Sunday, May 11, 2014

iPad Intrigue-- Pinpointing Phenomenal iPad Apps for Your Classroom

Looking back at a post from my old weblog, I wrote about receiving and setting up an iPad. The post had over 100,000 views alone, which amazed me beyond belief. Expanding upon what I wrote then, I believe having at least one iPad is important because--
1. It generates enthusiasm for learning.
2. Using well-designed, informational apps enhances and reinforces your instruction.

This morning, I decided to revisit that list and add new apps as well (because it is now two and a half years later, and technology keeps evolving).

Barefoot Atlas-- Price-- $4.99-- I have never downloaded the expansion packs for this app and plan on keeping it that way because without them, this is one of the most phenomenal, artistically exquisite apps out there. Students are able to "explore" the world in a manner that engages them, and hopefully in the process of exploration, their geographical knowledge is solidified. There are numerous clickable components as students make their way around the virtual "globe" that offers real photographs and sound bits as well as informational quips. I recommend this app for students in grades K-8 because honestly, even the youngest students can benefit from being exposed to our continents, countries, and states early.



Bill Nye the Science Guy-- Free-- This app does not have a plethora of content, though I cannot demand immense amounts of content for a free download, making the application worth trying. Students can "explore" Bill's desk by watching video clips, checking out a few experiments that can be completed at home, and playing a few games (Get Your Rocket to Pluto and Dig for Science Treasure).

Presidents (An app from Disney)-- Cost-- $3.99-- This app has amassed a few awards-- Parent's Choice Award Winner, Scholastic Instructor's *50 Best Apps for Teachers*, and Entertainment Weekly's Best of 2012. It is visually appealing with a great deal of information covered about each president in the "Oval Office Scrapbook". The preview you see on this page is the "scrapbook spread" about Abraham Lincoln. Here is more information covered about the app at Best Apps for Kids.

GarageBand-- Cost-- Free-- I have been a fan of GarageBand for quite some time. This app transforms your iPad into a "recording studio" of sorts with a plethora of instruments made available at your fingertips. There are ways in which you can play the instruments together to create an original "orchestrated" composition. It is also appalling (in a wonderful way, of course) that this app is free, with all it offers.

Virtual Manipulatives-- Cost-- Free-- Seriously, take a look at this app. It is PHENOMENAL for being free! As you see below, this app gives students the opportunity to compare fractions, decimals, and percents in a "concrete" manner. Here is a blog post elsewhere that explains even more about the app.

Math Dictionary (A Maths Dictionary for Kids)-- Cost-- $2.99-- I was always an advocate of the book, so when I saw it presented in app form, I had to download it. Also, the cost is fine for all the app offers!

MoonPhase by Peter Smith-- Cost-- Free-- The MoonPhase app shows students the upcoming as well as the current moon phase. Students can have a countdown (to the minute) to the next phase of the moon. They can also see a simulation of the moon as it appears to them because they can pinpoint their precise location, not just choose the "nearest city".

Solar System-- Cost-- $13.99-- This app is beyond gorgeous in its presentation. There are more than 150 story pages that are "lavishly illustrated with interactive scenes, 3D objects and videos-- now Retina compatible and stunning on the iPad screen" (their words). There is information about the latest space missions and the orbits, interactive simulations that help students to see images like the Oort Cloud or tectonic plates up close, and live data from WolframAlpha. Also, WIRED Magazine wrote-- "There is so much to this application that I can only begin to scratch the surface on its offerings. As with The Elements the content and presentation truly make learning fun and inspiring."

Solar Walk-- Cost-- $2.99-- A 3D Solar System Model-- This app has an extremely high rating and offers exactly what is indicated in the title. This Best of 2012 award winner offers an exquisite, high-definition, three-dimensional "journey".

Wonders of Geology-- Cost-- $12.99-- This virtual book offers stunning, engaging images and a plethora of valuable information that can enhance ANY study of geological features. There are interactive features as well that cannot be a part of just any book.

