-5

This book features characters based on physics and the building blocks of the universe, and each has a unique personality. It covers everything from gravity to the theory of relativity. It has visual interpretations of complex concepts that make learning physics easy and fun.

Freezing and Melting – Robin Nelson
Age: 5-8 years
Grade: K-2

This book explores how water changes from a liquid to a solid and back again, with lots of interesting facts about water and ice.

Changing Matter – Karen Larson
Age: 6-11 years
Grade: 3-4

This book allows students to not only study science but also build their literacy skills and do simple, hands-on science experiments. The book touches on the three states of matter, plasma, and prompts students to question whether matter is clearly a solid, liquid, or gas.

Melting Matter – Amy S. Hansen
Age: 7-8 years
Grade: 2-3

This book explores what happens to objects under different conditions, such as hot and cold, or wet and dry.

All 17 Books about Properties of Matter in One Place
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Engaging second-grade science stations that follow the NGSS science standards for states of matter. These properties of matter science stations will have your 2nd-grade students focused on reading and writing about science.

Students learn about properties of matter, test the hardness of different materials, and learn about how objects can be disassembled into small pieces and made into something new.

What is Included in the Second Grade Science Stations

The topics in this set of second grade science stations focus on properties of matter, including the states of matter, hardness, and how matter changes with heat.

They contain challenging material for second graders, with new words and concepts in easy to implement, interactive stations. These science stations are designed to help students describe and classify different kinds of materials. Students also learn how to test different materials and how materials can be broken apart and built up.  

Several of the stations contain follow-up activities or teacher notes that can be used to introduce or extend the learning.

Here is what is included in this set of science stations:

Big Idea Posters

Big Idea Posters are included in all of our science stations. These posters focus on key details. They make a great display for your science wall.

Vocabulary Cards for States of Matter

Included are two sets of vocabulary cards. One set has only the word and definition, as pictured below.

The second set of vocabulary cards includes pictures. These vocabulary cards can also be used as a ninth center, if needed. Students match the word, picture and definition.

Differentiated Responses for Each Science Station

Like all the science stations, the Properties of Matter Science Stations have a variety of ways for students to interact with the station.  Each station includes five different ways to respond to the experience at the station:

  • short answer questions
  • fill-in the blank questions
  • cut and paste (which is like the fill-in the blank)
  • task cards with short answers
  • task cards with multiple choice

All the variations are similar to one another, but require a different level of independence. The fill-in-the-blank or cut and paste are the easiest and perfect for your students who struggle with reading, especially if you provide them with a word bank.  The short answer is the most difficult as it requires students to construct their own responses without much support.

Choose the format that best fits your classroom and students. Students are also encouraged to use their science journal via the task cards.  Answer keys are included for all of the differentiated response formats.

Some activities also include a worksheet in addition to the differentiated responses.  This worksheet is the “work” of the station.  The differentiated responses require students to think broadly about the topic and concept.

Reading Passages

All stations, except the Watch and Play stations include reading passages. The reading passages are optional, but they do build students’ background knowledge and solidify key concepts.

The reading passages come in three formats. You’ll see versions of all of these formats in the below photographs. All versions have the same text, but different layouts.

  • Full-page
  • Larger format for e-reader or projection on a large screen
  • Mini-book

We also support second graders with audio versions of the texts. All texts have audio files available in MP3 form. They can also be streamed via the internet.

Watch Videos about Properties of Matter

Included in the science stations are two WATCH science stations. Students watch a video and answer questions about the video.

Like all science stations, there are a variety of ways students can respond to the videos. Below is the short answer option. It includes a word bank.

Below is the fill-in-the-blank option as well as a cut and paste extension.

Here is the second video with only the cut and paste option.

Play a Video Game about Matter Changing States

Like the WATCH station, the PLAY a Video Game Station has two video game options. Below is one game where student heat and cool a block of ice to see how it changes.

The questions in this photo are an example of the short answer task cards. Students can use their science journals to answer the questions.

