6 St. Patrick’s Day Lesson Plan Ideas

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Luck is believing you’re lucky.”

~Tennessee Williams

St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by exploring Ireland through art, music, and engineering. Here are some of our favorite activities to make this celebration a meaningful learning experience. We have added links to most of the resources you need, so prep will be a breeze.

Music & Dance

It is fun just to hop around and enjoy Irish music.

If you would like to take this lesson a little deeper, dancing the jig is great exercise and very easy to learn.

Art

This is one of our (Almost) No Prep Art Lessons. You probably have all the materials you need in you classroom. Students draw the shamrock and create the lines with a ruler. You can learn more about this lesson right here.

St Patrick's Day Shamrock

Food

Taste the Rainbow

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We use every opportunity to promote healthy eating. Most kids will at least try a food offered in the classroom. We assemble a fruit rainbow in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. The cut fruit and berries are offered buffet style. The kids help themselves to the different fruits. They later chart their fruit platter in their journals. We have more healthy party snack ideas right here.

Engineering

The day before St. Patrick’s Day out students design and create leprechaun traps in class. This is one of the our favorite activities of the whole year. Many teachers have kids create traps at home. They often look more polished than our crazy classroom creations.

Social Studies

If you or your students are interested in learning more about St. Patrick you can watch some of these videos.

STEAM Education Fibonacci Numbers

 

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The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

~ Albert Einstein

Leonardo Pisano Bogollo, aka Fibonacci rediscovered the number pattern that is now generally referred to as the Fibonacci sequence. Fibonacci recognized that certain numbers seem to occur in nature more frequently than chance would allow. The number sequence is also used to calculate the golden mean or golden ratio, known in mathematics by the Greek letter phi.

You can easily calculate the sequence in your classroom or at home by adding the last two numbers to make the next.

Here is the sequence:

0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34…

The first two numbers in the sequence are added and the sum creates the next number.

0+1=1. 1+1=2 2+1=3 3+2=5

We usually open our Fibonacci math enrichment unit with posting the number sequence on the board as a challenge. We ask the class to find the pattern. Surprisingly enough even the first graders usually figure it out.

One of our favorite activities is to go on a Fibonacci number hunt walk. We take the kids for a walk and try to find natural items that show numbers in the Fibonacci sequence.

Here are some example from our last walk

Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea

The Bougainvillea shows three bright pink leaves.

This California native has 5 petals.

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We had to count a lot of petals to find a perfect daisy.

We wrote in our journals and drew some of the flowers after the hike. A great way to introduce kids to the Fibonacci sequence.

 

 

 

Teaching Your Students to Love Reading With a Reading Picnic

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Do you want your students to LOVE reading?

I hate books!”

You have probably heard many students express their dislike for reading. We usually tell them that they don’t really mean it and how much fun reading can be. They read guided reading texts and stumble through our reading anthologies. They read decodable texts over and over in the hopes that the code will somehow stick to their developing brains.

The truth is that most teachers were prolific and fluent readers as children. It was a subject we thrived in and we loved getting lost in a book. Somehow the magic of a book touched us and we rode on the wings of our favorite tomes to far away adventures and magic realms. We would inhale the smell of a newly printed book as if the aroma was forshadowing the riveting adventures awaiting us.

We teachers have been working our tails off to get fluency rates up.  We test how many words they can read in a minute. We determine if they are able to read nonsense words. All these things are really important but they miss one really important point. Good readers LOVE reading. They enjoy doing it. The most important factor in the end is that we transmit this all important magic pixie dust: A LOVE for the printed word.

Benefits of Outdoor Learning

Do you remember you favorite reading spots from your childhood? Were any of them outside? Under a shady tree and a lawn? Reading outdoors is a very special treat that children rarely get to indulge in. Being outside benefits kids in so many ways.  Looking at and listening to nature increases dopamine levels in both children and adults. Not surprisingly happy people show better concentration and memorization skills.

Reading Picnic

Have you ever tried a reading picnic center for your classroom? We absolutely love ours. We ordered a nice picnic blanket from Amazon.com and have our book centers in themed picnic baskets. The blanket works really well because it has plastic lining. You can wipe the plastic side and the blanket stays dry even if the ground is damp. It also seems to be extra soft and cushioned but any blanket you have at hand would work.

Magic Tree House Magic

One of our favorites reading picnics consists of a collection of Magic Tree House books. The whole collection is a treasure of exciting fiction combined with a great non-fiction background series.

Reading Recovery

The great thing about reading an entire series is that children become so familiar with the characters that it becomes manageable for even struggling readers. Once a student has mastered reading one book they feel confident and eager to read the rest. We have had success with this center even with 6th graders.

Great Activity for Volunteers

We are really blessed with lots of parent support and the reading picnic is a perfect center for volunteers. All the volunteer has to do is to grab the blanket and picnic basket and find a cozy spot under the trees.

The feedback we are getting from this center is amazing. Students love going outside and reading. They really get into the Magic Tree House series and some manage to read all of them!

If you don’t happen to live in California you can have your reading picnic indoors as well. Why not take the center to the hallway or cafeteria? Happy reading!

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100 Acts of Kindness Challenge 2016

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Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain- and most fools do.

~Dale Carnegie

Join our 100 Acts of Kindness Challenge! A great way to keep track of kindness in the classroom and at home!  After 100 acts of kindness are growing on the kindness tree the class gets to celebrate with a kindness party. Invite your friends and family to rest in the shade of your very own tree of kindness.

100 Acts of Kindness Tree

Kindness is of vital importance and often overlooked in our schools. Did you know that there is scientific evidence that being kind is a great predictor of future success? A study published in the American Journal of Public Health followed 753 kindergarteners from 1991 to 2010, children who showed kindness were more successful over the years of the study. Kind children were more likely to graduate from college and find steady employment.  Prosocial behavior also decreased the likelyhood of having a criminal record or needing public assistance as adults. You can find the details of the study right here. A powerful reminder that kindness matters to all of us.

The best portion of a good man’s life: his little, nameless, unremarkable acts of kindness and love.

~William Wordsworth

Kindness starts with the adults in a classroom.  We as teachers need to model the behavior we want to see in our students. Don’t worry, the class won’t walk all over you. Kindness is not weakness. It is the ultimate show of strength. Being kind will make you, as well as your students, happier. When you show altruism your brain produces endorphins that increase your sense of well-being.  Forget the coffee! Kindness is going to get you going.

Materials

  • Bulletin board
  • Tag board
  • Green construction paper
  • Sharpie

Procedure

Cut a tree trunk from tag board.  Create leaves and record each act of kindness on a leaf before you attach it to the tree.  Have an amazing party when you have collected 100 leaves.


Our tree broke out in blooms inspired by Wassily Kandinsky’s Concentric Circles. We took the leaves down and each kid made the blossoms with oil pastels.

If you want to delve deeper into the subject, there are many stories and fairy tales that can be used to illustrate what it means to be kind. Aesops fables, Grim’s Fairy Tales, and biographies of altrusitic role models. You can find a collection of kindness stories  from all over the world right here on www.wisdomcommons.org.

Help thy brother’s boat across, and lo! thine own has reached the shore.

~ Indian Proverb

Day 8 Classroom Incubation Project

If an egg is broken by an outside force, life ends. If an egg is broken by an inside force, life begins. Great things happen from the inside. – Unknown

Today was day 8 of our chicken and duck egg incubation project. You can read about day 1 here and if you are interested in chickens in your classroom you can find basic instructions right here. We turned the lights off and it was time to candle the eggs. It is hard to believe, but right now all of the eggs are developing perfectly. The embryos are clearly visible. The class was incredibly excited. The duck egg has some dirt on it and the class had an interesting discussion about washing the eggs. We will explore the microbial film covering the eggs tomorrow.

Classroom Egg Incubation Project Day 1

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It is time to incubate again! Here are our beauties happily situated in the incubator. This year we have five chicken and 2 duck eggs. We weren’t really counting on ducks. They have a different incubation time than chickens. We will see how it all works out in the end.

We use a fully automated incubator. It turns the eggs and keeps the temperature at a constant 37.5 degrees Celsius.  The kids still turn the eggs by hand once a day. The automated turning is an amazing feature. Without it we would have never attempted this project. Letting the kids hand turn the eggs once a day helps keep them involved. Keep your fingers crossed for some healthy chicks and ducklings!

If you are interested to start your own chicken life cycle project check out our previous post about chickens in the classroom.

 

(Almost) No Prep Spring Flowers

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Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.

~Luther Burbank

Materials

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Pastels
  • Google Images of Georgia O’Keeffe flowers


Spring flowers inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe are a great way to celebrate the season. Even very young children can feel successful with this great project. Simply show students how to make the shapes for the petals. The flowers look best when they fill the entire page. Trace your pencil marks with markers. Then Color the petals with pastels. These flowers really pop with bright colors.

 

 

5 Ways to Implement Finland’s Education Ideas

More breaks, more play, less testing, and no homework!

