Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lost in TIme: Interactive Civil War Game

Oh. My. Goodness. I love the state of Alabama. I love that I come from Alabama, that I live in Alabama, that Alabama is steeped in Southern charm, and that Alabama is full of a rich history. When I see a website like this one, though, which is created by the Missouri History Museum, it makes me want to say, "GET IT TOGETHER ALABAMA!" 

This game is Lost in Time and it is fantastic. It is animated. It is interactive. It is engaging. Students learn a LOT.  

The premise of the game is that students are on a field trip to the Missouri History Museum where students are not allowed to touch anything, but you as the player touch something that sends you back to Civil War times. You have to help several key types of people in order to get home. You help a civil war doctor on the battlefield, a slave escape, a homefront lady fight fire, and more. Although this game is targeted to teaching Missouri history, the students still learn great deal about what the civil war was like for people during that time.

Tip: When you let students play this game, provide a scrap piece of paper and pencil. They need to write down the code that appears after the game starts. If they are unable to finish the whole game, they can put that code in at a later time to complete the game. At the end of the game, students solve a code. I think I will require that my students turn in the resulting sentence as part of their participation grade. How many teachers do that? Play a game to get an A. I heart it.

I still wish Alabama would make one of these for Alabama...for every time period. If I knew how to make them, I SO would. If anyone from Alabama Archives or the Alabama Dept. of Education is reading this and would like to hire me to learn how to do that and to actually do it, I accept.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Sail to Victory! An AWESOME 1812 USS Constitution Game

This is the second post, the follow-up post, to the last post that I posted. It is embarrassing how long I played this game. The game is Sail to Victory!, and it is project of the USS Constitution Museum. 

I taught a leave of absence for a 5th and 6th grade computer teacher at the end of the school year. The job was perfect for me. I could find computer games and play them to evaluate them basically all day while students worked and/or played whatever I assigned. I spent at least a day playing this game.

In my last post, I posted an interactive activity in which you got to explore the USS Constitution in 1812. In this game, you actually join the USS Constitution in 1812. You have to make decisions about what to buy to survive before you start. Then, you begin your job as the lowest rank in the ship, a boy. You get to do the hard and disgusting jobs, like in this picture where you have to kill the rats on the ship...and that is not the most disgusting job. You also have to make decisions about who to tattle on to the superiors, whether or not to gamble with shipmates, whether or not to participate in telling tall tales, and so much more in addition to your jobs. You get promoted as you play the game, and you earn newer, cooler jobs as you are promoted through the game. You eventually even get to shoot ships during the battles of the War of 1812! 

Coolest. Game. Ever. You participate in nearly every job that was available on the USS Constitution during 1812 as well as the social life of that time. I would tell you more, but I would like to go play again. 


Friday, June 1, 2012

Explore Old Ironsides - The USS Constitution in 1812

Above is a screenshot of what you'll see when you enter the Explore Old Ironsides interactive activity. This website makes me sooooo happy. Why can't there be websites like this one for every subject in history? I learned a LOT from this website, and I had a lot of fun. In fact, I didn't realize I had learned anything until I had played with this one for hours. And isn't that what we want for our students anyway? We want them to learn something while only realizing that they are having fun.

In this interactive activity, you will get to go to all areas of the USS Constitution as it was in 1812. You get to click on all kinds of stuff in each scene. Some objects make noise. Some people tell you things about themselves. Sometimes you learn a bit more about different objects and activities. Sometimes you get an animation.

The cartoon renditions are fantastic, but they portray everything realistically. You may even hear "Gross," "Cool," "Ewww...," and even a couple of giggles as your kiddos explore this ship. I don't want to say more because I don't want to give anything away, but I want you to know that this website is most definitely in my TOP 10!

There is even an activity that goes with this activity, but I recommend letting your students explore this one first. This would even be a good activity for the SmartBoard...

