Monday, July 30, 2012

Behind Closed Doors Linky Party

I'm breaking my own blogging rule and posting two times in one day...sorry!  I just couldn't resist joining Amanda's linky party from One Extra Degree.  She's posted all kinds of ideas on how she has set up her classroom, so I just had to join!  Unfortunately, I'm still waiting to get into my classroom, because our floors are being waxed.  I'm pretty sure I've driven our custodians crazy asking every few days if I can get in my classroom, but I'm ready to get started!  All of these pictures are from last year, and I do plan on making some changes that I'll share as soon as I can.  Nothing is cute yet, but it will get there...hopefully!

This is our meeting area that I'm not 100% sure I'll get to keep this year.  I'll be so sad if I have to give it up, but I've got to squeeze five extra bodies in my classroom somewhere.

Here is my desk area.  The mailbox system in front of my desk is my absolute favorite piece of furniture in my classroom.  My husband built it for me, and it is amazing!  The pink and orange trays on top are where my students turn in their work, and the bookshelf behind my desk is where I store of my absolutely essential, can't live without teacher materials (and of course my stash of chocolate).

I keep all of my work station activities that my students are not currently using in that bookshelf.

This what I use to store my multiplication timed tests.  I bought mine from Really Good Stuff (as a matter of fact, if you pay attention to the pictures, you'll see that I buy WAY too much from there).

I have a huge social studies word wall and science word wall that I organize into major concepts that we study during the year.

I also have a math word wall that we add to throughout the year.

These are my content area books that are one of my favorite resources for nonfiction reading.  

Here's another one of my math bookshelf.  This is where I store my work station activities that are currently in rotation, as well as my math manipulatives.

 This is where I meet with students in small groups.  I'd LOVE to have a kidney shaped table, but this one works for now.  I do love my dry erase board that I screwed into the wall gently attached to the way where it can be easily removed.

Instead of having classroom jobs, I have two "helping hands" each day.  These two students are responsible for all of our classroom jobs:  line leader, door holder, wipe off lunchroom table, run errands, etc.  This couldn't be easier, and my students love it!  The get to be a "helper" about every other week, and it is such a big deal to them.  I just keep the on a ring and have them hanging on my wall in the classroom.

I like to have my students sit in groups of four, but I will probably have to have a few groups of five as well.  Since I teach two groups, I've bought trays for students to place inside their desk.  This way each student can have all of their things in their own special place.  I about went crazy last year listening to, "someone stole my..."

If you'd like to join the linky party, just click on the picture below.  I'm sure there are many things I can learn from all of you!

Common Core Assessments & Olympics

Whew!  I FINALLY finished the Fourth Grade Common Core Math Assessments!  They were quite a challenge, but I have to say I'm really pleased with the final product!
Just like the third grade version there is a separate assessment for every standard.  Most of these assessments are 6-10 questions long, are all on one page, and do not require any special materials.  There are also answer keys for each of the assessments.

You'll also find a checklist for the fourth grade standards.  There are two different versions for you to choose from.

I've also included graphs for your students to create their own data notebook for math.  I'm really excited about this part of the product!

 On a totally different note, I've started to get really excited about the Olympics!  I did my Olympic unit with my students at the end of the year last year, so I really hope that they're excited as well.  I also hope they remember some of the things they learned!  To keep with the Olympic spirit, I've made a little Olympics activity that I'm sure students (and even adults) will enjoy!

You can grab your free copy by clicking here or on the the picture!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Multiplication Facts - Freebies Galore

I've been teaching third grade for a several years now, but my first few years teaching were all in fourth grade.  I absolutely loved fourth grade and did not want to change grade levels, but in hindsight I'm so thankful for the opportunity.  It was so nice to know exactly what my students needed to be able to know and do for them to be successful the following year.  As a fourth grade teacher, I really needed my students to fluently know their multiplication facts at the beginning of the year.  That's why as a third grade teacher, I REALLY push math facts, especially multiplication facts.  I have my students practice their math facts every single day of the year-from the first day, to the last day of school.  I do all types of things to help my students practice their facts:  flash cards, music, games, work station activities, you name it!

I also have my students take a timed multiplication test every day.  I know it sounds a little "old school" and even boring, but I do believe that if you approach it correctly, it can be something fun for students.  My students usually LOVE taking their timed tests:)  I do everything I can to make the timed tests a non-stressful part of the school day-for my students and me.  I wish I had time to start the year with addition and subtraction facts, but I've found that I have to get started with multiplication facts right away to ensure everyone learns them by the end of the year.  I start everyone on their 0 & 1 facts, and then allow students to move through the facts at their own pace.  I use a basic incentive chart to keep track of who is on what multiplication fact.
Initially, I was very wary of using an incentive chart, because I didn't want anyone to be embarrassed, but I finally gave it a try a few years ago, and I haven't had any problems.  However, I do try very hard to create a kind and supportive classroom community that encourages each other to do their best.

