Friday, December 28, 2012

Contractions and QR Codes (Freebie)

Freebie Fridays

I had such a great time creating my first QR code activity, that I've made two more and decided to share one with my bloggy buddies! This one is a monster themed contraction practice activity in which students write contractions from two given words. To check themselves, they scan the QR code.

I hope you and your students enjoy these! 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

My First Crack at QR Codes

I've finally done it! One of my goals this school year is to integrate more technology into my math instruction, and I think I made a small step today. This morning I woke up and said to myself, "I want to create something that has to do with QR codes and renaming fractions in lowest terms. Here's the result:
Use your device to try out one of the codes!
The idea is that students rename each fraction using lowest terms, then scan the QR code to check their answers. If you're interested, you can check it out in my TN store.

So, how did I do it? It was so simple! First I designed my task cards and added everything except for the QR codes. Then I used two tools:

To make the code:
QR Stuff is a free, simple site to use for making codes. Since I started small, I decided to use my QR codes to give a text answer. On the site, simply choose the button beside 'plain text' and type the text that you want to appear in the content box. The QR code is generated automatically. You can change the color if you'd like or leave it black and white. Download it and insert it as an image.

To scan the code:
i-nigma is my favorite QR code scanner. It's free, and super fast. You can download it on your Apple device here, or from the Google Play store here. This is a screen shot of me using it just now. Sorry its a little tilted.  I literally had to snap it in less than a second because it read the code so quickly!

And that is it! I can't wait to try this game out on the kiddos in January. It will be my first use of QR codes in my fourth grade class. Hopefully, this has given you some ideas for getting started with QR codes as well. I'd love to hear your ideas for getting started, or how you're already using QR codes. 

You can also see this post on Technology Tailgate:

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Teaching My Calling: Extending Your Reach Using Social Media

Teaching My Calling: Extending Your Reach Using Social Media: On January 26, 2013, Farrah Kilgo ( Think*Share*Teach ) and I have the opportunity to present at the Alabama NBCT Network Conference .  T...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Student Gifts: Classroom Coupons

Do you have a particular gift that you like to get for your students each year? My coworkers and I have tried lots of gift ideas in the past, but the last four years we've really struck gold. We were tired of the little trinkets and toys that fall apart easily, or get left behind after the Christmas party, so I started making classroom coupon books for the children. They've been a huge hit! My kids love using them, and it's a gift that's fairly easy to put together...just print, cut, and secure with a ribbon. If you'd like a set, you can snag yours in my TN shop. I've created four different styles, including one without so much color to save those ink cartridges.

How about you? Are you allowed to have a party? Do you give gifts to your students? What do you usually give them? I'd love to hear from you and will give a free set of coupons of your choice to the first two people who comment!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Game, A Song, and an Epic Fail

What a roller coaster of a day! That's one of the things that is so great about teaching. It's different every day, and you have multiple opportunities to do fabulous (and sometimes not-so-fabulous) things. So it was today...

If you've not tried this equivalent fraction race, you have got to go right now and download it (Freebie from Holly Olberding). I was really nervous about this skill (naming equivalent fractions) until we took a review day today and played this awesome game. My kiddos can all name equivalent fractions now and we had a blast practicing!

We were actually using a different song for reviewing the continents and oceans, when we came across a group of students singing this one. So we thought, "Hey, why not us?" It wasn't on the lesson plan (Shhh) but aren't the best things sometimes impromptu? Check it out:

And finally, the EPIC FAIL:
I *thought* I had the most fabulous lesson ready to review setting with my kiddos during our literature circles today. I had the really cool graphic organizer. I had a high interest book (our read aloud). I modeled what I wanted them to do. One group at a time, they set out to read their books and apply what I'd just taught them. What a bummer. I quickly realized my little darlings were lost as geese! It was clear that I needed to back up and regroup and offer lots more support. Knowing there was no way to salvage this failure of a lesson in our allotted time, I decided to just let them read and discuss their stories with them. And re-plan this lesson for tomorrow. I've got some more tricks up my sleeve and tomorrow or Friday I'll be sharing a hopefully much more successful lesson with you.

What a day :)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

It's the Thought...

At the end of the day Thursday, I gathered the students and started out of the room for my afternoon bus duty when I heard from around the hall corner, "MRS. KILGO!!!!!!"  The shout was followed by a pair of little feet and a precious, smiling little 2nd grade boy. (I teach 4th). "CONGRATULATIONS!!!" The brother of one of my former students rushed up to me and gave me a huge hug. "My whole class said congratulations, Mrs. Kilgo!" I had recently been honored by being chosen as our district's elementary teacher of the year, and my principal announced it that morning over the intercom. As we made our way to the lunchroom to wait for the buses, this little sweet heart came back up to me and presented me with this cupcake. "I've been saving this for you ALL day!" It just doesn't get any more precious than that! Call me sentimental, but that cupcake is sitting on my kitchen counter right now. I'm keeping it for as long as I can. 


Monday, December 3, 2012

Text Structure Magic (and a Freebie)

Don't you love it when everything comes together? I had one of those magical moments today during reading and had to share! Like all of you, I'm working diligently to implement the new Common Core standards, and this week I decided to focus on 4.RL.5:
Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.
I knew I'd need to start small with this one, so I chose two texts to begin with and made a graphic organizer for my students to use.

We started by simply comparing and contrasting the features and structure of a chapter in our science books about rocks and a short story about a mountain eroding called The Sun, The Wind, and The Rain.
I modeled at first, then allowed students to work with partners and contribute to the organizer. Above is the neat copy I typed up. Trust me, you DON'T want to see my dark, doc camera, chicken scratch on the board version.

Next, I gave everyone a blank organizer and assigned two short texts from this week's basal lessons to read and compare/contrast with their table groups. One was a narrative, and one a newspaper article. After the students worked with table groups, we regrouped so that every person was in a new group and able to share what their group mates had discussed and written on their organizers. (Sorry I forgot to take pics of the kiddos' work). I'll try and add them tomorrow.

What was really great about this lesson was all of the connections we were able to make. We're learning about rocks in science, narrative story structure in writing, and plot structure in reading. At one point, we even reviewed subject/verb agreement as we were adding things to the class chart. Love it! Such a great lesson, using a simple idea.

And here's a little freebie for you: the blank graphic organizer. Just click on the link text below the picture to snag it!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I Opened a Store!

I never thought I would be saying those words, but I have a teacher store! I've been on the fence about it for over a year, but after long consideration and some encouragement from a friend, I decided to jump in and try it. I hesitated to open one for so long because I started teaching during the time when the online community shared freely with one another. Sites like Proteacher (still one of my favorites) abounded with files that teachers had made and just wanted to share with others. I felt the need to give back to all of those fabulous people who had taken the time to share.

For me, that thought hasn't changed---I still have loads of free files on my Files tab above, and also on my class website, and will continue to add some free files. But it was just this morning when I came to the realization that it is okay to sell some of the products I make. (This hit me after working for two hours on a character education file). I had created it for my own classroom use, but decided I wanted to share it with others, so I was making a title page, credits page, etc...

I'm starting to see the other side of the coin. It's okay to sell items that I've created. I work for hours on them. Some of the graphics I use have been purchased, and using digital scrapbook files, I can really be creative and make things look great.

I'm really excited about this, and I hope you'll stop by my store and have a look around. Any advice for a new teacher store owner? I'll take all I can get!

Thanks in advance.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Go Math! Implementation: Month 4

We're in our fourth month of implementing our new math program, and I must say that my kiddos and I are really making some great strides. We've learned a lot through these last few months, and are able to complete a lesson in a day's time. There are still many things I know that can be better, but we're all on the right track. Here are my top 53 "Aha!" moments:

