Tuesday, April 30, 2013

ABC's of Encouragement

Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker and author, says, "Whatever we expect with confidence becomes our own self-fulfilling prophecy."  In other words, what we think will happen too often directs our path and becomes a reality, even if it needn't be.  Tied to the development of beliefs is the act of listening.  What we hear, we tend to believe, particularly if it is coming from someone we consider to be a reliable source.  If someone who knows and is supposed to care about us tells us we are going to go to college, we start to believe it.  If that same person says that we are never going to be anything in life, the same is true.  We start to believe that too.

As teachers who spend a significant amount of time with our students throughout the school year, we have the opportunity to speak life into them.  So, I've written an ABC's of compliments.  I'm sure you can think of your own, but this is a good place to start...

Amiable, amazing, adorable, athletic, artistic
Beautiful, bubbly, blossoming
Cool, charming, confident, collegiate, compassionate
Diligent, dependable, deep
Excellent, enchanting, energetic, empathetic
Fabulous, fun, funny, fashionable, friendly, faithful
Generous, giving, good, great, gentle
Honest, honorable
Intelligent, independent
Jolly, jazzy
Keen, kind
Lovable, loyal, likable,
Magnificent, marvelous
Neat, nice
Perfect, practical, profound
Resilient, receptive
Studious, smart, super
Terrific, talented
Xtra special

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Eyes on the Prize Viewing Guides

Eyes on the Prize is a seminal documentary on the Civil Rights Movement. It is broken into 14 parts, each approximately one hour in length. So often today students feel so out of touch with that era, and have a difficult time conceptualizing what went on then, how it must have felt, etc. This documentary does an excellent job of bringing that piece of important history back to life.

Last month I posted that I was selling viewing guides to the first three movies in the series.  I've finally finished watching the next three movies in the series and writing guides to each of them.  I've bundled the six guides and am selling them for the discounted price of $5 if the buyer purchases all six at once instead of purchasing them individually (they are $1 each, if purchased separately). It includes:

AWAKENING about Emmett Till and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
FIGHTING BACK about integrating the schools
AIN'T SCARED OF YOUR JAILS about the sit-ins & Freedom Riders
NO EASY WALK about organizing & the March on Washington
IS THIS AMERICA? about Mississippi and the Freedom Summer
BRIDGE TO FREEDOM about the march from Selma to Montgomery

Each viewing guide is between 10 and 16 questions and includes an answer key.

Again, each of these is also sold separately for $1. If you interested in certain ones instead of the bundle, visit my store. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fabulous Friday Freebies--Mother's Day

May is almost upon us.  That means Mother's Day is too.  On May 12th, we'll once again be dedicating a day to appreciating the women in our lives who have helped raise us.  So, I'm dedicating this week's Friday freebies to lessons that will help you prepare your students for it.

Want to work it into a writing activity? This packet has handouts for students to write about their relationships with their mothers and grandmothers.  The graphics are multiethnic.  There are also sheets for students to write to women who have been like a mother to them.  All of your students, regardless of their family situation, should be able to participate. (Note: The graphics are designed for elementary students, but the activity is appropriate for all ages.)

Check out this survey and poem.  It has students answer a couple pages of questions.  My favorite part, though, is the last page.  Students write similes: "My mom is as smart as..."  Overall, it is a great freebie with cool graphics.  (Note: This activity is probably best suited for upper elementary.)


Finally, there are a bunch of crafts you can do with your students to send home for Mother's Day.  I especially like art with hand and footprints.  If you are looking for fun hand/footprint art of all types for all holidays, check out this pinterest page.  For those of us not brave (or crazy) enough to let a classroom full of little ones paint their hands and feet, there are a plethora of other Mother's Day craft ideas.

With just about two more weeks to go until Mother's Day, I hope this helps!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to Make Tests Meaningful

I just finished proctoring the second day of the PSAE--the Prairie State Achievement Exam-- a test given to juniors is Illinois.  At the same time, several hundred students in Chicago Public Schools boycotted to protest school closings and, what they say is the over testing of students.  I'm sure many more students--mine included--would have preferred to skip the test along with the boycotters.

Because Lesson Lady and I are committed to keeping our blog focused on providing resources for teachers rather than providing political commentary, I will not comment (though, to be sure, I have strong opinions).  I will say this, though: tests in life are inevitable. And, since tests are so much a part of what we do as teachers, it is imperative that we make them as meaningful as possible.

