"Flipping Through Native American Cultures"

This past week in my 8th grade social studies class we learened about four Native American Cultures: the Paleo-Indians, the Archaic, the Woodland, and the Mississippian. One way that I always use to teach these cultures is to have the students create a flip-book of the cultures with characteristics that go along with each culture. The students enjoy making the flip-book because it is different than just writing down notes from the SmartBoard. It also serves as an excellent study tool! If you have never used a flip-book in your classroom, try it.  Your students will love it! Happy Monday!

Neil Armstrong- A Mini Unit

When I heard the news yesterday of the passing of one of America's most famous astronauts, I immediately went looking for resources to use in my classroom this week. I found a lot of articles, but not many activities to use with my students. Alas, I decided to create a mini-unit. If you are looking for a way to incorporate Neil Armstrong into your lesson plans this week, check out the Neil Armstrong Mini-Unit on TpT.

Fun with Expository Writing

Teaching expository writing, or informational writing as many refer to it, can really be fun for the students! Some of the most memorable lessons have come from writing lessons in my middle grades classrooms throughout the years. And if you can get middle school students excited about writing, well, miracles have taken place! 

What is expository writing? Expository writing is any writing with a purpose of explaining or informing. Think about how many times we read informative pieces of writing during the day. It is imperative students learn how to read and write informatively. 

One activity the students absolutely love is the "how to" activity. In this lesson, I have the students divide into groups, usually three students. Each student has a specific job: reader, recorder, and time keeper. Every job is vital to the success of the group. As the group works through the activity, the jobs rotate from student to student, so everyone gets an opportunity to work each job. 

There are five different "how to" scenarios the students work through during the activity. The five scenarios I use are: 
1. How to Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
2. How to Jump Rope
3. How to Make Your Bed
4. How to Make a Grilled Cheese Sandwich
5. How to Tie Your Shoe

The scenarios are cut into strips, and the groups have to put the strips in order of how you would complete each scenario. It gets tricky for some groups because they soon realize they skip steps or don't think about steps in the process. 

Here is how a typical "how to" scenario activity works: 
1. The reader reads aloud the strips. 
2. The recorder takes the strips and places the strips in the order in which they occur chronologically. 
3. The time keeper makes sure the group stays on track and adheres to the time. 
4. Once all strips have been placed in order, the reader reads aloud the strips the group placed in order. 
5. The group makes any final changes to the strips before checking it by the key provided by the teacher. 

Generally, I allow the groups to work through all five of the scenarios. The students have so much fun with this activity. As a follow-up to this activity, they (as a group) create their very own "how to" scenario.

If you are looking to incite fun into your classroom, give this activity a try! You will not regret it! It is student tested and teacher approved! 

Mapping Georgia... An Edible Experience

Last week in my 8th grade Georgia Studies class, we learned about the regions of Georgia and various points of interest in the state. On Monday, I began telling the students to bring in toothpicks and gel icing because they would need it to take a test...one they could eat! This really sparked their interest, so they immediately began bringing in the requested items. On Thursday, I gave each student a handout with a map of Georgia. I told them this would be the size of their exam. I also told them the regions and various points of interest I expected them to know for the test on Monday.

In the past when I have used this activity in my classroom, I put the students into groups of four students per group. This year I decided I wanted the students to complete this activity individually. I knew it would be a little more preparation work on my part, but I wanted to experiment and try it out this way.

On Sunday, I spent several hour in the kitchen. I made a wax paper template of the map of Georgia (from the handout I gave the students). I used my grandmother's old cookie recipe (1 box yellow cake mix, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of oil). I mixed the dough and then spooned some onto a large cookie sheet. Then I used a rolling pin to smooth the dough. I used the wax paper template and traced the outline of Georgia in the dough. I removed all excess dough and repeated this process until I had several cookies on the pan. I baked them in the oven for approximately six minutes.

I continued tracing and baking until I had all of the cookies I needed. I also had a lot of help from my four-year old daughter who loves to help bake! Once all of the cookies were baked and cooled, I put a cookie for each student on its own plate. I then stacked the plates and put them in containers for safe-keeping. Then I waited until Monday morning to arrive!

I distributed the "cookie" maps to each student. They were given labels to make location flags with their toothpicks. This was the first time I printed out the labels for them, and it worked so smoothly.

Once their location flags were assembled, they were able to begin dividing their "cookie" maps into regions. The gel icing works best for this because it goes on smooth and isn't too thick.

Below are some pictures of a couple of my students' edible maps. They had fun taking this test! Not only were they showing their knowledge, but they were creating memories that will go with them forever.

I had to work quickly to get around to grading each "cookie" map before they devoured them. On their way out of the classroom, one of my students said, "This is by far the coolest thing we have done!" Score a point or two for me today. We will see what else I can develop to keep their attentions this year!

If you teach about Georgia and are interested in the handouts I used, click HERE to go to my TpT store. It has the handouts for completing this activity as a group or individually.

"Let Learning Light Your Way"

As the 2012-2013 school year begins, I am reminded of all the many reasons I became a teacher in the first place. I enjoy children. I love learning! I love teaching! I have just completed my first full week with my students (yes, this blog entry should have been posted a week ago!). It has been a week full of getting to know my students, their interests, and testing the waters to see how the classes are going to flow this year. As I said in a previous post, I am teaching some new curriculum this year, and I have some classes that I have 100 minutes with and some classes that I only have 50 minutes with. It is taking even more planning and prep time to assure that I have my lessons tailored to fit everyone's needs: mine, the students' needs, and the allotted time.

This year, our school-wide theme is "Let Learning Light Your Way." On the students' desks the first day, they received a black bag with a lightbulb attached with the theme on it. Inside their bags were pens, pencils, erasers, and some candy to help them get through the day.

All in all, it has been a wonderful first week of school. I am going to play with my PreK daughter and then get back to some more planning.  I hope that each of you have a great school year with a lot of successes! I will leave you with an acronym that I am going to put into play this year:

                                                               L = listen and love
                                                               E = educate, engage, encourage
                                                               A = accelerate and activate
                                                               R = rigor and research
                                                               N = no excuses

TpT Back to School Sale

BTS 12 250x125

It's here! It's here! The big "BACK TO SCHOOL SALE" is here! Get your shopping carts ready because on August 12-13th, you can get some really great teaching products at discounted prices. Most sellers will discount their stores up to 20% off, and then if you use the promo code (BTS12) you get an additional 10% off. Now is the time to buy those products you have been eyeing. I know there are quite a few I can't wait to get my hands on, too. Check out my store. I will be adding some additional products and units through Saturday. Happy Shopping!