This blog contains affiliate links and sponsored ads. Purchasing from these links helps support HoJo's Teaching Adventures and allows me to offer more freebies and content for you. For more information, please see my full disclosure policy here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Misc Art Ideas {Part 2}

I promised you more random art ideas, so here you have it!


This actually started as part of a paper plate. (This makes it easier for the kiddos' work to keep it's shape.) We then followed the Roy G Biv pattern to put our colors down. Finally, we tied corresponding beads to the ends. 

Sometimes simple is the easiest way to go. I found a template for the hat online and let each student draw in their own face. There were some interesting cats! 

This is another one of those fairly simple construction paper projects. I like to let the students have some creativity, so I simply make a model, set out construction paper, and let them at it. Some of these ladybugs looked identical to mine - while others took on a life of their own! However, I'm totally fine with each student getting to show their own creativity. 

Dang, another picture that turned upside-down on me...anyway...
 This can be done with nearly anything. You can tell that I had a fish coloring page of some sort, but this could just as easily be a hand-drawn item. You then take small pieces of construction paper (cut up or ripped) and use them to "color" your design. I wish I had the students' finished models of these because they turned out super cute! 

Doesn't everyone love a paper plate snake?!?

For this project we were simply given construction paper and told to make a 3D effect of sorts. You can't really tell from the picture, but the heart pops out a bit as well. 

I made this as an elementary student - eek! We were told to either trace an outline on the paper plate OR freehand it. (I'm a chicken who had to use an outline.) 

Do you notice the horse theme in my artwork? Yes, I was obsessed as a child and haven't gotten much better as an adult...

This is simply a paper plate lightly colored yellow, hands traced in yellow as the background, and a very ugly face (missing an eye) that I put on. Simple, but serves it's purpose!

This is a project I did in 5th or 6th grade. Each of those little squares has something in it. Mine was a pattern of eye patch, treasure chest, and captain's hat. This way they all kept with the school theme of Pirates that I was going with. I remember this taking at least two art classes (back when we had an art teacher who came into the room once a week). I hated this project at first, but it hung in my bedroom for many years after I did it! =)

This frog is actually made from 1.5 paper plates. I then painted them, glued them together, and used construction paper to add the rest of him. I think I used this as an end-of-year card collection box at one point in my elementary years.

Please tell me every teacher has a room/corner/garage/something that looks like this?! 

Since I currently live in an apartment, I don't have a lot of space for the school "stuff" I have accumulated. Therefore, I use my parents' storage shed. This is what it looked like last summer when I decided I needed to clear some things out. I kept what was absolute necessities, but had a HUGE rummage sale (and gave a LOT away) to get the piles down a bit. I really should take an "after" picture so you don't all think I'm a complete hoarder...

There you have it! Part two of my random art ideas blog posts. 

Which one was your favorite? And which one do you think you'll be trying in your classroom soon?
Image Map

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Misc Art Ideas {Part I}

Thanks to Pinterest, it seems we have a never-ending pool of ideas to choose from. But, even with that being said, I would like to share some random art ideas I've done over the years. 


Rudolph Bottle Nipple Ornament - You can find directions for this here. (Although mine used wiggly eyes and a pom-pom.)

This was simply a drawing I did in college based on a photo. I only did this once in my classroom, but it's something I truly wish I had done more often. No tracing allowed! =)

Even as an adult, this project tends to "get" me each time. You draw out lines that are relatively square/rectangle throughout the entire picture. Then you draw figures (or trace them like I did). From there you want to color every other one. I know I messed up a few times here, but you can still see the circle, oval, and horse if you look hard enough.

In my Art Methods course, the professor told us we were going to listen to music and to draw the first thing that came to mind. Literally about a nanosecond later, the music started AND STOPPED! All I had done was one little, random sketch. We were then instructed to fill our entire sheet with that sketch using any color we wanted. Talk about random art! 

I've always liked this picture. The back side is the opposite, but it's so fun working with positive and negative space! Want an even cooler activity than this one? Try looking here!

I don't remember the purpose of this piece, but I do know it's kinda funky and I like it. =)

No lie here - this piece was FUN! We were given a random tub of "stuff" (sponges, mardi gras beads, paintbrushes, etc.) and told to pick one. I immediately grabbed the beads. We were then also given some paint and told to "go"! I swirled so much paint around on this paper, and had an absolutely blast doing it!

Confession time... (and I don't think I've ever told ANYONE this, so please be kind!)

While working on swirling the beads around during my Arts Method class in college, we had the dean walking around to see how things were going. I was using yellow paint and accidentally flicked some on the backside of her gorgeous gray suit. It was just one little fleck, but I was entirely speechless. I didn't know how to tell her, plus she had already walked past me and was getting ready to leave the room. Oops! Dearest dean, I am truly sorry and I hope you were able to get that little speck of paint out!

This was a two day project. First we painted the sky using blending techniques (which I am obviously not very good at!). The next class we came back and added some other drawings and texture to (you can really see this in the grass). There was no glue allowed, just white paper and paint. There is much more of a 3D effect on this one when you look at it in person. 

Sometimes it's simply fun to take construction paper and make something simple. =)

This piece took me HOURS, but I've kept it for nearly a decade now. Doing my name was the easy part, but I thoroughly enjoyed the random camouflage coloring behind it. =)

Speaking of camouflage, this one was inspired by the picture above. We had to use primary and complimentary colors (plus our own shoe!), but it was another project I really enjoyed working on. 

I'm not sure how this project turned upside-down, but there is it. This was another two day project. Again, during the first one we painted the background (sun, rainbow, grass in this case). And then we came back and added some rain. I believe I used a toothbrush to do this. 

This kite is not truly functional, but it made the cutest bulletin board display! We cut a design into a piece of construction paper (actually two pieces), and then we put tissue paper in between them. Add some yard for a tail, and you're all set! 

This is such an easy project, but a fun one at that! Take any bright color crayon and completely color a piece of paper - any size. Then go over it with black crayon. Finally, take something to "etch" your drawing. I think this is a great way to use up older crayons in a fun way!


I warned you that this post was going to be random! Last year I came across a tote of art ideas and just snapped a bunch of photos. So be on the lookout for another random art post soon!

Do you have a link to your favorite art project? I'd love for you to leave it in the comments below so I can check it out!

Image Map

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Getting Our Youngest Learners Comfortable with the Mouse

Technology use is on the rise! {like you didn't already know that...} Yet we have some students who are so used to swiping the ipads and phones they use, that they have not yet developed the necessary computer skills to be proficient with keyboards and using a mouse.

That's why I've developed this new product! Students will gain comfort with manipulating a mouse by using this product. {And they'll have fun doing it because they will be creating fun pictures!}
Check out this YouTube video to see what I mean - 

Like what you see? You can download the school bus for FREE to see if it works for your students, just click HERE or on the picture below.

The full product includes the following picture for each month:
August - school bus
September - apple tree

October - jack-o-lantern

November - turkey
December - Christmas tree
January - snowman
February - heart person
March - pot of gold with rainbow
April - bunny
May - ice cream cone
June - turtle
July - watermelon

Ready to give the full product (with one new picture each month) a try? Then purchase the full product HERE or by clicking on the picture below.

What are your thoughts on this project? Do you think it would be worthwhile in your classroom? I'm hoping to make a second set of pictures, so what pictures would you like to see in the next product?

Thanks for checking it out!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Teachers With a Sense of Humor

If you don't have a sense of humor, you probably want to stop reading now. If you're the type of person who knows sometimes you have to laugh about things to keep from crying - read on!

One year a coworker had a student who was continually wetting his pants because he forgot to go to the bathroom. This would often happen at recess. The parents were made aware, he would be asked if he needed to go beforehand, but he just kept having accidents.

Well, one day it went a bit further and the student also went #2. What was my coworker to do but bring him a change of clothes and move on. However, she was pretty upset about the situation. That's when my idea hit...

I decided this was one of those times where making light of the situation would help her feel better. So that night I went home and created this for her ---

A little crap, some yummy chocolate, and all was right in her world again! =) 
{Thank you, tootsie rolls!}

How do you help your coworkers feel better?
Image Map

Friday, December 26, 2014

Characterization - Reading for the Clues

I am so excited to introduce Sharon Fabian from Classroom in the Middle, as this is her first guest post here on HoJo's Teaching Adventures. She brings some great ideas for characterization, as well as a freebie! =) Read on!!

Naming character traits can be challenging. Even with a nice, long list of character traits to choose from, students may have a difficult time choosing the ones that fit a character best. This is especially true with younger students or struggling readers whose idea of a character may be based more on the illustration of that character than on the text.


 For example, look at the picture of the girl flying through the air to kick the soccer ball. We can see what she is doing, but we don’t know what she is thinking, what she might say about it later, or how others may be reacting. Maybe the crowd erupts into cheers when she makes the kick, or maybe her team is already way ahead and the onlookers mumble about a player showing off. We just don’t know. Maybe, later she will talk excitedly about her big play, or maybe she will be saying quietly that the other team blocked her best shot ever. We don’t know. What about the other picture – the one showing the player dribbling the ball. What do you think she will say? What might she be thinking? How might the people on the sidelines react? To find the answer to these characterization questions, students will need to do some close reading to look for clues. One good way to help students do this is to provide some type of characterization chart for students to fill in with details directly from the text. You might use a ready-made worksheet, or you could have students create a simple graphic organizer for their notebook. In the organizer, students should have spaces to list things that the character says, things he does, things he thinks, and ways that other characters react to him. I like to add space for a picture in the center. To sum it up, students can list, or choose from a list, character traits that best fit the character. After searching out the character clues, students should be able to do a good job of deciding on traits that really describe the character’s personality. Here is one example of a characterization chart.

  Character Map 

 If you are interested in some characterization practice with short passages, here is a link to one of my Teachers Pay Teachers resources, Characterization Kids Task Cards.

  Characterization Kids Task Cards 

 And here’s a freebie! Students can use this foldable bookmark to keep track of story elements as they read.
  Story Elements Bookmark 

  Classroon Middle Thumbnail
Sharon Fabian, from the Classroom in the Middle blog, is a retired middle school teacher with experience teaching English, reading, and a variety of other subjects. She loves having more time now to create teaching resources – especially materials for teaching reading, vocabulary, and writing. Here is the link to her store, also called Classroom in the Middle.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Our Students Needs Hands-on Time with Manipulatives!

Our Students Needs Hands-on Time with Manipulatives!

Break out those manipulatives!
Now that the majority of the states have adopted and implemented the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Mathematics, we have been promised that there will be less concepts to teach while having more time to teach a concept in depth so that children can develop these deep understandings of the concepts.  Ok.  Hmmm.  Yeah.  So now what?  Is this the reality in your classroom?  Do you really spend more time deeply developing understanding of number concepts? Multiplication? Area? Regrouping? Not I, said the third grade teacher!  Instead…and I speak for myself…we have been given a math curriculum that does indeed cover less concepts, but has many more lessons to teach which barely fit into a pacing guide that would do the Inquisition proud.

Now, carefully read the following:

“A page of abstract symbols, no matter how carefully designed or simplified, cannot involve the student's senses in the way actual materials can. Symbols are not the concept. They are only a representation of the concept and as such are abstractions describing something which is not visible to the student. Materials allow the child to manipulate objects to gain a full understanding of the concepts behind the abstract symbols. Understanding a concept, as opposed to memorizing it, allows the child to construct meaning. Meaning makes concepts useful to the child. Memorizing as a main teaching tool is only useful in training parrots.”

These words come directly from the Center for Innovation in Education.  The center was founded by Mary and Bob Baratta-Lorton, the developers of the Mathematics Their Way and Mathematics a Way of Thinking curricula and resources.  I was trained in Math Their Way, way, way back in the 90s.  Much of the educational philosophy of the program was based on Jean Piaget’s ground breaking work on children’s cognitive development.  I was so excited to implement a way of teaching math that made not only sense to me, but to my students.  

Though I now teach third grade, back in the 90s I had taught 1st grade for 7 years.  Most of those years I used the Math Their Way curriculum.  For those unfamiliar with Math Their Way, it is a program that uses everyday materials and classroom manipulatives to build conceptual understanding before moving to abstract symbols and problem solving.  There are 3 levels of teaching:  concrete or concept, connecting and then symbolic level.  When teaching a new concept about 50-70% of the time was spent on the concrete or concept level. Another 30% was spent on the connecting level and the remainder on the symbolic level. 

Student working at the concrete level.
My fondest memories of those first graders were watching them rotate through stations using manipulatives and materials to find combinations that would add up to a certain number.  They spent many, many weeks using unifix cubes, beans, buttons, lids, plastic jewels and many other such items.  I remember working one on one or in small groups at each station with children and teaching them to now record their combinations by adding symbols to their pictures, which is the connecting level in Math Their Way.   Once the students could connect their creations to symbols, it was now time to introduce the workbook and start doing some basic arithmetic.  You would not believe how fast those first graders could add!  They already had internalized all the combinations in addition.  Subtraction was also easier to teach, because from their point of view, it was just the other number that was missing that made up the combination.

Now fast forward to 2014, the CCSS,  and how to incorporate the Piagetian philosophy of teaching and the use of manipulatives.  Of course, I am also required to use the district adopted Go Math mathematics program which has a pacing guide that has most of the teachers stressed out.  I’ve tried to marry the two with some success.  Recently, we have gone through 2 chapters of multiplication.  The first chapter dealt mostly with the concept of multiplication.  In this chapter, I spent about 60% of the math period (which runs for about 70 minutes) having the students
use manipulatives to solve problems relating to multiplication.  I used the foam tiles or link cubes that were supplied with the Go Math program to teach equal groups, arrays, Commutative Property of Multiplication, and lots of multiplication related vocabulary.  You can read my blog entries about this process here.  But what I would like to emphasize is that if I had followed the Go Math teacher’s manual, the students would only have been drawing equal groups, drawing arrays and just memorized
Student working at the connecting level.
multiplication.  Worse, I could have used their online interactive math book that uses cute characters to virtually explain the concepts.  The difference in learning with an actual object in your hand that you can manipulate, rotate, group, stack, move around, count, etc., is 100 times more powerful than just drawing it or watching a cute bunny do it on the screen.  So many times our students do NOT interact with their environment because they are too busy manipulating virtual reality on a video game, or iPad app, or on the computer. 

In order to effectively incorporate the use of manipulatives into lessons, I made the following compromises or changes:

  • Use the same manipulatives (such as the foam tiles).  If you change to a new manipulative, the students will want to play with it first taking away valuable instructional time.  
  • When introducing a manipulative for the first time, you really do need a 10-15 minute block for the students just to “play” with the manipulative and get it out of their system.
  • Make handing out the manipulatives easy.  Make a baggy for each child to store the manipulative.  Makes for easy clean up and quick storage
  • Assign manipulative monitors to scan the floors for missing tiles or other manipulatives.
  • Once students were done with the manipulatives, I did not assign full pages of work from the workbook.  Instead I chose about 8 problems with a mix of the arithmetic and related problem solving.  You will know if they got it or not with just those 8 problems.  Doing this means you don’t need 20-30 minutes of independent work time, maybe just 10.  That gives you more time to use the manipulatives.
  • In one lesson, I started with the concrete (students exploring and using the manipulatives to solve math related problems), to the connecting level (this is the part in which I guided the students to add symbols and words to their work with the manipulatives) and ended with the abstract level (students work independently in their workbook).
  • I did NOT use the manipulatives to actually teach a concept.  Instead I presented the students with a problem to solve using the manipulatives.  Most of us are familiar with the gradual release of responsibility model (I do, we do, you do).  I have reversed that to You do, You all do, We do.  You can read more about this on my blog entry for the Japanese Lesson Study mode
This child has a deeper understanding of multiplication.
End in the end I am happy with what I am doing because I am seeing great results with my students.  I truly believe that they have developed deeper understandings about what multiplication is and is not.  I believe that as teachers we need be given the opportunities to use methods that match a child’s cognitive abilities related to age.  If we want the CCSS to succeed, we need to push for more hands-on time and less paper and pencil tasks.  If we want the CCSS to succeed, we need to invite administrators and decision makers into our classrooms so they can see the hands-on learning in person.

Thank you for reading my guest blog entry.  I have been an educator for almost 30 years in the public school system in California. I have served as a mentor teacher, Bilingual Resource Teacher and Literacy Coach. I have taught adults at the university level. I have been teaching third grade for the past 10 years. I have never stopped learning how to improve my teaching. I have in grades 1 - 4, though mostly in third. I have been a staff developer as well as, teaching university graduate students.  You can contact me or follow me directly here:


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Song Titles Game

What song am I referring to if I tell you to "embellish the corridors"?
Why "Deck the Halls" of course! 

Do you love little play on words, some new vocabulary, or brain teasers?
Then this fun activity is for you!

This activity is all over the internet, but I've compiled it in one place for you. Now you can print it off to share with your students or colleagues.
(Please let me know the original owner if you can! I've searched high and low to no avail...)

Click here or on the picture below to download your free copy!

Happy Holidays! Happy playing!