By Gina Kennedy

By Gina Kennedy


Great ideas to differentiate and integrate the real world into your curriculum and create a rigorous learning environment!  

     Before I begin sharing this week's samples of activities that have worked successfully for me; I wanted to share a poster I created with self-reflective questions for classroom teachers.   
    State exams, new curriculum, and a multitude of new standards have presented an overwhelming amount of work, organization and restructuring of how we approach education today.  There is no doubt that our public schools are spending millions of dollars in our classrooms on the development of  interventions for struggling students because of the accountability on state exams.
     My biggest concern is that many of our students who come to school each year on grade level with an abundance of early childhood experiences, as well as students who may be advanced cognitively or simply students who have a high desire to excel academically are being ignored.  
     Parents have many choices these days; charter schools are opening everywhere, private schools are seeing higher enrollments than they have experienced in years and many more parents are turning to homeschooling and other similar options than ever before.  Unless parents live in a rural area, they simply don't have to send their child to the neighborhood school around the corner anymore; there are now other viable options.  
     The future of public schools could become very bleak if every student who exceeds expectations is inadvertently forced to look elsewhere for a challenging education. 
What type of academic bar would be set for our classrooms then? 
Download this free poster HERE!

1. "Grammar Cartoons"  I've always said the way to a student's heart is a great sense of humor.  This theory has guided me through many difficult situations in 27 years of education.   I decided to compile into a group some of the amazingly humorous grammar cartoons that are circulating the internet and of course "school appropriate" for my students.  
     After reading through and discussing the grammar cartoons, I provided my students with some of the main grammar rules we have struggled with this year.  After reading through the cartoons and grammar rules together, the students were then asked to create grammar comics of their own.  I've included a link to download this free activity HERE:

2. "Story Book Mood, Tone and Theme Easy Quick Assessment"  We had not discussed the reading text features of tone, mood or theme for a few weeks and I wanted to do a quick authentic assessment of how well they were able to identify these text features.  
     I told the students to choose six class library story books they wanted to work with from at least three different genres.  I have a smaller reading class with 10 students; so in a larger classroom you would need to use more books or do this with buddies.
     Each student was assigned to read 1-3 story books determined by their length and after reading each story they were instructed to write the tone, mood and theme of the story on a sticky note. They were then invited to place their sticky note next to the title of the book they read.
     When everyone was finished we shared our responses.  The follow-up discussion was extremely beneficial as they were able to take an in depth look at how others viewed the tone, mood and theme as well of each story.

3. "Number line Fraction & Decimal Order"  I find clothespins to be one of the cheapest; but most useful math instructional tools.  I needed a way to periodically review ordering fractions and decimals and number lines.  In order to do this I covered old wooden rulers with duct tape and created 0-1 number lines.  Then I then created sets of clothespins with seven clothespins in each set.  In some of the sets I had only fractions or only decimals and in others I mixed it up with decimals and fractions in order to assess how well they were able to convert the fractions to decimals mentally.
     The students were divided into groups and instructed to order the fractions and decimals on the number line from least to greatest and place them in the appropriate place on the number line.

4. "Inspiration and Technology"  A conversation that we continue to revisit in our classroom involves "inspiration".  I want the students to determine what drives them to want to be successful.  If students aren't inspired, they lack motivation.   My students discovered through conversation that the things that make them happy are the things that inspire them.
     We have short technology "mini sessions" each week and have been working on mastering all the components of Microsoft Word with my students.  
     I told the students to brainstorm the things that make them happy and using Microsoft Word; create a poster that displays exactly what inspires them.  The posters turned out great and it really made them come to grips with how important it is to seek inspiration from everything around us.

5.   "Ask Me About Measurement?"  I ask my students questions all week, it was time to have the students provide the questions. We started a unit on measurement a few weeks ago and I decided to have the students develop questions with measurement terms and measuring tools as the answers.  Added Challenge:  they needed to include a real-life object and alternative unit of measurement associated with that term in their question.   I've included a link to download this free activity HERE:

6.  "Measurement Cerebral Explosion"  In case you haven't noticed the pun; my students decided last week to rename brainstorming sessions as "cerebral explosions". 
      I always like to start the week out with a little cerebral explosion to get the students thinking about the things we discussed the prior week.
      For this measurement activity, I simply asked the students to brainstorm all the vocabulary words they could  think of associated with length, weight, and liquid measurements.  The students were then asked to list all the vocabulary words associated with items that can be used to measure things.  Finally, they were asked to write down reasons or situations that might require people to know the volume or capacity of an item.   I've included a link to download this free copy HERE below:

Have a wonderful week,