This summer I haven’t taken much of a vacation. I taught Summer Academy in June and now I’m teaching 4 weeks of 5th grade summer school. I’m definitely getting my classroom fix that I miss during the school year as a tech integration specialist! Like the hilarious things students say!
Setting: Summer school. Reading Lesson about “Guide Dogs” Student #1: Miss O, why are they called “guide dogs”? Student #2 (Blurts out!): Because they are dogs for guys…guy dogs. [say it to yourself: guide dogs sounds exactly like "guy dogs"] Miss O: It’s not “Guy Dogs” it’s “GuiDe Dogs” because they guiDe people. Student #2: Ohhhhh.
Anyway, when I was a 4th grade teacher in Texas (Hey y’all!), I taught a LOT of writing. Since I had to read and grade all those lovely compositions, I began to get smart about my prompts. If I gave an interesting prompt, I had a much better of chance of laughing hysterically on my couch on Sunday afternoons while I graded!
Confession: I gave my students amusing writing prompts for my own entertainment. Gasp! I know, I’m the worst. Seriously though, it makes writing way more fun!
One of my favorites every year was: Why is school important? It seems like a harmless prompt, but oh, it was always very enlightening! So here, are some from my composition hall of fame:
Top 10 Reasons why school is important According to my 4th Graders:
To make friends.
So you can move out of your family’s house (because you don’t like them too much)
To learn…who wants to marry someone who doesn’t know anything?
To get a job and be famous.
To go to college, where they give you money.
So that you can play college football, then NFL, then get a wife and then get married.
To study planets.
Because it takes a lot of responsibility to be president.
To get good grades and have a good life.
School is greatness.
Hope your enjoying your summer! Ask your kids why school is important and share their answers :)
I have been living, breathing and dreaming about Stop Motion Animation for the past several weeks. This summer I have the awesome opportunity to teach for the North Suburban Summer Academy for gifted students. The class I designed is all about Stop Motion Animation (Think Wallace and Gromit style animation). I have done Stop Motion with kids in the past, and they loved it….but usually only for an hour or two at a time. What was I going to do for 4 hours/day for 13 days? Wow, I should not have worried. We have been working for 3 days and my 21 amazing animators have already mastered the basics and are using words like “pre-production” and “armature”. I love it. Today we had an extended day when most classes go on a field trip, but we made our first full animation and the kids worked diligently, cooperatively and creatively for about 3 hours straight. When we stopped for lunch, they could hardly wait to get back to the classroom.
Development: Writing our scripts
Pre-Production: Building Sets and characters
OK, enough blathering on about my super students. Why Stop Motion? Stop Motion is great for kids because it requires an incredible amount of patients, teamwork and creativity. Also, I have found it is pretty self -differentiating. Kids of all ages, levels and abilities are able to make the animations successfully. Oh, and did I mention it’s FUN!? I’m having a blast teaching them the history or animation and basics of video production and they are eating it up.
Their task today was pretty hilarious. They worked in groups of 3 and chose 3 slips of paper out of a basket: A thing, place and action. For example, when I did my demonstration, I got “Pencil exploring jungle”. They had to write a script and storyboard and create their sets, characters and props. Here are some of their creations from today:
They haven’t learned how to add narration or sound effects yet, but this is what they came up with after 2 days! I can’t wait to see what they are making at the end of our 3 weeks!
This experience has already refreshed and revived me as a teacher! Can I please teach animation all day, everyday?
I’m pretty big into DIY lately (Pinterest anyone?!) and a few weeks ago one of my science teachers asked me about document cameras. Immediately I thought: iPad. I knew I had read a blog post somewhere about turning an iPad into a document camera, so I immediately began Google-ing. By the time I got home on Friday I had my list written out for Home Depot and had already roped my dad into agreeing to help me. Here we go:
I used this video to started:
It shows 2 different iPad Document Camera stands…I decided to make them both.
Here is my drawing…I am no artist, but I needed a plan to follow:
My dad cut the grooves in the PVC pipe because he was afraid I would cut my fingers off!
After we got started making the different parts we were like an iPad stand making assembly line.
Here is the iPad stand in action. The base of this one is super sturdy and the iPad fits in there perfectly.
View from below.
This is the “cheaper” stand. It takes up more room on a desk, but it works pretty well.
Another view from below.
