Saturday, December 22, 2012

Great Anytime Gifts and Curriculum Tool!

Visual Poetry
Wordle Word Cloud Generator

I'm a little late on posting my Christmas goodie for my kids, but it's something you can do any time of the year including birthdays or even a nice New Year's back to school surprise.  Most of you have probably seen Wordle and others like it floating around on Pinterest, but for those of you who don't know what it is, Wordle is awesome!  It is a very simple program that you type a word list into and it creates a "word cloud."  The more times you repeat a specific word, the larger that word is in relation to the others, and you can spend tons of time playing with color variations, font styles, and layouts.

Last year I used Wordle to make rectangular bookmarks that I laminated using phrases to describe each child, our grade, school, and other fun facts, with their name repeated most frequently to make it the biggest.  The past few years I've been a bit of a scrooge because it drives me crazy when I spend time handmaking something and proudly giving it to the students only to find it crushed, trashed, or otherwise!  Well, that did not happen with these bookmarks last year- the kids kept them for the entire rest of the year and used them.  They were so appreciative and gave me the confidence to spread the niceness again this year.

Our school gave us iPads this year and I figured there must be an App by now.  I didn't find Wordle exactly, but rather "Visual Poetry."  This app enables you to select different shapes and letters.  I wanted to use students' first letters to make their bookmark this year.  Wow was this easy!  It took all of about 20 minutes to make all of their letters using the copy/paste feature.  The time consuming part was matting, laminating and cutting, but somehow this proved to be a relaxing and mindless break that was greatly needed.  I punched holes, added a few beads on a string, stuck candy canes on them, and the kids were thrilled again.   (After checking it out today, I see they have Christmas shapes too!)  The $0.99 was well worth it!

Even better- the kids were DYING to know how I had done it.  I showed them the App and also Wordle so others could access the similar program on the class computers.  They turned this into a whole new lesson!  One group made a thank you for the local meteorologist who had visited our classroom and he showed their Wordle on the news (we had it framed--shown is a screenshot).  The group that had my iPad, secretly made one for me (The red, green, and blue heart below).  On our last day together, we had a crafty day (I know, in fifth grade?- how dare we????) and they were begging to use Wordle to make Christmas cards for their family.  It was the quietest, most relaxing day I've had with them all year!

I have now made Wordle an ongoing part of extra credit in our weekly newsletter.  Students can take a concept we are working on in science, a character we are focusing on, or a math concept and create a Wordle with at least 20 different terms strategically repeated depending on importance.  It's so fun, they don't even know they're thinking!

Have fun!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Great Informational Text Resource...FREE!
Tween Tribune is something I have just learned about and not actually had my kids accessing yet, but the potential is AWESOME!  Everyday, a new set of articles are posted that are appropriate for intermediate students and beyond.  Students can comment on articles after you've set up their accounts, and then you approve their comments, making this a very safe venue for sharing.  The articles are current, high interest, and well written models of informational texts.   The vocabulary is tough but easy enough to glean meaning of through use of context.  These are perfect for your core mini lessons in reader's workshop if you need a piece of informational text.  The photos that accompany each article are also highly engaging and can be used as their own inspirations for future writing prompts.  

Bonuses!  There is a daily Quiz relating to one article and you and your kids can track  your "Q" scores.  At the end of each article, there is a critical thinking question three words that can be defined using  the article's context.  I am thinking, on our classroom blog, I am going to use this as weekly extra credit in reading.  Generally, the kids really enjoy anything that is computer related and will give it a shot.  I am also dying to try out the comment section.  Before school and during lunch, I also open my room for those kids that don't have computer access and will probably test this baby out on them!  

Another idea, is to use the "20 lesson plans that teach and engage, no matter which text a student selects," prompts. These would be great "what do I do when I'm finished choices." This web site has opened a can of worms for me....there's so much to explore! PLEASE: If you sign on and find something great, post in the comments sections for all to see- but mostly for my own selfish reasons hehe....

Check it out....but reserve some time to do it!  Enjoy!

:0) Heather

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Get Your Free Elf Here!

