Primary Chalkboard: The Primary Techie
Showing posts with label The Primary Techie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Primary Techie. Show all posts

TAKE IT OUTSIDE - 8 Educational Ideas with Sidewalk Chalk

Hi Friends!  This is Autumn from The Primary Techie.  Today I am blogging to you from my backyard.  It is the first day of spring, and I am loving the beautiful weather in Arizona.  Where I live, the temps get into the mid 120's in the summer and winter is very cold and breezy.  My kiddos don't get lots of beautiful-outside-weather days, so when we have them, I take full advantage.  One of my favorite things about spring is taking our learning outdoors.  Here are eight of my favorite outdoor activities the just require a little sidewalk chalk.

 1.  From Worksheets to the Sidewalk - I have the kids work with a partner and give each pair a piece of chalk and a clipboard with a worksheet or workbook page.  One student is the "teacher" with the clipboard and worksheet.  The other is the "student" with the sidewalk chalk.  The teacher tells the student what to write and solve from the worksheet.  The teacher is responsible for checking the work.  They take turns being the student and the teacher.  This is a WONDERFUL activity for differentiation because each set of partners can have unique worksheets.  They are spread out across the playground so they are not really comparing work or answers.  This is a great way to review skills.

2.  Walking Club Obstacle Course - I started "Walking Club" several years ago when I was trying to get fit.  During recess, I just started walking laps.  I quickly gained a group of students who wanted to join me in my laps around the playground.  We took our walking club to the next level by adding fun challenges with sidewalk chalk.  Usually, I let the kids draw obstacles on the side walk with chalk and we do the challenges as we walk our laps. They might draw tight ropes that we have to stay on, creaky bridges that cause us to lose our balance, bombs to avoid, or stones paths that we must hop on as we do the laps.  This is so much fun and I highly recommend it.  I have had some kids come up with REALLY cool challenges.  To make this activity more academic, I have them write sight words that we can read as we walk, math facts that we must answer along our path, skip count challenges (count by 2's from one green line to the next, count by 5's from one purple line to the next, etc.)  This is such a fun way to be active and practice some of our classroom skills. You can read more about my Walking Club on The Primary Techie.  Click here.

3.  The Illustration Challenge - Students use sidewalk chalk or sidewalk paint and I assign them a block of concrete along the sidewalk.  They have to create an illustration from their favorite story.  When they are finished, we guess what story they illustrated.  This is also a fun follow-up to a class writing project.  They can write their own stories in the classroom and then illustrate them outside.  I read the stories to the class and they choose which story goes with each illustration.

4.  Meet My Friend - I LOVE celebrating the kids in my classroom.  Everybody loves to be recognized and get a little pat on the back.  I have my kids work with a partner on this one.  They trace their friend's body on the sidewalk then draw details on their outline.  If it is too hot to lay on the sidewalk, we just trace shadows.  Next, they title their work "Meet ______" and they write sentences about what makes their partner special.  More advanced writers can write a paragraph.  Beginning writers can make a list of words.

5.  Make a Map - Kids always love creating maps!  I have them make a floor plan of their homes, their dream home, or our school.  They can plan their own city or amusement park.  I love to see how excited and creative my kiddos get with these projects.  We also include map features like compasses and legends.

6.  Geometry City - Divide the kids into groups and have them create two cities - one where each building has a line of symmetry and the other where no buildings have a line of symmetry.  You could also have one group make a city using specific shapes or attributes of shapes that you are learning about.

7. Measure It - Have the kids draw lines or shapes on the sidewalk and then have their friends measure the lines with their feet.  They can record their measurements on the sidewalk.  This is a great way to introduce non-standard measurement and discuss why we might have different answers.

8.  Life Size Board Games - Take your favorite games and make a giant version.  You can make a board game and let your students be the pieces.  This is fun to play with big foam dice.  Roll the dice to see how many spots you get to move, answer the question correctly to move forward.  You can use this to review ANY subject.  Work with other teachers to take turns drawing the giant board game that each of your classes can use.

I hope that you find some of these ideas fun and useful with your own group of students.  I encourage you to look at your classwork this spring and try to think of ways to take it outside.  Your students will love the change of environment and the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.  Please share your ideas and comments below.

