Texas Teaching Fanatic

A look inside a 4th grade classroom

9 interactive tech tools that can help your child in the classroom

Thought this might be helpful… 🙂

NBC Latino

As the school year begins across the country, it’s time for parents like you to start thinking about how you can support your child’s learning over the next 10 months. Make this year a great one by getting involved, and keep track of which concepts or subjects are giving your child more trouble. Taking the time to talk with your child’s teacher twice a month will help you monitor your child’s progress so that you can jump in and help when they hit a stumbling block.

Let’s face it: Schools don’t always present materials in a fun and engaging manner. Really. So sometimes it’s up to us parents to find resources that do. One way to do so is with technology.

In our high-tech world, kids are learning through a variety of media, including digital technology. So consider these resources when you are looking for ways to help your child…

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Teaching Math with Movement

Our year is off to a great start!  Even though I feel a bit rusty with my math teaching skills, my students are (so far) really interested in learning and I’m seeing progress already.

We began this year with place value.  Our 4th graders are expected to read, write, and understand numbers through 999,999,999.  In 3rd grade, they are only expected to go up to 999,999.  For many students, the transition to millions is very simple, but for others, it’s a nightmare!  Seeing that many numbers all squished together makes them cringe.

I’m lucky enough to have in-class support from one of the best Special Education teachers I know.  Today she gave me an idea about using some simple movements to make this place value concept more concrete.  Boy, am I thankful, too!  This one, simple little trick made a WORLD of difference in the understanding today.  Curious yet?  Good.  I’ll let you in on this little “secret.”

Total Physical Response.  This is a term that has been thrown around quite a bit, but I just seem to forget about it at times.  TPR is basically putting movement to words to make certain concepts more concrete for kids.  When we talked about place value, we discussed how each set of numbers (hundreds, thousands, millions…) is read in groups of 3.  I told the kids that if they can read a simple 3-digit number, that they should be able to read any number, as long as they remember the “family” where each group of digits belongs.  When we see a comma in a set of numbers, it represents a family (hundreds, thousands, etc.).  When we see the comma, we make a large gesture with our hands like a comma in the air while saying the family name.  Then when we get to the last set (hundreds), we make a signal like “safe” in baseball so that the students know not to actually say that family name.

Here is an example for 789,646,210:

789 (big comma gesture while saying, “Million”), 646 (big comma gesture while saying, “Thousand”), 210 (“safe” gesture).

After doing this, 100% of my students actually understand how to read those numbers.  No longer are they saying those wacky numbers.  It’s amazing what a small gesture like this can do for struggling learners (and those that think they already know it all!).  Try it–you WILL see a difference!!  😉

Is there something that you do to make your students understand this concept even better?  If so, I would LOVE to hear your suggestions!

I’m hoping to be able to post more freebies over the weekend, as well as more pictures of great things that are happening in my classroom.  Stay tuned for more!

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First Day of School 2013

Whew! It’s over! And everyone for home to the right place. That is enough to call it success, right?

I’m extremely tired and ready for bed, but I thought I would drop in to say that the first day back with kids was really good. I only had to move one student from his original seat (I let them choose the first day–I’m crazy, I know) due to excessive talking. Both of my classes almost got finished with our Social Contracts. All that is left is signing our names and adding borders to make it final.

Most importantly, these students were very respectful and listened as I stated my goals for us this year. I told them that I don’t expect them to LOVE various subjects, but I want them to have the confidence and willpower to try new things and all challenges I put forth.

I told them that it is ok to not know, but it is not ok to not try. I also made it a point to explain that it is ok to make mistakes–EVERYONE makes mistakes (“…except Jesus!”–from a few kids), but it’s what we learn from our mistakes that makes us stronger.

Hopefully they take the message to heart because I meant every word of it.

As I said yesterday, this is going to be a great year! I have lots of sweet kiddos, and I’m looking forward to learning and growing with them.

That’s all for now. Going to bed. Need to be ready for another day tomorrow. Until next time…

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Kids Tomorrow!

