In Our Class with Zoo Burst

26 July 2011
I came across a new site a few days ago that I wanted to explore a little further - Zoo Burst.  You can use Zoo Burst to create interactive pop-up books.  I thought this would be a great tool to use on the SMARTboard.  I signed up for a free teacher account, and it looks like teachers can create accounts for their students, too.  They do have a premium account (not free), but the standard account lets you create books that are 10 pages long.    Last night I came up with a neat idea about how I would use Zoo Burst.

I've seen some great posters about "In Our Class" floating around the blogs and pinterest.  Oh' Boy Fourth Grade has a fantastic one!!!  I thought I'd take that idea and create a pop-up book to show the students on the first day of school.  Now, this book is still a work in progress, but I wanted to share this site with you.  Click on the exclamation marks above the "characters" to read more on each page.

I think my students will have a lot of fun writing narratives with this site.  I did this one pretty quickly, so with a little extra work and effort, the students should be able to create something excellent.  Finished stories could be embedded on a classroom blog or website to share with parents.  How fun is that!?!

A Magical Day

23 July 2011
It was my oldest daughter's eighth birthday party today.  My three little girls love a party.  She wanted a magic theme for her party, and because we weren't hiring a magician, I hit up my newest obsession, Pinterest, for some ideas.  I found a great cake that I got inspiration from.  I took me over 4 hours to decorate it, and cost way too much (remind me next year to buy a cake), but she LOVED it and told me it was the best cake ever!!!

I also found an idea for the cutest fruit salad.  I used a star cookie cutter for the fruit (my hand still hurts from pushing it through all that fruit), and topped each skewer with a star-shaped rice krispie treat - magic wand fruit skewers.

For the activities, we made giant bubbles with a hula hoop (trapped inside a bubble), played pass the magic wand, guessed the flavours of magic beans (jelly beans), and learned a couple magic tricks.  It truly was a magical day, and my little eight-year old had a blast ... and you know what - she deserves it!


Never Work Harder Than Your Students ... Use Technology

21 July 2011
As I mentioned before, I participated in my very first webinar last night.  It was hosted by the STEM Institute, and I really enjoyed the experience.

The webinar was called:  Communicate, Collaborate, and Create: Building Dynamic Classroom Projects.  It was based on the 7 principles outlined by Robyn Jackson in her book, Never Work Harder Than Your Students.  I haven't read this book, but I think I need to ... I'm afraid I'm definitely working harder than some of my students most days.  ;)

The neat thing about this webinar was that it took the 7 principles from the book, and applied them to technology.  I want to give you a brief outline of what I learned last night, and some of the sites we were given.  I haven't explored a lot of the sites yet ... but as I try them out, I'll share my experiences with you.

1)  Start Where Your Students Are ...
Adjust your teaching to meet your students' interests (use more technology because that's where their interests are)

2)  Know Where Your Students Are Going ...
As teachers, we are preparing our students for jobs that don't even exist yet ... we need to prepare them the best we can.

3)  Expect Students To Get To Their Goals
We want students to reach their goals, but they don't all need to be A+ students - many truly successful people were far from it in school.

4)  Support Students Along The Way
This is where the technology resources started - here are some websites we were given to help students learn and meet their individual learning styles: - (English to text lingo conversion - I blogged about this last night - see my post below).
Google Translate - Language translation - spells it (correctly and phonetically), and says it.
Skype - great for author conferences, social studies (talk to people in other countries), keep a student connected who has been absent, or is away on a trip. - easy way to create your own blog through your email - great for setting up a class blog to keep students / parents informed.

5)  Use Feedback
Feedback needs to be descriptive and given in a timely fashion.  If feedback is to be beneficial to the students, it needs to be given to them quickly and consistently. - It's almost like a kind of facebook - but you can set it up for your classroom - post questions, reading clubs, etc. and give feedback to students as they answer questions. - Students can use this for their writing assignments, and not worry about bringing files back and forth to school.  Teachers have access to the page to make corrections / give feedback throughout the writing process.

6)  Focus on Quality Rather Than Quantity
Get ready for this ... you've got some exploring to do ... - I've set up an account with glogster so we can make multi-media posters next year.  I can so see myself using this with science / social studies. - A site for making movies and slideshows. - Another site for making movies and slideshows. - Yet another site for making movies and slideshows - this one looks like it has a few more features (like slow-motion). - Bring your still pictures to life by making them talk - I can so see myself using this next year with my SMARTboard lessons!  Wouldn't it be cool to make a fraction talk and explain how to do a concept during a math lesson?!? - I am definitely going to investigate this one further.  I'd like to make a wiki for one of my science units next year - assigning students a different part or concept, and then putting it all together.  We could even print off the pages later and turn them into our own reference book. - A lot of the teachers at the webinar talked about how they would use this resource to set up student portfolios ... hmmmmm ... intriguing. - Students can create their own ebooks (which other people can access) and display them on a shelf (similar in looks to shelfari).  A great way to publish their writing, and make the writing process more authentic for them. - Another multi-media site great for presentations.  Use as an introduction to a new unit, or have students create their own presentations for a certain topic.

