Saturday, February 23, 2013

Spring is in the Air! (and so is a Freebie!)

Okay, I admit, with the forecast in New England for yet another snowstorm tonight and tomorrow, it's not likely to feel, (or look)  like spring anytime soon. But, it can seem a little more spring-like in your classroom with my FREE SMARTBoard Template Spring Sampler! Click on the picture to get yours!

What is cool about these templates is, once you add them to the "My Content" section of your gallery, anytime you have your SMARTBoard on, it is so easy to open one of these templates and have a cute page to write on! It will make the simplest thing you're working on seem more exciting and fun.

Here are the directions for adding the templates to the gallery, for those who might not know.

1. Once you download the file, open it up in Smart Notebook.

2. On either the left or right side of the page is what's called the page sorter tabs. The one that looks like a picture frame is the gallery. Click it, then click "My Content" at the top. You will then have the option to create a new folder, which is a good idea to keep your files organized. Name this folder, "Templates."
3. Click on the tab above the Gallery that looks like two pieces of white paper. This is the page sorter tab and it always brings you back to the view of the pages in your file.
4. On the thumbnail of the page you want to add, click the little inverted triangle in the top right corner. A drop-down menu will open. Way at the bottom, click "Add to Gallery."
That's it! Once you have put the first page in, the rest of the pages are easier, because you have already selected the "Templates" folder, so you only have to click on each thumbnail and choose "Add to Gallery". By default, they will go into the same folder.

I hope you enjoy these templates and...think spring!

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Hall Pass Linky!

I'm participating in my very first linky party! Reagan, from Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits, (awesome blog BTW!) had the fantabulous idea to host a Hall Pass Linky, but this pass is for the teacher, not the students!

Product:  My favorite product, and the one I'm most proud of is my math calendar. I've already blogged about it, but it is the product that I feel makes the biggest impact on my students. At first, I was the only 4th grade teacher using it in my building. After feedback from the 5th grade teachers about how they could tell who had been in my class the year before because of their math skills, the other teachers started using it too. The kids love it, and they don't even realize how many common core math skills they are practicing! The first picture shows the first page of the Core Calendar, where we figure out if Today's Number is prime or composite. This was from the 95th day of school.

The second picture shows a page from one of the Day Files. I have separate files for 180 days of school. Each file has 3 pages and covers a variety of math concepts for grades 4-5.
Area:  My favorite area of my classroom is the front carpet area, which is right in front of the SMARTBoard, (which, as I have mentioned before, I  L-O-V-E!) Even though 4th graders are technically "big kids", I still have them come to the carpet for almost every lesson. I like having them close and we can talk and share ideas more easily. They bring their notebooks, clipboards, and/or white boards. I also frequently refer to this poster that I have hanging at the front of the room.
I feel very strongly about this quote. I am always telling the kids that practice actually makes you smarter!

Signal:  I have two signals that I use. If I am near my desk, I use this chime. Many teachers in my building participated in Responsive Classroom I last summer, so we were all given chimes by our administration. The cafeteria staff are using chimes too! It is a peaceful way to get everyone's attention.
If I am not near my desk, I use the Class/Yes signal from Whole Brain Teaching. The kids really like it because you can use different variations and voices with it.

Sanity:  My sanity savers all seem to start with the letter "c"...

Coffee is a must-have in the mornings, as is a little dark chocolate after lunch, (and again after dinner!) My computer is my go to for information, entertainment, creative expression, collaboration, you name it! I am never bored...and now that I am blogging, I have even more things to read and places to explore! And finally, my colleagues help keep me sane...we all have different teaching styles, but we stick together and support each other.
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Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Simplest Classroom Management System Ever!

I have tried a variety of classroom management ideas over the years...names on the board with checkmarks, (okay, that was 30 years ago), moving clips up and down, bean jars, prizes, etc. For the past 5 years, since I moved up from 2nd to 4th grade, I have used an idea given to me by a fellow 4th grade teacher...(thanks Stephanie!)

Teacher Points/Student Points!

What I love about this system is that it takes absolutely no preparation or money, and I can use it as much or as little as I want, (or remember!) Here's the basic idea...I have a little scoreboard at the front of the room, (I actually just draw mine on the chalkboard.) When students are on-task, I just walk over and put a tally mark in the student column. If they are loud, off-task, or not following directions, I get a point. When they travel quietly in the halls they get a point. If another adult compliments the class, they get a point. When they transition quickly, they get a point, etc. Once I explain it at the beginning of the year, from that point on, all I have to do is walk towards the scoreboard if they are being too loud and they immediately quiet down ... without me saying anything ... gotta love that!

At the end of the day, whoever has more points gets 5 minutes. If they win, they get to put the 5 minutes towards Friday afternoon's Choice Time. If I win, I keep the 5 minutes for learning, because the fact that I have more points means we must have lost learning time that day being off-task.

Occasionally they skunk me, meaning I didn't get any points that day. When that happens, they get 10 minutes towards Choice Time. Believe me, that is very motivating! They will remind each other to follow the rules and I don't have to say a word..."Guys! We're skunking her...get in a quiet line!" (said in an intense whisper  as we were lining up to go to a special, and they know I need a quiet line to travel in the hall.)

At the beginning of the year, I award points more frequently during the day as we are building routines. Later on, I honestly forget sometimes! That's the beauty of this system, though...the number of points doesn't matter. It's just whoever has more at the end of the day. It usually works out that students earn between 20-30 minutes for Choice Time. We have a rule that if they don't earn at least 15 minutes, we roll the minutes over into another week, because less than that just isn't worth it.

One other thing that I do occasionally is to allow one student to earn a student point for the entire class. As an example, we do a yoga-type program first thing in the morning called Get Ready to Learn. I have a student with ADHD who has a very hard time sitting in his chair, let alone participating in the yoga. He regularly disrupted the other students during this time. One day I noticed that he was really trying to do the movements, so after yoga I told the class that he had earned a point for the whole class because he did something that was really hard for him. The class was excited and thanked him, and he felt great!

I do still have to deal with individual students being off-task or disruptive. I don't take a teacher point for this. I use positive time-out as recommended by Responsive Classroom. Sometimes students may need to stay in a recess and complete a behavior reflection. It varies with the situation.

So, if you're looking for a simple whole-class management system, maybe give this a try!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

SMARTBoard Math Calendar and a Freebie!

I am a HUGE proponent of math calendar! In about 15 minutes a day, you can can cover so many skills that often do not get practiced enough in the regular math class. When I taught 2nd grade, I did my calendar routine much as many primary teachers do...we practiced the days of the week, patterns on the calendar, skip counted, tallied the days of school, counted money, added straws and made bundles of know the drill.

I moved up to 4th grade 5 years ago and I still wanted to have a calendar routine, but I wanted to incorporate those skills that I felt my 4th graders students would need more repetition with...things like prime/composite numbers, factors and multiples, decimals, percent, place value, fractions, geometry, the list goes on and on!

I created my own version of math calendar. When I began, I used a large white board that I created a template on in permanent marker. Every day I would set it up at recess using dry erase markers. It wasn't fancy, but my kids loved it and their math scores improved!
If you look closely, you can tell by the big number section that this was done on March 15, 2010, just under 3 years ago. In that time, I have gone from the whiteboard this!


What prompted the switch? Three years ago this April, I got my amazing SMARTBoard!! I had been wanting one for so long... About 5 years ago, my district started awarding a few local grants each year for classroom SMARTBoards. Twice I applied for the grant, and twice I was not chosen. I realized it was because I didn't really understand the software and what it could do. So...this time three years ago, I spent my February vacation reading, practicing, watching online tutorials, and learning all I could about Smart Notebook software. Consequently, I was able to write a much more detailed and specific grant proposal, and as they say, 3rd time's a charm because... I got my SMARTBoard! YAY! (It still makes me excited because it has changed how I teach and I don't think I could ever go back!) Anyway, creating a prototype for math calendar was my first major project.

I have since completely redone my math calendar to incorporate more skills and to more closely align with the Common Core. This year, I also have students record parts of calendar in their math notebooks as the class helper writes on the SMARTBoard, which helps hold everyone accountable.

I believe math calendar is the single most important thing I do in math. Through the regular repetition of vocabulary and concepts, students gain a deeper understanding of many common core skills.

My passion for math calendar was also the driving force behind my starting to sell on Teachers Pay Teachers. Grade-level colleagues had been telling me to look into it for awhile, which I finally did last summer. It has been very exciting and rewarding to have my products used and appreciated by so many others!

The images above are from my sets of Day Files. I have 8 different sets for a total of 180 days of school. (Each file has 3 pages.) They are intended to be used with my core Calendar routine, which is a separate file that gets saved every day, where we track prime/composite, factors/multiples, and calendar patterns, among other skills.

If you are lucky enough to have a SMARTBoard, and would like to try a couple of freebie Day Files, click on the picture below.

Click for a freebie calendar sample!

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Monday, February 18, 2013

A New Adventure!

I said I wouldn't do it...there's no time... I have too much else to do...I couldn't possibly keep up with it... I'm speaking about starting my own teaching blog. See, in addition to all the responsibilities of teaching, I already have a classroom blog that I use to communicate with families, and I have a hard enough time keeping up with that!

And then, there's my TPT store. I started selling products last summer, and that can consume crazy amounts of time, for sure! And let's not forget Pinterest! I can get sucked in for hours pinning cool teaching ideas and products! No...I definitely DO NOT have time to start a teaching blog...and yet, I just spent all evening working on a template design, trying to get my background and header the way I want them. So, why am I doing this?

I blame Pinterest.

It all started a couple of days ago when I wanted to pin a cool simulation game for the Iditarod that I found online. I had used it with my 4th graders and they loved it. They even got to customize their lead dog... you know 9 and 10 years olds would be all over that!  Click on the picture to check it out!

Serum Run Iditarod Game
The trouble was, the website that it came from had no pinnable image. (Is pinnable a real word? My spell check doesn't think so! But then, it doesn't recognize Pinterest either...) Anyway, I wrote a post about the Iditarod game on my class website and pinned to Pinterest from there. Lots of teachers repined it, which was cool. But then I got to thinking about how maybe my students' parents don't want lots of other people on our classroom blog, where I have pictures of my kiddos. So...I'm going to give this a shot and see how it goes.

I don't have all the bells and whistles that I see on other folks' blogs yet. I still have a lot to learn. But I hope to figure things out bit by bit. They say new challenges keep your brain young, right? Well, my old brain needs all the help it can get! In the meantime, I now have a place that I can share teaching ideas and resources from without compromising the privacy of my students and their families.