Sunday, September 10, 2017

Digital Math Games

Let's be honest, being a teacher mom is not easy.  Sleep is virtually non existent these days so finding the time to work your side job is a novelty.  I have been sneaking in a few moments here and there to knock out this awesome product. 

 These math games focus on math fact fluency for +1 through +10 facts.  Each game has its own theme and is self-checking.  

These games are not editable so that students can't change them or mess them up for the next person.  You can easily differentiate based on each student's needs by assigning them the facts that they are working on.  

These games use PowerPoint which can be downloaded for free on iPads and other tablets.  

You can scoop up the bundle to save money and get started right away!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

7 Back To School Lunch Tips

Heading back to school is tough, especially when you have to plan ahead for lunch.  Here are a few tips to help you get organized with the back to school lunch routine.

1. Find the school lunch menu.
Some schools send home a lunch menu and others just post their menu online.  Sit down with your child and write the menu items your child enjoys on your home calendar (less papers to keep track of) or circle the days they would like to buy lunch on the printed menu.  This way, you know ahead of time which days you need to pack lunch and which days you don't need to worry about it.  Parents have no idea how little their students eat at school.  Most of their bought lunches get thrown away and approximately half of the milk never even gets opened.  We are unable to return milk at our school once it leaves the cooler.  We throw gallons of milk away everyday that was never even touched.  Please make sure your child is actually going to eat the lunch your are paying for.

2. Put a reminder in your phone.
Set a reminder in your phone to either pack lunch or even to pay the lunch bill.  Some schools send home a note before your child runs out of money.  Our school waits until there is a negative balance before notifying parents.  Often times, parent believe they only need to pay the past due amount and don't consider the fact that their child is going to continue to buy lunch and will need more than the "negative" balance in their account.  If your school is lucky enough to have an online payment method, take advantage of it!  Set it up so that $30 or $40 is paid monthly so that your child never runs out of lunch money.

3. Know the rules.
Talk to your child's teacher about what they are and are not allowed to bring to school.   Some schools have healthy eating initiatives that do not allow soda or sports drinks in the cafeteria.  If our students buy lunch, they can not bring other food into the cafeteria.  It's one or the other, either you pack or your buy, but you can't do both.

4. Know what appliances are available.
Some schools have microwaves for students, but others do not.  Please don't expect your child's teacher to track down a microwave for their soup.  Unless your teacher offers a refrigerator to store your child's lunch, please don't expect them to find a refrigerator to stash a child's lunch in.  Our building has one staff refrigerator for 40 staff members.  It is packed full everyday.

5. Have your child help you pack their lunch.
Setup bins in your fridge and pantry so that they can choose one item from each bin.  Maybe bin 1 has dairy products like yogurt or cheese sticks.  Bin 2 might have fruit and bin 3 might have veggies.  Give them choices so they feel like they are in control.  Make sure they are eating.  We always have one kid every year that we have to call home for because they are throwing away their entire lunch and not eating anything.

6. Make sure they can use/open what you send.
If they can't open a juice box, please don't send one every day.  Those cute little fruit cups, are not so cute when you open them and juice squirts everywhere.  Trust me when I say, it happens every time! There are two teachers per grade level in our cafeteria each day with 60-75 students that we are in charge of.  Imagine if 30 students needed help opening something.  Even if it only takes 30 seconds, that's 15 minutes we have spent opening items while they are sitting there not eating.  They don't realize they can eat the rest of their lunch while they wait for their fruit cocktail to be opened.  The other teacher is normally handling spills, missing spoons, napkins, extra water, etc.

7. Come eat lunch with them.
Check with your school about their lunchtime visitor policy, first.  Then, find a day that you can sneak away from work and have lunch with your kiddo.  I can't tell you how happy it makes them.  Even the other kids get excited when someone has a visitor.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

7 Times Not To Send Your Child To School

Teachers love their students more than parents will ever understand.  We love seeing their bright and cheery smiles every morning.  However, when you put that many people in a small room for each day, you are bound to share germs.  We simply cannot Lysol our rooms enough.  If kids say they are sick, they probably are.  Please believe them.  Please remember that we take all of their germs home to our families as well.  It's very difficult for us to take a sick day because the work doesn't simply sit on our desk waiting for us.  We have to come to school and get plans and materials ready. Each doctor and school has their own guidelines, but here are some basics.

If your child has had a fever within the last 24 hours please let them stay home.  It doesn't matter if you gave them medicine and it brought it down.  Keep in mind, the medicine will wear off by lunchtime and they will be miserable again.

If your child was vomiting or had diarrhea, keep them at home.  They are contagious.  I promise you, we will hear about it as soon as they walk in the door and we will be sending them to the nurse to call home and have you come pick them up.

If your child has lice.  When I was in school, they sent notes home with everyone in the class if someone has lice.  Many schools these days cannot do that because of privacy laws.  If your child has lice they need to be treated by a doctor.  I'm sorry, but I do not recommend homeopathic remedies for this.  I have had several instances where homeopathic remedies were used and the poor kiddos had reoccurring lice all year long.  And when you go see the doctor, they will remind you to treat your entire house and car and pets.  This means every fabric surface including stuffed animals, pillows, blankets, curtains, etc.

If your child has pink eye, please take them to the doctor for medicine and keep them home for a day so that the antibiotic ointment/drops can begin working. The kids are constantly touching their face and pink eye is highly contagious.

If your child has a cough that has been keeping them up at night or making it hard for them to breathe.  They will not be able to keep up with the school work and will be even more exhausted by the time they get home.  The coughing is also very distracting for everyone else in the room.  Please remember that most schools consider cough drops a medication and need to be taken to the nurse's office by a parent.

If your child breaks a bone, please do not send them to school the next day.  They will be in pain, even with pain medicine.  There is nothing worse than a child sent to school in a splint because they can't see the Ortho until later in the week.  It terrifies us to have a child with a broken bone, not in a real cast, because if they trip or fall it could become even worse.  They are often miserable the entire day because of the pain and swelling.

If your child experiences a family emergency or conflict and doesn't get much sleep the night before, please let them stay home.  Even if you just let them sleep in and bring them to school a little late.  No, I do not mean they were up late watching a movie.  I do, however, mean, if Grandma fell and your family spent the night at the ER, let them get a little rest.

Every school has their own policies that you must abide by.  Some districts have started counting down to the minute how many minutes their students miss.  This is not medical advice by any means, and the repeated phrase throughout this post is "talk to your doctor."  I know it's hard to take the day off work when your kiddo is sick, but do everyone a favor and let them rest and get well.  We will be so excited to see their cheerful face the next day!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

5 Steps To Help You Integrate Art Into Your Classroom

Choose A Time
Choose which subject you would like to integrate art into and what day.  In my classroom, this is Math on Friday.  I am not a "crafty" teacher by nature.  My teaching partners are much better at including art projects into their plans.  I decided on Fridays, after our lesson we would do a math related craft instead of meeting with small groups.  Friday is an easy choice for me because it is jeans day, it's relaxed, and we are wore out from a busy week.

Create A Subject Overview
I created an outline of our math that includes the month and the topic for the week.  This way, I knew that I needed a place value craft for October and a shape craft for December.

Pinterest is your best friend!  I saved ideas that I found to a Pinterest board so that I could reference them later when I was ready to create or download if a template was available.  Think of a variety of terms, to search for and sometimes less specific is better.  Halloween Place Value Crafts may not turn up any results, but try Halloween Math Crafts, or just Place Value Crafts.  If you get stuck, search for a different week and come back to it.  It may seem like a daunting task to plan a craft for every week for the entire year, but in all reality that's only 36 crafts for most schools.

Get Organized
I copied and pasted the picture of the craft into a document so that I could see all of the crafts I had selected for the year in one place.  I also saved each craft with the week name such as Week 1 or Week 25 as this is how I organize my files.

