Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Liquids & Solids Part 1: Making Butter

Yesterday, we had a special visitor from the dairy farm!

We learned how to make butter!! It was definitely a fun intro to our unit on solids and liquids!!

First, we looked at all the products you can make from milk. I would seriously cry if I ever became lactose intolerant... ice cream, cheese, whipped cream, butter... ohhh... I love dairy!

Next, the munchkins sorted the products.


We had to test out the steps to see what would happen!!!

They had way too much fun with this next step. Do you see my boy in red... he was warming up for his turn! Ha, ha!

This part was important!!

So, after a bit more shaking, it started to look (and sound) just right!

Do you see the butter. It's like MAGIC!


Creamy goodness!

This activity was a great way to inspire some descriptive language because all of our senses were used during the butter making process! 

To  SPICE UP their vocabulary, I modeled other ways of saying “soft”, “smooth”, “yummy”, and “yucky”! Yes, that's right.. 'yucky'... because a few of my kiddos were reluctant to try the butter. They missed out though...  it was absolutely creamy and scrumptious

Check back for my next post, because we'll be having more fun with solids, liquids and gases!!

Friday, November 7, 2014

SPICE UP Your Math Vocab & SWEETEN UP Your Graphing!

Mmm... chocolate!!

I. LOVE. CHOCOLATE! I seriously think I overdosed on treats this week!  The worst part of this confession? Each night after my boy went to bed...I would sneak into his bag of treats to get my sugar fix.  This is what a chocolate addiction does to a person. You are probably thinking,"Stealing treats from a little child? How dare you?". Well technically I worked just as hard to get those treats... I did take him trick-or-treating the RAIN!! So, I think I deserved each and every moment of those endorphin releasing highs!!!

On Monday, my grade 2's couldn't stop talking about all the fun they had trick-or-treating. So, as any teacher would... I made the most of their post-Halloween excitement and planned a couple of lessons around it.  We did a fun writing activity (which I will have to blog about later) as well as some graphing.

I got my munchkins to bring in some of their Halloween candy and we allowed these sugary treats to make a guest appearance in our math lesson ;)  Yes, that's how you SWEETEN UP your graphing!

Prior to Sorting and Graphing:

First, we reviewed some features of a graph and discussed important graphing vocabulary.

Building math vocabulary is just as important as building the critical thinking skills needed to succeed in math.  I have come up with a fun way to do that this year.

I use my Spot It & Steal It games which my kiddos just LOVE!! The best part? The game cards for my graphing game can do double duty and serve as a WORD WALL!!!

Before they play the game, they need to get familiar with the graphing terms. I posted up some of the bright picture cards (which are from the game) and the class had to figure out which words matched the pictures.  I will introduce more math vocabulary in the coming weeks, but for our first lesson, we just reviewed the basics...

Although we weren't working on a pictograph (or 'picture graph' depending on where you're from) we added it to the word wall because it came up in our discussion.  We talked about why a pictograph might be more feasible in day to day life (versus a concrete graph). For example, using real objects might not be a practical way to represent data in everyday life but using pictures to represent real objects is! Our graphing activity will be a nice segue into pictographs, so I figured, why not review the word!

Putting It In Action:

Some were better than others at planning their graph, BUT that's OK! I will use this info to guide my instruction over the next couple of weeks.  I will definitely have to review labeling and 1-1 correspondence with a few of them.

This little girl is helping her friend understand why his graph shouldn't go up to 15.

Wow! This graph impressed me! Although...after looking at it closely, I realized that even this student had troubles with 1-1 correspondence.  We will definitely add "1-1 correspondence" to our vocabulary (and word wall) next week! The great thing about the vocab cards is that it also serves to remind me of all the topics I need to cover!!!

