January 18, 2017

3 Simple Ways Color Coding Labels Saved My Sanity

I teach four classes of fifth grade science each day. Each homeroom rotates through classes together. It's kind of like middle school, but in an elementary setting. For this reason, I have had to come up with several methods of organizing A LOT of materials and ongoing projects during the construction and improvement phases of an engineering challenge.
Teacher hack: Here are 3 ways I've found to use color coding labels from the office supply isle to manage the craziness that can occur in my class during a group STEM challenge.
Luckily, something as simple as a little office supply saved my sanity when doing science investigations on more than one occasion. Here are 3 ways I've found to use color coding labels from the office supply isle to manage the craziness that can occur in my class during a group STEM challenge.

IDEA #1: ASSIGNING GROUP ROLES 
During quick investigations that require students to experiment with materials and collect data, I have found that assigning very specific jobs to each member is very useful. Each team is given the supplies they need and then they must complete the investigation within the allotted time. In order to do so, they really MUST focus on their own job since the whole team is depending on them. I begin by assigning each student a color by passing out small items (usually unifix cubes) to the group. After they have their color, I display the roles on the board using the color coding labels.
Teacher hack: Here are 3 ways I've found to use color coding labels from the office supply isle to manage the craziness that can occur in my class during a group STEM challenge.
For this particular example, I do three different ramp labs. The roles remain the same, but the responsibilities change. It's super easy to affix a different color next to the same list to be sure everyone gets the chance to participate. This also allows me to add responsibilities during the activity. For example, I might instruct the green student to collect all the lab reports. Or the red student may be asked to record the group data on the class chart.

IDEA #2: IDENTIFYING TEAM PROTOTYPES
One activity I have students complete each year is to construct a prototype for a structure that will keep an ice cube from melting by reducing the amount of heat transfer by conduction, convection, and radiation. Since I have four classes and they are all testing their device on the same day, I need a way to keep track of which pieces belong to each group in each homeroom. Color coding labels to the rescue!
Teacher hack: Here are 3 ways I've found to use color coding labels from the office supply isle to manage the craziness that can occur in my class during a group STEM challenge.
I use a different color for each homeroom - matching their journal color. (Read more about this here.) So I simply write STEM team numbers onto colored labels and students place them on their finished structure. This is SOOOOOO much simpler and faster than trying to remember team or student names in the midst of collecting a lot of time sensitive data.
 Teacher hack: Here are 3 ways I've found to use color coding labels from the office supply isle to manage the craziness that can occur in my class during a group STEM challenge.
Teacher hack: Here are 3 ways I've found to use color coding labels from the office supply isle to manage the craziness that can occur in my class during a group STEM challenge.
By looking at these two prototypes, I can see that one is from Team 4 in Mrs. Steele's homeroom and the other is from Team 3 in Miss Smith's homeroom. Not only is this helpful during data collection, but I am able to save the structures until a later date when we will try to improve them. Students tend to forget what their prototype looks like after a week or two and this ensures that each team gets their original device back.

IDEA #3: LABELING SUPPLIES FOR RE-USE
With four classes each day completing the same experiments, I often have to have supplies pre-sorted for each group. That's a lot of work unless you have a method for keeping track of everything. (Which I do.) Color coding labels...again. For small items, I simply use clean plastic cups (these are from individual serving applesauce cups) and attach labels to the bottom of the containers. I use the same cups during each class to distribute and to collect the materials.
Teacher hack: Here are 3 ways I've found to use color coding labels from the office supply isle to manage the craziness that can occur in my class during a group STEM challenge. 
The little cups in the picture are so handy that I actually used them during the ice cube STEM Challenge for an entirely different reason. When students removed their ice cube from the structure they had built, they placed it in their cup rather than holding it in their hand. This way they could measure the mass of the ice cube that remained even though some would continue to melt away while they were waiting to use the scale.
Teacher hack: Here are 3 ways I've found to use color coding labels from the office supply isle to manage the craziness that can occur in my class during a group STEM challenge.
I have also used Ziploc bags for supplies if there are a lot of unusually shaped items or pieces too large for a small container. Just stick a colored dot onto the bag. Students know which color (based on homeroom) and which number (based on assigned groups) to look for when retrieving their supplies. This gives the added bonus of knowing exactly which group needs to keep looking for the materials that have not yet been returned. They can still be reused in future investigations even if the student groupings change.

