Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

Improve your Google Searches

Lately I have been thinking about a Google course I did last year to improve my search skills. There are a couple of things I learnt that have been useful on a regular basis, and others which I have drawn on less frequently. Today I thought I would share a few which are useful for teaching.

1. Searching for a file type
You have the ability to determine what type of file you would like to search for when conducting a Google search. This can save a lot of time by eliminating other types of files with similar content. Simply use filetype:[file extension] So...
If you are wanting a Powerpoint presentation to use with your class, include filetype:ppt in the search terms.
If you are wanting a SMART notebook file, include filetype:notebook in the search terms.
Obviously, the same goes for other file types.

2. Searching for printable images
You can search for worksheets to use in your classroom by doing an image search and then selecting Search Tools to specify for the search to include only black and white images. Be aware that some of the images that come up may be only thumbnails, or may be protected by copyright. I've noticed that you can now search by image size as well.

Search tools button and Black and white selection for images. Also searching only within teachingchallenges.com.

3. Searching a particular site
You can search a particular site, or type of site in order to limit the span of the search. To do this, type site:[extension] For example if you only want to search .gov sites, type site:.gov. Or if you only want to search edu. sites, type site:.edu. This can also be used to search a particular site eg. site:teachingchallenges.com or sites within a particular country eg. site:.au.

4. Searching a particular time frame
You can search for a particular time frame by selecting Search Tools and choosing the time frame you would like results for. This is useful for finding relevant news stories or other timely resources.

These are the tips that I think are most useful for teachers to use to enhance their Google searches. I hope that you find them useful too.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Having a Sale!

Since I've had a good holiday and am excited about starting back at work on Monday, I've decided to throw a 10% off sale for three days only at: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Teaching-Challenges
Come on over and check what's available!

Assessing Number and Place Value

At the end of last term I put my hand up to work on an assessment task related to what we've been doing in our Number and Place Value lessons so far this year. As I got started, I was struck by how boring the assessment was looking. I thought of the students in my class who feel intimidated by the mere sight of a page of Maths questions. So, I started fiddling with some ideas for how to make the task more appealing.

I needed to cover reading, writing and ordering numbers to 1000 and some addition/subtraction strategies. So far I have come up with 2 ideas, and I just need to come up with an interesting way for students to explain/demonstrate the strategies they use to work out a number of addition and subtraction questions. I'm thinking it will probably have something to do with folding a page into three - the first column for the addition/subtraction question, the second for the naming or circling the strategy used, and the third for demonstrating the mental steps. Here are the other ideas I have come up with already:

My first idea is Place Value Garden

This assessment is a picture of a garden, with different things students complete for each picture. For example, students write the bonds of 10 in the sun's rays. An instruction sheet explains what to do for each picture. I'm also considering a more open-ended option, whereby I provide students with the pictures and they create their own garden poster.

In order to make this assessment task, I needed to draw the pictures, and I ended up making a whole set of preliminary tasks students would complete in the lead up to the assessment. What resulted was a 48 page resource book for teaching place value using these pictures! While most of the resource consists of ready-made worksheets (with answer keys) and blank templates, I also make suggestions for how students can be extended, and follow on activities for fun. If you're interested in buying this resource, it is available at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store and at a reduced price for the first week.

My second idea is Mini Place Value Booklets:

With these booklets students demonstrate their ability to read, write and represent numbers to 1000. Students cut on the bold lines and fold on the dotted lines and it creates a little booklet. My thought is that students will make a number of these and then glue them in numerical order on a separate piece of paper/card to demonstrate their ability to order numbers. I am thinking that I will provide them with a two-digit and three-digit booklet, and then allow them to choose other numbers (possibly by using a random number generator on my interactive whiteboard). I am still working on this resource at the moment, but it should be available at my store in the next couple of weeks. Update (13 May 2013): This resource is now available here.

Creating valuable assessment tasks is always a challenge, particularly in order to gain an accurate demonstration of what students are capable of. I will be using these in a couple of weeks time and will then have a better sense of their effectiveness in gaining the sort of information we are hoping for.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

Screen Capture Basics

Today's tip is fairly basic, but one that I often find people are unaware of - the good ol' screen capture. I use screen capture quite regularly and for a range of purposes on all devices. I have taught students to use it to save an avatar image they have created, or to use a satellite image from Google Earth in their class work. I use it myself to snap shots of online receipts, and other web information I won't be able to return to. I use it on my phone to capture maps or images I need for directions but may not be able to access on the road. So today I will share the basic instructions for how to do this on Mac, PC, and iPhone/iPad.

