Your favorite routines from elementary school?
August 12, 2008 10:13 AM   Subscribe

When you or your kids were in elementary school, what were some of the daily/weekly routines or activities you or your children enjoyed and/or appreciated most?

I'll be teaching second grade and I need some new ideas.
posted by HotPatatta to Education (31 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Show and tell! It was one of my favorite parts of elementary school because it was a good way of learning about fellow classmates and you never know what someone would bring in.

One time when I was attending the Austin public schools in the 1970s we brought in a snake in that we'd found in one of the creeks. Funny that it was no big deal then, but I have a feeling that nowadays it would not go over well and a staff member would end up calling animal control.
posted by crapmatic at 10:22 AM on August 12, 2008

I'm assuming you're talking about classroom-type activities?

I had an awesome teacher in second grade. She taught us how to knit (you could get some parents to come help you), and also how to play blackjack. We used chocolate chips instead of poker chips.

We also had fun memorizing poems. I still know all the words to Sick by Shel Silverstein.
posted by radioamy at 10:27 AM on August 12, 2008

Math race track. This was in third grade with multiplication tables, but you could probably adapt it for second grade activities. Very simply, an easel with a racetrack drawing of your liking, divided into sections, each section having a number from 1-12. If you were on the 2's, you would have to go around the racetrack doing the table (the numbers on the track weren't in order) - various rewards were given for most improved, first to finish, etc. I believe we did this weekly, with excercises in between to keep us going.
posted by undercoverhuwaaah at 10:32 AM on August 12, 2008

Show-and-tell, definitely, only now they call it "sharing" because not every kid can/wants to bring in a physical object. And now that we have a new (evil) principal, the kids can't even bring their pets in...not even if they're kept caged.

Anyway, my daughter is going into third grade in two weeks (!) so her second grade experience is fresh. According to her, the best parts of second grade were: sharing, marble parties (the kids received marbles in a jar for various good deeds and X amount of marbles got them a marble party. They would spend an hour or so reading, drawing, talking; generally goofing off. It was a nice break from the routine.), plays (once every couple of months they would write a little play and decorate the classroom and all the parents would come), Star Of The Week (every kid got to be SOTW at some point during the year. All the other kids would write a little page about the SOTW - things like "you're great," "you're a great friend," "you're good at math," etc. and the teacher would bind them all together in a little booklet for the SOTW kid to take home), and group projects.

Hope that helps, and congratulations! Second graders are loads of fun and teaching truly is a wonderful profession.
posted by cooker girl at 10:33 AM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Calendar time! Set the schedule for the day.
"What day is it?" "TUESDAY!"
"And what day of the month is it?" "The 12th!"
"Who would like to put 12 up on the class calendar?"
"What do we do on Tuesday" "MATH AND STORIES"
posted by boo_radley at 10:39 AM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

We had a student's mother come in once a week and teach us Spanish for 30 minutes. I still remember some of it 40 years later.
posted by govtdrone at 10:40 AM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

There was 2 things my daughter absolutely loved when she was in second grade:

- each kid in the class made a poetry notebook where they wrote down and illustrated their favorite poems (people like shel silverstein, etc.) and then bound them by creating a cover out of construction paper and tying everything together.

- they also (as a class) wrote a book. Each kid wrote and illustrated a story about how their family came to America or to Georgia (if they didn't know how they came to America) and then the teacher published them through a self-publishing house that does that sort of thing. It cost each kid $12. That was, I think, even more valuable to my daughter than she knew. We live in a very diverse area and hearing every kid's story helped show her that there are lots of different cultures and experiences other than her own.

My sister, a first grade teacher, owns an incubator and sends away for duck eggs every year and the class watches the eggs bake and then hatch and does little projects about what's going on in the egg and what's going to happen to the ducks when they hatch. After a decent interval (I think 6 weeksish?) my sister releases the ducks into the lake of a monestary near her house - she swears that the monks are fine with that. She's apparently known all over the school as the duck lady and kids in her class from years past come back every year to see the current set of ducklings.
posted by katyjack at 10:42 AM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Our school had an art day every year, with different art/crafts being taught in different classrooms of the school. You could sign up for the workshop of your choice, and you got to take your handiwork home with you at the end. I did everything from knitting and fabric painting, to making dolls out of lightbulbs and cardboard tubes, making tissue-paper flowers, and even reverse copper embossing. Man, it was a lot of fun. My grandparents still had the little copper-embossed picture I made them, fifteen years later.
posted by LN at 10:43 AM on August 12, 2008

