October 31, 2019

Build a Game: A Super Easy Way to Include Student-Led Learning in Your Classroom

If you are like me, you are constantly looking for ways for students to prove that they understand a concept or skill.  To me, a test does not provide true understanding of a skill.  I like to have some kind of Project Based Learning to accompany a topic or skill that they have learned.  That's where Build A Game comes into play!  


Build a Game for Student-Led Learning



What's Build A Game?

Build A Game is a super easy way for students, and you, to create a project that shows their knowledge. Students create the game cards based on a subject you assign or a subject they are studying, maybe in Genius Hour.  Students must design all the parts to the game-from the rules to the questions.  It is completely designed by them!  


How Does it Work?

In my class, I assigned the skill for the Build A Game activity.  Students then worked alone to design their game. They met with friends to run through the game and make decisions about what worked and what didn't.  Then they took their game to final product.  This is where the rubric truly comes into play.  This product includes a rubric that can show students exactly what is expected.  Students should refer to the rubric each time they work, but especially when working on the final product.  This way students know the expectations as they work into their final product.





Let Them Struggle!

Build A Game is an uncharted territory for most kids. They may or may not have played a lot of board games in their life.  I do have my games available to them during this time to look at and think about rules, etc.  But, I don't provide a ton of support in these areas.  Students will learn more about problem solving when creating something like this than if I were to answer all of their questions.  Students will also seek out other students who are being more successful with designing these games, naturally creating leaders in this area.  That is one of the wonderful side effects of an activity like this-and, for you, as the teacher, it is then easy to discover strengths and weaknesses in students in general in an area that is new and different for them!  It's a win-win!  


Build a Game Sample project


So, give it a try!  After all, you never know where Build A Game will take you and your students!  You just might have an amazing time together as a class!  I'd love to hear what you think too!  Leave me a comment with your thoughts!  AND don't forget to follow my over at Facebook and Instagram to follow my classroom journey!  I'd love to have you!

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Build a Game for Student-Led Learning





October 24, 2019

Types of Stars-What You Just Might be Missing!

Types of stars is an interesting concept to teach.  While we think students understand the properties of stars, we can quickly build an understanding that each type of star brings a basic struggle for students to understand.  There are a number of reasons why!  Let's take a look at common misconceptions students have!






Color of Stars

The color of stars can confuse students. Think about our own perception of fire.   Fire glows red/orange and is hot, right!  We want to place a label on that-red/orange fire is hot.  Red/orange means hot in all aspects of our life-a stove is red/orange!  HOT-don't touch!  But, in reality, red/orange is cool in the range of heat output.  We just have this preconceived notion that RED means HOT! Stars that are red/orange are the coolest stars.  Blue and white stars are the hottest stars.  Kids are like us.  They want to apply red/orange stars as HOT, but they aren't.  This is a misconception that needs to be addressed when studying stars.  

Size of Stars

Bigger is better, right!  When it comes to types of stars-NOT TRUE!  Big stars a dying stars.  They have burned through their fuel and are heading toward death.  Small stars are fully fueled and are just beginning their lives.  This misconception needs to be addressed when studying stars!  

Distance of Stars

Stars appear on a plain - a flat "surface" to us.  Stars are really at a wide variety of distances from Earth, creating this misconception of a flat, one dimensional surface when we look at them.  And, after all, they are all the same size on that plane, right!  

See the problem of misconceptions building up!  These are REAL problems when teaching types of stars!!!  So, how do we address these misconceptions?   How about a STEM activity!  

Types of Stars STEM project

I developed this STEM to try and undo the misconceptions that I saw my students struggling with-the very ones I just shared with you!  I could not find a way to communicate the properties that we were discussing in a way that students grasped them at a deeper level.  There had to be some kind of hands-on activity out there!  But, there wasn't!  This Star STEM was birthed out of the very cosmos!  It had to make things easier - or so I thought!  

