Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bingo for the Masses

An Australian friend has recommended to me a new hobby of hers, bingo.  I was always under the assumption that bingo was for the old ladies with nothing better to do, but she insists that these online bingo games are worth the time.  While I have my reservations regarding what is and isn't worth my time, I figured I'd share a few reviews for some of the sites out there so that you could judge for yourself.

888 Ladies and Bingo Australia are the two sites she recommended me, and while bingo may not be my thing, they do seem to have done a good job sprucing up the game for the online crowd.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Game I've been playing lately

So my hubby recently turned me on to one of Zynga's new titles, the new Hit it Rich.

I've been having fun playing its machines, and I really like the Wizard of Oz game, its so well done, with little video clips and such, and I even got to share one of my big wins on Facebook.  I haven't tried out all of the games yet, there's so many unlocked right away that its going to take me a while to get there, but I've really enjoyed the ones i have tried so far.

I wonder what they'll think of next?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Scotland Update - with photos

Had to share some totally non-educational photos today :) We just got back from a little 3-day trip up north to Banffshire and Moray and I've just downloaded all my photos so have a look at Scotland! :)

We had mostly awesome weather - a little rain yesterday and some COLD winds off the North Sea but it was still glorious. I MUCH prefer the cold to excessive heat! :)

Look at what we saw!

Whitelee Wind Farm - actually near Glasgow where we
went for lunch on the weekend with my aunt and uncle.
It's quite mesmerizing, watching these huge fans!!

Cliffs near Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire. These cliffs
are STEEP and very dangerous. No barriers so I had
wobbly legs every time someone moved too close.
Banffshire coast - Troup Head RSPB sanctuary.

View across fields from Craigievar Castle
near Banchory, Aberdeenshire
Cruden Bay beach at sunset :) A mist rolled in as we
were walking back and it was just beautiful!
And again - we were trying to see the seals in the colony
at the end of the beach but they were very elusive!

Slains Castle - this was the inspiration for 'Dracula'!!
Bram Stoker stayed in the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel
(where we stayed too!) and visited this castle
before writing his famous book!!

Part of the gannet colony at Troup Head. Awesome sight.
We sat and watched the birds for ages!
It took FOREVER to get a gannet on the wing!!

My hubby looking for dolphins at the mouth of the
Spey River.

And this I just thought was hysterical!
It's a juvenile thornback ray! They're
hatched and raised in tanks and then
released into the North Sea when they have
 a better chance of survival!!
Isn't it CUTE?!!

Scotland is just the most beautiful place - even in rainy, cold, gray weather. I am actually planning to do some school-related projects with some of my photos - especially the castles (which I've been collecting everywhere we go) There's a Castle Trail here and we've been to quite a lot of them already - amazing buildings with a wonderful history behind them. I'm planning some Math task cards for my kiddies next year - they can learn some interesting historical facts at the same time as doing Math :)

Enjoy your weekend everyone - and be sure to pick up Back to School Shopping for free. Last day tomorrow and then it reverts to its original price so hurry over if you haven't already got it!!

Back to School Tips and Freebies Blog Hop!!

Way back in July, when the holidays were still brand new and fresh, I agreed to take part in a Back to School blog hop today.

Finish up at Ms. Fultz's Corner 
to enter a raffle for more prizes.

I am, of course, not back at school yet and won't be until September - and the kiddies won't be back until September 9th but I don't think we ever leave school completely even when we're on holiday!

I've been in Scotland all summer - and I've spent a large part of my time planning and creating and brainstorming with my retired teacher/headmistress mama... and then thinking of more things to do and better ways to do them.

Christi of Ms. Fultz's Corner organized this hop and I think it's going to be great fun. If you follow the hop all the way around you'll visit 12 blogs, collect 12 Freebies, read lots of tips and interesting ideas and then - at the very end of the hop - be able to enter a raffle for more fun prizes. Pretty cool!!

Once you finish with my part follow the link to the next blog (the awesome Christina atBunting Books and Bainbridge and keep on hopping! :)

So... Back to School tips...

Well, frankly, every year I feel like I need tips more than I can give them! But I'm pretty sure most of us feel like this so every little idea is useful. :)

I've decided to share my absolutely favorite thing to do in the classroom - Open-ended Math Projects.

Why is this a back to school tip?
Because it's something that I think should be introduced as early as possible to students - it kind of sets the tone for learning for the rest of the year. :)

I discovered open-ended projects last year, experimented, was delighted to find that my class absolutely LOVED them and realized how much my kiddies benefitted from them - in more than mathematical ways! (I'm talking cooperation, leadership, organization, creativity etc.)

Last year we did our first project in February. This year I'm starting the first week back to school!

An Open-ended project is an exercise in critical thinking; it can be a cooperative project or an independent challenge; it lends itself to extension work and reinforces key concepts; it has no single answer and it allows children to explore Math through real-life situations. It makes a wonderful bulletin board display and can become a pretty nice art project in many instances.

Best of all it elicits comments like: "Oh boy, it's one of those things again!" or "Ooooh, I LOVE these. Can we do another one tomorrow?"
How often do we hear that in Math lessons?

I've always done these projects as group center work. I divide my class up into mixed ability groups, hand out all the materials, go over directions and then wander around monitoring their work and making suggestions.

With the first project I gave a lot of guidance. By the time the year ended my class worked completely independently and their work was truly amazing!

To whet your appetite here are photos of some of our projects.

This was a Roman Garrison town project that required
measuring, symmetry and building 3-D shapes from
flat nets. The children designed their own layouts,
chose different buildings and constructed them from nets,
measured and built the walls and designed their
own legion banner.

The duck pond
The chicken yard

Our Perimeter Farm project required students to design
animal enclosures with specific perimeters. They could choose
shape and dimension as long as the perimeter
requirement was met. Animals moved in upon
inspection. They played with the farm for days!!

In this project students purchased supplies
for and designed an aquarium - working
within a specific budget. This
reinforced addition, subtraction and
multiplication skills as well as money
All of the information was collated into a
poster which was displayed on the bulletin

In this St. Patrick's Day project my kiddies planned a
party for the leprechauns. Using Leprechaun Gold they
visited the Rainbow Mall to purchase supplies for
their party.
Once their planning was done they decorated the Great Hall with all their supplies and added leprechauns :)
We kept this display up until June!!

The Chocolate Choice project required students to
fill three different chocolate boxes - all of the same weight
but using a different selection of chocolates each time.
Addition, subtraction and multiplication concepts were reviewed
and we reviewed measurement (weight) as well, playing with
grams (metric boxes) and ounces (standard boxes). 
This was a beautiful Valentine display board
- and it really impressed the parents when they
came for conferences in February!!

We have a pet class tortoise so we used this
project to practice finding area. We designed
an enclosure for the tortoise - students had to
find the area of their enclosure, figure out how much wood
to purchase to build it, purchase supplies to
keep the tortoise cared for and explain their
This was my introduction to finding area and
I loved the way the kids "got it" :)

These projects are now my passion! I love the way they can be used to help children explore concepts and learn Maths in a real life setting; I love the way they can become creative activities and add fun and excitement to the learning process; I love the way my students developed as critical thinkers over the course of the school year.

I'll be doing a lot more of these projects this year for sure :)

And now for your freebie...

If you'd like to try an Open-ended project yourself you can get either (or both) of these projects for free.

The Terrific Tortoise Habitat is always free and for a limited time (August 4th - 9th) Back to School Shopping will be free. Click on the links below the pictures to collect your freebie.

Back to School Shopping
Terrific Tortoise Habitat

Now... be sure to hop over to Christina's amazing post at Bunting, Books and Bainbridge

Bunting Books and Bainbridge

to continue the fun. :) Happy Back to School hopping!

Reading Eva Ibbotson

The absolute best part about holidays is being able to read late into the night and stay in bed as long as you want the next morning. :)

I've been re-reading a lot of old favorites this summer and just perused some of Eva Ibbotson's books - so I thought I'd share them here (in case anyone has not yet discovered these little gems.)

Eva Ibbotson is a British writer, who was born in Austria. She's written a large number of children's books such as Journey to the River Sea, The Great Ghost Rescue, The Secret of Platform 13 and Island of the Aunts among others.

The first book of hers that I read was The Secret of Platform 13 - and I LOVED it. It's a great mix of fantasy and humor - very Roald Dahlish in character - and tells the story of a lost prince, a magical kingdom, a forgotten railway platform and a rescue!

The Secret of Platform 13

Since I was the school librarian at that time I promptly ordered every single other book written by the author. :) There are a lot but I'm just going to share a couple of titles. Amazon lists nearly all of them so make sure to visit and see what other titles are available. :)

Island of the Aunts is one of my all time favorites - it is the story of three "aunts" who look after a very special island and take care of some unique creatures. As they get older they decide they need some children to take over from them so they decide to kidnap two special children who can keep a secret. It's an absolutely fabulous story with an environmental theme running through it as well.

Island of the Aunts

Which Witch? tells the story of Belladonna, a white witch who longs to be evil but just can't manage it - until the day she meets Terence and his worm. Terence and Belladonna work together to help Belladonna win the contest to become the wife of Arriman the Awful - who will only marry the darkest of witches. Great fun - and there's some absolutely superb descriptive writing in it!!

