A Teacher's Guide to Teaching Life Cycles: Frogs, Butterflies, and Chickens Oh My!

31 March 2016
One memory that stands out in my mind during my oldest's early elementary years is the experience of hatching chicks. His teacher said it was, "a dud year" and that she'd never do it again because so many didn't make it, but even so, it was truly a neat experience for him. Even 13 years later, he still remembers the chicks chirping, jumping around, and holding them, and the pictures? Sigh...just precious!

You may not jump in to hatch chicks, but the life cycles standard can lead to really great opportunities for students to witness how life cycles work and observe like a scientist. In today's, I'll be sharing ideas you might find helpful.
Explore ideas for teaching your students about life cycles of chickens, butterflies, frogs, and more.

VDOE Proposed Math Standards- 3rd Grade

30 March 2016

Apparently the math standards for Virginia are up for revision. You may want to take a look:
Standards of Learning
Curriculum Framework

Here are the proposed changes to 3rd Grade:
-addition and subtraction fact families (moved to 2nd grade)
+naming, writing and representing improper fractions
-recalling multiplication facts (moved to 4th grade)
+learning multiplication facts though 10's only
-weight and mass (moved to 4th grade)
+defining, naming, combining and subdividing polygons (moved from 4th grade)
-identifying, describing, comparing and contrasting plane and solid shapes (moved to 4th grade)
-line plots (moved to 5th grade)

I personally love the changes they are proposing, it seems like the curriculum is becoming more developmentally appropriate.

Public comment will be open until April 25th. You can email your comments to mathematics@doe.virginia.gov. 2017-2018 will be a Crosswalk year, teaching old and new standards. 2018-2019 would be the first year of full implementation of the new standards.



Need a Mother's Day Gift Idea?

29 March 2016
Hi!  I'm glad to be back to share a great gift idea for Mother's Day.  Yes, I realize it's only the end of March, but if you're like me, the beginning of May will be here in the blink of an eye!  Have no fear....look at this super cute idea my kindergarten team came up with a few years ago. It is pretty inexpensive and the kids had fun with it.
This post shows how to make a cute Mother's Day gift idea.
We have also been lucky the last few years. One teacher on the team has had a spring student teacher so we take advantage of that extra time and have the teacher work on the painting part for all the kids. Then she strings the beads and ties them up.
A great way to celebrate moms or the ladies in these children's lives!
In order to create the necklaces, you will need these washers - enough for every student to have one, acrylic paint - we use 2 colors for each washer, string to match your paint and pony beads that will match too.

First, write each child's first name and the year on the back of the washer. Then, have each child use two colors and paint a washer. After they dry (usually overnight), they are ready to string and add beads.

The other part to this project involves taking pictures and framing them.
This post shows how to make a cute Mother's Day gift idea.
I made the blue banner that says "I love you because..." using bulletin board paper. We hang it in the hallway and call kids out a few at a time. We use poster board cut in half and laminated to then write why they love their mom (or moms or special lady in their life) with a dry erase marker. Then we just erase and use again for the next child. We use an iPad for the pictures and then print them in color on white card stock. Before mounting, we laminate them and write Mother's Day (year) on the back. The frame is just 4 jumbo craft sticks hot glued together.

The past few years the parents have really enjoyed this gift and like I said, the kids have fun making them. But....like I also said, you need to plan ahead and make sure you have the supplies needed for the project.

Thanks for stopping by! See you again in May!





4 Ways to Make Test Prep Fun

28 March 2016
If you're needing ideas of how to make test prep fun, then check out this post on Virginia is for Teachers. Who knew preparing for tests could be enjoyable?

This is Meghan from Vestal’s 21st Century Classroom and as we head into testing season, I wanted to share some of the fun things I have done in my classroom to get students prepped and ready for standardized testing. Here are 4 ways I have found to motivate students, get parents involved, and transform my classroom during one of the most dreaded times of year.


 

Raise your hand if you have used music at any point during the school year to help your students memorize important concepts! I have found music helps my students to retain information better and I incorporate lots of singing and dancing into my lessons throughout the year. Now, is time to pull out all of those songs and make sure students still remember them!

