Friday, March 13, 2015

5 for Friday - laptops, newsela, student treasures, writing in math, test prep, whew!


Wow, the amazing weather in Michigan this week has made me sooooo happy!  I can't stop smiling. It's been a long time since we've seen sunshine and grass (even though it's brown) around here.  The time change has helped my mood as well, it was actually light out past 7:30 last night! I'm just ecstatic.  The only downside is my students have a bit o' the spring fever setting in.  But it's a fair trade off for daylight and warmth.  The energy is kicking in Room 206 and we've been busy this week publishing books on our brand new HP laptops, closely reading nonfiction articles from newsela.com, devouring The Weirder School book series, writing in math class and test prepping (our state test is coming up in just a few weeks, yikes!) common core vocabulary!




WE GOT AN HP LAPTOP CART!!!!  I'm always so insanely jealous of all you 1:1 schools, and now I can pretend we are 1:1 for a few hours a week.  :)  We tried them out for the first time today, We are finishing up the publishing of our Student Treasures books.  If you  haven't heard of Student Treasures, check them out.  They offer FREE publishing kits.  We are using them school wide.  You can choose to publish a class book where every student gets two pages in the book for their story/essay/poem and illustration.  You get one FREE copy for the class and students can purchase a copy of the book if they wish.  This is what most of the teachers in our school choose because it's very manageable to publish.  The best part though is once a few teachers in your group choose to publish class books, they open up the option to publish individual books.  I always try to do this option because every student gets to publish a 14 page book AND they each get a FREE copy. They can also purchase additional copies if interested. You can't beat FREE books for your entire class.  But, publishing a 14 page book is definitely time consuming so you have to keep that in mind.

 





We are immersed in nonfiction right now and I am finding most of our shared reading texts from Newsela!  I absolutely L.O.V.E. this website because new articles are added frequently and the most amazing part is that every article is available at several lexile levels, so you can print the level that's appropriate for your students.  Plus, most of the articles come with text dependent questions (quizzes) and MORE!  And, it's FREE.





I love nothing more than when a reluctant reader finds a series to love.  That has happened with some readers in my room and the Weirder School series by Dan Gutman.  I'm over the moon!  They are just tearing though these books.  So this week I used some Amazon bonus points (thank you TPT conference) and purchased more titles.  There are seriously more books in this series than I can count!!  They arrived yesterday and the smile on one reader's face made my entire week.  These books are perfect for DRA level 28-34 readers!



Thanks to daylight savings time, I've been able to work on my next Math Journal Response Prompt set this week. It's funny how just a little bit of extra daylight makes the day seem longer.  This newest response journal set is focusing on measurement of three dimensional shapes & volume.  I can't wait to add it to my set of growing response prompts. We use these response prompts daily during math class as formative assessments. Hopefully this newest set will be posted to TPT within the next few weeks.






Double yikes, our state test is coming up in just a few weeks.  It will actually start the day we return from spring break.  I know, right?!?  In Michigan we've always tested in the fall over the previous grade level's expectations, so switching to the spring and testing over the current grade level's expectations is a huge deal for us and we are feeling the pressure.  To alleviate some testing anxiety we are getting very familiar with the critical verbs of the common core.  We are studying a new word each day and adding it to our growing bank of academic vocabulary.  We aren't going to let these critical verbs stump us on the M-Step.  No way!  Check out this FREEBIE week of critical verb instruction with a quiz included if you're interested!


Enjoy the weekend everyone and bask in the sunlight and warmth!!!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Close Reading & Text Dependent Questions


We all know that close reading is the buzz in education right now.  And I've read so many AMAZING blog posts about the whys and hows of close reading.  But I haven't read much about the text-dependent questions that are a MUST along with close reading.  So, since I've just finished reading Rigorous Reading by Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher, I'm going to post my quick thoughts about text-dependent questions.  And I'd love to hear what you're doing or using for text dependent questions in the comments below.

So, here's the book I just mentioned.  I highly recommend it if you're interested in increasing the rigor of your shared reading time.


And, here are my take aways from the chapter on Text Dependent Questions.

Text Dependent Questions
“As part of every close reading, students should respond to text-dependent questions that require them to provide evidence from the text rather than solely from their own experience.”

