Sunday, November 23, 2014

Celebrating Holidays Around the World!

I finally finished my Holidays Around the World Unit.  I can't wait to use it with my students.  It is a two week unit and covers ELA standards and Social Studies standards.  There are reading passages AND QR codes too!  There is also an ornament craft to make with each of the 8 countries. It is 74 pages of easy, fun December-ness!   Here is a look at some of the pages of  the finished unit.
This unit looks at Australia, Mexico, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Hanukkah and England.  To see a longer preview, click HERE to go to my store.  I love it when things serve two purposes.  This unit teaches our students about what Christmas is like in other countries and in other cultures.  That is the great part.  The awesome part is this:  I have decided to let the ornaments that the students make become the Christmas gift for their parents!  I even included a gift envelope pattern in the unit.  So there you go.  Two weeks of reading/social studies planned AND parents present taken care of!  What more could you need!!!  I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!  Christmas, here we come!
Thursday, November 6, 2014

Fall Writing and Fall Math Freebies!

The hallway display can cause I the only one who thinks this?  At the beginning of school, I sent a poster home for my students to complete.  It was an "All About Me" kind of poster.  So they did the work at home and brought it back.  Bam....instant hallway display.  We all know how busy the beginning of school I think the next time I even thought about the hallway, it was already into October.  So, that ruled out making anything about Halloween, because I know me...and I would have left it up way into Thanksgiving time.  So I thought about it and came up with a Fall writing activity and a Fall math activity.  Voila!  These can take me all the way to December!  I don't know about you, but I'm all for easy.  Here is how they turned out:

For writing, students listed "The Top 10 Things I Love About Fall."  For math, students rolled 3 number cubes to get a 3 digit number.  Then, they show the number  in standard form, with base 10 blocks, expanded form, word form, + 10, + 100, -10, -100,  and tell if it's odd or even. These activities were fun for the kids and turned out so cute!  I've put them in my Teachers Pay Teachers store for free for you!  Click HERE to go to my store to get your FREE copy!  If you download, please leave some comments and let me know how you like it!  Happy Fall Ya'll!
Monday, October 6, 2014

Halloween Center Activities and a Free Math Game

I love October....probably because it takes me until October to get settled into a routine with the new class.  Today we started a new week of centers.  I wish you could walk through my classroom when students are in math centers.  EVERYONE is engaged.  EVERYONE is working...hard!  I love it!  They like being on their own, they like playing games and they love learning new things!  This week in centers, I have a few games to play alone, a game to play with a partner and a 100's board coloring activity.  Here are the games:

The first one is my Autumn Even and Odd Sort.  Students sort the number cards onto the odd or even sorting mats.  After all of the number cards are sorted, students answer the questions on their practice page.  For example, the directions might tell students to take 4 cards from their even mat and put them in order from greatest to least. 

  This Halloween "Spider" themed game was a big hit today. Students have 5 spider web number mats.  They are numbered 1-100, 101-200, 201-300, 301-400 and 401-500.  Students take a numbered spider card and decide which web it goes on.

 After they get all of the numbers sorted onto the correct web, they use this answer sheet.  For example, question 1 asks students to take 4 spider cards from their first web and put them in order from greatest to least, etc.  The students love this game.  I have similar games with numbers up to 1000 in my other center sets as well. And by the way, it amazed me at how some students didn't have any idea about where the spider belonged....once I could get them to think about the enormous number line in their head, or the enormous set of 100's boards in their seemed to click.  So we will see....

Another game called Base 10 Battle.  In this game, students work with a partner.  The first person rolls 2 dice and makes a number.  They show that number on their base 10 mat using base 10 blocks.  The second person rolls the dice and makes a number.  The person who has the biggest number wins that round.  They take a token. (I put 20 counters in a bag to be used as tokens.) After all of the tokens are gone, the game is over and who ever has the most tokens is the winner!  For a variation, the winner would be the student with the smallest number...hopefully logic will kick in and students will realize that if they need to get the biggest number, they will put the dice in order to make the biggest number, etc.  The students really liked this game. 

