Sunday, September 14, 2014

September Loved That Lesson! Punctuation Power

It's time again for "Loved That Lesson"...and today I thought I'd share a simple lesson I did last week that seemed to make things a little more clear for my students!

If your students are like mine, recognizing where to put periods and other end punctuation is really challenging.  I get a TON of run on sentences in my class..."I love to play football it is my favorite sport." seems to be one of the trickiest writing problems to fix.  They just don't seem to "hear" where one idea ends and another starts.  So...I set that as my goal--to help them "hear" where to end a sentence.  Here was the sequence I used.

First of all, I talked about wanting the students to really listen as I did our read aloud--and I really stressed those pausing points, the questions, and the exclamation points.
Then I wrote a simplistic paragraph and left out ALL punctuation.  We worked together to put it in where it belonged.
I then sent my students back to study their own writing and to hunt for places to put in missing punctuation.  I then asked them to highlight some of their "favorite" sentences...sentences that conveyed an idea very clearly or in a descriptive or interesting way.  They had to confirm with a partner that it WAS a full sentence.
I then gave each student a sentence strip to record or "publish" their best sentence.
They traced over it with thin marker to make it pop!
I can't wait to hang them all up in our "Sentence Museum"--it was a great way to "publish" work in one quick work time and to start to build our understanding of quality writing.  Want to check out more great ideas?  See what other lessons "link up" below!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Puzzling Start!

Early in the year I like to give my students time to revisit some of the work quality expectations along with a little bit of fun, and using "puzzles" has been something I have done for years!

To begin, I teach a little lesson about what it means to do quality presentation-worthy work.  We brainstorm a list that includes everything from using pencil before you color, cut carefully, color in one direction, draw big and bold, print neatly, spell carefully, and so on.  I then explain the puzzle project--that each student will design a puzzle piece that represents them...their favorite things, and so on.  I explain that we will use these to get to know each other--AND to practice doing quality work!

They have a blast!

Ready to roll!
Getting started with our designing...
Cooperating to build the puzzle and find their "matches"!
Ta da!!!!
In addition to THIS project, I do another cooperative activity in the first few days related to puzzles--and then revisit the activity in January.  I put the students in teams of 3 to put together a 100 piece puzzle.  Before they begin I ask them to talk about what cooperation should look like and then send them off to work.  I am always FLOORED by how many students really struggle doing jigsaw puzzles.  I love walking around and observing the group dynamics.
This team worked SO well!  They immediately agreed upon a "complete the edges first" strategy and ended up being the first group to finish.  They made wonderful small talk and really seemed to enjoy the experience.
This group had a tough time getting started until one person suggested that they organize the pieces by color--and then they were on their way!
This was my "parallel play" group--they all grabbed a few pieces to try to put together but really didn't seem to have any "team strategies"
Some groups were starting to get frustrated so we had a class meeting to share some strategies and encouragement and then I sent them back to work.  It took different groups different amounts of time, but they all finished and it was SO much fun to hear the cheers from each group as they finished--and to see the other groups rush over to see what their finished picture was.  There are so many lessons to teach besides reading, writing, and arithmetic--aren't there? 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Major Problem Solving Situation! Success!


That's all I can say!  Today I had a discussion with my class about "precision" and what that means. (Kicking myself for forgetting to take pic of our anchor chart).  We talked about getting the right answer--but also getting efficient answers. We talked about getting a good plan and checking over our work.  We talked about neatness and labels and units.

Then I told them the truth.  That we were going to work on one math problem for an entire hour--maybe more.



"I hate math!"

"It's too hard."  (Really?  You haven't SEEN it.)

So...I introduced the situation by asking them about their back to school shopping...if they did it at one store.  If they did it at multiple stores.  If they shopped sales.  If they loved it...despised it...

And then I asked what they would do if their family simply gave them a list and $300.  They got pretty excited about the possibility...some were going to spend every last cent, others were going to buy cheap stuff so they have money left, and others seemed to not know which approach to take.

I showed them the problem, showed them the two levels of challenge available, discussed expectations--and reminded them to PERSEVERE and work with PRECISION.

The task?  Mila has $300 to spend on her back to school clothing and backpack.  I told them what needed to be purchased (ex. 5 pair of pants, 2 sweatshirts, etc), made sure they understood that there are three stores to shop at ("Wow...Fashion House is REALLY expensive!" and "Let's make sure to spend extra on a good backpack because it has to last all year!")

and off they went!
Our math data sheets...two price lists (differentiated numbers) and a locker decor price list to use as a "part 2" if groups got that far.
Partner problem solving at its finest!
One team asked if I had any "money" for them to use to help.  I showed them where to access it whenever needed.
Working on writing up our final recommendations.
After we finished the first stage, we processed on what went well and what improvements we could have made.  Long story short?  Everyone participated.  Everyone was focused.  Most teams felt like everyone was included equally.  Most teams finished the task and were moving on to extensions.  Improvements needed?  "Level 2" voices!  As the teams got deeper and deeper into the problem, the intensity level and THUS THE NOISE went up!  We set that as a goal for our work tomorrow.  We easily could extend this another day because we didn't even TOUCH the practice activities.  I'll use those here and there over the next few days.  

Mission accomplished!  I can't wait to continue working with my students on their problem solving, collaboration, and accountable math talk.  They couldn't believe they worked on ONE problem for an entire hour!  I loved listening to their mathematical discussions and being the "guide on the side".  

Want to see more of what we did?  Check it out.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The first few days of pictures!

The first week is (almost) finished and I thought I'd share some of our highlights!  It has been great getting to know my students, and I am looking forward to getting into even more routine next week.  What did we do?  Check it out...

My goal for the first week of school is to start to get to know my students, to start to build some routines, to get them excited about school, and to help them begin to build relationships with each other.  In addition to going over safety things and other such "business" the first day, the best part of the day was the afternoon where I had the students do 4 rotations:

1.  Meet with me in the classroom library to learn how it is organized and to start a list of "Books I want to read"!  It was a great way to start to share my excitement about books.
2.  Name activities...the students had a blast using Scrabble letters to figure out what their name is "worth"--and then finding all their classmates' names in a word search.
3.  Working on a giant puzzle piece (more to come on this!)
4.  Independent reading from our "just for fun" books

Snooping at a book bin and writing down books on their "Books I Want to Read" list.  The Mike Lupica bin was a popular one with this group!
They had a blast--and I learned that lots of students did NOT know how to spell their middle names!
I loved watching them work together on their hunt...
Days 2 and 3 started to get us a little bit more into content--with more "getting to know you" activities sprinkled in.
Making "Friend Venns"...tomorrow we will try to do a 3 way Venn! 
Day 1 of our reading mini lessons...
Day 2 of our reading lessons
Setting the stage for a year of tough math will we handle it?  We had a great talk about it today!
We did a math survey today...I want to know who my reluctant math students are--so I can change their minds!!!
The rest of the math survey...lots of "I don't like time tests!"  There was QUITE a cheer when I told them we wouldn't be doing them! 
This was SO much fun!  No more "Getting to Know You" bingo...we interviewed each other and made mosaics in the process.  They LOVED it!
So...I hope all of you had a great week...stay tuned next week for some more classroom updates as we REALLY dig in to fourth grade!

(NOTE:  Lots of these activities came from my Teaching Teamwork resource that you can find HERE if you are interested.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Math In Real Life: Back to School Desk Arranging!

It's the first Wednesday of September which means it's time for our monthly linky - Math IS Real Life!!  If you want to see how the linky works, or just want other real world math ideas, check out our Pinterest Board of all the posts so that you can look back and find some great ideas and REAL pictures to use in your classroom!  
If you are linking up, please include the below picture AND a link back to all four of our blogs - feel free to use the 2nd image and the links listed below!

A monthly REAL WORLD math blog link-up hosted by

As many of you can relate, I have spent the better part of the last weeks getting ready for a new crew of fourth graders.  From planning to box unpacking to board decorating to room arranging--I don't even WANT to know the real world math involved in figuring out how much prep time has been spent preparing!

This year I have 24 students. This is typically a FANTASTIC number for desk arranging.  I can do 2's.  3's.  4's.  6' get the drift. (Love that FACTOR talk, right?).  This year, however, I have a bit of a conundrum.  I have 24 students-but 11 are boys and 13 are girls.  I tend to like to keep at least 2 of each gender at a table, so I started playing with different permutations of how I could make this happen.

I tried 3's.  I tried 4's.  I even started sketching on the white board to see what I could be missing.

Desks in 3's?  Couldn't make it work.

Desks in 5's?  4's?  Couldn't make it work.

This was NOT a temper tantrum.  They are tippy when they are empty!  Just sayin'.

So...I finally decided on an arrangement that involved a group of 4 boys, a group of 3 girls, a group of 5 (2 girls, 3 boys), two groups of  4 (2 girls, 2 boys), and one group of 4 girls.  It worked.  It wasn't pretty--but it worked.

So the more I started thinking about it, I realize that this might be a fun "first math activity" for my students--something to show them that math is really a process, that there can be more than one answer, that putting heads together can lead to new ideas--and more!  I put together a little template of 24 desks and gave the students a packet with the background information, a class map, and then a list of "explorations" to try.  It was VERY challenging--but we persevered!
One pair asked if they could label the desks "B" and "G" to help...
Getting ready to experiment!
Here was the "scenario"...

Here were the investigations!  The students were told to pick one to try...and if they solved it, to try another.
Want to grab the freebie? CLICK HERE to get a copy for yourself.  You could always change the name and numbers if you want--but feel free to use as is!

Don't forget to check out all the other "Math is Real Life" posts below!  Have a great day--watch for a first day of school post coming soon!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Currently September

It's time to connect with Farley over at
for her "Currently" link up!  I love to see what people have going on--and I REALLY love reading Farley's posts.  She has the coolest writing style, and I feel happier and inspired after reading her blog.  So ready?

It's pretty early Monday morning, and I'm the only one up.  I do my best work when everyone is quiet--so I need to capitalize!

So what's "Currently" going on?  A friend of mine got me addicted (YES, addicted) to "Word Chums".  When she told me that she often has about 20 games started at a time, I knew I should have run the other way.  I did not.  

On "First Day of School Eve", I am definitely feeling a little more hopeful than I was last year--I try to not complain, but last year was a tough one!  I loved meeting my new group last week an am excited to get started.  I'm working VERY hard to have a growth mindset this year--for ME and for my students!

Notice a trend on my my "wanting"?  I can't say it enough--I NEED TO EAT LESS AND MOVE MORE.  That is all.

I have a ginormous to do list today...I need to keep focused and do the best I can.  It looks like rain--so that is going to help me stay focused, right?  RIGHT?

Finally, I loved Farley's trip descriptions...I had to do a little thinking about where I would go.  For some reason, I never have had any interest in visiting Hawaii but I've learned some things about the culture recently and now it's a "must see".  I would also LOOOOOOOVE to go to Australia; I've had a fascination with it since I was little and my grandparents went.  They brought me a stuffed koala that plays music.  Yes I still have it.  Finally, my son is college shopping and everything on the list is far far away.  As soon as he decides, that location moves to the top of my list.  Sorry, islands, I'm sure you'll understand.  

So there.  That's my "Currently".  Go check out the zillions of other posts by clicking here and see what is going on in the lives of some other amazing bloggers.  Enjoy your Labor Day--don't work too hard!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The final product and Meet the Teacher

Let me start by reminding you that I am not cute.  There is nothing about me that is cute.  My clothes aren't cute.  My shoes aren't cute.  My classroom isn't "cute".  There is no theme.  Nothing coordinates.  However, when people walk in, they usually feel like it is a good place to be...there's something there.  Maybe it's the colors?  Maybe it's the really nice big size?  I don't know--but I know it's not CUTE.  It's why I'm even nervous posting it--I've seen other bloggers' classrooms.  I know what cute is.

Walking through my door...our calendar and important information board...the bathroom book table, etc

Our desks in clusters with a large group space by the easel and smartboard
Also not cute--but I tried to take a panoramic of my reading nook.  It just looks WEIRD and one whole wall behind the book spinner is cut off.

Chromebook station and "to be filled" boards--for student writing, anchor charts, and more
Even MORE books, and "me stuff"
The door.  Nothing cute.  I'm allllll about learning journeys--we all start at one place and end in another and take different paths to get there.  Project related to this will be coming next week!

Meet the teacher went well! Last year I had a rush in the middle and had a room full of people and felt like I never got to make a personal connection with each visitor.  This year, people trickled in a steady rate so I got to greet and chat with all that came.   I can't wait to get back all the parent intake forms to see what PARENTS have to tell me about their children--such valuable information.  I can't believe we start back on Tuesday!  Lots to do this weekend...