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Repurposing Paper

…From Holiday Sales
Catherine Bergman, English teacher, Oskaloosa High School, Oskaloosa, Kansas.
I find a lot of use for items I buy during after-holiday sales. I use Christmas bows to divide students into teams or cooperative learning groups. For class celebrations, I use silly prizes like paper horns, bubbles, or confetti from New Year’s Eve party favors. And in late winter, I buy discounted calendars. I look for book-themed calendars my students will enjoy (Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket) and at the end of the year, I cut apart the months, laminate them and use them for displays in years to come. In March, a recycled Dr. Seuss calendar made a great “name that book” display and contest for Read Across America.


Building Math Skills
Karen Isola Green, sixth-grade teacher, Spring Creek Middle School, Spring Creek, Nev.
While studying geometry, my kids create a city on four tables at the rear of my classroom. Some students are responsible for creating natural features such as lakes, hills, and rivers. Others design roads and bridges and consider the use of other modes of transportation. Some work on the development of the business areas. Other students design municipal services, recreational areas, and housing. At home, the students create a 3-D building to place in the town.
After the city has been created, I ask students to provide a written mathematical description of the building they designed. They’re expected to use geometric descriptions using area, perimeter, volume, angles, etc. The kids have very interesting discussions about the placement of buildings, modes of transportation and how they impact development, and other issues cities experience. My students voted this their favorite activity of the year.

Make it Mnemonic
Kathleen Stables, high school math teacher, Greenville, S.C.
Are your students having trouble remembering math? Here are some fun mnemonics to use in your classroom.
Greater than or less than? How can you tell?
“The alligator has to open its mouth wider for the larger number.”
Metric units of measure in order? (kilometer, hectometer, decameter, units, decimeter, centimeter, millimeter) Try “King Hector doesn’t usually drink cold milk.”
And for the division algorithms divide, multiply, subtract, compare, and bring down? Try asking “Does my sister cook bananas?”

Amy, a Works4Me reader
When I begin my unit on the metric system, I draw seven stair steps, and teach the phrase “Kangaroos Hopping Down Mountains Drinking Chocolate Milk,” placing a word on each step.

Jenny Litz, high school biology teacher, Washington
I learned metrics this way:
“Kids Have Dreams But Dreams Cost Money.” (The B stands for basic unit)

Advertise the Elements
Elena Maldonado-Vargas, chemistry teacher, University of Puerto Rico High School, San Juan, Puerto Rico
When studying the periodic table, my students make a newspaper or television advertisement for an element. Each group must show how the properties of the elements are useful to human beings. They can sell their product using comedy, drama, rap, or poetry.

Books in the Spotlight

The best way to turn students on to reading? Showcase books in creative and engaging ways. Here are some of our favorite tips.

Advertise with Posters
Sandi Flowers, eighth-grade reading teacher, Springdale High School, Springdale, Pa.
My students design posters “advertising” their favorite books, and why others should read them. Then we post them in our hall. I also poll our faculty and post a list of everyone’s comments about reading and the names of books that have changed their lives. We also post celebrity book lists. I want to send my students the message that successful people are readers.

Create a book trailer
Michelle Harclerode, teacher librarian, Diplomat Elementary School, Cape Coral, Fla.
I love having my students create trailers promoting their favorite books. They create videos much like the movie trailers you see in the theater. It’s a fun way to tap into their creativity and share their love of a good book. I love doing them too! You can see ours by clicking here.

Hold a ‘Book Ball’
William Strader, early childhood education professor, Johnson and Wales University, Charlotte, N.C.
We have our students join local leaders and local schools and hold a book ball for the classrooms and community. People dress up as their favorite characters and create fun, interactive displays about their favorite books.

Pin it on Pinterest
Michelle Ayala, elementary school teacher, Rodriguez Elementary School, Harlingen, Texas
My favorite promotional tool? Pinterest, of course! I love creating pins to my favorite books, pinning a classroom read-aloud, you name it.

Do it with Drama
Carol Mathews, drama teacher, Mira Costa High School, Hermosa Beach, Calif.
High school students love to read and act out great books, even picture books. We’re big fans of Dr. Seuss and have performed his books for years, especially books like The Sneetches, or The Butter Battle—books that have a meaningful message.

