Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Calling All New Teachers!

If you're a first year teacher, first of all, CONGRATULATIONS! You're about to begin the most amazing career ever! What could be better than shaping young minds, laughing, learning, teaching, and all of the wonderful things that make this job so great?! I remember the feeling well...excitement, nervousness, relief, anticipation, and about a gazillion other things all at once. So, I'm linking up with Stephanie's Advice for the Incoming Class of Teachers linky to hopefully give you some advice for this first year.

This will be my thirteenth year teaching...I'm not sure if that makes me a veteran or maybe a somewhere in the middle. Anyway, here are some things I wish I'd known when I first started out:

  1. Find a Veteran Friend at Your School: I've taught at several schools, and each one has been very different-from attendance procedures to hallway rules to how much film to leave on the laminator! A veteran teacher can fill you in on all the little tidbits like where to turn in your lesson plans, if you turn off your computers every day, where to sit during an assembly, etc...
  2. Write, write, then write some more! Whether its in a notebook, on a whiteboard, or in a texting clicker, students need to write things down in every subject, every day. More areas of the brain are activated when you write than when speaking, listening, or viewing put together. (See my post on Rainbow Brains). 
  3. It's not always your fault: I used to beat myself up every single time kids didn't do well on a test or understand a concept. What did I do wrong? Not do? What could I have done differently? While I still ask those same questions and adjust instruction as necessary, I now realize that the sole responsibility for a student learning isn't mine alone! The students and parents also play a role. This was a biggy for me. I'm not saying its okay to place blame, just to be realistic ( I was NOT those first few years). 
  4. Fun doesn't always equal learning: I'm a huge believer in making learning fun, but 'fun' shouldn't be the focus of the lesson. Fun activities are great--as long as students are actively engaged in what you'd have them to learn. Projects, demos, and experiments are fabulous, but don't leave out the corresponding paper/pencil or other application activity. It usually takes both for the ideas to really sink in. 
Well, that's it, folks! I hope these tips will help you avoid some of the pitfalls that snagged me as a newbie! Good luck with your first class!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bunches of Monday Made Its!

This week I've been a busy bee...Here are a few of the things I've made:

This lollipop tree--isn't it so stinking cute?! I literally did this in less than 15 minutes. I found the pail and white foam sphere from Hobby Lobby, and used 2 packs of dum-dums. I hot glued the foam to the bucket so it wouldn't fall off and stuck the suckers in...Tada! Now I'll always know when the treat bucket's running low, and I'll actually remember to use it some :)

Poke Games:
I found out about these on Tara's Monday Made It post last week. You can grab yours free at FlapJack Educational Resources TN Shop. These are great self-checking games. I downloaded their multiplication and factor games, then used the template to make a set of division cards using ActivInspire.

Polka dot numbers for my book boxes: I love polka dots and this are perfect for my theme this year. AND I'm sharing a copy with you! Just print, trim, and punch using your 3.5 inch scallop punch. 

Can't get enough? Check out the linky party at 4th Grade Frolics:

I'm also linking up with:

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Friday, July 27, 2012

Doing Word Walls and a Freebie

Many of us HAVE word walls in the classroom, but do we DO word walls? Are they just pretty decorations on the wall that the students ignore glance at ocassionally, or a real resource that students use on a daily basis? In this post, I'll show you how to take your word wall from static to fantastic, plus give you some super-cute word wall cards I made!

There's basically only two rules for making your word wall a living, breathing resource in the classroom:

Use the word wall in a whole-class activity every day. 

Hold students accountable for spelling word wall words correctly.

This is a daily reminder for the kiddos to use the word wall, and it sends the message "Here is an important resource for you." But you may be thinking, "What am I supposed to do with it? WHEN am I supposed to fit this in?!" This post is for you. Here are some things I've done that worked for me:

How Much? 10 minutes or less

When? I schedule my literacy block using the Four Blocks framework, so I have 20-30 minutes each day for word work. When I scheduled using the Daily 5 framework, the word wall activities were one of my mini-lessons.

