Friday, December 19, 2014

A Weighty Issue...

I don't know how many teachers online have written blog posts about health. I know a few friends have written quite a bit about their own health journey, but not related to teaching profession. Tonight I was pondering on a few things and realized how easy it is to gain weight as a teacher.

Educators are facing a difficult time right now; we are encountering a great deal of pressure for our students to perform well on standardized exams. As someone who suffered from major test anxiety growing up, this is depressing. I think being an adult compounds my childhood test anxiety because now, I fear not preparing my students adequately for an even more challenging exam than last year. I have worked harder this year than any other. Since entering the profession a decade ago, our state testing has undergone two major changes. FCAT became FCAT 2.0 in the 2011-2012 school year, and now students will be taking the Florida Standards Assessment, which is a great deal more challenging than the FCAT 2.0. Multiple test answers can be chosen to respond to a question. Students must construct responses in non-traditional ways as well. Rigor is at the forefront of this test, and... I have turned to food for comfort. Again. Just like when the FCAT was upgraded in 2012. Just because I want to be as phenomenal for my students as possible.

Since entering the teaching profession, I have gained thirty pounds. Pounds I hope to lose again. Once once was I successful with weight loss-- I believe it was 2007, and I did extremely well for a long time. I almost got down to my high school graduation weight, which is twenty pounds lighter than when I entered teaching.

That's right, I have gained fifty pounds since graduating from high school.

Friends always tell me I put others first. The fact of the matter is many educators do. Educators want their students to succeed-- and they undergo immense stress. We are surrounded by a grand plethora of food in many situations, from holiday parties to candy, cookies, and cupcakes brought to us by students. I love to bake, too, so I have been surrounded by an unbelievable amount of sweets lately-- from the cookies my students made to those I prepared for a friend's cookie exchange. Then in hosting my very first dance for grades 3-5, I scarfed down some pizza, ate Cheetos, and drank some Pepsi. That may have been the only thing I ate that day. I worked long hours getting ready for the dance, my students' celebration, and grading papers, so I ran out to fast food places this past week as well. Three times, I believe.

I am sure many, many teachers have been there, except the circumstances and situations have been different.

It's not until I saw a few photos of myself this evening that I realized I have gained more than I thought.

It's hard. I would love to be a runner, and I am not too bad at jogging, but I hurt my foot a few months ago and have had to take it easy. I am motivated to pick up some KT tape so I can exercise a bit more without worry. I am also pretty good with cardio, but having a to-do list of 21 items as of last weekend, exercise was at the bottom of my list along with sleep. Enduring some new health issues, having a lack of proper nutrition and sleep has compounded those problems.

I look at friends who are doing extremely well with their health and wish I had their drive am committed to having the same kind of drive.

I am going to spend this winter vacation getting myself on a better schedule and eating better food, as hard as that seems with Christmas approaching. I don't want to make some petty New Year's resolution... I want to do something that will positively affect me for the rest of my life. I fear being diagnosed with diabetes and hope I can steer clear as much as possible.

By the end of the school year, I hope to regain some confidence I have lost regarding my health.

I am making my thoughts known because right now, I am serious, and I want to remain that way. I know I can do a phenomenal job getting healthier in the midst of stress and pain. I know others can relate, too; it's something a lot of people desire to achieve.

Thank you for reading this... I hope I will get as motivated as possible and inspire you during my journey.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Unique STEAM Field Trip Opportunities

A person who visited my weblog just got me thinking about STE(A)M (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) field trip experiences. She brought up a skating rink in Tampa (Florida) called United Skates that has a one-hour science course followed by two hours of skating. Here is the link to the program because there are numerous United Skates locations across the nation.

We do a few STEAM-related trips over the course of the year... we visit Busch Gardens in the spring to learn about the physics behind roller coasters and other theme park rides. We also have attended the University of South Florida Engineering Expo, which my Technology Club students will have the opportunity to do on the weekend and my fifth graders may have the opportunity to do during the week. Also, my Technology Club students will head to USF in the not-too-distant future to visit various departments on campus, one of them being the Physics department.

I am wondering... what kind of STEAM field trips have your students embarked on? Was your field trip a specific program or something you had to tailor to make it a STEAM-powered adventure?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Read this article sometime.

A month ago, my friend at work shared this article with me-- I have been thinking about it quite a lot, and I want to see what you think. It's about educators reaching out to those who are encountering loneliness.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Sunday Scoop, one day late.

This idea is from The Teaching Trio! Thank you for bringing together educators to share their thoughts often. I plan on doing this as often as I have the chance. As for the dance, I cannot wait until we host it... but it's going to take quite a bit of work. I hope it goes really well. I also have no idea what I will be baking, as I will be attending two friends' cookie parties for the first time. I think it's going to be an invigorating, fun month. 

Currently... Linky from Oh' Boy 4th Grade

I have decided to get involved with Linky Parties again after my nearly two-year hiatus from blogging. Farley from Oh'Boy Fourth Grade has hosted them for quite some time-- and I am excited about this current one because it relates to the holiday season!

I love how Farley is doing Random Acts of Kindness. Christmas is the season of giving, so my students are going to soon see how I am going to reach out to others around the school, from cafeteria staff to custodians to other teachers, assistants, and administrators. I am going to see what ideas they come up with as well, and I have other surprises up my sleeve to bring a smile to peoples' faces. My students will also receive what my other classes have received in the past-- my homemade, hand-painted ornaments with gems and other special embellishments.

