2015 to 2016: Reflection and GOALS

Thursday, December 31, 2015
I cannot believe 2015 is already coming to a close! It has been a fantastic year!!!

My Year in Review

I got married to an incredible man that supports me in all that I do! We also took an AMAZING honeymoon to Alaska - drove the ENTIRE way from Wisconsin!

I also started my Teachers Pay Teachers store and this little baby blog. I have a lot to learn as I go, but I'm so thrilled about this journey.

Finally, I transitioned from 2nd to 5th grade this year - probably one of the most amazing career changes I've made. I love, love, love these fifth graders and find myself being better because of them. I think I may have found my niche...for now :)

GOALS for 2016!

I want to build my Teachers Pay Teacher store! Since beginning my store, I changed my focus because I switched grades! I'm creating products that are more relevant to fifth grade content. With changing grades, I literally have about 25-30 started and UNFINISHED products. I'm still trying to figure out the content and make these products great! Time to finish those resources.

I would also like to build my presence on social media! I looooooove hearing from so many others on social media - Amy Lemons, Ashley Schroeder, Sheila Jane, just to name a few! I have created a little guide for me to track my followers on the various forms of social media. Check out the freebie HERE! I'm hoping this helps me focus on what is needed to build my business AND connect with other amazing teachers out there!

Last, on a more personal note - I need to get my health in check. It's been getting worse and worse throughout the years, and it's time to manage it. I started a new gym close to school, so no excuses of missing out. It's a boot camp gym with an incredible community of supporters - just what I need! I have also created a new diet plan with them! They are incredible and I'm confident this will work!

Hope everyone has time to reflect on their 2015 and get ready to rock 2016!

Happy New Years!!!

New World Explorers: Reader's Theater

Friday, December 11, 2015
This week has been SO exciting, yet so exhausting all at the same time! We are wrapping up our unit about New World Explorers and the impact they had. I wrote up a reader's theater for my students to perform. Check it out HERE. They had such an amazing time doing this!

First, we read the reader's theater as a whole group. We discussed it and talked about the characters. Then we split up into 3 small groups (there are only 5 characters in the story and I have a smaller class, so this worked out well).

Once we assigned roles, we decided to come up with props to use!

We created the props and then practiced, practiced, practiced! The students highlighted their lines and would practice during reading, in small groups, and we practiced in front of our classmates as well.

Then it was time to perform! They did so well!!!

We had a full house in our classroom! Everyone had compliments for the actors and they were super proud of their hard work!

The students were having fun while solidifying their knowledge about the New World Explorers and their affect on North and South America! Love, love, love integrating units! :)

New World Explorer Research

Thursday, December 10, 2015
My students are diving into history and learning about how the explorers after Christopher Columbus impacted the New World. We have been working on informative writing, so research is needed first before writing! HERE I have created a research packet for students to write brief notes about the explorers.

My students used various resources to do their research - books, videos and websites. Some resources that were used online include: World Book, Pebble Go, and Brain Pop. Check with your administrator or tech integrator to see if these sites are available for your students. They're very user friendly and differentiated so students at all levels can use them with ease.

Once students had their research notes, they wrote a paragraph about each explorer. They used the information they learned and created slides in Google Slides. You can also use PowerPoint, have students create a poster or word document as well.

Finally, my students chose one explorer they researched that they wanted to display in the classroom. Students were able to discuss their work with partners in the classroom and share out their work.

What kind of teacher are YOU?

Monday, December 7, 2015
Making the switch from second to fifth grade has been one of the best professional moves I've made. I love the age group, the content is really interesting, and I just feel like I've found my niche. HOWEVER, I can't lie. It's been a bit draining. Learning all new content as well as instructional strategies has bogged me down. My brain is fried.

I've been having a tough time the past couple weeks. I want to do what is best for my students, so I have a million unfinished projects flying around. In the meantime, I see all these amazing teachers doing such amazing work in their rooms and it got intimidating, even frustrating to think I wasn't doing my part.

