January 29, 2016

Why we are working in tribes...

Around this point in the year, I like to do something a little bit different with my classroom organization.  This is more than putting students in groups.  Physically, we move our desks around, and we also lightly restructure a few of the ways I interact with the students in my class.  In our room, we are now divided into five tribes.  (Loosely based off of this book) The point of these groupings is not to pit one tribe against the other in a reality-show-style standoff, but rather to build a tight-knit mini-community within our already close classroom community.   Let me explain…

By now, we have spent a good portion of the fall learning how to be bucket fillers, and what it means to show expected behavior. Students know my expectations to be kind, gentle, put others first, and follow the rules of the classroom.  We have done this in the context of the whole classroom where each child has been asked to generically look out for everyone else, and the teachers are the ‘overall’ support system if something goes wrong.  We are now switching up the model

With the introduction of ‘tribe’ groups, I’ve explained that, within the classroom, each tribe is like a family.  (Of course, if “family” is not a safe word, you may want to use something different).  A tribe works together to do their best, to work hard and most importantly, to take care of each other. If one tribe member is upset, or frustrated, or confused, it is first up to the rest of the tribe to try and help them before they go to a teacher or someone outside of their tribe. 

At the beginning, we use a points system.  This is not intended to be used as a competition, but to encourage tribes to work together in a kind, respectful, and cohesive manner.  As a tribe, they are supposed to show expected behavior, and be bucket fillers.  When I notice a tribe is encouraging each other, speaking kindly, helping a friend who is not understanding an assignment, all on-task, gently reminder a member to focus, etc.  they receive a point for their tribe.  (I also make a big deal that bragging, especially in the context of points, is not okay).  Then, on Friday, we have a points ceremony, and it is a big deal.  We have envelopes, and prizes, and everyone wins something.  And then it re-starts for the next week.

Gradually, the points system is phased out, and just the tribes remain.  But every year, my hope is that the cohesion and community will remain.  Some years it does, other years it takes more work, but overall, I have found that working in tribes tends to yield incredibly positive results. 

Other things that we do to build community within tribes:
  • Group journals: each tribe member writes an encouragement sentence in every other group members journal (more on this later!)
  • Tribe leaders, one person per week is the tribe leader
  • Play time in tribe groups – either ‘free time’ or structured play with specific outcomes, a chance to have fun is a great bonding experience
How do you feel about grouping your students in tribes?  Have you tried something like this? How has it gone?

- Rachel

January 22, 2016

Planning for Wiggly Students

I teach third grade.  I love third grade.  Each year, when a new group of brand new third graders walk into my classroom I get to figure out who they are as learners.  This group is wiggly… oh my stars are they wiggly!  I have 25 students in my class this year, and they are quite the mix.  I have 9 girls and 16 boys in my class, and three of my students are on Individual Education Plans.  

​I knew right from the first week with them, that for this class, I would need to change how I was used to teaching.   Seat work , pencil and paper style learning, just wouldn’t fly as the ‘norm’ with this group.  I spent quite amount of time re-doing most of my unit and lessons plans to make sure that they were hands-on, interactive, and out-of-seat work.  Perfect for a wiggly class.  

January 14, 2016

Smoothie Day!

I love events.   I'm not the biggest fan of class parties (the chips/pop/free-for-all type of parties) but oh my stars do I love an all-class event.  After the first month or two of school, once I am sure that I trust my class, and I know the dynamics of the kiddos in the room, I love planning big  things.  

All class theme day around a book where we are in character?  Sure!

Set up lemonade stands around the school to practice entrepreneurship? No problem!

Create a neighbourhood-wide scavenger hunt themed around things we have studied during the year? Yes, yes! 

January 08, 2016

Writing Goals with Primary Students

We have been back at school for 10 days since Winter Break.  Ten long days of trying to find our routine again, building reading stamina, remembering all of our writing ideas, and interacting in kind  and bucket filling ways.  (At least, most of the time). 

In December, I had the less-than-brilliant idea to start January off with a unit on goal-setting.  I say “less-than-brilliant” because this is not my first time teaching a goal setting unit, or trying to teach third graders about how to write, plan for, and make meaningful changes. However, in the past, these units have failed… epically.  
Each year that I teach there is always at least one unit that just does not work.  The kids aren’t into it, or just don’t understand it, or the way I am teaching it does not  compute with the way they learn.  So far, goal setting has always fallen into that category..
​Each year that I teach there is always at least one unit that just does not work.  The kids aren’t into it, or just don’t understand it, or the way I am teaching it does not  compute with the way they learn.  So far, goal setting has always fallen into that category.

Until this year.  Hallelujah! 

January 04, 2016

We are Bucket Fillers! (Freebie)

Students in my class are practicing being bucket fillers!  The concept of being a bucket filer comes from Carol McCloud’s Book Have You Filled A Bucket Today? and How Full Is Your Bucket (For Kids) by Tom Rath.  It stems around the idea that everyone carries around an invisible bucket that, throughout the day, is being filled by the kind things that you do for others or that others do for you.  A bucket filler is someone who is showing positive character traits (kindness, compassion, care, respect, consideration for others), and is being a responsible citizen. When our buckets are full, we feel happy.   When our buckets are empty, we feel sad. 

For the next few weeks, we will be learning about different qualities that bucket fillers and bucket dippers exhibit.  We will be continuously reading and re-reading bucket filling books  so that students are able to really grasp the concept of bucket filling.  I can wait to have students start practicing being being bucket fillers in the classroom, and encouraging students to be bucket fillers at home! 

Our bucket filling bulletin board.  It's a great visual reminder of the bucket filling that I can see occurring in the classroom. 

Teachers: I have created an entire unit to kick start this kindness campaign on Teachers Pay Teachers  that is available for download now.  The unit is designed to be done over 3 weeks, has 6 unique lessons, a teaching guide, bulletin board templates, and interactive games!  Check it out here in my TpT store

For checking out my blog today, I have an awesome freebie for you.  One part of the Bucket Filling unit is a 'Bucket Filling, Bucket Dipping' sorting activity.  You can use it as a drama game in your class, as a sorting activity in small groups, or as independent work.  There is a sorting mat included!

Bucket Filler Freebie for Blog Readers (Click!) 

Let me know what you think in the comments below! 

Update July 2016:  This is absolutely my favourite resource.  I love the way it created a classroom community focused so deliberately on kindness and putting others first. We will be starting it again in September, and I can't wait to use my #BestResourceEver with my new class of grade threes!