I brought the iPad stands in on Monday and gave one to the science teacher and one to my iPad pilot teacher and they were super excited.
While we are talking about document cameras, we are also trying out these babies:
And this one is the Ziggi ($89.00)from iPevo. These are inexpensive, USB document cameras that we are considering buying for teachers next year. I have always used ELMO doc cams, but they run between $400-$800 each! Yikes. We bought one of each and we are having teachers try them out to see which one we like better.
Ok, enough document camera for tonight. Anyone else have a doc cam they love? Or have you made your own? Please share!
Is anyone else stressing out about standardized testing? The Education blogosphere is buzzing with opinions about standardized testing as the season of bubble answer documents, #2 pencils and “Shh, We’re Testing” signs is upon us. Regardless of your take on state tests, as teachers we still want our students to do their best, and we certainly don’t want them to be anxious. There are a few things that I do with my kids that help relieve the testing jitters:
We Can Do It! Bulletin Board.
I bought this Rosie the Riveter poster in college and I’ve had it up in my classroom forever. A few years ago I started making “I can do it” posters with my kids’ pictures! I snagged a piece of yellow butcher paper as a background and took a picture of all my kids making a “tough” face and showing off their muscles. Oh my goodness they are so funny:
I created a “I Can Do It” template and inserted all the pictures and printed them out:
Want the template? Okey, dokey, here you go! We Can Do It Template (PowerPoint). We made a grade-level bulletin board in the hallway of our “We Can Do It” pictures:
Super fun and the kids LOVED it! Isn’t that the message you want your kids to remember? I CAN DO IT!
Don’t Worry, Be Happy
I know whenever my students hear the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” they will think of me! Each day of testing, right before we get started I have the kids take some deep breaths, think about their goals and then we rock out to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. I mean there is singing, snapping, dancing, and a lot of “Ooooooo, ooooo, ooo, ooooooooooooo’s”. I talk to my kids about how they are ready for the test, to do their best and NOT WORRY. It creates such a positive, fun atmosphere! Warning: You and your students will be singing this under your breath for weeks!
And that goes for teachers too! Testing is stressful for you too, remember what a privilege and blessing it is to teach! Don’t worry, Be Happy!
From the title of this post you may be thinking that I’m having problems with students…but I tricked you! This post is about students writing problems…math problems that is!
Last week I did a lesson with some 3rd and 4th grade classes where they needed to write a math story problem. No problem, right? Wrong! What was supposed to be a 10 minute activity took almost the whole time! They had such a hard time coming up with a topic and actually writing the problem was a nightmare. Luckily, in my new job I often teach a lesson multiple times so I whipped up these little “Math Story Problem Prompts“ to use with my next group.
There are 12 cards about different topics that kids can write math story problems about, from video games to pizza! We had the kids work in small groups or pairs to write a question.
I printed out the cards and laminated them. They were super helpful for my students to come up with math story problems, and it was a great opportunity for them to practice using the math language they were using in their classroom.
Other Ideas for Math Problem Prompts:
This would be a great activity to whip out during any math unit, you can just tell the kids they have to use whatever operation/concept your are studying.
Have these available as a fast finishers option….maybe create a bulletin board for student created math problems?
Write math problems for another class in your grade-level.
As a math review at the end of a unit, have kids write math problems–include them on the test. One time, just to mix things up I gave an entire math quiz with only student written questions, they loved it and talk about critical thinking! Their questions were usually way harder than mine.
Yesterday I was an iPad workshop and got to talking with a 4th grade teacher sitting next to me (Don’t you love that about trainings and workshops? You never know you might meet!) As we chatted, somehow I ended up showing her the Christmas Unit that I used every year with my 4th graders. I told her I would email the unit to her…but then I realized that I have never shared it with my fellow Nerdy Teachers. So here you go, Borrow and Share!
This link takes you to my unit plan page. It is designed for 4th grade Reading/Language Arts, but it could certainly be adapted for younger or older students. It also crosses curricular areas because we learn about Victorian England, write a summary and evaluate the movie version of A Christmas Carol.
As I collected resources for this unit I found this picture from my first year teaching (Check out those computers!). We were finishing up our Human Body unit in science and the skeletons made our classroom look like Halloween instead of Christmas…so we made Santa Skeletons! (Note: Look closely, do you see the Spiderman Skeleton?)
