I am gearing up to teach a unit on fractions.  In the state of Oregon, students don't learn fractions until 3rd grade.  I am thankful that Common Core will start them earlier, because they can be a hard concept to grasp!

I started out my unit by using Lindsey The Teacher Wife's Fraction Fun unit last week.  We did her sort and made the little books.  I also loved the posters to add to my math wall as the students learned the vocabulary words denominator and numerator.

My district uses the math curriculum Bridges in Mathematics from The Math Learning Center.  Bridges has some great lessons, but they needed to be supplemented with some paper pencil practice (gotta pass that state test!).  You can find ALL of the Bridges supplemental practice pages for free on their website:
These are wonderful ways for my students to practice skills as morning work, or for students who are struggling with the concepts.  Spanish versions are also available.

Another curriculum my district uses for grades 3-5 is Digging into Mathematics.  This is a series of three workbooks per grade level that are based on NCTM's focal points (the way Oregon's math standards are organized, too).  In each workbook, there are lesson overviews, vocabulary words, learning targets, practice pages, and a skill check.  I plan to use Digging into Math as the intro to each standard, then teach a corresponding Bridges lesson, then follow up with the Digging into math skill check.  The skill checks are short - only 5 questions, so they do not take long to grade.  If I stay on top of the grading (crossing my fingers!!!), I should be able to pull students who did not do well on the skill check each morning and do some re-teaching with the Bridges practice pages and other worksheets from the web.  

I plan to do two extra lessons that are not included in our curriculum: one to teach greater than/ less than (that I will tell you about next week) and one to teach parts of a whole.  Remember this book that I got from Goodwillbooks.com?  
Click here to get the Hershey Fractions Book from Amazon
I made a worksheet with a Hershey's bar on it for the students to manipulate and move around as I read the book.  Just copy a half class set on brown construction paper and cut in half.  Using real Hershey's bars would be better, but when you have 31 kids in your class, that kind of stuff adds up quickly!

Here is the worksheet on Google Docs for you to use:

How do you teach fractions?  Do you know of any great websites that teach to your state standards or the Common Core for math?  

Have you ever gardened with your students?  I haven't.  A teacher at my school last year, Kelly, wrote several grants and with her hard work, was able to transform our dull courtyard into a beautiful garden.

Kelly was transfered to a different school this year, so it is up to all of us teachers to keep up the garden.  When I told her I didn't know anything about gardening, let alone doing it with 30+ kids, she told me to start small and do container gardening.  I dabbled a bit over the summer.  My son and I planted sunflowers in a plastic greenhouse, then transferred them to a big, self watering container from Ikea when they had sprouted.  They did well throughout the fall, but have been looking pretty dumpy all winter long.
image from Ikea.com

Then I found this book, Gardening with Little Miss Greenfingers.  It's an eBook filled with wonderful tips for container gardening.  The 85 page book has ten chapters, covering all the basics from supplies you will need, places to put your containers for optimal growth, and the best culinary herbs to grow.  In the introduction, the author, Anja Koch states:
"A lot of popular herbs like Chives, Parsley or Oregano are surprisingly easy to grow and need little care. Little Miss Greenfingers will show you the little tricks to achieve successful herb gardening! At the end of this book you will be able to grow your own supply of healthy and delicious herbs for cooking or maybe some healthy herbal teas."
I plan to grow these herbs with my students at school and then plant them in containers in our garden.  Once the herbs are ready to pick, students will get to bring the fresh herbs home for their families to cook into delicious food.  It will be a great learning experience for the children and will help the families have access to free, fresh, and healthy herbs for dinner.  A win-win for us all!
image from gardening-advice.net
Anja has graciously agreed to give away 10 copies of her ebook to my followers!  Here is what you will need to do:
  1. Follow Anja Koch on Twitter (@akoch13), 
  2. Like her website www.gardening-advice.net (there is a FB like button on the top left of the page)
  3. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.gardening-advice.net (find the sign-up form on the right side of the page)
After you have done all three, just fill out this simple form letting me know and you will be entered in the giveaway.  All submissions are due on Tuesday, April 3rd and I will use random.org to select 10 winners.  Good luck!

