Sunday, February 5, 2017

Shang Ya! Friendship Oath

Have your students use this ancient oath of friendship from China to write a friendship poem.

I have used this poem to inspire my class towards writing friendship poems for years, however for the past two weeks, I have had a university student from Xi'an China observing my fifth grade classroom as part of her studies. I decided to create easy to use templates for writing this poem, so that we can write the poems while she is still visiting our class. Usually, I do this for Valentine's Day, but we are doing it a bit earlier this year.

Shang Ya! Oath of Friendship Poetry Writing

Here is some examples of Friendship poems written by girls from the Mathare Valley slum in Nairobi, Kenya. On my third trip to Kenya in 2014, I taught a variety of poems for students in grades 5-12. I taught Shang Ya! to this group of girls. They also made the Chinese style artwork. I then photographed their artwork and used a green screen to record them reciting their poem in front of their art. I did a whole class in about two hours. It was very busy, but fun!

Some day I will publish the directions for making the Chinese inspired art work.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Shipwreck of the Thomas W. Lawson on Friday the 13th

The Thomas W. Lawson was the only seven masted schooner ever made. It was the world's first supertanker and it caused the world's first major oil spill when in sank off the coast of England during a storm in 1907. The day is sank was a Friday the 13th. The Thomas W. Lawson was named for one of the richest Americans of his day, who had previously written a fiction book titled "Friday the 13th" about a man who purposely sank the stock market on that day. He was quite an interesting man and you can see a video here that highlights, his life, his "Dreamworld" estate, and the boat bearing his name.

I became aware and interested in the Thomas W. Lawson after my dad built a wooden chest with a painting he did of the boat on the top for my son. Inside was a card with the story of the boat and the mention that my great-grandfather did the rigging of the Lawson at the Fore River Shipbuilding yard in Quincy, Ma.


I decided to research and write a story about the Thomas W. Lawson for my fifth grade class. After my 30 plus years of teaching, it was the first time I wrote such an article for a class. You can find my article with vocabulary, close reading questions, and writing topics at Teachers Pay Teachers here. For a short time you can get it for 75% off (only $1). It is geared for students in 5th -7th grade.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Win a TPT Gift Card

Here is your opportunity to win a Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card. The gift card was given to me to promote the two day Teachers Pay Teachers sale happening on November 28-28. Everything in my Teachers Pay Teachers store will be 20% off, plus Teachers Pay Teachers will take another 10% off that price.

I just finished my second bundle of "Capture the Monster" scavenger hunts and this one is for grades 3-4.

This one is a different set of games than my "Capture the Monster" scavenger hunts for grades 4-6.

I have a free version of one game for grades 3-4 here.

I have a free version of one game for grades 4-6 here.

Each bundle has 15 games and upon completion of each game, a student can earn a monster reward card. These have been a hit in my classroom!  There are 15 monster cards to collect.

Here are the 15 monsters that kids can collect. Which is your favorite?

There are four easy ways to enter. You may enter here. The contest closes on November 20 at 12 am.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Student Notes

I usually don't get notes from my students, although sometimes I find them on the floor like this one that I found last year!

The Friday before Halloween, I did two new things in my classroom to celebrate. I used these Silly and Sweet Reward Cards that I created to have some fun throughout the day and in the afternoon I had my class make "Pumpkin Shooters" as a STEM challenge.

On Monday, I got two notes from different students. I thought they might have enjoyed the afternoon shooting candy corn pumpkins across the room. No, they enjoyed the reward coupons.

OK, we are going to work on spelling my name
and other words!
I had a blast with the reward coupons, too. In fact, I had made a set of Thanksgiving Reward Coupons before I had made the Halloween ones. I can't wait to use these next week. I am looking forward to kids talking like pilgrims, strutting like turkeys, and shaking their tail feathers! I am going to hand them out when each students finishes the Thanksgiving Math Scavenger Hunt that I made. Then I hope things get a bit comical for the rest of the day!

Scavenger Hunt Reward Card Bundle
Sweet and Silly Classroom Reward Coupons
Thanksgiving Math Scavenger Hunt

I did say that I rarely get notes from my student's, but I often get letters from the students in the Mathare Valley slum in Nairobi, Kenya that I have visited with three times now and help sponsor. One boy, Gregory, sent me a picture he drew of me riding my ElliptiGO. This week, ElliptiGO did a feature article on my ride up Mt. Washington and my work in Kenya, including Gregory in the article.You can read it here: So Much Depends Upon... You can read more about the poems I used in while Kenya here: Storytelling through poetry writing modeled after "The Red Wheelbarrow."

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Teaching The Constitution and The Bill of Rights

A new fifth grade year is off to a start and like most recent years, there is a lack of materials to teach the new standards developed by my district. We have starting using Engage NY for math, but so far I have not been given my materials more than one month into the new school year. I am also on my own for finding and making social studies and science materials for my students. It is hard work, but I do enjoy creating better learning experiences for my students.

