Monday, April 28, 2014

Mathematical Monday - Fractions, Decimals, Percent Clothesline!

I'm linking up with my BBB Jess over at I {Heart} Recess for her Mathematical Monday Linky.

Be sure to stop over and see her blog's brand new look!

We've been studying fractions and decimals lately, so I'm going to be talking about something we did during math workshop recently to really solidify the idea of fractions on a number line.

I hung up a couple of clotheslines in the classroom, and had my kids do some laundry!

First, I printed two copies of the game, one on pastel and another on brightly colored card stock. Then I mixed and matched the shirts so that each copy of the game had a variety of shirt colors, and two groups could “play” at the same time.

The clothesline was just white yarn, and I found these tiny clothespins in the craft section of Wal-mart!

There are a ton of ways that the kids can hang the laundry, so it was great for the workshop because it had built in, easy differentiation! At the basic level you can split the line in two and have some kids hang the fractions on either the "closer to 0" or "closer to 1" side of the line.

At a more advanced level, kids can hang up the fractions where the belong on a number line, and even hang up the equivalent fractions, decimals, and I even made some percent tank tops too!

The kids had a great time with it, and I think it served as a really great review for some of them, and really helped a few them get the ideas of place value on a number line and that the bigger the denominator, the smaller the pieces. Find the whole set in my store for just \$3!

In other news, be sure to stop by and enter some of the great giveaways that are going on right now!

Of course there's the giveaways to go along with myself and my BBB's 14 freebies that I talked about in my last post!

And you can stop by either AMC or Emily's blogs to enter their 1,000 follower celebration giveaways!

And Diane is part of ANOTHER giveaway! Take the time to follow some of these great blogs and you can enter all three sets of giveaways! You have to be in it to win it, right?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Surviving Spring to Welcome Summer Blog Hop! - with a writing freebie!

My best blogging buddies and I have gotten together to do the best kind of blog hop, one with freebies and giveaways! Hop from one blog to the next, picking up a freebie and a secret word at each stop, and don't forget to enter the giveaway! If you're not already following one of these blogs, now's a great time to start! And if you are a reader already, this is our way of saying thanks! There are some great TpT gift certificate prizes, and someone lucky will win the best pencil sharpener ever (I know because I have two in my room!) from Classroom Friendly Supplies.

Our hop's theme is basically all about how to make it til the last day of school without losing it! :)  If your kids are anything like the couple hundred I've had over the years then I'm guessing with every passing day they are getting a little more antsy.

My freebie is for writing! Towards the end of the year I try to plan some highly engaging writing lessons that are more focused on instilling a love of writing in the kids than anything else. While I'm at it, I figure I might as well get something in the queue for next year. (I'm always thinking ahead!) So my kiddos take some time to write a letter to my future students! Then next year during the first week of school my new students read and respond to the letters. I've used a couple of varieties of the form the kids write on, but I think my favorite is "A letter to the kid sitting in my old desk." Haha. The freebie includes 3 versions, and each of those come with two different sized writing lines.

I've done this activity several times over the years, and each time it has been a big success. The kids just love the idea that sometime next year there is going to be a new student reading all the things they've written. And when they get their letters a couple weeks into the school year, they're excited all over again! Double win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now, hop on over to my bud, Jess from I {Heart} Recess to get another freebie and another entry in the giveaway!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mindfulness in the Classroom - Tried It Tuesday

I'm linking up with my BBB Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried It Tuesday! This year I've been studying mindfulness and mindset. As part of this I've been leading my class in a combination of breathing exercises and narrated meditations each day.

We have a random little 6-7 minute block of time between the end of math and the beginning of lunch. Each day I found my kids coming back from math (we switch) and not using that time to the fullest. It's barely enough time to get into a read-aloud, and not enough time to do a full morning meeting or anything, so I decided to designate it as a time for mindfulness. The kids come in, we sit in a circle on the carpet (I join them on the floor), I ask them to get into their mindful bodies...find their "sitting bones" and then I invite them to close their eyes and listen to me guide them through the activity of the day.

I have used this old tried and true resource called "The Centering Book" as a source for many of the meditation activities I've done this year. The book is out of print, but can be bought on Amazon pretty cheaply. While not all of the activities are necessarily great to carry out in the classroom, the vast majority of them have been usable and very successful. As time has gone on I've even had some of my hold outs that were "too cool" join the group and play along.

