How I Store Classroom Computers

I had been looking for a new way to store my computers that I got from Donors Choose (the lovely pink one was my donation, the girls always want that one!).  I had inherited several of these wonderful wooden organizers from my mother who had retired from teaching and they were the perfect size to fit the netbooks.  I found THIS pin last summer and decided to use it to organize the cords.

 Each of the computers is numbers, so the students easily know where to put the computer back so that it goes with the correct plug.  Below, you can see how the cord fits through the clamp and stays in the proper place.

Thanks go to Kristen from Ladybug's Teacher Files and Elizabeth from Fun in Room 4B for the Linky Party!


Data Analysis INB Page

When introducing this unit, I introduce the vocabulary by using this INB and the cards so that students can manipulate the numbers.


Problem Solving

We usually spend the last week of school doing nothing but problem solving activities during our math time. One of my favorite activities to do with my 6th graders is called Paper Pool which can be found on the Illuminations website. The students would spend a whole week on this project if I let them. 

I start by going through THIS worksheet, which explains the activity.

We go through both examples so that they understand exactly what the rules are.  Usually about half of the students have trouble understanding how to draw the lines (they have to be corner to corner), so I usually have to spend time working with them. If I'm lucky, the partner they have chosen understands and can show them how to do it. Once everyone understands how the "ball" moves on the board, they try different size rectangles.

When the students see a pattern, they write the "rule" on the board (they have to have found at least 3 rectangles that fit their rule to write it on the board).  

The next day, we test the "rules".  Every group takes a different rectangle that fits the rule to test it.  If it passes the test for all rectangles tested, it goes on the proven rules list. We had approximately 25 rules when we started and it went down to only 7 after testing each one.  I then wrote down whether each number was odd or even and we narrowed our rules down even further.

I do the "Crossing the River" problem with my 5th graders which came from Fostering Algebraic Thinking by Mark Driscoll (new on Amazon for $19.99 or used for $12.78). I did find the activity on-line HERE. The book is geared for 6-10 grade, but we used it in a class I took that was filled with elementary teachers.  We were able to easily adapt most of the problems.

The goal of the activity is to get 2 children and 8 adults across the river with only one boat. The rules for crossing are the following: one adult, one child or 2 children in a boat. You can NOT have one child and one adult in the boat at the same time. The students have to figure out the least amount to trips it takes to get across the river. Eventually they figure out an equation to figure out how many trips for any number of children and adults.

What are some of your favorite problem solving activities to do with your students?  I'm always looking for new activities and would love for you to share you favorites with us.


Concept Mapping

Originally posted on the ATUE blog.

I was introduced to concept mapping several years ago, but didn't really start using it my classroom until this school year.  When I was asked to be a science trainer for our district in 2011, the district wanted us to use concept mapping as a way to teach vocabulary. They wanted us to encourage our teachers to use concept mapping instead of your standard definitions to learn science vocabulary.

Since I had never used this type of mapping in my lessons, I spent quite a bit of time watching the other trainers working with the teachers and learning how to use them myself. Unfortunately, I don't think many of the other teachers in my building are using the maps, so my students don't see them until 5th grade.

This year I have tried to implement them fully into our science curriculum (I'm thinking about doing social studies next year). We start off the same each time.

After each science activity (we use the FOSS kits), the students come up with words to put on our word wall or word bank.  Each day we use a different color.

5th grade Human Body FOSS kit
After coming up with our words, we then put them on the concept map.  The hardest part for the students seems to be the wording that ties each of the words together.  I try not to lead them into what I think it should be, but to let them come up with how the words connect with each other. 

5th grade Human Body FOSS kit
Each day after we are satisfied with what we have done to the map, the students copy that part of the map into their science journals.

5th grade Food Webs and Chains FOSS kit

For more information on using concept maps in your classroom, I have listed a couple of resources:

This is an article from Stanford, Using Concept Maps in the Science Classroom, can give you a little more insight to mapping in your science class.

Science-West also has an interesting read:  Concept Mapping.

Do you use concept maps in your classroom?  We would love to hear about how you successfully implement it into your curriculum.


How I Display and Store My Standards Posters

I fell in LOVE with THIS pin last summer and just had to do it in my classroom. Since we have to display our standards, this was the perfect solution.  The black background is a sheet from Walmart that I cut up and taped to the filing cabinets.  The border is MagnaBorders from Learning Resources. I put magnets on the back of the posters and they work wonderfully!

Engineering Design: Water Wheels

Originally seen on the ATUE blog...

The last quarter of science in Indiana is Science, Technology and Engineering. We start this quarter with a pretty simple engineering project:  creating a water wheel (we did the linked project in summer engineering camp but we modified it for the school year).  I begin the project by showing the students videos of water wheels (mill wheels) so that they have an idea of what they will be creating.

Next we start to go through the Engineering Design Plan.

Step one is stating the problem.  The students have to describe the problem that we want to solve.

Step two is the design criteria. What must the product be able to do? What limits do we have to wok within? (materials, size, time, etc) You can have some fun with this. You can give the students a budget and "charge" them for the materials. Budget = $1,000; 1 inch of tape = $50; 1 paper plate= $100

Step three is the brainstorming area.  What ideas do we have about ways to get the product to meet the Design Criteria?

This student had an unfair advantage with this project as she was in my 5/6 split last year and had already done the project one else's brainstorming ideas were as specific as these.
Step four is the designing. The students must draw their design and plan for building the prototype to scale.

Here are some pictures of the early stages of design.

Step five is testing, evaluating, and redesigning.  The students must test their design. What was tried? What was the result? Next the student evaluate their design. Does it meet one or more of the design criteria? Lastly, they need to redesign.  What changes could we make for a design that meets more of the criteria?

Step six is the design solution for the problem.

I don't have access to water outside, so we used rice instead. We also used sand when I did our training session with the other 6th grade teachers.  Here are some pictures of us testing the water wheels.


How I Deal with No Name Papers

It's a short and sweet post this week.  I got tired of trying to figure out who owned the no name papers, so I set up this tray.  I told the students that if they didn't get a paper back when we passed them out on Mondays, they better look in the tray!


Clipart Challenge

Several fabulous clipartists and bloggers have come together for an amazing Clipart Challenge hosted by Primary Possibilities!  Each blogger is featuring a clipartist and a product they made using that artist's images!  This is a great way to discover new clipart creators for your summer creations.   So keep reading and following the linky at the bottom to head on to the next post!  You may even pick up some freebies along the way!

I had the privilege of working with graphics from The Enlightened Elephant.

I chose to use the fraction circles in my product.

I LOVE the circle fractions, they are so versatile. I wanted to make a product which focused on two skills and these circle fractions were perfect for this.

I made some of the task cards with fractions.

And some had mixed numbers.

I have several sets of graphics from The Enlightened Elephant and LOVE them all!!

Thanks to The Enlightened Elephant for letting me play with her wonderful graphics!

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How I Deal with Make-Up Work

I'm in an elementary school that is semi-departmentalized so I have two sets of students that happen to be different grade levels (very small school).  I needed a way to organize the student's make-up work since I couldn't just leave it on their desks. I came up with this idea.