February 23, 2020

Fractions In Real Life

Fractions can be a difficult concept for some students. However, when we begin with a concrete and relatable topic for our lesson, students are given the foundation for further learning.


My absolute favorite way to teach and explore fractions is to make slime with the kids! At the end of the school year, many kids say making slime was their favorite activity of the year. Allow me to share how we make slime while learning fractions!

Prepare For The Lesson


1. Choose The Recipe.

Keep student allergies in mind, and be sure to choose a recipe with safe ingredients.
The recipe I have had success with is listed below.

2. Gather Up Materials.

For the recipe below you will need:
white school glue (one-fourth cup per student)
baking soda (a three-fourth teaspoon per student)
food coloring
contact lens solution (1.5 teaspoons per student)
plastic bowls
craft sticks for stirring
wax paper
measuring cup (one-fourth)
measuring spoons (one teaspoon, one-half teaspoon, three-fourth teaspoon)

I use 2 days to complete the slime activity.

Slime Making Day One


1. Post The Recipe.

I post this recipe on the board:

4 oz (one-half cup) white school glue
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
6 - 8 drops food coloring
3 teaspoons contact lens solution

I explain that the recipe would make enough for 2 kids, but I want each student to be able to make their own slime. "Hmmm, how can we work this out?" Some of your students are bound to come up with halving the recipe.

2. Do Some Math.

We then take the time to do the math of halving each ingredient.

Here is the recipe that we end up with:

2 oz (one-fourth cup) white school glue (We use Elmers.)
3/4 (three-fourths) teaspoon baking soda
3 - 4 drops of food coloring
1.5 (one and one half) teaspoon contact lens solution

We then go over the vocabulary word knead. Demonstrate with playdough or show a visual of dough being kneaded.

Slime Making Day 2


1. Set Up The Materials Prior To The Lesson.

It may help to measure out the glue in advance using small plastic cups. This can be done by pouring 2 ounces (one-fourth cup) of water into one cup, making a line where it stops with a sharpie, and marking the same spot on all the other cups. The lines show where to fill with glue. This way the glue can be poured up to the line without having to use a measuring cup every time.


Using a table, line up the materials like a buffet station. Students will be forming a line and taking a plastic bowl, pouring the glue, taking a popsicle (craft) stick to stir, adding baking soda, adding food coloring, and adding contact lens solution.

2. Set Expectations Rules And Give Directions.



3. Have Fun Making The Slime!



Students line up at the table forming an assembly line and follow these steps:

-Take a plastic bowl and the pre-measured one-fourth cup of glue.
-Pour the glue into the bowl. Discard the empty cup.
-Add 3/4 (three-fourths) teaspoon baking soda to the glue and stir with a craft stick.
-Add 3 - 4 drops of food coloring and stir again
-Add 1.5 (one and one-half) teaspoon contact lens solution. Stir until slime forms.
(Additional contact lens solution can be added a drop at a time if consistency is too sticky.)
-Knead on wax paper.
-Play with slime!
-Store in plastic Easter Eggs or container of choice.

Give students time to reflect on the lesson. Remind students to follow the rules of their parents/guardians for playing with slime at home and to keep it away from babies, small children, and pets!


*Note: students often ask for a copy of the slime recipe!

Extend your study of fractions with this fun printable fraction activity to reinforce multiplying fractions by whole numbers.

 multiplying-fractions



What creative ways have you taught fractions in your class? Feel free to share in the comments below!





February 10, 2020

5 Easy to Implement Presidents' Day Activities

Presidents' Day is approaching right around the same time as Valentine's Day. For some of us, Presidents' Day may be close to 100 Day as well. So much to fit in!


If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed with all these special days falling around the same time, check out a few quick ways to integrate Presidents' Day into your lessons.

1. Have students write letters to the current president. 


You may even get a response! I have had success with getting a response by placing all student letters in one large envelope and sending them off together to:

President (Trump)
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC  20500

I include a cover letter from me with the school's return address. The kids have enjoyed receiving a letter back and sometimes even a photo from the president!

This friendly letter resource may help your students with their letters to the president. I have used this resource multiple times throughout the school year to write to various people.

 friendly-letter-writing


2. Make coin rubbings.

You could discuss the names of the presidents on each coin along with the buildings, words, numbers, and symbols. Have students look at newer and older coins still in circulation to gain familiarity. Allow students time to make coin rubbings by placing coins under thin paper and coloring over the coins.

