Tuesday, February 24, 2015

~Multiplication, Factors, and Multiples~Number Sense Intervention Group

I finally had time to take pictures of my Number Sense Intervention tasks and wanted to share with you today. In an earlier post, I told you guys:
I have been on a journey this year to ensure that my 4th graders master their multiplication facts. When I used the term "master," I mean with fluency and automaticity--no tricks, no fingers, no count-by's down the side of their page--just automatic fact recall.
Back to the cards, I took all of the "Find the Missing Multiples" and "Which Multiple Does Not Belong" activity cards, printed them on a different color of cardstock for each number set, and put them each on a ring. I try to meet with my Multiplication Intervention group for 20 minutes 3 or more times a week. I meet with them during one of their stations or while other students are completing task cards. I prioritize this group because I know that their math success and confidence lies in gaining better number sense. {I'm even thinking about starting a math/multiplication club during lunch once a week to move some of our practice time out of math class time}.

I love having these cards on a ring because they are ready to grab at any time that we have an extra minute to go over multiples and factors, and multiplication facts. (Think--lining up for specials, lunch, whole-class bathroom break times, end of the day, etc.) Just show one of the cards to your kiddos and teach them to allow others "wait time" before they shout out the answers. You can even have them give you a thumbs up when they are ready with an answer.
Let's take a look at a week with one set of these number sense intervention tasks:

Day 1:
Pre-Assess the Group using 1 to 4 of the "Which of These Does not Belong" puzzles. (I'd use the student notebook pages rather than the task cards for now because it gives them a place to write how they know the number does not belong.) Allow students to share their ideas to provide space for you to gauge misunderstandings and depth of understandings. {Some students have really great insights although they may have trouble with fact memorization}.

Day 2:
Work together using Discovering Patterns to find patterns and rules for "multiples of..." the number you are working/intervening on. Continue getting students to verbalize the patterns they see. (For example, have you realized that some of your students may not realize that a multiple of 4 or 6 must ALWAYS be an even number? When I saw a student write 4 x 9 = 37, that's when I had my AH-ha! about number sense and multiplication facts.) I've included some of the ideas students should come up with in most of the downloads. This is the time to allow students to discover their own ideas, but also to hit home ones like when the multiples alternate even-odd-even-odd, or when all multiples are even.

Day 3-4: Go back to the "Which of these Does Not Belong" cards (for fun, game-like use in small group--I like to have students use a white board to jot down, rather than call out, their answer.) Use student notebook pages to have them explain how they know the number does not belong. Students can share in pairs or in the small group. Expect individual students to begin being able to explain deeper number sense as they pick up ideas from your teaching and other students' insights.

Day 5 and on...Practice with reciting multiples using the "Find the Missing Multiple" and the Number Searches (like word searches). Students can complete these for morning work or in a quite center/station. Encourage students to recite their multiples even if they know the answer to the puzzles. Multiples recitation is one of the building blocks to multiplication fact memorization. And dang, if they can't memorize a fact for whatever reason, I surely want them to be able to accurately and rapidly recite multiples WITHOUT finger-counting.

Other Ideas for Using the activity cards: 
1) These intervention tasks are perfect for having a volunteer work with a child as an intervention. While I like to use these in a small group (to meet more students' needs), a volunteer could pull one child at a time and work more closely on the multiplication set that students needs. These resources and activities could even be used by an eager parent who wants to help their child master multiplication facts more quickly.

2) Based on where students are with mastering multiplication facts, create student groups. Once or twice a week, you can give students practice time in their small groups with the activity cards.

3) Using all of the multiplication intervention activity card sets (or combinations of sets) have students deal cards equally to one another (2-3 players) and play War or other type of game where students compare the answer they get when solving the puzzle and then whomever has the highest result (factor/multiple) gets to keep the cards.

4) Display problems on interactive whiteboard for "bell-ringers" or when you have extra time. Have students show their answers on a white board

I designed these intervention activities on the basis that many of my students who are not mastering their multiplication facts need to develop greater number sense and to increase their "count by" speed and ability. The more practice you can allow students, the better. They can complete the same activities again and again until they are comfortable with the multiples of a specific fact family. If you want to check these out on TPT, here's links to the BUNDLE pack and the individual sets. (Note that you can grab two right away for free!)

Multiplying by 2's TRY IT FREE
Multiplying by 3's
Multiplying by 4's
Multiplying by 5's
Multiplying by 6's
Multiplying by 7's TRY IT FREE!
Multiplying by 8's
Multiplying by 9's
Multiplying by 10's
Multiplying by 11's
Multiplying by 12's

Number Sense Intervention Bundle

And don't forget, the Teachers are Heroes sale is on {in about 10 minutes here!} and you can get many products up to 28% off. My store is on sale for ya and my cart is full!! It's a great time to re-stock since we are mid-year or pick up some bundles to save even more!
Happy night yall!

~Morning Meeting Individual Sets~

Now available! I have uploaded individual materials for my Morning Meeting Made Easy Set # 2. Remember that TPT's Teachers are Heroes sale starts tomorrow and these will be discounted too!
Although I have begun uploading my morning meeting themes as individual resources for teachers to try them out, I highly recommend purchasing them in Sets. In order for these themes to gain momentum, more than 1-2 should be implemented in the classroom. I also have found it extremely valuable to implement multiple themes because I find the nuances between them allow for great connections between texts, conversations, and the generalizations {big ideas} we make in our discussions. I also think that words are often used interchangeably, but each has it's own definition~kindness and compassion for example, perseverance and achievement, etc. I loved moving from Belonging (it's a freebie!) to Kindness and then to Compassion. These are also found in my set # 1 bundle together (and the belonging theme set still comes through as a freebie with the price).

Another reason to plan a trajectory to implement multiple themes is to help build students understanding of themes that are found in literature. Since my teacher resources provide at least 5 picturebooks (and most of them provide songs and video resources too!), you are able to read texts on the same theme and compare/contrast the messages in the text. With our belonging unit, we found that characters often try to change themselves to fit in or belong, however this rarely worked out to give them the belonging they wanted. Other times, if the "outcasted" character saved the day, they got a huge sense of belonging. We talked about how that was a sweet way to end a picturebook, but real life doesn't always turn out that way. {Can you say POWERFUL messages for upper-elementary/middle school kiddos to be discussing and realizing?}

Morning Meeting Made Easy Set # 1
Morning Meeting Made Easy Set # 2
Morning Meeting BELONGING Freebie

Purchase Themes Individually:
Compassion Theme
Conflict Theme
Perseverance Theme
Kindness Theme
Compromise Theme
Happiness Theme
Achievement Theme
Individualism Theme
Integrity Theme

Common Core Connections:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Hey, Teacherheroes...

Yes, you. Teacher friends, TPT is launching a 2015 Teachers are Heroes sale on February 25th. Go ahead and load up your carts to save cash on classroom necessities and fun stuff! I'm already going through my wishlist and filling up my cart with goodies <3 I have to say, I love the support I get from other teachers as a blogger and a teacher seller, and it is just as good of a feeling to spend my money on classroom resources created by other teachers. {I love the thought of them hearing "cha-ching"! and getting that little happy feeling no matter how hard of a day they are having}.

I have made a ton of purchases this year, so I thought I would link up with Gena at Speech Room News for "What's in Your Cart" to share what should be in every 4th/5th grade teachers' carts--these are stores and products that have made my world so much easier this year as I transitioned to a new school and back down to 4th grade. (I really want to title this post Can't Live Without!!! resources!)

Concept Sorts:  A Set of 5 Fraction Sorts for Grades 4 and 5Anything from The Teacher Studio makes me happy these days, but I have especially found her Fraction Concepts Sorting Cards helpful. I have used these cards to launch our fractions unit--they are perfect for collaboration (I had students work in groups of 3); by listening to students' conversations and asking questions, I have really been able to see the depth of their understanding and heard misconceptions. As a bonus, students have been fully engaged! 
Fractured Fractions:  A Set of Puzzles to Teach DecomposinToday I picked up one of her latest products {Fractured Fractions: A Set of Puzzles to Teach Decomposing and Composing}, and am so excited to use it tomorrow! When I saw this activity (differentiated and all), I couldn't wait for a sale, I had to have it today!!
Of course, I can no longer run a math class without task cards. They make learning so engaging, and most of all, I find that students are more willing to ask for help when working with task cards versus a worksheet. Some of my go-to task card stores include Chili Math and Dennis McDonald (and my own of course ;) I find that Chili Math and Dennis McDonald's task cards ALWAYS provide a variety of levels of challenge. Chili Math is especially good at asking questions that require interesting applications of seemingly *simple* concepts, while Dennis McDonald always has extra goodies with his task cards like student handouts or smartboard displays, accompanying worksheets that can be used for fast finishers or as assessments, and the last product I bought also contained a spinner game!

Poetry: Mentor Poems for Teaching PoetryThis year, I wanted to implement Poetry Workshop again. I had a folder of poems (and tons of anthologies) that I planned to pull from. Planning for these lessons each and every week started to feel like I was spending way too much time trying to find poems using different literary devices. I decided to search TPT and boy am I glad I did! I found this set of Mentor Poems for Teaching Poetry compiled by Lorrie L. Birchall. This has helped me keep my poetry Friday's care free when it comes to planning. I just search  through the poems and print the section I want students to have for their poetry journals. 

In hopes of creating more accountability around our read aloud book and the discussions we have, I decided to implement written responses to open-ended questions. Through these questions, I am teaching students to tease out what kind of thinking the question really requires, how to decide on an appropriate graphic organizer for planning out their response and collecting evidence, and in turn improving their ability to respond to open-ended questions in written form. We are reading Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, and this packet (HUGE) of questions and language arts focus activities for Maniac Magee has been a LIFE-SAVER for me! It's from Secondary Solutions. Secondary Solutions will be my go-to-store for future book studies! The sale is a great time to pick up one of their book sets; I fortunately had a parent gift card when I bought mine!

What's in my store that I can't live without?
My Morning Meeting Made Easy series have made my morning meeting so much easier! With everything planned out (linked resources, picturebook ideas, student journal pages, and the bulletin board display), morning meeting has never been easier for me! And, my students LOVe having these moments to connect and have conversations about the "real" stuff that matters in life!

Happy Shopping!

Friday, February 20, 2015

~~Morning Meeting Made Easy~Set 2 Ready!~~

Finally!!!! My second set of Morning Meeting Made Easy themes is complete! This makes me super happy because I have had the draft in the works for MONTHS and it's been one of those projects that has been hanging over my head a little.

If this is the first you are hearing about my Morning Meeting Made Easy sets, let me tell you more! Last year, I decided to try a theme-based morning meeting and loved it! I created a list of themes for personal development, came up with related vocabulary words, and found quotes to match the themes. I created posters for each theme so that I could display our community themes all year for us to refer back to. I also used key read alouds to initiate my discussions with students about the theme. From this idea grew "Morning Meeting Made Easy." Not only does the set include the posters for each theme, but I created student journal pages and teacher overviews that suggest read alouds, possible activities, and videos or songs that connect to the theme. This product is seriously READY to GO, except for grabbing the picturebooks!

My first set of Morning Meeting Made Easy includes the following themes:
You can check out my detailed post about teaching through the theme of belonging earlier this year. (It includes my daily plans! At that time, I had not yet completed my student journal pages, but you have them ready to go AND my belonging set is offered as FREEBIE download on TPT and TN!) Best of all, you can also use this as a mini-literacy unit on theme. It is SO ready to go and the discussions are SO rich. {Belonging has to be my most favorite theme to teach through} :]

I also took the time to upload my first set of Morning Meeting Made Easy themes as individual downloads and will be doing the same for Morning Meeting Made Easy Set #2. I realized that some of you may rather purchase sets individually instead of the whole pack, but I highly recommend going for the whole set (they are cheaper as a set, of course, and I think using many of the related themes helps spiral back to previous conversations and helps build your students' understanding of theme even more.)
Compassion Theme 
Conflict Theme
Perseverance Theme
Kindness Theme
Compromise Theme
Happiness Theme
Achievement Theme
Individualism Theme
Integrity Theme
Here's a closer look at my Kindness student journal pages. (All included in the kindness download or the MMME Set # 1.)

Happy Friday! We have been out with three snow days in a row and have a two-hour delay for Friday. Gotta love being a "Tarheelstate Teacher!"

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Math~Math~Math for your Parent Blog!

I have been blogging away this year *2015* on my classroom blog for parents and today I wanted to share with you some of the information I have shared with them.

Math is one of the areas that I feel is so important to communicate with parents about because of the different methods that we introduce and because parents see it daily through homework. It's one of those tangible things they can try to understand about what their child is learning in school. And for that reason, I think it stirs up a lot of concerns, questions, opinions, and ultimately, a desire to help.{I have a secret strategy for math homework that is perhaps a little sneaky--I don't send homework on a concept until students have had ample time to play with it in math class. This means that homework is usually a week behind my instruction. Still, parent questions often arise from math homework}.

We know, it's called "New Math" and parents can sometimes push against that, but a lot of the way I teach math was also new to me (and I'm a stubborn beast when it comes to change sometimes). I loved math when I was in school and was good at it. All those old methods worked for me too, but I see merit in our "new methods" which are really conceptual models for understanding math procedures.

Anywhooo, although I think communicating about math is extremely important, this year, I haven't been doing a good job of taking the time and sharing information with parents on the classroom blog. In a perfect storm with the new year, it was time for our mid-year reviews of our individual growth plans. I decided to change one of my individual growth goals to increase my focus on parent communication related to math instruction {committing to posting once a week about math}. I have been doing a little research here and there and firing away blog posts about how I think about and organize my math instruction, how I differentiate, and how parents can help with homework. I am also working on explanations of how I taught multiplication and division--I'm a little behind, but I see this being so helpful next year when I already have some posts ready to go. The "Levels of Understanding" post is my favorite. Take a look below! 

Introducing: Math Spotlights!

One of my goals for the New Year is to share more information with you all about math instruction. I hope to share the methods students are learning, details about our math class routines, and examples of below-, on-, and above-grade level expectations. This post will serve as an overview of our math routines and my approach to math.

What does math look like in our classroom?

  • A typical week in 4th grade math includes 2-3 days ofstations with students completing activities at different levels of difficulty. Students may be working independentlyor in a guided group with me, Mrs. Morris (our teaching assistant), or Mrs. Kuhl (our AIG teacher). In stations, students solve computation problems where we focus on being more accurate and making sure we understand the steps to different methods. Students also have stations where they review concepts, work with word problems, and use dreambox. 
  • 1-2 days a week, I introduce new concepts while reviewing old concepts. For example, in the upcoming week, I will be introducing fractions concepts with some picture and number sorts (to gauge students current understanding of fractions). In addition, we will spend half of our math timereviewing and extending our understanding of how to divide larger numbers. 
  • On Fridays, students complete some form of assessment. This may be review questions from concepts we learned earlier in the year or directly related to what we are currently studying. Often, this information is used to create leveled groups in stations for the following week. The difference between regular math days and "assessment Fridays" is the level of support that I am willing to give students. On assessment Friday assignments, I offer as little support as possible and really try to encourage students to show what they know. When I offer support to help a student get the answer, I write directly on their paper and/or initial it so that I know they did not complete the problem independently. 
Hopefully, this post has shed light on my approach to math instruction and my strong belief that learning is a process. While your child needs to learn given math concepts, it's not my belief that they must (or even should) master the concept on the day I introduce it. Coming up in our next Math Spotlight, how you can help your child with math homework!

Math Spotlight: Helping with Homework

I have chosen to use spiraled math homework that covers many concepts instead of homework that only focuses on the concept that we are learning on a given day. This means that your child will see concepts that they have learned months ago, weeks ago, and possibly even concepts that are coming up. While I believe that this type of homework is really beneficial for me (and the child) as I hope to keep students' previous learning sharp, assess their ability to independently complete concepts we are currently focusing on, and see who can solve problem-types that I have not yet discussed, I know this may also be a source of confusion and frustration at times. How do you know what your child should have mastered already? (I'll address more about this in an upcoming post). And, most importantly, how do you help?

Can you help your child with math homework? Absolutely! It seems that resisting a parent's help with math homework is a typical "coming of age" behavior for 4th and 5th grade students. However, many of you feel that it is an important role for you to play in your child's education and I would agree.  Read more here...

Math Spotlight: Levels of Understanding

Typically, before introducing students to the traditional way of solving math problems, I use manipulatives (ones cubes, tens sticks, hundreds blocks, etc) or printed models (pictures) to help students think about and understand what the computation really means. Using hands-on activities and guiding students through different types of questions helps me assess the depth of their understanding. My goal is not to simply teach students to memorize steps and procedures, but to ensure that they understand why they are doing what they are doing in each step.

When we think about learning skills and concepts, we should imagine those skills and concepts on a continuum of learning with children at different levels of readiness. Given a specific concept, your child may be at different levels at different times. I found the following descriptors from Kathy Richardson (she's a math guru that develops materials for assessing students' true understanding and misconceptions):

Ready to Apply (A) – The student can already do a particular task and is ready to use this skill in other settings. (This student receives more challenging work).
Needs Practice (P) – The student can do a particular task with some level of effort but still needs more experiences to develop facility and consistency. (This student typically receives work at grade level that increases in difficulty as his/her readiness increases.)
Needs Instruction (I)  The student has some idea of what a task is about but needs support. (This student receives direct instruction that begins with the lowest level of their individual understanding and builds up to problems with increased difficulty to help meet grade-level expectations.)
Needs Prerequisite (N) – The student does not yet understand the concept and needs to work with mathematical ideas that precede the concept being assessed.

When I discovered these descriptors, I really wanted to jump up and down--I was excited because these categories of learning really capture how I think about individual students' understanding of a math concept and how I choose materials and create groups for focused instruction.

It is also important to consider the size of the number(s) when placing students at these levels for a given concept--the size of the number with which they are independently successful needs to be taken into consideration. I often find that concepts that students may seem to have "mastered" are merely in the process of truly being understood when they are presented with larger numbers. As we know, accuracy also becomes a larger issue as the size of numbers increase. To instruct students having difficulty (say learning the procedures for how to multiply 23 x 67), I begin by taking a step back and instructing them on how we would solve a simpler problem, like 23 x 7. Once the student has consistently demonstrated that they are able to complete problems at this level, we move on to adding a digit in the tens place for the second factor.

Next up...
I'm going to share examples of problems that are below, on, and above grade level based on NC state standards for math. When you see your child's math work, you can use these levels to have a better understanding of what they have accomplished. If they are successfully completing below and on grade level problems, but having difficulty with above grade level, this means that they are where they are supposed to be and that they are being challenged to push beyond the average 4th grade expectations. If they are having difficulty with "on grade level" problems, rest-assured that they are being served in a small group that meets them where they are and works to help them build up to solid grade-level abilities. 

I have a few things in the works for math that I am super-excited about, including an upcoming giveaway that you won't want to miss...we are on our 3rd snow day and I have been using this time to work away on a few things I have been wanting to create. Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned! 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Civil Rights in Action~Post #2 Free Timeline Activity

I have updated my Civil Rights Timeline activity. It's a freebie on TPT if you need something engaging for Civil Rights. This mini-research unit takes about a week to complete in my classroom. {If you missed yesterday's post, it contains a Civil Rights Image Gallery activity, another freebie, that is perfect to do prior to the timeline research activity.}
Students research one of 25 events or people from Reconstruction to Civil Rights that help them develop an understanding of why the Civil Rights movement was necessary and what events led to this being a "movement" versus a few small protests. If you know of events you want students to research, you can easily include them in this mini-research project. After all students complete an illustration and summary of their event on the timeline card, we jigsaw the events onto our Civil Rights timelines. (This is one of the aspects of the freebie that I improved--using less pages by omitting years where no events are included in my timeline and stretching out years where many events took place).

I used the African American World Timeline from PBS to create this timeline activity. The website only gives a short description of the event and many of the links within are now unavailable :( So, this week, I had to quickly find other websites that would help students complete their research.

One website that has been popping up when I type "for kids" is ducksters.com. Have you used this website? It seems pretty useful and on a kid-level for research...it was even useful in our biome research during science today. Anywho...here are links to some of the websites we are using:

Freedom: A History of US
Civil Rights for Kids
Civil Rights Events Resources (a few)
Learning History through Art (lots of background)
16th Baptist Church Bombing
Montgomery Alabama bus boycott
Plessy v Ferguson
President Truman's Executive Order
Greensboro Sit-Ins Homepage
Ruby Bridges
Civil Rights Video Links
Ruby Bridges goes to School

Did you know that you can copy and paste links from one webpage to another? If you want these on your own class website, just copy and add! Just keep in mind that I have not explored the sites fully, but believe that the pages I have linked to are appropriate for 4th graders. 

Head over to TPT to download this updated FREEBIE!~~! The download has lots of extras, like a one-page timeline for teacher and/or student reference, a one page Civil Rights vocabulary handout, directions for the teacher, and a list of suggested picturebooks and novels. If you like this activity, show me some love here and on TPT :)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Civil Rights in Action!-Post #1

In reading, we began a historical fiction unit focused on the Civil Rights. I always want to launch new units with an engaging activity, duh!, although sometimes this is hard to pull off. Luckily, the idea to start with photographs popped into my mind as I was planning. I have used this technique for talking about propaganda used by Hitler during the Holocaust and found it to be really effective and powerful. Images immediately increase students' background knowledge and (especially for studying a new time period), students can get a sense of the setting and the climate of the place at that time. Not only does it provide an awesome way to launch a unit, but we constantly refer to the images in our future discussions as we increase background knowledge and move through specific topics and events.
Without announcing the topic of our study, I had students respond to the images in their reading response notebooks. I wanted students to be able to write any thoughts or questions they had, but I also gave them a few questions to give a little extra support for students who might not know how to respond to this open-ended activity. I kept students in whole group to write about image #1 to make sure they knew what they were supposed to do when they began the "image walk."
-I see...I wonder...
-What's your reaction?
-What knowledge do you have about this image?
-What questions does this image bring to mind?
-Can you connect this image to another image?

You can download the set of images I used. I chose 14 images that are pretty famous for the Civil Rights movement, age-appropriate for 4th graders, and some that are specific to events in North Carolina. The download is editable so you can modify it to fit your needs {or just roll with it with plans ready!} I planned for students to analyze the images for about 30 minutes and they could have used 45 or more. It really depends on whether or not you want students to get to write about them all. If so, I suggest choose just a few images from the 14. 

My procedures: 
-Preparation: Post images in hallway or other space around the room. I printed two sets of the images so that with 21 students, 28 images were available for analysis. I also printed the images 4 to a page for students to refer to later in their discussion groups. 
-I allowed students to do a silent walk by the image gallery before beginning the written response. This way, if they didn't get to all images, at least they got to see them. It also was a way to trigger some prior knowledge on the topic.
-Students responded to the images independently, trying to get to as many as possible in the time allotted. I traveled around the room reading their responses and noting individual students' background knowledge and pushing students who were not going beyond describing the pictures (literal thinking) to go into deeper responses. (Each image is numbered so that students can record the image they are responding to).
-After the allotted time, students met in groups of 4 to share and discuss what they saw and what they thought. I had them choose a recorder to take notes using a t-chart where they listed "questions" and "thoughts" from their group. 
-Finally, I wanted us to meet in whole group to discuss and chart our questions, but we ran out of time and had to do this the following day. 

Now, each day, I choose one or two images for us to discuss prior to beginning our minilesson and activities for the day. I try to choose something related to what we will be discussing. For example, I'll choose the Norman Rockwell painting of Ruby Bridges on the day I read The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles. Use this as an opportunity to elicit questions to see if the read aloud (or video resource) answers those questions.

Stay tuned for post # 2 tomorrow where I share my Civil Rights timeline activity and a list of appropriate books for a study of the Civil Rights. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

One Word~2015 Style

One-word. I know you've heard about it. I love this concept of figuring out one word for the New Year. So many of us have SO~MANY~GOALS we want to work on. Let's face it, our lives are not simple. We are busy. We are teachers, lesson-planners (those are two separate jobs!), home-based chefs, housekeepers, bill-payers, going organic, organizers, sleepers--yes, sometimes, coffee-drinkers, "sharpening-the-saw"ers, commuters, runners, business owners, mothers or fathers, significant others, daughters and sons, volunteers, (ah-hem~over-extenders), friends, the list goes on!

And dang, I want to make goals to be Ahhhh-mazing in all of those things! But, just reading that list was a little overwhelming wasn't it? "One word" for goal setting (@ New-Year's or anytime) is awesome because you can really choose something that generalizes to all areas of your life. My "one-word" for 2014 was:   
SIMPLIFY is my PERFECT word for 2015. How did I come up with my word this year? To be honest, I wasn't even sure I was going to have a resolution or word...I'm always still working on the goals I had last month (haha)!

I follow the blog 99u on facebook and one of the articles I caught related to New Year's really stuck with me. The article's called "5 Scientific Ways to Build Habits that Stick." #3 is Eliminate Excessive Options.  In the explanation, Gregory Ciotti says there is great willpower in being boring. He shares an anecdote about Barack Obama and his grey and navy suits--that these are the only color suits he has in his closet so that he can spend his time making the important decisions. Research has found that "making repeated choices deplete(s) the mental energy." Ummm, yes. Yes, it does! And, I think we just found out the reason why teachers are so dang exhausted at the end of the day!

Well, being that decisions weigh me down constantly, that caught my attention. And being that 2015 is 99% certainly going to be one of the biggest decision making years of my life--think sell house, buy new house, possibly transition to a new school {again}, live with the {LOVES} of my life,--yes, in the same house, and choose a great school for a 7 year old, I need some SIMPLICITY in 2015 so that I can make the big decisions that need to be made.

As a teacher, I have a tendency to over-think (or shall I say "over-complicate") things. Not making decisions quickly enough, not keeping things routine and simple enough, and not prioritizing effectively make up my teacher "Achilles heel." And then I end up wanting to pull my hair out, or cry, or pull my hair out and cry, because I'm not planned for the day, the week, or even the next minute! It's like I never learn from my past successes to---hey---just do that thing again! 

How do I plan to simplify in 2015? Well for starters:
-eat the same thing for breakfast, snack, and lunch Mon-Fri (yes, I over think food, especially since I want to cook for myself and eat healthier, and I like to eat, but I am also satisfied eating the same things over and over--this will also help with my "get back in shape" goal!) I found an awesome list of 50 salads on pinterest and I plan to just pick a different one each weekend and make my salad bowls for the week. (Routine, but varied enough...it just might work!)
-make teaching decisions faster based on what I've done in the past. Stop over thinking it and looking for "new" things. If it worked, do it again. If I have time to re-think something, fine, but don't make re-inventing the wheel the only way I do my job. K.-I.-S.-S.! Keep It Simple Smart teacher! At work today, I pulled out this old-goodie and got to planning my historical fiction unit (yes-based on what I had done in the past!!) It's a freebie if you need something for Civil Rights!
I introduced my 5th graders to "one word" last year and they came up with some amazing (and very fitting, full of reflection) ideas. I gave them 1 page and 1/2 page clip art frames to write their word on. The idea was for them to post the 1/2 page sign in their locker and the other at home as a reminder of their "one word." I will probably take the time to have my 4th graders create "one-word" next week because it's such a valuable opportunity to reflect and commit to some changes.
Are you following me on Facebook? I wish ya would, because reaching out to my followers more is another one of my goals for 2015 ;)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Multiplication Intervention: "Count-By" Activities to Improve Number Sense and Fact Fluency

I have been on a journey this year to ensure that my 4th graders master their multiplication facts. When I used the term "master," I mean with fluency and automaticity--no tricks, no fingers, no count-by's down the side of their page--just automatic fact recall. {Although, I will admit, I still use some mental tricks for a few of my math facts ;)} Being a 5th grade teacher at heart who is teaching 4th grade, I know how critical multiplication facts are. I know that students who know their multiplication facts have an easier time learning how to multiply and divide larger numbers, how to recognize fractions that need to be simplified, noticing patterns in numbers, and using algebraic reasoning. Other concepts that are embedded in knowing our multiplication facts include prime, composite, common multiples, finding common denominators, and divisibility.

Multiplication fact fluency is SOOO important for continued math success. Students who know their multiplication facts are more confident when learning a new skill. Students who do not know their multiplication facts may feel that they don't understand new concepts (everyone who can multiply quickly is already ahead of them in solving the multiplication, division, or simplifying fractions problem), when in actuality, they are so hung up on figuring out a multiplication fact that what comes next in the process goes on the back burner and they have most likely forgotten what the teacher has just shown them to do next. I know what you are thinking {maybe}--give them a multiplication fact chart that they can refer to. Great idea, but is this a "forever" solution?

This year, I implemented Rocketship Math, a math facts program that I was trained on a few years ago and had implemented into my 5th grade classroom once. I'll share more about Rocketship in another post, but you can click on the program's website to learn more. For the purposes of this post, you just need to know that it's about a 10 minute fact fluency routine that my students do each day.

So, we have been using Rocketship since the second week of school and I have students who have already moved on to division...I also have students who seem to have flat-lined around levels I-L. Students get 6 tries to pass a level before something else needs to be implemented. Often, the something extra is that my students choose to study at home when they have tried 2-3 times without passing. However, some students do not choose to study at home and are just not moving.

One day, I watched a student write "4 x 9 = 37" and it hit me...this student doesn't even realize that all multiples of 4 are even. This student lacks number sense and has perhaps not had the "obvious to me" pointed out to her. I have students who count-by to get to their facts, but their count-by's aren't even efficient (like in the image above "6, 12, 18--19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24--24...what was I doing again?"). This student doesn't realize that they can count by 6's then add 3 and 3 or have other ways to efficiently count up to multiples they do not yet have memorized.

Somewhere in my research, I read that to master multiplication facts, students need lots of experiences with "county-bys." I follow Donna's blog Math Coach's Corner {like a stalker ;} and read this blog post that suggested a "Count around the Circle" activity. That sounds great for the younger grades. I read that wishing my students could go back in time and have that circle experience, but  I couldn't see myself getting my whole class to sit in a circle and productively play this game when only about 5 of my students really need it.

I realized that a handful of my students need a separate intervention that is a few steps back from the fact memorization I'm aiming for. These students need extra time working with "count-bys" and looking for patterns in their fact families. Out of this realization, grew my Number Sense Intervention Tasks, fun ways for students to look for number patterns and practice "count-by's" so that they become more efficient. I have finished all of the sets and made Multiplying by 2's and 7's FREEBIES.

In every set, you will find the following activities:
Which of these Does Not Belong? Students use number sense to figure out which number does not make sense for that multiple, maybe it is too close to a multiple students know, maybe it is odd and should be even, maybe it does not have the correct number in the ones place, etc.
Which of these Does Not Belong~Extension Pages
Find the Missing Multiple-forces students to "count-by" for a purpose and to become more efficient doing so by noticing whether or not the next multiple is in the chart. Use these cards a lot and hopefully it will break students from counting up to the next multiple one-number-at-a-time.
Multiple Search: another fun reason to "count-by" to find three strings of multiples from the 1st multiple all the way to 12th.
120's boards for analyzing patterns and having aha moments (like all multiples of 4 are even!)

I hope you take the time to check out these Number Sense Intervention Tasks:
Multiplying by 2's TRY IT FREE
Multiplying by 3's
Multiplying by 4's
Multiplying by 5's
Multiplying by 6's
Multiplying by 7's TRY IT FREE!
Multiplying by 8's
Multiplying by 9's
Multiplying by 10's
Multiplying by 11's
Multiplying by 12's
Number Sense Intervention Bundle

In my next post, I will go through a format for using these tasks {with repetition} in a small group intervention setting. Happy New Year to you!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

~Words their Way Word Derivational Relations Notebook~

If you have followed my blog, you know that I am a big fan of Words their Way. {You might take a minute to check out my detailed post including 10 tips for implementing word study and a detailed explanation of my routines--this is great info for Word Study/spelling programs even if you do not use Words their Way.}

Today, I'm focusing in on my Derivational Relations Spellers (the blue group). Students who fall into this group are your best spellers. I have always felt that the Derivational Relations Group needed a little something more for their word study activities. Students who fall into the Derivational Relations Spellers group can often spell the words provided in their sorts with much ease. Typically, these students also find it easy to quickly attain word meanings and spellings for new words. In the past, I have had them complete Frayer Model-type activities (pick 10 words, record synonyms, draw an illustration, make a personal connect, write a definition or a sentence, generate other words that contain the word part, etc). I have also had them create crossword puzzles for others in their group to complete. However, these default activities never felt organized or worthwhile enough, so this year, I decided I wanted to get ahead of the game and have extension activities that made sense for each Derivational Relations Unit.

I created Word Study Notebook Activity sheets to go with each sort to help my Derivational Relations Spellers analyze spellings, sound changes, and meanings of their word study words. The activities are designed for independent exploration and reinforcement of concepts that are embedded in the unit of study. However, these activities could also be used to guide a lesson in a small group meeting. {Side note, I also think that the Derivational Relations Spellers sorts would be perfect for 5th-6th grade as a whole-class vocabulary/word study program combined with differentiated spelling/word study. If I were teaching 5th grade this year, I would be using these activities whole-group to expose students to prefixes, suffixes, and Greek and Latin roots--the main focus of the blue book.}

Using the Activity Sheets

These word study notebook activity sheets are meant to be a companion to Words Their Way: Derivational Relations Spellers (Templeton, Johnston, Bear, and Invernizzi). You really need the word sort books to implement this differentiated word study program.

Based on the level of difficulty of the activity pages and how progressed your students are with being “independent thinkers,” you may choose to have them complete some of the sheets independently and save others for their small group meeting with the teacher. These sheets can also be completed in partners. (You might specify how you want the activities completed prior to students beginning the set for each sort.) Allowing students to work in partners at the beginning of a unit (say the first and second sorts in the unit) and then expecting students to complete later activities in the unit independently is another way you can provide extra support and scaffolding. This week, I had students pair up and share their work after they completed the activities.

The Routine for Derivational Relations Spellers

I set aside 20 minutes for word study with the goal of having our word study block consistently 3-4 times a week.

Day 1 and Day 2: My students begin their individualized Words-Their-Way word study routine with my “blind” Word Search activity. Because I want students searching for word patterns and increasing their ability to recognize correctly spelled words—a major key to spelling improvement—these word searches do not contain the word list. (Word searches for each Words Their Way Level can be found in my store.) This routine activity is meant to be an engaging, fun way for students to discover their word study words. As students find words in the word search, they are required to record the words they have found, sorting them categories based on sound and/or look of the word, just as they do in other Words their Way sorting activities.

*At end of day two/beginning of day 3, you may give students their word study word list from Words Their Way: Derivational Relations Spellers to provide students with feedback on the words they have not yet found. I don't have my derivational spellers cut the words apart. They really just need the word list.

Day 3 and 4: Students work on the Word Study Notebook extension activities to build deeper understanding of word spellings and/or meanings.

Day 5: Meet with teacher: This meeting provides an opportunity to go over activities that students had difficulty with and to reinforce specific the word study concepts based on the word list students are working on.

Day 6: Assessment: Call out words and take a “traditional” spelling test OR complete a “blind sort” spelling test (this means students cannot see the words but sort the words into categories as they record them.) I love blind sort assessments because as I watch students categorize words, I see them actively thinking about spelling—erasing, moving words around, and correcting spelling.

I cycle my students through a staggered word study routine. Keep in mind that if sort activities require additional time or if my word study time is limited, I can have students cycle through the same routine twice for one sort. (Based on difficulty level and students’ prior knowledge, some sorts may require an extra cycle while others may not.)

Word Study Routine Tip: Stagger It!

I have found it helpful to stagger word study groups so that each of the activities (like “meet with the teacher” and “Spelling City”) happen on a different day for each word study group. This has allowed me to better manage the needs of each group and focus most of my attention on one group on their “teacher” day . Staggering the activities also allows me to further differentiate and tweak student activities without stigmatizing certain groups (usually needed for the highest and lowest groups). For example, my lowest group completes Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check with their words and I embed their assessment into their teacher day, while my higher group has a whole set of additional activities to complete.

Staggering my word study routine also allows me to target a major word study issue—the fact that organizing our schedule based on Monday-Friday often fell apart. In the past, I have created my word study routines/schedule based on a 5 day week, but we rarely get an uninterrupted 5 day week for word study. In my classroom, this usually meant that the assessment day didn’t happen and students just moved on to a new list AND it also caused students and me frustration because it was hard to be dedicated to the routines I had trained them for.

To visually represent this change in thinking, I display our word study schedule and place a magnet above the day we are on that says “We Are On…” This way, if we have a short week or a scheduled interruption, we don’t have to completely cancel word study or skip activities for that word list. Although we might take a week and a half to cycle through the activities for one word list, we value word study more because we know ALL of the routines are going to happen for that word list. When we are almost at the end of a quarter or close to a long break, I can start staggering groups out of word study.

Side-note: At the beginning of the year, it is important to model and complete these routines whole-group so that students understand the routines and expectations for each activity.

Words Their Way Derivational Relations Spellers Word StudyIf you are interested in taking the Derivational Relations Activities for a test drive, I have uploaded the activity sheets for Sorts 1 and 22 on teacherspayteachers. If you download, I would love some feedback!

I would also love to answer any questions you have about Word Study!

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