Sunday, June 8, 2014

Calling all Pioneers! A Day of Play

Hi All!

It has been a crazy busy week!  The end of the school year is just around the corner and that means a lot of end of the year activities and get togethers.  In fourth grade we study The Oregon Trail and it is our tradition to end the unit with a day of pioneer activities.
We set up our Pioneer Day in three sections:  Pioneer Home Life, Pioneer School and Recess, and Pioneer Museum.  Students come dressed as pioneers and bring a pioneer lunch if possible.

We have the county museum come to our school and give a presentation about the Oregon Trail.  They bring artifacts and a lot of wonderful information to share with the groups.

For Pioneer Home Life students participate in "chores" and other activities that a pioneer child might have been involved with.  These include making candles, making butter, hauling water, hunting buffalo chips, cross stitch, and quilting.

For Pioneer School and Recess students play pioneer games, write with a quill pen, make pioneer toys, make bean bags, make soap carvings, and more!

Classes are grouped into three groups and rotate through the sections as the day progresses.  It takes a lot of organization and a ton of amazing volunteers for this day to be successful, but it is well worth the time and energy.  The students end the day with a lap full of goodies and memories to last a lifetime!

Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Why I Won't be Managing Community Pencils Next Year

Let me start by saying that I have nothing against community supplies in the classroom.  Glue sticks, notebook paper, etc.  But I will never manage community pencils in my class again.  All of my career I have taught intermediate grades, 4th and 5th grade.  Part of teaching this grade level is helping my students learn responsibility for their belongings.  

Every year, on the first day of school, I have my new students turn in their Kleenex, notebook paper, and glue sticks to be used as community supplies.  I've always had them keep their pencils to manage on their own.  The routine in my class was that students sharpened their pencils during their "personal business" times and were responsible for having their pencils and other writing utensils reading for class.

This year I tried something new.  I found a product on TpT that seemed like a great way to make sure students always had a pencil and also reward them for being responsible and keeping track of their supplies.  

Before school started I purchased pencil pouches for 35 students.  I organized pencils, erasers, and editing pens inside the pouches.  The first day of school I gave each student a kit and explained how they would turn the pouches in each week.  Student helpers would check the pouches and replace dull pencils with sharp ones and put a reward in the pouch for students who had all of the materials required.  Great plan right?  

Not so much...  at least not for me.  The pencil pouches became a hassle.  The student helpers were never able to complete the task of checking all of the pencils and I ended up dealing with them week after week.
By winter break I had had enough.  I bought each of my students a set of personalized pencils for Christmas and told the kiddos that we would be phasing out pencil pouches and they would now be responsible for sharpening and keeping track of their own pencils.   I added sharp and dull pencil containers so that students, during work time, could trade in a dull pencil for a sharp one if needed.

The problem became that students would take the sharp pencils, but not turn in the dull ones to replace the one they took.  I started finding pencils left around in the most random of places.   It became clear to me that students did not feel a sense of personal responsibility for their pencils.  If they didn't have a pencil, because they left it sitting around, they could easily find one in the "sharp" pencil container.  Students constantly complained of "not having a pencil" while the number of pencils in the "sloppy box" kept piling up.

It is now June and I am reflecting on what worked and what didn't work this year.  One of my regrets is that I don't feel like I taught my students how to take responsibility for their belongings.  I don't feel like I was consistent with them throughout the year.  I'm disappointed that I took a step away from what had been working for me for 14 years to try something new and it failed.

I don't blame the product.  Maybe for another teacher, one with more time, less students, etc. this supply management technique would be wonderful.  It just didn't work for me.

One of the things I love about being an educator is that each year I get a fresh start.  This fall I NOT be managing student pencils and I feel really good about that!

I'd love to hear about your experience with managing supplies in your classroom.  I know many teachers are successful with community supplies.  What do you do that makes it work for you?  Please leave a comment if you'd like to share!

Thanks for stopping by!