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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ideas from the Beehive State

More new blog excitement is happening this weekend. I'm joining a group of Utah teacher bloggers from all grades for a new blog from the Beehive State.
Busy Bees Activities
Busy Bees Activities will be full of ideas for teachers of all grades. To celebrate this new blog, we are having a giveaway over at Busy Bees. You can head on over there for a chance to win by clicking on the button above. 

I'm also feeling a little celebratory myself. I just had my 25th wedding anniversary and my husband kept a promise he made 25 years ago to me that I could get a convertible Volkswagon. I had one when we got married, but we were just too dang broke and needed the money so it was sold. We were two poor college students without a full time job between us. He just drove over 25 hours to bring me home a super cute 1964 convertible. Look how cute it is!

So to celebrate this fun new blog from the Beehive State, as well as my own little fun car, I'm going to give away any product from my TpT store. So take a look and see if there's something you would like. If so you can follow my blog and enter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


I didn't completely understand the magnitude of my decision to move from first grade to fifth grade. I thought I did. I've switched grades plenty of times before, but this one was a little more difficult in some ways and a whole lot of wonderful in other ways. I always like to get the bad out of the way first, so let's start with difficult.  My file cabinets are empty. Totally empty. There's nothing in there to pull out and use. I'm making everything from scratch. I've already had to plan for 4 sub days-math training, art training x2, and reading benchmarks and I had nothing easy to pull out and leave for a substitute. That's just difficult. But on the wonderful side, oh boy, is it wonderful. They get my jokes, they can quietly work for more than 2 minutes, I'm always amazed at how much they can do and it's so fun to see them start really thinking. Which actually brings me back to magnitude.  It turns out that I'm not the only one misunderstanding magnitude. 

Our first unit is place value and my kids are having no difficulty whatsoever with looking at the number 6,375,293 and telling me that the 7 stands for 70,000. They know what each digit stands for, but they seemed to have no understanding of the magnitude of a number or for more targeted thinking such as how many tens are in 3215. So I just kept backing up and finally I hit how many tens does it take to make 100 and everyone got it. I was blown away that my students could read and write large numbers, but didn't have much understanding beyond that. Where was their flexibility with numbers and their understanding of magnitude?

Remember I've been a first grade teacher for years. I'm used to asking students to build something when they don't understand. So to show my students the magnitude of large numbers, I asked them if they thought they could use graph paper to build up to one million. It was a unanimous YES. "Really," I asked, then I started impersonating Amy Poehler. "Really? Really? REALLY????" The challenge was on, so I told them to start with one and build each place until they reached one million. With a ream of graph paper and plenty of tape they went to work. 

Going from one to ten to one hundred was easy. 

Putting together ten hundreds to make a thousand, not too bad either. But when they started putting together ten thousand, I started to hear kids changing their thinking. The confidence that they could build one million was wavering. 

When the first group reached one hundred thousand and realized that to make a million they would have to first make 10 groups of 100,000, I stopped the class and we gathered around to talk about what we could see. I couldn't get the entire hundred thousand in my photo, but it's huge. Before we taped it to the wall we carried it outside and laid it down on the playground. Then we traced around it and measured out ten of them to show one million. Seeing how big one million would be quickly changed the minds of these 10-year old mathematicians. No longer did they think they could build to one million easily. We also really cemented in the idea that each place is ten times bigger than the previous place. The magnitude of one million now has more meaning for them. We didn't finish until after lunch and I had to do a bit of juggling around in my plan book but it was worth it. We ended the day with a discussion of how many hundreds they had to use to make 1000, 10,000 and even 100,000. It was so amazing to see how this activity completely changed our original conversation. It may have taken a lot of time, but we have a deeper understanding of numbers now, which should help us move a little faster as we progress through the year.

I hope you take the opportunity to slow down and dig a little deeper.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Focused on Fifth

I am so excited to announce the grand opening of a new collaborative blog called Focused on Fifth. My friend Angela, from The Organized Plan Book, and I have been working all summer to get this new blog up and running. And finally today is the day! HIP HIP HOORAY!

Focused on Fifth

This blog is purely dedicated to anything related to teaching and learning in fifth grade. To kick off the unveiling of Focused on Fifth, we are having a giveaway. We are giving away a bundle of products from the teacher bloggers who will be blogging at Focused on Fifth to ten lucky winners. Plus one more lucky winner will get the product bundle and a gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers.  You can see all of the prizes here:

Now all you have to do is head on over to Focused on Fifth by clicking on the graphic below.