I wanted to improve the way that I have been teaching the unit on the
Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I had resorted to assorted reading passages, worksheets, and interactive notebooks that I had purchased on Teachers pay Teachers in the previous year.

On thing, that my district did do this year is purchase about 15 books related to social studies content for each classroom. Two of the books were by Norman Pearl with illustrations by Matthew Skeens. One was on The Constitution and the other was on The Bill of Rights. Both books were great introductions to these two important documents that can be hard for students to understand. They covered the basics in an easy to understand way without being too cumbersome for my fifth graders.

With only one copy of each book for my entire class, I needed to something to do with my students besides just using them as read-alouds. I created a review "I Have, Who Has?" game for each book: The Constitution, "I Have, Who Has?" game and quiz and The Bill of Rights "I Have, Who Has?" game and quiz. After reading and discussing each book, we played the corresponding "I Have, Who Has" game. Each game has 24 questions related to each document and facts surrounding the documents. My class enjoyed doing the game, because it kept them thinking and involved. We played the game a couple of times together as a class for the repetition of facts and for the reading practice. I then had them play the game again a couple of times in small groups of four the next day.

Along with each game, I included a 10 question quiz. Some students wanted more practice with the game before the quiz, so I let them take a set of cards home.

I found this to be an effective way to introduce my students to these documents and they enjoyed the activities.

The Constitution, "I Have, Who Has?" game and quiz

The Bill of Rights "I Have, Who Has?" game and quiz

I also found other ways to keep the class interested, such as these videos:

Actors reading The Declaration of Independence:

Two songs on The Bill of Rights (I had to remind my students about the Point of View of the first video):

I also created a similar game for The Declaration of Independence.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Learn About Lions Math Review Scavenger Hunt Game

Lions are the King of the Jungle (or so you have heard)? Well, they don't even live in the jungle and I am not so totally sure that they are the King of the all African animals anyway! I have been to Kenya three times now to work in the schools of the Mathare Valley Slum in Nairobi, Kenya. After each trip, I took a short safari to see the magnificent animals that live in Kenya and of course was always thrilled with each lion that we encountered.

I wanted to bring more of that experience home to my students, so I started making math review scavenger hunts that more deeply explored these animals while developing math questions along with the facts that I researched and learned. I first came out with The Gigantic Giraffe scavenger hunt and this summer I created a companion African Lion scavenger hunt.

I never fully feel finished with the creation of these scavenger hunt games until I see them in action with my own class, so my class played the scavenger hunt on the second day of school last week. I was thrilled that everything went so well and the question were right on for my new class keeping them engaged for the whole period. They also enjoyed learning the many facts about lions.

I had fun creating this scavenger hunt and also feel accomplished that the photos for each question station included color photos that I took while in Kenya. It was satisfying to see these photos hanging up in my class as the students worked on the questions.

Realizing that all teachers do not have color printers, I also created black and white versions of the questions with a simple drawing of a lion. The scavenger hunt comes with an answer sheet and a student worksheet for answering the questions.

To celebrate the success of this scavenger hunt, I am offering it for 1/2 price for a short period of time. Get it now for only $1.25 here. It makes a great review activity for any time of the year. I based the questions on the fourth grade standards, but for review purposes it will work well with both 5th and 6th graders. It is easy enough to put together for an fun Friday activity or for use when a substitute is in your classroom. You can find the companion Giraffe scavenger hunt here. You can find my Teachers Pay Teachers store here, where I offer many varieties of math scavenger hunts and other products.

Here is one reason I don't think lions are the King of the African animals. This is a video I shot of a group of elephants walking down two male lions. Yes, I know I am not really using exact words like a teach my kids in all the excitement, "Oh look, the elephants have their stuff up!"In my scavenger hunt, you will learn about another animal that lions are afraid of.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Capture the GO Monsters Math Logic Scavenger Hunt Puzzles

There is a great feeling you get when you work hard for something and you achieve your goal. As an athlete, I know that feeling well from the many marathons and Ironman triathlons that I have completed in my past. Most recently, I rode my ElliptiGO up Mt, Washington in New Hampshire on what has been called the toughest bicycle hill climb in the world. There is a great satisfaction is seeing all your hard work and training pay off no matter what the endeavor and I get that same satisfaction from creating activities to use in my classroom and seeing how successful they can be with my students.

I spent countless hours this summer creating math logic puzzle scavenger hunts with a "capture the monster" theme that is similar to the idea of Pokemon GO. Being that is was the summer, I had no idea how it would go over with my fifth grade students. Yesterday was the third day of school and while our district has a new math series, they failed to give me the materials for my students. I thought that this would be a great time to start using these scavenger hunts with my new class. Much to my satisfaction, everything worked perfectly just as it was designed and my students were thoroughly engaged and enthusiastic.

