Thursday, August 11, 2016

Squeeze in Social Studies

Raise your hand if you have time (or curriculum) for teaching Social Studies in your classroom!

Unless you’re teaching in a private school, you are probably focusing primarily on math and reading, but that doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze in a few meaningful Social Studies activities to cross curriculum!!

I DO teach Social Studies and I’m going to share how I represent it in my overpowering ocean themed Open House!  Math, writing, and science are easy to make ocean-y, but aside from Christopher Columbus or the colonies, how do I make social Studies fit my beautiful ocean themed Open House?!
Thus, the quilt was born (or rather I adopted it from the veteran teachers who came before me!)
Here’s how I display what my class has done in Social Studies all year long, but it would be PERFECT for crossing curriculum or enhancing special school dress up days as the year goes along!

OK, so we have six units in our Social Studies curriculum, but I feel like 3 of them could be just holiday or dress up day extension activities for you!!

Does your school still do Career Day? 
Whether you’re teaching about needs/wants, consumers/producers, and goods/services or economics, have your students design a business card for their career and write a short narrative about it using vocabulary!  Check out my other free Social Studies activities for economics in my TpT store!
Teaching about American symbols and presidents is perfect for the month of February.  Add in these simple square activities to start building your quilt!
During one of our units we learn about cultures and our families’ past, so each student gets to research and assemble a collage on a quilt square!  Make it whatever your students need to research in your grade level, historical figure, mission, state etc.!
MAPS!  How can you fit that into math or reading? Delve into the setting of one of your stories OR practice measurement by using a map scale!  We make ours when we learn about goods and trade.
Our last square that we make is a chart that compares and contrasts 4 different Native American groups.  Connect it to language arts under the guise of Venn Diagram skills to compare something from your grade level’s Social Studies curriculum.

After we make a quilt square, I always display it across a bulletin board for the unit we’re in at that time.  Then I take them down and store them for the end of the year when I will haul all those squares back out for the Open House display.  Because what ocean doesn’t have a quilt?

I hope you get inspired to teach Social Studies, even if it’s just 6 short mini-lessons!
Squeeze it in & make it count!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Earth Day Meets Poetry Month

I’m at it again, crossing curriculum!

Fit in a poem for the end of poetry month while focusing on Earth Day!  Hopefully you’ve heard of I Am poems.  They are an amazing way for students to express themselves and are always a parent favorite.  
I enjoy having my students write I Am poems because they don’t have to rhyme.  Do you find that while students love rhyming, they get writer’s block when it comes to writing a rhyming poem?  That’s why it’s nice to teach them about other types of poems.  

Writing can be intimidating enough without the pressure of rhyming.  In fact, I Am poems are really just regular sentences.  For that reason, I love this writing assignment for my struggling writers.  They write about themselves, one sentence at a time, and practice writing repetitious sentences.
Here are some finished products and how you can connect it to Earth Day.

You know all those scrap pieces of paper that you chopped off of craft prep?  SAVE THEM!  I only throw out left over construction paper if it small enough to be forgotten on the floor.

First, I introduce Earth Day.  I usually have a Weekly Reader to go along with it; this provides great background knowledge for the next part where we brainstorm ways that we can help take care of our Earth and sing the  “Recycle, Reduce, Reuse” song. 

 Then I bring out our huge bag of scraps and become all dramatic about not wanting to throw it away.  I tell them that I’ve thought of what we can do to be good stewards of our craft materials and to not let them go to waste.
By this time in the year, everyone but my artists is so over drawing and I end up with sloppy, half-hearted drawings I challenge them to create themselves with only the scraps of paper and scissors!  
Kids dig through my bag of scraps looking for their skin color, eye color, clothing, and hair.   

You kind of have to get over the fact that they make a mess of your scraps, but they are so proud of themselves for constructing a little them out of something that some people consider trash.  

Have a Happy Earth Day everybody!

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If you'd like a  copy of the writing template, click here!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Crossing Curriculum with Tangrams

Let’s check multiple things off our list to do at one time, shall we?  Let’s kill 3 birds with one stone!  Let’s....

It’s one of my favorite challenges to give myself as a teacher and is how I structure my classroom décor and student work for Open House (more on that later)

P L U S it’s so aesthetically pleasing!!!
So let’s get started, shall we?
Tangrams:  They are so important for students to work with in order to develop spatial awareness and problem solving math.  But here are some books and resources to help you make tangrams into a whole unit that includes not only math, but also social studies, reading and writing!

