Friday, August 31, 2012

Hot Topic Friday! BeFunky

I heard about this site from one of my favorite peeps, and decided to check it out.  BeFunky! is a site which offers you and your students the opportunity to upload photos and change them into funky ones. There are probably a dozen or so different modes you can try with several options in each one.  It was so easy, all you do is upload a photo, edit it, and then choose your effects.  You and your students will be able to use these crazy photos in projects, powerpoints, glogsters, online platforms such as edmodo, class webpages, and so many more.  Your pictures can be of anything and best of all, it's free! So get a little funky and spice up your classroom projects!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Going Back Fully Stashed!

Innovative Connections

Don't feel like you have everything you need to start school yet?  Check out The Ultimate Middle School Years Giveaway with over $300 products being handed out.  From August 25th - 27th you'll be able to win a product or if you would like to do the blog hop, answer one question from each of the blogs you visit and just for completing the hop, you'll be emailed all of the freebies that have been donated as a exciting is that? Click on the picture above to enter to win!

Globicate has generously offered $5.00 spending spree on any item in my TeachersPayTeachers Store.  I have a variety of items to choose from including Common Core Tracking Units, Digital  Literature Groups Unit, and Writer's Workshop forms.  If you've never visited Globicate before I focus on geographical, cultural, and world awareness, in addition to lessons, resources, and tips for the middle grade classrooms. Literacy, education, basic needs, and human kindness for everyone around the world is my goal.

My friend Kristen over at Secondary Solutions has a product that I would love, a massive collection of writing prompts.  You can check out her TeachersPayTeachers store at: Secondary Solutions TPT Store. Secondary Solutions is dedicated to ideas, tips, and more for the middle and high school English Language Arts teacher. Featuring lesson ideas, freebies, and tips for teaching such as recent blog posts "How to Write and Organize a Cause and Effect Essay" and "How to Write and Organize Persuasive Essays" plus several articles on "attacking" the Common Core Standard, this blog is sure to have something you're looking for!
Secondary Solutions Blog

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hot Topic Friday! Block Posters

Hot Topic Friday, Block Posters, Technology, Globicate, Heidi Befort
I just finished setting up my room, but I have a little wall space and I want to put up some inspiring posters and words.  Problem is though, I can't find the ones I want at a reasonable price.  Well, check out this site called Block Posters. You can create any size wall poster from any size image you want to use, great right?  All you have to do is upload the image, tell it how many sheets wide you'd like it to be and poof!  You have your poster.  I would suggest laminating the pages to protect it when you're done. Best part as always for me is it's totally free.  Check it out and send me a picture of your new posters in your room!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Exploring the Democratic Republic of Congo

Hi there, I’m Heidi Raki of Raki’s Rad Resources. Heidi Befort has graciously invited me to do a series of posts for you on using research books to explore different countries. I’m sorry I’ve missed a few weeks – I was on vacation with my family in Agadir in the south of Morocco.  Feel free to stop by my personal blog, Journey to Morocco to see pictures.  Also, please stop by and visit the amazing spotlight blogger post Heidi Befort wrote for me while I was gone!

When I was here last, I wrote for you about Greece. This week, we are exploring the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Last year, my class explored this country for our school’s International Day.  Here’s some of what we learned.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Here’s a little information about the Democratic Republic of Congo:

- Democratic Republic of Congo is located in Western Africa, right on the equator.  It shares a border with Angola, Sudan, Tanzania and the Republic of Congo.

- The Democratic Republic of Congo has had 5 different names since 1908, including Zaire and the Belgian Congo.

-There are 5 official languages, and 242 total languages spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but French is the unifying language and the language of the government. 

- Christianity is the main religion of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

- The capitol city of the Democratic Republic of Congo is Kinshasa.

- The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to the Congo River and Congo Rainforest, including animals that can’t be found anywhere else in the world, like the Bonobo monkey.

congo1If you would like to teach your kids about Democratic Republic of Congo you can use this Free Research Book that you can download from Google Docs to help them explore some key facts about Democratic Republic of Congo.

I’ll be back next week as part of this ‘Learning About Countries Through Research Books series” with information about Scotland. In the mean time, please feel free to stop by my blog, Raki’s Rad Resources, for more quality teaching tips and resources.

Heidi Raki of Raki's Rad Resources

Sunday, August 19, 2012

School Has Started, Now What?

If you're like me, school has already started.  The bulletin boards are up, desks are in place, I'm as organized as I can get.   The first week of school is complete with only a few tears and not too many emails or questions.  But with such a large class this year, I know that I need to be proactive in my approach to just about everything, especially with parental communication.

Parents are the backbone of a school. We need to share in the joys and sometimes pains of their child's growth on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  Most parents just want to be involved, invited, consulted, and collaborated with about the direction of their child's education.  So, reaching out might be your best avenue to a successful year.

First and foremost, share your classroom expectations with your parents. If not immediately, at your back-to-school or curriculum night.  I always create a powerpoint so I don't forget what I want to say, and if I get nervous.  Nothing like staring at 60+ faces and forgetting what you want to say.  Here is the powerpoint I use, you are welcome to modify it for your class and school.

