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Friday, March 21, 2014

Egg Equations Math Center

It's about time, teachers, to gather the eggs.  Those colorful, plastic eggs, that is, while they are in the stores.  You are going to want a supply for this math yolk center.

K - 3 children are expected to master basic math facts per the CCSS.  You can help them on that journey by establishing this math center, Egg Equations.

Students will select an egg from a basket or carton.  

Inside each egg are the components for an equation.

After assembling the parts into a true equation, the students will write their equations on their recording sheets.

The number of times they repeat this process will depend on the age and stage of the students.

Note that the eggs bear numbers.  This is to help young children avoid picking an egg multiple times.  I instruct my kiddos to write the egg number on the recording sheet egg to help them remember.

For ease in preparing the center, the equation components are presented in varying fonts and a rainbow of colors. Thus, as you cut the equations apart, it will be easier to find the correct set by matching the font and color. If you prefer to save on color ink, print the equations in gray scale. This system will also aid in sorting the components if pieces get mixed up at the center.

Differentiation is a cinch with this center.  Include additional grade level equations for students functioning above or below grade level.  One way to surreptitiously differentiate is to put all of one grade level in the same color eggs.  Then you can ask students to select eggs of that color only while at the center.

Many teachers include eggs in spring studies because of the rebirth the season brings. Some will incorporate eggs in celebration of Easter. This center is holiday neutral, however. It can just as easily be used in the fall while studying farms and/or the harvest season. Regardless of when you hatch this center, it's time to gather the eggs you will use.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

The ABCs of Architecture

It's about time, teachers, for the ABCs of Architecture.   As an enrichment specialist for my district, I work with students in 2nd - 5th grades. The focus is not limited to academics. My fourth graders endowed with artistic talent embarked on an architectural adventure that resulted in a published book. It was an awesome experience for all involved.

Two local groups, the Preservation and Conservation Association (PACA) and the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), asked me to conduct a project in which elementary students would learn about local, historic buildings.  In the process, they hoped to impress upon the students the value of preservation. They offered to subsidize a field trip for my 4th graders, complete with chaperons from their groups! How could I possibly say, "No?" 

My students began with a study of basic architectural elements, such as lines, shapes, textures, and form. Inspired by Diane Maddex's book, Architects Make Zigzags, Looking at Architecture from A to Z,  we made it our goal to produce an alphabet book about architecture found on historic buildings in our hometown.  

The next step entailed finding an architectural term or terms for each letter of the alphabet.  What followed was a flurry of old fashioned research as my charges constructed an impressive list.  We only had to stretch to find a term for X, settling on railroad crossing.  You may have just done an eye roll, but I was quite proud of my students' reasoning. They learned that our community grew around a railroad crossing for the Illinois Central railroad.

Armed with their alphabetical lists and sketchpads, we embarked on a bus and walking tour of the downtown region.  Can there be anything sweeter to a teacher's ears than the zealous exclamations of 9 & 10 year olds as they recognize a cupola, gargoyle, or keystone?  While our hosts gave us facts and fascinating stories about the buildings on our tour, my students sketched.

Back at school, the 4th grade crew drew pen and ink illustrations of the elements they sketched.  They composed the text explaining their terms and identifying the buildings upon which they were found.  PACA and HPC provided enough funds to allow us to professionally bind several copies of our books.  Those copies can now be found at the city library, our school library, in the offices of PACA and HPC, and in the city building. Each student received a copy fresh off the school's copy machine.  

Following are some excerpts from our book:

And finally, here are some of the comments my students had at the end of this project:

In my opinion, this project was the embodiment of enrichment.  

Until next time...

If you love enrichment, you may be interested in these units:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Anchor Charts Aweigh!

It’s about time, teachers, for anchor charts. 

I’ve been focusing on anchor charts lately.  It’s a love/hate relationship for me.  Let me explain.
· I am a visual learner, so anchor charts are a natural fit for my classroom and me.  If I had a photographic memory, such visual reminders would be superfluous.  But, alas, there is no camera in my brain.  I assume the majority of my students also lack an Instagram intellect.  Thus, I ♥ anchor charts for providing the cues.

· In my district, it is permissible to have anchor charts posted in the classroom during standardized testing.  Permissible, that is, if they were hanging prior to the start of testing.  That is a distinct advantage for visual learner students.  Gotta ♥ that!

· Creating anchor charts with my students allows me to model my thinking; a teaching strategy I ♥.  Similarly, I can evaluate their thinking and understanding by observing their reactions and contributions.

· Anchor charts can be dynamic.  As we delve into a subject, we can add to the anchor chart.  It’s another way to scaffold learning.  ♥

· Some of my anchor charts are static.  As such, I introduce the chart to my class, explaining its tenets, and post it at a learning center.  This promotes independence for my students and allows me to conduct small group instruction with minimal disruption.    These charts can be stored and used year after year.

· Anchor charts  are concise.  Teaching my students to be succinct is also a valuable lesson.  I ♥ bulleted lists!  (In case you couldn’t tell.)

So what’s not to like about anchor charts?

