Monthly Archives: June 2011

40% off cool stuff

As parents and/or educators, most of us are familiar with (read: practically live at) The School Box (aka Teacher Mecca). And, as parents and/or educators, most of us are on tight budgets (read: we’re always game for a good bargain). And so, we found it grand that these two truths are colliding this weekend: In honor of July 4th, The School Box is offering a 40% off in-store coupon for any one regular-priced item June 30-July 3!

Here are the details (click to print the coupon):

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Filed under Classroom Decor, Teaching

I’m Bored! {How to Never Hear that Phrase Again}

by Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card!! We’ll draw some winners in a couple weeks.

We’ve all heard it–as parents, as teachers, as passerby in the aisles at Wal-Mart. Anyplace a child might be stranded without a digital device, “I’m bored” is destined to be uttered. At least 17 times.

Here’s an idea adapted from The Simple Mom that is definitely worth sharing–and implementing. It could easily be used both at home and in the classroom.

The “Boredom Busters” Jar

1. First, have your children sit down and make a list of everything they could do completely on their own.

2. Then, gather input from other moms and teachers, to add ideas to the list.

3. Transfer your now-long list of activities onto individual strips of paper. You can type them…or have children hand-write and decorate them (in and of itself a boredom busting activity!).

4. Then, whenever you hear the dreaded phrase, pass the jar. Children pull out two or three strips and decide which one they want to do. Voila! Boredom=busted!

200+ Boredom Busting Activities

Here’s The Simple Mom’s ingenious list of over 200+ activites, to give you (and your kids) some ideas. (She says that the chores on the list were suggested by her kids themselves, by the way. Can I please trade children with her?)

  • ride bikes
  • roller blade
  • basketball
  • play board games
  • make a tent out of blankets
  • squirt with hoses
  • run through the sprinkler
  • jump rope
  • read books
  • blow bubbles
  • make homemade play dough
  • play with play dough
  • press flowers
  • do crafts with pressed flowers
  • write a letter to a relative, friend or pen pal
  • clean bedroom
  • vacuum living room
  • clean bathroom
  • make a craft
  • draw
  • color
  • paint
  • pull weeds
  • watch a movie
  • write stories
  • use binoculars
  • use magnifying glass
  • use microscope
  • bird watching
  • write a play
  • act out a play
  • invent circus acts
  • perform a circus
  • play card games
  • make art on the front walkway with sidewalk chalk
  • play catch
  • play baseball
  • collect rocks
  • collect leaves
  • collect feathers
  • play Frisbee
  • make Frisbee’s out of old plastic lids, decorate with markers
  • dust the house
  • brush the pet
  • write letters
  • read a magazine
  • play dress-up
  • play Cowboys
  • pick vegetables
  • play outside with the pet
  • build a fort in your rooms
  • build a fort in the backyard
  • do a jigsaw puzzle
  • play on the Geosafari
  • play on the computer
  • listen to a story or book on tape
  • do extra schoolwork to get ahead
  • do brain teasers (ie: crosswords, word searches, hidden pictures, mazes, etc.)
  • cook
  • prepare lunch
  • surprise a neighbor with a good deed
  • play store
  • prepare a “restaurant” lunch with menus
  • hold a tea party
  • have a Teddy bear picnic
  • play with toy cars
  • play dolls
  • play house
  • chase butterflies
  • collect caterpillars and bugs
  • plant a garden or a pot
  • collect seeds
  • hunt for four-leaf clovers
  • learn magic tricks
  • put on a magic show
  • plant a container garden
  • sprout seeds or beans
  • make sock puppets
  • put on a puppet show
  • make Christmas presents
  • make homemade wrapping paper
  • make homemade gift cards
  • make picture frames from twigs glued onto sturdy cardboard
  • crochet or knit
  • make doll clothes
  • sew buttons in designs on old shirts
  • run relay races
  • make bookmarks
  • take a quiet rest time
  • take a shower or bath
  • bathe a pet
  • feed the birds or squirrels
  • watch the clouds
  • organize a dresser drawer
  • clean under the bed
  • empty dishwasher
  • vacuum under the couch cushions and keep any change found
  • write these ideas on pieces of paper and pick out one or two to do
  • whittle
  • whittle bars of soap
  • practice musical instruments
  • perform a family concert
  • teach yourself to play musical instrument (recorder, harmonica, guitar)
  • fold laundry
  • sweep kitchen or bathroom floors
  • sweep front walkway
  • sweep or spray back patio
  • sweep or spray driveway
  • wash car
  • vacuum car
  • vacuum or dust window blinds
  • clean bathroom mirrors
  • clean sliding glass doors
  • clean inside of car windows
  • wash bicycles
  • clean garage
  • play in the sandbox
  • build a sandcastle
  • work with clay
  • copy your favorite book illustration
  • design your own game
  • build with blocks or Legos
  • create a design box (copper wire, string, odds-and-ends of things destined for the garbage, pom-poms, thread, yarn, etc.)
  • plan a neighborhood or family Olympics
  • have a marble tournament
  • paint a picture with lemon juice on white paper and hang it in a sunny window and see what happens in a few days
  • finger paint with pudding
  • make dessert
  • make dinner
  • give your pet a party
  • paint the sidewalk with water
  • start a journal of summer fun
  • start a nature diary
  • have a read-a-thon with a friend or sibling
  • have a neighborhood bike wash
  • play flashlight tag
  • play Kick the Can
  • check out a science book and try some experiments
  • make up a story
  • arrange photo albums
  • find bugs and start a collection
  • do some stargazing
  • decorate bikes or wagons and have a neighborhood parade
  • catch butterflies and then let them go
  • play hide-and-seek
  • create a symphony with bottles and pans and rubber bands
  • listen to the birds sing
  • try to imitate bird calls
  • read a story to a younger child
  • find shapes in the clouds
  • string dry noodles or O-shaped cereals into a necklace
  • glue noodles into a design on paper
  • play hopscotch
  • play jacks
  • make up a song
  • make a teepee out of blankets
  • write in your journal
  • find an ant colony and spill some food and watch what happens
  • play charades
  • make up a story by drawing pictures
  • draw a cartoon strip
  • make a map of your bedroom, house or neighborhood
  • call a friend
  • cut pictures from old magazines and write a story
  • make a collage using pictures cut from old magazines
  • do a secret service for a neighbor
  • plan a treasure hunt
  • make a treasure map
  • make up a “Bored List” of things to do
  • plan a special activity for your family
  • search your house for items made in other countries and then learn about those countries from the encyclopedia or online
  • plan an imaginary trip to the moon
  • plan an imaginary trip around the world, where would you want to go
  • write a science-fiction story
  • find a new pen pal
  • make up a play using old clothes as costumes
  • make up a game for practicing math facts
  • have a Spelling Bee
  • make up a game for practicing spelling
  • surprise an elderly neighbor or relative by weeding his/her garden
  • fingerpaint with shaving cream
  • collect sticks and mud and build a bird’s nest
  • write newspaper articles for a pretend newspaper
  • put together a family newsletter
  • write reviews of movies or plays or TV shows or concerts you see during the summer
  • bake a cake
  • bake a batch of cookies
  • decorate a shoe box to hold your summer treasures
  • make a hideout or clubhouse
  • make paper airplanes
  • have paper airplane races
  • learn origami
  • make an obstacle course in your backyard
  • make friendship bracelets for your friends
  • make a wind chime out of things headed for the garbage
  • paint your face
  • braid hair
  • play tag
  • make a sundial
  • make food sculptures (from pretzels, gumdrops, string licorice, raisins, cream cheese, peanuts, peanut butter, etc.) and then eat it
  • make a terrarium
  • start a club
  • take a nap outside on your lawn
  • produce a talent show
  • memorize a poem
  • recite a memorized poem for your family

Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed. has a bachelors in education from The University of Georgia and a masters in curriculum and instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. In addition to being the editor of A Learning Experience, she publishes Little Black Dress | Little Red Wagon Magazine. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, two young children, and a frisky Westie named Munson.

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Filed under Activities, Classroom Community, Summer Learning

somethin’ fun…famous learners

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In honor of summer, we thought we’d celebrate some of the famous brains of our time…since our brains are officially on vacation!

Below is a fun summer read: an inspiring array of pivotal personas who prove that learning is a lifelong endeavor.

For some, learning is primarily focused on formal schooling, beginning and ending with the classroom. But for others, education happens everywhere and exists as a lifelong pursuit. Whether they are learning through experience, books or other means, these lifelong enthusiasts inspire us with their tenacity for education.

  1. Arthur Ernest Morgan: A pioneer for flood control and dam construction methods, Arthur E. Morgan was a self-taught engineer. Although his education did not come from formal schooling, he went on to become president of Antioch College.
  2. Malcolm X: As an advocate for the rights of African-Americans, Malcolm X is admired by many. He dropped out of school, and after converting to Islam in prison, spent his time self-learning, eventually becoming an intellectual public figure.
  3. The Wright Brothers: Orville and Wilbur Wright conducted the first controlled human flight, and the first to invent controls for fixed-wing aircraft. These two were self-taught inventors and continued to study the field of aviation.
  4. Ansel Adams: Ansel Adams is one of the most famous and celebrated photographers in the world. He left school at an early age, but made continuous learning and innovation a priority in his life and work, allowing him to create the fine art we know him for today.
  5. Quentin Tarantino: Beloved for his films, including Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, Quentin Tarantino is an incredibly popular and influential director. He dropped out of high school, instead preferring to learn filmmaking from his job in a video store.
  6. George Washington: The first President of the United States, George Washington had little formal education. He loved studying, particularly mathematics, and even worked as a surveyor after going on a relevant trip with his cousin.
  7. Florence Nightingale: A celebrated nurse and pioneer in nursing education, Nightingale herself was self-taught with some help from her father.
  8. Colonel Harland Sanders: Colonel Sanders, founder of the KFC empire, dropped out of school in the 6th grade. Upon reaching retirement age without much in the way of funds, Colonel Sanders decided to better himself with self-education and the founding of KFC.
  9. Nikola Tesla: Nikola Tesla is well known as an extraordinary inventor. He attended college, but preferred to study on his own.
  10. Michael Faraday: Michael Faraday’s work led to the development of electrotechnology. One of the greatest scientists in the world, he was almost completely self-taught.
  11. Stanley Kubrick: Stanley Kubrick was a celebrated director. He was a poor student and disdained school. Instead of formal education, Kubrick sat in on classes and pursued self-learning.
  12. George Bernard Shaw: George Bernard Shaw had irregular education, but went on to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1925. With intensive reading, debating and lecturing, Shaw was able to educate himself throughout his life.
  13. Bill Gates: Bill Gates recognizes that continuous learning and self-improvement is essential to success. He often picks up a copy of Time to read cover to cover, not just browsing, but soaking up everything to ensure that he learns something he didn’t know before.
  14. Martin Van Buren: Although his formal education ended at 13, Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the United States, went on to study law as an apprentice at a firm.
  15. Walt Whitman: Walt Whitman is one of America’s most important poets. He was a reading lover, teaching himself to write, and even self published.
  16. Abraham Lincoln: Before becoming the sixteenth President of the United States, Lincoln was a self-educated lawyer, even though he had less than a year of formal schooling. He didn’t read excessively, but carefully studied each book he did read to be sure he completely understood them.
  17. Alexander Graham Bell: The man we know as the inventor of the telephone and telegraph was self-taught. He only attended a few lectures in college, but continued to learn and experiment throughout his life.
  18. Benjamin Franklin: Benjamin Franklin is a celebrated American statesman, and an autodidact as well. Franklin took to learning on his own, working with those with experience to understand topics like gulf streams, Italian and meteorology.
  19. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: A widely celebrated English poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning educated herself with Shakespearean plays and classic literature. She remained a ravenous reader, learning through books for her entire life.
  20. James Baldwin: James Baldwin was born into poverty and achieved only a high school education. Upon graduation, he pursued passionate self-education, using his learning to become a celebrated writer and Civil Rights activist.
  21. Abigail Adams: The First Lady to the second President of the United States, and mother of the sixth, Abigail Adams was well-educated without ever attending school. She was tutored and loved to read, simply for the desire to bolster her generous intellect.
  22. Walt Disney: The namesake and co-founder of Walt Disney, this cartoonist taught himself to draw through correspondence school and continued to learn throughout his life.
  23. John Harrison: John Harrison was the inventor of the marine chronometer and a self-educated clockmaker. He lacked the credentials of some of his peers because of this, and got assistance from the king to get credit for his accomplished education.
  24. Frank Lloyd Wright: Frank Lloyd Wright is easily America’s most famous architect. He learned and developed his own style of architecture, drawing from methods of his own creation.
  25. Ray Bradbury: Ray Bradbury was a prolific science fiction writer, with more than 30 books and over 500 works. He graduated from high school, but his impressive education is largely due to independent reading.

