Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Earth Day Goodies

                                           CLICK THE COVER for FREE ONLINE VERSION

Last year my students and I participated in the Disney Planet Challenge. It is an amazing program but requires a tremendous amount of class time. We (and I do mean we) learned so much about the environment. One of the activities we tried was called the 24 Hour Trash Task. I had the students tie a trash bag around their waist and put all their garbage in it for 24 hours. I participated in the task, too. It REALLY made you think before you threw something away.The next day we weighed our trash and then sorted it to see what could have been recycled. I think it was the most eye opening activity that we did.
Wearing our Garbage
Weighing our Garbage
Our Trash
                                                   This is all that couldn't be recycled.

After this they completed a technology task that involved them analyzing data and creating a pie chart in Google Docs. It was a great learning experience for all of us!  Click (HERE) for a copy of the Tech Task directions.
One of my student's presentations.

1. Opener- Play this video and discuss the 3Rs and what they mean. (Don't forget you can use to download to your computer or flash drive.)
2. Play the 3Rs Game. Click {HERE} or the picture for a copy.
3. Read the book, Earth Smart. (See the beginning of the post for your copy.)
4. Assign the 24 Trash Task.

Here's a great Earth Day Linky Party! Click on the picture for lots of great Earth Day ideas.

I hope you enjoy this lesson! Good luck as you continue to create magic in your classroom!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Candy Bar Volume

I thought I would share this idea my friend and colleague came up with. She he had the idea to use candy bars to teach students volume. First, I read the book Counting on Frank by Rod Clement. If you've never read this book, it's really cute. The little boy likes finding the volume of things using unusual items. For example, he finds it would take 10 whales to fill his entire house. I talk about  when you find volume you have add the label cubed, so I stopped through out the book and had the students tell me how the volume would be labeled. Next, I gave the students two different candy bars and the printable. That had to use a ruler to measure and calculate to find the volume of their candy bar. A few students struggled but most caught on quickly.  Click {HERE} or the picture to grab a free copy of this activity. Let me know what you think.

Good luck as you continue to create magic in your classroom!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Geometry Fest

I just finished up my Geometry Unit with the culminating activity being a Geometry Fest. Stations were set up all around my room, and the students rotated through them. The students had a blast but also learned a ton, too. I'll try to describe each station in enough detail for you to duplicate. Let me know if you have any questions.

Giant 3-D Solids
 This was by far the most popular station. The students used inflated windbags and rubber-bands to create giant solids. These can be purchased at Steve Spangler. They are about a dollar, each but you only need a total of 12. If you are careful you can reuse them over and over. Ive used these 3 times and will be able to use them again. I have one student that struggles with most math concepts. The student struggled at every station to understand edges, vertices, and faces. When the student was able to stand inside the 3-D object, it finally clicked. It was awesome to see the light bulb come on.

Secret Structure

      Students used pattern blocks to  create a structure behind a book or file folder. Then the student described the shape to his/her partner and the other student reconstructed the shape.
 Newspaper Shapes
     Students used newspapers to create dowels. All you need is newspapers, a few straws (these can be reused), and tape.  Then they used the dowels to create geometric solids. I had them cover the structure with paper and create a poster for their solid.  Cubes don't work well for this activity. The dowels are just not strong enough to support the shape. There is a learning curve for creating a tight dowel. Watch the video for help. 

 Shape Recipes
     Students filled a shape card and wrote a recipe (pattern blocks used) for their creation. 
 Polydron Shapes
     Students created shapes using polydrons and completed the shape characteristics sheet. If you don't have polydrons, you can have them construct the paper ones. I had them create the three most common ones for 4th grade assessment. 

 Geometry Vocabulary Game
I created a geometry vocabulary game for the students to play. They spin a homemade spinner then act out, sketch, or define the vocab term. Just cut apart the vocab cards and turn them face down. Students take turns giving the clues for the vocab term. You need a minute timer or stopwatch. The first team to get 10 points wins.

