January 19, 2014

Weekend App Attack: 3 Great Classroom Apps!

Guest blog post by Christina DeCarbo

Are you looking for some great new apps to try out with your students?  This weekend, I'm excited to share three apps you can use in the classroom with upper primary students.

Math Flight
The first app on my list is called Math Fight by Peaksel. You can download this app from the iTunes Store by clicking HERE. The first reason I love this app is because of the differentiation it provides.  The free version comes with two operations: addition and subtraction.  For $1.99, teachers can upgrade and get access to multiplication and division practice, as well.  However, even if you only use the free portion of the app, there are four difficulty levels that are included: Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert. This provides you with plenty of material for the classroom. As a first grade teacher, my students are playing the Easy level, which involves one digit numbers. For third through fifth grade teachers, the Medium and Hard levels involve two digit numbers, and the Expert level involves three digit numbers.  You can even combine operations for an added challenge.

I also love this app because it allows two students to play the same game! This feature allows your iPad to service more students at once.  Give each player a partner and voila! You have four students engaged on one tablet. Any app that allows more students to take advantage of the tablets we have available in our classrooms is a bonus.

The Opposites
The second app on my list is called The Opposites by Mindshapes Limited. This free app is wonderful for vocabulary development.  Students play the word game by matching up pairs of opposing words. The game starts off with easy words but quickly becomes challenging for students.  It contains 10 levels and explains the meaning and the synonyms of the words.

AppsGoneFree
The final app on this weekend's list is called Appsgonefree. Download this "Daily Deal App Finder" from the iTunes store by clicking HERE. This is an app that connects you to TONS of FREE apps!  Many of them are educational and include anything from math to geography to camera apps for kids.  This app is not for student use but allows you take advantage of apps that developers make available to you for free.  You can then use the apps you decide to download in your classroom.  It is a great way to stay up-to-date on new educational apps to use with your students.

AppsGoneFree just might become your best friend over your spring break. I've already downloaded ten new apps I plan on introducing to my students throughout the next couple of months. It is a fabulous resource for educators!

Free Tablet Rules 
Classroom Posters
If you are looking for some posters to use with your tablets or iPads, I have free posters available for you. The posters would be a great visual reminder on how to take care of the tablets in your classroom. Download my Free Classroom Posters for Tablet Rules by clicking HERE.

More Weekend App Attacks
I hope you enjoyed this Weekend App Attack and learned about some new and interesting apps to take back to your students and your classroom. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy my previous Weekend App Attack posts on my Sugar and Spice blog. Click HERE to find them all in one place.

Happy Learning, Christina DeCarbo



Christina DeCarbo is a first grade teacher from Northeast Ohio with a Master's Degree in Elementary Literacy.  She enjoys creating engaging resources for literacy intervention and has presented workshops on small group instruction for school districts in Ohio. You can follow her teaching blog, Sugar and Spice, for ideas, lessons, and resources for the K-3 teacher. 

January 14, 2014

Making Icy Roads Safer

Hands-on Investigation and Research Ideas

If you've ever driven on icy roads, you'll know just how treacherous they can be. How do road crews make the roads safer for travel? You may have seen them spraying a solution on the roads prior to a big storm, but what exactly is in that mixture and how does it help? With the extremely cold weather conditions across the country recently, this would be a timely topic for your students to explore.

I grew up in New Hampshire, and I can remember wondering why crews spread salt and sand on the roads. As it turns out, the salt lowered the freezing point of water which kept it from freezing at 32 degrees, and the sand made the roads less slippery providing traction for the vehicles.

If you live where roads are often covered with ice in the winter, I'll bet your students would enjoy a hands-on investigation to explore why road crews spread salt and sand before a storm. A few years ago I created a simple experiment to explore these concepts. The Icy Road Investigation involves placing ice cubes in zippered plastic bags with sand and salt so students can observe the effects of those two substances on the melting ice. You can easily set this up on your own, but if you want to save time, you can purchase the activity in my January Activities Mini Pack. It includes teacher directions and a 3-page lab report for students. You can preview the entire packet online to see if it's something that would be helpful. This science activity is at the end of the packet.


Investigating Other Solutions
Recently scientists have been exploring other options that are not only environmentally safe - they actually save money. A few days ago I read an article with information about various solutions that seem to work even better than salt water. Would you be believe some states are using substances like cheese brine and a solution made from beets? 

I wonder what other solutions might work to make roads safer in winter? A fun follow up to the Icy Roads Investigation above would be to have students repeat the Icy Road Investigation using a different solution to see how the new substance affects the results.

