Sunday, November 29, 2015

Frosty Fun!

Hello! Are you staying warm? Here in California the weather is dropping below 60 and I'm not sure what to do! 

So, I thought it would be a good time to get our classroom ready for the winter! 

I whipped up this Frosty Fun writing activity to share with all of you! 
One of my all time favorite books to read is What Snowman Do At Night - isn't that book just the sweetest? And did you know they wrote a sequel, Snowmen at Christmas? Even cuter! 

You can extend that adorable book into a writing project with one of the pages I've included!
Click HERE to grab this Frosty Fun Freebie! 

Love freebies? Sign up for my Lucky Newsletter to receive even more! You get a freebie just for signing up :) 

Have a very Happy Holidays! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Reviving Your Favorite Childhood Computer Games

I was doing some browsing on Pinterest the other day and saw and funny meme about being a 90s kid.  As I looked through the list of "The Best Things About Growing Up in the 90s", I found myself nodding my head, laughing hysterically, and thinking "Oh. My. Gosh! I totally forgot about that! That was the bomb!" I'm sure I'm not the only one.

One of those "Oh My Gosh" moments came when I saw the game Oregon Trail listed.  That game was one of my favorites as a kid. I loved it! It got me thinking, I wonder if you can still play that game? How cool would it be to show my firsties one of my favorite games when I was their age? So I went to the know all Google.  And guess what ya'll?! I found it! For free! I'm not gonna lie-I totally started a game and it took me right back to the good ole days.  Now there is the hunting aspect of the game which includes guns, so I'm sure that could be a touchy subject which may need approval from your administrator if you want your kids to play the game, but it's worth a shot.  There is also an app you can buy, but I'm not sure how similar it is to the actual computer game.

Then it got me thinking. What about some of my other favorite games? Number Munchers? Treasure Mountain? The one and only Carmen Sandiego?!!! Yeah....I know there are some of you out there thinking O.M.GEE!

A quick 5 minute search on good ole Google revealed that Number Munchers and Treasure Mountain are both available to play online. For free! Without setting up any account! So naturally I showed my kids the games in computer lab and I kid you not, they was squealing and shouts of "AWESOME!" ringing out. They are totally excited to play Number Munchers as a math station.  The great thing about Treasure Mountain is that it works on both literacy and math.  They were equally excited it as well. I totally played a couple of games of both. It. Was. Awesome!

Would you believe it if I told you I even found Carmen Sandiego? All of the versions?! I remember playing each and every one as they upgraded them and made them more modern. Just type in Carmen Sandiego and pick your version! I liked the Where in the World version, but it would definitely be too hard for some of my firsties.  They can always do the Where in the USA version.

This website seems to have a TON of other computer games that you can search if there is another one that you are trying to find. I'm guessing chances are you will have some success. I certainly was never expecting to find all of these games, let alone for free to play.  The only downfall is that it will not keep track and save the kid's progress like the CD-ROM version would. I'm sure you can find most, if not all, of theses games to buy online if you wanted that option.

Either way, I love that my kids can play some of my favorite childhood games while still learning in all of the subject areas.  Since I've introduced these games to them, they have been eating them up! Hopefully yours will too!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ten Strategies to Keep Students' Attention

Have you ever called on a student and he/she looks at you like a deer in headlights?  It is getting more and more difficult to keep students on task.  I believe that technology plays a large role in this lack of attention.  When my school implemented iPads into the curriculum, I immediately thought it would be a great way to keep students' attention.  I quickly realized that although it was an effective tool, it shouldn't be used throughout the day.  Students need a variety of learning strategies.  Here are some ideas that will help keep your students' attention especially during the holiday season!

1.  Plan Effectively-  No matter how long I've been in the classroom and feel like I can teach with my eyes closed, effective planning is the key.  Whenever I left a blank spot in my plans, it often became disastrous!  I would  think that I would know what to do when the time comes, but in that very minute, I would get distracted by the million things that happen in a classroom daily (paper cut, hurt feelings, parent call, etc)  Then panic mode would set it and a worksheet would get passed out.  That may keep their attention for the skinny minute, but it won't last and it won't mean anything.  So plan, plan, plan!  Even if you are showing a movie, have a plan in case technology isn't your friend that day!

