Thursday, August 27, 2015

Classroom Scavenger Hunt

It seems like every year in the spring, I still have kids asking me where things are in the classroom. How can they not know where the trashcan is by March?!

I always start off the year by giving a tour of the classroom, but I realize now that they're trying to take in so much information those first few days that they just can't remember it all.

This year is different! This year one of our first week activities was a ...
Classroom Scavenger Hunt

First I decided on the most important things in the classroom. These are things the kids will use an almost-daily basis. I tried not to pick too many things because I really wanted them to remember where everything was! I also didn't want the activity to take forever...

You can see my scavenger hunt below. If you click on the picture, you can download a free copy and edit it to fit your classroom.
Classroom Scavenger Hunt

I paired my kids up and had them work together to find each item. I didn't make it a competition. This early in the year, I really don't know my kids well enough to know what they can handle. I was a little wary of sending them loose around the classroom in a race : )

I'm very lucky to teach at a school where each student has their own school-issued ipad. We get started using them right away, so I wanted to include a digital aspect to my scavenger hunt. I had the kids take a picture of each item in the scavenger hunt. They put them all together in the free app: Pic Collage Kids. This is an app we'll use all year and most of my kids are already familiar with it. Again, since it's so early in the school year I try to keep things fairly simple.

In my free download on Teachers Pay Teachers, I also included some other digital ideas.

Classroom Scavenger Hunt

Now when my kids ask me where the trash can is in March, I can kindly redirect them to look at their Pic Collage.

How do you help your kids learn their way around your classroom? Comment below!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Launching Math Workshop, Part 2

If you missed part one of this series, be sure to check it out here to find out what I do on the first day of math workshop.

Read on to find out what the 2nd day of math workshop looks like.

For me, day 2 is all about *modeling*.

I start off by briefly explaining to the students what math workshop will look like this year:
- We'll use the website blendspace for their directions 
- They'll watch an instructional video for their lesson
- I'll be pulling groups every day

Then we pull up our first blendspace. Since our 1st unit is place value, I introduce workshop with a place value review.

You can find the blendspace here.

Every blendspace will start with a video. I've found my kids focus better watching a short video than they do with the distractions of a whole class mini-lesson. I can also get the information across in a shorter time in a video. 

I'll show the video whole class and we'll pause the video and fill out our anchor charts together. (I make a student copy of the anchor chart for each video). I do lots of "think alouds" during the video and make sure the kids really understand what's expected of them while they're watching an instructional video. 

After we've all completed our anchor charts & glued them into our journals, we make an anchor chart on watching instructional videos. 

Then I have the students think-pair-share what they think they'll be doing for the next activity in the blendspace. They work on the 2nd activity, which incorporates their iPads, on their own. During this time I walk around the room & provide feedback. 

Once everyone has finished, we come back together and discuss the next activity in blendspace. Again, they complete it on their own as I walk around the room. 

Once they're finished, we come back together and discuss things that went well & things that need to change for the next day. 

I tried to choose activities that all students should be able to complete independently, even if they're below level. 

You can download all of the materials for these activities here for FREE.

If you like these activities, be on the look out for more digital math stations in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Classroom Tour

I am so happy with how my room looks this year! I am still putting the finishing touches on. (Meet the Teacher night is this Thursday and the kids start school Monday)

Here's the view of my room looking in from the door. I'm most excited about having tables! I got rid of my clunky desks and my room feels 100 times bigger. I promise it did not look this big with the giant desks. 

Right when you walk in there's a bookshelf for extra supplies. On top of the shelf is a birthday sign that students put at their seat on their birthday. In the pot next to the frame are QR codes with birthday "treats". They pick one and scan it to get their goodie.

Right now I just have "great work" on the bulletin board. I'm not sure if I'll end up using it to display student work or not, but it's at least there until something else goes up!

Since I'm making the big switch from tables to desks, I needed a plan for supplies. On the shelves in the back of this picture I have book boxes from Ikea to hold student journals. Each table has a 3-drawer organizer. The top drawer holds white boards and will also act as a place to keep iPads when I don't want them out. The bottom 2 drawers will be for student folders. In the caddy will be some communal supplies (pencils, scissors, glue sticks, markers, dry erase markers & erasers).

I got the drawers for about $10 from Walmart this week. 

This is at the front of the room. Underneath the word Birthdays, I'm going to put little signs with each student's name & birthday, but I don't have my class list yet. 

The green tables & rug are from Ikea. I ordered some whiteboard adhesive to go on top of the tables, but I haven't been brave enough to put it on yet. That's my goal for Friday. This will be a nice place for students to sit and work. Under the tables are some floor pillows. 

To the left is my whole group meeting area. My projector projects onto the board. On the right of the board is a place for my learning targets. I bought "I Can" statements from Thomas Teachable Moments.

On the left of the board are these circles. I modeled them after the CHAMPS behavior management system and used Tina's Teaching Treasures directions to make the circles. The green circles are the different topics and the blue circles are options for each one. For example, the activity may be a table activity so I would stick the "at your table" circle next to activity. The supplies circles would let students know what supplies they can use. Each circle has stick-on-magnets on the back. I'm hoping this will help students understand expectations & eliminate some of those "silly" questions. : )

I'm really pleased with how my schedule cards turned out, but I might have to get a bigger pocket chart. I have just enough room for the regular schedule cards, but we all know the days are rarely this typical - or at least at my school. 

One of my favorite classroom management techniques is using special seats. I have lots of fun places to sit in my room - beach chairs, pillows, bean bag chair, etc. So instead of trying to make sure everyone gets a turn or worrying about whining or fighting, I created this simple poster. Each clothespin has the name of the special seat. Each student is assigned a class number. If a pin is on their number they can use that special seat for the day. Each day I move them down 1 number. If you're absent and miss your seat that day, then bummer! They go around a lot during the course of the year. This has saved my sanity!

Another small space for students to work. The stools, leaf & lights are from Ikea. The crayon artwork is from a former student and is always a hit with my classes. 

I have another white board on the back wall of the classroom. I use this space to post assignments that are due for students to keep track. I also have accountable talk signs form Tina's Teaching Treasures.

The table has the trays for students to turn papers in along with paper trays for extra copies and misc. stuff they need to give me. (I'm really trying to prevent giant paper stacks on my table this year...). I also have notebook paper and clipboards for students to use. The picture frame says "Stop! Did you remember to write your name?"

One of my favorite features of my room is my window. It looks out onto our school's BEAUTIFUL garden. I worked in a classroom with no windows for several years before moving to this school, so I really appreciate it! When it's not 500 degrees outside, I lift the blinds all the way up. 

I got the easel from Ikea and the hanging decorations came from Party City a few years ago and every year I almost kill myself trying to hang them...

This table is for my small groups. I have more Ikea stools (I may have an ikea problem...) On the back counter are materials to help keep me organized. The sink splatters everywhere when you turn it on, so I prefer not to let the kids use it. 

I absolutely LOVE my Growth Mindset bulletin board from Sarah Gardner. I'm in a leadership program in my district and our focus is on mindset so this was perfect! If you haven't read Mindset by Carol Dweck - I highly recommend it. 

There you have it. My new room! Now I can't wait to meet my new kiddos. Happy back to school!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Launching Math Workshop, Part 1

I'm super excited about my plans for launching math workshop this year! So excited, that I'm starting a new blog series to explain it all to you!

Last year I went way out of my comfort zone with the structure of my math workshop. It also happened to be my first year in a completely digital classroom - meaning that each kiddo had their own ipad.

You can read more about how my digital math workshop went last year here.

It went pretty well, but I definitely think with the right amount of planning, this year will go better. Last year I pretty much threw my kids to the wolves... I quickly explained the structure and then let them have at it. While there were some advantages to letting the kids problem solve their way through workshop, I definitely didn't set clear enough expectations (which I paid for later in the year).

So that leads me to this year. I'm going to be MUCH more explicit in how I explain and model math workshop.

Over the next few weeks, I'll share with you each step of launching math workshop in the upper elementary classroom, starting with the first week of school. My math workshop is very digital, however you could use the same steps for any classroom!

I start launching math workshop on the 2nd day of school. 

Our first math unit this year is place value, so while I'm teaching the routines of workshop I'm also trying to fit in some place value review and instruction. 

So on day 2 of school, I have the kids take a place value pre-test. You could start day 1 if you're super ambitious : )

The pre-test covers skills from 3rd grade and the new skills they'll learn in 4th grade. I really stress to the kids that this is not for a grade and helps me know what they remember or already know. Click on the picture below to download the pre-test I use for free.

I'll use the data from this pre-test later when I start pulling guided math groups (more on that in a later post).

This also gives us a chance to discuss what the classroom looks like and sounds like during independent work.

Once everyone has finished their pre-test, we set up our math journals. In the past I've had kids create their own table of contents. This year, I'm giving them a template to glue into their journals. Maybe this will keep them neater...

We glue in the table of contents, number the pages in our journal and then add our very first entry: "Place Value Review".

This year I'm going to try having the kids color code their math journals. All the entries on place value will be in one color in the table of contents and then when we switch units, they'll switch colors.

You can download my table of contents template from Google Drive here.

We'll also spend some time discussing our math journals - where we keep them, how we use them, what they should look like, etc.

There you have it - day 1 of launching math workshop!

Next up: introducing kids to blendspace (the website we use for workshop) and instructional math videos 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Using Manipulatives to Compare Large Numbers

Comparing numbers using manipulatives

I am a firm believe that older kids need manipulatives in math too! Sometimes I think people forget to make math concrete in the upper grades. However, I've found that the older kids still benefit from hands-on learning, just like in the lower grades.

Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity to figure out the best way to use hands-on materials with upper grade math. When I'm teaching my 4th graders to compare and order numbers, the numbers are too big to use place value blocks. So here are some of my favorite things to use:

Use number cards to play a place value game

I love to use number cards. This is a game I play with my small groups. Depending on their level, the kids will draw a certain number of cards. (My higher kids will make bigger numbers) Then the kids arrange their cards to make the largest number possible. Then they all compare their numbers. I also use a deck of cards with the face cards removed for this game.

use a place value chart with counters to compare numbers

This strategy is really great for struggling students because it is so visual. I like to put place value charts in sheet protectors {click on the picture to download my FREE place value charts}. Then when we are comparing numbers, we write them in the place value chart with a dry erase marker. This helps the kids line up the numbers correctly. Next I have them place a counter on the digit that helps them compare the two numbers. In this picture, the numbers are the same up until the thousands place. Once we get to the thousands place, we can see that the top number is smaller (the counter is covering up the #8).

Use a small group observation form to keep your notes

When I work with my small groups, I always use a checklist or observation form so I can keep track of my observations. I made an example (with made-up names) to show what they might look like. I've learned that if I don't write it down, I'll forget! It also helps me collect data for our campus intervention meetings.

What are some of your favorite manipulatives to use when you're teaching kids to compare large numbers?