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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Top 10 Tech Tools for Back To School

Well, it’s officially here!  Professional development starts this week, and then I meet my new super third graders next Monday.  My new classroom is looking snazzy, and lesson plans are planned!

I promised a TOP 10 list of the best tech tools to start school, so here goes!  It’s really hard to narrow it down to just 10, but these are just a few of my FREE favorites.  I’ve tried to include a nice variety of websites and apps that make day to day teaching tasks easier and more effective.  Brace yourself—this could be a long post, but I promise it’ll be worth it! J
 
1. Trello    planning made simple                 

I raved about this awesome website and app in my last post.  Keep to do lists organized or plan units complete with images, attachments or checklists.  It’s my go-to every day to keep myself organized!


2.  Symbaloo   sharing made simple

If you’ll have a class website this year, Symbaloo is an amazing thing to include!  It’s a digital bookmarking site that lets you post your favorite websites all in one place.  Kids can easily navigate the tile-looking screen to find the websites that you’d like to send them to.  You can color code the tiles or even add simple icons to help your students know which sites are which.  I like to make symbaloo boards for math, reading, and science/social studies, then embed these in my class website.  Parents love this too as they can quickly find my favorite websites for practicing skills. 


3.  Kaywa     QR codes made simple

QR codes… I love ‘em.  These handy things are quick and easy to create with this website.   Type in the text you’d like, hit the “generate” button, and you’ll have a code that can be used for class information scavenger hunts, book reports, and even “all about me” projects.  Kids love the mystery and fun!  Use free apps like i-nigma to read them on your iTouch or iPad.


4.  Class Dojo   Class management made simple   


Another favorite.  This website is truly amazing in the classroom management department.  They’ve literally thought of everything from fun avatars to automatic parent email updates.  Best of all the folks at Class Dojo are constantly adding new features.  Check out the full scoop here on one of my previous blog posts. 


5.  Google Docs   Information gathering made simple  


Never underestimate the help that Google Docs can lend in starting your school year!  Google forms can be a lifesaver in getting contact information for the students in your class.  With free education templates, you can create forms that collect your classroom parents emails, student interest inventories, and more.  I’ve even used Google forms as an online reading log!  All information exports to a spreadsheet that keeps your data at your fingertips while avoiding the paper piles!


6.  Three Ring   data collection made simple

If you teach, you collect data--lots of data!  Three Ring takes data collection to a whole new level.  This website and app lets you snap pictures of writing samples, record audio for running record, and upload other files to document student progress.  Create virtual portfolios for each student, and manage RTI data safely and efficiently.   Be sure to check this one out!


7.  Remind 101  parent reminders made simple

Communicate important news in a snap with Remind 101!  Parents sign up to receive text notifications of classroom news, and teachers can send news quickly and easily to the group.  A generic classroom account sends the text so that all phone numbers remain private.  Great for field trip reminders, gym shoe reminders, spelling test reminders and more!


     

8.  Ed Canvas      content delivery made simple

Whether you flip your classroom or just like to “bundle” key concepts across videos, interactive websites and more, Ed Canvas is incredible!  It allows you to create simple modules that pull in various media to teach with.  Create an EdCanvas quickly and easily, and embed in your website for easy use.  There are also LOTS of "canvases" that other teachers have made and shared!  Don't miss this one!


9.   Volunteer Spot     coordinating made simple

Got a class wish list?  Need to organize room moms, classroom parties, or volunteers to help in the classroom?  Have parent/teacher conferences to schedule?  Volunteer Spot is my favorite way to quickly communicate what we need and when we need it!  Simply set up a calendar, list the items or volunteer descriptions needed, and email the invitation link.  Volunteer Spot does the rest, with email reminders sent to both parents and teacher.  I received lots of positive parent feedback on this when we used it to schedule conferences!  So easy to do, and I found nearly 100% participation whenever I used it.


10.  Too Noisy    classroom expectations made simple   


We all know how important it is to set classroom expectations early on!  This handy app lets kids clearly see when they’re being TOO NOISY!    Click here for more details on this awesome tool!




Whew!  Well, that’s my list of awesome tech tools!  

This is just a drop in the bucket not only for what’s out there for teachers, but also for what these tools can do!  I’d LOVE to hear what other tech apps and websites you like to make back to school even better.  Please share your comments! 



