Search This Blog

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sneak into a New School Year -- Pt. 4

It's about time, teachers, ... for some creative expression on Sneaker Day. Following are some ideas for art projects.

Ask your students to make crayon rubbings of the soles of their sneakers. Newsprint works much better than construction paper. If you have left over crayons from last year, give those to your students to make the rubbings. They may be hesitant to peel the paper off their brand new box of crayons! For best results, students should rub in only 1 direction. "Scrubbing" back and forth often causes the paper to rip. For young children, taping the paper to the shoe is often helpful.

After all the students have completed their rubbings, you can use the rubbings to talk about patterns, shapes, texture, design, ... The rubbings could also be used for categorizing according to such things as shapes in the sole or added elements (brand name, logo, or designs).

For more fun, allow the students to swap shoes and make additional rubbings on the same piece of paper. Encourage them to use multiple colors. Let them decide when they have enough soles to make their picture complete.   

Another idea is to use a single rubbing and add details to it to make a picture.  

Notice that the fish artist used multiple colors to make the initial rubbing.  

Your class can make awesome, abstract paintings with shoelaces.  Collect several old shoelaces (even frayed and broken ones). Have the children dip one in tempera paint and then lay the shoelace on a piece of construction paper.

As the picture shows, you can use multiple colors of paint -- each color with its own shoelace.  Just be forewarned that unless you have extremely patient students who are willing to wait until the first color dries, you will eventually have shoelaces that are sporting multiple colors; not necessarily in a pleasing way.

To reduce the messy factor somewhat, tie one end of the shoelace to an old pencil that will span the width of the paint container. Then students can lift the shoelace out of the paint without immersing their fingers.  

There are many variations of this project. Make it a printing project by placing another sheet of paper on top of the shoelace that was placed on the paper as above.  By gently pressing down on the top paper, you will produce a negative print of the bottom paper. My preferred method for doing this is to simply fold a 9" x 12" piece of construction paper in half first.  Then put the paint soaked shoelace on one half; fold the other half over the top of the shoelace.  Unfold and you will have a lovely, symmetric print.

Start with the folded construction paper as described above. Again put the shoelace on just one half of the paper, leaving an inch or so hanging out.  Fold the paper over the top of the shoelace.  Then, applying pressure to the paper with one hand, pull the string out slowly.  This will create a lovely smeared effect.  I especially like to do this project with white paint on black paper or black paint on white paper.  The display is really striking.

Until next time --

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sneak into a New School Year - Pt. 3 Math Centers

It's about time, teachers, ... to talk about math centers and math activities on Sneaker Day.

No Sneaker Day would be complete without including a graphing activity. Whole class graphs are fun and easy. Line your students' sneakers up in front of the class and ask them to name some attributes they notice.  Use those suggestions or one of these:
  • brand
  • color (all 1 color, 2 colors, 3...)
  • size
  • closure (laces, Velcro, slip-ons, ...)
  • high tops/low tops
  • special features (lights, sequins, pumps, ...)

After you complete 1 or more whole class graphs, you can easily make this activity a math center. Small groups will graph their sneakers, only.

Have each child measure his sneaker using unifix cubes. Ask the children to take their tower of cubes around the room in search of another child with the same number of cubes in his stack.  You have the opportunity to observe and note how children determine if their towers are the same length (counting, comparing side by side, 1-to-1 matching, …). If the activity is going well, extend the assignment to find someone whose sneaker is longer, shorter, 3 cubes longer, 2 cubes shorter, etc. Again, after teaching the task, this activity can be extended by making it a math center activity.

Another math activity for Sneaker Day is patterning. Have your students make crayon rubbings of the soles of their sneakers.  Use the rubbings for creating patterns of footsteps. The rubbings can also be placed in a math center. There, students can sort them according to various attributes you specify. Older or more advanced students could use the rubbings to create categories of their own making.  

Venn Diagrams are another activity that could be modeled to the whole group and subsequently placed in a math center.  

There are more activities for Sneaker Day to come, so sneak back soon.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sneak into a New School Year - Pt. 2

It's about time, teachers, ... to continue my thoughts about Sneaker Day.  

