Thursday, April 24, 2014

Let's Get Organized! Binder Covers and Spines {My summer project}

Welcome back to the Café!
My spring break is quickly coming to an end {sniff, sniff} and my week has been semi-productive {considering the NC pollen has had me down a few days}. I was in the mood to get some things organized here around the house and I also finished my project Binder Covers and Spines for Many Reasons and Seasons.  This is my newest summer project! Like I said in an earlier post, I feel like my life is one big project. :-)

This binder and spine pack contains 129 {It started as 120, then I found myself adding a few more here and there. Looks like I could've made one more to round it to an even 130. :-)}
When I made these binder covers I was thinking about common themes and topics I {and other elementary teachers} use often. Within each binder you can also create sub-categories with page dividers if necessary.
 As you can see from the picture above, many of my files are still in file folders. Talk about UNORGANIZED! Whew! It's time for me to get busy getting these files in order.

Below are some examples of the binders and spines found in this pack.

I didn't put borders on the spines because, although some binders are said to be 1 inch, 2 inches, etc., the spines are sometimes hard to fit. I've had to trim many spines with cute borders to fit certain binders, which caused the cute border to not be so cute anymore. :-(
So, to make it easier, I made these spines that could be trimmed to fit {without having to cut a border}.

One trick I use to help keep my materials organized is to use a yellow highlighter and write a big "M" across my master copies before I hole punch them and file them in their binder. Using the neon yellow highlighter doesn't show up when photocopied! It MUST be a neon yellow highlighter, though. I've tried yellow markers before and they sometimes show up with a light gray mark. This is also good for creating keys for tests.

I hope this post has been helpful and has you motivated to get organized!
One more I'm cleaning out the duplicate papers from my file folders I put them in a plastic container. I use them as a "work for fun" basket and students can choose what they want to work on if they need something to do. I also put extra papers that I've photocopied throughout the year in this container. If my pile is big, at the end of the year I'll let the kids choose papers to take home for the summer.
Thanks for stopping by the Crazy Critter Café. Feel free to share your favorite classroom organization tips in the comments below!

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Fun ~ Read now & save for later!

Happy Easter weekend everybody!
Today officially starts our spring break and my "to do" list is growing longer by the minute. Between yard work, house work, school work and cleaning out my boys' closets {I'll tackle mine during summer vacation!}, maybe I'll get something productive accomplished on this week off. My life seems like one big "project". There's always something I'm working on. Anybody relate???
Although Easter is already here, I'd like to share some cute things we did the past few weeks. Read now, save for later. :-)
We read one of my favorite stories Easter Eggs Everywhere! by, Steve Metzger. This cute little rhyming book is a great way to incorporate problem and solution. Bunny wakes up late and realizes Easter is just a day away and he needs to get his eggs painted. With the help of a sly fox, bunny is convinced into getting an egg-painting machine that ends up being more trouble than it's worth. With the help of bunny's friends, the eggs get painted just in time for Easter.
Following this story I like to create our own eggs, but using "magic spray" instead of an egg-o-matic machine, like in the story.

Here's how we make our own eggs:
(1) Cut out an egg shape on coffee filters. I usually staple several filters together and cut. It takes up less time. To flatten filters, put them under a pile of books for a while.

(2) Students use WATER BASED markers to design their egg. I let them design it any way they'd like, encouraging them to use bright colors. I write each student's name on the edge of the egg with a PERMANENT marker so it won't mix with the other colors when sprayed.

(3) Then I tell the kids I'm going to use my "magic spray" {WATER!} that will transform their eggs. I spray each child's egg on a plate and let dry.
(4) As the eggs are drying I let the kids be creative and think of a good place they would like to "hide" their egg. I created a simple prompt for them to fill in the blank. "I will hide my Easter egg ___________."
Once the eggs are dry, I staple it to their sentence.

Check out our colorful eggs!

Kids loved how their egg magically changed with the spray. {They still don't know what's in that magic spray bottle. And that magic spray is good for other things besides changing eggs, too! Anything that needs a little magic...just spray it on!}

Another little craftivity I like to do around Easter is make bunny bags. This is a following directions activity. Print a copy of the directions page here.

