Pin It button on image hover

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Presidents Day Videos

Below are some great videos to share with your class for Presidents' Day.  Even if you don't take the time to teach all of the Presidents during this month, at least these short videos acknowledge (in most cases) all of them.

This is one of my favorites!  The Presidents morph from Washington all of the way to Obama.  Kind of freaky--but the kids like it!

This rap song isn't bad and is current by listing all of the Presidents in order.

This one is set to Johnny Cash's song, "That Ragged Old Flag."  Powerful song.  This Presidents' pictures only cover through the second President Bush.

This is a simple one that shares all of the Presidents through Obama.


Finally, I like the Animaniacs song.  I just don't know how comfortable I am sharing it with 9 year olds.  It also ends with President Clinton.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Presidents Day and Fraboom!

Have you tried the website called Fraboom?  It calls itself an online children's museum.

The website has many parts to it, but I wanted to share the Presidents exhibit with you.  Click on President Kennedy to go this part of the site.

Here, students can learn about different Presidents, and by finding the interactive elements of the Oval Office, learn different details about his life and Presidency.  There is also a neat little replica of the White House where students can get an idea of what it looks like.

There is another part of the site, called Fraboom TV, and on  that section, students can watch short videos that cover everything from how to draw a cartoon mouth to how a bill becomes a law.  Kids I think will love  it, and I like that it offers me a new way to present some of my material. 

 Fraboom is a free website, but it does offer a $5.99 per month membership where you gain access to more of the site's elements.  I found the free site and its components to be enough to keep me busy for a  while!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Multiplication Linky Party

Adrienne over at Wiggins World is having a multiplication linky party.  I thought I would share a couple of things that I have done to help my students learn their facts.

I like to practice their facts on a mat that I made that is similar to Twister.  I made my mat using a plastic tablecloth from the party store. It is a lot like my spelling kinesthetic game that I use and have blogged about before.  Anyway---I have two kiddos line up facing the mat and then a third student calls out a fact using flashcards or whatever.  The students try to be the first one to find the product.  The first one that finds it puts their left foot on it.  The game continues until one player has placed his left foot, right foot, left hand, right hand.  Kind of fun.  The kids like it for sure.  I don't have a current picture of my mat in use, but below is an image of what it kind of looks like.

My students also like this game.  3 players.  Two players have a stack of cards in front of them (No face cards).  The two players each pick up a card and place it on their forehead (number out) without looking at it themselves.  They can only see the other guy's card.  The third player multiplies the two numbers in his head and says the product aloud.  The first of the two players with the card on their head to say what number their own card must say is the winner of that round.  This game is especially good as students move into division and to reinforce fact families.

On the web, my students like to use to practice their facts.  (It is awesome!)  When they are practicing a certain family, the best place to go, they go to  It offers a variety of games where the kids can really focus on just one family if they wish.

Finally,  my students still love good old-fashioned mad minutes.  We do a lot of things to help reinforce the concept of multiplication so that they understand it, but to get them to really have rapid recall of the facts, timed tests are still the best in my book.  The kids like the challenge of it, too.  I structure it differently every year, and I totally differentiate by giving some students a reduced number of problems, giving some kids division facts, by giving some extension facts (40 x 60...), and whatever else it takes to challenge some and to make others feel successful.

Hope these ideas help you out!  Can't wait to get some new ones!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Persuasive Writing Mentor Text

I am preparing a short unit on persuasive writing and have been looking for some mentor texts.  I found somewhere that the book Earrings by Judith Viorst would be a good one.

What a cute book!  I read it to my class, and they loved it!  It is the story of a little girl who wants to get her ears pierced.  She is very dramatic in her telling of her story, which really keeps the kids engaged.  The book also gives good examples of persuasive writing in that it tells not only HOW badly she wants the earrings, but also WHY she should be allowed to get her ears pierced.  We read the book one day and then created our anchor chart for persuasive writing using this text the next day. 

Do you have any other good books that you use for persuasive writing?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DL Day Scavenger Hunt

As I have mentioned before, the first Digital Learning Day is February 1st.  I have been thinking about what to do with my class, and I have decided that one thing we will definitely do is a Digital Scavenger Hunt.  I have to thank my sister for coming up with the basic idea.  She is a principal at a middle school, and she has decided to create one where each class period, a different task will be announced, and classes will complete the task as they wish. (whole group, partners, individually...)  I liked her idea so much, that I decided to create one for my class.  We are going to take about an hour in the afternoon to do this.  I am hoping  that that will be enough time.

Click on our scavenger hunt if you would like to give it a try!

I am still thinking of a way that students can share with parents.  Right now, I am leaning towards a podcast.  I may also create something online for parents to access.  Any great ideas?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Building Reading Fluency

     We all know how important reading fluency can be to a student's ability to read.  In our classroom, we have found a way to emphasize fluency and enjoy poetry, too!

     About five times during every school year, my class  has a poetry recital.  The children choose a poem on Monday, and then have until Friday to work and prepare it to read to the class on Friday.
We invite our parents or other special people to come listen.

     This is a great opportunity for students to become more comfortable speaking in front of a group (even though we do it A LOT, this is a more formal situation), but it is also an excellent chance for students to learn to be a good audience.

     Here's how it works in my room:  I choose the poems--usually about 10 more than the number of students in my classroom.  (I do a lot of seasonal poetry or poetry that ties into things we are learning)  I distribute them around the room so that students have options in front of them.  If they look through the poems in front of them and are unable to find one they like, then they can get up and look at others that were placed around the room.  My poetry choices are usually pretty diverse from Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky to Robert Frost and Langston Hughes.

After students find the poem that they want, they bring it to me, we discuss whether it looks like a good fit, and I attach the rubric below to it.  I then go through my set of duplicate poems and find the one they chose and put their names on them.  That way, they have a copy, and I have a copy at school for the week, and to use when I score the recital.

     During the week, we often do some things with the poems:  students often practice with parent volunteers, I model good expression and volume, students answer questions about their poem, sometimes they create an illustration to accompany the poem, they practice with partners...  For my kiddos with special needs, I make extra copies of their poem for the speech pathologist and/or the LBS I.   Often times they type the poem up in Boardmaker or put other visual clues on it to help the children.

     On Friday of the recital, I "shuffle" my copies of the poems, and that determines the order.  Students tear off the little half-sheet rubric and give it to me, present their poem, and I use the copy I have to mark miscues or other things to note.  I complete the rubric as the child reads, attach it to the poem copy and Voila!, on to the next student.
Click on the image to download your copy of the rubric!

     I have learned that this assignment is often difficult for my best readers.  They practice so much that they DO memorize the poem, and then they sound like Speed Racer up there reciting the poem.  That is why I highly encourage students not to memorize, and I teach them to place marks in the text so that they remember to pause or to take a breath.  By the end of the year, students are pretty good with this.

     There are many things I have tried over the years with this, and a lot of them depend on the group I have.  Sometimes I have allowed students to choose music to play softly in the background while they read.  I have also allowed students to read their own poetry.  Another time, I recorded kids reading their poems on the Flip video and had them self-assess.  I'm sure you have a lot of great ideas of ways you could tweak this idea.

     The recital that we will do in February is one of my favorites.  Being the Land of Lincoln, we spend a lot of time learning about Honest Abe.  Our February recital is a mixture of poems written about Abe, by Abe, or speeches/quotes attributed to President Lincoln.  This offers kids the opportunity to really think about the purpose of the poem or speech and to focus on setting the correct mood or tone with their reading.  Now, for this one, I generally assign students what they are going  to read rather than letting them choose.  I split the Gettysburg Address into 4 parts, and those four present it together, but receive separate grades.  I even have a top hat kids can wear if they want!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fun Creative/Art Sites for Students

As a child, I loved to draw and create.  Many of my students are the same way.  The links below will allow them to create pictures and images in a fun techy way!

Do you have any others to share?  I love comments!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Digital Learning Day

The first Digital Learning Day will be Wednesday, February 1, 2012.  This day is focused on using technology in a way that strengthen's the students' learning experience.  Teachers and school districts are being asked to participate in whatever way best fits the day for them.  It could be as simple as using a new student based website in class that day.

You can learn more about this day and gather ideas to use in your classroom or building by going to the Digital Learning Day website.  I know that digital learning can seem overwhelming to incorporate into the classroom for some, so I like the philosophy that everyone can find something to do to recognize this inevitable change in education.  One of the quotes that I have heard in the last year that really resonated with me and correlates with this day is that "We must teach students for their future, not our past."  It is easy to get caught up in what we learned, or doing things the way we always have...I'm going to take a chance on February 1st and have my class be involved with digital learning in some new way.  Would you like to join me?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lost Generation Video

I had not seen this video before although it is a couple of years old.  Very powerful!  Enjoy.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Creating a community of readers through email

Our IMC specialist/librarian started doing something this year in her email which is slowly catching on with other teachers in the building.  In our email signatures, we have a line that tells the book we are currently reading.

I think it really sends the message of our love of books and that we didn't just love books when we were a kid in school.  It is also a great way to learn about the interests of others in our building and our district.  I like seeing the titles of the books that others are reading.

Finally, I find that it makes me find the time to read more.  I don't want to email someone for 3 weeks and have the same book listed all of the time.  It makes me accountable to finish the book and move on!  :)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A SMART Freebie!

I know it seems like Valentine's Day is a month away, but this time of year seems to fly by for me, so I am posting a Valentine's Day freebie today.

The SMART document I am linking here, practices basic probability with students using candy hearts.  Kids use the hearts in the jar to determine the probability of drawing out certain sayings.  In order to check answers, students pull across the heart before the problem to the heart following the problem.

In order to use this freebie, you will have to have SMART Notebook on your computer.  I hope you enjoy!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Family Artifact "Show and Tell"

This week, my students did show and tell of a sort.  :)  They shared an artifact from their family that is important to them.

I have done this activity in conjunction with the story The Hundred Penny Box for a number of years. (If you haven't read this heart-touching story by Sharon Bell Mathis, you really should!)  Anyway, Aunt Dew in the story has an old box that contains pennies---1 for every year of her life.  One of our vocabulary words for the book is PRECIOUS, and we really discussed how the box is precious to Aunt Dew but might not be precious to someone else.  The same is true with the family artifact.  It was an item that might or might not have monetary value, but it was precious to the child and his/her family.

This year, we had another great variety from the students.  Antique sleigh bells from a great grandfather that the family rings before opening Christmas presents, a shaving cup from Sweden that a boy's father received from his grandfather, china from Japan that a soldier in Korea asked his army buddies to pick up for him so that he could get back to the States, Hindu god idols that students have displayed and use in their homes and were sent here from their family in India...

It always powerful to learn how completely different our backgrounds but how we are all drawn to those same small reminders of family and loved ones--things that would have no value to anyone else, yet to us...PRICELESS. 

I usually choke up a couple of times during this activity.  I point out to the students that the items are important to us because even though some of us never knew or met the person who the object originally belonged to, they are someone who makes us who we are.  I share my artifact with them as a model.  My grandfather's class book that he made of his 1928 graduating class from Beaver Crossing High School in Beaver Crossing, Nebraska.  I am lucky to have a copy of his graduation ceremony program, and an announcement that he sent to his sister, too.  All small items that would have little value to anyone else besides the fact that they are old, and the photographs of the 1928 graduates look like movie stars even though they were probably all farmers' daughters and sons and had never left Nebraska.  However, even as I write this, thinking about that book makes me think of that wonderful loving man who made me laugh, played games with me, came to my music programs, and confided in me once that he thought of all of my sisters, I was the most like my mom.  :)  He is certainly one of the people who continues to make me who I am, just as my students are made by the pieces of the lives of the people who came before them.

Yet we are all together today.

Sometimes it is important to share our diversity so that we can appreciate how alike we really are.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Participate in World Read Aloud Day

World Read Aloud Day is March 7, 2012.  This day is sponsored by Litworld which is  a nonprofit organization working to eliminate illiteracy in our world.  You can determine how you want to participate in this day.  My class is going to participate, but I am going to try to talk my whole 3rd grade team to participate.  I am hoping to have a guest reader from our community come in, and possibly to have a guest reader through the Internet as well.  I am still brainstorming ideas of what to do that afternoon.  We will be doing Day 2 of our state testing on that morning, so I am thinking that we will dedicate the whole afternoon to read aloud!  Sounds like fun to me!

If you would like to learn more, or to sign up for updates, go to the Litworld website.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Have you ever used a RAFT?

RAFT is a student choice project which allows students to show their knowledge of a subject in a variety of ways.

The above RAFT is one I created for a unit we are doing on Jane Addams.  Students have 6 project options that they can do which shows their knowledge of Jane Addams.

RAFT stands for Role, Audience, Format, and Topic. Students read across the row to determine which project will be best for them.  For example, a student may choose to be a social worker who is writing a letter to his parents explaining to them why he is so glad that he chose to be a social worker.  In the letter, he would list the jobs that a social worker at the beginning of the 20th century would have done.  This would be done in a way that keeps the voice of a child to a parent and follows the format of a letter.

The formats labeled DIGITAL are broad on purpose.  I have tried to expose my students to many different online tools as well as other publishing tools, and the digital term means they can use any of them...Photostory, Prezi, Glogster, Powerpoint, SMART Notebook...  All children will be encouraged to type their project.  Time is given in class for the work to be done because it is an assessment, and I want the child's ideas.

Have you ever used a RAFT?  In what subject did you use it?  The students appreciate the choice options, and I like the differentiated options that can reach learners at all levels show their understanding in a way that best suits them.

You can access a copy of the above RAFT plus the rubric I use to score it by clicking on the image above.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

People Numbers

As part of our study of place value, I do a kinesthetic activity all year which seems to help everyone "get it" a little better. 

I have digits written on construction paper and laminated:  One number per piece of construction paper.  I also have a piece with a comma that says thousand, a comma that says million, and a decimal point that says and. 

I pass out the digits, commas, and decimal point randomly to students.  Then I make up a number and tell the class.  As I say the number, students with corresponding digits go to the front of the room to make the number. They line up and form the number for us by holding the card in front of their chest so we can see it.  I usually let them collaborate some, but I really want them to do some independent thinking.  It helps me to see who is still struggling with the concept.  Once they think they are set, I have another student who didn't have a digit, read us the number. This is good practice for them as well.
After we are done with that number, students hand out their digits to classmates who don't have one, and we start the whole process all over again.

Sometimes, when they have the number made,  I will say "Let's reduce this number by 20,000."  (or something like that)  Then students have to figure out who is affected by this change and who would come take their place.  It is a pretty good activity that we use all year long!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Using QR codes to share products

We do a fun unit on Earth Science in which we combine all of our Earth science book units.  I teach a lesson from each unit, but the main learning comes when students guide their own learning.  What I mean is, I have a large assortment of books that I provide on the different subjects (weather, erosion, earthquakes, volcanoes, Earth's layers...), and the students choose what it is they want to learn more about and post sticky notes about this learning on a wall in our room.

The wall is divided into the different topics of the unit.  Students are given specific days during science for this investigation, but they are also allowed to work on it during reading workshop if they choose.  Our wall slowly fills up with post it notes.

As we are coming to the end of the unit, students then can look at all of the post-it notes (not just their own) and they must share a new, interesting fact with us about two of the different topics.  Their sharing is pretty much their choice, but they have to provide a few sentences about  their fact (the hard part is IN THEIR OWN WORDS), and provide a visual to accompany it.  The visual can be a chart, diagram, a picture, an artwork, a craft, or a digital product. 

With the digital products, students found websites, created Vokis, or made other online products, we created QR codes for them, and posted the QR codes.  Visitors could use their smartphones to then access what the student wanted to share.  We used to create the QR codes.

I know that this would have been an even cooler assignment if the kids were older and actually had their own phones to use, but it was a good learning experience for them, and a great way for them to share their information with me!  I just use my Iphone to read the codes and then can grade their product.  I think that I will continue to offer this option for students on other choice assignments.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

10 Websites for my students in 2012

Happy New Year!  This list is a compilation of websites that my students use regularly and a list of sites that I plan to introduce them to using more often.  Hopefully, I will feel some more accountability by listing them here.  Let me know if you have tried any of these sites or have any others to recommend!  (I like getting comments!)

1. KIDBLOG:  My students currently use Kidblog.  It is their "reading journal" for our class.  The results I have seen have been wonderful!  Some of my students who would not write before now write without my loving persuasion.  The kids are currently given the assignment of one entry per week.  I am able to score that entry from any computer and post the child's grade in Kidblog so that only they and I can see it.  Soon, their assignment will be an entry and a comment on another classmate's blog per week.  Many of them already comment on each other's blogs.  It is so nice to see them ask questions about books and to add books to their reading lists through these blogs.  Students have access to their blogs from home, and many post extra entries as well as comments from there.  This is something that has strengthened our reading community, our writing and our reading.  I would recommend student blogging to anyone!  Love it and what it has done for our classroom.

2.  BRAINEOS:  Students create flashcards or use already-created decks to study facts or information.  Students can practice these terms as flashcards or play games on the website using the same information.  There are a number of these type of sites, and this is the one I have played with the most.  I am beginning with me creating decks that my students can access, and then going to encourage them to create their own decks.

3.  CLASSCONNECT:  We use Classconnect every day in my classroom.  It is a classroom management system where I can post documents, websites, videos...for my students to access in the classroom or at home.  Students can upload documents for submission to me, check our classroom calendar, or make comments on our homepage.  This site requires the teacher to set up a class and then to have students login with a code to set up their accounts.  (I just set up each of my students accounts for them.  It saved me a ton of time.)  This site is doing some upgrading in the next couple of weeks, and we have been told changes are coming, but I am sure that it will still be a great place for my students and I to connect!

4.  WORDLE:  This site is an old-time favorite of mine.  Students input a set of words and a word cloud is generated.  I use it for character analysis, spelling word practice, theme development, and much more.  We also like Tagxedo, but this one seems more user-friendly for us.

5.  GLOGSTER:  My students have had some practice with this site, but not for creating something as a product.  I am hoping that some of my students will use this online poster generator as an option for some of their projects this semester.  It is a fun site, but can be a little finnicky sometimes.  Also, it requires a login/password account.

6.  WALLWISHER:  Wallwisher is so easy to use!  You go in and create a virtual bulletin board for your class, and then it gives you a URL to share.  Once you have shared your URL, students can post sticky notes onto the wall about a subject you have chosen.  I use this to practice skills during reading workshop (Everyone make a prediction about this book, tell me the genre of this text...) and to have students have a place for questions or comments during a content lesson.  My kids like it a lot, and students comment or ask questions who would not typically be contributing to class discussion.  :)

7.  SUMDOG:  My kids love Sumdog.  It is a math practice site where they are able to practice skills playing a variety of games against other users in the world.   As a teacher, I can set the parameters of each child's skill set thus allowing for differentiation.  I can also set class challenges.  The site gives the students feedback on what skills they have mastered.  Teachers can pay for a reporting service, too, but I am able to get enough data from my and my students' accounts that I have not paid for reports.

8.  STORYBIRD:  This is an easy-to-use online publishing site.  Students create books using beautiful artwork provided by the site.  Students choose and align pics as they wish and then add text to make a story.  They can build a library of stories in their account, and these stories are accessible from home.  A class account and individual names had to be setup, but it was worth the small amount of time it took!

9.  VOKI:  Kids love to create Vokis, animations that repeat what you record or type in.  I have had students create Vokis to share information, quotes, or just to liven up a presentation.  Once the Voki is created, it can be embedded into a blog or website or you can link up to its URL.

10.  VISUWORDS:  This is an online graphical dictionary which provides great visuals of a word, its meaning, related words...Very simple to use, and really helps kids to understand the word rather than just memorizing its meaning.