Each morning as soon as we finish our morning work, my students take a 20 question multiplication test that they have one minute to complete.  Click here for your free copy!
I used to have my students complete 100 questions a day, but due to time, paper, and copies, I cut it down to just 20 questions.  I just cut the paper into vertical thirds, and I have three tests on one piece of paper!  I've also applied the commutative property to all of the timed tests, so even if my students are only on their 3 facts, they still may see the problem 7x3, because I really want that concept engrained in my students.  I store the tests in this awesome cart that I bought from Really Good Stuff (I've since seen them cheaper at Office Depot).  Each drawer is labeled with 2 Facts, 3 Facts, 4 Facts and through the 12 Facts.
As soon as students come in the classroom, one of their jobs is to get their timed test out of the drawer BEFORE class begins.  This eliminates me wasting time passing out the tests, which takes a long time when you have students working on a huge range of math facts.  They just keep it at their desk, and as soon as we finish going over our Weekly Word Problem and Number of the Day, I get out my timer and give students one minute to complete the test.  I have my students turn it in for me to check over their work (which doesn't take more than a minute or two).   Students have to answer all 20 problems correctly for them to have the opportunity to move up to the next level.  I have students take a 100 question multiplication quiz on Fridays, where they have five minutes to complete the test.  Once again, students take the test on the facts they are currently studying.  Click here for your free copy!

I know this sounds excessive, but I've learned the hard way that my students have a tendency to forget the facts they learned at the beginning of the year, so this helps them to constantly review ALL the facts they have learned throughout the year.  It's much harder to pass the cumulative 100 problem test than the 20 question test, but I really want my students to have a very firm grasp on their facts.  If my students pass all of their multiplication facts, I allow them to begin their division facts for an extra challenge! 

This system works very well for me, and my students typically have a lot of success with their multiplication facts.  However, I don't about you, but I always have a few students who need a little extra (okay a lot) push to learn their facts.  I think I have some who would stay on the 2 facts all year if I let them.  To help with this, I set benchmarks during the year of where students should be each week.  If anyone falls below that benchmark,  I make sure to spend extra time with that student and do everything I can to catch that student up.  I also send home a math fact study log with that student for their parents to initial each night. Click here for your free copy!

I do all of this on top of my multiplication and division unit, which is MUCH, MUCH more engaging, conceptual and hands-on.  It's actually one of my biggest products on TpT, because it is such an important unit for third graders.  It's full of different ways to represent multiplication, conceptual tasks, word problems, and games.  You can click on the picture if you're interested in previewing the whole unit.

Whew!  I do think this may be the longest post I've ever written, so I'm impressed if you stuck with me through the whole thing!  Hopefully, you've found some ideas and/or resources that you can use to help your student with their math facts during the upcoming year.

Monday, July 23, 2012

3rd Day in 3rd Grade & Curriculum Maps

I have to admit I've slacked a little this summer when it comes to preparing for next year.  I've worked on plenty of the things that I wanted to do and have been able to accomplish some of the big projects that I had twirling around in my head, but I haven't exactly broken out my lesson plans to start my official prep work.  You know, the nitty gritty work that has to be done.  I also haven't been able to get inside my classroom this entire summer, so I haven't been able to start any of the fun stuff like organizing and decorating.  All that changed though with one of the most important emails I'll receive all year.  It's the one that may very well have the most impact on my classroom for the entire year.  My roster.  I was totally not expecting that this early in the summer, but I'm definitely not complaining!  It was almost an instant change in my mindset.  I went from rarely thinking about the upcoming school year, to getting really excited about it.  (Now, I'm NOT saying that I'm ready to go back yet!)  Naturally, I put everything on hold to grab my yearbook and pour over the list to memorize names and faces.  It's funny how just seeing a name and picture allows you to start developing an attachment to these students who are going to be your responsibility for an entire year.  That was just the push I needed to get out the lesson plans and to start really thinking about my plans for next year.  I finally broke out the curriculum maps and lesson plan binders and got to work.  The curriculum maps below are what I use as a guide for my plans.
Now keep in mind these maps are my version of the big, official maps that we have to follow.  I just like my maps small and condensed.  If you'd like a copy to of these maps, you can click on any of the pictures for a free Word version.  Just remember, they're not fancy, but they do give me a good starting place.

This year, I'm going to try out something that I've never done with my class before, and I'm so stinkin' excited about it!  We're going to do a really fun activity for the third day in third grade! I've made task cards that are all centered around the number 3.  There are some academic questions, as well as some questions just for fun.  I'm going to use these cards to teach my students HOW to use task cards, so this will be a procedural tool for me, as well as a fun way to get my students excited about third grade, and hopefully squeeze in little learning too! 

I couldn't leave my 4th grade friends out, so I made a 4th Day in 4th Grade for you!

These are all in my TpT store, so if you're interested just click on the links below!
3rd Day in 3rd Grade
4th Day in 4th Grade

Friday, July 20, 2012

Common Core Assessments

I think I could officially title this summer "The Summer of the Common Core Standards".  Whew!  I've definitely spent far more time with these standards that I ever intended!  My most recent project was to create individual assessments for all of the Common Core Math Standards.  As many of you know, all of my math units already have assessments that are aligned to the Common Core Standards, but I wanted an assessment resource that was very simple and organized that could be used the entire year.

I've created two one-page, assessments for each of the Common Core Math Standards, so there are 60 pages of math assessments, and I've made an answer key for each of the assessments.
***Note-the original version only included one assessment, but I updated the product on 5/22/14.  If you already own it, be sure to download the newest version to DOUBLE the number of assessments!

I've also included a checklist for the math standards.  There are two different versions for you to use.
 There is also a short data notebook file that will allow students to create their own math data notebooks, where students will be able to graph their assessments (what assessments they graph is completely up to you).  A couple of years ago, I was very fortunate to be able to attend a Marzano conference, where I was inspired to begin using data notebooks in my classroom.  I was completely unfamiliar with this idea, but I knew it was something I wanted to to try out.  It took me awhile, and bunches and bunches of trial and error, but I'm finally feeling comfortable with the notebooks.  I've learned that to really make them effective I have to keep it simple.  I think this data notebook format and easy to understand assessments will make this just right for my third graders.

You can check out the Common Core Math Assessments by clicking this link!

On an entirely different note, I've spent a little time revamping my First Day Jitters worksheet that I like to use the first day of school.  That's still one of my favorite books to read on the first day, and I just love seeing the light bulb come on for my students when I reach the end of the book.  You can grab your free copy by clicking on the picture!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Morning Work Follow Up

I'm thrilled that so many people were able to find my morning work useful!  I've had several wonderful questions asked about the management of my morning work activities, so I thought I'd use this blog post to answer some of those questions.  If you have any additional questions, leave a comment or send me an email, and I'll add it to this post.

Is the work Common Core aligned?
Yes, I used the Common Core Standards to design all of the questions.

Do you offer the Weekly Word Problems in  a bundle?
Yes, you can find them here.

Does this work for self-contained only?
I believe this system will work for self-contained and departmentalized classes.  Students can take their notebooks with them from class to class, or the homeroom teacher can be responsible for going over all of the morning work each day.

What do you do about students who get there last?
I usually give them about 15 minutes to get their work complete before we officially start.  They work through announcements, and don't have to do house keeping things like sharpen pencils and other little morning routine activities we have (I let the students who get their first do that type of thing).   I've found that once students get into the routine, it doesn't take them long at all to complete all of the work.

How is the binder organized?
I have three page dividers separating the three assignments.
  Then, I just add the work for the each section behind the divider.

How many days do you place in the binder at a time?
I don't know about you, but my students (as much as I love them) are not always the most responsible little ones.  I'm hesitant to place a whole year's work or even semester's work in the notebooks, because I can almost guarantee at least one or two students will lose theirs.  However, I feel that adding to the notebooks each week could be a big pain.  This year I'm going to start with refilling notebooks each month.  I'll take all of the previous month's work out to send home add a month worth of Weekly Word Problems and Number of the Day, and Weekly Word Wizard.   I'm REALLY hoping to find a parent volunteer to take over this job:)

Will I make a 2nd or 5th grade Number of the Day?
It is on my to-do list!

How much of the activities do students complete in a day?
I'll have my students complete all three activities each day.  They do the three Weekly Word Problem questions and Word Wizard questions each day.  I didn't start the Number of the Day activity until later in the year last year, so I'm going to have to play around with it a little to decide how I want to start the year.  My plan is to have my students complete the top half on one day and the bottom half on the following day to help save on time.  Last year, my students were fairly fast workers and could complete the entire sheet in about 10 minutes, but I know it will take my students a loooong time to complete at the beginning of the year (even the easy version), and I don't want to give up my math workshop time.

What about grading?
That's completely optional.  I did not record a grade for the Weekly Word Problems, because we went over them together each day, and I allowed my students to make corrections.  I occasionally (approximately once a week) took a grade on The Number of the Day, but I didn't take grades until I felt like my students had the opportunity to practice each skill at length. 

If you have any other questions, PLEASE let me know, and I'll do my best to answer them!

Monday, July 16, 2012

All Work and No Play....Nah!

Today is the official halfway mark of my summer vacation, and I have to say that I'm loving it!!!  While I absolutely love teaching and love my students, there is just nothing like being home for the summer.  As you can see below, we've really been roughing it!  Now don't be jealous of our infinity edge pool!

The month of June was a little crazy for us, but I can't complain, because we had a lot of fun!  We got to spend a week at the beach with my extended family, which is always a good time.  There is absolutely no where in this world I would rather be than at the beach.  There is just something about it that I LOVE! 

I think my daughter has inherited my love for the beach, because I truly believe she would have just stayed there forever.  Between playing in the sand and "swimming" in the ocean, she was a very happy girl!

After the beach we also got to spend a little time at Nana and Granddaddy's house, which she also loves.  I really do think she's a farm girl at heart, because other than the beach her other favorite things are riding horses and looking at cows.

We also try to go the lake any chance that we get.  I wasn't sure if we'd get out much this summer since I'm now in my third trimester, but the water feels so good, especially on these HOT, HOT days.

I have been able to get a little work accomplished too!  One of my newest projects was Essential Questions Posters for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades.