Saturday, September 27, 2014

Math in My Room

Whew!  I'm finally feeling like we're getting into the routine of second grade.  It has taken me a bit to find out what really works for my kiddos this year, and math has been no exception.  My class this year is pretty active - but very hard working and is enthusiastic about EVERYTHING.  They also seem to go with the flow pretty well, so I've tried switching things up every now and then to see how things go.  I think I've finally hit on how my math time will run this year so I thought I'd share it with you.


 I am lucky enough to have a full hour for my math instruction - and then another half hour after that as a math intervention time.  (I'll tell you more about that later!)  Let's take a closer look at each part.

I do A LOT of math during my morning calendar time (on the Smartboard).  But I always want to make sure we are reviewing everything and touching on things to come.  I've been using two things each day for our warm-up

I put the daily Number Cruncher problem on the board (smartboard) as my kiddos are transitioning from snack to start math.  This gives everyone something to do while everyone gets settled.  They know their job is to talk with their math buddy (assigned by me and stays the same for a few weeks) about the problem and HOW you knew the answer.  We briefly talk about it once we're all set and then move on to the Daily Math. 

Again, I've found it easiest to project it onto our smartboard and work through the problems together.  We move fast so all my kiddos stay involved.  We've only done a couple weeks of them, but I'm seeing lots of engagement and great progress so far!

Next comes the mini-lesson.  This is the skill or concept we are focusing on for the day.  I do a combination of Smartboard activities, manipulatives, partner work, etc.... whatever works to get the point across!  My objective is to keep this short and engaging - I know I'll be able to follow up with everyone in the next part of math and provide any support or enrichment needed.
I'll share what we did this week to review doubles facts.  (We are working on addition strategies so we can "see it and say it", rather than count all the time!)  I started by asking what doubles were, what the word meant and we listed the facts on the board.  We had a quick discussion about what we noticed - counting by 2's, even sums, etc.  This was really a review from last year, so I didn't send much time with the introduction.  In the past I have used this book to kick start our discussion.
What I really wanted to was to have them add their doubles facts to the math notebooks for future reference ("future" meaning tomorrow when we did near doubles :-)  I love using interactive notebooks and I have to say, we are getting pretty fast at cutting and gluing!
These come from Ashley at Lucky Little Learners.  I also use these created by Blair Turner.
Ok, after the mini-lesson, it's time for my favorite part!
I think I like his part the best because my kiddos get to apply and work with what we've been learning - and I get to see how it goes!  Sometimes I have a partner game to do, sometimes it's independent (task cards, maybe a sheet to do...) and sometimes we do small groups (well, maybe not SMALL groups, since it's just my IA and myself so there are 10 kids in each group - but it's better than a group of 20!)  Sometimes my IA or I will pull a small group during this time to enrich or support, while the other person monitors the activity.  It all just depends on what we've noticed during the whole group part. 
When we did doubles, I created a quick doubles race game for some practice.  I paired students up and each got a 10-sided dice, game board (in a sheet protector) and dry erase marker.  They took turns rolling the die, saying the doubles fact and then putting an X on the graph to show the sum.  The idea was to see which sum won by reaching the top first. 

Simple? Ridiculously so.  Did they like it?  They still ask to play it in the morning for morning work - and we know our doubles pretty well now!
You can download the game by clicking on the image.  I also included a gameboard with just 2-12, if you want to use a 6-sided dice.  I copied the boards back to back and had some of my kiddos start on the 12 board and then work up to the one up to 18. (There are 2 other activities, too - one for near doubles and one for making 10.  Enjoy!)
Finally, we spend a few minutes reflecting on what we've learned.  This week we've begun adding strategies to our anchor chart each day, then working together to explain HOW each strategy works and helps.  I've found my kiddos are not yet ready to explain their thinking in writing just yet.  By doing it together, I can model how to be clear and explain what goes on in our heads.

That's it!  This model seems to work well for my kiddos.  It gives them the right mix of whole group, small group and independent work.  The activity time gives me a chance to work with small groups and/or see how each student is doing and allows me to differentiate, as needed.  We're starting our "official" math centers this week, so I'll be back later to share how that goes!
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Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Sunday Scoop

Hi again!  Just a quick little post today to link up with the girls at Teaching Trio for their Sunday Scoop.  It's a great way to catch a little glimpse into everyone's lives - which of course right now is all about school and teaching!  Here's my scoop -
I'm sure some kind of planning is on everyone's list for today.  I know I shouldn't wait until today to plan, but I was never able to feel comfortable getting everything ready by Friday.  I tend to change things on a whim and I'm always way happier with my plans on Sunday night than I was on Friday!

