Monday, December 29, 2014

Collaboration and Community

Don't you love it when your plans come together and the kids get as excited about the lesson as you do? This post is about one of those days.

We were studying community as a part of our second grade social studies curriculum.  One of the goals is that students learn to differentiate between rural, suburban, and urban communities. We had been working on it for a couple of days, defining the terms, exploring the differences, and watching a video on Discovery Education.

I decided I wanted to assess what my students had learned through a collaborative activity.  We made a chart listing some of what we had learned so far.

I put my students into teams of three. I was pretty strategic about this - I have a few kiddos who just don't work well together. I then had each team choose a type of community to illustrate.  Using giant pieces of bulletin board paper, each team had to come up with a plan for their mural. They were given their choice of art materials. My only criteria: they had to plan what they wanted to do first, all group members had to participate in the decision-making, and their final product had to show the characteristics of that type of community.


After just a few questions, all eight groups scattered to different areas of the room, sprawling on the floor in most cases. They got to work and I walked around, listening in on conversations. The conversations were exactly what I had imagined when I planned the activity.  Students were discussing what kinds of buildings to add, who was going to draw the cow, where they were going to put the houses, and other topic-related discussions.

There were a few minor disagreements (aren't there always a few?), but they didn't last long. The students were excited about working together and enjoyed the opportunity to be creative. It was noisy and seemed chaotic at times, but it was really very productive.


I expected that most of the students would prefer to use markers for their murals. One group surprised me, though.  They used construction paper to create their city scene. I'm so glad I didn't limit them to one type of media!

Luckily, I had planned this for a day when we did not have a special area class.  Although I had originally planned for it to take two or three days to complete, the students were so engaged, I let them keep working for over an hour!

Most of the groups were able to complete their murals that same day.  They were very excited to hang them up in the hallway for everyone to see.


 Here are a few of the murals.

A Suburban Community
A Rural Community
An Urban Community

I was pretty pleased with the finished products.  All the groups displayed good knowledge of what belonged in each type of community. I was also extremely pleased with how well the students collaborated on their projects.  There were very few problems and most of those the students worked out among themselves.  If you're hesitant about allowing students this much freedom, don't be. It's amazing what can happen when you ask kids to work together to create something.  I'm eager to find more opportunities for this type of collaborative project.

Until next time,

Friday, December 26, 2014

It's a New Year! Setting Goals for 2015

I'm joining Stephanie from Mrs. D's Corner in setting some goals for 2015.

It's hard to believe we're about to say goodbye to 2014.  It was a year of ups and downs: watching family members struggle through illness and injury; welcoming a new great-niece; saying goodbye to a difficult class and a challenging school year; becoming a part of a fantastic grade level team and beginning a new, much better school year; and watching my TPT store grow.

I'm excited about the year to come. I'm looking forward to visiting my family in Florida and Tennessee. I'm also planning to take part in another NCCAT seminar offered by my state. I want to continue to grow my Teachers Pay Teachers store and I hope to plan a trip to this year's TPT Conference in Las Vegas to learn from more experienced sellers.  Like last year, one of my goals for the coming year is to blog more often.  I find it difficult to fit blogging into my schedule while I am teaching, so I've decided to start by picking one day a week to blog.  Once I'm successful at that, I'll see if I can add another blogging day.

Here are my goals for 2015:


What are your goals for this year?  Feel free to share below, or link up your own blog at Mrs. D's Corner.

Until next time,

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My Favorite Things

We made it to Winter Break!  Hooray! I'm definitely in the vacation spirit, sitting on the couch in my sweats. :)

I'm linking up with Erica Bohrer of Erica's Ed-ventures to share a few of my favorite things.
Here they are in no particular order:

1) My Family and Friends

My mom, my brother and sister, my cousins, my nieces and nephew, my great-nieces and great-nephews; no matter how far apart we are, they bring me joy every day. 


image source: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/552465079261418206/
My friends are a constant source of strength and inspiration.  They encourage me when I'm down and support me in everything I do.  They make me laugh and, sometimes, they make me cry.  I'm so glad I have so many amazing women in my life.