I'll post about another incredible, awesome, over-the-top activity that goes with this one in a couple of days...or longer...I'm in grad school again, friends. I'm taking nine hours in eight weeks. Yes, I realize that I am crrraazy. :)


Friday, May 25, 2012

Bombarding Yorktown Game

This game is Bombarding Yorktown and also comes from Washington's World. This game lets you participate in the last major battle of the Revolutionary War - Yorktown. The player gets to be captain of the gun crew, directing the aim of the cannon and letting the gun crew know when to fire. The gun crew's job is to destroy the enemy's protection (walls, ships, random stuff in the way) and guns so that it will be easier for foot soldiers and infantry to attack. The game has three levels, and George Washington himself coaches you through each one. Good luck in battle!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Washington's Treasures - My New Favorite Game

This is a screenshot of one of my new favorite games! I played this game an embarrassingly long time. This game is Washington's Treasures, and it is ah-mazing. You, the player, are transported back to a 3D rendering of Mount Vernon at the time when Washington still lived there. You have to explore his mansion and estate, interviewing various members of the household as you search for Washington's most treasured items.

There are several reasons why I really, really love this game:
  1. It is a game. It is a history website, and it is a game. I feel that I am talking like Dug from Up...
  2. It is a quality game...with sound...and it is historically acurate...and fantastic!.
  3. You have to interview three people before grabbing each mystery object. The people to interview change for each item. They can be people who work(ed) for Washington, Washington's family members, Washington's slaves, and/or Washington himself.
  4. You get to see what the people you interview would have been doing back then... (for example, you get to see what a blacksmith would be doing on a typical day while you interview him).
  5. When you pick up one of the treasures, you get to see a photo of the actual treasured artifact and get to read a little bit about it - a very little bit (It keeps students engaged enough to read while staying short enough so they can move on with the game!)
  6. Students can collect bonus items for an end of the game bonus. You get to see a photo of the actual treasured artifact and get to read a little bit about each of these, too!
  7. You can go in most of the buildings on the estate. Whether you can or cannot go into them, though, you still get to read a little about each building and what it was for when you go up to its door.
  8. There is audio for this game, and you can hear the voices of each character.
  9. THERE IS SO MUCH MORE! I'm going to go play again...
  10. Do you need more reasons? Go there now! Play! Have fun!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Photos of the Old Classroom

Here are some photos of my classroom from last year. These photos were taken just before open house, two days before school started. In other words, these were taken before our little classroom was "lived in," but it stayed pretty much like this - nice, neat, organized, and bright. When you are a teacher, your classroom is like a second home. Let's face it, you stay there more than home as far as "waking" hours; it is in your best interest to make it a place where you would like to be...

Pictured below is a view from the doorway:

Below is my teacher chair. I stuffed cute fabric between the plastic and cushion to "re-cover" this chair, and it stayed! In the background you see my CAFE board. The outside of a project board had the same fabric as my chair. I opened the board when we had CAFE lessons. I needed a board that could migrate because some groups fit at the table, but most of the time we met in the floor!

Below is a view from my desk. The caddies up top are from Walmart. Two of them have regular school glue in them, and one has tacky glue. I used those and the others when we would do projects. I would put paintbrushes in them or special markers, etc. for projects, and then I would put a caddy on each group's table.

The bulletin board pictured below says "Our Super Amazing Traits." We added a character trait a week to the board, and we used those traits to describe our "Student of the Week" when we wrote letters to him/her.

The picture below makes me sooo happy. On the bookshelf are about half of my book baskets. I set those up the way that Joan Moser and Gail Boshey describe at Each basket has a label on the front that describes what is inside. Those vary from "Newberry" to "Dogs" to "Funny." The labels each have a number on them, too, and the baskets are in order on the bookcase. On this bookcase you see basket 1 (top left) - 24 (bottom right). Each book in each basket has a matching number on it. For example, all the books in basket #3 have a "3" on them. This way students can find the books they want by the title on the label, and they can put the books back by the number on the book. It works beautifully - which is great for an OCD teacher who cannot handle clutter!

Pictured below are more of my bookshelves and bookbaskets. Below the bookshelves are textbooks for the year (Those did NOT stay there; that became extra math manipulative space.)You can also see my extra baskets stacked behind my bookshelf (ready for more books!) and my super cute Crayola curtains that my friend Alice gave me. Thank you, Alice!  

Pictured below is a closer shot of "Our Super Amazing Traits" board. I used traits from DJ Inkers Words to Live By Series (there are three sets in the series).

