Monday, July 29, 2013

Rekenrek and Back-To-School Clipart - Monday Made It


I'm going to say right up front that I have been calling these "wreck'n'wrecks".  I went full hillbilly on it, I'm sure.  No doubt that the great people of Holland are laughing at me.

I first came across these on, you know it baby!, PINTEREST.

If you follow through to the website, you will find a GREAT post by Renee at The Reading Corner.

The Reading Corner
And I strongly suggest you read that post, as she has two great links to pdf's describing exactly how to use the rekenrek to enhance student understanding of quantities up to twenty.  Which is exactly what I'll be using them for- boy howdy!
It's a bit like an abacus- but instead, when you put the beads on in different colored groups of five- you can make a connection to any work you're doing with ten frames, and also help children with looking at numbers in terms of groups of five.
I ended up making twelve and considering that as a class set, as I plan to have the kids use them as partners.  I really want the kids to talk about their thinking in math this year- and I thought this would be a great tool for math conversations- as they work together to slide the beads from side to side and talk about their thinking.
They were pretty cheap to make as well.  Turns out the Dollar Tree was selling the pencil baskets in sets of three for a dollar, the pipe cleaners were 88cents each at Wal-Mart, and I bought the pony beads there also for two bucks.  had I not been picky about the colors, I could have gotten all of it at the Dollar Tree.  But I had an attack of "I want it to match my color scheme".  I am glad that not all of you suffer from that, and probably could shave two dollars off your total.
Just twist the ends of the pipe cleaners to attach firmly to one side, slide on your beads in two color groups of five and twist to the opposite end. Voila!  Ready to roll.  With all the math reading I've been doing this summer- super, suPER, SUPER excited to give these a work out in September!
I've also been working this week on coloring up some new digital art Traci and I made.  We've taken our seasonal kids and gotten them ready for school in four different packs:



And - my favorite - Working Hard

(and yeah, Virginia sweeties- that IS a white-tailed deer diorama!)

Make sure you link up with Tara at Fourth Grade Frolics!

***Cheesey Pete! I almost forgot!!!*** First FOUR commenters to leave their email address may have one pack of their choice- just say which pack you'd want and why. Aaannnnndddd on Friday I'll draw a name from ALL of the commenters to win all four school kids packs! Sound good? Just make sure I can email you! Best way to do that, without having to give out your email is to make sure you're not a no-reply blogger. Check you settings, kittens!

And wreck'n'wreck ya'll,

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mathematical Comprehension Connections

Remember: photo guilt:

I pass this tree on my morning walk.  It amazes me.  I can't even figure out where these other twisty branch deals come from.  Is it part of the tree?  Is it another plant twisted on top of it?  Are they living symbiotically, or is it hurting the tree over time?  

I just finished up a week at a county math conference.  I will admit that my favorite part was being able to hang out with a small group of teachers I work with.  It was fun to blend social silliness with academics.  But the academic part was great as well- really has my wheels turning, looking forward to put it into practice in September.  One of the books we read during the week was Accessible Mathematics: 10 Instructional Shifts That Raise Student Achievement by Steven Leinwand.  I'll talk about that book in another post- but it is a quick read- but pretty powerful.

 I also used the time to make my way through chapter 3 of Building Mathematical Comprehension by Laney Sammons.  In this chapter the topic is connections.  On page 85 Laney quotes Marzano saying "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."  Sheesh- and I wonder why they struggle.  I mentioned in my other post how meaty this book is.  And this chapter took me a bit of time to process.  I'm pushing myself to take what I know about teaching reading comprehension, and seeing how I can transfer it to the math lesson. 

Teaching connection strategies has always come easy to me during reading.  And many of the great comprehension techniques Laney mentions in her chapter are from one of my favorite books Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregor.  Being familiar with these strategies helped me mull over the math piece.  Which goes to show how powerful it is to be able to make connections to comprehend.  Reflecting on this point has pointed me in the right direction- if I teach the reading portion first- which they seem to be able to grasp ahold of relatively easily- I then have provided them with an initial connection when I bring it up again in math.  In reading, I teach how to make text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections. We make a concentric circles poster, we practice, we make thinking stems charts, the whole nine yards.  So now what I have to do is to teach the same sort of thing in math class.

Math-to-Self connections:  Easy enough- this is the math about me stuff we do all the time.  I know that I am 5 feet seven inches.  I know I weigh one hundred million pounds.  My house number is 141.  There are seven digits in my phone number- and it goes on and on.  We have daily math experience that we might not even realize.  In the grocery store- I make a math decision every time I compare two check out lanes and decide which one I will get through quicker.  At home I cook- therefore I juggle time, temperature, and fractional parts of a whole. During my commute I manage distance traveled over time when I check my clock at certain check points to note how much longer I have and will I be there on time?  I also have ingrained in me probability of acceleration or deceleration based on whether I'm going up or down hill behind a big rig or a lady on her cell phone.  I am always judging distances between cars and making decisions on whether to pass or stay put.

And I've said easy enough- BUT.  Are my students having these experiences in which they can make connections as well?  In my student population- probably not.  So it's going to be on me to beef up that part of my curriculum and provide some experiences to build upon.

I got stuck on this part of the chapter: Math-to-Math connections.  I was seriously, what the hey? for a page or two until she gave me some examples.  I even wrote a note to myself in the margin:

Luckily though- it turns out that math to math connections aren't as hard as I initially thought.  Take text-to-text connections - The Rough-Faced Girl is like Cinderella in that both were treated unfairly by jealous family members.  So- if I have that experience measuring when I'm baking, then I can connect that math knowledge to fractions.  And even though I just said they aren't that hard- they are still going to be where I need to spend some serious time building those connections with the kids so that we can make them naturally.  It comes down to precision planning on my part.  No more "winging it".  Which is going to be quite the challenge for me.
Across all of these, math-to-self, math-to-math, and math-to-world(which can be easily handled through current events) the importance of modeling in a teacher think aloud is going to be key.  And you have to KNOW what you are going to say beforehand.  You have to pick exactly the right example so that you can make a natural connection and not a forced one.  And when it comes to the right example- I really think there is something to be said about NOT using one straight from our adopted curriculums.
I ran across this TED talk on Pinterest today: 

 It's 11 minutes- but worth the time.  Yes- he is talking about high school- but what he's saying about the text books are true for any grade.  And his methods for taking apart a text book questions and actually making it relevant is also applicable to any grade level.

Overall, what I'm discovering is that the good teaching is going to take more effort and time.  And maybe that's what's been wrong for so long- we went on auto-pilot for a bit.  So here I go- switching back over to manual control.

I've linked up this post to the book study going on at Primary Inspired:

And hey hey!  There's a giveaway going on at Shifting Teacher K-2.  Christin is celebrating 100 followers- and The Meek Moose is providing Winner's Choice.  head on over, wish her a congratulations and try your luck!
How much planning do you put into your math think alouds?  Are you doing a math think aloud?  Are you making connections?  Do you want to try? 
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Monday, July 22, 2013

New Territory - sensory box and QR codes - Monday made It

We all know I'm flawed at this point and prone to educator jealousy.  And yet you read on.  So let's add another thing to the list.

Sensory Boxes. 

I see them all over Pinterest, and also on one of my favorite blogs - Rubber Boots and Elf Shoes.  Sandi is a master at sensory boxes! Just look at this magnificent bead bin!

And I want them too!  I just suffer from feelings like- "I have to make that academic to have in second grade."  But maybe that's not true.  But it puts me in a cold sweat, let me tell you.  But then this past Spring when I had my kids plant bean seeds- do you know what they wanted to do all day long?  Stir dirt with their hands!  And they were quiet and totally mesmerized (they are from the city- so maybe dirt is just that much of a novelty)!  So I realized I really really had to give sensory bins a go.

