online virtual playground for animal and science fans

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

Admittedly, we’re a little slow on the draw when it comes giving our kids the ‘go’ on most online activities.online virtual playground for animal and science fans cover.png

I’m over-cautious and because my living is made in the social media space, I know what’s out there. And I know there are way too many kids with way to much freedom online.

And sometimes that frightens me.

So when I find something that gives my kids a little sometimes-needed space, keeps them safe, engaged, and interested, and is fun? I’d say that ‘s a huge win for us.

I’ve recently found an online virtual playground of sorts for animal and science fans. For kids who dig the outdoors, for kids who love creating their own, customized spaces, for kids who love playing games and really love learning.

It’s called Animal Jam, and right now, my kids are loving it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Online Virtual Playground for Animal and Science Fans:

Thanks to the great people of National Geographic for creating this online space for our kids with the goal of providing a fun, exciting, and safe environment for kids to play online.

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

Really.

Apparently, it’s been around for a few years now, but we just discovered it.

It’s the only ‘online virtual playground’ I’ll let my kids hang out in, and here’s why I like it:

  • It’s fun.  It’s been the ‘go-to’ game for Owen and Cora for the last two months. They want to play because they enjoy the ever-changing platform and the challenges.
  • Kids have control. They can customize their characters, name and care for pets, complete missions, attend ‘parties’, buy things, and design anything from their hut to their outfit.

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

 

  • Kids are learning.   They keep track of their adventures in their JourneyBooks, and they collect pictures for each place, a kind of chronicle of their history of the game.  When they click on a picture of an animal, plant, landform, you name it, a little bit of information comes up about that thing. It’s SO cool.
  • The Golden Rule is stressed often. Little reminders for kids about being nice and interacting kindly are prominent on the site and are shown regularly.  Nice Jammers trade, become ‘buddies’ and the idea of being a good ‘digital citizen’ is mentioned often.

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

 

  • It’s safe.  I control the levels of ‘chat’ that my kids can engage in, and I have access to all account information. Safety tips are shared, just like the Golden Rule reminders.
  • There’s tons of follow-up and extension activities. I love the Animal Jam Academy, which offers free printables, experiments, activities, videos, and more.
  • It’s totally worth the money.  You can play free, but members have access to everything on the site–more than just anyone who drops in. I rarely buy these kinds of programs and platforms, but with the added bang for my buck in terms of science learning along the way, I think it’s a no-brainer.

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

Is it perfect? Probably not. But for us, it works–and especially during the long summer months when kids start getting antsy and need something new, this can be it.

Reading, learning, planning, and thinking. Designing, questioning, and collecting. It’s cool.

Our kids are also loving using the  Acer C720P Chromebook for the game–it’s a touchscreen meets laptop, and it’s totally fab for little hands. 

 

fyi: Though I am a new member of the National Geographic Kids Insiders group, this is an unsponsored post. All opinions are my own, as always, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. 

fyi: I am in a partnership with Intel AIO . Through this partnership I gain access to content, product, or other forms of value. Affiliate links are used in this post.

disney pin trading: why it rocks for families

disney pin trading: why it rocks for families

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

disney pin trading why it rocks for families  teachmama.com.pngThis spring, my family was elated to have been invited to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in Disneyland.

It. Was. Amazing.

Not only did we hear from amazing speakers and make incredible connections with talented bloggers from around the country, but we also had the chance to explore Disneyland for the very first time.   Disneyland rocks.

We prepared with our Disney Fun Fact lunchbox notes, and we totally pulled off the most amazing Disney surprise scavenger hunt ever for our kids. And the trip did not disappoint.

For the very first time, we pin traded. We Disney pin traded.

And I totally think it rocks for families. Every family should try it, and the Disney vacation–no matter whether it’s Disney World or Disneyland–is taken to a whole new level.

Our kids were the perfect ages at 10, 8, and 7 years old.

We’re totally and completely hooked on pin trading.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Disney Pin Trading–Why it Rocks for Families:

disney pin trading | why it rocks for families | teachmama.com

disney pin trading | why it rocks for families | teachmama.com

Essentially, Disney pin trading is just that: trading Disney-themed pins at Disney parks. 