This is certainly a special month, and with my classes this year, it will be no different.

Thanks for reading!

Restaurant Math

I am posting some of my older, well-viewed posts this evening, redirecting viewers to here from my old weblog. I apologize my old weblog cannot be opened for you all to peruse, but my old domain (which was called, not the new .net version I am debuting soon) was hacked with malware. There are some things on that weblog that have to be cleaned up, but these posts are still there and need to be reprised. Thank you! 

This was written in the fall of 2011. 

Restaurant Math is an activity I do to help students make real-world connections in math over the course of the year. This may take about three days.

Step 1: In writing class, students develop menus for restaurants they design. They fold one 8 1/2 x 11" piece of paper in half to develop their menus. They come up with interesting names for their restaurant and then look at menus from existing restaurants to help them come up with unique dishes with rich descriptions. Below is a list of .pdf menus you can use with your students. (Some of these menus do not include prices, so remember to tell your students that their menu MUST have prices. They NEED to come up with prices for their meals, desserts, appetizers, and beverages to make the math parts of the assignment possible.)

Step 2: Once students have developed their menus, put some on the Elmo. Ask the class how much totals would come to if a family purchased ___, ___, ___, and ___ from _________'s menu. (Do not worry about tips if this is done in the first half of the school year in grades 3 or 4. For grades 5 or higher, you know your students best, and the decision is your discretion.) Do this with about five students' menus and see how accurate your students are in totaling the "bills".

Step 3: The last part is AWESOME and something new I am trying this year! I hope it is successful, and I plan on showing you when the time comes. It seems like a really neat idea to take 1/3 of the class (for me, 7 or 8 students) and sitting them down in a straight line to create a "food court". The other 14-15 students in my class will then "order" from their menus, and the restaurant owners will keep running totals. The 14 or 15 rotating students will have to place two orders each for themselves only. This is something I may do for three days for about 15 minutes each to rotate all the students through being consumers and restaurant owners.

We will then speak about which students' restaurants fared the best and maybe the reasons why they fared the best.

Tell me what you think! I am excited about sharing these ideas with you and really want to read your thoughts!

The Ultimate Reading Journaling Post

I am posting some of my older, well-viewed posts this evening, redirecting viewers to here from my old weblog. I apologize my old weblog cannot be opened for you all to peruse, but my old domain (which was called, not the new .net version I am debuting soon) was hacked with malware. There are some things on that weblog that have to be cleaned up, but these posts are still there and need to be reprised. Thank you! 

I am not a Language Arts teacher anymore, but this was a very informational post for you! Definitely something I would have loved to read when I was first starting out as a Language Arts teacher. I am reprising this because there are some phenomenal ideas out there. I did my best to compile as many as I could together when I wrote this. 

Written at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year-- 

Journaling in reading class... how often do you use it? How do you use it? How do you convey to your students how important it is? Journaling remains one of my fascinations because it can bring in many ways of self-expression. However, at the beginning of fourth grade, not all my kids appreciate writing for what it is worth. 
What kind of teacher do I want to be when it comes to teaching the importance of journaling? I most certainly do not want to be ogre who croaks (insert gargling, deep-throated voice from the bowels of the Earth here), "You NEED to get your journals done in thirty minutes. You NEED to write approximately a page. You NEED to ask questions and reflect." 

(Insert long pause) (All of a sudden, all is quiet...)

...IhavebeenthereandIdon'twanttobethatkindofteacheranymore. Yes, that was intended to have no spaces whatsoever between the words because I intended you to read it as one fast jibber-jabber. I have ventured into the realm of the Incredibly Boring at times, and journaling has not been as exciting as it could have been. 

How do I blast my way out of that crevice? I am going to share my philosophies about journaling this year and how it is going to be interesting. 

It all started when I joined Blogspot five days ago. I found Leanne Bongers' weblog and was fascinated by many of her posts having to do with Reader's Workshop. I came across a checklist her students use for their Thoughtful Log entries here and thought, This is very comprehensive and can serve as a really good guide if I am consistent in using it. I like how she made the list small and glued it on the side of the students' entries. The Black Beauty entry impressed me farther because the entry was organized and included some excellent details. However, by looking at her guide, I immediately saw what could improve the entry farther. 

My Own Reflection:
Good readers make predictions and inferences, determine what are the most important events in a story or the most important facts in an article, analyze text features, ask questions, and summarize. When they read fiction, they put themselves in the “shoes” of different characters and identify with those with whom they can make personal connections. Reading response journals are a wonderful tool for monitoring reading. 

Students should write in journals at least three times a week. You should take the time to respond once every 1-2 weeks on something particularly interesting you find in the students’ journals. To make this task not as daunting, you can assign a “turn in day” for every 4-5 students. It is nearly impossible to check every student’s journal daily, so it is an excellent idea to be consistent and tell students which day you expect to see their entries for the week. (Leanne's guide comes to light again.) 