For more fun lists of learners, check out www.onlinecollege.org.

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Filed under Academic Success, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching

Mystery Bags: A Fun Idea for Learning Letters!

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

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This fun, small-group activity can be done in one day and works easily in a preschool or early elementary classroom or at home with your own young children.

Assemble Your Mystery Bags

You will need one bag per student (solid colored party favor bags or brown lunch bags work well).

Prior to the activity, secretly place three items inside of each bag. All of the items will begin with the same letter. Since food is such a hit with any activity, I try to put at least one food item in each bag! Here are some examples to help you get started:

  • M= marshmallows, marker, M&M’s
  • C= chocolate chips, car (small toy or picture of one), Captain Crunch
  • G= gum, gummies, goat (small toy or picture of one)
  • P= popcorn, pencil, pizza (a pizza gummy or just picture of one)
  • B= bear (small toy or picture of one), bouncy ball, brownie
  • S= sunglasses, sucker, snake (rubber toy)

Each student will then take a turn selecting which mystery bag they want, without seeing what’s inside, of course. There shouldn’t be any visible clues about the contents or the related letter.

Let the Guessing Begin!

Next, the students will take everything out of their bags, one-by-one, taking turns so that everyone sees the items in their bag. When they see their items, they will have to determine the common beginning letter. When it is guessed, everyone else will determine if they agree or not by giving a thumbs up.

When everyone has had a turn (but not before!), the students will be allowed to eat their edible items!

Extensions

  • Allow students to create their own mystery bags! Have them go around the room and find items that could belong in their bag, along with the items they have already received for that particular letter.
  • Have the students decorate the outside of their bags by writing their letter in different colors all over the bag.
  • For a fun way to bridge from letter recognition to early reading skills, check out 101 Ways to Make Your Students Better Decoders and Readers. A great resource!

 Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom!

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Filed under Games, Phonics, Reading, Writing

comment winners!

We have two lucky comment winners for this past month! Both of these randomly-selected ladies just won $20 gift certificates to The School Box, as a thanks for sharing their insights and ideas. If you wanna win, too, just keep commenting on the posts on A Learning Experience! We’ll draw more winners in a jif.

Winner #1

Amanda Smith

Comment:
Wow thanks for the great ideas. I am a homeschooling mom, and my daughter frequently has trouble with these concepts. This would help her a great deal. The word wall is a really good idea. She is always asking how to spell words she should know how to spell. Thank you for all the neat ideas.

Winner #2

Mary Roberts

Comment:
I keep sticky notes in the supply tubs on each table. They fit well in the tubs and are just the right size to fit a word or two. My kindergartners love using them to go up to the word wall and write down words they need. Also, when students remember to use “four star writing,” they get to put a little star sticker on their papers!

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Filed under Free Stuff!

How to Use Twitter

by Connie Wiley, Ed.S.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! Comment winners are drawn every month!

Summertime is a great time to brush up on new skills–particularly new technology. Last summer, I signed up for Twitter and have really enjoyed this social networking site throughout this past school year. I discovered that there are so many resources teachers can access from Twitter! Here’s my no-nonsense guide to using Twitter, both for yourself and for your classroom.

Signing up

It’s easy to get started. Before signing up, you will need to decide on a Twitter name and profile information to use. You can also add an uploaded picture. Think about whether or not you would like to be public or private. If you choose public, other Twitter users will be able to read your tweets and follow you. You always have the option to block a follower. By choosing private, only those who have requested to follow you will see your tweets. Now go to www.Twitter.com and click sign up. Voila! You’re officially a part of the Twitter world!

Who to Follow

You can use Twitter’s list of who to follow, or you can search by name or subject. Be sure to read their profile to see if this is someone you would enjoy following. Then click follow.

If later you decide their Tweets are not for you, then click unfollow on their profile page.

I enjoy following educational blogs such as #nytimes, #writingproject, #readingtoday, and #teachingwithsoul.

Fellow educators and media specialists include #mentortexts, #mrshureads, #peter_price, #linkstoliteracy and #kathyfs24.

Authors, illustrators and editors I follow are #thebookmaven, #donalynbooks, #judyblume, #megcabot and #deborahwiles.

There are also newsletters that have great ideas for teachers. I follow #pwkidsbookshelf, #teachingbooks, #edweekteacher, #readingrockets and #web20classroom.

Start Tweeting

Click in the box under What’s Happening? The first rule of Twitter is that you have to say what you want to say in 140 characters or less. Don’t worry, there is a counter to let you know how many characters you have used. To post click the tweet button.

Read Daily

I usually check my account twice a day. There are three useful features included at the end of each tweet. Just move your mouse over the tweet and you will see favorite, retweet, and reply. Click favorite to save in your favorites list so that you can go back and read more when you have time. Retweet will repost the tweet to all of your followers. Click reply to send a message back to the tweeter.

Why not add some fun to your professional career? Start Tweeting today!

 Connie Wiley, Ed.S., is a third-grade teacher in Gwinnett County with 28 years of experience. She holds a masters in ECE and a specialists in Educational Leadership.

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Filed under Summer Learning, Teaching, technology

Summertime = Tweaking Time

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card…. get on your way for a 2012 classroom makeover!

So, it’s summer. Time to chill, relax, unwind…and tweak! The school year is so crazy and fast-paced that, as teachers, our routines can sometimes get stuck in a rut. There’s no time to evaluate and change– only time to hold on and dash for the finish.

But summer is the perfect time to reevaluate your teaching and tweak your classroom procedures. Here are some practical, easy-to-apply ideas for the early elementary teacher.

Classroom Idea 1: Improve Student Writing

Have your students write using “4 Star Writing.” Here are the four “stars” to focus on: (1) “Use a finger space in between words.” (2) “Start each sentence with a capital letter.” (3) “Use punctuation at the end of each sentence.” (4) “Use the word wall to help spell.” Indicate these four concepts on big cutout stars to post on the wall to remind your students what makes good writing. Include illustrations/pictures on each of the cutouts to indicate the concept.

Classroom Idea 2: Word Wall!

Put up an “A to Z Word Wall” for students to use! A great way to get students involved with your Word Wall is to make posters for each letter and allow your students to draw a picture of something starting with that letter on the posters. Then, use note cards to print words that are “no excuse” words for your students to always spell correctly. Write one word on each card, and attach them to the wall under their respective letter posters. As the year goes on, you can make new cards and add to your Word Wall as your students learn more and more “no excuse” words. (For some super-useful pre-made Word Wall items, click here.)

Classroom 3: 1oo Club

A “100 Club” poster can be a real asset to give your young students the goal of learning to count to 100. The poster should state: “I can count to 100!” at the very top. Below, there should be lines where students can sign their name, any way that they would like (silly, a different color, with small pictures), once they can show you that they can count to 100. The School Box carries a 100-pocket chart that’s great for helping them achieve this milestone, as well.

Classroom Idea 4: Make the Most of Calendar Time

During calendar time, introduce your students to the “shortcut date”– writing the numeral for the month, day and year, separated by dashes (6-8-11). Once your students have the “Today’s date is…” concept down, teach them how to use the “shortcut date” on their papers. They’ll feel grown up, and they will learn to associate the date with its numeral equivalent.

For a calendar time challenge, introduce your students to how other countries write the date a little switched up! For example, in Italy, because of the way they speak, they write May 18, 2011, as 18-05-11, with the day first, then the month, then the year. This is because when verbally stating the date in Italy, they also say it differently than we do. They would say: 18th of May, 2011, instead of May 18, 2011.

There you have it: four simple ideas to implement in the fall that will maximize the lessons you’re probably already teaching. More bang for your buck! Now wasn’t that worth thinking about during your summer break? :-)

Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom.

7 Comments

Filed under Centers, Classroom Community, grammar, Math, Morning Work, Writing