So here is my first one:

It's relatively simple.  Partly because I'm using a shallow container- my favorite sort of organizer.
I bought three bags of decorative sand and two bags of the colored stones at the dollar store.  And then I got a basket of shells from Michaels.  As far as the sensory experience goes, I feel like they will enjoy moving the sand- they can even use the scallop shells as "scoops", and there is a nice difference of shells that are bumpy and smooth and then the smooth cold stones.  And, it turns out, the entire contents fits very nicely in a gallon zip lock bag so that there won't be any spillage during storage.
I think I'd really like to add in a dried star fish - or even rubber fish... somehow, I feel like it needs at least one more thing- but I don't want to over do it.
Now- for adding in the academic part:
1. I thought they could use this as a fine motor activity for practicing sight words and handwriting by using the pointed shell that makes me think of a unicorn horn as a writing instrument.
2. I thought I could have them create Quick Tens math representations with the pieces and take pictures of them with the iPods to use in a slideshow project.
3. Vocabulary exercises in writing down all the words they could think of to describe the items in the box- and then using those words in writing sentences.
4. A science connection by providing shell identification books and having them look up the shells that are in the box to learn more about them.
Annnnnnd then I also made up this:
5.  Use it for an Orientation day activity.
The parents come in a few days before school begin to meet me and bring their children to see that classroom. I always end up with people milling around waiting for one-on-one time.  last year I was getting rid of extra books- and having them available for the kids to look through and choose helped out tremendously.  So then I was playing around with this box and started to think about buried treasure.
And then I thought about QR codes and the types of questions I ask them at the beginning of the year to find out a little about them.  So I put all that together and made this:

I thought up 16 questions that I would want to know the answer to, and put them in task card form.  And then I also turned those task cards into QR codes, printed them on sticky label paper and then put them on the back of my smooth stones. Voila!
The stones end up buried in the sand, and when the kids come across them, they scan it with an iPod I leave at the station and the task card tells them what information to put in which numbered box on a recording sheet.
 An extremely basic sheet- I know- but I want to blow it up big on the poster machine to hang near the sensory box, so that all my kids write their answers in the boxes.  So, not only will they have an individual recording page that I can collect- but I can also have a class poster where we can notice similarities between ourselves and our classmates.
I'm pretty excited.  I can't wait to try it out!  I just need to decide if I'm going to put clear nail polish or modge podge over top of the Qr code to make it permanent on the stone.  I figure that I can keep this box out as a center activity for a week or two, and then create a new one.
As always- first three to comment that they would like to try it out with their kids can have the task cards for free. Just make sure you leave me your email address!  It also helps to make sure you aren't a no-reply blogger...
The pack comes with the task cards in color and black and white- and I even have them blank so you can write in your own questions on them if you want to add to my sixteen thoughts.  And the QR codes for my sixteen questions are already done and in the pack too- if you want to try that as well.  The pack is available at our Tpt store.
Don't forget to link up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for your Monday Made It!
Do you use sensory boxes?  How about Qr codes?

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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Making a blog background using power point

Kristin at Fifth Grade Ramblings is hosting a linky to share blog elements design tips and tricks- so if you have a post (even if it's already written) about any of these sorts of things- go link up!

I've played around with making a blog background probably since the first month I started this blog a little over a year ago.  Never with  much success.  And I'm not saying that I'm going to STICK with what I've got at this moment either- buuuut, I do admit to liking it the best so far.  I've learned some things.  And putting them into practice has made me much more satisfied with my work.  But I also recognize that there is something...hmmmm...I dunno...missing maybe.  But with this simple how to- you can start playing around with backgrounds on your own and probably make something even better.

Now, the other week, I ran across this pin:

And reading over this whole post by Angela at a Typical English Home is worth it.  She has other tutorials as well.  Pretty much I went through her whole list of top ten, and tried them for myself.  Clearly- I did not go with the whole "less is more idea".  I can't help it- I like patterns.  Still though- the first gem from this post was her suggestion of getting a color scheme from Design Seeds. I had found this site earlier in the year when I was thinking about getting a house and painting the walls- that dream has been shelved a the moment, but I will be picking that back up next Spring.  So anyway- I loaded up the site and joy of joys! Miracle of miracles! This was the palette of the moment:

Completely perfect for me as the last three colors to the right are my color scheme for my classroom!  And now, already done for me are my accent colors.  Perfection!
Even if you don't want to design a blog background- Design Seeds is a completely fun site to look at if you're into color combinations.

Ok- the next place to visit is this blog tutorial by The Cutest Blog on the Block:

The last blog background I made I used this tutorial and their html code.  But when I tried it again the other day, I couldn't get the code to work.  I'm pretty sure that's an error on my part- but it did make me discover how to do this same idea on Power Point.  The best tidbit of information they have on here is that the blog background dimensions should be 20 X 10.
And then go ahead and pick your the color you want the main background of your blog to be.

Ok, at this point, I began to blend approaches and I used some design ideas from this blog background tutorial by Ashton at Something Swanky:

She puts a number line a the bottom of her background picture so that she can measure things accurately when she loads it up.  This was extremely helpful when I made this background I have on the blog right now.

Save this background just as you have it right now as a JPEG and make sure you put it where you can find it- now we're going to go back to blogger to the design area.

Alright, now Ashton's tutorial shows you how to use this information to add in your layers. You look at the numbers on your blog background to help you determine where to put the next layers. I won't repeat all that she said, as she did such a great job at it in the first place.  But I'll show you how I had some fun:

Each time I add an element, I resave as a JPG and upload it again to the blog to check to see it looks alright.

Almost there...

I realize it's not full of bells and whistles, but it does go to show what you can do with just power point and no clipart.  Add a flower or two to a corner, and it'll look even better.  Or maybe even a piece of sushi!

Keep in mind that Blogger wants a picture under 300K as a background.  My blog background right now was only 130K- to put that in perspective.  So you can add lots of elements- just keep an eye on that final number.  I just saved the one above to see what it came in at- and the computer says 108.  So lots and lots of room to add in fun stuff.

So what do you think?  Is that something you think you could do?  If you give it a try, let me know.

And in other creation news- Traci and I just finished our first pack of Shakespeare clipart:

I think he's super cute.  He's based on a puppet she made me years ago.  I'm going to use him in some of my writer's workshop lessons this year.

Design on, my friends!

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Write Stuff - Ten Pin linky

Did you know my undergraduate degree is in writing?  You'd think that would help somewhat with teaching writing- but as it turns out, not so much.  So, like everybody else, I'm always searching for things that can help me out there.  I mean, really- how do you convince an eight year old that "I like it" and "It was fun" are not particularly descriptive.

So here we go with Ashley's Ten Pin Linky party over at Just Reed:

I have eight boards dedicated to writing over on Pinterest. Teaching Writing is my catch all, then I have Book-Making, Word Work, Mechanics, Nonfiction Writing, Letter Writing, Narrative Writing, and Poetry.

1. There are lots of heart map pins out there.  I like this one, since it guides the kids into what actually to put in there in a Give Me Three sort of format.  Structure can be good.  I also dig on heart maps because it can become a dynamic piece to a writer's notebook, and whenever they attempt to say they don't know what to write about, you can rally back with "Don't know what to write? Go look in your heart!"

2. I enjoy making books with the kids.  They dig on having hard covers.  makes them feel extremely professional. I adore Kathy Barbro's blog Art Projects for Kids, and this is a super way to recycle and show kids how easy it is to make a book for themselves.

3. Word Work.  I always feel like I want to do a great job with this and then I never really do.  But this pin got my attention a couple of weeks ago because I'm in the midst of planning my first PYP unit, How We Organize Ourselves, and the social studies connection is to economics.  It's not just about reading sight words, but also spelling them/using them correctly in your writing.  This seemed like a cool way to "pay an author".  So the writing assignment is due, and they swear that they've actually edited their work.  Just look up a the word wall, give them a sight word buck for each one they used and spelled correctly.  Seems pretty simple. Who will become the best-selling author?

4. This is a fantastic visual rubric for revising and editing.  Additionally, I am wanting to do this Three little Pigs deal at the beginning of the year, and this would work in perfectly with - "Is that a straw house story or a brick one?" rubric idea.

5. LOVE this book.  LOOOOOOVE it, I say!  Tony Stead write a great book here, really easy to follow along with, extremely inspirational to my teaching, useful to the core.  I really like how he has the kids do a writing piece about what they THINK it's supposed to look like, and then he can assess the prior knowledge from there and break the kids into needs based groups as well as plan his lessons.  Why teach a lesson on write your materials first on a procedural piece if everyone already knows how to do that?

6. Sandi from Rubber boots and Elf shoes writes an amazing blog that I find something I want to do in my classroom from at least once a week.  If not more.  She did not disappoint with this gem of an idea.  Lots of folks have their class pet write to their kids- but she makes her kids write to her class pet- and they cover all of their revising and editing in it to boot.  I just caught a toad last week, and have set him up in a nice little habitat and am looking forward to working this writing magic come the fall.