I created a few free printables you might find helpful if you decide to have your own Geometry Fest. Click {HERE} or the picture to grab a copy.  I would LOVE to know what you think. Please let me know if you find any mistakes. All the feedback you gave me last time was super helpful.
Stephanie Moorman from Teaching in Room 6 wrote two guest posts all about Geometry for Laura Candler. These ideas would be perfect to incorporate into a Geometry Fest. Click on the links to read about them.
Hands on Geometry Part 1
Hands on Geometry Part 2

Good luck as you continue to create magic in your classroom!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vocabulary Spelling City the Perfect Common Core Resource

Since new Common Core Standards are here for the state in which I teach, I spent a couple of days last week looking over all the new requirements.  To my surprise and dismay, my current teaching curriculum has to be completely changed!  With implementation beginning for all 4th graders next year, or in teacher lingo, 5 MONTHS from now, I didn't have much time.  I was really starting to panic, thinking of all of the new resources I would need to track down to not only re-do my entire curriculum, but at the same time, make learning fun for my students.  I thought about a website that I love and have been using this year, VocabularySpellingCity, so I popped over to the site to check it out.  WOW!  To my joy and relief,  I saw tons of activities for just the standards I needed! I remembered that one of our new specific standards is to learn how to use homophones correctly and, sure enough, VSC had this completely covered! (Check out the picture I have included to see just a few of the homophone lists that are available for importing and printing.)  My smile just kept getting bigger and bigger as I realized that VSC also has resources for parts of speech, math vocabulary, possessive nouns, and many more. WooHoo!  I found fourteen games or activities available to play online or to print for free, but best of all, I found a place that makes learning fun!  My students next year will  have a blast  playing while learning and I'm doing the Teacher Dance! A favorite game in my classroom this year  is Hang Mouse. There is even a Teach Me activity!

While I started off just taking advantage of all the freebies, I had to investigate the premium membership, just to see what it offered.  After reading about all of the benefits  I was really impressed! Premium membership offers a lot of really great tools, such as student progress tracking, vocabulary development activities, premium games and even student access from home and school.  Use the Differentiate Instruction  tool, with the  student and list grouping features. The pricing is extremely reasonable in my opinion, and well worth every penny! It's one of the best investments I've ever made for my classroom, and I am confident it will be the same for you. Although I am lucky that all of my students have laptops for classroom use , most students have computer access available at home and this site even gets parents excited.  I've had several parents tell me how much they love VSC since I have started  using it with their kids.  I have 5 different spelling lists going in my classroom now instead of just one because it is so simple to keep up with them. Imagine never having to grade another Spelling or Vocabulary test again. That alone is worth the membership fee! I am using VocabularySpellingCity in my classroom every day and I HIGHLY recommend this site for all teachers! I would love to hear how VSC is helping you work your own classroom magic! (Click {HERE} or on the pictures to try out the free resources available.)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Video Game Maker for Vocab Practice

My students love to use the video game maker from Cool Tools.  This is perfect for reviewing vocabulary words, but it would work for any kind of test prep.  Once students have created their game, other students may play it. I use it primarily for math vocabulary practice. I have created a step by step guide to help students create their video game. Click {HERE} or the picture for your free copy. When I assign this tech task, I put the words I want them to practice on my website and have them copy/paste into the game generator. (Copy/Paste is a technology skill I'm required to teach.) I assign one technology task a week to my students, and this is one of their favorites. Enjoy!
This week is Spring Break for me. YAY!!! My husband has taken off all week to be with me and our girls. I'm so excited! I'm taking some time away from my computer to spend some quality time with my family. I'll be back next week. You guys are so awesome, and I really appreciate all the thoughtful comments. If you have time check out my friend Stephanie's blog, Teaching in Room 6. It is really AMAZING!!! Her latest post is about Calendar Math and she has a video to help you get started. Check it out! See you next week! And as always, good luck as you continue to create magic in your classroom!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Playing with Data