Know-Wonder-Learned Chart Freebie
You could also turn the topic of "Making Icy Roads Safer" into a research project and use a KWL chart to guide students through the process. Give each student a copy of the printable shown here and display a copy for the class. Together, write what you know from your investigation in the Know column. Then ask students to complete the Wonder column by brainstorming questions they have about how roads can be made safer including questions about various innovative solutions. Provide time for them to research the topic, take notes, and complete the Learned column. Wrap up the lesson by having students share what they learned with the class. You can download this free chart by clicking on the image above.

Even if you don't live where winter weather is a problem, your students have seen enough movies to know that snow and ice on the roads create dangerous driving conditions. Exploring how roads can be made safer is a timely science topic, and your student are sure to enjoy this hands-on activity and research project.


January 10, 2014

Symbaloo: A Tool for Paperless Teaching

As a longtime follower of Corkboard Connections, I am honored to share with you today! My name is Kate Peila and I am a third grade teacher from Montana. I blog about technology tips for the classroom over at Purely Paperless.

Do you have a computer center in your classroom? 
Do you take your kids to a computer lab? 
Do you want a quick and easy way to share links with your students? 
Give Symbaloo a try!


Symbaloo is a visual bookmarking tool in which users create a collection of links called a webmix. Each link is represented in the mix by a small square called a tile. Users can customize the color and icons that appear on each tile to make it extremely user-friendly for students.

The webmix included in the image below provides links to some of my favorite game and activity resources on the web. You'll find some awesome websites, games, ebooks, and videos in this collection:

I have set this webmix up so that each link opens in a separate window or tab. I prefer to use this function with my students so that they can easily close the window and return to the Symbaloo when they have finished with the activity. While I just linked this particular example to the image, you can easily embed the Symbaloo into your classroom blog or website.

Interested in creating your own? Here's a quick tutorial that I created to help you get started making a mix in minutes!


Once you have created an account, you can create several different mixes. Each tab across the top of the window is a separate mix. You can share all of these out at different times throughout the year. I have one for each of the units that I teach and reveal them as we go via my classroom website.


If you do not have a classroom blog or website, another easy option is setting your Symbaloo as the home page for each of your classroom computers. When students login to the computers, they are greeted with appropriate activities and links.

Why do I use Symbaloo instead of just sharing links with my kids?
  • I love the visual nature of the tool! It's easy and inviting for my primary kiddos.
  • When I update the mix from my account, it updates the mixes that I have already embedded in my site for me. Easy peasy!
  • All of the links and resources for each unit are stored in one central location.
If you'd like more tips and tricks for integrating technology into the classroom to enhance instruction and increase your own productivity, swing by my blog, Purely Paperless. Thanks!

January 6, 2014

Using Gestures to Enhance Learning

Guest blog post by Sally DeCost of Elementary Matters

I've been teaching elementary school for 35 years, and I'm always trying to find a better way to reach my students.  Recently, I've developed an interest in Brain Based Learning, and I use what I've learned in my classroom. One little trick that works wonders is gesturing!  When I'm trying to make a particular point, I'll make specific gestures that emphasize what I'm teaching, and have the children mirror these images.
When I was teaching Author's Purpose, these are some of the gestures I used:First I gestured slicing a pie, then eating a slice of pie.  While I did that, I told them "Author's Purpose is as easy as PIE."
Then I showed what each of the letters of PIE stood for.

For Persuasion. I gestured rolling my hands in front of me as if I were gesturing for them to come with me.  As I gestured, I repeated the word persuade as well as synonyms. Of course I expected the children to mirror the gesture, which they did gladly.

For Inform, I pointed to my brain.  I repeated the words inform and information while I gestured, as the children followed.

For Entertain, I put my hands near my face with "jazz hands" radiating from my face.  The children giggled, and mirrored me, while I repeated the words entertain, entertainment, and synonyms. 

There's lots of science and research to back up what parts of the brain are activated by gestures, and why it works to help children remember information.  I won't bore you with the details, but trust me, every time I mention Author's Purpose, they break into the gestures as well as the words.  

Here are some of my little cuties doing the gestures to a little chant I remembered from my cheerleading days.  I turned it into a chant to remember counting by 25s while we were counting quarters. (Fill in the name of your school on the blank.) If they struggle counting money, I just do the beginning gestures, and it clicks for them!  

These guys are modeling the gesture for an addition story... when sets are being joined together.

These gentlemen are modeling when sets are separated... subtraction.

These lovely ladies are demonstrating comparing sets Of course, when comparing sets, you subtract!

It's easy to come up with your own gestures, and they really help the kids remember what they're learning!

Sally DeCost is in her 36th year of teaching. After having taught grades Preschool through 8th grade, she has settled into second grade for the last 12 years. She has a strong interest in how the brain learns, which she shares through Twitter, Facebook, and her blog, Elementary Matters