2.  Design Creative Lesson Plans-  Throughout the years, I've gone through training to make lessons more creative.  Creative lessons are well-known for engaging students.  If you are a creative teacher, yeah for you!  This part will come easy to you.  If you aren't as fortunate to have that trait, no worries!  There are so many resources available!  This useful post on creativity was posted by We Are Teachers:   40 Ways to Add Creativity in Your Lessons!

3.  Offer a Variety of Lessons for Different Learning Styles-  Do you seem to do the same activities over and over?  Is it because you think your students know the routine and it is just easier for you?  If you want your students to be more engaged, offer a variety of lessons.  Use technology for one assignment, but a pencil for the next!  Make a craft with one assignment and a simple discussion group for the next!  Tend to auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners!

4.  Mix Up Ways of Working-  Mix up expectations for how your students will work (Independent, partners, whole group, small groups) Include some reading around the room time!  They love it and it will give you time to get ready for the next lesson.  

5.  Ask Questions- Get the kids talking!  Have students thinking deeper and share perspectives!  Use the 5 W's- Who, What, When, Where, and WHY WHY WHY!  I also love to use the the Notice, Think and Wonder activity any time there is a meaningful illustration.  Students can take over the inquiry process and you can sit back and listen!
Here is a free Notice, Think and Wonder activity for the holidays:

6.  Use Sound or Silence-  Do you need to get your students' attention real quick?  Are they talking or even working in groups and you need their attention?  I like using sound or silence.  Some teachers might have a special clap or chimes.  I know a teacher who has a piano in the room!   Her students knew specific songs meant different things. (Line up, sit down, come to carpet).  My favorite is to hold my hand up and as soon as one student sees it, they put their hand up and tell others.  It is a quick and easy way to grab their attention!

7.  Give Positive Reinforcement-  When students know you are watching them, and they know they will get a positive comment or shout out by you, they will want to get their work done.    "Hey class, you guys should see what Johnny is doing over here.  Do you mind if I read your poem to the class?"  "Whoever works hard and finishes the activity in time will get a high five!"  You don't have to hand out candy or do anything crazy.  Something simple works if you make a big deal out of it!  Of course a little flash dance time at the end of the period if everyone has their work done is always a motivator too!  Read more about positive reinforcement here.

8.  Show Excitement - Whenever you are excited about a lesson, your students will be too!  I'll never forget when I was teaching a story plot lesson.  I had the picture below of the roller coaster and I was pretending I was going up the roller coaster and showed excitement and anticipation.  My students wanted me to do it again and then wanted to video tape me.  I didn't realize how exciting the lesson was going to be, but it was a hit!

Click for a plot lesson

9.   Recite and Chant-  When students are involved in a group chant, you can easily monitor who is participating especially if there is movement involved.  Reciting poems or the beginning of the Declaration of Independence gets the kids motivated to learn.

This is a portion of Poetry Slam

10.   Have a Friendly Competition-  Last but not least, have a friendly competition!  Jeopardy games are some of my students' favorites and I like putting them in groups.  I found the best way is to allow the groups to decide together on the answer.  It helps keep the competition fun and friendly

I hope this helps you keep your students on task and learning!



Monday, November 23, 2015

Retelling Bracelets

Hi Everyone! I'm Kristen from Kristen's Kindergarten back with an easy way for your students to practice story or song retelling at home!

I love for my students to be able to share what they learned at school with their families.  Sometimes when my students are sharing with their families, they end up giving their family members some new knowledge!  

I have my students make a variety of retelling bracelets throughout the school year.  They are inexpensive to make; you just need pony beads and pipe cleaners and I stock up on both throughout the year when they go on sale at Michael's. 

There are a variety of retelling bracelets out there:

This is a bracelet we use to retell the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly.