Here is a quick summary of the games from the full bundle of all these Capture the Monster games:

GO and Capture the Monsters Scavenger Hunt Game Bundle" is a complete "Move Around Math" puzzle solving game that gets students out of their seats as they use number strategies to solve math problems. While designed for fourth and fifth grade classrooms, it would also work well in many sixth grade classrooms. 
Your students must be intrigued with the popular new game where they use their phones to go outside, hunt for, and capture anime characters. You know they will be missing playing this game when they are in school. These "Capture the Monsters" games will allow your students to have fun, think critically about math, and capture anime characters at the same time and they can do it during class time.
There are a total of 15 unique animal monsters that students can capture as they finish each game.
There are three game plays for each scavenger hunt set for a total of 15 games. Each game set uses the same 10 station cards (which can be taped on the walls of the classroom). Students can play each game three different times in order to reinforce their thinking and to capture all three monsters. Each game can be played on different days or weeks and in any order. Students can be given different monster cards and can be working on different game plays at the same time as their classmates. 
This game includes directions as well as the story of the monsters. There are stations and student worksheets for all versions of the game. Answer sheets are included as well as color and black and white versions of each of the monsters in card form to hand out when students "capture a monster". There is also cover pages for making a booklet for the captured monsters as well as extra bonus cards for your students to earn.\ 
Each game set is also sold separately

I wanted to start with the addition scavenger hunt with my class. Here is what I became excited about. First, every student was very into the game after I gave the instructions and we did a sample problem together on the board. As the students went around the room solving the problems at the different stations, they were at first a bit unsure of how to solve the puzzles. Most caught on quickly, others needed a little support from myself or the classroom para. Not one kid showed frustration with the difficulty, but all students were challenged. At times they thought there was a "mistake" with a puzzle because the number they chose did not add up. I was able to show them that they had to try a different way to solve the puzzle if it didn't work correctly the first way. As they went along, the "buzz" in the classroom was one of discovery and excitement.

I used about an hour of class time and the kids still wanted to keep working on their puzzles, but we had to go to lunch. About one half of the class completed the 10 logic puzzles that they had been assigned and earned a monster card which they were able to color in and place in a monster card notebook that they created. The rest were told that they could finish the puzzles in their free time and before school and then get their monster card. They were enthusiastic about this.

The kids liked the monster cards and I heard many of them commenting on their favorite monsters.

I was most enthusiastic about the fact that it all worked so well after all my work. I was also thrilled that all the puzzles were right on target for my grade level and that every puzzle I made was accurate. This was satisfying as each of the games has 10 stations with the same logic puzzle card, but there are three different versions of each game. I divided the three different puzzles evenly with my students so there were three different versions of the game going on all at the same time. This was difficult when creating the puzzles as I had to get everything to work together and they did! It also upped the enthusiasm level as kids soon realized they were solving different puzzles than their friends and were going to earn different reward cards.

Next week when the students complete the other two versions of the addition puzzles, they should be able to solve them much quicker and with greater ease as their ability to reason out the solutions will be increased. Mission accomplished!

Each set of games is sold separately or you can purchase the whole set as a bundle. I also created a free version of one of the games if you would like to try it out with your class. The addition monster game set that I used in my class will be on sale for 1/2 price for a few days. You can find it here.

Here is a free version on one multiplication game.

Here are the Candy Monster Mixed Operations games.

Here are the Fire Monsters Multiplication Games.

Here are the Water Monsters Addition Games.

Here are the Wind Monsters Division games.

Here are the Light Monsters Subtraction games.

Here you can get the complete bundle at a reduced price.

I am real proud of creating this series of scavenger hunt games. It was very hard work. It felt like I was working harder than I do when I am in training for an endurance race! There are a couple of things I learned as a Teacher Pay Teacher creator that helped make my job easier.

When I first thought of the concept of this game there was one thing I knew I couldn't do well and that is create the monster characters. I was fortunate to find an artist who created the characters and I was able to license them for use in this product. Her characters were just perfect for what I had in mind. Tip #1 Find and pay for the resources that will make your job easier when creating a new product. I have gone on to purchase more of her clip art for other TPT products that I have created.

One of the most difficult steps in creating a product like this is getting everything right, including the math problems! I used up a couple of pads of paper trying out different number combinations and checking and rechecking my math and numbers. I was becoming math weary when I remembered that I had a Amazon Echo. I knew that I could ask my Echo questions and it would respond, so I tried it with my math questions. It worked! I was able to double and triple check my math using the Echo and it made my job that much easier. Last year I got a project funded through Donor's Choose to purchase an Amazon Echo for use in my classroom. I was thinking it would work for spelling and fact type questions. My students were fascinated that it could do math. Of course, I hit the button to turn it off, when my my students were doing these puzzles! Tip #2 Be creative with techology!