Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Apply For This Grant Intermediate Teachers and a Great First Week Celebration!

Though much of the philosophy behind current mathematics instruction requires students to "discover" concepts through manipulatives and deeper experiences, the fact remains that if students do not have quick recall of basic facts, this will eventually catch up to them and impact their ability to build more complex concepts.  Reflex math offers an alternative to the traditional "drill and kill" routine and really engages kids with a structured and scaffolded approach to mastering the basic facts in both addition/subtraction and multiplication/division.  There are 8 or so games, all of which are ridiculously fun, as well as other motivational tools like an avatar, benchmark rewards, and engaging graphics.  There is also documentation of  hours logged for intervention documentation...easy to show growth or lack there of!

Reflex is  providing free, full access to their program for two teachers at a school, open to grades 2-8, teachers who provide math instruction.  The grant literally takes 10 minutes and is very simple, and I found out, along with my team teacher, about 4 days later.  Since then, I've had my kids on it every morning and they volunteer to come in at lunch, as well as utilizing it at home!  They have already logged thousands of fact practices and are loving the game format!  I have also noticed with a few of my struggling mathematicians, their confidence is increasing and they are definitely bringing their learning back with them to, I was working with a little girl who said, "Oh, I did this fact family this morning on Reflex" and proceeded to explain the relationship between multiplication and division!  It's a great opportunity to explore a normally pricey subscription!  Go for it and best of luck!!!

On a kindhearted, gooey note, one of my girls who is new to our school (we've only got 2 of our 18 kids new to the school) came in as proud as could be this morning.  She could barely get in the door before she was clambering to get this GIANT piece of paper from behind her raincoat.  With a big smile, she proudly announced, "I made the class a card! A big card!"  She took a whole bunch of notebook papers and taped them together and wrote our class name on the front, and then wrote the sweetest "Thank You" to all of the kids in the class explaining how she had made so many new friends last week and loves her new school.  She then proceeded to draw and name every student in the class on the inside of the card.  WOW....she made me a little leaky, because just yesterday we had had a very tough day with one of our ESE students who has some behavioral issues.  This was just the pick-me-up I needed and this little gem probably has no idea how much she made my day!  I will definitely be sending her one of our Weekly Stars notes on Friday to let her know!  

And finally, it's the small things that make me happy I guess, hehe.  I've had these giant hands for a few years and always want to use them but they really just end up sitting in the corner.  This year, my new little devils have obsessed about a way for me to use them.  One of my goals this year is to promote 100% engagement through the use of explicit instruction strategies. Well, today, they all had their thumbs up after think time and were ready to go, but our choral responses were a mess.  We just couldn't find or rhythm and so I snagged the green hand from the window sill and said, "Talk to the hand!"  Hmmmm...the light went on and suddenly our choral responses were perfect!  I thought this was a dated phrase, but apparently my fifth graders still know its meaning, and they thought it was pretty funny.  So now when I say, "Talk to the hand" and hold up my silly green hand, they are with it!  Goofballs.....but whatever works!
***I tried finding them on the internet but can't!  I am pretty sure I got them from but it's been several years.  There are giant-sized clappers I found during my search and of course, the oldy but goodie foam fingers would be fun too!

Have a great rest of the week!
:o) Heather

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Cooperative Learning Selector Prompts & TPTs Big Sale is COMING!

Cooperative learning requires teachers to be as quick on their feet as children!  Sometimes it’s tough to remember strategies, praises, cheers, and starting prompts.  This resource is meant to be a helper for starting prompts.  

When two or more students are preparing to share, either with one another or with the whole group, many times it makes sense to identify who will begin speaking in order to ensure the fluency of the activity and active engagement and accountability by all students.   It’s easy to fall into a rut and use the same “starters” over and over, but in the name of novelty and fun, I created a set of  64 prompts to add a little extra oomph to your day- and take some pressure off of the 4,000 other decisions you make in a day!  

I printed mine in color, mounted on black tag board, and laminated the cards (I might have made them just so I can use that darn personal laminator I just bought!).  After punching a few holes, I placed them on a ring and they are in fingertips' reach whenever I need them on my whiteboard.  These would be awesome to start the year with as you begin teaching rituals and routines in cooperative learning!  

These cards are included in my TPT store sale starting Sunday.  Combine my 20% discount with TPT's 10% discount, and you're looking at 28% off!  Not too shabby, I think!  I've been busy filling my wish list with goodies from many of the stores I've joined forces with to advertise for this sale.  Please check out their resources- just click on the button!  Have a fabulous Saturday...I will be sanding walls- hmph.  

:)) Heather 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Huge Sale and What's in Your Cart?

Wooohoooo! It's finally here...Sunday, August 12 and Monday, August 13, grab that discount code (BTS12) for an additional 10% off and head on over to TPT!  Click on the icon above to check out the innovative and exciting projects they have to  offer you.  Start looking now and get those wish lists ready! Have fun!

And just for fun, I've joined the "What's in Your Cart?" linky to showcase some of the great things I can't wait to get for a few pennies less! Click the cart to see everyone's great finds!

My Dot IT!  Draw & Write Book
  • My Dot IT! Draw & Write Book - Designed for K-2 but so up my alley for grade 5.  Awesome little journal booklets with random dot patterns meant to be story starters.  Love this idea for generating writing ideas!
Introduction to Science Stations 
  • Introduction to Science Stations- Great plan for introducing science measurement in the first week and great price!  I think I'm ready to go the first week! Love the Science Penguin!
5th Grade Common Core Math Numbers and Operations {Student 
  • 5th Grade Common Core Math Numbers and Operations {Student Data Binder Pack}- Love the idea of having everything laid out for the kids to monitor progress in their own data binders.  Something I would like to try out this year!

    Favorite back to school product from my store and I don't have to buy it!  But I am sooooo excited about using it with the kids during the first five days!
    Classroom Rules: Back to Basics (Explicit Instruction) 5-Day Unit

    Have fun shopping! I am off to my classroom to post some of the things I've already purchased hehe...
    :0) Heather

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Classroom Rules: Back to Basics

Last year, I had the opportunity to participate in a CLC exploring Explicit Instruction. Initially, I was hesitant to "buy in" because I had the idea that it took away the "fun" in learning. I prided myself in being the teacher whose kids were always active, moving around, and seemingly engaged in their learning. Explicit Instruction, from what I knew of it, contradicted this. Boy was I wrong! Quite the contrary, once I started trying out some of the strategies, I was seeing results immediately!

 Explicit instruction provides students with multiple opportunities to interact with content, whether it’s rules, problem solving in math, or vocabulary instruction. The teacher clearly defines the concept and then provides engaging activities for students to practice applying this concept. This repeated exposure coupled with the scaffolding of difficulty levels, provides the safety net your below-level students need and the challenge your upper level students need, enabling everyone to grow, succeed, and have fun!
Product Details
I highly recommend reading Anita Archer's, "Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching."  The title says it all!  She streamlines lessons like a pro and you can even watch 11 of her videos on her site.  Click the video link and you will be impressed at her pace and efficiency.  Watch the kids! They are in awe of her and EVERY child is participating.  It's not the video either...we practiced this as part of our CLC.  First, we used one of our classrooms as a "test room" and then did the same lessons in our own classrooms.  In both situations, the kids were all fully engaged and retained the information we had taught with a much higher level than we expected.  My kids looked forward to the days I would come back form the CLC training to test something new on them!

Basically, you are laying a foundation for all of your students to be able to dig deeper and apply more abstract concepts.  Since this training, I have begun introducing virtually every lesson with the explicit instruction model which pairs perfectly with cooperative learning strategies.  With these two methods in place, student attitudes and success soared.  I can't wait to see what happens this year when I get a whole year to implement this structure!

With this in mind, I want to start the year a little differently.  Traditionally, we always spend the first few days as a class creating our rules and doing a few activities with them.  Our rules get written on a poster and plastered on the wall, and more or less, forgotten.  This year, I want students to engage more with the rules and in analyzing their own performance.  And so, I decided to create an explicit instruction unit introducing and exploring our classroom rules.

First, I decided I wanted the rules to be as simple as possible and short!  The list is pretty traditional, but you'll see, the deeper into the explicit instruction unit you go, there is quite a bit of detail attached to each rule.  Here's my list:

For each rule, the teacher introduces it and explains why it is important.  The next three slides discuss how the rule should look, sound, and feel, followed by some non-examples.  

The slides look simple, but there is a set of suggested teacher prompts included in each notes section as you can see in this screen shot:
The prompts are all editable (but the backgrounds are not to protect clip art privacy rules).  This introduction is followed by three activities that engage the students in multiple interactions with the rule and cooperative learning strategies.  Each day ends with students reflecting upon their understanding of this rule in their own "Rule and Goal" book (18 pages).   Each of the first four day works around this same basic routine.  

The fifth day is a cumulative review using cooperative learning strategies and reviewing the class pledge as students all sign their name to a class chart and in their personal booklets. Students also work together to create a consequence chart.   The best part is, I will now have a concrete reminder for myself and students each month because the rest of the student booklet includes a monthly student evaluation of their progress with the classroom rules.  This ensures that I don't get lackadaisical about reinforcing and reviewing these rules!  I'm even thinking of keeping track of my own progress...I've broken a rule or two myself I'm thinking.  

This was a long post!  Thanks for hanging in there...I can't wait to try this out with my new fifth graders.  I think it will really help build classroom community quickly and get our classroom rules clearly defined early on! Two days of summer left......eek!

Here's your reward for sticking around:
Minute to Win It Set #4
Have a blast and take those pictures...

:0) Heather

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Everything but the Kitchen Sink! Prizes, Apps, and Books!

This is a sort of "everything but the kitchen sink" post!  I am excited about this year's Sunshine State Reader's list because I've actually got the funding to purchase 6 of each book and conduct a lunch book club.  I created a set of bookmarks for students to use to track the books they've read and tossed those up as a freebie.  If you're not in Florida, it's still a fabulous list that is published each year containing new and interesting authors and highly engaging books.  I've found some of my all-time favorites from these lists.  Check out the archives! Click the bookmark icon above to find out more information and get the links.

Thanks so much to everyone who has entered the contest and left such positive feedback!  There are 3.5 days remaining to enter to win this new explicit instruction unit AND a copy of Janell Cannon's beautifully illustrated book to share with your class.  I am also giving away my other two units.  Click the icon to enter. :)

Each week I am posting a set of three Minute to Win It reward incentives.  I absolutely can't wait to do these with my class and am finding some really clever new ones now that I have had time to dig a little deeper into their site!  I highly recommend Candy Elevator!  It's the calmest you'll ever see some of them as they try to get three candies to their mouth using strings looped around their ears...awesome photos! Click the icon above and it will take you to the links for all three sets I've created.  
Classroom Organizer
And last but not least, I added this app that kept me up way later than I needed to be!  Classroom organizer is ridiculously cool and enables you to create your classroom library and have students use an IPhone or IPad to scan books in and out.  Click the icon for more info!

Now, I am going to go finish laminating, throwing a few things on Ebay, think about my next TPT unit, clean up my scrapbook mess, do the dishes, fold laundry (UGH)....hmmm...or maybe I'll just check out some blogs hehe.