Saturday, December 31, 2011

Liebster Award AKA: Showin' Some Love

I'm changing the rules a little.  Instead of my blog being nominated and then my reciprocating, I'm just taking this opportunity to show some love to my favorite blogs.  Although it was tough to pick just 5 because there are so many awesome blogs out there!
My top 5:
This blog helps me keep my philosophy: Teaching should be creative, cost-friendly and fun!

Even though Lindsay is in Texas  (a looong way from Virginia) and she teaches fifth grade (as opposed to me teaching fourth), I feel like she's a colleague of mine.  I also love her sense of humor.

Once again, Nancy is in Jersey and teaching fifth grade, but I feel like she's teaching in my school.  I love her creative ideas and Dollar Store finds. 

There's a reason she's a blogger for Scholastic: She's one of the best!  She's creative, she uses best teaching practices backed up by research and she shares many of her activities and worksheets for free.

These guys make the most amazing educational resources, most of them free or cheaply priced.  They teach 5th grade and like to use elementary school organizational and Daily 5 techniques. 


Getting on Board the Daily 5 Bus

So many teachers have the goal of integrating Daily 5 into their classrooms this year.  While I don't follow it to the letter, I feel like I could be making better use of it in my centers.  I use centers HEAVILY during Language Arts time, so I'm excited to do this.

I came up with an activity to help students "collect" interesting words while independently reading. The top words are then added to a class "word wall." It combines the Daily 5 goals of "Expand Vocabulary/Word Work," "Accuracy" and "Read to Self."
I'm trying to make money for a classroom project, so this one is only $1.00 if you'd like to pick it up.
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Word-Work-Daily-5-Activity-for-Centers.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Huge TPT Give Away

12 TPT vendors/bloggers are coming together to give away 100 items! 

Check out how to enter at http://mandys-tips-4-teachers.blogspot.com/

Even if you don't want to enter, you should follow Mandy's blog.  I do, and I love it!

Show, Don't Tell

This is one of the hardest concepts for my students to "get."  We've talked about using adjectives and adverbs instead of making statements.  We've made anchor charts of adjectives.  Still, they need plenty of practice.  So, I created an activity that I plan to put in my literacy center.

You can pick up a copy for FREE at my TPT store:
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Show-Dont-Tell

Monday, December 26, 2011

Math Prefixes PowerPoints

I made two PowerPoints that help students understand and apply math words that start with common prefixes.  One of them is about measurement terms and the other is about geometric terms.  You can pick them both up at my TPT store for FREE.





I hope you can use these!  I attached them to two different WebQuests that I'm working on.  I'll share those when they're done.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Freecycle

Do you know about http://www.freecycle.org/?  This little gem has brought me so much joy in the past week that I can't even put it into words. 

The best thing?  It's FREE!

There's a bonus:  It keeps things out of the dump! 
Second bonus:  It gets the junk out of my house! 

You can offer your unwanted items or ask for things you want from the network of people in your area.  Once you offer an item and someone says they want it, they come and pick it up.  You go pick it up if you're the one requesting the item.

This can also be used for your classroom. I've requested a shelf for my classroom. We'll see if I get an offer.


In less than 48 hours, I've gotten rid of a mini bar, a spice rack, a log holder for the fireplace, old workout gear and a floor scrubber.  I am feeling very feng shui right now. Maybe I need a bonzai Chritmas tree?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

James and the Giant Peach by Raold Dahl

One of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors.
I read this with my class every year towards the end.  When we write our letters to the upcoming fourth graders to tell them our "favorites" of the year, this book is often included in many students' letters.

So, when I came across the comprehension guide written by the Wise Guys on TPT, I had to download it. 

Get your own for FREE at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/James-and-the-Giant-Peach-Reading-Comprehension-Guide-KEY-33-pgs.  I will use it for literature circles after we've read it as a class.

Not to be forgotten, the movie.  This is one of the few movies we watch to go along with books we've read.  It's more of a "we made it through the year and we deserve a break" kind of things.  I find that the movie sticks fairly closely to the book, so I can justify it.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane By Kate DiCamillo

I've been wanting to read this book with my class for a long time.  Unfortunately, my school library only has 2 copies (definitely not enough for my class of 21).
So, I'll be working on that with my Scholastic points.  You know, the points for free books you get when you make an order thorough Scholastic books. 

In the meantime, I found this really cool and absolutely FREE comprehension guide by the Wise Guys on TPT.    BONUS: it includes an answer key at the end!

Download it for yourself at http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Miraculous-Journey-of-Edward-Tulane-Comprehension-Guide-KEY

I plan to use it in literature circles.  I'll probably read the book aloud to students first and then have them break into small groups to answer the questions and complete the activities.

P.S. The Wise Guys have a TON of other comprehension guides. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Math WebQuest

Addicted, addicted, addicted....

http://www.zunal.com/webquest.php?w=129710

Reading Center WebQuest

So, I'm kind of addicted to this WebQuest thing.  Here's my Reading Center WebQuest:
www.zunal.com/webquest.php?w=129702

FREE WebQuest Site and My First WebQuest

So, I'm still on a mission to consolidate my classroom centers and make them more "user friendly."  In an effort to cut down on papers and worksheets, I thought, "Why not try a Webquest?" 

