Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Peek into Third

Hey guys! It's been a minute since my last blog post but honestly, I've been quite busy. Back to school is busy enough but I've also been juggling a new district, new school, and new grade.
And it's been rough. I haven't felt nearly put together enough to even write a blog post about it.
But here we are in October (my favorite month and also HOW?) and I'm finally feeling ready enough to let you in on some routines I use in my 3rd grade classroom.

First, let me share our schedule and then I will walk you through the different pieces. Since the whole day would be the longest blog post of all time, I'm going to break it down into sections.

Problem of the Day is something I display on the SmartBoard and students work on in their math journals as soon as they come in. Our curriculum has problems of the day an often I use those but sometimes I will pull problems I know my students need help with or are going to encourage them to think more critically.
After I take care of morning housekeeping tasks, I try to walk around and just take a quick "temperature" of each kid and how they're doing on their task. Depending on how my class is doing, we go over the problem at the beginning of morning meeting or I pull it into whole group math. 
I will address problems of the day in a whole post soon. (as well as Morning Meeting)
For today's post I want to focus on the Reading portion of our day.


Here is the way I try to break up our mini-lessons for whole group reading
Monday: Mentor text and graphic organizer to practice our comprehension strategy, word sort to practice spelling skill
Tuesday: I use a story from our curriculum to practice the comprehension skill (usually main idea or theme) and have students practice independently/with a partner
Wednesday: Short grammar lesson, genre - we also play a game with our vocabulary words this day
Thursday: I use Readworks passages or our curriculum story to practice "test prep" (I love using QAR) and doing some close read activities together 
Friday: Review games and extra practice

I keep my whole group times short and sweet. I also don't delve into the "deep" things because I see my kids in small group to hit those.

After we do a short whole group lesson or activity, we go into Daily 5. My school requires us to do Daily 5 and we have 4-5 teachers that push-in during this time. I have 2 teachers in my room. So, with both of them meeting a group as well as myself, there are actually very few kids doing Daily 5. My lower kids only do this 1-2 times a week because they see both teachers and me. For this reason, it was hard for me to make a forced rotation schedule that worked for us.
I decided to instead let students have complete choice (gasp!) over what center they want to do at each time. I really went heavy on procedure practice and guess what? It works. 
This is what I display on our SmartBoard during Daily 5. I call students by groups to get to pick. I don't really care how many students are at each center (except listening - which is why I only have 5 earbuds and once they're gone you choose something else). My students know that if they see a teacher they get their stuff ready and get to that spot and if they don't, they make a choice, get their stuff, and find a spot.
Daily 5 is one of our favorite parts of the day.
During this time, I see my bubble kids everyday, my low kids twice a week (they're being seen twice every day), and my high kids twice a week (I desperately wish for more time). I do an intervention program my school has (although I tweak it) for my bubble kids and fluency games with my lower kids (they read with both other teachers so so much). My high kids do novel studies. 

Word work always has 3 choices and it's a mix of our spelling and vocabulary lists. I bought 3 blue tubs from Michaels and I just fill them with whatever choices I want to give them that week. They usually don't know what's in there until they choose one and open it. We do things like vocabulary hunt (use their vocabulary journal to find words that fill certain criteria), word worth (each letter is worth something), create a word search, sorts, and crosswords.
One thing that is always in the tub is Vocabulary Sentence Scramble. I got this idea from The Brown Bag Teacher and I couldn't recommend it more. My kids dive for this center every week and love it. All I do is use colored sentence strips to make sentences that use our vocabulary words, but the vocabulary word is a blank. Then, I cut the words apart. Each sentence goes in a baggie. Students work to unscramble the sentence and then fill in the missing vocabulary word. My students think it's a fun challenge and desperately try to be the first person to figure out and write all 8 sentences (sometimes it takes them all week!). At first I was nice and put capitals and periods and even put the number of letters the missing word had. Over time, I phase out the help and make the students "fix" the sentence in the end by adding correct capitalization and punctuation.

