Sunday, September 27, 2015

SeeSaw- A digital portfolio app


Okay, I am obsessed with this app called SeeSaw. It is a digital portfolio for your students that can be easily managed with an iPad, computer, or iPhone. My favorite part? NO WORK FROM THE TEACHER! Students can on their own go and grab an iPad, click on the SeeSaw app, take a picture of their work, and add it to their portfolio. Parents can instantly see their child's work at home on their computer, iPad, iPhone, or Android! Even better? It's free!

First, watch the video to see how easy it is! The video will immediately convert you.


The initial set up is easy. All you need to do is:
  1. Add each of your students to the app
  2. Send out a group email to parents with the link to your SeeSaw page
  3. Push "accept" when parents ask for approval for their child's SeeSaw page
Here is a screencap below of what you see on the app. Obviously SeeSaw is not covered in little Glitter in Third buttons... I am covering up my name and students' names for privacy reasons! Hopefully the little Glitter in Third buttons aren't too obnoxious and it's still easy to see what the app looks like!

Parents cannot see other students' work, only the student that the teacher approves. So even though it is online, it is still private and confidential. 

My favorite part of the app so far? Group work! We do tons of collaboration and groupwork in my third-grade classroom, and there are always fights over who gets to take the poster/project home. No more tears! Parents and kids can see their work on their computer screen without being sad. Sounds like a win to me!

I have received incredible parent response in just a week. Parents have been emailing me to tell me how excited they are to see this from home. Although I already have a classroom Twitter, this is much more individualized for each student.

Here are some ideas with what to do with SeeSaw:
  • Artwork
  • Document writing
  • Group work
  • Math manipulative work
  • Posters 
  • Reader's Theater
  • Science experiments
  • Science observations
  • Use at parent conferences

If you have an iPad in your classroom, or even an iPhone, I highly recommend this app. It is a powerful way to showcase student learning to parents and give them a glimpse into your classroom.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

You oughta know.... chalkboard labels!

My room looks very different this year- new year, new team, new theme! It is green, blue, and black/chalkboard theme. Something new I incorporated this year and am very excited about are these great chalkboard labels and chalkboard markers that I bought on Amazon with Amazon Prime. Nothing better than ordering on the fly and receiving them two days later right to your school. Check out the labels and markers here!


I like using these cute chalkboard labels for:

  • Math manipulative labels
  • Name tags
  • Pencil cups
  • Book boxes



One of the things that I enjoy most about the chalkboard labels is that it makes it so simple to move kids' seats around! Now all I do is grab a Clorox wipe, erase, and rewrite a student's name! Since I am using tables with year, this is definitely going to be easy to change up my kiddo's seats.

I also put these chalkboard labels on all of my bookboxes, as you can see from the left. They help tie in all the black that I have this year on my bulletin boards, and they look stylish and the colors really pop!
These will also be perfect on my math manipulative drawers! I am constantly changing out which math manipulatives are available to the kids depending on what we are learning. Sometimes it's place value blocks, sometimes pattern blocks, sometimes fraction rods. Now I don't need to pull off a hot glue-gunned label, I can just Clorox wipe and rewrite. So easy!

Now that you read my "You Oughta Know About..." for the month of September, hop over to one of my blogger friend's sites to see their tip for the month :-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

How I use math stations in my classroom


I am fanatic for stations and small groups in my classroom. Whole group, although it can be really great, tends to result in my highest ability students being bored and antsy, while my lower students struggle to keep up and feel uncomfortable. Stations and small groups allows easy differentiation for students, and allows students to work in a setting with similar abilities and learning styles.

I was blessed with 21 STUDENTS THIS YEAR (compared to 28 in the past, so fantastic), I think stations will be even smoother than in years past. Last year I did BUILD so that I had five groups. It would get a little tedious, because it was so many stations that I had to come up with daily. Switching stations five times also gets a little draining for the kids.

