Sunday, December 12, 2010

See You in 2011!

No updates today, or for the rest of the year.  I'll be busy with work next week, and I also have some other stuff I'm working on that I thought it best to save.

But, if the Lord wills, I'll be back at the beginning of January with some new stuff for the blog!

So far, I have in mind more teaching tips, a spotlight on Web 2.0 tools that I find intriguing, ideas for centers and workstations, plus much more.  I soon want to begin adding downloadable activities for classrooms on the site as well.

What's more, it's almost time for the job fairs, certification tests, interviews and all that stuff that I really hate doing even though I must persevere.  I really want next semester to be my first as a full-time teacher, so I'm focused on getting that done.

I hope you all have a great Christmas break and vacation!  See you soon!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Teaching Tips of the Week (Dec. 6-12): Make it a Jan Brett Christmas, Dreidel Game

  1. With the holiday season upon us already, it's a good idea to have some nice picture books to usher in the celebrations.  Jan Brett, the popular children's book author and illustrator, has several books that will have elementary students feeling festive.  Chances are high that your school library has a ton of her books.  Scholastic has a list of helpful ideas for a Jan Brett author study, which includes several of her Christmas and winter books.  Also, check out Jan Brett's website for coloring pages, videos and more!
  2. Laura Candler has created a Dreidel Game that is free to download from her website.  The game includes a print out of a dreidel to cut out and use in a small group game.  Talk to your class about Hanukkah, and then invite them to play this game while learning Hebrew symbols.  Instructions for the game are included in the link.
  3. Laura has also made a nice Christmas word game as a treat for your students.  Log in to TeachersPayTeachers and download the free activity and challenge them to solve all the clues, and then make their own to share with other students

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Classroom Management Videos: Teach Like a Champion

A few weeks ago, I was browsing TheCornerstoneForTeacher's website and found this classroom management video.  The video notes some techniques about acquiring and maintaining the class' attention, mostly through the use of nonverbal cues.

The techniques are from a book called Teach Like a Champion. I haven't read it yet, but I'm looking at reviews now and I'm curious about it. There are a few things in the video that I want to borrow. Most of them are things we're told repeatedly to do with students (such as correcting behavior and immediately shifting the focus elsewhere), but I like how they are achieved in this video.

"I don't have Marissa, but I do have Jasmine." It corrects the behavior, and also brings to attention someone doing something positive.

What's really cool are the nonverbal cues. Without saying a word, the first teacher in the video is able to tell students to put their hands down, keep their eyes on her, listen carefully, pay attention to what's on the board, sit up properly, and probably several other things! I like that, because it means she's trained them to recognize and respond to her cues, and it maintains a lot of order and prevents interruptions.

With subbing, of course it's a little harder to teach students some cues when you're only with them one day, but I still think there are some things in the video I'd like to try myself and keep in store for when I am a regular teacher.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Teaching Tips of the Week (November 29- December 5)

  1. Bic's Story Starters offer some excellent writing prompts for students.  Borrow some ideas directly from the site, or print the prompts as cards.  This is helpful because you can assign everyone the same prompt, or pass out individual cards for each student.     
  2. RIF encourages you to use a Bingo chart if you’re attempting to expand your students’ reading focus.   Create a simple Bingo chart with several different genres listed in the squares, and challenge your students to read all kinds of books in order to fill a row after they’ve read each book.  Reward prizes when students complete a row.
  3. Students can practice recognizing equivalent fractions in this online game that takes its cue from Pac Man.
  4. Check out this cool project from High Tech High:  10th graders applied their math and science skills to design a model of a home that has minimal impact on the environment.  The site contains full details about the project, if you're interested in assigning something similar.
  5. Discuss advances in science and interesting technological developments with students.  Here is a list of “10 Out of This World Inventions.”  Show students images or videos of the inventions, and have them come up with a problem each invention attempts to solve.  Finally, allow your students to work together to create unique ideas and visuals for inventions that solve a particular problem.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Well-Deserved Break...

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Teaching tips of the week will be back next week.  Until then, enjoy your holiday, food and families.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Scholastic's Online Field Trip to Plimouth Plantation

On Tuesday at 1 pm, Scholastic will arrange a live feed from Plimouth Plantation so that your class can meet a Pilgrim and Wampanoag, and later receive a series of letters.  Click the link, sign up for the webcast and bring the 1620s to life for your classroom.

