Heart Pounding, Hold Your Breath Books are the Best!

Heart-pounding, hold your breath, afraid to turn the page...those are the best books. I still remember reading The Pilot's Wife years ago and staying up all night to see what was going to happen next. I felt like that with some of this month's books, too. Especially, the one by Jodi Picoult.


Throughout the post, for your convenience, you’ll find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon compensates me if you purchase something through that link, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep this little blog running!
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Can You Find Your Way Out of a Maze?

Time for STEM in First Grade! I will be honest and say that tackling STEM with the smallest of kids was intimidating way back in August. 
I really had no resources for that age group and eventually turned to some fabulous friends that sell STEM products at Teachers Pay Teachers. I have already shared some of those and will share more right here on this blog soon!
To start the year off I thought it was important to keep it simple and really focus on team building and working together.
So, we started with Mazes! This would a perfect place for you to try STEM with your smallest students right now!
STEM Challenge! Simple mazes in first grade! Easy materials with fabulous learning! Check this blog post for more!
Throughout the post, for your convenience, you’ll find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon compensates me if you purchase something through that link, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep this little blog running and helps fund give-aways!

We have tried many versions of mazes with the big kids, but this was my first adventure with six year-olds. I decided to try basic and easy materials that I pulled right out of my cabinets. 
Colored tiles and pom-poms!

Before we got started building we tried some mazes projected on the white board and, of course, they thought those were great fun! Then we talked about the pathways specifically. I knew from my big kids that this would be a tricky part. The littles lined up those colored tiles and made many variations of paths- wide, and narrow, and super gigantic.
STEM Challenge: How do you make paths for a maze! Fabulous first grade STEM Check this blog post!

STEM Challenge: How do you make paths for a maze! Fabulous first grade STEM Check this blog post!
In fact it was the super gigantic path that made us stop and talk about what a path really is. Take a look at the top photo above. The path was going great and then just dead ended so if you are trying to solve this one, it is impossible.
The second big mistake we made is also in the above photo. There were kids that thought they could stand the colored tiles on their sides to make the maze walls. Well, you can do that, but it's time consuming and if you bump the table (which is exactly what first graders do every 13 seconds) then they all fall.

STEM Challenge: Build a maze with easy materials and easy prep. Just for first grade! Check this blog post!
How precious are those photos with all those little hands working together?

STEM Challenge: Can you get the pom-pom to travel through the maze? Check this blog post for more about these first grade STEM mazes!
We started off with this challenge using straws to blow those pom-poms through the maze. That lasted about 6 minutes. Do you know what happens when kids sit around with straws in their mouths for a little while?
Spit happens. That's enough details for you....
So, then we switched to just pushing the pom-pom with our fingers and that worked fine. It was a great challenge and just really easy.
All you need:
tables or the floor
some pom-poms or cotton balls
and plenty of colored tiles.

A bucket of tiles is a life saver with first graders! We use them for STEM all the time!
Fabulous first grade STEM!
STEM in first grade! Fabulous mazes with easy materials and easy prep! Check this blog post for more!


Check back next month for more first or second grade projects!
Coming soon:
Toothpick Shapes and Towers
Robots
Slides
Critter Habitats
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5 Amazing Solutions to Common Classroom Problems!

If someone asked you to write down your biggest classroom problems, what would you include?

I am guessing your list would have pencils, printing, organization, parents, and getting enough rest on it. Not to mention, comfortable shoes, behavior management, and having the cutest lunch box or water bottle.

Just in the off chance you are like me,  I thought it might be fun to share some fabulous things that solve some common classroom problems! 

My list includes:
  • Having a good, fast, reliable printer.
  • Not being fearful of the cost of ink for that great printer.
  • Pencils. Pencils. Pencils. 
  • Integrating subjects to cover as much as possible.
  • Having extra money.
Check this blog posts for things I love and ideas for ways to save money, use reading and STEM, a fabulous printer, and more!
Throughout the post, for your convenience, you’ll find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon compensates me if you purchase something through that link, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep this little blog running !


What kind of printer do you have?