Want to integrate a little math with the coin rubbings? Try this resource where students make coin rubbings, exchange papers, and count the coins. Many kids could use some extra practice with counting money!

 presidents-day-worksheet

3. Read literature about the Presidents. 

My students have liked So You Want To Be President by Judith St. George and David Small. It looks to be updated to include presidents through Barack Obama. You can check your local library for a copy.

4. Take a virtual tour of Mt. Rushmore. 

Here is the link to a virtual tour of Mt. Rushmore from the National Park Service:
Mt. Rushmore Virtual Tour Link

There is also a webcam on the site that you can access once construction is done.

Other websites your kids may find interesting:
Washington Monument
Lincoln Memorial
The White House

5. Make a President's Day Craft with writing. 

 presidents-day-activity


Now you can fit in Presidents' Day along with everything else! Do you have any quick and easy suggestions for Presidents' Day? Feel free to leave a comment about an idea that has worked out in your classroom!










January 10, 2020

4 Simple Steps For Valentine Exchange In The Middle Grades


The in-between years can be an opportunity to use Valentine's Day for fun, learning, and kindness!

Students in fourth grade generally still like to exchange valentines and I'm all in. The process of preparing the valentines for exchange enables students to practice a variety of skills such as organization, fine motor, spatial awareness, reading, writing, decision making, personal finance, responsibility, and social skills.

1. Begin With A Discussion.

"Can we exchange valentines?" Usually, the topic is brought up by the students themselves.

I like to make valentines exchange optional with one rule:

"If you choose to prepare valentines, you must give one to every student in the class."

This rule may prevent Valentine's Day drama!

A discussion can continue about how to approach parents or guardians for help and where the best prices can be found. The class can discuss the possibility of making the valentines by hand on construction paper, and paper can be provided for those who want to try this. (Or perhaps a way for students who cannot purchase cards to still participate.) The cost of creating and printing on a computer as opposed to purchasing the cards at the dollar store can be evaluated. Students are practicing decision-making skills and personal finance.

2. Help Students Prepare.

Students can copy a class list. Yep, by hand either for morning work or during a read-a-loud after lunch. Students can also prepare a note home for their grown-ups. These are opportunities to practice fine motor skills, spatial awareness, and responsibility. FREEBIE below to help your students!

If desired, time could be given to decorate small bags to hold valentines. This can be low-key with simple supplies perhaps during indoor recess. Another option is to check with the art teacher to see if this is something that he/she would be able to fit into their schedule. Preparing the bags gives students a chance to practice fine motor skills and spatial awareness.

3. Valentines Get Written.

Students can write their valentines at home and start bringing them in. They are practicing reading, writing, and organization while preparing their cards. Bags can get filled during arrival or students may be allowed to come back during recess to distribute the cards into the bags.

4. Valentine's Day Arrives.

On Valentine's Day, time may be provided to open valentines and enjoy a small treat. I like to bring in those small ice cream cups...so easy! Of course, it's always a good idea to run your plan by your administrator. Students will be reading their valentines, practicing social skills, and expressing kindness.

Although the teacher may set the basic groundwork for the Valentines' Day event, it is beneficial to have students included in the planning as there are multiple skills involved. Here is a freebie to help your students keep track of their valentines. It includes a chart for them to fill in with classmates' names and a fill-in-the-blank note to parents/guardians.
 valentine's-day-free
Click HERE!

As for a valentine from their teacher...every student gets a pencil or 2 in their bag because you know what the pencil situation in February is like!

You may also want to include these affordable resources in your lessons to keep with a Valentine's Day theme!

This adjective resource is popular with the kids and works well as a learning station.
 valentine's-day-activity
Click HERE!

This coordinate grid game is played with candy hearts and is a favorite every year!
 coordinate-grid-worksheet
Click HERE!

Do you have any special Valentine's Day activities that you enjoy with your students? Feel free to comment below!

December 29, 2019

3 Helpful Strategies For Going Back To School After Winter Break

After overdosing on Christmas cookies and family for over a week, it's almost time to go back to school!


Some teachers will be looking forward to going back to the routine and structure. Some teachers would rather have a few more days with Netflix and slippers! As for the students, they too can have a range of emotions about returning to school. Some will have missed you and their friends while others would be content sleeping in and playing video games all day for another week!

Here are a few strategies to make returning to school stress-free and enjoyable.

