Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: September 2017

Lots of FREE Math Resources!

I absolutely LOVE my job! Helping teachers to meet the needs of their students makes me giddy. When I can save you a little time, I get crazy excited. And every time one of your students uses a Not So Wimpy resource, I like to think that they are my student too. 

I love to show my appreciation by creating free resources for you! 

Did you know that I have dozens of free resources? For real! Let's take a look at some of the math resources that you can grab for free!

Free Problem Solving Notebook

Do your students need some help with solving word problems? Click HERE to grab these free problem solving notebook activities.

Free Addition and Subtraction Notebook

Have you tried my math interactive notebooks? Click HERE to sign up for a free addition and subtraction notebook.

Free Multiplication Games

Do your students need practice with their multiplication facts? Click HERE to sign up for lots of fun and free multiplication games.

Free Geometry Centers

Are you using my math centers? Click HERE to grab a free mini set of geometry math centers. 

You will also want to click HERE to grab free labels for your math centers!

Free Area and Perimeter Game

Do you students need some extra practice with area and perimeter? Click HERE to grab a free area and perimeter game board.

Free Geometry Riddle Activity

Do you need a fun geometry activity? Click HERE to grab this free shape riddle printable. 

Free Math Centers Video

Do you need some ideas and tips to get math centers started in your classroom? Click HERE to watch a free video about organizing your math centers.

Free Math Centers Posters

Are you looking for a simple way to display the math centers your students should complete each day? Click HERE to grab posters that you can personalize and laminate. Use a dry erase marker to write in student names. This makes it so easy to move students to different groups when necessary. 

I hope that you are able to enjoy all of these math resources in your classroom.

Would you like some FREE ELA resources?! Of course you do! Click on the photo below to check them out.

Have a Not So Wimpy day!

Tips for Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences

I'm not gonna sugar coat it. I have to be 100% honest. Here goes...

I hated doing parent-teacher conferences. Yup. I used the H word. #sorrynotsorry

It really has nothing to do with my kiddos or even the parents. It's just that I already have a million things to do. I am barely staying afloat. Having 25 meetings was just completely overwhelming. 

Besides complete exhaustion, I struggled with balancing being sensitive and being honest when talking to parents. I only have 10-15 minutes. I couldn't spend all of that time telling parents how much I loved their child. I always felt like I had to get to the weaknesses and goals quick or we wouldn't have have time. Many parents don't like hearing about weaknesses. 

I have had parents cry during conferences. I have had parents yell at me during conferences. I even had a parent threaten to sue me. No joke.

I have learned a few things after having some bad experiences with conferences. I can't promise you that a parent won't get upset with you, but hopefully these tips will make conferences just a tad easier!

1. Use Sign Up Genius

When I first started teaching, I would send home a paper that listed our conference date and asked parents to fill in their top three possible conference times. Then I would take all of these and try to make a schedule that would make everyone happy. WHAT WAS I THINKING!

You don't have time for this craziness!

If you have never used Sign Up Genius, you NEED to! You can set up times that you have available for conferences. You send the link to parents and they choose a time and sign up. It even sends them a reminder email when the date gets closer. 

Did I mention that it is free?

2. Ask About Concerns BEFORE Conferences

Conferences are kind of like doing improv theater because you never know what the parent is going to say, but you will have to respond immediatly. There is nothing worse than a parent showing up for their conference and surprising you with a concern that you aren't prepared to talk about. 

Send parents an email. 

"Dear Families,

I am so excited to meet with you next week to discuss your student's progress and goals for this year. In the meantime, can you do me a favor? If you have any specific concerns that you would like for me to discuss with you during our conference, can you please reply to this email? I will look into your concern and offer suggestions when we meet. Our conference time is so short and I want to be certain that we have time to address these concerns.

Thank you so much!"

When parents email back, you will have time to get data, get suggestions, find resources, talk to the student, etc. 

The conference will be quicker and you won't feel unprepared.

3. Have Real Data to Show

If you take the time to prepare properly, conferences will go so much smoother. Making time for the preparation is key. Start early.

I like to start by filling out THIS conference form for each student. 

Students are all so different and so their goals should be different too! Don't just make a list of the grade level standards. Take a moment and really think about social, behavior and academic goals that would benefit this one particular student.

After filling out the form, gather data for each of the students' goals. Data will decrease crying and arguing during conferences! 

Some data is easy to find. Perhaps the students' goal is to learn the first 300 sight words. You probably know that is a goal because you have already tested the student. You can share the number of sight words that the student has already mastered. Easy.

Other data is trickier, but so important. Let's say that the student's goal is to stop talking out of turn during work time. Collect data for one day. Keep a sticky note on your lanyard and make a tally mark every time that the student talks out of turn. At the conference you are able to say, "For example, last Wednesday, Jenna talked out of turn on eight different occasion." This helps parents to really understand the problem.

Data is important, but make sure that you are not talking in teacher language! Get rid of all of the acronyms and talk to parents like they are real people.

Make a copy of the conference form before the meeting. It will make it easier to prepare for the next set of conferences! You can update their goals rather than starting from scratch. 

Let parents take home a copy of the conference form. This makes it easier for them to share with their spouse. As a parent of four, I totally get mixed up after going to all of my kids' conferences! 

You can grab the free conference form by clicking HERE.

4. Give Resources

I always want to try and make parents a part of the team. Not every parent wants that, but I am going to put that ball in their court.

After I have shared student goals and data, I like to give parents some ideas for how they can help their child to meet these goals. 

If the child needs to work on sight words, I might give them some sight word flashcards or a list of the sight words. If the student is struggling with reading comprehension, I might give the parent a list of good grade level books and some questions they can ask their child while reading. If the child is struggling with math facts, I might suggest the xTra Math website. 


Don't make it seem like you expect the parent to do all of the work! Some parents will think that you are passing the buck and expect them to do the teaching. Trust me. This has happened to me! 

Make sure that you share with parents the things that you plan to do in class to help the student to meet their goals. 

5. Stay Organized

I suggest having a file folder for each student. You can throw papers in there from time to time to make a portfolio of student work. I like to include some writing samples and a few tests. 

The work in the folder helps me to fill out the conference form. When completed, I  throw my conference form in the folder. 

I print out my conference schedule from Sign Up Genius and put my folders in the order of my conferences. 

I am able to give the entire folder to parents during our conference. I don't always have time to go through every paper in the portfolio, but at least parents have something to bring home. I know that some will never look at it, but most will appreciate it!

You can grab the free portfolio covers by clicking HERE.

6. The One Thing You Need to Say

Do NOT forget to tell every parents that you are so happy to be their child's teacher! And mean it!

Their child may challenge you, but you are lucky to have them. They are helping you to grow as an educator. If you don't feel that way, you need to have a heart to heart with yourself. (Please don't hate me for saying that.)

Don't let a parent leave without knowing that their child is loved in your classroom.

I hope that these tips make your conferences a little easier and more meaningful! Good luck friends!

Have a Not So Wimpy day!

FREE Multiplication Math Facts Games

These games are perfect for centers when you are teaching multiplication!

Games are such an effective tool for practicing skills in the classroom. Students are so engaged when playing games and we remember more of what we learn when we are having fun. 

I worked hard to incorporate games into my classroom on a very regular basis. My students played vocabulary games on Fridays and they would play math fact games during math centers during the week.

I want to share several of my students' favorite multiplication fact games! And the best part? 

I am giving you all of the printables to play these games for FREE! Yippee! 

Multiplication Games for Math Centers

1. Pop

This game is great for a center. Students can play with with a small group or with a partner. 

For this game, put math fact cards and pop cards into a container. Students take turns pulling one card out of the container. If they pull a math fact card, they must solve for the fact.  If they answer correctly, they keep the card. If they are wrong, it goes back in the container. If they draw a pop card, they must put all of their cards back in the container. The winner is the person with the most fact cards when playing time is over.

These games are perfect for centers when you are teaching multiplication!

I love that anyone can end up winning this game. Your lower learners can win if their partner draws a pop card right before playing time ends!

2. Multiplication War

Students will play this game with a partner. All that students will need to play this game is a deck of playing cards. Take all of the face cards out. 

Students will deal all of the cards so that they each have half of the deck. They will keep their pile face down. Both players will flip their top card at the same time. The first person to correctly multiply the two flipped numbers will keep both cards and put them at the bottom of their pile. If both students answer the math fact at the same time, they will each flip another card. The first person to correctly answer the new problem, will keep all four of the cards. 

These games are perfect for centers when you are teaching multiplication!

The winner is the person with the most cards when playing time is complete.

Warning- you will want to talk to students about their volume (especially if you are using this game in a center. When they are trying to be fast, they tend to get loud. Spend a little time practicing the appropriate volume.

3. Board Games

Using simple board games is my very favorite way for my students to practice math facts! 

You will need to collect some game boards. You will want games that students already know how to play. I suggest Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Connect Four, Trouble, Checkers etc. These games can typically be found at second hand stores. The other thing that you will need are sets of multiplication flash cards. 

To play, students will take turn. flipping over a flash card. If they answer the fact correctly, they get to take the usual turn on the game board. So if you are using Candy Land, the student would get to draw a game card and move to that place on the game board.

These games are perfect for centers when you are teaching multiplication!

If a student gets the fact incorrect, they don't get a turn to play on the game board. 

The winner is the first person to win the board game according to the game's rules.

4. Jenga

This is another great game to use in math centers. 

Take a Jenga game and write multiplication facts on each of the blocks. Students will play the game according to the Jenga rules. The only difference is that when a person pulls out a block, they must answer the math fact before placing it on the top of the tower. 

These games are perfect for centers when you are teaching multiplication!

The winners are the players who do NOT knock down the tower.

5. Rolling Facts

This game requires almost no prep and is perfect for a center. All students need is 1 or 2 dice, a set of flash cards and a scrap paper or white board to keep score. 

These games are perfect for centers when you are teaching multiplication!

Students will take turns flipping over a flash card and answering the math fact. If they are correct, they get to roll the die or dice to determine how many points they earn. The winner is the student with the most points when the flash cards are complete or playing time is complete.

6. Fidget Spinner

This game can be played with a partner or even independently for extra practice. It is great as a fast finisher activity. You will need the FREE printable game board for each student and a fidget spinner. I personally like to laminate the game board and have students play using a dry erase marker.

With this game, the fidget spinner acts as a timer. One player will spin it on the table and both players will answer as many facts as they can before the fidget spinner stops. 

These games are perfect for centers when you are teaching multiplication!

The winner is the person who correctly answered the most math facts.

7. Roll Four in a Row 

This is another great multiplication game to play in math centers! All you need is one of the game boards laminated for each student, two dice and a dry erase marker for each player.

Players will take turns rolling both dice. They will add the two numbers rolled and then multiply by the number on the top of the game board. The player will find and color the product in the game board grid. 

These games are perfect for centers when you are teaching multiplication!

Students can only color in one number per turn, even though the product will appear more than once on their board. If that product is no longer available on their board, they don't get to color anything and it is their partner's turn.

The winner is the first person with four squares colored in a row.

You can give each student the same board or you can differentiate by giving students different boards based on the facts that they need the most practice with.

Note: This game goes up to x12!

Multiplication Games for the Whole Class

8. Class Relay Race

This is a fun whole group game that requires almost no prep. It is the perfect activity for that extra 10 minutes that you need to fill last minute. All you need is the class white board and white board markers.

Before you start the game, divide the white board into two spaces. Write a dozen (or so) multiplication facts on each side of the white board. Divide your class into two teams.

These games are perfect for centers when you are teaching multiplication!

Students will form two single file lines. When you say "go" the first person runs up to board and answers ONE of the math facts on their side of the board. Then they run back and give the marker to the next person in line. That person can then run up to the board and answer any one of the facts. 

The winning team is the team who correctly answers all of their team's multiplication facts first.

9. Bingo

This game is perfect to play whole group.

Each student will need a bingo board. Students will fill each box in with a multiplication fact. You can let them choose any facts or you can set rules. Maybe the facts need to be x6, x7, x8 or x9. It's up to you! 

These games are perfect for centers when you are teaching multiplication!

You will call out products. I just use flashcards and tell the students the product without showing them the fact. This makes prep easier. If a student has a fact that equals the product you called out, they can cover the fact or color it in. If they have multiple facts with the product, they can only color in one of them! 

The first person to get a complete row covered is the winner.

10. Swat a Fact

This is another fun whole group multiplication game. It is fun to surprise students with an engaging game on a Friday afternoon!

For this game, you will need two fly swatters, two sets of the product cards and one set of the teacher calling cards. Divide the class white board in half. Tape the product cards to the white board. You will be taping the same products on both sides of your board and that is why you printed two sets.

Split the class into two teams and have the teams line up in front of their side of the white board. You will call out the math fact. The first people in the team lines will swat the correct product on the board. The first person to swat the correct answer will earn a point for their team. They will give their fly swatters to the next students in line and the game will continue until you have called all of the facts or you run out of time.

These games are perfect for centers when you are teaching multiplication!

The winning team is the one with the most points at the end.

The free stuff that you have been waiting for...

So are you super excited to get your students playing these fun multiplication games? I am giving you all of the game cards and printable game boards for FREE! Just click on the image below to get signed up!

(Note: I will send the games right away. I HIGHLY recommend using a personal address rather than a school address. If you don't get the games right away, be certain to check your junk mail folder.)

These games are perfect for centers when you are teaching multiplication!

