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!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Teachers Thanking Teachers

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to let each of you know how much I appreciate YOU! I appreciate your support on TpT and your interaction on this blog and on my Facebook page. It is such a privilege to be a small part of your classroom, and I hope that you've been able to take away some things that make your life a little easier. I'm also thankful for your dedication and devotion to your students. Sometimes it may not feel like it, but you are making a difference in many lives. We may never know our reach as teachers, but I'm sure that we are all leaving our mark.

Several other 3rd-5th grade bloggers have joined to gather to thank you for all that you do. We've each posted a new product that we are giving away for FREE for the next two days. These products will eventually be paid products, but for Sunday, November 16th and Monday, November 17th you can download these new products for free! I'm sure you'll find some things you love, so be sure to check each of the blogs below to scoop up some amazing teaching resources.

I've made a set of winter themed multi-step task cards to help prepare my students for writing constructed response problems. All of the task cards include multi-step word problems that will require students to think critically. The questions lend themselves toward expanded written explanations about math, so these are perfect practice for constructed response problems. I have my students write a thorough written explanation for each of the problems, so this is a great way to get students writing about math. I'm currently using a similar fall themed set of task cards, and they've been great for my students. I've found that my students can typically complete one task card in about ten minutes, so I'll be able to use these cards for a long time, not just Christmas! You can click here to get your set of task cards!

Each of the bloggers below have an additional item that they are giving away for the next two days (Sunday and Monday). Be sure to click on the links below to check these great blogs out!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Pumpkin Projects

My teaching partner had the great idea of having our students complete a literacy based pumpkin project. Our students decorated a pumpkin to represent one of their favorite book characters, and then they created a written presentation to describe the character traits of the character they chose. Our students turned in their pumpkins today, and their projects were amazing!

I think the best part of the whole project was seeing how excited my students were about school. They have been bubbling over with anticipation for the past two weeks and couldn't wait to share their pumpkins with the class! Here are just a few of the pumpkins that were turned in. Do you recognize any book characters?
Here are Chicken Little and The Cat in the Hat

We also have Rusty from Warrior Cats and Geronimo Stilton.

Naturally, a toilet was one of my students' favorites!

I love this Bad Case of Stripes pumpkin.

This Bad Kitty is too adorable!

Most of the written presentations were on poster board, so they're hanging in the hallway, but this picture gives a good idea of how the pumpkin project tied into our reading unit.
Here are a few more project boards. We were so impressed with the amount of thought and text evidence students included in the written presentation!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


I'm curious. Has anyone else given the "Candy is not a good choice for breakfast" or the "Candy is not a great idea for your snack" speech this week? I'm not joking when I say that I've had multiple students bring large bags of candy to class just to munch on while they work. I had to do a double take when I saw a jumbo bag of Laffy Taffy sitting on a student's desk, and I couldn't help but laugh. Kids will be kids.

We are right in the middle of our division unit, and for the most part I'm happy with how everyone is progressing. Our biggest obstacle is the same as it is every year-multiplication facts. I'm sending home my multiplication facts booklets with some of my students, and I think those are helping a lot. I also bought a couple of games from Lakeshore Learning, and I'm using those games for a few of my work station activities. My favorite game is definitely Flip It.
 Students roll four dice and group the digits to create two 2-digit numbers. Then, they flip down two factors that can be multiplied together to reach the product of the 2-digit number rolled. If there aren't any factors that can be flipped, the student's turn is over. I'm allowing my students to use a multiplication table as needed, because I still have several who need a little more time on multiplication facts.
My students LOVE, and I LIKE Multiplication Jenga. It's certainly fun, but geeze those blocks are loud when they fall. I nearly jump out of my skin every time it crashes to the floor.
I've also started using my College Football Math Task Cards, and it cracks me up to watch my students sort through the cards to find their favorite teams. Even my most reluctant students enjoy the football task cards.
I also recently made a new No Prep Multiplication Printables pack, and I've been using the other activities as needed. I absolutely love this pack, because it's so teacher friendly. The only preparation needed is printing, and that's it!

Some of the games can be played with a partner. In this game, students roll a die and multiply the number rolled by three. Then, they color the product of the two numbers. Students take turns rolling the die and coloring the numbers, and the first person who colors three in a row wins.
Some activities are more basic. In this activity, students had to color an array to show a multiplication facts.
The multiplication table was quite a challenge for some students, but I do think that they now truly understand how to read a multiplication table.
I gave this comparing numbers sheet to some of my students who needed a little challenge.
This spin and color activity is a ton of fun! I just have students use a paper clip and pencil for a spinner. They spin two times and multiply the two numbers together, and then they color in the product of the two numbers.
Without a doubt, my students' favorite activity was Color by Number. You would have thought that I gave them an extra hour of recess when you saw how excited they were about this activity.
I've organized the activities so that there are some easy versions with small numbers and more challening versions with larger numbers. There are MANY more activities in the packet, so if you'd like to see a large preview, just click on the picture below.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Government Interactive Notebook & a Free Presentation

We are now full swing into our government unit, which is one of the hardest concepts I teach all year. I'm not sure how I get so lucky to teach division and government at the same time!
I actually enjoy teaching government, but it's so difficult for my students to understand. I think part of the problem is the vocabulary. There are some very big words in this unit that are difficult for students to read and pronounce, much less understand. I'm on the verge of coming up with a great idea for teaching government, but the idea hasn't made it's way from my mind to an actual project.

I started the unit by teaching about the three levels of government. I made a little PowerPoint presentation that explained the three levels of government in student friendly terms. You can download a copy of the presentation here.
After discussing the presentation and reading a little, students completed a levels of government entry in their social studies interactive notebook.
After I felt like my students were comfortable with the levels of government, I then introduced the three branches of government. We've watched a United Streaming movie, read some out of GA Studies Weekly, and have read a few nonfiction picture books. Students also added a 3 branches of government entry to their interactive notebook. I love that this student colored her leaves to have an autumn look. I thought that was so original!
For the next few weeks, I'll teach the roles, responsibilities, and names of the three branches at each level of government. My goal is to make the remainder of this unit as fun and as relevant as possible, so be sure to check back in for some new ideas. I'd love to hear how you make government fun for students!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall Products & Freebies

I absolutely love this time of year. There is just something special about all of the excitement in October, November, and December. I think it's during these months that I'm most appreciative of being around students, so I can see their excitement and joy over all that comes with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

I do like to have a little seasonal fun in my classroom, but I do keep it in moderation. I still move forward with standards based instruction. I just try to give my lessons a seasonal look and theme. One of my favorite additions to my seasonal products is my Fall Themed Constructed Response Task Cards. I've been working on constructed response problems all year, but they can be so tough for students. I want to give my students as many different opportunities to practice solving constructed response problems as possible, so I wanted to add them to my math work station rotations. I was tempted to give the cards this adorable Halloween look, but I couldn't stand the thought of printing, laminating, and cutting only to have to put them away in a couple weeks. I thought that I'd save myself a lot of work by giving them a generic fall look, so that I could get several weeks worth of use out of these cards.
I've included questions for rounding, place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division because these are the concepts I have taught this year. We've just started division, so I may take those cards out for another week or two. You can look at the examples below to get an idea of the rigor of the task cards.
I'll also use my October and November Spiral Math Review Task Cards during the next few months. I like how excited my students get whenever I introduce a new month's worth of spiral review cards. They always look for the new content to complete first.
I also have a Language Arts Spiral Review Task Cards, and the month of November is FREE! You can grab those here! Speaking of free, I've temporarily removed my monthly creative writing packs from TpT. I want to spruce them up a little. In the meantime, they are still available on this blog.
Even though we're technically finished with our multiplication unit, a little extra practice never hurts, so I'm printing out some of the activities from my Halloween Themed Multiplication Activities as I write.
I liked this when I made it last year, but after seeing it's usefulness I really love it! I was surprised at how many days it was just what I needed for that extra little boost of multiplication instruction. There are two pumpkin patch activities where students solve multiplication word problems and another where students draw arrays to show potential pumpkin patches. I absolutely love the problem solving required for the Haunted House and Costume Shop activities! They are definitely my two favorites. My students thoroughly enjoyed the Halloween Candy multiplication table and the Ghostly Word problems. I made it in a color and in a black and white version, because if I print at home, I print in color, and if I print at school, it's in black and white.

I also wanted to share what I'm doing for my other math work statins, but that may have to wait. Apparently that basket of laundry won't fold itself! Here's a link to my other fall products!