Monday, August 24, 2020

Back to School with Cricut in the Classroom

 

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cricut for Cricut. All opinions are 100% mine.

This back to school season is unlike anything we've ever seen before. With social distancing guidelines in place, I knew I needed to change how I handle classroom supplies. I usually do "community" supplies, but I want to make sure I'm keeping my students as safe and healthy as I can once they return to the classroom, so this year, I made bags of supplies for each student to use while they are in my classroom.

My classroom theme is all about COFFEE this year, so I knew I wanted some way to decorate the bags that incorporated my theme. I designed this coffee cup graphic in Cricut Design Space using their images and fonts. No scrambling around, searching for SVGs. I could make exactly what I needed right in Cricut! I arranged them in a group of four so I could cut four at once on my Cricut Maker, saving time and vinyl.

A tip for weeding: use TWEEZERS to get all the long, little pieces. It will make your life so much easier!

I used the Cricut Heat Guide to make sure I heated the Easy Press to the right time and temperature settings for my material and got to work. The Easy Press made attaching all of the decals quick and easy, and I know they'll last.

Once my bags were ready, I filled them with two pens and pencils, a dry erase board with a marker and an eraser, a clipboard, and a binder with notebook paper. My plan is to hang them on my classroom wall with command hooks so the kids can come in, grab their bag, and get ready. At the end of the class, they'll put their supplies back in the bag and replace them on the hooks.

I am excited to have these bags for my students, and I'm excited to have been able to decorate them with my Cricut! How are you preparing for back to school?

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Building Student Relationships from a Distance

 This back to school season looks like no season we've ever encountered. Some of us are going back to school with masks over our faces and some aren't going back face-to-face at all. But one thing is not changing: building relationships with students is more important now than ever. 

Many of our students have been home since March. They didn't get to finish out the year with their friends or teachers in person. The best thing we can do for them now is show them we are excited to get to know them, even from a distance. 

One fun, easy, and FREE activity you can do is a virtual movie night! Give your students the opportunity to get to know you and their new classmates outside of a "classroom" environment. Send a link and share your screen. There are also several "watch party" applications that you can utilize that you can find out more about here.

Once you have your link, it's time to invite the kiddos! Download the image below and upload it to PowerPoint or Google Slides to create your invitation. Email it to your families or post it as an announcement in your LMS.

Follow up with an activity where they write about or draw a picture of their favorite part. See who liked the same part as you! Make a new friend and make some memories together. 

Though we are socially distant, we can still come together to build that sense of classroom community and strengthen those relationships!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Spread Justice Not Germs Cricut Project for the Classroom

When getting ready to return to school this fall, I knew a lot of things were going to look different. Masks, hand washing stations, dividers... more things to keep us apart. With the tension that boiled over during the summer, I wanted to make sure that my students know that I side with the side of justice. I want my students to know that I am for them. I want them to know that seeking and spreading justice is within their hands, even if they aren't permitted to be within six feet of each other. So I came up with the idea of a sign to go beside our bottle of hand sanitizer that states, "Spread Justice, Not Germs."

I used an image from Cricut Design Space called "Strong, Black, and Proud."

Since I wanted to add my own words, I needed to remove the ones already present in the image. I was able to do that by clicking "Contour" on the bottom right, then "hide all contours." After that, I was able to select only the shapes in the fist to use in my design. 



I wanted a bold font, so I used the font "A Frightful Affair" available in Cricut Design Space. I got the words positions around the graphic and welded the entire project into one cut.

I used my Cricut Maker, but the entire project is small enough to be made using the new Cricut Joy available now starting at $179! I also used permanent vinyl to make sure it wouldn't peel after it had been applied.

Once it was cut, I applied it to a small chalkboard so it would be able to stand by the hand sanitizer bottle. I have shared the Spread Justice Not Germs as a public project on Cricut Design Space, so feel free to make your own by clicking the link!



Tuesday, June 30, 2020

5 Ways to use Mini Erasers in the Middle School Classroom

If you've been a teacher in the last three years, especially if you are on Instagram, you've probably seen images of these adorable little things.


Target Mini Erasers!

