Wednesday, April 30, 2014

TONS of upcoming fun at The Teacher Studio!

Just thought I'd fill you all in on some of the exciting plans I have coming up on the blog!  This time of year I am starting to look forward to next year...to summer...to "new beginnings"!  I thought I'd clue YOU in on some of the upcoming fun on my blog!

1.  I am SO excited about a linky party I am starting that is going to be FULL of great teaching ideas!  I am hoping it is going to grow and grow as more blogger learn about it.  The premise is simple--we can all learn SO much from each other!  I am asking bloggers to pay attention when they teach a lesson that went particularly well..where students were particularly engaged...where amazing things happened!  You know those lessons?  The ones where you think, "Man!  I wish someone could have SEEN what just happened in here!"  Here is your chance!  On the SECOND SUNDAY of each month, I am going to provide a way for these lessons to be found in one place--HERE!  So whether you want to link up your own blog post or just stop by to see all the fantastic teaching ideas, be ready each "Second Sunday" for....


"LOVED THAT LESSON" LINKY!


Watch for this logo on May 11 and be ready to enjoy!

2.  What ELSE is happening?  SUMMER BOOK STUDIES, that's what!  I am super excited to be a part of several different book studies this summer.  Because of this, I have dedicated my summer Tuesdays to book studies!  I'm referring to it as "Professional Text Tuesdays" and I can't wait!  
Here are the details.

*I am part of a collaborative book study on "Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading".  I will be posting twice about this book and other bloggers will be taking the other chapters.  I have had it on my bedside table for months and am SUPER excited about this one!

* I am also super excited to announce a DOUBLE book study with some of my math buddies! I had so much fun hosting "What's Your Math Problem" last summer,  that I decided to have DOUBLE the FUN this summer!!  Yep! You read that right!!! A DOUBLE book study!! Interested in learning more about discourse in math class?  You'll want to check this out!
Jennfier Findley from Teaching to Inspire in 5th and I will be leading the discussions through the K-6 version of Good Questions for Math Teaching, 

and Jennifer Smith-Sloane from  4mulafun and Jamie from MissMathDork will be leading the discussions through the 5-8 version of Good Questions for Math Teaching!

Hope you can join us for the book that best matches your grade level!

*FINALLY...In August I am going to do a concentrated book study (4 straight weeks) on a book that has REALLY impacted me...enough that I want to read it again! The book?  Laney Sammons (author of "Guided Math") has her latest book "Building Mathematical Comprehension" which ties the literacy strategies we all know and love to math class.  After all, thinking deeply is thinking deeply--right?  Grab a copy of this one and be ready for August when it will be just in time for you to implement for your new group of students!


So THERE!  Is that enough food for thought for a while?  By the way...don't forget to stop by for the second half of my product swap linky and giveaway!

I'd love to hear your thoughts about my plans...share in the comments!  What do you think about the linky?  Which of the book studies might you want to join?  Remember--Tuesdays will be the day for professional learning all summer long!  


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Professional Development--Can The Teacher Studio help your school?


So...for those of you who have been following me closely for a long time, you know that I am extremely passionate about teaching.  In the past, I have facilitated a number of different staff development opportunities--from 2 hour sessions to full week classes.  After giving up "that life" when my younger son was diagnosed with autism, I am now getting the itch to get my presenting life back in action!  To see what kind of interest their might be, I have created a google survey to collect a little information.  If you are interested in filling it out--or forwarding the link to the person in your district who might be in charge of professional development, I would be super grateful! Feel free to comment below as well with any input you might have.

Here's the "info" provided at the top of the survey:

"I am eagerly looking to get back into providing professional development for teachers through half day, full day, and multiple day workshops.  I very much enjoy working with adults in the field and feel my presentation style is lots of fun and very practical.  I have developed this survey to see if there is the market for quality professional development in your area.  I know money is tight for so many districts, so I am trying to gauge whether or not this is a worthwhile venture on my part.  Feel free to pass the link for the survey on to other people in your district if you feel they might have more insight.  Thanks for taking the time to help out!"

Are you interested?  There's no obligation--I'm really just trying to feel out interest.  If you are, here's the link--and it literally should take 2 minutes.  CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE SURVEY

Monday, April 28, 2014

Geometry Sorts...building math thinking

If you have followed me for very long, you know that I find concept sorts particularly useful in math and the content areas as well--and I really believe it helps students make connections among ideas and help them to see how things are connected.  In fact, two of Marzano's effective teaching strategies--cooperative learning and identifying similarities and differences--are addressed with this activity.  If research has shown solid evidence that categorizing and finding similarities and differences works—I’m all for it!

Here is how I tend to use these sorts—although please know that there is no RIGHT way!  Get creative and let the students guide you as you go.  Here is one example of a sort I did with my students. I started by splitting my class into groups of 3.  (I like trios for lots of reasons…because it allows for better dialogue, it helps strugglers, and also allows for one extra person in case a third person gets pulled out of the group or has to leave for any reason!) For this sort, I gave each group a small piece of bulletin board paper for them to do their sort.  For this sort, I made the decision to NOT give them their “headers” until later…stay tuned for why!

As my students sorted, I simply walked around and eavesdropped! It was a great time to listen for math language, to listen for any misconceptions, and to see who was feeling confident and who was not.  After a few minutes of sorting, I pulled the students together to ask what categories they had picked. As you see, these sorts are as much for ME to learn about my students as they are for my students to learn about math!

So I brought the students to the white board and we talked about HOW they decided to sort their cards into categories.  Asking students to sort WITHOUT categories is definitely more complicated than giving them the headers, so you have to decide what you are trying to accomplish.  I wanted to see if students already knew what polygons were based on their “math talk”.  I learned the answer was “NOPE!”

This sort was designed to be an example/counterexample sort…I wanted the students to decide if the shape shown on the card was a polygon or not a polygon. I purposely filled the sort with shapes I thought might be tricky—and my theory proved to be correct!.  I found several misconceptions that needed to be addressed with the class when we finished our sort.

For this sort, I also decided to include a “not sure” category which I hoped would encourage students to have quality dialogue.  If they could not come to agreement, they simply put the card in the “not sure” category.  It prevented the really vocal ones from taking over!  I gave the students a total of 15 minutes to do this job—and there were a few groups that did not get every card sorted.  That’s okay.  If I gave some groups 45 minutes, they may not have finished! 

Up next? A gallery walk to check out what the other groups did!

Although actually DOING the sort is a valuable activity, gallery walks can add a whole new level of critique to the lesson!  Sometimes I even have each trio take a post it note and cut it into three “tags”.  They can “tag”  up to three spots on other groups’ papers where they felt an error was made.  After going over the key information I wanted the students to know, we talked about some of the trickier cards! These three really stumped some groups! 


We really stress the dialogue and thinking more than always worrying about who got them all right…these are experience builders and all misconceptions DO get addressed through our lessons and instruction. The entire activity took us 25 minutes from start to finish and was a great kick off for our unit.

Check out some pics from another one of the sorts... For this one I used the “flag” technique and also prompted us to have an impromptu debate!
During our gallery walk on THIS sort, students placed "flags" on cards they thought might be out of place.  Then the students returned to their "home" papers and studied the flagged cards.
We had a handful of cards we needed to talk about!
Which led to a HUGE debate about whether or not these two segments are intersecting...we had a GREAT discussion about the difference between segments, rays, and lines.  
So...hope you are intrigued enough to try some sorts on your own!  It's not hard to do--even make some samples of your own on index cards and try the sort as a whole class!  If you are interested in checking out my geometry sorts, just click here or on the image below!  Have a great week!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The year is winding down...here's a little fun for you!

We all know that teachers have magic powers.  From eyes in the back of our heads to super-sonic hearing, we are a talented bunch, I tell you!  But this time of year, spring fever has hit, and with the end of the year in sight, we all need a little extra magic to keep us going!  So, in the next few weeks, I’m joining with my favorite intermediate teachers to put a little extra magic in our lessons and keep students engaged.

Credit goes to these talented graphic & font artists: Krista Wallden, KG Fonts & CC Fonts.

We will be swapping resources that will be just what we need to keep our students engaged during the final weeks of school.  We want to share our finds with you in a fun way – a 2-part blog hop giveaway!

Today, we present Part 1, with each blogger introducing the resource they selected to keep their friends engaged and learning in our final weeks together.  Then, over the course of the next two weeks, we will be using these resources in our classrooms.  On Sunday, May 11, we’ll be back to report on how well these resources kept our students engaged!

So I was lucky enough to be paired with Deb from "Crafting Connections" and after looking through her HUNDREDS of products, I asked her if I could try some of her informational text structures resources because we are working hard on our informational text reading and writing units, and I was looking for a little "Something New" to keep things interesting.  We have been using them already, and I can't wait for you to see some of the great stuff she has!  Come back for Part 2 to see what we did!  Want to see her amazing bundle?  CLICK HERE!