Library Bucks for Library Books
Rosann Fox, library media specialist at Centennial Junior High School, Casper, Wyo.
I have a surefire way to circulate books. Our library media center purchases students’ used paperbacks for the cover price with fake funny money. After a week of buying, the books are organized by genre and displayed for sale to those who possess the fake funny money. Hint: when advertising this event, make sure that you state you will “buy” age-appropriate books only, or you will get little brothers’ or sisters’ discards. The kids love it, moms love the cleaner room, and kids get new books to read.

Coming Together over Comics
Aimee McCracken, third-grade teacher at Perry Elementary School, Perry, Ohio
I cut apart comic strips and pass them out to my students. They must walk around the classroom to find the rest of the comic strip and when they do, they have created a new classroom team. This is an easy way to create groups. The kids think it’s fun and there are no complaints.

Hold a Characters’ Parade
Connie Boylan, library media specialist, Lansing, Mich.
Having students dress up as their favorite children’s book characters is a great way to promote reading.
Students, teachers, even parents can get into the act, creating costumes, lining hallways, and decorating posters and bulletin boards.

Read with a Hero
Margaret Stamm, reading specialist, Mt. Rainer Elementary School, Prince George’s County, Md.
Our favorite reading activity is to invite guest readers to read to each class. They don’t have to be a big celebrity. We invite local politicians, the fire chief, police chief, local merchants, anyone I can think of. Each class has one special reader who often brings their favorite book. We had a parent as a guest reader and she brought a bag with books she is reading (all at the same time). What a wonderful example for the children. She brought a cookbook, her schoolbook from her current course, the newspaper funnies, her bedside novel, and a magazine.

Stage a Reading Festival
Lois Hale, retired elementary teacher, Compton, Calif.
One of our favorite activities has always been the reading festival. We create an elaborate set-up in the school gym using balloon walls and murals dedicated to different authors and children’s books. Our children arrive at the school, greeted by the Cat in the Hat and the high school marching band, and move from station to station, listening to their favorite celebrities and authors.

Ask Kate

Command Attention from the Beginning

I teach seventh-grade math and it’s very hard to get my classes focused at the beginning of class. They often get loud and off task throughout the 90-minute class period. I’m quiet, reserved, and non-confrontational.

Kate Ortiz: Do your seventh graders see this as lack of confidence and/or authority? They should know what the behavior boundaries are and that you will enforce them. Do you have a set of clearly defined and posted rules? (No more than five items.) Do students know exactly what they are to do when they enter your room? Do they know how to gain your attention appropriately?
It’s more productive to reinforce acceptable behavior than to point out unacceptable behavior, but sometimes the latter becomes necessary. Once rules are posted, it’s easy to approach a student and say, “Samuel, please look at rule Number 2.” If Samuel continues to misbehave, then further intervention is necessary. I have had success with a laminated note that says, “Please return this note to me after class.”
I have also used notes with “You have earned a detention. Please see me after class with this note to discuss when your detention will be served.” Students knew in advance what behaviors would earn them a detention and that detentions had to be served within three days or they would be referred to the principal. During the detention, students were required to process the behavior and make a plan for avoiding it in the future.
A key in classroom management is planning lessons well so that all of the period is used for learning. Routines for beginning and ending class, and getting out and putting away materials are important.

Jane: Having an exercise they pick up as they enter the room helps. Especially when rewarded with tickets or passes for no homework and free time. Students pick up paper, sit down, and get to work while roll is taken.

Geraldine: Here’s what worked for me: From the first moment they came in I had the seats numbered and they sat in ABC order right away. I had an assignment on their desk, a math puzzle usually. I use an I LOVE MATH stamp at the end of the period for cooperative, on-task work/behavior. The work is put in a two-week packet, which is graded according to the number of stamps.

Sandra: I teach sixth- and seventh-grade science, history, sometimes math, and start with five minutes of sustained silent reading. After reading, the students were calmer when we transitioned to the subject at hand.
Also, my school counts being in the room as being on time. I expect the students to be in their seats working. If their desk is clear I call it classroom tardy, and it affects their citizenship grade.

Gina: I am a 20th-year special educator. Get a system. List class rules (stick to five or six). For example: SPORT (S-speak appropriately, P-prepared and ready to learn, O-on task, R-remain in area, T-treat self and others with respect). Teach these to the students. Send a note home telling parents about the system, points, and the positive impact on grades.

Need help with a classroom management challenge?
Kate Ortiz, a teacher and classroom management expert, will respond within 24 hours to your question posted online.

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