Starting Off Strong


Star STEM planning page


Students were super excited to start this STEM!  They brought a variety of flashlights from home and I purchased some different sized flashlights for cheap at The Dollar Tree and other stores!  You will need flashlights from very small to very large to represent each type!  I also bought tissue paper and some other "star" making materials.  You will need packing tape-a lot of it-too!  Makes sense, right!  

WRONG!  Students jumped on the color first! They where using things like their red pencil boxes with the light shinning through it!  I would say ROUND and it was like I was speaking a different language-because color was key to them!  In fact, one team began creating this blue monster!  I couldn't figure out what in the world they were doing!  They not only missed ROUND, they missed a star is in space!  They were creating EARTH!  So, be sure they truly understand the properties involved.  Even though this was clearly discussed, and redirected to teams, it did not become the focus of what they were doing!  


Students were building the wrong type of star in this STEM picture.
Misconceptions can lead students away from the goal of learning when the 
concept is higher than we realize!


Finishing STRONG!  

We did get every team focused on the correct properties.  We did get every team creating one type of star that represented the size and color that they needed.  It was well worth the effort!  Because, next came testing!  And testing these was where it is AT!  Suddenly, they could SEE what happens in the night sky with distances!  We tested a number of combos of stars and locations in the room.  I had assigned "distances" in the classroom and set up Polaris as the closest star (my design was used for Polaris) on a chair in the front of the room.  As we changed out stars and students in "space" we were amazed to see how star sizes appeared the same and how color didn't matter to differentiate a size.  They blurred into one sky, even within the classroom!  I also used an iPad to take pictures so that we could flip the lights on and examine the evidence in picture form!  



In the end, we did finish strong with our study of types of stars!  We did internalize the idea that viewing them from Earth does not mean that they are all the same distance or the same size!  We did internalize that space has greater distances that can make the size of a star appear smaller than those closer to us! And that is what made this STEM so awesome!  It was the very objective that this lesson was supposed to show-because that one is the most complex of all the objectives in teaching types of stars!  


STAR STEM results
These stars are on a plane.  You can see that their size and color are shown.  These are Red Giants and Orange Stars.  

Star STEM testing by students.
Create Polaris to judge brightness and distance, just like real astronomers do!  


As always, let me know what you think!  I'd love to hear what you have done in your classroom with types of stars!  You can add a comment here or join me over at Facebook and Instagram to share your thoughts! I'd love for you to join me there!

(Find out how I hacked this rubric for my teacher observation here!)


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Types of Stars STEM





August 1, 2019

Superhero Secret Skills Review for Primary Students

I know I am always looking for Secret Skill Review for my Primary students.  I have found that if you wrap your review in something SUPER, students tend to do their best because they are having fun!  Here are some Superhero Secret Skill Review ideas!  



Addition and Subtraction Skills

Students will have a SUPER time proving what they know in addition and subtraction.   These pages are a great way for kids to both prove what they know and take a brain break to color either at the beginning of the year or, even, at the end of the year!  Super Secret Skill Review at it's best! 


Basic addition and subtraction Superhero skills

Sight Words

Sight Words are a jumping spot for reading.  These Super Secret Skill Review Sight Word pages are super simple to use!  Just print and go!  The best thing is, they can be used as Morning Work!  Then, they can be used to assess students ability to read the words! Two in one!  Win-Win!!




Sight Word Superhero Activities





Direction Following

This one!  How often do we get a chance to see exactly what students can do with direction following.  These Super Secret Skill Review pages can give you a clear idea of what students can really do with direction following.  They read each step and follow those directions provided.  From this, you can see exactly what your students are capable of, whether it is at Back-to-School time or the End of the Year!  Super easy to use too!  


Following directions Superhero activity



So, as you can see, these Super Secret Skill Review pages are a great way for students to show-what-they-know and for you to get the information you need to assess from them!  LOVE IT!!  Let me know what you think by dropping me a comment here on the blog!  And, you can join me over at Instagram and Facebook to keep up with my journey there!  I'd love to have you follow along!  

