Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Stress Free Tips for the end of the year and a Stress Free Giveaway too!

I'm joining in with #iteach345 to offer you a STRESS FREE giveaway and tips for a STRESS FREE end of the school year!

We all know how crazy the end of the school year is.  And if you're anything like me, sometimes you let things 'slide' a little more towards the end of the year - which can actually cause more stress in the long run.  I learned this the hard way but I'm passing my top five tips for a stress free end of the year on to you, so you won't suffer like I did my first few years of teaching.

Have you heard the phrase, "Prior Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance"?  Its one of my husband's favorites as a coach.  And it applies to pretty much everything in life from grocery shopping to school work.  In August and September I spend hours of 'prior proper planning' by completing my lesson plans the weekend before. Even though it takes hours, it saves me time in the long run because during the week I am organized and prepared, things run smoothly, and I have less stress.  So the planning before hand actually makes for a LESS STRESSFUL week.  However, as April and May (and in Michigan - June) approach, sometimes this prior proper planning gets the back seat to sunshine and relaxation.  I pay for it with stress and I become a living example of the phrase "running around like a chicken with my head cut off."  Been there?  So my tip to myself and you for a stress free end of the year, is don't slack on that lesson planning!!!

Maybe a shiny new Erin Condren planner will help bring some enthusiasm back to your weekly planning?  I have great news for you - the amazing and talented Erin Condren is offering 25% off all teacher planners and 40% off all life planners right now - to celebrate teacher appreciation month!!!

Here's what my planner (that I purchased last year during the Teacher Appreciation Sale) looks like, and see, I'm already working on my lesson plans for this coming week - intermingled with some blogging, instagramming and facebooking as usual!!  Gotta love the 21st century!


I know you already know this one, but sometimes it's good be reminded, right?  To ensure a STRESS FREE end of the school year, stay consistent with your behavior expectations!  Again, as the end nears, I sometimes feel myself wanting to slack off and let them get away with things I used to not allow.  I'm tired, it's been a long year, it's easier to just look the other way, only a few more weeks right?  Wrong!  The minute my expectations drop, the instant my stress level will rise.  Our students are smart, we've taught them well. They catch on quickly to a lack of consistent expectations and you'll regret that lack of better judgement pretty quickly.

You're tired, I'm tired, the students are tired, and our usual lessons may not work quite as well at the end of the year, which can invoke STRESS in even the most veteran of teachers.  So my third tip for a stress free end of the year is to plan your lessons as if ALL of your students have ADHD!!!  LOL  Just kidding, but really, as the end of the year nears - plan more engaging activities.  Get them outside to read or write on the playground; teaching measurement? - hold a measurement olympics; reading stamina lacking? start a competition; students tuning out during social studies - hold mock trials (more to come about this soon - we are beginning ours this week.)  Get the picture?  We just have to  think a little differently at the end of the year to keep those students engaged and our hair intact.

Read for pleasure!  Simply put, take some time for yourself each night to read before bed.  Don't allow yourself to think about work, school or anything STRESS related.  Just read!!  Even if it's only for 10 minutes.  Look how much reading I've done this year and I only read for a few minutes (well sometimes more than a few LOL) before bed.  If you follow me on Instagram @mobryanwildaboutfifth you've already seen this picture this week!

I've saved the best tip for last.  Smile!  You have a glorious summer vacation looming.  You can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Just smile!  You'll make it, and in the meantime, focus on the difference you've made with each and every mind in your classroom.  Research suggests that smiling reduces STRESS and helps the heart.  I promise, google it!!!  

Now, it's time for you to enter our STRESS FREE giveaway and have the opportunity to relieve some stress with one of FOUR amazing prizes.  Make sure you scroll through the prizes to see them all!!  All you have to do to enter is like our TPT stores.  You can't get much less stressful than that!!  Good luck!!!

Lastly, check out all of the other amazing bloggers at #iteach345.  They have some STRESS FREE tips to share as well.  Enjoy!

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!

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