Thursday, February 28, 2013

Favorite Creative Based Websites for Teachers

I love using the internet to inspire creative ideas and find unique lesson plans and classroom ideas. Here are some of my favorite sites that inspire my creative and help me plan hands on, artistic lessons for my students.

Most of you have probably already discovered Pinterest but since it is one of my favorite sites for creative ideas, it is at the top of my list. Pinterest is a wonderful place to share creative ideas and find new ones. Following other teachers with similar classes helps me get great ideas and I have gotten many compliments on lessons that I have used that were inspired by Pinterest. If you haven't used Pinterest yet, I highly recommend you check it out!

I also love the art lessons available on Dick Blick's art website. Although the lessons are intended to advertise the products they sell, you can use what you have available to you in your classroom and substitute materials as needed for most projects. If you teach social studies and need a lesson to tie into a particular culture, there are wonderful resources for that on the site as well. I love that many of the art lessons also have video instructions that are very clear and make it easy to follow along.

Artsonia bills itself as the "world's largest kids' art museum" and that statement isn't too much of an exaggeration! On Artsonia you can post your students' artwork online for free. As you continue to add artwork to your site, students develop an online art portfolio. You can either use students' first names or have your students create user names for the site. Also, if parents or guardians love their child's artwork they may wish to purchase it on a t-shirt or some other item as well. If this happens, your school will get 15% of the proceeds! It is very easy to use and although it can be a little time consuming, it is very rewarding and I have gotten many compliments when using it. Students also love seeing how many people have viewed their artwork!

If you have not tried Discovery School's Puzzlemaker, that is an easy way to make learning fun in your classroom. They have many different puzzles you can customize and use in your classroom. I have used them many times and my students have enjoyed the results. The puzzles are great for reviewing vocabulary or for giving to fast finishing students as well.

I hope you enjoy some of the creative ideas that can be found in the websites above and hope you discover something new!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Mayas and Chichen Itza

About five years ago I took a much anticipated vacation to see the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.  I had seen the Aztec center of Tenochtitlan several years before, and this completed my tour of Mexico's most significant ancient American sites.  Despite the heat, it was awesome.

It has taken me much too long to translate the pictures I took and information I learned into a powerpoint to share with my Spanish class, but it is finally ready to go.  I uploaded my lesson to TeachersPayTeachers as two separate files.  I uploaded the ppt as one and another file with the ppt + worksheet.  They are priced at $4 and $5 respectively, but I am debuting them with a 20% off sale from 2/23-2/26.

Check it out today!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fabulous Friday Freebies: Free Graphic Organizers!

Graphic organizers are a tool I regularly use in class. They appeal to my students and are an easy way to see and organize information. Here are some great free graphic organizers you can use in your classroom!

Super Teacher Worksheets has a huge list of graphic organizers that are ready to print and use. Follow the links to get  PDF versions of each sheet. Some are specific to certain subject areas such as language arts but others are adaptable to a wide range of subject areas.

Education Place has a list of more than 35 easy to print graphic organizers. Click on each to get a printable PDF for use in your classroom. I especially liked the Venn diagram that had lines on it to help students fit more into each circle.

Education Oasis also is a great resource for graphic organizers. Some are broken down into different categories to make it easy to find what you are looking for.

You can customize and design your own graphic organizers at Recipes4Success. Add your own title and instructions with an already made format makes creating your own design easy and quick.

Freeology boasts that they have more than 100 graphic organizers ready to use for teachers. There is a wide range for a variety of subjects and age levels so I think everyone could find something here!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Try, Try Again

I operate under the belief that we are all works in progress.  Each day I walk into the classroom is a new day for me and my students.  Ideally, life is a process of self improvement.  Nobody is perfect and that is why we should exercise grace and patience with each other as we go through our own journey of discovery.  This is what I believe.  Does this belief come through in teaching, though?

If we are to sit down and think about this we might realize that we too often send the wrong message to students,  Giving them assignments, projects and tests without the opportunities to improve on them sends a message we do not want or need our young people to learn, especially those who struggle.  When they fail an assignment and we don't give them a second opportunity to do better, they receive one or two terrible messages.  The first is that they can't do better.  They tried.  They failed.  Now it is time to move on without them.  The other message it sends is that the objectives being assessed are not important enough to revisit.