I've attached a free copy of the directions for the game for you.  Click HERE!
If you liked the Halloween Math Centers, you can see the entire center collection in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  There are 5 math and 5 ELA centers.  The unit preview looks like this:
To see the unit in my store, click HERE!
I hope your October has gotten off to a great start!  Let me know what you think of the free game.  Happy Teaching!
Thursday, September 25, 2014

Go Ahead and Try Centers, a Free Planning Template and Why I LOVE BINGO Chips!

We have been in school exactly one month today. So this past summer, I've helped my son finish chemotherapy,  I've moved a daughter to college, gotten a classroom ready, started school, helped my son through surgery and completed several weeks of DIBELS and TRC testing.  Things are finally beginning to settle my son is now CANCER FREE!!!  He has battled osteosarcoma, a bone cancer, for the last four years.  He has been so brave!  September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month so if you have a chance to do something to help the fight, please do!  Hopefully now my son can go on with his 16 year old life now and we can be "normal" again! Feeling thankful and blessed!
So,  I am having a great year so far in my classroom. My students are hardworking, sweet to each other and well behaved....more blessings!!! Since it seems to be a great group to work with, I'm excited about what I will be able to do with them this year.  So far we have been busy learning how to be in second grade.  We have learned how to work quietly in centers.  We review center rules every day.  The only thing they need to remember is 1.  STAY in your center....2. Ask 3 then me, and 3. Use a whisper or very quiet voice when you need to ask a team member something.  If you are anti-center, let me tell you a very easy way to implement centers.  You need to plan four center activities for reading centers each week.  Plan four math centers too if you want to do math centers...I personally love math centers because students can practice tons of math skills with games and fun activities.  So, plan four centers.  Divide your class into heterogeneous groups.  This way, the smarter ones can help students who may struggle with something.  While these four centers are going on, I'm pulling kids back to my table to work on reading skills on their level. (Guided Reading Groups)  The kids go to only one center a day for four days.  There is an assigned activity in the center and then I have a basket of other valuable activities that I call "The Finish Line" .  So, for 45-50 minutes, the student is in one center.  They complete their assigned activity, come to my center for a differentiated reading lesson and then go back to the same center to complete some "Finish Line" activities.  Some things I've put in the Finish Line are vocabulary matching games, spelling activities, partner reading, grammar games and books on cd/tape.  One center today....tomorrow they go to the next center.  By Thursday, they will have gone to all four centers.  I find that less movement between centers makes for a more calm learning environment and it allows me to work with small groups.  So, if you have been avoiding centers, give it a try!  I looks like this:
You can get a free copy by clicking HERE! Let me know how you like it!

Now, let me tell you why I LOVE using BINGO chips.  I have found that little kids,....I think second graders are still little kids.... I think that most of them still need practice with one to one correspondence, especially when counting on a 100's board.  I made a game a few years ago.  The kids tossed a small pom pom onto a 100's board.  They draw a card from their stack,  It may say, add 12 to your number, subtract 33 from your number, etc.  They had a very hard time counting on the 100's board with their finger, so I ordered these transparent BINGO chips.  Now we use these for EVERYTHING!  They can add and subtract using 100's boards all the way to 1000.  They use them when playing any math game.  During math warm up time, we take out our hundreds board and a chip.  I tell them to find a number.  Then I may ask them to find the first even number after that number, the 10th number after that number, etc. You can use them in reading too. Yesterday, I had a little boy who was having trouble with the center activity on ABC order.  I got out an ABC strip and a BINGO chip.   I showed him how to put the chip on one letter, look through his cards to see if he had anything that started with that letter, and then he would move the chip to the next letter.  It worked wonderfully.  I've also used BINGO chips when reading with students.  It's small and slides easily on the page.  I've also asked students to "highlight" a word in the story with their BINGO chip.  The uses are endless and they are very, very inexpensive.  I got mine on Amazon for just a few dollars.  300 chips for a few dollars!  Click HERE to see the chips.  They look like this:
The kids LOVE these.  If I still taught Kindergarten, I could think of a million uses for these...if they didn't put them in their mouth. Here is how the boy used the BINGO chip in  the ABC order activity that I mentioned.
You should definitely get some.  And I know, only a teacher would get so excited over BINGO chips.
Another thing that excites me is foam dice but I'll save that for the next post.  Let me know how you use or how you would use BINGO chips in your classroom!  I would love to hear from you.  AND let me know what you think of the workstations or centers planning sheet!
Have fun and teach on!!!
Sunday, August 24, 2014

Back To School and a Freebie!

