Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blog Swap and Hop

Hello readers of Elementary Matters!  Welcome to the Top Teachers' Blog Swap and Hop!  Today I'll be guest blogging at Conversations in Literacy, while Michelle from No Monkey Business...Just Bunches of Learning blog is guest posting here!  Here's Michelle's post...

Hi "Not So Elementary" friends!  I am so happy to be guest blogging for Sally today!  My name is Michelle and you can find me over at No Monkey Business...Just Bunches of Learning blog.  I'm a 22 year teaching veteran that's taught K-3rd.  I'm currently in a 3rd grade position and love it!  I'm originally a Kentucky girl, but moved to TN about 8 years ago.  I'm a die hard Kentucky Wildcat fan in a Tennessee Volunteer nation. (It's not pretty on Fridays when everyone sports their orange and I'm obnoxiously in my royal blue!)  :-)

If you keep up with the current trends in Education by state, you know that my current home state of Tennessee has been in the "hot seat" lately with rigorous teacher evaluations and improving classroom practices.  TN just implemented the TEAM model, where monetary bonuses are given to teachers that score high on their evaluations (which also include test score data and professionalism ratings). This past year I was selected as the Lead Teacher in my building, meaning I had to assist with these new evaluations.  Of course, I have to receive them myself, so I can't get away from the 100+ indicator rubric no matter how hard I try.  :-)

As teachers have worked on improving practices, closing a lesson effectively has been in many discussions (and on the teacher evaluation rubric).  What drives this discussion (and the rubric) is making sure that students master what we teach them.  Sounds simple enough, huh?  However, often times teachers (myself included...guilty as charged) teach their hearts out with an impressive 'hook' to lure the students in, present the concept in a meaningful and engaging way, then assign something that they may not even be able to look at for a day or two.  In the meantime,  keep moving with the material because the curriculum says you have to. (Sound familiar?)  The big picture here is if we don't take time to quickly assess their understanding right then and there, we lose valuable insight to what our students are learning from us.  Two days down the road when I am able to grade "Johnny's" work and see that he didn't understand something, he's possibly 2 days behind if the concept continued to build and he didn't get it from Day 1.  As a result, our teachers are working really hard to gather instant feedback through strong closures in their lessons.

I thought I'd share a FREEBIE with you that demonstrates some of my favorite ways to close a lesson as strongly as you began it, and get quick feedback on where your students are after you've taught a concept.  I don't think any of this is NEW NEWS, but what I did was take some good closing strategies and create something I knew I could use with my kiddos in the classroom.  One of my favorites is the 'Parking Lot."  What teacher hasn't been to workshop where the presenter asked you to park any questions you had on a post it note and put it in the "parking lot" (a poster or chart that said PARKING LOT on it), so he/she could look at them and answer your questions before you left for the day.  They wanted to make sure you 'got' the material, right?  I took that idea and brought it back to my classroom with mini "parking lots."  All you need are some 5x7 clear plastic picture frames (one per table) and a copy of the clipart parking lot I created, some post it notes, and you're ready to go!  My students LOVE a good excuse to use post it notes.  You can use this idea for questions, comments, explanations, examples, illustrations, or whatever you want them to show you at the end of the lesson.  It's very similar to the "Exit ticket" system where students place their exit tickets on a poster before moving on.  I like this version because I can do a quick walk around the room to see who has "parked" a correct answer or example and/or who's still driving around lost.  ;-)
Another favorite (and yes, it involves post it notes too!) is the "Give Me a . and a ?" at the end of a lesson.  Students have to write a quick statement about what they've learned and question they could ask a 'buddy' about their learning.  Some great peer tutoring/discussion takes place if a student can't answer another student's question.   The great thing about these is that they both can be geared up or down depending on what grade you teach.  It may look more like pictures and examples for the youngers, but involve more writing for the olders.  

These are just a couple of quick, fun examples that help close a lesson with the teacher gathering immediate evidence of student understanding.  I've got these and a few more for ya' in a FREEBIE  "Let's RECAP" packet that you are welcome to grab from my TpT store.  :-)
In the future, I hope you'll "swing" on over to my blog sometime!  Feel free to come grab more freebies and/or just stop in to say HI!   
A huge THANK YOU to Sally for letting me share and hang out with you all today!  We'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, and/or additional ideas on what works for you when you close a lesson!  