I wish you all the very best as you start this new school year! J

Melissa

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Trello

Today was classroom shopping day, one of my favorites all year.  I figure it’s kinda like back-to-school supply shopping when you’re a kid—just now it’s cute bulletin board stuff at the teacher store.  Today our local shop was hosting a sale and giveaways, so it sounded like a good idea to visit.  It was craaaa-zy busy!  But fun.  And I feel like a got a few bargains and still stayed within budget, so it was worth it! J

Let’s face it, we teachers spend a LOT of money about this time of year to get our classrooms set up just right.  I thought I would dedicate my next few posts to FREE things that help get more than just the walls and bulletin boards ready for the school year.  I have some super techie FREE resources to tell you about for everything from keeping parent communication quick and easy to presenting exciting content those first days of school.  So, my I’m dubbing my upcoming blog posts the “Top 10 Tech Countdown to Start the School Year Right!”  Sound good? 

I have such a great list of favorites that I had a hard time figuring out which one to start this countdown with.  I decided to go with my new favorite find last school year:  Trello.  

Oh my…. Trello CHANGED my teacher life last year.  Literally.  One day last fall my sweet techie friend Alli told me about it, and I’ve been hooked ever since!

Just what is Trello, and what does it do?  It’s actually a virtual work planning tool—almost like a “to do” bulletin board.  It’s all about organization.  You create customized Trello boards with category “lists.”  Within those lists, you can add more detailed “cards” to the boards.  You can very easily drag and rearrange the cards and lists, and there are all kinds of fancy things that you can do within those pieces.  The board default gives you “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done” lists, which is good enough right there.  However, you can fully CUSTOMIZE these as you’d like.



Trello has a website base, and is also a free iPhone and iPad app.  I started using Trello to map out my teaching units so that I could easily see everything in one place.  It totally changed the way that I plan lessons so that I can really map out the big picture. 

Here’s why I LOVE Trello:

It’s free.  I know I’ve said that already, but…

It’s super easy to use!

It’s perfect for planning theme units and keeping everything in one       place (essential questions, I Can statements, differentiation ideas,       standards, projects).  If your looking to get more organization in your       teacher life, this is the tool for you!

You can upload pictures right onto the cards.  Pinterest pics?  In my     lesson plans?  Yes please.

You can share it with other teammates.  Invite anyone simply to your boards. 

You can export your boards to PDF format.  This is great for easy 
printing, saving and even uploading to online lesson planning tools.

You can color code “cards” on the boards.

You can comment on the cards.  Need to collaborate with a colleague?  This is perfect for that!

You can add checklists—I can statements, questions you’ll ask, etc.

You can upload attachments to the boards for easy access. I attached all of my activity sheets, tests, rubrics, and such right on
the Trello board.  It was so great to have it all right there.


Best of all, I love having Trello on my iPhone and iPad.  My lesson plans are always on hand!  Some weeks I didn’t even print em out because all I needed was my good ol Trello board.

Here’s a picture of a Trello board that I put together for my science unit on matter.



Here’s another one of my boards for math.  My teammate and I were able to plan out a whole month at the end of the year with this!




I have to say, I've had to learn how to be organized and make life more simple.  I love using Trello for that.  No more post-it notes all over the place. :)  I use this for lesson planning, menus, to do lists…. I even planned my sister’s baby shower with people in 3 different states sharing a Trello board.  I hope you find this something that can be helpful, and if you already use it, I'd love to hear what creative ways you've found to use it too!  

Be sure to stick around for the NEXT upcoming blog post about other Top 10 Tech Favorites for Back to School.  More great ideas to come soon!



Melissa

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Frosty Factors & GIVEAWAY!

Whoah!  This girl has REALLY been on a summer HIATUS from the teacher blogging world!  My bestie and I were just chatting about how guilty we feel for not getting more accomplished this summer. then we stopped to remind ourselves that we work all year to have this time for R&R!   It really has been nice to get to do some fun, relaxing things with friends and family and recharge my battery a bit.  And there’s STILL some summer left, right?  I figure it’s time to pace myself a bit and chip away at fun school stuff! J

I’ve started thinking about math centers this year and how to tweak my structure a bit.  One thing I know for sure is that I want to have a LOT of math games ready that can be pulled out a moment’s notice to work on different skills.  This year my new classroom has AWESOME storage, and I plan on filling a bunch of those cubbies up with math games and centers!

