Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Study: Similes, Metaphors, and Classroom Community

Hi, Teaching Friends!

This week's topic for the Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites book study is "Metaphors, Analogies, and Similes".

A metaphor is a great way to give your students a word picture that will deepen their understanding. Even before you formally teach the words metaphor or simile, I'll bet you use them in your classroom. Do you teach your students the Goldilocks Strategy for choosing books?  That's a metaphor! By working from something they already know (too hard, too easy, just right), you're giving your students a memorable, useful tool that they can pull up and use a whole lot faster than most other ways you can teach book selection.

{If you don't know about the Goldilocks Strategy, check out this great article!}

I had an "accidental metaphor" that developed after we read Kevin Henke's Lily's Purple Plastic Purse.  In the story, Lily brings a purple plastic purse to school for show-and-tell, but is so excited about it that she just can't keep her hands off it, or stop shaking it to hear the coins jangle inside it.
Have you ever had a student like that? Pretty much every K-1, right? :)

Shortly after we read it one year, somebody had her hands in her desk fooling with something brought from home. The student next to her said, "Is that your purple plastic purse you've got in there?"

Now, that cutie knew how to use a metaphor! That phrase quickly became part of our classroom culture, a quick way to address a distracting behavior in a low-key way.

This teacher's no fool ... I know a useful metaphor when I hear one, so every year after that I'd casually introduce it as needed after we read Lily's story. I also came across a cute purple change purse at a garage sale. After a while, I could just point to the purse (sometimes even just look at it!) to redirect the behavior without disrupting the flow of instruction.

So, that's got to be my favorite classroom metaphor.

What's yours?

You can visit the linky party at by The First Grade Parade  to read what this chapter's host Cara Carroll has to share, and then follow the links to read what other blogger's are saying about similes, analogies, and metaphors.


Happy Teaching!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Book Study: Manipulatives, Experiments, and More!

Hi, Teaching Friends!

I'm back on track with the Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites book study. Talking about the material in our current chapter is just preaching to the choir! In the primary grades, our days are (hopefully!) filled with "Manipulatives, Experiments, Labs, and Models".

Every chapter in this book has a set of "Theoretical Framework" quotes. Here's my favorite from this chapter. It says it all. There is no downside to having students learn by touching, feeling, modeling, and getting real with the real stuff!.

A few years ago, a district I was teaching in was gifted, blessed, granted or let's-be-honest, burdened with a new science series. Science materials for the lower grades had previously been sparse and dated. But this new series, well, we were going to love this one, we were told. [Have you ever been told something like that? Be suspicious. Be very suspicious.]  The materials we received were extensive. Written materials, that is. Multiple kinds of workbooks with not enough space for first graders to write their answers. Huge hardcover text books with several hundred pages in them. It took forever for some of my students to find the right page and then if they let go of the book for a second it would flip shut. The books were too big and too expensive to leave in their desks, so we stacked them on the windowsill. When we wanted to use them, no student was strong enough to lift more than two or three books, so passing them out became yet another procedure. To their credit, the books were very pretty - wonderful pictures. There was virtually nothing hands on for us to use.  Wow, let's get excited about science, right?  So sad. By the way, the entire series and all of its burdensome components have since been resold to the publisher. Whew. But what a waste of time and money.

Sorry to rant, but that experience was a perfect picture of what learning in a primary grade classroom shouldn't look like! There's a time and place for texts, and written responses and evaluations, and very definitely for read-alouds and curriculum-based craftivities. But keeping The Real Thing first and foremost is the strongest route to creating learning that lasts.

So, gleaned from Pinterest, here's a mini-album of what hands-on science learning might look like in your classroom this spring. Some of these are projects that have been around a long time, but consider that may seem been-there-done-that to us is often something that your little learners have not yet experienced, but will always remember. I've focused on plants because so many of us teach about them in the spring. I'm taking the route of The Lazy Linker on this post ... you'll find all of these ideas on my First Grade Science board.

Just for fun, plant in unusual containers, like this ice cream cone. Other ideas for fun and economical planters: empty egg shell halves (plant with grass seeds and send home at Easter), empty egg carton sections, empty Keurig cups (also a good starter for a discussion of recycling!), or an old CD case. This is also super easy for kids to carry home, unlike plants in cups, which I fear often end up upside down on the floors of school buses. :(

Or, just put the dampened seeds in a plastic bag and tape them to your classroom window. This teacher used beans, which is a great choice because of their fast growth.

Create little greenhouses for your plants. The beads of water that will form on the walls of the cup will introduce the topic of the water cycle.

Fruit and veggie scraps will often re-root ... no extra costs for you! This post has some ideas about pineapples, avocados, and green onions...

... and here's more, this time using carrots, sweet potatoes, and a few others. Planting in water is a great way for students to observe root growth.

Observing root growth is a great segue to learning about capillary action. I've done this experiment with celery, daisies, and chrysanthemums, but how cool this is with cabbage leaves! The "wow" factor is right there your face, and it's the kind of learning that keeps students begging for more.

In all of these mini-experiments and projects, the students are right in there doing the work ... and when they're the ones doing the work, they're also the ones doing the learning!

I hope that you've found something here to inspire you to keep your teaching fresh and interesting with manipulatives, experiments, labs, and models. Thanks for stopping by! This chapter of the book study is being hosted by Mrs. Jump's Class. Head over there to read what Deanna has to say, and to link up to lots of other bloggers who are also sharing their thoughts!

                                    Mrs Jump's class

Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Are You Teaching Place Value, Matey?