Press command, shift and 4. The cursor will change to a cross-hair cursor. Click and drag to select the area you wish to capture. The image will be saved to your desktop. If you would like the entire screen captured, press command, shift and 3 instead.

Press the Print Screen (PrintScrn) key. Paste into required place. To edit the image, open Paint and paste here, make modifications and save. To save just the active window, press Alt and PrintScrn.
If you want to be more selective, you can use the Snipping Tool found in the Accessories folder in the Programs menu.

Press the home button (below the screen), followed by the power/lock button (at the top of the phone). The screen will flash white and make a camera click sound. The screen shot will be saved to the camera roll. View in Photos.

For those of you using Android devices, screen capture instructions are available here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


I first got the idea for this graphic organiser a few of years ago, but I don't remember where the inspiration came from or whether it was purely my own creation! It's a simple way of illustrating the connection between one mathematical fact and another. I use it frequently in my maths lessons to explore these relationships. I have developed three different formats to support students with their brainstorming. All three formats are available through my Teachers Pay Teachers store. A demonstration of how to use them is embedded below.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

Integrating ICT with Maths

Last week I had a great lesson planned for Maths. I was going to get the laptop trolleys and have my students use a Microsoft Word template to insert 2D shapes into a table. It was fairly straightforward and I had my template ready to go.

Unfortunately, on arrival at school, I found a big red sign on one of the trolleys stating "DANGER. DO NOT USE". I wasted no time tracking down someone who could give me more information. As it turned out, the trolley had been sparking, and was thus deemed unsafe until it could be looked at further by someone in the know. Needless to say, that didn't help me with only 20 minutes until my class walked through the door!

As is often the case when you plan to use technology, I had to rethink what I would do. There were still four laptops and I have a student computer in my room, so I grabbed them. As I went to leave the storeroom, I noticed the iPads, which I hadn't yet utilised. I had no idea what apps were on them, but a plan started forming in my mind - and all it required was the camera and a drawing application.

So what I ended up with was four Maths centres:
1. Using the laptops with the Microsoft Word template to draw and describe common 2D shapes: triangle, square, rectangle, pentagon, hexagon, rhombus, trapezium and octagon. The second page involves students creating their own design with polygons of their choice - but students did not get to this in the time allotted, and finished during our lab session.

2. Using iPads to photograph five shapes in the classroom environment and then using Draw Free to trace the polygons in the photos and label them.

3. Using rubber bands and geoboards to explore quadrilaterals and then draw them in their maths books.

4. Using plastic sticks of various sizes and pins to create polygons with a variety of sides and explore how these shapes change when tilted and manipulated in other ways.

What resulted was a really enjoyable set of Maths centres focused on exploring polygons. I should also mention that I used the Mathletics dictionary and concept search to support my definition of polygons and quadrilaterals prior to the activity centres.

It's great when things work out, even when they don't initially go to plan!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

Exploring Fonts

Since I started creating fancied up classroom resources I've become a lot more aware of different fonts. Fonts can add to the message or detract from it. Some fonts are easy for beginning readers to read and are a good model for handwriting. Others are more difficult to read and are used for their decorative element. Students are fascinated by fonts as well and love to see their words displayed in different ways.

With that in mind I created a simple Word template for students to use to explore fonts. I taught them how to select text and change font. They then changed the word document to display fonts they like, fonts that are easy to read and fonts that are difficult to read. They finished by changing the font to three different sizes.

I added a new category to my Teachers Pay Teachers store - Easy Freebie. As the name suggests, it's easy for me and free for customers, with no fancy cover pages or special effort. My first Easy Freebie is the Word template I created for this lesson. Feel free to download and use it.

