Monthly Archives: January 2012

Happy Educator’s Day {because we’re all teachers in some way}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 gift card to The School Box! Winners are drawn monthly. 

January 28 is National Educator’s Day. Know what this means? It means time to celebrate YOU! Whether you’re a classroom teacher, homeschooler, Sunday school teacher, mom, dad, aunt, uncle or grandparent…you’re a teacher. Little eyes are watching you. Little hands are holding yours. Little minds are being shaped by your instruction, your example.

So, really, this day is for all of us.

As a thank you for all we ALL do to guide and inspire, we got wind that The School Box is offering special discounts on Saturday, January 28, for EVERYONE. Storewide discounts, giveaways, School Box bucks ($10 for every $50 spent, no limit)– AND free lamination on everything bought that day!

And did you know they offer free giftwrap year-round, now? Yup.

So go stock up on gifts, games and supplies for the little ones in your world. I think my birthday closet is about to get restocked. :)

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Filed under Classroom Decor, Free Stuff!, Organization, Teaching

a long way from Legos: the latest, greatest building sets {and how to use them in the classroom}

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! (Which you could use to buy…building sets! :)

Legos and Lincoln Logs used to rule the roost when it came to building sets. Not so these days, my friend. Magnets, gears and pulleys make today’s building sets more engaging–and mind-bending–than ever. Whether you’re looking for sets for a classroom, birthday gift, or just a rainy day, here are our top picks for kiddie-approved, creativity-inspiring building sets, followed by some ways to incorporate them into your classroom.

Gears, Gears, Gears!

The fun Gears, Gears, Gears! sets allow young builders to construct buildings, vehicles, factories and the like. There are a variety of sets, from beginner to themed kits (like this cute Movin’ Monkeys set), but all are interchangeable. Sets include spinning gears, pillars, connectors and cranks to set creations in motion–plus interlocking plates for limitless building.

Magneatos

I first discovered these magnetized balls, rods and plates when my son received a Magneatos set from his Popi. Three years later, they’re still a favorite. No wonder why Magneatos have garnered so much praise: recipient of 2005 & 2006 OPPENHEIM AWARD WINNER; featured on NBC’s Today Show and Featured in MONEY magazine; recipient of Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award (Top Honor); recipient of Oppenheim SNAP (Special Needs Adaptable Product) Award Winner.

Thistle Blocks

Thistle Blocks are an oldie but goodie– a cousin to the Bristle Blocks from my own childhood. Guess what? These stick-to-each-other squares, rectangles and rods are still tons of fun. 

Flexiblocks

What set allows children to build movable bridges, creatures, vehicles and reptiles all with the same blocks? Flexiblocks! These wonder blocks, shown below, can be configured into a limitless variety of critters and formations: a boredom buster for sure. 

In the Classroom

Here are three ideas for using building sets in the classroom to encourage critical thinking and creativity, while practicing  hands-on geometry, public speaking, measuring, graphing and writing.

  • Hold a Building Challenge.

Break students into groups or pairs. Give each group the same number of blocks (or have pairs bring in building sets from home) and set the clock. Give the groups 15 or 20 minutes to build. Then, have each group present their creation to the class. The class can vote on which structures win Most Creative, Most Impressive, Most Blocks Used, Most Movable, etc.

Skills utilized: critical thinking, cooperative learning, oral speaking/presenting

  • Create (and Write About) a Fantasy World.

Allow students (individually or in small groups) to build a fantasy world with sets of blocks, including buildings, creatures, people, vehicles, bridges–whatever their imaginations hold. At the end of a set building period (around 20-30 minutes), students will then write either fiction stories, descriptive narratives or poems about their fantasy world, explaining what it looks like, who lives there, and how life works within the world of their imagination.

Skills utilized: critical thinking, cooperative learning, writing, grammar

  • Have a Race and Chart the Results.

Lots of building sets have circle or disk components that make great wheels. Allow students to build vehicles and then hold a race. Make predictions about which vehicle will go farthest. Create a starting line with tape, line up students two-at-a-time to race their creations. Then, use a ruler or yard stick to measure the distance traveled. Chart or graph the distances as a class on a piece of a bulletin board or chart paper. Be sure to note which are creative and aesthetic, even if they don’t go the distance! :)

Skills utilized: critical thinking, predicting, math, graphing, measuring, comparing/contrasting

For more great building sets, click here and here and here.

