Woot woot! I am back for another Bright Ideas Link Up to share something that has been working wonders in my classroom.
We have a lot of challenges in our classroom, as every classroom does. I made a big 'ol list of the things that I knew what to do, and another one of things that I needed help with. The first thing on my list for needing a bit of help was with handwriting. It is seriously bad this year. I mean seriously, the worst I have ever seen, and so widespread. Out of twenty students, I would say that 15 of them really need help.
I started asking around, and one of my coworkers suggested having some occupational therapy activities in the classroom. I looked into it a bit, and the idea built steam.
I will start by saying that I didn't buy a thing. I looked around my classroom and went with what I had.
All of the activities involve building fine motor skills, and my students love them. At first we set aside some time for everyone to get a turn, but now students know to grab an activity when they finish up their work.
Now down to the good stuff...
You may have thought I was kidding, but they really are made of things from around the classroom. We started out with four stations. The first station has pony beads and pipe cleaners. Students string the beads onto the pipe cleaners. I ask students to alternate hands to make sure that they are working the muscles in both hands.
The next one is similar, but instead of beads they are stringing cut up pieces of straws onto yarn. Trying to hold one still to thread the yarn through the straw is quite tricky for many students.
Back to the beads! We use tweezers to pick up each beach and place it in a graduated cylinder. Again, I ask students to alternate hands to build up their fine motor skills in both their dominant and nondominant hand.
Our final activity for the first go around was a maze, but students had to complete it with their nondominant hand. I only made one copy and stuck it in an erasable pocket, so it is easy to use repeatedly.
I switch out the activities every couple of weeks, so students are always excited to see what is over there. Other stations I have used are:
-Placing binder clips around a paper plate
-Peeling and sticking stickers in a pattern
-Pushing beads into Play-Doh and then pulling them back out
-Punching as many holes in a piece of paper as possible
-Popping bubble wrap
-Tracing and then cutting out shapes
-Filling up a spray bottle and then squeezing it to spray it all back out
-Fill up a cup of water and then empty it using an eyedropper
This year we have a big focus on math for a few reasons. First reason being that our math data for the last few years has fallen more than a bit short of impressive. Second reason being that here in Texas we have new standards that start this year. With these new standards MANY things have changed completely, but most have become a more complex, deeper version of what they were.
I am trying to be mindful that this is going to be a tough year for everyone, but of course I want my students to experience success. One thing that we are doing is creating short chants that help students to remember the steps to working with different numbers.
One of our most successful chants has been for adding and subtracting decimals. While this chant is perfect for decimal numbers, it works for adding and subtracting ANY number which is a nice bonus.
The chant is quite simple, I use it as a call and response like so...
(Class) Line em up!
(Class) Drop it down!
(Class) Fill 'em in!
(Class) Add or subtract!
I use the above mini poster (which you can click on to get your own copy) as a reminder.
A little explanation:
"Line 'em up!" refers to lining up the place value by the decimal. If you are working with larger numbers you can also use the commas.
"Drop it down!" also refers to the decimal, meaning to move it straight down into the answer area.
"Fill 'em in!" means to use zero as a placeholder in the empty place values.
"Add or subtract!" is exactly that. I like to have my students circle the symbol as a reminder of what they are doing on that particular problem.
Now of course they are going to need some practice! I love to use this Decimals TicTacToe Board for practice because it allows a variety of ways for students to show their knowledge and provides automatic differentiation!