Easter is a great holiday to get creative with kids! Whether it's coloring eggs, hunting for chocolate bunnies, or making goodie bags filled with treats that kids will love.
This year, I wanted to give my students a special treat the day before they left for spring break. The first step was creating some colorful TREAT BAG TAGS for the treat bags. I purchased some 4 x 6 clear plastic bags from Amazon and headed to Target, Trader Joes, and Michaels in search of goodies to fill the bags. I had so many ideas but take a peek below to see what I finally decided on.
1. Chocolate Mini-Mix
The first chocolatey mix is made up Hershey's kisses, York Peppermint Patties, Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups and Rolo caramels.
2. Bunny Hop Mix
Have you seen Annie's Organix Bunny Grahams? I found these adorable bunny crackers at Trader Joes. They come in all different flavors including chocolate, honey grahams, chocolate chip, cheddar cheese, birthday cake, lemon, and a variety pack. I added mini-marshmallows to the bags for a cottontail treat.
3. Chex Trail Mix Treat
Keeping it simple is the name of the game. For this bag, simply combine Chex Mix, Cheez-Its, Raisins, M&M's (I used pastel colors), and mini-marshmallows. Mix all together and scoop some crunchy goodness into the bags. It's that simple.
4. Gummy Worms Galore
Kids love anything gummy. I couldn't resist these colorful gummy worms for an extra special treat.
5. All the Colors of the Rainbow
I bought a box of Skittles at Target for $1. They also have Skittles Jellybeans during the Easter season that comes in many different flavors and would be a really sweet treat too!
How did a rabbit become a symbol of Easter? A long time ago, the Easter hare (Oschter Haws) started as a folktale. As the story goes, the Easter hare would lay colorful eggs in nests for children on Easter Sunday. This tradition dates back to the 1600s in Germany. Rabbits are small mammals with whiskers, long ears, and fluffy, white tails. Some species have ears that can grow to be up to 26 inches long, from tip to tip, giving them excellent hearing. Students will love this activity pack all about rabbits and making an adorable Easter Bunny craft project.
The world is full of insects. In fact, scientists estimate that there might be as many as ten million different species of insects! It's important for children to understand that insects can be useful for the environment and that we shouldn’t be afraid of them. In this post, I'll share some activities, resources, and books for kids to learn more about these amazing little critters.
Lucky Little Ladybugs
Did you know that if a ladybug lands on you, it’s a sign of good luck? A ladybug is easy to identify. If you see a tiny red bug with black spots flying by, it is probably a ladybug. Students will love this ladybug unit and adorable craft project.
Q: Why did the bug cross the road?
A: Cause he wanted to see the "Ladybugs"
Start by reading the passages all about ladybugs and their life cycle and answering the comprehension questions on the tri-fold booklet. Students could work with a partner or you can use it as a learning station activity. An answer key is included.
Students will love making this cute ladybug craft and assembling the 8-page flip-up booklet. Print the ladybug templates on red, orange, or yellow paper as shown in the pack. I used this starter cardstock kit from Amazon.
Cut out each of the ladybug's body parts and flip-up pages.
The flip booklet pages attach to the inside of the ladybug's mouth.
These lucky ladybugs make an extra cute bulletin board display too!
The ladybug's head can be either red or black. For a black head, simply trace around the circle using a white colored pencil or chalk.
Vocabulary posters with real-life photos are included to help students visualize and connect to the information. I recommend printing the vocabulary posters on premium brochure and poster paper to make them come to life!
These colorful posters make an attractive bulletin board in a snap! Vocabulary activities are included to reinforce learning.
This activity pack includes all you need to teach students about ladybugs and create this creative craft project. You can find this fun unit by CLICKING HERE!
This book opens with a short list of "good things" that each animal contributes to the ecosystem opens these books. Bats, for example, eat insects and spread pollen and seeds. The content then shifts to more general information about physical features, life cycles, and habitats. Full-page photos of mostly high quality match the simple text effectively, aided by useful labels. Interesting details are judiciously woven into the broader overviews, some within the main text and others through "fun facts" insets.
