Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pirate Shares! A Division Game

Merry Christmas to all!  Hope that you had a wonderful holiday, and are enjoying a restful break!  It’s been really nice just snuggling with my dog, watching movies with my daughter, and having some days with nowhere to be and nothing on the schedule! J

And maybe that’s why I finally had some inspiration hit me today… J  Not that I’ve been lesson planning at ALL, but an idea came to me out of the blue so I ran with it!  In January our next math focus will be on division, as well as keeping those multiplication skills polished.  I started to kick around ideas of how to teach that concept… what do kids connect to that has to do with division?  What would make this often complicated skill fun and meaningful to my kiddos?  Somehow the answer that came to me was REALLY outta nowhere:  pirate treasure! J 


Pirate Shares, the game that came from this crazy brainstorm, is really fun!  Kids will “sail” their pirate ship across a treasure map game board, meanwhile trying to collect the most pirate gold.  On each turn, they turn over game cards that ask them to evenly divide a number of gold coins among a given number of pirates—hee hee.  J  If the number divides evenly, players get to keep a “share.”  If not, no gold is collected on that round.  There’s even wild cards mixed in to help players earn bonus coins or have coins snatched by “Parrot Pete.”  For extra fun, you can play with those plastic gold coins (saw some at the dollar store the other day).  Kids who struggle with division concepts can use the coins for hands-on manipulatives as they play the game.

I’ve added this game to my TPT site.  It includes the treasure map game board, all of the playing cards, a set of student-friendly directions, teacher directions, and even pirate ship game piece printables!

Looking forward to having something motivating and fun for students to jump into in January.  But until then…back to my dog, a movie, or perhaps even a book?   Wishing a very restful break to teachers everywhere! J

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Gingerbread House Math!

What’s more childhood Christmas than GINGERBREAD houses?  Next Saturday I’m starting a new tradition, inviting some friends over for a cookie exchange and make-your-own-gingerbread-house  party.  Time to get out the graham crackers, frosting and candy!

This week my class will be making “gingerbread houses” too—using LOTS of math!   The kids had so much fun with this activity last year, and took a lot of pride in their paper house creations.  I loved it because this simple activity had them multiplying, adding, subtracting, and doing real-world math!

So just how can a simple gingerbread house connect to math?  I give each student a gingerbread house template and the challenge to decorate it beautifully—with one twist.  They have a candy-spending budget, and each peppermint, gumdrop, and candy cane has a cost.   Students have to plan which candy decorations they will use, total their cost on a “receipt” worksheet, and solve for their change.  Real-world, right?  Then, after they’ve done the math they take out crayons, markers or colored pencils and start decorating!  It’s LOTS of fun.

I’ve put this file, My Gingerbread House Multiplication Activity Pack, on my TPT store.  There are two different versions included, one for learners just starting out with multiplication (facts 3-11) and one for more advanced students (double-digit multiplication).  Directions, the gingerbread house template, and a rubric are all included!

My kids will be creating these math masterpieces this week, and who knows?  Maybe their teacher will bring in some gingerbread cookies to munch on while they work…. J  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Technology Advent Calendar

For today’s post, I’d just like to start by saying….go get your flu shot.  Run—do not walk!  Of course that’s not official medical advice, but after being very sick since Sunday I just want to shout that from the rooftops!  J  Seriously, stay well this time of year!

After being out sick a few days, it was GREAT to be back at school.  The highight was getting to observe several flipped classrooms at a school in our district and to talk with teachers there.  I’m trying flipped for the first time this year in 3rd grade and LOVE it!  Yesterday was inspiring!  I love getting to see other educators teach! 

Speaking of inspiring teachers, our FANTASTIC tech teacher found and shared this awesome resource.  It’s a Web 2.0 Advent Calendar for the 25 days ‘til Christmas!   What a BRILLIANT idea,!

There’s a different educational tech tool for each day in December.  How fun would it be to take a look each day at a new website for inspiration and ideas?  Simply click on the bird at the left to return back to the calendar view. 

