Using Cooperative Learning In The Classroom


What is Cooperative Learning?

Cooperative learning is an instructional method based on past research of the theory that people who work together to achieve shared goals are more successful in achievement of goals(Alport Watson Shaw and Mead). The theory was established before the onset of World War One. Philosophers and Psychologists John Dewey, Kurt Lewin, and Morton Deutsh further developed the theory helping to establish it in the educational setting. Later David and Roger Johnson actively promoted the theory from 1974 to 1994. It has proven to be a popular and successful instructional method.

With the cooperative learning method, the teacher’s role becomes that of facilitator rather than just instructor. Learning occurs naturally as students interact among themselves. Students work together to create a common project or assignment by sharing opinions, knowledge, and skills. The success of each individual in the group is reliant upon the success of the whole group as a unit.

What Are the Positives of Cooperative Learning?

Research shows several positive outcomes when using cooperative learning. Studies show retention of learned material increases. Students will have greater recall of skills and facts covered in the activities.

The method has been shown to increase social skills that help students prepare for good citizenship and successful living in society. It is thought that cooperative learning can set the stage for students to experience greater success in the world of work. Most jobs and professions require employees to cooperate and work together toward a common goal.

Finally, cooperative learning encourages respect among students for one another when working in groups of varying abilities and ethnic groups. Acceptance and respect for diversity will be important all through life.

Implementing Cooperative Learning


Cooperative learning can be implemented in lessons in any subject and in grade levels from kindergarten to college. It can be as simple as a group brainstorming a list of writing or research topics or as complex as a project for a science exhibit.

Grouping learning disabled or other special needs students with non-disabled peers is a valid and useful accommodation. It can become a part of the student’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) or 504 plan. It can be a useful way to accommodate students with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Work can be “chunked” for students to complete. A long set of math problems can be a daunting task for the ADHD student. Divided and shared between four students the task becomes more manageable for them.

Although good research exists proving the advantages of cooperative learning, educators may be finding themselves reluctant to use the method. Some claim that students socialize too much and often get off-task. They favor more direct instruction. While it is true that many students benefit more from direct instruction, cooperative learning may be well worth giving a second chance. A few strategies could help in making it successful.

The teacher will need to monitor and decide when and how to make adjustments. Do the students need to be rearranged within the groups? Is the activity either too easy or too hard? Begin with these questions. Keep in mind that motivation is a key underlying factor for learning to occur. Teachers may need to find ways to motivate students. This could be accomplished by allowing them to choose from a list of activities.

Strategies for Implementing Cooperative Learning

1. Begin with less complex tasks when first implementing cooperative learning. Pair lower ability students with higher ability.

2. Establish a set of rules within the other class rules. Make sure students understand the procedures and take a few minutes to go over them directly. Have the rules posted. Implement the same consequences for not following them as with the other class rules.

3. Keep groups small, no more than 4 to 6 students. Doing so will ensure that each member of the group will have to participate and be accountable for the finished product. Use a rubric for grading and always give grades.

4. Assigning a certain role for each member of the group will give guidance and direction making each student feel important. If they tend to argue over roles, then have them to draw numbers.

Roles to consider:

Leader- checks each member for understanding. reports problems in understanding or materials to the teacher

Recorder- records responses.

Reporter- reports findings to share with the rest of the class. reports problems in behavior to the teacher.

Monitor- can keep time for timed assignments. reminds others to stay on task.

5. Switch members of cooperative groups occasionally keeping in mind who does or does not work together well. Also switch roles occasionally.

6 Assign each student one fourth of a lesson to study. then have them take turns “teaching” their part of the lesson to the other students. Have a list of ways to share to choose from.

Ideas for sharing:

compose a song, poem or rap

draw an illustration

write a summary

give an oral report

write true/false questions for the other students to answer.

7. Students enjoy hands-on activities. Let them work together to create projects such as making a Frosty the Soap Man.Each student can be responsible for one part of creating the whole project. The leader can be responsible in making sure that each part is completed for putting the project together.




12 Terrific Ideas For a Red Ribbon Week Door Decorating Contest


Red Ribbon Week Door Decor

Does your school, office, or dorm have a Red Ribbon Week door decorating contest? Need some fresh ideas?

The contest comes around every year along with other activities to honor Red Ribbon Week. It comes around the same time as, you guessed it, Halloween, so it’s not unusual to see a Halloween theme incorporated in the decorations.

History of Red Ribbon Week

Red Ribbon Week is a week in late October or early November to emphasize and promote drug and violence prevention. It started slowly after the kidnapping and murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camereno and his pilot in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1985.

Camereno’s efforts led to the discovery of a multimillion dollar narcotics manufacturing operation. Citizens in Camereno’s hometown wore red ribbons in his honor. Clubs were started in California high schools in 1986. Club members presented Nancy Reagan, then the first lady with a proclamation.

The first official Red Ribbon Week was organized in 1988, proclaimed by Congress, and chaired by Mrs. Reagan.


12 Ideas for Red Ribbon Week Doors

1. Drugs will Make You Croak.
A confused frog smashed into the window.


2. The Fortune Teller’s Crystal Ball Says it with Lights

Painted with poster paints on black paper. Your Future will be Bright if you Keep Drugs out of Sight.

3. Warm Hugs Not Drugs

Individually decorated snowmen and snowflake cutouts


4. Oh, The Places We’ll Go

Dr. Suess theme. The good life, drug free.


5. Cool Ninja Turtle

Of course, he’s wearing a red bandana!


6. Your Team Against Drugs.

Your favorite team is in the lead . Drugs score 0.


7. Be a Lifesaver, Not a Dum Dum

Can we eat the candy later? Yes, it’s real.


8. Drugs are a Nightmare

A Halloween theme spelled out on a big yellow moon.


9. Don’t Be Bugged by Drugs

Spooky spiders and bats with googly eyes.


10. Election Day is Around the Corner

The candidates are saying drug free slogans.

11.You Only Live Once

Think twice. A powerful message personalized with photos.


12. A Message with a Halloween theme.

The haunted house, big moon, ghosts, and bats tell the message perfectly.


Using The Calendar For Teaching Basic Math Concepts

Elementary Math Using the Calendar

A calendar is a great tool for teaching basic skills to elementary age children. Walk in any elementary classroom and you will likely see a colorful, seasonal calendar attached to a bulletin board and surrounded by a variety of teaching aids. A table may be added to the area to hold manipulatives, games and task cards, making it double as a math learning station.

You don’t have to have a classroom to use a calendar for teaching math. Parents, homeschoolers, and tutors can use any calendar as long as it is a monthly one and not a daily display calendar. Activities vary from grade level to grade level. The following teaching suggestions are divided into primary (PreK-2 grade) and elementary ( 3rd-5th grade). They will help meet the math teaching standards in all states.

Primary Grade Calendar Math

For really young students, like pre-k through grade one, or older, disabled students, the teacher will want to build the calendar together with the class.

Number Recognition

On the first day of the month, review the names of all 12 months and introduce the new month. Pass out number cards (1-30, 31 or 28) and have students bring the correct one to pin on the calendar.

Ordinal Numbers

Calendar time is the perfect opportunity to introduce students to ordinal numbers and their endings. Each day, demonstrate how to write the date as 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and so on.

Number Sequencing

Use the calendar to practice skip counting by 2s and also to talk about numbers that come before and after. If today is the 22nd of the month, ask what yesterday’s date was. What will be tomorrow’s date?

Time sequencing


Number Riddles

Increase children’s number sense with number riddles each day. Vary in difficulty as time goes by. Examples:

    1. I come after the number 3. What number am I?
    2. I am the sum of this Tuesday and next Wednesday.What number am I?
    3. I am the number of the 2nd Tuesday this month. What number am I?

It is important for children to develop a sense of time. Use calendar math time to learn the order of the months and the days of the week. Look for songs and rhymes to use for teaching the order of the days and months.

Question students about what month comes before and after the current month. This is a good time to talk about seasons also.

Vary the difficulty of questions as time goes by, challenging students to think.

      1. What is the date one week from today?
      2. What month will it be two months after Christmas?
      3. What was the date two weeks ago from yesterday?

Place Value


Beside the calendar, place a ones, tens hundreds pockets chart. You can even use three plastic cups stapled on the bulletin board. Be sure to use the labels ones, tens and hundreds. Beginning on the first day of school, the teacher shows the calendar math helper how to place a straw or Popsicle stick in the ones pocket.

One the 10th day of school, it is time to “bundle” the straws or sticks with a rubber band. Every 10 days from here on, you will bundle and add to the tens pockets. The kids will be thrilled when there or 10 bundles of 10s on the hundredth day of school.


A calendar makes the perfect number line for simple addition and subtraction. Show students how to add problems like 6+ 9 by starting on day six and jumping forward nine days.

Likewise, subtract by jumping backward in time. What was today’s date six days ago? what number sentence shows that operation?

Counting Money

Counting money is a lot of fun using calendar math. Each day is a penny, five days a nickel . Trade two nickles for a dime on the tenth day.

The 25th day of school is a quarter. Trade two quarters for a half-dollar on the 50th day of school. Use large paper coins to display the money in a piggy bank pinned to the calendar math bulletin board. So if it is the 62nd day in school, for example, you will have a half-dollar, a dime,and two pennies.

After 99 cents, kids will be thrilled to add a paper dollar for the 100th day of school.



Students can help the teacher create a pictograph or bar graph depicting the number of rainy days, sunny days, etc.


