Posts tagged christian classroom
Making Bible Stories Come Alive

When I’m teaching at a Christian school my number one goal each year is to help my students to fall in love with Jesus. Sure, I want them to meet and exceed government standards, and become confident and capable citizens... but top priority is to see my students live and thrive in their relationship with Christ.

I think that one of the most important ways to do this is through a knowledge of the 'stories' in the Bible.  All of the Bible is God's love letter to us, His children, and ultimately paints an amazing picture of grace and redemption.

I can remember my first year teaching.  I casually said something along the lines of...

"Wow! It is really raining outside!  This must be what Noah felt like on the Ark."

Only 2/3 of my class understood what I was talking about.  

Two-thirds of my class of third-graders in a Christian school.

I investigated further.  At least seven of my precious little kiddos were unfamiliar with the story of Noah's Ark.  Or Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors.  Or Jonah and the Whale.  Or Daniel in the Lion's Den.   You get the idea.

I learned an important lesson that day - we cannot assume that all of our students in Christian schools (or Sunday School) have basic Biblical background knowledge.  

I got to work right away making Bible plans to help fill in some of these 'gaps' for my precious kiddos. Together, we worked through many of the ‘big’ stories in the Bible.

We created books to go along with each story...

Like this one about the  Garden of Eden!

We learned the important details of each story and started to memorize verses... (Noah's Ark)

We learned new story-specific vocabulary...

We made crafts...

For the first time all of my students knew The Creation Story!

Overall we really deepened our knowledge of God's word. 

Through our Bible Story Small Group it was amazing to watch some of my students learn these stories for the first time, and watch others make deeper connections with stories they already knew and loved.

All of my Bible Story units are designed to be useful for a K-5 classroom in Christian School, homeschool, or Sunday School classroom.  These following units are currently available: 

1.The Creation Story

2.The Garden of Eden - Adam and Eve

3.Noah's Ark

4.Jonah and the Whale

5.The Easter Story (grades 2 and up)

6.The Nativity Story

7. Jesus Feeds the 5,000

How does your class, Sunday School class, or children, like to study the Bible?  What inspires you to learn more about Jesus? Share your best ideas in the comments below!

Back to School Butterflies

In British Columbia we head back to school tomorrow morning.  

Where has the time gone?

Although this summer was full of ups and downs, and not all that restful, it is time to hit the ground running tomorrow morning.    I snuck into my class one more time this morning (on a holiday... gasp!)  to tie up any loose ends and make sure I was fully prepared to welcome my 24 brand new kiddos into my room tomorrow morning.

I think that even after four years of teaching in my 'own room' I still get the nervous butterflies before the first day of school.  A part of me misses the group that inhabited the room the year before, and another part of me is nervous about what is coming next.

I have to keep reminding myself of Philippians 4:6-7:  "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  

So I'm giving this year up to the One who holds forever in His hands.  I know that there will be more 'bumps' ahead, but I'm not in it alone.

Thank goodness!

Take a look at my classroom for the 2016/2017 school year:

Above: My teacher desk - love this new print from Hobby Lobby! 

I do all of my read-alouds from my IKEA chair, and we start each carpet time with a reminder how to do  Whole Body Listening (from Especially Education)

Reading Corner - the book bins and storage may not match, but I love how many play-based learning option I have! 

Hand-In Buckets - I separate hand-in and classroom work storage by subject and project.  

View from the back of the classroom - check out my new crate seats!

Permanent whiteboard set-up.  I write my schedule up on the board so it can be specific, and kids help to assign a weekly classroom job rotation.  I love accountability in a primary classroom! 

I'm starting to feel ready for the year ahead.  How about you, is your classroom ready ? Or if you've been back for a while, how are you settling in?

Planning for the First Day of Third Grade

The first day of school is exciting and nerve-wracking for students and teachers. I can remember anxiously preparing for my first First Day as a brand new teacher.  I had run through so many different scenarios in my mind of what I thought could happen. The reality was a lot more chaotic and I was so glad to have planned so much in advance.

