September 25, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Land of the Lost

How many sets of Legos do your kids have that can't be put back together because the instruction sheet is MIA?  How many of you have learned that lesson already and now have an entire file full of every instruction manual that has ever entered your home?  I have a solution for all of you.  Let's Build it Again is a website dedicated to providing instruction manuals for Lego sets online for free.  Simply choose the theme name, then set name to see or download the instruction sheet for building that set.  Now your kids can rebuild all those sets that are sitting in pieces, and you can clean out your filing cabinet.  Talk about a win-win!


September 21, 2013

Sadie's Interactive Math Notebook

We've completed our first full unit of math using an interactive math notebook.  So far, my daughter and I are both enjoying math so much more than ever before!  It does take me a little bit of time to decide what kind of printable/foldable I want to use for each lesson and get it prepared, but it is so worth it to me to see her actually enjoying math class.

For those of you who aren't familiar with interactive notebooks, they are a way of taking notes for a subject in a creative way that is both visually appealing and...well...interactive.  I usually try to create some sort of printable that contains some of the information, but leaves a space for her to finish the "notes".  I also try to choose a fun way to present that information such as a foldable, and using fun fonts & colors.  Don't know what a foldable is?  It's easier for me to show you than to tell you, but basically a foldable can be anything that opens or can be manipulated by the student. It can be used to divide information into groups, or to help the information flow from one step to the next.  Graphic organizers and minibooks can also be used to hold information.  Let me show you what I mean...

I printed out a cover and inserted it into an old 3 ring binder.

I printed out title pages for each section of the notebook.  First is the Table of Contents.

Very simply, list either the title of the lesson or the topic, and the page number as you complete each lesson.

Next comes the body of the notebook; the actual lessons.

Place Value


How to add, subtract, multiply, & divide.

Properties of Numbers

 Order of Operations

Place Value of Decimals

Comparing & Ordering Decimals

Front End Estimation

Operations with Decimals

Powers of Ten

Story Problems: 4 step plan

Story Problems: clue words

That is the end of the first unit.  We will continue on with subsequent units so that her entire year of work will be accessible in this one notebook.

The last section of her notebook is for vocab words.

Here she writes simple definitions or examples of terms she is unfamiliar with.

Wow!  That was a lot of pictures.  I hope I haven't overwhelmed you, or bored you to tears.  Since we have started using an interactive notebook, I'm always looking online to see what other people are putting in theirs.  I decided it would be nice to post pics of what is inside ours so that others can see it.  Do you use an interactive notebook?  How do you use it? What is your favorite foldable or mini book?  


September 18, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Talk Like a Pirate Day, It Be Me Hearties!

Shiver me timbers! Tomorrow is talk like a pirate day.  It's a great day to act silly and have some fun.  It's also a great day to sneak in a little history and science...along with the fun.  I've found the motherload of pirate resources for your little lads and lasses.

Before you can be a pirate, you need to learn about pirates.  Older pirates will get a real feel for the life of a pirate by watching any of the pirate documentaries a available on YouTube.  After that, let them learn which flags various pirates flew and what those images meant.

Younger pirates will get a thrill out of learning to talk like a pirate, and generating their own pirate names.  Disney has an entire subsite dedicated to pirate crafts & activities for younger children.

To be a pirate, you need pirate gear.  Younger pirates will enjoy this adorable yet simple duct tape sword.  This homemade compass is a great science lesson on magnetism.  Every pirate needs a telescope to see far off treasure.  I've found one tutorial that looks more like a pirate spyglass, but does not have lenses, and one less traditional looking telescope that gives a great explanation of how the lenses work to magnify distant objects.  Finally, pirates must love the water, and your little pirate will absolutely love making his own ocean in a bottle.

So smartly get yerself ready to be a pirate, or the youngsters may send you to Davy Jones' Locker!

(Sal "One-Legged" Curnow)

September 14, 2013

Use Transparencies to Make Lessons More Clear

There are some times when no matter how you present a lesson, your student just can't see the connection.  One of the tools I use to make lessons more clear is transparency sheets.  They are a great way to not only mix things up a bit, but they can make lessons and lesson planning less wasteful, too.  Just be sure to use mirror images when printing.  Here are a few of the ways I use transparency sheets.

Lesson Planning - As I mentioned in my Workbox post, I use transparency sheets in our Workbox file folders.  Each day I write out instructions for every lesson so that my daughter can quickly see what needs to be done for her classes.  At the end of the day, I wipe them clean and write the next day's instructions.  No paper lists to throw away!  I've used the same sheets for 3 years now, and don't see them wearing out any time soon.