Have you ever watched the show Chopped on Food Network? I love this show. For those of you that don't watch it, professional chefs open a basket of mystery ingredients and make a meal using all the ingredients.  I've thought I would like to compete in a teacher version of this show where I open a basket and have to create a lesson plan from the objects in the basket. You see I love to write lesson plans. It's what I do for fun. (Sad, I know.) My family and friends know this about me, so they bring me stuff to look at before they throw it out. Nine times out of ten I can come up with a lesson to go with the unwanted  item. And that leads me to the picture above. My mom, a first grade teacher, was getting ready to throw these jacks out but made the mistake of asking me if I could think of a lesson for them.  After a couple of minutes I had an idea, and I created a data analysis packet to go with the game of jacks. The students play a game of jacks and record the results of the game or the number of jacks they are able to pick up. (Give each student or group a ball and 5 jacks.) Then they take the results and create four different types of graphs using the data they gathered.
Now I need your help. I really like to use authentic data to teach students math skills, but sometimes my ideas might be a little far fetched. Of course, I haven't tried this in my classroom, so I have no idea if this would work in the real world. I would love to have your thoughts about this activity. What do you think? How could I make it better? Does it even make sense? I can take the criticism. Bring it on:) Click {HERE} or on the picture for a free copy.

I had a couple of questions about the circle graph and thought I should elaborate a bit. I've been working with my students all year on turning data into a graph. During Calender Math we tackle a different graph each day based on authentic data we have collected. We create a bar, pie, pictograph, and line graph every week. Then we talk about which one is the best for displaying the information. I compare this to graphic organizers. There are many to choose from but one usually works better than the others. The pie graph and pictograph are a stretch for this activity but can still be done.  Here's how I pictured it: If a student picked up three jacks in three attempts they would color three slices blue. If they picked up 1 jack in the other two attempts they would color in the two slices red. Their pie graph would then be three blue and two red.  At the end of the activity we would discuss which graph is the best for displaying the information and  which ones were not great for displaying the information.

Good luck as you continue to create magic in your classroom!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Free HiTech Test Prep

Since I've started blogging I have met some amazing people and made some incredible connections. One of the awesome connections Ive made is with Rachel Reyna of  Fisher Reyna Education. She has an amazing website that offers teachers and school districts hi-tech test prep. Although I've never met Rachel Reyna in person, I consider her a friend of mine. She has generously offered my readers a complimentary account to Fisher Reyna Education until May 2012. Woot ! Woot!
Click {HERE} to download a welcome letter and read information about the High Tech Test Prep service.
To sign up for your complimentary account go to 
Click on SCHOOL account
Then login.  Your login is: classroommagic
Make sure you stop by their FANPAGE and tell them THANK YOU!

Good luck as you continue to create magic in your classroom!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Math Olympics

As part of my measurement unit, I hold a Math Olympics in my classroom. I have an opening ceremony that includes a parade of athletes and the running of the torch. Oriental Trade has the coolest flaming torch. (See the picture below) I have five events set up as stations that students rotate through. These stations include a javelin throw (straw), discus throw (paper plate), shot put (cotton ball), high jump, and long jump. Students work in pairs to help each other with the measuring. This can take place in one day or over the course of a week. At the end of the day or week, I have an award ceremony. I play the National Anthem and give students their medals. It makes a great culminating activity for a measurement unit.  Click {HERE} or on the picture to grab your freebie. 

If you are looking for more great measurement resources, click the Measurement Mania Freebie Collection below. Each freebie is from a different blogger. You can hop from one awesome blog to the next, picking up more great freebies. Enjoy and good luck as you continue to create magic in your classroom!

Monday, March 5, 2012

March Math

I had so many compliments on my last math mat,  I thought I would create a St. Patrick's Day one for you. Hopefully I created enough columns this time. According to Wikipedia there are eight different marshmallow charms in a box of Lucky Charms. Wal-Mart sells an off brand in a big ole bag. I might just buy that and baggie it up for each student. Click {HERE} or on the picture for your free copy.
When I was young, I would spend hours looking for four leaf clovers in the yard. I thought it would be fun to hide some around the room for the kids to find. Then let them write the multiple and factors of each number. I may put a four find limit on students. That way each student should end up with about four each. They could always pair up if they didn't find enough. If you teach younger students, I made an even/odd T-chart sort for them. Click {HERE} or on the picture for your free copy.

