'Every Day' Activities Across the Curriculum
"Every day" reinforcement of basic reading, listening, math, vocabulary, and geography skills can go a long way toward ensuring that kids learn and retain the skills you teach. You're sure to see the results of daily reinforcement in end-of-year test results too! Included: Education World highlights a couple dozen Web sites that are perfect resources for developing activities to reinforce needed skills on a daily basis.
One of my last years as a classroom teacher opened my eyes to the value of daily skills reinforcement. That year, all third graders in the school system I taught in were tested in the spring. The third graders were first given a test to determine their abilities, then a battery of skills tests.
The skills test scores were compared with ability test scores to determine whether students were working up to their ability levels. When the results came in, my class was the only third-grade class in the school system (we're talking more than 30 third-grade classes in a mid-size Connecticut city) in which every student was working at or above his or her ability level in the math and language portions of the tests.
Pardon me for bragging, but I have a point to make.
I know why my students did so well -- it was because of daily reinforcement of common third-grade skills!
Each day, my third graders walked into the classroom, took off their coats, then walked directly to the back wall to get their "daily numbers." The daily numbers sheet had ten math problems: a couple of subtraction problems with borrowing, a clock to read, a money change problem, and so on. As students completed their daily numbers sheets, I corrected them on the spot. Then the kids moved on to the rest of their day's work, while I worked one-on-one with individuals who were having difficulty. That done, I called a class meeting, and our day officially began.
What they were getting each day in that daily numbers exercise was reinforcement -- daily reinforcement -- of skills they had been taught. None of that "we'll revisit it later in the year" stuff! We revisited our math skills every day!
The same was true of language skills. Every day, the students went to a learning center and practiced adding endings to words to make plurals, capitalizing words in sentences, and reading for meaning -- daily practice in the skills they'd been introduced to in previous days and weeks.
This daily routine, this daily practice -- that's why my students tested so well!
ENTER THE INTERNET!
Boy, do I ever wish I'd had a computer in the classroom when I was teaching! Don't I wish the resources of the Internet had been available to me! Alhough the daily numbers exercise and my language learning centers can't be found on the Internet, there are tons of valuable activities available to the connected classroom teacher who wants to reinforce skills daily!
What's your goal for the school year ahead? Are you aiming to improve your students' vocabulary? reading comprehension? problem-solving skills? Perhaps you're just looking for some daily fun. Look no further than your classroom computer for activities that will help you reach your teaching goals -- on a daily basis!
Depending on your goals for the year ahead, I've written a story for you. There are so many opportunities out there that I've actually divided this story into three different stories.
Why not work one of these daily activities into your curriculum this year? Decide on your goals for the year ahead; then check out some of the sites below or in "Every Day" Activities: Language or "Every Day" Activities: Today in History. Who knows? The routine may just help build students' skills and improve test scores!
'EVERY DAY' ACTIVITIES: POTPOURRI
At the risk of repeating myself, the Web sites below are a literal potpourri. These are not the meaty hard-core -- vocabulary, current events, history -- sites. (Find those by clicking on the Language and Today in History links above.) The sites listed below have value, though! One of the sites might suit your needs for a single lesson or a daily activity.
Students can find birthdays of famous people, dead or alive, on this site. Kids can learn who was born today or use the search engine to find who was born on their birthdays or on any other date. They can search by first name, last name, or year. Students can take a birthday trivia quiz, send a birthday card, or take a look at birthday quotes and jokes. It's all here! What can you do in the classroom with this site? Use it to create a "Famous People Birthday Timeline." Students might create month-by-month timelines for a single year. They might make a multiyear timeline to coincide with a theme you're studying, such as Inventors Through History or Famous American Women. This site might also prove valuable for teaching simple Internet searching skills; students can practice those skills without ever leaving the site!
Chicken Soup for the Soul
Yes, it's online too! For those of you who love the inspirational Chicken Soup for the Soul series, you can get home delivery of daily inspiration from Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield, coauthors of those New York Times best-sellers. Just go to this Web page, type your e-mail address, and wait to be inspired! The daily e-mails might be something you can work into your curriculum, or perhaps you can just use them as a daily morale boost. Principals might share one of the vignettes each week in their bulletins.
The Old Farmer's Almanac
Looking to boost your students' critical thinking skills? I debated whether to include this site in the "Every Day" Activities: Language story or in this one. In the end, I include it here. This site offers a Puzzle of the Day that will surely challenge your students. You might post a puzzle each day and see whether anybody comes up with the solution by the end of the day. The puzzles are of varying difficulty. You could probably use the daily puzzle with students in middle-school grades and above. An elementary-grade teacher can click the "Archives" link to find appropriate puzzles. These puzzles aren't easy, but once your students get the hang of them they'll become easier and they'll gladly accept the challenges they offer. They're really word puzzles. Each clue relates to a different syllable (or piece) of the word. Following are a few of the recent puzzles. I'll start with hard and work toward easier.
Difficult: My first if you do, you won't hit it; my next, if you do, you won't leave it; my whole, if you do, you won't guess it. (To find the answer, take the puzzle syllable by syllable. First, "My first if you do, you won't hit it" is a clue for the word miss. Then, "if you do, you won't leave it" is a clue for the word take. Finally, "if you do, you won't guess it" is a clue for the whole word, mistake.)
A little easier: To half your wish, add half your fear; And lo, a partner will appear. (The answer is hidden in the clues. The first half of the word wish is wi. Then half the word fear is fe. Put them together and you get "a partner," wife!)
Are you beginning to get the hang of it? Are you seeing the possibilities for your students? Can you see that, as they learn to look at the clues in a different way, students will find these little word puzzles become easier? Let's take a look at one more...
Easier still: My first is a color; my second is an agreeable exercise; my third is an article of clothing; my whole is a celebrated character. (After giving thought, some of your students will come upon the answer to the puzzle, Red Riding Hood!)
USA Today Weather
This page would be a great resource for daily charting of weather information. You might assign each student a city somewhere in the United States or in the world. Have the student use library and Internet resources to learn more about that place. Then the student can chart weather information in that city each day. As weather events occur, you might teach or have students investigate the science behind them. Each student might use math skills to compare his or her weather information with that collected by others. What a great way to combine math, science, geography, and language!
Mathematicians' Anniversaries Throughout the Year
Students can click on any date on this calendar and learn about mathematicians who were born or who died on that date. They can click on a mathematician's name for biographical information. They will also find here a math quote of the day! This site would be a great resource for student research into great mathematicians or for math teachers who want to share a piece of math trivia each day.
The following sites seemed a little too "lite" to put in the "Every Day" Activities: Today in History story, but the curriculum connections to these sites are many. These sites might be just the thing to reach some of your hard-to-reach students. Or if you're looking for students to create timelines on a history topic of high interest, these sites might be just the thing!
This Day in Baseball History This can be a great site for sneaking in some language and math skills with students who might be hard to reach using more traditional teaching materials. You might use it in tandem with baseball's official Web site, majorleaguebaseball.com, which has links to Web sites for the major-league teams. Its History page might be a fine resource for learning more about daily events in baseball history; that page also includes a list of 1999 baseball anniversaries.
This Day in Music History
Students can find out which classical composers were born on this day. They can also find information about Broadway plays and current hit songs. They can also Pick Your Own Day to focus their search, in case they are looking for information about another date in music history.
Students who go to this page regularly will find a long list of famous movie-related people who were born or died on that day. Or they can use the site's search capability to find the same information for any day of the year. They will also find famous marriages for each date!