Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Art in Science-the 3-D Experience

The grand finale in our ocean bulletin board wasn't actually put on the board, but suspended from ropes that I hung in front of the board. The effect was great. Here's what we did.

I gave each of the kids a homework assignment. Choose one ocean creature you would like to study and make a 3-D image of your animal. The requirement was that it must be at least 5 inches long. This is one of my favorite activities because of two reasons. The kids love it; therefore they learn from it. The second reason is that it shows excellent creativity on the part of my students. I am always amazed at what they bring in, whether it is simple or complex. Let me show you some of the amazing sea life that showed up in my classroom this year.

Note the squid, the octopus, shark, puffer fish, clown fish and angel fish. There is also an eel and a sea star.

Here you will see an orca whale, jellyfish, blue whale, manta ray, penguin,  and two sea turtles.  Some were cute; others were fantastic. Because my classroom is multi-grade, the complexity varied greatly, but everyone did a credible job.

They were able to use their creature as a prop as they shared information about their sea creature with the rest of the class; then we hung them up. I left them until after our first parent-teacher conference so the parents could enjoy all that the children had done. They loved it too!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Art in Science-Creating a Unique Ocean Bulletin Board

Leading into a unit on the ocean, I covered my large bulletin board with paper resembling ocean water. Loved the peacefulness, enjoyed the Melissa and Doug puzzle, but now it was time for the kids to have personal input into the board.

The first step in our multi-step process involved making the paper for the board. I gave every student a piece of beige colored cardstock. Without telling them why, they chose paints in colors they enjoyed and painted a design that they liked. I didn't give them input or outcome because I wanted them to be free with their designs and not think ahead. 

Once they had finished their papers, this is what it looked like:

I gave each child their paper back. I also gave them a piece of black cardstock. The first instruction was to cut fish out of the paper. They made templates from white copy paper and traced them on to the back of the painted paper; then they cut out the fish. 

I asked them to glue them on to the black paper in groups of three or five. They came out cute.

These were so cute and could be used to turn our room into more of an aquarium. When this project was done, I had them cut out one more fish and show me where they wanted it to be in our ocean.  
Now there was one more step to make our ocean area complete. Watch for my next post to see some absolutely amazing student art work!!!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ocean Scenery-The Beginnings of an Ocean View

Four years (or so) have passed since I have done an ocean study. This year, I wanted to do it differently. I started off with a beautiful background of the ocean. My loving husband helped me hang the paper which was too wide and too long for my huge bulletin board. For days, I left it blank because the paper, all by itself, made me feel peaceful and content. As my students entered the classroom, they all remarked on how much they loved the bulletin board. This is the beginning:

Covering the board took a little work. First, my students put together a giant ocean scenery puzzle full of fish-from Melissa and Doug. (I am not an affiliate for them-in fact, I got mine for $3.99 at our local Goodwill!) I covered the puzzle with a sealer and rested it on the bulletin board by resting it on plastic stick pins and surrounding the puzzle with them. 

Future additions included two art projects. One of them they did at home. The other they did at school. Tomorrow I will share the cool art project my students did to make really fun fish for the board outside of the puzzle!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Master Moments: Andy Warhol Activities

It isn't enough to learn about artists like Warhol, Pollock, Picasso and others-classroom projects help bring the art of the master artists alive and make it real for the kids. First, we read about the artist and get a feel for who he or she was....then we look at their art. Then we create our own version of their art. The kids love it!

One of the artists we did this year was Andy Warhol. He was an unusual man with a tremendous talent. The only problem I had was deciding which of his works we should do. I choose two different ones and, I have to say, I think the kids had a lot of fun with them. 

The first one resembles his work with Marilyn Monroe. He took the same picture of her and altered it using different colors. If you have no idea what I am talking about, check out these

To make our version, each student received one 8 1/2" by 11" sheet of paper. They drew the picture of their choice with one rule-they had to be able to color it easily. After each picture was done, I copied them on to tag board-four copies of each picture. 

The kids took the pictures and colored each one differently. Once they were finished, we taped the backs together. Most of the students mounted the picture on a large, colorful piece of poster board. I think they came out great. Here are a few of them:

As you can see, the drawing range from very simple to more complex. That makes it an easy project for young kids and older students, too!

On the other project, we tried for our own identity-more Warhol-esque. I took pictures of each of the kids. As I ran them off on tag board, they designed their own stamps from Styrofoam trays. Then they stamped their own picture. Some of them came out pretty neat. Here are a couple:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Superbowl Motivation in the classroom

You know those kids who do not appear to try....or don't think they can do it.....but when you start talking football, they can give you all the scores and stats from the weekend before....or they can describe their favorite player with ease? Well, try giving them a motivation talk or make a motivational poster to encourage them to be like the guys headed for the Superbowl!


John Elway, former Broncos quarterback and current Broncos executive, had this to say about his team. "It's been a terrific group. They worked their tail off all year. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Denver's season has been the perseverance shown to reach this point." Put everything you have got into reaching the goal you set for yourself....every kid can do that!


Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seahawks, said, "Man, its' been a blessing. We talked at the beginning of the year and we said, 'Why not us? Why not us? That's kind of been our mind-set." Set your sights on the prize and go for it....every kid can do that too.

Learn to talk with your kids and find out where their interests lay. You just might be able to use someone they admire to motivate them to do something they never thought they could!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Teach your kids to think-Barnes and Noble can help!

Critical thinking is so important, but most students don't seem equipped to do it successfully. Asking higher level thinking skills in reading helps, but they hate answering them if they have to think. Don't quit asking question, but add some fun activities in your classroom to make your kids want to think things through on their own. I found a few games at my local Barnes and Noble that are just perfect to do the trick. Take a look at some of them.

The Brain Teaser Kit, by one of my favorite game companies - Thinkfun - has variety. Useful in grades 2-8, it has 8 different activities inside that encourage critical thinking and problem solving. Students remove pieces after shuffling pieces around the right way, build pyramids, build shapes and designs, and pack pieces into a small box. The great thing about this kit is that it is something students can do at their seats when they have completed their assignments. Hints are available, to help you scaffold the activities.

Another Thinkfun game that helps with problem solving/logic is Rush Hour. For kids as young as 8 to people my age and beyond, this game is fun and challenging. The student chooses a game card and tries to shift the vehicles around until they match the card. The cards range from beginner to expert. Another game that can go straight to a child's desk, Rush Hour can also be used by two students working together. You might even want to try it once the kids are gone for the day!

In my last post, Math Games on Friday, I talked about a fun math game called Math Dice Tournament Kit. If you want a brain challenge for your students without buying the entire kit, you can get a dice set and make up your own events (or follow the game described on the box.) Notice that one set of dice is for students as young as 6.

I would just like to say that I have no stock in Thinkfun and they don't even know I am talking about their games-I just love their stuff!

Finally, for today, my last Thinkfun game-Stenzzles. This is a layering puzzle. It comes in 8 different layers. There are eight challenges in the box. The company has more than one option. This thought-provoking activity is better for older kids as it presents a special challenge because of the layers.

Bring fun and challenging critical thinking and problem-solving games into your class and let your students think you are giving them a break to just have fun. The logic you help develop will be your own little reward.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Math Games on Friday

There was war in my classroom last Friday! While there were no actual casualties, there were some winners. Often, our Friday math class is different than math class during the rest of the week. The kids get to practice what they have been learning or refresh an old skill. Here are a few of the things we do!

War: Each group of students-usually 2 or 3-receive one set of playing cards. The cards can be used to play War with multiplication, addition and subtraction. We give a point value of 10 to all face cards and 11 to the ace. All other cards are worth the number written on the card. The cards are passed out until they are all gone. The pile is left upside down. The players all turn over their first two cards and do the proper action, for example, multiplication. The player with the highest answer gets all of the cards. In the case of a tie, the two players in the tie go again. Again, the winner gets all of the cards. The winner ends up with all of the cards.

