Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fabulous Freebies: More Great Websites for Teachers to Bookmark

This week I thought I would share some fun and free websites that you can use in class. These are some that are perfect to bookmark or pin!

Wheel of Decide - This is a fun website that has a customizable wheel in which you enter in options and then it spins and randomly selects a choice. This could be a fun way to decide a reward or you could play a game with it and have a math operation for a question that students must use or vocab/spelling words.

Handwriting Worksheets - You can make and print your own handwriting practice sheets from this website which is great since you can customize them to your needs.

Fun Brain - Fun Brain is a fun website for students to use to play educational games. The focus is on math and reading games.

Certificates 4 Teachers - I have used these once in a while to recognize students for their achievements and it makes it easy without having to spend time making something yourself. Just type in the info and your certificate is set!

Artsonia - I have mentioned this website before but feel that it is worth another mention. It is an online gallery where you can post your students' artwork for free. Students' parents can sign up and comment on their child's artwork. Also, students can buy things with their artwork on it and your school will get 15% of the proceeds which is nice as well. I have enjoyed this website very much over the years!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Using Portfolios in the Classroom

One of the most effective tools I use to motivate and focus students is portfolios.  Many of my students have a difficult time staying on track, keeping up with their materials, meeting deadlines, etc.  When I give my students portfolios, it does several things to help them: 1) It puts all of their important due dates and assignments in one place that they find easier to keep up with.  2) It prioritizes assignments and puts them in an official file, communicating the importance of them for the students.  3) It becomes something that students take pride in and and responsibility for.

On the other hand, it is also helpful because it gives me a collection of their work to show parents and administrators how they are progressing.  When someone asks how my students are doing, what they are learning, if they are showing growth, or how I justify my students' grades, I have something solid to show them.

When I set up the portfolios, I do the following....

1) I plan with the end in mind.  I figure out what I want students to be able to do and what standards I want them to demonstrate mastery of.  I design a project that engages the students and incorporates the target skills.  I create a rubric for how I am going to grade their work.  Then I break the portfolio down into a series of assignments that show progression towards a big picture goal.  For example, if they are working on writing a research paper the due dates correspond to steps (research, notes, outline, rough draft and final draft).  If they are working on writing Spanish essays, the assignments get progressively longer and more complex.

2) I create a timeline/assignment sheet that identifies what I want them to do and by when.  I put it in a table format, print it and staple it to the inside cover of a file folder.  The assignment description includes mini checklist rubrics. I also include a space to put their grade and comments.

3) I color code everything.  Their folder is one color, the assignment sheet is another color, and rubrics are a yet another.  It is bright and easy to find and identify.

4) Students use it on a weekly, if not daily basis.  They are expected to keep up with it and organize it.  Student-teacher conferences always include a look at the portfolio.  Grades directly correlate with the portfolio, and because students have a grade sheet in their folder, they always know how they are doing.

Many of you probably already use portfolios of some sort.  If not, give it a try!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Spanish Stations Worth Checking Out

One of the easiest ways to differentiate in the classroom is to use centers/stations.  I use them regularly in my Spanish classes to review the objectives from each unit.  I have students do a self assessment to determine where they are strong and what they need to work on.  Then I introduce anywhere between 8 and 12 stations, making it clear what each station covers.  They can then determine which stations they want to do.  They can move at their own pace, working on the objectives they choose to review.  I help them to pace themselves and circulate to answer questions and provide individual direct instruction where necessary.  Here are some of the stations I have for sale on Teachers Pay Teachers.

#1: Here is a collection of 8 stations covering introductory vocabulary.  At just $2, it is one of my best sellers and best deals!

#2: For just $1.00 you can purchase a set of activities that focuses on the vocabulary for greetings.

#3: Also, for $2.50 you can purchase a set of activities that focuses on just the number vocabulary.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fabulous Freebies: Fast & Early Finisher Freebies!

With the school year starting up, those fast and early finishers are probably starting to come out of the wood work. I often notice it is the same students who may finish an assignment early. Here are some fun freebies to use for those fast finishers.

