Friday, March 17, 2017

Five Ways to Use Mini White Boards in the Classroom

 Sometimes the littlest things turn out to be amazingly useful for many reasons.  Post-it notes for example continue to be one of my most useful resources in the classroom. Click here to read a short post I wrote about how I use them for behavior monitoring.

  Another great invention I find myself using more and more in the classroom are mini white boards. It seems every week I find another use for them. The kids love using them also.

Here is my list of ways I use them as a resource and am sure my list will grow.

1. Guided Reading: While meeting with my reading groups, the children and I use the boards to draw graphic organizers to fill in as we read to aide with comprehension. No matter the skill I'm targeting, there is some way to use the boards to demonstrate comprehension.

2. Assessment: For a quick assessment, I often use them to ask a closing question for a lesson. The children write their answer and turn the board face down until I tell them to "reveal their answers".

3. Cursive Writing: I know. I know. The long lost art of cursive writing we hear so much about. I admit that I don't have time to spend teaching cursive everyday, but I try to make sure the kids know how to write their names in cursive. I'll introduce a couple of letters during morning work time once a week and let the kids practice on their wipe off boards once all their work is done.

4. Word Work: I use the boards to reinforce lessons on word patterns, sounds, prefixes, suffixes, etc. .If we're working on a certain suffix or prefix, we'll take our white boards with us to hunt for those words in the hallways. I tell the children to write the word and circle the suffix or prefix and underline the base word. I do the same thing with digraphs, blends, nouns, verbs, etc.  After the hunt we share what we found and make a class chart of the words to display.

5. Writing: I have used the boards for mini word banks for any type of writing we are working on. A way to differentiate is to give students that need it, their own word bank by jotting down words to help them with their writing. I might write a sentence stem on one and give it to a student struggling to get started. It's also helpful for all the kids to apply the spelling strategy "which looks right". They write the word they're not sure how to spell a couple of different ways and pick which one looks right.

I'm sure they're many more ideas for using mini white boards that I haven't mentioned. Please share some of your ideas in the comment section. 😊

Sunday, January 29, 2017

BDA Reading Questions

 With our second set of conferences right around the corner, I'm anticipating many questions on how parents can help to prepare their child for the upcoming state reading test.  Rather than giving the parents a stack of practice test selections, I've created Before, During and After Reading Questions to use with authentic reading.  I designed questions that require the depth of thinking needed according to the common core standards.  I've included both reading literature and reading information text questions.  These questions are available for free at my TPT Store. In addition to passing them out to parents at conferences, here are some other ways they can be used.

  • Buddy Reading-the kiddos can take during asking each other the BDA questions as they read.
  • Guided Reading Groups
  • Information Text questions can be used with Science or Social Studies Texts
  • Book Club Discussions

     Click on the picture to download. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Let's Talk Christmas Countdown

   Fifteen days and counting. Well..eleven days until Christmas Break.  Channeling the excitement of the season into productive learning can be a challenge this time of the year to say the least.  There are days I want to throw my hands in the air and yell "I give up!", put on some Christmas music, make crafts, and dance around. Then, there's that little nagging voice in my head telling me that I need to get them ready for a test. I can't veer far from my pacing guide or they won't be ready.  Uggh! The "T" word dampens my spirits like no other.
   So, my solution? Compromise. Stick to the pacing guide and dig deep into the creative recesses of my brain.  After doing this, I came up with my Let's Talk Trees Persuasive Writing Unit.

Here is my checklist for creating the unit:

  • Needs to be engaging and Christmas related...✔
  • High Interest...✔
  • Common Core aligned...✔
  • Follows pacing map..Close Read Information Text✔ Point of View✔Opinion Writing✔
  • Fun for the kids✔
 We spent a week on the unit and yes, listened to Christmas music also. The topic of a real tree versus a fake tree for Christmas sparked some interesting debate. It surprised me how opinionated the children were on the topic. To tie in the "crafty" part, I allowed the children to write the reasons for their opinions on ornament templates and then design them. I displayed the ornaments on  our bulletin board with the tree of their choice.

To learn more about the unit you can click the picture below to download a preview. 

Merry Christmas and enjoy your remaining days before break!  

Saturday, October 15, 2016

You Might Be a Teacher If

After a long week, I decided to post something fun that we can all relate to. 

Have a good weekend!  

                                                                                              Teach on,

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Character Motivation

    We are deep into our character study unit in my classroom right now. Next week we are going to tackle how the character's motivation affects the story. First, my third graders need to understand what motivates the characters to act a certain way. This concept can be difficult to grasp especially when being asked to identify how the character's motivation impacts the story.