First, I display the 7 tangram pieces and review the names of each shape.  Next, I explain that we are going to solve puzzles with these 7 pieces.  We work on performing vocabulary words such as rotate, flip, and slide. 

Math: CHECK!
Everyone loves a read aloud, so then I  read The Warlord’s Puzzle by Virginia Walton Pilegard.   

This is a great time to show China on a map or globe & even talk about the clothes and customs seen in the book.   

Challenge your students to do a 5 Finger Retell of the story and Boom! Reading & Social Studies: CHECK!
Next, inspire your students to write creative stories with all the elements of a story with the next book: GrandpaTang’s Story by Ann Rompert. 

Students can relate to Grandfather’s stories because they have been solving tangram puzzles already and are eager to write their own stories!

 So they choose their tangram animal and get writing with the objective of using the story elements!
Once they write their story on publishing paper, they get to trace their tangram animal onto a cover sheet.

My students L O V E that they are not only the authors of their stories, but also the illustrators!
BOOM! Writing: CHECK!
There ya have it!  Four subjects focusing on one topic that students are familiar with and can get excited about!

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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Writing: Structured Creativity

 I don’t know about you, but I love having a plan.  Whether it's meal prep or my weekend, if I don’t have a plan or a list going, I seriously don’t know where to begin.
That’s how I imagine students feel when it comes to creative writing.  They have heard many stories and have all these wild ideas floating around in their heads that their stories never come to an end...except for when I cut them off and MAKE them stop!

   This book, which can be found on here on Amazon, identifies that very problem.  The main character wants to write a great story, but first has writer’s block and then listens to all the advice from her family members.  Only, listening to them makes her story make no sense.
    My kids totally get how out of control her story gets when she tries to add what her cousin’s idea of romance is with her dad’s idea of humor.
Next, we review the 5 finger retell from Eclectic Educating.

We’ve been using this strategy to practice our comprehension so it’s totes easy to transition it into their own writing.  I explain that there are elements to every movie and book that are like a road map.  To create a good story, you have to follow the map.

We break it down even further with writing tiles:  a square for the setting, character, & plot.
I love this Story Starters: Write Abouts flipbook as a model for students to get ideas.  You can mix and match settings, characters, and plots, which makes for some well-planned, yet creative stories.
I remind them that their plots have to have a problem and a solution.  Some students like to write the problem on the front and solution on the back of their cards so they can stay on track.

Now students are equipped with a plan and can begin writing.

How are they going to start their story differently from a narrative with a topic sentence?
Coming across Teaching in the Tongass’ post about writing hooks was an aha moment!  I love having all the ideas displayed for students to see and try out, and they do too!  Using an onomatopoeia is their favorite!

Now for differentiation:
You can level students’ writing in so many ways, but here's two that I think are important:
1. Students can choose to write in the past or present:  Some kids come by this naturally and some need to challenged to pick one and stick with it! 
2. Students can choose to write in the first or third person:  Advanced students really enjoy this challenge and have their own little "aha moment" when they realize what you mean!

Don't forget to have students go back and read their work to a partner to check for the 5Finger Retell & to make sure all the parts of a story are present!

What resources are you using to teach creative writing?  Leave me some love in the comments and let's keep the conversation going!

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

10 Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Every teacher is always looking for ways to get more hours in a day ...but let’s be honest, we’d all probably be happy with merely a few more MINUTES in our day!

I don’t plan to have all the answers, but I feel like I’ve got a good handle on things thanks to some tricks up my sleeve.  
It comes down to this: get ahead of what you can get ahead of, take advantage of wait time & transitions, & train your students to work for you!
For the non-abbreviated version here are my secrets... 
This is one of my dearest friend's class...just had to give credit to the amazing Miss Marietta doing her thang in the great state of TX!
1.Collecting tests:
  Collect ALL students’ tests by calling their numbers in reverse order.  I’ve trained mine to set their papers right-side up and turned in the right direction.  TADA!  Now, when I go to correct their work, I can begin grading right away and record grades right away instead of shuffling through papers to arrange them myself!

2.Correcting Tests:
  Don’t go through one test at a time, beginning to end!  NO, no, no.  Grade the tests in sections or pages so that you’re only looking at the same four problems in row.  Then look at the next section or group of questions on the test.  Your brain will get in a rhythm of seeing the correct answers in a row and your eyes will be able to quickly identify a wrong answer!

