Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blog Open House Contest! - CLOSED

Since our blog is new, we have decided to host an open house and offer a contest. Please check out our blog and enter our contest to win free products. One person will win two free teaching products of their choice! The winner will receive one product of their choice, from my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and one product of their choice from Etc.'s Teachers Pay Teachers store. There will be more than 80 products to choose from!

You can receive up to five entries into the contest.

1. Visit either of our stores (you can use the links above) on Teachers Pay Teachers and tell us one product you like. (If you win the contest you can always change your mind later and choose something different!) Leave a comment telling us a product you like below.
2. Follow our blog and leave a comment below that you have followed us.
3. Follow my store on Teachers Pay Teachers for one additional entry and leave a comment below stating that you follow my store.
4. Follow Etc's Teachers Pay Teachers store for an additional entry and leave a comment below stating that you follow her store.
5. Like my Lesson Lady Facebook page for a fourth entry and leave a comment below stating that you have done so.

Make sure to leave your email address so we will be able to contact you if you win!

The contest will run from Sunday, April 1st - Friday, April 6th, 2012. The winner will be selected by Good luck!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fabulous Friday Freebies!

Here they are....Fabulous Friday Freebies!  I've included some of the best in reading, writing and arithmetic from my search this week.  And, for all you readers out there that teach espanol (there is so much less out there for us than other content areas), I've included a Spanish game.  Check 'em out... 

Here is a packet that takes teachers through a process for teaching word problems, complete with student handouts and answer keys.  The sample word problems are written for middle school students, but the process for teaching word problems is appropriate for any age.

Here is a writing lesson on using details and imagery to convey an idea. This is a lesson that could be incorporated into a creative writing lesson for students of any age.

This is a website with a bunch of lessons on teaching grammar.  Note: I use the handouts on this site all the time with my high school students.  I probably would not recommend this site for elementary school teachers.

This is a game I play with my Spanish students to get them talking.  They love it.  Recently I adapted the concept into a form of verbal dodge ball.  Very easy to plan for and implement in a class learning a foreign language at any level.

Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Jelly Beans, Edible Easter Baskets and Glyphs-Oh My!

A sweet treat I made this week--Edible Easter Baskets!

This is a picture of one of my favorite spring holiday treats.  It is an edible basket of jelly beans.  While you can use the traditional rice krispie treat recipe with marshmallows, I like to use the peanut butter rice krispie treat recipe  (see below).  You can jazz it up by dying coconut green to be used as grass or using a pipe cleaner inserted into opposite sides as a handle.

I suggest making them with your students.  The rice krispies can be made on a hot plate.  Once the mixture has cooled a little, give each student about one cup full and have them mold it into baskets.  (Note that this will be a sticky mess so buttering up their hands ahead of time is suggested and washing them before and after is a must!)  Make the whole experience more educational by turning it into a simple lesson about glyphs for the younger kids or a most advanced lesson about glyphs with some math added in for the older kids.


Recipe for Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Bars:

1 cup white karo syrup
1 cup white sugar
1 cup peanut butter
6 cups rice krispies

1) Put the first two ingredients in a pan and heat.  Let the mixture come to a rolling boil for one minute.
2) Remove from heat and add in the peanut butter.  Mix this together with the rice krispies in a separate bowl.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Fabulous Friday Freebies

Okay, so it isn't Friday anymore (close enough, right?) but after a long week of several long, long days with parent teacher conferences and an art show I hope you'll let me have a little slack. This week will begin our Fabulous Friday Freebies! I'll share a few of my favorite teacher freebies that will help keep the headaches away.

First, here is my fabulous and FREE Zoo Math Game. It has more than 5,000 downloads and four stars so check it out! It is adaptable to use with addition, subtraction, or multiplication practice.

I also love these FREE make believe comic printable pages. They can be adapted to use for literacy & writing or art.

