Saturday, May 23, 2015

Bright Idea..... Cupcake Liners!

Hello again friends!

While I know MOST of you are winding down, but I find that when the year starts winding down, my brain starts taking off!  Hence why I can' already.  So, if you're like me and are ready to get a *little* jump on next year, keep reading. 

The past few years, I've stopped using the typical teacher borders in trying to save a little bit of money.  For the last two years, I've used crepe paper which works pretty good, but the bad part is that I teach in a room with NO air conditioning.  Yes you read that right, no air.  It gets hot.  Really hot.  And humid.  Really humid.  So when that happens, the crepe paper sags.  It's not pretty, so I needed another solution.

Recently, my girls and I were on a shopping trip to Michael's in search of Beanie Boos.  Are you kiddos mad about these guys too?  Anyhoo, while shopping I came across some black, chevron cupcake liners and I bought them ALL!  I mean I seriously emptied the bin.  They were only 50 cents, plus a teacher discount?!?!?!  It was a steal I tell you. :)  So here's my new border that is slowly but surely going up around my classroom. Who knew cupcake liners could look so cute! 

 Happy decorating friends!!!!

For more Bright Ideas, please check the other bloggers below that have topics of your interest!  If you enjoyed this idea, please consider following us on Facebook or Maria's TPT.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Multi-Sensory Videos with Rock N Learn

 In March, a fellow blogger friend came to visit.  Jennifer from Stories and Songs in Second won over the hearts of my two little girls with her kindness, gift of books, but most of all, music.  Using my guitar (the one that she had to clean and tune because I have no idea how to use it), Jennifer sang the songs that she shares daily with the students in her classroom.  It got me thinking...

There is so much research behind the power of a multi-sensory approach in the classroom.  I remember learning in college how motivating and engaging music is to children.  They promote rhyme and rhythm.  I immediately went out and bought a keyboard because it was going to be used everyday in my classroom.

It has never been used.

I don't know what happened.  Somehow the music got lost.

But Jennifer reminded me of the importance that music plays in our little ones' lives.  I witnessed it again this year when my partner Jess introduced a shape song and a doubles fact song.  I would catch them singing these songs ALL the time and pretty soon they were also stuck in my head.

 A few weeks after this realization, Rock N Learn contacted me about trying out their Musical DVDs that are skill based.  How odd that this opportunity arose when it did!!  I jumped at the chance to add more music into our lessons.

After viewing these different DVDs, Jess and I decided that the time songs would be most beneficial to our firsties at this time in the year.  In first grade, we study time to the hour and half hour.  Immediately, I examined the table of contents for the DVD.  I really liked the way that they have time skills broken up.  It allowed us to show only what was needed and not the entire video.

The DVD teaches the skills with animated characters, songs, a rhythm, but also a lot of practice.  The video visually shows what it means to be half past the hour.  Modeling and explaining the different positions of the hands on the clock provided an excellent support to the lesson that we were teaching.

As we moved on with our classroom lessons and activities, what struck me as being most beneficial was the repetitive nature of the video and song.  It asked the students to tell time over and over and over again.   My firsties got to practice telling time to the half hour multiple times during this short segment.  Here is a short sample of the telling time DVD:

The DVD provided us with a quick, efficient, and engaging review but also a multi-sensory support to our lessons.

After we tried these video clips out, we have decided to begin the year off with the addition and subtraction Rock N Learn DVD.  It will provide another support to our little learners.

Rock N Learn has offered a 25% discount to all my readers (contiguous U.S. residents only).  The coupon code is KR8822.

You can also enter below for a chance to win the Early Math 3 DVD Collection.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I can't wait to hear about how this tool works for your students!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Making Measurement Meaningful

Wednesday is our planning morning for math.  Jess, Carrie, and I sit down, look at our curriculum map, and start talking.  It is truly one of my favorite things to do because it always pushes me to think a bit deeper.  One of our main goals this year was to intentionally plan lessons that make each math skill as meaningful to our students' lives as possible.

Well...after our planning session last Wednesday, I could not WAIT to write this post.

We sat down to discuss measurement but realized that we had covered what we wanted in order to hit the standards but we weren't satisfied that they truly saw how measurement impacted their lives.  Honestly, our minds were blank.  We had nothing.

I pulled up EngageNY's lesson on measurement just to see if anything fired up our creative juices.  What we found were some lessons on paths.  YEP! That was it.

Measuring distance with nonstandard units.  This is something that we do daily (well, not with nonstandard units).  Even if it is just running up to the grocery store, we typically think about what the shortest path would be to get there.  Or if there is a traffic jam we try to think about another route to take that would not be TOO out of the way.  Another example...sleeping babies.  When my girls would fall asleep in the car, I would take the longest possible way home just to keep from waking them up.

All of this conversation led to the construction of a small town in our classroom.  Luckily (for this lesson only), we have very ugly green and tan tile.  This was our nonstandard unit of measurement.  I taped off the floor with black duct tape.  Constructed a school, fire station, police station, post office, and a home with a cardboard box. Our firsties added some of their own buildings (like the bank below) as the lessons unfolded.

