Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Comma Fun

I have a love/hate relationship with commas.  I think they are fun to teach, but every year I have a hard time understanding why it is so important for first graders to have a solid grasp on how commas work.  The little guys are still learning how to read, so how in the world are they supposed to grasp how commas work?

That being said, I do love teaching commas and this is one of my favorite lessons that I do each year.  All you need is a few beginner comma printables (which I will provide below), some highlighters, bottled glue, and elbow macaroni.  If you are like me, you already have access to most of this stuff at school.  The only thing I had to buy was elbow macaroni and it was pretty cheap.

Before we started the activity, I did the first sentence under a Ladibug.  This allowed my kids to see my expectations.  I always teach my kids to highlight the words that are in the series.  Then, we talk about how many commas they will need to put and I show them how to glue the commas into place.

Here are some pictures of our activity.  Feel free to click on any of the images to go grab the printables I used for this activity.  I know they are simple, but they do the job :)

Disclaimer - I know that some schools don't put the comma before and anymore, but at my school we still do.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Brain Breaks

Have you been trying to figure out how to work brain breaks into your classroom?  If you have, then I'm going to try to help you out here.  I love brain breaks and since we are required to do 30 hours of PE/Health on our own in my county, it really pays off for us to do them daily.  So, here are some ideas on how to make it work for you.

 First of all, in case you aren't sure of why you do brain breaks, there's actually a purpose behind them.  Most kids have an attention span that matches their ages.  For example, if you are teaching six and seven year olds, then once you get past eight or nine minutes, they really start to struggle with listening.  Well, if they aren't listening then you aren't teaching.  Plus, you start to deal with behaviors at that point.  Brain breaks help break up your day into smaller portions.  Now, I know you are thinking there aren't enough minutes in a day, but if you are spending five minutes a lesson trying to get everyone's attention then isn't that eating up more of your day?  Brain breaks are meant to be used to let your kids get a little movement in so that they will focus better.

In my classroom, we usually use brain breaks as a reward or as part of our recess if it's rainy or cold.  I tell my kids that when we get a lesson done that we will have one as long as they complete the lesson.  To keep me from skipping over them, I write brain breaks into my lesson plan book.  I try my best to get four in a day.  We usually do two brain breaks in the morning and two in the afternoon.  Most brain breaks are only a few minutes long, so it's pretty easy to get them in right before you transition to something else.  Unless it's recess, I usually only do one at a time and typically it is anywhere from two to four minutes.

Definitely make sure your students understand your brain break rules before you start.  I only have a few rules - everyone participates and no being silly or playing during brain breaks.  That's it.  My kids know if I see them being unnecessarily silly then they will sit for the remainder of that brain break.

So, I'm sure now you are wondering where you can find brain breaks.  I really have two favorites.  I like to use the Learning Station brain breaks and GoNoodle brain breaks.  I also on occasion grab a few off of YouTube.

With the Learning Station brain breaks, I have DVDs, so this helps if the Internet is running slowly.  They are also cute and silly.

GoNoodle is a new favorite for me.  A lot of my kids went home last year and set accounts up at home after we used them in our classroom.  They love getting to grow their monsters and all the songs are recent songs.  The goofy made up brain breaks are fun and silly.  My favorite part is it tracks your minutes, so at the end of the year when you need to see your extra PE/health minutes it isn't a problem.

So what are my favorites?  Below are my Top 10 favorites with links.  I've also included a few of the videos.  (Note: Some have commercials since they are from YouTube)

Learning Station:
1. Boom Chicka Boom
2. Baby Shark
3. Wishy Washy Washer Woman
4. Fred the Moose
5. Go Bananas

1. Pop-See-Ko
2. Indoor Recess 6
3. Zumba - Happy
4. Zumba - All Star
5. Roller Coaster


Monday, April 13, 2015

Hands-On Place Value

Some of my best ideas happen very spur of the moment.  I'm sure since you are all teachers, you know exactly what I mean.  You have one thing in your plan book and then your students ask a question and everything shifts instantly.  I think out of all the lessons I plan, those are my favorite.

This was one of those lessons.  We were reviewing our morning work and I was trying to explain the difference between rods and units and how understanding tens and ones will help when adding two-digit numbers.  I realized that it wasn't sticking with half the class, so I got out our foam rods and units.

Fortunately, last year I had bagged them up so that each student could get a bag and it would have enough pieces for any problem from 1 to 99.  If you haven't done this, it is a must.  It saves SO much time and saving time definitely helps with classroom management.

After I passed out the bags, we went over our rules.  There aren't many, but it's important to tell your kids up front what your expectations are.
1. No drawing pictures with the markers. I do allow them at the end if they have followed the directions.

