Monday, October 31, 2016

Math or Treating- Learning on Halloween Day

Learning on Halloween Day

Getting kids to learn on Halloween is hard enough but on a Monday it's even harder! Thankfully it was a half day and we did this while waiting for the parade to start. I put together a couple of ideas I gathered from Instagram and came up with Math or Treating! I needed something fun because the content was not easy since we were working with word problems.

The Hook

I started by writing a hook on my chalkboard the Friday before Halloween. They really wanted to know what it was and I said they had to wait until Monday. I knew I had them hooked!


I bought 8 different treats or little goodies from the Dollar Store and Target. I had treats like Smarties and goodies like stickers. I placed them in containers that I already had and set up my small group table. I used orange sticky notes to label each container with a letter. 

We've been working on multiplication so I had already created 8 multiplication word problem task cards using the same format they might see on the state test. Each card had a letter which corresponded with one of the containers of treats. I made copies on orange paper and gave each kid a set. 

When the kids came in I gave them a paper to decorate that they would be attaching to a brown paper bag. This would serve as their goody bag which would hold their finished math cards and treats. 

Solving Math Problems for Treats

The kids had to solve one of their word problem cards with their math partner. After solving a problem, they brought it back to me so I could check their answer. If it was right they could get a treat from the container that matched the letter on their card. (Next year I will be numbering the cards because some of the kids got confused with the mutliple choice question letters and the card letter.) They placed their treat and the solved problem in their goody bag and went off to solve another one.

If they had gotten an answer wrong I helped them figure it out. I also helped those that needed it during the activity. This was review for our test tomorrow and I wanted them to be able to do the problems correctly. After solving all 8 problems, they completed a Halloween word search while we waited for others to finish and the parade to start.

It was the perfect activity to do on this half day of Halloween! I will definitely be doing this again next year. I am sharing the sheet I created for the bags. Even though Halloween is over, with all the leftover candy you might have, this would be a great activity to do one day this week! Just click on the picture below to grab it. I hope you all survived Halloween day and even more so, will survive the aftermath on Tuesday!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Math Small Groups and Centers

This year I decided to change up how I teach Math and use my small group and center time more effectively. I have always tried different things throughout the years so that I can reach all my learners. I think this year I found something that works really well for me.

Before Each Math Unit:

I assess the students using various resources I've aquired. Many times I just make up my own assessment. I use the results of the assessment to form Math partners and groups. I simply create a chart in powerpoint and plug in their names so I can have a chart to reference. They will stay with their Math partner throughout that Math unit. That way I know they are equally matched in their mathematical abilities. I try to have 3 groups so that two of the groups can meet with me and the Title 1 teacher, and the kids in the higher group can work with their partner. More on this later in the post. Here is an example of a pre-test I gave. This is a quick assessment I made up. Click on the pick if you'd like to download it. 

Whole Group Lesson:

I start each math block with the main lesson of the day. The kids come to the carpet and sit in front of the screen with their Math partner. Using the document camera or penpad (a device that allows me to write on the computer screen) I model the concept I am teaching. I also have the kids help me do a few problems together as a class. Sometimes during this part, the kids are using whiteboards or their Math notebook. I also have them turn and talk with their Math partner to discuss a problem or question. It is important to keep this part engaging and I try to keep it to about 15 minutes so that students can stay focused. Many times I will use props to change things up and keep it interesting. This past week we used hoola hoops to make human equal groups for multiplication. 

Small Groups:

I have the blessing of having a Title 1 teacher come in for Math small groups. Usually after my whole group lesson the kids that scored the lowest on the pre-test go with either the Title 1 teacher or myself for the lesson. This block of time is where the students will have extra guided practice and independent practice on that day's lesson. In small groups the kids play a game or do some type of practice in their notebooks or on whiteboards. It just depends on the concept. Once myself or the other teacher sees that a kid "gets it", they send that child off to math centers. We keep the kids that are still struggling for more practice. Small groups are 25 minutes and there are usually kids that stay the whole time. 

The kids in the high group that scored well on the pre-test, work with their partner on the same activity that the rest of the class is doing in small group. They usually have to record something and show me so that I can see evidence of their understanding. I usually assign them less problems because they are usually the ones that don't need a lot of practice. If I see that they are not getting a concept, I pull them into the small group. I also like to meet with the kids that scored well on the pre-test every once in a while to make sure they are on track. Once they finish the indpendent practice, they can go to math centers. 