Tips and tricks for the first day of third grade by Poet Prints Teaching

In our school, the first day is a half-day to meet teachers, find classrooms, and get orientated.  That doesn't mean I don't have to be prepared.  It's surprising how much needs to be done in four short hours, so making a plan is key.

Here are my most important tips for the First Day of Third Grade:

First Day of Third Grade Tip One:  Have a plan for school supplies.

Every school and district manages school supplies differently. Sometimes teachers purchase and organize all supplies, other times students purchase supplies from a set list.  Our school does a combination of the two.  While I purchase some supplies and am able to organize them ahead of time, students arrive on Day One with backpacks full of pencils, paper, scissors, and all sorts of other personal supplies.

So what do we do with them? Here is how I organize school supplies in my third grade classroom.

On the first day of school, I have empty dollar store washing buckets set out on my bookshelves. During the year, these will be labeled for each subject.  However, on the first day of the year, I label each bucket with the name of a school supply.

  • pencils
  • erasers
  • lined paper
  • blank notebooks
  • glue sticks
  • liquid glue

These supplies will become communal.  I put them in my back cupboard and ration them to be used for the whole year.  Students have access to my back cupboard (I try not to make most of my classroom 'off limits') but it helps to make our school supplies last all ear. 

On the whiteboard, beside a greeting to my new class,  I write a clear list of the supplies that can go inside of their cubby and/or desk (depending on the year).  These are supplies that are not communal.  When students come in on the first day, they take a look on the board, and begin to sort their supplies before meeting me on the carpet for our very first morning meeting!

First Day of Third Grade Tip Two:  Plan a fun get to know you game!

Every year, a good portion of my new students will inevitably walk in awkward and shy.  Even if I have invested time into getting to know the second graders before they left for the summer they will be nervous on the first day of school.  This is where a fun, non-threatening get-to-know-you game is key.  In my classroom, I love to use a beach ball to ask students fun facts about themselves.   Using a beach ball is a great way to get students moving, and to break away any first day jitters.  Make sure that your questions don't provoke any awkward answers.  The point is to allow your students to open up, not to embarrass them!

On her blog, Teaching in Paradise has great suggestions for how to set this activity up, and sample questions to use on your beach ball.  Check it out here!

Beach Ball Questions from Teaching in Paradise

First Day of Third Grade Tip Three:  Have something for your students do to.  

No matter how hard I plan, and over-plan, there is always something on the first day of school that does not go to plan.  (Mild chaos is inevitable!)  I make sure that my students each have a Back to School Workbook at their desks that gives them something to do during the first day (and week) back.  This way, should the unexpected happen (like a nervous parent who needs to talk, or a student in tears who needs a moment of one-on-one time) the rest of the class has something to work on.  

Back to School workbooks  also allow me to gather vital information about each of my students.  They are not just busywork.  With the workbooks I am assessing basic skills:

Can you begin working independently?

How long can you work independently?

Can you write legibly?

Can you form sentences?

Are you able to follow written instructions?

Can you infer?  

Can you make a logical connection between these two pages? 

This year, I made my students a Back to School book to specifically assess their skills and learning styles.  I want to know how they view themselves as learners, and what basic skills they may have difficulty with.  So while this book helps to occupy some students during moments of chaos in the first few days it is actually so much more.

I have two versions available:  one Bible-based version, and one non-religious Back-to-School workbook

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Back to School essential skills workbook by Poet Prints Teaching

 

First Day of Third Grade Tip Four:  Do a project together. 

Two years ago I started doing an Art project on the first day of school.  

Really.

I taught a full Art lesson.  And it was glorious.  

I don't particularly like teaching Art, but I love the way my students come out of their shells when they are working intently on something and being a little creative.  It also gives my quieter students a chance to showcase their personalities without having to be the center of attention.  

My favourite project to do on the first day back is a Lego Self Portrait.  I get the Lego template from Art Projects for Kids and follow the basic lesson from Art with Mrs. Nguyen. 

