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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

{Peek of the Week} A Peek Inside REAL Classrooms

I am beyond excited to share my new project with you!  I am pleased to introduce to you Peek of the Week...a weekly peek inside REAL classrooms around the country!

I came up with this idea after realizing that I spent way too much time snooping on my teacher friends' classroom pictures.  If they posted any on Facebook, I would zoom in and look all around their classroom, trying to pick up a new idea for my own classroom.  It brought me back to when I first started teaching and I was always scouring the Internet for ideas on decorating classrooms.  I just absolutely love seeing inside other classrooms!  I don't think I'm alone in this desire. :)  Of course, classroom pictures are a bit easier to come by these days with the prevalence of blogs.  But what about all the teachers out there who don't have a blog?!  There are MILLIONS of classrooms out there! They still have wonderful spaces to share, so Peek of the Week is the place to do this.  

(If you are interested in submitting your REAL classroom for Peek of the Week, scroll down to submit your contact information.)

To get started, I contacted several of my teacher friends from around Colorado and asked them to be my guinea pigs.  I asked them to take pictures of their classrooms, no frills needed.  I told them not to clean up and asked them to not change anything in their room on account of my asking them to take pictures.  The point of this feature is to show off REAL classrooms in whatever state they may be in and to let other teachers look around for inspiration and to pick up an idea or two.  I also told them that I would love to see pictures of their room throughout the year, whether it was at the beginning of the year, or pictures of special activities they did.  

So, without further ado, I present to you your very first Peek from Aubrey, a 5th grade teacher in Denver who has an eye for art and such a lovely colorful classroom.  She shared some great ideas from throughout the year in her classroom that I hope you love, too!

I love how she has color coded her cabinets for supplies.  It brightens up the whole room, and that rug is so fun and functional!

This is Aubrey's Accountable Talk white board.  She said, "In my class I use accountable talk.  This helps students answer in complete sentences and establishes a norm on an effective conversation.  I also helps with academic language."  What a great use of the space around her board!

Aubrey called these "Bloom Balls."  She said, "We also did Bloom Balls for one of my literacy units and they can really fit anything.  They turned out so terrific I hung them outside my door."  I found a site that has the bloom ball template HERE.  They are so beautiful while still being a meaningful activity!

Aubrey's class made these All About Me Hot Air Balloons at the beginning of the school year.  She said, "We made hot air balloons the first week of school.  I hung them in my classroom and didn't take them down because my students honestly wanted to be part of the classroom.  Super easy yet promotes classroom culture."  Aubrey got the templates for this activity from Really Good Stuff.

I love this alternative to Classroom Jobs!  She has a "Class Contributors" board with the classroom responsibilities.  "Over the summer I painted popsicle sticks with different things and my students got to select one and put their name on it.  Fun activity to get to know their personality.  I use these popsicle sticks for sorting class jobs."

Right away, I noticed the sign that says "Silly Goo No Tissue"!  I had to ask her what it meant, and she explained that her kids were always trying to throw used tissues into the recycle bin.  Eew!  We have ALL been there before.

How much fun are these classroom doors!?  The first one was from the beginning of the school year and the second from Thanksgiving.  She is SO creative.

Thank you, Aubrey, for letting me share pictures of your beautiful classroom!

Would you be interested in sharing your classroom on Teaching With a Mountain View and letting people around the country have a little peek into your room?  Please fill out the form below, and I will contact you!  Remember, we want to see REAL classrooms with REAL ideas!  It would be ideal to feature a wide variety of different types of classrooms, so YOUR classroom is just what I am looking for. :)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Quick and Easy {Differentiated} Review Activity

This will be a quick blog post, but it's something you can use in like... 5 minutes if you need to!  Last year toward the end of the year, when I was reviewing a standard strand with my students before a test, they were getting pretty sick of the content.  We had done a lot of work with it (inequalities) because it is an intense concept for little people, but I needed to know who still needed more work and in which areas.  I grabbed some of Lindsay Perro's review activities, printed one copy of each standard review, and hung them in the hall.  (Lindsay only creates for middle school, but you can find these types of assessments ALL over TpT with one page reviews for each standard strand.  If you don't want to do that, you could do it with any worksheet or set of task cards you have.  If you want to adapt it for task cards, print them and don't cut them out into four separate cards.  Just hang the 8.5x11 sheets on the wall and it will serve the same purpose!)

You can also use this to review on concept with different task cards or worksheets.  I just happened to be reviewing an entire standard when we did the activity.

Here is how it worked...  Students had both a colored pen and a pencil.  They went to each sheet and completed a problem in pencil, careful to show their work.  They wrote their initials next to their work.  Another student then came and checked their work using a colored pen.  If they agreed with their work and their answer, they put a big check mark and their initials.  If they disagreed, they showed their work and their answer in the same box, then added their initials.

Here is a page that has been mostly completed and is waiting to be checked by other students. 

I put the sheets out in the hallway so that we had a lot of room to work.  Two kids could work on one page at the same time.
Each student needed to do one of each type of problem.  There were eight problems on each page, so with each person completing one problem and then checking one problem, there was enough for 16 people per page.  If you have more than 16 students (which you likely do), you will need to divide your students and classroom in half and have two separate areas completing the activity OR you can differentiate it and have some students working on one concept and others working on a different concept or level of the concept.