Of course just like the kids, I had to “peek” ahead at a few days on the calendar because I’m impatient like that… J  I’m sure you can take it one surprise at a time!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Around the World

Are the holidays REALLY on the way?  I have to say the unseasonably warm weather these last few days has kept me referring to the Christmas lights around town to be sure that it’s December!  This Ohio girl is missing the snow now and then! However, I won't complain, will I?  :)

I LOVE this time of year, and the excitement in the air.  It’s so fun to relive Christmas through the eyes of the kids, and to celebrate meaningful traditions all over again.  So, it is time again to bring out my favorite Christmas activity: “Christmas Around the World.”  Coming from a community where there is rich diversity and learners from all over the globe, I love learning with the students the many special different ways that cultures celebrate this time of year.

A few years back, I created this Smart notebook “Christmas Around the World.”  Designed for the primary grades, this highly interactive Smart notebook explores how Italy, Germany, Mexico, Sweden, Israel and Holland celebrate the holidays. This 24-page notebook includes information on peoples, homes, people, and foods from each country, and includes web links and even sound clips! Students can touch the menorah to light the candles, "unwrap" presents to see hidden pictures--even play the dreidel game and learn to say "Merry Christmas" in different languages! This lesson also highlights map skills, and can be used to supplement a Social Studies holiday unit. I use this in the classroom in combination with art projects and literature.  It's lots of fun and can be enjoyed at once, or over a series of days as students study the various countries.

One quick note:  there are several web links embedded in the notebook and at first they may appear to be uncooperative.  Opening Firefox as your browser should do the trick, and they should all work fine! J  Allow a few seconds to load, but each link is worth it!  Check out my TPT store to see more and hope you enjoy it as much as I do! :)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas FUN Math Scavenger Hunt

I had to do it… In keeping with my Fall in Love with Math and Halloween Fun Math Scavenger hunts, I had to make a Christmas version!  My students love this activity so much, and I’m excited to incorporate it into my holiday math lesson plans in the next few weeks! J  Here is Christmas FUN Math Scavenger Hunt!

Just like the other scavenger hunt versions, this is an engaging math problem solving activity that gets kids up and around the room.  It's self-checking and can be done independently or with a partner.  This version focuses on multiplication facts to 12, and includes several multi-step problems as well. 

I’ve posted this in my TPT store along with several other great holiday activities.  Hope it’s something that you can use too! J

Reminders Made Easy!

The holiday season is here in full swing!  That means parties, gift exchanges, school Christmas programs, projects, and many other FUN things for students and families!  My classroom calendar already is looking pretty jam-packed with fun things.  The challenge is remembering them all myself and reminding parents so that they can be a part too! 

If you find yourself sending frequent emails and notes home to remind parents about things to bring and dates to remember, I’ve found a GREAT website for you:  Remind 101.

Remind101 is a free website that lets you send quick text reminders to parents.  It’s super easy to use, and saves a LOT of time!  Simply set up your class account, give parents the link to sign up, and you’re set to go!  There’s even a PDF set of directions that guides parents on the sign-up process.  It’s quick and easy!  I  had the site open on my classroom computers during Meet the Teacher Night, and asked parents to sign up that night.  It took just minutes!  

From there, just type a quick message on the site and it instantly sends the reminder text to everyone on the contact list!  Best of all, your phone number and all those on the contact list stay confidential.  It’s brilliant!  You save time getting those reminders out, the needed cookie trays and gift exchange gifts make it to school on the right day, and families remember those precious Christmas program dates and times!  It’s really helpful for reminding parents of things like upcoming tests and projects, too!

In addition to the website, Remind 101 also has an app for both iPhone and Android.  Here’s hoping this helps to SIMPLIFY the school fun of the holiday season for parents and for YOU!  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Turkey Math!

Whew—blogging has gotten away from me these last two weeks, and I’ve MISSED it! It’s been a hectic few weeks, and it’s so nice to finally sit down and post.  J

We have been busy in 3rd grade finishing up a subtraction with regrouping unit, and are heading into the Thanksgiving holiday next week.  What better practice than to send students “shopping” for Thanksgiving meal goodies, all with real-world prices and holiday menu story problems?  I created this Thanksgiving Grocery Shopping Math activity last year, and had a lot of fun with it!  It was great practice for the kids.  As they  practiced adding and subtracting prices, it was interesting to see them realize just how much a turkey dinner can cost! J

If you’d like to check out Thanksgiving Grocery Shopping Math, check out my TPT store HERE.   The set includes a Smart notebook file with grocery store prices, an activity sheet with story problems, and answer key.  Best of all, this and my Thanksgiving Favorites Bar Graph Activity are 20% off now through Wednesday!  Gobble on over and check ‘em out! J

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Genre Genius!

Brrr—it’s been cold today!  It was a good day to hunker down with a cup of coffee, watch movie classics, and finish some reading projects!

A few weeks ago, my third graders started working on reading genre.  I love teaching this mini unit as it helps young readers to go beyond their comfort zone and try new books!  We had a lot of fun incorporating a brand new genre “field guide” foldable book that students will be able to use as a resource the rest of this year.

We also did a fun scavenger hunt with genre clues hidden around our school library.  The kids read the clues, guessed the genre, and then checked their answer with the QR code.  Super fun!

Finally, students were given a genre project choice board from which to choose and do activities to show their learning.  The kids enjoyed these so much that they asked to do more activities from the board after they’d finished their first choices!  We had a blast with this!  

Best of all, the students now really have a good understanding of story elements and what makes a book fit a certain genre.  The kids are also branching out to read books from genres that they previously didn’t choose.

I’ve bundled all of these goodies into a “Genre Genius Super Pack,” and you can take a look here.  It includes the field guide foldable book, the QR scavenger hunt materials, the genre project choice board, and all of the printables needed to do those activities!  It's all ready to go!

I'm off to read a book for a little while myself now... J Have a great weekend, and stay WARM!  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween Math FREEBIE

Happy Monday! J  My 3rd graders are working on subtraction this week!  I recently noticed that my class was struggling with equations that have missing addends.  Oh, how early our misunderstanding of “algebra” begins!  Kids can become quickly confused when simple variables or missing addends are introduced! 

With Halloween around the corner, I thought that “costumed characters” could help us understand how this math concept works.  Would it help students to grasp pre-algebra concepts if Halloween characters were disguised as a “mystery number” in an equation?  If nothing else, it might just add a little fun to this math skill.  J  I’m going to give it a try in my class this week!

Hope that you can use this FREEBIE with your class, too!  I’ve made two different versions, one with simple addition equations and the other with double-digit addition problems.  An answer key is included as well.  I’m counting on it helping my kids.  I’d love to hear how it works for you!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Halloween FUN Math Hunt

A few months back, I posted a FALL in Love with Math Scavenger Hunt.  My kiddos had soooo much fun with that activity that I decided to make a Halloween version as well.  It’s so hard to believe that trick or treating is barely over a week away!  This week we will be doing this Halloween FUN Math Scavenger Hunt! 

Basically, this activity is a math problem solving scavenger hunt with a self-checking twist.  Kids travel around the room looking for story problem cards and solve them on their recording sheet.  They know that their answer is correct if they find another question card with that answer in the top corner!  This works really well as a math center or enrichment activity.  I used the fall version over the course of a week as kids finished their math “must do” work.  You can also use this as a “question of the day” activity and model the work whole-group.

I love that it gets learners up and moving, and it gives great insight into students’ problem-solving skills.   If you’d like to have your kiddos scavenger hunt too, click HERE!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tech Tuesday: EdCanvas

So this week I’ve taken the plunge into flipped classroom!  My 3rd graders are doing an awesome job and LOVING flip!  I’m loving being able to go deeper into content and spend more time with hands-on learning in the classroom!

The switch to flipped classroom has taken a little bit of research and a trip around the learning curve, but I’ve found some great tools along the way.  My favorite one so far is EdCanvas.  It’s amazing—and free!  This website allows you to quickly assemble learning modules (such as those used for flipped or blended lessons) by simply dragging in video clips, web link activities, handouts, and photos.  Students see and do the activities step-by-step as you’ve set them up.  Post a link to your EdCanvas in Edmodo or on your website, and it’s set to go!

EdCanvas has many great features including:
  • YouTube video search within the EdCanvas site
  • Ability to link EdCanvas to your Dropbox or Google Drive 
  • Access to the EdCanvas gallery
  • A QR code generator to share your EdCanvas
  • Class setup options for your students to create modules too!