Now to the giveaway!  Here’s what you need to do:

Stop by each blog below to check out the resources being swapped.

Enter to win the resource that is featured at each blog in the raffle below (the same raffle is at each blog, so you can just add to your entries as you go!).

While you are at each blog, if you’re not a blog follower already, sign on to follow!  (You can earn bonus entries for following all blogs once you unlock the additional entries.)

One winner will receive the entire set of resources being featured by ALL collaborating bloggers!

Here’s the list of blogs to visit: 
Swap Stop A
Teaching FourthTeaching with Blonde Ambition

Swap Stop B 
Fifth in the Middlehttp://thebrownbagteacher.blogspot.com/

Swap Stop C 
http://iheartrecess.blogspot.com/http://middlegradesmaven.blogspot.com/

Swap Stop D 
http://crafting-connections.blogspot.com/http://www.theteacherstudio.com/

Swap Stop E 
http://createteachandshare.blogspot.com/http://teachingtoinspirein5th.blogspot.com/

Swap Stop F 
One Lesson at a Timehttp://www.commoncoreandsomuchmore.com/

Swap Stop G 
Photobuckethttp://www.thesciencepenguin.com/

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Finally, don’t forget to stop back in two weeks!   On Sunday, May 11, we’ll all be back to share with you how the magic went in our classrooms!  Oh yeah, you might want to know that that there will be a SECOND GIVEAWAY, too!    You are also going to want to come back that day to see a GREAT new monthly feature on my blog!  Until then, enjoy the magic and happy teaching.  :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Creativity in the classroom...and my crazy musings

Got a beverage?  Are you in comfy clothes?  Got a snack?  This got a bit long and wordy...in fact, it is the kind of thing that usually happens in my head while I drive to work...or go grocery shopping...or wake up at 2:00 AM.  Bad news.  I'm making you read it this time!
I made a decision yesterday and I can't wait to act on it.  I made the decision that I am going to relax.  I am going to do what I have known in my heart for 20+ years of teaching is right--and I am going to do a better job relaxing, "kid watching", and bringing some more fun and joy into my classroom.

Don't get me wrong--I'm not talking about abandoning the CCSS.  I'm not talking about ignoring our district's mandated curriculum or units.  Far from it.  What I have decided to do is TRUST myself to take what I know about children and to deliberately and mindfully build more time and activities into my day to nurture creative thought and action.  It pays off--I know it does. I've seen it for years.  Kids who are encouraged (and taught, really, at times) to be creative are happier at school.  They are more productive at school.  They approach problems and learning with a sense of enthusiasm.  In other words--time invested in teaching creativity pays off tenfold when it comes to the "rigor" of the rest of the curriculum!

I like to think my students know I value this...we talk about risk taking and "thinking outside the box".  I try to model language such as "Wow--I never thought of it like that!" and "I am so impressed with how you tried a new way to do it!".  But after really, truly, deeply thinking about it--I realize that I am not building in enough opportunities for students to practice what I have been preaching.

So here's what I've decided.  Even though it's a little "artificial", I am going to budget in at least one, 20 minute creativity time a week that is purely a chance for students to explore their own creativity.  I'm going to use some of my own resources for this for now...but I am going to really be keeping my eyes open for games, activities, and other resources that can help me get my students to be more flexible with their thinking.  When I do my unit planning, I am going to work to be more deliberate about incorporating higher level skills that will push my students and get them excited about what we do.
I've also started to do some thinking about next year and how I'm going to structure my days, weeks, and months.  I dabbled with Genius Hour this year--and next year I am going to dive in headfirst.  I know that it was my own disorganization and poor planning that made it less than amazing this year.  I know that I am going to Slow. Down.  I'm going to model how to SAVOR learning...how to let myself think--so that when I speak or write or do that it is my personal best and is interesting and worth saying, writing, or doing.  I'm going to help my students see that different isn't bad--different is just....different.  And different can be really amazing.  I'm going to show them that there is a time for predictable and a time for unique--and they have to learn when each is appropriate.
I'm going to build in more time for sharing--sharing personal stories, sharing quality or creative or amazing (for WHATEVER reason!) work.  I want students to see that they can notice when amazing work happens--and they can share it with others...whether it's their own work or the work of others.  I want them to feel like we have a real learning community where we can celebrate together and share our successes and disappointments and can LOVE learning together.  I need to think about how I am going to make sure this "climate" fills our learning space every single day.

So...I could go on and on.  This is probably just the first of many "musing posts" that will happen over the next months. Are you like that?   Is mid-April the time when the rest of you do what I do--start to think about what you didn't do well enough this year and look forward to NEXT year when you can "right the wrongs"?  It's hard to live with one foot in this year and one foot in the next...but I'm going to do what I can this year and then next year--watch out world!

To get me started, I'm going to tell you the top 5 6 moments of my day today--and I would LOVE to hear a few of YOUR top moments.  Let's share some of the highlights...it's just too easy to focus on the low moments.  In no particular order...today's moments of greatness!

1.  I started reading "Wonder".  We are 10 pages in to the book, and 22 people in my room are better people than they were 10 pages ago.  Seriously.  The book has had an impact in TEN pages.  

2.  Our informational text research is going SWIMMINGLY.  Every child has a topic with an "angle" they feel good about.  Every child was engaged for an hour of team research, sharing, and post-it writing.  It was energizing.

3.  5 students who have REALLY been struggling with division had an epiphany after I did some work with them on the SmartBoard.  By infinitely cloning a star, I was able to drag a big collection and then "pull" groups out of it.  They are really "seeing" that division is pulling equal groups out--the foundation for partial quotients.

4.  I had a reluctant learner laughing so hard she cried today.  Real tears.  Victory.

5.  My students had done a creativity activity that I had made and one said, "I don't know where you got these sheets--but I hope you can get more."  Melted me.  (If you are interested, I will put the links below under my signature)
6.  My principal brought me 2 candy bars and told my students that I really love chocolate...and that I wasn't allowed to share it.  She stayed a few minutes and the students told her about "Wonder".  I felt valued.  It doesn't take much...it really doesn't.

So...let's hear it!  I know I've rambled...haven't done one of these "soul searching" posts for a while!  I want to hear something AMAZING from your day!  Comment on my post...how you think I'm nuts...ANYTHING!  Let's see if can "reinspire" each other to get through these last months before we put BOTH feet into our new year's planning!  





Monday, April 21, 2014

Introducing Division Concepts!

Today is my day to post over on All Things Upper Elementary, and today I am writing about how I got my students engaged in division--and how I related it to multiplication. I wanted to come up with an activity that would be a good introduction for my entire class and could also set the stage for some small group work later with my students who struggle.  It worked out pretty well, so I'd love to have you stop by and see what we did!



I hope all of  you had a wonderful Easter.  We hit SEVENTY DEGREES here in Wisconsin and no one knew what to do!  The rain is falling now, so baseball games are in jeopardy again.  We shall see!  Thanks for stopping by and head over to ATUE by clicking the image below.  Thanks a ton!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!


May today find all of you in a restful, happy place whether you celebrate Easter or not.  Today I will travel to see family for the day and am going to try my best to be grateful for everything that I have.  I don't take the time often enough to reflect.

As we start off this next week, I want to get everyone thinking...so just a few pages of "Easter News" for you.  One, be watching for upcoming details of book study that I will be hosting this summer on questioning in math class.  I'll post details later this week in case you want to join us and get the book!

Also, I am nearly finished with my geometry sorts resource (finally!) and hope to post it later this week.  I did manage to get a Double Scoop lesson posted yesterday on helping third and fourth graders develop division understanding--especially as it relates to multiplication.  Click here for more information.  Also, I wanted to let you know that I am having a BOGO sale this weekend...and it ends today!  So if you are interested, here is the information.  It's a great deal...but make sure to read the information carefully to make sure I can get you your free product!


Finally, as we had our nicest weather of the year yesterday, I can't help but think we are all in for brighter days ahead!  Think positive thoughts as you head out this week and make it a good one.  Thanks for stopping by on this very special holiday!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Five for Friday!

It's Friday again...and I'm joining up with Doodle Bugs again for her "Five for Friday" link up!  It was a busy week with report cards and everything...but I have a few other NON-report card things to share!


I bought my mom an orchid for Easter...I bought mid-week and am trying to not kill it by Sunday.  It is so gorgeous and will match her living room perfectly--if it's alive!
It's April.  It snowed.  Again.  Nothing more to say.
We are working so hard on division concepts in my room, and one of my struggling math students "passed me a note" after class.  It made my day.
I started trying to regroup and get myself organized.  If you know of something I am supposed to do over the next months--let me know so I can write it down.  ;)
We are digging into our informational text unit and the students are SO excited.  I've blogged about it a few times, but if you want to check out the most recent post I linked it to the photo if you are interested!As always...thanks for the great link up--and go check out the other great bloggers and THEIR weeks!