The time has come.  Tomorrow morning, into my carefully prepared and clean classroom will come 23 smiling, excited faces.  Every year is different and with new kids and new combinations of kids, it's a little like a bubble gum don't know what you will get....but if you love bubble gum, it won't really matter....whatever you get will be wonderful.  So tomorrow comes and I'm mentally going through the day in my mind to be sure I didn't forget anything.  And if tomorrow is like every other "first day of school" I've experienced in my 22 years, it will take on a mind of it's own after about 15 minutes or so.  And I'll rethink, change, add to and take away from those perfectly prepared plans. 
So, this year, I want to make sure that I make my expectations clear to students.  We recently had a refresher meeting on behavior.  We are a PBIS school so we have a great plan in place that clearly states expectations to students.  What I took away from this meeting was that I need to continue to teach, teach again, reteach for the umpteenth time...the rules and expectations.  I don't like spending a lot of time talking about why we shouldn't talk in the hallway. I just tell them and expect them to remember .  Not the case!  I was reminded that we have to constantly reteach....reteach...reteach.  So I'm going to remind myself daily to find that positive talk and reteach as often as necessary.  After all, they are 7 years old.  And so, being the teacher that I am and probably you are too, I created a thing to help remind ME as well as students of expectations in our classroom and school.  I wrote it so that you can use the pages where students are writing quick response answers to questions about rules and procedures, or there is another version that asks students to draw a picture of what it looks like in the hallway, cafeteria, school bus, etc.  You can see it HERE.  I've included a free page of the book here for you for free!  Click here for the freebie!

I would love to hear your thoughts about the first day of school and about how you handle rules and behavior!  Please leave me some feedback.  And one more thing....tomorrow is coming! Let's make it the best year ever!

"Every child should have a caring adult in their lives. And that's not always a biological parent or family member. It may be a friend or neighbor. Often times it is a teacher." Joe Manchin

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Cooperative Learning/ Classroom Seating Arrangements and a First Day of School Freebie!

I don't know about you but I like to change things up a bit in my classroom every year.  I think that the newness of it all kind of energizes me and helps motivate me.  I've moved bookshelves and my teaching table around.  I've reorganized my shelves and cabinets.  But, one thing that I usually do the same every year is the way I arrange my desks.  We had a presenter come to our school several years ago whose focus was cooperative learning.  After the workshop, I immediately ordered a book from Kagan Publishing.  You can visit their site by clicking HERE!  They have tons of resources and they are all wonderful.  I ordered the book Kagan Cooperative Learning.  You can see the book here.  This book is packed with ideas on how to build an environment in your classroom that encourages and supports cooperative learning.  There are many different kinds of learning experiences in this book.  It is a great investment if you want to use cooperative learning in your classroom.