Let me know what you think of these activities. If you have any other ideas or ways for me to improve these, I would love to hear about them. Good luck as you continue to create magic in your classroom!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Interactive Projection Camera {GIVEAWAY}

 I'm super excited to tell everyone about a great new teaching product I have just started using in my classroom! The  Luna Interactive Projection Camera, available from Learning Resources, is a must have for all teachers. This projector has so many great features; I had to let everyone know about it. I have also shared below some of the many ways this lightweight and portable interactive tool is helping me, but first, let's talk about the basics because this is not your normal classroom projector! First, I love that it is very easy to use and ready to go in less than 5 minutes. Installation and set up? Well, If you tend to misplace your installation discs like I do, you will really appreciate the ability to download directly from the Learning Resources website. My next question is always about the power source and I was overjoyed to discover that it comes with a usb cord that lets you charge directly from your computer. This is always a huge issue for me since I am one of those teachers who cringe when the school fire inspectors see my overloaded power cord! I did the happy dance over this handy feature. But what about the image quality? I was pleasantly surprised! This projection camera is far better than my middle of the road classroom projector. In fact, I think the image quality is the best I’ve seen in any projection camera, including the so called “high-end” ones. My favorite feature, however, has got to be the video camera. Don't just take my word for it, watch the video I made to see how easy it is to record all your lessons. The only thing I had trouble figuring out was the extra plug. Turns out it was for the speakers; I bet the sound quality on my video would have been a lot better if I’d plugged it in, lol. Compatible with either PC or Mac!
Computer Screen
Overhead Screen

Here are a few ways I'm planning to use the Luna Interactive Projection Camera:

1. A Video Time Capsule: At the beginning of the year, have your students record a message to their future self. Or, at the end of the year, have students record a message to the new students entering your classroom next year.
2. Record Lessons for Absent Students: Watch my video to see how easy it would be to create all your lessons this way.

3. Take a Picture of a Student’s Work: With the click of a button you can take a snapshot of a student’s work. Perfect for bulky items like dioramas!
4. Skype with a Classroom Around the World: I have done some Skyping in my classroom and find the webcam issues to be the most disappointing. This product is so flexible, it would make capturing the entire classroom a cinch.
5. Oral Presentations: Let students record themselves giving a presentation. Kids love to be the star of the show, and you could show their videos at Open House.

Last but not least, a chance to win your own Luna Interactive Projection Camera!

To enter you must like Learning Resources Fanpage follow their YouTubeChannel, (the subscribe button is right beside their name) and fill in the simple entry form BELOW. (Contest ends on Friday, March 9th at 10:00 p.m. CT.) Good luck to everyone from Learning Resources and Classroom Magic!

Congratulations Nicole Heinlein! You are the WINNER of the Luna Interactive Camera.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Easing Test Anxiety

Test anxiety is a problem every teacher faces. Since we can't ban the test, we have to find a way to ease the stress. I love to read the book, Testing Miss Malrkey by Keven O' Malley. . Click HERE for a free copy of the book. (If you want to save a copy, you will have to register, but it is free.)  After reading the book I like to talk to the students about their testing fears. You wouldn't believe some of the misconceptions that kids have. Some think they will be retained if they don't perform well on this one test  Positive reinforcement is a better option than scare tactics  in my opinion. I created an acronym and reward system for testing week. It's called Sweet Success. We practice going through each of the steps prior to the big day. The steps are as follows:

Stay Positive- Have the students practice saying positive affirmations such as, I will pass the test. Have them visualize performing well on the test.
Work Hard- Make sure you read everything and show your work.
Examine the Questions- Questions should be read twice. Read over ALL the answer choices.
Eliminate Wrong Answers- There are usually one or two answers that can be eliminated. Teach students to cross those out. Good test takers should be able to narrow down the choices to two answers at least. 
Take All the Time Given-   Never close your test booklet. Keep working until time is called. 

Make sure you practice these steps long before test day. When test day comes I watch for students to exhibit all these behaviors and put a gumball (pom pom) on the gumball machine after every testing section. I do this all week. If students fill the gumball machine by the end of the week, they get a class reward. Click HERE or the picture for your free poster and gumball template.

Our school counselor also puts together a Test Pep Rally. During the rally students and teachers perform skits, dance, sing, and cheer. This year I ordered a cd from Test Day Jams, and we are going to dance to a medley of tunes. The most important thing you can do to relieve test anxiety is create a positive classroom environment!

Good luck as you continue to create magic in the classroom!