Saturday, January 24, 2015

Integrating Student Writing with Art!!

Hello Everyone!  I am Susan, a fifth grade teacher from LopezLandLearners! I am sooo excited to be able to collaborate with such an amazing group of talented educators! 

I don't know about you all, but ART is one of the areas that just doesn't seem to fit in time wise! I love art, I am a terrible artist, but I love giving my students the opportunities to experiment, enjoy, and find joy in the many varied sources and styles of ART. SO I had to solve that problem! 

I start the year by creating construction paper portfolios where my students store their masterpieces from the year.  I remember when I first gave back their beautiful work that had hung in our classroom or in the cafeteria and some students would stuff it in a desk or crumple it up into their backpacks!! As a mother, I cherish those works from my own kids so I invented these portfolios for them to keep and in June they could reflect back on all that we had studied, they had learned, and to see how much they had grown as they headed into jr. high.  Art for our year began there!

During my language arts time, students are in groups and we rotate through centers, we now call them Reading Team.  One center is always about writing: either a particular genre we have been working on, free write, Writer's Workshop, guided writing, etc.  You get my drift!  One of my centers is always, always ART! Whether we are just sketching, guided drawing, using paint, colored pencils, oil pastels, computers, whatever we have in our hands we are ARTISTS during those 24 minutes.  Let me warn you, kids will LOVE YOU forever and ever if you can somehow manage to sneak in some art, even if it is once a week!! They don't care! They aren't condescending, critical, or sometimes even careful! They just love the opportunity to allow their brains to flow in a different direction than academics often allows for.


Informational Writing

 Chalk Snowmen

   One of my favorites! Have you used Tagxedo? Students love it! I will have to write about that next time! Here a student described characters, setting, and the problem from How to Steal a Dog along with what Georgina, the main character wanted! You have to read that book!

Oil Pastels and Author's Purpose

Writing also holds them accountable, allows me to see if they understood Author's Purpose, how to summarize, character traits, etc. Free writes and Writer's Workshop gives them the opportunity to grow as writers without being told what to write. It's just them and their pencil or iPad and off they go.  We also blog on Kidblogger which they beg to do!
Watercolors, paper dolls, and character I am poems!

City of Oxnard Water Conservation Calendar Contest Winner !!! Woo hoo Ashley!

Narrative Writing about Being a Shoe, Students drew and colored their own shoe, as well.

Perspective Art.. so much FUN!

Sorry to overload your artistic senses.. but seriously, you just HAVE to have ART and WRITING in your classroom.  It will completely change your teaching experience and your students' lives will be so much more enhanced!  So Monday, go get out the paper, and the pencils and let the artists loose!!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Quality Students and FREEBIES!

Hello! My name is Pam and I am half of SOL Train Learning. I am so blessed to have my daughter Brittany as my partner! I have been teaching for a little over 30 years and I have been on TPT for almost 2 years. My daughter and I recorded a Social Studies CD with songs for K-3, and my son-in-law actually introduced me to TPT. He said that we should sell our songs on TPT, so we did. Soon, we had people asking us to make curriculum to go with the songs, so we did that too!
I have been fortunate to meet some awesome educators on this journey and I am also honored and excited to be joining some of them on this blog.

One of our first songs we wrote was "Quality Student" It is a song about behavior and how to be a quality student. The students learn to spell "quality" as they sing about what each letter stands for. Ya'll can grab the song while we have it for free. After we sing the song, we have a class meeting about what the words mean and how the students should behave. They love singing and dancing to this upbeat song:)

The picture of the penguin is Quality Quentin. He is my classroom mascot. My kiddos take turns taking him home. They just love him! These are a few things they have given him. They also take his journal home and write about their time with him. The great thing is Quality Quentin only goes home with "quality" students, so my students work hard to be able to take him home.

I also talk to students about how they can earn  Quentin Dollars when they are Quality Students.  They also can lose them if they are not being quality students.  They get to go to the store when they earn 10 and they can save up 20 to get larger items.  The cool thing about this is they are learning about saving money to purchase something bigger.  I also had students to use their dollars to buy gifts for family members.  One little girl even asked about getting something for her brother's birthday but didn't have enough dollars, so I loaned them to her and was able to give her a mini lesson on loaning money from a bank.  It was great! And she was so proud and happy to be giving her brother a present that she felt like she earned.  I use these dollars now as my behavior system because it is so much easier and it takes away the pressure from the kiddos when they were changing their signs.  It is a free download in our store.  I just run them off in grayscale.

We also have this free Quality Student poem about behavior. It also has a cute Quality Quentin puppet that your kiddos can color and cut out.

We saw how much our kiddos and other students were learning through these songs, so we decided we wanted to record a science CD, so we need ya'll to watch our kick starter video and see the prizes that are available, and please donate if you can and share the Kickstarter with anyone who loves to teach with music! Just click on the picture below to check it out:)

Thank you so much!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Magnifying Glass Silliness! {+ Free printable activity sheet}

You can’t get a more enthusiastic response to a science lesson than producing some magnifying glasses!  A tub full of magnifying glasses is an essential part of any well stocked nature table, and is a great way to get your students involved in observing, comparing, describing and asking questions.  

A 10 minute magnifying glass lesson can morph into just about any curriculum area..... science (obviously!) language skills, art, research, writing and more.  Even your most reluctant learner should get their interest sparked by viewing something new and unusual.  You could also take a nature walk to collect some special treasures to study before embarking on your magnifying mission.


1) Your hand (finger prints, pores, fingernails)
2) A friends eyes (or your eyes if you also add a mirror)
3) A piece of hair, pet fur or feathers
4) Fabric, Velcro, zippers and stitching
5) Insects (dried shells, spider webs and slow moving creepy crawlies!)
6) Plants, leaves, wood, bark & flowers
7) Rocks, pebbles or crystals (salt and sugar are also interesting)
8) Soil, dirt and seeds
9) Your lunch!  Sandwiches, crackers, fruit, cheese etc.
10) Beach finds - seashells, sand and seaweed

  • Hand-lenses are much more powerful than the ‘lollypop’ shaped magnifying glasses, but are trickier to use (you have to hold the lens quite close to your eye and move very close to the object you’re viewing, which is a little scary if you’re trying to view a big hairy spider!)  I’d suggest collecting a mixture of magnifying glasses if possible.
  • At the first introduction of magnifying glasses to your class, I'd suggest letting the kids be ‘off-task’ and free to explore and have fun (and by that I mean laugh hysterically at each other’s giant eyeballs, check to see who has the most boogers up their nose etc!)
  • Encourage them to experiment with how far away to hold their magnifying glasses from their faces and from the object they’re studying (most children hold them far too close to their face).  SLOOWWLLYY moving the magnifying glass also works much better than jerking it around
  • If you’re worried about your class using glass magnifiers, you can purchase plastic ones at most dollar stores (but plastic lenses scratch far more easily and have varying quality)
  • Make some connections between wearing glasses and using a magnifying glasses.  Magnifying glasses have a curved ‘convex’ lens that makes things appear bigger – what do glasses have?
  • Think outside the box when it comes to magnification – do you have access to digital cameras with a strong zoom lens? (This has the added bonus of being able to save what you observe) Are your students old enough to gently handle a microscope? (These are also an amazing thing to include on your nature table if possible)  Even better – does your school have access to a digital microscope?  These are awe inspiring when hooked up to your overhead projector…
  • Don’t forget to take a photo of your children with their magnifying glasses so they can share their learning with others later
  • If you need a little more structure, organise a variety of different stations around the classroom that the children can rotate through (sketching or making notes as they go)
  • If you have a special topic that you’re learning about or studying, you might want to use the following sheet to scaffold their observations.  The children start by draw a picture in the box about what they can see (before using the magnifying glass) then complete the sheet with their magnifying glass observations – “What can you now see that you couldn't see before?”  You can find your free copy of this sheet below!
~Download your FREE PRINTABLE here!~

DISCLAIMER: The author takes no responsibility for cries of “Ohh my gosh Mrs__________ your wrinkles are ginormous” or “Whoa, that’s a lot of grey hairs” etc….