Once my grade 2's are a bit more familiar with ALL the vocabulary cards, I will take them off the word wall and my kiddos will be able to play the Spot It & Steal It game! The game helps to keep important terms fresh in students' minds throughout the year! Plus, taking the words down frees up precious bulletin board real I can add my next set of math vocab words! (I will be creating more vocab cards/Spot It & Steal It games to cover all areas of math! )

How to Play: 

Each player places 3-4 picture cards out in front of them. Players take turns picking up a vocabulary card. The first person to SPOT the matching picture card yells STEAL and gets to keep the card!
If the card is in front of you, and you notice this before someone yells steal... you can SLAP the card so that NO ONE CAN STEAL IT!!! 

Kid-tested, super fun! I love these games :)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Spice Up Your Vocabulary - Autumn Ideas!

It's funny what can inspire a lesson idea!

This one was inspired by all the gorgeous pumpkins and squash at my local supermarket!

So many wonderful shapesSIZES, colors and texTurES!

The goal of this lesson: Inspire students to be more descriptive by getting them to use their 5 senses.

The activity we did was simple... we focused on writing descriptive words, drawing detailed pictures and labeling.

I encouraged my kiddos to SPICE UP the over-used words "big", "small", "rough", "smooth", "yummy" and "yucky"... but they also came up with some great adjectives on their own.  It just goes to show how students are more likely to write descriptively if their senses are immersed in the experience! I was impressed!

If you would like to try this with your class, you can grab a copy of my 5 SENSES BOOKLET HERE.  It's FREE [Update: I've taken this freebie down as I'm working on updating it to make it better]! You can also use my PICTURE THESAURUSES to spice up your students' writing throughout the year!

Now, grab yourself a pumpkin spice latte (don't tell me this post didn't leave you craving something pumpkin flavored!) and check out some more fall ideas from my Lesson Deli friends!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Drawing Self Portraits and Building Positive Self Talk


I am not an artist working on improving my artistic skills (see what I did there... I replaced that negative self talk with something a bit more positive!).  Although I am getting better, I can't deny the fact that I can barely draw a dog to save my life.  Once, I was trying to draw a dog on an anchor chart and when I was done, a very honest 8 year old commented, "That looks like a dog-chicken!"


Needless to say, I was thrilled when I found this gem of a video! I was actually looking for videos that would help me teach my students, but I found something even better... an art teacher to teach my students! Ha! I could not resist using this YouTube video as my 'substitute art teacher' for a solid 6 minutes and 29 seconds!:

The video is targeted towards kindergarten kids but I think this aspect makes it perfect for students of any grade! When it comes to directions, children and adults alike benefit from slow, step-by-step instructions (I know I do!). Also, many of my students are ESL learners, so this video was just perfect for them too!

The great thing about using a video to teach art is that you can pause, rewind or re-play the lesson   for  students who need extra time or just need to   re-visit a step. I loved this aspect of using video to teach my portrait lesson!

To help her draw her portrait, the artist uses a mirror. I don't have 20 mirrors in my class... BUT our school has an iPad cart... so, my kiddos put it in selfie mode and used this to attend to the details of their faces. I thought this was a brilliant idea (if I do say so myself)! Students also practiced taking portrait style photographs of each other which was a fun way to add a quick mini lesson on photography.  They had the option of using their photograph or "selfie mode" to help them as they worked on their portraits.

Here is an example of how they turned out!  


I read the book, "The Way I Act", by Steve Metzger.

{Note: The posters seen in this picture can be found HERE}

This book is PERFECT for inspiring students to build positive self talk and it was a great tool for sparking dialogue amongst my students. Bonus: The image on the cover was a good reminder of what a portrait entails - a close up shot, from the shoulders down!.

As I read each page, I turned to my class and asked them to reflect upon a time when they demonstrated each character trait mentioned in the book. By asking them to reflect, and share memories that highlighted their character, I was getting them to build evidence to support their beliefs about themselves. This exercise strengthens and shapes positive self talk. Saying words like "I am ...." is powerful, especially when supported by events in one's life because it helps to strengthen the belief.  Tony Robbins - you know, the energetic author and motivational speaker - encourages this exercise in his books.

My students were displaying all sorts of positive self-talk as they shared their stories. Let me tell you, it is heart warming to hear young children reflect upon moments when they were courageous, or accomplishments that made them proud! My heart melted several times during this sharing period!

As I read the story, I also introduced synonyms for each character trait by referring to my character posters. {You can get a free poster HERE!}.  Along with the posters, I use raffles to positively reinforce my students for demonstrating specific character traits. Praising children in this way helps to build positive self talk because these words of affirmation (saying things like, "Wow! You are so responsible!") influences how a child will perceive him/herself.

I love all the positive words my students used to describe themselves!  Just look at how perfect these turned out:

Not only do I love how these turned out... the best part is... I'm over hearing my students use this vocabulary in their conversations with each other.

For example, the other day one of my students said to me, (after quietly observing me getting frustrated with annoying tech issues I was having):

"Mrs. Pinkerton, remember?! PERSEVERE!!!!".

This made my day, not only because she used this fabulous 'spiced up' word but because if she was telling me to persevere, she is likely to use such vocabulary when faced with a challenge of her own. This is what self-talk is all about!

 Of course the beauty of having an 8 yr old tell you to persevere is just perfect all on its own!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Teach Procedural Writing Using "Pic Collage" & iPad Mini GIVEAWAY!!

My friends over at the Lesson Deli and I are throwing an AMAZING GIVEAWAY!! We have each blogged about our fav iPad apps... and... get this... we are giving away an iPad Mini! Woo hooo! This is SO EXCITING!!

But first, let me tell you a bit about an app that gets A LOT of use in my classroom: Pic Collage.

Kids love taking pictures and turning them into collages, am I right? Sooo, why not take that love and link it with some learning?!  That's what we do over in room 222... and let me tell you... it takes engagement to a WHOLE new level.

I have used Pic Collage in a dozen ways with my students... and funnily enough I have never actually used it for creating collages. Ha!

The layout options offered in this app make it really easy to get kids creating various media texts such as brochures, fliers, menus, posters, comics... and more. This is what I love most about the app...its versatility. I'm sure the app creator just wanted to give kids a fun way to design collages, but if you think outside the box, you can easily adapt this app to teach just about any subject! Another great feature? It's super easy to use, making it great for kiddos in ANY grade!

For this post, I will focus on how I use Pic Collage to teach procedural writing.  Using this app to teach procedural writing was inspired by a student I had last year who absolutely HATED writing, BUT LOVED creating paper airplanes (and boy was he good at it!). Sooo... I thought... hmm... maybe I could get my kiddos to write a procedure on something they were passionate about and that they were an expert at (like building paper airplanes).  I wanted an app that was easy to use and would keep my students engaged. The results were amazing!  My class was focused and having fun while writing!  They especially enjoyed taking pictures of all the steps in their procedure!

Here's how it works:

 My students enjoyed bringing in their materials and taking pictures for their procedure, however, in some cases it was difficult for students to bring in certain objects (either because they were too big, valuable or fragile). In this case, using pictures from the web made it feasible for students to write about ANY topic they were passionate about!

I whipped up a quick example to show you how easy it is to use this app. Here's my procedure on "How to Bake a Cake".

Notice the search bar. Just type in what you need an image for, and voila, you have loads of images to choose from!  Alternatively, you can take your own pictures and easily select images from the camera roll.

If you make a mistake, its easy to drag and drop the images right where you need them. You can change the layout mid-way if you realize that you need to add more steps or that you prefer another layout.

Once the images are in place, students can type in their procedure! 

They can play around with the style, size and color of the fonts!

To teach your students about all the functions in the app, have them click on the question mark at the top.  This is what will pop up: 

NOW for your chance to WIN AN iPAD mini!!!
This giveaway is only open to teachers (classroom and homeschool) who are living in the United States or Canada. The winning entry will be verified and proof of eligibility may be required. 

Contest starts September 26th and ends September 29th.

Enter to win by following my store (around 10 choices down)! Follow my Lesson Deli pals as well to increase your chances of winning!! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway An InLinkz Link-up
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Technology Thursday: QR Code Basics

QR codes are starting to pop up everywhere... they are even being added to classroom resources as a way to make learning a bit more engaging.
  They might seem a bit intimidating at first but they really are simple to use and create!


STEP 1:  Download a QR reader onto your device.  The one I currently have is 

STEP 2: Scan the code. 

Tip: You need a steady hand while holding the item with a QR code on it.
 It might be easier to lay it on a flat surface.

I really like this app because it keeps track of all the QR codes you've scanned. 
Simply click on the history button (the clock type button next to the star).

You can also bookmark your favorite links!


It is SO simple. Seriously. If you can copy a link and press enter then you can create a QR code. I'm not kidding. (A lot of people are surprised when I tell them that it's really that easy!)

Before we start, get yourself onto a good 'QR code generating' website.  

STEP 1:  Decide what you want your QR code to link to. 
There are lots of options to choose from.

STEP 2: If you are linking to a website, just copy and paste the link.  
If you want the QR code to link to a page of text, simply copy and past the text. 
Whichever option you choose, this site will let you know what you need to provide (link, text, etc.)

STEP 3: Click 'Download QR code"

You could add a step in between and change the foreground color, but you really don't need to do this.

So there you have it. QR codes. Easy!

Now that you know how to scan and create QR codes, you might be wondering how this relates to the classroom... 
Check back for my next Tech Thursday post when I'll delve deeper into this.

Until next time, happy scanning!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Technology Thursday: Speech App

I am thrilled to be linking up with Teaching Trio for Technology Thursday!

I am addicted to iPad apps and just love incorporating them into my lessons.

However, since I'm still on summer holidays and not really in "school mode" yet, I am going to focus on an app that I've been using with my son this summer. (By the way, I have a TON of great app/tech recommendations for teachers, so check back each Thursday for new ideas!)

At first glance, it might seem like the app I'm about to introduce is an unusual choice.  
Let's see... some reasons would include:

1. It is intended for patients with aphasia (a disorder that affects one's ability to process and use language). The most common cause of aphasia is stroke and it often occurs in older folks
2. It's not a game. You don't earn points. You would think that this app would be the last thing a child would want to "play" on their iPad.

It's a good thing that I have an open mind and an eye for effective teaching strategies (if I do say so myself!) otherwise I would have skipped right past this awesome app!

So let me begin by saying my son is 4... he does not have aphasia nor does he have any issues processing or using language.  BUT, I figured if this app is good enough for the elderly suffering from a pretty serious speech disorder... it would be perfect for teaching anyone with a speech issue (serious or not)!

Now, my son has an outstanding vocabulary and he enjoys telling stories!  All in all his language skills are advanced for his age. [You can check out this {previous post} to see what I mean].  But he is having some issues pronouncing certain blends.  Hubby has an Australian accent, so for the longest time, we couldn't figure out if this had something to do with our son dropping random consonants. For example, our boy will say mirra instead of mirror, which is fine (and pretty darn adorable), but I've noticed that there are other sounds he seems to have issues with... like his "s" blends. These blends can't be attributed to the accent... so I figured it was time to nip things in the bud.

I downloaded the app because the title made me think it would be a perfect fit for my son (it's called "Consonant Blends") AND it was free (yay for free apps!).  I was expecting a fun kids app that would teach blends using games with bright, engaging colors.

When the app started, I thought, oh dear...he's not going to want to do this.  

But I was wrong.  

My son happily flipped through the screens to practise new blends. It was a lot more engaging than having his mother repeat: "Look at my mouth. Look where I'm putting my tongue. Look carefully. Are you looking? Stop looking at the cat outside the window! LOOK at my MOUTH!!!". 

But, you put a random person's enlarged mouth on an app, and that's it, the kid blocks out the world and is focused on how she is modeling the sound. Fine, don't listen to your mother! Listen to this random lady instead! :'( (Hem hem... "rejected mother rant" over.)

I think, for my little man, being in control of how long he wants to spend on each blend is what makes this app so attractive. He can tap the screen if he wants to see and hear the sound being modeled again. He can choose to practice blends he's good at when he's tired of practicing the trickier ones.  He can interact with the app by swiping, tapping, listening, watching.  All of this is much more exciting than listening to his mother (*sniff*).  But hey, I am just relieved that he's so engaged when using this app... that it's working...and that he is happy to spend 5-7 minutes a day practising his blends. I am truly shocked at how well this app has worked out!

The lessons here: 

1. Try using apps that are intended for other purposes/audiences.  You might just discover an innovative approach to teaching an everyday concept. I think you'll be surprised!
2. Sometimes it's not all about games and high scores. I think kids are motivated by being in control. Having the freedom to choose what they learn and when, is very empowering. Being able to choose when to move on to trickier skills (ie. when the child feels ready) or being able to review skills that have already been mastered, allows a child to set his/her own pace. 
3. Although I was doing the exact same thing as the model in the app when trying to teach my son how to say certain blends, my son would never have been able to study the nuances of where to place his tongue or how to shape his mouth as clearly as the app demonstrates.  The third lesson then: Don't underestimate just how effective some of these seemingly 'simple' apps can be.  

If you have a student who is struggling with pronouncing blends correctly, try this app.  I noticed a huge improvement in my son and I highly recommend it! Within a week he was calling Pider Man, Spider Man and now we're moving on to changing 'fruck' (which can sometimes sound like something else) to truck!


Check out {this link} to learn about other speech and language apps!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Classroom Management Tips

Using Positive Reinforcement to Manage your Class 

I have been teaching for ten years now, and I have to say, it took me a while to realize that it couldn’t be sheer luck that year after year I keep getting blessed with a “good class”... I would even dare to say, the “best class ever... in the history of classes!”.  

Seriously, each and every year teachers will comment on how lucky I am to have such a well behaved group. Each year, substitute teachers come by my room to let me know just how much they love covering my class because my students are always so respectful and responsible. 

After years of being "lucky", I realized that there was something that I was doing that just seemed to work like magic! It had nothing to do with luck at all.

It’s my raffle system! 

WHO doesn't love being entered into a raffle? The anticipation of winning something...anything... gets folks of ANY age excited! That's why this strategy works so well..with any grade!

I have shared this strategy with many of my teacher friends but noticed that some were having more success than others.  I came to the conclusion that knowing how to implement the system is a crucial element... because as B.F Skinner said:

For those of you who are new to this idea, here's an explanation of the raffle system in a nutshell: Every time you catch your students following expectations and behaving appropriately, you give them a raffle. The raffle is put into a raffle box and at the end of the day, there is a draw.  The selected students win a prize! You will be surprised that the prize actually doesn't have to be that big - it's all about pairing the prize with praise and words of affirmation. 

The best part? Setting up the raffles can be as low prep as you want it to be.  Simply cut or tear paper into strips that are long enough for students to write their name on and use any old container as a raffle box. That's it. Done!

But, I like taking it one step further by integrating character educationbuilding positive self talk, as well as vocabulary building into my raffles. 

Ok so now for the HOW:

1. Do not give any attention to negative behaviors.
2. Instead, focus your attention on the kids who are doing the right thing and praise the heck out of them.
3. Be generous with raffles when your goal is to change a specific behavior
4. Be unpredictable.
5. Pair the prize with praise.  This is MORE important than the actual prize itself.

The main purpose of a raffle system is to change disruptive behaviors into behaviors you want to see more of. 


