Currently July

My pencil sharpener giveaway with Classroom Friendly Supplies has ended.  Thanks to everyone who entered.  I'm verifying the information now and will post about the winner soon...I promise!!
Okay, so it's not technically July yet.  Farley is getting a jump start by hosting her Currently linky a few days early.  Here's what I'm up to right now:

So, I was listening to Beat This Summer by Brad Paisley.  Let's get real, it's  like a 4 min. song and there's no way I can create a blog post that quickly.  However, it's getting a lot of action on my playlist right now and it was the song that was on when I started filling out my Currently.  If you haven't seen the music video for the song you should search for it.  It's super cute!

We do not have family in town.  The closest family we have is almost 3 hours away.  So every once in awhile we get a chance to have our little one spend a day or two with her grandparents.  Not only do they get some quality time with her one-on-one, but it gives us a time to relax and enjoy each other.  We got out and did some sea kayaking, taste tested some brews at some local tap rooms, and enjoyed a few uninterrupted meals.  I'm excited to hug my little one tomorrow :)

I have been thinking about my Erin Condren planner for a few weeks now.  I watched and stalked pictures of the teacher planner for several months.  Then I took advantage of a fabulous deal during Teacher Appreciation Month and snagged a planner of my own.  I chose July as my starting month, so I am anxious to dive in and get to using it...a lot!!

Remember how I said our closest family was almost 3 hours away?  Well, that's my in-laws.  My family is a little more than 5 hours away.  Luckily, I get to see them this month.  We usually only get 2 or 3 visits a year so we try to make them longer visits.  Now I'm just counting down the days until that visit.

I made a big TpT goal for the summer.  I wanted to beef up the number of book units I have since they are some of my best selling items.  I chose a few popular series and I am working on getting them read and getting the files made and uploaded to TpT.  Right now I have been working on adding to the Horrible Harry series.  Then I will be working on the Magic School Bus chapter books.

Tips, Tricks, or Hints
I love reading what tips, tricks, or hints other people have about blogging.  I remember feeling absolutely clueless when I first started.  I had no idea what to share because I couldn't believe anyone would actually read it.  I started following many blogs, but found I couldn't keep up with everyone all the time and still have a life outside of blogging.  So, I started to slowly tune in to blogs I felt more drawn to and formed friendships.  In time, I am starting to find my path on this crazy journey. Personally, I'm a person who loves a good linky party.  They help me find new bloggers and learn more about my currently blogging buddies.

Oh, and speaking of blogging, if you're interested in reading more of my stories, make sure you're following me.  You can use the Bloglovin' button below to double check:

Now, head on over to Farley's site and see what everyone else is up to this month:

