Monday, December 15, 2014

Reflection: Math Assessments

We have one week left of school before 2014 comes to a close and 2015 brings on new learning, new challenges, and new successes.  My mind is buzzing with holiday lists, music, and activities.  But reflection, as well.
Jess (my math teammate) and I have been working really hard to improve number sense and math fact recall this year.  And we have tried a lot of new things:
number sense activities
how I see numbers: part-part-whole 
connecting addition and subtraction 
Students have been working on math facts at their own pace and we tried assessing them through flash cards.

That didn't work.

It was a nice try but we just couldn't get to everyone in a timely manner.  We had to change it up.  And I really think it is working out well.  I hope I prove to be right when the end of the school year rolls around.

First change: "My Number Time"
We are giving the students time to "play" with manipulatives for their specific number.  They can decide what materials they would like to use.  Here are some examples:

House with beans
Plate with colored chips
Colored cubes and crayons
Second change: After each "my number" time students take a quick self-assessment.  This helps them and us to determine if they are ready to take a quick assessment and move on to a new number.

We tell them that if the self assessment is not quick and easy, then they are not quite ready to move on.  Our firsties have really done a great job with this self assessment.  They are honest and I think it is really helping them to realize what they know and don't know (quite yet).
This sheet allows us to determine who we need to meet with the following day.

Third change: When they ARE ready to take an assessment, Jess and I pull over an individual or a small group of students to give them a fact assessment.  They look like this:
Some are mixed sheets and some have facts for only one number.  They all include addition, subtraction, and missing number because we have been teaching all facts as part-part-whole.

While the students take the assessment, we watch them and time them.  Jess and I decided not to set an exact time that each student needed to finish the sheet by but we really hope for it to be under 1 or 2 minutes (depending on the student).  We are trying to make sure that they don't use their fingers or another strategy. We want them to KNOW these parts.  And for some students they just need to be reminded (they need the confidence) that they do KNOW the parts.

But some students do not know the parts automatically.

I created these intervention sheets and they have really, REALLY helped.  These half-sheets help to illustrate how the parts of a number are connected.  I think they help because it is pretty explicit and concrete for them.  There are two different types of sheets, depending on what the individual student needs.

This routine has been working so well for our first graders.  They are feeling successful and enjoy this individual time.  For Jess and I, it is a time that we can provide differentiated, individual instruction.

We plan to continue this routine in 2015 but will continue to add components as we see the need for individual students.

If you would like to try this out with your students in 2015, it is half off right now. 

What do you think? Is there anything we could add to this instructional time?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

What We Believe In

It is the month that we focus instruction on the holidays.  And there are so many holidays to study during this month!  It is fun to take the kids on a tour of all the different celebrations around the world.

Last year we made a really important decision as a building (K-2).  We decided that we wanted to spend the entire week before winter break on the belief in our students.  Not their spiritual, religious, or cultural beliefs.  But the belief in themselves as learners.  It is the gift that we are able to give them everyday as teachers.  It is the gift that not all of them get in their home environments.  And it is a gift that they need.  Not to mention, a great way to end our year and to look forward to the new year ahead.

So we take an entire week to tell them that WE believe in them as readers, writers, mathematicians, and learners.

KG fonts, Sweet Times in First border
Last year we worked to transform the building into a Winter Wonderland.  This year, we plan to do the same but have a few new tricks up our sleeves.  Here are some pins that we found to help us out. (click on image to go to original source)

Stars and Snowflakes Theme:
Source David Galbraith
Source: Curls of Red
 We hope to fill the hallways with snowflakes made from marshmallows or cotton balls, tinsel, white yarn, and white tulle.
Source: Unknown
Students will use this tree to display their "star" power.
Source: MPMideas
We want to recognize all the great things that our students do for each other!

If you want to check out some more ideas that we contemplating for for this year, click here to see our building "I Believe Week" pinterest board.

Each day of the week will have a theme.  Students can dress up for that day and there will be special activities planned.  Here is what we plan to do this year:

If you would like to do a week like this at your school, I am happy to share this sheet with you.  Just email me!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

How-To Writing (with a few Freebies)

It's that time of year again friends!  This is when we dive into 'How-To".  We use Fancy Nancy to help us with this unit.  Tomorrow our students will write an "on demand" piece for us about how to build a snowman.  This helps us get an idea about how much our firsties know about this type of writing.  I mean... we already know how much they know, but it's really just to confirm our suspicions. :)

After the on demand piece, we will begin taking pics of our firsties before they were fancy.  I LOVE it! Then it's all on!  We will spend the next three weeks getting fancy!  Learning all about adjectives, fancy words, fancy things, fancy manners, and all things fancy.  This is one of my favorite units because each year we're adding on to make it even better!  I think this year we are even going to have a red carpet walk for our firsties! *EEK* (I'm seriously squealing because I CAN'T WAIT!)

Here's a little freebie to wet your palate! :)  Rubrics are so hard and Em and I spent SO(with a hundred extra o's) much time on planning them out this summer so I'm giving it to you!
Happy December Friends!!!!

Also, I will give the fruits of my How-To labor to the first three friends to comment.  Be sure to leave me your email address so I can send it your way. :)

I'd love for you to check out these guys too and let me know what you think!          

 Happy Monday sweet friends!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Beautiful Mess.....

SEVERAL weeks ago we finished up our Pattern Story unit.  It was a new unit to Em and I.  We, like all the Lucy lovers out there, had started the last two years with a small moments story.  This was hard, so VERY hard for our firsties.  Not only do they lack experiences, they lack the vocabulary and the ability to narrow it down to that one moment.  So... we tried it for two years. I know we probably should have tried it for one more, but we didn't.  We just abandoned it and decided to go with the pattern books that we had been thinking about doing for the last few years, but didn't know just how to fit it in.
The pattern unit took us about four weeks and we studied several different types of pattern stories. Then, we made a chart to write all our learning on.
This was the day we went through all our pattern stories in order to choose the one that was just right to publish.  I texted Em a picture of this beautiful mess.  It brought a tear to my eye.
Once the perfect piece was chosen we had to use our writer's eyes to revise and edit our pieces. 
This is also the day when I wear my Mike Wasowski shirt because let's face it, that guys writer's eye is AWESOME!  It's  my favorite......

A few of our finished on demand writing pieces.

 (A labeling pattern)

 (A time pattern)

 ( A back and forth pattern)

  (Telling a story pattern)
At some point in this lifetime I will have a rubric we created on here for you, stay tuned. :)
And... this past weekend we got into the holiday spirit by putting up our tree and decorations.  It's so funny how this year our tree is VERY front heavy from the middle to the bottom.  That's what happens when you have three girls that are under 50 inches. :) 
I'm going to love this memory and it makes me crack up every time I look at it.  We know it's before Thanksgiving, but this year we just couldn't stand to wait.  We've been rocking out to Christmas music EVERYWHERE. 

These two friends have reappeared and have already had a few adventures.

Louis (on the right) and Louise (or Lou-wiz as our 4 year old calls her) :)
Stay out of trouble friends... the elves are a watching. :)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Long Ago Versus Today (FREEBIE)

Last week Maria and I had one of those weird, amazing AHA moments.  It was one of those experiences where I said, "Why didn't I ever think of this in ALL my years of teaching?"  Seriously!  But let me back up just a bit...
 Our long ago and today writing unit was about to start and we were trying to brainstorm how, exactly, we wanted to tie in our social studies standards.  We started using the Laura Ingalls Wilder (My First Little House) books last year to complete an informative writing piece about long ago and today.

The "long ago" time period that we end up studying with the kids is the late 1800s to early 1900s.  We knew that we wanted to do some sorts.  And we wanted to focus on different categories (clothing, food, transportation).  But we were having a hard time finding exactly what we wanted because sorts for all these different categories required a lot of images.  We didn't have much time.

Then it hit me.

My mom.

I grew up around old stuff.  I mean OLD.  My mom collects antiques and she has since, well, forever.  I spent many hours at antique malls, shows, stores. Her house is filled (nope, it requires full caps) FILLED with old stuff.  It is pretty much all from the late 1800s to early 1900s.  Very primitive, very "Laura Ingalls-ish" stuff.
Why didn't I every think to tap into this resource?  My mom knows all there is to know about these objects.  We used to play guessing games when she would come home from an antique shopping trip.  But in all my years of teaching, I have never thought to actually use these objects to teach about long ago.  Maybe it is because I have just always been surrounded by it.  It is the norm to me. more!  We called up my mom and two days later she did a full presentation about long ago versus today objects.  And it was AMAZING!

My mom and I brought anything that we thought the kids could connect to.  I wanted them to have a reference point so that they could easily compare and contrast the objects being presented to objects of today.

We ended up with a long lunch table filled with objects.

We had slate pencils, lanterns, rug beaters, bed warmers, wallets, lunch pails, marble bags, muffin pans, butter churner, tooth powder, and so much more.  My mom was thrilled to share her treasures and the kids so excited to guess, connect, and share in her love for old stuff :)

My little Ruby even agreed to dress up in a bonnet, skirt, and apron.  I think she was just as excited to hear her grandma share little pieces of history.  But she had many questions after the presentation :)

What a great experience and I thought it would be great to have a follow up or a way to share this experience with others.  So I created this Powerpoint presentation. It does not include every single object that my mom and I used.  But it contains many.  And it is FREE :)

 I hope you find it helpful!!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Scoop

I feel like I have not linked up with anyone in awhile!  I saw this over at Teaching Trio and decided to link up really quick (really...I think I am avoiding some work that I need to dig into!)

Each Sunday has some components that stay the same.  My husband gets our food ready for the week (rice, chicken, or turkey burgers).  We also iron all the clothes that we need for the week.

These past few weeks have been particularly busy (hmm...sound familiar to anyone else?)  But today, it slowed down a little.  Why you may ask?  Because the two parties that I have been planning for the past few weeks ended yesterday.  They were fun to plan, set up for, and host.  But phew!  They are over.  This is why I am happy to stay home and really hope to read my book and watch some tv.  But there is some work to be finished first.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Visit From Steve Harpster

 It happened yesterday.  Steve Harpster came to visit, talk, teach, draw, and motivate the kids at my school. 

We had been prepping them for this visit for weeks!  They explored his books. Watched his videos.  They created Harpster-inspired art, that I used for decorations:

There was excitement in the air and when he walked into the room during breakfast there were mummers and whispers..."He's here....That's Steve Harpster!"  There were even rumors that girls were screaming in the bathroom.  He was the celebrity of the day at my school!

And that is just fine with me.  This is the first author/illustrator visit that the students in my school have experienced.  So I was thrilled that they viewed the visit as a big deal.  Because IT WAS!

If you are not familiar with Steve's How-to books, they show, step-by-step, how to create creatures by starting with a letter or number.  His focus is on imagination and visualizing of a story. 
Yes!! Thank you!! Just what my kids need to be good storytellers!

He started off with a great presentation but quickly slid into drawing with the students.  You could have heard a pin drop!

They started with a number or letter...

They followed along with Steve Harpster as he walked them through each drawing.

The drawings turned out so cute and the kids felt really successful!

After the presentations, I helped to fill all the book orders that we had collected.  Oh, wait!  Did I mention that this visit was FREE and that we get 30% of the book order sales! 

My daughters each got one of his books.  And what did we do that night after dinner?  We all sat down and drew Steve Harpster pictures together.  It was the best part of my day.  This little turtle is by my 4 year old :)

I am so thankful that we had this experience.  The teachers loved it, my principal loved it, and (most importantly) the students loved it.  Plus, we earned some money for our library!
If you have not checked out his website, here it is.
Steve Harpster