Here’s an EdCanvas that I made for rounding.  Super easy to make, and my students loved learning with this!  I'm hooked!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pumpkin Patch Prompts & Giveaway!

Mmmmmm….fall!  Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pie pancakes, pumpkin candles.   These chubby orange gourds are on every porch on my street, and have inspired me to come up with a pumpkin classroom activity, the Pumpkin Patch Prompt RAFT Write!

RAFT is an acronym that stands for Role, Audience, Format and Topic.  This differentiated writing strategy allows learners to choose their own writing prompt from a list of leveled choices.  It’s always good to give students choice, and RAFT is a fun way to do that with writing prompts.  I like it, too, because it works for ALL of my learners, from those who struggle to those who are more advanced.  RAFT is also fantastic because it raises students’ awareness about the various formats that exist for writing:  postcards, newspaper articles, diary entries, poems, and more.  They get to choose and experiment with these formats, all around a fun topic.

I’ve added this activity to my TPT store, but I will be giving away a FREE copy to the first 5 people  who comment below!  Happy Fall y’all! J

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Skeleton Sentences

Yikes!  The Halloween candy is out in full force at the grocery store.  I will need to bypass those aisles for the awhile…

With spooky stuff coming up later this month, I’ll soon be using cute little skeletons to help my kiddos write more elaborate sentences.  What do skeletons have to do with writing?  Well, they’re a great intro to “bare bones” plain sentences that leave readers wanting more.  When kids learn about “skeleton sentences,” they can start to think about how to add more descriptive words to make their sentences even stronger. 

I had a little too much fun making a Smart notebook for this “Skeleton Sentence” set.  It has an interactive “x-ray machine” where kids can slide the sentences through the machine to see them appear!  There’s some other hide-and-reveal talking points too, and ways to do guided practice as a class.  I’ve also included 2 practice printables where students can extend their “skeleton sentences” into stronger, more elaborate ones.  I can’t wait to see how this helps my kids write with more detail!   If you’d like to try Skeleton Sentences with your class, click HERE to get a copy!

Brain Break!

Wow!  It’s been a busy week, but I just had to blog to share a GREAT resource that my friend Brenda shared with me!  I'm a big believer in “brain breaks.”  Kids REALLY need to be able to get up and stretch during the school day.  Quick exercise breaks refresh students (and teachers), help with activity transitions, and improve oxygen flow to the brain.  We just think better when we’re able to get up and move!

If you are looking for a fun brain break, be sure to check this one out!  Not only is it incredibly fun, but it even has a social studies connection!  Watch closely to see how people from all over the world take this little dancing break too!  Try it in your classroom—it’s a blast!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Monster Mash! learning centers

I’m convinced that teachers pick up little tidbits and ideas wherever they go.  We’re lifelong learners, and are always on the lookout for things that our students will learn from and enjoy.

Call it crazy, but my latest project came about after a trip to the theater. J  Just saw “Frankenstein: The Musical” at the Pocket Sandwich Theater here in Dallas.  It was so much fun, and well---I guess inspiring! J  Monsters are just fun…and cooky…and out of the ordinary. So in the middle of “Frankenstein the Musical” I sat there thinking about how to connect monsters and learning.  The wheels started turning and the result is my latest bundle, “Monster Mash!”

It’s a set of learning center activities for primary grades, and includes:

  •   Feed the Monster—feed the monsters the word   families they like best!  Cut and sort picture cards (- an, -at, -in, and –it words) and place them in the  monster’s belly!
  •    Monster Sort! –sort monsters by their attributes
  •    My Monster Craft-and-Write—roll the dice to see  how many creature features your monster has,  then use craft materials to to create it!  Best of all,  students use the planning web to describe their  monster and write about it on fun monster paper!

This is a lot of fun, and I hope that it’s something that you can use!  Click HERE to see more!  I plan to create a version for older kids like my 3rd graders, and hope to post that sometime soon!

Frankenstein and monster learning centers… sometimes I shake my head at where the ideas come from! J

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bubblegum Behavior Chart FREEBIE

Let’s be honest--with some of our students, working on behaviors is as important as working on academics!  Some kids need additional structure and positive feedback to develop those classroom behaviors that will make them successful learners.