Investigate Matter Changing States

The Investigate station is one of my favorite!

All stations, but the PLAY and WATCH stations include a reading passage. All reading passages also include audio versions that can be streamed to any device with internet access or loaded on via an MP3.

After students read the passage, they can do the hands-on experiment. In this experiment, students observe how coconut oil changes states as it is heated and cooled.

Here are some photographs of the coconut oil in different states and with the included worksheet filled out.

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How do you introduce opinion writing to your students? Do you use fun videos, interactive games, books to build background knowledge, or current events? There are many different ways teachers can help students understand the purpose of opinion writing. Here are a few ideas about opinion writing to get you started.

This blog post about introducing opinion writing compliments another blog post I have about how I teach our opinion writing unit. This blog post is filled with great ideas on how to introduce opinion writing as well as ideas you can use throughout your unit.

Use What Students Know and Ask Them What They Think

This might seem like an obvious one, but using what students already know hooks them into the lesson and builds on a solid foundation. When you use something that students are already familiar with, you generally don’t need to teach new vocabulary or new concepts and can get right to the core of what it means to form an opinion.

When you use familiar content you can go deeper with the academic language. I talk a bit about this concept in a blog post on using academic language, specifically for English learners, but the idea can apply to all learners. If the content is too high, students will have more difficulty using academic language. If the content is lower and more familiar, they can learn new and more complex academic language.

Now, you don’t want to keep the content low for the entire opinion writing unit, but to introduce the concepts and learn to write opinion paragraphs and essays, starting with familiar content is key.

What types of familiar content do I use in my classroom?

I usually start my opinion writing unit with very tangible concepts, like what students do at recess. Our writing time came after our first recess, so students had just been on the playground and I was able to tap into what they had chosen to play 20 minutes earlier.

This is an anchor chart that we created about recess games. We later cut it apart and brainstormed reasons for several of the activities. You can see more about that process in my How to Teach Opinion Writing blog post.

Other familiar concepts include food, games, family activities, and school subjects. Books can be a familiar topic, but border on becoming too complex, depending on the level of your students and classroom culture around book discussions.

Use Books to Build Background Knowledge

These days, there is a ton of great literature that lends itself to opinion writing. Here are a few of my favorites:

Note: Some of the links below are Affiliate links.  See my Disclosure Policy for more information.

You could extend a few of these book discussions into identifying point of view, as well.

We Are Teachers has a great list of opinion books as well. Be sure, when choosing books for your students that you take into consideration the level of new content vs. the type of academic language you are asking them to produce. If you want students to use higher levels of academic language in discussions and in writing, use easier content.

However, don’t ignore higher content. When you read books with harder concepts and higher content, start by helping students form opinions orally during classroom discussions. Do the oral practice often and it will transfer to writing.

Use Video Clips to Introduce Opinion Writing

Another great resource to introduce opinion writing is video clips from YouTube. Using digital resources piques students’ interest and focus.

Before watching the video, be sure to tell students the object and how you want them to watch the video. You might also consider watching a video clip several times or watching a variety of video clips to see different ways opinions and reasons are used within each of the clips.

Videos for Opinion Writing

Here are several videos that you might find useful for your classroom.

This website has several writing prompt videos that are great for second grade and above. Here is one of the videos geared toward opinion writing.

Writing Prompt: Should Schools Ban Junk Food? - YouTube

For the Birds is a great video to use with bullying, as well. There are no words in it. Students can develop their own language around the actions they observe in the video.

For the Birds - YouTube

This Ted-Ed video about eating bugs is great for older learners. You can likely find many Ted-Ed videos that highlight odd or quirky things people do. Students can form an opinion about the activity.

This video introduces the concept of opinion writing. It’s more academic than fun, and is a teaching video, but still quite good.

Opinion Writing for Kids | Episode 1 | What Is It? - YouTube

If you have a Flocabulary subscription, there are some great opinion writing videos there, too. This one is available on YouTube.

Opinion Writing Flocabulary - YouTube

TV commercials are another way to spark opinion writing. Students can watch a video and decide how the video persuades to buy the product.

Create Anchor Charts to Help Students Have Class Discussions

While watching the videos, consider hanging an anchor chart with opinion statements. Use the sentence frames to develop students’ oral language with stating an opinion. This activity also goes along well for teaching and practicing some of the Speaking and Listening standards.

I’m not exactly sure why I have two anchor charts for this concept. Some of the sentences are slightly different. They will both give you a good place to start with classroom discussions for stating an opinion.

Use Current Events to Teach Opinion Writing

If you teach a higher grade level or you want to challenge your students, you might consider using current events to teach opinion writing. This may require some extra work to build students” background knowledge and help them become familiar with the event.

Some great sources for current events are NewsELA and Scholastic News. Both require a subscription.

Use classroom, school, and community issues, problems, and events

While current events around the world are a great resource, sometimes bring the focus back to the community can ground students and build momentum for the opinion writing unit. This goes along with creating student buy-in for classroom, school, and community routines and events.

Classroom Ideas for Opinion Writing
  • Why a certain team should receive points for something
  • Why we should keep the classroom library clean
  • Deciding on what to do at the end of the school year
School Ideas for Opinion Writing
  • Why we should have extra time to eat lunch
  • Ways to stay safe on the playground
  • The next school performance
Community Ideas for Opinion Writing

Community issues and problems will be unique for each community.

A problem in our local community, for instance, is that one of the busy roads in our area doesn’t have adequate crosswalks. Many people have bene injured. Students can write an opinion piece from the perspective of an injured person and from the perspective of the city for the need for crosswalks or bridges.

Brainstorm Opinions in the “Real World”

Along the same lines, consider brainstorming with students where you see opinion writing in your own community. Have students go on a hunt to find opinion writing in their neighborhoods.

Some examples include restaurant reviews, movie and video game reviews, or infomercials (think kid things like Slushy Magic, Hover Ball, Wubble). Have students record the opinion and supporting details while watching and reading reviews.

Would You Rather Questions

There are a ton of great resources for “would you rather” questions.

Oreo Opinion Writing

One final idea for opinion writing is the common Oreo Opinion Writing. It’s a popular acronym and makes for a memorable unit. Be sure that you focus on the writing, not just the acronym. Scholastic does a pretty good job of outlining a good process for teaching Oreo Opinion Writing.

How do you introduce and teach opinion writing to your students? I’d love to hear some more ideas in the comments below!

Opinion Writing Unit

Are you interested in checking out my Opinion Writing Unit that develops students’ academic language through engaging games and activities? Here’s a blog post all about it.

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Do you need some ways for students to practice reading, writing, spelling, and working with blends? These phonics worksheets for initial and final blends are great for first-grade literacy centers, homework, reading small groups and more! Students read and write a variety of blends through fill-in-the-blank, cut and paste, and more!

The blends worksheets include words with short vowels, digraphs, and words with CK, ANG, UNG, and ING. These are a great resource to provide extra practice with reading and writing words with blends.

What are Included in the Blends Worksheets?

The blends worksheets are grouped by initial and final blends. Also available are mixed sets and BUNDLES.

The blends worksheets can also be printed at a reduced size and can be used for interactive notebooks.  This Phonics Interactive Notebook blog post will give you ideas on how to move beyond the worksheet into a phonics notebook.

There are 18 worksheet templates with multiple versions of most templates within each section. Some numbers are missing. These worksheets appear in the CVC Short Vowels or Digraph sets but have been removed for the blends set.

The 18 templates are:

  1. Color the Picture
  2. #2 has been removed from the Blends Set
  3. Read, Trace, Write
  4. Read, Write, Color
  5. Spell & Write
  6. Match & Write
  7. Circle the Word
  8. Read and Check
  9. Write Two Times
  10. Read, Match, Write
  11. Sentence Scramble Cut & Paste
  12. Write a Sentence
  13. Picture Sort
  14. Word Sort
  15. Write by Word Family
  16. Cut & Paste Onset Rime
  17. Cut. Paste. Write.
  18. Cut & Paste Onset & Rime Write
  19. #19 has been removed from the Blends Set
  20. Write Sentences
Examples of Each Blends Worksheet Page

The 18 Blends Worksheets are repeated in each of the individual sets and the mixed sets. There are often multiple pages of each worksheet in each set.

