Instant Ideas for Busy Teachers...
by Barbara Gruber, M.A. & Sue Gruber, M.A.
Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers www.bgrubercourses.com
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Springtime Learning Clubs---
Simple Solutions to Spring Fever!
News Flash: Spring Fever Hits Classrooms Across the Country!!!
Every teacher knows it is increasingly difficult to get children to focus on school and learning when "Spring Fever" sets in. As the days tick off toward the end of the year, classroom management and engaging children in learning become more challenging in every classroom. We wish we could tell teachers everywhere that we have a cure for Spring Fever! We can't eliminate Spring Fever---however, we have a perfect way to motivate your roomful of learners when "Spring Fever" sets in! We call this idea Springtime Learning Clubs and it's easy for any teacher to pull off successfully in any K-6 classroom. You'll love it because children are actively engaged in learning and it's so easy to implement. We know how busy teachers are---we promise not to give you more work to do!
The Best Time for Springtime Learning Clubs
Count back three or four weeks from the last day of school and block off a period of one or two weeks for your Springtime Learning Club. We recommend using the second and/or third weeks before school ends and not including the last hectic week of school. Now, choose a theme that will be high-interest for your students.
Ideas for Theme for Springtime Learning Clubs
Wild Animal Club
The Dinosaur Club
(The Dinosaur Club is running in Sue's California Kindergarten classroom right
Save the Rainforest Club
Deep Blue Sea Club
…any other theme your students find exciting and interesting.
Learning Activities for Springtime Learning Clubs
In this Gazette article, we'll use Wild Animal Club for our theme. Take a look at the list of learning activities that go with the Wild Animal Park. These learning activities go with most of the themes listed above. And, there are all sorts of additional learning activities that can be added to the list below.
- Have children go through all the books in the classroom library to locate the books on wild animals. Please notice we have children do this job. Of course, teachers can stay after school and find all the books and place them on the table. Why do work that children can help you do? We find the more the teacher does, the more passive children are. Having children participate fosters a sense of responsibility and ownership of classroom activities. This makes perfect sense to us---we believe teachers should do things with children rather than for children whenever possible. With your students help, set up a reading table with an assortment of books about wild animals from the school and classroom libraries.
- Read aloud nonfiction books about wild animals
- Children can read nonfiction books about wild animals. Depending on your grade level you can require that children read a certain number of books and report on book report forms.
- Each child must choose one wild animal to research and write a report about.
In Kindergarten, the report could be a full-color illustration of the animal on 12"x18" art paper. Then, the child dictates a sentence for the teacher to print across the bottom of the paper. (Tip: Save a space for writing by folding under the bottom edges of children's papers. When you are ready to write sentences you can unfold the inch-wide flap and write.) In upper grades, reports can follow any report format that is appropriate for your grade level.
- Teach and write Haiku poetry together as a whole class activity. Then, have children choose 1 or more wild animals about which to write Haiku poems. Have children make colorful illustrations to go with the poems.
- Give each child a 3" x 10" strip of light colored construction paper. Have each child create an educational bookmark about one wild animal. Each child draws and labels a wild animal and writes a fact about the animal on the bookmark. Place the box of educational bookmarks on the reading table where all the books about wild animals are located.
- Have groups of children work together to create murals about wild animals. Children who are learning about animals that live in jungles work together on a mural. Others who may be learning about wild animals that live in forests work together on another mural.
- During Springtime Learning Club weeks, all sharing/show and tell must be related to wild animals.
Special Interest Projects
- Assign each child to a different wild animal. Children must create a poster showing a full color illustration of the animal. They must label the animal and write pertinent facts such as size, weight, food sources and habitat.
- Have each child use a shoe box (standing on its long side) to create a habitat for a wild animal. They can use twigs, pebbles, foil (to represent water) and make the animal out of construction paper or use a figurine. Create a Wild Animal Park by placing all the habitats along the countertop, floor or tabletops. Add construction paper walkways and a have students make it look like a wild animal park for visitors.
- Have children create postage stamps about wild animals on 5" x 7" art paper. Cut the edges of the stamps with pinking shears or fancy-cut scissors.
Other High-interest Activities
- Show a video about wild animals
- Have children set up a display using plastic figures of wild animals. Dollar stores and discount stores sell these at bargain prices. You'll use them again and again.
- Clear off several bulletin boards and dedicate them to your Springtime Learning Club. Children can display everything they make relating to the theme on the bulletin boards. These materials can be taken home the last day of school!
- Provide modeling clay for children to create models of wild animals. Have children place their models on a table top covered with green paper.
- Buy a set of wild animal flashcards. You could post flashcards on a paper banner, number each card and cover up the names of the animals. Have a contest where students have to number papers and identify each animal. Or, place the flashcards on the Reading Table for students to use.
- Invite the principal, school librarian, parents and other classes in to view the Wild Animal Park Activities in your classroom. Serve "Lion Lemonade" and animal crackers.
Management of Springtime Learning Clubs
Projects involved in the Springtime Learning Clubs are created by the students, not by the teacher. You can set the standards for projects, but the kids do just about everything.