Having worked with kids with behavioral and emotional needs for a large portion of my teaching career, I’ve learned that behavior charts can be great teacher tools.  However, knowing the busy, hectic pace of the day, I also know that they need to be EASY!  That’s how this chart came about.  All you need is the chart and a set of sticker dots.  These dots cost about a dollar a pack, and come in a variety of colors. 

After focusing on 2 specific, positively-stated target behaviors, I review the chart with the child who will be using it.  For the child I designed this for, we worked on staying in area and working quietly.  These can be tailored to the student’s individual needs.  When the student shows the desired behaviors, he or she earns a “gumball” sticker for that time slot or subject.  At the end of the day, they color in the number of gumballs earned on the gumball machine at the bottom, and it goes home in the take-home folder.  It’s that easy!  Parents can sign and return if desired, and there is space at the bottom for anecdotal notes. 

If you have a student who is on RTI for behavior, this is an easy way to keep data.  Simply plug the total gumball stickers earned out of 14 possible into Excel.  I’ve included a few modified versions in this file: one with the chart broken down into times, one broken down into subject area blocks, and one blank for both time blocks and target behaviors.   Click HERE to grab your freebie!  Hope that it helps to bring about positive behaviors, happy kids, and a happy teacher! J

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Easy Parent Conference Scheduling

It’s hard to believe that fall Parent–Teacher conferences are here already!  While I love the chance to sit down with parents and talk about their child’s strengths, needs, and performance in the classroom, scheduling for me has always been a bit of a nightmare.  Not being the best “detail person,” I find that it takes a lot of time sending out available times, confirming times, changing times when conflicts arise, and sending reminders about times for conferences. Yikes-- I need an administrative assistant! J

Scheduling conferences just got SO….much….easier!  I recently started noticing how all of my dentists and doctors now schedule their appointments online, so I did a quick search to see if there was an online scheduling tool for teachers.  I found a FREE one called Volunteer Spot.  It allows you to:
  • Set up a calendar of available slots that parents  can see online
  • Decide whether or not you want scheduled names  to be visible in the online calendar
  • Quickly and easy copy schedules to other calendar  days if desired
  • View the status of your schedule
Best of all, it sends out a REMINDER for the conference time and even syncs with Google calendars and more.  There are also options to have people sign up to bring something (such as for a class party), or to send in payments for field trips or school materials.  Additional add-ons are available for a very small fee.
So excited!  I can have conferences over the next few weeks while still having time to plan great instruction and do the day-to-day teaching responsibilities without missing a beat!  It took all of 20 minutes to set up my calendar, send the link in an email to parents, and post it on my website!  Be sure to check it out—I’m sure you’ll love it too!

                               Free online sign up sheets by VolunteerSpot

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Scientific Method Marker Mystery

Elementary kids love science.  I do too!  Growing up, science was such an abstract subject as we just read the textbook and didn’t really make real-world connections.  Now as a teacher myself, I try to teach science in a hands-on way that encourages kids’ curiosity and problem-solving. 

It’s impossible to really kids into a deep level of science understanding without teaching the scientific method.  This concept is so abstract for young learners, and yet they will need to use it all the way to high school!  So, I teach the scientific method early and loop back to it throughout the year with each activity we do. 

How do we initially learn the scientific method in our class?  With magic markers, coffee filters, cups of water, and a Smart notebook actiivity. J  I call It the “Magic Marker Mystery.”  Students see how marker dots spread out to various pigments when water is added.  I use smelly markers and classic Crayola markers , but using two other different brands would work too!   Black markers show the coolest effect, but it’s also good to have students try more than one marker color for comparison.

The Smart notebook (or Powerpoint version if you prefer) walks the students through the experiment step-by-step, and the student experiment recording sheet helps them see the scientific method in action.  This same experiment sheet is used throughout the year with later activities, and this first lesson really helps familiarize them with the process that scientists take in their daily work.  Best of all, the experiment is quick, easy to do in the classroom, and super at getting the kids hooked on science!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rounding Numbers Football BLITZ!