Ladybugs are a type of beetle. They live on six of the seven continents. There are believed to be about 5,000 different kinds of ladybugs around the world. Here are descriptions of their physical characteristics, their four states of development from egg to adult, and how they live. Ladybugs eat insects that damage plants and are an important part of our environment.
Most children are fascinated with animals and we can build on that interest in the classroom.
Introduce the Unit
I like to start our animal classification unit by asking the class, what do all living things have in common? Remind students that people are animals too. As a class, we brainstorm a list.
All living creatures eat, move, breathe, grow, and have babies. For scientists to learn more about animals, they put them into different groups with similar characteristics. This is called classification.
The first passage in our unit introduces students to how scientist go about classifying animals and gives a brief introduction of each of the five groups.
Vertebrates and Invertebrates
After the introduction to classification, we move on to talk about the vertebrates and invertebrates. To demonstrate how our backbone helps us move, I have the students do the following movements:
touch their toes
do a jumping jack
pat themselves on the back
feel the bones on the back of the neck
This activity demonstrates how our backbone gives us and all vertebrates the ability to move.
After reading the passage and answering the comprehension questions, we go on to do our pocket sort. This is a fun activity to reinforce their learning. Print the pockets on different colored paper.
Have students cut out the pockets and carefully paste the pockets (around the outside edges) into their notebook. Next, they can cut out the animal cards and sort them by whether they are vertebrates or invertebrates. Place the cards inside the correct pocket.
Then we dive deeper into each of the five animal groups. Each passage includes information about each group as well as examples.
The Five Big Groups
The following animal groups are highlighted in this unit:
For each of the five animal groups, there are reading passages, comprehension questions, and a tri-fold booklet. Students read the passage, answer the comprehension questions, and then complete the tri-fold booklet.
I like to set up five learning stations, one for each animal group. Then students can rotate through each station.
Reading passages come in both color and black and white. You might want one copy in color to use at the learning station and then print off copies in black and white for the students to use.
One of the student activities in this pack is the tri-fold booklets. These are double-sided booklets that after they are completed, look like a brochure.
To complete the tri-fold booklets:
Copy booklet pages back to back.
Have students answer the questions on both sides.
Cut along the black lines.
Color the front cover.
Fold the flaps on the dotted line so that it looks like a brochure
Animal Characteristics Posters
Animal characteristics posters with real-life photos of animals are included for each of the five groups. These posters make a colorful and attractive bulletin board display in a snap!
There are several hands-on activities included in this unit to reinforce learning. For example, there is a 6-page flip book for the five groups. Students can work on one page each day and complete it in about a week. Flipbooks fit neatly into notebooks or can be designed as a stand-alone booklet.
Flip Fact Flaps
This is a fun and easy activity for students to complete as homework or for early finishers. Have students cut out the facts cards and paste them in a notebook. Next, they match up the flaps with the name of the correct animal group for each fact card. I like to print them on different colored papers and then students can pick a variety of colors for the different groups.
Animal Card Sort Game
There are three different ways to play this fun sorting game.
Print the animal classification cards #1-3 and name tags of each group on the next pages that follow. You won’t need the invertebrate cards for this activity. Cut into 24 cards and mix them together. (Laminate cards if desired.)
This activity works well for centers, small groups, or partners.
Ask students to group animal cards based on one property. For example, they make a group of animals based on the property of body covering. They might have animals that have fur and ones that have feathers. This will illustrate the concept of classification.
Have students report to the class about how they have grouped their cards.
Next, have students organize their cards in a different way and report back to the class. This will show them that there are many ways to group or classify, animals.
Print the animal classification cards #1-3 and name tags of each group of vertebrates: mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians. You won’t need the invertebrate cards for this activity. Cut into 24 cards and mix them together.
Students pick one card at a time and sort them into the five groups of vertebrates: mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians.
Check their cards to make sure they are in the correct groups.
Vertebrate or Invertebrate?
Print animal classification cards #1-5 and name tags for only vertebrates and invertebrates. You won’t need the other tags. Cut into 40 cards and mix them together. Cards #4 and #5 are all invertebrates.
If this is too many cards for students to sort pick one sheet (8 cards) for each group.
Have students sort the cards into two groups: vertebrates and invertebrates.
Students will have to determine if the animals have a backbone or not. *Hints: have students look for animals have a soft body such as a jellyfish or octopus and animals that have an exoskeleton like insects.
Vocabulary Posters and Activities
This unit also includes vocabulary posters with real-life photos. There are flip flaps that are perfect for interactive notebooks and a spotlight on vocabulary activity to complete.
A quiz and answer keys are also included. Just print and teach!
Students will love learning all about animals with this fun and engaging resource. This unit includes reading passages, comprehension questions, tri-fold booklets, vocabulary posters, and activities for each of the five animal groups.
Groundhog Day is a yearly tradition held on February 2nd where a special groundhog, named Punxsutawney Phil, predicts how long winter will last. According to the legend, if the groundhog sees its shadow, winter will continue for six more weeks. But if the groundhog comes out of his burrow, and does not see its shadow, then we will have an early spring. Although the groundhog is only right about 40% of the time, your students will love making their own predictions and this fun craft project.
Groundhogs are such curious creatures that students will love learning about. Chances are that they have seen one at some point in their own backyard.
Here are 5 Fun Ways to Celebrate Groundhog Day:
1. Make Their Own Predictions
Take the kiddosoutside to see if they can see their own shadow. Use thisFREEBIEto record their own predictions about Spring.
This groundhog prediction activity is sure to be a big hit with young kids.
What's inside this freebie pack:
Where do groundhogs live?
What is your prediction?
What happened today?
2. Watch Punxsutawney Phil on TV
For 2019, the groundhog is set to come out at 7:25 am on February 2. Fans can wait for his arrival starting at 6:00 a.m., thanks to a live stream provided by Visit Pennsylvania. The live stream has been a tradition for the past several years, allowing more people than ever to watch this famous groundhog.
3. Make a Groundhog Craft
Follow the steps below to make your own groovy groundhog.
1. Gather supplies: glue, scissors, crayons, or colored pencils. For the groundhog, you will need brown card stock or construction paper to make the head, paws, and ears. Use white paper for the eyes and teeth. You will also need a small piece of black construction paper for the whiskers. You can purchase the Groundhog Craft Project HERE.
2. Cut out a large circle from brown card stock or construction paper and fold in half. This will become the groundhog’s mouth.
3. Cut out the eyes, ears, paws, teeth, and nose and glue them on the front to make the groundhog’s face. Cut out 6 thin strips from black paper to make the whiskers. Glue onto the groundhog’s cheeks.
4. Read the passage and answer the questions on the organizer. Check their answers.
5. Students can use the passage to answer the questions on each page of the flip up booklet.
6. Check their answers. Then cut out each page of the flip booklet. Put them in the correct numerical order.
7. Staple the pages of the booklet at the top to attach it to the the inside of the groundhog’s mouth.
Students will love making these adorable groundhogs and assembling the 8-page flip-up booklet. The flip booklet pages are attached to the inside the groundhog's mouth. These groovy groundhogs make an extra sweet bulletin board display too! Celebrate this special holiday with a creative groundhog craft project!
5. Read a Favorite Groundhog Day Book
Celebrate Groundhog Day with this fun and quick activity! Students will love this adorable Groundhog Day craft project. Start by reading a book about this special holiday. See our favorites below.
This is one of my favorite books for Groundhog Day! Every year, people ask Groundhog the same, boring old question. Is spring around the corner? Or are we doomed to more winter? Sure, they care about his shadow, but what about him and his interests? He's had enough! Groundhog packs his bags and sets out for a much-needed vacation. Now the town is holding auditions to find someone to fill his spot. None of the animals seem right for the job, though. Not Elephant, not Ostrich, and most certainly not Puppy. No one has Groundhog's flair for the dramatic, but is it too late to woo him back into the spotlight?
Student's love this adorable book! After Groundhog announces six more weeks of winter, half his animal friends are disappointed, while the other half are excited. Each animal asks Groundhog to make his prediction in their favor the following year. Rather than being truthful about the fact that he just "calls it like he sees it," he leads them to believe he can control the weather, accepting their gifts of food and favor. On the next Groundhog Day, he finally admits he made promises he couldn't keep because he was trying to please everyone and makes amends.
This is a great book to explain how Groundhog Day started so many years ago. Every February 2, people all across America wonder about the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil. Will he see his shadow on that day or won't he? Will spring come early or late? Here is information about Groundhog Day and its origins, as well as facts about the animal at the center of this delightful annual event.
Ever wonder where Groundhog Day first began? Want to know the reason why we have different weather seasons? Curious about how some plants and animals can help predict the weather? Learn the answers to these questions and many more at Groundhog Weather School! This clever story—starring a cast of lovable groundhog characters—is a fresh, informative, and fun look at Groundhog Day through the eyes of the animals who are the stars of it each year.
You can also download one of our activity packs that come complete with passages all about groundhogs, comprehension questions, and hands-on activities.
As a teacher, I welcome any tools that makes my job easier! I was so thankful when I found ClassTag. It provides a gateway to make daily communication with parents easy-peasy. After using it for a few months, I don't know what I'd do without it!
Let's take a closer look at 5 ways to use ClassTag in the classroom.
1. Parent-Teacher Conferences:
Meeting with parents is an important part of being a teacher. In the past, I would make copies of sign up sheets with days and times and send it home with the kiddos. Then after the sign-up sheets come back, the difficult job of coordinating everyone schedules begins. Talk about stressful! Not anymore!
With ClassTag, the sign up is all online so I can create time slots for conferences, add any details, and direct the parents where to sign up. This saves me soooo much time and is much easier! They simply sign up and the scheduling is all done!
2. Classroom Photos
With ClassTag, I can quickly upload photos of our day. Parents love this feature! They can see what we are currently working on in class, projects, homework, and presentations. Sometimes, when I'm teaching a difficult concept, I might snap a picture of a diagram from the interactive white board for parents to review with their child that evening. This has become a way for parents to feel more involved at school and quickly review and reinforce difficult concepts.
3. Class Volunteers
Parent volunteers are so welcomed (and needed) in the classroom. We use volunteers for guided reading groups, special events, and classroom parties. This feature on ClassTag is a real timesaver! You can very quickly request a certain number of volunteers for any activity, event, or even a field trip. Parents can respond instantly and before you know it, you have everyone needed for that special event!
4. Field Trips
You can access ClassTag instantly and from anywhere. Imagine you're on a field trip and you're going to be ten minutes coming back to school. What do you do? With ClassTag, you can quickly send a note to every single parent for your class to let them know. Maybe you only need to contact one parent and not the whole class, you can do that too! This is seriously one of the best things about ClassTag. Parents feel safer knowing that you can contact them right away, if needed.
5. Classroom News
When I first started teaching, I used to spend hours each week typing a newsletter for parents. I would email them to let know what we were working on in class, upcoming important dates, classroom supplies needed, and any funny stories. This took a lot of time. And I wasn't sure if parents were even reading my emails. Now, I can do all of those tasks and more in just a few minutes each day. You get notified who's read your messages. So far, parents have been amazing at responding to messages and asking questions. It's quick, easy, and best of all...simple.
After only using ClassTag for a few months, I don't know what I would do without it! It has become one of the most effective communication tools for my classroom. I highly recommend giving it a try. It's FREE for everyone!
New! ClassTag now offers a free Google Slides Presentation that you can use to present it to your parents for Open House or Meet the Teacher Night.
No one likes being stuck inside, especially kids. To keep them occupied, it’s good to have some plans in your pocket to keep them from climbing up the walls. Not being able to go outside and run around and play to burn off energy can negatively impact attention spans. Here are some ideas to help everyone enjoy staying inside during recess.
