Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Ultimate Middle Years Giveaway and Blog Hop

This week, I'm participating in a blog hop and giveaway hosted by two fantastic middle school edubloggers, Krystal Mills of Lessons From the Middle and Ann Smith of Innovative Connections. Visit one of their awesome middle school blogs for the details around the great package of freebies you'll get for completing the blog hop challenge, and for more information on how to enter to win some of the fabulous prizes (worth $300 in total!) available in three prize packs to be won.

Going Back Fully Stashed

The blogger I'm featuring for the hop is "Scipi" a long-time fellow TPT'er and awesome educator! The goal of Vicky's blog, Go Figure with Scipi is "to cure one mathphobic at a time". 

She posts unique, classroom tested teaching strategies, math humour and math lessons that can be immediately used in the classroom. She has lots of experience in meeting middle schoolers' need for hands-on activities and is very good at developing lessons that require critical thinking and problem solving skills.

You'll want to visit Vicky's blog & store often - she's a lovely, helpful, caring math teacher!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Five Oldies But (FREE!) Goodies

I often check on TeachersPayTeachers to see what new French items have been added.  Just for fun, a while ago I decided to "reverse sort", which you can't actually do, to see what the oldest French products posted there might be.  (Note to self... submit suggestion that adding a reverse-sort option would be good!) I've included five freebies in this blog post, plus a bonus one from me.
background courtesy of My Cute Graphics
The French Verb Walk by Jeanne Durrer is an awesome idea but (no offense intended to Ms Durrer) it's just that - an idea - not a fully usable "product".  TPT buyers' expectations have changed a lot over the past several years, with many fabulous teacher-sellers upping the ante, which benefits all teachers in the end. I've developed her idea a little bit, so that it's now a ready-to-print regular verb review activity. You'll still need to download her original product for the instructions though, because it felt too much like "copying" to rewrite them and include them.

I found two great activities from Miriam Wall, in the UK.  This one, to practice inviting a friend to go out with you is awesome! Eight usable pages plus instructions... good stuff!  Fits right into our move towards the CEFRL-based teaching style that's being encouraged in Ontario currently.

And she also shares a Cognates PowerPoint - a must-teach concept for any French teacher!

This fun zoo board game is listed as a French product, but unfortunately there is no French version included... I asked the teacher-creator Amanda a couple of times to update it and she agreed but appareently didn't find time to do it. (I even offered to update it myself, but I did not get her direct permission so I didn't feel comfortable sharing my version.)  Of course, the text in a PowerPoint file is completely editable, so it's a very quick fix, should you want to use this game in class.  My advice - consider replacing "seal" with another animal. You know why!  ;-)

How about something for your Open House Night literature folder?  I like to keep a few articles, lists of tips, and other useful information handy just in case one parent is tying you up a little longer than expected.

Those of you who have been teaching French for years - or decades - it's time to go through your files and decide what resources you have created and perfected over the years that just need a bit of fine tuning before they can become awesome little gold nuggets like these for other students to enjoy!  Sign up for a free Seller membership at TpT today and upload a couple of freebies to start! Trust me, you'll LOVE the little jump your heart does when you get a positive comment on something! Oh! And please drop me a line if you do, so I can thank you!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Presenting Yvonne Crawford

Today will be my first experience with adding lots more photos expertly taken by "moi" to a blog post. This is to let you peek inside the wonderful products of another teacher author. Thanks to Jessica at Mrs. Stanford's class for organizing this cool opportunity for us to get hands-on with another teacher's materials. Don't we all just love seeing how someone else does things? 
Thanks also to the fabulously talented Michelle T, of The 3am Teacher  for this button image!

Click the image above to take you to the link-up showing the dozens of other teachers who swapped and reviewed products... this link up only goes live at noon EST, so be sure to check back later for the full list!
I got to try out a Summer Olympics themed mathbook & game from Yvonne Crawford, who you can find at either of her blogs:  Language for Little Learners or Mixminder. She also has stores at both TN & TpT.

I was really excited when Jessica matched up Mme Crawford and I because she:
1) is living in France right now (she's American, with a Canadian spouse) 
2) makes her own artwork for all of her products

3) offers products that are weighty and totally adaptable at a great value
4) posts new products (for French, other languages, language arts, and math) with a regularity that makes my jaw drop

... and all of these things make her my hero!

