Thursday, May 30, 2013

Haiku and Rhythm Sticks

Yesterday we were working with the idea of haiku.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I've been using Hope King's iPoetry pack to help me through our poetry unit.  I wasn't anticipating too much trouble with haiku, I had my warm up lesson about syllable review and we clapped and we clapped and we clapped.  And then we wrote poetry and paid no attention to clapping.  Gah!  I do not understand their brains at this time of year. It's like they don't expect there to be any connection at all from one activity to the next- and I work really hard at making connections.  So why they are baffled, I do not understand.

Anyhow- luckily for me I signed up for some e-courses from Fairy Dust Teaching, one of which being a course on music in the classroom.  It's geared toward early childhood- but after I watched the video on rhythm sticks last night, I saw my opportunity for adaptation for my second graders.  Stopped by the music room this morning and asked a very surprised music teacher if I could borrow a set of rhythm sticks.  I have now made a friend, I believe.

Not so lucky for me, it was a ninety degree day.  But I persevered, and forced them and myself outside for half an hour of poetry workshop.  We first practiced basic rhythm stick control, and then started practicing beating out the syllables to their attempted haikus from yesterday.  Did they not jump on any line that did not have the right number of taps?  Pretty incredible.  Here's some shots from our sweaty delve into the musical arts.

Our sticks are "sleeping".

First position at rest

ground tap

air tap

We practiced in the big circle all together for half the time, and then I told them they could spread out with a partner and work on writing a haiku of their own, now that they had a better idea of the syllable count structure.  Things I noticed that changed from yesterday to today, was that a lot of them wrote down the 5, 7, 5 pattern on the side of their paper to remind them.  I also saw lots of stick tapping, and fingers flying out to count syllables.  They were starting to internalize.  We also talked about how "interesting" words were always more than one tap.  And they should try to fit in an interesting word whenever they could.

Tappity, tap, tap.

Proving it on the fingers.

He is tapping after he wrote to make sure it sounds right.

 These two are having a very frank discussion on whether or not they have the right number of syllables in the second line.

That was my super teacher moment for the day.  It all went down hill after that.  But, take the joy in the small moments, eh?  What did I learn from all this?  My kids really liked using the sticks.  How easy can that be for a brain break?  Must add into curriculum for next year.  Also, haiku are traditionally about nature- why don't I just teach this poetry form when I'm doing my animals and plants unit?  They can use their non-fiction research information to create the poems.  Connections, connections, connections.  Would it work?  Certainly, here's what one cherub wrote:

Flowers pollinate
Flowers need water all day
Flowers need sunlight

I was proud of him.  He's usually extremely squirrely, and today he just went off by himself and tapped the sticks and wrote this.  First one done.  He HATES writing time.  But he liked the kinesthetic application.  Score!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Free Font Find, Positively Sublime Pinterest Tutorial, and an Investigation Into Mass

So first off, I was doing my TpT research and stumbled upon a wonderful video turtorial  by Deniece on how to make long pins for Pinterest.  Click her button to go to her fabulous post featuring the video tutorial.

She makes adorable fonts!  And she has them for FREE in her TpT store.  If you click the picture below, it will take you to the product I used for the font on the new pins I made, and also the graphic organizer later in this post.  And she has TWO other packages for free- go get them!
After I watched her tutorial, I was able to make collage pins of my products. Here's three I made, I think they came out quite nicely. (And I used her cute Little Piggy Cake font too!)
Now, on to our scheduled program on measurement:

I wanted to see what my kids knew about mass today.  Sometimes it really amazes me when I look at how our state standards spiral, and yet kids have no memory of what they learned the previous year.  I wonder if it means that the standards are just too hard, or if we just aren't able to deliver the material in a life applicable and therefore memorable way?

Here's the graphic organizer I was using to help us break it down today:

Yeah, I was really interested to find out they didn't know any of the related words to measurement aside from heavy, light, and equal.  My "quick" measurement lesson is going to be expanding for a few days looks like.

