Many teachers have a D.E.A.R. Day on occasion. Drop Everything And Read. Here are 11 keys to D.E.A.R. Day success in the elementary school classroom.
Schedule the day. Break the day up into 15-20 minute segments. Doing what? Read on.
Rotate types of activities. Yes, it’s an ALL reading day, but that doesn’t mean you want little kids trying to read by themselves all day long. That is a recipe for disaster. Four possible activities include reading to self (silent reading), teacher read aloud, book talks, and read with a friend.
Discipline using an on/off switch. Are the kids allowed to talk or not? Make that perfectly clear and enforce it to a T! If voices are off, not a single student is allowed to say one single word. If it’s time to share, let ’em loose. Don’t tolerate a middle ground, occasional chatting when it’s supposed to be silent.
Maintain your classroom rules. The atmosphere should be relaxed but don’t throw your standards out the window.
Allow soft stuff. Encourage your students to wear their jammies, bring their giant pillows, and cuddle with their favorite stuffed animals. It’s a special day!
Move the furniture. Open up the room so the kids can lounge around on the floor. Join them on the floor (with professional discretion.)
Don’t allow movement. When it’s time to read silently, find a place and stay there until the timer goes off.
Read with the kids. Pull out your favorite book and read it while the kids read silently.
Get the kids talking about their reading. At the end of each silent reading block, ask the students to turn and talk about what they just read. Listen into their conversations.
Take pictures. Pictures send this message to your kids: What you are doing is newsworthy. Reading is a big deal.
Don’t ruin the fun. Stay away from quizzing the kids or giving them “assignments.” Make the day all about the love of reading.
I have been assigning slide presentations to my elementary students for many years. I found myself repeating the same critiques to group after group. Now, I don’t leave “PowerPoint” style to chance. Here are a few of the tips I give my students.
Use VERY small amount of text. A few words that give the main idea for each slide is good. The big NO-NO: Reading your slides to your audience.
Choose one font style for the main points and one for the sub-points. Use these styles throughout your entire presentation. This includes font name, color, and size.
Be careful with overlap. Text that is barely touching a photo is awkward. Text that sits right next to the edge of the slide is awkward.
Dark text on light background or light text on dark background. Contrast! Make it POP!
No bullet points. Duplicate your slides and put your sub-points on separate slides.
Try to fill your slide with one large image.
Faces are better. We all like to see closeups of the human face.
Be careful not to distort your pictures. Grab the photo in the corner, not the edge, to change the size.
Be careful with image size. If you use a small image and resize it to make it large, the image gets very blurry.
Photos are better than clipart. Better yet, make your own pictures by taking photos or drawing pictures.
Cite your source. Always give credit for the images you use.
Overall Design Tips
Avoid using templates. They are cheesy and show little creativity.
Avoid slide transitions. You want your audience focused on the slides, not the switching between slides. NO transition is wonderful!
Simple! Keep your slides clutter free. A nice big clear picture with 3 words to focus the audience is great!
Avoid creating a “The End” slide. If you have a conclusion, great. Otherwise, just make a main topic slide as your last slide. Don’t make a slide that says, “Thanks for watching,” or something similar.
Advanced Tip: Use the rule of thirds. Draw a tic-tac-toe board on your slide. Place items where the lines cross. It’s a bit more complicated than this, but the main thing: try to avoid centering things on the slide.
Note: These tips definitely limit creativity, but my purpose is to teach my students to first create a good clean slide show. Once that is accomplished, then I encourage the students to break the rules…with purpose. It’s similar to learning a new instrument. We first need to learn our scales and copy the masters. Later, we develop our own style and can artfully break the rules.
Screencast Instructional Video: 12 PowerPoint Tips for Kids
If you’re like me, you love creating QR codes but find it very frustrating to keep track of them because all your QR codes look basically the same. One solution is to use the iPad app PhotoString. The app is designed for making photo montages with text, but I’m using it to label my QR codes. Of course, sometimes you want your QR codes to remain a mystery before they are scanned, but when you don’t, here’s how to label them.
A paradigm shift needs to occur in our classrooms to get the students thinking critically. Teachers must reduce the amount of feedback they give and ask the students to critique each other’s answers. This sounds simple, but it’s not. I’ve spent considerable time watching others teach, and without exception, every teacher immediately responds to students during discussions with judgments of all student answers. When teachers are the first to give feedback, the students grow lax and learn that their opinions don’t really matter. I taught for 17 years before I figured this out. My classroom was revolutionized after making the shift. Students began sharing more, they had greater boldness and confidence, and they developed deeper thoughts which they were able to express with more clarity.
Teacher: What do you think is wrong with this sentence? (Calls on a raised hand.)
Student: It’s too long. It’s a run-on.
T: That’s almost it. Try again.
S: Oh, yeah. It’s a fragment. It’s not a whole sentence.
T: Yes! There you go. Good job.
Critical Thinking Classroom
T: What do you think is wrong with this sentence?
S: It’s too long. It’s a run-on.
T: Thanks Sarah. Who else has a thought?
S: I don’t think it’s a run-on. It just doesn’t really sound like a run-on.
T: Who else?
S: It seems to be missing something more than being a run-on.
T: Raise your hand if you think this sentence is a run-on. (Looks) Raise your hand if you do NOT think it’s a run-on.
The discussion would progress like this. Some teachers are not willing to spend the time to develop this sort of class discussion. It’s laborious for sure and takes a great deal of teacher self-control. But the kids will enjoy taking the driver’s seat, they will develop deeper critical thinking skills, and you will know more about the way your students think. Try it. You’ll like it.
Many of today’s students lack the life experience to truly comprehend what they read. Schema is the background knowledge a reader applies to understanding literature. In order to build schema, teachers and parents may want to use videos as the next-best-thing to a real-life experience.
I have organized a list of schema-building videos on my class website to accompany most of the stories from our basal reading book. With so much available on YouTube, a quick search can normally result in a plethora of options to help children build schema.
Have you been around teachers who constantly yack at their students? Give them command after command after command? Have you noticed students in these classes tend to misbehave more?
Teachers with effective classroom discipline choose their words carefully and use as few of them as possible. Commands are brief and used only when essential.
Of course, classroom discipline is extremely complex and cannot be narrowed down to one factor, but a teacher who understands this concept will increase her effectiveness.
Train your students in classroom procedures instead of relying on spur-of-the-moment teacher directives. Use gestures to signal your kids. Be careful, or you will become the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher and your students will tune you out.
Why do you shake with respect when a police officer walks up to your window? “Do you know why I pulled you over? License and registration.” Imagine a police officer standing on the corner incessantly lecturing everyone that went by. The effect would be greatly diminished.
The teacher wants a student from across the room to close the door. She looks at the student and makes a swinging door motion with her hand and then points to the door.
The students come in the room loudly after lunch. Instead of giving the kids a big lecture about how many times they’ve been told, the teacher says, “Our class comes into buildings silently. Go outside and do it correctly.”
Several students turned in math papers without names. Instead of berating the class for their laziness, the teacher says, “Please stand if I say your name.” After reading all the names from the math papers, the teacher says, “These students followed directions by putting their names on their math papers. Go take a ticket.” Then the teacher lays the remaning papers on the floor and points to them while looking at the class.
A student is talking instead of working independently. The teacher calls the student’s name, beckons the student, and then says, “Sit up here and do your work.”