Arcademics Apps-- These apps, which cost .99, offer the interactive math games that are featured on the Arcademics (formerly known as Arcademic Skill Builders) website. A few of them are Multiplication Grand Prix and Drag Race Division.

Sky at Night-- Man in Space-- Cost-- $5.99-- This is also one of the most beautiful apps I have come across, documenting 50 years of mankind's quests in space.

WWF Together-- Cost-- Free-- This app, from the World Wildlife Federation, is beautiful because it offers a wealth of information about animals around the world. The organization and presentation of this app is out-of-this-world, realistic and intriguing. It, in my humble opinion, is one of the ten best free downloads iTunes has to offer.

The Rock Cycle-- Cost-- Free-- A unique simulation of the rock cycle is offered in this app. It can be enhanced by an app like Folds and Faults, which costs .99.

iTalk-- Cost-- Free-- This is a free recording app that serves its purpose, wonderful for podcasting in the classroom.

NASA App HD-- Cost-- Free-- This interesting and informational app focuses on numerous aspects of NASA's space program.

Win A Spin HD-- Cost-- 0.99-- TeacherTipster.com designed this app that lets teachers type in options that show up when a wheel is spun.

BrainPop Featured Movie-- Cost-- Free-- I have been a fan of BrainPop for quite some time. Knowing they have an excellent app like this excites me. I am grateful the featured movies are free- and I hope they correlate from time to time with what I have taught so I can bring a small group of students aside to explore. Check out this app here. 

Ansel and Clair's Adventures in Africa-- Cost-- $4.99-- I love virtual vacations, and this is no exception! The interface is vibrant, sparking your adventurous spirit. Here is an entire blog post dedicated to this app. 

My Bird World-- Cost-- $1.99-- In this app, students test their knowledge to "win" up to 24 different kinds of exotic birds, place them in one of six habitats, and play four fun games to keep their minds well-nourished. You can learn about birds like the American avocet, hummingbird, and yellow warbler.

Motion Math-- Cost-- $1.99-- This $1.99 app is appropriate for ages 7-8+ and is WONDERFUL for reviewing number sense. It reviews concepts like number lines, fractions, percentages, pie graphs, and decimals, which are important for any 3rd-5th grade student to learn. There are wonderful encouraging sounds to keep kids engaged while they play this game as well.

Slice It!-- Cost-- $1.99-- Divide various shapes into equal parts. This colorful $1.99 app is great for all elementary-aged children, giving their brains a geometry-related workout!

English Idioms, Illustrated-- Cost-- Free-- English Idioms, Illustrated is an AMAZING free app that works well for reading and writing classes. We must all cover figurative language in our Language Arts curriculum. 

K12 Timed Reading Practice--
This $1.99 purchase can track 1-minute fluency readings for you. 

National Park Maps HD from National Geographic--
These maps seem great for reviewing text features with your students. Click here to learn more about this $1.99 app. 

Multiplication and Division Flash Action--
This is an awesome $4.99 app that reviews multiplication and division, recommended for ages 8+, though younger students can use it as well. Very colorful.

Middle School Math--
This $3.99 app from Interactive Elementary has some elements that are quite appropriate for the upper elementary audience. 

How to Make Origami--
It is important to review chronological order and the author's purpose of explaining, so this free app can be a great resource to brighten your reading curriculum a tad. The folding for each animal is explained step-by-step.

Great Migrations HD--
This free National Geographic app seems VERY impressive and can be a great tool to teach science. 

Strip Designer--
Digital Storytelling is amazing, so Strip Designer is worth $2.99, in my opinion. You choose a layout, upload photos, and then insert captions. 

Toontastic--
I can hardly believe this app is free, but it is. It seems easy to navigate as well. 


Of course, there was more I could have mentioned, but hopefully, this was a sufficient introduction, especially if you new to the world of iPad apps. Mention more in the comments section, if you would like! Have an enjoyable week. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Six Technological and/or Science Gadgets That May Very Well Blow Your Mind

Happy Saturday! This has been quite the conglomerating week, so I am a bit behind on updating friends with new "finds" and all. Below, I posted about inspirational individuals I came across in the past week, though most were discovered last night when I dedicated myself to seeing who offered something fresh/amazing out there.

I will admit I have been learning about some technology gadgets in my off-time, though. When my friend Emily posted in a group I belong to about getting her own science/engineering/technology specials rotation, I first suggested all these traditional materials for a science classroom and then read some other responses that focused on the technological aspect. Of course, the MaKey MaKey was mentioned a few times. Feeling a bit behind the times, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and see what is offered out there!

Awesome shout-out to ThinkGeek numerous times in this post as well! Also, two of the gadgets below (MaKey MaKey and the 3Doodler 3D pen) are credited to MIT grads! 

1. MaKey MaKey (Cost-- $49.00)-- 

I will admit this-- a week ago, I had heard of a MaKey MaKey, but I had no idea how it functioned or what purpose it served. So on a whim, thinking Oh, we probably wouldn't have that much time for such, anyway, I located it on ThinkGeek.com. The rest is history, and I thought about the value of incorporating it in my classroom. 

I showed my students the video that is featured on ThinkGeek, which I am posting below. 



I will admit I have pushed the replay button at least 15 times since first watching it. I now have one coming in the mail for my students as well. The premise is that one can turn ANYTHING into a key. Here is a post that further showcases the possibilities of what one can do with a MaKey MaKey.

2. Cubelets-- Cost is at least $160.00--

Cubelets are quite interesting as well! The image I showed costs over $500.00, though you can purchase a much smaller kit as well that you can add onto over time. Each Cubelet in the kit has a different configuration and default behavior; some can sense (acting like eyes and ears, sensing temperature and light), some are action-oriented (meaning they perform tasks and may possibly have little motors in them), and others "think". They run on rechargeable batteries.

The downside about Cubelets, obviously, is the price (unless you can obtain them through a grant), so I would start with the smallest kit and purchase a few Cubelets at a time to add to the mix. It seems like there is a plethora of possibilities when you have a variation of Cubelets.




3. littleBits-- Prices vary--

littleBits is a 21st century STEAM resource for tech-forward kids as well as classrooms, of course-- teachers receive a 15% discount, which is beyond wonderful! There is an exquisite NASA kit ($189) as well as so many other kits with interesting configurations. They are kind of like Cubelets, in a way-- they are electronic modules that snap together with small magnets to make prototyping and learning a more intriguing experience.





4. 3Doodler 3D Pen-- $99.00--

The 3Doodler 3D Pen is just as amazing as the rest of these tools because you can actually construct huge things with the pen. I read that with the sticks that get inserted into the pen, you get a LOT for your money. I like how you can lay a model's "blueprint" down and you can then trace over it with your pen, making a "kit" for you to construct.



5. MuscleWire Moving Hand Kit-- $29.99--

I found this at ThinkGeek as well. Each finger on the robotic hand has its own MuscleWire, and as the wire heats up, the finger bends. You actually get to see it in action as a moving .gif image below!

6. Aquapod Soda Bottle Launcher-- $34.99--

One of the best purchases I ever made for my classroom is here. I will never forget when my students got to use this gadget last October-- and they literally had a blast! It was my first-ever ThinkGeek purchase. 






BONUS: Made by Dad-- 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff--


I also found this incredible book while perusing ThinkGeek. After seeing the video (posted below, of course), I feel inclined to make a 1-ton lampshade for next year's classroom. This 336-page book, which costs $19.99, is incredible because it offers "blueprints" for all kinds of DIY maker projects. The visuals are appealing for both adults and children. There are actually sections called "Suspect Science" and "Covert Creations" that have projects like the rubber-band propelled rocket car. Here is the video--


Jasztal's Resource Spotlight (#4)-- This Week Blew My Mind!