Teaching Tips of the Week (November 15-21)

  1. If you're considering adding blogging to your classroom activities, make sure you visit TweenTeacher's thoroughly compiled list of tips for getting started.
  2. Funbrain's Tic Tac Toe Squares online game is a great way for students to practice their mental math.  The game also makes differentiation simple because students can choose to practice everything from easy addition and subtraction facts to cubes and square roots.
  3. Education Week has an article with several suggestions on how to use GPS in the classroom.  The device can be used to enhance several science activities, such as collecting data about the water quality of nearby streams.
  4. Mighty Book has a lot of nice stories for young students, including animated storybooks and  animated stories written by children.  Students can read along and follow the words to each story and poem, making it perfect for a listening station.
  5. Motivate a spirit of change in your school by entering the National Geographic Find Your Footprint Contest.  The contest calls for classrooms to research their school's environmental footprint and design a plan to improve its impact on the planet.  Prizes include interactive whiteboards, a classroom subscription to National Geographic Kids magazine, and a lot more.  The deadline is December 3, 2010!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Native American Heritage Month: Writing Activity

ReadWriteThink has an appealing writing activity to tie in to Native American Heritage Month.

The complete lesson plan include a list of books that are porquoi stories, or folktales that describe the origin of something.  After reading one or more examples of porquoi stories, the students can analyze the tale and then use it as a springboard to create their own similar folktale.

The lesson also includes some helpful websites, one of which is a classroom project by fourth-graders who created their own stories and drew illustrations.  This one comes from a student project which describes why giraffes have long necks:
                                                                                                 Ms. Klemmer's page

ReadWriteThink also provides a rubric for grading the writing projects.

This activity is a really nice way to celebrate Native American Heritage Month and introduce some Native American stories to students.  Though November is Native American Heritage Month, this activity would also be well-suited for anytime in the school year, and would fit nicely within a unit on folktales and myths.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Holiday Activities: Thanksgiving Bingo and Math Practice

Head over to to make use of their free Thanksgiving Bingo printable.  A favorite game has been transformed with a Thanksgiving theme and now includes squares with pumpkins, pilgrims and pies.  The site has helpfully included calling cards and 12 different Bingo cards to print.


Another classroom activity idea is to practice math using this suggestion from

Shopping For a Turkey Dinner:

Invite your children to "shop" for a Thanksgiving feast and practice addition at the same time.  Provide students with photocopies of grocery store advertisements.  Guide children in searching for favorite foods while also planning a balanced feast.  After selecting their items, children list and add up the prices.  Combine students' totals for a grand total.

You can also divide the class up into groups and have each group plan their own dinner.  Differentiation and challenges can be added to the activity by having groups "shop" on a budget and use coupons for items (calculating percents).  Have groups create a graph or display with their final meal and calculated total.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Odyssey Magazine Contest: Writing a Sci-Fi Short Story

Try this creative writing prompt on for size:

It’s a contest! What would life be like if we could live forever by regenerating ourselves? Do you think it will ever be possible? Write a sci-fi story up to 1,200 words depicting your vision of a world of hydra-like humans.

Odyssey Magazine is having a writing contest that is sure to spark the creative minds of your talented young writers.  Odyssey, and other Cobblestone publications, are among my favorite classroom magazines.  There is only a week left to this contest, so get those submissions in quickly!  Click the links for details on how to submit student work.


Teaching Tips of the Week (November 8-14)

  1. Cinderella's story provides a great opportunity to introduce and review story elements, and Interactives has created a website to do just that.  Their Elements of a Story site narrates the fairy tale with animation, helps students identify the parts of the story, and offers an online quiz for further review.
  2. UDip's Package Design Sweepstakes offers several exciting prizes from Apple for students who creatively use their art skills in making a product package.  Download and print off the design template and have it postmarked by December 1, 2010.  Students could see their designs on store shelves!
  3. Subway is using Facebook to have high school students nominate and vote for their community's heroes.  The High School Heroes page encourages students to upload photos and videos of their friends and mentors.  Invite students to check out the page and think about who their heroes may be.  It's a great way to recognize a student or staff member who is uniquely influential.  This promotion ends December 15, 2010.
  4. Speaking of heroes, peruse 5 Veteran's Day lesson ideas from Education World that could help your class celebrate this important holiday.  The lessons are listed for Memorial Day, but they are also appropriate for November 11.
  5. If your classroom library needs a boost, Scholastic is having a 40% off sale for many of their titles.  Dozens of books are now well under $5.00 each.


