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Fidget Sinners...SIGH....


I know most of us are over the fidget spinners.  Right?  So, I decided to take some of the fun out of them by turning it into a project!  I had my kids examine their fidget spinners and discuss the various parts.  Why does it spin so long?  How can we make something similar using only the supplies we have in the classroom?  We made several different versions.  (I forgot to take pics of the failures.) . This was one project that the kids didn't mind going through the design/test process repeatedly!  They really wanted to make a fidget spinner that worked especially my kids who didn't own a spinner.




Here's how we made it.  We cut a large craft stick almost in half and used a fingernail file to smooth out the corners.  Then we used a pair of scissors (teacher only job) to make a round hole in the center.  Add a straw with a bit of hot glue to hold it in place.  We snipped the end of the plastic ink tube (from inside the pen).  We added a dot of glue to each thumbtack and attached it all together.  We experimented with different weights, but pennies were the only weight we had handy in the classroom that could be easily attached to the spinners.




The kids loved this project and kept them busy on one of the last days of school!

Rainforest Adventure




If your kids are anything like mine, they are done with school, but unfortunately, school is not over. How do you keep them busy learning and entertained?  The answer is STEM, PBL, and research.  My kids loved my Rainforest Adventure unit that we did the last month of school.  It is so fun, the kids beg to work.  Here's a quick overview:

QR codes to make research a snap!


6 PBL questions to give your kids choice and a reason to research.

9 Awesome STEM activities with a great backstory.  All STEM projects are related.
Students are taking an imaginary field trip to fly over the Amazon Rainforest.  The plane has some serious issues and crashes with the class in the middle of the rainforest.  Everyone is fine, but how do they survive until help arrives?

1.  Build a shelter
2. Improve shelter


3. Build a parachute that will drop fruit from high in the trees safely to the ground


4. Make a waterproof food storage container


5. Cork launcher to protect yourself from the wild animals


6. Zip line so you can move quickly through the trees




7. Flare (sling shot) to signal the plane flying overhead


8. Boat to float down the river to find help
9.  Improved boat with all supplies

We also looked up how tall a rainforest tree is and measured the entire length of our building to discover that the trees are as long as our building.  We also created a scale drawing of ourselves next to a rainforest tree.

We made dioramas to take home so we could share our learning with our parents.


The unit has a ton of other ideas to keep kids busy and learning until the last day of school!  You can find it {HERE} 

Erin Condren and $130 TpT Giveaway





Some of my favorite special ed teachers got together for this great giveaway!  Good luck!!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Longest Closed Shape Challenge

Today, I challenged my kids to see who could make the longest/biggest closed shape out of paper.  I am extremely competitive and bragged explained that I would win this challenge AND I wouldn't use any tape.  My kids were super excited to try to beat me.  The each received 1 piece of paper and about 18 inches of tape.  I gave them half an hour to construct the largest shape they could.  Here's the results:



The kids did a great job and almost beat me.  (I was a little worried that I wasn't going to win.) My shape is the long blue one and won by about 6 inches.


So, here's the trick to beating your kids.  First, fold your paper in half.  Notice how the first and last cuts are made.  Those are the 2 most important cuts.  You will go back and forth the entire length of the fold.  The closer you make these cuts, the longer/larger your shape will be.



Next, you will cut the fold.  DO NOT CUT THE FIRST OR LAST FOLDS.  Open it up slowly so you don't rip it.  It will easily be over 10-12 feet long.


I have also used this trick to challenge my kids to make a shape large enough for a person to walk through.  They always think it is impossible and love to learn how to make 1 piece of paper stretch so much.  I usually have 1-2 students go home and try this bet with their families!


Paper Shovel CHallenge

Today's challenge was to create a shovel using only 2 pieces of construction paper and 12 inches of tape.  The kids worked together in partners or by themselves.  We tested the shovels to see how many lego pieces the shovel could scoop.  We had a tie.  These were the winning shovels.



They each scooped 25 lego pieces!  

Here are the shovels the other groups made.




The kids had a great time!


Paper Chain Challenge

We have weeks of state testing this year.  To help my kids to stay focused and motivated, we are doing STEM activities in the afternoons.  Today, our challenge was to see which group could make the longest paper chain using only 1 piece of construction paper and about 12-14 inches of tape.  The students jumped right in and started creating.




After 20 minutes, we compared the lengths of each paper chain.  The green chain is actually folded in half!  The kids had a great time working together!



Motivate the Unmotivated


I have a great group of kids this year, but they are not very motivated.  They will begin their work when reminded, but they are often off task so it takes them forever to complete anything.  I tried several different approaches but none of them worked until I implemented STEM bins.  This has been a life changer for me!

