Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mental Math

One of my goals this upcoming year is to step up my whole group math lessons. I know I have to teach place value and I know that's a tough concept for most kids to master. Usually we do a warm-up with them, not only to spiral skills they are learning, but also to try and keep them thinking. I see a lot of things like anchor charts that tell the kids the strategies they can use for addition and subtraction-one of them teachers list is counting on their fingers. I may be in the minority on this one, but I actually discourage that in my class. On a test, I tell them they can use anything they need to answer the question, but when we are doing these whole group activities-I want them to think about the answer first. There's no reason they should have to count on their fingers to add 1 to 5-and definitely shouldn't have to count that 5.

 I will never forget tutoring a 4th grader for their big test years ago. The practice question was something like-Bob delivers 10 magazines a day for 5 days-how many magazines did he deliver? The student started counting on his fingers-1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6....counted to 10 five times and got the answer of 49! I remember thinking to myself, I think my students would even count by 10's to reach that answer. These kiddos just aren't getting the practice in number sense that they really need to understand the math they are doing.

Here are some things I do to try and encourage a better understanding and I would love to hear your ideas on activities you use as well.

A quick little activity-I pass out foam dominoes and ask questions like-hold up your domino if your total is more than 5, or less than 6.

Mystery number-I have a number in my head and you have to ask me questions to narrow down what that number is. More than 50, less than 20, odd or even? I put this on the Smartboard and the students eventually run it themselves-one of the kiddos picks a number and fields questions from the students. My favorite part is watching them try to figure out things like if the question is more than 50-do I take away 50? Well, is 50 more than 50? And they discuss what they think with each other.

Real-world connections: Using photographs

How many gray planes? How many altogether? If the gray planes took off, how many are left? Pictures of castles or sailboats work well to review shapes-how many triangles/rectangles?

Buzz-my kids love this game!!! They form a circle and the one in the middle picks a number to be "buzzed". Any digit with that numeral in it cannot be said-instead they say buzz. So if the number is zero, when they count 8, 9 , You can make it harder by making it sums made from doubles or multiples of 5 as they progress.

Number dots:

This is a great way to start discussions about how they get to a certain number. How did you know it was 10-did you count 1+1+1, etc. or did you do 5 +5. Pretty soon they get pretty fluent and don't have to count the dots anymore.

What kind of review activities do you use to encourage mental math? I'd love to add to my toolbox! :)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Catching Readers Before They Fall Book Study Part Deux

I am linking up again with Kimberley at First in Maine:

Chapter 3

The first thing that jumped out at me was the statement that we have to work with the kids at their level. Teddy Roosevelt once said "do what you can, with what you have, where you are". I think about that a lot in teaching. They bring up blaming the teacher before-well, I definitely can't do that next year, since their former teacher! :)

I have to admit-I'm not sure I ever learned about Vygotsky. If I did, the memory of that is long gone. But I was happy to be reacquainted with his theories again because it gave me a lot to think about. How am I going to use these concepts to help drive my instruction? I already think I'm pretty good at differentiating, but I definitely could be better. Especially when it comes to workstations. I don't think I pay enough attention to guided instruction. When I do a whole group lesson, we move on to more independent work, I think I kind of skip that step.

One thing that was reassuring is the social aspect they bring up about learning. I definitely include times when the kids turn to a partner and discuss or work in groups. We discuss a theme in ethics every day that way-they turn to a partner and then come back and share with the group. I'm teaching summer school now and have a variety of kids from different classrooms and it amazes me how they are so used to just sitting at their desks doing worksheets, reading passages. I'm not judging anyone else, but I can't teach that way and certainly these kids aren't learning that way because they are there for reinforcement of their skills.

Anyway, definitely a lot of food for thought!

Pretty Proud of Myself

It's so hard for me to find things to post about during the summer. I can write about ideas I'm finding-because believe me Pinterest and I have become very well-acquainted! One drawback to looping is that you have to start all over from scratch-you can't use any books/lessons that you have done before. So I am going to do what I see others doing and post about my own reading list for this summer.

I am one of those people who loved reading as a kid. But as I got older and started reading a lot for my job, reading just wasn't fun for me anymore. I have a movie attention-span--I want to find out what happens! I would buy books and start books, but rarely finished them. It's funny, people at work think I'm a literate person because I'm always the one trying to start a book club--but I do that because I know that will make me read! Last summer I read the Book Whisperer and was inspired--I promised myself I'd read at least 5 books last summer-and I accomplished that. This summer I doubled it and I'm well on my way.

Along with the educational resources:


For fun I have also read:

I LOVED this book! I usually don't like when it goes back and forth between past and present, but it was really easy to keep up with which reality was which. I will never look at a bouquet of flowers the same way again!

It started out really good, I had high expectations. A little bit dark, but I like dark. However, the main character just got on my nerves too much. :) But it's very well-written.

Next up:

and then,

After drilling it into my students to read this summer--I can't wait to share with them the number of books I read this summer!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me!

As I get older, birthdays don't seem to mean as much (other than you're grateful you made it to another one! :) Plus it falls on a Monday this year, I have to work and then take my dog to the vet today--so not a lot of time for celebrating.

I do think it's fun for kiddos to celebrate their birthdays in the classroom though. One thing I didn't really consider this past year, was that I had about 10 students who were summer babies. Since I will teach most of the same kids next year, I definitely want to do a day for them to celebrate while they are in class.

I found this on Pinterest and thought it was a neat idea and wouldn't take up very much space-you take pics of the kids holding up the date of their b'days and put the various months together (of course mine would not be nearly that fancy either :)

I love this idea as well. You could keep a class book of all the kids photos. The students describe the student.

I also read some articles with great ideas for alternatives to bringing in cupcakes, but I'm not sure how well that would go over (with the kids or the parents!). But the child could donate a book to the class library-we'd write a special message in it for them. The parents could come have lunch with them in the cafeteria-that one doesn't sound so exciting when I say it out loud. :) Still mulling it over. I don't like having food in the classroom at all---did I tell you about the time I put on my shoe last year and it had a big roach in it! Ewwww! And cupcakes are about the hardest things to clean up-the dye in that frosting ends up everywhere-no matter how careful we remind the kiddos to be. Oh well, we'll see how brave I end up being!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Digital Story Resources

 I find that every year, the kids come in more and more digitally-oriented. I can read them a story and inevitably they fidget and play with their shoes and talk to their neighbor. I do the different character voices, I cold call kids that look like they aren't paying attention--nothing works. But if I play the same exact story on the Smartboard, suddenly I have every single student engaged! My neighbor was telling me that her daughter, who is 3, walked up to the tv and started swiping it the other day-she could understand why the image didn't change like it did on the ipad! These kids are growing up in a different era, and I think we have to cater to that.

Tumblebooks is a great resource! It is a pay service, however if you Google the name plus public library, you will find a link where they post the stories for free. They have a whole bunch of Robert Munsch stories on there, The Dot and Ish which I know are teacher favorites.

Another is Discovery Education (United Streaming). Sometimes they are hard to find because if you search for stories there are thousands. But I will type in "Weston Woods" which is the publisher and many favorites come up. My kids love Angus, Where the Wild Things Are, Tikki Tikki Tembo and Chrysanthemum. One of my favorites is the Tale of Two Chickens...(didn't she know he was a fox--she doesn't read! :)

Barnes and Noble has a place they call Online Storytime where there are only a few titles-but good ones and they are read by their authors, including the Kissing Hand which I know is a staple in many classrooms for the first day of school.

Another great resource is YouTube. I know, you can't access it at school. Just download the videos with a program like YouTube Downloader. I was so excited to find this gem recently-read by Shel Silverstein.

And this one where celebrities read the stories. Of course, the kiddos don't usually know who the actor/actress is, but I find it to be very cool!

And lastly, this is one that I put my kiddos on when they work in stations. I like it because the text comes up as they listen to the story. They have fractured fairy tales and cute little rhymes in the preschool section. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Quote Journals

In my quest to find new ideas for journaling next year, I came across this one and thought I'd share. I got many great suggestions from fellow bloggers-I think it's so nice how generous our community is with sharing ideas! Anyway, I saw what was being marketed as quote journals-really it was just a journal with a quote on the front. However, this got me thinking about the kids' journals; I've always been a fan of quotes. In high school I actually started a journal that I still have, with various quotes I liked from people I liked. Now with Pinterest, you can imagine how much time I waste looking at "inspirational quotes". :)

So I would print out the quote, just like I do with their poems (maybe on computer labels-that way they can just stick it in) and the kids would write their interpretation and draw an illustration of what it means. Often, we use a quote in our morning warm-up discussion and it's a bit of a challenge for them.