Elementary Grade Calendar Math


For older students, days can be added one at a time at the calendar circle times. Although some of the objectives are the same, skills become more advanced with each grade level. They still love counting the days of school and modeling the ones, tens, and hundreds, but now, they will use the day to write decimals and percentages.

Number Sense


Patterning is an important skill that will help students later on with algebraic concepts. Some teachers like to use seasonal symbols like pumpkin, ghost bat. Others just use colors. You can use geometric shapes and help students identify them, covering an important geometry standard.

Use the calendar time to learn about odd and even numbers and prime and composite numbers. Tell whether each day is odd or even. Let the calendar math helper write these in the correct place.

Have students tell whether each day is a prime or composite number. The 13th of the month is prime because its only factors are one and 13. Is October 25th a prime or composite day? Composite, because it has 5, 1 and 25 as factors. On “composite days”, have students create factoring trees as part of their morning work.

Students can use the calendar for harder skip counting like 3s, 4s, and 6s.

Place Value

Show students how to write “big numbers” by turning the month into a number. For example May 25th, 2014 would be written as 5,252,014. Whatever the date is, start on the right and place commas after each set of 3 numbers. December 22, 2016, would, therefore be 12, 222,013.

Have a place value pocket chart from ones to ten millions pinned to the calendar math bulletin board. The calendar math helper can place number cards in the pouches to show the date.

Use ones, tens and hundreds for counting the days in school. Students can write these as decimals and percentages. For example, the 82nd day of school would be written as .82 and 82%. The 102nd day? 1.02 which is one whole and 2 tenths., or one whole and 2 percent.


Students in later grades are expected to be able to perform column addition and regroup. Pick three or four days and have students add them together. For example, say, add last Wednesday’s date, today’s date and next Thursday’s and Friday’s date together.

Use the calendar for teaching fractions. For example, the 6th of December would be written as 6/12ths. After introducing simplifying fractions, a student could show how to reduce this to 1/2. Some days will be improper fractions. For example,February 7th would be 7/2. Students can divide to get the mixed number 3 and 1/2. December 12th will be 12/12 and makes the whole number, one.

Counting Money

Counting money is pretty much the same for all grade levels. This skill can be parallel to place value and decimals. One way to make counting money more complex it to add days together. For example, what is the total of the 160th day and the 161st day. Students would add $1.60 and $1.61.

Some teachers of older students use thousands and add them to a depositor each day. For example, the 1st is $100 dollars, and the 10th is $10,000 dollars. Likewise, the 20th is $20,000. Add another thousand to the depositor on the next day, the 21st.

Time Sequence

Again, time sequence and awareness of time is important for elementary students as well. Make it more difficult with more complex tasks.

      1. You have a dental appointment 2 weeks from next Tuesday. What is the date of your dental appointment?
      2. We started our Social Studies unit five weeks ago from yesterday. What date did we begin the unit?
      3. What will be the date nine months after Christmas day? What month is five months before December?



February Ideas For The Elementary Classroom


February Holiday Ideas for School

To be the shortest month of the year February is certainly a busy one. Aside from the natural occurring holidays (Valentine’s, Ground Hog and President’s Days) there are several themes of recognition set in the month of February.

Perhaps because everyone thought February was such a boring month certain organizations decided to make February National “Whatever” Month.There is American Dental Month, Heart Health Month, Black History Month…the list goes on and on!

These special holidays and themes of recognition provide great opportunities for fantastic and creative instruction in the classroom for the month of February. The time of year is ripe for focus and rigor. The distraction of Fall and Winter holidays are over and breaks are at a minimum.

The second semester is relatively new. It’s just after the new year and it is the last chance to “get it right” before the end of the school year. Capitalize on all that positive energy and provide your students with creative, high-interest lessons. Following is a collection of ideas to get you going, and a wide range of grade levels are included. Materials used in the activities are inexpensive.

Valentines Math


Patterning is an important skill for student and actually prepares the mind for algebraic concepts later on. Young students will really be motivated to use colored valentine cut-outs to follow a pattern started by the teacher to follow.Every other color is a beginning pattern, then go as complicated as needed for the ability level of the student.

Conversational hearts make great counters for beginning addition and subtraction problems for the youngest students.Use for teaching multiplication and division concepts to older elementary students. Have the students make arrays for multiplication, or put them in piles to show the inverse of multiplication and division. Students will love the lessons and participation is sure to be high! Have a set to count with and a some to eat separately in a plastic baggie!


Are you teaching the concepts of place value and regrouping ones and tens? Use cinnamon heart candies to make groups of ten and then count the left over loose ones. Then have them to write the number represented by the candies.

These are just a few ideas for teaching math concepts with Valentine candy. Try bar graphs according to colored hearts or candies. The creative teacher can think of many ways to use Valentine candy to teach math concepts.

