Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Learning Kits

My exceptional colleague and dear friend, Nancy, and I used to go a bit overboard when we co-taught; especially at the beginning of the year.  We used to throw together these gift baskets tool kits for our new students, and have them waiting as an Open House surprise.  I wish I had a picture of some of the kits we had put together in the past, but this picture will give you an idea of what they looked like.


One of the major reasons why we did it was because of our non-traditional views on homework.  We believe that it is essential for children to be children at home, and we really did not want to impose on family time.  Yet, we also believe that it is our job to inspire our students during the 6 - 7 hours we have them to go home and continue learning.  Which led us to creating the learning tool kits; we wanted them to have any and all necessary materials to do just that when they were at home.  

At our school Open House is in late September.  This provides us with time to create routines and expectations in the classroom and stress the importance of living the life of a learner and/or inquisitive citizen.  We talk about special places and helped them determine special places for themselves in their home where they could go and read, write, create, and more.  If I were to do this again, I'd have the kiddos take a picture / video of their kits in their special place and have them share an experience with them.  

We would head to the dollar store to purchase the buckets / baskets to store all sorts of learning essentials.  We often included pens, pencils, rulers, colored pencils, markers, books, notebooks, magnifying glasses, bookmarks, variety of post-its, number lines, mini cursive charts, and glue.  One year we even included a Staples Easy Button!  The years we worked with 4th graders we bought them these really great cloth binders that served as an excellent home-school connection and let them house everything in there, including their books!  

Throwing together some end-of-year goodies and stalking trolling on Pinterest has made me realize how much I miss doing that!  But, I haven't done that since I last co-taught with her and as I'm wrapping up this year (only 9 days to go) I am nostalgic for that.  So...if I were to do these kits again I would not only include the tried and true above, but these as well:
  • playing cards ~ we use playing cards quite a bit during math workshop; they're great for turning rote practice into a game
  • dice ~ same reasons as the playing cards, plus they both throw in some chance
  • beach ball ~ a favorite Morning Meeting game is Beach Ball Math
  • dry-erase board & markers ~ you can get these pretty cheap at the Dollar Store, but they love using these during Word Study and Math Workshop
  • glitter & colored glue ~ another Word Study and Math Workshop favorite...they use the colored glue to spell the word / fact and highlight a tricky part/product/spelling feature with glitter
  • shower curtain ~ this would be cut into 3 pieces; a 1/2 and then the other 1/2 would be cut in 1/2 with directions to create their own giant keyboards, calculators, & clocks
  • passwords ~ it never hurts to have them in an additional spot
Honestly, if I could afford it, I would give each of my students an iPod Touch or iPad as well.  There are just too many times since I've gone mobile in the classroom that the kiddos long to continue our day at home, but can't because they don't have an iPod / iPad.  Also, I do something similar for each of the tables in my classroom.  I use these caddies from Really Good Stuff to house a lot of our essentials, although I've found some drawbacks (more on that in another post).  

So, even though it is June, and not September, I find myself creating some learning tool kits for my kiddos as they prepare for the summer.  They will have a lot of the items that I've shared here.  But, I'm going to go a bit smaller scale and use this paper bag printing idea to gift them.  Plus, I include a video yearbook and a CD of our greatest hits.