Conversation Starter Cards

We recently created conversation starter cards at our house for a teen dinner party we had New Year’s Eve, but it’s also an ice breaker activity teachers could use in the classroom. Over the holidays, we hosted a small dinner for about eight friends. We printed a handful of funny questions and prompts to kick off conversation at the table. The questions were printed on cardstock paper and cut into roughly a business card size (~2″ x 4″). We put the stack of cards on a cupcake stand in the center of the table, and people reached for them during the dinner.

Conversation starter cards, an ice breaker activity for home or the classroom

We got the idea after opening Christmas crackers at a family dinner. When we popped the Christmas crackers, they had small papers in them with trivia questions and conversation prompts. The questions worked well for a group of mixed ages and kept everyone at the table engaged. You can create all kinds of prompts depending on the age of your audience. Since our dinner was all teenagers, THIS CONVERSATION STARTER PAGE has questions that are a mix of pop culture and general opinion.

Conversation Starter Cards

Using Conversation Starters at School

If you want to adapt this conversation starter idea for school, you can create a page LIKE THIS ONE with “Would you rather…” questions. We used this activity for a big/little mentor program we have at our school. Older grades are paired with students in younger grades. Our sixth graders met with their second grade “littles” and asked a series of questions and recorded all responses. Students polled a handful of students until they completed the question chart. After all the responses were tallied, the students incorporated math skills by creating a bar graph to determine the most popular answers.

Would You Rather questions and chart

Depending on the lunch program at your school, adding conversation cards to lunch tables encourages students to interact with peers. We assign lunch seats at our school and often students may not talk to a lunch buddy if it is someone they do not know well. By placing conversation prompts at the table, it encourages students to chat with someone different.

Conversation starters are a great ice breaker for the first week of school to begin building a community in your classroom. Or, use the ice breakers after a long break like the December holidays as a fun way to ease students back into the school routine.

To see more ideas for your classroom, visit my TeachersPayTeachers store.

Trading Cards with Students

Over the years, I have used trading cards with students in a variety of ways. It is a project that can be implemented easily with literature and history (or really any academic area). In the past, my students researched a historical figure and designed a trading card about the person; that assignment incorporated research and summarizing skills. Another option is to design a card for a character in literature. My favorite trading card assignment with my students happened this year. My language arts class designed Greek mythology trading cards. We then had a trading card party, and students calculated card values after the trades ended. I made the activity technology based to build in computer formatting skills, but it could be a handwritten project too. Whichever way you choose to incorporate trading cards into your curriculum, it will activate many skills.

Greek Mythology Trading Cards

Before starting your trading card assignment, look at traditional trading cards. You can look up samples online or have students bring in any collections they have to share with the group. Note basic features of the cards. Sports trading cards are the easiest to use as samples because they have a main picture, team symbols, stats, and some background information about each athlete. That format is easy to replicate with your history or literature information.

Trading Cards in the Classroom

Trading Cards for History

  • Not only can students research people, they can also create cards for famous locations or events in history.
  • Assign students a topic or let them choose. Provide some type of research handout like THIS ONE for students to take notes.
  • Students organize their facts into the trading card template and print. You could download, save, and use this semi-editable POWERPOINT TEMPLATE or design your own template. Printing on white cardstock is preferred because it is sturdier and looks more authentic.
  • Alternately, you can print a template like THIS ONE and students fill in information and illustrations by hand. **Set printer preferences to two-sided and print on short edge**

Trading Cards for Literature

  • Students consider traits of a main character related to a novel study from class. Using a character chart or a brainstorming page like THIS ONE, students organize notes about the character.
  • In place of character cards, students can design cards for the setting, theme, or important symbols from the story. Any aspect of the novel you are highlighting with students could have a card designed for it.
  • Like the history version, students either format their information in a trading card template on the computer or print and handwrite information into the cards.

Trading Cards in the Classroom

Trading Card Party

  • To extend the trading card activity, plan a trading party.
  • After all cards are complete, print two sets of cards. One set the students keep. The other set is for trading.
  • Create a point value system for the cards. With my group’s Greek mythology cards, Titan cards were worth the most, and mortals were worth the least. I also had a few cards that were worth extra points because there was only one available in the whole class. Students traded cards with each other for about 20 minutes; I revealed the value of the cards, and then we calculated how much their collection was worth. Students also totaled the value of their original set of cards. It was a great way to integrate a little math into the activity.

After the trading cards are finished, they become great flashcards for students to use to review for assessments. To see more ideas for the novel, In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson including the book character trading card, visit my TEACHER STORE.

Trading Cards in the Classroom

BTS Parent Night Handout

It’s BTS season. For most of us with school aged children that means some sort of meet-the-teacher parent night with lots of handouts. Since I am a teacher too, I know the BTS parent night handouts have valuable information in them– when to wear PE clothes, lunch procedures, HW procedures, acceptable pencils… We all receive these pamphlets with key classroom information that get dumped into that junk drawer in the kitchen. For the past few years, I created a flip book and attached a magnet to the back, so parents could hang the booklet on their refrigerator in plain sight. I still like that idea, but I was getting tired of making them, and my pages never lined up correctly (which bugged my OCD nature to no end).

BTS parent handbook meet the teacher night

This year I folded mini pocket folders with card stock and inserted individual cascading pages by modifying my old flip book file. You can see the headings of each page of information and pull out that insert to get the information you need. I think these folders will still get dumped into the kitchen junk drawer, but I like the construction of them, the final size, and the way you can view the information headings.

To Make the Folders:

  • Use 8 1/2″ x 11″ card stock. Cut cardstock to 7 1/2″ x 11″ size. I found Astrobrights cardstock paper that was double colored, so each side has a coordinating color. It makes the final pocket folder more interesting.

  • I have a paper scorer to make guidelines where I need to fold. You could use a ruler to measure and fold by hand. Set the paper in landscape direction. You will fold along the long edge of the paper at 5 1/2″ (bottom of the paper folds up 2″). You will fold the paper in half at 5 1/2″ down the center.

  • After pre-folding, open the paper flat and cut a skinny triangle along the 2-inch flap. The tip of the triangle will be 2-inches into the paper at the 5 1/2″ fold. This will allow the bottom flap to fold up neatly without bending or buckling in the center.

To Make the Printed Inserts:

  • I created THIS TEMPLATE in MSPowerPoint. There are 10 slides (plus one slide with teacher notes) with editable textboxes in different sizes.
  • Fill the textboxes with the essential information for your classroom.
  • Each slide page is 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″. I printed on 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper, so lots of cutting is involved. Print the pages and cut to the correct sizes with a paper cutter. All pages will be 5 3/8″ wide. The heights vary by 1/2″. The tallest page is 5 1/2″. The shortest pages is 3 1/2″. You could add one more pair of pages for a total of 12 pages (6 on each side), and the shortest page would be 3″.

  • I cut the width of the pages first. Then, I cut near the header next. For me, if I lined up the paper at 7″ on the paper cutter, it would cut at the perfect place above the header for all pages. After that cut, I would flip the page and cut my varying heights beginning with my largest page (5 1/2″is the tallest; 5″ is the next height; 4 1/2″ is the next… down to 3 1/2″).

  • Cutting the pages down to size is time consuming, but I think the final result is well worth it!
  • As a final step, print or write a title on the front of each folder. I printed a label on 2″ x 4″ Avery shipping labels and then cut the labels to 2″ x 2″ because I liked the square shape on the folder covers (and I happened to have that label size in my massive paper supply).

Sharpie Paint Pen Teacher Hack

 

Even though I did not want to do it, I returned to my 4th grade classroom for some final clean up from the school year. My main objective today was to remove the semi-permanent Sharpie Paint Pen names on the corners of the desks. In the past, this has been a little bit of a chore because I use Sharpie Paint Markers, medium point, to write student names on each desk, and it does not wipe off easily.

Sharpie Paint Pen name tags on desks teacher hack #teachertip

That was the point when I started using the Sharpie Paint Markers– they did not wipe off easily. I was so frustrated with laminated paper name tags that were torn, bent, doodled on, and peeled apart by the third week in August. The Sharpie Paint Marker names hold no interest for the students. They can’t wipe them off. They can’t wrinkle or peel them apart. The names are smooth and flush with the desk surface, so students papers don’t rumple, bend, or tear them. They are practically perfect except when you need to remove or change the name.

I tried a few paint pen removal methods, and Goof Off really works the best. Unfortunately, you practically asphyxiate yourself by the end of the job because of the fumes. However, TheRoomDad came through on this one (accidentally) because when I sent him to Lowe’s for a new can of basic-original-classic Goof Off, he returned with a spray bottle of Goof Off Adhesive Remover Gel. The smell is not as deadly, and it worked as well as regular Goof Off to get the paint pen off the desks.

I have two groups of students who move through my room every day, so I color code my desk names. Blue is one class group; red is the second class group. The names are easy to read and stay bright and clear even when I wipe the desks down. When I do need to change names on the desks, I can wipe one name away or both names using the Goof Off. The paint pen names have been a great teacher organizational tool that reduce mess in my classroom.

To Remove Sharpie Paint Marker Names:

  • Spray Goof Off Adhesive Remover Gel on dried paint pen and wait a minute.
  • Wipe in circles (scrubbing motion) with a dry paper towel.
  • Wipe up the gel off the desk.
  • Wipe the entire desk with a Clorox wipe or other cleaning solution (or even a wet paper towel).
  • Repeat if necessary.

   

When You Don’t Have Goof Off:

  • Scribble over the dried Sharpie paint pen with Expo marker.
  • With a damp paper towel or Clorox-type wipe, rub the Expo and Sharpie paint pen away. This method takes longer.
  • Repeat as necessary.

    

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sun block (I have not tried this method personally, but teacher followers shared the tip with me)
  • Nail polish remover (test that this does not remove the finish on your desks before using)
  • Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (or similar)

 

Fresh Ideas for Publishing Student Writing

fresh-ideas-for-teachers-roommom

Students can always write or type on a plain piece of paper for their writing, but what is fun about that? If you want student writers to really feel proud of something they wrote, publish it on special paper or in a unique way. It makes the writing stand out and look fresh. Ignite students’ interest in their writing by showing them how professional their writing can be.

native-american-magazines

One of my favorite ways to publish student writing is on glossy brochure paper like THIS ONE by HP that has the same texture as a magazine. The printed product has a quality finish to it that makes it seem as if we went to a professional publisher to print. I won’t even make teacher marks on the paper when grading! It’s that special. We recently completed a magazine article style writing project, but you could complete any style of writing. To see more about the magazine feature article activity, CLICK HERE.

state-brochure-samples-with-letters dsc_1484

Another fun paper option is a cardstock weight tri-fold brochure paper like THIS ONE. The paper is pre-scored, so when you are ready to fold, it bends into 3 even sections every time. I opt for the matte finish on this one, but the tri-fold paper is available in glossy finish too. We created state brochures that we folded and mailed to our school alum. The final product looked like a real mass mailing from a legitimate business. We were all impressed.

narnia map and journal sample

If you don’t have access to a color printer (or any printer), antiquing paper can be fun. I usually have students type their writing and choose an old-fashioned looking font. We print with a laser jet printer (ink-jet will smear later) and then stain the paper with wet tea bags. If you do not have a printer, or you would prefer that the students hand write the assignment, you can stain the paper first and have students write by hand after the paper dries. For full directions about staining paper, CLICK HERE.

For more fresh ideas, click the logos in the picture below.

 

Cinnamon's Classroom Amy Mezni Kirsten's Kaboodle ELA Buffett Mrs. Russell's Room The Room Mom Study All Knight Brittany Washburn Miss Stefany Meredith Anderson Image HTML map generator

Interested in winning a Fujifilm Instax camera with 2 film packs?

Instax or Polaroid type cameras are a great FRESH tool for any classroom. CLICK HERE to enter our Rafflecopter Giveaway. Giveaway ends Thursday, 1/19/17 at midnight. Open to U.S. residents only.