June 2014 - The Teacher Studio: Learning, Thinking, Creating
It's "Monday Made It" again and this week I have a few simple things to share with you!  Thanks to Fourth Grade Frolics, as always, for the link up!

So...to get things started, I finally found a way to organize my HUGE stack of 12x12 scrapbooking paper that kept it easy to access and not sliding all over the place.  I didn't really MAKE it, but it made for a cleaner office area!  I got this storage bin at my favorite red "Bulls Eye" store and it was the perfect size!

Simple yet effective.  I slide this down in a lower cabinet and can easily see what I have.  What I see is that I have WAY too much yellow.  

Keeping with the organization theme (In other words...avoiding the harder work that is coming this summer!) I decided to make my new binder covers for the three key subject areas I need to pull small groups for...I like to keep them uniform but different colors so I can easily see at a glance which one to grab.


It was the end of year baseball banquet and we were supposed to bring a dessert.  My oven has been unable to heat past 240 degrees for a month, so I needed a stove stop option!  I snooped around Pinterest a little and it hit me...



It was SO fast and easy...not sure why I haven't made these more often for events like this.  They are portable and the kids loved them.  (Grown ups too...) They were gone before everyone made it through the line!
Finally, I was very productive!  I finished this electricity resource that I started 9 months ago so THAT was a huge accomplishment!


I made some cosmetic upgrades to this guy...so if you own it, feel free to re-download it!

I published this set because I start my year with a mapping unit and I love to be able to tie my math to my content when I can.  Kids love big numbers and cool facts so I worked both of those into this resource.

All three will be on sale for the next few days if any of you are interested in grabbing them before they go back to full price.

That's all for this week of Monday Made It...I was pretty proud of how much I got done!   Make sure to check out all the other great ideas linked up by clicking on the logo at the top of the post--and stop back on Tuesday for "Texts on Tuesdays" where I am posting about a great professional book you might want to check out and back again on Wednesday for "Math Is Real Life"!
Good morning!  Ready to talk about math?


I just thought I'd do a quick post this morning to share out some of the knowledge from the all day conference I attended yesterday with Tim Kanold.  If you aren't familiar with his work, he is the "PLC" guy--and really has a math focus.  He is a great presenter and the day was very enjoyable.  I didn't hear a ton new since we have been studying his books for a few years now, but it was a great day to sit and reflect on my own practice and how to better consider what I am doing as I plan over this summer.  If you haven't read any of his work, I would REALLY recommend it!

A few takeaways...and, in his mind, non-negotiables.

1.  He states very definitively that no less than 65% of your math class should involve student to student discourse.  Not teacher-student or student-teacher.  Student to student.  I am a HUGE believer in this so 65% doesn't shock me at all...but I know that is a HUGE shift for some people.  Watch for a later blog post where I give some suggestions on how to increase discourse in your classroom!

2.  One of the biggest factors in student achievement is formative assessment.  I have always been a firm believer in this so at first I just nodded affirmatively...but I kept listening.  He really stressed that "doing" formative assessment (ex. exit slips, fist to five, thumbs up/thumbs down) is doing nothing for student achievement until we USE it and take action on it.  He is totally right...and I DO use the information I get from entrance/exit slips.  But do I use the information I get while observing and doing other less formal assessments?  I'm not as sure.

3.  To piggyback off of number 2, he said the biggest work we should be doing in the math classroom is presenting students with rigorous, deliberately chosen tasks that they work on in small groups.  We should then be circulating and observing and coaching--spending no more than 30 seconds per group at a time.  Whoa.  I need some time to sit and process on all of that!

4.  Part of the day we looked over some of our assessment tools that we brought along and analyzed them according to his rubric.  Here's some food for thought for you...how many of you identify the learning targets in kid friendly language right on the assessment?  Is it clear to your students WHAT is being assessed and how it is being assessed?  Do they know how much each problem is "worth"?  For example, is every problem given equal weight or are some problems worth more?  Do they know why?  Interesting stuff to ponder...

