Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Human Body/Point of view/Halloween Mash Up

Since it was Halloween my partner teacher and I decided it was the perfect time for a lesson on character's point of view. I entered the classroom as Cinderella and read my story for the children. All of a sudden, the wicked step mother entered and totally took over! My amazing partner teacher read from the point of view of the step mother and had nearly all students convinced that sweet Cinderella was lazy and rude! Awesome!

To get into the Halloween spirit I saw decided to give my door a makeover with something I had found on Pinterest.

While I was at a special my very fun friend decided to give her door a makeover! How fun!!!

My third and fourth graders have been learning about the human body for the past couple of weeks. We have been having loads of fun leaning about our bodies. To try to ease some of the Halloween craziness we planned the day to revolve around some spooktacularly science stations.

Man, it was awesome! We had seven stations that kids rotated through. Each station lasted for roughly ten minutes. There were two teachers (one in each classroom) and thirty-two kids.

Station 1: The Brain! This was a  teacher manned station. When students arrived at the station they found a large bowl filled with cooked spaghetti (brains). In our last read aloud we discovered that the human brain is about the size of our two fists put together. Students picked up two handfuls of spaghetti to get a feel for the size of their brains.  After washing the brains off of their hands they worked through come brainteasers and memory games we had photocopied and left at the station.

Station 2: A Halloween mystery sentence   Each blank space had a picture that matched up with a letter to spell out a mystery sentence. This was more for Halloween fun than human body learning but it definitely could be adapted to fit the human body. If each symbol was a picture of an arm or leg or bone  and the sentence was something human body related this could fit in any time of the year.

Station 3: Human body cut and paste match  At this station students found two pages: one page had lines like a puzzle to cut and the other did not. Both were a picture of a skeleton that had the major bones labeled. Students needed to match the skull of the cut page to the skull of the whole page.

Station 4: Halloween Glyph  This station was part glyph and part word worth. The glyph had a picture of a boy and girl witch and students had to color the picture according to questions they answered on the worksheet. The next page was a word worth page where each letter is worth a coin (quarter, dime, etc.) The words they used were Halloween words but human body vocabulary would work great here.

Station 5: Eyes  At this station kids were able to feel a fresh set of eyeballs (grapes- man it takes a long time to peel those suckers!) After feeling the eyes they were instructed to test their own eyes. An eye exam paper was posted on the board. Students could check to see if they were nearsighted or farsighted as well as if one eye worked better than the other. They also had I Spy books to look at as well as Where's Waldo.

Station 6: Favorite Fall Candy  This station was perfect for my third graders who are starting a unit on data. Students were able to taste test three popular fall candies and choose their favorite to graph as a class.

Station 7: White and Red blood cell  This is quite possibly my favorite station. There were two jobs at the blood cell station. The white blood cell job was to see who could throw more white blood cells (pattern blocks) at the germ (in a text we read earlier in the week we noticed the germ looked like a pizza and we talked about how the white blood cell 'eats' the germ). The red blood cell job was to start at the heart (a paper heart on the floor), pretend to fill up 2 liter bottles with air and then move around the room distributing the air. They then returned to the heart to fill the bottles back up.

Our Halloween/Human Body day was fantastic. Each station had a ticket students had to fill out and bring with them. The ticket had a question related to the station that asked them information that we had talked about earlier in the week. We didn't even have time for all of the activities we had planned. At the end of the day students filled a plastic glove with popcorn and to take it home they had to answer how many bones are in our hands and arms and then attach the tag with the information to the popcorn.

It was a great way to enrich our learning of the human body on a rather hectic day!

Sunday, October 27, 2013


My third grade mathematicians have just finished up chapter one of GoMath which covers number sense. I felt very comfortable with their end of the unit assessment but want them to continue to practice mental math daily. I have added this gem into my math game choice station. I copied this on card stock and put it in a sheet protector. Students use a die to roll a number. They double the number, add one, then mark it off on their sheet. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Love for Mo Willems

My third graders are all about writing this year. They are making great comics, using story starter ideas, writing and publishing with friends and on their own. I am loving how many kids ask daily to write. They genuinely are bummed out when we do not have time due to scheduling conflicts (NECAP testing takes a wee bit of time...SARCASM...). My partner teacher/genius friend/other half of my brain stumbled upon the fabulous Mo Willems this fall and it has been pure magic for our classrooms.

It started with a lesson on character in which the fourth graders were looking at characters in a chapter book. To warm them up my genius friend chose an easier text and character with a big personality. Enter Pigeon.  Pigeon was a pretty big hit so she kept digging to see what other gems Mr. Willems had. Enter Elephant and Piggy. The funny thing is that Elephant and Piggy are so us. She is Elephant and needs a plan and worries and I am Piggy and am not so careful and I sure do smile a lot. :)  See!

Anyway, we practiced our hearts out preparing for the epic buddy reading presentation what we would perform for the students. During this time our school's librarian found a pig hat and elephant trunk we could wear for the production. Let me tell you, we read that Elephant and Piggy book We Are in a Book! with so much expression we gained Oscar buzz. That may be an exaggeration. We read with so much expression that teachers in our area shut their doors to keep the kids from being distracted by our awesomeness. True story! We left the books where students could easily access them and encouraged them to buddy read during our daily 5 read to someone time.

What happened next was awesome, amazing, wonderful, perfect. Students started buddy reading. All. Day. LONG!  The books are flying off the shelf. I have to draw names to chose who can have the them. They are reading with the most expression I have ever heard this early into the third grade year. They practice before school starts, during snack, during literacy and after school is over. And they are SO GOOD!

We have also had them look at Mo Willems from a writer's standpoint. We have some great comic creators who are finding inspiration from these texts. We have also looked at his illustrations and how he communicates through his words and pictures. Students are drawing from these books as they create their own writing.

The new book I'm a Frog was released today. Partner teacher/genius/other half has it and is bringing it to school tomorrow. I. Can't. Wait!!  The kids are pumped to hear the new book tomorrow.

Yay for Mo Willems! Yay for amazing teaching friends. Yay for a job I love!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Valentine's day smorgasbord

I am SO excited to share all of these Valentine's day ideas!!

This year I want to give my students homemade valentines. I searched online a found a bunch of ideas but decided to make my own. Here are the two I came up with.

I have seen teachers fill bags with goldfish for the first day of school and loved that idea. I put cupcake fish in the bag for a sweet treat for the kiddos.  The other one is a cute pencil holder and heavens my students tear through a serious amount of pencils.  I try to give pencils as prizes often so they keep a healthy supply. I printed both on card stock so they would stand some wear and tear. I cut two vertical cuts on the heart valentine to stick the pencil through. I wish I would have slanted it more to make it look like an arrow. You can download the free printable here which includes two other templates.

The reindeer that took so much time to create have been repurposed! The sign says, antlers over hooves in love! We were so happy to think of a way to keep these cuties for a few more months.
The kids decorated hearts to go along with the reindeer.

Tissue paper hearts
This activity is was easy to put together from materials all the way to the actual project and it looks lovely hanging in the windows. My daughter did this at our local public library and it was too fun to not share :)

The first step is to cut out a heart outline. Then put the heart on contact paper.

Fill the heart with tissue paper and cover the heart and tissue paper with contact paper. Some of my kids had trouble with this step and would take the contact paper off after applying it. It is pretty forgiving but younger kids might need more help with this part.

Then cut out the heart. We hung ours up in the window.

I love the way they look hanging in the windows and can't wait to see them on a sunny day.

Writing from the heart
In writing we used these hearts that I found on TPT (and now I cannot find them again to give the author credit) :(  The kids wrote things and people they love in the hearts and colored the things one color and the people another color. (For a quick noun review my partner teacher added places as a third choice.) They cut them out and glued them to construction paper. The following day they chose a thing/person from their heart to write about or to. Some students chose to write acrostic poems, others wrote letters, some drew pictures to go along with their writing. (I will get pictures of the finished product next week.)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Movers and shakers

I have some serious movers and shakers in my classroom. You know, the kids that constantly tip their chairs, stand to do their work, tap their pencils, are always on the go. Some of these kids have diagnoses of ADD or ADHD some do not, some families have chosen to have their child take meds to help with focus, some have not, regardless I needed to find a way to keep these kids moving so their brains can focus. 

One plan I tried at the beginning of the year was sending a math student to get a drink down the hall. It gave him the chance to wander, see new people, and get out of his normal environment. Just the routine of taking the walk to get a drink helped the student get his brain ready for leaning. He would spend most of math class standing or sitting in one of the fold-up rocking chairs (from Target -LOVE them!). 

I also have the tippers. The kids that tip their chairs and often find themselves on the floor. I am all for kids moving but when their safety is at stake I know I need to find another way to help them out. Here are some of the seating options my movers and shakers have.

This chair has adjustable legs. The height of one of the legs was adjusted so it was shorter than the rest. This allows students to rock the chair without putting them in danger of tipping. 
-This one does take some getting used to. When students first sit down then think they are going to tip backwards but it has quickly become a favorite.

The occupational therapist at my school offered this to one of my students. (Her husband made it) Its called a t stool and looks quite dangerous, right!?! However, the student that uses it has found that it is much safer than chair tipping. As soon as the stool starts to fall the student is able to stand up and the stool falls over. This has been an amazing addition to the choices the students have. Many kids like the movement it allows them while keeping them safe.

These next two are discs (around $20 Amazon) are a much more traditional way of helping the movers and shakers. The top one (teal) is filled 3/4 of the way with air so its squishy and light. It has two sides -smooth and pointy- and users can select the side they find most comfortable. The bottom one (yellow) has a heavier sandlike feeling and is a big heavier to carry and has a much different feel. 

I also have beanbags ($15 at Walmart) and folding rocking chairs (Target) that students can sit in during work time. I try not to have them sit at their desks too often. They always have that option but I find they are much happier to grab a clipboard and find a comfy spot on the floor/beanbags/rocking chairs. 

I have also found that students like to use Bendeez (bendable sticks found on Amazon) or the Tangle Jr Sensory Fidget Toy (Amazon) to keep their hands busy or to keep calm while listening. The occupational therapist at my school has been a invaluable resource. She is always so busy but makes the time to listen to my concerns and always has suggestions and tips. She has helped me to find many of these resources and is always a great go to person.

And when all else fails, brain breaks are a great way to get some of the wiggles out. There are many videos on YouTube, and countless quick activities to reset the brain for learning. 

Best wishes for you and your movers and shakers!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tests, tests and more tests

We are in the thick of NWEA testing at my school. (Northwest Evaluation Association) We administer these computer based assessments three times per year beginning in second grade to monitor student growth. They give immediate and specific feedback for each test taker and results can also be viewed by class. Students are tested in math, reading and language. These tests are really helpful in setting individual student goals as well as for the whole class. It also gives teachers a look at possible areas of teaching strength and weakness.

I have a student that is very bright but has been struggling for some time and is finally on a wonderful plan.  I have been convinced this plan is working for some time now but the test results were my absolute proof. Prior to the plan the student has always done well on these tests and met the benchmark scores and even exceeds them on occasion. Fast forward to present day, the student exceeded the expectation in math by 14 points and even more impressive is the reading score which exceeded the expectation by 30 points (which puts the student off the charts - past tenth grade.)  BIG FAT WAHOOOOOO!!!!!
Here is the icing on the cake! I was discussing the plan, the success, the testing, etc with the student and how much pride. The student replied (no joke), "Its because of how you teached me."  I am not holding out much hope for the language test, lol!

Another student's score increased by ten points from the fall. He was so proud, beaming the rest of the day, and decided to share the love by making this sweet note for me.

(Flip note over)

This also made me chuckle. Another person who rocked the reading assessment but could, perhaps, use some more grammar/language instruction. This just makes me love my class even more.  

One more giggle today- 
A student describing hotdogs: The outside of a hotdog is the pig skin and the inside is the insides of the pig.  

Oh dear, I would say she is not far off but still, ick! I don't know how much more inside recess I can handle!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Make your own font

Oh what fun I have had experimenting in the graphic art world. After conquering clip art I became curious with making font. I found My Real Font as an app on the iPad. 
Its another FREE app (wahoo cheers the thrifty -cheap- teacher) that is incredibly easy to use. The app guides you through handwriting each letter and saving the set. There is then the option to send the font as ttp. I send it from my iPad in an email, open it on my computer and download the file. Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy!

I have my eye on iFontMaker which is an app on the iPad for $6.99. This program has more options including the ability to make straight lines.  It also shows up bigger on the screen (My Real Font is pretty small and does not have the ability to make perfectly straight lines.) iFontMaker also allows the user to edit lines by clicking and dragging.

This font was one of the first ones I made, the rest are here. MyRealFont is really user friendly and addicting!  I find myself looking at font everywhere I go! Inspiration is everywhere :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Creating Clip Art

Have you ever been looking for clip art, or some graphic art and not been able to find it?? I find that frustrating, especially when I know what I want and could easily draw it myself. When I first started looking into clip art I thought I needed an expensive program but it turns out that by using an app ( a free app!!!) on my iPad it was inexpensive and very easy. I started by drawing a picture with pen and paper and scanning it into my computer. This was a bit labor intensive, as my printer/scanner isn't really the best, but it worked. After I scanned an item into my computer I opened it using Preview on my Mac and was able to crop and edit from there. I used the instant alpha tool to crop which lets me choose a large area to crop, then go to invert selection (under edit), then crop (under tools). When I finally have the image the way I want I save it as a png file.

After doing some research (and using some other, more difficult apps) I found the Sketchbook Express app on my iPad (free, yay!) and have been using that program to draw. I have found the program easy to use after spending some time playing around. It is user friendly and you can be a novice like me and still make it work. When I have the image the way I want it I save it in the program then send it to my photo gallery. From there, I am able to email it to my computer and edit as detailed above.

It turns out that creating clip art/graphic art is easier than I thought and I find it to be soothing and a way to relieve stress.
Here are some of my hearts, just in time for Valentine's Day :)

You can find them in my TPT Store 

Happy Creating!