Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Futures Channel

As part of our district's professional development this year, we are reading and discussing Intellectual Character by Ron Ritchhart. We have also been watching videos that in some way exemplify the culture of thinking that Mr. Ritchhart advocates.

A couple of months ago, our principal showed us Good Morning, Miss Toliver. It was a reminder for me about how teaching and learning are supposed to be. I wondered if there were any more videos out there of her, and I found some of her work on The Futures Channel.
The Futures Channel is a wonderful resource. There are several more video lessons by Kay Toliver, including the one on area, where students design their own apartment.

In addition to the lessons, this site also has engaging movies that demonstrate how STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills are being used in the real-world.

Whether you are trying out one of Kay Toliver's thinking lessons, or if your students need a break from BrainPOP videos, The Futures Channel is a great site to bookmark.

Friday, December 18, 2009

No Pulling Hair!

Last week I received this email from a teacher:

"I am really struggling with writing. I want to pull out my hair!!!! We have been practicing writing prompts and they are really needing work on word choice. Do you have any lesson suggestions? I am so burnt out trying to find ideas I could cry."

Boy, do I feel her pain. As a classroom teacher, I, too, wanted to provide meaningful and engaging activites for my students, but there never seemed to be enough time to search for them!

Now as an instructional coach, it is my job to help teachers find books, websites, and other resources that create positive learning experiences for students, and I must say, I love the challenge!

I know Halloween is long gone, but really, do kids ever get tired of monsters? The Monster Exchange Project encourages the development of reading and writing skills while integrating technology. Here's how it works: Classrooms are paired together. The students in each class draw then write a description of a monster. The students then exchange their descriptions via e-mail. Using only the written description of the monster, the students must use their comprehension skills to try to redraw it as close to the original picture as possible. Both the new and original drawings are posted online to compare.

A couple of years ago, when I was looking for a lesson for Camp Write-A-Way I discovered Writing Fix. There is a wealth of information and lesson ideas on this site. I ended up doing Sausage Sentences,

which the students loved!

Story Starters from Scholastic is another great resource. What could be more fun that using a slot machine to help create a story? It is very similar to a RAFT. A teacher's guide to this resource can be found here.

ilearntechnolgy (winner of the 2009 Best Educational Tech and Support Blog...Yay!) has many ideas for integrating technology and writing. StoryBird is a recommended site that offers "collaborative storytelling for families and friends." I also like Telescopic Text. We always say to students, "Show, don't tell." When you click on the highlighted portions and the sentence expands with descriptive words, students will finally understand what we're talking about!

I also want to mention one of my all-time favorites, ReadWriteThink. There are hundreds of lesson plans, and the online student tools are fantastic. It's impossible to leave ReadWriteThink without a great idea.

I'm still on the hunt for more great ideas, but I hope these will keep the teacher from pulling out any hair (at least for a little while.)

Saturday, December 12, 2009


As any of my former teaching partners and/or students will tell you, art is not my forte! I distinctly remember Mary, my first 4th grade teaching partner, coming into my room after one sketching lesson. She took one look at my work and burst out laughing. I really couldn't blame her. It was worse than awful!
I wish I would have known about these sites when I was in the classroom, but I'm excited to share them with teachers. I can imagine doing a whole Picasso unit using the site Mr. Picassohead.

Here are some other sites that lI've also had fun experimenting with lately:

Maybe if I would have had these online resources, I wouldn't have dreaded Art Fridays.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Let's Say Thanks!


If you go to this web site, www.LetsSayThanks.com you can pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and it will be sent to a soldier that is currently serving overseas. You can't pick out who gets it, but it will go to a member of the armed services.

How AMAZING it would be if we could get everyone we know to send one!!! It is FREE and it only takes a second.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the soldiers received a bunch of these? Whether you are for or against the war, our soldiers over there need to know we are behind them.

This takes just 10 seconds and it's a wonderful way to say thank you. Please take the time and please take the time to pass it on for others to do. We can never say enough thank you's.

Thanks for taking to time to support our military!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I found gold!

Sometimes surfing the internet can seem like panning for gold. You spend hours and hours looking for something worthwhile, but more often than not, you come up empty.

However, if you keep at it long enough, you eventually find some little piece worth keeping. If you are very lucky, you discover a huge nugget!

That's what happened to me about a month ago. I was searching for some differentiation sites to share with teachers, and I found ilearntechnology.

ilearntechnology 's creator, Kelly Tenkely, teaches 3-5 technology and is a technology integration specialist and instructional coach for elementary teachers. Kelly finds and shares wonderful online resources and expertly explains how they might be used in the classroom. Whenever I visit, I always find something that I can use the next day.

I was excited to hear that Kelly had nominated for a 2009 edublog award . I encourage everyone to visit ilearntechnology then vote for this gold nugget here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Thanks, Jill, for sharing this resource! I haven't quite figured out how to use it , but I'm excited to have my students try it, and I'm sure they'll be able to help me!

Here's the one Jill made!

Going Batty!

Students in several classrooms around the district are exploring bats. Here are some sites I found that might be helpful.

First Grade Bat Webquest

Bat Conservation Trust

Another Bat Webquest

One teacher I know created this Voki and is going to have her students create one, too.

Get a Voki now!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My Avatar Editor

Here's the avatar I created of myself using My Avitar Editor.
I can't wait to have students create their own! They'd be great for Voice Threads, wikis, and other applications. They could also be used in PowerPoint shows.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Differentiated Resources: A to Z

Tonight I have the honor of presenting to the Sandhills Reading Council. I will be sharing some of my favorite internet sites and resources. As teachers strive to meet the needs of their students, I hope these will be of some help to them. Here is my "Differentiated Resources: A to Z.

A Animoto:


B BrainBashers:


Book Wink






C: Countdown




Cubing and Think-Dots


D: Differentiation Module http://www.k8accesscenter.org/training_resources/differentiationmodule.asp

E: E-learning for Kids


F : Fit Brains

G: Glossopedia

Guess My Number

Go Animate

H: Hoagies

I: Illuminations




K: Kinder By Kim


L: Learning Upgrade

M: Menus

Mandy Gregory

Math Apprentice

Math For Everyone

Visual Learning

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Essential Questions

Here is a great piece on essential questions.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Math Websites

I've been getting several requests for math resources from students in my online class and from teachers in the district. I love being able to help when I can, so I've searched the web to find some differentiation resources for math. Here is what I've found so far.

e-Learning for Kids online courses in math and other subjects, too!

I've also found some great interactive lessons and activities on BBC School's Bitesize site.

There are also some demo lessons on the Time 4 Learning site.

I've used some of the demo lessons on the Math Upgrade site.
For skill practice, the IXL site may be useful, or head over to Mr. Nausbaum's site for some great math games!

There are a ton of math sites here. I admit I have not gotten around to exploring them all, but I'm sure you will find something that your students will like.

Don't forget BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. If you have forgotten the username or password, just email me!

Summer Opportunities

I wanted to share with you some enrichment opportunities that are available to students in the summer. Unfortunately, most of these are in the eastern part of the state. Are there any that you know of that are closer to home? Please let me know so I can post them! Maybe we need to be thinking about how to provide our own summer activities for our HAL students! Anyway, here are some things that I've found.

The first one is Big Red Summer Academy geared toward 9-12 graders. You can read all about the camp here.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha offers Aim for the Stars. Camps are available for 3-10 graders. There are also "girls only" programs.

Ad Astra is a one-week residential program at Creighton University for gifted students completing 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. .Students explore the many exciting facets of college life, and participate in courses designed to expose them to a variety of academic fields of study

Bright Lights is another summer program for elementary and middle school students. It doesn't offer housing, but if you have friends or relatives to stay with, it may be worth checking out.

Nature enthusiats might want to explore the two camps offered in Gibbon, Nebraska. Big Bend SOAR and Flying Higher camps are held at the Rowe Sanctuary.

The Nebraska Association for the Gifted had information about Camp Invention, a day camp to encourage creativity. There are several Nebraska locations. Click here to see NAG's entire list of summer opportunties.


Here is the link for the parent survey. Thanks for your participation.

Click Here to take survey

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Change the World in 5 Minutes a Day!

This video is awsome. These students show how easy it can be make a difference in the world. Take a look!

Future City

At the NAG Fall Workshop, John Thomsen shared information about Future City. It is a program which is intended to promote teamwork and critical thinking in math and science while using a community mentor to work with students. Students use Sim City software to design a future city, and then they research and write a solution to a problem that troubles cities of today and tomorrow. This sounds like a wonderful opportunity for our 7th and 8th grade students in HAL.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Independent Projects

Students in HAL have been working on their independent projects. As part of the process they have selected topics and subtopics, identified questions to explore, and searched the internet for answers to their questions. After completing their research, students were asked to share the information with their classmates in a creative way. Many of them chose to use PowerPoint, and these are poste on the Slideshare widget on this blog.

Other students built models to share what they learned. Here is Packer, a student at McDonald, showing King Tut's tomb.

Other students chose to do impersonations of famous people. Here is , portrayed by Talitha.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Greatest Common Factor

The Factor Game

Sliding Factor Game

BrainPOP video/ Factoring:

Greatest Common Factors Online Course:

Greatest Common Factor YouTube video:

Greatest Common Factor online quiz:

Greatest Common Factor worksheet

Factor Trees

Review and practice:

What do you MEAN?

Here are some resources for teaching mean or average.