Then it hit me. We are NOT all the same. We are all at different stages in our journey. We all have successes and we all have struggles. I've been selling on TpT for almost a year now, blogging for about 6 months (not consistently at all), and in the meantime trying to make this the best classroom for my kiddos.

I decided to really sit down and think:

What kind of teacher am I? What do I believe in? What makes the most sense for me as an educator and the building that I work in? We are all on our own paths. I've been trying to channel my inner Ashley Schroeder and Sheila Jane. I need to own my journey - no one else's. This is not about comparing myself to others. It's about using this amazing community of educators to be the best I can be with inspiration through them and through myself.

Now...which unfinished project should I work on that reflects ME and MY teaching???

Super Fun Math Center: Structuring Numbers!

Friday, December 4, 2015
Math Workshop is my absolute FAVORITE! I always try to incorporate fun math games to engage these kiddos and this one was a hit!

We are all about structuring numbers to 5, 10, and 20 to build numeracy skills! In this game, kids take a card off the top of the deck without looking at it. Then they place it on their forehead seen below.

Their partner needs to explain their number to them. So the partner would say, "Your number goes with 1 to make 10." Or, "Your number goes with 11 to make 20." The student with the card needs to say what their card is from the clues. If they get it correct, they get to keep it.

You can also challenge some of your higher kids with something like, "Your number goes with 48 to make 50." Or, "Your number goes with 68 to make 70."

Of course I had to play too!

Happy Friday!

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 got 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 that I teach: split, jump and round. Students are actually teaching themselves these strategies to solve these problems.

My students are doing amazing work with these skills which contributes to building the foundations of subtraction, multiplication and division!

Polluting the Potomac

Tuesday, November 3, 2015
As my students are wrapping up our Ecosystems Unit, I wanted to find an exciting activity to bring it all together. I found this incredible resource to simulate pollution HERE. It's called "Who Polluted the Potomac?" I decided to give it a shot with my students and it was a hit!

The hands-on learning lead to some amazing discussion about human impact on our environment and ecosystems. We discussed the various sources of pollution and also were able to come up with solutions on how to eliminate or reduce pollution.

Here is a picture of a few of the items you need for the activity. I had almost all of the items around my house or classroom (SCORE!). The only items I had to get was soil and leaves (which I had my students collect during their recess). It was so incredibly easy to set up!

With this amazing resource, there is a story that goes along with it. The story already has stopping points with discussion questions and lays out when you add in what substance to pollute the water.

To wrap up the lesson, I told them to try to clean up their polluted Potomac River. They looked at my like I was crazy, but tried the best they could. We talked about how once the damage is done, it's really difficult to reverse it!

You have to check out this activity. I did it with my 5th graders, but it could easily be done in any grades. It has such a powerful message, great discussion opportunities and nothing beats hands-on learning!

Amazing Engaging Math Center!

Monday, November 2, 2015
I grew up playing the game Shut Box with my family! Just until recently, I realized that it is the perfect game for math centers! This game builds numeracy skills, as well as problem solving skills to manipulate numbers for various sums. There are a few different types of boards to play. I found this great 4 player game on Amazon here that is perfect for my classroom!

How to Play: Player 1 rolls the dice and adds the numbers. Then the player is able to knock down any combination of that number. The goal of the game is to get all your numbers knocked down first.
Example: Here an 8 is rolled. The player may put down the 8 tile or choose a combination of numbers, such as 7 and 1, or 6 and 2, or 3, 4, and 1 and so on. If they roll a number they cannot make, their turn is missed. However, the player cannot knock down an 8 AND a 7 and 1. They must choose one combination.

It's worth the $25 and the students are hooked!

Mentor Texts for Ecosystems and Human Impact on the Earth

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.

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!

Organizing Your Classroom Library: WITH A FREEBIE!

Friday, October 23, 2015
Happy Friday everyone!

Organizing your classroom library can be a huge task! When I moved into my new classroom this year in a new grade, I did what I could to make it work for the time being knowing I would tackle it when I had more time.

Teaching 5th grade, I knew my students could help! I had the students go through the books (sooooooooo many of them) and find some common themes. They would put those books into a pile with a Post-It labeling what the pile was about. It could be a genre we've been discussing, a topic, an author, etc. They did all the work which was really fun and engaging for the kids! Now they have so much ownership over the library and were able to touch so many more books.

