Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Post About Lunch Boxes...Yup...Lunch Boxes!

My favorite purchase I made last school year were these Easy Lunch Boxes. I was looking for a bento style lunch box that I could use to help put healthy lunches together (it is a goal of mine...sigh!). In my search I found these. I had a gift certificate to Amazon so I purchased a set...along with the little "mini dipper" containers (a friend gave me her silicon cupcake holders that she doesn't I pretty much have everything in the first picture above).

I love love love them (and that is saying a lot for me to wax poetic about lunch containers!). I even wrote a review on Amazon (which I don't normally do).

What makes them different from other compartment containers? They are wraps, salads, cut up anything fit in easily (right now I have a salad in mine for tomorrow with dressing and cut up fruit). They don't warp in the dishwasher at all. I like having all the compartment options (I'm a snacker so that works for me). The "mini dippers" fit in the box so no need to keep salad dressing or hummus in something separate from your lunch. They are sturdy (no flimsy plastic). They don't dye red when you are putting in leftover spaghetti AND they have a ton of lunch ideas on their website.

I did not buy the lunch bag because I already carry enough bags and this container fits into one of my bags I carry on a daily basis.

I thought I would pass on in case anyone was looking for an awesome lunch box container (I did not get any product for free this is a genuine "I love it" post...not that I am against getting anything for free :).

Guidance (Classroom Management) Ideas

I saw these two signs while in a school and I liked them both. They came from the school's guidance counselor. The first required that a student be able to mentally check off a list before they report bullying. I liked this because children often throw the word "bullying" out without really knowing how it is defined. The list she has posted helps (I didn't see the form that students were to fill in but it is on my list to find the next time I visit the school).  I thought this could be used in a classroom - particularly at the beginning of the year when talking about bullying.

The second made me laugh. I saw it in a kindergarten room and asked the teacher about it. She said the school's guidance counselor came and taught her little ones about the importance of people's "personal space". They had to demonstrate that they understood the concept of "personal space" to get the certificate. I loved the idea as a guidance I thought I would share. Even if you don't have a dedicated guidance counselor (some counselor's are shared between more then one school these days) this might be a good beginning of year lesson for students. I'm not sure what she did in the lesson but when I am tracking down the bullying form I'll ask and post.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Powtoons - LOVE!

Here is my new favorite tech program - PowToon. It is a free animated video presentation tool that is very easy to use. I used it with groups of 5th graders who made a group presentation on the need for after school clubs at their school - see their full presentation HERE. I was so impressed with the student's work that I went home and made a "commercial" for our tech department as a way of playing with the site (the cat thing in the commercial is a running joke with our team so I had to work it in).

A couple of things...the website requires Flash so it can not be used on iPads (which was a bit of a problem because we have a 1:1 iPad program in our 3-5 classrooms). When we used it we booked the computer lab and used a few student laptops. The free version is limited but not so much so that it was debilitating. You can't download but you can work around it by uploading it to YouTube (an option under the free version) and then using a YouTube downloader to pull it off the site. 

We found the sound hard to deal with. You can record within the program and their help videos suggest recording BEFORE making the video but that didn't work for students (they need to see the video progress in order to record). We worked around that by using the free recording software Audacity and using the "snap screen" feature so students could record on one side while viewing the video timing on the other side. 

The educational pricing is very reasonable for full access (but you can also use the free version - which is what we used). 

If you have time between now and the end of the school year have students try it out!

Monday, May 11, 2015

End of Year Activity - Flextangle


I saw this "flextangle" activity on Facebook and thought I could modify it for academic content. In the example I choose WW2 (primarily because I recently worked with a Social Studies teacher and her standards were fresh on my mind). It was pretty easy.

The student would need to come up with 12 short facts about a topic and be able to illustrate it somehow (my illustrations range from good to poor but I was able to depict my thinking so really that is all that mattered). It could work with science as well as social studies. The end product is pretty small size wise which is why I recommend short facts.

A teacher friend of mine posted that - they actually demonstrate the math concepts of frieze patterns, reflection, rotation, and translation (here I was thinking they were just "cool" :).

The original post I took the idea from can be found HERE. This is also where you go to get the instructions for putting it together and the pattern. 

If you are looking for a fun independent project for students to do as you head into the home stretch of the school year this might be for you!

