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Saturday, September 27, 2014

An Amazon Listing Cumulative Novel Project!

It's no secret that I love a good cumulative novel project as an assessment.  I usually spend the entire novel brainstorming how we can sum it up!  Sometimes the projects are a miss (you don't get to read about those!) but sometimes they are great successes.  Like the character project we completed for Rules or the reading skills review project for The Westing Game, this novel project was a huge hit with my students.

This is actually the last project we did at the end of the school year last year.  I knew that I needed a book that would keep the students on the edge of their seats, so The Phantom Toolbooth fit the bill.  When we were finishing up in the last few weeks of school, I knew that the project would need to be equally engaging.  I couldn't imagine giving my students an essay test at the end of the year, but I also needed a great assessment to gauge their understanding of the book, of the content, and of some of the skills we had worked on that quarter.  So, the Amazon.com Listing Cumulative Novel Project was born!


Before I introduced the project to the students, I pulled up an Amazon listing page for a book we had previously read.  We talked about all the elements that it included and what stuck out to us.  Then, we read a few of the reviews that people had written, as well as the formal editorial reviews on the page.  I would highly recommend this step because the students were hooked on making their own page after I showed them the real page.

After analyzing a real listing page, I gave them their assignment sheet.

You can download the assignment sheet for free HERE.


It is fairly self explanatory, especially after the students have already seen the examples of a real listing.  I have tried to break it down as simply as possible on the assignment page.  They make a book cover, write a summary, select quotes, write a review and more!  They are actually doing MORE than something like an essay test would require of them, but they never realize it, and they love doing it.  Some of my students even posted their reviews on the real Amazon site when we were finished.


Here is an example of one student's project.  I just love how they came out!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Teaching Children to Compare & Contrast


A few weeks ago, my two year olds and I were perusing the shelves of the library when they stumbled upon a book that they wanted to read "because there is an apple and an orange, and I like fruit!"  I flipped through it and threw in into our pile.  Little did I know I would be reading that book every. single. night. for the next three weeks.  Luckily, the book itself is quite hilarious, with an imaginative premise and delightful artwork.  I  fell in love with the author Sara Pinto.  The book,  Apples and Oranges: Going Bananas with Pairs, has children consider how two things are alike...and on the next page has a clever similarity so absurd you would never imagine think it up on your own!  (Take for example...Apples and Oranges both don't wear glasses!)  

With every passing night that I read this to my toddlers, I knew I wanted to use it in a compare and contrast lesson with big kids.  This book is sure to please even the older crowd because of its antics, and I just LOVE incorporating picture books into lessons.  

The book would be perfect for an introduction to the concept of comparing and contrasting using similarities and differences.  Even though it only asks for how the two items are alike, you can challenge students to think of differences too before you turn the page and get to the funny similarity.  Here is an anchor chart example to use with the book:


After going through the first six pages together, I made a worksheet for the students to finish out the book with less guidance.  Continue reading the book, but before you reveal the funny similarity, have students brainstorm similarities and differences on their own or in their small groups.  Since they know to expect that funny on the next page, there is a spot on the sheet for them to come up when their own "they both don't..."




After the book, consider doing a journal entry with students in their reading notebooks!  Here is an example of mine.  The pool and beach comparisons would lend themselves well to learning to write a compare and contrast paragraph as well. 



Finally, differentiated task cards are a perfect way to transition into comparing and contrasting from longer reading passages.  These differentiated compare and contrast task cards are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Here's a suggestion on how to use them!


There are five different types of cards in this set that progress from easiest to more difficult.  They start having students compare pictures based solely on the qualities of the picture.  Then, they look at a picture and compare it to something they know in their life.  You can see in the above picture that there is a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Students make a list of how it is the same and different as what they see out their window right now.  The third type of card has students decide whether something is being compared or contrasted--is the writer noting a similarity or a difference?
The fourth card has students list similarities and differences between two things or items (a pencil and a marker) before finally reading a short passage and answering questions on the last type of card.  This is a great way to differentiate or scaffold student learning!