7)  Never Work Harder Than Your Students
To summarize, by using these resources, your students will be applying bloom's taxonomy while exploring new technology and creating fantastic technological presentations.  However ... with all these new resources to explore, I have a feeling I'm going to be working pretty hard for a while ... ;)

Do any of you these any of these websites in your classroom?  If you do, I'd love for you to leave a comment and tell me how you use them.

(affiliate link)


Writing Prompts with Text Lingo ... So KEWL!

20 July 2011
Do U undRstNd wot I'm writing?  I cn garNT yor students do.  OMG - how kewl wud dey tink U R f U rOt a writiN prompt UzN thR language?  wot f U lt dem wrte bak 2 U n txt lingo?  Put a whol nu spin on a pln old writiN assignment.

I took part in a technology webinar tonight (more on that in tomorrow's post), but I just HAD to visit one of the sites I learned about the minute the webinar was over.

Transl8it is a trendy, FREE site that translates English messages into text lingo, or vice versa.  I'm definitely going to use this next year in my writing classes.  I will translate one of my writing prompts into text lingo and display it over the projector for the kids.  I think I will even let them write me back in text lingo at least once ... but it might take this 'old' teacher weeks to figure out what they are writing ... rotfl.  ;)


New Products At My Store

I uploaded two new products to my TpT store today.  Click on the pictures to download a preview of the products.

Any Day Drama Circle
This drama activity with a general theme has a similar format to the "I Have / Who Has" game. This is a fun any day activity. There are 40 cards, that follow in a sequence, with each card having a different instruction. Students assemble in a circle to perform their scenarios. As each student finishes acting out his or her card, the student with the next card in the sequence starts acting out his or her card. The game continues until the last card is acted out. 

Paper Bag Character Study
This assignment is a fun alternative to the traditional book report. Using a paper bag, students draw a picture of the main character, report on his or her likes and dislikes, and interactions with other characters, and analyse how the character has changed throughout the novel. Inside the bag, students include 10 items that are related to the character.
A version of this resource is included in my Characterization Resources for Language Arts and Literary Elements Resource Binder.

Lastly, I read a great article on the Teacher2Teacher Blog today - 10 Tips for First-Year Teachers.  If you are a first year teacher, or just got your own classroom, you really need to go over and check this one out.

Happy Wednesday!!!

Integration - The Name of the Game

19 July 2011
As a teacher who is responsible for teaching ALL subject areas (except French), I have had to become a master of integration (just my humble opinion lol).  The amount of curriculum expectations we have to teach keeps growing.  Every time we have new P.D. something else seems to be added on.  The presenters always begin with, "This isn't new ... I'm sure you're already doing this in your classroom ... BUT ... JUST ONE MORE THING ..."  It's a good thing I love finding ways to integrate the subject areas, and the teacher nerd in me loves how I can get multiple subject assessments from one assignment.

This was a fun assignment we did near the end of the year - and the best part was I got a math, media literacy, art, health, and drama mark from it.  We were studying volume and surface area of rectangular and triangular prisms in math.  I paired the students up and gave them two pieces of bristol board.  The pairs had to draw the nets for both prisms, then assemble them.  I set a challenge to see what group could create the prism that had the largest volume and the largest surface area.  When the groups had finished, as a whole class we checked the volume and surface area of all the prisms.

Then the pairs had to turn one of their finished prisms into a cereal or candy box.  They had to include specific information on each of the panels (including nutritional information for health).  When the pairs had completed their product boxes, they had to create a 90 second commercial for their product using one of the methods of advertising we had studied in class.  The commercials were so much fun!  Many of the groups even created jingles (although it wasn't required).  I videotaped the commercials, and the students couldn't wait to watch them.  We even popped popcorn for the event!

Happy Tuesday!!!


Christmas Craft Ideas

17 July 2011
I'm linking up to the TBA Christmas Crafts linky party.  I LOVE making Christmas crafts with my students (and everyone at my school must know it, because somehow I am now responsible for coming up with the Christmas crafts for our entire school's Christmas craft workshops).  So get those ideas in ... I'm going to need a lot more next year!!!

My first craft is my personal favourite.  I love making quilled snowflakes with my students - I do it every year.  After the students get the hang of rolling the paper, it keeps them engaged and quiet for a long time.  And the best part is ... you probably already have all of the supplies you need.  I use the paper shredder (not the cross cut kind) to make the paper strips.  We roll the paper around large paper clips to get the shapes started.  It usually takes a few class periods to make all the shapes needed, each student stores the little shapes in an envelope with their name on it.  When the shapes are finished and glued together, the snowflakes can be embellished with silver sparkles, but I think they look beautiful just the way they are.  Use a little fishing line or string to make a loop to hang them on the tree.

