Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Teaching Students to Make Inferences (and a freebie!)

This is quite a difficult skill for second graders to learn. I have seen so many anchor charts on the topic that it must not just be me struggling to teach it. My biggest issue is finding stories that really make it easier to make inferences. I came across the BEST book to read aloud to my class. This book actually requires kids to make inferences!
This story is told from the point of view of two ants that have invaded a human home. The author never tells the reader exactly what is going on because he uses different vocabulary. For example, the ants are in search of crystals to take back to their home. It takes the kids a few pages (and clues from the pictures) to understand that they are looking for sugar.
I started my lesson by activating their prior knowledge about ants so we could refer to it as we made inferences. As we read the story, I stopped and had the students make inferences about different parts of the story. The kids really understood how to make inferences after this awesome read aloud. Then, I assigned my Making Inferences Flip Flap Book (freebie!) to the students so they could write about the inferences they made.

I'll admit that they struggled, at first, but eventually got the hang of it. My kiddos really enjoyed the story and how it was told from the perspective of the ants. They felt like they were detectives looking for clues in the text and illustrations and using their schema to make some great inferences.
Look how much these boys were writing!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Math Centers

Two years ago, I started doing math centers with my kiddos. After some wrestling with logistics and timing, I came to really love this time of day and so do my students. They are seriously devastated if something weird comes up and we can't do centers. I store all my centers in gallon zip top bags labeled with the name of the activity and the skill. It is really easy to find what I need and see if the contents are all there. It also makes clean up (a student responsibility) a breeze.

Here's how I set them up:
I have 5 color-coded table groups plus my table, which makes 6 rotations. This means there is always one empty station. My table is almost always intervention/enrichment or a chance to introduce a new game that will eventually be in rotation. There is an activity assigned to each table that lasts about 10-12 minutes. We go through 3 rotations each day so a set of centers lasts 2 days. I ring a bell and the students rotate to the next group.

If they haven't finished their task, they need to "pull over" with a clipboard and finish it. I try to cover fluency, word problems/test prep, the skill we're working on for that unit, and mix in some fun and games. I usually alternate games and practice pages so there is some measure of accountability and the kids are motivated to finish their "work" so they can play the "game" that is next. I took a few quick pics the other day while my station was empty.

iPad station

Promethean Board station

Game station
My kids really love Addition and Subtraction Battle, which is a game using a deck of cards (minus the face cards). Each kid flips over a card on the count of 3 and then the first person to quickly add or subtract the two numbers keeps both cards. It has really helped to improve their fluency! I also have 3 iPads for kids to play math games on. In addition, I try to have a QR code station if possible. This week we used my Snowy Addition center. They are so motivated to complete their work with accuracy when there is a QR code involved.
You can grab my Snowy Subtraction and Addition Task Cards with QR Codes at my TPT store for just $2!

Finally, all the work is turned in as they finish. I grade it and on Wednesdays we spend some time correcting their work. We call it "Fix It Wednesdays". I started doing this because some kids were rushing through their work and not caring about accuracy. Now, they are much more conscientious about making sure their work is correct so they don't have much work to do on Fix It Wednesday. The kids who finish their corrections can play math games on the computer or iPad, play some of our other games or be "helpers" to their classmates while I work with struggling students. It provides accountability during math centers, helps students learn from their mistakes, and gives me a chance to work with students who needed more instruction.
One of biggest challenges I have come across is finding activities that can be completed in about 10 minutes, don't need a ton of prep, or that don't require my assistance. I have a bucket of math books that the fast finishers can read if they have time before the next rotation. The other challenge is teaching students appropriate procedures for rotation, playing the games or completing the activities, clean up and keeping kids on task and relatively quiet. The first 4 weeks of school, I don't even have a group so that I can walk around the room and monitor the kids. After the initial training, things pretty much run like clockwork and it is well worth the extra time spent up front training the kids. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

QR codes that play audio

It has been said that I'm a technology freak. I don't deny it. I am also obsessed with QR codes. I use them all the time with my class and they love the instant feedback. After much deliberation about what to have the kids make as gifts for their parents for the holiday, I decided to skip the cheesy ornaments and do something academic and timeless. I found this awesome activity by the awe-inspiring Amy Lemons called, "The Story of...A Student Writing Booklet". It helps students organize a narrative about themselves using different verb tenses.

 First, you brainstorm verbs describing things the kids did when they were little. This can be hilarious. Some classic examples:
pooped, cried, spit up.

 Then, you brainstorm verbs that kids can do now. Mine needed a little prompting but caught on quick. This melted my heart! One kid wrote that she could read really hard chapter books!
 This is the fun part! A few of my little darlings said that they wanted to be teachers when they grow up! One said she wants to drive a pink limo. Her buddy next to her said, "That's gonna be hard to find".
Here is the title page. When I told the kids that we would be laminating these, they started to really take this project seriously. They felt like real authors!

After much editing (first with peers, then with me) and some dictionary practice, they were ready to write their final copies. I'll post pictures of the final products as soon as they're finished.

Now, here is where the QR codes come in! I recorded the kids reading their stories into my iPhone, then emailed them to myself. I saved them to Dropbox and then clicked on Share Link. After that I copied the link and pasted it into my favorite QR code generator site www.qrstuff.com and made QR codes for each kid. Now, all I have to do is print them out, glue them to the cover of their books and laminate them. I really think each parent will love to hear their child's precious voice reading the book they wrote and illustrated. I can't wait to see the finished product because they are looking awesome so far!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Snow, snow, snow and subtraction

We woke up to a dusting of snow this morning! It snowed steadily almost all day and my school district decided that parents could come and pick up their kids early if they wanted to, but we would dismiss at the regular time. Starting just before noon, the students slowly trickled out of the room as their parents came to pick them up. I had only half my class left, so instead of teaching the really important subtraction lesson I had planned, we played games on the Promethean board all afternoon! The kids got really stir crazy at one point and it seemed like they had each eaten about a dozen cupcakes. I had also planned to have them do my Snowy Subtraction QR code activity as a math center, but that also went out the window!
click here to get it

Oh well! I guess we'll do it tomorrow (or maybe next week). Some of my students have really been understanding how to do subtraction with regrouping. It really helps that they learned the little poem that helps them know when to regroup:

More on the top? No need to stop!
More on the floor? Go next door!
Number's the same? Zero's the name!
Sometimes all I have to do is tell them to ask "the question". It is so cute to see them whispering the little poem as they work through problems. Of course, I still have some kids struggling with the concept and they are using base-10 blocks or drawings to help them conceptually.
I have had such a crazy week and can't wait for the weekend to just relax a little bit. My tech team at school was chosen to do a presentation about using QR codes in the classroom at our district's Digital Learning Conference. It was quite an experience! I was so nervous because I did most of the talking, but it was really good for me to step up and show what I've been doing with my students. I was also really inspired by one presenter in particular that demonstrated some really great ways to use technology with students. I'll definitely be doing some research and playing around with some apps over winter break.  
Well, my daughters are hard at work finishing projects and studying for finals and it is time for me to go help with some Algebra (gag!). This just reminds me why I teach 2nd grade!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Literary Elements Flip Flap Books and a FREEBIE!

I have been hard at work this Thanksgiving break, making some products for my TPT store and to use in my classroom. I was inspired to make a flip flap book to help my students write about the inferences they are learning to make while reading. I came up with two designs:

This one is a full page and can be glued into a journal or stapled to lined paper.
This one is meant to be folded in half lengthwise.
Making inferences is so difficult for 2nd graders. We worked on it all last week and will continue on through the next three weeks. The reason I was inspired to make some flip flap books was the awesome pack I purchased on TPT from Graphics from the Pond. Click the pic to get it or the link to her blog, which is adorable!
Flip Flap Template Set - Decorative - Great for Interactiv

I was so inspired, that I made a whole set of flip flap books to use as reading response papers with just about any book. These cover the first three RI and RL common core standards for 1st-5th.
Click on the pic to see my new product:

This pack has 7 different literary elements flip flap books with 3 different designs of each. They are simple and easy to use. My students love them and prefer them over traditional graphic organizers. I guess they love any excuse to get those scissors out!

Now for your FREEBIE! I also uploaded the Inferencing Flip Flap Books for free so you can try it with your class. I'm planning to create some subtraction task cards to use with my math centers, so I better get back to work.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Candy Contractions

After searching on TPT for some contraction activities to use with my class next week, I became a little overwhelmed. I didn't find exactly what I wanted and so I decided to whip up a sweet little pack of practice pages with a peppermint candy theme that is perfect for December.
There are five pages that have contractions grouped together by type. This page has contractions that all have "not" in them. I decided to teach one type of contraction each day, and this page will serve as a quick practice kids can do while I work with reading groups. There is also a page that includes QR code cards so kiddos can check their work and make corrections independently. See my previous blog on how I set up a QR code scanning station.
Click here to visit my TPT store and grab this product for your class!
On a personal note, today was one heck of a day. Today and tomorrow are parent-teacher conferences so the kiddos are out of school all week. I had 17 scheduled for today alone! I guess parents wanted to get them over with and get on with their Thanksgiving Break plans. I can't blame them...
However, here in New Mexico, people don't exactly know how to drive in any sort of weather and we had a snowstorm this weekend. When we get some snow, our school districts often opt for a 2 hour delay, which is exactly what happened today. I was up at 5 this morning to get to school by 7 and got the call about the delay. I slightly panicked because my district didn't have a plan about how to deal with conferences during a snow delay. I looked outside and saw that my street was clear and emailed all my parents telling them that I would carry on with conferences as scheduled, but if they felt unsafe about driving, I would reschedule. There was so much confusion amongst parents, teachers and even district officials. Thank goodness each of my families got to school safely and I didn't have to reschedule any. Now, after talking for almost 9 hours straight, my throat hurts. I still have 7 more to do tomorrow so I guess I better retire my voice for the night. It also dawned on me that we have exactly one month until Christmas! Yikes! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Parts of Speech Sort

 My students have been struggling to remember and differentiate between adjectives, adverbs, nouns, and pronouns, and verbs. I decided to create a simple cut and past parts of speech sort for them to work on independently while I work with my reading groups. I also added QR codes and set up a QR code scanning station with my iPad so they can independently check their work. The kids have loved it and I really think it is helping. I just posted it on my TPT store, if you're interested. I made the words simple enough for ending first grade or second grade kiddos.
click here to get it

Here's a picture of one of my students working:

I also set up an iPad scanning station so students could check their work without interrupting my reading groups to ask for an iPad to scan the QR codes. The case I have is very handy for propping up. All the students had to do was hold the QR code behind the iPad and *poof*, the answer showed up on the screen for them. I did check their work later for accuracy. The kids really loved the independence and trust I gave them and really did make me proud.
Well, I better get home and start on dinner. I'm going to be holed up all weekend doing report cards because conferences are Monday and Tuesday! As soon as I'm done with conferences, my Thanksgiving break will start. I have 17 on Monday and I just hope my voice holds out. I'm normally much more prepared and calm than this but I have had so much going on both in school and at home. I just can't wait for my Momma's turkey, my Grandma's gravy and all the wonderful foods I've been craving lately.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

First Sale on Teachers Pay Teachers

I was so excited to get an email from TPT today saying that I sold an item! Even though it is a very small product and is priced low, it is still exciting. I actually convinced the hubby to take a peek at my store and he thought it was cool, and especially liked my profile picture (gag!), which is just my most recent school picture. I do admit that I look fairly rested and tan in that picture (it was taken before kids started in August) and sadly, it is the best I had to work with.

School this week was crazy. I swear the full moon had something to do with the little darlings being no so darling Friday afternoon. I have loads of work to do this weekend including grading, lesson plans, and maybe prepping to write report cards. My daughters are both playing in a soccer tournament this weekend so I have 8 games to attend and somehow get laundry done. Forget cleaning anything in my house. I toted my little bag of papers to the soccer field to grade during warm ups but only made a tiny dent. It was too windy to keep any of the papers down, so I gave up. Now, what am I doing? Blogging.

Even though being a teacher is an all consuming career, I still love it. I love those precious moments when the light bulb turns on for a kid. I still get excited every August for the new batch of darlings to show up. I continue to get a thrill when planning a really cool lesson or unit. I can't see myself doing anything else. Now, I better get to playing teacher to my 8th grader and helping her out with her Algebra. So. Much. Fun.

Monday, November 11, 2013

3 day weekend...I could get used to this!

It is amazing what a girl can accomplish on a three day weekend, especially when the kids had school today and I didn't (I work in a different district). They were quite upset when they found out. My high schooler even offered to clean the house if I'd let her stay home. Ha! Like I'd fall for that one!

I got caught up on all my grading AND all the saved episodes of The Walking Dead. I truly can't explain my fascination with that show, but I should never watch it at night. I also got all the laundry done and even had time to catch up with an old friend over decadent desserts and coffee this afternoon. Best of all I had time to touch up a couple of activities I made for my class to get them ready to sell on TPT. I now have a whopping 3 products in my store! Both are math activities with QR codes, which my students love.
click here to get it

The first is an activity to reinforce looking for tens when adding mentally. Students can write their answers on the recording sheet and then check for accuracy with the QR codes.

click here to get it
The second will help students practicing subtracting with regrouping. Either product can be used as a math center or posted around the room to get students up and moving. I'll be using the first one this week as a review of addition and I plan to use the second one in the next couple of weeks to help my advanced students practice regrouping.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Better Late Than Never?

I just uploaded my first product to TPT! I created my Seller Account a few months ago, but I'll be honest, I was a little intimidated. Where do you start? Some of the products on there are amazing!

I had made a few math activities to use with my class that have QR codes, but I just haven't had time to upload them on TPT. My hubby is visiting family and I had some "free time" this weekend, so I decided to stop being a chicken and jump in. The first item I uploaded is a Halloween freebie, and I know it is a little late, but it's free, so save it for next year, right?

click here to get your freebie
click here to get your freebie
My students just LOVE using QR codes to check their work. As soon as they see they are doing a QR code activity, they get right to work! They simply record their answers and when they are finished, they bring their work to me so I can give them an  iPod to check their answers. I usually use an activity like this as a center. My students know they have to complete their work in the other centers so they can make it to the QR center. It sure beats a worksheet! It is so cute to see them scanning those QR codes and then saying "YES! I got it right!". Immediate feedback is so important, right?

I got the web frames from Graphics From the Pond and the spiders are from Reading Girl XOXO. I plan to create and upload more products like this soon, so check back on my store to see what else I'm up to!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Where do I begin?

I'm a busy soccer mom and 2nd grade teacher. I love to teach and I've decided to jump on the blog bandwagon for a few reasons. The main reason is to have an archive of my teaching and a place to collect my ideas and lessons. Second, I sometimes just need to vent, brag about my students, and flat out purge some of the stuff that is constantly filling up my brain. I think my hubby is a little tired of my school talk and I can't blame him after hearing it for the past ten years. So, here goes...

This past week flew by, and thank goodness because I could NOT wait for this three day weekend. In my district, things are heating up between the PED and our school districts because of some major crazy changes they have begun to implement this year. I tend to walk the line between activist and hiding my head in the sand. Lately, I feel that so many things are out of my control, so I have decided for my own sanity, to try to ignore all the politics and just TEACH! What a concept, right? Every year I seem to work harder and harder without raises (yet insurance rates go up), but I still love it. I can't explain it. Maybe it has to do with the inspiration I am bombarded with each day from amazing teacher bloggers I follow, my coworkers, and darling students. Of course, my main inspiration is Teachers Pay Teachers. It has completely changed how I teach. Right around the time my district adopted the CCSS, I discovered TPT. Thank goodness, because our curriculum programs do not align very well with CCSS. I have had to create almost everything I have taught the past two years. If it wasn't for TPT, I'd never spend a minute with my family. Now, all I do is search, download, print and GO! I also love that TPT has given creative and talented teachers a way to make real money for things they would do anyway.

I guess I could go on for days, but I'd better wrap things up. Today is the first Saturday that we haven't had a soccer game, so I have a list a mile long of things to do. My 13 year old daughter has beautiful, long, curly hair and needs a haircut. She is thinking about donating it to Locks of Love like I did this summer. She is a little nervous about it and might chicken out and I need to remember to take pictures!

So, if anyone out there is actually (still) reading this first post, welcome!