Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fun Technology Tools

This past week I have finished my first lesson for my school system's new online campus.  While I wish I could share the whole lesson with you, I can't figure out how to do that right now!  I can give you a little peek...


I am developing the first quarter of fifth grade math with the new Common Core standards, and, since I teach fourth grade, I am having to do a little searching on the best resources to use to teach these standards.  Another little speed bump in the road is we have to use resources that are available under Creative Commons licensing...unless we create them ourselves.

One resource that I used is to help me, and would be great to assist your students, is called


You know how sometimes you can teach a student over and over the same concept, but it is only when a friend explains it that it makes sense.  This site is a kids-teaching-kids project from Mr. Marcos at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, California.  Very well made videos...and it's FREE!

I found another online resource that helped me create this...

this subscription website lets you create comics. It is called Pixton for Schools...


I created my comic during my free trial, but I am seriously considering signing up for a subscription for the fall.  Can you imagine all you could do here?  I am thinking reading responses, end of unit assessments, or even just an alternative writing piece!  How would you use this resource?

One final tool is Voki!  Have you used this?  Voki lets you create an avatar and either record or input text so your little character can talk!  Here is an example of one that I created...


There is a classroom subscription version of the site I am going to check out because it has more security options.  Students could use this to record responses to literature, explain math thinking, or have digital discussions.  Pretty cool!

I will try to share with you some of the other tools and resources that I find!   But please share with me some of the digital tools you use in your classroom...I will need plenty of ideas!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Update -- Making a Word Cloud

Ok...I have had many questions about how I made my word clouds...so here are some tips and tricks to help you out!
  1. I created my word clouds using the website, Tagul.  It is a free website but does require you to sign up.  (And if you are worried about getting spam mail...I haven't received any yet!)  There are others out there...and each one allows you to do different things!  Tagul worked for me, but Wordle, Tag.xedo, or another one may be easier for you and more suited to your taste.
  2. Don't be afraid to play with your word cloud...really the more you play with the settings the more awesome it will become!
  3. Need a step-by-step tutorial--here is the video that Teresa from Confessions of a Teaching Junkie created...

Finally, if you have any specific questions, please feel free to email me!  I am already out of school and can better get an answer to you than if you only comment on this post!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Rockin' Resources

Now that I am out for summer break, one of the first big things that I first take time to do is reflect on the previous school year. And while I create most of my “stuff” myself, I have found a prime opportunity to share with you some of the resources and supplies that I could not live without in my classroom this year in...
 
Some of these are big name, big cost...some not so much!  I have included links (if you are interested in checking any of these out!)

Dry-erase boards and markers

I have two different kinds of dry erase boards...ones with a centimeter grid from EAI Education...
and ones that are plain from Oriental Trading Company...

I use dry-erase boards in nearly every subject.  The students enjoy using these for practice in math.  The grided boards work well for helping students to line up their numbers.  We use them for review in science and social studies.  The students also enjoy them to complete word work.

And I have found that the best value for dry-erase markers has to be these from Discount School Supply ...

DRP (Daily Reading Practice) 

I just started using this program this year, and it is a fabu way for every student to get comprehension practice. It has short 1-2 paragraph passages, and, like its name, daily comprehension activities to complete. Weekly, the students complete similar activities. Each Monday is about subject, title, author’s purpose, reader’s purpose, and genre. Tuesday is all about word study and vocabulary. Wednesday is practicing inference, idiom, problem, point of view, setting, type of writing, true/false, fact/opinion, or mood. Thursday practice is about main idea, skimming, predicting, topic sentence, details, or graphic organizers. Friday is about finding key words and summarizing. This was practice was excellent for my students this year that needed repetitive practice which research shows is very important!

Standardized Test Practice: Long Reading Passages by Scholastic



While I give my students shorter passages for reading practice, our testing includes longer 1 – 2 page passages. So in order to help my students also build their stamina for longer testing situations, I use this book to help me give comprehension assessments. It has a variety of genres of passages, and a variety of short answer, long answer, and multiple choices questions.

Scholastic’s Study Jams



StudyJams is an incredible website similar to BrainPop, but I think it could be free! (I haven’t paid for it, but I am a subscriber to other Scholastic things...so I’m not quite sure!) The only difference is StudyJams focuses only on Science and Math...but contains videos, quizzes, slide show, and karaoke. The students love it!

