Saturday, June 30, 2012

Synonym Cinnamon Roll Activity

I love this idea I found on Pinterest, posted by FirstGradeParade, MessyJofU and SweetTeachings.  Have students explore synonyms in this hands-on lesson that culminates in a sweet treat for the class!

Students work collaboratively to come up with synonyms for a given word, and then consult a thesaurus.  Once all their synonyms are chosen, they write all their words on a paper craft that spirals in the shape of a cinnamon roll.

Once their "buns" are complete, you can create a cool classroom display with the "buns" posted in front of foil, resembling a chef's tray.  SweetTeachings shares an example  of her version of this nice display.  The classes concluded the word activity by snacking on cinnamon bun-flavored cereal treats, which I'm sure they enjoyed.

FirstGradeParade also posted little handouts to help students in their thinking about the words, as well as instructions for cute chefs hats for students to wear during the activity!

Mmm, cinnamon rolls....

Making Memorable Lessons and Activities

MissCalculate's blog post about making a memorable project got me thinking about how important that is for teacher's to accomplish.  Students are probably given thousands of assignments throughout the course of their education; I think you've done well if you manage to leave one or two of those things permanently etched in their memory as a cool, fun, exciting or unique activity.

What are some of the lessons, projects and activities you still remember fondly?  Some of mine:

  • I remember we did a whole unit on mysteries centered around The Westing Game (which I mentioned here).  It was fun and led up to role-playing and writing our own mysteries!
  • In middle school, we had a great unit on literary archetypes that was based around the original Star Wars trilogy.  For weeks, we watched the three films and connected archetypes to Luke Skywalker's adventures, and we were all well-equipped for lit analysis in HS thanks to doing so.  
  • One year, we explored the concept of parody by making and recording our own spin-offs of popular TV shows, to hilarious results!
  • In chemistry class, we once made ice cream!  I also recall being impressed by one lab where we constructed a filtration system with plastic water bottles, which turned muddy, brown water into clear, "clean" water.

What about you?

Math Game: Fractions and Mixed Numbers

Another free math game is available on the MathCoach'sCorner blog.  This two-player game only requires dice, a pencil and the sheets provided on her site.  Students roll the dice, record their rolls in the fraction sheets, add their fractions, and convert them into mixed numbers.  Points are awarded based on who creates the larger mixed number.   Students can check each other's answers in this activity that's appropriate for math centers.

Another Hands-On Geometry Activity

Here is a surface area activity similar to the one posted yesterday.  Like the tin men, MsMathemagician's class used 3D figures to make surface area calculations.  Her class was given flexibility:  they were told to make a 3D creation of their choice, as long as it featured a certain number of specific shapes.  Students' imaginations ran wild!

Once they completed that part at home, students brought the projects to to class, where they calculated the surface area and volume of their constructions.  

Check out her blog to see students' creative work, as well as the project instructions and rubric.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Make Tin Men and Practice Surface Area!

Here is a really cool project idea for middle grade math classes, courtesy of misscalculate's blog.  She gave her students a memorable lesson on calculating surface area for tin men of their own design!

Students used tissue rolls, boxes, styrofoam and other supplies to build little men.  Next, they had to find the surface area for the little men, including all parts of their design.  Their surface area calculations were tested when they were given a measured amount of foil; if their amount of tin foil could fit over the entire tin man, with no gaps or overlapping areas, then their measurements were successful!

What a great assessment activity!  Visit her blog to see students' creations, as well as download the rubric, surface area formulas, and reflection questions used for the project.  I love that she wanted to do something memorable with the class and let them practice their skills.  I bet they won't soon forget it!

The Joys of Read-Alouds + Free Handouts

NotSoWimpyResources wrote a really heartwarming post about the joys of reading aloud.  She talked about a perennial favorite amongst her students: Goosebumps: Phantom of the Auditorium, and how students loved it each year before her copy got too worn to read.  Years later, she got another copy and students still really enjoy it.