Now, the laminator.... oh the laminator.  Would you believe that a few weeks ago I actually bought a second laminator to use, thinking it would be so much faster to have two going at once.  Little did I know that the SECOND laminator would soon be my ONLY laminator, seeing as I didn't follow the directions.  I know you aren't supposed to cut the sheets before you feed them through, but I only had one little thing left to laminate and I didn't want to use a whole sheet just for that.  And I've done it before.  I cut it, slide it in, and help it come out the other end.  Only this time it never came out he other end.  Not even after I ran a piece of cardstock through there to push it out.  I have a feeling that it melted to the roller.  I'm not willing to give it up though, so I'm going to take it apart and see if I can save it.  Ugh.

The grocery shopping is self-explanatory.  I simply cannot survive on another lunch of lettuce, dressing and parmesan cheese.  Time to go shopping.

And hopefully, time to work on blog post #2 about anchor charts.  I got a few really sweet emails about my first post (click HERE) from people who were concerned I was too hard on myself.  It's ok, really.  I know everything doesn't have to look perfect to be important and useful in a classroom.  That was the point of the post, actually.  I'm going to follow up with some tips that have worked for me to make using anchor charts (and creating them) a little easier.

I'm also hoping to finally make the labels for my gradebook.  My school went to standards based report cards so it's important for me to have a gradebook that shows each standard.  I have all the pages done, everything tabbed, but I need to add the labels.  And I know I can just hand write them on the little white piece that come with the tabs... but that just wouldn't look good, now would it? 

I AM looking forward to hitting "publish" on this post and go take out all my fall decorations for the house.  I love the colors of fall, the scents, the activities.... but not the temperatures.  I get cold fast and I tend to be cold from now until next May.  But, fall is just so pretty, and living in New England I get to experience it in all its glory.

Be sure to visit Teaching Trio and get the scoop on what other bloggers are doing this weekend. 

 Have a great week!

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Anchor charts.... the reality

It all seemed so easy.  This year I was going to finally create useful, practical and of course beautiful anchor charts to use in my classroom.  I researched, and read books

I pinned tons of model charts

and I read blog posts and websites and more...

Intervention     Making the Most     Tips & Tricks

I was ready.

And then, this happened
Yes, people... this is my first attempt at creating an anchor chart... IN class... WITH my kids... 

This. Is. Bad.

I obviously need some help.  I need to reread those books... and those blog posts.. and maybe someone should stage an intervention...but wait...

I can't throw this chart away.  I have to hang it up in the room for everyone who comes in to see... why?  Because my kiddos actually LIKE this chart!  They USE it!  One little one told me, "This doesn't have to be a rough draft.  (that was my way of saving face as I saw this going downhill fast.) It looks great and we made it together."

Together.  TOGETHER.  Oh goodness.  It didn't matter to them that the lettering looked awful... that the coloring (they did it) was a mess... or that it wasn't full of cute pictures, bright headings and gorgeous printing... We made it TOGETHER and that's what they remember.

If I had pulled out a ready made chart and just showed it to them, I doubt it would have had the same impact.  No one but me would have been invested in it.  But since we created it together, one step at a time, as we talked about what story elements are, they got it.

And they refer to it all. the. time.  Some still go up to it and read it when we do an activity in which they need to know those elements.... some just look up at it from their work spot and confirm they are on the right track... others don't even need it.  But it is there.  Hanging proudly in the front of my room.

We made it together, you see.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

September Currently

WHAAAT?  It is September already?  I know many of you are looking forward to pumpkin lattes, football and fall clothes.... I just need to get through this week.  We have had a pretty cool summer - but this week it's supposed to be 90 and humid ALL WEEK!  Ugh.... getting my little munchkins to stay focused is hard enough at the beginning of the year, add in heat and humidity and the hottest room in the school and I'm going to have to get really creative this week!

Ok, on to September's Currently.  Would you just look at this design!  Megan from A New Box of Crayons created it and it is aDORable!  On with the fun!

Right now I'm enjoying my last day at the lake house.. (ok, half day - at some point I have to pack everything I've brought here over the past two months and bring it back home!)... the birds are out, kids are playing and the neighbors are working in their yards... sigh... can't i just have a little more summer??

I really can't complain though - we went back 3 days last week, 4 days this week and next week will be out first full week.  Now THAT is the way to start school... ease them (and me!) into it slowly...

Once tomorrow hits though, it won't feel slow!  My niece and nephews each do a fall sport and I put all the game dates in my calendar yesterday... HOLY WOWZA!  Football, field hockey and soccer will be what I do after school most days from now until November.

Ok, I had to put the "wanting" part.  It would be nice to go to bed on Sundays knowing I have another day to plan and organize.

Those things on my "needing" list are usually always there... I have gotten great use out of my new laser printer... and I now have TWO laminators (yes, it really is worth it!) so I can work twice as fast.  I still don't think I'll ever be able to buy enough for everything I want to print out!

