Monday, 31 October 2016

Lest We Forget- Remembrance Day in the Elementary Classroom

As a little girl, I can remember attending Remembrance Day ceremonies at school. While listening to the trumpets sad song I wondered what we were remembering and why it was so important.

As an adult I have a better understanding of the importance of remembering fallen soldiers from the wars of the past as well as honouring the veterans who proudly serve our country today. After my husband joined the reserves, and did a tour in Afghanistan, I felt an enormous responsibility in my classroom to connect students with Remembrance Day. Because so many of the veterans of WWI and WWII no longer with us, I wondered how to honour their memory so their sacrifice would never be forgotten.
 Here are some ideas, activities and resources to honour the fallen and teach your students about the importance of Remembrance Day.

Art: I love to do art projects for Remembrance day. I think my favourite image to create is the poppy and I have used different mediums, ideas and text to go with it. Here are a few different ones I have done over the years.

If you would like to find the step by step instructions for these art activities and many others please visit Gail, THAT ARTIST WOMAN. Scroll down the fall projects until you find Remembrance Day. You can also find more Remembrance Day art ideas on my Pinterest page.

Writing: A great writing activity for Remembrance Day is to write letters or postcards to Veterans or Soldiers currently serving. To find more information on where to send these messages please visit the Veterans Affairs website.

Reading: I love a good read aloud to introduce a topic to students; however, finding a story that is both appropriate for young children as well as relevant is a bit difficult for Remembrance Day. Here are a few that I use in my classroom.

'A Poppy Is to Remember' by Heather Patterson is probably one of my favourites. The pictures are beautiful, the text is simple and it helps students to understand more about why we wear a poppy and the importance of Remembrance Day. It also includes the ever important poem 'In Flanders Fields'.

'Lest We Forget' by Kerry Brown is a remarkable story in that it helps young children relate to the generation that went to war through images, in a way that is appropriate for young children. I think this book is a great tool that allows students to better understand what it must have been like for the soldiers and their families.

'What does Peace feel like?' by  wonderful imagery and would be a great starting place for a writing activity where students could write about what peace looks like, smells like or tastes like. I love the pictures and ideas from children. This gives students great examples of things that they experience in their own life and how they can bring Peace to those around them.

I love how 'Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion' by Jane Barclay uses animals to tell the story in this unique book. The little boy's grandpa uses animals to describe what he was feeling during his wartime experiences. It definitely gets me misty eyed at the end.  

                                                REMEMBRANCE DAY CEREMONY
If you are in charge of preparing the Remembrance Day ceremony at school, it can be a daunting task! Here is a great resource from the Veterans Affairs website with information about the CEREMONY.

One of the most important things at a Remembrance Day ceremony, besides the 2 minutes of silence, is inviting a Veteran to your school to lay a wreath and if possible speak to the students. My husband always attends the ceremonies at my school. When he was in Afghanistan a few of the junior high students wrote letters to him while he was there, and when he came back he talked to the boys and girls about his experience in Kabul. They formed a connection with him and I believe this made the Remembrance Day ceremony much more meaningful. If you would like a veteran to speak at your school you can find more information HERE.

Another great tool to engage students during the ceremony, or in the classroom,  is showing a video. This one always gets me emotional, and encourages students before the 2 minutes of silence to really take time to honour the fallen.

My husband made this video using pictures he took of a memorial wall in Afghanistan with messages dedicated to the fallen.

Click on the links below to visit other Canadian teacher-bloggers showcasing their ideas for Remembrance Day lessons.



Monday, 3 October 2016

Halloween Center Activities

As the leaves change colours, the weather becomes cooler, and the pumpkin spice lattes and sweaters come out of hiding, it can only mean one thing; it's October! I know that this month all I will hear about is one thing, and one thing only. You guessed it; HALLOWEEN!!!

First graders will probably ask every day in October if it is Halloween yet, and so as the anticipation builds and the excitement grows, when the day finally comes, they are about ready to explode! When October 31st arrives it is so difficult to focus on curriculum that I had to come up with a way to keep the students engaged and busy and what better way than, you guessed it, centers!

If possible, I ask an older grade to join us in the classroom so they can assist the grade one students with each activity. The centers take all afternoon as the students spend about 10 minutes at each one. I make sure to include math and literacy skills plus a whole lot of fun!! I prepare eight stations for the students, with direction cards at each one and materials all prepped and ready to go. They stay with their buddy and a small group of students for the entire afternoon.

I think the favourite is the snack center, I mean who doesn't love a spooky Halloween snack! I make sure they are healthy snacks because they will be eating so much candy at night, with a spooky twist. Eyeballs, Jack-O-Lanterns and Ghosts OH MY!

Our math center focuses on estimation. I always carve a pumpkin with the kids earlier in the week and we do some five senses writing about what we see, feel, and smell. I save then seeds, wash them off and then put a plastic bag in the pumpkin. Students take a small handful of seeds, estimate how many there are and record it.

I find it helpful to have buddies at this one as students often forget about the estimation part and skip right to counting and recording their seedsx.

We do lots of Language Arts; I include some spooky stories at one center, halloween sentence making at another and a listening center. I use my SMARTboard to show the story and hook up ear phones so the whole group can hear.
Another one of my favourite centers is the Haunted house! Students use their senses to predict what is in the jar. Some of them are too afraid to touch, but once they figure out what is actually in the container they can't wait to try it out! THE HAUNTED HOUSE IS A FREE ACTIVITY you can try out in your classroom by clicking on the picture.

I also like to do a craft with the students, a Jack-O-Lantern Lantern!!! Again, it is super helpful to have a buddy at the this station. I provide visual instructions for each step so it is easy to follow along. After students complete each activity I have them put it on top of their desk, and then at the end of the day they get to take everything home with them.
How do you deal with the Halloween Crazies in your class? To try out all of these centers in your classroom, click on the picture! Happy Halloween friends.