 Dr. Peter rings the tibetan singing bowl for the kids to practice their mindfulness listening.
And there's even cooler news! As part of the my studies with Mindfulness, my principal was able to get the services of a therapist who specializes in teaching mindfulness techniques to children to come and work with some kids in our school.

Dr. Peter Montminy will be visiting four lucky classrooms for 15 minutes, twice a week, for the next several months to guide our students even further in becoming more mindful! I think I've been doing a good job of introducing mindfulness and centering activities to my kids, but there's nothing like a guest speaker to get kids engaged! And having a real life expert come in and tell your kiddos the very things you've been saying never hurts either! Now they know there's some credibility to what we've been doing beyond just what they've felt about it.

And that's the most important part. When we hosted a parent night recently to inform parents about what we're doing with mindfulness, meditation, and centering I couldn't help but overhear a dad whisper to his wife, "This is bull&%!\$."  He wasn't sold on it, clearly. And even I have to admit that I sometimes wonder if it looks silly to have a 6'1", 230 pound man sitting on the floor in a circle of kids talking about mindful breathing, yoga poses, our anchor points, etc.

But these activities have helped my kids! They can sit and center themselves now whenever they need to. They do it at home. They do it at lunch and recess. They do it before we have our read-aloud. They can do it anytime they feel stressed or need to feel grounded. And with our big state tests on the horizon, I have a feeling they'll be putting some of these skills to use soon!

If you haven't tried centering activities with your kids before, give it a shot! You never know! Like I shared about before, GoNoodle has some cool mindfulness stuff and is a great way to get started with that!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tunes Tuesday - Social Studies Edition!

I'm excited to be bringing back Tunes Tuesday again! I hope if you're a blogger you'll consider linking up a new or slightly used post about how you've used music to teach Social Studies!

I'm going to share about something I did for the last two years when I was teaching about the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution!

Of course I'd already spent some time talking about sparks of the revolution and my class did that fun simulation where I was the governor and they had to pay taxes (in chocolate of course). But I take it to another level...we set up a whole village, each kid picks a trade, makes a store sign, earns a wage dependent on that trade, etc. When the quartering act hits I even take away some of the kids' chairs for the day.

When the kids have finally had enough, and we've learned a lot about taxation...I show them this fun video.

And then we go through the Declaration and read it. I mean, really read it. I think it's important for kids to know what this document meant, so I made this powerpoint that breaks the document down one paragraph at a time and shows a translation in today's language!

It's just \$3 in my store!

So, hopefully we have some link ups for you to check out below!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lifehack for Teachers #5 - The knuckle calendar!

I'm back with another lifehack that'll hopefully solve a problem for you or your students!

I'm not sure what my problem is exactly...but every single time I'm trying to figure out how many days are in a month I have to sit and think about it. I know a lot of people know that rhyme, "30 days has September..." but I can never seem to remember it correctly, and then I doubt whether I've said it right, yada yada.

Now, I don't have to worry about it! I just use the knuckle calendar! Bumps are 31 and gaps are 30 (except February)! After July, go back to the first knuckle! Easy!

And if that wasn't a good tip for you, maybe this one will be...

And I really hope some of you will come along tomorrow and link up for this month's Tunes Tuesday! It's all about how you use music to teach Social Studies!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mindfulness in the Classroom with GoNoodle!

I'm excited to share today about something I've been using for a while now in my classroom. GoNoodle! It has been the perfect compliment to all of the mindfulness & centering activities I've been doing with my kiddos this year! And I was super lucky to discover the site just before all of my big state standardized tests because it's loaded with great stuff for mood enhancing brain breaks.

If you haven't heard about it before, I'll give you the basic breakdown. But even if you have already heard about it from one of my Best Blogging Buddies, you'll want to keep reading because I'm going to show you one of the coolest new additions to the site!

The Basics:

You start by creating an account, which is super simple! Next, you set up a class (which also takes only a minute!) And then you pick out a "Champ." There are a bunch to choose from, so I let my kiddos do a quick vote on which one we'd go with.

 We all know kids LOVE games where they get to evolve a monster looking thing. Okay...so do I!
A really cool feature of the Champs (which all have unique and hilarious looks and names) is that they evolve as you level them up. I actually caught myself trying to squeeze in an extra minute of Zumba (one of the cool options!) one day because I knew our Champ was on the verge of leveling up and I wanted to see what he would look like! Haha. The kids get REALLY into it too.

Once you've picked your Champ, it's easy from there! You just click the little "Play" button right there in the middle and the different videos and games pop up.

After completing a video brain break or a game, you earn points for the time played, which go towards leveling up your Champ!

So, I wanted to tell you how I've been using GoNoodle in my classroom!

I've blogged before a bit about how I've been implementing mindfulness and centering activities in my classroom this year. I've been doing guided meditations, yoga, and breathing exercises with the kids and I've had nothing but great results. The great news? In addition to a bunch of fun brain break music videos, GoNoodle actually has three games that are geared towards mindfulness! Did I mention all of this is free?!

A few of my favorite things:

1. Flow

 As you do the activities, your tree grows more leaves!
This is the newest thing to hit GoNoodle, and one of my personal favorite things. It is basically a set of illustrated, narrated meditations that your kids can follow to help them become centered! Perfect! You can choose a grade level from K - 7!

Right now there are two categories to choose from, and then additional choices under those categories. You can choose to Manage Stress or to shift your Attitude.

Here are my kids doing the activity titled "Bring it down," which focuses on gently bringing down your stress level. Perfect for doing just before an important test! We turn the lights out, open the blinds a little, sit on our "sitting bones" and listen to the soothing voice guide us through the exercise!

Trust me, there's nothing cooler than looking over during math class and seeing one of your kids with their eyes closed mouthing "Chin up, chin up" or having a kid come to school in the morning and tell you that last night their sisters were fighting so they went and sat on their bed and did some "mindfulness stuff" to keep from getting upset. Those 2 or 3 minutes here and there can make a real difference throughout the whole day, and even outside of school!

2. Airtime

We have been doing a lot of breathing exercises this year to help us become centered. This is great to do right before a read-aloud, or any other time that the kids will need to sit and focus.

Airtime is a guided breathing exercise with an added twist! We're breathing a bubble all across America and picking up postcards with fun facts along the way!

3. To The Maximo

You know what your life is missing? A top hat wearing, purple monkey yoga master with a funny accent, that's what! Worry not. Maximo is here to the rescue! Yes, yes he is.

Want to do yoga with your class but don't have the confidence to lead them? I have to admit that's how I felt before we started using the To The Maximo game on GoNoodle. But now I don't have to lead, I can participate right along with the kids as he leads them in a very funny and kid friendly way through a ton of different poses! Some of them are a little tough for an increasingly less flexible and rapidly aging teacher like myself, but after just a few times with Maximo I think I'm getting better!

4. Zumba

Research supports the idea that adding movement to your daily routine can help student achievement. And any teacher worth their salt could tell you that without the research!

But did you know that it's also a great way to bribe your kiddos! :) Mine love doing the Zumba and other dance videos, so it's a simple trade off...the students don't waste our instructional time with silly things like off-task behavior, and then we have three minutes after we pack our backpacks for some Zumba! Win-win!

I love the fact that all of these activities are things you can load up and project with no prep, and then you are free to participate along with the kids!

My kids are in love with GoNoodle, and so am I! I really hope you'll give it a try! Click on any of the links in this post and go see how easy it is to set up an account and start doing some brain breaks and mindfulness in your own classroom! Your kids will thank you, and I have a feeling you'll thank me!  ;)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The African Library Project - Tried It Tuesday

I'm linking up again with my BBB Holly over at Fourth Grade Flipper for her Tried It Tuesday linky. This time I'm going to talk about something my intern Chelsea, and the intern next door named Steph, have been trying! She's been leading my school's efforts towards helping The African Library Project this year!

If you've never heard about it, The African Library Project is a non-profit organization that coordinates book drives in the US with schools in Africa to help set up libraries in those schools. As their website states, "1,000 books, \$500, and a little elbow grease is all it takes to create a library in Africa!" The project is a great supplement to our study of Africa this year.

Chelsea and another intern at our school set up this basket and sign in our school's lobby. They've made the school aware of the book drive by speaking on the morning announcements and sending home some info about the project. My school has had similar book drives in the past, so luckily it didn't take a lot to get people started on brining in books.

 Once the basket is full the books are temporarily stored til sorting.
My community is always eager to donate to something like this. We're lucky enough to have a community member who covers the shipping cost of the books. And with teachers thinning their classroom libraries, and kids constantly "growing out" of books...before you know it the basket fills up! In fact, it fills up over and over again!

That's when the elbow grease has to kick in! Here you can see my kiddos putting in some work. We had the kids start by sorting out any books that aren't really appropriate to send. With this many donations it's inevitable that a few slip in that aren't kids' books. Then the kids sorted the books by size to make packing them easier. That's when Chelsea and I would count the books as we packed them into boxes (which need to be plastic lined)! Chelsea and the other intern ended up packing up a ton more boxes after school too.

To keep track of the school's progress, Chelsea and Steph made a classic goal thermometer. As you can see, we are well on our way to the 1,750 book goal! Our school has a day at the end of the year when we have a giant book giveaway for students. Any books that can't be sent to Africa due to quality, excess, size, etc are contributed to that project, so they still get into the hands of a child in the end!

If you're looking for a good Service Learning or Community Service project for your class, consider The African Library Project!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Awesome Science Educents Bundle!

I've been posting a lot lately about science, but that's because science is so much fun to teach... I hope you share the love!

Some friends and I have teamed up with Educents for an amazing bundle of instant downloads for you!

Two of my products are included, and I am certain they will be loved by your students!

One of the featured products is my set of Scoot/Task Cards about Ecosystems and Land Biomes.

I use this set as a quick and fun way of assessing my kids after teaching this science unit. Much more fun than taking a test on a worksheet! Place the cards all around the room and then either have kids hunt the cards or have them scoot from one card to next when you call out "scoot!"

I used this second featured product while teaching our unit on the human body.

Having kids make a lapbook while you teach a unit is a great way for them to store the things they've learned, take notes about the body systems, and then is a perfect piece of evidence to show parents or to put in their portfolio when the unit concludes!

The product includes a handout about the body systems, along with unique black and white (colorable!) images of all of the body systems, and some other flaps about homeostasis and cells. Pictures are included to show what a completed lapbook looks like.

For a limited time you can grab up these two products plus another 7 for just \$10.99 from Educents which is about 65% off!  There's a variety of other great products so there is sure to be some things you will love!  Use code Anniversary20 between now and April 7th and you'll save another 20%!

You can also take peek at some of the other products included in the bundle at any of the links below!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Five for Friday - Finished Testing, Lifehack, and Tunes Tuesday Coming!

I'm linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching for Five for Friday!

It's been a busy week! I'm definitely ready for the weekend!

I'm excited to announce that our state testing for the year is over! I've taken down the black paper covering everything, and our schedule is back to normal! Woohoo! The kids loved their testing treats, and today we're celebrating by having a Pajama/Game Day! (Really the games are only happening for an hour in the afternoon, but still!)

Wednesday, my kids finished up their Rube Goldberg Device projects and shared them with the class. Here's a tiny 5 second clip of my favorite one!

This week I taught a pretty cool lesson that goes along with one of the new Common Core standards. It's all about "Shades of Meaning." I feel like when kids come to me and tell me what a synonym means they always say, "two words that mean the same thing." But that's not really true. It's a misconception that really needs to be cleared up. For example, sad, glum, and depressed are synonyms. But they have shades of meaning.

The common core standard asks you to distinguish shades of meaning between words that describe states of mind. I started my kids off with something a little more concrete, the color green. Mint, Olive, and Kelly are all Green. But they're very different too.

This eventually led to an understanding that words like Question, Ponder, Wonder, and Inquire are all synonyms too...but there are nuances to those words that make them different. The lesson and sheets I used for the lesson, along with an interactive notebook piece and a poem activity are in my store for 2 smackeroos. Smackeroos, clams, bread, and dough are all slang synonyms for money!  ;)

Here comes Lifehack for Teachers #4! Have you or your kids ever had a word that you just can't seem to remember how to spell? Become a better speller by forcing yourself to spell it all the time by making it your password!

Tunes Tuesday is coming up again! Tuesday, April 15th will be our Tunes Tuesday for Social Studies! If you're a blogger, then I hope you'll start preparing a post now about how you use music to teach Social Studies, or link up a previous post of yours!