Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Vacation With Your Students in Mind

Vacation with my students in mind?  Isn't the whole point of a vacation to get away from work?  Yes.  It is.  But, do not forget that teaching is about more than just dusting off the text books at the end of the summer and cracking them open day one to get  down to preparing for the test.  Good teaching requires creativity, drive, purpose and so much more.  So, here are five of my top tips for what to do while on vacation so that you have some great materials when you sit down later to plan an amazing lesson that exposes your young minds to new places, people and experiences.

#1: Take lots of pictures.  

Pictures of plants and animals can be used in biology lessons, pictures of murals and architecture can be used in art classes, etc.  You know your content, so snap photos of any and everything that relates to what you teach.  You will end up with a wealth of free visual aids to use in the fall.

#2: Pick up free brochures at visitor centers.  

You can use these in the fall as professional models when you have them make brochures as a fun, yet educational project. You could also use brochures for students to read and find information.

#3: Pick up postcards.  

You can then use them to send notes home at the beginning of the year.  Make it fun.  Send out a note to your class week one and see if they can work together to figure out where you went and what you did there using the postcard clues!

#4: Get some stuff that you can't find at home.  

You don't need to spend a ton.  Pick flowers, collect rocks and sand, buy foods, etc.  When you get back and are spending time building community and transitioning from the summer break to the school year you can tell them about your trip.  Use the objects you collected to give them more of an experiential lesson.  Pass the objects around so that they can touch a piece of the place you visited, in addition to hearing you talk and looking at pictures.

#5: Pick up maps.  

They can be used later to teach geography, math, etc. You can also use your maps as models and have students make their own maps with a key.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Creative Way to Teach Spanish Vocabulary for the Body

I like to find creative ways to get my students to practice reading Spanish vocabulary.  One of my favorite lessons requires them to read Spanish descriptions of martians and sketch them.  Even my high schoolers love it because it uses the vocabulary creatively, and allows them to draw.  They like seeing how each one turns out.  I am a fan of the lesson because it allows them to review the number and color vocabulary.  Additionally, this assessment has them visualize the vocabulary instead translating it into English.  To check it out, click here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fabulous Friday Freebies: Summer School or Summer Fun Activities

This week's Fabulous Friday Freebies is dedicated to those of you putting in some extra hours at summer school or in some other summer learning activity. I also teach summer school each year and so I know summer can be a hard time to get students motivated and interested in school. Here are some fabulous and free activities that look very motivating and wonderfully put together.

This summer Olympics themed memory game has very adorable graphics and is very easy to use in your classroom. I was impressed by the wide array of sports incorporated into this and it has a worksheet that you can also use with the memory game. It doesn't hurt that this game is free!

This summer themed poetry bookmark set also impressed me. Instead of just plain bookmarks with pretty pictures, the bookmarks ask different literary questions which can help students review terms they learned over the year. There are some blank bookmarks that are also included so you could always add your own questions. My favorite kind of freebies are the ones you can customize yourself.

This summer vacation planning unit is a very thorough freebie. It contains a project for students to plan, research and present a vacation that they would like to take. This is similar to a project I did when I was in school and I always looked back fondly on it. I like this project since it contains many parts and also has an already made example which makes this lesson easy to teach.

Lastly I enjoyed this secret agent summer school activity kit. I have always thought that different, special activities are perfect to do over the summer when you most likely have a smaller class and need something extra special to get your students' attention. This packet contains a variety of fun activities that are easy to use and well described.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tips for Teaching Summer School

Like some of you out there, I am gearing up to teach summer school this year. My school encourages students to attend during the summer and the entire staff attends summer school for the six week program. While in many ways summer school is just like during the school year, I think there are ways to change it up and make it a little different and a change of pace from what normally happens during the school here. This can make it feel a little more like a vacation from the school both of you are used to. Here are some tips I have learned after teaching summer school for a few years.

1. Get away from school.

Field trips are usually easier to do in the summer. Most of the time there are less crowds or groups since school is out and there are more openings available for scheduling. Yet, most places offer the same discounts for school groups the entire year, including the summer. It also gives your students (and you) a break from the usual routine and gives summer school a more special feeling. I always enjoy scheduling a summer school field trip for my students and love knowing they enjoy it.

2. Use technology more often.


Summer school is a great time to try out new technology. Since classes tend to be smaller than regular classes, it makes it easier if you have a limited amount of technology available at your school. One thing I have tried successfully during summer school is incorporating digital photography into my lesson.  I did bring in my own camera and had students take photos relating to our theme (issues in the community) and then they were able to edit their photos using free online photo editing with no registration required. It was a lot of fun and they were enthusiastic about the photo editing. This is a lesson you could easily incorporate into a wide variety of subjects.

3. Do something unusual.


Unusual, unique lesson plans are the perfect thing for summer school. Classes are smaller so it is easier to do something with less students. Also, if you have been dying to try a lesson that requires a large number of new supplies for a class, this would be easier to do with a smaller number of students as well. Also, since classes tend to be for a shorter amount of time and summer school has a much shorter length, it is easy to try something out and if it doesn't go as planned, you can file that information away for next time.