Again, Daily 5 in my room is student choice. I don't tell them where to go and I don't even really tell them what to get done. On Fridays, I will check and star things they did. I also pull out a few amazing pieces to put up in the room but I never really grade it. If they never do a Scribble Story, I'm not going to sweat it (although those are their favorite and I get about 40 a week). When I look up, I see students reading, writing, and working.
It works for us. 

After Daily 5, we reconvene for another mini-lesson. This is when I pull in writing. On Mondays, I do explicit writing instruction. Each week we focus on a type of writing. Last week we did Personal Narratives and this week we are doing How-To writing. Each Monday my students receive a rubric and a pre-writing graphic organizer. During Monday mini-lesson we go over the rubric, grade some examples, and go over the pre-writing paper. I write one and they grade mine (they love this!) Now they are ready to get started writing for the week! The rest of the week, I touch on grammar (connect it to writing), word work (connect it to writing), vocabulary (connect it to writing - see a theme?), and  anything else language related.

After this mini-lesson, my students break into forced rotation stations. They are split into 4 groups (blue, red, yellow, green). 
I love using my Smartboard to display what we are doing because if someone walks in, they immediately know what to do. 

Stations change every other day.
Ipad station usually stays the same - SpellingCity. I will probably only change this when my kids get bored of it - which hasn't happened yet.

Reading station: 
Monday/Tuesday: They listen to the Wonders curriculum story of the week (and read along). This way we don't take precious class time to listen to it but they have still heard it so we can talk about it.
Wednesday/Thursday: My students log on to Readworks.org and do their assignments. They love that it gives the immediate feedback and I love that I can assign them all different texts (so they're on their level) and the questions are deeper than simple recall (seriously recommend!) Some of the questions are even short response so my students have to think deeply.

Writing station: (a writing rotation lasts 2 weeks)
Monday/Tuesday: students complete their graphic organizer and illustrations for their writing
Wednesday/Thursday: students complete their first draft
Monday/Tuesday: Students use colored pencils to edit and revise their writing (make it better) and write a 2nd draft
Wednesday/Thursday: Students finalize their draft and publish it on SeeSaw.


My table:
Monday/Tuesday: I teach the vocabulary words at my table, students fill them into a TIP chart and put them in their TIP chart folder (school required activity but I like it)
Wednesday/Thursday: Since students have listened to the curriculum story of the week, they come ready to talk and answer questions about it. I write questions (higher level, open ended) on index cards and we just dive in. With only 5-6 kids I know each student is engaged, not just passing by. I can also differentiate the questions and supports for each group. 

Specials breaks up our stations nicely and I have the board up ready for them to come right back in and get started in their 2nd station. 

I love our reading block because I really feel I get to dive deep with each kid. By seeing them in smaller groups throughout the day, I am able to know that they're paying attention and I can take notes on who needs more help.

That's it for reading! Please be sure to check back for the post on math and problem of the day/morning meeting!

Happy OCTOBER!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

math instruction ready to retire

1.
Retire: Key Words
I cringe when I see an anchor chart (no matter how cute) for mathematical key words in a classroom. First of all, there are many strategies in which to approach any word problem and to reduce kids to one because of a certain word can actually hinder their natural process. Also, it's straight up misleading. Take, for example, these two word problems.
A. Bob had 3 apples and Judy had 5. How many do they have altogether?
B. Maggie had 3 bags and each bag contained 5 apples. How many apples does she have altogether? Students who have been trained that altogether = addition are robbed of looking at this problem for what it is rather than simple words within. There are many instances where addition (adding up to) can be used to figure out "difference" problems (difference is often associated with subtraction).
Word problems are important (though not as important as we think) but the whole reason they exist is to get students to dig deep and really understand math in the real world.
Hire: Understanding/Explanation Of Problems
Instead of introducing key words, practice modeling what a problem is truly asking you. Have students dig to the root of any problem they come across before they start using any computation.
I like to have students explain to me what the problem wants from them in order to get a solution. No numbers, no computation, just truly telling me what answer (or kind of answer) they are looking for.
Don't believe me? Just read this quote from http://www.leafandstemlearning.com/2017/02/math-problem-solving-strategies-to.html.
teach a student to problem solve


