Lesson Planning: Back to School-Teaching Rules and Procedures

Monday, July 24, 2017 2 comments
Well, teacher friends-it is just about back to school time! We start school on September 5th this year, and I am in full new-year mode! I have ransacked the Target, Walmart and Staples for supplies and I have been working on completely planning the first semester.

Lesson Planning: Back to School-Teaching Rules and Procedures

I try to have at least the first month mapped out completely. This helps calm my over-anxious teacher-brain, but is not so planned that I feel I can't change it after the month is over. I usually find that the first month is a sort of settling in period for me. I get to know the students, and they get to know me. I get a hands-on practice of how my systems and structure will work and what will and what won't need to be adjusted.

During the first week, I usually do a mini-unit on rules, procedures and expectations in my class, followed by my Introduction to Science Unit. These are both nice easy topics to learn and keeps the students (and me, tbh) from freaking out too soon. (I like to ease them into the freaking out part, lol!)

My mini-unit on rules, procedures and expectations usually takes about a 3 to 4 days of 50 minute classes.

Here is my schedule:
Day 1- Personal introduction and begin Back to School Stations
Day 2- Complete Back to School Stations
Day 3- Fun lab
Day 4- Mini Research/Poster Project

My Back to School Station activity is usually about 5-6 stations of different activities that I pull together, including:

  • a Syllabus Scavenger Hunt, where they have to read the syllabus and find the answer to questions
  • Getting to Know Your Group Dice Game, a school friendly version of "never have I ever"
  • an Around the Room Scavenger Hunt for locations of different materials and bits of information
  • a couple of group challenges (usually working as a group to stack cups or write with a single marker) 
  • setting up notebooks
  • and a station for logic puzzles 
These Station Activities can take anywhere from one class period to two. Sometimes, I will save the group challenges for the second day entirely and talk about how they will need to work together in groups. For that, I will try to have a couple more activities on hand, in case they really work fast! 

I have also had them spend a class period getting notebooks in order, depending on how I use them. If they are using regular binders, then the station will just be coloring a cover page and labeling their tabs for the binder. If I am doing full-on interactive notebooks, then I will spend an entire class period going over how to set them up, and pasting in rules and expectations, showing them examples of good and bad work.  

I like to do a mini-lab on the third day, just to get a quick assessment of how they work in groups. Everybody is still fresh, so no one has fallen into their "role" in class yet. This will usually be the marshmallow/spaghetti stack, or the saving Sam activity. (This is also a great introduction of how to complete classwork and turn it in, whether I am using a binder or INB.)
A mini-lab setup with the rolling lab tables
 **Just make sure that if you do this, you check with other teachers to make sure you are not repeating each other (that was awkward-Mrs!- we just did this in miss-so-and-so's class!)**

And finally, depending on how bored I am with introduction stuff or icebreakers, I will either have them complete a mini-research project to make a poster for my bulletin board or I will dive into my "what is science?" lesson and get started!

This year, I am looking into finding some new activities that are not quite so played out.
I have listed a few things on my wish list below! 

All About Me Back to School Ice Breakers by Getting Nerdy  -this looks like a great icebreaker and INB practice activity in one! Plus, I love their stuff!
Four Brains are Better Than One by Tangstar Science - I already own this one! It is quick and a lot of fun. I have used it and many of her articles as substitute work!

Back to School Science Activities for Middle School by That Rocks Math Science and ELA - This looks like a great collection of 12 activities that focus on different science skills. Geared toward middle school, and looks to be not your typical activities.

Back to School Beginning of the Year Activities: Science Edition by Martina Cahill, The Hungry Teacher - this looks promising. It includes different activities, along with getting to know you and questionnaires. Suitable for lower middle grades (think 5-6, maybe 7)

Take Notes the Cornell Way by Mister Science- I am still thinking about how I want students to take notes. I have done modified Cornell before and this looks like an interesting lesson to teach it more effectively.

So there you have it- my general back to school method! What do you guys do for back to school? do you have any special ways to introduce you rules and procedures? Anything new you are trying this year? Leave a comment below and share!