Christmas Book Box
Christmas Book Box: First Year
Here is a bonus idea for you! Every fall I collected high interest books from Scholastic book orders, Half Price Books, and the Scholastic Warehouse sale and kept them tucked away. Then the week before Christmas break I wrapped a big paper box and put all the books I’d collected in it. I kept it out in my classroom and the kids would go crazy just waiting to see what was in the box! During our Christmas party the kids would get to open the box and explore the new books that were then placed in our classroom library! (So it was a Christmas gift for me too :) I did this every year and it was always a big hit. As I started having siblings of former students they would beg their siblings to tell them what was in the box, but it was kept a big secret…such a fun tradition!
I was going through old emails and found this poem I wrote my first year teaching! Yes, along with being fabulously nerdy teacher, I also like to fancy myself poet! Of course, I sat down to design this little Christmas Poem graphic:
If you are a teacher who knows how this feels, can I get an “AMEN!” ? Does anyone else have school through the 23rd?! Whew! Merry Christmas to all you teachers out there, enjoy a much deserved break!
Oh, I almost forgot, here is a gift from the Nerdy Teacher–Click here to download the Twas the Week Before Christmas poem. Please feel free to forward this along to your fellow teachers as we deal with those candy-cane infused little monsters munchkins.
Yes, you read that correctly…50 gigs FREE. I was doing a little research today for a Dropbox alternative and found Box.net. Note: I still love Dropbox, but we are having some difficulties with it and our iPads. What caught my eye was 50 gigabytes of free cloud storage. You might be thinking what I was thinking, that must be too good to be true, but it isn’t! All you have to do is download the Box.net app on your iOS device and you get 50 gigs FREE. (if you don’t have an iOS device you still get 5 gigs). The 50 gig offer is only through December 2, so grab yours before it’s too late!
Box.net is really similar to Dropbox.com, except it doesn’t sync the files directly to a folder on your computer (which is, incidentally, one of my favorite Dropbox features) But you can still invite collaborators, share files, link to files, and there are plenty of applications that are compatible. I’m going to start using it to share some of my bigger files that clog up my Dropbox…
Note: I am in no way affiliated or compensated by box.net…I just really, really like FREE resources!
I don’t know where to even begin confessing…About a month ago I started a new job as a Technology Integration Specialist and I’m just beginning to figure out what on earth that means! I’m planning to continue sharing resources and ideas, but they might look a little different because I’m not just teaching 4th grade anymore!
Confession: I really miss being a classroom teacher! I hear from other specialists that I’ll get over this, but right now I miss having my own students and classroom and I miss knowing what I’m doing! Ok, so it’s kind of nice not having grading and the million+ other things that a classroom teacher has to do, but it’s also very weird. We’ll see, maybe by the end of the year I’ll never want to go back to the classroom…Speaking of here is one of the things that I get to do in my new job:
1:1 iPads in the classroom:
I am SUPER lucky to be working with an amazing second grade teacher to facilitate a 1:1 iPad pilot. Yes, you read that correctly, 1 iPad for every student. Swoon! (I’d go back to the classroom in a second for 1:1 iPads!!!) Not only was I given an iPad to use, but I have spent many hours working on plans and ideas for iPad integration in the second grade classroom. Check out my Diigo resource list here: iPad Resources
If you are lucky enough to have any iPads in your classroom you should check this out…I will continue to add to the list as I find more ideas and resources!
One that we are really excited about is ePud Bud and this could be used in any classroom, not just the iPad blessed ones!
You can use this website to make your own eBooks! You can scan pages in or have kids create them, but they can be loaded on any device or viewed on the website. Cool, cool, cool!
Blogs that is…how many is too many blogs? I decided I needed some new blogs to follow. So I casually started surfing the web–2 hours and about 30 blogs later I couldn’t stop. Each amazing Media/Library blog led me to another amazing blog (darn blogrolls!).
This wave of additions to my Google Reader got me thinking that my Reader could use some sprucing up. I went through and reorganized my favorite blogs into folders and then discovered “Bundles”. Eureka, I can share my folders with the world! So, I have added a tab on the top of this blog “Blogs I Follow” where you can check out what blogs I follow (I know, very creative labeling). Just another discovery on a hot summer afternoon :)
PS. I’m kind of a Google Reader evangelist, so if you don’t have a reader or don’t know what a reader is, click here to watch a great video explaining Google Reader in Plain English.