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The end of school is near– how to keep your students engaged!
27 Apr, 2014. 4 Comments. A Day In First Grade, First Grade, Language. Posted By: Kristen Smith
Like many of you, we have a countdown going in our classroom. It reads “23 days until summer vacation!” When I put it up on the board, my students groaned. {yes, you read that correctly, they groaned!} One of my students said, “Miss Smith that is so sad!” and then another said, “Yeah! It’s a happy sad thing…” It was really sweet, but as we all know, keeping students engaged at this part of the year and on, is sometimes a bit of a challenge. However, I have a trick that helps me out every single year. 
At this point in the year, I bring out some of our FAVORITE themes: insects, camping, and the ocean. Students LOVE learning about these things and it keeps them ACTIVELY engaged in their learning. This cuts back on behavior problems and a lack of motivation in your students. 
This past week we learned ALL about insects. My students have been SO well behaved and excited to learn that it has made teaching a breeze. 
To make this happen, I introduced a bunch of centers that my students have been so excited to complete. These centers, while they are practicing skills that first graders need to master, appear to be fun and are in a theme that makes all of my students super focused and engaged. 
Let me give you a peek into our room during the morning rotations. 
1. Our first center has my students applying their insect knowledge and matching our vocabulary cards to their definitions. My students love the real pictures and are having a blast filling out their insect vocabulary books. 
2. Our second center is helping my students with compound words. Oh my goodness do they love this one. 
After they have matched all the dragonfly cards to their word cards, they work on filling out their recording sheet.
3. Our third center is a “word work” insect inspired center. My students first have to sort all of the cards based on the color around the edges. Then they place the insect picture card on top of the pile.
 Once the cards have been sorted, they get to work spelling the insect names.
 After they spell out the words, there are insect trading cards in this center that let my students read facts about the insects that they spelled. They also can check to make sure they spelled their words correctly. 
4. At the writing center, my students are using magnifying glasses to explore REAL insects. 
 They are taking notes about the insects and writing reports about them. 
{insects can be found HERE}
 5. My students always love true/false centers and this center has been a HUGE hit. After they sort their cards, they daub the correct answers on the recording page– and then check their answers! 
 6. This center is having my students read words that have tricky phonics patterns and then sort them by their vowel sound. I love that this is helping with decoding, phonics and spelling all in the same center. 
 7. Finally, the last center that we have going right now is working on synonyms and antonyms. My students read the cards and then place them in the correct bug jar. 
By keeping the centers fun, my students have been working hard and doing a great job at producing quality work. In each center they are practicing reading for meaning, working on decoding skills, as well as the skills that each center focuses on. 
While my students are hard at work at these centers, I pull guided reading groups. This week we are working through insect magazines that I wrote for my students.
They love these magazines so much that they take them to quiet spots and read them throughout the day when they have free time! {That makes me SO happy!!}
During Writers Workshop, we are working at writing reports. Each of my students chose an insect and have been researching them and writing about them daily. Each day they are focusing on one thing to write about. The first day they wrote about what the insect looked like, the second day they wrote about where the insect lives, and the third day they wrote about what makes their insect unique. 
We created an anchor chart together to help them understand the type of things they should be writing on that topic.
In Math, we have been reviewing fractions.  An easy way to do this is to copy pictures onto different color paper and have your students practice writing the fractions.  I printed a bunch of insects and put tape on the back of them to  make them easy to remove and adhere. We practiced this skill multiple times using dry erase markers and white boards. For each round, I would change the amount of insects and then my students would write down the fraction and turn to their neighbor to explain to them WHY they wrote down the fraction they did. 
Finally, on Friday to pull EVERYTHING together, we made an edible activity– Proboscis Drinks! To do this, I purchased two oranges for each of my students. I brought in three hand juicers, and fun colored straws. I taught my students how to use the juicers and they each got to juice their oranges. 
 As they were juicing they were saying things like, “I am making nectar to drink! I am going to use my proboscis to drink!” 
 We read this page to teach us all about a proboscis, too! 
 After we had made all our drinks and drank them, we then wrote about HOW we made them and read them over to make sure what we wrote made sense. 
By theming out my week, and using hands-on activities that my students enjoyed, they had a fantastic week and learned so much! It also made it so fun to teach! 
I’m about to go set up tents in our classroom for our camping week! Friday we will spend the day outside exploring all kinds of neat things. I have some of my parents come in to set up 6-9 LARGE tents and we bring all of our book boxes and journals outside for a really, REALLY fun day! You can read about my camping days from previous years here and here
I hope that you are having a great weekend. All of the activities above are found in my insect pack and the edible activity is from my “science for all seasons: spring edition” pack! 
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4 Comments
  1. So cute!! I love your insect themed activities!

  2. I am WAY TOO EXCITED to be cutting and laminating right now! We are focusing on compound words this week and those dragonflies are ridiculously FUN!!!! Thank you!

  3. You have such fun and engaging themes. I think I might try to use themes next year, do you have a list of all the themes you use throughout a year? Thank you!

  4. Your activities seriously make learning about insects fun (even when bugs are gross…it gives me the heeby jeebies just thinking about it) haha

4 Comments

  • So cute!! I love your insect themed activities!

  • I am WAY TOO EXCITED to be cutting and laminating right now! We are focusing on compound words this week and those dragonflies are ridiculously FUN!!!! Thank you!

  • You have such fun and engaging themes. I think I might try to use themes next year, do you have a list of all the themes you use throughout a year? Thank you!

  • Your activities seriously make learning about insects fun (even when bugs are gross…it gives me the heeby jeebies just thinking about it) haha

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