last days of school
I know many of you are starting to celebrate--another school year is in the book!

For many of us, we have days or even weeks left--and it's hard to keep students motivated and focused and LEARNING until the very end.  I have a few tips today to help you keep your students--AND YOU--ready for a successful ending!  I know the paperwork for us is crazy--but that isn't our students' fault! Keep your stress under control, your "to do" lists handy, and check out these tips!

1.  Keep students busy doing meaningful work!

It's easy to forget that students crave routine...and when you throw in end-of-year field trips, assemblies, treats, assessments, and more--it's easy to let it all fall apart.  The more we can keep students doing quality, rigorous work, the better!  I know that I am always looking for that last minute data to help with report cards as well--but there is no reason it can't be made a little more fun as well!

I needed a few last reading grades, so I gave this easy to give demand prompt.  The students had a BLAST describing their "dream" classroom and I got what I needed for report cards!  (This and other prompts are available in THIS RESOURCE)
last days of school activities

I also use this time of year to do TONS of problem-solving...whether it's "themed" word problems like
end of school math activities
end of school year

or review problems with all the content from the year, keeping math going strong is super important...even if you have "finished" the curriculum.  Even consider having your students write some of their own!  Tell them that if they write some good ones, you can use them with next year's class!

Speaking of next year's class...I love to do this project with my students--and it gives me a perfect bulletin board for BACK to school as well!  I've killed two birds with one stone...there are a number of options included and the letters and everything you need are right there!
end of year bulletin board

I also keep up with our daily independent reading and writing times and make sure my science and social studies activities are meaningful yet fun.  We do "BizWorld" at the end of the year--and if you haven't heard of it, it is well worth checking out.  It's an amazing simulation.  I have blogged about it in the past...just click HERE if you want to see a few blog posts about it.

Now don't get me wrong...I sprinkle some "just for fun" stuff in there as well--especially in the final day or two.  Here are some of my favorites!
summer classroom ideas

2.  Take more frequent breaks and keep activities shorter.

I don't think this is rocket science--but just accept that the students are going to have a harder time focusing!  Instead of planning a 60-minute math lesson, plan three twenty minute ones!  Get them moving and transitioning and give them fewer opportunities to get off track.  For example, we are working on adding and subtracting decimals.  Instead of pages of practice on Tuesday, we are warming up with a summer word problem...

then we are getting out our whiteboards for some practice problems...

then I am introducing the swimming pool problem (involves adding money) for them to work on over the next few days...
end of year math

then we are going to do the book work in partners.

The same is true for all other subjects...keep switching things up!

3.  Choose a powerful read aloud.

One thing I started to do a few years ago is picking a very compelling read aloud book that I deliberately map out to finish on the very last day of school.  For the last few years, that book has been "Wonder" for's an amazing book and it talks about transitions and growing up--and my fourth graders leave me to go to a new school and it's so fitting.  I've also read "No Talking" at the end of the year and "Out of My Mind"--both excellent "school" books that keep them interested and begging you to read more.

After we finish reading at the end of that last day, it leads into a perfect discussion about our year, their hopes for the next year, and so on.  It's a great bonding time as we finish our year together.

4.  Keep their bodies moving.

In addition to taking more frequent breaks, make sure that you are giving their bodies time to move and wiggle.  Whether you build in more time for things like GoNoodle (a favorite of mine!), can get them outside for some learning, or just have them out of their desks for centers, partner work, or projects--this can really help keep students engaged and on task.  Sometimes even moving the learning to a new place--a hallway, the cafeteria, or any extra spaces can be a great break.  We have an odd space by our elevator that is the perfect place for a quick task card exchange, concept sort, or partner editing!  Even doing a simple science lab instead of reading out of textbooks can be so much more fun and meaningful at this time of year.  Big number division is more fun on the playground with sidewalk chalk!  Build angles with your bodies on the playground!

