Thursday, May 30, 2013
It is the end of the year. The last ten weeks go by fast and furious, so how do you keep your students learning when they have spring fever? What do you do with the many half days resulting from testing, picnics, and award ceremonies? Read on to view activities that keep students engaged in learning and celebrate their successes. Included are free student award certificates to print off and use in your classroom. Outside Reading Now that our three-year construction project has come to an end, I am going to take my students outside to read. I want them to get the feeling of being on a college campus to motivate them to pursue a higher education and set career aspirations. Moving class outside motivates them to read at a time when most students would rather be outside enjoying the weather. It also develops an appreciation for reading outdoors, at the beach, on a porch. It is also a great kickoff for summer reading programs. Autograph Signing Signing yearbooks is a popular event in middle school. However, the price of yearbooks makes it difficult for many students to purchase one. I allow my students to make an autograph book or scrapbook and bring it to class, so they can capture the memories of middle school. This kind of personal reading and writing has an authentic purpose. On the days we have final exams in the morning, for instance, I allow students in afternoon classes to sign yearbooks or scrapbooks. I spend a lot of time writing, too. Character Traits T-Shirts This is a great activity for reviewing character traits and symbolism before finals. Students design a T-shirt depicting their own character traits, celebrating the many ways each of them is gifted. Some will put soccer balls, music notes, or a paintbrush to symbolize their love for sports, music, and art respectively. They decorate the front, and friends sign the back. All you need is a white T-shirt and fabric paint and pens. Students can pick up basic white T-shirts for $2.00 at our local drugstore. Make sure to put heavy paper or cardboard inside the T-shirts so that the paint or ink doesn’t bleed through to the other side. Some students use Sharpies; however, they do fade with repeated washing and drying. Some students use the T-shirt instead of a yearbook or scrapbook. Visit Teachnet for other T-shirt designing tips and ideas. Scholastic has a character T-shirt lesson, which can be modified to target other kinds of traits instead of character traits. Walk for Health The elementary and middle school students, parents, and staff at our school participate in Walk for Health to inspire healthy living habits. The local sports reporter from WWNY TV 7, Mel Bustler, comes to kick off the event. He records us for the evening news, so the students get excited. To organize an event of this caliber, the students are bused to the local plaza, which is about one mile away from the school, before school starts. We organize by homerooms and walk from the plaza back to school. Teachers and staff members are stationed at the crosswalks to ensure that all students are safe. After returning to school, we each get a bottle of water and settle down for a day of work. You would be surprised how many community members turn out to participate or watch the walk. Field Trips At the end of the year, we head to Cooperstown, New York, to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum. This annual 6th grade field trip enriches our integrated baseball unit. Each teacher signs up for a module connected to his or her curriculum: English, reading, math, science, social studies, and the arts. I sign up for the communications module, "Going, Going, Gone!" Using a script, we reenact the famous radio broadcast of Hank Aaron’s 715th home run that broke Babe Ruth’s record. Our group enthusiastically assumes roles. Those who don't have specific roles create the roaring crowd sound effects. The museum records it for us, so we can take it home on CD. The picture to the right is a wall of baseball idioms that we use in everyday language, which is part of a lesson we do. The second photo is of Jackie Robinson's plaque. During the unit, we will have read a nonfiction article about how the plaque was recently amended, so naturally, we look for it to see if it's been amended as stated in the article. Photo credits Mary Moskal Blow. We also go on a field trip to celebrate Conservation Day. At the local Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) we learn how to take care of our environment. We learn how to fish responsibly, pack hiking food safely, plant trees, make bluebird houses for our state bird, and monitor species populations in a habitat. The DEC gives each student a sapling to plant at home. It is tradition in our school to take the entire middle school student body to Enchanted Forest, a water park in Old Forge, NY, about one hour from our school. Teachers, staff, and students spend the day splashing in the park. It is a great bonding experience. This field trip is part of our reward system sponsored by our PTO. Throughout the year, students earn point for grades, volunteering, fund-raising, attending school events, etc. After accumulating so many points, the tickets are free. If they do not collect enough points, they have to contribute to the price of the ticket. This is not done on a school day, but on the first day of summer vacation. Class Picnic On the last day of school, the 6th grade teachers host a cookout for the entire 6th grade class, about 115 students. We buy hamburgers, hot dogs, pasta salad, chips, and cookies. While we are cooking we set up our classrooms with different activities, games, and movies. One year, I hooked my Wii up to the SMART Board. The tournaments are so much fun. We have board games like Scrabble, Apples to Apples, Boggle, chess, and checkers. Two teachers donate their gas grills for the day, and we cook outside. We put tables down through the 6th grade hallway, creating a buffet style luncheon. The students invite staff members to join us, and we eat lunch together for the last time. One teacher puts together a photo story capturing the highlights of the year, which the students watch throughout the event. When we finish, we go outside and play games. It is a great bonding day, a day to help students feel like members of the school community, so they want to return. Awards Ceremony Each year, we host an awards ceremony for our 6th graders. Usually we buy our certificates to celebrate student achievement, effort, and citizenship. This year, with the economy the way it is, I created my own certificates using Microsoft PowerPoint. Please feel free to download my awards certificates in PowerPoint to customize them to meet your classroom needs. If you just want to print them off, download the PDF version of the student award certificates. You can also view my awards at Issuu or choose from other awards. 5th Grade Visitation Day One half-day at the end of each year is spent helping incoming 5th graders acclimate to middle school. While 6th graders go to 5th grade to visit their previous teachers, 5th graders come to middle school to meet their new teachers and see their new classrooms. This helps to alleviate the anxiety of starting at a new school. They learn how to transition between classes in three minutes using a schedule. We only get about 12 minutes with them; however, I take advantage of this time to get a three-minute writing sample from them, so that I go into summer vacation with some data to help me identify instructional needs.