The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition with Blue Eyed North Pole Pixie-Elf
This school year is flying and I miss having the chance to lounge around in pjs blogging and making nifty stuff for TPT!  This is going to be a quickie and a warm up for myself to try and get back into this routine!  Love this book and I've seen it at many of my friend's houses with families, but I don't yet have my elf...until now!  The "Elf on the Shelf" publishers are giving 5,000 of these adorable books and dolls away to the first 5,000 teachers who register with their site.  It's a really neat site as well, with grade level appropriate activities and sections specifically designed for each grade level group.  I'm not sure if I would use this book with fifth graders, as I always avoid the topic of Santa altogether (you never know who still believes and I don't want to be the bearer of bad news to anyone!).  With that said, I can't wait to share this super cute story with my own kids someday!  This little elf is Santa's helper and he comes with a few rules.  You can talk to him, tell him your wishes, but never touch him.  He will fly back to the North Pole each night and relay his observations of all the good girls and boys to Santa and return to a different spot in the house each night.  Each morning, the kids get up and scramble to find where the elf has relocated!  I can only imagine the fun the little guys would have with this and can't wait to dig deeper into their site for suggested uses for the upper grades.  Click the book above to visit the site; step-by-step instructions for getting your own elf are listed here.  Enjoy and hope Santa brings you a free "Elf on a Shelf!"

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Promoting a Positive Classroom Environment...EASY!

Okay, so I am so very thankful for finding and buying our new house. With that said, it would have been great TWO MONTHS ago lol...moving during the first few weeks of school has got to be one of the most exhausting things I've ever done and TPT and blogging have taken a backseat, unfortunately! I miss this!

On the upside, I discovered a book that I think has been floating around for a few years and is probably well known to many of you, "How Full is Your Bucket?" I owe a million thanks to Mrs. Motion, our new guidance counselor for sharing this story with my fifth graders!

 Initially, I thought it was a nifty story and forgot about it for a few days until I heard one of the kids say, “That’s NOT filling someone’s bucket!” I reread the story and decided that this was definitely something we needed more of to encourage a safe and positive classroom without anything too complicated! And so, our bucket fillers were born. I scrambled up a too small bucket and printed out a few slips, and discussed appropriate times to complete a “bucket filler” for someone. THE SLIPS WERE GONE within the hour!!! I figured the kids would do it for a few days and then it would die off, but that was about 3 weeks ago. Since then, we have had hundreds of bucket fillers read to one another and the students are even starting to write them for past teachers, resource teachers, and my substitute who was just thrilled to get a positive compliment from a student. I have also found that the bucket fillers are a way for me to reach out more frequently to recognize all students for the little steps they are taking to improve themselves…and watch them smile!

 At first, there were a lot of “thanks for being a good friend” or “you are so nice,” but as I praised the really specific fillers and introduced my own specific praises in bucket fillers, the kids have begun to notice the small things they do for one another. This has been such a positive and simple classroom management strategy! I use the bucket fillers during almost every transition and the kids are just dying to hear the next one, making transitions super efficient. I hope you are able to experience as much fun as we’ve had with this book!
These are just the bucket fillers students have written to me or  that I have written to the class as a whole.  They keep their personal bucket fillers.  They really seem to enjoy rereading the ones on my cabinet though!

Have a wonderful weekend and may your bucket be full!
Heather :0)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Parent Night Scavenger Hunt

Time flies! We are already three weeks into the school year and had our parent night on Thursday.  I am not a public speaker, to say the least.  I can do without the sweating, rapid heartbeat, and nervous stutter...hehe...give me kids- not adults!   This freebie was certainly created with the kids in mind, however, I have a sneaking suspicion my subconscious had a hand with this one.

We do so much in such a short period of time that is not visible for everyone to see, and the kids are usually really excited to let their parents in on a few of our nifty happenings.  So rather than me standing up and doing the traditional "teacher speech," I let the kids drive the night.  We create a list of the things they most want to share with their parents and the kids become our tour guide.  I have a newsletter with all of my pertinent information to hand to the parents at the end as well as a rolling slide show of important stuff for everyone to review while their kids are dragging them all over the classroom.

On this year's scavenger hunt, a few of the kids' favorites were their "Secret Knowledge of Grown-Ups" stories we are working on to introduce the writing process, their Word Study folders because they are already stuffed full of words, their mnemonic name classbuilders, and our Hooked on Books reading incentives.  Finally, they have to introduce their parent and teacher.  The awesome part about using this activity is that it frees you up to speak with each parent individually as their children introduce you.  I also get such a kick out of hearing how excited the kids are to share their early success with their parents.  By the time they are done, the parents always say, "No! I don't have any questions!  They told me EVERYTHING!"  It creates a very positive atmosphere for parents, students, and teachers to celebrate a new year together.

The text portion of the file is fully editable, but the background has been flattened to preserve copyrights.  I hope you can use this in your classroom and have a super parent night!  Have a fabulous school year.

Also, check out some of the other great parent night resources featured in Freebie Friday linky!
Freebie Fridays

:0) Heather  aka "Wild About Words"

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Get $150 in free books! Easy to do!