Lastly, I recommend this site for over 100 FREE graphic organizers! Graphic organizers are great to use for any subject area and there is a wealth of them here.

 I hope you enjoy these fun and fabulous freebies! Even if it isn't Friday.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tip #10: Get Some Support

After a particularly long day, when hurricane-like children have left for the day, the best medicine for your headache, I have found, is talking to a supportive colleague. Throughout my years of teaching, I have taugth at five different schools in very different environments. I have always found that the schools I enjoyed teaching at the most were the ones with people to talk to at the end of the day.

Why stick around to talk with your colleagues? One, it's great to know if the problems you are experiencing with Johnny in class happen in other classes. Or, maybe someone has found a great technique that works wonders with him. You never know! I always like to hear what happened in other classrooms as it is interesting to hear about a different style and way of teaching that I can think about incorporating into my own lessons.

I also like hearing about different lesson ideas. Even though I teach art and am the only art teacher in my building, it is interesting to hear how other teachers teach subjects. It often gives me ideas for new ways to introduce topics or go over other things such as parts of art history. Also, if one class is studying a unit about a particular culture, it give me an opportunity to add that culture into my own lesson plans and help students make connections across the curriculum.

Communication is key. It is always important to let other people know details about your students so the entire school can be helpful and supportive. Now, some details are private and kept to just classroom staff, but if a student is having a particularly difficult week and needs some extra praise if good behaviors are noticed, that is definitely something helpful coworkers could know.

I think that the students can tell how well the staff in the school communicate and that can either be an advantage or disadvantage. Gain the upper hand with clear communication!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tip #9: It's okay to have down days

TAPS: Together, alone, partners, small groups.  This acronyms is a useful one to keep in mind when planning lessons.  Students benefit from all settings, and I try to strike a balance between them when teaching.  Today, though, I want to advocate for the independent work, in particular.  I have found more and more that my students have short attention spans, and are unaccustomed to working independently.  While pairs and small groups definitely should not be tossed to the wayside, I believe that students benefit from learning to work on their own.  Here are a few activities I use in the classroom that requires them to settle down and focus on one thing:

1) DEAR time.  Don't underestimate drop everything and read.  Some studies recently have discouraged the use of DEAR time, but I am convinced that it is because not everyone is creating a tranquil environment with highly engaging reading material.  If you haven't given it a shot, go ahead.  You might be surprised how even the most restless kids can settle down and get into a good book if given the right space to do so.

2) Writers workshop is another idea to use.  I personally like Ralph Fletcher's materials.  Students are given a lot of freedom to write about what interests them.  It may take some time to get students used to entering into a creative space and being productive thinkers and writers, but you can slowly build up time.

3) Art projects also require students to focus on a project for a prolonged period of time.  For more ideas, check out our tip #8.

When I was in my first year of teaching I was working most of the time, and when I wasn't, I felt guilty.  I tried to create creative lessons each and every day and planning seemed to take forever.  So, this last bit of advice is for teachers out there who are like I used to be.  While, those creative lessons are great, it is okay to slow it down, take a deep breath and relish the stillness.  Your students may benefit from it as much as you do....every once in a while, that is!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tip #8: Let them use their hands

When I hear about hands-on projects, I am reminded of several things. I think about the student that, during art club one day, had the simple wish to squish clay in his hand for an hour. He definitely craved some sensory stimulation! I think about the student that doubted himself, but completed a work of art that was beyond what he had imagined. I also think about the class that worked together to create an enormous Lochness monster that hung from the ceiling of their Scottish themed classroom.

I am a little biased being an art teacher, but I have always believed in the importance of hands-on projects. Students that are kinesthetic learners will love the lesson and absorb the information well. Using hands-on projects uses a high level of learning on Bloom's Taxonomy. Students can learn and practice problem solving skills and use creativity. Also, don't underestimate the importance of meeting the needs of your students in class who crave sensory stimulation. Here are some suggestions of ways to use hands-on projects in a variety of subjects.