The photographs below come from different sets. I’ve noted on each photograph the set where you can find that page. While many of the worksheets are the same the previous levels (CVC Short Vowels & Digraph), I have also increased the complexity of some of the worksheets, changed the formatting, and included more words.

Many of the worksheets utilize the blending cues available on our Blending Cards. Blending cues are dots to segment the word, dotted lines to blend the word, and a large arrow to “read it fast”.

Students can use the blending cues to read the word, then do the work on the worksheets. If you’re already using the Blending Cards, these worksheets are a great accompaniment.

#1 Color the Picture

On this first worksheet, students read the word using the blending cues. They then color the picture that matches the word.

After students complete the worksheet, they could cut it out in strips and boxes and create flash cards with the words and pictures.

#3 Read, Trace, Write

This worksheet has students read the word using the blending cues, then trace and write the word.

#4 Read, Write, Color

This blends phonics worksheet is similar to the first one; however, now students are asked to write the sounds of each word as well as read and color the image.  Double consonants and digraphs take up one space because they make one sound together.

#5 Spell & Write

On this worksheet, students look at the picture, segment the word, circling the letters that make the word. Students then write the word on the blank space.

#6 Match & Write

This is a match and write worksheet where students look at the picture and then find it within the given word.

#7 Circle the Word

This worksheet asks students to circle the word that matches the picture from a list of three words. 

This worksheet makes a great interactive notebook activity when cut up.  Students can take one square, circle the word, and glue it in their notebook. 

#8 Read and Check

This blends worksheet is a bit more complicated and great for your more advanced readers.  It asks students to read and check the sentence that goes with the picture.

#9 Write Two Times

On this worksheet, students write the word two times.

#10 Read, Match Write

On this worksheet, students read the sentence and figure out which word is missing, given the list of words.  Students write the missing word in the blank space.

#11 Sentence Scramble Cut & Paste

For this worksheet, students are presented with four to seven words that make a sentence. Each row has its own set of words. Students cut apart the words and create the sentence.

If students have difficulty with this task, give them some hints, like the period ends the sentence and the sentence starts with a capital letter.

#12 Write a Sentence

This worksheet is similar to the above worksheet, except instead of a cut and paste, students are asked to write the sentence, given the four to seven words.

#13 Picture Sort

This is a traditional picture sort. Students say the word in the picture and determine the word family that matches.

There are more picture sorts in the individual blends sets than the mixed sets. Since word and picture sorts are generally grouped by similar sounds, the sorts in the mixed sets would be a repeat of the sorts in the individual sets.

#14 Word Sort

This is similar to a traditional word sort but includes blending cues to help students read the words.

This is another sheet that would be good for interactive notebooks.  Cut the columns and glue them down to a page in a notebook. Students sort and glue the words in the appropriate columns.

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Help students learn about pollution and the effect on the environment through an easy to read and fun nonfiction article about Pollution.  Included are QR codes for additional research and comprehension activities that support main idea and details and cause and effect.

The pollution article and comprehension activities are perfect for Earth Day!  The article outlines the three types of pollution (water, land, and air) and its effects on the environment.  

This reading passage and comprehension activities are a great way to combine reading, writing, and social studies.

What is included in the Pollution Article and Activities?

Included in this resource are:

  • Vocabulary Cards with key terms from the reading passage
  • Posters of the Big Ideas
  • Reading Passage in two formats (black and white one-page; color with photos two-page)
  • QR Codes for additional research
  • Cloze Reading Passage
  • Graphic Organizer for note-taking
  • Short Answer Comprehension Questions
  • Comprehension Activities for Main Idea & Details and Cause & Effect
  • Fact Sort where students can categorize the key events and attributes
  • Discussion Questions & What Would You Do Scenarios
  • Writing Page
  • Quiz
  • Answer Key

Below are a few photos and details about the pages included.

Vocabulary Cards & Big Idea Posters

You can use the vocabulary cards and big idea posters in several ways. Display the posters or use them to introduce the major concepts in the article.

The vocabulary cards are built in three-parts. They can be cut apart and used as a matching activity or kept together and displayed on a wall or anchor chart.

Reading Passage in Two Formats

The reading passage comes in two main formats. One format is just the text with no pictures. This format is one-page.

The second format is two-pages and includes vivid photographs that support the text.

Cloze Reading Passage

Another resource that is included in many of my nonfiction articles is a Cloze Reading Passage. For this activity, the passage has been rewritten with only the key points and concepts. Words have been removed. Students can either listen to the passage read aloud and write the correct word in the blank or they can do it as an independent activity to strengthen their vocabulary skills.

A Variety of Comprehension Activities

Included in the resource are many comprehension activities. There are simple short answer questions that encourage students to reflect on what was read in the passage.

Main Idea and Details

There are also more detailed activities to work with comprehension skills. This particular pollution nonfiction article lends itself well to working with main idea and details as well as cause and effect.

Included are two versions for each of those comprehension skills.

For main idea and details, one version asks students to determine the main idea and sort the details. The second version gives students the main idea and only asks them to sort the details.

Cause & Effect

Similarly, the cause and effect worksheets are also scaffolded. One version asks students to determine which are cause and which are the effect. The other version asks students to match the cause and effect.

You can choose which version of these comprehension activities to use with your whole class or differentiate the activities based on the needs of your students.

How to Purchase the Pollution Article & Comprehension Activities

The Pollution Article and Activities are available on my website as well as on Teachers Pay Teachers.

The post Pollution Nonfiction Article & Comprehension Activities appeared first on What I Have Learned.

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Each new school year is a fresh opportunity to inspire students to learn as much as they can, do their best, and work hard! As teachers, we have goals we want to accomplish each year, week, day, and maybe even class period.

Just as much as we want to work hard to achieve our own individual goals, it is important to encourage our students, no matter what age, to create their own too!

Creating goals can seem like a daunting task for elementary aged students. They might think, “Where do I start?” Or, “What can I do better this year?”

Taking time for student goal setting is a great way to have the students think about what they would like to achieve throughout the school year, month, or week.

Here are some important aspects to keep in mind when implementing student goal setting into the classroom:

#1 Figure out what is important for students?

Each student should think about what is important to them. This is their goal, something they want to be able to achieve. These goals could range from a classroom behavior goal, to a reading goal, or to a studying goal and so on.

The ideas are endless when it comes to what the student would like to achieve. To help kick start ideas for students, provide examples, models, and stories of students who have achieved a variety of goals. This can help inspire your students to write their own.

Over the years, you will be able to gather a collection of examples of goals students have set and accomplished. Taking photos of goals, progress, and accomplishments will help give future students examples as well.

Videos about Goal Setting with Kids

Videos often provide a great visual for students. Here are some engaging videos that can get students to start thinking about goals they can accomplish this school year.

What's your goal this year? - YouTube
Brainstorm Goals & Action Steps

In my classroom, we often had impromptu brainstorming sessions where we would list all the skills and strategies we were working on in class, as well as behavior goals and other life goals.

I wrote about some of these Goal Setting Teachable Moments in this blog post. It’s a messy blog post but gives you an idea of how you can take what students are doing right now and write some goals and action steps around it.

One thing to keep in mind when goal setting with students is to help them think about and create action steps. This is a key step that many students miss. That goes along with #3 below.

#2 Encourage Short Term Goals vs. Long Term Goals

Setting both short term and long term goals are important for elementary students. If students only think about their long term goals for the whole school year they are more likely to get discouraged.

Setting short term goals can help motivate students along the way. Short term goals help students achieve their long term goals. Help them think about what they can accomplish this week. AND, don’t forget to check back in with them in a week!

