Saturday, December 20, 2014

Have you seen the new TpT gift certificates? Want to win one?

Laura Candler from Corkboard Connections has asked some of us to join up and celebrate the new look of the TpT gift certificates!  Many bloggers have all agreed to give away one $10.00 gift certificate on Christmas Eve to reward a whole bunch of our readers for following us!

So...check out the new look!  MUCH BETTER!  Looking for something to give to a teacher friend?  A student teacher?  I have given away a bunch of these over the last's something every teacher can use!  Just CLICK HERE to go to my store--and you will see a banner where you can easily buy them for your friends and coworkers (or ask someone to buy for YOU!)

So...want to win one of your own to use or share?  Just enter below and see if you are the lucky winner for my blog!   

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holiday Problem Solving at its FINEST!

I knew my students were excited to get started on our latest open ended problem solving task...they have been asking about it for a few weeks!

I kept putting them off and putting them off--because I wanted them to have the holiday edition to work on THIS week!  After our minilesson and practice time, we move into our workshop time--and this task was one of the choices I opened up today.  Of the 16 students who had the time to work, 12 of them grabbed this to do first!  You could have heard a pin drop as they dug in. .  . some alone, and some in pairs.  Before I let them get started, we reviewed expectations and the task itself.  Our goal?  Not just to solve it--but to find the MOST cookies that could be made AND to keep our work organized and precise.
This guy went will be interesting to see if his final results are as good as those teams who collaborated and shared brainpower!
This team was so careful about checking their math data page...and worked SO well together--and neither are top students...just hard workers!

After 15 minutes, this team hadn't written much down but you should have HEARD the math talk!  They are ready to roll now!

They got a good start today . . . and will keep working tomorrow!  Want to pick it up for your class?  It's on sale all week!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Hints and a Request for Help from YOU!

Many of you might only be teaching through this week--and some of you might have a few days next week like I do.  What I DO know is that we have to work extra hard in those days before vacation because our students have their minds and bodies in different "modes" in those final days!

One thing I know for sure...that I need to make sure I plan fun and interesting tasks for my students in the week before a break if I have ANY hope of keeping their attention!

So here we go....5 6 things to think about this week (and the next!)

1.  They are excited.  Can you blame them?  This is seriously one of the coolest times of year.  Take a few minutes to just sit back and enjoy it with them.  They are just little kids, after all!  Maybe we could take a little lesson from them and enjoy the magic of the season instead of worrying if we collected enough data in those final weeks before break.

2.  Keep it fun!  This week might not be the only week to use games in your instruction...but it sure is a good one!  Just assume it will get a little louder than normal...and roll with it!  Here are a few winter freebies if you want...and a link to a holiday "Dollar Deal" as well!

3.  Read aloud more.  And more.  The one thing that has remained relatively constant over my 22 years of teaching is that students of all ages love to be read to.  Whether it's a chapter book, poetry, a picture in a little extra time to read some great stuff to your class this week.  Funny books...seasonal books...beautiful book...anything.

4.  Plan for engaging instruction.  Try readers theater.  Do a science lab.  Do a cool math challenge.  I know you need to get through your content...but I bet you can find a way to reach it through active learning.  I challenge you!  I've put a few winter/holiday resources on sale all week to help you if you want!  My kids are SO pumped about the cookie challenge!

5.  Recognize effort and focus.  It is very easy to get caught up in the mode of "correcting" behavior to try to keep the students in line; try meaningful, genuine praise when students (individual or the entire class) are doing well.  Spread it even more--compliment other classes of students you pass in the hall that are doing great stuff!

6.  Finally--if all else fails . . . keep THIS in your desk drawer.  I mean . . . I haven't TRIED it--but I've heard . . .

FINALLY...I would LOVE your input!  I am working on series of blog posts about math workshop.  I would love for you to take a few minutes and take this survey to help me get a sense for what people are looking for...I would love to help a few more people start dabbling in a workshop model.  If you are willing, just click the image below and it will take you to the google form.  THANKS!

OK...not QUITE finally!  I'd love for you to chime in with YOUR suggestions about how to keep these last days calm (relatively) and meaningful.  Leave your suggestions below,  Also, don't forget about my "Sit Spots" giveaway going on a few more days.  Have you entered?  CLICK HERE if you missed the post about it,  Have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Loved That Linky! December!

It's time once again for "Loved That Lesson" linky!

This month I wanted to share a lesson (actually a "type" of lesson) that I am using for a reading intervention group.  I have a group of boys who I would say are "gray area" readers.  They do "ok" on everything we do...but I can tell they are just not comprehending at the level I want them to--or that they will need in upcoming years.  It's SO hard to find good resources to use with students for intervention groups...ideally, I would like to use short texts so that we can dig in and do a lesson in one or two sittings.  Doing full novel studies can be SO I have started using only chapter 1 and 2 of books that I think students might like.


Because I know that many of these gray area readers have struggled making the leap from short books and easy chapter books to more challenging chapter books.  They don't "get" how chapter books work...namely:
*The first chapter of books tend to set up the story, especially helping us get to know the main character.
*Each chapter in a book tends to function as its own "story" with a beginning, middle, and end.
*Sometimes stories change time or place between chapters and we need to pay attention in order to understand the story.
*Sometimes chapter books actually have more than one story going on at once.

...and more, of course!

What I want to do is create a set of lessons that help these struggling students really "unlock" the code of chapter books!  I started with this group this past week by tackling chapter one.  Here's what I did.

First, I picked a book that I thought was at an instructional level for my group.  I thought they might like this book, I have multiple copies, AND it's the first book in a series in case they like it!  I made a photocopy of the first chapter because I wanted them to be able to interact with it.

I used a trusty dusty takeout container for the crayons we would need...I created a system for color coding.
What was the color coding for?
ORANGE: To highlight important information that helps us get to know the characters.
YELLOW: Key events that are happening in the text
GREEN: Setting clues
BLUE: Character feelings and thoughts

I started by explaining my thoughts about doing a "Chapter 1 and 2 book study"...that I was going to help them learn how to read and understand chapter books better--and possibly introduce them to some books that they may want to finish on their own.

I talked to them about chapter 1 of most books...about how we learn WHO is telling the story and usually some of the other main characters.  We often learn about their personalities, their families, their likes and dislikes, and more.  I had them each grab an orange crayon and sent them off with a partner to read the chapter and to "code" in orange where we learn about the main characters.  While they worked, I did the same thing to my copy of the text.

After they finished, we came back together and compared notes about what information we learned.  We had some of the same excerpts highlighted--but not all of them.  

When we finished talking about they key character points, we moved to the other colors...and we made a discovery!  First of all--we didn't learn the setting at ALL!  The students "guessed" he was at home (though one thought he was at school) but we looked and looked and realized that there were NO clues--because the entire chapter was really TELLING us information, not showing it.  I explained to them that often this happens...that the first chapter is full of background--and not much action!  In fact, we couldn't find ANY text to highlight in yellow or green!  It was interesting...there were a few "flashback" moments and students wanted to highlight the setting of those--so we had a great talk about being careful when settings and characters are mentioned...they aren't always evidence of the PRESENT.  That seemed to be kind of an eye opener for a few in the group.

Finally, we went hunting for any evidence of character FEELINGS...we only found one--the last sentence of the chapter.  I told them that this is something authors frequently do--they leave us with either a very important event or an important feeling...something to lead us into the next chapter.

I can't wait to dig into chapter two on Monday so they can see just how different chapter 1 is...and how important it is to really read it carefully.  We will read chapter 2 on Monday, really track the events and setting clues, and then I will give them the choice about whether or not they want to take a copy to read on their own.  After that? I'm going to repeat the process with a different we can study chapter 1 and 2 again and really start to learn how chapter books break down.  Let me know what you think!  

And one more thing...I need your input!  I am looking to do a series of blog posts about math workshop--I've had so many requests!  I'd love for you to click the image below and give me your 2 cents!  It should only take a minute or two.  Thanks in advance!

Don't forget to check out the other links below!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

WHOA....check out this fun giveaway!

Happy Holidays!

Have you heard of Sit Spots?  I've seen a bunch of primary teachers using them to mark spots for students to sit.  One day I jokingly said to my coteacher, "I think WE need Sit Spots!".  I decided to snoop around their website a little bit and then my brain started working overtime.  I learned that they work on classroom carpet without damaging it (note...they do NOT work on area rugs) and come in a zillion shapes and colors. 

I started to think--would having some of these portable "spots" help me with transitions and organization?  Would they help my students stay focused and know what to do?  In the intermediate grades, we don't necessarily need our students to "stay put" in one spot, but I had some ideas for how to use these in intermediate classrooms...and the Sit Spot people wanted me to test them out!