2) Facebook

I love connecting with people I remember from elementary school, junior high, and high school; catching up with cousins who live far away; touching base with old friends and letting them know I still care; making new friends and learning about their lives; being able to see my Florida family through photographs and videos; sharing my beliefs and values; and laughing at funny posts and memes. My business page has introduced me to some amazing educators and kindred spirits.  I confess to being addicted, checking my Facebook pages several times a day. :)

3) Charlotte, North Carolina

I absolutely love my home of the past 11+ years. The city offers sports, culture, and entertainment. Here, I can enjoy the mountains, the Piedmont, and the ocean, all within a few hours drive.  From exploring history to appreciating nature as it should be, I've been able to discover so much about this wonderful area. 

The North Carolina Mountains are home to some amazing waterfalls.
Lake Wylie
I enjoy hiking the local trails.

The Outer Banks
4) Teaching (of course!)
Not every year has been great, but after 18 years, I still enjoy working with kids. I love the lesson planning, the conversations, the children's books, the teaching supplies, the games and activities, and, most of all, the children. I put up with the bureaucracy, the long hours, the never ending paperwork, and the boneheaded laws.  I advocate for a return to quality education every chance I get. I try to put my beliefs into practice every day.  I believe in the importance of what I do.  How could I not?  I see it in the faces of the children I teach every day. I feel it when they come up to me and say things like, "You forgot to give me my hug this morning."  I know it when I see little bits of progress or when they surprise me with insightful comments. 

Preparing for the 2014-2015 school year.

This is the promise our class made to each other this year.


The bottom line:  being a teacher makes me happy. :)

5) Teachers Pay Teachers

I am so glad that I decided to take a chance and open my store on TPT.  I had no idea what I was doing in the summer of 2012.  I just decided to post a few things I had made for my classroom and see what happened.  Since I started as a Basic Seller and didn't have many products, I really didn't make much that first year.  I learned a little bit, then took another chance and became a Premium Seller the next summer.  My store isn't making me rich, but the real payoff is knowing that my products are being used in classrooms across the country (and maybe around the world). To think that my work has helped so many teachers to plan and students to learn...astounding! The other benefit is the amazing community of educators I've had the opportunity to "meet" and learn from on TPT.  And the journey continues...

So, those are some of my favorites.  What are yours?   

Until next time,

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Creating Our Class Promise

I can't believe we're starting the third week of school. I'm loving my group of second graders and we've been working hard to set the tone for the rest of the year. In recent years, one of my favorite community building activities has been creating a class promise together.

I first found out about class promises when I read Debbie Miller's Reading With Meaning. I had been creating rules with my class for a few years, but I loved the idea of making a promise to each other instead.









This year I started by reading my poem, A Kind and Caring Classroom We discussed the meaning of the poem and why showing kindness and caring for one another would help our class to have a good year.







We made anchor charts to show what we would do or say if we were showing kindness and caring. I used a template from my school's positive discipline training to organize the student responses. We made a chart for showing kindness, another one for showing respect, and a third for helping each other learn.


During that first week, I also read Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud.  We made another anchor chart to compare bucket filling and bucket dipping. I'm always amazed by how insightful the students are in these discussions.  They show remarkable empathy and understanding.  It always makes me wonder why bullying is such a problem in schools. 

Finally, we were ready to write.  I used a shared writing model for composing the promise. We started out by thinking about what kind of classroom we wanted to be in. That first sentence is very important, as it informs the rest of the promise. In other words: If this is what we want, how are we going to make it happen? With my guidance, the students decided what we needed to include and helped me to compose the sentences. It took us a couple of days to finish, but finally, we were done.

There was one more step to make it official.  We needed to sign the promise. To make it even more personal and meaningful, I had the students create a representation of themselves to post beside the promise. You can see mine on the right. After all of the students finished their people and signed the promise, we were finished.
Here's Our Class Promise for the 2014-2015 school year.

Do you have any suggestions for creating a positive classroom climate?  Please share them in the comments below.

Until next time,

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Guided Math In Action Book Study - Chapter 5

Let me begin with an apology. I'm so sorry for the interruption of our book study. Life has gotten in the way over the past week and prevented me from keeping to the original schedule.  I'm attempting to catch up now. Today, I'll be posting about Chapter 5.  Chapters 6 & 7 are forthcoming.