I begin by handing out Lego people around the classroom.  We talk about what students can see. What shapes make it a lego person. (Curved hands, rounded head, rectangular legs).  Then together, we sketch me!  What am I wearing?  What could I be wearing?

Then students are set free to draw themselves as Lego people.  I love seeing what they come up with.

End of the Year Activities

It's that time of the year again!  The birds are singing, the sun is out, and the school year is winding down.  I've found myself becoming a little bit tear-ier than usual when I think about saying goodbye to this years' batch of kids.  At times, they were a really tough group, but I've loved the adventures we have been able to have together.

There are so many ways that you can celebrate the end of the year in an elementary classroom.  I thought I'd share a few of my favourite ways to mark the end of a successful year together.

1. Now and Then Bulletin Board

On the first day of school, I always take a picture of my kiddos holding a sign that marks their first day in a new grade.  For me, it's important that this happens on the actual first day of school.  (Not the first week, etc.)  I love the nervous/shy/apprehensive smiles I get when I take their photos on Day 1.  Then, towards the end of the year (usually 2-3 weeks from the end), we take another photo.  This time I ask them to scream out "I am done grade three!"  I love seeing the difference between their beginning and end of the year photos.  They grow so much in third grade.  

2. Birthday Party for Everyone

The theme for our year end class party this year is "Birthday Party for Everyone".

I have to admit, I am not the best at celebrating birthdays in class.  I'm great at holidays, book studies, literary events, science projects... but birthdays...notsomuch.  This year, we are having an in-class birthday party for all of my students on a day that is no one's birthday.  Each student is in charge of something: planning games, making invitations, setting up colouring stations, organizing food... even washing the dishes afterward!   

A fun way to celebrate with their friends, and make sure each child feels valued during the school year. 

3. Slideshow (Class Movie)

I love ending the year off with a class movie.  I am an iPhone and camera addict (Nikon girl!)  so I am constantly snapping pics and quick movies of my kiddos. This is my chance to snip them all together into a short (ok... 10 minutes... not that short) movie to watch.  

When I first started teaching I always waited until the last day of school to show them the movie.  Last year I stopped doing that.  Why?  Because they love the movie.  They love it so much that they could watch it every day for a week.  So now I usually show it to them 2-3 days before the end of the year. It gives them a chance to see it a few times before they have to say "goodbye" to each other for the summer.  Then, if they want to talk about it, process it, or suddenly *remember* someone that they need to play with on the playground... they can! 

4. Beach Field Trip

I know that this one isn't possible for everyone.  I feel so fortunate to live in British Columbia, and only 30-45 minutes away from more than a dozen world class beaches.

Each June my grade three class heads to the beach with our grade one buddies, their siblings, and all of our families.  We celebrate the end of a successful year family-style with a beach BBQ, sandcastle building contest, and little toes in the sand!

5. 'About My Year' Project

End of Year Flipbooks by Poet Prints Teaching (K-5)

 

I always try to finish out the year with a project that helps students to reflect on their time in Third Grade.  It's a great way to help students to remember all of the fun you had, and think back on how much they have learned and grown!  Last year we wrote letters to future Third Grade students.  This year, I created a flipbook template that let us think about the best parts of the year! 

6. Award Ceremony

In the last week of school I always hold my annual 'Grade Three Award Ceremony'.  We set up the classroom like a mini-auditorium and each student is given an individualized award certificate.  I invite parents to come watch and try to make this a special part of the end of our year.  This is such a chance to honour the unique parts of each student in my classroom.  I love how students light up when they hear how they are being honoured.  Teachers Pay Teachers has many pre-made award certificates.  I use this pack from 'Teaching with a Mountain View' because it has so many different options and is a great time-saver.  (I do still have to come up with a few awards on my own - but she has an editable template as well).  

7. Maintain Routines

This one may sound odd... but stay with me.  Sometimes the end of the year in an elementary classroom can be so much fun that it gets a little chaotic.  Field trips, parties, school-wide events, parent visits and evening concerts can mean that their last few weeks in a certain grade look almost nothing like the rest of the year!