Don’t even acknowledge these behaviors for a second. By giving these kids attention for misbehaving, guess what's going to happen? More misbehaving! In my class, I want to teach my students that they will ONLY get my attention for positive behaviors (such as being respectful, responsible, inclusive, caring, etc.).  As soon as I see someone behaving in a way that I’m not pleased with I immediately find someone who IS behaving the way I expect...and I reinforce that child right away.  I do not make mention of the misbehaving child. It seems counter intuitive but it works! 


It’s so important to pair the idea of each raffle with lots of positive words. Your students need to build an association between this raffle and your praise.  By doing this you are also helping them expand their vocabulary (ie. if you are mindful to use a variety of adjectives to describe how fantastic they are!).
Instantly, you will see everyone wanting to change their behavior so that they can win a raffle too.  It causes a ripple effect. Students quickly realize that the only way to get the attention they desire is to demonstrate positive behaviors.

But this can ONLY work if you keep focusing on the positive behaviors. This is, at times, easier said then done, hence my reason for stressing this point so much.


In the beginning of the school year I have my work cut out for me.  Kids will test what they can get away with so it is important to implement this system right away.  (But don’t stress if it’s the middle of the year and you’re reading this - better late than never I say!)

Last school year, I remember my chatty lil monkeys would take for. ev. er. to trickle into the classroom after recess.  I get it, recess is exciting, there’s so much fun to be had, and every kid wants it to linger for as long as possible.  But I don't have time for time wasters and this is a behavior I like to nip in the bud right away.

This is how ‘being generous’ works:
(Let’s take the classic “taking forever to come into class after recess scenario”)

First, I let my students know what my expectation is and that I will be handing out raffles to the first 5 kids who come into class as soon as the bell rings.

On day one, I’ll give out a bunch (ie. 3 or more) of raffles to the first 5 students to come in from recess promptly. Now the 6th kid in might feel a bit bummed - but guess what - tomorrow, he’s going to be even quicker. The seventh or eighth kid to enter the class is also thinking ‘hey I was pretty close too... that darn chatterbox beside me... tomorrow I’m going to ignore her so I can get a bunch of raffles too”. For the first little while I will give out 3,4 or 5 raffles to the first several kids. Gradually, I'll reduce it.

Before you know it, the whole class is trickling in around the same time.  At this point I don’t need to hand out so many raffles anymore. Heck, I might not even give out raffles at all for this behavior once it has been changed.  

On occassion, I will hand out raffles here and there, just to keep the positive behaviors continuing.


Usually, I give my kiddos a heads up as to how many raffles I will be giving out and for what behavior... but sometimes I will make it completely spontaneous. This just keeps them on their toes. For instance, let's say homework was assigned over the weekend and only two students handed it in. Even though I didn’t announce that students would receive raffles for completing homework, I will give these two superstars a bunch of raffles (3 or more) just to make a point! It rewards the kids who are responsible and shows the rest of the class that they just never know when they might get rewarded!  

It might seem like homework has nothing to do with classroom management, but it does. If I don't have to waste precious class time chasing up notes, homework, trip money etc. this results in a smooth flowing morning (the time when I get students to hand this stuff in)! A smooth flowing morning sets the tone for the rest of the day!


It’s really not necessary to go out and buy a whole bunch of goodies from the store. In fact I think the smaller the prize the better. This is because the prize shouldn’t be the focus. It’s your constant praise, attention and encouragement that your students value (and need) the most!


When I hand out the raffles I try to remember to be very specific about the behavior I am reinforcing.  
Up until last year, I used to get kids to write their names on regular old paper that I had cut into rectangles. This worked fine to a degree, but I found that when I asked the raffle winners to recall what they won the raffle for, sometimes they would forget, or it would take them a while to remember. I needed to tweak my system...and so I did!  

My new system can be used for: character education, story writing, building self esteembuilding a positive classroom climate, and developing positive self-talk in children...all while building vocabulary too

This is just a sneak peak at what's inside my prize pack. (Update: this giveaway is now over). Click HERE if you would like to learn more about it. 

If you want a chance at winning My Raffle System, enter the contest below!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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