Woo-hoo!!  It's here!  It's finally time to reveal the fantastic fun taking place over at iTeachSecond!
We know how hard it is to be a teacher - and how rewarding!  We take on the craziness of testing, the difficulties many of our students have both at home and in school, the endless paperwork and the loooong days... all because teaching means something to each and every one of us - and to every one of our students.

So to celebrate you for taking on one of the hardest and most rewarding professions - and doing it with a passion! - my bloggy friends and I over at iTeachSecond have put together a giveaway perfect for ANY teacher!

That's right - you can win one of 4 $25 gift cards - one to Target, Starbucks, Amazon or Teachers Pay Teachers.  And it is sooo easy to enter!  Just head on over to iTeachSecond and enter using the rafflecopter.  (You can click the image above to jump over!) That's it!  Winners will be announced on Sunday May 3!

Now, just to get you thinking... what could you use those wonderful gift cards for?  Once again, the bloggers over at iTeachSecond have you covered!
Before we begin, I have to be honest.  The Starbucks gift card doesn't do it for me. Not only is the nearest Starbucks about 30 minutes away, but I don't drink coffee.  So no ideas from me on that one.  And while I know I can find something anytime I go to Target, that's also not the one I like the most.  My go-to shopping spot is Amazon. (Love that Amazon Prime, too! And I am not affiliated in any way with Amazon. These opinions are my own.)

I walked around my classroom and tried to think about what would be some new and exciting ideas to share from Amazon.  Books, of course, are always on my list.  But these two green buckets hold two of our favorite classroom items.

Let's start with the Hot Dots.  My kiddos LOVE them!  We have the subtraction and the place value sets.  I have them as a math center right now, but I also use them as an early finisher activity and as morning work. (the pens and the cards are sold separately.)

Kids figure out the answer and then touch the black dot that has their answer.  If it is correct, the pen lights up and makes noise (it's quiet and not too distracting!).  For an incorrect choice the light is red and a different sound is made.
If I won that gift card I would definitely add more card sets to our collection!

Next up are the Boogie Boards.  We use these for all sorts of things!
I have a set of 6 in my room.  They are link a dry erase board but without the dusty mess!  Students write with the stylus (or their finger!) and press the button at the top and the board erases. I use them during book groups, small group math, to write a quick idea of explanation for a student (or for them to write it for me!).... the possibilities are endless!  The boards have something like 50,000 erase cycles before the battery dies.  It can't be replaced, but by then it would be worth purchasing another board!

Oh - and one more quick thing!  I am absolutely IN LOVE WITH my Quirky stapler! I blogged about this before, but I just can't tell you how great this guy is!

So there you have it! If you gave me the Amazon gift card.. I would have NO problem spending it - and then some!  And if you're looking for more ideas of how to spend those gift cards, you can check out the linky below and visit some of the other bloggers from iTeachKinder, iTeachFirst and iTeachSecond and see what they would buy. And don't forget to head over to iTeachSecond to enter the giveaway!

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Happy Saturday! I hope you're relaxing and getting a chance to enjoy the weekend.  Summer will be here before you know it! (I keep telling myself that, even though I watched a tennis match that was called because of SNOW earlier this week!)

I had the chance to participate in a fun product swap hosted by Melissa over at Jungle Learners.

This time around I was partnered with Sandra over at Sandra's Savvy Teaching Tips. Sandra is from Canada and she has some great ideas on her blog perfect for the primary grades.  It was fun to find yet another blog to follow!

I checked out Sandra's store and really wanted to try her newest science unit on soil.  It is full of reading passages, comprehension activities, vocabulary cards and science activities.  But.... we're not doing soil until May to go along with our planting unit, so on the wishlist it went!

I decided on her Teaching Math With Playing Cards unit.  I have a ton of decks of cards in my room and we use them for math games a lot.  Sandra's unit added even more ideas!

Sandra starts out with some helpful tips for managing those cards and getting your students to become independent in getting the cards they need.  I love the tip abut keeping all the cards in a basket and just having students reach in and grab a stack "no fatter than their finger."  It really doesn't matter if kids have a full deck for these activities, so that makes things even easier!

This unit includes two types of resources - ideas for card games, and activity sheets to be used to practice various math skills with the cards.  I used the games for the last part of our math time.  It was a great way to give students time to practice those basic math skills in a fun way.

The activity sheets were perfect for some review for my kiddos.  I put each of them in a sheet protector with a dry erase marker and eraser so they could be used over and over again.

Then we went to work!  Every student got a sheet and a deck of cards.  They used the cards to practice everything from place value, to counting on, to 2-digit addition and more!
I liked that I could differentiate for each student depending on what they needed to practice.  I also had many of them use 2 and 3 digit numbers, rather than just single digits.  It was easy for them to write whatever numbers they made with the cards on the sheets and then just work at their level.
After they completed one sheet, it was quickly checked by and adult and then they switched with someone to do another sheet.  My kiddos loved this because at this point in the year everything was review and they could work quickly.  I had students who were able to do 3 or 4 sheets n 15 minutes and they loved it!