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Superhero basic skills pin



July 18, 2019

Rounding Numbers to the Nearest 10 and 100 for Mastery and Fun

Rounding to the Nearest 10 and 100  is one of the most basic skills presented to students-honestly, kinda boring too!  What if I presented to you the idea that it can be a lot of fun and kids can master it too!  No, really, it can be FUN and mastery can be done in just one week!  

Rounding to the nearest 10 and 100 square intro image



How to Make it FUN!  


Find a good theme and go with it!  Seriously, rounding to the nearest 10 and 100 needs a theme!  That's how you make it FUN!  Luckily, a theme has been made!  May I present to you...Knights of the Rounding Table!

This fun rounding unit is set to the idea that the King needs help-and the queen steps in to save the day with an idea-an idea that defeats the Digits Dragon!!  So fun, right!  


Digits Dragon and rounding activities picture

How to Make it MORE Fun!

When I do this Rounding to the Nearest 10 and 100 unit, I accompany it with some fun information about knights and dragons!  Read a great book about Medieval times (I have an oldie but a goodie that is so old, I can't even find it on Amazon to show you the book!)  Or, even better, about King Arthur!  Or Saint George and the Dragon which is an amazing knight story!  (Grab this freebie from Scholastic!

This literature tie in makes it even more fun because students can dive into the topic in a different way-tying in this new information to apply to the math concept!  It builds a fun new experience all around!  Plus, you could even have them create a fun Digits Dragon on their own!  This adorable craft would make a great tie in to this unit!  




What about the Rounding?

Students get the opportunity to learn rounding to the nearest 10 and 100 from simple steps to the practice of mental math!  Students start with learning the Rounding Poem.  This poem helps them to remember the concept of rounding down for under 4 and rounding up for 5 and over.  Plus, the posters have clues to help them remember too!





Students will first practice rounding to the nearest 10 and 100 by identifying the ten or hundred before and after the original number.  Then, students must decide, based on the rounding rules, which number it is rounding to.  This allows students to build the foundations of the mental math to come.  Next, student step into the mental math realm to round to the nearest number.  Both rounding to the nearest 10 and 100 is taught on separate pages.  

Once the skills are mastered individually, then students are presented with rounding to the nearest 10 OR 100 on one page!  This way, students can practice this skill in tandem with one another, switching their brains back and forth!  Plus, they can play a fun game! 


Rounding table practice pages

 This super fun game presents the students with the opportunity to defeat the Digits Dragon!  And, then, students can prove their mastery with a quiz!  


Digits Dragon Game



Best of all, then they are KNIGHTED!  Imagine their excitement to receive their official Knighthood after learning both rounding to the nearest 10 and 100 AND Medieval Knights!  It is just so exciting to them!  


Rounding Knight certificates


So, as you can see, rounding to the nearest 10 and 100 can be both a learning opportunity and fun!  And, everything you need can be found in this product!  Your students will love it and so will you!  I'd love to hear what you have to say or your ideas about rounding to the nearest 10 and 100! And, if you would like to learn more about what I do in my classroom, I'd love for you to join me on my Instagram journey and over at Facebook too!  


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July 11, 2019

How to have a TWEET First Day of School! And Beyond!

Tweet, tweet!  The school year is about to start and you are wondering what to do to 1. Teach your students about your classroom and 2. Not bore them to death doing it!  Why not TWEET Your First Day of School!  Let's take a look! 


Tweet Your Classroom for the first day of school!

Teach Your Classroom


Students love getting up and moving the first day of school.  Plus, to be honest, they are just tired and need to move!  So, this fun little booklet gets the job done!  

There is some prep for you with this First Day of School activity.  Of course, printing the materials before the first day and assembling the booklets is key!  


Tweet Your Classroom Booklet


You also need to have students access some materials around your classroom.  For instance, I always have them "discover" the dictionaries, as these are going to be key in our learning.  Another great thing about this activity is that your students dive into the classroom library! During this time, I ask the kids to pick out four great books they find that they would like to read.  This preps the possibility of students being able to read later in the day when everyone needs a break! 


