Sunday, September 7, 2014

Constructed Response Plans

I had every intention of blogging at least twice last week, and you can see how well that worked out for me. I don't know what it is, but I am having the hardest time finding my rhythm this year. I have never felt so far behind or so bogged down in paperwork this early in the school year. I'm making myself stay positive and keep thinking that surely I'll find my rhythm soon.

I think that one of my biggest struggles is my crazy fast pace of social studies and science. I've been agonizing over my social studies and science yearly map, because I needed to extend my geography, Paul Revere and ancient Greece units an extra week, but I can't find three extra weeks anywhere. In a perfect world, I'd teach both subjects everyday, and I could slow down. Until then, I'll welcome your advice:)

Even though I'm feeling the time crunch more than ever, I am loving our social studies interactive notebooks. They have been such a useful tool for me already, and my students love them. This week, students compared and contrasted the United States and ancient Greece.

I have been able to make constructed response problems a part of our weekly routine. I'm using the constructed response problems I created for our weekly practice. I went back and forth all summer thinking about how to best approach these word problems, because I knew they were going to be difficult for my students. I finally decided to use a gradual release model where I begin by modeling 100% of the work and then slowly give my students more and more responsibility until they are working independently. The constructed response problems that I wrote are organized into six sections, that do not have to be taught in any particular oder.
I'm using a five week process for each type of question. The first week, I model the entire problem for students on the document camera. I have students copy what I am writing. The second week, I once again model the problem on the document camera, but that week I have my students give me input in how to solve the problem. The third week, students work in small groups to solve the constructed response problem, and we go over their work together. The the fourth week, students work independently with feedback from me, and they are allowed to revise and correct their work. Finally, on the fifth week, I'll have students work independently and turn in their work for a grade.
We are on the first set of questions, and last week was our third practice, so my students worked in groups. I honestly didn't expect my students to enjoy these lessons, so I've been pleasantly surprised to see how much my students like these problems. It's the beginning of the year, so we have a lot of work to do, but I'm pleased with our progress so far. This is an average paper, and it helps me see what direction we need to go as we move forward. 

I finally got to start math work stations this week. I haven't started my RTI groups yet, because I'm trying to focus on behavior and the management aspect of math work stations. I'm so ready to get started, though! 


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Geography and Place Value

Last week was my first full week of school, and I had tons of things planned. However, I had completely forgotten about our benchmark testing, so I ended up having to skip about half of what I had intended to do. That's the life of a teacher, isn't it?

I did manage to squeeze in a little instruction, but I can't wait to have a "normal" week, if that's possible. In social studies, we're working on geography, which to be perfectly honest is boring for me. I have a very hard time making it fun. We did an interactive notebook entry and some book work, but I wanted to have a least one day that would completely grab my students' attention. I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for, so I ended up creating nine social studies stations that we used for centers on Friday. I have to say it was one of the best geography lesson I've ever taught! I knew I'd eventually add these activities to TpT, so I created two different versions-one for GA teachers and one for almost any social studies teacher.

In Station 1, students had to draw and label the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains, as well as the Colorado, Rio Grande, Mississippi, Ohio, and Hudson Rivers on a map. (The general version has students label the seven continents.)

In Station 2, students used a town map to answer cardinal and intermediate directions questions.

In Station 3, students found 16 different countries on a world map and placed them in the correct hemisphere.
Station 4 had students match geography terms with their correct definition.
At Station 5, students compared and contrasted the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. In the general version, students will compare and contrast a map and a globe.
Station 6 had students write a paragraph about one of three writing prompts. Gotta squeeze in that constructed response practice!
In Station 7, students completed a locations tree map. It never ceases to amaze me to see how confusing continents, countries, states, and cities are for students.
Station 8 gave my students much needed practice on using longitude and latitude.
I completely forgot to take a picture of Station 9, which was a landforms circle map. You can click on the picture below to see the Geography Centers in my TpT Store.