Since testing is a stressful time for students too, review the songs in a fun way to get them engaged and to help ease any of the nervousness they may be feeling. A fun way I have found to review educational songs is by having a campfire. A real fire is out of the question in any school but there are several ways to inexpensively create a pretend fire. I do this by:
       
  • Finding an object that blows air up. I use an air purifier but you could also use a fan.
  • Attach red, orange, and yellow streamers to the purifier/fan.
  • Turn the purifier/fan on low so that the air causes the streamers to shoot up and move, without breaking.
  • Last, arrange logs or brown cardboard around the purifier/fan so that it can no longer be seen.

I push all the desks to the sides of the room and sit the “camp fire” in the middle of the room. As a class, we sit in a circle around the fire and sing the songs we have learned throughout the year. I also let the students make s’mores, in between songs, to help encourage everyone to participate.  
 https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Virginias-Products-and-Industries-Song-2290960


There are a lot of schools that have some kind of test prep boot camp, but most “boot camps” I have been a part of accomplish this through regular small group instruction and/or worksheets. Most students are already unhappy about preparing for and taking standardized tests so it is important for any type of test prep boot camp to be fun and educational.

One of my colleagues, took the idea of boot camp literally. She showed up to school dressed in all military attire and had stations strategically placed around her room that got students reviewing their math skills, without even realizing it. Students were put into groups and had to work as a team to rotate through each station. One station had students see how many jumping jacks and sit ups they could do in a minute and then they had to use that data to find the mean, median, mode, and range for their group. Another station required them to graph the data they had collected about the number of sit ups and jumping jacks they could do. The teacher had found ways to incorporate different math skills into each station while keeping everything army themed. I watched her students leave school that day and could tell they had so much fun! It was something they could not stop talking about for the remainder of the school year!


Studies have shown there is a correlation between self-confidence and academic performance. I have always taught in under performing schools and have found confidence building to be one of the most important aspects of my job. Most students have what it takes to be successful on standardized tests. Unfortunately, there are a vast number of students who do not believe this fact. Therefore, leading up to testing, I try to incorporate lots of activities to help students recognize their gifts and celebrate their accomplishments.

One of my favorite ways to do this is by having a big party. I decorate the classroom with streamers and put party hats on student’s desks. I want it to feel like a big birthday party but for all the students. Time is provided for students to have a snack and play a few games. In between activities, I hand out awards to the students recognizing an academic accomplishment from the year. I never give awards for things like personality or nonacademic achievements during this party because it is a time for the students recognize that they are smart and have what it takes to pass their test(s). I make sure every student receives an award during the party and when I pass out an award, I encourage all the other students to stand and cheer for their classmate. This helps to foster an environment where students feel empowered to encourage one another.


Everyone enjoys getting a compliment but there is something particularly meaningful about a compliment from a parent. I like to surprise my students with parent compliments right before they begin taking their test. About 1 month, prior to the start of testing, I send a large envelope to each student’s parents. In the envelope, I include several items:
  • A letter reminding parents about testing and asking them to help me encourage the students prior to testing. 
  • 1 index card for each test the students will take. The index cards are colored coded and I explain to parents, in the letter, what each color card is for (blue is for math, green is for reading, white is for science, etc.).
  • A stamped envelope already labeled with the school’s address.
With the materials provided, I ask parents to write a short note of encouragement on each of the index cards and mail them back to school, in the stamped envelope. I always mail the materials to parents and ask them to return the materials to me through the mail because I want students to be surprised on test day. This can get a little pricey but I have found it to be well worth it!

On test day, I sit the index cards on the student’s desks so that they will see them first thing upon arriving. The kids get so excited seeing they have a special note on their desk and most will read their note several times. I always have 1 or 2 parents who do not send the materials back, even after I make phone calls home, so I write a special letter for those students.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Vestals-21st-Century-Classroom
                
Testing is extremely stressful for students and teachers. As we go into testing season, remember 2 things… make it fun and keep it positive! Good luck to you and your students on their 2016 tests!