Jess and I decided that this was going to be a two day lesson.  On day one we took a lot of time explaining the purpose and importance of measuring paths.  Then we showed them the two paths that we had made using colored masking tape.  After a bit of debate, the class decided to measure the path using the tiles on the floor.

The tiles were counted for each path and we recorded the information on the board.  Our firsties were asked to determine the shorter path and explain why.  The class then constructed their own path together as we followed with a third color of masking tape.  We added this data to the board and put the three paths in order from longest to shortest.

To bring the lesson to a close, the students tried it out on their own in a paper format.

Day 2 played out much like the first; however, there were no paths when the students walked in.  They constructed all three paths together and we asked them to come up with a short story to go along with why the individual was walking from one location to another.

Then they were asked to try it out on their own.  It was so interesting to look at the different paths that the students created.

Now...not all of the sheets looked like this.  Some students wanted to just cut diagonally across the whole sheet or some took the loooooongest route possible even though the directions said "shortest."  But for the most part they could apply what they learned whole group to the independent practice.

And I have to was a lesson that came about rather spontaneously because of one worksheet we saw on EngageNY's website.  But it was one of my f.a.v.o.r.i.t.e lessons from this year.  I can't wait to do it again next year.

You can find this post and some other great "real life" math at:
4mulaFunThe Teacher StudioTeaching to Inspire in 5th, AND MissMathDork,

Friday, May 1, 2015

We ARE Mathletes!

This time of year can be so much fun in so many different ways.  One of those ways....showing what you've learned.
Today was Mathlete Day in my K-2 building.  I can and will take NO credit for this event.  My teammate, Jess, coordinated this event and it was one of the best times that I have had all year!

Here is what the scene looked like:
One playground.
20 math games.

14 staff members.
10-ish parent volunteers.
200 HAPPY, screaming, engaged children.

Here is how it worked:
Each kid received a 20 frame with a penny in each box.

They could go to any of the 20 games that they wanted.  Once the game was completed, the game volunteer would mark it off on their sheet.  15 games=15 cents=1 popsicle from the concession stand.

 There were 20 different games that hit the standards through interactive games like kicking soccer balls, throwing basketballs (into trash cans), or hitting shapes with water balls.  So many much fun!

But one of my favorite...the human sized calculator!

We ARE mathletes!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Baking Equivalent Equations

After working on number sense all year we were ready to find out if they could make equivalent equations.  We were pretty confident that they would.  But with each new introduction, we have really tried to make it a real world experience.

Equivalent equations...equivalent equations...
We decided to go with cookies because in a few weeks we will begin our cookie story problem unit.

Jess and I broke the class in two.  Each group worked at a different bakery.  We let them pick their bakery name :)  The bakeries received one equation.  They had to set up their cookie sheet to represent the equation.

Then they had to decide if their cookie sheet equations were equivalent.

Luckily, this was pretty easy for them. So we quickly jumped to equivalent equations with a missing addend.

We made up little bakery stories to go along with each problem.

Looking back on the lesson, we felt like it was a good introduction to the skill.  They had a purpose to the skill but also a lot of background knowledge to understand how to solve the problems.

Do you have any good tricks to teach this skill?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bringing Trash to School

With Earth Day being tomorrow, it seems most appropriate to discuss how we can reuse our trash.  Just bring it to school!

After our experience with the metacognition lesson , Karen and I decided we wanted to try out some direct inferring lessons with our firsties.

We decided to spread the lessons out over four days and leave the fifth day open to find out what they learned from the week.  After rereading the chapter from "Comprehension Connections" on inferring, we made our plan.  Each day we wanted to open the lesson with a different shoe.  The repetitive nature of that lesson would really help our students become confident in looking for evidence and using schema. We knew that they would enjoy this but wanted to quickly jump into making inferences within text.  So here is what we did:

On Monday Karen brought in her son's shoe:

We asked them..."Who do you think wears this shoe or what do you know about the person that wears this shoe?"  Immediately they came up with lots of ideas.  But with these ideas came another question..."how do you know?"
As they provided information to us, we recorded what they were saying as either evidence or schema.

 Then I read "The Secret Shortcut" by Mark Teague.  We made inferences about the text citing our evidence along the way.  I was really happy with the transfer of knowledge to the book.

Karen brought in her dog's shoe on Tuesday.  The kids had a lot of fun with this one.  Another Inference/Evidence chart was made.  Then they moved on to images.  There are a lot of great images out there on Pinterest or Google that can be used for inferring.  We had used some with a child that looked bored with his plate of food or an image of sunburned feet.  Basically, the kids need to gather evidence from the photo to infer.  Here is an example (of my child):

What can you infer from this image?

On Wednesday, we used a flip flop from Karen's daughter.  But our little firsties had confidence in this routine and came up with some great inferences quickly.  We did not write them down on chart paper this time but moved right along to more visual images.  We ended the lesson with the book "Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothes."  My sister had suggested it for this lesson and it was a great fit!

Thursday is when we brought in the real challenge, the real test.  Could they infer about my new neighbors across the street from the trash that I stole at the end of their driveway?  (This is just a made up story that I actually stole from the "Comprehension Connections" book).
Of course, we started the lesson with another shoe: my 4 year old's gym shoe.  They were getting good at this :)
Then came the trash.  I dumped out the whole black bag on the ground.  There was quite a bit of shock and disbelief on their faces. 

 After some discussion, we decided to organize or group the trash.  Then make inferences based on the groups of trash and evidence that we had.

Recording: My sister suggested using big butcher paper to place all the trash on and write the inferences right there next to the trash.  I ended up just making the same chart that I made for the shoe lessons.  This worked out fine for us.

By Friday we felt pretty confident that they did understand what it meant to make a good inference.  We decided not to do another shoe.  But our firsties had a different idea about that.  It could not be skipped.  So we inferred about a water shoe.
Then we watched two commercials that my sister recommended to us.  They were very powerful commercials to us (the adults!) and the kids were able to make some interesting inferences about the videos.  But we did keep asking them..."What is your evidence."  Here is the first one from YouTube:

Here is the second one from YouTube:

I think this is a good one to stop midpoint and ask them to infer about what is happening.  Then after the video I asked them "Do you think the adult planned this or the children?"  This was a very challenging question for our first graders, especially when I asked them to provide evidence.  I would be interested to hear what your students have to say.

To complete our week of inferring, we asked the kids to do a sort.  They had to read/listen to a sentence and infer whether the event occurred during the day or night.

I will say it has been a lot of fun to co-teach these types of lessons with our first graders.  I feel so lucky that we have the opportunity to learn so much from each other.  And I truly think the kids enjoy having two teachers up there acting goofy and pulling information out of them.

One final note...two or three weeks after this lesson one of my students found some random flip flops in a desk (we move classrooms).  And someone shouted out "we need to look for evidence!"  Ha!!!
Maybe we did something right.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Lesson By Tanny McGregor

Earlier this week I posted this picture:
 I'll was totally a teaser.  We had such a great time watching Tanny McGregor's lesson on Wednesday that I just couldn't wait to share all about it.

But then this little one turned five and wanted a dragon my post had to wait.
But I think my time has finally come to to share this amazing experience.

Tanny McGregor is the author of Comprehension Connections and Genre Connections.  She is a co-author of Comprehension Going Forward.  The reading teachers within my school have read her book Comprehension Connections.  They have discussed it, marked it up, tagged it, and taught it.  It has changed the way that we approach our introductions to new comprehension strategies.  Honestly, it has changed the way I introduce many topics in all subjects (but that is for another day, another post.)

Let's dig in...Tanny's topic: THEME!

The lesson began with a discussion around the word theme.  Immediately a hand shot up..."You mean like a birthday party theme?" Yes!! Our first connection was made!
To build a better and more concrete understanding of theme, Tanny dug into her bag.

She pulled out a container of sand with a note card at the bottom that said "theme."  Using her fingers to touch the top of the sand, Tanny explained that the sand is the surface thinking that we do.  But when we dig deeper (with a small shovel), we use deeper thinking.  We uncover the theme.

This was illustrated right away with a short poem by Jeff Moss. 

The kids analyzed all the surface level things about the poem with Tanny: there are 14 words in the poem, capital letters, and 2 contractions.  As these things were pointed out, my students touched the surface of the sand.

We chorally read the poem, the teachers chorally read the poem, and the students chorally read the poem.  Then it was time to take the shovel and "dig deeper" into the poem.

Students discussed what they thought the theme of this poem may possibly be.  As the possible themes arose, they were written on this chart.  The triangle represents the three text cousins: poem, pictures, and book.  The heart represents the possible themes that they all contribute to.

We moved on to the pictures.  These were found within the text Each Kindness.  Tanny did not read the book or even look at all the pictures within the book.  She just showed a few of the illustrations and briefly explained what may be happening in them.  Students were asked to "turn and talk" about what the possible theme of the book.

The theme ideas that were generated were added to the chart.  Then it was time to turn to the last text cousin: the book, Red.

Students listened intently and made some great inferences and predictions about what was going to happen as Tanny read the book.  This was my first time hearing the text, so I was eager to see how it connected to its "cousins."  As the book came to a conclusion, the students and teachers were once again asked to conclude what possible themes the three texts share.  All of these ideas were recorded:

We never decided on a definite answer for the theme.  She allowed students to make their own connections between the text cousins.  These were possible themes and she did not discount any of them.

To bring the lesson to a conclusion, Tanny brought one student up to the front.  She discussed surface level things about the child as she played with the top of the sand.  He has on a red shirt, he wears glasses, etc.  Then she asked the teachers to "dig deeper" with the shovel and share deeper things about the child.  What a great way to bring the lesson full circle!

It was powerful, meaningful, and we enjoyed every second.  When our students traveled to their next class, math, they were busting with excitement.  They said, "We met a REAL a REAL one!"  I have to agree with them..."I met a REAL INSPIRING one!"

P.S.  I would like to dig just a little bit deeper into my personal learning from this lesson.  I would like to talk a bit more about the text choices that Tanny made.  You can find this post at Adventures in Literacy Land on Wednesday.  Another topic I want to discuss: the power of observation!