Here are a few things I am using my spots for!  See what you think!
The first thing I did was to order my dots...I got 6 dots in 5 colors because I thought it would offer me lots of options.  Notice how I put two of the same colored dots next to each other.  Those are their "turn and talk" partners!  No more wasted time trying to make partners and no more kids being left out!
I even started having students go stand on a dot and then move to a new color...that kept them from always finding the same dot.  In fact, sometimes I would tell them to find a dot they had never sat on before to use!  It was a great way to shake up routine and get students sitting by new friends.
Although I bought circles (seemed the most "intermediate" and flexible), I did buy a few long strips.  I have one area in my room where traffic crosses my small group work.  I put the stripe up as a sort of "boundary" for my group area.  It worked!
Another great use of these dots was to help with organization.  I do a lot of small group work so I started experimenting with using my dots to mark the places I wanted groups to meet.  It was an easy way for students to find a spot, pass out supplies, etc.
I also tried putting spots in a semicircle for a reading group...I am NOT a table person and this did keep my students right where I wanted them!
This was another use...if you are like me, you have your desks in groups--but those groups keep moving around the room--and creeping forward into our large group space.  The spots really helped desk groups know right where to line up their desks at the end of the day!

So I have some great news!  The Sit Spot people are so excited about the thought of extending their reach into more intermediate classrooms that they have agreed to give a FIFTY DOLLAR gift certificate to one of you!  It's super easy to enter the giveaway...they want to reward my followers!  If you are interested, just enter below!  You could get a set of Sit Spots of your own for the holidays!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chilling with a good book!

A project I have done for the last few years is one of my favorites...and it was PERFECT this week as we are not quite ready to tackle our big feature article writing.  I simply ask my students to think of a book they have read this year that they think someone else might want to "chill" out with!  Here's what we made...

First we wrote our paragraphs, got them checked, and recopied onto the final copy template.
We used different tracers to design our snowpeople.
We started to give them "personality"!
We lined them up above our lockers for a festive touch!
Too cute!
Enjoy!  We've already had a bunch of compliments!

Last year I posted about this project and had some requests for the letters and template, so I did put them together in a resource.  Click the picture below if you are interested.

In case you didn't's FRIDAY tomorrow!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stop by "Upper Elementary Snapshots"!

If you haven't been following along, my collaborative blog, Upper Elementary Snapshots is doing a totally fun set of giveaways this month.  Each day for 12 days, one blogger is giving away an item for FREE!  It's only free for that one day, so you need to stop back often!

Today is MY day to give away a resource, so stop by...just click our logo below to check it out!  Have a wonderful day!

Want a hint?

Be sure to watch for some upcoming blog posts....with a new product I tried in my classroom, with an update about my formal observation, musings about fractions, and more!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Monday Made It!

Once again it's time for...

I have a few different things to share with you this week.  I certainly don't feel like I've been very creative or crafty of late--so much to do--but it is getting to be the holidays so I have a few little treats!
My son has a set of 11 amazing caregivers that help us so that he can live a more safe and comfortable life.  It's hard to do something special ($$$) for that many people, so I try to do little things every so often to show how appreciative I am!  I found these cute little holiday tins at my local "red store", filled them with some tissue and treats.  I took the name cards off for obvious reasons, but thanks to Susanna at Whimsy Workshop for the adorable Santa clip art I used!

It's gift making time as well...and I got started on my student gifts and thought I would share "Part I" in case it inspired you...I haven't finished the rest of it yet so I can't share that part!

I bought two "bricks" of dice on ebay...I think I paid $17 or so for them...
Five dice per student...
In these ridiculously cute little velvet bags!
I'll attach one of these cute little tags to each and then will fold up a sheet of math fact and strategy games to go inside each bag.  THAT part isn't finished yet!
I've been pretty busy making some new resources for my classroom as well--we are deep in the thick of math workshop, and I have been making games and other resources like crazy to try to meet the needs of all of my students.  Not an easy task!  I am really stressing different components in math workshop--namely precision, fluency, problem solving, and math language.  These games are geared toward working on that fluency piece!

Here are a few of the games in action.  If you are interested in seeing more, they are all "Dollar Deals" i my can click any of the pictures to take you there. I also have a number of great game freebies in my store so check them out as well.

And finally...I did get my next open ended math challenge ready to students have been begging for a holiday themed challenge (I know--they are BEGGING for a math problem!) so here it is!  Enjoy!

Hope everyone has a great week!  My formal observation is coming up on Tuesday so I am getting ready for that.  Cross your fingers that math workshop isn't a total disaster that day!