September 20, 2019

10 Classroom Management Strategies to Promote Full-Class Participation

Keeping all your kiddos on point is no small feat.  Wandering minds and fidgety bodies can interfere with even the best laid instructional plans. [Read more...]

Survival Science Unit Part 2


This is part two in a series Survival Science

Day 7  Students choose a partner to work with on a Survivor experience.  Students discuss and compare their survival lists and combine lists and create a final list of fifty items that they will take to the island. They may choose six luxury items for this list, three for each student.

Day 8  Discuss survival items students could make while on the island using basic items found on the island combined with selected items from their list, such as  string, net, wire, or duct tape .  Each student is then instructed to create an invention item. They are instructed to complete the project in one week and required to demonstrate it’s purpose in class. Students are to include a list of items used to determine that each item was actually on the final list.

Day 9-10 Class time on projects. (Another three school days were given to complete the project at home as homework.)

Upon completion of projects students demonstrate them in front of the class. I also recommend allowing time for other students to view them and explore how they work after the presentations. We then displayed them in a  display case in the school lobby. Students included a description of each item and what it would be used for.

I’ve discovered options to expand the unit. Reality shows like Survivor certainly have expanded older students knowledge of survival in extreme conditions so in appropriate grade level settings such as high school an episode (that has been pre-viewed) could be used to discuss  shelter building, protecting food from the elements, fire starting with flint and fishing techniques. Another resource would be Boy Scouts. These students would be an additional resource for the unit as they often learn survival and camping skills.

Students could make videos of the building process as they create their survival item. Here you can read about other Lesson Machine Teaching in the Trenches tips including video projects and web projects to use for special school events as well as other helpful advice.

Students could pack and prepare a backpack with their listed items (provided their family owns these items already.) If they don’t then you could bring in the items as a class and have the students pack them in class to see just how such a task would be completed and the skill necessary to make such a pack hold what you need while being light enough to handle.

Photo Credit Edyta Materka

Science Survivor Style for the Classroom

Cast Away

This is part one of a two part series on Science Survivor Style

As a teacher it’s important to find projects and units of study that keep students interested and motivated. One unit of study I used with Science students in sixth grade was a Survivor Unit. This unit can easily be adapted to upper level students.

Day 1-3. I began the unit by showing the movie Cast Away with Tom Hanks. We then had class discussions about the experiences and situations that Tom Hanks character faced.

Day 4 I assigned the students to make a list of 1oo items that they would want to take with them to an uninhabited island. I instructed them to think carefully about what they would need to survive and thrive in such a difficult environment. I allowed them to talk in groups of four about their ideas for fifteen minutes before making their list. I also suggested to them that they should include at least a few luxury items such as as sport gear, books, a journal, a camera etc. It would be their choice which  luxury items were included, but they were limited to ten.

Day 5 We discussed and shared our lists ( I made one as well.) We noted items that we felt were essential and we discussed how people have different ideas about what might be essential and why.

Day 6  Narrow the  list to the top 30 items that will go to the island with you. The luxury items are now narrowed to three. ( I chose one tenth of the list.)  Finish with a class discussion about what makes the final list and why.

Science is a subject where scientific information and resources are always expanding and changing. One great option to expand your science content and knowledge is to use these online Science  News Services.

See part two of the series for the remaining unit and project plans.

Photo Credit Shayan USA Flickr

Environmental Education, Recycling and Trash Pickup

The Importance of Recycling

As concerns mount regarding the state of our gulf coast and the oil spill, it’s a perfect opportunity to increase our children’s environmental awareness and educate them further about  the ways our planet is being damaged. There are many great programs for recycling but there are many people who don’t participate.  A great student project to demonstrate the importance of recycling is to have the students collect various types of trash from the classroom and home and dig a classroom landfill in a school approved area. If your school doesn’t have an area where you can dig there’s another excellent options in this article to achieve similar educational awareness about trash and recycling.

Project 1 Take student collected trash (food trash, plastic trash, paper trash.) It works best to include all types of trash for this project.

Phase One: As a class dig the landfill hole and place your trash items in the landfill. Have students map the landfill area, so that you know where each type of trash is located, for the second phase of this project. Take photos of the trash items before covering your landfill with soil. Cover the landfill area and then have a classroom discussion about how long the trash items will take to decompose in the landfill. Discuss recycling options in your individual area. Field trip option; visit a local landfill in your area for students to see the reality of what our garbage actually does to the planet.

This is part one of a two part series on Recycling and Trash.

Recycling Photo Credit By: Bucklava

Celebrating Cultural Diversity

Cultural and Musical Diversity

Living and working overseas taught me the importance and joy of celebrating the cultural diversity of my students. Celebrating cultural events raises awareness among students and staff. Exploring the varied ethnic cultural diversity of students through cultural celebrations gives children a taste of ethnic customs,  food, dance, language and dress. It’s an  exciting way to involve everyone in a no pressure environment where learning  takes place naturally.

In Germany I included local celebrations in my plans.  Students enjoy sharing little gifts on December 6th, which is the European St. Nicholas Day. In German custom bad children receive a lump of coal and good children receive small gifts. Another special celebration that all small school children in Germany celebrate is the receiving of  their  Schultute , a giant cone filled with sweets and treats to take away the bitterness of school starting. Directions to make your own Schultute.

When I taught on the island of Guam we celebrated United Nations Day with  a day long celebration of costumes from cultures around the world and  a musical program where students and staff shared songs and instruments around the world. Through our experiences we learned about new foods, ways of life and activities that raised awareness of cultures different than our own. In each of these very different cultures teachers brought the culture of our “second home” to life through customs and experiences that drew children closer to each other, while teaching them more about their second home culture.

Photo Credit Secret Tenerife’s

Tie Dye Tee Shirt: Class Project

Tie Dye Tee Shirt

Making memories is what the end of the school year is all about. As a teacher I always tried to plan something the kids would love. One event that works well is to have an outdoor activity day combined with dying tie dye tee shirts.  I’ve participated in such an event and I’ve planned a follow up event. It’s fun and well suited to work together. Here’s why.

When you tie dye you should really be in a space where sloppy messes don’t matter. The outdoors is a wonderful space for tie dye, if a pan of dye gets spilled the grass can be hosed down and there are no classroom messes to deal with. Secondly if you pair the tie dye activity with an outdoor activity such as volleyball or kickball then students can rotate in and out of the game to tie dye their shirt. This allows you to supervise the game and oversee shirts being made a few at a time, with no waiting or fussing among students. Remember when planning to choose a sporting activity that doesn’t require a huge team of players. This will allow you to start a few on the shirts and then rotate additional students into the tie dye and back into the game seamlessly.

Tie Dye Spiral Tee Project

Tie Dye Heart Tee

Tie Dye Tee Shirt Ideas and Instructions

Photo Credit: Tie Dye Tee Flickr

Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag Project

This is a fun project to do with students or with the children in your family on a vacation day.  I used this as a Science activity with my seventh grade students in Hawaii. The instructions and ingredients are simple enough that this ice cream project can also be used with younger age children. My students did this particular  ice cream activity outside to minimize the mess.  As an added bonus students can bring their favorite ice cream topping in a ziploc bag to add into the ice cream mixture as it is firming up.

Homemade Ice Cream

Here are links to three options for Homemade Ice Cream in a Bag. (This one uses half and half.) (This one uses milk rather than half and half.) (This one offers the option of making the ice cream in a coffee can.)

Ingredients  and Materials to Make Ice Cream in a Bag

1 C half and half

2 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 C rock salt

ice cubes

ziploc bags (One gallon size bag and one quart size  bag will be needed for each recipe made)


permanent marker to put names on the ice cream bags

Divide your ice cream mixture into individual ziploc bags and then place the sealed bag of  ice cream mixture into a larger gallon sized bag filled partially with ice. Add rock salt to the outer bag and seal it carefully. Have the students toss the ziploc bag back and forth within their hands, using the towels as needed, when the bags become too cold. I remember this project taking about 10-15  minutes. We then took the ice cream out of the exterior bag and placed it in the freezer for a firmer freeze. When you are taking the ice cream bag out of the larger bag to put it in the freezer wipe it off and then add in your individual ice cream toppings. When the ice cream is firm the kids can eat it directly from their individual bags which have been labeled with their name.

Homemade Ice Cream Photo by: Enersauce

Web Roundup: Down Days, Progress Reports and More

January is prime month for quality instruction. Yet it is also the time many of us have a hard time gearing up after the holidays. To help out, I’ve rounded up what I feel are the top tips from around the web as we launch into 2010. [Read more...]

Classroom Holiday Calendar on the Cheap

As December approaches, many teachers are looking for ways to celebrate the Christmas holiday that keep both classroom discipline and budget in check. [Read more...]

Spelling Activities: 27 Ways to Practice in Style

Spelling lists are a necessary part of our weekly routine. We all want our students to do well, but still need to spend time creating exciting lessons for the rest of the curriculum. So how do we keep the spelling activities familiar enough to allow for self direction, yet fresh enough that the students won’t balk at the idea of doing them? Here are twenty-seven tips for primary through high school to help get you started. [Read more...]