Simple, right? Right.

You can take Disney pin trading to just about any level you want, or you can challenge yourself to gather entire lines, sets, or mini collections. We went simple. Believe me.

We started with a handful of pins to get us started.

disney pin trading | why it rocks for families | teachmama.com

disney pin trading | why it rocks for families | teachmama.com

For the six or so weeks we had to prepare for our trip, Maddy, Owen, and Cora worked hard to earn their pins. We:

  • purchased a beginner set of Disney pins from Amazon;
  • found some lanyards we had around the house (you can buy lanyards pretty inexpensively);
  • explained that for every 10 gems the kids earned, they could earn one pin;
  • took time each Sunday evening to count gems and to choose pins;
  • whomever’s day it was chose first–he or she handed in 10 gems and grabbed a pin from the dish;
  • added pins to lanyards as the weeks went on;
  • began trading once we hit the parks!

It was awesome. And for so many reasons I believe Disney pin trading rocks, but I share my top 5 reasons here:

fyi: The teachmama.com youtube channel is all about sharing quick teaching tips, reading strategies, and parenting tricks with parents and caregivers.

It’s about empowering parents to be the best teachers they can be for their children. Subscribe here so you don’t miss a thing!

 

We all really had a blast with pin trading.

I know the kids now look at their lanyards much differently–they know the story behind nearly every pin.

 

disney pin trading | teachmama.com

 

disney pin trading | teachmama.com

 

Need a little more info before you get started? Check out my friend Tiffany’s post: Disney Pin Trading 101. It’s awesome.

 

 

 

 

Here are a few other ways to countdown or celebrate your own Disney vacation: 

 

fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post.

create a library plan: make the most of a trip to the library

make a library plan teachmama.com

Kids can be a little silly when it comes to picking out their own books at the library. create a library plan: make the most of a trip to the library

Where some can easily head right on over to the section they want, grab the books they want, and quickly find a quiet, cozy spot to read, others need . . . a little more direction.

And believe me, I’m all for giving kids time to browse the shelves, look around, relax and explore.

But really.

Our kids are so totally lucky to have so many books at their fingertips. Let’s give them a little direction so they can make the most of a trip to the library or to their school media center.

So after chatting with my pal Heather, and after my own kids’ crazy library book experiences, I decided to create a little Library Plan sheet.  They work.

They help give kids focus when they’re faced with All. Those. Books.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Create a Library Plan–Make the Most of a Trip to the Library:

create a library plan: make the most of a trip to the library

 

I am not lying when I say that in Owen’s first three years in elementary school, he brought the same random book about dogs home at least ten times. It was a small, hardcover book about chihuahuas. And the fifth time it landed on our kitchen table, I asked why he brought it home again, and he said Because I like it.

I suggested that he try searching for other books about chihuahuas or even other books about dogs, but he said, No. I like this one.

 

create a library plan: make the most of a trip to the library

create a library plan: make the most of a trip to the library

 

The next year, when the book ended up back at our house, I gave him a little more nudging. You’re sure you love that book that much? I mean, haven’t you memorized it by now? 

He assured me that he just ‘really liked it’.

What I learned is that Owen doesn’t really care about his library books. He really doesn’t.

His goal? Grab a book. Bring it back to his class. Bring it home.  Maybe take it out of his backpack, depending on the day–maybe not. Bring it back to school. Put it in the library bin. Done. Bam.  Check it off. Gimme the next thing.

create a library plan: make the most of a trip to the library

create a library plan: make the most of a trip to the library

 

So rather than have him do the same thing this summer–a time when we usually hit the library as a family pretty often–I decided it was time to make the Library Plan.

Heather asked me a while ago if I had anything she could use for her boys, and really, I didn’t.

But now I do.

Small enough to fit inside a pocket or in the cover of a current library book, the Library Plan is super-simple.

The Library Plan is here to download if you so choose: library book plan

create a library plan: make the most of a trip to the library

library book plan  | help kids make the most of a trip to the library!