5 Tips and Tricks I Have Learned on Family Vacations

Monday, July 17, 2017 No comments
Ahhhh, summer! That beautiful time of year when teacher-moms are planning to take a much-needed vacation. It will be family-friendly (and won't break the budget)! We will all get to relax and enjoy each other's company(you tell yourself)! The kid's will all get along perfectly (HA!)!

5 Tips and Tricks I have Learned on Family Vacations for a Fun and Relaxing Time!

This is the second year in a row that we are taking a family vacation with my husband's family. Last year they rented a house on the beach for 8 people (hubs, myself and our two littles, sister-in-law and boyfriend, and grandma and pop-pop) for 7 days. We did have a lot of fun, but we also learned a few good lessons! I wanted to share some of my vacation tips, tricks and truths with you as we embark on this year's adventure to the Poconos!

1) Figure out the right length of time for your stay!
For us, 7 days is toooo long! We actually already knew that from visiting my mom in Texas, but ignored it because VACATION. Not sure why we thought that would make a difference.... We have discovered that 5 days is our vacation sweet spot- long enough to really get to enjoy a place, but not so long that everybody is getting on everybody else's nerves. Figure out what works for you and don't feel bad!

2) Be honest about what you will cook/eat.
My in-laws are usually the first ones to arrive at the vacay house, and they will ask us what we would like from the store. Last year we hesitated to give them a list; it was SUPER long, and we felt bad about having them do all the shopping. Consequence-when we first arrived (right about dinner for two squalling kiddos!) no food kiddos would eat! Whoops! This year, we went ahead and sent the entire grocery list (mostly frozen pasta and chicken nuggets) and will pay them back when we get there. I have a basic plan for meals for myself (diet based) and the girls (picky) already thought out, so I am ready at any time. We are also bringing along a bunch of snacks from our own pantry for the trip and for any delays in supper time upon arrival.

3) Bring toys and activities.
Yes, we were at the beach for 7 days. My then-1-year-old was terrified of the ocean on day 1, and was sick of playing in the sand by day 3. The then-3-year-old was good at the beach until day 4. That meant we spent a lot of money at the local boardwalk and aquarium, taking random, really long walks and being cooped up in the house with tablets. On day 6 we discovered a local park, and the girls had tons of fun and made new friends! This time around, we made sure there was more than just one local feature (that was not too expensive!) There are 2 local playgrounds, woods to walk in, a splash park, mini-golf, movie theater and a little downtown. Plus, I am bringing more books and toys, and a few little arts and crafts activities. (Who wants to make slime and nature pictures!!!)

Making nature pictures after our nature walk!
4) Make a list of EVERYTHING!
And I do mean everything, right down to the mattress covers, night lights, and noise machines. No, we aren't traveling to the middle of nowhere, but last year I forgot my swimsuit (for a beach vacation. Yeah). I had to spend a couple hours trying to find a swimsuit at the end of the summer season. This year, I have been working on my list for 3 days! I keep it in Evernote on my phone, so I can add to it when I think of something. I feel pretty confident that we have almost everything! Bonus points- I also use it to make sure nothing gets left behind when we leave!

5) Try to relax!
This one is for the moms! I know that I always feel a bit bummed out on vacations. They are not really vacations for us, are they? Now, instead of keeping just my own little family on their schedule (naps and meals need to be on time to avoid meltdowns, amIright?!?!?!), but I am also trying to get 4 other grown adults on it as well. Mostly, moms spend their time trying to keep little people from falling into tantrums, but it is important to remember to communicate honestly and openly with the people you are on vacation with. And don't feel bad to ask them to take the kiddos for a bit! I had a bit of a meltdown myself, and I really plan to avoid that this year!

The daily view from our deck!
The babies were "dropped off" at our house two days in a row while mama foraged!
Okay, teacher-moms, there are my 5 tips and tricks that I have learned! Is there anything I missed? What lesson have you learned on vacation with your little ones? Share in the comments below, and enjoy your last days of summer!