Friday, June 29, 2012

Guided Math Chapter 5

I have to say I have really been enjoying reading this book and collaborating with all my bloggy friends on the great things we're learning! Chapter 5 deals with the small group component of Guided Math. Some of my favorite points:
  • Small group instruction is a defining component, but is not the ONLY mode of instruction. I love this because I agree with a balanced approach. We need whole group, small group, one on one, partners, group work, and individual work. All of these have value and need a place in our instruction.
  • Small group instruction gives the teacher an enormous amount of flexibility in meeting the needs of students and gives maximum impact to teaching. AMEN! 
  • Children are more likely to open up, take risks, and ask questions in a small group setting. I've seen this first hand!
  • Use your manipulatives. I loved this research stated on page 143, "Research shows that 90 percent of what we both say a nd do is retained, compared to only 50 percent of what we hear and see." Wow! We all know that "doing" is important, but did we realize just how important it is for retention?
  • Keep your small group area organized and free or clutter--((sigh)) I'll just go ahead and admit that my small group table (right by the door) becomes a dumping ground. I've GOT to stop this! I waste time cleaning it off to use it. 
  • Let formative assessment (and sometimes summative) to form groups and guide your daily instruction. 
And here's where I get techie: I'm all about using the formative data to form and guide my groups, but how to manage it? I'm also not great with paperwork. Now you know. My secret is out. I HATE paperwork! But, if I can turn that same paperwork into something digital I'm all over it. Hence, my newest Google Form....drum roll please....

Tada! Guided Math Group Records!

(Don't you just love those blocky faces?)
I created this form to serve three purposes:
  1. Group students
  2. Take notes during/after the lesson
  3. Have a paper trail for RTI detailing whom was in the group, when we met, what was covered, and how well said students performed. 
Want a copy?
Click HERE to see the live form. 
Click HERE for the spreadsheet that you can save a copy of.

Here's how I plan to use it: We have a new math series this year (Go Math!), and if I understand correctly, there is formative assessment for grouping built right in. After the whole group instruction, students begin some problems on their own while the teacher circulates and checks. There are "Checkpoint" questions marked with a red check mark that the teacher pays special attention to. If the child misses those problems, my plan is to check their name on my form (which I've set to my iPad home screen), then pull all of those children for reteaching. Using the form I can easily choose the lesson topic and Common Core standard covered (4th grade). I've also left a place for notes so that I'll remember later what went on during the lesson and who needs more assistance.

Another key point in this chapter was that just because a student gets an answer correct doesn't necessarily mean they understand the concept. So true! I plan to address this in math conferences. I don't have all of the logistics worked out in my head yet, but hopefully after we read chapter 7 I'll have a better understanding. I've been doing some research and came across this fabulous blog dedicated guided math: Dr. Nicki's Guided Math Blog. She has some information about conferences and even some forms she created. Definitely worth the look. 

Thanks to our wonderful hosts for hosting this book study:
Chapter 1: Primary Inspired

Thursday, June 28, 2012

BeeClip: Digital Scrapbooks for Students

Have you seen this free tool yet? I came across it while reading a post over at CristinaSkyBox. Beeclip is a free digital scrapbook for students. You don't even have to log in! Similar to Glogster, students can upload images, add text, audio, or video, and change the backgrounds. You can even download and print when finished. Something else impressive--I tweeted my find, and almost immediately received a reply from @BeeClipEDU saying thank you and offering assistance. I had a few questions, which they answered almost immediately. They're on top of things!

Here's the one I made in NO time: I used some pictures and a video my kiddos made at the end of the year.

More than one student can edit the same project at the same time on different computers. You can enable or disable the ability to use Google Images, Flickr, and YouTube. And even after you embed, if you make edits to the project, the embedded project changes right along with it!

I can think of so many uses for this that would definitely take a whole different post. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Reviving Four Blocks: Self-Selected Reading

A few days ago I posted some thoughts about changing my reading block to look more like it did when I taught the Four Blocks way. (Reviving Four Blocks). I was surprised and excited about the comments I received about how several other people are interested in this approach, so I decided to do a series dedicated to each of the blocks. I decided to tackle the Self-Selected Reading block first because it's my favorite!