Graduate students work on portfolios and dissertations that go through a lengthy process of drafting and editing.  They are not allowed to graduate until their final project is worthy.  Why don't we do this with younger students?  What can we do to send a different message?  How do we communicate that what we are teaching is important and that them understanding the content and skills is crucial?

I have a few suggestions: 1) Allow students to take pretests and retakes.  Doing this allows them to see what they do not know and study to do better.  2) Whenever possible, have them revise their writing assignments so they get used to writing drafts to show improvement.  3) Center your lessons around key objectives and allow students opportunities to demonstrate mastery and the ability to track their own growth.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Presidents Day Activity & a Few Freebies!

Are your students learning about the Presidents this February? If your students are learning about the leaders of the United States, this Presidents Memory Game is a fun way to help them learn facts and identify important points about 24 influential presidents.

This game can easily be printed in black and white or color and can be played using either just the photographs for name and face recognition or played with the fact cards to help students learn about each President. Below is a sample of three cards in this fun game.

If you are looking for some fun coloring pages, check out these free U.S. Presidents coloring pages. You can easily pick and choose which Presidents you want to print!
For some free fun foldable templates to learn about the Presidents, check out these easy presidential printables.
To find more free resources, follow my Free Lessons & Teaching Resources Pinterest page!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fabulous Friday Freebies: Digital Resources

I am always searching the net for free resources and/or web 2.0 tools.  There are so many out there, but I decided today to share some of my favorite visual ones.

The first one is the newest one to me.  It is a coloring page generator.  I recently used it to create a one of a kind coloring book of memories.  Use it to make a fun yearbook for a class or momento from a fun class trip.

The second one is a site that I've used to have students create fun plot summaries of stories.  They can go online and create their own cartoons with captions, characters, settings, etc.

The third one is a fabulous online archive of pictures from Life magazine.  This is a great way to introduce famous people and events from history.  Create a gallery walk that allows students to see and develop a context for the content before studying it.

The last one is another new discovery for me.  It is a list of really cool virtual tours.  I was able to show my students a spectacular 360 degree view of Machu Picchu.  I found a site with a live feed from a nature preserve in the Sahara.  This page is definitely worth checking out and using with your students.

To see a list of 30 other free online resources, check out my pinterest page of Websites Useful to Teachers.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bouncing Back After a Bad Day

Recently my school had a rough day, probably the most difficult of the year so far. Many students had rough issues that took a lot of time, staff, and outside resources to help deal with it. Students that did not have issues that day were visually disturbed and saddened by the day's events. However, as the week must go on we had to bounce back from that day and turn it around for the next. Here are some ways both staff and students helped turn this week around.

1.  Praise the Positive - At the end of the day at my school each class takes time to reflect on the day and send praise to people that made positive choices. Even if your class does not normally do this it may be particularly important to take time to reflect on a rougher day. Praise the students that made positive choices and kept calm throughout the day's events. You could also give students the option of praising each other for making positive choices.

2. Start Again - Remind yourself (and possibly your students!) that tomorrow is a new day and it's normal to have a bad day once in a while. One bad day does not mean things will go wrong all the time. If you talk to your students or individual students, remind them that this is an opportunity to start over and encourage them to take advantage of that.

3. Get Support - In the past we have written an article on why it is important to get support from your colleagues and family/friends. That is particularly important after a rough day. Talk out the events and come to terms with what happened.

4. Reflect - Not everything that happens in the classroom is something we can control. However, sometimes we can make changes that can make a difference in the future. Reflecting on what happened and if anything can be prevented or changed in the future is one way to help turn your week around.

5. Take a Break - After a particularly rough day, don't spend the rest of the evening only thinking & talking about what happened. It's very necessary to take a break and do something not related to school to help take your mind off things. Try to get plenty of rest so you will feel more refreshed and ready to start the day tomorrow.

We all have bad days from time to time. How do you handle it? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

New Product: Analyzing Quotes & Sources

This is a great resource to use with middle and high school humanities classes (English and social studies). It has students look at a series of eight quotes and summarize what the moral is. Then students write down what they know and can infer about the author based on the quote. Most of the quotes are from African Americans civil rights leaders, but a few are from people who violated civil rights. They will try to match the quotes with their sources before being given the actual answers. This activity works on paraphrasing, inferences and analyzing sources.

