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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Reading Skill Review

I don't know about you, but I absolutely love coming back to my classroom in January.  By this point in the year, our routines are solid, and it is a great time to really dig in to content.

By second semester, I have usually taught most of the reading skills in isolation, so this is the point in the year when I can really dig in deep and apply those skills to our novels.  (You can read more about when and how I teach reading skills in this blog post. ) 

Even though second semester is always full of novel study,  I still find that my students need a bit of review about all those different skills that we have worked on, especially with state testing coming up.  I have blogged many times before about how I review reading comprehension, and I'll link to those posts at the bottom of this post.  But today, I have a couple of new ideas for you!

While I explicitly teach all of our reading skills and we review them at length, there is something to be said about the students knowing exactly what each of the reading skills is asking them to do.  I cringe when I see students struggling on tests because they can't remember the difference between a text feature and text structure or what exactly they are looking for when prompted for a theme vs. a main idea. 

This year, I created a fun review activity to help my students revisit all of the different reading skills.  

With this little game, the students have to find the definition for the reading skill AND match the key word/examples to the reading skill.  It's a fun, quick way to review all of these different ideas with students!  I like to use this type of activity in a small group setting so that we can discuss the different definitions and key words.

I printed the two boards out and laminated them so that I could use them with multiple groups.  Then, I printed the definitions on one color and the Key Word/Samples on another color.  I cut velcro squares in half and put them on the boards and the backs of the definition/samples.  Super easy!

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Year after year, I have searched and searched for a great way to incorporate a daily review of all of these skills.  I never found anything that fit the bill and was super engaging for my students.  Most of what I found looked the same as what I already had-- long passages followed by multiple choice questions or open-ended answers.  So, I decided to create it this year, and I'm so tickled with how it came out!!  Introducing... the Reading Skill of the Day Weekly Journal!

I began by looking at all of the different reading skills I needed to incorporate... I knew that Main Idea and Inference were skills that I wanted to cover every single week, so Main Idea Monday and Inference Wednesday were born!  The rest of the skills (and the sequence in which they appear in the resource) can be seen in the calendar below.

Each week covers a new skill in a fun and engaging way for students.  The variation in skill practice allows them to see the skills differently and get oodles of valuable reading practice.  Best of all, almost all of the tasks can be completed in five minutes or less, making this a super easy resource to incorporate into your literacy block.

Each week also includes a bonus activity for your early finishers and as another learning engagement to keep your kiddos excited about reading! 

There are twenty weeks total, and you can use them in so many ways.  You can bind or staple them all together, put them in a folder or binder, or distribute a single page (front and back) each week.  Here are a few ways you can use the Daily Reading Skill Review journal:
  • Morning Work
  • Literacy Block Warm Up
  • Small Group Review
  • Whole Class Daily Review
  • Daily Homework
  • Intervention
  • ...and so much more!
If you'd like to see even more about this journal, please visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking HERE!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Top 10 Educational Holiday Activities for Big Kids

I know the feeling.  The holidays are coming!  You want to keep things fun and festive, but you also have to keep things rigorous and academic.  Finding the perfect balance can be tough, so I've compiled ten of my favorite academic yet incredibly festive and engaging activities to get you through the next two weeks!  I've blogged about great holiday activities before HERE, but this is a new compilation! This list contains a variety of my own activities as well as some other activities from some of my very favorite teacher authors!

Do you have a favorite holiday activity?  Be sure to share it in the comments!

Trapped in a Snow Globe
If you have never tried this writing assignment, it's a MUST DO!  The premise is simple: your students have become trapped in a snow globe, and their writing must detail their adventures while they are inside.  I used THIS freebie to help my students plan their writing.  Then, I took pictures of them to place inside of their snow globe and decorate.  This is always such a huge hit.

Using Pictures to Teach Reading Skills: Holiday Version
This freebie includes SEVEN pages of winter reading tasks using pictures!  This was inspired from my best-selling resource, Using Pictures to Teach Reading Skills, and I decided to make this little freebie to get your students into the holiday spirit!  Whether you have used the original version in your classroom or this is your first time using pictures to teach reading skills, your students are going to LOVE these pictures and accompanying activities!
You can get this for FREE when you subscribe to my Teaching With a Mountain View Newsletter! This is a newsletter subscriber EXCLUSIVE freebie and you can't access this content anywhere else! It's easy, and I promise to never send you any spam!  Sign up below and you will immediately receive an email with your freebie!  Just enter your name and email address and click, "Get my Freebie!"

FREE Holiday Edition of Using Pictures!

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Holiday Read Aloud Literacy Activities
This post has a TREASURE trove of literacy activities to accompany beloved holiday picture books.  Jennifer from Teaching to Inspire has created printable activities to go with each book she features, and each activity is rigorous AND engaging!

Snowmen at Christmas
(Math: Division)
It somehow always happens that I am teaching division right before Christmas break. (You can read more about that HERE.)  This is hard.  Really, really hard.  I am always trying to find highly engaged activities to practice division, which isn't always easy.  A few years ago, I created this division companion to Snowmen at Christmas, and my students just adore it!  We read the book, and then they complete the tasks that go with it. 

The Multiplication Gingerbread Village and The Division Tree
(Math: Multiplication & Division)
These two are also math activities, and they cover multiplication and division!  I started creating math pictures with place value, and my students totally eat them up!  For these math picture, students use numbers in their life to come up with an answer.  Then, they use their answer to draw the picture.  The answer might tell them how many trees they have, how many peaks their gingerbread house has, etc.  I love these pictures because they all come out differently, and the students are still completely engaged in the math aspect of it!

Perimeter and Area Christmas Trees
Stephanie from Teaching in Room 6 is one of my absolute favorite teacher bloggers because the activities she shares are always SO academically focused while still being fun!  Just look at how sweet these perimeter and area trees are!  If you have older students, this is a great review for them, and if you have younger students just learning about area and perimeter, it's great practice. 

To Grandmother's House We Go
(Mixed Math Review)
My students always look forward to math projects, and this one is no exception!  Students review a plethora of different math skills with this project while planning a trip to grandmother's house.  This is a multi-day project, and it is great for the days leading up to break because it reviews so many math skills and keeps kids super engaged. 

Simile and Metaphor Task Cards
I created these FREE task cards to make it really easy for you to adapt them to use!  There are 32 simile and metaphor task cards with a holiday theme!  You can use a few a day, do a scavenger hunt, etc.  The possibilities are endless, and now is a great time to review figurative language skills!

Christmas Science & STEM Labs
There isn't much that engages my kids like a good STEM activity!  Ari from The Science Penguin has created some of THE COOLEST Christmas science activities I've ever seen.  I love that Ari always creates resources that don't require an excess number of supplies, and you can implement them right away.

A Holiday Craft Full of JOY(Writing)

This activity from Michael at The Thinker Builder is both educational AND artsy, and it's the perfect holiday gift for parents.  Grab the book that Michael suggests and download his freebies, and you will be well on your way to a fantastic holiday activity!


..and finally, number eleven, for good measure! :) 

The Ultimate Christmas Activity Bundle

If you are looking for even more holiday activities that have a HUGE educational bang for their buck, I have a bundle of all of my Christmas resources.  It is guaranteed to get you through those long days before break!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Thanksgiving Writing Activity

Hi there!  Can you believe there is only a week until Thanksgiving!?  I am in total disbelief that it's already November 14th... Time sure does fly.

I'm popping in to share an always-popular Thanksgiving writing activity!  This activity was inspired by my wonderful colleagues at Write Now Right Now, and the kids always ADORE it.  You can do it before or after Thanksgiving!

To start, I draw a picture of a table and I tell the kids to close their eyes and imagine their Thanksgiving table.  There are a lot of smiles and sounds of "yumm!!" And then I tell them to imagine their Thanksgiving table...AFTER all the food has been eaten!   We talk about all the different foods that are on their table and how the "after" picture isn't nearly as pretty!  I get pretty dramatic about this, drawing turkey bones laying next to the platter of turkey, cranberry sauce is spilling out of the bowl, mashed potato remnants are on the table, etc.  It's not a pretty picture!

Then, I ask them to tell me something to describe the picture.  We write a REALLY HORRIBLY BORING sentence to describe what we are picturing.

Then, we start brainstorming adjectives and verbs to spice up our writing!  We brainstorm different ways to begin our sentences, and it's just a fabulous way to work on sentence fluency and word choice.

Here is what the paper looked like when we did it together in class...  I'm warning you, it's a totally non-Pinterest worthy chart! I almost misspelled Thanksgiving, I'm not sure if it's spelled 'boney' or 'bony,' and my drawings are that of a three-year-old, but my students love it nonetheless!  I should have taken a picture of their version of the drawing because it was FAR superior!

Here is a copy of the "final" version that we end up hanging in the classroom.  I take a bit more time to make this one look nice and presentable!

Finally, they add a topic sentence, transition words, and a conclusion sentence to complete the assignment. It is SO much fun, and I highly recommend it!

If you are looking for a fun math activity to go along with this, check out my popular math project, Thanksgiving Dinner Digits!  Kids love planning and executing their Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Skittles Math!

There are a few reasons that I always keep Skittles on hand in my classroom.  First of all, they are one of my favorite sweet treats.  Second, I never know when I am going to need them for some math!  My students always get so excited when they see the big bag of Skittles come out, and anything that gets my kids excited and engaged is worth it to me!

Over the years, I have found dozens of ways to use Skittles to reinforce math concepts.  If you do a quick search of my blog for the word "Skittles," you'll see just how many ways I've used Skittles to teach math!   Most of the time, it goes really well.  Then, sometimes, it goes really poorly (like the time I tried to use them to teach algebraic expressions to my 6th graders.  That did not go well, and that's an activity that won't ever be published on this blog! Ha!)  Hands down, my favorite way to use Skittles is when I am teaching students about circle graphs.  Kids LOVE making Skittle circle graphs and it's a great introduction to the concept!  If you have a bag of Skittles, you can easily recreate this activity!

Circle graphs can be SO hard to create and understand, but when you add in Skittles, kids just really seem to get it!  The lesson shown above is actually related to multiple intelligences.  The kids have to do a multiple intelligences quiz to find out their strengths.  They earn points for each of the different strengths, and the number of points they get corresponds to a Skittle color.  They then create circle graphs with the Skittles to show their distribution of strengths.

You can also just give kids a handful of Skittles to do this and they can graph how many of each color Skittle they have.  So fun, so easy, and so meaningful!

You can even take it a bit further and use Skittles to teach percent, decimals, etc.  I wrote more about that in THIS blog post.

This is an older picture, but it shows all of the possibilities!
Here are a few more ways that I've created to use Skittles...  All of these can be found in my Skittles Math packet available on TpT HERE!  I love using these around Halloween time, too!

I've used Skittles to teach factors and mutliples, place value, perimeter and area, money, measurement, decimals, fractions, arrays, and SO much more!  I have included all of those ideas in my Skittles math packet so that you can use them all throughout the year.

Do you have a favorite way to use Skittles in your classroom? I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Mastering Multi-Step Word Problems

How many of you cringe at the thought of teaching your students multi-step word problems?  (RAISES HAND!)  I get it. I know.  It's tough.  It is overwhelming, and it's not necessarily something that just "clicks" for kids.  They need practice, they need time to think through problems, and they need to start really thinking like mathematicians in order to become proficient at more difficult problems.  Luckily, over the years, I've come up with a few different ideas and activities for helping students master multi-step word problems!  There are TONS of freebies in this post.  Enjoy!

I always begin problem solving (not just multi-step) by teaching my students CUBES.  This has been around for years, in many different variations.  An oldie but a goodie, if you will!

I REALLY, REALLY emphasize the "E" because this is where kids get stuck.  I created the three "What" questions that they need to be able to answer before they can move on and solve the problem.  Before they try to solve the problems, they need to ask themselves:

  • What label will my answer have? (This helps them narrow down exactly what they are doing with the problem, and maybe, just maybe, it helps them remember to include a label!)
  • What information do I HAVE to answer the question?
  • What information do I NEED to answer the question?
I have found that kids are almost always able to figure out the answers to these questions when they are required to stop and think about it, and this step ALWAYS helps to set them up for problem solving success! 

I also teach my students to use a pretty specific format for showing their work and solving word problems.  I have been using some variation of this for years, and it has evolved the more and more I have used it.

The sample problem I used in this anchor chart is a SINGLE-STEP problem, and I would highly encourage you to teach this format using a single-step format, then move on later to using it for multi-step (hang tight! I will address using this format with multi-step problems soon!).

Now, do I recommend you use this format for every single word problem students use? Absolutely not.  However, we do at least one or two a week this way simply because of the "answer" section and how important it is for students to be able to explain their math process.