What is it?
This block is all about students reading texts that they have selected themselves and are on their level. Similar to Read to Self (Daily 5), students choose their books and read to themselves while you confer with individuals. It is easy to make this block multi-level because each student can be reading on his or her own level. It lasts about 30 minutes, or maybe a little longer if you have the time.

Structure of the block:
  • Read aloud: Beginning with the read aloud is perfect for me for several reasons: 1). It ensures that I won't skip the read aloud! 2). I can model reading strategies during the read aloud that I want the kiddos to use while reading independently. 3). It activates reading strategies that students will use when reading independently. After the read aloud, I send them off to read to themselves, usually with some instructions, like "Be ready to share the connections you made when we come back together." or "Mark any unfamiliar words that you find so we can discuss them." This can really be anything that you're currently working on, or even a strategy that came up during the read aloud.
  • Conferences: I love conferencing with my students because I've found that they're much more open when its just you and them. It's a great way to build relationships while getting to know students as readers. I try to meet with each child once a week, but with larger class sizes, it may take two weeks to get to everyone. Here's the form I made that I plan to use for conferences next year.
  • Sharing: At the end of the block, students come back together as a group to share what they've read, strategies they've used, or information they've learned. This is a great time for students to present book reviews or you to do a book blessing as well. You could do the sharing part every day, or set aside some time two or three times per week. If you're short on time, and you're lucky enough to have student response clickers, you could even have students text in something to share. 
Why I love it:
When all of my students are doing self-selected reading at the same time, the atmosphere in the room is calm and peaceful. There are very few distractions, and it is harder for students to "pretend" read. The structure provides me with a schedule to include the parts of instruction that I'd love to do every day but sometimes skip otherwise. I also love that students have a choice about what to read. 

So, how about you? How does your Self-Selected Reading/ Read to Self/ DEAR time look?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

You've Gotta Have This App! iMotion

If you make movies in your classroom, you have GOT to try out iMotion for iPod and iPad! I stumbled on this great app the other day while on Twitter. A teacher had requested comments for her students on this blog post which included stop motion animation movies about money. Of course I had to check it out! I was so impressed that I immediately downloaded the FREE app onto my iPhone.

I have to say it is super easy to use. The first time I used it was on Father's Day: My family all met at my Grandmother's house and (of course) started playing with phones and talking about apps. I whipped out my new app and within 3 minutes, my dad and I had made this movie:

Yeah, I know its a little silly, but we were just playing after all. :)

My cousin's little girl downloaded it and made two movies right then and there. And I started thinking..."If we can do that in almost NO time, what could my kiddos do with this app?!?"

I was so excited about it, I knew I had to use it again soon, so I had my 3rd-5th grade Sunday School class make one during our Sunday School lesson:

It's easy to use. Just open the app and click start. It is automatically set to take still shots every second. You can adjust the speed of the snapshots, or choose to take them manually. You can pause and restart.You can even change the speed of the movie once you've finished.  The only downside is that you have to pay $1.99 as an in app purchase if you want to share your movies to Youtube, Facebook, or whatever. I thought it was worth it because I know I'll be using it a lot!

How about you? Have you ever made stop motion animation movies? What do you use? I'd love to hear from you and steal borrow your ideas! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Monday Made It and a CAFE Freebie!

I love Monday Made It! This week I made the adorable birthday balloon pot, but mine looks like more of a bouquet. In fact, I'm calling it my birthday bouquet. I first saw these on ProTeacher posted by Mariely. I think she might be the original birthday balloon creator. Here's my version:

Half-price flowerpot from Michael's ($2.50!), ribbon, bendy straws, and SchoolGirl's 3 in. scallop tags ($3.00). 

And now for the freebie:

I may not be doing Daily 5, but I'll definitely incorporate CAFE, especially into my self-selected reading block. 

Hop on over to Tara's blog for some other great Made Its!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Guided Math Chapter 4

Chapter 4 was all about effective uses of whole group instruction. With the push for more and more small group instruction, it is refreshing to have the validation that whole group instruction is an important part of a balanced teaching approach. Whole group instruction is not bad! In fact there are many instances in which it is preferable to small groups, including minilessons, whole group games/reviews, giving instructions, and math huddles. Probably the idea that stuck with me the most from this chapter was the format of minilessons.