  1. Do math first. "I do better in math when we have it first thing in the morning." This statement was echoed over and over by my kiddos after I did some schedule swapping one week. I suspected this, but wanted to hear it straight from the horses' mouths before I made the permanent change in our schedule. Our original schedule called for math in the afternoon, but we much prefer to have a read aloud and time to read to self at the end of the day. It's a better ending to a rigorous school day.
  2. Focus on the Essential Question: I sort of skipped over this until I was part of a demonstration lesson in which the trainer focused on the essential question. I realized that the question helps focus students' minds on what they are supposed to be learning. Now, I always begin by reading it and explaining what they will be able to do by the end of the lesson. "Today, we will be exploring how to use a model to find factors of a given number..." We revisit the question during the lesson, "Are we using models to find factors of numbers? How?" and at the end of the lesson as a review, "How did we use models to find factors of a number?" Sometimes they answer orally and sometimes in their journals. 
  3. Anticipate issues with manipulatives: Upper grades have never had sets of manipulatives to use with their students until this year, so our students simply weren't used to using them. Many of my students had never even touched a base ten block before this year! As a result, I had to let them build houses with the base ten blocks, make patterns with tiles, and build towers with counters before they could be really utilized. Because it was all so new, sometimes the manipulatives were more of a hindrance than a help. For example, when using counters to model division with remainders, many of my kiddos didn't count out the correct number---multiple times! I've learned to think carefully about how to anticipate issues and solve problems before they can happen. 
Overall, I'm really excited to be teaching the new Common Core standards, and I love learning new ways to solve problems and new strategies to teach my kiddos.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Calendar Math Routine Freebies

After participating in the Guided Math book study this summer, I set a goal for myself to implement a successful calendar math routine in my fourth grade classroom. This was something I was a little nervous about, because I've only used Saxon math's calendar routines in 3rd grade and I just wasn't too sure what to do in 4th. Well, I did it! I think I've finally struck gold! I've waited a while to post this because I wanted to make sure it actually worked for me and my students. 

I decided to include these daily/weekly routines to begin with:

  • counting large numbers
  • number line (using multiple markers based on Every Day Counts)
  • date/day calendar questions
  • daily depositor and coin counter (based on Every Day Counts)
  • decomposing numbers
  • rounding and place value
  • elapsed time
  • facts practice
My daily routine: I spend no more than 15 minutes total on this, so I don't always do every part every single day. We start with facts practice. Sometimes this is a timed drill sheet, or I use the links I put on the flipchart (file below). Then I pretty much follow the pages in my flipchart. Although we do the same activities every day, I like to keep it interesting by varying the way we do them. There are basically three formats I use on different days of the week:
  1. Whole group using the the IWB. Any student who is not at the white board writes the answers on their individual dry erase boards.  
  2. Small group: I used poster board to make 5 calendar math posters. The posters have the same things on them that we do on the IWB (file included below). I just laminated the posters, and groups of about 4 work together to compete each section. The first group to complete every part correctly wins a treat. 
  3. Individual: I created a worksheet that looks like what we do on the IWB, and students write in their answers on their sheets independently, then we check together.
Every 2-3 weeks I test the students using a sheet similar to the independent practice worksheet. I'm so glad I've implemented this! It's a lot of math in a short amount of time, and a great way to review those skills that need to stay fresh. 

Now for the files. I've created a highly interactive Promethean flipchart that can be used on your whiteboard. There are also copies of the tests, worksheets, a PowerPoint version of the lesson (though not as interactive), and black and white printables to make your own small group calendar posters. Just click the link under the picture to download the zipped file. If you decide to download, please leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Hurricane in a Bowl

We've all made the tornado in a bottle, right? Well, how about a hurricane in a bowl? I wish I could take credit for this activity, but I found it in my science book and just knew we had to do it. All you need are clear bowls, water, spoons, food coloring, and newspapers to help with spillage. Here's how:
Imagine the red swirling around really fast. 

I used the 5E model for this lesson (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate), and placed my students into groups of about 4 or 5. 

Engage: Activate Prior Knowledge: We had already discussed students' schema for hurricanes and read some sections in our book about how they form, how they're forecasted, etc...

Explore: Have students use a spoon to swirl the water around very quickly. As a group, the should work together to time the next part carefully. Once the water is swirly rapidly, raise the spoon out of the water and add food coloring. The food coloring should swirl around in the water, showing "arms" like a hurricane. *NOTE: There is a bit of a learning curve to this. If students continue to stir the water, the food coloring will mix and they won't see the model.

Explain: We discussed what each part represented. What does the food coloring represent? What does the water represent?

Elaborate: Discuss how the model is similar to and different from a real hurricane.

Evaluate: Okay, I didn't really get to this part, but if I did, I would have had the students write a journal entry explaining what they did and how the model helped us visualize the bands of a hurricane.

