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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Supporting Student Learning at Home

At the beginning, middle, and end of every single school year, I always have parents ask me for tips about how they can support their child's learning at home.  Sometimes they are looking for worksheets or workbook recommendations, but oftentimes, they are much more interested in how learning can be integrated into their daily lives.  Learning opportunities are literally EVERYWHERE, but sometimes it takes a minute to stop and realize just how many ways we can enrich students' lives academically, even outside the classroom.


With that in mind, I've compiled a simple list of ways that parents can support their children at home.  Keep these in your figurative back pocket during discussions with parents.
  • Read aloud, read aloud, read aloud.  As children grow older, many parents stop reading to their kids and listening to their kids read.  If I had one tip for parents, it would be to read with their child every single night.  They constantly need to hear examples of fluent reading just like they need to practice their own fluency. If they are younger, I always recommend You Read to Me, I'll Read to You books.  Otherwise, any book will do.  If parents really want to work on comprehension skills with their students, I'll send them home with these free question stems as they really promote discussion (Bonus: I use these in my class ALL year).
  • Mental Math Car Ride Game Show.  Okay, that sounds more fancy than it is.  I always encourage parents to find numbers on the road and make a math game out of it.  Speed limit is 65? What's 6+5, 6-5, and 6 x 5?  Did you just pass mile marker 165?  What's 16-5?  What's 1+6+5?
  • Step competitions! Everyone in my family has a pedometer of some sort, and at the end of every day, we have a step competition.  This silly evening routine singlehandedly taught my children how to read large numbers.  We practice rounding up and rounding down, we compare numbers (I lose every single day), and you can even throw in more advanced math, like figuring out how many total steps the family took or the difference between the number of steps for certain family members.  It's such fun, and pedometers are fairly inexpensive these days!
  • Story Time. Every night, my dear husband tells my girls a story that he makes up.  I'm not nearly that creative after a long day, so when he's out of town, my girls and I tell stories together.  I start a little bit of the story, one of the kids continues it, and we "pass it around" until we have a complete, but sometimes pretty silly, story.
  • Show me the Money. I remind parents that there are so many opportunities to teach not only financial literacy but basic math skills.  You can round numbers to the nearest dollar, determine exactly how many more cents until you reach the next whole dollar, check if the cashier gave you the correct amount of money, etc. 
  • Time challenge.  Not only do I encourage parents to discuss real-world elapsed time problems with their children, I emphasize how important it is for them to hear other time vocabulary such as "half past" "quarter to" etc.  Instead of telling them it's 9:15 when they ask, I tell parents to say, "It's a quarter past the hour that comes after 8." I mean, that one is pretty complicated, but you get the gist! :)
  • Get cooking. It sounds so simple, but cooking with kids provides many opportunities for enrichment.  From reading recipes, navigating websites or search engines to find the recipes, to doubling or halving recipes, my own children have learned so much from our time cooking together.  Bonus: Be sure to let students read (and smell) all the spice labels!
  • Write me a Letter. I always have questions about spelling!  My best tip for supporting spelling at home (aside from studying spelling words) is to write letters back and forth to one another.  When mom or dad or aunt or uncle or BFF writes the letter to the child, they write 5-10 words at the bottom that the return letter MUST include, spelled correctly.  Kids love trying to figure out where to put the words in, and they get great writing and spelling practice!
  • Map It Out! Social studies skills are harder to hit in every day life (go to museums, of course!), but making maps and learning their neighborhood is so important.  I always have my students create a map of their street and surrounding areas, and it's always very eye-opening for them.
  • Pay attention to prefixes and suffixes.  We use them all day long, but sometimes it's hard to remember to point them out to kids.  Going to a POSTgame party? Talk to kids about what a PREgame party would be. 
  • Let's Talk About Our Day.  When my twins were little, I read that helping children recall small moments of their day is one of the very best ways you can improve a child's working memory.  After that, I made it a point to always talk about their day with them.  My two year old LOVES to do this every night, and I love hearing about the little tiny things she remembers about her day (Oh, those black dots on the lady bug were so cute, mama!).  My big kids still love this, too, and even say they have better dreams when they talk about all the fun we had that day.  
Of course, that's not an all-inclusive list, but it will be a good start and get those creative juiced flowing!  I like to have something tangible to hand students as reminds, so I have also written out some specific tips parents have always found helpful.  I would highly recommend sending this FREE page of suggestions home early in the year, perhaps on Meet the Teacher night or during Back to School Open Houses!