Check back in with us this week for several Thanksgiving activities and more ways to celebrate Native American Heritage month.  Fall break is just around the corner!


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Native American Heritage Month Activities: PBS' "We Shall Remain"

American Experience's "We Shall Remain" special is online for complete viewing in your classroom.

From the site:

From the award-winning PBS series AMERICAN EXPERIENCE comes 

WE SHALL REMAIN, a provocative multi-media project that establishes Native history as an essential part of American history.

The special is divided into 5 parts that begins with the effects of the Thanksgiving celebration with the Europeans.  Each part is about an hour-long and includes a teacher's guide with questions about viewing and related activities, such as having the class compare and contrast the Puritans to the Wampanoag.  Here is the teacher's guide for the first episode.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Native American Heritage Month Activities: Navajo Sandpainting

This month, I will be posting some activities related to two things that make November special:  Native American Heritage Month as well as Thanksgiving celebration.

Today's lesson plan idea:  discuss some different Native American tribes and the differences in their cultures.  Like many people, many tribes had their own distinctive forms of art.  For the Navajo, sandpainting was a sacred practice.  Find information about and examples of Navajo sandpainting (here is a website to get you started) and share it with the class.

Then, lead your class in a sandpainting activity, an adaptation of the sandpainting done by the Navajo.  

Here is a video that shows the process, which actually appears pretty simple:

A second video, found here, shows how the sandpainting can incorporate more traditional designs (scroll to the last few minutes).

Kinderart also has a written outline of the instructions. Enjoy!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Teaching Tips of the Week (November 1-7)


  1. Many students own and an have an interest in cell phones.  This interactive science activity from applies engineering principles by challenging them to design their own cell phone.  The site presents a problem for students:  senior citizens are dissatisfied by many popular cell phone designs, and your student must come up with a design that addresses the particular needs of that demographic.  The site allows students to research, design, and test their model before it is put on the market for consumers.   The teacher's page for this activity also has tips and extensions, such as designing a cell phone for business people and middle school students.
  2. Owl, a great kid's magazine, is having a Story Writing Contest for Canadian students between the ages of 8-14.  Owl supplied the first and last lines of the story, and your students may write any type of story they would like to fill in the substance.  This is a great creative writing project.  Here is the entry form.  The deadline is November 30, 2010.
  3. A Maths Dictionary for Kids has definitions for math terms, visual examples, AND plenty of practice problems for students to get a full understanding of concepts.  Students can practice everything here from equivalent fractions to complex geometric skills.  Highly recommended.
  4. The Library of Congress' America's Story website provides a ton of information about American history and historical figures.  It's a great resource for students to use for research projects.
  5. Here is an interesting video I recently found.  This is from Mrs. Jessica White's classroom blog, where she uses a camera to film a math lesson.  The class is engaged in a cooperative learning activity in which they take "boring school supplies" and make multiplication problems out of them, creating a small book in the process.  It's a good lesson, especially when students need practice with their multiplication, and you have tons of unopened school supplies stored in the room.  What I also noticed was that, while the class did a lot of talking, they were focused on their work and talked in a productive way.  They also switched groups with relative ease and got right to work.  Kudos to Mrs. White's lesson and her classroom management!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Use Halloween Candy as a Math Lesson

I found this activity over at and liked it.  It's an activity that interests kids because it involves candy.

Click the link above (it takes you right to the activity) and download a .pdf of a candy log:

Give it to students a few days before Halloween.  If you're having a Halloween party at school, it should go out before then.  Students can keep a record of what kinds of candy they got during trick-or-treating.  Even if some kids don't go trick-or-treating, they can keep a record of what kinds of candy they got during the Halloween party, or what they ate over the weekend.

During the week after Halloween, collect the data forms and use them to teach students about various kinds of graphs and charts, like circle graphs, bar graphs, line graphs or pictographs.  Combine everyone's data and hang a chart of your findings around the room.

From the link, here's an example using tally marks:

This could also be used to apply skills for probability, fractions and percents ("What percent of the class received candy bars during Halloween?").

The activity works for several holidays.  Have them keep a record of what kind of dishes they eat during Thanksgiving, what kind of presents they receive during Christmas, etc.  It's a great way to keep them on their toes.


credit: theteacherscorner

Monday, October 25, 2010

Teaching Tips of the Week (October 25-31)

  1. Here’s a great tip from The Tip Jar:  use metal cookie sheets with raised edges in your spelling, math or word work centers.  Students can use magnetic letters and numbers on the sheets for their activities.  The sheets will give students space to work, and will stack up neatly for easy storage.
  2. Check out this cool project from High Tech High:  10th graders applied their math and science skills to design a model of a home that has minimal impact on the environment.  The site contains full details about the project.
  3. Houghton Mifflin has a great proofreading interactive activity on their site that allows students to be the editor for a TV network.  They must choose a passage and keep a sharp eye for mistakes to correct.
  4. Teaching Young Children provides tips for making different kinds of puppets for the preschool classroom (
  5. Finally, the 2011 Cray-Pas art contest in underway!  If you have students gifted in art, download the entry form for them and encourage them to enter their work for a chance to when cool prizes, such as art materials and their artwork imprinted on a tote bag!  Winning students will also have their teachers and schools awarded prizes.  The deadline is December 10, 2010.  Visit the site for more details! 

(image source:  sakuraofamerica)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Made of Awesome: Weekly Writer Activity

Here’s a great way to add creative writing to your week:  Weekly Reader (another company I quite enjoy) has a Weekly Writer serial writing activity that features some of your students’ favorite authors! 

From the site:

“Each week, the Weekly Writer presents another cliff-hanger. Ideally, the entry leaves readers eager to know what happens next.”

The Weekly Writer entries are composed by some of the most popular, award-winning writers in children’s and young adult literature, such as Walter Dean Myers, R.L. Stine, Lois Lowry, Chris Van Allsburg, and Stephen King.  They write the beginning of a story which culminates in a cliffhanger, and students can read and submit their additions to the story and have them posted on the website for all to enjoy!

Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series has written this week’s story.  Imagine your students’ wonder as they contribute to a story written by their favorite authors!

This week’s submission is due by Thursday.  Be sure to check the teacher’s page for tips on how to implement this activity.  Check the site periodically for authors added to its roster and new stories!

Here are a few lesson plan ideas:

  1. Weekly Writer could be ideal whether you’re looking for a writing center/station, writing workshop lessons, a long-term creative writing project or an enrichment activity.  Students can read the beginning of the story each week individually, in groups, or as a class.  Then, they can work on the story during the week, edit and fine-tune their ideas, and submit their completed work to Weekly Reader.  The class can also check the serial story’s evolution on the website.  Celebrate as a class if one of your students is chosen to have their work posted on the site!
  2. As the website suggests, this activity is great for exploring story elements and author’s craft.
  3. After reviewing the stories, have your class start its own serial writing activity.  Over the course of several weeks, students can begin an original story and add to it in installments.  Post the updates on a classroom blog.
  4. Read the story beginnings to the class once a week, brainstorm some thoughts as a class, and then assign a daily journal writing activity that allows students to continue their own version of the story.  When the final version of the story is posted, read it together as a class and have students share their work to everyone or small groups.
  5. Use Weekly Writer to initiate an author study.  Have students research the authors and read some of the popular novels they’ve written.  You can also have your class research the history of serial writing. The site mentions Charles Dickens, yet there are many other authors who got their start by writing stories in installments.  Encourage your students to find about other authors and stories that use this technique.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Teaching Tips of the Week (October 18-24)

