Wednesday, June 17, 2015

STEM and the Parachute

Studying air pressure led us to a fun experiment. If you have a higher spot on your playground, you could do it too. For us, there is a second story staircase outside of our gymnasium that, though not as high as I would like, does work for experiments like this one.

When you climb to the top step and drop a metal washer, it falls straight down and lands very quickly. Let your kids see this for themselves Then the experiment begins. Every student needs a washer, a string and a plastic trash bag as well as access to tape. They were to construct their own parachute and see if they could slow the descent of the metal washer.

As you can see from the various pictures, they cut their bags-some into circles and some into squares. Some students opened their bag before they dropped it while others folded it up. They were allowed to re-design their parachutes, try new ways of dropping it and take more than one attempt. When they had all finished their experiment, we went back into the classroom where they wrote about what they did, what they changed and how their results were affected by the changes. When they were completely finished, we had a great class discussion. 

Kids learn so much more when they are allowed to experiment and learn things for themselves. Next year, we will intentionally be doing STEM/STEAM projects in our classroom. This one was just an example of what I like to see my students work in my room.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Easy Games for Mixed Ages

Physical education can be difficult in my classroom because I have a large range of ages in my room. There are a few games that just seem so easy to do in a mixed group. These are some of my student's favorite games.

At my school, we actually have four basketball hoops, but we could still do well if we only had two. These games may be very familiar to you, but you may have forgotten about them. I divide the students in groups of ability, rather than age. Now you may think that that could cause a problem, but I find that this grouping usually put kids in groups with their friends, and, because they have a chance to win, they are all happy in their own games. There are also times when the division ends up being along grade designations.

Golf Basketball:

In this game, a variation of Around the World (another game my kids love enough to play in their free time) you can use hula hoops or chalk. Draw circles in various places-or place the hoops in the various places. Vary the closeness of the "holes." They do not necessarily go in order. Number the holes-if you are using hula hoops, write the number inside the hoop. Also-in a small circle, give the hole a point value with harder shots getting higher points.

The students line up and take turns at each hole. If they make the shot, they go on and do not stop until they miss. As the go, it is up to them to keep their score. They keep playing until everyone finishes the course.


Remember playing horse or pig or whatever word you want to spell. Again, the kids form a line. I will say oldest, youngest or maybe ABC order to give the kids an order to start the game. On the second game, we change the order.

The kids shoot the ball. If they make it, the next people have to do the same shot until someone misses. When someone misses, he gets the first letter from the word being spelled. Then the person behind the one who misses is off the hook and she gets to start with her own shot. The game goes on until someone has spelled the chose word.


This tennis game doesn't actual use a racquet. Create two teams. Draw a line between them on the cement or blacktop. Each team sets up like a volleyball game. One team gets the ball. You can use a tennis ball or a playground ball. The server bounces the ball and hits it across, just like a tennis player. The teams hit the ball back and forth like a tennis match.

The rules are the same in that a team can only get a point if it serves the ball. When a team has served and they fail to score, the ball goes to the other side. Each person has to guard her own space. Rotating is done just like rotating in volleyball.

Sometimes, it helps to draw lines for the different players. Then the rule that says you have to let each person play for themself is easier to monitor.

These are just a few of the games we play that actually work with a multi-grade classroom. They also work in single grade classrooms. Do you have a favorite game that you play with your kids? Share it here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Stretching Classroom Dollars-6 Ideas

This morning, I was writing a post on a blog I have started about living on less (something most Christian teachers due because we are usually paid less than our public teacher friends-and everyone says they don't make enough) when I realized that the information would be good for teachers too. Here are some hints that will help you save money in your classroom.

1) Lighter fluid: A simple bottle of everyday lighter fluid will help you remove gunky materials from scissors (that was what I wrote about on Living Daily for Less) or removing labels from books (really helpful if you buy them at Goodwill.)

2) Batteries: If you have a digital camera in your classroom (or at home) and it burns through the batteries, don't throw them away. They can be used on electronic devices that use less power (like pencil sharpeners or flashlights.)

3) Sales: Check out end of the school sales at stores like Michael's and Joann's. Even Walmart has some great deals. You can save tons of money on things you would like to have in your classroom.

4) Coupons: Stores, like Michael's, have weekly coupons for 40-50%. Adding one item a week can be a huge benefit for your classroom, plus you are more likely to find clearance materials that are great!

5) Handouts: Make handouts for family, friends and church members asking them to save specific things for your classroom. For example, I am giving my people a list that includes things like:

a) Measuring lids from Dayquil and other such bottles-great for science!
b) Paper towel and gift wrap rolls.
c) Cardboard
d) 2-liter Soda bottles (I don't drink soda, but I really, really use the bottles!)
and much more!

6) Ask: Stores often throw away so much stuff that I can use. For example, I was in my local teacher supply store and they were emptying out tall thin boxes with bulletin board paper. I took five home and they are saving more! From Walmart's photography section, I scored 2 plastic bags full of empty film containers. If you see it, ask. The worst they can say is "no." The best that can happen is that you can walk out the door with something free. My personal favorite score was a display for sticky notes. It had suitcases with the names of different countries on it. since I did world history last year, it was the perfect display to sit on top of one of my high bookcases.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Worship on a Prayer! The day I forgot my egg...

I forgot to boil an egg and bring it to school. This would have been no problem if the egg was for my lunch, but this egg was for a worship talk-not just any worship talk. Today, I would be speaking to the entire school. When I realized it, my classroom was about to fill with children. I needed this scene for a little bit longer:

The truth is, every one of my students was there and one of them had just said, "Here they come..." referring to the rest of the school. Have you ever  volunteered to do something (if fact, it was my idea) and then wonder, "What was I thinking?"

I ran to my closet, praying, "Lord, help me find a good worship talk right away!" I often had different 'just in case' items in my closet, but it was the end of the year and I wasn't sure there was anything left.

I opened the door and looked down. There, in front of the first shelf, was an item that, through God's spirit, became my worship talk for the day. What was it? This:

Just common, ordinary duplo blocks that had never looked like a worship talk to me before! Of course, not just those blocks.  I also had a dollar store box with a "lego-like" set of blocks with blocks that were much smaller than Duplos and they were sitting on the shelf just above the Duplos. The two were suddenly a perfect match.

Somehow (actually, I know how-God answers prayers) the idea just fell together. As the younger students settled in their desks, I ran to my desk to grab the only other thing I needed-my Bible.

I dumped the blocks on a plastic tray and added a few Duplo blocks that I picked up at Goodwill. Then I stood in front of the kids, placing my tray on a tall stool.

It went something like this:

Have your ever played with blocks that came in a kit? I tore open the box. Sometimes, you need to have the instructions to figure everything out. Let's see-I need this little piece here and it goes on to this piece. Now it says I add this piece. 

(I continued on for five of six pieces, talking about them as I went. Then I picked up a Duplo block.)

Now, what about this piece. I wonder where it goes. Hmmm... 

(The younger students said, "It doesn't go with the others."

What? It doesn't go with the others?  Let me look at the directions. 

Hmmm, you are right! I don't see the bigger blocks in the directions. I guess it doesn't belong there.

You know, I have another set of directions here. 

(I held up my Bible.)

These directions tell me how to act like Jesus. I like to read them so I know how my life should fit together with someone who wants to be with Jesus in Heaven. It tells me to tell the truth, to be kind and loving. Just like these instructions tell me how to build this little car, my Bible tells me everything I need to do to make Jesus smile. If I am ever not sure about something fitting into my life as a Christian, just like I found out the big block didn't fit with this car, the Bible will let me know if something doesn't fit in with the life I am trying to build.

An example would be-does the Bible tell me anything about how I should act towards my mom and dad?  (They responded) 

Absolutely-it tells me, in the 10 Commandments, that I should honor them. If I am thinking about being rude to my mom, will my instruction book help me?

Today, I am going to ask you to use your instruction book-your Bible-to help you know how you should live your life. If you are not sure about something, also check it out with God's big instruction book.

Then we prayed. 

Teachers, you never know when God can use something as simple as a box of blocks to bring home a message your students need to hear. Have you ever created a successful worship on the spur of the moment? I would love to hear about it!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Small School Libraries

If your school library is like my school library, it comes without the benefit of a librarian...or a library...or anything but the books and you. I have a multitude of bookcases in my classroom and they often end up looking even worse than the one in the picture.  On top of that, the books are not all appropriately marked with the necessary grade level/reading level markings. This year, I aim to end that problem and, thanks to a wonderful app, I can do just that.

Literacy Leveler works with your iPod, iPad, and iPhone. It supports the  Guided Reading leveling , DRA and Lexile systems. While not every book is covered in the database, it is very easy to use. The cost is just $3.99.

First, you scan the ISBN and it gives you the levels.  You can search for the book using the title, author or level and add it to your library. The great news is that Literacy Leveler is also available on the android devices-if fact, it is a dollar cheaper on android-$2.99.

I can't wait to get started so that my library can start the year looking like this-with a great deal of the books marked for easy return: