Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chalkboard Art and other October Favorites

This October Favorites link up with I Teach What's Your Super Power is just what I need on this cold fall morning!  This is such a beautiful time of year, but it seems to fly by with all the chaos of back to school.  Here are some of my October favorites...ya know...things that help me slow down and appreciate how awesome this month really is.

1) Chalkboard art is all the rage now, so I decided to give it a try on the board I painted near our garage entrance.  Here are my first attempts!

I saw this saying on Pinterest and decided to give it a whirl!

Here is my second try...

This chalkboard stuff is therapeutic.  I guess the teacher in me misses the good old days of writing on the blackboard! Oh wait a minute....NOPE...I don't miss the chalk print I would always get on my butt from leaning up against the tray.  How embarrassing with a class of middle schoolers!

2)  I love to decorate for Halloween!  Here are some of my latest additions...

We took apart our chandelier and made some spooky alterations. (Temporary of course!)

My husband is a pumpkin carving god.  Check out these number pumpkins he did!

3)  Goodbye summer salads and hello hearty fall food.  This month I made this delicious apple granola. It was super easy!

OK...Don't laugh but I thought it would be a good idea to buy a 50 lb bag of organic rolled oats.  What can I say, I like oatmeal!  Anyway, it turned out to be A LOT of oatmeal so I've been getting creative trying to use it up.  Here is one of my October uses...

Apple Cinnamon Crunchy Granola!

Something I love about granola is that it is pretty hard to mess up.  There are so many options and add-ins that the possibilities are endless.  Here is the recipe that I whipped up for this batch:

4-5 apples (from our neighbors trees) 
2 pounds organic rolled oats (not the instant ones folks)
Approximately 1/2 cup of honey (maple syrup works too)
1/4-1/2 cup canola oil
Cinnamon and nutmeg (however much tastes good to you)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flax meal or wheat germ (optional- but makes it more healthy)
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup almonds (whole or chopped)
Dried cranberries or raisins

Puree the apple in a food processor or blender (peel on or off depending on your preference).  Add oil, honey, sugar and seasons.  Mix together by hand.  In a large bowl stir together the puree, dry oats and flax meal.  Try to mix until all the oats are coated with the sticky apple puree.  Spread on baking sheets (I like to spray mine with a little olive oil first) and cook 1-2 hours at 300 degrees.  Stir and flip the granola every 20 minutes to ensure even cooking.  When all the moisture seems to have baked off, the granola is done.  I've made about 10 batches following this recipe and it takes a different amount of baking time each round.  So, check it every 20 and when you go to flip it, look for steam or moisture.  Once there is none or very little, the granola is probably done.  Let it cool on the cookie sheet for about a half hour before storing it in an air-tight container.  Some people say refrigerate, but we don't have room in our fridge and it gets eaten within a week so it stays fresh.

4)  My fourth and final favorite for October is Ibotta.  This is a money-saving grocery app for your phone.  As much as I try to do coupons, I'm always rushing and don't seem to ever have the right one on hand!  This is a much easier option for me.  

Here is how it works.  You get offers on your phone and then you earn $ by buying the items in the grocery and then scanning your entire grocery receipt.  They give you a certain amount per item but then give you bonuses for redeeming 5 offers in your first two weeks. You don't have to buy a lot of junk either.  I earned 50 cents just for buying a gallon of milk (any brand).  Cool!   I used it during two shopping trips this month and earned $26.50....which was deposted right into my Paypal account.  Whether you are an extreme couponer or a super lazy couponer like me...you might want to give it a go!

I hope you all had a great October with your students, friends and families.  Thanks for checking out my October favorites and be sure to check out Megan's at I Teach What's Your Super Power.

Oh...and one more thing.  I'm putting together an awesome Middle School Giveaway for mid November along with my friend Krystal over at Lessons From The Middle.  The theme is GIVING THANKS to all of our hardworking middle school colleagues!  If you are a middle school teacher-author-blogger please consider joining in on the fun!  Click here to sign up:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1EhEPy8aS-LSc0UYy11YnnIsGYHKL2EC0qFJFqIFmhT4/edit

Happy Teaching...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Teacher Fitness...What motivates you?

I'm so excited to link up with my new blogging buddy Melissa over at Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late.  Her monthly teacher fitness link-up was just the motivation I needed to focus on one of my very important goals for 2013....Losing baby weight!!

There was a time when fitness was a number one priority in my life.  Ha! Just the sound of that sentence seems ridiculous to me right now, but it's true.  Before a career, before graduate school, before late night lesson plans, and most recently before having two kids...there was a time when I was a fitness goddess! Now...I know I will never be that six-pack strutting 21 year-old again, and to be quite honest I'm not willing to sacrifice countless hours away from my family in order to achieve some "perfect" body image, all the whilst missing out on things that really matter.

However....this chick needs to find a happy medium because after having a second baby 4 months ago NONE... of my old clothes fit.  SO...it's either lose the weight or lose the wardrobe (Hmmmm...this does present a good argument for a major shopping spree....ha!).

So...What motivates me?  (Other than a closet full of clothes that I REALLY want to wear again.) Well, I have recently been using an app on my phone that is perfect for my super-busy, working-nursing-mom-lifestyle.   Enter...Gorilla Workout.

Gorilla Workout : Fitness Aerobic and Strength Trainer on a Budget

Three reasons why this motivates me:

1) No equipment needed!  It is hard enough to find time to workout let alone having the right equipment on hand.  I can do these anywhere in my house and my son can even join in and do the exercises with me.

2) Short and to the point.  Since the workouts are in small chunks, you feel accomplished even if you only do one.  I try to do three, but still feel good if I am only able to squeeze one into a busy day.  It is motivating to think "I worked out today." (So what if it only took 10 minutes!)

3) It works for people of ALL fitness levels.  (It customizes a workout for you based on the level you choose to start at.)  How do I know?  Well I've been sporadically using the app for about 3 weeks and I am feeling slimmer, tighter and have lost 3-4 pounds.  Let's face it, nothing is more motivating than PROGRESS!

So, if you need some fitness motivation and have very little time to dedicate, give this app a shot.   It's an affordable 99 cents and with a motto of "No monkey business"...how could you go wrong?

Thanks for visiting my blog.  I love new members and comments so please sign up to join me on my blogging journey!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Online Plan book: Tried it Tuesday

I'm excited to link up again this week for Tried it Tuesday with Holly over at Fourth Grade Flipper.  There were so many fun posts to check out last week!

My tried it tip:

There are many lesson plan book websites out there, but this one fits me perfectly! 

I actually like that it is not overflowing with tons of bells and whistles. I don't want a planning website 

that is going to take me more time than just entering my plans in my old word processing planning 

document.  I just want to document my plans in a neat, organized, easy-to-access fashion.  

Planbook.com gets right to the point and saves me time!

 Here is a 1-week snapshot of my 6th grade plans.

Reasons why I love this site:

  • Easy to enter your plans and move them around from day to day.

  • You can add multiple classes and can view your plans in a few formats.

  • Printing plans is a breeze!  

  • Allows you to link to standards easily. (Honestly, I don't usually take the time to do this...I probably should!)

  • You can copy lessons from one year to the next.  I pretty much never teach the same lesson twice, but it is nice to easily reference a particular date from the year before.

  • The number 1 reason I LOVE this site is SHARING MY PLANS with my colleagues.  We have saved a TON of co-planning time by simply typing in our plans (which we would do anyway) and then sharing them with each other.  We still meet as a department, but our discussions are much more brief and on-target because this site provides a "window" into each other's classrooms.  (I'm lucky to work with two super talented teachers, so seeing their plans is a huge inspiration!)
This site does cost $12.00 per year, which is SO worth it for the convenience it provides.  You can sign up for a 1 month free trial to check it out if you want to give it a run.

Do you have an online planning website that you love?  Please share it!

Be sure to visit The Fourth Grade Flipper for the rest of this week's Tried It Tuesday blog posts!