Here is a picture of the set up before students work on it.  Each group (there are enough cards for 4 or 5 groups to all have different cards if you want them to) progresses through the 5 task cards on chart paper.  You could have them walk around and read each other's when they are done, too.

Of course this is just the tip of the ice berg of teaching this skill.  Your next step is comparing and contrasting two books, including the settings, characters, ideas, changes, etc.  These activities will get you will on your way to that!

What ideas do you have for teaching students to compare and contrast?  Any favorite books?  Please share them in the comments!


Saturday, August 16, 2014

The One Rule Classroom: Just a little RESPECT!

There are so many ideas for classroom rules, and I love and respect many of them.  I remember my mentor walking in on my first day of teaching while we were generating class rules.  The kids, by nature, were shouting out things like "no talking when the teacher is talking!" and "no running in the halls."  I was just glad they at least knew what I expected from them, and was just trying to get through that first day of teaching, so I wasn't correcting them.

As I furiously jotted the notes on a chart, my mentor-teacher piped up in the back and said "Why don't we turn some of those 'no' rules into something more positive?"  For the next few years, the positive rules were the route I went, and we would parse it down to 5 or 6 positive expectations.  Then suddenly one year, my colleagues and I decided we only needed one rule: RESPECT.  It was the perfect rule, related to our IB Attitudes, and really, how easy is it for kids to remember ONE rule? (Side Note: We actually called it our one "Essential Agreement" since we are an IB school, and that is what we refer to such expectations as.  For the general population's purpose, I'll refer to it as a rule.)


When we begin talking about our expectations, I ask the students to brainstorm a big list of rules.   Any rule they can think of. We compile a great big list of rules (sometimes they get really crazy and have 20 or 30 rules and start to get borderline silly!) and then we sit back and look at them.  Then, I get incredibly dramatic.

"BUT!!! How in the WORLD will I ever remember all of these rules!?" I groan.

The children stare at me, totally unsure of my dramatics.  After all, it is only the first day of school, and these children barely know me.

I tell them that I have an idea...Let's categorize our rules to make it a little bit easier to remember.  We put them into categories like "How we treat others" "How we treat supplies" "How we behave" etc.

To the children, I am still clearly overwhelmed by all of these rules.  Obviously, they agree that this is a lot to keep track of.  I ask the children to come up with just one word to describe all of these rules... We hem and we haw.  Eventually, they come up with the word "Respect" and a lightbulb goes off, and there is peace in the world again.

Okay, maybe I got a little dramatic again, but truly, the students get it.  They "get" that everything boils down to respecting others, ourselves, our learning, and our property.

Once we have come up with the rule, I write "RESPECT" in big bubble letters on a poster and have all the students sign it.  We hang it up in our room and everyone who walks in can see what our one class rule is.
Don't judge my bubble letters.  They are absolutely not my forte. 
When I see students goofing off in the hall, I can remind them that they aren't showing respect to the students learning in the other rooms.  When they don't put the marker tops back on, they are reminded that they aren't respecting our supplies.  When they shout out while I'm teaching, it doesn't take long for them to realize they aren't respecting me.

Of course, this doesn't work for every single child.  Some children and some classes will need very specific rules, and I absolutely don't fault them for that.  There are programs out there that I ADORE that can accompany this well, too, but it's a good starting point.  If you're willing to give it a go, you will very likely be thrilled with the RESPECT you have in your classroom!

I love sharing with my teaching colleagues!  Stop by my Facebook Page, my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, or my Pinterest Page to see even more ideas and resources!