That's when I came across this little gem: http://www.zunal.com/index.php.  You'll have to create an account, but it's free and fairly user friendly.  It took me awhile to figure out the finer details, but it wasn't too tough. 

**WARNING** You can create one WebQuest for free.  Anything more than that, and you'll have to pay, but it's only $20 for 3 years.  I thought it was worth it.

This is my first attempt at a "Study Skills Center WebQuest":  http://www.zunal.com/webquest.php?w=129695.

I plan to put one paper at the actual center in my classroom to tell kids where to go on the Internet.  I save the link to the WebQuest on our school's shared network folder so all the kids have to do is open that folder and click on the link.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Weekly Word Study Packet

I use Words Their Way in my 4th grade classroom. At our first meeting with each group, we took a pretest of ALL the words the students would learn througout the year from their individualized word sorts.  I didn't call out every word, just the ones I felt they would see the most often.  We then went through and corrected all the words with colored pencil so they would stand out.  Yes, this took a LOOOONG time.  Students then wrote all of their misspelled/corrected words on index cards.  We call these our "spelling flashcards."   The students use these cards to play spelling center games.

I have 4 different skill groups this year.  I see one group per day Mon-Thu to introduce the sorts. I make a generic "spelling packet" with activities for each day of the week. Once I introduce the sort words, the group completes one activity per day of the packet. By the time I get back around to them, they've had a full week to complete the packet. This way the words are individulized but all students get the same practice activities. It makes it more of a "word study" than simply spelling.

On Fridays, I pull five of their spelling flashcards at random.  If they can correctly spell the words I call out, I give them a small prize (usually a sticker or pencil).  Believe it or not, they really try hard for this!

Here is an example of last week's spelling packet that you can download for free at my TPT store:
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Weekly-Spelling-Packet-Activities

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Author Study Literacy Center Idea

I'm working on consolidating and upgrading my spelling, writing and reading centers into one more awesome "literacy center."  One of the first projects is an author study.  You can download it for FREE at my TPT store:
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Author-Study-of-Multiple-Authors


It includes some of my favorite authors as suggestions to the students.  I tried to pick authors that wrote more than just one genre of book.  For example, I purposefully didn't include Shel Silverstein even though he's one of my favorite authors because he mostly wrote poetry and nothing else.  I also kept out authors that mostly wrote a series as well because those books are too similar.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Editing and Revising

Some of the hardest parts of the writing process for my students are editing and revising.  They often confuse what each of those steps entail.  So, I created a color-coded checklist for each.  You can download each of them for FREE at my TPT store:
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Elementary-Color-Coded-Writing-Editing-Checklist

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Elementary-Color-Coded-Revising-Checklist

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Winter Writing Prompts

Well, our fourth grade writing predictor test is coming up, and this is a tough one for most fourth graders.  It tells who is ready for the big state standardized test next year, and who isn't quite there yet.

I've been trying to make my students more independent during their writing time.  Several students have been quite clingy, wanting to "conference" with me after every line or two they write.  So I made up a new rule:  You have to follow the "order of writing"  according to the poster.  Check it out at TPT: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Writing-Order-Mini-Poster.  I uploaded this at Vistaprint and had it made into a slightly larger poster.  By the way, if you haven't been to vistaprint, you should!  http://www.vistaprint.com/

Students also only get to conference with the teacher ONCE.  I know this sounds tough, but they need to be confident in their own writing and show their own thoughts.

Here are two of the writing units I'll be doing over the next month or so:
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Winter-Creative-Writing-Prompts-Part-2
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Winter-Creative-Writing
 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

Alternatives to the Boring Old Book Report

In order to expose students to a variety of book genres,  my grade level has the students read one Accelerated Reader book and one book of a chosen genre.  We have the students take a computerized test on the AR book.  Students do either projects or summaries on the genre book.  Here's the schedule of genres and projects:


Month
Genre
Project
September
Realistic Fiction
Summary
October
Biography or Autobiography
Wanted Poster
November
Mystery
Summary
December
Realistic Fiction
Free Choice Project
January
Fantasy
Summary
February
Poetry
Poetry Book Jacket
March
Historical Fiction
Summary
April
Biography or Autobiography
Timeline
May
Free Choice
No project

Here are the links to my Teachers Pay Teachers store so you can go pick some of these projects up for FREE:
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Biography-Wanted-Poster-Book-Report
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Paper-Bag-Biography-Book-Report
I just read a post about using PowerPoint to do book reports, which I plan to use next year.  Go check it out for yourself:  http://atimetoshareandcreate.blogspot.com/2011/12/book-reportthe-powerpoint-way.html

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Using Picture Books to Teach Intermediate Subjects

I just came across a great free downloadable list of picture books that divides them by subject.  Go see "Teaching My Friends" blog for more information: http://teachingmyfriends.blogspot.com/2011/12/picture-book-jackpot.html.

Brain Breaks--Music List

I attended a workshop in which the presenter taught us to us music clips for transition times.  It's amazing how quickly the kids stop what they're doing, clean up and get out of their seats for a minute or two of dancing!  You might think this isn't worth the loss of instructional time, but let me assure you that IT IS!!!  We do this about every 20 minutes, and I get so much more genuine attention from them afterwards that I do this religiously. 

I downloaded all these songs from Zune (another company that competes with iTunes).  http://social.zune.net/music/.  I adapted the music to include some educational songs.  Sneaky, aren't I? 

Here is a a list of the favorites: 
  • "The Place Value Rap" by Rockn' the Standards
  • "The Turbo Hustle" by DJ Maestro Presents...
  • "Cupid Shuffle" by Cupid
  • "Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas
  • "The Freeze" by Greg and Steve
  • "Peanut Butter and Jelly Time" by Silly Kidz
  • "Aint No Party Like a Number 9 Party" by Math Man
  • "Let's Do Them Eights" by Math Man
  • "Seven Tables (Ludacris and Pharell style)" by Multiplicaiton Hip Hop with Mr.G. & The Kiddie Crunk Crew
  • "Nonagon" by They Might Be Giants
  • "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" by Johnny Only
  • Macarena by Los Ninos de Sara
You can also get a bunch of the newer pop songs as the "karaoke version" with no words (only the melody).  I've done this for Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, etc.  Just search for the band's name and look for "karaoke" on the album cover.  A word of caution: Listen to the song ALL THE WAY THROUGH.  Some songs have vocals randomly throughout the song, and they aren't what you want to be sharing in a classroom.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Secret Soldier by Ann McGovern

We are getting ready to do our unit on the American Revolution.  As part of our studies, we will learn the various roles Virginians played.  I was inspired by a post on http://4theloveofteaching.blogspot.com/ about how she uses The Secret Soldier for read aloud and literature circles.  I've thought about using this book, but haven't gotten around to it. 

So I popped on down to Teachers pay Teachers to have a look at some of the things teachers are doing with this book.  It just so happens that the first thing I found was a freebie, and it fit my literature circle needs perfectly!  Go check it out for yourself:  http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Secret-Soldier-by-Ann-McGovern.  You might have to create an account if you haven't already, but it's free and totally worth it.

While I'm on the subject, http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/ is a gold mine!  Many of the lessons and activities on this site are free or incredibly cheap. 

IPEVO Document Camera

This is not free, and some might say that $65 isn't exactly cheap when it comes out of your own pocket, but this piece of equipment has more than paid for itself in the short amount of time I've owned it. 
http://www.ipevo.com/prods/Point-2-View-USB-Camera/IPEVO

Here are some ways I've used it to save time, and ultimately, money:
  1. Use it to project a book you'd like to read as a class, but don't have enough copies of the book for each student.  I use the Interactive White Board to highlight and discuss the book as well.  Sometimes I only have one copy of a chapter book, but this allows the kids to have a "printed copy" in front of them.
  2. If you have a copy limit at your school like we do, then you'll love this one.  For morning work, I often have the students complete part of a math worksheet.  Instead of copying a worksheet for each student in the class, I print one copy and put it under the document camera.  The students copy the math problems and complete them on notebook paper.
  3. You click the button on top of the camera to snap a picture of whatever is below it.  This can be great for science experiments.  I recently constructed a parallel and series circuit under the document camera (live action while the kids watched) and then snapped a pic of it.  I then saved the file and was able to use that same file for several days while we explored and discussed circuits.
See Ladybug's blog for the way she uses it:
http://ladybugsteacherfiles.blogspot.com/2011/10/cheap-document-camera-ipevo.html

Also, this is a great website that gives tons of ideas on how to use document cameras.  It's divided by grade level so you can choose the activities that best fit your classroom:
http://www.edtechnetwork.com/document_cameras.html

Friday, December 2, 2011

Children's Literature Review

I started doing literature reviews of children's books this summer for http://www.childrenslit.com/.  This is a great company that lets you keep the books after you're done reviewing them FOR FREE.  I have gotten some really cool books, some even before they were available to buy in stores.  You get bundles of five books at a time, and the expected time frame for completion of the reviews is six weeks.

Yes, it requires some work because you have to follow certain guidelines when writing the reviews.  Writing 150-300 word reviews can seem like torture when you're reading a book that you wouldn't personally choose even if you were snowed in for weeks with nothing else to do.  You also have very little control over what genre or format (picture book, chapter book, etc.). 

Here's a list of some of my favorites that I've had the pleasure to review:
Fourth Grade Fairy: Wishes for Beginners by Eileen Cook
Escape from Planet Yastol by Pamela F. Service
Flat Broke by Gary Paulsen

Escape From Zobadak by Brad Gallagher

Full Speed Ahead!

So this is my first post.  First, let me thank you for reading my blog!  My goal is to find great cheap (preferably free) educational resources and share them. 

The first thing I'll share is my love of  http://www.pinterest.com/.  If you don't know about this website, you need to go check it out...now.  It screen captures pictures from websites and blogs so you can store the idea on an online "pinboard" (sort of like an online scrapbook).  I use it all the time to keep all those great teaching ideas in order until I'm ready to use them.