Thursday, April 30, 2015

Math Apps

My class has really enjoyed using the iPod Touches when they have free time.  We also use them every Friday in our math stations.  Since the students are assigned to a specific color iPod in order to save their progress on some apps, I have to plan out the groups quite carefully.  If I put two students in the same group who are assigned to the same iPod, someone is going to be VERY disappointed.  After several weeks of trying to figure out groups, I got a great idea. With the iPod assignments right in front of me, I created a doc that has THREE different groupings that allow everyone to have their own iPod when their group arrives at the iPod station.  I printed off six copies, stapled them together, and tacked it to the bulletin board above my desk.  Now when Friday rolls around, I just cut off one of the charts, and I'm all set.  I fill in the activity and location where each group will start.  This way the groups are different for three weeks before repeating.  And I made sure to separate the kiddos who need to be separated.  You know what I'm talking about!

Click HERE to see my google doc for groups.

So what are our favorite math apps?  Our latest addition has all the kids buzzing!  It can be played by two people on the iPods and up to four people on the iPad.  It's called Math Slide.

It starts as a free version, which allows you to see if you like it. You get to play each of the ten different games twice.  After deciding it would be fun for the kids and help them improve basic addition and subtraction facts, I upgraded to the $1.99 version, which allows unlimited games. You have to do that as an "in-app" purchase.  The lower numbered games are easier.  Here is an example of Game 6 being played by two players.

Students have to compute the problem and be the first player to slide the correct answer tile into the middle of the board.  Use all your tiles first and you're the winner!  Here is a picture of four of my students playing on my iPad after finishing their math work.

Another math app we love is Smart Cookie Math by Molly at Lucky to be in First.  You can read all about her fun app HERE (on her blog).  I have many students who have already filled their cookie jars, and we just started using it in February!  By the way, Molly is the blogger who gave me advice on how to use my iPods as a listening center.  Thanks again, Molly!

We have also been enjoying Bean Flip.  Do you know Teacher Tipster?  Love his youtube videos.  He's a riot.  Wish I had been in his class as a firstie. (No offense intended, Miss Murtha.)  We also adore Subitize Tree, but it isn't compatible on the iPods, just our iPad.

Here's a math app that I added for my students who really enjoy challenging themselves.  It's called Sushi Monster.  I didn't think it would be very popular, but as usual, when a few kids show success on a game, the other kids want to do it too.  So Sushi Monster is actually one of our most-played math apps.

Other interesting and techy projects I've been working on include using Vocaroo to record my voice reading books, and then printing out a QR code to put on the book cover so my students can use the app i-nigma on the iPods to link to the recording.  This has been a huge help during our Read Across Genres unit from TC.  It allows ALL levels of readers to access the information. I've also been experimenting with Animoto.  I'm going to make a video slide show of all our first grade pictures this year and then give each student an end-of-the-year card with a QR code that links to it.  I learned how to do that HERE.

In other news, our caterpillars are HUGE.  We've had them for two weeks, and a few are already hanging in their J shape. I'm expecting to find a chrysalis or two or five when I get to school tomorrow morning.  Oooh!  It's going to be an exiting day!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

My Caterpillar Parking Lot

Happy spring!  Our caterpillars arrived yesterday, and the energy in the room was through the roof!  We get our caterpillars from Carolina Science.  They are painted ladies, not to be confused with monarchs, which also have black, orange, and white wings.  Painted ladies also have a lot of brown.  Anyway, this is my seventh year with them, so you'd expect me to be an expert, right?  Hardly.  But one lesson I've learned is that when there are live critters in the room, the teacher blends into the background.  Yep, I'm chopped liver compared to a one-centimeter caterpillar, living in a cozy cup with a splotch of mallow food.  Trying to teach a reading workshop lesson?  Not gonna happen.  Want to get the kids to line up for gym?  They can't hear you.  Their eyes and ears are glued to their newly adopted, named, and dearly loved caterpillar.