There are so many other uses for this one little office supply. I actually shared seven more ideas at Classroom Tested Resources. If you're interested you can read about them here.

December 28, 2016

Top Quality STEM Resources Science Teachers Need to Engage Students


Looking for you next great classroom lesson or activity? Check out these bestselling STEM resources from 2016 in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You'll want them all too!

#1: Cells CSI Investigation
This is HANDS DOWN one of my favorite activities to do during our unit on cells. My students have a great time acting like Crime Scene Investigation Agents as they try to determine which cells found at the location of an imaginary burglary are plant cells and which are animal cells. My favorite part of the activity is that there is not a straightforward answer. It challenges students to look at "evidence" that is not as simple as the diagrams they have been taught with in science class.
Students are given actual images of plant and animal cells to work with. I have found that more often than not, students have the misconception that a plant cell is rectangular and an animal cell is a circle. They fail to look at the specific organelles. Also, most students have only had experience with drawings and/or diagrams of cells, so seeing actual images taken by an electron microscope forces them to apply their understanding in a different situation.

Comments from buyers:
This was extremely motivating. The students loved the activities. The complexity of the cells was a great learning experience for them, understanding that the diagrams that we learn from are very easy compared to using real images. I chose this as a lesson that my administrator observed- it went well! 
My students LOVED this activity! It was so much fun watching them take on the role as a detective. They worked with a partner and received a manila folder with all of the necessary information. I like how it had the students review the key differences between plant and animal cells before determining if their cell was a plant or animal cell. Thank you! 

#2: Brain Breaks for Bigger Kids

Every teacher recognizes that students aren't able to focus on content learning every second of every day. Even as an adult, I find my mind wandering and my attention drifting during especially long meetings. Research has shown that movement increases brain function. Using physical activity breaks in the classroom helps students get ready to learn and remember information better. Physical movement increases blood flow, bringing more oxygen to the brain and leads to improved concentration.

I use the activities in this set to get my students up and moving. To refocus them. To encourage them to think in a different way. To reward them for good behavior. I will even leave the cards for a substitute teacher as "filler activities". (My students LOVE that if they complete the assignment given by the sub they can have a brain break at the end of class!)
 
Some of the ideas are simple (or even common), but I find that by having a set of ready-to-go brain breaks on a ring I am more likely to flip through the cards and actually USE them on a daily basis. And that's the point, right?

Comments from buyers:
My 6th, 7th & 8th graders love these Brain Breaks! It is a nice way for us to take a quick "break" and get our thinking refocused! Each class asks for at least one "brain break" a day because they enjoy them so much.  
Fun filler and great when everyone needs a boost.
Love, love, love these brain breaks! It is challenging to find fun activities for older students to do. Thank you for offering these! 

#3: Blank Plant and Animal Cell Diagrams
When I teach this unit, I have students work in small groups to brainstorm everything they can remember about plant and animal cells (since this is a concept taught in fourth grade in my district).
Then we complete the notes as a class by color coding the organelles in the diagrams to match the notes inside of the foldable.

Students can complete the cell diagrams for note taking, additional practice, or as an assessment. I have students add copies of the cell diagrams to their interactive notebooks as another way to practice labeling the organelles.
Comments from buyers:
My 5th graders loved this visual! We were able to color and label them as a class!
This concept is hard for my fifth graders to understand so thank you for making a nice comparison resource for them to use.
This was PERFECT for my students. Thank you for creating different variations of the same resource. I laminated the blank copies with the letter labels and had students label the models every morning as a warm up with a dry erase marker. 