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You have probably heard about Finland’s success in the PISA study.  The  Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA assesses and compares 15-year-old students all over the world.  So what can be learned from one of the most succesful educational system in the world? When looking at Finland’s success it seems almost too good to be true. Why not try some of their educational ideals?  Join in by implementing these simple ideas into your daily routine.

Take Breaks!

Break up your day with several short breaks. Finnish children have more recess time.  Usually they get a break every 45 minutes.  If you teach in the United States you have to teach Physical Education.  Many districts even require you to certify your PE minutes.  These PE minutes can be used to bring a little bit of Finnish glory to your classroom right now.  Every 45 minutes take a 10 minute PE break. This way you get in your PE time and optimize your learning environment.  There are many studies supporting frequent exercise breaks.  If your administrator is worried, let them know about the importance of brain-derived neurotropic factor. You are not taking things easy. You are on top of it with cutting edge teaching techniques!

No More Homework

Put the homework package down and slowly back away!  Imagine how freeing this would be.  No more grading, no more hunting after missed assignments, you can do it!  Seriously, at least cut it to your district guidelines.  You might be surprised how little homework your school district recommends. Most guidelines recommend 10 minutes for each grade level.  This adds up to only 10 minutes for a first grader!

Bring Back Imaginative Play!

Allow room for imaginative play in your classroom.  You could have a doll house or stuffed animals.  Bring back a play kitchen and dress up center. This can be part of your classroom reward system or your Friday activity.  If you are using Writers Workshop in your classroom you can include imaginative play in your prewrite activity.

Take Your Breaks

Take your breaks! You need them.  No more copying during lunch and recess.  You need your breaks just as much as the kids.  Finnish teachers get lots of breaks and planning time.  Use the little time you have wisely. Go for a walk, watch a TED talk, or read a good book.  Teachers in Finland do and they are much more respected than their American counterparts.

Less Testing

You probably are required to use some standardized test.  They are usually very comprehensive.  Do you really need any more than that? There are many alternative assessments available as well.

Can It Be This Easy?

Teach PE every day, forget about homework, include playtime, take your breaks, and test less. Sounds great, right? Even if you might not be able to try all of these ideas immediately, start with one or two and see the difference it will make for you and your students.

 

Read Across America Chalkboard Art

Lorax Quote

This is a simple art activity for Dr. Seuss Day.  It requires (almost) no prep and comes out great. You will be surprised how creative you class is!

Materials:

  1. Chalk
  2. Black Construction Paper
  3. Dr. Seuss Books
  4. Google Images of Dr. Seuss Quotes

Procedure:

  1. Read you favorite Dr. Seuss book.
  2. Share Google Images of Dr. Seuss quotes.
  3. Write your favorite quotes on the board.
  4. Demonstrate how to use chalk.

Have fun!

Play With Nature

Play With Nature

How much time do your students spend interacting with nature?  Think about it.  What once was an everyday occurrence for kids is now rare and sometimes even non-existent.  Students used to walk to school, climb trees and even got dirty.  Today children only spend about 1% of their time outdoors. They are usually corralled behind a chain link fence on a  concrete surface.  We allow them to have a jungle gym and a ball but they are completely removed from nature…

Why does nature matter?  Nature allows children to play and interact with the physical laws of the world.  To play with a pillbug means to explore the world of crustaceans.  To observe water and sand is to get experience with erosion and how substance change when they are mixed. Sticks are great for building (and sword fights).  When we give children toys, their function and purpose has been predetermined.  Nature provides an open-ended game, wakes curiosity, and has a generally calming effect on the mind and body.

When children are allowed to experience nature it is often within the context of a park or other area altered by man.  We tell them, ” Don’t touch this, don’t pick the flowers, please don’t pick up the rocks.”  We get upset when they want to interact with their environment in a tactile way.  Children’s brains are still developing and so the elementary grade student has to touch her environment, just as much as a baby has to mouth objects, in order to establish the brain mapping of our three-dimensional world. It is a child’s job to make mud pies, throw rocks, and play with sand and water.

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Research has shown that playing with nature is an important contributor of healthy development in children.  The benefits of reconnecting with nature seem endless:

  • Increased concentration
  • Better performance on standardized tests
  • Reduction of ADD and ADHD symptoms
  • greater academic success
  • greater impulse control
  • stronger immune response

What can be done right now in our classrooms and homes to give children experiences with nature that are so vital to their well-being? One way to bring nature into your classroom is to create a nature center.  It could include shells, pinecones, sticks, pebbles , and other interesting things.  Allow children to build with the natures center. They will build little worlds of their own right in your classroom.  The center can be used for many academic activities but sometimes it helps to just use it as an area of play.  Even in our world of high pressure academics, our children sometimes need to be able to do what they were meant to do-play.