Friday, July 25, 2014

Five for Friday: July 25th


It’s finally Friday (although this doesn't have the same excitement as it does during the school year).  I am linking up with Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday to share what I’ve been up to this week.
First, I am participating in Thriving in 3rd’s First Blogiversary Giveaway. If you haven’t entered yet, you should head over to Lindsey’s blog today to get in on the fun. 
You can win items from many bloggers’ stores along with a TPT gift card, Target gift card, and even a blog design by Lindsey herself. 

I was able to meet with my entire grade level (5 of us) this past Wednesday to discuss our plans for the new school year.  This was our first time meeting the new teacher who will be joining us along with a teacher moving up from 1st grade.  We had a great time, and I am feeling great about how our team will work together this year. 
If you are interested in starting Guided Math in the new school year, you should join in on our book study.  You can catch up with Chapters 1-5 on my blog or any of the participating bloggers.  Then join us on Sunday to discuss Chapter 6.  This is where we will discuss what those Guided Math lessons actually look like.  There will be a lot of useful information.
There will also be a giveaway going on at Adventures in Guided Math starting on Sunday.  You can win a copy of Dr. Nicki’s Problem Solving with Models book for your grade level. These books look awesome!

Finally, Go A’s….our home team, The Oakland Athletics, are at the top of the American League West.  This is my husband and I at last Saturday’s game.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Study - Chapter 5


We are halfway through the Book Study for Guided Math in Action by Dr. Nicki Newton hosted by Courtney and Sarah at Adventures in Guided Math. This we are focusing on Chapter 5 which is all about Balanced Assessment.  Dr. Nicki discusses how pre-assessments, strategic ongoing assessments, and evaluative assessments are all integral parts of planning and implementing guided math groups.
Question 1: What types of pre-assessments do you use? New ideas?
Just like Courtney, I have struggled with finding an effective way to pre-assess students in math at the beginning of the year.  I always give the district’s or textbook’s beginning of the year assessment, but that gave me little tangible information.  After reading Guided Math in Action, I plan to conduct a math interview with each student.  We are lucky to have minimum days for the first 2 weeks of school to allow for individual testing.  During each student’s scheduled time, I will test their reading level and conduct a math interview and pre-assessment.  I plan to use Ashleigh’s Diagnostic MathAssessments  because she includes questions that address kindergarten through fifth grade standards in all of the strands of math.  I plan to focus on the Number Sense and Addition/Subtraction strands. I love that each question is on an individual card, so I can ask the students to verbally explain their answers and I will record. I really hope this will give me a better idea of where my students are starting.  I also plan to ask some of the interview questions that Dr. Nicki suggested to find out their attitude about math.
Question 2: What types of ongoing assessments do you use? New ideas?
I use exit tickets and other formative assessments frequently in my classroom.  I definitely need to get better at recording the data from these ongoing assessments and using this data to form my guided math groups.  I know that this will greatly improve the effectiveness of my guided math groups.  This past year, I tended to leave my math groups the same for too long instead of changing them based on each concept. 
Question 3: What types of summative assessments do you use? New ideas?
This past year, we were given unit assessments that we were required to give to our students and input the data online.  There were often a couple months in between assessments, so this was not a valuable source of information.  My teammates and I created assessments or purchased ones from TPT to give in between the unit assessments.  This year, I would love to incorporate student portfolios that include their math goals.  I need to find a manageable way to use the portfolios and update them regularly, but I know the time used will be worthwhile.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21st - Monday Made It


I finally found time to get creative this week and make a few things for my classroom, so I am linking up with Tara from Fourth Grade Frolics for Monday Made It.  I love spending my Mondays (and sometimes Tuesdays) looking through all the great ideas that are posted. 