This weekend, with Jasztal's Resource Spotlight,  I am showcasing some amazing weblogs, websites, and Twitteristas. This has been featured on the weblog the past few weeks, and I really hope it is as beneficial for you as it has been for me.

Prepare to be impressed. This week's finds have been some of my very favorites so far. So many people are inspiring me in the journey of launching two domains this summer, and I am grateful for every pearl of wisdom I am coming across.
  • I am starting with Would You Rather? Math once more. The concept is beyond awesome-- photographs are uploaded with a "Would you rather receive ___ or ___?" type format. Students then defend their responses using mathematical reasoning. 
  • Bailey and Derek's Daddy is an inspirational weblog that was started by an administrator. I am BEYOND impressed how he has showcased phenomenal movie clips on his weblog as well (like I did last week in another post). 
  • Ninja Reflections on Education was started by Todd Nesloney. When you enter the weblog, you eventually come across a post about eleven individuals who have inspired him on Twitter. Beyond that, he talked about his Classroom Champions experience, which is inspirational in my eyes on a personal level because my dad is an amputee. He seems like an all-around great teacher, and I cannot wait to delve more into what he has written. 
  • Then I must showcase Rachelle Smith's weblog- For Blogness Sake. Rachelle is a teacher who has all kinds of social media accounts and a Teachers Pay Teachers store as well. She also has a collaborative weblog called What the Teacher Wants with her friend Natalie Crockett. Now going back to the first link... it has been about her exquisite weight loss journey over the course of the past two years. She just reached the 100-pound mark from not "dieting", but eating as clean as possible and being... awesome. I really enjoyed perusing this blog. 
  • Teaching Math by Hart (Kim) showcases middle grades math. She incorporates tons of real-world connections, which is something I have been working diligently on with science lately. 
  • I must showcase Tracee Orman's Teachers Pay Teachers store! She is the creator of the beautiful Hunger Games units, one of the most sought-out products on the site. Her science graphic organizers and poetry unit are also phenomenal. She is one of the best. I would say her resources are ideal for grades 5 and up (and perfect for 5th-8th gifted students). 
  • Richard Byrne's Free Tech for Teachers may... blow your mind. I have been perusing technology weblogs a lot lately (and I will admit, quite obsessively), and he features some perfect simulation/game websites as well as gadgets. One of his best posts lately was about a rocket simulator. (I feel very inclined to download that program now...) 
  • MIT Student Weblogs... INCREDIBLE. I have a few students who desire to attend this college someday. They are enthusiastic and passionate-- and this year, I will admit I've looked into the college's online resources and general contributions quite a bit. Their students have designed tech tools like the Makey Makey and 3D pen-- and made videos that have been informational for my class to watch in science. MIT, in my opinion, has one of the greatest college presences on the Internet-- and I am beyond impressed by what their students are posting (as well as accomplishing). 
  • TED Blog's post about the Makey Makey deserves merit on its own. If you have never seen what a Makey Makey actually does... now... you will most likely be mind-blown!
  • Corbett Harrison is a man I admire very much. We have communicated before, too, which is awesome. He maintains Writingfix.com, and if you've never visited that website, you simply need to. Just innovative, unique, and cross-curricular ideas all around. I also loved reading about what inspired him to become a writer-- an amazing fifth grade teacher of his, especially. 
  • The Maker Mom, Kim Moldofsky, is into the latest and greatest technology-- and I was intrigued when I watched this video of her-- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaGhCVd1RQw
  • Allendale Columbia Mastodon Matrix Experiment is one of the coolest (student-driven) weblogs I have seen in a while. It was started by sixth graders-- and takes readers on an intriguing journey involving history, science, math, and so much more. There are tons of pictures from their class adventures while working on the unit-- and it's just very interesting! I have already begun pondering how I can incorporate a similar concept in my classroom. 
  • Inspired Class is an immensely visual, beautiful weblog. There are religious education connections as well. This is maintained by a sixth grade educator, though there is much more that elementary teachers can implement as well.
  • Vocab Gal: Vocabulary Resources for the Classroom is a gorgeous blog from Sarah Ressler Wright. It is Sadlier-Oxford oriented, which I love because our gifted students utilize their resources. I love how she presents tons of materials on the blog-- and the visual is quite appealing as well. A+ for the this erudite word enthusiast. 
  • Twitter Accounts-- @isteconnects, @JeffCharbonneau (National Teacher of the Year), @GlynnEd, @ShiftParadigm, @rantoine2 (she is an academic coach in the next school district), @TXParentingPG (Stacia Taylor), @SimplySuzy, @MLMRobertson, @dayankee, @Kindercrazies, @MPOWERINGedu, @JenniferFox13, @amandacdykes, @MrMusselman, and @kellygrillo.
  • And if you want, I am @love4thgrade. (I taught fourth grade for nine years; I am not changing that name now that I've only been in fifth for one year. Nerd Moment: 9:1 ratio. Not too convincing!) 
Note-- Here are the other educators I have showcased so far at this weblog! More coming soon!

