- Bulletin Boards
From Your Window
You likely have more than one bird book in your library, and
probably at least one window in your classroom. Now all you
need is a feeder to hang outside the window to attract birds
that can be looked up in the book. Birdfeeders can be constructed
from empty plastic bottles (a project for students) and don't
forget that squirrels, a nuisance to most bird watchers and
feeders, can be a delight to watch. Also, you may have to
draw the windowshades sometimes to eliminate distractions
to your students.
the Summer Into Your Classroom
Overview: If your students are suffering
from the cold-weather blues, turn your classroom into a
summer resort for a day or a week. They will get a chance
to pretend it's warm, and also do comparison activities
that will put their brains to work.
Teacher Preparation: turn your classroom into a summer
resort with lots of lighting and plants, and have students
bring beach towels, sunscreen lotion, beach balls, etc.
Make a large sun (wearing sunglasses) to hang in the room.
Points to Remember: Half the world experiences
the opposite season at any given time, and the internet is
a way to make contact with kids experiencing different climates
(for example, we loved the e-mail we got from Austrailia talking
about celebrating Christmas by the pool...). To make contact
with other schools, go to our Key
Pals page for information on listing your class.
- Research and compare average temperatures
in June with January.
- Have students make two lists: Typical Summer
Activities and Typical Winter Activities.
- Compare summer Olympic sports with winter
- Compare winter food with summer, including
a look at gardening.
- Share picture books with summer themes.
- List countries that have summer in January.
- Make ice cream.
- Make a sandbox in a corner complete with
little shovels and buckets.
- Discuss dangers of staying out in the sun
Back to a New Room
OK, your students are coming back from the Christmas or spring
break, to what: "the same old room?" (Their words,
not ours.) Jump start their learning engines with a new seating
arrangement, new bulletin boards, anything to make
them feel like things are different. As they say, different
a Magazine Corner
Got a magazine corner? Instead of using bookshelves, display
your magazines so the covers can be seen, will draw attention
and get read. Snag an old rack from a store or library or
make your own; even a pegboard with 2 little hooks for each
magazine to drop into, and leaning against the wall will let
the covers be seen. And retire your old magazines to a box
for later use in cutting out pictures, looking for headlines,
Indoor/outdoor thermometers have come down so much in price,
every classroom should have one. These digital wonders not
only show both temperatures, but usually have resettable memories
that store high and low temperatures. And the outdoor temperature
sensor is on thin, flexible wires making it ideal to insert
inside enclosures in science experiments and demonstrations.
Atmosphere with Plants
With fall eliminating the greenery outside, now's a great
time to add some life inside. You don't need a green
thumb; go to a greenhouse and describe the kind of sunlight
your room receives to choose the proper plants to thrive there.
Then get your students involved with a job list for watering
and misting based on the greenhouse's recommendations. You
can even take things a step furthur by teaching about the
various forms of propagation, letting students start new plants
from leaves, separated roots or shoots.
Your Plants a Vacation
If you're worried about the plants in your room dying off
during breaks, and you don't want to move them home, there
IS hope. Water as usual, then cover each one with a large
clear plastic bag, like a dry cleaning bag. The bag will act
like a miniature greenhouse. If they are going to turn down
the heat in your building, you might want to move the plants
to a spot as high as possible in the room to keep them just
a few degrees warmer.
Bulletin Board Headlines
Whether you buy ready-made letters or use or cut your own
for bulletin boards, there are some tricks for putting them
up. If you're centering the head on the board, mark the center
of the board with a piece of tape, then layout the letters
on a table. Find the center of the headline, and begin putting
up the letters from the center, working your way out to both
ends. A mistake often made is to space them too far apart.
Headline letters are usually set tighter than small type;
it won't hurt if the letters touch. Also, rounded caps like
"O" and "C" are really taller than squared-off letters like
"A" and "M". Make sure they extend beyond the imaginary top
and bottom lines formed by the other letters.
Comfy Chair, Comfy Price
Lots of teachers have a nice comfortable chair or sofa in
their room. Mine is a cushioned chair sitting next to our
pond that kids can use for quiet reading time. If you want
one, try to get it for free; mine was a leftover from a garage/yard/tag
sale that was given to me free on the spot just for telling
them I was a teacher and needed it for my classroom. Another
idea is to check with a nearby furniture store for old trade-ins
and see if they will donate one for your classroom. They might
Redefine the Alphabet
To acquaint my students with the multitude of typefaces out
in the real world, we create our own version of the alphabet
samples that are seen in classrooms everywhere. Have students
look through magazines for different typefaces, then draw
the outlines of each letter on paper and color with crayons
or markers. Look for variety (new faces are being created
each DAY) and draw them large enough to fill a letter sized
sheet of paper.
Aquarium fish don't have to be tropical! The small catfish
we got from the river as 1" babies are now 5" in length, deal
with temperature fluctuations well and eat about anything.
And yes, they were absolutely free. No aquarium? Make a pond
in your classroom (see below).
on Native Fish for Your Classroom
Dave Loveless (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes in: A
couple of weeks ago you suggested using local fish in school
aquariums. This is a great tip because many of the native
fish are sturdy enough for the school environment. The same
tip applies to salt water fish. I have been doing both for
years and salt water fish from an estuary are the best since
they are used to salinity, temperature changes, etc. I would
also recommend a book Our Native Fish by John R. Quinn
and published by The Countryman Press in Woodstock, Vermont.
It covers both fresh and salt water and gives ideas on compatibility
Where Are We?
Make signs to hang from the ceiling in the center of your
room similar to street signs at intersections. Align one north-south
and write your longitude, with latitude on the east-west one.
We got the figures, that were very accurate, from our main
public library, and left the signs up all year.
I have a 1/2 gallon plastic jar under a simple "Estimation
Center" sign. Sometimes I put a known quantity of items in
the jar, or other times just write a simple estimation problem
on a sheet of paper and tape to the wall under the sign such
as "estimate how far to the office in feet". Students can
put their answers on the wall with post-its, or sometimes
we just discuss the problem and have them give estimates orally.
I implemented this center last year and saw a noticeable improvement
throughout the year in their answers.
New High-Tech Chalkboards
Call us old-fashioned, but we're not impressed with the
new white, slick marker boards that are beginning to be the
rage. OK, they look cool. But there are some downsides you
need to be aware of before asking to have your tired old antique
chalkboards replaced with these new wonders. They require
special markers to write with, the markers can stain clothing,
the markers are also expensive and if you aren't careful,
the boards can be prone to reflections and glare, depending
on your room lighting and window arrangement. So think about
lighting and the cost before making the plunge.
Removable Dry Erase Sheets
We just saw a new product available at office supply stores;
dry erase sheets in a pad that are just torn off and adhere
to a wall or blackboard by static electricity. They can then
be written on with dry erase markers and wiped clean with
a rag. Because they are thin plastic, ghost letters linger
after erasing in the form of slightly raised bubbles under
the plastic, possibly from solvent penetration from the markers,
but can be removed by rubbing to force the air out. They may
not be quite as nice as regular marker boards, but work fine
for temporary use.