Jedi Friday

One activity we have for blending words is Jedi. When it's Jedi time, we take out our light sabers and get ready for Jedi training. The master points to the word to be read, the padawans ready their sabers, and training begins. The /c/ is accompanied with a wave of the light saber, then the /a/ with the next wave of the saber, another wave of the saber with the /t/, and finally a strike of the hand to direct the force as they say "cat".When we have all practiced, a few padawans get to challenge the master. We have two real toy light sabers. Each takes a saber and does the preceding activity with new words. When the hand is waved with the word, if they blend the word correctly, I fly back because of the strength of the force. I then bow and say "The force is strong with you."
 Occasionally we have Jedi Friday. On Jedi Fridays we wear our Star Wars shirts for Jedi training. When the students are doing independent work, I'll call one up, hand him the light saber and we'll "train" with a word I've given them. After they pass the training they receive a Star Wars coloring page, or Star Wars fruit snacks, with the words, "The force is strong with you young Jedi, you have passed your training." Now that's FUN, don't tell anyone!

Fabulous Cone

Fabulous things happy everyday, in elementary school, that you wouldn't believe, but every now and then a student does something so fabulous that they must be rewarded. Enter the Fabulous Cone. So when a student does something incredible I exclaim, "Fabulous," then follow that with something like, "how did you do that!" or "I cannot belieeeeeeeeeeeeve how FABULOUS you are, I don't think anyone in this whole room realizes what you just did!!!!!!" Now I've got everyone's attention. The Fabulous Cone goes on the desk of the fabulous person accompanied with some sort of fabulous reward. "Why don't you get a drink of water," (if you withhold drinking water it becomes a reward). Then, with everyone's attention, the fabulous act, or knowledge, is explained and emphasized. How can the other students not want to know how they can be fabulous? Now that's FUN, don't tell anyone.

Mr. Laskowski

Making words is a hands-on phonics activity where students manipulate letter tiles to form different words. For example, teacher might say, "Change one letter in 'cat' to make the word 'bat', " or a clue may be given such as, "to make the word that baseball players use to hit the ball." We call it building words and Mr. Laskowski is the building-site boss. He shows up with his hard hat and a clipboard with a checklist of "jobs" that need to be done. He talks  with a little Chicago-like accent, or better said, like those guys on the SNL skit that were Chicago sports fans. He says "OK guys" a lot. "O.K. guys it's time to get to work guys. O.K. guys? Are you ready to work guys?
Then Mr. Laskowski goes through the list of "jobs". When the "workers" build the word, Mr. Laskowski gives them praise calling them by Mr. or Miss. "Nice work Miss Marquez." The thing is he can't really pronounce the last names of most of them so he says "Mar-qwez" instead of Mar-kez" When the job is all done, Mr. Laskowski leaves and  tells his guys, "Oh, I see the taco truck. Mr. Laskowski needs a break. I think I'll have a quesadilla today. Then I'll be in the porter-potty if you need me." Now that's FUN, don't tell anyone!

Mahna-Mahna

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When we have 2 minutes and 29 seconds to spare, we watch Mahna-Mahna. The muppets are fun, the song is clever, and people with a sense of humor, of all ages, enjoy it. Watching it on the big Smartboard is fun too. We turn the lights down, turn the sound up, students relax, and enjoy the show. Now, if you are one of those pro-clipboard fuddy-duddies and think there is no academic value in watching such silliness, the students love the old men at the end. Everyone quotes them, "Question is, Who cares?". Long before interrogatives are introduced, they're giving examples of them; Twice! Now that's FUN, don't tell anyone.

The Bieber Card

BEFORE
AFTER











We use sound and spelling cards, with pictures, in the classroom to help students relate sounds, letters, and spellings. The picture for the letter "b" is butterfly.

The week I introduced this sound, we were using a Justin Bieber song for clean-up. One little buddy
said, "Hey, Bieber is just like butterfly." The next day in our phonics lesson,
the same buddy said he was no longer calling it the butterfly card, but the Bieber card. I agreed, and between the two of us we have the whole class using "Bieber" instead of  butterfly. Of course we had to put a picture of him on the card. Later, I sneaked into some other classrooms and put Bieber pictures on their butterfly cards.

Now that's FUN, don't tell anyone.

