Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Mystery Science Rocks

Have you heard of Mystery Science? It's an awesome website that provides teachers with ready-made, online, complete science lessons that fit easily into any classroom. There are STEM lessons and activities in all areas of science including force and motion, weather, plants and animals, properties and matter, body and the brain, and sooooo much more! My kiddos LOVE Mystery Science! The smartboard lessons hold their interest and the enrichment activities that are included with each lesson are so much fun my students don't realize how much they are learning.

Recentely my kiddos did a Mystery Science lesson on speed and energy. The title of the lesson was, "How can a car run without gas?" The enrichment activity called for the students to create rubber band racers using plastic cups, plastic lids, rubber bands, beads, and straws. We chose to create a different type of vehicle after our lesson so we will be creating our rubber band racers when we get back from Christmas break.

Following the smartboard lesson my students each designed and created a car that used balloons and air power as the energy source. We got the Design and Play STEAM Car Kits from Lakeshore Learning. They were part of a project that I had written at the beginning of the year and the students were excited to get into the kits and begin designing their racers. They had a great time during the creation process and racing one another with their vehicles. It was awesome to watch them race their classmates then redesign their racers when they didn't work. The activity reinforced what they learned about energy  as well as promoted creative thinking and team building. In the end my kiddos were more concerned with helping their classmates be successful then they were about winning the races.

If you are looking for a great way to incorporate science into your classroom I strongly encourage you to check out Mystery Science. I guarantee you and your kiddos won't be disappointed.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Friday Letters Home-My Favorite Classroom Activity

If you are like me you are an avid Pinterest surfer. This summer I found a pin on Friday Letters Home and was completely intrigued by the concept. Students write a weekly letter home to their parents and the parents respond to their child on the back. At the end of the year the letters are bound, made into a book, and sent home with the kiddos giving them a super cute keepsake. The activity is designed to reinforce writing concepts with students while getting their parents actively involved in their child's education.

Implementing this activity in your classroom is super simple.Download the free forms from this website, glue the coversheet to a folder with brads, run off double sided copies of the papers, and begin writing letters.

This activity has been a HUGE success in my classroom. I love it, the kiddos love it, and the parents love it. The kiddos love the activity because they get to give their parents homework on the weekends! They also get a wonderful letter to read from their parents that lets them know how much they are valued and how proud their parents are of them. The parents love it because they get a peek into what their child has done in school the previous week. I love it because the children get to practice their writing skills. We also get to review what we have done in school during the week, and I have a running record that shows the children's skills progression during the year.

The letters reinforce sentence structure, the proper use of capital letters, subject-verb agreement, and punctuation. This week we worked on adjectives so the students will have to add colorful adjectives to their parent letters to make them more interesting to read-taking what we learned in class and applying it in a practical way.

If you decide to try this idea in your classroom and are looking for stationary to use I created a file that you can download here. The file is filled with all the writing paper you will need for the entire year. Border themes include: fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, winter, Christmas, Valentine's Day, spring, and much more.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Flashlight Friday

I love finding new ways to get my kiddos reading. On one of my recent visits to Pinterest I found an anchor chart listing the rules and procedures for "Flashlight Friday" and I knew I had to try it with my students. I was super excited to add this new reading activity into our daily reading block.

The activity was really easy to do and required very little preparation. I sent home a note on Thursday asking parents to send a flashlight to school with their kiddo on Friday. During our reading block, I lead my group of giggling third graders to a dark and spooky storage closet, turned off the lights, and instructed them to turn on their lights and read. They each came to the closet with their personal carpet square and either a chapter book or several picture books so they wouldn't run out of reading materials. As you can guess they really enjoyed this activity! Even one of my most reluctant readers participated and said he loved reading this way.

The activity is super simple and you can adjust it to suit your own unique students. Just supply each of your kiddos with a flashlight, or have them bring their own from home like I did, take them to a dark spot, preferably one they haven't been to before, and let the fun begin. During our reading adventure I had the expectation that my kiddos would stay on their rug square and read quietly and they didn't disappoint me. If you passed the closet you wouldn't have known that it contained 15 eager readers!

They can't wait to do this fun, highly engaging activity again next Friday. I plan on putting it into our reading block rotation at least every other week. I also plan to have a special creepy holiday edition of "Flashlight Friday" where I will read stories out of the book, "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" to my kiddos. Don't tell them but I have a few scary and fun surprises in store for them that day! Bwahaha!

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Summer of CKLA

It's not even the end of May and I am already getting ready for my new class in the fall. Last year was a learning year for the teachers in my district because of adopting CKLA as the reading curriculum. Implementing the new curriculum wasn't easy, there are so many things to like and dislike about this program, but my fellow teachers and I got through it. This year is going to be sooo much easier and I am looking forward to using the materials that I have created to supplement the program.

The first Core Knowledge Language Arts unit for third grade doesn't have a spelling component so I created one using the review words from the lessons. There are two lists for each week, one has 10 words and the other has 20 words. The daily worksheets can be done either in the classroom as a group or can be used for homework.

I hope you and your students find this unit helpful. If you have any questions or suggestions drop me a email.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Kite Building Fun and Flight

It is so hard for me to believe that summer is here, the year went by so quickly for me. I've taken so many pictures this year but haven't had the time to post them so here we go.