1. Have your lesson plans ready a few days in advance.

Waiting until the last minute is bound to cause stress and who wants to spend the last day of the break working? Try getting the plans done and materials prepped a few days before going back so you can chill that last day of winter break.

2. Plan for your students.

Plan some time to review classroom rules and procedures. It probably got crazy before the holidays, so now would be a good time to review the rules. This is also a good idea because it's common for new students to transfer around this time.

Of course, we have the curriculum to teach but do plan some fun interactive activities such as games and scavenger hunts as part of your lessons.

Here is a no-prep back from break activity that gets the kids up and moving!

 back-to-school-after-winter-break
Click HERE!

Try planning a winter craftivity for a holiday coming up such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The kids will like the crafts, and you will have a beautiful hallway display with one of these resources.

 martin-luther-king-jr-activity
Click HERE!

 martin-luther-king-jr.-craft
Click HERE!

3. Plan for yourself.

Have your clothes ready the night before. Maybe even splurge on a new outfit at one of those after Christmas sales!

Pack yourself a lunch the night before with your favorite healthy foods!

Get to school a little early to get ready for the day.

Plan a little me time for yourself after school. Maybe it's putting your feet up and sipping hot chocolate on the couch when you get home. Maybe it's a warm bubble bath followed by crisp clean sheets and a good book.

Once you have survived that first day back, the rest of the week will be easier!

Do you have any tricks for surviving that first day back after winter break? If so, feel free to share in the comments below!

December 16, 2019

5 Easy Parent Gifts for Christmas

Making holiday gifts with students can be fun...or a not so fun experience.


Remember when melted crayon ornaments on Pinterest were all the rage? The best part was that the materials were inexpensive and readily available. I purchased the clear plastic ornaments and gathered up unwanted small crayons from our extra supply containers. I made a sample at home, and my co-teacher and I brought our hairdryers to school. We had perfectly planned station activities scheduled for an hour where our students would visit with one of us during the rotations to create their melted crayon ornament with supervision. What could possibly go wrong with all this preplanning? Well...I didn't think about 2 hairdryers being used at once in a classroom with older electrical circuits. I didn't think about these 2 hairdryers being used on 18 ornaments when I created the sample.  The burning smell of the overheated hairdryer on the third ornament was our first indication that things were not going well.  Needless to say, the activity was promptly suspended. Now I'm sure there are teachers out there who have this craft down to a science, but my co-teacher and I decided to rely on a few old stand-bys.

Ornament making was rescheduled with new rotations consisting of 2 ornament stations.

1. SALT DOUGH ORNAMENTS

We used a traditional salt dough ornament recipe of flour, salt, and water to make these:


2. SNOWFLAKE ORNAMENTS

These snowflake ornaments were made with pony beads and chenille stems. This sample was made by twisting 3 chenille stems cut to 6 inches in length. Beads were added to each stem. A little bit of the chenille stem gets folded over to secure the last bead on each stem. These look great hanging in a window!



Here are other crafts that make great parent gifts.

3. GLITTER STAR ORNAMENTS

This easy glitter star ornament has been a go-to project since my first year of teaching! Students trace a star shape onto wax paper. Then they spread a thick layer of glue over the star and cover the glue with plenty of glitter. Dry them overnight. The next day quickly lift the wax paper over another empty sheet of wax paper to catch the excess glitter. Dry overnight again. Once completely dried, the star gets gently peeled off of the wax paper. Add a cord to make a shiny ornament to hang!



4. PAINTBRUSH SNOWPEOPLE

Students can easily make a snowperson out of a paintbrush. The steps for these ornaments need to be spread out over the course of a few days to allow for drying time. Cheap paintbrushes work just fine for these ornaments. Students dip the bristles into black paint and allow to dry overnight. The next day they paint the handle white. On the third day, they paint details. On the fourth day, they twist a chenille stem around the handle and add a ribbon for a scarf. The samples have a sequin star glued onto the bristles.



Not into crafting? Look no further...

5. CHORE COUPONS

Have students make coupons for the grownups in their lives. Handmade coupons are fine and will be appreciated. Brainstorm helpful chores that your students could write on their coupons such as doing the dishes, vacuuming, dusting, etc. Have students make several coupons and place in a festively designed envelope for gift giving.  Need a printable for this minimalist gift? Grab one here for only $1.00 and save yourself a trip to the craft store!

 parent-gift-for-christmas-from-students
Get this printable HERE!


Looking back, it was actually a good thing that the melted crayon ornaments didn't work out so well...This way, our students had 2 ornaments to take home. Since families come in all shapes and sizes, the kids didn't have to choose just one grownup in their lives to receive a gift. Rather, they were able to pick 2 grownups!

Do your students make gifts for their parents and guardians? Feel free to comment below with your own ideas!



November 29, 2019

Christmas Gifts For Students

Black Friday is over, but you still may be looking for a quick and easy holiday gift to give to your students. Here are 6 Christmas gift ideas that are sure to bring smiles to your students' faces.


1. Book and Booklight

Book club points can be used to purchase books for students, and booklights can be picked up from the dollar store. Some companies may even offer bulk discounts, so it doesn't hurt to ask. The booklights are a big hit with students, and they just may be encouraged to read over holiday break!

2. Pencils With Students' Names

There are a few companies out there that print students' names on pencils. I still remember the little red plastic pouch that my pencils came in back in first grade! The pencils didn't have our names on them back in the day...Rather they said, "Season's Greetings From Your Teacher." We still were amazed that our teacher was able to do this! Did your teacher ever give you pencils with your name on them?

3. Giftbag of Fun and Useful Items

Add pencils, erasers, a new box of crayons, a shuttle pen, and mini playdoh to a small gift bag. For this holiday gift, head out to the dollar store or order from Oriental Trading. I also try to remember to stock up on the school supply items in August when they are on sale. Then I just need to remember where I put them!

4. Watercolor Set

Kids love these and painting is a great way to practice those fine motor skills while being creative. I have purchased watercolor sets at craft stores (remember your coupon and to ask for a teacher discount!) or at Oriental Trading. If possible, send students home with a few sheets of white paper to paint on over the holidays!

5. Reusable Waterbottle

Perhaps water bottles with your school name or grade on them would be fun! Ask around for recommendations...one year the family of one of my students was in the printing business. The parents were always happy to help with friends and family discounts!

6. Coupons

My kiddos have loved these printable coupons year after year! The coupons sheets can be tied up with curly ribbon and distributed before winter break. Students write their names on all of the coupons and store the sheets in their desks for safekeeping. After break, students cut out one coupon per day to use. This holiday gift lasts throughout the month of January and makes returning to school after winter break a bit more bearable! Click below to get these inexpensive coupons that kids love!

 christmas-gift-for-students


Do you have any ideas for student holiday gifts? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments below!

November 7, 2019

3 Veterans Day Ideas For Middle Grades

Veterans Day activities help your students to recognize and honor our Veterans past and present. If you are teaching about Veterans Day, as the daughter of a Navy Veteran, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart!




1. Connect With Local Veterans

One of my favorite Veterans Day lessons was when I invited a few members from our local VFW to our classroom.


I ran the idea past my principal, she aproved, and I called the VFW to see if any Veterans would like to visit. I was pleasantly surprised that Mr. Morris said that he would gather up a few guys to visit and details were planned! In preparation, my students wrote thank you letters to the Veterans for their service and prepared a question on an index card. Visiting day arrived and 4 Veterans showed up and took their seats at the front of the room in chairs much too small for them. The students read their letters out loud as these 4 humble men looked on with eyes that brightened with each letter read. After the readings, the students asked their prepared questions as the gentlemen took turns answering. We concluded our morning with students serving our guests cookies and juice and mingling a bit.  Connections that spanned generations were made that day, and we continued to interact with the VFW regularly.

2. Decorate The Halls

I find that the best selections of patriotic decorations at the dollar store are around Memorial Day and The Fourth of July. However, a bit of red, white, and blue crepe paper is an inexpensive way to add accents to a display of students' work. Flag and poppy craftivities are just right to replace those Halloween projects out in the hall!

For this project, students use graphic organizers to plan their writing and make a fun, patriotic flag craft.

Veterans Day Craft



3. Learn About The Branches Of The Military



I like to find video clips to explain the 5 branches of the military. Here is one that is kid-friendly:

Of course, preview the video to make sure that it is appropriate for your class.

Follow with small groups creating posters about each branch of the military (I always remind the kids that images of violence, even against "bad guys" aren't appropriate for school.)

Or...check understanding with this sorting activity:

 Branches of the Military



How will you celebrate Veterans Day? Feel free to drop a line in the comments below to add your own ideas!