3.Collecting daily student work:
  Do NOT have one turn in bin!  Use a stacking paper tray so that students can sort their work as they turn things in.  Train students to place their finished work right-side up with their names pointing in a certain direction.  At the end of the day, I collect the papers and get to work...but I definitely do not spend a second sorting a single paper!

4.Collecting library books
  Kids have enough things to remember & to try not to lose, why make library books one of them?  When students are finished with their library books, they place them in a specially marked bin!  But that’s not all!   
  To help them remember [but really it’s for me to know] if they returned their books, each student must cross out their number when they put their books in the bin.  This way, a couple days in advance of when books are due, I [nicely] call out in front of the class who still has yet to turn in his or her book.  From there, I also send home one of my reminders, that you can find here, to those students whose books are missing.

5.Hanging things from the ceiling:
  Save time & resources by using the same strings each year.  Cut 'em, loop 'em, store 'em, & use a slip knot to quickly hang your students' work project after project!

6.Setting up for tomorrow
  While students are checking their cubbies & getting their backpacks & lunches, YOU can be productive too!  
Things I do while my kids are getting packed up:
  • change the date on the board
  •  write out the new list of “Must-Do’s” for tomorrow
  •  collect papers from the trays
  • switch out/sharpen pencils
  • organize my own desk.
  It just feels so good to walk back in to an organized classroom after I dismiss all my kids.  I can get right to prepping tomorrow’s lessons & crafts...or sit on my phone & look at Instagram. ;)

7.Parent Volunteers
  This may sound simple...& it is, so I guess I just want to encourage you to USE your parent volunteers!  Parents want to be involved, so put the ball in their court!  Set out a sign-up sheet full of crafts to prepped, donations needed, & in-class help you may want with the dates and times those things are needed.  I hang mine out by our drop-off spot in the morning, our pick-up spot in the afternoon, & my newsletter with a note to email me if someone would like to fill one of those volunteer items!  

8.Prepping for next week:
  During the transition between (for example) math and social studies, while students are putting away their math materials & taking out their social studies books, you have A LOT of time!  
  In my classroom it would look like this: My Monday-Friday daily work drawers are always full.  If I put back Tuesday's math lesson, I pull out the next Tuesday's lesson, write it in my plans, and set it in the drawer for next week.  At all times, there are 5 math lessons in my daily work drawers.

9.Reward ticket turn-ins:
  This time saver can be found for free in my store and is one of my favorite products!  Avoid the nagging, always last minute question of, “Can I turn in my tickets?” or as you’re walking out the door for dismissal, “Can I do the treasure chest?” 
  Help yourself plan & control when you’re going to dole out rewards by having your students fill out my “Ticket Redemption” form during their free time.  My students paperclip the appropriate number of tickets to the completed form & set it on a special place on my desk.  The next day, when it makes sense in the day, I can give the students what they paid for!
10.Name Tags:
  Here’s a two-for (sp?):  Laminate your name tags & add students’ names with sharpie.  If before the school year starts or during the year a student leaves, you can reuse the name tag by removing the name with nail polish remover!  Waste not, want not!
  Place velcro squares in uniform places on desks & the backs of name plates so that you can move students' seats with ease & clean under them!!

There you have it!  10 classroom hacks (can we call them that?) that will save you time & sanity!
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What are you doing in your classroom to work smarter, not harder??  Share in the comments!  As one of my favorite bloggers, Schroeder Shenanigans in Second Grade says, “We’re better together.”

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Snap Chat For Blogging...Wait...What?

At the recent Manhatten Beach Bloggers’ Meet-up, a few of us were talking about our fave social media outlets.  Of course, I was all, “Instagram all the way, baby!”  BUT I also chatted about my other love...


It’s seriously addicting and once you’re past the initial set up (which let’s be honest, is NOT user friendly), it’s super fun and can be used to keep in all day contact with your followers.  

So today’s post is all about how to set up an account & how you can use it to strengthen your blogging family.

1.  What is SnapChat?
You know when you first got Instagram and you thought everything was post worthy, so you chose your favorite filter and bugged everyone who followed you?  That's what SnapChat is for!

SnapChat is a social media app that let’s you share instant photos & video clips with friends and followers for limited times...think PeriScope.  I think originally it was meant for inappropriateness, but I love it for sending photos throughout my day to my friends and husband of things that make me laugh or roll my eyes. 

