Saturday, November 8, 2008

Book: The Retired Kid

This book sounds excellent for a health lesson on time management.

I love the idea of an eight-year-old that retires.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lesson Ideas- Newspapers

You have to be careful what kids are reading, but newspapers can be a great way for kids to learn. A lot of newspapers are willing to give a discounted rate to schools and/or teachers, so be sure you ask.

Here are some options I can think of for learning with newspapers, off the top of my head:

- Read them.
Just reading articles is a way of reading, and some kids will get into news- especially sports news, it seems- more than other types of reading. What they read is often not as important as the fact that they are reading! There are a lot of social studies, science, and other connections to the news!

Check out the advertisements.
Examine what tactics advertisers use to draw people in, and then try to imitate them. Ads can also be used when talking about economic choice or persuasion.

Write a newsletter, newspaper, or articles as a class.
Writing is never a bad thing, and it can be a great way to get involved in the school, practice interviewing skills, working with others, and even to let parents know what's going on in the classroom.

Look for examples of whatever you're learning about.
Learning what a simile is? Hand over a newspaper and ask students to find examples (and cut them out or make a list of them).

Surely every teacher knows that sometimes you just need something to cover the desk for a messy art project. Having a few newspapers on hand is a good thing!

Inspiration for writing.
When students are given a free topic, they'll often complain of having nothing to write about. Keeping a few sources for ideas on hand can be a good thing. If you don't want students to be sidetracked, try cutting out words or pictures that might spark a thought.

Look up the scores.
Using sports scores, other statistics, or coupons in the newspaper for math can be a great way to make math more interesting and relevant to students.

Encourage kids to write responses.
Especially if a news article pertains to the students, encourage them to write a letter to the editor. Civic participation, expression of opinion, and practice writing a letter are fantastic... and papers tend to eat it up when a young student writes in!

Use the comics, sudoku, and crossword.
I'll post on another day about my comics lesson, but the newspaper can be a good place to find examples. Sudokus, crosswords, cryptoquips, and other similar puzzles can also be great for brainteasing, especially when a student finishes their work early.

Spelling Word Ransom Notes.
One teacher I worked with gave students several options for working on their spelling words throughout the week. One of these was to cut out letters from the newspaper and use them to spell out their spelling words for the week. Students cut out letters and glued them on the page instead of writing, but they thought it was more fun.

I'm sure there are a million more ways to use newspapers in the classroom, and these are just a few. If you have any more, feel free to leave them in the comments!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Motivation: "How Teachers Inspire"

This isn't so much a tip, as a series of stories about how teachers can inspire. I think a little motivation can be important when things are frustrating, so I'm going to share.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lesson Idea: Jelly Bean Glider

Today in my Earth and Atmospheric Sciences lab, we made a simple glider using tissue paper, straws, glue, tape, a pin, and a jelly bean.

It was fun, and didn't take much time at all. Give it a whirl!

(Please note that this lab was used as a part of Purdue's EAS 102 course and I do not take any credit for the handout.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lesson Idea: Plants CAN Move!

I think a lot of young students struggle with the idea that plants are alive, but don't seem to move. Even though students know that plants grow, many of them think of a plant like a tree, which seems stationary. Although not all living things move, students often associate moving with living, and something stationary being alive is confusing.

One way you can show plant movement is just by getting a plant that will "reach" toward sunlight, and keeping it on one side of your classroom (or one area of the outdoors). This plant will obviously look as though it "reaches" toward the sunlight (certain plants are better than others- I'd check with a horticulturalist, botanist, or other plant expert for ideas). Put some sort of mark on the side of the pot where the plant seems to point- maybe even take a picture!- and then turn the plant around and leave it there for some time. Come back, and examine the change. Talk about why a plant would lean towards the sunlight. This might be a great introduction to plants, and what they need to survive.

You can also, of course, look at fast-moving plants, such as the Venus fly trap or the touch-me-not plant. If you can't get these into your classroom, find a video!

Here are some other interesting plants to look at, as well.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Resource: Library Book Sales

I'm sure most veteran teachers know this anyway, but libraries are a great way to build up your classroom library. Most libraries have a book sale at least once a year to refine their collection, and sell a lot of books for cheap.