Hi, Teaching Friends!

Number One on the agenda today ... let's give away a bundle of riddles! Congratulations to Mary, the winner of the Riddle Round-Up giveaway!

Thank you, Mary, and all of you who entered! Thanks especially for the wonderful ideas you suggested for new riddle sets - look for some of them in my store over the next few months!

Secondly, just in case you may have some students who could use some extra practice with place value, specifically adding and subtracting tens and multiples of tens, you'll be interested in this sale at my Teacher's Notebook shop.

This set of seven games and center activities is $3.50 today and tomorrow, 30% off the regular price of $5.00. Click here or on the cover to see the details!

Happy Teaching!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Round Up The Riddles, It's a Giveaway!

Hi, Teaching Friends!

Happy Almost-Officially-Spring, even though another snowfall is predicted for our part of NJ today! Oh, well, even a little snow can't keep the optimistic crocuses from popping their heads up.

Image from Pixabay ... but my own sweet crocuses should be blooming by next week!

I'm very pleased to announce that I've finally completed the update on my Riddle Round-Up Bundle!

This growing bundle is now up to 248 themed and seasonal riddles, like this one for April Fools Day, in the spring set.

Here's an example of the weather riddles.

You can see other samples from my riddle sets by clicking here.

If you already own Riddle Round-Up, be sure to get your free upload!

If you'd like a closer look at the set, click here or on the picture below.

Would you like to win a copy? I'd love to give one away! I'm always looking for new ideas for riddle sets, and I'd love to hear your suggestions! You can enter this giveaway by suggesting an idea for a set that you don't see in the collage of covers above, and also by  subscribing to the Primary Inspiration Newsletter (it's right under the TpT widget in the column to the right).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Teaching!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pets Bring Extra Love to Learning!

Hi, Teaching Friends!

I'm joining in with the five blogs below who are hosting a fun new linky and giveaway ...

Do you have a pet in your classroom? Well, then you already know how those extra expenses add up!
There are so many wonderful things that our students can learn by caring for a classroom pet, but food, hygiene, and even the occasional vet's visit can sure take a toll on the budget!

Do you know that there's money available to help?  I'd like to tell you about Pets in the Classroom, a non-profit, charitable, public foundation. The foundation is funded by donations from individuals, pet industry companies, industry associations, corporate sponsors, and other foundations. Although I don't have personal experience with this, the grant process seems to be very straightforward: one grant per teacher per year, and you find out if you're approved in just 3-4 weeks!

Seven kinds of grants are offered:

The site also has free downloadable care sheets for animals ranging from dwarf gerbils to leopard geckos. They're written for 4th or 5th grade, but we all know that a piece of highly motivating material will often be attacked and mastered by many students who technically aren't at that reading level yet. Just display them near where your classroom pet resides for some instant non-fiction text practice!

If you need to convince your administrator that having a pet is a beneficial and ... dare I say it ... even a Common Core-justifiable practice, Pets in the Classroom has this print-out for you.

There's even a link at the site for a quick and easy way to tell your friends about this program ... click here to "tell a teacher"!

To celebrate this fun linky party, this 120 chart game set featuring cute pet graphics by Kari Bolt will be half price at my TpT store during the three days of the Teacher's Pet Linky and Giveaway. This pack includes three games for counting up and back by tens and ones on the 120 chart, plus two addition and subtraction maze activities that are perfect for independent work, homework, center accountability, or even assessment. Regularly $3.50, now $1.75!

It's time to share the puppy love with a freebie! Kids love pups and kitties, so here's a pack of games that will keep them happy and learning! This set includes a blank game board for you to use with your own flash cards, plus the two completed ones you see here, ready for your kinders and firsties to use! Just click here or on any of the images below to get your freebie!

So, getting back to pet expenses, it's time for our giveaway!  Here's a great opportunity to win some money to buy some more kibble (or a spring purse, or maybe a denim jacket... or maybe all of them, if you're a great shopper!).

All of the bloggers linked below have contributed to this great big prize - enter via the rafflecopter here, and best of luck to you! Then be sure to click on the blogs listed below for more pet posts, linkies, and more.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Teaching!

Friday, March 13, 2015

One Million Views? Whaaaaat???

Hi, Teaching Friends!

San Jose, CA.  When I realized that the tally of views to this blog has reached 1,000,000, the first thing I did was shake my head in disbelief, immediately followed by a little happy dance.  Then I got curious and did a little googling to find a city with about that number of residents. Then I told my- husband-the-comedian that as many visits had been made to this blog as there are residents of San Jose, and he asked why all those Californians are interested in my blog. {small giggle, deep sigh}

I love this blogging adventure - for the fun of creating and sharing teaching resources, for the wonderful friends that I've made from all around the world, and for the way it keeps me involved with you and your students and with so much of what I loved about teaching during my career.  That so many of you are interested in what I have to share is truly amazing to me, 'though.  Amazing, humbling, and exciting, and I am truly grateful.

As a small way of showing my appreciation, I'm going to be offering some flash freebies on my Facebook page throughout the day, all day Saturday and Sunday. I know that FB can be kind of erratic in what it deigns to send where, so I hope you'll catch at least some of the freebies that I plan to be throwing out there throughout both days!

I'll be starting out with the nine resources you see here, but plan to add more if it seems people are interested. You can show how interested you are by sharing the posts with your friends!

If you're not yet following me, I'd love it if you'd visit my page at Primary Inspiration Teaching Resources by Linda Nelson. Thanks so much for joining in my celebration!

Happy Teaching!


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