In other cafe news... I've decided to open a Teacher's Network store.  Here is one of my first additions to the store.  Does anyone have advice to share about selling on TN?  The seller dashboard is a bit harder to navigate if you ask me, but I may just be used to TpT.  How do the giveaways work?

Thanks for visiting and happy teaching...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Desktop Greetings Freebie Printable

October is Disabilities Awareness Month...

Students with special needs, need special strategies right?  Well, we all have tricks and tips that we use daily to help learning disabled students reach their full potential, without singling them out of the crowd.  

One of my favorite strategies is DESKTOP GREETINGS.  This started with post-it notes.  I'd jot kids notes and drop them in the corner of their desk throughout the lesson.  I'd ask kids in advance to then stick them into their science journals for later reference.  Now, just to be clear...I did this for all students (not only kids with IEPs).  It works really well, and since I got sick of writing the same messages class after class, I started printing them instead!  

I'm posting a few of these today for my awesome followers...
This is a FREE sample of some of my desktop greeting comments.  These are the more general ones, but I also make them lesson specific.  (EX:  When you leave class today, stop by my desk to explain the difference between a food web and a food chain.)  In fact, I could probably do whole other post on just content specific comments, which I often print on labels to stick into student journals.  

FREE: Click here to grab the above version of some of the general phrases I use with my students!

Here is a blank form that you can type in your own "Greetings" to use with your students:

I'm guessing this is the way to go for most of you, as we each have our own message to give to our students.  TIP:  Make an entire column or entire page of one comment.  This will save you time when you are cutting and organizing these :)

What strategies do you use to help students with special needs succeed in your class?
If you download, please take the time to comment and follow!  (Even if you don't have a strategy...at least say hello!)  I love new followers!

Happy Teaching...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Removing Permanent Marker and TpT Banner Tutorial

Hi all!  It is my first time joining in with the Fourth Grade Flipper on this Tried it Tuesday Linky.  So...I'm starting with a very short and simple post about some organizing I've been doing. 

I'm constantly organizing and reorganizing all my teacher treasures.  I use a lot of those clear totes so that I can see what is inside, as well as label them with black permanent marker.  I know not the most stylish way to label, but this stuff sits in my home basement or school teacher closet and no one but me sees it.  I wish I had time to print all those cute tote labels from Pinterest, but let's face it....
Life can't always look like Pinterest!

Anyway, I often regret my Sharpie marker labels, when our curriculum changes or I just realize that I need to RE-organize my materials yet another time.  In my quest to beautify my organization system (without spending hours printing from the big P), I googled how to remove the marker from the totes.  There were a lot of suggestions, but I'll save you the hassle and tell you the one that I tried...and it worked!!!

Check it out.  Here is an old tote that had vases from my wedding in it, so the marker has been on there since 2007.  Now it is off....Yahoo!

Here is how I did it:

1.  Take a dry erase marker and write OVER the letters written in permanent marker.
2.  Use a cloth (paper towel didn't work very well) to wipe over the letters.
3.  Ta-da!  The marker comes off SOOO easily.    

Now that I know this trick, I can use permanent marker to label more things in my room (on glass or plastic).  Hmm- lab glassware? glassware cabinets? student storage bins?  

After cleaning up some of my totes, I decided to clean up my TpT store.  I finally made a banner, thanks to the awesome tutorial from Teacher Blogging Basics.  Here it is!

for a super simple, step-by-step tutorial of how to make a banner using Powerpoint.  This was so much easier (and less time consuming) than I had expected!

Be sure to visit all of the amazing "Tried it Tuesday" ideas at the Fourth Grade Flipper.  I spent an hour just reading through old posts and learned a TON of new stuff.

Happy Organizing....and Teaching!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Safer Way to View You Tube Videos in The Classroom

You Tube can be a great resource for adding a little flare to science lessons.  Let's face it, there is no way I could write and perform a clever song about photosynthesis in the 5 minutes it takes me to find one on the internet.  However, You Tube can be trouble in the classroom.  More than once I've had to quickly blank out my screen to avoid students catching a glimpse at inappropriate language or graphics below, next to, or following a video.  It gets even more risky when allowing students to view educational video clips on ipads or their own devices.  So, I want to share my latest solution... http://safeshare.tv/

Here is how it works:

Go to You Tube and find your video of choice.