I think our first one will be "just keep walking along, singing your song"-Pete the Cat. They are big fans so I think they'll get a kick out of it. :)

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Story: Because of Mr. Terupt

I do a student book club for 3rd-5th graders and I'm trying to get a jump on reading some of the books from this year's list. And even though I teach young kids, I do read chapter books to them throughout the year. So I'm always on the lookout for books that may be a bit over their reading level, but that they could learn something from. This story is one that not only profiles what kids think is a great teacher, but it also tells the story from multiple perspectives. That style is something that drives me crazy when I read for my own pleasure (sometimes I can't keep track of who is who or who is talking at that moment). But in this book it really works. I also like that it builds up to an event that you can kind of see coming, but you imagine it will turn out as serious as it does.

If I was reading this aloud with young kids, I would definitely have to edit a little bit. They play pranks with each other and some get a little out of hand. But I think it's a story that has potential for activities in comparing perspectives and building suspense as a writer.
Just sharing a new title I thought was interesting. Hopefully there will be more gems to profile and I make my way down my list! :)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Encouraging Imaginations

One of my all-time favorite quotes:

I clearly remember my mother reading us the Lion, Witch and Wardrobe series well into the ages that we could have effectively read them ourselves. I know there has been a big push in the last few years for adding more non-fiction text to the primary grades, because that's what kids often see in their standardized testing. And although, I do agree it's important that kids get exposed to that genre, I do also think that fanciful tales meant to encourage imagination can be vital for instilling that spark of creativity in our kiddos. After all, if we expect them to be creative in their writing, we need to show them what that looks like.

Here are a couple of books you may not have heard of that I think promote a creative spirit:

"When Lily Brown starts to paint, her world starts to change." 

A fanciful tale of tooth-fairies-in-training attempting to pick up their first tooth. I think a modern-day fairy tale!

This one caught my eye on display at Valentine's Day. My kiddos love wordplay, so the title alone I knew would catch them. But it's about what would happen if we literally "planted" a kiss.

A great little story about a Safari adventure-the twist at the end is that it's a boy playing with his toys imagining the whole thing!

A story about an imaginary friend.


Catching Readers Before They Fall Book Study Post

So I'm linking up with Kimberley at First in Maine: 

To comment on the book Catching Readers Before They Fall by Pat Johnson and Katie Keier.

Chapter 1: What I Loved

The authors noted their beliefs about teaching reading and many of them are ones that I share as well.

How I Connect It To My Learning:

I think it's important to reflect on where you are before you can figure out where you are going. So I made a list of beliefs of my own.

Chapter 2: What I Loved

"We try to make ourselves believe 'it's not our fault, there was something wrong with those kids'....we are very much opposed to the deficit model that blames the child for his or her reading difficulties". I hear this all the time from other teachers and would add that they throw in the lack of parental support as well-if the parents would read with them at home, they wouldn't be struggling. I actually worked with a teacher who decided the first day of school that the child would have to be retained that year. I really try not to judge people-but that just infuriated me! I agree with the authors that the buck has to stop with us as the classroom teachers.

"Frequently we become so focused on learning the names and definitions of the strategies that make up the system...we overlook the integration".

I can definitely see how this happens. Every year we have trainings on making sure we cover things like making inferences, etc. and I think many teachers take those strategies back to their rooms in isolation and work on them. Instead of looking at the whole reader and how to integrate their strategies together.

How I Connect It To My Learning:

I know I have had readers that really struggled and I really felt powerless as to how to help them. We practiced high-frequency words, we read and re-read text. We worked on decoding strategies. But I never really thought about how all those things fit together to make what these authors refer to as a "reading process". That's something I am looking forward to reading more about as we continue.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Journal Help

I am very passionate about teaching writing to my kiddos. In Kindergarten it takes a LOT of patience and modeling but looking through the journals my students kept this year--they made soooo  much progress in their writing. The first day most of them are barely writing letters and by the end the fact that they are writing whole sentences...well, I was very proud of them! :)

I am looping up with my kids to 1st Grade and I want to keep that momentum going. However, I do not want them to get bored with writing or associate it with a task they find monotonous (I already started getting the eye roles from the morning journal work-we have to write in our journals again!?). The supply list my new team came up with includes many journals and I'm looking for ideas of ones we can do that will be more exciting for my munchkins.

I do poetry journals once a week for the poem we are working on. Math journals never really worked out for me because by the time they copied the problem-time was up. I've heard of people having them glue in a problem and then answer it, but to me the journals should be more of a reflection of what they are learning. Maybe some sort of reading response journal...?

Do you guys use any fun kinds of journals that may help my students retain their enjoyment of writing?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

You Might Be a GT Teacher If.....

