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Science Fair Made Easy (and Free!)

No school project strikes fear in hearts of kids, parents and teachers quite like the science fair project! It just sounds daunting! All those steps, the board, notebook, pictures! I remember quite clearly fretting over my own science fair projects in school, although to be fair, my first one wasn't until sixth grade.

Now, kids from Kindergarten on up are exposed to the process of a science fair project, at least at our school. I have to say, this would have been very helpful for me instead of trying to figure it all out on my own in sixth grade! And this was B.G. (before Google!).

At our school we have very specific expectations for each grade level regarding the science fair. Every teacher is expected to complete one class project along with some other student activity. In second grade, our job is to complete the class project and then have each student create a mini-show board of that project. I believe third grade does the same, but they add the notebook, so that by fourth/fifth grade the students have been exposed to and taken part in the science project process and it's not quite the fear-inducing assignment that it sometimes becomes.

I have a science project display board that I keep from year to year. It's a lot of work to re-create this thing every year and I really don't see the need to do so. We do the ol' flowers in food coloring experiment every year and the kids really dig it! I actually don't show them the finished board as we're completing parts of the project. We talk through the whole thing and I take notes on the whiteboard as we go along and take pictures of the flowers each day.



Then finally, I share the completed board with them - lots of oooh's and ahhh's usually! Then I give them the copies of their mini-project and we glue it all in place following the example on the big board. I try to convince them to keep it in a safe place until third grade to use a model when they have the option of doing their own project.


If you don't have access to a color printer, you can definitely print these in black and white and have the kids color over them. If this looks like something you'd like to do, feel free to download the mini student version {HERE} from GoogleDocs and you can find the full size version {HERE} to make your own class display board.


Hope that helps make the dreaded science project a little less dreadful!


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Things That are Most in the World

Well, right now if you asked me, "Hey, Denise - What's most in the world?" I'd probably say, "The time between now and the last day of freakin school already!!!".  I don't want to seem like I hate my job and can't wait to run for the hills on June 7, but something happens in an elementary school during the last two weeks that is enough to drive even the most sane person, well...insane!

It's a deadly storm. The kids know they're almost done, the assessments, recording of assessments, data notebook work, artic cards, forming classes, report cards, textbook counts, class party...ugh...Calgon take me away!!  I know you feel me. Unless you're already out for the summer. In which case I am extremely jealous. EXTREMELY!

So, as the year winds down and I begin to move things around to pack (oh, left that off the list, didn't I...) I've started to realize that I haven't had a chance to share some of my most favorite books with this class. I decided to share one each day and try to squeeze in at least a little activity to go with it.

Today I read the book Things that are Most in the World by Judi Barrett. It's a great book to introduce superlatives. It's also a great mentor text for word choice, fluency and ideas. It's a quick read, but the phrases and the illustrations are a big hit with the kids. Lots of laughs with this one. One of the pages tells the wiggliest thing in the world is a snake on ice skates. Click on the pic below to check out the book if you'd like.

After I shared the book, we brainstormed a list of other -est words - coldest, coolest, weirdest, funniest, etc. Then in their writer's notebooks they wrote a few ideas using an -est word of their choice following the pattern the author used on each page. Finally, we published it and added an illustration. Not a huge, deep lesson - but it was a great way get a little more out of the book than just a read aloud.

If you'd like the form to use with your own class, just click here to download from Google Docs.

I made one too: The happiest thing in the world is drinking coffee from a real cup on the first morning of summer. But I forgot to take a picture of it. ;0)

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Money, Money, Money!

Money time! Nope, not in my paycheck or any craziness like that - just the joy of playing with plastic coins that never, ever accidentally fly across the room when we're supposed to be counting by 5's or 10's. Funny how those suckers get so slippery in the hands of antsy 8 year olds...<insert MASSIVE eye-roll here>

I actually spent a bit of time figuring out how to keep those coins on the desks and in their hands instead of flying around the room and ending up on the floor. I'm not sure I've come up with the perfect solution to that, BUT I did kind of accidentally create a game in the process! I've seen the race to a 100 games and things on Pinterest, so I guess that was kind of rattling around in my brain. I came up with a Race to a Quarter version. The top half is upside down so that two kids can sit facing each other with the game board in the middle of them and each can see their own side of the board right side up (please tell me that makes sense...) Here's the board - just click on it to download from GoogleDocs.

Now, here's the fun part. I made some money dice! I had picked up these little wooden squares at Michaels for an entirely different purpose that I totally can not remember at the moment. They were really cheap, like $3 for a bag of 20 or so. I found them over in the woodworking section. Again, no clue what I wanted them for at the time...scary.  Then I took some of the plastic coin manipulatives and stuck them on the sides of the block with glue dots. Voila! Money dice! I think I'm pretty awesome right now, so if someone else has already created this, don't tell me.


To play the game, give each pair of kids one game board, one money cube and some small markers to cover the spaces on the board. Have the kids take turns rolling the cube and cover up the same amount of spaces as the coin they land on. If they roll a penny, they can cover one space, a nickel 5 spaces, etc. The first player to roll to 25 cents is the winner.

Have fun my friends! I have a few more ideas for teaching money, so as long as someone hides my Kindle, I'll have them posted in the next few days :)

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Shaving cream and recess

Hey Friends!

I can't believe it's been over a week since I posted. Well, scratch that. I can believe it. It's been CRA-ZEE around these parts lately. I'm sure you all know the feeling. It doesn't help that I recently became obsessed with started reading about Christian and Anastasia. Whoa. After a rocky start and almost abandoning the book, I ended up blazing through all three of the 50 Shades books in a couple of days. Not my usual type of read, for sure - but let's just say I'm glad I stuck with it! I am the first to admit I'm a bit addicted to my electronic devices (keep it clean, ladies! I'm talking about my Mac, iPhone, internet, etc...) but every once in a while it's nice to unplug and curl up with a good book.

Before I go on, I must address my last post, Testy about Testing. I was actually a bit hesitant to post it because I really do like to keep the focus of my blog completely positive. Things like testing and the emphasis placed upon it was one of the reasons I found myself at a crossroads a while ago and became the impetus for this blog. Though I don't want to dwell on it, it is a harsh reality of our profession and addressing it seemed the right thing to do. Your supportive comments were so needed and appreciated, so thank you for indulging me in a little rant! (And for making me daydream about teaching in Switzerland!)

So, I am back to reality and ready to face the last 10 days of school full force! I don't usually do this, but this year I decided to have a fun 10 day countdown with a totally out of the ordinary activity each day. My students are pretty, um...active for lack of a better term, so I wasn't quite sure what would happen when I busted out the shaving cream for today's desk writing activity, but a good, messy time was had by all, and then the room smelled like a clean dad for the rest of the day, so win-win.

After we cleaned up we headed outside for a crazy HUGE event. Our school recently won the Dannon Rally for Recess Playground Contest which came with a $20,000 playground makeover and the most outrageous recess party I have ever seen! There were carnival games, organized sports, popsicles, yogurt (of course) and ginormous inflatables the likes of which I have never seen! You've got to see some of this...






It was hot and wild, but the kids had a ball. Our only casualty was a bee sting to the nose, poor kid. After all that I was pooped! Straight home, into the shower and into bed for me.

Even though I'm counting my way down to summer (can I get an AMEN?) my teacher-brain is still spinning out of control with thoughts of next year. What the what, now?? Anyone know the secret to how to turn this thing off, because it seriously keeps me up at night. As I'm packing up I'm thinking about how I might arrange things differently next year. I'm already deciding on a welcome back bulletin board, I'm working on games and centers. I actually have a cute idea for teaching money that I'll be sharing in a few days.  Just plain crazy, but that's par for the course lately. Such is the life of a teacher!

It's good to be back to my blog, but for now...

Laters, baby <---my fellow Fifty fans will get that one ;0)

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Testy about Testing

On Tuesday, I attended a CCSS training in an old ratty training center that is supposed to be central for everyone, but I'm not buying it. On the way there, I got into a minor accident that had me all shaky the rest of the day (very minor, everything is just fine!) I met a sweet blog reader (Hi Ellie!) while I was there, so that was cool. But I have to say I was getting a tiny bit frustrated with some of what was being said at the training.

One of the sessions started with a blurb about America's decline in regard to global education rankings. I'm wondering how this measure is taken. It's not as though every country is giving the same assessment. Heck, not every state is giving the same assessment. Is it taken into account that as a nation we accept every single child into our schools with open arms, regardless of mental or physical disabilities, race, religion or value placed on education, which is not the case in some of the countries we're being compared to. But more importantly,  I can't help but think that the tests that are given to today's students are markedly more difficult and complex than those given to students years ago. The bar is consistently being raised and the standards are getting ever higher. Case in point: one of the trainers shared a current sample test question for third graders. Here it is:
This is for a third grader. An eight year old. A child who just learned how to add two years ago.
Did you guess the right answer? It's I. The third grader is supposed to be able to understand that they should use the variable 'b' to stand for the total number of beach balls, then divide it by the number of friends at the party if each one got 2 balls.

I grew up in the 80's, the era when we were supposedly more "globally competitive". I will tell you that my third grade math test did NOT look like that. Maybe my 6th grade test, but definitely not third grade. My third grade test would have just asked me to find the answer to the question, not formulate an equation with a variable that could be used to solve it. So when it's stated that the American students' test scores have slipped so much, I keep thinking about things like this. What are we comparing? If we gave today's fifth graders the same test I took as a fifth grader, would it look like we've made amazing progress as I suspect, or would it still show a steep decline? Is it me? What do you think?

