September 16, 2020

A Simple Tool To Improve Learning

Timelines are graphic organizers that show information in chronological order. They are useful for displaying key ideas and can help students organize the information that they read. Although social studies topics come to mind first, timelines can be useful in other subjects as well. Timelines can be used to sequence a story, list procedures in a science experiment, or steps in solving a math problem. 

Here are some benefits of using timelines in lessons: 

1. Timelines enable students to break down larger amounts of information into smaller, easier to comprehend bits of information. Breaking down information can promote a greater understanding of a topic. 

2. Timeline graphic organizers provide a visual representation of content. They can be particularly helpful to visual learners, English language learners, and special needs students.

3. Timelines are useful for teaching research skills and notetaking. Elementary grade students who are just beginning to learn how to research and take notes can use a timeline to display the most important parts of their findings. Timelines help students focus on key ideas to include when presenting research. 

How to introduce timelines to your students:

1. Show students examples. 

The examples can be timelines that you find online, draw on the board, or even one made on poster board.

2. Create a timeline together. 

You may want to begin by creating a timeline of a typical school day. Draw a timeline format on the board and label "arrival" at the beginning of the timeline. Students can write activities and subject areas in chronological order along with corresponding times.

3. Assign independent or partner timeline research and creation. 

Be sure to assign or suggest topics that spark interest! Students can create a timeline of fun topics on bulletin board paper, poster board, or printables such as this resource:


Timelines make learning so much easier! 

August 29, 2020

Examples of Specific Feedback for Students

General comments such as "Great Job" are nice words that may make students feel good, but specific feedback can help students advance their learning. Imagine that you are just learning to drive. After driving all over town, the instructor or your parent says, "That was pretty good, but there are some things you still need to work on," and walks away. It may be kind of important to know what exactly was good and what needs work! Students need the guidance of teachers to provide information about what is going well, and what next steps to take to move along. This guidance can be provided in the form of specific feedback. Feedback can be provided informally while walking around the room as students work or more formally with a student and teacher conference. Either way, your students will likely benefit from specific feedback. 



Like other effective instructional practices, providing specific feedback may take a bit of practice. You may want to try focusing on one subject area to start. Then you can add other subject areas as specific feedback becomes a habit. Here are examples of specific feedback in 5 subject areas to get you started:


1. Writing

You remembered to indent each paragraph. The next step is to use transition phrases such as "The following day..." when you begin a new paragraph. 


2. Math

You chose the right operation to begin that story problem and solved it correctly. It's a 2 part story problem so let's keep reading to decide what to do next.


3. Science

Your graph is an accurate display of your results. What conclusions can you draw based on this data?


4. Social Studies

You were able to use North, East, South, and West correctly when answering questions about the map. Now you are ready to work with the intermediate directions.


5. Reading

You were able to answer all the factual questions from the passage correctly. Rereading may help you answer those trickier open-ended questions so that your answers are supported by text evidence.


When you provide specific feedback, you are recognizing small steps toward a goal. Notice the reaction from the student when you give specific feedback. Confidence grows when students know exactly what to do next. 


Have you tried giving specific feedback? Feel free to share what has worked for you in the comments below! 


I've been reading a lot about the importance of habits. You too? Read about making math a habit HERE!

August 12, 2020

5 Whole Group Games That Work With Kids At Their Seats

Kids staying at their seats may not be the ideal situation. Nevertheless, adapting temporarily can give students the opportunity to play whole group games. Of course, make sure that you are able to follow all health and safety guidelines before playing these games. 


1. Bingo

Bingo can be played to reinforce many topics from vocabulary words to math facts. Consider using printed disposable bingo boards. Students can have their own set of chips that can be stored in individual Ziploc type bags or inexpensive plastic containers. Here is a FREE blank printable bingo board that students can fill in with vocabulary words that you write on the board.


2. Twenty Objects

Display 20 pictures on the board for 1 minute. For younger students, you can start with fewer objects. The pictures can be content-related. For example, if you are studying electricity, you could have 20 pictures of items that run on electricity. To play during a math lesson, you could display 20 math-related items. After 1 minute, close the display. Students then try to write down as many items as they can remember. 


3. Unpacking Grandmother's Trunk

Students pretend to be up in Grandmother's attic unpacking an imaginary trunk. One by one, students name imaginary items that are found in the trunk. Each student must list the previous students' items before adding their own. Some like to play this game using the alphabet. A game could go like this:

Student 1: I unpacked my Grandmother's trunk and found an accordion.

Student 2: I unpacked my Grandmother's trunk and found an accordion and a bike.

Student 3: I unpacked Grandmother's trunk and found an accordion, a bike, and a cake.

Let the kids be silly and see how far they can go. If you have fewer than 26 students, they can have more than one turn. If you have more than 26 students, you can have recorders who write down what is said. Another starter for playing this game is "I am packing a suitcase for vacation and I am packing..."


