Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Poster Obsession--Finally Organized

It's time to face facts. I have an obsession with teaching posters. I have posters for just about every topic I teach, even  after purging the extra stuff. "Great! Plenty of visual aids!" You might be thinking. And you'd be right, except for one thing:
Would YOU pull those boxes out for one poster you're only using for a week? Yeah, me neither. Oh, I had great intentions, but with time constraints and just about anything I need available at the click of the mouse, I just didn't do it. This bothers me because I do want to use the things I've taken time to make or purchase. 

So, I came up with a great solution that keeps everything I need easily accessible and organized. I chunked those big, bulky boxes (where I'm constantly losing things in the bottom), and decided to stand the cardboard files in my closet. Here's how I organized it:

  1. Take pictures of each folder's contents. I started by taking each file folder out of the box and laying them out on the floor of my classroom. One folder at a time, I laid out the contents and took a picture using my iPhone. I then emailed the photos to myself so I could print them. I organize my poster files according to subject, rather than month. I like to have all of my science together, math together, etc...
  2. Arrange all the posters so they are facing the same direction. Any small items not in a bag I placed in a manila envelope. I especially like that the finished product has all of my posters standing up, so there's no more "sideways head" when I'm trying to see what's in those pesky boxes.

3. Tape the pictures on the cardboard folders.I taped mine on the upper right-hand corner because I know that is the place I will most likely look when I open my closet door. I also made another copy of the pictures and taped them to the top, inside of the folders. 

4. Place the folders in the closet. I put the items that I rarely use on the far right. I stood the file folders up so the folded corner would be on the left and the openings would be on the bottom, top, and right side, sort of like a book. I also placed the rolled posters on top of everything because they're too large to fit in the folders.

The finished product leaves my teaching posters in a place where they're easy to get to, easy to find, and easy to put away!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Conquered Computer Cable Chaos!

Finally! I've found a simple, cheap solution for all of those messy computer cables. This took me a really long time, but I'm proud of the finished product:

Step 1: Shut down the computers, untangle the cords, and label them. I used used some labels I made with our school logo on them and got for free on VistaPrint:
Step 2: Use twist ties or velcro to bind cords together. Some of them I had to double back on themselves because they were too long.
Step 3: (The genius part I wish I could take credit for but read it online somewhere...?): Use foam pipe insulation to cover the mess!

I didn't think to take a before picture, but trust me---the change is remarkable! I used the same trick for the computer at my desk, and it is so nice to NOT see the tangle of cords all the time.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Area of a Name

My kids loved this activity! After a short review on area, I had my students draw their names in block letters and calculate the area of each letter. They then found the total area of their names. 

I found this fun idea on Kelley's blog, Buggy for Second Grade. She has loads of great ideas!Thanks, Kelley!

Wow! Nominated for Fascination Award!

I was humbled and honored to receive an email notification saying that my blog was nominated for the 2012 Fascination Award. I'm so excited! The Fascination Awards are an "annual collection of the web's most inspirational and thought-provoking blogs," as voted on by readers. Voting starts today, and I would really appreciate your vote! I don't know who nominated me, but I'd like to give whoever you are a HUGE THANK YOU!
Accelerated Degree Programs

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Songify-Way Too Cool!

If you haven't gotten the free Songify app yet (iPod, iPad, iPhone), you should go right now and download it! A friend of mine, Julie D. Ramsay, shared it at EdCamp Birmingham this past weekend and I could hardly wait to try it with my 4th graders. Basically, you record yourself talking and Songify takes your words and mixes them with music and turns it into a song. It even auto tunes the voice, so it sounds really interesting. My kids were hooked! We used it to Songify some poetry they wrote:  

A few weeks ago I posted about a poem one of my students wrote about ActivExpressions. Here's the same poem on Songify: ActivExpression, ActivExpression.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Twitter in Elementary Classrooms? You Bet!

Elementary students tweeting? In many classrooms around the country and the world the answer is a resounding "Yes!" I've been using twitter as a professional learning tool for several years now, and even as an outreach to parents through my classroom twitter, but I just (today) started actually letting my 4th graders tweet.

Why? Well, for one thing it's a great way to share what we're learning in our classroom with not only parents and community members, but a world-wide audience. Having an authentic audience is HUGE motivator for kids. The fact that they're able to share their learning with others around the globe is really exciting.

Its also a great way to teach digital citizenship. We've already had conversations about what types of tweets readers expect to read, using correct grammar and capitalization, and reasons WHY we might tweet something. I'm sure there'll be many more learning experiences to come.

Finally, tweeting is a great way to connect with other classrooms. Since we've really just started tweeting, we're only connected with one other class of 4th graders, but I know that it will only be a short time until we start tweeting and conversing with classrooms around the globe. I'm really excited to share what the other classroom tweeted back to us with my kiddos tomorrow.

Does your classroom tweet? We'd love to get connected! Our classroom twitter is @kilgosnews.

I'd also love to hear ways that you're using twitter with your students. Please comment with any advice, ideas, or successes!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

EdCamp Birmingham

If you've never attended an UNconference, I highly recommend it. I just got back from an amazing day at Edcamp Birmingham! I'm so glad I went. I've never been part of an "unconference" before, and wasn't even sure what that was exactly until today. Wow! When my friend Cara, over at Teaching My Calling, and I walked in, we saw an in-progress schedule on a wiki projected on a large screen. There was a table with computers set up so that if you wanted to lead a session, you just went over to the table and added it to the schedule. Each scheduled event was also linked to a Google doc which allowed you to add your name, school, and contact information, for easy collaboration once the unconference was finished. Basically, the sessions and topics of the day were determined by the actual participants and what they wanted to learn/discuss. 

Which brings me to the next really great thing about edcamp: The sessions themselves were very non-traditional. There was very little "sit and get" and TONS of actual conversations and collaborations among the facilitators and participants. Everyone had a chance to speak their minds and share ideas. For example, the facilitator might ask, "Do you agree that using technology in your lessons helps your students learn more?" Participants then just basically discuss, with the leader chiming in occasionally. 

What a fabulous unconference! If you'd like to know more about how our day went, check out the twitter feed: #EdCampBham

Friday, May 4, 2012

Geometry Around You Podcast

Yay! After five days, 4 programs, and about a gazillion crashes of Windows Movie Maker, we finished making our podcast today! Here it is:

For the rest of the activities we did while learning about geometric solids, see my Shape-aholics post: 

Thursday, May 3, 2012


If you teach 4th grade Saxon Math, then you're probably all too familiar with the stress and anxiety that accompanies lesson 100: Constructing Geometric Models. It's horrible! Every year it's the same, "You wanna just read over this and then skip it?" My coworker and I say almost at once. Not this year! We've spent an entire week learning about geometric solids, and my kiddos (and I) have thoroughly enjoyed it!

Monday: We started with this flipchart: 

Then, I armed the kiddos with digital cameras and had them go on a hunt around the school for examples of each type of solid.

Tuesday: We reviewed the flipchart, then started to compile the images and create a video (hopefully, we'll finish it tomorrow).

Wednesday: Reviewed flipchart. Did a version of this awesome nets activity I found on Pinterest:

Thursday (today): Constructed models using jellybeans and toothpicks! (Another great Pinterest find). Took a quiz, then worked on our video. 
What a great way to review edges and vertices!

Friday: The plan is to finish our video, and find other examples to photograph if we need them. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Concrete Poetry

You just never know what kids are going to write. Yesterday I introduced concrete (shape) poetry to my kiddos and showed them a few examples. They jotted down a list of ideas for writing their own poem later. Fast forward to today--Writing time: "When you finish your grammar, you may write about whatever you like. Work on concrete poems, or any other type of writing." Ten minutes later, Jacie comes up to me with this! Now, I know there isn't one bit of punctuation on here, but I'm chalking it up to poetic license. The message is really great:  

It says:
Be strong, bold, smart, and powerful. Be like a wave. Rush to someone in need. Soar over problems. Burst into greatness. Learn your strengths. Be new all the time. Never look back. Keep going forward and never stop. Be like a wave and never stop till you get where you're going.

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