2.
Retire: Double Digit Addition/Subtraction Algorithm (traditional)
I will let you know this is my number one pet peeve (yes, even higher than the key word anchor charts - at least they're cute.) There is no, absolutely no reason you should be teaching students (especially young students) the traditional algorithm for double digit addition and subtraction. Yikes! Let's look closely at some reasons why.
  • It robs them of important place value understanding (which will only confuse them later - ahem, regrouping)
  • They can and will forget it and have no understanding to fall back on so they can figure out a problem.
  • It is not the strategy that comes naturally to everyone - heck, it's probably not the way you add bigger numbers in your head.
  • There are so many better ways. SO MANY.
Hire: All the other ways that actually lend to understanding and retain place value
The number one question I get on this blog or from my Instagram is how I have kindergarteners doing double digit addition (with understanding!).
Here it is, people.
I did not teach it to them. They have a great number sense, a fantastic understanding of place value (a top priority to me B.O.Y.) and they understand it. We never ever did a lesson on it. They saw the problems on a test (not created by me) and we had a discussion about strategies they could use to figure those out and they ran with them. They all figure it out differently.
Teach your kids to count by tens from any number and they will have a pretty solid way to figure out double digit addition (with or without "regrouping").
  • Hundred chart - your kids should be SO FAMILIAR with this it's like seeing their name
  • Open number line - don't underestimate - a LOT of kids understand math this way - this is the way I do math in my head and when I finally learned about open number lines, my mind was blown. My students do open number line problems at recess.
  • Stretch the numbers out (place value addition) - always retain place value - MUST
  • Count on (mental open number line)
  • Build the numbers and put together (concrete)
3.
Retire: Timed Fluency Practice (any computation)
Computation is one of the least important parts of a real mathematician's job (hello 2017 and constant calculators!) and yet is the number one aspect pushed in elementary math. I'm not saying fact fluency isn't at all important, but it simply isn't as important as understanding. Students need to be able to do so much more than spit out facts. They need to reason, understand what a problem is asking of them, solve creatively, accurately, and efficiently. Do you see how all of these things are not accomplished with a sheet of isolated problems?
Furthermore, the speed with which a student can regurgitate facts is simply not important. I would much rather my students have multiple strategies to solve a computational problem than be able to memorize them. As long as students have understanding, the fluency/memorization will come.
Timed tests do nothing to help us assess our students' understanding and they certainly don't help students with their understanding.
Also, timed tests are a very high stakes activity and competitive in nature. This perpetuates a negative stereotype of math - prompting kids to believe that if they aren't fast, they aren't good. Again, this is not true.
Hire: Fewer problems that promote understanding
Instead of a whole sheet of problems, give students a word problem, logic puzzle, or challenge that involves the computation you are covering. You only need a few problems to assess student understanding and will also not stress students out. Also, cut out the time component altogether. Let's think about the message we are sending to our kids.
Some great ideas for activities that get kids computing without pressure are

  • Math magic (those pick a number, add 5, double it, subtract 2, blah, blah that are all over the internet. Kids think they're fascinating and they will work hard on computing to find a number that might not work)
  • Open-ended tasks (my favorite is to give an empty equation with a number answer for students to complete)
  
The challenge is for students to find multiple ways to complete the equation. I had a student give up "manipulative play time" to figure his out in more ways.



Saturday, April 1, 2017

the story of how I quit my dream job

Fair warning: this is less of a teacher post and a more personal post so if that's not your thing - feel free to move along and I won't judge you.

Yesterday, I quit my dream job. Not teaching (phew) but the place. I resigned from the only place I had envisioned being; the place I worked for and towards through 4 years of college. Its the school I attended, my mom worked at for 12 years, and somewhere I basically grew up. It's a place where I subbed and met "my kids". On my worst days in college, I could get through knowing I would see their faces and someday be part of their journey.