My own library back home (linked here because I am so happy with them right now) has a couple of bookshelves with assorted books for sale throughout the year. The other day, I was browsing through them and found a book on tornadoes, a book on soccer, and two short young adult novels (one historical fiction, one goofy teen plot) for a total of $1.50. They also have a bottom shelf of magazines and sometimes books that are just free for the taking.

I ended up with a huge stack of science reference books. They look old, but in a year and a half, I'll be in my own classroom, and I'd love to have a decent classroom library. For the low cost of free, I couldn't pass these up. I also grabbed a ton of wildlife magazines for free. I can cut out the pictures, I can let the kids cut out the pictures, we can use them as reading material... I couldn't hardly pass them up, either.

Anyway, check with your local library to see if things like this are a possibility for you. And if you manage to make it to a library book sale, here are some tips:
  • Get there early.
    The selection is always better the earlier you get there.
  • Go there late.
    Sometimes at the end of a book sale, libraries will offer 'bag deals' on books that are left over.
  • Join the "Friends of the Library."
    For one, it's not a bad thing to help out an organization that can help you and the community so much. For another, sometimes "Friends" get to go in the sale early!
  • Be polite.
    Seriously, it's just nice- and you're more likely to have fellow patrons treat you with kindness if there happens to be a book scuffle. Bargain shoppers can get fierce.
  • Read through/look through all your books after you buy them.
    It's great to get new books, but there might be something inappropriate for school, or too out-of-date to really be useful. You don't want a kid to take home a novel and bring back a nasty parent letter.
  • Label all books as 'yours'!
    Most libraries will put a "discarded" stamp so that the books are hopefully not returned to the library, but you should also mark books in your classroom library so that parents and students know who the books belong to. After all, what's the use in getting new classroom books if they don't ever come back to the classroom?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Classroom Management Strategy- Rock Paper Scissors

One teacher I met in Indianapolis told me one of her best techniques for keeping minor classroom conflict to a minimum. When students have a disagreement over who gets to be the "recorder" in a group, or who gets to use the blue scissors, they play a game of "Rock Paper Scissors" (or "Paper Rock Scissors," depending on who you ask).

Rock Paper Scissors, for anyone who's never played, is a simple game with simple rules.

Each player starts with a closed fist. At the same time, they form their hand into either a rock (a closed fist), paper (an open, flat hand), or scissors (the middle and first fingers extended and all other fingers in a closed fist).

If the two players put out the same weapon, they must play again. If not, the winner is determined as follows:

-Rock beats scissors (it smashes them)
-Scissors beat paper (they cut it)
-Paper beats rock (it covers it)

Every tool can win, and every tool can lose, equally. The game generally takes a few seconds to find a winner.

I love the idea of using this as a classroom management strategy. First of all, it frees the teacher from having to waste time intervening in trivial student arguments. Secondly, the students don't waste time arguing when they should be working on something (as often happens in group or partner work). Finally, the students are given responsibility to manage their own problems.

The teacher, of course, encouraged students to seek her out in the case of a serious issue... but she definitely found this strategy to be valuable. If you have a class that doesn't seem to have a lot of bickering going on, this might not be so beneficial- but for certain classes, Rock Paper Scissors could work wonders!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Resource: YouTube (They Might Be Giants, "Bloodmobile")

Some schools see YouTube and other similar sites as an enemy, but if you have a way to project the monitor display of a computer in your classroom, YouTube can be a great source of educational material! The small icon in the lower right corner of each YouTube video's page will let you expand it so that it covers the whole screen.

For example, lots of educational songs with music videos (such as those by School House Rock or They Might Be Giants) can be found on YouTube. Some are official and copyrighted, but YouTube is still a good place to discover these resources so that you can buy them legally. Others are put together by fans, or have been released by the artists, and are fair game! All videos need to be previewed, of course, but there is just so much out there.

This is one example of a video which could be used to introduce or even help teach a unit on the circulatory system or blood. To get to the video's own webpage, click on the video.

There are a lot of pointless videos on YouTube, but there are also a lot of things that can be very helpful to teachers. I'll be posting useful videos as I find them, and I encourage you to use them in your classroom as a more entertaining way to teach or introduce a topic!