Mrs. Befort's Curriculum Night Power Point

Parent, Parent Communication, Classroom Communication

Secondly, I call parents when the email is longer than a short paragraph or it will take longer than 2-3 sentences to answer, and if something has occurred at school that is out of the normal.  For example, their child was crying because they were lonely, their child was sick, their child was injured, or if there needs to be some corrective action or parent involvement in relation to the child's behavior or classroom work/grades.  I keep a log of all of my contacts so that I do not have to go back through hundreds of emails, and I always write a short paragraph about our conversation. My log is stored on my desktop and a portable hard drive for reference. Lastly, I try to contact the parents as soon as the incident has occurred so I can get them on board immediately to resolve the issue.  When speaking with the parent, keep it positive...start with a positive, and end with a positive, keep the meat of the issue for the middle of the conversation.  Don't take it personally, and if things get out of hand, involve your administrator immediately for support. I've attached my communication log below for you!

Mrs. Befort's Communication Log

By being proactive, you will ultimately effect test scores, have improved student and parent attitudes about school, improve grades, increased parent support for the school and your classroom, and create better relationships with the community.  Remember, this is not full proof, but by being upfront and direct about your expectations, classwork/homework, routines, your year will be that much smoother. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Hot Topic Friday! Figment

 No, this is not a figment of your imagination, but Figment: Write yourself in.  Figment is a site where student writers can share reading and writing in a private online group. The site boasts about writing prompts, virtual writer's workshop, and authoring programming.

Check out this video for educators!

You'll be using 21st century tools when you allow your students the creativity to use this site, collaborate with others around the world, post assignments and monitor progress, and publish writing pieces!  Best part as always is it's free! Check out Figment today and let me know how it works for you!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back To School...Really!

     I'm off today to welcome 34 students to 4th grade.  Yes, I said 34 students!  I have my Whole Brain Teaching lined up and my Kagan ideas under my hat.  I've plastered a smile on my face and the name tags are ready to go.  Most of the books are put away, the classroom is semi-cleaned, and the bulletin boards look clean and bright.  So as I venture into another school year where data is Queen and classroom management will be King, I'm hopeful and excited to hopefully change another child's life.  I would love to impact all 34, but I'm a realist!  I'll settle for the hugs and smiles today, in addition to the teary eyes and frustrations.  I've also got all of my new ideas, products and resources printed and ready to go, do you?  If not, you're in luck...TeachersPayTeachers is having their Back To School Sale and you can stock up on all of those wonderful items you've seen pop up this summer.  Below is a code you can use that day.  So have an amazing beginning to your school year and let me know what you're doing to prepare!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Hot Topic Friday! Infographics

Infographics, Globicate, Heidi Befort

      O.K., so school is starting back up and you're not sure where to start, right?  Well, I've been in my classroom the last 3 days working for free...don't get me wrong, I'm o.k. with it.  I've rearranged 36 desks in my small classroom.  I currently have 33 students, and I'm not going there right now.  I pulled down all of the paper covers and materials that I stowed for the summer.  I really didn't need to go to all of that work in May though, nothing was done like they told us it would money.  I've put up coordinating bulletin boards (twice on one because the colors were too bright for me). I've rearranged my desk, and purge a lot of stuff this year.  It all feels quite clean and new, I like that feeling!  And I LOVE TEACHING!
     And now, I sit here procrastinating about what to do on the first days of school besides the usual routine.  I want something engaging, but educational.  So the other night I was having a before school starts dinner with a couple of my NBCT peeps who I love and we were discussing Infographics, Pinterest, and websites.  I don't believe Infographics are new, but "wow", they've exploded on to the scene. I love how you can do so many different things with them and how it fits into the Common Core Standards.
     So, I wanted to write a Back-to-School post, but I thought I'd give you something new to use in your classroom at the beginning of they year... Infographics! O.K., don't look at me like that, here are a few ideas, suggestions, and websites to get you going! When teaching students to construct an Infographic here are the basic steps you'll want to take:

1. Plan and Draft:  Students should draft out their Infographic using grouped ideas, words, and data, and arrows, frames, and boxes to represent the flow and concepts.  You can simply do this on a piece of paper or journal or you can use a site like or Piktochart
2. Color: Teaching students about color to represent and showcase their work is important for Infographics.  We've all had that student who has had a powerpoint that you couldn't read because of colors.
3. Graphics and Pictures: Graphics will make any presentation lively, but this can be accomplished also with words, arrows, and frames.
4. Research and Data: Data, data, data...and it needs to be accurate and targeted for your audience.  I think you could actually use RAFT here if you've taught this to your students.
5. Information (accurate): Need I say more?  The most important part is the information or knowledge imparted in the Infographic.  It needs to be concise, thorough, and relevant to pique your readers interest.

     I plan on having my students create infographics about themselves the first weeks of school and progress to curriculum content topics after that. Infographics can be a powerful tool to engage your students in reading, writing, real world math topics, historical and current event research, and just plain fun.  I believe they are around to stay, so jump on the bandwagon and check out the sites below to get you going, you'll be as engaged as your students!

Kathy Schrock's Infographics Video

10 Awesome Free Tools to Make Infographics

Integrating Infographics into the iClassroom

5 Great Ways to Use Infographics in the Classroom

The Best Sources for Interactive Infographics

Infographics as a Creative Assessment

Infographics for Librarians, Educators, and Other Cool Geeks

Infographics in the Classroom

Infographic Topics

Using Infographics in the Classroom

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