Wednesday, August 17, 2016

5 Great Ways to Use Math Games for Math Workshop: Organization tips and ideas

math intervention

One of my goals for this summer was to figure out some systems for keeping my math workshop materials organized and accessible. I didn't get everything accomplished that I wanted to, but I made some headway.  Let me tell you my thought process and what I did!

First of all, I really wanted to focus on getting my intervention resources  in a usable state--I have SO many games but I was always having to go dig for them and I just wasn't being efficient.  For me, these games are super important because I use them in so many ways.  I thought I might share them with you in case you haven't been using your games as flexibly as you might be!

1.  As whole class review opportunities

I will often teach a math game to my class if I want them to use it during math workshop to review or practice a skill.  This is a great way for students to play games together that may not get to work together often because of different skill levels.  I sometimes play games in this way at the end of a unit--or to "spiral" instruction where I want to keep working on a skill from previous units.

2.  As intervention lessons

Using games as true "learning activities" in intervention groups is one of my favorite things to do.  For one thing, students who need remediation and intervention probably didn't learn the concept during the initial lesson--so reteaching in the same way makes no sense.  Using a "game" format where I can play with the group, coach, instruct, and have fun is a perfect way to provide good, targeted instruction and really see what students can and can't do--in a fun and engaging way.

3.  As small group skill practice

Similarly, if students don't really need reteaching but might need additional practice, having small groups who need work on specific skills or strategies play relevant games ('learning activities") to reinforce the skills is a great way to keep them focused and on task.  Similarly, when students play games, they are working cooperatively, using math talk, all while practicing necessary math skills.

4.  As replacement homework

One thing that has become painfully obvious to me over the years is that students who struggle in math, struggle with math homework--and for a number of reasons.  First of all, often the math homework (although I don't give much and I tend to give review work as homework...but that's another post!) is simply too difficult.  If a student is performing several grade levels below expectation, even review work is not appropriate.  After all, we certainly don't want students practicing math INCORRECTLY, right?  Similarly, many students who struggle don't have the support at home to help...either because the family doesn't have the skill set to assist (math has changed quite a bit since people our age went to school!) or any number of other reasons.  Certainly motivation is a problem as well...and the last thing we want is our frustrated students to get MORE frustrated.  What's an easy solution?  Send math games home!  What a perfect way to build relationships with home, provide that fluency practice that is needed, and actually get students feeling good about doing homework!  Check out below for some ideas about how to organize this so you don't lose track of your games.

5.  As fluency work

Finally, some skills just need constant reinforcement to build fluency and automaticity.  We want our students to know their math facts and other critical math skills instantly--like "sight words" in reading.  Once we have taught students strategies, they need lots of reinforcement to build those connections in the brain so they cement the knowledge.  Working on games is an engaging and meaningful way for students to build that fluency.

Keeping organized is key--don't waste time looking for materials! try to get a handle on the dozens and dozens of games in my collection I started to make some labels that show the game name, a photo, and the skills that the game works on.  
structuring decomposing
I actually made TWO copies of each label--one to stay in the bag, and one to use as a "check out card"--perfect for sending home for homework!  
math game organization
math game organizationSome of my games I stored in plastic zip bags...and just use smaller bags for small pieces.  I love to keep all supplies in the, dice, counters--whatever is needed so no time is wasted--whether I am using the game for a group or students are grabbing it to play.  The less "transitions" and places to move to get settled, the less management issues we have.
math workshop organization
 The zip bags work great...but I wanted to find a way to use something more durable so that I can send games home and have them feel more "professional" and less likely to be thrown away.  I was at a workshop and got a free sample of a "Seat Sack" by and my brain started turning.  I know lots of teachers love these for reading groups (especially in the primary grades), but I thought they were perfect for math games!
math game organization
 I contacted the company and got a bunch more and I am LOVING how durable and easy to use they are.  All the pieces for the games fit perfectly and they have that awesome sliding pocket at the top for me to put the game labels!  I am hooked.  I can grab a bag to use with an intervention group OR know I can send the bag home with everything remaining safe inside!  The company was super easy to work with and the bags came really fast.  DEFINITELY looking forward to having something more substantial this year because I really want to increase how much home/school math work I do.  

One other task I wanted to accomplish (and I'm partway there!) was to organize my games in "clusters" if I want to work on place value skills, I can grab those games to either use in groups or to use as a part of math workshop.  I thought YOU might like this convenience as well, so I have (so far) made 3 bundles of four games...and I made the tags to go in the storage bags as well!  These are all Dollar Deal games so they are available individually as well, but you can save a bit by buying 4 at a time and you get the labels as well if that is something interesting to you.  If it looks like this is something people are interested in, I'll start creating more bundles!  I'd love to hear your feedback!

math intervention games

Interested in taking a look?  Here are the first three bundles!

Thanks for stopping by...and don't forget that another round of my problem solving webinar is open!  Just CLICK HERE to register.

Monday, August 15, 2016

More Webinar Sessions Now Open!

Creating a climate for problem solving and growth mindset
Oh my goodness...I am so overwhelmed with the positive feedback from my first three sessions of my webinar.  I have had countless people asking if I would please do more sessions since they missed the first three--so I have agreed to do two more in a few weeks!  I am having so much fun sharing the work of Jo Boaler and other experts on how to make your math classroom a fun, research-based, and engaging place for you and your students.  I am humbled by your feedback and motivated to continue the work to bring you more webinars in the future.  Here's what a few people had to say after the first round of webinars...
Teaching math
Professional development teaching math

So even though it is an absolutely crazy time of year, I have decided to offer my webinar 2 more times--on 
Thursday, August 25 at 8 pm central 
and on 
Sunday, August 28 at 3 pm central.

I am excited to reach more and more teachers and get them excited about if you have a teacher you know who might be interested--or even a principal who might like to learn more about the power of creating a climate for problem solving and the importance of understanding the concept of growth mindset and best practice--I'd love for you to share the link with them!  I will most likely have more sessions in September, but with the start of my own school year, I am not ready to schedule them yet, so these two dates will be my last for a little while.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP or copy this link (  to share with others who may be interested.

A reminder that the freebie related to the webinar is available by clicking may find it a useful place to take notes and keep track of some of the information presented.  It certainly is NOT necessary but feedback on it has been positive.

If you missed the original information...this one hour free webinar talks about the work of Jo Boaler and the importance of establishing a climate of excitement in our math classes, trends in "best practice" in teaching math, how to organize your math block to maximize the minutes you spend "targeting" instruction at just the right level for your different students, and how to design and use real world math tasks in your classroom!

Finally, I have had a number of attendees ask for the link to the Jo Boaler book I reference in the webinar, so I have included an affiliate link to Amazon below if you want to check it out.  It was such a game changer for me...and only about ten bucks!

Finally....I just want to give you a little preview of some upcoming blog posts...about math workshop organization...back to school ideas...getting a year of reading started--and more!  Hope to see you back here soon.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Classroom Must Haves: Things I Can’t “Picture” Myself Teaching Without

It's getting close to that official "back to school" day for me, so my friends over at Upper Elementary Snapshots and I thought it would fun to host a fun series of posts and a giveaway to celebrate!

Each of us will showcase FOUR things we just can't "picture (Upper Elementary SNAPSHOTS--get it?) teaching without!  So here we go with my collection...

First of all each of us is showcasing a favorite school supply or classroom tool--and I am a HUGE fan of Mr. Sketch smelly markers...but when I make my anchor charts, I have found that some of the Mr. Sketch colors fade under fluorescent lights.  I tried the Sharpie brand chart markers and INSTANTLY fell in love.  I have included two affiliate links below if you want to check them out.  I usually order the first ones (the are an "add on" item for other shopping orders) or you can order the bigger set.  I just love them.

Here are a few anchor charts I made with them...super clean lines, lots of ink, super nice.

So here are the links if you want to check them out...

Our next "Showcase" item is a favorite book...I wanted to share Fish in a Tree because it is my beginning of the year read aloud but I JUST mentioned it in a blog post so I thought I'd share a book I got last year and read with my class--and now am going to read AND make a back to school bulletin board with...the book is super cute.  "Only One You" is a short picture book with quite a punch. The illustrations are so bright--but what I love most is all the inspirational quotes.  I am going to have each student make a "quote" of their own...we will type them up in fun fonts, then make our own fish projects to display.  Stay tuned for the final project!

The THIRD thing we are highlighting is a product from our own store...and this was hard for me to pick.  I would have to say that one of my favorite resources for back to school time is my perseverance resource.  If you have followed me for any length of time, watched my FB Lives, or have attended my recent webinar series, you know that creating a culture of math "excitement" is super important to me.  This resource is one of the things I use at the beginning of the year to help set the stage for challenge and perseverance is...

I use it to start the year and teach how to work with partners...and that not all problems are easy....and that not all problems have one answer.  These are all new for some students--especially the very capable ones!  

The FINAL "Must Have" we are all sharing is a FREEBIE!  Who doesn't want something free, right?  I thought I'd share a freebie of mine that you might not have's a sample of how I tend to make my word problem resources--with three different formats.  This freebie can let you give one a try and see what you think!

After you've downloaded my freebie be sure to visit each of the blogs below to add 12 more FREE RESOURCES to your own collection of things you can't picture yourself teaching without. Afterwards swing by our collaborative blog, Upper Elementary Snapshots for lots of great content and ideas you can put into practice in your own classrooms as well as a chance to win gift cards to Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Teachers Pay Teachers so you can stock up on your own Classroom Must Haves.

Thanks for stopping by--and go visit all these other posts to check out their favorites!  (And don't forget to enter to win at Upper Elementary Snapshots!)

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Want to join me for a FREE math webinar?

problem solving teaching

A free webinar?  

Tell me more!

So...I have had an interesting summer with diving into new ventures...I reluctantly tried Facebook Live--and loved being able to talk with people around the world about math...but there are some real limitations with it. 

1.  I do NOT like my face being the main thing people see when I have so many OTHER things I'd rather they look at!  It is super hard with FB Live to "show" I started searching for a better way to do it.

2.  Facebook Live has a "delay"--so if a participant asked me a question, there would be a 20-30 second lag before I would see it.  It makes it challenging to have a true "conversation".

3. People would often tune in late (which is fine--and they can watch replays)--but it sometimes makes it hard when they join in partway through the conversation.

Now this doesn't meant that I won't be doing more Facebook Lives--but it means I made the decision to look for a DIFFERENT way to connect with teachers to provide interesting and relevant staff development--and I think webinars are the way to go.

Webinars are a way for me to do a "presentation" of sorts...where I can share information, pictures, ideas, research, and classroom applications--and can allow you, the viewer, to have a forum for learning, asking questions, and getting new ideas for the classroom.

So...if you haven't been to a webinar before--it's simple.  You sign up (it's free),  you get an email reminder about it with a link to join, you click the link, and listen!  There is no microphone or anything needed on your end...any questions you have simply get entered in a "chat" format.  It's super easy.

Think it sounds interesting?  I decided that SO many people were interested in my Facebook Live videos about math workshop that I would start there and build from that.  So...what will I be "webinar-ing" about?

Topics Covered:

What does brain research say about learning math?

Working with a growth mindset is so critical in math, so let me give you some great information about what the experts in the field say about math instruction.
brain research growth mindset

What is "Best Practice" in math instruction?

(There is some pretty solid consensus about what we need LESS of in our classrooms and what we need MORE of--and I'll tell you more about that.

How can we better reach ALL students during our math block?

Math workshop does NOT need to mean "centers"--and I'll tell you what options you have.

How can we get started grouping students differently to maximize our instructional impact?

There are some simple ways to organize our "minutes" during math to get more targeted instruction--so students spend a higher percentage of their time getting what they need.

How can we think about problem solving differently in our classrooms?

We all use word problems in our classrooms to help students become better problem solvers--but there are other options as well.  We'll talk about looking for "real world" problem solving opportunities.

So...if this all sounds intriguing to you, I'd love to have you join me!  There are three times to sign up for at this time:


Tuesday, August 9 at 6 pm central

Thursday, August 11 at 8 pm central

Sunday, August 14 at 3 pm central

***UPDATED with 2 new sessions!***

Thursday, August 25 at 8 pm central

Sunday, August 28 at 3 pm central

Just CLICK HERE to reserve your is limited, but if everything fills up, I can certainly open new sections.

I made a little "Freebie" that can be printed as a note-taking guide for the webinar.  Is it not at all needed, but it might be a useful tool for you.  Just click the image below to grab it.
See you there!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Back to School SALE!

It's TIME!  The official Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School Sale "boost" is happening today!  I am revisiting this post from earlier this month to celebrate. I try to not do shameless product plugs...but at these sale times, I do like to showcase some of my favorite products you may not know about.

I have also published a new freebie if you want to grab it as well! now some of my absolute favorite resources...

My number 1.  My fraction unit.  This unit literally took months and months and was a true labor of love as my students and I worked through it.  I believe it to deepen true understanding of fractions at a level no textbook I have seen provide, and I love that you can use it as a complete replacement unit or use parts of it to supplement a textbook.  

With it, my fraction word problems, and my fraction sorts, you have a month's work of quality fraction explorations.  Thanks to a loyal follower who suggested I bundle them!  I would say my fraction unit is my favorite. 

 Then it gets tricky to choose...

Another set of "favorites" are my word problem bundles because I am PASSIONATE about getting our students to do more problem solving and whether or not your have a series you love, a series you despise, or no series at all--we ALL need to have more word problems on hand to use as class warm ups, cooperative problems solving, stations, and more.  My bundles of word problems are pretty popular and I have gotten lots of feedback about what a time saver they are.  Here are a few!
Another thing I feel pretty passionate about is helping students learn to be independent readers and book lovers!  These two resources have been helpful to hundreds of teachers who are looking for new ways to keep their kids reading, to track their reading, to build excitement about books, and to realize that reading is a personal and enjoyable experience.  

I know lots of you have used my concept sorts over the last year, so I had to include my latest one. If you haven't tried using concept sorts--either that YOU have made or that you got from seriously HAVE to try.  It is so much fun--and you can see how much more deeply your students will think about the topics.  I have more in the works--but this one is a GREAT one for back to school because it really gets them thinking about the concept of "equals"--the foundation of SO much math work!  There are also fraction, multiplication, geometry, and angle sorts available so far in my store--and a bundle as well!
In staying with a math theme, developing number sense is SO important--and many students move to the intermediate grades with a less sophisticated understanding of our place value system than we would like.  Using number limes in an open ended way has really helped me both see where my students' understanding is AND help me create lessons and practice opportunities for them. Last year I created a resource using the numbers 0-1,000 and it was a perfect thing for first quarter.  As the year went on, I realized that I wanted to do more with the higher numbers, so this resource was born!  It is a challenge for many at first, but you will see their understanding grow as you work through these and share ideas as a class. I have both sets available and on sale.
Along the same line, I feel pretty strongly about helping students learn to tackle challenging problems--even problems that may have more than one answer--so that they learn the trait of perseverance.  So often students are unwilling to take risks when they come to my class OR math has always been so easy for them that they don't know what to do when they encounter something tricky.  Thus, "Perseverance Problems" were born.  In my class I used them in a few different ways--from cooperative problem solving exercises to challenge work for some of my top students.  This is definitely one of my favorites--so check it out!
Another product line that has made a HUGE difference in my classroom is my Thinker Tasks.  These open ended problems area great for whole class, small groups, or fast finishers.  They are all differentiated and students can work at their own pace--some doing just a bit of it, and others taking full advantage.  There are 7 different products in the line now--and a bundle of all 7 at a reduced price.  See what you think!

Using formative assessment is SO key to making good instructional decisions.  I found myself CONSTANTLY creating exit and entrance slips to go with my lessons--so I created this resource as a time saver!  Each one has a whole bunch of "empty" slips for you to use to tailor to your lessons--almost like graphic organizers.  New to this?  I have given suggestions for use for EACH one!  Check out the preview for me.  I use these ALL. THE.  TIME.
Finally, last year I was complaining to my friend about how my students over the years seem to lack the creativity they had years ago and we chatted and put blame on everything from TV to video games to our textbooks and so on.  I went home that night and decided to do something about it! Over the next months, 6 different "activities" were born and all 6 of them are included in this bundle.  This is rapidly becoming one of my best sellers--and my students LOVE them!  See what you think!
I also am in love with my latest line of novel studies including one for the AMAZING "Fish in a Tree" book.  Have you read it?  If not, I highly highly recommend it!  

And finally, my "Maps and Globes" unit is done...this is how I start the year and it is full of projects, creative thinking, interactive notebook components, assessments, and more.  I am super proud of the level of challenge--AND the level of fun!

You may also know I have a TON of math games...I have started bundling them together in sets of "like" games to make planning easy.  They even have labels included for labeling bags or bins!  Here is one...there are 3 sets so far and more on the way!

So...this is just a small handful of the many products in my store...and after the sale is finished, this post will be hidden from view!  If you end up purchasing any--I'd love to hear what you think!  Stop by my STORE or my FACEBOOK page and check things out!