Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer Vacay in Vegas Baby!

Happy summer everyone!
I am in THE Las Vegas for the 1st ever TeachersPayTeachers Conference! This place is amaaaaaazing! 
I am here meeting up with teachers and bloggers from around the WORLD. How cool is that?!
Not to mention, my girls (and Greg) from The Primary Chalkboard are here! 
If you can't be here with us, what better way to celebrate than with a SALE?!
We are hosting a *Las Vegas Style* Double or Nothing Sale!
20% off my whole store July 10th and 11th!

It is the perfect time to stock up on things for Back to School! Check out the stores of my buddies who are also participating...

Friday, April 25, 2014

GoNoodle! Awesome for Brain Breaks!

I am SO hooked on GoNoodle! Have you heard of it? Well, it is an awesome brain break website that is so easy to use in the classroom. There is a huge variety of games/videos to play which means no more searching Pinterest for your next brain break. I know that my kids and I will be able to happily use the breaks everyday from now until the end the year.

Now, I have to share how I am using it!

I have been dabbling in some of the Whole Brain Teaching methods. There are a few that REALLY click with my style. My favorite behavior motivator is the smiley face/sad face scoreboard.

I draw the "scoreboard" on my whiteboard before my trickiest (behavior-wise) class (my reading/writing block RIGHT before lunch). I put a tally in the smiley face column when I see procedures performed well and a tally in the sad face column when I see the opposite. It is a contest for if the smiley or the sad faces win before the end of the period. If there are more smiley faces, then we get a reward...a GoNoodle brain break! (Note: You should follow the +/- 3 rule, which means don't let the smileys or the frowns get ahead by anything greater than 3. This keeps the kids more engaged).

The variety of brain breaks on GoNoodle is huge! There are calming breaks and silly dance breaks. I let my students choose their breaks (and they are always so excited that there are NO arguments).

Did I mention how amazing the FREE version is of this site? There are a TON of fun activities like this!

The BEST part is that the games are aligned to Common Core standards. For example, on today's break, when the screen says "DANCE" it is a dance party until the screen says "FREEZE" and shows an analog clock. When they see this, the students freeze and yell out the time on the clock. They are totally engaged AND they are practicing telling time. LOVE.

Anytime I try a behavior management system, I find that it works for a few weeks, or even months, but then starts to fizzle. Right? With using GoNoodle, there is a built in fail safe plan for keeping the kids interested! The class chooses their own character or mascot. They love stuff like this.

This little guy roots them and keeps 'em going! There is also the "video game effect" in play here. You know how there is the perfect amount of challenge to get to the next level? Yep, it's here. And yep, it works :)
It's kind of awesome. You should definitely check it out. It is super easy to sign up for an awesome FREE version by following this link HERE. You can even submit your name into a giveaway raffle at The Primary Chalkboard to win a PREMIUM membership to GoNoodle! 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bright Ideas: Using Debates to Teach Opinion Writing (in the Primary Grades)

I am so excited to be a part of the Bright Ideas linky party again! This is where 150 AWESOME bloggers write a post about something that is REALLY working for them. There is NOTHING to buy in any of these blog posts. JUST GREAT IDEAS!

So for me, I am writing about how I use debates in my 2nd grade opinion writing unit. It is AWESOME and totally working for me. 

Four years ago when I started at my current school, I was new to opinion writing. I read I Wanna Iguana only to find out they read it the year before. And then to find out the 3rd grade teacher also uses it in her opinion writing unit. As well as the 4th grade teacher. And the 5th grade teacher... then when I looked closely at the standard, I noticed there is NOTHING about writing a persuasive essay. Persuasive seems more complex than writing opinions supported by reasons. And for a 2nd grader, maybe basic is better?

So I looked around for ideas of what kids could state their opinion about. I found PLENTY of boring suggestions. I tried to come up with three reasons of my own for why I like apples...and was stumped. 

But then I thought about how our kids are CONSTANTLY telling us their opinions about everything, i.e. "Miss Swanson, I liked it better when you had long hair." Thanks Jimmy.

So the question became, "WHY do you think that"? I figured out you need a deeper topic with room for strong opinions.

We started doing actual debates in our class and it was an instant success! When students feel passionate about something, they can think up tons of reasons! If they are really passionate, they will be happy to write their opinions and reasons until the sun comes up as long as they know their opinion will be heard.

For the past two years, I have started my opinion unit with a short scene from the Pixar movie "Up". On both years, my class has divided nearly evenly on the question: "Should Mr. Fredrickson go give at Shady Oaks retirement village, or should he live his life on his own". I have them separate themselves from what happens at the end of the movie and think about what is best for Mr. Fredrickson and the community. LOTS of opinions coming from 7 year olds!

I have started to find debate topics in nearly all of my fiction read alouds! Yesterday we debated whether or not The Little Red Hen should share her food. Then today, we read "The Ant and the Grasshopper" and the question came up, "should the ants help the Grasshopper?". I am AMAZED by the deep thinking!

This unit is SO perfect to use along with letter writing. Also, I teach formal vs. informal language because each letter is to a different person or character and in REAL LIFE, our language changes depending on who we are writing to. Since these letters are listing multiple reasons, it is also PERFECT for teaching transition words and varying sentence beginnings.

So when your opinion writing unit comes up and you are looking for ideas outside of "I Wanna Iguana" or "what is your favorite fruit and why?", you should try a debate!