MiniLesson Components:

  • Connection-This is the activating portion of the lesson
  • Teaching Point-Teacher models or demonstrates ("I do" portion)
  • Active Engagement-Guided practice ("We do, Y'all do" portion)
  • Link to Ongoing Student Work-just what it says: You link to what they'll be doing independently ("You do" portion).

Sammons writes that the mini-lesson should be brief---no more than 10 minutes. I've found it extremely difficult to do each component of a minilesson and still keep it within the 10 minute time frame, at least in 4th grade. I especially need more time with the active engagement portion because I'm often listening in to students and offering feedback. While I really strive to limit the teacher talk, and focus on more time for guided practice, I know this is something I still need to work on. I'm finding that for adequate practice, usually my minilesson takes between 15-20 minutes---close enough :) I think for 4th graders and the difficulty level of some of the problems they solve in math, 20 minutes is reasonable.

How about you? What did you take away from this chapter?

Can't get enough of the Guide Math book study? Check out these links for more:
Chapter 1: Primary Inspired

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reviving Four Blocks

With the end of the school year (and all of the book studies I'm stalking reading), I've spent a lot of time reflecting on what's worked in my classroom...and what hasn't worked. I keep coming back to the same conclusion. I've followed the basal reader, used the Guided Reading structure, the Daily 5 structure, my own blend, etc...but the BEST I've done as a reading teacher was when I structured my lessons using the Four Blocks framework. Remember Four Blocks? It's not quite as popular as it used to be, but I dusted off my books and reread some of them and even put into practice some of the ideas during the last few weeks of school. 

If you're not familiar with the framework, you can check it out here:
Basically, the premise is to create a balanced literacy approach by having instruction in each of the four blocks each day. Ideally each block would be 30 minutes in primary grades, with variations on time in the upper grades. For example, in 4th grade we might not really need 30 minutes for working with words, and may need more time for writing and guided reading.

Why this structure works for me:
  • Each component has it's own scheduled time. I had this in the other formats, but I found that if I'm teaching a short minilesson on word work, then letting the kids choose an activity to work on, I'm liable to skip that lesson if time is short. 
  • Kids practice what I just finished teaching! I don't really like teaching a comprehension lesson, then having children practice something totally different. Can't wrap my brain around that...
  • Flexibility: Especially within the Guided Reading block. If it suits the lesson and needs of my kids to meet with me in small groups, great! If not, I can have them work with partners, independently, or any variation. I don't feel the pressure to meet with 4 small groups every day!
  • There is a dedicated time for me to conference with kids during Self-Selected Reading and during Writing. I love this! It's another thing that gets pushed to the side if I don't have the time set aside. 
  • Book Blessings and read alouds begin the Self-Selected Reading block. I don't have to find a time to squeeze them in anymore!

This summer marks my twelfth year teaching. I can hardly believe it! It has flown by so fast, and I've learned so much along the way. I'm still learning! I think that learning about myself as a teacher and recognizing what works for me and my kiddos is almost as important as learning strategies for teaching. 

That's why Four Blocks is the model that I think I function best under...I like the set times for each component. I'm less likely to skip postpone something this way. A place for everything, and everything in its place. 

How about you? Do you still use Four Blocks or components of it? What have you found works best for your teaching style and kiddos?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Free Polka Dot Genre Posters

So, I admit I have a little obsession with polka dots. I've been creating tons of classroom items and my latest creation is a set of genre posters. There are some really great ones out there, but I wanted a set with a polka dot background and pictures of real books. I tried to choose books that are popular among my students and that they have access to, either in my classroom or the library. Hope you enjoy!

*UPDATE: I added Traditional Literature in case you'd rather have that instead of Folk Tale. I used different books on each poster in case you'd like to use both posters. Thanks for the idea, Chanda!

Want more Freebies? Check out TBA's Freebie Friday:

Freebie Fridays

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Are You a Whole Brain Teacher?

