Sunday, January 22, 2012

Finding Fun

Hello!  I know, I've been gone for a while.  Sorry about that.  You know I have been reorganizing my room.  I was at school every day last week until 6 or 7 at night.  I finally have my room about 95% done.  However, by the time I got home, ate dinner, and graded some papers, I was just too tired to post.  So, the plan was to post over this weekend.  I took lots of pictures of my room and am excited to show you.  That would have worked if I hadn't left my camera in my classroom on Friday!  Oh well.  I promise to post it all during the week since I will be back to normal hours. I also have pictures for some other posts I wanted to do this week. I was just going to post without the pictures, but it would take too much explanation.  Besides, I know when I read blogs, I like pictures. 

In the meantime, I was thinking about how we lead such test-driven lives these days as teachers.  In teaching 5th grade, I feel like I often have so much to cover that the fun stuff gets lost.  We don't have time to make something, we have curriculum to learn!!  But, don't we all know that some of the best learning happens in the activities and projects that are fun?  So, I decided to search the web for some learning fun.  Below are some art projects and just some fun stuff I've found around the web that look like something your friends and mine will enjoy.  The title of each project is the link to the activity and the source for the pictures I used.  Take a look.  Maybe you will see something you like!


How cute is this?  There is a teacher in my building that does this every year.  When you see the bubble gum faces all together on a bulletin board, you can't help but smile.  This idea has been around for a while.  You can find it all over the web, too.  That must prove it's a good one!  What I like is that the writing part can be simple for younger friends, as in the picture above with just a "first, next, last" prompt.  Or, for older friends, they can write the entire expository essay.  The link will take you to The Teacher Wife blog.  She shows the entire project in more detail.

Expository Writing:  Description
No pictures or links for this one.   However, there are some pictures on my camera at school.  I'm posting this one anyway.  One of the activities I do for our expository writing for description is have my friends write a description of a favorite object.  We then trade papers, and based on only what was written, another friend draws the object.  Without fail, my more detailed writers get the better pictures. When my friends get their pictures back, it is suddenly very clear to them what they may have left out of their description or how their writing may have confused the reader.  I have them revise their writing, and they are always 100% better.

This is from the preschool blog Fairy Dust Teaching.  She makes these pencils for her friends when she is ready to teach how to hold and use a pencil.  It got me thinking.  Wouldn't it be fun to have your friends make a special pencil or pen to be used ONLY for final copies or special projects?  I'm not sure I would go with the glitter on the pencil.  That might get awfully messy, and I would be afraid of what all that glitter would do to  my pencil sharpeners.  However, if you are decorating pens, I'm thinking about all the patterned duct tape they have out now.  Your friends could cover pens in strips of that and have feathers poking out the top.  Just thinking off the top of my head here.  This might be a fun way to spark some writers.

Book Covers
No pictures or links again.  Well, sort of.  Let me explain.  This is something I have done with my friends with great success.  I have them find a book they have read and take construction paper to fit it for a new dust cover.  I like to do it the size of the book because we actually leave the new dust covers on the books when we put them back in our class library. For the project, they have to create an original cover illustration, and the back will have a "grabber" summary that does not give away the ending.  I'm sure some of you have done this project already. 

Now, I actually do have a link. has a book jacket maker online.  Your friends can just plug in all the information and it will generate the book jacket.  You can select to do just he front cover, front and back, or the full dust cover.  You can also select if you want it done in color or black and  white depending on the printer you have available to you. 

Favorite math joke of my friends: 
What did the social studies book say to the math book?  Dude!  You've got problems!
See, they are as corny as I am.  We are a perfect fit!  Anyway, here are some fun math artsy things for ya.

Have you seen this one?  Sadly, I saw it after I had already finished teaching the concepts of mean, mode, median, maximum, and minimum.  However, I'm thinking it will be fun to do during those last couple of days of school when my friends have already essentially checked out.  The link above will take you to the project instructions, but if you want to see real life application, visit Rundee's Room blog.  It is a great blog to follow.  If you visit her site, you will see exactly how she conducted the activity.  This may not be so much about art, but in the end they can make some crazy Oreo sculptures.

This is a great project for the beginning of the school year.  Your friends create a poster that shows all the numbers that are important in their lives.  Shows how math is all around us, and it could be a great get-to-know-you activity.  I'm thinking if you wanted to do this later in the year, you could require your friends to use other number names that the class would have to figure out.  For example, instead of saying I was born on May 8th, they might say they were born on four squared divided by two.  The would write the equation of course, I just couldn't figure out how to type in an exponent!

