Monday, April 1, 2019

Easter, Eggs, and Oviparous Animals

Hi everyone! As Easter closes in on us, I wanted to share some of the egg-themed projects and activities I did with my class last year.

I love to celebrate holidays with my class, but it is also a good chance to use their excitement about Easter to get them to do some academic activities. I usually use this time of year as a chance to teach my students about oviparous animals. (The word "oviparous," by the way, refers to animals that lay eggs. My kids are always fascinated to learn this new word. Even many of the teachers I work with don't know what it means!) Each of my students did some research on a different oviparous animal. We learned so many interesting things!

I also created some academic activities using plastic Easter eggs. To create one of these games, I opened up a bunch of plastic eggs, and wrote a single digit number on each egg half. We use Touch Math, so I added the Touch Points to the numbers. My first and second graders who are practicing single digit addition had to choose two halves (they didn't have to match... the kids could be creative with their colors), put them together, and then add the numbers up. Once they got pretty good at that, I added another step by giving them a container of pennies. They then had to add the two halves up, and put that number of pennies inside the egg.
The halves of the eggs.

Putting two eggs together. 

Teal demonstrating how to do the activity. They also had a recording sheet where they wrote down the numbers on the egg halves they put together. 

I didn't take a picture of the next activity, but for my 3rd, 4th and 5th graders who are learning to count money, I put different amounts of coins into 12 plastic eggs. Then I took a muffin tin and put a round sticker, with a coin amount written on it, in each section of the tin. The students had to open up each egg, count the coins inside, and place the egg into the muffin tin compartment with the matching sticker. 

All of the students did some version of the next activity, which I created 3 levels of to differentiate it. (I bought a ton of plastic eggs from the Dollar Tree!) I just hid sight words inside the plastic eggs. The students had to open the eggs, read the words, and then color the matching words on their recording sheets. Towards the end of the week, I made the activity more exciting by putting Easter and spring themed stickers and small erasers into the eggs along with the words. The students could keep the prizes they found as they did their work! 
Noddy and Martin are demonstrating the sight word egg activity. 

We also dissected an egg. Actually, I dissected it while they watched. I explained to them that the eggs you buy in a grocery store never had a baby chick in them. (I remember thinking, as a child, that the yolk was a dead baby chick. It turns out that a lot of my students also believe that!) However, although there are no baby chicks occupying the eggs we eat, all of the parts of an egg are designed to care for and protect a hypothetical baby chick that could have been inside it. We looked at the shell of the egg with a magnifying glass, and talked about the purpose of the shell. (The students hypothesized that the shell is meant to keep the egg clean so you can eat it. We learned that it is also to protect the chick.) I scraped the shell with a thumb tack to reveal the membrane, which looks a little like a thin plastic bag and also helps to protect the chick. When I cracked open the egg, we learned that the egg white and egg yolk provide nutrition for the baby chick when it is inside the egg. We were able to see the chalazae, which are two cords or strings that connect the yolk to the inside of the eggshell to keep it stable. (I compared it to the yolk having two arms that it uses to hang onto the inside of the shell so it doesn't fall.) We even managed to see the blastodisc, which is a little spot that, if the egg was fertilized, would develop into a chick fetus. 

The students were fascinated by this activity. They love science. I wish we had time to do more of it. But their favorite part of the activity was when I let them stick their hands into the raw egg and play with it for a while. (I warned them very strictly that they weren't to eat the egg or lick their fingers, and if they did, they'd be done with the activity immediately... and I made them wash their hands afterwards. They were cooperative with these guidelines because the chance to have a sensory experience with a raw egg was so exciting!) 
Teal playing with the raw egg. 

It was a fun unit! I think we all learned a lot! I will be adding more activities to my Easter/egg/oviparous animal unit this year as well. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Green Eggs And Ham Reading Game

It is almost time for Dr. Seuss's birthday, so I am sharing one of the activities I did last year with my reading groups. I have seen different versions of this game on Pinterest and other places many times, but I enjoyed making my own.

First, I used construction paper to make green eggs and ham. One of the paras made a version earlier by using the flower shaped die cut as the egg and putting a green circle in the middle, but I didn't like them so much. So for the next batch, I just free-handed blob shapes and added circles as the yolks. Then, I wrote a reading word on the yolk of each of the eggs. What I really wanted to do was laminate them first and then use a wet erase or dry erase marker to write the words, so that I could use it year after year and customize it for the reading words of whatever group was using it. But the stupid laminator was broken as usual. Maybe this year I'll try again.

Anyways, my last step was to add Dr. Seuss stickers to the back sides of some of the eggs, I added a flipper from the dollar store, and there was my game!

To play, we spread the eggs, sunny side up, on the table. There were two ways to do it. Either the students could choose any egg they wanted to read, or the teacher could say a specific word and the student would have to find it. Either way, after they found and/or read the word, they got to flip the egg with the flipper. If there was a Dr. Seuss sticker on the other side, they got to take another turn! The students loved this game. Even the ones who refuse to do school work were willing to play it.