You know we print a lot! We have task cards, interactive notebooks, posters, letters, lab sheets, morning work packets, and so much that we print. Do you print in color? Sometimes we have to! Those brightly colored posters and task cards just are so much more appealing in color!

So, here's the printer I found!
Do you hear that dramatic music playing.... because this is the best printer I have ever had. It has a very fancy name: HP OfficeJet Pro 8710 Wireless All-in-One Photo Printer with Mobile Printing, Instant Ink ready (M9L66A).  Mind you, we have a Canon Photo printer that does a great job, but it takes its sweet time churning out copies. If it is a PDF that is printing, one page takes 3 minutes. So, when I printed the first sample from this HP printer and it spit out in 14 seconds I knew this was a great deal. I snagged it on Cyber Monday's Amazon sale and it included Instant-Ink- which is another whole story. I will get to that in a minute.

What else does that 8710 printer do besides print? 

It's wireless y'all. I can send something to print and not move off the couch. Seriously, I can PRINT FROM MY PHONE while laying on the couch. I know what you are thinking--- why would you need to do that? Because I forget things, so if I have a spectacular recipe and decide I want to print it out I can send it to the printer from my phone and it's waiting for me later. That printer also copies, scans, and faxes. It's the best ever!


Do you need a second job to pay for your ink?

Remember that Canon printer I just mentioned? It has 8, EIGHT, ink cartridges! Each one of them is about $9 and the black cartridge is a double-wide. And, the silly thing shuts down and won't print anything if one of the cartridges is low.

Problem solved!

Instant Ink is a fabulous solution to the problem of using too much ink and the cost of it!!
Instant Ink! If you scroll Instagram very often you know that teachers love this stuff, but I didn't really think about it. I usually send my posters and things to Staples to print them. What? Who would do that? My fabulous new printer prints as well as Staples and with Instant-Ink I get as many copies as I need every month, the copies roll over if you don't use all of them, and your printer knows when it is running low on ink and ORDERS it for you.

Before you need it the stuff arrives at your door.
Seriously. If you have not thought about doing this, THINK ABOUT IT right now. 
And to help you with that if you will click right {HERE} you will get a month of Instant Ink for free! (And so will I!)


Pencils in the classroom are a nightmare! 

You know exactly what I mean! How do you keep them sharp, ready to use, and keep up with them? 

My NEW Electric Pencil Sharpener has solved the oh-so-annoying classroom problem of keeping pencils sharp and ready to use! 
For the life of me I do not understand what happens with pencils in a classroom and I know you totally get that! We have resorted to using cheap Bic pens in the STEM lab, but we still need pencils sometimes. I didn't have a wall mounted cranking pencil sharpener and we were using those little handheld plastic things. OMG.....kids and plastic pencil sharpeners are the worst. So I invested in this little model.

Cue that dramatic music again...
Pencil sharpening solved.  This one is called X-ACTO SchoolPro Classroom Electric Pencil Sharpener, Heavy Duty, Black. Every morning I sharpen about 20 pencils and leave them out for kids that need them. They get a pencil, trade if they need a new one, and it is working perfectly. Kids do not use this sharpener, although they certainly could. It has an automatic shut off when the pencil is sharp. Just FYI - I did put a brightly colored piece of tape across the top of it that says "No Colored Pencils" just in case a kid decides to try that when I am not looking. Something about those things clogs electric sharpeners. 

How do you manage all subjects, all day in your classroom?

When I taught in a regular third-grade classroom I crisscrossed subjects to cover as much as possible. When we studied plants we read books about plants during our reading time. We wrote poems about flowers. You do this, too, I know!

Books added to another subject will solve the problem of covering many standards at the same time!
If you read my blog even a little bit you know I am a book lover, always have been, always will be!
In the last two months I have been using books with my smallest engineers and I have started a series of posts about this!
Reading and STEM: Check this blog post for things I love- including using picture books for STEM in first and second grades!
Click on the image above to get to the first post! It features five books and five STEM challenges you can do with first and second graders. Materials are listed and the basic procedures, with photos, and the best part is that the materials are things you already have in  your classroom (probably)!

And, if you are like me and can't remember to take books to class or don't have the books I listed- did you know that a purchased Kindle book can be read on an e-reader from Amazon's site even if you don't own a Kindle? And, you can project that on your smart board? KIDS LOVE IT!

If you are interested in more posts about reading and STEM in the classroom, here are the posts I have:


Are you interested in earning extra money?

Do you spend money on your classroom, your kids, yourself? Do you shop online? Well, I need to share a little about Ebates with you!
Ebates: The perfect way to shop online! Shop at stores that feature Ebates and receive a percentage back!
You should seriously check this out! Here's how it works.

You go to a site to shop. As soon as you land on the site your Ebates "Cash Back Button" will alert you. This is a little thing you install on your browser and it automatically knows if you are shopping at an Ebates store. So, you click on the alert and this lets Ebates know you are shopping. If you make a purchase a percentage of that amount is applied to your Ebates account. 

So, let's say you are shopping at Nordstrom and on that day they are offering a 6% Ebates deal. You spend $200. So, $12 is added to your Ebates account. Every three months you are sent a check or it is added to your Paypal account. 

Y'all I have scored some serious kickbacks- like through Expedia, Wal Mart, Macy's, and Kohls. The percentages change and they also have days where amounts are doubled. If you shop online a lot, you should try this. My affiliate link is below. You can click on the image or {HERE}. I get something for your sign up, but so do you! It's credited to your account once you open it!

  Ebates Coupons and Cash Back


So, let's go back to the beginning! What classroom problems do you have that you want to solve?
  • If it's printing - get a good printer and try Instant Ink!
  • If it's pencils- get a good electric pencil sharpener!
  • If it's time management- try integrating subjects!
  • Need extra money? Ebates is one good way to snag a few dollars.
Thanks for stopping by!




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3 Ways to Engineer a Great Valentine's Day


If you are ready to design and build for Valentine's Day here's a treat for you- three challenges to help you celebrate and learn at the same time! We tested these last year and they were favorites of every group! It might have had something to do with the candy involved, but the challenges were delightful, too! 
Valentine's Day STEM challenges! Here's a trio of challenges that your kids will love! Check the blog post for more!

Such creativity with these, too! Take a look!

DELIVERY ZIP LINES
STEM Challenge for Valentine's Day! It's a delivery zip line that takes a present down the line! Check this blog post for more!
These were tested with third graders! The story we used was that the post office was not delivering Valentine Gifts, so we needed a unique way to deliver a present to our moms! Why not a zip line?

STEM Challenge for Valentine's Day! It's a delivery zip line that takes a present down the line! Check this blog post for more!
Kids had to make the present carrier, decorate it, and determine a way to attach it to the zip line! It also had to hold the gift- which was a giant puffy heart I found at the Dollar Tree!

STEM Challenge for Valentine's Day! It's a delivery zip line that takes a present down the line! Check this blog post for more!
Such a fun challenge and one way to make this even more fun would be to make it a homework challenge! Have your kids take photos of the zip line that delivers an actual card or gift to their moms!


CANDY BOXES
STEM Challenge for Valentine's Day: Make a candy box that will hold a specific amount of candy! Check the blog post for more!
This was perfect for Valentine's Day! I bought an array of Valentine decorated candy and put out a specific amount for kids to see.

STEM Challenge for Valentine's Day: Make a candy box that will hold a specific amount of candy! Check the blog post for more!
Their challenge was to make the perfect candy box that would hold all the candy. Individual candy dividers was optional (and rather hard to make, I might add)!

STEM Challenge for Valentine's Day: Make a candy box that will hold a specific amount of candy! Check the blog post for more!
The other part of this challenge that made it a fourth or fifth grade challenge was the shape of the box. Of course it had to be heart shaped! Kids had so many clever ways to create the heart shaped bottom and top! We also added that the candy box had to have a clever name in order to market it! Fun!


BOW AND ARROWS
STEM Challenge for Valentine's Day: Make a working bow and arrow! Check the blog post for more!
Yes, I know, you think I have lost my mind.
And it did seem that way with the test class! I spent a lot of time saying, "Ooops, we need to make a rule for that!"
Example: I originally had toothpicks as one of the materials. Just think about that....
Yes, they made arrows with sharp points. Of course, they did.
So, I took away the toothpicks and gave them Q-tips!

STEM Challenge for Valentine's Day: Make a working bow and arrow! Check the blog post for more!
The second big rule change was where they could practice firing the arrows. We started with shooting at the lab tables, but I quickly changed that. We made a target on the wall, drew a line not to cross on the floor, and fired arrows only when I was standing there to supervise!
So, with a few strict rules we turned this into a fabulous and fun fifth grade challenge!

Hope that gave you some ideas for engineering your Valentine Celebrations! You can find more information right {HERE}
Come back  next week to see what we have been up to in the STEM Lab!!

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What Do You Do with a Tail Like this?

So, here's the scoop! A STEM teacher friend of mine (Renee of Science School Yard) gave me some advice about working with first and second graders and tackling STEM Challenges.

It's simple: READ THEM A BOOK! (What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? is a great one, by the way!)

I  tried it and, boy, are we hooked on this now!
So, I have some treats for you today! Five books, five challenges, and great fun for your kids!
Reading and STEM go together like peanut butter and jelly! Check this post for five books and five ideas you can do today!
Throughout the post, for your convenience, you’ll find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon compensates me if you purchase something through that link, at no extra cost to you. This helps keep this little blog running!


Big Smelly Bear by Britta Teckentrup


This precious book is about a bear that doesn't bathe and another bear finally convinces him to do so. He does and they become great friends. The first graders LOVED this book! Check this blog post for a STEM challenge!
This precious book is about a bear that doesn't bathe and another bear finally convinces him to do so. He does and they become great friends. The first graders LOVED this book!

STEM Challenge: Bear Cages

STEM Challenge: The challenge was to build a cage for the bear. The kids had counting bears, craft sticks, construction paper, pipe cleaners, tape, and scissors. Check the blog post for more!
The challenge was to build a cage for the bear. The kids had counting bears, craft sticks, construction paper, pipe cleaners, tape, and scissors. The only rule to the task was to build a cage that would keep the smelly bear inside it and not out making a big stink!


Rosie Revere, Engineer  by Andrea Beaty


This is the story of Rosie, a young lady that takes absolute junk and makes things. She loves to use canned puffy cheese in her inventions. Everyone laughs at her work- even her uncle, who just happens to be a zookeeper. Check this blog post for a STEM challenge!
This is the story of Rosie, a young lady that takes absolute junk and makes things. She loves to use canned puffy cheese in her inventions. Everyone laughs at her work- even her uncle, who just happens to be a zookeeper. The rest of the book ties her story all neatly together, but we went back to the zoo keeper part. Rosie designed a hat for her uncle that suited his job. So......

STEM Challenge: Zoo Keeper Hats

STEM Challenge: The story I posed to these second graders was this: You work for a zoo and you make hats for each zoo keeper. Check this blog post for more!


STEM Challenge: The story I posed to these second graders was this: You work for a zoo and you make hats for each zoo keeper. Check this blog post for more!
The story for these second graders was this: You work for a zoo and you make hats for each zoo keeper. The hat must be functional and not just a pretty thing on their heads. Design a hat that has a purpose for a particular zoo keeper. 

For example: an elephant keeper might need a hat with a long water hose as a part of it in order to wash down the elephants.
STEM Challenge: The story I posed to these second graders was this: You work for a zoo and you make hats for each zoo keeper. Check this blog post for more!
The kids had newspaper, construction paper, tape, cardboard tubes, a piece of foil, and round pieces of cardboard. I did not cut a hole in the round cardboard, but you could. (The round cardboard came from the cake decorating part of Hobby Lobby, but is not essential. A square piece of cardboard will work fine. I just happened to already have those round pieces.)

