Monday, March 30, 2015

Testing Season (and how to survive)

Cassie from Mrs. Thomas's Class here!

It's that time of the year - state testing time. Ours starts in two weeks and my sanity has went completely out all of my windows in my classroom. I would say the way to survive is to have a glass or two every evening, but now that I'm pregnant, that's off the table and I have had to find new ways to survive. I decided to create some test taking STAAR cards to use during rotations with my students. This helps with the monotony of passage, questions, passage, questions. I have developed a game playing strategy to help with the task cards, the students answer the questions and if they get it correct they roll a dice and record the numbers to the side. They add up all the numbers at the end. The TOP 3 start out getting two pieces of candy, then as we move through the next two weeks it works up to breakfast on me! :) FOOD is the biggest motivator for my kiddos. I don't know about you!

Here are some pictures of my kiddos in action working on the cards today!


I have them split in groups, and then they work together or independently the first few days. We will eventually move into silent, desk work. 

I am going to provide for you all a preview of my test prep packs! They work for anyone in testing season in third grade, not just Texas. 

Click on the picture!

Hope this gives you a fun idea! You can find the full bundles here:

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Thought About Starting a Class Instagram, Now you can with these Easy Steps {FREEBIE}!

Since early in my career, I always had a class blog that I used to share important reminders, photos, and all of that other good stuff we need to share with parents.  Once I started blogging at Easy Teaching Tools, keeping up with a class blog was harder and harder.  This year, I've made it SO much easier by creating a class Instagram!  Don't worry, I made sure to get parent permission first!
Here's how it works in my second grade class!  Download Instagram to your school iPad.  I set up a private account  and then I sent home the permission slips and got parent approval for all of my kiddos!  Woo hoo!  If you don't get parent approval, no biggie.  Just don't post photos of those friends.  
Some Tips:
Only accept followers of parents in your class
Don't follow any parents, that can get weird!
Don't use your school or city in your username
Don't use any student photos in the profile picture
In your weekly e mails, make sure to include a link to your class account to ensure that parents are following you.  Be patient, it takes some time!

Before we officially began, we went over the safety pledge and talked about internet safety.
Grab this pledge for free, just click on it and print!
For the first two weeks, I modeled how to use Instagram, took photos of great learning, and created captions in complete sentences.  I typically posted 2-3 photos per day, depending on what we were doing.  Plus, I wanted to get parents excited about our Instagram project.

Then, I was ready to gradually release our little project to the kiddos.  Since we have two iPads, I have two kiddos per day who are in charge of our account.  I place a set of instructions on a place card holder, like the kinds you see at weddings.  I grabbed a pack of 12 for 10 bucks at Michaels with a 50% off coupon.  I have those friends choose to take one photo per day, depending on what interests them.  If I need them to take a photo of something else, I just tell them to do so.  The reason I have kiddos in charge is because it gives them a sense of responsibility and builds buy-in.  Plus, they get really excited and can't wait to get home and tell their parents to check the account.  See how sneaky I am, it's a win-win!

 I'm a huge stickler this time of the year for complete sentences, so it's great practice for them.  Once a kiddo takes their photo and writes their caption, they MUST show me the post so I can have final approval.  This ensures that we are using social media safely.  It takes about 2 seconds to check it over, so it's barely any work on your part!

For my friends who are a bit unsure how to start, they can grab the sentence starters for easy reference.  I just laminated them and keep them near our iPad storage.  They're the best because there is no need to ask for my help.  It teaches them to be independent little learners and those are my favorite kind!

I wanted a fun way to integrate our class Instagram with a fun bulletin board display.  So, I made a cute IG banner that matches my class colors perfectly.  Then, I printed pretend Instagram pages out for my kiddos.  I printed them two per page, to save on paper and ink.  My students absolutely loved this activity so much, that the room was silent {which I was not-so-secretly loving}.  They drew a photo of something that they've seen in our class at some point during the year and come up with a great caption.  I even let them use my fancy flair pens if they wrote neatly!  I cut bright card stock in half and my guys glued their Instagram page to the middle.