Eek! The kids come back to school tomorrow! Summer is officially over. *sigh*

This will be a great year. Tomorrow marks my sixth seventh first day back! I can’t believe it. Wow, how time flies when you’re having fun!! 😉

My goals for this year:
1. Be organized every day! Take the time to clean up, put away, and sort things in an organized way.
2. Remain patient. I usually do a great job at this, but there’s always room for improvement.
3. Stay positive. I get in ruts sometimes where it feels like the world is caving in. You know, after the kids bomb that test you just knew they would ace or administrators tell you that you aren’t working miracles need to do more. It’s hard not to hang my head, but it always works out in the end.
4. Listen more. I like to talk. I come by it honestly. (Sorry, Mom, but it’s true!) I want to make an effort to shut up and listen to others.
5. Enjoy it. I haven’t had trouble with this–well, other than having to leave my newborn to go back to work–but I want to continue to enjoy my job, have fun with my students, and soak up their innocence and love for life. I don’t want to become one of those sour old teachers who despise every second on the job. (You have one of those in your head right now, don’t you?! We all know at least one!)

Tomorrow I put these goals into action and begin a new journey with new kids. And it will be great. 🙂

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2013 Classroom Reveal: Inside My 4th Grade Classroom!

I finally did it.  I cleaned up my room and snapped some quick pics before I left.  Warning: I make all of my anchor charts and rules and wall decor with my students, so the walls are very bare.  I’ve covered my bulletin boards, but there isn’t anything else on the walls.  You at least get the idea of what my “home away from home” looks like.  🙂

Here goes:

photo 1(8)This is a picture of the wall/bulletin board/shelf behind my desk.  I put pictures of my family at the top on the shelf, along with some keepsakes from past years.  I also put up all of my class pictures on the side of the bulletin board.  I have my own references and books on the shelves, and I figured you didn’t care about that stuff, so I cut it out of the pic.

photo 4(5)This is my whiteboard easel that holds the Writing Binders that my students will use to publish their writing, along with posters and chart paper.

photo 4(6)These are my classroom computers and my ELMO (document camera).  I have a Promethean board in my classroom and my projector is mounted in the ceiling.  You can see that from the whole classroom view.

photo 2(9)My mom made me some awesome curtains this year!  I love them very much!!  I used to have boring green ones, but luckily she was willing to help me give my room the facelift it needed.  This window is right by the door and looks out into the hallway.

photo 1(9)This is the sign-in area set up for Back to School Night and for parents to fill out on the first day of school (for those that missed B2SN).  I found that cute little whiteboard/chalkboard at Hobby Lobby for $5.99.  I just HAD to have it!!  🙂

photo 3(8)At the front of the room, underneath the Promethean board, I have just enough room to have a small shelf to hold materials that the students will be using on a regular basis.  I’m teaching math and writing this year, so it is a mixture of both.

photo 1(10)These are the table cubbies that I bought at Dollar Tree for $1.  Some of my students have already claimed their desks, so pardon the papers and names on them!

photo 4(7)Here is a closer look at my desk/teaching table.  I don’t have a “real” desk because all I do is junk it up!  😉  Instead, I just have a small table for my computer, a bucket of supplies underneath, and a small rolling cart with drawers to complete it.photo 1(12)A view from my teacher space.

photo 3(12)And last but not least, a look into my classroom from the door.

I’m super tired from my first week back.  The students come on MONDAY!  Where has the summer gone?  I’m signing off to enjoy my weekend.  If you are already back at school, hopefully all is going smoothly.  For those of you receiving students on Monday like me, good luck!  And for those of you who start even later, I’m only a little jealous…  🙂

Done for today!!

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Technology For Teachers

At our training today, we were given quite a few apps and websites that I’m going to try out this year. Hearing about so many in such a short amount of time was a little overwhelming, but I’m going to take it one step at a time and really get comfortable and knowledgeable about one or two at a time before moving in to the next one.

Here is a list of some of 5 of my favorites:

1. Teachnology – A website full of critical thinking activities and printable pages for students.

2. Storybirds – Short, visual stories that you make with family and friends to read, share, and print.

3. ZooBurst – A digital storytelling tool that lets anyone easily create his or her own 3D pop-up books.

4. Pics4Learning – A website with thousands of copyright-friendly photos to use in your lessons.

5. Moglue – Interactive eBooks for iOS and Android.

Hopefully you can use some of these in your classroom, too. I love incorporating technology whenever I can. I’m always looking for new websites and apps that will increase student engagement and performance.

What is your favorite new website? Please share!!

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Back To School I Go

Tomorrow I go back to work after a nice summer break. I always wish I had “just ONE more week,” but I’m also sort of secretly excited. The beginning of the year is always full of anxiety, hope, excitement, nervousness, panic…did I miss any? 😉

I’m almost ready for my classroom reveal. This week is only for teachers, and we have some time to finish up our rooms before “Back to School Night,” so I spent my last few days of summer away from my classroom.

I will be posting pictures soon. Hint: I’ve incorporated my black, blue, and zebra “theme.” I’m not really a theme person, so I decided to stay simple. 😉

For all of you that go back to work tomorrow, may the force be with you!! And for those that are already teaching your hearts out, we are right behind ya! 🙂

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Teacher Week 2013: 5 Tips & Tricks of Teaching

I’m linking up with Blog Hoppin’ again for the last linky party of the week.

Teacher Week

Today’s topic is tips and tricks that teachers use to help get us through those first few weeks of school.  Some of these things last all year, of course, but others are implemented at the beginning of the year for the most part.

photo 11. Social Contracts:  On the first day of school, I always create a social contract with each group of students.  I don’t like to give rules to my students.  Instead, I let them set the rules, and social contracts make this go much smoother.  I’ve found that the students are actually harder on themselves than I ever would be, and they always come up with the same rules that I would give them, but just worded in their own words.  For more information on how to manage this activity and some of the thinking behind it, click here –> Social Contracts.

2. Build the Climate: I like to have several class building and team building activities for the first few weeks.  Even though these students have been in school together for awhile, there are always new students that move in and others that are very shy and need help getting to know the other students in the room.  Kagan is a WONDERFUL resource for these activities.  My favorites are inside/outside circle, 4 corners, and think-pair-share.  I try to sprinkle these throughout the day.

3. Hand Shakes: Many teachers (and the school nurse) think I am absolutely crazy for shaking my students’ hands when they walk into my room every day, but I don’t care.  Teaching in a school with 78% of students coming from a low socioeconomic background means teaching things that aren’t on “the list.”  Shaking hands is a lifelong skill that these kids need to learn.  I think it also helps build that positive climate that we are all wanting.20130731-174532.jpg  For more information about this and the workshop where the idea was presented, click here –> Capturing Kids’ Hearts.

4. The Safe Place: In the back of my room is a special place where students can always go if they are angry, sad, or upset.  It’s nothing fancy, but a place for students to be away from all other students when they need it the most.  There are several ways to go about setting this up in your own classroom, and you just have to do what works for you.  I choose to put a bed pillow on the floor with a seat cushion and lots of stuffed animals to hug.  For more information on how to manage and implement your own “Safe Place,” click here –> The Safe Place.

5. Organization: One of the BEST ways to waste less time and get more bang for your buck is by staying organized.  This is where I have the most trouble.  I don’t have a problem starting the year organized, it’s keeping it that way!  I’m getting better and better at it, and this year I WILL stay organized all year.

Oh, and one more thing: KEEP SMILING!! The best medicine for any situation is a smile.  Breathe, relax, and remember: “This, too, shall pass!”  🙂

Do you have any additional thoughts?  I would love to hear from you!

I wish all of you the best of luck beginning a new school year!

teacherweek2Head over to Blog Hoppin‘ for additional tips and tricks!

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10 Fun Things About Me!

Today I’m linking up with Blog Hoppin’ for a fun linky party–10 Fun Things About Me!

BHmonday

1. I’ve just recently found my new addiction: blog hopping!  I think it’s fun to peek in on other teachers and “steal” ideas to make my own.  There are SO MANY great blogs out there, and I know I haven’t found them all yet.  That’s what is so fun about it.  Every day I find new information and new teachers to follow.

2. I teach in Texas in a town just south of Austin.  I absolutely love what I do.  When I was first hired, I was actually scared of 4th graders!  Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone!  After just a few minutes around them, I knew that my fears were unrealistic.  They are still sweet, love their teacher, and they don’t stink too badly!  😉20130807-194258.jpg

3. I have a wonderful husband and a son that just turned 2 last week.  This “terrible two’s” thing might just kill me!  Where, oh where do they get so much energy?  I’m young and all, but WOW!  I have to take a break every now and then to survive.  LOL  I had to share a picture of my little man so that you can see my inspiration for everything I do.  😉

4. We have one dog.  A mutt named Jimi.  He is an old dog, but still demands his attention when he is feeling neglected!

5. My favorite band is The Dave Matthews Band.  I’ve been to several of their concerts and enjoy listening to them in the car and even in my classroom.  Too bad I wasn’t the one who saw him stranded on his bicycle on the way to his show and gave him a lift!  Did you read about that?  He’s so awesome!

6. Purple is my favorite color….for now, anyway.  It changes from time to time.  Anyone else that way?  I’m decorating my room in blue, and I’ve picked up quite a few new blue pieces that are hanging in my closet, but I still love purple!

7. My favorite TV shows are Suits, Mike & Molly, Two Broke Girls, and The Big Bang Theory.  Out of those, BBT is my overall favorite!!!  I could go on and on about that show, but I’ll save that for another time!

8. I enjoy DIY projects.  I may have quite a few coming up in my near future…

9. I’m learning more and more about technology every day.  Blogging has forced me to learn about even those little things that make a big difference.  Also seeing so many neat ideas from other teachers about how to use and implement technology into the classroom is encouraging me to go full force this year!

10. I am also a FREE health coach to those seeking to lose weight or embark upon a healthy lifestyle.  I won’t go on a rant about that, but I’m here for you, too!

Well, that’s it from me.  I’m heading over to Blog Hoppin’ now to read up on others!!  Ta ta for now!

teacherweek2

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Monday Made It: Back To School Finale

It’s time again for Monday Made It with 4th Grade Frolics!

Monday Made It

Made It #1: Pencil Dispenser

photo 4(4)

So after seeing a few of these puppies on Pinterest and other blogs, I knew I just HAD to make one!! I’m already spending birthday money just to do this (my birthday isn’t until November!!). Yeah, I REALLY wanted one!! Anyway, I like to give love to my inspiration when I can, so here are some links to the pins and blogs that I searched. {Blog Posts: Ms. Third Grade, Teaching Maddeness, and The Resource(ful) Room; Pin by Melissa Resendez}

I’m more of a “simpleton,” I guess, so my pencil dispenser is just black with my signature zebra and blue ribbon across the front. This wasn’t hard to do at all. I took 2 pieces of scrapbook paper that I had from my scrapbooking days and cut it into 4 pieces (one piece for each of the front 3 sections, and then a larger piece for the bottom. I decorated the piece that goes in the front with ribbon and stickers that spelled out pencils, and then I actually just used clear tape to attach the paper to the dispenser. Since I used black paper, I was limited to the type of adhesive I could use without it being seen!

And there you have it! An awesome pencil dispenser that will make my life much easier….hopefully, anyway! 🙂

Made It #2: Clipboards

photo 1(7)

Front

Back

Back

My second MMI is a set of clipboards that I cutsified for my team members. As a welcome back gift, I decided to cover clipboards for my team members. They aren’t completely finished because I am going to personalize them once they make their picks. Instead of me choosing who each one belongs to, I’m going to let them choose.

These were super easy, and I’m sure you have seen them before. Most of you probably even have one! I just love school supplies and thought these would be a great way to welcome my team back to school. There will be 4 of us in 4th grade this year, and two of them are new, so may the force be with us! 😉

Thanks for stopping by! For more amazing ideas–and THE LAST MONDAY MADE IT OF THE SUMMER–head over to 4th Grade Frolics!

I’ve also linked up with Krafty Cards etc. for a linky party.

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