April 30, 2012

Fun Twist on Book Reports!

Five Looks on a Book is a simple and fun activity that offers a nice twist on the traditional book report. Students name five adjectives that describe their book and then write one supporting detail for each adjective. You can download this freebie from my Reading Workshop page on Teaching Resources.

The original idea for the activity came from 3rd grader Adrienne Duarte, and I created the graphic organizer to go with her idea. When I first shared this activity online, Facebook fans helped me brainstorm adjectives to describe books. We came up with 99 different adjectives, and Stephanie Schifini compiled and alphabetized the list. Thanks, Adrienne and Stephanie!

If you use this activity with students, I would recommend having students brainstorm adjectives for books before showing them your list of 99 adjectives. In fact, why not make it a challenge? Tell them that you have a list of 99 adjectives and you want to see if they can come up with a list of 99 adjectives without looking at your list!  

Post a large sheet of paper on a bulletin board and allow students to add adjectives throughout the week. When they have found as many as possible, reveal your words and compare the two lists. After students complete their worksheets, arrange them on the bulletin board around the poster. Title the board, "Take A Look!" and you've just created an instant bulletin board display!

Five Looks on a Book is such a quick and easy activity that you could easily repeat it several times throughout the year, or even once a month. You can download this 3-page freebie from my Reading Workshop page on Teaching Resources. Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

April 29, 2012

Move to Learn in Science!

Brain research supports the need for students to get plenty of movement throughout the day - but that's something every teacher knows! In Teaching with the Brain in Mind, Eric Jensen states, "Brain-compatible learning means that educators should weave math, movement, geography, social skills, role play, science, and physical education together."

I completely agree, and that's why I enjoyed using simulations and role-playing games in my classroom. One day my students were stuck inside due to the winter weather, and I made up a game where the kids pretended to be molecules and they moved according to the changes in states of matter. We reviewed the three states of matter, and I used water in my examples:
  • Solids - Molecules are tightly packed and move slowly, staying in a rigid formation. (Ice would be an example of matter in a solid state.)
  • Liquids - As solid matter is heated, the addition of energy causes molecules to move more quickly and spread apart. (Water is a liquid.)
  • Gases - With the addition of more heat, the molecules move even faster and pread even farther apart. (Steam is the gaseous form of water.)
Here's a simple visual I found online:

States of Matter Game
To start the game, I asked everyone to stand up, find a spot on the floor, and then move as I guided them through the states of matter. One of the rules was that they couldn't touch anyone or anything as they moved, so I had them cross their arms across their chests to keep their bodies in a compact form.
  1. Solids - They started out bunched together in one part of the room, barely moving as they role-played molecules in the solid state. 
  2. Liquids - Then I told them they were getting warmer and they needed to increase their speed and spread out accordingly. 
  3. Gases -Finally, they became gas molecules and moved quickly but carefully all over the room. 
Anyone who touched something or someone had to sit out for a minute (mostly to calm down!). Click the image to download the directions.

Water Cycle Adaptation
The States of Matter game is easily adapted to have students role-play the water cycle. Tell them they are now molecules inside a water droplet.Then guide them through the processes of evaporation, condensation, and freezing. When they start evaporating, they become a gas so they need to spread out. As they cool down and condense to form clouds, they become liquid and move closer together. At that point you can have them become a liquid again as rain or tell them they are freezing to form snowflakes or solid particles of ice. Relate their movements to water's different states of matter during the water cycle.

More Water Cycle Resources
If  your students need extra practice with identifying examples of condensation, evaporation, and precipitation, check out my Water Cycle Combo on TpT. This product includes includes 32 task cards, a sorting activity, and a quiz.  Your kids will master these concepts in no time!

Move to Learn Link Up
Because I think movement is so important in learning, I was excited when Rachel Lynette posted her Move to Learn link up. I decided to write this blog post to share one of my favorite ways to get kids moving. Even if you aren't studying states of matter, the game works great as a 5-minute energizer. With younger kids, you can leave out the science terminology and just tell them to speed up and slow down according to your directions. My students always loved this one! Please visit Rachel's original blog post on this topic for more ideas about how to get kids up and moving to learn!

