Classroom

Saving Sam – A Great First Day Activity

 School started over a week ago for me! I’m just feeling like I’m back into the swing of things. It always takes a little while to get back into the habit of packing my lunch, organizing my lessons and getting my teacher voice back. Those first few days are hard on the vocal cords!

Because those first days of school require SO many instructions and procedures, it can be hard to really get into learning. However, the learning is what we want for our students! Maybe you all make the rules of how to line up for PE super exciting, and going through the weekly schedule extra suspenseful for your students. I, however, tire of those things quickly. But what can you do to shake things up a little?

My students must Save Sam! Saving Sam is a great first (or second or third) day activity for students from upper elementary through high school. I found this activity online (through Pinterest of course) a few years ago and LOVE using it to break up those “instruction” days.

Saving Sam

I’m not sure where I originally saw this activity, but there are many different places on the web that you can find it now. Here is the adapted version that I use in my classroom:

Materials

  • Gummy worm
  • Clear, plastic cup
  • Gummy LifeSaver
  • 2 Paper clips

Instructions

Student are paired up. Once they receive their materials, they must set up Sam as shown below:

The cup is upside down with the gummy Lifesaver underneath. “Sam” is on top of the cup. The students use the paper clips to help Sam!

 

The goal of this activity is for students to get the “life preserver” out from under the “boat” and onto Sam. Now, when I say onto Sam, I don’t mean just resting on top. Every time I do this, students immediately think they just have to get the lifesaver out from under the cup. Nope. Get it ON the worm. Students might think it isn’t possible, but it is! It just takes a little extra work! Any time someone touches any part with their hands, that group must begin again. If Sam or the life preserver hit the floor or desk, they also must start over.

End Results

Success!

After about 10 minutes, some students are successful, and some are not. Some groups tried the same thing over and over, while others continually changed their approach That’s ok! I actually don’t care if they truly “Save Sam” or not. The point of this activity is to learn to work together in order to solve a problem. In my classroom, I often challenge students to come up with a solution to an activity on their own. Often times, their original idea may not work and they must adapt and try something else. Also, there is no one right way to complete the task! Students can be successful using a variety of methods and learn to think differently about the scenario.

Saving Sam fits perfectly into my mini lesson of how we will be doing science in my classroom for the year! It can be used as a first day (or week) activity in order to bring up those points I mentioned. You can also use it anytime throughout the year to work on problem solving skills in a fun way. 

 

Bulletin Boards – Brilliant or a Bust?

With school just a couple weeks away, I have been focusing on putting my bulletin boards together. The plan for this is usually to make as many pieces as possible at home, so when I do get the chance to get into my classroom, I can grab my stapler and go to town! (That is, if my children that I must take with me are occupied enough. And my stapler actually has staples in it. And I manage to remember to take all the pieces I need.) It’s always a good plan…

I will admit, once the school year starts, I am terrible at changing bulletin boards. I just forget! Summer always brings good intentions and great ideas: big plans to have awesome, interactive bulletin boards for students in my class. But, then I get involved with the activities, lessons and assessments throughout the year and don’t have much extra time and energy for the boards. And so these plans go from being brilliant to being a bust.

 

School Theme

I have one large bulletin board in my classroom that I divide into two or three sections, depending on the year. One of the sections is for our school spiritual theme. I keep this one up year round. This means, I usually put a good amount of effort into it before school starts so it actually looks good! Our spiritual theme this year is Fruit of the Spirit, so here is what I came up with. I enjoyed putting together all the different fruits!

 

Student Work

Another section is used for displaying student work. I put a poster or two up at the start (since I don’t have any student work to display yet!) and then as we do projects, put them up. I do change this throughout the year, but probably still not as much as I should.

All three boards. The posters will soon be replaced with student work!

The Third One…

 

The third section is where I always think “I’ll do better with it this year!” Well, this is my 8th year teaching, and I’m pretty sure I get worse changing those boards. One year I did a “Scientist of the Month” section where students learned facts about a different scientist. That one was pretty successful! It had QR codes students could use and occasionally I would include an extra credit question about that scientist. Two years in a row I thought I would keep up with a “Science in the News” board where I would post articles and news of current science events. Fail. Both years. I think I changed it once. Or maybe there was just nothing happening in science those years!

This year, I am hoping to pilot Chromebooks in my classroom (more on that later). So, because of my lack of board-changing abilities and necessity to emphasize digital citizenship even more, I decided to do a “THINK” board. I had seen this on Pinterest a few times and we even had different mini posters and sheets that had similar ideas on them displayed in several classrooms. I think reminding students the importance of thinking before posting, videoing, tweeting, etc. is necessary more than ever! And the words are not only true with social media, but with the words we speak as well. So I’m hoping that my “brilliant” bulletin board will be a hit. It’s already better on my end because it will be applicable throughout the year!

 

With my classroom boards complete for the school year, I can move on to other things! (Like actually lesson planning…) We do have a few other bulletin boards in the hallway that I will have to create this year. It is the big science fair year at our school = lots more work for me! Also, the teachers will be looking at curriculum more closely to make sure we are aligning to the newest standards. Anyway, I may have to post a few more sciencey bulletin boards as I create them for our hallways throughout the year!