I love them with all of my teacher heart, and I've used them for so many activities as an elementary teacher. When I accepted a position teaching middle school for this fall, I was worried that my beloved collection wouldn't be as loved in upper grades. So I did what any self-respecting millennial teacher would do... I asked my Instagram audience for advice!

And my goodness, I'm so glad I did!

I had over fifty amazing educators reach out with some of the greatest ideas for ways I could incorporate my collection into my new grade level.  Everything from rewards to writing prompts! I've rounded up my top five ideas to share with you here.

1. Teaching Probability
Since I'm used to teaching math with mini erasers for counting, it is a pretty easy jump to make to use them to teach math at a higher grade level. Several teachers suggested this idea, and I'm loving it! To teach probability using mini erasers, you will need several mini erasers in varying themes. Students will determine the probability of choosing one type of eraser over another.




2.  Talking Chips
And I don't mean potatoes. The teacher who suggested this one says, "I like to use 'talking chips' where, in groups, each student has three erasers and needs to contribute ideas or ask questions three times. Once the entire group has put down all the erasers, they can pick theirs back up and start again." I like this idea because it encourages reluctant contributors to add to conversations and limits some of the excess talking from some of the chattier kiddos. This would also be a great way to encourage greater paragraph length. Give students five mini erasers to help them remember to write at least five sentences to expand their paragraphs and include more information on a topic. Or if they're writing a paper, one mini eraser per paragraph! Mini erasers as visuals are always a hit!



3. Classroom Currency
Amid the ideas sent to me was a whole slew of messages from teachers telling me to USE THEM AS REWARDS! I didn't necessarily think 6th graders would be thrilled with small rewards like that, but the vast majority of veteran middle school teachers told me otherwise. One idea which I LOVED was to use them as classroom currency! When students are exhibiting on task behavior... when students go above and beyond... when students need a little boost... they can get an eraser. A certain number of erasers can be turned in (like currency) in exchange for different rewards: a homework pass, bonus points, free time on the computer... whatever you think will motivate your students.



4. Teaching Variables
I remember being in grade school and finding out that our teacher was going to start putting LETTERS in our MATH PROBLEMS! What the WHAT, y'all?? Instant panic. And I'm sure students likely still feel that way. A teacher sent me a message suggesting that mini erasers take the place of variables in the problems. Imagine instead of a giant letter X staring you in the face, you get a cute, unassuming, non-threatening pizza shaped mini eraser. Pizza makes everything better, right? Plus, combine the mini erasers with some base ten blocks, and you've got a GREAT hands-on math problem to reinforce the idea.



5. Creative Writing
When I read this idea, I instantly got excited. The message read, "Honestly, my favorite usage is for writing. I put 3-5 in a mystery bag. Students choose a bag and incorporate what they got into their writing." Ummm, that is mind blowing and seriously one of the most fun uses for these erasers that I have ever come across. The story possibilities are endless, and with holiday-themed erasers, this would be fun for a seasonal writing activity, too! It would be easy to differentiate: similar erasers (all food, all summer-themed, etc) for less of a challenge or really mix and match them (an avocado, a santa, and a star) for some out-of-the-box story ideas. Their imaginations will run wild!



I'm thrilled to be in this new position, and equally as thrilled that I get to keep using my mini eraser collection in my middle school classroom. Any other ideas? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!



Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Homemade Educational Crafts with Cricut

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cricut for Cricut. All opinions are 100% mine.
I have been head over heels for the Cricut machine family ever since I became a teacher. I've used it for tons of classroom decor and bulletin board sets. But did you know you can use it for even MORE?
Click here to find this door decoration in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!
My students LOVE playing games in the classroom. And I love letting them *think* they're just playing, but really, they are learning so much. Games are great engagement boosters, so they actually ask to practice the skills they've been learning.
During the summer and since we've been out for Covid-19, I've been thinking up new games for my kiddos. Trying to find things they love and combining them with skills they'll need during the year. I've been teaching students in grades kindergarten through 4th grade, so trying to find something that appeals to all of them can be tricky.
But do you know what kids of any age usually go for? PIZZA!
So I had the idea to create a pizza game that can have interchangeable parts that can be used for any age group. The game I'm going to show you here is for sight words, but the same steps can be easily adapted for any other skills.
Materials you'll need:
Cardstock in yellow, orange, green, and red
Cricut Explore Air 2 or Maker
Light or Standard Grip Mat
Cricut 0.4 tip pen
Cutting blade
Glue stick
Start with a blank project and upload this Pizza image available in Cricut Design.

Make the pizza the size you want it to be. Because my paper was 8.5x11, I made my pizza 8". Now, this image is in four layers. You won't need the pepperoni (red) layer yet, so while the pizza is selected, click "Ungroup" on the right side of your screen. Select the red layer, and delete it. For now!

Now you're ready to create your pizza base. Click "Make It" in Cricut Design and follow the steps provided. Make as many pizza bases as you want by repeating the steps.
Once your base is complete, you are ready to customize your toppings! Remember the red layer? You need it now! Back in Cricut Design, click "undo" and your red layer should pop back up. Delete the layers underneath it until only the red layer remains.

Duplicate this layer and move it around to make and cut more pieces at a time. Then, insert text and select a writing font. Add anything you want to the pepperoni pieces. For this version, I used Dolch pre-primer level sight words. Once you have added your text on top of your pepperoni pieces, select EVERYTHING and click "Attach" at the bottom left of the screen. That is a very important step; it ensures that the words stay on top of the pepperoni shapes while they are being written and cut out. Then, click "Make It" and follow the prompts. The result will be something like this...

Collect all of your pizza pieces, and you're ready to start assembling!

Glue the green sheet under the yellow sheet. Then, glue both pieces onto the orange "crust." Do NOT glue the pepperonis. You are now ready to play!

There can be many different ways to play: students can pick up a word, read the word, and put it on their pizzas. Students can "fill orders" by finding specific words from the pile. They can work in teams or by themselves. And this is only ONE game idea. You can make math problems, work on phonics skills, or even simply put letters and numbers on them and let the kiddos identify what they found! And once you have the pizza bases, all you have to do is make the different pepperonis, and you have unlimited games for unlimited skills! What skills would you work on? Let me know in the comments.
I cannot wait to get back into my classroom. Let the games begin!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Educational TV Shows You'll WANT Your Kids to Binge

Oh, screen time. It can be a parent's (and a teacher's) best friend or mortal enemy.

The Battle of the Binge is something I have to fight in my house. We have always tried to limit screen time, but trust me when I say that my seven year old would JUMP at the chance to watch My Little Pony for 12 hours without blinking.

Sometimes, as a working mama, especially now working from home, I have to give a little. Some compromises have to be made. Screen time has increased somewhat, but I have found some GREAT educational programming that, well, I actually don't mind if she binges a little bit! Check out my list of six great educational shows for students!



1. Ask the Storybots

Oh my word, you guys. These little storybot characters are funny and fun and FILLED with super cool information about so many topics! From "how do airplanes fly" to "how do people catch a cold" to "where does chocolate come from," the storybots provide scientific explanations in easy to understand terms. Celebrity guests and amazing musical numbers make this show one for the whole family! Available on Netflix.


2. The "Who Was?" Show


Based on the best-selling book series, The Who Was? Show highlights different historical figures and presents their stories in fun, age-appropriate ways to a young audience. Kids will learn about American icons like Benjamin Franklin and Amelia Earhart. They will also learn about international figures including Gandhi and Frida Kahlo. This show does a great job of bringing history to life and making the past relatable to today's kids. Streaming now on Netflix.


3. Cyberchase

Don't let the fact that this show came out almost two decades ago dissuade you; this show rocks! It is a fun adventure show set in Cyber Space and features three kiddos and their strange birdy sidekick. They apply math skills to "real-world" situations to defeat the show's antagonist, The Hacker. The end of every episode features math problems and puzzles being solved by real live kids! Yes, they are wearing the finest fashions the early 2000s had to offer, but that just adds to the charm! This show is perfect for ages 7-10 and airs on PBS Kids and PBSkids.org. 


If your kiddos aren't quite old enough to enjoy running around in Cyber Space, I guarantee you,
they'll LOVE Peg + Cat, also from PBS Kids. An adorable little girl, Peg, and her pet cat teach your kids early math skills, such as shapes, patterns, and counting. And don't just take my word for it. This simple cartoon is the winner of SEVEN Emmy awards! Be sure to also check out the games section available on PBSkids.org for your kids to practice the skills they learned on the show!

5. Leap Frog

And while we are talking about our youngest learners, let's switch gears into READING! Netflix has several episodes from Leap Frog that dive deep into letters, sounds, and phonics. Letter Factory, Phonics Farm, and Sing-a-long Read-a-long are fun, musical shows that teach letter identification, letter sounds, and phonics skills like blending to read CVC words. These shows are perfect for preschool and kindergarten. They also make great added practice for your firsties who need a refresher.

6. Word Girl

For your readers, how about a show that expands their vocabulary? I'm not gonna lie- Word Girl is one of my all-time favorites. This show is able to introduce and reinforce complex vocabulary words without making it feel like a "language lesson." It's perfect to help bridge the gap between conversational and academic vocabulary that will often show up on standardized tests, thereby exposing kiddos to unfamiliar words in a fun way. And I promise, the first time you hear your young child or student tell you they are "flattered" when you compliment their latest assignment will make your day! And just like the other PBS Kids shows, this show comes complete with its own academic games to help your kids and students practice their new vocabulary skills and teaches skills like making inferences. 10/10 would DEFINITELY recommend.

So there you have it! My list of binge-worthy shows that will not only keep your kiddos entertained, but also academically engaged. Assign an episode or two for your students via distance learning or share the list with your students' parents so they have an educational alternative to traditional screen time. Did I leave any shows out? Let me know your favorites in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

What to do with PEEPS marshmallows (besides eat them)

Welcome to Week 4 of Quaranteaching! We are getting ready to celebrate Easter on Sunday. We should have been making plans to leave our town right after Sunday's service to head to my dad and step-mom's house for an Easter meal. But Covid-19 had other plans, so we are staying home. But that didn't stop them from sending my daughter an Easter basket filled with goodies- including PEEPS.

I need to know: are you team PEEP or not? Apparently, these sweet treats are very divisive; you love them or you hate them. Parker loves them, but they are super sugary, so we don't let her eat many. What to do with the left overs?

Well, since we are learning at home, I decided to turn them into a science experiment. I'd heard of "marshmallow dough" before, but I'd never tried making it. However, what are peeps other than marshmallows coated in sugar?

We began our experiment by examining the peeps "before." What did they feel like? Taste like? We squished those little chicks and got sticky marshmallow all over our hands. We tasted them (basically straight up sugar). What did we think would happen when we heated them up to start making our dough? We documented everything and wrote out our hypothesis on our investigation report.  Then it was time to experiment.

We heated the marshmallows, added the other ingredients, and combined everything to make a dough that was a consistency somewhere between slime and play dough. We examined the dough again to check out the changes. How did it feel now? How did it TASTE now? We wrote down our new findings and compared the two states of the peeps.

You can download the forms we used from my Teachers Pay Teachers store here!




My daughter loved stretching out the dough and putting it inside the plastic eggs to shape. If it got a little sticky, we just dusted it with a little extra cornstarch. Helpful hint: your hands need to be COMPLETELY DRY to play with this dough. After she was done playing with it, I wasn't sure how well it would keep. But like the good scientists we now are, we experimented! We put it in a zipper-seal bag in the fridge. The next day, it was very hard, but the more we worked with it and the warmer it got, the more malleable it became. For our next batch, I think we'll leave the bag on the counter. Since it's made from marshmallows, it won't last for very long. But with it being Easter season, especially this close to the end of the season, they are easy to find to make more (especially after Sunday when they go on sale)!






 Save the image below for the recipe!


We had the best time experimenting and playing with our food! It's been so much fun coming up with academic, engaging activities with things we already have at home. And I'm definitely saving this idea to do in the classroom next year! Until then, I'll soak up every extra moment at home.

Stay safe!



Back to School with Cricut in the Classroom

  This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cricut for Cricut . All opinions are 100% mine. This back to school season is unlik...