April 15, 2014

SURVIVING TESTING 101 - A FEW TIPS + IDEAS

Hey friends . . . long time no see :)  Although it's been far too long since we've "chatted," I am going to keep this post short and sweet today as I had a minor setback in the computer department.  About two weeks ago, this suddenly happened . . . 

It started out as a little burn, but I pushed through.  Well, that wasn't the brightest idea as the "burn" moved down into my hand AND traveled up my forearm and into my elbow.  Needless to say, the seriousness of the whole sitch settled in and I "powered down" the electronic box.  Sure, I got the cold sweats and the "shakes" by the time this past weekend rolled around, but I managed and, go figure, I am doing a little better.  I have an appointment with the bone doc next week and I ordered a new slick mouse (thanks A Year of Many Firsts - it will be here tomorrow). Hopefully, we can find a permanent fix soon.  


Just look at this thing . . . meet the Evoluent Vertical Mouse.
It's gonna be a huge learning curve, but it'll be like driving a spaceship :)
Lynds said it saved her hand . . . my fingers are crossed.

With that lengthy intro out of the way, let's get down to business.  Testing. BLARG!  Our school is taking the Smarter Balance test this week.  I guess it's a prep for the CCSS tests to come.  I have only had to stomach state testing one of my seven years in the business, but I swear I was a basket case.  I was worse than the little kiddies.  Classic Dolling move.  Well, I quickly figured out that the LONG mornings took their toll on my sweet crew and the afternoons were a hot mess unless I went way "out of the box" with my lessons/activities. I had to find new ways to keep the learning meter pegged and hold their interest as these cuties were tapped.  Have you been here?  Here are a few ideas that worked oh so well for me in the past.  Oh . . . they also work really well during that final end of the year push too {i.e. the last two weeks of school}!!!

Mini White Board or Table Work 
This one ain't new, but just in case you forgot, I am putting it down. Break out the individual white boards.  Let 'em draw for a couple of minutes before you begin (it gets a lot of that "play" out of their system).  Call out oral problems, questions, etc.  Have them write the answer on their mini white boards and flash you.  The ultimate hook here is to let them award points to themselves for getting the correct answers.  They mark little tallies, stars, or smiles in the bottom corner of their boards.  Wanna spice it up even more??  Let 'em use white board markers on their desks . . . sans white boards.  Kids always get a thrill out of writing on the tables.   



Showdown
Divide your crew into two teams.  Have one player from each side go up to the board and face off on a question {this can be used for reading, math, spelling, vocab . . . you name it}.  The first kiddo to get the correct response wins a point for his/her team.  The key is to have the rest of your students {in the audience} work out the problem too.  They keep the answers to themselves - boards go face down - when they have recorded their response.  If the players at the board get the incorrect answers, play bounces out into the audience.  Call on a kid to provide the answer (show his/her board) and they can earn the point for their team if they have completed the work correctly.  This game and many others like it (Home Run Review, Team Television, etc.) are part of my Summer Countdown Survival Kit.  



Scavenger Hunts
This active activity can be used to review just about anything.  Simply pin cards loaded with questions around campus {I usually do it around the quad right outside my room}.  Place your kids into teams of 3 and give each crew an answer sheet and a clip board.  The teams roam around hunting for cards. When they locate one, they work together to solve the problem.  They then write a response to the question in the correct slot on their game sheet.  Play continues until all of the cards have been found or time is called.  I always go back into my room and correct the game sheets as a class.  This is also part of my Survival Packet :)



Game Shows
Everyone knows about Jeopardy in the classroom, but what about, "Let's Make a Deal?"  Oh my word, people!  This one is always a class fave.  All you need for this fun game is a homemade question deck, prizes (quite a few small items, a handful of silly items, and a couple of really good items), and "doors" (I use garbage cans or boxes placed upside down over the item). 



Here's how I play . . . 
  1. Create a question deck.  I pick four categories or skills that need reviewing and come up with five question cards per category.  Place these in a pocket chart at the front of your room.
  2. Split your class into two teams.  Two children (one from each team) square-off at a time.  I have the kids each roll a die to determine who gets to pick the category.  It just creates a little more "sizzle."
  3. When a category is selected, read the question aloud and have the two answer on mini-white boards.  For example, I make them write out the quote or re-write a sentence to include the pronoun instead of the noun.
  4. Whoever gets the right answer first is the winner.  It's just like the TV show.  I offer this child a prize and it is his/her decision to keep it or trade if for something under one of my "doors."  There is a chance for something really awesome (new lunchbox, games, toys . . . Dollar Store delights), but their is also a chance for something stinky (cans of peas, used batteries . . . anything I find in my desk that I don't want).  Most of the time they will trade even though they know they might get stuck with something icky.
  5. I have the rest of the class attempt to answer on their white boards while they are at their seats.  This keeps everyone working.  If both kiddos answer incorrectly then I hit up students in the audience.  Sometimes I reward correct answers from the crowd with a little treat. 

Standards-Based Relay Races
I use relay races for EVERYTHING.  If I can stick a standard into an active team game . . . I am ALL about it :)  All you need is a large grassy area and something to put questions on - you can use laminated index or paper cards, balls, foam pieces, etc.  Scatter these objects at the end of your "course" and place your kiddos into teams of 5-6.  On your signal, the first kiddo in each team runs, skips, gallops, or flails (have fun with this) down the course.  When they get to the objects, they are to pick one up and run it back to their team. They must provide the answer before they can complete their turn and the next player from their team attempts the course.  I just have 'em yell it to me before they slap their teammate's hand.




Brain Breaks
During my testing run, I would stop and do little dances and other movements to help calm and refocus my kids.  Well, now there is something so much easier to implement and it's AMAZING.  GoNoOdle has done it again.  They just came out with a relaxation brain break series to help during testing periods.  Man, oh man!!!  I would have loved to have had this resource at my fingertips during those tough testing windows!  The best part about it . . .  it's FREE :) 



Well, you don't have to be a testing grade to benefit from this new activity.  I tried Flow with my babes last week and it was mind blowing.  It's all about a little balloon that the kids control in their minds.  You could hear a pin drop in my room and the kids were totally sucked in.  


  

My kids were holding onto that imaginary string and many of them were watching the ceiling rather than the screen.  They were looking up at "their balloon."  It was so magical.  I was so into it that I started to tear up. Seriously. I almost started bawling sitting on the floor of my classroom.  This exercise is that moving.  When we finished the kids were so chill and I was too. It was just what we needed after lunch to re-focus and plow through another important writing activity for the rapidly approaching Open House.  

If you haven't checked out GoNoOdle yet, you really must.  It is the most amazing classroom resource and I can't imagine teaching without it.  


Alright all you alls.  I am off to ice my wrist.  Thanks for visiting today.  I will be back soon with something extra good.  Hugs y'all :)


Oh, and now that it's nearly 5 pm in Cali I can let the cat out of the bag.  In honor of tax day, I am trowing a sale from 5pm today until midnight tomorrow (April 15-16th).  A little savings on a day that you hand over way too much cash to Uncle Sam is a great thing :)


Big thanks to Traci @ Dragonflies in First - I love the sale button :)


       

April 6, 2014

WEEKLY REWIND + EARTH DAY UPDATE & FREEBIE

I am later than late to Doodle's party this week, but I am barging in just the same.  I have a good excuse . . . I swear!!  You see, I promised the Mr. that I would back away from the computer and help him do work around the house. True to my word, I stopped working on the computer yesterday around noon and we enjoyed working in the backyard together.  It was a gorgeous day and things are starting to look pretty dang good out our back windows . . . just in time for RODEO WEEK {boy howdy}, but I digress :)  

So, that's my story . . . not that you really cared to hear it, but you know how I get from time to time.  Now, I really must get on with this shebang as I am no longer "fashionably late."

ONE - NO FOOLIN'
I think Monday and Tuesday were two of my favorite days in the classroom this year.  My thought process here was simple.  I knew I was not going to stop the, "There's a spider on your back!" or the "You dropped your pockets!" comments on the first of April.  The week before, it suddenly occurred to me - if you can't beat 'em . . . join 'em!  Who knew that April Fools' Day could be so powerful?  I had those babes eating out of the palm of my hand.  Here's a little picture walk of some of the highlights.



We wrote animal jokes and presented them Author's Chair style.  
The one on the right had a spitting dog! 


We donned Groucho glasses during groups.
Now that's what I call a wacky classroom word find.


Our homework was to find a knock knock joke to share with the class.
We presented to the Kinders bacross the hall.  
Uh . . . hysterical!!!!



We picked a new knock knock joke and made the cutest craft to "house" 'em!
And you can be that we took the time to share these.  CLASSIC!!!!


If you are interested in pinning these activities for next year, be sure check out my No Foolin' packet {everything above is included}.  Oh, and I made it pretty generic so that you could just roll with a joke theme whenever - it's not just for April Fools' Day.  I think this would be great at the end of the year :)

TWO - THOSE 400 METER HURDLES
Boy oh boy . . . are my kids ever into GoNoOdle.  I know I keep talking about it, but I keep finding more and more things that the kids absolutely LOVE.  We unlocked additional track fun this week and we tried out the 400 meter hurdles. The kids rushed the screen . . . and ran/jumped their hearts out.  It was awesome - even my babe who is "too cool" to do silly stuff joined in the fun. Yeah, buddy!!  The best part is that my sweeties were super focused after their run.  If you haven't checked out this amazing and FREE brain break resource, you really must.  It will blow your mind :)  



THREE - FABULOUS FLUENCY
We tried out A Teacher to the Core's "tweet" fluency passage this week and the kids were in heaven.  They loved the birdy story and they grew so much throughout the week.  It even has a killer cute craft to go with it that's . . . wait for it . . . wait for it . . . standards based.  I highly recommend this set!!!  It's available in her Comprehension and Fluency 101 Packet and it has everything you need to do fluency up right in the classroom.  I can't wait to try it again and use even more of her ideas with my crew.  



There is the fluency passage.  It has a comprehension piece too.
But, wait!!  This pack also has a follow up noun craft!  
Sigh . . . a little piece of teacher heaven.  



FOUR - HABITATS
We rolled into our Open House theme this week.  I started having heart palpitations when I realized how soon after our spring break this will come (only 2.5 weeks).  BLARG . . . who planned that??!!!  On that whiney note, I will be offering up some habitat goods in the next couple of weeks.  Be sure to check back in with me!!!  I tossed one in down below.  I love doing a little questionnaire to see what the kids know before we really get going into the theme.  It always goes their Habitat folder so the parents can see just how much they learned.  Click on the image to snag your free copy of this sheet :)


FIVE - EARTH DAY UPDATE
My wrist is absolutely on fire {Houston, I think we have a problem} . . . but, I managed to knock out an update on my Earth Day Pack.  As one of my TOP 5 sellers, it needed a face lift.  The content was on point, but let's just say that I have come a VERY long way in the design department.  With this said, I added new clipart, borders, and a few more ideas into the mix.  I am really happy with this packet now.  



This collection has everything from a Get Well Soon Card {for Mother Earth} and a related vocabulary introduction to easy standards-based centers and activities.  Oh, it also comes with a very special Earth Day Song from Ron Brown's Intelli-Tunes.  Yup, it's free - you get an MP3 and the lyrics!  


My favorite part of the packet has to be the I Heart My Earth Craftivity.  I updated it a bit, but the sweet flavor is still the same.  The kids always love a craft that includes real photos.  These always make the BEST bulletin board :)


Want a math game to go with your Earth Day studies?  How about a FREE standards-based game?  Oh yeah, buddy!  I updated my Recycle It Place Value game as well.  The kids always get a kick out of this one.  I tossed in a few different versions in an effort to make it perfect for kiddos in 1st or 2nd grade (as well as your solid Kinders). It could possibly even work for some 3rd graders.

Alright, folks.  That's that.  Thanks so much for visiting me.  I am off to CVS to get myself one of those wrist braces.  I'm gonna be oh so stylin' in my velcro ditty . . . sigh . . . the things we do in the name of teaching.  {Hehehehe . . . but ya know, I wouldn't have it any other way.}  Check back soon for those habitat goods.  Have a wonderful start of your week!




