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October is Principal Appreciation Month. We'll Help You Celebrate

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Oct 21, 2013 2:52:00 PM

Most of us would agree that we are indebted to some of the most overworked and underappreciated people on the planet: our teachers. Less often, though, do we consider how overworked and underappreciated our principals are.

In case it slipped your mind, October is National Principals Month and we want to help you celebrate it!

Our newest download will help you create a thank-you book for your principal. All you need to do is print out the pages and have your students fill out the two writing prompts. Once they finish, combine the class pages into a booklet, attach the cover sheet and present to your favorite underappreciated principal!

Click here or on the icon below to download our free Principal Appreciation Project.

Principal Appreciation

Tags: principal appreciation, download, Classroom Community, downloads, community

Teaching Social Change: 5 Student Service-Learning Activities

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 17, 2013 9:24:00 AM

service learning activitiesService-learning activities are an excellent way to take our students’ passion and energy—and we all know that they have an abundance of both—beyond the classroom and into the community. Service-learning activities are hands on; they’re also a great way to encourage critical thinking, collaboration, empathy and civic responsibility. But where do you start? Fear not, we’ve got five service-learning activities to get you started. 

Teaching Social Change: 5 Student Service-Learning Activities

Adopt a soldier
Regardless of how you and your students feel about our troops’ mission, they still need our love and support. One way to do this is by adopting a soldier through websites like Adopt a US Soldier or Soldier’s Angels. Many of our soldiers are far away from home and often lack the familial support that we take for granted—and that’s where you and your kiddos come in.

Just remember that when you sign up, you’re making a commitment to regularly send cards and care packages. If you’re unsure what your class should say, check out these sample letters for ideas. Keep in mind that packages don’t have to be expensive and if you’re stumped on what to get for your adopted hero, just ask; you can also refer to the website for a list of the most-requested items. The length of adoption depends on several factors, but generally it lasts six to twelve months.

Sponsor an animal
Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” We think there is a lot of truth to this statement, so we’re referring you to SASHA Farm, an animal sanctuary in Manchester, Michigan. Many of the animals who reside there have experienced the cruelty of modern factory farming, abandonment or mistreatment.  Luckily, over 250 animals now enjoy the sun, space and fresh air of their 65-acre home. As you can imagine, caring for so many animals is a costly venture and even small donations go a long way.

Animal sponsorships start at $30 and payments can be made online or via snail mail. SASHA allows you to choose the cow, horse, goat, sheep, pig or turkey you want to adopt; in return they’ll send you a sponsor package that includes a certificate, letter, and photo of your new friend.

Volunteer at a soup kitchen
Although we lack conclusive data on rates of homelessness in the United States, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty suggests that approximately 3.5 million people, 1.35 million of them children, are likely to experience homelessness in a given year.

Many of us volunteer at soup kitchens during the holidays, but remember, homelessness doesn’t end just because it’s a New Year. So hit Google and find your local shelter or soup kitchen; chances are that they’d be glad to have you and your students cook and serve a hot meal. If they don’t need help serving, ask them if you can help pick up and deliver donations, take food inventory or clean up. Keep in mind that soup kitchens need to keep their pantry stocked just like you do, so if they don’t need you in person, try organizing a pantry prep or food drive for them!

Waste not, want not
If you were driving through Bozeman, a small town in Montana, you just might see students biking the streets in search of coffee grounds. Yes, coffee grounds. Why though? Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen and provide bacteria necessary to turn organic waste into compost. That’s interesting, but what’s the point? Bozeman’s Coffee 2 Compost program estimates that they have not only created partnerships with their community coffee houses and saved them the effort of disposing of the grounds, but they have also helped to divert 5,000 pounds of coffee waste from the landfill every year!

This particular service-learning project may not be your cup of…ahem, coffee, but it just goes to show you how far a little incentive and creativity can really go. 

Plant a community garden
If you decide to start a coffee-to-compost program, you’re probably wondering where in the world you’re going to compost the grounds. Why not take them back to the community garden you and your students planted right on campus?

Planting a garden is a fine way to interact with the local community, sure. But it’s also rife with pedagogical opportunities: The soil, seeds and plants your students grow will give students physical contact with nature, an experience that makes theoretical principles and biological processes they read about in textbooks come to life.

And once your garden is flourishing, why not use the fruits of your labor in the school cafeteria?

There’s no shortage of service learning activities out there. All you need is a little creativity and a classroom full of passionate philanthropists!


Martin Luther King Jr Lesson Plans

Tags: Collaboration, community, service learning activities

A Classroom Management System that Grows with Your Students

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 3, 2012 6:00:00 AM

Students know how to keepClassroom Management us on our toes, don’t they? Sure, your new (insert brilliant idea here) may have brought a glimmer to their eyes on October 31st, but it’s November now and you’ve already had to start trimming the mold off the edges of it. To help you keep up with your students, we’d like to share a classroom management system that grows with them, sort of like a video game: When students “beat” level one, they advance to level two and so on. The trick is to capitalize on their curiosity by building suspense.

Most of these ideas come courtesy of Whole Brain Teaching; we highly recommend you check out their website.  

A Classroom Management System that Grows with Your Students

Create a scoreboard
Before you implement the classroom management system, you’ll want to create a simple scoreboard: In one corner of the board draw two faces—one smiley, the other a frown—and then draw a long line between each to create two columns. There’s nothing special about the scoreboard in itself; it’s how you use it that counts. So when students perform well, you’ll of course draw a smiley face. But to make it fun, get them involved:

Walk up to the board, raise your arm up in the air and say enthusiastically, “My hand has an itch that can only be scratched by drawing a smiley face. Should I do it?” Allow your students to yell back, “Oh, yeah!” When students don’t perform so well, do the same thing. This time, however, you’ll say, “I feel a mighty groan coming on!” Then allow your students to dramatically hang their hands or put their head down on the desk and groan loudly. The key to maintaining their enthusiasm is never to let the difference between smiles and frowns exceed 3.

