Tech Talk

This is my first blog post on technology. This year, my students use Chrome books and my favorite site so far is learning  I subscribe to two of their components and Headsprout. Raz-kids is differentiated for each child in my room, and offers e-books at their reading level. Headsprout is an additional component the which focuses on reading comprehension, which is awesome.  Headsprout is also differentiated based on each child's current reading level. There is a simple assessment I gave each child at the beginning of the year, that helped me determine where to begin each student. I then entered where each student was, and voila the computer program took care of the rest.  Once a quarter, I make minor adjustments for some students based on their individual reading progress.  The computer adjusts accurately, for most of my students growth.

The site is super child friendly, and my students love it. Typically I give each child about 30 minutes twice a week on the site. It helps all of my students, but it is especially good for my lower readers. It not only helps them with their reading skills, but it engages them and helps make reading fun. Check it out.  If you decide to join, use promo code NB634 and get $5 off for each component you decide to buy.

For other great technology ideas for the classroom, visit the rest of our tech talk blog hop.

#gmtatechtalk #teachersfollowteachers #hashtagthehype

Five Tips For Keeping Students Calm during the Holidays

1.     Maintain your routine as much as possible - This time of year there will be assemblies, holiday parties, and things outside of your control that will break your routines.  When it comes to time inside of the class, however, try and follow the routine that students are familiar with. 

2.     Turn the lights off - When you feel your students becoming a bit too hyper, keep the lights off and use natural light from your windows.  This is a simple trick, that works every time.  There is something about cutting out the fluorescent light that calms students down quickly.  Students still have enough light to work with, and it suddenly is a peaceful room.  I even find myself speaking more calmly with the lights off.

3.     Engage students with calming activities - There is something about coloring that is calming at any age.  Word searches are great too.  One activity I'm engaging my students with this year is my Polar Express lesson and Pop Up book.  It allows students lots of independent time to color and cut out their favorite scenes from a favorite book.
4.     Plan ahead - This is always the case, but this time of year it's even more important.  As teachers, our lives outside of school are more busy than usual this time of year too.  By having my lessons planned, copied and ready to go, I am more relaxed during the day and better able to handle students who are overstimulated.  I usually have a few "just in case" activities ready to go if a prep is cancelled at the last minute too.

5.     You are the role model - Remember, ultimately students will model your mood.  If you can remain calm and focused during this season, your students will at least try to do the same.

Do you have any other great strategies for keeping your students calm this time of year?  I'd love to hear them.  Please add them as comments below.

Have fun with your students over the next few weeks, and Happy Holidays!

Five Things to Remember When Teaching Your Native American Unit

It is fun to teach Native American history.  I teach it each  year, regardless of the grade I'm teaching.  Here are some tips to make your unit a success:

1.     Teach it with integrity.  Make sure that you are using historical accuracy.  Native American craft projects are so much fun to do, but remember that there is a rich history behind each artifact.  Totem poles are fun to create with my students.  When, however, my students understand that for Northwest Coast Native American tribes, each totem pole was created to tell a story about their family then the project becomes meaningful. The meaning also opens the project up to authentic writing ideas for students to tell their own story with their totem pole.

2.     Remember that traditions and cultural practices changed based on Region.  Native
Americans lived throughout North America, and as a result there are different languages, cultures, traditions, and religious practices.  Teach about the different regions:  The Northwest Coast, Eastern Woodlands, the Plains, and the Southwest Coast.  If you must focus on one group alone, be sure to let your students know which group of Native Americans you're studying.  Finally, do not generalize the practices of a few tribes, as being the practices of all Native Americans.

3.     Native American history is part of American history.  Incorporate ways Native Americans have contributed to our nations' success. One good example is the way our country used the Navajo language to create a secret code which helped us bring World War II to an end with victory.

4.     European colonization dramatically changed life for Native Americans.  As settlers from Europe, and eventually the US, spread throughout our country Native Americans were forced to migrate.  This part of America's history is not our finest moment, nevertheless, it is important for students to learn.