There you have it! That is my bright idea blog post for today. I am hopeful that it is inspiring to someone out there.  You can also check out the rest of the Bright Ideas from 150 of the smartest education bloggers out there by visiting the Bright Ideas blog hop linky page...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bright Ideas Blog Hop! - Keeping Track of Student Conferring

I am now in my fifth year of teaching reading, writing, and math in a "workshop" format (mini lesson, gradual release to independent work, conferring, group share) and there are a lot of kinks I am still working out! The tip I have to share today is one that has made it so much easier for me to keep track of who is next on my conferring agenda.

When I am conferring, my clipboard is with me everywhere I go. It has all of my notes for each student regarding what they were working on the last time we met, what areas I hope to see improvement, reminders for compliments, etc. 

Since it is always with me, I keep my handy dandy clothespin organizational system on my clipboard. 

On the right side, I keep all of the names of the students who I have not conferred with in this "round". As I get to the student, I move their name to the top of my clipboard. Sometimes I will also put a student's name at the top of the clipboard if I KNOW that I want to meet with them in my next conferring session. 

After all of my conferences for the day, I move the names of the students I met with to a little sign at the front of my room near the sharing rug. Occasionally I will pull one of the names of the students I have conferred with already in this round and put their name back on the clipboard because I want to check in on them sooner. But in general, this keeps everything fair and lets the kids know about how much time they have left before meeting with me again. Super easy!

So there you have it! That is my bright idea blog post for today. I am hopeful that it is inspiring to someone out there. You should definitely continue the linky to find out some more awesome tips. The next place you should check out is Karen Jones's blog, at Mrs Jones's Kindergarten.

You can also check out the rest of the Bright Ideas from several of the smartest education bloggers out there by visiting the Bright Ideas blog hop linky page...

Monday, February 24, 2014

My latest baby!

Some teacher-authors have equated finishing a mondo project with giving birth. That is exactly how I feel after finishing my last projects!! These "babies" took me FOUR months to complete! So what are my Common Core Close Reading products all about?


Both the 2nd grade and the 3rd grade products include 52 original leveled reading passages. Each passage falls within the Lexile Level of 450-790, which is the Common Core State Standards expectation for 2nd and 3rd grade. The Lexile Level is marked at the top of each passage which makes it a breeze to find the right work for any student in your class.

Standards RI.1-RI.8 EACH have 5 passages and activities specifically dedicated to that standard. Standard RI.9 is extra special (you know, the one where you compare two texts on the same topic) because it has a total of 10 passages so that your students can compare away!

Each passage has two pages of carefully written and consistent close reading tasks and text dependent questions. The first page of tasks are specifically aligned to the standard identified at the top of the page. The first page also consistently includes tasks for standard RI.10 (By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts...in the grades 2-3 complexity band proficiency...).

The second page of activities is a  spiral of all the 2nd or 3rd Grade RI standards. This is perfect for holding those kids accountable for everything they have already learned! No skill slipping on your watch! 
Still unsure of whether or not this is the right close reading packet for you? Check out my freebie sample that includes TWO original 2nd/3rd grade leveled reading passages and close reading activities perfectly aligned to Common Core Standards RI.2.9 and RI.3.9 (Compare and contrast the most important points...presented in two texts on the same topic.) 

But if you know you want the real deal, you can find my 2nd Grade Close Reading or the 3rd Grade Close Reading in my tpt store. Enjoy! 


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Bright Ideas Blog Hop! Blurt Chart+Minute to Win It Fridays

I teach in Spain. Spaniards talk A LOT. I am dealing with a serious level of Chatty Cathys! Something had to give. So I created the perfect combination of a Blurt Chart with a Friday game of Minute To Win It. Here is how I do it...

I want to emphasize that this is VERY different than the olden-style writing a name on the board for a punishment. With a playful attitude and a kindly "oops" reminder, it really stays pretty sweet and is not meant to make anyone feel bad. Usually, the student covers their smile with their hand as they catch themselves.

Each year I make the first game of Minute to Win It irresistibly fun. One of my favorites is giving them a cookie that they put on their forehead and have to scoot down to their mouth using only gravity and facial muscles. No hands!

One note: The cookie example is not a typical minute to win it game for me because it is a big edible prize. I ALWAYS stick to skittles. One skittle if they made it through the week and were able to participate in the game and one skittle if they were able to "win" the game. Simple. Easy. Maximum of two small pieces of candy. No food schools could use stickers as an alternative.

I NEVER tell the kids what the upcoming game will be for the week. When they get chatty and we are really needing to reel things back in, I come up with a really fun, new game. But often I just think of a game a few minutes before we play. Here are a few ideas to help get you started...

I keep a handy tub of Minute to Win It supplies in my classroom. It is filled with odd items I have found up for grabs in the teacher room or from the Spanish version of the dollar store. (Yep, those are panty hose on top!). This tub is often my inspiration and it keeps me creative!

So there you have it! That is my bright idea blog post for today. I am hopeful that it is inspiring to someone out there. You should definitely continue the linky to find out some more awesome tips. The next place you should check out is Brenda Frady's blog, at Primary Inspired.

You can also check out the rest of the Bright Ideas from several of the smartest education bloggers out there by visiting the Bright Ideas blog hop linky page...