Evan-Moor’s Teacher File Box and Scholastic’s Printables

Both of these subscription websites are very similar only by different publishers. I will go to these sources to find good homework type sheets...especially since they have ones that allow students to check their work! It also saves me a lot of time and energy to go to one of these sources to help create assessments.

What are some the resources that you rock all the time in your room?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Goodbye Class of 2011-2012

Wednesday was our last day of school.  This has been such a challenging school year that really tested my nerves and skills as a teacher.  I was very happy to have almost all my students pass the C.R.C.T. (just my one E.S.O.L child did not pass...but she has only been speaking English for a year and a half and was expected to pass all of the tests! Umm...yeah ok...passing the English/Language arts section alone was pretty amazing...)  I am happy to see this group move on to fifth grade!

Before I let them go for the summer, we marked the day with a few special events.  I found 350 and 500 piece puzzles at the dollar store, so we had a little puzzle competition.  (Kids today just don't do puzzles anymore!  I remember as kid being excited to go picked out a new 1,000 piece puzzle to complete as a family...maybe I was just a big geek though!)  We also watched the movie Tale of Despereaux.  (Thank you Netflix for having it for instant download!)

I ended the day by giving them the special end of the year gifts.  First I gave them a personalized water bottle with a special little tag on it...


I adapted these from B. jane brewing... and Lorraine from Fabulous Fourth Grade Froggies's Classroom DIY post.  (If you haven't already noticed my little OCD self has to have things match, and the phrase "Don't Reinvent the Wheel" just doesn't make any sense to me!)  Attached to the back of the tag with two little mini glue-dots is a packet of Kool-Aid.  If you would like a some simple directions and a copy of my tag, click on the picture below...


Then I gave them a little something else...


This gift was inspired by Teresa at Confessions of a Teaching Junkie.  I used the Just One Word like she did...
but since we have learned hoe to use this resource this year (and they love it)...I challenged my students to use a thesaurus to help them find better descriptors for their classmates.  They have been eager to find out what words their classmates used to describe them.  (What was more funny to me was the word they picked to describe themselves!)

I presented each student with their framed word art...and they were thrilled!  I wasn't prepared for just how excited they would really be...just look at them...






I was so excited that they were excited! 

Quickly came the end of the day in which we must say our goodbyes (including some sad goodbyes to student who would not be returning to the school) and lots of hugs!  So long Fourth Grade class of 2011-12...you will be missed!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
An update for this post explaining a little more about these name clouds can be found here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Summer Bucketlist

Today marks Six...count 'em...6 school days until summer break.  I have had a whopper of a year, but I got back test scores for my class, and they were surprisingly much better than I expected.  So now I feel that I can end this year on a good note and start thinking about...

I'm joining April, Hadar, and Teri to share what I want to get done this summer!
I have SO, SO much I want to accomplish this summer.  Being me, I had already started a bucket list on paper and unfortunately already lost it!  So since I work better electronically, here we go...

School...
  1. I have been greatly inspired by Ladybug's Teacher Files's C.R.A.F.T. Board materials...so I want to try The Daily Five and The CAFE Book: Engaging All Students in Daily Literary Assessment and Instructionor CRAFT with my students.  This means first reading the books then deciding how I will adapt these ideas into my classroom.
  2. I am working to help develop an elementary school online campus for my school system.  I will be creating 40 lessons for the first quarter of fifth grade.
  3. I am also working on finishing my gifted certification...I will be done by the time school starts!
  4. My class this year has been rough on my classroom library...so I have to do some reorganizing!  As I reorganize, I am going to scan in books into Booksource's Classroom Organizer.
  5. I have two workshops to attend...1. Implementing the Math Common Core and 2. Textbook Training for our new science adoption.
  6. I am also going to be creating more for my TeachersPayTeachers and Teacher's Notebook stores.  I also have a couple projects I want to list on Etsy too!
  7. I have some seen some materials that I want to adapt for Greek and Latin Roots word work.   Speaking of Greek, I want to develop a unit for Greek myths to start out the year.
Outside of school...
  1. Go to the gym at least 5 days a week!
  2. Planning a baby shower for one of my best friends...just have to pry the baby's gender out of her! :)
  3. Finding the perfect rug for my family room and mirror for foyer.
  4. I have a bunch of Pinterest ideas that I want to try...so many I'm not sure where I want to start!
  5. I want to break out my brand-new sewing machine...and conquer my fear of sewing with it!
How far away are you from summer break?  What do you want to get done on your summer break?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Signs of the End of the Year

One of the big signs that the school year is coming to a close is the annual field day.  Although it is not my favorite event (I'm not an outdoor-sy kind of girl), the P.E. teacher at my school does a fabu job of coordinating our event.