4. Help others.


Community service is very easy to incorporate into a summer lesson plan in just about any subject. Students feel proud to help others and a community service unit is a feel good for everyone involved. For language arts you could write letters to send to the troops. Starting a recycling program or creating a garden could be a fun science project. Students could raise funds and calculate donations for a math project. Interviewing senior citizens at a local nursing home about the past could be a lesson incorporated into social studies. For art I have had students create cards to send to the troops and create a photo collage to raise awareness about a community issue.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fun Art Games for School!

I recently posted some new art games you can use in your art room or to supplement the arts in your
regular classroom. The art games focus on a variety of well-known master artists which help students learn to identify the style of each artist. Here are the games that are now available in my TPT store.

The first is my Art Memory Game. This game contains 48 pairs of artist image and name cards. Artists from a variety of backgrounds and styles are included. Twenty-four cards contain artist images and 24 cards include the artist's name. For teachers who want more detail I also created cards with the artist's name and title of the work.

 Next is my Go Fish! Art Game. Included is a full 52 card deck filled with four works of art from thirteen selected artists. Download my preview to see a list of what artists are included in this game. As a bonus, I created fast fact cards about each artist so you can use these to help enhance your students' learning.

Last up is a Master Artist Bingo Game. The game includes a class set (30) unique bingo boards featuring 24 different artists. Game pieces and answer keys are also included. My students are always competitive and seem to love bingo! They don't seem to realize that they are learning while playing this game

If you enjoy all the games, I bundled them into one big game package and am selling it at a discounted rate at only $3 a game! With a package that includes over 100 pages of game materials, that is a great deal.

Thanks for checking out my latest art products!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fabulous Friday Freebies

Teachers, did you know all of the discounts and freebies that are available to you if you wield a valid teacher ID???  Here are just a couple places to check out...

1) Looking for a weekend trip?  Come to Chicago where a teacher ID will get you free entry into most of the city's fabulous museums.  You'll have to pay to see special exhibits, but this is a great deal because the base price of tickets is expensive!

2) For a list of places that offer teacher discounts, as well as other cities that give teachers free admission into some of their museums, check out Gift Card Granny's site.

3) If you have some time over the summer to do some grant writing, check out this list.  Another good place to look is Donors Choose.  A little planning ahead will pay off in materials for your classroom in the future.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Earning Extra Summer Income

Although the summer is a great time to rest, relax, and prepare for the upcoming school year, for many teachers (including myself!) it is a time to take on a summer job. Throughout the years that I have been a teacher, I have always looked for ways to help earn extra income over the summer months. Here is a list with some ways you can boost your income during the summer.

1. Sell your teaching ideas & lesson plans online.

Although it might show I am a little behind the times, this is something I had never even realized was done or even thought about doing until this school year. However, it's been the most natural way for me to try to earn extra money over the summer. Sites like Teachers Pay Teachers and Teachers Notebook let you sell your lesson plans, worksheets, PowerPoint presentations and more online. Teachers Pay Teachers even allows you to sign up for a free account and Teachers Notebook lifetime seller's fee is only $20 so it is a cheap business to start.

I have found that I had to make some changes to some of my favorite lessons to make them work for others and I added some extra details, but thinking about different ways to teach things has made me a better teacher. The feedback from other teachers is also a big benefit. Last year I was looking all over online for an art game to play with my students. Now, instead of looking all over I knew I had the skills and abilities to make it and share it with others.

2. Work at a convention or other temporary summer job.

One summer I earned extra money working at a few conventions that were in town. That worked for me since the Chicago area is large and has many conventions throughout the year. I found out about the convention work through an ad on Craigslist. The company was very understanding and nice and asked me to contact them the next summer if I was interested in work again.

3. Teach a class.

Now you may want a break from teaching since that is what we do the rest of the year, but you may enjoy teaching something different. Most park districts offer a variety of summer classes and I have found that if you call in advance with a new class topic, they are very open to new summer offerings. This would be a fun opportunity to teach something you don't normally get to teach such as garden tips or crafts and might refresh you.

4. Tutor kids.

Tutor companies are always looking for teachers to help students during the summer or you could even start your own tutoring business. Tutor Nation is a great place to register as a tutor and advertise your services. Here is a good article about starting your own tutoring business with a lot of tips and things to think about.

5. "Earn" money by becoming a super saver over the summer.

This is not exactly a way to earn extra cash during the summer, but it is a great way to find yourself with more money during the summer and during the rest of the school year.  The summer is a great time to start yourself on a budget if you are not already on one, look through all those bills and see if there are any you can eliminate or switch to different companies to save money.

The biggest way I have "earned" money over the summer after starting it one year was couponing. I am not an extreme couponer like on TV but I learned the coupon systems and "drug store game" over the summer one year and have been following it since. This has earned saved me more money than any other summer job I have ever had and it is something I can continue during the school year, although I am much more laid back about it. Money Saving Mom is the resource I use the most often to find out about good deals. Check out her savings and budget starting page.

