Do you have a great idea for a classroom project or school program but lack the funds to make it happen? Don’t let your ambition fall by the wayside. There are many resources to help teachers put great ideas into action. Consider applying for a grant. Thousands of dollars are available for teachers with projects both large and small. Here are a few resources to get you started:
Kids in Need Teacher Grants are designed to provide K-12 educators with funding to provide innovative learning opportunities to their students. Teacher grants range from $100 to $500 each and are used to finance creative classroom projects. Typically, 300-600 grants are awarded each year.
The National Education Association Foundation provides grants to K-12 teachers, administrators, or groups of teachers. They offer Learning and Leadership grants which provide funding for professional development, and Student Achievement Grants which fund specific classroom projects to engage students in critical thinking and problem solving.
K-12 School Grants lists hundreds of grants according to academic area, locality, grade level, and school role. Find the grant you need to support a classroom project, a school program, or a professional development opportunity.
Grant Wrangler lists grants for teachers, school grants, and money for arts, history, mathematics, science, technology, literacy, and more. They also list grants for education foundations, community foundations, corporate foundations, and other grant-giving organizations.
Letter knowledge and recognition is one of the most important steps in developing literacy skills for young children. It is "the ability to recognize all 26 letters of the alphabet in both uppercase and lowercase forms and to understand that letters are the foundation of words." Do you remember growing up and singing the ABCs over and over again? How about when you mastered the ability to say the ABCs backwards? Or when your children, or the children in your classroom, mastered these skills? They need to learn the alphabet in a flexible and movable way, too, rather than believing that the alphabet is strictly from A to Z, to grasp comprehension of the letters and the sounds they make to form words. Even though a child may be able to sing the alphabet song backwards and forwards, he or she may not understand that you can move the letters around to make words. We've picked an activity for you to do that will help show children how to move letters around!
Shake a Letter
Children will recognize and name letters of the alphabet.
- small letter blocks or tiles (like Bananagrams or Scrabble tiles)
- sheet of construction paper, tray, or carpet square
- small index cards
- small container to shake letter blocks/tiles in
- Print the letters of the alphabet on small index cards. Laminate the cards to make a deck of letter cards. Make two or three sets of cards.
Introducing and Developing the Lesson
- Read the following poem to the children.
Words and Letters by Pam Schiller
Words and letters all around,
They're everywhere I look--
License plates and names on cars
And in my favorite book.
Words and letters all around,
Signs that tell us when to "Stop,"
Letters on my best T-shirt,
and breakfast cereal box.
Letters here and letters there,
I'm learning them one by one.
And when I know them A to Z
I'll have some reading fun.
- Place eight (small) letter blocks in a container. Shake the cup and dump the letters onto a sheet of construction paper, tray, or carpet square.
- Ask for a volunteer to name the letters that land facing up. Ask a second volunteer to turn the other letter cubes up and name the letters on them.
- Play the game several times. Change the letters in the container each time you play.
- Give the children the container and cubes and encourage them to play Shake a Letter with a friend. Have each child keep the letter cubes she is able to name. At the end of the game, the children can count their letter cubes to see just how skilled they are at recognizing letters.
Practicing the Lesson
- Ask the children to select a partner. Give each pair of children a deck of letter cards. Help them shuffle the cards and place the deck face down. Instruct them to take turns drawing a card and identifying the letter. If the child correctly identifies a letter, she keeps the card. If not, she places it in a stack face down beside the deck of playing cards. At the end of the game the children count their cards to see just how skilled they have become at recognizing letters.
Reflecting on the Lesson
Ask the children:
- How many letters did you recognize today? Can you name some of them?
- Where in our classroom do you see letters that make up words?
Special Needs Adaptations
- Visual impairments: if the child has some residual vision, make sure the letter cards are large enough and bold enough for her to see. Remember to place them at an angle because the cards will be easier for her to see.
- Hearing impairments: Encourage the child to face her partner when they are playing the letter card games. Make sure the child can see her partner's mouth when the partner talks.
- Cognitive challenges: Use fewer letter cards and include only one or two that the child does not know. It is important that children with cognitive challenges experience success in a lesson. If the child is shown too many letters, it will be confusing for her.
- Motor delays: If the child can't turn over the letters or place the ones that she knows into a pile, suggest that she ask her partner in the game to help her.
- Speech/language delays: After the child has identified some letters with a partner, look at the stack of cards she kept (the ones that she knew). Ask her to use each one in a word. If she can't think of a word that starts with that letter, ask her to find a friend to help her.
- Emotional/behavior issues: Before beginning any group activity, remind the children of the rules for group play: wait your turn, don't get upset if you don't win, share your materials, and so on. If the child gets upset and asks to quit playing, allow her to do so.
For more activities to build your child's literacy skills, check out Inclusive Literacy Lessons for Early Childhood by Pam Schiller and Clarissa Willis, which is available from Kaplan's website for $24.95 with activities in important literacy topics like letter recognition and knowledge, comprehension, print awareness, oral language development, and more!
The start of school is filled with a range of emotions. From nervous excitement to apprehension and uncertainty, students will arrive at your door with hopeful optimism that your classroom will be safe, fun, and a place where they will want to be. Starting off on the right foot can make all the difference. Here are five simple things you can do to set the stage for a great school year.
Make a good first impression.
The old adage that you never get a second chance to make a first impression is true. Students need to know that you are well organized, that your classroom will be a safe place to learn and grow together, and that you care about them. It is also the first time that they will have to understand your expectations of them. Be clear about roles, rules, and responsibilities in your classroom.
Break the ice.
One simple strategy to break the ice on the first day is with a “Me 2” activity. Ask students to write down two things that describe them. One should be a positive attribute such as “I’m good at math” or “I’m a great soccer player.” The other should be something that they want to improve this year such as “I want to learn all of my multiplication tables” or “I want to be more physically fit.” Students then share what they wrote with other students. Encourage them to find someone who has a similar strength or goal. This enables students to develop empathy and build social capital in their classroom community.
Set a class goal.
Working together toward a goal can build a sense of community and purpose among the students in your class. Your class goal could be a service project such as helping local families in need or sharing time at a nursing home or community center. Or, it could be something as simple as working toward a class trip or a party at the end of the year. Set the goal together and start planning early to build enthusiasm.
Get parents involved.
Think about the ways in which you have engaged parents in the past and what new strategies you might try this year. Maybe you’ll approach parent-teacher conferences differently. Maybe you’ll want to improve your communication strategies with them by setting a goal to contact each parent by phone at least once a semester. Having parents as partners in the educational process is critical to student success.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Remember why you chose this profession and look for the small victories that can often get lost in the mix. Be flexible, be patient, and be sure to keep your sense of humor.
Have a great year!
August 19th--next Monday--is National Aviation Day. First designated in 1939 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Aviation Day is the anniversary of Orville Wright's birthday. An interesting fact about this: Orville Wright was still alive when Roosevelt issued this proclamation--and lived for nine years following! So whether you're a believer of Ohio, North Carolina, OR Connecticut being first in flight, you can celebrate Aviation Day for providing us with a safe way to travel that gives us a completely different view of our world!
Here are five random facts about flying to share with the children to celebrate:
The runways where planes land and take off are usually paved between two and four feet thick to withstand the impact of a jet plane landing, which can be up to 900,000 pounds! The runways where planes taxi during either takeoff or landing are usually between one and two feet thick.
And here's a fun transition activity you can do with children on Monday!
Let's Travel Around the World/Country/Town!
- large shower curtain
- permanent markers
- toy ships, planes, cars, buses, and trains
- play people
- boxes for airport and bus/train stations
What to Do
- Beforehand, draw a map of the world, country, ro town in which the children live on the curtain with permanent markers. Add water areas, islands, and other important details, such as airports, train and bus stations, and hospitals. Note: You can use the whole curtain to make a large map, or use one large and several small ones (curtain cut in halves and quarters) and draw several different maps on them.
- Tape the maps securely in an area where children have plenty of space for their travels.
- During times when children must wait for an activity to start or for others to finish, they can use toy vehicles, play people, and boxes on the maps.
The GIANT Encyclopedia of Transition Activities for Children 3 to 6 is available from Kaplan's website for $34.95 with transition activities in topics like art, social development, dramatic play, music and movement, and more!
Back to School season is quickly approaching! Around here, all of the superstores and office supply stores already have their displays and sections put together to assist shoppers with their back to school needs: pencils, paper, backpacks, rulers, folders, and so on. But while the kids are getting ready to go back to school, what are you, as a teacher, doing to prepare? Are you looking for ways to makeover your classroom, but working with limited funds?
Let us help you!
[If you remember our Pin it to Win It! contest from last year, we will be working with the same book: Real Classroom Makeovers by Rebecca Isbell and Pamela Evanshen (also available as an eBook here).]
Do you have a problem with throwing away items because "you never know when you might need it?" Because of this, you start to collect a lot of things--papers, toys, bulletin board accessories, and so on and so forth. Young children can be very distracted and often overstimulated by a surplus of items in the classroom. But that's okay--we can help you declutter your classroom and make it a better-functioning space for you to work with children.
Try to cut down on how much color is in the classroom. Too much can overstimulate children.
Steps to Decluttering and Reimagining your Space
- Donate it! If you haven't used an item in the past three years, donate it to another program (or toss it).
- Make Small Changes. Don't try to tackle your whole classroom at once; instead, identify your problem areas of your classroom (such as around your desk, the art area, the toy area, and so on) and work on organizing those spaces. Rearrange things to create better visibility and accessibility for the children.
- DIY! Do you have a cabinet that just takes up space? Remove the doors and store toys or cushions in it so the children can see what's behind those doors!
- Rework Your Space. Every teacher needs a space in the classroom that is entirely their own, so they can have a place to store their own items. But do you need a large desk in a corner of the classroom that is covered with books and other knick-knacks? Try to cut down on the space that you take up to make your classroom as open as possible.
- Find Beauty in Everyday Environments. Hang children's artwork on storage containers to create a gallery, or create a collage on a wall to make a focal point of the classroom.
- New Paint Job! Change the color of the walls in your classroom if they're brightly colored; too much color on the walls, combined with toys, can overstimulate children. Paint the walls a neutral color so it brings the attention to the artwork children create,
- Develop a vision. Develop a vision for what you want your classroom spaces to look like once you're done reworking your space. It will help you get there in the long run!
Real Classroom Makeovers by Rebecca Isbell and Pamela Evanshen (Copyright 2012, Gryphon House, ISBN 978-0-87659-378-3, paperback, 160 pages, $26.95) is available from Kaplan Early Learning Company in paperback and eBook format.