Mother's Day Coupons Freebie

As a 5th grade teacher, I often struggled with what to do for Mother's Day. I began my teaching career in middle school, and I never considered having my students do something for Mother's Day. When I moved to elementary school, I admired the cute arts and crafts projects that were on display in the primary grades, but I didn't feel I could devote hours of class time to this.

Later, I realized the importance of showing appreciation for others, and I began providing time for Mother's Day activities. Usually we tied this activity to a poetry lesson and the kids created poems for their moms. Then they wrote their poems inside of cards they designed themselves. At first they decorated their cards with crayons, but eventually I became more adventurous and brought out the water colors, scissors, glue, and sponge paints and gave them free reign to create a masterpiece! Even though it did take a bit of class time, the joy on their faces was well-worth the sacrifice in teaching time. This was a different type of lesson, but one that was just as important as math, science, and reading.

My students were so proud to be able to present a special gift to their mom, even if it was just a homemade card. As an extra touch, I encouraged them to create personalized coupons to slip inside their cards. Each coupon listed a special favor or something that the student was willing to do to show appreciation. Whether it be to wash her car, cook breakfast, or just give her a hug, they coupons were a nice touch, especially if the child did not have another gift to present. I've created a free set of coupons that you can print for your students, or you can display the coupons as examples for them to use when creating their own. The first set of coupons is in color, and the second set is in black and white. You could print the black and white ones and have students color the designs around the edges. You'll also find some blank templates in both black and white and color.

You can download this freebie from my TeachersPayTeachers store. If you like this item, please take a moment to rate it and leave a comment for me. Thanks!

April 26, 2012

Laura's Freebies Just a Click Away!

I love creating freebies for teachers! In fact, about 95% of the materials in my online File Cabinet are absolutely free! I first used my File Cabinet as a way to upload and share activities from my classroom, and since I was still teaching, I didn't have time to write up directions for others.

Later, when I signed up for TeachersPayTeachers, I began creating multi-page freebie packets with complete directions. I decided that if people were downloading my freebies without having  visited my Teaching Resources site, they would need more information about how to use the materials. Now I have a whole collection of complete freebie packets in my TpT store! You can visit my store and follow me to be notified when I add more of these goodies!

I've also been sharing my complete freebie packets here on my blog. I've labelled them as "Laura's Freebies," and I've created a blog button you can click to access them quickly and easily. Just click the green button in the side bar, and you'll be taken to a full page of my very best freebies!

Why don't you try it right now? Which freebie is your favorite? Have you used any of these items with your students? I'd love to hear from you!

Pay It Forward and Make Someone's Day!

Did you know that Pay It Forward Day is celebrated in April each year? This year it's on April 28th, and I decided to put together a little freebie in honor of this special day! You can download the printable from my Seasonal Page on Teaching Resources during the month of April.

The student activity page explains the meaning of "pay it forward" and asks them to do at least six good deeds on Pay It Forward Day. Each good deed is recorded in one of the clouds. Ask students to bring their completed papers back the next day to share their experiences.

To learn more about International Pay It Forward Day, you can visit the Pay It Forward Foundation website. Read their How It Works page for specific activity ideas for your classroom. The site offers downloadable cards that you can print out and give to students to pass on when they do a good deed.

By the way, I intentionally left the date off this activity page. As far as I'm concerned, any day can be Pay It Forward Day! You can download this page by clicking on the image or by visiting my Seasonal Page on Teaching Resources during the month of April. If you can't find the freebie on that page, sign up for my newsletter and follow the links to the private page for subscribers called Laura's Best Freebies.

I hope you enjoy this freebie. If you use the activity page with your students, please leave me a message to tell me how it went!

April 25, 2012

Super Math Centers Link Up

Do you use math centers in your classroom? If not, maybe you have some of the concerns I felt before I tried them. Frankly, I was intimidated at the thought of having to create center games and materials. I also envisioned a level of chaos I knew I couldn't tolerate in my classroom. Finally, I was so busy planning for my whole group and cooperative learning math lessons that I couldn't figure out how to add math centers to the mix.

Then one day I attended a workshop on implementing math centers, and within an hour I was hooked! I had several big "ah-ha" moments at that workshop:

  • Without using centers, I wasn't truly differentiating math instruction. Yes, I was actively engaging my students with hands-on activities and cooperative learning lessons. However, my struggling students weren't getting extra help and my gifted students weren't really being challenged. 
  • Math center activities don't have to be elaborate, expensive, or time-consuming. Math A math center can be as simple as a packet of directions and materials. Students take the packet to their desks or to a spot on a rug and work alone or with a partner. That's it!  
  • The secret to super math centers is organization! I also learned the importance of establishing procedures and making sure students knew what was expected of them. I realized that I needed to learn how to create math center activities, how to store materials, how to have students record their work, what assignments to grade, and so on.  

Baby Steps with Math Centers
So in typical fashion, I did a little planning and then jumped right in! Because I was teaching upper elementary students, I chose to use the term "math stations," but I now use the terms "stations" and "centers" interchangeably. Taking baby steps with the concept, I created some simple math games and developed the storage system you see on the right. It's nothing more than a sweater organizer with center materials on each shelf. I divided my math class in half - 30 minutes for whole group instruction (using cooperative learning) and 30 minutes of math centers. In general, students worked on the activities in pairs which left me free to teach a small group or work one-on-one with students who needed extra help. 

What happened next amazed me! Instead of creating chaos in the classroom as I had imagined. I discovered that centers helped my students become even more focused on math instruction! They enjoyed the social aspects of working together and helping each other, and it was obvious that they were very much on task and learning. Students who had been frustrated and discouraged in math suddenly became relaxed and confident. 

It took some time for me to figure out the best way to organize and manage math centers, so I created a page called Math Centers and Stations on Teaching Resources to share these ideas.You can also find free math center games on that page as well as on this blog. Lately I've discovered that many other teachers have great resources for math centers, so I created the Link Up below as a place where others can share ideas. I hope you enjoy these resources!

April 24, 2012

Order of Operations Bingo and a Freebie

Order of operations is one of the most challenging math concepts to teach because it has so many rules! Many of you remember PEMDAS, otherwise know as Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally, but sometimes order of operations is introduced before students have studied exponents. Leaving out the "E" results in PMDAS, which can be remembered as Pass My Dad A Sandwich.

However, no matter what phrase you teach your students, they will almost always get mixed up when it comes to the order of multiplication versus division and addition versus subtraction. Students usually know that multiplication and division are performed before addition and subtraction, but many don't realize that multiplication and division are equal partners. If you only have multiplication and division in a problem, you perform the operation that comes first from left to right, even if that operation is division. The same is true of addition and subtraction.

Do I have you totally confused? Then take a look at this Order of Operations freebie to see the rules explained visually. This freebie is actually two pages taken from my Order of Operations Level 1 Bingo Game. The first page is a teaching page you can display to explain the basic rules of order of operations. The second page is for students to practice order of operations problems.

If your students need even more work with this skill, they'll enjoy playing Bingo to practice in a fun way. I created two versions of my Order of Operations Bingo (Level 1 and Level 2) because of the wide range of problems in upper elementary and middle school. Level 1 problems do not have exponents; Level 2 problems do. The teacher page and student practice page for each level are different as well. Each Bingo game also has a corresponding set of quizzes to check for understanding and mastery.

Since many teachers need both levels, I created a "combo" package that offers a better price when you buy all of these items together. The combo package also includes the tests that go with each level. Normally they would cost $10.00 if purchased separately, but they are just $7.50 when you purchase them together in the Order of Operations Bingo Combo.

I love reading comments and feedback from teachers who download my resources, because they let me know exactly how those resources are being used. Just last week a teacher left this comment about the Order of Operations Combo,
"What a great resource! This was the perfect assessment for the skill, and the reassessment is a very useful addition to help catch the below-level learners while the level II assessment challenges the upper-level learners. Thanks for creating such a fun comprehensive activity to engage learners!"
Even if you don't need the entire Order of Operations Bingo package, I hope you'll find the Level 1 freebie to be useful! If you do purchase the Combo or one of the Bingo games, please leave a comment to let me know how you used it in your classroom! Thanks!

