## Try These Fun Christmas Stations!

I wanted my students to enjoy their last class with me before the Christmas break, so I planned several stations for them to work on. The students really enjoyed the engagement of every station.

**Station 1: **Students picked out a pine cone and were instructed to find seeds inside the pinecone. I showed them a picture of what pine cone seeds looked like. I gave them magnifying glasses so they could look closely and deeply into the pine cones. I instructed them to draw a picture of their pine cone and to draw a picture of the seed. In preparation for the next station, I instructed them to find two more pine cones that were really “pretty” and “tree shaped”. I really wanted them to find two that were opened up really well so they could see the difference in station 2.

**Station 2:** I had students place two nice flared out pinecones in water. Students made predictions before they placed one pinecone in cold water and one pinecone in warm water. I have no sink in my room, so I had a gallon jug set up for the cold water and a crock pot set up with warm water for them to dip from with a measuring cup. Make sure to have paper towels on hand for any water that is spilled. Now, students can watch the pinecones for a while, but it will take about 30-45 minutes before students will see any changes. I make students look and notice what happened. I don’t tell them. Now the last group that does this station probably won’t notice what happens. They won’t have enough time in an hour long class period to notice the pinecones change.

(So what does happen? Pinecones close up when wet. Why does this happen? Pinecones don’t want to release their seeds when weather is wet because they want to allow their seeds to fly as far away as possible during drier weather so that they won’t compete with the parent tree.)

After students have noticed the pinecones closing up, make sure you leave time at the end of the stations to ask the students why they think the pine cones are closing up in the water.

In case you are wondering, yes the pinecones will open back up when dried out.

**Station 3:** What happens when you place a peppermint under water? After students have watched, then what happens when you place M & M’s under water? This experiment wasn’t that impressive in my opinion, but the kids loved it! The experiment works best in a white bowl. The plates were way too messy when kids tried to throw out the water. Water, of course, spilled everywhere.

Students predicted first what happened with the peppermint. Most guessed it would turn white, but few guessed it would streak the way it did. You must keep the dish still and not shake the desk to get the full effect of this.

After students watch the peppermint for about five minutes, have them predict what would happen when they place out M & M’s around the bowl. I bought the small ones so there would be more color. If students place them around the edge of the bowl, it makes a dramatic rainbow like this. Again keep the bowl as still as possible.

**Station 4:** Light up a Christmas light with alligator wires and batteries. This station by far had the biggest WOW factor for the kids. I didn’t give kids many instructions with this station. I wanted them to do experimentation to figure this out. I made the kids predict which type of batteries would work to light up the battery. They lit up a small LED bulb. (this wasn’t actually a Christmas light bulb). To get these bulbs I bought a $1 LED flashlight at War-Mart and banged the flashlight with a hammer until I broke it enough to get the lightbulbs out. It’s cheaper to buy bulbs that way :0. To light up the bulb students need at least three batteries placed end to end with at least two alligator clip wires–one each touched to the positive and negative ends of the battery. I used D batteries because I had a bunch in a science kit, but this will work with smaller batteries. I hovered around this station because I knew students might struggle here. I made it a point to talk about how scientists struggle until they figure things out. We talk about how Edison didn’t give up the first time his improvements of the light bulb didn’t work and they shouldn’t either. Now in reality, it would have been a lot cooler if I actually did have Christmas light bulbs, but I already had LED bulbs on hand so we used them.

I got alligator clips like these here.

ChristmasScience Here is an editable document I used when students visited science stations. This is nothing fancy, but you are welcome to use it *for your classroom* and make it your own.

## My Pi Day Shirt!

So I am wearing my Pi Day shirt at school! I really hadn’t thought of needing a Pi Day shirt and this sweet teacher made me one! Along with the shirt she gave me a sweet note. She knew testing weeks are stressful, so she thought of me. I am wearing it tomorrow to celebrate! Here is the sweet note she wrote me…

and the shirt (in my favorite color too!)…

Tomorrow, I am having this informational video for kids broadcast so at least the kids have some idea about Pi Day even at the elementary age…

## Need a Smile During Testing?

Since I have been helping our school test coordinator all week, I felt a little humor was needed for the week with the heavy stress of it all. We have several new mothers at school so I borrowed a diaper and ta-da!!! I hung this on her wall. When she saw this, of course she laughed–my ultimate goal!!! 🙂

## Oooooh! Look at all the school supplies!

So I went into Office Depot the other day to pick up something I had printed…and then…I noticed the school supplies! I just can’t help myself! I walked deeper and deeper into the school supplies until finally I found the tape. Colored tape, patterned tape, duck tape, masking tape, etc. Do I need tape? NO! But I muuuuuust have some! Pink tape, polka dotted tape, chevron tape, mustache tape, striped tape–they are all calling my name!

Then I showed some restraint and thought…what would I do with all of this pretty tape? I had absolutely no idea! So I left it there :(, but I’ve still been keeping my eyes opened for ideas. Then I happened across this blog post from Peace, Love, and First Grade. She shows lots of ways to use pretty tape in your room. Also, I found My Own Twist on Things did adorable makeovers to her bookshelves and file cabinets with tape and contact paper! I’m so inspired!

## Teacher “Happy” Freebie before Teasting

The weeks that precede testing tend to be the most stressful at school for teachers. Because I see the frantic looks everywhere, I thought I would put a little cheer in everyone’s mailbox. I put one little “happy” in each teacher’s mailbox during the middle of the weeks before testing. One of the teachers called them “little happies” so now that is what they are!