Bananas for freebies and friends that let you 'guest post!'  

Now that you've seen Michelle's wonderful guest post, check out the blogs of all these other wonderful teachers!  Be sure to check out Conversations in Literacy, where I'll be guest blogging today!

Friday, June 29, 2012


Today is the day for announcements!  First of all, come around tomorrow for the Top Teachers' Blog Swap and Hop!  Sixty four teacher/ bloggers have been planning this for several weeks now!  We're all guest blogging for each other!  I suspect you'll be finding freebies and informational posts at all the stops along the way!  Be sure to check out Conversations in Literacy where I'll be guest blogging tomorrow.  Michelle from  No Monkey Business...Just Bunches of Learning blog will be posting here.  (I've already seen her post, it's fabulous!)

Announcement #2:  Good news and bad news.  The Six Digit Giveaway is over.  That's the bad news.  The good news is that we have a winner!  Congratulations to Sara V,  Check your email, Sara, you've got loads of goodies coming your way!

Freebie FridaysAnnouncement #3:  Be sure to check out Teaching Blog Addicts Friday Freebie page!  I've posted my Mapping Freebie over there!  Plus, there are loads of other great freebies there, too!

Announcement #4:
I'm working on a new blog design!  Don't worry, it will be the same quality blogging, but I figured, I've been here almost a year now, I'm ready for something unique!  It shouldn't be too much longer, but it will be worth waiting for!

Can you believe it's 4th of July weekend?  Wow, this summer is going waaaayyyy too fast for me! Hope you're enjoying it!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Daily 5 Book Study Chapter 2

Chapter two is all about the "why" of the Daily 5 model.  The Sisters (the authors) list these as their core foundations:
  • trusting students
  • providing choice
  • nurturing community
  • creating a sense of urgency
  • building stamina
  • staying out of students' way
Trusting:  I have a lot of trust in my students, most of the time.  I trust them to go about their business, use the school tools, get their work done, and be respectful to others.  I am very disappointed when they don't live up to that trust, and that's when I lose trust in them.

Providing Choice:  I typically work pretty hard to make sure the students have a choice in their activities most of the time.  However, my little ones are 7, and most of them can't handle too much choice.  For this age level, limiting choices is necessary, and some need more limitations than others.  Of course, there are certain "have tos" that none of us have any choice about.  That's just part of life!

Nurturing Community:  I think most teachers strive to have a sense of community in their classrooms.  This is so important for so many things, through the day and through the year.  The community has to get to know one another and learn to feel comfortable and safe with one another.  So much of learning is social, and children need to know they are safe with their community (Those are important parts of brain based learning!)

Creating a Sense of Urgency: This one is also connected to what I've learned about the brain.  The brain needs to connect to a purpose for learning, or it won't learn.  (Maybe that's why I can never remember types of cars or golf terminology, I see no purpose to that information!)  

Building Stamina:  This is something my class from this year struggled with.  We had talks about stamina, and we practiced developing stamina in reading and writing, as well as mathematics.  We even had "Reading Stamina" as an Olympic event during our "End of the Year Academic Olympics"!  I suspect this will be a challenge for some, and I'm anxious to see what it looks like with Daily 5!

Staying Out of Students' Way:  For some students, this is easy.  For others, it's very challenging.  I think, in part, it's challenging because the students don't want to be left on their own, and have developed a dependency on the adults in their lives.  This is a tough habit to break for those children, and we'll have to take it slow.  I don't "let go" without easing them in, but eventually I have to let go and allow the children to be independent learners.

These "core foundations" of the sisters seem to be pretty much a "core foundation" for classroom learning in general.  I suspect if we have these in place, all the subjects we teach have a chance at being successful!  

I apologize for being a little late getting on this bandwagon for the Chapter 2 linky, but sometimes life gets busy!  I promise I'll be more prompt for Chapter 3!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Turn the Music Up!

I'm a sucker for a linky party, and I found one for music, another one of my passions!

Amanda over at Teaching Madness is having a music linky party, so I just had to join in!

I play a lot of music for a lot of reasons.  Sometimes I play "fun music", just to lift the spirits of my students.  I find I need to do this a lot in the morning, since they come into the classroom sleepy.  Fun music usually brings smiles to their faces, and that's a great way to start the day, isn't it?

I have loads of collections of Party Music just for this purpose.  I don't yet have this one, but it's looking good to add it to my collection! 

I also like to play quieter music, for those other times when they really need to concentrate on their work.  I bought this CD years ago, and I play it often.  Sometimes I even play it when the kids are gone, during my planning time.  It really helps.  This company has several others along the same lines, including Music for Productivity (Which I have, and love!). Music for Learning (which I want!), and Music for Thinking (which I also want!)  

I also like to play music connected to what's going on in the world, or connected to what we're learning.  Around every patriotic holiday, I play patriotic music.  I have loads of great music for those days!  

When I was celebrating the Olympics, this CD came in handy.  The children loved listening to the National Anthems of other countries.  Of course, when our own national anthem played, we always stood up, no matter what we were doing!  

I play this around St. Patrick's Day.  

I play this around Cinco de Mayo. 

What music do you play in your classroom?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Six Digits Giveaway!

Yes, folks, sometime last night while I was at the "facebook posting party", my pageviews turned to six digits!

I was having so much fun posting on my friends' pages, I didn't even check until this morning!  Did I mention facebook "blocked" me for spamming?  Well, I wasn't really spamming, since we had arranged to write on each others' walls, but facebook interpreted it as spamming.  Trust me, that's about as wild as I get... must be my Catholic school background!

But on to the important stuff.  Many of my blogger/ teacher friends have agreed to help me with a Six Digit Giveaway!  Here's the awesome stuff you could win:

Subtraction Facts with Zero from Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas TpT store.  
See Fern's blog here.

Time Bingo from Mrs. Mc's TpT store.
See Mrs. Mc's blog here.

Story Maps Collection from Michelle's TpT Store.  
See Michelle's blog here.
No Monkey Business

Summer Fun Pack from Making it Teacher's TpT store.  
See Michelle's blog here.

 Fishing and Camping!  from LMN Tree's TpT store.
See Arlene's blog here.
It's LMN Tree

Geometry Fun from Mandy's TpT store.
See her blog here.
Mandy's Tips for Teachers

Topics to Write About from Teaching With Love's TpT Store.
See Lori's blog here.
Teaching With Love and Laughter

Ice Cream Sight Word Matching Game from Mandy's TpT Store.
See Mandy's blog here.

Multiply by 8 Math Games from Fun to Teach TpT Store.
See Lori's blog here.
ELL blog

Addition 0 - 12 Magic Squares from HoJo's TpT Store.
See Heather's blog here.
HoJo's Teaching Adventures

The "Boom" Game - Addition Facts from Deb's TpT Store.
See Deb's blog here.
Fabulously First

The Core at Home from Erin's TpT Store.
See Erin's blog here.

Under the Sea Number Sense Task Cards from Shelley's TpT Store.
See Shelley's blog here.
Teaching in the Early Years

Inference Task Cards Grades 1 - 2 from Rachel's TpT Store.
See Rachel's blog here.

Captain Cool, What is your Rule?  from Tessa's TpT store.
See Tessa's blog here.

Whack-a-Word from DeAnne's TpT store.
See DeAnne's blog here.

Celebration Vibrant Ultimate Classroom Theme Decor Set from Leanne's TpT store.
See Deanne's blog here.

Going Buggy for Blends from A Not So Wimpy Teacher's TpT store.
See Kathy's blog here.

Isn't this an amazing list of incredible stuff?  One of the things I love about blogging is that I'm in the midst of these fantastic teachers!”

I have 2 "have tos" to win my Six Digits Giveaway:
  1. Write a comment on my blog telling what you like about Elementary Matters.
  2. Follow at least one of the blogs from above.
That's it!  The rest is optional!  Rafflecopter will help you out!

Thanks so much!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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