I really like this, but there was no link.  I found this on Pinterest.  The link above will take you to the board it was posted on, but the link is "uploaded by user" so it doesn't take you to a web page.  However, the comment notes that the kids are given a set of directions to follow so that the map includes parallel lines, intersecting lines, perpendicular lines, a variety of angles and geometric shapes, and more.  I'm thinking you could probably write your own directions for this.  Maybe not directions as much as just saying your map must include X,Y, and Z.  Then, it's up to your friends to be creative.

Science and Social Studies
Honest to goodness, when it comes to science, that picture above says it all for me!  Science is my least favorite subject to teach.   I really feel as if it is a different language sometimes.  However, I find when I do hands-on projects or activities with my friends, we all understand the concepts much better.  What follows may not be science experiments but more art centered activities.
This is from the Crayola web site.  They give you all the directions.  Of course, they endorse all their projects in the process.  However, I was thinking this would be a great way to include an environmental aspect to the lesson by having your friends use old magazines to do this.  They could tear out pages that have the colors and textures they are looking for.  They could also search at home for any stray papers that might work.

This is very cool!  This is an area of science I don't cover, but I would love to try this anyway.  The supplies and steps are super short and simple.  It's the last step, sprinkling salt on top, that makes the "lava" bubble up and down the glass.

This is from a home schooler's blog.  This one actually follows scientific method and involves just a few simple materials to conduct the activity: rocks, sand, soil, and a jar.  Then, like in the picture above which is from the blog, your friends can recreate their results.  I would probably do this as a small group activity rather than have each friend do their own simple to keep the mess and supplies to a minimum.

Have I made myself clear?!  Just kidding!  But really.  You must go to this web site if you teach anything to do with physics.  It is all about making laptop books (interactive notebook?)  for a variety of physics concepts.  Honestly, all our notebooks should look like this.  Guaranteed to keep your friends interested and involved.  It takes what I did with my Newton's Laws of Motion flip charts  to a whole new level.  Here's a couple of pictures from the site for the light and sound laptop book to give you an idea.
Open it up, and. . .  ta da!!!!
I'm thinking you could add each component as you teach it.  There are many more fantastic ideas on this site.  I really like the magnetism book. 

I have done this one!   The link above will take you to the Canku Ota web page, a Native American online newsletter.  The page will have the two pages below, as well as some other coloring pages.

For this project, I've had my friends write the story of a Native American tribe we have studied.  In writing the story, they use the symbols above to replace words as often as they can.  I've also done it as a fiction writing where they write a personal narrative telling about their day as if they were a Native American.  Instead of regular paper, I give them brown butcher block paper and a black Sharpie to write their story.  Then, I have them crumple and recrumple their paper until it is wrinkled and soft as buffalo hide.  They are always amazed at how the paper becomes soft as fabric.  If time allows, you can always go back with paint and color some of the symbols.   It's a fun project.

So, there you have it.  Just a few fun projects to spark some thinking.  How can we bring a little fun back in to our classrooms?  I'll be back on Tuesday with some pictures of my classroom and some other posts during the week.  Until then, have a great Sunday!


  1. just shared at least 5 different projects I can do with my kids! THANK YOU SO MUCH :) So many cute and educational ideas!!
    To The Square Inch

  2. Nancy:
    WOW! When you post, you POST!
    I, too, dislike teaching science. Sixth grade science is earth science and I bore MYSELF when I design science lessons. The standards seem more in line with 8th grade thinking, and the pacing guide asks us to cover nuclear fission and fusion (with a fair level of compexity!) in one day! (And certainly all of the vocab words for THAT lesson are tucked neatly away in a file in my brain... NOT!)
    I think I will do the Oreos activity to review for The Test. By then, we will be needing a sanity break.
    Thanks for ALL of the great ideas!

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  3. Nancy:
    Thanks for the great ideas. I have done the O.R.E.O. project with my class for few years. It is the first thing we do with our reading/project buddies. The kids love it. Jennifer at hosts this project and others throughout the year. They are a great way to integrate technology (LOVE IT!) into other areas, and to connect with other classrooms. I do the Buffalo skin stories too. We use brown paper bags. A good way to reuse them. When wet, then wrinkled, they dry to look like hides. Thanks.

  4. whew! That was a ton of inspiration in one post, thank you!!

  5. Wow- great ideas! You and your students have been busy! I really love the ideas for the how to and the descriptive writing (I teach reading K-5).
    Conversations in Literacy

  6. What great ideas and some reminders about ideas I have seen before! Thank you for taking the time for this long post that is so helpful!

    I just found your blog and am excited to be your newest follower! I would love for you to visit me if you get the chance!

    Heather's Heart

  7. Just wanted to stop by and say we loved your bubble gum faces writing project. We tried it out and had so much fun we just had to share it with our readers too (giving you a link back of course)! thanks