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Sunday, March 29, 2015

There's a Spring In My Step!

Well Spring has arrived, but unfortunately it still feels like winter up here in the Northeast.  We still have snow on the ground, and we are happy if the temperature gets up to 45 during the day.  Thankfully, the weather doesn't have to be the only reason to have a spring in my step!  A few of us have joined together to celebrate spring with you.  We have linked up to bring you spring ideas, spring freebies, and a huge spring giveaway!

My favorite spring celebration is definitely Easter!  I love taking a day or more to celebrate and remember the miracle of Christ's resurrection.  Of course, I enjoy the beautiful decorations and dinner with family, but even more than that I love being reminded of the great gift that God gave us through his Son.  

I like what Paul says in I Corinthians 15:17, 19 - "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." 

I have to admit that spring is always the time when I start to think about next year.  I am in a small school which means that I usually know the students who will be in my grade next year.  I know what they struggle with and what they excel at.  My compulsive need to plan everything kicks in, and I start to focus on next year.

It takes work, but I try to stay focused on the remainder of this year.  One way I do that is to look back at the goals that I wrote out for my students this year.  I start the year by writing out specific areas that I want my students to improve in throughout the year. {For example, this year I had one student that I wanted to be able to write a complete paragraph with topic sentence and details.}

  I reread my goals and reflect on whether I have helped my students meet those goals.  If they haven't, I make a concentrated effort to work on those topics for the rest of the year.  And if they have reached the goals, then we have a reason to celebrate!

Since Easter is my favorite spring celebration, I have decided to share my newest Easter product with you.  This is a paid product in my TPT store, but I am letting you have it for free!

These 2 step story problem task cards will hold your students interest with stories about Easter eggs, candy, and egg hunts.  Each story problem used simple numbers so that the focus is on determining what steps to use, not struggling with the actual math work.

You can pick up this fun task card set by clicking on the link above.  Don't forget to enter the giveaway and follow the links to pick up some other great spring freebies and ideas!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday Scoop: March 29

Another week has passed which means it is time for another edition of the Sunday Scoop with the Teaching Trio.

Have to Do...

 Most of my have to do items are the same things that every teacher spends their weekend doing.  I did several loads of laundry yesterday which means I get to put them away today.  Of course, I also have to pack lunches and iron clothes for school tomorrow.  We have our standardized testing this week so I have a little bit of planning left to do for those days.  

Hope to Do...

The parents of one of my students who has dyslexia gave me a book the other day called The Gift of Dyslexia.  I can't wait to start reading it!  I think it will give me some good ideas of how I can better help him. {If anyone else has any good recommendations on books about dyslexia, I would love to hear them.}
I also have something exciting in the works for this week.  I can't tell you about it yet, but I wish I could!!

Happy to Do... 

I am so excited to be part of the Spring in our Step linky.  Some amazing teacher bloggers and I have teamed up to share some of what we love about Spring with you.  In the process we are sharing some Spring freebies and holding an unbelievable giveaway.  My post with the freebie and giveaway link goes live today at 9:00 a.m.  Be sure to stop back and grab my freebie and enter the giveaway.  You won't be disappointed!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Teacher Tip #3: Daily Organizing

Last Saturday, I shared with you one of my favorite summer finds for my classroom - the Pen Pal.  In today's Teacher Tip, I would like to show you how I organize my weekly papers and materials.

For several years, every Friday I would copy all my papers for the next week and file them into labeled manila file folders.  I had a file folder for each day in a file holder on my desk.  This worked great for papers.  They were right at my fingertips, and I could just pull out the file and be ready for the day.  However, anything else I needed to use {manipulatives, task cards, games, etc.} did not easily fit into the file folders.  I started having stacks of items piled up around my desk and classroom.

So this year, I switched my paper organization to something that would also hold larger items.

I bought two of the Sterilite drawers from Walmart so that I had six drawers total.  Each drawer easily hold regular size papers.  I can also fit any other items that I will need for the day - task card sets, review games, and math manipulatives. I also found some cute labels on TPT. {I'm sorry that I can't remember who they were from.  However, I found another free set similar to mine that is just as cute! }  I taped them inside the see-through drawer fronts, and so far they have held up nicely.  Plus the drawers fit perfectly on my counter!

Now on Fridays I still copy all my papers for the next week, but I slip them into my drawers instead.  I also add any thing else I am using for that day.  Every morning, I just pull everything out of that day's drawer, and it's all ready to go. 

The only thing I haven't been able to fit in there are posters and my Judy clock, but I can live with that!

On an unrelated note, something exciting is happening on April 2nd.  I can't tell you about it yet, but I can't wait until I can!!