Who can resist free books?  A fellow teacher passed this opportunity to me and I signed up right away...about a week later I got an email letting me know I needed to order my $150 worth of free Magic Tree House books!  If you work in a Title I elementary school, you are eligible for $150 worth of chapter books and the awesome Fact Trackers, all courtesy of Mary Pope Osborne!  You have to submit a short proposal and be sure to mention the Books A Go Go name in the application as it says in their home page.  I think their program specifically links to the $150 in books.  I am so excited to get my books in the mail!  This is the perfect program for my fifth graders...we are going to use paired sets to analyze fiction (with the chapter books) and nonfiction (with the fact trackers).  And...because they are a little lower in level, I can accommodate all of my readers and still challenge my more confident guys with more advanced activities!  We are just waiting for our box of books to arrive!  Good luck and I hope this helps get you more books for your classroom!

UPDATE ON 12/22:  Because I received this quickie grant and became a member of their distributor,, I got an email that offered $100 in books, "No strings attached."  I figured they would charge shipping and was broke but checked into it anyways and found their special offer of free shipping with a $100 purchase!  Ten minutes later, my cart was full, I entered the code, received the free shipping and voila....we got our a books a few weeks back- and they have a great variety at more than 50% off.  We got two complete Lightning Thief hard cover sets, 10 Bad Kitties of varying titles, a bunch of Beverly Cleary titles, and 10 or so Franny K. Steins.  A HUGE set of books for 100 even!  I definitely recommend applying for this grant and for sure, register on to get their emails.  Happy holidays!

:0) Heather

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Apply For This Grant Intermediate Teachers and a Great First Week Celebration!

Though much of the philosophy behind current mathematics instruction requires students to "discover" concepts through manipulatives and deeper experiences, the fact remains that if students do not have quick recall of basic facts, this will eventually catch up to them and impact their ability to build more complex concepts.  Reflex math offers an alternative to the traditional "drill and kill" routine and really engages kids with a structured and scaffolded approach to mastering the basic facts in both addition/subtraction and multiplication/division.  There are 8 or so games, all of which are ridiculously fun, as well as other motivational tools like an avatar, benchmark rewards, and engaging graphics.  There is also documentation of  hours logged for intervention documentation...easy to show growth or lack there of!

Reflex is  providing free, full access to their program for two teachers at a school, open to grades 2-8, teachers who provide math instruction.  The grant literally takes 10 minutes and is very simple, and I found out, along with my team teacher, about 4 days later.  Since then, I've had my kids on it every morning and they volunteer to come in at lunch, as well as utilizing it at home!  They have already logged thousands of fact practices and are loving the game format!  I have also noticed with a few of my struggling mathematicians, their confidence is increasing and they are definitely bringing their learning back with them to, I was working with a little girl who said, "Oh, I did this fact family this morning on Reflex" and proceeded to explain the relationship between multiplication and division!  It's a great opportunity to explore a normally pricey subscription!  Go for it and best of luck!!!

On a kindhearted, gooey note, one of my girls who is new to our school (we've only got 2 of our 18 kids new to the school) came in as proud as could be this morning.  She could barely get in the door before she was clambering to get this GIANT piece of paper from behind her raincoat.  With a big smile, she proudly announced, "I made the class a card! A big card!"  She took a whole bunch of notebook papers and taped them together and wrote our class name on the front, and then wrote the sweetest "Thank You" to all of the kids in the class explaining how she had made so many new friends last week and loves her new school.  She then proceeded to draw and name every student in the class on the inside of the card.  WOW....she made me a little leaky, because just yesterday we had had a very tough day with one of our ESE students who has some behavioral issues.  This was just the pick-me-up I needed and this little gem probably has no idea how much she made my day!  I will definitely be sending her one of our Weekly Stars notes on Friday to let her know!  

And finally, it's the small things that make me happy I guess, hehe.  I've had these giant hands for a few years and always want to use them but they really just end up sitting in the corner.  This year, my new little devils have obsessed about a way for me to use them.  One of my goals this year is to promote 100% engagement through the use of explicit instruction strategies. Well, today, they all had their thumbs up after think time and were ready to go, but our choral responses were a mess.  We just couldn't find or rhythm and so I snagged the green hand from the window sill and said, "Talk to the hand!"  Hmmmm...the light went on and suddenly our choral responses were perfect!  I thought this was a dated phrase, but apparently my fifth graders still know its meaning, and they thought it was pretty funny.  So now when I say, "Talk to the hand" and hold up my silly green hand, they are with it!  Goofballs.....but whatever works!
***I tried finding them on the internet but can't!  I am pretty sure I got them from but it's been several years.  There are giant-sized clappers I found during my search and of course, the oldy but goodie foam fingers would be fun too!

Have a great rest of the week!
:o) Heather