5.     Native American traditions and customs are still alive today.  Native Americans are Americans, and continue to contribute to our country each day.  Be sure to let students know this, and take the time to learn about modern day heroes with Native American lineage.

Need help planning your Native American unit?  Check out my Native American Bundle, which covers four Native American regions with fun pop up books for children to create after studying each region.  You can also purchase Native American regions of your choice individually in my TPT store.

Great Winter Center

Thanks for participating in our fun product swap.  As part of the swap, I picked out a great center activity from fellow blogger, and TPT seller Meredith Berry from Teaching with a Twist

It's called Happy Bells Homophone Match up.  My students love to write, but constantly confuse their homophones.  I've read so many papers where students write that they went to a great "sail" over the weekend, or about what they will do over Thanksgiving "brake".  When I saw Meredith's product, I knew it was a perfect center activity for my class.

After I downloaded Meredith Berry's product, I put it to work in my classroom.  My students loved the activity.  Here they are at work pairing up the homophones.

Afterwards, there were some practice sheets which I had them do to see if they really got it. 

This week, my students asked if they could do the homophone center again.  Needless to say, I happily agreed.  I introduced Meredith's second activity with the cards.  Students pulled a card and then had to correctly use the homophone in a sentence.  They liked this activity just as much.  It was definitely more challenging.  When students used the word incorrectly, I offered the word to another player.  The student with the most cards at the end was the winner. 

They had a great time, and I'm sure will request to use the cards again next week.  The next time will be student directed though, since my students now know how to use the cards two different ways.

Feel free to visit more blogs participating in our product swap.  Each blog is hosting a fun giveaway,
and it's a great opportunity to learn about other products teachers found useful in their classrooms. You can click on Meredith Berry's blog to see my product "Teaching Onomatopoeia Through Song" in action. That lesson is also on sale this week in my TPT store.

I am giving away a copy of Happy Bells Homophone Match up .  Enter using Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fall Fun

This year, we took our students to the farm on Halloween. We had a great time, despite wickedly cold temperatures. We studied Johnny Appleseed before we went, while learning about idioms. My students made the cutest Johnny Appleseed pop up books!
While we were a bit late in the season to pick apples this year, my students had a ton of fun being outdoors, and looking at the beauty that truly is nature. 

Next, we went to pick out pumpkins.  Everyone was able to pick a pumpkin to bring home.

Then it was time to visit the petting zoo, where they were able to hold and pet many animals.  Here we are with some pigs.

 Then it was time to bid farewell, and go back home.  Despite the cold weather, we had a great day.

Five Tips to Teaching Difficult Parts of History

As November approaches, I am getting ready to teach my Native American unit to my second graders. This of course is always a favorite unit, but each year I teach the difficult part of Native American history as well.
 I thought it would be a good time to blog about ways to teach difficult subjects with integrity. The truth is, certain social studies topics make us squeamish as elementary teachers.

We want to teach African American history, but we don’t want to make our students feel guilty or bad about the history of slavery in our country. We want to teach about Native Americans, but it’s tricky to cover topics like the forced migration of Native Americans to reservations. We want to teach about World War II, but it’s tough to discuss the holocaust and the reasons behind it.

So what should we do?

The truth is as teachers we are charged with teaching history too. I feel that we also have a right to teach it with integrity. Here are some tips to help us do, just that.

1. Focus on those who were on the right side of history.
There are always people who recognize what is wrong while it is occurring. While teaching the history of slavery focus on the abolitionist movement. Without white and black abolitionists working together, slavery would not have come to an end when it did. By focusing on the strong people of all races and religions working together, it allows all children to learn the history without feelings of guilt or inferiority.

2. Teach children that we must learn from history. The truth is history is full of mistakes others have made. All countries and civilizations have made mistakes in the past. While we cannot change the past, we can stand up for what is right today to make sure that we never repeat the mistakes of those who came before us.

3. Teach the truth. Do not overlook parts of history, or be afraid to teach what occurred. When studying Native American history it is important to talk about forced migration. When discussing World War II, we must teach about the horrors of the holocaust. We also have to teach about the Japanese internment camps, and Hiroshima. To ignore it dishonors those who lived through it.

4. Incorporate Read Alouds. There are so many amazing read alouds that touch on tough issues with amazing compassion. Examples include: Willy and Max: A Holocaust Story by Amy Littlesugar for the holocaust, Up the Learning Tree by Marcia Vaughan for slavery. Pink and Say by Patrica Polacco for the civil war. Squanto's Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving by Joseph Bruchac for Native American history. There are so many more, but these are just a few to help get you started.

5. Use your Community. As teachers it’s easy to forget that there are living resources all around us. Reach out to your parents, and grandparents. Ask them if they have anyone in their family who would like to come in and speak about certain subjects. In today’s diverse world, you would be surprised who is related to who. Some of my best social studies lessons, have involved a family member of a student presenting to my class.

Want more help teaching history? To view one of my Native American units click here. To view one of my African American history units click here.

Two Stars and a Wish

Today I am going to share two ideas that have worked well for me this school year. The first is an organizational idea I got off of Pinterest. It involved organizing my markers and colored pencils in drawers marked by color. I bought the drawers at Target and created labels for them. Since we share markers and colored pencils in my classroom, as students brought their school supplies in I had a couple of student helpers put the markers and colored pencils into the proper drawer.

This has worked like a dream! The students have full access to their materials all day long. It makes starting and ending art projects very simple. I had a few drawers left over, so I labeled them for glue sticks, scissors and math templates. This is definitely a star idea.

My second idea involves giving students more time to complete their assignments. This year, I decided to allow my early finishers to use task cards. I had never used them before, however, they are allowing me to actively engage my higher achieving students while allowing my average to below average students proper time to finish their work. This idea is helping to cut down on frustration and behavior issues among all of my students. Throughout the day, everyone knows which activity they should be working on. I also have more time to get around and help more students, because I do not have to end the activity early simply because half of the class has finished it and begun causing a disruption.

My dream for this fall, was to integrate more fun into my lessons. I teach second grade, and idioms are always difficult at this age range, especially for ELL students. So, I created a Johnny Appleseed lesson on Idioms and turned it into a fun pop up book. My students LOVED it! They actually can't wait to work with the rest of the tall tales as a result. You can check out this fun lesson here:

Fall Favorites Giveaway!

It's officially fall, and we've gotten to know our wonderful students and learned our routines and procedures. As we delve into our curriculum, it's a great time to find creative lessons to spice things up. A group of us are giving away some of our favorite fall lessons for this fantastic giveaway. Check it out!

Fun With Metaphors and Figurative Language

I love to teach Metaphors, Similes and all forms of figurative language to my students. It is important that students recognize the various forms of figurative language as they begin reading novels, and richer texts. Here are some tips to make teaching figurative language fun.

Always teach figurative language in context. Metaphors are beautiful when read in a poem. Hyperbole is better understood when taught through reading a tall tale. Trying to introduce figurative language on it's own is difficult for children to understand.

Introduce elements of figurative language separately. Make sure that you give students time to digest personification, before moving on to introduce hyperbole.

Encourage students to look for figurative language in their own independent reading. Once the skill has been introduced it's amazing how often students can find figurative language on their own. Students love being able to show the teacher examples of personification, once they know what it is.

Allow children time to write their own. Once children begin reading similes, it's fun for them to create their own. Be sure to incorporate their figurative language into their own writing.

Have students create a project. Once students have practiced a skill they enjoy showing it off.  Having students create a culminating art or drama project is perfect. I recently created a series of tall tale figurative language lessons that teach metaphors, similes, hyperbole, personification, and idioms.  Try my free Paul Bunyan and hyperbole lesson. Once the students have learned hyperbole they are able to create their own pop-up book. I made the lesson free, so feel free to download it and please leave feedback letting me know what you think.



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