Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: June 2014

Monday Made It

I am excited to be linking up again with 4th Grade Frolics for another Made It Monday! All of my projects are for the classroom. I start back in 2 weeks and I still feel like I have a long to do list!
My first project is a shameless copy from The Evil Math Wizard. I saw them on her blog last winter and have been wanting to make them ever since. Well I finally got around to it!

Check out my multiplication beads.

Each compartment has a different amount of beads on the pipe cleaner. For instance, the yellows have 7 beads. So if a student is working on the problem 3x7, they can pull out three of the yellows and count to help solve. I think it is perfect for developing foundational skills.

This was so simple that I actually made it in the waiting area of Sports Clips while my son and hubby were getting hair cuts. The men in the waiting area probably thought I was crazy. Oh well!

Here is what you need. I got my supplies for about $10 at Walmart and have lots of beads left.

Cut each pipe cleaner in half and then add beads. I later had to trim my pipe cleaners just a tad more to easily fit in the compartments. I had my children double check my counting and then added a label. Done!
My next project is another peak into my classroom. My husband and I put up my math bulletin board!

The goal post was made using a couple of pool noodles. My husband used his heavy duty staple gun to attach them to the wall. The football is a lantern that I purchased from a party store. Ignore the ugly holes in the wall. I plan to cover them with my water bottle holder!

My family went on a getaway up north to escape the desert heat. I took my computer and spent hours creating on the back deck. Some may say I need to take a break, but they just don't get that creating in my break!!!

Here is a look at some of my creations:

Just a reminder that you only have until Wednesday to grab any products that you want from my store for FREE! Click HERE for details.

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Win One of Ten $100 TpT Shopping Sprees!

I am excited to be a part of this huge giveaway by Tabitha from Totally Sweet Math Centers by Tabitha!

I've teamed up with the best of the best TpT sellers for what I'm sure will be an amazing giveaway! 10 winners will each win one of the prize packages listed below. Each package contains a $10 shopping spree to 10 different stores- that a $100 shopping spree and a total of $1000 in products in all!

You can enter right from my page. Best of luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Diggin' Into Next Year: Literacy Block

I have been loving the opportunity to reflect on so many things in my classroom! If you have missed any of this series, you can click HERE to catch up.

...organize my literacy block.

I have blogged about this topic before. But it is my absolute favorite part of the day and so I don't mind sharing about literacy centers again! I will also attempt to answer some of the common questions that I receive.

I run my literacy block very similar to the way that I run my math workshop. I have four groups, but I only meet with two groups per day. This means that I get to meet with each group for 30 minutes. It allows us to go deeper into the text and eliminates some transition time. I LOVE the schedule.

Here is my small group display.

I might use sticky notes next year so that it is easier to switch student grouping when needed. Last year, I just reprinted the page when I changed a group.

Here is a closer look at the three centers that my students complete independently:

Read to Self: 
This center is all about student choice and reading something that they love! Students get to select a book from our class library, the school library or bring a book from home. They get to take one of my pillows and find a comfy place anywhere in the classroom. Some choose their desk and others choose the floor.

Even my lowest level third graders have the endurance to read for 20 minutes if thy are reading something they enjoy. The little guy pictures above started the year reading simple picture books and was reading chapter books by the end of the year. All on his own! 

I want to hold my students accountable for their reading. I want to be sure they are thinking critically about the text and not just staring at it. After each chapter, students must choose an appetizer, entrée or dessert reading response question from their reading menu. So after chapter 1, the student will complete an appetizer question. After chapter 2, the student will choose an entree question. And so on and so on. I think there are 10 questions for every course, so the students get plenty of choice and variety.

In order for this center to be very effective, it is important to teach students how to respond to reading. At the start of the year, I would read a chapter from a class read aloud. Then I would choose a question and think aloud as I responded. I was careful to point out things like writing the date, complete sentences and using text evidence. After modeling it a few times, I starting asking students to help me respond. And finally, I had small groups of students respond together. It took a couple weeks, before I felt they could be successful this this independently.

My goal this year will be to write back to each student once per month. That means I need to write back to one reading group per week. I THINK that will be doable. I want them to know that I care about their thoughts and about what they are reading.

Language Centers:
I just don't have nearly enough time in the day to teach language the way my students need it taught. So I devote one of their reading centers to language skills. I noticed a HUGE improvement in my students' work last year when I used these literacy centers!

Each month they have sorts for the following skills: nouns, plurals, verbs, antonyms, synonyms, prefixes, suffixes, adjectives, ABC order, compound words, contractions and syllables. The skills don't change each month, but the words that they sort do. They have a booklet that they use all month. This means that I only prep once per month!

As students complete the centers, the punch a hole in the back cover. They love this! If students complete before the end of the month (this starts to happen a lot at the end of the year), they can play a language game with a partner. I teach a few language games to my students during guided reading groups. Then I leave them in an accessible location. I like to use prefix and suffix games and vocabulary rich games. These are skills that all of my students need help with.

This year, I sent the booklets home with a parent volunteer to be graded. Next year, my students will be using their data tracking charts to track their scores each month. I hope this encourages them to do their best!

If you would like to have your students track their monthly language center scores, you can download both graphs for FREE by clicking HERE. You can see my entire second grade data tracking binder HERE and my third grade binder HERE.

I am blessed to have eight chromebooks in my classroom. During literacy centers, students use the chromebooks to log into their i-Ready account. This is a problem that our school has purchased for us. Each student takes a diagnostic test and then reading, phonics and language lessons are prescribed to the student based on the scores. Students complete lessons and quizzes within their unique lesson plan. I can log in and see their scores and assign specific lessons if I choose. The lessons are very kid friendly and most of my students enjoy this center.

I do have word work centers. However, I have enough centers that all of my students can complete word work at the same time. Last year, students completed it right about their morning bell work.

What do you love about your literacy block? What will you be changing next year?

Don't forget that I am giving my products away! I have already given away $150 worth of products during the last 2 days! Click on the picture below to read about how you can clear your wish list!

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Guided Math- Chapter 5

I loved this chapter! Do I say that every week?

This chapter focuses completely on small group instruction. First, Sammons gives some reasons that small group instruction is essential in any math classroom.

  • Small group instruction allows teachers to differentiate instruction rather than spending an hour teaching the whole group the exact same lesson.
  • Small groups allow teachers to closely monitor student understanding of the "hot spots," or the critical teaching points for a particle grade level.
  • Small group instruction makes it easier to use math manipulatives with students.
Next, Sammons discusses the process of setting up your math small groups. This was a big challenge for me last year. I tried to place them based on a grade level diagnostic test. That did not prove to be the most accurate data on how well my students understand math concepts. I have decided to use unit pretests to place students in small groups this year. I couldn't find the perfect ones- so I will be creating my own. I want them to include performance based tasks.

Sammons talks about what a teacher needs to do to organize for small groups. I just LOVE the "O" word! Organizing is one of my OCD addictions. I am pleased that I have all of my math manipulatives organized and labeled.

I have also talked to my roommate and we have plans for a shelf right behind our small group table. Dollar Tree buckets will hold all the materials I need for reading and math groups. I will just fill them each Friday for the following week. I'll show pictures in July when I get to set my room up. Yay!

According to Sammons, a small group lesson will run almost identical to the format of a mini lesson: Connection, Teaching Point, Active Engagement and Link. I think that the only real difference is that the active engagement can be much more hand-on since you only have about six kids to work with. 

I especially needed to read the section on keeping math small groups fluid. I have read it and been told it many times. But it is so challenging to constantly switch kids' small groups! I tend to only do it a few times a year. But with the pretest before every new unit, next year WILL be different! I know that a student might be great at place value and really struggle with fractions. I don't want them to spend the whole year in the wrong group and either be bored during place value or lost during fractions. So I will go outside of my comfort zone and move them around more. PROMISE!

I loved the ending of the chapter. Sammons gave a sample of a guided math small group. She used the example of teaching a small group to make equivalent fractions. I was only reading the lesson and yet I was completely engaged! Ha! As soon as I finished reading it, I said to my husband "Dang, some teachers are just amazing." It gives me soothing to strive for!

I think that needs-based grouping allows students to feel supported and more confident. They also allow teachers to more accurately meet the individual needs of her students. Instructional time is so valuable and I like knowing that I am using that time to teach something to a student who needs that lesson at that time. One of my challenges is that when I teach at their level- some students don't spend much of any time on grade level curriculum and standards. I always feel so torn about that.

As I read this chapter, I knew right away that I need to get better about keeping small group data. I try to remember it all. I have a fantastic memory- but even I can't remember the little ins and outs that I observe each during math AND reading groups. I have test data. But I want to keep more of a running record of the little things that I notice while watching a student work at the back table. It would really help me plan for future small groups! The reason I haven't kept a running record or my observations is that I didn't have a way to keep it organized. So it felt overwhelming. Obviously I need a binder! I got to work making printables, planners, and cover sheets for a guided math binder.

You can read a lot more about my binder and get a tour of the printables by clicking HERE.

I'd love to hear about your experience with math small groups. How do you keep it all organized? How much time do you spend planning for small group instruction?