If you can't wait for the giveaway and need a copy of the book now, you can get a Kindle copy on Amazon for only $2.99! - Gardening With Little Miss Greenfingers

Have you gardened with kids before?  What is your favorite thing to grow? Flowers? Vegetables? Herbs?  Do you have any other tips for me before I start this project?

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
Do you have a home computer and a work computer and struggle with transferring files from both?  I have the solution for you: Dropbox!

When my school district gave all teachers laptops three years ago, I gave my personal laptop to my husband since his was really old and needed to be upgraded.  Finally, last month, my husband got a new laptop and gave me my old one back.  I had been wanting to separate my school life from my personal life (and get all my pictures and music off my work computer), so this was the perfect opportunity.  I was really liking not having to take my computer and charger home each night.  But, when I created something new at home, or started it at school and wanted to finish it at home, I was having to lug around the laptops (school laptop to home, and personal laptop to school).

One day I was reading Danielle's blog over at It's Grow Time, and read her post about Dropbox.  It's a cloud storage system where you can save documents from one computer and access them from another.  You can share documents with just yourself or with other people.  And the best part, it's FREE!!!

If you are interested in using this resource, click here.  You start out with 2 GB of space, but 250 MB is added when people I invite sign up for the service.  Basically, a win-win for everyone! :)

How do you manage documents and storage?  Do you have two separate computers or do you only use one like I used to?
My district uses Bridges in Mathematics from The Math Learning Center for our math curriculum.  I absolutely love it!  It has tons of fun games and lessons that really teach students to conceptually understand math.  Their website is full of all kinds of freebies, but can be hard to navigate.  I found this list on their website and wanted to re-create it for all of you, with some extras added in that I love to teach with, as well!  Since the list is so long, this will be a 4-part post.  This week, we will look at some books for intermediate grades.


Counting & Number Sense
I love using technology in my classroom.  I have four Mac computers where students can use a variety of software, two iPod touches for math and reading apps, tape and CD players to listen to books being read, two portable DVD players where students watch Scholastic DVD's of books on the "Read-A-Long" option, and four RCA digital voice recorders for students to practice fluency or to improve and revise their writing.   When my wonderful mother-in-law got my family an iPad for Christmas this year, I knew I would be able to use it in my classroom at times, as well.

Most of the apps for my iPods work well on the iPad, but I wanted to find something that really showcased the iPad's capabilities.  When Elka Palka Productions offered to send me a preview of their interactive book, Elfishki and the Giant Cake, I was beyond excited!  This company specializes in fairy tales in English and Russian, which is awesome, because I have seven Russian students in my class!  Go to their website to see their Fairy Tales, Myths and the Legends of Elfishki - more coming out soon!

You can choose to either read the story yourself or have the app read it to you.  The narrator in the read aloud option has a very calming voice, full of expression.  Like I said above, you can also choose either English or Russian.  There is a little flag in the top right of the home screen that tells you which language it is on.  In either the read-it-yourself or listen-along version, you can touch any of the illustrations to make them move and make noises.  On one page, a character is drying glasses in a restaurant.  If you click the character, he makes a wiping noise.  If you touch the glasses, they make clinking sounds.  At the bottom of most pages are little question marks.  When these are touched, the narrator reads aloud a comprehension question - these are great!  I was expecting a knowledge based question, like "Who is the main character?"  But, the questions are much higher up on Bloom's Taxonomy: they ask the reader to make connections, to interpret what they've read/heard so far, and also make inferences and predictions.  I was pleasantly surprised!  I read this with my 6 year old son, and when he didn't know the answer, we would just listen to the page again.  It is so much better than a traditional book on tape - you can't easily rewind those to the beginning of the page and I haven't seen any that ask comprehension questions for the reader to answer out loud.

After I previewed the book with my son, I brought the iPad to school and let a couple responsible students try out the new app.  For my iPods, I set up folders of apps and organized them based on subject (math apps, vocab apps, etc).  I also disabled Safari and iTunes.  I do not want students looking up anything inappropriate on accident, or trying to purchase music or other apps on my account!  For the iPad, since it belongs to me, I haven't done that yet, so I made sure to choose students who would be honest and only use the app I asked them to.  No surfing Pinterest during Daily 5 time! :)

Here is one of my Ukrainian students using the app.  She LOVED that she could read it in English or Russian!

Another feature on this app is a game.  In the first picture, you see my student playing it.  It's a cake decorating game.  Kids can add little pictures, decorations, and words to the cake.  I asked the students to read the story and play around in the story (with the illustrations and comprehension questions) before playing the game.  This way, the game was a fun treat after reading the story.  The entire app got two thumbs up from all my students who got to try it!

I will definitely be buying more of Elka Palka Productions' interactive books as they are released.  I thought it was cute and once I saw all the comprehension questions and what a wide range of questions are asked, I was hooked.  This is a great way for students to practice "Listen to Reading" during my Daily 5 literacy block.  If only I had more iPads for my classroom!

Make sure to check out Elka Palka's Twitter account and Facebook page.  You can also buy this app directly from the iTunes store for only $2.99.

How do you use technology in the classroom?  Do you have an iPad or another type of tablet that you have used before?  Any other great apps out there that we all should try?

I received one of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
Tomorrow is Read Across the USA and it is also Twin Day at my school.  My teaching neighbor Carla (who teaches 2nd grade and is one of my best friends) and I decided to dress up as silly teacher twins!  My idea was to create shirts that said "Teacher 1" and "Teacher 2".  If you've been to my crafting blog, Nicole's Crafting Adventure, you'll know that I've recently been obsessed with freezer paper stencils and have made shirts, onesies, even kitchen towels.  My idea was to use a combination of fabric paint and iron on transfers to create the shirts. 

You can make them, too!  Here is what you will need:
  • 2 red shirts (I found mine at Target on sale for $5 each)
  • White fabric paint
  • Painting sponge
  • Piece of cardboard to put between the shirt layers
  • Printer with black ink
  • Iron on Transfer paper - mine was this brand because it was cheapest: Printworks White T-Shirt Transfers
  • Scissors
  • My file FREE from TpT
Once you gather your supplies, download my file and print on the transfer paper.  Don't worry it's backwards, after you iron it on, it will be the right way.

Cut out the circle and bubble cut around the word "Teacher" and the number.  Get as close to the words as possible, but you don't have to be exact.  With the circle, you need to cut right on the line, since we will be painting around it.  We don't want a ring of red inside the circle!

Once it's cut out, iron the circle onto your shirt on a high setting without steam.  Leave the white paper on.

Next, put the piece of cardboard between the shirt layers and sponge on white fabric paint to the inside of the circle.  I used Tulip brand paint and I got it at Michael's.

Let dry for at least an hour.  I let mine dry overnight and I did the last step the next morning before school.  Only took about 10 minutes.  Once the paint is dry, lay the "teacher" word and the number on top of the circle.  Iron on to set, being careful to keep it moving so you don't burn the paint.

Peel all the white paper off, and voila!  A "Teacher 1" and "Teacher 2" shirt to wear for Read Across USA Day!

I also bought these headbands for us to wear.  I couldn't find plain blue ones (lots of 4th of July ones with red and blue, though), so I ended up buying a dozen and figured I could find uses for the others or just stick them in my prize box at school.

Don't forget to head over to my TpT store to grab the freebie graphic to make this!  How do you celebrate Read Across USA?

I also made a second set for one of my very best friends who is a Title I Reading Specialist in a district across town.  She planned and organized a family event tonight: Camp Read-a-Lot!  Here she is with one of her colleagues and the crazy cat himself!

I'm linking up with Steph from Falling Into First!