Friday, November 23, 2012

Three Math Activities for the Christmas Season

You can spread a little holiday cheer in your winter math lessons.  There are a ton of ideas out there to enliven math class during the last few days of the semester, and get everyone in the mood for Christmas.

  • Create Christmas trees in the cute coordinate graphic activity.  This teacher had a wonderful winter bulletin board full of these decorated Christmas trees and fireplaces.  It's a good way to have them practice graphing as well as making their own artwork.
  • How acute is students' spatial intelligence?  Test it out with this Snowflake Math Activity, which challenges them to anticipate which design will result from cuts on piece of paper.  It's taking the handy old paper snowflake technique and making it much more complex.
  • Speaking of snowflakes, have you ever heard of a 6-Sided Kirigami Snowflake?  MathCraft shows you how to make one.  They are signed to reflect the hexagonal symmetry of real snowflakes.  Picture tutorial included.

Have you seen more math lessons that are great for this time of year?

Christmas trees,holidays,special occasions,stars,ornaments,lights,decorative elements,traditional

Time-Telling Games

A few websites offer practice with telling time and reading clocks:

  • Students can Stop The Clock and record the time displayed. 
  • Can they tell the difference between two times?  Test their skills by playing another game on the same website. 
  • They can also play Bang on the Clock to stop the clock at the correct time.  Adjust the clock hands' speed to make it more challenging.


Three Hands-On Geometry Activities

Turn geometry lessons into creative opportunities for students to learn while they build, manipulate and create.  I found three cool resources for hands-on geometry activities that you might like to add to workstations, your classroom project roster, or enrichment lessons. 

  • A great place to start for geometry activities is the MathCraft Wiki Page, which has dozens of projects that explore geometric principles.  Many of the suggestions there are eye-catching and complex, so this would be a good resource for gifted students.  Help students strengthen their spatial intelligence by challenging them to create icosahedral planet ornaments, these cool and colorful paper polyhedra, fractal cupcakes or any number of the ideas listed on the site.  Each project contains a step-by-step tutorial.

  • Miss Calculate posted this geometry sort on her blog, which helped her students work with triangles, bisectors, medians, etc.  I'm a big fan of sorting!  She asked her students to take their cards and sort them into piles.  Later, after they came up with a different number of piles, she explained that they should have five piles.  She then had them place their cards under the correct labels.  Geometry lesson with no paper and pencil required!

  • Construct a tetrahedral kite using little more than straws, a string and some tape.  This includes a step-by-step guide with photos.

academic,education,geometry,graph papers,mathematics,pencils,protractors,rulers,school supplies

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

3 Algebra Activities for Beginners

Turning algebra practice into engaging activities is sometimes a hard task.  Thankfully, a few places offer work your students can do to enhance their math skills without staring at a math textbook or worksheet.

Mrs. W's Math Connection showed her students that they can make "edible equations" by solving their equations in the form of burgers.  She displayed their yummy-looking algebra sandwiches as a classroom display. 

Her class also created their own water parks as a means of working with slope and linear equations.  Check out her class working on their ideas and their finished projects, which look awesome!  The project is available for free on a TeachersPayTeachers site!

There is also Vector Kids' Online Variable Game, which challenges students with basic algebraic questions to solve for "x."  They can choose which operation to use and how high their problems can go.  How many can they solve in one minute?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Math Activities with Pattern Blocks

Pattern blocks are helpful tools to create a plethora of hands-on math activities.  As I've noticed as a sub, pattern blocks are not just for students in first grade and below (as I previously assumed).  Activities with pattern blocks can be adapted to fit a wide range of skills and difficulty, strengthening geometric reasoning and spatial awareness.  Here are some activities and games students can enjoy:

  • The Last Block is a 2-4 player game that challenges students to be the last player to place a block on the gameboard.  You can use this as a board for the pattern block game.
  • FirstGradeParade adapted Musical Chairs into a game where students added blocks to the patterns created by other students.  This is a great way to get students up and moving while practicing with patterns!
  • MathLearningCenter has free pattern block lesson plans to download and use in class.  Activities are suited for K-2 students.
  • MarcialMiller lists several games and activities using pattern blocks.  Ideas include everything from working with tessalations, fractions, and making pictures of animals and flowers.

