Sunday, October 7, 2012

Finally swimming above water....

Really....have I not posted since summer? I can't believe I have once again neglected my blog! I have good reason though! This year I decided to test out being superwoman...guess what...I'm not! I thought since I finally finished grad school, I could take on everything. Ha! Ha! Ha!   WHAT WAS I THINKING! So on top of my regular day job of teaching {and we all know that it's a piece of cake since I get out at 2:45 on the dot everyday!} - I decided to be PTA membership VP, ERTC {technology contact/support for our campus}, head up the computer lab, roll out our iPad check out system,  serve on: technology campus committee, parent involvement committee, and GT committee....oh and be a part in the Leadership PLC for our campus! Not even considering that I have 2 kids that both decided to do activities this year that consume every single day of the week, including weekends!{soccer, volleyball, flute lessons, Hispanic culture club, choir, soccer...and some more SOCCER} Sooooooo.....this is why I've been so backed up in posting!

But I think I've finally found a balance and schedule I can deal with and I'm BACK! And I'm coming back BIG! I created something that I have even blown myself away with...I know could I brag any more....but it has seriously changed my life. I'm not ready to reveal it just yet, but let me just say it has changed reading centers for me  for-ev-er {can you hear this in the sandlot voice like I do?} I have done a dry run of it already, but I want to make sure it is PERFECT before I share it with you! So come back and see me soon! It may just change your life too! ;) And I may even give a few away!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tech Tip Thursday - Sumdog! Best Math Site!

I just realized it is Thursday (already!) Where are my days going?!?! I apologize for having 2 posts in one day, but I've missed a few tips and I need to catch up

Today's tech tip is the website Sumdog! I heard about it from a fellow blogger and I swear by it! Hands down the best math website! It's a math website that allows students to practice math concepts in fun game formats! To sign up and play the games is absolutely FREE....however they do have a reporting section that will give you details {reports} about how your students are doing {and what they are struggling with}. I'll be honest, I have only used the free features.

Teachers can sign up and then setup their class with individual logins for each student. I am always weary about entering my students' names into online programs. I only entered their first name and last initial. It generated passwords for each student. It's a very simple process and it's super easy to go back and add new students.  Students can play as guest, however I don't recommend this because they miss out on some of the features.

 The students are able to choose which concept they want to work on. The choices are place value, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, or algebra type equations. Then they can even choose which skill they want to focus on and level. I have tried to figure out how to set these particular skills so that students could only work on skills that I have set, however I haven't been able to figure it out. I can set up competitions and set the skill level there.  I'm hoping that this will be a feature they add in the future. I don't want my students to choose easy concepts, nor ones that they would struggle with.

Students then choose how they are going to play: against the computer, a random person, or a classmate. This is the best part of the site! The students get such a kick out of playing against each other and they can be playing the same game but working on different skills and levels. I even jump on a computer from time to time and challenge the kids...they really get a kick out of it.

Finally the students choose which game they want to play. There are some really fun ones! My favorite is junk pile. You have to answer questions and then pile up junk in the junkyard, but be careful or your pile could fall over.  There are about 20 games in all that keeps a variety of interest in mind.

As the kids play they not only compete against one another, but they are racking up points {coins}. The coins allow you to purchase different clothes and accessories to dress your character. They also have different animal levels. My kids really got into these rewards. My kids were so into this site that they would call each other so they could challenge one another from home. It was such a great way to get kids to memorize their facts {but in a fun way!} This website is one of the sites my kids during our Guided Math rotations.

Where Are We Poster! Finally!

I cannot tell you how many requests I get for my Where Are We Poster. I have to be honest, I lost the file and finally found it this morning. I've uploaded it to my Teachers Notebook store - where you can snag it for FREE!!!!


Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I'm currently attending a 3 day CGI {Cognitively Guided Instruction} training (with 2 additional days later in the year). I signed up for the training so that I had a better understanding of what my students were coming to me with... I had always thought that CGI was ONLY for the lower grades (our 1st/2nd grade use CGI) - After today, I'm realizing that I can easily apply this philosophy to my math instruction. The basis of CGI is that students are allowed to investigate and discover their own methods to solve problems. They extend their strategy database though the modeling of other students {not the teachers}. I'm not going to a 3rd grade teacher - this FREAKS me out! Problem solving is so crucial in 3rd grade and this is a HUGE adjustment to how I currently teach problem solving. This book will definitely take me out of my comfort zone. I am going to try it and see how it works in my classroom. On another note....our instructor is very knowledgeable and has so many wonderful math resources. You can see her teacher store and wonderful math activities! She has great center activities and they are very inexpensive - go check her out! Here is her website with more freebies and resources.

Along with the training, we're also doing a book study with the above book. I would love to bounce ideas off of anyone who has read or who implements CGI in their classroom - especially in the upper grades! Here are my thoughts & questions so far with the first few chapters of this book:

Chapter 1:

  • Students don't naturally solve problems the way that we do. They follow the action of the problems, similar to a recipe to solve the problem. For example Alyssa has 5 erasers. How many more erasers does she need to have 11? We would solve this problem by subtracting 5 from 11. However kids would take the 5 and count up till they got to 11. 
  • Kids already have a knowledge base for mathematics, we need to tap into this background knowledge.
  • Students should be allowed to discover their own strategies to solve problems. They will learn different ways to solve by sharing with their peers. Teachers should not model and impose our thinking on the students.
  • Children don't have to be taught specific strategies to solve particular problems.
My questions:
  • Where should we start with upper students? The instruction videos show that you allow students to use manipulatives and it seems they start very small. Should we revert to the basics with older students as well?
Chapter 2: Here is a organizer that explains the different types of problems.
  • Problems are classified based on the way children think about the problem.
  • Addition/Subtraction are separated into result unknown (most common), change unknown, and start unknown (hardest type of problem). The problems all have an action that happens in the problem (something is added or taken away)
  • Part-Part-Whole & Compare problems have no actions, and instead are based on relationships.
  • Problems can be more challenging or rigorous by changing the wording to past tense or numbers within the problem that don't represent a set number of objects (such as weight)
My questions:
Should the structures of the different types of problems be explicitly taught to students? How would this be accomplished if the teacher shouldn't be modeling problems?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Made It - It's all about MATH

 It's that time again! Time for Monday Made It over at 4th Grade Frolics.  I have to be honest, I have been taking a little break trying to sneak in a few trips here and there before the summer ends. I am starting to freak out that we only have 20 days left! Where did the time go? Even though I've been running around with the kids...I managed to get some things done this week.

This week my focus was completely on MATH! I've had lots of questions about my T.I.M.E.R. unit and what I use for each section. I have made a ton of games & other activities from fellow bloggers. I also borrowed a few idea and created these:

First up...I finally made math towers. It has been on my to do list forever. I took the advice from another blogger and used the plastic cups so they would last longer. I found the container at the Dollar Tree and it is perfect to hold the cups.

Next I made Math Fact Jenga! This will go perfect with my guided math rotation (Math Facts) I grouped the facts into 4 groups (ex. 0,5,10 facts) Then I assigned each group of facts a colored star. I used file folder stickers and labeled the different sides of the wood so that each side would have a math fact from each group. This allows me to have flexibility and to differentiate the instruction. As I introduce the facts, I can have students work with just that colored star. As we progress I can assign more than one or have them do all 4 stars! I also thought I could have them say the 4 numbers sentences in the fact family for a specific colored stars. I love how these turned out and I know my kids are going to love them!

Finally....I sat down and worked on my Math Interactive Notebooks for next year. Last year I wasn't as organized as I would have liked to have been with them. My notebooks won't be the traditional version where specific things go on left or right. However they will be jammed packed with resources that range from notes to interactive activities the students can refer back to. As I organized all of the activities I typically do with my students - I figured I would just make it a file to share with others! You can get it here! Here are just a few pictures of what it looks like so far! Check back this week - where I'll explain how I use the notebooks and how I've changed how I organize them!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tech Tip Thursday - Word Ball

Word Ball is one of our favorite apps on iPad! The great news is this app is available for Droid and Nook users as well, it ranges from a free version to 1.99! It is similar to Boggle - but on speed! The balls {letters} bounce around the screen and you must create words by tapping on the balls. Words are based on a leveled point system, the more challenging a word is, the more points it receives! It also receives points for what letters are used - vowels get the smallest amount of points, but letters like Q and Z offer the most points. As time goes on the balls {letters} you don't use shrink and eventually disappear - making it more challenging to create words. Words also have to be at least 3 letters long. If a words is misspelled, it will let the play know and not award any points. When the game is finished, students can review the words they created. This app is perfect for your word work station! It is appropriate for students of all ages, even I enjoy playing it. It naturally lends itself to having students focusing on spelling patterns.

You could have different variations of this game to make it more interesting & challenging:
  • Play regular - allowing students to create any words
  • Create words only using a certain spelling pattern
  • Each word they create they must create a word that rhymes with it
  • Only words that begin with a certain letter
  • Only words with a certain theme or subject {vocabulary}
  • Class challenge - by keeping track of students scores

WARNINGS: The program is set up to be able to play against others, however the option must be setup. Students could potentially try to get in and change these settings, so a discussion about this may be necessary. Also on the opening page, there are options to buy different versions. It is important to make sure you have your settings in place that a password must be used to purchase apps! The free version has banner ads, as we know you never know what you are going to get with the ads!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Made It! Lots of Goodies!

It's been another busy week! I've gotten several projects done! As well as finished 1/2 the book, How The Way The Brain Learns. Very, very interesting book!

My first project was part of my trash-to-treasure scavenger hunt! I found this chair at Goodwill for only 10$ It had a hideous green & silver print {and under that an ugly 70's brown print}! I knew I could fix it up and it would match perfect with my craft room. I stripped the cushion of it's ugly fabric, as well as the foam {it was stained and just nasty} On my long to do list is to make a bench & seats from plastic crates. I decided to go ahead and buy a foam egg carton mattress pad so I could use with all 3 projects. I covered the cushion with a fabric that goes perfect with my craft room. My husband had to spray paint the chair {I'm not allowed near spray's a long story...but my last 2 projects I've some how jammed my finger and it's still in pain} I'm thrilled with the results. The chair will go perfect with my work table that I bought from IKEA.

For my classroom, I made these brain breaks & classroom cheer cards! I found them on this adorable blog - I printed them on cardstock, then glued them to a colored piece of cardstock, finally pouch laminating them. They are super {super} study and should last me several years. I put them on a ring and added some ribbon {you know how I love ribbon}. After reading The Way The Brain Learns {well 1/2 of it and still reading - so interesting!} I know that giving the brain a break is so important! There are so many! As I use them, I plan to put a check mark with a visa-vis so I know I've already used it. The cheers are fun too! It's a great way to break up the day and get the kids excited.

I also made my W.I.S.E. Crew folders {similar to Einstein's club or Mastery club}. I'm going to save my bulletin board for the student recognition piece {I will have 3 different sized owl for each subject to show when students have completed 5, 10 & 15 q's}. I will have these folders out near our computers for students who finish early. The questions will be placed in page protectors inside the folders, I will also have several copies of the answer sheet in the folders pocket. I decided on the folders, so they would take up less space. I'm super excited about this program - I just wish I had thought of it last year! It's the perfect set up for early finishes & enrichment!
Now go see what everyone else is up to on Tara's blog for Monday Made It!
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