-Rigorous Reading by Nancy Frey and Douglas Fisher
1 The types of questions students are asked is very important!!  If students are asked only recall and recitation questions they will learn to read for only that type of information. If they are asked questions that require them to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate, they will learn to read more closely and actively engage with the text.  Requiring students to locate evidence within the text forces them to HAVE to read it.
2 There are several ways we as teachers can structure questions so that students have to return to the text to find evidence for their own responses.  * General Understanding questions get at the gist of the text (retelling, summarizing). * Key Details questions are often the who, what, where, when, why or how of the text.  * Vocabulary and Text Structure questions require students to consider the organization of the reading. * Author’s Purpose questions get at the genre of the text and the use of narration to help students make sense of what they are reading. * Inference questions push students to think about how the parts of a text build to a whole. * Opinions, Arguments and Intertextual Connections are used sparingly, after several readings, and should result in deep and engaging conversations and written responses.
3 Text Dependent Questions help give students a purpose for reading.  Most readers do not like to reread things a second or third time unless there is a specific reason for doing so. Reading a text more than once, and talking about a text with peers, will lessen the amount of instructional support needed by teachers before, during and after reading!!
4 Close reading is in part about discovering what the author meant and how to come to terms with the ideas in the text.  Text dependent questions help readers make these discoveries.

5 Combined with shared, collaborative and independent readings, close readings provide students the experiences they need to become skilled in analytic reading, a prerequisite for college and career success!

Currently, I'm using Scholastic News (purchased subscription), www.newsela.com (FREE) and the passages from this Complex Text Passages Scholastic Book (purchased by my district) as resources for close reading and text-dependent questions.  What are you using?



Sunday, February 22, 2015

Exit Slips makeover and another possible "cold day"??!!??

Are you using exit slips to bring closure and accountability to your math lessons?  Exit slips are the perfect way to inform your daily instruction and create intervention and enrichment groups.  The best part is they only take up 5 minutes of your precious time.

I just gave ALL my math exit slips a makeover.  For more information on how I use these exit slips in my classroom, check out my blog post HERE!

Anyone else getting tired of these frigid temperatures?  They were fun the first three "cold days" off from school - but now another wind chill warning for tomorrow?  Shockingly, I'm ready to go back and almost wish the warning would go away.  Yikes, I can't believe I actually said that out loud.

The good thing about all of these cold days off, is that I've had some time to work on my TPT to do list.  I've been meaning for a while to update the covers of my math exit slips.  I just wasn't in love with the fonts I had chosen and I wanted them to pop a bit more.  So, ta da!!!  I updated every single set yesterday and I L.O.V.E the way they turned out.  I hope you do too!

Here are the 5th grade new cover designs:









Here are the 4th grade new cover designs:







Enjoy your Sunday and stay warm!  Anyone else have another "cold day" off looming tomorrow??  Post where you're from.  I'm hoping it's more than just Michigan suffering from the bitter cold.......


Monday, February 9, 2015

Are your students writing during math class?

We all know that students need to be writing during math class.



Explaining mathematical thinking with pictures, numbers and words is how students make sense of mathematics.  When we don't give our mathematicians time to put their investigations, discoveries, ideas and theories into words - we are just breeding formula memorizers instead of conceptual understanders.  I know, I was a formula memorizer for many, many years.  I always did well in math because of my good memory, but never truly had a strong number sense.  It wasn't until I became a math teacher and began talking deeply about mathematical relationships, patterns and rules, that I finally understood why the formulas I had memorized - worked. I want my students to have the same understanding that I reached so late in life, so I try my best to incorporate inquiry, talk, and writing into our math class daily.

We need to give our students TIME to talk and write about their mathematical ideas. But TIME is what we always lack, isn't it? We have so many standards to cover and so little TIME. One solution that is working for me is quick, formative assessment, journal response prompts. 

 

How do they work?

After each math lesson, find the journal prompt that best matches your daily learning target (or use a blank one at the end to create your own). This set of fractions journal response prompts contains 44 prompts that focus on unit fractions, comparisons, equivalence, mixed numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, relationships, patterns, formulas and MORE. Each prompt is aligned to the Common Core standards (3rd-5th grades) and is marked with the actual standard in the corner.





Copy and slice out enough journal prompts for your entire class to attach to their math notebooks (or for a quicker option - print one and project it for your students to copy into their math notebooks). Send students off to work on the daily learning target with a purpose to focus their math practice. They can write their response during practice time (which saves TIME) or at the conclusion of math class to bring closure to your lesson. Lastly, give your students time to share their response with a partner to practice speaking and listening skills.

Best of all, you can collect (or spot check) math notebooks to inform your instruction, give grades, gather data, and discuss during math conferences and small groups. No longer will your students be able to hide in the corner during class and memorize formulas or fake understanding. They will be held accountable daily for understanding the learning target, responding, and sharing their response with a partner and the class.

I have found these journal prompts to be truly powerful.  I'm so excited to share my fractions set with you (on sale through tomorrow) and plan to add many more sets to my store throughout the year so stay tuned!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Follower Celebration, Month of Love, Snow Day Giveaway

Snow Day!!!!!!!!!!   Our first one of the year - last year we had 10 so this girl has been feeling pretty left out this year.  I am so happy with the results of Snowstorm 2015.  In fact, I'm so elated that I'm hosting a giveaway to pay it forward.

Since it's a Snow Day!!!!!!! and it's February, the month of love, AND, I just noticed that I am soooo close to 2,000 fans on TPT plus I hit 600 fans exactly on facebook, a GIVEAWAY is a must.

This giveaway my friends is going to go to 3 lucky winners, to celebrate all 3 occasions!  I'm going to giveaway for FREE 3 sets of my Valentine's Day Decimal Math Centers.








These centers are perfect for Valentines Day activities, parties, and for those of you who are using a Math Workshop, Guided Math or Small Group type of math instruction. Though you can also use them whole group or as interventions/extensions to differentiate your instruction. Just print, (laminate if you wish), cut if needed and go! Math plans for an entire week in February!!! Now that's what I call LOVE!

This set of Valentine's Day Decimal Centers includes 3 task cards centers, one independent work center and one math game center. All recording sheets, directions, and answer keys are included. Your students can move through these centers throughout the week while you are meeting with small groups.

Targeted skills include:

* Multiplying decimals by whole numbers and by decimals through thousandths
* Dividing decimals by whole numbers and by decimals with dividends through thousandths
* Decimal patterns when multiplying and dividing by powers of ten
* Finding the missing factor when multiplying decimals
* Using a calculator to check work, guess and check problem solving strategy, and comparing decimal amounts

All you have to do to try and win a FREE copy of these lovable centers is enter the Rafflecopter below.  The giveaway ends next Monday night!!  Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Ways to conquer the cooped up craziness!!

Anyone else's students a little rambunctious lately?  In Michigan, our kiddos have been cooped up way too long without fresh air and Vitamin D and its causing an unhealthy case of "stir crazy!"


When this starts happening every year, I always start to pull my hair out in frustration, but then I remember that the crazy can be conquered with routine consistency and 'sticking to my guns' per say. Otherwise, I'll end up looking like the meme below.......Ahhhhhhhhhh


Instead of trying to pull out all the bells and whistles or doing a little song and dance to keep em' entertained, I just rely on structure. In our school we use "Give Me 5" as our attention grabber. When I need their attention (after a quick turn and talk to a partner, or voices are just getting a little too loud) I put one hand in the air and say Give me 5, and then I quietly count backward until 1.  I show the counting backward on my fingers and other students join in as well. When I get to 1, any students who are still talking receive a warning. Be strong, if a student earns a warning give it to him/her regardless of how you feel. Students crave fairness and it will only take a time or two before the craziness begins to subside. Click HERE for a FREE editable template (created by my teammate Stephanie Rye of Forever in Fifth Grade) to help you set up a warnings consequence system with your students and to help you keep track of those warnings.

And, here's a cute free Give Me 5 poster I found by Confessions of a Teaching Junkie on TPT.


Unstructured time is also a nightmare during these long winter months when the kids don't get near enough exercise.  So I make sure to plan for every. single. minute. of. the. day! To fight the frenzy, I return to the uber organized and over prepared teacher I was in September!!  Sometimes, at this point in the year, we have all started to slack a bit in our routines and expectations and that can fuel the fire. When I'm well planned, our classroom runs like a well oiled machine (most of the time LOL).

Further, transition times are where all heck begins to break loose when we haven't had recess for a week.  So, I make sure that every transition follows the SAME routine.  Before we make the transition I always say "When I say Go - (and then I give the directions, for example) - quietly bring your reading folder, notebook, pencil and book to your spot on the carpet.  I'll meet you there in 2 minutes. You may GO." Or, "When I say Go, you need to put your math paper inside your math folder and line up for library. You may Go." This way students are listening because they're waiting for me to say GO, they also don't move while I'm giving directions (that drives me insane).


If several students are not transitioning properly, I take time to have some students act out a review of what it SHOULD NOT and SHOULD look like when coming to the carpet, or lining up.  Then, I give out warnings to students who are not following procedures.  I remind myself to 'stick to my guns,' be fair and be consistent and I will conquer the crazy!!!  Good luck and fingers crossed for some warmer temperatures to get these kids outside running around!


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