Monday, 13 June 2016

Engaging students using Social Studies Centers

I have always struggled with teaching Social to my first grade students. I found it difficult to keep them motivated, a challenge getting them to express their ideas, and frustrating to teach about things they hadn’t experienced.

I needed a change, so I thought about what made teaching Math or LA more enjoyable. Then it came to me: CENTERS!!!! 
I came up with 4 different centers to meet my objectives each week. 

REAL LIFE CENTER -It is challenging to get students thinking about topics in relation to their life. I chose to use technology, projects and interactive notebooks. Students acted out being responsible/irresponsible(haha, they love this) and recorded each other on the iPad at the center. I put all the clips together in a movie. They also brought clothing items from home and video taped their discussion about how it shows they belong.
We made poster wanted ads for GOOD CITIZENS to put up around the classroom. Students completed drawings and writing reflections in their Social notebook.

READ ALOUD CENTER- Developing vocabulary related to outcomes was my goal for this center. Social books are often not at a grade one reading level, so I made readers theatre plays about the topics and included lots of pictures. 

Students work in groups to read their parts and then read it to the class. I also use books (we don’t have a textbook but I’m certain you could use one) and have students look through them together and discuss what they have read.

GAME CENTER- Social can be a little, how should I say this, dry at times, so I decided games were the way to go! Have you ever tried to find games related to your Social topics? I couldn’t find much, so I created my own. I brainstormed a list of common games, and then figured out a way to relate them to my outcomes.  We played Symbol BINGO, I have/Who has Community Helpers, ‘My Rights’ memory match, and the ‘Groups I Belong To’ board game to reinforce concepts. 

To make sure my students understand how to play and the rules (so I don’t get the ‘he said/she said’), we play as a class before they play at the center. 

TEACHER CENTER- Assessment is challenging in its own way, and trying to figure out if my students got the Social topic we were learning about by looking at their notes was almost impossible. I decided that oral assessment would be a better direction, but how can you assess 20-30 kids orally during class time? It’s very difficult. By sitting with students at a ‘Guided Social Studies’ center, I can teach a mini lesson about the topic and ask questions. I can quickly tell who easily understands and ask higher level thinking questions, who gets the basics, and who is struggling and needs extra support for differentiated learning. I take anecdotal notes at this center, and quickly realized that my standard mark book format wasn’t going to work so I made a space for notes in my mark book.

Turning my curriculum objectives into centers took a lot of thinking ahead and detailed planning. I looked at my outcomes and sorted them into units and then weekly objectives.  Then I planned out how I was going to turn those outcomes into the four center based activities.

Try these ideas out for FREE here.

Do you do centers with your students? How does it work in your classroom? I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

My Noisy Classroom

What do we define a successful classroom to look like as teachers? When you look into someone's room, how do you define a good teacher?

 Most of the time we watch the students. Do they look engaged, are they listening, what kind of activities are they working on?
For the longest time, I felt pressure to have that 'quiet class'. Sitting in rows, I would run around shushing, using all the management techniques in the book to have that quiet hard working class. I felt uptight and nervous, was my class quiet enough, were they bothering others, what did people THINK OF ME?!?!?!?

Haha, I've come a long way since then. I don't worry so much about what others think, as I began to realize that defining a successful classroom does not mean the quietest, there are other ways we can define good teachers.

As I settled into my teaching career, I began to use centers in Language Arts. Students sat around the room in small groups chatting away, laughing and enjoying their activities. As I looked around the room, I felt content and not worried about running around shushing everyone. I enjoyed the centers so much that the next year I began Math centers and that same feeling came over me as worked with students in small groups and watched kids shriek with delight as they played a math game. The year after that I introduced Social Studies centers. This was it, I was hooked on centers! A quiet classroom just doesn't work for me. I like the noise, the chatting, and the laughter.

This also rolled over into my teaching style. I started Whole Brain Teaching and I LOVE IT. It get's your kids talking and interacting during your lesson, and keeps the direct teaching in short amounts. I like giving students chat time, and I find in turn they give me better listening because they have had that opportunity to talk.

Do I do centers all day long? No
Do I think everyone should do centers? No
Is whole brain teaching for every teacher? Absolutely not.

What I think I've learned is that you need to find what works for you and not define yourself by other people's definition of a good teacher. So if you walk by my room and my kiddos are noisy and chatting...well... that's just the way I like it ;)