I always like adding a little fun to their day!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Snowman Reading/Writing Activity

Hi everyone! If any of you are doing snow or snowman units, I wanted to share this activity that I made last year for my kids. It took a lot of work to make, but it was worth it because they loved doing it! What I did first is print out a blank snowman picture. That was the easy part. Next, in Publisher, I uploaded a whole bunch of images of mittens, hats, scarves, carrot noses, buttons, etc. I sized them so that they would fit pretty well over the snowman picture. Next, I made text boxes over each image and typed in some of the words my students were working on in reading. I actually made three versions of this, because I had my third, fourth and fifth graders learning two different levels of sight words, and my first and second graders working on CVC words.

It was more of an activity than a game. They would pick out the clothing and facial features they wanted and place them on the snowman frame. (I laminated everything so we could use it again... I didn't add velcro or anything, they just laid it where they wanted it to go.) When their snowman was complete, they had to read all of the words they used to a teacher. The third, fourth and fifth graders also had to write a list of the words they used. They liked doing it over and over again because they could make a different snowman each time!

Here is how it turned out.

I'm most likely going to use this again this year. I'm glad I laminated it!

Thanks for visiting my blog... come back soon!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Making Gingerbread People

Is anyone doing the iconic gingerbread unit this year? I did last year, and I am planning on doing it again this year.

Last year the Gingerbread Man left clues all around the school for us to follow. The final clue lead us right back to our classroom, where we discovered that the Gingerbread Man had already been! He'd been too fast for us! As a consolation prize, though, he left us a plate of blank gingerbread people and some supplies to decorate them with. The kids got to decorate and eat their own gingerbread people.

I was so proud of my moment of organization... I used muffin tins to organize all of the decorations for the students. The kids usually do their work in groups, so instead of having to buy supplies for each group (three containers of sprinkles, etc) I could easily just divide all of my supplies into multiple muffin tins.

This is so Martha Stewart, isn't it?

Here are two of my little dudes working on their gingerbread people.

Here is an example of one of their final products. In hindsight, I think this year I will look for larger cookie cutters... these were so small, they didn't have much room to decorate, and the gingerbread people looked more like gingerbread monsters!

I will keep you posted on what we end up doing this year. What do you do for your Gingerbread unit? 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Flower Theme Writing And Craft

Hello again! This week we started our plant theme. Sometimes it is hard to find new and engaging things for my kids to do for writing. Of course I use writing prompts that I think they'll find interesting, but they struggle to write a paragraph about any topic. Just simple things such as writing a complete sentence with capitalization and punctuation is still hard for them. Coming up with ideas is also challenging. I've also been trying to teach them about adjectives. The concept is so abstract to them... they just can't understand what I'm saying when I talk about "describing words." If you ask them to describe something, or tell you about something, they'll tell you a bunch of nouns related to the item, they'll tell you facts about the item, they'll tell you things the item can do, and they'll throw in some random words for no apparent reason... but it is so hard for them to come up with actual adjectives!

So for this project, we pre-cut flower pieces for them. (They got to choose the colors of the petals for their flowers.) They had to do the writing for the project and then assemble their flowers. First they wrote their names in the middle of their flowers. (In this picture I've covered up their real names.) Then on each petal, they had to write a sentence describing themselves. Robin came up with, "I am silly," "I am smart," "I am nice," "I am kind," and "I am friendly." Three of those are pretty much similes (nice, kind, friendly.) The other two, I really had to drag out of her. I gave her choices such as, "Are you serious or are you silly?" Brant came up with "nice" and "good" on his own, but his other petals ended up as 2 nouns and something he likes. Even describing themselves is challenging!

The rest of the flower parts were a little easier for them. On each leaf, they wrote something they liked. (Robin likes her mom and dogs, and Brant likes recess and lunch.) On the stems, they wrote something they wanted to do. (Robin wants to have fun, and Brant wants to go camping.)

For Teal and Towhee, who are only in first and second grades and are still struggling with just writing alphabet letters, I simplified it a little. They only had to write single words.

Here are two of the finished products. We hung them all out on one of our bulletin boards, with a background of grass and sky and sun, and the words "Watch us grow" above them. Feel free to use the idea, if you like!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Our Rain Forest Bulletin Board

Hi everyone!  I thought I'd show you our rain forest bulletin board! I was trying to think of some sort of rain forest themed art project that all of my kids could do. I couldn't really find something that I thought was simple enough, but also let them be creative and show their personalities. Then I came up with the idea of making monkeys and putting their faces on them!

I drew my own monkey pattern on a Dr. Pepper case and cut it out for the kids to trace. Then all I had to do was supply them with construction paper of every color. They got to pick out the color for every body part, trace it and cut it out, and glue their monkeys together. While they were working, I took pictures of their faces and printed them out. They then glued their faces onto the monkeys' heads!

