Thursday, 29 July 2021

Back to School - Getting Students Talking

Helping Your Students to Connect 

The first few days back to school can be a difficult time getting students talking in front of the entire class. 

Get your students talking with play doh back to school activity Terri's Teaching Treasures

I have worked at a few schools in my small district and I saw the same thing happening each year. Students tend to need some coaxing to take to the whole class. 

Maybe they are new to the school. Maybe there are new students they don't know. Maybe you are new to them. Whatever the reason, I love to hear my students share their summer adventures and I don't want these reasons to stop them.

I have no idea where I read/saw/listened to this idea but I have used it ever since discovering it and I want to share it with you. 

This is THE ONE activity that has EVERY student talking no matter how nervous or shy they are. The best part is you only need 1 supply.

OK Here it is...

Play Doh is the magic supply!!!! No I am not getting paid to write this post ( I wish I was so if you don't want to use brand name Play Doh go ahead and use whatever you have. I am not that cool teacher who makes my own dough and it certainly doesn't taste (we all know we have kids who eat the stuff) or smell as good as the homemade dough, but I stick to using my debit card to get store bought Play Doh. 

Here's how I use it

I give each student a can of Play Doh and emphasize that the color does not matter in any way. If they switch color with someone I don't draw attention to it or it will become a thing. I just look the other way. 

I tell them to build ANYTHING that has to do with their summer. I know that not all students go on elaborate family vacations or do cool things with their bajillion cousins so that is why I make a big deal about building anything that relates to their summer in any way.

If they ate 137 hot dogs they could build a hot dog. If they slept in every day they could build a bed (tons of comfy pillows are needed for this one). If they saw a snake they can make a snake. Seriously anything is a go. 
This student did a lot of camping with her family so she is creating a campsite scene.

I usually give them about 10 minutes but this can be altered if they need more or less time. I also tell them not to share their ideas as they are building. They will have time for that later. 

When they are all done, I give them a couple minutes to share with a person next to them what they built and how it relates to their summer. This is the part that I have to watch the clock carefully because they will just keep talking if I let them. 

This student was creative and used the lid from her Play Doh as a boat. She was creating a fishing scene because she did a lot of fishing with her dad.

After they have shared with their partner, we do a gallery walk.  We line up and then slowly walk around the desks admiring (and trying to silently guess) what everyone made. Remind them to look with their eyes not their hands. 

We head back to our seats and now is the time to watch all the hands shoot up. I am not kidding here. Try it and you will see.

I learned VERY quickly that this guy loves pizza. Everything he did that year had to do with pizza.

I ask if anyone wants to share what they built and how it relates to their summer. I let everyone who wants to share have a turn. You can do what you see fit for your class but I do not limit the amount of time they can talk and they get to pick 2 people to ask a question when they are done. 

This part takes the most time but I guarantee by the time you are finished everyone will have wanted to share and it sets the stage for future sharing in your classroom. 

At The End

When we are all finished with the activity, I let my students keep their can of Play Doh in their desks. I tell them that if it dries out... oh well. If they lose it... oh well. AND if I find it on the floor it goes in the garbage... uh oh. 

They are allowed to play with it while waiting for breakfast (they get breakfast served in the classroom), when they are all done everything else, or when I say it is free time. They are pretty good at sticking to the rules. 

Take Notice

One thing I always watch for while students are working is who is repeatedly starting over or who needs some more reassurance that they don't have to create a perfect masterpiece. This helps me identify who may need some extra growth mindset and positive self-talk guidance in the future. 

Have fun with your students on the first day and don't worry about academics. Academics can come once they feel like they belong to the class and are welcome.

If you want to save this post for later, here is an image to pin to Pinterest. 

Another Fun Back to School Activity

If you are looking for more activities to fill your first week of school here is a FREE word search that I have my students do with a partner or trio. There are 100 words to find!


Friday, 16 July 2021

Free 2021-2022 School Calendar

Are you starting to plan for Back to School?

The summer is the time that I start getting organized for the upcoming school year. The very first thing I do is print off a school year calendar and start planning when I will teach what, based on the school year events/holidays. 
Free Academic calendar for 2021-2022 school year

There are definitely some concepts I don't want to cover (like division or anything with regrouping) when it is a busy time in the school and my students are not completely focused. Because of this I put all known holidays/big events in the calendar and then I start planning. 

Where do I find my calendar templates?

I've got you covered! Every year I update my calendar to print off and I am giving it to you all for FREE! Yup, FREE! Check it out now. 
Free Calendar with large spaces to put all your events into.

Each page has a full month and the spaces are large enough to add lots of text! The calendars go from August 2021 to July 2022.

Each page also has a clip art image that is small enough not to use all your computer ink, but big enough to add some flair to your month.

Other ways to use the calendar:

  • Use it for yourself to take to staff  or team meetings and schedule all your events and meetings.
  • Attach it to your classroom newsletter with important events filled in.
  • Fill it out with daily homework tasks for students.
  • Students can use it to record their daily home reading.
  • Display it in the hallway as a place for parents to sign up to volunteer in the classroom.
  • Use as a student behavior chart.
Free 2020 - 2021 School Year Calendar. Image of all the included months from Terri's Teaching Treasures

This year I had a whole new use for this calendar. I won't get into too many details but here is the story.

A parent kept complaining that her daughter was being picked on at recess and lunch. I was confused because when I talked to the student, everything was fine. I am not sure why she was saying one thing to her mom and another to me (that doesn't really matter here) but something needed to change. 

During a conversation with the mom, we decided together that I would do check ins with her daughter after every break she was with other kids. So that meant first thing in the morning and after recess and lunch. 

I needed somewhere to record these check ins that would be easy for me to track and quick to see any incidents. This calendar was the place.

I divided each day into 3 sections (morning, recess, and lunch). If the student reported that everything was fine I put an X on that section. If something happened, I put a ✔ and explained on the back. 

This was great because the mom could see that things were not actually happening to her daughter at home. Both her and I noticed that the student stopped telling her mom incidents were happening when she knew we were both communicating about it. Win-Win!

There are many ways to use a calendar in a classroom. Let me know in the comments if you use them in any other way.

How do I get a copy?

Click on any picture or here to get your FREE copy. Just print them out and you are ready to go. 


Happy planning! 
Terri's Teaching Treasures Signature

Don't need it right now? Pin it to save it for later :)

Monday, 12 July 2021

Math Center Organization

I spent MANY years scrambling to get math centers ready or digging through drawers for a center I just knew I had somewhere. I don't want you to go through this so I am going to share with you how I now organize my math centers (and give you FREE labels). Now it takes me only a few minutes to completely switch out my centers. 

Math center storage ideas

I couple years ago I came across these Sterilite storage bins and I immediately knew they would be perfect for my math centers.

Third Grade math centers in storage bins

I didn't just want to label them "Math Centers" and continue having to dig through each container so I have 1-2 containers per math concept that goes with my curriculum. 

multiplication math center in storage bag
The large containers hold large Ziploc bags perfectly and depending on what supplies are included in your center, they can hold all the centers for each concept.

I store the containers in my classroom cupboards where I can quickly grab them when needed. 

math center bins stored in cupboard with free labels

When I am wanting to change my centers for students I can grab the desired concept container and go to the drawers I have for my students to access. 

math center storage in ziploc bags Terri's Teaching Treasures

A few years ago I discovered these Trofast drawers from Ikea and fell in LOVE!!! Not only do they match my classroom colors, they are super sturdy. 

Math center bins for student use Terri's Teaching Treasures


To make this easier for you to set up I have created a FREE file for you which includes labels for the Sterilite containers. 

The file includes:
  • pre-made labels for the length of the container
  • pre-made labels for the width of the container
  • customizable labels for both. 
I have created the labels for both the length and the width so there is some flexibility on how they are stored. 

Container Purchasing Tip:

I have noticed that the price on the Sterilite containers varies greatly. I have seen them mostly at around $35 Canadian but they vary in price all the way to $60 Canadian.

I put them on my wish list and watch for when they go the cheaper prices and that is when I buy them. Who wants to pay $25 more than they have to? Not me. 

Getting started with a FREE math center.

If you are just getting started with math centers or want to add to your collection, here is a free one that focuses on multiplication facts and multi-digit subtraction. 

Soccer themed multiplication and subtraction math center free Terri's Teaching Treasures
These math centers are geared towards 2nd - 4th grade.

If you want to save this post for later, here is an image to pin to Pinterest. 

Terri's Teaching Treasures signature

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