In case you want to cheer some teachers nearby…I am providing the documents I used. They are editable so you can change the wording a bit if you want! Just click on the link below the pictures to download the file.

## What NOT to Do with Dry Erase Markers!

Ya’ll are going to love this one!! Just when the custodian was fussing about the painters tape on the floor and my door being open…I did a doozy….

Since I have been working with lots of intervention groups, I am trying to teach them concepts in a short amount of time while I have them out of the classroom. Yesterday I thought I would work on some measurement estimation. I gave the students 3 choices to estimate the length of a car. 12 inches, 12 feet, and 12 yards. Since these students don’t have a lot of experience with measurement, I had many students say 12 inches or 12 yards so….

I saw the need to draw on the floor *with a dry erase marker* of course! I drew a 12 inch line with a ruler, a 12 foot line with 12 rulers, and a 12 yard line with yard sticks so students could see the difference. They were easily able to see that the 12 foot line was the best estimate.

Then it came time to rub the line off the floor and whadaya know…but…you guessed it…the dry erase marker wouldn’t budge off the floor! AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! Oh, no! Well, after soliciting some help

someone suggested dry erase board cleaner…and it worked! YAY!

Now if I had it to do over, I would still write on the floor because it didn’t take too much elbow grease to rub off–and the floor is like a new giant white board with endless possibilities!

## The Teacher in Me Had to Share This!

So , I was out walking my dog and I just happened to notice this clump of straw on the ground in my yard. My curiosity made me stoop down and pick it up. To my surprise, I found a bird nest!!!! I’ve seen bird nests before, but somehow I’m always amazed at the work that a little bird did making such a sturdy structure. The nest was soft like a bed on the inside but the nest walls had mud packed in to the sides to help strengthen it. More coarse grassy materials were on the outside. Birds–little engineers! Yep…nothing mathematical to share at all here except there were 0 eggs in the nest. Needless to say I brought this to school to share with a teacher who could use it in her science lesson. Just the secrecy of what was in the cardboard box I carried around on the way to delivery caused plenty of kid curiosity.

## Losing My Dignity as a Mathemagician…

You know how you try things out at the end of the year preparing for the next year? Well, I tried out something and DID lose my dignity, but the kids loved it! I dressed up as a mathemagician …more specifically The Masked Mathemagician! I told the kids that Ms. K had sent the magician to tell the special news. I did this to announce our Math Wars awards. I had one big contest at the end of the year where I awarded students in the top three places for Reflex Math AND the top three classes in K-2 and 3-5. I bought a cape and mask at Wal-Mart in the toy section for $6.97 and borrowed a glittery black hat from a teacher down the hall. At the last minute, I thought to use a ruler for my magic wand. I just used a plain one, but I think I will glitz it up for next year. I’m also thinking of adding white gloves. Anyhow, I ran into our morning meeting (that we have every day) dressed up, and children’s gasps could be heard as I ran in. One of the teachers told me later that the students stopped eating when they saw me. (Our morning meeting is in the cafeteria.) After I announced the winners, I took off my little costume in the side room, so that the kids wouldn’t see me change. The kids told me all day that they saw me dressed up. I kept telling them that it wasn’t me dressed up, but my friend. Most kids knew it was me of course. One kindergartener said, “Really it looked just like you!” 🙂

I dressed up like this on a whim because of a presentation called “Math Math, Better Than a Bath” that I saw at the NCTM conference this year. The presenter described wearing a silly hat etc. to do math contests like creating silly math poems and math jokes. I think in the myriad of test prep and accountability we forget that kids live in a world of make believe, imagination, and fun. To really reach them, sometimes it is necessary to speak their language of imagination…and this coming from someone who likes to remain behind the scenes and not make a spectacle of themselves…me!

Below is pictured my $6.97 cape and mask, borrowed glitter hat, and magic ruler wand (which I will be improving in the future).

## Integrate Math and Literacy for a Halloween Costume!

For our fall carnival, we dressed up like a book character. Me being the math coach, I wanted to incorporate literacy AND math. I decided to become “The Greedy Triangle.” The librarian says that kids LOVE this book.

I looked everywhere for cardboard large enough to make a human sized triangle and finally found some in the storage room–chart paper boxes. The bottom of the triangle is as large as the box. Unfortunately, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to be equilateral like the true Greedy Triangle. I’m isosceles, but that leads to some great geometry discussion with kids!

I covered my front and back triangle with yellow bulletin board paper. Then I made the mouth eyes and nose with white and colored paper, and just glued it onto my front triangle. I just drew the eyes and nose and mouth free handed, and outlined them with marker. I folded the eyes in half so I would have a symmetrical shape. The cheek circles I made by tracing a round cup. A teacher next door helped me staple the yellow ribbon, which I had at home, to the two triangles. The costume fits over my head like a sundress. Underneath as you can see I wore black tights a black cotton T-shirt and skirt which I already had. I would say this whole project took me one hour and cost me nothing–not bad.

The costume isn’t user friendly however if you plan to sit a lot. The cardboard doesn’t bend of course. When going in and out of small areas I found that my vertices would bump into a lot of things. However, this was a plus because I was able to use math vocabulary all day such as….”watch out for my vertices.” 🙂

I received lots of complements on this costume…some “aww how cute” from parents, kids, and teachers. One parent thought I was pizza…but then where are my pepperonis? I guess I could be a happy block of cheese, too! 🙂

With that said, I suppose you could adapt this costume to many things when trick or treating…

Picture this…

“Trick or Treat”

“Hi, honey, what are you dressed up as?”

“A block of cheese, but I’m lactose intolerant.”

“Oh, honey, here’s some extra candy!” 🙂