After this discussion (took about 15 minutes total) I set out the different types of scales I had, and described their uses to the whole class.  I feel pretty lucky with the variety I do have- besides bucket balance scales, I also had two tray weighted scales, a spring scale, a very basic balance scale, and a little more "old fashioned" looking one with the round trays held on by beaded strings.  We partnered up and I put out a variety of items for them to free explore with.  I usually break up rotation times into seven minutes.  It gives them a good five minutes and then I give them the "two minute warning" to begin to tidy their space.  We had a royal mess in seconds.

During this first walk-through, each station looked like this.  They just piled everything they could into the buckets.  Note to teach: They do not know how to use scales.
So after the free explore, we gathered back together and I gave them a specific assignment.  First they had to choose three specific toy items from their hoard and decide which one was heaviest, lightest, and in between using their balance.  Second, they had to pick ONE of the toys, and find out exactly how much it weighed using only ONE type of unit.
Verdict: The Swedish Chef is heavier than a slinky.

Verdict: The slinky is heavier than a bean.

The final line up. From left to right, heaviest, in between, and lightest.

We struggled on the second half of the assignment.  So that's what's up for tomorrow.  Non-standard units- balancing a scale.  Then- how to introduce them to standard units in a life-applicable way?
What are you doing in your rooms? Dish.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Summer Bucket List

Every one has been posting about how they are getting out of school in a few days.  I don't know if I feel jealous, exactly, since I know I have some more things to accomplish, and I actually really love my class- but I am NOT out in a few days.  We go until the 18th of June.  Eleven whole days longer than my daughter goes to school.  And that just makes it seem stinky.

I, of course, already thinking ahead to this summer, and next year already for that matter- have decided to join up with this little linky being hosted by A Cupcake for the Teacher, Miss Kindergarten, and A Modern Teacher
1) Exercise *sigh* I am Mrs. Claus trying to eat Mr. Claus at this point.
I actually have a boards on Pinterest entitled Exercises I Am Too Lazy To Do and Foods To Get Me Skinny - in addition to like, ten other boards dedicated to types of desserts. My mother has asked me if I will exercise with her this summer, and I have decided it's best to have a partner.  So let's hope it works out for me.  My clothes aren't really fitting well anymore, so I've got to do something.  Maybe stop pinning donut recipes would be a place to start.
2) I'm taking some classes about education but I consider them FUN.  I know, dork.  But STILL.  I signed up for some on-line ones from Fairy Dust Teaching (I just started her Music in the classroom module yesterday), and I'm taking three different tech classes offered by my district (one for making ActivInspire flipcharts, and Web 2.0 tools, and Tech4Learning software).  And in August I'm starting a year long training called SPOT which focuses on balanced literacy in the classroom.  I'll be getting tons of free materials and I just can't wait!


3) I'm going to try to be outdoors with the kids everyday that I am not working. I've talked to a friend with a pool about giving my daughter swimming lessons, an I want to go to the park so I can walk while the kids play, and I want to go to the Reservoir and hunt for critters, and do some gardening, and BREATHE.  I am not concerned about a tan.  I'm from Alaska.  My skin glows in the dark, and it always will.
4) I'm going to try cooking all of the family meals this summer.  Usually it's my mom who cooks- but I have so many great recipes on Pinterest, I might as well give it a go. The inspiration being this baby here that I tried a bit ago and loooooooooove it.  Must make more. Click the picture to go to the recipe.
And if this was a gem, then there must be tons of others waiting for me to try.  Note:  Bucket List Item number one probably going to be a bust.
5) I have some books I'm planning to read.  And yeah, they are school related.  At the moment, it's the kind of reading I'm enjoying.
I'm going to be re-reading Guided Math as a refresher - plus it's our summer reading book from school, and I've gotten her Comprehension Book as well to read and join in on the book study that's going to be going on from Primary Inspired, and I'm going to get familiar with Words Their Way. 

6) I'm definitely going to be working with my sister on our TpT Store.  I have really been enjoying collaborating with her and learning all sorts of design stuff and techy knowledge.  There's tons more to learn, but at least I'm having fun with it.


