Friday, April 18, 2014

Gifs + Explosions = Writing Prompts

If you've been around these parts long enough you know that I'm a fan of a goofy gif every now and then.  They're fun and light-hearted. They give me a sense of comedic chops and timing that I've never truly felt in my life before.  I mean, who doesn't like a good gif of a cat playing Jenga or Costanza's wallet.


But I'm here to tell you that these times they are changing, and changing for the better because gifs should be our new writing prompts.  Just let the kids watch these snippets of media and let them write and create.  And gifs are everywhere.  If fact you've probably seen them but never realized they had a name.  The name is gif.  They come in all shapes, sizes, and length and they're not going anywhere.

Reddit has a thread called MichaelBayGifs.  The set-up is pretty simple:  add explosions to videos for no apparent reason--just because.  You see, Michael Bay is a film director who just loves his explosions.  He made all the Transformer films, Bad Boys I & II, Armageddon, and The Rock.

Example:  Take this ordinary gif of a budgie running on a table...

Add in the explosions...

Now you've got a great writing prompt for your class.

I've used gifs and short 10 second movies as writing prompts before with my students, and seen successful they can be to generate engagement.  Using tactics like these really seem to help with my reluctant writers too, so I'm willing to try just about anything to get my students writing.

The 007 of felines.

Writing is such a difficult subject to teach because every student is at a different level whether it is vocabulary, creativity level, knowledge of subjects, and grammar skills.  Timing is another subject (or rather, lack of time) where students can just write too.  

Writing without boundaries builds stamina and allows students to explore which is what I like to have the students do.  Personally, I don't think it's a problem for students to write without parameters but it's because many times my main goals is to just get the kids to write (and write more than two sentences).

For those of you that might like this idea, but think the explosions are a little too explosive I present some other gifs to try as writing prompts.

So I've got a question for you...

Good.  See You Later.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Enlightening Lighting

Welcome back to the Bright Ideas Blog Hop Link-Up!  If you're a repeat viewer I do appreciate it.  If you're new here...I welcome you with open Internet arms.  Today I'm going to show you how to defeat everyone's common enemy Mr. Fluorescent Lighting. (I'll try not to swear).

So my bright idea is actually how to dim lighting.

If it is possible to hate fluorescent lighting then I do.  If hate is bit harsh then let me try these; loathe, despise, abhor, detest, intolerable cruelty.  Obviously, lighting is a pretty important feature in classrooms.  Teachers use varieties of lighting supplement such as natural light, lamps, Christmas lights, and more.  I use all those except for natural light.  I have zero windows in my room.  None.  I'm more of a cave.

No windows.  No direct access to the outside world.  So lighting is an important source but fluorescent lighting is horrible on my eyes and creates a blindingly sterile environment.  But I have three large fluorescent lights in my room.  

A few years ago I decided to fix this issue by draping flags over my lights.  I took a couple of large sized state/country flags and draped them over my lights creating a softer environment making the classroom more livable (teachable).

I use a combination of paper clips and push pins to hold the flags over the lights.  Set-up is simple by just poking holes in the flags with the paper clips, giving them a little bend, and hooking them to the ceiling structural makeup (drop ceiling).  I use the push pins to fill in gaps where the flag sides hang too low.  This entire procedure takes less than five minutes (per flag).

Now I know some people will say "what about fire prevention?"  Good question--but I've had fire marshals (not Fire Marshal Bill) look at them, but they're good.  In fact, there is enough slack in the flag they're not even touching the light (or the entire fixture), which is done on purpose.  I would still recommend checking with your principal to see if it's okay.  Some state/counties have fire codes that won't allow it, so just be safe. I mean it's not like a lot of our older schools aren't filled with asbestos in the walls and ceilings too.

There are some companies that sell variations of this, but that's kind of a rip off (IMO).  I think flags look a little cooler while adding to the decor of the room.  After all, flags are educational devices, every single part of them symbolizes something.

So there you have it.  My bright idea is to actually make the rooms more dim.  And I didn't even swear when writing about my disdain for fluorescent lighting hanging eight feet away from me.  Quick, easy, and efficient.  

Make sure to check out the link-up below for other ideas (which are probably better than mine).  There are around 150 other posts filled with tips, info, and ideas that make classrooms successful!.  I urge you to scroll down and check them out.  You can even look by grade level.  Do it now!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Stress-Reliever: A Dog and Baby Tiger Playing for 3 Straight Minutes

Leave the education behind.  Friday is here.  Enjoy.

Breath deep, unwind, and just relax..

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tried It Tuesday: Art Text Helps Spice Up Your Fonts and Design


Fonts.  We love them and we hate a few of them cough comic sans cough.  These typography titans of the paper and digital realms have created monsters out of all of us.  Whether you're writing the great American novel, creating the most delectable Thirty-One or Jamberry poster so you're friends will spend their money, or making eye catching products you need fonts.  I can't quit you.

    This is a marked up shot of what the program looks like.  A single screen program works quickly and easily.

Lately, I've been spending a lot of time using Art Text 2 on my Mac to create something a little more pleasant for my type-face sensibilities.  Microsoft Office users have tons of opportunities to spice us their fonts.  Pages users don't have quite as many options so I've been using Art Text.  It should also be noted that this works for Windows too.

Here's the great thing:  The Lite version is free.  

Below are some of the added designs to fonts which I created in about three minutes.  Seriously, I timed myself because I wanted to know how long it would take to just fool around and create.  Let me also add that I use Kevin and Amanda Fonts along with Hello Literacy Fonts from Jen Jones (I highly recommend those).

The best way to show you was to repeat this blog name over and over.

Here's another image, except this time I used the same font for each one but changed they styles.  Nothing earth-shattering, but the program just give tons of different options.  Options are good.  Options are warranted.  Remember how much better you felt when you realized there was a better option than always using Internet Explorer.  I do.

Last one, I swear (but look how pretty it is...)

I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty of how it works.  I'm going to make an educated guess (inference) that if you're following me and reading my posts you have a pretty good idea of how to use the program and where to start. I will tell you that because of the user-friendliness it will suck you in quickly.  I just made the upgrade to the full version.  

That's it for today's Tried It Tuesday.  Make sure you check out Holly's fabulous link up every week at The Fourth Grade Flipper.  She ALWAYS has great ideas, tutorials, and more (which have assisted me tremendously).  Plus you can see a bunch of other tried and true activities from other bloggers around the globe.

That is it for today.  
And since it is April 1st...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Family Art Night. We Need More of These.

Last week I had the opportunity to take my daughters up to my school's yearly Family Art Night.  This always ends up being one of their favorite nights (and mine too) because it is so much fun for the kids---CRAFTIVITIES.  The set-up is pretty simple; student work is showcased through the hallways and inside the gym are over a dozen arts 'n craft stations for the kids to to go wild on.

This is my 5 year old with paint.  

I love this night.  Art.  Creativity.  A little mayhem.  This year was a mix of Minecraft, perspective, and paint all over my girls' shirts.  I'd call that a good night.

In some ways it's a little disheartening this only happens once a year because I think it downplays the importance of the Arts in our school system (and I'm not just talking about my school, more as a systematic national approach to the arts).  We (and that's a general term) seem to forget that education is more than just math and language arts.  The arts play such a critical role in the development of children (and even some of us adults) that it's a shame students have such small amounts of time for each.  I'll even throw in our physical education too, because that's being undermined as we speak.  (Okay, I'll get off of my soap box)

If you've never taken part in your school's art night you need to go.  If your school doesn't have one--think about starting one or contacting your PTA.  This night is just a wonderful time to see kids and parent collaborate with one another while showing off the work they've done in the classroom.  

This week I'm linking up with Holly for Tried It Tuesday 
and Mel at Frog Spot.  Check out both of their link-ups for 
great ideas that have been tried and classroom art shared.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Trade & Grade! A Blogging and Facebook Mash-Up

The Facebook Free-For-All is mixing things up and bringing it back to the blogging world with a little something called Trade and Grade (I almost feel like that sentence should be read by Barry White).  A bunch of us bloggers have traded products (pet projects) we've created and we're trying them out in our own classrooms.  Now you, the reader, get to check out what we've been using and see how it faired in our classrooms.

This is Barry White for all you youngsters.

I've got to say, this is a pretty cool idea.  I've seen quite a lot of other teacher blogs do this before and it's always fun to see how one person's creation/product fairs in another classroom.  As a creator there is always a feeling of trepidation mixed with a little exhilaration because you never know what others will think or even how they'll implement it (and how the kids will like it too).  

                            Bundled                        Fiction               Informational Text

I had the opportunity to grab a copy of Jeanette's Reading Response Sheets for fictional and information text (aligned with CCSS).  If you don't know, Jeanette runs Third Grade Galore (an excellent blog, btw) where she shares ideas, resources, and creations from her 3rd grade classroom.  

I always feel like I'm yelling when I go all caps...

Now all you CCSSers out there know and understand the importance of text complexity and structure and the case being made for students to COMPLETELY understand the text they're reading no matter what style.  That's why I think these 70 different worksheets worked so well. Seventy half-sheet worksheets basically mean that you've got unlimited ways to check student's understanding.

Finding characters, settings, and problems within an article on volcanos. 

I'm a resource teacher and I work with students from Kindergarten through fifth grade.  It's quite a mix, and I found that these response sheets fit the needs of so many of my students.  I used a lot of these response sheets with informational text pieces (National Geographic for Kids) and found that they're the perfect length, but also guide the students with easy directions, graphic organizers, and well thought out questions that all fall under CCSS (but also ask important questions that students should be able to answer.

    Some of the work completed by my fourth graders.  

I used these for a few days with my students and each time we used them a little differently.  One of my favorites was as an exit slip because I then had kids working pretty fast (so they could get their breaks), but I could also always tell kids, "Give me more" and show them exactly what I meant by "more".  Evidence, themes, characters, settings, details--the expectations are clearly stated on response sheets.  No guessing, the kids just need to look and read!

For the final variation I took the reading aspect out and replaced it with images.  I am a big proponent of visual literacy, audio literacy, and real-world literacy (basically being able to read situations of all kinds then make conclusions/decisions based on who, what, when, where, why, and how).  These response sheets were PERFECT for that.  My students just LOVED IT!  

I posted three photos on my board:  two of the movies Jurassic Park and Pacific Rim and one of Lebron James.  I then asked my kids to dissect each one.  Use what they see, what they already know, and any other context clues to assist them.  It was so cool to see them use those same skills and worksheets just in a different manner.

This is how I felt.

I have used a few of Third Grade Galore's product in my classroom and each time the kids have loved it.  I would definitely recommend it.  I'm not even giving it an official "grade", because if you can't tell I don't like this--well, we might have a problem.

If you want to know more about it go here:  RESPONSE SHEETS on Fiction and Informational Text.  You can even get the Fiction and Informational Texts separately (if you feel so inclined).

Make sure you join in the giveaways and check out the rest of the link-up below.  Lot's of other bloggers are sharing, grading, and linking up.  Check them out and see all the great creations everyone is making!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Live Video Feeds of Animals Around the World! Spark Students!

As spring begins to roll in it is time to take notice and utilize some of the great Live Video Feeds of Animals around the world.  Take advantage of the great outdoors (no, not the John Candy movie) by bringing animals into your classroom without the threat of them attacking you in the wilderness.  Except for spiders--they're are everywhere and they are watching us.

There are multiple live video-fed websites to choose from around the ol' internets, but today I'm mainly focusing on which has over 30+ video feeds to pick from.  Earlier today I watched pups from a Great Dane Rescue facility chase each other in the snow.  There's also the grizzly bears in Alaska that catch salmon all day or the eagles--we can't forget about the eagles (Amurca!).  And owls, bees, pandas, penguins, yada, yada, yada.


These are great for incorporating real-world learning in the classroom (and really quickly too).  Think of this as your own Magic School Bus adventure.  Take you kids out of the textbooks and into the world.  There's a feature that allows users to capture snapshots of the video at just the right times.  People can then share those and comment (if you feel so inclined).

Below is a live feed of bees that I've embedded.  If you can't tell is a pretty user friendly site (which is always appreciated in educational circles).

Live streaming video by Ustream

So jump over and check out all the options and videos you can use in your classroom.  I've used a few in my class for student motivation, interest, and to take kids outside of their (sometimes typical) suburban lifestyle.  

Just watch out for those BIG BEARS!

Today's post was brought to you by the always wonder Joanne at Head Over Heals For Teaching to SPARK Student Motivation in the classroom.  She's always has tremendous ideas and so many other bloggers join in too.  Go see what's up!

Screenshots from

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