#4: Creature Features
Oh. My. Goodness.
I can't even TELL you how much my kiddos love this activity. I've shared it with so many teachers in my district and everyone tells me it's a hit! The directions are simple and straightforward enough that they can even be done with a substitute teacher (which actually because necessary last school year when my daughter woke up throwing up at 4:00 am). The materials are minimal and the student page takes the kids through each step of "flipping for traits".
One of the best parts of this activity is seeing the many different monsters that are drawn by students and discussing how despite having the same set of traits (same mom and dad) they each ended up with a different set of traits. We talk a lot about how we look similar to our parents but not exactly like them. We also talk about how our siblings are not exactly like us physically.
 

What's convenient for me is that each year my genetic traits unit falls near the end of October, so "making monster babies" is a great Halloween-related activity without being too focused on the holiday.

Comments from buyers:
I loved seeing all the little monsters my kids made, so much more fun than the typical baby assignment most teachers do. 
I have used this resource for three years now. The kids love it and you should see some of their work!
I had bought two different activities (this being one of them) to teach dominant and recessive traits. Liked this version better, mainly because the directions were easier to understand and thorough.

#5: Engineering Design Process Steps Classroom Poster Pack
This set includes posters illustrating the steps of the Engineering Design Process. These posters are geared toward upper elementary and middle school students. Each poster includes a colorful image (clip art by one of my favorite artists, Ron Leishman) and a brief statement reminding students what happens during that step of the design process.
Also included in this kit is a 1-page Engineering Design Process graphic organizer printable. I use this printable for students to record what they did or thought about during each step of the Engineering Design Process as they work on their STEM Projects. It's simple enough that even younger students are able to record their thinking.
I find it especially useful when doing general teamwork challenge exercises as the focus of these activities is using the Engineering Design Process as a group to solve a problem.

Comments from buyers:
These colorful, and attention grabbing materials have been a hit with my fourth and fifth grade students this year. The template makes it easy for the students to follow the design process and document the different steps involved in the challenge.
This is great! I love completing STEM projects with my class and these posters will help remind them of the Engineering Process.
Best explanation of the process that I've found!
Holy cow! Even though I created each of these resources, going through them and reflecting on how I use them with my students has reminded me of some great lessons and activities from 2016. Which one will YOU try in YOUR classroom in 2017?

December 16, 2016

What's on YOUR TpT Wish List?

It's that time of year again. The holidays can seem overwhelming for some of us. Especially teachers. With families, friends, students, coworkers, and more to buy for - how can we possibly stay on top of it all without going into "Grinch Mode"?

My advice?
Keep it simple.
And useful.

The other day one of my friends mentioned that as a teacher she "should" know what to give her OWN kids' teachers for the holidays. Aaaaaaaand, it occurred to me that I had YET to come up with something to give to the educators who have had the task of teaching my kiddos.

As a teacher, what do you want most?
TIME.
Sounds like an impossible gift, right?
Not at all!
A gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers would give those hard working teachers a break since they could shop (in their jammies even) for some amazing resources to use after the holiday break without having to create everything from scratch. Besides, I bet most teachers are like me and have a TpT wish list that's a MILE LONG.

So my gift to you this Chrsitmas?
A chance to win your choice of up to $20 worth of products from my store.
Enter below to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hop on over to one of these amazing blogs to snag a few more goodies!

August 22, 2016

How To Introduce the Engineering Design Process Easily

This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
I love so many of the team building activities out there, but I always feel pressed for time. A couple of years ago I decided to embed my team building into a STEM mini-challenge during the first week of school. Students LOVE getting to "dig right in" and I LOVE that I can teach them my expectations and have them immediately practice them while working as a team.

My first unit every year is "What is STEM?" during which we review what STEM stands for and do activities that are related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. When I decided to incorporate team building activities and classroom expectations into this unit, the most logical place was the "E" of STEM because engineers work with other engineers ALL THE TIME in order to solve problems or improve products.