It's the place I got to teach my first class. To nurture my LOVE for teaching math and see kindergarteners amaze me. They are my kids.

This was the place I saw myself staying for years, visiting students I had in elementary at the high school I once ruled [ha!]. This was the place I imagined bringing my own children - watching them move through classes of teachers I love and respect. I would know they were safe and in a place - my place - a home.


Yesterday, I left my home. Because it isn't really my home anymore. 


A few of you know the struggle I've been facing making the decision to leave based [mostly] upon a school wide reform the school is adopting. It's also due in part to being under appreciated and beaten down all year long. I don't really want to get into it much...because I've made the decision.


A few months ago, I went to a job interview. The principal was amazing and you could tell she had so much respect for her teachers. It was a tough school, in a tough area (something I'm not unfamiliar with) and she was truly turning it around. Her staff loved her and the interview went perfectly. She gave [both my mom and I] us a tour of the school and the more she talked, the more pull I felt. In the moment, I grew more and more excited - it was really out there...somewhere that could be the place I could truly teach. If not there, then somewhere. It had to be and has to be. 


I left on a high. Then, I went home and threw up.

Okay, not really but I did have a pseudo-meltdown. 

I laid in my bed and thought about my students that I would be leaving. I thought about the neighborhood I learned to drive in and the Sonic that was run mostly by kids I graduated with. Then, I thought about never driving there again. Not seeing those kids walk the high school hallways and graduate in the colors I did. After all, even if it no longer is and no longer even resembles my home...this place used to be home.


Anyone who knows me IRL knows that I am a fiercely loyal person. It's not always a bad trait. Leaving something, like a job in this case, feels like plain old giving up. It took me a long time to be able to look at it like the self-care that it is.


The truth is, I am leaving a comfort for something extremely risky. I am leaving a small district for a very large, urban one. If I even end up there, it will truly be my first year of teaching because I know nothing. I entered last year knowing so much about the district - I knew the procedures, the school layout, the staff, everything. I knew the good and the bad which made it much easier to handle.


But now, I know nothing. It could be a bad decision. It could be that this school is not any better - that I won't have instructional choices or there won't be good support. It could be that the testing is overwhelming or the demands even higher. It could even be that I don't get rehired because their budget cuts are even heftier and they are closing down schools...

It could be bad.

It could be.


And yes, I could get through the year and move on but then my resume would read "2 years experience at 2 different places and looking for something else again" - doesn't that scream hire me!?


But yet, this is my city and these are the kids I love. If I can't be where I truly want to be...I have to be somewhere. And this could be home. 


It could be.


I like to think I'm some awesome, rebellious, risk-taker but if I truly self-evaluate I am anything but. I'm terrified in every way and thoughts, continuous thoughts, keep rushing through my brain. Deep in my heart, I know things will be okay. I know that. I know that my husband has a good job; I could always do something else; I could suck it up and try a suburban school down the line; I could go back to school; my parents will support me; nothing is permanent...I know that. 


But, yesterday I quit my plan. I quit home. And I have dreams about someone telling me it's all just a joke- LOL no reform - you can stay! 
It's where my heart is. It will always be in some way.

But I'm leaving. I'm going out in the big wide world to find some kids who need me and teach them. Because I know I can and I need to surround myself with people who believe that too.


 It's so easy to me... yet it's the hardest thing I've ever done.

Thanks for getting through this post - 

Happy teaching.

Monday, March 13, 2017

how being a kindergarten teacher will make you a better parent

Let me preface this post by saying I don't have kids. Just a 4 year old goddaughter I'm very close to and a 1 year old dog. Mostly, this post is supposed to comical and light-hearted so please call of the dogs and have fun.


I spend my days with other people's children. All day long.
And over that time, I have gathered more than a few pieces of advice I'd like to give myself when it comes to my own children. This is not a parent bashing post. I know being a parent is the hardest, toughest, most underappreciated job next to teaching ;). I also know kids will be kids sometimes despite a parent's best efforts. But, for fun...here are some ways that I think being a kindergarten teacher will make you a better parent.

