March 26, 2020

How To Manage Learning Stations In Social Studies

Social Studies curriculum often does not engage students in a way that maximizes learning. However, Social Studies can actually be a great subject for learning stations and students love stations!

The key to fitting stations into a busy schedule is to spread them out over the course of 5 days. Students can complete one station per day for 4 days. The fifth day can be set aside for students to finish any incomplete station and finalize any work to be turned in. If all stations are complete, students can work on a packet which is explained below.

I hope you find the following steps useful in planning your learning stations!

1. Brainstorm ideas about the unit.

Make a list of possible activities that you would like for your class. Resources could come from Pinterest, Google, your own files, and any useful materials from your curriculum. Activities that work well in stations include scavenger hunts, matching, sorting, craftivities, and games.

2. From your list, choose 4 different types of activities for the unit.

For example, you might select one sorting activity, one game, one crafty activity, and one teacher-directed activity where students would meet with you.

3. Make a packet of worksheets related to your unit. 

These worksheets can include vocabulary work, research, passages, etc. The packet will be kept in students' station folders to be used in the event they finish a station early. That way, students always have something to do! This packet is also used on the fifth day which is a catch-up day.

4. On paper, divide your students into 4 groups that can work well together. 

Write the students' names on different color index cards under Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, Group 4.

5. Gather pocket folders to use as station folders.


6. Plan a little extra time on the first day of stations.

List the stations on the board and use a magnet to place the index cards with students' names under each station. Explain your rules and expectations for students. Distribute folders and packets. Explain that they will go to one station per day, but will eventually go to every station. Explain that the packet is to be used in the event they finish a station early. Finally, have students record the stations on the tracking sheets if you are using the planning resource below.

7. Ready set go!

Let students try the first station. After the first station, give students time to reflect. Ask how the station went and if they have any questions, concerns, or suggestions. Clean up and collect the folders.

Chances are when students walk in the next day, at least one student will ask, "Are we doing stations today?'"

8. Continue rotating the stations for 3 more days. 

On the fifth day, allow students to finish any station they may have missed. Collect the folders and use them for assessment as you see fit.

Are you the type of teacher who just loves to organize with printables? This resource includes printables to help you plan your learning stations. It includes a teacher brainstorming page, a schedule to keep track of the stations, a chart to list student groups, and a station tracker for students.
learning-stations

Do you have any learning station ideas to share? Feel free to share in the comments below!









March 7, 2020

5 Easy Ways To Celebrate Pi Day In The Elementary Grades

Why celebrate Pi Day? Because it's fun, educational, and why should the big kids have all the fun?!

In case it's been a while since you came across the word, Pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Pi is an irrational number, which means its decimal form never ends or becomes repetitive. March 14th is Pi Day because the date contains the first 3 digits of Pi: 3.14. Back in the day, Pi was just another math term to learn. Nowadays, classrooms all over the world celebrate Pi Day in many creative ways. Kids today have all the fun!

Students in 4th Grade can begin to understand Pi! Here are just a few ideas to try:

1. Read Circumference and the Dragon of Pi 

Circumference and the Dragon of Pi is written by Cindy Neuschwander, illustrated by Wayne Geehan. It is a good introduction and includes plenty of math terms. It may go over some heads a bit, but it's a fairy tale, and that is an overlooked genre. So give it a go.

2. Challenge students to memorize as many digits of Pi as they can. 

I once had a student who memorized over 30 digits! Make the competition sweet with a Tastykake pie for a prize!

3. Get out the calculators and rulers and find the circumference of some circles. 

Find some circular objects in the classroom, complete an example together, and let students try out the formula with a partner. Measure the diameter of a circle and multiply by (Pi) 3.14 to find the circumference. Make sure the kiddos know that the circumference is approximate when multiplying the diameter times 3.14!

4. Use this lesson to make Pi posters to take home.

Pi Day Lesson

5. Finish up by making individual Pies! 

I grab those mini pie crusts and individual puddings on sale. Students spoon the pudding into the crusts with a plastic spoon and enjoy some mini pies on Pi Day!


Will you celebrate Pi Day in your classroom? Feel free to tell about your own celebration in the comments below!

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!