Monday, March 18, 2013

St Patricks Day Goodies

Although this post is has "St Patricks Day" in the title, the content is totally adaptable to any themed holiday or occasion- as you will soon see!

In NZ, Valentines Day occurs fairly quick into the school year. I usually take the opportunity to pop some Valentines themed board games into the Math group boxes for the children to play as part of their rotation tasks.

Last year I made up a set of 'tic tac toe' for each group box. The sets had a coloured game board (glued onto card) and 6 felt hearts of one colour, 6 of another colour. I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I forgot about the games, and they were in the group boxes for the entire year. However, am excited that every set survived! I credit it to the fact that each heart was a double layer of felt blanket stitched together- very durable.
However, this year I was less organised and just cut out single layered felt hearts. My plan is to stitch them together before next Valentines Day. No doubt it will linger in my 'to do' basket until a week before next Valentines.
This year I hope to keep the games new and exciting by changing the theme of the tic tac toe as each theme day arrives. We recently celebrated St Patricks Day, so I crocheted four leaf clovers in two shades of green for each board. Just do a quick You Tube search if you want the instructions. If you are not a crocheter, try cutting them out of felt in shades of green.
Our next event is Easter, and I plan to make some felt Easter eggs as game pieces this time. As you can see, it is easy to adapt the game to suit most themes. The game boards stay the same, and while the game pieces are a bit of work initially, I am hoping to store them for use next year too. The boards are easy to organise, and each group has a different coloured board so its easy to see who left their set out!

I am stoked with the progress so far. The children are loving the revival of one of their favourite games. They are practising their skills in logic and reasoning, co-operation and score keeping. Plus its a great way to get a new game into the group boxes without going through the rigmarole of introducing a new set of rules.

I usually introduce one or two other themed games at the same time. This St Patricks Day we had a roll and cover game available for free from here and a 'make 10' basic facts game from TeachersPayTeachers. This helps to ensure that we are getting new games fed into our group boxes and that we are re-inforcing key knowledge areas.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Pointing in the right direction...

My class absolutely LOVES raiding my big pointers. Unfortunately sometimes they can be a little hard on them, especially the more fragile fairy wands etc.
 So I have made a bunch of mini pointers for the children to use when reading. They went wild for them! This set is inexpensive, quick to make and an easy craft activity. You could even have your students make their own!
 The wands are simply large popsicle sticks with a decoration hot glued to one end. I am hoping that the decoration focusses the eye, helps the children with their tracking and makes their reading just a little bit special and exciting.

I used a range of decorations- googly eyes, wooden shapes, felt shapes, sparkly decorations, Christmas decals, foam shapes, pom poms, ribbon flowers, fabric flowers. The craft aisle of the dollar shop or your local emporium should provide plenty materials to work with.
 They are stored in a condensed milk tin. I used PVA glue to cover it with yellow paper and used some ABC stickers for the label.
The children are loving using their new pointers!

Monday, March 4, 2013

10 Alternatives to Plastic Counters

Shifting classrooms always requires a scramble to inventory current equipment and to replace those old regulars that you use a lot. I know that almost every classroom must need counters at some point in time! Having a range of alternatives can often pique children's interest, but can be a budgetary stretch at the same time. Here are 10 alternatives that I have rustled up with a minimum cost.

1. Smooth stones come ready made and freely available from your local beach or stony river. Small pebbles are perfect as game tokens, or collected for use in Math lessons. They look great with stickers and glitter glued on and are REALLY durable. However, they can be heavy when stored en masse.

2. Wooden shapes are available in packs of 12-20 from your local dollar shop. These are particularly awesome to use for number stories (i.e. 6 bumble bees were sitting on a flower and 3 flew back to the hive, how many were left?). They are more durable than paper cut outs, intriguing and reasonably affordable for small group or whole class work.
 3. Milk bottle caps have to be a favourite of mine. They make great counters for large format board games! There will always be families in your class that are willing to help you collect milk bottle caps and so will your friends and family. A variety of colours are available (flavoured milks/ types of milk/ cream/ juice caps) or you can collect sets of the same colour. They are great for little hands too- often easier to pick up and control than fiddly counters. And milk bottle caps are free!
 4. Glass pebbles are available in mesh bags from your local dollar store (try the hardware or candle section if they aren't in the crafts area). They are awesome for use as 'gems' or 'treasure' themed Math games or activities. Available in a couple of different colours and quite affordable. Be prepared for them to gradually go missing over time though! They can be personalised by gluing small stickers or circles of wrapping paper on the back (like the sight word gems featured on Fairy Dust Teaching
 5. Matchsticks are available in bulk bags from your local dollar store too. Perfect for patterning activities, counting, sorting etc. Relatively inexpensive, they come ready made (always a bonus) but can break quite easily.
 6. I keep these sparkly little lovelies for testing. Although they tend to be feminine, these little jewels are also loved by the boys who enjoy the 'specialness' that they bring to one on one testing situations. Using them is a privilege and my students beg to get to use them. Available in the craft section from dollar shops, there is a huge variety of sparkly gems available.
 7. These large circle magnets are perfect for whole class demonstrations. They are magnetised, so they stick to your whiteboard etc and are easy to grasp and manipulate. I have a range of laminated resources to use with them ('lolly' bags, 'biscuit packets', blank lady bird shapes) which add context to the number stories that we create with them. They also work great with enlarged tens frames. I bought this packet of 8 for $2, however I have been able to pick them up in clear containers of 10-12 from good dollar shops.
 8. Ring pull tabs from soft drink cans are lightweight and freely available. There will always be families in your class who drink from cans (i.e. dad drinking beer), and someone willing to collect them for you. VERY affordable, they make a good alternative to regular counters. But they can take a long time to collect.
 9. Beer bottle caps are another free, recyclable material that can be useful in your Math corner. This set has been washed and spray painted silver. They are easy to spray paint a variety of colours and easy to collect. Try adding stickers before clear coating to create cute game counters. Unbranded beer bottle caps are available where beer brewing supplies are available.
10. Painted pegs. Perfect for counting and clipping onto 'washing lines' (curtain wire strung across a window at a child-friendly height). Alternatively, try sorting by colour or pattern? Or use plain pegs and write numbers on them for a number ordering activity. Try dying plain pegs (there are plenty of tutorials online) if you are looking for value for money. Your local Bunnings will have an affordable array of plain pegs, and painted pegs are often available in the craft section of dollar shops.

So there you have it. 10 tried and true child friendly manipulative's and alternatives for counters in your Math corners. They are all relatively inexpensive, intriguing and provide different contexts for learning. Remember, the cheaper the materials (i.e. free), often the greater the work involved in setting them up (washing, spray painting, gluing, clear coating etc). I have by no means exhausted my possibilities, so check back again another day for 10 more cheap and cheerful ideas!