This past Monday was a difficult day in my first-grade
classroom. The children were still on "weekend" mode! I
spent Monday evening trying to come up with some ideas for
the week that would catch and hold interest. Finally about
9:00 PM, I got the idea of having summer camp. It took me
til 11:00 to get it organized, but Tuesday was one of the
most successful days of the year. I'll include a brief
summary of the day for anyone interested:
Before the children arrived, I moved 24 desks into 6 groups
and draped each with a sheet or blanket. I used duct tape
to secure the corners. The "tents" were in a circle around
the "campfire," (my son's colored strobe light with yellow
cellophane scrunched over it.) Room lights were off.
I put signs on the door- "Panther Camp and a sign warning
all campers to read and follow directions for their own
safety. My aide gathered kids at the door and let them all
enter as a group.
When the children entered, they looked like it was Christmas
morning! The fire fascinated them and the tents were a hit.
Everyone cooperated by reading the board and starting their
first tent activity. (They had to brainstorm and list as
many camping words as they could. Each group then used
markers to make a mural of their camp. Murals included
terms and comments.)
We then met around the fire to discuss the day's events. We
read and discussed camping books. We learned and sang a
song about our camp. We told of our own experiences when
camping. We then had a "latrine" break.
I kept noticing the fireflies all around us. Soon the
children were also "seeing" them. We talked about the bugs
and other animals that might be around. (The children
decided there might also be dinosaurs around. So during
rest room break, I placed my toy dinosaurs around the room
where they would be discovered.
We then started our groups for the day. My group made up a
story around the campfire. As the children dictated the
group's story, I typed it on our computer. We revised and
read it. Each child then got a copy to read and illustrate.
My aide's group went fishing (oaktag fish math facts and
magnetic fishing poles) and crossed the river on the
stepping stones (rocks laid across a blue paper, roll 2 dice
and add total, higher number moves his turtle to the next
One group used the pattern blocks to create a camping
picture. They then made their picture with paper pattern
blocks pasted on blue paper. (Writing about it came later
when in the tents.)
The last group created fireflies. I made some simple
patterns and gave them glow-in-the-dark chalk to color the
abdomens. They were thrilled when the bugs actually did
glow. (If I could have found it on such short notice, I
would have read Eric Carle's firefly book.)
After lunch and show and tell, we had math. Since we are
working with solid geometric shapes, we discussed their
names, characteristics, and the concept of faces. The
children then proceeded to trace the 3-D shapes on paper to
get the shape of each face. They were shocked to see some
of the shapes they got, especially the triangle from the
We had SSR in our tents. For spelling practice, we had a
"scavenger hunt" in which we had to get chalk, rag,
chalkboards, and then sit around the fire. The children
wrote the words as I demonstrated them. Then I made up
sentences and they had to write the correct spelling word
for the blank. I demonstrated the cursive form and they got
to try that, also.
We watched Reading Rainbow during "rest" time and enjoyed
some more books together.
The children cleaned up all the tents and put the desks back
within 5 minutes before music class at 2:40. Many protested
about ending camp and begged to keep the tents up!
Was the day noisy? Yes! Active? Yes! Beneficial? YES!
We covered the reading, writing, math, spelling, etc. that
we would have done at this time of year. But the motivation
and interest was at a peak for the entire day.
Interestingly, the two children who usually have the most
trouble staying on task were totally engrossed all day long!
Today was back to normal, but the children were still
buzzing about camp. Of course we had to have a page about
it for our Memory Books!
I hope to do this again next year during the last full week
of school. We will make S'mores as a snack and cook hot dogs
on a grill for a treat. I'll have the children bring in
pillows and sleeping bags for the day. Also, we will use
flashlights when practicing our vocabulary words together in
the morning. I just ran out of time!
I hope someone can use these ideas for a quick end-of-the-
year fun, worthwhile day!