My BreakoutEDU boxes


Image from

So I have done BreakoutEDU boxes a couple times.  At edcamps, as well as during a half-day PD where a colleague brought in her set.  I love them.  If you have no idea about BreakoutEDU boxes, check out this video to get you started.

Anyhow, I love the boxes as I said, but I could not figure out how to justify paying $125 per box.  Sorry BreakoutEDU people, that’s a toughy for me.  Apparently they used to have an open source list to build your own, but it has since gone away (see link at the end).  So, in true Jennifer Lagarde style (who unbeknownst to me literally just wrote a blog post about this exact thing!) and  #MacGyverLibrarianship, I searched online, sourced different blogs, and made my own.

My BreakoutEDU Box.png

So, I should mention some things.  First, I love Menards.  Obviously.  Second, I bought several things on sale or for different prices that what I have found as of today.  That will definitely change prices if you choose to go a similar way to me.  Third, my goal was to create 5 boxes.  I have almost 4 sets (reason is because of that one darn 4 digit lock that has failed.)  I have a few things I need to add to make the 5th set, which may or may not cost a bit more overall.  But, I think I did well in doing a little bit of #MacGyverLibrarianship! I’m really looking forward to using these with my students, as soon as I get them to school.

What have your experiences with these boxes been like?  How about when students open them?  Did you add a treat or something other than just the sign?  I’d love to hear what you did!

Other blogs sourced (link goes directly to the post):

Mirror Into Teaching

Hey Mr. Stern



An extension to the Google Drawing lesson


E. B. (6th grader), Santa Claus, 2016

So, during the last week before break, I gave my students a couple of choices.  They could work on coding, on typing practice, or create something (school appropriate) on Google Drawing.  My one student, E.B., completely blew me away.  He is not a student who is usually focused.  But, this time, he was.  I was so amazed and shocked at what he came up with!  I did not help him one bit – he took his time, worked hard, and created this amazing image!  I printed it out for him in color to give to his mom for Christmas.  I mean, how could I not!  This was truly a success from my Google Drawing lesson.


Google Drawing

So I came upon a lesson from for Google drawing.  I really liked this lesson because it incorporated the winter theme without specifically stating that students must create something Christmas-y (I avoid that as much as I can).  I came across Computer Elementary Activities , which I really liked as they had a nice snowman, and directions on how to have students draw it.  For my students, because I know their listening levels (basically 0), I instead put the important directions on the board and allowed students a bit of creativity with it.  I was actually surprised by how many of my students enjoyed it!  I did this with 6th grade to start.  Several of my students, who are normally not the best in my class, did exceptionally well!  I asked that if they wouldn’t mind if I could have a link to them to keep them, as I was just that impressed.  Here are some examples.  I highly recommend this lesson, especially as it gets closer to winter break and kids get antsy!

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Week of Coding

At the beginning of December, my 3rd-6th graders participated in Hour of Code week.


Student explaining how she is solving the problem.

Each class was given an hour to work on several options from the website.  There were many things that went well, and several that didn’t.

The first was buy-in.  Getting buy-in from my students can be difficult.  That’s another story for another post, though.  My 3rd and 4th graders absolutely loved it.  They loved working on Frozen, Moana, Star Wars, among others.  The favorite was Tynker’s Dragon Dash.  A lot of students really loved that one.  My 5th and 6th, however, were more difficult.  Many from those grades enjoyed it, but others were just not interested.  I have a difficult time doing many things with the 5th and 6th, though, so I don’t look at it as a fail.


Working together to solve a problem.

Opening students minds.  My students don’t always tend to be challenged, well, as much as we would like at least.  I know teachers in my school work hard to try.  But, some of my students, they just don’t want to use their minds.  However, I was pleasantly surprised in how many were actually trying, especially after an initial difficulty.  Students also worked together too, which was a plus.

I am not sure what I would do differently.  With my students, I’m really just giving introductions to different aspects of computers, the internet, and its capabilities.  Someday I’d like to have a computer club or coding club, for students who would be very interested in it overall.  But for now, I’ll continue to use it as another option for computer free time.img_8879


The iPad and the Classroom

As I was working on an application last night, I recalled that I made a list of apps for a teacher who had just gotten an iPad.