Which? You may use frequently misspelled words (there, their, they're), vocabulary, or pre-made sets of words. I plan on using some of my choice, and some of the words from Month by Month Phonics because my school purchased them for each teacher.

What? Every Monday when you add new words (4-6), chant them. Show the word and discuss its meaning. Next spell it, then have students say it and spell it aloud and write the word down in their journals or personal word walls. I like to have them chant the spelling three or four times and here's where it can get really fun. There are literally TONS of ways they can do this. Here's a great list of word wall chants. Each day choose 3 or 4 words (or more if there's time) to discuss, chant, and/or write, then do a short activity with the words.

  • Be a Mind Reader (my favorite activity): Choose one word that students guess through clues you give them. Each time you give a clue, they write down a word from the word wall (spelled correctly). The clues start out very general, then narrow down the choices. Here's an example for the word community:
    • It's a word on the word wall. (Students write a guess on their papers).
    • It is a singular, collective noun (Students rewrite their word, or revise and choose another word). 
    • It has more than three syllables (Students write their word again, or revise their guess and write another word). 
    • It has 9 letters (Students rewrite their word, or write a different word based on the clue). 
    • The last letter is a y (By now most should have it)
  • Be a Mind Reader v2: Similar to the activity above, but this time you choose five different words. Give one clue for each word. At the end, students who think they have the correct answers raise their hands and you check to see how got every word correct and spelled it correctly. I usually give them some little treat.
  • Wordo: This is just like bingo, except with words! You can read more about it in this post
There are many, many more, but these three are a great place to start. Now, on to your freebies! I've made two sets of word wall labels to share with you:

I'd love to hear from you! Do you do a word wall? If so, what are your favorite activities to do with it?

Freebie Fridays

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Made It!

It's Monday and you know what that means...Monday Made It! I'm so glad Tara started this awesome linky, but my to do list just keeps getting longer because of all the awesome things people keep posting that I just HAVE to make! Here's what I've done this week:

Thanks to Teri at A Cupcake for the Teacher and her awesome freebie, I made a Pick Me pot. Here's her version:

And here is mine. I'm hoping this will not only be cute, but a great way to keep me from loosing my equity cards. I'm so bad to set them down and forget where I've put them. 

And for my next Made It: Pom Pom erasers hot glued to markers. When I first saw this over at The Teaching Thief I couldn't believe my eyes! How did I NOT think of this?!? I was literally searching for this very solution last year and even nearly purchased some marker caps from a school supply store that had erasers on them. My coworker and I even went so far as to try and figure out a way to attach tissue. All I can think now is "DUH!" I'm so glad that I found this or I might never have figured out a solution :)

Well, that's all folks! Be sure to hop on over to Tara's blog and see the other crafty things that have been going on this week!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Quirky Quotations

Need an exciting, fun way for your kids to practice correctly using quotation marks? Then this is the activity for you! This lesson is always a crowd pleaser and one the kids beg to do again and again. All you  need is some chart paper, markers, and this poster. (I'm not sure where I got the frame--if it is yours please let me know so I can give you credit :)

Start by doing a quick mini-lesson on the proper use of quotation marks before the actual activity. I'm a huge whiteboard user, so I usually have my students practice a few lines of dialogue by writing it on their whiteboards (also great for formative assessment). Next comes the fun part. I tell my kids that they're going to be taking part in a silent discussion. They can only talk with their markers...no talking out loud! While I'm explaining, I begin hanging up some pre-made charts like this one:
Frame from ccteachfirst.blogspot.com 

Each chart has four or five famous people, including fictional characters, and a conversation starter.
I divide the class into groups, place them at the charts and let them start writing! The only rules are

  1. No talking out loud.
  2. All dialogue must be punctuated correctly.
I usually give each group about 3-5 minutes, then call time and the groups move on to the next chart. This is such a great creative writing activity with lots of practice writing direct quotations. Plus, its always hilarious to wrap up the lesson by coming back together as a whole group to see how the conversations end up! Be prepared to do this activity several times because the kids will want to use different combinations of people. 

