Thursday, August 29, 2013

Room Recess

I wanted to share a great resource with you all!

Let me start off by saying, I love reviewing products and resources that are made by fellow teachers. A while back, I reviewed THE pencil sharpener. Now, I'm reviewing a website developed by a fellow third grade teacher, Brian King, and it also did not disappoint!

The website is called Room Recess, and it is full of free flash games for students to play. Most of the games are intended to be projected onto a Smartboard, which is perfect for my Smartboard math center. The site features both reading and math games for students K-5, and you can browse for games by grade or subject.

One game in particular that my class [and I!] enjoyed was Flash Card Race. The idea isn't anything new, but the features make it special. I will express my thoughts in pictures. =)

How you know he's a teacher: (1) I am all about teaching a game structure and being able to swap the content easily. With so many choices, you can use this game early in the year for addition/subtraction, middle of the year for multiplication/division, and the end of the year to review all operations. (2) The time delay in between is probably my favorite feature. You can set it so students have time to get out of the way for the next person on the team to go. This cuts down on pushing, friends! (3) If two students are playing, they can type their names. If there are two teams, they can come up with a team name. This can hook even the most reluctant mathematicians.  (4) Okay, maybe this is my favorite feature! You can choose how long the game will go on by setting the winning score. So if you only have a few minutes, set it so the first team to answer 5 correct wins. Have a bit longer? First person to 15! 

This is what the actual game looks like:

I love that games aren't just for inside recess anymore. You can find games that align to your curriculum and/or standards, and they really boost student engagement. I urge you to browse the rest of the games!

Have you tried this website? What games did you enjoy?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

TPT BTS! [so.many.acronyms]

Hey all! I don't know about you, but I've been waiting to hear about the TPT back to school sale. There are definitely a few items that have been sitting on my wish list this summer, so this will be a great time to scoop them up!

I thought this linky looked fun! Here are my two most wishlisted [is that a word? blogger doesn't think so.] items!

My area/perimeter cards are my most popular set of task cards! They are common core aligned & geared toward third grade, but there are definitely some challenging questions. They could be used in 4th or 5th grade as review, as well!

My Reading Response card set fosters discussion among a small or whole group of students after they are finished reading a text. A set of fiction and a set of nonfiction cards are included in the set, and there is a recording sheet included in case you'd like the students to write their responses as well. These can be used with high functioning firsties and all the way up through elementary school!

Um, yeah. I can't pick just one! Here are my top four items on my wish list!

*NOTE: Please do not pin the items below from my blog. Click the picture, follow the link, and pin the product! =) *

1. Snapshots of our Year Timeline: That's So Second Grade! 

2. Math Action Cards: The Lesson Plan Diva

3. Standards Based Assessments: Miss Nannini

4. Desire to Inspire Subway Art: Hope King

Are my area/perimeter task cards or reading response cards on YOUR wish list? If they are [or if you were about to put them there! ;) ], leave a comment with which item you'd like. I'll randomly choose one winner in 24 hours [10pm, Friday, EST] to receive the item for free! =)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Teacher Week: Monday!

It's Teacher Week!

1. We'll start with some GREAT news! My boyfriend got a new job this week, and he will be moving in with me in the first state! We are super excited. However, I've had to start making room for him. Have you ever heard of the show "Make Room For Baby?" Well, there should be a show called Make Room for Boyfriend. Let's just say that Goodwill is getting a large donation this month. It may have been easier to just find a bigger apartment.

2. I love going to baseball games! Of course, the Phillies are my favorite to watch, but I like seeing other teams and minor league games, as well. Tonight, my dad & I went to a Wilmington Blue Rocks game. They are a single A team for the KC Royals. We go to a Blue Rocks game every summer. Wilmington is only about 15-20 minutes south of where I grew up / where my dad still lives, so its a cheap, convenient, dad-daughter event.

3. I've always been excited to live on my own and decorate my own space. I mean, I lived on my own in college, but I decorated my room with sorority paraphernalia and posters. However, I've lived on my own in the first state for about five years now, and my apartment is still not really decorated. I'm not sure if I'm lazy or noncommittal in terms of decor. Hm! I gotta step up my game.

4. Candy Crush is the bane of my existence. I'm on level 214 or something ridiculous like that. I usually pick up random hobbies during the summer that don't make it through the school year, though!

5. I'm almost finished my graduate program in school counseling! Just a summer class to finish, two more courses in the fall, and 100 practicum hours in the spring. I'm so excited to be finished! I'm not sure that I want to immediately leave the classroom and start applying for jobs, but I love that I'll have the option.

6. I've spent all five years of my teacher career in the same school. Technically, the only grade that I've ever taught is third. My first year, I taught K-3 writing as a special. Before I leave the classroom, I really want to teach big kids! Middle school math, to be exact. I'm such a math nerd, and I would love to share that with older kids. I would love the challenge of managing a middle school classroom.

7. I'm a huge country music fan! I grew up outside of Philly, and growing up, I liked typical pop music. Then, I went to college in the sticks, and country music came into my life. There's nothing like a country ballad!

8. This summer, I've spent a lot of time on the road. I split my time between my apartment (in DE), my dad's house (PA), and my boyfriend's house (NJ). Whenever I'm going anywhere, I have to stop at Wawa and get my "road smoothie." I get the Superfruit smoothie with yogurt, no whip cream. Obsessed. Can't drive without it!

9. I've posted before about how I foster animals [click here for some fur baby pictures!]. I took a break from fostering because I started dating my new boyfriend who lived in NJ, meaning that I spent many weekends not at home. Well, I'm going to start fostering again, starting with this little big lady:

This is Mona Lisa! I just call her Mona. She was named that because she is just so beautiful! She's at my mom's house right now, and I'll be getting her sometime next week. She's been in foster care for about a year with my mom, but my mom has been taking litters of kittens and dogs, so I'm going to take over for Mona. I love this baby girl!

10. I'm at my dad's house for the night, and I was told it was time to clean out my childhood bedroom. Ouch, I guess he's officially kicking me to the curb. I spent last night reading through notes that I kept from middle school. I didn't know if I should laugh or cry at how ridiculous my friends & I sound. It is so funny to remember what was important to me back then!


Like a lot of people, I won't be able to link up tomorrow. Staff isn't officially back until Monday. I'm going in Wednesday with my team teacher, but it won't be picture ready for another week!

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Summer Reading!

I've added a ton of books to my 'read' list on Good Reads! Here's what I've read this summer!

[All book images and summaries are from Good Reads]

1 & 2. Divergent and Insurgent
Good Reads says: DivergentIn Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her. InsurgentOne choice can transform you, or destroy you. Every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves, and herself, while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Meg says: I was looking for a new series to read, and I had heard that this was going to be made into a movie, so I gave it a shot. It was really easy to read, and I enjoyed the plot. I will say, though, that it wasn't as good as The Hunger Games, but it definitely filled my dystopian void! I can't wait to read the third book when it comes out in October! I gave both books 4/5 stars. I had a lot of unanswered questions about the 'back story' that I hope are answered in the third book!

3. She's Come Undone
Good Reads says: In this extraordinary coming-of-age odyssey, Wally Lamb invites us to hitch a wild ride on a journey of love, pain, and renewal with the most heartbreakingly comical heroine to come along in years. Meet Dolores Price. She's 13, wise-mouthed but wounded, having bid her childhood goodbye. Stranded in front of her bedroom TV, she spends the next few years nourishing herself with the Mallomars, potato chips, and Pepsi her anxious mother supplies. When she finally orbits into young womanhood at 257 pounds, Dolores is no stronger and life is no kinder. But this time she's determined to rise to the occasion and give herself one more chance before she really goes under.

Meg says: Eh, I had heard good things about this author, and the plot seemed interested. I didn't really like this book, though. There were so many bizarre plot twists in such a short amount of time. I couldn't really relate to the story at all, which was disappointing. I was able to finish it though, which is always a good thing. I gave it 2.5/5 stars.

4. The Fault in our Stars
Good Reads says: Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Meg says: Loved it! I had heard how lovely this book was, and I couldn't wait to read it. So many people said they balled while reading. I definitely had tears at one point, but there was no sobbing. I thought the main characters were sweet while slightly cynical, and I devoured the book in less than a week. 5/5 stars. This is also being made into a movie, but I'm afriad the movie will ruin the book [Kind of like Zac Efron ruined The Lucky One for me! GR!] Can't wait to read more from this author!

5. It's Kind of a Funny Story
Good Reads says: Like many ambitious New York City teenagers, Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. Determined to succeed at life -- getting into the right high school to get into the right college to get the right job -- Craig studies night and day to ace the entrance exam, and does. That's when things start to get crazy. At his new school, Craig realizes that he's just average, and maybe not even that. He soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable and Craig stops eating and sleeping -- until, one night, he nearly kills himself. Craig's suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety. Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a moving tale about depression, that's definitely a funny story.

Meg says: Well, I read this a little before summer, but I never wrote about it! I can't say enough about this book! I loved it so much. You can't help but root for Craig through all of his adolescent issues. The summary looks like its depressing, but I assure you that it is not. It is kind of a coming of age story, with a 'bump' in the road. And after I read it, I found out that there was a movie, which I ended up enjoyeing as well. [Book was better, though!] 5/5 stars!

6. The Children of Men
Good Reads says: Told with P. D. James’s trademark suspense, insightful characterization, and riveting storytelling, The Children of Men is a story of a world with no children and no future.  The human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult. Civilization itself is crumbling as suicide and despair become commonplace. Oxford historian Theodore Faron, apathetic toward a future without a future, spends most of his time reminiscing. Then he is approached by Julian, a bright, attractive woman who wants him to help get her an audience with his cousin, the powerful Warden of England. She and her band of unlikely revolutionaries may just awaken his desire to live . . . and they may also hold the key to survival for the human race.

Meg says: I obviously read a ton of books that are movies. My BF recommended this to me because I was looking for another dystopian fiction. The story line seemed really interesting to me, so I bought it. I read 100 pages in the first sitting, simply because I was waiting for something important to happen. NOTHING HAPPENED. So I put the book down and picked it up the next day. Finally some action, but I read another 100+ pages waiting for more. Repeat one more time, and that was my experience with this book. I had no idea why the main character did the things he did. So, the back story was an interesting concept, but the book didn't really do it for me. 3/5 stars. I'd like to see the movie, even though I heard that they were very different.

7. Eleanor & Park

Good Reads says: Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.

Meg says: Um, this book was incredible! It was a light read, and I could really relate to Eleanor. The ending crushed me! Not how I wanted it to end, but I had to accept it. This book is written in kind of a ping pong style, bouncing back from Eleanor's to Park's point of view. I know that some people don't like that type of writing, but I love it. I definitely recommend this if you like YA realistic fiction. ]There is some language.]

8. Now reading: Attachments [Same author as E & P]

Good Reads says: Beth and Jennifer know their company monitors their office e-mail. But the women still spend all day sending each other messages, gossiping about their coworkers at the newspaper and baring their personal lives like an open book. Jennifer tells Beth everything she can't seem to tell her husband about her anxieties over starting a family. And Beth tells Jennifer everything, period. When Lincoln applied to be an Internet security officer, he hardly imagined he'd be sifting through other people's inboxes like some sort of electronic Peeping Tom. Lincoln is supposed to turn people in for misusing company e-mail, but he can't quite bring himself to crack down on Beth and Jennifer. He can't help but be entertained -and captivated- by their stories. But by the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late for him to ever introduce himself. What would he say to her? "Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you." After a series of close encounters and missed connections, Lincoln decides it's time to muster the courage to follow his heart . . . even if he can't see exactly where it's leading him. Written with whip-smart precision and charm, Attachments is a strikingly clever and deeply romantic debut about falling in love with the person who makes you feel like the best version of yourself. Even if it's someone you've never met.

Meg says: Nothing yet! I'll let ya know! =)


Linking this post up [a couple days early, oops!] with one of my favorite blogs, Juice Boxes & Crayolas!

Notice anything? No professional reading. Fail.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Any recommendations for me?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Math Workshop

I like to think I run my math block a little differently than most. I love working in small groups, but I also value whole group discussion and instruction. It also is different, partially due to my school's schedule. I have about an hour each afternoon to teach math to my homeroom, which is not much time. This is because we have a grade-wide intervention block for a half an hour per day. In this block, we group our grade level based on ability, so I have a "small" group of students [6 to 10ish] from different classes.

In this post, I'll be talking about the format in regular type, with my commentary and reasoning in italics. Here we go!

Let me first set the stage. Math is [roughly] 1:30-2:30. At 1:30, my students come back in from recess. In my classroom, I typically have 3 adults: myself, my team teacher, and a paraprofessional [from 1:30-2]. This coming year, I'm not sure if I'll get that para during this time [waaah], but I will have a student teacher for the first half of the year. My class is comprised of 21ish students, with several special education students. My school is Title 1, and a high majority are provided free and reduced lunch. Last year, our group, as a whole, was below grade level, both in academics and maturity. Our "high" achieving groups were basically on grade level.
On Mondays, we do a block of whole group. During this time, we introduce new concepts, put entries into our math journals, and take a pre-assessment of some kind. I also preview centers for the week if there are any changes, such as a new game at the carpet or a new assignment on the computer. During this whole group session, we do a lot of partner work, along with a lot of personal white board activities. My team teacher circulates during this time, checking in on our special education students, as well as our lower leveled math students. I may purchase CreateTeachShare's interactive notebook to supplement the foldables and other activities that I already do. I use this time to hook my students into a new concept with enthusiasm and engaging activities!

Tuesdays through Thursdays are split into two sections: small group and whole group. When the students come back in from recess at 1:30, they will see this schedule projected onto the smart board.

Instead of making a bulletin board for groups, I project the schedule on the smart board so it is visible. FYI, I edited over top of my name & my team teacher's name for privacy. My team teacher is Teacher #1 and I am Teacher #2 in the schedule below. As you can see, my math groups are based on angry birds. GASP. I hope I'm allowed to at least speak of these birds on my blog. But I can not share this resource due to copyright. =(

I will go into greater detail about each center listed above in my next post, but here's a quick note on how I came up with the schedule. The red and yellow groups see the special education teacher everyday for intensive content instruction. They get to visit all of the other centers as well, so they do not miss out! On Thursday, these two groups complete their seat work with the special education teacher for support. These are standards based assignments that are graded, so I want to ensure that their needs are being met and accommodations are being provided. The green and blue groups meet with me once for content instruction. On Thursday, they complete their seat work with me so that I can review the concept with them before they begin their assignment. The white and black groups also see me once a week for content instruction, but they complete their seat work independently. Again, more on this in my next post! =)

Students are grouped based on data I've collected previously. At the beginning of the year, it is based on STAR data, but once we get into different units, groups are based on pre-assessments that are completed on Mondays. Students are aware that they may not be in the same group week to week, and that's okay. Sometimes, students are even switched in the middle of the week. We foster an environment where no one really thinks twice if this happens! And to be honest, the students are so engaged in what they are doing they don't even notice.

Students know what group they are in by looking at a display that is on our cabinets. I don't have a picture right now [I'll be in my classroom next week & I'll add a picture then!], but I'll explain. There is a large picture of the angry bird, and underneath, there is velcro. I have each student's name typed with velcro as well, making it easy to switch week to week! Definitely proud of that idea, haha!

Each session is 15-20 minutes long. My team teacher and I are pretty flexible depending on what we're doing. I simply do a Class/Yes when it is time to transition and another when it is time to finish up. It takes practice, but once they get it down, they are ready to go in less than a minute. When both sessions are complete at around 2:05-2:10, we come back together for a whole group check in.

Why do I do small group first, then whole group? There's a few reasons. First, I like that my lower achieving students are able to get small group instruction before being thrown into a whole group lesson. This builds their confidence and their ability to make connections to the content. Also, last year I had a paraprofessional in my room from 1:30-2, and it made the most sense to do small group instruction with an extra body in the room.

The whole group check in will go until 2:30ish. During this time, we may add to our notebooks, go over examples, or complete other activities. It really depends on what unit we are working through!

On Fridays, we end the week with another whole group session. I use this session to wrap up what we've been learning. Sometimes, we complete my written assessments [click to see them on TPT] that integrate academic vocabulary. We may go over seat work from the day before. Again, it depends! We typically do not begin new concepts on Fridays, but I may facilitate an activity that lends itself to a connection to the next lesson. Kind of a cliffhanger!


I hope that gives those who were wondering a glimpse into my math workshop! Again, I'm not sure that I run it like most people, or even if it is considered a "workshop," technically. On Sunday, I'm planning a post that describes what happens in each of the centers included on my schedule, discusses how to be flexible using this model, and showcases some other blogger products that I plan on using in workshop!

Please leave a comment if you have any questions, and I'll email you back [make sure you're not a no-reply commenter!] and/or address it in my next post. =)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Better Late Than Never: Currently!

Without looking, I'm going to estimate my entry is somewhere in the 400s. We'll see! [Yup, #472!]

Listening: Any bachelor fans? More importantly, any reality steve fans?! How about those spoilers. Psh. [Hopefully by the time I post this, it will have aired on the west coast.] Now, I for one can understand Juan Pablo when he speaks, let alone his train of thought. But, it will definitely make for a fun season, which is exactly what I think the franchise needs!

Loving: My teaching BFF & I had a girl's day today! As I alluded to in a previous post, she is going through a hard time. I'm not comfortable posting in depth about it yet, but it severely affects their family. Well, we had a great day at the outlets! We shopped, grabbed lunch, and chit chatted the day away. It was fab, of course!

Thinking: Nevermind. In denial. Moving on.

Wanting: Um, there are tons of bags in my living room. And boxes. And bins from big lots. And a rug. And my apartment is small. Hopefully I can drop all this stuff off sooner rather than later.

Needing: This school year is going to be challenging. My teaching partner is likely to miss a good amount of days, which may make some days unpredictable. I'm getting a student teacher who is a relative of someone at our district office. Pressure, right? I'll be taking my last two graduate classes in the fall, followed by somehow completing 100 practicum hours with my school counselor in the spring. I will get through it, and I will handle it. My problem is always the anxiety leading up to things!

Must Haves: Um, well, my must haves are sort of shallow. Haha. But, my cut and color is on Thursday. My roots are out of hand. I have to look at my desk calendar everyday, so it needs to be cute. Lastly, I need a new teacher bag. I really want this one, but I haven't pulled the trigger on that purchase just yet [LLBean!]
I've loved reading everyone's posts, as usual! Go link up, unless I'm the last one!

Writing about Math [New Product & Freebie!]

How important is writing in your school?

Last year, I would go so far to say is was THE most important thing in our building. Our principal made it a building wide initiative to integrate quality writing opportunities wherever possible. I already used math journals, reading journals, and of course writing journals, but I never took a grade on anything we put in there. Those were always informal formative assessment that served as learning experiences and practice. The second most important initiative implemented last year was building academic vocabulary in our students. I've always believed in this and have been using strategies based on this since I started teaching, especially in math.

Anyway, I've always informally assessed those two things, but last year, I worked towards really integrating writing into math and using it in assessment. I began developing written assessments. These assessments align to the common core standards and help to address the standards for mathematical practice. I made sure most of the questions were deep, involved higher order thinking, and used vocabulary straight from the standards. In some assessments, I include tools [number lines, circles, models] that I want the students to use, but in others they need to develop their own strategy. I like to include number lines and fraction shapes for the students, because I do not want their inability to draw a straight number line or a perfect circle to get in the way of proving their ultimate understanding of a concept.

I also wanted to include a checklist to make sure that the students were actively thinking about their response. It can be used as a 'rubric' for the students to know what is expected. To get full credit, students are required to use academic vocabulary. In my room, if it is on the math word wall, it is fair game.

Enough chit-chat. Here's my product and an idea of what you'll get!

In the pack, you'll get 66 of these bad boys. There are two for every common core standard. Great for differentiation or to account for personal preference! 

Also included are a cover, strand dividers, and vocabulary recording sheets. If you'd like to bind the prompts in a booklet/journal for your students, these are great additions! Personally, I print them off as I need them, but I know everyone is different! All prompts are in black and white, and the cover and dividers are in color.

These assignments really helped my students with understanding the process of problem solving, as well as using academic vocabulary while explaining that process. Because of that, I'm offering a sizable forever freebie in the preview! If you download the preview, you'll get four prompts for free. That way, you can test it out on your kids and see if it works for you!

Ready to try it out? Click the cover below to find it on TPT!

[It will normally be priced at $8.00, but will be on sale for $6.00 for one day only!]

If you download the preview, come back and let me know what you think!