Therefore, let me offer some tips to help teachers and students make the most of them:

1-Look for growth....We should always be trying to move students to the next level.  That could mean pushing them to apply what they comprehend or evaluate what they can apply.  If they can do something with assistance, the next step is them being able to do it alone.  We are all works in progress.  Looking for growth and recognizing it reinforces this truth.

2-Push/Allow for mastery...Testing students and moving on whether or not they demonstrate mastery is too often a destructive approach to test taking.  What happens if a student does not do well?  Do we move on?  What does that communicate?  That we don't think they will ever get it?  That we don't care whether they get it or not? We should be giving students chances to demonstrate mastery before moving on.

3-Tie grades to skills...Grades should be more skill driven than content driven.  If we are teaching them to memorize and regurgitate facts on tests, then they are not being prepared for the age we live in.  Information is at their finger tips, but what can they do with it?  Skills should be the focal point of the work.

4-Immediate feedback...The quicker students get feedback, the more meaningful it is.  Giving students feedback as soon as they are done is ideal.  In order to help me give them quicker feedback I have them grade their own work, grade each other's work, give them scantron tests that can be scored immediately, use smart boards and educational applications to obtain and graph students responses instantaneously, conduct students conferences, etc.

5-Prepare them...Students need to be prepared to take exams.  Exams that are sprung on students often result in poorer outcomes, especially for students with test taking anxiety.  Test students on what you've taught them and have them practice using the testing format so they are familiar with what to do.

6-Don't make everything about the test...There is a fine line between encouraging students to take it seriously and encouraging students to take it too seriously.  As teachers we walk that tightrope, relying on our knowledge of our students to do so.  If tests only serve to make our students feel unintelligent, than they are not useful to anyone.

7-Make them part of the process...Have students help write rubrics and exam questions when possible.  If they can think like a test maker, they will become better test takers.

8-Assess in multiple ways...Use multiple ways to assess what students know.  Assessments can be oral reports, projects, exit tickets, etc..  Part of differentiation is the product students generate.

9-Allow them to track their own growth...Have students keep track of their growth through reflections, grade sheets and the like.  It makes their learning more meaningful when they can see their own progress.

10-Use data to guide instruction...enough said!

Best wishes as we enter into May and the final stretch!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Spanish Speaking Games

There are a couple activities that I use to engage my students in the practice of speaking Spanish.  They are a couple games that take me out of middle of the conversation and get them interacting in the target language with each other.  Not only that, but they have fun while doing it.  If you are looking for a way to get your students talking, check out the activities below:

1) Rey del Mundo is a free instruction sheet for a fast paced game that gets students dialoguing in the target language.

2) Human Bingo is an activity that prepares and requires students to dialogue in Spanish.  It is easily adapted, though, to any second language classroom.  It also helps students in the class get to know each other better!  Check it out at my store.  $$

Friday, April 19, 2013

Fabulous Friday Freebies

I have found some exciting freebies online this week.  Here they are.....

#1) Townsend Press is the publisher that sells the Bluford Series for just $1 a book.  The Bluford Series is a series of around 20 books about students attending Bluford High School.  Each book is about a different student struggling with a different issue.  These include pregnancy, bullying, death, moving, violence, dating, etc.  These are quick reads and written at a middle school level, so they are not intimidating to struggling readers.  I found out this week that they have special offers for schools.  These special offers include free novels for under resourced schools, free ebooks for students, posters, free mentoring books, and more.  If you are looking for ways to inexpensively build your library and/or resources to teach social/emotional skills, this is definitely worth checking out.

#2) Cool Math 4 Kids has a plethora of brain teaser activities you can use as warm ups, stations, early finisher activities, extra credit, etc.  It is great for keeping your students' spare minutes filled with mental challenges.

3) I also found a bunch of free online math games to use with my students who struggle with math.  They are especially good at reviewing the basics (multiplication, fractions, etc.), but some of them review basic algebra and geometry.  They are free, don't get filtered by the school's online security system, and don't require students to sign up first.  My favorites are...

Math Play


Soft Schools Math Games

Math Playground

Math Games

Kids' Math Games

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Free Reward & Incentive Ideas for the Classroom

Even though I teach K-12 and do many things differently for each age group, one thing remains the same. I encourage positive behavior with rewards & incentives. This is something that is encouraged throughout my school. Some classes have prize buckets, some classes have privileges that students can earn, and more. One thing I firmly believe, however, is that rewards and incentives don't have to cost a lot of money, if any. Here are some free ideas of ways to provide rewards & incentives for your students.

