Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Have You Entered Our Huge Summer "Diggin' Series" Give-Away Yet?

If you have not entered our huge summer "Diggin' Series Give-Away yet, you are really missing out on some great prizes!  We have over $300 dollars in gift cards to Amazon, Target, and TPT along with other special teacher prizes.  You have ONLY 4 more days to head on over to Laura Graham's Blog "Where the Magic Happens to enter multiple times.  Each of our 10 winners will also receive a great bundle of teaching products from our wonderful group of teachers as a way of saying thank you for your support and friendship.  SO, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Time for the "Diggin' Series" Give-Away

Over the summer, 38 bloggers participated in what was known as the "Diggin' Series" of blogposts hosted by Laura Graham with a variety of topics for teachers.  To celebrate the end of this series and the back-to-school season for most teachers, the bloggers made donations so that we could host this wonderful give-away for our readers.  Here is what we will be offering for our followers to have a chance to win:
*$100 gift card from Amazon
*$50 gift card to Target
*$58 value to Thirty One gifts (Teacher tote + lunch box)
*$50.71 laminator + 100 pouches
*Two $25 gift cards to TPT
*3 $10 gift cards to TPT

The give-away will be live on August 10, so be watching for the link!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Using the Back-To-School Excitement to Fuel a Strong Learning Environment for Your Classroom

...Begin School!

The beginning of school is SO important in so many ways because that first impression that you make on your students and your parents can establish an environment in your classroom.  If you appear unorganized and too laid back, parents and students may view you as to easy-going with an expectation that perhaps you really do not expect homework to be completed all of the time and especially not necessarily on time.  If you come across as if you already have the entire year planned out, then you may be viewed as inflexible and unwilling to adjust your teaching plans as needed for your students to learn.  You have to find the happy medium to show your parents and your students that you are organized, well-planned, and excited about the new year and use their back-to-school excitement to fuel a strong learning environment for your classroom!

First of all, communication is going to be a key area for creating a strong learning environment in your classroom.  You have to be able to easily communicate with your students as well as their parents, so you will want to get to know them to make that line of communication a little easier.  To begin, you will want to first introduce yourself and be sure to include something fun and interesting about yourself so that parents will know that you are down-to-earth.  Parents find it difficult to communicate with teachers who try to view themselves as a higher authority figure that others.  Once you have broken the ice with your introduction, you will offer something to both the students and the parents (if this is at a Meet the Teacher Night).  For younger students, you can offer them a small welcome treat such as a "I am Gushing with Excitement about Having you in My Class This Year!" with a bag of fruit gushers containing that message wrapped around them.  Another favorite of mine is to use a fruit roll-up and wrap a message around it that says "Here is a roll-up to roll out and welcome you to my classroom this year!"  You can do this with any type of small treat and create your own type of message, but if you like these, here is a link to my product in my TPT store.  With the welcome treat, you will want to have an information sheet that the student can fill out to give you more information about them and to help open the lines of communication.  For the parent, you can have a laminated card with your contact information that has a small magnet on the back so that they can stick the card to their refrigerator at home.  With this card, you can also have an information sheet that they are able to fill out to give you more information about them and to also open the lines of communication.  The parent information can be sent home if this is not a Meet The Teacher Night.

Secondly, you want to establish procedures and expectations (otherwise known as rules) in your classroom.  When you list these out to your students as a dictator, they become difficult to enforce.  When students develop the list themselves (with your input and help, of course), they buy into following them alot more later on!  I learned this lesson the hard way very early in my teacher career.  You can certainly start with a list for which you need to establish procedures and expectations, and then the students can help you come up with the specifics and consequences when they fail to meet what is expected.  Oftentimes, you will find that the students themselves will police each other with the rules when they develop them together.  You should certainly keep a written list posted in a highly visible area of the classroom where all students can see them at all times.

Finally, discussion of the daily schedule with a posting of that schedule also somewhere in the room is helpful for the students as well.  Different grade levels may operate on different schedule for different days of the week, but discussing the schedule ahead of time with the students so that they have some idea of the types of activities that they will be doing each day will help to keep them focused on the learning for that particular day.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Reading Comprehension from a Parent's Perspective

The focus this week is on reading comprehension, so as a math educator, I thought I would bring in a parent's perspective this week.  Now, please do not get the wrong idea here because reading comprehension is certainly important even in a math classroom where students are expected to read math word problems well enough to comprehend what is going on and then know how to set up the problem to then be able to solve it.  I have always argued as a math educator that a standardized math test is more than just a math test.  It is a math and a reading test!  Anyway, back to reading comprehension.

In our school district, the students always have a required amount of time of independent reading to complete for homework each night.  As a parent, I have to sign a paper once they have completed the required amount of timed reading.  I have always been bothered by the idea that they are reading but may not necessarily be understanding what they are reading, so the "teacher" in me has taken the time to question them at times about what they have read.  With the increased amount and difficulty of homework as well as the increased number of after school activities, my time spent questioning them about their independent reading has decreased.  While I do understand that students have to find their own love for reading and that this independent reading possibly is trying to encourage that at home, I do worry about  the development of reading comprehension and want to do all I can as a parent to help at home.  Because as a teacher I know that all parents are not going to take the time or make the effort to do this, I started thinking about what a teacher might be able to ask a student to do in order to show some evidence of reading comprehension from the independent reading at home.

Thus, one thought I had was about having my children (and teachers could require the same of their students) create their own questions about what they had read.  Students love to pretend like they are the teacher and write questions for a quiz or test!  They would pretend like they would be writing the questions in a way that someone else who had read the same book would have to answer them.  Therefore, they would also need to provide correct answers for the questions as well.  A teacher could decide to collect these questions to use in group discussions over the books once a certain number of students had read the same book, or these questions could simply serve as evidence of the reader's comprehension of what had been read.

A second thought was to have children write a short journal entry after each independent reading assignment where they had to focus on the main idea about what they had read including main character names and events, along with the mood and tone (depending on the grade level of the student).  I believe that the more that a student can learn to write about what they read, the better they will comprehend and the more they will develop their writing as well.

I do not have any related reading comprehension products, but I do have one writing product to help with the development of writing that I will link here.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Making Math Workshop Time Meaningful

The topic of discussion for Week 2 of the "Diggin' Into Series" is Math Workshop.  Out of the list of topics, I must admit that this is my absolute favorite since I have always taught math and have worked with resources at a variety of grade levels.  Right now in one of my summer courses where I am working with some future elementary teachers, we have been having discussions on our Discussion Board in an online course about the root of their math anxiety (for those who suffer from it).  You would be amazed to hear some of the stories from these future teachers about how early elementary teachers planted the seeds for their years of math anxiety that grew stronger with each and every struggle that they have faced.  Perhaps good organization with math workshops and positive experiences with intervention from a teacher might have prevented the beginning stages of this type of anxiety.  Who knows?  We are certainly exploring this as they work toward becoming future teachers.

Make Math Workshop Time Meaningful

While I realize that you may believe that many of the students in your classroom today are visual learners because of all of the technology that exists in the world today, I am guessing that you still have some learners who are auditory (prefer to hear to learn), verbal (prefer to write or speak to learn), kinesthetic (prefer to physically move or touch things), logical (prefer to reason when learning), social (prefer learning in groups), and solitary (prefer learning alone).  The problem is that you cannot satisfy all of the learners in your classroom with one single type of problem presentation and activity in your math workshop.  You have to offer a variety of problem presentations and allow students to work on the concepts you are teaching from a multiple of meaningful learning approaches so that they can leave your classroom having learned by the way(s) that influences them the most.  

When I first started teaching, I was especially guilty of teaching the way that I was always taught.  I figured that if I was able to learn that way, then so should everyone else!  Right???

Wrong!  That was one of the first things that I had to learn to change.  Just because I was a visual learner who also loved to physically move and touch things with my hands did not necessarily mean that my students loved doing the same.  Thus, when I began thinking of ways to introduce new concepts to students or instruct my new teachers about introducing new concepts to students, I knew that their Math Workshop time needed to be built around the different types of learning styles.

How would it look in my classroom?  Let us pretend that I was introducing the idea of equivalent fractions to my classroom.

I would begin the introduction of the new concept with  some type of foldable for their interactive notebook that would hopefully allow my kinesthetic learners to be moving and touching something and for my logical learners to be trying to reason the idea behind the word equivalent.  I would have the students write the term "equivalent fraction" and offer them a formal definition only after I first allowed them the chance to offer guesses at what they thought that the term might possibly mean (especially since we would have already studied fractions and they should have realized that the root word was "equal").  The foldable would have flaps with the reduced form of an equivalent fraction listed below a nonreduced form on a flap folded on top of the reduced form to show several examples.  I would provide the first series of examples of 1/2, 2/4, 3/6, 4/8 and then start the students with the next set of 1/3 (hoping that they would come up with equivalent forms of 2/6, 3/9, 4/12 after talking with me about where my other equivalent fractions came from on the first series of fractions.  I could then let a student give me a basic fraction to start us on the next example.  This work at our individual seats would also benefit the student who preferred to work alone.

Next, we would divide into groups of 3-4 students to allow the students who prefer to be social while learning.  I would have several different stations around the room for students to continue to work on the idea of equivalent fractions and also allow me the time that I may need to do intervention with particular students.  The equivalent fraction stations would include activities such as a concrete manipulative station, a virtual manipulative station, a scoot station using task cards, a quiz me section using the interactive notebooks, and another task card station where students all work the same problem to see if they all get the same answer.

In the concrete manipulative station, students must build models of the different fractions that were listed in the interactive notebooks using centimeter cubes or any type of blocks where they could then show that the overall ratio of cube on the top of the fraction to cubes on the bottom of the fraction for each series was the same overall.  In the virtual manipulative station, students would go to the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives to practice finding the equivalent fraction of a given fraction as shown below.

The task cards offer so many option in the classroom and the game of scoot or the option for all students to work the same problem and then all check the answer at the same time and then give each other peer feedback can help students learn from each other.

For the game of quiz-me, one student can choose one of the fractions from the earlier list of equivalent fractions to see if another student can name one of the fractions that was equivalent to that one.  Then, the next student can do the same.  

Here is a link to the set of task cards mentioned above and another set of fraction task cards that I have in my TPT Store.  I have a variety of Math Task Cards sets to offer for Grades 1-5 that you can find by clicking on this link for Shari Beck's Math Task Card Sets.

 Equivalent Fractions Task Card Set
Equivalent Fractions Task Card Set
Naming Fractions Task Cards

Problem Solving Using Algebraic Representations

As always, I look forward to sharing with you again next time.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Organize to Optimize Your Teaching!

Sunday, June 1, 2014


Over the summer, I am going to be participating in a Diggin' Link-Up series hosted by blogger Laura Graham at Where the Magic Happens.  Each week will feature a different topic where different bloggers will share information from their own classroom and link their blog posts on Laura's blog.
Now, to set the tone for what I will share, let me remind everyone that I am in my 21st year as an educator and in my current position, I teach mathematics at the college level where I work with future and inservice teachers.  I do have multiple years of experience in a classroom and am frequently in and out of a variety of classrooms at all levels.  I analyze standardized test scores and develop activities to assist with intervention for students who struggle to master established grade level objectives.  With that said, my weekly blog posts may offer a different twist with each topic.


Once a teacher gets past the traditional organization with classroom furniture of what hopefully becomes a student-centered classroom as opposed to a storage-centered classroom, the teaching content for the next year should drive much of the next steps for the organization of the classroom.  The teaching content extends beyond the basic subject areas and must focus specifically on the students who will be entering the classroom, especially for a grade level where standardized testing has been given at the previous level.  Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that standardized testing is the most important part of teaching,  However, because standardized testing is used as a huge measure in determining the success rating of many schools, we have to make sure the objectives on those tests are certainly being covered in the classrooms.  Thus, one of the main goals I always had for myself over the summer in order to organize my classroom for the new year was to collect data for each of the new students I would be gaining.  I had a spreadsheet for all objectives that I would be responsible to cover and was interested in any data that might have any positive or negative effects on those objectives.  For example, this is what my Grade 4 Common Core Math Objective spreadsheet would have looked like so that I could mark the different objectives for a particular student and then track that student throughout the year in my class. 
Once this data was collected, I spent time analyzing that data so that I could decide more about how I would like to organize my classroom by first grouping my students.  I always liked to group students with a variety of levels in each group so that my stronger students might hopefully be able to assist my weaker students.  I often used groups of 3-4 students to keep the groups manageable.  Without knowing the personalities of the students, I often had to do some rearranging once school actually started, but I at least had a starting place based on my collected data.  My data also helped me to organize what would become my independent learning centers in my classroom for students who finished assignments early and needed extra work to do.  I always started with the weakest objectives first in the beginning of school to give more time for those objectives to be developed first.  I like the idea of using task cards which focus specifically on these objectives.  As objectives are developed, multiple objectives can be combined from different decks of cards for a spiral review.  My data also helped me organize my classroom by allowing me to determine ideas for projects, themes for bulletin boards, and objectives for extra intervention.  Again, all of these decisions were based on what I determined to be weak objectives for the students entering my classroom.
I have Math Common Core Tracking Sheets available for Grades 1-7 and ELA Common Core Tracking Sheets available for Grades 4-6.  All of these tracking sheets come in 2 versions:  a PDF version that you can simply print to use and a fully editable version that you can type on and edit if you choose.  Just click on the above links to be taken to where you can see the different tracking sheets available for the different grade levels.


I have 24 different sets of Task Card Sets in my Teachers Pay Teachers store and this link will take you to where you can see those sets:  Task Card Sets .  Here are some samples of what you will find.



Saturday, February 1, 2014

Using Virtual Manipulative Base Ten Blocks to Teach Addition

I often remember the Chinese proverb that states: Tell me, I’ll forget Show me, I’ll remember Involve me, I’ll understand With the use of virtual manipulatives in the classroom, not only can you show students how to add numbers that involve grouping, but you can also involve them on a Smartboard or at a computer. The idea of grouping to exchange a value to the next place value can not only be shown with this manipulative, but students can gain an understanding of the process by performing the action on their own. The base blocks on the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives website consist of individual "units" for the 1s place value, "longs" for the 10s place value, "flats" for the 100s place value, and "blocks" for the 1000s and show ten of each set for base 10. Not only can these virtual manipulatives be used to show place value with numbers, but ten pieces can be grouped together to be exchanged to the next place value for addition.
In this particular problem, the 1 unit will be grouped with the 9 units by clicking to place a lasso around all 10 units. When the lasso is made, the students will be able to see the 10 units come together to form a "long" to represent 1 group of 10 as shown below.
Students have to have an understanding of place value to know that a tens block cannot remain in the 1s place value, so they grab it and move it to the 10s place value. Notice on the picture above, the problem shows the group of 10 carried to the next column. Once students actually move the "long" to the 10s place value, the original problems shows how there were 0 units left and how there are now 7 groups of 10, or 70.
Here is the link where you can find this wonderful virtual manipulative: You can allow students to work problems that are presented or students can choose the option to create their own problem if you have a certain problem set that you want them to complete. Take a look at this wonderful manipulative. You will be amazed at how it can help your students have a firmer grasp for the concept of addition.


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