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7 Ideas to Start the New Year Right in your Classroom (Virtual too)!

The start of a new year is an exciting time for students, and it's important to kick off the year with some fun and engaging activities. Here are a few ideas for starting the new year off right in the classroom (virtual too!):

  1. Set some New Year's resolutions! Have students brainstorm and share their New Year's resolutions for the upcoming year. Encourage them to think about goals they have for themselves academically, personally, and socially. This New Year's lapbook is a great way to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the New Year! This is a great writing activity too, as there are many writing prompts included throughout the lapbook and it's updated year after year for you to use. You can find the 2023 New Year's Lapbook in my TPT store!

  2. Take a virtual field trip! Take a virtual field trip to a place that aligns with your curriculum. For example, you could visit a local museum or historical site, or take a virtual tour of a foreign country. Nearpod has so many great virtual field trips to try.

  3. Complete a fun art project! Have students create their own New Year's Eve party hats and decorations. They could use construction paper, markers, and other craft materials to create festive items like streamers, noisemakers, and confetti. Virtual teachers can send out supply lists or the files and have a fun class session to complete it together. This is a really cute one from Hanging With Mrs. Hulsey.

  4. Start a book club for the new year! Start a virtual book club where students can read and discuss a book together. This could be a great way to encourage reading and foster a love of literature.

  5. Have a game day! Host a virtual game day where students can play a variety of online games together. This could be a fun way to break up the school day and give students an opportunity to socialize and have some fun. In the classroom, find one of your favorite math games and make it a learning tool too!

  6. Conduct a science experiment! Conduct a science experiment as a class. This could be something simple, like making a volcano using baking soda and vinegar, or more complex, like creating a simple circuit using a battery and light bulb. A fun New Year's STEM activity would be awesome to do to.

  7. Show and tell! Encourage students to bring in an item from home that represents their goals for the new year. They can share their item with the class and explain what it represents to them. You could even modify this one to "show and tell" their one little word for the new year. This is a simple activity to help your students choose one little word to focus on for the new year and do some beginning goal setting.

Starting the new year off in a fun and engaging way can help set the tone for the second half of the school year and get students excited about learning. These activities can be easily adapted for a virtual setting and are sure to get your students off to a great start.

Using One Sentence Summary Frames in Read Alouds

I am excited to share with you more about how I use one sentence summary frames during my chapter book read alouds throughout the year. I use read alouds as a fun way to encourage kids to LOVE reading, so I don't usually do much "work" with during that time.  But, using these summary frames is one thing I like to do to start introducing students to summaries by using them for each chapter of the book.  I usually start by modeling this myself and we work our way up gradually to kids being able to do this completely on their own. This all happens pretty organically at the end of each chapter as we read the whole book.  These are also a great introduction to text structure!

Check out the video below from my Facebook Live I did in my All About 3rd Grade Facebook Group for more info!

Get your copy of the Powerpoint of the sentence summary frames HERE.

8 Teacher Must Haves for Virtual Teaching

I've been a virtual teacher for the last 3 years.  During the school year, I teach 3rd grade for students in a virtual school in my home state of Florida.  On weekends and during the summer, I teach ESL children in China with VIPKID. Virtual teaching definitely has it's perks!  No commute, no "classroom" with ALL the things, some flexibility, to name a few. (Don't get me wrong- my teaching job during the year is just as much work as when I taught in brick and mortar school, just in a very different way.)

Here are 8 essentials I feel you need when teaching virtually in any setting:

1.  Headphones & Microphone
This is essential for virtual teaching!  I use MPOW Headphones that have a built in microphone.  When I teach with VIPKID I always use my headphones because they help cancel out extraneous noise that my happen since my own two kids are home during that time.  During the year, I use these about half the time I'm teaching and my webcam with the built in mic the other half.  I feel when I wear my headphones I am a little more focused on the lesson and teaching.  Plus, I am doing a lot of typing for whatever reason during a lesson, I like that these cancel that typing noise that is definitely there.  When I am typing and just using my webcam mic you can always hear that "click, click, click" which I think is distracting for students.

2.  Webcam
I teach most of the day from 8:30-2:30 with my 3rd graders, so a good webcam is essential!  This is also super important with VIPKID as well. I love this inexpensive Logi webcam because it has a build in microphone that works really well and my laptop does not have a reliable mic.  If I am using my headphones I do usually use my built in webcam in my laptop, but I will have this hooked up as a second camera to show books, model actual writing, etc. during lessons.

