Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
If your PTA is like mine, this is the week you’ll get lots of little candy goodies in your mailbox. I’ll take those surprises over anything! I’m easy to please and you can’t go wrong with candy 🙂
But in a bigger vein, we’re giving away a whole lot more than candy in the What Works Giveaway. I’m going out on a limb to say–this is one of the biggest, coolest giveaways I’ve seen on any teacher blog ever.
And for more fun, we’re all sharing a couple of teacher secrets that improve our teaching lives and classroom moments. I am super-duper excited to click through these this week and fill up on great ideas. I’ve got two suggestions below to add to the theme. Let me know what you think, and give us your best teacher secret! We love ideas!
As part of the blog, we were to include authentic pictures. However, I have never thought to take pictures of my notebook planning parties. I will this year!
What is a notebook planning party? Glad you asked 🙂
As the only ESL/LA/Reading teacher in my building, I loop my 6-7-8 kids each year, meaning those who do not test out of ESL via Ohio’s ESL test (the OTELA) will have me next year as their reading/LA teacher. This 3-year looping has some terrific advantages in getting to know students and families well, and it’s especially helpful for being able to plan and prep ahead. I know where my kids are deficient and where they are strong–a definite plus.
Since I started doing reading/writing notebooks when I taught at the Welcome Center for Newcomers, I struggled to buy enough notebooks for all the kids to have one reading and one writing. A few years ago, I had an AHA! moment: if I was going to have the majority of this year’s students in class next year, why not have THEM do the hard work and require them to purchase and bring in two notebooks of their own to use next year…saving me money, time, and, best of all…having to shop during back-to-school frenzies. I hate shopping, even for my class!
I gave them the instructions: it had to be a 100 page composition notebook in any color or design they wanted. When they brought it in, we labeled it with a post-it with their names. In that case, I could keep the notebook should the student test out and it could be used by any other student. Since my 8th graders had been given notebooks for their first two years of my class, they were happy to ‘pay forward’ by bringing in two notebooks each that I then used for the incoming 6th graders so they could start in their new notebooks on the first day of school.
Where does the party part come in? Once everyone in the class has brought in their two notebooks, (peer pressure is a WONDERFUL thing), we set aside a day of school (usually the last week) where we get our notebooks ready for next year. I bring in treats, kids can bring in treats to share, we put on music and we number our notebooks on the bottom right corners from 1-100.
I used to try doing this number thing the first week of school, or as homework, and it was an unmitigated disaster. It usually resulted in me erasing 60 pages of numbers in everyone’s notebooks because they missed a number, or, in some cases, don’t know their numbers past 20. Yes, true. Frustratingly true.
As part of the party, when everyone numbers 1-20 in the first book, they can get a treat and come see me. I verify their numbers are correct, and they then number 21-50. Again, a check, and I send them back to fix any errors on their own. Then they do 50-100, 100-150 and 150-200 in the same manner. Trust me, you get used to flipping through and catching errors quickly.
There are a few kids who truly struggle and can’t do the numbering by themselves, so they may be given clean-up tasks, or are in charge of keeping pencils sharpened so the workers can number their pages neatly. I usually have a couple of quick-finishers who like the challenge of numbering four notebooks in the time it takes everyone else to finish two. Competition is a great thing!
When we finish, we line the notebooks up in tubs and tuck them away in my cabinet to break out on the first day of school. No notebook? No excuse. And for me? No headaches 🙂
I like to end the school year on a positive note for everyone. For students, having one more way to connect their learning to a real-life skill with benefits comes when we do the Thank You Notes to Everyone activity.
I usually do this during the next-to-last week of school, or whichever week has the least number of field trips and days that students will miss. I want everyone to participate.
We start by putting up a piece of chart paper for each class (by grade level) and listing all the people in the school who have helped them over the course of the year. Some students only name teachers, but some have created relationships with folks outside of the classroom: secretaries, librarians, cafeteria folks, counselors, social workers, upperclassmen, etc.
After we have exhausted our brains and have everyone on a list, students take turns choosing a person from the list who they will write a thank-you letter to. The catch of the activity is that most classes all want to write to one or two teachers, but we do not start writing until everyone has signed up to write a letter to every adult on the list. If a staff member is only known by one student in the room, I assign that student to write a note. If everyone wants to write to the science teacher, only one person can be the official thank-you writer, but when other students finish their required letter, they may write a second or third or even fourth letter to another staff member.
They write a rough draft that I correct with them, then they get to choose fancy stationery from my drawer to write the actual letter on. If they want to use a ruler for lines, it’s their choice. I only require that their handwriting is neat enough to be read. They put the letter in an envelope, and when everyone has finished (usually a day or two), they are given time to walk around the school and pass out the letters to the recipients. I used to worry that teachers would be upset by having class interrupted, but that’s never been the case in the last week of school. There are usually lots of hugs and smiles. If a student doesn’t want to deliver the letter personally, or the staff member is only at school on certain days, I will put it in their mailbox.
There are usually one or two surprises each year that we do this: 8th graders writing to a teacher they had in 6th grade for a lesson they haven’t forgotten, a letter to the secretary for giving them a hug on a bad day, a letter to me to thank me for bringing in a pair of shoes or new hoodie for someone I noticed needed one. Those are the moments that really cement themselves in your memory.
Now that you’ve got my deep, dark teaching secrets for the end of the year, it’s time for the real prizes! Check out these amazing giveaways, then scroll down to toss your name in the virtual hat. Don’t stop at one entry…the more you enter, the bigger your chance to win!
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You won’t want to miss out on all the other great secrets being shared by successful teachers! Be sure to check out all the other great posts below.