How about you? Have you taught a lesson similar to this or do you have another great way to practice writing quotations? I'd love to hear from you!

Have you heard of Common Core Classroom yet? It's an amazing new blog with great ideas for teaching the new Common Core Standards. I'm honored and excited to be an author there! You'll find this post and many others that I'm sure will be a great help as we all try to learn and implement the new standards:

Common Core Classrooms

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Favorite Picture Books

Books are a bit of an obsessions for me, so when Lindsey over at The Teacher Wife started the Favorite Picture Books linky, of course I had to join in! There are way too many books I love to list them all, but these are my top three:

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg, is probably one of my all time favorite picture books. Its the story of a man who is trying to publish his writing, and so he leaves one illustration from each story with a caption and title in a box with a children's book publisher. He intends to return to the publisher's office, but he mysteriously never does. The book is essentially the author's note and 14 full page illustrations that are unrelated to each other. Kids LOVE it and its a great way to inspire story writing. I have it in portfolio edition, so as I read it I can hang the posters around the room. There are also tons of resources on line and even websites where kids can submit the Burdick stories and read those of others. Here's a Vimeo I found just now. I have no clue how he animated those pictures!

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick from Daniel Savage on Vimeo.

Weslandia, by Paul Fleischman, is the story of a boy who doesn't fit in, but refuses to conform to his neighborhood's view of "normal." For a summer project he begins growing a crop, but eventually ends up creating his own civilization using parts of the plant he grows, complete with a written language and special numbering system. By the end of the story, Wesley himself is the trend setter. Here's a TeacherTube video I found with someone reading the book aloud if you're interested:

Free Fall, David Weisner...well, anything by David Weisner, is simply amazing. He writes wordless picture books and I love, love, love to share them with my kids! The illustrations are so detailed and there's just a sense of wonderment that his books inspire. I also found this book on YouTube:

Well, I didn't start out looking for videos to go with each book, they just popped up on my search engine when I was looking for the amazon links. I think it is so cool though that there are extensions like these available. 

Want to see more? Hop on over to the linky:

The Teacher Wife
How about you? What are your favorites?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Switcheroo Zoo

I just spent the last 30 minutes playing on this awesome site! Switcheroo Zoo has games, videos, lesson plans, animal profiles, and more!

Build your own animal:
Facts about the animals you choose are listed in the blue boxes. Once you've finished you can take a picture of your animal, and there's an option to Add a title and add a story. There are even sample poems and stories that students have submitted. How cool is this?! I could definitely see having my kids create Pourquoi tales about their new animals like, "How the Zebeara Lost its Stripes." (No, spellchecker, I didn't misspell my new animal's name :)

Watch videos and listen to animal sounds and music:

I LOVED Dance of the Sugar Plum Furry!

Build and Online Habitat:
Change the animal, plants, weather, and location. What's great about this is that animal gives you feedback as you change the habitat! My lizard is telling me that he'll get eaten quickly in this habitat. 

There are so many great ways to use this site:
  • Learn facts about different animals during your animal unit.
  • Learn about habitats by actually constructing them.
  • Create new animals for fun!
  • Write stories or poems.
  • Do research for projects or reports.
  • Practice map skills and learn about endangered species
  • Learn about carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, and scavengers.
For even more ideas visit their lesson plans page. I am so excited to have found this site and can't wait to put it to use next year! How about you? How do you see yourself using something great like this?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Guided Math Chapter 8

I once had a college professor tell a story about a particular language in which the word for "teaching" and the word for "learning" were in fact the same word. She went on to discuss the cyclical and interwoven nature of teaching and learning, and posed a curious question: If there is no evidence of learning, can we say that there has been teaching?" I've gone back to that lecture in my mind often and pondered her question, especially as I read this chapter about assessment.

A knee-jerk reaction some teachers may have when students don't learn material is "Well, I taught it!" but the fact is that we must use formative assessment to ensure that students are actually learning.

