Friday, August 30, 2013

Back in the Classroom Again

 Most of us are back in the classroom again, or will be soon.  Here are a couple of things that make the start up in my room a little smoother!

Get to know your students and help them feel more comfortable with this U Survey.  Send it home or have them work on it individually, then collect them and read for your reference (always good to know a few tidbits about the kiddos early on) or have them share a few answers with the class.  Also, they will love it if you actually answer the questions they ask in that box on the left!  Click here for a printable:

Also, I am a big fan of using folders well to help keep kids organized.  I like to put these labels on the inside pockets of a folder to help the kids know when papers should be left at home (put them in the LEFT pocket) and when they should come back (put them in the RIGHT pocket).

Click on the picture below for a printable that will give you full sheets of 30 labels on standard sized mailing labels (2.625" x 1"). 
 (it is a two page document, fyi, one will all the lefts and one with all the rights)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Divine Mercy and Reconciliation Lapbook

 It's my Divine Mercy Notebooking activity revamped- Check out the first post here for links to all the printables and resources.

Prayer Experiences Presentation

Thanks to those of you who were at my presentation on Creating Prayer Experiences last night!
If you are interested, here is the presentation that I used.  Links to all of the activities are under the "Sharing the Faith" tab- scroll down to the section on prayer.  Let me know if you have any questions!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Angelus

I want to bring back the Angelus.

Pausing during the day to join with many others to thank God and ask him to bless our work seems like a practice the world needs to reinstate.  Traditionally said at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. with origins dating to the 12th Century, I think that the Angelus is the first "new" prayer that I am going to add to my classroom schedule this fall.

And, I just might get the kids into the routine by praying alongside our Bishop:

You can read more about the origins of the Angelus here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Prayer Partner Cards

This plan honestly came from a desire to help unite the kids involved in our parish school with those in our parish religious education program.  As both a teacher and a DRE (not in the same parish) I hear both sides of the story.  Any of this sound familar?
  • We (choose your ministry) don't get the same resources as them (choose your ministry).
  • It must be so nice to have the kids all day.  We only get an hour.
  • It must be nice to get to focus on religion.  We have to cover math, reading, and everything else in so little time.
  • It is so hard to not have our own space.  We have to go into someone else's room every week and make it feel like home.
  • It is so hard to know how to welcome another class into the space we use for so many hours the rest of the week.  It is hard to not think of it as "mine."
  • I don't know how to make my students respect the space we are in and still feel welcome.
  • I don't know how to make my students stop blaming the "other" kids for their missing pencils, erasers, etc.
Any of this sound familiar? 

At a workshop that I attended a couple of years ago, in a discussion about CCD kids and school kids, I remember a wise DRE saying, "We have to stop referring to them as "my" kids and "your" kids.  They are OUR kids."
I completely agree.  While the parents are the first and most important teachers of their children, we catechists and classroom teachers come alongside and try to supplement their religious education. We should be concerned with the formation of all of the kids and should be working together.

That being said, I need to practice what I preach.  I honestly cannot even tell you the name of the catechist who worked in "my" classroom last year.  I left him/her a note welcoming them on the first night of CCD.  When "my" kids got upset about something that was missing or rearranged, or there were small messes left behind, I did my absolute best to promote a forgiving, welcoming atmosphere.  But that is about it.

I'm hoping to change that.  I have already met the 5th grade catechist for this year, and we plan to work together and try to connect our classrooms a little. 

One thing that we came up with the first time we talked was to encourage our kids to pray for each other.  If they are praying for each other, I am thinking that it will be a lot harder to think negatively about them or want to blame them for things!  Also, we all know that there is power in having specific prayer for a specific person.  We are planning on pairing up the kids and leaving these prayer partner cards for the students.  I am hoping that they will make connections that all of the kids are a part of the parish together and they can see themselves as a part of the larger Church as a whole.

You could use these also with kids in the same class and change up the partners, or even in a youth group or Bible Study.  I made two versions , one with a little more simple wording for little kids, and one more for middle/high school kids.

I'd love to hear how you think you could use these!

Click on the images for the links to the cards!

Younger kids:

Older kids:

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Make a Prayer Jar for Student Petitions

Students need to know that they can talk to God about their every little thought- however, encouraging this kind of prayer in a classroom can be tough.  We want our kids to understand that we as a Church need to pray for each other and praise God together, but how do we do this in a classroom of 30 kids? 

Sure as the sunrise, just as soon as I would get rolling with a lesson, a kid would raise a hand to tell me that their dog was having surgery/grandma hurt their ankle/dad was get the idea.  I wanted to encourage and validate their request to make their intentions known and to pray as a class, but the younger the kids get, the more likely it is that they don't have the social skills to know when is the best time to bring up requests and praises.  Also, once one kid shares their story, the other 9 or 29 are clamoring to do the same.

Again, I want my students (and yours) to want to pray for each other.  I am not trying to say that my math lesson is more important that a child's grandma's hurt ankle.  However, we all have a limited amount of time and have to manage somehow, so I created a prayer jar.
This cutie actually used to be a Clorox Wipes container, redecorated and placed in our faith corner.  It has a convenient lid and isn't too big or too small.  I placed some little sheets of notepaper next to it, and then instructed my kids on its use. 

The kids are always welcome to tell me about a prayer request they have.  Depending on the situation or goings-on of the class, I may talk with them a while, or I may say, "That is a great thing for us to be praying for.  Can you go add it to the prayer jar?"

Students could then write the request, drop it in, and move on.  Kids also had an opportunity to write anonymous prayer requests, which was also important.  They got really good at using the jar in the faith corner during appropriate times and not interrupting others.  I even had kids each day that would automatically add all of the names of fellow classmates when they were absent- praying for a speedy recovery if they were sick or safe travels if they were gone on vacation, for example.  It worked wonderfully.

Not to lose the aspect of praying for all of these requests, occasionally, often at the end of the week, I would pick up the prayer jar and we would pray in general for all of the things inside it, known only to God.  As a class, the kids praised Him for the good that had happened and asked for his help with what each was facing.

Prayer requests acknowledged and class time used wisely.  It was one of the best classroom management tools that I made last year, and I think that it will continue working for a long time.

"With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith." ~2 Thessalonians 1:11

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Teaching Prayer- Sign of the Cross Mirror

Ever get frustrated trying to help a little one learn how to do the Sign of the Cross?  They might get the words, but not the motions?  Or they never can remember what shoulder goes first?  Sometimes when they follow you, they automatically do the wrong thing because they are looking at the reverse direction mirrored in your actions.

When talking about this problem with one of my Kindergarten catechists, I decided to make a tool for their classroom to help the little ones learn this important prayer.  I once heard a monk say that if you were only going to pray one thing, this would be a good choice because it packs so much in.  You've got the Trinity, a connection to our baptism, and a bodily reminder that Christ became one of us and died for our sins on the cross.  Seems to me it is worth the extra time to help them get it right.

I started with a cheap mirror- this would be a great project to reuse one you have or pick up one at a thrift shop.  I went the easy route and bought a new $5 one.  This particular mirror is about 12 x 18 in.  You could go bigger, but I wouldn't go much smaller.
I spray painted the frame to make it a bit cuter and cleaned the glass well.  Then using a ruler, I made the first lines for a large cross outline, going nearly to the edge of the frame.
I used a white paint marker, and after it dried it seemed pretty permanent and not easy to scratch.
I then thickened up the lines to make it more visible.  I added numbers and arrows for non-readers, along with the words of the prayer.  When you make this, it is important to have it correct as a reflection, not the actual left to right of the prayer.  Make the sign of the cross in the mirror and think about where the 3 and 4 would go.
Next, hang it at a level that the kids can line themselves up with the cross-forehead at the top and shoulders on the horizontal pieces.  Then they can look in the mirror, follow the numbers and arrows, and make the Sign of the Cross correctly:

In the name of the Father...
...and the Son...
...and the Holy...

Eventually with practice the motions of this prayer will become ingrained as muscle memory- practicing it the right way will make it stick!

Some other ideas...
-If you have a wall mounted mirror in a bathroom or other place, you could cut out a large cross  from the center of a large piece of paper or piece of posterboard.  Tape the outside part on the mirror so the kids can still see their reflection in the middle part of the cross.  Write numbers and cue words on the paper.
-You also could do something very similar to the mirror above but with tempera paint or window chalk, both of which scrape or wash off, leaving you with a clean mirror once they have mastered the prayer.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Peek Inside My Classroom

 So, it's the night before school starts...

and instead of sleeping, I thought I'd give you a tour of my classroom.  Brace yourself for lots of owls and lots of the colors blue and green.  I tend to take themes to extremes.

(FYI, if you are not easily impressed, or haven't been following my classroom renovation since last summer, you might want to look at how far we have come from this post.)

Come on inside:
 Hello 5th grade!

 Covering up my very ugly/gross well loved desk.  I wasn't brave enough to paint it this year.

 Lockers, undoubtedly the most exciting aspect of 5th grade:
 Our theme verse, Proverbs 1:7.

 Wish list for Back to School Night tonight- owls are post its that families could take home as a reminder of the items they planned to donate.
 Want to know what I thought when I looked at this picture?  "Look at all of that floor space!" With a class this year two-thirds the size of last year's, I am reveling in the extra space that we have.  Room to work without running over each other is always a plus.
 I still love my ombre inspired file cabinet.
Oh, like the pennants?  They brighten things up, and also happen to to match my ombre file cabinet and ombre curtains.  I am so happy that the ombre trend supports my OCD organizational skills that drive me to put colors in rainbow order all of the time.
 Our classroom jobs bulletin board and birthday calendar:
 A little closer look:  Jean pockets, colored card is for group work reference, popsicle stick is for computer privileges, and stars are jobs for the week.
 And even a little closer:
 Mail center:
 The "business center":
 Reading corner:
 The ridiculous amount of books...
 Regular fiction is alphabetical by author's last name on the six shelves.  Baskets hold nonfiction by topic as well as special fiction, like poetry and folk tales.
 The "spoffice."  I will not waste your time explaining why it is called that. I will tell you a little about it though.  My kids don't have space to keep all of their art supplies in their desk or even in the room all of the time.  To save time for quick things in class that require markers, or a glue stick, etc. I stock the "spoffice" with enough of everything for each group of desks.  If we need to use markers for two minutes while taking notes in math, I don't have to waste ten minutes for the kids to get their supplies from their lockers and drop things and show off their set of 124 rainbow hues and then be unable to find the red marker that they need.  I just give them a box for their group to share.  Done.  The kids can also come grab things that they need while working, which comes in handy with kids that don't have as much or towards the end of the year when supplies are dwindling.  
There, aren't you glad I didn't take the time to tell you where the name spoffice came from? :)
 Behavior chart:
 Faith corner.  Will be posting soon on how/why I set this up and my recommendations for doing the same thing in your classroom for school or CCD.
 You might recognize that little owl:
 Check out our patron Saint, St. Maximilian Kolbe:

Area behind my desk, which looks awesome now that I have realized (in my 5th year teaching, mind you) that I do not need every teachers' edition, workbook, resource book, and answer key at my finger tips.  I only have out the current units that we are working on, the rest are in "storage" to be pulled out as needed.  So much more sense.  
(Hey Lindsay, there's my "Where are you?" board!  And Em, your shelf has never looked so good.  New nails and contact paper makes for a new life.)

Hope you enjoyed your visit to my little corner of the world.  Also, thank you for giving me a reason to take pictures today, the day before school, because we all know that after 42 extra hands enter tomorrow, this classroom will not look this neat and organized again...until next fall!