Here are some pictures of my quilled snowflakes - these are ones I've made before, and hang on my own tree.  If you search "quilling" or "quilled snowflakes" on youtube, there are plenty of videos that will show you how to make a snowflake step by step.  Once you know a few of the little shapes, it's easy to make your own creations.

The other two ideas have pictures from my sister's blog, but are activities I have done.  The first one is a handprint snowman ornament.  I did this one with my own children a few years ago after I found them online somewhere (this time, I actually gave my sister the idea) - and it turns out so cute!  This would be a great craft for a primary classroom.  We made extra ornaments to give as gifts to the grandparents.  I cherish these ornaments - and know I always will.  Click here for instructions on how to make these adorable ornaments.

Last year my sister posted this cute fingerprint craft she had done with her kids.  Click here to see how she made it.  The moment I saw it I knew it would make a fantastic bulletin board border for our seasonal work.  I cut strips of white paper, and stapled them around the bulletin board to make a border.  Then I drew a long, curvy line around the border to act as the wire, and had my students stamp their painted thumb prints all over the line.  Quick, fabulous, easy, and super cheap! 

I hope you're enjoying our Christmas in July.  Link up with a craft of your own!!!

Happy Sunday!


Reading Comprehension Sundaes

11 July 2011
It's sooooo hot today!  I don't have air conditioning and it's 83 degrees inside my house!  Now the no air conditioning thing didn't used to be a problem, I do live in Northern Ontario after all, but today - it's a problem.

I've kept myself cool by surrounding myself with ice cream - ice cream products, that is.  A few days ago Shannon, from 6th Grade Reading Street, posted about this awesome Real Reading Sundae idea she had found.  I liked the idea so much I emailed the original author (Stacy Cervone), and asked her if I could create a lesson from it.  If you haven't already, check out her website - she has fantastic language resources!

When creating a lesson, I couldn't find the perfect sundae for the analogy.  So, I had to create my own.  As I'm not the best artist, this was the hardest part.  I think I did alright.  My kids think it's awesome - and I had to redraw sundaes for them for the rest of the day.

Check out my lessons by clicking on the image.

I also have a fraction sundae lesson for those of you looking for math ideas.  I did this last year, and my students really enjoyed it.  I really, really enjoyed it because I got a math and an art mark.

Enjoy!  And I hope you're staying cool!


Moving at a Snail's Pace ...

09 July 2011
We're one week into our summer holidays here, and anxious to start on our summer crafts.  However, my craft bucket was looking a little empty, so I hopped over to the Dollar Store and spent an embarrassing amount of money (for the Dollar Store, that is).  This should keep up well stocked for the next little bit.

Although I teach the older grades, there must be a little bit of Kindergarten teacher in me.  I LOVE having theme days with my kids.  My sister had posted a really cute craft on her blog, and I knew I wanted to try it with my kids.

So, today's theme is ... Moving at a Snail's Pace.  [Author's note - this is a title only.  With my three children (ages 3, 5, and 7), it is impossible to move a snail's pace (that is, unless I have somewhere to go).]

So, I set the mood for our day by playing a cute little snail song by Bryant Oden.  After we sang it a few times, it was on to the craft.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find my glue gun and the white glue just wasn't working, so it quickly became meltdown time.  Luckily, I averted the major meltdown by reading a book (and sending my husband to the store to buy a new glue gun).  We must have thousands of kids books (literally), but I couldn't find a book about a snail!  So I chose to read a Franklin book - Franklin's friend is snail - good enough!

After our book, we came up with words that rhyme with snail, and then wrote and illustrated little poems about a snail.  This was soooooo cute!  They did such a great job!

This is Katie's poem.  She's my five year-old.  She just finished junior kindergarten this year.

This Allison's poem.  She's three, and still has another full year before she goes to junior kindergarten.  She's working on writing her name - she made those 'A's all by herself!  She said this is a picture of a giant snail under a rainbow, with mommy watching.  :)

And then it was time for lunch.  My sister does these fabulous "Fun Food Fridays", and my kids beg to have "Fun Food Fridays" no matter what day it is.  Sometimes, I oblige, and today was one of those days.  This is our snail-themed "Fun Food Saturday".  They LOVED it, and apparently I'm the BEST MOMMY EVER!!!  (I thought about getting this in writing for those days when I'm the worst mommy ever).

After lunch I broke out my brand new (cordless!!!) glue gun, and we finished the craft we started earlier.  Aren't they the cutest little snails ever?  I think they look great in the garden and I tried to convince my girls to let them stay there and act as "snail scarecrows", but I'm pretty sure they're destined to become Barbie's pets.

What a fun day!  But now I'm ready to relax, and hopefully, maybe, actually take it a snail's pace.

Happy Saturday!


Fun With Order of Operations

06 July 2011
Get them up in moving in math!  This Order of Operations activity was one of my favourite lessons last year.  I know I've been talking about the importance of technology to keep your students engaged, but another way to keep them engaged is to get them moving.  We still use the "BEDMAS" algorithm to study order of operations in class (however, I have seen some other really great ways to teach this concept - I'll think I'll try some of them next year).  To get my students up and moving, and help them remember the order of the steps, I had them create hopscotch boards on the pavement outside.  (Here in Northern Ontario, this lesson is best left to late spring - lol).  I put the students in small groups to help keep them on task and get everybody participating.  Each group had to create a hopscotch board for the order of operations - this way they could really visualize that division and multiplication, and addition and subtraction go together.

Then it was time to try them out ...

Now, if I can get a group of 12 and 13 year-old boys to be excited about creating a hopscotch video, I have to be doing something right ... ;)

When we finished "playing" I let the students use the chalk to create and solve problems - on the walls of the school!  They had a blast with this - we did have to clean the walls when we were done, but it was a hot day, and bringing out the hose was even more fun.

Every single student in my class can recite the steps of order of operations - even the students working on a modified math program.  We had so much fun with this lesson - and it just reminds me how important it is to get my students up and moving (not just for the kinesthetic learners, but for everyone).

What is your best way to get your students up and moving while learning new concepts?

This video is included in my SMARTboard Order of Operations Hopscotch lesson.

How I Spent My Anniversary ...

05 July 2011
Okay - so it's not the "order of operations" lesson I planned to post next, but I just had to share my evening.

I'll give you a hint - it had to do with wood and loud noises ... nope, it's not what you're thinking (shame on you, by the way) ...

This is what happened literally 10 seconds before my husband and I left for our anniversary dinner ...
Our beautiful, at least a century old maple tree split in half and fell.  Now, I have to be honest with you - we didn't even hear it fall (I'm blaming that on the kids), but the neighbours all heard it and were coming over just as we were opening the door.  So, we had to scratch the dinner plans and instead spent the evening waiting for the city workers to come and clear the mess blocking the street.  Not my idea of a romantic anniversary ... (but on the bright side, I see plenty of romantic fires in our future).
I AM glad that no one was hurt, and all cars and houses remain in tact.  However, my lilies in the garden below did not fare so well ... sniff, sniff.

So it leaves me wondering ... is it a bad omen for the marriage if something that has lasted a century "breaks" on your anniversary???  Oh well, it is what it is ...

Happy 9th anniversary, Jay - love ya!!!

Making Movies to Motivate Writers

02 July 2011
I just found another cool site today - Zimmertwins!  So I spent some time playing ... check out my movie by clicking on the picture.  (Please excuse my shameless self-promotion)   ;)

Although you can make a movie for free, I bought a one-month membership for less than $4.00.  The site advertises 50% off the membership costs if buying for a classroom.

I think this would be so much fun in the classroom - talk about motivating students to write!  It's also great for differentiation, because there are ready-made movie starters for those students who have difficulty choosing a topic or getting started.

I think I'll do this with my students during our media unit.  I also think I'll pair it with teaching dialogue, and have students use proper punctuation with quotation marks in the speech bubbles.  Students would have so much fun sharing their videos over a large screen - you could even turn it into a "movie premiere party" complete with popcorn.  When students finish making their movies, they can email the link to you for assessment, and they can even email it to their parents to share what they've been doing in class.  SO.MUCH.FUN!

Canada Day Freebie

01 July 2011

I told you I wasn't going to stop playing with Tagxedo.  I love this maple leaf I made for Canada Day - I even made it my profile pic on facebook!

We're having a good day here - slept in a bit (makes mommy a happy girl), got some pics of the girls in their new Canada shirts (makes mommy a happy girl, again), had a great Canada Day BBQ (makes daddy a happy boy), the girls helped make the special cake (makes them happy girls), and now we're just waiting for the fireworks to begin (makes everyone happy)!

Do you Sudoku?  My oldest daughter loves to do Sudoku puzzles!  To keep her busy while we're waiting for the fireworks to begin, I made her a Canada-themed puzzle.  I uploaded it to google docs if you would like a copy, too.  (At least, I hope I uploaded to google docs - it's my first time using it).  Just click on the picture to bring you to the link.

So, the youngest two are in bed, the oldest is busy with her Sudoku puzzle, and I'm just about to make popcorn to bring to watch the fireworks ... now fingers crossed the rain holds off!  Happy Canada Day!