Until next time,

Read Like a Techie - Using your Board for the Ultimate Big Books

Hi, Friends!  It is Autumn from The Primary Techie.  Today I am going to blog about one of my biggest passions - reading books off my smartboard.  This is really the BEST use I have found for my smartboard.  It literally changed the way I read to my kids.  (By the way, you do NOT need a smartboard!  Any board with a projector will work for this!)

This all started with a book about ants and an "ah-ha" moment.  Several years ago, I grabbed a book off my shelf to read to my first graders.  Now, let me start with a little honesty.  I had already read this book to a few classes and I know that kids do not like this book.  Why read a book kids don't like?  I paid like ten bucks for this book and I liked it!  It fit perfectly with the ant theme I was teaching.  How do I know kids didn't like it?  I didn't hold their interest.  Every time I read this book, my class turned naughty (which told me they were bored).  I decided I was going to try it again with this class.  After all, that book was TEN BUCKS!  I started reading and sure enough, the naughty stuff started.  Rolling around, beauty shop, flicking rocks.  It all started happening as I read.  I asked (more to myself than to them) "Why don't kids like this book?" and one of my little guys said, "It is because we can't see it."  It was the most profound "ah-ha" moment for me.  Of course!  They need to SEE it!  I decided at that moment that I was going to scan the pages of the book and read it again on my board.  I worked on it while my kids were at recess.  I scanned each page and then put the images together in a PowerPoint.

I read the book again when they came back.  The difference was A-ma-ZING!  They were engaged and focused.  They were asking questions about the story as I read it.  THEY LOVED THE ANT BOOK!  I immediately noticed a difference in MY reading.  I was not reading TO these kids; I was reading WITH them!  It was so much easier, effortless, and natural to model think-alouds and comprehension strategies.  We were SHARING the book as we never had before.  We stopped to talk about details in the illustrations and text that I never would have mentioned before.  They were actually reading along with the words as I read.  I knew that very day that I needed to scan ALL my books and read to my class in this new way.

That year, scanning books was my life.  I scanned before and after school, during recess and lunch.  If I was not teaching, I was scanning.  I scanned...(are you ready for this?)....800 books that year!  Yee-haw!  I saved each file as the book title.  This makes it so easy for me to find the books I want.  I also created folders on my desktop for each month.  I can easily find Christmas books in my December folder.  This has saved me tons of time plus the joys of NEVER HAVING TO PUT BOOKS AWAY!!!!

But wait!  I don't want to be a party-pooper, but we better talk legalities.  I must tell you that I was quite worried that I was going to go to jail for scanning all these books.  800 books seems like a pretty serious offense, right?  I have a super guilty conscious and I worried about going to jail for scanning books all the time.  I knew it was the best way to read to my class, but I wasn't sure I was willing to go to jail for it!  I literally worried that one of my students would mention my scanning to their fathers (I had a couple cop dads that year) and I was going to go to jail.  So, I came clean and asked those cop dads about it.  They assured me that I didn't need to worry about going to jail for scanning books.  I still felt kinda bad, so I asked a judge (guilty conscious strikes again) and he put me at ease.  He said, "Do you worry that you will go to jail for putting music from your CDs on your ipod?"  I told him no.  He said it is the same thing.  As long as you purchased those books and you are using them for your own personal use, you don't need to worry about going to jail.  I felt SOOOO much better after hearing it this way.  When I tell teachers that I have scanned 800 books, sometimes they ask to buy them from me.  This is a huge no-no.  I could NEVER sell or even give away the books I have scanned.  I never-ever-ever post them online or anywhere that they could be copied.  I don't even share my books with my teacher friends.  I am encouraging you to use YOUR OWN books for YOUR OWN classroom.  You don't want to worry about going to jail, right?

Why not just read big books?  Reading from the board is 100% better than reading big books.  While big books are bigger than regular books, they are so much smaller than my board.  It is also such a pain in the patootie to turn the pages, hold the books, and don't get me started on storing them.  What about ebooks?  Now, you certainly can buy ebooks and save yourself tons of time and energy.  I chose to scan my books because I had such an extensive library and I could not justify buying digital copies of books I owned.