I really enjoyed reading this chapter because it reinforced my beliefs about assessment and record keeping for instruction. Dr. Newton encouraged using a variety of assessments to evaluate the whole student. Those assessments included:

  • pre-assessments to determine student needs
  • ongoing assessments such as anecdotal records, checklists, one on one conferences, and math running records, to closely monitor students' progress through the unit
  • evaluative assessments to analyze and use with students to set goals and to make decisions about future learning.  
Dr. Newton also emphasized the need for good record-keeping and gave several examples of forms and methods of note-taking.


Question 1 - What types of pre-assessments, ongoing assessments, and summative assessments do you use?

While I absolutely agree with the importance of pre-assessments, formative assessments, and summative assessments in meeting student needs, in practical terms, this has been one of my challenges in math workshop.  

I have attempted to use one on one assessment interviews to determine student knowledge before beginning a unit.  At least, that was the intention.  With limited math workshop time, I had difficulty meeting with all of the students. By the middle of the unit, I had usually abandoned the attempt.  With a little more success, I've pre-assessed by giving students a paper and pencil pretest on unit objectives.  To be honest, though, I have not pre-assessed for every unit.

I do a better job with formative assessment. I use my Common Core Math Conference Forms to record observations about individual students. I've also used checklists, observation of students during center work, and mid-unit quizzes to monitor progress. During Guided Math lessons, I take anecdotal notes on a small group math workshop form (included in my Conference Forms pack). My difficulty in this area is time.  I always seem to need more time within each unit than I have to use the information I've gathered in order to help students. 

As far as summative assessment goes, I've mainly used those for grades.  At my previous school, my school administration encouraged grade levels to create common assessments with which to evaluate student progress. In that school, we did analyze the data and use a data wall to discuss the class results with students.  However, once we had the class discussion, the unit was over.  If there were students who still did not have the concept, it was difficult to find time to go back and continue to reteach.  In my current school assignment, our team creates common summative assessments, as well. However, I confess that I did not do much with the results other than grading the assessments and recording the grades.

Question 2 - What  new ideas have you gathered from this chapter? 

This chapter has really made me think about assessment in a new way.  I love several of the ideas in this section and I plan on implementing them this year.


  1. Create a math portfolio for each child. Include assessments that collect evidence about the five elements of mathematical proficiency.
    • Conceptual Understanding: Does the student understand this concept?
    • Procedural Fluency: Can the student do the math? Self-correct?
    • Strategic Competence: Does the student think flexibly about the concept? Does s/he have a variety of effective strategies to use for problem-solving?
    • Adaptive Reasoning: Can the student talk about, explain, ask questions, and defend his/her thinking about the math?
    • Mathematical Disposition: How does the student feel about him/herself as a mathematician? Is s/he confident, reflective, persistent? Does s/he like doing math?
  2. Use a "How Do You Feel About Math" survey at the beginning and end of the year to assess my students' mathematical disposition.
  3. Expand my use of ongoing assessment to include math running records to assess fluency, exit slips to increase opportunities to give feedback, and more one on one math interviews. 
  4. Use performance assessments to have students demonstrate understanding.
  5. Use math data folders to organize information and to have it ready for parent and student conferences.

I already see some of the ways this type of thinking about assessment will improve my teaching and my use of Guided Math instruction.  I can't wait to see what the next chapters bring.

Until next time!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Study, Chapters 3 & 4


Hi, Everyone!

This is the third entry in our Guided Math in Action Book Study. Today, I and my fellow bloggers (see below) will be reflecting on Chapters 3 and 4.  These chapters address two of the most critical elements of planning for guided math in the classroom.

Chapter 3: Managing the Math Workshop
This is the chapter I need the most!  In my journey with Guided Math, the routines and procedures have caused me the most headaches.  Dr. Newton recommends establishing clear guidelines and routines as well as a consistent schedule for math workshop time.  Here are some of the recommendations in this chapter:
  • Decide how you want your math workshop to go and establish explicit procedures and expectations.
  • Create three to four positively-stated rules and make sure that students agree to follow those rules. She listed three possible examples:
    • 1) We respect each other, so we are kind in our words and actions.
    • 2) We work hard all the time.
    • 3) We take care of our classroom materials.
  • Establish a system of fair consequences and rewards (intrinsic and/or extrinsic).
  • Establish routines through modeling, role play, and lots of practice. Make sure you introduce and practice centers whole group before expecting students to complete them independently.
  • Create and post anchor charts that highlight crucial math questions:
    • What do good mathematicians do?
    • How can students prove their thinking?
    • What can students say when they are talking about math?
  • Create and display a math workshop schedule.  
  • Establish a "home base" for teaching guided math groups. 
  • Make yourself a "teacher toolkit" and keep it stocked with everything you need to teach your small groups. See figure 3.7 on page 36 for specific items to include.



Question 1: Do you have a teacher toolkit? If so, what's in it?
I confess that I do not have a teacher toolkit. I did try to create one the second year I implemented math
workshop. I included things like snap cubes, base ten blocks and place value charts, counters, rulers, problem solving mats, hundred charts, pattern blocks, and some of our math games.  It was great...for the first couple of weeks.  My problem was putting everything back where it belonged after I used it so that the items would be easy to find for the next lesson.  I used a single file container to store my toolkit.  Now I wonder if I would do better with a storage cart with labeled drawers like the one pictured here from Office Depot. I use something similar to this to plan for my guided reading groups. I'm sure it would work with guided math materials as well.  Another item added to my summer to-do list!

Question 2: Do students have toolkits? If so, what's in them?
When I first began using Math Workshop and for the next few years, my students did have their own toolkits.  We used the Math Expressions program and the student kits were part of the program. They included base ten blocks, counters, pattern blocks, flash cards, snap cubes, and rulers. While some students had difficulty with keeping their materials in their kits, most were very responsible and this made distributing materials for lessons unnecessary. If an item was lost, students were able to access additional supplies in our math center.

This year, my students did not have their own toolkits.  I moved to a new school, and the math curriculum did not provide kits for student use. This was actually a source of frustration in the past year and I definitely plan to create individual kits for my students this year.  I plan to use heavy duty plastic bags with the slide closure and stock the kits with the basic tools that students will need.  The students can help with this.  I'll set up stations with each tool and directions for how many of each is needed.  The students can rotate around the classroom and add each item to their plastic bag.  This will introduce the kits and give students knowledge of and responsibility for what is in them.  I'm thinking that I will do this the first week of school and tie it to our discussion of respecting math tools.

Question 3: How do you establish routines and expectations?
I do many of the things that Dr. Newton suggests in her book. I work with students to establish expectations and have discussions that encourage student responsibility. I ask questions such as:

  • What do we want our classroom to look like during Math Workshop?
  • What helps us to learn?  What gets in the way of learning?
  • What do we need to do to help us do well in math?
  • What will it look like/sound like?
We make anchor charts to reflect our expectations. I refer to the charts when someone breaks a rule or does not follow our expectations. We role play to talk about solving problems in a respectful way.  

So, many of the things that Dr. Newton suggests are already in place in my classroom.  However, in reflecting on what was not working, here are some things that could stand some improvement.  
  • I need to work on being consistent, immediate, and fair in my consequences and rewards. Students will do whatever they can get away with. Giving extra chances to some children sends the message that not everyone has to follow the rules and actually encourages off-task behavior.
  • I need to teach and practice my center games and activities in a whole group setting before putting them in a center.  Much of my frustration during math workshop time stemmed from students who did not know what to do or who did not follow directions. That's my fault.  I can't expect them to remember something they've only seen or had explained one time.
  • I need to spend more time practicing the routines at the beginning of the year.  I can't just jump right in and expect first or second graders to know what to do after only a week or two of practice.  I need to work on patience and plan accordingly.  The time I spend at the beginning will be well spent if it preserves instructional time throughout the year.
  • I need to use a timer to keep myself and my students on track!  I can't believe I don't already do this. I am always running out of time at the end of math, having to put off something until tomorrow or skip it altogether.  That really sends a bad message and it leads to "hurry up, we need to get to specials" chaos.  Aargh!



Chapter 4: Forming Guided Math Groups
This chapter gave practical suggestions for creating groups, meeting student needs, and organizing for instruction.  I was happy to see that many of the suggestions included things I was already doing.  I was even happier that I could see ways to improve by incorporating some of her suggestions.

My take-aways from this chapter.

  • Every student deserves teacher time and attention.  Sometimes we get caught up in the needs of our struggling learners.  In doing so, we neglect the needs of our high kids.  Even though they are doing well and show mastery of current content, they need our support to move to the next level in their learning continuum. 
  • Math groups should be flexible and assessment-based.
  • "Ongoing assessments are essential to the effective implementation of guided math groups." Assessments can include quizzes, questionnaires, and anecdotal observations.
  • Scheduling groups depends on the amount of time you have available and what works for you and your students. There is no one right way to schedule. Several sample schedules are included in the chapter.
  • Keeping records of student learning is essential.  You will never remember things that students did or said weeks ago. This information should be used to guide your instruction and to facilitate discussions about learning. 


Question 1: Do you meet with students in small math groups? If so, how fluid are those groups?
I think I do a pretty good job with this aspect of guided math.  I use assessment to create my groups for instruction.  Although a few students do consistently end up in either the low group or the high group, most of the groupings are not the same from one week to the next, especially in my two middle groups.  

I do see some changes I can make for next year.  In the past, I've grouped students as low, average, and high. I usually ended up with two "average" groups in order to keep the number of students in each group more consistent. I think I need to look a little more closely at my assessments and student needs as I form my groups. I like Dr. Newton's four categories of learners:
  1. novice learners - those who have no understanding of the concept
  2. apprentice learners - those with a basic understanding, but requiring additional work for deeper understanding
  3. practitioners - those who are working on grade level
  4. expert learners - those who are working above level and in need of extended learning opportunities
In the future, I'll look at my assessments with these four categories in mind.

Question 2: What kinds of records do you keep?
In addition to student performance on quizzes and classwork, I've used checklists with a simple rubric (+ , check, -) as I observed students. That helped me to know who demonstrated mastery, who showed some understanding, and who needed extra support.  I also keep anecdotal notes.  After failing to find any forms that met my needs, I created my Math Conference Notes to record my thoughts on individual students.  When the Common Core State Standards were adopted by North Carolina, I expanded the form to include the objectives for my grade level. I have them available for Kindergarten through Third Grade in my TpT store. 




I also created a small group form that I enjoy using that is included in my Conference Forms for Reading, Writing, and Math Workshops. I like forms that are easy to use, but allow me to quickly write notes about my observations as I'm teaching.  I don't want to have to transfer information later. I also don't want to try to remember who said what, when I'm trying to plan my next meeting with the group.









I found both of these chapters very useful as I reflected on my past use of Guided Math and the Math Workshop Model. I feel good about some of the things I'm doing and about my plans to improve next year.

Now, I hope you will add your thoughts and comments on the book study.  What are you already doing? What do you want to improve? Leave your comments below.

I'll be posting about Chapter 5 on Wednesday July 23rd. Until then,

Have a great week!



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guided Math In Action Book Study - Chapters 1 and 2

Hi Everyone! I'm posting this in the evening, so I'm a little late. I'm teaching summer school this year and I've been crazy busy! 

I'm so excited to share my thoughts about Chapters 1 and 2 in  Dr. Nicki Newton's Guided Math in Action.  I'm linking up with Courtney and Sarah at Adventures in Guided Math for this book study. Check my previous post for all the details.

First, let me tell you why I was interested in taking part in this book study.  A few years ago, I started teaching a multi-age first and second grade class.  I loved the multi-age philosophy and was thrilled at the idea of keeping my kids for two whole years!  The one thing that scared me about it - teaching math!  I didn't want to focus solely on first grade curriculum with first graders and second grade curriculum with second graders.  Instead, I wanted to make sure we were truly a learning community, with every child working together on tasks that were appropriate for their learning needs, while still meeting district curriculum requirements.  So... how could I do that?  Well, after a lot of study, planning, and searching for activities, I implemented a math workshop approach. I really loved it, and the different needs of my students forced me to adapt my instruction across multiple grade levels.  I had students who had difficulty with counting at the same time as students who were ready to solve complex story problems involving multiplication and division. Crazy, huh?  Well, I muddled through during my four years in multi-age with the help of colleagues and some really helpful resources, including Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics Grades K-3 by John A. Van de Walle and LouAnn H. Loven. I pursued every bit of professional development I could find to improve my math instruction. Even after I moved to teaching second, then moved to a new school in first grade, I continued to implement the math workshop approach. By now, I had discovered guided math, which seemed to fit so well with what I was already doing.  So you would think I was an expert, right?

No way!

I'm still struggling to fit everything in, to "cover" the curriculum within this framework, to meet with enough groups in the given time, and to keep the other kids engaged in a way that will help them grow as mathematicians, as well. In short, I needed some in-depth discussion of the practicalities with colleagues who were having the same issues.  Unfortunately, my colleagues at both schools were much more comfortable with whole group instruction and thought I was crazy to even attempt this. So, I'm thrilled to be studying and talking about a resource that will help me become a more effective teacher with like-minded teachers.

Now, on to the Book Study discussion Questions for the first two chapters.

Chapter One: Guided Math: An Introduction

Summary

In this chapter, Dr. Newton Introduced Guided Math instruction and shared an example lesson. She discussed the rationale for using Guided Math, why it works, how it benefits students, and the beliefs about teaching and learning that guide the framework.  I loved how Dr. Nicki explained all of this.  What I was forced to do as a Multi-age teacher, to differentiate instruction based on student needs, is really the best way to teach all children.  Just as we strive to find the "Zone of Proximal Development" in our guided reading, we need to make the same assessment-driven choices in our teaching of math.  Guided Math truly benefits all students and helps them to develop the mathematical and critical thinking skills that they will need to help them succeed.


My thoughts? Since I'm not new to Guided Math, I've already begun the work of "stretching my pedagogy."  I consider myself a reflective teacher. A reflective teacher always considers the effect of his/her practice on students and makes changes to become more effective.  I try to keep the things that work and to be open to different ideas and methods that may better help my students to learn.

How do you promote perseverance in your classroom? This is an excellent question and one I've struggled with in my journey. How many times have I had kids come up to me and ask, "Is this right?"  It would be easy to say yes, it is or no, it's not.  I confess that I have done that when it was more expedient or I had too many other students who needed my attention.  It's harder to ask, "What do you think?" and then listen to the answer. To say, "What strategy did you use?" takes more time than yes or no.  To lead a child to find their own errors and then guide that child to use an alternate strategy is harder, takes longer, requires more thought, yes.  But, by asking those kinds of questions and valuing their hard work, I try to empower my students.  I encourage them to value the process, rather than the product.  As mathematicians in my classroom, we all make mistakes and we understand that it is up to us to fix them.  I still have students who are easily frustrated and want to give up. However, by emphasizing process and by giving the students a sense of their own power as mathematicians, I think I encourage their ability to persist through difficulty.

Chapter Two: Guided Math in a Numerate Environment

Summary

Now we are getting into the nuts and bolts of how we teach math.  The activities we include in our math block create the environment to turn students into mathematicians.  Building a sense of number and the ability to "think flexibly" about numbers, encouraging students to share their thinking and giving them the language with which to do so, allowing students to reflect on their own learning and make decisions about the math activities they do -- all of these reflect a math community in which students develop into confident and capable mathematicians. The math workshop structure, with a variety of differentiated activities engaging multiple intelligences, allows students to engage with math in meaningful ways. In this chapter, we get a sense of the structure behind these experiences.  Dr. Newton explains the elements of the math workshop and provides examples of activities as well as a sample schedule for the math block. This chapter really got me thinking!  One of my struggles has always been scheduling and pacing the math workshop time.  This helps me see how I can balance my whole group time with my small group and independent time.



I love it when I'm reading a professional book and it affirms what I am already doing in the classroom.  It's even better when I also get some new ideas that I know will make my students excited about learning.

Here are some numeracy activities that I already have in place:
  • Calendar Activities - During calendar, we work on number sense, counting in a variety of ways from any number, place value using straws and ten frames, and addition and subtraction focused on "How many days have we been in school?"
  • Number of the Day - Students record the number in their math journals and record multiple ways to show or make that number.  Sometimes we share these as a group, and sometimes we'll play a game with the number of the day, such as Give one, Get one (explained below).
  • Math Talk - My whole group instruction often revolves around a story problem, which students solve in their journals. We then share strategies and discuss how we got our answers.
Here are some wonderful new ideas that I'm eager to try:

  • Strategy Charts and Math Thinking Prompts - I use anchor charts all the time for reading and writing, but I don't use them often for math. Duh! Why am I not doing this?  The strategy charts would be especially helpful for student reference.  I'm always asking, "What strategy did you try?" Why not list them for the students who have difficulty naming their strategies?
  • Tell Me All You Can: The Number Is ____. -  I like the way this activity names different aspects of the number (It is the sum of ____, double ___, half of ___). So easy, but great for building math vocabulary and concepts.
  • I'm Thinking of a Number - I would have to rename this one.  I already do an activity with the same name that uses a number line to narrow down the number I'm thinking of. I like the idea of having another game that requires the students to ask a variety of questions to narrow it down.  I could call it Math Detective and teach the students to ask only yes or no questions.  I know they would love it!
  • Math Word Wall - Another idea that's not really new.  I have tried to use a math word wall in the past, but I've let it go in recent years due to wall space, lack of time, etc. I really need to revive it.  Students need access to the words that I want them to be able to use.
  • Writing about Math - This is a great addition to my math journals.  Talk about writing across the curriculum! Writing about the activities and the "most important thing" about the activity would really get kids to reflect on their own learning.
Finally, I'm really looking forward to using Dr. Newton's Workshop Time Frame to help me plan my math block this year.  I appreciate the way she used a percentage of time to draft her schedule.  I wish I had 90 minutes for math every day.  Usually, I only have about 70 minutes. Having the guideline of 60% devoted to small group guided math instruction and workstations will help me to plan my block more effectively.  

Here's the Give One, Get One game:

  1. Students write 3 - 5 ways to show or make (using addition/subtraction) Today's Number.
  2. Students stand, push in their chairs, and hug their journals and pencils.
  3. I turn on the music (a fun kid's song) and students walk (and usually dance a little) around the room.  (I really have to teach and model the walking safely through the room at the beginning.  The students will want to run or race walk which could result in an injury. You really have to set the expectation for safe behavior.)
  4. I pause the music. Students stop moving and partner up with the student they are closest to.  (You have to teach this, too.  Otherwise, they always try to partner with their friend.)
  5. Both students Give one (a way to show or make the number) and Get one. They copy the partner's model into their math journal. When they are done, they hug their journals to let me know they are ready. 
  6. I start the music and students begin to move around the room again.
  7. We repeat steps 4 and 5 two more times. (All students should have 3 new ways to show or make the number.  
  8. We gather as a group. Two or three volunteers share a new idea they learned from someone else.  
I love this activity because the kids find it fun and because they learn so much from each other!  I'll never forget the time a child shared that one of my struggling students had given her 2+2+2+2+2+2=12.  He beamed when she shared his idea. 

Well, that's it for today. I hope you will add your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below.  I'm looking forward to discussing chapters 3 and 4 on Sunday.  Have a wonderful week!



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Guided Math In Action Book Study Kick-off!

I'm excited to be taking part in my very first blog-based book study!  It's being hosted by the wonderful Courtney and Sarah at their new blog, Adventures in Guided Math.



The book we'll be reading will be Guided Math in Action by Dr. Nicki Newton.  I'm excited about reading it and learning with other teachers who want to implement Guided Math in their classrooms.  To be honest, I've tried to implement it for the past couple of years, but it's been a bit hit and miss.  It's difficult to try a new program by yourself, and the teachers I've been working with were more comfortable teaching in whole group settings.  So, when I ran into difficulty, like how to manage the other students, how to fit it into my math block, how to plan specific lessons that targeted both the math objective and the student needs, well...let's just say, my implementation was rather inconsistent.  I'm really looking forward to having the support of other teachers as I give it another try next year.

If you haven't bought your book yet, it is available in Kindle or Paperback version on Amazon.com. We'll start discussing the book on Wednesday, but you're welcome to join anytime.

Here's the schedule we'll be following:


I'll be posting here to reflect on each chapter and how I see it transforming my teaching.  I'm looking forward to reading comments and reflections by other teachers on their blogs and in the comments sections of each of our posts.  You're invited to comment on my posts.  I can't wait to collaborate with you all!



Sunday, July 6, 2014

No Worksheets Required!

Would you like to implement an easy to prepare, no-fuss, but lots of fun weekly activity in your K-2 classroom? Try starting a Poem of the Week.  You can address an amazing variety of objectives with a minimum of copies or teacher preparation. No worksheets are required!

Implementing a Poem of the Week in Your Classroom

Where to find poems:
When I first started with Poem of the Week, I used this resource:
This book includes great poems for use in the primary classroom.
They are great for tying in with word study.

A Poem a Day
As I became more comfortable with using poetry in my classroom, I began adding poems from other resources.            

I also find poems through online searches and, of course, on Teachers Pay Teachers.  When I can't find what I need, I write my own.

If you need a poem to get you started, you can download a sample from my newest product here. To purchase some of my poems, you can visit my TPT store: 
http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Theresas-Teaching-Tidbits


Once you start collecting poems, organize them in a binder. You'll be able to reuse poems from year to year, making for even less preparation time!

How to choose a poem:  
Think about your curriculum and your classroom needs. I try to make sure my poem of the week will help me to address more than one goal.  I use poems to address social issues in the classroom as well as to teach concepts and skills. I've found poems that connect to math, science, social studies, and of course, phonics and other reading skills.

Scheduling your Poem of the Week time:
Schedule a Poem of the Week time at a consistent time each day. I usually like to schedule the activities at the beginning of our literacy time.  You'll need to plan on about 15 - 20 minutes for the day you introduce the poem and read it for the first time. For the rest of the week, plan on about 5 - 10 minutes per day, depending on the activity.

Organizing the Student Poems:
Students will store poems in a 3-pronged folder or a 1 inch binder.  I prefer the binder as students seem to find this easier to manage.  I have used the folders however, and they work well, too. Have your students personalize the binder or folder by making a cover entitled: My Poetry Folder (or another title of your choosing).



Each student will need his/her own copy of each week's poem.  Use a 3-hole punch immediately after copying the poems to make it easy for students to add to their notebooks. 

Optional: You can add a Table of Contents page at the beginning of the notebook to help students organize and find the poems.

How to use the poem throughout the week:

Day 1:  Introduce the poem and discuss its meaning.

  • Project the poem on an interactive whiteboard, make a transparency and use the overhead projector, or make sure students have their own copy of the poem.
  • Read the poem to your students as they follow along.
  • Ask students to talk about what the poem means to them. This can be done whole group or as a “Turn and Talk” with a partner. Briefly discuss any unfamiliar vocabulary. Encourage students to make connections with their own lives or books they have read. 
  • Ask students to join you as you read the poem a second and, if desired, a third time. Have students add the poem to their poetry binder.
Day 2 – 5: Choose one area of focus for rereading each day.
Focus on Comprehension:
Choose a comprehension strategy to reinforce such as visualizing, retelling, or making connections.  Hold a guided discussion after rereading the poem. You may choose to have a follow-up activity involving a written response (text-to-self connection) or illustration (visualization).
Focus on Vocabulary:
Introduce or discuss unfamiliar vocabulary. Model using context clues to figure out definitions.  Have students write or illustrate definitions in their reading response notebooks.
Focus on Phonemic Awareness/Phonics:
Look for rhyming words or alliteration.  Have students highlight words on their copy of the poem using highlighters or highlighter tape.  Generate additional words that fit the rule and write them on the board or an anchor chart. 
Focus on Fluency:
Emphasize reading with rhythm, expression, or feeling. Experiment with different rhythms or emotions.  Be silly and read the poem in a whisper voice, squeaky voice, monster voice, robot voice, etc.  After doing so, reread the poem with appropriate fluency.
Choral read: Everyone reads the poem together after teacher gives a signal such as, “Ready, set, read.”

Echo read: Teacher models reading each line or stanza. Students echo the teacher’s phrasing and rhythm as they read their own copies of the poem.

Continue the learning
After students have worked with the poem all week, they are very familiar with it. This makes it a great resource for a poetry center activity or for fluency practice.  My students even enjoy rereading the poems during their Reader's Workshop time.  

School-Home Connection
Once a month, have students bring home the poetry notebook to share with their families.  I place a parent letter at the front of the notebook and ask parents to respond to their child's reading using a simple form. Students enjoy reading the poems to their families and showing off how much they've learned!

You can download free copies of a Table of Contents form, a sample Parent letter, and a Parent Response Form by clicking here.

Recently, I asked some colleagues to review my latest product, A Kind and Caring Classroom: Poems of the Week That Promote Good Character. While my colleagues were complimentary, some of them asked if I was planning to include "activity sheets" to go with the poems. Since I try to limit the number of worksheets I use, I wanted to write this post to explain how I use Poems of the Week in my classroom. I hope it inspires you to give it a try with your students.