April 3, 2014

NO-PREP COMMON CORE MATH CENTERS + GIVEAWAY - YES PLEASE!

I don't know about all you alls, but coming up with new items to toss into math tubs/centers is taking countless hours as of late.  I am always looking for new activities that require very little prep to help balance out the games that I make or buy on TPT {my mini laminator just can't take the volume . . . nor can my cutting hand}.  With this said, I stumbled across a great set of pre-made math centers from EAI Education.  I cannot tell you how easy they made my life this week, but don't take my word for it . . . check out my kids in action . . . 

There are a ton of different sets to choose from {Grades 1-4} and they all investigate essential math questions that are aligned to the all-mighty common core standards.  I decided to try out the Pattern Block - Grade 1 Set.  



My kids are all about the pattern blocks this year.  When I saw that I could insert standards into this love affair, I just had to treat myself to this center set. Well, I wasn't disappointed as my babes were ALL over them this week.  

This little guy loved this mat.  He did it like five times!
The goal was to build the turtle in multiple ways.
I began by putting a few of the boards in a reading center as an "I'm Done" activity.  I wanted to let them explore a few on their own (outside of math center/tub time).  This proved to be a wonderful decision as they were quiet and engaged while others finished their work.  They were so into these that during other "early finish" times throughout the day, my kiddos asked to play with these mats instead of computers . . . obviously, they are a draw . . . SCORE! 

The teamwork that these activities managed to elicit was epic.  Not only were they working together (not something that always happens easily in my class this year), but the math lingo they were using was stellar!  

Everyone loved the birthday cake card.
They had to build it by looking at the picture.
There wasn't a card to lay it on - tricky, tricky :)
Classic teamwork pictured here!
The boards cover everything from fractions and word problems to composing shapes and counting.  The variety is really nice.  You also get a set of dry erase pens as well as all of the other elements that you may need to play the various games - student pattern block sets, dice, game pieces, etc.  Yup . . . ZERO PREP, my friends . . . sigh :)

This little darlin' loved the animal cards.
Some have lines some don't . . . love the differentiation :)
These Hands-On Math Centers definitely made the cut and they are now going to be a part of our afternoon math tubs/centers.  I plan on changing out the cards every couple of weeks.  There are 16 total cards to choose from.   

Here's my tub . . . all stuffed and ready to go!
The kids are going to love this rotation :)
Are you interested in learning more about the new Hands-On Math Centers that EAI Education has to offer??  CLICK HERE to check out the various CCSS resource kits for grades 1-4.

BUT WAIT . . . wanna win a set??  Yeah, buddy!  I teamed up with EAI Education and they are letting me give away a Hands-On Math Center to one lucky winner. The best part is . . . you get to choose which set you want!  Simply complete the easy peasy Rafflecopter below.  I will announce the BIG winner on Sunday :) Good luck to ya and thanks for visiting!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

March 30, 2014

WEEKLY REWIND + APRIL FOOLS' DAY FUN + FREEBIES

Holy wind gusts folks . . . this week was crazy.  I know all you alls know what wind does to a crew of kiddies.  And, I also know that you know the effect that really BIG gusts of wind have on babes.  Let's just say that it was everything I could do to stay ahead of 'em and keep the lid on tight.  I swear herding feral cats would have been easier. Despite the extra "excitement" this week, we still managed to have a great "round" together.  I just needed a quick and dirty power nap as soon as I walked in the door each day - you know, the kind that elicits drool puddles.  

Alright, so here you be.  Five For Friday (oh so late on a Saturday).  Better late than never right??!!  

ONE - MARCH MADNESS CONTINUES
My kids are all about sports this year, so we continued with our basketball theme this week.  The kids encountered a common hoop-theme in their reading centers, writing activities, and math games.  It was good times for sure.  


They rocked the Basketball Spin + Graph!
The follow up questions were a breeze for my babes :)
 
Bought a great packet from Jessica Williams.
Her centers were perfect for reading group rotations!
 

