Friday, January 30, 2015

Preparing for State Test (without boring the kiddos)

Hey everyone! Mrs. Thomas here from Mrs. Thomas's Class

Here's what I am going to cover quickly with you today - STATE TESTING. Bummer. I know. But I am trying my HARDEST to make this fun for my kids the best way possible. 

I teach in Texas so our state test is called the STAAR. It's similar to common core testing in some ways, but in a lot of ways it isn't - but this is definitely adaptable to ANY testing. 

Where do I begin? Testing is hard. It's stressful. My 3rd grade kiddos stress out and it breaks my heart. I hate that. I remember being exactly like them when I was younger. The difference was my teachers still preached textbook, workbook, worksheets, repeat. GRRRRROOOOOSSSSS. That's definitely NOT fun to me - (if it is for you, please don't take offense. I'm just a very hands on, in your face kind of learner) 

So, after the benchmark test we gave our students a few weeks I realized some things my kiddos were struggling with. 
Main Idea
The list kind of goes on, :( 

So I decided then - done with the basal. It honestly did nothing to prepare my kiddos for the language that they see on the test so I have taken matters into my own hands. 
(my partner and I are doing the same thing, she's awesome too - you can find her on instagram under steponmemoreno!) 

I live and breathe off of task cards. I print them in color, we do stations, rotations, scoot, the list goes on. I print them in black and white they answer them in their notebooks to refer back to. 

I'm not going to just toot my own horn. is my GO TO for assessing. 
Rachel Lynette is also my HOTS lady. I print off her 4th grade stuff and give it to my kids.

I also take apart the previous released tests and that's how I make my task cards, by the amount of rigor they publish their questions, I make my task cards very similar so if you haven't ever checked them out, I love them. I make them for what we are working on or lacking in here so sometimes it's super random. :)

Here's my newest for February
There are multiple choice synonym/antonym, prefix/suffix, there are words where they ask them to find them in a dictionary, character traits they have to respond with a short story/paragraph. 

My winter stations also have grammar fix its. Something I'm going to try and keep up and make a bundle. (I have huge plans for summer ;) be ready haha!)

So, I just wanted to stop by and give you all some ideas to get your babies ready mentally. 

I also have been known to take my kids outside and teach all afternoon. 

If you have any other tips and tricks for getting your students state tested ready without drowning them in textbook and worksheets! Share below in the comments! 


Thursday, January 29, 2015

How Do You Manage Keeping Track of your Students' Schedules and Pull Outs?

Hi friends, it's Kristen popping over from Easy Teaching Tools.  I wanted to share an organization trick that has saved me this trimester.  I don't know about you, but my school has a ton of pull outs and push in programs.  I feel very fortunate that our school offers so many different learning opportunities, but it can make for a scheduling nightmare!
I've got friends attending speech, reading intervention, RSP, ELD, and more {all day-every day}!  Leaving a post it note on my kiddos' desk wasn't doing the trick because those friends needed reminders.  With the momentum of a great  lesson going, I'd forget to send my scholars until the dreaded phone call came. "Can you please send so and so to so and 5 minutes ago?"

I needed a better system, STAT!  I attended a great PD over the summer by Rick Morris and he suggested using your computer to set different alarms.  Instead, I decided to use my phone.  Wow, that was just too easy!

 To get some buy in, have your friend choose their ringtone.  That way, if you have several ringtones going off throughout the day, they'll be able to pick theirs out.  Super easy and no distractions.  As soon as my friends hear their ringtone, they bring me my phone and walk to their pull out.  This has seriously saved me this year, as you can see by my pull out schedule below!
I also needed a visual plan to keep posted in my room, mostly for the days when I have a sub.  Since our schedules change every few weeks, I laminated this template and just fill it in with an overhead marker for easy erasing, if necessary.  I add the schedules for my friends who have activities before school, during the day, and after school!
Grab a free copy of this schedule to use in your class tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Valentine's Day Treat Tags {Freebie!}

Hi everyone! Alisha here from Missing Tooth Grins! I'm here today to give you a little Valentine's Day treat! I figured with Valentine's Day just around the corner, maybe you could use a little freebie to help you get your Valentine's Day treats for your class together! I made these tags last year and they were a hit with my class! I will say, however, that I always always always have the class that is obsessed with bubblegum! So, of course this was a hit.

Click the picture below to pick it up!
{Credits to KG Fonts and Krista Wallden- The Creative Chalkboard}

I attach these tags to little bags of bubblegum and the kids just eat it up! Literally!

I should add this disclaimer... My original plan for this post was on differentiating for primary writers. Well, something big happened this weekend and goodness, time really just got away from me. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my big news...