I purchased several different kinds of building materials for my kids.  I also went through my stash I already had at school.  I put each material in a different plastic container with a lid for easy storage and clean up.  
When students finish up their work, they are allowed to choose a STEM bin.  They can build anything they want (as long as it's school appropriate.)  If they need ideas, I found some great STEM task cards on TpT.  I had to put a limit to no more than 2 students per STEM bin to help with noise.  They can get a little loud while they are creating!  Here are some of the amazing things they made just before our Christmas break.


horse barn

gear tower

scorpion 

robot

flying craft

spider

flowers

chair
car
This has changed how quickly my students complete their work. My students stay on task and stay focused.  They cannot wait to get their hands on the STEM bins.  I am so glad that I implemented this new system in my class!


Awesome Pencil Sharpener

One of the biggest problems we have in the classroom involves pencils.  We can't find them and when we do find them, they are never sharp.  The new Classroom Friendly Pencil sharpener has solved the sharpening part of our problem!  I love how easy it is for my students to use and it's super quiet.  My favorite feature of the pencil sharpener is that when the pencil is sharp, the sharpener will not continue to sharpen the pencil.  I have several students who will continue to sharpen their pencils on my old sharpener until it is about 2 inches long.  The pencil comes out of this sharpener perfect every time!


You know how sometimes pencil lead (especially colored pencil lead) gets caught in the sharpener part and you have to dig around with a paperclip or other device to try to loosen it so you can use the sharpener again?  With this sharpener, you are able to easily remove the sharpener part by turning the base of the handle.  This allows you to pull out the sharpening mechanism and easily remove the lead without damaging your sharpener or hurting yourself!  It slips right back in and turn the base of the handle to lock in place.



If you have never used this type of sharpener before, please take just a second to look over the directions.  It is super easy to use, but if not used properly, you may damage it or hurt yourself.  Simply squeeze the top two black, plastic pieces together and pull out.  Squeeze the two black pieces again and insert the pencil (see picture 2).  Place left hand on top of the yellow part of the sharpener and turn the handle with right hand to sharpen.  When pencil is sharp, it sounds/feels different when you turn the handle.  Even if you continue to turn the handle, it will not continue to sharpen the pencil.  It comes out perfect every time!  You can find out more about this amazing sharpener {HERE}  By the way, it's a lot cheaper than many school sharpeners.  You can get one for about $25 or 3 for about $54.  I paid more than that for my last electric sharpener and it didn't even last the school year.

Rounding


Rounding is a concept that many of my kids really struggle with.  A teacher friend shared this idea with me.  Tell students they are shipwrecked on an island.  This island doesn't have anything on it.  However, there is another island nearby that has lots of delicious fruit trees.  There are 9 stones connecting the two islands.  Student 1 decides to jump across the stones to get to the other island.  He jumps on the first stone, but before he can go any further, a huge wave comes.  Ask the student, "Are you going to jump back to the island of nothing, or jump ahead to the island of plenty?"  Student 1 is going to jump back because he is closer to the island of nothing.  Continue this process with a student making it one stone further each time.  When the 5th student jumps to stone 5 ask, "You are exactly in the middle of the two islands.  Are you going to jump back or jump forward to avoid the wave?"  Students should answer forward because if they are half way, why not go forward to where the food is?

Then we related this to numbers.  I gave the students a number such as 52.  I explained that 52 was between 50 (island of nothing) and 60 (island of plenty.)  They were on the 2nd stone.  Which way are they going to jump if the wave came?  This strategy helped my kids see why we round the way we do.  It was so much easier for them then to try to remember some little poem.  I hope this helps your little ones with rounding.  Best of luck this year!

Art in the Special Ed Classroom


We have been in school for almost a month.  (I can't believe it either!)  So far, this is the BEST year yet!  My kids love art and I love teaching through the arts.  I am always on the look-out for amazing art resources to use with my kiddos, but they are hard to come by.  This summer, I found an incredible resource that was created by Whimsy Workshop.  She does ALL of the work for you!  There are background information sheets for each type of art that she includes.  There are 3 art projects for each country, and each project has step-by-step directions with pictures!  Not only are we learning about cultures from around the world and geography, we are also creating lots of art and learning about different techniques. Here are some of the projects we have completed already this year.




Surfers from Australia 

Boomerrangs

Chinese Dragons

Chinese Flower Blossom Fans (before we folded them) 
Koi Fish


 Pretty amazing, huh?!  The techniques that Whimsy Workshop shows, are easy enough for kids of all ages and abilities to be successful!  My kids are so proud of their work!  Check out her product, Art Around the World.

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