“Giftedness is not what you do or how hard you work. It is who you are. You think differently. You experience life intensely. You care about injustice. You seek meaning. You appreciate and strive for the exquisite. You are painfully sensitive. You are extremely complex. You cherish integrity. Your truth-telling has gotten you in trouble. Should 98% of the population find you odd, seek the company of those who love you just the way you are. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are utterly fascinating. Trust yourself!”

Linda Silverman~Gifted Development Center Denver

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Happy Easter to my PEEPS!

Picture of Classroom Easter Egg Hunt from http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

School has been a whirlwind since I last posted but I wanted to share a quick and easy classroom Easter Egg hunt idea I had with you. Last year I purchased these adorable refillable, plastic Easter eggs from my local Dollar Tree. They have been sitting in my cupboard for over year. I knew I would find something to do with them!  

Classroom Easter Egg Hunt from http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

I decided to make up a little Easter egg hunt for my class this year. When they come back to school on Tuesday morning, they will find that I have hidden Easter eggs all over the classroom. Did I fill the eggs with chocolate? jelly beans? NOPE! I filled each egg with a math question. When the students find the egg, they will open it, complete the math question and record their answer on the sheet provided and bring it to me to check. If the answer is correct, they will hide the egg again and find a new one.  I have hidden 30 eggs, but you could make and hide as many as you want.

Picture of Classroom Easter Egg Hunt from http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

I made up a little editable PDF so you could quickly type in your own questions (they don't have to be math questions, they can be anything you want). Print these off, cut them up and put them inside the eggs you already have (or are going to buy on clearance tomorrow since Easter will be over!). Tuesday morning, quickly hide them around your classroom and be ready for the fun to begin. I am going to give each child some sort of small (think jelly beans) candy for each correct answer, and perhaps have a larger prize for those who manage to find and correctly answer all the questions. It will all depend on what I can find on sale tomorrow after Easter is over.

Picture of Classroom Easter Egg Hunt from http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca
When you open the file you will see blue boxes.  Just type whatever you want into the boxes.  Be sure to save under a new file name so you keep your original clear, in case you want to create new questions next year.  

You can grab this FREEBIE by clicking on the image below.  

Picture of Classroom Easter Egg Hunt from http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Using Centers to Learn About Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms

I have blogged about using centers or stations for teaching science before.  I have used this method as part of my elementary science and technology instruction for as long as I have been teaching (that happens to be 25 years this year!).  Teaching a topic such as Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms (what doing what to what?) can be overwhelming to even the most enthusiastic teacher.   There is a constant struggle to find the appropriate balance between teaching content and letting the students experience hands on experiments and investigations.  Using centers to supplement your program will allow you to develop inquiry skills while still building student knowledge and understanding of content.  

I chose to create stations for the topic Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms because I just didn't find that using the materials I had was working for my style of teaching, or for my students.  

Why should you use centers?  

According to the NSTA (National Science Teacher's Association) "The Station Approach is a method of instruction in which small groups of students move through a series of learning centers, or stations, allowing teachers with limited resources to differentiate instruction by incorporating students’ needs, interests, and learning styles. The Station Approach supports teaching abstract concepts as well as concepts that need a great deal of repetition. Stations can cover a single topic such as density, or several independent topics such as reviewing the scientific instruments. Most importantly, using stations can increase students’ interest, keep them motivated, and eliminate many behavior problems while teaching all those lessons that you know will help students learn and be successful." (Denise Jaques Jones, Science Scope, 2007)

I started using centers (or stations) when I first began teaching because I taught split grades and I wanted a cohesive way to deliver hands-on investigations to two grades simultaneously.  I found that setting up bins filled with materials and instructions allowed ALL students to be working on science and technology at the same time, just not on the same content.  It allowed me to move around, to observe, to trouble shoot, and to assess students as they worked.  Students were engaged, and I wasn't worried about what the "other grade" was doing while I was delivering content one grade.  

Now I use centers as a way to keep students engaged, and to utilize minimal materials. Although there are many great science and technology programs out there, most of the investigations, if done by the whole class at once require copious amounts of difficult to find and/or expensive materials.  Using centers has allowed me to use far less materials, but all students get the benefit of using them.

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Not all of the centers are as involved as the ones pictured above.  Some centers have students reading about content, some have them matching vocabulary words with pictures and other ask them to analyze and apply what they know from their prior learning about concepts.

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

Picture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science CentersPicture of Forces Acting on Structures and Mechanisms Science Centers

I have found that after some introductory lessons I am able to have the students work on the centers over a period of about two weeks.  They record their work in a booklet format which I photocopy for them.  After I have "checked" over the work they have completed in the booklet, my students create a final copy of their "notes" in a blank science book.  They take great pride in their finished science notebooks when we are finished a unit.  

I hope to complete more center based science and technology units this summer.  Make sure you follow my store to receive updates as I upload new materials.  

Sunday, 13 December 2015

A Little Holiday Cheer....

Every single year I think to myself that I should post my holiday craft ideas leading up to the Christmas holidays...and every year, I run out of time, or I forget to take pictures or I get sick....

So this year here is what has been going on in my fifth grade classroom!

I decided to make the borax snowflakes with my class. We have just finished our unit on matter and materials and this fit in perfectly. 

Materials Needed:
  • One box Borax (I got mine for $4.50 at Great Canadian Superstore, but they also sell it at Metro and Walmart)
  • Large red cups (I got mine 18 per package at Dollar Tree)
  • Package of pipe cleaners (Dollar Tree)
  • Package of popsicle sticks (Dollar Tree)
  • Package of ornament hangers (Dollar Tree)
  • Boiling Water (I have a kettle for classroom use)  YOU MUST SUPERVISE THE USE OF THE BOILING WATER.  I poured it for each student.
  • Measuring spoons
  • Wooden spoons for stirring

After assembling all the materials needed, I gave each student a cup, a pipe cleaner, a wire ornament hanger and a popsicle stick. The students cut the pipe cleaner into 3 equal sections and then twisted to make the snowflake shape.  I had them hook the top part of the snowflake over the wire ornament hanger.  

I worked directly with the students to create the snowflake solution. Students were called up to the counter area in pairs.  I poured a cup and a half of boiling water into each cup.  Students did NOT touch the cups at any point.  Students measured 4 1/2 tablespoons of Borax into the hot water, stirring with a wooden spoon after each tablespoon was added.  They need to make sure each tablespoon is dissolved, before they add the next one.  After dissolving the 4 1/2 tbsp. of Borax into the hot water, students hung their pipe cleaner snowflake from the popsicle stick and lowered it into the solution.   I moved the still hot cup into our "snowflake nursery" and students left them over night.  

In the morning, I called up each student individually to unveil their special snowflake.  We placed them on paper towel to dry completely.  Above you can see the snowflake I made at home to test out my methods.  I think it turned out quite well, and I learned a lot about the process by trying it out myself first.

A sweet friend had given me these wonderful felt lined, silver tins (telling me she knew I would come up with some wonderful craft to do with them).  I realized they would be perfect for putting the finished ornaments in.  I know my students will be thrilled to give a special someone their handmade ornament for the holidays.

Another craft I like to do, and have done many, many times with students is to create a plastic canvas box which can become an ornament or just a keepsake.  I used to be able to find plastic canvas at most craft stores or at Walmart in the craft section, but for the last few years it has been impossible to find it in those stores. Dollar Tree to the rescue again!  I buy up to 10 sheets at a time when I see it, and I have quite a stash in my craft box.  

I have the students pre-cut the large sheets of plastic canvas into squares which are 15 by 15 holes.  They do the "sewing" using special needles created for crafting with plastic canvas.  Again, I have bought them when I find them and have quite a large collection available.   These needles are ridiculously expensive if you buy them online from the U.S. but if you can find them while you are travelling or if you find them in a craft store, grab them!

If you are familiar with plastic canvas, you will recognize the simple pattern I teach the students.  They create a different four square pattern on each of 6 squares of plastic canvas.  I allow students to choose the wool colours and designs they like.  After they have created all 6 squares, I teach them to sew it together using another colour of wool (such as black or another solid colour).  The lid is sewn in such a way that it has a hinge and can open.  We finish the project up with a festive pom pom (from Dollar Tree) and if it is going to be hung as an ornament, we add a ribbon loop.  This is a keepsake that the students love creating, year after year.

A final fun to do craft is the snowmen with the LED light up noses. I can't take credit for the photo or the idea...but you can find the instructions to make these super cute ornaments by clicking on the image above.  I changed up the instructions a few years ago by using "googly eyes" for the eyes on the snowmen and they look super cute.  I have purchased the LED candle tea-lights from Costco in a HUGE package several times, but if you cannot find them there, they are available at stores such as Dollar Tree in packages of two.

I just love the holiday season.  Here are some shots of my classroom so you can see how into the spirit I get each year!  

The door to my classroom.  Love this!

The "Tiffany" blue tree behind my desk.

 The little trees in my room (before I got the lights to work!).  I hang the critter ornaments you see below on these the week before the holidays.  On Friday, each child will get to take home their special friend.

I hope you have a wonderful week with your students leading up to the holidays, and enjoy your time with friends and family during your break.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Something sweet for Thanksgiving

Picture of Happy Thanksgiving at Teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada and I can't stop thinking about FOOD.  I love to roast a turkey, make cranberry sauce from scratch, mash potatoes and rutabaga, and bake some stuffing (this year I am doing some gluten free too, of course).  Last week at school we had our annual Thanksgiving luncheon and I took a vegan, dairy free, gluten free pumpkin pie that was to die for. There is a new gluten free bakery in my neighbourhood called Whisked and they make awesome bread, cookies and pies.  Something about fall just makes you crave delicious treats. 

If you live in Toronto be sure to check out all the awesome 
gluten free goodness at Whisked.

With food and report cards on my mind, I whipped up these levels of achievement posters.  I know I am not the only one who loves food, my students do as well.  I have been using the ice cream sundae analogy for many years to describe what work looks like at different levels.  I decided having a great visual would help me better explain the concept to my class, and would allow me to refer to it all year long.

4 Picture Levels of Achievement Posters Ontario Curriculum @ Teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

 I know the idea of using the ice cream sundae is not unique in classrooms across the country.  What I wanted though, was to create a set of posters which teachers could modify to suit the needs of their own classrooms.  Sometimes the language we create a poster or anchor chart with just doesn't work for another group of students in another classroom, or for a particular group of students, or even for the task at hand.  

Picture of 4 Levels of Achievement Posters Ontario Curriculum @ Teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Each poster includes a yummy visual depicting one of the levels of the Ontario Achievement chart.  For these posters I have used student friendly language which I have found works in my classroom with junior students. But have you ever purchased something like these posters and you just wanted to tweak something?  Or you love the graphics and the concept but the way the author created the posters just doesn't work for your class? With that in mind, I made this set of posters so that teachers can make each level say exactly what they know will work their students.  

Picture of 4 Levels of Achievement Posters Ontario Curriculum @ Teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Each poster set includes two versions.  One has my wording on them and the other set allows you to create posters which say anything you wish.  When you open up the PDF file you will see blue boxes on the slides which are editable.  No need to worry about downloading and matching fonts.  The posters have the font embedded in the file so they match the headings on each poster. Simply type the wording you want into the box, and voila, you have your own personalized version of the poster.

Picture of 4 Levels of Achievement Posters Ontario Curriculum @ Teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

You can get your own set of posters by clicking on any of the images above or by clicking HERE.  

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend, whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving or Columbus Day.  Enjoy time with family and friends.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Keeping busy! Bouncy Bands help students focus!

Some days I find it hard to believe that I have been teaching for almost 25 years.  Things have changed a LOT in that time.  I am also amazed at all the great things we can add to our repertoire to assist the students in our classrooms.  The past few years I started using Therabands around the chair legs to help students who need to move a lot.  I am a certified Pilates instructor and I had an extra Theraband roll so I tried it out....similar to the picture below.

That only lasted a short while for students who were active leg movers.  The bands quickly wore out and had to be disposed of. Last year, I was at a local dollar store and saw some resistance bands which I thought might work better.  I put one on every chair in my classroom and my students loved it. Having the bands on the chair legs allowed those who needed to move a way to get out excess energy without disturbing myself or others in the classroom. You can see the resistance bands on the front legs of this student's chair.

Picture of Bouncy Bands on desk legs http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

The resistance bands are great, but over time they break and have to be fixed (short term) or replaced.  As I have purchased these items with my own money, this is not a cost effective option in the long run.  

Enter Bouncy Bands.  
Picture of Bouncy Bands on desk legs http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Scott Ertl the creator of the Bouncy Bands was kind enough to send me a few samples to try out in my classroom. Scott Ertl is an elementary school counselor in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He created Bouncy Bands to help students at his own school to have a way to move when they worked so they wouldn't have to stay trapped at their desks for 5-6 hours a day. He wanted to help them be able to stretch their legs, bounce their feet and prop up their feet instead of having them dangle all day from their chair.

I chose to put the bands on the desks of the students who seemed to benefit the most from the resistance bands.  I asked the students to try out the Bouncy Bands and give me feedback at the end of the week.  The students said that they liked that the bands allowed them to "bounce" their feet, rather than push against the resistance bands.  I felt that adding the Bouncy Bands to the desk legs would allow students the choice of bouncing their feet, or pushing against the resistance bands.  There was no clear winner for the students, but for me, I felt that the durability and therefore longevity of the Bouncy Bands would make them superior in the long run.  I would love to be able to raise enough funds to purchase a classroom set of the Bouncy Bands which go on the chair legs.  These would be similar to what I have created with the resistance bands, but much more durable.

Picture of Bouncy Bands on desk legs http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca
If you live in the U.S. you can apply for classroom funding to purchase Bouncy Bands through Donor's Choose.  Scott has included more information about filling out a Donor's Choose application here.  I wish there was something like this for Canadian teachers as well!

If you decide you would like to purchase some Bouncy Bands for your classroom you can use code "15OFF" at checkout.