Thursday, January 26, 2012

Building Elements

My students have been working hard completing their interactive Science notebooks for our chapter on Classifying Matter.  The first lesson in our Unit was on learning elements and atoms.  We read the lesson in the book and then I go over a PowerPoint I created on how to break down atoms and to know exactly how many protons, neutrons and electrons a particular element has.  We talk about how each of these components have a different charge of positive, negative or neutral and some ways to remember which goes with each one.  Students are always amazed that how just one proton makes the difference between whether you have Hydrogen or Helium and so forth.

One of my favorite "quick" activities for this chapter is when I have my students build an element out of string and sequins. Before they can do this, they must figure out how many protons, neutrons and electrons the element has.  Since they need to find matching sequins to represent each of these numbers, I typically only assign them elements 5-15 on the Periodic Table.  They can quickly determine the number of protons in the element by simply looking at the Atomic Number. And from there, they know that the number of protons is equal to electrons.  However, in order to figure out the number of neutrons they need to use the formula we created of p+n=aw (p = protons, n = neutrons, and aw= atomic weight).  This is fabulous because they have been learning all about different formulas in math class and how to isolate a variable to solve the equation.  They need to show their work on the back of their project.

Once they have figured out all the required data, they then cut a 8" string to form the barrier of the atom (in the future, I think I'll make it 10").  They then choose three different colored sequins to represet each of of the three different areas of the atom.  They cluster together the protons and neutrons together in the center of the string which they know is called the nucleus.  They then put the electrons on the outside of the string.  They need to create a key on their paper to tell the reader which sequin represents what and put the name of the element and its abbreviation on top.

Math, Science and Art all combine together for a cool and quick project where the students are able to learn a lot and apply what they've learned. :-)


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Website Wednesdays: Artsonia

ARTSONIA - If you haven't heard of this amazing website then you need to! Where else can you find a plethora of amazing art projects for students?  Chances are, if you are a "pinner" on Pinterest, you have come across Artsonia.  You could spend hours on this website looking at student art work to pin and try in your own classroom at a later date.

So easy to get started!
Still confused?  Well, let me explain.  Artsonia is an online database of uploaded student artwork, which is organized by schools and individual student portfolios.  Basically, as a teacher you sign up your school and enter your student roster (after getting parent permission of course).  Afterwards it's time to begin uploading work.  As students finish artwork throughout the year, you either snap a picture or scan their work and upload it under an exhibit.  It takes about 24 hours for student work to show up on the site.  When it does, it is available for online viewing to everyone.  This allows family members of our students, who may not be close, to still see the artwork that is being produced in the classroom.
Doves Of Hope Exhibit
Student Work

However, not only can people cruise through these online portfolios, you can even purchase items (bags, postcards, magnets, temporary tattoos) with the artwork actually printed on it.  The best part - the school gets a percentage of all sales back to use on art supplies.   This is a fabulous opportunity for schools that are looking for ways to boost their art program, but weren't sure how.  Students also have an opportunity to win Artist of the Week.  If their artwork is voted as the best for the week, they receive a $50 gift certificate and the school a $100 gift certificate to Blicks Art Materials (they also have amazing art lessons on their website - check them out here).

From the teacher login, you can quickly
view your school's stats.
Our school has been using Artsonia for three years now (the first year only two of us used it but now all our teachers do) and every year our payout continues to grow and personally, I think the artwork gets better.  Parents love that they can see their child's artwork and share it with friends and students love to see their work online and students are proud to have their work up for the world to see.  Another cool component are the fan clubs, where family and friends can leave comments on any art project they see.  Students can also submit an Artist Statement that explains how they feel about their art project, what inspired them, what they would have changed, etc.
American Gothic -
A Collaborate Group Project