Here's how we make the bags: (I have everything pre-cut so all the kids have to do is glue. I don't have templates for the pieces. I cut the pieces to fit the size brown lunch bags I have, as some are smaller than others. For the eyes, I made copies of those on the photocopier and just cut them out.)

(1) Using the following directions page (see link above), read each direction aloud to the class.
(2) They follow each direction to complete their bunny bags. (I have a finished one on display so they can have something to go by.)

The bunny bags do take a little bit of prep time, but once the pieces are cut, it's easy. An alternative would be to let students create their own by giving them the construction paper, allowing them to cut their own pieces. That should make for some unique bunnies!

Thanks for stopping by the Crazy Critter Café!
Hope everyone has a very Happy Easter!

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Saturday, April 5, 2014

Jack and the Beanstalk {Sand & Soil, Magic Beans and Measurement}

Welcome back to the Crazy Critter Café! I want to share some things we've been up to in science and math.
Lessons like this are why I love what I do. Of course I didn't completely get to what was in my planbook during this block of time, but the overall lesson was well worth the adjustment!
We started by reading a version of Jack and the Beanstalk {we read various versions of this story over several days and compared them} . We've been talking about characteristics of rocks, sand, and soil in science and working on nonstandard measurement for math. As I was thinking about all of the activities involved in these math and science units, I thought it would be so much easier {and FUN!} to integrate the subjects using the story about Jack and the Beanstalk.
It all started something like this....
(1) We observed sand and soil using a microscope. The kids also used magnifying glasses when observing at their tables.
(2) They glued sand and soil samples on an observation sheet.
{download a copy of the recording sheet HERE}.
(3) After reading a version of Jack and the Beanstalk, I showed the class some Magic Beans, and you would have thought they were REALLY magic by the looks on some of their faces. A bag of gold beans mysteriously appears after reading a fairy tale about a never ending beanstalk..... now I have their attention!
Magic beans were easy to make: northern beans, gold craft paint, sandwich bags, a stapler and the labels for bags {Download Jack's Magic Beans labels HERE}.
 (4) Since we've been talking about soil & sand and their properties, it was only fitting to try planting Jack's Magic Beans in a cup of soil and a cup of sand.
  I put 3 magic beans in each container and we gave each container the same amount of water and sunlight. Here's where the lesson took an unexpected turn.
When I watered the soil {all of this was taking place under the document camera so everyone could see}, we found an earthworm! And another. And another! 3 earthworms in one little cup of soil. I used my pencil at first to pick one up, then put it in my hand. That caused some excitement!
This was the perfect opportunity to reinforce the concept that earthworms help the soil, but are not found in the sand {linking back to what soil and sand are made of}.
(5) After the unexpected earthworm visit we got back on track and predicted which container - the soil or sand {or both} Jack's magic beans would grow. We voted to leave the earthworms in the container. Our question was: Will Jack's Magic Beans Grow in Both Soil and Sand? I used this question also as a graphing activity as students made their predictions.

We found that the beans could grow in both soil and sand. We concluded that since they both received equal amounts of sunlight and water, that helped support plant growth. We discussed how the soil had more nutrients, but there are plants by the ocean, so sand is also capable of supporting plant growth.
Next time I'll also try to plant the seed in a Ziploc bag with a paper towel and tape it to the window. I've had luck in the past growing beans in bags, so this should lead to some good discussion when comparing it to the soil and sand.

(6) Now..... moving along to the math integration.
We read another version of Jack and the Beanstalk. This time the kids found the Giant's footprints when they came back in the classroom from lunch. {download a template of the Giant's footprint here} We discussed the words longer and shorter. Their job was to walk around the room and find items that were either longer or shorter than the Giant's foot. I gave them 3 minutes to go explore.  They had so much fun with this! After their exploration time we came back together and shared our thoughts.

I told them they'd now be going back to compare the Giant's foot again, but this time they were going to record their findings. {download a copy of the recording sheet here}

We had so much fun with science and math using Jack and the Beanstalk. Now I have so many more ideas that keep coming to mind to use next year when teaching this again. I'd love to know how you've used Jack and the Beanstalk with your class ~ math, science, literature, etc.
Thanks for stopping by the Crazy Critter Café!  

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