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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Elapsed Time Amazing Race

Can you tell we have been hard at work mastering our elapsed time skills?  This is something that can get pretty boring pretty quickly because of how much practice you HAVE to do.  I started searching for more ideas to make it FUN and INTERESTING, and I came across this great blog post from Thinking of Teaching.  She had the kids play a version of Amazing Race, and I thought it was such a great idea!  I took it a little bit further and made it into a "real" Amazing Race, where they are solving problems to race throughout the different continents.

One of my main goals as we were working on this game, which came at the very end of our elapsed time unit, was to help them become more comfortable with multi-step elapsed time problems.  Every single continent had a multi-step problem they had to solve in order to move on.

I started by creating a passport for each of my students.  They were going to be solving problems on all seven continents (and visiting the US twice, once when they depart, and once when they arrive back home).  I found stamps and stickers that they could use when they completed the problem at that continent.  They *loved* this, and the buy-in was amazing! They worked so hard for their stamps and stickers.

At each stop, they had a multi-step problem to solve that had something to do with a country on that continent.  I made it into a colorful poster using a half sheet of anchor chart paper and hung them all up around the room.

Each stop had a small white bin (.99 from Party City and I can think of 1,000 other things I am going to do with them) with their stamps and half sheets of paper.  They did all of their work on the half sheets of paper and submitted their answers into the bin as well.  This way, the only thing they had to carry from continent to continent was their passport.

That's it!  SUPER simple, but the engagement during this activity was off the charts.  They loved it!

Click HERE to download my not-so-pretty file to create your own posters.

You can check out MORE posts and elapsed time resources below by clicking on each image.



Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Elapsed Time Game!

A few weeks ago, I had the great privilege of attending a two day training at The Ron Clark Academy.  They are all about high student engagement and adding a little bit of extra magic to a rigorous curriculum.  One of their teachers, the most fabulous Hope King (who also blogs at Elementary Shenanigans), did a workshop on adding games to your curriculum.  One of the games that stuck out to me was using Jenga blocks to up the engagement for ANY topic!  So, as soon as I got home, I ordered a class set of colored Jenga blocks (which are technically knock-offs) and set to work creating a Jenga game to go with our current unit on elapsed time.  And my Elapsed Time Jenga Game was born!

Here are the basics of the game:
  • Each child gets a recording sheet, a colored Jenga game set (I ordered mine HERE.  You can also paint regular Jenga sets), and a dice with all the different colored blocks.  
  • I put my students in groups of 3-4, but you could easily have groups of 5 or 6.
  • One student rolled the dice and pulled the corresponding color from their tower.  Then, they found the color on their recording sheet and answered one of the questions.  
  • Here's a key point: even though only one person pulls a block each turn, ALL of the students MUST answer EACH question.  
  • Then, they had to confer with each other and agree on an answer.  If they disagreed, they worked together to find any errors that had been made and solved the problem correctly.  
  • Finally, I had a QR code answer sheet for the kids to use to check their answers.  

The love for this game was immeasurable!  I had so many comments from kids saying that they didn't want math time to end!  The day was going by so quickly! They were having so much fun it didn't even feel like math!  THOSE are the comments that we as teachers live for.  Little did they realize, they had completed 36 elapsed time problems during their game!

I did add one more little element to the game since it was for time.  Each time the students solved a problem correctly, they got "seconds" for it.  The red questions were the most difficult, so they earned 60 seconds for each red that they pulled and solved for.  The purples were the most basic, so they earned 20 seconds each time they solved one of those. They lost the same amount of time for incorrect answers, and they lost 30 seconds when their towers fell. I added that part because I didn't want students to get too crazy with their towers and spend all of their time cleaning them up.

At the end of our game time, they added up all of the seconds they had earned (and lost).  Then, they had to convert it to minutes and seconds.  That number was the amount of time they had to compete in a STEM challenge.  We did a super basic STEM challenge-- built the tallest structure out of marshmallows and tooth picks.  Some groups had 20 minutes to build, and some had 12, depending on how many they got right and how many times their towers fell! :) This was just a "fun" component, but they just loved it, and it was great motivation to work with a sense of urgency and also not goof around and make their tower fall.

They absolutely loved the STEM challenge, too!

I have shared my elapsed time documents for FREE on my TpT site.  I hope you can enjoy them with your class! Check back for more Jenga games coming soon-- I will definitely be adapting this for multiple subject areas!

Download the documents HERE.

Purchase the colored block sets HERE (affiliate link).

Get even MORE Elapsed Time Ideas HERE!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Coordinating Conjunctions and Compound Sentences

One of my big goals this year is to make writing as FUN and ENGAGING as I possibly can.  So many students equate writing with boring skill practice and monotonous prompts, and I want to change that!  We are very lucky to have a FABULOUS writing curriculum that we will dive into soon, but for now, I am focusing on some critical grammar skills.  One of them is types of sentences and using coordinating conjunctions.  Being able to use commas and conjunctions really increases a student's ability to write varied, interesting pieces of writing.

We started off by making an anchor chart together.  I made the "shell" of the anchor chart ahead of time so that we could talk through it as a class.  I strongly believe in making anchor charts WITH a class, but I have also found that making these "shells" eliminates any down time while creating them.  I just leave the most important content out.

After we filled it in together, we started practicing the skill using our Super Sentences Flip Books.  We have had so much fun with these to start the school year-- it's amazing how turning a regular worksheet into a flip book can make all the difference in how engaged your students are.

The next day, I wanted a memorable way to review what the students had learned yesterday.  I went on Flocabulary and found this A-MAZING video that teaches students about using coordinating conjunctions to make compound sentences.  
The hook line of the song is, "A simple sentence has a subject and a verb, and forms a complete thought using every word. A compound sentence is two of them combined. A comma, and a conjunction you will find!"  It was like GOLD for my students and soon enough, they were jumping up and down rapping with the video themselves.  We did this three weeks ago, and the song is STILL stuck in my head!
Click to Watch
Click on the image above to see the video for FREE until October 31st.  While you're there, explore the site.  They have a song for just about everything you could imagine, and tons of lesson plans to go with them, too!  Next week, we are starting latitude and longitude, and I can't wait to introduce my students to the concept with their song for that topic!

Would you like to win a year-long subscription to Flocabulary? (The answer is YES! Yes, you would!)  Here's your chance!  Click on the image below and enter your information.  THREE randomly selected entrants will win a full year subscription, and everyone who enters will receive an extended 45-day free trial.  You must enter by October 16.  Good luck!

After we watched the video at least seventeen times (that's only a SLIGHT exaggeration), students got to do a fun hands-on activity to practice building compound sentences using coordinating conjunctions.   

First, they got a large piece of chart paper with different categories.  Then, they had some macaroni noodles for the commas, and sentence strips to write their sentences.  They had to write two simple sentences about the topic that went together, with one sentence on each sentence strip.  Then, they combined them on the chart paper to make a compound sentence.  Here's a look at some of their charts to get a better idea of how they did it. 

They had to cut off the first (capital) letter of the second sentence so that they remembered to make it lowercase.  They used the macaroni to make a comma, and wrote in their FANBOYS.

Pay no mind to the dead flowers here.  This poor table's flowers died over the weekend, and they were determined to revive them!
I loved seeing their sentences, and this made the concept so concrete!

I knew that the rest of our coordinating conjunction practice would be embedded into our writing, but I wanted to do one quick assessment with the kids.  My students this year are absolutely OBSESSED with Kahoot, so I took my Coordinating Conjunctions Task Cards and created a Kahoot with them.  I simply took a screen shot of each card, typed in the answers, and I was done.  It look less than ten minutes to convert a few task cards into a Kahoot game!  I made the game public, so if you would like to play it with your students, click HERE to access the game for free!

If you would like the rest of the task cards in the set, click HERE!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Host a Classroom Book Tasting!

File this under lessons that must be repeated multiple times throughout the year!

I hosted my very first classroom Book Tasting yesterday, and my students were ALL IN!  Book Tastings are a wonderful way to get kids engaged in reading and familiarizing them with a wide variety of genres.  As an extra bonus, they get to practice Read to Self and find good fit books.  At the end of the tasting, they all end up with a list of books that they can't wait to read.  No more, "I don't know what to read!" excuses when we head to the library!

This was BY FAR my favorite lesson that I've done so far this year!

To prepare for my book tasting, I met with our librarian and we selected 8-10 books at my students' reading levels per genre.  We are so lucky to have a HUGE library with a VAST assortment of books! Then, I headed to the Dollar Tree and bought all of their blue and green placemats!  I also grabbed a few snacks for the students to have a "taste" of while they took a "taste" of their books.

As I was planning my Book Tasting, the fabulous Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching created an amazing Book Tasting Resource! PERFECT TIMING! The Book Tasting Menus that the students recorded on as well as the genre labels came from the pack!  My extra placements (Dollar Tree only had 20!) also came from her packet!

Here is how I set up my book tasting: 

I set up six different tables.  Each table was for a specific genre.  I placed a placement, a menu, and a plate at each seat.  Then, I put one book on each plate and a few extra books in the middle of the table.  I put the genre sign in the middle. I put on an apron, and I played some cafe music.  I also put little bowls of snacks on the table, but the kids didn't get to taste those.  More on the snacks later!

When the students arrived, I explained that they were now dining at Chef Montero's, and I had prepared a very special dining experience for them.  They, the Distinguished Diners at Chef Montero's, would be getting a taste of all kinds of new books!  I REALLY played it up, acting like I was a chef/server, and they were guests at a nice restaurant.  They even had to use their manners and act like dinner guests! 

They were all seated at a table and grabbed their menus.  I gave them about a minute to look at the book on their plate.  If they truly weren't interested in it AT ALL, they could trade out their book for one of the books in the middle of the table.  Most kids did not trade. 

Then, they began writing in their menus the genre, title, and first impressions of the book.  

After that, they had about 3-4 minutes to "taste" their book.  During this time, they were reading several pages out of their book.  While they were doing this, I walked around and served tiny tastes of several of my very special creations.  I got a little silly during this part, coming up with gourmet names for all of the little treats I served them.  Their favorite treat was the Rainbow Beans (AKA Skittles).  They got a tiny taste of something during each course at a different table. We have a strict "Safe Snack" list, so I served Fruit Snacks (2), Oreos (1), Skittles (2), Pretzel Sticks (a few), and Teddy Grahams (2).  They thought it was hilarious that they were getting such small portions of their snacks, but I reminded them that this was only a tasting! :) They LOVED how into my character I got.

Once they had done their tasting of the book, they filled out the rest of their menu, explaining whether or not they wanted to keep reading and why.  They also rated each book on a scale of 1-10.

Then, they reset their tables nicely, took their menus with them, and took a seat at another genre table. I had six tables, and we made five rotations.  In total, it took us about an hour to do our book tasting.

We had a BLAST doing our book tasting!  They loved it so much that they begged to do another one tomorrow!  I promised them that we would do another one later on this year once they have had time to read some of the new books on their "Must Read" list.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Classroom Snapshots 2016-2017

Just one more post about classroom set up, and then I promise it will be back to my regular content-based blog posts!

Now that all of our seating options are in, here are a few pictures to show our different seating arrangements and to get a feel for the classroom I spend my days in! :)

Here is a picture from the front of my room.  The paper looks extraordinarily bright in this picture and our rug also hadn't arrived when I took this, but it does a good job of showing most of our flexible seating options!

I LOVE our stability balls from WittFitt.  They have little legs on them and they pop up instantly when kids got off of them.  No balls constantly rolling around!

This is a view standing in the front of the room looking at the door.  You can see here the one pod of regular desks that remains.  You can also see that we have to store our recess equipment, which is why there is a hula hoop in those cubbies! :) 

This is easily my favorite part of the room!  I LOVE our green Hokki Stools from WittFitt and so do our students.  They wobble and allow just enough movement!  

This is directly on the opposite side of the Hokki Stool table.  It is our teacher desk turned student seating area with an IKEA bookshelf to store binders.  You can also see some of our storage on the cabinets as well as on the counters.  We use the bins on the counters to store our iPads, lessons, lesson plan books, etc.  It really replaces our teacher desk.

Here is a close up view of how we use the teacher desk as student seating.  On top of the bookshelf, there is a turn-in basket and a paper basket.

Here's a view of the back of the room with our standing desks!  These are definitely a favorite among students!

Just beyond the standing desks is our sitting/kneeling height table.  We have a lot of pillows and cushions for students to sit on.  You can also see the way we store our student supplies (in the supply boxes).  I love my portable dry erase board, too! :)

There's one MAJOR thing missing from the classroom: a class library.  We have had one every year until now.  However, our school has a Designated Power Library, with an open door policy and a HUGE variety of books.  It's absolutely phenomenal and has more books than we could ever supply--just two doors down!  We are trying the year without a library and seeing how it goes! :)

I hope everyone is enjoying their first few weeks back to school.  It's such an exciting time!

Monday, August 15, 2016

First Day of School with Flexible Seating!

Hi there!  This will be a quick post since today was the first day of school, I'm exhausted, and still have plenty to do to get ready for another busy day tomorrow! I have had so many questions about flexible seating and how to get it started on the first day of school that I thought I would pop in while it was fresh in my mind to share how our very first day with flexible seating went.

Here's a look into my room on the morning of the first day of school.  At this point, here were the seating options in the room:

  • 6 Regular Chairs & Desks
  • 6 Regular Chairs at a Trapezoid Table
  • 1 Teacher Chair at the Trapezoid Table
  • 6 cushions at a kneeling/sitting height table 
  • 6 standing desks and stools
  • 6 Stability Balls with legs from WittFitt (Read More about this below!)
  • 6 crate chairs at the Teacher Desk
There are 28 students in the class, and 37 seating options, PLUS a great deal of rug space.  It's AMAZING how much more space you have when you start removing desks! As of this afternoon, our Hokki Stools and group gathering rug also arrived!  I will post more about those soon, but for now, this is purely about how the first day with flexible seating went!

On Sunday night before school started, I started to have a little mini panic attack about how I was going to introduce the concept of flexible/alternative seating to the kids.  I thought about having them all come in and choose a seat, but I had visions of mass chaos and arguments as students chose some of the more interesting seats.  This was NOT the tone I wanted to set on the first day of school. So, at 5 o'clock the night before school started, I decided to make name tag tents for my students. 

You can download the simple name tag template FREE by clicking HERE.  The beautiful borders are from RebeccaB Designs and the font is from Kimberly Gesweinb.

Beginning of the Day
I placed a name tag at each seating option, not including the stability balls.  As we gathered outside the classroom, I told the students (who had no idea what they were walking into) that they 1) Needed to find their seat and 2) Were NOT allowed to touch the balls.  They looked at me a little funny, wondering what on Earth I was talking about, but as soon as they walked in, they realized what I meant, and guess what? Not one child touched the balls.   Hooray!

It was totally seamless.  As they all arrived, I explained to them what flexible seating was,  why we were doing it, and that, while they will eventually have more choice in their seating options, the first few weeks would be controlled testing of their seating options so that they can get a feel for what works best for them.  I told them not to fret if they weren't sitting in the most appealing seat for them-- they'd have a chance to test everything out!  

We are referring to their seat with their name tag as "Home Base."  Home Base is where they will sit during independent activities and/or teacher instruction, unless I have them joining me on the carpet.
During the Day

We did math workshop on day one, and during that time, students were able to utilize the flexible seating options, within limits.  Each of my three groups were assigned to one general area to work in, and they had to stay in that area.  For example, my group working on "Math About Me" was at the front of the room, so they could choose to sit at at the teacher desk or the trap table.  My Tessellation Group was working with me on the carpet near the back of the room, so they could choose to work at the low tables or the standing desks.  The games group was toward the side of the room, so they could sit on the floor, with pillows, or at the regular desks.  They could not intermingle groups. This worked really well!

As the day went on, I put the stability balls off to the side so that they weren't tempting.  In the early afternoon, we finally got around to discussing our flexible seating rules (I'll save that for another post) and the rules for the stability balls. The rest of the seating options were easy to talk about rules and didn't require much explicit instruction.  The stability balls, though, needed explicit directions on what to do and what not to do.  I randomly chose six students to try sitting on the stability balls while we went over the rest of the flexible seating rules.    They did a nice job of keeping their bottoms on the balls, feet on the floor (including the feet of the stability balls), and only doing small bounces and rolls.

We also did the ever popular "Save Fred" activity on day one, during which they left their name tags at their home base, but were allowed to sit anywhere in the room with their partner to work on it. 

End of the Day
I really hemmed and hawed about how to handle the end of the day, but ultimately, I decided to let the students choose where their Home Base would be for tomorrow.  I wanted to do this the afternoon before so that students knew where they would be sitting tomorrow and there wouldn't be any question about it tomorrow when they arrive.  I didn't want students trying to arrive earlier in order to get seats or have arguments in the morning.  I had the students pack up for the day and grab their name tags from their Home Base.  Then, I randomly chose students to select their seats for tomorrow.  They simply put their name tents on the seat of their choice.  The only requirement was that they had to choose a different type of seating tomorrow so that they get a feel for all of the options.  There were no arguments at all!

I am fully aware that we are in the Honeymoon Phase still, but I think I can easily call the first day a success.  I loved looking around the classroom watching the kids at the standing desks rocking their feet on the 'Rock Bars' and watching me intently.  I have high, high hopes for this new model!

I'll be back soon to update as well as to write more about my first week of school lesson plans.  Happy Teaching! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Peek into my {In Progress} Classroom Set Up

As I've been working on my classroom, I've shared a few pictures here and there of some spots in my classroom.  It's nowhere NEAR done, but several people have asked for source lists as well as labels. Here they are!  Please know that these documents were originally just intended for use in my classroom, so they haven't been totally optimized for spacing, paper or ink saving purposes, etc. Please enjoy if you can!

I made my Accountable Talk bulletin board in both English and Spanish since I teach in a Spanish Immersion Classroom.  You can download the Accountable Talk letters free HERE and the bilingual speech bubbles free HERE and the English only speech bubbles HERE.  I left a little bit of the black border around each one when I printed them out.

I also made my labels for the book bins this year.  You can download them free HERE.  One trick that I use on ALL of my bins and labels is VELCRO!  You can replace it easily, there is no residue when you remove it, and they NEVER fall off. It's so fast, too!  Here is a link to the kind of Velcro I use.

The bins are from Really Good Stuff, the supply caddies and other pencil holders on top are from Mardel.  The bins on each side of the bookcases are for the pillows on the floor.  They will need to go in the bins every night for vacuuming and cleaning purposes.  The hexagon table in view is at sitting height.  Each student has a bin for their folders and notebooks, and the binders on the bottom shelf are still waiting for their spine labels. :) 

Here is a bigger look at one corner of my room.  It's still very incomplete, as I'm waiting for seating to arrive (we are getting Hokki stools!), need to fill the bookshelf with books, make schedule labels, etc.  I'll save that for another post!  Desk and chair are both from IKEA, and that space will be used for my laptop and document camera as well as another sitting option for students to work independently.  You can read more about the rainbow task card organizer HERE. :) 

Another year long bulletin board that I have done is my IB Bulletin Board.  I teach in an International Baccalaureate school, so we always have these elements posted in the room and refer to them frequently.  You can download the titles HERE, but please note I mounted them on scrapbooking paper to make them match the rest of the room, so they don't have the pretty borders as shown in the pictures. :)

Unfortunately, I can't help much with my beloved Instagram board (which looks much more crinkly in the photo than in person)!  My sweet mom cut the letters out from her Cricut, and I just printed the Instagram logo. I tacked the squares up and plan to rotate them out with pictures and new hashtags throughout the year. If you are Cricut savvy, HERE is the link to the Instagram letters that my mom used.

We have moved to a full flexible seating model this year, so we eliminated the teacher desk.  We are using modified crate seats (my teammate's husband actually custom built these cute chairs, but you can accomplish a similar look with crate seats!), and students can stand on the empty edge of the desk if desired.

I made my Growth Mindset bulletin board this year using scrapbook paper as the background and the labels from THIS TpT shop.  You can download the letters that say, "Change Your Mindset" free HERE.

I still have so much more to do in my classroom, and we go back next Wednesday! Eek!  I'll be sure to post full classroom pictures once it's totally done. :) Happy back to school!