If you are featured in any of these showcase posts, you may take the image below and put it on your weblog, if you would like. Have a wonderful weekend!


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Website Showcase:: Would You Rather? Math

My friend Katie Uppman found this phenomenal weblog tonight-- Would You Rather? Math. Let me tell you, this is a SPECTACULAR resource for grades 4-8 (or so). I can tell you it's quite perfect for my fifth grade gifted students!

It  most certainly encourages higher-order thinking!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Every Week is Teacher Appreciation Week

Dear Educators,

I was just reading the beautiful letter Scholastic's President and CEO, Richard Robinson, wrote to educators, and I wanted to write my own as well before I rested for a while.

This is a pivotal time in education-- an invigorating crossroads where your passion and dedication can make a profound difference in the lives of your students. There are misconceptions about Common Core circulating online like wildfire, and an immense amount of pressure is resting on the shoulders of many educators. Messages are being conveyed through the media that educators are not doing enough to engage or challenge students to their potential. So many teachers have been discouraged because of merit pay, limited resources, being told "no", having to cancel events because of a "stringent" focus on "learning", crammed schedules, an intense focus on documentation and remediation, and those who have defaced the name of "educator" by engaging in illegal activities, taking advantage of working with impressionable minds that shape the future daily.

As discouraging as that sounds, though, our students have access to phenomenal resources the learners of a decade ago did not even have access to. Classrooms are becoming more and more inquiry-driven, and educators are working harder than ever to incorporate a greater variation of resources to activate and enhance schema. Though there are educators out there who are discouraged, there are many who are maintaining the most optimistic outlook possible. I hope you know there are incredible people out there whom you can network with if you do not feel encouraged.

This week and EVERY week-- 
1. Know that if you are exerting your best, you are doing just fine. Remember, we can only exert so much before burning out.
2. Tell your students how much you appreciate them, too. I am going to tell my students this week is "Student Appreciation Week" as much as it is "Teacher Appreciation Week" because we are a synergistic "classroom family".
3. There are so many people who appreciate educators out there-- as much as you hear the naysayers trying to say we are not doing enough to invigorate learning.
4. Realize that if you have merely touched ONE student's life in your years as an educator, every day has been COMPLETELY worth it. One. Life. I have taught over two-hundred students, yet it matters if I have even touched one of those lives. Never feel your days were misspent.
5. Even if your students are not telling you now that they appreciate you, they may in ten years or more. I realized how much of an impact I still had in some of my students' lives when they graduated from high school last year. (They were my very first fourth grade students, so it was an emotional and beautiful time.)
6. Remember, you will have weak moments, experience shortcomings, and encounter discouraging times. Exhaustion will overtake you from time to time, but... it's okay. You are human.
7. The words you say in your classroom impact your students every single day-- one way or another. If you set forth to inspire your students, it is very likely your words have inspired at least one of them.
8. Understand whether you are in your first year, first few years, first decade, second decade, or in at least your third decade of teaching, every day is a learning process and you grow every year.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week-- though you deserve to feel honored and appreciated every day in this sensational occupation. You are respected, held in high regard, and loved.

With Love,
Victoria


Jasztal's Resource Spotlight (#3)-- More Tremendous Social Media Mavens!

This Sunday, with Jasztal's Resource Spotlight,  I am showcasing someMORE weblogs and websites I have found recently that are phenomenal and impressive in my eyes. The last feature was a week ago, and a lot of friends liked the list. So here are some more weblogs, social media accounts, and more I am SO impressed with at the moment. Some people I've known about for a while, and others, I have known for just a short time. Anyway, here goes!
  • The Science Penguin-- Ari, an upper-elementary educator, offers so many tremendous resources for both math and science in her Teachers Pay Teachers store. The best, in my opinion, is the daily science review file; it certainly helped prepare my students for their state test last month! 
  • I'm Lovin' Lit-- Erin is another Teachers Pay Teachers seller who offers numerous advanced resources for upper elementary educators. The first time I ever saw a resource from her was the grades 5-6 file "A Roller Coaster Day". I really like how she offers numerous book reviews at her blog-- I haven't seen that feature often and may eventually do something similar (with resources in general) at this weblog. 
  • All Things Upper Elementary-- This is a wonderful collaborative weblog. The posters I know (of) are 4Mula Fun (Jennifer), Teaching to Inspire in 5th (Jennifer), Yearn to Learn (Denise), and Miss Math Dork (Jamie). There are a half a dozen or so other phenomenal bloggers as well! Great ideas are posted here! 
  • Be Wanderlost-- Sara's new weblog is dedicated to her upcoming opportunity teaching kindergarten in Italy. (She's currently a second grade teacher in Arizona.) She's a part of my upcoming domain team, and I am VERY much looking forward to hearing about her adventures. Her dreams of teaching abroad are coming true!
  • Finding JOY in Sixth Grade-- When you look up "altruistic", "gentle", "compassionate", "tender-hearted", and so many other words up in the dictionary, I bet Kim's face comes up SOMEWHERE. She's one of the nicest bloggers I known in my years of blogging. (She will also be a part of the upcoming domain team!) 
  • Gifted Exchange-- This impressive weblog from the Davidson Exchange offers countless insights about gifted education.
  • Techy Things Teachers Should Try-- This weblog is FIRST-RATE and is becoming one of my top five favorite weblogs... ever. Technology Integration Specialists from a school district in Texas started it-- and nobody should miss the opportunity to read their wonderful posts. 
  • Technoliteracy-- Molly Shields is an adjunct professor at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida-- which is where I attended college. I am VERY honored to be an alum of Flagler, and though I would do anything to promote whatever one at Flagler publishes, her blog would be utterly tremendous even if she weren't there. She has her students maintain weblogs, which impressed me the most of all. Her projects also seem interesting. (How I found her-- I happened to stumble across her Twitter profile!)
  • Teaching Tammy-- I REALLY like Tammy Neil, who teaches secondary math, and I haven't even known her for long. She is the moderator of the FL Educators Twitter chat (#FLedChat)-- and I happened to come in for the first time last Wednesday evening. She also contributes to the technology chat I participate in on Monday evenings. 
  • Box Breakout-- Dennis Dill is another person I recently connected with via Twitter, and PASSION for teaching history literally bursts through his posts at his weblog as well as his tweets. I love his enthusiasm and how he makes constant connections to his teaching when he sees everyday things. He participates in #FLedChat as well.
Note-- Here are the other educators I have showcased so far at this weblog! More coming soon!

If you are featured in any of these showcase posts, you may take the image below and put it on your weblog, if you would like. Have a wonderful week!


The Books You Choose to Showcase... Make a Difference.


I have realized something major over the course of this school year-- How your students respond to your instruction depends on how you present the content. No matter which subject you teach, whether it is Language Arts, Science, Math, or History (or beyond the "regular" classroom subjects), books you incorporate in your classroom can make-- or break-- lessons.

According to Enhancing Education, this is the definition of the first E in the "five E" lesson format-- To engage students means to-- "1. Make connections between past and present learning experiences. 2. Anticipate activities and focus students' thinking on the learning outcomes of current activities. Students should become mentally engaged in the concept, process, or skill to be learned."

Just to let you know, my fifth graders possess intriguing young minds. They are always thinking outside the box, developing their schema about various topics at rapid rates. They are inquisitive, intense, and unconventional-- which I intend as the greatest compliment.

So now onto the book connection-- yesterday, I perused Barnes and Noble and purchased books that will certainly activate my students' inquiry/webs of connection-- and the day before, I went through my "teacher book collection" (the ones my students cannot take home by any means) to see how I can fuel learning towards the end of the school year.

Now since my students are in fifth grade, you may be surprised by a few of my choices. I am utilizing some for just excerpts while I am reading others in their entirety. I guarantee, and this is an understatement-- These choices are most certainly unique.

As you see above, I posted an image of Mysterious Messages by Gary Blackwood. There is something REALLY special about that book. When students learn about history, they often do not ponder about top-secret ciphering and coding. When I introduced this book to my students last Friday before reviewing the American Revolution (in my "Most Important Events in American History" series), most were quite intrigued. Some stated, "Oh, my goodness, I UNDERSTAND that cipher!", which was mind-boggling because I REALLY had to think to understand some of those codes.

Here are other mind-blowing literary choices, mostly appropriate for grades 5-9 (or so, depending on the book)--


Premise-- People are fascinated with history. The National Archives in Washington, D.C. draws millions of intrigued visitors annually. Simplest EQ ever-- Why? I believe educators cannot simply expose children to history without showing them how captivating it is. My one and only trip to the Archives (thus far) was in June 2012, where I purchased these two books-- The Public Vaults Unlocked and Archive This! The National Archives' Archivist-In-Training Kit. When I share the first book with my class, I am just going to share a small part. This book is fascinating because it includes many intriguing stories.


Then, this second book is particularly geared toward the elementary age group because it explains what one needs to do to get started with archiving. A phenomenal word is also introduced on the first page-- provenance, meaning "where something comes from, or its source". Beyond that, students get to see Almanzo Wilder's application to become owner of 160 acres in South Dakota under the Homestead Act of 1862, the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education that ended legal segregation in schools, an interview transcript with the crew of Apollo 8, a sketch of the velocipede, documents from the Watergate Scandal, a certificate recording the marriage of two former slaves, and The Declaration of Independence. And even beyond THAT, there are attention-grabbing comics for kids to read, which makes the book even more interesting to use with the class. The goal of using these books is to spark a conversation of what is noteworthy in history-- particularly current history-- and show my students that even something (seemingly) "insignificant" can have quite an impact!


Premise-- Science is SO not boring. Fire Bubbles and Exploding Toothpaste by Steve Spangler has quite a captivating title. As stated on Amazon, "Over 200 color photographs accompany the step-by-step directions, and simple explanations uncover the how-to and why for each activity." Some of the experiments in this book are-- Floating Bowling Balls, Pop Bottle Music, Bouncing Smoke Bubbles, Walking on Eggshells, Balancing Nails, Fireproof Balloon, and Skateboard Rocket Car. Even though I can do very little of these experiments in my classroom (and do not have the materials, to be quite honest), this is an exquisite book for expanding students' scientific inquiry skills. Here is the website for the book, with previews and all!


Theo Gray's Mad Science-- Experiments You Can Do at Home-- But Probably Shouldn't is another book for expanding scientific inquiry skills. The chapters are called-- Experimental Cuisine, Doomsday DIY, Raw Power, Playing with Fire, Heavy Metal, Natural Wonders, and Twisted Shop Class. I think of all the science standards simply talking about these experiments meets. For example, there is one called "Playing with Poison" that talks about the toxicity of mercury. The premise is that mercury is one of the few liquid metals at room temperature and also the best liquid electrical conductor. There is a sidebar called-- "How to Make a Deadly Electric Motor"-- as well as how to make the nonlethal version. Then the following experiment is about stirring up copper and zinc to make your own 1-volt liquid battery.


