Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: March 2014

Totally Task Card Tuesday- Why I Use Task Cards

Welcome to my first installment of a blog series on task cards! For the next several months I will be writing about different ways that I use task cards in my classroom. But first, I want to tell you WHY I use these task cards.

Why I Use Task Cards in my Classroom

1.  They make it simple to differentiate! I can give cards to certain students or groups of students based on their skill level and needs. I can guide my lowest groups through the task cards while allowing my higher groups to work on them independently. 

2. Task cards are simple to prep. I get tired of prepping games and center with tiny pieces to cut! Then I have to add counters and dice. Task cards are a breeze! Just print and cut. You can give students the recording sheet. But they can be used in MANY ways without a recording sheet too! (More in future posts!)

3. Task cards are reusable year after year. You make them once and can use them for years to come. In fact, I use some of my sets multiple times in one year!

4. Task cards can get kids out of their seats! I often use task cards in centers and for scoots. This allows my kinesthetic learners and my ADHD learners the opportunity to move! This makes them so much more receptive to the skills being practiced on the cards.

5. Task cards can be an assessment tool. As we transition into the Common Core, my school is short on assessment tools. I love using task cards to fill that gap.

6. With task cards, I can teach the procedures once and do the activity regularly. The directions are the same! Once I teach my class how task cards work, they can do sets all year long!

7. Task cards are great independent centers. I use task cards during my math and my literacy centers every week. They give my students something meaningful to work on while I focus on my small guided group instruction. 

8. Task cards make it simple to provide a spiral review of skills. I love teaching in units of study but I also want to know that my students are reviewing past skills. All I have to do is stick a set of task cards in a center to provide that necessary review.

9. Task cards are perfect for that extra 2 minutes you happen to have occasionally! Sometimes, they do restroom break fast or they pack up quickly. Task cards provide a meaningful activity to fill super small amounts of time. (More about this in future posts!)

10. Most importantly, I use task cards because my students love them! They keep them super engaged. Students are happy to do something other than a worksheet!

Do you use task cards in your classroom? If so, why do you use them?

Tune in next week for a post on a fun way to use task cards in the classroom to increase student engagement.

Trade and Grade Blog Hop

I am so excited that I was given the opportunity to be a part of this great blog hop! I just love the idea of getting to see how teachers use the amazing products in their classrooms! 

I got to trade and grade Katie Palmer's See It and Solve it Stories. You can click on the photo to check it out in Katie's store.

Right when I got it, I knew this was a good match for me because I LOVE any lesson that allows me to integrate multiple subject areas. Katie's product uniquely integrates language and math! I also knew this would be a great match for my students because they have been a wee bit lazy about reading carefully during math. They just see number and want to do something with them.

My students were excited as soon as I told them that they were going to get to be detectives! Of course, I reminded them that detectives have to read carefully if they are going to solve the mystery! I gave them each a partner and they immediately got started.

They are having to solve a series of money word problems. In addition to doing math, each page has capitalization and punctuation errors that they need to correct! Love that!

The activity is self checking! After they answer all the math problems, they use the answers to crack a code. So if their answer isn't a choice in the code- they knew they did something wrong and had to go back!

I was super impressed by how hard all of my students were working! They were persevering and working as a team because they really wanted to solve the mystery. I don't believe they would have been willing to work so hard if this was just a worksheet. In the end, most of my detectives were able to crack the code and they were so excited!

After they cracked the code, we went back and reviewed the capitalization and punctuation errors. I was impressed by how carefully they had read! Score! Now if only the standardized tests would have a detective theme to them! Lol!

I give this product a great big A+! 

Would you like to try a sample of Katie's See It and Solve It Stories for FREE? Of course you would! Just click on the picture below.

Looking for more freebies? Lots of talented teacher authors have donated products for a special giveaway. I donated my Game Day Test Prep kit that includes materials to teach testing strategies and some craftivities.

Enter to win below and then continue hopping through the Trade and Grade blog posts for additional reviews and product samplers (including a sample of my Game Day Math Task Cards)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Anchor Charts

I have to start with a major confession. I STINK at making anchor charts! I see all these gorgeous ones on blogs. I am in awe. I guess I just never took that class in college! I can't draw anything to save my life. No, I mean it. It is so bad that when I do manage to draw something and my students can tell what it is- they clap for me. Writing in a straight line is hard enough for me. And when I am trying so hard to write large and straight- I always misspell something. It's pathetic. Let's just keep this our little secret though. Shhhhh!

We still make anchor charts as a class from time to time. I generally have one displayed in our class library at all times. But for the most part, I like to use computer generated posters. I can make those! And they are easier to store. Now back to my tip....

I love Pinterest! But all the great ideas can get overwhelming. My solution? I had my husband get a Pinterest account. He has a board called "Honey Do List." From time to time, I see things I would love to have made for the house or my classroom. I just send the pin to him and he puts it on that board. Well today is the day that he is working on his first Pinterest Honey Do project! (Have I mentioned how awesome he is?!)

He's making me one of these mini anchor chart holders that Falling Into First shared on her blog!

I plan to use this at my small group table. I can hang reading strategy posters and close read mark up posters for literacy groups. During math, it can house vocabulary posters.

When I am not using these great posters, I want them to still be accessible to my students. I want to teach them to be accountable and use resources rather than asking me all the time. My solution?

I put four avery hooks up under one of my bulliten boards. I labeled them math, reading, language and science. When we are done with a poster, I just punch a hole in it (they are laminated), put them on a jump ring and hang them from the hook.

Since I don't have room to hang every poster we have used from a bulletin board, this is my next best thing! Students might be working in a center and come across vocabulary from an earlier lesson. They can just grab the ring from the hook and refresh their memory.

How do you organize anchor charts? Are you one of those amazing anchor chart artists that the rest of us drool over?

Test Prep: Welcome to Spring Training!

I don't know any teacher who is a big fan of standardized testing. However, they are a fact of life. So when life gives you lemon- make lemon aid! That is exactly what I do with test prep. I make it FUN!

In fact, we don't call it test prep in my classroom. We call it spring training!

First thing when they come back from Spring Break, we read this poem: What if school were more like baseball? I ask the kids if they would like it is school was more like baseball. Of course they say "YES!" And I respond, "Then lets make it more like baseball! But we have to get ready for the big games (test days) with lots of batting practice."

We start by setting some spring training goals...

These goals can be very helpful to me as a teacher!

Since I teach third grade, it is the first year of standardized testing for my students. They need some instruction in how to be good test takers. So we make a a game day playbook! 

I teach them a few tips at a time and display these cute posters as I teach the tip.

The students have mini versions of each poster that they glue into their play book. Then they write about what it means and how they will use that tip on game day.

I carry the sports test prep theme into our math centers. For the two weeks right before testing, they will be working on these task cards.

I also play an interactive baseball math review game with them once a week. They LOVE this! A student comes up to bat. They are given a review question and if they get it right and can prove why it is right, they run to first base. If they get it wrong, their team gets an out. The game is a hit (pun intended!) and it gets them out of their seats. 

The day before testing, each kid makes a promise. I encourage them to make a promise that is going to help them individually. So my little guy who has 48 tardies- I will encourage him to make a promise to be on time ever day of testing. My little diva who always finishes everything first will be encouraged to make a promise to slow down and check her answers. We make this fun craft with them,

After school, I hang these on our classroom door with a sign that says "Mrs. Sears' class is going to hit it out of the park!" As the students come in on game day- I have them reread their promise.

After game day, we celebrate!!! I bring in hot dogs and cracker jacks and we watch the movie Everyone's Hero. It is an adorable movie with a really sweet message. 

You can grab all of these materials in my Game Day Test Prep and Game Day Task Card Units.

What do you do to make test prep fun and meaningful?