Which Witch?
Journey to the River Sea is set in 1910 in the Amazon jungle and follows the adventures of Maia, an orphan sent to live with her aunt and spoiled cousins. Maia meets up with two more orphans and embarks on a journey of a lifetime. The descriptive writing is just beautiful and there's plenty of humor and a twisted plot. This is a very popular book at our school. :)

Journey to the River Sea

 Most of Ibbotson's books are a perfect read for grade 3 and up, although a few titles are more appropriate for older readers. 

If your kiddies enjoy Roald Dahl they'll enjoy Eva Ibbotson for sure! Give them a try!

Happy reading :)

Reading Julia Golding

I was browsing around in bookstores this week, thoroughly enjoying myself and finding all sorts of treasures in the 2nd-hand book stores in Aberdeen. For an incredibly low price I got myself a series of 6 books by Jonathan Wylie, some David Eddings books (which I loved when I was younger and just wanted to re-read for nostalgia's sake) a copy of the Midwich Cuckoos (have to say I adore John Wyndham - especially The Chrysalids which we had to read in school when I was about 15)... oh, and a set of George Macdonald fairy tales :)

Today I was looking through Julia Golding's books in the children's section of another store and remembered how much I enjoyed them. I don't know how many people are familiar with her books so I thought I'd share some of the titles today.

Julia Golding is a British author and has written many books, winning the Nestle Smarties Book Prize in 2006 for The Diamond of Drury Lane.

I particularly like two of her series - one is fantasy and one is historical.

The Companions Quartet was the first series I read - and I promptly bought the entire set for the school library.

In brief it tells the story of a girl named Connie, who moves to a seaside town to live with her aunt. Connie has never fitted in and believes that it will be the same in this new place. Instead she discovers the Society for the Protection of Mythical Creatures and learns that the town is full of adults and children who are Companions to banshees, pegasi, krakens and selkies, as well as other mythical creatures. Connie discovers that she is the rarest of the rare - a Universal Companion, the first person in over 100 years who can communicate with every creature on land, in sea and in air. She has enormous power - and learns that this power corrupted the previous Universal who now wants Connie to join him in his bid to take over everything.

The really fun part about this series is seeing all the mythical creatures - and I particularly liked going to the website and finding out what type of Companion I would be :) It helps if your kids know something about myths -they'll understand it better - but it's a great adventure series anyway.


 Golding's other series that I love is the Cat Royal series. There are 6 books in print and one shorter novella that is available as an e-book.

These are set in 18th century England and the story begins in Covent Garden. Cat Royal is an orphan who lives in the Theater Royal in Drury Lane. Each book has a mystery element (hidden diamonds, plots to kill a duke, family mystery etc. ) and Cat rubs shoulders with everyone from actors to street riffraff to the aristocracy. As the series progresses Cat travels to France, Jamaica and even America but even more she goes on a journey of self-discovery. Themes such as slavery, revolution and class distinctions run through the books as well - and I especially like the way that Julia Golding realistically showcases 18th century life in a variety of places through Cat's travels.

These books are geared toward 10 year olds and higher - I loved them as an adult :) - but a strong younger reader could certainly handle them.

And even though the covers look girly - and the protagonist is a girl - there are plenty of characters to interest the boys as well including former slave Pedro, street gang leader Billy Shepherd and pirates!
A seriously good read!!


So that's my British pick this week :) Try Julia Golding's books - you won't regret it :)

Castles, glens and some school work

The weather in Scotland has been absolutely stupendous this last week! We've actually had a heat wave and I got sunburned (just a little) while hiking!! Fabulous weather and gorgeous scenery - I do so LOVE the Cairngorms!!

These are some of the views from our Sabbath hike this week. My mom and I didn't make it to the summit of Culardoch - it was a little hot and quite a long walk for us when we haven't done a lot of walking for a year :) but we took a beautiful circuit back through the hills. Here's some of the scenery we went through :)

Our tea spot :)

Coming through the woods on the homeward stretch

We came around a corner and bumped into this group
of Highlanders in the middle of nowhere! No idea what
they were doing - perhaps a reenactment of some kind!
It was great fun seeing them though!!

It was HOT!! And not a cloud in the sky!

Scotland has tons of castles and Castle Fraser is one of my favorites.  There was a jousting tournament taking place this week! Great fun - it's a beautiful castle and the day was superb. We lolled around watching the knights on their horses, eating ice cream and taking photos of walled gardens and castle walls. :)

And finally, despite all this fun I managed to finish a back to school resource and got some CUTE scissors that will be recognizably mine and thus will not disappear into kiddy desks!! A most productive week :)

Nice, aren't they? They've got owls on the blades!