Monday, October 27, 2014

Fabulous Friday Freebies: Halloween Freebies!

This week I'm re-posting our most popular Halloween freebie article with one new freebie added to the end. Enjoy!

As the weather chills down and the children prepare for a sugar rush, the freebies heat up! Here are some fabulous Halloween freebies! If you have a Halloween freebie that you would like to share, please let us know in the comments and we will consider featuring your freebie in one of our future October freebie editions.

This Halloween Dry Ice Secrets packet gives a ton of information about dry ice and ways to use it in your classroom for science experiments! I found lots of useful information and fun ideas to try in the classroom. This would be perfect for a variety of ages.

This Halloween Poetry Bookmarks freebie is a different way to get students to write by following directions written on Halloween themed bookmarks. Also included are blank bookmarks that can be used for poems and themed writing paper as well.

Find a huge list of fun Halloween science experiment ideas on Science Bob's blog! There is a huge list of activities to capture your students' attention including an idea on how to make a screaming cup and a recipe for homemade slime.

Check out  this selection of 10 FREE Halloween bingo games! About Home has a great selection of bingo games you can download like the Crayola color it bingo games pictured above. I loved the selection and bingo is perfect as you can play for a short or long time.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

How to Prepare Students for the English Section of the ACT in 5 Minutes a Day!

The best advice I've ever received when it comes to grammar instruction is to: teach it for five minutes a day, follow a cumulative pacing chart and use activities that mirror the ACT.  The pacing chart is roughly as follows:

End Punctuation
Subject/Verb Agreement
Commas and colons
Dashes and semicolons
Sentence fragments
Run-on sentences
Verbs and adverbs
Verbs and tenses
Parallel structure
Nouns and pronouns
Sentence structure

Many of the topics above have multiple rules, and are therefore, taught over the course of several weeks.  Every fifth week the rules that weren't mastered are retaught and students are reassessed as needed.  All together, these skills are stretched out over the course of about 35 weeks.

On Mondays students go over the grammar rules for that week and see examples.  On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays they complete short 3-4 question activities like the one pictured below.  These activities have short excerpts from real texts on the left with mechanics mistakes.  On the right are three to four questions with four multiple choice options that correlate to underlined and numbered sections of the passage on the left (just like the English portion of the ACT.  There are  four options and students choose the correct one.  Their work is graded immediately and the rules are reviewed when the class goes over the answers.  On Fridays students are quizzed on the rules for that week.

In addition to review weeks, students are reviewing all the rules they've been taught so far as they appear repeatedly in the weekly ACT-like exercises.  (For example, the first few weeks I have them practice capitalization rules.  The fourth week, I have them practice capitalization and end punctuation.  The fifth week is review.  The sixth week I have them practice capitalization, end punctuation and subject/verb agreement.  And so on and so forth.)  Also, once a rule has been taught, I expect them to apply it when they write.  They must recognize their mistakes and self correct their errors when they edit their papers.

So, why is this the best advice I've ever received?  The first is that you can teach grammar for the first five minutes of class, and it doesn't take over your lessons.  Secondly, students feel successful because it starts with the easy skills and proceeds cumulatively.  Finally, it has been proven to raise students' English ACT scores by several points.

Well, there you have it.  This is one of my best secrets.  I hope that you find it useful too.  If you have any questions, let me know!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fun Art Project for Day of the Dead

One of my favorite art lessons that was always a hit was my Day of the Dead skull design. Students loved it since it incorporated Hispanic heritage of some students and others loved it because drawing skulls was encouraged! I have had a lot of success with this lesson with a wide variety of age groups as well from late elementary to early high school with minor modifications.

This lesson incorporates history since students learn about the Day of the Dead from information packets included in the lesson and math since their skull is symmetrically balanced.

The lesson includes written and illustrated directions and gives alternatives for different materials so it can have a wide degree of difficulty. I've also found that students who have a lot of experience with art spend time making complicated skull designs while students that are just starting still have success with basic skull shapes.

Check it out in my shop if you're interested!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fabulous Freebies to Help You Get Organized

One of my constant goals is to stay organized and beat back the mountain of papers that come along with teaching.  Every time a pick up a stack to sort through it, I seem to find papers that are as old as my teaching career.  I could just throw everything in the trash, but I have this problem where I feel the need to know what I'm pitching.  Then there are the papers I copy for every class and the papers I get back to grade and the papers I get from weekly meetings and the papers with my lists of things to do and so on and so forth.  Sound familiar?

Don't get me wrong, papers have not swallowed my classroom whole....yet, but beating back the prolific paper piles is a constant job.  Keeping organized so that the most important papers don't get tossed out with the excess takes time, attention and planning.  So, what do I do?  Here are a few things that I use--and a few things that I should start using--to help me be better organized.

1) I keep a small calendar with me at all times to record meetings and due dates throughout the year.  Free templates can be found at WinCalendar.

2) There are several places where you can save papers online.  Of course there is Google Drive, but there is also Evernote.  Both places allow you to save documents, notes and images.

3) Three must-have binders: plans and calendars, student information and substitute materials.  Check out this blog for more details.

4) I always have daily and weekly to-do lists.  I start each week by laying out the things that I need to accomplish.  I keep my to-do lists in a notebook, but there are also cute online templates.

5) The Adventures of Room 83 has a great blog entry about organizing papers, with ideas for how to categorize supplies and files.

6) Want dividers to categorize your important files?  Check out these cute binder covers.

7) And, my favorite...Scholastic has 100 organizing tips for arranging your classroom without paying a cents.

If reading over this blog for 30 minutes saves you five minutes a day throughout the coming school year, then it is time well spent.

Happy organizing!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Experiments to try for Halloween in Your Classroom!

I always enjoyed doing experiments in school and I know my students did too! Here are 16 creepy and fun Halloween science experiments!

Halloween Candy Experiments

Dissolving Candy Pumpkins - Lemon Lime Adventures
Exploding Microwaveable Peeps - Housing a Forest
3 Fun Experiments for Leftover Halloween Candy - Play Dr. Hutch
Pop Rocks Expander - Steve Spangler Science
Oil Test for Starburst - Candy Experiments

Ghosts and Other Spirits

Tea Bag Ghosts - Play dough to Plato
Ghost Rockets - Growing a Jeweled Rose
Static Powered Dancing Ghost - Science Bob
Magic Expanding Ghost - Bitz & Giggles
Make Ectoplasm Slime - About Education

Blood & Guts

What is Blood Made Of - I can Teach my Child
Vampire Blood Chlorophyll Experiment - Inspiration Laboratories
Make Fake Blood - Steve Spangler Science
Make Vampire Blood - Primary Education Oasis
Create Blood Clots - Science Buddies

Ghouls and Goblins

Make Zombie Brains - Professor Egghead

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fabulous Freebies: Fall Writing Prompts!

Here are some places to get fun and free fall themed writing prompts!

  • The Holiday Zone - This site has a list of about 18 fall themed writing prompts with many creative suggestions. I loved that the prompts reflect a variety of writing skills and include things such as compare/contrast, persuasive writing and more.

  • The Kid Zone - If you are looking for early elementary writing prompts, look no further than the Kid Zone. There are printable prompt worksheets with a variety of types of writing to use and I love that you don't have to register or anything to print them! Just click and print.

  • Writing Forward - Writing forward has some unique fall themed poetry prompts on their site which would work for older students. Definitely a unique twist to the writing prompt idea!

  • The Humble Pen - This site has a list of 20 fall writing prompts. There were some unique prompts there that I haven't seen elsewhere.

  • In Season - I loved this take on autumn writing prompts with a scientific twist. Instead of regular prompts they are more themed towards a nature journal and have some prompts that are perfect for combining language arts and science. I think you could find something for almost all age groups here!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Teaching Lessons Students Will Remember

One of the best pieces of advice I've read lately is to make lessons memorable.  It's so obvious and yet easy to forget when planning a lesson.  There are so many things teachers are supposed to do these days: backwards map, use TAPS, include all learning styles, differentiate, align with the common core, use SMART goals, check for understanding, make lessons culturally relevant, hit all levels of Bloom's taxonomy and the list goes on and on.  So, making it memorable is not always easy to do, nor is it always at the forefront of our mind when planning.  But, when I read those three simple words I thought, right.  This is definitely worth putting in the forefront of my mind when planning.

How does one do that?  Well, here are a top ten list of lessons my students have discussed later because they were memorable:

1) Take them on a field trip.  I take my students to a restaurant to practice ordering food in Spanish.  They are still talking about it the next year.

2) Have them teach the lesson themselves.  Students who can teach it really know it and will be much slower to forget.

3) Incorporate humor.  Some of our strongest memories are tied to strong emotions.  I'm not suggesting that we make our students scared or sad, but making them happy and relaxed enough to laugh will put them in a good mental state.

4) Catch them by surprise.  Want them to practice writing using imagery?  Drop a fish on their desk and have them write with imagery about that.

5) Make it hands on.  Most lesson plans focus on teaching through seeing and hearing, but forget about our kinesthetic learners.  Incorporate all three and they'll remember it better.

6) Put it to music.  I use a song to teach students to conjugate.  They never forget it.

7) Use memory tricks.  Students who are taught using acronyms and sayings usually remember them years later.  Colors of the rainbow?  ROY G BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).  Order of operations?  Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally (parenthesis, exponent, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction).

8) Go deep instead of wide.  Give it time to sink in.

9) Include all of the senses.  See number 4!  Later this month I'm planning on turning my class room into an tavern/inn when students tell stories Canterbury Tales style, complete with bottles of (root)beer.  My attempt at creating memories.

10) Change up the routine.  The routine is forgettable.  Throwing them a curveball will make a lesson stand out.

Have ideas of your own?  Please share!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fabulous Freebies: Web Tools Worth Bookmarking!

These are all websites I've enjoyed using with my students.  If the description sounds interesting, click on the image to be taken to the website and investigate more!

1) This is a website that generates bingo cards.  You can choose from their list of themed cards or use your own word lists to make your own printable cards.

2) Animoto is a website where you can create short digital movies.  Just upload pictures of your class and let them generate a mini movie of a trip you took, a special project, etc.  Then you can share it with the class and their families in school or via email.

3) Use the website ToonDoo to allow your students to create their own comic strips.  They can create one based on a story they read in class or make up their own.  They really enjoy working with this website.

4) This 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 momento from a fun class trip.

5) This 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.

6) This 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.

7) The seventh one 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.

8) Finally, the Smithsonian website has a rich bank of
lessons that can be used to bring history to life!

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