  • Reading with Kids has some great elaborate color by number puzzles. They are quite elaborate and some even include optical illusion art. These could be great fun for students!

  • Origami instructions is my favorite website for learning new origami! While it is usually better to have students that have some basic experience in origami do it on their own there are some designs on the site that anyone can make quite easily. Origami is a great way to practice math too!

  • Make Belief Printables has a great selection of finish it pages for students that are clever with drawing or words. These pages use creative thinking skills to finish so they are great for continuing learning.

  • Lucky to Be in First has a great fast finisher sheet with 12 ideas. Although the blog is geared towards 1st grade I think this sheet has great ideas for multiple grade levels. There are a variety of prompts. You could even have students try to get 4 in a  row or make a certain shape as they complete activities.

Have fun getting these freebies for your fast finishers!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Fabulous Freebies: The Back to School Edition

For some of you, school is already back in session.  For the rest of us, it will be shortly.  So, here are a few freebies to check out...

The first one is a packet with useful back to school printables.  It includes gift tags, sign-in sheets for back to school nights, posters, etc.  

The next one is a cool game to teach students the importance of rules and working together.  Students play a game without any rules.  After they do this the class holds a conversation about why rules are useful, why some groups made up their own rules, what problems groups had playing a game without rules, etc.  It encourages critical thinking skills and sounds like a good way to have a bit of fun in the beginning of the year.


Finally, check out this Back to School pinterest board.  It has over 50 pins with activities, decorations, articles, teacher gifts, student gifts, jokes and more that are all back-to-school themed.  Quickly peruse this and you're sure to find something you can use, no matter what age you teach!

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Favorite Websites for Teaching High School English

I have a pinterest board dedicated to useful teaching websites.  Here is a list of my favorite ones to use with my English classes...

Poem Hunter will provide you with the poems from any number of poets.  I use it all the time.  Whenever I need to find a poem it is the first place I look.  It has short bios on a ton of well known poets along with online texts of their writings.  It is very handy.  The site is super user friendly and comprehensive.   is a website that allows students to make cooler versions of power points.  It takes them a class period or so to play around with it and figure out how to use all of the tools, but once they know how, they love it.  They can add videos, pictures, objects, colors, themes and pretty much everything else that they can do with powerpoint.  But, the visual effects are unique and fun to play around with.  They can save them online and share them with anyone who has an email address.  It is definitely worth checking out.

Purdue Owl is a great resource with a wide variety of writing tips.  The material is most appropriate for  students in middle school through college age students.  I use it all the time as a reference for how to create bibliographies and citations using MLA formatting rules.  Once my students have shown me they know how to format their bibliographic entries, I let them cheat by using

6 + 1 Writing Traits  is a well known writing, teaching and assessment framework.  The title refers to the traits in writing that we want all of our students to develop over time: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions and presentation.  The common language is useful in aligning teachers across contents and grade levels to provide united expectations of students.

Writing Fix and English Companion are websites that have a ton of resources for teaching writing and reading.  They include strategies, graphic organizers, etc.  They have a wealth of information and are worth perusing.

Finally, Grammar Bytes  has a wealth of grammar activities to help reinforce grammar rules with yours students.  The sentences are fun and contemporary.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fabulous Friday Freebies for the Daily 5

Yesterday, I wrote a quick summary and top ten highlights of The Daily 5: Second Edition by Boushey and Moser (2014).  As promised, here are some freebies to use if you are planning on implementing it in your classroom this fall...

1) The first freebie is a set of posters with key terms and graphics for the Daily 5 and CAFE.  They are well done and will give you some quick graphics to go along with the anchor charts you will use.

2) Here are templates for the five I (independence) charts you will make for each of the Daily 5.  You can enlarge them and make anchor charts or fill them in and run them off for students to keep in their book boxes/bags.

3) One important piece of managing the Daily 5 is accountability.  This tracking chart will help you do just that.  It has a table with the days and five components.  There is also a place to record the books they read, their reading partners and the materials they use.

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