In the second photo above the team made a hat for the monkey keeper. It comes with banana trees so the keeper can feed the monkeys! In the bottom photo, the team made a hat for the flamingo keeper. It came with an attached bag to hold flamingo food.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires


In this fabulous little book you meet a little girl that gathers a huge amount of junk and begins to make things. Yet she is never satisfied with the things that she makes. She is very unhappy and then begins to take a closer look at all her things and she thinks, "What if I took a part off that one and another part off this one"? Check this blog post for a STEM challenge!
In this fabulous little book, you meet a little girl that gathers a huge amount of junk and begins to make things. Yet she is never satisfied with the things that she makes. She is very unhappy and then begins to take a closer look at all her things and she thinks, 

"What if I took a part off that one and another part off this one",
and she takes the best parts of all her inventions and makes something brand new. This turns out to be the most magnificent thing! It's a sidecar to attach to her scooter so her little dog can ride with her.
I let the first graders make suggestions about what we could build after reading this book and they unanimously said: ROBOT DOGS!

STEM Challenge: Robot Dogs


STEM Challenge: After reading "The Most Magnificent Thing" students build a robot dog! Check this blog post for more!
The materials they had were small cups, craft sticks, straws, construction paper, foil, and tape.
And they set to work building dog models!
STEM Challenge: After reading "The Most Magnificent Thing" students build a robot dog! Check this blog post for more!
Aren't their little dogs just the best! So cute. So easy!

What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?  by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page


This book was so fun for the first graders! The first page shows several animal noses and then the next page reveals which animals were pictured and what they can do with their noses. The next page does the same for ears and subsequent pages tell about tails, eyes, mouths, and feet. Check this blog post for a STEM challenge!
This book was so fun for the first graders! The first page shows several animal noses and then the next page reveals which animals were pictured and what they can do with their noses. The next page does the same for ears and subsequent pages tell about tails, eyes, mouths, and feet. The first graders loved trying to guess the animals, plus we learned a lot!

So, of course, we had to build animals that had a special body part that does something that the animal needs!

STEM Challenge: Animal Adaptations


STEM Challenge: Build animals that had a special body part that does something that animal needs! Check this blog post for more!
The materials for this challenge were: construction paper, straws, and tape! That's all!
In the photo above you have a Turtle whose special long toe-nails help him climb up muddy banks of rivers. Next is a money with very large eyes so he can see his food more clearly! Then you have a turkey and this one had a special home it could hide in to get through Thanksgiving. Finally, the last photo is a rooster with very long tail feathers- for balance! This challenge was so fun and the kids especially loved sharing their amazing animals!

How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long and David Shannon


This is the story of Jeremy who is at the beach with his family. The family is not paying attention and they don't see the pirate ship approaching and then pirates rowing to shore. Jeremy decides to join the pirates and is soon learning some pirate vocabulary, like "Down the hatch!" Check this blog post for a STEM challenge!
This is the story of Jeremy who is at the beach with his family. The family is not paying attention and they don't see the pirate ship approaching and pirates rowing to shore. Jeremy decides to join the pirates and is soon learning some pirate vocabulary, like "Down the hatch!" After a storm, the pirates decide to get Jeremy to bury their treasure box for them and he does--- in his own backyard!
These second graders loved the book and set about making a small treasure box!

STEM Challenge: Pirate Treasure Boxes

STEM Challenge: Read "How I Became a Pirate" and then build a small treasure box! Check this blog post for more!
The materials for this one included: beads and buttons (the treasure), construction paper, and tape. If you don't have beads you can use any small item you do have! These second graders built their treasure boxes and then when we had our sharing time they dumped the treasure into the boxes to show us the box would work. The only rule to this task was: The box had to hold the treasure- no leaking!

See how easy this was!

Read your little ones a picture book. Tell them what they will build using an idea from the book.
Give them some simple materials that you most definitely probably already have. Give them about 20 minutes to build it and then take about 5 minutes for every team to share its structure!

By the way, two of the books listed above were purchased by me from Amazon as a Kindle book, but I don't have a Kindle.  Did you know you do not have to have a Kindle reader to buy a Kindle book? You can use a Kindle Cloud Reader and read the book from your desktop computer, a laptop, your phone, or an iPad! When I used them with the students I projected the book on my smart board! And the kids LOVED having the giant book on the screen!

So, what do you do with a tail like this? You try a STEM Challenge!




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