Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Butterfly fun

Quick post :)

One butterfly garden open-ended math project ready to go!

I have to say I've had a lot of fun with this one - taking photos, researching in garden centers (always a great way to spend a sunny afternoon! :) ), playing with squares and area - it brought back all sorts of memories of when I was in college doing a degree in horticulture and designing gardens. Loved it.

Now I desperately want to plant a garden of my own again. I used to have a butterfly garden when my children were little. One year we counted 79 Monarch chrysalids - and had a whole section of the lawn devoted to milkweed in a vain attempt to keep the caterpillars supplied with food. (It never works with Monarchs - the more you plant, the more they eat!)

Bermuda only has 5 species of butterfly but even so, our garden was beautiful. Now, in Scotland, however, there are lots of butterflies!! And bees. Lots of lovely fat, furry bumblebees - and apparently, as I discovered while researching, TONS of varieties. Who knew there were so many types of bumblebees around?!!

White-tailed, red-tailed, buff-tailed... the list seems endless. I took a couple of photos of these bumbles but I'm not exactly sure what type they are. :) They are, however, sitting on a hybrid variety of globe thistle which is a great plant for a butterfly and bee garden.


Here are some more good "bee" plants :)


So... if anyone would like to try planting a "virtual" butterfly and bee garden with their kiddies this year please feel free to check out this resource.  Enjoy!

Available here :)

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Best and Most Linky - Back to School Sale :)

And it's finally happening - the TpT Back to School Sale will be on August 18th and 19th!!

I'm linking up with Christina at Bunting, Books and Bainbridge for her Best and Most TpT Back to School extravaganza. :)

Although this is supposed to be an individual "yearbook" I realized that, although I love the resources I've created, I couldn't really think of one that was a "teacher's pet" (i.e. that every teacher would need :) ) so I decided to highlight one resource that I've used this last year and loved. It belongs to Meg at Fourth Grade Studio -  and I've included a link so you can go visit her, as well as all the other WONDERFUL stores that will be on this linky! :)

I can't wait to check them all out!!

Teacher's Pet

Academic Learning Posters:

I acquired these last year from Meg and they were a wonderful addition to the classroom. I posted them on the white board at the front of the room and they were invaluable - since I could just quietly tap whichever one I thought was applicable for the issue of the moment :) Meg custom makes these for your classroom decor - so I had mine done in a rainforest theme - they worked beautifully for terms 2 and 3 since we do the rainforests and the Meso-American civilizations then but I'm going to need a new set for September to go with my Ancient Rome setting :) Will have to send Meg a message!!

Most Likely to Help Your Students Succeed

Open-ended Projects Bundle:

Many of you know how much I love critical thinking, inquiry and exploration projects and open-ended Math projects are a great way to allow students to experience this type of learning.

Why do I think they will help your students succeed?

Students realize that there is sometimes no one "right" answer and are able to experiment without fear of failure.
Students learn to work cooperatively and are able to showcase their own individual talents and strengths in group presentations.
Students who find Math challenging very often love these projects and Math becomes fun and exciting again.

They're a great way to foster independent learning in your classroom - and isn't that what we're trying to do as teachers? :)

(If you have no idea what this type of project is there are some links at the bottom of the post that will take you to blog entries about some of our projects.)

Best Couple

Pumpkin Units:

As well as open-ended Math projects I really like giving my students challenging word problems. I particularly like word problems that give interesting information at the same time as providing a math challenge. And I like word problems that require reasonable computation skills (not too hard, not too easy) but that require the student to read carefully and think about what is being asked. My third graders are very quick to look at the numbers and just decide on an operation (seemingly at random) without really thinking about what the problem is ABOUT. I spent a lot of time on problem solving last year and have made a lot of different sets of themed task cards which have been invaluable for center work, "I've finished" time, extra review and one-on-one problem solving.
These two resources were created in case I have students who don't celebrate Halloween - we can still have a pumpkin/harvest theme in the classroom and no-one will feel like they are missing a holiday. :)

So those are my picks for the yearbook! I wish I had photos to share from my "real" yearbook but, sadly, it wasn't a tradition at my school. Yearbooks started two years after I graduated :(.

Now, head on back to Christina to see what other blogger yearbooks look like :)

Bunting Books and Bainbridge

And... get ready to get all those cool school resources that you have been wanting to buy - and enjoy some browsing :) Don't forget to put in the Promo Code to get your extra discount!! BTS13

And it you're wanting any open-ended Math projects - word problem sets -  at a reduced price please stop by and visit!


(If you're not sure what an open-ended project is then check out these posts!)

Lots of Open-Ended Projects on display here :)

Building a Perimeter Farm in detail

A Valentine Project in detail

Enjoy the sale, shoppers! :)

Friday, 16 August 2013

Some giveaway fun...

Casey at Second Grade Math Maniac has been hosting this fun giveaway.

You might want to stop by and try your luck :)

There are lots of other categories too!! Clip art, K - 2, Back to School - it's a 10 day series of posts and she's only half way through. Fun!!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Problems in the garden...