And finally, 3 places I've never been that I would like to vacation at.... (now keep in mind I don't fly, I get carsick and have major motion sickness... not really going to any of these places!).  I'm an East Coast girl and I've never seen the desert - I think it would be beautiful to see the landscape.  And a tropical island vacation on a sandy beach with clear blue water would be nice... and just for fun, how about a safari in Africa... that would be amazing!

I'm off now to enjoy some of this beautiful day... don't forget to stop by Farley's Currently and see what everyone else is up to.

And if you're doing some planning today - make sure you hop around our Who's Who blog hop!  It's filled with ideas for building community and working together - and FREEBIES!

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Work Together Weekend

Happy weekend!  It's Labor Day weekend, and a group of bloggers over at Who's Who have come up with a great way for you to spend some time this weekend.  We've got a blog hop going on with the perfect Labor Day theme!

We all know how important it is for students to be able to work together.  And we all know that teachers spend TONS of time at the beginning of the year starting students on the road to being able to work together - building classroom community, practicing speaking and listening skills, etc.  As you visit each of the blogs on the hop you'll read about great ideas to get your students working together, AND pick up some freebies you can use in your classroom.

This week was my first week of school (3 kid days, actually), so we spent most of the time getting to know each other.  I really think this is one of the BEST ways to help students be able to work together.  Having a strong classroom community means students feel safe and respected and are willing to take risks.  Building that community takes time, and we all need to get to know each other a little at first before we put ourselves out there.

I actually did not have this activity in my plans this week.  I kind of made it up Friday morning based on something we did the previous day.  I had a few minutes after another "tell me about yourself" activity and asked students who were done to turn their paper over and write a sentence telling me anything I should know about them.  WOW!  Not only did my kiddos love this idea, but they came up with the most creative and interesting ideas - things I never would have discovered if I had stuck to the traditional talk about your pets/family/likes/dislikes, etc.

Soooo... I decided to embrace the idea and take it one step further.  Before lunch we completed idea maps telling about ourselves.
(Sorry - no pictures of completed sheets - I got distracted by my shoe that broke and I had to hot glue it back together before recess ended!)

Then to start our writing time, I read I Like Myself, by Karen Beaumont.

We talked about the theme of the books we have been reading (it is important to be yourself) and how this book fit in.  We also discussed how everyone is different and it's what is on the INSIDE that counts.  Then - we got to work!

Each person chose 3 ideas from their brainstorming sheet to write about.  I only had them tell the one thing and then add a detail because we didn't have a lot of time, but let me tell you - these kiddos are writing wonders!  I am sooo looking forward to what they can do as writers this year!

Then we cut and pasted and colored and shared our first flap books!  Most of my darlings had no problem cutting in the right place, gluing and figuring out how it all worked.  I could hear all of them helping each other - telling friends what to do next, showing them examples and being so proud of their finished work!

This sweetie was thrilled to share what a good "cooker" she was :-)  Brownies are her specialty!

This guy decided to write about having a brother because "he's nicer to me than my sister is."

And this one wouldn't start coloring until he had listened to what his friend at the table wrote - they decided to read their ideas to each other and share them!

Not only did this activity end up giving me some great insights into my students, but it gave them the freedom to share things that were important to THEM - giving them ownership of the finished product.  Working together and building community in one fell swoop!

If you'd like to use this little activity in your own classroom, you can download it by clicking the image below.
(There are boy and girl brainstorming sheets and flap book covers, as well as a flap book page that is more structured.)

Ready for more ideas on working together in your classroom?  Click on the link below to hop on over to Ms. Lilypad's Primary Pond and see what's up in her classroom.

Enjoy the weekend!

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Teacher Week with Blog Hoppin' ~ When?

I love Teacher Week at Blog Hoppin'!  It is so fun getting a peek into everyone's classrooms... honestly though, I think today's topic is my favorite one.

I LOVE reading about how other  teachers run their day.  It always makes me appreciate what I have, wish for what I don't have, and maybe get a new idea on how to structure part of my day.

My schedule this year is exactly the same as last year - which pretty much NEVER happens, but it definitely made for one less thing to have to worry about!  Our day runs from 8:35  3:05.  Teachers are contracted to be there 15 minutes before the day starts and 30 minutes at the end (I think that's what it is... I'm there way before and after that so I've never really worried about it!)  Here's my day:

(The adorable graphics are from Educlips - I KNOW, I just had to have them, too!)

I'll go through each part of the day to give you an idea of what happens during that time.  (I have to warn you though - not many pictures coming up.  I am still not back at school and don't have any pictures... and I don't know why the images are all different sizes.. just pretend you don't notice, ok?)

 Our students don't all come at the same time, and some of the buses don't come until right before we start our morning meeting.  For that reason, I do not do morning work.  Too many kids were either not getting to finish it (or start it) because their bus was later, or they were having breakfast, so it was just easier to use the time for something else.  After students have signed in on the morning message put things away and shopped for books (if it is their day), they can choose from 3 or 4 activities to do to start the morning - puzzles, partner games, quiet reading... I really like to have this part of the day be a time I can talk with the kids, settle in and start the day on a positive note.

We do a morning meeting EVERY day - greeting, sharing,morning message, calendar/math and a group activity.  This quickly becomes a favorite part of the day.  I find out so much about my kiddos during this time - what they like, don't like, what they do at home, how their day started, etc.  Our morning meeting sets the tone for the day and makes sure everyone feels welcome.

Next we move into our whole class reading block.  This can look different each day, but usually starts with a fluency activity, then a focus on a reading skill or strategy (close reading, mini lesson, etc.), then usually a partner/small group activity and then back to whole group to finish up.  We do have a reading series, but we have really moved away from using it as the main part of our reading instruction.  Instead, each grade level has developed really strong focus units based on common core skills - using the books and stories we currently have.  We are working to fill in the gaps with needed materials each year.

At the end of our reading time is a block we call FIT" time - Focused Intervention Time.  (This is our RTI time.)  Our grade level meets together at the beginning of a FIT cycle and looks at the needs of all our students.  We place the students who need a Tier 2 or 3 in a reading area (fluency, a phonics skill, a comprehension skill, etc.) in a group first.  We are lucky to have two interns, our resource room specialist and one or two IA's who can take groups during this time.  (Our students who receive Title reading support also go at this time.)  Then we divide the rest of the students between or classes (4 this year) and run small groups, using the Daily 5 as our model.  This way, EVERY student gets whole group (reading time) and small group (FIT time) reading instruction that meets their needs.

My spelling time is actually divided into two times - before and after specials.  I used to hate it, but now I like it.  I can either do a mini lesson for the first part, then have them work on a practice activity (small group, partner, etc) when they get back from specials, or we rotate through centers.  We have developed our own way of doing spelling - and this year I am excited to use these two units:

I think they're going to really add more structure and ideas to our spelling curriculum.

Our "specials" are art, music, technology, library and PE.  This is considered our "planning time" in our contract.  It's usually filled with meetings, phone calls, emails and such.

20 minutes duty free lunch - but by the time you drop the kids off, get our lunch, settle down, go to the bathroom and go to pick them up, it's more like 5 minutes!

I love teaching writing.  Our writing program right now is a collection of ideas from Empowering Writers, Lucy Calkins and units from TpT.  We start at the beginning of the year reviewing and writing all 3 main genres (narrative, opinion and expository), then we use what we're reading about/studying to drive what we write about through the year.  Our science is incorporated throughout the year, so we do a lot of expository writing with that.

After writing we always do a brain break or two.  (I do them throughout the day, but this one is really important.)  We have a long afternoon (we chose not to have recess until later) and although it really works, my kiddos need breaks after a while.  GoNoodle is definitely our best friend!

We use EnVisions math as the basis for our math instruction.  It's ok, but we definitely add to it with games and activities.  I start math with a warm-up, then a focus lesson, then partner/small group practice, maybe an activity sheet and then we meet together to wrap up.

We have our snack after math.  A lot of times it's a kind of staggered snack, with my kiddos eating as the finish what they were doing for math.  

Math FIT runs the same way our reading intervention does.  Students are either in tiered intervention groups, or doing math centers.  We choose the math center activities based on what our students need, so it's like extra practice for everyone.

Yes, recess is at the very end of they day.  We chose to do it this way, though.  With brain breaks throughout the day, it doesn't seem so long and by the time 2:30 comes around it means the day is pretty much over!  We have recess duty 2 - 3 times each week.  Teachers rotate so there are always 2 certified staff outside, along with any IAs who are with students.  I actually like recess duty - it gives me a chance to be outside and refresh!

Once we come in from recess, it's time to "stack and pack" and head to closing circle.  I just started this last year and it has really helped us end the day on a calm and settled note.  We do a quick "how was the day" activity, do a goodbye and look forward to tomorrow.  Buses get called a few at a time, so students who are waiting to leave usually talk with friends, help me clean up the room (love those helpers!) or work on a puzzle or quick game.

That's it!  The thing I really like about our schedule is that we have extended times to be able to work without interruption, and we have those 2 intervention times which work for EVERY child.  The afternoon can be long, especially at the beginning of the year, but everyone adjusts quickly.

Make sure you check out other classroom schedules - visit Blog Hoppin' to see more!

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