Student-Created Classroom Expectations

Today we worked hard on coming up with our expectations for one another in 4th grade. I figured I could stand up at the front of the room and yada-yada-yada about what I expect, or I could let students write down their thoughts about what they expected in our classroom environment. Here’s some students’ ideas that I found interesting/funny/thoughtful:

And the last photo here is our final list. We will revise it tomorrow to create our classroom expectations contract.


Classroom 2012-2013

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Here it is!! I finally remembered to take pictures : ). Today was our first day of school, and students oo-ed and ah-ed about the SmartBoard (Okay, so I oo-ed and ah-ed as well : )). After meeting my students today, I am even more excited about this school year! More stories and ideas to come!

Class Pass Story Strategy

Alright, teachers, here’s a post for you. (I know, sorry, it’s been a while since I posted teachery thoughts. You know, summer break and all. : ))

Okay, so each student has his own paper to start his own story. Students sit in a circle (either a circle of smaller students or, if you really have a lot of time, in larger groups (if your school gives you more time for creativity, please let me know. I want to come teach there!) um yes, that was a parentheses inside a parentheses).

Anyway, the teacher might give a writing prompt as a place to start. Students write for 2 or 3 minutes and then pass their writing on to the next student. For example, Shelley wrote this:

**Tip: If reading the pictures is difficult, click on the image for a zoomed-in view.

As students passed the papers around the circle, Shelley handed her story to Blanca, and Shelley got a new story to continue adding to. Blanca read what Shelley had written and then continued writing:

Blanca passed the story on to Maria, and after she read what both Shelley and Blanca had written, she added her two cents:

Today we were only seated as groups of 4, so the fourth student had the pressure of finding a conclusion to this wacky tale. So the final student (who shall remain nameless at this time… see if you can guess) wrapped it up with:


This was an activity from our Metodologías Bilingües class. It’s a great team-building strategy as students laugh together as they read their final stories. You might also use it as a first draft activity before demonstrating revision techniques for clarifying your writing.

And yes, you guessed correctly. The last writer was yours truly. : )

Looking Ahead

Before school was out for the summer, I went to visit my classroom for next year. I was wowed by how RED this room is. They say red boosts energy levels, so that could be a positive or negative, depending on this next group of children : ).

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The previous teacher still had her posters and supplies in the room, so at this point, it is difficult to imagine what my future classroom might look like… but it’s fun to start dreaming : ).

Teaching About Change

Change happens everywhere around us, so why not open the discussion about change with students?

Brainstorm a list of things that change, like this:

My personal favorite on the above list is ”puberty.” You can tell we did this as a graduate class and most of us are upper elementary and middle school teachers, ha!

After the initial brainstorm, guide students into ”truths” about change. Then create a concept map, like this:

Once the class has developed their own ”truths” (with strong teacher guidance, : )), the concept map can be added to throughout the school year. For example, you might write ”history” under the ”is linked to time” concept. Or you might write ”relationships” under the ”can be positive or negative” concept.


Scratch Art

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As a final math/art project this school year, we made our own scratch art! Inspired by a project I had done in high school, we recycled cereal boxes and painted the brown cardboard side white. Then we added a simple design in Sharpie marker and colored the white spaces with crayons. Next, we painted blank ink over the whole surface, let it dry, and finally we were ready to start scratching the ink off!

Art Teacher’s Note: Buy the ”Black Cat” Ink from a Dick Blick art supply store. It covers the crayon much more thoroughly (and quickly!) than another knock-off brand we tried.

Hand Motions Gone Bad

CENSORED FOR YOUR COMFORT LEVEL (because I don’t know if you would be comfortable with this, lol)

I have recently incorporated a wide variety of hand motions into our math learning. Formulas instantly become more entertaining (and much easier to recall the next day) when we act them out…

So we’re learning the formula for finding the volume for a cone or a pyramid, and basically, you find the volume as if the objects were a cylinder or rectangular prism (respectively), and then you need to multiply by one-third to have the volume for only the cone/pyramid. I did not have any brilliant ideas for how to act out one-third, so I polled the crowd, a.k.a, the eighteen 5th graders who are oh-so-privileged to get math instruction from yours truly.

From the back of the room, Ricardo makes these hand motions:

I didn’t see it the first time, so he quieted his friends down around him and showed them. His friend, Jorge, says, ”Miss, you have to see this!”

So I look. Ricardo does his hand motions again and nearly shouts, “One-third!” as he makes the first and second motion.

My jaw dropped to the floor. My eyes bugged out of my face. My eyebrows hit a new height complete with forehead wrinkles.

Ricardo looked back at me quizzically concerning my reaction… Then it hit. A look of recognition of what he had just done came over his face and he now mirrored my reaction.

He put his hands behind him (as if that undoes the fact that he just flicked off his teacher, not once, but twice). His face, neck, and arms turned red. Seriously, I have never seen such a blush from a 11-year-old boy.

”I– I’m sorry!!” he managed to stammer.

Now recovered from my initial shock, I am laughing my head off. Seriously laughing my head off (which my students just learned today does not mean someone’s head actually falls off #iloveidiomeducation). Students that didn’t see what had happened are now pleading Ricardo to show his idea again. He politely refuses, still beet red.

I am still laughing my head off as I write this. The art of making mistakes is to laugh… right? Any mistakes you’ve made lately that you couldn’t help but laugh about?