Handwriting - When my boys were little I printed out handwriting practice sheets for each of them.  Having twins, it was easy to see just how many sheets of paper were being used up.  When my daughter came along, I wised up and printed her handwriting pages on transparency sheets.  We used them in conjunction with her Doodle Pro for a no mess way for her practice her letters over and over again.  If you don't have a magnetic doodle board, simply use dry erase crayons or markers.

Science - As my youngest is now in 5th grade, classes are getting more complex.  In science, she is currently studying the body systems of animals.  How better to illustrate how all the body systems fit together than with transparency sheets?! I found images of the systems at, and printed them on the sheets.  She added them to her science lapbook, layering them so that she can view different combinations of systems together.  (Just ignore the ugly packing tape used to attach the sheets to her lapbook.  Sometimes you just use what you have!)

Maps - Whether the class is U.S. History or Government, transparencies are definitely the way to look at how states vote. I found these election maps at  Laying one on top of the other makes it very clear which states are red, which are blue, and which are more of a purple.

Early learning - Although I have not done it myself, as you can see from the purple states, layering colored strips of the transparencies blends the colors beautifully.  Print one sheet with 1/3 of the sheet red, 1/3 yellow, and 1/3 blue.  Cut the three colors apart.  Then, leave them out for your preschooler to discover, and watch the magic of the rainbow light up his face.

How will you use transparency sheets to make lessons more clear?


September 11, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Stencyl Game Studio

The next stop on my list of ways to jazz up our learning this year is at the Stencyl Game Studio.  Stencyl allows users to create their own games, playable on iOS, Android, and Flash without coding (although you can write your own code if you wish).  Character behaviors are customizable using building blocks similar to those used in Scratch.  The freely downloadable program comes complete with resources for creating countless games, and also allows users to import their own resources to create truly unique games.  The Crash Course game and tutorial has you making your first game in minutes.  There is also an extensive "Stencylpedia" available to answer any questions you may have.  Once you have made your amazing new game, you can make it available in the App Store or Google Play Store.  You can also display the game on your website or blog.  BLiP is just one of many games available in the App Store created using Stencyl.  Of course, if you want you can simply play the game on your computer as well.  What will you and your children create?


September 7, 2013

Grandparents Day is Tomorrow!

Grandma & Grandpa, Mamaw & Papaw, Nana & Pawpaw, Mimi & Pop matter what your kids call them, grandparents are special.  Did you know that tomorrow, September 8th, is National Grandparents Day?  There's no need to panic, though, I have already done the searching for you and found some great last-minute ideas for showing your children's grandparents how special they are...even if you did forget about Grandparents Day.  I know that when it comes to last minute gifts, money can be an obstacle, so I've put together a list of DIY gifts you and your children can make together at home.

Before you break out the construction paper and glue, check out this list of activities from Huffington Post that show Grandma & Grandpa how much they mean to you. recently updated their annual list of handmade gifts for Grandparents Day including this adorable Goofy Grandkids photo book.

If you are looking for gifts the kids can make that their grandparents will actually like, then these 9 ideas from are for you.  From pill boxes to ice cream, these moms know what grandparents want.

Sometimes, all grandparents need is a kind word to remind them that they are loved, and a picture is worth a thousand words.  The Babycenter blog lists 9 gift ideas, many of which include pictures of your little ones.

One thing that long distance grandparents miss more than anything else is hugging their grandkids.  Grandparents all around the world will love receiving this paper hug in the mail.

September 4, 2013

Mid-week Morsel: Zooburst Digital Storytelling

As I continued my search this summer for ways to make school more fun, I set out to find a way to motivate my reluctant writer.  After numerous searches (that I couldn't retrace if I tried), I stumbled upon a website that was just what I had been looking for; Zooburst.  I was familiar with sites like Storybird and MediaChalk that allow users to create digital stories, but Zooburst takes digital storytelling to the next level. Users can create pop-up books either from preloaded clip art, or art they upload themselves.  I like having the option to upload our own art, particularly if my children have a specific topic they are to write about.  As I said, I was looking for a way to encourage my reluctant writer.  What I didn't expect to find was a creative and interactive way for the kids to study & display what they have learned.  Check out this great Zooburst story reviewing math's order of operation rules...

One final note:  as with many great sites, Zooburst offers some of its features free, however other features are only available to paying subscribers.  Oh, and they have an iPad app also.  What cool tools have you found to keep your children excited about learning?