For even more Bright Ideas, hop along to some of these other excellent posts!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teaching Place Value

A few weeks ago, I asked my Facebook followers about the very first thing they taught in math at the beginning of the school year.  All but one or two people said PLACE VALUE!  I looked back at my blog and couldn't believe it when I realized I had never blogged about a few of the activities I do when teaching place value.  I suppose it's because it has always been at the beginning of the year, and things just tend to get lost in the shuffle in the craziness that is the beginning of the year.
So, without further ado, I'm sharing a few little activities we have done over the years.  I'm going to let the pictures do most of the talking since I tend to get a little wordy! (Be sure to read to the bottom of the post for great ideas from my Facebook followers, too.)

We started with an anchor chart (shocking, right?!).  I prep this chart ahead of time since there are so many straight lines involved.  You can always tell which charts I did some prep for ahead of time...straight lines were prepped, but swirly lines (in most of my anchor charts) are used when I'm doing it on the fly with my class!


Here is what the place value anchor chart looks like when we are done.  It's a very basic one, but it works for me!  There are tons of other cute ones out there, too.

One of the first math notebook entries we do is on Place Value (right after the ten commandments of math).  I spruced mine up this year to offer to you for FREE!



You can see that the notebook entry very closely follows my anchor chart that I make with the class.


This is the left hand side "output" assignment.  Kids love it, and it's an easy way for me to see if they grasped the concept I just taught them.  For the Base Ten Model of this large number, I explain it to them, BUT I don't make them draw it out.  Instead, I have them split their 6-digit number into two smaller 3-digit numbers and represent it that way.


After I've taught them all about place value, we usually do several rounds of place value Scoot and other activities with place value task cards.

When I feel like they are fairly solid in their understanding of these skills, we get busy with my very favorite Math Project of the year, Place Value Detectives.  I still remember the exact moment I came up with this project, and it was like a lightbulb turned on.  It has been a huge hit with students, and I love the way it makes them really think about place value.


I have differentiated the project so that it meets the needs of students in grades 2-5, although it's best suited for grades 3+ since there is a lot of critical thinking and problem solving involved.  It covers all the standards, including expanded form, word form, rounding, comparing, and more!

This Place Value Project is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Click HERE to check it out!


These are two of my favorite pages.  The left page has students figuring out how grades were changed in a jumbled grade book.  I know it looks like those Xs on the right page are saying the work is wrong, but really, it is just the student solving the mystery of the School Supply Stealer using their clues.  The three teachers with the "X" aren't the correct culprit.

After we work through this project, I feel like my students have a good understanding of place value skills.  We culminate the unit with a review and/or quiz, which is FREE on my TpT store.  I do not give all of the pages to all of the kids, especially at one time.  I use it as homework throughout the unit or give one or two pages to each student to complete as a quiz at the end, depending on their skill level.

You can download this FREE Place Value packet at my TpT store!
 I also asked some of my Facebook fans what their favorite place value activities are.  Here are some of their excellent answers!

Place Value Activity Ideas


  • "I enjoy giving my kids opportunities to move! I give them a number that is identified as ones, tens, or hundreds. I say a number out loud and together, without talking, they have to move around the room to find their partners that will make that number" -Michelle Q.
  • "Roll dice to make a 2 or 3 digit number. Then show that number in 4 different ways: expanded form, word form, number form and with base tens."- Beth G.
  • "I have the students get in groups and look at the 2010 population census and pick 5 countries and record their population, from there they make a place value chart and write the numbers in expanded, standard, and word form and order them from least to greatest. From there, we use a classroom number line and place the countries and their populations on it. After that we review the number line and apply our data analysis by seeing what number was most frequent, less frequent, etc...helps with real world application."- Morgan C.
  • "Used base ten blocks today to teach writing numbers in expanded form. It was awesome to see their faces light when the finally made the connection that (2 x 100) = 200 because it's two groups of 100 units! Best lesson so far this year"-Christi W.
  • "I like to have the kids make place value pictures. They use hundreds, tens, and ones to make a picture then they have to show their number."-Claudia C.
  • "We integrate social studies by having the students use an atlas to locate various countries in the world and identify the population and land area. We compare and order the numbers as well as write them in word form and expanded form. We will also have the students brainstorm as to why certain countries have a higher population than others and if there is a correlation between land area and population."-Angie L.
  • "Place value Bingo. Students have a certain # of places to write a number. They write a number. Then call out digits & place value positions until they call bingo. Students also have to read the number out loud as well as go over digits/ place values called."-Margaret K.
  • "As we progress through our work w/ place value, students will partner up & play "war" trying to create the largest, smallest, put them in a certain order the fastest, etc."-Staci T.
  • "Number top it. Place value game with playing cards...players must build the largest number they can by picking cards. To win the just have the largest number and read it properly 2 different ways!"- Kerry O.
  • "We also do the secret number game. I also like to give the kids cards with digits, say the number and then they have to get themselves in the right order."-Jenneth S.
  • "I love to post various 4-6 digit numbers around the room and play "I spy"-Samantha K.
  • "My students love "The Secret Number Game." It is played like this:
    --Place lines on the board or have your students put them on their whiteboards. Then give the clues. (You can also make these on paper. Kids even love to write them, teacher can type them, and they can be given to the whole class.)
    ____ ____ , ____ ____ ____
    The digit in the thousands place is the number of tentacles on an octopus.
    The digit in the ones place is the number of legs on a cat.
    The digit in the hundreds place is the number of arms on a starfish.
    The digit in the thousands place is the sum of 6 + 2.
    The digit in the tens place is the difference of 18-9.
    What is my secret number?
    Say it!! "-Stacy P.
  • " I do an outdoor PE game. Two teams of students, red rover style. Each student on the line gets a digit 0-9 (some students have partners). I call out a large number (i.e. 68,709) and students with those digits have to run to the other side and line up in the correct order. First team to correctly display the number called wins a point! They love it!! "-Ashly R.
  • " I play a game with my students in which I tell them how many digits and they set up their spaces. Then I tell them, "There is a 4 in the thousands place, a 6 in the hundred thousands place, etc." (out of order) until we have built the number. If theirs matches mine, they get a point. Depending on the level of the students, I will make it more challenging by not repeating a clue or going faster, or make it easier by repeating clues or using fewer digits."- Laura H.
  • "I also have them line up in order from ones to millions while holding cards. The other students are able to see quickly whether the students are in the correct order and we use cards with commas as well to help reinforce the periods."-Tracy Y.
  • "Place value people: Give a group of students one digit each and have them stand at the front of the class. Insert "people commas" as needed, depending on the size of the number. Identify one person in the group; the rest of the class must write the place and place value of the digit. Use your favorite method for choosing a student to tell the answers. If the student is correct, he/she gets to replace that person and be a new digit in the number. "-Donna G.
Happy teaching!  Feel free to share your best place value idea or blog post in the comments!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Advanced Reading Intervention Plans

I was recently contacted by Office Depot to highlight a few of their fabulous products on my blog and show how #TeachersChangeLives.  They have launched this amazing campaign, featuring how much teachers impact the lives of students.  Office Depot has highlighted the great lengths teachers go to meet the needs of their students...while most of the time spending money out of their own pocket.  They were so kind to send me a box of goodies so that I could show some ways I use them in my classroom.  I thought and thought about fun ways I could use some Sharpies, Expo Markers, and Pens.  But when it came down to it, I remembered that it's not always the "fun" times that change lives or inspire students.  It's the meaningful ones.  And sometimes, those meaningful moments are powered by little things like markers and highlighters...


As I was thinking about some of the supplies I had purchased on my own to make learning a little bit more engaging, I immediately remembered reading interventions and the goodies I gathered to make it happen.