1. You will know essential skills to teach your preschooler...because you've seen kids who don't have them.
Guys, I'm not even talking ABCs and 123's...I'm talking BASIC. When I started teaching kindergarten, I remember having to sit my kids down everyday and show them our center tubs. They were atrocious. Things were tossed in there, not in the right baggies or boxes and pieces of different games were strewn about. After having 5 come to Jesus meetings in a week about this - I took a step back and realized...I was lecturing them but it wasn't working. These kids didn't know what I meant by neat and tidy. The next week, I literally dumped all the games out and one by one showed them exactly how to put a game away when you're done. I showed them how I put the games into baggies with all the pieces and put it away nicely. We role-played scenarios in which you're playing with a friend and it's time to clean up - what do you do? They practiced. Guys, we spend a whole morning on this.
The next week, we only needed one come to Jesus meeting.
This is one example. I'm talking flush when you use the toilet; how to use a tissue to actually blow your nose instead of wiping snot around; how to put a marker lid on and wait for the popping sound.
Best believe my preschoolers are going to practice these skills in my house. Their kindergarten teacher is going to use them as the good example!

2. You will never ever ever EVER buy your 5 year old shoes with laces....unless they legitimately, every time, ON THEIR OWN know how to tie them.
Just, trust me. Velcro all the way. You will never subject another teacher to the torture. We will all be better off for it.

3. You will never ever buy a romper for your kindergartener.
This goes hand in hand with 2. Trust me, I know they're cute. But unless you're willing to come up every time your kid needs to use the bathroom, leave it in the store.

4. You will know what is normal development...and when to seek help. Plus, where you can get it.
I have seen kids who I know need help because they're struggling beyond the normal disequilibrium. They are very behind...but their parents don't see it.
Maybe they are the only kid in the house or the oldest and the parents don't have anything or anyone to compare them to. They don't want to believe anything is wrong. Have you ever had a conference in which you pull out another student's work (anonymously) to show a parent in comparison to their child and see a face of shock? Then, comes the helplessness. The cool thing about our job is we can identify needs and refer parents to help (or give them tips for home!). The cooler thing is if you have your own child with a struggle, you'll identify it, know that the "stigma" is sometimes less important than the help the child needs and can get.

5. You will teach your kids to respect their teachers....even if you don't like the teacher.
Your kids might seriously hate you for this but in the long run it will make them better people. Let's face it - we live in a world where someone is always going to be in charge of you. You go from having a parent to a teacher to a boss and it's important to know how to respect them. And don't ever think a [good] teacher's kid is ever going to get away with being disrespectful. Even if the parent has to close the door and rant, they are going to make their kid apologize for any behavior and they won't bash you in front of their kid. Mostly because teachers have a tight community and understanding. Everybody dumps on us and we definitely don't need any more.

6. You will never name your kid Skyline (or Kaylsea, Killian, Phiroshus...).
Enough said.

7. Your kids will never be able to use an excuse or emotional appeal.
You've heard EVERY excuse in the book. You've also heard every appeal for trying to get out of something. Like, how badly can an elbow hurt? And you know how to diffuse a tantrum in 0.8 seconds. This is another one your kids might hate you for but society (and even they) will eventually love you.

8. You love kids and you understand them really really well.
I mean, why else are we doing it? I run into people all the time who say they don't like kids. I totally don't get that - I mean, I barely like adults! But it is true that kids think in their own way and they even communicate in their own way.
You'll be the parent who can always decipher their kids early spelling or analyze their scribbling. You'll be able to comprehend chopped up sentences or whole conversations given through half chewed cracker crumbs. Plus, you'll have amazing patience with your kids because 9/10 they're not nearly as bad as some kids you deal with in your classroom. OR, you'll have patience because you feel oh so lucky to have them and to be in the great situation you're in because you know kids who aren't so lucky...
After all, kids are kids and you love kids.

I think teacher's kids are pretty lucky (coming from one...my mom was my PK teacher!).
And I think teacher parents are even luckier.