To start with I'll introduce motivation with my anchor chart that gives three small scenarios to discuss. You can grab it free below.

Next, I'll model the concept through a "think aloud" during read aloud time. Right now I'm reading Ramona Quimby, Age 8. Each chapter is full of excellent examples of how Ramona's thoughts and actions impact the events of the story.

Our whole group core text for the week will be Alexander Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday. We'll apply the concepts learned in our character study throughout the week using this story. Alexander is a perfect character for this. The kids love to learn about him and his lack of self control. 

The books are part of my affiliate links on the right. What books do you recommend for character study? 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Back to School Tips

  Whew! I made it through the first week of school and am adjusting to having three different classes during the day.   I  wanted to follow through on my promise of another post on classroom management. The first couple of weeks of school is the time to establish routines and procedures of the class.  If the students know what is expected of them and there is consistency in daily procedures, the less behavior issues you'll have in the classroom. After this week, I'm reminded of the importance of this.

    Little things make a big impact. Take a look at simple ideas I've embedded throughout my day that make a difference in managing my classroom.

     1.  Establish Quiet Signals
           This is extremely important. Have some type of signal to indicate that you need everyone quiet and their full attention. DO NOT try to talk over your students. Wait to talk until you have the attention of all the children.
         Some ideas are...clapping a pattern that the children need to clap back, holding up the peace sign, give the high five hand signal, or a teacher call back. Teacher call backs are fun. I personally like that one. You can find many types of call backs on Pinterest. I'm excited to try some new ones this year.

     2.  Out of Seat Time
           You may not think this is a big deal, but it is. When are students allowed to get out of their seats to sharpen pencils, throw something away, turn work in, etc. in your classroom? Perhaps the easiest way for me to address this is to tell you when my students are NOT allowed to get out of their seats or walk around the room.

  • Students need to stay at their desks when I'm teaching or giving some type of instructions. I know this sounds like common sense, but I can't tell you the number of students at the beginning of the year that will get up and try to sharpen a pencil right in the middle of me teaching. And my electric sharpener is loud!  They need to know from the beginning that instruction time is important and need of their full attention. 
  • Also, any time announcements come on over the speaker, it is time to stay put. 
 Of course there will be exceptions to the "out of seat" rule during these times for students that need to stand or wiggle or even pace back and forth. (ADHD students, Autistic, kinesthetic learners. etc.) However, I expect all students to listen during these times. I won't budge on that.

    3. Group and Partner Work Expectations

          Not only is it important to establish rules for these situations, I found that I need to actually demonstrate how to interact with each other during this time. Model, model, model! I can't express enough the importance modeling expectations. How do I do this? Let me show you.
     Let's say I want students to work with a partner to finish two math problems. My student volunteer and I will talk it through like this.
Me: Do you want to read number one or number two?
Student: You can read first. 
Me: Okay. I read the first problem. I think the first thing we should do is.....what do you think?
Student: That's what I think.
Me: Let's both work it out and then see if we come up with the same answer.

Look at what I established as expectations for partner work with that role playing.

  • How to talk to each other
  • Both are expected to take a turn in leading
  • Both students need to work out the problem
What if they didn't agree on the answer? I will role play that scenario also in which we talk it through. More times than not, the person that didn't have it correct will realize by talking it through. If they still don't agree then they can raise their hands for my help.

I hope these simple tips help out. You can grab a free copy of my Team and Partner Posters here.

Have a great school year!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Common Sense Approach to Differentiation

  I'm super excited to tell you that I revamped my book A Common Sense Approach to Differentiation (A Teacher in the Trenches). I updated it with new information and feel honored that my idea in the book was implemented school wide this past year. PIE-Practice Intervention Enrichment. I also gave the book a fresh new cover.

    To celebrate the start of the new school year, my book is offered FREE on Kindle this week. It's a short read with simple ideas to differentiate your lessons. Check out the contents list below.

Differentiate Your Classroom-Materials Needed to Set up your Classroom for Differentiation
Catch Them at the Core-Differentiate your Core Lessons 
A Week of Math Differentiation-An inside look at a week of math in my classroom
Begin with the End in Mind- Concept is illustrated with a Writing Unit
Reading Differentiation in Action- Another look at a week in my classroom
Wrap it Up- Recap of my main points. 

One of my favorite quotes from the book....   "The means by which each student accomplishes the outcome may look different, but my goal is to get everybody there."  Tammi Booth


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