Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back to School Sale

I try not to have too much TpT talk on my blog, but I did want to let everyone know that there will be a 10% site wide sale on August 1st through 4th (coupon code will be in Monday's newsletter).  If you're anything like me, you've already spent way too much money on school stuff, so I'm going to place all of my products on sale for an additional 20% off (you won't need a coupon code for my sale).  This means everything will be a total of 30% off!  Also, be sure to check out the new and improved TpT.  It looks great!

I can't wait until Monday!  My shopping cart is ready to go!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Part 2

Here are a few more pictures that I didn't add yesterday.

I use this to organize my multiplication timed tests.
 This is my social studies wall, which is to the left of my large dry erase board.  We'll add terms as we learn them.  I'm not sure why the glare is so bad in the picture.
 This is my science wall which is on right of my dry erase board.
 As you can tell, my manipulatives are a work in progress-I'm still waiting on the rest of my containers to come in.  Can you even tell what is new and what is old?  I used to keep everything in really large tubs (see bottom shelf), but this year I'm dividing all of my large tubs into 5 small tubs.  This will make it so much faster to distribute the manipulatives.  I can just give each table a container, rather than sorting them out.  You can also see the start of my math work station containers on the top left shelf.  I've also purged a lot of the items I only use once or twice a year.  Each grade level has a small supply closet, and I'm going to just keep them in their rather than in my room (we don't have any closets in our room).
 This is the start of my math word wall.  I'm not so sure about the fact that the word 'word' is on two separate doors, but I couldn't make it fit any other way.
My next project is to get all of my desks the same height.  They're driving me CRAZY!
I don't really hang anything on the wall before school, because we add things as we go. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's Open!!!

My school finally opened!  Well, technically it's not open, but I found a way in.  I was so excited to finally start organizing and and setting things up.  I had already arranged my furniture, so I spent all day today doing little things.  I'm trying to change my look this year and tried and tried to think of something new and different.  I've never really had a theme, but I do like for all of my things to be coordinated.  Finally, I decided to use my new rug for inspiration-squares!
 

I started with my bookshelf for my content area books.  Since we team teach at my school, I'll only be teaching math, social studies, and science, but I still feel that all teachers should have a large variety of books for their students.  This was my bookshelf from last year.

This is my bookshelf after changing the tubs to baskets and adding labels.
I like it so much better with the uniform size, bright colors, and large labels.  I need to make improvements on the bookshelf itself, but I don't think I'm going to have time.  My sweet husband built EVERY bookshelf in my classroom, and this is one of his first projects.  Each year the quality of construction has improved, and he does some really nice work now.  My bookshelves are sort of like a time line of our life.

I also got my bulletin board ready, which is very, very boring.  We are required to post standards, student work, rubrics, and commentary on our bulletin board, so we don't get to do anything really fun. I did try to make it coordinate with everything.
I also worked on my bucket fillers board.  I'm still waiting for the library pockets I ordered to come in, so it's not finished.  (I'm going to talk more about bucket fillers later this week or next week.  I have a cute story to share.)
I also started working on my math manipulatives and work station area, but I quickly ran out of storage containers, so I'll have to share that later.  I also tried to organize my area a little.  When I look at this picture, I feel the need for a new trash can. 
  I still have a lot more to do, but it's amazing how fast time slips away when I'm working.  I'm going to join Empowering Little Learners linky party, so I can see how everyone else is organizing their rooms.  I'm still looking for new ideas!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ice Ice Baby

As promised, I have one of my ice breaker activities ready to share with you, but I also wanted to tell you about another one of my favorite beginning of the year activities.  I'm sorry to say that I don't have any pictures of it, because to be honest, before I started blogging I was awful about not taking pictures.  This year will be a whole new ball game, so I hope to have lots of pics.

To do one of the activities, I buy a blank puzzle for each of my groups (I have students sitting in groups of 4).  I like to try to find about a 16 piece puzzle, so it offers some challenge but can be completed in a few minutes.  I also buy puzzles that can be colored on with a crayon or marker.  Before school starts, I secretly remove one piece from each puzzle and keep those pieces back.  Then whenever we do the activity, I give each group their puzzle pieces and ask students to put their puzzle together as quickly as possible.  It is so funny when they are almost finished with their puzzle and realize that they are missing  a piece.  I'll watch them look under their seats and on the floor or the piece, and then they start asking other groups if they have an extra piece.  I let them look for a couple of minutes, and then I bring them back together as a whole group.  I use this activity to illustrate the importance of participation in group work.  I discuss how we are all important pieces of the puzzle, and a group cannot be complete without the presence of each group member.  I usually make a chart of what a present group member looks like (listens, offers suggestions, stays on task, helps others, etc.)  After our discussion, I let students work as a group to color their puzzle.

My activity that I have to share is really easy to do.  I print out the question cards on card stock and cut them out before school, and that is all the preparation necessary.  To do the activity, students should answer all of the questions, but they should not write their name on it.    When students have finished filling out their information, collect and shuffle the cards and redistribute them to the class.  Students should then try to determine whose card they have by asking their classmates questions from the card.  They are not allowed to ask "is this your card" or anything similar.  After everyone has discovered whose card they have, allow students to introduce each other to the class. 
Who Am I?

I've also posted this as a free item on my TpT Store, so if you feel like it, I'd love some feedback, so here is another link to the item.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Blogging & Facebook Mixer

Michelle at Kinder Fun had the great idea to do a Facebook-Blogging mixer, so I though I should join.  Now we can find out who is who on Facebook!

By the way, if anyone can tell me how to add a picture use the code on Kinder Fun's page I'd greatly appreciate it!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

First Day Ideas

I've continued thinking about ideas for the first day of school and wanted to share some of what I do on the first day.  It always feels like it is the fastest day of the year, and I never do all that I want to do.  My students trickle in over the course of about 30 minutes and most of them bring parents who want to talk to me, so I have to find a way to keep everyone busy before school officially begins.  I like to have a student questionnaire on everyone's desk that they can begin filling out as soon as they're situated.  The questionnaire is only 14 questions, but it takes a loooooong time for students to complete it, so I usually have everyone busily working while I'm talking with parents, writing names on supplies, making sure everyone knows how they're getting home, etc.  I also like the questionnaire, because it allows me to get to know my students a little better.  You can get your free copy at the link below.
First Day Questionnaire


Once I get the room to myself, I introduce myself and tell them a couple silly stories about my summer and read First Day Jitters.  Then we start working on our procedures and routines, which has always been my least favorite part of the day, because I've found it to be a little boring.  No matter how funny I try to be or how interesting I try to make it, I can typically see my students' eyes start glazing over.  I've learned that it helps to discuss a few routines and then do a short activity to wake my class up and then go back to the routines.  This will be the first time I've had a Smartboard at the beginning of the year, so I've made a Smartboard lesson for teaching rules and routines.  I think this will help make it a little more fun for students, and I've added several interactive slides to help keep students' attention.  I've posted this on TpT, and you can click on the link to see a full preview.
First Day Procedures
I'll be sharing some of the fun ice breaker activities we do at the first of next week, so be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Beginning of the Year Read Alouds

A recent question (thanks Brittany :)  got me to to start really thinking about my favorite read alouds for the beginning of the year.  I have to admit that I don't do a lot of beginning of the year activities, because of time constraints.  However, I do feel that it is important to give students some time to get to know one another and to develop a sense of community.  My very favorite book for the beginning of the year is First Day Jitters.  I'm always surprised that almost none of my third graders have ever heard the story before, and the ones who have still love it.  I also like to read Have You Filled a Bucket? on the first day of school and continue with bucket filler activities.  I almost always use picture books for my writing mini lessons, and at the very beginning of the year I like reading Pictures From My Vacation.  I usually send my upcoming students a post card during the summer that introduces myself, and in the post card I ask students to be sure to take a picture of themselves doing something interesting that they can bring to school.  We later use the book and their pictures for a writing activity and bulletin board display. 

My favorite chapter book for the beginning of the year is definitely Gooney Bird Greene.  It is perfect, because it has such an engaging character and is fairly simple for students to comprehend.  It also works perfectly with starting writer's workshop, because Gooney Bird ALWAYS has a story to tell.  This year I also plan on reading 7x9 Equals Trouble as soon as I finish Gooney Bird Greene to introduce multiplication.  After those two books I usually start reading the first book in different series to get my students hooked on new series.  I have to get to know my class before I choose the series though.  I also try to introduce my students to several well-known authors such as Kate Dicamillo or Louis Sachar.


Here is a little freebie that you may enjoy.
First Day Jitters Worksheet

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lesson Plans

One of my summer projects each year is to reorganize my lesson plans.  It took me several years, but I've finally found a system that works for me.  I doubt it's the most time efficient or visually appealing system, but it works for me. I keep everything in a 3-ring binder and have one 1 binder for each 9-weeks.
Then, I organize my binders into weeks.
At the front of each week, I have an overview of the week.  This is what I have for the first week.  Yes, we're starting back really late this year-it all has to do with budget cuts.  We have furlough days and a shortened calendar year with extra time added to each day.

You can click on any of the pictures for a free copy of the templates.
Then, for the majority of my lessons I have a template that I use that has all of the specifics (standards, materials, questions, differentiation, etc).
I also include anything that I print or handout, and any homework behind the lesson plan so that everything is kept there together.  This really helps me to stay organized from year to year-not that my lessons are ever the same.  I always make notes on my lessons as soon as I use them to remind myself of what I want to add, take away, or modify for the next year.  If I don't write it down, I won't remember by the time I start working on my lessons again.  Now, I've got to decide how to include my work station activities into my lesson plans.  What do you use, any suggestions?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Task Card Frenzy

As you can tell from previous posts, I have really gotten into the idea of math work stations this summer.  I have worked and worked on creating activities that would be fun yet rigorous enough for older students.  I didn't realize just how much I had made until I started printing, cutting out, laminating, and cutting again-wow!

This is my first year doing anything like this, so I'm starting from scratch.  It's been time consuming, but I know I'll be glad I did it now once school starts back. I've placed almost all of my activities in my TpT Store.  I just finished another set of cards that I want to give away to my wonderful blogging friends!  I got the idea from Debbie Diller in her Math Work Stations book, so I hope you'll find it useful.

Draw a Story Problem

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stage Fright

I am 100% comfortable in a room full of kids.  It doesn't matter what age or how many-that's when I'm at my best.  I can be a complete goofball and sing and dance, and I don't bat an eye.  However, when I have to get up in front of a room full of adults, my hands start sweating and my knees start shaking.  You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but I'm not.  That's why things like open house are so difficult for me, because even when I do fun little activities like a scavenger hunt, I still feel like my parents are expecting some sort of presentation from me.  Over the past few years, I've been blessed with some wonderful students and parents, so my classroom is usually crammed packed during open house.  Last year, I got so nervous I completely forgot almost everything I had planned to say!  This year I'm going to be prepared.  I've made an open house PowerPoint that I will loop the entire time parents are in the room, and I'll use it as a guide when I'm talking.  I really do think this will be a huge help for me.  I've uploaded it to TpT if you're interested.  The one I uploaded is just a template that has everything but your information, but I'm willing to send any buyer the one with all of my info if they want it.
Open House PowerPoint





I also thought I'd give away an activity that I'm going to use for one of my math work stations.  I know this idea has been around a while, so I tried to jazz it up a little.
I Spy

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Blog Mixer Linky

Yearn Learn is hosting a Blog Mixer Linky, which sounded fun, so I thought I'd join!

Oh the Places You'll Go with the blogs you know!  I'm having a seek and find Blog Mixer Linky party. Let's have some fun spotlighting each other.

In your link up find the following:

1.  A blogger who is a "New Kid on the Blog"
(Let's say someone who has blogged 2 months or less and has less than 200 followers)

2.  Post a blogger in your same grade level

3.  Post a blogger in a different grade level

4.  It's all about the button. Find a cute blog button and post it.


1.  My new blog is Our Cool School. I just found it this morning, but I love what I saw.  I think I will get a lot of good ideas there.

2.  Thoughts of a Third Grade Teacher is another great blog in my grade level.  I always love reading whatever Julie has to say!

3.  One of my favorite blogs is Sunny Days is Second Grade!  I get tons of great ideas there, and I always leave with a smile!

4.  I just found 3rd Grade's a Hoot's button, and it is super cute!

Now it's your turn!  Share your favorites!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Math Workshop

Since my first year teaching I've loved teaching through reading workshop and writing workshop, but I never saw a way to transfer that method of teaching to math.  However, I wasn't too worried about it, because my students appeared to be learning and my test scores looked good.

Fast forward three years later and my state (Georgia) has just adopted new math standards that were much more rigorous and had a much greater emphasis on conceptual understanding and multiple representations of math.  Then, bring in a new district initiative for all teachers to implement math workshop and an "expert" in math workshop.  At first I resisted the change, I was happy with the way things were and really didn't believe that the workshop approach would work.  However, I soon began see the light.  Yes, my students were good at basic skills and what I now call naked math (computation without any context), but was I teaching problem solving, conceptual understanding, and application of skills?  Did I teach my students to think, talk, and write about math?  Could they show their reasoning with multiple representations?  Did math math lessons have a real world application?  The answer to all of the above was-no.  I knew I had to make the change.  Fast forward 5 more years-I'm now a huge fan of math workshop and wouldn't want to teach any other way.  I admit that it was a difficult process with a lot of trial and error for me, but I finally feel confident in this form of instruction.

My math workshop follows a similar format to reading and writing workshop, with a few changes here and there.

Mini-lesson-My mini lessons are usually about 10 minutes long, and I do a variety of activities during this time.  I might review previous skills or introduce new skills and vocabulary.  Some days I'll read a picture book that relates to the concept we're studying or we might play a quick whole group game such as 'I Have Who Has'.  I'm slowly creating and finding Smartboard lessons for this time as well (I just got one in January).  I also use this time to model, model, model my expectations for routines, behavior, and quality of work.

Work Time-This is when students actually do the math through a variety of math tasks, and I personally believe that the tasks are the heart of math workshop.  Good workshop tasks require students to problem solve and apply what they have learned.  They also require students to think outside the box and to use multiple representations and accountable talk.  I like to have all of my students work on the same basic task, but I differentate the task for my different ability levels.  For example if we are doing a place value sort, I may have the majority of my students working through the ten-thousands place, but one group may only have cards through the hundreds place, and another group may have cards through the hundred-thousands place.  As I mentioned in previous posts I am going to try to incorporate work stations 2 days a week this year.  I want to make the change to add a little more spice and variety to my day.

My favorite way to group students for math workshop is to group my very highest students together for their own group, which is not always a popular practice. I found that they did not relate well with my other students and made much larger gains when working with students with a similar ability, and it made it much easier to differentiate.  I then have mixed ability groups for the remaining students, and I was surprised to find that new leaders emerge in those groups.  During work time students can work with groups, partners, or individually, and the I monitor the class, work with small groups, or meet with individual students. 

Closing-This is the time for students to share what they learned, struggled with, or would like to learn more about.  They should share HOW they completed their task and allow other students to ask questions and make comments.  It is important to focus on the process rather than only if the student got the answer right (which of course is important too).  I have learned that I have to have some questions prepared in advance for this time, because the questions asked should promote a deeper thinking and understanding of the concept.  It is also important that I clear up any misunderstandings or misconceptions during this time.

It you're planning to starting math workshop, the best piece of advice I have is to focus hard on routines and procedures at the beginning of the year.  It will fall apart if students do not have a firm understanding of their expectations (I've made the mistake).  I have to revisit those routines multiple times throughout the year, but it makes a huge difference.  I have a First Days of Math Workshop guide in my TpT store if you're interested.  It has 10 days worth of detailed mini lessons that teach procedures, which is exactly what I use for my first 10 days (I do actual math lesson too).
First Days of Math Workshop

I'd love to hear about how you teach math and any advice you can give!  I feel like there is always room for growth and improvement, which is one of the reasons I love all of my blogger friends!  I would have never even considered something like work stations or many other new things without your input.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Drumroll Please

I would like to thank so many people for participating in my contest!  It was so hard not to respond to all of your comments!

The Winners Are

Lakeshore Learning-Teachers Market

TpT Gift Card-Weety
 Any product from my store-Tara
 I have Teacher's Market's email address and Tara's blog address, but I will need Weety's email, so I can send you your gift certificate.
Once again, thank you for participating.  It is such an honor to have you stop by and read this blog. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Classroom Jobs

I always find it interesting to read about other teachers' classroom management and organization strategies, so I hope to share a few of mine over the next couple of weeks.  I want to take some pictures of different things to share, so hopefully I'll be allowed back inside my school soon.  Right now our floors are drying, so no one is allowed inside.  (It feels like it is taking forever, but I'm sure it will look great.) 

I did find an older picture of what I use for my classroom jobs, so I thought I'd share about that first.  I copied the idea from my completely wonderful supervising teacher when I was a student teacher 8 years ago.  Instead of having classroom jobs, she had a boy and girl "helping hand" of the day.  The two helpers were responsible for all of the classroom jobs (line leader, door holder, running errands, etc.)  I just write each students' name on a cutout of a hand and hand the hands on the wall and flip the hands each day.  It is such a super easy system, and it works out so that students get to be a helper about once every other week.  I used this when I student taught in 1st grade and in my own 4th grade and then 3rd grade classes, and it worked great for each grade. I need to make a cute sign for the hands, and I'll share as soon as I decide what I want it to look like.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

3 Winner Giveaway

When I first started my little blog, I really didn't expect to have that many people read, much less follow, my random ramblings, so it was such a treat when I reached 50 followers in the spring.  I was amazed at how quickly we reach the 100 follower milestone, and now we've hit 150 followers!  I think it's time to celebrate with a little contest!  

For the contest, I'm going to give away 3 different prizes to 3 winners!

1st Place-$25 gift card to Lakeshore Learning

  2nd Place-$10 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers
3rd Place-Pick any 3 items from my TpT store


There are 3 ways to enter your name for the drawing, so you have 3 chances to win:
1.  Be or become a follower on my blog and leave comment
2.  Blog about this giveaway and add a new comment
3.  Grab my button and leave a new comment

The contest will end on Sunday at 10 P.M.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

More on Workstations

I've continued to work on my math work stations over the past few days and have felt completely overwhelmed at times, but I think I'm starting to see the light.  I've found that there are a lot of things that I already do that would be perfect for math work stations.  I have reorganized my tables again and again, and I think I've finally found a format that will help me plan.
The numbers at the top will be my station numbers, and each row is a different week.  I've been encouraged to realize that many of the tasks I already do will be great for work stations, so I've been busy converting some of my activities into a format that better fits with the work stations.  I already uploaded a Place Value Scavenger Hunt and Place Value Card Sort to TpT, so check it out if you're interested.
I don't want to share anything I'm selling without giving away something too, so here is an activity I'm going to use as a math work station that my students LOVED.  They used to beg me to let them play it over and over again, and I think it did help them develop their mental math and rounding skills.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Boy, Was I Wrong

I've noticed this summer that a bunch of the blogs I read were doing a book study on Debbie Diller's Math Work Stations.  Every time I would see a post I would think, 'nah, that's too easy for my 3rd graders'.  I kept reading more and more posts but continued to think, 'it looks good, but it's just not for me'.  However, I have to admit that I don't like feeling left out of the educational loop, so I ordered it anyway to see what it was all about.
Boy, was I wrong!  I love the book and concept of math work stations, and it is definitely workable for older students!  I have been completely obsessed for the past 3 days.  I finished the book and started trying to figure out how to make it work for me and my students.  I know that she said that it was best to use the work stations everyday, but there is no way I could get away with that.  I'm not a worksheet teacher and do a lot of performance tasks and activities that take a considerable amount of time that would not be an appropriate work station task, but I was able to find 2 tasks/lessons a week that could be modified to being a part of a math work station.  Then, I started doing one of my very favorite things PLAN.  I'm one of those people who have to see a plan to be able to grasp the idea, so I just started typing.  I know that I'll change this 100 times, but I just wanted to get my ideas written down.  Please note that everything is a VERY rough draft.

I first started by making a table of all games and activities that I already use that could be turned into a math station, and it was very obvious that some areas were much stronger than others.

Then, I made a table that looked similar to the management board.  This would be the first week I would implement math work stations.  I would have already taught all of the activities as a whole group lesson in the previous weeks.

This is a table for a few weeks later when I'll have a much larger variety of tasks.

These tables and activities are just a complete guess.  I just have to write ideas down to find things I want to improve on and change, and then I'll make lots of adjustments when I get to know my students.  I plan to use my Smartboard board for my management board, so that may be my next step.