One thing that I like from this book is the kind of seating arrangements that they use to encourage cooperative learning.  Today I am going to focus on seating arrangements.  I have tried  a lot of other ways but I always go back to this one.  First you need to level your kids from highest to lowest.  My school is a DIBELS school so I use their reading fluency scores.  You list the kids from highest score to lowest score.  Now, go down the list and count the first five names.  These are probably the top five kids in your room academically.  Now, count UP from the bottom and get the next five names.  These are the students that may need the most support.  Now, back to the top, go under the first five names you marked and count 5 more.  These are probably the "medium " high kids, and again, go to the bottom, start after the first five and mark the next five.  These are probably your middle/medium low kids.  The kids left in the middle are probably middle kids.  Now you are ready to assign seating. 
I've attached a drawing of how this all works.  The main idea is that a high kid sits beside a medium low kid.  High kids might not have the patience to work with a low kid.  Across the table, we have a medium high or middle beside a low kid.  The medium kids seem to be more patient with low kids.  The kid beside you is called your shoulder buddy.  So, when I assign kids to work on something with a partner I might tell them to work with their shoulder buddy.  **I have to say here that the kids don't know that this arrangement is about ability levels at all.  I think that this would not be good.  So next, we have face buddies.  Middle sits across from high.  Low sits across from medium low, so they are alike academically.  If something that we are doing is differentiated, face buddies would work well together.  So, I write numbers on their name tags (1,2,3 or 4) . If I want to group LIKE abilities, I call, for example.... all 1's meet at the back table, etc.   Sometimes after a lesson, I'll tell all 2's to go to one corner of the room, etc. and tell the kids to share something in their group of 2's that they learned.  The good thing about this system is that you won't have to worry about making groups of kids to do things.  They are already grouped into ability groups by number. You can make mixed groups by calling 1's and 2's meet, 3's and 4's meet, or 1's and 3's meet, etc.  I write the number onto their desk tag with a sharpie and we are ready to go.  If you try this, you will love it and will wonder why you haven't been doing this all along.  I have attached an example list of kids and abilities to show you how to group your class and I have also attached a drawing of the desks and their arrangements.  If you do this, please let me know how you like it!  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Now, we all know that sometimes certain kids CANNOT sit together and changes have to be made, but for the most part, this works beautifully and you can get down to teaching!    Click here to get the directions.

Now, the first day for me is quickly approaching.  You might already be back at school.  I made a first day of school "get to know me" kind of game that I'm putting on here for free!  Click here to get the free game.  Let me know what you think!

Ok, let's get ready! Time to go!
Monday, August 4, 2014

Back To School Sale, An Interactive Math Journal Freebie and Some Inspirational Reading!

It is finished!!!!!  I have been wanting to write an interactive math journal for awhile.  I started back in the spring and as of 10 minutes ago, IT IS FINALLY FINISHED!!!!!  It covers every standard in second grade Common Core Math.  I think the kids will love these activities.  They will be cutting, coloring and gluing WHILE they are doing math.  There are games, flashcards and flip books.  This journal is 252 pages and will last you all school year.  I have listed a freebie below for you.  It is a Race to $1.00 game.  Click HERE to get the freebie!  I hope your kids enjoy the game.  If you want to see the entire journal, click HERE to go to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Now, you may know that for today and tomorrow, Teachers Pay Teachers is having their Back To School Sale.  You can save as much as 28 % off of those products that you really need to start school. 
Now is the time to get Back To School Reading and Math Centers, click here, !0 Days of Back To School Math- this reviews all of First Grade Math, click here, Morning Work For August click here or for my Back To School Memory Book click here.  The great thing is that these items are on sale today and tomorrow!  Happy Shopping!
I'm excited about getting back into my room and getting things ready for the kids to return on August 25. It seems like summer only just started but before we know it, excited, happy kids will be coming in the classroom door.  I know that it is easy to become overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done.  This summer, I have been reading Awakened; Change Your Mindset to Transform Your Teaching by Angela Watson.  This book is very inspiring and I have highlighted a few quotes that I plan to keep near this year to encourage myself! 
"Your mindset is ultimately the reason why you love teaching or despise it."
This is so true and Angela does a great job in this book of helping us see what are healthy thoughts and what kinds of thoughts will just bring us down.  We have a very important, valuable job but we have to admit, it is a very difficult job and the burnout rate is very high.  Angela reminds us to "reframe" negative thoughts, sort out what you know is true and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.  Gosh, I wish she would just come co teach with me!   Let me end with this quote from the book:
"How do some teachers cheerfully give their all day after day in the most troubled and challenging schools? They have optimistic explanatory styles.  They believe that good things are happening and worth focusing on, that problems will not last forever, and that their own efforts are making a positive difference.  The optimist sees setbacks as situation-specific, temporary and changeable."
Ok, so that is a challenge to us all as we approach the new school year.  Buckle up!  Here we go!