Let me back up a second, and explain how this list came to be.  In 2011, I was attempting (still) to get back into the classroom, but I realized it had been a couple of years since I had practical experience.  So, through my university, I became a tutor for elementary students.  I was assigned a second grade classroom at one of the local middle schools.  The teacher assigned me to work with students on their mathematics skills, specifically multiplication.  I originally used cards with the students and “created” problems for them to solve.  But, the students were not engaged, and they found it really boring.

So, I looked for apps that I could use with the students with my iPad.  (I of course got the teacher’s permission before I brought it.  She absolutely loved the idea!)  To me, that is when I really saw the beauty of tech in the classroom.  The students just loved the iPad, they loved they got to play games, and they were always trying to beat their previous scores (which was conveniently saved.)  I could also then give feedback to the teacher, including where students were struggling, or if they were making progress.  I really found it to be a great tool.

So, back to my list.  About six months after the school year ended, I received an email from the teacher, saying she wrote a grant for an iPad for her class, basically because I showed her how great it could be for her students, and she wanted to know what suggestions I had for apps.  Well, needless to say, I was so very excited for her, because I knew it was my initiative that sparked the interest in her to write the grant that got her the iPad.

Here is the list of apps that I suggested to get her started.  This list is a bit dated, though I have gone through and edited out incorrect information or apps that are no longer available, but otherwise, this was the original list I gave her.  I know I will likely be working on a new and improved list of suggested apps for teachers with iPads.  What would you add on today?


Original iPad Apps Suggestions from Dec. 2012

  • – 1000 iPad apps for education! A lot of what I have listed came from this site
  • McGraw-Hill has a lot of apps in the app store, so I won’t list them all here
  • Brittanica Kids appears to have a lot of younger-centered apps, again, won’t list them all


  • Story Buddy 2, $6.99 – Content creation, story telling w/words, pictures, and media
  • Book Creator – $4.99 – Easy to use, intuitive, great reviews overall


  • Math Bingo, $0.99 – Can’t beat the price, has up to 30 player profiles – great for classrooms!
  • FlowPlus: Add, Subtract, Currently FREE!
  • MultiFlow: Times Tables Reimagined – Practice Multiplication, Currently FREE!
  • DivisionFlow – Division, Re-envisioned,  Currently FREE!
  • Mad Math 2, $1.99 – I used the free version with your students.  They loved it!
  • Reading the Ruler, Free – simple app for understanding standard and metric measurements
  • iTellTime, $0.99 – great for learning to read a clock!
  • Everyday Math – Equivalent Fractions, $1.99 – It’s from McGraw-Hill
  • Jungle Fractions, $2.99 – nice looking, seems engaging


  • NASA, Free – Great for planetary information, satellites that are actually out in space, videos, and much more
  • Science360, Free – By the National Science Foundation, beautiful imagery, lots of great information, but not intuitive in regards to what you may be searching for
  • Brittanica Kids: Dinosaurs, $4.99 – By Encyclopedia Brittanica, geared for  ages 8-12


  • Presidents by the Number. $0.99 – Looks interesting, seems to have a number of facts, updated for the 2012 election
  • LineTime – Presidents Edition, $0.99 – visual, basic information
  • States and Capitals, $0.99 – great reviews, appears simple and fun


  • SketchBook Express, Free – I’ve personally used this, great for sketching


  • Dropbox, Free – Essential for storage, in my opinion
  • iCardSort , $5.99 – visual organizer, manage multiple decks
  • Edmodo, Free – I’ve heard nothing but good about this, can be used on iPad or on website
  • To PDF, Free – converts documents, photos, etc to PDF’s
  • Dragon Dictation, Free – Voice recognition, turning spoken words into written form, good for struggling students
  • iWorks – Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, $9.99 EACH – this is Apple’s versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  They are great tools, Pages documents can be easily exported to Word, and can import Word docs in, and so forth.  And it’s made by Apple.  So, their product should work somewhat well, one would think!