Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tech Tip:Leveling Your Library!

I came across an interesting Pin this week....a book leveling app!  Have you heard of it?  It's called Level It Books (link to iTunes page) and you use it by scanning the bar code of a book and it will search a database to find the level of your book!  Such a cool idea right?  And seems a lot less tedious than searching through the giant Fountas and Pinnell book!

I was hesitant to purchase it, being that the reviews weren't great, and even more hesitant to post about it being that I'm not in my classroom and I don't have access to a large library to scan.  However, I did try it out on the few books I did bring home with me this summer and all of the books were in the database.  I believe the idea is that teachers will collaborate to enrich the database and the app will become more useful as more information is uploaded.  But for right now, the app is $2.99, so I wanted to share!

Here is what you see when you scan your book:
You can add your books the folder called Library and then you can use your iPhone, iPod or iPad to check books in and out of your library.  Cool, huh?  I'm not sure I'm going to use the checkout system for my entire library, but I may use it for the high demand books that sometimes go "missing." Yes, Shredderman, I'm talking about you ;-)

On this screen, you can see I added a few books I know I have in my library to see if the Fountas and Pinnell levels matched what I thought they were were.

Overall, it's a cool little tool to have.  For $2.99, I'll be pretty happy if most of my fiction texts are in their database.

Oh, and a quickie reminder that my Back to School Math Center Sale ends tomorrow!

Tell me: How do you level your library?  By lexile? By Fountas and Pinnell?  Do you level ALL of your fiction books?

Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Back to School Centers for Math

I'm trying to keep my to-do list this summer fairly short.  My two littles are keeping me pretty busy during the day!  But this item is high on the priority list: back to school math centers.  At the end of the school year, my principal arranged some time for us to meet with the grades below ours to talk about the upcoming class of kids.  I took a lot of notes about their areas of focus, especially in math, because I wanted to create a set of centers they *should* be able to use from the first day of school.  This set of centers is focused on the major and supporting work of fourth grade Common Core Standards.

Well, I'm finished!  And I'm really happy with how bright and cheerful they are!  This is exactly what I want my new students to see when they come in for their first "real" math workshop...bright, engaging and fun!

So let's take a look:

There are nine centers.  Each center has (brief) directions, cards, student recording sheets and an answer key.  These is one activity without an answer key and that is because it is an open ended center.

Check it out:  Back to School Math Centers for Fifth Grade.  On sale until 8/1!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Forever Freebie: Multiplication Task Cards (and some new products)

Hi all!

Is it brutally hot where you are? 

It's SO unbelievably hot here. I had to tell the kids it was too hot to go to the pool today.  Seriously.  I just couldn't brave the walk from pool back to the baking car one more time this week.  They were satisfied with some time in our blow up pool though, so we've decided to camp out in the a/c today!

I just finished working on a few projects I want to share with you all....

First, I posted a reading response booklet for Wonder by RJ Palacio.  I think this was our big winner for read alouds last year.  Although my class really loved The Tiger Rising, this book really got them thinking and responding.  This product is a collection of comprehension questions (it is NOT a novel study) about character and key plot points. The questions are mostly text dependent but there are some evidence based opinion questions and some text connection questions sprinkled throughout.  Although Common Core doesn't seem to stress text to self connections, I still think those are important for appreciating literature.

This product has two versions of the same booklet.  You can create a collated booklet by printing or copying double sided, or you give the students a few pages at a time.  I liked the collated booklet myself.  The kids kept them right next to their books during independent reading and answered the questions as they read.

Second, I also posted a Sticky Note Comprehension Booklet for Tuck Everlasting.  I just love this book!  This product is pretty similar to the Wonder booklet, but instead of lines, the students can write their answers on stickies.  Ah the magical power of sticky notes!  It's crazy how motivated kids are when work is presented slightly differently!  If you check out the preview, you can see the first two pages of the student booklet to get an idea of the types of questions asked.  This isn't Common Core aligned, it's focused on comprehension and using text evidence.  Most of the questions are text dependent.

And finally, I just uploaded a Forever Freebie...Multiplication Task Cards for Fifth Grade.  These cards are Common Core Aligned (5.NBT.B.5) and include 20 cards to help students practice multiplying multi-digit whole numbers using the traditional algorithm. Students practice multiplying powers of ten, identifying errors, identifying the missing number in a problem, multiplying up to four digits by three digits and applying multiplication skills to word problems.  This task card set includes an answer key and a recording sheet for your students.

If you purchased my Fifth Grade Task Card Bundle, I've added this set to that file.  If you haven't checked recently, I've added a few sets of task cards to this file since the end of the school be sure to re-download!

Enjoy!  Let me know what you think of the task cards!  Feedback = love!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Getting Math Workshop Started

I'm linking up with Ideas by Jivey again for Workshop Wednesday! Head over to her linky to read about getting your Reading, Writing and Math Workshops off the ground!

Last week, I wrote about conferring during Writing Workshop. This week, I want to sharesome ideas about planning for the small group portion of your Math Workshop, which is something you will DEFINITELY want to think about before launching your workshop.

As is with any workshop, there is no hard format for a math workshop.  The idea is similar to a reading workshop though as you begin with whole group then move to small group and then back to whole group.  That small group time is pretty flexible and I've done different things with different groups of kids based on their needs.  With classes that have high needs, I've used a guided math approach.  I found this model to be the most challenging to manage and the most time consuming to plan.

The beauty of a math workshop is that you can adapt a more scripted program to fit the workshop model very easily.  For the first ten years I taught, my school used Everyday Math.  I'd begin with the Math Message, then teach the whole group lesson, transition into independent and partner practice and then use the whole group time to review and reflect.  This process worked just as well this year when we began using the Envisions Math program from Pearson. 

So...what are the students DOING during that small group portion of math workshop?  Will the students move to different groups?  What do they do when they are finished with their assignments?  What do they do if they need help?  These are the things you need to think about before starting your workshop.  Here are my personal preferences:

What are the students doing?  Students work on the textbook assignment for the day.  I highlight the numbers and the pages on the SMARTboard.  My students complete the work in their math notebooks.  I model throughout the first month of school how I want them to show their work in their notebooks.

Will the students move to different groups?  In my class, they move.  I use the some means of assessment to determine the groups.  In the beginning of the year, I'll use the beginning of year assessment and my observations.  In the middle of the year, I'll use diagnostic tests and topic tests for groupings.  These groups are fluid, so the students may come in and out of a group during a topic, but for the most part, I'll work with the students with the highest need during the workshop.

What do they do when they are finished with their assignments?  I am a big fan of task cards.  I keep a baggie of task cards in each table bin for students to use when they are finished with their assignments.  The routine for task cards is SO simple and it is very easy to check student work.  I've found that returning a completed answer sheet with a little treat attached keeps students motivated to work on the cards until they are finished.  It's important that students understand that "finished early work" is still work!

This is a set of 15 different task cards aligned to Fifth Grade Common Core Standards.  I'm still working on this set, so it will definitely grow!
For my highest performing students, I love math projects.  I have one that is great for operating with decimals: Lemonade Stand Project.
Teaching with a Mountain View also has great and affordable projects.  My students LOVE anything that is super colorful, so they really enjoyed the Let's Go Shopping, Movie Marathon and Breaking Up the Bakery.

Another option for finished early work is math centers.  Some programs come with math centers (but I didn't care for the ones I've received...shhhh!), so you might consider making your own.  I like to use all three -- task cards, projects, and centers -- to keep things fresh and interesting.  You can use math centers to spiral your review.  I have big plans for creating math centers based on fourth grade common core....if I can find a good chunk of time to get focused!

A great option for keeping expectations clear is to post a "must do, may do" list.  This way students know exactly what their options are in the classroom.
You can easily create a file in your SMARTnotebook software or PowerPoint or just draw the chart on your easel or chalkboard.  It's a great way to keep your students on task!

What do students do if they need help?  This is important.  Students, especially in the upper elementary grades, need to have the self awareness to know when they need help.  In my classroom, I designate a few students as "experts."  If a student is not in my guided group, then they can go to one of these experts to ask for some help.  To make life easier for me, I designate an expert at each table so students who need help do not have to go far.  Then the rule in my room is that they must ask an expert for help.  They cannot come to me unless an expert can't help them.
This chart is used to keep track of student data, but I also use it to create partnerships for students who need assistance. Students in the far right column are "experts."

Whew.  That was a lot! I can't believe my 2 year old is still napping!!! :-)

Here is a quickie form version of all the questions I posed above.  You can grab it from Google Drive as a pdf!
Be sure to add your ideas to the linky!  It's open all month!

And if you haven't already, be sure to check out my Pin It To Win It....ending tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bright Animal Print Classroom Decor: Pin it to Win it!

Hi everyone!

I'm fresh off the plane from a short, grown ups only vacation to Florida!  It was SO nice to be away for a few days...and SO wonderful to come home to my little hunnies :-)  They had a great time with the grandparents while we were away for the weekend!

Before we left, I finished a classroom decor pack that I really want to share :)  This is over 140 pages of decor for your classroom...including several pennants that I'm really excited about!  It's on sale now and ALL summer long!!

I used the papers and frames from the very talented I Teach, What's Your Super Power?  This decor pack includes:

This classroom decor set is going to look AWESOME against black bulletin board paper!

So how do you win?

1.) You can repin my pin:


2.) You can hover above any of the images above and and use the Pinterest logo to pin the image.

Then leave a comment with your pin URL (view your pin and cut and paste the URL) and your email or your blog url so I can contact you.  Please pin only once.

I'm going to choose THREE winners on Thursday morning (July 11).  The winners will be based on 3 numbers that represent good luck to me..... so good luck to you!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Setting Up Your Writer's Workshop

For today's post, I'm linking up with Jivey for Workshop Wednesday!  I love writer's workshop because it can be so individually tailored to your students' needs.  This also means that there is a lot of prep work on the part of the teacher to make sure all of the parts of the workshop flow well together.

One thing that you definitely want to think about it how you have students sign up for conferences.  You can post a calendar in your writing space and have students sign on the day they want to meet with you.
Image Credit: Pulaski's 5/Cafe: Pictures

Or you might set a schedule of conferences so your students know when they will be able to talk to your about their writing.  You'll need a routine for sudden emergencies and where students can find help if it isn't their conference day but they need help.  You'll also want to keep in mind that struggling writers will need more than one conference per week in order to grow.  I've had many students that needed some type of check in DAILY in order to be productive.  For those students, I'd check their progress by initialing in the margin of their writing and I'd tell them the minimum I expected them to write that day and then I'd initial again at the end of the workshop.
Photo Credit: Flamingo Fabulous in Second Grade
Clothes pins and clip charts are another popular way of having students let you know they need a conference.  I don't use this method just because I use a clip chart for behavior and I'd rather save the phrase "clip up" for recognizing good behavior.  But I've seen some VERY cute clip charts out there!

For myself, I like simple.  I use my easel and write CONFERENCES at the top and number from 1-4.  After I close the mini lesson, I tell students that they can sign up for a conference next to a number.  

There is my easel. It was decorated by my (then) three year old last summer.

Full disclosure: I've had issues with this method every year.

I'll say something like "so that's what I'd like you to work on in your writing" and inevitably, I will have students RACE, like Olympic style sprint for the gold, to the easel.  Enthusiastic writers?  Not really.  By racing to the board, they show me that they have NO intention of practicing whatever I taught during the mini lesson.  And that's not cool.  I need them to work for a few minutes on what every skill or style lesson I presented so I can meander through the room and get some struggling readers started.

So what can you do about this?  Here's what worked for me.  I sit with the student that won the race and I ask him or her to show me whatever it is I taught during the mini lesson.  90% of them time, it isn't evident in their writing, so I'll say something like "I'm disappointed that you didn't try xyz in your writing.  It doesn't seem like you are ready for a writing conference.  You can sign up again when you've done xyz."  Then I'll erase their name from the easel and talk to the next person.  I'll probably end up saying the same thing for several days to different students, but usually by  the end of the first project, everyone will understand that conferences come AFTER you apply the mini lesson.

How do you manage your writing conferences?  Be sure to join the linky! 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bloglovin' Giveaway Winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations Karen!  You should have a gift card in your email right now :-)

Now I have two very important questions for you all.  I'm working on a set of Back to School Math Centers for Fifth Graders, based on the major work of fourth grade and a really great end of year conversation my grade had with the fourth grade.  Our principal allotted some time on our last conference day to talk to the grade below ours to find out about strengths and weaknesses.  I took a TON of notes so I can start planning some center activities for my new friends for the beginning of the year!

One area of focus for fourth grade is place value of whole numbers, so I wanted to include a place value game.  I'm just curious what you call this:  (Everyday Math calls it s a long, EnVisions calls it a ten rod)
 And what do you call this?  Everyday Math calls it a flat.
  Thanks for your help!