Sunday, September 14, 2014

A picture is worth a thousand words

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”  We’ve all heard this quote and many of us have probably used it at some point in time.  The quote refers to the notion that a complex idea can be conveyed with just a photograph. 
As I was gathering ideas on lessons to do with my 4th graders for Patriot Day (9/11) I stumbled across a wonderful lesson on the use of photographs from that day.  My 4th graders were not alive when terrorists attacked our country on that sorrowful day.  I, like most of you, remember it very vividly.  As I was planning my activities for the day my attempt was to convey the emotions of that day to my students.  For this lesson I printed several pictures from 9/11 and the days following. 
Here are a few of the photos we used:
I put my students into groups of 3 or 4.  Students were given chart paper along with their picture.  Students were to divide their chart paper into 3 sections and label them post photo, photo and pre photo.  In the middle section with the photo students were to list the details and emotion of the photo.  In the pre photo section students were to predict what may have happened and how people may have felt before the picture was taken.  In the post photo section students wrote what may have happened and the emotions after the photo was taken.

Here is a picture of some of my kiddos creating their posters:

Once each poster was completed the groups presented their work.
I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how much my students focused on the emotion attached to their picture.

 While this assignment was focused around our study of Patriot day it could certainly be used for any photograph.  As an extension activity students were to write about their photo and include their pre photo and post photo predictions in their writing.

*The entire lesson can be found here:

***A Special thank you to my 4th grade team member Callie Myers for finding this lesson.***

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Stop! Collaborate & Listen!

Stop, collaborate and listen. Ice is back with a bran new invention....Ok, Vanilla Ice might not be here with a brand new invention but I have a few ideas on working on those listening skills.

I don't know about your students but I have a few first grade students struggling with listening, especially when it comes to directions. Really? First graders don't listen 24/7??? I know! But we all know that on those BIG standardized tests a huge component is listening. Good listening ability is essential for learning.  In our classroom many of our weekly tests have listening components and we do have CC State Standard listening standards.
I wanted to find fun and engaging ways to challenge their listening capabilities and get them on the path to hanging on my every last word.....ok I am joking about that last part. But hey if that works...I'm bringing these home to my husband! 

I have developed a short and fun activity that I hope will help keep those little ears listening......

I call it...Listen Up! I give each of my students a sheet from the packet. Some of the pages have a picture and lines for writing, others just have pictures. When you open the freebie below you will get a better understanding. I did not include directions because I really just wing it. :) I then begin giving prompts.....color the cat black, draw a heart to the left of the cat, color the heart purple, write 2 doubles facts on the left side of the cat, write two short a words above the cat...and so on. The students are reviewing past skills and strategies while also being exposed to more vocabulary. 

                                                              click here to download

In the past I have played those old school games like Simon Says or Teacher Says in the hall or while waiting for an assembly to begin, played telephone and red light, green light. During real alouds, if there is a repetitive word or phrase we all shout it out together or I might choose a student at random to say the word/phrase. The "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed" series is great for this. 

It is also important to get kids talking about listening, being accountable for their listening skills, discussing what a good listener looks like and why it is important. I try to have an anchor chart where we discuss what a good listener looks like....I found this one on Pinterest, it is from The First Grade Parade. She used the book Lacy Walker, Nonstop Talker by Christianne C. Jones to get the kids thinking about listening.

I also like the book Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein. The kids love this story..they laugh and laugh. It seems to stick in their brains too. I have kids saying "Listen, don't be an interrupting chicken!" to one another. 

I hope these ideas help get your little friends listening up! What activities do you use in your classroom to cultivate listening skills?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Using Dough in the Elementary Classroom

There are very few things that bring me back to my childhood as quickly as the smell of a fresh box of crayons.... or playdough. :) There was just something magical in opening a fresh tub of dough and seeing that perfectly formed cylinder of brightly colored dough! 

Inspired by my own childhood memories, I got to thinking- how can we use dough to enhance our math stations?

I've tested out several "made from scratch" dough recipes. Some with unique smells, some editable.... But I've decided on my favorite recipe I'd like to share. Ultimately I chose this one, as it doesn't require any cooking and would be safe to create in the classroom. 

You could also add 1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity), food coloring (liquid, powder, or unsweetened drink mix) or scented oils.

So now that your dough is made... What do we do with it in the classroom?

Dough can be formed into any type of math manipulative you need!  I've found a variety of uses for it- just take a look at some of the ways you can use dough to represent different math concepts!

For my youngest students, we can use dough to represent different numbers and number words.

Students working on basic addition and subtraction will benefit from dough mats too, as they allow students to represent any problem in a variety of ways.

Dough can even assist students with place value!

Here are a few more of my favorite ways to use dough to teach math concepts:

Want to test out a dough mat with your students? I've got a free one just for you! With this dough mat, students will work on creating different flat shapes. This is a wonderful opportunity to discuss the number of edges and vertices with your students. 

Click the image to download your copy free!

All the dough mats featured above are available to you individually, or in a bundle. Click here to see them all! 

How do you use dough in your classroom lessons? I'd love to hear your ideas! Please take a moment to share your thoughts with us by posting a message below.

Want to connect with me? Click a button below! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Time to give some stuff away!

We have been rolling out a few awesome changes over at The Learning Highway.  We have a few incredible new people on our team.  As a celebration of these awesome changes and incredible new people, we have decided to each give away $5.00 worth of goodies from our stores.  Since we now have seven amazing contributors, we will be giving away up to $35.00 worth of goodies.

And now, introducing the seven spectacular ladies of The Learning Highway!

With just two years of teaching under my belt , a Bachelors in interior design and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, I enjoy creating an energetic classroom atmosphere where learning if fun. A place where hands-on, problem based and engaging activities come together to promote exciting learning experiences. I teach first grade and really feel like this is the grade I was made to teach. I love their excitment for learning and their sweet little personalities. I have been married to my husband Steven for 3 years and we live in a small town in Tennesee. I love all things water (lake, beach,pool), working out, shopping, reading and creating!

Stay tuned for Alicia's store, coming in October!

Amy Lynn
Click here to go to Amy's store!
My name is Amy, and I have been teaching fifth grade for the past 6 years. I am also a mom, a marathon runner, and a coffee-lover!  I live in Pennsylvania, and I earned my Masters in Education from Duquesne University in 2008. I believe that being a teacher is a challenging adventure that only other educators can truly appreciate. I am looking forward to sharing my classroom experiences, ideas, and lessons with everyone. As educators, we never stop learning, and our peers are the best teachers!  I hope that my ideas, advice, and stories will be helpful to you in your own classrooms!

Click here to go to Susan's Store!

I have been teaching for 8 years. I have taught 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades. I live in middle GA with my husband Lee and 4 year old son Parker. We have goats, chickens and pigs. I love to read, go shopping, and watch UGA football – Go DAWGS!!!
Click here to go to Kenzie's store!
My name is Kenzie and I have taught 4th grade in a Spanish/English Dual Language Immersion Program, 2nd grade, and Elementary and Middle School Spanish.  It is fun to get children excited about learning.  I am also interested in outdoor education and believe that all children need to have time to explore the great outdoors!  I am incredibly interested in education policy, the education of the children of migrant workers, as well as second language acquisition.  My interests include community service, camping, traveling, kayaking, swimming, and cooking.  

Click here to go to Tabitha's store!
My name is Tabitha and I'm an elementary math instructional coach in Tennessee. Since 2005, I've taught first and second grade and grades 3-5 summer camps for children with autism. Within my school district, I've also had the privilege to work as a Title I coordinator, Family Engagement Coordinator,  and Teacher Evaluator. In the evenings, I teach an occasional college course at the LOCAL UNIVERSITY and write blog articles for Promethean Planet.  I spend my evenings with my husband of almost 6 years and my two cats, Jellybean and Bubs.  We enjoy any activity that is relaxing and full of laughter! 

Click here to go to Laura's Store!
My name is Laura and I am a first grade teacher on the beautiful coast of North Carolina. I have been teaching for 13 years, during which I have also taught ESL {English as a Second Language}, received National Board Certification, and completed my MASTER'S DEGREE in Reading education.  I am Colombian...and therefore bilingual! I have been married for 9 years to Mr. Bearcat and we have two boys who are 8 and 3 and they keep me buuuuusy!!! I love to cook {and eat} healthy stuff, no matter how TIRED I am, I always feed my three boys real food. 

Click here to go to Juliana's Store!
 My name is Juliana. I am starting my fourth year as a kindergarten bilingual teacher for gifted and talented students.  My heart is in bilingual and gifted education. I was a bilingual assistant for kinder-fifth grade teachers for about four years before teaching 2nd grade.  I am from Bogotá, Colombia. I am married and have two wonderful stepchildren and two dogs, and now two kittens! I am very excited that you are taking the time be part of our blog. I am looking forward to meet and interact with all of you.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Reading log FREEBIE

Teachers have two “New Year” celebrations: one in January and the other one in August. Start the year off right by establishing a routine for reading, even if your students are not able to read or write yet. 

This reading log is designed for beginner readers. It contains a parent letter (English/Spanish), and a reading log calendar (September-June)

I hope you can use it in your class! Click on the picture to download. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Classroom Organization

Susan's Organization Tips
To go to Susan's store, click here.

Organization is key in the classroom!  Ask anyone I work with, even my students, and they will tell you that I am a freak about being organized.  One thing I like to do from the first day to keep us organized is color coding.  My students have colored duct tape on their notebooks.  Each color is for a certain subject.  I also have a sign that hangs on the board and tells them which notebook we are currently working in.  Each morning when students I arrive I have signs telling them which supplies they will need from their cubbies for the day.  These signs include the colors of the books and notebooks.  I also have students turn in their work to a bucket that is color coordination.  Y'all, I'm here to tell you, color coordination is awesome!!!

 Carmen's Organization Tips
To go to Carmen's store, click here.

With so much going on in the classroom every day, there are two places that I MUST keep organized in order to stay afloat: my desk area and the front board.

The stacks of important papers on my desk cannot be contained on just one desk. I use extra student desks along the wall to create more surface area, and hide the actual desk with a table cloth. :) On these extra desks I use crates with HANGING FOLDERS to organize papers. This is a lifesaver! In one crate I store all my texts and running records for guided reading. In another I have a folder for each day of the week. All my copies and plans go in—every morning I pull out what I need. Super simple!

#2. THE BOARD.  The school day goes MUCH more smoothly when I have a clear idea of our schedule and when the kids know what to expect next. Having the schedule posted on the front board is vital for my sanity. :) I also post our learning goals on the board. It helps me stay focused on the tasks at hand throughout the day, and I love having a visual organization that everyone in the class can refer to.

(Here's a link for the picture of the Daily Schedule:

Jessica's Organization Tips
To go to Jessica's store, click here.

I use colorful file folders for organizing my classroom.  In 5th grade, students have trouble keeping their work in one place.   I number the file folders with calendar numbers (this way I can reuse them year after year).  Each student is assigned a number, and they put all of their work through out the week in their folders. On Friday, I have the students sort out the work from their folders into *my folders*.  The teacher folders are labelled with the assignment name.  Inside of each teacher folder, I have a grade recording sheet.  After I am done grading each folder, I just need to enter the grades from the grading sheet into my grade book.  When I return assignments to students, they can 1. take them home, 2. throw them away, or 3. store them in a hanging folder file to show off their work during parent teacher conferences.  Most good students like to store their work through the year.  This system helps my students stay on track.  Many of them choose to keep an assignment sheet in their folders, so they can "check" things off as they go.  I also keep extra file folders with me in case of a surprise test or pop quiz, so I can easily find them.