It includes a space for titles that kids might be seeking, authors, and subjects. And in case you do your book searching from home, accessing your library’s card catalog via the library website like we often do, there’s a spot for notes, too. I thought that would be a great space to write down call numbers, messages, anything you want to remember from your at-home searching.

The Library Plan also includes a ‘think’ spot where all sorts of topics and ideas are added. I’m hoping that as Maddy, Owen, and Cora fill out their Plan sheets, these ideas jog their minds and helps to give them some things to think about or look for at the library.

And that’s it.

We used the Library Plans as the first day of our Tabletop Surprises this week, and they worked.

Really, truly helped to keep our afternoon trip to the library focused and productive.

 

What do you think? Will these work for your kids or students? What should we add or change? Do let me know!

kid craft sale: supporting young entrepreneurs (with Astrobrights giveaway!)

kid craft sale: supporting young entrepreneurs (with Astrobrights giveaway!)

sponsored post

 

 

kid craft sale: supporting young entrepreneurs

We have always supported our kids’ learning here at home; in fact, that’s the very reason teachmama.com was started!

Big on learning in the every day, we’ve always done what we could to find cool opportunities for learning in the here and now.  Fun learning in everyday events.  Really doing what we can to be in the moment and roll with the adventures as they unfold.

So this weekend, we hosted an impromptu Kid Craft Sale.

No joke.

What started as Maddy and I learning how to make the brightest and most beautiful origami cranes, somehow morphed into Cora teaching us how to make fans. And then Cora’s fan-making turned into a Fan Sale which then morphed into a candy, iced-tea, and ribbon barrette sale.

And then with neighbors jumping in on the kid craft sale fun, the day took a whole new and exciting turn.

It’s about encouraging our creative kids and supporting young entrepreneurs, right?

And you can do the same–thanks to a rockstar giveaway: a customized package of Astrobrights Papers (you’ll love them!) and a $50 Office Depot gift card. Yay!

Summer fun, here. We. Come!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Kid Craft Sale–Supporting Young Entrepreneurs: I’m thrilled that the folks from Astrobrights hooked us up with a boatload of gorgeous, insanely bright and beautiful paper because that’s how this whole thing started.

The minute we opened our box of papers, Maddy declared, Mom I totally want to use this paper for origami. 

I said, That’s cool, Maddy, but first we need to learn how to do origami.

So that’s what we did.

support and encourage creative kids  teachama .png

 

support and encourage creative kids  teachama cranes.png

support and encourage creative kids  teachama

 

Maddy did a bit of research on our little Acer C720P Chromebook and found an awesome how-to site for making origami cranes.

She and I step-by-step folded our Rocket Red paper into a cool crane. (We did a lot of pausing and rewinding along the way.)

They were not easy, and we were pretty much just happy making one each. We’ll revisit origami again this summer is the plan!

 

support and encourage creative kids  teachama crane.png

 

Then Cora jumped off of her swing and decided she wanted in. But she didn’t want to make a crane–that took too long.

She wanted to make some fans.

So she showed us how to make the ultimate fan, and then she said she was going to sell them.  In our front yard.  Today.

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.pngsupport and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

She got to work.

Cora made signs advertising her Fan Sale and set prices for each fan.  She knew she wanted small fans and mini fans and super mini fans.

(Minis are perfect for dolls, you know.)

support and encourage creative kids  teacham

 

She assembled her money jar, her tray for her fans, and a tin that held all of her fans. And Maddy and I even let her sell our two origami cranes.

We dragged three chairs to the front yard–one for Cora, one for me, and one for the fans. And then we waited.

 

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

Meanwhile, Maddy and Owen pulled a table out to the curb along with iced tea, Maddy’s barrettes, and candy. They, too, made signs, set prices (though admittedly they were quite high. . . ), and they waited.

Before we knew it, a few neighbor kids joined in on the fun, and we waited together.

They flagged down passing cars, called to neighbor friends who were watering flowers or cutting the grass, and surprisingly, both sale tables made about $3.00, thanks to a few generous friends.

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

support and encourage creative kids  teachama fans.png

 

Bottom line? Our kids were outdoors, using their brains, getting all crafty and creative, and having fun.

And all I had to do to support my young entrepreneurs was encourage them to go with their ideas, carry a few chairs out, make a few fans, and remind them to use their manners before and after sales.

So fun.

 

Please note: Though we all want to support young entrepreneurs, it was brought to my attention that in some areas of the country, kids have been fined for having Lemonade Stands. Holy moly. Please do a bit of research before you go this route; a $500 fine is pretty hefty if you ask me.

Consider:

————————————————————-

GIVEAWAY: A customized package of Astrobrights paper and a $50 Office Depot gift card.

Do you want to win your own customized package of Astrobrights paper and a $50 Office Depot gift card??!  Yes, yes you do.

——————————-

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to throw your name in the hat:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with theOfficial Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Friday, June 20, 2014 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the US only. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 06/20/14.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

——————————-

But wait. There’s another giveaway coming! #ColorizeYourClassroom Contest

  • Astrobrights is helping teachers in every state get started with a Back to School #ColorizeYourClassroom contest!
  • The skinny: Teachers share a photo of how they colorize their classroom on the Astrobrights facebook page from July 7-September 12. Winners will have Astrobrights Colorize their Classroom all year long! One winner per state plus a Grand Prize winner will be awarded. 
  • Find all of the details here: facebook.com/Astrobrights

fyi: This is a sponsored post but as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little crafty-crafters.

Affiliate links are used for Acer C720P Chromebook.

bing in the classroom: 3 reasons parents will love it

bing in the classroom or at home teachmama.com

This post was created in partnership with Bing.

It is so hard to imagine a time without the internet search.bing in the classroom or at home | cover teachmama.com

Any time there’s a question in our house, the kids run to the computer: Search it! Search it! Let’s search for it!

But searching isn’t always safe, and it isn’t always easy–especially for curious and tech-savvy kids, and this is why I totally dig Bing in the Classroom.

Bing in the Classroom is a program designed to do a few things:

  1. establish ad-free, safe search for schools;
  2. provide ways for schools get their hands on tablets for students via Bing rewards;
  3. offer teachers (and parents!) tons of really cool (free!) lesson plans.

Sure, you’re a parent, and school’s almost out for the year. So why does this matter to you?

Seriously, I’m going to love Bing in the Classroom this summer, when my 10, 8, and 7 year olds are hangin’ around the homefront each and every day.

It will provide for us a ton of resources to use to keep the kids’ learning fresh, exciting, and interesting over the summer.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  •  Bing in the Classroom–3 Reasons You Will Love it (even this summer!):  Learning about the program now gives you a few solid weeks to learn about Bing in the Classroom and share it with your school’s administration or technology team so that they can implement the program next school year.

And? Like I said, Bing in the Classroom gives you a ton of things to do this summer.

Take a minute to see how it works:

Show support for #adfreesearch!

How will I use Bing in the Classroom this summer? 

I’m a huge fan of providing kids with tons of cool things to do to stretch their brains and flex their creativity throughout the summer, and two big pieces of the Bing puzzle can do just that:

  • Free Teaching Tools: The premise behind the Common Core aligned resources available on the site is that parents or teachers can spend only about 10 minutes each day helping students learn to navigate the wilds of the internet, through amazing visuals and thought-provoking prompts.

Simply make your way to the Teaching Tools page.

bing in classroom: 3 reasons you will love it at home this summer | teachmama.com

Then enter your search perimeters, or you can just browse all resources for a certain age.  

The activity that caught my eye is below. Some are Power Point, some are Word docs, and some are mixed media. I love the detail, the options, and the focus on one powerful image, not to mention the link to Common Core at the end of each lesson.

I’m confident that this summer an activity or two each week will be engaging and interesting for Maddy, Owen, and Cora.

http://www.bing.com/classroom/teachingtools

 

  • Bing Searches: I love, love, love the Bing searches, and I think the photos on the main screen are perfect for getting kids interested in learning.

The photos rock. And the fact that you can mouse over all parts of the photo and learn fun facts is awesome.

bing in the classroom why parents will love it in summer

The Bing homepage looks like this. . .

bing in the classroom why parents will love it in summer

. . . and when you click more info, you get the skinny on the location and photographer. Every day.

bing in the classroom why parents will love it in summer

Love this.

Always, always, always you want to go to your settings tab once you log into your Microsoft account so that you can properly adjust your search mode.

Though these settings are never 110% completely foolproof, Bing’s safesearch filters are pretty close:

bing in the classroom for summer | teachmama.com

My plan for this summer, among other things for our Tabletop Surprises, one day a week I’ll just leave the photo up on our Intel AIO Touchscreen or Chromebook and let the kids go free.   Along with some internet search help tips and some guided practice, hopefully after the summer the kids will be ready for the new school year!

 
fyi: This post was created in partnership with Bing.  Affiliate links are used in this post. 

the ONLY thing parents need to know during read-alouds

most important thing for read alouds cover pinterest .png

most important thing for read alouds | teachmama.com

What should parents know about read-alouds? 

What must every read-aloud have? 

Should parents memorize a list of strategies, techniques, or questions?  

Must parents spend hundreds of dollars on reading material every day?  

Do parents need to set aside two hours every day for reading with their kids?   

No, no and no.

There’s one thing that every parent must know during read-alouds, and I know you will be surprised. I bet it’s not what you’re thinking.

I’d love for you to head over to Scholastic Parents’ Raise a Reader blog–where I spend a wee bit o’ my writing time–to check it out. Read it and then let me know what you think.

Here it is: The Most Important Thing to Remember During Read-Alouds.

—————————-

So.  What do you think? 

  • Do you agree or disagree with my points?
  • How does your child’s learning needs compare?
  • How does your parenting style compare to the ideas outlined in the post?
  • Would you say that your household is similar or different to the one outlined in this post?
  • What steps will you take to make changes in your home?
  • What foll0w-up questions do you have? How can I help you improve in this area?

 

Thanks for reading, my friends!

Don’t forget to subscribe to teachmama.com so you don’t miss a thing! 

easter egg pattern match game: for kids, by kids

easter egg pattern match teachmama.com

Easter is right around the corner, and we’re psyched.easter egg pattern match  teachmama.com

Not only does Easter mean egg painting and candy, family time and spring flowers, fresh starts and new hope, it means my kids get to spend some time with faraway cousins.

Maddy, Owen, and Cora are thrilled to see their little cousins who are much younger than they.  My kids are 10, 8, and 7 years old, and their Pennsylvania cousins are 3 years, 19 months, 12 months, and 4 months old.

So this year, as we relaxed a bit after a whirlwind Disneyland adventure (more on that later!), the kids put some time into a little homemade gift for their Keystone State cousins.

We worked together to make Easter Egg Pattern Match–a super-fun, made-with-love game for their 3-year-old cousin.  Matching. Patterns.

Perfect for a 3-year-old!

And really? Creating matching patterns was a fun mathy, brain-stretching exercise for my own kids.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Easter Egg Pattern Match Game–For Kids, By Kids:  These eggs are simple but full o’ love.

All I did was print out Blank Egg patterns, much like our Alphabet Egg Hunt–Uppercase and Lowercase Letter Match set but obviously without the letters.

I printed the eggs out on white cardstock, which I highly recommend so they are a bit more sturdy.

easter egg pattern match | teachmama

easter egg pattern match | teachmama

The  BLANK alphabet egg hunt  are here to download if you’d like: BLANK alphabet egg hunt.

This afternoon, after our third tv show and hundredth game on the iPad, I asked the kids to meet me at the counter.

I said, I found a really cute game that we can make for our cousins and bring to them at Easter, and I think you’ll love it. Who wants to grab a marker, crayon, and some stickers and give me a hand?

easter egg pattern match | teachmama

easter egg pattern match | teachmama

They were all game, even though it was 2pm and we were all still wearing pjs.

We’re going to make a matching game for Wyatt–matching is a super-important skill for 3-year-olds, and you know what? If Wyatt knows that his cool older cousins made him a game, I’m betting he’ll love playing it.

So here’s the deal: just like the Alphabet Egg Hunt where we matched uppercase letters with lowercase letters, this game will be similar. But instead of letter matching, we’ll make patterns that match.

easter egg pattern match | teachmama

easter egg pattern match | teachmama

Your challenge will be to create matching tops and bottoms for our eggs, like this: (I showed them two really simple eggs I did, each with one sticker on the top and bottom half of the egg.

The pattern-making and designing matching eggs proved to be a bit difficult for Cora, but even Maddy and Owen each had one ‘do-over’ egg. Sometimes they made eggs that just mirrored the pattern, and sometimes the pattern wasn’t clear after the egg split–it didn’t start low enough.

So we tried to keep it simple for the most part, but we did add a few challenge eggs:

easter egg pattern match | teachmama

easter egg pattern match | teachmama

easter egg pattern match | teachmama

We wanted to have several eggs that had the same colors, basic shapes, and same layout so that our little loves would have to look just a tad bit closer.

We didn’t want to totally frustrate him, but we thought that his name and his brother’s name, written in similar colors, and stickers with similar shapes, or even two with farm animals or vehicles would give him an extra challenge.

easter egg pattern match | teachmama

easter egg pattern match | teachmama

And after we were finished with all of the eggs, Cora and I matched them all up to make sure they worked. We checked patterns and we checked them again.

We eliminated some that didn’t work, and we included only the best.

easter egg pattern match | teachmama

Then Cora made a label: Wyatt & Myles Easter Egg Match. We threw the eggs in a plastic baggie, and we were ready to roll!

The kids cannot wait to play the game with their cousins!

Love these little ways that empower kids to create and teach other little ones.  The pattern-making and generating of top and bottom matches was a great brain exercise for my three spring breakers!

Just a quickie little something you can print out, bring to your Easter gathering, and have cousins, siblings, aunts, uncles, and friends create for the little ones of the crew!

Will these work for you? Let me know how your family will use them! I’d love to hear it!

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge | teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

 

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge | teachmama.com

When I was teaching, I always had a bulletin board full of opportunities for my students to win contests, write essays, submit poems, and receive accolades outside the classroom.

It’s so important for kids–and parents!–to realize that there are hundreds of cool contests running all the time.

Hundreds of dollars waiting to be won. Fab prizes and cool travel opportunities if kids just take some time to share their smarts with the world around them.

And so many of our kids are crazy smart, devising solutions to age-old problems that burden many and even working hard now to design answers to issues that may arise down the road.

Do you have a young tinker–belle or beau–on your hands?

A smartypants middle-schooler who may need a little something to get him through spring break?

A creative, outside-the-box thinker who may have found the solution to an environmental issue in your neighborhood?

A kid who may find a good way to put $25,000 to use if he or she wins?

I’ve got just the thing:  Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge:

Here’s what you need to know. . .

Who:  Contest is open to middle school students

What:The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is the nation’s premier science competition for middle school students.

Why: It targets students in the years when research indicates their interest in science begins to fade and encourages them to explore scientific concepts and creatively communicate their findings.

Where:Young Scientist Challenge site

When:  Deadline for applications is April 22, 2014.

How:  Middle school students are create a 1-2 min video communicating the science behind a possible solution for an everyday problem. Based on the video entry, 10 finalists are chosen to work with a 3M scientist during a summer mentorship to create an innovation that will be presented to a panel of judges at the final competition at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota in October. WOW, right?

 

 

Check out the video for a bit more about the contest, and do pass this post on to friends, family, and schools. I know that so many kids would enter–if they only knew about it.

And how cool is this: past challenge winners have gone on to speak in front of members of Congress! Winners have also worked with the nation’s top scientists, participated in the White House Science Fair, met the President and pursued academic careers in the sciences. I love it.

Read through the complete rules and details on the competition website.

Chat with the competition folks over on their Facebook page or tweet with them on twitter:

And if your super-smart, totally cool middle schooler enters?  Let me know!! 

 

fyi: This is a sponsored post. Many thanks to my friends at Discovery Education for asking me to share news of this important and totally cool contest; as always, my opinions are my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and a parent. 

fractions with FOOD: hands-on math

fractions with food

fractions with food cover

This post about fun with food and fractions is written by Jen of Beyond Traditional Math.

Hopefully after reading it, you’ll never look at food quite the same! Thank you, Jen, for your time, effort, and expertise!

____________________

  • Fractions with Our Favorite Thing…Food! by Jen

Before you first meet me, I should tell you that I am certifiably nuts about being anti-worksheets right now, so I am going to try to dial it back a bit to write this post.

This past school year, we adopted a new math series that is very heavy on worksheets and giving tons of practice problems. When we piloted the series, we knew that we’d need to supplement and scale back as needed.

It is difficult for me to expect children to work out between 30 and 50 problems a day.

I particularly struggle with this style of teaching when the concept is very abstract.  Right now, our team is introducing fractions, and I can’t tell you how difficult this is for third graders.

The idea of shading in boxes and naming fractions of symbols was so abstract that students had nothing to connect it to. It was actually making me crazy. The idea of doing it with 30 problems on a worksheet made me even crazier!

So I came up with a series of activities that would allow them to explore fractions with one of their favorite things: Food! (OK, I will admit it is my favorite thing, too.)

This change has made ALL the difference.  By cutting an apple in half, we could explore the definition of a fraction.  Then, we discovered the concepts of equal parts, numerators and denominators with a pan of brownies.

But my favorite activity that I believe was most effective is graham cracker fractions.  Instead of randomly coloring in boxes to show fractions, we laid a graham cracker down on a piece of paper and drew a symbol of it below.

fractions with food | teachmama.com

Now when it came time to shade in ¼ of the box, it made sense, because they had broken their graham cracker into four equal parts. When we eat a quarter of it, we can shade it in.

To extend this the next day, we took a graham cracker and transferred what we did the previous day to a number line.  This was the easiest it has ever been to teach fractions on a number line.  Again, since number lines represent counting, we simply counted by quarters instead of by whole numbers.

The best part was that when the graham cracker disappeared, they could still plot the numbers on the line!

fractions with food | teachmama.com

All things in math must absolutely be connected to the real world for students right from the start.

So often we jump right to symbols and numbers without giving them proper background knowledge needed.  This is truly a disservice to kids.  Helping them connect to real life (especially yummy snacks) will make us all successful!

 Thank you, thank you, THANK you, Jen, for sharing your math expertise–and totally cool idea!– with us!

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 9.29.25 PM
Jen is a third grade teacher with 8 years of experience teaching elementary students. Her passion is teaching math with a focus on conceptual knowledge through real world projects and rigorous problem solving. You can find more teaching tips and resources (and hear about how much she has learned from her mistakes) at her blog: Beyond Traditional Math. You can also connect with her on PinterestTpTTwitter, and Facebook.

 

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards, filled with more fab sneaky learning ideas:

Or check out the following math-happy posts:

This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

disney surprise scavenger hunt

disney surprise scavenger hunt

post contains affiliate links

 

 

disney surprise scavenger hunt

 

It’s been busy here for the last few days, with our insane weather and with FutureCity, Toy Fair, and National Center for Families Learning Summit all in the last week.

But somewhere in between all of this excitement, my husband and I surprised our kids with a super-fun, totally awesome Disney Surprise Scavenger Hunt!

That’s right–we’re heading to Disney this spring. And we’re thrilled.

We wanted to tell Maddy, Owen, and Cora in a way that made them work a bit, so we came up with a Scavenger Hunt. Nothing too crazy, but we wanted a hunt got them reading, thinking, and putting their heads (and feet!) together to figure out clues and learn about their trip.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Disney Surprise Scavenger Hunt:

You can use this scavenger hunt whether you’re going to Disney World or Disneyland; it doesn’t matter.

Our goal was to give them an idea that they were going without outright telling them.

Check out our video for a closer look at how it went:


SO funny, right?

They seemed to have a blast!

disney surprise scavenger hunt for kids | teachmama.com

Our Disney Scavenger Hunt can be downloaded here if you want to use it (and modify it) yourself: disney surprise scavenger hunt

Or here it is as a pdf if you like it just the way it is: disney surprise scavenger hunt (pdf)

disney surprise scavenger hunt for kids | teachmama.com

disney surprise scavenger hunt for kids | teachmama.com

Our Disney Scavenger Hunt includes things like:

  • counting pennies for the number of days until our trip;
  • doing jumping jacks and headstands;
  • putting together Mickey sock puzzles;
  • unscrambling Disney-related words: vacation, spring, suitcase, sunshine, and more;
  • watching a Disney video on YouTube.

disney surprise scavenger hunt for kids | teachmama.com

disney surprise scavenger hunt for kids | teachmama.com

We’re really excited.

Here are a few other ways to countdown or celebrate your own Disney vacation: 

fyi: Huge thanks to the amazing and creative Tiffany Dale of Peanut Blossom for the Disney video inspiration as part of our reveal.  Affiliate links used below.

analog twitter wall to build relationships and digital citizenship

twitter wall in the classroom teachmama.com | analog twitter wall

twitter wall in the classroom  teachmama.comThe following guest post is written by Drew Minock, of Two Guys and Some iPads and the Two Guys podcast.  Drew knows his stuff. Check him out.

I absolutely love this idea for so many reasons.

——————————

  • Analog Twitter Wall to Build Relationships and Digital Citizenship, by Drew Minock

We live in a time where just “1 Click” can ruin someone’s life.

Students in my 4th grade class are very aware of various social media websites, and some even have accounts. Instead of acting like social media does not exist, we need to teach them how to properly use it to keep them safe from others, and most importantly safe from themselves.

It was on May 2nd on this year I decided to create a professional Twitter handle to connect with educators around the world and to share stories from my classroom. It did not take long for me to realize how powerful Twitter can be as a way to connect and learn from others.

During this past summer, I heard about many educators using Twitter in their classroom.

twitter in the classroom | teachmama.com

I loved the idea but did not know how to start, or incorporate it into my classroom.

I decided to go against the digital trend and use an analog Twitter wall to encourage students to express their feelings and thoughts.

On the first day of school, I gave each student a laminated sentence strip. Each sentence strip had a couple of magnets attached to the back to easily attach and remove from our wall. To get started, I went through the “Twitter Basics” to explain the definitions of a tweet, twitter handle, hashtag, and followers.

twitter in the classroom | teachmama.com

Idea from https://www.teachingchannel.org/blog/2013/06/20/twitter-in-the-classroom/

My students were very excited at the opportunity to tweet.

Each student created a personal Twitter handle. I decided to make tweeting a main segment in our daily morning routine. Each morning the students enter the classroom, they follow the same routine:

1. Place homework or notes for me in a blue bucket

2. Tweet

3. Lunch Count/Attendance

twitter in the classroom | teachmama.com

After lunch count and attendance is finished, we gather for a morning meeting to discuss the days schedule and have the students share their tweets.  Each tweet also allows me to learn about my students’ interest, exciting events outside of school, and daily emotions. This allows me to build a stronger relationship with each student and help them reach their greatest potential.

During the school year, we have discussed appropriate tweets, comments, and the importance of building a positive digital footprint. I also write an analog tweet each morning to help model digital citizenship.

twitter in the classroom | teachmama.com
Creating an analog Twitter wall with my 4th grade class has helped me build positive relationships with each student, address the important topic of digital citizenship, and create an activity to start each day–an activity that makes every student excited about school.

Other educators around our school have seen the excitement tweeting brings each student and have decided to join the fun. It is great to see students sharing their feelings, while learning to be importance of being digital citizens at the same time!

——–

Thank you, thank you Drew for taking the time to share this idea with us! I think it could be used in the classroom, at home, or just about anywhere. Awesome.

Best-Keynote Solo

Drew is a 4th grade teacher in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and Co-Founder of the educational blog Two Guys and Some iPads and the iTunes News and Noteworthy podcast The Two Guys Show. You can find Drew on Twitter @TechMinock.

 

Looking for more information about digital literacy?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards: 

Or these great blog posts:

 

rockstar sunday promo teachmamaThe response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series: