Thursday, January 29, 2015

Constructed Response Examples

I've have several requests for examples of completed constructed response problems. I have collected a few student samples from the first three pages of my 3rd Grade Math Practice that I thought might be useful. Of course, the top and middle portions of the practice sheet are skills review and basic word problems, but the bottom section does contain a multi-step constructed response problem.
 In this example, I like how the student explained why they chose the operations. When I graded this, I felt like the explanation proved to me that the student knew why and when to multiply and divide. I will encourage this student to try to increase the use of math vocabulary as the next step.
I thought it was a bit harder for students to explain their thinking in this problem, even though it isn't as difficult as the other examples. I can see that the student is working to restate the question to an answer sentence, which is great, because we have been working on that all year!

 I like this student's math thinking and the use of math equations. I can see that the student's number sense is strong. We will continue working on restating the question and explaining WHY to extend their response.

I think I'm going to send one home a week for my homework. (That's the only math homework I will give students for an entire week.) I'll continue using my new morning work that is written in the same format on Monday-Friday. We will work through each of those problems together either in a whole group or small group. I may give an extra practice problem periodically for an assessment.

This is what we'll be working on next week! Good think I have new time task cards to help us prepare!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Managing Work Stations

Just yesterday, my five year old put me on her Sunday School class's prayer list, because "Your classroom is so noisy! You must have a really hard job".  (She's in kindergarten at my school.) I'm almost ashamed to admit it, but she's right. The noise level in my classroom is getting out of hand. I've always prided myself on my classroom management, but as my class size increases, so does the difficulty in keeping everyone focused, listening, and on task. The two areas that give my the biggest problems are work stations and dismissal. This week, I'm going to tackle work stations, and next week, I plan to work on dismissal.

Anyone who has read this blog, knows that I love work stations. They are such an important part of my math instruction, and I'd be lost without them. However, without close supervision, classroom management issues can become problematic. Since I'm a girl who has to have a plan, I've made a checklist.

Step 1-It's time to revisit our rules and routines. Sometimes it's easier to let things go, but it doesn't do anyone any good in the long run. We're going to spend some time discussing appropriate and inappropriate work station behavior and my specific expectations. We will also discuss what happens when those expectations are not met. I find myself doing way too much for my students, rather than teaching how to take care of things themselves.  (ex: what to do if you find a missing piece, what to do if you need help, etc.)

Step 2-I need to go back to my beginning of the year days, and rather than meet with a group, monitor and observe. I don't like this. At all. I want to meet with my small groups soooo bad, but sometimes missing a day or two may be what's best for everyone. If you groups are too loud, your small groups can't focus the way they should. Plus, if students aren't on task and learning, your small groups are eventually going to increase in numbers.

Step 3-I want to give my students more time to reflect on their behavior, participation, and the content of the activities during their work station time. I've created five different versions of exit slips that I'll use for self-reflection forms at the end of our work station time. Students will use these forms to assess their involvement and to reflect on the math learned and reviewed in their work station activities. {Click on the picture for your copy.}
Step 4-I am so excited to start using my new app Too Much Noise! The app helps teachers control the noise levels in a classroom using a visual stimulus. As the noise level in a classroom increases, the noise level meter indicates the level of noise. You can control the sensitivity of the app so it will be useful in multiple settings.
Step 5-Troubleshoot! As I monitor, I have to find if there are any stations or locations of stations that need to be changed. If a station, is missing parts, too confusing, or just not that interesting, I've got to fix the problem.
Let me know if I'm forgetting something that needs to be added to the list or if you have any great dismissal tips!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

New Year New Units

With the start of a new year comes all new units for me, and I'm pretty happy about that. To be completely honest with you, none of the units I teach during the first half of the year are my favorites, except science. We've finally gotten to the "good stuff".

Last week I started our fraction unit, which typically starts easy, and then it gets very difficult for my students. In my first lesson, I taught about equal parts, which should have tied in nicely to our division unit. I first modeled how to identify and make equal parts and showed examples and non-examples I placed several pieces of chart paper around the room and labeled each piece of paper with halves, thirds, fourths, and fifths. Then, I gave my students a large piece of construction paper. They used the construction paper to cut out different shapes and to partition them into equal pieces to create halves, thirds, etc. They had to use a variety of shapes, so I didn't let them cut all squares or even all squares and rectangles. After students partitioned their shapes, they taped the shape to the corresponding piece of chart paper.
The majority of my class appeared to understand the concept, but I was also became aware of some serious misconceptions. I have some who still do not truly understand equal parts, especially when it comes to shapes other than squares and rectangles. You can see some examples on the pictures above and below.

 I used that observation to discuss how some shapes don't lend themselves to being partitioned into equal parts or certain numbers of equal parts. I also had students learn to prove that the parts were or were not equal by cutting apart each part and setting them on top of each other.

I've also started my Famous Americans unit, which is always my students favorite social studies unit. I feel like the content is just right for third graders, and my students become so interested in the people they study. Last week, I taught about Frederick  Douglass and Susan B. Anthony. I use our GA Studies newspaper, picture books, and to introduce them to students. I also have students complete a booklet for each of the people we learn about.

I realized that I needed a rubric for the booklets, so I made one this weekend. Unfortunately, I left my students' completed booklets at home, which means I am now very behind on grading. I've attached an editable copy of the rubric, so if you think you can download a copy.
This Famous Americans unit ties in perfectly to my newest product, Black History Close Reading. Several of the historical figures in our curriculum are included in this pack, so it's going to give my students new reading material and questions that will integrate social studies and reading. Plus, it will be perfect for Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month! It's written in the same format as my other close reading packs, so my students will already be familiar with the process. The packets includes passages and questions about Mary McLeod Bethune, George Washington Carver, Frederick Douglass, Ruby Bridges, Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Jesse Owens, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Morning Work-Increasing Rigor

Anyone who knows me or follows this blog, probably realizes that I am constantly changing as a teacher. I don't think I'll ever reach a point of complacency where I have the attitude of having my craft of teaching perfected. Curriculum changes. Students change. Administrators change. Teachers change. I also think the desire to constantly fine tune what I do helps prevent me from completely burning out. Don't get me wrong, I have those days when I want don't think I can make it another day, but that usually just means I need some time away from teaching and creating.

To the point. You know that I love my morning work. I've blogged about it several times, because I truly believe it plays in important role in my classroom. However, this year has added a new mix of challenges. In addition to all that we already do, I've tried to incorporate constructed response practice to my regular routine. I've made a couple new products that give me great materials to work with, but they didn't give my extra time in the day. I've been experimenting and shifting my schedule around all year to help combat this problem, and at the very end of December I finally found what works for me. Along with me, a few other teachers were brave enough to try it out in their classroom the week before winter break, and we all liked this new approach.

In a nutshell, I've combined the skills from my Number of the Day, Weekly Word Problems, and Constructed Response Practice into a one-page daily review.
As I started working on the Number of the Day section, I realized that this new format would give me a lot more flexibility in the skills that I review. This section includes everything that is on my original Number of the Day, but it has a different format and there are many new types of questions. The Weekly Word Problem portion is exactly the same and is in the same format. The BIG change is the constructed response section. On the bottom half of the page is a multi-step constructed response problem. These aren't easy, but I didn't want them to be easy. This is where the rigor of my morning work is going to drastically increase. Almost all of these problems are brand-new, with just a couple of my favorites from my Math Constructed Response pack. I tried to make the questions very PARCC like to ensure appropriate test prep practice.
Here's the good news! Rather than creating a new product, I've added this updated version to my Weekly Word Problems (Morning Work Bundle, Weekly Word Problem Bundle, and Individual files). You don't have to buy it again! Just download the file for the new version! At this time, I have only made this new format for January and February. I thought I'd wait a bit before making the March and April versions to see if any more adjustments need to be made. I can't say with certainty whether or not I'll make an August-December set. I'm almost afraid that it will be a bit too much too soon, but I've also thought about trying out some other things during those months. I'll keep you updated for sure.

Even if you don't have my Weekly Word Problems, you can try out this new format by clicking on the picture below. I hope you enjoy!

Friday, December 26, 2014

December Madness

Have I really not blogged the entire month of December? I can't believe that I almost let an entire month slip by without one blog post. I do have a few really good excuses that I can sum up in a picture or two.

Moving is no joke. I knew it would be hard, but I really had no idea just how hard-especially the emotional aspect. We're still in the same area, but I was incredibly close to our former neighbors. My daughter officially named our living room "Box Land" and I have to say that the the name fit. I have no idea what made me think that moving during Christmas would be a good idea, but we survived.
My little family has also been hit by every virus that has come through our area. In just a month, we've had the flu, ear infections, strep throat, and the stomach bug. Fun times. I can't complain though, because we're all healed up and healthy.
I've also developed an obsession for the art lessons on Deep Space Sparkle. I'm the first to admit that when it comes to traditional art, I may be the least artistic person ever. Laying all jokes aside, I actually failed cutting in preschool. Who knew that was even possible? Anyway. Despite my lack of talent, I still love art, and I hate the fact that we don't have any type of art program at my school. One of my new goals is to try to sprinkle in more art into my curriculum. I did three art projects that all included PAINT {gasp} the weeks before Christmas break. This has opened a whole new door of classroom management issues for me, especially trying to complete the projects without a sink or bathroom (for water) nearby. I'm learning as I go. Sometimes the hard way.

I found both of the projects below at Deep Space Sparkle.

In every spare moment I've been working on my Reading Workshop Unit 6. When I first loaded the bundle I said that I would have Unit 6 ready by the end of December, and I was 100% committed to sticking to my schedule. I'm not gonna lie, I was a happy girl to get it posted and to have the Reading Workshop Bundle FINISHED!! Woo Hoo!!!!  This unit includes one lesson for each of the reading for literature and reading for information Common Core Standards for a big end of the year review.

 I was able to squeeze in some Genius Hour things that I had made for my classroom (that part is optional). I also love the lessons that require students to find a mentor text for different reading strategies. Talk about higher level thinking! I haven't loaded the individual unit yet, but it is now in the bundle!

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and that you enjoy these days off of work with family and friends!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Save Yourself Some Merry Little Minutes

It's no joke that a teacher's work is never done. I'm positive that I could double my time at school and still not catch up, which is why I'm excited to join several other upper elementary bloggers to share some of our simple, time-saving tips.

Just in case I'm not the only person in the world who was not aware of a little bulletin board trick, I want to share with you a way to make creating bulletin boards a little more painless. It's pretty obvious, and I have no idea why it took me YEARS to learn-use push pins, rather than staples! For those of you who are thinking, "I've been doing this since I started teaching," consider yourself lucky. I cannot count the number of times I've taken boards down because all of my letters didn't fit, things weren't centered, there was a big blank spot, or pretty much anything-you know how it goes. Using push pins makes it so much easier to move things around without pulling out stapes and eventually tearing your background paper or item that you're pinning. You can see below how I have push pins in all of the numbers, because setting that up was insane! Once you're finished, you can replace the pushpin with a staple to keep everything hidden.
I also frequently use TpT to save me time. I enjoy creating things, but sometimes there just isn't time and I need something right now. Those are the times that I am so thankful to have so many amazing resources right at my finger tips, which is one of the reasons I'm so excited to announce that there will be a site-wide sale on Monday, December 1st and Tuesday, December 2nd. I'll mark everything in my store an additional 20% off to give you a total savings of 28%.
One of my favorite time saving products is my writing units, which are perfect for Common Core or ANY state standard. I written writing units for personal narratives, informational writing, and opinion writing.
The units include a list of mentor texts and a unit at a glance page. I love having both resources on single pages as I plan for units.
The units also include a detailed lesson plan for each day that lists the standard, materials, mini lesson, independent writing, and closing. There is also an optional printable that can be used to expand the mini lesson and could easily be completed in guided writing groups.
This feedback summed up exactly what I wanted to do for teachers! I want to save teachers time, so that they can enjoy their family and friends, rather than spend hours every afternoon and weekend working on lesson plans!
Be sure to check this other blogs for more time saving tips!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Holidays Around the World Interactive Notebook

christmas around the world interactive notebook

I am normally one of those people who get ready for Christmas way too early. I always feel like half the fun of the holiday season is the time spent prepping for Christmas. I love getting the house festive, since I love all things that sparkle and glitter. I also absolutely adore Christmas baking, wrapping presents, singing Christmas songs, and reading Christmas books with my kids. This year I'm sure I'll be way behind schedule, because we're in the process of moving. My daughter has appropriately renamed our house "Box Land", since it does feel like we're beginning to live out of boxes. I'll probably leave all of our Christmas things boxed up until we make the move.
Since my Christmas plans are at a stand-still at home, I've been anxious to get started somewhere, so why not school?!?  I've started getting my Holidays Around the World Close Reading pack ready, because I am definitely going to use the passages again this year! This tied in perfectly with our reading instruction, and my students loved it.
I've written 11 sets of nonfiction reading passages that are based on different cultures'/nations' holiday traditions.  Since I have such a broad range of readers, I've written each of the passages on three different reading levels and leveled each passage with a lexile score.  You can see below how there is a range in reading levels.

I've also written three sets of questions for each of the passages, and all questions require students to cite text evidence. The first set of questions are explicit questions, where the exact answer can be found in the text. The second set of questions focuses mostly on text structure, vocabulary, and the main idea of specific paragraphs. The final question requires students to dig deep into the text to answer a higher order thinking question.  All of these questions will require students to comprehend the text at a deeper level. The countries and/or cultures included in the unit are:

While I love these passages and questions, I still wanted to find a way to increase my students' engagement during this crazy time of year, which has lead to the creation of one of my new favorite products!
I had the hardest time deciding what I wanted to emphasize in these interactive notebook entries. One part of me wanted the emphasis to be on the reading skills and strategies we are currently using in class. For example, the emphasis of one page could be main idea and supporting details. However, another part of my worried that other teachers would prefer the emphasis to be on the actual holiday tradition, rather than the reading skill. I changed my mind about 100 times, until I finally decided to do BOTH! This way you can pick that activities that best works for YOUR class. You do not need the close reading passages for this pack, but it is an amazing companion product!
For Australia, students answer who, what, when, and where questions about the text. These questions can all be answered with or without the close reading passages.
I included a color version and a black and white version of each activity.
There are two different versions for Brazil. In the reading focused version, students write the main idea of the passage in the center of the interactive notebook template, and then write supporting details on all of the flaps. The second version has students simply write a fact about Christmas in Brazil on each of the flaps.
France also comes with two options. In the first version, students use an interactive notebook template to summarize their close reading passage (or any text with information about Christmas in France). The second version has students use the template to write new things they learned about Christmas in France.

I'll share more of the interactive notebook activities with you soon! In the meantime, check back in, because I have a few small things I want to give away!