On Friday, I mentioned that I made a new Super Hero Themed Super Improver Wall.  This is what it will look like all put together:

I know that my students will love earning stars on their shields for making growth in behavior and academic areas.  I plan to make a big deal about earning the next color shield. If you would like to use this in your classroom, it is free in my TPT store. Just click on the picture.
After reading about Reagan’s Rise and Shine Binders, I knew I needed something similar that would work for 2nd and 3rd graders.  I am one of the few teachers at my school that allows students to come in the classroom before the morning bell.  However, after teaching in Louisiana for two years with the staggered arrivals of students, I feel that it creates a calmer start to our day and allows my early arrivals to get a head start on learning.  I created Morning Brain Boosters for my students.  I picked up a class set of plastic pocket folders with prongs from Target at 50 cents each.  I also purchased a class set of pencil pouches, but you could also use plastic zipper baggies.  Then I put 4 page protectors in each one.  I decided to focus on math skills since I teach math first, but I can change up the pages whenever I feel like it.  I printed the math pages on cardstock and slipped them in the page protectors.  In the pencil pouch, I put a dry erase marker, foam die, and a square of microfiber cloth to erase. I bought the microfiber cloths at Dollar Tree (it only took 2 to make enough squares for all of my students…much cheaper than the socks I used last year.  Plus they match the color scheme of my classroom perfectly! (It's the little things that make me happy.)


I love using the foam cubes from the Dollar Tree for dice because I can differentiate the numbers for different students (Bonus: They are quiet!).  Some students may need to work on smaller numbers while others need larger numbers. 
The math pages also allow me to differentiate for different students:
Number of the Day: I have options for 2-digit and 3-digit numbers.  I printed these back-to-back, so that I can flip the page when I feel that a student is ready for 3-digit numbers. 
Word Problem of the Day: I plan to project a word problem on the board each morning along with the number of the day, but I could also differentiate this step for certain students. 
Roll & Add/Pick a Card & Add: My students feel that anytime they use dice, it is a game.  These activities will be a great review of addition facts.  I also made a pick a card version in case anyone wants to use playing cards instead of dice. 
Roll/Pick a Card & Multiply: These will be used as a challenge for some of my students towards the end of second grade, but would be great for 3rd or 4th graders all year. 
Fill-In Addition Table: This is another fun way to practice math facts.  My students will be able to use one of our classroom timers to time how long it takes to complete the addition table. Then they can try and beat their previous time. 
Fill-In Multiplication Table: This is the same activity, but to work on multiplication fact fluency.
I plan to have my students complete the Number of the Day or Word Problem of the Day page first on alternating days.  Then they can complete any page they choose.  After debriefing the pages, the students will be able to erase and the folder will be ready for the next day....No copies to be made each day or week. I can also see these folders becoming a part of guided math workshop because it will be a collection of activities that my students can complete independently. 


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Guided Math In Action Book Study - Chapters 3 & 4


Today is the second session of the book study for Guided Math in Action hosted by Courtney and Sarah at their blog, Adventures in Guided Math.
Chapter 3
I do not a compiled “teacher toolkit” just for myself or “student toolkits” just for them.  Instead, we all share the math tools that are found in two lower cabinets.  They are easily accessible, yet do not add any clutter to the classroom.  I will be updating the labels on each bin to allow for them to find the tool they need more easily. Some of the math tools that are found in the cabinet are the following:
-base ten blocks
-linking cubes
-square tiles
-rulers
-pattern blocks
-seasonal counters (pumpkins, hearts, etc.)
-plastic coins and paper money
-laminated hundreds charts
-ten frames
-number lines
-flashcards
-dice
-dominoes
-decks of cards
If I want students to use a particular tool, I take those bins out of the cabinet and place them in a central area.  Other than that, students are allowed to use tools from the cabinet at will as long as they use them as tools and not toys.  We had an issue with rulers this year becoming toys instead of tools, so I plan on having a more in-depth discussion at the beginning of this year about how to use math tools appropriately. 
As for routines, my students know to take out their math warm up each morning as soon as they walk in the door and unpack.  This routine is going to change a little this year with my new Brain Boosting Binders (more about these tomorrow).  When I used Guided Math and the workshop model, I had a set routine where students rotated through 4 activities each day.  I followed the MATH acronym:
M – Math with the Teacher (guided math)
A – At your Seat (independent practice of skill or math journal)
T – Technology (math programs on the computer or tablet)
H – hands-on math activity (individual, partner or group)
The same group started with me and rotated in the same direction.  That way the only thing I had to possibly explain to the whole group was a new hands-on activity before beginning rotations. 

 Chapter 4

Question 1: In my ideal world, I would meet with groups daily.  This is my goal for the new school year.  When I would do the MATH rotations last year, I would meet with each group every day. 
Question 2: My groups were not as fluid as I would like, but I did switch students around if I felt it was necessary.  I would like to use pre-assessments and exit tickets to form my small groups.  I know that this will better serve my students. 
Question 3: Record-keeping is one of my weak areas.  I do a lot of formative assessments, but I don’t always record these assessments or observations.  I need to find a way to keep up with all of my notes this year.  I like the post-it idea because there are always post-its around, but I feel like I might need a more organized and possibly bound notebook to use so that I don’t lose the notes. I'd appreciate any tips or suggestions for record-keeping. 

The next session of this book study is Wednesday to discuss Chapter 5. If you want to join us, but haven’t bought the book yet, you can download it right now on your Kindle or Kindle App. The book is $21.69 on Amazon for your Kindle or you can even rent it on your Kindle starting at just $8. If you prefer a hardcopy of the book, it is $33.20 on Amazon (get it in 2 days or less with Amazon Prime).


Friday, July 18, 2014

Five for Friday: July 18th



It’s finally Friday and my husband is coming home from a week-long business trip.  I am linking up with Doodle Bugs for Five for Friday to share what I’ve been up to this week.
I finished my new Superhero Super Improver Wall.  I can’t wait to put it up in my classroom.  I know that my students will love earning new Superhero shields as they move up the levels.  
                   It is now in my TpTstore for free (as all Whole Brain  
                   Teaching products should be).  If you are unfamiliar     
                   with the Super Improver Wall head to Whole Brain 
                                      Teaching’s tip-filled website

Next, I created job cards for my classroom.  I have a combination of table-specific jobs and whole class jobs.  I’m not sure if I will just write my students’ names in the box or attach Velcro dots to switch out the names.

Also, I just started reading Crash Course by Kim Bearden.  Summer is the perfect time to read an uplifting, inspiring book about teaching.  I may need to keep this book handy and reread it later in the school year when I am starting to feel burned out. 

I have also been rereading Guided Math in Action for the book study.  If you aren’t participating in the book study, I highly recommend you join us.  Courtney and Sarah from Adventures in Guided Math have selected great discussion questions to really get us thinking. 
Finally, I am back on track with eating healthy and working out.  I have attended the 9 a.m. class at the gym every morning this week.  It has been fun and a great way to start my day.  Now if I can keep this up once school starts (of course not the 9 a.m. classes).  Here's my motivation to go to the gym 
                    each day (I hope it makes you laugh too).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Goals for the New School Year


I know that I am a person who is motivated to achieve my goals by making them public.  For this reason, I am linking up with Jess from I {Heart} Recess to share my goals for the 2014-2015 school year.

Personal: I was so good about eating healthy and working out almost daily from January until my wedding in April, but then I became lazy.  I have refocused myself this month and want to continue eating healthy during the school year. I also want to workout at least 5 days a week. I am teaming up with a couple teacher friends to keep each other on track.  I know that I am a happier, more productive person when I workout, so I need to make this a priority.
Organization: I am great at organizing during the summer, but I am terrible at keeping this up during the school year.  I tend to pile papers throughout the day instead of putting them back where they belong.  This continues throughout the year, and then I am overwhelmed with mountains of papers.  My goal is to go through all of the piles before I leave each day.  This way, the piles will not become overwhelming. Planning: I will be teaching guided math and guided reading groups almost daily, and I need to plan for them.  I did quick planning notes last year for my guided reading groups, but I know that my lessons would be more effective if I thoroughly planned for each group.
Professional: I was new to my school and neighborhood last year, so I did a lot of observing and not a lot of talking.  I want to become more involved in my school’s community and build better relationships with my coworkers and families.  I need to continue to work on my Spanish skills (they are truly lacking).
Students: I really want my students to learn perseverance and eliminate “I can’t” from my students’ vocabulary.  I always try to make my lessons fun and engaging, so I want my students to believe that learning can be fun.
Motto: I am reading Guided Math in Action by Dr. Nikki Newton and this quote definitely stuck out to me.  This will be my motto as move from teaching mostly whole group lessons to using small groups more frequently.  I see a huge difference in my students when I work with them in small groups, so I know it is worth the extra planning.

Link up and share your back to school goals:  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Study: Chapters 1 and 2

Today I am linking up with Courtney and Sarah at their new blog, Adventures in Guided Math. for the book study for Guided Math in Action by Dr. Nicki Newton. Today’s focus is chapters 1 and 2. For a great summary of both chapters, head over to Adventures in Guided Math.
Below you will find my answers to the discussion questions for Chapters 1 and 2.  If you would like to join in the discussion, you can comment below or link up with your own blog post. 


Question 1: After rereading “Stretching Your Own Pedagogy,” it made me reflect on my math instruction.  When I first began teaching, math was a difficult subject for me to teach because it always came easily to me.  My number sense is strong, and I wasn’t sure how to help those students who just didn’t get it the way I was teaching.  I did a lot of reading and research to find multiple ways to teach a concept.  These multiple methods along with my love of math allowed me to become a better math teacher.  “Stretching Your Own Pedagogy” also made me think of how I taught math this past year.  I am a firm believer in guided math groups versus solely whole group instruction, but I was discouraged from using guided math this past year.  As a new teacher to the school, I did not want to make waves, so I used guided math very infrequently.  I did notice that my students were much more engaged and positive about math when I incorporated guided math groups into my lessons.  I was able to differentiate my instruction for each group instead of teaching to the middle during a whole group lesson.  I am determined to use guided math as my main method of math instruction this year.  I know that I will need to thoroughly plan my lessons in order to defend my choice to the math coaches and administrators that may walk through my classroom. 
Question 2: Perseverance in math is such a crucial skill to teach students.  I appreciate that it is one of the Common Core Math Practices, so that we are all required to promote this skill in all grade levels.  It may sound backwards, but I promote perseverance by allowing my students to struggle and sometimes fail at a task the first time.  This is usually something that happens during Problem-Based Tasks (PBTs) that I give to my students at the beginning of a new unit.  When I first started using PBTs, it was challenging for me as a teacher to not give a lot of information in the beginning or tips along the way. However, after doing a couple, I now see the value in allowing students to struggle with a problem and possibly not come up with an answer.  I am teaching at a school that was strictly direct instruction before I moved to the school, so the students are used to being fed information.  This lack of struggle does not allow students to learn problem solving skills or perseverance. As a school, we are slowly moving away from direct instruction and the students are thriving.  My second graders knew that it was okay to not come up with an answer as long as they tried their best.  After giving my students some time to try and solve the PBT, the students shared their work and thinking.  After hearing new perspectives on the problem, they were allowed time to go back and make changes if necessary.  This showed my students that if you persevere and work together, you can succeed.   
I have always been a “math person,” so I think in numbers all day long.  I try to illustrate the idea that numbers are everywhere in my classroom.  Here are some of the ways that I create a numerate environment in my classroom:
-Math Meeting: During these 15 minutes my students and I review and preview math skills.  I use a lot of partner talk during Math Meeting to allow students a chance to talk about the problems and discuss ways to solve them.  Then I call on a student to answer the problem.  I do not just take a number as an answer though, my students have to describe how and why they solved the problem their way.  I will often ask the class to show their agreement or disagreement with the answer or method used.  If a student disagrees, I ask him or her to describe how he or she solved the problem.  I will also ask for another method to solve the same problem. Math Meeting is fast-paced since it is all verbal for the students, so it keeps their engagement high.
-Math Journals: I began to use math journals this year as a way to incorporate writing into math.  I have to admit that I didn’t use them consistently, but it is a focus for this next year. 
-Problem-Based Tasks: As I described above, I use PBTs as a way to introduce new topics and assess my students’ prior knowledge.  This is also a way to promote perseverance.
-Problem of the Day: Most mornings begin with a problem of the day.  My students are asked to pull out the important information, draw a picture, solve the problem, write an equation, and explain how they solved the problem.  We then debrief the problem as a whole class.
-Number of the Day: Other mornings begin with a number of the day.  My students are asked to write the number in word form and expanded form.  They are also drawing it in base ten blocks and proving if the number is even or odd.  I also have my students write the number as money and draw the coins and/or bills.  The final step is mentally adding and subtracting 1, 10, and 100 from the number.  We then debrief the number as a whole class. I love this activity because it reviews so many Common Core standards.  Plus I don't have to make copies of the activity.  I simply make one class set and place them in page protectors.  This allows us to reuse the page everyday with dry erase markers.   Head to my Facebook page to get your own free copy of the Number of the Day forms that I use. There are versions for two-digit and three-digit numbers.

     Don't forget to read the views of the other bloggers who are participating in the book study and contribute your own views about guided math.  Come back on Sunday to discuss Chapters 3&4.


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