You tube mean lesson:

Online dice .. Have students "roll" a set number of times and calculate the mean:

Online playing cards..Have students "draw" a set number of cards and calculate the mean:

Candy Colors Average Activity:

The Average Kid lesson plan:

You know those free auto magagizines you see around town? How about using them for an averaging activity? I've used them before for place value, and my students absolutely loved it! You could use one of the following problems for a whole class activity, or you could put them on a think-tac-toe board.

  • Cut out 3 (or more) vehicles. Find the average.
  • Find 3 vehicles that were made in 1990's and calculate the average.
  • Find 3 more vehicles that were made in the 2000's and calculate the average. What is the average difference between them? Why reasons can you think of that would explain the difference
  • Find the average of all the cars on a page. (Put this in the center of the think-tac-toe board and encourage students who need more challenge to include it in their choices.)
  • Find 5 cars that show a monthly payment. Find the average monthly payment of the cars. (This would be easier for students to calculate.)
  • Use Mapquest to find the distance to several of the car dealers. Calculate the average distance.
  • Find 5 cars that are named after animals. Calculate the average.
  • Fnd 5 cars that are alike in some way (leather, AC, CD, same year..etc.) Calculate the average price of the cars.
Here are some other tasks for a choice board:
  • Find two vehicles that were made in the same year and are the exact same price.
  • name two vehicles that are named after cities in the United States. Tell what state they are in and how many people live there.
  • Choose 3 vehicles. Find the total. Find 5 more vehicles that have the exact total as your first 3 vehicles.
  • Find a car that was made in the same year that the Denver Broncos won their second Super Bowl.
  • Choose 6 vehicles. Find the total. Next, find out how much more money you would need, or how much you would have left if you had $1,000,000 to spend.
  • Find 2 vehicles that have a price which is a palindrome.
  • Find three vehicles that are named after animals. Research how much those animals weigh and what they eat.
  • Choose 1 vehicle that is more than $30,000. Find out how long it would take you to pay it off if you pay $200.00 per month.
  • Find a vehicle that was made in the same year that former president Ronald Regan died. Find out what Ronald Regan did before he became president.

Here are some ideas that the students came up with:
Choose three vehicles that are named after animals. Find the difference between the weight of the cars and the weight of the animals.
Choose three vehicles that are named after animals. Find the difference between the top speed of the car and the top speed of the animal.
Find a car that was made in the year you were born. Find out some major things that happened in that year.
Find the oldest car. Tell about some events that happened in that year.

Time To Measure!

Need some differentiation ideas for your measuring unit? Try some of these resources.

Try to balance the scales:

This game tests your knowledge of angles: http://www.bbc.co.uk/education/mathsfile/shockwave/games/bathroom.html

Measure to the nearest fraction of an inch:

Super lesson plan for lengths and heights: http://school.discoveryeducation.com/lessonplans/pdf/measure_lengths/measure_lengths.pdf

Another Discovery Education plan-converting from standard to metric. http://school.discoveryeducation.com/lessonplans/pdf/metricworld/metricworld.pdf

Metric scavenger hunt:
Interactive movies and activities:

Scroll down to find some interesting measurement investigations involving lunch:

Lesson using measurement and oranges:

Measurement webquest:

Metric Interactive course:

nrich time and measurment:

Bitesize lesson: measures

elearning online courses-scroll to find measurement related :

Olympic measurement webquest:

Mrs. Lincoln

Lincoln School recently celebrated the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. When they asked me to portray Mrs. Lincoln, I jumped at the chance. I loved dressing in costume and telling students about Mary's life. I am not sure how effective I was, though. After my presentation, a boy came up to me and whispered, "I know you're a fake!" I laughed and replied, "What gave me away? Was it my wig?" He shook his head and said, "No, if you were real, you'd be, like, 200 years old!" Well, at least I got them thinking!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Smashing the World Record!

On March 4, HAL students gathered at McKinley Education Center for World Math Day. Their challenge was to answer as many mental math questions as possible with the ultimate goal of breaking a world record.
At the end of the day, the group had answered over 20,000 questions, and together with students from around the world, had answered 452, 682, 682 questions, smashing the previous record!!

Our top point earner was Andrew! Talk about a walking calculator!

We also had treats and prize drawings. Braden and Hope won World Math Day t-shirts, and several other students won Wal-Mart gift cards.

Thank you to all of you who participated in World Math Day! You were amazing! I can't wait for next year! Another big thanks to John Lindenberger for writing about us in the North Platte Telegraph.  And, of course, we can't forget Mr. Hokanson!   What did we ever do without him!  He helped us out all day and created our World Math Day video.   You are awesome, Neil!

Friday, January 23, 2009


This week I introduced students to palindromes. If you aren't sure what a palindrome is, you can read more about them here. I was also very excited to learn from Tim, one of our middle school HAL students, that musical parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic (one of my favorites) created a song using palindromes. For an interesting use of palindromes, watch the video "BOB" here.