Conferring with Readers

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Have you started conferring with readers during your literacy block? My amazing literacy coach introduced my staff to conferring this school year and it has made such an incredible difference. I am by no means an expert, but here are some resources I used to get started!

What is conferring? (my take, anyway)
Meeting with students where they're at, academically and physically (meaning, get down on the floor next to them where they are to read with them) and spending time discussing the book THEY are reading independently. Conferences take LESS than 5 minutes with a specific goal and time for you, as the teacher, to get to KNOW your readers!

What does conferring look like?
What?!? I move around the room and talk individually with students about their books??? And you're telling me the conference is less than 5 minutes? Are you kidding me? I had ZERO clue where to start. Thanks, again, to my lit coach, she showed us this great Jennifer Serravallo video. It was a great starting point. Now, do all my conferences look like this? NOPE and that's okay. I've adjusted my conferring style to what works best for me and my students!

What questions do I ask?
Again, NO clue at first. I started out with the usual questions - problem, solution, characters, setting, new information learned, blah, blah, blah. I wanted to go deeper, so I started researching. I started with the hierarchy of goals (check them out on her blog HERE) in Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book. This really helped me get started with what I should be looking for. I then, of course, cross referenced with multiple other reading resources I had (we all know we've got them collecting dust on our shelves) and of course, found some on the wonderful world of the Internet. I had STACKS of books, papers, and websites for great questioning.

Now, I didn't want to carry around all these stacks on stacks on stacks to the carpet, then to a desk, then at a corner table, then to a crate seat (yes, I do flexible seating), so I put together all the questions into categories and wrote them up on cards in two formats. Check them out in my TpT store HERE if you're interested!

Now what???
Give it a whirl! It may not be pretty at first and may not make sense, but once you get into the groove, you'll see the benefits of conferring with readers!

Using Task Cards in the Classroom PLUS How to Store Them!

Monday, April 17, 2017
Do you use task cards in your classroom? I started using them for math and absolutely LOVE them. It's a great way to practice your content while getting students moving around. You can easily use them whole group, small group or individually with students depending on their needs.

All you have to do is print out the task cards you're using for content, cut them out and tape them up around the room. Give your students an answer sheet (I actually create a quiz page in our Schoology account if you have that - super easy and less paper.) Then students wander around the room solving problems instead of sitting in one spot and doing worksheets - it's a win-win in my book!

There are so many great resources and Teachers Pay Teachers sellers out there that have such a variety of task cards. I have created some in my own store that you can find HERE. I also have a few favorite go-to stores depending on level of content I need: Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd, Lucky Little Learners, Blair Turner and Rachel Lynette!

Now, storing task cards can be a bit of a pain, but not with these incredible photo organizers from Michael's. Make sure to be patient and wait for a Michael's coupon - it pays off! I have 4 of these photo organizers and they are amazing! You can also get them on Amazon HERE!

How do you use task cards in your classroom? My next goal: use them in literacy too :)

Getting Ready for a Student Teacher

Friday, March 3, 2017
I really love having a student teacher and practicum students in my classroom. It's such a great way to share your passion for teaching! However, it can be a bit overwhelming when they're about to start! Here are a few ways I get my student teachers ready!

Organize a Space for Them
We want these student teachers to feel like they have some ownership in the classroom. I always find a nook with a table or desk for them to use so they feel like it's their workspace and their classroom. I usually put them in the opposite corner than my desk so they have their own space. Plus, it's always nice to have an extra set of eyes on the opposite side of the classroom. I make sure this space is set up BEFORE they come in!

Welcome Basket
I like to put together a little welcome basket with some teacher essentials - really quick and easy. I put in a few items such as post-its, Flair pens, a clipboard, paper clips, etc. I like to get them in the teacher mode. And let's be real, they will need all these things at some point, so instead of them feeling like they're always asking for little things, provide them with it all right away!

Meet with Them Before They Start
I find it's really important to meet with your student teacher before they get started. It's good to get to know them a little bit and for them to know you. I usually like my student teacher to come right before students go out for recess, so my kiddos can put a face to a name and know who to expect coming in. Then I spend my lunch period showing my student teacher around the building, discussing expectations, showing them our workroom, showing them how to make copies and all the little things that we won't have time for on the first day.

