Start of the Year Activities

Teaching During a Pandemic: 5 Tips for Cart Teaching During Covid

I am going into my second year as a traveling teacher utilizing a cart as my classroom due to teaching during pandemic year 3. My school made this decision as part of the protocol to lessen the spread of Covid. With this, I have decided to share 5 Tips for Cart Teaching during Covid to hopefully make your life a little easier if this is your situation as well.

My laptop has stickers on it that show my personality.

I still get to decorate my homeroom class and that is still my home base, as I am in there before and after school. I am in my homeroom when I also teach my two classes for sixth grade. I am thankful I can still use my creativity and classroom decorating interests in my homeroom.

I’ve had other teachers ask if I mind cart teaching, and I really don’t. It’s actually nice to travel and get a change of scenery every period, and I understand the reasoning behind it.

With some teachers going into the classroom for the first time since the pandemic, I’m hearing of more and more schools shifting to cart teaching. Since I have a year of it under my belt, I thought I’d offer some tips to those who are doing this for the first time.

Here are five tips I have for cart teaching!

Tip #1: Pack EVERYTHING you Need on that Cart

Pack EVERYTHING you need on the cart! Then, try not to move it! On top of my cart, I have a large basket with my folders, a pail of markers, a stapler, scissors, pencils, and pens. I also try to keep whatever else I may need like my grade book, textbooks, novels, and any technology. I bring extra paper with me for students as well. Oftentimes I’ll forget something and have to run back to my homeroom to get it, but I try to keep everything I need on the cart at all times. Then, I try not to move it from my cart. If I take something from it, I try to put it back right away, so I’m not feeling scattered over so many classrooms.

Tip #2: Stay Organized

Stay organized! I use color coded folders for each grade to keep all the materials I need and to gather papers I need to grade. In one folder, it is labeled 6th Materials and on one side of the folder flap are my English papers and in the other flap are my Social Studies papers. I label each flap as not to mix it up. Then, I have a separate folder for 6th grade papers I need to grade and it’s labeled “6th-Papers to Grade.” Inside that folder, I have the two flaps labeled as well. On side is labeled: Needs Grading. The other side says: Graded. I have two separate folders for each grade I teach. At the end of every week, I try to remember to clean out the folders. Bonus points if you can keep both folders for each grade the same color!

Tip #3: Decorate your Cart

Decorate your cart. I have to say I didn’t really take advantage of this tip this past year, as I was trying to survive pandemic teaching. I did have my large basket and tin pail match the colors of my classroom. I love cohesiveness. My laptop has stickers on it that show my personality. Since some students can’t see your personality portrayed in a classroom, think of ways to portray it in your cart. I am planning on sprucing up my cart here soon with some paper tassels and some pom-poms from Target. Here’s a link to the paper tassels I plan on using!

Tip #4: Travel with Technology

Travel with your technology. Keep all the technology components you need on your cart. My projector travels with me, so I also keep a basket at the bottom of the cart with extra tech gear in case something goes wrong. I have extra USB and HDMI cords, speakers, my laptop charger, and anything else I may need.

Tip #5: Be Mindful of your Personal Needs

Be mindful of your personal needs. Lastly, think about your day and what you normally reach for and need. Whatever it is, put it on your cart. Here are some personal items I keep on my cart: my water bottle, coffee cup, personal hand sanitizer, lotion, sunglasses (for when I take the kiddos outside), and extra masks. Put whatever it is you use on a daily basis on your cart to make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Conclusion

With these five tips for cart teaching, we hope it will make the year go smoothly for you in a year that seems to be pivoting so much already. We are now entering the third school year of pandemic teaching! Wow! Can you believe it? Cart teaching may not be your ideal situation, but we can always make the best of it!

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Start of the Year Activities

Five Activities for the First Week of School

It’s officially back to school season! Whether you’re already back with the kiddos or you’re knee deep in teacher workdays, we are right there with you. To lessen your load, we come bearing gifts in the form of Five Activities for the First Week of School that you can put in your lesson plan book today. Let’s dive right in!

Activity #1: Spaghetti in a Hot Day Bun

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Marie Dismondy is the cutest picture book about being unique and having confidence. It touches base on topics such as anti-bullying, forgiveness, and friendship. With its intriguing title and relatable story, it is perfect for the first week of school.

Here is a FREE quick Venn diagram we made comparing and contrasting the two main characters, Ralph and Lucy.

Complete this activity after reading the book for a quick whole group informal assessment. Comparing and contrasting also opens up discussions on comparing ourselves to these characters. Have we ever been unkind like Ralph was to Lucy? Have we ever felt different for being ourselves like Lucy? This book celebrates individuality and differences. It’s a perfect connecting point for that first week back.

If you would like to use our full unit including writing prompts, a craftivity, vocabulary, graphic organizers, and so much more, check the link here.

Activity #2: Establishment of Class Rules

The first week back to school is a great time to collaborate with your class to discuss and make specific classroom rules. Students have greater autonomy in following the rules if they help create and establish them. It’s best to start with a couple of non-negotiable rules and have students offer ideas to expand from there. Also, students can rephrase rules to fit more of their language. Writing up the rules on poster board and having them sign their names around them is a good idea, so everyone knows they are working as a team to follow them. Creating rules also opens up a discussion of the rationale of the rules. This creates a desire for students to follow them.

We have an editable farmhouse classroom rules signs resource here if you are interested:

Activity #3: First Writing Activity for the Year – All About Me

One of my first writing activities for the year is not your typical assignment. I find students get really excited about fictional writing, so I like to bank on that excitement before I go into narratives. My middle school students and past upper elementary kids loved to write about being a superhero. They loved to discuss what superpowers they would have, the movies they’ve seen like Avengers and The Hulk, and what villains they would fight. I credit this idea to my sixth-grade math and science teacher who would regularly discuss this idea for fun as brain breaks. While this could be a quick writing assignment to assess writing abilities, you could also turn this into a longer unit. To make this fit more into back to school, you can have students fill out our FREE superhero all about me banner. They can fill it out based on the character they’ll be writing about, or they can write all about themselves.

We have a superhero resource bundle here including a PowerPoint that opens up a great dialogue about character traits, in which students can use in their writing. You can connect it back to how students should behave in school.

Activity #4: Interesting Non-Fiction Reading Passages

Ever wondered what to do during those first couple of days of school AFTER you’ve gotten through the very first day? Oftentimes I love to start the year off with some interesting nonfiction reading passages. I feel like it’s a good way to ease into language arts without going into an extensive unit. It’s a way to informally assess reading and comprehension skills and also peak students’ interests.

We have a FREE zoo animals nonfiction reading passage resource all about barred owls with questions and a scientific organizer. Download here.

To expand on reading passages about animals, we have a larger unit here that spans a couple of lessons.

There are so many free websites out there that have non-fiction reading passages for students. Readworks.org is a wonderful free website with a variety of passages from fiction to scientific.

Activity #5: Pineapple Growth Mindset Activity

Lastly, the first week of school is a great time to discuss growth mindset. We want our students to have a growth mindset versus a fixed one. We want them to always continue to grow and develop their education, skills, and talents. Students achieve more when they have this type of mindset. That first week back is a wonderful time to educate students on how to have a growth mindset. An easy example to compare it to is that of a pineapple. Students should stand tall and grow their abilities just like a pineapple grows bigger and taller. I love to use this visual for the kiddos to understand.

Make a list together as to what it looks like to “stand tall.” This requires advanced thinking as it’s definitely more than just sitting up straight in your desk! Ask students what does it look like to grow academically and emotionally throughout the year? Some examples would be: I will choose to have self-control in situations I could be silly. Another example is: I will choose to study my times tables, so I can grow in math. Once students see what a growth mindset is in concrete ways, have them write down their specific goals in a list or in a paragraph.

If this activity interests you, we have FREE pineapple printable and digital paper. Click image below.

If you wanted to expand this into a craftivity, we have a cute one right here: click image below.

Conclusion

These five activities for the first week of school are perfect for any elementary to middle school classroom. These activities target social-emotional health, growth mindset, classroom collaboration, and reading and writing skills. With the four FREEBIES listed above, we hope you’re able to fill in that lesson plan book swiftly!

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