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Kahoot! is my new favorite tech tool. It is a free online question response system that allows you to create game based reviews or polls. It works with any 1:1 or web based BYOD device. 

What I like is that I don't have to make any questions if I don't want to. There are literally thousands of Kahoots you can search in their data base, from science to ELA. 

The kids LOVE playing it. Teachers would register at but students would go to to play. You the teacher would push out the kahoot you want students to play and they would register with the provided pin. They would then register their name and the game would begin. FYI - You can also have a large number of players so if you needed to combine classes or wanted to do a faculty wide kahoot you could.


1. The questions and answers DO NOT show up on the students device (only the four color answer grid - see first picture above). This makes it hard for children in the back of the room to see the answer choices on the interactive white board. It is a small limitation for a great free tool.

2. The data base for searching doesn't allow you to search by grade level so you can get a lot of different level kahoots when you search for something like "The Cold War." You can indicate "school" but that covers all levels of "school." You can preview so you can eliminate kahoots that don't fit your needs and you can "favorite" kahoots so you can quickly find them again. 

I use them as a warm up. For example -  I recently taught a class on multiplying fractions so I found a short 10 question fraction review to do as a warm up. 

If you are in a 1:1 or BYOD environment this is definitely something I would add to your list of "go to" resources. 

Persuasive Writing Video

I have to teach a  model class in an ELA classroom tomorrow using ClassFlow and Kahoot. I thought I would focus on writing a persuasive/argument paper since that grade level (5th) has that type of writing for their end of year state exam.

I was trying to find a good YouTube video to include in my ClassFlow lesson. I wanted showcase that students can watch videos you push out to their devices through ClassFlow. As I was looking I came across this super cute video.

The video doesn't really meet my needs (it is for lower grade levels) but I thought it was too good not to share.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

ACT Aspire Timed Writing

Our state just moved to the ACT Aspire test, which students will be taking this year (2015). To say teachers are a little nervous is a huge understatement. The nervousness has to do with the time element of the test (in all the subject areas). Example: a third grade student has 30 minutes to write a reflective narrative piece (that includes reading the prompt and putting together any type of graphic organizer before they write AND no dictionary or thesaurus is allowed). This is a HUGE shift for our students who we have always been told to "take their time". The online reason the ACT folks note for the short time limit has to do with "test fatigue" in... if students are given an unlimited amount of time their writing doesn't appreciatively improve - CLICK HERE  for that explanation. I disagree and feel 30 minutes to write to an unknown prompt in grades 3-5 is highly unreasonable and not relevant in today's world (I've never been given an unknown topic and told to produce a gradable piece of anything in 30 minutes...and I am not sure I could do it if asked!). In today's environment of high stakes testing adding a timed element is just CRAZY...and there is nothing we can do about it but try to prepare our students the best way we can.

In that regard I've looked online and I can't find any teacher feedback providing tips for preparing students for this rigorous timed test (in all fairness only two states have implemented the ACT Aspire test -  Kentucky and Alabama and they only took it last year for the first time). We don't even know what the test will look like. The ACT Aspire folks have provided a few sample questions online and offer up RIDICULOUSLY expensive test preparation material but that is not helpful. Our district has tasked our math and literacy coaches to develop an ACT "like" test in each area...not to test student knowledge but to give students an opportunity to experience what the test will be like in April/May and to give them some test taking strategies in a timed environment.

One area I have been looking at is the writing test. I love writing so I started tweaking my writing strategies to meet the timed, and various types of writing, that will be tested in grades 3-5. I've been modeling the strategies in classrooms (specifically Title 1 classrooms) and asked teachers to start having students time themselves using their iPad stopwatch feature (see picture above). Based on the time limit (30 minutes) students have five minutes to read the prompt, highlight the useful information, and slap together a graphic organizer. They then (based on four paragraphs...I use the four square graphic organizer) have five minutes per paragraph to write their final piece. With the left over five minutes they can review and make any changes. Crazy...I know!

The picture above shows one of our district's 3rd grade students using the iPad to time his writing.

I would love to hear from any Alabama or Kentucky teachers about how they test prepped their students going into the test last year (please feel free to leave comments or email me directly).

I am going to end with this picture I saw on Facebook.