Get Out Of Town

Occasionally students are asked to take dictation. They are given the sentence orally. First they have to memorize it so the sentence is given in phrases. They repeat back the phrases and then students write the sentence remembering capital letters, punctuation, and spelling. When time is up, we check it. After we check it students grade themselves. I say, "If you wrote this sentence with capital letters, punctuation, and correct spelling, then you are a CAWESOME writer." Then the next grade, " If you missed one word, that is awesome." After that, "If you forgot a capital letter, or misspelled a couple words, that's cool." Then, "If you wrote one or two words correctly, that's good." Then we finish with this grade, "If you didn't write any capital letters, have no punctuation, and you didn't write one word, (then we all yell) THEN GET OUT OF TOWN!" Sometimes we add, "YOU LAZY BUM!" Now that's FUN, don't tell anyone.

Bobby Balooba's Bear


Today we finished our animal fantasies. We wrote about Bobby Balooba's Bear. With help from Mama Mania, we made bear puppets so Bieber Bear could talk. The students told their stories using Bieber Bear's voice. Most voices were deep, simple, and slow. (Think of the Mr. Narwhal on the movie Elf, "Bye Buddy, hope you find your dad.")

"Bobby Balooba and Bieber bear go to the park. First they swing on the swings. Next they slide on the slides. Then they drink soda and talk by a tree. Finally they sing songs, eat pizza, and walk home."
 Now that's FUN, don't tell anyone.

Lemonhead Test



When I was in first grade, a long long time ago, my teacher, Mrs. Wylie, used to reward all the perfect spelling tests with a lemon drop. A lemon drop? I can't believe I fell for that. I would work so hard on those spelling words just for a little piece of candy, and a sour candy to boot.  As I think about that now, Steve Martin in The Jerk comes to mind, "Oh, it's a profit deal." Would that work with these 20th century-modern-day-technicological-digital-world-videohead-reality-TV-fast food-instant-gratification children? Of course. All week, when we practice, I point out the lemonhead words. Not only do you get a lemonhead if you spell all the words right, but you can get a second lemonhead if you right the two bonus words correctly. As students bring up their tests for correction I'll yell, "We have a perfect paper!" Then instruct the student to get one lemonhead. If they wrote the bonus words correctly I'll yell, "We have another double!" Now that's FUN, don't tell anyone!

Chicken Cheeks

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The other day we read Chicken Cheeks by Michael Ian Black. It's a silly little book with many different words for the backside, or rump, or behind. When the students finally caught on, they thoroughly enjoyed it. Now,  when I want them to remain seated on their bottom, I just remind them to stay on their "chicken cheeks", or their "moose caboose". Sometimes we watch this video when we want to laugh and relax. Now that's FUN, don't tell anyone!

Incredible Cone


Incredible things happen everyday in elementary school that you wouldn't believe, but every now and then a student does something so incredible that they must be rewarded. Enter the Incredible Cone. So when a student does something incredible I exclaim, "That's incredible," then follow that with something like, "how did you do that!" or "I cannot beleeeeeeeeeeeeve how incredible you are, I don't think anyone in this whole room realizes what you just did!!!!!!" Now I've got everyone's attention. The Incredible Cone goes on the desk of the incredible person accompanied with some sort of reward. "Why don't you get a drink of water," (if you withhold drinking water it becomes a reward). Then, with everyone's attention, the incredible act, or knowledge, is explained and emphasized. How can the other students not want to know how they can be incredible? Now that's FUN, don't tell anyone.

Don't Bug Me!

When it's time to work with individual students, that's when every student wants attention. So when we have
our small group instruction, the bug necklace goes on. When the bug necklace goes on it means, "Don't bug me!" It's so great to see students approach the group, realize the bug necklace is on and turn away. The best is when students rush up to the approaching intruder, grab him, and tell him, "The necklace is on, don't bug them." Now thats FUN, don't tell anyone!"

What Do Soldiers Do?

Today a picture of a soldier came up in a video clip we were watching. One of my first grade boys asked, "What do soldiers do?". I didn't really stop to think of an appropriate answer, and since I'd just finished reading Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10(in my spare time, not to first graders.), I said, "They shoot people." He asked, "until they're dead?" I stammered, "They shoot the bad guys." I didn't know if this was an appropriate or acceptable answer, but the boy seemed to agree, "I'm gonna be a soldier." Now I'm wondering if he was interested in just killing people, or had some other motive. Ideas of video games are coming to mind, or violent war movies that glorify killing, then, as I must have given him a quisitive look, he expounded, "Soldiers are good guys, and they shoot the bad guys because they're trying to destroy our world." YES! This kid is a genuis. This conversation had nothing to do with the lesson going on, and if the clipboards had observed it, who knows what would have happened, but this conversation was one of the greatest lessons of the year. Now that's fun, don't tell anyone!