Free Rewards Students Can Earn in Class

- Allow students to use the comfy teacher chair for the class period or day
- Students can buy time to use the computer appropriately
- Free homework pass
- Spend time or eat lunch with a staff member (if it's not you, make sure that it's okay with them!)
- Pick a game to play with a peer
- Visit or help out another class
- Choose your spot in line for the day
- Listen to music while working on an assignment
- Have a set amount of free time to draw, write, etc...
- Earn extra credit points
- Extra gym time by joining another class

Free Rewards for a Prize Bucket

 - Save your fortune cookies from a Chinese restaurant
- Bookmarks (I find that I get some of these for free in the mail that look attractive to kids)
- Save cute soaps from a hotel (The kids loved little Mickey soaps I saved after visiting Florida!)
- Ask parents to donate small toys from kids' meals
- Samples you may get in the mail (cereal bars, gum, etc...)
- Save small little gift bags/boxes from gifts that are in good shape

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Best Selling Spanish Products

Here are my top three best selling Spanish lessons.  Reasonably priced and well reviewed, these are sure to be worth checking out...

#1--Introductory Unit: Spanish Centers is a collection of eight stations reviewing Spanish vocabulary for time, greetings, calendar and number. It is one of my best selling items. It is so versatile, you'll be sure to find a use for it in your classroom: sub plan, extra credit, early finishers, etc.

#2--In the Spanish Body Parts Martian Sketch students will practice the Spanish vocabulary for numbers, colors and body parts by reading descriptions in Spanish and sketching the aliens.

#3--Los Numeros: Spanish Centers contains 8 stations that practice Spanish numbers from 0 to 100. There are patterns for students to solve, simple algebra, word sorts and more. At just $2.50, you can't go wrong.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Fabulous Friday Freebies: More Free Things for Spring!

Looking for more spring like freebies to use in your classroom? Here are some more freebies for spring.  If you have not checked out our first edition of spring freebies, take a look!

Apples for the Teacher has a great selection of free spring resources including spring poems, short stories, a spring memory game, crafts, coloring pages and more.

Spring means insects & butterflies! For fun lesson plans on Monarch butterflies, check out Monarch Live's website. Each link is labeled with grade suggestions so you can find relevant resources quickly. There are a variety of lessons from grade K-12!

Trees are growing leaves and much more vibrant in the spring so one way to tie that into the classroom is to build a human tree in your classroom! I thought this was a creative idea as each student can become a different part of the tree which helps them learn about the different parts and the function of each. If that is something not for you, try making a class tree through this lesson on Scholastic's website.

For students learning about parts of speech, check out this free color by parts of speech freebie! An answer key is included which makes grading easy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Parent Appreciation Day

Recently my grandmother spent time in a hospital, and later a nursing home, recovering from an accident.  It was during my spring break, so fortunately I was able to spend a lot of time with her.  During her stay I found myself feeling very protective and opinionated, while still trying to develop a positive working relationship with the staff.  I was constantly reminded that there were some parallels between her care providers and myself: 1) we were trained in providing an important service 2) our jobs are made easier and our work more effective when we view the family involvement of those we work with as an asset 3) we work with families who love for those we work with and are looking to see that we care their loved ones, as well.

So, I began thinking about how I interact with my students' parents and little things I can do to deliberately express an appreciation for them.  Did you know that the 4th Sunday of every July is Parent Appreciation Day?  I did not.  I guess it is usually eclipsed by the days we dedicate to fathers and mothers, individually.  Still, two of these three days tend to fall during the summer when interactions with parents have dropped off.  So I say, who needs a day?  Here are my top ten ways to show parents/guardians how important they are throughout the year.

1) Is your school hosting a PTSA meeting this spring?  Have students leave notes for their parents showing appreciation for  those things their parents do to support their education, teach them and help them grow.  Pass them out to parents as they arrive.

2) Have students read stories about parent/child relationships.  Then have them write their own real life stories about themselves and their parents.

3) Host a luncheon or some other reception for the parents.  Get the students involved by having them hand out certificates to the parents.  If parents can't come, have students invite people who support them, including staff.

4) Ask students about their parents and always speak positively about them.  I have found that even students who have been abused will turn around and brag about their parents weeks later.  It is important for children's self esteem to see the good in their parents, no matter what.  Criticizing our students' parents is off limits.  Period.

