Saturday, September 26, 2015

Five for Fraturday




I've been away from my blog for a couple of weeks, so I thought I'd jump back in with a Five for Fraturday post. :)

I had planned to write this last night, but I'm a bit tired exhausted comatose by Friday nights. I'm sure you understand.


We had our Curriculum Night on Thursday. Ugh! I teamed up with two colleagues to present the information to parents. I'm usually the one who does most of the speaking. I've been teaching so long now that talking to parents doesn't bother me as much as it used to. Both of my colleagues are relative newbies, so it makes them more nervous to do the presentations. 

Actually, it wasn't bad. I only had five parents show from my classroom (two of them were there for one student). We don't have a huge turnout at our school. Sad.

Of course, I really stress about Parent Nights beforehand. Does my room look clean? Is it welcoming? Do I have all my handouts? Do I have enough student work up?

I was running out of wall space and time, so I decided to use an old standby for highlighting student work - Class Books! They don't have to be super-fancy and are as easy-as-pie to put together. I had two students create the cover illustrations. Then I took a large piece of construction paper, folded it in half and hole-punched it. I used a Sharpie to write the title and to credit the authors and the cover illustrators.  I hole punched the student pages and placed them inside. Three brads later and I was done. I think they look pretty good. My students and their parents enjoyed looking through them.

This one is our Constitution Day response to my poem, Our Constitution. It's part of my Constitution Day: A Celebration for Primary Grades.  It can also be found in my Patriotic Poems and Activities for Primary Grades.




The other book is student responses to my I Can Be a Scientist poem. It's part of my Science Poems and Activities for Primary Grades.





I have a confession to make. I am a piler. Yup. If I have a surface, I can put a pile of papers on it. The piles get higher as the week goes on and then I make a new pile. I would say I know where everything is, but that's not exactly true. I've searched many a pile of papers for that one important form that's due in the morning. It doesn't help that I moved rooms this year and ran out of time to set up my filing cabinet. Life is hard when you're a disorganized teacher. On the other hand, when you've got parents arriving in less than 30 minutes, that means you've got an empty file drawer in which to stuff and stash your piles. :)




So I followed up my 13-hour day on Thursday with a rainy Friday. You know what that means - the dreaded indoor recess.  Thank goodness for GoNoodle! We started out with one of the shorter Indoor Recess Mega Mixes. 

After the kids worked off some of their excess energy, I got out some of my indoor recess games for them to play with. Aside from some minor squabbles, a good time was had by all. 






These are student created pieces that the students created in art class.
A few of my kids enjoyed making new sculptures with them.





After a rather tiring week, it was nice to spend my Saturday doing little more than going to the grocery store and then coming home to watch my Gators play beat Tennessee! It was a close one, but we pulled it out in the end. Go GATORS!

I updated my Facebook profile picture to show my support.


Well, that's it for today. I hope you all have a great week!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Five for...Sunday?

It has been such a busy week! I'm joining the linky party a little bit late. Can I have a Five for Friday on a Sunday? Or would that make it a Five for Funday?  In any case, here are my five for this week.


We celebrated my mom's 72nd Birthday last weekend. Or, as the baker wrote on our custom order cake, the 72th. Oops!



My sister and I arranged a mini-family reunion as a birthday surprise. Two of my nieces came up from Florida with three of the great-grandchildren. My brother and niece came over from Tennessee. Mom was surprised and very happy. We spent the weekend hiking, looking through pictures, talking and reminiscing, going to Carowinds, and eating...a LOT!  No wonder I was tired this week.




After three weeks at school and I finally feel like I'm getting finished with the beginning of school stuff. On Monday, we finally finished decorating and filling our book boxes. This is the first time I'm using the cardboard magazine holders from IKEA. I like that the kids are able to decorate the boxes and make them their own. I even put their pictures on the front to make identifying ownership easier. However, I confess that I am a little worried about them lasting the whole year. We'll see. Here are a few of them before I put on the student pictures.





















I'm loving my Owl theme this year. I was able to update a lot of areas in my classroom thanks to K's Classroom Kreations. I used her Classroom Decor & Organization: Owl Theme to update my schedule, "I Can" display, word wall, and clock display. Doesn't it look cute?






I've found yet another resource on TPT that makes my life easier. This one is a freebie from Reagan Tunstall.  I printed these Voice Level Charts on blue cardstock and then laminated them. For every activity, I move my magnet to the appropriate chart. If students don't use appropriate volume, I move the magnet to a lower level. If they can't reduce their volume, they lose the privilege to talk and the magnet gets moved to zero. Works like a charm!


We have a large population of English Language Learners at my school. Most of them speak Spanish in their homes. I've found it's helpful to include Spanish translations in much of my classroom decor. Here's a picture of my Color Words in English and Spanish.  After I took this picture, I found out that some of the students use naranja for orange, while others use anaranjado. The kids voted to include both in our display.

Check out my other Bilingual Resources in my TpT store!

That's it for this week. Make sure you check out all of the other great bloggers on the Linky. Thanks always to Doodle Bugs Teaching for hosting!

Until next time,

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A Resource for Discussing September 11th With Kids

I think the need to address historic tragedy and atrocity are some of the most difficult moments we face in our classrooms. Tomorrow will include some of those moments for me. I'm speaking, of course, of the September 11th attacks on our country. As a primary grade teacher, I also battle with whether to address such a difficult topic at all. My students are so young. Do I really want to be the one who exposes them to the absolute worst that human beings are capable of?

Sadly, that choice is often taken out of my hands. Either it's brought up by our administration on our news broadcast (that's what happened in my school this morning) or the students themselves bring it up.  So how do I handle the inevitable student questions and concerns in a sensitive, yet honest way?

Last year, I decided to address a serious topic as I do so many things, through my poetry. I wrote this poem based on my own view of the events of that horrible day. I was a first grade teacher at the time. It was an ordinary morning. My students and I were hard at work when an announcement came over the intercom warning teachers not to turn on the television. We were cautioned to continue our day as normal until we received further directions. I was totally confused. I remember thinking, "Why would I need to turn on my TV? What's going on?" It wasn't until I took the kids to specials about a half hour later that I found out what had happened. While my kids were safely out of the room, I watched in horror as the first tower fell. The events of that day will haunt me and most Americans forever. So how could I share that information with students in a way that doesn't give them nightmares?

In my poem, I tried to strike a balance between the horrific events and the hopeful aftermath. I love the quote from Fred Rogers.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world."

I wanted to include a little bit of that help and caring that we saw after 9/11 in my poem. When I share it with my students, that's the section I keep coming back to. 



I would not share this poem with students younger than second grade. I really feel we need to protect our students' innocence about the world as long as we can. However, by second or third grade, students are exposed to the news, social media, and adult topics with more frequency. So I feel it is more appropriate by that time.

When my students and I read this poem, we talk about the meaning of it. I try to stay pretty matter of fact, but I encourage the students to share their own feelings about the poem. I reassure them that they are safe at school and that our country is a lot safer than it was then. I do not spend a lot of time on the topic and I refuse to dwell on the more sensational or gruesome details, but I do let the students discuss it.  Unlike my other poems, this one is not revisited throughout the week. We read it once or twice, discuss it, and then put it into our poetry binders.

If you would like a copy of the poem poster above, you can get it here. The poem itself is also available as part of my Patriotic Poems and Activities for Primary Grades

I would love to know how you address difficult topics in your classroom. Please share any resources or strategies in the comments below.

Thanks for letting me share,

Monday, September 7, 2015

Math Tip Monday: Ideas for Teaching Number Sense

Happy Monday!  K's Classroom Kreations and I are happy to welcome you to our Math Tip Monday. This month we are focusing on Ideas for Teaching Number Sense. I'm excited to share with you some ways I use number lines to help students to understand numbers. Some of the games I play came from our Math series, Investigations, but I've been using similar number line activities for years.


Start With, Get To...

I use number lines in a lot of different ways. The most basic being a visual aid to counting. But as a second grade teacher, I don't want my students to only know how to count from 1 to whatever.  I want them to be able to count on and to count back starting from any number.  One way we do this is to play the Start with, Get to Game. When we play this game, I use two clothespins, one of which I've marked with green tape and the other I've marked with red tape.  I also have a number line that I keep on my board with magnetic tape. I have a student draw a number from a basket. That number is our "start with" number and we mark it with the green clothespin.  Another student draws a number from the basket and that's our "get to" number. It's marked with the red clothespin.  We then determine whether we are counting forwards or backwards.  A third student uses my pointer as the whole class counts starting with green and ending with red.  The students always enjoy the game and it's a quick and easy way to get kids comfortable with counting on and counting back.

Since it's still early in the school year, I don't have a picture of this activity yet, but here's a representation. In this illustration, we would count from 5 to 16. I usually play 1 to 3 rounds of this game as a math warm-up.

Guess My Number on the Number Line

My students are already loving this game. It's another great warm-up activity. The first time we play, I am the leader of the game.  I secretly choose a number (for example, 11) and tell the students that the number I'm thinking of is between 1 and 20.  I have a nice laminated number line, so we use an expo marker to mark those numbers. I then start taking guesses. If a student guesses 5, I tell the student that was a great guess, but my number is greater than 5. The guesser then would come up to erase the arrow pointing to 1 and draw an arrow pointing to 5. Then I ask another student to guess. They guess 10.  Again, I tell the students that it was a great number, but my number is greater than 10. So that student comes up, erases the arrow pointing to 5 and draws an arrow pointing to 10. I point out to students that "Now we know the number is between 10 and 20.  The next guess is 18. I tell the student it is less than 18.  He/she moves the arrow from the 20 to the 18. And so on.  Finally, a student guesses 11. That student then excitedly becomes the leader. To keep the game honest, I always have the leader secretly write down their number on a post-it before we start.  Here are some pictures from some of our rounds after students learned the game.







What's really cool about this game is that we are learning number sense and math vocabulary - greater than, less than, and in between - while at the same time, students are learning to be math leaders and feel successful. I usually play about 3 rounds of this, keeping track of who won the last round so they can be the leader the next time we play. Of course as the year goes on, we use different parts of the number line - for example, "My number is in between 55 and 80."

Hopping on the Number Line

Floor number lines are great for this activity because the kids are moving and engaged. I've also used a small frog figure to hop on the whiteboard. When I taught first grade, we would use the floor number line to hop forward to review counting, again starting from and getting to different numbers. Students would stand by the start number and then hop forward counting 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10... We would also hop backward (I had to stand close to help students who had difficulty with balance as they hopped backward. LOL).  It's also a fun way to practice skip counting by 2s or 5s (10s are a little too far apart).  

Now that I'm in second grade, I also use this strategy to help students with the counting on or counting back strategies when adding or subtracting. The number line provides a great visual and students understand that they count the hops and then see what number they "land" on.  

You can make a floor number line pretty easily. Use adding machine tape, pieces of construction paper taped together, or a line of tape on the floor with laminated numbers taped next to it. Another option is to move outside. Draw a number line on pavement using sidewalk chalk. Whatever works for you.

The Empty Number Line

The empty number line has been a revelation for me. I'll talk more about that in a future post that deals with addition and subtraction.  For number sense, it's a great tool for thinking about skip counting, which builds the foundation for mentally adding and subtracting larger numbers, in addition to building understanding of number patterns. You don't need an actual number line or any other resource to use it. Just draw a line - no numbers - on the board.


Then write the starting number under it.

Whatever pattern you're practicing, you then would write the next number. I usually have the kids tell me what to write or do it themselves. Draw an arrow to show the hop.

Continue the pattern, showing the hop to each successive number.



You can use the empty number line to practice skip counting from any number using any number pattern: 3,6,9,12,15... or 25,35,45,55,65... or 100, 200,300,400... It's a tool you can use to learn/practice any number pattern. This is also building the mental math skills our students need in order to be efficient mathematicians. Once the kids know how this works, they are easily able to use this strategy on their own, to show their work, to solve problems in their math journals, and to demonstrate their thinking.


Rounding on an Empty Number Line

This is not actually part of the second grade curriculum in my state, but I wanted to mention it. Students become much better at understanding the concept of rounding when you use a number line to model and practice it. No tips or tricks to memorize, just which number is it closest to. I'm going to refer you to an expert for information on this one. Math Coach's Corner has an excellent post on Rounding on an Open Number Line. (By the way, an Open Number Line is the same thing as an Empty Number Line.) If this is part of your curriculum, I encourage you to check it out. 



So that's it. I use the number line in multiple ways throughout the year. My students know that it is a tool mathematicians use often to solve problems or to show their thinking.  I hope you will be able to use some of these ideas in your own classroom. Do you have any other ideas for using a number line? Please share them in the comments below. 

Thanks for checking out our Math Tip Monday Blog Hop.  I hope you'll visit some of the other blogs below to gather some more great ideas for teaching number sense.


Next time, we will be sharing ideas for teaching basic addition and subtraction.

I hope you have a great week!