Tag Archives: classroom

Typing Content: Or Killing Two Birds With One Stone

     At the beginning of the year, several elementary teachers I know take their students to the computer lab to type their spelling list.  This accomplishes two things at the same time (maybe more). First, they learn their spelling words. Next, they learn to type and become familiar with the keyboard.

 

     They begin to learn Microsoft Word by highlighting their list and numbering. They learn how to insert a word they forgot. This is a natural way to begin word processing which will later be used for typing reports. In our area, the majority of students do not own computers at home and there is little time in the day to teach typing.

 

I like it.

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Curriki: My New Online Education Community (and Friend!)

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The other day I was in a panic because the activity I’d planned months before, a nice webquest of the civilization we are studying, suddenly wasn’t working due to our newly installed firewall at school.  We can, in certain circumstances, request that certain sites be restored, but the process is slow and doesn’t always mean it can be fixed. For instance, I cannot access my own blog (or any other) from school. I’m not complaining, I do understand. I don’t work on personal things at school.

 

But (o.k. a little complaint) there are some teacher blogs that have some great information I’d like to use in my planning and lesson creation.

 

….back to my (then) immediate problem—what to do when your great plans become shambles?  I tried two recently found places that have good lesson plans and background resource materials. The first is curriki, an online learning community started by Sun Microsystems to develop education resources.  There I found a great webquest that did work with our firewall within minutes. While finding it, I came across tons more things I can use.

 

Is it just me, or do other people feel like Alice climbing down the rabbit hole when they start looking for things?

 

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Saving Energy $$ and Being Green at the Same Time

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Using a screensaver is not energy efficient.  Put your computer and monitor on sleep mode when you aren’t using it.  Don’t leave it on during the day or night when you aren’t using it.  $600 million dollars in energy is wasted each year, according to Real World Green, by businesses not following these tips.

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If you need some encouragement to save on your heating bill this winter, try the “Freeze Yer Buns Challenge 2008″ at Crunchy Chicken Blog (Putting the mental in the environmental).
The idea is to pledge to keep your thermostat at a low level this winter. In our case, we always keep our heat at 68 in the winter and the AC at 78 in the summer (if we use the AC, that is).
As Crunchy Chicken says, “How low can you go?”
 
 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under cheap, classroom, energy efficient, frugal living, Frugality, green, personal finance, teacher, teaching, tightwad, Uncategorized

Using FREE Online Translators to Communicate with Parents and Students

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My six years of Jr. High and High School Spanish have not held up well for me. While I was able to get around better during a few trips to Mexico, my Spanish is very poor. For instance, I never got the hang of past tense and future tense. I am only able to speak in the present.  So much for “living in the NOW.”

Even so, recently I impressed all the teachers eating lunch in our cramped teachers “lounge” by calling my Spanish-speaking parents to let them know some important information.  (These teachers weren’t actively eavesdropping—we practically sit on each other’s laps in the teacher’s lounge).

Here’s my tip (after the big buildup): I use a free online translation website to type what I want to say. This helps me correct my fuzzy Spanish. Sometimes I’ll get a Spanish-speaking student to check it over for me before I call. 

The link I’ve provided offers translation between many languages including between English and Spanish, German, Dutch, Portuguese, French, Russian and Italian. Also, it allows translations between and amongst these languages.  Another feature is that you can compare the translation the website derives to one that Google Translator provides. This is another check that someone like myself who is not fluent might want to use as a double check.

If you use a translation website, be sure to remove any slang from the phrase you are typing in. I also try to insert the name of the student and polite remarks such as please and thank you to what I eventually say to parents.

I’m not saying the website provides a perfect translation, but I’ve always gotten my point across with non-English speaking parents. And I am planning to take Spanish again next year with the hope of organizing some much-needed free ESL classes for parents in our community. My secret hope is to learn how to make many foreign culinary delights and trade garden seeds. Sshh! Don’t tell.

Unfortunately, my school district doesn’t have translators or other professionals to help with the language divide. So foreign-speaking parents really appreciate when a teacher takes the extra time to get to know them and help their son or daughter.

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Filed under cheap, classroom, ESL, Frugality, Parents, teacher, teaching, tightwad

Eight Frugal Things in the Classroom That Have an Impact– for Free!!

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1.   ACT and SAT prep courses are great, but often they cost $$$ that some of our students don’t have. Even if schools have them for free, they may not fit into the schedules of busy high schoolers.  There are many good prep videos available on Youtube and teachertube. It’s not enough to know the material, you must also know the strategy for finishing the test in an accurate way.  In particular, I like Super Magnet Man’s guide to taking the science portion of the ACT. 

2.   In middle school, one of our challenges is to teach students to be prepared and to be responsible.  They are terrible about coming to class unprepared.  Getting a student their supplies takes precious minutes from teaching. Here are some suggestions. I keep pink paper and green pens available for borrowing. They must be signed out (a student is always assigned to this task before I begin teaching.)  I have a record of how often students are coming to class unprepared and am able to speak to parents, if needed. Sometimes being unprepared is part of a larger problem of not being on task. When parents see that 25 days out of 20 little Susie came to class without her book, folder, assignment book, paper and pencil they get a good picture of what part of the problem is.  Please note: students who speak to me privately about financial problems are always given enough supplies until they tell me they need more. I buy extra when they are on sale for this purpose.

 

3.   Teachers are extraordinary at their capacity for giving.  At our High School, athletes are supposed to dress up on game day.  For boys, this means khaki pants, dress shirt and tie.  Many students don’t have these clothes and could not afford them. Our teachers buy them the outfits and no one is the wiser.  Sometimes they are wearing a pair of khakis that a teacher can’t fit into anymore, or a tie that was given at holiday time that the teacher cannot use.  Be on the lookout for things like these. Set aside shirts that may be a little tight—there may be a boy that needs it for game day, college or job interview, or Trivia bowl competition. 

4.   We have a nice tradition at our school where we bring things to the teacher lounge we no longer need and these things are either given away or sold.  For example, someone had very nice quality sheets given to them that they could not use. They were offered at half price and I grabbed them quickly! Start this tradition at your school!

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5.   I have a friend who is a very harried High school math teacher who needed her coffee first period to be alert for doing math.  She noticed that her students commented on her coffee and liked the smell of it. This grew into a tradition in her first period classes that if they brought a covered cup, she would provide the coffee. The student’s parents have volunteered to keep the supply of coffee grounds and creamer flowing.  It’s a little thing, but it really was a special touch her first period math students enjoy and brought them closer together. She says they are very close now.

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6.   Kids love traditions and special rituals.  Special occasions aren’t just for the youngest students. This is especially true for middle and high school students who are still bouncing back and forth maturity-wise between adulthood and childhood.  I like to introduce historically significant dates into my curriculum even if it’s the kind of thing we do after our work is done.  One good place for finding out Birthdays of authors or famous people, National Holidays, Monthly celebrations to use in your planning is the teacherscorner.net. The event calendar for November is located here:

 

7.   I like to keep a classroom set of plastic page protectors for using classroom copies of things. Saves money on laminating and you can always change what is in them, Or store several things in them and only use the page on top.  With these the students can highlight important text and wipe off again. Or they can use them for say, math worksheets.  By writing with a dry erase marker, they can be used again and again. A new sheet can be popped in each day! Another advantage is that it is a very “green” idea.

8.   Help Campbell Soup Company help our schools by donating to the Future Farmers of America organization. Even if you don’t have one at your school, it is a terrific program for students.  Go to check out http://www.helpgrowyoursoup.com/ . Look especially at the “Nourishing Minds” tab. When you click on the red barn, Campbells will donate $1.00 to the National FFA Organization.