Our school does field day for the fun of physical activity rather than making it about the competition.  Each grade level has a scheduled two hour block of time to go out to the playground and gym.  We stay together as a class and move from center to center.  Each of the centers is run by fifth grade students (They love the power of it all!).

This year our theme was Olympics, so we got to compete in a variety "track and field" type events.  But first the opening ceremonies...
There was a torch relay leading out to the outdoor events.

Our first event was "gymnastics" on the indoor equipment...
This equipment is a once a year treat, and I am so glad there were mats because my kids were throwing themselves all over the place!

Then the "triathlon"...
where we "swim," "bike," and "run" with scooters.

Then a little golf...

(Did you know golf is making its comeback to the Olympics in 2016?  My new fact for the day!)

Then we went outside for some Olympic ring toss...
and "track and field"...
and finally, the good-ole tug'o'war...
After an afternoon of lots of physical exertion, popsicles were enjoyed by all...
 And field day is down in the books for the 2011-2012 school year!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Playing with Owl Puke

Our last science unit that we have been working on since March (we took a break in the middle for testing preparations) is food chains and webs and animal adaptations.  As a final part of this unit, we play with some owl puke aka owl pellets.

To get the students prepared, we do some reading beforehand.  As a classroom read aloud, I read aloud the book Poppy by Avi.
(I like to have a class set of my chapter read aloud books or at least a few extra copies on hand for those that like to read along.) This book is a perfect read aloud to accompany a study of food chains!

Another two books I like to have on hand are 1) a nonfiction resource Owl Puke, the Book by Jane Hammerslough,
   
a great resource about an owl's food, where it lies in the food chain, and lots of more interesting information,  and 2) White Owl, Barn Owl by Nicola Davies
This is a fiction text written by a zoologist, so it is firmly based in fact.
 
For a technology link, check out...
this site not only has a virtual owl pellet dissection but great teacher resources and information to purchase your own owl pellets.
 
Now comes the part the students are dying for...digging into owl pellets.  I pass out paper towels, and tooth picks, recording sheets, and the foil-wrapped pellets.  Before allowing them to rip open the foil like its Christmas morning, we take a moment to make some predictions about we will find inside.  Since we have complete so much reading and preparations, they have a pretty good idea of what to expect, so I ask them to focus on what they think their owl must have eaten based on the size of the pellet. 
 
After unwrapping, we take some time to record  sketch and some observations of our pellets.
 
I have a water bottle on hand for those stubborn pellets, and I give the students some last minute instructions to be gentle and be care because the bones inside are very fragile.  Then they break open their pellets and dig in.
I have them pause again and record another sketch and some more observations.  Then they begin to find what is inside...



They were so engaged.  And so excited to show me what was inside...


...just like Christmas!

Would you like to get your own copy of my recording sheet?  Just click on the picture below!



Have fun dissecting!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hitting the Road

Right now in fourth grade we are studying animal habitats, food chains and webs, and adaptations.  So, today we broke out of the school building, packed 200 kids into school buses, and hit the road to the Georgia Aquarium.  We are in the suburbs of Atlanta, so the trip shouldn't take that long.  But if you know anything about Atlanta...the traffic is terrible...and this rainy day was no exception!  We arrived slightly later than expected and herded the kids into the building.

Since my group this year is very extremely spirited, I invited my student teacher to come back to accompany us along with three other parents.  This gave us each a group of five to six students to be responsible for and allowed us to split up and see the exhibits better.  I had a great group of five girls tour around with me.  We started at the River Scout gallery...
and saw an albino alligator...
Then we took a Cold Water Quest where we saw animals that enjoy colder waters, like starfish... 
and walked with the penguins...

And even met a penguin that posed for some pictures...


After stopping for to eat a quick snack, we moved on to the biggest gallery...

This is the gallery where you can view whale sharks and a somersaulting manta ray,  You view them through the large two-foot thick ocean viewer window...
I could spend an entire day in this room...it is dark and peaceful...I think my girls could too...

Our day at the aquarium ended with the Dolphin Tales show.  The five dolphins in the show are so amazing...they jumped, twirled, and moonwalked across the water.  Many of my students changed their minds about what they wanted be when they grew up after seeing what the trainers could do with these amazing animals.

It was a fun and fantastic field trip...one of the best I've taken! 

What are some of your favorite field trips?

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