7) My daughter wants to learn how to sew.  I'll be doing a bit of that this summer too.
Busy, busy, busy!  What will you be doing with your summer?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Estimating Centimeters Road Work

And on the second day, we made businesses. There was KFC, and a dentist, and a mall. And it was good. Sounds slightly biblical...
But anyhow- my kids are obsessed with making milk carton buildings.  They are now even collecting other sorts of containers to have different shaped buildings.  Which is great, as I get to review my economics teaching from the beginning of the year, and they are happy as clams.
Keeping this in line with my math instruction however, we continued our estimation with centimeters investigation by deciding to lay down some asphalt.  We're city kids, after all.  We need our pavement...
So we started with looking a the lake here in Super Mooseville.  We wanted a road that circled around it.  How many centimeters did we think that would be?  Our first hiccup was getting ourselves out of the habit of thinking about how many of our rulers would fit around the lake.  I crumbled a bit under the shouts of "FIVE!", "No! Eight!!!".
But once I was able to redirect- "Ok, if you think it is seven rulers, how many centimeters is that?"  And the work began.  We divided up into teams and first had to make an estimate WITHOUT putting our ruler on the map, and report back our decision so it could be reported and we could receive our asphalt (black construction paper).
They tried to get as close as the could to the map without actually laying their ruler down on it.  We came close to cheating a number of times and had to be reprimanded by the mayor.
Now, I still had folks come back to me with the answer "Seven." And I redirected, paused and talked about adding over and over again (a slight introduction to multiplication, if I do say so myself).  Most of us had 12 centimeter rulers, so we talked about adding the number twelve over and over.  Of course, this discussion led to everybody picking the same estimate of seven rulers- but regardless, they had to practice some addition skills.  Here's two different teams strategies:

So all of the teams came back with the estimate of 84 centimeters. Hey- they added correctly, so awesome sauce!  I gave them their paper with the directive that they had to cut 2cm wide strips and measure them out 84 cm long.  Also a good exercise.  Some of them fell apart on the practical application portion.  But mistakes are good in this sort of math- because I could see WHO wasn't getting it, and get over there and do a mini-tutorial.
At last, we had our strips.  Since everyone had the same amount, I just picked a random team and laid down the 84 centimeters.  It got about half way around our lake.

Another excellent math moment, but we got to talk about what one half meant and the idea of doubling.  How much more asphalt did they need?  Like our investigation into color tiles/inches/height, we were able to take our initial estimation based on visual perspective, and then accentuate it with some hard data.  What are we learning at this moment? 84 seemed like such a big number, but we hadn't really visualized properly that centimeters are a small measurement.  84 inches probably would have been about right in this case, and this also lead us to realize that  it was just a little more than two centimeters that made an inch, since we made it half way around the lake.  You can't get this sort of discovery done measuring a crayon and a tissue box!
So we went back into our teams and started to measure out our road again.
This team decided to try to connect their rulers end to end.

 This team measured one strip, and then tried to add on that number over and over each time the put a new strip down.  Challenging for them, and they didn't get the right number, but it was great to see them take that risk.

It turned out that it took 163 centimeters to get around the lake.  Phase two begins: How much road to go around the outer loop of town?  This time, we skipped the visual perspective step and laid down the 163 cm of road we had.  We got almost back to the lake.  So it was easier for them to see, how much more road did they need?

Town still in progress.  More posts to come!

In the meantime, as you wait on the edge of your seat for more- head on over to see Crystal at

My KinderGarden
and sign up for her second giveaway with tons of cool prizes including winner's choice from our shop The Meek Moose!  Here's the rafflecopter link:

Be safe everybody!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Accidentally Teaching

