Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Desk Messages: An Easy Way to Make Meaningful Connections

Once the year starts and you’ve gotten to know your students better, it’s time to try out our Desk Messages. After only a week of school, we begin to see the unique personalities of our students and the ways they deal with everyday challenges and achievements. We like to honor their differences, offer encouragement and recognize their growth with a variety of messages.
We have 2 versions: tent messages and flat messages. Some students love having them visible for everyone to see. Other students like a more private approach and will even keep a flat card in their crayon box or notebook. Sometimes, we’ll even personalize the card on the back.

These desk messages can be for every day use or just for special occasions. The students look forward to the cards and most save them and look at them over and over. This is an easy way to “Catch ‘em Being Good” or to let your students know you are aware of their struggles and successes even if you haven’t had a chance to have a conversation with them.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Book Bite # 5- Leo: A Ghost Story

October is one of our favorite months to be teachers! The seasonal changes, the Halloween excitement that spills over into everything students do, and the spooky stories. Oh, how we love the spooky stories! For extra ambiance, we’ll read them after turning off our lights and reading by the dim light of a glow stick or the flicker of an artificial candle. This year we’ve added a few new ones to our collections, including Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Christian Robinson. You can also find Mac on Twitter!
While this story is ghostly, it is not one that would actually frighten any of our first graders. It’s a heart-warming story about finding friends who are just right for you. This Book Bite includes not only some fun follow-up activities we’ve created, but also some tasty treats! 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Monster Border

If you’re like me, you hoard border. You try not to and you clear out every few years, but your collection seems to grow on its own! A few years ago I bought some adorable "Furry Friends" monster border.  (How could I possibly resist these guys?)
I loved it… and then I stored it. And tucked away is where it stayed for longer than I’d like to admit. Then, last year, while I was looking for a Halloween craftivity for my class I uncovered my monsters and inspiration hit! I cut apart the border to show individual monster faces and gave each student his own monster. Then students glued the faces to the top of a blank paper and drew what they imagined the rest of the monster looked like. They did a great job and had a blast! You could do this with all kinds of borders.
What do you do with your extra border?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Eat Your Homework with Ann McCallum

Learning is not always a piece of cake—or is it? Connecting healthy food with delicious discovery is a sure-fire recipe for success. Author Ann McCallum shares some thoughts behind her latest book in the Eat Your Homework series.

What are the Eat Your Homework books? 
There are three books in the series by Charlesbridge Publishing:
Eat Your Math Homework: Recipes for Hungry Minds
Eat Your Science Homework: Recipes for Inquiring Minds
Eat Your U.S. History Homework: Recipes for Revolutionary Minds (Release date October 13, 2015)

What are the books about?
Each illustrated book has six sections. Each section includes an interesting snippet about the topic, an original recipe, and some sort of ‘appeteaser’ or sidebar for kids to have fun with. The latest book, for example, includes recipes from when the pilgrims first arrived in America, to right after the Revolutionary War. Some of the recipes include: Thanksgiving Succotash, Southern Plantation Hoe Cakes, and Independence Ice-Cream. In the math book there are recipes such as Fraction Chips and Fibonacci Snack Sticks, and the science book includes Atomic Popcorn Balls and Density Dressing. The illustrator, Leeza Hernandez, created fab pictures to complement the text and recipes. Here’s one of my favorites to illustrate that the two Georges (George Washington and King George III) didn’t agree about what to do about the American colonies.

What inspired you to write these books?
I started with the math book. I used to teach fourth and fifth grade math and was looking for ways to get kids to love math. I gave my students a food project one day: mathematical gingerbread houses. Each student had to create a gingerbread house using graham crackers and then explain how they were mathematical. The students really got into it; they measured area and perimeter, they created geometric shapes, and they calculated to get products and sums of the decorative candy. I started experimenting with my own math recipes after that. Eventually, I wrote Eat Your Math Homework. I got really excited about the connection between learning and food. Creating recipes to learn about math, science, or history is such a fun, hands-on way to get kids engaged.

How about you? Where did you grow up?
I was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. My family moved to British Columbia, the furthest west province in Canada, when I was going into sixth grade. My new home—just outside a town of 1500 people—was completely different from the city I’d grown up in. I loved it. My dad built our house from logs. It was in front of a huge lake with a series of mountains on the other side. It was wild and beautiful, and I spent my childhood exploring the woods near our house. I especially loved the abandoned cherry tree orchard and spent many hours perched in a tree, munching on cherries and reading books.

How did you come up with each of the recipes?
It was actually loads of fun to experiment in the kitchen for each of the recipes. I thought about how I could connect the topic to some kind of food and then I started experimenting. For example, in the science book, I loved the idea of creating a recipe with invisible ink. I remembered when my brothers and I used to use lemon juice to write messages in ‘invisible ink’ on paper. I figured if it worked on paper, there had to be a way to make it work on pizza dough. I tried many times before coming up with Invisible Ink Snack Pockets.

What’s your favorite recipe in the books?
Well, the Invisible Ink Snack Pockets are really good, but I also love the Revolutionary Honey Jumble Cookies. They’re a yummy afternoon treat if you’re in the mood to think about the American Revolution! Or, there are the Tessellating Brownies, too…

What’s your favorite food in general?
I love all kinds of food-- salads, raspberries, cheese, fajitas. I don’t like things that are too spicy, though.

1. Chocolate or vanilla? really good vanilla
2. Black or blue ink? No druthers (but I do like green and pink ink)
3. Football or baseball? Baseball all the way!
4. Dogs or rabbits? Rabbits
5. Monkey bars or swings? Swings

Thanks for sharing with us Ann! You can read more about her books on her website. She even has a section specifically for parents and educators!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Do-Over Dots

When students make careless mistakes on their math papers, sometimes I ask them to rework the problem. Many times they don’t erase well enough for me to decipher the new answer or they complain about having to erase. I use dot stickers (found in office supply stores or local chains like Wal-Mart or Target) to cover up the wrong answers. When the papers are handed back, the students automatically see which problems need to be redone. This also serves as a quick visual indicator to help parents identify possible problem areas for their child.

An Ed Emberley Art Center

Who doesn’t love Ed Emberley books? I used them when I was a little girl and now I use them in my classroom. They build artistic confidence and spread creativity. My favorites have always been the thumbprint books. You start with a basic thumbprint and turn it into something fun like an elephant or spider or lion. If you have a whole page of thumbprints you could make your own zoo!

Erin and I like to make copies of our thumbprint page.

Then we set up an art center for our students. We include Ed Emberley’s books, markers, colored pencils, crayons and clipboards. We display a sample page too.
Sometimes the students copy our ideas, other times they create their own, like a thumbprint Elvis! This is a quick and easy way to encourage students to draw using basic shapes, lines and squiggles.