Monday, December 28, 2015

Alternative Seating in the Classroom

I have been seeing things float around the inter-webs that really intrigue me. It's the idea of alternative seating. Teachers (and now researchers) are finding that allowing students choice and movement in their seating arrangements can greatly improve behavior and academic performance.

I have already posted about using yoga balls in my room and how well it worked for my students with ADHD. I have since seen sooooooooooo many more options that I LOVE. If you are new to alternative seating, or inching your way closer to thinking about it as a real possibility for your classroom, hopefully this post will show you different ways to make it work in your room.

First, what do you use? Well, from what I've seen, it can be anything! Teachers have used bean bag chairs Stabili-T Stools, carpet spots, bath maths, camping chairs, crates with padding on them, small tents, stability/exercise balls, lap desks on the floor, pillows, big totes with half the lid cut off (see below), peanut balls and just the plain old floor.

(NOTE: None of these links are affiliate links. I just searched on Amazon for some of the terms I had heard from other teachers. Seriously, who has heard of a peanut ball?? Not me. But they are pretty awesome.)

I know that looks kinda funny, but I have heard it helps kids feel safe and calm when they work. It can be really effective with kids that have sensory issues.

 Stabili-T Stools

I love the idea of using the Stabili-T Stools. My friend Debbie at K is for Kinderific did an awesome post on how she uses them with her SpEd students here.

I also like using crates with removable pads on them. That way you could store materials inside.

Some more pics of what you can use from Mr. Cayer's room:

I really like the idea of standing desks and bicycle desks. Our kids need more time to MOVE! This is a great way to let them wiggle while they work!

Some desks and tables can be set to a higher setting for standing so you don't have to buy anything new. The bike desks are pricey, but if you got your principal on board or wrote a grant, you could build up a few each year. You can find more information about the bike chairs, along with this spectacular 11 second video of a girl pedaling here. The ball chairs are around $70-$100 on Amazon.

Here is a bike chair in action:

The possibilities are really endless. Annnnnd now that my post is starting to also feel endless, I'll move on to how kids get to these fabulous seating choices.

The more choice and freedom we can give our students, the more they learn and grow. However, finding seats and sitting next to other students can be challenging for some kids (or groups of kids) no matter the age. I have heard some teachers call it "Make a wise seating choice" or even just "Smart Seat". This draws the student's attention to not only WHERE I sit, but WHO I sit by. You can go over what these mean to you in your own classroom. Do you want kids to be able to sit by each other? Can they handle knowing who will distract them and who won't? Will they move if they are uncomfortable or are distracted? Do you want your kids to be able to create their own sitting spaces (i.e. under their own desks on the floor) or do you want to have only certain areas of alternative seating?

 Setting Up for Second Blog

As with anything, I would MODEL, MODEL, MODEL. Show your students what it means to quietly pick a spot and start working. Show them what it looks like and what it sounds like. Alternative seating can become a routine procedure just like lining up or turning in work.

A teacher I spoke with said that her students are split into groups or tables. When it is time to work, she will alternate between which groups she calls first. The first group calls gets to pick their spots first. The second group goes second and so on. By alternating it daily, each student will get a chance to pick their spot first. This teacher has regular desks for students who prefer that work environment and alternative seating choices. She also lets them pick their own spots.

This teacher at Kindergarten Works has a great post on how she lets her kids choose their own seats.
 Choose their own seats

One last video from Edutopia about how teachers have used alternative seating in their rooms. It's kinda cool to see it in action.

Finally, will you have some administrators and parents who will freak out when they hear that their kids won't be sitting at desks? I'm gonna venture a wild guess and say yes! Some people might not understand what it is you are doing. Invite them in! Once they see the power in choice and of choice, they will come over to your side. They will also see that there are regular, old, normal desks or tables that their child can sit at too and that should stop most of them from having a coronary.

I found this FABULOUS note to parents that a teacher posted on her website. I would highly recommend sending out something similar. (Click on the picture to see the full text, with additional links, on her website.)

Note to parents

If you are looking for more ideas, I have a Pinterest board full of pictures, ideas, and blogs. My Alternative Seating Board can help you figure out what will work in your room!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Handprint Crafts

Okay, here it goes. I'm admitting something unheard of in some teaching circles. HANDPRINT ART FREAKS ME OUT!

It doesn't really matter what it looks like. It doesn't even matter if it's my own child's handprint. IT FREAKS ME OUT.

However, I have recently seen a couple art projects using hands that I think are really cute. I thought that if you wanted to make a handmade gift for parents, and handprint art freaks you out too, you might appreciate these!

1. Penguins: This one is my favorite. I actually really like this one from Crafty Morning.
 Penguin Art

2. Snowmen: This one is really cute (because it doesn't use the whole hand! lol). She used a 4x4 canvas from Amazon for the fingers. You could also use tiles which might be cheaper. This is from First Grade Blue Skies
 Snowman Art

3. Mitten: This one is adorable from Busy Bugs. I love how they painted the dough. 

4. Picture Mittens: This one from Teach Me Mommy is really cute because it incorporates a picture.
 Handprint Photo

5. Love Never Melts: I cannot for the life of me find the original source of this picture. I know, I know, it has the whole hand (I would probably just use the fingers), but the sentiment is very cute.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Santa's New Sleigh

 Santa's New Sleigh
Imagine Santa's sleigh has broken down on Christmas Eve. What is he to do? He needs your help to make a new mode of transportation to get him from house to house. Remember, he has A LOT of toys to deliver. Help design Santa's New Sleigh using a lot of detail to show us how he will now get around.

This is the introduction I give to my students before I begin one of my favorite Christmas art projects. The students get to design a new sleigh for Santa and they LOVE it.

 Santa's New Sleigh

I start by giving them a blank art page and a black and white Santa. Santa doesn't have legs because they will be hidden inside his new sleigh. I have had some kids draw on his legs if their sleigh is something like a jet pack.

 Santa's New Sleigh

Then, I have them color Santa and cut him out. They can either glue Santa onto the page or trace his outline. I have them do this first so that the size of the new sleigh matches the size of Santa. If you don't do this step, you'll get an itty bitty spaceship and a gigantic Santa or vice versa.

Santa's New Sleigh

Then the students draw their new mode of transportation. I have them fill up the whole page and use a lot of detail. Then I have them outline in permanent marker so that it really stands out. It also helps to have them write what their new sleigh is.

 Santa's New Sleigh

The kids love doing this and they turn out awesome. I usually turn on Christmas music and have us jam out to Rudolf and Frosty as we work.

You can grab the black and white Santa's here.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas Cursive

 Christmas Cursive

I want to tell you about a really fun Christmas art project/activity that you can do in your rooms this year. I call it Christmas Cursive. This is a really simple activity that practices multiple skills and takes a long time to complete (double bonus!). 

Students take a list of spelling words and practice writing them in cursive in one continuous line around the black edges. I used a list of Christmas words you can grab for free here or you can use your own lists. You can also have the kids write in print around the edges. I have done that for certain students and it still works great!

You start by taking one of the blank outlines. Then, cover it with a blank piece of paper and staple it at the top and the bottom. This will save your templates year after year so you can reuse them. For kids that need extra help staying on the lines or could use the guidance, you can just give them the black outline. 

Pass out the list of words you want your kids to use. I always, always, always, model what I want my kids to do first. I show them how to go around the corners and write on curved lines. You can set the rules for this that you want to use. I just tell kids to try and fit the most words they can while staying within the black lines. I have had some students that want to use every millimeter of space and will end a line with a partial word and that's fine with me too. The main goal here is for students to practice their cursive or print handwriting in a fun way. Some kids write really, really big. This is a great chance for them to write small. Those students who don't have the skills needed to write small, can still write big and have this work.  

You can see how the words are all connected. I also did separate words one the curved lines. 
 Christmas Cursive

 Christmas Cursive

When they are done, it should look something like this: 
 Christmas Cursive
(Pretty cool, right?)

Then have your students color it in however they will. Depending on the class, I sometimes let them write or trace over their words in thin black marker before they color. Not every class can handle using Sharpies so we just leave it in pencil. 
 Christmas Cursive

I then glue then on green or red construction paper to act as a border and hang them in the hall. They look amazing hanging in the hallway and the kids love showing off this unique piece of art!

Click on the link to grab the FREE Christmas Cursive Templates. I have several choices for your room. The blank tree can be left that way, or you can add your own lines on the inside depending on the needs of your students. 

If you need some for other holidays, you can check out my blog post here

(NOTE: I have had several requests asking where I got the clip art to use as a template. It is from Educlips which is one of my FAVORITES! You can find her Tpt store by clicking here.)
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