We started by doing a few activities where students reviewed what they had learned in fourth grade about engineering.
Students completed a quick writing assignment in their journals. I call it a "brain burp" because your brain just belches out any idea without warning and you write it down. Plus, I teach fifth graders so a burping brain is a fun image and gets them giggling.
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
Students were given three prompts to get them thinking like an engineer. I completed my writing along with students (see picture above) to show them that ALL of us have ideas worth sharing. Plus, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to draw a burping brain.

Yes - I am the adult. Yes - I act like a ten-year-old sometimes. No - I'm not sorry.
I just LOVE card sorts. Students seem so much more engaged when they get to manipulate pieces of paper and discuss their ideas before placing them into a pocket in their journals. To be fair, I pre-cut the pieces into strips to save some time. Gotta keep the class on schedule. Students worked in groups to determine whether each activity was an example of what engineers do or not. Afterward, we discussed their ideas and even determined that there could be more than one correct answer depending on their justification. Great embedded life lesson!
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
The card sort is actually part of my unit Introducing the Engineering Design Process. Check it out here. The unit includes several great activities that can be used with students.
Before I introduced the challenge, we reviewed the steps of the Engineering Design Process. Students shared what they remembered about each step and after we discussed it they recorded notes on a graphic organizer that I had provided for them. I like this version of the organizer because it includes stick figures that appear to be "doing" each step of the Engineering Design Process. It helps cement the ideas for my students who are more visual learners.
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
One thing that I try to make very clear as we review is the importance of every step. Even though students like the CREATE-TEST-IMPROVE part of the Engineering Design Process, without research, learning, and careful planning their designs will be poorly built and less likely to be successful.
Each year I try to assign a task that will get students immediately working together and using the Engineering Design Process. This year I challenged them to design a device to help their very short teacher (me) reach something located on top of the cabinets and place it safely on the counter below.
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
They were STOKED to solve this challenge! And they found it especially funny that in order to get the supplies for the challenge down I had to use a chair...because I'm so short! Talk about a problem that NEEDED to be solved!

If you're thinking of doing a similar challenge, here are a few tips:
1. Present the challenge at the end of class and refuse to answer any questions. Trust me. Students are DYING to ask a million "what if" and "can we" questions. Just smile and repeat that you're not answering any questions yet.

2. Give students 5-10 minutes of individual brainstorming time. I "force" my students to use this time to write down their questions, list supplies they might like to use, draw some simple sketches, and generally think to themselves about how to possibly solve the problem that was presented. I love walking around the room and seeing their ideas in their notebooks.
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
3. Once you group students (I prefer random groupings since I don't know my students very well at the beginning of the year), give them time to share each of their ideas and begin to develop an initial design. Since this challenge is not based on the science content taught in my class, I focus more on their ability to communicate and work in a group. I encourage students to find ways to incorporate ideas from each person into the final group design. (This might be the toughest part for them.)
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
4. STOP THEM. Before they get too set on their idea, call for a short "engineering conference" during which each group will present their ideas and answer probing questions about their solution. I model how to ask a good question, and then let my students ask the questions. They amaze me every year with how deeply they think and how carefully they consider each of the ideas. After this sharing time, students are just itching to get back together in their groups to refine their ideas based on the feedback they received.
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
I'm a big meanie. I refuse to give out any supplies until students have turned in a plan and I have approved their design. Don't get me wrong. I'm really just making sure they have put together a reasonable design and that they have a list of supplies. I also require a short explanation of HOW they expect their prototype to work once they build it. Then they get their supplies!