After we were done, I took all the papers out and put them in a file for later on.  I can pull the sheets I need next year as we hit those skills and have some easy-prep centers and practice activities.  By using the cards, students can work on the same sheet, but have different problems. It was a win all around!

Thinking you might want to try this resource in your room?  You're in luck! Sandra was kind enough to let me give away a copy of the unit to one lucky winner! You can enter using the Rafflecopter below from now until midnight Tuesday night. One lucky winner will be chosen!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can visit Sandra's blog to read about the "Being a Scientist" unit that I shared with her.  And be sure to check out some of the other product swap posts - you might just find more great resources or the end of the year and beyond!

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Happy Friday, my friends!  This was my first week back after spring break and I have to tell you - it just FLEW by! Before I get started with my real reason for this post, I want to remind you to check back here on Sunday for some super exciting news!  My bloggy friends and I over at iTeachSecond have something special planned for you - so stay tuned!

Now, on to the post!  Are you always looking for ways to assess student understanding on the fly?  Do you have students who seem to be understanding a concept just fine in a whole group, but when you have them work independently, they fall apart? I wanted to share with you something we have been using in my class this year that has really helped me be able to better help my students - self-assessment guides.

Let me back up by first explaining why I chose the wording on the posters that I did.  I saw many posters that used the words "novice, practitioner, etc." and while I do like to expand my students vocabulary as much as possible, I found that having them use those words just added another layer to them trying to tell me how much they understood.  We started the year last year with those words, but I found I was spending way too much time at the beginning of the year teaching my kiddos how to pronounce the words, helping them remember which word went with which level... it kind of defeated the purpose of having a quick and easy self-assessment idea.  I changed the wording in the middle of last year and never looked back! 

Using level numbers instead of words was something every child could connect to.  The descriptors for each level came from brainstorming that we did together.  And the quick sentence at the bottom of each poster made it easy for students to assess themselves quickly.  So, now this is what we use.

I have a full color full page version of these hanging in my room on the front wall where they are visible from anywhere.

I ask students to show 1,2,3, or 4 fingers (on their heart usually, not in the air, so everyone doesn't worry about what their friends are saying) to give me an idea of who understands what is going on.  We spend A LOT of time modeling and talking about this through think-alouds and examples at the beginning of the year so students have a clear understanding of what each level means.  We also chat about how everyone will be at different levels at different times for different concepts, etc.

At this point in the year I just say, "Assess Yourself!" and immediately I can see where my lesson needs to go.  I do this at various times, depending on what we're doing and what my lesson objective is.  I ask for assessment at the beginning of a lesson to check for understanding from the previous day, or to see how much students know about a new topic.  I check during the lesson, when I think things are going well - or when I think things are starting to fall apart!  And, of course, it can be helpful at the end so I know what I need to start thinking about for tomorrow, for small groups later that day, etc.

In addition to the large posters on the wall, I have a sheet of smaller cards I use during small groups.  I have the cards in sheet protectors (not cut out) and will ask my kiddos to point to the level of their understanding on their sheet. I find that it is not as important to have total secrecy in a small group - my students are more comfortable letting others know how they are doing if it's not the whole class looking on.

I also have strips at our tables with the levels.  These are mainly for students to be able to refer to at the beginning of the year so they understand what each level means.  I find I don't use them much as the year goes on, but they are definitely helpful when we start.

My favorite and most helpful way I have students show their self-assessment is by color-coding their name after they complete a task.  It's an easy way for me to see if their self-assessment matches their ability to "show what they know", and to see how THEY think they are doing.  I can quickly look through a stack of papers and see where my students' general understanding is - and it's usually pretty accurate!

If you're interested in using the posters, cards and strips I created, you can download them by clicking on the image below.  They are NOT editable, so they can't be changed.
Self-assessment is such an important skill for students to learn.  It helps them know when they need to ask for help and when they really can do something independently.  By using the posters, cards and strips, students can show how they think they are doing in a non-threatening way and I can gauge the understanding of my group.  If you have any great ideas about student self-assessment, I'd love to hear them!

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Oooooh - I am so excited!  Are you feeling a little crazy now that the end of the school year is coming?  Maybe not feeling very appreciated......

Well hang on until this Sunday April 26 when you see what my wonderful bloggy friends and I over at iTeachSecond have in store for you!  Want a little peek?

(graphics by Alice Smith Graphics @ Dollardoodles.com)
Ssssh! That's all I can say right now.... check back on Sunday to find out more!
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Hey there!  If you're looking for some fun and EASY spelling games for your kiddos to practice their skills as the end of the year draws near, check out my post over at Who's Who.
There's a few fun game ideas and a freebie - if you really want it.  Bunnies, anyone?
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