We had to repeat this about 3 or 4 times so the kiddos could all get to use the spoon or the food coloring, but even so, it was a very quick activity. What's even better is that the kiddos were having fun and learning the whole time.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I Put Students in the Trash

Well, to be fair, they got in voluntarily...Why, you ask? We did the coolest experiment about air pressure to show that air is pressing all around us. Each kiddo took turns getting into a giant trash bag and we stuck a vacuum cleaner hose in the bag. Volunteers held the bag so that no air would get in or out, and we switched on the vacuum cleaner. It was so much fun to see the kids actually experience air pressure! They were amazed, learned a little something, and had a great time doing it.
Me in the bag!

Explanation: when the vacuum cleaner removed air from inside of the bag, the air outside of the bag continued to press all around.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Have you seen this handy screen capturing app? Educreations is a FREE iPad app that allows you to create screen cast videos of your lessons and then share them. Some really great features are that you can take pictures of items to use in your videos within the app or even import pictures from your album. The screen cast allows you to create multiple page before or during your recording. You can even duplicate pages. Once your video is complete, you have the option to share it on the Educreations site, get the link, post to Facebook, or post to Twitter. You can even grab the embed code for posting online! Here's a simple one I made:

I'm using it to record quick demos of each math lesson. My parents are great about helping their children, but this new math program is so different, they're not sure how to help. I'm hoping these videos will clear things up. They'll also be great for students who are absent, or just need a review.

*One downside I noticed is that there doesn't seem to be a way to save a video, then come back and edit it. Maybe I'll find a way when I spend more time in the app. 

Have you used this app? Any advice or ideas?

This post also featured on:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Nouns, Anyone..? Anyone..?

Anyone...? Anyone...?
Yep, that's me. Okay, I look slightly different, but imagine me with that look on my face. It's the look that says, "Really? Are you serious? Please tell me your joking?" Why would a positive person such as myself have this type of reaction, you might ask? Well.....

Picture it: Monday morning. Nouns unit about to begin. Did I mention that's usually the EASIEST grammar unit of the year? I'm thrilled because we're finally finished with the sentence unit! According to my carefully thought out plans, my lovelies were to create a web and jot down everything they knew about nouns, thereby activating their schema. I would then build upon their previous knowledge and add lots of great, new ideas... Eighteen students sat with pencils and writer's notebooks poised to begin when I said, "Draw a web and list what you know about nouns." That's when it happened. Crickets...

I glance hopefully around the room. Students are looking a little confused and slightly apprehensive. "Are you kidding me?" I managed to just barely say in my head instead of out loud. Not one of my babies could list a single thing they knew about nouns! (On a positive note, at least I found that out, so I'd know where to start teaching). After a little prodding, one of them asked tentatively, "Person, place, or thing?" Of course, that is where we started, and we're moving right along, but I'm concerned and confused.

How does an entire class know NOTHING about something that they've been taught for 3 years in a row prior to reaching 4th grade? 

Is this an issue of kids learning it just for the test each year, then forgetting?

Does the curriculum not address it appropriately in the lower grades, or perhaps use a different terminology?

I'm not complaining or trying to blame previous teachers---I know they're doing a great job! I'm just simply on a search for answers. Has this happened to any of you? Did you discover the reason why? Were you able to do anything about it?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Multiplication Math Journal Goodness

This year I am learning so much about teaching math (thanks to our new math program). For the first time, I finally feel like I can scaffold students' learning appropriately and know what to do to help them when they don't understand. There have been some growing pains as we learn the new strategies, but I'm loving it!

We started a chapter on multiplication last week, and according to my pre-tests, students needed help with arrays, so I decided to take two days to front-load content as we worked in our math journals. Using this poster as inspiration, I introduced multiplication models. We modeled each one, spending a great deal of time modeling arrays with base ten blocks, then drawing them. I knew that they didn't quite understand that "3x5=15" means "three ROWS OF five equals fifteen" (which is why they kept getting arrays wrong. So I focused on teaching them the language. I think the color coding really helped. They drew the picture of the boat rowing across the lake as a reminder that rows go across. The smaller picture of the arrays is stapled to the back of the Multiplication page.

These activities gave the students the foundation they needed to understand the wording and expectations of our new math program, which requires deeper thinking. Plus, it gave them a deeper understanding about multiplication. I'm so glad I took the time to front load this knowledge and fill in some of the gaps they had!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reviving Four Blocks: Where Does Grammar Fit?

