Every week, every day, every hour of teaching is dynamic and always changing. But one thing stays the same for me: I always include the same five elements in my weekly plans:
- Hands-On Games
- Individual Work
- Community Building
Each week might look a little different in terms of the frequency or the order of events, but I believe these five types of classroom activities combine to form the most engaging, differentiated learning environment for my primary students.
Let’s look at each in more detail.
Primary students love to get their hands on everything, don’t they? And for good reason! Research shows that learners, especially those between the ages of 4-7, learn best when they have plenty of opportunity for hands-on visual and spatial learning.
Every week, I make sure to include hands-on games and other activities. Usually, my students do these during their learning center time. You can read about my whole center rotation routine in this blog post (it’s an oldie but a goodie!). I give you all the details about what materials I use, how I store them, and how I get the students to do their center work in an orderly manner.
Hands-on activities generally include a game that students play on their own or with a buddy. They use manipulatives, dry erase markers, and plastic sheets that hold their recording pages.
Here are some of the many different games I include in our hands-on learning centers:
- Matching with cards or manipulatives
- Counting games
- Clip cards (using clothespins)
- Before & after cards
- Spin & cover
Check out some of these games in action: Hands-On Learning Transform Your Reading Instruction.
Need to modify because of social distancing restrictions? No problem! Check out Primary Math Centers in a Socially Distanced Classroom.
You can find all of my center resources in my TpT store!
Individual Student Work
Students need time each day to individually practice and work through the skills we’ve been learning as a whole class. I make sure to give them plenty of opportunities for individual work, or “seat work.” I use a wide variety of printables and task cards.
Task cards are so versatile, and even better? Once you create a set, you can reuse it over and over again, saving you a lot of prep time! Children can use them like traditional flash cards or in combination with a more hands-on activity. For example, students can clip their cards at their seats rather than during center time. Read more about how to use task cards in your classroom.
I also use a ton of printables for individual student work time.
Here are just a few samples of all the printables I have available in my TpT store:
- Sight Words Practice
- Phonics Fluency Mazes
- No Prep Math Practice (for the whole year!)
- Writer’s Workshop Summer Printables
- Reading Comprehension Passages (freebie!)
Pro tip: to save paper (and a thousand trips to the copy machine!), place the printables in a plastic sheet and have students record their answers in a notebook or by writing with a dry erase marker.
If you were slow to adopt more digital resources in your classroom, I’m sure 2020 gave you the push you needed to add them in! From Smartboards to individual student iPads, our classroom access to technology is always expanding, and at this point, it’s very necessary!
Here is a round-up of the many ways I use technology in my classroom:
Digital Writing Prompts (for the whole year!)
Overwhelmed and not sure which activities to choose? You are not alone!
Check out this post: How to Choose the Best Digital Resources For Your Classroom.
Kids have to get the wiggles out, one way or another! I prefer that they do it in a planned and purposeful manner, whenever possible. That’s why I make sure to plan for movement each and every day, at regular intervals.
This looks different depending on where we’re at in our day, but I often give kids the chance to move and shake their bodies as we transition from one activity to another. Or, when I need my students to settle down after a high-energy activity or social time like recess, we practice calming movements.
Check out this post: Brain Break Ideas For Your Primary Classroom.
Apart from brain breaks, I also like to plan learning activities that require some movement. Little learners can’t sit still for long stretches, so I’ll plan activities like gallery walks, solve the room, scavenger hunts, and nature walks outside whenever possible.
A good, old-fashioned dance party is always a fun idea! Planning for movement doesn’t have to require a lot of prep or inspiration, just be sure to save some time to move and shake!
Building relationships with my students, and fostering community among them, is my top priority. Yes, I want them to become awesome readers and excel with their math skills, but I also want them to feel a sense of belonging.
That’s why I make sure to plan activities that specifically target our classroom culture. There are a couple of main ways I do this.
First, the morning meeting. I never start my day without this key activity! Even during distance learning (especially during distance learning!), I made sure to begin each day with the morning meeting. The goal is to set the tone for the day, to set expectations, and to check in on each other.
Morning meetings include the following pieces:
- A greeting from me! This is where I set the tone for positivity with a happy hello and some words of encouragement.
- Student check-in: how are we feeling today?
- Weather report.
- Days of the week, current month, and total days in school.
- Number of the day
- Warm-up with movement
- Student share time
- Today’s agenda
Read more about my morning meetings, including how I adapted them for digital learning.
Sometimes I also incorporate Chit Chat into my morning meetings. This can be a great community building activity that you can use during transition time as well. The goal for this activity is to encourage thoughtful conversation among students. I use prompts in five different categories to get them talking:
- I would rather…
- My favorite…
- I think I can…
- If I could, I would…
- I know all about…
This time of year is a great time to find new teacher friends, new colleagues to collaborate with, and new fresh ideas. Join our Facebook community group in order to do just that!