Many schools are out for the next two weeks, which gives teachers the opportunity to catch up on their personal lives. Sometimes, though, teachers like to use this time for planning. As the number of subscribers to this blog climbs, I am aware that many of you may not have had time to read all of the posts, or might have missed some of the earlier suggestions. So, I thought this might be a good time of year to summarize and emphasize some of the most valuable resources I have reviewed so far. Today, I would like to offer my Favorite Teacher Tools:
#3 – Thinkfinity: This site is a great place to look for quality, standards-based lessons in a variety of subjects. Many of the lessons are linked to free online printables or interactives that will enhance your own prepared lessons.
#2 – Extend-A-Menu: This tool is invaluable for any teacher who would like to differentiate by using menus. By selecting from his or her own online menus, the teacher can create a printable task sheet for any number of topics. (If you do not want to purchase it, you can use the demo option at the top.)
#1 – Triptico: Download this tool to your desktop, and you will be amazed at the ease in which you can incorporate it into your daily routines. Once you load a class list, it will select teams for you, randomly choose names, create word magnets (with 42 different backgrounds to choose from; it’s great for an interactive board!) and many other really neat tasks. It is very user-friendly, and the students love it.
Here are links to my posts on each of the above in case you would like to read more about them (the above links will take you directly to the sites for each resource): Thinkfinity, Extend-A-Menu, Triptico
I apologize to those of you who may not celebrate Christmas, as these puzzles all fit that theme. I did look for online logic puzzles to represent the other winter holidays, and sadly did not find any that would be appropriate for this post. I will try to be more prepared next year!
The following links are to online, flash based games that require strategy and/or logic. They would make good centers for the last few days before the break if you are in the same boat as the teachers in our district, who are teaching into next week. Parents, here is a way to keep your kids challenged over the holidays. Remember, the games will be most effective if there is an accompanying reflection, whether written or verbal, about the thinking that is used to complete each puzzle.
This post, from The Art of Education blog, gives some great suggestions for a simple art challenge for the students who might be so inclined. I would extend the topic even further by having the students brainstorm other possible ideas for illustrating an entire page: ladybugs, flowers, holiday candy, cars, etc…
One of the creative thinking tools that my students learn is S.C.A.M.P.E.R. It is an acronym to help people to remember different ways inventive ideas can happen: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to Another Use, and Rearrange. It was originally developed by a man named Roger Eberle. The holidays lend themselves to this type of thinking, as the students are already feeling a little loose and silly – willing to take risks with unusual ideas. Here is a link to a first grade teacher’s activity in which her students had to think of ideas for the putting candy canes to another use. And here are some other ones I’ve used:
Substitute other materials for making a “snowman” for a place where it never snows.
Combine two holidays and draw a picture of a family celebrating them.
Adapt Santa’s sleigh to another environment – like the desert or outer space.
Modify (Magnify or Minimize) a holiday dessert.
Put flying reindeer to another use for the rest of the year.
Eliminate presents from a holiday. What could be done to celebrate instead?
Rearrange the holiday calendar. What months would have which holidays, and why?
If you prefer having pre-made sheets, you can purchase PDF’s of these in my SCAMPER Through the Seasons pack on TPT. Here are some examples from my third graders:
Rain Deer Orchestra is just a fun site that can easily be differentiated for various music levels. I am not sure why the site designer chose that particular way to spell the title, but it’s the songs that are important. Go to this site, and you can tap on the noses of the reindeer to play music. There are a couple of songs that have prompts to accompany them for those students who are just learning, and there is the option to “free play”. For the middle-of-the-road students, or as a class lesson, the teacher could play a few notes, and then ask the student(s) to predict which reindeer would make the next appropriate note.
This is a neat Java-based site that allows you to design your own snowflake with text. Teachers could have their students create short messages in their snowflakes: a sentence from a book character’s point of view, what they would give the world as a gift, their favorite things about winter, etc…, and decorate the classroom bulletin boards with the print-outs. I found this link on KB Connected, where you can also find a link to over 100 holiday related websites.
The History of English in Ten Minutes is a series of short animated videos from Open University. They are humorous and quick – so quick that you may need to replay them a few times in order for them to sink in. They are slightly irreverent, and aimed at the 12 and up crowd, so please preview them before showing them to a class. I like the Shakespeare one since my daughter has been recently studying the famous playwright:
Open University also offers 7 videos in their series 60-Second Adventures in Thought, which includes interesting philosophical topics such as The Grandfather Paradox.