Highlight and copy (control-c) the entire URL address.

Paste (control-v) the URL into the space provided and click "generate safe link"

Here is what my students will see!  Its a much nicer version for school use. * This prevents them from clicking any pop-ups and seeing any inappropriate material while viewing the intended video.

Use the link in the address bar for this safe version to direct kids to the video.  You can copy and paste it into your presentations, onto your website or directly onto an assignment.  Here is the sample one I did for my class.   http://safeshare.tv/w/rqbUuUFvEJ
This is also a great chance to use a QR code, since the addresses can be long and complicated, but more on that later.  I'll be doing a post on QR codes soon, as there are some really fun ways to use them with middle schoolers!
*Note:  You should always preview online videos start to finish before using them in the classroom...OF COURSE!

I hope this helps make video viewing safer in your classroom.  Do you have any other technology tricks of the trade that help make the internet a safer classroom tool?

Happy Viewing and Teaching...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Share your blog...

It is always great to find new blogs that inspire us in our classrooms.  I particularly love finding blogs relating to grades 5-8, of which I find are few and far between.  Today I'm linking up with Principal Principles to explore some great new sites, and hopefully a few will include some fresh ideas that I can use with my 6th grade science students!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Free Printable for Science Procedure Writing

It's that time of year again.  We are all reviewing the scientific method and working hard to inspire our students to not only do science, but think like scientists.  It is important for us to remember that memorizing the steps of the scientific method is not real science, while engaging students in experimental design using the method is.  So now you wonder, how can my students engage in real science when I can barely get them to write a correct sentence during writing time?  Although I'm a firm believer that science process trumps science product during the elementary years, I realize that experimental design is not exactly a walk in the park for students and teachers alike.  I recommend teaching the process in small chunks, with skillfully scaffolded tasks that build understanding and confidence.

I've always had a passion for authentic science instruction, but it took some time for me to figure out how to make it work in my classroom.  During one of my first years teaching I asked my students to write their own procedure for a pond exploration lab. I thought...How hard can it be?  This is what students should be able to do right?  ROOKIE MISTAKE! Some students wrote 15+ steps, others 2-3 steps but most students procedures had little or nothing to do with the actual testable question or variables.  Grrrr!  Not to mention, reading each students incorrect procedure took longer than the actual lab should have taken, and by the time I realized how off-base their work was, the room was a pond scum-covered mess. (No really, some students steps included things like "Use a spoon to put pond water on the microscope." and "Place pond water on a plate near the window." Not cool when you have 125 students to manage).

So, needless to say I searched for a better way!  The following is a sequential list of strategies I recommend for helping your students with this science process skill.  Whether you want your students to be able to design their own science explorations, or simply improve their ability to follow a science procedure correctly, I recommend trying these strategies with your young scientists.

6 Tips to Help 6th Graders With Science Procedures

1.  Show students examples of quality procedures.  These are easy to find online or in science books.
2.  Show students examples of poorly written procedures and have them compare them to the quality procedures. Poorly written procedures are easy to write up for examples. Use both types of examples to make a class anchor chart of what quality science procedures include.
3.  Compare and contrast scientific procedures with cooking recipes.  This is a great venn diagram discussion!
4.  Do a procedure sorting exercise(See today's freebie!)  Note:  You will need to teach kids about independent and dependent variables in order to do this skill builder,
5. Take an existing lab procedure and cut it into strips for each step.  Have students organize them correctly on the lab table before they can begin the experiment.  Once checked by an adult, they can flip each completed step upside down as they work to show they are following it in the correct order.
6.  Provide a partially written procedure and have students write in the last few steps before beginning an experiment.

Now you are ready to take it to the next level!  Will you have your students author their own procedures?

Are you working on procedure writing and comprehension with your students?  If so, download this procedure sorting activity freebie!

This freebie is located in my TpT store.  (Sorry for those of you who prefer  Google Docs....but signing up for TpT is easy and free if you are not already a member.)

Thanks for visiting and happy teaching!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

1.00 Sunday Savings: Potential and Kinetic Energy One Dollar Deal

I'm excited to have reached the 200 follower milestone on TpT!  As a thank you to my fellow TpT buyers and sellers, I've listed one of my best selling items for only $1.00 today.  Here it is:

Wishing you all a relaxing Sunday and a productive week!

Happy Teaching...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Halloween Soap with Poem: Candy-free "Trick" for the Classroom

I love, love, love Halloween!  From creative costume-making and scary storytelling to carving pumpkins and collecting leaves the list of fun fall activities goes on and on....BUT...I'm not a huge fan of packing our children to the brim with artificial, sugar-laden, processed junk food.  Filled with food dyes (some of which are linked to ADHD) and preservatives that I can't even pronounce, your typical trick-or-treat bag will be an overflowing brew of ingredients that are enough to scare any health-conscious teacher.   (Refined edible vegetable fat, Red #40, Dextrin, Maltodextrin....Does that sound like food to you?)

Don't get me wrong, I go crazy for dark chocolate.  However, if you look at the ingredient list on most of those "fun-sized" halloween candy treats, chocolate and sugar are not the only thing we are filling a student's treat bag with.  Now I'm a big fan of "everything in moderation," so I'm not quite ready to completely ban Kit-Kats and Snickers Bars from the party, but in attempt to help moderate the amount of junk our kiddos devour this season, I've decided to do some candy-free treats...or should I say tricks for our upcoming halloween party.   And no, I don't feel like I'm depriving my kids of the "good stuff," because something tells me that when I walk around the lunch room the week after halloween, there will be PLENTY of candy.

So as part of this year's halloween party, I'm making these spooky spider soaps.  Here's hoping kids use them to wash their hands before eating all of the other sweet treats they receive!

I started by cutting the rings off of some spiders that I bought at JoAnns.  I liked these a little better than the dollar store rings because they have some texture and those creepy red eyes.

Next, I placed the spider in the round soap mold, face down and then melted 3 cubes of clear glycerin soap according to the package directions.  (Thank goodness for those 40% off coupons I downloaded for Michaels!)

Once the spider was completely covered, I added one drop of red soap dye and did not mix it in.  40 minutes later the soap was cooled and ready to use!  Note:  Most of the soaps I did fragrance-free, but I did add essential clove oil to a few and they had a wonderful fall festive scent.

To finish it off, I made this fun poem to attach to each one!

So....here's to a healthy, germ-free Halloween!

Thanks for visiting and happy haunting!

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Trick or Treat...Currently October

I am linking up with Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade for this trick or treat currently!


Science Writing Organization Posters (See October 1st post for more details!)
I can't believe it is already October.  I swear it was just June...I guess that is what a new baby will do to you!  Thanks for stopping by Kate's Classroom Cafe...

Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Free Printable for Scientific Writing

I'm always striving to help my young scientists become proficient writers.  It can be tough for some students to focus on the data gathered during an experiment, especially when they are asked to summarize in paragraph form.  Here are a few strategies I use to encourage good science writing skills:

1.  Show students examples of good science writing.  (I use my own writing as well as saved exemplar work from previous students.)

2.  Write WITH students as a whole group.  This type of modeling may seem time consuming, but it will pay off!

3.  Scaffold writing by completing some of the work for students and then having them complete the rest.  For example, at the end of an experiment I will write the title, intro, and method sections and students will need to write in the data and discussion sections.

I find that young scientists best digest scientific writing in small bites.   It can be helpful to allow students plenty of time to consume examples of good writing, as well as provide a gradual release of responsibility throughout the learning process.  Here are some freebie materials that you might find useful in your classroom.  Click on any image to download the pdf from google docs.

Here are some free science writing posters for your classroom!

Use these mini-checklists to help students stay organized when writing in science class.
Here is a graphic organizer that can help students draft/brainstorm before writing scientific responses.

How might you use these printable materials in your classroom?  Do you have any unique strategies for helping students with their science writing?  
Thanks for visiting Kate's Classroom Cafe today!  

Happy Teaching....


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