Classroom Solutions > 54 posts categorized "Lesson Plans"

October Read-Alouds: Literacy Fun With Pumpkins, Leaves, and Bats

Pumpkin patch Depending on where you live, you may have recently noticed a chill in the air, and the leaves may be turning from green to brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red. While many of your students may be focusing on how much candy they will receive trick-or-treating at the end of month, here are three of my favorite read-aloud books with accompanying activities that won’t require a trip to the dentist.

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Beware of Bias -- Graphing With a Critical Eye


Calories Tricky GraphMy students studied graphing during our first math unit this year. Graphing lends itself to get-to-know-you activities — students can survey each other to collect data — and it provides an entry point for students of all math abilities.

Once my students understood how graphs work and how to create accurate graphs, I started to wonder how I could up the ante. How could I promote critical thinking with this relatively straightforward math unit? 

One of my students handed me the answer when he brought in a graph that he had clipped from the newspaper to add to our graph collection. As I looked over his graph, I thought, "Hey, wait a sec! This graph is downright misleading." As I pointed out the graph’s flaws to my students, their eyes widened at the idea that a newspaper might seek to mislead with a graph.

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Hands-On Geography: "Paint a Partner" Topographic Maps

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"Where in the world is Randolph, NY? Is that near New York City?"

I smile every time I hear that question because our little corner of Western New York is nowhere near — and geographically nothing like — the big city. Modern technologies such as Google Earth show students the world through a whole new lens and offer exciting opportunities for them to improve their geography. But unfortunately most of my students still can't identify basic geologic formations on a topographic map: they're far more used to the flat, traditional maps they see online. For teaching topographic maps, modern technology just won't cut it.

Instead, I take an old-fashioned, hands-on approach that gives my students a solid understanding of how topographic maps work. Read on to turn your students into expert cartographers using their classmates as canvases.

 

 

 

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Three Classroom Activities to Celebrate Banned Books Week

Bbw11poster In the movie Field of Dreams, there is a scene at a school board meeting where PTO members are attempting to ban a book: The Boat Rocker by Terrence Mann. This scene is not far from reality. According to Banned Books Week.org, 348 books were challenged by various groups last year. As an English teacher, I see value in teaching literature. As a parent, I see value in censoring certain material for particular age groups. It is important that teachers select appropriate materials, but let's face it: Our students see many things that are far from appropriate. It is our responsibility also to teach life lessons to the best of our ability, though we have to be careful about how much we allow. As teachers, we must learn from the community and use our best judgment in the materials we select. With that said, September 24 - October 1 is Banned Books Week. I've created three activities to explore the concept of censorship, book bans, and specific titles that have been challenged or banned by particular groups.

 

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Poetic Beginnings: Four Poetry Lessons to Get to Know Your Students

Amys PoemMany curriculum guides would have us believe that poetry and April are conjoined twins, never to be parted, but we teachers know better. Poetry is powerful stuff, and cramming it into a single month is unfair to our students and to poetry! In my class, we read, write, and publish poetry throughout the year, and I frontload the first two months of school with even more poetry. We gain deep insights about each other while sharing our poetry, we luxuriate in words, and we celebrate creative risks –- important back-to-school practices. Here are four of my back-to-school poetry lessons that I use to get to really know my students.

 

Amy shares one of her published poems.

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Comments: 4

Easing the Middle School Transition: "Getting to Know You" Geocaching

225 "Middle School" - Just the words alone can strike fear into the hearts of students and parents alike. Sixth- through eighth-grade teachers will agree these years can be the some of the toughest, and most tumultous, in a child's life. For some, it will mean a chance to advance to a higher-level floor in a familiar building, but for others it might mean acclimating to an entirely different school. While this is a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends, it may mean leaving lifelong friendships behind - which can be one of many scary steps to endure. In addition, there seems to be a laundry list of changes that middle-schoolers can expect, such as:

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Comments: 6

Celebrating Community Heroes: September 11th in the Elementary Classroom

FDNY Let me be honest with you: Teaching my third graders about September 11th makes me a little uncomfortable. My students weren’t even born in 2001, and this historic tragedy just doesn’t seem all that relevant to their lives. On the other hand, September 11th has become a permanent part of our collective consciousness. As New York City gears up for the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, my students are inevitably curious about it. It wouldn’t be fair to my students if I didn’t help them understand 9/11 in a way that honors their intellectual curiosity, yet is appropriate for their age as well. Thank goodness for the picture book Fireboat by Maira Kalman! Here’s how I use this amazing book to discuss the facts about 9/11 and then shift into a lesson about heroes.

 

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Ten Years Later: Remembering September 11th With an Oral History Project

Scholasticsept11postOn the morning of September 11, 2001, I was on my way to work in Springfield, Illinois.  Many people remember where they were and what they were doing when terrorists attacked our country 10 years ago this year. My current students, however, may have a difficult time remembering as freshman students were 4 to 5 years old when this significant event changed the course of history. Since I often refer to 9/11 when discussing various pieces of literature, I wanted my students to have a firm understanding of the event, and so created the Remembering September 11th lesson. This lesson is broken into three phases: class discussion, group research, and individual project.

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Comments: 4

Back-to-School Read Alouds: Favorite Books and First Week Activities

DSC00282Reading aloud to children is one of my favorite activities of the day and it is a critical part of literacy instruction. In my classroom, I integrate children’s literature across the curriculum and read to the children throughout the day. The read-aloud books I choose for the first week of school help set the tone for the year and help begin to build our classroom community. These books feature characters about the same age as my students and allow us to discuss prior knowledge, build thinking skills, and make connections. Here are some of my favorite books and activities that engage my enthusiastic young readers.

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Comments: 2

The Art of Literary Criticism

DSC01459 A goal of the Advanced Placement Literature and Composition test, which helps to make sure that students are truly college ready, is the careful reading and critical analysis of literature. Literary criticism requires students to study, evaluate, and interpret what they read — a valuable tool for all students, not just those in an AP class. But what is the best way to do help students develop this skill? How can you get high school students to think deeply and critically about literature?

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Chu Ju’s House by Gloria Whelan

BookcoverThis year, I was blessed to receive a class set of Chu Ju's House by Gloria Whelan, which tells the story of Chu Ju, a 14-year-old Chinese girl struggling to survive in a country where males are traditionally valued more than females. When Chu Ju's parents decide to give her baby sister away because of the One-Child Policy, Chu Ju leaves home with her. Teaching literature from other cultures requires a considerable amount of background knowledge. However, it is exciting learning about different cultures, and that excitement spreads through the class.

After reading Chu Ju’s House, students engage in a mini research project, exploring an aspect of Chinese culture alluded to in the novel. This assists the students in developing a thorough understanding of the legal and cultural conflicts presented in the novel. In this post, you'll find a study guide, instructions for a vocabulary wall mobile, and  SMART Notebook activities.

 

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Comments: 2

Darfur: Does History Repeat Itself?

MBlow031511_iStock_4567809_SudanFarmLast week, I wrote about the classroom resources I use in my Holocaust unit, “Children of the Holocaust.” During literature circles for this unit, my students read a historical fiction novel and discuss character development. Adding a nonfiction component to literature circles provides the opportunity for text-to-text and text-to-world connections. The group discussions help them to better understand nonfiction. In this post, I'll take you through the lesson we do in my class connecting the Holocaust to a current event through nonfiction. Included in this post is a classroom video showing how this lesson was integrated into the "Children of the Holocaust" unit.

Photo: Refugee in Sudan collecting garbage. Copyright Claudiad/iStockphoto.

 

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Comments: 2

Using Lyrics for Beyond Literal Comprehension

Music FilomenaHoward Gardner suggests that intelligence is not merely being able to read or do mathematical calculations. It encompasses several different components, one of which is music. I like to use music in my classroom to manage the day and to tap into the talents of those students who are high on the musical intelligence spectrum. One way to engage these students in reading is to use lyrics to teach the difference between the literal and beyond literal meaning of texts.  

Photo courtesy of Filomena Scalise.

 

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Comments: 2

Taxing Cartoon Characters

DSC01086Teachers are always hearing how their lessons should have real world applications. You don't get more real world than taxes, my friends! Many students think taxes are hard because they see the frustrations their parents experience. I like to counterbalance those negative impressions with a lesson on how easy taxes can be if you know how to follow directions.

 

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Comments: 10

Compound Sentences

Fanboys_posterEach year, I make it a goal to focus on grammar. Last year, I became determined to find a solution to the problem of run-on sentences. Each time after reading student writing, I found myself repeating the age-old question, “What is a sentence?” My students could explain the components of a sentence: subject, predicate, capital letters at the beginning, and ending punctuation. With some prompting they could conclude that a sentence must have a complete thought. So, how was it that they could identify a sentence and explain what one is, and still write paragraph-long, never-ending sentences? How could I change this?

Read on to discover my solution. Included here is a SMART Board activity and a free FANBOYS poster.

 

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Comments: 12

Character Education in PreK & Kindergarten

Character Education in PreK and KindergartenWhat children learn about character in the early childhood classroom can shape their character for the rest of their lives. So how do you teach it?

 

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Comments: 5

Digital Communication: Student-Designed Commercials

Movie ReelBeing able to effectively communicate in the 21st century is essential. Advertisers have efficient communication down to an art. (And at $3 million for a 30-second Superbowl slot, they'd better!) They must pick the perfect story, image, background, words, and music to engage an audience and sell a product in under a minute. By creating their own commercials, students learn to pay attention to detail and discover some fun technology.  

 

Photo courtesy of Salvatore Vuono.

 

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Comments: 2

Updates: Opera, High School Uncut SAT Vocab

DSC_0249On Friday, February 4, 2011, five sophomore boys from Revere High School had a most extraordinary experience: they got to be extras in Teatro Lirico D'Europa's performance of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston. I've told you all before how lucky we are that Jenny Kelly, director, provides us with sixty to one hundred free tickets for each of her performances in Boston, but this was straight-up-over-the-top! Teatro operas are quite the extravaganza: there is a full orchestra, and the opera is sung in Italian with English subtitles provided on a screen above the stage. Lucia di Lammermoor features one of the most famous mad scenes in all of opera — and this was the scene in which our boys appeared as extras, as seen in the photo, standing perfectly at attention.

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Comments: 3

Danger on the Internet: A Lesson in Critical Thinking

Internet Danger SalvatoreArguments on Jerry Springer, cat fights on Jersey Shore, WWE wrestling — the line between reality and manufactured entertainment is forever being blurred. My momma always said, Don't believe everything you read. Don't believe everything you see. These phrases are more true today than ever before. With all the recent technological advancements, it is increasingly difficult to tell the real from the fake. We must arm our students with critical-thinking skills so they can separate the fact from the fiction and use the Internet safely.

Photo courtesy of Salvatore Vuono.

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Comments: 2

Teaching about the Tension in Egypt

Deserto___There is a lot of excitement going on in Egypt these days. What is it all about? What would an elementary student need to know? What could you possibly connect it to? What lessons can be learned by discussing the situation? Below are some ways you might incorporate Egypt into your curriculum.

 

Photo courtesy m_bartosch.

  

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Comments: 4

Emergency Sub Plans

Emergency R KrishnanScar sings it in The Lion King and Boy Scouts repeat it ad nauseam. What is this magical phrase that I am referring to? Be prepared! Being prepared with meaningful sub plans can keep your classroom community on a forward-moving track when your personal life throws you a curve ball.

 

Photo courtesy of Renjith Krishnan.

 

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Comments: 4

Hitting a Home Run With Civil Rights

IMG_5793When I first started teaching a Civil Rights unit, my goal was to have my students write an essay for the Jackie Robinson Breaking Barriers Essay Contest. This writing activity has grown into a multigenre thematic unit because my students are so engaged in the topics of baseball and Civil Rights. Jackie is famous for breaking the color barrier in baseball; however, he is also renowned for overcoming the barriers in his life by remaining faithful to his values: courage, determination, teamwork, persistence, integrity, citizenship, justice, commitment, and excellence.

 

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Comments: 12

A Teen Soap Opera to Learn SAT Vocabulary

DSC01247 Because I teach in a low-income, urban high school, where many students do not speak English as their first language, my students often have difficulty building their vocabulary. Yet increasing their vocabulary is extremely important: vocabulary is critical to students' reading success, and a wide-ranging vocabulary helps students communicate more effectively when writing, speaking, and listening. In addition, students' confidence improves both academically and socially when their vocabulary increases. Further, students will soon face state testing, SAT testing, and Advanced Placement courses, all of which will require them to employ an ever-increasing vocabulary.

Read on to find out how my class learned new vocabulary words and so much more when they wrote and produced their own high school soap opera.

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Comments: 5

Geometry Trees

Vasicek Geometry Far CroppedThe holidays are a time of excitement. The standard pencil pushing assessment just doesn't seem to fit. Below is a geometry assessment that turns into a great hallway display for the holiday season.

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Comments: 6

10 Ways to Be Ready for Parent-Teacher Conferences All Year Long

Parent-Teacher Conferences An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you do the following things all along, you will not have to rush around at conference time.

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Comments: 5

The Catcher in the Rye — Thoughtful Laughter vs. "Bathroom" Humor

DSC01165 Popular culture today all too often embraces a type of crass humor commonly referred to as "bathroom humor" or "scatological humor." Movies, TV shows, cartoons, and popular comedians all seem to capitalize on this type of humor in order to get a laugh from an audience.

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Friendly Letters: Giving Thanks at Thanksgiving

Friendly_letters_SMART_board_title_page Thanksgiving is the perfect time to immerse students in an authentic writing experience. In my class, we write friendly letters to give thanks to a family member, friend, neighbor, or former teacher who has had an impact on our lives. Although my goal is to teach the friendly letter, the students learn the value of taking the time to let others know how much they inspire us and how much we appreciate them. Included in this article is a SMART Notebook lesson and a video that illustrates how to use the interactive components.

 

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Predictograms Improve Reading Comprehension

IMG_5452This week, I started my Cinderella unit, which is based on Cinderella tales from around the world. The anchor text is the 1812 version of Cinderella by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The text is challenging, but the content is engaging. I have found that students put more effort into reading challenging text if the topics are engaging. Fairy tales, originally meant for adults, intrigue middle school students. Students are surprised that there isn’t a fairy godmother or a magical pumpkin in the versions we read. They are also shocked to learn that a stepsister, under her mother's order, cuts off her toe so her over-sized foot will fit into Cinderella’s dainty gold slipper.

What can we infer from this story about the values of the German culture? Ultimately, my students learn that fairy tales provide a window into other cultures. They conclude that people around the world, despite cultural differences, share many similar values, such as loyalty, kindness, honesty, and love.

This post includes a download of a SMART Board predictogram activity.

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Comments: 4

Everyone Loves a Mystery

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Most teens love mysteries. They like reading them, writing them, watching them on TV and in films, and they like solving them. And since, in many cases, creative writing has been pushed to the side by high stakes testing that requires only one type of writing — usually literary analysis — writing a mystery is a great opportunity for students to explore their creative sides. What better time to write a great, spine-tingling mystery than Halloween?

 

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YES, YOU CAN Teach Art to Kids! An Art Primer for Teachers

Ladywith easel
Yes, you can teach art to kids, even if you don't like art or are not good at it. Previous experience is not a requirement or an excuse. Don't let fear and worry be the main roadblocks to teaching art in class. I know, crafts are fun, and art seems so foreign and daunting. Well, let's dive into teaching art education in the classroom. This is part one in a two part series.

Image courtesty fo Microsofy Office Clipart


 

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Comments: 4

Magazines in the 21st Century Classroom

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I don't have a textbook, nor do I want one. I use magazines and trade books in my classroom. We live in the information age, and magazines are vehicles for accessing up-to-date information in the classroom. Magazines also provide the opportunity to integrate content area subjects into English language arts classes. I like magazines because the passages are short, so students get repeated exposure to multiple genres on varying topics, which is a quick way to build background knowledge. Below is a SMART Board lesson using Storyworks magazine that illustrates how much can be taught with two nonfiction magazine articles. (Download a SMART Notebook interactive lesson.)

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Comments: 6

Get in the (State Testing) Game!

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If I could put my entire English curriculum into a game format, my students could learn anything. There's something about playing a game that brings out the best in high school students. Teens enjoy letting loose, having fun, moving around, and being competitive with their peers. Games excite and stimulate the students to learn. 

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Comments: 6

Musical Papers: Engaging Students in Revising and Editing

Musical papers 
When a student writes a rough draft, they are demonstrating their level of independent writing. However, it is when a student engages in revising and editing that the real growth begins. It is not easy to engage students in the revising and editing processes. It is one of my toughest challenges. I have had students hand in replicas of their rough drafts, neatly written as final copies. Sound familiar? So, how did I get my students to walk into my classroom this week and ask if they could revise and edit for a second day in a row?

  

 

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Comments: 9

Making Connections Using Similes and Metaphors

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Making connections to their learning is absolutely essential for high school students. If the literature has no relevancy, and students cannot envision its use in a contemporary context, interest levels — as well as the learning — drop off significantly. For this reason, it is always fun to find new ways to help students understand figurative language in an up-to-date way.

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Comments: 4

Guidelines and a Guide Dog for Guided Reading

GuidedReading01 In my classroom, guided reading is one of the most important parts of the day. It shows my students that I respect them as individuals, taking into account their own abilities, needs, interests, and learning styles. It facilitates more personal interaction, in a supportive atmosphere where they feel comfortable sharing what they think, making mistakes, asking for help, and absorbing what is being taught. Instead of making me the person who stands at the front of the room and dictates what must be done, guided reading allows me to do what I became a teacher to do: guide.

 

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Comments: 24

Film and Feminist Criticism in the High School Classroom

Film and Feminist 

Millions of teenagers view movies at the theater, on DVDs, or on cable television each day. Teenagers need to be aware of the rhetoric specifically targeting them as a demographic group.

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Comments: 18

A Chrysanthemum by Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

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A child's name is their first gift, the first thing that gives them an identity. It's placed on hospital cards. It's made official on a birth certificate. It's lovingly handwritten in baby books. It might even be announced in the newspaper. A name says "I am a specific and unique individual."

Photo © Juliana Coutinho

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Comments: 8

Here's Hoping for You, Kid

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The beginning of a school year is all about hope. 
Classrooms are as neat and tidy as they'll ever be.  Crayons and pencils are as fresh and sharp as they'll ever be.  Everything is new.  For students and teachers alike, a new beginning rings in excitement and expectation, new experiences and expansive possibilities.  And for kindergartners, it's not just a beginning, it's the beginning. 

Photo © D. Sharon Pruitt.

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Clifford's Preposition Mystery


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Clifford’s missing! Where could he be? A lesson on prepositions takes Mrs. Power’s kindergarten students around the school looking for their lost friend. Click read more to watch our Clifford's Birthday Party Mystery to see if they can find him in time for a special surprise! Also included are the steps that we used to make this learning project a huge success. Go ahead and give it a try with your students. You will be amazed at the amount of excitement and learning that takes place.


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Another Take on Earth Day

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A celebration that began in the 1970’s is bigger and better than ever. While raising awareness as to the importance of protecting our environment, Earth Day also provides our schools the opportunity to enlist our student in engaging and meaningful project-based learning.

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Comments: 1

Egg-cellent Eggs-periments

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Spring fever is the air and our young students are excited about preparing for Easter or other spring celebrations. Many students are learning about farms and reading spring stories this time of year. As you plan spring related stories, crafts, and activities – why not put in a few science experiments with eggs to challenge your students’ thinking? Take a look at my fun eggs-periments that are egg-cellent for your students to get their little hands on!

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Comments: 2

Planning Engaging Units in All Subjects

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"We're building and racing rubber-band propelled vehicles? What will we do at the Renaissance Festival next Friday? ...When is Mr. Jasztal coming in to launch rockets with our class? ...We will be simulating craters with flour, chocolate powder, and rocks?  ...Who painted that, Leonardo DaVinci or Michelangelo?"

These questions and more have arisen in my classroom this year, generating a great deal of excitement by my students. By keeping these questions in mind, and tapping into their multiple intelligences, I have planned some tremendous units across the curriculum that address a variety of learning styles. Read the rest of this post to find some great resources and steps for planning superior units in any subject area!

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Comments: 8

Book Publishing Classroom Project

Authors Research has proven that granting students the freedom to write about the topics of their choice provides them greater opportunities to emerge as an author. From time to time, I rummage through the papers I saved from my school years to locate publishing projects, creative writing attempts, school newspaper articles, and research reports I once took pride in as a young author. Seeing how my own confidence emerged when my teachers encouraged me to develop original prose, I decided to develop a Book Publishing Unit Plan as a classroom project to help my students to embrace themselves as authors.

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Circumference + Bubbles = Too Much Fun!


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Often teaching circumference can be a bit, well, boring. This time of year I try to incorporate as many manipulatives in math as possible. So when it comes to teaching circumference, I use bubble solution, straws, and rulers to ramp up the process.

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Comments: 3

Substitute Plans: Keeping Students Productive When You're Absent

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It's that time of the year again. It's late Winter and the usual swell of students and teachers falling ill seems to be coming along right on schedule. For teachers, missing even just a day of class presents a huge obstacle, especially considering the pressure that we face to stick to our pacing plans. Next, is the fact that even the "best kids" tend to slacken in class when they realize that there is a substitute for the day.

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Comments: 1

Getting Ready for High Stakes Testing

Photo 3It may be just the end of January, but there's that yearly test just lurking around the corner: the State test. As my principal put it, we have 10 weeks before testing (as we are on a single-track year-round schedule). Test prep can be a long arduous process and many students may find it hard to maintain focus. Here are a few ideas to help with that process.

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Comments: 1

Using Scale to Build 3-D Models

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My students love experimenting with scale (ratios). While we don’t have a lot of time to devote to this, students find this to be one of the more interesting projects we complete this year. They are very excited to construct three dimensional models of their bedrooms based on a 1 inch to 1 foot scale (1:12 ratio).

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Comments: 2

Not Your Momma’s Oven: Using Solar Ovens to Teach About Heat Transfer

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Teaching students about the greenhouse effect is fun when paired with the construction of solar ovens. Using a pizza box, students made solar ovens to cook s’mores and study the transfer of heat. Check out the links and information that follows to get your students cooking with solar energy.

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Comments: 1

Freaky Fractions: Using Circles to Teach Operations with Fractions

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Not too long ago I was looking for a creative way to integrate art into my math lesson on fractions. After consulting with a colleague, Kelly Allen, I was able to take a lesson she had used with her students and adapt it to meet the needs of my 6th graders.

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Comments: 4

Encouraging Students to Embrace Their Inner Author

IMG_3718 “In the year 1075, a knight of an order called The Order of the Red Rose was falsely accused of striking a deal with a dragon. The dragon was known as Neborex and wasn’t the friendly type. He lived within a volcanic mountain called Fire River Mountain since it had multiple rivers of flowing lava. Neborex was a fire-breathing black dragon who had a reputation of raiding the village of Golden Rock, which was the knight’s hometown.

These words were written two years ago when I gave my students the freedom to write about whatever they desired for a publishing project. Astounded by this student’s “gift for writing”, I thought about where the quality of where the class’ writing would stand if I had never granted them the freedom or had encouraged them in the first place to write about their “passion”.

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The opinions expressed in Classroom Solutions are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Scholastic Inc.