Have Fun with Science
Sometimes, science can get a bad rap with kids. They think it’s boring or dry, and may not be motivated to experiment themselves. Thankfully, there are lots of entertaining activities that you can do indoors when the weather is poor. Even something simple like playing with building blocks can teach them spatial awareness and problem-solving. You can get a set of magnets for the kids to play with and teach them about magnetism. Another fun experiment is to create geode crystals. It’s a good opportunity for them to create something and for you to teach them about igneous and sedimentary rock formations.
Make Math a Blast
Unfortunately, math is similar to science in that many kids do not want to learn it. It can seem complicated and be difficult for them to relate to their own experiences. That’s why it’s important to show them how math can be used in everyday life, and a rainy day is a perfect time to do so. Use coins to solve math problems and teach budgeting skills, or even play games online together with math apps.
Do Something Offline
There are plenty of activities that stir creativity we can do without relying on the internet. The art of oral storytelling is one that should be preserved. Storytelling can develop students’ language abilities and vocabulary, as well as get children thinking creatively to develop characters. You can start with historical figures or folklore that you’re interested in. Have students come up with a new take on fables or something similar. You could also host a scavenger hunt around the classroom. If you do, make sure that the clues are guessable for young minds, but not too easy. To make things more fun, transform your clue lists into cryptogram, word scrambles or word searches. It’s a good idea to have these prepped and ready to go so you don’t have to rush at the last moment to create them when they’re needed. If your kids are extra restless, you could play some games together. Teach them a classic card game, like Go Fish, or get a giant game of hide and seek going.
Get Active with the Internet
Many of us associate the internet with lethargy, but it can actually inspire kids to be active. If you want to help your classroom burn through some of their energy and get the wiggles out, consider putting on an exercise or dance video. Everyone can follow along together, which can encourage camaraderie between the little ones. Not only that, but it’s fun to get up and move, especially if everyone is doing so together. By following along to a video, your classroom can practice hand-eye coordination and work on following directions at the same time. If your students need to get some wildness out of their systems, you may want to simply put on some child-appropriate dance music and let them move as they feel. Classic Disney songs are always a good choice but think of other musicals for kids or movies that strongly feature music, like Shrek.
Don’t let the bad weather get you and your class down. With a bit of planning and some smart preparation in advance, you and the kids can have a blast despite the rain. It’s the perfect time to experiment with math and science, to develop language skills, and to let your class shake out their wiggles with a bit of dancing. After all, recess should be about fun, not just learning.
Back to school time means empty your wallet time. But, it doesn’t have to! While times may be tight and pennies may be pinched in school buildings across the country, buying your own supplies doesn’t mean going bankrupt! Read on to learn about five easy ways you can save money when picking up some of your back to school supplies!
1. Take Advantage of Teachers Pay Teachers
If you haven’t visited this site yet, you’re missing out! Teachers Pay Teachers is a site created by teachers for teachers. They share their most effective ideas and make products for you to purchase (inexpensive) or download for free! If you find yourself purchasing name tags each year or even borders to decorate your bulletin board-think again. You can choose from at least twenty designs of name tags and print them out in color, in a flash! Simply click on the ones that you like, print them, laminate them, and label them! It’s that easy!
When I started teaching fourth grade for the first time, I was shocked how much time I was spending getting ready for school on the weekends. I had to learn the curriculum, create activities, grade papers, and more. I even had my husband shopping and laminating for me. After a few months of spending all my time working on school stuff, my husband and I had a discussion. He told me he was worried about me and about “us”! He confessed that he didn’t want me working all weekend every weekend and we needed to find a balance between work and home. I looked to Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) and I’m so glad I did. I found an Ecosystems Unit that followed the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) exactly! It was just what I was looking for! Absolutely Perfect. And it only cost $8.95 with over 50 pages and a week worth of activities for my students! I downloaded it, printed it, and showed my husband. The bottom line is I got my weekends back, precious time with my family, time to relax, time for myself, all for under $10! It's a true time saver and lifesaver!
2. Shop Consignment Stores
If you are an Early Childhood Educator (K-3), don’t turn your nose up at consignment shops or Goodwill. They are the perfect place to visit if you are in need of some toys for your indoor recess center. You can also use them as inspiration for writing prompts, or even a motivator for a lesson. You can also find cute playhouses, art tables, and even puzzles and books for an unbelievably affordable price.
3. Dollar Store Pit Stop
The dollar stop should be a teacher’s best friend. You don’t need to go to expensive department stores to stock up on crayons, glue, and other school essentials. You can literally find everything you need to start the year off right all in one place. You can also pick up toys and candy to put in your prize box. Sometimes the store will boast a sale around back to school time so you could end up getting supplies priced two for a dollar!
4. Create a Giving Tree for the Classroom
For more expensive items like hand sanitizer, construction paper, pencil boxes, and tissues; consider constructing a giving tree on your chalkboard during Meet the Teacher or Open House night. Make a bunch of leaves and attach them to the body and branches of a tree you make out of chalk (or construction paper). Tell parents if they are interested in donating any items, they can take a leaf off of the tree and return the item the first week of school! I attach these donations to a Homework Pass that students can use for a donated item. Parents love this idea, many times, I’ve had parents hang on the homework passes until the holidays so they can use it during the busiest time of the year. What a great give back! Get the FREE "Giving Tree" template and donation idea list here!
5. Save from the Year Before
Send a letter home the last week of school asking if parents would be interested in donating their child’s used school items for students next year. Children can leave behind their rulers, scissors, notebooks, and folders. You can even take their stray crayons and toss them in a giant art bin. Every little item counts, so take what you can get! This is a wise collection to start for when students misplace their supplies during the school year.
Being a modern-day teacher means being clever and thrifty. Consider the five tips above to ensure that you don’t break the bank when buying supplies this fall! Wishing you a great start to your school year!
Group work is been proven to improve student retention and enhance student learning. In fact, our whole culture is based on team work and working together to solve problems. It makes sense that when people work together (more brainpower) they come up with more ideas, suggestions, and solutions to a problem. But the question remains how do we get children to work together effectively? How do we make sure they are actually working and not talking about what they did last weekend? The answer: We teach them.
The method I have found to be extremely effective is through role playing. Role playing to teach how you expect groups to work together can be a fun yet powerful strategy. Kids loves role playing and what better way to teach such an important life skill as working together. Setting up skit cards for each role is recommended.
First and foremost, we set up structured procedures for group work. We teach the students, model it, and have them practice it over and over until they have it down.
The Task: you want groups to take turns reading an article, stopping after each paragraph to highlight the key ideas. Then using those key ideas to figure out the main idea of each paragraph and then of the entire article.
Prepare the scenario or skit in advance. Set up your student actors and actresses ahead of time who you know will be charismatic as they perform this important skit. Set up the Skit Cards with what you want them to say.
Scene 1: Have the student actors come up the front of the class so you can introduce each student actor. You might want to give yourself a role (as a student) also. The class will get a kick out of the performance and you acting as a student. Now, run through the group work scenario. For our specific task it might go something like this:
Read an article out loud, stopping after each paragraph.
Now the acting or role playing begins…
Bob: “Ok, we read the paragraph so what do you think is the main idea of this paragraph?”
Tamara: “I don’t know.”
Braden: “What did Mrs. Smart say about finding the main idea?”
Marta: “I can’t remember do you?”
Bob: “I think she said to ask ourselves, what is the author trying to tell us?”
Braden: “Oh yeah, that’s right."
Marta: “Then we are supposed to look for key details that support that."
Tamara: “Yeah. So let’s see what do you think the author is trying to tell us in this paragraph?”
Braden: “I’m not sure.”
Tamara: “Maybe we should read it again.”
Bob: “Good idea! I’ll go first.”
Then read the article again and go through the whole process while modeling it for the class. Afterwards, ask the class “What did you notice about what our group just did?”
Have the students come up with strategies or things they noticed that made this group work effectively together. For instance, they took turns reading, they reminded each other how to complete the task, they treated each other nicely, they used their quiet inside voices, they focused on the assignment, everyone had a turn to speak and read, they listened to everyone’s thoughts and ideas, etc.
Set up the Scenario
Role play to model it
Pick the most productive group or best working team
Before we start any group activity, I always tell the class that I’m going to be looking for the most productive group or the group with the best team work. As groups are working and I circulate around the classroom, I look and listen—jotting down notes about what I saw or heard from different groups.
At the end of the activity, I give feedback to all the groups and share my findings. Then I announce which group was the most productive or best working team for the day.
What are the benefits of group work?
Group projects can help students develop a host of skills that are increasingly important in the professional world (Caruso & Woolley, 2008; Mannix & Neale, 2005). Positive group experiences, moreover, have been shown to contribute to student learning, retention and overall success (Austin, 1997; Tinto, 1998; National Survey of Student Engagement, 2006).
Properly structured, group projects can reinforce skills that are relevant to both group and individual work, including the ability to:
Break complex tasks into parts and steps
Obtain deeper understanding through group discussions
Give and receive feedback on performance
Develop stronger communication skills
Learn how to delegate roles and responsibilities
Share and learn from different perspectives and opinions
Pool their knowledge and skills
Receive social support and encouragement to take risks
Develop a new approach to solving problems or tasks
Establish a shared identity with other group members.
Develop their own voice and perspectives in relation to their peers.
Once students learned how to work productively in groups, try to resist the temptation to jump in too
early and put the students on the right path. Part of effective group work is learning how to work together to solve a problem, perform a task, or create a project in collaboration with others.
"Discussion Partners" are partners that work on an activity, reading assignment, project, or other assignment together and then discuss what they've learned or complete a written activity.
Why use Discussion Partners?
Research has shown that students not only need to read and write but also need to discuss (or talk) about a new concept or skill to really learn and fully understand it. According to the University of Washington, "A well-planned discussion can encourage and stimulate student learning and add variety to your class. While “good” discussions can be a powerful tool for encouraging student learning if done correctly."
In My Classroom:
At the start of each unit, I have students set up their "Discussion Partners" for the entire unit. It's a quick 15 minute activity that will make our transitions into partner work seamless for the next 4 to 6 weeks. Setting it up takes a little practice for the students but by the second unit they've got it down and look forward to it (as much as I do!)
What it Looks Like:
It consists of a map with 3-5 cities or countries listed below the map where the students will write the name of their Discussion Partner at each destination. However, it's not as simple as that! There are guidelines that students must follow in order to pick their Discussion Partners and this must be taught and practiced like every other classroom procedures. For example, look at the working partner example below for ancient Rome. Below the map, list 5 cities where students will meet with their chosen partners.
How it Works:
Give the students specific guidelines they must follow when setting up their "Discussion Partners." I write the 5 requirements on the board. For example, I might say, "For Rome you will need to find someone in this class who is born in a different month than you. In Florence, you must work with the opposite sex (boy-girl). In Venice, you must find someone who gets to school by a different mode of transportation than you. In Naples, you must work with someone who you've never worked with before in this class. In Milan, you may work with a friend. (I always let them have one friend partner for each unit.) Each unit it's a different set of guidelines, except for the friend and working with someone different. I tell them that by the end of the year, they will have worked with everyone in the class. I also tell them that you don't have to like everyone but you do have to work with them in a courteous and team-like manner just like in the real work world.
I let the students know that they will have 6-8 minutes to find all five discussion partners and then sit back down at their desk. I tell the students that, "When I call time, if you don't have a partner for one or two of the cities then I will choose your partners for you." This helps to encourage them to get it done themselves. Also, if you have an odd number of students in that class, then tell them that you have the last say in deciding who the group of 3 will be or if you want someone to work alone.
Lastly, practice it. Don't expect the first time to go perfectly. This is work in progress so to speak! It's probably new to them so give them feedback on how to make it go smoother. Then practice it again. I use it for all my units in social studies throughout the year. I have found it's well worth the extra time in the start of each unit because at any point during the unit, I can just say, "It's time to meet with your Naples Discussion Partner to read the article about the Roman Republic and answer the questions that follow. You have fifteen minutes to complete the reading and questions together...go!"
Next, model for them how to ask someone nicely to be their partner.
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