Conduct a get acquainted activity by asking each child to remove 1 of his sneakers.  Put all of the shoes in the center of the group and ask the children to look carefully at them. Then pick up one sneaker and ask whose sneaker it is.  When someone feels they can identify the owner, he should raise his hand, wait to be called on, and then allowed to take the shoe to its owner.  Emphasize that the owner of the sneaker should be sneaky and not boast that the shoe is his.  The child who identified the owner may select the next shoe for evaluation.  

Play continues in this way until all of the sneakers have been returned to their owners. For very young children, you will want to limit the number of shoes in the center to a number that is reasonable for their attention span.  The game can be played several times through out the day so that everyone is included.  It could also be repeated for several days, as needed, to ensure that everyone learns all the names.

There are more Sneaker Day activities to come.  Stay tuned!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sneak into a New School Year

It's about time, teachers, ... 

... to go back to school.  Did that reality sneak up on you? To help you kick off your year on the right foot, I invite you to SNEAK INTO A NEW SCHOOL YEAR.  

Begin by asking your students to wear sneakers on the 2nd day of school.  Call it "Sneaker Day."  Here's a reminder note you can send home with your students:

On Sneaker Day, explain to your students why these shoes are called "sneakers." Sneakers are rubber soled shoes, usually with cloth uppers, that are common in N. America. The rubber sole allows the wearer to walk very quietly, i.e. sneak around.

Each time you line up to leave your classroom, challenge your students to sneak through the halls;  something they are super prepared to do since they are wearing sneakers! Teach your students to sing the following song to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."  Whisper-sing it as you line your students up to leave the classroom.
        Sneak, sneak, sneak around
        In your sneaker wear.
       Quietly, quietly, quietly, quietly
       No one knows you're there.

Enlist school personnel to help instill a sneaky attitude in your class by complimenting them for walking so quietly through the halls.  Secure a large supply of colorful shoelaces to use as reinforcements for the compliments.  Place a shoelace in a plastic jar for each compliment they receive.  Collect compliments for the entire first week.

Label the jar filled with shoelaces and use it to create an Estimation Station math center that will function all year.  Here's a label you could use:

Provide a supply of paper scraps for students to use to record their estimation of how many shoelaces are in the jar. Allow only 1 guess per child per day.  Check the estimates just before dismissal time.  When the correct number is guessed, make the winner responsible for bringing in the next set of items for the jar, along with a super sneaky note that tells you, the teacher, what the correct number is. You can find a sample letter explaining the parameters of the  Estimation Station  items to parents here.

Estimation Station  continues in this way for the remainder of the year, or as long as you like, with virtually no effort on your part!

Come back soon for more posts about Sneaker Day activities or download my FREE product, Sneak Into a New Year.

You may also like a companion unit to this product:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sports Sorts

It's about time . . . for the Olympics.  

And, just in time for the Olympics, I am offering Sports Sorts.

Through simple sorts, children learn to recognize similarities and differences.  That, in turn, allows them to develop organized thinking.  Thus, they begin to make order out of chaos.  Sorts for early childhood classrooms lay down the foundations for sets & groups, attributes, and logical thinking.  Thus, CCSS now include standards for sorting in math.

Most early sorting tasks are directed, giving the children the parameters for the sorts.  With time, sorts become open ended.  At that point, children begin categorizing.  They are given a set of objects and challenged to construct their own, independent conditions and attributes.

When they begin categorizing, children are engaging in the upper levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.  They ANALYZE the elements and their relationships.  By combining the elements in new ways, the children are SYNTHESIZING.  When judging the elements according to their own parameters, they are EVALUATING.  I submit, then, that sorting and categorizing activities are HOTS activities.  As such, teachers of older children should include them in their math centers and explorations frequently.  In doing so, they are providing differentiated instruction to G/T students and promoting critical thinking in all of their students.

Following is a preview of Sports Sorts:

There are 20 picture cards in color.  There is also a black & white set.  This unit includes task cards for patterning, a work mat, and a recording sheet.  