Language Arts
  • Poetry – Tupac wrote many poems, some inspired by Vincent van Gogh. View his artwork with a PowerPoint presentation using LCD projector and compare the artwork to the description in the poems or compare van Gogh’s life to Tupac’s. There are similarities and differences. Plus, students will view you with a whole new 'coolness' now they know you have heard of Tupac!
  • Inferences – White out words on comics and cut into pieces. Have students arrange in order by making inferences from the pictures.
  • Puppet Making – For quieter students that do not like to act out scenes, create puppets from a play or scene in a book. Perform it in front of a younger group.
  • Design a foreign menu/store – Use math to calculate foreign currency of items. You could also incorporate social studies by researching foreign items or customs.
  • Architecture – Design and draw out architectural plans – you could even create a scale model of the school or classroom. You can reference real plans and use realistic symbols. Create the model to scale and calculate square footage.
  • Fractals – Have students view fractals and study the math behind the fractals.
  • Anatomy – Aboriginal people in Australia create X-Ray paintings that showcase the bones and guts of animals. Have students create their own x-ray drawing or painting.
  • Inventions – Study the invention sketches of Leonardo da Vinci. Students can draw their own invention or discuss what scientific concepts da Vinci shows in his drawings.
  • Environment – After a unit on recycling or the environment, have students create artwork using recycled materials such as empty chip bags or newspaper.
  • Lifecycle – Showcase the lifecycle of an animal, cell, plant, in a mandala style design.
Social Studies
  • Create foreign or time travel brochures
  • Design a Map – Have students invent their own country and draw their own map. Add realistic map items such as a key, latitude/longitude lines, etc...
  • Political Cartoons – View political cartoons from current or past issues. Students can draw their own political cartoon.
  • Artwork Viewing – View artwork created during time periods or from cultures you are studying. Some artists, such as Diego Rivera, created visual history lessons.
Social Awareness & Team Building
  • Self Collage – Use a shoebox to create a collage. On the outside, have students collage how they think others view them. On the inside, collage how they view themselves. You could also tie this to a novel if it has a similar theme.
  • Logo/Graphic Design – Have students design a logo for the classroom or themselves.
  • Story Quilt – Faith Ringgold showcased many stories about her life and African American culture through quilts. Create a paper quilt showcasing stories that are important to each of your students. Have each student draw out a story about themselves on a square piece of paper. Attach all pieces together to form a quilt. You can always use thin strips on the outside to form a border.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tip #7: Even the big kids like to move

Newton's laws of motion state that "an object in motion tends to stay in motion..."  This is especially true of kids.  And, based on my experience, the younger they are the more they wiggle and jiggle around.  Once, when I was teaching kindergarten/pre-K, I had a little girl actually get out of her seat and start to play patty cake with the garbage can as I was beginning my lesson.  She just could not bear to sit still, and-I guess-decided she'd befriend the only thing left standing, even if it was itself, inanimate.  My middle schoolers weren't much better when it came to their capacity to sit still.  Even when the whole class quieted down for an announcement or mini-lesson, I found myself talking over a chorus of pencil tapping.  Stillness was just against their nature, it seemed.  So, when I first began teaching high school, I would joyously sharpen pencils for students who were too lazy to get up and walk three steps to the sharpener to do it themselves because I was so relieved that I'd finally arrived.  I was finally teaching students whose energy level I could manage to stay a half step ahead of.  And, that is where I have stayed for the past nine years!

Even so, I am going to take this time to advocate movement in the classroom for students of all ages.  The young ones need to be able to move.  Why not give them some guidance and direction to make it a productive part of your class?  The older ones need to be shaken up a bit before their bodily inertia travels to their brains.  Why not get their blood flowing every now and again?

Movement seems to really help students, especially the kinesthetic learners.  Below are a few ideas to use in your classroom...