So, what do you think should be added to the list of reasons being a kindergarten [or any age] teacher makes you a better parent?

Thanks for reading! Happy teaching!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

stations/guided reading

Happy Spring! I am currently on Spring Break and loving it. 
Today, I wanted to share how I set up my small group guided reading and stations time. :)

I like a "learning buzz" in my classroom at all times. That means, students are not sitting quietly at their seats doing independent work. From day one, I have kids collaborating, moving, working together, and talking. The person who talks in your room the most is the person who learns the most. Because this is a precedent from day one - it doesn't even phase the kids at my table. It's a controlled chaos in which I know kids are learning.
I have 6 stations in my room and they are color coded.

1. Red - Teacher Table - where I meet my guided reading groups (more about grouping in a minute)







2. Blue - Letter & Word Work - depending on where kids are they work on letter recognition or word work skills here (beginning of year more letters and mid-year moving to words). Each kid has a list of letters or words they will work on based upon data. When they master those, they move on. I mix up sight words and words using phonics skills, depending on what the kids need. Some things we work on here are:
  • Letter sorts
  • Word sorts
  • Write, stamp, decorate
  • Rainbow write
  • Roll & Read
  • Play-doh words
  • Building words with magnet letters or felt letters on felt board
  • Writing our words on white boards

3. Yellow - Buddy work - one page usually reviewing skills from last week that kids complete together. They have the whole week, each time they're at yellow, to complete it and it's about one of the only worksheets we do. After they are done, this is the station with reading games that have retired from my table so they choose one of those.

Here, kids are playing sight word towers - they turn over a word and if they can read it, they take the blocks. At the end, tallest tower wins.

4. Black - Read to self/Buddy read/Library - Essentially, a reading time in our class library. They can also choose to practice their sight word rings here.
5. Green - Pocket chart center - changes a LOT. Sometimes, I throw a pocket chart game with a recording sheet in there, sometimes we have a poem of the week for them to fill in/write.
6. White - creation station - some sort of craft/art that goes with our weekly theme or skills and sometimes a free art time. This is a good way to get everyone a cute art piece to hang in the hall by the end of the week with just a few kids working at a time.
We start stations day one in our room by practicing a station a day. Students quickly know where stations are located (therefore where they should be) and what activities are allowed there. I use a pocket chart that has the 3 colors my groups will go to each day. 
They look at the pocket chart, find their first color and get started. Then, all I have to do is say "switch" from my table and they go on to their second color. We have practiced so much, it's second nature to them. I will get a few stragglers to my table from finishing things which is why I love having some warm-up activities to start with. 

One of my favorites is my fast fluency - each phonics skill has 3 levels of words so I can differentiate. If students see a fast fluency at their spot, they grab a marker and eraser and get started writing and reading. I can follow along to check on their progress.
Check out the -ar, -ay, and -ai packs in my store here


Okay, onto how I group my kids and when I meet them. I do everything digitally through Google drive/docs so I have this on there too.


(sorry for blurry picture - picture of a screen!)
I have 5 fluid groups named after vowels - A, E, I, O, U. Students can change from groups at any time based upon observation and data. 
At the beginning of the year I would see my low (U) group every single day. Then, my school started an afternoon intervention piece for our lowest students and most of my U group went to that. Because they were getting an extra 90 minutes in the afternoon, I dropped them to 4 days a week to see another group in my room. However, if you don't have an extra intervention time, I suggest seeing your lowest kids every single day. They should be reading with you as much as possible.

In an ideal world, I'd see all my kids every day but that doesn't always work. So, I see my low (U) group 4 times a week, my O, I, and E groups 3 times a week, and my A group twice a week. (If you're deciphering the picture: BK = black, Y = yellow, B = blue, etc.)(M1 - Monday first station, etc.)

Everyone goes to yellow and white 2 times a week which means they have 2 15-20 minute periods to finish the one worksheet for the week and their art project. They don't have to sweat being finished and hurrying to finish to move on. At the end of the week, I check for everyone's work in the box. If it's not done, they finish it Friday afternoon before free play. Easy peasy. 

I hope this gives you some good insight into how I have set-up station time in my room. We love our literacy stations and activities and I love getting to read and work with small groups of kids each day. I truly feel this is when the bulk of our learning happens. I also believe students are getting good practice in collaboration, problem-solving, and independence. 

Let me know if you have any questions! Thanks for reading.

Happy teaching!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

math: favorite number

Remember how math is my favorite subject to teach?
I was not lying!
Today, I'm going to tell you about one of my favorite math activities to build number sense. 
Let me preface by saying I don't teach math facts in my classroom. I teach numbers. We dive into numbers every single day - dissect (decompose) them, build them, play with them. And the math facts come. Not only do students start internalizing them, they also understand that big numbers are made of littler numbers and there are many ways to put numbers together and take them apart.

 We use this particular activity as a warm up every single day and have been for a while. It's simple, fun, open ended, and easy to differentiate. Also, you can use it in any grade - just change the parameters or content (4th-5th grade could do a favorite fraction!)

And we call it My Favorite Number.



I either use my small white board [below] or (more recently) our interactive whiteboard [above] to display this activity. If I want students to come up and be a scribe then I will use the white board (we don't have SmartBoards boo!). Otherwise, I try to use the interactive whiteboard and the projector because it's prettier. 

Here's how it goes.
First, I look for a student who's being oh so good to be out special number picker (you can also use your leader of the day). I ask them what their favorite number is. At the beginning of the year I gave them parameters like 1-10 and then 1-20. Today, we have no parameters and my kids will even say numbers like 156. I draw a cloud in the corner and put the favorite number in it. Then, students have to think of a way to show, describe, or make that number.
This is the part I love. Every kids hand goes up because whether they say "30 + 4" or "draw 34 with ten frames" or "uhh....34 hearts?" each kid knows a way to show that number.

The growth I've seen doing this activity is amazing. At the beginning, students were mostly using pictorial representations but slowly and surely they began giving me number sentences (starting out like "uhh,...if you put this 2 and this 3 together it makes 5!")  to represent the number. They also choose larger numbers too. Despite being simple and lacking bells and whistles, the kids LOVE it. I think it has something to do with the way I scaffolded it and the confidence they feel. They are also so great at cheering each other on. They will congratulate a friend for thinking of a really cool or obscure way to represent a number. I see their brains turning (and fingers moving!) trying to think of a way no one else has said yet. We always fill up our board!


100% answers from my kindergarteners in December. 

My kids loved this whole group warm up so much, I took it over into small group. This is amazing because I can quickly give each kid a different number and tell them to give me 5 ways to show it. Assessment, differentiation, intervention, quick, easy (all my favorite words!)

[13: 10+3, base ten blocks] [20: 10+1, 10+10], [8: 4+4, ten frame, domino (4+4), 8 flowers], [22: 20+2, 21+1]

I just love activities that students love, require no paper, are easy to differentiate, and build number sense. And I'm sure you do too! I hope you can incorporate My Favorite Number (fraction, integer, whatever!) into your everyday routine. I think you'll see the amazing confidence in your kids and love it too.

Want a way to start today? Click here for a Favorite Number sheet. You can put this in a center, use it at your table, laminate them, put them in page protectors, or whatever else you want! :) 

Happy teaching!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

all time favorite reasons I love teaching math


Math is hands down my favorite subject to teach. I did not think I would say that but through college, I had some phenomenal teachers who made ME love math for the first time and inspired me to pass that onto my students.
So, without giving too much away I am going to jump into the reasons I love teaching math.