They enjoy it so much that she has included reading analysis sheets (for predictions and identifying cause and effect) for the novel.  Click to visit her blog and share the sheets with your readers!

What are some of your favorite read-alouds?  Subs are at a disadvantage because we generally can't read more than a chapter or two from any novel.  I do manage to have kids rapt when I get a chance to whip out one of my handy Junie B. Jones novels I take to work everyday.  

When I was a student, Roald Dahl's books were the best class read alouds (especially because my teacher, Mrs. Baker, was great with character voices, lol) and, in middle school, The Westing Game and The Outsiders kept us all captivated in class.  What about you?

Hands-On Science Activity: Bird Adaptations

Here is a great hands-on science activity to teach students about animal adaptations.  I was able to witness this activity firsthand when I subbed for a class who did pretty much the exact same activity.  It was a big hit with students!

Ashleigh-EducationJourney supplies photos of her classroom experience with the project.  She also provides the printable sheets students used to record data.  To learn about how birds have adaptations to help them survive in various environments, students use tools like tweezers, eye droppers and tongs to mimic different kinds of beaks.  They use the "beaks" to try to gather items that represent food (staples, rice and other items stand in for seeds, bugs, etc).  

Which type of beak is best suited for picking up specific kinds of food?  Students get a chance to make a prediction, choose their "beaks," and are timed to collect the food and record their data.  Check out her blog for more info and the data sheet that you can use to do the activity with your own students.

image:  microsoft

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Free Math Games for Centers

Today's third free activity is from TheBubblegumTree, where you can find a printable math activity you can use for centers.

She created several math games to print:

  • a dice game she calls "Shake, Rattle and Roll" to practice addition
  • a math game with a spinner so students can "make ten"
  • two card games to help students add doubles
She also has a nifty tip for keeping dice under control while kids are playing, and she made some adjustments to the flashcard game known as "Around the World."  That was one of my favorite games as a student, and I still whip it out as a sub when there are a few minutes of free time.  

Elementary Activity: Examining Fables

The next free resource comes from TheJoyOfFirstGrade.  Her class did a lesson on fables, and she is sharing some of the activities they did.  Visit the link to find:

  • a reader's theater script
  • a worksheet for students to compare a similar character in two different tales
  • a sheet to create their own fable ( + a rubric)
  • youtube clips of animated fables for the class to watch.

Check it out!

Printable State Research Activity

Today, I'm posting a set of three free, printable activities I've found on various classroom blogs.

The first was found on ThirdGradeIsAHoot, where you can check out the class' state research project posters, and find a set of printable sheets so you can do the same activity with your own students.  Scroll down from the (very neat) dioramas to see examples of her students' cool posters, which include a state flag,bird, flower, tree and map of the state alongside information they've researched.  The printables at the very bottom include sheets to record their findings during the research process.  

Assign each of the kids in your class a different state, mount the posters on construction paper, and use them for a nice display!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Use YummyMath for Free Math Problems

YummyMath is a cool website that assists you in integrating math and current events.  Visit the site to see math problems relevant to what is
 going on in the world, whether it's a holiday or something going on in the news.  You can print geometry, algebra and other types of math problems ranging from things like the NBA Finals to American Idol premieres.  All problems also include answer keys.  These might be appropriate for morning work, station activities, or work for your substitute lesson plans.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Use Book Orders to Assess Author's Purpose

Speaking of reusing items, MrBsBeachBrains posted a neat way to get rid of those old book order forms you may have lying around.

His class used the book orders in a cooperative learning activity to determine author's purpose.  Each group had butcher paper divided up into three categories:  persuade, inform and entertain.  Students cut pictures from the book orders and paste them based on what they could tell about the author's purpose.  

This is a good activity because it simultaneously accomplishes several things:

  • assesses students' understanding of author's purpose
  • allows students to work cooperatively, and debate their opinions about where the books belong (Mr. B said he heard good discussion amongst students)
  • incorporates some Bloom's Taxonomy as students categorize the books.

Foldables for Upper-Level Math

If you think foldables are only useful for elementary students, think again!  The Enlightened Elephant shows us they work perfectly in middle-grade math, too.

She shows us two examples of how her students use foldables.  One was a 6-top tab booklet foldable that explains that different types of angles (complementary, supplementary, corresponding, etc).  Students had to draw an example of each type and then create and solve a problem with each tab.

They also made a shutterfold foldable to show quadratic functions in standard and vertex form.  Inside, they demonstrated both forms, created a problem to solve, and graphed their answers.

I really love seeing various uses of foldables, and I love that they're versatile to use in virtually and subject and grade level.

How can you add foldables to your math lessons?

image:  microsoft

Oreo Cookies for Moon Phases

Assess students' understanding of moon phases and enjoy a sugary treat with this post I saw on 4thGradeFrolics.  She concluded her unit on the moon with this activity.  Students illustrated the earth in the center of a paper plate, and labeled the edges with different moon phases.  

Next, they used four Oreo cookies and a spoon to represent the respective phases, the remaining frosting on the cookies showing the waxing and waning moon.  These little projects were cute and edible, plus they showed her class' understanding of their unit.  Try it!

image: microsoft

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Use Water Bottles and CD Cases for Centers!

I love when teachers are innovative and thrifty!  Literacy&MathIdeas shows us how to be both with two cool ideas for classroom centers.  Put old materials to good use by reusing plastic water bottles and old CD cases!

Her blog shows several examples of using water bottles for all kinds of centers.  All you need to use are a few popsicle sticks and you've got a good way to have students practice math problems, sorts, spelling, vocabulary, place value and lots of other skills.  Simply decorate and label the bottles, slide the sticks back inside, and you can easily store several activities and conserve valuable space.  Her example photos are very helpful.

Another idea she had was to reuse CD cases.  Instead of wasting paper and worksheets in centers, her students can use markers to write and wipe-off practice questions of the case itself, and then open it to reveal the answers inside.  It's a great way to self-check during the activity.

I thought these ideas were highly recommendable, since teachers often look for ways to save money and space.  Reusing materials shows a good example of not wasting resources, and may spark a good discussion on recycling.

For other interesting tools for classroom centers, be sure to check out how you can use paper cup stacking and clothespins for your activities.

Airbender Graphic Novels, FTW!

If you want to augment your supply of cool graphic novels for students, consider investing in Avatar:  The Last Airbender graphic novels:  The Promise, Part 1 and the recently released Part 2.  Both books continue the story introduced by the wildly popular Nickelodeon series (of which I am a huge fan, and the spinoff, The Legend of Korra).  Students who enjoyed the show will be captivated by Aang and his friends' adventures depicting the aftermath of the first series.  Teachers and librarians are coming onboard with using comics and graphic novels for good reading material, and Avatar:  The Last Airbender is a definite crowd-pleaser.

Part 3 should be released later this year!  I can't wait!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

MathMovesU: Middle-Grade Worksheets & Games

Middle-grade math teachers should visit MathMovesU because it has a lot of valuable tools for classroom use.
The coolest thing on MathMovesU is a set of games for students to both enjoy and practice math skills. They set it up so that you can play the game without registering, or you can register your class to use the games and quizzes for assessment grades.  
As students play, they get to explore themed settings with quizzes and games related to each location.  Themes range from travel to fashion to sports.
My favorite game here is the baseball game, which lets students practice their swing, and then answer questions about ratios, percents and proportion.  They can compare win/loss records and batting averages for their answers.
Another impressive game, The Sum of All Thrills, allows students to build their own thrill ride.
The website also includes an abundance of free, printable math worksheets from dozen of topics like algebra, ratios, fractions, geometry, etc.  The activities also include answer keys.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Free Nature Science Lessons and Activities

I stumbled upon an excellent website for resources related to forests and biodiversity.  This would be a good tool to use for science lessons on ecosystems and the environment.  America's Rain Forests gathered tons of useful information and classroom activities for teacher use.

The site includes printable, complete lesson plans, worksheets and activity forms, experiments, and ideas for extensions and assessment.  A few games and cooperative learning activities are also included.  

A few highlights:

Several of these activities are perfect for Earth Day or any good weather day when you'd enjoy a lesson outside.  Visit this page for even more outdoor learning activities.

image:  microsoft

Female Characters w/ Brains

Introducing students to relatable characters is essential in increasing their enjoyment of reading.  We teach students to make personal connections to their readings, and books with awesome characters make it easy for students to do so.

That's why I appreciate Byrdseed's lists of children's novels with gifted female characters.  Off the top of your head, how many gifted female characters can you name?  After being stumped for awhile, the only character that came to my mind that is not already named on the lists is Valentine Wiggin from the Ender's Game series.  What do you think this suggests about a disadvantage faced by gifted girls you teach?  Perhaps Byrdseed's two lists can be a source of inspiration for you.

Included are gifted girl characters from classics, such as Matilda, A Wrinkle in Time (Meg Murry), and The Westing Game's Turtle Wexler.  Also mentioned are girls from more recent novels, like Deza Malone from The Mighty Miss Malone.  Check it out!  

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Review Any Subject with a 'Word Whomp'

This cool idea comes courtesy of Beg.Borrow.Teach, and it's a neat way to review almost any subject, particularly social studies and history.  They call it Word Whomp.

Simply make letters for A-Z on cards or paper.  Put them all in a paper bag or a shoebox.  Give it a good shake, select a letter, and give students 1-3 minutes to write everything beginning with that letter that comes to mind about the subject.

For instance, if they're studying the Great Depression and the letter "S" is picked, a student may jot down "soup lines, social security, stock market crash," etc.  The student with the most things listed correctly can have the privilege of picking the next letter from the bag.  

I think this activity is ideal for review just prior to a unit test.

You can probably adapt this to closely resemble the game Scattegories.  Perhaps you can have the students discover if anyone came up with words that no one else did, and they can win the round.

Visit the blog to see her examples of the activity and the extension she included!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Free Worksheet/Hands-On Geometry

I found this useful worksheet at CountOn.Org.  If you're looking for a hands-on geometry activity, try this!  All you need are unifix cubes.  You may want to let students work in pairs as they try to recreate the models shown in the examples.  They are challenged to create figures based on a bird's eye view and other perspectives.  They can practice with symmetry while they attempt to build the mirror images of the same figures.  There's even space so that they can even get creative and make their own challenge for a friend.


Book Recommendation: Combine Math Practice with Art

I came across this cool resource for math activities.  Math Line Designs From Around the World: Grades 4-6integrates math, social studies and art with each reproducible.  Students work on math equations as they create beautiful artistic designs from patterns all over the world.  They solve questions about multiplication and division, fractions and percents, prime and composite numbers, etc. while coloring pictures of Aztec wall art, Persian stars and other interesting designs from places like Africa and Tibet.  Each design also includes a critical thinking extension.  I think these activities are a good way to practice math skills, learn a bit about other cultures, and have something colorful to display in the classroom.  Kids love to color and would prefer these to boring math worksheets!

Stories on Youtube

The Learning Parade has provided a quick reference to online stories.  They've included a list of the Top 10 Picture Books on Youtube, including classics like Where the Wild Things Are, We're Going on a Bear Hunt, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

These videos are ideal for a simple listening center, allowing students to follow along with the story while you're free to work with other students.  You can also project these to the whole class if you have a moment of free time, like after recess or just before the final bell.  Also, consider providing the link in your newsletter to parents so that they will have a good resource for stories at home.  Check to see if some of your favorite read-alouds are online!