Another aspect to my recent exploration of fonts, is the creation of my own fonts using iFontMaker. I love to experiment with different styles - reminding me of the calligraphy I enjoyed as a teenager. This app makes the whole process very fast and somewhat therapeutic. The font can be converted to a file that is simple to download and install to your computer's fonts. I have made a few so far and have used some in my TPT products. Here is one I created that I call "Sticks":

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mental Computation: Adding 2-digit Doubles and Near Doubles

In Maths groups we have been working on mental computation strategies for addition. My group has been working on adding 2-digit doubles eg. 20 + 20. Students have picked up the concepts very quickly and have powered through the work I have provided. As a result, I have developed a number of resources to use with this concept in order to ensure that the new learning is consolidated. While mostly related to Year 2 (particularly in terms of the Australian Curriculum and Common Core State Standards in the USA) it could be useful for Year 3 teachers when revisiting mental strategies.

This is my latest resource to be added to Teachers Pay Teachers. At 40 pages, it ended up being quite a bit of work - particularly when I forgot to save a day's work before shutting down the computer! (Yes, I still make stupid mistakes from time to time!) So, if you like the look of it, please recommend it to any of your friends who teach Year 2/Grade 2.

From a technical perspective, this new resource contains some of my unique clipart, borders and fonts. Still amateur, but improving, I think. The borders were actually much easier to insert than I first imagined, and it's nice to see my 'Me' font and 'Cutesy' font on something I have created.

Product Description:
40 pages of resources to support the teaching of two-digit addition using doubles and near doubles. Aligns with Common Core and Australian Curriculum for Grade 2. Concepts move from know facts of doubling 1-digit numbers, through multiples of ten, multiples of five, 2-digit without regrouping, problem solving, related subtraction facts, and near doubles.

Included in this packet are:
Instructions for use
Connections with standards
6 If...Then...Posters
8 Worksheets with Answer Keys
3 Games or Centre Activities
Review Quizzes and Assessment with Answer Keys

Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store for more information.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Comparing and Ordering Capacity

Over the past couple of weeks I have been teaching students about measuring the capacity of different containers. Our first lesson didn't run so smoothly, but students learnt a lot about the types of containers that are easier to measure, and more importantly, those that aren't! We used video cameras to record the measurements and then discussed how to measure more effectively - right to the top with no spills and overflow. We also had trouble with the initial worksheet I designed, and the camera batteries were varying degrees of flat. We learnt from all our mistakes so that when we repeated the lesson a couple of days later it went much more smoothly.

While I'm sure it would be pretty terrible if we had to repeat EVERY lesson because of mistakes, I think that from time to time it actually forms an important part of the learning. In this case, students learnt a lot from the discussion. Also, as students were able to choose which containers they measured each time, it didn't feel so much like a do-over. Plus, due to the appeal of the activity - water play AND video cameras - the students didn't feel like they were being punished!

We then had a rich task that I created which involves making paper cups for Mother Bear, Father Bear and Baby Bear according to their specifications. It was a lot of fun and the students really got into it. It was great to hear their discussion and see their problem solving strategies. As with all assessment tasks, there were some who REALLY got it, and some who didn't.

When putting together these worksheets, I experimented with creating my own font and a quick first go at a border. Since these, I have experimented some more and have come up with other fonts and borders to 'reveal' in later worksheet packets! I'm having a lot of fun exploring what I can do by pairing my iPad and computer to create worksheets.

The worksheets for these lessons are available free at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. The video instructions for making a paper cup are embedded below.

This packet includes:

  • Instructions, Recommendations and Connections
  • 3 worksheets for students to use for a group task
  • A rich task with assessment rubric

These resources are particularly useful for Australian teachers as they align with the Australian Curriculum for Year 2.

Update 13 May 2013: If you found this resource interesting, you may also be interested in Comparing and Measuring Mass.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday


This app for iPhone and iPad provides a creative outlet for the mathematically-minded. I've clocked quite a few hours now creating and modifying designs with this simple-to-use application.

If you want to know the Maths behind the symmetrical designs, information is provided. If you just want to play and explore, it's set up and ready to go.

I made this design while watching my son play at the park.
And then by simply changing the symmetry, I got the variations seen below. Usually I would fiddle with the design and add more detail as I looked at the variations but I stuck to the original markings for the purposes of this post.

In the classroom this would be great for a symmetry lesson or an art lesson. I know that it has made me a lot more aware of the designs I see around me.