We use some of the goal setting forms for our short-term goals. They are the perfect size to zero in on specific goals and actions to accomplish the goals.

#3 Write Down and Track Goals

Writing down goals makes them more real for everyone, even for young students. Getting their goals on to paper can serve as a reminder each time they look back in their notebook or even on the classroom wall.

You can use a simple goal setting form like the one above or a more comprehensive Goal Setting and Data Portfolio. It doesn’t need to be complex, but it does need to be written down so that students can keep track of and be reminded about the goal.

Writing down goals using the S.M.A.R.T. goal format is a very popular way to get students to think about their specific goal and how they are going to achieve it. Tracking goals can also help students see their own growth while they are working towards their goal. This can help maintain enthusiasm for reaching the goal.

For example, if a student is trying to memorize their math facts, each time they memorize a set of numbers or become fluent with a strategy, they can keep track of this in a log or a chart.

This can show the student how they have grown over time and help them see how much more they need to grow to reach their goal.

Data Tracking Sheets are a part of my Goal Setting & Data Portfolio Sets.

#4 Don’t forget to Reward Students for Their Hard Work!

Any and every goal achieved should be acknowledged and rewarded in some way. The longer the goal takes to achieve, such as over the course of the year, the reward may be larger. Smaller goals can be rewarded and acknowledged frequently!

Consider sending home a letter to the parents and let them know about the goal students achieved today. Another great resource is a badge that can be laminated that say “Ask me about the goal I met today.”

Through rewards like this, the student can celebrate their success in a positive way with their families as well as students and teachers from around the school.

Overall, keeping in mind the different aspects of goal setting can help goal setting be a great experience for the class and each individual student. There is no goal that is too small nor too big for students to start dreaming about. Goal setting is a really great way to encourage and motivate students throughout the school year!

More Goal Setting Blog Posts

Here are some additional Goal Setting Blog Posts that will take you further on this journey with your students:

Goal Setting Resources for Your Classroom

The following are goal setting resources that you can purchase and use in your classroom with your students. Check out the blog posts with the links below or go straight to the product page.

Would you like some FREE SMART Goal Setting Forms for your classroom?

The post 4 Ideas to Get Started with Student Goal Setting appeared first on What I Have Learned.

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This End-of-the-Year Memory Flap Book is a great activity for the last few weeks of the school year. It is a fun memory book craftivity that allows students to reflect on their year.

This Memory Book Craftivity is designed for second grade through fifth grades. Students write about and illustrate a variety of events from their school year.

What is Included in the End-of-the-Year Memory Book

Included in the memory book are flap book pages that allow students to write about and reflect on the following topics:

  • First Day of School
  • Favorite Things
  • Friends
  • Field Trip
  • Fond Memory
  • Forward Thinking (goals for the summer and next year)
  • Finish Well (reflection on the previous year)

The last two tabs can be layered if you’d like to use both or students can choose just one.

Future years are included too! The memory book currently goes through the 2022-2023 school year. Updates will include years beyond that too!

The “My Fantastic Year” topper is optional. There is a version that includes “cute kids” and a version with just the title.

The Memory Flap Book can be used with or without the topper. All graphics on the pages were chosen for their flexibility to be used for a range of grade levels. Only the optional topper has a version with “cute” kids.

How to Assemble the End-of-the-Year Memory Book

Here are a some samples of completed pages. Have students complete a couple of pages each day and assemble it during the last week of school.

The memory book pages do require a bit of cutting. They are designed to require some time for assembly, which is great for the end of the year! Be sure that students are able to use scissors well enough to make the right-angle cuts as you see below.

Once assembled, consider allowing students to use the blank, back pages as signature pages. Students can sign each others’ flap books.

How to Purchase the End-of-the-Year Memory Book

The End-of-the-Year Memory Book can be purchased on my website and on Teachers Pay Teachers.

The post End-of-the-Year Memory Book appeared first on What I Have Learned.

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