Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Classroom Happenings

Hey y'all!  We are THREE more school days away from Spring Break... can you believe it??!!  We are going to go from snow/ice to the BEACH, hallelujah!  I will say that it's been hard to gather things together for warm temperatures, but I'll manage to make it happen, ha!  I think I've mentioned that our Open House is the Tuesday after Spring Break.  Well, if I don't get everything up and taken care of now then I won't be able to relax on my break!  So, we've been super busy putting all the final touches on our classroom!

I gave my cabinets a little makeover thanks to Teacher Created Resources!  I changed out the border and added their cute Welcome banner!  I'm going to print out pictures of my students to put underneath the letters.  My kids are going to be so excited when I get those up!  One of my kids said, "Don't you think it's a little late to be welcoming us to class!"  Touche my child, touche, ha!
I also added this sweet little awning to my personal picture board.  I walked around the classroom forever trying to figure out the perfect place... then I finally settled on this board and I love it!  Can you believe you just make a couple of folds and then staple it up??!  And, it's only 8 bucks!
 I also used their Chalkboard Brights punch out letters to put some headings over our Chocolate Fever work...
 And our Dr. Seuss Stuff!
Speaking of Seuss... how cute are these directed drawings from First Grade Blue Skies??!  They look so festive in the halls, and we've received tons of compliments so far!  It only made sense that we incorporated art and writing after my Blog Post this weekend!
Today we read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  We did a little math integration and wrote story problems for addition.  They used paint dotters to make the fish... and they are just for fun, not for the actual problem solving because we couldn't make hundreds of fish, ha!
 Oh, and it was Book Fair this week... Joelle may have asked her KK to come have lunch today just so she would take her book fair shopping!  She's the only grandchild on my side right now, so she is just a little spoiled!!!
I can't forget to mention that I'm also over at Blog Hoppin' for a fun math idea!
Over and out!  I hope you have a great week!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: Strategies 1 & 2!!

About a month ago my friends started to discuss hosting a book study to encourage each other and blog readers to dig a little deeper with our students... to cultivate higher-level get our students more involved and engaged.  Well, I'll be the first to admit that I was all, "I'm too busy to read a book."  I was hesitant to start because I didn't want to over-commit myself.  But the pressure got to me even though no one said a word about my non-involvement!  I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to join some of my favorite friends AND grow my knowledge as a teacher.  So after a few weeks, I ordered the book Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites and started to get my read on.

And, let me tell you... I'm so glad I did!  There's just no way you can walk away from a visit at RCA and continue to be mediocre.  You know that you need to make a change, but you need guidance.  Well, this book (along with books I'm reading by Ron Clark) has helped give me the ideas of what to change in my classroom.  The strategies they include are so helpful and add a lot to your teacher toolkit!

So, let's dig in and discuss!

Strategy One:  Brainstorming and Discussion
Talking is a HUGE part in my classroom.  Now, this has not always been the case in my classroom.  If you would have visited my room in the first four years of teaching you would have seen kids working independently and me shushing them constantly.  Of course we would have class discussions and reading groups where we talked to each other, but my students hardly ever completed tasks with someone else.  Fast forward to my 5th year of teaching.  I started teaching 2nd grade in the Dual Language program.  It is a requirement for students to have a partner, to sit with that partner at all times, and to complete the majority of classroom tasks together.  So, I was kinda forced to changed my teaching techniques and I'm so thankful for that!!!  My classroom is NOT quiet by any means, but my students are constantly learning from each other.  Do they argue?  yes!  Do they get off topic?  absolutely!  But, through lots of modeling and practicing they do know how to share the work, discuss before working/writing, and hold meaningful conversations with all students in the class.

Here's what I'm working on/trying out as a result of reading this chapter...