My elementary school was K-5th grade and every morning, all students gathered in the center of the building to pledge allegiance to the flag and sing for 20 minutes. We'd sing songs such as our state song, the 50 states song as well as other popular children's songs. We sang everyday and it was great fun. We definitely started off the day in a good mood!
posted by i_love_squirrels at 10:50 AM on August 12, 2008

Throughout elementary school the schedule was to have lunch followed by recess. Then the teacher would read out loud to us for 15 minutes or so. It was so nice to just chill out and not have to do anything for a while before transitioning back into class.
posted by jschu at 10:52 AM on August 12, 2008

I wish I could remember the name, but we had a program where you would read a story and then answer questions at the end. Each story was printed on cards of a different color and they got progessively harder as you went along (orange was harder than blue, etc.) I got into a competition with my friend over who could read the most stories and get to the highest color. Competition tricked us into reading.
posted by bananafish at 10:55 AM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

bananafish: I loved those things -- we had audio quizzes that went with them, too. Those old seventies style tin-can earphones evoke some strong nostalgia for me.
posted by boo_radley at 10:59 AM on August 12, 2008

i_love_squirrels, I did the same thing in 2nd grade! I believe it was between 2nd and 4th grades that we learned all 50 state songs. I can still sing some of them today.

Daily singing was definitely the highlight of elementary school. Also spelling bees, but I was a good speller, so it was a chance for me to show off.

My daughter played a game in the library with her 2nd grade class that they called "library baseball." Two teams, a small baseball diamond-ish shape was created using chairs. Each kid had to answer a question on whatever topic the teacher chose that day (math or reading or ...). If their answer was correct, they got to go stand on first base. "Runners" advanced. Scoring happened when a runner crossed "home plate." Their team got three "outs" (wrong answers). The kids seemed to like it a lot.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:04 AM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I loved reading time. Just after recess the teacher would read from a chapter book and we were supposed to draw pictures of what was happening. It was a great way to settle down from recess without having to jump into lessons right away.

I also enjoyed marble parties. Put marbles in a jar when kids are good and take them out when kids are bad. Bring in a snack and watch a movie when the jar is full.

I also LOVED days when we got to watch movies at school. Even short or stupid ones (just remember some kids get scared super easy and let them read a book or draw in the back if they want). But that could be because my family hardly ever watched movies that were my age level (I'm the youngest).

In first grade we each did a book about ourselves. My teacher took a picture of everyone individually and then a class picture. The book was like "this is ME. My name is.... This is my first grade class" and then a number of pages that we filled out and drew pictures like "this is my favorite subject" "these are my favorite foods" "this is my family" etc. I still have my book and it is great to look back at it. (my favorite subject was lunchtime).

In second grade some parent helpers came it and set up a projector in the hallway and paper on the wall. We had to sit very still while they traced our silhouette.

Pretty much anything that broke up routine. Of course, you can't do fun stuff too often or there is no routine to break up.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 11:08 AM on August 12, 2008

Storytime. My 4th grade teacher had a really large room that he divided up into one big class section, and then 3 smaller sections: a goldfish pond/garden over which a bridge brought you to a sofa/lounge area, adjacent to a small library. Each week, he would have all the kids scrunch together at the foot of the sofa and read a story. It was really peaceful and felt good to get out from behind a cold metal desk.
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:16 AM on August 12, 2008

My kids loved Classroom Jeopardy, it looks like a whole lot of fun to me, but it costs $550. Perhaps the PTA would buy it and the whole school can share it.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:27 AM on August 12, 2008

Similar to this suggestion, we had math rockets, a weekly series of math quizzes where if you had a perfect score on multiplication tables, your rocket got one step closer to Earth. There were candybars as rewards.

My second grade teacher also psyched the whole class into thinking we were going to Hawaii at the end of the year, and oriented lots of lessons around this trip to Hawaii. I was convinced I was going to Hawaii. But at the end of the year, we had a big Hawaiian-themed class party, and that was almost as good.

I also liked the two minutes or so before the end of the day, where the teacher just threw out pop trivia questions ("What's 7 times 8?" 56!), with candy rewards.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:32 AM on August 12, 2008

Movie day. Every other Friday (or every Friday) both the second grade (or maybe it was third) classrooms got together in one classroom and watched a movie (of course, in those days it was a filmstrip, but they weren't the typical strictly "educational" stuff.

Citizen of the day. Each day (or week?) one student got to wear a little badge and got special duties, such as leading the pledge of allegiance or being at the head of the line to go places.

My second grade teacher also read to us every day. Charlotte's Web, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Ramona, etc.
posted by Pax at 11:38 AM on August 12, 2008

We made dolls, with heads made of two circles of fabric sewn together and stuffed, attached to a pair of stuffed woolly tights, and faces drawn on with marker pens.

We made a giant play house for us and the dolls out of stacked cardboard boxes.

We had a doll's tea party, cooked cakes, made tea and invited the head teacher.

We kept snails in an enormous rambling snailery made of plastic drink bottles.
posted by emilyw at 11:57 AM on August 12, 2008

My sister teaches first grade; one thing that always goes over well is her Token system. She has a jar of tiny plastic circles (you could probably use poker chips or something). The kids get tokens for various good behaviors: bringing in homework, sitting quietly, correct answers, etc. They can also lose them by misbehaving. She has a pretty good system so certain things have a set reward/penalty; but the best lessons are learned, I think, when some kids lose them and some kids win them. For example, when the whole class is noisy except one nice quiet table. "The blue table is being so nice. Everyone at the blue table please come get a token. Everyone else; I'll be taking one of your tokens now because you couldn't be nice and quiet and respectful like the blue table."
The kids all have a little container to collect their tokens. The best part is when they spend them. Every Friday afternoon they have "token shop" where they can buy items depending on how many tokens they've saved up. She has several boxes with little cheapo toys with different values assigned. It's just like the prizes at Chuck E Cheese. Some kids choose to forgo shopping for a week or two to save up for a bigger prize.
posted by purpletangerine at 12:00 PM on August 12, 2008

Oh also, they raise monarch butterflies. Every year she brings in milkweed with monarch eggs on them. The do a whole science lesson watching the eggs hatch to caterpillars, to cocoon, to butterflies! Then they let them all fly away.
posted by purpletangerine at 12:02 PM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I loved silent reading and creative writing.

I loathed having to sing "The Good Ship Lollipop", having to do the chicken dance, and having to weave pink and white strips of construction paper into heart-shaped pouches for the deposit of obligatory Valentines cards.

My plea to elementary school teachers: have mercy on the shy.
posted by Beardman at 12:07 PM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

I liked Spelling. In particular, I liked the creative writing portion of the spelling test in which you were challenged to use a test word in a sentence. This gave rise to gems like, "Look here, Watson! This man was killed with an ENCYCLOPEDIA!"
posted by SPrintF at 1:02 PM on August 12, 2008

Math races. I still remember how excited the whole class would get when we did this. A student is chosen at random to be the racer. This student stands next to the first desk/chair in the room. The teacher holds up a flash card with a math problem on it (we did a lot of addition and subtraction in 2nd grade, so problems like 12+8 or 13-6). The first person to yell out the answer moved on, so if the standing person said the answer first, they moved on to the next desk/chair, if the sitting person said the answer first, they stood up and moved to the next desk/chair, and the standing person sat down in the sitters' desk/chair. Lots of competition, and it would get a bit rowdy.
posted by BigVACub at 1:07 PM on August 12, 2008

Music and movement: a demented activity that has scarred the memories of many people who grew up in the UK. I think it was a broadcast program, for folks of my generation know all about "find a space, find a space", pretending to be a little seed growing, and the classic ".... aaaand stop!" direction.
posted by scruss at 1:20 PM on August 12, 2008

Probably in 2nd or 3rd grade my teacher had a roll of that calculator paper somehow attached to the ceiling. She used it to keep track of/show us how many days of school we went through. So, on the first day of school she started with 200-something and slowly unrolled the tape around the room as the year went on and we counted down. She had it taped to the wall near the ceiling so it acted as a decorative border as well.
Every day she would get up on a chair and write the next number. She counted weekends and holidays... so Mondays were always big days for us because she would write 3 new numbers. It was fun (at the time) to see how many days left of school we had. On a side note, our teacher miscounted and on our last day of school we were still on #3.

In another grade we used to have this Interview thing, I think it was every Monday and Wednesday. It was basically a project designed to help us learn to correctly punctuate speaking-type sentences.
One person (the interviewer) would interview 5 students (I think there was a pre-set order) regarding what they did the night before, during school or would be doing that day.
The interviewer would then write on a form on the overhead projector: the date, the current weather, and then the 5 lines people gave him.
Arnold said, "Yesterday my team won our soccer game."
Sarah exclaimed, "Today is my birthday!"
... that kind of stuff. While they were writing we were encouraged to correct their punctuation and spelling.
At the end of the school year our teacher had saved all the Interviews, made copies, and handed them out to the students. It was pretty much a journal of our year.
I still have the packet of interviews and look back to it once in a while.
posted by simplethings at 1:28 PM on August 12, 2008

Memorize and recite a poem. (Or sections of a larger poem - eg The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere; or one of the Robert Service poems - so the by the end of the semester you can recite the whole poem from memory. I still have a couple of these I can do by memory.)

Our teacher (Mrs Klassen) had a piano in the room and we had singing time - patriotic songs, folk songs, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:45 PM on August 12, 2008

Storytime in 4th grade, usually after lunch. My teacher would read out of the chapter books... and pretty obscure ones, too. I blame her for my fixation on The Phantom Tollbooth that led to me chasing down a copy for myself about... 10-ish years later.

Man, if she wasn't a teacher, she'd have been one hell of a voice actress. She'd make up voices for all the characters. It was especially funny when one of them was mentioned as being from the South, as she'd lay on her own southern accent REALLY THICK.

(oh, and she was a Trekkie, too... had TNG and DS9 posters and even promotional cardboard stands in the classroom. That was so freaking awesome.)
posted by Yoshi Ayarane at 3:08 PM on August 12, 2008

Math facts flash cards. In second grade my son had to know all the basic arithmetic facts up to 12s (A-S-M-D) and had to be able to do all the answers in 3 minutes or less. The school provided flash cards for every kid, and we would drill this nightly. It was surprisingly fun, it was a great challenge for parents and kids, and man, that kid (um, young man) can still do his math facts lightning fast, and so can I.
posted by nax at 3:17 PM on August 12, 2008

Reading other members' comments, I will concur that reading and music really stick out for me from elementary school. We sang and sang and sang all the time. I only recently realized how lucky I was to go to a school where music and art were such a focus.

I had a couple different teachers that liked to read aloud chapter books to us. "The Hatchet" and "The Giver" come to mind from 5th grade. Also we each had Library time once a week where the librarian would read aloud from a picture book (and then of course we'd get to check out books for ourselves).

We did a cool kind of book report in 3rd grade, on a cereal box! It made doing the book report much less mundane because you got to be creative and the report was divided into sections so it wasn't so overwhelming. I think on the front you drew a picture representing the book, then on the side you wrote about characters, and you wrote about the plot on the back?

We used to write our own books a lot 2nd and 5th grades. I loved writing and illustrating my stories! I was so proud of them. Sometimes we would write out the final wording ourselves, and sometimes volunteer parents would come type them for us.
posted by radioamy at 6:43 PM on August 12, 2008

Second grade is the perfect time for WORDY GURDYS! What's a wordy gurdy? I shall elaborate.

A wordy gurdy is a 2 word answer, in which both words are similies for two other words which happen to rhyme. Sounds waaaaaay more difficult than it is. Examples follow:

"Wealthy Sorceress". (Rich Witch)
"Canine Swamp" (Dog Bog)
"Amphibian Branch" (Frog Log)

And of course they get more difficult as the year progresses. Then you get to ones like:
Coin Collector (Quarter Hoarder!)
"Ritz Nailer" (Cracker Tacker...)

Etc. And of course there's a completely arbitrary points system, where sometimes they're worth 10 or 1 or 400 or 11,000, or whatever.

For older kids (I did 5th graders at an extremely low income school), every monday I'd put a snippet of PHP code on the board, and the first student to figure out the output would eat lunch with me and we'd talk about all sorts of fantastic things from paintball to things we are afraid of. C and PHP are great for teaching pre-algebra, shoulda followed through and actually made a curriculum out of it.
posted by TomMelee at 9:51 PM on August 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

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