Enjoy those free games! Your students are going to think that you are the coolest teacher EVER!

These games are perfect for centers when you are teaching multiplication!

Have a Not So Wimpy day!

My ELA Block: Writing Workshop

Take a look at how I teach writing each day in my classroom!

Hey! Thanks for stopping by to check out the last post in my ELA block blog series! If you missed any of the other posts in the series, you can click on the links below.

Part Two: Reading Centers

Today, I want to talk about how I teach writing!

I teach writing using a workshop model. Students have a mini lesson each day and the majority of the writing time is spent independently working on their own writing piece.

I do not teach using writing prompts. Instead, I teach in units of study (personal narrative, informational, opinion). Students can choose their own writing topic within our current unit of study. Every unit contains mini lessons to help students learn to generate their own topics. Allowing them to choose their own writing topic gets them more excited and invested in the writing.

Here is a look at our daily breakdown:

How to teach writing!

Mini Lesson: 10-15 minutes

Writer's workshop starts with a mini lesson. It is a MINI lesson- not a MAXI lesson! Maxi skirts are cute, but maxi lessons are BORING! #dontbeboring #butbecute

This is the time I am teaching students a skill that I want them to use in their writing. If I spend too much time talking, then they never get to the writing! 

During my mini lesson, I love to share mentor texts. I think that reading great writing is the best way to grow great writers. There are wonderful picture book mentor texts for nearly every writing skill. However, I can't always find the books at the library and it gets pricey to buy them all. I started using mentor text passages instead. I like them because they can be used as a close read during reading and students can highlight and underline interesting words, dialogue and other great writing skills. Plus, students can glue the passages into their notebooks for future reference.

Most of my mini lessons also include anchor charts. The charts are a great way to practice a skill. I don't have a ton of wall space, so I prefer to display a digital version of an anchor chart and fill it in with student input. Students can create the same anchor chart and put it in their notebook as a reminder when they write.

Work Time: 25-35 minutes

The majority of writer's workshop is spent writing! Students are given a specific task to work on in their masterpiece story. 

If the mini lesson was about using transition words, their task will be to go back through their piece and add transition words. If the mini lesson was about using dialogue, students will be asked to add dialogue to their piece. 

Giving students a very specific task, and resources for reference, helps students to write for the entire time. When a student completes the task for the day, they are able to work on extra stories in the back of their notebook. They will come back to their masterpiece the next day when we learn a new skill during the mini lesson. I like this method because my students are always at the same place in the writing process with their masterpiece story.

Writing Conferences:

While students are writing, I am conferencing with students. I used to conference one-on-one with writers, but I never seemed to be able to get to every student in a week. I also found that I was giving the same feedback to many of the students. I decided that it made more sense to meet with a small group of writers each day. 

Students are grouped based on their writing goals. Students with similar needs are grouped together and this drastically cuts down on the amount of time I spend giving the same feedback. It also helps students to learn from one another. 

When students meet with me during conference, I will have them read their writing out loud. This is much faster than me trying to read all of the pieces. I don't have them read the entire story though. If we have just learned about writing leads that hook readers (or if that is a common goal for the group), I will have each student share their lead. This keeps the conferences short and focused. 

During conferences, I will take notes about strengths and areas for growth for each student. This helps me to remember things I want to follow up on. (I have the WORST memory!)

How to effectively teach writing!

Share Time: 5 minutes

I think that it is important for authors to have opportunities to share their writing. I think that is the main reason that writers write! I used to have an author's chair and chose one student to come up each day to read their story. This took so long and meant that students were only able to share less than once per month. I want students to get to share everyday! 

Sharing doesn't always have to be in front of the whole class. Most days I just have my students share with their shoulder partner. 

I always give my students a very specific task during share time. It just takes too long to read an entire story. Instead, I might ask them to share a place where they used the "show, don't tell" writing strategy. I might ask them to share a place where they used dialogue. Giving a specific task helps to keep things moving and his a great way to close our lesson.

Writing Freebies!

Would you like even more information about making the most of your writing time? I have put together a FREE writing workshop email course. The course includes a week of free lesson plans, anchor charts and rubrics. 

Get signed up now and you'll get your first freebie right away!

Helpful Writing Resources!

Would you like to have an effective writing workshop without having to write the lesson plans, find the mentor texts or create the anchor charts? I have you covered! I did all of the hard. work, so you can start teaching writing in your class tomorrow! 

Click on the pictures below to read more about these units! 

How to effectively teach writing!

And that's a wrap! Now you have an inside look at my entire ELA block! I hope that it helped to give you some new ideas!

Have a Not So Wimpy day!