The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science by Sean Connolly is the easiest of the three science books today to incorporate in the classroom. It has over 300 pages and only costs $13.95. Yes, there are a few really dangerous demonstrations in there (among the fifty that are showcased), but not all of them are and can easily be completed by students. I was initially exposed to Sean Connolly's amazing books when I read a Scholastic post written by Angela Bunyi quite some time ago. Each demonstration presented in this book includes a "Catastrophe Meter" as well as how long it takes for your students to complete. A great deal of historical background is included as well, which will be a huge part of my science classroom next year so show my students how all the subjects in school are interrelated.


Premise-- All really EPIC ideas start somewhere. Okay, all ideas, period, start somewhere. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull is obviously a book where I will read snippets to my students. I was actually drawn to it when I came across a "Top Books for Graduates" display-- and then the rest was history when I thought-- Um, is that Buzz Lightyear on the cover?! The story of Pixar is actually quite intriguing, and I want my students to think about the "wildest dreams" they possess. They need to realize how their inner visions can become reality with the right direction and dreams often take years to manifest (their teacher is the perfect example of that).


Premise-- History is all about cause and effect. ANY Choose Your Adventure Books or You Choose books are quite fascinating to incorporate with kids, and I ADORED them when I was young (I recall the Goosebumps ones). I have 10 books that focus on different topics in history-- the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, Immigration, and World War II/Pearl Harbor, for instance. Having variations of this genre of book in my classroom lends itself to a neat little partner-driven lesson that focuses on cause and effect/decision-making that leads to their "fate". (I will love hearing the partners discuss their reasoning for making specific choices.) These are also ideal books to use along with whole-group simulation books, if you have the time.



Premise-- Your teacher is a literary nerd, and I apologize for that immensely. Something about A Compendium of Collective Nouns (written for lit nerd adults like myself) is perfect to jump-start phenomenal writing. Of course, it introduces grammar in context and shows how author word choice can lend itself to readers forming unique images in their minds. This is a book I am mainly going to fawn over myself, though I am going to introduce it to my students a little bit because they need to see there is a fascinating lit nerd world out there they've probably never been exposed to before.

Premise-- Science and history are related. So I was telling my students about books I read while on vacation last summer, and a few were like, "You READ on vacation?!" Facepalm. I then explained I read in the hotel room when I was immensely bored, and they were like, "Oh. I get it now." (Shakes head with a mundane expression...) When I had a gift card from a former student's family, I purchased Phineas Gage-- A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman in Virginia-- and could not stop reading it when I stayed in my favorite hotel room of all. I believe my best friend thought I was insane as I blurted out fact after fact about Phineas Gage. I then snort-giggled and stated, "Well, obviously it's not only my students who are gifted and obsessed with quirky topics." I know I will not have an abundance of time to talk about this scientific history mystery, but I remembered envisioning an introduction to this book last summer with my students when I only knew my class roster (and virtually nothing about the class because I was moving to a new school). I know I cannot go into grand specifics with my class and "investigate" the whole ordeal in detail, but... it's interesting, and that is what science should be.


Premise-- Please, before your kids leave for the year, make them laugh. Find opportunities to lighten the mood. When I first read Vader's Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown, I laughed... and laughed... and laughed.

I think this book is better suited for middle school than fifth graders, but I wanted to tell you about it, anyway, because it's quality when it comes down to what rocks the humor genre. Remember, there are lots of books out there that will hopefully rock your lessons (and get your point across in unconventional manners).

Of course, I have (literally) dozens of other books I could mention, but I must move on for today. I seriously believe I have startled you enough with my unique book choices! Are there any books you have chosen to compliment lessons in your classroom-- conventional or unconventional? Let me know in the comments section below!