 We have a window into our grade level pod so I used that as a bulletin board.  I just taped them up with a bright piece of washi tape.
 You can just stick the IG letters up or make a banner out of them.  I grabbed a piece of twin, used my two-hole punch, and got to work.  I'm not super crafty at all, and I was able to finish it in about five minutes.  My kiddos were in awe!  In fact, our custodian told me how much she loved the bright colors of our room and that it's her number one room!  It made my heart pretty happy to hear that!
I can't wait for Open House because it's a pretty display that shows awesome student learning, while mixing in some technology!
If you'd love to start a class Instagram account, make sure to grab this pack!  I can't wait to hear how you use it!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Homework Leader Of The Week Club!

 Let's go clubbin'! 

Ha, just kidding. 

Alisha here from Missing Tooth Grins! I'm happy to share with you something new I implemented in my classroom. You see, I noticed I had a large problem with homework being returned. I send home homework packets every Monday and they are due back the following Friday. I would share with you what I send home, but they are from Common Core workbooks. They aren't fancy, but they are aligned to the CCSS, which of course is important, but I find these extra helpful because it states the standard and I Can statement at the bottom of every page. In my packet, I send home spelling words, a math page, and a communication arts page.

Anyway, I saw a real problem with homework never coming back on Fridays. I really noticed one week when less than half of my class returned their homework. So, I quickly devised a plan to start that day. I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful student teacher this semester and so therefore, I've also been given the gift of time and was able to create these fun little incentives that day. If you follow me on Instagram, then you may remember this picture:

I remember it got a lot of likes which made me feel really cool... Because let's face it, I'm a loser and love my likes on Instagram. But anyway, based on the likes I received, I figured that I better share my creation with you all!

So, every Friday afternoon, each student that brings back his/her homework gets to be Homework Leader of the Week and gets a certificate and a Blowpop. Then, every student that brings back his/her homework every week of the month gets to be Homework Leader of the MONTH! They get certificates, a sucker, AND GET TO EAT LUNCH IN THE ROOM WITH THE TEACHER. What?! Pretty big deal in the first grade world! They also get to sign a paper that we hang in the hallway to show everyone who the Homework Leaders of the Month were.

Ya'll, they love it. Plus, it has really solved my homework problem. The week I started this... Only 9 kids had brought their homework back. Out of 22 kids. It was completely devastating to me. Today, a total of 17 kids did. That number nearly doubled so I can definitely see that it is helping! Plus, the homework leaders of the month were pumped when they got to even watch a movie during lunch. They talked about it all morning and just couldn't wait for lunch to come.

"Miss Sanders, when is lunch?"

Me- "Oh, you know... Same time as every other day."

They were so excited.

If you want to implement the Homework Leader of the Week/Month Club, click any of the pictures below to download!
I hope you enjoy! Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Party! PaRtY! PARTY!

Hi there! 
It's Amber from Mrs. Masters Kinder Love and I am so excited to share about a pretty special day in my classroom today!!

I don't know about you but I think birthdays are a BIG deal no matter how old you are turning! My husband completely disagrees with me but has given in to treating me like the queen for the entire month of March! #winning
 it all started a few weeks ago when I received an email from a parent in my classroom that said her sweet daughter came home and told her family that she couldn't wait to come to my birthday party.....
Uh oh!.....
It was during calendar time that I shared with my students that March was my favorite month of the year,  for many reasons.
1. It's March Madness
2. Spring Arrives
3. It's my BIRTHDAY!
 ***Apparently, this translates into" I'm having a birthday party! Please come!"

So....needless to say I had a party to plan! 
My birthday actually fell on a Saturday this year so I decided that we would celebrate the Wednesday after (I get to see both classes one Wednesdays, because they each come a half day but only on Wednesdays....I know, crazy schedule)!
The first step was creating some invitations to send home to get them way too excited!

Next up, stocking up on supplies for the BIG DAY!
I headed to Party City and Walmart and found lots of decorations for the classroom and their goodie bags. I also may or may not have bought a helium tank... :) 
I mean come on, you have to get balloons!!

Tuesday evening was the time to set up the classroom and get ready for the PARTY! Mr. Masters even came to help me put together goodie bags and prepare their chairs for the balloons!

The BEST part of the BIG DAY was that MR. MASTERS WAS COMING IN TO HELP US CELEBRATE! The kids have been asking for him to come in all year and this was the perfect occasion! 
The morning of the party, Mr. Masters and I got the balloons inflated and put a few finishing touches on the classroom! 

Even our pet, Marley, decided to join in on all the fun!

Obviously for our read aloud, we enjoyed an Elephant and Piggie book that aligned perfectly!

 Mr. Masters completed his first read aloud ever! He read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (the birthday girl's favorite!). We just had the best day, watching my kinders enjoy being 5 and 6 years old! Their faces beamed with pure joy! I heard from so many of my little friends that it was the best day of school ever!
#totallyworthit              #letthembelittle               #ilovekindergarten

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Have a fabulous weekend!!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Math Mysteries Solved.....Odd Squad Style!

Hello Friends!

It's Jennifer here from Stories and Songs in Second to talk about a non-literacy related topic!

Jump back, Jack!  What a novelty, huh?

This PBS show and website is just too good not to share though, and I have my friend Em from Curious Firsties to thank!  We traveled together recently, and when I told her that I needed some new ideas for my upcoming unit on measurement, she directed me to.....

Complete episodes of the series are available through Google Play, iTunes, and Amazon, but can also be viewed weekdays on your local public broadcast station.  Short video clips are available on the website as well.  Odd Squad is geared toward children ages 5-8, and presents a variety of math concepts as mysterious cases to be solved by young government agents named Olive and Otto.  The live-action show is produced by The Fred Rogers Company, and also includes storylines about perseverance and the importance of working together to solve problems.

I've recently begun using many of the the interactive learning videos available on the Odd Squad website, and 
this Down The Tubes matrix puzzle activity is a great one for visual learners!  It gives my second graders 
much-needed practice measuring using an inch ruler and building bar models!

Catch the Centigurps is another interactive learning activity featured on this site, and provides a fun way for students to practice metric measurement and counting on by 5's!

I cannot communicate the excitement level of my students whenever I announce that Odd Squad activities are going to be included in our Math Station rotations!  I hope you'll introduce them to your students as well!

In closing, I'd like to share a fun FREEBIE I created last spring to help my group practice some "fraction action!"  May this "monstrous" scoot game help your students think mathematically and have fun at the same time!

Stay colorful!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Let's Make Learning 'Egg'-citing!

Hi Everyone!
Grab those plastic eggs and...

I always do an Oviparous Animals unit in my kindergarten classroom each spring.
Because I am a 'theme nerd' and have a need (sickness maybe?!) to make everything connect, I have my ELA and Math centers include eggs, as well!

On my blog you will find 10 simple, relatively no-(major) prep ways to incorporate plastic eggs into your centers!
They range in grade level from PreK-2 depending on how you offer support and/or enrichment!

You will find detailed pictures and FREEBIES on the post like this fun free editable pack...

and how I have used eggs to help with composing and decomposing...
Decomposing is a difficult skill for many kinders to understand, but I found using the double sided counters really helped them!
You can read more about how I had my kinders use eggs and counters on THIS POST.
(You can even find free recording sheets to download!)

as well as making groups of 10...
Recruit parents and fellow teachers to save egg cartons for you (and maybe even donate some plastic eggs since this activity requires quite a few)!
The idea of making an egg carton into a 'ten frame' came from a post back in January 2014 by Laura at Differentiation Station Creations!  
And it works PERFECT for this activity of using eggs to make groups of 10!

You can read all about how I used it in my kindergarten class, and download the free spinner and recording sheets on THIS POST!

The post will also talk all about how I introduce oviparous animals to my kids and has links to oviparous resources and a free lifecycle download!

I hope you and your students have an 'egg'-citing time learning math, words, letters and more using plastic eggs!

Until next post,