There are many different kinds of journal entries for reading response entries in the classroom: 

Reflecting on personal literature selections
Reflecting on a specific skill in reading (with personal literature selections and literature presented in class)
Reflecting on poetry
Summarizing by cutting apart the literature
Responding to debates or opinion questions
Reflecting on author’s craft

Reflecting on Personal Literature Selections: 

If you are focusing on a specific skill that week in a mini-lesson, have your students write about that skill in their Reading Response Journals, connecting it to the literature they are currently reading. Again, students should journal about what they are reading at least three times a week. Some different skills to focus on are:
  • Character Development
  • Mood or Tone of the Story
  • Theme
  • Important, Story-Altering Events
  • Text-to-Text, Text-to-Self, Text-to-World Connections
  • Predictions
  • Making Inferences
  • Context Clues and Vocabulary
  • Questioning
Reflecting on a current chapter:  
  • What were the most important events that occurred in the past chapter? 
  • What do you think could happen next, based on what you just read? 
  • Mention a few vocabulary words from the last chapter. Write out the sentences where you saw the words and what you believe they mean. 
Reflecting on Characters: 
  • Is the main character encountering a problem or a challenge in this story? 
  • How has the main character changed throughout the story? 
  • If you were in the main character’s position right now, how would you feel in his or her situation? What would you do to respond to the main problem or challenge in the story?
  • Who is the antagonist? Make a WANTED poster in your journal for the antagonist. Write some of the antagonist’s character traits on the poster. 
  • Pretend you are a talk show host and two characters are guests on your show. Which characters would you choose? Why? What would you ask each character while interviewing?
Reflecting on the overall story once you have read the entire book: 
  • Was the setting described well enough that you could picture it in your mind? Why or why not?
  • What is the theme of the entire story? 
  • What are some text-to-self, text-to-text, or text-to-world connections you made while reading this book?
  • What kind of reader does this book appeal to?
  • If you could, what would you do to change the book? 
  • Do you still wonder anything, now that you have finished the book? 
  • How did the setting affect the story? 
  • Pretend the book you are reading is nominated for a national award. Explain why you think it should or should not receive an award. 
Positive and Negative Tones:  Creating Positive or Negative Moods in the Reader: 

Have your students analyze the author’s craft to determine whether books have positive or negative tones.The most important thing is that your students should choose the books to analyze- particularly the book (s)he is currently reading. Some books are written in positive tones. Some have negative tones. Today you are going to tell about a few books in our classroom library (whether they have a positive or negative tone). 


In your journal, you will write about both books. You will write a separate paragraph about each book. 

Here is an example: 
I read the first few pages of __________________________________ by _____________________. From what I read, the tone of the story is ________________________ because ...

Another twist to this assignment is to analyze the tone of a book at different points in the story. It is neat to have your students try to find both positive and negative tones in stories. 

Reflecting on a Specific Skill in Reading (Literature Presented in Class):
First and foremost, ask your students an inquiry question a day- it WILL keep the reading doctor away! For every story my students read in class this year, I have developed a few discussion-based higher-order inquiry questions and then one that starts as a journal response. Here is how I will carry out those types of questions daily:
  • Ask the question. Tell students they have five minutes to respond to the question. They should know to date their entry automatically. 
  • Nobody talks during those five minutes at all.
  • Then ask students how they responded to that question in their journals. Record some thoughts on chart paper that the entire group of students can see easily. Focus on only one skill and one state standard for this inquiry question. 
  • Your selections should be: magazine articles (fiction and non-fiction), poetry, those in your reading anthology, excerpts from chapter books, picture books, non-fiction science/social studies books, and even really strong stories students have written. You can share your selections on Elmo or make copies for every two students. 
  • Your questions should be “Author and Me” questions, not so much “On My Own”. Then there should be no "Right There" questions at all and just a smidgen of "Think and Search" questions. They should be questions where you do not find the direct answer in the text and are open-ended to invite discussion. 
A Great Plan for Metacognition: 

Your students can cut apart printable magazine articles/poems/etc. and write their thoughts next to sections they glue in their journals. This idea worked well this past year. 

Magazine Resources to locate articles for inquiry:
Entries brought on by "mini-lesson charts" like the one I made above for Waves of Terror, a Scholastic Storyworks article
The Composition Book:

My students will use composition books to make their reader's response journals, yet they will be put together with a dash of creativity. Students will cover the books entirely and glue covers of books from favorite authors on the front as the school year progresses. They will also receive a list of words to cut apart and adhere to the front of their journals (such as inferring, main idea, supporting details, etc.). 

Students will have their day of the week for turning in their journals, and they will know to pick them up the next morning. I will grade 4-5 journals daily.

A unique touch: Journals and Foldables You Can Make:

You can sometimes make smaller reader's response journals for specific books or units, if you would like. Journals can also be made for vocabulary purposes. I will have a composition book for my main journal like I mentioned above, yet sometimes my students will also be crafty and make unique little journals.

"Minded" Activities-- Enrichment Box Idea

In September 2010, I met a woman at the bookstore. At first, she was mumbling to herself about something, and I had no idea whether she was talking to me or not. There was a professor, we believed, talking a few aisles down about testing- the SAT, FCAT… things teachers absolutely, positively don’t want to hear about on long weekends.

Eventually, this teacher and I got to talking, finally when I turned around and realized she was saying something about the person who was rambling about testing. I told her I was a teacher and how the long weekend was not a time to discuss these kinds of topics. We both laughed, and then I discovered she taught art in our district at one of the K-8 schools.

I told her about a vision I had for my students when they were done with their classwork. Too many teachers tell their kids they have around five options: silent reading, finishing work from before, studying, computer time, and perhaps doing some type of activity from a file or a Sudoku puzzle. Yet for me, those options seem too typical and I want kids to realize the world is a vast, intriguing place where opportunities abound.

