It was a busy busy week in fourth grade...from having our field trip cancelled due to 90% chance of severe storms (ummm...not a single drop of rain fell!).  Students handled it like champs so I gave them 45 minutes of math "choice" time.  It was fun to see them playing games, doing team problem solving, and more.  They had a great time--and the extra time let me get my final two running records finished!  My literacy data is all collected and entered now--4 days early!
Biz World is in high gear!  The companies made their "pitch" to me (I mean, the venture capitalist) after watching a little Shark Tank to get the feel for it.  Some companies were definitely better prepared and got better deals!  We shall see how that all pans out!  A few companies signed up for "Bracelet University" to refine their skills.  They will see on Monday just how much that additional training pays off when they see that investing a little money in "staff development" leads to unexpected rewards!
As we begin to talk more about marketing, I asked students to think about logos and slogans they are familiar with or could find around their house.  A Biz Buck went to any company who was willing to spend some time to bring them in.
At the end of our failed field trip day, I decided to break out good old fashioned bingo.  What was my learning target, you say?  Well let me tell you...I'm pretty sure that the highlight of my week was one one of my special needs friends got the first bingo and the class spontaneously erupted into cheers and a standing ovation for her.  No learning target.  No academic rigor.  I needed no summative assessment to tell me how much my students have learned this year about the human spirit and doing the right thing.  I could barely keep the tears back.  What we do is important, people. Stop watching the news stories about everything that is wrong with education and savor the moments that you know in your heart to be RIGHT.
FINALLY...a new "Thinker Task" is ready!  If you haven't tried one, I'd love for you to check it out.  If you own my Thinker Task Bundle, go download the update!  My students enjoyed the challenge--but claimed it made them hungry while working!  I brought them doughnuts on Friday to help with that!
(I put it on sale through tonight if you want to grab it at a discount!)

Have a great week if you're still in school!  Stay tuned for more information about a summer of blogging coming soon!

For those of you who have followed me for quite some time, you know that every spring, I take my class through an AMAZING simulation called "Biz World".  I cannot stress enough the COOLNESS factor of this resource.  If you are interested in learning more, check out the Biz World website HERE!

I thought I'd give you a little photo summary of our first week with Biz World...and I'll update you in a few days!  I have other posts from recent years if you want to see more.  Just use the search feature and type in "Biz"!  Check out some of these pics to see what we've done so far!
We began our unit by talking about business, what services and goods are, and what the qualities of a good business would be.  It was a fascinating discussion!
I explained the gist of the simulation (that we would be forming companies and making friendship bracelets--and taking our business from planning to marketing to manufacturing to sales.  I described the different jobs that were available in the companies (president and then 5 specialty vice presidents such as VP of finance, design, etc.)

Once I explained the job descriptions, we had a chat about how important it is to find jobs that address your strengths.  Love math?  VP of finance may be for you!  Love being creative?  Perhaps VP of marketing is your job.  Students then created a list of their top three jobs and prepared for their upcoming interviews.  

In the next few days we worked on our applications, wrote resumes on the computer, and had a brainstorming session about interviewing.  We did some practicing with friends and even at home.  I had several local businesspeople come in to conduct the interviews and students took it so seriously.  Many came all dressed up ready to impress!

I coached our interviewers on what to look for...and students brought their resumes and applications.  They were scored on this very informal rubric.   A few students REALLY impressed them--and I made sure those students got the jobs they most wanted!
They were nervous--but felt SO proud when they came back into the room!  To make it more "real" they were called to the office one at a time for their interviews.  
What came next? Looking at the lists the students gave me of their top choices, the feedback about their interviews, and then I formed their companies!  (Top card shown below is a "fake" name).  These name tents were printed and ready to put on their desks to surprise the students the next day!
 I couldn't wait to see the looks on their faces when they came in the door...and I wasn't disappointed!  I put all the desks in groups as "companies" and assigned each company an area of the room.  
 The president of each company is in charge of their briefcase and the VP of Finance is in charge of the "safe" where they will keep their Biz Bucks--more on that soon!  
Here is how we left off on Friday-and this week is all about creating a vision for their company with a name, a logo, and motto, and more!  They will work to create a prototype bracelet and will be making a "pitch" to the venture capitalist to raise the funds necessary to get their companies off the ground.  I hope you'll stop back soon to see how we are doing!  
Today is an odd day, isn't it? "Happy" Memorial Day?  My father is 89 and is a WWII veteran.  It goes without saying that my pride in him and in the country runs deep.  Today is a day we celebrate with days off work and picnics and baseball--but please never forget that sacrifices made by so many men and women and their families.  We were lucky--my dad came back.  That being said, enjoy your freedoms today--but just pause for a moment to remember those who did not come back.  

I am spending the weekend helping my son make a baseball recruiting video (So I am teaching myself iMovie--which could lead to some pretty nifty things coming up on the blog!), working on a new "Thinker Task" because--get this--my students begged for ONE MORE before the end of the year. HOW COOL IS THAT, and finishing up lesson plans for the week.  Stop by tomorrow for a blog post all about how "BizWorld" started in my classroom.  The students are SO excited!

I also want to announce the winners of my giveaway!  Thanks to so many of you for stopping by over the last week to take my survey and enter the giveaway.  Drum roll please!

The winner of the $25 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers and $25 to my store is:

The three other winners who each win any product of their choice ($10 or less) from my store are:

Check your emails for information!

Finally, as we move into the final weeks of school (I KNOW some of you are finished, you lucky ducks!), I thought I would highlight a few of my favorite end of year products.  Maybe some of them will help get you through the crazy times!

Have a great Memorial Day--and stop by tomorrow to read about BizWorld!
formative assessment storage

Today's "bright ideas" post is the result of me having WAY too many papers floating around my room--especially the half sheet formative assessments I use ALL. THE. TIME.  Because they are smaller than the rest of my papers, they are constantly getting misplaced, stuck in piles, and so on.  Here's what I did!
formative assessment storage
These little pesky buggers!  They are ALL over my room!  UGH!
So, when I was at one of my favorite discount department stores with red carts, I saw this wire letter holder--you know the ones I'm talking about--with three "tiered" sections? I thought to myself, "Self, if they can hold LETTERS, couldn't they hold exit slips?"  And I listened to myself--for once.
exit slips

So...I took that little guy to school and hunted down all my copies of exit slips.  Part of my problem is that I am "creatively organized"...what this means is that I think ahead a LOT so I prepare things, order copies, and then can't access them when I want them!  

I decided to TRAIN myself to use the three sections as follows...the front section for any exit slips for the current unit (makes sense, right?  Right in front?), the middle section for the exit slips from the LAST unit that I didn't use (I like to do a number of these AFTER the unit is over to see if it "stuck" or if reteaching needs to happen, and the BACK section for extra slips from past units that I can pull out whenever I want to spot check a skill.
multiplication assessment
I found a clear space (one of VERY few on my desk!) for my new organizer and used my first one yesterday--no hunting, no searching.  LOVE IT!

Want to see an example of the exit slips I use?  Click any image above or this sample below!

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google forms
Today I wanted to share with you something I did this week that I loved!  Like many of you, we explicitly teach the concept of informational "text structures" in both reading and writing--and have to give a grade on report cards.  This is a tough concept to quantify!  As the unit came to a close, I had an idea of how I could get a sense for how well students were applying the information I was coaching throughout the unit.

I grabbed one of our new Time for Kids magazines, I skimmed through and found three articles that had relatively clear "structures"--or at least a text structure that could be defended.  I created a google form that gave students directions to read the articles, identify the main text structure they felt matched the article (I put all choices in a drop down menu), and asked them to "justify their answer".  This allowed a number of possible answers--as long as they gave sufficient evidence from the text.
google forms classroom
Students got to work (I have 12 Chromebooks, so half my class worked on this while the other half worked on their social issues book club work) and read, and wrote, and reread, and wrote.  They were SO focused!
google forms classroom
google forms classroom
 When creating the form, I knew I needed more data on how well the students were summarizing, so I added in a "Write a 1-2 sentence summary of the article." question for one of the articles as well.  When everyone was finished, I hit "view results" and VOILA!
google form classroom
I just LOVE how all the information gets slurped into a spreadsheet for me (did you know that to text wrap a google spreadsheet you just highlight the column, then go up to THIS icon...
google form classroom
I read through their ideas and used a highlighter to mark students whose work concerned me, and I had a ready-made intervention group.  More soon on the summaries--I was SO disappointed in their summaries, so I planned a whole-class activity to reteach.  Anyhoo--thanks for stopping by--I use google forms SO much these days...I'm sure I'll be blogging about it much more!

Interested in one of the resources that has been super helpful for me as I teach about text structures?  Check it out!

It's hard to believe that two and a half years ago, an "impulse" decision to start a blog has turned into SIX HUNDRED POSTS!  Man--I sure have a hard time keeping my "mouth" shut, don't I!  When I started my blog, I had a few goals.

1.  I wanted to become a more reflective teacher. (To be honest, I didn't think anyone would find my blog nor read it.)

2.  I wanted to share some of my teaching ideas with others.  I used to present at workshops, etc but having a special needs child changed my path quite a bit.  I thought maybe my blog might give me another way to share with other teachers.

3.  I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and challenge myself--both instructionally and technologically (To be honest, I hadn't really even LOOKED at blogs before).

After 600 posts, I think I have at least scratched the surface on these three!  Along the way, new goals surfaced...and people started asking for resources that I used and my Teachers Pay Teachers store began to take off as well.  To this day, I am humbled and honored that people around the world find what I do helpful and that maybe my "reach" as a teacher extends beyond my 25 little humans each year.  Seriously.  Sometimes this thought alone is what gets me through my days--and I am grateful to all of you who follow along with my crazy ride.

So what next?  To be honest, over the last months I have had moments where I wanted to close up delete my just get my "real" life back...working full time in the classroom AND running a blog/business is EXHAUSTING.  I spent some time thinking...talking to other bloggers...and finally I decided to continue--and to try to set some NEW goals for the upcoming blogging year.

1.  I want to continue to provide quality, informative blog posts that can help teachers continue to push their teaching and implement exciting, best practice lessons for their students.

2.  I want to expand my reach by getting back into presenting and doing teacher workshops--something I did years ago before my own children arrived.  I miss it...I miss working with teachers who are excited to improve their art.  Stay tuned...

3.  I want to make sure I don't lose balance in my life.  My son is finishing his junior year in high school and will be leaving the nest soon.  I want to savor every minute I have with him!

By the's almost summer!  Be ready for "Texts on Tuesdays" where I dig into some of the best professional resources out there..."Monday Made It" with Fourth Grade Frolics where I showcase projects for the home and classroom, "Loved That Lesson" linky where I showcase lessons I can't WAIT to teach in 2015-2016, and more "Math Is Real Life" posts.  Of course, there will be new products, special deals, and more!  Thanks again for being a part of my blogging world.
Today is my day to post over on Upper Elementary Snapshots, and I'd love for you to stop by and check out a super easy strategy you could try to work more mathematical discourse and accountable talk into your math class.  Just click the image to take you there!

Have a great rest of your weekend...and I can't help but note that today is my--GET THIS--599th post!  I can't even believe it.  I am thinkin' I should do something kind of special for #600--what do YOU think?  Check back soon!

Don't forget to head over to Upper Elementary Snapshots for the post!

It's time for another "Loved That Lesson" linky...I'd sure love to get more bloggers linking up sharing their great teaching ideas!  Spread the news!  It's still planned for the second Sunday of each month...just plain ol' good teaching and learning!

Today I thought I'd do a piggyback off my post the other day where I shared about how I had my students create their own reading book club schedules...and our clubs have started!  Even though we have done other book clubs this year, I am really pushing my students to run these themselves.  I don't even sit with the group...I sit 4-5 feet away and don't even act like I'm listening.  I really want to serve more as a coach than a teacher.

In order to do this, we really have to work on our group dynamics.  We are getting really good at piggybacking off each other and other great "talk moves", but I am still noticing that I have a handful of students who are still not actively engaged in their groups--and a few who really take charge and maybe...just MAYBE...monopolize the conversation a little bit.  So what was my lesson for each book group on Thursday?
 When I saw the first group struggling a little bit, I sat there watching two students take charge and two others sit relatively silent.  I saw one of them TRYING to get a word in...but just couldn't find an opening.  I quietly went over to my "closet of doom" and foraged.  I found a piece of elastic and tied it in a circle.  I asked the group to hold on to it.
 I then told them I wanted them to think about how much they participated in the group that day...and to pull to match--if they participated a lot, to pull hard if they participated a lot and to pull gently if they didn't participate much at all.
 I snapped this picture as they did it...what do you notice?  That's right!  My two "ends" pulled so hard (they were VERY proud of how much they participated!).  Check out the white knuckles on the far right--she almost pulled the team off the floor!  I told them that I agreed with their assessment...but then I asked the two "light pullers" how they felt.  It was the perfect opportunity for them to tell their teammates that it was hard to get a word in!  I reminded them that participation in a group needs to be balanced between sharing ideas, listening to others, and ENCOURAGING others to participate, especially if they are shy or less confident.  We brainstormed some ideas...

"Caty--what do YOU think about that?"
"Jacob, which character do YOU think should...."
"Marta, do you have a prediction to share?"

I then asked the group to try to balance the power--that some of them needed to pull a little harder and some needed to let go a little bit.  It was even tricky with the elastic!  My "pullers" just didn't want to give in!  We had a great discussion...and set "balanced power" as their main book club goal.

I met with another group and watched a FANTASTIC discussion--with 4 of the 5 members.  When the discussion was over, I poured a pile of counters in the middle of the group.  I asked them to take a counter for every time they thought they participated in the discussion.  It was fascinating...they struggled at first, until I reassured them that an estimate was just fine.  When they were done, We looked at their piles--and there were 4 even piles and one student sat with nothing in front of her.  Like the other group, we talked about balancing power--and how it is the responsibility of everyone in the group to be an active participant.  I acknowledged that the student who didn't participate is extremely shy...and the other group members agreed.  We worked together to come up with a plan to help her--and she was willing to try the suggestions.  My students are so sweet--they all agreed that it is just as much their responsibility to include her as it is hers to jump in. I hope that each discussion gets a little easier for her!  I think the hands on representation of "group power" really made it "real" for the students--and gives us something to refer back to over the next weeks.
I can't wait to see how their discussions improve over the next weeks...and I just love being on the outside observing!  Thanks so much for stopping by--and hopefully we'll get some other posts linked up over the next week so keep checking back!
It's the first Wednesday of May 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
This week I am getting ready to start new units in pretty much every subject.  It's hard to believe the year is in the home stretch--and it is so fun to see my students becoming so much more "savvy" about the real world.  As we move into our last set of book clubs, I wanted the groups to get some experience collaborating and working with schedules.  As they get older, they are going to have to learn to budget their time and manage big projects.  For the last few years, I have asked them to work with their team to devise a reading schedule that they can all follow--and that they have full ownership of!

Check out some of what we did!

I gave them a "deadline"--but encouraged them to leave a little extra time for unforeseen circumstances!
I just loved walking around and listening to their discussions!  Some groups had failed to consider external factors (like some students don't have as much time on weekends) ...that some chapters are much longer than others...that sometimes there was confusion about what "Chapters 12-14" meant--did that mean they were DUE that day?  That they were reading them that day?  After about a half hour, all groups had a schedule that they think will work--and we had the talk about what people in the "real world" due when schedules break down or don't look feasible.  They brainstormed together some options...extending their deadline (now they see why it's a good idea to plan to finish big projects a little early), agreeing that they may need to "compact" some chapters if they get behind, and so on.

They are SO excited to start their plans today--and I love the ownership they have!  Stay tuned for updates about how their "Real Life Math" works out!

Don't forget about the big "Teacher Appreciation" sale!  Click the image below to go to my store if you are interested...and DON'T forget to enter the code "THANKYOU"!  Have a great Wednesday!

Don't forget to check out the other MIRL posts below! Check back over the next few days - more will be added!!