I hope this gives you some ideas for incorporating digital books in your classroom.  If you want to read more about scanning books, click here to visit my blog.  Thanks for reading friends.
Until next time,

9/11 in the Classroom

Hi Friends!  This is Autumn from The Primary Techie.  I am always happy to write for The Primary Chalkboard, but today I have a serious topic; September 11th.  Where were you when you heard the news?  I am sure all of us remember that moment, but our students were not even born when the towers fell.  I think for many kids, history seems irrelevant to their lives today.  It is so important to acknowledge this tragedy and teach our students about this event that rocked our nation.  Here are some of the things on my lesson plan for next week.

Background Video
I don't know how much my kids know about 9/11 so I want to introduce it in a way that is not too frightening for my little guys.  I watched MANY YouTube videos and this one is the best kid-friendly explanation I found.  It is just text on the screen with music in the background, so you will need to read it to younger kids.  I plan on pausing the video to discuss things with my kids as this plays.

Watch, Think, Color
My class does two Watch, Think, Color activities every week (one on Monday while I make homework packets and one on Wednesday when I reteach small groups).  This week, we will use the 9/11 design.  I love this one because after we finish, I talk to my class about keeping this date in your heart and never forgetting.  We need to remember history so that we can learn from it.  I offer this in my store as a freebie this week only.  I have it available for number sense, expanded notation, reading number words, and multiplication.  Click here to download.  To read more about Watch, Think, Color games, click here to visit my blog.

The Star Spangled Banner
Many kids don't know the Star Spangled Banner.  My class will show our patriotism by singing it together every morning this week.  This video has lyrics so students can read along.

Thank a Firefighter
Make cards and take them to your local fire department.  It will mean a lot to the firefighters to know they are in your thoughts.

The Pledge of Allegiance
What is the pledge and why do we say it everyday?  I always teach this at the beginning of the year with I Pledge Allegiance by Bill Martin Jr.  I love this book because it breaks down the meaning of each part of the pledge.  We will definitely revisit this book this week.

Celebration Crowns
I am OBSESSED with sending my kids home in hats.  I just think they look so darn cute and their parents can SEE what we spent the day doing.  I love making these hats because they use just one piece of paper per student.  They are also so easy to assemble.  I made some special crowns to celebrate America.  I can't wait to see my class wearing some red, white, and blue!  Click here to download your copy of my patriotic hat!

Looking for more patriotic ideas?  Check out my Pinterest board by clicking here!

How do you recognize September 11th in your classroom?  Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.  Thank you for reading!

Until next time,

Family Response Journals - Reading, Writing, and Memories

Hi, Friends!  This is Autumn from The Primary Techie.  I am always excited to blog for the Primary Chalkboard.  Today I am going to share one of my favorite reading and writing tools: Family Response Journals.  These journals are for parents and kids to write letters back and forth.

I got this idea from my daughter's first grade teacher many years ago.  I absolutely loved writing her letters and knowing that she would get to read them during her school day.  My daughter is 16 now and I still have that journal.  It is one of my most treasured keepsakes because it is a record of our relationship and what was happening during that time in our lives.  I have done Family Response Journals with my first graders for the past eleven years.  Here are some of the tips and tricks I have learned to make them successful.

In the beginning of the year, we brainstorm a letter that we can all write about - "Dear Mom,  We are learning about bugs.  My favorite bug is a _______________.  What is your favorite bug?  Love, ________."  If kids can or want to write independently, they are encouraged to do so.  I write the "generic" letter on the board for beginning writers to copy.  After Christmas, I no longer model a letter on the board.  I just wander around and help students as needed.  We write in our journals on Monday.  Parents have all week to write back before sending them back to school on Friday.

Kids LOVE to get letters back from their parents!  Here are some tips I always share with my parents:
  • If you don't send the journals, they can't do it!  This is a really fun way to encourage reading and writing.  PLEASE write back to your child and send journals back to school! 
  • Remember that this is being read by a beginning reader!  Use your NICEST printing.  The kids gain reading practice with this activity.  Cursive makes this impossible with little guys.
  • Kids should write to someone in their house, so they can write back.  Sometimes my journals are missing for weeks because a student decided to write to his grandma and left the journal at her house. 

 To make the journals, I print covers on colored paper and laminate.  The back cover has a word bank with words kids commonly use in their journals.  I have two types of pages for the inside - primary lined for the kids to use and regular lines for parents.  I print kid lines on the front and parent lines on the back.  My journals have 34 pages in them.  We are usually done with them a couple weeks before school gets out.  I find this nice because the end of the year can be hectic and it is nice to have something DONE.  I use a binding machine to bind the book and E6000 to glue the binding comb shut.

These make great end of the year keepsakes.  They take about 20-30 minutes a week, but are wonderful reading and writing practice.

Click here to download journal pages for FREE!

Thanks for reading, Friends!  Until next time,

Classroom Set-Up - A Look Around My Dream Classroom

Hello, Friends!  It is Autumn from The Primary Techie.  I am super excited to be blogging about one of my favorite places - my classroom.  Here is a very nerdy confession: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE setting up for the new year!  It is actually one of my favorite parts of being a teacher.  I love the anticipation of the student's reactions, planning how the room will function, and organizing all of my teacher treasures.  Have you started setting up?  I bet every teacher is at least thinking about it.  It is a big job!

I have been in the same first grade classroom for ten years and last year, I did a complete classroom make-over.  Don't anybody tell my husband, but I spent entirely too much of my own money on this project!  The way I see it, I spend more than half my life there.  I want it to be the best it can be for my students and myself.  Some ladies buy Coach purses and Louis Vuitton shoes.  I bought my DREAM CLASSROOM! No regrets!  Here is a look at my room and some of the reasons why I set it up this way.  I hope it gives you some ideas and excitement about setting up your own room.

The Library
Metal door to was used to create book display with magnetic shelves

Above all else, I want my library to be inviting and comfortable.  I also want it to fit lots of kids since reading is such a focus in my little world.  My library is almost one fourth of my classroom.  There is easily room for 3 groups of 4 students during stations.  I have used storage benches that I purchased from Wal-Mart to form one corner.  These create comfy seating and also store seasonal books.  There is a cart for my leveled books and several book baskets full of books we love.  There is a table with listening center activities and a comfy corner for audio books.

The Writing Area

Dry erase board on the back of the cabinets in writing area
Close-up of clear paint cans used to sort supplies
Paint bucket stools store seasonal writing supplies
I added "shelves" to crates by using old dry erase boards.  Perfect fit!

I am a crafter at heart and I think this really influenced my writing area.  I have a round table with paint bucket stools.  Inside of each paint bucket, I have seasonal supplies for the writing area (Halloween stamps, Christmas gift tags, etc.).  I hung milk crates all over one wall to store the writing area materials.  I love this option because I was able to make it exactly right for my needs.  On the other wall in my writing area, I hung clear paint cans filled with art supplies.  Writing center is always a station and my students have a specific task.  On Fridays, we have free choice stations and this area becomes PACKED with kids!  They make the coolest, most creative things.  Although I am a hoarder, I share all my fun goodies with them because I know how much I would have loved this as a kid.  (Let's face it, I still love it now!)  I use the metal door (which leads to my bathroom) to hang a magnetic board.  Here, I write their spelling words or weekly writing task.  I also have turned the back of a cabinet into a dry erase board.  This is a fun way to practice spelling, writing sentences, labeling drawings, and so much more.

Teacher Work Area

One of my favorite drawers.  Can you ever have enough rubber stamps?

At my small charter school, every classroom has a full-time aide.  I KNOW, RIGHT????  It is a pretty cool lil' school.  I never sit down, but I needed a place for my aide to be productive.  I have created my dream work space, but I only get to visit it before and after school.  The rest of the day, my aide uses it.  There is plenty of counter space, a coffee maker, fridge, microwave, and even an ice machine!  I had a custom counter top made to cover the desk.  It is long on one side making a perfect spot for my aide to work one-on-one with students.

Table Groups

Pegboard attached to each table for organizing resources.  
Over-the-door hooks create storage solutions for our backpacks right on their desks!

I have always placed my kids in groups and labeled them by color.  I started acquiring more and more "stuff" that matched my table colors.  This past school year, I added the most exciting piece of all - CHAIRS!  I think they look so good.  My old chairs were mauve and they just really bugged the snot out of me!  My new chairs make my room more colorful and cheerful than ever before!  I love to frequent the home improvement stores for ideas and inspiration.  One day, I walked down the pegboard isle and thought "That looks like something I could use!"  I started trying to figure out how and where in my room pegboard would fit.  My number one need in my classroom is storage and remember all the stuff I acquired that matched my table colors?  I decided the pegboard would fit nicely on the edge of each table and give me a place to keep these colorful treasures.  I measured the end of the table and had my board cut at the store.  (Did you know they do that?  I didn't know until I found the pegboard isle!)  I spray painted my pegboard black and used zip ties to attach it to the table legs.  This also makes the tables more secure so they don't scoot around the room as much.  I used more zip ties to hang the baskets on the pegboard.  Backpacks hang off the other edge of the tables.  I like having them at the desks so that transitions go quickly.  I found these over-the-door hooks at the dollar store (2 per package).

Extra Storage

Close-up of clear paint can storage
Working pay phone!  My absolute favorite!

I have A LOT of stuff in my room and I really needed storage solutions.  I purchased bookshelves from Target last summer and they have helped so much.  I love the uniform look and the contrast of the black with all the bright colors I have used in my room.  I used clear paint cans to store supplies on the shelves.  I wanted a small counter on the end.  It seems like I am always walking in my room with something that I need to put down quickly and this gives me a place to do that.  There was a piece of leftover counter top that fit perfectly.  I also replaced my school phone with this pay phone!  It is SO much fun!  It really takes money, although you don't have to put money in to make a call.  It has a great ring, too.

Thanks for letting me share my room with you.  I would LOVE it if you would share pictures of your room with me, too.  Click here to head over to The Primary Chalkboard's Facebook page and share your pictures.

The Chalkies are busy bloggin' every day this month!  Here is a peek at what we have got planned:

Birthday Bonanza!

Hi!  This is Autumn from The Primary Techie.  I am so excited to have joined The Primary Chalkboard.  This week is my birthday so I decided to celebrate with a birthday blog!  I must confess that I do not actually enjoy birthdays at school.  Have you ever had that 2:55-getting-ready-to-leave-"aren't-you-going-to-sing-me-happy-birthday" moment?  I know I have!  While birthdays are not my favorite thing, to my kiddos they are the most important day of the year.  My school day is not really about me, it's about them!  That means I put on my happy face and make the most of every birthday.

The Birthday Celebration
Many years ago, when I taught third grade, I had an "ah-ha moment" that changed the way I celebrate birthdays at school.  We had FIVE birthdays in one week.  Did every single one of them bring cupcakes?  You betcha!  Was it also the week of Valentine's?  Yup!  Did more kids bring in sugary treats for Valentine's Day?  You know it!  We were so sick of sweets!  A couple weeks later, another birthday and another two dozen cupcakes.  We were outside scarfing them down, when I noticed one of my little guys looking very bummed out.  I asked what was wrong.  He told me that he had never had cupcakes for his birthday and he never would.  The terrible part was, he was right!  This was a kid whose family had fallen upon hard times.  This was a kid who had a difficult home life and often went without.  This kid was not going to get cupcakes and that really bummed ME out!  So, I looked at the situation.  FIVE sets of cupcakes and NO cupcakes.  Ah-ha!  The teacher light bulb flashed over my head and the birthday celebration was born!

ONE day each month where everyone with a birthday is celebrated!  I choose the day!  I always tell parents and kids about this at the very beginning of the school year.  I post birthday celebrations on our classroom calendar (which the kids take home each night) and on my class Facebook group.  Parents coordinate it so that we don't have five sets of cupcakes, we have one set and juice boxes and carrots and strawberries and plates.  I have had several parents bring in a cake with the names of all the birthday kids.  One year, I had a kid literally hopping with excitement because he had never had his name on a cake before.  There are things that many kids take for granted that mean the world to others.  This is a way to even the playing field.

Here are the pros of monthly birthday celebrations:
  • Everyone is included!  We even have a celebration for summer birthdays.
  • I plan it!  Celebrations are always on a Friday and are built into my lesson plans.
  • We get a variety of treats instead of perpetual cupcakes.
Here are the cons of monthly birthday celebrations:
  • Some parents are not good at following directions!  If I get treats on a child's birthday (not the celebration day), I send them home.  Yep!  I am that firm!  It isn't fair to all the kids and parents who abide by the rules to let the ones who don't have treats.  This rarely ever happens because it is a part of our routine and I have lots of communication with families.  Those who send treats know they are breaking the rule.  
  • Sometimes nobody brings anything.  When this happens, I bring a treat for the class.  It is important to me that all students are celebrated - even if that means I have to be the one to supply the treats.  
To remind parents about this class rule, I send home a little note at the beginning of the month.  They can sign-up to bring something or decline.  Click here to print your own notes.  

So on their real birthdays they get NOTHING?  Of course not!  We celebrate that too, just not with treats.  Here are some of the ways we celebrate actual birthdays:

1) Reading Birthday Books
Have you read about how I love scanning books?  If not, click here to check it out!  I am passionate about  reading books from my board - the ultimate big book!  I have a folder on my desktop called "Happy Birthday".  I keep all my digital birthday resources here.  In this folder, I have another folder filled with birthday books I have scanned.  I have thirty birthday books.  To easily track which books I have read, I named the files with numbers.  For example "1 - How do Dinosaurs Say Happy Birthday?"  All of my students are numbered and I read the book with their number.  If Abby Armstrong is number 1, on her birthday we are going to read How do Dinosaurs Say Happy Birthday.  I am not going to lie, scanning 30 books and creating digital versions of them takes time.  I put the time in several years ago and have been reaping the benefit ever since.  It is worth the initial investment of your time.  If you don't already own birthday books, look for digital versions and save yourself the hassle of scanning.  Before I realized the joys of reading from my board, I had bought entirely too many books.  I could not justify buying digital versions of books I already owned, so I started scanning.  I can't talk about scanning without mentioning that it is only okay to scan books for your own use.  You cannot share digital copies of your books, sell them, or post them on the internet.  This is a copyright violation.  I don't want to give you a bad idea that could get you into trouble!

2) Happy Birthday Handwriting
Oh man, do I ever HATE handwriting.  SO important, but SO boring!  Kids hate it, too.  BUT, they love making things for their friends.  I made some Happy Birthday handwriting sheets.  They trace the happy birthday song and turn it into a card to give to the birthday boy or girl.  It is good practice and the kids work extra hard because they want to do a nice job for their friend. These sheets are always a big hit in my classroom.  Click here to download a freebie! FYI - I predicted that I would get requests for d'nealian and cursive, so I included those options.

3)  Birthday Themed Behavior Management
Remember that birthday file on my desktop?  It also has some of my Classroom Management Life Savers with a birthday theme.  To read more about Classroom Management Life Savers, click here.  These keep the class on-track and they are extra-special when we have a birthday in the house!  I hope I am not including too many freebies in this post, but I actually love giving things away and if you have never tried my Classroom Management Life Savers, I want you to try them out.  Click here for a Birthday Puzzle.  

4)  Smells Like a Birthday!
This one is silly, but I really love it!  The sense of smell is very powerful to me and is attached to memories.  In my classroom, we melt a birthday cake scented wax cube from Scentsy only on a birthday!  All day long, it smells like birthday cake in our room.  It is a fun and easy tradition.  The kids actually notice and remind me if I forget.

5)  The Birthday Bag
I have several take-home bags for my kiddos.  One of the most popular is the birthday bag.  When a student has a birthday, they take the bag home for the night.  Inside, there are several birthday themed books and a little birthday stuffed animal.  To make the bag, I just took a plain tote and used fabric paint on the front.  On the back of my bags, I use fabric paint to write "Please enjoy this bag tonight and return it to school tomorrow."  There is also a journal for students to write about how they spent their big day.  When they return the bag the following day, they share their page with the class.  To make the journal I used a three-ring binder and clear page protectors.  In the pockets at the back of the binder, I put enough blank journal pages to last all year.  For copies of my journal pages, click here.

For more birthday ideas, visit my birthday board on Pinterest!

Make those days special for the kiddos in your classroom!  Check out these other birthday resources created by some of my very talented, Chalkie friends.

I am celebrating my birthday with a sale in my TpT store!  Stop on by to save 15% off of everything in my store!

Do you have any special ways to celebrate birthdays in your classroom?  Share them in the comments.  I would love to read them!

Until next time,