Thursday, July 31, 2014

2014 Back to School Product Swap

I'm so excited to be a part of this product swap! I am not sure if I'm excited about school starting VERY soon, but this product swap hosted by the amazing Cara from Creative Playground will help beat those back to school blues.

I was paired up with (the ever so patient) Jennifer Drake from Crayons and Cuties in Kindergarten. She gave me the most adorable Back to School Lapbook to make with my 2nd graders.

I love doing lapbooks with my class so this is a perfect way to teach my new kiddos how to assemble the various parts of a lapbook in a fun and easy way and gives me a chance to check out their fine motor skills. They also get to break out that new box of crayons they can't wait to try out!

Jennifer gives excellent directions that anyone could follow and there is so little prep for this project. All you need to do is make copies of the specific pages you will use and fold the file folders. You know how crazy that first week back to school is, right? This is such an easy project to prep and will keep those new wigglers busy for a good chunk of time.
I printed out the pages I'll use with my 2nd graders but there are also options for preschool through 2nd grade! I got my daughter to help me with coloring and cutting and I was able to easily assemble my model that I'll show my students. If you have an interactive white board, document camera or projector,  I would suggest showing students the finished product as well as what to do for each step of the lapbook. You may also want to give students one page at a time to color and cut. Here's my finished product:

I think you would knock parents' socks off if you displayed these at Open House night or sent home as keepsakes. Here's the best part: it is on sale for only $2 until 8/4! You can not beat that price for such a quality project that is so easy to prep and students will love. 

Guess what else? Jennifer is allowing me to give one away! Enter with the Rafflecopter below! Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now check out what everyone else reviewed:

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Study: Chapter 7

I'm linking up with the lovely ladies at Adventures in Guided Math for Chapter 7 of our book study. I have loved this opportunity to reflect on my teaching practice and hear what other teachers have to say. Read all the way through for two little freebies! 
If you're following along, here's the schedule:
Before I answer any discussion questions, I must say how much the story at the beginning of the chapter hit me. I teach 2nd grade and don't always get a glimpse of what happens in the upper grades when students fall behind grade level proficiency. It is so important to meet kids at their level and teach from there.

One of the biggest things I work on in 2nd grade is place value. It is the very first unit I teach and I spend a great deal of time on it. It is one of the conceptual building blocks for the rest of the year. I can teach students procedures for adding with regrouping but it doesn't help them if they don't understand place value. 

I spent so much time last year thinking about how my students solve problems. We were required to give district math tests that were completely open response. We all felt frustrated by the fact that our students could get the correct answer but didn't always have coherent ways of demonstrating how they got an answer and would lose points on the rubric. I have decided that I need to spend much more time having students show their thinking in multiple ways. Our instructional coach showed us a sheet that can be used with any problem, in any grade. I couldn't find it, so I made my own that you can get here for free:
At the beginning, I will have students try one way on their own. After we share different ways, I will have them write down what other students shared. Gradually, they'll work their way up to writing 4 ways on their own. I think this tool would really help facilitate discussions and serve as an informal assessment or exit slip. It is also differentiated because it is open-ended and allows students to work at their level. You could also give different levels of problems based on what students are working on. I really hope this helps students struggle less with describing their thinking this year.

**Side note** Dr. Nicki Newton has given me permission to share the Math Thinking Prompts I blogged about from Chapter 2. You can get them by clicking here or on the picture. 

Check out what others have said about Chapter 7:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tune into Technology 7/29: QR codes

I'm linking up with iTeach 1:1 for a cool linky called Tune into Technology.
This week's theme is QR codes! I have been called the Queen of QR codes at my school. I put them on everything! One thing I love to do is put them on the products I make so kids can check answers. I have even put QR codes on products I have bought and on information for parents. If you don't have a clue what QR codes are or how they can be used in classrooms, check out the post I wrote about them here.

I branched out a little last year and used QR codes to make student work come alive. When we studied the solar system, students made these adorable accordion books to demonstrate their learning. You can get the Solar System and Planet Flipbook Reports from Creative Classroom Lessons.

Then, I asked them to write a 3-5 sentence "speech" summarizing what they learned. I gave students at least a dozen sentence starters to help them craft an interesting speech. The last thing I wanted was: "Jupiter is a large planet. Jupiter is next to Saturn. Jupiter is cool. Jupiter is.....". BORING! I had the kids practice their "Power Speeches" with a buddy several times before I recorded them. Click on the link to hear one student's
space report. You can also scan the QR code:
 Now, you can see and hear what kids have learned. I set them up on desks (gallery walk style) and gave pairs of students iPods to scan the QR codes and listen to their classmates. Now the kids are learning from each other and getting visual and audio input. Let me tell you how impressed their parents were!

You may be wondering how in the world to make an audio QR code. This is the way I do it but there may be an easier way and I'd love to hear it if you know!

 Thank you to Amazing for the use of the tablet clip art!

