Monthly Archives: May 2012

Classroom Olympics theme for next school year?

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Classroom Olympics theme for next school year?

How many classroom themes can I have?   They’re so much fun!  Their possibilities are endless.  Can you tell I love classroom planning?  (Hmm, maybe there’s a way to combine several into a SUPER theme?!)

I was gearing up for a camping theme for my classroom, but then I remembered the Olympics are coming and got all jazzed up.  The London 2012 Olympics could have so many educational tie ins.  I started searching for Olympics decor, activities, and materials and…well, it just got out of control!   Check out all the Olympics gear and activities for your classroom and please help me decide: Camping Theme or Olympics Theme?  🙂

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A Collection of FUN Learning Activities for Summer Vacation

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A Collection of FUN Learning Activities for Summer Vacation

Summer is here!  (Go ahead, do a little dance in your chair.)  As a teacher, I know we all need (and deserve) a brain break.  So do it!  Take a break!

After you’ve relaxed a little, help your children dive into some fun that they won’t even realize is learning.  (Tricky, tricky, I know!) I’ve seen students make amazing progress during the course of the school year, only to come back from summer vacation having forgotten much of what they learned the previous school year. I’ve seen how it bothers the students when they return, only to realize the things they knew have now been forgotten, and it breaks my heart.

So what can you do to help your child retain (or even advance) what she/he’s learned this year? By providing meaningful, and FUN projects, activities, and experiences to tap into educational concepts throughout the summer! Some of these experiences will not only further your child’s understanding of their world, but offer great opportunities for you to bond as you work together in the comfortable and loving atmosphere of your home.

I’ve compiled a list of the best places to find engaging and unique learning activities for summers at home. (Or anytime, really!) It’s organized by subject area (Reading, Writing, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Health), so if you’d like to skip to a specific subject, just use the Table of Contents.

I LOVE digging through educational resources to find the best of the best, so check back often, as I’ll be adding to that site all summer long!

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Cool Literacy Websites

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I just figured out how to see who has been checking out my Paragraph Attack Video on YouTube, and noticed Mrs. Ellis in Michigan (my home state–woot woot!) linked my video to her blog for students.  (Thank you!) You can find several other cool literacy sites there too!  Enjoy!

I also found these 2 videos about how to write paragraphs:

1. A paragraph writing wrap using a burrito and hamburger example (motivated me to have the kids create their own paragraph writing videos):

2. A family of chefs explains how to write a paragraph like you make a hamburger (I’m currently in China, where good burgers are hard to find, and these ladies are making me hungry while they educate!)  I love how this family worked together to create this educational video.  Sounds like a fun choice homework assignment!

Classroom Camping Theme

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Classroom Camping Theme

Cool camping theme for classroom!

I’ve been craving a camping trip, but that’s not going to happen for another 4 weeks at least (that’s how much longer I’ll be living in my university home in China), but hopefully it’ll happen when I return to the U.S. (and my camping gear) this summer!

<—Meet my fiance, Dan.  He’s packing up after a camping trip in N. Carolina last summer.  He’s an efficient packer–uses his head when he runs out of hands.  🙂

Anyway, It got me thinking, and I’m now tossing around the idea of a camping themed classroom for next year.  I started searching the net for anything helpful that I might be able to use for next year and found a TON of ideas and listed them here!  Using a few key pieces and a little creativity can go a long way in developing the perfect theme.  I’d love to know if any of you have done a camping theme in your classroom and which ideas worked out the best for your little campers!

News! BrainPOP published my resources!

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News! BrainPOP published my resources!

Woohoo!  I’m totally pumped to say that my Before, During, and After Reading Graphic Organizers are posted on the BrainPOP Community page!  The free resources are designed for BrainPOP Jr.’s Food Chain, Forces, and Solar System videos.  I adore this site, and have used it extensively for the last 4 years.  They have TONS of educational videos based around curriculum content.  The students love it, and so do I!  Check it out!

A Pedometer for a Roaming Student

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I once had a student.  Let’s call him Toby.  Toby was the classroom roamer explorer.  He would get up in the middle of a 5 minute mini-lesson and begin “exploring” the room.  He was rarely aware that he was off task until I called him back to the carpet–he was just taking a walk!  I needed a way to make him aware and put him in control of his adventuring feet.

I tried everything, until one day I walked by the pedometers while doing some classroom shopping at the Dollar Store and half-seriously thought, “I bet Toby could really burn out one of those things!”  And the thought came to me, “What if I challenged him to get the FEWEST steps possible?”

It.  Totally.  Worked.  Man, I love the Dollar Store!

$2.12 plus these 4 sentences made all the difference: “Toby, here are 2 pedometers.  They keep track of how many steps you take each day.  You get to wear one, and you can choose a friend to challenge with the other one.  The person with the FEWEST steps at the end of the day WINS.”  I didn’t even attach a tangible award to it, just the pride of being the winner.  Toby’s roaming went almost to nonexistent in a DAY.  Each day, he chose a new friend to challenge.  Sometimes he even won.  The best part?  After a couple weeks, his roaming was drastically reduced, even when he forgot to put on the pedometer! 

Do you have an explorer?  Try this out and let me know how it goes!  I hope it’s just as successful for you!

Text Structure Bookmark Freebie

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It seems to me that text structure questions come up an awful lot on standardized tests.  I prepare my students with these bookmarks.  Students use them to identify the text structure in their book (or a stack of books that I dump on their group’s table during whole class activities).

Print, cut apart, and give each student or group their own set.  Laminate for longer life and reuse again and again!

Make it a game!  Students love the challenge of finding one of each type of structure.

Ace to King Review Game Freebie

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Ace to King Review Game Freebie

Lately, to mix things up, I’ve been making a lot of my classroom activities more game like by using playing cards.  “Ace to King Review” is something I’ve been using for vocabulary review.  The idea is basic, and students pick up on the game quickly.  All you need is a projector, playing cards, and a key for your students to check each other’s verbal responses.  I’ve used parts of speech vocabulary words for fourth grade, but you can use any vocabulary words you want.

Rules (also listed on the slide show below): Students work in pairs.  Give them a partial deck of cards (Hand out the same number to everyone, but don’t worry if everyone has different face values.  If you play this a few times, eventually, every student will be asked for every definition at least once.)  Partner 1 draws a card, which corresponds to a word projected on the board.  They attempt to define the word, and Partner 2 agrees, disagrees, or checks the printed answer key (found after the question slide).  Partner 1 gets to keep all the cards that they answered correctly, and gives back the wrong answers to try again.  There is no question for the “Joker” card, so students can choose any word they want when they draw this card!

The Google Docs slide show is below, and you can download it using the little gear icon below the presentation box.  Feel free to try it out, adapt it, and let me know how it goes!

(I notice that the above frame seems to cut off the bottom of some slides–don’t worry, the downloaded version works fine!)

Weekly Literacy Homework Page

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Weekly Literacy Homework Page

I was thinking there might be a few teachers out there with schools that are tight with paper like mine.  I originally formatted this weekly homework page format when we were asked to use less paper, but I had no idea how much I’d love it!  One page makes my life so much easier!

Each Monday, students are given a single homework page which has been printed on front and back and 3-hole-punched.  They pop it into their homework folder (a cheapo card stock folder with 3 brads and 2 pockets) and do 1/4 of the page each evening.  Just a heads up, these little pages are packed with info.  There isn’t a lot of white space, but my 4th graders have never had a problem with the amount of material on each page.  They quickly mastered the familiar weekly format.  Mine love routine, and the four standard sections (1. Reading for Information/Paragraph Attack 2. Word Work/Writing  3. Mixed Genre/Paragraph Attack  4. Context Clues/Vocabulary/Spelling) ensure I’m providing additional homework practice equally across my literacy curriculum.

Below is my general template.  (The first passage is from an AWESOME site, K12Reader, which has with tons of leveled passages based on content areas–check it out, really, it’s the best I’ve found.  The second passage I borrowed from…well, the Internet somewhere a while back.  If you recognize it, let me know and I’ll cite the source!  The crossword puzzle was made on Tools for Educator’s Puzzle Maker–another a super handy site!)

Download the Weekly Homework Page Format

1 page homework:

1. Get more bang for your buck: Use .25 inch margins.  Set your spacing is to single space (not 1.5).  It makes a difference!

2.  Decide on your weekly sections and label each day’s homework with the day and section title.  (Ex. Monday: Reading for Information/Paragraph Attack)  Also include easy to follow directions.

3. Have a place for student names at the top of each side of the paper.  This way, no matter how it’s laid out on their desk (I do homework checks while they are at specials), you can easily see whose you’re looking at.

4.  Tie the homework’s content to your specific curriculum standards each week, and use the same section headings each week.  I use a different activity type each day.  This helps students get familiar with many different question styles (standardized test prep anyone?).  Also, if a student really dislikes a certain type of activity (let’s say Tuesday’s writing activity is a real drag for them), they only see it once that week, and are more likely to just get it done instead of skipping it all together (like they might if I had a whole week of writing activities).  Also, I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, but it has to be said that homework should offer a very specific and tailored practice session outside of the classroom, not be random or busy work.  When the students open their homework each night, they should think, “Oh yeah, this is similar to what we did in class today.”  Provide hints or reminder sections for material you know could trip up your students.   They may not have an adult at home to help them if they get stuck.  Give them the tools they’ll need to review or extend what was taught in class.

5. Decide how you will check the homework.  I provide a key at the front of the room, and students check their work with a marker when they enter the class each day.  During certain times of the year, I may even make a matrix for them to mark their incorrect answers, so I can see at a glance which problems were the most difficult for the class as a whole. (I’ll try to find that matrix and post it here eventually!)  However, most times of the year, I do a quick glance over during specials (not to record grades, but to see the problem areas and who did/did not do the homework).  Then, I may pull certain students during the day to discuss problem areas.

This homework is specifically for a literacy classroom, so the sections are tied only to literacy.  However, if you want to provide homework for all subject areas, just change up your sections (Ex. Monday: Science Read and Respond Passage,  Tuesday: Writing about Social Studies, Wednesday: Math Concepts, Thursday: Health Read and Respond Passage).

How do you use and manage meaningful homework in your classroom?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Sentence Frame Freebies

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I first made these sentence frames (AKA sentence starters) in my classroom last year after hearing about their benefits with ESOL students during a TESOL grad class.  I began posting and referring to simple frames around my room during Shurley English lessons.  At this part of the day, students analyze and identify parts of speech and patterns in sentences.  The students were giving me one word answers, and I knew my fourth graders could do more.  I modeled how to use the sentence frames and required the students use a full sentence (like the example in the frame) EVERY time they gave me an answer.

3 examples from student responses:

  1. “I know ‘shiny’ is an adjective because it describes the plane in the sentence.”
  2. “I know ‘on his face’ is a prepositional phrase because it tells the position of fly.  Also, ‘on’ is a preposition, so it signaled that a prepositional phrase was coming!”
  3. “I know this sentence is an imperative sentence because someone is telling someone else what to do.  We talked about how ‘imperative’ sounds like ‘parent’, and parents tell us what to do!”

Their level of their articulation soared!  And by “their” I mean the whole class’ thinking, not just the ESOL students!  They were forced to provide reasoning for their answer, but also given scaffolding to formulate their response.  After a few weeks, most of the students didn’t need to look at the sentence frames for assistance, the sentence flow became second nature.  Try them out, and let me know how it goes!  (Access the Google Document link by clicking on any of the pictures, or use the PDF version: Sentence Frames Freebie)