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Vestals-21st-Century-Classroom 

Pin for Later:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Vestals-21st-Century-Classroom
**Clip art by: Krista Wallden (Creative Clips) & Lita Lita

Spring Egg Learning Activities

23 March 2016
This is a really simple and low prep activity that is great for PreK through 1st-grade kiddos to work on sight words and numbers. 
Last year I had a request from a student to add sight words to eggs for practice.  To help with this I came up with this simple activity that I now use to review sight words with my 2nd grade students and numbers with my preschoolers. 

This is super easy to prep. Download this freebie from my TpT store and print out the page with the numbers and  sight words (I chose to print them on brightly colored cardstock). Cut apart the cards and stick the numbers or words in eggs (only use the ones you are working on).   

To complete this activity the kiddo pulls an egg from the basket, opens is (Great fine motor activity!), reads the word/number, and then finds the matching jellybean on their paper.  The student then colors the jelly bean in, then close the egg back up.  With my sight word kids, I had them put the egg back in the basket so if they pulled it again then they practiced the word again.  With the little one in these pictures, I put the egg to the side after she opened it. This activity address SOLs for reading in Kindergarten (Reading K.6) & First Grade (Reading 1.6h). It also addresses SOLs for Math for Kindergarten (Math K.2c) and Foundation Blocks for Pre-K..  

Another simple activity that addresses Foundation Blocks for Pre-K and Kindergarten SOL (Reading K.7) is letter eggs.   To make these, I printed all of the capital letters with the matching lowercase letter on labels.  I then cut the label in half and put the lower case letter on the bottom half of the egg and the upper case letter on the top.  Students had to match the upper and lowercase letters by pulling one-half out of a basket and matching to the other half as they were laid out on the floor.  This was also self-checking (to a point, due to using the same color eggs) as the eggs had to match and fit together. 

Do you have any activities that you use in your classroom with plastic eggs?  I would love more ideas to keep the kids learning during the craziness of waiting for Spring break to arrive. 


Using Books by Tomie dePaola in the Classroom

22 March 2016
I'll admit, I struggled with what to share with you all today.  It's getting to that time of the year...everything is due right before Spring Break!  Grades...yearbook deadline...testing...augh!

But on the drive home, it hit me what I wanted to share...a way that hopefully can make life a little easier on my fellow teachers!

I really love Tomie dePaola's books.  His illustrations, his way of writing, and how easy his books are to use in the classroom.  I wasn't as familiar with his works when I first started teaching, but I began to notice them one by one in my classroom library, school library, or when searching for read alouds to use.

I'd like to put together a list of a few of my favorite dePaola books and how I use them in my classroom.  Be sure to read all the way to the end!! {wink, wink!}

Teaching with trade books by Tomie dePaola

Using Tomie dePaola trade books in the classroom
Photo from amazon.com
I dare you not to cry while you read this book.  It gets me EVERY single time!  This text is great for students learning to make text to self connections, because most kids have experienced some time or another a loved one who is sick or has a major illness.  This book is a poignant look at how Grandpa or "Bob" helps little Bobby learn to walk.  Bob is Bobby's world until Bob has a stroke and Bobby decides that he will help Bob get better...and even walk.  I love the elephant block!! (you have to read it to get that!!)
Using Tomie dePaola trade books in the classroom
Photo from amazon.com
This is one of two books by dePaola that I use in my First American unit in Social Studies.  In 2nd grade, we learn about the Lakota Indians, how and where they lived, their respect for nature, etc. While this book isn't about the Lakota, it has several images that show what life on the Great Plains was like-- teepees, buffalo, the land and climate.  It goes on to describe the legend of the bluebonnet, a flower native to Texas.

Using Tomie dePaola trade books in the classroom
Photo from amazon.com
This is the second of dePaola's books that I incorporate into my Native American unit.  This book tells about path of Little Gopher, and how his path is different than the path of his peers.  The artwork in the book is so pretty...would be a great way to incorporate an art project or visualizing activities, too!  This book again deals more with the Plains Indians, and has the illustrations of teepees and land to point out to students as well.

