Monday, August 29, 2011

***LIFESAVER #3: Design The Perfect Bedroom***

It's been awhile since I introduced a new lifesaver.  The start of a new school year is as good a time as any to share one with you.  This one is adapted from Celebrating Every Learner: Activities and Strategies for Creating a Multiple Intelligences Classroom.  

If you recall, my lifesavers are for those times when substitutes do not have lesson plans, or need time to fill when lesson plans run short.  They are intended to be pretty flexible for most classrooms.  They can also work for regular teachers looking for activities, or possibly something extra to include in case their own subs need something else for students to do.

You may not have access to many materials when you are short on lesson plans, so lifesavers should keep it pretty simple.  This one does. 

What you'll need:  a short description to either read or recite to the class, construction paper and art supplies like color pencils and crayons, and paper and pencil.

This assignment can be a drawing, or writing assignment, or both!  If you have construction paper that you can use, or even blank printer paper, let the students do this as practice with visualization.  If you need a longer activity or have no construction paper, you can make this a writing assignment with pencil and paper.  If you need a lot of extra time filled, you can choose both options.

What you'll do:

  • Before students begin, tell them to close their eyes and listen to your words.  They will practice visualizing, or creating a picture in their minds.  They will use your words to inspire a drawing of something very special (or a description of something very special).
  • Tell students that they took a vacation for a few weeks.  When they returned, they discovered their bedroom had been transformed.  Everything looks totally different!  Everything that they've ever imagined would be in a perfect bedroom now greets them as they open their door.  Someone who knows them very well has painted a picture of something on the ceiling.  What is it?  Why did they paint it?  What does their new bed look like?  What is now on the walls and floor of their perfect bedroom?  What cool new things can they see have been added?  What colors do they see?  What can they smell?  What music can be heard playing?
  • Tell them to open their eyes and draw a picture of the perfect bedroom that they saw in their minds.  What would this room be like as they entered?  As they begin to draw or write, you can write a few words on the board that will help them remember what to include (ceiling, walls, floor, bed, new things, colors, smell, music).
  • If they are making a drawing, tell them to draw and label the new features on their room.  If they are writing, tell them to write a story or description about finding this new room.  Have them practice using imagery by describing what the room did to all five of their senses.
  • Have students share their designs and descriptions with the class.  Ask the class what the things included in the room reveal about the person who visualized it.
As you can see, this simple assignment doesn't require much in terms of printouts and extra materials.  You can do this activity with several grade levels.  With young students, I like to tell them to fold the construction paper in half, then draw a picture on one side and write on the other.  

The students' imaginations carry the assignment, and they may even find it interesting to come up with ideas.  The activity also is not simply "busywork," as it gives students a chance to practice a skill needed for reading comprehension (visualization) and a chance to work creatively.  Give it a try if you ever find yourself in a bind.

Be sure to check out two other lifesavers:  Class Build-a-Story and Reading Analysis.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Free, Downloadable Science Activities has a ton of downloadable science activities you can use for all sorts of subjects and skills.  The activities are hands-on and would make great science centers, projects or whole-class activities to augment your lesson plans.

The best part is that they are free!  They have several free activities available as samples of their purchasable material, which you should also check out.  Each activity provides printable material, instructions, discussion questions, extensions and more.

The activities explore several science topics, and are appropriate for varying age groups.  Included are activities about:

  • Estimating the size of objects in the universe.  This is very appropriate for any space unit.  Cut out the slips of paper and have students arrange themselves based on what they think are the sizes of objects, ranging from subatomic material to objects in the vast expanse of space.
  • Investigating magnetism.  How can you make a paper clip float in the air?
  • Building a model landscape.  Students will then bury a penny in their landscape, create a treasure map, and then challenge other students to find the buried treasure.
  • Creating petrified paper.  Students will use salt to turn paper into a petrified log.  They then compare this process to that of wood petrifying.

Explore all of their free activities and see if any will fit your classroom's needs.

image:  microsoft

Cute, Tasty Treats for Back-To-School

Parents and teachers:  

These are cute little treats I found on  The simple recipe calls for chocolate, cookie dough, powdered sugar and sprinkles.  The ingredients form to make a small, tasty chalkboard on which you can write sweet messages.

I think these are a clever, delicious way to send your kids to school with something sweet for lunch, or as a treat for their teachers.

These are also perfect for a staff meeting or party at school.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Happy 2011-2012 School Year!

Here are a few helpful links from the site to start off the new school year:

Have a great year!  Visit again for more FTW tips.  Substitutes, FTW! has been live for over a year now and I thank all of you for dropping by.  

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Periodic Table Game

This game is simple:  as element names cascade down your screen, choose that element's correct symbol on the periodic table before the element disappears from your screen.  When you succeed, the element symbol is green.  You can use this activity to test students' knowledge of element symbols, or you can encourage them to use this at home for a study tool before a test or quiz over the elements.  The game also allows you to select your difficulty level.  Test your knowledge here.

image: microsoft

DaVinci's Mirror Writing Activity

The elementary class at Glenviewgo used DaVinci as inspiration for a writing activity.  Students learned how he often wrote using a mirror, and they copied his technique by using mirrors to write backwards poems.  They also stained their pages so that they looked like old pages from DaVinci's journals.  Cool activity!  Check it out.  

image:  microsoft

A Week's Worth of Poetry Activities

Check out this wonderful resource from Kevin Cummins.  This is a "digital literacy activity" that shows examples of several types of poetry and even provides a rubric for grading your class' poetry activities.  You can simply follow along and introduce many facets of the genre to your students.

source:  Fiona Beal

"StumbleUpon" Reading Resources

Check out these three StumpleUpon resources that may be useful for reading/literacy activities:

  • Free Audio Books featuring classics like Huckleberry Finn, Treasure Island and Alice in Wonderland.  Just click the files and you can play these stories while students listen or read along in their own books.
  • Tons of Books are available on this site, including short stories and poems.
  • Short Stories can be found on this site, both contemporary and classic.

I found these resources on StumbleUpon, which you can use to find sites of interest.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Game: Proofreading Online

Students can put their proofreading skills to the test with Spelling Connections' Online game, which provides short paragraphs for students to edit.  Players can choose their grade level, read the passages and edit mistakes using proofreading marks.  Spelling errors have to be corrected.  Students are told how many mistakes are in each paragraph, and they have a limited number of tries for each round.  There are about 30 passages per grade level, so students can get plenty of practice.

This would be ideal for a computer station; it is a good way to have students practice editing and using proofreading marks.   Try it!

image: microsoft

Tons of Classroom Decoration Ideas

Go over to the The Virtual Vine's collection of bulletin boards and door decoration ideas.  They have a ton of posted pictures that may be just the inspiration you need for your classroom decorations.  Several pictures would be very fitting for back-to-school themes.  

My favorite is the fall bulletin board with the owls sitting on the tree.  Great for autumn, which is just around the corner.   Check it out!

image: microsoft

Friday, August 5, 2011

Math Activities: "Measure Yourself!"

Here is a simple math activity provided by LHS kids.  It combines practice with measuring, technology, and animal facts!

Students need to use a ruler or meter stick to measure parts of their body (ear, foot and entire height) in centimeters.  Next, they enter their measurements into the website.  The website compares their measurements to that of some animals.  You can use that information to ask them math problems about their data (How many centimeters smaller are your feet than an elephant's?  How much taller than a bobcat are you?).

Also, the final step on the site features some other cool, printable math activities:

  • Print out a nanometer ruler and measure tiny material, recording their data on the provided chart.
  • Get out your stopwatches and have students record how many times they blink, breathe and do other things in one minute.
  • Students can measure the classroom with their own feet.  As a partner activity, this could be a good math center.  You can also make a trace of your own foot and have them compare their measurements with your foot, and go home and measure their bedroom with their feet.
  • Students can practice measuring and estimation with this activity as they examine a baby elephant's footprint.  They will need string and some coins to record their data
Great resources!  Have fun measuring!

image:  microsoft

Math Center: Division Dash!

  • Grade Level:  3-5, or any students needing to practice dividing two-digit numbers by a one digit number
  • Operations:  division, and addition to determine points
  • Materials:  cards numbered 1-9, score sheet, paper and a pencil
  • Steps:
    • The rules of the game are outlined in detail here.
    • The basic idea of the game is for students to flip over three of the cards, which will be their two-digit dividend and their one-digit divisor.  (Let's say they flip over 5, 6 and 2.  They can divide 56 by 2.)  Students will find their quotient (ignoring remainders) and that will be their score.  After each turn, they add their quotients up for their new score.  The first person to reach 100 wins the game.  This is a two-person activity.
  • Possible Extension:  
    • Increase the number of numbered cards in the stack, and have students flip over more cards for two-digit by two-digit division, or larger problems.
    • Add a timer.  Students have to reach 100 within a time limit, and each problem has to be accurate to win.

image:  microsoft

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Time Filler: License Plate Puzzles

Got a few minutes of class time to fill?

Substitute teachers in particular have questions about how to fill a few minutes of class time.  As I always say, a classroom with nothing to do can quickly erupt into chaos.  You'd be surprised how rowdy a class can get just 10 minutes before dismissal, especially.

What I like to do is have a few brainteasers, short stories or puzzles on hand just to occupy students' minds for those few minutes until we transition to something else.  Kids usually like things like that because they can be done orally as a class, and they're fun!

I found these License Plate Puzzles from Brain Candy, and all you have to do is print them out and save them for work in case you ever have the opportunity to use them in class.  You can display your print out on those neat document cameras I love or, if the class doesn't have one, you can just copy the license plates on the board for all to see.

Essentially, these are just rebus puzzles in the form of vanity plates.  See if students can figure out what the message is saying for each one.

If you have a few more minutes to fill, challenge students to create their own vanity plates on paper.  You can even introduce it with a whole story about how they've just gotten their first car and they really want to make a statement with their vanity plates.  Tell them they can only use letters and numbers, and no more than 6-7 spaces to create a message.

Cool way to exercise the brain!

Here is another list of vanity plate messages.  Make sure they're school-appropriate.  ;-)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Santa Claus, Indiana": Geography Activity

Ever heard of Santa Claus, Indiana?  Would your students believe that it's a real place?

Use interesting town names as the basis for a geography classroom activity.  This idea comes from Education World's "Boring" Geography Lesson, named after the town of Boring, Maryland.  

Give students a list of interesting town names, like this one.  Choose some of your favorites (I like Ding Dong, Texas) and make a simple map/atlas assignment asking students to find the latitude and longitude of these places, or use any other maps skills you would like them to practice.  Education World makes other suggestions for this activity, such as having students make creative newspaper headlines using the strange town names.  Have students use a map to create a list of unique town names they've discovered.  The class could also use the internet in lieu of paper maps for information about these towns.

  • How miles away is Whynot, MS from Jackson, MS?
  • In which state would one find Loyalsockville?
  • Is Unalaska, Alaska east or west of Juneau, Alaska?