brain food

Let's Interact - Halloween Style!

Saturday, October 03, 2015

I am super excited about my latest Interactive Bulletin Board! Check out my October-themed board and grab a few freebies below.

First up on the board is "Brainstorming 4-Ever!" This was originally a printable activity I used as an anchor activity with my little Einsteins. This year, I decided to make the activity larger than life to "hook" and motivate my students in a new way.

Using the word "Jack-o-lantern" as inspiration, this Halloween-themed activity challenges students to think of as many different 4-syllable words as they can. Avocado, comprehension, impossible, articulate . . . the possibilities are endless, but it is delightfully difficult!

To add a level of difficulty, eliminate proper nouns. OR, make it a game! After brainstorming a list of words, students compare answers with other players. Students earn one point for each unique response that no other player has. The player with the most points wins. This can be timed or un-timed.

When students arrive to class early, finish assignments early, are in need of enrichment, or just want to be inspired, they grab a brainstorming sheet from the envelope. I've included a printable copy of the activity below in case you'd like to try it out with your kiddos. :-)

You can find the whole pack of activities here.

Next up, is Halloween math:

This too was a printable activity that I enlarged for a new twist. Each Halloween symbol represents a number. Students can "Guess and Check" or use algebra to reach the correct answer. There is something about a larger than life math problem that kids love! I'm not sure if it's the novelty of the presentation or the seasonal images, but they are in love. You can find the printable version of this activity (along with the answer :-) here.

And last, but not least, is 24 - an all-time student favorite.

In the game of 24, students use the four numbers given once and only once along with a combination of operations to reach 24. Students record their answer on the recording sheet below. You can find a free copy here. (It's nothing fancy, but it's one less thing to make :-)

24 is so easy to prep and offers meaningful, fun, differentiated math practice. If you'd like to learn more, you can check out my earlier post here.

Thanks for checking in! If you have any thoughts or questions, let me know; I'd love to hear from you!

a twist on task cards

A Twist on Task Cards!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

I am a HUGE fan of task cards! I use them in my classroom for everything - reading, math, beginning of the year routines, enrichment, remediation - you name it! In order to keep this classroom staple interesting, I like to switch up the ways in which we use them. Below are some of the ways I put a "twist" on task cards to keep them interesting and engaging for my students.

1. Get Moving!

Instead of using task cards as seat work, I post them around the room. My students love the opportunity to get up and get moving. They travel with an answer sheet and record their work along the way.

Not only is this fun, but the novelty and movement provided are brain-friendly teaching tools that promote successful comprehension. I've also found that this movement leads to positive collaboration among my kiddos. They are eager to share strategies and ask questions sparking terrific discussion and learning.

Are you wondering about the pom pom balls on her head? I'll explain later in the post - promise! :-)

2. Make Your Own
 Once my students have demonstrated mastery solving the cards, I often ask them to create their own. Below you'll see one of my students writing a word problem for multiplying and dividing fractions. In order to write and solve her own task card, she needed to thoroughly clarify the content and analyze the language of word problems. This helped her to understand the content in a deeper, more meaningful way.

Once student cards are created, we use them in centers, as anchor activities, and/or enrichment. My students love solving the problems their friends create – almost as much as they like watching their friends tackle the card they designed! This twist has been so successful in my room that I've started including blank task cards in all of my new resources to facilitate this process. You can see an example of that here.

3. Use task cards in Journals and Interactive Notebooks
I like to print out the cards in black and white or gray-scale to save ink. Students glue the task card into their journal or interactive notebook and solve on the paper below. This is a great way to create a "yearbook" of student learning.

4. Make it a Game
Like I promised, here's the description of the pom pom headband! My 5th graders invented this super fun idea! Using a sentence strip, each student made a hat/headband to wear. (And yes, my "too-cool-for-school" 5th graders actually wore them - in my classroom AND the main hallway where some of the task cards were posted!! LOVE IT.)

Each time they completed a task card correctly, they earned a pom pom ball, which they affixed to their "hat." This game was low prep and low budget, but my students loved it! They were highly motivated by this learning activity because it was a game they invented.

The pom-pom hats then spun off into other games, like scavenger hunts, I Spy, and task card "snowball fights." One of the best parts for me was that my students LOVED choosing and preparing for the game. I almost felt guilty at times that they were organizing our classroom activities! (almost :-)

Those are some of my favorite task card alternatives. What are some of the ways you use task cards with your students? I'm always looking for new ideas and I'd love to hear from you!

5th grade

Let's Interact!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Prior to spring break, I set up an interactive bulletin board for my 3-5 students. I have a small classroom, so my goal was to maximize our space and use the bulletin board as a teaching tool. So far, it's been great! My students race to class to check out and solve the new challenges!

As of now, it contains three activities, which change every week or two. The activities are meaningful and low maintenance, which I love, and highly engaging, which my students love. Read on to learn more (and grab a couple of freebies!)

Going from left to right, the first activity on the board is Decimal Detectives. Every week or so, I post a new set of clues; students use the clues to determine the mystery decimal.

Once students solve the riddle, they record their answer on one of the recording sheets pictured below.

They submit their answer to me as a "ticket" and we draw weekly (or bi-weekly depending on what kind of week it is :-) for a winner. The prize is usually something silly like a pencil or "partner pass," but my students love to be recognized - and recognize others - for their effort. Below is a sample Decimal detective clue sheet to get you started. You can download it for free here. It comes in color and black and white. (You will also find the recording sheets and answer key there, as well!)

If you and your students enjoy this, it comes from my Decimal Detectives Enrichment packet, which includes no-prep printables, task cards, and cooperative learning activities.

The next activity on the board is the game 24. If you have not played 24, I highly encourage it! It comes in a small, square box with a ton of cards. There are four numbers on each card. Students use each number once and only once along with the four basic operations to make 24. Trust me - it is addicting.