Because I had so many books and love having a lot of space for my students to move around in the classroom, I had a great idea! My principal was on board and my amazing custodial staff made it happen.

I have extra storage under my windows (I am an ANTI pack rat), so we took the sliding doors off and it's a perfect spot for the books! It opens up my classroom so much!

Here are a couple of the bin labels my students came up with.

They also chose to make bins with books on topics that we'll be studying this year, such as ecosystems.

The kids had a great time with this project. I wish I had a before picture to show the thousands of books laid across my room.

Now for the FREEBIE, here are the labels I used for my classroom library. I also brainstormed label ideas with a coworker for her classroom library as well so you have more to choose from if you'd like! Enjoy!

Exploration Station

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 a new time we call Exploration Station. I am not able to fit it in every day, but we try to schedule it in as much as possible. Also, if my students get through some required work early, as a class, we dive into our play! The only rule we have is no technology! My students are on technology all day, 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. These are just a few of the amazing reasons why we play in the classroom.

Here are some examples of things we do during our Exploration Station.

Board games are a great way for students to build strategic skills. Instead of playing Connect Four, sometimes students just want to build patterns with the pieces.

Kids LOVE Legos! They're able to build and work on that creativity and imagination.

I found this connectors at Target in the Dollar Spot! I bought 3-4 packs of them and the students build creations through patterns. Such a cheap and easy way to incorporate engineering and math into the Exploration Station.

These are Magna Tiles that can be a bit pricey. I was fortunate to have them left in my classroom from the previous teacher. You can definitely go through Donors Choose to get an item like this or save up your Scholastic Reading Club points to try to score them that way.

I also allow students to use their art supplies. We have supplies in the classroom and I allow them to use my paper (usually the ugly colors I don't like from packs I buy :)). They cut, glue, color and end up creating amazing pop-out cards, slinks, etc.

It's pretty amazing what these students can do given the time to practice these skills. Give those kiddos time to PLAY!

Double-Digit Addition Mental Math Strategies

Wednesday, October 7, 2015
As teachers, we are all guilty of teaching math in a procedural way - I know I am! So, how can we teach math in a more exploratory way that builds mental math skills? Last year I changed the way I teach double-digit addition with my second graders and I'll never go back to the standard algorithm. I'm finding that my second graders that I taught last year have stronger mental math strategies than my 5th graders, so to start this year, we're going backwards and that's okay! Why teach multiplying and dividing fractions and decimals when they are still struggling with the WHY of regrouping and place value?!?

Here are a few strategies I use to help build mental math skills that gives students a true understanding of place value and regrouping.

First, I pose a problems for the students on a white board with manipulatives they can use if they choose.

Here is a picture of popsicle sticks that I put into bundles using hair ties - rubber bands always seem to break. Some popsicle sticks are singles as well. For this problem, students take out 28 popsicle sticks and take out 64 more. Then the students will be able to add them together. Eventually students will bundle the new groups of 10 as well instead of counting all the ones.

When students are moving past the stage of manipulatives, they can begin conceptualizing the numbers through jumping or splitting. Here is an example of a student splitting. He understands place value enough to split the numbers and add them together. This builds mental math strategies!

Finally this strategy easily transfers into triple digit addition problems.

Here are just a few tips on how to start building mental math strategies in the classroom!

Complete the Picture: Community Building

Thursday, September 17, 2015
Countdown to new blog design: 2 weeks!
I am beyond excited!

So I am all about community building in my classroom! We try to incorporate it so many times throughout the day. Students learn how to accept differences, talk through problems, and come up with solutions. Here is an example of a way we do this: Complete the Picture.

Each student is given the same piece of paper with a design. Students are instructed to use their imaginations and complete what they think the picture could be.

Same design, different pictures:

After students finished their drawings, we discuss and describe their thinking. We make sure to talk about how it's the same design, but different students created different pictures.

20 pages are included in this product to use throughout the school year! Check it out!

Happy Planning! :)

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