Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Get Ready for a Sale

I've been out of school so much the past two weeks, I'm starting to wonder if we'll ever actually finish the school year! I can't complain though. I have absolutely loved being at home with my little ones, and it's pure bliss not getting up at 5:30 everyday. It's also given me a little extra time to finish a new product just in time for the first TpT sale of 2015.

Everything in my TpT Store will be 20% off February 25 and 26.  Use promo code HEROES for an additional 10% off your purchase. I have a few new resources that I want to make sure you're aware of for the sale. You can use the links to check out each category.

No Prep Math Packs-I just finished the Area and Perimeter Printable pack, and I love it just as much as the multiplication packet and division packet. It will be the perfect compliment to my Fun with Area and Perimeter pack that contains performance tasks and activities.  Each of these include interactive and engaging printables where there is no prep needed.
Test Prep-I also recently finished my 3rd Grade Math Practice and 3rd grade Language Practice with both include constructed response practice. I have several other test prep products that are sure to help get your students ready for the big test! Some of these include a language and math spiral review in a short answer and multiple choice format.
I've been adding to my task card collection over the past several weeks! I will eventually have one set of task cards for every Common Core Standard! I also have monthly spiral review task cards.
I hope you take advantage of these great deals!!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Math Practice

I recently blogged about my language arts practice pages, and I certainly don't want to leave out my new math practice! That has become a staple in my classroom, and I love it. I'm using it for my weekly math homework assignment, and it correlates perfectly with my morning work. This is different from my morning work, because it does not include the months of the year or days of the week. It also does not include seasonal word problems, so that any page can be used any time of the year (I'll probably save this until January each year). This also includes all new questions, so there won't be any repeats!
There are three parts to each page: math skills review, word problems, and multi-part constructed response problem. The skill review covers all of the basic third grade skills (place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, geometry, rounding, fractions). These are very basic questions that do not require a considerable amount of higher order thinking. The word problem section contains one-step word problems that use all math operations. There is typically a variety of addition, subtraction, multiplication or division problems in that section. I've been using this format of word problems since the beginning of the year with my Weekly Word Problems, and it makes a tremendous difference with my students!

My favorite part of the review is the constructed response portion. These questions are all multi-part and require students to explain and represent their thinking through multiple representations. The problems include high order questions and require the application of a variety of math concepts-they are not just multi-step word problems. I'm not going to lie. This type of problem isn't easy and require a lot of modeling and practice.

Just like the language arts version, the math pack is also 100% editable. I think this is especially important in math, because sometimes I find problems that require skills that I haven't introduced yet, so I need to make adjustments to those questions. I also like to use my students' names in the math problems just to make them a little more interesting for my class.

You can get a sample by clicking on the picture below, so you can try it out!
You can see the whole product here in my TpT Store!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Language Arts Practice

As much as I try to ignore it, the stress of high stakes testing has been creeping up on me lately. I try to put it out of my mind and have faith in my students, but it's much easier said than done. Let's face it, my value as a teacher is determined by those test scores, and we're all going into the test blind this year.

I'm a big believer that test prep should begin at the beginning of the school year through sound instruction on appropriate content. I don't believe that test prep is something that should be crammed down students' throats the last couple months of the school year. I've created a couple new products that I started using in January to help with test prep. I'm using them to practice and review skills that historically give my students trouble, as well as practice multi-part problems for constructed response questions.
There are three parts to the language arts version: grammar, vocabulary, and comprehension. The grammar questions cover many different skills through mentor sentences.

  • Version 1-Students have to find all of the nouns, pronouns, and verbs in the mentor sentence. 
  • Version 2-Students find the adjectives and the nouns the adjectives describe, action verbs, and punctuation marks in the mentor sentence.
  • Version 3-Students find the adverbs in the mentor sentence. They also change all of the singular nouns to plural nouns, and identify the subject of the sentence.
  • Version 4-Students combine two sentences and add different parts of speech to their new sentence.
  • Version 5-Students correct a sentence with two or three errors.
In the vocabulary portion, there is a huge emphasis on prefixes, suffixes, and root words. Students will also work with homophones and idioms where they will identify them and use them in sentences. Dictionary skills almost always give my students trouble, so there is one dictionary skill question on each page as well. Those questions include guide words, alphabetical order, determining the correct meaning, and context clues.

I think I'm most excited about the comprehension portion of this assessment. These questions can be used with almost any third grade level (or above) book. The constructed response questions will require students to dig deep into the text and apply the the close reading skills they have learned throughout the year. Answers will need to be written in paragraph form, and students will be expected to use text evidence in their response.

I think most people are most excited to hear that I've made all of the practice pages in an editable format. This will allow you to tweak the file and make any changes necessary to meet the needs of your classroom. You can click on the picture below for three FREE sample pages!
You can see the product in my TpT store here!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Magnet Activities

I love teaching about magnets, mainly because it's probably the easiest unit I teach all year. My students have some background knowledge from first grade, and the third grade content isn't too difficult. Plus, I get to do really fun hands-on activities with my class. I used my Magnet Investigations Booklet that I made several years ago to introduce the concept. I did make some changes to it, because I can't keep printing in color ink and the black and white copies didn't look that good. You can click {here} for a copy of the booklet.
There is a hands-on activity on every page. The main focus of the majority of the activities is that magnets have a north and a south pole, and that the magnetic field is strongest around its poles. To teach this, students make a magnetic train where they join bar magnets together through their north and south poles. Students also make floating magnets with magnetic rings (this is always the favorite). Of course, I do have a couple activities where students find things that are and are not attracted to magnets. I always make sure I have something aluminum for this activity, because it's not magnetic.

One of the more complicated activities demonstrates how a compass works. This always leaves my students amazed, and it's a great way to review a little social studies!

To implement the activities, I give each of my groups (four students in a group) a kit of magnets and any needed supplies and a booklet. Students work through the booklet at their own pace, but I do encourage them to move at an appropriate pace.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Linear Measurement

Now that I'm kind of, sort of finished with my fraction unit, I can finally start my favorite math unit of the year-measurement! Finally!! Not everyone is 100% ready to move on from fractions, but we really can't wait another week to get started on measurement. (I'll continue to have my students practice fractions through their morning work and in my small groups.)

I start my measurement unit with reading a ruler to the nearest one-fourth inch. My students typically come to me with a solid foundation of how to read a ruler to the nearest inch, so I'm able to hit the ground running.

I introduced reading a ruler with an interactive notebook activity from Blair Turner's math INB packet. In the entry, students label a large ruler with 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 increments of each inch. I like tying this lesson into reading and labeling fractions on a number line.
Then, I gave my students some very basic independent practice. This allowed me to see who needed a little extra work. One of the most common mistakes was confusing which whole number to write, so I've addressed that with those who need it. I made two of these worksheets, so I could use the additional copy to reassess as needed.
Once I felt like the majority of the class was ready to dive-in to some authentic measurement activities, we completed two simple activities that were fun for students. In one activity,
 students measured the lengths of different objects around the classroom. They found the length of a book, scissors, glue bottle, and glue stick. They also measured the length and width of a piece of notebook paper. I tried to choose common objects that would be easily accessible, as well as objects that would not be too difficult to measure. Some students tried to round all of their measurements to the nearest inch, rather than the nearest one-fourth inch, so we had to work on that a little. I also saw some students wanting to add one-fourth to all of their measurements, so I had to explain what it meant to measure to the nearest one-fourth inch.
We also completed a scavenger hunt by finding items with a given measurement. I've done something like this in the past, but this had a little twist, because of the measurements with 1/2, 1/4, and 3/4 inches. This was by far my students' favorite activity.
Today, students created a line plot by measuring ten pencils to the nearest 1/4 inch (I can't believe I forgot to take a picture). They recorded the length of each pencils in the table on the top of their page. Then, students used that information to create a line plot to show the lengths of the pencils. At the bottom of the page, students asked two questions that could be answered by using the line plot. Ex: How many pencils were longer than five inches?
Tomorrow, I hope to have students complete a similar assignment with a bit less structure to give them a little more practice with measurement and line plots. For those Common Core teachers out there, the standard this is working toward is 3.MD.4...can you tell I like that one?!

I've compiled everything together for you to grab in one easy download. Just click HERE for a copy!

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!