You’ve got your scoreboard, now you need some classroom management strategies to help you tally up those smiley faces.

Level #1: The Marker Mover
The only thing you need for this one is a dry-erase marker and a white board tray. Set your marker in the middle of the tray. When students perform well, say something like, “You’re doing great, which makes this marker want to move…” and have your students yell, “…to the left!” Then dramatically inch it over to the left (the good side). When students perform poorly, do the opposite.

Always make sure that you have a different call and response for each strategy so that your students’ enthusiasm for shouting out responses doesn’t wane. Once the marker makes it to the end of one side of the board, draw the appropriate face on the scoreboard. When your students master an activity or behavior, move them to “level two.”

Level #2: The Boom box
Bring in a portable boom box and set it up away from a power outlet. When students perform well, shout, “Do I hear music?” Have them shout, “Oh, yeah!” and then move the boom box towards the power outlet. When they don’t do so well, say, “I feel a mighty groan coming on!” and move the boom box back a few inches.

Level #3: The Fakeout
 To keep your classroom management strategy suspenseful, try the fakeout: Walk up to the boom box and say, “You kids are doing pretty well. Do I hear music?” When they respond (“Oh, yeah!”) surprise them by saying, “I thought so…for a second…but it was just a passing car!” After they make their mighty groan, remind them of the behavior they should be working on if they want the boom box to keep inching its way towards that outlet.

Level #4: Higher or Lower
Once your students are familiar with these systems, introduce them to “higher or lower.” They’ll go crazy over this one. All you need is a deck of cards and the white/black board tray. When students perform well, put a smiley face on the board; then pull out your deck of cards and hold it up in the air.

Next, draw the top card and prop it up on the tray so that everyone can see it clearly—let’s say that the card you pulled was a Jack. Now students have to guess whether or not the next card will be higher or lower in value than the Jack. Let’s say your students guess that the next card will be higher in value. They were right, you drew an Ace. Go ahead and add a smiley face to the scoreboard.

Now give them a choice: they can stop and keep their extra smiley face or choose to keep going and risk losing them if they guess incorrectly. Most of them will want to keep going. If they continue to choose correctly, keep adding smiley faces. The caveat, though, is that if they choose to keep going and guess wrong, they’ll lose all of the smiley faces they earned during the game.

If you found this classroom management strategy useful, you might also be interested in our FREE downloadable guide, Classroom Management Tips for Elementary Teachers. In it you’ll find 25 ways to keep your attitude fresh and your students engaged!

Download our Free Classroom Management G

Tags: classroom management, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Collaboration, Classroom Strategies, classroom rules, community

The Split Class has its Rewards for Both Teachers and Students.

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Oct 4, 2011 11:13:00 AM

split classroom management 150x225When I was offered the opportunity in the fall of 2010 to teach a first/second grade split class, I was so excited and ready for the challenge. After five years as a second grade teacher, something just a little new and different was exactly what I needed! I knew that my classroom management skills would be tested.

Teaching two grade levels certainly is challenging, but it is also so exciting and rewarding. One of the things I love the most is seeing friendships develop between children who would otherwise not have been together. It is also exciting to be able to really and truly differentiate for all students across such a wide range of levels. This is my second year with a split class and I am still loving it! I am often asked by other teachers who are facing a similar class assignment what tips or advice I may have for them.

Some definite DOs are:

  • DO teach at high levels for all students. It is really exciting for me to see the things my first graders can do because they observe the work my second graders are engaged in.
  • DO spend lots of time together as a whole class. It is really important that my students see our classroom as a unit, not as two groups of children who operate separately. Daily Five and CAFÉ are ideal for teaching reading in a multi-grade class!
  • DO spend lots of time on community building at the beginning of the year. Chances are your students in each grade level know each other, but not those in the other grade.
  • DO network and connect with the teachers of both grade levels. It is easy to feel detached from one grade level (or both at times!), but remember to network with your colleagues and allow your classes to spend time together, too, so one grade level doesn’t feel disconnected from their other grade level peers.
  • DO take time for YOU! Figuring out how to “mesh” to two different curricula is tough but totally “do-able.” It is easy to get overwhelmed and caught up in making sure you are covering all things for both grade levels. Remember to breathe and take care of you, too!
  • DO keep samples of work from your lower grade level if you will be looping (placing the same group of students with one teacher for more than one year) with those children the following year. I kept writing samples from my first graders last year that we did the first day of school. This year we did the same assignment and I gave them back their papers from last year… they were so tickled and so was I!

    Teaching a split class isn’t always ideal, but with more and more schools moving to that model as a way to save resources, you can create YOUR ideal environment for you and your students!


Marygrove MAT Master Teacher Christina Bainbridge describes classroom management tips for the split classChristina Bainbridge is a seven-year teacher who currently teaches a first and second grade split class at Central Elementary in White Pigeon, Michigan. She earned her Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) from Marygrove College in 2009 and has incorporated her master-level teaching practices into an award-winning website: Mrs. Bainbridge’s Class. Her site is a treasure-trove of tips and advice for educators and parents alike. Also check out Bainbridge’s blog at

For more classroom management tips that work for any classroom model, download this free guide today!

Download our Free Classroom Management G

Tags: second grade, split class, differentiate, Daily Five and CAFE, classroom management, Marygrove MAT, Christina Bainbridge, community

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