3.  Portable Dry Erase Board
I actually have about 2 or 3 handheld dry erase boards that I use every single day!  Sometimes you just need to show something on camera and you want to be able to write it down- and not use a mouse on the computer screen.  I use mine to work out math problems, write important words, draw something we are discussing, display rewards, and the list just goes on.  It's a serious must have!  I have one that is 11x14 and one that a bit smaller and is magnetic.  The magnetic one is more useful for VIPKID to display rewards I use. Here is a similar version to the one I currently own.

4.  Laptop stand
I use this adjustable stand every single day.  There are a few benefits to using a laptop stand that I've figured out this year.  First, it keeps your laptop able to ventilate and stay cool when you use it all day. Second, it props up your camera to keep it at a more flattering angle when you are on camera.  Lastly, it makes typing so much better since your hands are more ergonomically correct. This stand I use is sturdy and doesn't wobble at all.  It's also super easy to move if you feel like teaching in a different place, plus it's completely assembled when you get it!

5.  Good Lighting
It goes without saying that if you are going to be on camera, you need some good lighting!  I don't use anything professional.  I actually use a desk lamp that I got from Costco that has a fan built in it too.  What I like about this lamp is that it allows you to choose the kind of light you want (warm, bright, natural), so you can pick what is best for you and the time of day.  Just make sure you put the lamp IN FRONT of your face, so that the light shines on your face.  A lamp next to you or behind you on the desk isn't going to help for video.  Some people also get small selfie lights that they can hook to their computers. Also, lipstick goes a looonnnggg way in making you look alive on video!  I don't worry so much about make-up with my everyday classes.  But, when teaching my VIPKID classes I always put on a bright pink lipstick that I would NEVER wear in real life.  But, on camera, it looks fantastic!

6.  Fun student rewards
In my 3rd grade class, I use digital rewards as well as rewards that I mail my students.  I regularly use Class Dojo to reward my students for participation and hard work.  I also find small things that I can send in the mail like stickers, erasers, sticky hands, slime, etc.  I get some of these things from Oriental Trading.  I love the sticker scenes especially, like in the photo below.  Other stuff I find in Target dollar spot and random places.  I also make simple reward cards using my Bitmoji to send along with the little treat.  My students love getting these in the mail!

7.  Mouse Pad with wrist support (plus a wireless mouse)
So, when I first started virtual teaching all day, I actually started getting pain in arm from using the mouse so much.  After googling my symptoms I diagnosed myself with "mouse elbow".  (Google it- it's real!)  I realized I needed some more wrist support with a mouse pad that had that gel wrist support pad attached and the laptop stand for my keyboard.  Made a huge difference and now I am pain free!

8.  A 2nd computer monitor
Last, but not least, if you can swing it, a second monitor is a huge help in virtual teaching!  It allows you to easily multitask while teaching.  So, you can have the virtual classroom/camera on one computer and use the other monitor to pull up videos, websites, etc. that you need during class.  I have an Acer monitor that is great.  Check out my "classroom" set up from my first home office below!

*All product links are Amazon affiliate links and I may earn a small commission if you use my link when purchasing products.

Halloween Brain Breaks- TIme for Some Fun!

It's that time of year! I use so many celebrations and brain breaks in my virtual classroom and the kids love them. I teach several whole group and small group classes online everyday, and even though my students are at home, they need a break and like to have fun too! Many days they have 3 or 4 classes back to back and everyone needs to have a little bit of fun.  I like to use songs and dances as celebrations at the end of our class time too.  During seasonal holidays, it's just one way to bring in the holidays in our virtual world. Without further adieu, here are 10 Halloween themed brain breaks you can use in your classroom- virtual or "regular"!  Grab a free Google Slides version to use below!

1. Just Dance- This is Halloween
2. Halloween Freeze Dance
3. Monster Mash by Kids Music Shop
4. Monster Moves by Koo Koo Kanga Roo
5. If You're A Kid Halloween Remix
6. Bones! Bones! Bones! by Go Noodle
7. Gummibar Monster Mash
8. Skeleton Dance
9.  Just Dance- Ghostbusters
10. Monster Shuffle by The Learning Station

If you're looking for more Halloween themed resources check out some of mine in my TpT store.

Read my other Halloween & Day of the Dead blog posts for more fun ideas for your class!

Grab the FREE Google Slides Halloween Brain Breaks from me HERE.

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