Conferences: FREEBIE

Friday, November 20, 2015
We are all about growth at my school, so that is our focus of parent-teacher conferences. We don't want parents to constantly get discouraged with the skills their students can't do. We want them to feel uplifted by the skills their student have made GROWTH on!

Here is the form I use for parent-teacher conferences - it's called a Growth Report.

Here is the FREEBIE!
Happy conferences!

Mental Math Addition Strategies

Saturday, November 14, 2015
Students are taught the standard algorithm for double and triple digit addition way too early! Because of this, they learn the routine instead of the actual reasoning. They treat addition as a procedure and often do not understand how place value works. Then when students make a mistake in the procedure, they're unable to fix their error because they don't understand what went wrong.

I'm trying to break that standard algorithm and truly teach these students how to use mental math strategies to solve double and triple digit addition.

Here are the strategies: split, jump and round. Students are actually teaching themselves these strategies to solve these problems and I document them in the classroom for other students to use.
My students are doing amazing work with these skills which contributes to building the foundations of subtraction, multiplication and division!

Ecosystems Mentor Texts

Thursday, October 29, 2015
We are just finishing up our unit on ecosystems in 5th grade, so I wanted to share a few great mentor texts I used. These texts really talk about the effect humans have on ecosystems and the environment. Using read alouds during your science and social studies blocks is a great way to integrate your units with literature!
Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg: You can find it on Amazon here. The book tells the story of a boy who travels to different places in his dream noticing how badly humans have ruined the planet. He learns a lesson throughout the book that we need to take care of the earth or else our future will be in trouble.

A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry: You can find it on Amazon here. This book talks about a beautiful and resourceful river the Nashua Indians used. After excessive human impact, the river became severely polluted and ruined the surrounding ecosystem. The story also tells about how people came together and chose to clean up the river to renew its resources to the surrounding community.

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry: You can find it on Amazon here. This books begins with a man going into the forest to cut down a tree. The animals of the forest try to convince him not to cut down the tree and give several reasons why.

These mentor texts have great extending lessons that can be used as well!

Exploration Stations

Sunday, October 11, 2015
Playing is learning! Teachers have so much content to teach and curriculum to follow, but allowing students time to play is so worth it!
This year, I have implemented Exploration Stations. I am not able to fit in every day, but we try to schedule it as much as possible. Also, if my students get through some required work early, as a class, we dive in our play! The only rule we have is no technology! My students are on technology for a lot of instruction time, so I want them to experience some play without screen time.

Students build such amazing skills through this time. They're able to build imagination and creativity. They work collaboratively with peers. Students are building relationships and working on speaking to one another appropriately. Here area few ways we implement Exploration Stations in the classroom!

1. Board Games
Board games are a great way for students to build strategic skills, as well as communicate with others and being good sports. Some of our favorites include Battleship, Candy Land and Connect Four.

2. Legos
Kids LOVE Legos! They're able to build and work on that creativity and imagination. They can definition add up in price, but they truly never get old.

3. Card Games
Kids LOVE old school War, Crazy 8s and Solitaire. Cards are such a great tool to have in the classroom. I was able to go to my local casino and they donated so many sets to my school!

4. Magna Tiles
Magna Tiles are super addicting! They can be a bit pricey, but you can definitely find deals on Amazon or get the knock-off brand. Find them HERE on Amazon. They work just as great - more bang for your buck :)

5. Dominoes
Play actual dominoes, stack them, build marble mazes - anything works! Grab some reasonable dominoes HERE and marbles HERE.

6. Free Art Time
I bought some cheap yarn and beads. Kids went crazy for them and they have lasted awhile. Kids also love braiding the yarn to make bracelets and necklaces. Students can also use this time to use their own art supplies, extra paper, markers, etc. Giving kids some freedom with these materials sparks some creativity.

7. Check the Target Dollar Spot!
More often than not, there are always little toys, connectors, cheap items that students can use to build or create! Cheap and easy way to incorporate engineering and math into the Exploration Stations.

It's pretty amazing what your students can do given the time to practice these skills. I also give my students choice on what they want to do during this time - as long as there is no technology! Give them a little digital detox and give those kiddos time to PLAY!

Thinking Partners

Monday, July 27, 2015
We all have those students in our classroom that aren't afraid to share their thinking - they're extroverted and quick thinkers. What about the students who are quiet - the students who are more introverted and may need more time to process? What about the students that aren't quite engaged and need some accountability? Here is a way that ALL students participate in a lesson - it's called Thinking Partners!

Here is how it works! Check out this board!
Each week, students are given a thinking partner - they are either peanut butter or jelly and their partner is in the column next to them as the opposite. When working in whole groups or partner activities, this is the person they work with. Whenever I pose a prompt or question to the group, students are given quality thinking time - students are not to talk or raise their hand during this time. After think time, I say "turn and talk to your partner" and then decide who goes first - either peanut butter or jelly. Then the students turn and talk and whoever was designated to go first, shares. I usually switch off who starts first, but sometimes I may have jelly go first twice in a row to mix things up. After students have time to talk to their partners, I bring them all back whole group. I now know that all students have discussed the topic being taught before whole-group sharing.

Using this strategy has been really powerful in my classroom - the students who are extroverted are given opportunities to listen while those that are introverted can give their opinions and thoughts.

I used peanut butter and jelly with my students, however, there are endless options for partners, such as Hot Cheetos and Takis, chips and salsa, your school mascot (ex: Hoover and Huskies). Use what you see fit for your class!

Each week, I change the thinking partners in a clockwise rotation so students can practice talking with new people! How do you get your students to actively participate in your classroom?

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