1) In Spanish, I always make my students play human bingo.  This gets them moving around and dialoguing in Spanish (something for which the extra blood flow is very helpful). 

2) Gallery walks are great ways to get students moving around.  One way I've used them recently is to post giant chart sheets around the room with a different character's name from the novel we are reading on each one.  Students pair up and go to a chart sheet.  They have a few minutes to write down a detail and or quote about the character along with the page reference.  Then everyone rotates to the right or left.  They look at what is written and add one or two new quotes/details about the character.  Students proceed like this until they are all the way back to where they started.

3) Word sorts are a quick, easy review.  I write vocabulary on post it notes and divy them up among the students. Then I write headings on the board and have them get up and put their post its under the heading they think it belongs to.  Finally, the class goes over what is on the board to check for understanding and correct any misunderstandings.

Check out more activities with movement using the link below!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tip #6: Give Your Students a Choice

Have you ever heard a deep sigh from your hardest to reach student when describing an assignment? While it can be frustrating, especially when you've planned thoroughly and thought about the assignment well in advance of class, there are ways to combat those discouraging sighs.

One way I have found is to give students a choice. Giving students a choice in the classroom lets your students take some control of their learning. Whether it is a simple choice, such as a material for an art project, or a more complex choice, like deciding on a science fair project, choices allow students to feel as if they have some say during the school day.

There are a variety of ways you can give students choices in your classroom. If you are having collaborative groups in your classroom, allowing students to choose their role in the group is one way you could give students a choice. To combat students always picking the same role, switch it up and have students choose a different role to play halfway through the lesson.

Projects are another way to give students choices in the classroom. Allowing students different ways to fulfill the assignment such as writing a paper, creating a poster, making a game, or giving them other options will help them pick the choice that will fit their learning style better as well. Writing lends itself naturally to giving students choices as well as they pick their own topic or write their own story or poem. If you use centers or stations, you give students a choice with those by requiring them to complete a smaller amount of centers than those available, such as completing 8/10 center activities.

Overall, I think that giving students choices helps keep them interested and feel that they have choices and their opinions are valued and count. This helps keep both of you happy in your classroom.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Tip #5: Have fun!

I have come to the conclusion that my love language is food, and over the years one of the things I’ve most enjoyed doing at school is sharing my amateur culinary skills and products with my students.  When I sat down, though, to think about specific memories I have of making and devouring food with my classes, the first one that came to mind was mixed with tragedy. 

Several years ago my school hosted a “club day,” where students were sent to activities instead of their regularly scheduled classes.  I hosted the cookie-making club, and at the end of the day my students happily walked away with plates of cookies.  When school reconvened, I learned that one of the students that attended my activity had passed away suddenly during the interim.  Shortly thereafter I also learned through one of the counselors that the student had gone home that last day of school and told her mother about how much fun she had making cookies.  To be certain, knowing she enjoyed her last day of school did nothing to soften the aftershocks or diminish the loss of her passing.  I will say, though, that I am glad that her last day of school was spent doing something fun, something worth going home and talking to her mom about instead of worksheets, lectures, tests and the like.  
I am not trying to preach a message of carpe diem in this blog entry.  School is not and should not merely be one big party.  The boring stuff has its place too.  But, that story reminded me that on those occasions when I have planned to have fun with my students, I have never regretted it.  We are teaching in an age of number crunching, and there is so much pressure on so many of us to focus all of our time and attention on the measurables: test scores, attendance, etc.  It is easy to forget to have fun with our students too.  The students who are showing up to school every day, ready to learn, appreciate it.  The students who are not, need it.  So, whatever it is you enjoy doing, I encourage you to find a way to share it with your students. 

For all fellow teachers/foodies out there, here are a few sites I've used.  Hopefully at least one of them can inspire a culinary arts curriculum infusion in your classroom… 

1) Have your students make their own fruit bouquets.  Just beware that they should be eaten shortly after they are made, as they don’t stay beautiful for very long.