This year I modeled my math stations off a great post I saw on 3rd-Grade Thoughts (she is fantastic, definitely check out her blog!!!).  Some of my wording will sound similar (such as Lesson Work), so please note that I gave her full credit for her fantastic post that originally inspired my math stations!


My new stations:

  • Lesson work
  • Centers
  • IXL
  • Teacher time

For example, we start place value this week. Here is what each station looks like:
  • Lesson work: A double-sided worksheet on place value that is review from third-grade
  • Centers: Roll-a-dice place value game in a wipe-off sheet from Lakeshore
  • IXL: 3rd grade standard B.2
  • Teacher time: Place value problem solving

EXPECTATIONS

Before we start doing rotations, the students and I have a discussion about how the routine will work. We create this chart together for each of the centers. As you can see, we discuss voice level, and what to do if they have questions or finish early. This anchor chart is a great place for them to keep coming back to if they are unsure what is expected of them, PLUS I love how I can quickly see it and remember to say things like "Hearts, you're on IXL but your voice level is at a 2." It makes it easy for a common ground and expectation.

THE ROUTINE
I flexibly group my students. Each group is named after a card suite (hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds... but make sure to explain what a club and spade is! The kids are never quite sure!). Each card suite symbol is a magnet. 

Setting up stations
I do math first thing in the morning after morning meeting, so I set stations up before school. I put up my large signs and card suite magnets, and I also put up the card descriptions at the top of the board. I write what each math center, IXL standard, and lesson work that needs to be done. This gives a place for kids to look at if they are confused what to do. 


Changing stations
 My classroom assistant (which changes weekly) is in charge of the magnets. This is a routine that needs to be practiced so that they understand which way to move the magnets. Every time that I ring the chime, the classroom assistant quickly changes the magnets. Math is over when I have met with each group, or each group has made a full rotation.

The components

Math centers
For my math centers, I always have something that is hands-on, uses a math manipulative, or a game. For example, for place value this week I found a fantastic resource from Teachers Pay Teachers called Roll it! Make it! Expand it! All the kids need are dice and a dry-erase marker. They had a lot of fun with it today, and got to practice their place value skills.

If you're interested, I offer a growing third-grade math center bundle in my TPT store!

Lesson work
Lesson work is the concrete component of a math worksheet or handout. I know worksheets are used less often nowadays in the classroom, but I firmly believe that they are an important piece of math in moderation. Combined with centers and IXL, they are definitely a helpful way to ensure that students understand a concept.

Lesson work is usually review of what we were doing the day before, or a spiral from something we learned earlier in the year. I do not like to give out new topics for lesson work, because my students sometimes really struggle with a new topic. Since I do not want to be disturbed when working with a small group, I do not want them sitting around being confused. Spiraling back allows them to reinforce and strengthen older concepts that they previously learned.

I leave the lesson work next to my projector in the front of the room. When students get on this station, they pick up a handout and get to work. Their voice level is a 0. If they need help, they can whisper to a group member for help. When finished, they highlight their name and put into the Inbox!

IXL

My school pays for IXL, a wonderful math website that gives each student a username and password. There is accountability for their work, since teachers can log on and see each student's progress, strengths, and weaknesses. Students also LOVE it since it lets them get a chance to get onto the laptops and iPad! I leave a list of usernames and passwords in the basket in case kids forget what theirs are. I usually select standards from IXL that we are currently studying, although closer to testing in the spring I spiral back with topics that are more difficult for the kiddos.

If your school has PTA money, I strongly suggest purchasing IXL. Students can use it at home, and it has made a tremendous impact on the mathematically ability of my students.

I have two computer monitors who make sure that the computers look as great as they did before school. As you can see above, I try my best to hide my computers in tall, wicker baskets so that you cannot see the wires unless you're standing directly above them. Wires are my enemy.