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cleaning Up an Oil Spill

Lately, my science class has been learning about natural resources and what they are used for.  We discussed the differences between renewable and nonrenewable resources.  We also talked about the necessity of being careful with our natural resources. 
On Monday, we created and and then tried to clean up our own oil spill.  I wanted to share our little science project with you.

Most of the materials needed for this science project are common household items you may already have on hand.  You will need:

{I always use disposable containers for this project because I want to be able to just throw away the mess when we are finished.}

We start by talking about some of the ways that oil spills are cleaned up in real life.  You can find out more about this topic at How Stuff Works.  We compare the tools used in real life to the tools that we have available to use.

Next, we hypothesize about which tools we think will work better.  The students list the tools in the order they think they will work {best to worst}.  Then we create our oil spill. {We just pour vegetable oil into our water filled pans, but the students think it's exciting anyway!}  I also have them notice how the oil spreads out and stays on top of the water.  I usually mention that the spreading oil is called an oil slick.

Finally each student or group starts using their tools in an attempt to clean up the oil spill.  {I would recommend that students save the Dawn dish soap for last.  The soap changes the makeup of the oil and makes it harder to separate from the water.}  Encourage the students to leave as much water as they can in the pan while still getting out all the oil.

Cleaning up the oil is very slow going.  If I am honest, it is very rare for me to have a student or group that actually cleans up all the oil.  Once the students have spent a while trying different tools, they often start to loose focus.  After letting the students work for a time, we compare our notes on how each tool worked and which tool worked the best.  

I also like to point out to the students how long it took us to clean up our tiny oil spill.  We then talk about how long it would take to clean up the huge oil spill from a tanker ship or broken oil well.  The project gives them a good sense of how hard that task would be!
 This is a fun project for almost any age group that teaches them about real world science problems and solutions.

You can help your students better understand the steps used in an experiment with these Scientific Method posters.
Grab your own set today by clicking on the pictures below.

You can also find more fun science ideas for your classroom on my Crystal Clear Science Pinterest board.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday Scoop: March 22

Happy Sunday!  I hope you have all enjoyed your first official weekend of Spring so far.  Despite our spring snowstorm, I had a productive day yesterday, but I still have plenty to do today.
I am linking up with the Teaching Trio to share my Sunday Scoop with you.

Have to Do...
*We decided this week that one of my students needs an individualized spelling word list.  Which means that I will be typing up a word list and daily exercises every weekend.  It will be extra work, but it will be worth it to see him have more success in this area.
*Now that I have a computer with internet access, I want to plan out some blog posts for the week. 
*I really need to start going to bed earlier on school nights.  Hopefully I won't be quite so tired in the afternoon that way.

Hope to Do...
*I have been working hard to prep my store for the new Educents storefront openings on April 2.  It just takes quite a bit of time to upload all my products from TPT onto a new site.  I am getting it done though.
*I've also been working on a customary measurement product.  One of my students really needs more practice with it.  I am hoping to have it done soon so that I can use it with him.

Happy to Do...
*I am looking forward to my trip to North Carolina this summer.  My in-laws are taking us to the beach.  Plus it's always nice to dream about warm weather when we still have snow on the ground!

I hope you have a great Sunday!  Make sure you stop by the Teaching Trio and see what other teachers are doing this week.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Teacher Tip #2: Pencil Pals

It's Saturday again which means that it is time for the next post in my teacher tips series.  Last Saturday, I shared how you can use your laminator to make pockets for games, centers, and even storage. Today, I am sharing a tip that has helped me so much this year in my classroom.

Over the summer as I was planning and preparing for a new school year, I found an interesting product at my local Walmart.
Tops Pen Pal"! Pen Holder TOPPENPALC75 
{It's actually called a pen pal, but since my students only use pencils, I automatically call them pencil pals. You can also find them on Amazon.}  Of course, the Walmart I was shopping at only had one package of three pen pals.  This obviously was not going to be enough for my classroom.  I kept looking every time I went near a school supply section of any store.  Finally I found a Walmart that had enough for all my desks!!

The pen pals came in packs of 3 with one green, red, and blue in each pack.  They have a peel off sticker underneath {similar to a command strip} which allows the pen pal to stay firmly in place on the desk.  I honestly expected them to start falling off about half way through the year.  However, it is almost the end of March, and I still haven't had to replace or fix even one of them. 

I put a pen pal on every desk right above the name tags.  Each student has a neon colored pencil that stays in the pen pal at all time unless they are writing with it.  Every day after school, my son sharpens all the pencils and puts them back in the pen pals.  

I can't tell you how much I enjoy not having to wait while one or two students struggle to find a pencil in their messy desks.  For that reason alone, these useful tools have been a lifesaver in my classroom this year!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Five for Friday: Happy Spring!

