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!