Are there any creative ways you earn money over the summer? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sneak Peak at America Themed Literacy Unit

I have been working on an "I love America" themed literacy packet over the past couple of weeks. It is not finished yet so I have not published it on Teachers Pay Teachers but I wanted to give everyone here a sneak peak at it. Let me know if there is something you would like to see in an American themed literacy packet.

Eight America themed literacy writing prompts are included with a couple of types of American themed journal paper. I left the front page blank so people can fill out the number of prompts they want their students to write themselves.

A fact and opinion center is also included with American themed facts and opinions. An activity where students cut out and paste facts & opinions as well as write their own sentences is available.

Lastly, I also created a section so students can write a letter to a soldier. For teachers I included information where letters can be sent so the soldiers actually can receive them! Students brainstorm ideas for their letters before writing them on a variety of blank lettering pages. Blank drawing sheets are also included so students can draw the soldiers a picture if they have time.

So, that is what I have created. Let me know if there is something else you would like to see in here!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fabulous Friday Freebies: Free Summer Learning Printables!

This week's Fabulous Friday Freebies edition contains freebies students can use over the summer or when traveling. If you're like me and are teaching summer school and will have students in and out for vacations, this could be a perfect way for them to learn while on the go. Or, let me know how else you can use these fabulous freebies!

I just learned and am impressed that the people at the Crayola website have printable coloring pages for every state and it looked like also every country. This would be a great way for students to learn about places they are traveling to. Bookmarking these and using them for supplementation during social studies later in the school year might also be helpful. I plan to go back to these and use them as we study the art of various countries around the world.

The Activity Village website also has printable travel and holiday planning and journaling pages. Students might not realize that they are actually learning and practicing writing when using these pages and they'll have great things to help them remember the fun.

Plucky Momo has an enormous free printable summer activity kit that includes more than 70 activities! This huge printable can definitely help keep kids busy for hours.

Lastly, Free-Puzzles.net has a collection of free travel games that can be easily printed and used. It looked like there were many that would not necessarily have to be used while traveling, either. Some just looked like good fun pages to have on hand.

Feel free to share your favorite free summer printables!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

End of the Year Sale

 Excellence in Teaching and Coaching is throwing an end of the year sale from Thursday, June 7th through Sunday, June 10th.  Everything is 20% off!  This includes Spanish introductory lessons, holiday packets, digital films, writing lessons and dramatic arts activities.  Check it out while the deals last! Here is a sample of some of the lessons available:



Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Importance of Using Exemplars

Exemplars are incredibly important for showing students what you want them to do--what a high quality piece of work looks like.  I have found time and again that they set the bar for my students.  The first time I give an assignment is always the hardest, but after that it gets easier.  I file away the best ones to use as exemplars when I give the assignment again.

If you are giving an assignment for the first time, though, or are not happy with what students submit, you have a few options.  The first option is to take the time to make your own.  The second option is to use it as an opportunity to revise.  Revisiting assignments and revising them to make them better teaches them to learn from their mistakes and always strive to do better.  The third option is to surf the net for online examples.  Here are a few sites with exemplars...

#1-Online high school exemplars  and elementary exemplars across the core content areas.

#2- The Annenberg Media website has examples of what rigorous foreign language classrooms look like. This website may not have many exemplars to share with students, but there are examples of students engaging in learning to give teachers an idea of what students in a foreign language classroom are capable of.

#3-Online exemplars of work in the arts (drama, visual arts, and music).  When you get on the site type the word art in the search.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Money Themed Games Available!

My school ended class this past Friday and most classes, although fun was had at a school-wide carnival, were working up to the end. If you are still teaching and are covering money as a subject, then you might enjoy these fun money themed games which will keep your students' attention.

At my store you can pick up Money Bingo, which includes 30 unique bingo cards with a money theme. Money Memory is also available and Island Survival Money Game. Each game requires students to identify and add together coins and bills from the front and back side.

 All three fun games are sold together in a discounted pack and sold separately in my TPT store.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Great Sites for Teachers to Bookmark: Part 2

Following up on yesterday's blog post, here are five more websites I like to use...

The first one is a website that helps you create Jeopardy and other games using Power Point.

Grammar Bytes is a website with tons of free grammar lessons.

Wordle is a fun website to use.  You copy and paste in a text and it generates word clouds.  The words are sized according to their frequency in the text, so it is a fun way to pull out important vocabulary words and ideas. Students can do this with a text they are studying or writing.  It also makes fun cover pages.

The English Companion is a site with a lot of great resources for teaching novels.  The materials are free and easy to use with a variety of texts.

Animoto is a website that allows you to sign up for a free basic account.  You upload pictures and it automatically makes a digital movie for you.  Very easy to use.

For more ideas, follow my board of websites useful to teachers on Pinterest.
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