Just fill out the form below to grab your free page of tips and tricks! 

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    Monday, July 15, 2019

    Amazon PRIME DAY DEALS for Teachers!


    I don't know about you, but I've always been so overwhelmed by Prime Day! Where do I find the deals? How do I know what's a decent deal? Do I have to buy it right away?

    Well, this year, I'm hoping to take some of the guesswork out of it for you.  I'll be linking the best TEACHER RELATED deals here all day long.  You can also follow my Facebook feed on my PAGE or in my GROUP to get Facebook notifications when I find new deals.

    Please note: All links are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission for every purchase you make. Be sure to click the links to view the Prime Day deals, as most of the prices listed here won't reflect the sale price.

    Let's get shopping!

    Tuesday, March 12, 2019

    Brain Break Videos that your kids will LOVE!

    While GoNoodle has always been a staple in my classroom, I've found that the older the kids are, the less enthusiastic they tend to be about getting their groove on in front of the rest of the class.  I've tried to encourage them with my own excitement and dance moves, but alas, there are always a few who stare awkwardly from the back row.  I have a fair amount of brain break tricks up my sleeve (check out this post about how I use precious extra minutes in the classroom), but I wanted something else fun!

    A few years ago, I was having my students work through a fairly long Power Point.  They were working in pairs and they had an interactive study guide to accompany it, but I still felt like they needed something that would break up the monotony of it.  I decided to insert a few "surprise" videos sporadically throughout the presentation as mini brain breaks.  They LOVED IT and begged me for more!  I am finally getting around to sharing a few of those videos.  They are all short, slightly educational, and 100% kid-approved.


    I've watched every single video all the way through, but be sure to double check and make sure they are suitable for your class.  I'd also recommend using Safe Youtube to stream them and avoid ads.

    Video #1: Kid President.  He will never cease to amaze me, and students really gravitate toward his videos. 


    Video #2: Little Big Shots is a hoot to watch!  Steve Harvey can get a little bit snarky sometimes, so I don't like to choose random clips to show, but this one is great!



    Video #3: This musical video is mesmerizing, and there are so many to choose from!


    Video #4: Rube Goldberg videos are some of my kids' favorites.  This one is particularly fun because he eats dinner and dessert throughout the video!  You can also use these videos for cause and effect.


    Video #5: Two words: Optical Illusions.


    Video #6: There's just something about watching thousands of dominos falling in sync that captures students.  I also love to show them that kids can do hard and wonderful things, too!


    Video #7: Don't do this at home! My students always beg me for more of these videos.


    Video #8: If you aren't familiar with the Ron Clark Academy, check them out!  They have so many master teachers on staff and offer so many great ideas to incorporate into your classroom.  Ron Clark also has some sweet dance moves that he does with his students, which always gets my students up and dancing, too!



    Reading Skills Quick Reference Guide

    Well, to say it's been a while since I've posted would be an understatement!  Although I haven't posted a new update here, I've been busy sharing ideas on Instagram and Facebook.  I am also constantly updating old blog posts as well!  Did you know that I don't typically create a new blog post on a topic I already have a post about?  Instead, I add to it so that all of the information is in one place! Enough about my lack of an update... It's TIME for an update!

    Test prep season is upon us, and for many, testing season has already arrived.  Last year, I created my Reading Skill of the Day resource with the intention of it being used during the second half of the year as a test prep of sorts.  It became very popular quickly and before I knew it, people were requesting a second set of them because they used the first set during the first semester!  I recently released the second set to go along with it, and now I'm releasing a brand new FREE resource chock full of information that will accompany it!  Now, even if you don't use the Reading Skill of the Day, this Quick Reference Guide is still an INCREDIBLY valuable, must-have resource for your classroom.  It gives your students access to quick reminders about so many reading skills, right at their fingertips.


    Students learn so many different reading skills throughout the year that it can quickly become overwhelming for them to remember each of the skills.  I wanted to create a quick reference guide for reading skills (I already have a FREE one for language skills!) so that students could put it into their reading notebooks or keep it handy during close reading.

    For my students, I created a close reading toolkit, and when I shrunk the quick reference guide down to a booklet size, they slide perfectly into their toolkits!  Here's a closer look at what I put inside their reading kits:


    Their close reading kits are used for ALL kinds of reading, not just their Reading Skill of the Day work.  They can be used when you are doing a close read as a small group or whole group, when they are in novel groups, etc. Inside, they have everything they need for annotating and responding to text (including their handy quick reference guide)!  I have also found that these kits come in handy with my newest resource, Rapid Read and Respond, as there are several opportunities for students to use colors.

    Inside of the close read kit, I include some sticky note arrows, some emoji stickers for responding to text, primary color (plus green) colored pencils, highlighters, a Flair Pen (see note below!), and a mechanical pencil.  Most of these items come straight from student supplies at the beginning of the year, but here are all of the Amazon Affiliate links to the specific items I put in the bags.

    Close Reading Toolkit
    I searched high and low to find the least expensive option that was sturdy enough for everything (including pencils that may poke through the bottom) AND fit the reference guide.  These are perfection!
    I decided to try these since they are SO much less expensive, and they're great! Kids love them.
    I got mine from Big Lots, but these are similar in pricing and style
    I like these because you can see through them and use them as highlighters, too!  Plus, there are 30 separate packs, which is perfect for a classroom.
    Basic, but Amazon has a really great price for them.

    Here is a closer look inside of the Reading Skills Quick Reference Guide and more information on how you can grab yours for FREE!




    I hope you absolutely love this free resource!  To get yours for free, simply enter your email address and click "Get it now!" to subscribe to my newsletter (don't worry... I will never spam you!).  Then check your email for your FREE Quick Reference Guide.


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      I'll be back soon with a fun blog post with videos you can use in your classroom to engage your students!  Happy Spring.

      Sunday, July 22, 2018

      HUGE Back To School Giveaway!


      I wanted to let you in on a HUGE giveaway I'm having to celebrate the Back to School Season!  I know I'm a little bit early, but I wanted to have plenty of time to send out goodies to the winners before school planning started.  I'll make this quick, since I know how much you have on your plate right now (and I hope you are spending plenty of time relaxing and enjoying your summer).  You can enter here and then read on to learn more about what you can win:

      There will be SIX big winners with this giveaway!

      The grand prize winner will receive:  

      • A FULL task card storage box filled with all sixteen sets of my Fluency Task Cards printed in full color and laminated.  
      • A Teacher Care Package with "essential" teacher school supplies.
      • A Teaching With a Mountain View flash drive filled with over $150 worth of digital resources from Teaching With a Mountain View.
      • A $25 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers


      FIVE additional winners will receive:  
      • A Teaching With a Mountain View flash drive filled with over $150 worth of digital resources from Teaching With a Mountain View.
      • A $25 gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers
      I am so excited to share some of my favorite things with all of you through this giveaway!  Have fun. :)


      Monday, February 5, 2018

      Analyzing Math Errors: Conceptual vs. Computation Errors

      It's not secret that I'm a huge fan of error analysis.  I have blogged extensively about explicitly teaching error analysis (you can read more about that HERE) and find that it increases student understanding of individual concepts in incredible ways!

      I am often asked how I teach my students to identify errors, especially when they just don't know where to begin.  Teachers also ask me about teaching students to find errors in not only the tasks I have created, but also in students' own individual work.  Teaching kids to see the difference between a conceptual error and a computational error is the best way that I have found to get students well on their way to analyzing errors!


      Although I use this to teach kids to complete error analysis tasks, I also HEAVILY rely on this skill as students work through their own errors.  I can have very high-ability students constantly making silly computational mistakes, and it isn't until I point this out to them that they finally slow down and stop making them.

      Teaching the difference between conceptual and computational mistakes is also a great way to prepare for state testing.  Not only will students probably have to do some sort of error analysis on the test, but they also need to examine their work to find errors.  It also gives them a great strategy to use if they get an answer that doesn't match up to any multiple choice answers.

      There are two main types of errors that I teach my students to look out for in their own work and when completing an error analysis tasks.  Almost every single error will fall under one of these two types.

      Types of Math Errors Students Make

      Conceptual Errors:  These are errors that students make when they don't have a complete understanding of the math concepts, and they end up making errors in the process.  These errors are so common when you get into multi-step word problems, multi-digit multiplication, or long division.  There are just so many steps in the process of completing these problems that students tend to have a really hard time not missing a single step.

      Computational Errors:  Computational errors happen when students understand the concept but make careless errors in computation.  These are mistakes made when multiplying, dividing, adding, or subtracting.  The process was completed correctly, and the student usually has a solid understanding of the concept, but somewhere along the way, they miscalculated.  These may seem like more simple errors, but they can really trip students up.  How many of us have ever had a student swear up and down that 6 times 7 is 36? *ME!*

      So, how do I teach my students to figure out which type of error they've made?

      First of all, it is very rare that I will tell my students what error they have made in their work.  I want to challenge them to figure it out on their own, so when I see that they have a wrong answer, I ask them to go back and figure out where something went wrong.  Because I resist the urge to tell them right away where their error is, my students tend to get a lot more practice identifying them!

      Along these same lines, I know that the vast majority of my students are capable of completing a task I assign.  This give me confidence that they should, then, also be able to find their mistakes.  However, if they aren't completing it accurately AND they can't find and fix their own errors, I probably need to rethink whether or not it's appropriate to be assigning them this type of work to complete independently.

      Second, when I introduce a concept, I always, always, always create anchor charts with students and complete interactive notebook activities with them so that they have step-by-step procedures for completing tasks right at their fingertips.  I have them go back and reference their notebooks while they are looking at their errors.  Usually, they can follow the anchor chart step-by-step to make sure they haven't made a conceptual error, and if they have, they can identify it.

      Third, I let them use a calculator.  When worst comes to worst, and they are fairly certain they haven't made a conceptual mistake to identify, I let them get out a calculator and start computing, step-by-step to see where they've made a mistake.

      IF, after taking these steps, a student can't figure out their mistake (especially if I find that it's a conceptual mistake), I know I need to go back and do some individual reteaching with them because they don't have a solid understanding of the concept.

      If you want to read even more about explicitly incorporating error analysis into your classroom, click the image below!


      Monday, January 29, 2018

      One Reading Game: Five Ways

      I'm popping in with a quick post to share a few new ways to use my Reading Games for reading comprehension review!  I get a ton of questions about different ways to play this game, so here are a few ideas!

      I originally designed these games to be used with Jenga-style topple blocks, but I wanted to give teachers other options just in case they didn't have topple blocks, if they wanted to change the game up a little bit, or if they wanted a quicker version of the game.  I have blogged about using topple blocks as math games HERE and HERE.



      For each of these game play samples, I used my Text Structures Reading Game!


      Points Tracker 

      The easiest way to play and have kids complete ALL of the questions is using the points tracker.  I like to incentivize this a little bit and use it as more of a "time tracker."  Students get points for each of the questions they answer correctly, and then at the end, the number of points they have is the amount of time they have to complete some sort of STEM challenge.  Kids LOVE this, and it only takes an extra 5-10 minutes at the end of the game!

      Board Games 

      Have some extra board games laying around?  This is another easy way to use the game.  I have my students complete one question (of their choice) each time it's their turn to make a move.   I make BOTH students who are playing the game answer the same question at the same time so that there is never really any down time.  They check their answer using the answer key and get to make the move if they get the answer correct. The board game above is a mini version of Connect Four that I purchased for $5 at Staples.

      Topple Blocks

      This is the "original" inspiration for the design of the game, and kids LOVE it!  I purchase my block sets on Amazon HERE. (Affiliate Link) The sets include a multi-colored dice that the students roll, and it tells them which colored block they need to pull from the tower.  Before they can pull their block, everyone on the team answers a question with the corresponding color.  

      For example, if Jackie, Tim, and Bella are all playing, and Jackie rolls the dice and gets a pink, ALL THREE KIDS will choose the same pink question on the game and answer it.  Then, they check the answer key and discuss. If Jackie got the answer correct, she gets to pull that color block.  If she didn't get it, she does not pull any blocks and it's Tim's turn.  Play repeats until they topple the blocks! (Then, they set them back up and start playing again.)


      Colored Dice

      This is a super inexpensive alternative to the Topple Blocks, and kids still love it!  I purchase these colored dice on Amazon HERE. (Affiliate Link)  Then, they roll the dice to see which color question they complete.  Simple as that!

      Game Boards

      Finally, I created these FREE game board options to use with the reading games!  There are multiple options for using the game boards that make them all super engaging!  

      I also get quite a few questions about how I store all of my blocks.  They come in a box that isn't incredibly sturdy, so I searched high and low for a good storage solution! I tried many different options and finally settled on these three tiered Sterilite Snap & Carry bins.  They have them at Target and Wal Mart, but they are only $6 at Wal Mart, so that's definitely where I suggest grabbing them!



      Click the image below to check out all of the different versions of the game I have!  Happy playing!