I don't think I truly understood math until I began learning how to teach it. It was during this process that I began to realize math is all about patterns and they're all around us! Did you know numbers connect!? WHAT!? Today, I love helping my students build their own knowledge of number and operations so they begin to make connections about how math skills are all related. 
One of the ways I do this is through my approach to teaching math facts. Instead of teaching facts by +0, +1, etc. I first teach numbers and then we brainstorm the ways to make that number. For example, the first weeks of kindergarten are filled with talking about each number 
             

From there, we move onto breaking those numbers into parts and transferring that to number sentences (obviously after covering what addition means). By December, my students have internalized many addition facts without a fact sheet, flash card, or drill. They also have a good understanding that there are many ways to make one number and how numbers are related (hello, MORE patterns!) This is an easy transition into part part whole relationships.
I also LOVE using my 100 number chart. We start using this tool the FIRST day of school to find patterns. Now, my students have their own and use it for fun - seriously, they find patterns during recess time. They think it's fascinating. That's the dream people!

I have been fortunate enough to not be forced to use a math curriculum. This means I have been able to create my own resources and tailor lessons to my kids (the dream!). Now, I know that many people equate making math fun to using games and I certainly do that too. But, it doesn't have to be just that. More than being able to do math, I want my students to see the value and joy in it. Numbers are crazy cool and figuring a problem out is rewarding. I make math fun in a number of ways.
  • Modeling - I am not above jumping up and down during a story problem, giving epic high fives (to myself), and talking through how awesome the math we are doing is. It translates, people. You know what doesn't? Forcing kids to fill out epically long math worksheets. It just doesn't.
  • Making it interactive - my story problems ALWAYS involve my kids and the things they are interested in (Pokemon, Shopkins, you name it). They have a buy in, they see the value, and it relates to their life.
  • Duh, GAMES - how is anyone teaching math in 2017 without games? Pinterest, TPT, Instagram - there are so many ideas and they are awesome! One of our current favorites is Salute. 2 students put a card on their forehead (a la headbands) without looking. A 3rd student tells them what their sum is (hello vocab). The students must then use that knowledge to figure out the number on their forehead. Insta-part-part whole practice! (Can you tell that's one of my favorite skills to teach?) 
If I never had to teach math whole group again, I'd actually be more happy than drinking my morning coffee. Stations are fun, they get the kids moving and talking about math, and they allow me to meet with small groups of kids. And seriously, it doesn't have to be hard. I have 4 stations - teacher table, math games (sometimes includes iPads), buddy work, and manipulatives (literally, this is kinda an excuse to sneak some play time in our day but also a chance for kids to use those manipulatives with a discovery approach). Easy peasy. Any time I introduce a math game at my table, I move it over to games. Having a small group allows me to differentiate which leads me to.....

Because I don't have to follow a curriculum and because I teach in stations, I can let students move at their own pace. One of my favorite joys is seeing students take those connections and run with them. For example, after spending weeks working on place value (one of the most important stepping stone skills in math), I had students start connecting that knowledge to this "big kid" problems they saw. Now, a group of my kids can do this:
AND they understand it. Do you know how excited they were? Math is the easiest subject, in my opinion, to differentiate and it's so cool to see kids take off. Once you master a skill, there's so many other ways it comes in handy (hello, back to number one!) 
Just like math is fun, it's also hands on. I mean, how else are you going to explain numbers, addition, etc.? Every good teacher knows math must be taught with manipulatives and the more the better. 
Kids are naturally drawn to cool little trinkets which makes math one of our favorite parts of the day. Sometimes I will ask a question and nobody wants to tell me the answer but as soon as I ask someone to show me they jump on it. Never underestimate the power of mini erasers, a pointer, white board markers (so easy and they love it), or even counters. My must have manipulatives are ten frames and ones (we build numbers every single day with these and I just made mine on index cards), counters (duh), mini erasers (when we get tired of our counters), and DICE. 

So, there are some reasons I love teaching math. I truly do think that it's such a fun subject that is unfortunately not celebrated as much as it should be. Students should be having fun and experiencing success with math every day.

How do you teach math in an untraditional way? 
Leave some reasons you love math in the comments. Happy teaching!

Oh, and since you made it all the way through this post I am going to reward you with a FREEBIE. I made these part part whole task cards to use as an around the room activity. Each card has a letter so it can correspond to a recording sheet. You could also use these in a pocket chart, for a center, or at your table. Possibilities are endless. Snatch it up!