  1. If you're looking for a math game for your class, try Neopets' Math Nightmare, an amusing game that allows them to quickly type in the answers to addition, subtraction, multiplication or division problems before an alarm wakes up a cat.  There are different levels to the game, and it's a great way to practice mental math!
  2. Here's another game for students to practice their subject/verb agreement:  Verb Viper provides sentences for students to choose the correct verb to feed the snake.
  3. Assess your students' understanding of the three branches of government as they play The US Mint's Branches of Power Game.
  4.  If you’re studying Native American tribes, use OurStory’s lesson that includes a reading guide to a Newberry Honor Book, and a chance for students to design their own Pueblo pot.
  5. The Federal Trade Commission has a site, YouAreHere, designed for 5th-8th graders to learn about business markets, and how to be good consumers.  The site is designed as a virtual mall which highlights different aspects of business.  The West Terrace of the mall shows how to be savvy consumers who are aware of advertising techniques for products.

source:  YouAreHere

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

***LIFESAVER #2: Reading Analysis ***

If you haven't guessed yet, I simply love Scholastic.  They have tons of great resources, some of which are their classroom magazines.  One magazine is called Storyworks, and Scholastic's site has reproducible worksheets for teachers to use with the magazine's features, but these particular sheets can be used for almost anything.  They are especially useful for Lifesaver lessons if you do not have real lesson plans.

Why This Works:

It's fairly simple for students to do.  The sheets have basic analysis for any piece of fiction or nonfiction.  Questions about character, theme, plot elements, main idea, and other things are good review for students.  It's all presented pretty simply (Storyworks is designed for elementary students), but it's versatile for several grade levels.  Whether it's a picture book read to 3rd graders, or a novel for middle-schoolers, story elements and important facts are essentially the same.

If you discover that you don't have lesson plans, one thing substitute teachers often do is make students read silently.  As I've previously discussed why indefinite, "kill some time while I figure this out" reading has its faults, reading with purpose can be a lot more beneficial to students and subs.  

This Lifesaver is not simply busy work, since it does go through lengths to have students explore reading comprehension.  It takes up a good amount of time, even if students are reading a short text.  It's also versatile.  You can grab a literature textbook or classroom magazine, select a story or article, and have students work on this.  You could also just let them read their independent reading texts, whatever stories they may be reading themselves or what may be in the classroom library, and let them analyze their particular reading.  It's so flexible that it pretty much fit almost anything they could be reading.  It doesn't have specific questions for specific texts; it's broad enough for several different grade levels and classrooms.

A Few Things to Consider:

The only thing you have to think about is how you're going to keep this with you.  There are only a few options.  One is to print 20 or 30 of these and keep them with you at all times.  Of course, if you do that, you should probably only have one set and just tell students to write on their own paper so that you don't have to keep printing it again (even though, inevitably, someone will write on your copy).

You could just keep one copy of the worksheet and, if the need ever calls for it, you could write down the basic outline on the board or overhead and just tell students to follow what you've written on their own paper.  If you're lucky, you may have a document camera (which are the coolest!) to save you some effort.

Depending on the grade and ability levels, you may want to explain, omit or even lengthen some parts of the worksheets.

I hope this helps!  

Again, regular teachers, this may be useful enough for you to use in your real lessons!

Check out Storyworks if you get a chance!


credit to:  Scholastic Storyworks

Monday, October 11, 2010

Teaching Tips of the Week (October 11-17)

  1. The Roald Dahl Dahlathon is running now through December.  The beloved authors' site is challenging young readers to read three of his books and complete a downloadable reading journal in order to win prizes!
  2. Algebra can be engaging to students playing Lure of the Labyrinth!  This unique tool is “a digital game for middle-school pre-algebra students. It includes a wealth of intriguing math-based puzzles wrapped into an exciting narrative game in which students work to find their lost pet - and save the world from monsters!”
  3. No matter the grade level, use wordless picture books to assess your students’ mastery of story structure and literary elements.  Have them write short story or reader’s theater script to accompany a wordless picture book.  This lesson idea can get you started.  Not only could this be a great way to express creativity, but this can also help your struggling readers with comprehension.
  4.  Science teachers:  consider visiting Wonderville and Proton the Cat when you want your class to apply their studies of sound waves and hearing.  It's a really well-designed site!
  5. Amuse your students’ word sense with a list of Tom Swifties.  Use the provided examples to stimulate their word skills, and you could even have students devise their own Tom Swifties using their spelling and vocabulary lists.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Restroom Breaks: How Do You Deal?