Sports Sorts are available on TpT or TN for $2.50.

Friday, July 13, 2012

HOTS Activity

Did you find yesterday's TRIADS easy?  If you did, thank the teachers that encouraged you to use HOTS.  

Answer:  card

Answer:  brush

Weren't those fun?  Want to try some more?  

WARNING: TRIADS may be addicting!

If you like TRIADS, you might also enjoy:


Thursday, July 12, 2012

H.O.T.S. Activity

It's about time, teachers, ...  to focus on Higher Order Thinking Skills (H.O.T.S.).  If we neglect to teach our students critical thinking skills, we do them a huge disservice.  There is an on-going debate about the role of HOTS in the elementary school.  Some contend that elementary students should focus on the basics (i.e. the lower 3 levels of Bloom's Taxonomy). Others argue that HOTS are essential to elementary education.  

In my opinion, this debate is moot, in as much as standards based curricula require HOTS.  In my own experience teaching K-5, Reading Recovery, Title I, enrichment, and self-contained gifted, for more than 3 decades, I absolutely believe teachers should give considerable attention to critical and creative thinking skills whether you subscribe to CCSS or not.  Even in teaching Reading Recovery, which suggests it's all about the basics, the most successful students were the ones who were able to grasp the idea that they should be constantly evaluating what they were reading.  In RR, we challenge our students to decide whether what they read makes sense, looks right, sounds right, ...   

Similarly, although at the other end of the spectrum, G/T and enrichment students need to be able to defend their thinking.  We do them wrong if we don't challenge them to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate/create.  G/T education calls for differentiation of instruction; a summons that is daunting to some educators.  But it does not have to be overwhelming, intimidating, or off-putting.  Consider the following activity:

TRIADS combine critical thinking with vocabulary development.  That's a win-win since students with larger vocabularies consistently perform far better than those with poorer oral language.  In working with TRIADS, your students will use analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.  The challenge is to find 1 word that can be added to each of the triad words to make a well-known phrase or compound word.  The common word may be added before or after the triad words. For example, add GRASS to the triad words blue, hopper, and crab to make blue GRASS, GRASShopper, and crab GRASS.

Now try these two triads for yourself:


TRIADS is a great activity for a literacy center or enrichment. It could also be used as an anchor or sponge activity.  My students beg to do these together, and, thus, I often grab a card when we are headed to our specials -- just in case we have to wait in the hallway for a minute or two.  You can almost see the cogs turning inside their heads!  What teacher doesn't love that???

Reproduce the cards on card stock, laminate, and use for years to come. Naturally, an answer key is included. This product is available on TpT and TN.  There are currently 3 versions of it, should your students love them as much as mine do.  Each set includes 24 TRIADS cards & an answer key for $2.60.  You get a lot of differentiation for very little money.  

How did you do with the 2 TRIADS?  Come back tomorrow to see if you found the common word.  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hooray for Hats thematic unit FREEBIE

It's about time, teachers, to start planning for the new school year.  As a primary teacher, I {heart} thematic units. Immersing children in a topic, carrying it across disciplines, and finding creative ways to meet the Common Core Standards are my passion.  One of my favorite thematic units is Hooray for Hats.  

This unit integrates ELA, math, HOTS, and creativity.  It is intended to last for 1 week, but I freely admit that I usually stretch it into 3 weeks.  There are so many hat related books to read aloud, so many writing topics, so many math activities, ...

The ELA components include vocabulary work, comprehension, poetry, alphabetical order, writing center ideas, and a 14 page booklet for students to make about Hat Idioms. You can download the Hat Idioms Book for FREE on TpT or TN.  Following is a preview of the Hat Idioms Book:

Hooray for Hats! math activities include computation, graphing, patterns, Venn Diagrams, journal prompts, sorting, measurement, and money.  Following is an example from the math portion:

Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) are also included in Hooray for Hats!  There are homework assignment sheets and a craftivity.  If you like thematic units, I hope you will check out Hooray for Hats!

You may also like: