Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Thanksgiving Math Mystery Phrases & Freebies

Can I just say how lucky we teachers were that Halloween was on a Saturday?!

We really dodged a bullet this year! Alright, now that I've said that, we can move on to the next holiday, Thanksgiving!

Of course here in Canada we have already celebrated Thanksgiving, but since I missed the blogging boat for that, this post is for next year...or for all my American friends!

First up, freebies. A few years ago I created a few random freebies that you may find useful during the days leading up to Thanksgiving.

You can click {HERE} or the picture above to check them out.

I love incorporating the holidays into my lessons wherever possible, so I just finished up a new set of Thanksgiving Math Mystery Phrases.

My favorite thing about these? The addition of the mystery phrase to each printable adds a self-checking feature that allows students to double-check their work. Click {HERE} or any of the pictures above to check out the mystery phrases. I also have mystery phrases that are not holiday related available {HERE}.

Finally, let's talk about art. I love trying new art projects and this post by Craftwhack has some great ideas for autumn.

via Craftwhack

These ideas aren't strictly Thanksgiving-themed so they could be done throughout the autumn months.

I think I hear some leftover Halloween candy calling my name…enjoy the rest of the week!

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Halloween Brain Breaks

Well, now that October has begun, Halloween fever seems to be in full force. Let's jump on the Halloween train and talk about a few Halloween-themed brain break videos, shall we?

In no particular order:

1) Calling All the Monsters

2) This is Halloween

3) Monster Mash

4) Thriller Animation

5) Ghostbusters

6) Spooky Scary Skeletons

7) Day O

8) Becky G "Problem (The Monster Remix)"

In other Halloween news, I just finished up a new Halloween-themed Math Mystery Phrases pack that I'm really excited about.

This is my first mystery pack that covers various standards: rounding, expanded form, written form, basic multiplication & division, double-digit addition & subtraction, triple-digit addition & subtraction, skip counting, multiplying multiples of ten by single digit numbers.

Not only does the mystery aspect help engage students, but the addition of the mystery phrase lets students self-check their work.

If you're interested, you can click {HERE} or the pictures above. If you'd like non-holiday related Math Mysteries, I have a bunch available {HERE}.

Hope you're enjoying the weekend!

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Daily Review: A key to success in elementary math

The first few weeks of school have been pretty great. We've done a ton of team-building/getting-to-know-you activities and I think the students are really starting to bond as a unit. We are slooowwly inching towards the more academic side of things and I think it will prove to be quite interesting. The learning needs of this year's students are extremely diverse, so incorporating differentiation daily will be a must.

One routine that I think will be key to math success for all students this year is a daily review.
Original photograph via Free Images

But, why is it so important to review daily?

One reason for me is, frankly, our math program. Is yours like ours? Split into separate units with seemingly no overlap? I feel like that segmentation just doesn't work for us, because that is not how math works. We don't learn place value at the beginning of the year and then never see it again - we see it constantly.

From place value to basic operations, we constantly have to rely on those foundational skills that we learned weeks, months, or even years ago. Just like any other skill, math skills need to be used and practiced to keep them in top form. If our math program does not provide students with the opportunity to practice the basics, we must find a way to give students that opportunity, and daily review is a perfect example.

Because it reviews previously taught concepts, a daily review also provides students with plenty of opportunities to fill in gaps in their skill set. Not all students are going to grasp each concept the first day it is introduced, but by continuously seeing that concept and working on it through the year, a daily review allows students to experience success at their own pace.

So, how to incorporate a daily review into your schedule?

To be honest, you've just got to make the time. I know that for me, it seems like a constant struggle of trying to fit in all the things we have to do throughout the day, but I find a daily review important, so I fit it in the schedule.

The first thing to do to make it work is set up a routine at the beginning of the year. Whether you do a review as morning work, at the beginning of your math period, or at some other time of the day, if you get the students familiar with the routine, early on in the school year, you will save time throughout the rest of the year. I give out a few weeks of review at a time for students to keep in their books and then when they come into math class each day, they've already got the review and they know where we left off, so they can get started on it right away. Since I keep my reviews short and to the point, it really only takes up a few (15 max.) minutes of our class. The students work independently and then we quickly go over the questions and move on to the day's lesson. The review is a great way to get students settled and only takes up a small fraction of our class time.

If you're interested in trying out a daily review with your students, click the buttons below to head to the best packets for your grade level:

All the above grade levels have individual & bundle packs available. I am currently working on the fifth grade version and have individual packs available for Back to School, Fall & Winter. For those packs, click the picture below:

Do you use a daily review in the classroom? I would love to hear your opinions on the topic.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

First Day Student Name Tags

A great idea for the first day of school is to have students create their own name tag for their desk. This provides them with a sense of ownership over their desk and new classroom and provides a low-key art activity for the first (or second) day of school.

Most of the students I will be teaching this year (*note: we have not yet started the school year) already know each other. In fact, I already know/have taught the majority of them, as well. This means that, although we will still be doing some important community building/icebreaker activities, the students will also need some informal getting-to-know-you/reconnecting-with-old-friends time. It also provides me with a great opportunity to circulate and chat with each student - so important!

One more bonus for this activity . . . it is low prep! If you teach older students, all you need is some pre-cut card stock (as small or large as you prefer) and a teacher sample. You can give your students the freedom to write & decorate their name as they choose, or give them a sample to follow, so all the name tags look uniform when displayed on their desks.

There are a ton of great name art examples online to inspire you, but here are some of my favourites:

*I love this idea from the blog of Rob Golombek Jr. Art Teacher. Have students write their name in bubble letters and fill the letters with a pattern of their choosing:

Via Rob Golombek
Via Rob Golombek
*Have students create a rainbow name tag like these from The Happy Teacher:

Via The Happy Teacher

*I love the look of these 3-D names from Art with Mrs. Seitz and they're super easy to read which is perfect for name tags:

Via Art with Mrs. Seitz
*If you teach primary, you could always have the students' names pre-written in block letters and then let them color them in, like these from 4th Grade Frolics:

Via 4th Grade Frolics

Now I'm off to do more back to school planning!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

My Favorite Resources & a Back to School Freebie

I've got a few more glorious weeks of summer and then it is back to the classroom for me. I have to be honest, I have not been having as many back to school nightmares as I usually do, but I'm sure they'll start soon!

Today I want to talk about my favorite resources for the classroom, so let's just jump right into it.

1) Morning Work

I said morning work, but really this system could be used at any point throughout the day. Typically, morning work is used in the morning to help settle students and provide them with a little language or math (or both) review. I like to split that up and have the math review at the beginning of the math period and the language review at the beginning of the reading/writing block. However you do it, I think the important thing to take remember is the routine & the review.

Students (and teachers) often thrive on and need routine. That doesn't mean you can't switch it up every now and then - by all means, keep it interesting - but I find that students (especially struggling learners) really work their best when they know what is expected of them throughout the day. Plus, establishing this routine early on will cut down on all those "What should I be doing?" questions during the morning or the beginning of a period.

Now routine is important, but let's not forget about the review aspect. I will never forget when I was student teaching and my mentor teacher and I decided to give the students a little exit ticket on place value. We were not working on place value at the moment and oh boy, it was an eye opener. This was when it really hit me, how important it is to incorporate review into the daily schedule. Students not only need to review the new material with which they are being presented, but also those ever-so-important basics that form the foundation of their learning.

When we talk about a daily review, I don't think it should be extensive. That can waste valuable class time and be counterproductive. I mean a simple, daily review, where every student can feel successful. I created Daily Math and Daily Language reviews that are super easy to use (just print and provide to students) and with only five questions per day, do not take up too much time or overwhelm students.

If interested, you can click the picture above to be taken to the 3rd Grade Daily Math Bundle, or click {HERE} to check out the other grades available. I've finished 1st through 4th and am currently working on a 5th grade version.

I also have Daily Language available:

Again, you can click the above picture to check out the 3rd Grade bundle or click {HERE} to check out the rest. I've finished 1st through 3rd (bundles and individual packs available) and am currently working on a 4th grade version.

2) Formative Assessment

Like I said, I have yet to head back to school, but one question I know I will be needing to answer soon is "Where are my new students at?"

When I was in University, the professors could not speak enough about the importance of formative assessment and that is something I always try and incorporate a ton of into the classroom. Before you start working on the new curriculum for the year, you really need to find out what your students know and what they still need to work on. This year, I've created a Back to School Ready pack (available for 3rd & 4th) of 10 printables (5 math and 5 language) to get a good idea of where the students are at, based on the previous year's standards. This will give you a great idea of your group's strengths and weaknesses, which is essential when planning for the year.

Click the pictures above to head to the 4th grade version and {HERE} to check out the 3rd grade one.

3) Reading Comprehension Printables

Reading comprehension strategies, where do I begin? Through teaching reading and doing learning support, I've come to realize that reading comprehension strategies are kind of like mental math strategies. Some students just get it, some students get it but can't explain why they get it and some students need to be explicitly taught it, sometimes repeatedly. I've worked with struggling readers in the past who had to use a certain printable to show their thinking. The problem? They didn't understand how to use the printable, so of course they didn't know how to show their thinking.

I created two packs of printables, one set to be used with picture books and one set to be used with novels. The great thing about these is the age range is flexible and they can be used over and over again, with any book. Work together as a class to teach students how to use these at the beginning of the year and then they become an independent tool for students to re-use throughout the year to show their thinking as they read.

Click the picture above to check out the picture book pack and the picture below to check out the chapter book pack.

So, those are some of my favorite year-round essential resources, but now it's time to switch gears for a back to school freebie! If you've already been back in school for awhile, you can always tuck this away until next year!

Help your students get to know you with this fun, editable freebie! Fill in 10 facts about yourself and let the students decide which are true and which are false. Go over as a class and blow your students' minds with all the details (or only a select few!) about your life. Works best if you've led a fascinating life!

Share a classroom? No problem! I've also added a printable where you fill in the facts and have students decide whether they apply to one teacher, both or neither.

And finally, if your students had a blast discovering facts about your life, they'll probably love telling you about themselves, so I've also included a student version.

Click any of the pictures above or {HERE} to grab this freebie.

If you're interested in any of the resources I talked about, make sure to pick them up tomorrow during the one-day-only Teachers Pay Teachers Boost Sale. My entire store will be on sale and if you use the promo code "MORE15" you'll save even more! Just what I needed, another excuse to do back to school shopping!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Math Games . . . Part 2!

I've said it before ({HERE}) and I'll say it again, I LOVE math games! I find them to be such a fun, relaxed way for students to practice basic facts and skills that they forget they're working hard and learning!

There are a ton of math games out there that are amazing . . . and also require a million different components. I like math games that require little to no prep or supplies, because let's be honest, teachers are busy enough! The two games I'm going to talk about today need only a deck of cards, can't beat that!

Now, I have to be honest. Rather than brand new math games, I'm actually just going to talk about two alternative versions of a game I posted last year, let's call it Multiplication War Version 1.0:

This is a great, fun game for students to practice their basic facts. I talked about it as multiplication war, but primary students could also try it as addition (first person to add the two numbers) or subtraction (first person to subtract the smaller number from the greater one) war. The only problem I talked about then is that students need to be matched up by skill level, which is not always realistic or simple. Today, I have ways to use the basic concept, but not have to worry about students being paired up evenly. Hooray for differentiation!

Introducing, Multiplication War Version 2.0:

For this version, a pair of students splits a deck in half and at the same time, they each choose one card from the top of each deck, giving them each two cards. This creates different questions for each student, introducing an element of luck and reducing the competition to answer first. Students answer their own question and the student with the greatest answer wins the cards for that round.  Since the winner is not determined by answering first, but rather by the random cards they pull, students can freely help each other if they are stuck and the winner is determined by pure luck, not skill level. I love this version. Number 1, because I have seen strong students walk their partners through the answer, benefitting both students, and Number 2, because since it is based on luck, and not skill, it reduces the frustration felt by struggling students that they "can't win" against a stronger opponent. Anyone can win this game (even when students play the teacher!) and that makes students excited to play.

Multiplication War Version 3.0:

This is another version of multiplication war that works best when students are paired up by approximate skill level, but can be adjusted to work with most student pairings. In this version, students split the deck in half. In the first half they place all the cards that represent basic facts they both agree they are comfortable practicing. Students usually start with 5s, 10s, 1s, 2s, etc., but can add more as they learn. In the second half they place the cards that represent the basic facts they do not yet know. Students can then either each take one of the halves, and each flip one card per turn with the first person calling out the answer getting to keep the cards (like regular multiplication war) OR students can place the two halves side by side and play as in the 2.0 version, each taking one card from each deck, to create their own questions to answer.

I like this version because the added step of splitting the deck into known/practice facts and unknown facts allows students to work at a level they both feel comfortable at because each turn will produce a question that they either know or are practicing. This maintains the surprise, but also eases anxiety about suddenly seeing 8 x 8 and having no clue where to start.

Like I said, this works best for students at around the same level (for instance, they both know their 2s, 10s, and 5s, and want to practice their 9s) or can be adapted to students of different levels by using only the numbers with which the struggling learner feels comfortable. This makes the two students on a more level playing field as they are both working on questions they know or want to practice.

In addition to games, I like to bring fun into math whenever & wherever possible. I do not want students to fear math or become bored with it when they feel it is repetitious. But let's be honest, there is a lot of practice, practice, practice, so we as teachers have to keep the students interested. To keep that practice from boring students to tears, I created a little pack of Basic Multiplication & Division Math Mystery Phrases:

Students answer the questions (lots of practice of basic skills) and then use the letters to solve the mystery phrases. The mysteries are fun (gotta keep those students engaged in the material) and self-checking . . .  a bonus for busy teachers! You can click {HERE} or the picture above to grab the mysteries.

And for when students just need some good ol' extra practice, I have 60 Quick Quizzes for Multiplication (click {HERE} to grab) . . .

So how do you keep math fun? I would love to hear your tips and suggestions!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Are your new students Back to School Ready??

Wahoo, it's summer! The last week of school dragged on forever, but we finally made it! This past week was my first week of summer break and it was beautiful. The weather was beyond gorgeous - hot and sunny every day. Now that we're entering the second week, the weather has cooled off and back to school reality has set in. I know it's not quite back to school time, but I cannot help but think about it!

Let me paint a little back to school picture for you. It's the first day. You have twenty-odd smiling facing starting at you, ready to learn but . . . what to teach? The same questions always run through my head those first few days: Where are my new students at? Are they working at grade level? Above? Below? What do they still remember from the previous year and how much knowledge have they lost due to the summer slide?

Well, I think I've come up with a way to easily answer those questions, without taking up too much precious learning time. Enter my new packet, Back to School Ready - 4th Grade. It is a quick and easy pre-assessment for use during the first week or two of school. The five math and five language printables are based on the 3rd grade common core standards in order to give you a general idea of where your students are at, based on the previous year's curriculum, and what they may still need to work on.

Each printable is labeled with the standards it covers and also includes "I can" students so that you and your students are aware of what skills they should be demonstrating.

Provide one math and one language printable to your students (perfect for first week morning work!) each day for the first week and you will be able to see what skills they have retained from 3rd grade, and which you may need to re-visit before moving onto the new curriculum.

Although this is not an extensive review, I think it is a perfect way to help you facilitate planning for your year so that all students are on the right track and working at the appropriate level.

You can click {HERE} or the pictures above to check out the pack if you're interested!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Wild About Us! Freebie

I recently discovered an adorable book called Wild About Us! by Karen Beaumont. It is a super sweet book about animals celebrating their differences. As I read it, I realized it was a perfect text to have students model to celebrate themselves.

From wrinkly skin to huge feet, from long noses to spots, the animals don't make fun of differences, they embrace them!

I've created this super simple freebie to get students writing about (and celebrating) what makes them wild about themselves. You can click {HERE} or the picture below to grab it.

You could even use this to make a fun Wild About Us! class book to begin or end the year!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Counting down the days . . .

Well, hello there. Long time no blog. Actually, it's not that long since my usual blogging schedule is only about once a month!

So, what has been going on? Well, all kinds of end of year craziness. All over the blog, Facebook, Pinterest world, I keep getting bombarded with reminders that each day, teachers are entering summer vacation, buuuuttttttt, we are not quite there yet. A few more weeks to go still and I am scrambling to get things done.

Math, science, reading. We are trying to cram it in, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on if you're asking the teachers or the students!), there is so much stuff coming up. Oh, well. I guess that's the end of year teacher life.

If you are like me and seem to be (lacking extra prep time), and need a little help during these weeks, check out my end of year and summer resources. From Daily Language & Math reviews to Word Problems to printables and freebies, there are a ton of no-prep and low-prep options from which to choose:

And if you're finished the school year already (lucky you!), then you might be interested in some of the classroom decor packs I am sllloooowwwly creating. You can check out some of the latest below:

If you're interested in any of the above packs, just click the pics!

Whether you're on summer break or counting down the days, have a great rest of the week!