A Day in a Not So Wimpy Classroom: How I Fit it all in

I am often asked how I fit my curriculum and TpT resources into my classroom schedule. I wanted to give you a glimpse of my typical day and the materials that I use to keep my students engaged. I have included LOTS of links to make it easier for you. Obviously, we all have different mandates from our state, district and school- but I hope this look into my classroom will give you some new ideas!

My students come in the room and get unpacked. Then they Use my Problem of the Day Flaps as a morning warm-up. After they complete the problem, they share their problem solving strategy with their shoulder partner. 

Whole Group: 
During the whole group time, we start with math fact practice. I always do mixed facts because I think this ism more meaningful and gives them more time to practice the tougher facts. I use THESE facts with my kiddos. 

After 3-5 minutes of math fact practice, I teach my new lesson. I model a few problems and then students work with their shoulder partner to complete as much of the problem set as they can in the 10-12 minutes I give them. We quickly review the answers. I use Eureka (also known as Engage NY) math curriculum. This whole group time goes very quickly, but I think the magic happens when I meet with small groups!

Small Groups:
During small groups, I have four different centers. My leveled groups go to two centers on Mondays and Wednesdays and they go to the other two centers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. (We don't have new math lessons on Fridays. We do assessments, crafts and lots of social studies and science.) You can read more about how I organize my centers HERE.

At the Independent Math Center, my students complete task cards and sorts from my Math Center Bundle. In my Tablet Math Center, student practice their math facts using Xtra Math and then work, on lessons on Zearn or Moby Max. At the Chromebook Center, students work on their differentiated i-Ready lessons. At the Meet the Teacher Center, students complete interactive notebooks and use manipulatives to practice problems from the recent math lessons. 

Whole Group
Most of my whole group time is spent sharing a read aloud. I use our read alouds to introduce our weekly reading standard as often as possible. For example,  when we are learning about character traits, we will discuss the character traits of the character in our current read aloud. When we are working on informational reading standards, we will use our Scholastic magazines after the read aloud.

Small Groups:
Again, I have four leveled reading groups. They go to two centers each day. During the Read to Self Centers, students get to spend 30 minutes reading any book that they choose. During the Reading Response Centers, students use Reading Response Menus to write about the book they are reading during Read to Self. You can read more about how I teach students to respond to reading HERE.

During the Chromebook centers, students are working on their  differentiated i-Ready lessons. At the Meet the Teacher Center, students participate in book clubs, using THESE Book Club Graphic Organizers. You can read more about my book clubs HERE.

Book club graphic organizers that can be used with ANY book!

We use Mentor Sentences to practice our grammar skills. On Monday, I read the mentor book. Students glue the sentence in their notebook and we make a list of things we notice about the sentence. On Tuesday, we label the part of speech of each word in the sentence. On Wednesday, we imitate the style of the author to write our own sentence. On Thursdays, I use task cards to teach into specific skills that students need more practice with. 

You can read all about my vocabulary routine HERE. I use THIS vocabulary unit and it includes everything needed for an entire year of vocabulary instruction, practice and assessment. On Monday, we come up with sentences and definitions for our five new words. On Tuesdays, we come up with a list of synonyms and antonyms for each of our words. On Wednesdays, we have a WOW word that has either a prefix or a suffix. We use a graphic organizer to break apart the word and define the affix and the root. On Thursdays, we draw a picture to represent each of our words. On Fridays we play games and do an assessment every other week. 

We have a writing workshop model. I teach a 5-10 minute mini lesson. Then students spend 25-30 minutes writing while I hold writing conferences and then we have five minutes for sharing and celebrating our writing. We use the Lucy Calkins writing units.

Much of my science and social studies instruction in done on Friday after our assessments. Although, we do read science and social studies text during reading time. We don't have reading, math or writing on Fridays, so this gives us lots of time to complete fun activities. We don't have a book or an official curriculum. I primarily use TpT units. I like to keep this time very interactive and engaging. So we use our interactive notebooks, do art, and other hands-on discoveries. My goal is to send my kids home on Friday super excited to come back the next week!

Keeping Students Engaged at the End of the Year

Testing is over. Can I get an amen?! I am thrilled, but now I am stuck trying to engage and teach children who are DONE! We have 7 more weeks, but they are already on summer break! Please tell me that I am not alone! Here are ten tips and ideas for engaging students at the end of the year.

1. Keep the Routine

Students will behave better if you keep the basic routine. For me, this means that we will always start our day with math and end with writing. We will continue to have small groups and centers. The kids have been trained on this routine and they are going to be more successful if I don't go changing everything!

2. Collaborative Projects

Just because I am keeping the schedule, doesn't mean I can't add in some new projects! This is the time of the year that I like to do more collaborative projects. Students are good at working together by this time and so the projects are more successful. Just last week, my class did collaborative graphing projects. They loved getting to choose their question and get creative on their poster! You can read more about this project and grab the freebie HERE.

Another fun collaborative project is using Legos to build famous United States' monuments. My students loved this one! They were reading informational text, learning about social studies, using creativity and working as a team. You can read more about it HERE.

3. Increase Movement

The weather is warming up and students are getting antsy in their seats. You need to keep them moving! This is the perfect time to increase (or start using) Go Noodle. These are fantastic brain breaks that get the kids up and dancing. My students cheer when I turn on Go Noodle

Another way that I keep students moving is by doing lots of task card scoots. Sometimes I let them scoot with a partner. They love this!

4. Book Clubs

I LOVE book clubs any time of the year, but they are especially fun during 4th quarter! They are a fun way to keep kids reading without making it agonizing. My goal is to increase their love for reading!

You can read more about how I organize and manage book clubs HERE.

5. Math Art

Math is more fun when it involves creativity! Add in some art to your math lessons and your kids will be on cloud nine! My favorite math art project is Area and Perimeter Robot. My kids love this project and I love that they are reviewing a tricky math concept! You can see the project by clicking HERE.

6. Genius Hour Projects

Have you done Genius Hour projects? My students LOVED getting to research and learn about anything that they wanted! I had kids learning how to be come a doctor, how to draw people and the history of the Aztecs. They begged for more! They barely noticed that they were learning how to research and write informational text! Win!

7. Science Fair

Have you held a science fair this year? If not, fourth quarter is the ideal time for it! Students can learn the scientific process and how to research! They love getting to choose their question! You can read more about how I manage science fair HERE.

8. Brag Tags

The end of the school year can lead to lazy students or students who have trouble following the class rules. How about using brag tags to reward and encourage students to meet behavioral and academic goals? You can read more about how I use brag tags HERE.

9. Book Auction

My students absolutely love our annual book auction. They can earn tickets for outstanding behavior and participation. Students understand that having lots of tickets helps them to earn their first or second choice of books at the auction! I love doing this because it is a behavior management strategy and it gets a book in their hands for summer break! You can read more about how I organize and manage my book auctions HERE.

10. Art Projects

I am super OCD about neatness, so paint makes me shake a little bit! But I am extra corageous at the end of the year. I get the paint out more than usual. (I still don't touch that awful glitter!) The kids love making art projects. Keep it educational by teaching them a little about the artist or having them research the artist. I also like to do art projects that go along with our science unit. Pinterest is my primary source for coming up with new projects!

This project was made by mixing paint with shaving cream!

How do you keep students engaged, learning and happy through the end of the year?

Test Prep Fun!

Our state testing begins tomorrow. Which means that today was our last day to review before testing. I believe that quality instruction all year is the best test prep. However, I still think some spiral review is good. Especially since our testing is just 3 days after coming back from a 2+ week break!

My kids had so much fun reviewing today that they groaned when I told them it was time to clean up and pack up! They had been working on this activity for over three hours! I had no idea they would stay so engaged for so long. Since I had such an amazing day and my teacher heart is so full, I wanted to share this activity right away with my best teacher friends- YOU! 

I called our day "Work Hard. Play Hard." And that is just what we did!

I put together four reading centers and four math centers. I pulled a couple Scholastic magazines that we had not used and some other activities that we had not gotten to yet during the year. This included a stack of task cards, some reading test prep centers and some math test prep centers. It was easy to prep because it was activities that I had wanted to do, but had run out of time to finish. 

I stuck each activity in a basket. Then I added some fun games to each basket. I picked games that I knew my kiddos loved. (Their favorites are Multiplication War and Headbanz.) 

I divided students into groups of four. Groups chose a center. They needed to complete the work together. They brought the work to myself or my parent volunteer to be checked. When everything was correct, they got 15 minutes to play the game in the basket. I bought timers from Dollar Tree and students used them to time themselves for the 15 minutes. When the play time was up, they returned their basket and chose a new one. 

The promise of being able to play a game kept my students working hard!

A couple of the baskets had work that was more challenging than others. In  those baskets, I put even more engaging play activities! Things like Play-Doh, Legos and directed drawings, encouraged my students to choose even the toughest work!

The kid who made this creation said that it is emoji poop! I laughed so hard that I almost wet my pants! 

I grouped my lower students together. I had an amazing parent who did the centers with this particular group. This made the activity more meaningful for these kiddos. 

I knew that every student would not complete every center. I just wanted them to get a variety of activities that reviewed some of the toughest concepts. I was pleased that most groups completed 5 of the 8 centers! 

Here are some of my tips:
  • Make answer keys so that you can quickly check work. 
  • Ask students to rotate back and forth between math and reading centers.
  • Make more center baskets than you have groups so that there is always a choice of centers. This way students are more likely to have a center available to them that they have not yet completed.
  • Put games in the basket that students already know how to play.
  • Ask if any parents willing to help. 
  • You could add even more excitement by rewarding students with a piece of candy or a sticker for every completed center. 
A fun day of review has me all pumped up for our first day of testing! We've got this! 

FREE Testing Brag Tags

My students love earning new brag tags. They have been working very hard to meet goals and grow this year. With testing right around the corning, I wanted to create a brag tag to show my students just how proud I am. They are going to love it! 

You can grab them for FREE by clicking HERE.

Now I just have to decide if I am going to give them the baseball themed ones to match our class test prep theme of the rock ones to match our school theme! 

Click on the pictures below to learn more about how I use brag tags in my classroom and find additional sets of brag tags in my store.

St. Patrick's Day Minute To Win It

I wanted to have some fun with my class because I feel so darn lucky to be their teacher! A minute to win it challenge seemed like the perfect activity. It's fun and encourages teamwork. Mostly, I just like to hear them laugh. Warms my teacher heart!

I started by splitting my class into six teams:
Team Leprechaun
Team Clover
Team Rainbow
Team Green
Team Gold
Team Lucky

For each of the challenges, one person from each team would complete. By the end, each student would have an opportunity to compete for their team and opportunities to cheer for their teammates. You could allow every student to get a turn at each activity but I was a little low on time and supplies. I found this way to be lots of fun and a tad bit easier to run.

Here is a look at our challenges....

Students were given a set of chopsticks and a pile of marshmallows from Lucky Charms cereal. They had one minute to see how many marshmallows they could stack. They couldn't use their fingers- only the chopsticks. If the tower fell over, they had to start over. The team with the highest tower at the end of the minute was the winner. It is challenging!

Each team was given a bag of Cap'n Crunch's All Berries cereal. (I was going to use Trix but it didn't have as many different colors. It would still work though. Fruit Loops or Skittles would also work.) They had to sort the cereal by color into cups. The first team to have all of their cereal properly sorted was the winner.

For this challenge, students were given a pile of Fruit Loops and a pipe cleaner. They had one minute to thread the fruit loops onto the pipe cleaner. The real challenge though? They can only use one hand! The team with the most loops on their pipe cleaner at the end of one minute was the winner.

For this challenge, teams were given a pile of Skittles, a cup and a straw. The student had to use the straw to move the Skittles from the pile and into their cup. The team with the most candies in their cup after a minute was the winner.

For this competition, students get a popsicle stick and a pile of Fruit Loops. Students put the popsicle stick in their mouth and use their hands to make a stack of Fruit Loops on the end of the stick. The team with the highest stack after one minute is the winner. They will drop their whole stack a couple times! It is not easy. But it is lots of fun!

For this final challenge, the student will need a large pile of pennies. They will have one minute to stack the pennies. The team with the largest stack at the end of one minute is the winner. 

For each competition the winning team (or teams if their is a tie) gets a point. At the end of all six challenges, the points are added up. The winning team receives a gold medal! It is just a gold candy that is hot glued to ribbon. Use a rainbow of ribbon colors to carry on the St. Patrick's Day theme!

My students had a blast and I am glad that we took a break from test prep to just enjoy each other. Sometimes you have to do that! 


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