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Picture Book Guides with Free Online Stories

 Posted by on January 30, 2014  Content Additions  Comments Off on Picture Book Guides with Free Online Stories
Jan 302014

This month, we added to our growing collection of picture book guides.  50 new guides were added to StarrMatica this month including classics such as: Make Way for Ducklings, The Polar Express, Officer Buckle, and If You Give A Mouse A Cookie. The list now reaches over 100!  But wait, there’s more!  40 of the guides include free online versions!

If you aren’t familiar, picture book guides help you to easily use our picture book resources by providing a ready to-go lesson plan developed by a fellow teacher. Content guides for picture books include digital connections, launching activities, example questions, enrichment ideas, answer keys, and standards correlations. You can check one of our new guides here:  http://www.starrmatica.com/siteresources/docs/resources/StarrMaticaContentGuide_ThePolarExpress.pdf

All guides are included for free in StarrMatica’s Classroom Management system, or can be purchased individually by non-members in Emily Starr’s Teachers Pay Teachers store.  http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Emily-Starr


Animoto Book Trailers

 Posted by on January 21, 2014  Content Integration Ideas, Content Recommendations  Comments Off on Animoto Book Trailers
Jan 212014

jumanjiAnimoto is an online tool that allows you to upload photos, enter text, and choose a style for the program to transform into a professional looking video.  The free version allows you to create a 30 second video, but that is still a long enough time frame for many classroom projects.  One of my favorite ideas is to use Animoto to create a book trailer.   Just like a movie trailer, a book trailer is designed to get someone interested in reading the book.  You could create a trailer to interest your students in a book or to entice them to predict what a book may be about.  Here is a trailer I created for Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji: http://animoto.com/play/ffokpW03Ih8iMqNIxxL7nA

Students can create their own trailers.  It takes a lot of prior planning for students to convey their intended message in only 30 seconds.  Trailers can be focused on fostering interest in a book, conveying the main idea of a book, or even sharing the story elements of a book (characters, setting, problem, solution).

Copyright free images for your trailers can be found by using Google’s Advanced Image Search.  http://www.google.com/advanced_image_search  Make sure SafeSearch is set to Filter explicit results, and depending on your school’s filter, you may want to supervise a student’s search.  Under usage rights choose free to use or share to include only copyright free images in your search.

Please share your Animoto book trailers with us below!

Comic Creators

 Posted by on January 15, 2014  Content Recommendations, Reading Resources  Comments Off on Comic Creators
Jan 152014

cartoon makerDo you have students intimidated by the thought of writing a whole story.  Creating a comic can be a great way to encourage the reluctant writers in your classroom.  Comics can also be used by students to apply their knowledge of reading concepts to a project they can share with others.

1.  Turn them loose!  Encourage students to write a comic about anything their hearts desire!

2. Challenge your students to summarize a story they have read in a comic. Use the three panel form as a “beginning, middle, end” summary format.

3. Use a comic to retell a story in the proper sequence using three or four panels. Or, have students create their own “how-to” sequence of a process or procedure.

4. Use four panels in a non-linear way by assigning a story element to describe in each square: Characters, Setting, Problem, and Solution.

5. Use two (or three) panels to have your students create a predicting activity. Ask your students to illustrate an unresolved situation in the first square and a resolution to that situation in the second square. For example, have one character thinking that they would like to go to the movies and the other character thinking that they would also like to go to the movies. The resolution could be that they go together. (Or if you want students to realize that even if what you predict is logical, it may not happen, you could show them not going to the movies together.) When sharing comics, a student could cover up the second square and encourage others to predict before revealing his/her resolution.

5. Use two panels to illustrate a cause and an effect. Use three or four panels to show a chain of cause and effect events.

Here are some of the best online comic creators:









The applications for online comics are endless! How would you use these sites in your classroom?

Basic Facts Practice

 Posted by on January 9, 2014  Content Integration Ideas  Comments Off on Basic Facts Practice
Jan 092014

basic factsWith the acquisition of basic facts being a strong predictor of later math success, StarrMatica includes with every plus membership an individualized basic facts program.  This is a great value for our members when you consider the cost of software that just focuses on basic facts can be as expensive as $7,500 per building.

In StarrMatica, students can practice their individualized facts for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

  • Students first take a benchmark test which records the facts they know and the facts they don’t know in classroom management.
  • Students can then practice their individualized facts in StarrMatica’s facts practice sections.
  • Practice progress is recorded in classroom management.
  • Teachers can view class fact progress or individual student progress.
  • Students and their parents can also view which facts they are working on.

For more specific information on our basic facts program, check out our basic facts overview video:  http://www.vidmeup.com/vid/4f871f8461589

Teacher Feature: Julie Paisley

 Posted by on January 4, 2014  Teacher Features  Comments Off on Teacher Feature: Julie Paisley
Jan 042014

Julie PaisleyMeet Julie Paisley.  She teaches at Whittier Elementary School in Clinton, IA.  She is currently in her second year as the LRC Director and previously taught 5th grade for 14 years at the same school.

Julie has used StarrMatica for the past three years—one year in her own classroom and two years training and assisting every teacher in her building as they utilize everything that StarrMatica has to offer.

Each classroom has a SmartBoard and at least 5 student computers to use individually or as centers.  Every classroom also spends 90 minutes a week in the computer lab for activities required by the district.  Here is how she uses our content in her own words:

 It was as a 5th grade teacher that I used StarrMatica the most.  I found the Reading and Math practice activities extremely helpful with all of my students.  StarrMatica is a tremendous tool for differentiating in the classroom.  I assigned each student different activities and levels, based on their needs.  I was able to keep track of each student’s progress, so I knew their successes and weaknesses. 

 I am very excited about sharing everything that is new on StarrMatica this year with all the teachers at Whittier.  Having Science, Social Studies, SmartBoard activities, and Common Core connections added to the site is a tremendous resource for all the grade levels as they plan their instruction.


Want to be our next teacher feature?  Contact us.  We would love to hear about your experiences.

Do You Give Too Much Information In Story Problems?

 Posted by on January 2, 2014  Math Resources  Comments Off on Do You Give Too Much Information In Story Problems?
Jan 022014

In his 2010 TED Talk, educator Dan Meyer talks about creating patient problem solvers and how the ways in which we approach problem solving in our classroom encourage students to be impatient problem solvers.  Dan’s TED Talk was the inspiration for this post, and it can be viewed here:  http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover.html

Whether they are called story problems, word problems, or problem solving problems, connecting mathematical concepts to real life situations is a core part of high quality mathematics instruction.  In the past, and in some classrooms still today, problem solving time consists of presenting students with a word problem to solve.  A typical problem might read something like this:

A patio floor is 40 feet x 40 feet.  I want to cover the floor with tiles that are 2 feet x 2 feet.  If each tile costs $1.10, how much will it cost to tile the entire floor?

Have you ever stopped to think how unlike real life this problem solving situation is?  When we set out to solve a problem, we first need to figure out what information we need.  Then we need to gather that information.  And finally we can use that information to solve the problem.  But in the problem solving situation above, we have provided students all of the information they need.

Here’s how that problem might look when presented to a class in the context of a real life problem solving situation:

How much will it cost to cover this patio floor with decorative tiles?

It seems incomplete, doesn’t it?  That’s the point!  Students can work in groups, pairs, or individually to determine the information they need to know to answer the problem.  Only after students have requested the information do you reveal the dimensions of the floor, the dimensions of the tiles, and the cost of the tiles.

Students who are used to being given all of the information they need may need to be prompted with additional questions:

  • What are you trying to find out?
  • What do you need to know to find a solution?
  • What do you need to know before you go to the store?
  • What do you need to know at the store?

Using an interactive whiteboard can add another dimension to the problem by allowing students to find the measurement of the floor, to find the measurement of the tiles, to pay the cashier for the tiles, and to tile the floor to check that they purchased the correct number of tiles.

Problems like these can be used to evaluate the ability of students to apply a learned concept such as area, or they could be used to introduce the same concept in the context of a problem solving situation.

For an online problem solving experience with area and perimeter, check out The Paving Slabs Problem.  What information would you remove?  What would you keep?


Share with us below what you thought of the TED Talk, this post, The Paving Slabs Problem, or how you are creating patient problem solvers in your classroom.