We have been working on that tricky 10 More/10 Less . . . concept.
So, we played Beat the Shot Clock from my Get in the Game Pack.  
They loved it . . . didn't even know they were working.
They had 12 seconds to put the # called into the correct box on their sheet.
We corrected it on the "DINOSAUR" after each number was called.



TWO - COMMON CORE MATH TRAINING
I couldn't figure out why I didn't have that many pictures to download this week. Then I realized that the math training I attended ALL DAY on Tuesday factored into this sad showing.  It was one less day with my crew :(  The presenters were sweeter than sweet and I managed to get a few take aways. However, it was all based on our new scripted math program, which just ain't my style. Needless to say, I will be making TONS of fun math products and games next year to help me supplement.  Just sayin' . . . 

THREE - GOOD MORNING WORK
I am so sorry that I am so late with these this month.  Life just happened and I got behind on the creation of these two monthly packs.  I hammered out the reading set yesterday no prob, but got stuck trying to finish up the math set today.  These are finally finished and all posted for you.  I may or may not have been seen doing jumping jacks and squats after every five pages to help get the blood flowing to my brain . . . but, if you ask me I'll deny it all ;)


       

As usual, I chunked my topics.  You will see five consecutive days of the same 6-8 Common Core standards.  This will help your kiddos be much more independent with these rigorous end of the year spiral review concepts.  Good thing, cuz I really upped the ante in the array, word problem, and regrouping departments in the math set :)  Don't worry . . . I think I "walked that fine line" between being too hard and being just right!

As always, I am offering up FREE tester pages from both packets.  Click on the images below to snag one or both sets.  If you like what you see, come on back and treat yourself to the whole pack.  They're only $3 for a month's worth of meaningful learning . . . holla!



Oh . . . and if you are a first grade teacher, I've got you covered too.  Click to see the April Reading and Math Packets.

FOUR - YOGA BRAIN BREAKS
I preached my absolute L-O-V-E for GoNoodle last week.  Well, my affection for this FREE program has definitely reached an all time high after another fun 5-day run with the program.  I swear that crazy wind {see above} would have done us in if it weren't for the NOODLE!  We tried out Maximo's Yoga all week. The kids were squealing and groaning . . . it was classic.  One little girl hollered, "WOW!!  I feel so much better!"  I swear to goodness, folks . . . I just can't make this stuff up. If you haven't tried out GoNoodle, you just have to give it a go - click the icon below to check it out.  It's free and you can set up a demo class while you check things out.  This is hands down the best find of my teaching career! Now that's what I call a teachin' tool :)  



FIVE - NO' FOOLIN' 
The kids always get a real big kick out of April Fools' Day.  Six year olds always come up with the craziest ways to try and trick you.  It's so dippy and I love it. As the holiday started looming, I realized that I could leverage this silly day into some outlandish learning.  BOOM!  The No Foolin' {April Fools' Day Mini Pack} was born.  This little ditty offers all kinds of goodies to help get you through a learning-filled April Fools' Day {and a few more days too boot}.




On Tuesday, my kids will be participating in a home to school project.  They are going to come up with a joke to present to the class {the note did say no potty humor please . . . even though I think it's pretty funny stuff}.  The kids are going to deliver their jokes to the class {and the neighboring Kinders} during the front half of the week.  I'm breaking out the karaoke machine for sure! Listening and speaking skills will NEVER be the same I am afraid :)  Oh . . . and Tuesday/Wednesday are also going to be filled with silly centers, crazy writing projects, and giggle-filled activities.  I can't wait to make this one with the kiddies and get it up on the wall . . .



If you want to get into the silly spirit with your little darlings, click here to check out my No Foolin' Packet.  It's on sale today - along with everything else in my little 'ol TPT shop!  

Alright, I am out of here.  I'll see you soon with that Earth Day update I have been promising.  Oh, and be sure to check out the Hoppin' Into April Blog Hop I'm lucky enough to be a part of this weekend.  Oodles of great items are up for grabs.  Hugs y'all . . . here's to a great week :)  




  
 

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