I don't want to seem like I'm against CCSS, because I'm not. I'm fully embracing it and I'm excited about it. I also don't want to seem like I'm against raising the bar for our students. I think it's necessary and possible.  I'm just worried about the way the results of today's test scores are compared to those of years ago when the tests are nowhere near the same level. I'm not suggesting we use the test from years ago, but comparing the results is kind of like apples and oranges.

So, enough of my soap-box for today. I will leave you with the one thing that did crack me up at the training. During one portion, a trainer had the full attention of about 35 teachers in the room when she said that the one thing she'd really like to see a lot more of in elementary school classrooms is porn! The poor woman turned about 12 different shades of red. She meant to say poems! When someone asked her, she admitted that she was reading 50 Shades of Grey... I guess that story sticks with ya!!

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Working with Word Walls

Hey Friends!  I am super excited to welcome one of blog buddies, Jeannie, to share a great idea with you today! Don't be fooled by the title of her blog, what she's got to share will be 
perfect for older kids as well. Enjoy!



Hi ya'll!!  My name is Jeannie and I blog over at Kindergarten Lifestyle. I do currently teach kinder but I have taught 1st and 2nd as well. I am super THRILLED that Denise was gracious enough to allow me to guest blog for her! She has one of the most amazing blogs and I stalked her like crazy before I started my own blog! :0)

A tad bit about myself: I've taught for 8 years in grades Kinder, 1st, and 2nd. My heart is in primary for sure! Those little people brighten my life each and every day! I have a M.Ed in Reading and teaching reading and writing truly is my passion!

One of the most important tools I use everyday in class is our word wall. The word wall is the center of so much learning. I could talk for hours about the importance of "doing" the word wall versus "having" a word wall. Putting words on the wall will never get the kids attention let alone ingrain those words in their hearts and minds. As a teacher you know how important it is for the kids to practice reading and writing those words EVERYDAY. It takes a creative teacher to come up with enough varied activities to keep word wall fun and engaging, but it is critical!

I wanted to share just one really cool activity I do with my class. It is called "Trace & Paste". I am giving you this FREEBIE of some 2nd grade level words so you can take it for a test-drive....

Before I explain, I should let you know that I back all my word wall words with a bright color. In fact, I use FREE paint chip cards (the large ones at Walmart) to back the words. I can't stand using construction paper as it fades so quickly. And, as a teacher - I love FREE!! Here are what my word wall words look like: 

(Click HERE to read more about this)

With this activity I introduce the first word (sheet) as a whole group activity during word wall time. The kids begin by coloring the word wall word the color that matches the color it is backed with on the word wall. For example, my word "play" is backed with orange so the kids will color "play" orange.

Then they trace the word and write it independently.

The really fun part comes next. They cut out the letters at the bottom and glue them in the correct order above. The kids LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this activity. I place it in writing center, but it could easily go in an ABC center or other word study center. 



CLICK HERE to get your freebie!

 My kids sure love doing this and they are able to really see the parts of the whole word and how they come together! :0)

If you like what you see, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see you over at my blog: Kindergarten Lifestyle!

Thanks again, Denise!! You are a sweetheart!

jeannie from Kindergarten Lifestyle

Currently in May

Love me some Currently hosted by Farley over at Oh Boy Fourth Grade! Here's mine - hop over to Farley's place to make your own and link up!

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I'm a Mirror

I'm a mirror. I know it. I've always known it. The louder I am, the louder the kids are. When I'm frazzled and unorganized, the kids are frazzled and unorganized. As we inch ever so slowly toward June and the lazy days of summer, I find my self saying, "Seriously?" and "Really, guys?" way more often than I like.  And guess what I hear coming out of the mouths of my students more often than I'd like...

I read a story recently about a man who put a voice recorder in his autistic son's shirt pocket, because he was concerned about the treatment he was receiving at school. His son, being nonverbal, couldn't communicate with him, so this father thought he was doing what was necessary to protect his son. While I don't necessarily agree with the father's actions, it turns out that what was on that recording device at the end of the day was less than professional, although not abusive.

I've been thinking a lot about that and while I don't think anyone would actually tape me in class, I've been asking myself how I would sound if, in fact, someone was. My goal is to go home at the end of the day knowing that I would have nothing to be ashamed of if that were to happen to me. Most of the time I'd be pretty darn happy to share what goes on in my room with the rest of the world, so having that goal in the back of my mind really pulls me through those rough moments. You know, those moments when you've given the same directions 5 times and half of the class still doesn't know what to do. When you remind them 15 times that we're going to lunch and someone still forgets their lunchbox in the room. When a kid is playing airplane with the center materials instead of actually doing the center activity. When you've asked and asked for them to check to be sure no one has two copies of something because you're one short - and then they finally find it AFTER you've had to stop your lesson to fumble with the copier to make one more?? You know those moments. We all do.

Now, it's not always easy and I'm certainly not perfect. But I am a mirror and I know that my actions, words and behaviors are reflected back at me by 18 innocent children every day. Luckily, the good stuff bounces back just as easily as the not-so-good stuff. Maybe even more so.

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