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!

Mugs Made Easy with the Cricut Mug Press

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