Above all – have some fun!  Science is all about observation and asking questions… no need to get too serious!

For some more great science ideas, head on over to Teachers are Terrific for a peek at their latest linky! 

Happy magnifying, 
Grubbily yours,

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Wonders of Science!

Two little girls with magnifying glass outdoors in the day time

For the past 8 years I was a reading intervention teacher, but now that I'm back in my own full time classroom, I'm loving all the core curriculum I missed out on! Let me tell kids LOVE Science! Nothing excites them as much as seeing me set up with hands on materials for a science lesson. Well, maybe except for cupcakes and party favors!

Science quote

We are currently studying matter. The kids loved this simple and CHEAP experiment we did that clearly illustrated the concept of water surface tension. We had been reading about the skin, or surface tension of water, in language arts. I could tell they didn't grasp the concept. So a quick Google break netted this gem. Basically all you need is some water, a container, black pepper and some dish soap. All things we had access to that day. Since I always forget to take pictures, I recreated the experiment at home so you would have a visual. 

Water surface tension Materials needed.Step two Step 2. Add pepper to the water. Be sure the water is still.
Step 3. add dish soap 
Step 3 dip soapy toothpick into the center of the water filled container.

  What you can't tell by the pictures is how dramatic this experiment is, even though it is so simple. The pepper races to the edge of the bowl. One thing I did learn by doing this at home, is that the restaurant style pepper with the larger grains, is going to allow some of the pepper to sink. Using regular style pepper is best to demonstrate how the pepper floats on the surface.

Free Science Experiment
Click to download 

  I'm leaving you with your own downloadable copy of the experiment, as well as several response sheets your students can use as part of the scientific process or within your ELA block. You can click the experiment, or {HERE}, to download your copy. I hope your class enjoys this as much as mine did! Until next time!


Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Meek Moose Wants to be an Engineer

I think engineering in the classroom, as well as many other of my addictions passions, began on Pinterest. I hoard all the engineering/STEM/STEAM pins I find on my Engineering Board.  Last summer I had the great opportunity to go to a STEAM in Education mini-conference, and attend a workshop on computer programming at a Gifted Education Seminar.  I enjoyed both experiences, and hope to go to more in the future.  

In an effort to overcome what I continue to feel is an oppressive situation in education today- I started by adding in time for my kids to work on completing a computer programming course on  My math block is sectioned into five 20 minute rotations.  I have four student computers- so each student gets one once a day during math block.  Now, I have them complete a basic math facts practice using (an excellent program- but more on that another time) before they sign in to learn to program code- so they generally end up only working on the course for ten to fifteen minutes in a day- but the time adds up.  All twenty of my kids have since finished An Hour of Code and gotten a certificate of completion from the website. I printed out two copies for each kid on cardstock- one to take home and one to hang in our hallway.  My kids are super proud, seeing as we're the only class that we know of to have completed the hour.

What I like about their time learning to code is that they are becoming better at breaking down problems into small steps, and also learning from their mistakes. The first course is meant for beginner readers, and yet they are learning cardinal directions, counting, and visual/spatial skills.  They work at their own pace.  I have five kids already done with the first course and now working on the second, which is for strong readers- and they are learning all about angles just by writing code to draw snowflakes.  And out of those five students- only two of them are reading on grade level.  But all of them are still being successful in the program! grabs their attention by using common characters that they enjoy.  Angry Birds, Plants Vs. Zombies, even an entire course dedicated to the movie Frozen.  Buy in was easy though just by showing them this short video:

First off, they thought the scenes of the programmers at work was a fantasy of something that would take place "in the future".  When I told them, No!  This is right now- those jobs exist now!  They became very excited.  Do all of my kids want to be programmers when they grow up?  No.  But three of them do now.  And that was more than before.  It also helped that my class already has a love for who has a bit in the video.  We sing along to this every morning when we get ready for our day:

And to continue this parade of videos, I have two for you of two of my guys working on the site.