Seriously, I was trying to slack off. I really did think I was giving them a crafty McCraft craft so I could inventory my ridiculous closet- and then all of a sudden I was legitimately teaching.  Look at the mess.  This could not possibly lead to anything related to academics.  It was just a construction paper glue fest.
But remember how I said  that I had to cover centimeters this week?  I sure as gingersnaps didn't feel like measuring a crayon or a tissue box.  And then all of a sudden I saw my moment.
{insert dramatic backstory theme music here}
Last year, I had made inch rulers our of pony beads and pipe cleaners. About four pony beads make an inch, so if you string twenty four beads on two twisted together pipe cleaners, you get a nice six inch ruler that quite versatile.  So this year we decided that about two beads make a centimeter, so we strung the beads on in color pairs and made ourselves a useful centimeter ruler.  I was not as vigilant in making them count out ONLY 24 beads this time, so I had a wide range of final lengths.  Which doesn't matter in the end, as long as they are measuring correctly.
To make the ruler- take two regular size pipe cleaners of two other colors and twist them like a barber shop pole.  Hook one end over your finger and twist to the main stem to create a finger hold.  String on beads - but don't go all the way to the end.  Alternate colors in pairs so you can see one centimeter right off and separate from the next one.  Use the excess pipe cleaner at the other end to hook over your finger and twist to the main stem to create another finger hold (plus it keeps the beads from coming off). 
Our craft was making houses out of milk cartons to make a 3-D map of our town from the beginning of the year. And I will post more about this later, as it has turned out to be fabulous and given me lots and lots of ideas for next year (AkA super teacher year).  But back to measuring...
First I just let them put their house wherever they wanted.  We ended up with quite a neighborhood jumble, as KK vied for a closure position to THE MOUTH, as did several other fish.  Loving the fact that it was 3-D and we could move things around freely- the kids could really see how not everyone had the same amount of yard, and how we had not planned well for roads.
Enter the centimeter ruler!  "Hey kids, how many centimeters do you think you should have in between each neighbor?"
Failure to estimate rearing its ugly head again. "ONE!!!"
"Don't you want a nice yard?"
"Ok, TWO!!!"
"Um, how about we give ourselves enough distance so we can't reach into our neighbors house from our couch..."
So we ended up with five.  Five centimeters in between the milk cartons turned out to be quite lovely.  And got everybody out of a strange cul-de-sac arrangement that reminded me strongly of that movie "The 'Burbs".  Each one of my little fish came up with their house and measured out five centimeters from the last neighbor and plunked their house down.  We ended up circling the outskirts of our town, which would be perfect for our road measuring activity later in the week.
So stinking cute.  Stay tuned.  Cuteness continues.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Getting the most out of your digital clip art

Before my sister and I started making clipart together and selling it on TpT, I had started collecting quite a bit.  Ok, a lot.  It was fun and new and cute and not expensive and I just couldn't stop buying.

Hoarders.  All teachers are on the razor's edge of being on a reality TV show.

Anyhow- I started thinking about this clipart, and how it wasn't serving a huge purpose just sitting on my computer. Waiting for ME to do something with it.  So then I got to thinking, why can't the kids use it?

At my school, we have a special network drive meant for the kids to store their work on.  So you go to the drive, find your grade and teachers name and save what ever you're working on to your own folder.  Pretty sweet, I must say.  So I started out with some clipart my sister had made, and created a folder that had only the .PNG files both color and b/w.  And then I called small groups to our computer workstations (at the moment I have four working computers, as one gave up the ghost back at Christmas time, notice it there with my scathing caterpillar poem hanging on it).

For a small group technology lesson, I was showing my second graders how to use power point.  Specifically, how to insert a picture and a text box and then save their work.  And they caught on quickly enough that many of them I was able to get into making the pictures bigger, smaller, changing the order so they could hide a fish behind the seaweed, and grouping objects together so they could keep their treasure together.

I had fun, they had fun, it was a good teaching moment.

Now- here's where it gets good.  As I add in more clipart to our class folder, they get more options.  And with more options, they can get more creative  And by getting more creative, I just have them add in a text box and write about what is happening in their picture and I've got writer's workshop going on.  They can get a whole story done just by adding more slides.

 I am super excited! Not only can they write general stories about their creations, but if I collect clipart that has to do with familiar stories, or make it for that matter, then it can be a retelling and summarizing tool as well. Or an exercise in creating alternate endings.  Or add in my clipart of the famous Americans and have them use that to write everything they know about the person.  Or say what they would think if they were alive today.  Endless possibilities.

I'll get to make great things with clipart, and THEY'LL get to make great things with clipart.  It's more bang for your buck, if I do say so myself.

Is anyone else out there finding interesting ways to use their digital clipart?  How are you making it more than a one hit wonder on your hard drive?