Letting my students be the teacher more, I've always done this occasionally, but sometimes I get to talking and I don't shut up, ha!  Here's what I did this week.  I had my students turn and talk to their partner about every step of solving a problem.  Since we had just learned how to subtract 3-digit numbers, it was crucial that they knew and understood the process.  We had to get the steps down.  As they were discussing, I was watching to see who worked the best together.  I chose a partner group to explain what they did to the class.  
 You better bet that the next go round every single group was discussing, solving, and writing in sync with one another.  They all looked like model students because they wanted to be the teacher!  After the first round I could have easily picked any of my partner groups to be the teacher!!
You'll notice the change from the beginning of the year here.  Below I just had one student go up at a time... which was great, but adding in that peer discussion component made a HUGE difference!
Another way I want to improve is discussing our reflections more.  I was actually really on top of this at the beginning of the year, but I've slacked off a lot lately!  It makes me sad because I would so enjoy our share time and would often send parents videos and pictures of their children sharing their writing.  This is my goal for the rest of the year...incorporate more sharing when it comes to our writing (and we write across all subject areas)  I also really enjoyed the sentence starters and ideas that the book included for students who are struggling with sharing/answering questions.
 Strategy Two:  Drawing and Artwork
Now, I love me a colorful classroom.  I'll be the first to admit that I do a lot of "crafts" in my room... and it's never for "fluff."  Heck, if I was going to fill up my classroom time with "fluff" then I would copy worksheets and not spend time prepping crafts, ha!  Each and everything we do serves a purpose.  However, I know that every craft we make isn't always the most meaningful thing.  I know that I need to include more forms of art.  Paint and glitter tend to make my skin crawl just a little, ha!  I really need to get over myself and personal preferences and expose my students to different mediums and such.  

I've been asked so many times "How do you get your students to draw and color??  My students just won't spend the time doing it!" 

Well, let me just show you this little girl.  Two years ago she had very little experience with writing and drawing.  She had colored before, but she just didn't have the exposure.  She loves, loves, loves to color in coloring books, but when it comes to free-hand drawing she gives up a lot because she wants it to be perfect.  We've had several little mini-lessons at home with directed drawings, adding details to our pictures, and then writing about them.  Why is that so important?  Well, I think being detail-oriented is a good trait all around.  I want her to pay attention to the details in text, pictures, and problems.  It didn't take much time on my part because all I had to do was model, point out where she could do a little more, and encourage her to keep adding those details.
Here's how this looks in my classroom...

I love, love, love kid art!  There's just nothing much sweeter!  Here is an adjective activity we did... illustrate and describe yourself!  They take such pride in projects like this!
 We did these directed drawings to give as gifts to our parents at Christmas.  Talk about being proud... you should have seen the glow on their little faces when I took the time to laminate THEIR artwork!  They thought that was the coolest thing ever!
 I also like to incorporate art in math (especially geometry!).  Here we used wikki sticks to create a model of a quadrilateral.  This helped build their vocabulary because they created a shape AND wrote about it.  It was important that they could describe the characteristics of the quadrilateral that they chose to make. 
I'm going to continue to find ways to incorporate art throughout every subject area.  I need to do more activities like the one above in math across the different skills that I am teaching.  We have fractions coming up, so I know I can incorporate it then!  Head on over to Elizabeth's blog to read what she learned and check out the other blogs that linked up!  So many amazing ideas out there!  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Deanna's explanation of worksheets vs recording sheets.  I also loved reading about the Family Groups on Kindergals!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chocolate Fever Fun!

Oh my goodness y'all.  This week has been such a whirlwind... I don't even know how those of you with 6-10 snow days function!  We had two and I swear I can't catch my breath!  It doesn't help that I'm also trying to get things ready for Open House.  We have 8 more school days to whip things together and get everything up on display!

For reading I wanted to showcase our Chocolate Fever Novel Unit.  Normally I wouldn't go all out like this, BUT I have tried to think of everything possible that we could do to impress our parents, ha!

After a couple of chapters we wrote letters to Henry to show our sympathy for his Chocolate Fever.  I told my students to offer him a little encouragement... after all, he does have chocolate seeping out of his body!!!
 Some of the letters were just as precious as can be.  I love watching my students connect with a character and get excited about reading!!!  I think they will be very sad when we finish our book tomorrow!  We also pretended that we were the doctor prescribing a cure for Henry. 
 The letter paper is from The Teacher Wife.  The pill activity is from my Chocolate Fever unit.  Look at this sweet letter... "God will help you, he's right there with you, don't worry!"  Oh my preciousness!!!
 Prescribing a cure...
 Tomorrow we will finish our book, eat some Hugs and Kisses, and then write some final recommendations for Henry.  Their recommendations will look a little different than my example.  I want them to think beyond the book and the cure they had originally prescribed.  I found the KISS template HERE!
 We used the character traits from Hope's unit for this next activity.  My students made a quick Henry Green to display with the character traits.  I had them find textual evidence for each character trait they decided to put in their pocket.  This was a great activity for re-reading and locating details in our text!
Probably my favorite activity was making a self-to-text connection with our very own book cover!  I used the little people templates from The Teacher Wife.  My students absolutely loved making these! 
 After coming up with their very own "Fever" they made their cover, and then a little snapshot of their pretend book.

 My students wrote about the supporting characters, the illness, the cure, and the setting.  The little girl above had her story take place in Hot Dog Village... absolutely perfect!

And, who would have thought a 2nd grader would come up with Cilantro Fever?!  I love it!!!
You can get some of the papers for the activities above HERE.  I put everything I made into one easy document.  If I didn't include it then it either belonged to someone else and I linked above, or it wasn't something I could share!  If you haven't read Chocolate Fever with your class, I highly recommend it.  It has great vocabulary and a story that you just can't help but love!  

Also, don't forget TpT is having a Bonus Day Sale today!  Shop til' you drop!  AND I hope you have a fabulously fast Friday!!!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I'm a Poet, You're a Poet, We're ALL Poets!!!

I *think* we may finally be over our winter weather... well, that is unless the snow comes tonight and then maybe again on Friday??!  I'm fairly certain we will be at school tomorrow so I've got lunches packed, clothes set out, and bedtime routines in the works!  These past two days have been nice, but I look like a hot mess and I'm starting to get a little stir crazy!!!

However, I have been pretty productive (thanks to a husband that is an amazing cook and a daughter who loves to play upstairs with our neighbor!!)  I love our two weeks of poetry every year, but I've always wished I had something put together that I can pull from.  This year I want to be all ready to go, so I spent a lot of my ice days getting geared up for our poetry unit in April!

Here's how this unit works... any of the crafts (and there are eight of them) can go with any of the 10 poetry types included.  So, I can just decide which type of poetry I want to tackle and then choose which topic we are going to pair with it!  I tried to pick high-interest topics that are meaningful to my students... losing teeth, pizza, band aids, snakes, ice cream, cats, etc!  I also tried to make these crafts as simple as possible... I kept saving paper and cutting time into account!

I went ahead and marked it down 20% for the day since...

a BIG SALE is headed our way!!
I also spent some time getting my little shop more organized!  This kind of stuff just takes extra time that I don't normally have when we are actually going to school!!!  

You'll see this image that will take you to all my regrouping units in one location.  
 And this image will take you to all of my fraction stuff!
Just in case you want to know how Joelle feels about snow/ice days...
Gotta love little learners and their love for school!!!  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ice Day Updates!

I'll have to admit that up until this week I was really jealous of how many snow days a lot of you were getting.  And then the ice came to North Texas... just enough to make us Texans shake in our boots ;)  Now I'm ready for it to be GONE!  I've had just about enough cold weather... and our ice day turned into an entire day of me working on my computer :(.  But, it's been nice to play catch-up and update some old units!

First of all, I want to address the popular topic of "regrouping" or adding/subtracting with algorithms.  I know many of you are Common Core states and they have taken out using algorithms in 2nd grade.  I teach in Texas and we use strategies (number lines, place value, mental strategies) and algorithms.  So, I'm not rebelling against the system, ha!  I am teaching according to our standards, I promise!

 I'm stressing out a little that we missed our first day of subtracting three-digit numbers with regrouping.  But, I know life will go on and we will get to everything eventually!  Here are some of the things we have planned for the week...

 We aren't doing all of these flapbooks and pocket-books, but I do have one of each ready for the week!
Honestly, we will probably take it VERY slow and hardly get to anything of the materials that I printed off, and that's okay!  I wanted to be prepared, but I know this week may be a struggle for some of my kiddos, so I'm just going to take it day by day!

OH, and have you heard?!  TpT is throwing a Super Sale on Wednesday, and I just want YOU to know how much I appreciate YOU!  I got into blogging a few years ago because I was so inspired to find other teachers out there with a similar passion and teaching style.  Being able to peek into their classrooms each week just gave me the motivation I needed to keep on going.  This little blog has become a place where I can reflect, share, and hopefully encourage teachers to keep pressing forward!  
Also, because we are going to start fractions soon, I updated some of my very first little units.  These little fraction packs are now a little easier to print and A LOT easier on the eye, ha!  If you have previously purchased these units, please go to your "My Purchases" tab and re-download! 
Now I know a little girl who desperately needs her Mama-time!  So, I'm off to read, cuddle, and do girly-things :)  I'm thinking we will be back to the daily grind tomorrow!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Subtraction With Regrouping

A couple of things that I took away from my RCA visit were:  1.  Set the bar HIGH 2.  Incorporate more music 3.  Learning from each other is key

I'll be the first to admit that I'm no Ron Clark.  He has a lot more energy than I will ever have.  Watching him teach made me break out in a sweat, ha!  But after watching his 5th grade math lesson I knew I had to be better.  So, I started brainstorming.  How can I take this and make it my own?  I may not be standing on the tables and dancing, but I can be a lot more active in the classroom.  I decided to go with a safari theme...well, because I love a theme and I love the intensity of the song "Be Prepared."  We started each math lesson this week with a safari math challenge.  We were either purchasing tickets to go on a safari, figuring out how many animals were around, or seeing how much it would cost my family to feed the elephants.  I put on our thinking music (The instrumental version of Be Prepared that I found online).  Then, we strategized, discussed, and corrected our errors.  Let me just tell you... this wasn't easy for everyone.  And, that's okay!  Each day we got a little better and they started looking for how I was trying to trick them.
About the picture below...When they realized that each option would cost the same amount, their little faces were priceless!  It was the look of "OHHHH, I'm with you Mrs. Lemons!!  I know what you are doing here!!"  Some problems were harder than others, but each day we reviewed addition and subtraction with regrouping.  Normally I would end with an extra challenge of "How much money would I have wasted if I went with option __ over option __" {That obviously didn't work with this problem :)}
I used Krista Wallden's zoo animals to make our background... it just added a slice a cuteness!  And, when they saw me pull it up they knew a challenge was coming their way!

We ended with a little elephant making.  We used these elephants to show how to check our work.  I can't wait to hang these up for open house!
This little sweetie started checking all of her work after we learned how.  She was so proud of herself for catching mistakes in her subtraction problems because she checked it before turning it in!  My little teacher heart just went pitter-patter.
I can't forget about the subtraction rhymes.  I literally have nightmares about these chants.  I would jump up and down, pounce across the room, and do really large hand movements to get my kids to constantly think about these rhymes.  Whatever it takes, y'all!  This flapbook is always a student favorite because they only have to regroup on 6 out of the 18 problems, ha!
Spin and Subtract is another fan favorite!
We ended our week with this pocket-book.  Here's a little tip for flapbooks, sorts, and pocket-books.  Have your students bring you the paper to check BEFORE they do any cutting.  My students aren't allowed to cut the problems apart until they have a check mark from me (and I use my smelly markers to add a little happiness!!).  This way I don't have to look at little pieces of paper, AND I get to reteach right away.  First, I circle incorrect answers.  I always give my students one try to fix errors before I get involved.  Then, if they come back and it's still wrong, we go through it together.  Knowing they have to get a check mark from me really helps motivate them to concentrate more the first time.
I mean, who wants to go through and check all those little papers??  Ain't nobody got time for that!  You may see that we highlighted the minus signs.  That helped draw their eye to {subtract, subtract, subtract} as we would say.  When addition and subtraction problems are mixed we can easily make mistakes if we aren't careful!  The highlighting helps a TON!
And that pretty much sums up our double digit subtraction unit!  Next week we will move onto triple digit subtraction... all prayers are welcome ;)  I did make this little unit to get us started!
Before I leave I have to share these subtraction videos I found:

Now I'm off to enjoy the weekend with my family!  I've heard we have some cold weather coming our way (don't even get me started on how many indoor recess days we've had this year!!!) so we might as well enjoy these next two days!