We also made some tissue paper flowers to brighten up our bulletin board. Here is the result! (I edited the picture by covering up the monkeys' faces, for confidentiality and all that,)

My favorite is Noddy's monkey. He was absent when all of the others made theirs, so I let him do his today. He loves art, and he also loves superheroes. After the kids had gone home today, I found Noddy's monkey, and realized that he had added a few personal touches to his monkey... a superhero cape and an "S" on his shirt!  (Also do you get my "Hey, hey, we're the monkeys" reference?)

I was so proud of Noddy and Martin today. We've been practicing counting money, using Touch Math, every day for the past few weeks. Most of the time we've been practicing by playing my Save The Rainforest Touch Money game. I knew they have both gotten good at counting coins using the Touch Points. For Independent Work today, I gave them a packet from the Touch Money curriculum, where they would have to count the money without actually seeing the Touch Points. (They could draw in their own Touch Points if they wanted to.) Well, both of the boys completed the entire packet within half an hour. It turns out, they can both count money, without having the Touch Points already added for them, with at least 80% accuracy! 

This is HUGE! These are two boys who were not at all familiar with money just eight weeks ago. If you gave them a pile of coins, they just counted the number of coins, whether they were quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. (So if you gave them 2 quarters, 5 dimes, 2 nickels, and 4 pennies, they would tell you that they had 13 cents.) For them to now be successful at counting coins without even using Touch Points? I could burst! 

Now all we have to do is keep on practicing so that maybe it will stick permanently in their brains by the time summer vacation starts. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

How Is It Almost May Already?

Sometimes being a special ed teacher is exhausting! 
It is that time of year where, on one hand, I can't believe the year has gone by so fast, and on the other hand, each week seems to crawl by at a snail's pace. I haven't had the energy to write in this blog lately.

One of the things I have been dealing with is that one of my students (Towhee) has such severe behavioral issues that he now has to be taught in a separate room, with not one but two paras with him. It has been very frustrating because they gave us a 1:1 para for him, but he requires 2 people with him, and at least one of them needs to be trained in CPI (crisis de-escalation and restraint). This has meant restructuring our entire classroom lives so that Towhee can have the majority of our time, energy and resources, while the rest of my students get whatever is left over. Before Towhee was given a 1:1 and before the special ed director moved him into his own tiny classroom, it was even worse, because the expectation was for me to work 1:1 with Towhee in the empty classroom next door all day long, while the paras just ran the rest of the classroom on their own.  I do love Towhee, but it is just frustrating that it is always the students with the most severe behaviors that take priority over everything else. Last year when I worked in a different school, my classroom was similarly hijacked when the special ed director there decided that the 23 students on my caseload would get to work with a different random substitute teacher in another room every day for the rest of the school year, while I devoted all of my time to two students with severe behavioral issues, one of whom actually punched out a screen and jumped out the window and another who regularly busted holes in the walls and the bathroom door. My other kids made zero progress because they couldn't even have a steady teacher or para... just a string of subs... while my whole job was just to contain these two kids who weren't even allowed to leave the room to go to specials because their behavior had become so unsafe. I didn't get lunches or planning time that school year... I was expected to sit and eat lunch with the students, because they couldn't go to the cafeteria. So at least this Towhee situation is a little better than that. But still. I feel bad for all of my other students (last year and this year) who also have special needs, who really require structure and stability and consistent instruction, whom we struggle just to figure out how to serve because we are so busy directing most of our time and attention towards the kids with behavioral issues... in this case, Towhee. There have been days when I've had to send some of my students to their gen ed classes, literally to be babysat (they just brought some worksheets to do or books to read while they were there) because I didn't have enough staff to supervise them in the classroom. I didn't even have enough staff to have a human being in the classroom with them, let alone enough staff to actually teach them their reading lesson!

But I digress...

I think next year is going to be a lot better. I will have a much better idea of what I am doing, and I will have the whole summer to get my classroom organized and ready, instead of just a few weeks like I had this year. I sort of wish I could fast forward through the rest of this school year so I could get a fresh start!

At any rate, I have three new games I made using Widgit online, and I am sharing them for free at TPT. The first two are train-themed  CVC reading games.  Both involve simply rolling a die, moving around a train track, and reading CVC words.

Regular "Go Train Go" has CVC words with pictures.

Level 2 Go Train GO has CVC words without pictures.

The next game is a money game with a rainforest game. To play, you roll a die, move around the board, and collect coins. (The coins have Touch Points on it because that is how my students are learning money, but you don't have to know Touch Points to benefit from the game.) If you land on a rainforest animal, you can adopt it for 50¢.  If you land on the stop sign, you have to donate 10¢ to the cause, and put that money in the middle of the board. If you land on a present, you get any of the money that is in the middle of the board. The winner is the person who adopts the most animals. Like Monopoly, this game can go on forever. My 3rd graders, Noddy and Martin, have actually begged to play it every day at math time, so we've been writing down how much money and which animals each player has at the end of each math session so that we can pick the game up again the next day. This game has really given them a lot of practice at counting coins and spending money, and has also been a great way for me to assess their progress. And you can have it for free! It is called Save the Rainforest Touch Money Game. I hope you like it!

I will try to update more regularly if I can. Thanks for reading, everyone!