Sunday, December 2, 2012

Monday's Writing Menu

Here's a Writing Menu I whipped up for this week. These are great for engaging students and getting them excited about writing. My students always love these, especially the video prompt. This is a really fun Pixar video. I will try to add a Christmas Writing Menu by next week. It's hard to believe we only have two and half weeks before Christmas Break. Simply click the picture for your menu.
Have a great week!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fraction Games Preview and Sale

Button by Ashley Hughes

It's one of my favorite shopping days of the year.... Cyber Monday! I've got my TpT cart loaded down with lots of classroom goodies. Be sure to enter your code at check out "CMT12"! Here are a few of my latest fraction games. I'm so excited about them. I've been using them in my classroom and the students are really getting grounded in their fraction knowledge.  If you care to check them out just click on the picture. I have several more fraction games coming out soon, so be sure to follow my TpT store! 

And be sure to check out my best selling product, Writing Aerobics!
Happy shopping!

Winter Holiday Freebie

I'm so excited to offer you my latest holiday freebie. My students have been working hard on learning all about fractions for the new Common Core Standards. Number Line Lane is a fun way to help ground students in where a fraction lives on the number line. File folder and baggie games are included. Just click the picture to pick up a copy of this freebie. This is sure to bring a little Christmas Classroom Magic into your room!

I'm joining up with Laura Candler's Holiday Learning Link Up. My loyal readers know I don't do many linky parties, but I make an exception when Laura Candler hosts one because hers are always top notch. I know you will be able to pick up some quality holiday freebies.

This freebie was inspired by my Crusin' the Number Line Fraction Set, if you'd like to check that out just click on the picture.
I'm off to trim the tree and make a gingerbread house with my two girls. Have a blessed week!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanksgiving Goodies

Here's a little activity for celebrating Thanksgiving. Use the book Pardon That Turkey. The book is free from We Give Books. (You will need to register but it's fast and free.) This is a great nonfiction book. The activity is for chapter four of the book, and addresses point of view and persuasive writing. Click HERE or the picture above for the free printable. Click the book cover for the e-book.
I've had several request more Writing Menus, so I've made one in celebration of Thanksgiving. (If you missed my original post on Writing Menus, click HERE.) The video prompt for this menu is Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Click the picture for your free copy. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Problem Based Learning for Common Core Math FREEBIE

How many of you are still confused about Common Core? I just learned this week that my state will not test on Common Core for a couple more years. My students will still be tested over the old state standards which I'm no longer teaching. CRAZY! I think the thing that concerns me more than anything is the differences I'm seeing in implementation.  The literacy seems to be consistent across the board BUT the MATH is has me very concerned. I've been trained exclusively in the Problem Based Learning (PBL) method. This is a stark difference from the old way of teaching. Before you had a set of standards that you taught and checked off the list. (By the way, I've seen numerous checklist for Common Core on TpT.) The PBL method is the complete opposite of the checklist method. The skill and drill is definitely OUT with this method. Students are asked to solve  real-world problems. Students will use various methods for solving the problem and no one way is correct. Teachers will no longer teach students a set of rules or algorithms. Students will "discover" these on their on by being immersed in student discourse. The teacher's role will be that of a facilitator. The problem I've been faced with is there is absolutely NOTHING on the market to help with implementing this type of approach, so I was forced to create my own. While spending numerous hours looking at student work samples, I noticed the lack of consistency. In many cases it was hard to even know what answer the child came up with. Even among trained professionals there was disagreement over what the child was thinking. In the PBL method student thinking is the key. Again I came up with a method to help reduce the confusion. I needed to create a standard for solving problems, so we could put our focus on the more important things. That's how the A.L.I.E.N. method came about. The students choose their own method for solving the problem but are then asked to make sure it is in A.L.I.E.N. format, so we get a clear understanding of their thinking. A.L.I.E.N. stands for Answer, Label, Isolate, Explain, and Number Sentence. I love it, and it has helped tremendously when it comes to math discourse.
I've had the opportunity to look at several examples of student assessments for the Common Core Assessment that is coming sooner or later.  If these examples are anything like what the real assessment will be like, those teachers not teaching the PBL method are doomed. Seriously these assessments are ridiculously hard. A child will need a lot more than the ability to add, subtract, multiply, and divide to score proficient. I'm very curious to know if any others states are being trained in the PBL method.

In my freebie for you, I've given you everything you need to implement this method in your classroom. simply click HERE or on the picture above  for your freebie. You can create these problems all on your own. If you are interested, I've created a TpT product with 110 problem sets (3 problems per set) for a total of 330 problems. This is enough problems for an entire year of teaching.I've also included an overview of the method and given you question stems for conferencing with students.  I'm also having a 24 hour Flash Sale for my readers. If you want to pick up a copy from my store, click on the picture below.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Capacity and Measurement Conversion

This is a great math picture book for teaching capacity and measurement conversion.(Pastry School in Paris: An Adventure in Capacity) After reading the book, I let the students make Surprise Pudding. I buy a large box of instant pudding for each group of 5 students. I take the pudding out of the box, so they can't read the recipe on the box. (That's  why I call it surprise pudding.) I give them a recipe card that requires them to convert to cups. Students get to do all the measuring and mixing. This is great for those students who don't have any experiences in cooking. Finally, we all enjoy a little taste of Surprise Pudding. Click on the picture below for your free copy of this activity.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween Freebies

Are you ready for Halloween? Here are a few freebies to help you out this week. First, I have a monster theme Writing Menu. If you missed my post on Writing Menus (plus freebies) and Writing Workshop, check it out HERE. The movie prompt for this menu is Monster's Inc. Click on the picture for your free copy.

Next, I have a free ebook that you just HAVE to read with your students. This book is from We Give Books. You will need to register, but it's free and fast. It is completely worth the time because they have so many great books. Just click the cover of the book for a copy. I also have a little printable to go with it. Just click on the pic for that, too.

And finally, this is the cutest video of skeletons dancing to Thriller. I think I will let my kids do a little line dance to this video.
I hope you enjoy all these Halloween treats. Have a great week!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Building Writing Stamina with Writing Workshop and a Freebie

I believe in helping students develop their own writing ideas and build their writing stamina. The first few weeks we work on developing ideas, and I don't provide writing prompts for students. I feel if I start off providing them with writing prompts, they won't develop the ability to develop topics on their own. After the first 6 weeks, I start providing students with a Writing Menu on Mondays. The writing menu always includes a video prompt and a picture prompt. First, I show the video and read the prompt. Then I read through the rest of the choices. Finally, I ask students for other ideas for writing, and they add these ideas to their idea bank. These menus are just suggestions and not required writing assignments. Students are always allowed to write on whatever topic they want. My students and I love Writing Workshop.
Here is an overview of my Writing Workshop Procedures:
1. Writing Aerobics (see description below) 5 minutes
(On Mondays, I introduce the Writing Menu before Quiet 10)
2. Date Stamp and Quiet 10: (10 minutes)
Students write the date in their writing notebook. I put on classical music, set the timer, and the students write for 10 minutes. (They are not allowed to get up, talk, etc.)
3. Notebook Check (I check their notebook to see if they wrote an adequate amount. If they don't, I have them continue during recess. It is rarely a problem for long.) 2 minutes
4. Writing Mini Lesson (I usually work on one the 6 Traits of Writing) 15-20 minutes
5.  Writing Traits Practice (students practice a skill from the mini lesson) 10-20 minutes
6.  Author Share ( I choose two students per day to share their writing. I set the timer for 2 minutes per student.) 5 minutes
I love using the Writing Workshop model and my students writing stamina is unbelievable by the end of the year. They NEVER say, "I don't know what to write about."
Now the Writing Menus I promised, click each of the pictures for your free copy. The link to the video for the writing menu follows each picture. If you like these, let me know because I have a bunch of these made and can write another blog post and give you more. I'm just not sure how people will like having the video prompt as part of the menu.

This writing menu is Halloween themed. The video for the video prompt is The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. This is a link for a longer clip. If you want a shorter version, just check YouTube.
this writing menu uses the video clip from Disney Pixars, For the Birds. I use RealPlayer to download the videos from YouTube. Then I convert them to mp4 using A little time consuming but it works:)


Writing Aerobics is a spiral writing program that is meant to be completed daily as part of your Writing Workshop. It only takes 5 minutes a day but the results are dramatic. It is 150 days of spiral figurative language exercises. My students become very proficient in using figurative language in their daily writing. I've turned it into a game and the students look forward to it everyday. Click HERE or on the picture to check out this product in my TpT store.
Good luck as you continue to create magic in your classroom!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Measurement Magic: Making it Fun and Easy

I like to use foldables in my classroom. I created a couple of foldables for teaching the Standard and Metric System. This foldable works best on the larger 12' X 18' construction paper. The picture is on the smaller construction paper but you can see the labels are a little over the edges. I have created one for both the Standard and Metric system. You will need to fold both sides of the construction paper toward the middle and cut to make four windows. I've created a graphic organizer of the entire system, and that goes under the system window. I have students keep this foldable as a reference throughout our measurement unit. Click the picture below for your free copy.
Also here is a great product for teaching metric system conversion. It is the Magnetic Metric Staircase from Educational Insights.
Just stick the chart on your magnetic whiteboard. (The magnet is super heavy duty.) Take the two thick foam pieces, cat and shoe, and place them on the staircase. Place the cat on the board first, then decide where you are converting to, and place the shoe on that step.
Finally, the students count how many steps it takes for the cat to get to the shoe and then either multiply or divide by 10 according to the arrow on the chart. Presto! It's magical how easy this concept is to teach with this handy visual. Educational Insights has also included several printables with a visual included. They have done all the hard work for you. You gotta love this product, and I was thrilled to review it for them.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Teaching Context Clues

I love teaching vocabulary! One of the best strategies I've come up with is to use a graphic organizer and PowerPoint. The PowerPoint is set up to give first the word and then the sentence. After revealing the word and sentence, I have the students guess what synonym would best replace the vocabulary word. It helps to actually put their guess in the sentence. That way they can see if it makes sense or not. I also show them how sometimes the definition to the word can be found in the sentence. Finally I reveal the synonym and picture for the vocabulary word and the students fill in their graphic organizer. Notice there is no section for the sentence. I don't think it is necessary, and it takes many students entirely too long to copy it all down. I only have them write the synonym and not an entire definition for the word, too. I find my students retain this bit of information far better than a long definition, and also the standardized test ask for the synonym only. For your FREE COPY of the graphic organizer and PowerPoint visit my TpT store  HERE or click on the picture above.
These vocabulary words can be found in the book Bad Case of Stripes. This book can be viewed for free on the website Storyline Online. Use this vocabulary lesson before or after listening to the book online.

 Click on the video for the link to the online book.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fraction Fest: CCSS Aligned Hands-on Activities

I just finished up a two week introduction to fractions. My students were pretty much blank slates when it came to fractions. Our state standards did not put much emphasis on fractions but the new Common Core has 4th grade teaching students EVERY little thing about fractions. At first I was really stressed out about it, but I'm loving teaching fractions. I think it is actually more fun to teach something the students know nothing about. I finished up the introductory unit with a FRACTION FEST. [This is similar to the Geometry Fest I told you about earlier in the year. Click HERE if you'd like to check out this freebie.] I had six stations set up around the room. Each activity dealt with a different and larger denominator. I started my struggling students out at the station with the smallest denominator. These activities were perfect for cementing those introductory fraction concepts in their mind. By the end of the day a could see the light bulb start lighting up for those struggling learners. The culminating activity was a Toddler's in Fractioniara"s Pageant. (If you don't get the name, check out TLC's Toddler''s in Tiaras.)  My students created the CUTEST little outfits for the Fraction Wear competition. Check out the picture of the "line up" portion of the pageant. Oh yes, I rolled out the red carpet (red butcher paper) and had "runway" music. Of course, I emceed the event and used the applications the students filled out for their toddler while the students walked their toddler on stage. So much fun!

If you'd like to purchase my Fraction Fest Unit, click HERE.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Common Core Math Freebies

This year my district started implementing Common Core Math. I spent the summer learning all about problem based math. One of the things they stressed was providing students with a Math Tool Kit. Students are to decide  for themselves what tools they need to solve their math problems. In their Tool Kits (plastic baggies),  I've included two sided counters. [These can easily be made with a circle punch and scrapbook paper. Purchase a solid color, laminate, and punch out the circles. The front will be colored and the back will be white.] I also included some math reference cards from Really Good Stuff. [ You could make your own or take pictures of math anchor charts, laminate, and put on a ring.] Basically you put anything you think would help students be able to independently solve word problems in the Math Tool Kit. I try to make most of the items cheap because manipulatives tend to get lost as time goes by. Even though I stress being careful and looking all around for pieces before we put the kits away, pieces still occasionally come up missing.  I keep a spare parts kit available for replacement. I stick those items found laying around after the kits have been put away in the spare parts kit, too. It makes me less grumpy that way:)
Have you seen these? They are place value disks and are intended to replace the base-ten blocks for older students. I love them, but they are way too expensive to buy for an entire class, so I created my own.  After I created them, I thought about how hard they would be to cut out. If I had just the right circle punch I could do it a lot easier but still it's not something the kids could do. SO..... I created place value squares! Print each disk or square on a different colored paper, laminate, and cut out.  My students were able to cut the square ones out themselves. I had them put them in bundles of ten and clip with a paperclip. We keep them in plastic baggies. You may pick a free copy of each by clicking on the pictures below. The disks have a place value mat included, in case you don't have any.

Another thing I've created for my classroom is a floor number line. USE PAINTERS TAPE for the line!!! When you are ready to remove it comes off very easily. I used masking tape last year and it was so hard to remove. Use clear tape for the numbers.
To introduce the number line, I have my students dance the Number Line Hustle. I use the music The Hustle by Van McCoy. I call out different numbers on the number line and they count the steps as they dance to that number. I only call a few students students to dance at one time. Then we play Number Line Taste Test. I have a variety of candy (some sour and some sweet) and they rate the taste of it by standing on the number they think it represents. You can find some gross candy at Halloween time, to insure you get some negative numbers represented. Click on the picture for your free copy.

Good luck as you continue to make magic in your classroom!