Saturday, July 26, 2014

Fabulous Freebies: Free Ice Breaker Activities

I always enjoy doing ice breaker activities at the beginning of the school year, as do most teachers that I know. here are five free ice breaker activity sites to give you ideas before school starts!

If you missed last year's article about this, check it out here for more suggestions.

Family Reunion Helper has a big list of ice breakers that I think older students in particular would enjoy. They have a variety of ideas and they sounded like fun!

Love to Know has a list of party ice breaker but since most are focused on working together and talking with one another I think they would be perfect for our students.

 Molly K has a back to school quilt square you could have each student complete before assembling it into a larger work of art. I've found that students always take pride in their work more when it's put into a big collaborative work.

Teampedia, a site I've never heard of until today, has a huge list of more than 90 team building activities organized in alphabetical order. You can't see descriptions of the activity until you click on it so it makes it a little hard to find what you are looking for but since there are so many options it's still a great resource.

Laura Candler has a fun team building spinner printable. The link takes you directly to a PDF. This is an easy activity to do to get students talking with one another.

If you have a free ice breaker activity, share it below and we can use it in a freebie edition in the future.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

25 Ways to Publish Student Writing

Ever feel like you're pushing a boulder up hill trying to get your students to write?  Wondering how to motivate them?  One of the best things I've ever done to turn my students on to writing is to assure them that they'd never have to write for me-well, not just me, that is.  They would choose an audience, write for them and share it with them.

Writing is a form of communication, and it only becomes meaningful when students communicate with an audience that holds value for the them.  So, here are 25 ideas of ways to help your students  publish their share it with a real audience.

1. Publish it on a blog-Have your students create a blog.  They can post their work, share it and comment back and forth.  Google and yahoo have free, user friendly blogs.

2. Publish it on a allows students to create their own website and publish their work.  They can share access to a site and work together on a piece.

3. Put it into a class book-Have students write short stories, poems, raps, etc and create a booklet collection for all of the students to keep.

4. Put it in a newsletter-If your school sends out newsletters, ask if your students can write a column.  I had one of my classes write weekly essays.  I chose the best one to be published in the weekly school bulletin.  Students were excited to revise their work when it was being published and shared school wide.

5. Create a contest-Sponsor a writing contest.  Select community members and/or staff to judge the essays and award the winner publicly.

6. Present it in a talent show-Have students share their writing in school assemblies and talent shows.

7. Poetry slams-For more information, check out: Poetry Slam Guidelines.

8. Bulletin board-Post student work on bulletin boards...the more public, the better.

9. Place student writing in doctor/dentist offices-Create booklets with students' writing and ask local dentists and doctors if you can leave them in their waiting rooms.

10. Pen pals-Find a pen pal for your students to engage in letter writing with a real recipient.

11. Reviews-Make part of the students' grade sharing what they wrote with people outside the school and collecting reviews/feedback forms.

12. Dedications-Have students create dedication pages and encourage them to share their essays with those the papers are dedicated to.

13. Portfolios-Have students keep portfolios with their writing.  Share these portfolios with families during parent teacher conferences.

14. Turn their essays into speeches-Have them present their writing to the class.

15. Submit their work to magazines-Have students submit their writing to magazines that publish entries.

16. Books-Oriental Trading Company sells blank books students can decorate and fill in.

17. Young Authors Society-Start a group where students can share and publish their writing.

18. Nationwide Writing Contests

19. Make it a gift-Have students turn essays into gifts.  For example, in May they can write letters to important women in their lives and give them to those women for Mother's Day.

20. Dramatic readings to younger grades-Have students write and share their writing with younger grades.  They can turn them into books and leave them behind for the younger children's classroom library.

21. Message in a balloon-Put a message in a helium balloon and let it go.  Wait with your students to see what sort of responses they might receive.

22. Have them write to someone famous such as: The President.

23. Media boards-Does your school have televisions in the entryway of the school where news is projected for visitors to see?  See if you can include quotes from your students' writing as part of the powerpoint presentation that is scrolled through on a continuous loop.

24. Write a play/Create a video-Have students get together in small groups and write a play to be performed in front of the class.  The best play can be performed in front of the school.

25. Write a song-Have students take their favorite song and make up new lyrics.  They can perform them in front of the class and record them, if possible.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fabulous Freebies: High School Level Interventions

There is so much focus on teaching students the basics at the elementary level.  Sadly, there are so many high school students who have missed some of the basics.  Here are some of the common misunderstandings that I've seen high school students repeatedly struggle with, along with some intervention resources.

#1: Fractions...So many students who struggle with math are not able to visualize or conceptualize what it means that there are wholes and parts of a whole.  Therefore, being able to use fractions--or decimals and percents--to manipulate and calculate is a struggle.  Here are a few resources that I've seen used that do not appear babyish to high schoolers...

#2: Comprehending nonfiction....One of the skills that students struggle with is pulling the main idea and details out of nonfiction texts.  Unlike fiction, struggling readers often do not realize that nonfiction texts use a variety of structures (spatial, compare & contrast, cause & effect, etc.).  If they did, they would become more strategic readers and successful at comprehension.  Here are a few resources I've used...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fun Art Sub Lesson!

If you are looking for a fun art project that is ready to use for a sub, this lesson is perfect! Students will have fun designing and promoting a t-shirt during this lesson that is designed with a real world purpose.