Clear bead = egg
Black Bead = caterpillar head
Yellow Beads = caterpillar body
Green Beads = chrysalis
Butterfly (or orange bead) = butterfly

 I also make them to retell the pumpkin cycle, the Little Red Hen, the water cycle, the gingerbread man, and many more!

There are MANY more ideas out there!  I get lots of them from Making Learning Fun.  (Just scroll down a bit to see them!)

Dr. Jean also has lots of them:

She's got one for Thanksgiving that will help your students retell the story of Thanksgiving too!!

I love that these bracelets are easy for my students to put together and even easier for them to take home to share their learning.

When we make bracelets, I usually place each color of bead in a separate container labeled with the quantity needed of that color and what it represents.  I set those containers up on a table and my students work cafeteria style down the containers, taking the beads that they need and placing them in the correct order on their pipe cleaner.
I meet them at the end to twist the ends together. 
We then either work on a song, poem, or retelling of a story and use the bracelets to help us.

I hope you'll give these bracelets a try!

Click on my signature to come visit my blog for more great ideas!! :)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Giving Thanks!

This is such a lovely time of year! 
I love being able to take a breath and 
remember all the many things I am thankful for!
I love to do this with my class too!
Each year we make a class book of all the things we are thankful for.
We do this alphabet style!
We will brainstorm a list of ideas from A to Z.
Then each little friend will choose the items they 
are going to write and illustrate in our class book.
My fast finishers can do the leftover letters too!
You can do this (for free) with your class too!
There is a cover, a page for each letter 
and a blank template too!
Grab it all HERE!
Be sure to visit A Burst of First for more tips, tricks and more!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Traditional Book Report Alternatives

Hi everyone! It's Michaela from Reading Royalty

One of my teacher friends was talking to me at a meeting recently and shared her students' lack of excitement toward the traditional book report. We both completely agree with her students and I thought it would be fun to compile some book report alternatives to bring a little life back into book projects! 

I found this amazing list on ReadWriteThink by he National Council of Teachers of English with 50 alternatives to the traditional book report. On their site, there are free interactives and printables to go with some of them!  

Some of my favorites include:

I really love using book chats as an alternative to book reports. Book chats really get students excited about sharing their book and can be used in class or for an at home project. I created a template for fiction and nonfiction book chats. The resources include checklists, graphic organizers, and rubrics. All you need to do is provide the books!

If you're interested, you can purchase the bundle, or just the fiction/nonfiction sets here.

What is your favorite twist on the traditional book report? I'd love to hear more ideas!

Happy Teaching! Michaela

Friday, November 20, 2015

Surviving in a classroom without wall space

Hi, it's Aimee from Pencils, Books, and Dirty Looks.  Today I'm going to tell you a little bit about my classroom.  It's a very large classroom, and I love all the floor space that it has to offer.  Students are able to spread out around the room and work without being on top of each other.  However, there is a downside.  My classroom has very little wall space.  I have a wall of cabinets and counters, a wall of windows, a wall of book shelves, and a wall with a dry-erase board and Smart Board.  Luckily, I still live by the old preschool adage, "You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit."  Here's how I deal with my lack of wall space...

1.  I hang anchor charts on anything magnetic.  The back of my room houses the entire leveled library for the 3rd/4th grade high ability program where I teach.  Lucky for me the book shelves are metal.  I use clip magnets to hang charts to them.  The charts are easily removed when I need to grab a set of books.
2.  I have a decent sized dry-erase board in my room that is magnetic as well.  Since I have a Smart Board, I don't need it for direct instruction.  I placed my focus wall on the dry-erase board.  I type up each week's focus and hang them with clip magnets.