Resources Binder or File
I swayed away from a binder of printed papers this year and switched to a Google Doc which has worked amazingly so far! In the doc, I include a slew of information for them so they can reference it throughout their time. I also love using a Google Doc so I can easily add any information for them that I forgot or that has come up throughout their placement that they will need to know. Here is all the info I include: 

  • important dates
  • important people to know
  • a general schedule for my blocks and specials
  • the curriculum topics that will be covered during their time with me
  • curriculum resources I use frequently in my teaching
  • any behavior or special ed students they need to be aware of
  • a general description of our school make-up, as well as our school-wide behavior program
  • my expectations of them (how to dress/act, professionalism, etc.)
  • a calendar of their progression into their lead weeks so they know what they will be expected to teach each week

Give Them Homework
I always give student teachers homework for their first day. It's usually 2 things. The first is an introductory letter to be sent home to families. In the letter, I want them to tell about themselves a little bit and make sure parents and families are aware of their presence in the classroom for their placement. The second is a community building activity to do with the students on their first day. I give them about a half an hour to plan for a way to get to know the students and their names right away.

How do you get ready for a student teacher? I'd love to hear some more tips!

10 Ways to Use 10 Frames

Sunday, February 19, 2017
Ten frames are such a great tool to use in any classroom! Ten frames help students subitize, build mental math strategies and structure numbers to 10. Here are 10 ways you can use 10 frames in your classroom!

Flash Ten Frames
Flash a ten frame at the student(s) for approximately one second. Then ask the student the following questions: How many were on top? How many on the bottom? How many altogether? How many more to make 10? Mix it up: Use frames with black counters, frames with red/blue counters, pair-wise counters or five-wise counters!

Quick Writes 
Each student will need a whiteboard or piece of paper and a marker. Flash the ten frame at the student(s). Students will then write how many dots are on the frame on their whiteboard. You can also flash a ten frame and students need to write the number that goes with the frame to make 10 like in the picture below. Share out answers.

Quick Write Pairs
Each student will need a whiteboard or piece of paper and a marker. Flash the ten frame at the student(s). Students will then write the combination of 10 the frame represents on their whiteboard. Share out answers.

Slap 10
This game is just like the game Slapjack. You may need 2-4 sets of ten frames depending on how many students are in your group. Two frames are flipped over. If together they make a full frame, the first student to slap the pair gets the cards. Play until the cards run out. The winner who has the most cards at the end of the deck wins.

Work Mats
Give each student a blank ten frame with chips. Tell students to create a number on their 10 frame. Then discuss how they made the number. Give students the freedom to create their number however they would like to discuss the various combinations.

Observe Frames
Study the various ten frames. You can also use red and blue ten frames found {HERE}. Ask students what they see, how many are on top and the bottom, as well as how many more to make 10. Be sure to expose students to pair-wise frames and five-wise frames.

Flash and Yell the Number
Flash the ten frame. Students yell back the number. Whoever yells the number first gets the card. The player with the most cards at the end wins. The students could also yell the number that goes with the frame to make 10!

Flash and Yell the Pair
Flash the ten frame. Students yell back the pair on the ten frame. Whoever yells the pair first gets the card. The player with the most cards at the end wins.

Math Games
There are a ton of math games with ten frames. Check out my products HERE and check out this search I did on Pinterest HERE. Tons of great ideas!

Shake and Spill
We often do a shake and spill version with equations, but it really helps giving kids concrete manipulatives to solidify their learning. Put 10 two-colored counters in a cup. Shake and spill. Then place the counters on a work mat. Discuss how many are red, yellow, and the combination to make 10.

Also, check out this great blog post I found that gives a great description of why we use 10 as a benchmark. How do you use ten frames in your classroom?

Classroom Inspirational Words

Monday, February 6, 2017
I entered a new classroom this year and I knew I had to spruce it up. I love bright colors and have a pretty ugly brick wall with little character. I knew I wanted to put something inspirational on that wall. Here is what I did!