5) Call home with good reports and let parents know they can and should be proud of their kids and how they've raised them.

6) See involvement as an asset.  It is easy to forget sometimes when parents get defensive why they are doing it: love and concern.  We may not agree with they say or do all of the time, but involvement almost always equals a more engaged, successful child.

7) Turn writing assignments, arts projects and the like into gifts to take home to parents.

8) Be mindful of the little things....saying hello when you see them, smiling, thanking them, asking how they are doing, taking the initiative to go and greet them when you cross paths, etc.  The little things--how you react when they are around you--speak volumes.

9) Teach your students about the 5 love languages (acts of service, affection, words of encouragement, gifts and quality time).  Encourage them to express their love and appreciation for their parents in different ways.  Not only will this show appreciation for the parents, but it will make students more interpersonally aware.

10)  Have students write letter to their parents.  Mail them out over the summer in time for Parent Appreciation Day.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Fun Earth Day Games Available!

If you are looking for something fun to do in your classroom to celebrate Earth Day this month, why not try one of these two games? In my store I have Earth Day Memory and Earth Day Bingo available for purchase. My students love playing games and it's a great way to learn or review facts at the same time.

Earth Day Memory contains 24 pairs of cards, 48 cards total that focus on the earth and the environment. Check out my preview to see more sample cards.

Earth Day Bingo contains a class set (30) of bingo cards with 24 important clues and facts about Earth Day and the environment.
Please be aware that both games use nearly identical images and facts!
Thanks for checking out my Earth Day fun!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Fabulous Friday Freebies: April Showers and So Much More...

As I drove from Illinois to Wisconsin a week ago to visit family over spring break, the barren ground soon became covered with snow in increasing amounts.  When I pulled into my parents' driveway, the piles of white stuff were so high they buried mailboxes.  It is now April, and the ground is nowhere in sight.  Even when it does---even if we are fortunate enough to live in a warmer climate--April showers will follow.  Temperature dip, dive and soar again around this time of year.  So what better time of year to teach our students a bit about the weather.

This week's Fabulous Friday Freebies focus on weather lessons.  Here they are....

#1: Weather Graphing Activity  is a fun activity that has your students track weather and graph it over time.  This activity is perfect for the younger grades.

#2: Weather and Climate Unit is a package of materials with assessments, power points and notes on weather.  There is so much there, it is hard to believe it is free.  It is ideal for the middle school grades.

#3: April Showers Bring May Flowers Clipart  is an eight page packet with spring clipart.

#4: Weather Whiz Kids is a website on how to conduct close to forty weather related experiments.  It is definitely worth checking out.

#5: The Weather Channel also has a ton of free lesson plans to check out.  

There are so many ways to bring it into the classroom in cross-curricular ways.  Students can work on data analysis by graphing weather, conduct science experiment to help them understand it more and journal about what they like to do in different climates.  The possibilities are virtually endless, but hopefully this blog can help you take some concrete first steps!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ways to Grow Plants in the Classroom

Spring is the perfect time to start growing or keeping plants in your classroom. Studies have shown that sometimes just having plants around makes an environment more welcoming and calming. An article by Jonah Lehrer even shows that having plants around helped people improve their attention and overcome challenges better!

Need a creative way to get started? Here are 15 creative ways you can grow plants in your classroom to add educational moments and greenery at the same time.

1. Grow a plan inside a biodegradable ice cream cone that can be easily transplanted into the ground!

2. Regrow a celery stalk and you will never have to buy more!

3. Grow a plan inside another! This example uses seeds from inside a pumpkin to grow a new plant!

4. Grow a plant inside a CD case to make it easy to see & label all parts!

5. Demonstrate how a plant will find a light source by growing a plant inside a maze.

6. Regrow a potato plant from a potato.

7. Grow the tops of carrots and find more fun ideas at this site.

8. Reuse & recycle! Find out 18 foods you can regrow from scraps! You could try different ones and see which grow fastest or easiest.

9. Make a miniature greenhouse for your plants.

10. Once you have a plant, water plants with different types of water. Microwaved water had a very interest effect in this experiment!

11. Make a terrarium in your classroom.

12. Start a sock garden by walking around your school in old socks!

13. Experiment to see if gravity can affect the growth of roots using radishes.

14. Plant a seed each day to compare the growth of the plant over time!

15. For the ambitious, start a school garden. Dosomething.org has an easy how to start guide.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...