A couple more things I do which might be of interest.
Seasonal activities – every year we have events, festivals and birthdays which can be used to form the basis of lessons. examples include Shakespeare’s birthday on 23rd April, Roald Dahl Day around 13th September, Chinese New Year, Remembrance Day, Christmas, Easter and Spring. I use Outlook to remind me of these events and also regularly check Mandy Barrow’s fantastic series of daily events which she has now put into a monthly series here
I also have a folder marked J to D with individual slots for each month. In here I put the seasonal stuff such as lesson plans, pictures and posters, badges for Roald Dahl Day, stickers and any little notes I add to improve things for next year. Eventually I’ll have digital or scanned versions of all this stuff in folders on the PC.
Descriptive writing – I’m lucky in that I have a huge set of windows in the classroom that overlook the nearby river, water mill and open fields. To focus kids on descriptive writing I stick two or three cardboard picture frames onto the window and they look through and can only describe what they actually see at first. ie “I see a white painted water mill alongside the swiftly flowing river. On the bank are trees such as oak, willow and sycamore. In the fields are cows.” They then add the sense, smell of the trees, sound of the rushing river, creaking of the watermill wheel and so on. It helps them to focus on the general picture, then start adding the detail such as sound, smell and so on. Then they bring in the weather, atmosphere, mood, time of day and start adding possible events or characters walking along the river bank. Where are they going, what are they thinking, who are they meeting?
Another descriptive writing lesson includes using the projector to display photographs from flickr and from around the world. I show places and get them to describe everything they see. Pictures of humans or animals need them to think abut emotions and tone or mood. Some pictures make them think about life for people in Africa or elsewhere and how they might need to struggle just to live or walk ten miles every day to and from school for example. A picture paints a thousand words – if I can get 100-200 out of my students then they’re getting it.