Usually I put a strip of painters tape down the center of my free-standing bookshelf.  It's only 3 feet tall, so it's the perfect height for displays.  I write the numbers 1 through 20 (depending on how many students I have) with Sharpie.  The students put their caterpillar cups on their number.  It's easy for them to keep organized, easy for me to see who has stashed their caterpillar in their desk because they can't bear to be separated, and easy for everyone to keep track of their rapid growth.  Well, I came up with a new idea this year.  I call it a caterpillar parking lot!  It's low tech and totally free!

In order to be able to put the caterpillars out of sight when we're working on other academics, I took the lid from one of our copy paper boxes.  Then I used a straight edge to divide it into 24 sections.  I numbered each "parking spot," and voila! A caterpillar parking lot!  I made sure to tell the class that if "parking" your caterpillar goes quickly and quietly, I'll be more likely to take them out throughout the day.  I left the parking lot out on a back table before school, and the students were so excited to check on them this morning.  Recess is also an acceptable time to hang out with your caterpillar.  And of course, we have to check them during science time!  Here is the parking lot full of caterpillar cups.,,

I use a Sharpie to write the student's number on the lid, and the caterpillar's name on the side of the cup.  I have twenty students this year, and kept an extra four, making the total 24.  It's a good idea to have a couple extras for those unfortunate times when a caterpillar dies, which sometimes happens while in the chrysalis stage, or when a butterfly flies away before posing for a picture (how rude).  For the last three years, I have had each child adopt and track their own caterpillar's growth, chrysalis, and emerging.  I think having their "own" caterpillar adds another level to their learning.  The years where we didn't mark the cups and put all the unmarked chrysalises into a giant net/house, the kids weren't as interested or committed to the data we were collecting.  However, give them their own, and they are hooked!  

Each student uses a donated, plastic pretzel tub marked with their number, so I can reuse them each year.  I use the clear kind with wide lids.  It's easy for the kids to put their hands in and get their butterfly on their finger at the time of release. The tubs are too big for the tiny caterpillars, so I don't transfer them to the pretzel tubs until the chrysalis is formed.  It is so exciting to come in to school each day and see "who" has emerged overnight. Some years, we've been lucky enough to see one emerge live, up close, and personal! The look on that child's face is incredible.  They'd pass out bubble gum cigars if they had any. 

We had a great day today, partially because I was able to move the caterpillar parking lot over to a high shelf, out of sight, so we could get some work done.  

Mission accomplished.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Remember Me?

I think as teachers, we have special memories of our own elementary teachers, especially those who were particularly motivating, understanding, or inspirational.  For me, it was Mr. Ron Halverson, who was my teacher for both fifth and sixth grade.  I've often thought of looking him up and telling him how much I remember from those two school years, things he said, how he made me feel smart and successful.  I haven't done it though.  I know I should, especially after what happened to me this past month.

I started teaching 24 years ago.  In those early years, I was teaching fifth grade in a different school district.  I was with them for only five years before deciding to stay home with my infant son.  I loved those years, and I loved fifth grade.  But most of all I loved my students.

A few weeks ago, I read this email after dismissing my class.  I was thrilled.  Read it and you'll see why.

Honestly, I couldn't stop smiling.  We met for coffee, and it was so good to see him!  He is all grown up, married, a daddy, and works for a university!  I wouldn't have recognized him, though.  I was still expecting the little boy from 20 years ago, just bigger.  See what I mean?

He remembered so much from our year together!  It was one of my best.  Our class had a pet hamster, parakeet, and an occasional pug.  That was back in the "good ol' days", when you could have animals in classrooms.  Man, we had fun!  Science experiments, math challenge competitions, student portfolios, and lots and lots of fun learning together.

What a joy it is for me to see that one of my many students remembers his year in my classroom with a happy heart.  In fact, he told me his memories from that year are "crisp."  I admit, a few of mine were a wee bit fuzzy.  

Thank you, Johnny, for taking the time to find me, contact me, and meet up to remember a great year. I'm so glad you did!

Now, to search for Mr. Halverson....