Monday, September 7, 2015

LaborLess Blog Hop: What Can Your Students Do?

Main Graphic Laborless

Today I am linking up with Laura from Where the Magic Happens, Krista from Teaching Momster, and Lisa from PAWsitively Teaching.  We'll all be blogging about learning to work smarter rather than harder… at school and home.

Take a look around your classroom. What are you doing that your students could be doing? There's not enough time in the day or the night to do everything you would like to do with your class. So work smarter by asking what can your students do? This year is my first year in fifth grade and coming from first grade,  I am constantly grateful for how much they can do. It's a little bit of a shock sometimes still. So here are a few of the things I am doing to work smarter.

1. No need to grade those timed math facts test myself. Why not let the students grade their own? Everyone times themselves, grades themselves and then a helper checks off who has taken the test each day. Smarter, not harder for me!
The Research Based Classroom

2. Why am I writing the weekly newsletter to the parents? It's much more fun to hear what the kids think about what's happening. To give my students enough time to get this done without missing too much instruction time, I'm having them do a bi-weekly newsletter. We select an editor and 4 reporters for each edition. I give them a couple of options for layout. They cut apart the squares so they are writing in exactly the size they need and then glue them back onto a new master. Then I just scan it on my phone with JotNot Pro which turns it into a pdf and email to my school email. Then I post it on our class website and send the link to the parents. But you could also just email the pdf directly to your parents.  I bet it took me 5 minutes to do all of that, maybe less.  Here is our first edition:
The Research Based Classroom

The Research Based Classroom

3. Think a class website sounds hard, think again. My district uses google, so I just used google sites to make a basic website. I thought this was going to be really hard, but once I set up the tabs it was just about adding on the files I want my students and parents to have access to.  Lost your spelling list? Look on the website. Wondering when we will celebrate your birthday? Look on the website.  Need a new reading log? On the website. Forgot the requirements for this term's book report? Also on the website. It's not a pretty website, but it's functional. And the time I spend putting documents on is small compared to the time I was spending making extra copies or searching for those extra copies I knew I had.

The Research Based Classroom

Unwinding at so good at that one. But one thing that does help me is vacation planning. Since at my house we are both teachers of one sort or another, we both have summers off. Work hard and play hard is our motto. Every summer we spend at least 3 weeks on the beach or we are planning a big trip somewhere else. Summer 2016...Barcelona bound! And already planning the trip. Well, actually planning the beach trip and Barcelona.  Nothing is more rejuvenating than that. But during the school year it's a little harder so I try to spend some time each day reading. Not reading for school but just for pure pleasure.
Some of my recent favorites include: A Prayer for Owen Meany, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Gone Girl, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, and Middlesex.

This year with the grade change I don't have any products that are making my life easier.  I am creating everything from scratch right now and thinking about how much easier next year will be. But if you are teaching K, 1, or 2, I do have a product for you! I am a huge believer in inquiry based math and I love, love, love using CGI (cognitively guided math) problems. For both my problem of the day and for my guided math groups I used my themed sets of CGI problems. They include 14 different problem types and each problem leaves the numbers blank for easy differentiation. I have made 14 different themed sets that each have 14 problems. This will get you through the entire year with no prep. Plus you know that you are giving your mathematicians experience with all the problem types. For problem of the day I just put the one page version under my document camera and wrote the numbers on the board (usually I give 2 or 3 sets of numbers and allow students to pick the set that's right for them).  For small group work, I would have them glue the problem into their math journal and solve. So easy. Each theme is sold separately or in this bundle. The bundle also includes task cards for numbers up to 10 and numbers up to 100 for use in math centers. Themes include: Apples, Spiders, In the Barnyard, Zoo Animals, At the Beach, Valentine's Day, Leprechauns, In Santa's Workshop, Cookies, Penguins, It's Snowing, Preparing for the Feast, Bunnies and Eggs, and Cooking It Up.
The Research Based Classroom

This is a sample from the apples themed problems.
Another sample from the snow themed set.
I know getting ready for a new school year is fun, but also hard work. Enter below to win some great prizes that will help you get your classroom ready.

A $100 gift card to Amazon

A $50 gift card to TpT


2 $25 gift cards to TpT

1 $10 gift card to TpT
Hope your year starts off as great as mine has. Enter below for your chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Looking for more LaborLESS ideas to help you this school year?