5. Finally, he stressed the critical nature of the Standards for Mathematical Processes...something else I am a HUGE believer in.  He talked about the importance of identifying learning targets as you plan (and this planning should be done with your team--still need to think about THAT piece more!) that are both process and content standards.

Anyway--it was a very invigorating day...I need to pull out his books and do some more reading, but I definitely know I'm going to try to beef up my formative assessment practices next year--starting with finding a better way to record and organize anecdotal math notes during these collaborative work times!  Here is one of his books if you want to browse...he also has PLC books by grade level band.



Finally, I'm super excited to announce that the electricity unit I started 9 months ago...then worked on a little...then got frustrated...then worked on a little...then ignored.  Finally, I pulled it back out and gave myself a deadline and it's FINISHED!  If you are looking for a new resource to help with your electricity unit--check it out.  I really tried to create something that could be used whether you use a textbook, a science kit, or if you have nothing at all.  
Suggested art connections...

Tons of interactive notebook components...


Flexible enough to use in  number of ways!

See what you think! 


Happy Tuesday, everyone!  It's another week of "Texts on Tuesdays"!


Today's "Texts on Tuesdays" is a two parter...first of all, my bloggy friend Jennifer Findley Williams is hosting today's Good Questions for Math Teaching book study.  Click HERE or on the image below to see what she has to say about improving how we ask questions when dealing with measurement topics! Never know if another freebie might be in store for you!  If you missed my post 2 weeks ago, click HERE to read it and grab the freebie!

The book I am digging into this week is "Practical Punctuation" by Dan Feigelson and I ABsolutely love it.  It TOTALLY embraces what I believe to be true about how students construct meaning about anything...they need to understand the purpose...see examples...see modeling...try it...experiment with it.  I am really excited to plan punctuation "boot camps" next year as a supplement to my writing instruction.  I am going to try to do two per quarter to front load my units.  I'm going to start the year with a boot camp on "end punctuation" and then mid quarter do one on "capitalization".  I am hoping that these intensive but constructivist mini units will really see how they, as writers, have thoughtful decisions to make as they write.

This book really does a wonderful job of laying out the process and how it ties beautifully to reader's and writer's workshop--and can easily be used no matter what "program" or curriculum you use.  I dabbled with it last year but this year I am going to go into the year ready and rarin' to go!  I'll blog more about my yearly plan later this summer...but right now I am focusing on how I'm going to start the year with this end punctuation boot camp!
These will be the four foundation concepts I stress early in the year...but I will spend the first bootcamp focusing on how writers END their sentences.
I definitely give it a thumbs up...it is literally a set of lesson plans that are ready to use immediately in your classroom.  I put the link below if you want to peek inside it!
Thanks for joining me on "Texts for Tuesdays"!  Don't forget to scroll down to yesterday's "Monday Made It" if you missed it!  

It's "Monday Made It" again and this week I had a ton of fun!  Thanks to Fourth Grade Frolics, as always, for the link up!

So...to get things started, I tackled a project that I came up with about 3 months ago and simply didn't have time to execute!  I always INTEND to send home positive notes to my students when they accomplish something, if I see someone doing something kind, and so on.  I do it sporadically but then don't ever remember who I have sent notes to and who I have not. So...
First I found this awesome phone message book that is a carbon copy book--solved my problem of keeping track of who got notes.  ALSO--the top copies are post its so they can be stuck right into students' assignment books!  WINNING!
200 notes per book...so that one book could provide me with 8 notes per student!
Typical phone message forms...but I  thought I could spice them up a bit...
I made some mini "badges" of sayings...
Mounted them on colored paper backgrounds...

...stuck them over the boring "message" message!
...and tried it out!  The white copy will get stuck in their assignment notebooks to take home...and I get the yellow copy to remember what I said!
OK...on to the more "crafty"  project--although it was really a simple one.  I have a problem in that I tend to bring beverages into my office while I work and am constantly setting them down on notebooks, scrap paper, etc to keep the condensation off my desk.  Rather than steal a coaster from the living room, I decided to make my own!  I just used Powerpoint to make a collage of some of my favorite baseball pics of my son...


Then I mounted the printout on a few layers of cardstock and laminated it!  So easy!


Finally...I did finish my next set of math games that I can't WAIT to use during math workshop next year.  I want to get enough sets made of some of my games that students can check them out to play at home!  Thanks to a young friend for helping me test them and tweak them!





That's all for this week of Monday Made It...hoping for something more dramatic next week--but we shall see! Make sure to check out all the other great ideas linked up by clicking on the logo at the top of the post--and stop back on Tuesday for "Texts on Tuesdays" where I am posting about a great professional book you might want to check out!

It's time for another monthly "Bright Ideas" link up and I thought I'd kick off the summer series with something I spent years developing and might give some ideas to others as to how to organize your classroom library.

Now this became a necessity for me once my addiction to books became too ridiculous to hide anymore.  As my library grew and grew, I needed a way for students (and me!) to be able to FIND books that were good fits for them and to be able to PUT THEM BACK!

A decade ago, I had lots of leveled bins but as I learned more and more about teaching reading I started to abandon that.  After all, students need to learn how to pick a "just right" book, not reach into a bin of books that are assigned a level based on word count or other formula.  (See my post HERE about issues related to text complexity!).  I do still have 3 leveled bin in my room for my most struggling readers so they do have "go to" places to access books.

So how is my library organized?  Here goes...classroom library organization--photojournalism style!
A huge percentage of my books are in my numbered bins.  These bins are organized by author, series, or topic.  I have everything from Andrew Clements to Margaret Peterson Haddix to Roald Dahl to cat and dog books to bins of book "Starring girls" and "Starring boys".  I have sports books...Cam Jansen...Boxcar Children...Big Nate...YOU NAME IT!  Some bins have several book types in each...Judy Moody and Amber Brown share a bin because I don't have enough of either to make a full bin and they appeal to the same readers.
Each bin has a label and a number...
Each book that "lives" in a bin has a number written on it to match.  That way students can EASILY put books back by matching either the author/series/topic OR the number!
On the other side of my library is another giant shelf full of other bins.  These bins have different genres and other "types" of books that don't fit in my chapter bin collection.  I have bins on everything from human body to historical fiction to mysteries to Newbery winners to science fiction to animals to poetry.  Each of these bins also has a code to match..."MY" for mysteries, "HF" for historical fiction, and so on.  As you can see, lots of the books on my big white shelf could ALSO fit in some of these bins...but if I have enough of an author or series to separate them out, I do.
I use labels like this to attach to some of my bins.  Others have the label stuck on with contact paper.  This summer one of my "Monday Made It" projects is going to be to redo all of my labels!
I also have a huge book spinner where each pocket is numbered and labeled for sets of books that I have 4-6 of but not enough for a bin.  Sorry I forgot to take a picture of it!  My blue numbered bins go up to 40, and then I have another 16 numbered spots in the big spinner.  All books that don't have a bin, a bucket, or a spinner spot end up on three shelves like this in no particular order!  Students know that any book without a number or label should be put away here.
Finally, to prevent damaged books from being put back into the bins, I have a "repair" bin handy so books can be put right in.  I have parent helpers check it every so often to be book doctors!

Throughout the year I add some other bins to shake things up..."Teacher Recommended", "Student Recommended", and "Brand New!" bins come and go to spice things up in the classroom library and draw attention to books that are being ignored or to highlight new books before they get put into their "forever" home!

So there is my "Bright Idea" tip for June.  Hope it gives you some ideas if you are having library nightmares!

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Like this "Bright Idea" and want to see a bunch more?  Check out the dozens of amazing ideas by some amazing teacher/bloggers in the links below.  Thanks for stopping by! 


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