Have you noticed that Saturdays seem to be my blogging day?  I just can't seem to find time to get a blog post done during the week, but I promise you - I was definitely THINKING about what to blog about during this week.  And I decided it would be nice to share a little technology post with you.

     I have always been the "queen" of technology in my building - the first one to have a smartboard, the one people go to for tech questions, etc.  I have made it clear though, that I can help with how to USE the technology in your classroom, but not necessarily FIX the technology.  Fortunately, other teachers in my building now have also begun to embrace technology and we learn so much from each other.

     I have ONE ipad in my classroom... yes, just one... I am always so jealous of those of you with 3 or 4 or a whole fleet of them!  I may be adding one more ipad soon, but for now it's just 18 kiddos and one very popular ipad.  My ipad is being used CONSTANTLY throughout the day.  Here's a little peek at how I make use of one ipad in my classroom:

Morning Mission:  Each day I have a new "helper of the day."  I stopped using a job chart long ago and now just rotate through my class list to have each student be my helper each day.  One of the perks of being the helper is being able to do a "mission" on the ipad before we start morning meeting.  I make these missions quick and easy, and they're usually (but not always!) related to something we're doing in class.  I have a small whiteboard I use to write down the task and I make sure the app or website needed is easily accessible.  When my "helper" comes into the room and finishes getting things ready for the day, she or he checks the "Morning Mission" card to see what to do. 

This week we added recording the temperature to our morning meeting, so the helper's job was to find the temperature using The Weather Channel website.  (I had modeled this whole class last week.) 

We've also been doing A LOT of nonfiction reading, so when we were reading about bugs, I asked students to choose a partner and listen to/read this National Geographic issue about bugs and be ready to share one interesting fact with the class during morning meeting.  National Geographic Young Explorer has a TON of great issues online.  Be sure to check them out.  I kept this same "Mission" for a week so quite a few students had a chance to read the informational piece.

The next opportunity my students have to use the ipad is during our reading time.  I do Daily 5 during my reading block, so the first half hour is a whole group time, and the next hour is small groups.  When students are not working in a small group, they are doing one of the Daily 5 rotations.  The ipad is part of "Listen to Reading." 

Without a doubt, the best online storybook app I have found is Storia from Scholastic.  It is free to sign up and you get 5 free e-books to start your library.  I use my bonus points to purchase other books.  Some of the books have "read to me" capability, and some of them have interactive pieces like comprehension questions, videos and fast facts.  I choose 2 or 3 books for the week and 2 students at a time use the ipad to listen to or read the story.

I also like to use the Tumblebooks website, which has a great selection of books perfectly formatted for the ipad.  Tumblebooks is actually a paid site, but many public libraries have the link on their webpages for free.  If you google "tumblebooks and library" you can find the links.  The Tumblebooks library is filled with popular children's books, as well as some less familiar stories.  Books can be read on an "automatic" setting, where the pages turn on their own, or on a "manual" setting so students can read and enjoy at their own pace.

My students have two opportunities to practice spelling - during word work as a Daily 5 rotation, and during our spelling time.  I will sometimes switch students from using the ipad for Listen to Reading during Daily 5, to using it for Word Work.  Or, as the rest of the class is doing a spelling activity, a pair of students is using one of the apps below to practice their spelling:
Rocket Speller is a fun way to practice spelling.  You can choose from a variety of levels and spelling skills.  Students are given a picture and must use the letters to spell the word.  There are helpful hints and as the levels increase, the words get harder and have less help.

ABC Magnetic Alphabet Lite is a simple way for students to practice spelling words.  It's just like those fun magnetic letters for the fridge, only there's nothing to clean up when you're done!  I have students work in pairs with a variety of spelling lists (on index cards), depending on student needs.  One student takes a card and reads it to the other to spell with the letters on the ipad.  The other student checks the word and they switch roles.  Easy peasy - but they love it!

Ok, moving on to math.... I run my math block very much like my reading block - half hour of whole class, then an hour of groups, with students working on "Math Daily 5" rotations if they are not in a group.  One rotation is Math Technology, which is using the Smartboard or the ipad.  (I'm going to just share a few of my favorite ipad apps in this post.  I'm planning on a bigger Smartboard post soon!)  We have been working hard on applying our addition strategies, so these apps help students practice their addition facts.

This is a paid app now.... I think I got it for half price a while ago, but it is worth it.  In Top It, students deal cards and add them together to find the sum - the one with highest sum wins the round.  The app gives you clear directions for the first few rounds, then students play on their own.  I believe there is also a Top It for subtraction.  This is part of the Everyday Mathematics series by McGraw Hill, so if you're familiar with that you'll know more of the games from this publisher.

Math BINGO is also a paid app (.99, I think)... this is my students favorite math app right now.  There are different levels of addition and subtraction, multiplication and division.  Students are given an equation to solve and when they find the answer, they click on the correct number on the BINGO board.  Little bugs come up and when they get BINGO they win.  Fun!

Whew!  That one ipad gets A LOT of use... and it's not quite done yet!  I also have students working on the ipad at then end of the day when they are waiting for buses to be called.  This time the apps are more "fun" - logic games, strategy games, visual motor... etc.  Right now we're using "Pick Up Sticks" as a great way to improve eye-hand coordination.  This fun little app allows you to choose what the sticks look like - the vegetables and the Christmas decorations are the first choices for us!

Wow.... now you can see why I need more than on ipad!  I'll be back another time with a post about more apps I like - including those I use for tracking student progress and for SRBI (RTI) interventions.  What is your favorite app?  Leave a comment and let me know!
I think I figured it out.  With less than 20 days in to the school year so far, I have found myself pulling out every trick in the book to improve our listening and focusing as a group.  The clip chart I use is working wonderfully for individual behavior.... and our school gives out "Husky Paws" as part of our school-wide behavior program... but I was having trouble getting them all focused and paying attention in a whole group - and during transitions.  When they're sitting together, my little kiddos hum and sing and reply with silly comments and laugh at just about everything.... Transitions were not going well either... I would give a direction to put papers in the finished work basket and come to the rug and 3 of them would be at the fish tank.. a few more looking out the window... others chatting about recess... not what I was looking for (and just so you know, I sent them off BY TABLES so it wasn't everyone at once.... even that wasn't working and the thought of going one by one was giving me a headache.)

They are a great group, but we HAD to get this under control or it was going to be a loooooonnng year.

Enter the "Race to the Finish" behavior car!  When my students came in on Wednesday, they all wanted to know, "Why is there a race car on the top of the Smartboad?"  (Nothing gets past them... no way...)

I know it's hard to see in the picture... but trust me, they saw it FROM THE DOOR!

During morning meeting I explained to them how it would work.  Everyday, the race car would start at the starting line
When I noticed them showing whole body listening an being active learners (two phrases we use A LOT!), I would move the race car toward the finish line. 
(NOTE:  All I did was tape a piece of ribbon to the board and tape the car loosely to the ribbon so I could gently pull it along.  I wasn't sure if the whole race car thing would work for them, so I wanted to try it before I did something more permanent.)

If the car got to the finish line by the time we went out to recess at the very end of the day, then while we were waiting for buses, they could do a dance video or a game on the Smartboard.  This is a BIG reward, according to my guys.  They would do brain breaks all day long if I let them, so having a chance to dance around was a great incentive. 

Then one of them asked, "What happens if we have trouble listening?" and lo and behold, before I could even answer, one of my kiddos piped up and said, "Then the car moves back a little.  You have to work together to get it to move forward."  BRILLIANT!  I couldn't have said it better myself.

So we started.... they were great listeners... and I moved the car forward... they listened again and the car moved again.... we were heading toward the finish line when it happened.... the humming - and the elbowing each other - and the chatting.... so the car moved back.  Silence.  I didn't say a word, I just moved the car and kept teaching.  AND THEY LISTENED!  They raised their little hands and discussed ideas, they kept their eyes on who was speaking and stopped trying to sit on top of each other....

Now I would like to say that I never had to move the car backwards again... but that would not be true... and I would like to say that we made it to the finish line on the first day... also not true.  Sad face.  I tried REALLY hard to help them get that car to the finish line... but it wasn't meant to be.  We talked about it during closing circle, and connected it to the story of the "The Little Engine That Could."  Even though it was hard, we had to keep trying and we WOULD do it.

On Day 2, the momentum changed... the car moved forward and KEPT moving forward... there was a little hiccup here and there, but we made it to the finish line!!!

During closing circle I chose 3 name sticks and those students got to choose one brain break or smartboard game that we could vote on.  We voted as a class, and the winner was....

The Hip Hop Tooty Ta!!

I am also happy to announce that we made it to the finish line on Friday, as well.  My students are more engaged and focused and it is showing in their learning.  Even better - they are taking ownership for their behavior - I can hear some of my kiddos noticing when they get out of sorts... "Stay focused, or the car will have to move backwards!"  and  "Ms. G, I can FEEL that we're doing a better job!"  That little race car has had a BIG effect on our classroom community.  I have a feeling we have many more trips to the finish line ahead of us!
I'm linking this post up with Joanne from Head Over Heels For Teaching as part of

 Click on the image above to visit her post and get more ideas from other great teachers.
Yes, I know... It's Sunday.  But I still plan on linking up with Doodle Bugs and sharing my five for the week! 

We are just starting to get into learning mode.... this group needs LOTS of modeling for behavior expectations and active learning, but we're getting there!  Here's a few moments from my week!

1.  Pucker up!  This was the big excitement for the week.  Our students were challenged to read at least 10,000 books this summer, and if they did our principal would kiss a pig!  You have to understand that we are a farming community, so I figured finding a pig to kiss wouldn't be all that hard.  We went even one better - we found Farmer Minor and Daisy! 
This guy was fantastic!  He was very engaging and the kids LOVED hearing his stories - and of course the big kiss was the icing on the cake!
Daisy is very famous and travels all over the country celebrating reading.  She just happens to be a hometown girl (boy, actually!), living just a little ways away from us in the "off season."  Here's the link to their website if you want to find out more.

2.  And if that wasn't exciting enough, we also had our Open House this week... on the HOTTEST day in 50 days!  Yes people..... in the low 100's for heat index, muggy, stuffy, sweaty... and that was just during the day!  Now add a boatload of families visiting the classroom and I'm not even going to tell you which parts of me were sweating!  Everyone had a great time, though.  Our Open House is very unstructured - just an hour's time where families can come up, visit the room and chat.  It's a great non-stressful way to meet parents and have students share what they've been doing in the classroom.  I left out a few papers for families to fill out - volunteer forms, etc.  Here's my 3-2-1 Information form that I ask parents to fill out about their kiddo.  I've seen many of these floating around on Pinterest, but here's my version if you'd like to grab it:
3.  My second graders have been in LOVE with Pete the Cat.  I know, those books are young for seconds, but these guys really get into the movement and rhythm of the story on CD.  They have been obsessed with Pete the Cat - Rockin' in My School Shoes.... so I harnessed that energy and we used it for writing.  I took pictures of all their school shoes

and they each of them chose something they "rocked" in school (doing math, reading, listening, etc) and wrote 3 complete sentences about it.  Seems simple, but remembering to put those capitals, periods, etc isn't easy.  I added their shoe pictures to their writing and we had a "rockin' bulletin board to display.  (of course, I didn't take a picture... so stay tuned for that tomorrow!)

4.  We've been working hard this week on identifying and writing the 4 types of sentences.  We've used Mo Willem's Pigeon books A LOT for this!  First we would read the story together, talking about the different sentences, then they would work in partners to sort sentences, go through the book and find specific kinds of sentences, etc.  I used this great freebie from Anta Goodwin:
Click the picture to download the packet.
We finished up with some "Sentence Superhero!" headbands from Amy Lemon's sentence unit.

You can click HERE to see more of what's in her packet.

5.  Daily 5 is off to a great start!  We've been working on building on stamina for Read-to-Self and we're up to 13 minutes!  Woo-hoo!  Next week we start Read-to-Someone.  I'm also planning on starting my version of Daily 5 math next week.  I'm going to do Math by Yourself, Math With Someone, Math Technology and Math Writing.... and something else.  I'm hoping this will be a great way to not only give my kiddos extra practice with skills and concepts, but also to have the chance to meet with small groups.  We have 90 minutes for math (a 60 minute math time and then a 30 minutes intervention time - same for reading.)  I'm going to do a whole class lesson for 30-40 minutes, then divide my kiddos into 2 groups and have half of them do Daily5 Math, and half meet with me.... then switch for two 20 minute blocks.  The last 10 minutes will be a time to close things up and have a "math meeting."  I'll post more about this next week.  Do you do some kind of Daily5 Math - any suggestions?

Hello, hello, hello.  Another week has gone by.  Wow, those of you who blog all the time must be super heroes because I just cannot seem to do it.  I have a million things to do, but since I really want to share this post with you... and the Giants don't play until 8:30 tonight... let's get started.

Do you need a break?  (Ha ha.... cute segueway there.)  My kiddos needs breaks during the day - a lot of them.  I have 18 little ones this year, and only 6 of them are girls.  Which means 12 boys - and a LOT of movement.  And reminders to stay focused.  And bathroom breaks.  And drink breaks.  And pencil sharpening breaks, even though there are already a billion sharpened pencils in the can at their table and isn't is just easier to put the broken on back and take a sharp one?

So needless to say, brain breaks have become a MUST in my classroom this year.  I do 3 different kinds of brain breaks.

1.  The brain break stick pick.  (I'll take a picture of that tomorrow and put it here.  Use your imagination for now.)  I have a ton of brain break ideas that I printed and cut and laminated and glued on popsicle sticks.  On the back, I wrote a quick reminder of what to do for each one, since I sometimes forget what they are by name alone.  All the sticks are in a container and when we need a quick break, I pull one out and the cheers erupt!  My sticks are color coded (yes, OCD... I have a problem...) by type of break - energizer, relaxer, exercise, etc.  I choose one we need at the point and take a couple minutes to get all the squiggly jigglies out.  (I also have a set of cards on a ring that we can choose from, too.  So many ideas!)

Click on the pictures to see more.

2.  Now, sometimes we need something even more exciting to do as our break.  This one usually comes after lunch, and after we've done writing and are ready for math and 18 little bodies are drooping and sagging and wondering when recess is.... (and it's not for another 90 minutes!)... then I pull out a dancing/moving/jamming kind of brain break.
I have a bunch of these pinned to a folder on my desktop for easy access.  I put them up on the Smartboard and rock it out.  Here are our current top 3 favorites: (NOTE:  These are direct links to the youtube videos so you may need/want to run them through a filter to get rid of any ads.)
Gummy Bears!  Be ready to have this one stuck in your head for the rest of the night.

The Hamster Dance - with a western theme!  Yee-haw!!
Just Dance Kids has a TON of great videos for brain breaks.  This last one is an old camp song.  Be sure to check out all the other songs this group does.  Lots of fun!  Let's go bananas!

These are loads of fun and make for a quick way to get some energy out so we can move on with the day. 
3.  I'm not sure what to call these.  They're not really movement breaks, as much as thinking breaks.  Just a little something to get everyone motivated.  At the end of the day, I usually put a game or website on the smartboard for everyone to do while we're listening for buses to be called.  This one is the most requested right now.  Don't ask me why.  They love it.  Meet the Green Anaconda.

And this one is my personal favorite for now.  Love them Muppets!  My boys like this one.  Go figure :-)
Oh that cracks me up.  I find something new to laugh at every time I watch that one.  I hope you've gotten a few new brain break ideas and resources.  What are your favorites?
Ok, I'm a little late... but with the 3-day weekend, I can be forgiven.  I'm linking up with Farley once again for this month's Currently.
Yes, that's right.... I've been listening to quite a bit of noise all weekend around here... and it is NOT from my house... as a matter of fact, I can't figure out where it is coming from.  Someone is obviously clearing trees up through the back wooded area of my house, but I have no idea who - or what they are doing.  All I know is it's a good thing I've had the windows closed with the air on all weekend... maybe in the fall when the leaves come down I'll be surprised with new neighbors looking right onto my deck!
Yes, it's been really muggy and blechy around here this weekend.  We haven't had a hot day yet in August and Mother Nature decided the first 3 days of school would be the best time to crank up the humidity!  Blahhhh.... I'm ready to start wearing my fall boots and sweaters, but instead I have to find the least amount of clothing that is the most appropriate :-)
I've pretty much laminated and printed myself out of house and home this past week.  Even though I save things from year to year, I still always find more to create!  Lately I've been "re-creating" activities and sheets from past years to make them look better.  Do you find yourself doing that?  Adding different clipart, borders, etc?  Very time consuming... but it makes me happy!  I also bought one of these babies . . .
It's called a Xyron and it puts a layer of sticky (or magnetic paper) on the back of whatever you put through it.  It seemed like a very useful thing at the time, but all I've thought to do with it so far is stick the "safety drill" cheat sheet to the back of my badge.  Anyone else have one?  What creative things do you do with it?
My 3 things for myself re pretty self-explanatory.  I read ALL.THE.TIME over the summer, but once school starts, I never have the time.  So I'm going to really try to get at least on books read this month.  (And since I usually read a book in a day or two, that seems reasonable!)  Do you find time to read during the school year - and not "school" books?  How do you do it?
Ok, I'm off to make sure everything is together for tomorrow.  Second grade is giving their first homework of the year this week.  My kiddos were so excited on Friday when I told them.  Go figure.  Something tells me that feeling won't last!

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