Build on!

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Filed under Activities, Art, Centers, Critical Thinking, Parenting, School Readiness, Science, Summer Learning

Pinspiration: Pinterest Finds for your Classroom

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed. 

Comment on this post to be entered to win a $20 gift card to The School Box! 

So, you’ve heard of Pinterest, right? It’s a virtual pinboard where you can “keep” all of your online inspirations–from recipes to decorating pics to travel plans to–yup–teaching ideas. Here are our favorite Pinterest-found classroom inspirations…so read, enjoy, and pin to your heart’s content.

And, if you haven’t been formally introduced to Pinterest, yet, you’ll find a good article from USA Today on how to get started here.

Pinsirpiation: Look What We Found On Pinterest

Runde’s Room: The Queen of Measurement

This cute Pinterest pin, left, led us to discover the blog of teacher Jen Runde, who offers a wealth of creative teaching ideas. We love this idea for teaching the metric system by declaring yourself the Queen of Measurement– tiara included.

Mrs. Schmelzer’s First Grade: Sensational Space

The image from Pinterest, below, led us to the classroom of Mrs. Schmelzer, who’s always got a great idea up her sleeve. Love this idea for teaching the moon phases and other facts about the solar system.

One note about blogs, though, should you choose to begin one: make sure you use good judgment and secure parental online photo releases for any children you feature. You never know whose Pinterest board they may end up being pinned to….

Disney FamilyFun

This adorable paper tray, below from Disney FamilyFun, caught our eye on Pinterest. Can you believe it’s just three boxes (think: cereal boxes) taped together and then wrapped with wrapping paper? What a cute idea for art papers at a writing or crafts center!

These examples hardly scratch the surface of the fabulous ideas found on Pinterest. We’ll be sharing more of our favorites from time-to-time. We thought you might appreciate some help narrowing down the really great ideas, since it’s tough to ferret through the good, the bad and the pretty on Pinterest without losing several hours of sleep.

So rest up…and happy pinning!

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Filed under Activities, Art, Centers, Classroom Decor, Math, Science, technology

How Do You Spell…?? (a reproducible sheet to help with dictionary skills)

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! 

No matter the age of your students, chances are you get this question often during writing assignments: “How do you spell….?”

While the answer “Look it up” may be an effective route for some students, oftentimes students don’t even know where to start in figuring out the spelling of a word. Thus, cracking a dictionary to find the word is a daunting task.

To break down the steps of how to look up a misspelled word in the dictionary, walk students through guessing the spelling, first. Once they sound out the word phonetically and take the time to really think about the ways in which the word might be spelled, they’ll be much more likely to locate the correct spelling in a dictionary. The key is prompting them to write down several spelling guesses so that a concrete version of possible spellings is in front of them. They can then use those guesses as they scan the dictionary.

To make this a simple, student-directed activity, here’s a Spelling Guess & Check sheet that your students can keep in their writing folders. Download a pdf of the sheet here. Anytime they run across a word that needs correcting, instruct them to use this sheet before diving into the dictionary.

Of course, their phonetic guesses still need to be somewhere in the ballpark of the correct spelling to be found in the dictionary, but at least this tool will get them thinking like a speller. Added bonus: figuring out multiple spelling guesses is good brain exercise, too!

Happy spelling!

For more spelling aids, check out these useful resources

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Filed under creative writing, grammar, Language Arts, Spelling, Writing

Make your own snow globe {cute winter craft}

by Diane Burdick, Ed.S.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card!

snowglobeHow can you watch snowfall any time you want? By making your own snow globe, of course!

It’s super simple, and a great way to upcycle a lidded clear container.

1. Clean a clear glass or plastic jar with lid, and remove all label residue.

2. Using waterproof glue (like Gorilla glue), glue a small figurine or scenic pieces like plastic trees to the inside of the lid. A hobby or craft store often has great figures in the model train section, or use pieces from a holiday village display. Allow the glue to throughly dry, according to its instructions.

3. Fill the jar almost completely full with distilled water.

4. Add a drop of glycerin and a pinch of glitter to the water.

5. Screw the lid on the jar.

6. Flip the jar over and watch it snow!

snow globes MeOhMy

{photos courtesy of Blue Petal Photography and Oh Me Oh My}

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