Here is an example of a completed sheet.
My students were SO much more engaged than if I had made them sit down and complete each of these worksheets individually, they still got the review they needed, and I was able to see where students were still struggling.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Great Big Collection of Test Prep Resources

It's that time of year...whether you dread it or just deal with it (or do a little bit of both), state testing time will be here before you know it.  Let's face it--nobody looks forward to administering hours of tests, and there is absolutely some valid controversy surrounding standardized tests. However, for many of us, it is a fact of life, and something that we need to prepare our students for.  I took some time to curate a collection of some of my favorite blog posts and resources to help you and your students get ready for the big tests.  I hope you can pick up an idea or two!  If you need even more assessment ideas, pop over to my Pinterest board for tons of ideas!

I have separated the post into Ideas & Activities, Anchor Charts, and Motivators.  Click each image to be redirected to a blog post featuring the idea.

Laura Candler has this great test prep activity freebie for making test prep fun by studying with a buddy!  Kids always enjoy working with partners, and this activity is no exception.
Try Test Prep Rotations from Teaching in Room 6!  She has six different stations that the students rotate through.  Great rotation examples!
Stinky Feet!  How super fun is this game, and everyone is always into it because they never know who gets the sticky note with what value on it.  So much fun!
Using this fun multiple choice foldable is a great idea for keeping kids engaged!  You can put a passage and a question on the board and quickly see who got the answer right.
How about this super motivating ticket  system from the Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher?  She checks each answer as the students work, and if they get it right, they get a ticket.  Not only does it motivate them, but it also helps you to see which kids are missing which problems and intervene immediately.
Test prep motivation using student names!  They each write an acrostic with excellent advice for doing well on the test.  The text in this example reads: Get a good nights sleep. Read the questions very carefully. Always eat a good breakfast. Come to school on time. Influence others to do good. Encourage yourself to do good. (Source Unknown)
This is a blog post I made after doing a big rotation with my students using task cards!  It's an older post, but it still explains how my students use a passport to work on concepts and prepare for the tests!  If you need task cards, look no further!  I have hundreds of sets HERE.
Test prep graffiti style from Jennifer at Teaching to Inspire in 5th!  I love how she adapted this popular activity to make it into a test prep activity.  
Here is a great idea from Blair Turner about working in groups to make test prep meaningful!
A huge part of taking a standardized test is understanding what is being asked and being able to read the questions.  Preparing students for the vocabulary they will find in state tests is crucial to their success.  Grab this freebie from The Science Penguin and see how she prepares her students by explicitly teaching test prep vocabulary.
How many times have we told students to PUT THE QUESTION IN THE ANSWER!?  We practice and practice, and Tessa from Tales from Outside the Classroom offers even more help on this essential part of taking tests.
When I originally created these task cards, it was not with the intent of using them as test prep task cards, but simply to review all of the standards in the springtime.  But when I started using them, I realized it was the perfect way to prepare for tests and see which students needed extra remediation in which areas!  You can buy these task cards at my Teachers Pay Teachers store for grades 3-5. 
Jen from Runde's Room came out with this great four corners sticky note activity for test prep!  She has some other great ideas in this blog post as well.
We made these Types of Comprehension Questions foldables in my class last year just days before test prep.  My students benefited so much from reviewing each of these and talking about identifying characteristics of each type of question.
Students LOVE Jeopardy type quiz shows, and they are the perfect way to review and prep for tests!  Here is my take on them, and I use pre made task cards to make it easy for you!  You can adapt this to just about ANY topic.

A test prep olympics!  Wow!  What an engaging, fun, and meaningful idea to get kids really into preparing for tests without knowing just how much work they are doing.  You could do this with task cards, too!

This is something that could easily hang in a room all year long, but I particularly like it to prepare children for the types of questions they might find on a standardized test.
Here is a wonderful anchor chart for test prep!  You can apply this to any subject areas, and it will remind your students to relax a little bit. :)  This blog post also has a great post explaining the different levels of proficiency on state assessments.
This test taking tips anchor chart from Scholastic Teacher Kristy Mall would be extremely beneficial to create together.  You could absolutely have your own ideas that need to show up on the chart, but also let students add their own! 
I ADORE this test prep anchor chart, particularly for students who have never taken a standardized test.  It answers their questions and calms many fears.
I love this anchor chart to go right along with the rumors anchor chart...if students get stuck, they need to have a plan of action other than selecting a random answer.  Here is a great one to walk through with your students before testing begins!
I like this reading test prep anchor chart because students should be figuring out whether something is fiction or nonfiction RIGHT AWAY.  Then they can narrow down some of the questions by paying close attention to these key details...
What kid doesn't love video games?  They could each have their own video game controller and show that they are in control of the test!
If you haven't already begun teaching your students strategies for problem solving, now is definitely the time to do it.  Students really latch on to strategies like CUBES because they can remember it and walk through the steps each time a problem shows up on the state tests.  This is a great post that explains it!

How sweet is this acrostic with Smarties?  
How much would your kids LOVE this assessment survival bag!?  Easy to have a parent volunteer put together, and guaranteed to bring a smile to your students' faces.
I love Tessa's treats for each day of the week of testing!  She has the labels for free on her blog, too!
SO incredibly cute.  (Source unknown.  If it's yours, please let me know!)
I know that kids would just love seeing these good luck wishes as they came in on testing days.
And finally, one of my favorite ways to motivate students... Assign parents "top secret" homework the week before state testing. Their homework is to secretly send in a letter of encouragement to be given to their child before they start! Great idea!  Parents are a child's biggest fan!
Do you have any great ideas for test prep?  Please feel free to share them in the comments or send me an email at so that I can add them to this list!

If you are looking for a test prep math project, I have them for 4th-6th grades!  They are designed to prepare your students for the rigor that comes with state testing, but they are engaging enough to keep your kids crunching numbers all day long!