Friday, June 28, 2013

Radical Rekenreks!

So at a recent math workshop, I learned about a Rekenrek (which is basically an abacus with two colors).  It really helps build number sense which is great since we are getting away from rote math problems and focusing on the understanding of math and how numbers work.  It is genius to me and so I went about making a class set.  As I was making them, my own kids started working with them and I loved listening to them talk through problems.  They had so much fun with them they each requested I make one for them in their favorite color (which of course I did).  To see a quick YouTube video of a teacher describing how to use them click HERE.

To make my Rekenreks, I used foam board (don't worry... there were all colors, not just the pink), string, beads (pony beads) a hole punch and scissors.  My hole punch is small and fits the string nicely.  I had it from my old scrapbooking days.

Punch four holes like this.

Then string the beads making sure you keep five of each color on either side.

I tied them different ways but this was the best (and fastest).

Snip the excess!

My kindergartner played with his (he wanted yellow) forever!  I couldn't believe the way he was manipulating it after just minutes.  I put a quick video of his review of how to use the Rekenrek that you can see too by clicking HERE or looking below.  My bigger kids (going into 3rd and 4th) also really liked them.  I made them Rekenreks that went to 30.

I also plan to make a more sturdy one for me on the harder foam board and bigger beads.

Summer Writer's Notebooks

I LOVE teaching writing and my students LOVE to write.  In the beginning of the school year, I have them make Writer's Notebooks by jazzing up a composition notebook. The directions are to cover it with pictures of people and things they love.  Because they are first graders and also learning to spell, I have them (or a parent) write the correct spelling of items/people next to the pictures for them to reference should they need to. They then wrap it in clear contact paper and we use it to write all year.

As I mentioned, my students love Writer's Workshop and even asked for it on days when we were on Field Trips or having Field Day (those are always proud teacher days).  With most notebooks filling up by June, I have found a Summer's Writer's Notebook to be the perfect end-of-year gift.  It's also personal because it has pictures to remind them of their first grade year.

To do this, in Publisher, I created a front and back for a Writer's Notebook.  I used class pictures (of them, anchor charts, etc) from throughout the year and typed their name on the front.  I also included a picture of them on the front and on the back pictures of them with their family members (who came in throughout the year as Mystery Readers).  This may sound like a lot of work, but it's not.  I keep a classroom blog (surprised?) and so I copy pictures from there.  The only pictures that are different on the notebooks are those of the student and their family member.  I can get this all done in about an hour.

Next I wrap them.

So... All you need for this project is the front and back pages you make (in publisher, pages... or some other program), composition books, scissors, scotch tape and clear contact paper.  Here is how I wrap my books (and once you get going you can easily kick these out too).

Use a small piece of rolled scotch tape under the page you made to keep it in place on your writer's notebooks.  Make it small because you don't need much.  I have used glue in the past which sometimes shows through, so I prefer tape.

Cut the contact paper so that it can cover your book.
Next peal off the backing and set the notebook as I have shown above (I kept the backing on so you could see how big I make it).

Then pull one side over to the other and pull it taut and smooth it out so you don't have bubbles.  If you do, don't worry!  The contact paper is easy to remove and very forgiving.

Next I cut the corners like this (to make it easier to fold and less bulk inside).

I also cut a small slit at the top and bottom near the binding.

Then I just fold all the sides down like a present.

And there you have it!  As a bonus, I tell my students if they come back in the fall with some great writing in their notebooks, I'll have a small treat waiting for them (a sucker and a new pencil).

I should mention with my own kiddos seeing these (and wanting one), they now have their own summer notebooks to write in too...
Great way to avoid the summer slump!
Write On!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Regrowing Romaine? Who knew?

So it's been a while since I've posted to this blog (and I imagine I will post a lot more once school, dance, T-ball, baseball and dance are over)... BUT...
Did you know this?
Romaine lettuce will regrow itself!
I saw it on a friend's facebook page and being a mother of a son who has a Russian Tortoise who will live forever (OK, only 70 years or so) and eats this stuff (and dandelions) I had to check it out!
The teacher mug on the left shows how the other two were original cut (straight).  The other two are after one week of growth!  How cool is this???  

And how cool is it that I have a pet that lives off lettuce and weeds!  Gotta love that!