Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How To Be a FRIEND

More and more I've found myself working with students on social/emotional strategies to make them successful.  For kids, knowing how to be a good friend such a crucial life skill that will carry them on all through elementary, middle, and high school then into the real world.

It is just awesome when you see students use those strategies and be successful in their own friendships with one another.  And I was lucky enough to see it happen with a few students last year (success!!!).

I just put together a set of classroom posters on HOW to be a FRIEND.  Jump over and grab your own classroom copy.  Hopefully it can make a positive impact on you students (or even yourself).

                                                   HOW TO BE A FRIEND

Each poster is a single page (total of 8 including the title).
You can see them all above.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Classroom Safety With Paper Blinds And Magnetic Strips

The absolute last thing a teacher wants to worry about is classroom safety related to lockdown drills, intruder alerts, and violence within the school.  But we do and we have to be AWARE of school surroundings at all times whether we're in or out of our own classroom.

My Bright Idea revolves around two Classroom Safety Measures you can take to speed up the process in case of a school emergency which include magnetic strips and paper blinds.
I'll also be the first to tell you that each school, district, county, and state have varying rules regarding these safety measures, so double check with your administration to make sure it's okay.
The Magnetic Strip
About a year ago our school began using magnetic strips on our doors. These magnets slide over the door's strike plate (where the door wouldn't normally shut) and allow us to quickly lock the doors when removed.  

The magnetic strips block the door from latching but also allows you to always keep your door locked all the time (without locking yourself out).  If a time comes when you need to lock the door just remove the magnet.  No keys are needed, just remove the strip and close your door.

This has worked very well at my school and worked out great during our lockdown drills and even a couple of other times.  It will take you a bit of time to become accustomed to opening your doors by pulling rather than turning the knob (since you always keep them locked, but after a while it becomes second nature.

Paper Blinds For Indoor Windows
During lockdown-type drills we're asked to move our students away from windows and out of line-of-sight.  Some classes can do that, others can't.  Many teachers have curtains by their door windows.  I'm not a curtain guy, so I invested five dollars to buy paper blinds.  

Normally I always want to be able to see out of my window since it faces a main hallway, but during emergencies outside of class and/or situations inside my room I just unclip the blinds for immediate privacy/security.  I love the speed of this too--it's done in literally a second.

Overall it took about 5 minutes from start to finish to put up the blinds.  You can even use a paper cutter to make them fit to size.  I picked mine up at Home Depot, but you can find them at just about any hardware store.

Thanks so much for stopping by to check out this Bright Idea.  There are almost 150 other wonderful ideas that you should continue to check out, so make sure you see all the links below.  School is just beginning so I can only imagine all the excellent ideas I'm going to find and try!

If you've enjoyed this post (even a little bit) feel free to follow me on FacebookTPT, or even here.  Here at Digital: Divide & Conquer you'll find a mix of everything educational from tech to SpEd to pop culture and 80's movie references.  It's a little of everything, kind of like me.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Icebreakin' Activities Too! Electric Boogaloo!


Truth:  I can barely remember anyone's name.  Seriously, people say their names, I hear it, then it's gone.  I'm horrible at it which can make for awkward endings to conversations.  I've tried to get better, but it's a process.  Consider it part of my social awkwardness or consider it an issue that too many of us have.

For many of us, the year is beginning or will be soon.  This means there will be new faces, too many meet and greets, parent conferences, and thousands of students running through the halls.  I can almost feel myself forgetting every single name I hear too.

This year my students will be creating journals about every single student that walks through the classroom door.  This is from a project I created called Hello My Name Is... and it's based on my own inabilities and how we (I) can counteract them.

I wanted something fun and funny that would work across most grade levels, plus it includes drawing self portraits of other students.  In my little world it is the perfect solution to break the ice and build relationships.  Maybe I should have teachers do this during inservice days.

Students will sit and talk with each other, ask questions (which are on the sheets), and even draw pictures (hopefully appropriate) of one another (including their own teachers).  By the end of it students will have met with one another, found common interests, had a couple of laughs, and possibly even have found a new friend.

We know how difficult being in a new environment can be so just imagine the tolls it takes on our students.  That's why so many of us take concentrated measures to make sure students feel so well from a social and emotional standpoint.  Just think about how we all felt as new teachers...

On my first day as a new teacher the gym teacher threw me in a locker and stole my lunch that mom packed.

On my second day as a new teacher the students threw me in a locker and stole my lunch money.

On my third day as a new teacher the principal threw me in a locker, stole my lunch money, and bought pizza for the gym teacher and students.

Yes.  Boy Meets World.

I've created a freebie version to try out.  You can pick it up here.  It comes with a blank face and page for students to tell about themselves and another page for them to interview someone else in the class.

If you want to check out the whole thing click here or on the image below.

Good luck this year!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shark Week Blog Hop! C'mon In, The Water is Fine (Grab a Freebie)

Kids learn more when they’re excited and engaged.  They'll chomp at the bait bit when the information is cool and culturally relevant too. Today a team of bloggers come together to help your students take a BITE out of learning with a theme your students are sure to love! This is Shark Week with a teaching twist. We also tried to secure a steel cage to visit some Great White Sharks but insurance wouldn't cover us.  

Welcome to the Shark Week Blog Hop.  
You're gonna need a bigger boat to carry home all these freebies.


I love to get my students to answer questions about what they see.  Is it real? Is it fake?  Can I prove my answer and/or support it?  But I do this by showing them images of material they like.  I've used movies such as Pacific Rim and Jurassic Park or professional athletes like Lebron James to HOOK my kids.  I'll make them tell me exactly what they see and why.  It's a fun game because they have to DIVE DEEP to fully answer questions and prove their understanding.

An example are images I've used before using shark themes:

What is it?
Is this real or fake?
How do you know?
Does everything makes sense?
What prior knowledge do you have?

parasail shark escape photo kitesurf_shark_1280.jpg

Slide 10.png

As for my bucket of chum for you fisher(wo)men, I've put together some read aloud QR Codes on sharks!  I love to use these QR codes as part of a listening center and/or jump off point for kids to read (or have read) a book to them.  It's a great way to infuse technology into the class too.  Kids love them and it builds independence and responsibility too.  Enjoy this freebie!

Don't worry, this Blog Hop water is safe to swim in.  Wade through all the other blogs to see their tips and pick up freebies without the fear of being bitten.  Shark Week may come and go, but my fear of swimming in the seas will last forever.  Even if I know there is no chance of ever being bitten.  

Special thanks goes out to Jenny at Luckeyfrog's Lilypad for coming up with this fintastic idea!  Not many things beat Shark Week except for surviving an attack--and now I can include this blog hop.

And this is my daughter drawing a picture of me getting attacked by one--

Sunday, August 3, 2014

MEME-tastic Back-to-School Sale & A Freebie

It's getting close to that special time.  No, not school.  
I'm talking about TPT's Back-to-School Sale.  
Here's a couple of meme's to whet your appetite:


My Store will be on sale..but you can pick up my ***MILESTONE FREEBIE***  right now!  
Hurry--it'll only be free this week.

...or build a city with your students...

Have a great one!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I love Projects. Geometrocity, the City Made of Math

I'm just going to throw this out there, "I love projects".  It doesn't matter if it's reading, math, science, whatever--I just love projects.  Giving students a large scale (or long-scale) project, seeing them attack problems, deciding where to start, and/or working within a group is one of the best things we can do as teachers (I don't have any data to back that last statement up).  Yes, it takes a lot of work to make sure students are progressing and making appropriate progress--but it's what we do.

Let me clarify this a little more:  I love projects that take place in the classroom.
I don't always trust projects that go home then come back a little too perfect.  Yes, your parents can get an "A" but did you even do anything?

We also need to bring back science fairs!
I'm going to step off my soapbox.

Before you get mad and tell me projects are a hassle let me tell you the positives that happen when they're done correctly:
  • Collaboration and Cooperation (two completely different ideas, both equally important)
  • Stirs creativity and imagination
  • Creates problem solvers
  • Allows for immediate feedback from peers and their own self-reflection/assessment
  • It integrates technology more efficiently
  • Connections to the real-world
I've begun creating project based learning activities for my students because I've seen the positive impact in their engagement levels and also allows for multiple modalities of their own learning to be used.  Some of these projects are shorter single day events while others may take a month.  It doesn't matter which kind I use, just that my students stretch their learning potential.

If you're looking to incorporate more project based learning opportunities in your class, might I suggest trying out Geometrocity: A City Made of Math.  This can be completed individually, within a group, or even as a class project.  Your students will literally be designing, planning, and building a city using geometry.

A great luxury of having a daughter in elementary school is that she always wants to try out what I create. She is my quality control.  So her and a friend spent an afternoon creating buildings, using nets, to design 3D models of their city.


Geometrocity is broken down into Phases (which the teacher has total control over) and students work through them with each step building on the next incorporating geometry skills to build sections of their city.  

One of my favorite aspects is you can differentiate this immediately to students whether it's choosing lower level sections (less vocabulary) or pushing kids to make it to the challenge section.

I've created a nice preview too.  You can check it out at the link below:

 And is it really a surprise that the first building my daughter made was Target?  
Nope.  We love Target.


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