Sunday, March 29, 2015

Classroom Easter Egg Hunt

I just finished preparing for my annual classroom Easter egg hunt! It took me about 10 minutes to prepare this activity!


It was ten minutes of prep that results in some of the most engaging test prep in my classroom! Inside each of the eggs, I have placed mini task cards with all kinds of third grade math and ELA questions.



I hide the eggs all over our classroom. The kids find an egg, bring it back to their desk, record their answer and then return the egg.


Do you want a good laugh during the hunt? I make my kids hop to retrieve eggs. Like a bunny! It is hilarious! Third graders are pretty darn competitive. I give them a time limit. When our time is up, we check the answers together. The person who correctly completed the most questions receives an award. My daughter won last year!


I love that all of my kids are super engaged, moving and reviewing third grade math and ELA skills.

You can find all of my questions, an answer key and award in my TpT store. Just click on the picture below.


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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hit the TEST Out of the Park!

Standardized testing is right around the corner. I think we can all agree that standardized testing is one of the worst parts of teaching. I get to keep my third graders in their desk, taking test, for fours hours straight on three separate days. Great teachers know that this is not healthy! No matter how much we dislike the tests, we have to give them. So why not throw in some fun?!!! I have some ideas for you!

A couple of years ago, I decided that it would be fun to have a theme for test prep. I LOVE themes! Since it happened in the spring, right when spring training is going strong, I decided that baseball would be the best theme. Lots of my students play Little League and so they get very excited about the baseball theme.

First, I have students write their spring training goals. Students write about what they need to work on during training (test prep time) in order to be successful on game day (also known as test day). Setting goals helps the students to be more accountable for their test prep time.


These make a great bulletin board titled "Batter Up!" Then kids can reread their goals when necessary.

My third graders have very little experience with standardized testing. I spend a little time each day teaching them some test prep tips. Here are a few samples:





Students record the tip and expand upon it in their game day play books! (You can also use the play books for reviewing math and ELA skills.)


As game day gets closer, I ask students to reflect on all of the test taking tips and make a game day promise. My kiddo is always late, might promise to be on time. My kiddo who always rushes, might promise to slow down and read all directions.


I display these outside our door with the title, "We are going to hit this test out of the park!" or "We're Bringing our A Game!" As students walk into class on game day, I have them reread their promise.



Last year, I found these fantastic baseball bracelets with motivating phrases and cute baseball mints at Party City. I had them waiting on the kids' desks. (I searched all of my files and just can't seem to find a picture. Bummer!)

After the big test, it was time for a team party! I love to show the movie Everyone's Hero. It is an adorable movie that makes everyone laugh and has a great message.  I also have parents donate some food so that we can have hot dogs, cracker jacks and cupcakes. The kids LOVE it! And it is just the break that we deserve!




All of the printables that I use for my spring training, can be found in my Game Day Test Prep kit.  Click on the picture below.


If you are looking for some more fun ways to review before testing, check out this blog post that I wrote about using task cards for test prep.


Happy test prep!

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Sunday, March 22, 2015

A FREEBIE and a Chance to Win all of my Interactive Notebooks!


I absolutely love to teach Social Studies. At the end of each school year, I like to teach about United States landmarks. Most of my students have not traveled to the east coast. So we pretend to travel together!

This year, I want to step up my lessons. After we read, research and write about a landmark, I want to give my students an opportunity to build the landmark with Legos! We will travel to different places each day and I know my students will be very engaged in the lesson because of the Lego building. It will be a great way to use our whole brain and make the lesson meaningful and memorable.

The problem? I don't have enough Legos for all of my students to be able to participate. The solution? A Donors Choose project! I wrote a request for the Legos and accessories that my class will need to complete this project. You can read my request HERE.

I don't have much time to get this project funded and so I am asking for your help! In return, I have a FREEBIE offer for you.



Just for donating $1 to my project, you will be given one of my newest products! It is the perfect gift for your students to make for their moms for Mother's Day.



The product will be emailed out in approximately a week.

But the deal gets even better! When you donate $1, you will also get one entry into a giveaway to WIN all of my math interactive notebooks!


Do you want a better chance of winning all of these notebooks?  For every dollar that you donate, you will receive an additional entry into the giveaway!

Remember that all of your donations are tax deductible.

Entering is simple.


Here is the link to my Donors Choose project. Pretty please remember to use the SPARK code!!!!

The winner will be chosen next Sunday! Good luck and thanks so much for your support.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Monday, March 16, 2015

Makeover Monday



Now that I have been creating products for TpT for two years, I am starting to notice old products that need a facelift. I have learned a lot about design! So I am excited to link up with Primary Possibilities for Makeover Monday. It motivates me to makeover old products and gives you the opportunity to grab them for 20% off for the 48 hours!

This week I made ver some Easter literacy centers. I gave them new backgrounds, borders and clip art. I also added a brand new center.


The set includes a center for parts of speech, fact & opinion, syllables, dictionary skills and plural nouns. Click on the picture above to grab this set of centers for a steal of a price!




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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Milestone, a Freebie and Some Gushing!

There are not words to describe how blessed and blown away I am right now! With your help, I have reached another Teachers pay Teachers sales milestone! I knew about it a couple of weeks ago, but I still jumped a little (maybe a lot) when I saw the TpT Facebook post last night!



I don't even think that my feat had quite hit the ground yet, when I noticed this...


Over 3,000 followers!!! We just celebrated 1,000 followers last summer. I am so humbled that so many teachers choose to visit my little store.

So this is the gushing part....I could not have done any of this without you. So I wanted to share a little about my TpT journey. When I started my TpT store two years ago, I was just doing it to offset the cost of the materials I was buying on TpT for my own class. As we were shifting to the Common Core, I found that I needed to supplement our curriculum. Nothing seemed just right to me. So I began making my own activities. During my first quarter, I made $11. And I was stoked! Seriously! I don't have to tell you that teachers don't make much and every dollar counts!

Exactly one year ago, I began making task cards for my class. I used them to help my students to prepare for testing. Much to my surprise, you guys wanted them too! Last summer, I started making interactive notebooks because I couldn't find one that deeply covered multiplication strategies. Obviously, I was not the only who who wanted something like this!

You probably don't have any idea how you have changed my family's quality of life. I am about to get real personal here. Six years ago, my family was really struggling financially. My husband was going to school to be a nurse after state budget cuts had resulted in his being laid off from his job as a corrections officer. We went an entire year without an income. I remember not having money to buy groceries and getting excited when I found a Target gift card. I used it to buy peanut butter and bread to feed my four kids. We could no longer afford our mortgage payment and were having to leave our home. Every day was a stress.

My husband went on to graduate and get a fantastic job at a children's hospital. I got my teaching certificate and was hired to teach at the school my children attended. Things were getting better. And then TpT came along... It started as a hobby and quickly became a second job for me. I put in about 3 hours every weekday and 6-8 hours a day over the weekend. It is hard! But the rewards have been so gratifying! We have gone from a family that was living paycheck to paycheck to a family that can enjoy our hard work. We have traveled to Cabo and cruised in the Caribbean. We are in the process of moving into a gorgeous house with a pool in the backyard. My husband has cut back his hours at his job to help me and to spend more time with our children. Our kids can see the results of hard work, motivation and drive.


All of these things are amazing, but the most gratifying part of my work is the comments from teachers like you. I read every single feedback that you write. I laugh when you share stories about how your students like finding my store name on their activities.  I cried real tears when you wrote about how meaningful the September 11th book was in your class. I smile when you tell me that your kids have fun with my products. The difference that one person can make...... Astounding!

Enough rambling, on to the freebie....


Through Sunday, you can download my Measurement interactive notebook for FREE! Just click on the picture!


If you have never tried interactive notebooks, this is a great chance to do so. Interactive notebooks have changed the way that I teach! They give students the opportunity to move things around and create visuals that a worksheet could never do. My students call them "scrapbooks!" I use my notebooks as a form of assessment. I can easily look at their pages and know who has mastered a topic and who needs more practice. 

Grab it quick, because it will go back to being a paid product on Monday.

THANK YOU!!!!


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Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Currently

Are you impressed? I am blogging two days in a row! That is an accomplishment for me!

I am excited to link up with Farley at Oh Boy 3rd Grade for her March Currently. I hope that this gives you a glimpse of my life right this moment!


Listening: 
I love country music. I listen to it anytime I am working or driving. I need me some Dierks and Brad to keep me company!!!

Loving:
I adore my Erin Condren planners. I use the lesson planner for school and I use the life planner for my business and personal plans. I just filled out my calendar for the week. It is scary. But it is pretty. That makes it better!



Thinking:
I should be packing. I wish that I was packing for a trip to the beach. Instead, I need to pack our entire house for a big move. Moving day is only 12 days away. I will not hyper ventilate.

Wanting:
I waited until Sunday night to start grading my writing samples. I just hate grading writing. It is tedious. Only 11 more. I can do this.



Needing:
I need to clean out my closet. If I get rid of some of these clothes and shoes, I will have less to pack. I will just have to shop after the move. Win-win!

Spring Break Plans:
Two years ago, we went on a cruise. Last year we went to Disneyland. This year----no trip for us. Boo! I get two weeks off. The first week we have to paint an entire house. The next week we are moving in. I am not a big fan of painting or moving. But I do look forward to spending the next 6 months sitting by our new pool!


Thanks for stopping by!


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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: Chapters 1 & 2


I am so excited to join this fabulous book study! We are reading and responding to the book Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites by Marcia Tate. I was drawn to the book because this is my first year using Whole Brain Teaching. The book seems to align to the Whole Brain Teaching philosophy.

A dendrite is the part of the nerve cell that transfers information to other parts of the nerve cell. The more dendrites that are made, the faster information will travel and the more information that can be stored. (Thanks to my nurse husband for explaining this to me!) Let's just be real, worksheets don't grow the brain. Worksheets are quick and easy, but don't allow students the opportunity to grow their dendrites!

This book includes 20 different strategies to engage the brain. Today, I am looking at the first two strategies.

The first strategy is about brainstorming and discussion. The chapter opens with this quote, "They can't talk in class. They can't talk in the hall. They can't talk in the hallway. They can't talk at all!" GULP! That is so true of our schools! Tate goes on to talk about the fact that when you talk, you take in oxygen. The oxygen is necessary for brain development. How many of use have students in our class that are breathing, but just barely?


In previous years, I would have been a big offender of not letting students talk. This year, I have been using the Whole Brain Teaching strategies in my classroom. I use the Teach/Ok strategy at least 4-5 times per every lesson. I give the students lots of opportunities to talk and share. I have actually found that this leads to less of the disruptive talking at inappropriate times. It has also increased student comprehension and understanding.

I am in love with my morning work procedure. Students have a math activity to complete. After 5-10 minutes, I ask students to teach their strategies to their partner. It is so amazing to listen to them as they teach! I rarely have to go over our bell work as a whole group, because partners have caught errors and taught the correct strategies already. I also allow students lots of time to talk and share during reading and math small groups. Sometimes students are asked to work and share with their partner, while other times they are sharing with the group. Writing is another fantastic time for  sharing. We use the Lucy Calkins units of study. Our lessons often start with the opportunity for students to orally rehearse their stories with their partner. Then, I end our writing time with an opportunity to share something they wrote with their partner. Students love this. It really validates their writing if they know someone is hearing it.

I still have room to grow. I am the first to admit that I am OCD. I need silence in order to think and process my thoughts. Some of my students are the same way. Others need noise! I need to loosen up just a tad on my small group volume. I have been known to say "Stop giggling!" when students were playing math games. Not cool! Having fun while working on math is a GOOD thing. I need to remind myself of this! Another area that I would like to improve upon is my lesson closings. I love when  we take the time to share with our partner about what we learned. Sadly, time often gets away from me and this step is skipped. I will work on it!


The second strategy that Tate introduces is drawing and artwork. Using art increases a student's creativity. Art can be used to help increase comprehension and engagement.


The biggest way that I include art in my every day lessons is through the use of interactive notebooks. We use them in math, reading and social studies. They give students the opportunity to cut, sort and glue. This engages the brain and helps students to retain more of the information that they are learning.



I have also started using math menu boards for my enrich students. These projects allow them to create games, posters and videos to show their understanding of a particular topic.

I often spend time on Fridays doing science and social studies themed art projects. We display them on our walls and have a special open house for parents to come and enjoy.



I like to do math crafts. However, I am the first to admit they they are only squeezed in occasionally! My favorite craft is my area and perimeter robot craft.




I have some room to grow in this area as well. I want to make more time for my kids to illustrate their writing. I have not been good about this! NEED MORE TIME!!! I also love one of the ideas that Tate gave. She suggested hanging butcher paper along one wall and setting out markers. As students come in the room, they can illustrate and example to show something they learned from the previous day. This sounds like a fabulous warm up! I must institute this activity at least once per week!

Stay tuned for the next two chapters! I would love it if you ordered the book and read along with me. You won't be disappointed.

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