I've used it with my students and they loved trying to guess who said what.  When they found out who all of the quotes belonged to they were surprised, sparking a conversation about the importance of analyzing sources.  

This is especially apropos for African American history month.  And, at just $3, it is a great deal.  Download it today and use it tomorrow!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fabulous Friday Freebies for Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year is coming up on February 10th, 2013. It will be the year of the snake according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar. My students love learning about Chinese culture and finding their animal on the Chinese Zodiac calendar and those lessons usually bring high interest. I highly recommend using some of these lessons in class!

Using art to learn about Chinese New Year is a fun way to incorporate some hands on learning into your classroom.

Check out this site for a free printable spiral snake template. It is easy for students to practice pattern making or drawing inside the snake. When it is cut out it makes a nice spiral that is fun for kids to hold! Instead of having students draw inside the snake pattern you could also have them write information about Chinese New Year.

Crayola has a great template and printable so students can make a dragon puppet. The lesson is easy to follow and I have never met a student that does not enjoy dragons!

To help students learn about Chinese New Year, check out these free PowerPoint presentations. There are also interactive PowerPoint presentations and games as well.

If your students are kinesthetic learners, this blog has some fun ideas of learning about Chinese New Years with movement and physical activity. There are a variety of games to choose from.

This free Chinese New Year Activity Pack is great for older students. It contains a variety of activities including a writing prompt, information about the Chinese zodiac, a printable Tangrams template, Chinese New Year Boggle and more. Students could have a lot of fun and learn while using this packet!

Do you have a free Chinese New Year activity? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Social/Emotional Goals in the Classroom

Philosopher Martin Buber once said, "Education worthy of the name is essentially education of character."  We spend so much time talking about test scores that we often forget to talk about the stuff that really matters.  What do employers say they are looking for?  ACT scores?  Reading scores?  I'm not saying that academics do not matter, but the way our students learn to conduct themselves in society speaks volumes about them and effects the opportunities that come their way.  And those are just the extrinsic motivators.

Too often the only time attention is paid to students' mental/emotional well-being, the discussion has been spurred by tragedy.  Do we really need to wait for that, though, before we prioritize it?  

Looking for ways to incorporate it?  Here is my top 10 list:

1) Check out this list of 40 assets.  They are a researched list of internal and external  assets students can have in their life that have been shown to help them succeed.  There are 8 categories, and most all of them have assets that we can help develop as educators.

2) Incorporate real life issues into the curriculum.  (Note: This approach is designed especially for "at risk students.")

3) Teach them what employers look for.  Teach them what those traits look like and sound like.  Have them self assess how they come across to others.

4) February is Friendship month.  Celebrate it with your students.

5) Be aware of your students' emotional health.  While we are not qualified to diagnose or treat serious issues and should not try, it is good to be aware of the warning signs.  If your students are old enough, it might be good to have them go through some self assessments.  There are a lot of surveys available online for free.

6) Use novel studies to allow students to discuss issues in the third person.  

7) Have students work in groups.  Learning team work is an invaluable skill.

8) Familiarize yourself with the national social and emotional learning standards.

9) Use journals to help students work through issues with complex answers.  Use interactive journals to make it a social exercise.

10) Incorporate minds on learning tips.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Valentine's Day Literacy & Math Lessons

If you are in search of Valentine's Day themed math or literacy activities, check out my Valentine's Day Math & Literacy Worksheet Centers. The centers are available separately with either a literacy or math theme and are also sold at a discounted price in one pack. Here is what is included.

The literacy centers packet includes 10 literacy worksheets and activities with a unique Valentine's Day theme. A list of all the activities and worksheets included are listed through the link here. You can also download the preview to see more examples of pages. Pages are colorful but can also be printed in black and white.

The Valentine's Day math pack includes 10 worksheets and activities that focus on multiplication, division, time, money, place value, and fractions. See a list of all the included activities on the product description page.

Don't forget if you're looking for a Valentine's Day freebie I offer a free Valentine's Day fast finisher art drawing pack with ten free Valentine's Day activities!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Teachers Pay Teachers Sale this Sunday

This Sunday Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing a sale.  Lesson Lady and ETC's products will all be 28% off.  Use the promo code SUPER to receive the discount.  Sales don't get better than this--even on Cyber Monday--so don't miss it.  You can stock up on great products for second semester.
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