PEMDAS is so important that I begin teaching it very early. As a result, on some Fridays, I give everyone a white board and marker (plus a tissue) and then I place two different problems on the board. The younger students have a simple question that requires them to use the correct order of operations to solve it. The older students get problems that, while still using order of operations, are much more difficult. The kids rush to see who can get it correct first. They hold up their boards for me to check and head right back to work if they are wrong.

MathDiceTournament: This is a fun game that I bought at Barnes and Noble while visiting in Colorado. (I think all teachers look for things for their classroom no matter where they are!) Anyway, this is a dice game. The players roll the two 12-sided dice and multiply them to get a number. Then they roll the regular dice. The students try to combine the dice, using PEMDAS, to get an answer that is closest to the answer of the 12-sided dice.It is fast paced, fun can be used as a tournament game right in your classroom.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Teach Like a Pirate!

Okay, I will admit I am not fond of pirates, so I shied away from this book when I first saw it. Then, I kept reading about it. Then I bought and read it. (Love my Kindle!) Needless to say, I now love it.  In his book, Teach Like a Pirate, Dave Burgess encourages passion, enthusiasm and so much more. He is a 'Think outside the box" sort of guy-in fact, I am not even sure he knows there is a box!

Anyway, I read the book over the weekend and decided that I would put his ideas to a test. For the first day of school, I created a "yay, we are back in school," sort of day. We reviewed rules in fun ways, including starting with pictures of the kids holding up a beard and posing for our rule posters. (Check out the photos here.) We played math games and did other fun, yet educational activities. The kids were fully engaged all day.

On day three, I decided to read a story to my younger students by using theatrics. I didn't actually "read" the story. I sort of lived it. I noticed that other students were also paying attention while working on their work. Again, engaged students. It is now Thursday evening. After 'teaching like a pirate" for four days, I have yet to have a discipline problem. If you haven't read the book, I strongly suggest you check out your local teacher supply store or (follow link on the book title) and learn what all the fuss is about. You might find yourself wanting to teach like a pirate, too! If you do, I would love to hear about your actions and results!

If you haven't read the book, it is available through Amazon!

  This is an affiliate link but it can be found on other sites, too!

Clip art credits

Monday, January 6, 2014

Spelling activity with homemade pocket charts from the dollar store - for all ages!

I teach in a multi-grade classroom and, sometimes it is hard to find an activity that reaches across the ages. I think this spelling activity is perfect for all my students. First, you need to go to the local dollar store and buy a package of sentence strips. You will also need a roll of tape-I used decorative Duck tape that I already had-and find snack plastic bags. You will also need scissors and a marker.

Take two strips out of the package. Place one over the top of the second strip, lining it up along the dotted line.

Cut a piece of tape for each end. The tape should be longer than the two strips. Place it over each end so that half of the tape hangs over the end. 

Fold the top and bottom over the edge, then fold the excess tape at the side back. Trim the corners.

Fold the bottom card along the dotted line, where the two cards meet. 

Then press firmly to make the top section stand up straight. 

Using five plastic snack bags, create a holder for the letters. Write on the outside of the bags. I choose vowels, tall letters, curved short letters, straight short letters and letters that are low. 

Write the letters of the alphabet on each card. I choose to group the letters as they would go into the bags. 

Then, the bags together to staple them together. To make it less likely to tear, I added a piece of the sentence strip over the bags before I stapled them.

Place each letter in the correct bag.

Now they can use the pocket chart to form words. 

Now for the game. Put students together in groups of two or three. Give each group a stack of cards with their spelling words written on the cards. Each child takes a turn being the leader. He picks a card from the pile and reads it. The other student or students try to be the first to spell the word in their pocket chart. Then, the next child picks a word. Fun and easy practice will result with this great dollar store pocket chart!