Friday, September 11, 2015

Off to a Good Start

I decided to do something different this year. I did not put name tags on desks. When the students entered the room, I asked them to find a desk that fit them well, one they were comfortable with all day. Once they chose their desk, I approved it or suggested what they will need look for something taller/shorter, etc.

Once they had chosen the right desk, I gave them a name tag that I had saved on my back-to-school Pinterest board and had them make it. I really liked the tent-like name tag (gets yours free here) because it is easy for the other students to read. I put one on my desk, too. Because I know my students well, I already had a seating arrangement made up. I put it on the board and had my students put their desks in the correct location. They really seemed to like starting the day this way and it gave the early kids something to do.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

5 Great Apps for the Classroom

Because we added iPads to our classroom technology (replacing ancient computers that worked when they wanted to) I have been searching for apps that work well for my room. These particular apps have either been wonderful or are apps that I know will be wonderful during the next school year.

Socrative: This is a free app that, believe it or not, my kids loved. In fact, they never once complained on a day when they had a quiz, test or activity on this site. Sign up for free and then, create a quiz. You can make it private or public. The answers can be true/false, short answer or multiple choice. They can be random or ordered the way you want them. The best thing is, most of the test is graded for you and you can see the answers immediately or you can print them out in a couple of different ways. Short answers are best done by the teacher because the answers have to match exactly to be counted correct.

Tests can be put on the teacher's page at any time. This year, I will make up all my quizzes for books we read and have them ready to go. The students can only see them when I say so.

Games can also be used to encourage the kids to improve their learning. The thing my kids really loved was that they also get immediate feedback when they do the quizzes.

Quizalize: Write your own quiz or use one on the site. Quizalize looks to be an resource much like Socrative. This allows me to do the same thing with new twists. It can be used on a computer, tablet or Smartphone. It has a tracking feature that allows the teacher to track the kids over time. I can't wait to see my kids reaction to this new resource when the year starts.

Skoolbo: I signed up for this site before the end of the year, but I was so busy, I was unable to get started with it. To make up for this, I figured it all out and played with it this summer. The games are fun and the kids will be entertained while they learn. The programs on Skoolbo are created to help kids improve their reading and math. Like the other two resources, this one is free.

IXL: Truly, this is a great site, although a bit pricey. Unfortunately, it is geared toward learning (my kids would just play if I would let them) and many of my kids groaned when it was IXL time. Because I teach in a multi-grade classroom, this program gave me an opportunity to start kids on worthwhile learning assignments while I worked more closely with other, therefore I rotated the times they used it.

Spelling City: Another great app, I loved this one because I could put my own lists into the program and they create games for my kids based on my words and their definitions. I could even choose the definitions I wanted if I didn't like the one the site chose. Spelling City has a free version as well as a premium version. I have never used the free version, but I know people who have and they liked it. Obviously, the premium account gives you more options.

I am still searching for more apps. We have iMovie because it was free, but it not costs $4.95. This year, I am going to spend time looking for science apps. If you have any that you think are great, I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Report Fun

I remember having to write book reports. I hated it! Finding the right words-and enough of them to satisfy my teacher was all it amounted to...they were never seen by anyone else. I wanted my students to have a different experience...and so they did. They made mini-books (one page) to share their books

First, of course, they chose a book they had read that they loved. Each child had a large piece of paper-11 x 17. To make the books, the paper was folded in a hamburger fold and the seam was placed on the left side, just like a book. Using lots of color. they drew pictures, depicting one of their favorite scenes from their book. This became the cover page for their books.

Once the covers were done, they opened their book and, on the right side, they each wrote why they loved their books and why someone else should read the book they chose.

When they finished, I put the reports on the bulletin board where other students could read their classmate's review. I have to say that I had some of the best art work and writing that they had done all year. (This was third quarter.)

Here are pictures of some of the art work:

Alice in Wonderland
The Berenstain Bears and the Truth

To keep from overwhelming the students, we changed the reports on the board so that only four or five at a time were on display. The kids openly admired the work of their fellow students.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Making of a Historical Diorama

The study of World War II is full of battles-important battles. Middle school students do not need a thorough knowledge of every battle, but they do like studying them. I decided to assign each student to study one battle. They chose their battles and did a fairly complete study of each battle. Then the fun began.

Each child had to re-create the battle scene; they also had to write a report and share their battle orally with the rest of the students. I have to tell you that I had some fabulous battle scenes-thanks to a few great ideas.