I recently received this question from a reader who was reading my posts about the Four Blocks Framework (which I LOVE). I must admit that grammar was always one of those things that was sort of up in the air as to where it fit...Word work? (nouns, adjectives, etc...) Writing? (conventions...) I just wasn't really sure, so I started questioning and researching it, especially during the years that I taught writing. After lots of research here's what I came up with. I certainly don't have all the answers yet, but here's what makes sense to me at this point in my teaching journey (Year 13).

  • Should it be taught every day?
    • Yes. I equate grammar and conventions in language arts to facts practice in mathematics. It may not be an actual part of the basal, but you just about have to practice daily to keep it fresh, make connections, and remind children of what they know. 
  • If so, in isolation or integrated in writing or reading? Which block?
    • I prefer to teach grammar and conventions within the writing block, although it is important during reading and speaking as well (more on that later). I always try to connect what they're learning to the other areas of Language Arts.
  • What is the purpose of knowing sentence parts, labels, etc?
    • Knowing the labels gives us all a common vocabulary for which to speak and learn about our language. The names are tools that allow students and teachers to converse about making improvements to writing, or noticing things in reading/speaking.
  • Why do kids "learn" grammar but not speak it or write it correctly?
    • Students will do what they are held accountable for doing. I have learned over the years to hold them accountable for what they know. My students know that if they speak incorrectly, I will correct them and expect them to repeat the correct version. I also hold them accountable in their writing. If they know to put capital letters and periods at the ends of sentences and chose not to do so, they will not receive full credit for work. This may seem harsh, but we talk about how they should be using what they learn, and my students understand that I expect them to do this.  
So...Where does grammar fit? As long as you connect it, anywhere that makes sense to you and works for your students. I teach it during my writing block because it is easy for me as a former writing teacher to help children see the connections between grammar and writing. Connections are the key. Without them, grammar and mechanics are just a bunch of isolated facts that may or may not be useful to kids. I'll post more specifically this week about how I integrate my grammar and writing instruction, but here are a few phrases I often use:

"Remember that good writers use a variety of sentences types. Be sure and use at least one declarative and one interrogative sentence in your writing today."
"Look back at the web you made about sentences. What does a sentence have to have? Remember to include those things in your writing today."
"Check back over your writing. Did you include...?"
"Today you learned that pronouns take the place of nouns. Be careful in your writing to use pronouns sparingly so your reader doesn't get confused."
"Can you find some proper nouns in a story you've written?"
"Circle some adjectives in your story. Can you think of some sparkle words that you could use to replace them?"
How about you? This is one of those topics that I can never seem to learn enough about! What experience can you share? When/how do you teach grammar and conventions? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

FluxTime Studio: Easy Animations

Searching for a quick, easy, FREE tech tool you can use in your classroom? FluxTime Studio is a site that allows students to create animations, then email them as ecards. We used it this week and my kids LOVED it. You can use the links in the email to embed them into blog posts or post them on your website. Here's how I used it with my class:

Our basal story this week was about some migrating whales, so during reading on Monday, students chose a sea animal to research. They were to find three facts about their animal and download a picture to their jump drives. Then, I posted an assignment in Edmodo:
In the computer lab students wrote and edited their posts. After they finished, they watched the FluxTime video I had posted for them on Edmodo. That's one of the great features about using Edmodo. You can create a library of videos for your students to use. Here's the video I made:

Finally, students created their animations. I posted the finished animations to our classroom website, and helped a few students embed links in their blog posts. This was only their second week on KidBlog and third on Edmodo, so they needed help with embedding. 

Click HERE to see one of my student's posts with his animation linked.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Photosynthesis Lift the Flap

As I prepared for our unit on plants the other day, I was searching through Pinterest and was "Pinspired" by this amazing pin:

I loved the concept of lifting the flap, so I decided to tweak this idea for teaching photosynthesis. Here's the finished product:
"Plants use sunlight energy to change these ingredients into food."
"Leaves absorb Carbon Dioxide from the air that we breath."
I knew I needed a way to teach this concept that would make it stick in their minds because they are expected to be able to describe photosynthesis in detail. After reading and discussing the concept in our books, and watching this video from YouTube, we brainstormed ideas for what students could write under each flap. After all the information was added, they colored the picture. 

Want your own copy? Visit my files page or click here for the file. To make the picture, I traced over this one from How Stuff Works.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Teaching Kids to Write on the Internet (FREEBIE)

With the beginning of school upon us, many of us are introducing Internet literacy activities and websites to our students. After introducing my kids to Edmodo and letting them make ToonDoos last week, I realized that we needed a lesson on appropriate grammar and usage for writing on the Internet. After some thought, I came up with this anchor chart:

The goal was to help students see that an author's purpose for writing and the people who will be reading the writing determine the rules for what and how they compose. I did this lesson before ever having students begin posting on KidBlog, and it was a huge help! It was really great, because instead of ME telling them it was unacceptable to use symbols or lower case letters on a blog post, they came to that realization themselves! Here's a picture of what our classroom chart looked like:
You would not have believed the shocked faces I saw when my kiddos realized that their Internet projects and blog posts could be seen by anybody. That really started to put things into perspective for them. Once they started writing their first blog posts, they were very conscientious about spelling, punctuation, and capital letters. These were probably the BEST (most correct) first posts I've ever had! This is something I will definitely repeat year after year.

Now, on to your FREEBIE! I created a file for you to use to teach the lesson in two formats: Promethean flipchart and PowerPoint. I also included the PowerPoint file I used to create the words and pictures for my anchor chart. Feel free to change and adapt as needed! (Just link back if you post about it).

You can download the entire zipped file here.

How about you? Have you done something similar to this? I'd love to hear your insights.

You can find this post and other Common Core lessons here:

Common Core Classrooms

Go Math! and Guided Math

As this post is published, my fourth week of math workshop with Go Math will begin. I have to say I'm really enjoying using our new math program. It isn't perfect, and I'm not teaching it perfectly, but my kids are learning and my math instruction has changed dramatically!

Things I LOVE:

  • If the lesson is on subtraction, the practice is on subtraction as well...not 29 different types of problems as with our previous program. 
  • Upper grades teachers now have manipulatives!!!
  • Animated Math Models: I haven't used them yet, but look forward to introducing a concept with them. They're like interactive videos and they seem very engaging.
  • Workshop format is the perfect structure for this program: Minilesson, small group/independent work, centers, then back to whole group. Okay, so I've still not been able to fit in the last whole group time, but I'm working towards it. 
  • Lessons are built on using number sense to solve problems, not shortcuts. 
Things I'm still working on:
  • Fact practice: It isn't included in our program, but I just kept right on doing it the way I always have. I think they need fluency with facts, and it only takes about 5 minutes. 
  • Calendar: We didn't purchase the companion Every Day Counts Calendar, but I've put together something that I think is working.
  • Math Journals: We've used them for learning and practicing concepts, but I need to work in more time for actually responding to prompts during independent work time. Right now though, it is taking almost all of their independent work time to finish the lesson problems. 
Things I DON'T love:
  • The Promethean flipcharts (which were a huge selling point for us) are horrible. On the surface, they looked very professional and well put together, however some of the problems are missing. Some of the "independent" problems are on there as guided practice. The formative assessment with Activotes/ActivExpressions only includes one question and it doesn't assess the lesson. It is simply the test prep question at the end of each lesson. Also, the page notes with instructions aren't organized in a user-friendly manner. I've had to make notations all over mine. Basically, you can't use the flipcharts WITH the student book because there are too many discrepancies. 
  • Sometimes you aren't sure what the questions in the SE want. 
    • For example, "24 hundreds =______" I had to look in the TE to figure out that the standard form of the number goes in the blank (2,400). 
  • Sometimes the problems being broken down into tiny little steps is a hurdle. The program describes the 'in the head' processes that students should use...this is not a bad thing. In fact, it is great if your kids are used to it! For now, it can be a stumbling block as my students learn to slow down and think through the problems. I know this will get better and is better for them in the long run though. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

ToonDoo in the Classroom

ToonDoo is an easy, engaging, FREE tool that you can use in your classroom. Super easy to use, my students just logged in and followed the on-screen directions to create their Toon. I made this set of instructions and uploaded it to VistaPrint, but I forgot to use them. Even so, my students caught on very quickly, which is a huge plus when using a web 2.0 tool!
Feel free to use this. I uploaded to VistaPrint and
put the image on Oversized Postcards.
I used ToonDoo this week as an extension for the story we were reading about Jim Thorpe. My class has a group on Edmodo, so I posted the link and the log in information for them there. They were to create a cartoon about sports. Here's an example:


My students loved this tool! They even worked on it at home! Of course, we'll have to go over expectations for correct grammar and mechanics for online projects. (Don't worry, that's coming up this week!) But for last week (3rd week of school) I just really wanted to get them excited about some of the tools we'd be using and make connections from our literature.

**Important Note**
I made one account and all of my students logged in at once, but you might want to make more because I noticed the process slows down or stops when more than about 10 are using at the same time.

How about you? Have you ever used ToonDoo or something like it? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Go Math: The Adventure Begins!

With this year's Common Core implementation as well as our new Go Math program, the first two weeks of math have definitely been an adventure, to say the least. There have been ups and downs, just as with any new implementation, but I'm still excited to be learning and teaching something new. Here are a few of the things I've noticed/learned:

  • In general, my fourth graders do not have the number sense to really grasp the concepts in the new common core standards. This is not their fault, nor the fault of their teachers or parents. Many of my darlings had never even held a base ten block before the first week of 4th grade. It was not a part of the previous program, and most of the teachers didn't have those manipulatives. I'm playing catch up by trying to pre-teach, re-teach, and build number sense through games and yes, by putting the base-ten blocks in their hands. (The first few minutes after I passed them out, I just let them build things to become familiar with them). The chart shows the concept we worked on in lesson 1. They would build a number, then trade in flats for longs and count how many longs (tens) they had.
  • I'm moving at a very slow pace through the lessons. While I realize there is a test looming in early May, I also don't want to rush through and leave my kiddos in the dark. Once we all learn how the new program works, and get used to the wording and format we'll be able to move more quickly. I really believe that the extra time I'm taking now to build number sense and learn how everything fits together will benefit us in the long run. 
  • We can't do everything at first. This seems like a no-brainer, but with a new program sometimes it is difficult to determine what you MUST include and what can wait until you and the kids are more comfortable. I have 70 minutes for math each day. So far, I'm including:
    • fact practice daily (not part of the program, but a necessity).
    • calendar routines almost daily (trying here, but its new and sometimes I forget).
    • whole group lesson
    • small groups and independent games and practice-not every day yet, but a few times.
  • Collaborating with my coworkers has been super helpful! I'm blessed to be a part of a fabulous faculty, and have good friends at other schools in my system as well. We've had several planned and unplanned cross-grade level meetings to just discuss what's working or not working in our classrooms.  It's such an eye-opener to see what the other teachers are doing, what their students are expected to learn, and how things build each year. Plus, its been a great bonding experience for our faculty!
I'm hoping to post very soon about some of the specific strategies I'm using and how I'm using math journals along with our new program. And if you're starting a new math program like me, you might want to check out Penny's post at Teach the Math. She has some really great advice!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Scoot! Renaming Numbers

I just stumbled on the game Scoot the other day and can't believe I'd never heard of such a quick, easy, and fun review game! Apparently, it's been all over the Internet for ages. How did I miss it? Oh well, I know now! It's very easy to play, and I've created a version for you to use to review or preview place value relationships below.

If you've never heard of Scoot, here's how you play:
  1. Give each child a recording sheet. They will keep their sheet and pencil with them during the game.
  2. Place a task card face down at each person's seat. 
  3. When you say "Go." students turn over the card at their seat and write the answer on the appropriate square of their recording sheet.
  4. When you say "Scoot!" students move to the next seat (cards stay--kids move) and do the next problem.
  5. At the end of the game, review answers.
Since I know we have a tough lesson Monday (renaming thousands as hundreds) I wanted to build my students' number sense and sort of preview the concept, so I made this game:

Click here for a copy.

My kids really enjoyed playing this game today and it seemed to help them understand renaming numbers a little more than they did before. That should really help next week when we do numerical representations and larger numbers. I hope you enjoy it!

This game correlates with Common Core standards 4.NBT.1, 5.NBT.1 and 2.NBT.1. You can find this game and other great Common Core lessons on these blogs:
Common Core Classrooms  Common Core Kids

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