Students always have to begin their written answers with "To solve this problem, I..." and they always have to end it with "Therefore, I know..."  Students are always very tempted to say, "To solve this problem I added 1,098 and 530.  Therefore, I know the answer is 1,628 calories."  Is this right? Sure! But is it the best answer and explanation they could have given? Nope.

I always encourage my students to be VERY specific about what the numbers are that they are addressing when they write out their answer.  This helps them really evaluate their thinking and see if it made sense.  There is a big difference between telling me which numbers you added and what those numbers represent.  This also encourages students to restate the question in their answer and make sure they have actually answered the question that is being asked.

**THIS IS ALWAYS A CHALLENGE!** It takes my students several examples to catch on to explaining their answers in this way, but it is so, so worth it once they truly understand.  Here is another student sample:

Now, before I have them use this model for multi-step problems, there are a few activities we do to prepare for that challenge and to get them comfortable with multi-step problems.

First, I have them do a little sequencing sort.  I give them a completed multi-step problem with all of the steps out of order.  The steps are written in the same format as described above, with very specific instructions walking the reader through how they solved the problem.  The students put the directions back in order and make sure it all makes sense.  They aren't actually having to do any math here, so it frees them up to simply think about the process. (These sorts are free! See link at the end of my blog post.)

Once I feel like students understand the basics of solving multi-step problems, we move on to some scaffolded practice using these handy little foldables that I created! (I have created ten pages of varying levels, and they are FREE for you to use with your students!  Click the link at the end of the post to access the freebies.)

Each page is split in half.  Students fold the paper in half, cut across the dotted lines on the right side, and fold the right flaps under.  They always start with the left side, where they read the problem, following the CUBE steps (with a special place for the Examine step, because I think it is SO important), and then they open the flaps to reveal step-by-step how to solve the problem.  The flaps give the student hints about what step they need to complete and sometimes how to do it.  It serves as a scaffolded guide for solving these tricky word problems. 

The purpose of the flaps is to guide students through the steps, but to also give them time to think about what the next steps are and then see if they are correct.

Now, the only tricky part about this is that students might solve problems differently (and possibly in a different order) and get the same answer and THAT IS OKAY.  These are meant to be used as an introduction to multi-step problem solving only!  There are so many ways you can let your students use them.

Once we have done several of these together, I let them start working on their own with task cards and our four square format I mentioned above.  I have them glue task cards in their notebooks and work through each problem.  Once they have done a few like this, I let them move on to working on them without the four square format.

Some students even like to create their own foldables (like those that I showed above) with the task cards!

When kids are ready, we then move on to multi-part problems.  Kids LOVE these, and they seem to really thrive on the challenge of not only having a multi-step problem, but also a multi-PART problem. 

...and when your students are really ready for an even bigger challenge, it's time to present to them... Math Detectives!  This is a new spin on Error Analysis that requires students to really analyze solutions and see which solutions and problem solving steps are the most reasonable.  Each card has a task on it (usually multi-step) and there are two different explanations for a solution.  The students have to figure out which explanation is correct and then solve the problem.  This is such a fun activity for my students!  They love being detectives.

Well, there you have it!  All of my ideas and resources for teaching students to love solving multi-step word problems!  It doesn't have to be (too) scary.

If you'd like to download the THIRTY pages worth of freebies featured above, please click the image below.  This freebie includes the two tasks mentioned above as well as anchor chart templates and printable posters. 

ENJOY, and please share your multi-step word problem tips in the comments!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Complete Sentences and Beyond!

Even though I teach fourth grade, I still find that, at the beginning of the year, I have many, many students who struggle with writing complete sentences.  It's usually a pretty quick fix to remind them what a complete sentence looks like, but then we have to go beyond that, too.  We have to teach them how to restate answers in complete sentences (I have a HUGE blog post about that HERE.)  Then, we have to move on to teaching them to expand on their sentences.

I have written before about how amazing our writing curriculum is, but I just have to say it again! We use Write Now Right Now and it is just wonderful.  The lessons featured here are based on lessons in the curriculum.  Seriously, if you need an amazing writing curriculum, go check it out!

We start out the year with a review of the five requirements of a sentence.  Here is the notebook entry that we use.

And here is the super fun chant we use to remember the requirements:

One thing that I added to my instruction last year was the Superb Sentences flip book.  It covers all of the requirements of a sentence (nouns, verb, capitalizations, etc.) in a step by step manner.  We used this flip book for several weeks while we were reviewing sentences, and it was perfect! 

This is also a great time to start pulling out my Using Pictures to Teach Parts of Speech lessons!  The nouns and verbs versions definitely come in handy here.

Once my students are comfortable with all of the elements of a sentence, we move on to our Team Complete lesson.  This one is always SO much fun!  I encourage you to really get into the act-- put on a jersey, maybe a baseball cap, and throw on a whistle.  The kids get such a huge kick out of it and remember it forever.

The idea of Team Complete (a clever idea from Write Now Right Now) is to really take your complete sentences up a notch.  I begin by telling the students that they are currently all on the pee-wee team, since they are writing wonderful complete sentences with all the requirements.  BUT! If they add more detail and more information, they can join me on the Junior Varsity team.  We talk about ways to write a JV answer and how it is different from a pee-wee answer.  Then, I ask them what the ultimate goal is in high school sports-- most of them know it is to join the Varsity team.  We chat about how they can make their answers a member of the Varsity team, and they all LOVE this challenge!

Here is the anchor chart I created with them while teaching the lesson.

After we complete the lesson, they each get miniature jerseys and glue them into their notebooks.  Then, they get to write their own sample sentences.  It is always fun to see what they come up with!

After this lesson it's amazing how excited they are to challenge themselves to write Varsity level answers.  It's rare that I see a pee-wee team complete answer after this point, and I leave the anchor chart up in my room for quite some time and we refer to it often!

If you'd like to teach this lesson, it's super quick-- maybe 15 minutes-- and you can grab the jerseys for free HERE.  I printed my big anchor chart jerseys on colored card stock.

Have fun!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Meet the Teacher Night Made Easy!

It's almost time for Meet the Teacher nights to commence around the country, and it has always been one of my very favorite nights of the year! I get so excited to meet all of my new students and their families.  This first impression is so important, and it can sometimes be a little bit overwhelming for everyone-- teachers, students, and parents!  I have written before about how important it is to instill confidence and build rapport with parents and students at this first meeting.  You can read about how I do that HERE.

I've never really addressed how I actually set up my Meet the Teacher Night, and it's always a little bit different from year to year. Last year, I tried my best to make Meet the Teacher night as simple and easy as possible. Here is how we set it up!

I met each family at the door so that I was able to interact with each family for a moment right when they walked into the room.  When nobody was walking in, I would roam the room and chat with whoever was already there.  When I met them at the door, I explained to my students that they would need to go to each of four stations and follow the directions there.  They did not have to go in order, but they needed to stop at each one. Here are my four stations:

First, they picked up the 7,000 papers that the school provides. :)

Then, they (really, their parents) head on over to the information table.  There were three forms to fill out-- a volunteer form, a student information form, and a "how are you getting home the first day" form.  Most parents sat at the desk you see and filled these papers out while their students went on to the next step...

Next, they had to put together their supplies!  Our school has started implementing a system where all of the students pay a fee and we buy all of their supplies for them.  Since they don't have desks, each student had a book box.  There was a paper next to the station that had their name and student number next to it, and they grabbed their book box.  We had pre-filled it with all of their folders and notebooks.  The only thing they needed to do was label them all so that we could avoid doing this as a whole class the first few days of school.  It worked out so well!

We set out a sample book bin (number 30 that you see here) so that they could see exactly what it should look like when they were done.  There were label sheets for every student and Sharpies so that they could write their name.  I made a little sample page on how to label their bins (which label went on which color folder).  

99% of my students did a fantastic job with this task.  There were a few who needed a bit more support, and it was a good experience for me to see how the students followed directions.  I'd do this again in a heartbeat to avoid the chaos of doing it as a whole class on the first day of school! 

Finally, they did this little prompt (I think I got this idea from someone on IG last year! If it was you, please please let me know so that I can give you credit!).  They each had to write one thing they were excited about.  I left it up the first few days of school so that they could all read each other's responses.

This Meet the Teacher Night set up was one of my favorites that I've ever done!  Kids and their parents had plenty to do while I greeted everyone, and they were there long enough that I had a chance to sit down and chat with all of the families.  It was very minimal set up on my part, too!  I'd highly recommend it.

Looking for more Back to School inspiration? Check out these Back to School posts!