Rather than innandating my Instagram feed with photos only my bestie would like or understand, SnapChat let's me share photos with only the people I chose to send it to!  No more losing followers bc you thought everything was post worthy when really only you thought it was cool ;)

It also doesn’t take up data on your phone unless you save a photo to your own camera roll.

Basically, I support your use of SnapChat!  I Snap more than I text because it is so dang fun!

2. Choosing a user name
When creating your SnapChat account, chose your user name wisely!!  You can change your name in your account at anytime, but your username is set for life! Dun, Dun, Dun!

Your “Name” (as SnapChat calls it) is how you will appear on the app, so choose something your friends or followers will know you by.  If you are using this primarily as an extension of your blog & Insta family, consider making your blog name your SnapChat name.  

Depending how you add friends or how they add you will dictate what you are displayed as in their phone or vise-versa.  For example, if you add someone from your address book, their name will be what you have them as there.  OR if you “scan someone’s ghost,” you will see their SnapChat name in your app.

3.  Why use SnapChat?
It is a great way for you to share a lot of classroom and product content without annoying people on Instagram by flooding their feed with your pics ;) 

  When I use my SnapChat for blogging, I post pictures to my story. 
This let’s anyone who has added me view anything I post for 24 be sure to post tasteful and school-safe photos.

In the above picture, you can see where I would select "My Story."  You can also see my top friends that I send “exclusive” photos to (some are listed by user names, others by my phone contacts).   
Another way you could use SnapChat to benefit your blog or TpT store is by announcing flash sales to your followers to give them exclusive information!  

4.  Adding Friends
To have people follow you, share your "ghost" and username on your preferred social media of choice and let your followers add you!
Do not add anyone that is not your real life friend, or else you will receive random pics and videos from strangers!  I repeat: Let people add YOU and then share with them via your story.

5.  Beware!
People can screenshot your videos and ya know, use with caution.  SnapChat users are also allowed one replay of a video or picture per day!

6.  How to use SnapChat
"Snap" a photo of something cool you're doing in your classroom or the pile of papers you have to grade, add a caption and some emojis, choose the length of time you want people to be able to see your photo, press the bottom arrow, select "My Story."  To record videos, hold the button down and follow the directions from above.  You can also add illustrations and filters over top your videos and photos.

My favorite blogger to follow on SnapChat is TheAlisonShow... she's the funniest person alive.
Now go add SnapChat to your brand, add me on SnapChat, and check out my SnapChat story!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Music For Munchkins

I’ve been wanting to do a Mr. Kell CD giveaway and after seeing so many great penguin resources from our #teachersofinstagram community, I decided now was as good a time as ever because there is a Mr. Kell Penguin song that talks about Antarctica and the tuxedo penguins wear!!

My school has been blessed, nah SPOILED to have musician Tom Kell as our music teacher for the past 10 years.  He quickly stole the hearts of students and parents alike with his fun songs about God, school, and just plain nonsense.

If you follow me on Instagram or Snapchat (username: ChristinaV.), you have definitely heard one of the hundreds of Mr. Kell original songs as he leads our worship time at the beginning of chapel and teaches my kiddos on Tuesdays.  He is truly the highlight of my students’ week.  With his charming and witty songs, you can’t help but sing along

We all love incorporating music into our lessons and we know that students learn best when they are engaged, which is what the rhythm and rhyme of songs give them!  That's also what Mr. Kell gives them.  He writes songs for our Christmas programs and has even been known to write songs for teachers after looking at a bulletin board.

He once saw a contractions bulletin board in my classroom and came back the next week with a song to help students learn what a contraction is and which words are contractions.  Now when I begin teaching contractions, we listen to the CD and get to reference it all the time when we “put an apostrophe where a letter used to be [so that] everything gets easier to say!”

In kindergarten, students learn about apples, firemen, and have a gingerbread can bet that there are songs for those too!

So if you haven’t been able to tell already, Mr. Kell is one of a kind and I want one of you to be able to add his music to your classroom, whether it goes with a science unit on weather (yes, he has a weather song) or just to have silly songs playing in the background while your students work.
Mr. Kell is such an icon at my school that he had a book written about him!  If you’d like to purchase a book based on one if his songs "The Bucket List Song," click won’t regret it!

What music artists are you using in the classroom?  Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments!