Sunday, September 30, 2012

Online Lesson Planning and Grading Software

I have across some fabulous online resources for being organized. I have tried several of them out and am going to give you my opinion on the positives of each.

Online Lesson Planning Software

All of these software programs will make working on your lesson plans from home and school or on multiple computers easier.  They also all allow you to tie specific standards to your lessons easily. I will be using these to select the Common Core Standards when I put lessons in.

Planbook - Planbook is an inexpensive resource that allows you to create lesson plans online. It is $12 a year, and you can try it out for free. You can set up your classes and have different schedules for different days. You can add lessons for each subject for each day and even check off the standards that you used (I haven't gotten quite that detailed yet, but I'm getting there.)  I have traditionally done my lessons in Excel, but I like that I can access from both home and work without having to worry about printing it out unless I want to.  I like the way you can set your weekly schedule in Planbook. The schedule shows up each week and you just select the class and day you want to update your plans.  I like the Schedule part of Planbook the best of the three software programs.

PlanbookEdu - I checked out PlanbookEdu after seeing Randi's post today. Some features are free and the premium features are $25 a year.  It seems fairly user friendly. It seems pretty similar to Planbook.  You create a "planbook" and then set up lessons that can recur.  You just tag the lessons the name of each period.  Then you click on the specific lessons and days you want to edit them individually.  PlanbookEdu does seem to have some nice printing and exporting options for the lessons.  It does also seem you can attach files and links to the lessons.

Learnboost - I also checked out Learnboost after I saw it via Teacher Playground via Technology Tailgate. Learnboost is free, which automatically gives it a thumbs up to begin with. I like that Learnboost has built in lesson planning and gradebook capability.  This was my first choice, but Planbook ended up seeming more user friendly to me for what I needed.  Learnboost does have it built in to create more detailed lesson plans. 

If you are looking for something to replace a basic lesson planner where you write short descriptions and have a quick reference, I would go with Planbook or PlanbookEdu. (You also can just opt to type more detailed lessons in the boxes).  If you want to create more detailed lesson plans and attach links and videos, I would go with Learnboost. However, Learnboost does not make it easy to view your lessons at a glance for the day or the week. My first choice for me is probably Planbook, but I am going to try out PlanbookEdu for this week so I can decide between the two.

Grading Software

The Learnboost grading software seems easy to use, so if you went with Learnboost for planning, I would use the grading software, too.

Engrade - Engrade is a free grading software that, so far, I have found very easy to use.  You can create your different classes and select how you want to weight assignments.  It's very user friendly and more convenenient than dragging a physical gradebook back and forth from school. It also has additional features where you can create online flashcards, presentations, and quizzes for your students.  For grading, I have decided to use Engrade.

Here is a video about it:

Have you found any other great online resources for planning?  I want to start using LiveBinders as well. I need to organize my bookmarks a lot better.  I am debating what is the best method to share links with students...just via my class website or should I start using Edmodo or Kidblog?  I think my students are feeling a little overwhelmed with websites right now.  Or would it better to use a resource like Symbaloo where I might be able to use thumbnail images to organize the links? I want to make it easy for my students to go to one page to keep getting clickable links for thinks we use often.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Review of the World's Most Fabulous Pencil Sharpener

So this is like over a week overdue as a post.  I, like many others, decided to jump on the bandwagon and try out the Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener. 

Troy was kind enough to send me one to try out.  It is fabulous!

I always loved the hand cranked pencil sharpeners in the classroom as a kid.  They always worked so much better than handheld ones or electric.  This one is even better than the old ones that were attached to the classroom wall.  This pencil gets even sharper.  I sharpened all of my pencils today, and it was awesome.  It did not even take that long.  It even worked great on colored pencils, too. My students were making posters of the landforms, natural resources, and biomes of the U.S today, and the colored pencils got quite the use. One of my students was drawing the desert and the yellow had to be sharpened twice.

Here are some pictures of the sharpener:

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

You should definitely check it out.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Failed Experiment and a chance to win custom CRAFT and VOICES bulletin baord headers

When I get stressed, I neglect my efforts to express gratitude.  Shame on me.  Today was better than yesterday.  I feel like I got a lot accomplished, and I actually walked away from work feeling like I am making strides towards feeling organized. So today I am thankful for:

1) This post that that told me about the Photbucket app.  OMG...Uploading photos to my blog from my phone doesn't have to be painful.

2) I got the printer setup in my room. I can now print and copy double sided from my classroom.  We had one printer for the whole building, and it is always in use by teachers and high school students.  It was getting to be a big part of the overwhelming need to get organized.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

3) I got some of my signs I made for my classroom put up last night.

4) I have decided I no longer will do experiments for Science...for awhile anyway.  I will send home experiment ideas for students to do at home, and they can bring back the results and photos. We will do other fun interactive projects or stations.

Now, you might want to know why I have decided not to do experiments.  Last week we did all of our Pirate activities, so I thought Ginger's Boat Afloat experiment would be a great ending to the unit.  We made our boats yesterday.  Some of them came out really cute and creative whether they actually worked well or not.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

I have a small class and a lot of my students are gifted.  This translated to lots of frustration and tears because some people's boats did not hold as many pennies as others and accusations of boat design copying. I never set up the experiment as a competition, but they interpreted it this way. I know I could model experiments for them and just have them watch.  I may decide to do some things this way.  Honestly though, the point of experiments to me seems that it would be fun to do something more hands on.  I feel like we need to work on maturity and handling disappointment appropriately before we revisit the idea of experiments.

So, I would love some suggestions on books or ideas for working on helping students learn appropriate times to express tears and how to handle disappointment. I am thinking I want to get the 7 Habits for Happy Kids book and read it and consider covering it with my students.

Now, some of my successes.  This weekend I really thought a lot about Reading and Writing instruction.  I decided I am in love with Kristin's CRAFT and VOICES boards.  I think they are a fabulous visual way to track strategies we have learned. I did not have enough room in my room to display hers because they are pretty big, so I made my own smaller version to match the paisley in my classroom. I think they turned out super cute.  The CRAFT board is a 3 foot bulletin board so each strategy is about 6 inches across.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

The VOICES board I decided to use the front of my supply cabinet because I did not have another big bulletin board.
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

I did put Kristin's Scientific Method signs on the side of the supply cabinet 2 weeks ago when we started talking about the Scientific Method.
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

I made new schedule signs to put on my white board to show our schedule every day.  I think it came out very cute.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Finally, I felt my students are both really struggling with Math vocabulary.  Thus, I purchased Ginger's Math Common Core word wall cards.  I purchased 4th and 5th grade even though I knew there was overlap.  I made the Math Word Wall on the back of my door.  I will put up one strand at a time.  This is Operations and Algebraic Thinking.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

I would like to do a giveaway for custom CRAFT and VOICES board headers.  They can be in colors and a theme of your choice. Enter below and let me know your successes with using CRAFT and VOICES to track your Reading and Writing Strategies.

And yes, the Photobucket app made sharing these pictures ten times faster than usual.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 24, 2012

Freebie note-taking organizer for fiction and summarizing

So my goal for thius week is to get my 400 follower giveaway going.  It has been in the planning stages for like just about forever, but I have not had the time to sit down and setup Rafflecopter.

My brain is so tired.  I have so much respect now for self-contained multi-age classroom teachers.  I have previously taught mainly ELA and Social Studies. I am enjoying the advantages of seeing the same kids all day, but also drowing in my goal to get organized and wrap my head around the best way to plan for multi-levels. I think the blogging world has and will keep me sane...if I still am.  I know I overdo it and overthink and over-research and overplan.  I need to focus and simplify and take it one step at a time.  But I am an analytical list-maker who likes details and big-picture plans and contingency plans.

I have revised our weekly schedule and am figuring it out as I go...which I know is what we all do.  We are currently reading No Talking by Andrew Clements. In the book, a group of fifth grade boys and girls have a No Talking contest and can only speak if an adult asks them a question.  They only are allowed to respond in 3 word sentences or phrases. 

There is an activity in the book where a teacher has them create a story by jumping around the room with each student saying 3 words of the story at a time.  It is a fun activity if you can get your students to cooperate.  I would probably model it with a few sentences and then either try it in small groups before trying it as a whole class. A responsible class can handle it, but the stories get silly and students keep interrupting because they get confused. It is also fun to have one student be the scribe and write the story down.

I also had my students write about their weekend using only 3 word sentences.  We created an example together like "I got up. I brushed teeth. I ate breakfast. Then got dressed."  The sentences are choppy and not always completely correct, but it is a fun activity to get students to thinking about being concise and choosing words carefully. 

I started really looking at the CAFE book more closely.  So we have been working on self-monitoring and checking for understanding.  We practiced creating questions on what we read using the question words and then answering the questions.  I want to introduce my four-box note-taking strategy to my students as well as talk more about summarizing. So I created an organizer to give them that I am sharing with you. This is a reading note-taking I strategy I use where students make four boxes.  Three of the boxes are for before, during, and after reading and the fourth box is for visualizing.  I like having students draw what they visualize during read aloud.  This helps the fidgety kid who can't sit still.  It is a good way to regularly review prediction before reading, monitoring comprehension through questions or description or connections during reading, and summarizing or answering questions after reading. Click here to download.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall Sale and Pilot Office Product Reviews

It's Fall, which means it is time for College Football at my house.  My husband will be busy for awhile watching College Football...when he is not gaming.  Today we are going to the Texas A&M game in College Station.  We have not been back to a game since we graduated.  I am super excited because I get to see one of my BFF's who lives four hours away.  The three hour drive will give me time to nap or grade or workout my rotation schedule for Math/ELA a little better.  I  really am struggling to figure out how I want to plan out my Language Arts this year to tie it to CCSS for grades 4 and 5 when I know they also need to cover grade 3 stuff. I am thinking we will be doing good to cover grades 3/4 standards.

I have linked up with Second Grade Math Maniac for a Fall Sale.  I need to start thinking about creating some Fall products for my store. Click on the link below to go to my store:

I also this week had the opportunity to review some office supplies. I got to review several office products.  The first was a package of Pilot Be Green Dry Erase markers.  It also came with a refill. I really like them.  I like the idea of refillable dry erase markers.  Hopefully they won't dry out as easily as other dry erase markers or even if they do at least you don't have to throw them away right away.

(This picture above is me trying the markers out on my new small group table, which is glass.  We tried it out yesterday.  I love it. I can write on the table with dry erase.  The kids enjoyed it, too.  The only down side to the Pilot Be Green Dry Erase markers is that they are fatter than other dry erase markers.  I wish they were a little slimmer.)

I also got to review some Pilot Pens and a Highlighter. There was an eraseable gel pen, a ballpoint pen, and a rollerball pen.  The highlighter is eraseable, too.  How cool is that?  I have never seen an eraseable highlighter before.  I tried out the pens and highlighter on math vocabulary page to see how I liked them.

I liked the eraseable gel pen best becase I like pens with narrow tips.  Tomorrow I need to go up to school, so I will take some better pictures of the pens.  These came out blurry.  I also am going to share a review with you of the Quietest Pencil Sharpener that so many of you have already read about.

And just because I went back in the bedroom to grab something...this is what I found on my side of the bed.

That's what I get for getting out of bed.  They curl up on my side.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How a Pirate does Math

So in case you want to carry the pirate adventures on for a day or two.  We are...  I found some more resources tonight. 

Here is a website with lots of pirate links:

Here is a PE game to act like you are on a pirate ship:

Here is a National Geographic link to go on a pirate adventure:

Take this quiz to see how much you know about pirates:

Play Deadman's Chest Hangman:

This game is to practice latitude and longitude:

Find out what happened to the pirates in London:
Today we did a lot of the activities from my unit I made last night.  One of my favorites was to create an illustrated list of the things pirates don't do from the books How I Became a Pirate and Pirates Don't Change Diapers.

For math I put the students in groups and they made posters to show all the ways pirates would use math.  My favorite was to count how many limbs they have lost.

Then, they had to write word problems about pirates and create an answer key for the problems.  They then had other students solve their word problems.

We practiced our journal writing where we picked Pirate names and then wrote like a pirate. My name be Squid Walker.
Here was mine:

Here is a video to teach you how to talk like a pirate:

Activities for Talk Like a Pirate Day and the book How I Became a Pirate

So I was going to go to bed two hours ago and then I remembered tomorrow is International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  I had almost forgotten.  I got some nonfiction pirate books at the library and a "How to Draw Pirates" book over a week ago.

I had seen several other bloggers recommend How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long.  I saw the library also had Pirates Don't Change Diapers. I checked them out and read them tonight.  They are super cute.

So I made a set of activities to go with the book for my students tomorrow. It includes ten pages of reading, writing, grammar, math, and project activities. You can get it at my TpT store here.  It will normally be $3.50, but this week it is on sale for $2.00.  First person to comment and tell me your plans for International Talk Like a Pirate Day gets a copy free.


vStory map

vSequence of events chart

vChart to think about Lessons Jeremy Jacob learned about being a pirate

vPirate nouns and verbs

vPirate writing prompts

vPirate word problem creation assignment

vAssignment on What Pirates Don’t Do

vTranslating pirate vocabulary

vTic-tac-toe activity menu with assignment ideas


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Science Ideas and Math Workshop Checklist

First, I would like to announce the winner of my Technology Tips giveaway:  Kristin.  

Congratulations!  You are a much deserved winner.  Kristin has been a great inspiration to me for technology, so I am glad Rafflecopter randomly selected her as the winner.

I have spent like the entire night trying to plan out my Science activities.  My brain is beyond tired.  My students will be studying "Life on Earth" this week. I made a little organizer to go with a video we are watching.  In case it might be helpful to you, you can get it here. It is a doc file, so you can change it.
We are also going to read a short article on the layers of the earth and students will label a diagram of the layers. (The diagram is from Science Penguin's Elementary graphic organizers).  We are going to read Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth during our "Listen to Reading" read aloud. 

For their writing journal entry, students will write about what it be like to journey inside the earth or even discuss what they learned about the Earth. I also grabbed several nonfiction books on Earth from the library to have available for students to read during independent reading.  If I get a chance, I will put together a review of some of the books and how I would use them to share.

I also researched ideas for Science activities.  We are going to start out Thematic discussion of the Olympics this week.  I found this great free Science Olympics activity on TpT.  We are going to do one Olympic Scientist activity each time we have science.  I wanted to discuss the different branches of Science and this seemed a fun way to introduce it.  I am essentially linking up the activities with our Science lessons as best as I can. We will also be working on my Scientific Method menu I made last week. 

Next week, we are going to discuss landforms and complete Science Penguins Weekly 5 activities on Landforms as follow ups to this week's lesson.

I have been trying to figure out how to make my Math Workshop work since I have multiple levels of Math.  I want to try the "MATH" acronym management strategy I have seen on many blogs.  It originated, I believe, with Clutter-Free Classroom. Instead of a rotation board, or maybe just in addition, I want to try a weekly checklist to help hold my students accountable.  They will have a list of "must do" activities for the week for each rotation (Math Facts, At Seat, Teacher Time, Hands On).  In addition, they will have a list of "may do's." I like the checklist because since I am trying to incorporate more technology, it gives me an easy way to provide my students the websites they can use and when. 
Each day, students will fill out what they did in each rotation and end by summing up what they learned and what they still need help with. We will be doing Math on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so I have set up my checklist this way.  You can download it here.  It is a doc file, so you can change it to be what you need.  I am going to create a similar checklist for my version of Reading&Writing Workshop/Daily 5. I ran out of steam tonight.

Tomorrow, I want to review some products for you I am excited to share and recommend some great sites I have found that are helping me get organized.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

More technology tips

I have discovered some great technology posts this morning, so I have decided to extend my technology tips linky and giveaway for two more days before I pick a winner.  I hope you will share the link to my post so we can can really share some great technology resources with our fellow teachers.

I started a Pinterest Board called "Technology Tips for Teachers." I am going to start pinning all of the great technology posts and sites that I find here to share with you, but also to help myself remember.  I know there a never-ending amounts of great technology resources.  I cannot implement them all, so I am going to try and organize them as best as I can so I can find them when I need them. I am going to look more into Symbaloo and Livebinders to see how they might be helpful to organize sites/posts with no images (as this is the limitation of Pinterest).

Here are some great posts/sites I found that are worth checking out for Technology Tips:

Charity Preston's Technology Pinterest Board
Ed Tech Ideas' 125 sites for kids
A website with Picture book suggestions for Math
A Pinterest board with online stories
"50 Educational Tools Educators Should Know" by Kinderbear Blogger (This post made me want to click on every link and see how I could use these sites.)
The "Technology Tip" Tuesday from Blog Hoppin's Teacher Week.
Technology Tools for Teachers link up at Literacy and Laughter

Here are some of my new favorite technology related blogs:


Teched Out Teacher

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