Teaching Matters

A collection of resources, experiences, and projects related to teaching

Teaching With Technology May 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — teaching2learn @ 9:38 pm

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have become extremely interested in how technology can be used effectively and appropriately in elementary classrooms. Through my extensive research on the topic I discovered a terrific amount of online resources that can be used to enhance instruction and student engagement and motivation. In order to compile these findings in one place I created a website that is dedicated to maintaining a collection of free online resources for the integration of technology in classrooms. It is by no means comprehensive, but it is the fruit of many hours of research and searching for resources. I intend to continue to add to and revise the site as I gain more experience and become aware of additional resources, and I hope that others will find it a useful resource.


I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions if you take a moment to visit the site.


Technology Integration in the Elementary Classroom April 15, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — teaching2learn @ 8:47 pm

Recent research into the use of technology in the classroom led me to find some outstanding sites on this topic, and I’d like to share a few of them here.

While technology integration seems to hold a key to increased student engagement, comprehension, and motivation, it also has its inherent risks. The most obvious concerns to me are internet safety and ethics. Classroom management and strict guidelines become crucial when students are working with the internet. An excellent resource by Dr. David Leu on this topic can be found here. Dr. Leu covers these issues and suggests websites and other resources for teachers wishing to include technology in the classroom.

In my search for information, I came across some online communities which I am very excited to have joined. What an awesome time to be a teacher, when the internet can offer so many opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other for the benefit of students! These 2 communities are only a sampling of the resources that can be found online:

http://www.classroom20.com/ (technology integration)

http://elementaryteachersnetwork.ning.com/ (elementary teachers network)

I look forward to updating my blog with personal experiences with technology integration in the classroom. I would love to hear from others in the field who have experience to share, so please leave a comment to share what works for you.


Standards-Aligned Learning Games April 6, 2010

Filed under: DIY Teaching Supplies,Learning Centers — teaching2learn @ 6:26 pm
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With PSSA testing (Pennsylvania’s standardized tests) just around the corner, teachers are scrambling to reinforce necessary skills that will appear on the tests. Test preparation workbooks are one option for preparing students for these tests, and they are the best option for preparing students for the language and format of these tests. But they are not necessarily motivational or engaging for students as a review of content.

One of the assignments for my math methods course was to create a math game aligned to a particular assessment anchor. The games that my peers and I create will be donated to a local elementary school that struggles to meet AYP. These games will create an opportunity for students to practice test content in an engaging format. While they can be time consuming to create, if I make 1 or 2 durable games per year eventually I will have a stockpile of games for my classroom that can be used as centers to review concepts and skills throughout the year.

For my assignment I was given the fifth grade assessment anchor: M5.A.1.2.1: Match the standard form to the word form of decimal numbers through the hundredths. After giving it much thought, I realized that there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Why not use a commercially produced game for inspiration? I decided to fashion my game after the game, Sequence for Kids. I chose this game because I could adapt it to require students to match word form to standard form and also have an aspect of strategy and chance so that students who are below benchmark have opportunities to win.

In Microsoft Word, I created a game board  and printed it on two sheets of legal sized paper. Each square on the board is the standard form of a decimal number through the hundredths. The game board is laminated to poster board for durability.

game board printed on 2 sheets of legal sized paper and laminated to poster board

Next, again using Word, I created 2 game cards with the word form for each of the  numbers on the game board. There are also Wild cards, and “poison frog” cards that allow players to play any space or remove another players chip. Each card is marked with a letter so that it can be matched to the answer key. The answer key is a “shrunken” game board with corresponding letters on the spaces. This allows students to check themselves without the need to access the teacher to settle disputes. Cards and answer key are laminated for durability.

Word form game cards: 2 for each number on the board plus special action cards

Answer key gameboard

Here is the game all put together. The game chips were made by using a craft punch to punch circles out of colored foam.  Directions were printed and laminated on the back of the answer key. To store the game, I put it all into a file pocket which I labeled with a contents list and the applicable standard and assessment anchor.