In this chapter Sammons says, "Assessment in Guided Math classrooms is ongoing and informs instructional decisions. The strong links between teaching, learning, and assessment are evident." I would venture to generalize the same is true for all the subjects we teach. Ongoing assessment is crucial for helping guide students to leaning outcomes.

As I read this chapter several key points kept recurring in my mind:

  • Feedback should be specific: Students need to know what they are doing right, as well as what the next steps are to further learning. I couldn't agree more! This was one of the key points I learned and practiced as a Reading Recovery teacher, so the connection with math made perfect sense. 
  • Feedback should be timely: We've all done it, right? That stack of papers that need to be graded but doesn't get finished until 4 or 5 days later? I do try very hard to grade things right away and hand them back immediately because quite frankly, by the time the Tuesday folder goes home, the feedback is not so important anymore. Not just in math, but in every subject, I've found that when I can get the papers back to the students very quickly, they become a teaching tool!  
  • Provide examples of what success looks like: This one has been a no-brainer for me in writing instruction, but is a little hard to wrap my brain around in math. I'm having trouble figuring out exactly what sorts of samples or exemplars I'll need...Are they like the example problems I complete for students when modeling? Are they the finished graphs I make to show students how to make their own? 
  • Involve students in their own assessment: I do this some, but feel like I could improve in this area. I do a lot of formative assessment in which I ask students to rate how well they understand the concept, or maybe text in something they've learned or are wondering about with our ActivExpressions, but I feel like I could tackle this aspect of assessment better during conferences and small groups. 
Want to read more about Guided Math? Check out our book study hosts:
Chapter 8: Primary Inspired

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Assessment in the Writer's Workshop and a Freebie!

Do you have a great Writer's Workshop going (or planned) but are not sure how to go about assessing your students? One of my readers suggested I post about this very topic, so here goes! I am a firm believer in writing and writing every day. My students write every day about self-selected topics and sometimes to prompts that I give them. They spend a lot of time writing, and while I recognize how important this is, it is sometimes difficult for all of their hard work to be reflected in their Language grade...I feel like since my students are spending so much time writing, they should get credit for their hard work (or the other way around, if necessary). The problem is, how do you GRADE writing?! We've all heard horror stories about little writers' hopes being dashed to shreds due to a sea of red marks on their papers. Maybe we've even been the victims of such grading. So, here's the way I do it. I've based my system off of Aimee Buckner's Notebook Know-How. This is a fabulous book that you just have to read! She is a real teacher who's written about real lessons in her classroom. Very practical and easy to use.

I've chosen to grade the Writer's Notebook. I do this using a rubric about twice during a nine-week period. It may seem overwhelming, but if you conference with your students often, you already are very familiar with what is in their notebook, so it isn't as time-consuming as you might think at first.

I like this method because it gives me an overall evaluation of the writer and their work as a whole, rather than ONLY grading one or two pieces of writing. (I may still grade a piece or two of writing during the nine weeks, especially to get them ready for our open-ended responses to state testing).

I evaluate 5 categories: Flexibility/Fluency, Thoughtfulness, Frequency, Grammar/Usage, and Writing Behavior.

  • Flexibility/Fluency: I expect students to write in a variety of genres and topics. I also expect them to at least try some of the strategies they're learning in mini-lessons and complete most of their entries. This takes lots of modeling!  Most of us may have one or two strengths as writers, but its important for our writers to be flexible and fluent, especially at this young age.  I watch out for if they are only writing about a certain topic or in one genre, or if they start a new piece every day without returning to finish it. 
  • Thoughtfulness: This one can be tough, but its important for students to be thoughtful writers. Are their entries superficial, only scratching the surface of a topic? Or are they deep with well-developed topics? Is there evidence that the writer has spent time thinking and planning through their piece or did he or she simply jot something down to be finished in a hurry? This category is perhaps the most subjective, but I use it because I want my students to continually dig deeper as writers. 
  • Frequency: I expect my students to write about a page per day. Some days there will be less and some more, but it will usually equal to at least a page per day. This amount helps promote their writing fluency. If a student has only written a few lines each day there is a definite red flag! Is there trouble with letter formation or spelling, slowing the student down? Does the student have trouble generating topics to write about? 
  • Grammar/Usage: This is one of those sticky points among some teachers, but I believe that using correct grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling is extremely important! (Be truthful...how many times do you shake your head and mentally correct something you read on the Internet? I know I do :) I expect students to use what they have learned in their own writing. For example, if we've learned that an interrogative sentence ends with a question mark, I expect that students put question marks at the end of interrogative sentences in their writing. They must spell word wall words and spelling words correctly. If they've learned that the letter I is always capitalized, then it should be written that way. In short, I expect them to put into practice the mechanics of writing they've learned up to that particular point. 
  • Writing Behavior: This is more of a daily observation by the teacher. Is the student using time wisely by getting started right away and writing/working the whole time? Does he or she follow classroom procedures so that others aren't disturbed while writing? This doesn't mean that as soon as we begin, students put pencil to paper and don't stop until I ring the bell or call "time." I tell my students that it is okay to stop and think, to go back and reread other entries, or notes from mini-lessons. They know they may get a dictionary or thesaurus or look up a word on-line if they need to. But as a teacher, I can tell when they are doing those things for real and when they're displaying avoidance behaviors.  
So, there you have it! If you read this entire post, kudos to you! Sorry it was so long, but I had a lot to say on this topic. Now, grab your freebie below! I made a black a white version for making copies and some color versions if you want to print those. I was thinking about printing a different color for each grading period onto sticker paper and sticking them into the notebook on the back of the last entry up to that point. That way I have a record the student and I can easily refer to when conferencing and determining what they need to work on. 

I basically rate each category with a 4, 3, 2, or 1 then add up the total points and multiply by 5. The product is the student's grade.

Update: I removed the embedded doc because every time my page loaded it went down to the doc instead of staying on the top of the page. You can access it here:  Writer's Notebook Evaluation

How about you? Do you have a great way to assess notebooks or single pieces of writing? I'd love to hear how you handle assessment in your writing block.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guided Math Chapter 7

My text connections were working on overdrive as I read this chapter! I was a trained Reading Recovery teacher and taught Reading Recovery for three years a while back, and there were so many things that I could relate to as I read this chapter.

The structure of the math conference is similar to the one on one Reading Recovery lessons. You may have a goal for students or a specific teaching point in mind, but you're basically teaching on the fly. The conference follows this procedure:

  • Research Student Understanding
  • Decide What is Needed
  • Teach to Student Needs
  • Link to the Future
Some things that really stood out to me as I read:
  • Twice in the chapter Sammons mentions that there is no one correct teaching point for any particular conference. I've seen this so many times in Reading Recovery, as well as reading and writing conferences. For me, this lessens the pressure of making sure I taught "the right thing." As long as I'm teaching to students' needs based on evidence I gather, its okay!Which brings me to my next point:
  • Like Reading Recovery, in a math conference you are teaching to a specific child's needs. Start with what the child knows and build on that foundation. 
  • Start with an authentic praise about something the child is doing well. Sammons mentions that students may feel apprehensive when the teacher stops by for a conference. They may automatically wonder what it is they're doing wrong. Encouraging students by telling them what they're doing RIGHT will help ease their anxiety, build their confidence, and help solidify the knowledge they do have. Which brings me to my wish:
Does anyone out there have a list of stems to use during a math conference? I have one for reading broken down by skills from my Reading Recovery days, but it would really help my on the fly teaching if I had the same thing for math. My reading one is formatted like this:

Reading Conference Example Stems

Does anyone have something like this? If not maybe I can make one.

Thanks to all of our hosts so far:

Chapter 1: Primary Inspired

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Made It: Ruler Holders

This is a quick post, because we're leaving for the beach in just a few minutes! Whoo-hoo! But I had to link up with Tara's Monday Made It! I made these cute ruler holders from Pringles cans, scrapbook paper, stick on letters, and glue:

My inspiration came from Classroom DIY:

Want to see more Made Its? Check out Tara's awesome blog:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reviving Four Blocks: Writing

This post is the third in a series I've begun about the Four Blocks Literacy Model. (If you've missed the other two, you can click HERE to view them). If you're not familiar with the framework, the literacy model is broken into four blocks: Self-Selected Reading, Working with Words, Guided Reading, and Writing. The basic idea is that to have a balanced literacy approach, you should include each of the four blocks every day.  So, now on to the Writing  block....

What is it?
This block is all about students spending time writing. This is basically your writing workshop or work on writing (daily 5). This block is easily multilevel and differentiated because students are often choosing what to write about. But, even if they aren't choosing, students write at their own level. And what's great about this block is that you can use students' writing to help them become better readers. Most children can read their own writing, even if they struggle with reading books. You can use this path as a bridge to help students.

Structure of the block:

  • Minilesson: This is a time of teacher modeling. I literally write for and with students as they watch, thinking aloud as I go. The minilesson topic might be on generating topics to write about, editing my writing, using strong verbs, thinking of a catchy title, strategies for spelling words, or any number of things. The point is that the teacher writes as a model every single day. I can't stress to you how important it is for your kiddos to see you writing. If you haven't done this before and are a little wary, just jump right in! I promise you, if you get stuck, your kiddos have tons of ideas that they'll want you to include in your writing. At the end of each modeled writing, the teacher models rereading to edit and revise with student help. They love to catch your "mistakes." 
  • Student Writing: Students write on self-selected topics. Occasionally I give students a topic to write about because I like to use a balanced approach, but generally they choose their own. Just as in self-selected reading, this is the time when the teacher can conference with individuals (over the shoulder conferences) or pull a small group to work on a specific skill.
  • Sharing: This is a major part of the writing block. Take this away and you'll see students' desires to write begin to dwindle. I usually have about 5 minutes at the end of the block for sharing and let about 4 students share. I never force them to share, but each student is assigned a day of the week as their sharing day. If something crazy happens and we're running out of time, I will occasionally tell students to share their writing with a few friends. It's a smaller audience, but more children can share. I also try to give specific feedback, such as, "I like the way you used dialogue when you're characters talked to each other," or "Nice grabber at the beginning! That really wanted me to keep reading!" rather than, "Good job!" 
What I love about it:
For one thing, since I love to write, I especially enjoy the chance to write for and with my kiddos. I also really enjoy reading my students' writing and conversing with them one on one. Sometimes its really surprising to read some of the things they come up with. And of course the sharing is such a great way to build community! 

How about you? What does Writing look like in your classroom? Do you love it? Hate it? I'd love to hear from you :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A New Blog, and Technology Tailgate

I have some exciting news! After much thought and prayer I've started another blog, Lean Learn Love, which is totally dedicated to my Christian walk. I'll be posting things that I've learned and am learning, along with links to Christian apps, blogs, and web tools. I wanted a space dedicated solely to Christian living. I'd love for you to stop by sometime and check it out!


In another news, I'm a new contributor to Technology Tailgate! I'm very excited to be included in this great new collaborative blog because I really believe in using technology as a tool to engage students. If you haven't seen it yet, follow the link below to head over there:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Guided Math Chapter 6

I loved the "big picture" of Math Workshop provided in Chapter 6. I tend to think "whole to part" rather than "part to whole" so this was really beneficial to me. The components are:

  • Review of Previously Mastered Concepts
  • Math Fact Automaticity
  • Math Games
  • Problem-Solving Practice
  • Investigations
  • Math Journals
  • Computer Use
  • Math Related to Other Subject Areas
From what I understand, these are the things that students are doing independently. This section of the Guided Math block takes place after your calendar time and minilesson, while you are meeting with small groups or conferencing one on one. 

A few things I found interesting:
  1. Sammons states "For teachers who are implementing Math Workshop for the first time, it is often initially wise to limit the range of activities and find out what works well for them." (186) I couldn't agree more!!! Just like with introducing choices for Daily 5, I envision using the same process with Guided Math. I plan to introduce one thing at a time using the 10 Steps to Independence. 
  2. It's important to help students develop endurance and work with independence. I can't focus on a small group or one student if I'm constantly interrupted. I think using the 10 Steps to Independence will be an easy transition in math for me and the students since it is something we'll be doing in reading as well.
  3. Students must develop automaticity with facts in order to be proficient in computation. This is one of my soap box items! Students MUST know math facts and be able to recall them quickly  in order to free up their working memory and be able to focus on more complex tasks. It's just like reading: We all know that if a child is struggling to remember that J says /j/ that child will not read the word 'job' fluently, which will cause a breakdown in comprehension. We work for automaticity in letter/sound recognition and sight words...it just makes sense to do this with math facts. (I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but it's just one of those things I feel strongly about). 
So, what to do with all of this? Well, even though the chapter was rather short, there was quite a lot to think about and plan how to implement. I'm going to start with Math Fact Automaticity and share a few ideas I've used to help my students gain it. 

Daily Fact Practice: I usually spend 5 minutes or so on daily timed practice with facts. I found that is a great way to really keep the facts fresh on kiddos' minds. 
  • Abiator's Times Tables is a site that I use to practice whole group. It flashes a problem on the board and students call out the answer.
  • Multiplication Rock-Remember these? If you have access to YouTube, these are great videos! Sometimes we'll watch while students are getting ready to take a timed test.
  • Paper and Pencil drills: We do these every day. I have some with our old program and that I've collected that only take about 3 minutes to do.
  • Wrap-Ups: I purchased a class set of these last year. Kids love them because they're like a game. Sometimes I time them to see how many times they can finish their wrap-up in 2 minutes. They come with a CD also!
  • Super Speed Numbers: I plan to implement this next year. You can download everything you need for free from Whole Brain Teaching. It basically turns timed tests into a game and competition against yourself. The goal is to beat your best score. 
  • Math Fact Practice Log: I haven't used this in a while, but I created it one year when my students were really behind in learning math facts. They needed nightly practice and weren't doing it, so I created this log. At the end of the grading period, they turned in the log for a test grade. It was a great way to help get parents involved and it didn't take much of the families' time. 
I vary the activities to keep it interesting for the students, but I really feel like the daily review is extremely important. I'm hoping that maybe as I learn more about Super Speed Numbers I can move this activity to the Guided Math portion instead of using my whole group time. Time will tell!

Don't forget to check out our book study hosts:

Chapter 1: Primary Inspired

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Make My Forms Yours: A How-To Guide


After recently receiving a very kind email asking how to change some information in the forms I've shared (Guided Math Form and Reading Record Form), I thought maybe more than one person needed to know how. So, I've created this quick tutorial:

  1. First, open the spreadsheet that I shared in the posts I've linked above. 
  2. On the File menu, click Make a copy...
  3. Enter a name for your copy of the form and click okay. You're new form will open automatically.
  4. On the form menu, click Edit Form
  5. A new window will open that looks like the picture below. You'll be able to edit each question and the theme if you wish. 
The best part is, everything is saved automatically! 

Good luck, and if you have any questions, please let me know. I'll be glad to help!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Objective Display for Monday Made It!

How many of you are required to display your daily/weekly objectives in your classroom? I'm not really required, but it has been suggested. My problem...I'm not so great at keeping things like that up to date. I worry that I'll get so busy I won't update the objectives. And then I saw this adorable idea on Pinterest:

That is so stinking cute! Surely I'd be motivated to keep these up to date! Enter this week's Monday Made It project: Dollar Tree frames + cardstock + awesome pages I made = Tadaa!

They're laying on the concrete around my pool, which I should be in, but...there's so much to blog about! Anyway, I'm sharing the file with you! If you're addicted to polka dots and love owls, just click the text below the picture, and you'll be taken to the Google Doc. I did make a page that says Social Studies since I realize many of you may not teach Alabama History. :) Enjoy!

Thanks again, Tara for doing the Monday Made It Linky! I've loved all the great ideas!


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