Monday, September 8, 2014

4 Engaging Ways to Practice Math without Worksheets

Put away those worksheets people! Save the are 4 ways we've done Math in our 2nd grade classroom this year that are more fun, engaging, and provide great practice for all of our most important math skills.

Sidenote : 2 years ago, my kids did a worksheet every day for math.  I was a newbie and was just trying to survive!  Did they learn? yes - but they were not thriving in my math classroom.  They just did it because they had to.  They were not enjoying math and I knew I had to make a change for my future students.

1. Manipulatives - Yes, I know everyone uses them - but we use them in so many ways.  Sometimes, I just simply pull out manipulatives and ask my kids to show me their knowledge of something.  In this task, my students were asked to create a picture out of base 10 blocks & tell me their number.  Then, students went around to see other students creations and count to figure out the number.

Creativity and Learning? Score!

2. Math Journals - Why copy a worksheet when I can save a ton of time & paper.  Just simply write a problem on the board and students solve in their journal.  It's a bonus that I don't have to be prepared with this ahead of time. Oh Yeah, I forgot to mention that checking 1 problem for 23 kids is easier than checking 10 each for 23 kids=better feedback from me! And for the kiddos? It's so fun to bust out their journals. (Probably the most fun for them comes from the fact that they can show it however they choose- as long as I can make sense of it!)

3. White Boards - SO simple!  Pull out white boards, dry erase markers, and erasers (Or old socks!) and do some problems together.  Then, ask them to solve 1 or 2 on their own.  They can't leave the meeting area until they've solved problems correctly.  This means- I get to the kids who didn't get it right away!  The rest head off to group stations.

4. Shaving Cream. or Sand, or Play doh - I pulled out the shaving cream today to review comparing numbers, place value, and even/odd.  They were beyond excited and so enjoying their work.  After, the buzz around the classroom was, "I want to do that AGAIN! That was so much fun!" 

There was/is absolutely no shortage of learning in any of these ways to get kiddos engaged in math.  Actually- they don't even realize they are learning - but can explain exactly what they are doing!  

So today I want to challenge you - if you use worksheets in math often (and I used to people, every day!!) - Try to switch out 1 each week.  Once you see the change in your students and their excitement for math, you'll wonder why you ever used those darn worksheets before!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Combating Internal Self Doubts

Lets face it, we all have them (especially educators).  Those internal voices in our head saying "That could have gone better" or "You didn't do your best" or "That kid didn't learn anything that you tried to teach them today".  In the words of a sweet little child who lost her life to the Sandy Hook Tragedy, we can't let these self-doubts "Suck our fun circuits dry" 

R.I.P Sweet Ana Grace

I was recently chatting with a fellow educator (Greg Curran - @innov8reduc8r) for his podcasts on Thriving and he asked me how I deal with these internal voices - the self-doubts, and the negativity. (Something that has been VERY difficult for me in the past!)

To combat my internal self doubts - I started something this year that has been absolutely wonderful for not only myself, but my students as well.

Each afternoon we meet together in a circle for Afternoon Meeting.  Our meeting is a time for us to do 3 things:

-Recognize people that we wrote compliments for throughout the day.  We write a compliment and put it on our compliment board when we see friends working very hard, or helping someone out.  We share these at the end of the day

-Reflect on how the day went.  Each student shares something that they think went really well or something they learned.  

-Relax together for a nice "See you later" at the end of the long, exhausting, learning filled day instead of the chaotic pack up, craziness routine we've had in the past.

Hearing students share what they've learned throughout the day or what they think really well - has helped me stay more positive about what we are doing in our room - and celebrate even the smallest successes!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Math Workshop that Works!

SMILE & Bare with me.. this is a long post...

Energy y'all. Let me just start by saying my kiddos have A LOT of it plus some to spare! This is why I've really thought long and hard about the way I am doing math this year (& have already tried multiple ways to structure it).  

(Props to Teaching My Friends for this adorable sign - The Oracle helped me find it!)

Many of my multiple structure attempts are due to this years pull out schedule and making sure kids don't miss anything (& failing semi-miserably) but also some due to other problems... Here are a few I've tried..

-Whole Group- We meet on carpet for lesson, dismiss for worktime & stations - Nope - slow workers, fast workers, kids who don't get it, kids who already do...& pull out kids miss all of work time

-half & half - 11 kids in 1 group, 12 in the other - while half work at stations I meet with other half on the carpet.  This worked pretty well - but with all of the energy and personalities in my room this year - I'm often needed to solve disagreements/problems.  We are working on this, but with it being so early on, they need me (Isn't is so nice to be needed).

PLUS Others!

Soooo.... Finally, I really sat down and thought about it...

How can I harness their energy & use it to my advantage?

What can I do to keep them moving and learning?

How can I reach all of my kids - my strugglers and my "I already got it"-ers.... 