I kinda got on an ice cream roll with my last project, IceCream EquationsI had so much fun with it that I took it a step further with this multiplication activity, Frosty Factors!  In my school district, third graders this year are going to start working on multiplication facts from the start of school (yes!).  I’m excited to plug this game into my centers to help my kiddos practice those facts!






It's a fun card game where kiddos race to find factor "scoops" that make the product shown on their "cone" cards.  The first player to scoop up 10 product wins!  There's a set of directions included for play, as well as several variations for struggling and more advanced learners!

I just posted this activity in my TPT store, and welcome any feedback!  As a matter of fact, I’m giving away Frosty Factors to one lucky reader!  Be my next blog follower, and I’ll send you a FREE copy!  Pretty sweet!

Stay FROSTY in this extreme summer heat!


Melissa

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ice Cream Equations!

Oh summer---I’m so glad you’re here! J  It’s been just a week, and I’ve already spent an entire day in the pool, read a whole book, and eased into summer relaxing mode!  It’s awesome. 

I promised myself I’d catch up on some R&R at the beginning of summer break.  At the same time, I love using this time to get a head start and chip away at my to do list for the fall.  I was browsing Etsy just for fun, and the cutest ice cream clip art ever jumped out at me—I had to buy it and make something for my class with it!  I tweaked and worked at it, and love how it turned out.  Think it will be a great activity for the start of the school year! 



The result is Ice Cream Equations! It’s an equation-building card game where kids race to build a target number with a certain amount of “scoops” (number cards).  Players can add, subtract, multiply or divide as long as the end result is the number on their ice cream “cone” card.  Sometimes they’ll be asked to build a number with 2 scoops, sometimes with 5 scoops, and everything in between!






The set includes student directions as well as easy variation ideas to make the game easier or more challenging for your students.  There are printable ice cream scoop and cone cards for play, and a game mat where players record their equations and “race” to the sprinkles on top.  Cute little cherry chips are included to be hands-on manipulatives for building the equations with +, - x, and ÷ symbols. 

One of the biggest challenges I feel with teaching math today is building students’ number sense, fact fluency, and mental math skills.  I’m hopeful that this game targets all of these, and will be motivating and FUN for kiddos at the same time!  I plan on this being a staple in my math centers in the fall!


Scoop up some FUN, and take number sense and critical thinking skills to the next level!  Hope you'll check out Ice Cream Equations at my TPT store!  Stay COOL today and have some summer fun!  J


                                                Melissa

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Pet Shop Prices! A QR code activity


WOW!  Time is FLYING!  There are just days left with my sweet kiddos, and it has been busy, busy, busy!  It’s been way too long since I’ve posted last so I’m happy to be finally blogging again! 

We just wrapped up our 3rd grade economics sale last week, and our super 9 & 10-year olds raised a whopping $1,000+ to donate to the local food bank!  It was quite the project and they did a super job!  The kids learned so much about marketing, packaging, and income and expenses.  It was also the perfect opportunity to loop back and practice MONEY MATH! J  We added totals, reviewed ways to count coins accurately, and practiced strategies for making change.  LOTS of learning went into that one day sale!

I put together a few money math centers for this, and Pet Shop Prices was one of the kids’ favorites for sure!  



After being inspired by some SUPER CUTE pet clip art, I came up with a pet shop theme for adding dollar amounts with accuracy.  Students are basically “running the shop!”  Using a “price sign” for items in the store, they fill out dollar amounts on their student receipt sheet.  They add the totals and double check to make sure that they are correct.  THEN….the fun part:  they use an iTouch, iPad, or smartphone and QR code app as a price “scanner” to see if they were right.  They were HOOKED!




I’ve posted Pet Shop Prices here on my TPT store.  It includes the Pet Shop price sign, a student reproducible sheet with 8 “receipts” for them to solve.  There are self-checking QR codes on each receipt.  There are also paper price check cards to print out and use if QR code reader technology isn’t handy. 
We had so much fun with this, so I hope you’ll take a look and check it out!  Hope you are enjoying these last few days of school and gearing up for a relaxing summer!  J

More soon,

Melissa

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Character Trading Cards


Woohooooooo!  State testing wrapped up this week!  Kiddos and teachers everywhere have lots to be proud of! J  Big….sigh….of….relief!

We have a little more than a month to go on our campus, and I’m looking forward to making those last days of school really count!  One thing’s for sure, I want to keep my students reading, reading, reading through the rest of the school year and well into the summer.  If you’re looking for fun ways to do this too, I’ve got a GREAT tool for you:  Trading Card Creator!




This fun FREE online tool comes from ReadWriteThink.org, the website of the International Reading Association.  It lets kids create a virtual trading card where they describe a character’s feelings, actions, and more—all based on the text they’re reading.  Students can upload images, save and even print their double-sided trading cards for sharing.  What a great way to have kiddos talk about the books they love and spread their excitement! 

You can access the card creator here, or there’s even a FREE iPad app.  Both the app and website are excellent!  


This web tool is really versatile, so you can even have kids create trading cards of events, story settings, abstract concepts of more.  Lots to explore with the Trading Card Creator, and this is just ONE of the super activities on ReadWriteThink.org. 

My kids LOVE making these, and have a blast trading them!  What a fun way to keep that learning going through the last days of school!

I’m dabbling here and there with some other great end-of-year activities to keep the kids engaged and learning—I’ll be blogging about those later this week!

Have fun trading! J

Melissa

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Easter Egg Math Challenge!


Looking for something math-y to do this week?  I’ve got a fun activity to share!

Call me goofy, but don’t you just love those little plastic Easter eggs that are EVERYWHERE right now?  They’re inexpensive, come in all kinds of colors and designs, and are just plain fun—so I had to find some ways to pair them with learning!  I’ve got a few things in the hopper (unfortunately down to the wire with Easter just a week away), and am hoping to crank them out in the next day or two.  I finally sat down today to finish at least one.  Here it is—the Easter Egg Math Challenge!

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With this math problem-solving EGGStravaganza,  learners solve story problems, then check inside a matching plastic egg to confirm their answers!  Simply copy, cut, and tuck the answer slips into 8 plastic numbered eggs—it’s ready to go!  It includes 8 higher-level math questions, and I’ve also included blank question and answer templates so that students can write their own questions too! 













I use this as a math center, and put all the answer eggs in a cute little Easter basket and the student recording sheets nearby.  My kiddos LOVE this activity, and the simple peeking into the eggs to see if they’re right!  It’s a great review of math concepts such as elapsed time, area & perimeter, number patterns, multi-step operations, and more!  A fun math center, partner activity, or whole group review.  It’s math critical thinking combined with Easter basket fun!  Hop on over to TPT to check out the preview! 

Melissa

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Too Noisy?


It’s probably happening in just about every classroom in America this week:  spring break fever!  The students know it’s coming…the teachers know it’s coming…and everyone is ready for a few days of vacation!  And with all this excitement often comes an increase in chattiness!  I’m definitely a teacher that encourages kids to talk about their ideas and problem solve with their peers in class, but sometimes we all get a little TOO loud!

This week I think I found a solution.  Better yet, it’s a FREE solution!  It’s a genius app called Too Noisy!  This wonderful tool uses a visual meter to signal kids when the classroom is becoming too loud.  A yellow sky warns that the decibels are climbing, and a black stormy sky tells students that they’ve passed the noise threshold!  I like that you can adjust the sensitivity according to the situation and environment too!

Just right!

Getting loud!
TOO noisy!
I use it by opening the app on my iPad, and putting it under the document camera in my class.  It’s a big enough display to even just put the iPad at the front of the room for students to see.  Small groups could even take an iTouch with the app as a great reminder!  Too Noisy is available on both iPad and iPhone, so there’s nice flexibility.

I used it yesterday when a group of 8 kiddos practicing Reader’s Theater got a little bit too loud.  With it, they were able to work much more quietly--in the hallway no less!  I used it today when we were packing up for the day.  It’s such a simple way to give kiddos feedback on how loud their voices should be.  I’m a fan! 

Again, this app is FREE but for $1.99 a few more bells and whistles such as different background themes and a counter that tracks how many times the noise meter has reached its peak.  Check it out in the app store or at toonoisyapp.com.

Hang in there kids!  Hang in there teachers!  Spring break is just around the corner! This tool might just help a little bit in the meantime!  J


Melissa

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Spelling Speedway!


Looking for something fun to add to your class word work routine?  Wish that your students practiced spelling more frequently?  The 3rd graders in my class work on their spelling words daily, but I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a rut these last few weeks in the word activity choices they have.  I’ve been trying to think of some new ways to make word work FUN, and had some inspiration finally hit!
Can’t wait to introduce this new game to the kids this week:  Spelling Speedway!



This racecar-themed game gives students an exciting way to practice their spelling words while racing head-to-head with their partner!  Using the spelling patterns that they are working on, players spin the word spinner, find what pattern they need to spell, then fill in correctly-spellled words along the “lanes” of their Spelling Speedway board.  Partners have to check their peer’s spelling for the words to count, and there are even “Pit Passes” on the spinner that allow the kids to choose what pattern they spell on their board.



I’ve posted the set on my Teachers Pay Teachers site, so be sure to take a look! It includes 3 different spinner and gameboard versions so that you can easily tweak the one used based on the spelling list that a child is working on.  Works with ANY spelling list (2, 3 or 4 patterns), and super easy to differentiate!  Along with the teacher directions, I’ve also included a student-friendly version of game instructions so that kids can quickly set up the game and start playing!

Looking forward to adding this to my literacy stations this week, and hoping that kids will “race” to it. J




Melissa

Sunday, February 24, 2013

St. Patrick's Day MATH


Top o’ the morning to you!  J

March 1st is this week, and St. Patty’s Day is just around the corner.  With all of the green, shamrocks and rainbows popping up now, I decided that it was time for another around-the-room math scavenger hunt!  I’m looking forward to doing this St. Patrick’s Day FUN Math Scavenger Hunt with my students over the next few weeks!


This is one of my favorite math activities!  Students are up, moving and on a mission to solve challenging math word problems!  They know their answers are correct if they can find it on another hunt card around the room.  They like the variety and chance to work around the room, and I like the review and practice!
This set includes 10 St. Patty’s Day-themed question cards, a student recording sheet and an answer key.  It includes problems on computation, multi-step problem solving, probability, math reasoning and more.  You can see a preview HERE.


If you like this hunt, be sure to check out the others in my TPT store!  Enjoy, and may your days start to be more spring-like and GREEN! J

Melissa

Sunday, February 17, 2013

February Fraction FREEBIE!


Is it just me, or has February FLOWN by?!  It may have been the nearly 2 weeks that I was down with pneumonia—I feel like I missed a lot, and am finally catching up.

Our 3rd grade classroom has been a little beehive of activity this month, and we’re delving into FRACTIONS!  Looking forward to setting up a classroom fraction museum on Friday.  The kids will be “docents” explaining their fraction exhibits to the other classes that will visit our room.   Can’t wait to see what they come up with!

We have some work to do before then so that we’re fraction “experts.”  I LOVE trying to incorporate writing into math to further solidify the students’ understanding.  That’s how this Writing RAFT freebie came about.  It’s a February FREEBIE from me to you! J


RAFT stands for Role, Audience, Format, and Topic.  It's a great way to differentiate writing and to provide choice and challenge!  Students choose from 6 different writing prompts to show what they know about fractions!  The prompts are color-coded for easy use.  A great way to extend math and assess what students really understand about fractions!

You can grab your free RAFT at my TPT store by clicking here.  Hope you can use this with your kiddos, and I’d love to hear your feedback!
Enjoy! J

Melissa

Friday, January 25, 2013

Candy-themed Graphing!


Anytime you can take a math concept and link it to something that kids LOVE, it’s a win.  So how about CANDY?  Is there a way to pull candy into a key math skill?  YES! J

This week in my classroom we are delving into data analysis and graphing.  I want my students to not just read different kinds of graphs but to MAKE them as well.  I find that when they have to come up with the scale on the graph, or to cut and place the pictures on a pictograph, it takes their understanding of how graphs work to a much deeper level. 

So I started to think about graphing…then started to think of how to add the “fun factor.”  This Candy Factory GRAPH-tastic Math Centers kit was the result.   


There are 5 different math stations, all around a “Candy Factory” theme.  Students take the role of “Candy Factory Manager” while trying scenarios where different types of graphs and data could be used.  They'll be working with pictographs, bar graphs, coordinate graphs, line graphs and more.  I may even pass out a few Skittles to add to the fun. J




I can’t wait to try this with my kiddos this week during math centers!  The task cards give clear directions on what students are to do, and there are matching student activity sheets on which they can do their work.  I’m thinking that I’ll get some of those plastic stand-up page holders to put the task cards in, and set up the 5 different stations around the room.

I've just added this to my TPT store, and hope that it's something you can use!  It includes 5 different task cards and the printable student sheets to go with each task.  A grading rubric and answer key is included as well!  

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend!  Stay warm and stay well! 

Melissa