Putting It All Together
Some teachers like to make a sample craft before they do it with their students.  If the craft looks complicated, I recommend this.  However, I tend to make the craft right along with my students so that they can see it all come together.  Last year, my students were so slow at cutting!  I started telling them that I got my rectangle cut out in 6 cuts (with big scissors) so they should be able to get theirs cut out in 10 cuts (with little scissors).  It gave them something to aim for.  They knew that taking little baby cuts, wasn't going to work for first grade.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

5 Classroom Supplies To Buy At Sam's Club

So many teachers forget about purchasing classroom supplies at Sam's Club.  We all think about Wal-Mart or Target or even Amazon, but Sam's Club often has an even better price.  Prices will depend on the day and your location, but these are the items that I tend to purchase at Sam's.
BIC Wite-Out EZ Correction Tape - 6 pk.

GP - Image Plus, Card Stock Paper, 110 lb.,  8-1/2” x 11”, 1 Pack - 250 Sheets
Astrobrights Color Paper, 24 lb., 8.5

Elmer's Washable All Purpose School Glue Sticks, Clear, 60ct.

Seville Classics 10 Drawer Cart (Mulitple Colors)

Expo Dry Erase Markers, Assorted Colors, Pack of 18

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

8 Ways to Speed Up Classroom Transitions

Have Materials Ready
Line up all of your lesson materials on an open table for easy access.  We start our math lesson off with a fact fluency song every morning, so I use this time to get materials out.  2-3 minutes is typically all it takes for me to grab the necessary boxes and line them all up.

I also have a stack of large bowls in my room that I can fill up with anything to enable everyone to reach the materials.  If we are using pattern blocks, I can place 6 bowls of blocks out rather than asking everyone to grab 1 red trapezoid, 2 yellow hexagons, etc. 

Split Up Boys & Girls
Have your boys go put their paper in their mailbox, while the girls put their clipboards away.  Then switch.  This automatically cuts traffic in half and speeds the process up.  The same rule applies when working with partners.  Have partner 1 go get dry erase materials for both people, while partner 2 gets the necessary papers & supplies.

Use Music
Websites such as Flocabulary, YouTube, Amazon Music, etc. are the perfect way to get your class up and moving.  I choose a song that is the appropriate length (or start it in the middle) and tell the kiddos they have until the end of the song to be cleaned up and sitting at their seat.  Content based songs are the best because they sing along and don’t even realize they are learning.  So often, I feel like they aren’t hurrying, when in reality it has only been 20 seconds since I gave them a direction.  The songs help me know just how long it has been and show the kiddos a little grace. 

Have Students Turn Work Into A Specific Location
9 times out of 10 students don’t need to place their work directly into your hands.  Have them place work in a designated bin or file so that you have 30 seconds to get ready for the next lesson.

Ok, so they aren’t buying anything, but I have started telling my students to get one paper for themselves and one for a friend.  This enables me to have half as many kids standing in line for a paper and the fast kiddos can help out the slow kiddos without anyone realizing what’s going on.

Keep It Short And Sweet
Stop giving your kiddos so many directions!  Keep it short!  Within the first few days, my kiddos know the phrase “Paper, pencil, clipboard, carpet”  That’s all I have to say for them to get their materials and take a seat on our carpet.  Less talking for you isn’t a bad thing.  Short, one word, directions are easy to remember. 

Repeat After Me
My teammate is the one that got me started with classroom chants.  She has always made her kindergartners and now first graders repeat after her.  She gives a one word direction and they repeat it three times as they are doing it so that everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing and they aren’t having a conversation with their friend.  If she says “line up” they say “line up, line up, line up” as they are doing it.  It may seem a little robotic, but those first few weeks are rough and procedures must be understood as quickly as possible to have a productive year. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Public Service Announcement Review

As a teacher viewing these videos, I felt sad for the state of technology integration in some schools.  These videos had clear messages supporting technology and it is a shame that we still need to convince educators to use it in their classrooms.

In reality though, I'm sure viewpoints are similar to those when the first car, t.v., or personal computer were invented.  There were people that embraced it and others that did not.  It took a little convincing before everyone was on board with the new technology.  

My Interpretation
This video had a powerful message.  I believe people thought the young girl was crazy for the ideas presented in her essay.  The students laughed, the teacher took her to the principal who called the parents, they took her to the doctor, and then to the psychologist.  People couldn't even imagine anything like that being true and the girl was quite proud of her ideas.  

Video 2 - Role:  Teacher
As a teacher viewing this video, I thought the message being delivered by the student gave it that much more of an impact.  Our teaching should be student centered.  We should embrace creativity and originality from our students and encourage them to dream.  Sometimes the ideas that seem crazy, are the ones that matter most.  As educators we should not be shaming our students for thinking outside of the box, but rather learning from them.  Our world revolves around creativity and design.  They are the reason each brand exists.  Their products have been designed slightly different and that is why people purchase them.  We are creating innovators, not robots.  Times have changed and our practices in the classroom need to change as well.  The scenery and costumes in the video made the viewers feel as if they had gone back in time.  This helps us remember that we are in the 21st century and the future is now.  

My Interpretation
This video I did not find quite as powerful as The Essay.  I found the music to be very distracting and almost daunting.  The message seemed exciting and the music didn't seem to fit.  While watching this video, I felt as though I was watching a movie with subtitles.  It became tiresome and lost my interest quickly.  This is a shame, because it had a great message that I think people would benefit from.  

Video 3 - Role:  Teacher
As a teacher viewing this video, I thought the message was excellent.  With technology these days, the people have the power.  We have the ability to discuss any topic with people from all over the world.  I believe the graphics used provided perfect symbolism.  For example, the bowl of spaghetti representing the confusion that comes with all of the various components of the internet.  I also loved how they used overlapping boxes, almost like a venn diagram repeatedly throughout the piece.  This represents how we are all connected now and we can use that to our advantage.  Everyone may be talking at the same time on the internet, but that is how ideas become reality.  Talking leads to innovating.  Teachers should be communicating with each other and also giving our students opportunities to communicate with other classes that have similar interests or even with experts in the field.  The illustrations were a wonderful way to express the main points throughout the film, however I believe a stationary infographic would have been an easier to follow representation rather than a moving infographic such as this.  

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Infographics In The Classroom

Infographics appear to be the "poster" of the 21st century.  It is a highly effective way for students to display their learning while incorporating a variety of technology and artistic skills.
Due to the fact that I teach first grade, I am not sure I would use this in my classroom.  First graders have a difficult time reading and writing independently.  That combined with the extensive number of computer skills (clicking, dragging, rotating shapes, recoloring, etc.) could lead to a very frustrated class.  
If I taught an older grade, I could absolutely see the value of this assignment.  Students could work on their infographic anywhere without carrying around a variety of supplies.  Each student would have the ability to create their infographic in a creative way that represents themselves as a graphic designer.  This would be a great way for students to summarize their learning across the subject areas.  I feel that students would enjoy making a polished graphic such as these. Language arts teachers could use this to compare and contrast novels, science teachers could have their students summarize their learning about the various topics, social studies teachers could use them to create a timeline.  I feel as though, the possibilities are endless and infographics enable students to try out something other than the basic Google or Microsoft products.  Students could also include the use of a QR code that could take viewers to a video or audio recording to accompany their infographic.
I created two infographics for my current class and one for a previous class.  I have to say the one for my previous class is my favorite.  For this class I used Canva which did not allow me to lengthen my graphic without joining.  I simply had to add a page to the graphic.

Piktochart was used for my previous class and it was a little more user friendly and I was able to lengthen my infographic as much as I needed.

Of the three, the statistical infographic was probably my least favorite.  It seems like it is slightly better than a poster, but not nearly as polished as a full infographic using Canva or Piktochart.  I felt it was difficult to find a picture that would make sense when you sliced it into the various data points.  

All in all though, I think infographics will continue to build in popularity in schools and will enable students to feel a sense of ownership in their work while expressing their creativity and making the project uniquely theirs.   

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Online Presentation Reflection

I explored two different online presentation tools this week and created classroom ready projects for both.

Padlet was up first.  Padlet is a collaborative digital bulletin board.  People from anywhere around the world with internet access and permission can add material to the board for everyone to view in real time.  This creates a wonderful way to have a class discussion, work on a group project, or collect work samples for display.  Learning about continents and oceans in first grade can be very challenging for our students as many of them don't know their own address, let alone anything about the rest of the world.  If we were to create a group project we could upload our findings to Padlet to keep track of our learning.  I believe with some practice, even a first grader could learn to use Padlet by the end of the year.  Click on my sample Padlet below:

Padlet would also be an easy way for students to document their learning with a photo or answer a question rather than using whiteboards.  It gives everyone the opportunity to have a "voice" without having to speak at all.  This is very beneficial for your shy students that are unsure about offering an answer.  Digital portfolios could also be created for each student to document their learning throughout the year.  After speaking with other teachers about this app, the main downside is that students do not have to write their name in order to post.  This leads to students anonymously  making inappropriate posts.  Other than that, I believe this would be a great tool.

Adobe Spark Video was the second tool for this week.  I chose to focus on cause and effect as it is one of the more challenging reading comprehension areas for first graders.  I try to introduce reading topics without a book so that students feel successful before getting bogged down with actual text.  I find that once students realize they experience cause and effect all the time, they are better able to apply it to what they are reading.  I searched online for creative commons licensed images that students could relate to.  I then uploaded them to Adobe Spark and added my voice to each slide.  The entire process was simple and fast which is what we need for tech based lessons for our students.  I believe that upper elementary students would easily be able to complete a video using this tool.
You can check out my video here.

Implementation In My Classroom:
Implementation of these tools at my school may be challenging.  Our computers at school are outdated and many do not have microphones or working headphones.  In order to properly record a video, students would have to use an iPad and even those are not up to date.  We are currently not 1:1 in our building, so students would have to share devices.  I believe using these tools to complete a group project would be our best bet.  Both of these tools would be end of the year projects for my students as many cannot read when they come to me.  Navigating the internet would be challenging, but with proper guidance, I believe we could get it done.  This may be a great project to focus on during centers so that I could meet with one small group at a time.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Fail to Plan...Plan to Fail

I hate to say it, but you need to start getting organized for next year, now, not in August.  You should be able to walk out of your classroom at the end of the school year and feel prepared for next year, rather than overwhelmed.

Map out your available times throughout the day and figure out what you can get done during each time slot.  If you know you can type your newsletter up during lunch & recess, then write it down.  If you know it will take you all day on Friday to make your copies whenever you have a free moment...write it down.  If you make a plan and stick to it, you will accomplish more at school and have less to worry about at home.

Now for the "big" planning...First up, is creating a list of what works and what doesn't.  Just the other day I found a mistake on a word work paper and jotted it down so that I remember to make the correction for next year.  I recommend printing off these sheets and keeping them with your grade book.
For now, take the first step and print these sheets and make sure to write down anything you think of right away.  There is one for each major subject area and a blank one at the end that you can write in your own if there is one I missed.

The columns are for:
Lesson: the unit and specific lesson so that you remember
Mistakes: anything you need to fix
Eliminate:  things you want to eliminate for next time
Special Notes: manipulatives you need, things to add, etc.

Don't feel the need to make notes for every lesson, just the ones that you need to change.

I do not want you to think that you need to have a "cookie cutter" method of teaching.  I know our kiddos aren't robots, but your same basic schedule happens throughout the year, and if you can streamline it, you can save yourself hours of unorganized chaos.  If you always teach polar bears and penguins in January, why not write it down?  It's one less thing you have to lay awake at night trying to remember.  Here is a PowerPoint document that you can use to help get you started.

Job #1
Determine how each subject will be structured.
Do you focus on one week at a time or one unit?  It's ok to have a mixture of the two, but know ahead of time how you want them structured.

Overall I think of my year based on weeks.  In general, each year is 36 weeks.  (We count minutes, not days in school in Oklahoma so I don't quite reach 36, but it gives me a general idea to shoot for.)