I know I've been saying how glorious the weather has been here in Scotland ad infinitum this summer but it really has been gorgeous. Today is yet another blue sky, sunny day and I feel like being nice :)

My mom's garden is just wonderful - full of lavender and lilies and lobelia and tons of fat bumblebees. I've been inspired to create some Math stuff with a garden theme and just finished the first project. :)

I think it's pretty - and it will make a nice Spring activity/center station for my kiddies this year.

So... if anyone is looking for theoretical garden problems (because no-one REALLY wants the real problems that come with gardening - bugs, weed, flooding etc. :) ) then use the link below to collect your goody.

And enjoy :)

Pick up your copy HERE :)

Plus stay tuned for another open-ended Math Project coming soon - and with a fun Spring/Garden theme as well :)

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Getting ready for school - sort of :)

With only a couple of weeks left until I head back home and then into school to look at my classroom I've started thinking about cute stuff. :)

Cute stuff being birthday presents for the kiddies, labels, little rock magnet reading buddies - that sort of thing. The fun little things that I can do right now before I start thinking about books and supplies and all the serious planning.

I always do a small birthday present for my kiddies on their birthday (or, in the case of the summer kids - as close to it as I can manage) My first year in the classroom I made the first birthday child a crown - personalized and glittered to death. It's now a tradition! There are days that I distinctly regret starting this (on a Friday at 5.00 when I suddenly realize that there is a birthday on Monday morning!!) but for the most part it's a lot of fun and it satisfies my creative instinct.

So... crowns. This year I think I'll make half a dozen at a time in advance and then just add the glittery name and bedazzles the night before.

Birthday goodie bags this year will contain an individual survival bracelet (made out of colored parachute silk by my nephew. I'm paying him for these since he's 17 and needs money and I'm sure he'd rather be making cool camouflage ones for his mates instead of rainbow colored girly ones for me :) ) I have one (in black and white) and he made this awesome hot pink dog collar for Bear. You can see her modeling it below :)

Close up of collar :)

I'm also including these magnetic bookmarks that I found in Scotland. They'll definitely be different from the normal ones we find at home and they're big, sturdy and neat. Plus they can put their names inside and then (hopefully) they won't get lost!

A hedgehog, red squirrel, otter and fox - none of which live
in Bermuda but I think the kiddies will like them anyway.

And finally, I have found a whole pile of tiny little flat rocks that I have painted in bright colors, added eyes (and will stick magnets onto once I'm back home) and these will attach onto the kiddies' desks (which are metal on the sides) and can be used for.... oh, I don't know, reading buddies, holding notes, stroking, playing with... I'm not really fussed. I just thought they'd be cute and I know my class of girls (no boys in our school) will love them!

The naked rocks :)
Beginning of beautification

The end product - I think they're cute :)

I've also bought a pack of nice glittery cardboard and am starting to design the cubby labels - I'll probably wait till I'm home to do this properly because I don't want them all squashed (or even worse, LOST) in my luggage. I sort of wish I hadn't let the kids make their own desk labels - have to keep reminding myself that I like the student-created bulletin boards etc. And I do, really! It's just that it's such fun doing it myself as well. I'll have to concentrate on my notices board - maybe I can make that glittery and frilly and satisfy this urge I have this year! :)

So, even though I really don't want to leave Scotland and have had a wonderful summer, school will be here before I know it and it IS kind of fun to be getting ready :)

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Scotland Update - with photos

Had to share some totally non-educational photos today :) We just got back from a little 3-day trip up north to Banffshire and Moray and I've just downloaded all my photos so have a look at Scotland! :)

We had mostly awesome weather - a little rain yesterday and some COLD winds off the North Sea but it was still glorious. I MUCH prefer the cold to excessive heat! :)

Look at what we saw!

Whitelee Wind Farm - actually near Glasgow where we
went for lunch on the weekend with my aunt and uncle.
It's quite mesmerizing, watching these huge fans!!

Cliffs near Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire. These cliffs
are STEEP and very dangerous. No barriers so I had
wobbly legs every time someone moved too close.
Banffshire coast - Troup Head RSPB sanctuary.

View across fields from Craigievar Castle
near Banchory, Aberdeenshire
Cruden Bay beach at sunset :) A mist rolled in as we
were walking back and it was just beautiful!
And again - we were trying to see the seals in the colony
at the end of the beach but they were very elusive!

Slains Castle - this was the inspiration for 'Dracula'!!
Bram Stoker stayed in the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel
(where we stayed too!) and visited this castle
before writing his famous book!!

Part of the gannet colony at Troup Head. Awesome sight.
We sat and watched the birds for ages!
It took FOREVER to get a gannet on the wing!!

My hubby looking for dolphins at the mouth of the
Spey River.

And this I just thought was hysterical!
It's a juvenile thornback ray! They're
hatched and raised in tanks and then
released into the North Sea when they have
 a better chance of survival!!
Isn't it CUTE?!!

