Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Telling Time Go Fish

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I love to teach MATH!  I think the best part of math is watching when the little light bulb goes on above the kids heads.  Those "Ah Ha!" moments are the ones that I live for.  I also love it when my kids are having so much fun in math class that they don't even realize that they learned something that day.  One way I try to make that happen is to play math games. One of my favorites is Telling Time Go Fish. Go Fish may be an oldie but I have to say that it's one that a lot of kids don't know about these days which makes it feel fresh to them.  What I like about the rules of Go Fish is that it makes the kids use math reasoning and math vocabulary in order to get what they are looking for.   In Telling Time Go Fish the kids need to find a time shown in three different ways - analog, digital and words.
I created these cards for my kids to use and photocopied them onto different colors of card stock. That way I can easily keep track of which cards go with which deck.


We used these after we had spent a lot of time working on the quarter hour.  I found that using all three cards was a nice challenge for my mid to higher level kids.  For my approaching kiddos I took out one type of card, like all of the word cards or all of the digital time cards and had them make matches with only two cards.  There were plenty of cards in the deck to play both ways and it was a quick and easy way to differentiate the lesson.

I also created the same style of cards using time to the minute instead of the quarter hour.  We played Go Fish with those cards later in the unit.  I don't have a picture of those, but here is a screen shot of one of the pages I created.

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The kids loved this game and kept begging to play it throughout the unit.  After we were done with them, I fixed both sets up for you and posted them on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  You can click on the links below to check them out.

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Telling Time to the Minute
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Telling Time to the Quarter Hour

Monday, July 28, 2014

Build a Rainforest in your Classroom - Plants

In a previous post I talked about how I set up the beginnings of the rainforest in my classroom.  Once that was done we used our class rainforest as the jumping off point for multiple learning activities.  We used our rainforest unit to focus on studying plants and animals.  In today's post I'm going to focus on how we incorporated plants into our classroom rainforest.  We had the kids add 3 types of plants to our rainforest, strangler figs, vines and bromeliads.

Strangler Figs - Strangler figs are one of the more interesting species of the Amazon Rainforest.  It starts out as an epiphyte (or plant whose roots wrap around a tree branch) and extends its roots down around the tree until it eventually completely surrounds the tree, establishes its own roots and kills the host tree.  Click the picture below to be taken to a great site for more information on strangler figs. 210px-Ficus_watkinsiana_on_Syzygium_hemilampra-Iluka   
In our rainforest we learned about this interesting plant and then took the same type of paper twists that I had used for wrapping vines around the tree trunks. Only this time I used 4 or 5 white strands.  I  tied the paper twists to the top of the tree and let them hang down.  Then I chose one student per strand and we wrapped them around the tree, kind of like wrapping a May Pole.  I had the kids move over and under and backwards around the tree until we ran out of paper and I tied them off at the bottom.  I'm sorry to say I don't have a picture of our classroom strangler fig.
Vines - To make vines I collected multiple shades of green and brown yarn.  Then I taught the kids how to braid.  (A useful skill that most did not know.)  We tied our braids to the legs of our desks and then the kids set about braiding a vine.  Each vine was made of two or three colors of yarn.  Kids that got really good at braiding might make a second one with more strands, to make the vine thicker.  When they were done, we draped the vines around the room.

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Bromeliads - We always learned a lot about air plants (epiphytes) in our rainforest unit.  I always liked learning about the ecosystems that can exist inside some of the larger bromeliads.  As part of our study we made our own bromeliads out of toilet paper tubes and construction paper. Here are the steps we took to make them.

Materials - Scissors, tape, toilet paper tube, 3 pieces of colorful paper and 2 pieces of green paper each measuring 6" x 6" , one tracer - see shapes below


Step One - Trace and cut out the 5 pieces of paper so they look like the papers below.  I created tracers out of card stock for the kids that they would use to get this shape.
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Step Two - Tape the first yellow page toward the top of the toilet paper roll. Make sure to pull it taught when you put the second piece of tape down.

Step Three - Tape the next yellow paper on a smidge lower.  I like to line it up so that the points are off set.

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Step Four - Continue taping each layer on making sure to pull the paper taught and making each layer a bit lower and off set from the layer above.

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Step Five - I found that a few kids would have trouble getting the papers taped on tight enough and the papers would feel loose and like they were going to fall off.  To help with this I often place a couple of  pieces of tape along the bottom to secure the papers.

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Step Six - The final step is to shape the leaves and petals.  I had the kids gently pull each petal down so that they stuck out instead of straight up and down.

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And there you have your bromeliad.  We would then hang these from the paper towel tube vines around the classroom, since we didn't have any branches to hang them from.  They made a great addition to our classroom rainforest.

Check out my next rainforest blog post to find out about the animals we added to our rainforest.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Make and Take Monday - Place Value Manipulatives


Place value is one of those subjects that I always think will be easy, but turns out to be really hard for some kids to master.  Using hands-on manipulatives is definitely the way to go, but the problem is I never have enough.  Actually ... I take that back, I always have plenty of tens and ones, but only a few hundreds and if I'm lucky I might have 1 of those big plastic thousands blocks.