Math Centers

Math centers in my class is used for practice of previous and current skills and the kids may not get to them every day. In fact they may not see center time at all during the span of a week. Many kids will use most if not the entire 25 min. of small group time to practice the concept we're working on. So sometimes they may only do their center for 5 minutes. The most important work is done in small groups so centers is always a treat if students get to them. 

I use  a small pocket chart from the dollar spot at Target to keep track of which students go to centers. And honestly I just type student partner names and center numbers on pieces of paper each time I switch them out. It's nothing fancy at all. Does it look cute? No. Does it work just as well? Yes. And that's ok! I don't change their center numbers every day. There are many days when the kids don't even get to centers so I just leave the center numbers up until there are kids that are able to get to centers. I don't worry about kids not being able to do a particlular center because it's all review from previously taught skills.

I keep my centers organized in this 10 drawer cart that a wonderful coworker friend gave to me. There are 8 centers plus a technology center. We use a program called iReady and that is usually what the kids do in technology center.

My centers start off very easy so that my 3rd graders are able to do it with little assistance. As I introduce games and activities throughout the year, I add them to the center drawers to practice concepts we are working on. But I don't change them often because since we don't go to centers daily I can keep the same ones for a long time. Here's a multiplication game we'll be playing in small groups this coming week to practice repeated addition. I'll add it to the center bins after we play it.

I try to do small groups and centers as much as possible. There might be a day during the week where we do a whole group activity such as a review game like one of my Scavenger Hunts or I'm assessing before starting a new unit. It is very flexible and I just let the Title 1 teacher know ahead of time which days I will be conducting small groups that week. 

My system is not perfect but I hope I've given you some practical ideas for teaching math. If you need resources for math centers, small groups or whole group games check out these resources I've created for my own classroom. How do you teach math? I'm always looking for new ideas so I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Visual Lesson Plans

Plans for Week of Sept. 12th

I love looking at other teachers' lesson plans so I thought I'd share mine for this week. It is a packed week and we have early release Friday so I'll try to fit everything into a four and half day week. 

We have a lot of school requirements which means my writing block is short right now. I'm depending on mentor sentences to help my students become better writers. Once the requirements lessen, I'll be able to have a longer writing block. It is not written in my plans but one thing we do everyday is IDR (Independent Reading). That is a non-negotiable and a very valuable time in my classroom. You'll notice that I include IRA three times a week. This is my interactive read aloud time. I go back and reference these books in upcoming lessons. 

My plans include visual links for easy navigating. I've included links for many of the resources. I hope this is helpful for someone! Just click on the picture to access my plans.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Meet the Teacher 2016

Another "Meet the Teacher" night has come and gone! Leading up to it we only had two contracted days to work in our classrooms and had a county inservice the day of. So of course most of my colleagues including myself worked many hours outside of that to prepare. 

Meet the Teacher Preparations

I start off with pretty bare walls at the beginning of the year. After teaching for so long I've come to learn that it's best for the students to fill our space after they arrive. Plus it saves me a lot of work before school starts! So my bulletin board simply says Coming Soon. Once the students begin working I'll hang up their work. I didn't even put bulletin board paper up this year. I left the natural background and I kind of love it! 

Meet the Teacher

This was the main table for the night. When families arrived, they signed in and then I handed each family a Classroom Creature Chase sheet. They had to go to different stops in the classroom to perform tasks. I learned a lot about the families just from giving them this assignment. I also learned that incoming 3rd graders can't handle six tasks. So next year I'm giving them four and making them simpler to follow. 

One of the tasks the kids had to complete was to get a library book and find a spot they wanted to sit at on the first day. I am trying flexible seating for the first time this year so needed a way for kids to choose a spot. I placed a Welcome flipbook at each available spot along with a sticky note. The kids placed their books at one of those spots, replaced the flipbook with their book and wrote their name on a sticky note. Then they gave their flipbook to their parent to take home.

One of the stops was getting their picture taken in the photo area. I just put up some yellow butcher paper and made a sign for the kids to hold. The credit for the saying goes to Kristen @schoolandthecity on Instagram. I forgot to take a picture of this area but you can see it in the picture above. Here's a close up of the sign:

The last stop was the wishlist cupcake stand. Families had the chance of taking paper cupcakes that had things I would love donated for the classroom. I didn't have a frame to hold up the sign that goes with it so check out this handy idea I came up with at the last minute. I taped a large dice to it and voila!

After checking their Classroom Creature Chase sheet, I gave the 3rd graders a little gift- glow sticks! This idea (and the glow sticks) came from my teammate who found it where else? Pinterest! My teammate got the glow sticks from Amazon but I've seen them at Dollar Tree too.