I broke down and started using my filing cabinet this year because of our unreliable computer system.  We don't have Windows operating system or Office products, so none of my documents will open correctly at school unless I save them as a PDF onto a USB and then take them to the printer and print the entire document.  Or try to get one of our school computers that is actually hooked up to the printer to work.  It's very frustrating when you only need one page printed.

 Each week has a file folder in it for core subjects, guided math, math center, guided reading, and reading centers.  The majority of our centers are hands on games and puzzles, however sometimes you just need a quick review of a certain skill.  I mapped out subjects so that I knew which week we would be covering each standard so that the materials we have are organized accordingly.  If I am just introducing a topic, I make sure to have a paper a few weeks later (rather than that initial week) so that it is independent work, and not something I will need to help them with.

I also created a file for each month for our "sub tub."  We have very few substitute teachers available and they are typically unable to follow "real" lesson plans.  By organizing all of the papers and graphic organizers, I can easily grab a substitute file for the month we are in and head to the copier.  There is nothing worse than trying to hold a two year old with the stomach virus on your lap and try to print from the slowest computer in the world at 6 am.

Science and social studies are a bit tricky.  Based on our required minutes of reading and math, there isn't much time left over for science or social studies.  They way I have worked around this is by teaching science three days/week for 4 weeks and then social studies three days/week for 4 weeks.  We follow this pattern each marking period so that we can at least discuss everything we are supposed to cover.  Our science and social studies standards are rather extreme and difficult to incorporate into our fictional reading units.  I find it much easier to cover them separately.

Here are samples of my content area overviews for next year:

Job #2
Choose your easiest subject area, for example if you follow a set curriculum, write it down first.  You will feel a sense of accomplishment for getting one whole subject area mapped out. Just, write down the basic gist of either each week or each unit.  Remember, this is a list, not lesson plans.  

Continuing making lists for each week/subject area for each unit.  Be prepared to cross things out and move them around when you actually see them on paper.  

When you are trying to create your units/weeks ask yourself what you actually want your students to learn.  What are the essential questions that need to be answered for each unit/week?
Job #3
Now that each subject area is mapped out with the units for the year, tackle one subject area at a time and start writing down the lessons.
Job #4
Here is the calendar that I complete for each year.  I have used this method for the last 5 years, and it is a lifesaver.  I made the first month for you and you can copy and paste it as needed.  As you can see below, I black out the days we are off school, but I still leave my plans on there because next year, Labor Day may not fall in Week 3 and conferences may not fall in Week 5.  When there is a week where we have time off, I simply plan around those days and pick and choose which lessons to cover.  I would rather over-plan, than under-plan.
Job #5
Think of each unit or week as a whole and determine the materials you need.  There is a sheet in the packet at the top of this post to keep track of both materials and books.  Write them down as you go so that you don't forget anything.  You can always go back and add to it as you work out the details of each lesson.

Job #6
Tackle the lessons.  Why not type up your lessons?  It doesn't mean you are forced into them and can't change them if you find something better.  Don't forget to continue to add to your books and materials lists.  I type up each lesson in Word based on my weeks.  Then, when I type my lessons each week, I can just copy and paste them into my plans.  I refuse to hand-write my plans.  I know some people enjoy doing this, but I don't have the time for it.  Especially, because I write each step of my lessons and do not simply write "Review 2D Shapes" or "Penguin Time Worksheet" I always modify the lessons as needed, but the general idea is written out.
Job #7
Organize the stuff.  I have cubes in my room where I sort out my center games for each week.  If it is Week 1 - I grab tub 1, Week 3 - I grab tub 3.  Those sight words that you have to sort through each week to find the ones you need...can now be kept in the proper week's tub.  Those pom-pom balls that you only use for that one craft project each year, can go in the proper week's tub.

I also label all of my masters in my filing cabinet with these slips.  I print them on colored paper and chop them so that I have 6 copy slips.  I attach them to the papers I need to copy with a paperclip so that I don't have to remember what color construction paper to use, or if it is supposed to be double sided or single sided.  Everything is done ahead of time.

You may get your new class and need to adjust your plans, but for can rest easy because the hard part is done.  Every year, I try to get a little more organized than the year before, but why not try to make this year, your best one yet?