I would like to get one of those LEGO robots where you create the code on the computer and then download it into the robot and then watch it do what you told it to do.  Giving my kids an outlet for their creation would be fantastic.

Which, sort of brings us to my next addition to my math rotations- an Engineering Station.

I was cleaning out my kids' bedrooms when I found a box of Marble Run Pieces.  And I don't think it was a complete set.  It was even, very possibly, a mix of two different sets.  Parts of it look very much like this set by MarbleWorks:

I've linked this pic to for you.

Anyhow- I set out the pieces, told them very briefly that the point was to create a structure to that when the marble was dropped from the top, it came out at the bottom.

Our structures got very "Seussy" in the beginning as we tried to build the highest tower.

I said there was just one rule:  If after you drop the marble, it doesn't do what you wanted it to do- you have to stop and problem solve to figure out how to get it to do what you wanted.

And this very simple activity launched an obsession in my room. I have to limit the area to only four kids at a time or our general level of peace and prosperity to all breaks down.  Engineers are tetchy.  Verrrrry tetchy.  That might be why they often get their own cubicle to work in.  However- I have seen great growth in my kids when it comes to their oral language skills.  They are really talking with each other - trying to help each other out.  Suggesting ideas.  Asking "How did you do that?!"  I am also very proud to see one of my quietest little mice get bold and brassy and speak up for herself during the building process.

This was all fine and dandy, until one of my boys saw a film clip about dominoes.  He came in and asked if I had any.  Sha!  Of course I do!

Did you hear the WOOOOOW! in the background?  That's all it took.  My kids are now lining up dominos all over the place.  Wanting to watch clips of Domino Rallies- wondering what else they can do with them.  They're even starting to try to combine the marble run with the dominos and get the marble to start the chain reaction.  But even with this- they are problem solving, talking with each other, taking risks.

One approach is to see how long we can make our Domino Rally. Could we make it all the way around the table?

I'm really proud of my guy here.  He watched one domino rally clip and loved how they had made "buildings" out of the dominoes.  He quickly figured out how to make those structures, and has gotten a group of boys equally interested.  But they have yet to figure out how to insure that the building will fall every time with just the initial push.  I anticipate the day will arrive in the next couple of weeks.

Another recent discussion the kids have been having has been the issue with getting the dominoes to fall around a corner or curved edge. They've been having to start the fall again with their finger at different breaks.  This Friday, my little top engineer here was the first to make a successful snake construction and have it fall on one push.  And note how one of my lovelies is filming the success on her own!

I love the engagement level during this time.  I love how proud they are of their creations and how they beg for me to take pictures and film what they've created.  I realized the other day that it was time to step the station up a notch and show them Rube Goldberg machines.  I showed them a five minute video.  I've never heard them so quiet.  Some of them watched with their mouths open.

We are now collecting paper towel and toilet paper tubes.  Engineering on the next level- to be continued....

Friday, January 16, 2015

Writing Biographies in 2nd!

Our second grade teacher just had another precious little girl and she currently has a full-time sub.  I've been helping the full-time sub in  ELA and I'm having a blast! We are currently reading about some famous African American Inventors and we're writing biographies. I wasn't sure how well this was going to going to work because we don't have a whole lot of lower level biographies in the library. But I gave it a shot and I'm glad I did. They are all writing their own biography but we teamed them up to help each other fill out their graphic organizer (which I need to tweak a little)  and to help each other read some of the text. They are enjoying this writing so much I had someone ask if they could work on their biography when they were done with their morning work. Since we are enjoying it so much I thought I would share to see if this is something that you could use (change up)  in your class. I used Salt in My Shoes by Deloris Jordan and Roslyn M. Jordan as my mentor text. We talked about how biographies could sound like stories and some are more factual like our text in our reading book for the week.
I went and got biographies from the library that leveled in range from late second grade to beginning fourth grade. They choose a book and some of them choose to work together because the texts were to difficult for them. I kind of handed over the reigns and let them choose and decide if they needed to work with someone. Obviously, I had to work out some minor kinks but overall I was very impressed. 
Next, I sent them off with the graphic organizer. In hindsight I should have done a little more explaining of my expectations for this particular part but we made it through and I've made myself a note for next time. 
Again I'm new to the whole planning and teaching to the whole class so I'm going to tell you how I will teach this again in the future. We live and we learn, right? After they complete the graphic organizer, I give them the rubric and show them some examples of what a 1 level, 2 level, 3 level, and 4 level paper looks like. We did practice our editing and revising skills at this time, as well. Then they began to write!
And Write!
And Edit!


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Motivational Tools for A Buzzing Classroom & a FREEBIE

Motivational Tools for A Buzzing Classroom & a FREEBIE
Hi all! I'm Yara, I have been teaching for about five years now (boy time flies!) and the first two years as a part-time casual teacher whilst completing my studies. My sister constantly jokes and makes a point of how she remembers our playtime as kids *rolls her eyes* and says I'd make them all sit in a circle and I pretend to be the teacher - haha. So, apparently it has always been in my genes. =)

I'm so excited to be a part of this new blog launch for Ladies with Class. I have been creating lesson plans ever since I can remember and two years ago, I was so lucky to have found TPT as I've met so many awesome and amazing educators from around the world!

In this post, I will share with you some ideas on how to keep students motivated! Students yawning, talking, or losing interest in the subject can all make for a less energetic and boring classroom experience - and we've all been there. Not every topic we teach is going to be interesting - let alone interesting for students.
1. Give students a sense of control: for instance get students to choose the activity they're about to do (of course have a list of the activities related to the topic) and allow them to choose an activity at least once a day. This not only gives them confidence, but shows that you're interested in hearing their opinions and what they want. In my experience, this method has worked magically for me - if I can, I even use it a few times day and not just with activities, but I also get a student to 'help' me explain the topic. :)
2. Always use positive reinforcement: there are so many things teachers need to think about on any given day. The worst part is that sometimes we do lose sense of what we're doing - not on purpose but merely because of pressure. I know I'm guilty of this. I once made a student leave the class prevented him from participating in one the activities the whole class is doing because of his disruptive behavior. This made him upset AND angry and when he was allowed back into the class - he wanted to 'retaliate' and this only encourage more of this negative behavior. However, the worst thing that you could do is to use punishment with students. In my experience, especially when I first started teaching - punishment NEVER worked.  didn't understand why. When I was a child, punishment was used ALL the time. It only made students feel insecure, negative and hostile - and this only made matters worse in the long run. 
3. Allow students to work together and offer rewards: This in my experience always works like magic! Friendship, belonging and healthy competition - three things that students LOVE especially kids. My experience is mixed and I've taught both adults and kids and this works in both classroom dynamics. The important thing to note here is that teachers are slowly become more like 'facilitators' rather than the traditional view of teachers standing at the front of the classroom and 'giving' students the information they need. The 'facilitator' position promotes the inquiry process where students 'look into' their understandings and try to 'find' answers themselves.

I hope you've enjoyed this post and to end - I'd like to offer a free behavior rewards card. It's so easy to use! Just let the student use a bingo marker or any marker to color in a square each time you give the student praise for something he/she did that was positive working silently/cooperating well with others etc... You name the rewards for that week. Each time a student gets all the squares marked off, give them a reward of some kind (you could name the reward at the beginning of each week). :)

Just click on the picture to take you to the free download.
Note: you could also print this in black & white / gray scale to save ink!