I've always loved crayons. A friend of mine gave me a framed copy of a quote about a Crayola Bomb once, and I claimed that quote (I've included it at the end of the post). My brother drew a Crayola crayon character with a parachute, and I made a bunch of copies of it, colored all of them different colors, and plastered them all over my cabinets! You also see in the picture to the left the homework and student of the week baskets which are hot glued to the counter (I hate it when baskets get knocked all over the place. Yep, I'm that OCD!) The chart on the bottom-right is my behavior chart. Students get a sticker if they did not have any behavior tickets during the week. If they got two stickers in a row, they could get a pencil, and if they got three stickers in a row, they could choose to get a homework pass or a make up a zero pass. The chart on the bottom left has each student number (1-30) and a velcro dot under each one. Usually, there is a character on each one, but since the school year had not started yet in this picture, they aren't shown. I changed the characters with the seasons. For August, I had flip-flops and surfboards. In September, I had farm animals. In October, I had candy corn, lollipops, spiders, frogs, and get the idea (all came from DJ Inkers downloads!). The seven little white rectangles were different places at school (nurse, office, library, restroom, and three labeled "other"). When students left the room, they would move their character to wherever they were going. Other included resource classes, "green" team, and other stuff. Anytime I could not remember where I sent a student (especially around fire drill time), I just looked at this board. I loved it for that reason. The kids loved that they had a new character each month, and they really liked moving them when they left the room.  

In the picture to the left, you see my aide's desk (I had a student with CP), more book baskets, and my math manipulatives and reading tools. Each are labeled so the students can easily find what they need and put them back. I got the drawers from Walmart. The clear tubs came from The Container Store. They are the shoe boxes and the men's shoe boxes. Buy them in bulk, and buy more of the men's boxes than the regular ones. The men's shoe boxes are big enough to fit papers and folders inside. I use these boxes for EVERYTHING! They make everything look soo nice and neat and clean (yes, I realize the overuse of "and"), but you can see what is inside. Love, love, love - top ten. In the bottom left, you see board games. Those are used for award days (like after ARMT, AL Reading & Math Test, testing...).  

Below is another shot of my aide's desk, and one final bookshelf with book baskets. Can my 4th graders reach those top baskets? Most can. Can I? Absolutely not! Those top few are holiday (Christmas, Halloween, Spring, etc.) baskets, and I pulled them down during the appropriate season.

Below is a better picture of all of my reading and math manipulatives. We used these EVERY day. Yep, EVERY day. Again, I love how nice and neat they are...and yes, the drawers are hot glued to the counter. The other bins are not, but they did stay put because the bins link so easily...and because I trained my students :).

In the picture at left, you can see my shorter bookshelf behind the bookshelf I told you about earlier on the far left. The students were not allowed to go to the short bookshelf (to prevent sneakiness). On that bookshelf, I had all of my teacher books and stuff (scantrons, reading passages, science kit books, etc.) on that shelf. At the end of the other bookshelf, you see an example of my behavior tickets (and you can kind of see the blue ticket basket...again, hot glued to the table). The bulletin board has my behavior cards. I made all of those Crayola box looking library pockets by hand - well, I bought white library pockets, and then I drew/colored them by hand. Maybe I will make some and sell them someday... I also made the crayons inside, and I laminated them five times so they would be durable. When a student misbehaved, he/she flipped his/her crayon to the white side (he/she lost some color), and then he/she filled out a behavior ticket. Really in 4th grade the crayon thing was not necessary. I just really like how cute they we used them and the tickets :). My word wall is along the bottom of that wall, and I rotated words on and off the board about every six weeks. Honestly, I did not like my word wall there because the kids would lean against it as they read which would make the words pull from the wall. You can also see my "Math Daily 5" board in this picture. Since this was taken before open house, the papers on the board are volunteer sign-up sheets and transportation validation sheets. During the year, I listed the games we had learned how to play on this board. The magnets were supposed to be for different ability groups. I planned to put the magnets next to the games the different groups of students most needed to play, but I never really needed to. The students usually played what they needed to play - because I usually played with the group that needed a certain skill. With a different group of kids, though, those might have been necessary.    

To the left is a view of my desk! All of the crates on the floor were eventually filled with pillows for the students to use when they read independently. You can see my beautiful pink file cabinets, too. I contacted the company (because I wanted more pink file cabinets!), and they said they do not make and do not plan to make pink file cabinets ever again. So sad. Above the darker brown file cabinet is my blue "Sub Tub" which is just one of those plastic file boxes. I put a hanging file for each subject inside, and I put a couple of stacks of worksheets in each folder. Throughout the year, anytime I had any extra practice sheets that we did not get to, I would put them in the "Sub Tub." I also put our schedule, FYI stuff (like that my diabetic student was allowed to leave to go to the nurse at any time), behavior plan, etc. in there. Three students knew to give that to a sub as soon as he/she came to class. I actually had a freak incident with my ear drum that left me unexpectantly absent for two weeks. I had enough stuff in the sub tub to last that long. No panic necessary. In fact, that little box became the box for the hallway. Anytime any 4th grade teacher was sick unexpectantly, I just took the box to their sub. In this picture,  you can almost see my clear trays on the left side of my desk (because I do not like walking all the way across the room to get the papers students turn in! Ha!) and my teacher textbooks are in the stand on the right so I can access them while teaching or planning.

To the left is another view of my desk. You can see my pink basket on my desk. That basket was for graded papers after parents had signed that they had seen them. There is a yellow basket, too. That basket was just for me to put various things in - so that my desk did not get cluttered. There is a homework poster on the board that is really only used when the internet is down, because I usually posted homework to my website while the students watched and recorded from the SmartBoard. Above my computer you can see some drawers I have - those are my Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Other folders. The red pocket chart has a folder for resource in it. Students took that folder with them on the way out the door when they went to resource. The resource teacher took out what she needed, and sent back anything she had for me. I also have a make-up work folder and a late work folder where students turned in make-up work and late work (so it didn't get mixed up and "lost" in everything else).
To the left, you will see my door at the beginning of last year. My brother drew all of it. He got the inspiration from the Crayola PipSqueaks label. I painted the "Welcome to Our Box" sign, and I colored the individual ones with Sharpees (Tip: Color anything like that with Sharpees for even ink distribution. People ask where I bought these!) I laminated them, and then I wrote the kids' names on the sides like the colors on crayons are written. I erased their names with expo cleaner for the next year when I took everything down for our Halloween door theme.

Below is our hallway display! The words are from Creative Teaching Press. I made the polka dots in Microsoft Word. I just put one color circle inside another color circle. I put them randomly all over our wall outside the classroom, but I put the ones with the kids' names on them on clothespins before gluing them to the wall. Anytime we displayed our work, the students just went into the hall and clipped their work on their dots. Super cute. If you haven't noticed, I decided that everything must be super cute at all times.    

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes: "Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air - explode softly - and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth - boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn't go cheap, either - not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination." -Robert Fulghum

I hope I inspired you and made you smile :).


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

*GASP* Tuskegee Airmen Flight Leader Simulation!

Have you seen it? Have you seen it? Have you seen it?! This website is so stinkin' awesome! This is...are you ready for this?...This is a Tuskegee Airmen Flight Leader Simulation (When the page opens, scroll down to the bottom of the page to open the simulation). Oh yes. You heard correctly. If you are a teacher, this should excite you. If you are a teacher from Alabama, this should excite you to the point of bone-tingling. If you are an Alabama history teacher, this should make you gasp in awe as you say, "No stinkin' way!" (which is exactly what I did). Alabama tends to claim the Tuskegee Airmen even though the men came from all over the U.S. because the training base was in Tuskegee, Alabama, but - check it out - this website/simulation was made by the National Air and Space Museum. National.

When I saw that this simulation exists, I immediately wanted to play, and before I even played, I immediately wanted to give this to students as a super-fun-they-have-no-idea-that-they-are-learning assignment. In the simulation, the students learn what the Airmen needed when they flew (puh-lease take the time to look up why they called life vests a "Mae West" so you can give your students the tame version before playing...for those of you who know who Mae West is/was, I'm sure you can use your imagination...), and then they get to make all the decisions that a flight leader would have made on a mission. The picture above is actually deceiving because that is actually a screenshot of one of the only times the students are not given the opportunity to make a choice. Usually, there are two choices (red boxes), and the choice affects the rest of the course.

I will say - if you/your students/whoever is playing has seen the movie Red Tails - which is an amazing movie that will really help you better understand what the Tuskegee Airmen went through and did by the way - you/your students/whoever is playing will probably know the best decisions to make (for the most part) already. I encourage you (and your students) to try all the different decisions in multiple attempts of the game in order to see how each decision affects the course of the mission, anyway, though.

I am SO EXCITED about this one, still. .......Yep, still excited.