Capture attention and pique curiosity when you launch the Club.
Just for fun, write on the chalkboard, "Springtime Learning Club starts in 7 days!" Each day change the number---when children ask what the Springtime Learning Club is tell them you can't announce it until May 12th! Announce the Springtime Learning Club Theme to the class first thing in the morning on the day the Club begins. Kick off the theme by showing a video or read aloud a book with wonderful illustrations!
Get interest going by covering the classroom door with colorful paper labeled "Wild Animal Zone." Have each child draw and cut out a wild animal to paste on the door banner. If you have posters or anything that goes with the wild animal theme, this is the time to display those materials in the classroom. Ask other teachers if they have materials you can borrow that tie in with the theme!
Wild Animal Club Activities Chart---a simple management tool
All you need to manage the Club and keep track of completed activities is a tagboard chart and a class list. Label the chart "Wild Animal Club Activities" and list the activities children can do. Number each activity. Make some of the activities be required by marking them with a * and others can be free choice. Children must complete all required activities before doing choice activities. When children finish activities, they show them to the teacher who checks that activity's number off on a class list. If you have activities on the list that you want to do together as a class, write a T for Teacher before those activities on the chart. If an activity is done with partners, draw 2 faces beside it. If it is done in a group of 5 or more, draw 5 faces beside it. Your chart might look like this:
Wild Animal Club Learning Activities
Activities with a * are required.
You must do all * activities first.
Show each activity to me when you are done.
Ms. Sunshine, Wild Animal Club Manager
- * Read a book about wild animals from the Reading Table. Write a report about the book. Report forms are on the Reading Table.
- * Read another book about wild animals from the Reading Table. Write a report about the book. Report forms are on the Reading Table.
- * Choose one wild animal and create a poster about the animal. Look at the sample poster.
- * T Write 2 Haiku poems. Each poem is about a different wild animal.
- * Bring one item for sharing that is about a wild animal.
- * T Make a commemorative postage stamp about a wild animal.
- Create a wild animal habit for one type of animal in a shoebox.
- Make a clay model of a wild animal for the table top display.
- Make a mural showing wild animals in their habitat.
- Create a mobile about wild animals.
We placed a T before activity #4 on the list because we plan to do a class lesson on writing Haiku poetry before students write poems. For activity #6, we want to demonstrate how to make the postage stamps so the projects students create are done carefully and to the standards we have set. For the postage stamps, we demonstrate how to sketch the animal lightly in pencil, then color and label it. Then, we would show how to add numbers to show what the stamp is worth. We might want to pass around some cancelled postage stamps for kids to look at as part of this lesson.
In every classroom there are students who do fast, messy work so they can say, "I'm done!" They love to race through projects for the thrill of being done first. You can bring this to a screeching halt by requiring carefully done work from everyone. We invest time in teaching and modeling how to do an activity and require students to meet our standards.
One other thing to think about, if you have students who are pulled out of class frequently for special lessons, they will have less time to work on the Wild Animal Club. We recommend that you can enter into a private agreement with those children and lower the number of required activities they must do. Then, they don't feel they are missing out on things. In a perfect world, everyone will complete required activities and have time to choose a few of the free choice activities.
It's easy to keep track of which activities students have done. If you have twelve activities on your Learning Activities Chart you can just number across the top of a class list from one to 12. When students finish an activity, they must show it to you before putting it on display in the classroom. If the project is incomplete or not done properly, have students work on it to bring it up to par.
At the end of the Wild Animal Club, save a sample of each project created by students so you have examples to use next year. Keep the Learning Activities Chart to use again next year. Have children place all the books back in the classroom and school libraries. On the last day of school children can take down their projects and take them home.
It's easy to get a Springtime Learning Club going in your classroom!
We hope you find it to be the answer to a time of year when it is difficult to keep the learning going. We think it's a fun way to engage children in high-interest learning activities. We also like the idea of giving children choices after they have completed required activities. Giving children choices is a way of building trust with students and fostering responsibility and independence.
If you like the kinds of ideas we present in this Gazette article, you'll love the online courses we offer for teachers. Every idea is classroom-tested, 100% practical and teacher-friendly. Our motto is "There's a life beyond teaching." When teachers are not consumed by their jobs, they are more energetic and enthused. And, that's win-win for teachers and students---there is a positive correlation between how much children learn and the enthusiasm level of teachers. We help teachers save time and work so they can be positive and energized.
We encourage you to take a look at our online courses for K-6 teachers at http://www.bgrubercourses.com Teachers say our courses are the most practical courses they've ever taken. And, the ideas are so easy to implement. They tell us they are using so many of our activities and teaching strategies. We're delighted to know that teachers not only like our ideas but are putting them in action in classrooms everywhere.
Best wishes ~
Barbara Gruber & Sue Gruber
Barbara and Sue Gruber
Barbara Gruber Online Courses for K-6 Teachers
Copyright 2003: Barbara Gruber Courses for Teachers
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