4. Categories

This game is played like Scattegories. Make a list of 5 to 10 categories such as animals, plants, games, names, places, books, food, etc. Choose a random letter. Students then try to write one example from each category that begins with the selected letter. For the letter "D" a student could write:

Animal - dog

Plant - dandelion

Game - dominoes

Name - Dustin

Place - Dave and Busters

Book - The Doorbell Rang

Food - donut

Categories can be related to curriculum content once the students know how to play. For example, the solar system, rocks and minerals, music, art and design, and colonial times, could be categories. Make the categories more specific for advanced play. 


5. I Have Who Has Games

I Have Who Has is a fun game for students to play while practicing various skills. The game starts with a set of cards that are NOT numbered. All of the cards in the set are distributed even if students need to get more than one card. One student will have a card that says "I have the first card. Who has..." If students are practicing math vocabulary, the first card may read "I have the first card. Who has 2 lines on the same plane that are equal distance apart and never meet?" The student who goes next would have the card that says "I have parallel lines. Who has a part of a line that stops at given endpoints?" The game continues with students listening for clues to the card that comes next. The game ends when a student has the card that reads, "I have the last card." Students like to repeat these games while being timed to see if they can beat their previous time. During times when students cannot share materials, these games can be printed on paper and disposed of after each use. Once students can share materials, the game cards can be printed and laminated for repeated use. 


Here are a few inexpensive suggestions to get started with I Have Who Has Games:

Multiplication Game 2's and 3's

Multiplication Game 3's and 4's

Multiplication Game 4's and 5's

Multiplication Game 5's and 6's


Dreaming of getting back to the future with all the things? Here are some not-so-socially-distanced games to keep in mind for later on:

Whole Group Games


What are your favorite classroom games? Feel free to leave a comment below!


With faith and friendship,


July 23, 2020

6 Models of Co-Teaching

Co-Teaching is a rewarding, yet challenging experience. Co-teachers need to plan and communicate regularly, and consideration of teaching models will most likely become regular topics.



There are 6 basic models of co-teaching to consider when planning your lessons.

1. One Teach and One Observe

One teacher teaches while the other teacher collects data. The data collected can be academic or behavior, formal or informal. One type of data that I previously asked my co-teachers to collect centered around my interaction with the students. I wanted to know how many times I called on each student during a particular lesson and whether or not they had raised their hands before being called on. This was informal data collection but helped me recognize which students needed more engagement or sharing opportunities and of course, which students had no trouble at all with class participation.

2. One Teach and One Assist

One teacher teaches while the other teacher provides individual assistance during the lesson. Basically, one teacher is leading the lesson while the other walks around and helps any student who may be confused or needs additional direction.

3. Parallel Teaching

The class is divided into 2 groups (possibly based on data) and each teacher teaches a group at the same time.

4. Station Teaching

Both teachers teach in small groups, and the students rotate through stations that include meetings with the teachers. My personal favorite! If you group students into 4 groups, they can rotate around the room with 2 teacher-directed stations and 2 more independent stations. The teacher stations can be different parts of a lesson and students would visit both of your stations. Alternatively, the teacher stations could be the same and students would visit with just one of you. Students love this form of instruction (as do many administrators in my experience!) This type of teaching allows for teacher and student engagement while allowing for creativity and independence. Station teaching is perfect for incorporating those fun ideas found on Pinterest and TpT!

5. Alternative Teaching

One teacher takes a small group aside during a lesson for intense or remedial instruction. This type of model works well when you have a small group of struggling students and they cannot move on with content until they grasp certain concepts. Buyer beware though...often students who are not struggling will ask to sit at the table! How you handle this is up to you, but sometimes a student may just need a little TLC so if there is room at the table...

6. Team Teaching

Both teachers teach all the students in a whole group instruction format. Some concepts are just better taught with the two of you interacting back and forth in complementary roles. This model almost feels like a theatrical performance and can really be fun and effective. Students like to pay attention to the interaction between the adults and the adlib in the lesson. Again...buyer beware...students have been known to use this type of lesson to get you sidetracked and off-topic!


You can choose different models during the day to keep the variety and meet the needs of your students. Flexibility is important too. A lesson that begins with One Teach and One Assist may evolve into Alternative Teaching if you observe that some students are in need of greater support.

Working with a co-teacher and need a place to start? Check out this Co-Teaching Guide that includes plenty of helpful printables:
 Co-teaching

Have you used any of these co-teaching models? Which models have worked out the best?



July 12, 2020

4th Grade Writing Prompts and Ideas

4th Grade curriculum usually includes 4 types of writing.

This chart summarizes expository, descriptive, persuasive, and narrative writing. It can be used as a reference and get you started with your lessons.


Does your writing curriculum need supplements?

Kids love this Opinion Writing resource that may help with your persuasive writing goals:

 opinion-writing

Once students are interacting again, you can try a fun way to distribute the opinion writing prompts!
1. Place each prompt in a separate envelope. Do not seal.
2. Have students stand up.
3. Distribute one envelope to each student. Spread out the extra envelopes on a table.
4. Students look at their prompt but keep it a secret.
5. If the student wants to keep their prompt, they sit down with it.
6. If a student does not want the prompt, they may EITHER trade with a classmate or swap at the table.
7. Repeat step 6 one more time or for as long as your patience allows!
8. Students use an organizer and begin writing.


Need just a graphic organizer for your own topics? Check out this print and go best seller for only $1.00!

 personal-narrative

Have you ever thought about having pen pals? Pen pal letter exchange can help students practice their writing skills. Check out this older post where I talk about how I teamed up with a teacher in California for a pen pal experience.    


Once you team up with another teacher, you may want to use this friendly letter resource to get your kids started:

 friendly-letter-writing

Choice boards are all the rage and writing is no exception! Kids and teachers love these writing choice boards that can be used throughout the school year. One teacher states: "I used this during writers workshop. The kids really loved the variety of prompts and it was easy to implement every month."

 writing-prompts


What motivates your students to write? Feel free to respond in the comments below!

June 21, 2020

Step By Step Plan For Organizing A Pet Show

I can still remember how proud I felt when I saw that blue first place ribbon on my hampster's cage. The annual pet show at my elementary school was a time to show off our critters. Parents and guardians would arrive with our pets while we waited anxiously in our classrooms for our turn to go outside and look around. One year someone brought a horse!

A pet show can be planned for your school, grade level, or your own class. If you will be the project planner, here are some steps that you may want to consider:

1. Get approvals from your administration, board, and local officials.

It's better to ask about what you need to do in order to be safe and compliant.

2. Decide on a day and time. 

Plan a rain date.

3. Have a conversation with the school nurse and special education staff.

Ask what suggestions they have to make the experience accessible to all children.

4. Form a committee.

A committee will allow you to delegate the remaining responsibilities.

5. Email colleagues with a save the date and general information. 


6. Notify parents about the event.

Parents need to be informed about how students can participate. This notice should include requirements such as proof of rabies vaccine, parent accompaniment, leashes, cages, etc.
Have students prepare their own letter home inviting parents and guardians to bring pets.

7. Make a sign-up sheet or schedule for visiting the pet show.


8. Make a map of the pet show area.


9. Make and print out certificates. 

Certificates are included in the resource below!

10. Obtain tables, cones, shade tents, and other equipment.


11. Obtain extra water to have on hand for pets.


12. Set up a check-in station for when pets arrive.


13. Assign a staff member to take pictures.


14. Set up a voting system if students are voting for a favorite pet.


15. Enjoy the pet show!




16. Announce winners and distribute awards.


17. Thank all who made the event possible!

 pet-show

Need some of the details taken care of? Grab this Pet Show Planning Guide for only $2.00!
This resource is also useful for planning a Stuffed Animal Pet Show as an alternative to live pets. It includes a printable checklist of the steps above and award certificates for both a live pet show and a stuffed animal pet show. This is a great end of the year activity!

June 6, 2020

Make Math Practice a Habit

In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell refers often to the 10,000 hour rule. This rule implies that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at anything. Although there are critics, most would agree that if we look closely at experts in many fields, we find that there were stepping stones along the way in the form of significant units of time spent practicing.


For students, practicing math daily can help with the retention of foundation skills even as new skills are introduced. In particular, many students seem to need significant practice with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division algorithms. Practice can be assigned for morning work, warm-ups, take-home practice, distance learning packets, tutoring, or extra help.

Practice can take the form of copying problems off the board into a notebook, worksheets, or digital practice. Copying problems off the board will help with eye-hand coordination. Worksheets can save teachers time and offer an answer key. Finally, there are plenty of websites that offer quick practice in the form of games and interactive learning.

If you have students practice by copying a few problems off the board or by solving problems on worksheets each day, you could give students time to explain how several problems are solved. The process of explaining will further help students retain how to complete the algorithms. It is important that students who are struggling and more confident students be given the opportunity to explain how to solve the problems. Of course, the teacher would offer support to any struggling student to make sure they were confident enough to present a solution to the class.

These 3 printable resources each provide 20 days of practice. With these worksheets, students solve just 4 problems each day, and there is plenty of space to show work. These sets of worksheets can be alternated with writing problems on the board and digital practice for variety.
 Math Practice

Daily Math Practice Fall Theme
Daily Math Practice Winter Theme
Daily Math Practice Spring Theme


Do you provide daily math practice to your students? Feel free to share your own ideas in the space below!