Students checking the library


Another thing this booklet does is gives the students an opportunity to talk to each other!  We tend to want to avoid this on the first day, BUT isn't that how we create community!  They need to get to know each other, even if some of them have been friends for years.  They still need to know what it is like in our classrooms.  Parameters can be established within this simple activity.  An example of this is how we talk to each other and how long within the classroom setting.  This activity will do that!  


Boy TWEETING their classroom


Plus, it gives you the chance to expose other areas of your classroom to the students.  I always have the students find the clipboards, because this is a key tool in our classroom.  I list the clipboard rules out and have them available for students to view when this activity is going on.   This way, students are able to know their location and know the rules that go with them.  


Tweet sign on a clipboard holder



The Secret is in the Tweets!  

You may have been reading this wondering how students know where to go!  Well, the secret to getting the students to the right location on the first day of school is to TWEET them!  


Tweet sign

Simply by putting up these cute tweet signs, students have a marker for where they are to go.  They also move around to find these tweets at different rates, so you won't have kids gathering in huge groups.  If you do, this is your opportunity to step in and express the need for them to move about and not be social, but to concentrate on completing the activity.  To be honest, this is the first step in developing your expectations in a way that is facilitative and allows them the opportunity to grow in success through redirection!  


What Else is There?

Every year I have tried to accomplish this entire product on the first day of school, but, well, I've failed!  So, there is MORE that can be done, even past the first day of school!  Here's what you get!  
Tweet Classroom Little Book


Tweet Tweet our Class is so Sweet Little Book helps your students understand rules and procedures!  Students get to reflect on what they are learning by writing it in their own words!  This can also double as a direction following activity, giving you an idea of what students are capable of doing with directions.  


Tweet Friend Venn Diagram


My Tweet Friend allows students the chance to work with a friend discovering things about each other by using letters in their names!  The kids LOVE this activity because it gives them a chance to interact with a friend and discover similarities about themselves!  For you, it can guide you in understanding how well kids can use and interpret Venn Diagrams from their past experiences and how their handwriting is in an open ended activity.  


Tweet Your Classroom


As you can see, there is so much packed into these first day of school activities that you can fill your lesson plans with them so quickly and easily!  Students just love them, and so will you!  Let me know what you think!  I'd love for a comment below about your first day of school activities!  Or, follow me on Facebook or Instagram to keep up with all the action!  

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Tweet Your Classroom Pin



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July 4, 2019

5 Patriotic Products to Make Any Elementary Student Celebrate!

As we approach any American Patriotic holiday, we want to bring that celebration into our classroom!  Whether it is during President's Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or even Labor Day, we are proud of our American Heritage!  Here are 5 Patriotic Products that will make any elementary student celebrate-or teacher too!  


Patriotic Products to make your celebrating easier!



Patriotic Product #1: Patriotic Scoot - Addition and Subtraction with Regrouping



Patriotic Scoot Cover

This product has kids up and moving while checking out patriotic pictures!  Kids just LOVE to play SCOOT!  There is a pre-made work page, so students can SCOOT with ease!  And, this is 3 digit by 3 digit problems, so late 2nd graders all the way up to 5th graders can benefit from this continued practice!  That's one way to make kids happy on a holiday and still get a skill practiced in math!  


Patriotic Product #2:  Primary and Secondary Source Superstars



https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Primary-and-Secondary-Source-Activity-4040718

Students will just LOVE this exploration of George Washington through Primary and Secondary Sources!  Students will take a virtual field trip and discover what Primary and Secondary Sources are through infographics! There is a leveled reading passage as well!  This is just a great way to celebrate America and learn at the same time! 


Patriotic Product #3:  Parade of States Project




Read more about this activity here!  

Who doesn't LOVE a parade!  Especially when the floats are created by your students!  This project is a great way for students to gain knowledge about our great 50 states and have a fun parade to teach others too!  Students research a state, create a float and research project, and, then, parade their state for all to see in a school-wide parade!  And, if states aren't your thing, you can always be patriotic with the National Park Float Parade!  


Patriotic Product #4:  Colonial STEM





Take a trip back to when America was just starting out!  Colonial America was an exciting time to be in America!  And, children had so many choices in toys-or, at least, to the toys that their imagination created!  And that's the basis of this STEM!  Students will use the "technology" of the time to create games or toys that students in Colonial America could play!  That means NO COPY CATS of toys of today!  Get your student's creative juices flowing with American pride through this STEM project!  


Patriotic Product #5:  Yeah and Nah Voting Sticks Freebie


Yeah and Nah sticks for voting


Students everywhere will LOVE voting just like our legislatures do!  And, even better, they can fly their Yeah or Nah high in the air with this freebie!  Simple to print and hot glue to tongue depressors!  Then, just pass out and vote away!  So much fun and FREE too!  

There you have it!  Five Patriotic Products to make any elementary student celebrate and learn in your classroom- for a holiday or any day!  Just let me know in the comments what you think or a great patriotic holiday idea you have!  And, jump on over to Facebook and Instagram to follow along with my journey through posts and product updates!  I'd love for you to join me! 

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June 27, 2019

Multiplication Mall to Prove Multiplication Strategies Success!

It wasn't too long ago that multiplication was a rote memory skill-one that simply included memorizing to "know" your multiplication skills.  Now, multiplication is about understanding-and that is a huge improvement upon just knowing the facts by heart!  So, what would make it even better?  How about a project that includes proving multiplication strategies success!  That's what Multiplication Mall does!  





The purpose of Multiplication Mall is to prove multiplication strategies through designing a "store" in the mall.  Each part of the "store" provides evidence that a student understands a particular skill in multiplication.  Let's break this down!  

Starting the Project

Students need some foundation with the basic of this multiplication project. This is where brainstorming comes into play.  Work as a class to brainstorm the type of stores that are found in a mall to get their creative juices going.  You will also need to work on learning about alliterations.  Luckily, there are posters within this product to guide your students with alliterations!  


Multiplication Mall posters

Assigning the Project Steps

Next, students will dive into the project itself.  Provide the rubric to students along with the Planning Page.  This is where students will make critical decisions about what their store will "sell".  A rough draft like this allows students to make mistakes BEFORE they get to their final design.  It is critical to allow this because it builds in success in the final product!  

Students will also work on the posters that hang outside of their store.  Both the windows and the posters are designed to prove multiplication strategies that students know.  To help guide their choices, there are also posters representing each multiplication strategy that students can choose from.  Once all of this is designed, students will then get the teacher's approval to move forward into the final design stage! 

Completing the Project

Students will need bulletin board paper and construction paper to complete this project.  You will need to cut the bulletin board paper, also known as butcher paper, to the size that students need.  This needs to be large enough to fit the piece of construction paper that will house the windows on.  You will also want to have white paper cut to design the posters also.  Once this is done, allow students the chance to create!  Step back and watch what they will do, you will be amazed!  


Sample Multiplication Mall Project


Final Thoughts

Projects are about proving what students know.  Allow students to self grade their projects will give you insights beyond what you can learn by grading them yourself.  It is a relatively easy process.  Give students a yellow highlighter.  Let them work through the rubric, examining their work to best judge themselves.  Then, once they turn it in, grade the project with a blue highlighter!  Anywhere the teacher and student agree, it will turn GREEN!  How cool is 
that!  




Allowing students to prove multiplication strategies for success is an easy way for you to show that students have mastered the standards of multiplication.  But, it is more than that!  It is a way to provide a creative, fun way for students to show what they know!  Grab it in my TpT store!  And, let me know what your ideas are about proving multiplication strategies in the comments!  I'd love to hear!  
Multiplication Mall project



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