I've created a version for grades 1st-5th that you can download for free! Just click on the picture below. Well that's a wrap on Meet the Teacher 2016. I hope back to school season is fun and stress free for you!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Back to School Class Schedule

It's that time of summer when I canNOT turn my teacher brain off. I go back in a week so I've been working on my class schedule for this year.

I love to see other teachers' schedules for inspiration so I thought I would share my schedule for this year. Of course things might need to be altered if they make changes to my lunch or specials time. But for now, this is what I'll be following.

I will be changing how I do mini-lessons this year and truly keep them MINI. So I will be doing my interactive read alouds right before we go to specials. During IRA I will do think-alouds, and have students turn and talk. I decided to do it this way so it breaks up the amount of time students are sitting on the carpet for instruction. I like to keep them moving as much as possible.

I also have a separate time for Vocabulary because I believe it's important to devote a good chunk of time to it since it is one of the biggest factors in improving reading comprehension. I use Valuable Vocabulary which can be found in my store. 

I have used this for a couple of years now and kids love it and always say they love Vocabulary time. I'm currently working on making all the units teacher friendly. If you are interested in looking at the books I use, you can download the map with clickable links for the whole year here. 

My Writing/Grammar block will be a bit different this year. I really want to teach grammar in a more authentic way so that kids are not only able to identify a part of speech but they are also able to write using them correctly in their own writing. So that block will be a trial and error at the beginning. 

This schedule won't be fully implemented until about the 3rd or even 4th week of school. We practice a lot of routines and procedures in the beginning so our schedule will be off. But it's so worth it in the end because the class runs smoothly and you are able to really dive into instruction.

Teachers go back in a week! When do you get back to reality?

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sentence Activity- Sentence RX

Teach Like a Pirate

This summer I read Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess and let me tell you it's amazing! It gave me great ideas that I could use this year in my classroom to make learning exciting and fun. I would love to go to one of his workshops one day because his enthusiasm is contagious! This was an easy read and perfect for summer reading to get you fired up for the new year.

Student Engagement

Sentence RX

This past year I made an effort to create more engaging lessons and Teach Like a Pirate just made me more excited to teach them again and create new ones. One lesson we did this past year was Sentence RX. This lesson was for review and completed after we had done some work with editing sentences. This is a struggle all year for 3rd graders let me tell you! 

Editing Sentences Activity

I had the kids wait outside while I got everything set up. Luckily during this time one of my former students who is now in junior high came for a visit and helped. I bought the gloves and masks on Amazon and it came with so many that I'll have enough for this year too. I got 2 plastic table covers from Dollar Tree and split them in halves and covered the desks. I prepped the tables with everything they would need for the activity: glue sticks, scissors, pencils, gloves, masks, Rx pad, paper bandaids and small buckets to collect scraps. I also put lanyards with their "official" doctor information that they would wear. 

I greeted them at the door with my mask and stethoscope (from the Dollar Tree) and they knew right away they were in for some fun. They began working right away to save their patient: Sentence Sam. Every once in a while I played an ambulance sound that I found on Youtube. During that time they had to stop what they were doing and save another sentence "patient" by correcting the sentence that I was projecting on the screen. They had to rewrite the sentence correctly on a sheet of paper and then return to their main patient. If you'd like the powerpoint slideshow I used just click the picture.

It was fun to watch them because they took it so seriously and wanted to save all the patients. Ha! This was a really great activity and I heard lots of positive feedback from the kids. I did change some things that weren't working so that it will work out better this year. I created a file called Sentence Rx that includes everything we used for this activity. If you'd like to check it out just click on it. Have you read Teach Like a Pirate or tried out any of the actitivies? I'd love to hear about it!

Editing Sentences

Monday, July 18, 2016

Library Book Bin Labels

Do you switch your library book bin labels often? I seem to do that every year because my library changes so often with new books. I found these clear adhesive pockets in the Target dollar spot. 

So of course I needed new labels to fit the pockets. I created these simple labels for all of the series books in my library. I wanted a very neutral color so that it would go with my bright bins which are bright colors. I plan on adding number labels to the bins when the library is all set up so that students can put the books back easily. (The bins in this picture are actually individual student book bins.)

For the rest of the books that aren't in a series, I plan on organizing them like you would find in the bookstore or library. I'm thinking these spine labels by Molly Malloy would be perfect for that!

If you'd like these labels that fit the Target clear pockets, I made them editable to share and you can get them by clicking the picture. The fonts I used are KG Second Chances Solid and KG Alphabet Regurgitation. I'd love to hear how you set up your library. I'm always looking for new ideas.