One thing I have learned after teaching for this many years (25 now!) is that the more routines you can maintain at the end of the year--the better.  That doesn't mean that you don't throw a little fun into the game, but most students truly crave pattern and routine--and we need to make sure that we don't let our own end-of-year crazies ruin that structure for our students. I thought I'd offer up a few (ok--8!) tips for keeping things "cool" as the weather heats up!

1.  Check your stress at the door.  I know it's are trying to get through your curriculum, you have report cards looming, you have 18 IEP's and 42 meetings.  None of this is your students' fault--so try to take a deep breath as you walk through your classroom door in the morning and keep that room a sanctuary for your students--and YOU!
2.  Keep things as academic as you can--but toss in a little fun!  As I finish our required math series (and even on some of the days before we finish), I like to throw in extra problem solving--but I like to keep it seasonal and fun!  I use word problems with an "end of year" flavor to keep students interested and offer up fun challenges like my Thinker Task: Amusement Park Challenge to keep students working hard--without realizing they are!  Throw in a fun STEM activity or science lab.  
 ...and even more "Tip 2"!
3.  Keep reading aloud!  As the year wraps up, I actually read aloud to my students MORE often.  Whether it be a great novel (I finish the year with "Wonder" and time it so that our last day of school is Auggie's last day!), or fun picture books--students love to be read to and multiple, short bursts of read alouds can help cure the wiggles and keep students calm.

4.  Connect with your students!  As the days begin to wind down, some students sense the impending separation--and we sometimes even see students acting up more and more.  Some call it spring fever--but I think for many students is the anxiety of the impending change and separation from the place they have spent the better part of 180 days...connecting with you and the other students in the class.  Change is exciting for some students--but can be excruciating for others.  Remember to keep connecting with your students in those last days.  Greet each one as they walk through the door in the morning and wish them well as they leave.  Ask them about their evenings and their sporting games.  Tell them about YOUR evening; help them feel valued and "noticed" until the very end.

5.  Throw a little controlled fun into your day!  Finish math early and give them 20 minutes of game time.  Do a project.  Read outside on the playground equipment.  Use sidewalk chalk and do math review on the pavement.  Buddy up with another class for some partner reading.  Do a team building activity.  Working some of this "controlled fun" keeps students happy--and you sane!  
6.  Be sensitive to students who may be moving over the summer.  Talking a lot about the activities of the next grade in your school (or--in my class--at the next school the students move to for fifth grade) can be heartbreaking for students who are moving and won't be able to enjoy them.  Instead, consider focusing on things that are more universal--like how much more independent they will be in the next grade, how they will be able to read even more exciting books, and so on.  We take a "transition field trip" to visit our new school and it was VERY hard on my students who aren't going to be attending it next year.  I worked hard to try to make those two gentlemen feel special by really bragging up how ready they are for new challenges, and so on.

7.  Let your students work together.  Collaboration is a life skill that needs to be practiced.  Let them do their math work together and try to find errors and correct them.  Let them buddy read.  Let them read their writing to each other and look for ways to revise and edit it.  They WANT to talk--let them do it productively!  Some of the same activities that work at the beginning of the year can also be great at the end of the year with students' new skills and maturity!

8.  Smile.  A lot.  You all deserve it.
I'm so excited for today's post! I know how stressful it can be as a teacher. You work hard all.year.long helping students do their very best! That's why this post is for you! I'm going to share a few tips I've used to help me unwind during the summer months that will hopefully help you out as well. Even better? I'm giving away a great prize as well! But the best part? I've joined some of my other blogging friends, and they are ALSO giving away some fun treats! Read on to learn about my tips for your stress free summer, to enter my giveaway, and to find the links to my friends' giveaways too. :)
So what are some of my stress free summer tips?
Are you a teacher? Are you stressed? Going into the summer months, we want to share a few tips to help you de-stress and unwind this summer. Plus we have a GIVEAWAY! Click through to see how you can win some great items! But act quickly because this deal ends on May 28, 2016.1.  Remember that our "summers off" gives us the chance to recharge at a different pace; we all work throughout the summer--whether we are reading new materials, organizing our digital and physical resources, coming up with new lessons, learning new get the picture.  Remember to pace yourself and do a little bit of work throughout the summer so you don't feel swamped at the start of the school year.

2.  The second part of the first tip--give yourself SOME time completely away from school!  Whether you take the month of July off...or never work after 2 pm...or only work on Mondays and Tuesdays--let yourself recharge for chunks of time throughout the summer.  We have a VERY stressful job and we owe it to our students to come back refreshed.

3.  Challenge yourself to try something new this summer--something NON school related.  Read a book that you have been hearing about.  Try growing tomatoes.  Take an art class or go to a painting night.  Rent a tandem bike.  ANYTHING that is new for you--and find someone fun to share the experience with!

4.  Reconnect.  As the school year goes on, I know my family does less together.  I don't talk with my friends and neighbors as often.  I go into survival mode.  Summer is the time to rebuild those lost connections.  Invite people over for a fire.  Take a walk through the neighborhood.  Slow yourself down.

5.  Treat yourself.  Whether you get yourself a pedicure, buy a new pair of fun sandals, splurge at the bookstore, sleep in until 9:00, or buy that giant treat at the bakery--summer is the time to splurge a little bit!

6.  Make yourself a little bit healthier.  Try yoga.  Reduce your soda intake (GULP!).  Exercise more or differently.  Try to add more vegetables into your diet.  Sleep more.  This "tip" is put in ESPECIALLY for me--because this summer I am setting some major goals in this area!

If we could all take some time to do these six things this summer, I think we will be a little more prepared and "centered" as we tackle our next group of students so we can give them our very best!

Whether you are still teaching and could use some last minute resources--or are already done and want to start thinking ahead for next year, who couldn't use a Teachers Pay Teachers gift card and some free resources from my store?  While I'm not asking you to sign up to follow me in any way, I certainly would appreciate you following me in any of the ways listed here: Newsletter (you get a FREEBIE when you sign up!), Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+. I appreciate the follow, but remember - for this giveaway it is not necessary.  Check out the links in the upper corner of my blog or check the rafflecopter for ways to enter.  That's it! Please enter the rafflecopter below for your chance to win.  
a Rafflecopter giveaway

  As awesome as my giveaway is, I'm excited to share that my fellow blogging buddies are doing their own stress free teacher giveaways too! Click on each link below to check them out. 

  Amy from Teaching in Blue Jeans 
  Heather from HoJo's Teaching Adventures 
  Jennie from JD's Rockin Readers 
  Jodi from Clutter Free Classroom Kalena from Teaching Made Practical 
  Meg from The Teacher Studio 
  Tammy from The Owl Teacher   

Check out my post over at Upper Elementary Snapshots today!  Check out some of my best ideas for planning and implementing book clubs with your intermediate students.  I'd love to hear what you think--and to hear YOUR ideas about using book clubs!   Just click the picture above and check out today's post!

"A well-crafted argument/critique requires a thoughtful and logical progression of mathematically sound statements and supporting evidence."
Pretty powerful words when you think about it, right?  Let's look at a few of the phrases:


thoughtful and logical

mathematically sound

supporting evidence

Pretty sophisticated stuff for fourth graders, right?

Not so fast.  Consider this simple activity.  We are deep into our studies of decimals through the hundredth place, and I really wanted to see if my students had fully grasped some of the misconceptions that we had been seeing in recent days--for example, that 5.4 and 5.40 have two different values.  I put my students into groups of three and handed each group a small collection of decimal cards.  I asked them to practice reading the decimals aloud (checking to make sure everyone in the team was confident with this) and then asked them to have a discussion about what whole number each was closest to.  I reminded them to use clear math language--and as I circulated, I listened for words like "tenths", "hundredths", and to hear if students were using what they know about halfway points between whole numbers.  Overall, things seemed pretty stellar!

I decided to push things a little bit farther by showing them these "category cards"--but instead of just using the "Close to 0", "Close to 1", and other whole number cards, I added in cards like "Close to 1 1/2", "Close to 2 1/2", and so on.  I asked the students to continue their discussion with their decimal cards by deciding if their decimals were ACTUALLY closer to those halfway points.  Now things got a little interesting!
After my students were convinced they had things right--I took them down the hall where I placed all the category headings in order and had the students place their decimals in the correct category.  I started down at the low end and called for all decimals close to 0...then all those close to 1/2...and so on.
When all the cards were placed, we worked to sequence the decimals in each category--and had some great discussions about  place value and how we KNOW what order is correct. 
As the process unfolded, we found some decimals that we couldn't get agree on.  Time to critique reasoning!  At this point, I really stressed the point that in order to truly "critique", students needed to have a clear point, use correct and mathematically sound language, and be able to give examples and evidence that would make their point clear to other students. 
 This became particularly true when we tried to place this one!  Where should 1.25 go--is it closer to 1 or closer to 1 1/2?  The debate raged--we had "Team Rounding" who was convinced that because the "5" made it "round up", that this card should be placed closer to the 1.5.  The other team felt this wasn't meant to be rounded--and that the number should go exactly halfway between the two.  
By the time the debate was over, people were satisfied (most anyway!), that this arrangement worked--and that unless we are TOLD to round, we have to follow the directions clearly.  And, in this case, they were told to put the cards in the category that the numbers were closest to--and for a few numbers they could NOT be placed in any one category but had to fit between them.  Not bad for a 25 minute math warm up, right?

These cards are a part of my Decimal Sequencing Activities.
I have similar activities for FRACTIONS and LARGE NUMBERS and a BUNDLE OF ALL THREE as well!

Have you used concept sorts in your classroom?  If you have followed my blog for a while, you know that I use concept sorts regularly--and have posted a number of times about different ways I use them.  Click HERE and HERE for two of those posts!

Today I want to talk about a geometry sort I did the other day to "take the temperature" of my class after a few days of instruction about points, lines, segments, and rays and the terms "intersecting", "parallel", and "perpendicular".  Although I wasn't surprised at all the misconceptions, I am ALWAYS surprised at how many NEW misconceptions I discover!  If you are looking for a way to get much deeper math talk going on in your classrooms, concept sorts are truly an amazing (and easy to prepare!) way to force students to share their thinking and have great mathematical discourse.  Check out some pics from this week's sort!  I'd love to hear from any of you using sorts--and tell me if you think you've noticed an improvement in YOUR students' mathematical thinking!

 My students can get their sorts cut in just a few minutes now...they divide and conquer by each taking a sheet, then cutting the 8 cards in half, stacking them, then cutting them apart.  Voila!
 This is have to model (and if you have a group doing this well, try doing a fishbowl so the students can see this in action).  Students, by nature, want to just grab a stack of cards and put them into categories.  The assertive students take over, the passive ones sit back helplessly, and NO learning happens.  Show them how to take one card at a time to discuss it, interact with it--and make sure that all students are a part of it!  Watch for this as you teach...if you see students rushing, slow them down--even if they don't get through the entire stack.
 As you walk around, listen for the dialogue and interject when needed..."Is it possible for two segments to be perpendicular if they don't touch?" (YES!) or "Can two lines intersect if they don't cross?" (YES!).  Try to ask questions that get them thinking without TELLING them!  

 This is huge--and a piece of mathematics instruction we often overlook.  For this sort, I started off by NOT giving my students the category headers.  I wanted to see HOW they organized their cards on their own....and it allowed me to plan some instruction.  For example, one group made 14 categories--some of which only had one card!  We had a great talk about what makes good categories and then I handed out the four header cards.  Students then worked to reshuffle their groups to align to the new categories.  I also called groups over to look at this group's work because they were keeping everything all lined up rather than in piles all over the floor.  It makes it much easier to compare cards when they are neatly arranged.
Some groups are pretty convinced that they have everything correct, and if I want the other groups to have a little more time, I ask them to use the blank cards to try to make more examples for each category that are NOT found on any of the other cards.  This asks them to really apply what they know and to work together to do so.
 After my groups have their categories, we do a gallery walk where they travel as a team to check out the other groups and have some math discussions about what they see.  They look for similarities and differences and work to use that specific math vocabulary as they explain their thinking.
 As they worked, I asked my students to put a yellow mark on the cards where they struggled to come to agreement.  As they did their gallery walks, they looked to see if other groups had the same struggles!  After the gallery walk, I collected these cards for our class discussion.  One by one, I put these tricky cards under the document camera and we had "debates" as a class and looked for ways to prove our thinking...from lining up rulers to check for intersections to revisiting definitions. (If lines go on forever, don't they intersect even if the drawing doesn't show it?  YEP!).  This was a great time for me to hit home some of the big concepts I needed them to have--and for them to hear the thinking of others.
So...there was a LOT of math thinking that took place during this 45 minute lesson!  Hope this gave you some ideas about what you could try in YOUR class!  Let me know how it goes!  Want to see a few of my concept sort resources?  Here are a few of them! (Check my store for the custom category "Concept Sorts" for more!)