Using Soft Starts in the Classroom

We begin each morning with Soft Starts in my 4th grade classroom. They are a nice way for students to come into my classroom each morning. We rotate different types of soft starts throughout the year. We begin the year with games students can play in order to get to know one another.

This week we will be changing to dinosaur/fossil themed soft starts. We are studying fossils in science, so these soft starts give students a chance to learn some things about dinosaurs, play dinosaur card games, explore fossils, and do some fun artwork using tracing plates, stickers, and stamps.

The Soft Starts packs in my tpt store have labels for containers, items to get, and rules for kids to follow. You can also just put a different soft start item at each table. I have soft starts with STEM, dinosaurs/fossils, words, and squishy things. I am working on adding more! Click here to see my Dinosaur Soft Start Pack.

My students spend the first 15-20 minutes each day on the soft starts. I put up a timer when they have 5 minutes left and they know it is time to begin cleaning up. I store everything in shoebox tubs and bring them out each morning.

What things do you do in the morning as your students come into your classroom?

Using Clip Art for Welcome Bulletin Boards!

Looking for an easy to put up your PERFECT Back to School bulletin board? Just use clip art! Pick out the clip art you want, place the clip art onto a powerpoint slide and adjust it to the size you want. Then add a text box and type in a student name. Do this for all the kiddos you are expecting and print!

I did a Rock and Roll theme last year. Each student got an inflatable guitar to take home the first day! I grabbed the inflatable guitars on Amazon!

Best part about using clip art? I can choose the SIZE I need for my bulletin board! I can also make new ones quickly when I get new students the first few days!

What is your Back to School theme this year?

I am doing colorful light bulbs this year!

Mailing Unusual Items to Students

At this time of distance learning across the country, I have been looking for ways to connect with my students, and one of my favorites is through writing and mailing them notes each week.  They really look forward to getting a weekly note, and I have discovered that you can send unusual things through the mail!

This week I sent them cards with a small growing creature tucked inside.  You can grab the growing creatures cheaply on Amazon or on the Oriental Trading Company site.  I also got a set of 200 cards and envelopes in bright colors on Amazon.  They just have to place the creature into a cup of cold water for 5 days.  I encouraged them to change the water each day.  At the end of 5 days, they can send me the results through a text message picture or even a flipgrid video!  Filpgrid is amazing!  Check it out if you have not already!

I found a read aloud of the picture book, It Came in the Mail, by B. Clanton.  It is an adorable book.

The character  in the book gets unusual things in the mail.  I am sending my own students something unusual next week!  I found some foam door signs from the Dollar Tree in one of my teacher tubs of rewards in my basement.  I’m going to mail one to each student!

I have a writing pack to go along with this book in my TPT store, too!  Click here to buy it!

Writing Business Letters - It Came in the Mail, by B. Clanton as Mentor Text

What are you doing to connect with your own students during this time of distance learning?  Share ideas in the comments!  The first five commenters will get this pack for FREE!

Alligators, Alligators…

Our school mascot is the alligator, so I am starting the year with a couple days of lessons surrounding the alligator!  Our classroom already has a frog theme this year, so I am thinking the alligator stuff will fit in perfectly!

We are going to start with an Alligator Escape Room activity.  I am hoping that it gets the table groups working together, communicating, listening, and learning where stuff is in our classroom.   Click here to purchase the Alligator Escape Room pack!

STEM Escape Room - All About Alligators

The escape room should take the students much of the morning time to finish.  It includes a reading paragraph, some math, a video to watch with questions, and two fun STEM challenges!  Students get a sheet to complete as they are going through the Escape Room!  When they finish, I got plastic alligators to give each student!  I grabbed these alligators on Amazon, click here for the link.

STEM Escape Room - All About AlligatorsSENSORY4U Crocodile Toys 16 pcs 6 Inch Alligator Action Figure, Crocodile Hunter Action Figure, Crocodile Animal Toy - for Party Favors, Gifts, Prizes, Rewards, Assorted Colors

We are also going to read the picture book If you Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, DON’T! by Elise Parsely.  It is such a funny story!  Click here for the book link!

We are going to use this picture book as a mentor text and we are going to write our own funny stories using cause and effect (got to get started on those curriculum standards right away)!  Click here to purchase this writing pack!

Using Cause and Effect to Write Funny Stories with a Mentor Text  Using Cause and Effect to Write Funny Stories with a Mentor Text

We are also going to grow our own alligators!  This science lab is just AMAZING to students because the allgiators get SO big!  We start school on a Thursday, so by Monday these gators will be HUGE!  We place one of these in a plastic tub of water.  The kids take some measurements on day 1 and on day 5!  You can sometimes find these at the Dollar Tree.   Click here for the link to the growing toy!

The students will each have their own smaller alligator to grow!  You can also do one per group!  These can be purchased at Educational Innovations.  Click here for the link.  We use this pack for our smaller growing alligators.  Click here to purchase the Growing Gators pack!

Growing Gators - Making Observations & Taking Measurements  Growing Gators - Making Observations & Taking Measurements

What are you going to do during your first few days at school?

Bats! – and Making a Bat Cave

Kids absolutely love learning about bats!  We had a great time writing and doing science activities with bats!  The kids favorite part…THE BAT CAVE!

This was really easy (and cheap) to make!  Just a pack of plastic sheeting from the nearby Home Depot, duct tape, and a box fan!  The kids got to do research and read inside the bat cave.  They also got to teach younger kiddos all about bats while they brought them in the cave.

We also wrote reports on bats!

The kids had to do a lot of research to write these reports!  They learned a lot!

We also read a lot of books and found out a lot of information we did not know!

You can find these activities (and a lot more) in my Bat Pack!  Just click here to purchase the pack!

What animals do your students love to learn about?

We Love Chickens!

We hatch eggs every year in our classroom.  It is such an amazing experience for students to see!  While we are waiting for our chickens to incubate, we do some research on chickens.

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These reports are a larger version of the Take-out Container layout.  We used an 18 x 24 sheet of white construction paper to make these.  Students then came up with their own report sections from a list and researched and wrote the information.  They added a picture to the top of each informational strip (or chicken strips as they called them).

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They learned a lot and got a lot of writing done!  I love doing creative writing projects, and the kids love them too!

Creepy Pair of Underwear CHALLENGE

This was one of my kiddos’ favorite STEM challenges this year!  It was so much fun.  We read the book aloud (which is totally hilarious), then we did the STEM challenge.  Kids had to make a pair of paper underwear that fit the stuffed bunny (I found the bunnies on the Oriental Trading Company website).  They had a great time AND it was a really challenging task!  Click here to purchase the STEM pack!

Underwear cracks my kids up!  What things do your students find funny?