Category Archives: Team Work

Native American Resources and Regions Maps


This past week we learned about the four main American Indian Cultural groupings: the Pacific Northwest region, Southwest Desert region, the Prairie region, and the Eastern Woodland region. My class sits in groups of four so this ended up being an easy jigsaw activity. One person from each group was assigned a region to research. Information focused on climate and resources. Students reported out their findings to the whole class, so we could make sure that everyone’s information was accurate.

Once we had our notes on climates and resources, students were given a blank map to transfer the data to. The requirements: a map title, a completed map key that matched the information on the map itself, and each region had to have three pictures or symbols representing resources. They ended up beautiful!


We have also been analyzing the structure of a five paragraph essay. Next week we will be using our Native American region and resources notes to write a five paragraph essay. I am looking forward to reading their essays.


The Homework Dilemma


H-O-M-E-W-O-R-K.  Tired or assigning, collecting, and correcting the standard workbook sheets? It works fine for the students that put effort into it and/or have the family support to go over it. However, I was noticing an increasing trend of just quickly scribbled answers in order to avoid recess detention. I decided that I needed to make a change.

So, this summer I took a closer look at how I have always assigned homework and revamped it. My objective for assigning homework is for my students to apply what we learned at school that day. I also want them to use their reading, thinking, and writing skills. So this year I am using a homework notebook instead of worksheets.

Once a week I sit down to lesson plan, and I write reflective  homework questions as I write my lesson objectives. Then I print a daily sheet of questions per team.  Every day my students cut and paste their homework questions into their spiral bound notebook. At home they have to read the questions, solve the problems, and explain their thinking. The next morning they discuss their answers with their teammates while I check that their homework was completed. Then we go over the answers whole class and they correct their work if needed. It has been a learning curve for all of us. However, the payoff makes it worth it.

What I like about my new homework procedure:

* Students are more engaged (cutting and gluing) when putting homework materials together.

* Students need to pay attention to the lesson in order to answer their homework questions.

* Students are reading, thinking, and writing.

* There is peer coaching/teaching involved when discussing homework answers.

* Students enjoy discussing their answers with their team and the class.

* Students must still participate in team and class homework discussions even if they are unprepared.

* The number of students coming to school with completed homework assignments has increased.


How do you assign your homework? What are your thoughts on homework?

Building Pyramids Through Team Work


I am lucky enough to work with some amazing kids. They vary in socio-economic backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, social development, and academic ability levels. There are twenty-eight mainstreamed students in my class, and two students that visit my classroom through an inclusion program.

In order to keep my classroom running smoothly, I need to incorporate team building and class building activities. Many of my ideas stem from Kagan Classbuilding Cooperative Learning Activities and Kagan Teambuilding Cooperative Learning Structures.

My class is set up in groups of four. Each group is assigned a different color. Within each group, each student is assigned a number: 1, 2, 3, or 4. I use these colors and numbers to help set up learning structures and jobs.

This week’s teambuilding challenge came from Science Gal, and she got the activity from a FOSS training.

Each team needs: 6 plastic cups, 1 rubber band, and four strings (each 24 inches long)

The challenge: Each team moves cups from a “wall of cups” (length of 3 cups, height of 2 cups) to a “pyramid of cups” (3 on the bottom, 2 in the middle, 1 on top).

All of my teams were able to accomplish the task. Early finishers were given the task of putting the cups back to their original state. They had a blast!


Terrific Third Day


Despite functioning on four hours of sleep, thanks to my three year old, we had a terrific third day.

Our big focus for the day was marshmallows. We started our day be using our senses to observe a marshmallow. Then we used our imagination to pretend that we woke up a marshmallow. Finally, we started prewriting and drafting narratives. I can’t wait to read them!

We also had a Marshmallow Tower Challenge. Teams had to design a tower, purchase materials using a budget, build the tower, compare towers, and reflect on the experience. They had a blast.

Here is the winning tower:


I wonder if I’m going to dream about marshmallows tonight, or if I will wake up a marshmallow.

Spectacular Second Day


We had another spectacular day today! In addition to practicing procedures and routines, we organized our binders, and we started learning to name and identify the states which make up the U.S.A.

I started by reading The Little Man in the Map: With Clues to Remember All 50 States. Then I passed out a blank map and had students find and identify the man in the map. They colored and labeled him. Then they placed the map in their binders to study. We will slowly add states using clues to help us remember them. We will have weekly map quizzes until we have mastered identifying the states on a map. Once we accomplish that goal, we will learn the capitals of each state.

Over the summer I came across maps of the 50 states at the dollar store, and I bought one for each team. After passing them out, I directed teams to work together to build the puzzle. Their goal was to beat the clock (12 minutes) and every team did. Our fastest team finished in a little under six minutes.


I had heard of the song  “Nifty Fifty United States”, but I was having a hard time locating the music to it. I finally located it at Classroom Classics. I am very excited to include this in our geography unit!