Monday, May 23, 2016

Using Minecraft to Learn about World Landmarks

Using Minecraft to Learn About World Landmarks - includes FREE printable | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

My kids have been into geography lately, and of course they are into Minecraft (whose kids isn't?). While I can appreciate Minecraft as a parent, I prefer when the kids are working on meaningful tasks as opposed to just roaming and killing mobs or animals. Last week, I had the idea to show them images of famous world landmarks and ask them to re-create their own version in Minecraft. They LOVED this task. Here are some images of their Arc de Triomphe interpretations.

Without prompting, they added so many little touches that I was a little blown away by the creativity! There were torches, and my eldest even included inside/upstairs, where he added statues and signs. My favorite was the one below, "Upstairs tour by permission of the French government only!" Haha!

There was even an "employees only" wing with beds to that the employees could rest as needed. Obviously, they did this in creative mode, but they couldn't wait for another assignment after they did the first one! You can take screenshots of your Minecraft creations by pressing F2, then create a digital scrapbook of all of the landmarks they create! If you'd like them to record the landmarks they create or get started with some landmarks that are fairly easy to create in Minecraft, here is a free printable for you! It includes both color and blakc and white versions of the 5 landmarks included (Acropolis, Arc de Triomphe, Brandenburg Gate, Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Statue of Liberty).
If your kids are ready for even more of a challenge, you can try a Google Image search for inspiration or try some of the following landmarks:
  • Burj Khalifa
  • Christ the Redeemer
  • Colosseum 
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Pyramids of Giza
  • St. Basil's Cathedral
  • Sydney Opera House
  • Taj Mahal
  • The Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore)
  • Tower Bridge
I hope your kids enjoy this task as much as mine do. Not only will they be learning about geography and world landmarks, they will also be exposed to different types of architecture styles and history. I suggest taking books out of your local library to go along with this task to make it even more meaningful in your homeschool or classroom. If they create and landmarks, feel free to link to them in the comments below. We would love to see them!

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Using Minecraft to Learn About World Landmarks - includes FREE printable | Meredith Anderson - Momgineer

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

STEM Free Resource - Voice Muffler!

Are you thinking about trying a STEM challenge with your kids? I have a freebie I'd love to share with you. I hope you will try out; I know your students will love it! You can download it here:

What's inside? Well, initially I thought about having the kids design and construct a megaphone.
Thirty seconds later a voice in my head scolded me: 
I thought more about it and...
Forget about a megaphone. Instead of turning UP the sound, let's try to turn it DOWN.

The best part of this challenge is that you can keep the best voice mufflers handy in case you are having one of those days where you just need to belt out something really loudly but know you can't. Just use the voice muffler and then go about your business as usual. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Pi Day Pop Art

Pi Day Pop Art

Pi Day is 3.14! How will you celebrate this year?

Pi Day Pop Art
 I love the simplicity of these coloring pages I created, and you can download one of them for free (the top left design in the image above) by going here:

Have you jumped on the bandwagon of adult coloring? These are fun for grown-ups, too. I have started coloring again and even purchased myself some really nice markers and colored pencils. It's amazing how much work it is to color and/or write when you are not used to it, and definitely gives me an appreciation of why my own kids are often resistant to writing. Long gone are the days of calloused fingers from all the writing I had to do in school. Now I just have to worry about carpal tunnel from too much typing - I'm sure you have the same issue!

In addition to the coloring page in the freebie, there is a math activity (graphing the first 100 digits of pi) and a game.

For more coloring pages, head here:

Hands on Pi Day Fun

Looking for more ways to celebrate Pi Day? You don't want to miss this post - it's one of my favorites and is full of ideas to celebrate Pi Day with your students and kids! From the top left: Pi Day circle stamping art, Pi Day punched circle art, Pi Day bracelet, skyline, and a circumference experiment that will really help reinforce the idea of Pi with your youngest mathematicians!

I hope you have a fun Pi Day, however you celebrate!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A nice, quiet week

The nice thing about school vacation weeks is that a lot of our homeschooling classes are on break too. These weeks are so important for us as introverts to recharge our batteries and reconnect with each other. It's also just nice to be HOME! So what did we do? Well on Sunday, we did something unusual for us. We went to Monster Jam. Of course the kids were underwhelmed, but it was better than some other "new experiences" we have tried. They always enjoy watching a YouTube video or two about Monster Jam but it was very showy and gimmicky...and not nearly enough time seeing the trucks. When we did see the trucks, it seemed like most of them broke down before doing much of anything. D'oh!

There was a lot of imaginative play going on, generally involving the beloved Angry Birds. I know they aren't as popular now as a few years ago, but you'd never know that if you were in my house! Both my 7 and 9 yos play with these little figures (and we have an obscene number of them), but the characters all have their own habits, likes and dislikes, and true personalities. It's great, and just this morning big brother tricked little brother into playing Equate by using the Angry Birds as the players. Haha, go math nerds! In addition to playing Equate and actually cracking open a math book once (highly unusual over here, even though both my kids love math), we played with Montessori square beads and Playstix to work on multiplication facts.

We also did some directed drawing on YouTube (Minecraft inspired, top left) and digital learning (bottom left)! I am so excited to start creating more digital interactive learning resources. I HATE making copies, printing, wasting paper, and so on, and although I worry a bit about too much screen time, it's just too nice to use digital learning resources. Plus, the screen time doesn't bother me as much if it's just text on a screen or not continuously changing/flashing/blinking sights and sounds of video games.

Yay February vacation week for homeschoolers! I know this is a regional thing but it's been a pretty good week around here for reconnecting.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Digital Learning Day - Flip it!

Digital learning day . . .

is February 17, 2016! If you are looking for some ideas on how to recognize this day, I invite you to Flip it! Instead of planning extensive activities, why not see what your students already know? I guarantee you will have a few surprises, and you may even learn a few new tricks.

Hopefully you have access to a variety of devices. Be mindful of the fact that though more people have access to cell phones than clean water in this day and age, not every student will have Internet access at home or up-to-date devices. If there are a few students that are eager to share their knowledge, let them. If you notice others hanging back, don't assume they just don't want to participate. They might not have skills they can share - but that doesn't mean they can't learn from their peers.

This is always such a FUN thing to do. I often make completely ludicrous statements when I want to get my kids to open up and share their knowledge. Using humor is also a great way to break the ice and let your students know it's also okay to laugh at yourself. Try using technology terms incorrectly so they can explain the correct usage. Do they know what rebooting is and what a footprint is? If you are wearing boots that day, you can tell them you wanted to create lots of footprints with your new reboots. What?! Or perhaps you can coin a new term, rebootprints, and have your students come up with a legitimate definition for it. 

You can even have scissors and paste out on your desk because you heard that cutting and pasting were important tech skills to have. These might work better with your youngest digital learners, but that doesn't mean they have to have all the fun. Tell your older students your RAM is maxed out, so they will have to take over the teaching reins today.

It's inevitable - we all make mistakes using technology, and the older we get, the more likely this is to happen. Being able to laugh at yourself and move on is an important skill, so model it well! Now for the really fun part:

Student learning happens best when THEY are teaching

Wait, what? It's true, though. When you can really explain something to someone else, that is when you know you KNOW it. You will not believe what your students already know! It might be a shortcut, or a great app they use that you've never heard of, or even a great tip like how to extend battery life. Use some of the questions above if you get stumped. Looking for even more ways to let your students take the lead? Visit this article from teach thought:
7 Creative Apps That Allow Students To Show What They Know

Try Something New for Digital Learning Day

Last but not least, why not try something new! Are you paperless? Are you thinking about incorporating more digital learning in your classroom? Why not try a resource specifically designed for use with Google Drive™? Your students will continue to learn important skills they learned on paper, but it will be paired with technology learning that is increasingly more important in the 21st century. While I am new to creating educational resources for the digital learning market, I'm excited to show you my latest creation for learning Fractions on a Number Line:
This resource can be used with Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. You can set this up as a math station, or if you are a 1:1 classroom, each student can work on their own copy at their own pace and work through the activities.If you have a Google classroom and are working on this skill, I hope you check out this activity! You can find more digital learning resources by searching #tptdigital at Teachers pay Teachers.

Fractions on a Number line with Google Drive

There are 5 different levels with 38 different slides for practicing halves, fourths, sixths, and eighths. A great introduction for third graders in particular, but even my second grader loved this one! One great thing about using a digital resource is that it can be colorful without using a ton of ink. In this resource, I have color-coded all of the fractions. As shown above, sixths are always in blue. This helps as they progress through the material to differentiate between the various fractions, particularly in the comparing fractions activity. In addition to a "back end" activity, where your students can manipulate the 38 slide presentation, there is also a digital interactive notebook (DINB) and a game! With the digital interactive notebook, your students can show what they know about fractions on a number line. Using activities like this (which require their input) in conjunction with practice activities like the game will solidify the concepts for them in a real and meaningful way.
Fractions on a Number Line Interactive Notebook

You can click the image below to go directly to the newly updated Fractions on a Number Line resource:

I hope you have fun "flipping it" for digital learning day!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Mindfulness Practice in the Classroom and Beyond

Hello new friends and old! The start of a new year always brings us to a sense of renewal. We tend to reflect on the past and think about everything the future may hold. One way to nurture positivity at home or in the classroom is through mindfulness practice.
What is mindfulness?
If you aren't familiar with mindfulness, it is basically just being aware. It doesn't sound like much, but our brains and bodies tend to get easily distracted by all of the sensory input we experience on a day to day basis. The most basic way to practice mindfulness is with breathing. For children, this might be too difficult for them, so you can try practicing while you walk around the perimeter of your classroom or at recess. Try to focus on only your breath as you breath in and out, and to feel all of the sensations of your body. Notice your thoughts and try to clear them and come back to just breathing. Notice your body. Are you tense? Try to release any tense muscles and just breathe.
Why should I practice mindfulness in the classroom?
In addition to many possible health benefits, you will train yourself to live in the moment. The past cannot be changed, and the future is not yet written. By living and being present in the here and now, you will be much more likely to notice simple pleasures and simply enjoy being alive. If you can notice negative feelings before they get too strong, it is easier to release them.

Mindfulness can also help us laugh at ourselves and the world - not in a negative way, but just in an awareness way. Being able to laugh and shrug off minor nuisances can make life so much more enjoyable. I'm not saying you should shrug off the big stuff, but that little stuff? It's really not worth it. You are worth more than that.

How can I practice mindfulness?
I have created a set of guided mindfulness cards to get you started! These are designed to be done either at a desk or standing. You don't need a lot of space for these. I created them with classroom children in mind, so the poses and instructions are very basic, but these also work well if you homeschool or are just looking for something to at home with your children to help keep them centered. These are lifelong tools!

You can download a free sample of four guided mindfulness cards here:

Three Simple Mantras to Get Started
If you need a few mantras to repeat while you start on your mindfulness practice, these are ones that even kids will understand.

1. I am grateful. Think about all of the things you are grateful for. Food, shelter, a sunny day, a smile from a friend, health, etc. Whatever you do have, you can focus on being appreciative of it instead of worrying about what you don't have.

2. I accept. Accept your limitations and your strengths. Accept that today is a new day and tomorrow will be as well. Accept the situation for what it is. Whatever your feelings are, accept them, too. Then you can move on to the next mantra!

3. I release. Once you have acknowledged your feelings, let them go! If you have tightness in your face, notice it and then release it. If you have been feeling unhappy about a relationship, note it but then let those negative feelings drift away.

Here are three more great ones specifically for kids that you'll want to check out from Left Brain Buddha. There are wonderful activities that go with them, too:
Mindful Mantras for Kids

Not just for the kids!
Though these cards have cute images and animals on them, this practice is not just for them. Do you spend a lot of time working on your laptop, hunched over helping your students, or texting with friends?

All of that takes a toll on you. Your neck and back will thank you if you practice these exercises several times a day! Take care of you. Love yourself first and then you can send out your love to others much more easily.

Go Deeper with Mindfulness 
If you are looking for even more mindfulness resources, head on over to Mindfulness Matters and More, which also includes nonviolent communication tips, bucket filling activities, and more!

Mindfulness Resource for the Classroom

What can I expect with mindfulness practice?
Mindfulness practice is just like any other practice. The more you do it, the better you will become at it. It might seem silly or odd at first, or you might not feel like it does anything for you at first. In time, you will feel renewed and look forward to practicing mindfulness.

Namaste, friends!