Complete game with foam playing pieces and directions

File pocket storage solution labeled with standards and content list

Standard-aligned learning center game complete!

To play a card, students match the word form on the card to the standard form on the game board and place one of their game chips on that space. The winner is the first one to get 4 of their color chips in a row.  I hope the students enjoy playing it!

Other well known games lend themselves nicely to adaptations for the classroom. Some of my classmates recently created math games fashioned after ‘War.’ One required students to solve fraction problems and compare their solution with the solutions of the other players to determine the winner of each round. Another had students solving for perimeter of polygons in a similar game. These are very engaging for students and require mathematical discussion between players. They are also simple to create and laminate.


Thrifty Individual Whiteboards! April 3, 2010

Are you looking for ways to make your lessons more interactive and engaging for students? I have seen individual whiteboards, or dry erase boards, being used in several classrooms, with great results. Besides making lessons more interactive, individual whiteboards are excellent tools for formative assessment throughout your lessons. Imagine having your students solve a math problem on their whiteboards and hold up their boards  when finished. With a quick glance around the room, you will have important information about each student’s level of understanding and will be able to address misconceptions immediately.

If you’ve ever priced these boards you know that buying a class set of whiteboards is expensive. A quick internet search found prices around $60 and upward for a class set of whiteboards.  This article inspired me to make my own at a very low cost. Below are the steps and sources of the materials I used.

Inexpensive Whiteboards option #1

First, I made a trip to my local Lowes. Here I found a sheet of smooth, white “panelboard” for $11.87.

"White Panelboard"

4'x8' White panelboard found in the lumber section of Lowes

I chose a sheet that appeared to be scratch-free and lugged it over to the cutting area. Thankfully, the man who was working the cutting area was very happy to help me, and he knew exactly what to do because it just so happens I am not the first teacher in my town to create “thrifty whiteboards!” After tax, I paid $12.59 for 32 whiteboards, making each 12″x12″ marker board cost only 40 cents.

He made all the cuts for free!

Next, I made a quick stop at Walmart to pick up a half-yard of felt for $1.89. This will be large enough to cut up to make felt erasers for each board. For 32 erasers, each will cost about 6 cents.

Once home, all I needed to do was to lightly sand the edges of each board. This only took a matter of minutes, and they are ready to be used!

Lightly sanding the edges

Ready to use!

Want another, even less expensive option?

For $1 you can buy a sheet of white foam board at the Dollar Tree. You will find the foam board sold alongside the poster board. From each board, you will be able to cut  five 8 1/2 ” x 11″ pieces. Slip each piece into a smooth, medium-weight sheet protector, use a glue runner to secure, and now you have a very inexpensive whiteboard.

Before sliding into the sheet protector, run a line of adhesive along the edge of the board.

Another inexpensive whiteboard option

This method will cost you about 33 cents each (20 cents for each board and around 13 cents for each sheet protector – Staples brand 100/pack). This option creates a much lighter board, but they will not be extremely durable.

Visit Minds in Bloom for an excellent blog post with helpful suggestions for using whiteboards in the classroom.

If you decide to try either of these options, please leave a comment to let me know how it works for you.


Hello Fellow Elementary Teachers! April 2, 2010

Welcome to my blog! This is the first post of what I hope will be many posts on topics including projects that I complete for and in addition to course work, experiences in the field, and ideas and tips that I find along the way.

This blog was developed to chronicle my own experiences and projects and to highlight the ideas and experiences of fellow elementary teachers and pre-service teachers.  My hope is to create a resource for myself and others in the field.

Here are some of the topics that I would like to include:

  • Thrifty solutions for the classroom (sources for inexpensive teaching tools and materials, tutorials for making these items if applicable)
  • Mentor text ideas (books that are perfect for teaching concepts and literary elements)
  • Literature connections to mathematics (a list of books related to different math concepts)
  • Article summaries and discussions (summaries of teaching articles, reactions, and real-life application)
  • Anecdotes of experience (What I have witnessed as being successful for teachers in the field)

Stay tuned for the first “thrifty teaching” post – coming soon!