5.  Keep yourself calm and maintain your classroom as a learning environment.

One thing I have noticed over the years is that despite our desire to wrap things up, students are acutely aware of these transitions as well.  When we start taking down bulletin board, boxing things up, and changing routines--they can't help but feel like it's all over. If you need to box things up, keep them out of sight.  Taking down bulletin boards really doesn't take that long--save it for the very end.  When students feel their classroom is "gone", they don't feel the need to be students anymore!

The more we can keep ourselves centered, calm, and happy in the last weeks, the more likely our students are to rise to the occasion!  Stress leads to plan ahead, take a few deep breaths, and do more than survive--THRIVE in those last weeks!

To say "thanks" for all your support over the year, I have marked every product listed in this post on sale for the next two weeks.  Just click any image to take you to the link.  I hope you find a tip or a resource that can help you enjoy the last days with this group of students...remember--you made a difference for them!

I wrote a different end-of-year blog post a year ago--if you want to check out that one, just click the image below!

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Disrupting Thinking
OK...I promised some more sneak peeks of my "Summer of Learning"--and I want you to all get involved!  I am excited to be partnering with Kylene Beers to share her newest book with you!  I have read it and LOVED it--which was no surprise as "Notice and Note" (Also by Beers and Probst) was seriously one of the most influential professional books I have ever read.  I so appreciate it when professional books make me think and push myself to shift my ideas--and both of these books do exactly that.

This newest book is all about preparing our students to read in an ever-changing and challenging world--and how reading should be something that impacts us as human beings and pushes our thinking.  The book is SO easy to read and really helps show what we, as teachers, can do to help instill this sense of "real" reading in our students.

Want to join in?  Here is the plan!
book study

1.  I'm going to give away a copy of the book to a follower.  If I get a ton of entrants, I'll give away two.  If you want to take a closer look, I have put an affiliate link to the book below.  I will announce the winner next Wednesday which will give everyone plenty of time to order the book if you want to read it with the book study.

2.  The schedule is super simple...I will post some "thinker questions" for each of three Wednesdays...June 7, June 14, and June 21.  Chime in on the comments with your "a ha" moments and piggyback off other people's ideas!  My focus will be REAL LIFE classroom applications! 

June 7:  Discuss Part 1
June 14:  Discuss Part 2
June 21:  Discuss Part 3 and the Conclusion

3.  Tune in for an upcoming interview with Kylene Beers herself!  She has been gracious enough to agree to give us some additional insight!  

I am hoping that this book really gets us all thinking about how we want to start our 2017-2018 school year to really provide our students with the absolute best, most powerful reading experiences possible.  Are you interested?  Feel free to enter the giveaway to win your own copy--or grab your own copy if you want to get started early!  It's well worth the $22!  Here's the affiliate link if you are interested.

Want to try to win a copy?  Here you go!  Otherwise--let me know in the comments if you are interested in joining me--and we'll chat about Part 1 on June 7!  Stay tuned for more information about other learning opportunities this summer as well.  If you think you have a friend who might be interested, make sure to let them know too!

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standards for mathematical practice
So I just wanted to share a super quick lesson idea that you might want to try.  It was NOT in my plans, but I saw that a ton of my students made errors on a decimal number line problem and I knew I needed to do something ASAP.  Those Standards for Mathematical Practice are SO important, so I took this opportunity to really give my students some work on critiquing the reasoning of others!

First...I grabbed the pile of papers and divided them into piles of students who got the same or similar answers.  I then grabbed three pages off of different piles to form trios of students who had DIFFERENT responses.
critique the reasoning of others
Why?  I wanted to get them talking!  We have worked hard on creating a climate where students welcome feedback from others and understand the purpose--and it's a good thing because there was a TON of feedback being given!

Their task?  CLEARLY explain why they assigned a certain decimal value to the point on the number line and then be able to defend it when the others ask questions.  The others in the group?  Try to find misconceptions and errors and politely make their point to try to convince others to adjust their answers.

My rule?  No pencils allowed--just highlighters.
standards for mathematical practice
 My reasoning here is that I want students to be ok with being wrong...that FINDING mistakes and misconceptions is the game...not getting the right answer.  With pencils, the temptation to "alter" responses is too great--and it isn't where the learning happens.  I have taught my students about the brain research (If you haven't read Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler RUN to go get it.  I'll throw in an affiliate link at the bottom of this post if you want it.  It is a game changer) that simply making mistakes grows brains.  If you can FIND them, the learning is magnified.  We celebrate them!

I had so much fun walking around and listening to the discussions/explanations/debates and watching students really use their number sense to help their classmates clarify their thinking.  I did this lesson with number lines--but there are a ton of other ways this could be done in other contexts.  It was great to hear the students really using their decimal knowledge to explain how they used benchmark numbers and divided their number lines into different segments.  Like it? Give it a try!
critique the reasoning of others
If you are looking for number line resources, here are the three I have at this time.  Each is separately linked to this posting as well.

But wait!  Have you heard?  It's the big Teacher Appreciation Sale tomorrow and Wednesday!  My entire store (yes, bundles too!) is on sale.  Don't forget to use the code "THANKYOU17" when you check out!  I really and truly do appreciate each of you and can't wait to finish out this school year with a bang.  Want to shop around? Just click the image below.  Want to pin this post for later?  See the pin image below.
Pin for later!
And last but not least...the AMAZING book by Jo Boaler...some of the best $12 I've ever spent.  For real.

webinars PD and FB live for teachers

I. Am. So. Excited.

I still have a ton of school left...and you may too...but I know the school year is wrapping up for many of you.  I have been hard at work planning a wonderful summer of learning for me--and you!  Because some of the fun is starting soon, I thought I'd give you a little sneak peak!

First of all, one of the first things I am doing this summer is hosting a book study on a brand new book by two of my favorite experts, Kylene Beers and Robert Probst.  Watch for a post with more details later this week where I will be giving away a few copies to kick it off!  I'm super excited as well that Kylene Beers has graciously offered to speak with me to give me some additional insight about this exciting text.  Stay tuned!

As the summer goes on, I will showcase several other professional books that I think might get you thinking as well.  So what else do I have in mind?
teaching webinars and pd
Well, to begin, I am SO EXCITED about a series of webinars that I am working on for this summer--all focused on different math content to help you get motivated to try some new things in your classroom! value...writing quality units and weekly plans--and more!  I hope you find them helpful and meaningful.  I will offer them multiple times throughout the summer and they are all FREE!  Watch for details coming later in May.  I hope you will be able to join me.

Although I don't love being on video, I also have a number of Facebook Live videos planned this summer to bring some other ideas and resources to you as well as opportunities for Q and A and more!

Watch all summer long for new blog posts, children's book reviews, giveaways and more!  I can't wait to share new books, ideas, and suggestions with you all summer long.  Check back soon for more!

Want to pin this post as a reminder or to share with friends?  Here you go!
teaching webinars and FB live

Looking for an easy math lesson idea to help you get some much-needed one-on-one time or small group time with students?  See what you think...
 I always have a pocket chart or two on my wall where I keep word problems or other challenges at all times.  I can change these out to be more seasonal, to be more review, or to match the topic we are studying.  In this case, I loaded up this anchor chart with some Earth Day problems!
It's testing season so I am having to switch my schedule all around and squeeze in math throughout the day.  One thing that helps me do this is having a ready supply of challenges ready to roll so students can work cooperatively and I am freed up to pull small groups for coaching.  Those "wall problems" sure come in handy!  Right now we are wrapping up our big division unit, and I still have a large handful of students who really need some one-on-one coaching.  While I pulled them today, I let the others work on these fun Earth Day problems--which were quite challenging for them!

My only direction was that I wanted them to work ALONE to try solving the problems first--
--and then to partner up to compare NOT JUST ANSWERS, but strategies as well.  I encouraged them to "teach" the partner the strategy they used so they could see a new way of solving the problem--and you should have HEARD the discussions!  It was super cool to see some groups really putting their heads together and studying each other's notebooks.  I heard things like...

"I never thought about that!"


"Your work is so organized!"


"I can't believe you were right--I was positive I was!"


"Never mind--I totally see what you did now."

We spent about 30 minutes working on problem-solving and it allowed me to meet with 1 small group and 8 individual students for error analysis on their exit slips!  (Not sure what I mean by this?  When I give an exit or entrance slip, I quickly sort into "got it" and "oh boy" and then pull students to study their work.  If they are making careless errors, I ask them to "proofread" and try to find their errors.  If they are struggling with the content, I reteach them either one-on-one or in a small group.)  I love having these slips handy for whatever I'm teaching...they really help me keep taking the temperature of the class in only a few minutes!  Click the image below to learn more.  Interested in the Earth Day problems?  Click any other image or RIGHT HERE.
division assessment

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gradual release of responsibility
Today is my day to blog over at Upper Elementary Snapshots, and I'm talking about how I really used the Gradual Release of Responsibility model to teach my students about improving their summaries...summaries are SO hard for students to do well, so it took a lot of time, a lot of modeling, and a lot of patience!  Just click the image to take you there if you want to see more!

Rather pin it for later?  Here you go!
gradual release

reading learning targets
I can't believe we are in our final quarter of the year!  Report card time always gets me a little nostalgic...I think about what we have accomplished--but also what more I really want my students to do before they leave me!

I really believe that goal setting is important--but I also think that it's really hard for students to set meaningful goals.  They are so broad with their thinking...."I want to get better at reading." simply doesn't do much!  They also don't always REALLY understand some of the more subtle things--that reading isn't just about how long the book is or how "hard" it is.  Because of that, I work hard all year on trying to help them realize how complicated reading is...and how it can be broken into all sorts of different strategies, skills, and behaviors.

We had a community circle chat today about what we really hoped to accomplish in our last quarter together...I told them some of the ideas I had for class goals...improving our written responses to reading, making sure that we add sufficient details when we elaborate, writing ALL genres with good conventions, and making sure that we are using vivid vocabulary.

I then explained that we each have PERSONAL goals as well--and that we need to make sure we always know what we need to do to get better--whether it's baseball, making cupcakes, or reading and writing!  We then spent some time browsing my reading target flip books to remind ourselves of SO many of the mini-lessons we have explored this year.  We used these a lot at the beginning of the year, and I use them in intervention groups, but it's been a while since we dug into them.  We had some great discussions, and I had students working in small groups to discuss them and do some self-reflection.
student reading goals
 After a while, I asked them to think hard about one or two goals for reading and writing and to record them on these adorable pencil notepapers...
reading learning targets
 I told them that they could use the exact targets from the flip books if they wanted, but they could go off on their own as well.  I encouraged them to think about the processes we use when we read and write--so not to write goals like, "I will read more books." but to really get to the heart of learning.  They turned them into me and I had a quick chat with each student as they did so.
reading learning targets
 I hung them all up as a visual--and our next steps are to do some planning.  HOW will we work toward these goals?  What steps will we take?  Finally, in a few weeks, we will add an "update" sticky note to show our progress.
reading learning targets
We had some great discussions--and I think it will be a fun way for us to keep these ideas very "present" in our last 9 weeks together.  We've come a long way--but we still have a ways to go as well!

Want to see where the learning target flip books came from?
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reading learning targets

Math coaching
After years of just doing little bits on the side, I have made the decision to take my professional development and consulting to the next level!  I'm super excited to share my love of learning with teachers around the country.  If you have snooped around my new blog design at all, you may have noticed a tab for "Professional Development"--well, it's up and ready for action!

One of my very favorite things to do is work closely with teachers to build their "toolbox" of teaching strategies--and to get them super fired up to teach math.  I have consulted with individual teachers to help with planning, worked at the building level to make systematic changes, and have even taught week-long workshops...and I'm ready to take my show on the road!

If you think your building or district are looking for someone to come in and work with teachers in any number of ways, I'd love to chat with you.  Wondering what kinds of things we could do together?

  • I can spend a day in your building or district working with different groups of teachers...
  • I can work with a large group for short or extended professional development....
  • I can come in, observe, take notes, and then work with a leadership team to plan for how to take math instruction to the next level...
  • I can help work with a staff or group of staff members to look at curriculum and find ways to help teachers better deliver it...
  • I can work with new teachers on best practices in math...
  • Or we can design our own plan!

As you know, TEACHERS tend to be the agents of change in their school communities.  I'd love for you to share the information with the decision makers in your district.  How can I connect with them?

  • Share the link to the "Professional Development" tab to my blog...Just CLICK HERE  for the link.
  • Share the link to my brochure on Teachers Pay Teachers.  You can find it by CLICKING HERE.
  • Print the brochure and hand it to your administrator!
As an added bonus, any teacher whose "share" of my information results in a booking will receive a $100 credit to my store as a thank you!
Staff development  professional development

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math coaching

teaching area and perimeter
I blogged a few days ago about some of the fun area and perimeter activities we had done in class (If you missed it, just CLICK HERE.) and I promised you a follow-up post!

With "big" concepts, I tend to have a sequence of teaching that doesn't really follow a formula but does have a certain sequence.  First of all, I want the students to explore and build their understanding.  That's what that first post was all about--immersing students in meaningful activities to develop their foundations.

Once that happens, we do need some guided practice and formative assessment to see where students are with their depth of understanding.  Sometimes this means I use some of the lessons that area a part of our math series, sometimes it involves other practice activities.  After I taught a few mini-lessons from our math series, I wanted to give students the opportunity to practice finding area and perimeter--and time for me to observe and look for any misconceptions and problems.

Here's what I did.  I used a set of task cards that were differentiated by level and put them in a giant circle around the room (I couldn't 'get a good picture that showed this!  Just picture 20 cards scattered around the perimeter!).  I explained to the students that the cards asked them to find area and perimeter--and were arranged in order from most simple--rectangles and shapes with the grid built in--to more complex shapes.  I partnered students up with partners of similar math abilities and asked them to start at a location that they thought matched their confidence level.

 I asked them to take a wipe off marker, their math spiral, and something to erase with (most of my students have a sock or washcloth in their desk).  Their job was to solve a card as a team, make sure they used math talk to "prove" that their solutions were correct.  I encouraged them to write directly on the cards to help with that "proof".  As they solved a card, they then moved to another one.
teaching area and perimeterteaching area and perimeter
 I had a blast walking around and listening to their thinking...this card was being tackled by some of my struggling students.  The strategy?  One of them suggested "moving" the bottom two squares over to the end to make it a rectangle which would be easier to count.  It took some convincing to get her partner to believe it (we actually broke out some tiles and built it) but the light bulb went ON after that!
area and perimeter lessons
 We had investigated two strategies for finding the area of these irregular shapes--finding the entire rectangle and subtracting the missing "bite", and subdividing the shape into smaller rectangles.  If students were working quickly, I asked them to try both methods to confirm if they were getting the same amount.
area and perimeter task cards
 This partnership was REALLY struggling with their math talk!  (See that really dark blue line?  She traced over it about 12 times to try to make her point!).  The two students had totally different answers and neither were having much success being open to other ideas.  I listened to them for a little while and then asked another partnership to join them to try to get them "unstuck".  It worked.
area and perimeter lessons
 I was able to keep a running list of students who seemed to be struggling--but the best part was that there was some amazing teaching being done from student to student!  The next day, I gave an entrance slip to take the temperature of the group, refined my "watch" list, and then planned for some reteaching for those who needed it.  Not bad for about 25 minutes of math class!
area and perimeter ideas

Interested in checking out these task cards?

How about some area and perimeter formative assessments?

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