Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Boot Scootin' Math Boogie

Just in time for fall fun with a cowboy twist....check out my new Boot Scootin' Math Boogie classroom review game. The game is a review of place value and number sense. It would be great fun during a cowboy style room transformation paired with other activities for the day. Your little classroom cowboys and cowgirls will thank you! Check it out here.

Monday, October 16, 2017


Magical things happen when students collaborate across grade levels. The past few weeks, my second graders have been learning and creating books and hands-on activity tubes all about creation. We've gone through all seven days, one by one. 

I wanted the students to have a meaningful way to share what they learned. I teamed up with the kindergarten teacher at my school because each of us has 19 students...what a perfect fit!

On Friday, we hosted the kindergartners in our classroom. We teamed up as partners (one kindergarten student with one second grader. The second grader read their books to the kindergarten buddy and also had questions for them as they went through the story. They also shared their creation tube that showed different items created on each day of creation. Afterwards, we all came together. I asked them about each of the different days of creation and what God created on each day. If the kindergarten student couldn't remember, their buddy was able to support them and help them out. 

We enjoyed snacks for each of the creation days. 
Day one: an Oreo (for light separating darkness)
Day two: a small cup of water (for God separating the water above and below with the sky)
Day three: some flower shaped cereal pieces
Day four: star shaped snacks
Day five: goldfish 
Day six: animal crackers
Day seven: we did not represent the day of rest with a snack

My students took their projects home to share with their families. The reaction from the families was amazing. 

We had positive feedback on our project with kindergarten. Can't wait to do some more collaboration this year. 

The source I used for the tubes
I also found several sources on Pinterest for the booklet but cannot find the links currently.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Curling Up with A Nature-Themed Book

There are so many great nature-themed books these days. Here's a look at some of my favorites.

 What if You Had series by Sandra Markle  
This series is all about different creature adaptations. Each book features a different adaptation and shows what you might look like if you had the same adaptation. It's a great series! I love the illustrations. 

The books in the series are (click the links below to go to the link on Amazon) : 
What if You Had Animal Eyes
What if You Had Animal Teeth
What if You Had an Animal Nose
What if You Had Animal Feet
What if You Had animal Hair

Backyard Books Series by Judy Allen
I discovered these books several years back. They are a great way to show students what insects and bugs are like. It talks all about what your life would be like if you were an insect or bug. At the end of each book it ends with a part about you being a human and not an insect. 

The books in the series are (click the links below to go to the link on Amazon):
Are You a Bee?
Are You a Ladybug?
Are You a Butterfly?
Are You a Dragonfly?
Are You an Ant?
Are You a Grasshopper?
Are You a Spider?
Are You a Snail?

Race the Wild Series by Kristin Earhart
This series is kind of like an Amazing Race except with teams of kids playing the games. In the stories, you will join groups of kids as they race through one habitat somewhere around the world. The kids compete against other groups of kids in solving challenges and learning more about the habitat they are racing through. At the end of each chapter, there is a feature that gives more information about each habitat or an animal that lives there. My students go crazy over these!

The books in the series are (click the links below to go to the link on Amazon):
Race the Wild Rain Forest Relay
Race the Wild Great Reef Games
Race the Wild Arctic Freeze
Race the Wild Savanna Showdown
Race the Wild Outback All Stars
Race the Wild Mountain Mission

Who Would Win Series by Jenny Polleta
The boys in my class, especially, love this series. The books compare two different animals and their adaptations and features. It goes back and forth showing the strengths of each. At the end it makes a prediction about which animal would win in a fight.

 Who Would Win Lion Vs. Tiger 
Who Would Win Killer Whale Vs. Great White Shark
Who Would Win Polar Bear Vs. Grizzly Bear
Who Would Win Tarantula Vs. Scorpion
There are so many different books in the series I am not gong to list them all, but by clicking on the links above you should be able to browse the others.

Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel
I love this book about a tree named Steve. Steve becomes the center of life for the family featured in the book. Love how the tree feels like a part of the family. The book goes on to show what happens to Steve through the years.
Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel

Shine a Light Book Series by Carron Brown
Uncover the secrets of nature! These are great books for reading under the covers with flashlights. There are hidden animals and items hidden in the pages of the book that can only be found when they are lit up by a flashlight. 

Books in the series (Click for a link to Amazon):

Take-Along Guides Different Authors
This series features great field guides designed especially for children. They have pictures as well as information about a wide variety of nature topics.
Some of the other books in the series (links on Amazon):
There are many other ones as well.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
This book is geared toward adults who are working with children, either their own or in a school or children's program. It touches on what nature-deficit disorder is and gives ways to save our children from being deprived of nature. 
Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Those are my favorites when it comes to books about nature. What are yours? Leave a comment below.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Outdoor Classroom Day

So I spent three summers away from my husband working on a master's degree in another state. That was several years ago and now I am proud to hold a master's in science education or more specifically, outdoor education. 

It's surprising that most people assume that outdoor education is simply a degree in P.E. but that is far from the case. Rather, imagine using the outdoors as a classroom. What possibilities does that bring? Kids these days can be quite deprived when it comes to the great outdoors and nature. Did you know that 74% of kids do not get even the amount of outdoor time that is recommended for inmates? That is just one hour per day! As a specialist in outdoor education, I find that to be disturbing. 

So what is one to do in the great outdoors with a classroom full of wiggling, energetic kids? LOTS! Here are some ideas for different classes in the great outdoors.

1. Bring blankets and lay under the trees for independent reading time
2. Read books about nature-related topics
3. Connect nature reading themes with actual observations of those items in real life in the great outdoors
4. Outdoor sight word games
5. This outdoor story tree looks amazing!

1. For place value manipulatives: use small stones as ones, and small twigs as tens
2. Use sidewalk chalk outside to practice math problems
3. Go to a field to measure out the length of something big such as a blue whale
4. Play math movement games outside
5. Make graphs outdoors using natural objects 

1. Nature Journaling...you can check out two of my resources here and here.
2. Story Stones
3. Outdoor story reenactments such as We're going on a bear hunt
4. Bring a blanket or tent and have some writing time in the great outdoors
5. Get outside and write poems, about a certain area, using your five senses

1. Scavenger hunts: These are great because you can customize them according to what you are learning. For example, younger children may be looking for objects of different colors, while primary students may look for different types of seeds such as winged seeds, spiky seeds, etc., and older students may look for even more in depth items such as specific types of leaves or shells, etc. You can check mine out here.
2. Go on a nature walk
3. Do gardening activities
4. Engage them in birding activities: place feeders or houses, or both around your school for students to use in observing different birds
5. Use a cloud viewer to observe and learn about different cloud types

Social Studies:

1. Hold a simulation outside about an important event in history. I did this a couple of times when we were studying the underground railroad. You can see more about that here and here.
2. Get outside to practice map skills with fun games.
3. While learning about other countries and their culture, try out some games that they play.
4. Go on a walk through your neighborhood and then come back and have students create a mini replica with paper bag buildings
5. Set up imaginative play stations, that tie in to your study about the community, on the playground.

1. Do texture rubbings and use them in your art project
2. Use natural items to create an art project here, here, and here.
3. Paint with nature items or make nature paint brushes to use here and here
4. Tie in nature art displays with books you have read.
5. Have fun with bubbles in art here, here, and here.

1. One of my favorite things to do with my class is to take them outdoors for a Bible Diorama game. They are split into groups of about four students. Each group decides on a Bible story. They use nature items to recreate their story on a spot on the ground. They usually have about 15 minutes or so to create the story. Then they go around to the other groups, one group at a time, to try to figure out what their story is.
2. Another favorite is a scavenger hunt. These could work for various Bible stories, but the one I used it most recently for was when we were learning about creation. We were studying day three, when God made the land and plants. Students had a list of words that they had to find plant items for such as something heart-shaped, something big, something sharp, etc.
3. Try out this Round up the Sheep game for learning about the lost sheep.
4. Find items in nature and use them as object lessons. The students could even do this themselves.
5. Use this Books of the Bible game to help students review the Bible books.

