Saturday, July 08, 2017

My {Essential} Four & How I Use Them

When it comes to planning in my classroom I love to use themes to guide myself. Just to give me an idea of what to plan around. I also have specific items that have become a crucial part of my planning that I try to have for each of my themes. I call them my "essential four".


The "essential four" include 4 items that I continuously use in my classroom as they provide consistency for the students and the opportunity to maintain skills already mastered. So what does the "essential four" include?


One of my summer projects for myself is to work on adding/creating items from the "essential four" that might be missing for a theme. For example, I just recently added Dinosaur Shape Sorting Cards and both counting books to go along with my already existing Dinosaur Cookie Tray Activities. Now I have all 4 items for that theme.

Currently I have all 4 items available in the following:

- Unicorns

- Camping

- Dinosaurs


- Pirates  


I'm sure you're probably asking, okay, how and WHEN do you use these items in your classroom. I personally have used these with students ranging from Pre-School through First Grade in a special needs classroom. 

Cookie Trays: I have used these 3 different ways in my classroom over the years. --Yes, they are really that versatile! When I first started using them they were part of our routine after recess. I had 3 students in my room during that time (full day program for some students, half day program for others). I would put 4 activities out on a table and the students rotated around the table until they completed all 4. Since the students all worked at different paces I had more activities than students to avoid anyone having to wait.


Next, I've used cookie tray activities as part of their morning arrival routine and each student was assigned 1 task/tray to do. The tray was located at their seat at the table. After hanging up their back pack they would sign-in, complete their tray, then use the bathroom. Again this worked well because students work at different paces. Not too frequently was anyone ever waiting to use the bathroom, etc.


Lastly, I used cookie trays as an optional task during our arrival time. I would set up 4-5 trays at a table with various activities in the morning. Our arrival time routine lasted about 45 minutes between students coming in, unpacking, going to breakfast, using the bathroom, taking attendance, etc. I did not have enough adult support to facilitate the cookie trays being a required task, so they were optional-- and students would complete them! Magnets are fun :) 

Shape Sorting Cards: I've used these 2 different ways in my classroom. First, inside of task boxes. I would place 2-3 cards in a box, and students would sort out the shape cards onto the correct board. This is great for students who have mastered shape identification, but can still benefit from independent practice.


Second, I've used them just as an assigned work with teacher task. This is a great option for students who are still learning their shapes and need adult support. Again, we only work 2-3, maybe 4 cards at a time which allows this activity to be stretched over a few days.

It's also really easy to differentiate the level of difficulty with shape sorting cards. For your early learners you can work with 2 different cards and 2 vastly different looking shapes. To make the task more difficult you can increase the amount of sorting cards AND pick shapes that closely resemble each other, i.e. hexagon vs octagon, or hexagon, octagon, and pentagon. 

Counting Book 1-10: I just started using these with great consistency this school year as I had a few students REALLY struggling with the concept of one to one correspondence. This was something they needed continual practice with to master that skill, and then once mastered, they needed independent practice to maintain the skill. 

I used these as assigned work with teacher tasks, but they could easily be added to work boxes for students needing independent practice because they have a clear start and stop point. 

Counting Book 11-20: This I used the same exact way as book 1-10, but it allowed me to differentiate and assign to students who had mastered one to one correspondence for numbers 1-10. I used this mostly with my kindergarten and first grade student last year, but did have one pre-school student who really excelled in academics and would complete the higher level math activities.


Having these resources at my finger tips really assists in my planning and preparation. It is time consuming initially to prepare these items, but once you have them, you have them! I'm looking forward to getting more resources added to my TpT store to align with the "essential four"! 
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1 comment

RTotty said...

Is there a specific type of magnet you use for the cookie trays?

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