Everything you need is included such as:
- Teacher/sub tip sheet
- T-Shirt design instruction sheet for students
- Brainstorming and thumbnail sketch sheet for students
- Final t-shirt design drawing page
- Promotion writing page

This is a lesson I have left for a sub before in my own classroom and had success with so I hope this means it will work for you as well! If you're interested in this lesson, check it out on my TPT store.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fabulous Freebies for Teachers by Mail!

Here is another edition of Fabulous Freebies by Mail! Nothing is a better pick me up than seeing my mailbox full of free stuff. I thought it was time to find out how to get more freebies for teachers. If you missed this series of posts last year, check them out here. You can still get most of the freebies sent to you easily.

1. Free Ayn Rand Books

If you plan to teach any Ayn Rand books this year, check out this site to get free Ayn Rand books, teacher guides and lesson plans. They are now taking orders for the 2014-2015 school year!

2. Free Anatomy and Physiology Eyeball Bookmarks

Available to teachers of anatomy and physiology are these fun eyeball bookmarks! They are sent in packs of 50 and would make a fun giveaway to your students or perfect for marking pages in your science book.

3. Free Set of 6" Wooden Rulers

Get a set of free 6" wooden rulers from this site. The form is easy to fill out and submit. Rulers are a tool that I've found wear out quickly and break so it's always great to have new ones!

4. Free Trees

If you have an outdoor area near your school or would like to plant trees, the National Wildlife Federation will send you free native trees to plant in your neighborhood. Check out the guidelines and more here. Applications must be received by September 21st.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Five Favorite Authors on Teaching Reading

The school year is so busy, that it is difficult to find time to get to all those back-burner items on your to-do list.  You know what I'm talking about....all those things you tell yourself you'll get to next week and never do.  One of those for me is getting through my teacher reading list.  If you have one, great.  If  you'd like to create one, but don't know where to start, here are my top five suggestions for authors to read that address some of today's most pressing educational challenges...

1. Ralph Fletcher has written a number of books on how to run writer's workshops, engage your male writers and how to make writing matter to students.

2. Alfred Tatum has written extensively about how to teach so African American males are successful in classes that teach literacy.

3. Jawanza Kunjufu has written over 30 books on the education of African Americans.

4. Jeffrey Wilhelm has researched and written extensively about how to educate struggling readers.

5. Richard Allington has looked at Response to Intervention and writes about what he believes must really be done to help close achievement gaps.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fabulous Freebies for Common Core Reading Standards

Common core is the educational buzz phrase.  Now that summer is here, I'm posting some fabulous freebies that correlate with the reading standards: reading (I'm combining reading literature and informational texts into one), writing, speaking and language.  These can be used by parents out there looking for activities or teachers looking for something to send along to parents of former and/or new students.  Or, it can just get tucked away in a folder to be pulled out at a later date.  But, without further ado, here they are....

#1-Reading: Check out this reading contract and log.  It is simple and attractive.  It is a great resource to use with parents and students because it provides an explanation of the importance of reading, a contract that lays out the logistics and a log to track their reading.  There are several ways it can be used:

a) Send it home to be used by your students over the summer.
b) Keep for next year.  (You are probably already on summer mode and not thinking about work.)
c) Start a summer reading club.  This can even be a neighborhood thing or a once-a-week get together at school to promote reading.  There are a number of free reading incentive programs that promote summer reading.  Check out one of our previous blogs about free summer reading programs.

#2-Language: Check out this antonyms puzzle.  It is a fun way to go over summer vocabulary and opposites.  Once kids/students have put it together, they can create their own puzzle using more difficult vocabulary, synonyms, word analogies, etc.

#3-Writing: This is essentially summer stationary.  It can be used several ways.  Here are a few ideas:

a) Have kids use it to write about your family vacations.  They can add some color and you can put it in a scrapbook.
b) Visiting the grandparents in another state this summer?  Have the kids write about the visit and send it in the thank you note.
c) Have your kids write to summer pen pals using the stationary.

#4-Listening & Speaking: This is a simple question and answer activity with summer vocabulary.  It practices the 5 W questions.  Going through it orally helps students with their listening skills.  It can be made more fun if played as a game.  Take out the oral piece and it can become memory.  Just cut the cards apart, place them face down and match the picture and corresponding question.  Keep the oral piece and it can be a version of go fish where students draw rectangular cards that are made up of the picture and question.  When it is their turn they have to ask the question to see if one of the other players has the item.  This is great for early elementary, but the idea can be adapted and used with more difficult vocabulary.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Extra Summer Money for Teachers

This article is from 2012 but I've updated and added some new suggestions since everyone can always use more money!

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. Start 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. The park district near my house said that all I need to do was come up with a topic and they would be excited to add it to the curriculum.

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. Do Some Sitting

Pet or house sitting during the summer is a great way to earn extra money and still have plenty of time left to do other things. Pet MD has an article about starting up a pet sitting or dog walking service.

6. Work on Your Hobby

If you have a hobby or craft that you enjoy, developing some items that you can sell on a site like Etsy is a great way to spend your time. If you enjoy photography, this would also work as a great way to earn money while having fun.

7. "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 basics and couponing is something I can continue during the school year, although I am much more laid back about it. I follow Hip2Save's blog to find the best coupon deals and sales.

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

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