Need water? Try using hair gel! This bottle of blue-colored hair gel was used in more than one war scene. It worked well and looked fairly real!
Simple styling gel
You can see how good it looks here!
Other students used plastic to represent the water. Not as realistic but less messy and it still works.

A third idea? Paint the box with blue paint. It isn't fancy, but ot worked really well!

Need seashores? How about using candy? I believe the first battle scene used Nerds.

This one used a rockier look! Nerds again!

Most of the landmasses were created by the age-old flour, salt and water dough but they were pretty creative with the food coloring and plastic men!

If you look closely, you will see ships from Battleship games, houses from Monopoly, sticks from the school ground and even little army men. They also used clay and, well, just about any thing they could find. 

On the last day of the project, they brought their projects to school to share. They loved sharing their projects and learning about all the battles.

On a post from Edutopia, a student said:"Whenever I do a project, I always seem to remember the material better than if I just read the information straight out of a testbook." What wonderful projects have you used in your classroom?

If you like this activity, you might like these as well:

Friday, June 12, 2015

Should I Be Called the Tightwad Teacher? (Or More Deals More Ways!)

I could probably call my blog the "Tightwad Teacher." I hate paying full price for anything-especially when it is possible to get it for less.
On a regular basis, I check out our local Goodwill stores. If you have never gone there,you have to check it out-especially on Sunday. The Goodwills around here give a teacher discount on Sunday-25% off.

I have a large need for materials in my room because I teach in a multi-grade room. Two times, when I was almost ready to introduce an new subject (oceans and space) I came across Melissa and Doug 48-piece puzzles that I used to introduce the subject. The retail for $12.96 but the two I bought were less than $3.00. This Sunday I am heading in to pick up one on the desert. I didn't want to pay $3.95. Did I mention that I could be called the tightwad teacher?

I have bought quite a few things this year. Here is a sampling. (Notice the ocean picture on the bottom!)

I also want to share how wonderful my hallway board looks with the red chevron borders that I bought at Joann's Fabric. I wrote about them in another post. You can read it by clicking here.

I can't wait to put the rest of the board up-as soon as I figure out what I am going to put on it for a welcome back theme for the school. Any ideas?

Have you ever shopped at Goodwill or other thrift stores? What is your best deal?

Want more ideas about saving money in the classroom? Check these out:

Goodwill photo credits-Mike Mozart

Thursday, June 11, 2015

End of the Year Deals for Next Year

Well, today I finally finished all my year-end work for the last school year. With a click of the mouse, my mind has turned to the next school year. Just like thousands of teachers out there, summer is not just a kickback time to enjoy myself. First, I am taking a class on Coursera to improve my skills for art class. (Just a note: the classes are free unless you want a certificate which, right now costs $49.)  Then, I am redoing rethinking some of my classroom materials and practices. I have, understandably, spent some time on Pinterest, gathering ideas and examples for my class.

I plan to include more science in my classroom-even in reading. I have been collecting kits-reading directions and following them can help with comprehension. I will also use them for writing as they write "better" plans. Any way...I just hope that all the teachers who buy things for their classroom are aware of things that happen at the end of the school year.

1) Today I went to Joann's Fabric to use a 50% off coupon, only to discover that they had more than half of their school items deeply discounted! I had so much fun buying great things to use in my classroom for pennies or the dollar.

As a teacher, I received an additional 15% off the marked-down price

2) Michael's has a weekly coupon from 40-50% off. I have been using them to get some great science kits. I can hardly wait until it is time use them...but summer must happen first! Don't forget, show the Michael's clerk proof that you are a teacher for an additional discount.

3) I went to a store than sells items from overstock or wrecked semis-not sure where they get all of their stuff, I don't know what I have been doing in the past and why I have not been going to the Green Tree store, but they have so many things I can use in my classroom.  For example, squeeze containers of pure fruit-that's right, no sugar added-that store easily and can be shared with kids who did not have breakfast at a whopping cost of thirteen cents each! Also, so teachers who want to use candy for rewards, they had loads of bags of mini-chocolate bars and other types too.

4)  I went to Target, just because it is next door to Joann's where I live. I find adorable little baskets for supplies for $1.00. I bought one for each group I will have next year-plus one for me. I also added three books at the United States, presidents and the solar system for another $3!

Keep your eyes open! You can find some really great deals when stores just want to get rid of stuff. My favorite deal came from Michael's.  They had little wagons on their discount table during the time I was ready to start teaching about the Oregon Trail. When I took them to the register, they rang up one cent each. Since no one was waiting, I went back and got the rest of them (no need to have kids work on them in groups at that price!) After charging me for a few more, she put the rest in the bag and said they were slated to be throw away.

What is the best deal you have ever found?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

School's Out-Last Day Events!

The last day of school is always a challenge! All of the academics are done. The room is pretty much cleaned up and ready for everyone to leave. Now it is time for the fun to begin.

Monday night, I lay down to sleep and realized that sleep was not going come. All I could think of was, I don't have Friday ready to go. At eleven o'clock, I crawled back out of bed and began putting everything in place.

First, I wrote down everything I already had planned. Then I began searching my End of Year Pinterest board, found here, that I had been pinning for the past few weeks. This is what we came up with:

Kickball for 45 minutes.
Charades for 30 minutes.
Beach ball volleyball for 30 minutes.
Win It In a Minute for 30 minutes.
Time for pizza and snacks.
Time to leave.

The Win It in a Minutes that I chose were:

Stacking cereal on a craft stick.
Blowing a cottonball back and forth through a maze on a table.
Making a face on a plate using M & M's.
Herding tissue fish.

Explanations of the games are found on these two sites:

The Starr Spangled Banner
Sunny Days in Second Grade

These sites have other great ideas-some I have used before but they may be new to you. I like to mix it up because it keeps the kids excited.

We changed often so everyone was willing to play everything, even if it wasn't a favorite activity.

Chosing teams was easy. I gave everyone a glow-in-the-dark bracelet. Similar colors got together as a team. It was a quick and easy way to group. Of course, I passed the bracelets out to create even teams. The bracelets came from Fry's Grocery store. They were having a 2 for one sale with ten bracelets in each one. Three boxes provided me with everything I needed.

The kids had a great time and so did the staff. This is something you can do as a classroom if you are a big school, or as a school if your population is small.

Now it is on to two things-the closing paperwork and plans for next year. Hope your summer is fun!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Happy New Year!

It seems a little crazy to be writing Happy New Year! at the end of May but this has been a crazy, busy year. First, let me say that bulletin boards are not my thing. I do them mostly because I know they are a necessary part of the classroom, but it is not my creative field of expertise.

My bulletin board journey began when I read a post last summer suggesting that a black background could be used for anything all year long. You have to know that I headed to the fabric shop and bought black material. I do not remember where I read the idea, but she  is a bit of a genius. It worked well the first two quarters and actually helped me come up with my idea for the New Year bulletin board.

The empty black board looked like the night sky. I just happened to have some yellow stars. My thoughts put the two together and, viola, a star was born! First, I put up the gold letters that said,"In 2015, I want to learn..."

When the students returned to school in January, I gave each of them a star with their name written around the points. I asked them to use a Sharpy and write one thing they would like to learn before the year was over. As they finished, we hung their stars on the night sky. The black and yellow looked really sharp and the kids "owned" the board. It also gave me insight into what they were still interested. (You know how often that changes with kids!)

Of course, this is not the completed board, The stars were hung as the kids finished them. I love my starry sky, but the thing is, you can use any shape for them to write on. Shapes-like these stars-cost a whole dollar. You can go for almost any theme you want. Don't you just love Dollar Tree stores!?!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Musical Chairs Comes to the Writing Classroom

If you have ever played musical chairs with your kids, you know how much they loved it. Well, here is a link to a post that tells you how you can use it in your writing classroom.

Head over to The Christian Classroom and check out Musical Writing! It is easy to use in any classroom third grade or above.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Electronic Bugs Hit the Trail-

Bugs, bugs, entire room had gone buggy and we were all loving it. These bugs were a little unsettling because they ran everywhere-until they hit a wall. Then they wiggled and maneuvered until they could go again. Thankfully, all the bugs used in this STEM activity were fully electronic!

Dominos Pizza donated a lot of pizza containersfto my classroom. Students were divided into groups of four. Each group received one Hex Bug and an empty pizza box. Strips for walls were made using cardboard. Doing this, each group had to create a maze that was, well, amazing! It had to be amazing enough that their creature could maneuver through the angles at the corner and reach the other side of the maze. Some angles were too narrow and reconstruction zones were created.

Working hard, they developed bug-friendly masterpieces. Then the games began. We timed each bug to see which bug was able to move through its maze at the fastest speed. The competition was stiff, but there was a winner and the kids learned to use logical thinking skills and spatial reasoning! While we did this project a few years ago, we are preparing to do it again. I am excited to see what they come up with this time.