Happy 1st day of Spring!!  I, for one, am thrilled to have winter over with, even if the forecast is calling for more snow tonight. {I am just going to pretend that's not true!}  I am linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching to share 5 random things from my week.

 I finally broke down and bought a new computer.  It arrived yesterday!  It's hard to keep up with blogging and TPT without a computer!

My 3rd grade Reading class finished up our nonfiction text structure unit.  We filled out graphic organizers in our reading notebooks.  Then we finished out the unit by reading Zoobooks articles and using sticky notes to put them in the right sections on our chart.  I was told that it was fun so I think it was a win!

We made frobscottle (from the BFG) this week.  We are reading through this book as a class read-aloud, and when I stumbled across this recipe on Pinterest, I knew we had to make it.  It was delicious, and the kids loved it! 

I think one of the highlights of my week was when this sweetheart came up to me and asked if he could read his book to me during morning recess.  He struggled with reading last year, and it was so encouraging to hear him reading fluently through a whole chapter of a Magic Tree House book!

My 6th graders just finished up a grammar chapter on verb tenses.  I hung up the posters from my new regular verb tense product for my students to look at throughout the unit.  We also used the task cards from the unit to practice identifying verb tenses.  They have been doing great during the whole unit.  The test is today so hopefully they will do just as great for that!

As you can probably see, my week has been busy.  But it's definitely been productive too.  Make sure you stop by Doodlebugs Teaching to find out what everyone else has been up to this week!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Teacher Tip #1: Lamination Pockets

Teaching is both challenging and rewarding in so many ways.  We strive to inspire our students, teach them to love learning, and help them do the best they can.  Those goals are complicated by the everyday classroom difficulties like messy desks, lost pencils, and desks covered in glue.
 I am starting a weekly linky on Saturdays where I will be sharing some of my favorite teaching tips.

I'm sure many of us use our laminator on a regular basis.  Did you know that you can use the laminator to make pockets?  Here's how:

1. Laminate two pieces of paper the same shape and size together.  The front of my pocket is from my Irregular Verb Tense Sort.  The back is just an off-white piece of paper that I cut to fit. {Don't glue the pieces.  Just set them inside the laminating pouch together.}

2.  Cut around the pocket, but make sure you leave about a 1/2 inch of lamination on every side. This edge ensures that your pocket doesn't separate into two pieces.

3. Cut along the top edge of the pocket.  This time, cut as close to the paper as you can get.  Cutting close to the paper allows your two papers to be opened up.

 Lamination pockets work great for word sorts and centers.  You could also make the center directions a pocket and store the pieces or task cards inside the directions.  I have also used lamination pockets with my students names on them to hold their reward tickets until they redeem them. 

Now it's your turn.  Tell us about your favorite tip to make teaching easier.  Add the following graphic to your post with a link back to my blog. Then add your blog link to the linky below.  Remember to show some love and comment on at least three other blogs.  I can't wait to hear your teaching tips! 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Art Class: Space and Perspective

We have been loving our monthly art classes with Paul Halferty from Lilywork Tile.  We have been studying the basics of art such as line, color, and texture.  Today we learned about space in art.

Space can refer to the place where the sculpture or painting will be displayed, but it is most often used to refer to how perspective is shown in a drawing.  Two of the most common ways to show perspective is to layer items in the picture and to have objects in the distance be drawn smaller than closer objects.  Of course, he showed us both of those techniques in some paintings and photographs during his powerpoint presentation.

With Mr. Halferty's help and direction, the students went on to complete two different drawings.  First, they worked on a drawing with a single point perspective.  

Students used a ruler to draw a straight line horizontally across their paper.  This line is the horizon line.  They then drew a single point on that line to be their vanishing point.  

Next, they used their ruler to draw two lines diagonally down from the vanishing point.  Lines were then drawn between the two diagonal lines.  Mr. Halferty explained that drawing the lines closer and closer together as you get closer to the vanishing point will also show perspective.

Finally, students added trees, signs, and bushes on the sides of their railroad tracks.  They focused on making the items in the front larger than the ones that were farther away.

For our second drawing, students used atmospheric perspective. {This is apparently the technical term for why mountains look lighter in color the further away they are. If you didn't know that, don't feel bad.  I didn't either.}

Students drew wavy lines diagonally across their paper to make a mountain range.  Using only one color, they colored each section of mountain getting lighter and lighter as they worked their way backwards.  

We learned many new, big words today, and the students really seemed to grasp the concept of perspective {larger to smaller, darker to lighter}.  I know my son was still talking about it and noticing how things looked smaller in the distance on our way home from school today!  So I'm sure many of the other students will remember this lesson for a while as well!