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April Fool’s Day Activities for Students

This year April Fool’s Day is Friday, April 1st.  While not a traditional holiday of either gift giving or religious importance, it is still a fun day to celebrate.  Today’s traditions of April Fool’s Day revolve around playing harmless jokes on friends and family.  However, the basis of the day actually revolves around topics that are great for the classroom – learning about the calendar, the first day of spring, the change of when New Year’s is celebrated, and the historical significance of a variety of pranks that we play today.

joke

This is an especially sensitive issue as students with emotional or cognitive disabilities may not understand or become upset by the jokes or pranks that other students may be playing throughout the school day.  Making special needs students aware of April Fool’s Day is important so that the students can understand the intentions of why their peers may make jokes or play pranks They could get involved in school-appropriate April Fool’s jokes as well.  This day must be managed with sensitivity and direction to avoid mean or destructive behavior from any student.

History of April Fool’s Day

There are many resources available online geared for students to learn the history behind April Fool’s Day.

Wilstar.com, a website based on exploration of a variety of topics, has a history page devoted to April Fool’s Day.  On this page, students learn that the significance of April’s Fools Day and how it began when the calendar was updated to the Gregorian calendar.  The New Year was changed from the beginning of spring to January 1st.  The people who didn’t accept this change were considered the ‘fools’ and were made fun of for not following the new calendar.  Today, different cultures put their own twist on the day including tricking people for the entire day, holding two days of April Fool’s silliness or celebrating the day on a different day of the year.

The Franklin Institute also has a great page about teaching students about the history of April Fool’s Day.  This includes more information about the different calendar systems and the changes that were made and why they were implemented

April Fool’s Day Activities

Classroom activities for April Fool’s Day should be fun and engaging.   Playing small jokes on your students to get them motivated always works with the middle school students.  Giving the students a silly, impossible worksheet or a fake pop-quiz on pop culture are two examples. For elementary students, you can read them silly books or give them fun worksheets to learn   to learn about simple jokes and April Fool’s related vocabulary.  More activities can be found on this link to April Fool’s activities designed by teachers.

There is one “prank” that sent me into tears from laughing so hard as I was writing this blog.  I was thinking of a classroom joke to play for my students this year and I was thinking of the traditional examples given above when I came across this idea from eHow.  As a computer teacher, I can update the Google homepage, the default on computers, to search in three different ‘fun’ languages Elmer Fudd, Pirate, and Klingon.  I will do a web-related activity having these settings up on the search engine without their knowledge to have a fun time.  For each option, the main choices of searching, settings, feeling lucky, and search are all updated in the fun languages.  For example Elmer Fudd “hunts” instead of searches, and the Pirate “Sails into Port” to login.

What are you plans for April Fool’s Day?

Article by Laura Ketcham

Picture by Vanessa Pike-Russell

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Opening of Baseball Season – Great Classroom Connections

As covered in many of my blog posts, students are much more engaged in learning when it is a relevant topic that they are interested in – especially if it relates to the “real world”.  The opening of baseball season, a favorite American past time, is one of these great “real world” events that can be connected into classroom curriculum.  Opening day is March 31st.

baseball

There are so many classroom connections with baseball that incorporate math, language arts, languages, geography, history, and even science and all  fit the standards-based instruction.  Here are some online resources for ideas on how you can incorporate baseball into your class curriculum.

The Teacher’s Corner – Baseball Season

The Teacher’s Corner has a wide variety of resources to teach core curriculum content in relation to baseball.  These activities are great for the elementary classroom or could be adapted for older grade levels and span across many different subject areas.  Activities include journal writing, vocabulary crosswords, figuring averages, the science of baseball, baseball-based review games for many different subjects, and problem solving.

The science of baseball activity was really fun and engaging.  Students learn about what the ‘sweet spot’ is of a baseball, how to react to and hit a fast ball, throwing a curve ball, along with other historical facts about baseball.  There are interactive activities and great animated pictures that bring the concepts to life.  The comic book style of the page will also be very engaging to middle school students and is considered very popular and current.

PBS:  The Tenth Inning

PBS has great resources for lesson plan ideas that connect with a documentary series about baseball entitled The Tenth Inning.  This video documentary chronicles the history and impact that baseball has had on society including the first black baseball player, women in baseball, and the growth of Hispanic and Asian players.  It also includes the scandals and triumphs of the baseball world from the 1990’s until today.

Among the many lessons that are found online that correlate with the video and includes “stadium consultants” where students act as the stadium managers and make choices about ticket prices and concessions, a lesson on “shadow ball” which is a warm up activity that was created by the Negro league, and “mapping baseball” where students would learn the history and growth of the baseball league.  All of the lessons I looked at were very engaging and I could see my 7th grade students really enjoying the activity and learning at the same time.

Another section on this site is “The 7th Inning Stretch”.  This page includes more open ended examples of lesson ideas including researching about the music of baseball, fantasy baseball, and the invention of the baseball.

Buddy Project

The Buddy Project has three simple lesson plans for teaching math concepts with a  baseball theme.  The first lesson incorporates the use of baseball cards.  The teacher should provide each student with a baseball card and discuss the information that is included on the back.  In this discussion the teacher would talk about the batting average and how it is calculated for each player.  The students could then be given the at-bats and number of hits so they could calculate the batting averages of some of the top players.

The next lesson has students playing math baseball on Funbrain.  This activity can be done individually or in pairs and is used as a review of basic math facts.  Students earn a base for every question they answercorrectly.  Competing against their classmates is a great way to motivate students to be more actively engaged in the activity.

The last lesson involves students solving money-based math problems in computation of salaries for baseball players.  The website provides a table of real baseball salaries and then provides a quiz based on the data table information.

All of the activities on this site have companion interactive activities that students can do online or on the interactive whiteboard in the front of the class.

Happy Opening Day!

Article by Laura Ketcham

Picture by GatheredMoments

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Spring Break Activities for Students

Over the next month, many students will be taking a week or more off for “Spring Break”.  Spring b recess is a time for students to relax and unwind and spend time with family.  This is also the time of year that typically comes right before many states administer standardized tests.  Having students relax during their break is important, but teachers could provide fun and interactive activities for students to continue their academic growth without school.

beach

Engaging Reading & Writing Activities

One way to have students to continue learning during “Spring Break” is through reading.  Many schools assign students to read novels and write reports as reading assignments over Spring Break.  Instead of assigning a book that all of the students read, allow the students to choose their own (level appropriate) book will be more engaging over break time.  Also, instead of having the students write traditional book reports, allowing students to make multi-media projects will be more engaging.  Students could summarize the story, complete a literary analysis, or personal reaction of the story by creating video, picture montage, Voki, online comic book, or Wordle.

To get students writing over spring break, you could have them keep an online diary of what they did over spring break.  Students can use a site like Blogger to write their reflective journal.  This journal can then be shared digitally with other students in the classroom.  Students can then comment on other students “Spring Break” activities.  Encourage students to expand their vocabulary and use descriptive words that are not typically used in their writing.

Less formal activities could include providing an annotated list of online learning games that students could complete during “Spring Break”.  Providing parents with a goal for the amount of time the students should spend on the activities would be helpful.

Online Reading & Writing Activities

1.       Primary Games – Language Arts

2.       Between the Lions – PBS Kids Games & Stories

3.       My Monster Poems

4.       Classroom Resources – Reading Write Think

Math & Science Activities

A great science and math based “Spring Break” activity would be to have the students watch an episode of Head Rush from the Science Chanel.  This is a newer TV show hosted by Kari Byron from Mythbusters.  The show provides a variety of science experiments that are explained from beginning to end.  Students are asked multiple choice questions about the experiment to guess what or why questions about the experiment.  If students don’t have the Science Chanel at home, many of the clips and experiments can be found online at the show website or on YouTube.  Students could then either perform experiments, with parent supervision of course, complete a lab write-up about which show they watched that they can then share with the class, or just watch the show for learning pleasure and then be ready to discuss the show in class after the spring recess.

Online Math & Science Activities

1.       Fun Brain Math Arcade

2.       Sheppard Software Interactive Math Games

3.       Cool-Math Games

4.       Math Playground

Article By Laura Ketcham

Picture By kkalyan

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Holiday Lesson Plans for Students

December is a wondrous time of year.  The seasons are changing, there is a nip in the air, and the excitement of winter break is around the corner.  December is also a great month to include a variety of fun and engaging lessons around the themes of winter and the holidays.  These lessons tie right into standards-based lessons that can integrate the core curriculum in a creative way.  Here are some great websites to find holiday lesson plans and activity ideas.

holidays

HotChalk Lesson Plans Pages – Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza

HotChalk Christmas & Holiday Lesson Plans Page has links to many online lesson plans and resources that tie in core-curriculum classes with holiday themed lessons.  The top of the page includes information about the history of the holiday.  Below there are links to craft ideas and lessons that involve language arts, math, science, PE, art, music, reading, and computers.  The Christmas page not only included Christmas lesson ideas, but also winter themed activities.  All of the lessons have grade ranges for which levels they would be appropriate.  This is great for teachers to use and find “at-a-glance lessons” that tie into what they are already teaching.  However, many of the lessons can be adapted for different grade levels or level abilities.  Most of the lessons on this page also include either modifications or extensions for special needs and gifted students.

Under the additional resources section, this site lists various items like holiday themed worksheets, SMART Board templates, coloring pages, and other multi-media tools.  I enjoyed the “Build-your-own Snow Man” activity that I found through the Christmas SMART Board Resources link.  This site allows students to come up to the board and move various styles of outfit pieces to make their own snow man.  This would be a great way to introduce a lesson on diversity or culture in a fun way.  I also liked the lesson where students had to write a story about the best Christmas they ever had to try and make “the Grinch” change his mind about Christmas.

The Hanukkah Lesson Plans Page is set up in a very similar way. The top of the page includes a history of the holiday and then lesson plan ideas follow.  This page is not as extensive, but can provide a spring board for including lessons on this December holiday.  One of the best resources from this page was the link to Torah Tots.  This is a page that includes Hanukah lessons, but also provides lessons and activities to learn about all of the Jewish Holidays and religious practices with a fun twist and at a level that younger students can understand.   This is a page that students could even explore during their computer center time or during computer lab times.

The Kwanzaa Lesson Plans Page currently only has resources that help teachers to teach about the variety of holidays that are celebrated around the world during December.  These lessons would be great to teach the ideas of compare and contrast along with using graphic organizers.  The lesson on their page includes using various stories from the different cultures and taking the students on a ‘journey’ through the different cultures and holidays.  I felt the Kwanzaa children’s page on the Kwanzaaland Website was a good starting point in teaching about Kwanzaa.  This page includes a brief history of the holiday, coloring pages and other worksheets for students to learn about the Kwanzaa.

This website is a great starting point to find great teacher-made lessons along with online resources for holiday lessons and activities for the classroom.   The site had many annotated links of the top websites that I would typically use when searching online for holiday themed ideas.  Below are more resources for you to check out while planning your holiday themed lessons.

More Sites to Check Out

Article by Laura Ketcham

Picture By HarshLight

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November Technology Mashup for Elementary Kids (K-3)

This month has been the month where my co-workers have told me “my students are bored with their computer center activities.  Do you have any other sites you can share?”  So, I went on an online scavenger hunt to find fun, educational, and level appropriate (free) online activities that their students can choose from when they have their computer center activity time.  Below is an annotated list of sites for younger users (K-3) that would be great for centers or for “at home” supplemental learning activities.

game

Science & Math Connections

Peep and the Big Wide World is an interactive site for students and teachers with learning games, science videos staring Peep, and home connection activities for math and science.  This site is a companion website for the TV show that airs in Canada.  The site is intended for pre-school students, but would definitely be applicable for younger elementary students.  The site’s fun and interactive manner will engage your students.  The video segments would also be a great connection to show to the whole class on a SMART board to learn about the science topics.  The games would be great for a center activity and include topics like memory and finding objects, shapes, counting, painting, compare and contrast, and sorting.

Count Us In is a website geared for younger elementary students to learn about number concepts.  This site is easy for students to figure out and use.  There are fifteen levels of the game that the student can play.  Each game has easy to follow rules and can be replayed as many times as the student likes.  Each time the game remains the same, but the math values change.  Some examples of games include finding which pitcher of water has more, moving sheep into equal amounts in different pens, subtraction bowling, and moving children in order of balloon numbers onto a roller coast ride.   Like the previous site, this site could also be shown on an interactive white board.  The students could then come up to the board and move the elements around to solve the number concept they are learning about in class.  Then the students could continue the activity during their computer center time or at home.

Language Arts & Reading Connections

Game Goo (Learning that Sticks) is an educational website for young learners for reading and language arts.  The site is separated into three levels, beginner, intermediate, and advanced.  At the beginner level, the games include letter sounds, direction and vocabulary, letter recognition and fact vs. fiction.  The intermediate games include word order, sentence structure and spelling.  The advanced games include spelling, pairing words with similar meanings, alliteration, rhyme, rhythm, and opposites.  This is a great resource for leveled instruction based on academic progress and goals.  The games are also fun, easy to use, and highly engaging.  This is a great center resource for emerging and early readers.

Giggle Poetry is a fun(ny) site for kids to learn about poetry.  Students can create their own silly poems and share them online.  Students  learn how to write poems, play poetry related games, learn and plan for a poetry theater, play word games, and read poems.  When the students read the poems, they can then rate the poems on the giggle meter. This site exposes children to poems in a fun learning environment.  Students can read the poems, and use them as a spring board in writing and performing their own poems in a classroom poetry theater environment.  This is a good site to share with a class as a poetry spring-board activity or for students during a computer-reading center activity.  Since the students have to rate the poems they read, they are activity engaged in the reading process while learning about poetry.

Article By Laura Ketcham

Picture By JenCarole

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Falling into the Seasons – Halloween Activities for Students

Celebrating Halloween in the classroom doesn’t just have to mean wearing costumes and eating candy.   Many schools these days do not even allow students to celebrate Halloween.  However, there are still great opportunities to learn about the common traditions that happen during the fall time.  Here are some great fall activities for all ages and subjects.

fall

Apples 4 the Teacher

Apples 4 the Teacher has great Halloween activities for students.  The activities range from printable worksheets to craft and color activities.  They also have reading lists of books, short stories, and poems that are fall appropriate.  Fall and harvest themed food activities are also a great way to spend the day before Halloween.

DLTK’s Growing Together

On DLTK’s Halloween page there are also a wide variety of activities for students to learn about the fall and Halloween.  Activities include worksheets, recipes, poems, songs, puzzles, and coloring pages.  There is also a Link Page that includes links to other educational sites and their Halloween sites.

Family Education – Halloween Fun & Activities for Kids

On the Family Education site, they have great activities and resources for both teachers and parents to incorporate learning about Halloween while having fun.  Great activities for the kids to do in school are creating decorations from your classroom, trivia quizzes about the history of Halloween, printables, Halloween safety tips, and party ideas.  One great addition to this site is that they have visual slide shows on various activities that you could do with the students.  This is great for visually learners and allows you to be able to show examples to your students.  Some examples are kid friendly Halloween movies, costume crafting activities, recipes, and crafts.

A Kid’s Heart – Harvest Activities

This site has a great selection of fall related activities including online games.  These are general fall related activities, not just Halloween.  The students can play online games where they will learn about fall themes like leaves, scarecrows, acorns, pumpkins, and bats while learning math concepts, writing poems, solving puzzles, or following directions.  Many of the activities on this site would be great for center activities.

Enchanted Learning – Autumn Crafts

Enchanted Learning has activities for students to be creative and learn about fall vocabulary.  They have activities in both English and Spanish for grades K-8.  Craft activities include place cards, scarecrows, and leaf wreaths.  There are also many activities with drawing, writing, and spelling.  There are also math activities including counting, sorting, and patterns.  There are also fall booklets that can be copied and create for the kids including math, vocabulary, and spelling activities along with coloring.

All of the activities and lessons above can be adapted to fit the needs of your students.  Some activities may be modified simply by providing assistance to color or cut.  Other adaptions could include pairing students together to complete the activity, shortening the assignment or number of vocabulary words that may be taught, or providing student assistance as needed.

Article By Laura Ketcham

Picture By Pink Sherbet Photography

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Peace Day & First Day of Fall Activities for Students

Students always enjoy when a teacher is able to tie in special days into their curriculum.  It makes learning about the subject ‘real’ and interesting for the students.  Next week will be the 28th annual Peace Day Celebration around the world.  Many countries across the globe participate in Peace Day by holding events, ceremonies, and spreading the message of peace to commemorate this day.  Next week also marks the first day of fall, at 11:09pm on Wednesday the 22nd.  This day is also called the Autumnal Equinox.  Marking this day in your classroom is a great way to incorporate history, geography, and science all into one lesson.

peace

Peace Day

On the International Peace Day website you can find information about the history of Peace Day, local events that will be held by various organizations in your area about Peace Day, information about planning a Peace Day event, along with many links to various organizations, activities, and online broadcasts for Peace Day events.

For Peace Day at my school, we have an entire school-wide celebration.  Every grade participates in a different activity that celebrates peace.  Activities range from artwork, essays, poetry, dances, skits, and speeches.  All of the different components come together and are shared during the school-wide assembly.

Some activities that you can incorporate at your school for Peace Day include planting a ‘peace’ tree, making origami cranes, writing poems about peace, or coloring in a dove (the universal symbol of peace).   Planet Pals has great activities for learning about Peace Day in the classroom including learning about the Nobel Peace Prize, the Peace Bell, the story of Peace Day, and famous peace quotes.  This is a great site for middle school students to learn about Peace Day.  The First School website has suggests for the teacher to create lessons about Peace Day.  The activities include book reflections on simple biographies of individuals who strived for peace, crafts including flowers and wreaths, along with connections made to other peaceful holidays and events.  These activities are created for young students, but can be adapted for different levels.

Autumnal Equinox

Teaching about the Autumnal Equinox is a great way to incorporate a variety of subjects into one lesson around an interesting and meaningful subject.  Depending on the level of students, they can learn about the earth’s tilt, the difference between summer and winter, how it affects the difference hemispheres of the earth, or simply how on the Autumnal Equinox in the United States that day and night will be almost equal at 12 hours each.

The calendar-updates website provides background information about the Autumnal Equinox along with images and links to help understand the meaning of the autumnal equinox.  This site also contains historical information about other holidays as well and is a handy teacher resource.   The Teacher’s Guide has a variety of different activities and lessons incorporating different levels of students and subject areas for the theme of fall.  These activities include SMART board templates, crafts, recipes, printouts, online resources, and lesson plans.  One of my favorite activities on this site is learning about why the leaves change color in the fall which includes reading activities for several levels of students (including ages and ability levels) along with a science component.

To engage the students in learning the standards and concepts you are required to cover as a teacher is much more rewarding by incorporating fun and interactive lessons with meaningful topics.

Article By: Laura Ketcham

Picture By: raymaclean

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