3.  I use every flat surface in my room even if it happens to be a door.  My WOW wall hangs on a closet door in my classroom.  Students each have a clothespin with their number on it.  They hang quality work that they want to share with others on the door.
4.  Behind my easel is the only wall space that is available in my classroom.  Seriously it is maybe 5 feet wide and is sandwiched between my Smart Board and classroom library.  I use the space to hang more anchor charts.  Some are hung with 3M hooks while others are hung on a ribbon strung between two hooks.  I rotate my charts depending on the skill/strategy that we are working on during the week.  Since this space is front and center in my classroom, it is visible from our group space as well as student desks.  (Click HERE if you are interested in seeing all the anchor chart tool kits that I have to offer in my TpT store)

5/6.  I have an very long row of very small cabinets in my classroom.  The cabinets are above the sink and computer area.  I utilize this space for our Indiana History Timeline.  This works perfectly since the cabinet doors aren't large enough to display much else.

The south wall of my classroom is nothing but windows (Don't get too jealous!  My view is of the Village Pantry gas station that is right across the street).  I make the most of this space by displaying multiple things on the windows.
7.  This window displays our math fact masters.  Instead of making a chart to display student progress, I printed and laminated a photo of each student.  When a student masters an operation, their picture goes up on the window.  This is a real motivator!!
8.  This is one of my data windows.  I have a bar graph made out of painters tape for our math topic tests.  This too is a motivator for students.  They can't wait to see if the class average is higher than the previous test!  Above the bar graph is a decorated book spine for our read alouds this school year.  We are hoping to make our way across all of the window shades.
9.  This window displays students' birthdays.  I was lucky enough to find this for free on a blog that I follow, but unfortunately I accidentally deleted the file and can't find the source.  If anyone knows, please leave a comment, so I can give credit to the creator!!
10.  Every teachers needs a spot in their classroom to display all the cute notes and artwork from students.  I hang student creations on the pull down shade behind my desk.  Some are taped to the shade, while others are clipped to the shade and pull chain that opens and closes the shade.

There you have it!  This is how I survive in a classroom with very little wall space.  If you have any ideas that I haven't mentioned or more suggestions for making the most of little to no wall space, please leave a comment below!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Science with Catapults

Hi, It's Anita Goodwin here from I Live 2 Learn I Love 2 Grow with a super fun activity to share. I've always loved "Hands On Science" and so do my students. While recently studying force in our classroom I came across a neat blog post by Frugal For Boys using popsicle stick catapults and thought it would be fun to explore catapults in the classroom. I decided to use some "fallish" things to shoot in them. I happened to have 2 bags of those plastic spiders in my closet and knew they would work and it would be interesting to compare them with candy corn to see which we could shoot the furthest. I loved the suggestion in the post to use the bands from the loom bracelets and made a quick trip to Walmart to buy some sticks and bands. It cost around $6.00 and was money well spent.

My husband helped me make a couple of catapults to use as examples for the students. We had fun trying them out in our living room before I took them to school the next day. I put my students in groups of 2 and gave them 12 popsicles sticks and a small hand full of the loom bands. I told them they could look at the samples and they could make their own. They needed to figure out exactly how to put them together. There was no perfectly right way and they could do it any way they wanted. They could also have more popsicle sticks and bands if they needed. My second graders were so engaged at putting their catapults together. Not one group of partners needed any help. After they finished, I hot glued on the plastic lids. We set them up to use the next day.

(Note: Catapults can be used immediately after hot glueing. If using tacky or Elmer's squeeze glue let dry overnight. We did have some trouble with a few lids coming off the sticks. If I had time I just quickly reglued them otherwise I just had them shoot their objects without them.)

We had lots of fun shooting the candy corn and spiders and comparing them. We even had a class competition. The two furthest shooters competed against each other while the class watched and recorded. The next day we used used Snapple lids and milk jug lids. The blank sheets included in my catapult set can be used to record any objects you have.

Click here to get your FREEBIE recording sheet. 

I strongly recommend this activity for teamwork, thinking skills, science, math, measuring, predicting and confirming, etc. Get this freebie here to record your own catapult fun. I hope your students enjoy this activity as much as my students did.

You can also check out my set on TPT which includes many more recording sheets.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I Need More Books for Guided Reading!

Whether just looking for some new texts instead of using the same old boring ones or simply not having enough, it seems like no matter the reason, we as teachers are always looking for new guided reading resources! Another issue is actually planning for all those guided reading groups each day...

First a little background on guided reading- I know pretty much everyone knows what it is, but just to review!

I love guided reading- you can see so much growth from those daily interactions in a small group. I also like being super prepared and planned as much in advance as I can, so I decided to make my guided reading life easier. I'm now always prepared and ready to teach each day...ahead of time! I created passages for Levels A-M (as aligned to F&P leveling system). Each passage also includes a lesson plan that I follow when using the passage. Each one has a running record too which is a fabulous component to use as a formative assessment on a regular basis. I always know if my little readers are ready to move on up or if they need to focus on the same level a little longer. 

I love these passages because my little readers get SUPER excited about the fun graphics & stories as well as the pride they feel in actually reading the texts. They are always ready to read the next story and asking for more!

The passages lead to great discussions about the texts. They enjoy writing and drawing their responses to each question. I have passages that can be used at any time of year as well as seasonally themed passages. Guided reading always feels fresh and new each day with the variety of texts!

If you are looking for more guided reading resources or simply leveled text that you can send home, you can check out all the passages packs I have in my store. I have a lot of savings bundles if you have a variety of levels that you work with like me. Check them out here or by clicking the image below!

Happy Reading!
Amanda & Aylin

Monday, November 16, 2015

Turkeys! Fact-Based Opinion Writing

During the week of Thanksgiving last year, my third graders did some opinion writing that was centered around the question: Should turkey be Thanksgiving's main dish?

When I posed the question to students, their feelings were surprisingly strong...

"Of course we should have turkey! We've eaten it every year in my family." Or, "Are you kidding me? Let's get rid of it! My dad always overcooks it. It's so dry and disgusting. I'd rather have pizza."

Needless to say, students could explain their opinion by pulling from their personal experiences.

But I knew we could do better.

I discussed with the class that when you are trying to build an argument to support an opinion, a carefully chosen FACT that is explained and connected to your opinion can make a big impact on your audience. 

But where to get the facts? Sure, we could launch into a bunch of research to find the perfect fact to support our opinion, but that's a whole other thing, isn't it? I really wanted to focus the activity on the writing, not research.

So that's why I had already prepared some turkey facts for them!

I had collected eight facts about turkeys, and put each one on a different card. After reading through the facts together, students cut apart their cards and worked together to sort them into categories: facts that supported YES, turkey should be the main dish; and facts that supported NO, turkey should not be the main dish.

When students shared how they sorted their facts, the differences were interesting. Sure, some facts strongly supported one opinion. For example, most students said the fact, "Turkey has more protein and less fat than other meats like chicken and beef," supports the opinion that turkey should be the main dish because it's a healthy option. But other facts, like, "An average size turkey takes about 4 hours to cook in an oven," could support either opinion. Some students said that it would be better to have a food that didn't take as long to cook, but other students said that cooking in the oven so long was a good thing: it gave families more time to visit together and it makes the turkey seem more important.

From my perspective, I just loved how students were thinking and analyzing each fact, independent of their personal opinion.

I then had students choose the facts they thought would help support their own opinion. I modeled how to effectively incorporate a fact into your argument, how you can't just throw it in and leave it up to your reader to interpret (we just found out that some facts can be interpreted differently). You needed to explain how the fact supports your opinion.

The last step was to write their opinion piece!

Afterward, I liked how the lesson went so much that I created a few more pieces to go with it, including:
  • a preliminary "poll question" to hook students
  • a poster of the turkey facts
  • a poster of the focus question
  • a planning organizer for the student writing
  • an extension activity where students look at the focus question from different points-of-view.
It also includes a detailed lesson plan. If the full resource interests you, click the image below for more details.

You can pick up the sheet of Turkey Fact Cards and the fun Writing Paper for FREE! Just click the image below.

Happy Thanksgiving! Stop by my blog, The Thinker Builder, anytime!