It was SUPER easy! I typed one letter to a page on a PowerPoint slide. I printed the letters on the specific colored paper I wanted. Then I laminated the pages and cut them out! Make sure you have enough colored card stock or paper per the word you want.

A little tip: for the inside of the closed letters (o, p, r, etc.), I used a utility knife on a hard surface so the letters wouldn't be bent.

If you want these words for FREE, grab them HERE!

EASY Classroom Curtains!

Sunday, January 15, 2017
I moved to a new school this year, which means a new classroom to design! It's January and I still haven't made it just the way I would like, but it's a work in progress -- it always takes me a good school year to get a new classroom set just the way I like it...anyone else?

Anyway, I love my new classroom - I have some really great features that work well for my style and my students. However, the building is quite old and dated, so I needed to make some adjustments. I have these great cabinets for storage that span an entire wall, but boy, are they UUUUGGGLLLYYYY. The cabinet doors were all nicked up and were SUCH a pain to open and close. You would think they slide open easily...they don't.

 They are OLD and I would get so frustrated trying to get ANYTHING out of I took the doors off.

It was really easy to access all my items and for students too if they needed, but I also hated seeing all my storage, so I started looking into curtains. I searched for HOURS trying to find the perfect curtains of the perfect length and just couldn't drop the cash needed for 6 of these. So I did some research for some DIY curtains. Side note: I am NOT crafty. I do not sew or anything of the like. I also need easy because I am not the most patient person.

I found some great options and decided on tie curtains. SUPER EASY and not too expensive. All I needed was fabric and tension rods. I had a couple tension rods laying around my house, so I just picked up some $5 rods at Walmart. Then I went to Hobby Lobby and snagged some fabric on sale. For all 6 cabinets, it cost me about $60. I didn't think that was too bad considering I LOVE them and will be keeping them for years to come.

Okay, here's a QUICK how to!

1. Measure your cabinets to make sure you have the correct lengths when fabric shopping. My cabinets were 22 inches tall by 37 inches wide. I decided on a yard and a half for the width and then I needed to double the height because you will be wrapping it around the rod to tie, so my fabric had a height of 44 inches.

2. Fold the fabric in half by the height. My fabric was now a yard in a half by 22 inches. Cut the fabric into 1 inch strips. I wasn't worried about being super neat and straight - you don't notice when they're all together anyway.

3. Wrap the strip around the rod and tie. Repeat until the curtain is complete.

Easy, right??? Check out the finished product!

All 6 curtains took about 2 hours. Once I got rolling, it went by quick and was fun to see the progress. I love them!

Morning Routine - Read, Write, Draw or Chill

Friday, November 18, 2016
Mornings can be a tricky time - attendance and lunch count need to be taken, homework and forms need to be collected, students might be eating breakfast, and the list goes on. Mornings can get chaotic very quickly. I started this routine last year with my 5th graders and it really helps students start their day off right while allowing me to get everything situated and organized to begin the day smoothly.

My simple rule: Read, Write, Draw or Chill

1. Read - I try to give students the opportunity to read as much as possible. One of my main goals in 5th grade is to teach them the love of reading! If they want to dive back into the book they've been reading, then go for it!

Have you heard of Epic?? My students LOVE this app! I set up an account and added all my students. So many of them enjoy Epic in the morning while I'm getting everything organized!

2. Write - Again, I want to instill the love of writing for 5th graders and students buy into writing more when they can write about things they want to. We're learning about so many different genres and I want students to be able to explore those on their own time.

My students are also really into graphic novels, so they have started making their own!

3. Draw - I love giving my artists a chance to draw and create using their imagination. Several of my students LOVE this option and create sculptures out of paper or build puzzles to solve. One of my students is really into learning Japanese and has started drawing various symbols during his morning time.

4. Chill - Giving students time to just relax before the hustle and bustle of the day is just what some of them really need. They may need time to decompress, maybe try to wake up a little more, or just hang out and relax.

During this time, students are always instructed to stay at their desks. This gives the room more structure and takes away the chance for more chaos. It usually lasts about 15 minutes and works like a charm. Students know their expectations and I am ready to get started after logistical items being taken care of.

How do you run your mornings when students first come into your classroom?

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