Archive for February, 2011

CHAOS! Review Game

Has anyone else noticed that we are at the time of year when the kids need a lot of interaction and motivation to keep working hard?…spring fever has set in hard! A few weeks ago I shared the review game ZAP!, today I’m going to share another game that I named CHAOS! (Hmmm, do all the review games I invent need to be be capitalized with an exclamation point? I guess I want to emphasize how exciting they are 🙂   I pulled this game out of my bag of tricks this week and I thought I would share with y’all. I have used this game to review in math and to spice up test prep with multiple choice questions. Ps: Don’t try this game if you aren’t willing to put up with a little CHAOS!

Here is how it works:

1. I make sets of cards with questions on them–I usually make 4 of each card like this:

Length Perimeter and area review game

2. I print them out on card stock and laminate them…or you could just print them out and have the kids do the work on another sheet of paper.

3. Then I put each stack of questions on a desk or table:

4. Next, put kids into teams…I put them into 3-4 groups and then have each team break into partners. So each team will be working together for points, but will be working in pairs.

5. Start each pair with different cards, for example one pair gets card #1, another team gets card #2 etc… then it’s ready, set, go! Everybody starts working on their problem:

6.When they finish with their first card they bring it up to me and I check it:

That is me behind there checking a can also see the chaos going on around me as kids put up points and work on cards...
7. If they are correct they get to go to the SMARTBoard and roll the dice. Whatever number they get is how many points they add to their team:

8. Then they put their card back on the stack, get the next number and keep going until time is up!

9. At the end of the game we add up all the numbers and dub a winner… the nice thing about this game is it has a lot of skill and little luck!

The game usually takes about 15 minutes of intense activity, but the kids are super engaged and there is tons of learning going on! During this particular game of CHAOS! I heard these comments: “Wait, it says perimeter, do we need to add or multiply?”, “Is customary inches or centimeters?”, “Check the math chart for how many centimeters is in a meter!”, “Miss O said that when it’s a square we can multiply the sides by 4, right?” Trust me, I can’t inspire that kind of math thinking…but a little bit of CHAOS! goes a long way.

Here are some resources and ideas:

Download my Perimeter and Area CHAOS! game here:  PDF Publisher

Download my CHAOS Scoreboard for SMARTBoard here: Score Board (Chaos)

You can certainly play this game without a SMARTBoard, just use a regular dice and whiteboard…I played this game all the time pre-interactive whiteboard 🙂

Other CHAOS games:

  • Multiplication Word Problems:  PDF Word
  • Multi-Step Word Problems:  PDF Word
  • 2 digit by 2 digit multiplication: PDF Word
  • Long Division: PDF Word

Make your own CHAOS game: CHAOS Template

*Pssst check out other games I’ve posted about here


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Warm-Up 4 Writing!

In 4 days my little authors will take their standardized writing test. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that I’m not a huge fan of standardized testing…I know it’s necessary to hold teachers and schools accountable, but my kids get so nervous and they have worked so hard!  I could not be prouder of my class and I want them to feel empowered and confident about taking their writing test.

Enter: Warm-Up 4 Writing! For the past month we have been doing Warm-Up 4 Writing each Wednesday  to get our kids ready for the TAKS test. As you know we have been doing Writers Workshop this year, but my students still need to be able to crank out a composition in response to a prompt on test day. So each Wednesday we do a practice prompt to get them ready. We call it Warm-Up 4 Writing and we try to make it fun and exciting…my team even bought matching jogging suits and headbands 🙂

My team! The first day we did this we played Jock Jams, had our kids stretch and was so fun!

Only the nerdiest of teachers would wear these outfits every week, right? The funny thing is, we have started a Warm-Up 4 Writing craze at school! Over half the teachers have gotten the jogging suits…do you think it is enthusiasm for writing or because they can wear basically pajamas to work once a week? 😉 We also have a school wide writing prompt that we call “Golden Pencil”, more about that another day!

Anyway, as the test approached we decided our kids needed a little incentive so we bought our whole grade level headbands and let them decorate them! They were hilarious and very creative with their decorating:

So there ya go, Warm-Up 4 Writing rocks the 4th grade! The kids really loved it and they are super pumped for their big test…and then it will be back to Writer’s Workshop!

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Writer’s Roundtable

This year was my first year doing Writers Workshop, and it has gone pretty well. My kids have improved by leaps and bounds as writers, and they seem to like to write–although a week away from our state standardized writing test they are DONE with “prompted” writing practice! I certainly have not done Writers Workshop perfectly, and I will do it far better next year–I already have my list of ideas and things that I will try and do differently, but overall I think I found a good balance.

One of the things that I invented…or at least I don’t think I stole this idea from anyone else…is called the Writer’s Roundtable. As I started with Writer’s Workshop, I realized that I never had enough time for the sharing side of writing, and my kids LOVED to share their writing! Enter: Writer’s Roundtable. I designate one Friday afternoon ever few weeks for Writer’s Roundtable and this is how it works:

  • All the kids choose a piece of published writing, or a writing they really like, and put it on their desk.
  • I give everyone a piece of fun, colorful paper for comments to put next to their writing.
  • Everyone gets up and finds another persons desk. They read the story there and make specific, positive comment. (I did a mini-lesson about this!)
  • When they are finished with one, they choose another…
  • This goes on until the time is up!
This was a HUGE hit in my classroom! And I have never had a more quiet, energy filled 35 minutes. All students were diligently on task, and the only sounds that pierced the silence was a quiet giggle or “wow” as they admired their classmate’s compositions. Oh, and an occasional, “You have to come read this one!”

When the students went back to their own desk at the end to read their comments they were so excited and affirmed in their writing skills! Take 30 minutes out of a Friday and build your kids up, try the Writer’s Roundtable.

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Today I fell off the wagon…

Confession: Hello, my name is Amy, and I’m addicted to buying books.

Today I heard that the Borders near our school is going out of business. “Hmmm, Borders is right on my way home,” I thought innocently to myself, “I’ll stop and see if they have No Talking by Andrew Clements.” No Talking was going to be my next read aloud, but my copy is NO WHERE to be found!

I was on the phone with my mom as I walked into the bookstore, “Don’t worry mom, I’m just looking for one book….unless they have an amazing deal I can’t pass up. I mean how often will Borders have their going out of business sale?” Do you hear the justifying? “Amy, this is like sending an alcoholic to a liquor store!” My mom tried to reason.

In the store I headed straight to the “C’s” to find my book. They had every Andrew Clements book except No Talking…but I continued to browse. At only 20% off, I wasn’t too tempted until I saw this book…

You have to see this book in relation to a normal size book!

It’s a jumbo sized version of Bridge to Terabithia! We just finished this novel unit in reading, and it is my absolute favorite! How could I pass that up!? And, of course I had to buy one for my whole team!  (Don’t worry, VERY soon I will post my Novel Unit for Bridge to Terabithia)

Head out of Borders. Now that I’ve had a taste, I’m thirsty for more…”I’ll just swing by Half Price Books and see if they have No Talking…” I give myself a pep talk in the car. “Just walk straight to the Juvenile Fiction section, see if they have it and walk out. You can do it!” I walk in to the store and there on display is a GIGANTIC Greek mythology POP-UP book! It is like I was being tested! After turning each gloriously interactive page, I sadly set it back in the display…and began walking toward the JF section. I intended to walk straight there, but it was beyond my control, The Children’s Clearance section is on the way…

This will be a wonderful addition to my Greek basket!

This Ancient Greece book will be a great addition to my Greek Mythology basket…and all these hardcover books? Only a dollar each ($.90 with my teacher discount)! Can you tell that I’m working on my non-fiction section?

And look at this….

15 hardcover books for only $22! STEAL. And they had No Talking…SCORE! And you should see all the great books I didn’t buy! Ok, so maybe I have a bit of a problem…

ps: This genre in the Teen Fiction section of the book story caught my eye:

WHAT?! Teen Paranormal Romance  is a GENRE now? And the section was HUGE!

If buying books is wrong, I don’t want to be right 🙂

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Plant Killer

I have heard from a lot of teachers that having green, growing things in your classroom is good for the atmosphere and student responsibility. So this summer I bought 4 plants to live in my classroom window sill:

Here are two of my healthy, happy plants...not pictured: African Violets and Fern.

Here are two of my healthy, happy plants at the beginning of the year...not pictured: African Violets and Fern.

Confession: Every one of those plants is dead. With the exception of the African Violets, which I know are delicate, every plant I bought was supposed to be hardy and fool-proof! My kids watered them according to the instructions on the tag…but over the past 6 months one by one they bit the dust. Even my bamboo plant, which my coworker informed me, “You have to try to kill bamboo!”

Ah me, what’s a nerdy teacher to do? I have NO green thumb. I guess I’ll have to create a warm and inviting classroom some other way…

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Share it Forward: Capzles

I read a blog post a couple weeks ago about Capzles, an online tool that can be used to make interactive timelines! Sounds cool, huh? I’ll admit I haven’t used this with my students yet, but it is on my list of tools to try. The timelines can have pictures, videos, links to websites, audio, and you can organize it all in a really intuitive format. (see the examples below) If you are interested in learning more you MUST check out this blog post and video by Kelly Tenkely at iLearn Technology…she also has made a fantastic video explaining how to create a Capzle!

Even though I haven’t had time to use this tool to create with my kids, I spent some time exploring the archives of Capzles that others have made and I found some great resources that I can use in my classroom now, and in the future. Like this Capzle about traveling across the regions of Texas! My kids will have love to looking at the pictures from each region! I’m going to embed this in my classroom blog for Tuesday!

Or here is one where a teacher goes around to different people with a video camera, asking them “Why should my students learn about history?” This would be such a neat way to start the year off in Social Studies!

To use Capzles you need to create a free account and unfortunately you do need an email…but you could create a classroom account or use a burn email address to create accounts for your students! Then you can go to work. It is super easy. And if you don’t have time to create, I suggest you explore some of the already created Capzles!

And then go ahead and share it forward!

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DIY: Dry Erasers

“Miss O., can I hand out the socks?!”

This may not be a normal request in your classroom, but it is in mine!

When I posted the other day about using page protectors to create instant dry erase boards, it reminded me of another idea! I got this idea from my cooperating teacher when I was student teaching. I was perplexed when all the students brought a sock with their school supplies, then Mrs. Huisman explained that the socks were used as dry erasers. Brilliant! Of course, I forgot about this until later…

When I started using page protector dry erase boards on a regular basis, I would hand out tissues to everyone to erase their boards. But then cold and flu season hit, and we did not have tissues to spare! Then I remembered those socks. I made a run walmart and picked up a class set of socks (only one per student, not a pair!). Then I put one skinny marker and one thick marker in each sock.

DSCN1488 DSCN1489 DSCN1492

Ok, clearly these socks have been used! 🙂 The great thing about storing your dry erase markers this way, is that you get your markers and erasers handed out in one step…and the kids can’t see what color marker they are getting, no arguing… perfect. I store my markers in a container like this:


Remember that container from my garage saling this summer?! I have put it to good use.

So there you go, DIY dry erase boards and dry erasers! Unfortunately, I do not have an idea DIY ideas for making dry erase board markers…we have these on our school supply list at the beginning of the year.

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