Building Mathematical Comprehension - Chapter 4

Before I get started, just a few quick reminders:
Math Game Markdown - tomorrow is the last day to purchase my math games at a discounted price.  The games are marked down anywhere from 20 - 33% off.  Check them out by clicking the picture:
Have you entered for a chance to win a new pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies?  This one also ends tomorrow.  Click the picture below to enter:
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming, post :)
Chapter 4 - Increasing Comprehension by Asking Questions
Keene and Zimmerman write, "Questions lead children through the discovery of their world."
One of my favorite things about teaching young students is their insatiable curiosity.  I love when they pose a question that really drives instruction.  However, I have to admit that sometimes we can't let the questions drive our instruction because of the pressure to meet the standards with the little time we are given.
McGregor and Gelb came to these realizations about math:
* Teachers can encourage kids to build on their natural curiosity by asking questions.
* The ability to ask questions can be developed.
* Sometimes there is no need for answers.  In fact, sometimes there are no answers.
* Teachers should believe that the questions they ask influence the depth and quality of our teaching.
* It may be more important to find the right question than to find the right answer.
Students need to understand how mathematicians use questioning to increase comprehension:
1. Mathematicians purposefully and spontaneously ask questions before, during, and after working with mathematical concepts or problems.
2. Mathematicians ask questions for many reasons.
3. Mathematicians understand that there may be more than one answer to a question.  they do not stop thinking about a question after they discover one right answer.
4. Mathematicians understand that many intriguing questions require further information or explanation.
5. Mathematicians understand that hearing the questions of others inspires new questions of their own.  Listening to the answers of others can inspire new thinking.
Just like in reading, there are different types of questions: Right There, Think and Search, On My Own, and Thick & Thin Questions.
Right There - the answers are literal and easy to find.
Think and Search - the answers are in the text, but are harder to find because students have to put together more than one sentence to get the answer.
On My Own - the answers are not directly in the text.  Students have to think about the text and what they already know to get the answer.
Thick Questions - answers are long and require further thinking.  The questions often start with Why? How Come? I Wonder...
Thin Questions - can be answered with a yes, no, or a number.  They are the more literal questions.
Thinking stems to help get students to question:
* I wonder...
* Why does...
* What would happen if...
* How is this similar to...
* I don't understand...
* What other information is needed...
* What does this remind me of...
* What do I notice about...
* Are there any patterns...
* What strategies might I...
* What do I need to find out....
* Will diagrams, models, or other representations help me... 
Here are some resources I found that I think go right along with this chapter.  First, I saw this on Pinterest and it leads to a free download from TpT:
source: Meg Anderson
Next, I found two documents with more information about questioning:
Oh, and make sure you check out these other posts about the chapter.  Some of these posts include freebies for you:

Coming Soon: Chapter 5 - The Importance of Visualizing Mathematical Ideas

Ten Pin Linky: Math Ideas (and Some Deals)

I spend WAY too much time on Pinterest.  When I saw this linky (hosted by Ashley from Just Reed) it looked like something I had to join in on. no particular order, here are my 10 favorite pins for math ideas.  I have added links back to the original sources (as far as I could tell, anyhow).  If I have incorrectly given credit, please let me know.  Thanks!

One of my first inspirations while planning for Math workstations:

No more flying dice...right?

Getting students to take responsibility for supplies (and figuring out who likes to smash the tips, who leaves the cap off, etc.):

A math word wall, color-coded for Common Core:

Number of the day board:

Number Grid "Window"

Expanding Place Value: 

Individual Stick Game: 

Boggle-Inspired Math Board:

Using cards to have students identify maximum, minimum, median, etc. 
Source: Debbie Diller

In the spirit of math-related items, I've decided to put all of my math games and activities on sale until the end of the month.  Head on over and grab a great deal while you can :)  Items are anywhere from 15% to 33% off.  Click on the picture below to visit my store and see what's marked down!

Oh, and you still have a few days to enter the giveaway for a new pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies:

Building Mathematical Comprehension - Chapter 3

Chapter 3 - Making Mathematical Connections
Just like in reading, "learning is intimately linked to the connections we make between our prior knowledge and our new experiences.  Prior knowledge or experiences help learners interpret and construct meaning from newly introduced ideas or concepts." (Sammons)
Even Marzano (2004) says research shows that "what students already know about the content is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn new information relative to the content."
While many students are taught from an early age how to make connections, students don't always grasp the idea of how to access the background knowledge needed to make those connections.  Teachers need to explicitly teach how to access this information and make the connections to new information.
Often prior knowledge can be grouped into three categories:
Just as in Reading, there are three types of connections:
Math-to-Self Connections
Math-to-Math Connections
Math-to-World Connections
Throughout the chapter, Sammons mentions the importance of explicitly teaching making connections through modeling and think-alouds.  She mentions three important ingredients for making these think-alouds more successful:
proper planning (no more winging it)
precise language
Finally, Sammons mentions some strategies for building connections that can also be found in her Guided Math book:
Math Stretches
Mathematical Current Events
Using Children's Literature
The last thing I want to share was an a-ha for me.  If you have ever taught making connections with primary students, you know my dreaded fear - meaningless, loosely-based connections that the students insist are truly important.  Sammons used a series of concentric circles, similar to a bulls-eye approach as a visual for making meaningful connections.  The center (or bulls-eye) was math.  Surrounding that is math-to-self, then math-to-math, and finally math to world connections.  One of her examples of a think aloud included the following statement, "Sometimes the connections I make distract me from thinking about things that help me understand the math concepts." (Sammons)  It seems so obvious, but I'll be honest - I've never thought about modeling that some connections are distracting to me as a reader.  You can bet that statement (in some form) will be added to my teaching tools this year!
Up Next: Chapter 4 - Increasing Comprehension by Asking Questions
While you wait, head on over to see what other bloggers are saying about this chapter:

Don't forget you can still enter to win a brand new pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies.  You just need to follow my blog & "like" Classroom Friendly Supplies over on Facebook.  Click the image below to enter (you have until June 30th).  Good luck!


Trust Worked. Now You Can Win One, Too!

Sometimes I'm an impulse buyer, but most of the time I like to sit back and weigh my options before diving in.  I have been reading blog post after blog post about The Quietest Classroom Pencil Sharpener.  I have to admit, I was reading and thinking that sure, it's great, but is it really better than the electric sharpeners? 
So I waited...

and waited...
and waited...

I finally went back to spend some money to find out.  Yes, I spent my own money.  Here's what I ordered.  This little baby was $24.99 and did not have any shipping costs.  I received it just a few days later:

Next, I put this baby up against its first challenge:

 Challenge #1
I am a pencil snob.  There, I said it.  I know I'm not alone, either.  I prefer a specific brand of pencil because of the way it writes, the way it sharpens, and the way it erases.  I couldn't just test out my favorite pencil, though.  That wouldn't prove a point (no pun intended).  So, I grabbed three different brands of pencils I had lying around (Staples, Papermate, and Ticonderoga).  Do you have a guess as to which one sharpened the best?
Well, do you?  Here are the results:
Believe it or not (you should) each of them sharpened to a perfect point!  So, I decided to up the ante and gave this new sharpener a new challenge.

Challenge #2
Could this sharpener tackle the pencil box?  I should tell you that this is the very same dull pencil box that remained full for the last 3 weeks of school because our class sharpener wouldn't work, the electric sharpeners around the school wouldn't work, and I was simply in school supply survival mode which means I wasn't willing to go out and buy brand new pencils just to have to store them all summer (instead a parent donated some pencils that had those refillable pieces and didn't need sharpening). 
So, how did the sharpener do with this difficult task?  Are you sure you're ready for this?  I wasn't.  After only 10-15 minutes of sharpening (yes, my 2-year old tried to "help") and 2 or 3 visits to dump the tray, here is what I got to look at...and admire:

I guess these dull pencils need to be moved back to the "sharp" container.

So, what do you do when you are so happy to find a product that actually works?  You shout it from the rooftops (aka blogosphere) and try to help some other lucky teacher get to feel the same joy!   

I contacted Troy from Classroom Friendly Supplies and he graciously agreed to give one of my followers their very own sharpener.  However, he does have a couple of rules:
1 - You must have a US mailing address because he cannot ship internationally.
2 - You must "like" the Classroom Friendly Supplies Facebook page.  


I'm trying to make this one easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!  This giveaway will run until June 30th.  The winner will be announced shortly after I've verified the information.  Good luck! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway


An Apple a Day Linky Party - Classroom Management

Today I'm linking up (just a few days late) with The Applicious Teacher for a weekly linky party series.  This week's focus is sharing about classroom management.

Our school mascot is the star.  Last summer I created classroom rules based on using STAR as an acronym:

This was my first year using a clip chart for classroom management and it worked out really well with my teaching style - I know it's not for everyone.   Here is a picture I took of my first clip chart, right before it got mangled in the laminator.  I then made another one that handled the machine much better.  It was almost identical, but I mounted each space onto black paper for a more uniform look (and to create boundaries between colors).  I can't believe I didn't take a new picture after that.  All well! 

Every day the kids started on green.  I have to admit that I had to be diligent about moving students up - I am a former card chart user where students only flipped cards for negative behaviors.  I wanted to focus on the positives and this allowed for that change, but it was harder to remember to ask students to clip up throughout the day. 

I added a special incentive for making positive choices.  Each time a child reached the top of the chart, he got to take home a special pink slip that said, "Hip, Hip Hooray - I Reached Super Citizen Today".  For every 10 visits a child made to the top of the chart, he/she got to color a new clip.  After the first 10 visits, a child colored his clip red.  After the next 10 visits, a child colored his clip orange.  The child could keep coloring in the order of the clip chart from bottom to top.  By the end of the year I actually had a student with a pink clip.  The kids asked what would happen next.  I said that child could just sit at the top of the chart permanently since I wasn't managing that child's behavior anymore.  Unfortunately, we ran out of school days :(
Here's what happened when a child went below green:
Yellow - warning
Orange - child missed recess and filled out a make a change slip
Red - depending on the child's behavior, a child may have a phone call home, write a letter of apology, or be removed from the classroom (hence, teacher's choice)
At the beginning of the year when my second graders were having a hard time adjusting to a long school day again, I put my brain breaks to great use.  The kids enjoyed the activities and didn't even realize that the activities were really put in place to help keep my sanity intact!  You can grab a copy of my brain breaks here or here or by clicking on the pictures below.

During math, I use carnival tickets.  Students can earn these for getting 100% on a math page.  Sometimes I will give tickets out for free to students who are really tuned in and giving great effort.  Tickets can be drawn for a piece of candy or a sticker.  Occasionally if the noise level goes up too high during games or work time, I will randomly reach into the ticket container and rip one up.  I say, "Bummer!" and the room goes silent.  Rarely do I have to rip up two tickets during one class.  The other added benefit to using these during math is you can have the students practice reading large numbers.
I also use classroom money.  Students can earn money to buy special rewards that are free, or cost very little to me.  This is one of my freebies and you can grab your own copy by clicking on the picture below:
This year my students set classroom goals that they could work on together.  My kids decided on four goals and we posted them in the classroom.  They determined that goal #1 would earn them a pizza party.  Little did they realize that they would meet 2 of their other goals before that one.  In fact, the only goal they didn't meet was the homework goal.  For some reason, we usually had one student (not always the same one) who didn't turn their homework in on time. 
Are you looking for classroom management ideas?  Head on over to the linky to read about what other teachers are doing!
Oh, and don't forget that Google Reader is going away.  I have already made the switch to Bloglovin'.  They send me an e-mail a day with a recap of what my favorite bloggers have posted, but I can also check in at any time to see what's going on in the blogosphere.  You can follow me on Bloglovin'.  There is a button on the right-hand side of my blog.  It looks like this:
Just click on it so you can keep up with my journey.  Thanks for being a follower :)

Building Mathematical Comprehension, Chapters 1 & 2

Last summer I couldn't wait to finish Guided Math by Laney Sammons.  I read the book, came up with a rotation schedule that would work with my teaching, and dove in feet first.  After a few months of teaching, my grade level knew something just wasn't working.  We ended up trying something a little different that worked for this particular group of students.  We are hoping to try it again next year, but Guided Math will certainly come in handy the first few months of school as we get started again.

When I heard that Brenda (Primary Inspired) and Beth (Thinking of Teaching) were going to host another math book study, I didn't hesitate to join in.  This summer we are reading Building Mathematical Comprehension: Using Literacy Strategies to Make Meaning by Laney Sammons (yes, the very same author of Guided Math).
Chapter 1: Comprehension Strategies for Mathematics
As with most teacher resource books, the first chapter introduces the big ideas, but doesn't give away a lot of details (yet).  This chapter illustrates the similarities between characteristics of good readers and those of good mathematicians (prior knowledge, fluency, multiple strategies, etc.).  Then the author introduces the seven comprehension strategies that most of us are familiar with:
1. Making Connections
2. Asking Questions
3. Visualizing
4. Making Inferences
5. Determining Importance
6. Synthesizing
7. Monitoring Meaning
It is important to note that there will be a chapter that delves deeper into each of these strategies later in the book.  Laney Sammons also goes on to discuss the importance of explicit instruction.  She breaks it down into 6 steps:
1. Teacher explains what the strategy is.
2. Teacher explains why the strategy is important.
3. Teacher explains when to use the strategy.
4. Teacher models how to perform the strategy in an actual context while students observe.
5. Teacher guides students as they practice using the strategy.
6. Students independently use the strategy.
I think steps 4-6 are in practice in many classrooms (I do, we do, you do), but I don't think teachers (myself included) are always as explicit with the first three steps.

Chapter 2: Recognizing and Understanding Mathematical Vocabulary
Last summer when I was reading Guided Math, I knew that two of my weakest areas of math instruction were utilizing literature and being more explicit with my vocabulary instruction, particularly for my students who speak more than one language at home. 
The book references how Marzano and Pickering use a six-step process for teaching new words:
1. Provide a description, explanation, or example of the new term (in kid-friendly terms).
2. Ask students to restate the description, explanation, or example in their own words.
3. Ask students to construct a picture, symbol, or graphic representing the term or phrase.
4. Engage students periodically in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the terms in vocabulary notebooks.
5. Periodically ask students to discuss the terms with one another.
6. Involve students in games that allow them to play with terms.
Like most teachers I know, I am enjoying my summer but find my mind wandering back into the classroom from time to time.  I evaluate my year, what I want to continue and what I want to change or add for the next school year.  One thing I have been toying with is creating two word walls: one for grade level words and the other for math vocabulary.  Here are two things that have caught my eye:

source: Ginger Snaps

Does anyone have either of these sets?  If so, what are the pros/cons you have found with them (if any)?  What other resources are out there for Common Core vocabulary for 2nd graders?

Coming Soon:
Chapter 3 - Making Mathematical Connections 

Help Fight Alzheimer's!

One of my blogging buddies Brenda (from Primary Inspired) is joining the fight against Alzheimer's.  It is a personal battle for her.  She asked some friends to help put together a special pack to raise funds for more research.  For a $10 donation, you can receive over $60 in teacher-made products.  If you are willing and able to donate, head on over to Brenda's site to learn more about how you can donate to the cause. 
Here's a preview of all the goodies included in this pack:

Summer Giveaway

My blogging buddy, Andrea, recently reached 600 followers and decided to celebrate with an amazing giveaway!  If you don't know Andrea, she is the blogger behind Reading Toward the Stars.  She is a reading specialist and the creator of some great products that my students absolutely love! 
One of the prizes is from yours truly:
Head on over to her blog and enter for a chance to win some fabulous prizes.  This one runs until June 21st.

Updates & Improvements

 I love making math games and materials for my kids to play.  I always start with what they need an I usually come up with an idea that fits.  I recently decided that it was time to take a break from creating new things and go back to improve some of my earlier creations.

One of my earliest creations on TpT was a file called Tasty Tally Marks.  I have had a lot of people purchase it and felt it was time to give it a facelift.  I have learned so much since I first created it and when I look back on it, I just want to make it better.

Before: Notice the sadly distorted shapes of the cupcakes and the teeny-tiny tally marks.  I should also point out that my first attempt to create tally marks created a big problem with alignment.  Oops!  It was an 8-page file (cover page, 6 pages of materials, and a credits page).

After: a little PowerPoint magic goes a long way.  Not only did I make the cards larger, but I tried to get the tally marks to be more aligned.  I also decided to add four worksheets (with answer keys) to the file for additional practice.  Here are some pics:

I also updated my Flipping for Facts file.  Originally I had created an addition version that only included a matching game of addition facts.  Since then I have added two fact practice worksheets (with answer keys) and a math fact sort.  I also created a second file that has all of the same pieces but focuses on subtraction facts.

 I have also made some additions and improvements to the following products:

Remember - if you have already purchased any of these products you will get the updated files for free.  Just go back to your purchases and download again to get the updated file.  Thanks & enjoy!

I'm linking up with Mel @ From the Pond for this one! 

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