Although she produces lots of language activities and packets of worksheets, and I was excited to try out anything Yvonne makes, since I planned to put my daughter to work brushing up some skills, I wanted something with a math focus at about her grade level.  It was a very interesting experience for me, as I've never taught math and really don't have any idea where to begin teaching it.  Helping her with her math homework this year didn't really build my skills in this area, as she wasn't very challenged by the work she was doing, so there was rarely a need for me to explain anything. 
We opted to start with the Pole Vaulting game (which comes with a full page of clear instructions, as well as suggestions for setting this up as a centre activity). Even though it's near the back of the package, I felt it was a good place for us to start to boost my girl's confidence.  I knew she we both could succeed at this comparing / sorting activity.  I opted to give her several categories within which to sort at once, although in a classroom, each student within a group might be sorting their own set of cards on one pole vault map at a time.
This isn’t the best photo in the world, but I wanted to show you the first customization that I took advantage of in Yvonne’s product. DD was uncertain what to do with certain cards since I asked her to sort them referring to all of the categories rather than just comparing them to one criteria at a time. (I think it would have been clearer for her had I followed the instruction - Ha!) So I used the blank version that Yvonne included to give her a spot to sort numbers lower than any of the other categories. You could easily adapt this to a higher grade level by making the category for comparing more complex rather than simpler as I did.

Since DD is just getting set to begin grade 2, and this package is aimed at grades 2-3, she found many of the questions requiring her to add, subtract or multiply too difficult to do in her head. So, I suggested she flip the card over & rewrite the math problem in a way that she is already familiar with using to help her solve it.  It worked perfectly, and as a classroom activity, I know I would have laminated the cards to be able to reuse them, so you could easily include a small rag and dry erase markers (or even just scrap paper!) for the same purpose.

Here is a closer look at one of the sorting mats while she was "in progress".  Below, I included an image to show some of the variety of math skills that your students can practice with this activity.  But I completely forgot to move the multiplication set onto my ottoman (which served as my easel here) before I snapped the picture! 
Again though, what's so awesome about Yvonne's stuff is that because she creates her own artwork, she is free to do whatever she wishes with it without worrying about terms of use from graphics companies (which is a problem some people who share their materials through TpT, TN or elsewhere run into at times when asked to share the original file rather than the PDF version, or to create "blank" versions of something for a teacher to customize with something that better suits their needs. In the column on the left, you may notice that I hand-wrote in a set of numbers, spelled out in French for her to sort as well. With the ability to create cards and pole vault mats that suit any criteria you wish, this game is so adaptable to many different levels - perfect for the teacher who teaches in more than one division, changes grade levels, or who tutors for extra income!

And by the way, I was right... she did really enjoy this activity and was very proud of herself for accomplishing it!

So... on to the bigger challenge for both of us... (and what really constitutes the majority of the Summer Olympic Mathbook product.  Such a deal for only $3!  This set of math journal prompts will keep your students engaged for a while, and allows for you to differentiate as needed.  

This product includes 10 math journal prompts with a London Summer Olympic theme, which makes it current and topical, but there's nothing that really jumped out at me as making it hard to reuse it any time you wanted. I included pictures of two examples.  My daughter especially liked the "make your own multiplication question" based on a graphic of badminton birdies... and I was very surprised at how many different "sets" she managed to identify.  As I said, I have no experience with math journals personally but have been hearing a lot about them, and know how well they fit in with the numeracy initiatives here in Ontario, with students being pushed to explain their thinking and use mathematical language. This was a really fun opportunity for me to get a glimpse into the mental problem solving processes that my little learner uses, and I'm sure that those of you who are better trained than I could really bring your students' abilities to a whole new level with this type of activity. 

Thanks, Yvonne, for letting me check out your cool stuff first hand! I have long admired her work but hadn't bought any of her products yet - I usually teach students whose French language skills are further developed than being at an introductory level (or who are older than the age many of her materials are targeted for) but I can now appreciate how fun & flexible they are, and can imagine myself using them in those situations where I have to differentiate for new students who have not studied French before, or for students joining our school JUST as we are starting a project as a final assessment in a unit. It will be great to have a bigger wealth of tasks to give them to do!

Don't forget to follow Yvonne Crawford's store or blog to be notified when she releases new learning materials, and to check out the vast store she's built up in just a few months on TpT!

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