Monday, October 28, 2013

Reflecting on the Year So Far

I am finally returning to the blogging world after a very long absence.  It's been kind of a rough school year so far. It seems like it has taken much longer than normal to get things going this year.  We've had some changes at school- a new lesson plan system, new curriculum and of course,more paperwork- that have taken some getting used to. In addition to this and  a few behavior problems in my class, I also have a student with special needs (both academic and behavior) who is not yet identified.  Although he's getting some support through RTI, I'm the one who is dealing with him most of the time. And I'm tired!  I've even started to ask myself if it's time to retire. (My husband says it's not!)
So I decided this weekend to stop wallowing in self-pity and focus on what is going right in the classroom and spend some time taking care of ME!  My craft room is covered with school projects, but I put aside my laminator and centers, pulled out my crochet hooks and some thread, and made some Christmas ornaments.

I also took some time to reflect on what is good in my classroom this year.  Reading groups and Daily 5 are finally up and running.  I even added Listen to Reading this year!  I've avoided it for the past few years because I hate dealing with tapes/CDs, headphones and players.  But now I am using my computers- much easier!  We are using Tumblebooks right now and the kids love it!  I'm looking into other sources for online books; please share if you have any to recommend!
I love my math workshop this year!  I finally have a system that allows me to pull guided math groups on a regular basis.  My kids rotate through 10 work stations during a 2 week period, working with a partner.  I pull 2 groups/day, 3 days per week.  Monday is a whole group lesson, usually introducing a new concept or skill, with guided practice.  On Thursdays we usually do a whole group problem solving lesson and worksheet or other activity for assessment.  As with reading, I am finally learning to utilize my 3 classroom computers more efficiently and have them set up as one of the math stations.
Our wonderful PTA purchased a mini iPad for every classroom this year so we have been using it during our guided math groups.  On Friday, we experimented with Educreations to show our work.  Here's one of my friends showing how she solved a subtraction problem.

(I've enjoyed having the iPad so much I wrote a Donors Choose project for 2 more!  Click here to view my project.)

Now I'm off to have fun with bats, spiders and all things Halloween!  Have a great week!

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Writer's Block!

My poor blog sure has suffered this past month!  I was away from home for a good part of July, and found it difficult to blog on the road, and then once I returned home, I just wasn't "feeling it."  I don't know if it was writer's block or what, but even though I worked on a lot of things for school, I just couldn't get my thoughts into words to blog.  Hopefully I am back on track now!
School starts in 2 weeks- where has the summer gone? I have been to school a couple of times, and now my room no longer looks like this!

One of my goals this year (and every year!) is to be more organized and consistent with routines.  Last year I really enjoyed doing number talks with my class, but I tended to use the same materials and forget about others.  I used my dot plates a lot, but then I would forget about my Rekenreks and other tools.  So this year I am making some cards to help me remember different number sense activities from the resources I have available.  Here's the first set that goes along with our first unit covering number to 20.  Nothing fancy; just something I can share with my team to help ensure we get our firsties thinking about numbers. I plan on laminating these and putting them on a ring to keep near my teaching area along with all of the supplies.
Click here for a copy.

Here are a few pictures of how I spent my summer:
The county fair with my niece and nephew in my hometown.

Camping in Colorado

Confratute at UConn

It's been a great summer, but now I'm looking forward to getting ready for my new class!
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Guided Math Chapter 6: Part 2

Mrs. Crofts' Classroom
Today I am guest blogging on Crofts' Classroom again to share my thoughts on Chapter 6 of Laney Sammons' Guided Math.  This chapter is all about math workshop, which I absolutely love!  I summarized the chapter on Tina's blog, but I also wanted to share a little bit about how workshop works in my classroom and how I hope to improve it this year.  I also wrote several posts about my work stations last summer; you can read them here, here and here.

Deb Diller's book Math Work Stations was the inspiration for how I set up my workshop. I use 10-12 stations, depending on the number of students I have, so that two or three students work at each station. (Note:  I have 12 stations, but not necessarily 12 different activities. I often have 2 tubs with the same activities and materials.) I like this because I think it keeps the noise level down and is a little more controlled. Once I have a handle on my students' abilities and needs, I create the partner pairs who will work together for several weeks.  Other teachers have had great success with other formats similar to CAFE in language arts where the students complete activities in different strands like measurement, fact fluency, using math tools, etc. (See this blog post about BUILD.)  Some teachers have their students work in groups and rotate through stations, seatwork and small group work.  All of these systems have merit; you have to choose what works best for you!

This year I want to:
  1. Create at least one tub that always has some sort of graphing/data activity to complete. My plan is to eventually turn this into an investigation station where the students are actually gathering data.
  2. Avoid getting too caught up in "themed" stations.  Just because I bought a really cute packet of math centers for Halloween does not  mean that every activity in that pack is right for my class. I need to remember to choose activities that match the curriculum and the needs of my students.
  3. Continue to develop and use stations with similar formats.  One idea that I have is to have one tub that  always has activities using number cards.  The number range will vary, and I can use Donna's wonderful themed number cards for variety! (Math Coach's Corner on TPT)  Another tub will utilize Marcy Cook's number tile task cards.
  4. Create "I Can" charts for each new station.  I was really good about doing this at the beginning of the year, but slacked off mid-year.
  5. Try for more differentiated activities within the stations.  Keep the higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy in mind when planning activities. Are the students analyzing and creating?  I really want to utilize technology here!
One thing I have learned is that you have to introduce stations slowly and really practice the procedures.  For the first few days, all we do is free exploration of materials while we practice working quietly, getting our math tubs and cleaning up.  Then I add a task to each tub of manipulatives like "Take a number card and create a set using the manipulatives" or "Create a pattern."  Next I introduce a simple game, and we practice playing it with a partner.  I also like to do number tubs from Math Their Way (Chapters 7-8) during these first few weeks.  Here's a link to Math Their Way info, but basically the students work with a given number and use the manipulatives to represent their number and show combinations.  Then they draw or make a model of their work.  For example, one of the stations has toothpicks.  Students make arrangements of 5 or whatever number they are working with and then glue the toothpicks on construction paper and write a sentence to describe their work- 3 toothpicks and 2 toothpicks make 5 toothpicks.  I also include counting books at each station for early finishers.

After about 3 weeks the students are fairly independent so I can start pulling some small groups.  Again, you have to really teach the procedures and expectations of how to work when the teacher is with a group.  Have a plan for the restroom, questions, supplies, etc.  Basically, I tell my kids you don't interrupt the teacher unless there's blood or vomit!  (And I've had to explain that picking the scab off of a mosquito bite is NOT what I mean by blood!)  Some teachers wear a crown or use signs to remind their students not to interrupt when they are with a small group.  

Math workshop has become one of my favorite times during the day.  It takes a lot of work to get it going, but once it's up and running, you will love having time to work with groups and individuals!

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Word Families

Last year my district created a new word study program to take the place of the phonics/spelling curriculum we had used for years.  In first grade this program focuses on word families.  My colleagues and I were thrilled, but there was definitely a learning curve involved.  Now that we know what to expect, things should go a lot smoother and our instruction should be much more effective!
I've been creating some activities to reinforce the word families we will be covering. The first activity is themed to go along with my "Popcorn Words" word wall. Each week we add words that represent the word families we are studying.  These words have a ticket on them to show that they are a ticket to reading and writing new words.
My word wall waiting for words!

An example of my "ticket" words.  The district high frequency words have a popcorn picture in corner.

The activity I created will help me highlight other words from the families and keep all of the word families visible.  This packet consists of the 37 common rimes from Wylie and Durrell as well as some additional families used in my district.  The cards can be used for display and can also be used with the workmat and recording sheet at a literacy/word work station.  Head over to Teachers Pay Teachers to check it out!
I also created a" Bang"! type Freebie game to practice the short a families.

Teacher Created Resources is going to be giving away an Ipad!  Click here to enter.  If you win by following my link, I win an Ipad mini!  You can enter every day!
iPad Giveaway

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Monday Made It! July 8

I'm finally able to link up with Tara for Monday Made It!  To be fair, my husband did most of the work, but as the little girl in the Shake and Bake commercial used to say in her cute little Southern accent, "And I helped!"  (You have to be pretty old to get that reference!)

Two years ago I made these Rekenreks for my class.  The kids absolutely love them (and love saying "Rekenrek!")  There is an Ipad app and an online version (link) for demonstration purposes, but when I saw this demonstration model on Pinterest, I knew I had to have one.  My husband cut the PVC pieces for me awhile ago, but I didn't pick up the pool noodles until yesterday.  He cut them today, and since they were a little snug, I made the holes a little bigger by sanding them with a sheet of rolled up sandpaper.

I can't wait to use this next year! I somewhat followed the directions given  here.

Just for fun, here's a YouTube video of one of the Shake and Bake commercials I remember!

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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Building Mathematical Comprehension Chapter 4

Before I get into sharing my thoughts on Chapter 4 (very late!), I have to share a couple of my Dollar Tree finds.

 I have been looking for these divided containers for base-ten blocks for months, ever since I saw them on Pinterest.  I saw another blogger, Megan from Mrs. Wheeler's First Grade,  use cutouts similar to these for some simple literacy centers. (The cookies and milk would be great for something related to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie!)  I also got some big foam dice and some coupon holders for flash cards.  Oh, and some pool noodles for a project I hope to have finished so I can share it tomorrow!  I love Dollar Tree!

Now on to Chapter 4!  I had a lot of training early in my teaching career on asking questions at all levels of Bloom's Taxonomy.  It stuck, and now asking questions at higher thinking levels just is just something I do.  But it is important that I am not the only one asking questions.  Students need to learn to ask questions that can help them monitor their own learning and thinking.  We need to build on the natural curiosity of children.
On page 122 there was a sample anchor chart titled "Why Mathematicians Ask Questions?"  I can't wait to make a similar chart with my students this year!  We discuss thick and thin questions in reading all the time so it just makes sense to use these same terms in math. I love Laney's suggestion of introducing the comprehension strategy of asking questions in a small group.

Some of the activities mentioned for helping students develop their questioning skills are ones that I have used before, but not really in math.  I have used Wonder Walls and Question Webs in language arts, science and social studies; now it's time to add them to math lessons as well.  I pinned this on Pinterest the other day- perfect for this chapter!

Please head over to Curls and a Smile and link up to share your thoughts about this chapter.
Curls and a Smile 

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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Throwback Thursday

Happy 4th of July!  Today I am linking up with Cara from The First Grade Parade, one of the very first blogs I started following when I returned to the first grade classroom, for her Throwback Thursday linky. I've only been blogging about a year so I don't have a lot of old posts, but this is one of my favorites.  I'm drawn to it because it represents a big moment in my math teaching last year.  This anchor chart became one of the most used and powerful tools in my classroom.  I would still see students studying it while solving problems in May, looking for another way they could show their work and solve the problem.

Here's the post from October, 2012:

My district provides Exemplars for math problem solving, and my school has made using them a priority this year. I am the first grade representative on our campus math committee, so I will be partially responsible for guiding my team through the implementation of Exemplars.  Fortunately, I was already familiar with the program from my time in another district, but I have never used them with a whole class before.  So I decided this week to try out some Exemplar-type work with my class so I could share with my team before we actually do our first real Exemplar problem for our portfolios.

On Wednesday, our daily journal prompt was:
I have 8 apples.  Some are green and some are red.  How many of each can I have?

Many children just wrote the equation 4+4=8 and then drew a picture.  There wasn't a lot of evidence of their thinking although I was pleased that several of the students were able to verbalize that since 8 was an even number they knew they could make 2 equal groups!  So on Thursday I decided to change things up just a little and incorporate some of the routines that our math committee has established for Exemplars.  I wanted to emphasize that:
1.  Mathematicians show their work in different ways.
2.  You need to circle your answer.
3.  Use math vocabulary to explain your thinking and then highlight those words (an Exemplar strategy).

We started by discussing Wednesday's problem, and then I started a chart of ways mathematicians show their work.  I saw a similar chart on Donna's blog, The Math Coach's Corner.  (I learn so much every time I visit her blog!) Here is the chart we created- minus "table" as we added it later.

Then I posed this problem:

After we read the problem together,  I had the students tell me what they were trying to find.  I made sure that the word combinations was mentioned.  We discussed possible strategies, and then I let them go to work, reminding them to circle their answer and tell how they found the answer.  I gave each student a sheet of manila paper to work on.  Some students immediately started to write equations.  Others started to draw baskets.  Interestingly, a couple of students started to draw 8 boxes on their paper.  When I asked why, they weren't sure.  I think it is because we use this paper often for what I call 8-square activities; for example, I will write 8 short a words and the students will copy one in each box and draw a picture.  I noticed also that some students were spending most of their time drawing and coloring baskets so I stopped the class and did a quick reteach on math drawings and reminded them that these were quick sketches, not art class drawings!

When I noticed that most students seemed to finished or close to finishing we stopped and discussed some of the strategies they used and shared how many combinations they found.  About half the class found that there were 6 combinations.  We then used our highlighters to show any math words we used in our explanations.  Most students had one math word such as "I wrote number sentences" or "I used counters."  I then explained that mathematicians like to make sure of their answers by showing their work in a different ways and use more math language to explain what they have done.

The next day I used this same problem to introduce a new way to show work.  I used one student's work to show how she had the same combination twice, and I talked about how many students kept asking me if they were finished because they didn't know if they had found all of the ways.  I told them that sometimes we need a way to organize our data.  Using seven 2 color counters, I showed them how I would start with one red and then count how many were yellow.  I wrote this information on the Smart board in table form.  Then we made 2 red, counted the yellow and wrote it on the table.  Then I just wrote a 3 in the red column and asked  "How many yellow?"  We completed the table together, checking with our counters, and I explained that a table was one way to organize your thinking when working with combinations.  Then we added it to our chart.

This week we will do a similar problem: "There are 8 animals in the barn.  Some are cows and some are horses.  How many different combinations of animals could be in the barn."  I can't wait to see how they approach the problem now!

Cute freebie from MelonHeadz!

Enjoy your Independence Day festivities!

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Guided Math Book Study Chapter 2

Please head over to Tina's blog Mrs. Crofts' Classroom to catch my post on Chapter 2 of Guided Math. I was so excited to hear that Tina was hosting a book study of Guided Math this summer so I volunteered to blog about a couple of chapters.  I read this book last summer and tried to implement guided math in my classroom this year.  This summer I am revisiting this book as well as reading Laney's other book Building Mathematical Comprehension. I'm looking forward to another great year of math!

I highly recommend all of Laney Sammons books!

I've been so focused on the math book studies so far this summer that I've neglected my other goal, improving writing instruction.  We use Lucy Calkins Units of Study, but I feel like I need more.  If you have any writing ideas or books to recommend, please share!  You can link up here.

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Friday, June 28, 2013


I'm taking a little break from blogging this week to enjoy beautiful Colorado. My husband and I are here visiting our daughter. I'll be back to thinking about teaching and book studies on Sunday.

Edited on 6/30:  I posted this from my phone while on the road and couldn't see that the photo was too large!

Revisiting Guided Math

I am so happy that Tina at Crofts' Classroom is hosting a summer book study of Laney Sammons' Guided Math.  I read the book and participated in a book study last summer, but after attempting to implement guided math during this past school year, I'm ready to reread and make guided math work even better in my classroom next year.  However, due to traveling in Colorado without reliable internet, I'm going to revisit a post I wrote last summer for chapter 1.  Here's last year's post with some thoughts  I've added.

I had to become reacquainted with math 2 years ago when I returned to the regular classroom after years of reading intervention, and I discovered I loved it!  Last summer I followed an online book study of Deb Diller's Math Work Stations and implemented math tubs in my classroom.  The kids loved them and were always disappointed when we couldn't do them.  This year I want to really implement guided math, so this summer's book study of Guided Math by Laney Sammons is perfect!  Head over to Primary Inspired for all the details!
Chapter 1 covers the framework of math instruction including guided math.  It was reassuring to read that small group guided math does not have to occur every day.  I was worried about how to fit in all those groups, particularly if our class sizes continue to increase. (Getting to everyone enough times each week was a real challenge in guided reading this year!)  The schedule suggested is very flexible and can be easily adjusted to meet each classroom's needs.  The reflection questions at the end of the chapter asked us to think about our current practices in our classroom.  Here are my thoughts.

What worked this year:
  • Math stations:  Because I didn't have a lot of math materials, these took some time to create, but it was so worth it!  I love putting together new stations!  Two sources I rely on for quality activities are Donna at Math Coach's Corner and Lory Evans' Common Core workstations.
MATH STATIONS - Common Core - Grade 1 - OCTOBER
From Lory Evans
  • Organizing manipulatives:  I put all of my manipulatives in labeled plastic boxes so they were easily accessible for lessons and for students to use during independent work.
  • Calendar:  I created a calendar routine for my Smart board.  I tried to vary the activities a little bit each month and added a lot of number talk opportunities.  If we ever missed calendar time, I heard about from the kids!
  • Focus on numeracy:  As primary teachers, we all know the importance of a print rich environment, but we've never really focused on numeracy.  This year, I had a math wall and I displayed math anchor charts.  It was a small step, but I wanted the kids to know we valued math as well as literacy.
  • Math talk:  Kids were regularly given a chance to explain their thinking to others.  I need to do more, but it was a start!
Numeracy and math talk are so important!  This past year we made and displayed many math anchor charts just like we do in language arts.  I still want to create a permanent math word wall.  I am also reading Laney's book Building Mathematical Comprehension and just hosted the chapter on vocabulary.  (Check out my post here.) I definitely want to spend more time working with the language of math.
My goals:
  • More small group guided math. I'm still struggling with this a bit.  I did a lot more work in small groups, but I know I need to do more!
  • Utilize math journals:  We used journal prompts regularly, but I want the kids to use the journals to record their thinking and learning during lessons and activities as well. Our district also uses Exemplars, a problem solving program, and following some of the procedures from this program really helped my students communicate their math thinking.
  • Use individual math toolkits:  I attended a workshop by Kim Sutton who advocates that the students build a supply of math tools to keep in their desks.  I also want to use her number line.  These kits were lifesavers!  It saved a lot of time because I didn't have to pass out supplies like counters every time we wanted to use them, plus the students always had tools at their fingertips when working.  This year we kept 2 color counters, a number line, a 100 chart and a part-part-whole mat in our kits all year.  This year I am thinking about adding dice and coins.  I also want to follow Kim's suggestion and add small chalkboards made from poster board and contact paper.
  • Authentic assessments and record keeping.  Whoa, still need lots of work in this area!,
  • A new goal for this year: Utilize technology more.  We use our smart board all the time, but I want to see my kids use technology tools for problem solving and to share their thinking.
How does/will guided math work in your classroom?  I'm looking forward to hearing other thoughts on this book and how you are implementing the ideas in your classrooms.
Please come back and read my new post on chapter 2 on July 2.
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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Building Mathematical Comprehension Chapter 3

I'm supposed to packing for our trip to Colorado tomorrow, but I wanted to share just a few thoughts about Chapter 3 before we leave.
I love that this chapter refers to one of my favorite books on reading: Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor.  The schema activity using the lint roller is one of my favorite lessons to do at the start of each year.  (I also love her reading salad lesson that shows how much of reading is thinking!) This chapter also led me back to Debbie Miller's book Reading with Meaning.  Debbie makes a very important point when she reminds us of the importance of planning our think-aloud and modeling lessons.  I have books full of sticky notes reminding me of think-alouds and teaching points I can make.  Now I need to do the same thing for math lessons!
This year, as I introduce reading strategies, I plan on also modeling that strategy in math so my students can see that these are not just strategies for reading.  I like to create anchor charts with my students, but since they are usually on chart paper and not always the most attractive things, I created some smaller versions that can be displayed all year.  I hope to add each strategy to this set when I get home.
Click here to download connections posters
Now I need to go finish packing.  I'll be reading Chapter 4 at a campsite in the Rocky Mountains!

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Bloglovin and Feedly

Wow, so many bloggers have been posting about switching to Bloglovin so I figured I would jump on the  bandwagon.  However, being the indecisive type, I have also been trying out Feedly, so I have a follow button for both readers now!

Follow on Bloglovin
Follow my blog with Bloglovin

follow us in feedly

For more information, visit  Bloglovin and Feedly.
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