Be sure to check out Pinterest for even more ideas. But whatever you do, get those kids out into nature!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Learning about Project Based Learning

For the past couple of years, I have been on a journey. Our school is transitioning to a project based learning model. I love these projects and how deep they go in building student understanding about a certain topic. This is one sure-fire way to get the students hooked on learning and excited about it. I am not kidding when I say that I have had students beg...yes you heard right, BEG to stay in from recess to do more work on their PBL (project based learning). I call that a HUGE win for every teacher. So I am sharing some of my favorite books that I have been reading on the topic. I encourage you to check them out as well. 

Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning
Hacking Project Based Learning
PBL in the Elementary Grades
Developing Natural Curiosity Through Project-Based Learning

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Celebrating International Dot Day

Friday was International Dot Day...and for those of you who have never heard of that and have no idea what all the hype is about, let me introduce you to the book that started it all...You can find it here.  It is a great book about growth mindset. It all begins when a little girl cannot think of anything to draw in art class because she doesn't think she is a great artist. Her teacher tells her to draw something, anything...so she draw a dot, a teeny, tiny one. Her teacher asks her to sign her name on the bottom of her paper, so she does. The next day, she walks into the art room and sees her dot framed in a beautiful golden frame. Suddenly, because someone valued her, she begins to see herself as an artist and begins to create more and more art....I'll leave the rest for you to read on your own. You can even find a reading of it here on youtube.

 We had a great conversation about the book and how it could apply to us. Then the rest of the day, we engaged in different activities that had something to do with dots. 

In science, we explored color and what colors black is made from. Students started by drawing a black dot with a Mr. Sketch marker on a coffee filter. They made a hypothesis about which colors they thought black is made from. They showed this on their recording sheet. Next, they folded the filter into a small triangle shape and dipped it in water for 10 seconds. Then we opened them up to take a look. The students were able to clearly see the colors that are in black. They were so excited! We recorded that on our science experiment sheet. I found this lab on Pinterest, but I cannot find the link. 

For P.E. we played a game called, King of the Boppers. I don't have any pictures of this, but basically I had two colors of pool noodles, half of my students were on the green team and the other half were on the blue team. I took each pool noodle and cut them into three equal pieces. Each student got one of the pieces. Then I took another noodle and sliced it into about one inch pieces that were in the shape of a donut (or dot).  Every student got one of the long pieces and one of the small pieces that represented the color of their team. The students started in a big field with the small donut-shaped piece in his/her open hand. They had to protect their dot and not let it drop while other students used their long piece, or bopper, to try to whack it out of the other student's hand. If the student dropped their dot, they were out of the game. The last team with players in the game wins! We had so much fun! 

During art time, we did this little project that I found on this website and if you scroll down, you can see the video I showed to my class that talked all about texture and how to do this project before we got started. After the video, students had a few minutes to gather some textured items from nature outside. Then inside the classroom, I passed out a few other items that they could use as well. They started by wrapping a piece of yarn around a cardboard circle. Next, they glued down their textured items. After that, they took a piece of tinfoil and placed it on top of their collage. They carefully rubbed their fingertip over the collage, revealing the objects underneath. Then they flipped their circle over and cut around the border of the circle, leaving about an inch of tinfoil. They tucked the foil all around the back of the circle, securing it in place. We will spray pain it later with black and then use some steel wool to burnish it. They are going to look amazing! Can't wait to see their dot shaped texture collages!

And of course, it wouldn't be a special day without snacks, so we decided on cheese dots (cheese balls) and donut dots (donut holes). 

We ended up running out of time for all the activities we had planned, since Fridays are always early dismissal days. But I also brought dot games and let them play when they were done with their art project. I had Dominoes, Tic Tac Toe (all the pieces were different colored dots), and Othello.