2)  I teach Spanish, and I like to have students make their own handmade tortillas.  They mix the dough in small groups.  I cook them on a hot plate and they top them with cheese and salsa.  Delicioso! (Note: I use shortening instead of lard.)

3) I make bake-less cookies with my students.  I have a list of Christmas cookie recipes posted online for free.  They can easily be changed to spring cookie recipes if you swap out the green and red sprinkles for yellow, purple and pink ones.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tip #4 - Have a Plan for Downtime

I think that every teacher has experienced that moment, after a great lesson: you look at the clock and realize there are ten minutes left of class. Or, at the end of class, tell students to "talk quietly" for the last five minutes and regret it for the rest of the day. Those type of moments have inspired tip #4: have a plan for downtime. So, what do you do with students when they finish an assignment early or a lesson that didn't last the entire period? Here are some suggestions to combat those headache causing moments.

1. For a lesson that ends a few minutes before the end of a period, spend that extra time reviewing the material with students. Play review tic-tac-toe with students or have students write exit slips that they will pass you as they leave the classroom.

2. Keep a folder with interesting facts, mysteries, or puzzles that you can pull out during the last few minutes. Here is a great file with over 100 free activity suggestions that take just a few minutes. Students become excited and these even seem like a reward for them as much as it is a reward for you to end the class smoothly.

3. For students that finish early, there are several things that I do. One is that I keep a "Folder of Fun" in a drawer with puzzles and activities they can complete. My 50 Fast Finisher Art Activities are an example of some of the things that might be in there. I also have students assist other students who may need additional help or make examples of assignments that I am using for younger classes.

4. Make a list of things students can do when they are finished early and post it in your classroom. This helps students ask less and you can always point to the chart if they are not sure what to do.

5. Take it to the next level of Bloom's Taxonomy. Have the students apply their knowledge of the lesson in a hands on project. Usually students that finish early tend to finish projects more quickly as well so they will be able to move onto the next subject when everyone else is ready.

6. Create an extra project/assignment students only work on when they are finished with the rest of their work. By the end of the quarter/semester/month the project is due.

If you have any other suggestions on ways you cope with fast finishers or the last 5-10 minutes of class, please let us know. We would love to hear them.

Tip #3: Make time to see your students

One of the most simple, yet profound insights I’ve ever heard regarding teaching was that students want to be seen.  Despite being a bit of a loner myself, this made so much sense because the people I most value in my life are those that do just that.  They see me.  They look for the best and don’t turn away when they see the worst.  Instead, when I fail, they stick with me and help me—challenge me—to do better.  And isn’t that what our students want from us? 

Last year I attended a workshop with Jeffrey Wilhelm, who has written extensively about literacy, including how to engage the disengaged.  He shared a story about a young boy who would not do a bit of work in the classroom.  During an interview, he told Mr. Wilhelm that if the teacher ever showed a bit of interest in the things that were important to him, that he would return the favor. 

Getting to know our students can be time consuming, and perhaps this blog post is ill timed so late in the school year.  Nonetheless, I feel it is so important, that I decided to write it anyway.  Maybe it will serve as a welcome reminder to some teacher out there what is really important.  Take time to enjoy your students.  If this blog entry doesn’t speak to you right now, tuck it away until August when you are planning for 2012-2013 because what follows are suggested activities to help you see your students better….

1. Have your students create resumes.  This is especially insightful and useful to high school students.  I have found that some of my students do not see themselves as having many skills or achievements, and brainstorming ideas can serve as a good self esteem booster. Check out some models.

2. Ice breakers are always handy.  One that I’ve used in my class is a game called Two Truths and a Lie.  Students write down two truths about themselves that nobody else in the class knows about them.  (For example, “I am allergic to salmon” and “I once had a pet squirrel.”)  They write down a third statement that is a lie.  Then they go around the room sharing their three statements and their classmates have to try and guess which one is the lie.  One that my brother has used is to take a blow up beach ball.  He writes a different question in each section.  Then his students throw it around the room.  Each time a person catches the ball he or she looks at the question right in front of him or her and answers it before passing it on to someone else.  Check out this list of 40 interesting ice breakers.

3. Use opinionnaires to introduce a new topic.  Make ten controversial statements and have students write down if they agree or disagree with each one as you read them off.  Then have the class report their responses.  You can even extend the activity by having students create charts and graphs of the class’s sentiment surrounding the issues at hand. 

4.  Have students write about themselves.  Journaling is fairly common, I know.  But creative writing projects also open doors for you to get to know your students better.  When I complete a poetry unit I have students write a Where I’m From poem.  Check out the template.

I realize now that I could write on this topic for hours, but my students need me to be awake and alert in order for me to see them.  So, I’ll content myself with merely setting the ball rolling and let your creativity fill in the gaps.  Good night.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tip #2: Play Games During Class

Your students may sometimes play games with you, but why not play games with them? I have found that playing games in the classroom is one of the best ways to engage even harder to reach students. Sometimes they may even admit that they enjoyed the day's lesson. You can offer an extra incentive for those that win but most of the times if students ask what they get if they win, I jokingly say "A sense of accomplishment." They may give you a strange look after hearing your answer, but by the end of class that is usually enough for them.

Different games work well for different occasions. Here are some games I play regularly with my students:

Tic-Tac-Toe: When I have 5-10 minutes left of class after a lesson, review tic-tac-toe always works well. I divide the class into two groups and ask questions about that day's lesson, marking X's or O's on the board if the team answers the questions correctly.
Bingo - Bingo games are good for reviewing terms or key words before a test or at the end of the unit. An example that works great is my Advanced Color Bingo. This has really helped my students identify color schemes and how to mix colors.
Jeopardy®-  Probably every teacher has played some form of this game with their class. It's perfect for reviewing material. For low tech classrooms whiteboards work perfect for this or if you have more technology available, you can create a PowerPoint template like my Black History Jeopardy.
Basketball Review - This game works well for classes that love sports. I use the trashcan as the basket and a crumpled up piece or two of paper as the ball and divide the class into teams. I give two points for a correct answer and students can turn the two points into a three pointer by shooting the ball into the basket.
Memory - Memory games are perfect for matching two items that go together such as math problem and answers, dates and events, people and descriptions. I usually tape note cards to my board with the clues and have students go up and flip two at a time. For a smaller group or center, print out cards and have small groups play together.
Design Your Own - Get creative and make up your own unique game. This will prevent students from referring back to unusual rules or how they played in the past with other teachers or classrooms. Here is a unique, free Zoo Animal Math Game. Download other free game templates here which suggest Biblical games but these templates would work well for any subject matter.

I would love to hear from others. What games do you enjoy playing in your classroom?

- Lesson Lady

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tip #1: Use Technology in the Classroom

To launch our blog, we are posting ten of our best teaching a day for ten days running.  Tip number #1 is to incorporate technology.  When I graduated from high school, I was still typing my papers on a type writer. (Note: This not only indicates my age, but also that my family was a bit behind the times!)  So, it's probably no surprise that when I started teaching, using technology meant turning on the overhead and playing an occasional movie or cassette tape.  I have found, though, that using technology (especially the latest web 2.0 tools) is essential.  No where has this been more true than with my most disengaged students.  So, if you are shy about technology or looking for a way to hook that one kid or one class that doesn't seem to like anything that has to do with school, check out these sites:

Creating a can sign up and create a webpage individually or collaboratively.  It is free and easy to use.  I have students post their work on the site and link their page to mine so I can see their work as well as allow them to see each other's.

Creating a super cool online power point free website that allows students to create amped up power point presentations.  It is funky and professional and user friendly and fun all at the same time.

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