7. I realize that the watermelon to seed idea is not anything new or fantastic.  But I do like this visual rubric.  I also like the idea of having a blank one where we can really workshop these sorts of idea together as a class and change up the watermelon ideas whenever I see an author struggling.  Even making smaller ones that are laminated or in sheet protectors in their writing notebooks so they can use them as they plan.

8. Another possible use for a fake Christmas tree in my forest themed classroom this coming year. This site has tons and tons of ideas.

9. I have yet to find a way of storing writing materials that I am pleased with yet- but I like this idea.  I might just give it a go.

10. Bahahahaha! I just had to.

Write on, kittens!

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Gee- that wasn't as technical as I thought...

I've been playing around with blog design the past couple of days.  Somewhat because I was bored, and partly because of another blogger.

So I love comments, see?  Horribly egocentric, I am, says Yoda.  And I do try to reply to my commenters.  I just don't like to do it on the actual blog- I prefer to email straight back.  This gets difficult though when folks have their setting on no-reply blogger.  Which I do not believe has anything to do with being anti-social, but more to do with that they have no idea that the setting is there.  Like I didn't- for gads, who knows how long?  If you are concerned that you might be a no-reply blogger- head over HERE for an explanation of how to check you settings and fix them if necessary. 

Back to my story- in this particular moment I was trying to respond to Cindi at Diary of a Grateful Teacher.  She has since changed her setting so I can totally fill up her inbox at will- but by going to her blog and reading through her posts (I do that, you know- I like reading teacher blogs) I discovered a few things.  Cindi is not "new" to blogging in the sense that she has been up and running for about a year.  She has a TpT store as well.  However, many of her posts she's asking questions about HOW TO do things on her blog and nobody is answering with anything definitive.  So I decided that one I'd be willing to help, but I should make sure I had a slight inkling to what I would be doing.

Point Number One:  If you have some time, why not stop by over at Cindi's blog and give her some encouragement by reading some posts and following her if you feel moved to.  I think what touched me most was her About Me:

Hey everyone! I love to read people's blogs, I love to write, and every day I think of things I SHOULD do, but will do "some day"...I need to lose weight, I need to be better at housekeeping, I need to exercise, I need to volunteer..etc etc etc. But then the next summer, (I'm a teacher), I find myself being and doing the same ol' same ol'. So I decided I would do SOMETHING good for ME every day for a year and see what would happen. I also decided that by documenting it, I would be more accountable. SO I am starting this blog August 1, 2012. Let's see where I land one year from now!

I can seriously relate to wanting to change.  I am inspired that she gave herself a deadline to look back and reflect. 

That deadline is in a week- and if I can help out at all, I wouldn't mind being a part of that.  Who else is with me?  I know we're all alone behind these computers typing about our day and our feelings and our stuff- but wasn't the point to reach out and touch people?

Point Number Two: A lot of blog design stuff seems daunting. At times mysterious.  And html code purely frightening to folks that don't feel like they are "good" at computers.

But it's actually not all that bad.  Or, I should say- it doesn't have to be.  There are plenty of super techy ways to do all this stuff, with neato programs and all that jazz- I have a pinterest board dedicated to pinning these tutorials, so you can go there and check them out if you'd like.  I used quite a few of them to mash my way into my current design here over last night and this morning.  But I learned a few tricks that might help out some folks that aren't feeling the love when it comes to using design programs. 

Things I did:
Made a new blog header using : POWERPOINT
Made a new blog background using : yep, POWERPOINT
Made a new signature using: POWERPOINT - and a little help from a free program called
Made social media icons using: POWERPOINT - and a little help from a free program called

Now, I also sifted together information from some tutorial pins - but I didn't use just one person's way to do anything since I used powerpoint. So today's post will just be the header.  It was easy peasy.

First thing you want to do is find out how big your blog template is.

So now you're ready to make your custom header.  Time to go into Power Point.  Open up a new blank presentation.

Alright, my first attempt at a tutorial.  If anyone tries it and it works for you, let me know.

Next time  I'll show you how you can make a background using the similar steps.

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