I first found Whole Brain Teaching the year that I had "that group." You know the love those kiddos and do everything you can, but nothing seems to work. After some web surfing I found my light at the end of the tunnel. When I first found it, it was called Power Teaching. Chris Biffle has created many, many downloadable books all dealing with classroom management strategies and learning activities. All of his items are free, and he even has a YouTube channel with videos of the strategies being used with actual students.

Here's a video with the basics of WBT. It's seven minutes long, but well worth it!

Some of the things I really like are the daily reviewing of rules and procedures, the scoreboard, and all of the active participation strategies such as Teach/Okay, Mirror, and the use of gestures in so many different ways.

Since that year, I've used many aspects of Whole Brain Teaching, and I'm still learning. How about you? Do you use WBT or some other form of classroom management?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Guided Math Chapter 3

I'm loving this book study! It sure is nice to share ideas and collaborate with all of my bloggy friends! I have to say chapter 3 has been my favorite so far.It's about the nuts and bolts of using math warm ups. I was so excited about implementing these that I made a flipchart and a powerpoint with daily math stretches. (See this post if you're interested). Here are my take-aways from chapter 3:

  • "Participating in a variety of brief mathematical activities...leads students to make subtle shifts into the world of mathematical awareness and learning." (p. 68) LOVE this statement! So true!
  • I can't wait to implement the math stretches, but I worry that my morning to do list will be too long...I need to rethink our morning procedures and decide if I want to do the math stretches in the morning or at another time during the day.
  • I couldn't agree more with the text on page 82 about making math connections. It relates the reading strategy of making text to self, text to text, and text to world connections to math. The math connections are math to self (How did my family use math last night?), math to world (use current events), and math to math. I envision creating an anchor chart with the kiddos when we learn about these. 
  • Calendar Board: Again, I need to incorporate this into my math instruction next year. I'm a little rusty on it, since I've not done it since I taught 3rd grade 5 years ago. I've been blog-stalking and have gotten some great ideas! I watched this great video by Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6. She has lots of great ideas for calendar in the upper grades. Here's another video I found on YouTube of a 4th grade Every Day Counts calendar lesson. I also thought I'd get a copy of our old Saxon Math 3rd grade teacher's manual which has some pretty good ideas for calendar math. I don't have to use them all...I think the think I'm going to have to keep in mind is that it should be short (15 minutes). 
I'd love to hear your take on Guided Math so far! If you'd like to get into more of the conversation, check out these posts from our hosts for the first three chapters:
Chapter 1: Primary Inspired

Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday Made It: Math Stretches

Yay! It's Monday! Tara has made Mondays fun by hosting her awesome Monday Made It linky party. If you haven't seen it yet, there are tons of great ideas from the bloggy world:
As many of you know, I've also been participating in the Guided Math book study. This book, as well as a flipchart I found on Promethean Planet inspired me to create a Morning Math Stretch flipchart. I actually created it last summer when I read the book for the first time, but I've made some adjustments you'll see later in the post.
My Inspiration (You'll need to be logged in to Promethean Planet  to see).

My flipchart can be downloaded in a .zip format by clicking on this text or picture.

It is very interactive and includes all of the math stretches mentioned in the book:
  • Number of the Day
  • How my family used math last night
  • ____ makes me think of....
  • What's next?
  • Data Collection
Now, for the changes. I tried to use this on my Promethean board last year, but with 26 4th graders it was very difficult and time consuming to let everyone have their turn with the pen. It was taking entirely too long to complete this quick activity, so I eventually put it aside. I tried to brainstorm a way that I could have the activity open on more than one computer at once, but allow the students' edits to be visible in real time (like with Google Docs). Unfortunately, that is not possible currently with ActivInspire, sooooooo I slightly modified the activities.

I created them in a PowerPoint format and uploaded it to Google Docs. You can get your copy here. It has lost some of it's interactivity by doing this, but it might save some of my sanity in the mornings! Students could access the document at different stations. Refreshing the page will show the edits students make. They can type answers into a text box or use the drawing tools. Did you know that if you choose "scribble" on the line tool, you can draw letters and numbers? And it auto corrects!

*Note: If you like it, please download it and upload into your own Google Docs, so that we're not all making edits on the same doc across the country. On the other hand...that might be a cool collaboration project if anyone is interested...?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Guided Math Chapter 2

Now my question about numeracy-rich classrooms has been answered! I sort of thought that it was similar to a literacy-rich classroom environment, but I wanted examples. Chapter two did not disappoint! I have so much to think about now. Here were my biggest take-aways:
  1. Calendar Board/Math Wall: As an upper grades teacher, I don't "do" calendar math every day, but I would like to incorporate this next year. Its a great way to get in that spiral review. I liked how the book suggested each child having his/her own calendar or agenda so they can make connections to what you're doing during calendar activities. I think I'll try that next year. I plan to review shapes, word wall words, math concepts like even/odd or skip counting, months of the year, elapsed time (What will be the date in two weeks and five days?) and problems of the day. This is similar to the 3rd grade calendar math that we did in Saxon math.
  2. Anchor Charts/Graphic Organizers: While I did a few of these this year, I need to do wwaaayyy more! And I need to set aside a space in my room to hang them. I especially loved the modified Frayer diagram.
  3. Math Productions by Student Authors: She actually suggests having students make math books, but being the tech nerd that I am, I would rather have the kids use tech tools for their productions. I'm thinking I might incorporate the tech part into a station or center during Guided Math. Some of the tools I'm thinking of using are Flipcams for videos, Powerpoint, Prezi, VoiceThread, Glogster, Voki, and the iMotion app for making stop-motion movies. I don't have the plan fully fledged yet, but I definitely want the kiddos to experience using more tech tools for learning math next year. 
How about you? What are your thoughts on Chapter 2 or my post? I'd love to hear from you!

Want in on more of the conversation? Check out our first two hosts' blog posts:
Chapter 1: Primarily Inspired

Friday, June 15, 2012

AETC 2012: My Smack Down List

Well, if you follow me on twitter, you know that I've been at AETC the past two days. What a great conference! Aside from meeting with great friends and colleagues and presenting a session, I took away some great ideas I hope to implement in my classroom. Here's my AETC Smackdown:

  • Twitter Book Reports: Students create book teasers. They can even post a link to the book or a picture of the book. (From my friend, Julie D. Ramsay). My classroom has a twitter account and the students tweet what we're learning each day. We'd love to connect with your class on twitter! We're @kilgosnews. 
  • Innovation Day: For one day students choose what to learn, and how to learn it. They work all day on their self-selected topic and create a presentation they use to teach the class. (Also from Julie).
  • VoiceThread: I knew about this free webtool, but haven't put it to use yet. I plan to this year. (from Julie)
  • Use Google Forms for creating rubrics. (From my friend, Amanda C. Dykes)

My biggest take-away had to do with using QR codes in the classroom. I've been wanting to do this for a while, but just needed to know a little more about it.

The Daring Librarian has tons of great ideas and tips for using QR codes. You just HAVE to check it out if you're curious about them.

i-nigma is a fabulous multi-platform app for reading QR codes. It scans quickly and saves your scans in your history.
QR Stuff is a great site for making codes for anything: videos, websites, text, etc...And for all of you color-coding OCD people out there (me) you can create QR Codes in color!

I'm really still trying to process all of the fabulous information! Do you use any of the tools I mentioned? If so, I'd love to know what you do. Maybe our classes could even collaborate on something together. Please share.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Integrating Technology into the Language Arts Classroom

I'm so excited to be presenting at AETC again this year with my good friend Cara (Teaching My Calling)! We're collaborators, colleagues, fellow 4th grade teachers, and we sometimes feel like we share a brain. (Maybe the rhyming names have something to do with it?)  We, like many of you, share a passion for using technology in meaningful ways to engage our students and make learning meaningful. If you're at AETC this year, hopefully we'll get to meet up during our session or some other time. If you're not there you can still check out our livebinder full of resources and examples we plan to share during our session:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

iChallenge Podcast Winner!

Yep, that's me in the black dress holding that big box! I submitted a podcast to the Alabama Learning Exchange's annual iChallenge Podcast Competition and won in the at-large category! I'm so grateful for being chosen from among the hundreds of other entries. When I created the podcast, I really just had my own students in mind at first. I wanted them to have a video tutorial that they could go back to again and again if they had questions about using KidBlog. Creating this one video actually turned into the creation of a series about using KidBlog that anyone can use.   

Here's the video that I submitted:

Click HERE to see the other videos on ALEX that I've submitted so far.

Aren't you just dying to know what's in the box?

It's a HoverCam Document Camera! I can't wait to get it out and start playing with it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Clock Crazy!

Okay, so I'm not really crazy about clocks. It just drives me crazy that many upper elementary students (and even high school according to my 16 year old son) can't read clocks! This is something I've seen get progressively worse each year. I'm not blaming the previous teachers of these kiddos, but rather the fact that its easier to read a digital clock. And let's face it, most kiddos now have cell phones or ipods and don't wear watches. My students will instinctively look at the digital time on the computers or microwave before trying to figure out the time on the analog clock in the front of the room. Because of this little set back, students really struggle with calculating elapsed time.

So, how do I fix this?!?!

Here's my plan:  
1. Elapsed Time Videos. We actually did them this year and it was such fun and a great learning opportunity! Here's a link to watch if you're interested. I stole borrowed this idea from my friend Cara over at Teaching My Calling
2. Wear Watches! I know how I learned to tell time--by constantly looking at my watch. So, instead of buying my kids water bottles at the beginning of the year, I plan to hit the Dollar Tree this summer and rack up on analog watches for the kiddos. The plan is to give them one bonus point on their math test for each day they wear their watch. I know this doesn't force them to actually use it, but if they're wearing it, chances are they'll use it.
3. Cover the microwave clock. I realize they could still look at the computer digital times, but those are tiny and many of the kiddos can't make them out. If they have to work to read the digital clock, maybe its easier just to look at their spiffy new watches!
4. Make time activities a part of each day. I plan to randomly call out questions such as "How many minutes until PE?" and "What time will ___ end if we have ___ minutes left?" I want to make a game out of it so it will be exciting, but I also want the kids to realize that this is a real world life skill.

Well, there you have take on how to hopefully stop some of the clock craziness, at least in my little corner of the world. Do you have this issue where you teach? What are some ideas you used (or plan to use)? I'd love to hear them!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Guided Math Book Study

Have you heard about the Guided Math book study? I'm linking up with Brenda, over at Primary Inspired to read, discuss, and share our ideas as we read the book. I've already read it once, but I'm really excited to go through it with other people. I can't wait to see what others have to say as we read!

Thoughts and Questions I had while reading Chapter 1:

  •  On page 16 she writes, "Lack of conceptual understanding handicaps many students as they face more difficult math challenges in the upper grades." Can I just add a few exclamation points to the end of that statement?!!!!! As a 4th grade teacher, I see this all the time. For example, more and more students each year are unable to calculate elapsed time. Why? They don't know how to read the clock...or even which hand is which! I'm hoping to find some great ideas for building their conceptual understanding as we go through this book.
  • Exactly what is an "environment of numeracy" (pg 19)? Is that like a print-rich classroom, only math-rich? What all does the term "numeracy" include?
  • I love, love, LOVE the Number of the Day Chart idea for Morning Math Warm-ups. I think it really stretches the kiddos' thinking! I actually incorporated that a little this past year, but only a few times. I definitely want to do this as a routine. 
  • Individual Conferences: While I love to conference with my kiddos, I worry that I won't make time for it as much as I should. I'm really going to try and implement this next year and might even create a Google Form like I did for reading conferences to keep track of everything. 
  • Probably my favorite take from this chapter is on the bottom of page 24: "It is often easier for teachers to begin with a few of the components and gradually add more." I really need to remember this. I'm one of those that tends to jump in head first and try to do it all! 
Want to join in? Stop by Primary Inspired and see what others have to say!

Blog Social Buttons

I was recently looking for some cute social buttons, when I realized that I could probably make what I wanted to use. So I did! Here are the sets I made if you're interested. Just right click and download them to your computer. If you'd like to know how to use them as your social buttons, check out this post I recently wrote: How to Add Custom Social Buttons to Blogger.

Feel free to modify them if you wish. The size is 75x75 so you may want to make them smaller. I used the font Culz MT for lettering and the flower is my favicon (from LeeLou Blogs). 

For more great ideas, check out the other Monday Made It Posts at 4th Grade Frolics:


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