My class has been hard at work on building number sense, and that means….rounding numbers!  This is such a tricky skill for many students, so I started thinking about how to teach and practice this in a new way. 

I had some crazy inspiration hit me during a football game at our town’s NEW stadium.  Sitting there watching the opening game I started to think up a way to combine math and football.  The result:  Rounding Numbers Football BLITZ!  I’m so excited about this math game, and hoping that my 3rd grade football fans will make new connections to how rounding numbers work!

The game board for this activity is a football field (modified to match the math involved! J).  The board just needs to be printed and attached side-by-side to a manilla file folder.  There are two versions included—one for rounding tens and the other for rounding to the nearest hundreds.  Two sets of number cards are also included, with color used to highlight the place being rounded too.  Players move towards their end zone when their numbers round up, but earn “round downs” when their card number rounds down.  There are even “interception” and “fumble” cards mixed in, and a scoreboard for players to record their points!   I've also added a math writing "football play book" page where students choose a prompt to respond to after playing the game.

I have a few toy football helmets and football trinkets from the dollar store that I plan on using for game pieces, but chips or pennies or similar game pieces will work just as well!

I've posted this in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and  hope that you’ll give this a look at give this a look.  Let me know what you think!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Writing Prompt Wordles

The next few weeks in our class are all about WRITING! J  I’ve been doing some focus lessons to help my kiddos realize how fun it is to write, and how many choices there are to write about.  We always have those few students who continually get stumped when it comes to a writing topic.  Here’s an idea for helping kids get past the “I don’t know what to write” hump!

Before we ever sat down to free write this year, I put my students in pairs.  I gave them the task of coming up with as many possible writing topics as they could think of.  From dragons to sharks to birthday parties, what would they really like to write about if they had the CHOICE?  They worked with their partners for about 10 minutes and generated amazing lists of things that they could write about.

Next, we gathered as a group and each pair shared their best writing topics.  As they did, I started typing their ideas into a Wordle (  This free site quickly and easily generates a word cloud of any text you choose.  After an extensive list from the kids and a click of a button, their writing topic Wordle appeared on the Smartboard with lots of “ooohs” and “aaaaaahs.”  They were hooked!

 We talked about how this list could help us through the year to generate writing ideas, and how we can always add more to it.  I’d like to even revisit this activity and have the students make the writing topic Wordles and glue them on the front of their writing journals.   This might even make a nice basket of class writing notebooks, all with different wordle topic lists on the cover?  Lots of possibilities, and boy was this fun!

The result has been 23 very eager writers!  All week I’ve heard students say things liike “Can I write in my journal when I’m done?” or  “I’m not done with my story—can I keep working on that tomorrow?”  Best of all, I know that the next time I hear a child say “I don’t know what to write,” all I need to do is point to our Wordle!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Math scavenger hunt!

I just LOVE the FALL! J  It’s my favorite season hands-down.  I realize that Labor Day is tomorrow and that technically it’s still summer, but fall is on the way!

My daughter (a high school senior) was chatting with me about a fun scavenger hunt that they did in her math class.  Basically, there were problems posted around the room, and the students had to answer a question and then find that correct answer on top of another question card in the room.  The moment I heard that, light bulbs started going off and I thought about how FUN it would be to do this with my 3rd graders!  I love being able to get kids up and moving as they learn, and am always looking for new and unique math activiites.  Meanwhile, I came across some ADORABLE fall clip art, and my “FALL in love with MATH scavenger hunt” came to be!  I can’t wait to try this with my class this week!  Here's a look at the question cards.  

Basically, the answer in bold at the top of the card is the correct answer to a different question in the hunt.  This allows the students to check for accuracy as they complete the activity and also lets kids start with any question card and still complete all 10 questions in sequence.  This set includes 10 question cards that focus on number sense, math reasoning, and addition and subtraction with and without regrouping.  

I’ve modified the scavenger hunt for younger students with fall pictures so that students can easily match the question card picture to the same picture on their recording sheet.  J  I also have my students get into the regular habit of showing their work so I added a “workspace” on the student recording sheet too.  

There’s an answer key as well, making this all set for use!   If you’d like to “FALL in love with MATH” with your class, click HERE!