Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hour of Code

Sometimes you stumble upon things quite accidentally or unwittingly that make a huge impact in the classroom.  This past week, one of those such things became stumbled upon.  During our computer lab time (thanks to the aide who runs the computer lab) we have been participating in the Hour of Code, a fantastic introduction to computer coding, from

For a total of 45 minutes, my students sat mesmerized by the computer.  It was SILENT in the room as the students navigated the games on the screen, building code all the while.

Now, if you are anything like me, you probably are a bit confused right now.  How on earth can 5th graders write computer code?  I mean, I can barely handle the html tags that I need to know to write this blog post (did I lose anyone there? ;) )  But the the people at have actually made it really easy for the students to work with the code.  On the screen, there is a little maze with Angry Birds or Plants and Zombies.  The kids have to get the bird from one side of the screen to another.  There are then building blocks of code which say things like "move forward 1 space" or "turn right 90 degrees".  The kids then stack these on top of each other and cause the little bird to move.  Since it is set up like a game, the kids get it SUPER quickly and are sucked in to the logic of it all.

As the kids get better, the games get harder.  There are many different skill levels, many different grade levels, and many different themes to work with.  All of these are sprinkled with videos of real life tech gurus talking about how they use code and what coding in a computer actually means.  People like the creators of Instagram and Facebook all are speaking on the made for student videos.

My students really, really loved this.  Many of them went home and continued coding on the site.  You can sign your students up and give them a login, but you don't have to.  The kids can go to the site and get coding right away. 

I posted about this on my Facebook page last week and the response from others doing this was overwhelming.  So many of you have had success with the Hour of Code.  If you are thinking about it, I would highly recommend would many of our teaching colleagues out there (as evidenced from the thread!) 

Have you checked it out?   What is your experience?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Managing Our Class Supplies

In my class, the students have two sets of supplies -- individual and communal.  I find that having a set of shared items makes like easier for me and having some individual ones, makes like easier for them (which, in turn, makes life easier for me ;))

Each student has a pencil box with the essential items that they need.  Things like pencils, crayons, their Walking Classroom Walkit, the Classroom Procedure manual, and their reading book.  They also are allowed to keep scissors and a few other things that they may need, as long as the box doesn't overflow.

The communal cubby, which is housed on the center desk in the group, has rulers, a tissue box, glue bottles, and extra crayons.  This is stuff that the entire table shares.  It is also things that don't get used all that often, so don't need a space in the box, but still need to be available to the kids.

How do you manage your student supplies?  Do they have their own things or do they share everything? 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pinecone Parent Holiday Gift

Creating holiday gifts for the parents of my 5th graders is probably the most stressful part of December for me.   I want them to have something that is really great and fun, but I also want it to take as little time as possible from the academics that we really do need to cover.  So this year, when a fantastic parent of mine volunteered to help with the project, I jumped on it!

She had a great idea to create little ornaments out of pinecones.  She walked her neighborhood, found pinecones, and brought in a few for each student.

The kids painted them either white or green, then decorated with sparkles, sequence, or other colors of paint.  They used tempra paint, so it was something we already had at school....and they came out AWESOME!

Here are a few. 

We then added a little ribbon hook and a sign that said "Happy Holidays 2014" or a more specific holiday greeting if they wished.  (I don't have pictures of that...sorry!)

These took about a day to complete.  We started in the morning, to paint the pinecones and let them dry.  Then, in the afternoon, we glued the sequins and glitter on.  I let those dry overnight before wrapping them up.

What holiday gift do you have planned for this year?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Save Yourself Some Merry Little Minutes

Thank You Ladybug's Teacher Files for the button!
If you are like me, you want to find a way to use every.single.minute you have in class to get the most out of the 6 hours you have with the students.  One thing that I do in my room is to get my students ready for the next activity before we leave class.

What I mean is we take a few minutes before we leave for recess to get the papers we need out of our desks and place them neatly in the corner, so that way when we come back from recess, the students don't waste any time looking for papers....they are already on the desks!

Before we leave for recess, we take out the math work we are doing for math rotations.  So half of the kids have out their problem solving page while the other half have out their math books and math journals.

Before we leave for lunch, the students have their writing page out so we can immediately move into Writer's Workshop.
This time saving tip, taking things out for the next activity before they leave for lunch or recess, helps to save precious minutes of instructional time.
You can see that there is work on the students' desk.  That way, when they come back in from where ever it is that they have been, the kids can immediately get to work!

If we go to an assembly, or to Computer Lab or something, I have them take out whatever it is that we are going to do when we come back.

Having the students take a few minutes BEFORE we leave the room, honest to goodness saves about 15 minutes of them dilly dallying and looking around for the paper AFTER.   The kids don't want to miss any of their recess or lunch time ;)

Friday, November 28, 2014

EASY Crockpot Yumminess!

This is NOT a teaching post.  BUT it is something that can help you if you have, say, a potluck at school for your holiday party. 

This Thanksgiving I made a fantastic little crockpot dessert that was *demolished* by all in attendance.  It was SO easy, that I thought it would make the perfect Potluck dessert for school.

What was it?

Crockpot Chocolate Lava Cake read that right.  Chocolate.Lava.Cake.  YUM!!!!
This three ingredient chocolate lava cake is SO easy to make in the crockpot.
It takes 3 ingredients (sort of)

Chocolate cake mix
Chocolate pudding
Chocolate chips

Here is what you do.  Prepare the cake mix as the box says (so you will need eggs and oil).  Pour that into the crockpot.  Then prepare the pudding as the package says (you will need milk).  Pour that on top of the cake batter.  Pour the entire bag of chocolate chips on top of all of that.  Turn the crockpot onto high and let it bake for 3 hours.

That is it.  SO EASY!

Top with cool whip and you have an amazingly awesome dessert that promises to be a hit!

And, just for fun, and to drive home the idea that I can not really do things that are too complicated in the was my first attempt at ice cream cone cupcakes.  Totally nailed them.

What is one EASY potluck dish you know how to make?