3 Books for Read-Alouds and Activities

Take a look at these terrific, tried-and-true children's books that are perfect for read-alouds and centers.  These 3 books are ones I have either read to classes or seen kids enjoy independently, and I've found websites that also recommend the same books and include activities you can complete after reading.

Dodger and Me  by Jordan Sonnenblick is a nice chapter book to devote to read-alouds, and Yearn4Learning's class considers it a favorite.  She has posted a chapter-by-chapter reading response packet to go along with the book.    

A Bad Case Of Stripes by David Shannon, one of my favorite picture book writer/illustrators, is one I definitely have enjoyed reading to students.  StepIntoSecondGrade turned the book into a coloring and writing activity for her students, and she's shared it on her site!  Your class can color their own stripes on Camilla, the main character, and write about the cause and effect of events in the story. 

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister is one of the most popular books I see in school libraries.  Kids love the cool illustrations, and I must admit that I love seeing the glittery images on the covers of the Rainbow Fish series.  That's why it was so exciting to see LearningParade's eye-catching craft activity designed around this book.  Students create a tissue paper lantern that closely resemble the colors associated with the popular book covers.  Students can also work on a cut/paste activity and color their own rainbow fish in this printable sheet from the site.

As an added bonus, check out MrsRojas's story maps made with post-it notes!  They are just the right size for a little story analysis for students.  She's even included a printable sheet to include information about different story elements.

Happy reading!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Teaching with Task Cards

Do you use task cards for teaching activities?  You may want to consider doing so when you observe all their benefits.

Task cards are pretty self-explanatory:  they are cards which contain tasks, or activities for students to complete.  Teachers usually create a deck of these task cards for students to practice skills.  They are good worksheet alternatives, can be adapted in to games, easy to make and readily accessible since so many teachers make and share them.

Here are some resources about task cards, if you're thinking about utilizing them:
  •, which gives a thorough explanation for various ways to use task cards, including for individual, small group and whole class activities.  The site also provides details on several types of task cards and gives examples of each.  There are also four sets of free task cards as a sample of the type of material sold on the site.  Visit here for a one-stop shop for info on task cards! 
  • Talbott's Teaching Trove contains a few sets of free task cards, including working with antonyms and rounding numbers.  My favorite are the "7-Up" cards, which encourage students to turn short, lifeless sentences into descriptive ones.
  • The Third Wheel posted free math task cards to sharpen students' problem solving skills.
  • forums have many awesome members who create and share task cards for all subjects and grade levels.  Sign up and join to share and contribute.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Activities

Are you ready for Halloween yet?  It's just around the corner.  Check out a few neat ideas for Halloween crafts and activities:

  • Monster Yard Lights are cool art projects to work on after reading a spooky story starring monsters.  Using little more than paint and a milk jug, you can help students design monsters that they can use for Halloween decorations.  Stick them around the room for fun, or allow them to mount them on sticks to make glow-in-the-dark yard lights.
  • LewisLearningLibrary allowed her class to do several fun Halloween activities, including analyzing a story in invisible ink and learning some cool things about bats through crafts.  Students learned everything from how many bugs bats can eat in an hour to how long their wingspan is.
  • Play Ghost Blasters, an online game where you blast the ghosts that contain multiples of a chosen number.  It's a good way for students to practice their multiplication.
  • Make cute little spider web snacks as a treat for students. 

And here is a list of some read-alouds you may consider for Halloween:

Halloween Night by Marjorie Dennis Murray

Bone Soup by Cambria Evans

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex


Bats at the Library by Brian Lies (check out the other bat books in the series!)

Sipping Spiders through a Straw by Kelly Dipucchio

Monday, October 8, 2012

Using Popcorn in the Classroom

Hi, guys!

Did you know that October is National Popcorn Poppin' Month?  I'm going to celebrate by making popcorn my go-to snack this month.  You can help your students celebrate by integrating popcorn into many classroom activities during October.  Here are a few ideas for inspiration:

  • Use kernels for an estimation activity.  FirstGradeParade posted this and included cute little autumn-themed, printable cards for students to estimate how many popcorn kernels will fit on it.  After they estimate, they count the kernels to see how close their guess was.
  • Have students describe popcorn using as many adjectives that come to mind.  Here is Room-Mom101's take on BabblingAbby's adjective activity.
  • Challenge students to create a box that holds the most popcorn.  Fawnnguyen did this activity for sixth-graders studying volume.
  • Make a popcorn book club discussion.  This is also an idea from FirstGradeParade, complete with printable discussion-starters.  Students discuss their books and eat popcorn.
  • Create popcorn writing by crumpling up popcorn-shaped papers with characters and settings written on them.  Students randomly choose the papers and write a story using the elements written on their papers.  This comes from ApplestoApplique and is similar to my Build-A-Story activity, but with a popcorn theme!

How else can you add popcorn to your October activities?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Soap and Milk Can Make a Cool, Colorful Science Activity

I saw a video of a science experiment I thought I'd share.  This is a simple activity requiring few resources (milk, plates, food coloring, soap and cotton swabs) that you can perform with your students.  

If you place a bit of milk in a plate with a few drops of food coloring in different hues, adding a bit of soap ignites a spectacle of swirls and spinning colors.  Kids would love to see the colors mixing together in a really surprising visual effect.  Explain the science behind it (involving the molecules in the soap "chasing" the molecules in the milk).  The video below explains the concept and shows you how the colors look once the soap is introduced.  You can also turn it into an experiment for students to record how the colors react in different types of milk and other liquids.  I've included a printable sheet for students to record their data during the activity.

Cool Things To Come on Substitutes, FTW!

Hi, guys!  Sorry I haven't been posting as much lately.  It's been crazy around here!

I have made progress with some longstanding plans I have for the blog.  I always wanted to offer "freebie" printables to include with some of the activities and books I post.  Well, that's exactly what I'm working on doing.  Nothing fancy yet, as I'm only starting to get the hang of it.  I just wanted easy, convenient tools for teachers to use in the classroom.  So, look forward to lots of worksheets, printable forms and activities created by me!  I'm already working on a set of activity sheets for a GREAT book I read recently that I will review soon.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Video: Students Creating Video Games

Check out this post from Education Week's site.  They show a teacher discussing the benefits of teaching students to design their own video games, an activity that is engaging, helps them practice material, and familiarizes them with skills that may help them in their career.

Check out GameStar Mechanic if you're interested in showing kids how to design their own video games.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Chaos Walking Series

As you know, I like to keep abreast of my popular YA lit.  The Chaos Walking: Book One series is one of the most popular series right now, and it is on its way to a big film franchise adaptation.

I read the first book in the series a few days ago, and I can see why readers enjoy it so much.  The pacing of the story and the nonstop action make it such an exciting read, your eager readers will tear through it pretty quickly.

The story (due to language and violence, I think it's appropriate for teenagers and adults) involves a young boy, Todd, who is on the cusp of manhood living in a world where everyone's thoughts are audible.  And I mean everyone, including animals (such as his lovable dog Manchee).  The character describes what it's like to always know everyone's thoughts; whether awake or asleep, intentional or not, people's minds are bombarded with images and words from others' minds.  No one's thoughts are private.  Not a single thought can be held in isolation.  Even the most private desires and fears are as public as shouting them from the rooftops.  The book calls this phenomenon, the outpouring of thoughts everywhere, as Noise.  The way it is described throughout the book is really a fascinating analysis of how the mind works.  Even animals have a voice because their thoughts are audible as well.

Todd was born into a world like this but, soon after the book begins, his whole world is tossed in an upheaval that destroys everything he has ever known, including the way he understands the world and the people he trusts.  He sets out on an adventure that causes him to question the strange society of his origin, the outside world, and what it truly means to be a man.

The story has all the works:  evil villains, a boy and his dog facing a rugged terrain through the wilderness, alien wars and crashing spaceships, hints of romance and the strong bonds of friendship.  It's a really moving story and sets the tone for what I'm sure will be an engrossing series.

Recommend it to your older readers!

Celebrate Reading with Class Book Awards

How is the school year going for everyone?  Hopefully, you're in the full swing of things and enjoying the new semester.  I know I am.

I came across this awesome idea on Scholastic, courtesy of the always helpful Beth Newingham.  She came up with a fun way for students to get into reading and recommend books not only to their classmates, but students who will be in the class many years later.  Get students involved in reading, rating, voting and selecting their favorite books year after year in a Class Book Awards ceremony.

Inspired by awards bestowed on notable books (like Newbery, Caldecott, etc), she had her class come up with their own categories and vote on books to give awards each month.  The categories can be changed from month to month.  October?  How about Book with the Best Villain or Spookiest Story?  Let students' imaginations run wild with categories; Most Likely to Be An Awesome Movie, Best Laugh-Out Loud Funny, and Book with the Character You Most Want to Be Your Friend could be some ideas to suggest.

Check out the sample ballot she used for her class' "Newiberry Awards."  As you can see, the categories the class generated are a bit more flexible and interesting than what you see in most awards.  Students can make their choice from among books they've read for school or recreational reading.  She even set up a special podium and special "awards ceremony" envelopes to pull out the winning books for each monthly occasion, giving the whole activity an air of authenticity.  She also recommends designing a special medal (cool art contest for the class?) just for the class award.  Once the ceremony is complete, a copy of the award-winning covers are displayed on a big bulletin board, and a special "medal" is placed on the cover of the books in the classroom library.  She includes the year on the medal that allows students to see recommended books from years past, voted and awarded by students who were once in their shoes.

How cool is that?  I love the idea and Beth Newingham's post walks you through the whole process of how she does it.  The activity is divided into two posts on her Scholastic blog, found here and here.

It would be great to start off the school year with this fun activity that really promotes reading and sharing amongst your students.  Check out her blog and start your own Book Awards!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Using Anticipation Guides as a Pre-Reading Activity

Several months back, I posted some activities used with the novel Ender's Game.  One of the activities listed is an "anticipation guide," and I always wanted to follow-up with more details on this particular pre-reading strategy.

I first heard about anticipation guides when I was reading Kylene Beers' excellent Resource When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do, which gives details about what anticipation guides are and the best way to use them.  They work best as a pre-reading activity to help students activate prior knowledge before reading a text, and engage with some themes and issues they will deal with in the reading (which builds anticipation).

To make an anticipation guide, you start with a set of generalizations based on themes found in the reading (you can use fiction or nonfiction).  Before reading the text, students decide whether they agree or disagree with those generalizations.  The class can then discuss their reasonings, read the text, and then revisit the anticipation guide to see whether or not their thinking has changed.

Beers explains that the point is not to change the students' minds, but to encourage them to think deeply about their beliefs.  Good anticipation guide statements should provoke thought and discussion amongst students.  In her example, the students reading a sample guide called the statements "tough" because it was hard to know what contexts in which the statement was agreeable or not.  They responded to a lot of the statements by saying, "It depends."  That's what you want to hear!  It's not about right or wrong answers; it's about students beliefs and their explanations for them.

That's what I like about the activity.  You get students' minds involved and engaged before they even approach the text.  When I looked online for examples of guides to go with stories, I think a lot of people make the mistake of having their generalizations and statements be too cut and dry, not challenging enough to provoke deep thought.  For instance, if you're about to read The Outsiders and one of your statements reads, "Having good friends can help you endure tough situations," how can that be challenged?  Who would disagree with that?  Though it tells you something about a theme in the story, it doesn't really work well in an anticipation guide.  How can your generalizations challenge students' thoughts, preconceptions and expectations in the story?  The answers shouldn't be clear-cut, black-and-white responses.  If yours are, go back and see how you can reword the statement to better build anticipation.  

Beers recommends using words like "always," "never" and other nonnegotiable words in your statements.  Play on students' usual line of thinking.  Examples I wrote:

  • "Murder is never right."  (How would reading To Kill A Mockingbird or Julius Caesar challenge this idea?)
  • "It is never justifiable to break the law."  (Would The Diary of Anne Frank or The Hunger Games add a twist to this idea?)
  • "There is always a better way to solve problems than using violence."  (What about in Ender's Game?)
Again, the concept is not for students to eventually change their mind; each statement should at least make students think, "It depends."  After reading the story, their minds could change or be even more convinced of their original belief, but they've now been able to consider different contexts and viewpoints.

Beers also recommends students analyzing characters post-reading by having them respond to the guide statements from the point of view of different characters.  

You can read more about anticipation guides here and here (which also includes templates and a video).

Here are some good anticipation guides I found online:
The activity also works for different grade levels and subjects.  Check out this video from ReadingRockets.

Use Old Magazines for A Science Activity About Animals

Head over to TheFifthGradeDugout to see how one teacher came up with an innovative way to use old pages full of information on animals.  Instead of tossing the decades-old sheets, she saw a valuable resource for her students.

The "Animal Fact Files" she enjoyed as a kid are full of info about different species around the world.  They include vivid pictures as well as text features to help kids learn all about each creature.

She decided to compile these pages for the class and use them when they finish their work early.  She posts one sheet a week for students to read when they get a chance, and they fill out a pre-made questionnaire to show their newfound knowledge.  The student who does the best job gets their picture posted as "Zoologist of the Week."

I thought this was an inventive way to both make use of discarded magazines and give curious readers something to do when they finish their work early.  Even if you don't have the "Animal Fact File" sheets she used, you can still mimic this same idea with any magazines with animal features, like Ranger Rick or Ask (click here for a full list of recommended classroom magazines).  Ask the school and public libraries for any old copies of magazines you can use.  Click on TheDugout's link to use her questionnaire in your version of this activity.

You can likely even adapt this to fit whatever kind of magazine features you want.  Students could become "Scientist of the Week" for science articles, "Historian of the Week" for articles on historical figures, etc.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Write Stories Using Kerpoof!

Turn your next creative writing activity into a fantastic publishing opportunity for your students.  All that's needed is Kerpoof, which allows them to create virtual storybooks.

Peruse the site to see how easy the navigation is.  All students have to do is choose a genre, characters and setting.  They have a wide variety of enjoyable options, like science fiction with aliens, fantasy with wizards and princesse, or rock stars in concerts.  Students can get pretty creative with all the selections available.

Once they make their choices, they click and drag them to the digital storybook pages, where they can add text and dialogue.  You can encourage your students to include story elements or specific topics of study.  Once finished, students can save and print their stories, or publish them on the site for other readers to view.

Kerpoof helpfully provided a step-by-step guide to using their storybook feature.  Their site also includes good activity suggestions, such as having students create the story pages with empty dialogue bubbles so that other students can fill in the words.  

Kerpoof has many other cool aspects of their site, but the digital stories are my favorite.  Consider this as a computer/writing center option, or a fun writing project.  Check out the lesson plan page for more suggestions.  It's free!

                         Used With the Permission of Disney/Kerpoof

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Two Activities for the First Day of School

Wow, August is already here!  It's almost time for the new school year to begin.  Are you ready?

