Many teachers have an “entry procedure” or “warm-up” or “bell-ringer” routine for students to do as soon as they enter the classroom. This is a great idea for several reasons:
- Students can immediately get to work as soon as they enter the room (no “down-time” which leads to chatter and off-task behavior; it can be hard to then “rope them in” when it’s time to start the lesson)
- It is a regular routine, so easy to get into the habit
- It is independent and does not require the teacher’s guidance — this means the teacher can focus on other important start-up routines, such as a getting a lesson or materials ready, or taking attendance
Traditionally, this has been done either on worksheets/packets, or in a student’s notebook (based on problems/prompts up front on whiteboard or projector.) There are a few drawbacks to this:
- What if students finish early? Then they get bored and/or off-task (plus, if they are advanced… why not push them as far as they can go and allow them to have extra challenges?)
- To be meaningful, there has to a way to check the work and see how they did — this eats up precious class time because, usually, you have to have a little review or peer-grading session to go over the answers.
With 1:1 computer technology tools, you can go so much further! Using tech tools gives the following advantages:
- No need for materials (don’t need to Xerox anything, hand out or collect anything, or sharpen pencils, etc)
- Students can get individualized practice — sometimes they can get remediation and assistance if they need it, other times they may be advanced students that can rise to new challenges by moving forward at their own pace.
- You usually get instantaneous data/feedback about how the kids are doing, what they may still need practice with, and what you might need to reteach or provide personal assistance for.
If you are a single-subject teacher, it can be pretty easy to decide upon a daily warm-up routine. For math, it could be math facts or drills. For English, perhaps they sit down and write in a journal or do some typing practice. In Social Studies, perhaps they do a “current events” news-reading activity. In Science, perhaps they do note review or flash-card style scientific vocab practice. But what if you are a self-contained multiple subject or elementary teacher?
Well, I fall into the latter camp (even though I teach “middle school” grade level – 6th grade), and it’s really hard to decide what to have the kids practice because, realistically, they need to practice and improve in nearly every subject!
Well, you have a few options: (1) do multiple warm-ups every day! Keep the same sequence, such as math practice, then reading activity, then daily writing log [this is what I was doing for a while, because my students really seem to always need more practice with all of the basics!]; or (2) you can have a theme/topic for each day of the week, so that you can spend a little more time focusing deeper on one specific skill. This is the new format I am going to try!
||Math Mondays: Students come in and immediately begin self-paced math practice! Currently, I have them do two tasks: basic mental-math building using Xtramath.org, followed by relevant topics we have been studying (or, sometimes, topics we simply need more practice with), which I assign via links to Khan Academy skills practice via a Weekly Math page. Possibilities here include:
||Typing Tuesdays / Tuesday Newsday: Typing documents using the computer is now a CCSS standard for students in 3rd grade and up! Keyboarding is no longer an optional skill in our society… and touch-type keyboarding can improve the speed and efficiency of working in other topics/tasks! Lots of tools exist for this, but the ones I use are:
Tuesday Newsday: My students also need a lot of reading practice, and we use Newsela.com to have students read leveled/differentiated news article that come with short written response prompts (such as “main idea”) and Common Core comprehension quizzes that focus on vocabulary, finding supporting evidence, summarizing main ideas, etc.
||Writing Wednesdays: Students, at least from what I have seen, can always use more practice with writing! By writing I don’t mean handwriting, but simply mean “creating text compositions for various purposes” (such as informative, narrative, persuasive, and creative.)
Writing can be a cumbersome activity to manage, but some cool online tools I have used this year are:
||Throwback Thursdays: The idea here is to do a “throwback” to last year (you could also move this to Friday and call it “Flashback Fridays”; if you do this, you could switch to Tuesday Newsday and perhaps Typing Thursdays.)
In other words, students will get a reminder of the things they learned (and should have mastered) in the previous grade level, and should still remember! These skills could be math, ELA, or anything really…
Currently, we are using EducationCity.com (subscription fee) site to do this, since the student accounts still exist and it is easy to access skills by grade level… but any site that allows to find standards by grade level (such as IXL.com) would work.
||Film Fridays: Film Fridays arose from two challenges: (a) We want to sometimes show movies or videos related to what we have been learning (social studies units, novels we have read, etc.), but it can be difficult to justify spending the time doing so and finding the time to fit it in; (b) We wanted an end-of-week enjoyable activity that would reward those students who have been working hard all week and completing all of their work. So we have reserved showing movies for Fridays, and students who have been on-task and have all of their work done for the week get together as a whole grade level to watch. Meanwhile, our teaching team takes turns hosting a “Study Hall” in a different classroom, where students who have not completed their work for the week can go to get it done while the others watch the film. Where do we get our movies from?
You can check out my class website for examples of scheduling and activities (writing prompts, weekly math practice lists, etc.)