April 23, 2012

Motivational Praise

Guest blog post by Kathie Wainwright, the Not So Wimpy Teacher

Every teacher understands the power of praise; it is one of our most powerful tools. To provide meaningful praise is to provide confirmation and stimulation. It is the driving force behind student interest, effort, and persistence. Praise for achievement strengthens a student’s esteem; it provides safety and security and helps to build a meaningful and productive teacher-student relationship.

Teacher praise should come naturally. ts can be a part of both public and private conversations. While it serves as a great source of motivation, it is important to understand how praise can do good or cause harm. 

Here are some strategies and guidelines that can be used to ensure positive/ productive praise. 

#1 Avoid giving praise to students in a “”sandwich." 
This can be counterproductive and cancel out the intended praise. A “sandwich praise” is when a caution or a warning is delivered followed by praise and ends with more caution or warning. There was a time when I thought this type of praise would serve as an incentive for students to avoid problematic behavior; however, research says that this actually dilutes the praise. An example of a sandwich praise is, “I’m calling your mom if you have to move your card to red. You’re having a great day, but if you start talking I will have to move your seat.” Does this sound familiar? Instead of this approach, it is best to instead try giving the warning separate from the praise. This way the praise is accepted and the warning is clear. 

#2 Put your praise in writing! 
Create an artifact of your praise especially if the student you are praising often displays challenging behavior and/or struggles with academics.  Students need to be encouraged. By providing a little note, postcard, brag badge, etc., students are given proof that they have done something significant. And they can share this accomplishment with others by showing off their token. It doesn’t have to be long, but a brief “You are showing improvement, great work!” is profound and can go a long way. When giving praise, be sure to focus on a student’s effort, progress, and strategies. Focusing on this over their ability provides a source of motivation and encouragement for students when approaching something they may consider challenging. If you focus on their ability they may avoid trying something that they may not think they do well. 

#3 Make your praise specific. 
Make praise specific by directly personalizing your thoughts and discussing them with the students. Showing interest in your students sends the message that you and establishes trust. Trust encourages motivation and effort, students may feel less intimidated to make mistakes and will more apt to take learning risks in the classroom. Asking questions about the process a student used or a decision a student has made are ways to establish a rapport.

#4 Praise the individual. 
It is perfectly fine to praise your entire class with a general statement (i.e. I am pleased with how hard everyone is working). However, praising individual students is powerful and can reinforce positive behavior (I like the way Angie is working quietly and on task). It is important to let the student know exactly what you are praising them for (i.e. “I am pleased with Josh for helping Rachelle with her math problems.” “Thank you Isaiah for raising your hand to ask a question.” “Herman, I m proud of you for turning in your homework three nights in a row!” 

#5 Spend quality time with your students. 
A good time to do this is by inviting a few students up at a time to spend their lunch period with you. Instead of keeping students in for lunch as a punishment, have them view it as a reward. During this time you can get to know your students personally. By getting to learn more about their interests and hobbies, you can learn more about what motivates them and what can be used to encourage/reward them. This also builds on trust, strengthening your student-teacher relationship. 

Praising your students is an integral part of your daily instruction. Being recognized for things that you do well fulfills the human need for safety and security. For a variety of ways to praise your student, download this free Super Student Praise Pack. Visit my blog for additional resources on how to manage student behavior and provide meaningful differentiation activities.  

Kathie Wainwright is a dedicated 4th grade teacher with 13 years of experience in the Philadelphia area. Known for her strong classroom management skills and ability to reach all learners, Ms. Wainwright has earned the title "The Not So Wimpy Teacher"! She is the writer of the blog The Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher where she shares a variety of teaching strategies and resources. She is also the author of her first self-published chidren's book Summer in the City (scheduled to be released June 2012). 

April 18, 2012

Crazy Class Auctions and a Freebie!

April is Financial Literacy Month, so it's a perfect time to introduce a classroom economy system. This program makes a great reward system and teaches students how to manage money. Several years ago I created this free Classroom Economy Pack, and I recently updated it with a new cover and new images to give it a fresh look.

You may have also seen it on Pinterest as the "Classroom Money Pack," a version I created because you don't have to use the materials to set up a complete classroom economy system. You can use the money patterns and bank transaction record any way you like. Download this freebie from my TeachersPayTeachers store.