I used chart paper and die cut numbers to create a super-sized version for our interactive board. I get the numbers from the cards provided in the game. (Again, super low maintenance. You might be noticing a trend :-) Students record the answer on a sticky note or scrap paper and submit it for one of our weekly drawings. This activity is. a. favorite. I've had students who ask to eat lunch in the room with me so they can solve the puzzle or take it out to recess because they are determined to find the solution.

The final activity on the interactive board is Boggle.

Just like the traditional game, students create words using connecting letters. I let them work on their own or collaborate with friends to generate as long a list as they can. The amazing letters and recording sheet were made by Rebecca Rojas at Create, Teach Share. You can download them for free on her blog. Thank you, Rebecca!

There are so many different ways to create interactive bulletin boards. I have my eye on The Unbored Book, by Tin Man Press for my next round of inspiration.

Do you use interactive bulletin boards in your class? If so, how? I'd love to hear from you!


Love Bunnies

Saturday, February 07, 2015

If you read my last post, you know that I am attempting to make my girls' Valentine's Day cards this year. (Insert my husband laughing here :-)

While I don't think of myself as particularly crafty, I love the way these treat bag toppers came out!

If you're interested, you can download them for free here. They are sized to fit standard size Ziplock bags. You can find easy assembly directions here. (It's basically cut, fold, tape. :-)

And a HUGE thanks to two of my favorite artists for their amazing clip art and designs! xo!
Miss Tiina & Graphics From the Pond


Happy Valentine's Day: A Frozen Freebie!

Monday, February 02, 2015

Ok, so I have a not-so-small obsession with fonts and clip art. Fonts and cute graphics make me happy. What can I say? To validate (maybe?) my passion for buying all things cute, I decided to make - instead of buy (gulp) - cards for my daughter's classroom Valentine's Day party.

My daughter Caitlin (5), like the rest of the female world under the age of 10, loves Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and anything else Frozen. So, of course, her Valentine's Day cards HAD to match.

I am in NO way a Martha Stewart. Not. Even. Close. :-) But, I thought I would share these cards with my fellow teacher-moms, moms, and teachers in case you had a Frozen fan(atic) at home, too! You can download the template for free here.

To make, follow these 4 easy steps:
  • Step #1: Print the cards on white card stock (or the color of your choice). 
  • Step #2: Cut along the dotted line. 
  • Step #3: Fold card in half 
  • Step #4: Attach the card to the treat bag. (I used double sided tape, but staples would work well, too!)   
On the back, is a place to record "to" and "from."

The cards are formatted to fit standard size Ziplock sandwich bags. I chose bags with Valentine's Day designs for a little extra holiday spirit.

A BIG thanks to Miss Tina and Dorky Doodles for the awesome designs used on the cards!!

In the mood for another Valentine's Day freebie? You can download my "Very Venn Enrichment Pack" here. In this 11 page download, students use Venn diagrams to make forced associations. These no-prep printables are a fun way to promote critical and creative thinking in your elementary kiddos!

Thanks for checking in! Happy Teaching!

creative thinking

Creative Writing Prompts - For Kids of ALL Ages!

Friday, January 02, 2015

Fun and engaging creative writing prompts for kids. Mix and Match Picture Prompts provide visual inspiration and scaffolding to inspire even your most reluctant writers. A free sample printable is included for you to try!

I wanted a new writing "hook" to motivate and engage my 3-5 students in the new year. Even though the majority of my students are identified as academically and/or intellectually gifted, I still have some very, (and I mean VERY), reluctant writers.

So, here's my thought . . . pictures! A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So, I created a series of visual writing prompts to engage my little learners. Each writing prompt includes 4-6 pictures with purposefully open-ended labels, such as "a science experiment," "an explosion," "an unexpected outcome," and "a bewildered student." Students combine the 4-6 elements to craft an original story. Simple, easy, and engaging. And the best part - the activity is naturally differentiated. Writers at all levels can access and interact with the prompts in the way that is most appropriate for their unique strengths and abilities.

Fun and engaging creative writing prompts for kids. Mix and Match Picture Prompts provide visual inspiration and scaffolding to inspire even your most reluctant writers. A free sample printable is included for you to try!

My hope is that these visual prompts will not only motivate my students, but also help to scaffold and support the writing process. It is also an opportunity for students to look at familiar objects and events in new ways (aka: a forced association). A forced association asks students to find similarities among items/ideas that are seemingly unrelated. By combining words that appear to be dissimilar, students are encouraged to think in new ways and to develop new perspectives and understandings. Forced associations are a great way to promote critical and creative thinking. (You can read more about forced associations here.)

Fun and engaging creative writing prompts for kids. Mix and Match Picture Prompts provide visual inspiration and scaffolding to inspire even your most reluctant writers. A free sample printable is included for you to try!

I designed the Mix and Match writing prompts in two different formats to have some flexibility with implementation. My first thought was printable pages for "Work on Writing" centers/stations, anchor activities, and independent work. I then also put each prompt in the form of a task card so that students could glue the prompt into their writing notebook.

Fun and engaging creative writing prompts for kids. Mix and Match Picture Prompts provide visual inspiration and scaffolding to inspire even your most reluctant writers. A free sample printable is included for you to try!

Want to try it out with me? If so, you can download one of the sixteen 8.5 x 11" printable pages below for FREE here.  To see the entire pack, click here.
Fun and engaging creative writing prompts for kids. Mix and Match Picture Prompts provide visual inspiration and scaffolding to inspire even your most reluctant writers. A free sample printable is included for you to try!

What kinds of writing prompts do you use with your students? Leave a comment and let me know; I'd love to learn with you!

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