I thought and thought and thought until I finally figured it out.... Here is my Math Workshop that Works!

We start by getting our brains warmed up with a math sprint! This week we are doing a Skip Counting by 5's sprint.  Students have 1 minute to solve as many problems as they can.  They do the same sprint each day - trying to beat their score from the following day (We switch the sprint each week).  When the 1 minute is up - they grab their hi-lighters, mark off where they ended, and check as I read out the answers.  After each problem, students who completed that problem whisper a "yes".  This way, I know when nobody got past a problem and I don't have to read any more answers.

After our sprint, I give them about 2 minutes to work on the rest of it (GREAT Practice!) while I ask my students of the day to get everything for our lesson set up.  This might be white boards, it might be manipulatives, or math journals.  

When we are all ready- it's on to a movement, skill break.  Counting by 1's, skip counting, addition or subtraction partners.  Whatever skill we are working on or need practice in.  Sometimes they practice with partners playing a "Patty Cake" -ish type of game, sometimes we do the back stroke, jumping jacks, shoulder rolls.  Pretty much anything!

They we get settled into our lesson.  I teach a skill, I let students practice 1 or 2 times, I ask them to solve 1 problem on their own and show it to me before heading off to stations, games, or other activities.  Kids who "get it" are off quickly and kids who need a little more help hang with me for some more 1-on-1 time.  (Side note - I RARELY give my kids worksheets to practice any 1 skill.  If I give them a task - it is typically multi-skilled task cards or real work problem solving tasks, rather than doing 15 problems telling me whether the number is even or odd)   This is all around 15-20 minutes

This is a time when we did a whole group activity for worktime.  Students were practicing reading numbers from expanded to standard form.  They looked at the expanded form and colored the standard form on a 120's chart and it made a picture.  I got this from The Primary Techie on TPT! 

Then it's LUNCHTIME!! Yes Peeps, lunch time.  I've found that a little break in the middle of math helps them - otherwise they lose focus and start goofing off.  

When we come back from lunch- this is a time for them to do 1 of a few things:

1- My Pull-out kids meet with me for a small group lesson (This works perfectly because they need it anyway)
2- Everyone meets with me to teach them a game or do a whole group activity using our skills.
3- They continue work they started before lunch

Here my students are playing an "Even & Odd" sort it out game.  See video below :)


Above is our ULTIMATE HOP SCOTCH!  What better way to get kids MOVING and COUNTING to 1,000 than with the biggest hopscotch they will probably ever make? Movement & skill practice?  I call that #winning.  

Then, at the very end- sometimes we will meet to review the skill, reflect on how we did as a class, or to clear up any misconceptions.  When all is said and done, we've spent 60 minutes on Math (Yep- all this in 60 minutes!)

It's a whole lot of movement and transition but it's what I've found to work with my kids this year.  They really cannot remain focused on 1 activity for more than 15-20 minutes without starting to get themselves into a bit of trouble- so I'm using their energy to my advantage- although I will admit that I am a very tired teacher at the end of the day!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bright Ideas: Easy Notebook Identification

Hey Hoppers! Welcome to the Bright Ideas Link-up.  A monthly link up bringing you nothing but great, practical ideas for your classroom!

Today, I'm dropping by to give you a quick and easy way to keep your kiddos notebooks organized (For those of you that don't have desks) and easily identified.  

I simply "label" each notebook with a different design/color duck tape on the spine!

Why, you ask?  I'm glad you asked!  This way, if a child is missing their Science Journal (And it's not in the science bin) I can tell them to go check the other bins and they can easily recognize the "odd man out".

Do you see it? It's a little easier when they are "right there" :) It took a little bit to do, but I think it's been totally worth it!  Happy taping!

For more bright ideas more than 100 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting! 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Balloon Rockets: Learning About Air

We've been all about Air & Weather this week in 2nd grade! (Well, just air, weather comes next!) Today we did a "Balloon Rockets" experiment.  Many of the other teachers give their students much more guidance, explaining how this is done, but I like to let them problem solve... plus once one group gets it, it spreads like wildfire!  

The only guidance I gave them were "These are the tools you need to use.  You need to get a bag to travel on a string that is taped to the tables from one end to the other without touching it or blowing on it."  Then they were off...



Some students taped the bag the wrong way so they couldn't put the balloon inside, others let the balloon go on the wrong end and the bag didn't travel across the string... but by the end, they had all figured it out.

We reflected by answering these questions in our science journal:

-How does the air make the balloon rocket move from one end of the string to the other?

- How did you get the balloon rocket to travel the farthest? 

-Do you think this would work if we filled a small sandwich bag with air instead of a balloon? Why or Why not? 

Want to give it a try? Here's what you need: 

-String (1 for each pair of students)- Cut into a length long enough to be taped to 2 tables, desks, or chairs that the balloon can travel down
-Gallon Size Ziploc Bag
-Oblong Balloon
-Balloon Pump

Tape the bag to the straw with the opening facing sideways, put the string through the straw, tape ends of the string to table or chairs (make sure it is straight!)  Blow up the balloon, place inside the bag and watch it go!

Have fun! :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mind your Beeswax!

I'm not sure about you, but every year I always find myself telling my students to Mind their own business.  You too? Yeah, I always thought I should preach that.  But then I came home last night and was thinking... Do I really want them to mind their own business?

In some instances yes.  Ex) A child is sitting at their seat instead of on the carpet.  It is not hurting you or anyone else.  Furthermore, I most likely have an arrangement with that student.  So please don't worry about that child sitting at their seat that is, in no way, effecting your learning.

But in many others, I actually WANT them to be concerned with other peoples business.  Maybe someone is stuck and is afraid to speak up.  Maybe some is being bullied and doesn't know how to handle it.  Still maybe another was picked on and needs some love.  This is when I want and need them to get involved.

Our morning meeting conversation this morning went a little like this...

"Rockstars, I need to apologize to you this morning.  Yesterday, I told you that I need you to be sure you are minding your own business.  BUT I went home last night and was thinking and I thought, 'Ya know what, I don't want them to mind their own business... we are a classroom and we all need to care about eachother.'  Of course, there are times when we do need to mind our own business, but this is not the case all the time.  I think we should talk about this, this morning. What do you think? Can we talk about times when we should mind our own business and times when we should not mind our own business?"  

We determined that when someone is not hurt or interrupting your learning, then this is a time when you need to mind your own business and just be concerned with you.  When someone is hurt, needs help, or won't speak up for themselves in a situation that needs to be dealt with, then we need to be concerned with our classmates and help out.  

So if you tell your kids to "MYOB" I hope you'll consider having this conversation with them.  If your students leave your room not knowing 3+2=5 but they show compassion, tolerance, and acceptance of others... that, I think is something we should be proud of as educators.  That child will get the content when they are ready, but they may have missed that other piece, if it weren't for you. So I want to encourage you go make sure you don't skip over the necessary social and emotional pieces. They are the most important things our students will ever learn.

P.S. It was very hard to write this post while participating in this weeks #weirdede where we had to rhyme everything! I'm a rappin' fool!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Is it what I want, or what I think THEY want?

As the end of the 3rd week of the 2014-2015 school year approaches, I've found myself reflecting on this year and years past.  I've always enjoyed each year and all of my students, in good times and bad.  Of course, I've complained and wondered, "Why in the world did so-and-so do this?", or "How in the heck did that go wrong?" and even thought, "What am I doing wrong?" (This last one probably most often)

My first and second year were stressful.  Most new teachers first years are.  They are full of new learning, experimenting, and figuring things out.  Of course, these things stressed me out... but this year, I figured out that during these years I was mostly stressed not because of kids behaviors, or because of parents, or all of the work that teaching is... I was stressed because of what I THOUGHT my classroom HAD to be like.

I worried about every time someone walked into my classroom and if they saw what THEY expected.  If they would say that I was a bad teacher because of what they saw.  I thought that I had to have a clip chart, and I had to have kids sitting silently doing a reader's response at there desks, and there must not be any talking or moving during writing.  After all, it was what I saw when I walked into most other classrooms of teachers who "had control". This thinking coming from me is pretty surprising because I was the one to never follow "the plan".  I always take risks and try new things.... but I was still always worried about what other people thought of my classroom and stressing about making it what they want it to be.

Then this year came along.  I decided I was dropping the clip chart, and ya know, I really want my Students to build a LOVE of reading and become book worms; not reader's response robots.  I want my students to talk and collaborate.. be messy and creative.. to share ideas and get ideas from others.  I want them to take risks and not be afraid of failing in front of a room of peers.  I don't mind students sitting on my back counter to do their work or under the couch.  I don't expect them to be quiet, or even neat if that works for them.  I DO expect them to be kind, compassionate, hard workers who give everything they do their all.  I expect them to make their own choices (with guidance-of course) and know that they are in charge of themselves. The learning is fun and not a worksheet filled hole.  This is my classroom, this is our classroom, this is where we learn.  And I have to tell you; this year has been so much LESS stressful!  Why? Because instead of worrying about what everyone expects of my classroom, I thought about MY expectations and realized that I'm happy with my classroom and how it runs.  And if at any point I am not happy with it, then I will change it...but I won't change my room for anyone other than myself and my students. Because what works for us is what is best.

I also attribute this stress-less attitude to my amazing PLN all over the world.  I have to thank you for helping me believe in myself and who I am as an educator because I was starting to doubt who I really was...  (@tritonkory @sjbates @btcostello05, @mrkempz, @Theweirdteacher, @candylandcaper, @johnwick, @wyowayne68, @RusulAlrubail just to name a very small few)