Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: April 2014

Totally Task Card Tuesday: Using Task Cards With Games

Now that standardized testing is over, I feel like we can breath again and have some FUN! The idea that I have for you today is so much fun, that my students beg for it!

All you need is a set of task cards and a children's board game. Students will play the game as usual, but before they can take their turn, they need to correctly answer the question on their task card. So easy!

My favorite games to use are Candy Land and Jenga. They can be purchased for about $5 at Wal-Mart.

Other good games might be Checkers, Connect 4, Trouble, Sorry or Chutes and Ladders.

Don't have any board games in your classroom? How about Tic Tac Toe instead?

Looking for some task cards to use for your games? I have dozens of sets of math and ELA task cards in my TpT store. Just click HERE.

Teaching Government in the Primary Grades

I am super excited to be a part of the Trade and Grade Blog Hop again this month! It is so much fun to get to try these new products with my students. And this month- I hit the jackpot FOR SURE. I was paired up with Arisbeth Rossi of Sailing into Second. I may have squealed when I saw that she had sent me her 3 Branches of Government Unit!

I have a degree in American Political Studies. I have worked in all three branches of the Arizona state government. It was after I had kids that I decided to go back to school to teach. I got my certificate in Secondary Education and did my student teaching in a 12th grade American Government class. I LOVED the content area. Talking about government all day was perfect for me. However, I wasn't so sure about the kids. I had small kids at home and listening to the language and attitude of teenagers, scared me a wee bit. And that is how I ended up changing directions and teaching the third grade. But, I didn't give up teaching government! Primary grade students can and SHOULD learn about their government! You are training future voters and tax payers. I want to teach my students to be informed. I think that many teachers shy away from teaching government because they fear it will become political and parents will be offended. I have found that as long as I teach the facts and stay away from opinions, parents are thrilled that I have their kids so excited about the constitution, branches of government and voting. I have been thanked several times! 

So now you know why I was so excited about Arisbeth's unit! It is perfect for my classroom! My very favorite part of the unit are the informational text passages about each of the branches of government. My students are always working to become better close readers. We focused on one branch each day. First, in guided reading groups, they would close read the passage.

I LOVE that we are at the point in our year that my on-level and enrich reading groups are able to close  read the text, discuss the text with a partner, fill out a graphic organizer and answer text dependent questions without much of any help from me! It was challenging to just sit and listen to them discuss government without adding my two sense! I bit my tongue because they were having such thoughtful conversation that was spurred by these amazing passages. They felt so smart talking about such BIG concepts!

Later, during our Social Studies time, we worked on a wonderful inquiry chart that Arisbeth writes about in her unit. Now, I have already admitted that I am terrible at drawing on anchor charts so I opted for printing out pictures rather than drawing. We added a branch each day and I was very impressed with how much my students remembered from the passages they read that morning.

As we were adding branches to the chart, I had my started add notes in this flip flap book from the unit. I am a sucker for a flip flap book! Since they were being asked to take notes while we were adding to the chart, I was able to keep all of them focused and on task.

My students' favorite activity was the vocabulary match-up. I used it as a game of memory at the end of the week. It was a fun and hands-on way to reenforce some of the new vocabulary we had learned during the week. All of the words were also added to their personal dictionaries and may be chosen as spelling words.

There are lots of other great printables and writing papers in the unit, but we ran out of time since we only had a 4-day week due to Easter. I will put some of these printables into centers during the last month of school.

Arisbeth's unit was simple to implement in my classroom and did not involve a ton of prep work. My kids were engaged, reading, writing and learning new vocabulary. I give this unit an A+!!! Would you like to try a sample of the unit for FREE?! Arisbeth has generously donated a sample from the unit that you can download HERE

Also, make sure you sign up for a chance to win lots of great products! Then hop on over to Arisbeth's blog to see how she used my Grilling Up Math Fun in her classroom!

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Totally Task Card Tuesday- Scoots

I spent a good deal of time cutting laminated task cards today. And I was happy to do so because task cards make my life simpler!

My favorite way to use task cards is with a good ol' fashion scoot!

Here is how I run most my scoots. I give each student a recording sheet. I pass a task card out to each student. They complete their task card and then begin scooting around the room to answer all the questions. When they are done, they return to their desk and read silently until the rest of the class finishes. When everyone is finished, I call the task cards by number. If you have that task card- you must stand up and read the card. Then the students gives their answer and explains why they chose that answer.

You can have students work with partners as they scoot around the room.
You can skip going over the answers at the end and grade their recording sheets as an assessment.
You can put the task cards around the room.
You can give students a certain amount of time at each task card and then when the time is up, they move to the next task card. You do this until the students have rotated through each task card.
You can make it  race.
You can reward students who have the most correct answers at the end of a specified time.

I have made lots of great task card sets for my class! You can find them HERE in my TpT store.

Totally Task Card Tuesday- Trashketball

Are you ready for another way to use task cards in the classroom? My students start their standardized testing this week, so we have been reviewing for the last two weeks. My students' very favorite way to review is to play Trash-ketball!!! It is the perfect game to review for any subject.

All you need is some tape, a ball, a trashcan and some task cards.

Divide your students into two teams. Take turns giving a task card to each team. If the student answers it correctly, they earn one point for their team. And then they get to take a shot at bonus points! I put two pieces of tape on the floor so students can decide if they want to shoot for a two pointer or a three pointer.

If the student doesn't get their task card correct, then I go to the other team. This keeps all students engaged and thinking about each and every task card.

My students beg for this one! 

Click HERE to see my task card sets on TpT.

Totally Task Card Tuesday

Last week, I shared many of the reasons that I like to use task cards in my classroom. Today (and for the next several weeks), I am going to share some different ways to use task cards in the classroom.

With standardized testing right around the corner, my current favorite way to use my task cards is as a line up activity/assessment. I like using this strategy because it doesn't involve any prepping of recording sheets and fits into those awkward couple of minutes that you sometimes have before lunch, recess or specials.

Here is how it works:

I like to keep a pile of task cards on my front table.

Five minutes before lunch I will get the class' attention. Then I will walk up to individual students and show them the task card (or read it to them). If they get the question right, they get to line up for lunch. If they are incorrect, you can do one of two things. You can leave the card with them to refigure. Or you can move to the next student and see if they can correctly answer the question. After going around the class once, you can go back to those students who missed their card and give them a new one.

Sometimes I don't have time to get all the way around the class. That's ok! I know that I can start on the other side next time. And I know that they are learning by listening to their classmates. It is the perfect way to make great use of those extra few minutes!

Need some math or ELA task cards? Check out the task cards in my TpT store by clicking HERE.