Friday, 30 May 2014

Technology You Should Try : Pixlr

Today I bring you my first 'Technology You Should Try' post! Occasionally I'll showcase technology that I find useful in relation to teaching. Let's get started!

Back home I used to make my resources on my MacBook with PowerPoint. Unfortunately I could not bring my MacBook with me because it's too heavy to lug around, I didn't really have the space and I felt it was just too expensive to risk being damaged/lost/stolen.

Once we settled in our apartment in Manchester, we bought a budget laptop; an ASUS with Windows 8. Going back to Windows after using a Mac was frustrating and then of course there was the issue of missing all my programs and clipart!

To make do I installed Open Office, which is basically like a FREE version of Microsoft Office 95. Though that pesky paper clip does not make an appearance ;)

Making resources in Impress, their version of PowerPoint was tricky because of the lag. I'm not quite sure whether it was the software itself or because I was back on a lagtastic PC. It was not working out at all, after having 5 layers the program would become unresponsive every time I tried to move something. Annoying!

I did a bit of research and found Pixlr! I was already familiar with their photo editing apps, but was not aware they had a desktop editing program.

The best part? it's hosted on the Internet so you don't need to install anything! Though I guess if you're somewhere without a connection that would be a downside. However the less installations on a PC, the better!

After you've clicked on Editor you are given these options;

To design an A4 resource, click on Create New Image and use these dimensions; 1133 by 800 pixels.

Here is what the screen looks like;

It looks pretty much the same as Photoshop 7 and most of the tools from Photoshop are there.On the left are the tools and on the right is the layers, history and navigator windows.

One of the best features? The ability to import images a layers and even images from a URL.

Another great feature for design is the Layout Styles menu.

Here you can add drop shadows and outlines around images and text (use outer glow and set the hardness to 10).

You can also flip, rotate and free transform the layers too.

The fonts available are the ones already installed on your computer. None of this 'can only use the limited fonts we provide' nonsense.

The only downside I can find with this, is that it doesn't handle handwriting fonts very well. They come out slightly blurry/pixelated. To overcome this, I simply paste the image in PowerPoint and add the text in there.

Discovering Pixlr was a relief for me as without it, it would have taken me much longer to make resources. If you're looking for a free alternative to Photoshop, this is definitely the tool for you! While you're at it, check out their photo editing apps too.

But wait how do I put my resource together? Simply copy and paste the image into a PowerPoint. This also secures your document and prevents people from lifting the graphics and clipart from your .PDF

Of course Pixlr is not only useful for making resources. It could be a useful tool in your classroom. You could get students to design posters and even do photo manipulations (using the wand tool). The possibilities are endless!

If you have any questions about using Pixlr, leave a comment below and I'll be happy to help you :)

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Maths Mini Bundles

I've been working on some math resources and have added two new products to my store! I'm trying my best to make as many resources as possible, so I have them ready to go for when I return home and get back to work. I'll be starting off as a casual (sub), so these mini activities will be useful as some  people are funny about photocopying and using student workbooks. Ahhh, the joys of being a casual/sub!

Here we go;

Doubles Plus One Strategy Pack
This pack comes with two games and a poster. 

The doubles plus one strategy is pretty handy for students to learn. Did you know that if students master the doubles and doubles plus one strategy then they will know 25% of the addition table?! That's pretty awesome right? Click on the picture to check it out on TPT.

Odd and Even Numbers
This pack comes with two games and two posters.

The games are designed to help students identify and recognise whether numbers are odd or even. Identifying whether a number is odd or even is an important concept as it relates to patterns of numbers and objects. The concept of odd and even also relates to skip counting and grouping. Click on the picture to see it in my store.

Will be adding more soon, so don't forget to follow my store to be the first to know!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Freebie: Behaviour Management

Today I am sharing an idea that made my year a whole lot easier.

Click on the picture to get you own FREE copy on TPT :)

Or click here to get it on TN!

I had a student that did not respond to the management system I already had in place (clip chart). I tried lots and lots of different strategies and sought advice from my colleagues. Nothing seemed to be working, until I tried this chart that my supervisor and I came up with.

There are two columns. On the left, the day is divided into sessions.On the right there are the warnings.

When the student worked well throughout the session (without any incidents), they earned a tick. At the end of the day if they earned 3 ticks, they received a sticker for their sticker chart.

If they received a warning, they had to strike out a box in the right hand column. If they reached 3 warnings they were sent to my supervisor for time out. At the end of each session the warnings were wiped clean.

This chart actually worked. Within a few weeks of implementation I found that we were no longer reaching the point where the student was getting up to the 3rd warning. By the end of the term the student was rarely reaching the 1st warning.

I'm guessing this worked out because the student didn't like the typical clip chart and seeing their name near the bottom while the other students were at the top. Having an individual card on their desk meant that it was more private and not on show for everyone to see.

It definitely made the classroom run a lot smoother :)

Freebie: Roll and Cover Addition Game

I have mainly been posting paid items for English, so I thought I'd mix it up a bit! :)

Today I'm sharing a simple, fun, addition game that I've used in a year 1 class. It's a superhero themed roll and cover game. Click on the pic below to get your FREE copy on TPT!

Or click here to get it on TN!

How does it work? The game is played in pairs or small groups. Each student has their own game board. Students take turns to roll two dice. They find the total and cover the corresponding number on their board. The first to cover all numbers is the winner.

You can use the typical dot dice or vary it by using a dot die and a numeral die.

This game is great for getting students to practise counting on. I had several different themed boards that I rotated throughout the year so the game was always 'fresh'.

I have also started selling my products on Teachers' Notebook, click on the link in my sidebar to check it out.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Say Something! Comprehension Strategy

Today I am sharing a comprehension strategy I used and saw a lot of success with. It's called Say Something! Click on the picture to see the resource on TPT :)

This strategy works by giving students a series of prompts to use when participating in discussions. The prompts help them to articulate their ideas.

I started off by introducing a few prompts each day. We used them in whole class discussions about texts and what we had been learning about. Students would use the prompts to share their ideas with a partner, in small groups and then to the whole class. Once they were confident in using them, I incorporated the prompts into my guided reading groups to have a discussion about the text.

I created a "Say Something! Superhero" display on my wall with the prompts so the students could refer to it. After a while, I noticed that the prompts were being used automatically in their responses, both orally and written. Students who were a bit shy in answering questions, started to respond more often as they had the prompts to help guide their response.

It was also pretty good to hear the students using more sophisticated language.

For older grades these prompts can be used to facilitate discussion during literature circles.

This resource can be printed full size or scaled down for individual student cards.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Travelling and my teacher moment!

I travel a lot. I've seen and experienced many different cultures over the past year. It has truly been one of the best years of my life (and yes, I know how cliche that sounds).

I've worked at a school where 98% of the students have come from NESB (non-English speaking backgrounds) and have taught students who have come to my classroom with no English. I've always wondered if what I was doing was effective, as I've never been in that position. I grew up in an English speaking household and have lived in the same country my entire life (well, up until May 2013).

Going on a trip around Europe and travelling independently (as in not with a tour group) put me in the position of a new arrival student. I was in a foreign country, not knowing the language and I couldn't understand what the signs were saying. The countries that really emphasised this were the ones with Cyrillic; Russia, Ukraine, Serbia and Macedonia. Not only was there a language barrier, but the way things were done was also different. Buying a bus ticket was done at a kiosk and then had to be validated on the bus. Back home, it was bought from the driver and that was it. Big grocery stores didn't really exist, only small ones with limited choice. The money values were very different. It was confusing seeing a box of biscuits for 128 when I was so used to seeing them for 3.

I found myself using strategies to get by. Sometimes I was lucky and there was an English translation, other times there was just the Cyrillic. 

To try and make sense of the signs I would look for pictures or diagrams next to the words. It was a lot easier interpreting things when there was a picture. Another strategy was whenever I saw an important word translated in English, I would memorise it in Cyrillic so that when I saw it later I would know what it meant.

Communicating was interesting, sometimes I was lucky enough to get someone who knew English, other times I had to use a lot of hand gestures and awkwardly try and pronounce the word in their language. Usually I would mispronounce it, but they were able to make out what I was trying to say.

Basically I became the student trying to understand and communicate in a foreign language. At times it was very confusing and frustrating, but it was also exciting. Being put in the position of a student was an enriching experience for me, I feel it helped me better understand what it is like for them coming into a classroom where they do not understand the language.

It also helped reassure me that what I do to help accommodate them is helpful. I found myself relying on pictures, translations and words that I knew to help make sense of it all. 

So if anyone tries to tell me that I wasted a year travelling around Europe, I can tell them that about my own learning adventure :)