We are engaged! Woo! 
Yep, real-life-like-we-are-going-to-get-married-and-it's-going-to-be-awesome-engaged. 

Anyway, so in between the getting proposed to business and the "Holy cow, it's the end of the month and I still need to finish math journals" feeling, I just didn't have time for that post. It will come another time, friends! Hope you enjoy your Valentine's Day!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Ron Clark Academy & Kahoot FREEBIE!

Hi there!
 Thanks so much for stopping by!  It's Amber from Mrs. Masters Kinder Love and I have lots to share with you today!

I am going to be sharing all about my experience at The Ron Clark Academy! I will warn you, there are A TON of pictures in this post AND my mouth is open in just about all of them (so sorry)! Honestly, it was just that kind of experience! 
Here's a preview: 
So it all began this past summer when Sarah (she teaches 2nd grade at my school!) and I discovered that we both read Crash Course by Kim Bearden. We kind of joked about asking our new principal to send us to The Ron Clark Academy, and then figured why not just give it a try. The worst he can say is no. So in the craziness of the first week of school, we talked to our principal and he decided to send us, as long as we agreed to provide PD to the rest of the staff upon our return.
Obviously, we were thrilled! 
Sarah and I also read The Essential 55 by Ron Clark and were super-pumped to see Ron and Kim in action! 

So on January 16th we flew down south  for the National Educator's Conference at The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia! We were among the first group of people to see the new "Hogwarts-inspired" addition at RCA!

When we first arrived, Ron Clark was greeting us off the bus! He picked me up, hugged me, (all the while I'm squealing with excitement!) and then students took me by the hands and led me into the building. As all of this is happening, music is blaring, everyone is dancing and cheering, and all I see is bright, smiling faces! The most amazing children came up to welcome me and then engaged in a conversation better than most adults (myself included). It was truly remarkable from the moment I stepped off that bus. I knew right then and there that my life as a teacher was never going to be the same. 

Next, we were given a tour of the new facility by an 8th grade student. We were amazed that he knew every detail about the school and the meanings behind each piece in the school. 

As I walked around, I kept thinking "Is this really a school?!" 
Two of my favorite "new" rooms were Hope and Wade King's rooms'.
Hope's room was literally a reading wonderland. I walked in and instantly wanted to curl up with a good book.
Mr. King's room was next door, and it screamed FUN! Look at all those vibrant colors! I wasn't able to observe any of his classes in action but can only imagine the learning that takes place in this room!
After exploring the rest of the facility, we had to spin the wheel to determine which house we would become a part of. Students are randomly split into four houses upon their arrival at RCA. The houses, Altruismo, Amistad, Isibindi, and Reveur each have a special meaning and bring a family like bond to the students and staff at RCA. Students can earn points for behavior, academics, manners and other accomplishments. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is named the "House Champion". Sarah and I both spun Amistad and were warmly welcomed to the house.

The next day we arrived at RCA bright and early! We kicked off the day with breakfast and a show put on by the RCA step team. It was incredible! We spent the rest of the day in workshops with the master teachers at RCA and had the opportunity to watch Ron Clark teach a math class! I have never seen student engagement like this! At one point the students came over to all of us and we had to work through an algebra problem together. Ron said that if 21 or more groups got the correct answer, that he would push the BIG, RED button. I was dying to see what would happen!
24 groups got the answer right!
It was time...for the BIG, RED button!
The student working with us grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the table the students were sitting at. Ron hit the button and "Turn down for what" came on, the lights went off and we all began dancing on the tables!
Way too much fun!!
Here we are in action!!
 My favorite thing about this picture is the man in the blue beside me. He was a principal (probably in his 70's) and he was still rockin' it on that table!!

We spent time in Susan Barne's classroom learning about the blues and incorporating it into content areas. We also had the privilege to observe Brandon Fleming teach Greek Philosophy.....equally amazing!
Wade and Hope King each showed us some of their best instructional strategies in the classroom.
I had to snap a pic with Hope King!
Also, the sweatshirt I'm wearing is my "house" shirt. Yay Team Amistad!
The last part of the afternoon was getting"slide certified". I love everything the slide stands for at RCA! It's all about taking risks, and being different. I may or may not have gone head first :)
Next, we headed back to the hotel for a quick rest before the evening's festivities. BUT first I had to get a few pics of the outside!
And now on to the evening festivities.....
Isn't Kim Bearden just the cutest?!


SO much fun!!

Now, onto our last day... :(
Sunday morning both Ron and Kim shared more of their personal stories and inspired us all to take back pieces of what we learned at RCA and make it work at our schools. We also heard from Wade and Hope King as they shared their stories of traveling to The Ron Clark Academy as teachers from South Carolina and implementing the house system in their previous school district. We ended the morning with a Q&A session with the staff and a book signing with Ron and Kim.
I can wholeheartedly say that my time at The Ron Clark Academy was the BEST experience of my teaching career. I have never felt so inspired and ready to take on the world. Every teacher should make it a priority to go to RCA at least once in their teaching career. You will be forever changed, just like me!
Be bold. Be different. Be you.
As Ron Clark says "Make it happen".

The last thing I want to share with you is a FREEBIE!
Have you heard of kahoot?! 
It's a FREE game-based classroom response system.
You can create your own quizzes, surveys and discussions OR choose from the thousands of ready-to-go quizzes. Students can use technology to engage with each of these. Kahoot is a fun, engaging way for students to review content AND it's a great way for teachers to assess what their students know.
You can read all about setting up kahoot from Kelly and Kim's Kindergarten Kreations! They provide step by step directions and pictures to help get you started!!!
Here was my problem....
 I didn't have technology for all of my students.
Solution: Hope King had a great idea to print cards that have the color boxes like the answer choices on kahoot. Then you can just add a clothespin and students are able to move the clothespin to their answer. Genius!

I got started right away making these for my classroom of kinders!
Click on the photo below for your FREE copy or click HERE!

Have a fabulous week!!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Helpful School-To-Home Communication Hints

Hello Primary Pack Fans!

I've hopped over from Stories and Songs in Second today to share some hints and a resource that I hope you will find useful!

I don't know about you, but I always see a huge decline in family support for my students at this time of year.  Homework folders don't get returned, flyers don't get read, important information gets missed, and learning starts to suffer.

In an effort to "turn the tide"--and help both my students be more responsible and engaged as we head into the second half of our year together--I created a new set of newsletter templates and homework hint forms.

My reasoning when it comes to encouraging parents to join in their child's educational journey, is to outline specific, repetitive practices I want them to engage in at home, and then provide clear and straightforward steps to help them do that.  I tell parents that they are my partners, and that as a team we can be great coaches for their son or daughter's academic, social, and emotional growth and development.

I have provided a link to a free samples of the type of information I include in my own newsletters, as well as as another link to a free and editable PowerPoint template file that will allow you to create your own.   I hope that the two different styles of classroom newsletters, and the various guide sheets for Language Arts and Math make communicating with parents more rewarding and much easier for you!

A video tutorial about how to  insert text boxes in the PowerPoint template file can be found {HERE} if you are not sure how to do that.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by!  Know that our box of  blogger buddies appreciates your continued readership and support!  If I could make this meme into a sticker and put it on the forehead of every child in my classroom and yours.....I would!  In the meantime, I am off to "tweet" about it!  I invite you to follow me {HERE} for more ideas and updates!

Continue to keep calm, teach on, and stay colorful!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sneezy the Snowman "Puffy" Craftivity

Hey Friends! It's Kristen again from Loving Teaching Inspiring and I'm so excited to share this adorable craftivity with all of you!
Check them out...aren't they adorable?!?! Is it bothering anyone else that one of them is crooked?? AGHHH! It's killing me! I must admit painting with 5 year olds can be very extremely scary. However, I have learned that as long as you give specific directions and go step by step it turns out just fine.
We started this activity by reading the story Sneezy the Snowman. If you don't have this book yet, it is a must! It's all about a snowman who tries different things to get warm. The problem is he just melts. The kids LOVE it!! 
Next up we brainstormed several things that would melt a snowman and made a class list. From that class list each student got a copy of the sentence stem below and filled in their idea. 
Grab your copy here
Once all the sentences were finished the fun began. Every table was given scraps of paper to cut out their own hat, eyes, buttons, arms and nose. Allowing the students to cut out their own pieces makes each snowman unique!
Before the painting can begin you will need to mix shaving cream and glue. You will only need 1 can of shaving cream mixed with about 3 bottles of glue. 
I gave every table one paper plate full of the mixture and instructed them to make sure they have "globs" of paint. If they smooth it out too much it won't dry puffy.
A little trick for this mixture is to teach your kiddos to scoop some onto the paintbrush but then twirl their brush. It can be a little stringy and create quite the mess transferring from the plate to their paper. We learned this the hard way. YIKES!

Although the mess was SO worth it... check out these samples!
My snowman melted because the volcano exploded.
My snowman melted because he sat in the hot tub.

The snowman melted because he was by the fire.
My snowman melted because the fire sword.
Don't forget to grab your copy over at my blog Loving Teaching Inspiring! Happy Painting!!!