Texas Teaching Fanatic

A look inside a 4th grade classroom

Budding Blog

Jess, over at I {heart} Recess is hosing a linky party for bloggers with fewer than 200 followers, so I’m linking up to answer a few questions about myself.

I {Heart} Recess

1. Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging because I had heard a lot about blogs and how helpful they can be to teachers searching for new, creative ways to teach kids.  With encouragement from the most amazing technology teacher on any campus (Kelly Bost), I set up my new blog back in April of this year.  I wasn’t very consistent with posting, and started out posting mostly about school happenings.  Over the summer, I found a new addiction: blog stalking!  The more I read, the more I knew I had to be a part of this awesome online teaching community! I really started upping my game and taking this whole blogging thing seriously in July. Since then, I have reached a little over 100 followers! Thanks guys!!

2. What is your favorite subject to teach and why?

I LOVE teaching Writing to my fourth graders!  When I first started teaching this grade, I was terrified of teaching writing.  I’ve always been a good writer, but I just didn’t know how to teach writing.  I’ve attended numerous workshops and countless trainings to get to where I am today.  And I found my new love for writing resources–Gretchen Bernabei.  She makes writing make sense to kids, and in turn, they are much more successful writers than they (or I) ever thought they would be!  (If you haven’t heard of her, you HAVE to check out her writing resources.  You won’t be disappointed!!  I have lots of them linked to my Writer’s Workshop page.)

3. Describe your teaching style.

Being a tactile and visual learner myself, I tend to lean on these methods to do most of my teaching.  I like to give my students the opportunity to recall the information presented in as many ways as possible, so I incorporate music, movement, and visuals with almost everything.  We use manipulatives, technology, and try to have fun every day!

4. Give 3 interesting facts about you.

1. I have a supportive husband who stays home with our 2 year old son.  Although times get tough (money-wise), it’s worth every penny of it.  Our son has a unique opportunity to stay home with someone who loves and cares for him dearly.  He wouldn’t know the things he knows (ALL of his ABC’s, sounds, and numbers to 20) if we had to send him off somewhere else every day.

2. I was able to do my student teaching in 2 different grades: 2nd grade and pre-k.  Yep, those little snotty-nosed kids stole my heart, regardless of their limited life experiences.  Even though I now really enjoy my 4th graders, I loved the lower grades.

3. When I was younger, I used to go tubing in the ditches after a big rain.  My friend and I would ride the currents of the rainwater washing down to the bay.  We had great times living out in the country during the times when we weren’t scared of strangers picking us up or causing trouble.  Those were the days…

5. Do you have a TpT store?

Yes, I just recently opened my TpT store.  All of the items I have posted are free, so be sure to check it out and follow if you like what you see.  I have other projects in the works, so be sure to check back for updates.  You can visit my TpT store by clicking here.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!  Be sure to head over to I {heart} Recess for more budding blogs.

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Moon Phase Simulator Website

I have to give credit to my husband for this one.  He was on Reddit and saw a link to this awesome lunar phase simulator.  Kids have such a hard time understanding why we only see parts of the moon, as well as the physics of it all.  This website is great to show them how it works!  Click here for the website.

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Scratch Off Tickets in Elementary?

Can scratch-off tickets be used to encourage positive behavior in an elementary classroom? You bet! No, not your traditional lottery scratch-offs. Handmade scratch-offs with rewards.

I got this idea off of Pinterest, of course. All you need is some card stock, lamination or wide clear tape, and some acrylic paint.

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Just print out some reward tickets like the ones shown above. Laminate them or cover them with tape, and then spread dark acrylic paint over the reward section.

You now have yourself an awesome way to help students make better choices or a reward for great work.

The reward that my students are loving this year is the positive visit to the principal and the text your parents reward. Prize box? Eh. Texting their parents at school seems pretty cool. 🙂

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Have fun!

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Math Games and A Peek at my Week

I’m linking up with two other blogs today for my Sunday post.  The first linky party is with iSurf for their Math linkup.

Math Linky Party Graphic

Rounding Game

Students in 4th grade are usually proficient in rounding to the nearest ten or hundred, but once they see the comma and hit the thousands, they forget what to do, so I created a simple game to spiral this skill through my math stations.

I found a wooden cube that I had from an old set of math manipulatives and wrote tens, hundreds, and thousands on it (twice each, since there are 6 sides).  I also found some cube printables online, but chose the wooden one since I will be using this for awhile!  I then pulled out our math cards that have numbers 0-9 on them.  You could use a deck of playing cards, but you would lose 0 and 1, or you could find a printable set online, print them on cardstock, and use those.

The game: Pull out 4 cards from the deck.  Write the numbers down on a whiteboard.  Roll the place value rounding die.  When you know what place value you will be rounding, underline the numbers you will work with to round, and round your number.  Have your partner check your work.

It’s simple, but for some reason, when you add dice to a game, the students are more engaged and feel like they are really playing a game (when, in fact, they are reviewing their rounding rules).

I want them to be able to round to the hundred thousands by the time they leave, so I intend to transition them from my homemade dice to real dice.  They would then count over the number of places shown on the die they are rolling, and then round their number.  They will need to pull more cards with this version, too.

For more fun math games, be sure to head over to iSurf and check out the linkups!

And now for A Peek at my Week with Mrs. Laffin’s Laughings.

Peek at My Week

MONDAY:

This week we will begin multiplication in math.  This is always fun interesting!  There are so many different levels of learners in the room, so we will all start out very basic with base 10 blocks.

In Writer’s Workshop, we will be putting Gretchen Bernabei’s writing resources to the test!  I LOVE her stuff.  If you haven’t heard of her, you HAVE to check out her lessons and strategies.  She has a WEALTH of knowledge and shares what she knows.  There are numerous free printables on her website, and I have most of them on my Writer’s Workshop page.  We will start Monday by writing our “kernel” essays.

TUESDAY:

We will continue to use our base 10 blocks to explore multiplication in math.  In writing, we will begin our transfer of our kernel essay into a flipbook.  It’s amazing how much more students will write when you break it into smaller chunks.  The flipbook allows them to focus on one paragraph at a time using a text structure. (You can find the text structures on the Writer’s Workshop page, too!)

WEDNESDAY:

We will transition our multiplication practice to using pictures.  The students will put away the base 10 blocks and begin drawing pictures and looking at arrays and other pictures instead.  In writing, we will continue to fill out our flipbooks and ask questions about our writing to be sure we are adding in all of those juicy details our readers want to read.

THURSDAY:

Today we will continue using pictures and arrays to understand multiplication.  We will also continue in our flipbooks, adding those finishing touches to our stories.

FRIDAY:

Historically, Fridays are assessment days.  We will assess to see how far the students have come with their understanding of multiplication.  In writing, we will take our spelling test, and with our time left over, we will go back and reread our stories and make sure we are happy with what we have written.  We will celebrate those stories by walking around the room and reading others’ stories and writing down feedback for the authors.

It’s jam-packed, but it will be fun!  Have a great week!

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How Expectations Can Manipulate Success

no-fail

For those of you who don’t know, I’m teaching math again this year after taking on Reading and Writing for the past three years.  Teaching math is a little stressful intimidating when your passion is in language arts.  BUT–I’m putting on a smile and doing my best.

Last Friday, I gave an assessment on rounding.  My students have been doing so well that I just skipped that crucial piece of giving assessments: expectations.  Yep, I just gave out the test, reminded the students to put their name and date at the top and put it in the turn-in basket when they were finished.  The students put their name and date on it.  They took the test.  They turned it in.  They failed.

Or was it me who failed?

After stressing agonizing over the tremendous failure rate (to the tune of 17 out of a class of 22), I started to think.  Why did they fail?  Was it because I stink at teaching math?  Was it because they really didn’t know the material?  Was it because they were tired?  Why?

Then my brain turned on.  I didn’t see that they had shown their work.  I didn’t see that they had circled important information in the question.  They hadn’t labeled their numbers.  We did all of these things during our lessons and in their stations, but I didn’t see it on their tests.  Why?  Because I didn’t set up those expectations.

I’m all about giving my students a fair chance, so on Monday morning I spoke with several people about the problem and we came up with a simple solution.  Give the test again, but set up the expectations before allowing the students to begin.

So I did.  I told my students EXACTLY what I wanted to see on their assessment–all of the things mentioned above.  I told them that I expected nothing less.

Again, the students took the test.  They turned them in.  They succeeded!

First Round (Class #1): 2 100’s/17 60’s or below        First Round (Class #2): 2 100’s/16 60’s or below

Second Round (Class #2): 7 100’s/6 60’s or below     Second Round (Class #2): 9 100’s/6 60’s or below

A lesson on how expectations can manipulate success slapped me in the face.  Setting up expectations truly is VITAL to student success.  Students have to be reminded of what teachers expect out of them.  They have to know that it is not O.K. to settle for mediocrity.  We expect the best.  We expect them to try.  Most of all, we expect them to succeed.

**Oh, and this week, all but 4 (from both classes together) passed their end-of-week assessment.  🙂

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I’m tired…”zombie” tired!

There’s nothing quite like beginning-of-the-school-year tired. I know this will get better, but right now I’m pooped!

Celebrations: We had our first PLC (Professional Learning Community) meeting today. We talked about what our school is like currently–the good, the bad, and the ugly–and talked about what we want our school to look like. It is always good to get those feelings out on the table and collaborate about what we can so to make positive chances. think this is going to be a great year!

My kiddos are learning. That’s always good! We are working hard, asking questions, participating in discussions, and becoming more independent. So far, I’ve been impressed with how much my students are willing to take risks and so things out of their comfort zones. LOVE that! 😉

Too tired to post much more. My next post (hopefully tomorrow) will be dedicated to setting goals and expectations with students. I was slapped in the face this week by how much teacher expectations play into student performance… Stay tuned!!

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A New Spin on Exit Tickets in the Classroom

Exit tickets can be “gold” to teachers who really use them correctly.  I always tell my students that I want need them to ask me questions so that I know what they are thinking and what is confusing them, but you know how that goes.  They are too embarrassed to ask in front of their friends.  No matter how much I praise them or invite them to ask about what they aren’t understanding, it never fails…MAYBE one person will ask a question, but usually I hear crickets instead.

I just HAVE to have a way to know what they don’t understand on a daily basis, so I cooked up a plan to get them talking.  Rather than students asking me a question, I now ask them at least one question that relates to the lesson and ask them to write down their answer for me.  I tell them to answer it to the best of their ability so that I really know what they are using and confusing.

I’ve cut apart countless pieces of notebook paper to hand out Exit Slips, and it always seems to take up more time and waste so many trees.  (I’m not a “tree hugger,” but I don’t like wasting those valuable resources)  I wanted something that the kids would like enjoy doing, so I thought about using a paper version of Twitter to make it more interesting.

photo 1(15)photo 2(15)

I covered the inside of my door with black paper and glued some blue border around it.  Then my student teacher (Thank God for her!!) made me some little squares with the altered Twitter bird and the students’ names.  Each student has his/her own laminated card on which to write answers to the questions I ask.  We velcroed them onto the door, and then spiced it up with a bigger (altered version) Twitter bird and the saying, “#ExitTweets.”  I think it turned out great!

I can’t wait for my students to see it on Monday.  I know they will love it!  My plan is to have them find and take down their Exit Slip as they come into the room.  They will use their dry-erase markers to write their responses at the end of the lesson, and then put them back on the door as they leave.  Hopefully they can remember where they put them each day!!

This whole system is fun and all, but there is more to it.  This allows me to see their responses as a group, and pick out the ones who are not comprehending the lesson.  Rather than taking home numerous tiny pieces of paper (and worrying about them getting lost), I can quickly take a look at the door to see who needs extra help.  That way I can pull them in small groups during our intervention time the following day.

What system do you use to collect data on a daily basis?  Any suggestions are welcomed!

Wish us luck!!

Monday Made ItFor more ideas, visit 4th Grade Frolics!

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Friday Freebie: Wrist Reminders

I’m linking up today with The Teaching Blog Addict for their first FREEBIE Friday of September!

Picture of Free Teacher Downloads at Teaching Blog Addict

Short post, but I wanted to share my wrist reminders with you.  Have you ever needed your kiddos to remember something important to tell their parents?  Have you ever wanted to have a tool to attach a note to your students until they get home?  Try some wrist reminders.

Wrist RemindersNope, they aren’t fancy, but they work.  These are helpful in those times when you need to get messages home with students, but don’t want need to waste lots of paper.  Just cut them apart, write your message, and cut it out.  I have these cut and in a drawer by my classroom door for easy access.  I put them in a drawer by my classroom door since I sometimes remember things last minute.  Surely I’m not the only one!!

To download a copy, click here –> Wrist Reminders.

For more FREEBIES, head over to The Teaching Blog Addict!  Lots of great links!

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Welcome Bunting

I finally got my WELCOME bunting up on my wall. I think it turned out cute! I’m not crazy about the shininess of the laminating, but eventually the triangles will straighten out and not have as much sheen. I’m probably going to take them down over the weekend and set them under some books to flatten those puppies out! The more I look at it, the more it kills me. I’m not OCD… 😉

Just wanted to post a quick pic of some progress. I’m getting more charts up, so I will post updated classroom pics soon!

Interested in making your own bunting? Stay tuned for a tutorial! 🙂

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