Scotland is just the most beautiful place - even in rainy, cold, gray weather. I am actually planning to do some school-related projects with some of my photos - especially the castles (which I've been collecting everywhere we go) There's a Castle Trail here and we've been to quite a lot of them already - amazing buildings with a wonderful history behind them. I'm planning some Math task cards for my kiddies next year - they can learn some interesting historical facts at the same time as doing Math :)

Enjoy your weekend everyone - and be sure to pick up Back to School Shopping for free. Last day tomorrow and then it reverts to its original price so hurry over if you haven't already got it!!

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Back to School Tips and Freebies Blog Hop!!

Way back in July, when the holidays were still brand new and fresh, I agreed to take part in a Back to School blog hop today.

Finish up at Ms. Fultz's Corner 
to enter a raffle for more prizes.

I am, of course, not back at school yet and won't be until September - and the kiddies won't be back until September 9th but I don't think we ever leave school completely even when we're on holiday!

I've been in Scotland all summer - and I've spent a large part of my time planning and creating and brainstorming with my retired teacher/headmistress mama... and then thinking of more things to do and better ways to do them.

Christi of Ms. Fultz's Corner organized this hop and I think it's going to be great fun. If you follow the hop all the way around you'll visit 12 blogs, collect 12 Freebies, read lots of tips and interesting ideas and then - at the very end of the hop - be able to enter a raffle for more fun prizes. Pretty cool!!

Once you finish with my part follow the link to the next blog (the awesome Christina at Bunting Books and Bainbridge and keep on hopping! :)

So... Back to School tips...

Well, frankly, every year I feel like I need tips more than I can give them! But I'm pretty sure most of us feel like this so every little idea is useful. :)

I've decided to share my absolutely favorite thing to do in the classroom - Open-ended Math Projects.

Why is this a back to school tip?
Because it's something that I think should be introduced as early as possible to students - it kind of sets the tone for learning for the rest of the year. :)

I discovered open-ended projects last year, experimented, was delighted to find that my class absolutely LOVED them and realized how much my kiddies benefitted from them - in more than mathematical ways! (I'm talking cooperation, leadership, organization, creativity etc.)

Last year we did our first project in February. This year I'm starting the first week back to school!

An Open-ended project is an exercise in critical thinking; it can be a cooperative project or an independent challenge; it lends itself to extension work and reinforces key concepts; it has no single answer and it allows children to explore Math through real-life situations. It makes a wonderful bulletin board display and can become a pretty nice art project in many instances.

Best of all it elicits comments like: "Oh boy, it's one of those things again!" or "Ooooh, I LOVE these. Can we do another one tomorrow?"
How often do we hear that in Math lessons?

I've always done these projects as group center work. I divide my class up into mixed ability groups, hand out all the materials, go over directions and then wander around monitoring their work and making suggestions.

With the first project I gave a lot of guidance. By the time the year ended my class worked completely independently and their work was truly amazing!

To whet your appetite here are photos of some of our projects.

This was a Roman Garrison town project that required
measuring, symmetry and building 3-D shapes from
flat nets. The children designed their own layouts,
chose different buildings and constructed them from nets,
measured and built the walls and designed their
own legion banner.

The duck pond
The chicken yard

Our Perimeter Farm project required students to design
animal enclosures with specific perimeters. They could choose
shape and dimension as long as the perimeter
requirement was met. Animals moved in upon
inspection. They played with the farm for days!!

In this project students purchased supplies
for and designed an aquarium - working
within a specific budget. This
reinforced addition, subtraction and
multiplication skills as well as money
All of the information was collated into a
poster which was displayed on the bulletin

In this St. Patrick's Day project my kiddies planned a
party for the leprechauns. Using Leprechaun Gold they
visited the Rainbow Mall to purchase supplies for
their party.
Once their planning was done they decorated the Great Hall with all their supplies and added leprechauns :)
We kept this display up until June!!

The Chocolate Choice project required students to
fill three different chocolate boxes - all of the same weight
but using a different selection of chocolates each time.
Addition, subtraction and multiplication concepts were reviewed
and we reviewed measurement (weight) as well, playing with
grams (metric boxes) and ounces (standard boxes). 
This was a beautiful Valentine display board
- and it really impressed the parents when they
came for conferences in February!!

We have a pet class tortoise so we used this
project to practice finding area. We designed
an enclosure for the tortoise - students had to
find the area of their enclosure, figure out how much wood
to purchase to build it, purchase supplies to
keep the tortoise cared for and explain their
This was my introduction to finding area and
I loved the way the kids "got it" :)

These projects are now my passion! I love the way they can be used to help children explore concepts and learn Maths in a real life setting; I love the way they can become creative activities and add fun and excitement to the learning process; I love the way my students developed as critical thinkers over the course of the school year.

I'll be doing a lot more of these projects this year for sure :)

And now for your freebie...

If you'd like to try an Open-ended project yourself you can get The Terrific Tortoise Habitat for free.

 Click on the link below the picture to collect your freebie.

Get your project HERE

Now... be sure to hop over to Christina's amazing post at Bunting, Books and Bainbridge

Bunting Books and Bainbridge

to continue the fun. :) Happy Back to School hopping!