· Charts should be neat and organized, with simple graphics to enhance their meaning.  I can barely draw a straight line with a ruler!  Although my 1st graders think my stick figures are wonderful, I’m pretty sure my upper grade students are stifling their snickers.  Then I peruse Pinterest and see all the adorable anchor charts with hand drawn graphics and feel utterly inadequate. 

· There can be too much of a good thing.  Like most elementary teachers, I embrace trends with enthusiasm.  So my room began wearing anchor charts everywhere.  I even considered pinning some to the ceiling like my dentist does.  The sad effect is that my students were on visual overload and the anchor charts ceased being helpful.  It can be difficult to find the balance between just right and too much.  Just ask Goldilocks.

· As helpful as anchor charts are, they present the age old problem of storage.  Where to keep these instructional aids in an already overcrowded classroom is a perennial problem.  Of course, I could recreate them each year, but for some of them, that seems wasteful.  For example, I have a set of 20 poetry posters that are very helpful when my students are challenged to write a specific form of poetry.  Fortunately, while wandering through Pinterestland, I found a wonderful solution:  an anchor chart binder.  It's perfect for my pre-printed, 1 page, poetry posters.  

I've got an idea for storing and organizing all those large, poster size, anchor charts, too: install a dry cleaner's automated line.

I think my principal will go for it, don't you?

♫♪ Anchors Aweigh, my friends, Anchors Aweigh. 
♫ Send those charts whirling around, ♪
‘Til the perfect one is found. ♫♪

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Valentine's Day Hink Pink FREEBIE

Ever since I attended my 1st state conference for Gifted and Talented Education early in my career, I have seen, heard and read about Hink Pinks.  These vocabulary building, problem solving, critical thinking riddles are staples in GATE.  Perhaps my connection with Hink Pinks, et al, is best explained by the fact that my students absolutely love them!  They loved them when I was in the classroom and when I became an enrichment resource teacher, my pull-out students literally begged for more of them.

If you are new to the land of Hink Pinks, here's how they work:
  • Hink Pinks are riddles wherein the clues lead you to a 2 word answer.  Each answer word must have just 1 syllable and the 2 answer words must rhyme.
  • Hinky Pinkies are riddles seeking answers with 2 syllables in each word.  The 2 words must rhyme.
  • Hinkity Pinkities are rhyming answer word pairs with 3 syllables each.
Some teachers like to distribute Hink Pink clues on a work sheet, but I continually strive to eliminate worksheets from my teaching. About 20 years ago, I started putting the clues on 1/4 sheet cards. By doing so, I was able to create a resource that was ready to use year after year, saving me bunches of time and conserving paper big time!  

Armed with my Hink Pink, et al cards, I was able to use them as an anchor activity when students were arriving each morning. They also work well as a sponge activity and are great at a literacy center.  Now, working as a pull-out enrichment specialist, I use these cards as a warm-up activity. Without a doubt, G/T students are enthralled with these riddles.  But, I also found that "average" students were intrigued and set their caps to solve them. 

It's about time, teachers, to offer you my FREE set of Valentine's Day Hink Pinks, Hinky Pinkies, and Hinkity Pinkities.  Here's a preview:

The answer to this Hink Pink is smart heart.

The answer to this Hinky Pinky is sandy candy.  
The answer to the Hinkity Pinkity below is valentine turpentine.

There are 24 cards in this FREE set.  Naturally, there is an answer key.  Did I mention that it is FREE?  You can retrieve your copy here.

I hope you enjoy Hink Pinks, et al as much as my students and I do.

If you like this product, you may like these, as well:

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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Groundhog Day Center Freebie

Scrabble and its social networking cousin, Words with Friends, are jumping off the computer screen and finding their niche in the classroom.  In my classroom, my students love to play SCRATTLE (SCRAbble + baTTLE).

It's always great fun to take a set of letters and challenge your class to make as many words with them as they can.  In Scrattle, I'm upping the ante by adding a math component and competition.  By doing so, I'm ensuring that my students are trying their hardest and I'm getting double duty out of this center.

Here's how it works:
  • Give your students the letter set for this edition of Scrattle.

  • Students cut out the letters.
  • Students find a partner to battle.
  • Armed with a recording sheet, the partners record the words they can devise individually.
  • Once their recording sheets are filled, the students calculate the values of their words by adding the numbers on their letter pieces.
  • Alternatively, older students calculate the value by multiplying the numbers.
  • To differentiate for G/T and enrichment students, a combination of operations is available.  (It is possible that this version will create negative numbers.)
  • After their calculations are completed, the partners compare their numbers, filling in their opponent's scores on the recording sheet. 
  • Students then add >, <, or = to the scores box.
  • The student with the most > scores is the winner.

This activity is CCSS aligned.  You can download it on Google Docs.


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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Best of 2013

The new year is here!  Traditionally, radio stations and television shows prepare a list of the most important news stories and/or best songs of the past year.   In that same vein, Stephanie @ Principal's Principles, has created a linky party of the best pins of 2013.  Fun! 

Here are my top 5 Pinterest pins:

I love Pinterest and it has shown me some love right back.  Such an awesome site!  What are your 5 best pins of 2013?

Happy New Year!  And, happy pinning!

I'd love it if you followed me on Pinterest!