My class was lucky enough to participate in a local STEM program that provided materials so each of the students would learn about flight, aeronautics, and how to build their own kites. They had the absolute BEST time creating their kites and even more fun when they took them outside and flew them! The best moment for me was when one of my students said, "This is the first time I have ever flown a kite and what makes it the best day ever is that I made the kite myself!" What a huge win for him and an enormous win for me!

The last picture shows one of my kiddo's who moved to the United States from a South American country. Her father was killed while she walked along side of him. There is a beam of light shining down on her in this picture. That beam of light only appears in the pictures with her in them. She and the other students in class believe it is her father letting her know he is watching over her. I hope they are right.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Update: Their Future's So Bright They Have To Wear Shades Project

The students finished their projects and they are posted in the hallway over their lockers.
They look absolutely fabulous. The only thing missing from the picture above is the sign that we hung above them. The sign read: I'M DOING ALL RIGHT, GETTING GOOD GRADES, MY FUTURE'S SO BRIGHT I HAVE TO WEAR SHADES. (Yes for those of you who grew up in the 80's like I did I am sure you remember the song, if not here is a link to the VIDEO.) The students are so proud of their work and really liked focusing on what they wanted to do with their lives after they graduate. I wanted to post the entire lesson steps here for those of you who might want to do this project with your kiddos. I am also going to post this as a free project on TeachersPayTeachers. I plan on this being an annual event for my class each spring.

The Visual

Step 1:(I created my own the night before so students could see what their final product was expected to look like. This really helped some of my kiddos.) Each of my students chose a piece of construction paper to create their shades. After they folded it in half I gave them their sunglasses template and reminded them to put the nose piece of their sunglasses on the paper fold. After cutting out the glasses they were instructed to fold, but not crease, the lenses and cut them on the line.

Step 2: Each of the students received a piece of white construction paper and glued their glasses to the upper half of their paper. They were instructed to draw a picture of what they thought they would look like in the future. Be sure to tell them NOT to draw their eyes.

Step 3: My kids couldn't wait to draw in their lenses so I instructed them to pretend that they were actually wearing the sunglasses and draw what they saw. I explained that the lenses were mirrored so they were actually reflecting what their future looked like. I encouraged them to draw their future homes, families, and any other things they wanted to have. Living in Oklahoma I was surprised at how many of them drew themselves on the beach!


The students used the Bureau of Labor Statistics to research their future careers. They have a special site designed for children to research jobs based upon what they like to do. Topics include: building and fixing things, transportation, social studies, healthcare, and a myriad of other categories. Students click on a category and a list of jobs that are related pop up. Students choose an individual job and they see what the median salary for that career is as well as prerequisites necessary to be employed in that field. It is an eye opener for students to see how many jobs actually require years and years of college study and training. The only thing I wish they would add to the site is a link to the different military branches. One of my students wanted to be a mechanic in the United States Air Force so I directed him to the USAF site (I am a veteran of the Air Force myself and make sure to encourage students who want to join the military to research different MOS's on each branches websites.)

I encouraged the students to write down the information on 3 different careers they were interested in. Once they completed this phase of the project it was off to the next step:

College and Career Training

When I asked my students what colleges they wanted to go to the majority of them said The University of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State University. Great choices, but unfortunately the colleges did not always offer the courses they needed to receive a degree in their chosen field. My boys who want to be police officers discovered that they could attend a junior college to satisfy the requirements for their career. One of my girls wanted to be a midwife and realized that she had to go to nursing school then finish a program on midwifery offered at few colleges (she eventually chose a college in California). One of my brightest student who wants to be an OB GYN decided on going to college in Houston and do her residency at a Texas hospital, while another of my girls who wants to be a teacher opted out of attending college in Oklahoma and decided on Arizona instead.

The Report

Once the students were finished with their research it was time for them to write their report. The report had to have at least 3 paragraphs that described what their future career goal would be, what they would have to study or do to achieve that goal, what their family would look like, and where they would live. They were encouraged to add whatever else they wanted. Many students added that they wanted to travel, have horses as well as other pets, and what they wanted for their own children. I was really impressed at the depth some of my students went into. When the were finished with their first drafts we revised and edited, then they were given the "special" career paper for their final draft which was stapled to the bottom of their pictures.

All in all this project took about a week to complete with students working in 45 minute to 1 hours sessions. They really liked getting on the computer and doing their research. They also learned how much work actually goes into becoming a professional. One of my less than motivated student's career goal was to be rich. That's it, she just wanted to be rich. When she was forced to take that abstract concept and see what it would actually take to be "rich" she realized that not doing her homework, not doing her personal best on her classwork, and simply "hating" math was counterproductive to what she hoped to have. This little girl's parents were told during parent teacher conferences that she was in danger of being retained unless she attended summer school and viola-after this project her summer school form was signed and returned to school! I chalk this project up as a win for her.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Their Future's So Bright They Have To Wear Shades

My 5th grade students started working on their end of the year college projects today. They made the visual for their presentation and will research their careers, pre-requisites, and college admission requirements tomorrow. I plan to have their completed projects hanging above their lockers by Wednesday afternoon. I think they are off to a great start, what do you think?

This project came from Pinterest. You can download the template and directions here. I modified the original lesson and had the student's sunglasses reflect what their future will look like. Their writing activity will go underneath.