Whew! If you're still reading I also had a quick place value activity that I also wanted to share with you. In the activity, students represented three digit numbers using a variety of combinations of base-ten blocks. There was the one obvious way for each number, but then students had to apply what they knew about regrouping to determine two other ways to show the number. This was very difficult for my students, but I do feel that it was an important lesson in developing their number sense. I could see a huge improvement by the end of the week. You can download a copy of it here.



On a side note, after looking at these pictures, I am officially in the market for a new camera. I have almost no natural light in my classroom, so I need something that can make pictures in florescent light look good. I don't know much about cameras, so it can't be too sophisticated. Any recommendations?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nonfiction Text Features

Happy Tuesday! I have two super quick, but exciting things to share. I'll have to be short and sweet today, because I left my camera at home.

The first thing is the new nonfiction text features booklet that I made to use for my 3rd-5th Grade Guided Reading Unit 2. Throughout the unit, students will add new text features to their booklets to explain and give examples of the text feature. At the end of the unit, students will have a large collection of nonfiction text feature references. You can get it for free here!




Sunday, August 17, 2014

First Full Week

Last week was a short week, and it flat wore me out! I'm anxious to see how I handle my first full week back to school. I may have to give my cute shoes a break and focus on comfort a little more. I'd forgotten how much my legs ached those first few days.

Most of our first three days focused on routines, procedures, and getting to know students academically. On Friday, I introduced my students to task cards with a 3rd Day in 3rd Grade activity, which is always a huge hit with students.
We also started our math and social studies/science interactive notebooks. I was beyond excited to see that most of my students were already familiar with how to cut out and glue basic templates, because that saves me so much time. I did find that I'm going to REALLY have to work on listening skills with a few students, but that's to be expected. We added the first two pages to our social studies interactive notebooks. The first entry was on major United States rivers, and the other entry was on the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains.


My students were already begging me to let them take a timed multiplication test, so naturally I let them get started. When I give a timed multiplication test, I give students 20 problems to be completed in one minute. I apply the commutative property to the multiplication tests, so that students will learn that the order of the factors does not change the product. I've made new timed multiplication tests for this year, because I wanted to mix things up a little. Before, all of the tests for each set of facts were exactly the same. This year, I'll have three different tests for each set of facts. I made these just to keep my students on their toes. There are three tests on one piece of paper, and I just cut the paper into thirds, so I'm not wasting paper or ink. You can download the tests here!

I also wanted to let you know that I just published a small rounding unit on TpT. It focuses on rounding on a number line, because I feel that's the best way to conceptually teach rounding. In the unit, students round two and three digit numbers to the nearest ten, and three and four digit numbers to the nearest hundred. You can check out the preview {here} to see the entire product.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Introducing Rules

I'm happy to announce that I survived my first day of school today! My legs are aching, and I can barely keep my eyes open, but I made it. I know that many of you are in your first days too, so I wanted to quickly share a little activity we did today.

As I mentioned earlier, these are two of my favorite read alouds for the first day of school. I was thrilled that only one of my students had ever read First Day Jitters, and it was so fun to watch my students' expressions when I read the last page.
I also love What if Everybody Did That, because it allows students to see why rules are important. Each page of the book mentions a rule that doesn't seem necessary, and the illustration shows what would happen if everyone was doing it. For example, the boy throws a piece of food to animals in a zoo, which doesn't seem like that bid of deal, until you see the picture of animals sitting in a pile of human food.

I used the book to start a discussion about our classroom rules and why they are important. Then, I have my students complete a worksheet where they create four new scenes for the book. I encouraged my students to write in the same style as the author by beginning their sentences with, "What if everyone..." Underneath the sentence, I had students draw a picture of what would happen if everyone did what they wrote about.


Everyone seemed to enjoy the activity, and I feel like it helped students understand why we have some of our rules. You can download a copy of the form {here}!

On a personal note, I am now the proud mom of a kindergartener. For the first time, I get to see the other side of school as a parent. I was good and kept all of my emotions in-it didn't hurt that I had a classroom full of new students keeping me busy. She had a wonderful first day thanks to her incredible teachers, and I'm so excited for this new adventure!


Monday, August 11, 2014

Ready. Set. Go!

Tomorrow is open house for me, which means it has been crunch time in getting my classroom ready to go. It shouldn't have been that difficult, because I decided to keep the same look from last year. I still really liked the bright colors, and to be quite honest, I didn't feel like reinventing the wheel. Even though I used the same design, it was still a lot of work to get everything ready.

This is the view from the back of my classroom. Notice that I don't have any windows or natural light. I added the silhouettes on the clouds to bring the outdoors to my room. I got the idea from Schoolgirlstyle.com.
Here's a close-up of the silhouettes. 
On the back of my classroom door, I added small thought bubbles. I'll have my students write their thoughts to different questions on a sticky note, and then students will place the sticky notes on their thought bubble at the end of the activity.
I have a tray of notebook paper and a caddy on the center of each table. Students will store any community supplies in the caddy and their individual supplies in their basket, which they will keep inside their desk.
I still love my big word wall. I initially used velcro to attach the words, but I found that tape worked just fine.
These are the books I'm planning to read on the first day of school. The sticks are for when I want to randomly call on students and for my Mystery Walker of the Day.
I'm going to try having a "Homework Club" for the first time this year. At the end of the month, anyone who is still in the club will receive an extra privilege. 
This is my desk area. Please excuse the mess, but this is the one piece of my room that is still in progress.
I use "Brownie Points" as a whole class incentive. Every time students get a compliment or do something especially well, they earn a brownie point (I stick them on the pan with magnets). When the pan is filled, I bake my class brownies.
This is an area where I'll keep sharpened and unsharpened pencils, highlighters, and glue sticks. I bought little chalkboard labels, but I forgot to buy a pen for the labels. I'm hoping it arrives tomorrow, so I can use it before open house.
I've got several things I can't wait to try out this week. I'll share them as soon as I know they're truly classroom ready!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

First Days of Math Workshop

I'm a huge believer in spending a significant amount of time teaching rules and procedures at the beginning of the year. It's what sets the tone for the entire year, so I know it's incredibly important to make sure my students fully understand all of our classroom routines. But...these procedures can be so boring to teach. I know there have been times when I bored myself, and I was the one teaching! I obviously don't want my students bored and tuned out of my instruction, so I've been looking for ways to make the first few days a little more fun in the rules and routines department. One thing that I'm quite excited about is using our interactive notebooks to teach our rules and procedures. I've created a few interactive notebook forms that I'll use to review several of these routines and expectations. You can get a free copy of the forms here!


Once I started making these interactive notebook activities for the beginning of the year. I couldn't stop thinking about how I could use them in math workshop.  It's no secret that I love math workshop.  In fact, one of the very first TpT products I ever created was The First Days of Math Workshop, which is a ten day guide in getting started with math workshop. It eventually became one of my most popular items.
I have used this guide for the past several years in my classroom, and it is a lifesaver for me! The simple breakdown is just what I need those crazy first days of school! But, while I love this guide, I did feel like it needed a little more to it, so it's been my project the past few days. I'm excited to say that it has now doubled in size!

The basics of the guide is still exactly the same. I did update the fonts and graphics, but it is the same content. The big change is with the addition of an interactive notebook activity to reinforce each of the procedures. There are now ten interactive activities that each correlate with the day's procedural lesson.
I feel like this is going to make teaching the procedures so much more fun for both my students and me! Plus, it will be a great introduction to interactive notebooks. Naturally, a new addition like this deserves an updated cover page, so here it is! You can click here or on the picture below for a preview of the product! If you already have it, be sure to download it again for the newest version!