Last week I posted some pictures on Instagram of one of my FAVORITE classroom traditions: my class bear! This is something that I have done every year since I started teaching 4 years ago, and I have now been able to pass this fun tradition to one of my best friends which has been so fun. :)
At the end of each Summer, I go to Build A Bear to build a new bear for my class. This bear will be our "mascot" in a sense. He will live in my class "reading corner" and listen to stories with us all year. He also will travel to each of my kiddos houses for a weekend, and will even serve as a classroom management tool!
Here's a picture of my friend Carolyn and I getting ready to build our new bears for next year! Last year was the first year that she was teaching Kinder and she started
adopting my tradition. :)
On the first day of school, I read the book Where's My Teddy and introduce our new "nameless" friend to my students. Together, we come up for a name for our bear. This can be VERY tricky with Kinders, and they usually need a LOT of guidance. My past classes have named our bears: Blackie, Honey, Grizzly, and Eddie. They REALLY like to have that "ie/y" sound at the end of the names. :)
I created a journal/binder for my kiddos to use when they take our class bear home. I let each student take the bear home for ONE weekend. I try to do the schedule so that none of the kiddos get the bear on a 3 day weekend so that it is fair to everyone. That means that there are some weekends where the bear stays at school! I include directions for the parents to follow about adding pictures, etc…
I also have the child who is going to be my VIP for the week take the bear home on the weekend before it is their special week. The picture below shows one of my class binders. :)
The first person to take the bear home is usually me, so that I can set a good example for my students. Last year, my friend Carolyn and I had our bears go on a weekend outing together and took pictures of it for our students. Yes, we REALLY were those teachers who took our bears out in public and took pictures of it. But, it was SOOOO worth it!! My kids LOVED it!!
During the first few weeks of school, I have had to put our class bear away in the closet if the kids get out of hand with behavior, or are being too noisy, etc.. But let me tell you, once that bear gets put away, any negative behavior that I was seeing in my class goes away very quickly!! They want our friend back!!
I have even pretended like he was knocking on the closet door to get out, and they totally bought it.
I also pretend that the bear whispers in my ear and talks to me, especially when we are reading stories or sharing. It really helps the kids to maintain their innocence and use their imagination.
Throughout the year, our bear does everything with us!! Here is Grizzly dressed up for Halloween!!
And probably one of my favorite pictures ever is my little sweetie below hanging out with Honey in the listening center. He put the headphones on Honey during free choice time so that they could listen to a story together!
During the last few weeks of school when behavior can be really tough and kids are ready for Summer, I use our class bear as my final behavior motivator!! I raffle the bear off for one of my kiddos to keep at the end of the year. However, the way that the raffle works is that they earn tickets into the drawing with good behavior! I use the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? throughout the year in my classroom, so at the end of the year, my kids want to "fill" our bear's bucket with good behavior!
I end up with a lot of names in there, but I pick only one on the last day. Surprisingly, the kids are really supportive and happy (for the most part) for the person who wins.
Now for a freebie!! If you would like to create a class journal for your class bear or stuffed animal, I have some free and editable templates that you can use!! I also am including the cute little "Let's Fill Eddie's Bucket" sign posted in the picture above that you can use at the end of the year. It is editable too!
Click on either picture below to download the freebie for your classroom. ***THIS FREEBIE HAS BEEN UPDATED FOR THE 2015-2016 SCHOOL YEAR!!***
I hope that you have a wonderful school year!! Please email me if you have any questions about my class bear system. Since I'll be teaching first grade this coming year, I am still figuring out how I will use my bear in my classroom. I am thinking of making him more of a reading bear, and having each kiddo that takes him home take a book too and read to him! Or something like that..
I would also LOVE to know what you do with your class bears or stuffed animals! Feel free to share a comment below.