I had a vision where students focus on multiple intelligences, to extents, in a variety of categories: Math-Minded, Science-Minded, History-Minded, Literary-Minded, Technology-Minded, Music-Minded, Travel-Minded, Art-Minded, and World-Minded. Thinking about what these categories made me think about what got me extremely excited and thinking that I would have embraced opportunities like these when I was a 9- and 10-year old fourth grade student.

In 2010, I didn't go much into developing the ideas at my weblog, but now I have decided to add what could be incorporated--

- Provide your students with brain teasers, puzzles, challenges, and games that encourage them to think on a deeper level about math. I highly recommend Puzzle Play from AIMS and The Book of Perfectly Perilous Math. Survival Math also offers a plethora of mini-project challenges. To download the math-minded activities I developed, see the file at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.
- Delve into architecture by designing the house of your dreams. Use graph paper (where one centimeter equals one foot), and then find the area of each room.
- Plan a week-long adventure to a theme park like Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Determine who in your family and which friends would partake in this adventure. When would you go? How would you get there; would you need airfare? How much would it cost for all of you to go? What would be the most economical deal for your family to visit all the parks? Which hotel would you stay in, and how much would it cost?
- Design your own restaurant menu, "order" from it, and then have your classmates "order" from your menu as well. Don't forget to "tip your waiter or waitress" when ordering.
- Practice spelling or vocabulary words using math where A=1, B=2, C=3, and so on.

- Can you design a phenomenal roller coaster ride? Remember, there is science behind roller coasters—potential and kinetic energy as well as gravity and momentum. Design a ride with an incredible theme. On your paper, write a description that is at least ten sentences long. Bring your reader through the adventure.
- Go on the computer and research various science experiments you and your classmates can complete. Do it for the current science unit or ask your teacher what the upcoming units are.
- Design a science game, flap book, or brochure for a current topic you are exploring in science class.
- Complete virtual science labs online.
- Write a podcast (radio show with a script) reviewing concepts you have learned in science class over the course of this year.
- Learn about identifying minerals by their physical properties, which primarily are color, luster, cleavage, fracture, and streak.
- Use a microscope to analyze slides you have either collected on your own or slides your teacher has provided to analyze the cells that make up various everyday items and organisms.

- Research a historical site within your state or nation. What can people learn about by visiting this place? Why should people visit this place?
- Choose an attraction anywhere around the world to showcase-- for example, the Coliseum in Rome or the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. It can still be standing or could have once been standing. Write a description showcasing some of the most phenomenal aspects of the place you chose.
- Choose a person or an event in history that fascinates you and research it using the Internet and literature provided in our classroom as well as our school's library. Write a podcast using information you found about the topic.
- Choose an exhibit from any history museum around the world to showcase. Sketch it out, and write a detailed description. You may even make a brochure about the exhibit.

- Begin writing a short story that goes in conjunction with a favorite book you have read (examples-- Divergent, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter). Perhaps focus on a story written from the perspective of a minor character or explore a situation the author did not write in-depth about.
- Write a book recommendation on an index card to post on a class Book Recommendation board. It needs to look like the others that are up there from last year’s class. Each book recommendation needs: Your name, the title of the book, the author, the number of stars you give it (up to 5- 5 being the best), and a summary of what happens. You can write on the back of the card as well. You can earn a point for a great recommendation. HINT: Read the recommendations in this folder so you know what is expected of you.
- Look at a printed-out menu provided for you in this Minded crate. On an index card, which is provided, come up with a delicious dish of your own- an entrĂ©e, appetizer, or dessert. Try to use as many food words as possible (for example: delectable (means delicious), drenched in chocolate, and baked to perfection). There is a food vocabulary sheet along with this task that can get your mind thinking. A wonderful dish can help you to earn a point. From there, tape your description in the “cookbook” to share with others.
(Some menus provided online as a .pdf are-- Buffalo Wild Wings, The Pop Shop, Skyline Chili, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Steak and Shake, Papa Murphy's, and the Chicago Pizza Authority.)
- Design a video game. You must write about five of the levels in your game. Perhaps make a strategy cheat guide for your game with your mini book that includes a page or a few pages about the characters, then the weapons/tools, and the levels. Make your video game original from other games you have seen or played. 
- Design a comic book or graphic novel. Include sketches and words for people to follow along with your story as well. It can be a story or explain something like something you have learned in science. The Graphic Library Max Axiom series is an example. 
- An Actor's Interpretation: Write either a monologue or short script focusing on a pivotal excerpt of a chapter book you have read. You may record it as a podcast if you desire afterward. 
- Theatrical Trailer: Make a theatrical trailer of a chapter book you have read, promoting it as a "movie". 
- If You Were the Protagonist: If you were the protagonist in a specific chapter book, how would you handle one of the most plot-changing situations? Describe in your response which book and character you are referring to as well as the actions the character took. 

- Learn how to code. "An Hour of Code" is a wonderful website that offers many options.
- Learn how to shoot and edit a video using software. There is editing software offered on iPads.
- Either start a website, weblog, or both. Learn about all the elements that go into making either or both of these a possibility.
- Does your teacher have technological gadgets like the Makey-Makey, littleBits, the Arduino, or Cubelets? Learn how they work and create something phenomenal using one of the kits.

- Write a song, rap, or chant about something you have learned in class. You can write the lyrics to a familiar song, or you can write to an original tune. The lyrics can rhyme, if you desire, but they don't have to.
- Listen to two different instrumental songs. Sketch out what those songs make you think of. 
- Listen to a song with lyrics. How do the lyrics make you feel? What do they describe? Are there any examples of figurative language in the song? Share some of the lyrics and reflect on their meaning. 
- Locate some songs that have inspirational, motivational lyrics. Write down some of those lyrics and interpret them. 

- Go on the computer and plan a cross-country road trip. How long would it take for you to head on a cross-country trip? Which states would you drive through? Which tourist attractions would you visit?
- Make some kind of display showcasing a city in the nation or world.
- Write a letter to a department of tourism requesting brochures, maps, guidebooks, or whatever they are able to offer for you to learn more about their state or province. Mention which class you are from, the name of your school, and where it is located. Mention whether you have visited there before and if so, what you enjoyed the most. The page should be about one page long, written in your neatest handwriting, and use proper grammar/correct spelling.

- Sketch and label a diagram of how something works.
- Sketch a "mind movie" scene the words from a book you are reading depicted for you.
- Sketch at least one scene depicting an event that took place in your state, province, or country's history.
- Sketch and design an awareness poster for an endangered or extinct species.
- Sketch a symmetrical design.
- Sketch a design using tesselations.
- Sketch a portrait of a prominent historical figure or event.
- Create a comic book about an important event in state, province, national, or world history.
- Sketch a scientific process (the rock cycle, the water cycle, etc.).
- Draw a perspective picture (a hallway, street, railroad, room, street corner, word art, the front of a building with one corner showing, etc.)
- Learn how to sketch an animal or something else in nature. Use a step-by-step tutorial, online or printed out in a book or on a sheet.

World-Minded-- World-Minded is a section of the box dedicated to exploring global issues and helping people. It can also be for debate-related topics.
- There are some phenomenal books out there about helping others-- Three Cups of Tea is about a man and his daughter who have visited children in Afghanistan. The Promise of a Pencil is about a man who traveled out of the country as well. Learn about how people have helped others and perhaps develop your own plan as well. When you're older, do you want to be a humanitarian and travel out of the country to help others in some way? Do you have an idea for using the Internet to help someone from the comfort of your home?
- Explore some debates-- Should students be required to wear uniforms at school? Do you agree with some schools removing soda machines across the country? Should skateboards be allowed on sidewalks? Should school be year-round with more frequent and shorter vacations? What do you think should be done to inform students about bullying-- and help them? Should the minimum driving age be raised? In looking at a controversial topic, write about your stance. 
- Use technology or books to begin learning a new language. 
- Profile a kid (past or current-day) who made a significant impact in his or her community, the nation, or the world. 
- Read about current events going on in your community, nation, and world. 

All the options can realistically be explored. If you would like to incorporate this in your classroom, make sure your students keep up their grades to explore the many options. Students should study hard and take their work seriously. If their work is rushed or not up to the high standards you set for them, you need to reinforce how hard work will lead them to have those privileges. Focusing on the many intelligences is very beneficial for increasing students' confidence and skills.

I don’t want creativity to be something my students embrace on special occasions. I want it to be something they embrace every day. 

DIY Learning Games (with minimal materials, for virtually any topic)

I am posting some of my older, well-viewed posts this evening, redirecting viewers to here from my old weblog. I apologize my old weblog cannot be opened for you all to peruse, but my old domain (which was called, not the new .net version I am debuting soon) was hacked with malware. There are some things on that weblog that have to be cleaned up, but these posts are still there and need to be reprised. Thank you! 

I made some learning games with tagboard and clothespins today as well as a game that focuses on clockwise and counterclockwise rotations. I found the idea via Pinterest, which directed me to this blog that had a number recognition version for little ones.

Advanced Vocabulary:

Algebraic Equations: 

Not the same, but noteworthy: Clockwise and Counterclockwise Rotations: 

I made 22 circles with simple graphics for students to rotate, either clockwise or counterclockwise, 45, 90, 180, or 270 degrees. The circles have an arrow on them so they know which rotation is the "original rotation". 

Each student will have a tagboard rotation mat as they move around the room. One wooden circle will be placed on each desk. After 1 minute, I will call "Scoot" so they can use the next circle. After 22 times of "scooting" around the room, they have used each circle (and it took less than a half-hour to do the activity). 

Hope you like this idea! Each center has taken me less than five minutes to make so far. 

Resources That Speak Volumes about Surface Area and Volume

I know, I know, I just got quite the eyeroll in attempting to be "punny".

December is the month when I introduce surface area and volume. Every year, I try to rejuvenate what I do or "reinvent the wheel", to extents, to see if I can more thoroughly cover a topic. I am pretty impressed with some things I have seen out there. Here are some resources I am considering...

Volume, Surface Area, and Scale Game-- This game for grades 4+ from TpT seller Nancy Hughes looks downright interesting! The premise is that students "capture" properties by finding the surface area and volume of the buildings on the game board. Some of the buildings have decimals and fractions involved, so that adds to the challenge and rigor. Since Cyber Monday is tomorrow and there is a sale at the website, I am VERY excited about purchasing this resource!

I have also had my eyes on this resource from Kate Bing for more than a year now. I like how she delves into middle school math for my students who need a challenge. Not only are there pages about rectangular prisms and cubes, there are other figures like pyramids as well in the mix. Besides that, there is the I Have/Who Has surface area/volume activity from Got to Teach, one of my favorite sellers ever. Last in the world of TpT, One Stop Teacher Shop has a fabulous resource here that I may purchase with the other three just to feel... immensely lucky about one of my very favorite topics in math. I like the idea of putting the questions in a container that was originally for tennis balls or Pringles can like she shows in the preview.

I love considering all kinds of resources, so I have looked into videos, other printables, other games, and online tutorials as well. Check them out below!


User: Mr. Maisonet:

Games/Interactive Questions: 
- Cube Perspective Game
- Rags to Riches "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" Game-- Volume 
- Brainingcamp-- Real-World Connections
- Interactivestuff-- 3D Boxes

- NCTM-- An excellent way to visualize surface area and volume
- Brainingcamp Tutorial-- Surface Area
- BBC Bitesize-- Volume Tutorial
- Interactive Tutorial
- Volume-- Scholastic Study Jams
- Surface Area-- Scholastic Study Jams

- Measuring Three Dimensions-- You can go way beyond to incorporate the calculation of surface area and volume.
- "Math Art" Volume Project-- Skyscraper
- This is an idea I have used before-- Students can construct prismatic structures and have a "museum" where they go around the room to one another's stations to find surface area/volume.
- Deriving inspiration from this blog post, students can make their own nets for surface area of rectangular prisms with graph paper.
- Another neat idea is to give students a sheet with just answers and then have them go around the room (in a scavenger hunt) to measure different prismatic objects.
- Isometric Drawings, Volume, and Surface Area Challenges-- Could become number five in my download set. I found this later into the post. STUNNING and challenging, my dear Watson...
- Unique Soda Box Lesson for Surface Area and Volume from

- Setting the Stage with Geometry from Scholastic-- These are VERY challenging, but they are wonderful for enrichment purposes.
- EngageNY Resources for Surface Area and Volume-- Intended for grade 6, but just fine for grade 5, in my opinion.

- Image I may use to challenge my students' thinking a bit...
- A very good anchor chart (unknown source)

Hope this helps you with current or upcoming surface area/volume lessons in your math class!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Sensational, Hands-On Math Workshop Resources for Grades 3-8

This post is from three years ago, but it is still so very applicable! Enjoy!

This weblog will begin with a focus on math workshop for grades 3 through middle school. Hands-on math has become more of an initiative in the past few years. It has seemed more simple for primary teachers (grades K-2) and more challenging for intermediate/middle school teachers (grades 3 and up). However, there are sensational resources online that can help make your math curriculum more dynamic!

Exemplary Websites That Will Lead You In The Right Direction:
  • Math Resources from MathLearnNC: This website is the creme de la creme of incredible math websites. If you have never visited this website, it is appropriate for the elementary level, yet a lot of ideas can be adapted for middle school students. There are "Week by Week Mathematics Essentials" (with Calculator Riddles, games, and problems (brain teasers) that can be cut and pasted in journals), "Classroom Strategies" with more games and examples, and "Grade Level Indicators". I have used many of the fourth- and fifth-grade resources for my classroom resource drawers that I fill with games. 
  • Johnnie's Math Website: I admire this individual. The math videos and games that are linked are absolute top-notch. The best thing is that there is an entire section including middle school math resources.
  • Know Which Literature Teaches Which Math Skills: Need a list of math picture books and which skills they review? I find this to be an extremely useful resource. Developed by the Miami-Dade school district.
  • Articles by Marilyn Burns: So much is including here about math journaling, games, and hands-on math in general.
  • Math for Multiple Intelligences: "How a middle-school math teacher realized she was boring and jump-started her career- and her students."
  • Classroom Lessons on Math Solutions (Marilyn Burns' website) 
  • Mrs. Beck's Math Real Life Connection Problems (Printables from Google Docs) 
  • See my upper elementary math finds on Pinterest. (Over 200 pins!) 
Make Your Own Manipulatives:
  • A phenomenal idea is to make different puzzle cubes from wooden cubes found in craft stores. Soma cubes are one example where you construct 7 different figures that fit together to make a larger cube. All you need are the small wooden cubes from the craft store and a glue gun to make several kits for your classroom. You need 27 small cubes for each kit. Another variation is the diabolic cube (scroll down a bit on this page to see the figures you need to construct), conway cube, and kinder cube. If you want to know even more, check out the Puzzle Play book from AIMS. As I stated earlier, the challenges in there are extraordinary!
Of course, you can always check into more hands-on math curriculums like Investigations and Everyday Math as well. Remember, some resources on here were better for third-graders and others were better for eighth-graders, but hopefully you benefitted from this post!

Take a Short Tour of My Classroom... For those who have never seen my room before.

I know, I know, it's nearly December. However, I was not able to share my classroom this year outside of my group of friends online. Everything is still the same, and I am excited about all the personal touches that make the classroom a unique and creative place to learn.

I hope you have enjoyed viewing our learning haven! This very special place has been a spectacular learning environment this year!

Upper Elementary Electricity Unit Ideas

My students are progressing to the electricity section of the chapter about energy in their science books. They are going to solidify their understanding of conductors and insulators, series and parallel circuits, static electricity, positive charges, negative charges, and neutral charges.

Before leaving for Thanksgiving Break, my students watched this video from Popular Mechanics Kids, which amazed them because the video was made in 1997 and felt more "current" to them--

I chose that video because it reviewed quite a few applications using electricity, which basically kept everyone interested!

When we delve into our unit, we are going to make electromagnets, which I haven't done with students in quite some time. We are also going to play around with littleBits more than we did a few months ago when we learned about the possibilities of what we could construct with them. There is also the Makey-Makey, where students make a controller for a video game, piano stairs, and so much more using conductive materials.

One thing my students had the opportunity to do last year (and will now have the opportunity to do during our electricity unit) was play around with squishy circuits when they visited an eighth grade classroom during our school's science extravaganza of sorts. This tutorial from St. Thomas University has students making conductive and insulating dough, which a few students may do with me after school-- or with a volunteer during school. Students then use 10mm diffused lens LEDs, battery packs, buzzers, and other materials to make series and parallel circuits.

We are also going to connect electricity to the holiday season. An interesting tidbit I will share with the students is about the origination of electric Christmas lights. How Stuff Works has a great explanation of how lights work, which I will be connecting to my explanation about parallel circuits. Last, my students and Technology Club members will learn about paper circuitry using circuitry stickers. In this article from Middleweb, sixth grade students illuminated poetry, which I find quite intriguing and wonderful!

Do you have any ideas for our electricity unit? Of course, we will be taking notes as well so we can use them to apply to our hands-on lessons. I think we will have a phenomenal December because there is quite a bit to look forward to!

Quick Ideas! Surface Area with Wrapping Paper

On the forefront... Quick Ideas, Holiday 2014 Edition!

The premise of Quick Ideas is to share an idea that takes minimal preparation that meets a standard you are required to teach. Quick Ideas will be posted at the start of every month.

The linky is at the bottom of this post... and on your page, you can either just provide the link to this page or the link along with the image at the top of the post. I cannot wait to see the holiday-related ideas that are going to be shared!

Note: Although you may have seen where people have linked to Teachers Pay Teachers products, that is not what I want done. Please write a post about a quick idea you can use in your classroom. Read below to see what I have written as a "quick idea" suggestion. Thanks. 

The quick idea I am sharing is about... Surface Area and Wrapping Paper. It is appropriate for grades 4-6.

I actually wrapped my first holiday gift last night. I usually am not that efficient; normally I begin wrapping a week before Christmas and crank things out at the last minute. While I was wrapping, I realized I purchased the kind that had the square inch grid on the back. Although the grid is intended for cutting straight lines, it can also be used to review surface area.

Let's say you show your students a 12 in. x 12 in. x 12 in. box that has a surface area of 864 square inches. (There are six sides with dimensions of 12 x 12, or an area of 144 square inches.) You then know if you were to wrap your box without any slack at all, you would need an area that consists of exactly 864 squares. You can cut six 12 x 12 arrays and tape them to the box or cut a net that perfectly meets the dimensions of the box.

That is my Quick Idea for December 2014!

Our list for December 2014 is as follows...

Friday, November 28, 2014

What I Learned From Attending a Regional NSTA Conference in Orlando, Florida

Needless to say, attending the regional NSTA (National Science Teachers' Association) conference was a phenomenal experience I would not trade for... anything. It was all I imagined and more with a plethora of workshop offerings, a wonderful store, and a bountiful exhibit hall.

Here are my notes from each workshop--

What's In My Lunch? Genetic Modifications Workshop--

This workshop (hosted by Edvotek) was intended for upper middle school and high school students, though curiosity lured me to this 8:00 offering my first morning at NSTA. In the workshop, we extracted samples from Tostitos yellow corn chips, Sun Chips, and Herb's Corn Chips to see which contained genetically modified organisms.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) came to the forefront in the 1970s. Mutations in foods grant advantages in tastiness, but are dangerous. Scientists directly manipulate DNA sequences to generate desirable traits. Changing one place in the DNA preserves genetic diversity. Corn was inbred but then lost resistence to fungus, so DNA was directly manipulated.

The process consisted of-- 1. Extracting DNA from the samples, 2. Amplifying the samples using PCR, and 3. Analyzing the PCR using electrophoresis.

30 microliters of sample were loaded in each well. I then took the micropipette and conducted the experiment. It was pretty fascinating, though working with micropipettes and electrophoresis is never something I had the opportunity to do (ever) before that morning. I think that was lured me to that workshop-- I was curious, and because of my innate curiosity, I will always remain a lifelong learner.

Argumentation Workshop, Hosted by FOSS--

I then headed to a workshop that was intended for elementary school teachers. The presenters talked about interactive notebooks and assessment systems. My group of four explored magnetic fields using ring magnets and paperclips. We increased the number of magnets from 1-3 and saw how the distance in which a small paperclip was attracted. We used a ruler to measure that distance.

This statement was one I underlined a few times in my notebook-- "Data is evidence, but evidence is data."

Atoms Workshop from CPO Science--

This workshop offering was fascinating because of the build-an-atom activity below! The essential question was: What are atoms, and how are they put together? 

In the picture below, electrons are yellow, neutrons are blue, and protons are green. You can see this game in the CPO Science Online Store here


Polywhat? (hosted by the Polymer Ambassadors at was my favorite Thursday workshop offering. Their ideas were phenomenal, and I think visiting the website will help you to see everything that made this workshop intriguing. 

Modeling a Black Hole 

The last workshop on Thursday had to do with modeling a black hole, which was a challenge because we had to wrap Reynolds Wrap around a balloon. However, we were successful, and it may be something I try with my fifth graders in the future.

Middle School Chemistry Workshop--

Molecules Matter was the 8:00 a.m. workshop offering I attended on the second day. Visiting will help you to see the activities the instructors introduced at this workshop. Since attending this workshop, my fifth graders have completed a few of these activities. 

The Exhibit Hall

The Exhibit Hall was a really intriguing and fun experience. Carolina Educational Supply had an exquisite display, but one of the items I was most impressed with was the T-Bot II Hydraulic Arm from Pitsco. It is inexpensive and pretty fascinating at the same time. Pitsco's website states the arm "is a great project for illustrating hydraulic power and mechanics. See how syringes, tubes, and water work together to power the parts of this robotic arm. Each control moves one of the T-Bot II's axes. The four controls can be used one at a time or all at once by a team of students-- they can try basic maneuvers or moving objects as a team-building exercise!" 

Miniature Golf Workshop--

This workshop was intended for upper elementary educators. The instructor recommended "Engineering is Everywhere" and "Engineering Design Process" from NASA's Best, which is here. She also recommended these Gizmos activities-- Force Fan Carts, Ants on a Slant, and Golf Range (regular, not miniature). One of the videos she showed was NBC Learn's "Science of Golf-- Potential and Kinetic Energy". 

I found a few links after the workshop-- 
- Boston Children's Museum activity for constructing mini golf holes (very similar to what our school's second grade students complete annually) 

Carnival of Science

I liked this offering because it was intended for upper elementary teachers in Florida. Hosted by two science coaches who work for Hillsborough County Schools, they shared a plethora of activities that make test preparation review exciting. Below are two of my favorite activities they shared-- especially the second one!

Hosting an Engineering Fair

My second-to-last NSTA workshop, the instructors talked about hosting an engineering fair/invention convention. They mainly showed examples, which were pretty interesting and made me think of my Technology Club students as they are coming up with exhibits for the Maker Faire we will be holding at the end of the school year. The students in this group started out as fifth graders last year and will improvise their designs through the eighth grade, which sounds somewhat similar to my Technology Club students, too! I taught a number of the sixth graders last year, and they will be in the club through the end of eighth grade... =)

Density-- Life Jackets + Toy Soldiers

This workshop was pretty interesting! Intended for middle school students, I saw where my fifth graders could complete this activity as well. Students are given a piece of foam to cut a small "life jacket" that helps a toy soldier to float in a container of water. The mass, volume, and density of the toy soldier are calculated with and without the life jacket. This activity comes from a NSTA booklet I purchased later that morning at the store called Everyday Engineering. Here is a preview from a different part of the book.

Overall, I learned a lot! It was a wonderful experience I cannot wait to have again when the opportunity arises.

Product: Winter Festival! A 40-Question Math Game for Grades 4-6+

Hello, readers!

I am shaking the dust off this weblog and hopefully rejuvenating something wonderful! I have not been a part of Teachers Pay Teachers for quite some time, though I have thought about it the past few months and feel excellent about coming back to the scene. 

This past week and particularly this morning, I have worked on finalizing my first file in quite some time! Plenty more will be coming!

It costs $4.00. 

This 40-question set of holiday- and winter-related questions is sure to captivate your students' attention! This 14-page packet includes a three-page answer key with explanations about the solving process and three problem-solving pages as well for the most challenging questions from the game. 

The questions fall into these categories-- 
Decimal Multiplication
Measurement Conversion
Double/Multi-Digit Multiplication 
Decimal Division
Long Division
Fractions/Simplest Terms
Surface Area

Here is the first question from the set--
Hot cocoa with marshmallows was sold in the cafeteria the evening of the Winter Festival. 598 cups of hot cocoa were sold for .75 each. How much money was made off of the hot cocoa sales? 

Here is the second question from the set--
2. Snow was brought in to the festival so families and students could enjoy snowball fights. The snow was put into an area that is 30 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 5 inches deep. In inches, what is the volume of the area where the snow was transported? 
12 inches= 1 foot

Here are my explanations for the solution to questions 1 and 2--
1. Decimal Multiplication: You need to multiply 598 x .75 to solve this problem. The answer is $448.50. 
2. Volume, Measurement Conversion: You need to convert the two measurements in feet to inches first. 12 inches are in 1 foot. 30 feet is equivalent to 360 inches, and 50 feet is equivalent to 600 inches. 5 inches does not need to be converted. You now need to multiply 360 x 600 x 5 to find the volume of the area, which equals 1,080,000 cubic inches. 

Many of the problems are multi-step and correlate with Common Core standards, particularly fifth and sixth grade. 

There are numerous ways in which you can use the game questions. I am sketching a game board where kids "navigate" through the "winter festival", though two no-prep solutions are using the cards for Scoot and an around-the-room scavenger hunt (20 at a time for two days). 

I hope you enjoy this file!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Welcome the Christmas Season with Clip Art!

This is a Christmas clipart collection I designed three years ago and featured on my old weblog, love4thgrade, which I still have (privately) and will share some posts from in the near future. I really hope you love these graphics and find uses for them!

Only disclaimer: If you choose to use this in a TpT file or something else you distribute online, please give me credit. You may use it for any educational purposes, as long as you credit me, Victoria Jasztal, owner of

Have a blessed and wonderful holiday season!