Teacher time

Teacher time means that students get to come and meet with me at my table! Students come over quickly and quietly. I already have pencils for the kids. Sometimes I ask them to bring over their math interactive notebook if we are going to work on them. This station is the most important one to me, because I get to work with students in very small groups. I can quickly assess them, and differentiate their learning. Usually we do something with mini whiteboards where I write questions up on the whiteboard and they answer it. It is also a chance that we can do remediation and enrichment, depending on the group!

How does math look in your classroom? Do you use stations or small groups?







Friday, September 18, 2015

Bring kindness into the classroom with CARES


Besides academics, I strive to bring kindness into the classroom. We can raise the world's smartest children, but ultimately I want to ensure that each and every one of my students is a kind individual.

We do Responsive Classroom at my school. A big part of Responsive Classroom (RC) is C.A.R.E.S. C.A.R.E.S. is a way to promote social and emotional learning in the classroom. I constantly tell my students to be respectful to others, themselves, and their materials/supplies. However, I think many students don't understand what respect really is. What makes up respect? It is just being nice? C.A.R.E.S. helps children understand ways to be respectful and breaks it down into easier terms. Kids understand the necessary social skills behind being a respectful student, classmate, friend, and peer. In this blog post, I explain the ways that I teach C.A.R.E.S. in the beginning of the year to my students to set them up for social and emotional success.


Firstly, I create a C.A.R.E.S. board on my large bulletin board. I chose fadeless black paper from Lakeshore Learning with white letters to really make it pop. I staple what each letter stands for underneath the letter (cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control). Under each word I put ways that students can show that trait. For example, the bubbles under self-control say "We will take turns," 'we will stay in our own space," and "we will follow directions." Bubbles under empathy say "we will be kind" and " we will be accepting." This board is a fantastic resource after we learn what each letter stands for. If I notice that a student is not staying in their own space and is touching other kids, I ask them to remind me about self-control. They can always go up to the board and take a peek at how to show that trait. It's great to watch the kids using this board and interacting with it throughout the day!



TEACHING
To teach each letter in C.A.R.E.S., I use read-alouds, games, and anchor charts. For each lesson, we first read aloud a book having to do with the social skill. Then, we complete a four-square anchor chart that has the social skills written in the middle, then in one corner "is," "does," "sounds like," and "is not." It warms my heart hearing the ideas that the children come up with, especially when they start brainstorming how to practice these traits in the classroom, cafeteria, and during recess. Next we play a game or activity to demonstrate the social skill. To wrap up the social skill, our closing circle question is "How can I show responsibility today," or "how did I show empathy on the playground?" It reinforces the learning and puts it into a real-life context.


COOPERATION
"Swimmy" is my favorite read aloud to talk about cooperation. It is very reminiscent of "just keeping swimming" and the end of Finding Nemo. So cute. The book is all about working together and showing teamwork! Afterward, we talk about the message in the book and create an anchor chart together.


For a cooperation activity, I buy a bunch of simple puzzles at the Dollar Tree (by simple, I mean a puzzle with about 9 pieces!). Students are put into groups, and one student is blindfolded. They all must cooperate to put the puzzle back together. It's so funny to watch, and SO CUTE seeing the kids be so sweet with one another about where to put the pieces. Another activity that I have used in the past is with a hoola hoop. The kids must pass the hoola hoop all around the circle holding hands- and NEVER letting go of another student's hand! It is so silly to watch, and we do it multiple times as we time how fast we can do it!


ASSERTION


Out of all the CARES, I think assertion is the one that kids never know what it means at first. Assertion is standing up to bullies, as well as learning how to be a leader. I like using the book "The Juicebox Bully" for this social skill. It is one of those books that seems a little cheesy to read, but elementary school kids take very well to it.

In the "Is not..." category, one girl said that assertion is not being "bossy." I am a big proponent of NO BOSSY! It is a term that seems sexist and really only used for women. When is the last time you heard that a man was bossy? I instantly correct them and tell them that instead of not being bossy, you just need to work especially hard on your "executive leadership skills." We talk about how being a leader means listening to others' ideas, delegating tasks, and looking out for others' best interests.







For the activity, my students were divided into four groups to show an example of assertion. Kids sure love making skits! Since it's the beginning of the year and beautiful outside, we do our skits outside in our ampitheater. The rest of the students practice showing good and respectful listening skills for their peers' presentations. It's also a nice time to remind the kids how everyone is nervous when presenting, so we need to make sure not to laugh, roll our eyes, or make fun of others for their presentations.

For closing circle, our question is how can we show assertion in school?






RESPONSIBILITY
This social skill is easiest for the kids to understand. All of them have heard "responsibility" a million times in the past, so this tends to be the social skill that they are most engaged in! 

For our activity, I do a kinesthetic activity. I ask questions, and the kids have to make a movement depending on the answer. For example, "I forget to bring my agenda home, so I call a friend to ask what the homework is. Responsible or not responsible? If you think it is responsible, jump on one foot. If it is not responsible, rub your head." The kids love doing the movements. This year I made one of the movements the whip and Nene!










I like to read a book about a bigger idea of responsibility, since kids are already familiar with what responsibility is. Kids know the idea of how to be responsible at home or in the classroom (making bed, pushing in chair, doing homework, etc.) I like the Great Kapok Tree. It shows how a tree in the rainforest is responsible for the well-being of thousands of organisms. We get to bring up the bigger idea of being responsible for your long-term goals as well as the environment. The kids discuss how they know they need to be responsible and focused to go to college, or to become a certain profession. They also talk about the importance of recycling and keeping our planet healthy and strong.







EMPATHY
I start the year with this social skill. I think empathy is the best one to discuss first thing because I always have so many new students in my class that need a friend and someone to reach out to them. This helps get the ball rolling so that kids will invite someone new to recess, ask questions to someone new to get to know them, say thank you to the lunch people, etc.

I usually describe empathy as "putting yourself in someone else's shoes." This is what makes the most sense to my kids.

For our activity, we play the game Supreme Beings. This is a fun interpretation on rock, paper, scisssors. All the kids start out as an egg. They squat down and walk around close to the ground. They find a person to challenge, then play rock, paper, scissors. The winner gets to evolve into a dinosaur. To be a dinosaur, the child holds out arms like an alligator and chomps around with bended knees. If they win again after a challenge, they get to be a Supreme Being, which means they get to walk around normally with folded arms. The students practice empathy this way because Supreme Beings can help the eggs win. The point of the game is for everyone to become a Supreme Being! It's a lot of fun to watch the kids working hard to help out all their classmates and peers.



SELF-CONTROL

Self-control is the first of the C.A.R.E.S. that I teach. This is also the lesson that I introduce our "take a break" chair and model how to use it. We talk about how it is a place that we can go when we are losing our self-control and need to regain it.

For our anchor chart, we talk about how self-control is restraint and dedication.

My favorite book for this emotion is Lacy Walker, Nonstop Talker. It's about a little owl who loves to talk, talk, and talk. After she loses her voice for a day, she starts to realize how much she's missing out on. For example, she learns how funny that her best friend is! My third-graders enjoy the story and it definitely is a home run for how important self-control can be. The main character comes full circle to realize how she is missing out on fun things in life because she is not controlling her voice.

To practice self-control, we play a game called Art Museum. One person is the Museum Curator. Everyone around the Curator is a statue. The statues must stay totally still. If the curator sees them move, they are out. There is one rule: If the curator says you're out, you're out! There is no arguing with the Curator, or else the game is over. It takes a lot of self-control to stay still when the kids want to giggle, as well as agree to not complain or whine if they get out but truly believe that they should still be in. Definitely a fun game!





Does your school use RC or C.A.R.E.S.? Do you have any other great book selections that you use in your classroom?



Are you promoting kindness in the classroom? Read and learn about teaching ideas and activities using CARES to promote character education in the classroom.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Express your SELFie!

Cute and easy "all about me" craft of the day.... express your SELFie!

My kids had a blast making these. They were so cute.... they kept holding up the fake phones and throwing out lines from that "let me take a selfie" song. I remember last year with our BYOD (bring your own device) policy I had to make a rule against selfies in class. Oh, technology.

Anyway, these were super easy for the kids but it gave them time to chat and get to know each other while they created their own selfie. All kids need to do is cut out the phone, the selfie stick, and the text bubbles. In the text bubbles, they write down information about them! They can be creative and put the text bubbles wherever they like, either on the selfie stick or around the phone.


So cute! And makes for a stinking adorable display. I sell these at my TPT store if you're interested in an engaging and easy activity :-)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Big room reveal!

Time for the room reveal! This year I entirely changed my classroom. It has been jungle-themed in the past.... jungle-theme no longer! My team changed a lot this year, so I figure new team, new year! I stuck with a green & blue color scheme, and added in accents of black/chalkboard.





ARMOIRE DECORATION

  1. Birthday signs: I made these cute bday cupcakes (I think originally bought the clip art from Graphics by the Pond). I also have candles that I will write the child's name on, then stick it in the correct month.
  2. Job chart: I also sell this on TPT. The job titles are laminated, so I rotate the job roles with a whiteboard marker every week. I simply write down the student's number to keep it easy!


BOARDS
I have three bulletin boards in my room.

  1. Hopes & dreams 
    For this, I used fadeless black paper and blue/green stripes border from Mardel. I created the words on my computer and printed/laminated. We create Hopes & Dreams the first week of school, which will be displayed on this board. Students think about what they hope to learn or accomplish in the school year. I display them all year long so that they can remember their hope and dream. 
  2. Our VIP
  3. For this, I used fadeless black paper and blue/green stripes border from Mardel. I created the words on my computer and printed/laminated. We have a VIP in our classroom every week. The student that is randomly chosen brings in a poster and five objects to share. Afterward, they get to answer six questions. We do this for morning meeting during the Share portion on Mondays.
    3. CARES

  4. For this, I used fadeless black paper, zebra borders, and turquoise borders. All were from Lakeshore Learning. I made the signs. This board is about CARES from Responsive Classroom. If you have not taken the course or read the book, I highly recommend it! Basically CARES falls under the blanket term respect. Respect is such a confusing word for kids.... what does it truly mean? Show respect through CARES... cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control. This board is great because throughout the year we can keep coming back and reference it. If kids are having trouble in the cafeteria remembering to sweep/wash, I can ask which CARES we are not showing (in that case, responsibility). I love how bright the white shapes pop!


BOOK BINS
My gifted kids LOVE to read. So much that they prefer reading over listening to one of my lessons! I keep my book bins across the wall. As much as I adore kids wanting to read, unfortunately it is too much of a distraction right next to their desks. I used these chalkboard mason jar stickers to label the boxes, and the book bins are from Steps to Literacy.

You can see I even changed my stacking drawers that every teacher always owns! My teacher across the hall from me does her room in reds and oranges, and so she was happy to switch out some of the colors that didn't match her room. Woohoo!




BOOKSHELVES 





HOOKS


LIBRARY 

I buy bins from the Dollar Tree. I also use Ladybug Teacher File's library labels. I usually only make my own stuff, but these are so colorful and beautiful, they are a must-have. Here's the link!


PROJECTOR 
I had a high podium before, but it drove me crazy. It was so tall, my kids had a tough time seeing over it. It also was rather unsightly. I played electrician and moved it into a low desk. Inside the desk is a scary nightmare... but it works! I don't like all the cords, so I did zebra duct-tape overload to help it look a little better. I stuck my DVD player/VCR in my armoire, because we really don't use it. I show videos on my projector purely using my laptop, so it was a rather unnecessary piece.

SINK & SUPPLY




TABLES 





TEACHER AREA 


TURN-IN AREA



WHITEBOARD 

Here is where I display my calendar, agenda, and daily schedule. If you like the calendar dates or schedule cards, click here and here!



Hope you liked the reveal! What theme/colors are your classroom this year?