Valentine Art and Crafts for School



Trading Valentine cards is a long standing tradition in elementary school. Use an empty tissue box for students to create their own “mailbox” for Valentine cards. Simply paint them with white tempera or acrylic and decorate with stickers, foam pieces or other creative ways. Let the imagination loose! Encourage creative thinking for your students. Students will love delivering their valentines to these cute tissue mailboxes. Have them to write their name on the bottom.

Centers are fairly standard in the early childhood class.If you need a good idea for the art center for February try sponge painting hearts on gift wrap. Pour tempera in meat trays. Provide heart shaped sponges for sponge painting on the gift wrap with red and pink hearts.Parents will love it when their kids bring home the gift wrap. Dads could use it to wrap the rose stems for Mom!

For students needing occupational therapy activities try this engaging activity. Cut out a big valentine of red paper. Provide lots of 1-inch squares of white tissue paper.Show students how to pinch them and create a ruffle to glue around the edge of the valentine.They will love it!

Groundhog Day Ideas for the Classroom


Ground Hog Day is a good opportunity for both younger and older students to learn.Challenge older students to research the origin and meaning of the day. Have them create a report on their findings with a written or oral report, or perhaps a Powerpoint presentation.

Casting Shadows Across Literacy and Science is an awesome lesson plan written by Dr. Deborah Jensen and published by International Reading Association. Dr.Jensen links literacy and science beautifully as students explore what makes shadows and how and why shadows change. Tools are provided for the teacher to have students study and record observations of shadows. A wonderful study of literature that includes poetry about shadows is sure to encourage any budding authors in the group.

What makes a shadow? Do shadows change? Can a person escape his or her shadow? These questions guide students in developing a scientific understanding of shadows. Discussions on shadows in literature (fiction, informational text, and poetry) link scientific knowledge to the world of literature or students. A recording observations of shadows hand out is printable for the teacher’s use.

To help the very youngest students develop an early awareness of Ground Hog Day try this adorable idea by Marian Bartleson (Mailbox magazine, February/March 2006). Provide students with a pattern of a groundhog to trace and cut from brown construction paper. Glue the groundhog on a tongue depression stick. This will be a puppet for the background created with a sheet of blue construction paper. Add a snow covered ground, puffy cotton ball cloud and a yellow sun to help make the groundhog’s shadow. Help students cut a slot for sliding the puppet up and down simulating the groundhog popping out of his hole. Remember the tune I’m a Little Teapot? Teach young students these words for the same tune to perform with their puppets and backgrounds:

I’m a little groundhog, Brown and Stout, Will I see my shadow when I pop out.

If I see my shadow it will be six more weeks of winter that you see!

Students of all ages will enjoy making silhouette pictures. Tape butcher paper on a wall or screen. Have the student sit in a chair facing sideways in front of a bright light. An old overhead projector works for this. Another student (or the teacher for younger ones) traces the silhouette for the student to cut out. Then have the student trace this on white paper. Cut out the silhouette and mount on black paper. Play a guessing game by displaying them alongside a given number. Have students number their paper and write the name of whom they think each silhouette picture is.

Many will remember lying in bed making shadow puppets on the wall as a kid. Younger and older students alike will enjoy this great guide for making shadow characters. Challenge drama students at the secondary level to work in cooperative learning groups to produce and perform a play using shadow puppets.


President’s Day Ideas for School


Give both younger and older students background information on the origin of this federal holiday. George Washington was the first American citizen whose birthday was used for an official holiday. For many years, that observance was held on February the 22nd which is his actual birth date. On January 1st, 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act shifted the date to the third Monday in February naming it President’s Day. Since Abraham Lincoln’s birth date is February 12th we typically engage in activities to commemorate his great presidency.

Assign upper elementary and middle school students a U.S. President to research– or if preferred let them select their own. Students then write a brief biography of the president following a given outline that includes their date of birth, childhood, education and contributions to history from their presidency. If desired students can complete the project making a life-size replica of the president by tracing around another student onto large white bulletin board paper, cutting out and then embellishing it with hats, clothes, and features to resemble the president.

Younger students will enjoy using paper plates and construction paper for creating George Washington and Abe Lincoln. Use cotton balls to make George Washington’s white curly wig. Lincoln’s top hat is easy, Washington’s hat is a bit more complicated.Here is a template for Washington’s hat.

Check out this Presidents Day Thematic Unit for younger students

Black History Month Ideas For School

Black History month recognizes great African Americans all month long. There are plenty of activists, inventors, and artists to recognize. Introduce a new one each day in the class or school morning news.

Go on a trip to the public library to check out a book about a famous African-American.

Teach students about the Harlem Renaissance and introduce students to African-American writers. Great projects are included that will take from three to five days to complete

There are plenty of interesting lessons on the civil rights movement.  Have students play a segregation simulation game in which they choose either a blue or green strip of paper. The greens interact with only greens and blues with blues for one day. This activity is sure to spark interesting class discussions the next day.


