Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Creating a Year-Long Theme: Top Ten Reasons

A year-long theme is one of my favorite things to set up when getting ready for the new school year. Here are my top ten reasons why I use a theme for my classroom.

10.  It's fun. It creates a spark of fun in the classroom and I like starting with a fresh idea and decor each year.

9. It creates memories for the students. They remember the different themes as they have passed through the classroom. They continue to talk about it. I hear previous students, when checking out the current year's theme, talk about last year's theme..."Oh remember when we had a circus theme? I loved the circus tent. It was so fun!"

8. It inspires others. Teaching with a theme inspires others to push the limits and create a spark in their spaces too.

7. It's a creativity spark. Just like when teaching writing, I tell my students to start with a tiny seed idea and not a watermelon idea, a theme helps to narrow the scope of my curriculum. It gives me direction and a jumping off point. Then I start to get all my creative juices flowing. And I find the perfect ideas to bring my theme to life.

6. Old students will spread the word that your classroom is the place to be. Word of mouth is the best testimony of what is going on in your classroom. I've found students, current, previous, and future ones to be excited when they step into the classroom and find out the theme for the year. Also previous students like to peek into our class to catch a glimpse of what our theme is for the year. 

5. It promotes a sense of community within the class. Students are enjoying a common experience that is unique to our classroom. They are proud of the way it looks and the excitement it envokes. I hear them talking about it. 

4. You can spend more time in class on one topic because you can cover many standards on the curriculum with integrated learning, which leaves more time to go in depth. Win!

3. It makes planning for the year more effiecent. Lessons from various subjects can go together.

2. Integrating curriculum is best practice. And teaching with a theme makes it very easy to tie things together. Students have a chance to go more in-depth into the topics you are teaching because they are learning about them. not just once, but several times throughout the day. Otherwise, they are learning seven or so different subjects throughtout the day and each one is related only to itself. 

1. The students get seriously excited about it. And afterall, isn't that what it's all about? If I can have my students walk into my classroom, take one look and be excited about the learning that will happen here, I have just won a huge battle. Then I work hard to keep them excited throughout the year, but that's another story for another time.

To me, these are all very good reasons why I continue to push myself to create themes that will add excitement into my classroom. There is nothing better than students excited to learn and for me, this is the first step toward that goal.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Year Long Theme Part One: OverviewAll

Using a year-long theme in my classroom is a passion of mine. It started many years ago when I ran across this book Creating a Year-Long Theme .

It is a great starting point. Then later, I stumbled across this blog. I really loved how she took the year-long theme and used it in the classroom decor.

So I started small. I think the first year I used the sports theme. The kids enjoyed it. About 5 years ago, I moved schools and in the last 3-4 years, I have gotten my themes up to the level that I have wanted. If you are trying this for the first year, I recommend starting small. But every year, add more into the theme. Incorporate content areas. I teach in a multigrade 3rd and 4th classroom and so I will have my students for two years in a row. I cannot use the same theme every year, and I think I would seriously get bored of that anyway. So for now, I have created a four year rotation of themes and have gone all out in planning them. I have a brainstorm theme. a circus theme, a woods/camping theme, and this year I am putting together a travel theme.

Here is a sneak peek of some of the items I am working with for the theme this year. I will be adding a few other touches here and there when I get into my classroom and will share those photos here.

My color scheme is going to be teal, pink, and gold. Think tassel banners and hot air ballons, plane garland, maps, and travel themed posters. I will post pictures of my room next week when I finish it up.

But for now, you can take a look at last year's camping theme (more here.)

And here is a picture of the circus reading tent I created for my classroom when we had the circus theme. I do not currently have any other photos of my classroom or circus theme from that year because I lost all the files on my external hard drive and am waiting to repair it. 

What I have learned is that teaching using a year-long theme matters. It matters to the students. They are excited about the decor and theme for the year. And that's always one of the first things I hear them ask me each year before they see the room...."What's this year's theme?" And it matters to me. I enjoy the continuety and fun of a theme with matching decor. 
What about you? Are you thinking of a theme this year? Share if you like.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

School Bags

I have found that in years past, I have a ton of things to bring home. And all that adds up to a lot of weight and bags too heavy to carry. And too much stuff to complete in one night anyway. So this year I decided to purchase a smaller school bag. One that will not hold so much. One that will hold the right amount for me to be able to complete in a night. Introducing the Scout Bag. This is the Pocket Rocket Bag in the Panky pattern. And I LOVE it.

Here's what I love about it. First of all, it's super cute. Love the fun and funky pink paisley/flower design with black straps and trim with white stitching.I love the 6 deep pockets. The top zips. There is a flap of pockets inside. The flap has one zipper pocket, one open pocket, and a tiny clear pocket with a snap that would fit a thumb drive or SD card or a few coins. The material it is made from feels like a recyclable shopping bag or Ikea bag, only extra thick. I don't love that, but it is sturdy and will probably be much easier to keep clean than fabric or canvas. Overall, I am really happy with my purchase and I am looking forward to carrying this stylish bag (purchased on Amazon) for my first day back to school...and the entire year.