Artifact Introduction

The start of a new school year is always such an exciting time. In our district, fourth grade marks the transition from elementary to intermediate school. Each year, I tell my fourth graders that the upcoming school year will be a new and exciting time for them—a new school, new classroom, new friends, new responsibilities, and new things to learn. This year will be especially new for not only my students, but myself as well. While I will still be teaching fourth grade, I will be at a new school, with a new fourth grade team, and now teaching only English and Language Arts. I am so excited for this opportunity because now when I tell my students about all of those great and exciting new opportunities we have to look forward to for the school year, I will also have the pleasure of getting to experience them myself!

Many of my decisions in our classroom relate back to my beliefs in the Responsive Classroom approach to elementary instruction. (For more on Responsive Classroom, visit their website.) At the beginning of school, my first priority is always building relationships with students. I want the learners in my classroom to feel comfortable and safe. Besides building my own personal relationships with students, I also want them to build positive relationships among one another. The learning that takes place in our classroom over the first few weeks of school has a lot to do with discovering more about one another and ourselves. We make time for these activities throughout or day, as well as during our daily Morning Meeting, where we gather together as a class before we begin each day.

This year, as I was considering the best ideas for how to build community among my learners, I checked out my Mailbox Gold account. Along with the instructional time we will use throughout the day to build community, our daily Morning Meeting time means I’m always looking for great quick activities that allow students to share more about themselves.  I was able to browse through their online content by grade level, topic, or through their magazines.

A tool that I immediately fell in love with on my Gold account was the ability to create collections of ideas. Too often, I find, bookmark, or pin an idea and then can’t remember where I saved it. With the collections, I was able to store all of the ideas I found into one place.  I also was able to add personalized notes to the ideas, so that I won’t have to worry about forgetting the ideas that I had for each activity to adapt each idea and adjust it for my students. While I was browsing, I found lots of ideas to add to my Back to School collection. You can plan easier, too! To go Gold, click here.

Back to School Collection

One Mailbox idea, called Artifact Introduction, which I discovered during my search, was a perfect fit for my Language Arts classroom. It puts a new twist on getting to know you bags that I’ve done with my learners in the past. Rather than just having the teacher or students bring in bags with artifacts about themselves to share with the class, this activity asks students to view the items in the bag like clues and infer what they might mean about the person sharing them. I love the idea of how to connect this introduction activity to academic vocabulary, like the word inferring, that we’ll be using in our classroom all year long.

I’m so excited to try out this activity during the first few weeks with my students to build our classroom community and see what interesting artifacts they have to share! How do you build community in your classroom? What exciting getting to know you activities do you have planned for your students?

Happy Teaching!

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