If you're looking for some beginning of the year activities, take a look at these two:

  • TravelingTogether's Treasure Hunt, which is a neat way to help get students acquainted with their new classroom.  She shows you how to create a cool-looking "old" map with clues for students to find small treasures at each location, really exotic places like the pencil sharpener and the homework tray.  :-)  I really like this!
  • MrsRobinson'sClassroomBlog has "6 Questions" to write on chart paper for students to answer on sticky notes and post themselves.  This way, students contribute to the expectations set for the year, and help them think about how they can excel.  She then read and talked to her students about their answers.
What are you going to do to open up the school year?

Using Discovery Bottles

Have you made use of discovery bottles in your classroom?  Consider doing so if you want to add some simple manipulatives for centers or a science station.  Earlier, I posted about how teachers use empty water bottles for activities, and discovery bottles accomplish the same thing by adding different types of materials for students to shake around and observe.  They can do work with these at their desks or in small groups.  Just add a printable to the center where they can record what they see, and you can turn plastic bottles into a world of discovery for your students.

Some examples found on TurnstallTimes' post:

  • "Word bottles" are filled with pasta, sand or other materials, with words hidden inside.  Students shake the bottle around and read/record the sight words that are revealed.  She even included a sheet for students to record the words they find!
  • The "magnetic" bottle is full of tiny metal objects along with tons of confetti.  Students move a magnet along the outside of the bottle and watch the metal objects react.
  • The "ocean bottle" makes waves when the oil, water, and blue food coloring inside are shaken.

Familylicious also has several nice discovery bottle examples posted, like:

  • Vegetable oil mixed with powdered color and water mixed with food coloring can be shaken up to  create secondary colors, and then separate into two different colors when left still.
  • "Density bottles" are filled with different types of liquid, such as water in one and clear shampoo in another.  A marble is placed inside each and students shake the bottles to see how the marbles move differently.  This would be a great way to introduce the concept of density to the whole class.
  • A 'hidden objects" bottle is one of my favorites.  This would be great as a free-time activity!  Fill a bottle with material, such as sand or tissue paper.  Add 5-10 small objects and shake it so that they are hidden.  Include a sheet with pictures of the small objects so students can know what each item looks like, then challenge them to find them all.  

What other concepts can you showcase inside a discovery bottle?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

7 Smart Classroom Management Ideas

Need ideas on how to implement creative classroom management techniques in the new school year?  Try this list of 7 ideas for inspiration:

  • Sparklers, from Beg.Borrow.Steal, which are cute, little balls awarded to teams of students when they transition back to their desks quickly and quietly after an activity.  She keeps the little balls (found in a craft store) on their desks and the team gets a reward after obtaining 6 of them.  This is similar to table points but a) come with tangible objects, which may be better for younger children and b) specifically target transition periods, so consider this if you want to start the year training the kids how to move from one area to another without a lot of lost time.  Bonus:  the blog also posts about a game which helps cut down on students talking without raising their hands. 

  • Blurts, from KinderTastic, may be able to help with students blurting out and talking without permission.  A poster is displayed and students have to place a dot by their name if they blurt out, which helps them see exactly how much they disrupt the flow of activities.  Students are awarded a prize for going a day or a week without any "blurts" added next to their name.

  • Make a microphone, like the one used in MsKaren'sClass.  She made it from a paper towel roll and other materials, and students can only speak with they are holding it.  This would be great for classroom discussions.  Bonus:  she also shows us a bottle of her "quiet spray," which she douses on students before going on in hallways.  Cute!

  • Assign table managers amongst the students, as suggested in the ReallyGoodStuff blog.  She points out that a lot of teaching time is lost when teachers are passing out papers.  She likes to have  handouts already organized at students' desks, and lets table managers handle passing them out and collecting them.  They are kept in folders which the teacher can then grade.  I've personally seen several techniques with table managers and paper managers, and I think they're all great ideas.  They work efficiently and give students responsibility, while also saving the teacher lots of time.

  • Create an incident report, or use the one made by Mrs. Bunyi.  She cuts down on tattletales and wasting time on frivolous matters by having students fill out a form she created.  I love that it requires students to put some thought into their issues with others.  Is it really worth taking the time to fill out the form?  If not, just let it go.

  • Use credit cards, like the ones found on TeacherTreasures.  I really enjoy classroom economies.  This site has a printable version of credit cards, where you can give students stamps for good behavior on the back.  They can trade them in for prizes later.

  • Use nonverbal cues, like those taught in Teach Like a Champion.  The best way to intervene when students are off-task is to draw their attention back to the lesson, while keeping yourself on pace and not distracting everyone else.  These cues are very cool!  It takes a bit of training to help kids learn to recognize them and follow directions, but staying consistent from the beginning of the year can do wonders.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

GotBrainy for Expanding Vocabularies

Check out a terrific Web 2.0 site called GotBrainy, which can help students visualize words with pictures.  Visual pictures and connections are useful for expanding vocabularies, as they allow students to make associations with words to help recall their meaning.

That's where GotBrainy comes in as a clever and fun way to represent words with pictures.  The site challenges students to find appropriate pictures for SAT and ACT-type vocabulary words.  They can be witty, memorable and hilarious, like this one:

They also have to use the words in a correct, contextual sentence.  You can have students upload their pictures and sentences to the site.  Alternatively, you can use the words and pictures already on the site and show them to students as examples.  Then, allow your class to use magazines, web photos or pictures they take or illustrate to represent the vocabulary words you want them to practice.  Encourage them to be as creative as possible, as they will likely remember the meanings of new words that they associate with a funny or interesting picture.

Create a "Museum Exhibit" for History Projects

Click the video posted by ScienceNotebooking, who posted a super idea  for history and social studies projects.  This simple craft is created using little more than an old pizza box and plastic wrap.  Underneath the plastic wrap, the box can contain students' 3D creations, pictures or other visual items next to their written research.  This mimics the effect of looking at an exhibit or display in a museum.  You can use it for all kinds of research projects and have students bring their boxes to class, and allow everyone to walk around to view and read the "exhibits" they have all made.  For instance, she says her class behaved as archaeologists presenting artifacts (of their own creation) that were important to various Native American tribes.

Word Work Center: Boggle Board

If you're like me, you enjoy word games.  Because of this, I was delighted to see an abundance of Pinterest posts showing adorable word work centers styled after the Boggle game.

Arrange letters on a wall (or a wall, desk, cabinet... I've seen some pretty nifty use of space with these!), embedding spelling words, sight words, vocabulary or "bonus" words for students to find using the same rules used to play Boggle.  I love a comment on 4thGradeFrolics that suggested making one word using all the letters posted (related to something being taught in class or a seasonal concept) and challenging students to work on it when they have free time.  You can change the letters at intervals and present a new challenge to students.

It's like a more creative version of a word find.  Check out MrsRojasTeaches helpful printout that offers students a place to record the words they find.

3 examples found on pinterest

War: Math Card Game with Most Versatility?

Who knew one card game could be so versatile and useful in the math classroom?  LetsPlayMath shows us how one classic game, War, can be the template for a variety of math games.

Click the link to see how War can help students practice math skills ranging in vastly different levels of difficulty.  Younger students can play Addition War or Subtraction War, while more advanced students can use War to practice multiplication, fractions, and even logarithms.

I've seen Multiplication War played first-hand by a third grade class that had a lot of fun playing.  The teacher assigned a deck of cards to groups of 3-4 students, and the whole class played this way for 20-30 minutes.  You could also consider using just one deck of cards and allowing War as one of several math stations to which students rotate.

War is low-maintenance, easy to teach, and a good asset in building a quick recall of facts.  Go to the link to see descriptions of several versions of the game.

Back-To-School Writing Activity: "About Me Fingerprints"

I found an interesting back-to-school activity that gives you a writing sample and becomes a cool classroom display.  ChocolateOnMyCranium calls it an "About My Fingerprint."