I know this was a loooooong post! I hope you found it helpful. As always, if you have ANY questions, please comment below. Also, feel free to pin the heck out of this post ;) and if you'd like more info on technology use in the classroom, check out my Classroom Tech pin board.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Study: Chapters 3 & 4

I'm linking up with Sarah and Courtney at Adventures in Guided Math for a book study on Guided Math 
in Action by Dr. Nicki Newton. So far, this book has been full of information and ideas that I'm taking to my classroom in less than a month (yikes!). Today we're focusing on Chapters 3 & 4. Dr. Newton estimates that we may spend about 40 hours a year dealing with pencil issues. She suggests sharpening a few hundred before school starts. I better get cracking! 

I have a 3 drawer Sterilite organizer full of math tools. I think they're pretty cheap at WalMart.
I have everything I would need for math workshop in those drawers! I have analog clocks, plastic coins, all types of counters and dice, number lines and grids, laminated sheets for practicing various skills, decks of cards, dry erase boards, markers, erasers, task cards and other miscellaneous supplies. I keep counters, coins, and dice in small snack size zip top bags so I can just grab a bag to give to a student. I have a weird passion for dice. I love this set because it has all types of dice with different numbers.

 I also give each student a set of paper base 10 blocks to keep in their desks. When students need other materials, such as rulers, snap cubes, geoboards, pattern blocks or measuring tapes, they can access those items from open storage bins. Often, when a math station calls for specific items such as counters or dice, I will make sure those items are already in the gallon zip top bag with the directions, task cards, games or recording sheets. I try to make it so that kids have what they need at their fingertips so they have less reason to roam. When it is time to clean up, students are expected to return all materials to their bags or bins. They must work together to clean up before they can head out to recess. I also have teamwork points on the board that I can award to the cleanest group, the first to be cleaned up, or for helping others, etc. It works like a charm!
I meet with students in small group a lot! Some of my groups are homogeneous, while others are heterogeneous. When students go through their math stations, they are mixed abilities. They support each other and work at their own pace. I see each of these groups twice a week. This is a time when I'm assessing, reteaching or preteaching. Sometimes, I use this time to teach a new game that will be an independent station the following week. I have 5 groups, but 6 stations. This allows me to do three rounds per day (12-15 minutes per round). My stations last for two days, but many activities or games are repeated at other times. For example, students may play Addition War for three weeks.

I meet with my intervention group daily. This is a group with similar abilities, but it is very flexible. Sometimes it will be just 2 students, and other times it will grow to 7. I also have a time of day when students are practicing a skill after the mini lesson. I invite students to work with me if they feel they need it. Some just come up for a few problems and realize they don't need my help. Some stay the entire time. Some decide on their own to come over and others need to be invited. It is the most flexible group and I meet with them daily.

During small group (or during transition to the next group) I jot down notes about students and stick them on a clipboard. At the end of the day, I'll stick them in students' math file folders. I keep more specific data on the students in my intervention group.  I have a binder with tabs for the students in the intervention group. I place my quick assessments and any other anecdotal information in this binder that may align with their intervention goals. This is a freebie from Amanda Hill that can be used in a data binder:

I also like the Waterfall Index Card Chart discussed on pages 46 and I think I will explore that option during the year as well. The most important thing is that you pick a system that you will actually use. It needs to be simple, easy to maintain, and meet your needs.

Check out what my fellow bloggers had to say about Chapters 3 & 4. I can't wait to read them all and get some good ideas. See you soon for Chapter 5!

Guided Math in Action Book Study: Chapter 6

I'm linking up with Adventures in Guided Math for Chapter 6 of our book study on Guided Math in Action by Dr. Nicki Newton. 

Question #1
I have a love-hate relationship with lesson plan templates. I'm always trying to find just the right template that will give me the information I need while being VERY easy to use, fill out, and keep up with. I have tried countless lesson plan templates for guided reading over the years and I've found that the type I'm most likely to keep up with is very simple, has skills and activities built in that I can just highlight or circle. I can't stand typing or writing the same things over and over again. I won't typically change my groups every week so I will fill out student names, standards, and concepts/skills and make a few copies of the template so I won't have to write them in each day. I tend to write in pencil so I can make adjustments without having to get to my computer.
I don't necessarily have a lesson plan template that I love for guided math, yet. I do like Dr. Nicki's templates on pages 77-80 and in the back of the book on pages 138-9. Perhaps I can create a hybrid template that meets all my needs for efficiency, simplicity and functionality. I found a freebie by Pam & Tara I like:

And another by Owl Star Teaching:
Question #2
When I'm working with my small groups, I always introduce a concept using concrete (manipulatives), pictorial (drawings) and abstract (equations) simultaneously. However, I start the students with manipulatives while I demonstrate the other two. For example, I will ask a student to use their base ten blocks to make a number. I will then draw a picture of their blocks ( modeling good organization and vocabulary) and the number on my dry erase board. When I ask the student to take away a quantity, I will also cross out the picture representation. I don't erase because it doesn't show a record of the action taken. Finally, students will count their blocks and then I will count my picture, adding in the numerical information and writing an equation. Eventually, I will phase over to having students draw pictures while I support with manipulatives (if necessary) and writing the equations on my board. When I see regression, I always have the manipulatives handy to support students' conceptual understanding. Some students fly through these transitions, quickly making the connections from conceptual to abstract. Many others are reluctant to give up their manipulatives or drawings (or counting  fingers!) to transition to the abstract level. The key is knowing when to push students and when to support. I think you just really need to know your kids and the best way is having a consistent routine of meeting with students in small groups.

Another example of transitioning students through the levels is when they learn to count coins. At first, you give them the coins (either plastic or actual). When I'm drawing pictorial representations of coins, I begin by drawing a circle with the value of the coin inside and then move to using a letter to represent the coin. Many students will naturally start to drop the circle and just use either the letter representation or a numerical representation, and eventually move to writing equations. This is something I model while students are at the concrete and pictorial stages.

Boy! I still have so much to think about in regards to planning! I think I will make a hybrid of all the lesson planning templates I've seen that will fit my needs best. The most important thing is that I do make a conscious effort to plan and the best way to do that is to have a functional template that doesn't require a great deal of time to fill out.

See you all soon for Chapter 7: Building Mathematical Proficiency in Guided Math Groups.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Guided Math in Action book study Ch. 1 & 2

I'm so excited to share what I learned from reading the first two chapters in Guided Math in Action. I'm linking up with Sarah and Courtney from Adventures in Guided Math for this awesome book study. If you read her post, you'll see that Sarah and I had the same idea. Great minds think alike!

One of the ways I promote perseverance in my classroom is what I call "Fix it Wednesday". I return checked work to students and they have to make corrections to it. The goal is for students to learn from their mistakes and independently work through problems they are having. They can get frustrated at times. They struggle. They whine. They fuss.

I stand my ground and they begin to learn. While the majority of students are working on their "Fix it" packets, I have the opportunity to work closely with a few students who are having misconceptions or need reteaching. I assign a few students as "experts" (usually students with few errors) to walk around and support other students. I have carefully trained them to never give answers, but to ask leading questions instead. This is also a time I invite parent or community volunteers to assist with checking work so I can focus on my small group. Students in my class learn that I never give away answers and they will be expected to work through their problems.
I was surprised to find that my "old" math block is quite similar to the block suggested in Chapter 2. I start with calendar and number of the day routines and then transition to whole group mini lesson. Finally, I launch into math stations and meet with my groups. I spend quite a bit of time at the beginning of the year establishing norms, routines, and procedures for math so that it will run smoothly even if I have a sub. I have also been thinking about how to get my kids talking about math more. Here's what I've learned:

I often ask students to turn to an elbow partner to share their ideas, problems, strategies or answers. Each child can share what he or she said OR what their partner said.  I often tell them to share their strategy without giving away the answer so it gives respect to different ways of solving problems. Giving students think time and letting them bounce ideas off a partner or in a small group is much easier for some students that participating in a whole group discussion. I praise students who learn from their mistakes! I make a huge deal about their learning process so they aren't afraid to share. I will sometimes have groups solve challenging problems together. Each one has a role so that everyone is participating and learning. These are usually problems they would not be able to solve easily by themselves. Finally, my students know that they will each have a turn to lead/teach the calendar or number of the day routines. It is so great to hear them ask each other questions.

Next year, however, I want add a few things to make my math block even better. First, I want to start with an "Energizer", which is explained as a quick game to get students' minds thinking about numbers. The example in the book is a game called, "I'm thinking of a number". I have played this game in the past to fill a few minutes here and there, but I'm really thinking it would be a great way to start each math block. One thing I'm also going to add are Math Thinking Prompts (p. 16) that I'll display around the room. I often ask students to tell me why they got an answer and they often change their answer, rather than defend it. Here's a picture of some of the prompts I'll post in my room (you can grab them here for free!):

Monday, July 14, 2014

The How and Why of Using QR Codes in the Classroom

I have been asked about a bazillion times about QR codes. What are they? Why are they on your products? How do you use them? How can I use them in my classroom?

These are simple questions, but the answers are BIG. I have been using QR codes in my classroom for almost 2 years and I can tell you that my students l-o-v-e them! I have seen student engagement go way up. I have seen accuracy and fluency go way up. I have seen quality of work go way up. My students' parents are really impressed with some of the projects we have done with QR codes. My principal is really impressed, too! 

If you want to know more about using QR codes in your classroom, check out this FREE informational packet I created:

The How and Why of Using QR Codes in the Classroom

This packet has easy to read info and a link to a sample QR code product to use in your class. If you have any questions, please comment below! 

If you scan the QR code above, it will take you to my store! Also, if you are interested in learning more about using technology in the classroom, check out my Classroom Tech Pinterest board

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Study

Hi friends! I'm home from a whirlwind week in Las Vegas and my brain is buzzing with so much information! I am very much looking forward to participating in this awesome book study with Guided Math Adventures this summer. This is the book EVERYONE is talking about! I think it will really help me improve my math block.

I can't wait to share the awesomeness of this book with you! We are kicking off the book study on July 16! Please come back then to check out what I learned from Chapters 1 & 2. Here is the schedule if you are interested in reading along with us!