One of my least favorite things about subbing, especially since I mostly work in elementary schools, is dealing with a few basic, biological needs:  restroom and water breaks.  In fact, I prefer older middle grades (4th and 5th) partly because you don't have to escort the entire class on a restroom break all the time.  It seems like with Pre K-1st, their tiny little bladders require hourly restroom visits.  Then, you have to trek down the hall, maintain silence and order, wait for everyone to go, keep kids from playing in the restroom, get them out quickly, go all the way back to the room, and then resume instruction.

On some days subbing with older students, there appears to be an endless stream of students asking me, "Can I go to the bathroom?  Can I go get a drink of water?"  The first couple of requests, I usually comply. But then I may notice the same kid will get up maybe an hour or two later.  Or a girl will get permission to go, and suddenly everyone has to go.  It gets annoying.  It also doesn't help that many teachers and schools find a million different ways to handle restroom breaks, so there's no real standard to follow.

I've been visiting some teacher boards lately and, just since the beginning of the school year, several topics have arisen about whether restroom breaks are required (atozforums) and how many restroom breaks are normal (proteacher) and so on.  This sparked some lively discussion as teachers shared different philosophies that ranged from absolutely no restroom breaks during instructional time EVER (particularly due to vandalism) to letting students get up and go, without asking, whenever they want.

Generally, I have no set way that I handle restrooms.  I usually let a few kids go, and I deny several requests if I think it's getting excessive.  If enough students ask, I'll take the entire class to the restroom.

Occasionally, with older grades, I'll let one table or group go at a time.  I like doing that because students can keep working and quit asking me to go, since they realize their groups' turn for a break is imminent.  The only problem is that this only works in trustworthy classes.  Some groups will go and linger too long, and I've also had a teacher escort a group of boys back to report that they were all playing in the restroom.

I've seen somewhere that subs can make their own restroom log for their classes.  Just have students sign in and out with the times that they left and leave it for the teacher, who will then see how long students were in the restroom and how frequently they went.  I haven't tried it yet, but I'm seriously considering it.  It would also be helpful to me to see exactly who has already gone and how long ago they did.  I sometimes find myself asking students with uncertainty, "Didn't you just go?"

I mentioned on AtoZ that one classroom method I liked was one I saw in, I believe, sixth-grade at one school.  Because of restroom abuses, teachers in the entire grade printed out small restroom passes marked with 8 or 10 boxes.  Students had to write their names on it and keep up with it each week.  Whenever they needed to go to the restroom or get water during class, all they had to do was give the teacher this pass.  No questions asked.  The teacher hole-punched a box on the pass and let them go.  The catch was, once those boxes have all been punched, there were no more restroom breaks for the student until the following week, when they all get new passes.  So if a kid wanted to get up and go three times in one day, fine, but they've already used nearly half of their breaks for the whole week.  If I recall correctly, students who had unpunched boxes at the end of the week got some small reward.  I think I like that method because it was simple, pretty fair, forced kids to use discretion about their restroom visits and, because the whole grade did it, made it easy to follow for subs to know what to do.

What do you think?

How do you deal with restroom breaks?


Monday, October 4, 2010

Teaching Tips of the Week (October 4-10)

  1. Help students practice their math skills with a deck of cards instead of paper and pencil.  Here is a list of several math games to play simply using a deck of cards (via letsplaymath).
  2. iCivics' Argument Wars is a great place for your students to practice applying their knowledge about the US legal system and the Constitution.  The online game gives them the chance to choose a character and argue actual Supreme Court cases.  Use the cases and information provided as a backdrop for some lively classroom debates, such as whether or not it should be Constitutional for schools to search students' belongings.  It's good practice for them to do what lawyers do:  build support for their arguments.  You can also listen to actual oral arguments in the cases.
  3. TryScience's Extreme Challenge combines students' interest in extreme sports with science.  By exploring the site, they can learn why traveling on a snowboard in a crouched position is more aerodynamic for faster movement, or how fiber typing different muscles is important for athletes.  Then, they apply their science knowledge to compete in the online games!  Try the Quick Games to practice the challenges without registering.
  4. Addition MATHO is an online game which allows students to practice basic addition to win a BINGO challenge.
  5. StudentTreasures Publishing offers an exciting way to get your class motivated about writing.  Through their publishing service, you can guide your students in a writing process that culminates in an actual published, hardbound book!  The program offers a couple of free packages:  a class book where students can contribute a page, or a school-wide deal that offers $2,000 in free books.  See the site for more details and examples, like the ones shown below.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ain't Misbehavin': Colored Cups for Classroom Management

I cited The Mailbox in this week's Top Teaching Tips of the Week, and here's a classroom management idea from their site:

Place three cups on the tables or desks of groups of students working together.  Mimicking traffic signals, green cups are on top, followed by yellow, and red at the bottom.  Whenever groups or tables are talking quietly, they may have the green cup displayed.  If they begin to get too loud, walk over and place the green cup at the bottom and the yellow cup will signal that they have a warning for their noise level.  If they correct their behavior, they get their green cup back on top.  If, however, they do not correct their noise level, the red cup moves to the top.  Red signals that they go to silence.

What I like about this is that it's pretty cheap to construct and it's simple for students to understand.  Best of all, the teacher can simply walk by a group, silently move cups, and communicate exactly what students should be doing.  If groups are in centers or playing a game, this would be a useful management idea.


imagecredit:  The Mailbox

Top Teaching Tips of the Week (September 27-October 3)

  1. The Mailbox (one of my favorites!) is giving away a coupon for orders!  The offer ends TODAY, so use it quickly.
  2. Looking for a science game?  Print out the game board for Endangered!  Students can learn the instructions, play, and explore facts about endangered species.  This could be quite useful if you're looking for activities for science centers.  Be sure to laminate the game board for repeated use.  A good extension would be for students to research the animals featured (source: American Museum of Natural History).
  3. Fall is here, so it's a great time for classes to study weather changes.  Visit The Weather Channel Kids for classroom ideas and teacher resources.  Take a moment to register for free, click on the Weather Classroom page, and find all sorts of information and reproducible sheets.  They have lesson plans, experiments, weather puzzles, resources and tons of other helpful things.
  4. Your class can participate in the 4th Annual GovDocKids Group US Constitution Day Poster Design Contest.  Download the entry form, and then submit student designs of how they have benefitted from the freedoms granted by the Constitution.  Assign it this week because entries must be postmarked by this Friday  (source:
  5. Hispanic Heritage Month is nearly half over.  Have you taken the opportunity to shine a positive light on the culture?  See my list of ideas to get you started!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Top Teaching Tips of the Week (September 20-26)

  1. Browse through the first season of PBS’s great show, SciGirls, which promotes scientific discovery and analysis.  It's an excellent resource for teachers in the middle grades.  The show encourages the study of math and science as viewers join girls as they solve an interesting problem in each episode.  Technology, internet use and cartoon characters also help this show seem relatable to students, and real scientists also make appearances.  I highly recommend SciGirls!  Also, visit their activities and projects page to see ideas for science class.  The activities are also helpfully provided in Spanish!
  2. Here's a great use of classroom technology:  have students create their own short children's book using ArtisanCam, which allows them to write a story and "publish" it for everyone to read online.  The neat thing is that students can also select from images to illustrate their story, and they all actually look like children's drawings!  Peek through the gallery for some examples.  Students could practice using story elements, and you could also integrate science by having them include facts about animals (such as their habitats, for example) because the pictures use animals as characters.
  3. To practice basic math facts, young students could Save the Apples in this online game.  They can practice addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, and select their level of difficulty.
  4. Your class could practice visualization and summarization skills by designing a comic strip or short graphic novel based on a few pages of text.
  5. Use Bingo instead of a written history or geography quiz if you want students to remember details about different Native American groups, states, etc.  Make some Bingo cards (you could even use regular paper and have students draw a chart)  and have your class fill each box with a term from the unit's list.  Then, call out clues ("This Southern state is also known as 'the Peach State'") and have them mark their box if they have the word written down.  Because students have to know their facts in order to win the game, this is a good assessment tool, and it's motivating to students.  It has the benefit of a "Jeopardy" game with easier preparation for the teacher.