Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Classroom Centers: Clothespins

Another idea for classroom centers I found on Pinterest, originally posted on the Love4thGrade blog, is a nifty idea for using clothespins.  Apparently, the blogger adapted this activity from something similar she also found on Pinterest (a great resource, if you aren't already aware).  Visit her post on centers so you can see how she made a wheel from tagboard and divided it into sections.  Each section can contain a definition, a category, a math problem, etc.  In a baggy, keep clothespins which are written with the responses to the wheel's sections.  Students clip the corresponding clothespins to the appropriate section of the wheel.  Two or three pins can belong to the same section.  You may want to keep the answers to specific clothespin puzzles (as I've come to think of them) somewhere so students can check their answers.  You can keep several different versions of the activity to practice a lot of subjects and topics.

Her class used the activity as a great way to practice vocabulary.  Another blog used the same activity to help younger students practice number recognition.  There are several other ways to used this idea:

  • practice identifying root words (example:  the section of the wheel can say "these words have to do with 'life' or 'living matter'" so students can stick pins with the words "biology" and "biography" on that section).
  • practice simple algebra problems  (Love4thGrade shows an example of this in the same post).
  • review social studies, geography and history (example:  the section of the wheel can say "Pueblo Indians" so students can stick pins with the words "adobe homes" and "cliff dwellers" on that section).
There are many other ways to use this activity.  In fact, it may be helpful for students to create their own boards and clothespin puzzles to trade amongst one another to help review a unit of study.  It will help them think of things in categories and analyze things they've learned in class.

Try it!

Classroom Centers: Paper Cup Stacking

I found this review activity on Pinterest (posted by Mrs. Gilchrist, who decorated her Power Tower cans nicely), originally found on Teachertipster.com.  The idea takes advantage of many kids' fondness for cup stacking.  The "Power Towers" are merely Pringles cans that house paper cups used for stacking.  Watch the video as a teacher explains that you can write review questions on the cups to help students with quick recall of facts, like math questions, sight words or vocabulary.  If kids could recall multiplication facts as half as I've seen some cup stackers, they'd be a marvel!

Finding Decimals, Fractions and Percents Through Art

Here is a lesson found at  Nancy Mill's site.  This lesson is derived from the Mathematics Teaching in Middle School journal.  You can read how a teacher used an artwork lesson to help students understand the visual relationship between decimals, fractions, and percents.  The class created colorful pictures by gluing small squares to a grid.   Once complete, they had to calculate the percentage each color was used in the picture, and represent that percentage in decimal and fractions as well.  The students expressed their creativity and got a good math lesson out of it!  Click here for more details on the activity.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Play "Password" to Review Vocabulary Words

I found this idea on Pinterest.

Education.com provides easy instructions for science review using the popular game known as Password.  If you've never seen it, Password is a game where one person gives their partner clues about a certain word, but they can't say specific things about that word that would make it easy for their partner to guess.

The site suggests using it to review science vocabulary (and, if you sign up for the site, you can download the activity to share with your class), but you can really use it for any type of vocabulary practice.  In fact, you can adapt this activity for review of social studies/history facts, characters and events in a novel, math terms, etc.  Just have the students create their words on index cards, being sure to include words they "can't say" when they provide clues for their partners.

It's a great game for review and practice with words.  The partner has to provide the word, but it's also beneficial for the clue-giver, who has to make other associations with the word than just the "book definition."  See examples and instructions here.  

image:  education.com

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I found this site with a lot of resources for poetry activities for the classroom.  Giggle Poetry offers many ways to learn about and have fun with poetry.  The site includes ways to help students write their own poetry, tongue-twisters, reader's theater poems for students to practice reading poetry together, and tons of other poems to read just for fun.  Many of these poems can inspire your students to create their own.

image: microsoft

Math Centers: Elementary Geometry

Here are a couple of printable math centers made available thanks to Mathwire.  Both a useful for giving students practice with shapes as an introduction to geometry.

The first is a called a Polygon Quilt Game.  Students pair up, and each person picks one color to use in the quilt game.  They take turns coloring sections of the picture, one small triangle at a time.  The goal is to try to create larger shapes with their color.  After the quilt is completely colored in, students tabulate the points they earned based on the shapes they were able to create.  The more complex shapes are awarded more points.  Students will have to strategize to win this game.  Here is another site that explains the rules.

The second activity is similar, called Spider Web Map Coloring.   3-4 players play this game, and they have to use a labeled die that tells them how many spaces to color.  They can only color sections that do not share a side with one they've already colored (but the sections may share a corner).

A second version of the Spider Web Map is in the same file.  The same rules apply, except each section has a number assigned to it.  That number is the amount of points awarded for coloring that section, so students will have to add those numbers at the end to see their final score.

Try it!

image: microsoft

Writing Activities: "Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street"

Talk about a book being designed as a springboard for writing lessons!  I read this book to a group of third graders, and I knew exactly what the teacher had in mind.  It's primary purpose is to give students good techniques for writing as they follow the journey of a little girl, Eva, through her neighborhood.  She encounters various characters who give her tips for writing:

  • Mr. Sims, the actor, tells her to pay attention to details.
  • Mr. Morley, the chef who makes mousse, tells her to use old words in new ways.
  • Alexis, the dancer, tells her to stretch her imagination.  
  • Mrs. Martinez, who makes soup, tells her to add a "little something" extra to give the story some action.
After meeting these characters and applying what she's learned, the little girl's boring day turns into quite an eventful one, and she has a great story at the end.

All the advice from the characters will help your students during the writing process.  

WritingFix has a popular lesson plan based on this book available for free.  It's perfect to use as a mentor text and lesson for writing workshop.

Check out the lesson, printable sheets for students to practice editing their writing based on the book's advice, and check out samples of students' work.

Here is another site that provides printable resources for working with the book.

New Classroom Activities You Can Do Outside

I made an update to a post created last year about Activities You Can Do Outside with great weather.  Spring is upon us and it might be a good time to see if you can try any of those activities when the weather is beautiful and the class is getting antsy.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

"Louder Than a Bomb": Inspiring Documentary

Watch a trailer for a noteworthy documentary about young poetry writers.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Using Popsicle Puzzles as a Research Activity

Check out this creative idea posted last month on Sciencenotebooking.  Popsicle puzzles are a common craft idea for kids, but have you ever thought to use them in the classroom?  The blogger did just that, and she's graciously posted a few videos to walk you through performing this activity with your own class.

A popsicle puzzle can be used for any sort of short-term research activity.  Her example uses a short report on an animal, but you could also do this for geography (assign students their own state, country or location to research), or history (historical figures, ancient cultures, artifacts, events, etc), science (scientific discoveries, processes, etc), and almost anything else you can imagine.

I like this activity because it combines lots of good things:  research, writing, technology (students have to type the information that appears on their puzzles, and find or illustrate a good picture), and hands-on/visual learning with creating and reconstructing the craft.

I also love her suggestion to have students mix up their sticks, place them in a labeled plastic baggy, and then rotate to one another's desk to reassemble others' puzzles and read the information on the back.  Have them jot down one or two interesting facts about each other's puzzles, or compose your own assessment activity.

Watch the example videos:

Classroom Management: Make Your Own Scratch-Off Tickets

Look at this awesome tool for classroom rewards I found on ArtMind.  The blogger shows you how to create handmade scratch off lottery tickets and I think it would be a great way to implement the use of the mystery motivators discussed earlier.  Little more is needed for these than soap, paint and contact paper.

You can print words or a symbol to represent the classroom reward (for instance, a sun to represent recess, or popcorn to represent a movie, etc).  You can fill an entire card with a symbol in each box and, on good days, have a representative scratch off a random box to see what that day's reward will be.

Or you can use the technique from The Tough Kid Toolbox:  Make a lottery ticket with spaces for each day of the week.  Hide a reward on one or two of the boxes.  On great behavior days, decide that students can receive the reward in that day's box.  A representative can scratch it off the day's space and see if the reward is won that day.  If not, keep encouraging them to continue their good behavior because a reward is imminent.  

On poor behavior days, you can scratch it off to reveal if students missed an opportunity for a reward.  This can help if you're trying to help reinforce particular behaviors with the entire class.  The book suggests adding two "reward days" in a row occasionally because students can begin to anticipate that, if there was already a reward scratched off that week, they're in the clear and no other rewards are available for good behavior.  Surprise them!  Perhaps if the lotto ticket reveals a reward they missed, that will help keep them accountable for their behavior.

Here are a few other ideas related to scratch off tickets in the classroom:

Have fun with these!  How else could you use scratch-offs in the classroom?

Moon-Gazing Flip Book (Free and Printable!)

You guys seem to like "free, printable activities," and I have another one for you:

Remember that moon-gazing activity for young students I posted a few months back?  Here is another version of the same activity.  Ology provides a printable flip book for students to record and illustrate their observations about moon phases for one month.  It's a pretty simple activity, and attention to detail will result in a nice, handy depiction of how the moon changes over the course of one month.  There is also room in the flip book for make comments and notes about what they see.  

image: microsoft

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Live WordGirl Vocabulary Competition

From Facebook:

Register your class for the 2012 WordGirl Definition Competition, which takes place via live webcast.  The site explains:

The Definition Competition will consist of three short rounds plus a bonus round. In a game-show setting, students will put their vocabulary skills in practice as they are asked questions pertaining to word usage, definitions, using words in different contexts and reading comprehension. Your class will play along, in real-time, by submitting answers online during the webcast—and may be called out during the event! Plus, by registering for the Definition Competition, your class and school will automatically be entered into the WordGirl Definition Competition Sweepstakes for a chance to win books and WordGirl prizes! 

The competition is May 1, but register now to receive a kit to help your class practice.  Here are the official rules.  Good luck!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Education in the Media: "Brooklyn Castle" Documentary

Check out the trailer for this film, which premiered at the SXSW film festival, about how education cuts affected a championship-winning chess team at an urban, public school in NYC.

Brooklyn Castle Trailer from Rescued Media on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Writing Activities: "Swamps of Sleethe" (Poetry)

If you haven't ventured to the Swamps of Sleethe, you may be missing out on an excellent opportunity for writing lessons and activities.  This picture book by renowned author Jack Prelutsky touts itself as "Poems from Beyond the Solar System."  It's a perfect accompaniment to science lessons about space and poetry activities.  The book is a 2009 Parent's Choice Silver Honor Book, and it really is a delightful read aloud (be prepared for a mouthful!).

The book can help students learn about alliteration and figurative language as they journey through space to imaginary locations.  Dangers lurk in every corner of the undiscovered reaches of the galaxy:  there are the murky swamps of Sleethe that hide "abhorrent" creatures, the icy discomfort of Drifig Prime (where visitors must beware lest they freeze), and the inhabitants of Gazook like to consume children in their chowder!  There are 19 poems in all, describing different places that present different dangers to the reader. They are fun to read, like tongue-twisting Dr. Seuss stories, as they warn the readers of various perils of planets beyond our solar system.  There is good reason to use the book for vocabulary practice as well; words like "expire," "unabated," "mucid," and "eviscerate" are throughout the book.  The author cleverly disguised certain locations by making them anagrams, and provided answers in the back of the book.  Can you guess why a cold planet might be named DRIFIG Prime?

After reading this book, I would assign students to design a poem and illustration in the style of Swamps of Sleethe, but focused on a planet in our solar system.  Or, they could make up their own planet and use an anagram to disguise its name.  I think students would have fun being creative modeling their poems after Prelutsky's.  They could describe the physical characteristics of their planet by making them sound dangerous and threatening, like the places in the picture book.  They could even make up alien inhabitants, like those of Gazook.  

Random House's Teacher's Guide contains a crossword and visualization activity that may also be useful for this book.