Friday, February 27, 2015

Poetry to a Teacher's Ears!

Students work harder and more intensely when they are in control.  I love challenging students and giving them the leeway to demonstrate their learning in various ways.

I've created projects to go along with most every topic I've taught and I can tell you that I've received far greater effort than if I had tightly directed the learning for my students step by step.  I prefer to give the learning criteria, and then allow students the freedom to demonstrate extend their knowledge through open-ended projects and activities.

Today I'm going to share my poetry project I created years ago.  Back in 2001, my daughter was a 4th grader in my 4/5 blend class.  She and her classmates begged for time to write poems.  Even the boys enjoyed writing poems, and THAT is music to a teacher's ears! She couldn't stop writing poems.  She wrote poems about every topic in her life that interested her.  I've included some photos of her creations.
In the project, students learn about different forms of poems and then write their own.  Some of the poems they will write include acrostics, alphabet alliteration, cinquain, color poem, concrete poem, creature poem, metaphor poem, haiku, I Am poem, limerick, and a who what when where why poem. They learn about figurative language, and the elements of poetry (alliteration, hyperbole, idiom, imagery, metaphor, meter, onomatopoeia, personifiction, rhythm, stanza, simile, and verse).  Students try out their newly acquired skills while writing their own poems.  
A powerful component of the project is the reflection, sharing, and critiques process.  Students write a self reflection of how they felt before, during and after the process.  My bet is that all of your students will say they had fun with this project and enjoyed it.  

Then students share their poetry collection with peers and also with important adults in their lives.  These words will prove powerful to students now and in the future.  Many times during my daughter's years, she pulled out this poetry collection, looked through it and smiled as she reread the poems and the kind words about her poems. 
Over the years teaching this independent poetry project, I've refined the project and added Common Core standards to the unit.  The new unit is one of my best loved teaching items on TpT.  However you teach poetry, teach on and have fun!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

TpT Sale Extension! Blog and Store Images for You

TpT has extended the Teachers Are Heroes sale for another day!   Use the promo code to get an additional 8% off what the seller is giving you!  My entire store is 20% + 8% off!

If you are a teacher seller, head to my TpT store to download these FREE images.

This banner is for your TpT store.

This image is for your blog or Facebook page.

Happy sale!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Teachers are Heroes Sale Feb. 25th!

It's a one day BIG sale site-wide at TpT and EVERY item in my store is 20% off!    PLUS, TpT is giving an additional 8% off!  Use the promo code HEROES at checkout.  :)
Thank you to teachers everywhere!  YOU are heroes!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Always Learn Something New!

I will always (thank goodness) be a learner!  I've always told my students that each day of their life they should strive to learn something new.  Education is a gift; not a given.  I've always been an inquirer, figuring out what I didn't know.  I'm a lot like my dad.  In Scotland, he was taught in school to ask "why" and be inquisitive. Over his 89 years, he's invented all kinds of things during his life.  He likes to think up better and more efficient ways to do things. It's like a challenge to him.  He inspires me.

Years ago (like really . . . years ago . .  in 2000) I wanted to be one of the first teachers to have a classroom website.  There were no classes I could take to teach me so I bought a web building program at Costco and taught myself during the summer.  In September, my students and their families were they lucky recipients of one of my districts first teacher web sites.

Another time I needed an Oregon Trail map for my Oregon Trail Simulation that was not copyrighted, so I drew my own map!  You might be surprised to know that I drew it using MS Word drawing tools.  It took me about 10 hours but I did it and it turned out awesome. It has the rivers, landmarks, and everything!  I also drew an Oregon Trail wagon using MS Word.  Crazy, but I learned a lot through trial and error.

Well, the past few days I've been designing and making luggage tag ID sets for my Etsy shop and needed some digital camouflage paper so I made my own!  I'm not finished with the final camo luggage tags, but the digital paper is done!   I am so tickled with myself I can't stand it!

Brand new products are HALF off for one day only in my TpT store!

Final thought for today . . . Never, never, never stop learning!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Branching Out and Bunco Fun with Etsy!

Hi friends!  I LOVE creating and designing on the computer and have officially determined it's what I do as  hobby!

I recently opened an Etsy Store called Mrs. Renz Designs to house my new creations that aren't just for teachers!
In January, my mom hosted her Bunco group party and I couldn't let her use the boring player cards that the group was used to using so I created a super cute (if I do say so, myself!) snowman Bunco card set.  She had a blue and white party theme and it was so cute!  Everyone gave nice compliments on the set.  
Then I designed themed Bunco card sets for each month.  This is my favorite set - the Easter one!
There's a complete year set, too.

THEN I couldn't stand it and designed a super colorful variety set because I was on a roll and couldn't stop!
So when will the designing stop?  Never!  I'm loving it!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What Works for You to Teach Multiplication Facts?

Do you have any great ideas or tips for teaching and helping students really learn their times tables?  If you do, please leave a comment with your tips.  I'd love to hear what you do that works!

Here's a few programs that work well for me with fourth graders:

If you haven't seen a program called "Times Tables the Fun Way", you really MUST check it out! The program is visual and each multiplication fact has a short story and poster that accompanies it.  The characters in the story are the numbers in the fact, so students visualize the poster and therefore, recall the fact that goes with it.   This program is especially helpful for students that really struggle learning the "hard" facts like 7x7, 6x7, 8x7, 8x4 etc.
I have a students color the posters and we have a coloring contest.  The winning poster gets laminated and displayed on our math wall for reference.  It's super colorful and helpful as well!

Another thing I use that students love doing is called "Xtra Math."  It's an free online math program where you (the teacher) create a classroom account for each student that allows them to practice their basic math facts online.  Then students log onto their individual account and do customized multiplication practice. Best of all, the teacher and parents get a summary of the child's progress. Students can log on from home, too, so parents are happy to encourage math practice.
I like to begin the year teaching area (and perimeter) so we can use multiplication arrays to compute rectangular area and multiplication.  This reinforces the commutative process of multiplication, too! Make sure to teach fact families to reinforce multiplication facts and division at the same time.  There are so many ways to sneak in concepts!

What works for YOU to teach multiplication?  Leave a comment and share what works for you!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Can You Help an Amazing Educator Help Other Educators?

Educators are such giving individuals.  In the end, no matter where or what we teach, our goals are the same:  To make a positive impact and help students discover the joy of learning.  It starts with effective educators.  I want to tell you about one and how you can help.

St. Claire Adriaan is one of the most dynamic and effective educators in our country.  I met him back in 2006 at the 2006 Disney Teacher Awards.  St. Claire is the REAL DEAL!  He's an amazing middle school math teacher who connects with all students, and is now he's an educational leader.  He turned around a failing school in New Orleans, and has made an positive impact in every position he's been undertaken.  Now he has a mission for his summer break.
St. Claire is on a mission to help improve student achievement in his hometown of Cape Elizabeth, South Africa.  Students in his hometown have scored last in the province on student achievement.  His goal is to take with him two American teachers and provide some much needed teacher development and coaching.  

As St. Claire says, "I know that it is my duty to help my city, my people, and my province provide our students with an excellent education.  I need help helping the students in South Africa.  A better teacher leads to higher expectations, better results and successful students." If you can help, please visit his Go Fund Me page.  Be sure to watch the 4 minute video so you can get to know the kind of teacher St. Claire is.  Thank you for anything you can do to help St. Claire help students!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Button, Button, Who Needs a Button? {Clip Art} That Is!

Hi friends!  I have just created and posted my very first graphic set and I'm oh so excited to share the news!  It's a huge collection of 65 colorful clip art buttons in solids and patterns.

I created the set to use for my product previews and Oregon Trail quilt items and thought that maybe others could use them, too.  They would be great to use for math lessons and activities as counters.

Since this is my first graphic set, I put it on sale at 50% off for the first two days!  Enjoy!
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