2. No talking.  I like to do what I call hotdog/hamburger.  Every other student is a hotdog or a hamburger.  This keeps kids from copying the kid next to them.  However, it also means we have to be quiet or we don't hear our numbers.

That's it - two rules.  However, if they break the rules, I take their items away and they have to sit and watch or write their spelling words two times before they can rejoin.  It usually only takes one or two students losing the privilege and everyone else falls in line.

Here are some pictures I took during our lesson.  My lower students started by just writing the number and showing me in rods and units.  My higher students had to also show me the answer in expanded form.

So, the next time you need a quick hands-on math activity or lesson, this is an easy one that requires very little planning and should use materials you already have in your classroom.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Silhouette Cameo Tutorial

I realize this is a blog mostly about teaching, but if you know me, then you know that I love creating. Well, for Christmas this past year I got a Silhouette Cameo and a heat press.  To most people that's probably like getting an iron or a mop for Christmas, but in my world it was exactly what I wanted.

The reason I'm writing about it is when I asked for it, I had all of these ideas about how it would work.  In my mind, the Cameo would work like a printer.  I'd see something I like, I'd print it, and it would be ready to go.  Fortunately, when it arrived I was in the middle of Christmas chaos - you know, where you have gifts to buy, parties to plan, treats to bake, etc.?  So, I didn't have time to play with my new toy.  Instead, I started joining groups and reading articles about it while I tried to fall asleep at night.  Thank goodness I did and for that reason, I am now writing ONE blog post about it.  Why one post?  Well, there's nothing worse than having to read 30 different posts to find what you need.

I can't promise you that I won't miss something, but I'm going to try to give you basic information to hopefully save you a few headaches and a little cash.  Oh, and I'm not being paid by anyone for any of my opinions.  They are just that - my opinions.  Other bloggers may do it differently, but this is what has worked for this girl behind this computer screen.

1. Oracle 651 - Use for umbrellas, ring dishes, phone decals, or car decals, and things you want to be permanent for awhile.  It is a more heavy duty vinyl, so it will hold up longer.  I usually set my blade on 2 when cutting Oracle 651.  Sometimes depending on the sharpness you will have to adjust it, but that's a good starting point.
2. Oracle 631 - Use for wall decals and things that you want to be able to get off later.  It is not as heavy duty, so it won't be impossible to remove.  I usually cut this vinyl with my blade set on 2.

3. Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) - This is for doing t-shirts/clothing.  That's the biggest reason I wanted a Cameo.  I prefer ThermoFlex Plus Color.  It gives a little when you weed it out, so I'm less likely to tear it.  I usually cut this vinyl with my blade set on 2.  Sometimes, I have to set it on 3, but it's rare.  If you order glitter HTV, then you will want to set your blade on 3.
1. Cameo Tools - They are cheap and last forever.  You will need these to weed (pull out the pieces you aren't using) and to smooth down contact paper when transferring items.  I have ordered them from Amazon and EBay.  You can also find them at Hobby Lobby.

2. Cutting Mat - My one lasted around four or five months.  However, you may want to keep a backup one.  If it loses it's stickiness, you can make it sticky again.  I included a video so you can see how to do it.  However, I just chose to replace mine.  Mine had cut marks where I made mistakes, lots of little lint, scrap pieces, etc. stuck to it, and it was worn on the sides.  They are around $8 to replace and to me that's quicker and cheaper than trying to repurpose my already worn out mat.  It is your call though, so here's a video so you can see what to do.

3. Contact Paper - Some crafters will tell you a specific type, but I just get the contact paper that you put on name tags.  It's cheap, you can find it almost anywhere (Amazon, Walmart, etc.), it's clear, and it works well.  You will use this when you cut vinyl that you want to transfer from your paper to another object like a ring dish or car.

4. Rubbing Alcohol - You will need this when using Oracle 631 and Oracle 651.  Before you put vinyl on an object, you have to clean the object.  This will help the vinyl go on better and last longer.

5. Heat Press (Only for shirts) - Technically, you can use an iron, but here's the deal.  When making shirts, you have to apply even pressure.  Well, if you use an iron and ironing board and you apply lots of pressure, the ironing board will break.  To top it off, you want your shirts to last more than a few washes.  So, while the heating press may seem slightly silly, it allows you to actually produce shirts faster and you won't worry about them lasting.  I ordered mine off of Amazon and it's 15x15.  Below is a link to the one I bought.

6. Teflon Sheet (Only for shirts) - Mine came with my heat press, but if you don't get one, you can order them off of Amazon.  You place this on top of the vinyl that you've put on your shirt before pressing.  This keeps the vinyl from sticking to your heat press or your iron.
7. 6x24 Clear Acrylic Ruler - This comes in handy for everything.  You use this to make sure that you center things that you are applying to objects or shirts.  I found mine at Michaels.
8. Scissors - I'm guessing this is self-explanatory, but just in case you don't have a good pair, make sure you grab some scissors.

1. There are LOTS of groups on Facebook.  My favorite one is Silhouette for Beginners.  Make sure you read the rules before you post.  They are included on the image below. My favorite thing about this group is there is a file called Table of Contents.  It's my go to place when I don't know how to do something.

2. You Tube has TONS of videos on everything you can imagine.  Watch videos and search on Google for help.  I learned how to use my machine watching videos and reading.

3. I typically attach my vinyl to the cut mat.  You don't have to do that, but it makes it easier for me to cut multiple colors and pieces at once and it holds it in place much better.  I don't think I've wasted any vinyl since I did this.

4. Glitter HTV needs to be the top layer when making shirts.

5. You can buy files from ETSY if the Silhouette store doesn't have what you want.

6. Your machine can do almost anything you can imagine including cutting card stock.  Personally, I haven't used it for that, but it can do that.  A lot of groups will recommend starting there, but I started my first cut on vinyl and I didn't have issues.  Just make sure you read before you start and you will be fine.

7. Sign stores will often give you their scraps for free or for a pretty low cost.  All you have to do is ask.  Their scraps will typically be Oracle 651 or higher.

The only place I buy my vinyl unless I need it REALLY fast is API Crafter Supply.  They are based in Georgia and they ship fast.  They also do a lot of sales, so make sure you follow their Facebook page so you know when they are running a sale.  I get that there may be other places a little cheaper, but back in December/January I actually decided to visit their store.  I was just beginning then and they never made me feel that way.  They answered 100 questions, cut tons of vinyl for me, and even threw in four or five samples and a booklet with all their colors.  I've ordered from them around thirty times now and every order has been correct and I would say 25 of those orders had a sample or free item added to it.  I also get everything I order within two days.  So, here's a link to their store and their Facebook page.

I hope this post helps you get started.  Here is my Pinterest board where you can find more ideas and information in case I skipped over something or you want more details.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Egg-cellent Egg-periments

I love Pinterest.  Seriously!  Sometimes I wonder what we did before things like Google and Pinterest.  At times, it is completely overwhelming how many ideas and things we can do.  I've always loved visuals, so Pinterest just makes my job easier or maybe it's harder because I want to try so many things.

Anyway, for the last few years there has been this neat little experiment using eggs.  The more I read about them, the more I had to try the experiment.

The best part is it was really two experiments in one.

Make eggshells disappear from eggs.  To make it more interesting, we used two different-sized eggs and we used food coloring on some of the eggs.

Make our eggs bounce.
Medium and Large eggs (Half my class got one size and the other half got the other size)
Food Coloring
Plastic Cups
Plastic Tablecloths

For the first experiment, I let the kids put the egg in their cup and choose the color to put in the cups.  I then put vinegar in the cups.  We did this on a Friday and left them for five days before we attempted to clean one of them off.  Using my thumb, I cleaned off the egg.  Be careful doing this because if your fingernail catches it or presses down too hard, then it will put a little hole in it.  Also, for future reference, I would probably only dye two or three eggs and leave the rest plain.  It was neat, but it defeated the purpose because you really couldn't see the yolk.

We didn't do the second experiment until two weeks after the first experiment.  It takes awhile to get the egg to a point where it may possibly bounce.  I probably would have left the eggs even longer, but I swear that my custodian was going to get me if I left them much longer.  Not to mention, our STEM room smelled like salt and vinegar chips for two weeks.

To make this work, all my kids sat and I called one at a time to give them his/her egg.  I cleaned them to try to keep them from breaking.  We moved the rug out of the way and put two plastic tablecloths on the floor.  This way if they broke it wouldn't be a huge deal.  I mean I don't want to clean up eggs that have soaked in vinegar for two weeks.  Do you?

I had one student at a time go to the tablecloth to drop their egg.  We did them from LOTS of different heights and all but two broke on the first drop.  One of the smaller, colored eggs made it a few drops.  Then my clear egg made it around six or seven drops.  The final drop was chest high and that one broke.  I was kind of glad because if you watch the video the bell is ringing in the background.

It really was a ton of fun and gave us a lot to talk about over two weeks.  It also really helped with behavior because the kids wanted to check the eggs every day and I wouldn't let them unless they had perfect behavior.

If you want more information, here are some sites where I got an idea about how I would make this work and what was causing it to work.  It also would make an incredible How To writing lesson, but we were already working on another egg writing assignment, so I didn't get to do this one.


Have a great day!