As if all of this wasn't enough, there is even a section for teachers to browse and look up art lessons plans.  And if they so choose, they can submit their own to share with other teachers out there.  And just like last week's website, Artsonia is ALSO FREE!!!!!  Sooooo.....what are you waiting for?
Go - browse - pin - create!  Who knows - you just might have the next Picasso in your class. :-)  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Market Mondays: Store More Chair Pocket Deluxe

It's another Market Monday product review.  This week we are focusing on Really Good Stuff's Store More Chair Pockets.  Prior to having these chair pockets, I had handmade pockets that consisted of two hunter green table mats sewn together with think string coming from the sides to attach to the side of the desk or chairs.  They weren't anything spectacular but the did the job.....kind of.  However, with the amount of books that our students have at our school and the fact that I make an organizational binder for each of my students (iPod Binders), I knew I had to get something that held more.  So, this year I chalked up the money and got real chair pockets.

I originally opted for the Store More Multi-Pocket Chair Cover with a spot for the water bottle.  They were a bit more costlier but I did it while they were offering a 15% off special.  I was so excited to get these pockets....but disappointment hit when they arrived. They didn't fit my students' chairs. They were way too small.  So, I sent them back. To make matters worse, I had to pay return shipping which was close to $20.  I wasn't happy about it but I still needed chair pockets. So I exchanged them out for the Store More Chair Pockets XL.  My students have been using them for about 5 months.

Here's the quick pro/con breakdown.

  •  They fit our extremely large chairs
  •  Spacious pockets
  •  Comes with a pencil case that velcros to the back
  •  The primary colors match my room 
  • Price and shipping cost (However, I will admit I haven't been able to find other chair pockets for much cheaper 
  • Colors - even though they work for me, I sort of wished they had other choices
  • Only one pocket
  • No place for the water bottle 
  • Must purchase in sets of 6.....because we all have perfect multiples of six classes, right?
When it comes to an overall rating for these chair pockets, I give them a 4.  Mostly because of cost.  I was lucky, I only had to buy three sets.....I can't imagine being able to purchase these if I had a typical class of 30+.

Do you have chair pockets for your classroom?  What type and what do you think of them? Share down below in the comments section.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Website Wednesdays: Edmodo

Today is the first of many Website Wednesdays, in which I will introduce and discuss fantastic websites I use in my 5th grade classroom! The website in which I want to talk about is Edmodo ( I'm a huge fan of Edmodo and have been using it with my students for the past two years. They have earned multiple awards, including the Award of Excellence in 2011 from Tech and Learning. However, I will admit that I have not probably utilized it to its fullest capabilities. My goal is to continue to explore this website and improve my students' learning with it.

In case you don't already know, Edmodo is an online learning platform which allows you to build classes and provide students (and parents) with individual logins. According to Edmodo's website,

 "Edmodo provides a safe and easy way for your class to connect and collaborate, share content, and access homework, grades and school notices. Our goal is to help educators harness the power of social media to customize the classroom for each and every learner."

Seriously - by reading that, what's not to love? :-)

When you create an account with Edmodo, you have the ability to create as many classes as you want. So for example, I can (and in the past have) create different classes for Social Studies, Math, Science, Writing and so on. Or if you teach multiple groups, you can create classes and have only a select group of kids join. Seriously, the possibilities seem endless. Oh....and have I mentioned the best part yet???? IT'S FREE!!!!!

A teacher view.
My students and I both enjoy using this site. This year, I created just two classes.  One for me to assign work, quizzes and polls and another class that we called "Talking" for the students to use to have their own discussions.  Edmodo allows me to monitor their posts so I can be certain nothing inappropriate is going on.  And because of its "Facebook" like look, students get really into it.  They create profiles and upload avatars. And I don't have to worry about someone who doesn't belong being able to see my students.

Let's review some 10 of Edmodo's capabilities.  They have much more than 10, but we'll start there. 

# 5 - Built in quiz creator!
1.  Able to create multiple classes for students with access codes.  This way, only the people you want to be in the class can join with the code.
2.  You can allow parents to login to the classes you create for students or you can even create one for just parents and communicate with them.
3.  You can assign and collect assignments and provide due dates which show up on the built in calendar.
4.  You can create polls!
# 6.  An example of my library.
5.  You can create quizzes and tests that the students take right on Edmodo.
6.  You can build a library of documents and websites and share them with students.
7.  You can award "badges" to your students.  (I haven't done this yet but the ideas seem endless.)
8.  You can join communities with other educators.  I enjoy visiting these and sharing ideas with other educators. Plus, I have found many great websites from this awesome community!
9.   Edmodo hosts webinars all the time to help educators maximize this site.
10.  They have a great app, so you can access this site even on the go.  This helps a lot because my students use this website as a means to communicate with me.  I have the ability to quickly respond back if needed.

Again, Edmodo can do so much more....these are just the basics.  If you haven't checked them out, I highly encourage you to do so.  And, in my opinion it's not just for upper grades.  I envision primary grades using this as a way to communicate with parents. Perhaps even more!

If you use Edmodo, what are some ways you utilize it?  Share down below in the comments section.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Market Mondays: Art Drying Rack

Here is the first feature of Market Mondays, in which I pick a product that I have used in my classroom and offer up a review.  Today's product is geared toward any teacher that teaches art or uses paints or other things that need to be able to dry in their classroom.

This year, I was determined to get a drying rack so I no longer had to have papers strategically placed throughout the classroom to dry after the students used either paint or something other medium that could possibly smudge.  Plus, I can't stand having miscellaneous papers left on a student's desk unless it's being used. I like things to be very neat and organized, so when I got the Sax Stack-a-Rack Drying Rack for my classroom, I knew it would be perfect!  This awesome product can be found on Amazon or at the Learning Outlet for under $100.

In order to better assist you, I broke down the pros and cons of this product for a quick review:


  • 25 shelves
  • stackable so you can buy more than one and stack them on top of each other
  • Can be hung on the wall or put on wheels (I have my on wheels so I can move it about the classroom)
  • The perfect size for art projects on paper 11x17 or smaller
  • Doesn't take up a lot of room which is a huge plus when you have limited space in your classroom
  • Only $85.49 on Learning Outlet and you get FREE SHIPPING!
  • It came already assembled - all I had to do was throw the wheels on.
  • The shelves do not lift up. Sometimes it is hard to see what shelf you are using and if there is a smaller piece of paper already there.
  • It only comes in red. This worked for me since my classroom I use bold primary colors. However, there are a lot of teachers who use softer pastels.  But upon further inspection, I believe you could easily spray paint this to match your color scheme.  
Despite those cons, I still award this product 4.5 out of 5 stars.  It would have received 5 stars in the shelves were able to flip up. But hey - for $86 this is one awesome product!!  

Next week's product: Really Good Stuff Chair Pockets

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Wiki With Us

After taking some time since my beautiful baby, Kenzie, was born in July, I have finally decided to hop back into the world of blogging and sharing teaching ideas. In order to keep this resolution of updating my site regularly, I have created a couple days a week in which I will have themes. This is what I have come up with (and feel free to give me more ideas in the comments below). 

Market Mondays: I will review and post my experience with products for teachers. 

Website Wednesdays: There are SO many great websites out there for me to share and discuss.
That's it for time goes on I may add more and of course I will post ideas or other things as they come up. 

In the meantime, I just wanted to take a moment to share with you my wikipage, which holds many resources that you just may find beneficial.  Some of the popular items are located under the "Classroom Posters" tab.  It is there that you can find posters that I have created for Genre, Literary Elements and Reading Strategies to name just a few. Why pay close to $20 on teacher websites when all you need to do is print and laminate?  I hope you enjoy! All I ask for in payment is that you follow my blog and share it with a friend.  AND - while you're there, be sure to join the wiki and Wiki With Us! 

Be sure to check back tomorrow, Market Monday, when I review an item that any teacher who teaches art should have! 
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