I haven't done one of these in a while. I officially teach a stand-alone GT class (although this past year only 8 of my kids had been identified as GT before we started the year). We do test 4-year olds in our process. Some people protest that, but I believe that the earlier you identify them, the earlier they can really be challenged. I love being the one to lay the foundation for all those critical thinking concepts. There are some myths about teaching GT kids that I hear a lot. Like for one how it's easier....LOL.

So how do you know if you are a GT teacher?

1) Your kiddos have just as many behavior issues as other classes do. Maybe even more so if they aren't being challenged enough.

2) Your students struggle academically. It's a myth that Gifted means academically superior. In some cases, absolutely that can be true. But in my Kinder class for at least the past few years, I have had zero students begin day one being able to truly read. And even if they can read,  it's a natural ability-you have to teach reading backwards so they can learn the phonics rules which will help with spelling and fill in those gaps.

3) Your munchkins are very, very, very sensitive and there's lots of drama. My kids even know what that word means because I say it all the time. Someone taking your chair or you not knowing an answer on the test can genuinely seem like the end of the world!

4) It takes you sooooo long to prepare lessons so they can be engaging and novel. I spend so much time online (what did we do before the internet?) trying to find original ideas for projects. It is definitely a myth that teaching GT kids is easier--if you are doing it right anyway.

5) You have to light a fire under some kiddos. Many people think a child can't be GT if they don't like learning--I have several students like this in my classes every year. Not to mention there's a lot of literature out there on underachieving GT kids!

6) You will be asked questions 576 times per day. What does that word mean? Do fish drink water? If there were no people when dinosaurs lived, where did people come from? (how exactly do you explain evolution to a 5-year old :). I do very much encourage this, but boy, sometimes it makes it hard to just get through a lesson!

7) Your students really do try to incorporate their vocabulary words. We were talking about good citizenship the other day and one of my girls talked about "expiring her neighbors". I had to ask her a couple of times to find out what she meant-apparently she wanted to "expire" them to go out and help people too (inspire! :). Or my all time favorite-I said something sarcastic (I teach the kids about this concept-how you have to listen to an author's tone in determining the meaning). And he told me how he knew I was just being "psychotic"! :)

8) Your room is a little bit messier than that of the other teachers. We did an activity last week and I asked to use one of the teacher's drying racks--she didn't have a problem with it, they never paint. I'm not judging in any way--but I don't think I could ever make it through a whole year with no projects. How do you teach creativity never giving them an opportunity to show their learning in creative ways!

9) Your kids remember everything! Remember that time you made an off-hand comment about how you played in a snow forts when you were little, uh huh--they will bring that up 5 months later. Or that conversation you had with your neighboring teacher about how you have to split up the class on Friday-they are paying attention to that too. Now if I could just get them to remember to put their names on their papers! :)

10) You are just astounded and amazed at what these kiddos can achieve every single day.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

This Is Not My Hat

I discovered Jon Klassen through the student book club I facilitate for. The book:

was on our list. The kids just loved it! I saw that there was another hat-related book and we had to check that out too. It's called:

The endings are great for discussing how authors sometimes don't spell out what happens at the end of a story, but you have to infer what happened. I also, of course, like the latter book for a discussion of the ethics involved. The fish gives many excuses as to why he is keeping the hat, even though it's not his. My kiddos wrote about their feelings on the matter.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Cutest Story

Have you heard of:

I may be a little bit biased because you know, I'm a dog-lover--- but I think this book is soooo cute! It's basically a profile of different breeds of dogs, they are speaking from their perspective about their unique characteristics. And of course, they have a German Shepherd! My shepherd doesn't "herd" people like the one in the book, but I don't think my baby knows she's a dog at all, much less how she's supposed to act as a dog! She's not spoiled by the way....she's cherished. :)

I can see the kiddos writing from their pet's perspective or classifying the different dogs by their attributes. There are many possibilities! I love how it starts out with the puppy and its owners expectations for him and ends with an older dog who does all those things now.

Anyway, just thought I'd share! Hope everyone is either enjoying their summer break or at least close to getting there. I'm teaching summer school-not even a day in-between as a break! But I really like it-I like working with a different group of kids and really trying to fill in those gaps.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Exit Ticket T-Shirts

I encourage reflection from my munchkins on what they are learning throughout the day. A little more challenging is asking them what they have learned throughout the year. We always do a t-shirt where they can write some of the skills they learned in Kindergarten. They have all their friends sign the back of the shirt.