Class Auctions
One of my favorite parts of my own Classroom Economy program was my Class Auction. I paid students for their class jobs with classroom money, and at the end of each quarter, the students brought in items from home to auction off. Here you can see them gathered around our carpet area where we would spread out all of the items to auction off. At first I was the auctioneer, but then my students would take turns in that role. Those auctions were crazy and fun, and everyone walked away with a little something!

In the Classroom Economy Pack freebie, I included this idea and many more for setting up your own program. What are some of your favorite strategies to use with classroom money and for teaching financial literacy?

You can download the Classroom Economy Pack from my TeachersPayTeachers store. Please leave a comment to tell me how you use classroom money with your students!

April 17, 2012

Just a Dream to Save Our Planet

Just a Dream to Save Our Planet
A few weeks ago I posted a question on Facebook asking teachers to tell me their favorite book to read aloud for Earth Day. Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg was the top recommendation, but I had not read it before. I always like his books, so I immediately ordered it from Amazon.com. It's a beautiful picture book about a boy named Walter who imagines an exciting future on Earth - until he has a dream with a series of episodes that take him on an unforgettable adventure. Walter sees what will happen to the Earth if we don't take better care of our planet.

What a great introduction to environmental issues and problems! Thanks to everyone who recommended it. It was written in 1990 so I'm not quite sure how I missed this treasure!

I had so much fun creating a set of activities based on the theme of this book!  Just a Dream to Save Our Planet starts with a quick Think-Pair-Share for students to discuss their visions of the future and is followed by a read-aloud session. After that, you can choose from several cooperative learning and writing activities.

You can download this free packet to go with Just a Dream from my TeachersPayTeachers store. Everything is explained in the teacher directions, but here's a quick list of what you'll find:
  • 8 prepared discussion cards
  • 4 blank discussion cards
  • 9 cards describing the events
  • A graphic organizer for sorting the event cards into categories
  • Problem-Solution graphic organizers for the environmental issues   
Why am I giving this 14-page packet away for free? I guess because I think it's so important for all kids to explore environmental issues and discuss ways to protect our Earth. So it's my gift to you, and I hope you will make this lesson your gift to your students!

April 14, 2012

Save Our Planet Word Challenge

Earth Day is April 22nd, so this word game would make the perfect literacy center or cooperative learning activity this week. Students cut apart the letters of "Save Our Planet" and use them to form as many words as possible.

When I used this type of activity in a center at least once a week, my students' spelling abilities improved dramatically in a short time. This activity works especially well when you allow students to work together with partners. Usually I have them spend about 20 minutes trying to find words on their own, and then I let them work with a partner to continue to find more words.

Just be aware that if you let your students take it home, they may get a little too much "help" with this! It's fun for the whole family! You can download it from my TeachersPayTeachers store or my Seasonal Page on Teaching Resources.

April 13, 2012

Green Companies? Let the Jury Decide!

Critical Thinking, Researching, and Writing Freebie

Have you noticed how often companies imply that their products or services are “green,” or environmentally friendly? But are they really “going green”? Or are they are just trying to look good and give the impression that their company is helping the Earth?

I started thinking about this when I was looking at label on a jar of peanuts. In bold letters at the top it said “85% Less Packaging” which sounds like a good thing.

But then underneath it in small letters it said “Than glass jar by weight.” So is this good for the environment?

Glass jars which are 100% recyclable have been replaced with plastic jars that are the same size but weigh less. Plastic is bad for the environment; it’s not fully recyclable like glass, and it takes hundreds of years to degrade in a landfill.

So why would a company switch to plastic if it’s not good for the environment? Could it be that plastic is cheaper? Could it be that reducing the product’s weight makes it cheaper for them to ship those jars? I know I'm making inferences, but it sounds to me like they have switched to plastic to save themselves money. Yet they are promoting the switch as being good for the environment! Boo on them!

This situation made me realize that we as teachers have a unique opportunity to encourage critical thinking about environmental issues. We can ask our students to look at these types of claims and evaluate them for themselves.

Take It to Green Court!
Did you ever see the animated kids’ show called Science Court? Someone would sue a company, and the case would end up in Science Court.  The scientific basis for the claim was examined, the jury discussed the evidence, and a verdict was reached. Why not do something similar to examine environmental claims and call it “Green Court”? As soon as the inspiration hit, I knew I had to create a packet of teaching materials to put this idea into action!

Since I no longer have a classroom where I can test out my crazy schemes, Mandy Neal, tested it with her students, and she shared their experiences on her blog, Teaching with Simplicity. As I had hoped, it turned out to be an engaging lesson that activated critical thinking, researching, writing, and discussion skills. Her kids had fun, but they were learning to be critical thinkers, and more importantly, they were also discussing some serious pretty serious real life issues.

Green Court Claims Freebie
After getting feedback from Mandy, I organized all of the lesson resources in one downloadable PDF file and added the CCSS alignment information to the end of the packet. I originally created this freebie for Earth Day, but it's a terrific lesson any day of the year. You can use it when studying propaganda in advertising, as a social studies lesson about the court system, an environmental science lesson, or a research and writing activity. The lessons are aligned with Common Core Informational Text Standards for grades 4, 5, and 6, as well as the Speaking and Listening Standards for all grades.

You'll find the Green Court Claims freebie on my Science page in the Teaching Resources file cabinet. You can also find it on my Laura's Best Freebies page when you sign up for Candler's Classroom Connections. I hope you and your students enjoy this lesson!

April 12, 2012

Financial Literacy Can Be Fun!

April is Financial Literacy Month, so it's appropriate that the guest blog post below was written by April Bond! April is the Education Vice President at BizWorld, a non-profit foundation that inspires children to be innovative leaders through the teaching of business, entrepreneurship and finance. BizWorld has created an exciting curriculum to enable educators to teach financial literacy through real-world experiences. Be sure to read the entire article to find out  how to get your free BizWorld curriculum materials! ~ Laura

Where Was Financial Literacy When I Was a Kid?

As I reflect upon my childhood, my only experience with anything remotely related to a financial education took place at home each year during our annual garage sale: that lone Saturday in the year when I was allowed to make cold hard cash selling whatever junk I decided was worth less than the quarter I could get for it. Where other memories have faded, the sheer joy of adding up my earnings has remained over the years.

Fifteen years later, I was on the college track to become an elementary school teacher. In addition to my garage sale experience, by now my financial repertoire also included expert cash-counting abilities honed during my part-time jobs as a cashier and waitress, and the ability to frantically track the money flowing out of my savings account. At this time, most of my friends were other soon-to-be teachers who appeared to know as much about finance as I did.

This was also the time, however, that the growing language barrier between my teacher friends and business school friends became apparent to me, as our schooling seemed to be taking place in entirely different languages. As I listened to these budding businesspeople discussing their coursework, I realized that the language of business and finance was one I wasn’t learning to speak - and quite frankly, didn’t think that was any cause for alarm.

Fast forward another decade or so (wink!) and the reality has set in: I live in the ‘real world’ now and out here, not speaking the language of finance comes at a monetary cost – directly withdrawn from the bank accounts of those lacking fluency. As we’ve all learned from current economic events, financial decisions are intricately woven into every aspect of our daily lives. And we all understand that ‘speaking the language’ isn’t an option now, but a necessity.  In order to make smart choices for ourselves, our families and our world, we must have (at minimum) a basic understanding of financial terms and concepts.

I wish I had understood these hard truths and learned these lessons while I was still teaching elementary school. I would have enjoyed the opportunity to empower my students with at least some version of Finance 101.

But better late than never. I finally received my first real financial education in the unlikely context of BizWorld, a non-profit where I have the responsibility of working on programs to teach kids about business and finance. One minute I was trying to wrap my head around risk tolerance, diversification and economic forecasting, and the next, I was teaching these same concepts to a group of middle schoolers in Oakland, CA. The students were in 7th grade, working at a 4th grade level in math, 90% English Learners…and they got it! Not only did they get it, they had fun, too!

I was sold.

And still am.

More than ever, now is the time to give the next generation the financial education many of us never received. Though we may not feel like the ‘experts’ in this area, we know kids and we know that if we can teach it, they can learn it.

Imagine the impact of a generation of students who grow up understanding that they are in control of their own financial futures. Imagine how their careers and families might be affected.

Imagine the impact on our nation’s future.

BizWorld offers three different programs, and all of the curriculums are available for free in digital format. BizWorld and BizMovie are for grades 3 through 8, and the BizWiz finance program is for grades 5 - 8. In celebration of Financial Literacy Month, our generous donors at The BizWorld Foundation are covering the cost of the entire BizWiz curriculum kit for grades 5 through 8 (worth $189) for anyone who would like to teach it during this school year. If you don’t think teaching finance can be fun for you and your students, I encourage you to get your program kit today and be as surprised as I was!

April Bond
Vice President, Education
BizWorld Foundation

April 10, 2012

Save Time and Paper with Mini ABC Books!

Free Mini ABC Booklets - perfect for so many different types of projects!
Have you ever had your students do an ABC booklet as a project? One way to do this is to ask students to use full sheets of paper and create a separate page for each letter of the alphabet. On each page they include a word, a bit of text, and an illustration related to their topic.

The problem is that it takes forever to complete and it requires over 20 sheets of paper per student! My Mini ABC Book solves both of these problems, and it's free, too! The booklet consists of 4 printable pages that are duplicated front to back on 2 sheets of paper. Fold the pages and staple them in the middle to create a small booklet.

Students complete the pages by writing a sentence for each letter and drawing one illustration per page. Since each half page has 4 alphabet letters but only one place to draw a picture, it takes about 1/4 of the time to complete as a regular ABC booklet.

The booklet shown above can be used for almost any ABC project. Assign topics, or let students choose their own. Make sure the topic is broad enough that your students will be able to think of a keyword or phrase for each letter of the alphabet. In science, you might use this during a study of the the solar system. In social studies, it would work for community helpers or a historical time period. In health, it would work great for a nutrition unit.

Cooperative Learning ABC Projects
How about turning this into a team or partner project? Ask team members to brainstorm ideas together for each letter of the alphabet and then divide up the pages to do the work. However, you won't be able to print the pages front to back; instead, glue them together after students finish their individual pages.

Free Mini ABC Booklets - perfect for so many different types of projects!
ABC's of Me Booklet
A fun variation of this project is the ABC's of Me booklet. It's a great way for students to get to know each other at the beginning of the year, and it makes a nice end-of-year project, too. Each letter of the alphabet has a sentence starter to help students think of something to wrote. For example, the sentence starter for A is "An adventure I would like to have is ...."

Thanks to Francie Kugelman for the ABC's of Me concept. I designed the booklet, and several teachers on Facebook contributed ideas for sentence starters for each letter of the alphabet, so this was definitely a collaborative effort!

Where to Download These Freebies
Both of these ABC Mini Books can be found on Laura's Best Freebies, a private page on my website that can be accessed by subscribers to my newsletter, Candler's Classroom Connections. If you're a current subscriber, check your recent emails from me to find a link. If you aren't a subscriber, you can sign up for free on Teaching Resources here.

ABC Project Topics Needed
How might you use the ABC Mini Book? Do any topics come to mind? Please share your ideas in a comment below.

April 9, 2012

Field Trips - Follow Up on the Fun!

Field trips can be so much fun for kids, and they provide unique opportunities for children to discover new places and experience real world learning.

But have you ever felt that your students had so much fun that they missed out on the learning? It's discouraging when you try to discuss the trip later and your students can't answer the simplest questions about their experiences. I don't believe in loading kids down with assignments when they are on field trips, but I do think they should be expected to learn something new that day.

Field Trip Follow-up Freebie
My solution to this problem was to create a Field Trip  Follow Up Report to help my students reflect on what they learned on our adventures. Here's how I used the report:
  1. Before the trip, I showed it to them and told them to be on the lookout for new ideas and information that they could write on this report later. I did not ask them to fill it out out during the trip because I knew they wouldn't have time. 
  2. The next day, I gave them each a copy of the form. We spent a few minutes discussing the trip and letting students share with the class what they enjoyed and what they learned. 
  3. Finally, I provided some quiet independent work time to give everyone the opportunity to draw a memorable scene from the trip and write about all that they had learned. If they were not able to finish during class, I allowed them to finish it for homework.   
I have to admit that after the excitement of the trip, I really enjoyed that bit of quiet reflection time! The completed reports make a great bulletin board, too. You could easily turn this into a digital project by asking students to create a storyboard in PowerPoint or using a suitable app.

I created two variations of the Field Trip Follow-up Report, so choose the one that's best for your students. The main differences are the clip art and the amount of space between the lines. Both forms are available in color and black and white. Click the link to download this freebie from my TpT store.

If you're interested in learning how to tie-dye t-shirts for field trips, read Boost Class Spirit with Tie-Dyed T-Shirts. Your students will love this project, and it will make for a really memorable and easy field trip!

What are some of your tips for a successful field trip? Please share!

April 8, 2012

Boost Class Spirit with Tie-Dyed T-shirts!

Spring is here, and that means field days and field trips! As the weather turns sunny and warm, kids and teachers both want to get out of the classroom. But sometimes after everyone is outside, it's difficult to keep track of your students! That's why I started doing this easy tie-dye t-shirt project early in the spring. As you can see from this photo of my former class on a class trip to the zoo, when everyone is wearing the same color shirt, it's easy to locate them no matter where they are. It's also really helpful for your parent volunteers because they know exactly who's in your class. Therefore, they feel more comfortable speaking to any of your students who are acting a bit rambunctious. 

For years I had thought of doing a tie-dye project with my class, but the whole thing always seemed so messy. I remember walking by classrooms where kids were tying shirts and squirting dye onto them, and the project seemed like way more than I wanted to tackle. 

But one year my entire grade level decided to tie-dye shirts, with each class choosing a different color. They explained that it's easy when you have the kids tie up their shirts at school and you take them home to dye in your washer. Yes, I know! I thought the same thing! Whoa! I'm not putting purple dye into MY washing machine! However, they convinced me to give it a try saying that all it takes to clean the washer later is running a wash cycle with bleach and hot water. I followed their directions and it really was easy! My students loved tying their shirts and creating their own unique designs, and it was terrific to have the shirts ready to go for field day and for our spring field trip.

How to Download the Free Directions
Because I love this project so much and want others to try it, I've written detailed directions explaining exactly what to do. I also included sample parent letters requesting the t-shirts and money for the dye. You can download Tie-Dye T-shirts Made Easy from my Teaching Resources website on the Odds N Ends page.   

Making tie-dyed t-shirts was a great activity for boosting class spirit, and it proved to be an excellent classroom management tool as well - or maybe I should say, an excellent outdoor management tool! I hope your students enjoy the project as much as mine did!

April 7, 2012

Try This When Kids Are Absent!

Doesn't it drive you crazy when kids are absent for several days and you have to gather up a list of assignments they need to complete? Even though I know it's usually not their fault for being absent, it's one more management task to add to my already full load. Let's not even mention the times I've had to do this for students whose families take trips to Disney World in the middle of the school year!

I developed this assignment make up form to make my job a little easier when kids are absent. You can download it from the
Classroom Management page on Teaching Resources. Here's how I used it:

  1. Each day that a student was absent, I placed this form on his or her desk. 
  2. I assigned a student in the same team to write down any classwork or homework assignments on the chart at the bottom. 
  3. If I handed out a graphic organizer or worksheet to complete, I asked the student helper to paperclip it to the back of this form and write the title of the assignment on the front. 
  4. When the absent student returned, he or she was given the packet of make-up work which included due dates. 
  5. As each assignment was turned in, I checked it off and initialed that it was completed. I kept the final form for my own records.
  6. If a student was particularly forgetful or irresponsible, I made a copy of this form before giving it to the child. In the event that the make-up work was not turned in on time, this form was my proof to the parent that I did provide the child with a list of assignments to complete.
  7. If students were absent more than one day, I completed prepared a separate form for each day. In fact, I just kept a stack of these forms in my paper organizer because someone was absent almost every day. 
This system worked great for me because it was an easy way to make sure that I didn't accidentally overlook an assignment. It also helps to keep the student organized and parents love it. If a student does not complete the make-up work, they can't claim that I never told them about it because the proof is right on the form! 

What is your favorite system for making sure students complete work after they are absent?