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!