American Dental Health Month Ideas for School



Thematic units are lessons that teachers create to meet the needs of their early childhood students. For American Dental Health week use one or more of these adorable books for sharing with students. The creative teacher is sure to come up with ideas for incorporating math and language arts in the classroom as whole group and center activities inspired by these stories.

  1. Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Jan and Stan Berenstain
  2. Brush Your Teeth Please by Leslie McGuire
  3. Little Rabbit’s Loose Tooth by Diane De Groat and Lucy Bate
  4. Dear Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce
  5. Throw Your Tooth on the Roof by Selby Beeler
  6. Doctor DeSoto by William Steig


Young children will enjoy making and eating these cute Apple Smiles snacks from Family Crafts at Using two apple slices line the inside with natural peanut butter. Attach marshmallows to the peanut butter. The outside of the apple represents lips and the meat of the apple is the gums. The teeth are mini marshmallows!

Older students can increase career awareness by researching dental health related careers at career websites such as Have students list the careers, education and job training for each and average salaries.

Heart Health Month Ideas for School


It is important to teach students of all ages healthy habits for a healthy heart. Brainstorm a list of ideas that help keep healthy hearts. Be sure students include healthy diets that don’t include too many trans fats, not smoking and getting exercise. Students can pick one “heart healthy rule” and make a poster promoting it.


Other ideas:

  1. Pick a day in February for wearing the color red to recognize Heart Month.
  2. Use a week in the month to teach the circulatory system.
  3. Take pulse and compare between rest periods and activity periods.
  4. Use red and blue clay or play dough to build heart models
  5. Have students trace around another student’s body on butcher paper. Cut out and draw in the circulatory system.
  6. Have the school nurse to come in and speak on heart health and let the students listen to the heartbeat with a stethoscope.
  7. List foods that are heart healthy and create menus.


Make an Ivory Soap Snowman For Good Clean Fun

A snowman sculpted from Ivory soap is a great project for kids of any age. It is a unique project for a cold winter’s day when kids may be home from school on a “snow day”. Teachers could use it as an idea for group work in a cooperative learning format. Whatever the setting, it is sure to provide some “good clean fun.” Here’s how:

Assemble these materials:

  • 3-4  bars of Ivory soap
  • mixing bowl
  • a little water
  • a handful of dry black beans
  • strip of  felt

  • black construction paper (for a hat)
  • cheese grater
  • a baby carrot (for a nose)
  • pipe cleaners and pom poms


Grate the soap bars shredding them just like cheese.


Add a little water, no more than an eighth of a cup.


Form into large, medium, and small balls.


Add the end of a baby carrot and black beans for features. 


Brown pipe stems make good arms. Or use Popsicle sticks, even real twigs. 


Earmuffs can be made by hot glueing pom poms to pipe stems. We had some left over from Christmas crafts.


Make a stovepipe hat with black paper. Scarfs can be crafted from felt or ribbons. Make your soap snowman unique!


Thanksgiving Thematic Unit Ideas Social Studies

Thanksgiving History and Geography.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to teach elementary kids some American history right along with a good dose of geography. Clever art projects can be incorporated into lessons to help children understand and appreciate our country’s early beginnings.

The Mayflower’s Journey


Thanksgiving is the perfect time to teach the continents and oceans. Use globe and map worksheets to discuss how the Pilgrims left England on the continent of Europe to cross the Atlantic Ocean and settle in a new land in North America.  Learning about the globe is more meaningful when connected to this lesson in history.


Mayflower Craft Project

This mayflower craft project will inspire learning fun facts about the Mayflower’s journey. According to ability, students can research and list amazing facts or write reports about the journey, like how long it took, what they ate and drank, and more. Need sentences for grammar and mechanics practice? Use the facts as sentences on worksheets.


  • brown paper lunch bag
  • straw
  • white paper
  • glue
  • a little play dough

How to make:

Cut a boat shape out of a brown paper bag. Cut so the fold in the bag is on the bottom and it will stand up. Anchor a drinking straw in the middle with a wad of play dough. Cut holes in the white rectangle sails with a hole punch. Thread them onto the straw. Filling the boat with shredded paper bag will fluff it out and help it stand.

Thanksgiving History and Life in the Colonies

Maps of the first colonies help blend geography and history. Students learn the name and location of the 13 original colonies that eventually sprang up thanks to the Pilgrims’ voyage.


Making a Hornbook

Studying life in the colonies fascinates students. Teach them about the one-room school and how they used hornbooks. Hornbooks were made of wood. They displayed the alphabet, numerals,  and bible verses. Young students wore them around their neck.


  • construction paper
  • glue
  • marker
  • hole puncher
  • string

How to make

Cut a hornbook shape from light and dark brown paper. Students use markers to write letters and numbers. Punch a hole in the hornbook’s handle for a string.


 Thanksgiving History and the Native Americans

Native American tribes are divided into regions. Learning the regions can be incorporated into US map skills. Older students will like doing research to learn the names of the different tribes in each region.


Thanksgiving History Totem Pole Project

Totem poles are so interesting! They were made by the Pacific Coastal Indians mostly from redwood. They used natural dyes to make paint and painted pictures of animals and nature to tell stories. They were like “books” to these early tribes. Students can construct their own totem poles and write a story about them. Help them look up images of totem poles for ideas.


  • empty paper towel roll
  • colored construction paper
  • glue
  • scissors

How to Make:

Cut out shapes from construction paper. Students can use them to make totem pole images. Glue strips of paper around the “totem pole” and then add features. Older or more capable students can cut out their shapes.


Native American Dreamcatcher Project

Pretty dreamcatchers were fashioned by Native Americans and hung above where they slept. They believed dreams were filtered by the colorful webs and bad dreams were trapped in them. What better way is there than this for inspiration to write about good and bad dreams kids remember. An interesting way to deal with dreams!



  • paper plates
  • craft feathers
  • plastic craft beads
  • skein of multi-colored yard
  • hole puncher

How to Make:

Cut paper plate so it is only a rim. Punch evenly spaced holes in the rim. Students thread the yarn on a bobby pin to act as a needle. They then lace the yarn through. Add a few beads and tie a knot to hold them in place.  Punch a few holes closely together at the bottom. Add strings and use hot glue to glue on craft feathers.

Books For Learning About Early America

Advantages Of The Flipped Classroom: The Latest Technology For Teachers


What is a Flipped Classroom?

All across the nation and beyond, teachers are experimenting with flipping the classroom. No, not literally like this silly photo. They are flipping instruction. The basic concept is quite simple. Homework gets done in the classwork while class instruction occurs at home.

With the flipped classroom concept, the teacher becomes less of a “sage on the stage” and more of a “guide on the side.” This is done by having students watch pre-recorded lessons on screen or podcasts online at home. The next day, class lecture time is freed up to have the students put their newly acquired knowledge into practice.

Technology in the Classroom

Technology has changed the way we do everything, and education is no exception. Flipping the classroom can be as simple or as elaborate as the teacher wants to make it.

Low-tech teachers can flip classroom instruction with a simple-made video he or she makes, or choose one from shared files. High-tech teachers will explore software and technologies to enhance the flipped classroom learning experience.

This enhancement can be in the way of shareware such as Edmodo or learnspace. These sites are like having facebook accounts private to you and your students. Teachers can post quizzes, due dates, etc. on line. Students can post and form groups for working on projects together. Files too large to share by email can be sent.

Videos can be viewed on computers, laptops, iPads Smartphones, etc. Students with no computer access (rare these days) can be given a spot in the classroom, computer lab or media center. This is also a good place for students who may need to review the material while in school.


Advantages of Flipped Instruction

Flipped instruction can be used in almost any classroom to a degree. Just remember the basic concept. Classroom instruction becomes homework and homework becomes classroom work. This frees up much time for active learning in the classroom. Teachers can plan hands-on activities for students that will allow them to develop higher-order thinking skills. Some of the ways to actively engage students in the classroom after viewing lectures on a video are as follows.

  • class discussions
  • debates
  • think-pair-share
  • cooperative learning
  • surveys and polls
  • graphing and displaying data
  • visual arts projects
  • low or high tech presentations
  • experiments
  • research projects

Unlike classroom lectures, online lessons can be reviewed from as far back as the beginning of the lesson if necessary. They can even be reviewed before major exams. Parents will love having the change in homework. Struggling through trying to work problems or answer questions about forgotten classroom lectures are eliminated. They can even view the videos themselves in order to be better able to help children understand the lesson content.

Although the flipped classroom is relatively new, results of studies are showing improvements across the board from better test scores to lowered drop-out rates in schools that have implemented flipped instruction.


Who Gets Credit for Flipped Instruction?

Two chemistry teachers from Woodland Park High School in Woodland Park, Colorado, Johnathon Bergmann, and Aaron Sams are credited with the seed that planted the idea of the flipped classroom.

The two teaching buddies collaborated often on ways to deliver instruction. In 2007, they discovered software that allowed them to share Powerpoint presentations for students who had missed instruction.

This grew into the idea of presenting lecture online and follow-up work in the classroom.

Setting the ground work, Eric Mazur developed peer instruction back in the 1990s. He used computer-aided instruction to coach instead of lecture,

In 2000, Lage, Platt and Treglia published “Inverting the Classroom: A Gateway to Creating an Inclusive Learning Environment”.

Beginning in the fall of 2000, the University of Wisconsin used tutoring videos as part of their instruction in a computer sciences course. In 2011, two centers were built at the Wisconsin Collaboratory for Enhanced Learning to study and promote flipped classrooms.

Tips for Flipping the Classroom

  1. Provide opportunities for students to gain exposure before the lecture video. This can be as simple as textbook reading or Youtube video or as technical as a Powerpoint presentation or podcast. This serves as an anticipatory set for the lesson.
  2. Provide incentives that will motivate students to prepare for class. Give points or privileges for completing the pre-class activity.
  3. Include informative assessment to evaluate student understanding throughout the lesson. This can be done with online quizzes, paper/pencil quizzes, written responses to essay-type questions and other informal assessments.
  4. Use informal assessments for forming groups and peer tutoring teams.
  5. Use activities following the videos that include higher-level critical thinking skills. Find activities that cause them to evaluate, summarize and synthesize newly learned information,
  6. Use strategies that incorporate student-to-student learning such as peer tutoring, cooperative learning, and think-pair-share.

Sample Plan for Flipped Instruction

The objective is to understand and apply the scientific method. Students will identify dependent variable, independent variable, control group, hypothesis,


  1. Build motivation and create a “hook” for anticipating learning with a Powerpoint presentation or textbook reading. Include a short quiz either online or with pencil/paper. Whatever your level of technology is at this point. Don’t worry, there is no need to be a techie to do this. Give points for completing the presentation.
  2. Create or import a lesson/lecture on the basics of the scientific method. It’s a good beginning.It is best if you make these videos yourself, but it’s OK to use other videos Check for understanding with a quiz, online or paper/pencil.
  3. Review with questioning at the beginning or class
  4. Assign directions for a project:
  5. Purpose: Create a lab to demonstrate the scientific method using a simple paper airplane.
  6. Make a hypothesis: Decide on a plan and make a prediction based on the procedure you have developed to use the paper airplane.
  7. Develop a plan that demonstrates the scientific method. Try to create a table and a graph to record collected data. Have students do 10 trials.
  8. Have students write two paragraphs analyzing collected data.

Final Thoughts on Flipping the Classroom

Have fun with this cool new idea. Start off slowly if you are “tech shy.” Just remember the basic idea of the flipped classroom, and it will make sense. It could turn your teaching right side up and make more sense to you and your students.



Winter Art Projects For Toddlers And Preschoolers With Special Needs

Winter Crafts for Toddlers

Arts, crafts, and many other learning activities for toddlers are also developmentally appropriate for preschool students with special needs, or even beyond. The two groups share the same basic stages of development.
The curriculum focuses on basics like color, number and letter recognition, shapes and other concepts. Large and fine muscle skills, visual and auditory discrimination are also important skills to develop at this stage. 
These winter craft ideas will help you, the toddler of special needs preschool teacher have craft ideas for the month of January. 

Winter Landscape

Materials: blue construction paper for background, white tempera, cookie cutters, green triangles and brown squares cut from construction paper, and glue.

Concepts/skills:   learn to identify shapes, triangle and square, colors, spatial relations, fine motor.

Directions:  teacher precuts shapes. Students arrange them in a tree shape. Students dip cookie cutters in shallow dishes of paint and stamp them on.

Three-circle Snowman


Materials: Blue and white paper, crayons, glue

Concept/Skills: size graduation, color recognition, shapes(circle)

Directions: Teacher precuts shapes. Student’s name the shapes and order them in size. Teacher helps child glue on background. Child embellishes with crayons

Shape Snowman



 Materials: construction paper in the colors shown, wallpaper scraps.

Concept/skills: Shapes, colors, size, spatial relations. Body part awareness.

Directions: Teacher pre-cuts shapes. Students put them together correctly. Teacher helps glue as needed. Scarves can be cut from old wallpaper sames.


Tissue Paper Snowman


Materials: white, orange or red, black or brown tissue. Glue wash (one-third water, two-thirds glue) and a paint brush.

Concept/Skills: fine motor skills, visual-spatial.

Directions: Teacher draws snowman shape on white paper. Pre-cut tissue “squares.” Brush on glue-wash.Child balls up the tissue squares and places correctly to form snowman with a face and buttons.


Torn Paper Collage


Materials: blue and white paper, glue

Concept/skill: Color recognition, fine motor skills( tearing)

Directions: Teacher pre-cuts strips of white paper. Show child how to tear and glue the pieces on the blue paper.

Wintery Patterning


Material: Snowman and snowflake shapes cut with Ellison press.

Concept/skill: simple patterning

Directions: Teacher pre-cuts shapes and starts the pattern for the child to finish.

Winter Animals

It’s fun learning about Artic animals. You can find lots of cute books and finger plays featuring winter animals. Books like Polar Bear, Polar Bear (Brown Bear, Brown Bear) are simple and hold a toddler’s attention. After sharing the books and rhymes, the little ones can relate to the animals with  these simple, crafty projects. 

Polar Bear

Paper plate, cotton balls, pre-cut ears.Pom pom nose, chenile stem mouth.

Child arranges face, ears, eyes nose in proper position. Teacher glues them to plate. (use hot glue if needed).

Child tears, pulls, manipulates cotton balls to glue on.





Large, medium, and small circles. Color, brown. Teacher traces students hands for flippers.



10 Back To School Doors To Last All Year

Back to School Doors

Just as your front door greets guests to your home, so does your classroom door great students, parents, other  teachers and school personnel. Create a good first impression with an attractive and creative classroom door. 

Children feel especially welcomed when they see their name on a whimsical or themed door. Back-to-school door decor can last all year long. Here are 10 cute ideas to help in planning your back to school door to last all year!

#1 Add a techie touch to your door with this Facebook and Twitter look door. Kid’s names are on the “Twitter birds.”

door 3

#2. Cute as a button and super easy. Minimal cut-out work is required. The buttons are small paper plates in different colors and the “button holes” are black construction paper circles. Put student’s names on white strips.

door 2

#3. Hoot, hoot hooray for any grade level with wise owls that bear the names of your students. Create owls from construction paper and then give them some of those big Googly eyes!



#4. A favorite story welcomes students to the early childhood room. Let Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin and John Archambault be the first story you read. Then do an art project to display around your door. 




#5. Real ribbons and rick-rack give these gingerbread men a two-dimensional look.  


# 6. Is your classroom part of a pod? Here’s a way to help any aged students to feel like they belong. 

bb ideas begn school

# 7. Tell your visitors how hard your students work. They don’t monkey around!


# 8.These cute owls have a picture of each student on them. Kids will feel excited to be a part of this class.


# 9. Students will “hop on in” happily inside this attractive, cheerful pod’s welcoming bulletin board. 


# 10. A sweet idea for your Kindergarten or Pre-K door. The big cupcake is made of soft cloth stuffed inside netting. The cupcake holder is paper folded accordion style. 


Organizing The Classroom: 10 Little Tips To Make A Big Difference

Little Tips to Make a Big Difference

Sometimes the simplest ideas can make a huge impact on the classroom. Here are 10 easy-to-do ideas to make organizing the classroom easier. An organized classroom makes life a lot better for the teacher, and the kids will likely learn more. Those are two big payoffs!

Little Tip # 1. Word of the Day

Here’s a unique way to reinforce sight word vocabulary. Make and laminate a hand print to hang by the door. Make and laminate word cards. Each day put a new word up to be “Word of the Day.” When the kids line up to go anywhere, (lunch, PE, etc) they “high five” the word as they say it aloud on the way out the door. This technique reinforces learning the words in a multi-sensory fashion. The best way to learn!

Little Tip # 2. Sight Words Graphic Organizer


Sight words everywhere! Kids can really benefit with graphic organizers. This one helps them to review the words they have mastered each quarter. Type the words out on a cut-and-paste worksheet. Each student will have their own  sight words graphic organizer.

Little Tip # 3. Early Finishers


Idle hands are a little devil’s workshop. Keep your little angels busy every minute with a hanging clear pocket chart full of ideas for what to do when they are finished early. Store materials needed for the activities behind the idea cards.

Little Tip # 4. Where are the Kids?


See at a glance who is where. Hang a magnetic board with names on magnetic strips above some clever looking hall passes. The kids will love using it, and you will know just who went to the nurse, library, etc. at all times.

Little Tip # 5. School-to-Home Binder


End the confusion for little ones and their parents as well about what stays at home at what comes back with this really simple home-to-school binder.016

Little Tip # 6. Easy Classroom Jobs Chart

End the arguing over who’s day it is to do what job with this idea. Using crayon shapes (or any shape), put names on each one. Laminate for durability. A larger crayon lists each job. Have one set of names for each job. Use metal book rings to hold the names. These are attached to the white board with clipboard clips, something we’ve decided on after testing dry erase wall paint and finding better results with this. Simply flip to the next name each day for each job.

Little Tip # 7. File Folders in a Hanging Pocket Chart


Teachers instinctively use lots and lots of those manila file folders. Eliminate looking through stacks and stacks of them on your desk with a large hanging pocket chart. Saves time AND frees up desk space.


Little Tip # 8. Extra Worksheets, too!

760Nothing looks worse than piles and piles of extra worksheets stacked everywhere. Keep them neat, organized and easier for the kids to access with a hanging pocket chart.

 Little Tip # 9. Clear Plastic Storage Bags


Invest your classroom supplies money wisely by purchasing some plastic book pouches. They have lots of uses from storing little paperback readers to game materials and more.

Little Tip # 10. Stress-Buster Private Corner


Researchers claim that looking at a photo of our loved ones can lower stress. Have yourself a little bit of home in a private corner of the classroom to display photos and mementos. A corner of a bookcase and the side of a file cabinet is all you need to help melt stress away.