And lastly...my favorite!!

Using Tomie dePaola trade books in the classroom
Photo from amazon.com
This one is my favorite!  I didn't know this story until it came in one of my read aloud kits, but I am so glad to have found it!  My family has an artsy history...we have a few painters and sculptors back in the gene pool.  Immediately I found myself drawn (no pun intended!!) to Tommy's story and how a real artist doesn't copy other's work, the birthday box of 64 crayons, and looking forward to art lessons at school.  There are lots of different ways you could incorporate this into your language arts block-- and lucky for you, I have a freebie to share with you!  Click here and snag a few activities to use in your own classroom!

Tomie dePaola's books have such a wide range...most have some kind of influence from his Irish and Italian lineage.  From Strega Nona to Jamie O'Rourke and the Giant Potato, there are no shortage of ways to use these wonderful books as a resource in your own classroom!

Hope you enjoy!  {I found a link to several of dePaola's books through his publisher that show ways to incorporate into the classroom.  Click here to access this guide!}

Happy reading {and teaching!}



Comprehension with Virginia Readers Choice

21 March 2016
I love that the Virginia State Reading Association has released the Virginia Readers Choice for the 2016-2017 school year!  I have already started using them to teach my upper elementary students some comprehension skills. They have truly enjoyed the books and can't wait to read more of them.  Today I will highlight three of my favorites with some simple activities you can use with your students.

Here they are!

One great book that makes story elements simple is Found by Salina Yoon. In the book, Bear finds a sad stuffed bunny who needs to find his home. Though he looks for the owner, he knows that the bunny would be a great friend for him. He finds the owner, Moose, who makes an unexpected decision and teaches children about compassion.

My fourth-grade students found this book simple to help them find those major story elements and be able to give a brief summary of the book with no problem at all.

Want to inspire students to take their ideas to the next level? What Do You Do With an Idea is a perfect book for teaching students to take off with their inspiration, no matter what anyone says. The book uses an egg as a young boy's "idea" and follows him as he struggles with what to do and where to go with it. The fourth graders loved watching the idea grow and change the world around them.

This is a perfect book for teaching theme. After reading the book, students wrote their ideas on speech bubbles to show what they thought was the theme of the story. They came up with some different ideas, yet they were all in the ballpark!

And how about this year's Newberry winner? Yes, Last Stop on Market Street is the first picture book to win the John Newberry award! Can you believe it? This book is chock full of lessons for young children as they realize that people live different lives. In the story, CJ and his mother catch the bus after church. CJ asks questions on the ride about why others have what they don't. She always comes back with a reason their life is considered "better", making CJ feel better about what he has. The reader does not know where they are going until the end, which makes the story even more enjoyable.

With the rich descriptive language, the book lends itself to teaching about descriptive language. It is also perfect for comparing and contrasting. I have not used this one for an activity, but it is definitely something many students can relate to, especially through comparison of their lives with CJ's.

There are so many other Virginia Readers Choice books out there for 2016-2017 that are worthy of using to teach many different skills. Stop by my blog, Reading Toward the Stars, each Thursday as I highlight the books in Book Talk Thursday! Click on the Book Reviews link to see those I have reviewed so far and grab some freebies along the way! I will continue to highlight the VRC books on Thursdays until I finish all of the picture books.

Hope this weather warms up soon, so we can all enjoy some much needed outside time!  See you in a couple of months, when school will be close to being out!


Do you KaHoot?

20 March 2016
Do you KaHoot? KaHoot is easy to use and a quick tool for assessment that is fun and fast paced!
My third grade students love to use it as a review tool before content tests. I love it for its instant feedback for both students and myself. Below is a quick overview of the steps on how to use KaHoot in your classroom. 
After creating an account at https://getkahoot.com/ you can either create your own quiz from scratch or as I like to do search for public quizzes then edit for my needs. This week I noticed my students had a difficult time with reference sources so I worked on this during my planning time that day. I searched for an existing quiz, edited for my needs, then we were ready to review. You can have 2-4 choices for each question, an option to upload an image, and an unlimited amount of questions. You can select it to auto progress for a faster-paced game or as I prefer, manual progression so we can discuss after each question. 
Students can use any Internet enabled device. We've used both desktops and iPADS in class and the laptops in the lab. Students go to https://kahoot.it they don't need any software since it's web-based. Students type in the 6-digit code, type their name, and are ready to go! That's seriously the hardest part. My third graders have also partnered up with Kindergartners to help type the numerical code and their names before. Once everyone is in, the game is on!
For each question it will also have an image if you uploaded one, and the multiple choices with a color and symbol for each. Students' screens will show just the color and symbol so this is when a large projector screen will help. Unfortunately the answers have to be text and can not be images. With Kindergartners I have had an image as the question, ask them to count the objects, and several numerals as the choices. 
One of KaHoot's greatest assets I believe is the instant feedback. Students' screens will have instant feedback after the timer is complete and everyone has answered. On the teacher screen, it will have a graph with the correct choice and the frequency of each selected answer. I use this as a teaching point to discuss common misconceptions. It does not say who answered each, but will project a tally of students' total points after each question. 
The last awesome part of KaHoot is it makes it easy peasy to use as a piece of assessment data. After the quiz, you can save directly to your Google Drive or download scores. I take these scores, use them as a quiz grade, and determine who may need further remediation. 
I hope you found this overview helpful and are encouraged to use this tool for a fun and easy lesson with your students this week. If you use KaHoot, please share any tips you have  and awesome ways you use it in your classroom. 

Light Box Activities for Learning and Playing

18 March 2016
Searching for an activity that offers the ability to review reading, writing, and math while also appealing to kids' senses?  How about a fun sensory station for your Fun Friday/PAT time or a rainy day activity?  Then you want to check out this post on using the light box to play and teach!





Before I begin my post I want to share that I read many things about DIY light boxes, and the bottom line is that they are not really safe.  They can damage eyes if they lights used are too bright, and they pose a safety hazard for younger children if they are opened accidentally.  It was after reading these things that I decided on this Crayola Light Up Tracing Pad. It got good reviews online and it was compact enough to store when not in use.

There are so many educational, yet fun, activities that can be done with a light box or table. Below are some of my favorites. 


1. Trace numbers, letters, and shapes on top of a gel sensory bag.  You can read more about how to create a gel sensory bag in this post.






For older children: You can also place worksheets beneath the bag, like in the picture below.  Think of it like a dry-erase board with a sensory benefit.




2.  Roll out Play-Doh in a clear container and use cookie cutters.  
For younger children, this can be as simple as letters, numbers, and shapes.


For older children:  Have them create number sentences/equations with the numbers, spell out words with the letters, or create patterns.






3.  Put translucent objects on the light table and have the child match colors, sizes, or quantities. I spread the pieces of this pill sorter out and gave my son some plastic reusable ice cubes from the Dollar Tree and plastic eggs to match to them by color.  To add some fine motor practice, I gave him tongs designed for catching bugs with which to pick up and sort the objects. The bug catcher is part of this fine motor set

For older children:  Have them practice writing out the colors and shapes as they identify and sort them.








4. Put an I-Spy bag on the light table for discovery of objects/letters.  You can read more about how I made my I-Spy bag by clicking here.  Younger children can verbalize what they see.  My son loves using it almost like a rain stick, just turning it over to listen to the rice filter through the objects.


Older children: Practice writing out the words on paper or dry-erase boards as the objects are found.








5.  Use discovery bottles for letter/word recognition.


For older children: Give them flash cards with words on them. Have them find the letters needed to spell the words on the cards. Have them write out the words as they find the letters in the discovery bottle.









What's on my light box wish list?  
In the future, I would love to build structures or do division/ multiplication problems with these translucent Prism Bases and Prism Blocks that resemble see-through Duplo Blocks.  We can also use them to talk about area and perimeter.


What are your must-haves for your light box?  I'd love to hear what activities you do for playing and learning!



Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top