Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Free Hanukkah Menorah Logic Puzzle

Hanukkah starts tomorrow night! So here is a fun and free menorah logic puzzle to try with your students.

You may also want to read this post from last year about why the holidays can sometimes be a hard time for Jewish children, especially when Hanukkah comes early, as it does this year.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sale on TpT This Week

Teacherspayteachers.com is having a 10% off sale all this week! Just use promotion code: T2G5W. Of course, you can buy my stuff, but there are also over 80 thousand different products and about 10% of them are free.
This would be a great time to buy a TpT gift certificate, as they too are 10% off. If you don't have time to browse now, buy a gift certificate for yourself and use the savings later.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Holiday Gifts for Teachers, Students, and Parents

Gifts to make, gifts to buy. Writing from the point of view of both teacher and parent, here are my favorites:

For Teachers from Parents
A big yes for gift cards, my personal favorites being a bookstore or Starbucks. Another terrific option is to order a gift certificate for teacherspayteachers.com, where your child's teacher can purchase high quality teaching resources created by other teachers.
Please skip mugs and books with inspirational teaching stories (it isn't that teachers don't want to read them so much as that they often don't have the time).
Also nice is a card with a personal note about what you appreciate about your child's teacher. I still have a few from years back.

For Teachers from Students
A big yes for anything home made. For years my kids made this wreath ornament made from rice for their teachers. Not the most creative project, but they always came out looking great, even when our kids were small.
Also nice is a card or note from the child expressing a kind thought.

For Students from Teachers
A big yes for Madlibs if you can afford them. Sometimes you can find a good deal. I love them because they are fun and educational. Small puzzle or Soduko books are another option and of course you can always find a good deal in the Scholastic Book Club. Art or fun school supplies are another great option.
Please skip Christmas ornaments or other Christmas-themed gifts unless you know all of your students celebrate Christmas (see my post on being the lone Jewish kid).
Also nice and great if you are not wanting to spend any $, are bookmarks you can make and laminate yourself or homework free passes.
For Parents from Students
A big yes to anything that allows the child to be creative in a personal way. Over the years, some of the gifts I have treasured that my kids have made in school have included a calendar with an art project my child completed for each month (I was completely floored by the amount of teacher planning and work that one must have taken to pull off), homemade picture frames with a really nice photo of my child, a hand-painted candle holder, a hand-painted box, anything made and glazed from kiln-fired clay. Also great are cards with original poems or sentiments (not copied from the board).
Please skip cookie-cutter gifts that could have been made by any child in the class - pine cones spray painted gold, construction paper cutouts, etc.
Also nice - the preschool plaster hand print. Nothing original there, but so precious. I am so very glad that I have one for both my kids now that they are teens.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What are You Thankful For? Ask it Better

"What are you thankful for?" asks the teacher, or the parent, or the Sunday school instructor, or Aunt Ethel, or Grandpa Joe, or the guy at the checkstand at the grocery store, and on, and on, and on.

And what is the answer? My family, my home, my friends...maybe the toy of the moment. And these are all great answers, but you can get kids to think more creatively by asking more specific questions. Here are some questions to ask to get kids thinking in different ways:
1. What are you are thankful for that is green?
2. What are you thankful for that is yellow?
3. What are you are thankful for that is soft?
4. What are you are thankful for that is round?
5. What are you are thankful for that is very small?
6. What are you are thankful for that is very big?
7. What are you are thankful for that tastes good?
8. What are you are thankful for that tastes bad?
9. What are you are thankful for that you cannot see?
10. What are you thankful for that you cannot touch?
11. What do you think your teacher is thankful for?
12. What do you think a teenager is thankful for?
13. What do you think a very old person is thankful for?
14. What do you think the president is thankful for?
15. What do you think a dog is thankful for?
16. What do you think a cat is thankful for?
You can also ask kids to come up with their own creative thankfulness questions.
You can find more ideas for Creative Thanksgiving Activities Here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dealing with Giggles

Sometimes kids laugh when they aren't supposed to. Maybe you are doing a geography lesson on South America...and what is the name of the biggest lake? You just aren't going to be able to say or write Lake Titicaca without getting some giggles. Maybe you are reading Sendak's classic, In the Night Kitchen to a group of kindergarteners who are not going to miss the subtle fact that Mickey is as naked as Michealangelo's David. So, what do you do? You can try to ignore it, or give them a lecture, but my advice is to let them laugh. For exactly one minute. Time it.

Tell your class that they get one minute to laugh, say the funny word(s), make the jokes, whatever. Make a big deal (espcially if you have little kids) of timing it. Then give them their minute. When it is done, make it clear that the silliness should be out of their systems and you expect them to behave appropriately.

I have used this technique with great success. Occasionally, I have had to give a second minute. However, that one usually happens at recess time.

Free Hanukkah Word Search and Matching Activity

Even though I am not a huge fan of word searches (you can read about  why I think they are stupid here), I decided to make one about Hanukkah anyway. It has a vocabulary matching activity for twelve Hanukkah related terms, which redeems it somewhat. I also included some "secret words" in the word search that are not on the word list (like the names of the Hebrew letters on a dreidel) that some kids may find on their own. It is always fun when someone discovers one of these. Often the whole class will start looking for more of them. There is also an answer key for both activities.

You can get this Hanukkah Word Search for Free Here.

This is the second in a series of about 15 free holiday activities I am creating from now through about mid-December, so be sure to check back often for more.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Free Holiday Activities for Your Students



I have decided to create about fifteen free holiday-themed activities between now and about mid-December. The first one is a grid-style logic puzzle with a latke (Hanukkah) theme. I realize this may seem a bit early since Thanksgiving is still a few days away, but Hanukkah is really early this year!

You can get the free logic puzzle here

I will continue to posts links to the activities as I make them, so you may want to check back. You can find them here, or on the, "Free Stuff" tab above.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stunning Hunger Games Literature Resource

The Hunger Games: Book 1First off, if you haven't read this book yet, you must. Truly a wonderful piece of literature for teens as well as adults, and especially at this time of year.
If you happen to be teaching The Hunger Games , you can get some great resources for this book as well as the other two in the trilogy from Tracee Orman. Her unit on the book  is one of the best selling products on teacherspayteachers.com and includes engaging activities, character sketches, important quotes, PowerPoints, games, vocabulary, tests, study guides, maps, culminating projects and so much more. It is very likely the best resource available on this book.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On Being Thankful: a Little Perspective


What the World Eats
I am of the opinion that we here in the US and Canada (and many other nations as well, of course) have pretty much won the population lottery. We were lucky to be born here where most of us don't have to worry about where our next meal is coming from or if our child is going to die of malaria. Most of the world doesn't have it so easy. And most of us, and our children, totally take it for granted.
So, here with Thanksgiving approaching, some perspective might be a nice change. Instead of, or in addition to, learning about the Pilgrims and the Indians (again) what if we also looked at what other people around the world eat. One really great way to do that is to use the book What the World Eats by Faith D'Aluiso, with amazing photos by Peter Manzel. Basically, the book features 25 families from different places around the world. Each family has been photographed with the food they typically eat in one week. There is also information on the country they are from, average incomes etc. You can find a slide show of photos from the book here.

Here is what the authors have to say about sharing this book with children:
It's interesting to watch children with this book in their hands. It doesn't require being read from front to back and they don't approach it in that manner anyway; they're drawn in by the food portraits and begin immediately to compare themselves to what they see. Afterward they go back to fill in information. What the World Eats is meant to get kids thinking about the world around them, but also about the food on their own plates. The U.S. Center for Disease Control reports that one in every three children born in the year 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes at some point during their life, and that more than 60 percent of American adults, and 30 percent of children are overweight or obese. This in one of the richest, most powerful countries on the planet; we are eating ourselves to death, but we can do something about it if we understand the problems. This book aids that understanding.          -quoted from Amazon
Material World: A Global Family PortraitA nice follow up is Material World: A Global Family Portrait again by Peter Manzel.This time families from around the world are photographed with everything they own assembled outside their dwelling.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No More Overused Words

Getting students to stop using those tired, boring words can be a challenge. But word choice is one of the easiest ways to make a ho-hum essay, poem, or story into one that people will want to read. Here are some ideas for helping your students to choose better words:

Make finding synonyms for overused a class activity
This is a great way to practice using the thesaurus. One way to do this is to divide your class into small groups and assign each group an overused word. Each group must make a list of at least ten synonyms to replace the overused word. Use the lists to make a class resource in book or bulletin board format, or have the groups each make posters to hang around the classroom.

Provide easy access

Be sure that students have easy access to synonyms for overused words. This could be a list or booklet for each student or in bulletin board format. Make sure students know that part of the writing process includes searching out overused words and replacing them with better words.


Practice whenever you can
As bell work or when you have a few spare minutes, write a boring sentence on the board and have your students rewrite it with better words to replace the overused words.

For older students, select a piece of published text, possibly from an older work and have students rewrite the passage replacing overused words with better synonyms.

Encourage students to take the extra time
Remember that many of those better synonyms are also longer and harder to spell. It is much easier for a second grader to write, "big" than "humongous." You can help encourage students to go for the gold, wordwise, by giving them more time to work, allowing students to type rather than write, and perhaps being more forgiving for spelling errors, especially when the goal of the assignment is to be creative.

Outlaw overused words
"Outlaw" one overused word for a day or even a week. During the time that an overused word is outlawed, it may not be used by you or your students in wring or in speech. Instead, students (and you) must use more interesting synonyms.






Synonyms for Overused Words
(in List, Booklet, and Mini-Poster formats)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving Activities

Okay, enough with the hand turkeys. There are plenty of other activities you can do for Thanksgiving.

Here are some ideas from Minds in Bloom:

Word Puzzle (Frame Games) Fun For Your Class


Word Puzzles like this can make a fun classroom activity. They are a great way to facilitate lateral thinking as students must use words in a new way to solve the puzzles. You can put one on the board and solve it as a class, or you can give your students a worksheet of word puzzles.

Here is one for free.

These are great when you have a few extra minutes.You may also want to extend the activity by having student create their own.

Here are a couple more to try:

 








Answers: Thank a lot, You're under arrest, Sick in bed.

Get More Word Puzzles in Worksheet Format Here
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