She made copies of her students thumbprints, printing them lightly so that students could write along the lines of their prints.  Click the link to see examples from the class, who made impressive-looking pages with their words whirling and curving across the page, following the unique pattern of each students' fingerprint.  Assign it at the beginning of the year, and have students write about anything that comes to mind to describe themselves or their life.

You can use it as a way to gauge writing ability and learn a bit about your students.

Using the "Skype Mystery Call" as a Geography Activity

What an exceptional geography activity I found at Mrs. Yollis' Classroom Blog!  It allows students to interact and compete with a classroom anywhere else in the world, trying to figure out one another's geographic location.

This activity is called a "Skype Mystery Call," and the video posted below shows a good example of how it is done.  Integrate technology by using Skype to contact a class anywhere on the globe.  Leave the other class' location a mystery to your classs.

Next, assign jobs to small groups of students.  For instance, some kids can work with an atlas, while another uses GoogleMaps; other kids can keep track of which clues are given, etc.

The two classes take turns asking each other geographic questions about their opponents' location.  If the other team responds with a "yes," the first team can continue with another question.  If the other team responds "no" to a question, then it is their turn to ask one.  Only yes and no questions are allowed, so students have to use their geographic knowledge, map skills, and logical reasoning to find where the other class is located.

The class wins if they are first able to come up  with the correct location of the opposing class.

As the video demonstrates, kids can find this activity exciting and engaging.  Give it a try to test your students' geographic skills, and get to know another class in a cool game.

The Mystery Skype Call from langwitches on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Practice Percents in This Online Game:

Another game, Penguin Waiter Percent Game, is Funbrain's method of sharpening students' skills with percentages.  The penguin arrives with the bill for the meal, for which students then calculate the tip.  They also have a range of difficulty with the problems, getting as complex as working backwards to calculate the total bill amount based on the tip left.


MATHO: Mental Math in a Fun Online Game

It's math game time!  I found a couple of impressive online games and thought that I'd share.

The first is Matho (math bingo), a perfect game to stimulate students' mental math skills.  Choose the operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication or division) and the difficulty level, or choose to set a custom range for the generated problems.  Then, students are challenged to race the timer and solve the problems, all while simultaneously trying to get bingo from the correct answers.  It's fun and addicting!


"Mint" Your Own Coin: A Classroom Activity

Ology has done it again!  They have another really cool hands-on activity.  This time, it's for social studies: have students "mint" their own coins!

The activity includes printable examples of coins from around the world (you can also have a few coins from your own country to pass around) so that students can examine the components of money:  dates, images, mottos, etc.  

Next, students use poster board to cut out and uniquely design their own coins, making their own important symbols and images.  If they could create their own money, what would it look like?  What motto would be used?  Why?  Have students show off and explain their creations to the rest of the class, and consider using the coins as a display.

This might be an interesting activity to use while working on creating their own culture.

Free 32-Page Fairy Tale Packet

I was on Mrs. McCumbee's Class blog and was delighted to find a useful resource for classrooms studying fairy tales:  a 32-page, printable activity packet!

The packet contains book recommendations for read alouds, and sheets to discuss common fairy tale elements, story elements for some tales, comprehension questions AND comparison charts for different stories.  

The resource is free and ready-to-go for all interested.  It may be a good idea to have a recommended book or two on hand, and print this to save for a substitute day.

Tree Journal Classroom Craft

The Crafty Classroom has a great craft activity that helps students understand many aspects of trees.

Using a brown paper bag, students create a small book that serve as a "tree journal."  On one page, they use construction paper and cut-out designs to illustrate the roots; other pages reveal leaves, tree rings, etc.  Alternating pages include info students have researched about trees.  Check out the link for examples and step-by-step instructions.

This is a first-rate project or fall, and a way to combine research with a cool craft.  Try it!