Last year, I spent a lot of my time with "advanced" readers.  These are readers who can read lickity split and don't need any more instruction on reading fluency.  These are the students who so often get left behind because to the "naked eye," they look perfectly fine academically. They can give you the gist of what they read, but sometimes they have working memory issues and can't recall specific details.  Maybe they are the student that can get through an entire page of text but can't tell you what they read.  Or perhaps they are the student who performs well in class because they have learned excellent compensatory skills, like always going back and rereading to find answers in texts...but when you try to chat with them about a page in a book, they struggle.

Read on to see how I used task cards in the classroom to put together some advanced reading comprehension groups AND save some money on your favorite school supplies from Office Depot! (Click HERE to grab a great school supply discount!)


Even with my advanced readers, who were performing well in most aspects, I still had a few who needed extra help with their comprehension skills.  I put together a plan to attack some of these areas of need and increase their reading comprehension.  This could be used with struggling students, but this specific sequence is for kids who were on grade level, but still needed some extra work on comprehension. I was happy with the results, and the students in the group enjoyed working through it with me.

When I realized I had this group of kids struggling, I knew that I needed to do something.  As a former academic interventionist, this was a little bit of a different need for me to address.  These kids had their basic comprehension skills down, but now they needed some help to move beyond that.  I thought about the skills they needed to work on, then came up with a plan.


Here's a look at the basic outline of what I came up with.  We started out looking at Literal Vs. Inferential questions.  This is so crucial, as all students need to be able to tell the difference between the two.  They need to know whether they need to infer to find the answer or if the answer should be jumping right out at them in the text.

We used red to underline inferential questions and green to underline literal questions.  I let the students use mechanical pencils (a HUGE treat in my classroom) during my small groups, including interventions.
Speaking of mechanical pencils, how much fun are these for some student motivation?  They have interchangeable erasers and caps.  Perfect for students who are motivated by office supplies and color.  :)
After we worked with literal and inferential questions, we moved on to focusing only on inference.  I used my story elements inference task cards so that we could hit two birds with one stone--story elements like characters, settings, problems, and solutions while still working on inference.


Before I go on, I need to mention the awesomeness of these highlighters.  Do you see that highlighter in the picture?  That is no typical highlighter.  That, my friends, is a Sharpie Clear View Highlighter.  You can see right through the tip of the highlighter so that you can tell where to stop your highlighting.  This is BRILLIANT for use with students, who are notorious for over highlighting.


Do you see that?  The tip is almost fully transparent!  How incredibly cool is that?  I got these snazzy highlighters from Office Depot, and you can snag them, too.  They are offering a great deal on a ton of teacher/student supplies through their #TeachersChangeLives program.  Click HERE to access an exclusive coupon and see all of their timesaving, inventive, and engaging materials for teachers and students.

Over the weeks, we worked our way through the task cards in a variety of ways.  Here are some ways I used the cards with my students in the intervention group:
  • I read the card aloud to the students while they closed their eyes and listened.  Then, I asked them questions about what I had read, using the prompts on the cards.  This helped with their listening and memory skills.  They didn't have to worry about reading the cards, they only had to worry about comprehending what they were hearing.
  • This was very powerful for several of my students... Either I read the card or the kids read the card out loud.  They used a mini dry erase board to take VERY brief notes about what the story was about.  I taught them to pick out key details in the story that could help trigger their memory.  I explained that they wouldn't always have the dry erase board but that we needed to train their brain to latch on to those key details so that they didn't forget what they were reading.  We did the same thing with visualizing and my free visualizing task cards.
  • I had some kids who were having a really hard time remembering specific details about what they were reading.  I gave them a sheet of task cards (4 to a sheet) and had them read all the cards to themselves at least once.  Then, they read the cards out loud one at a time, and I would ask detail-oriented questions after each card was read.  They could reference the cards answering the questions. This took about 20 minutes to get through all 4 cards on a page.  Then, with the last few minutes, I would take the paper away from the students and ask them more questions about what they had read.  This worked SO well, and it was SO simple.  
  • You can see in the picture above that I had students highlight evidence for their answers to the questions directly on the task cards.  Then, they wrote the answers on a blank piece of paper.
     They love to this because what kid doesn't love highlighting things.
Here is a look at the contents of my folder when I planned everything out... I only used 4 or 5 of each card at each session, so I could still use the rest of the cards at another time.  Perhaps in centers or as a whole group.


I get a a lot of questions about task cards and why I use them.  This intervention group was a perfect example of the beauty of task cards.  Reading task cards include short and sweet, totally non-threatening passages.  It's not an entire page of text--it's either half a page or a quarter of a page, and most often, it's visually pleasing.  My kids just aren't intimidated by task cards in the same way they are intimidated by page-long passages.

This was such a quick-prep group using the cards, and I threw the highlighters, pens, and pencils in an organizer and was always ready to go.  Remember to hop over to Office Depot to grab excellent deals on back to school supplies to help your students be a little bit more inspired during their learning time! 


If you are looking for the task cards I used in my intervention group, you can find them all in my TpT store. You can truly use any set of cards that meet your needs, or other passages you have.



Disclaimer: I received products in this blog post to help facilitate this review and was compensated by Office Depot for my time. For more information about these products please visit Office Depot, Teachers Change Lives.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Back to School Sale @ Teaching With a Mountain View

Hi Teacher Friends!  It's August, and that means it's officially "Go Time" for most of us!  Lucky for you, Teachers Pay Teachers is hosting a big Back to School Sale with 28% off your TpT purchase!  It all starts Monday, August 4th and lasts through Tuesday, August 5th.

All of the resources in my store are 20% off, plus if you use the code BTS14 at checkout, TpT takes another 10% off your purchase for a total of 28% off!

Now is the time to stock up on resources for your classroom.  I even have all of my BUNDLES an EXTRA 20% off.  They are all already discounted 20-25% when they are bundled, so it's a steal on sale days.

You know that in just a few short days, you will have parents knocking down your door (right?!) to volunteer, and you can send them home with a big pile of laminating to cut out.  Or...if you're more like me, you can spend your evenings cutting out laminate by the light of some Netflix shows and munching on a bowl of popcorn.  Take last night, for example...  I spent the evening finishing up my monthly reading skills task cards and they are set to go FOR THE YEAR!

Spiral Review Reading Skills Task Cards
I love using these task cards in centers and with early finishers so that they can continue practicing all of their reading skills throughout the year. Each monthly set includes a review of skills like context clues, sequencing, comprehension, main idea, inference, and so much more!  There are 54 cards in each set, so *540* cards for the entire year.

If you don't need all of the reading skills task cards, you can buy the enrichment cards as a monthly set, too.  They are perfect for any classroom and a great way to keep early finishers engaged throughout the day.  If you need ideas on how to keep those early finishers busy with NO Busy work, hop over to my task card blog and see how I use these (and other task cards) for early finishers.
Monthly Enrichment Task Cards
While you are at my store, be sure to check out my latest freebie about letter writing with your students!  I was so honored to be able to be a guest blogger for Laura Candler at Teaching Resources. You can check out the blog post HERE and grab the freebie at my TpT store HERE!


If you are anything like me, if I don't have my wish list ready to go on sale days (wish I never do), I always end up feeling overwhelmed by all the great things I want.  Here are links to my BUNDLED and discounted products.  This is a great place to start so that you can see an offering of what I have and shop from there!

Bundled Resources from Teaching With a Mountain View
Remember, you can buy most of the resources in the bundles individually as well!




You might also be interested in some of my best-selling math projects!  I cover topics ranging from place value to advanced fraction skills.  Check out my Math Projects page on my blog to see them all!


And how about some task cards that aren't found in any bundles (yet)?  These are all newer task cards that cover major reading skills throughout the year.  They are some of my favorites!
Comprehension Task Cards



Happy shopping!  I hope you find some great deals.  If you are looking for more upper grade sellers to shop from, stop by some of my friends' stores!