Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Series of Educational Sites: "F"...PBS Kids!

As a Mississippi girl, I'm have enjoyed PBS Kids and PBS Teachers!! Just in case you're not familiar with PBS, I wanted to post about this site because it's pretty darn cool... for all of us--teachers, children, and parents!
A Series of Educational Sites Innovative Connections by Ann Marie Smith
This post is so much more than about PBS Kids, as the title includes. 
Let's start with the main site-- PBS.ORG! This site has created PBS Kids, PBS Teachers, and PBS Parents to name the most helpful to you...
Featuring videos, games, shows, and more, there's plenty to entertain students in an educational manner. 
Teachers...See the PBS Teachers--Kids in the Classroom! They offer a "Word of the Day," Early Childhood Resources, and quite a bit more ranging from PreK to 12th Grade. Another tidbit to check out is the Teacher Innovation Awards -Are you an Innovative Educator? See how many winners there are just in 2011! 
rainy days or too hot days in the SummerParents will love this site now that school is out (or soon will be) for the summer! Mom & Dad can access activities, advice, and even recipes for quality time spent with the kiddos! Ideas are endless and perfect for those rainy days or TOO HOT days! Sign up for the PBS Parent Newsletter and stay up to date...
"A Series of Educational Sites" Want to know another great feature? 
Mobile apps are available as well! How convenient is that...for kids to watch their top fav PBS shows? A couple of these shows I remember watching when I was little!

In case you missed them, see previous posts of "A Series of Educational Sites" I've blogged about:
Educational Site A: Quizlet
Educational Site B: Arcademic Skill Builders
Educational Site C: Wonderopolis (Free Writing Printable included!)
Educational Site D: EZSchool
Educational Site E: The Problem Site

So, check out PBS Kids...and tell me what your favorite PBS show is (yes, you, the teacher/parent)? 
Was it one you watched as a child too? 
If you don't have one, what are your child's or students' favorites? 
Please share them with us in a comment below! Or, click on my signature to share your comments on my Facebook page! I'd love to see you there too!

A Series of Educational Sites for teachers, children, parents

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Assessing Comprehension with Small Group Song Performances!

Understanding of any subject matter and perfecting writing skillsCreativity is KEY in the classroom! I'm certain all of you agree. 
Constantly trying to find new ways to keep students involved in reading and comprehending literature, I've had the best time watching and listening to some rather creative song performances based on our selections we read in class!

The idea behind this activity is for students to recall details and explain perspectives, or explain story elements for example, which displays their levels of comprehension of particular texts we are reading in class or texts we have just finished reading. It's a different and fun approach to assessing comprehension that my students have very much enjoyed. 
An added incentive? Their writing skills are perfected as they work to compose lyrics on the subject matter learned and students gain more exposure in presentations! I try to get students up in front of the class quite a bit in hopes of burying "stage fright" as they approach higher grades and demands in the years to come. I find this most successful since my middle schoolers tire easily of a monotonous routine. Since my students work and deliver presentations as groups and it's a "fun" presentation to deliver, I end up eliminating some of the embarrassments that come with presentations. Variety is the spice of life!
Innovative Connections Ann Marie Smith on Teachers Pay Teachers

Most entertaining to the students, besides getting to work in groups to create a song they actually sing for the class, are the performances of all groups in the class and even listening to the audio recordings of my other classes! On top of the enjoyment, students don't even realize they are gaining even more details and information from other groups' songs! 

Innovative Approach to assess your students' comprehension! Innovative ConnectionsWhat got me blogging about this activity today was the fact that we (my students and I) all listened to the recordings again yesterday--after the final exam! It was a nice "wind down" moment in which we went back to earlier in the school year to these songs they created and sang for the class. 
I wanted to let you know about the activity I created, Literature Response Activity: Compose Songs Based on Any Text,  with student handouts and teacher rubric, in case any of you are wrapping up, and perhaps finishing a book or story, and need a creative way to assess comprehension! Click cover image at right to read more in the product description at my TpT store, and perhaps grab this fun activity for your students. Click here to get it from Teacher's Notebook.
It can also be a great activity for other subject areas and various types of texts! Whatever the topic is, the students compose writing (songs) based on what they've learned! How much they have learned or comprehended is what we must figure out...so, why not do it with a little fun added?

Question: What is a creative activity you implement in your class to sort of "trick" your kiddos into showing what they know? I'd love to hear more ideas!! I'll tuck them away for the upcoming school year!! Thanks so much for any great ideas you would like to share here!! :) 

Be well and Happy Summer!

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Few Inspirational Summer Quotes

I love quotes, and I love Summer! So, here are a few random quotes I found out there I thought I'd post to share. I hope you enjoy!
Innovative Connections Summer time sayings random quotes

  • If you are not barefoot, you're overdressed. -unknown
  • One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter. -Henry David Thoreau
  • It's a smile, it's a kiss, it's a sip of wine...it's summertime! -Kenny Chesney
  • Summertime is always the best of what might be. -Charles Bowden
  • To see the Summer Sky Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie-True Poems flee. --Emily Dickinson
  • In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. -Albert Camus
    Ann Marie Smith Perfect summer day birds singing lawn mower broken
  • Celebrate summer--sun-drenched days and starlit nights. --Gooseberry Patch
  • A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken. -James Dent
  • A life without love is like a year without summer. -Swedish Proverb
  • I've cut down on a lot of stuff this summer, just so I can hang out and be a normal kid for a while. -Ryan Sheckler (Maybe we should all do this...)
  • Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air, and you. -Langston Hughes
  • The bigger the summer vacation the harder the fall. -unknown
  • In summer, the song sings itself. -William Carols Williams
  • There shall be eternal summer in a grateful heart. -Celia Thaxter
  • A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows. -St. Francis of Assisi
  • Sun shining. Weather is weet. Make you wanna move your dancing feet. -Bob Marley
  • The tans will fade, but the memories will last forever. -unknown
  • I wonder what is would be like to live in a world where it was always June. -L.M. Montgomery
share the best part about summer time or a favorite quote

What is your favorite thing about summer? Please share the best part about summer time or a favorite quote below!
 Can you tell my school year ends this week? :)
Happy Summer!!
Happy Summer!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Series of Educational Sites: "E"...The Problem Site!

Innovative Connections by Ann Marie Smith Games, Strategies, PrintablesI landed on another fun site you may/may not know about...
The Problem Site!
Students will jump all over extra computer time to play free online educational games! They can also engage in lots of other fun interactive skill-polishing activities on The Problem Site!
Just to give you an idea, here are a few games offered on the site:

  • Picture Word Game
  • Hangman
  • Secret Number 2
  • Zero Gravity Connect Four
  • Subtraction Triangles
  • The Pirate's Map
  • Treasure Hunt
A Series of Educational Sites at Innovative ConnectionsMy thoughts?
I must say that I am pretty impressed with how many avenues of topics and levels this site covers. It really get students to think, as it did me. There's a lot to gain from extra problem solving activities and good brainteasing challenges.  I love that it also has daily online puzzles, a reference/resource page to use in research and other projects, printables to easily and quickly create, and brainteasers! Just let them explore and see what they like! I think you'll find something for most any student. 

Why use interactive sites in the classroom?
We all have students, or perhaps children, that love interactive games and playing on the computer! Let them utilize the site when extra time allows them use on computers or when you just want to give them some extra challenge time! Computer time is always a great reward or incentive for promoting good classroom behavior or achieving goals academically!

Have you heard about it? Let me know what you think about the site or if you already utilize it! I'd love to know your thoughts on using computer time as a reward or motivator in the classroom too!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Learn About This Innovative Teacher-Author

Yvonne Crawford of Mixminder
Classroom Experience:
Innovative Connections by Ann Marie SmithI taught 11th and 12th grade in Texas - English Lit., SAT/ACT prep class and Teacher Cadet class. I taught all high school grades English as a foreign language in Hungary. I've also taught adults and college level EFL in France and in Slovakia. I homeschooled my children from Pre-K to 3rd grade. They are in school now so they can become fluent in French, but soon I will most likely go back to homeschooling. I'm currently teaching EFL in France in elementary school.

Some valuable things this teacher-author has learned that would benefit other teachers, teacher-authors, or bloggers to learn:
     I think I've learned through creating innovative products that you can make math fun. My own kids were so tired of math worksheets, so I decided to create my own fun things to make math more enjoyable. Then, I realized through emails that other moms (and teachers) were having much more fun teaching math with my materials. Their students were actually asking to study math which is a great thing! So, I guess the moral is the story that we , as educators, can actually change the perception of how a subject is viewed by students. We can all make a difference and make education more enjoyable for our students and children!

Something cool, weird, or funny, etc. about this teacher-author OUTSIDE of the classroom:
I love to design and create teddy bears. I have made about 20 mohair teddy bears. It takes a long time to sew them by hand and design them properly so that they are in proportion. I love it. It's a lot of fun! It's not really funny nor weird, but to me it's cool!

ONE great idea, lesson, or piece of advice, etc. learned from another blog:
Never forget why you started to teach in the first place. Sometimes this gets lost in the course of dealing with administration, other teachers, etc. But, don't lose sight of your love of teaching!

Featured Freebie by this teacher-author:
by Yvonne Crawford of Mixminder

A Helpful Hint for the Classroom:
When buying or downloading freebies from websites or from TPT for use in your classroom… Back them up! You never know when your computer will crash. Try a place like Dropbox to back them up. It's easy and you can organize them nicely by month, holiday or however you normally have them organized on your own computer.

Connect with this teacher-author at these places:

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The Underneath and Supplemental Free Activities!

My name is Carolyn Wilhelm and I am so glad to be a guest blogger for Ann Marie Smith's Innovative Connections blog today.  I write for my own K-2 blog, but I guest blog on other blogs, as well.  I have taught mostly primary classrooms, but have also taught grades 4 and 5 and loved teaching units about novels.  Guest posting gives me a chance to blog about a novel.

I recently read THE UNDERNEATH by Kathi Appelt, a book suggested for ages 10 and up.  This narrative deals with tough realities of life for some animals who take turns telling the story.  The harsh conditions of living in the bayou are revealed through wonderful writing which helps the reader feel empathy and concern, as the animals struggle with their living conditions.  At different points in the story a single animal could be freed from the cruelty, but instead tries to help the others.  

Interwoven with the story of the animals is a mysterious tale of a lamia (Grandmother Moccasin), based on the local folklore of the bayou.  The magic snake also has some conflicts and problems. The story is remarkable and has a satisfying ending. 

So, what is the underneath, for which the book is named?  It is the space beneath a house that is built above the ground.  The human character is a rough hermit back-woods type of character who has become very mean from his difficult life.  Gar-Face (because of his scars) mostly stays away from people.  He gets a dog, Ranger, which disappoints him so much on their first hunting trip, that he chains dog beneath the house and barely gives him enough food.  A calico cat about to have kittens finds the space, and together they make a little family.  The two kittens are Puck and Sabine, and all is well when they are too small to venture out into the open.  The dog and three cats make a perfect family until the kitten, Puck, breaks the rule and goes to the open, setting off a series of suspenseful events. Students who love complex stories about animals will not want to put this book down.  The way Kathi Appelt writes engages the reader to want to read until the story is resolved.  

The questions at the end of the book deal with anthropomorphism, lamia (half-serpent and half-human), promises made by characters in the novel kept and at what cost, music's big role in the book, the theme of loss, learning from mistakes, the role of the hummingbird, and true friendships demonstrated in the story. Teachers will find the set of questions very helpful for using this book as a novel study.

For the independent reader or small group, here is my free PDF (with an answer key) to accompany the book. 
Innovative Connections Carolyn Wilhelm Guest Blog FREE PDF
Thanks for reading, 

The Wise Owl Factory on Innovative Connections blog by Ann Marie Smith

Thanks to Carolyn for guest blogging today! This is a fabulous, valuable post, and it's such a bonus for her to include this fantastic freebie! Teachers, you can download this free pdf instantly! No logging in anywhere! I encourage you to visit Carolyn's Wise Owl Factory Book a Day Blog! She's got UBER awesome posts on books with supplemental materials! Click on her blog button to check it out! Don't forget to download your free pdf docs to accompany THE UNDERNEATH!!

Have a beautiful day!
Ann Marie

Friday, May 04, 2012

Peers Interviewing Peers

Part 1 of today's post: Writing a Biography
A unique idea for getting students to submit a good writing piece is to trick them! (Sort of, anyway!) Students create questions to ask peers, and those questions, in combination with peer responses, make compositions pretty easy to put together! 
Innovative Connections Ann Marie Smith Five Star Blogger
First of all, my 8th graders need to learn what biographies are, right? Writing a biography is the ultimate goal of the assignment.

Second of all, they love to talk about themselves to each other! lol...yes, they do!
So, we (my colleagues and I) have the kids compose 10 interview questions ahead of time. Then, we assign each student a partner in the class to interview---making sure they don't interview good friends. That's not too hard because our 8th grade averages about 450 kids. They tend to be pretty spread out amongst all the English classes. The interaction in the interview helps build new friendships in the classroom because they do learn a great deal about their classmates when it's all said and done. Plus, what's the point of interviewing someone you already know about anyway?
writing process teacher is facilitating unique ideaAfter the interviewing is done, students write up biographies about their partners! Minus a few biographies of those that would rather not have their information shared with the class, we get together for sharing time! This is quite interesting to me and the kids. 
The biography is the final draft and the interview questions/answers can serve as the rough draft of the writing process!! The kids learn about each other, then extend their knowledge to classmates with presentations! 

I must say, eavesdropping on the interviews (facilitating, I should say) is very entertaining. I love to hear my students talking one on one. The depth and direction of conversation  always enlightens me. Plus, I love that many of them are in a "comfort zone" with just one other person for the first part. This kind of activity promotes discussion, interaction, and keeps the students engaged while the teacher steps back and acts as a facilitator!
After biographies are turned in, I score them 4, 3, 2, 1. A "4" is an "A"....and so on.

Part 2: The Five Star Blogger!
The "Five Star Blogger" is a blogger challenge Charity Preston has going on to stir motivation! The great thing is that it is a reminder to me not to stray from the true reason for this blog, which is to share ideas and connect with others also willing to share great ideas! You can see all other blogs' postings of helpful teacher information, tips, tricks, and more by clicking on the "Five Star Blogger" badge below! Those participating have linked up there. 
Are you a "FIVE STAR BLOGGER" too? If so, take on the challenge!

5-Star Blogger
AND, back to my BIOGRAPHY post...Please, share one of your engaging activities for students interacting with each other that requires you to serve as facilitator!
I would love to read them in comments below!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A Series of Educational Sites: "D"...EZSchool!

EZ Games for Students Innovative Connections  by Ann Marie Smith 

I've visited and used some wonderful resources from EZSchool for almost as long as I've been teaching! Do I dare say 11 years now? 
If you need to engage students (or your own children) in educational GAMES for that extra challenge or help, this is a great place to do it! It has a wide variety of games divided into grade level categories, making it super user-friendly!
variety of games divided into grade level categoriesClick Images to Find Out for Yourself...
Games, tutorials, study tools, and spelling are just some of the tabs to access resources on the site.
Besides all grades represented, EZSchool has all subject areas and various languages!!
As the logo tells you, it is "The Premier Educational Portal" for teachers and students.
For your convenience, subscribe to EZSchool's newsletter for updates, new resources, and other goodies! 
You'll gain lots of insightful information from reading the many articles linked up for you!

This is today's educational web site in the "A Series of Educational Sites" posts on Innovative Connections. 
I hope I've helped connect you to a supplemental resource to educate your students or children!! After all, that's the point! 

If you have used this site before, or you use this site quite often, I'd love to hear your feedback! Submit your thoughts in a comment below! Thanks so much for visiting Innovative Connections and letting me know how you implement EZSchool...
Innovative Connections A Series of Educational Sites

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Grades 7-12 Link Up Innovative Connections Ann Marie Smith 150 Bloggers

A Teacher   Appreciation Jackpot for

Teacher Appreciation Week Was a Complete Extravaganza! Thank you to ALL participating and hopping blog to blog! I hope you found TONS of goodies to use! I know I did! 

Thanks again to the hosts for an amazing "blog hop" event involving over 130 bloggers:
Do Remember the TpT Sale is through May 8th, so the links will lead you to incredible bargains, still...
The "surprise" item will be made free for Sunday, May 6th only
Below are the blogs in the 7th-12th Grade Link Up at Adrianne Meldrum's The Tutor House! To view all grades, click the links above of corresponding grade level host!
Thanks again for coming over...Don't forget to enter the PROMO CODE TAD12 at checkout!!!
Ann Marie

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...