A few years ago  I found a great, and cheap, solution.  I made my own durable manipulatives.  I took plastic canvas, the kind used for needlepoint as seen here at Joann's, and cut it into ones, tens and hundreds pieces. You want to get the canvas that has the biggest holes you can find, to make the manipulatives easier to manage.

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If you count the holes in each piece it matches the number it represents, the ones have one hole, the tens have 10 holes and so on.  What I love about these pieces is that  not only do I have enough for every kid in the class to make the number 999, they are small enough to fit on my place value boards and they don't take a lot of storage space. I keep my tens and hundreds in ziploc storage tubs and the ones I keep in ketchup cups.

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When teaching thousands I take 10 of the hundreds pieces and tie them together with string.  Though now that I teach Expressions Math and they talk about a thousand looking like a long rectangle, I might go back and make some long thousands rectangles out of plastic canvas. Another project to add to my summer to do list!  ;-)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Building a Rainforest in your Classroom - Teacher Prep

Every year for 12 years my second graders built a rainforest in our classroom when we studied our rainforest unit.  It was the biggest project we undertook and to this day it is the one that they talk about when they come back to visit me.  "Remember when we built a rainforest in our classroom?" they ask. As if I could forget.  It is one of their biggest elementary memories, and one of my favorite ways to teach.

So I thought I'd take a moment to share how we built our rainforest.  I'm sorry to say that it never turned out really photogenic.  It was one of those creations that was amazing to stand in the middle of, but never looked that great when I tried to photograph it.  I've added a few photos here, but please bear with me on the quality.

To build a rainforest I always put up just the bare bones myself and then had the kids do the rest.  To start, I talked a local carpet store into donating the cardboard tubes that carpets get rolled on.  They turned out to be taller than my ceiling, so I sawed off the ends, and there I had my tree trunks, wedged between the floor and the ceiling.
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Over the years my rainforest improved, and I'm sorry to say the picture above is from the early years.  You can see in this picture that the tree is just plain cardboard color and the tree tops are a little skimpy.  However in the picture below you can see that one year I painted the tubes to look more wood colored and I changed the tree tops.

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I used butcher paper to trace 5 palm leaves per tree.  Then I taped a long line of florist wire to the underside, to help them poof out a bit.  I taped all 5 leaves to a square of paper and when I put the trees up I wedged the leaves on top.  For the green vine, I bought paper twists at Joann Fabrics.  You pull them mostly, but not completely, open and they give you a crinkly viney look.    I always had 5 trees set up in my room.  Four of the five trees were set up just like the one above, but the middle one did not have a vine on it.  Check out my next rainforest post to find out why.

Another part of the forest that I set up was vines hanging from tree to tree.  I used to hang paper towel tubes on a string for my vines, you can see them in the first picture, but some later team mates started taking long swaths of brown butcher paper and crinkling it into ropes and they looked much more like real vines.

The last step of set up was the waterfall.  To make this I took a long piece of blue butcher paper and stapled it to the wall.  I had it come out into a little pond at the bottom.  Then I took blue saran wrap and covered the whole surface to give it a shiny watery look.

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I think the best part of about setting up the rainforest is that I used to do it in secret over winter break.  The kids would walk back into the room in the first week of January and be totally enthralled. They just couldn't get over how much the room had changed.  I love to surprise the kids and watch their faces as they see the first steps of the new learning adventure they are about to embark on.

Check out my next post to see how the kids added to these basics to create their own rainforest details.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Getting Organized with a Teacher Binder


Keeping data organized is my constant battle.  It seems the longer I teach the more quantities of data I have to keep track of.  I'm super excited about the new teacher binder that I just finished developing.  First, It has really cute cover options which are definitely a must!  ;-)
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Rainbow-Hexagon-Editable-Teacher-Binder-and-Organizer-1326490         http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Swirly-Editable-Teacher-Binder-and-Organizer-1336754http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Polka-Dot-Editable-Teacher-Binder-and-Organizer-1333285


Then, inside one or more binders, I can organize EVERYTHING!  What I'm most excited about is that I'll have all the lists pre-ready and I just need to fill in the data when I get it.   I have a cute cute sheet for a class list plus a bunch of other student data forms like one for ID numbers, another for usernames and passwords, transportation lists and so much more.
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I've also got forms ready to go for my own professional development.  I have a variety of options for meeting notes, a form for keeping track of professional development credits, and a team meeting form.

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Then there are a whole other set of forms all ready to create a separate substitute folder   .  My sub folder will be rockin' with emergency procedures,  sub notes, classroom procedures, daily schedule and more.

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I don't know about you, but I feel like I'm always scrambling to find the standards when I need them.  Plus, I needed a way to keep track of which standards I've covered during the course of the year.  So I copied them off of the CCSS website and reformatted them into a checklist.  I'm planning on keeping them in my main binder with all of my lesson plans so they are always right there when I need them.

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I'm also one who is constantly rearranging my desks in my classroom.  Sometimes we're in pairs, sometimes in groups and sometimes in rows.  So I created 10 different blank seating charts to help.

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Last but not least I made this CUTE CUTE CUTE calendar to keep in my binder.

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If you're interested in using my pages to get your own binder organized click on one of the pictures below.

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 2.59.13 AM     Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.35.58 PM    Slide1   http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/BlackWhite-Editable-Teacher-Binder-and-Organizer-1351124