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE watching them in all of their excitement start to build their prototype. I alternate between walking around and visiting groups and sitting off to the side quietly observing. This is when I can see how well they can communicate with each other.
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
Students quickly learn that what they thought would work (on paper) is not always feasible when given the actual supplies. Luckily they know what to do - IMPROVE!!!
Until the prototypes are tested, students don't really know if they have met the challenge. This time I had fun standing on the counter to place items high up on the cabinets. (I promise I was careful, but what else could I do? I'm short, remember?!?) Students took turns trying to grab an item from the cabinet and place it safely on the counter below without dropping it. They recorded qualitative data in their notebooks that we analyzed later.
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
I'll be honest, I had a BLAST laughing at them as they tried their best but often failed. They had such good attitudes about it all. And students rallied behind each other and cheered each member on. They WANTED the other groups to be successful. Some were and some weren't. But each group was able to articulate reasons why their device was not successful at grabbing certain items and how they could improve their initial design.
Engineers share their ideas. Throughout the entire challenge I have been reminding students of this. My least favorite thing to hear is "They copied our idea!" I stress the importance of learning from others and modifying the designs to reflect what has worked for others.

This year our school was asked to bring a team of students to one of the local high schools to share what they have been learning in STEM class. I thought this challenge was the PERFECT way to show that students are already actively participating in challenges where they can implement the Engineering Design Process to solve real-life problems. I selected one student from each class to bring their prototype and share it with the visitors. My goal was to choose students who had worked really well in their group, had not given up even when it was difficult, and whose ideas were unique.
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
They did an AMAZING JOB sharing what they had learned. They were outgoing and not at all afraid to explain their devices to children, adults, and even business professionals. I couldn't have been more proud!
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
Probably my favorite moment was when they realized that using their devices together ended up making them more effective! (light bulb)
This post gives so many ideas and tips for encouraging students to think and act like engineers. A great way to introduce the Engineering Design Process and promote teamwork, cooperation, and perseverance while having FUN!
Whatever the age. Whatever the ability. Students seem to rise to the challenge. And the more meaningful the challenge, the harder they work.

In the past I have had students compete to build the tallest tower. While they worked hard and had fun constructing a tower as a team, I found this challenge really motivated them. I had students asking me how strong I was as they determined what supplies to use. Some asked my height and arm length so they could be sure their device had enough reach. One student asked me how good my balance was before deciding that the idea he had might be feasible.

August 14, 2016

Back to School: Student Introductions

If you're like me, you struggle to find a way to get to know your students at the beginning of the year while teaching a myriad of rules and procedures. This activity has been a success in my classroom every time I use it! Students are engaged and excited about learning about each other while practicing important technology classroom procedures.
If you're like me, you struggle to find a way to get to know your students at the beginning of the year while teaching a myriad of rules and procedures. This activity has been a success in my classroom every time I use it! Students are engaged and excited about learning about each other while practicing important technology classroom procedures.

Since I'm the fifth grade STEM teacher at my school, it falls on me to be sure students have been taught the school and grade level expectations for technology use. My favorite way to do this is by giving students a reason for learning these rules - so they can use the iPads to create their own interactive image.

On the very first day of school, I introduced myself by sharing an interactive image that I created and uploaded to my school district webpage. Students were chomping at the bit to choose which item to click on so they could learn more about me. I had them at full attention the entire class period. So much better than just standing there and telling them some random details while they dozed off in class. try it out. Simply move your mouse to hover over or touch the tags on the image and read some details about me.
If you're like me, you struggle to find a way to get to know your students at the beginning of the year while teaching a myriad of rules and procedures. This activity has been a success in my classroom every time I use it! Students are engaged and excited about learning about each other while practicing important technology classroom procedures.
After sharing my interactive image, I casually tell the students they have homework due the next day. This usually startles them since it's the first day of school and no teacher in their right mind would assign homework on the first day of school. Lucky for them, I'm half crazy. HA!
If you're like me, you struggle to find a way to get to know your students at the beginning of the year while teaching a myriad of rules and procedures. This activity has been a success in my classroom every time I use it! Students are engaged and excited about learning about each other while practicing important technology classroom procedures.
So students are given the night to gather some items that represent who they are. I make a BIG deal about being creative and thinking outside the box. It's really pretty cool what they come up with. When they bring everything in the next day, I review the technology rules and demonstrate how to use the ThingLink app. Then they get to work.
If you're like me, you struggle to find a way to get to know your students at the beginning of the year while teaching a myriad of rules and procedures. This activity has been a success in my classroom every time I use it! Students are engaged and excited about learning about each other while practicing important technology classroom procedures.
If you've never used ThingLink, you're in for a treat. It's such a fun and simple way to get students working with technology and has soooooo many applications in the classroom. I like to introduce ThingLink to students early on since it is a pretty user friendly app that they tend to enjoy using.

Other than logging in - because they tend to mistype their passwords - things run pretty smoothly. Students work together without me even telling them to. They collaborate and assist each other with taking photos and navigating the app. I spend most of my time trying to memorize their names and faces. It's only the second day of school, after all!

If you're like me, you struggle to find a way to get to know your students at the beginning of the year while teaching a myriad of rules and procedures. This activity has been a success in my classroom every time I use it! Students are engaged and excited about learning about each other while practicing important technology classroom procedures.
After they upload their image to the group channel, they are THRILLED to start looking at the other students' images. I hear comments about how they have something in common with another student and they start looking around the room to see where that person is. Again, I don't really even need to encourage them to do this. It's natural curiousity that drives them to read more and more. I've even had students go back and edit their original image after they read something posted by another student. They WANT to make theirs more interesting to others who might visit.
If you're like me, you struggle to find a way to get to know your students at the beginning of the year while teaching a myriad of rules and procedures. This activity has been a success in my classroom every time I use it! Students are engaged and excited about learning about each other while practicing important technology classroom procedures.

If you're like me, you struggle to find a way to get to know your students at the beginning of the year while teaching a myriad of rules and procedures. This activity has been a success in my classroom every time I use it! Students are engaged and excited about learning about each other while practicing important technology classroom procedures.
Grab a copy of this activity by clicking on the image below.
If you're like me, you struggle to find a way to get to know your students at the beginning of the year while teaching a myriad of rules and procedures. This activity has been a success in my classroom every time I use it! Students are engaged and excited about learning about each other while practicing important technology classroom procedures.
You might also like to check out this simple tutorial about how to make a ThingLink interactive image of your own.

AAAAAAAND...
This board on Pinterest has some of the most FABULOUS ideas for integrating technology into the classroom using ThingLink.

June 5, 2016

DIY: Door Latch Covers

DIY Teacher Hack: An easy and inexpensive way to make door latch covers out of items found around the house. Use to prevent classroom doors from automatically locking. These could even be great to use at home on those doors I don’t want my little ones to get locked behind accidentally.
Are you looking for a way to cover those latches on the door that cause it to lock? I spent about 30 minutes this morning making these easy and inexpensive covers from items I had around the house. Read about how totally simple it was, and then go find some items you can use to make your own!

Part of the safety protocol at my school is that we are required to have our doors locked and shut at all times. The main reason for this is so that in an emergency we are not taking precious time to find our door key and lock the door while we should be tending to our students and taking cover or evacuating the building.

For years I have been using a thin fridge magnet placed across the door frame to keep the door latch from catching and keeping students locked out in the hallway every time they need to use the restroom, go to the office, or switch classes. While this system certainly worked for a while, my magnet has started slipping or falling off and I've found myself locked out of my own room more than once (not embarrassing at all...)

So I decided to make something a bit more permanent and certainly cuter to use in place of the magnet. Check out these cute door latch covers. They even match my school colors - red, white, black, and grey!
DIY Teacher Hack: An easy and inexpensive way to make door latch covers out of items found around the house. Use to prevent classroom doors from automatically locking. These could even be great to use at home on those doors I don’t want my little ones to get locked behind accidentally.


Here's what you will need:
Fabric scraps
Fleece scraps (optional)
Scissors
Index card or ruler
Pencil
Elastic hair bands

Here's how to make them:
Gather some fabric scraps. I used calico and fleece, but you could use any type of fabric - even old clothing could be cut up to use for this project! Luckily I have a pretty big big stash of fabric scraps from my so-called quilting days, so I just dug around to find some fabrics that I liked and thought would coordinate with my room.
DIY Teacher Hack: An easy and inexpensive way to make door latch covers out of items found around the house. Use to prevent classroom doors from automatically locking. These could even be great to use at home on those doors I don’t want my little ones to get locked behind accidentally.
After you've found the fabrics you want to use, cut them into 4x6 inch pieces. I used a 3x4 inch index card and folded my fabric in half, but you could use a ruler.

I wanted to add a little bit of thickness to my pieces, so I also cut a 3x4 piece of fleece to put between the layers. Again, I used an index card to measure.
DIY Teacher Hack: An easy and inexpensive way to make door latch covers out of items found around the house. Use to prevent classroom doors from automatically locking. These could even be great to use at home on those doors I don’t want my little ones to get locked behind accidentally.
DIY Teacher Hack: An easy and inexpensive way to make door latch covers out of items found around the house. Use to prevent classroom doors from automatically locking. These could even be great to use at home on those doors I don’t want my little ones to get locked behind accidentally.
When you are done, you will have patterned fabric cut to a larger size than the fleece. (see above)
Fold one piece of patterned fabric in half with the wrong sides showing. Insert an elastic hair band between the two layers on each short end and pin in place.
DIY Teacher Hack: An easy and inexpensive way to make door latch covers out of items found around the house. Use to prevent classroom doors from automatically locking. These could even be great to use at home on those doors I don’t want my little ones to get locked behind accidentally.
Using a sewing machine, stitch along each ends of the fabric.
DIY Teacher Hack: An easy and inexpensive way to make door latch covers out of items found around the house. Use to prevent classroom doors from automatically locking. These could even be great to use at home on those doors I don’t want my little ones to get locked behind accidentally.
Sew through all three layers, including the hair bands. Be sure to leave one long edge open for turning the fabric right side out.
Turn the fabric right side out and insert one piece of fleece into the open side. Use your fingers to adjust the placement of the fleece so that it is mostly smooth. You may need to trim the fleece a bit to fit better.
DIY Teacher Hack: An easy and inexpensive way to make door latch covers out of items found around the house. Use to prevent classroom doors from automatically locking. These could even be great to use at home on those doors I don’t want my little ones to get locked behind accidentally.
Next, fold the cut edges inward and stitch close to the edge to close the seam.
Trim any loose threads and use an iron to press out any wrinkles or creases in the fabric.
Loop one elastic around the outside handle of the door.
DIY Teacher Hack: An easy and inexpensive way to make door latch covers out of items found around the house. Use to prevent classroom doors from automatically locking. These could even be great to use at home on those doors I don’t want my little ones to get locked behind accidentally.
 Pull the other elastic to fit around the inside handle of the door.
DIY Teacher Hack: An easy and inexpensive way to make door latch covers out of items found around the house. Use to prevent classroom doors from automatically locking. These could even be great to use at home on those doors I don’t want my little ones to get locked behind accidentally.
Close the door and you're done!
DIY Teacher Hack: An easy and inexpensive way to make door latch covers out of items found around the house. Use to prevent classroom doors from automatically locking. These could even be great to use at home on those doors I don’t want my little ones to get locked behind accidentally.
What I love about these door latch covers is that I can follow protocol and keep my door in the locked position, but I don't have to deal with the disruption of people being unable to enter my room without me stopping my lesson to let them in the room. And if it becomes necessary to lock the door shut, All I have to do it quickly unloop one of the hair bands and shut the door again.


I'm linking up with Mrs. King's Music Class for Summer Project Sundays. 
Hop on over to read about even more great DIY ideas!
http://mrskingrocks.blogspot.com/2016/06/using-gloves-with-fingerplays.html

May 15, 2016

Tech Tip: Using Bitlinks in the Classroom

I realized as I was talking to some fellow teachers that the use of bitly.com to shorten really long URLs is NOT a commonly known strategy. So I thought that I would share how easy it can be and how much time and frustration is saves me when sending students to websites and other documents.

Tech Tip: Use a free online service to shorten long URLs for use in the elementary classroom. Read about how simple it is to customize links to be easier to remember and simpler to type for younger students.
Maybe you're thinking, "WHY does any of this matter to me in the classroom?"
Well, I've found bitlinks to be helpful in several ways.

At my school, we have three carts of ipads, which is wonderful. IF you get them signed out early enough. However, if you're like me and tend to sign up late, you're stuck with the laptops or the stationary computer lab many times. Don't get me wrong. I am very happy to have access to as much technology as I do. But scanning QR codes with an iPad isn't always an option for me. So using bitlinks that have been customized has become my go-to method when I need students to visit particular websites.

I like using online sign-ups for things like party donations, parent teacher conferences, and field trip volunteers. When I use Sign-Up Genius (which I love so much I've written a whole blog post about it here), I end up with a long, complicated link that I have to share with my parents. Using bitly to shorten and customize the link is a great option for me!

I learned a while back to have an online storage system for my files. This has been such a lifesaver for me as I travel from home and school. I can even access files on my phone. I collaborate with other teachers in my district frequently, and I have found that sharing a bitlink to one of my files is a great way to allow access to the file. It's especially helpful for files that I am likely to change or update. Any updates that I save to the file show up when someone accesses the bitlink. It works the same way with Google Drive. Soooooo much better than emailing my fellow teachers six or seven times every time I find a typo or make a formatting change to a document.

In case you've never heard of bitly.com, I've put together some quick steps for setting up an acocunt and creating customized bitlinks. I hope it helps!

As with most sites, you'll need to create an account. Just go to bitly.com and sign up for a free membership. Easy peasy. I've even set my computer up to save my login information to make it simpler when I return to the site time after time.
Tech Tip: Use a free online service to shorten long URLs for use in the elementary classroom. Read about how simple it is to customize links to be easier to remember and simpler to type for younger students.

Open a second browser tab and go to the webpage that you would like to link to. This can be an image, a document, a website, etc. As long as it has a URL, you can create a shortened bitlink for it. I've even used it to link to a file I have saved in my Dropbox or Google Drive.
Tech Tip: Use a free online service to shorten long URLs for use in the elementary classroom. Read about how simple it is to customize links to be easier to remember and simpler to type for younger students.

 Copy the long link into the box at the top of the bitly page.
Tech Tip: Use a free online service to shorten long URLs for use in the elementary classroom. Read about how simple it is to customize links to be easier to remember and simpler to type for younger students.
On the right you will see a pop up window that shows a bitlink that has been created.
Tech Tip: Use a free online service to shorten long URLs for use in the elementary classroom. Read about how simple it is to customize links to be easier to remember and simpler to type for younger students.

I like to customize my bitlinks so that they are easier to remember and also simpler for my students to type into the navigation bar when they are using these links.
Tech Tip: Use a free online service to shorten long URLs for use in the elementary classroom. Read about how simple it is to customize links to be easier to remember and simpler to type for younger students.
For example, I changed a really long link to a file in my Dropbox account to a bitlink that was a series of letters and numbers and then customized it to be bit.ly/2016TCAP which was sooooooo much easier for my students to keep track of when typing.

Really that's it, but if you'd like to use these links to track how many people actually click on them to visit the page you've shared bitly has a simple way to do that as well. Simply highlight one of your bitlinks and you'll see how many total clicks there have been on your link. There's also a nifty graph that shows what days your link has been clicked.

The other day in class, one of my students raised his hand and let me know he had noticed that I had not posted on this blog for a while. Um, yeah. It's been a month again. Darn it. I have such high hopes and then life gets busy. So in honor of EVAN (in case you're reading this) this is a blog post that is LOOOOOOONG overdue.