BAG001

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Fall and Halloween projects for the Classroom (Plant Life Cycles and Pumpkin Math)

Here is a cute yet educational project that is perfect for the season and teaches students about the plant life cycle. It starts with the seed, then the leaf, the flower…until you have an unripe pumpkin and a ripe pumpkin. You can write the numbers of the steps to help students put the life cycle steps in order. The shapes store inside the orange plastic plates that are tied together with green yarn in three places. Just leave the label “Pumpkin Life Cycle” handle hanging out ready to pull.

Here’s the back…..

 

Students can practice reciting the life cycle steps while the shapes are inside the plate holder and “reveal” the answer by pulling out the next step.

 

Another thing I like to do in the fall is to buy pumpkins and let students count how many seeds are in each. If you wait until the day after Halloween, you can really get these cheaply (sometimes free!).

 

Before you begin, estimate the weight height and width of each pumpkin and how many seeds they think will be inside. See who is closest.  Give students some comparable weights of things to help them estimate (toaster? Dictionary? Bowling Ball?)

 

Its fun to estimate which pumpkin IS the biggest, heaviest or has the highest number of seeds inside. They are often surprised to find that asymmetrical pumpkins are deceiving and that the largest pumpkins don’t necessarily contain the largest or largest NUMBER of seeds inside. Sometimes the largest pumpkin is not the DENSEST.

Think about what tools would be needed to compare your pumpkins. Will a ruler do, or would a tape measure help? What units should we use to measure and weigh our pumpkins? A really good lesson is to measure and weigh the pumpkins in two units (e.g. inches vs. meters.)

 

After cleaning their pumpkins you can create a chart that includes the number of seeds that are found in each child’s pumpkin. You can see what the average number of seeds is.

 

There is no end to what you can discover from a project like this. Perhaps you could weigh the pumpkin before and after. Estimate how far the pumpkin seeds would go if laid end to end….

 

I recommend buying pumpkin-carving knives for children when you see them on sale during the fall season.  Many children are not allowed to help in the kitchen (even if there IS someone at home who knows how to cook) They so enjoy being able to carve their own pumpkin.

 

I believe in many Montessori principles at home and in the classroom.  Giving children the skills and tools to discover is very empowering.  As soon as my own children could stand on a kitchen chair they were helping in the kitchen with their pumpkin-carving knives. As a result, they had excellent hand-eye coordination and small motor skills in the early primary years.

 

Don’t forget to roast the pumpkin seeds for a nutritious snack!

 

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups raw whole pumpkin seeds

2 teaspoons butter, melted

1 pinch salt

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).

Toss seeds in a bowl with the melted butter and salt. Spread the seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown; stir occasionally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bring Election Excitement to Your Classroom

It’s not too late to get your students involved in the election!  You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it either.

  

University of Virginia‘s Center for Politics Youth Leadership Initiative has a large number of teacher’s resources, lesson plans and background information for schools to use when teaching about the election.  Enrollment is free and entitles you to a CD which tells you how to run a mock election at your school.

 

If you choose to do a mock election for your school, you can set up a computerized election  through YLI that will be held online between October 20-30, 2008.

 

The League of Women Voters has a great nonpartisan election guide. You can get it here.  The election guide has a section that tells all about the salary, duties, election requirements and term of the President.  But what makes this elections REALLY great is a non partisan short (read: kid-friendly) overview of the three major candidates (betcha forgot Nader!) and their take on the following five issues: global climate change, cost of health care, economic disparity and education.

  

Come to think of it NONPARTISAN is a great word to put on your spelling and vocabulary words this week! For that matter, if you want to learn other election terms and even play a bingo game with students look at this from Education World.

I really LOVE the things that Cybrary man has done with his website. I found his link at teachernet and I think he is one inspiring teacher.  Among other things I found at his site was a link to many pictures and ideas for election bulletin boards, doors and displays.  Here’s a link to his election collection, but I recommend staying to see all the other things he has gathered at his website besides the election.

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