Last year, I remember one of my bright-eyed little third graders coming up to me and asking "Mrs. P, will I ever get to do read-to-self with you ever again?"  She was heartbroken at the thought that regular grade three was over.  

In the hustle and bustle of the "fun" of the end of the year, I've learned that sometimes the best gift you can give to your students is the gift of keeping things as normal as possible.  They like it.  They like you, their teacher.  They will miss so many parts of the grade they are in, so why not let them hold on for just a few more days? 

How do you and your class celebrate the end of a year of learning?  Any traditions you have carried forward from year to year?  Anything you are hoping to try out next year?

Wednesdays in the Word
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My grade three literacy program is part Daily 5, part Literacy Place, part Reading Power, and part 6-Traits.

I haven’t ever found one program that completely fits the needs of my students, so I have always borrowed from the best parts of the most quality reading and writing programs on the market.

Each day, my students sit for 20-25 minutes of independent, sustained Read to Self time.

In our room, this is treasured time.

My students need the time both to practice their reading, and to have a small amount of time that is calm and quiet.

They treasure this time as much as I do, and heaven help us if this block has to be moved for some reason!

Most of the time, students can choose to read any book (or magazine, or comic) that they would like as long as it is usually at their level.

However, on Wednesdays, we spend the entire Read to Self block in our Bibles.

We are so lucky to have a class set of Bibles that are assigned to each student.

We have New International Reader's Version Bibles that are just about perfect for a third grade reading level.

I think that it is so important to cultivate a classroom culture that places an emphasis on the Word as being important.  Building strong spiritual disciplines starts early, and the Christian classroom is a great place for this.  

How can I teach and tell my students that reading their Bibles is important if we are not spending time to do that during class time?

How can I talk about how important it is for them to fall in love with God’s Word if I am not setting that example myself?

Before our time in the Word begins, I stand at the board and help students to navigate their Bibles.

They will yell out topics and stories that they want to read about, and I will (to the best of my ability) point them to the Book/Chapter in the Bible that they will head to.

Sure, there are parts of the Bible that they won’t yet be able to understand, and some of it is above their reading level, but that doesn’t mean that they are too young to start the habit of reading from a Bible for enjoyment. 

Spoiler Alert: The boys like the stories about battles, fierce animals, and God showing his POWER!

I cannot tell you how full my heart feels during this block.

It’s amazing to look around the room and see a class full of students enraptured by the Bible.

I love it when students skip up to share something new that they have discovered, or just cannot wait to tell a friend about what they have read.

Even though we only have scheduled “Wednesdays in the Word” so many of my students have begun pulling out their Bibles for Read to Self much more than one day a week.

It’s such a joy to watch the Spirit move in our classroom through the hearts and minds of these little ones.

Easter in the Classroom

I work in a Christian school and I love it. I love being able to talk about my faith all day and play my favorite worship songs as my students work.  I have had so many incredible conversations with students about their big questions, and worries, and it's great to be able to point them back to The Word in all things.

Of all of the holidays, Easter is one of the 'big ones' in my classroom.  Teaching at a Christian school allows me to stray further from the theme of bunnies, eggs, and chicks(however cute they may be!) and focus on the story of new life through Jesus' sacrifice.

This year, to tie our Bible lessons into our Language Arts, we are going 'in depth' into the symbols seen in the Easter Story in the New Testament.

Following this complete plan, we have been learning about Jesus by actually reading our Bibles, and spending time in Bible study! All of the reading is from the New Living Translation of the Bible, and it's the perfect level for my third-grade students.  I love that they can 'dive into' The Word on their own!

Then, we craft!  In my third grade classroom, Art is a tie-in to almost every subject, and my students love getting crafty.   Check out our Symbols of the Easter Story mobiles

The whole Easter unit is available HERE  from my Teachers Pay Teachers store .

I've also created a special free version of the craft for my lovely blog readers.  You can find that HERE.

Let me know, how do you prepare for Easter in your classroom?  Any tips or great resources to share?  Sound off in the comments below!

- Rachel 

Easter in a Christian Classroom