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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

What you Literacy Block is MISSING!


   A listening center is crucial for any reading block.  Starting out teaching I felt this would be an impossibility for my classroom and had so many unanswered questions - how much? how do I get stories? Where does it go? How do I fit it in? 
Here's my solution to get a listening center into every classroom!  All you need is an internet connection and 1 ....yes 1 computer/iPad

A listening center is possible for every single classroom even small rural ones like mine.  We only have 2 iPads and make this possible on a daily basis. If you have an internet connection you can make this work!  That's what makes this so great.  Keep reading to see the many options available!

 I use to think I had to purchase books on tape/CD but that is not the case anymore with technology! You can read books in many ways online!  I love using QR codes and the listening centers available - here but there are also other ways.  I use them because of the rigorous skill focus associated with each set of stories!                      Another great way to get book is to use EPIC! It is FREE to educators and there is such a wide story selection and each student can have a profile! Not all stories are read but it is a great option and way to expand your library.  There are also great options on TPT of listening centers you can use QR codes for and there are for different themes and times of year.  

We use our listening center as part of our reading rotations! My students have to listen to 1 story a week at least and take the test that accompanies their story and score 3/5 or better.  They can work with partners because these types of questions are good for discussion and they will work independently for an assessment.  This also helps keep them honest.  If they do worse they come to me and we work on a story together at a separate time.
  Listening Centers can be done at any part of the day you find time.  They are short and students need to hear reading in order to become better readers.  This works great as part of daily 5.  We don't use headphones because they weren't required and we have a certain level the iPads must be turned to for reading.  Since it is a quiet working time and at most I only have 2 stories being read it does not get too loud.  If they abused the privilege they would have to do this as part of computer time.
  Listening centers in any format are a great way to differentiate for readers in your classroom.  Some students need smaller books and some like to read more complicated material.  Nonfiction can be great read aloud because of the complexity.  The listening centers we use have AR levels printed on the bottom and students can choose one from their level for that skill.  It's a win-win as a teacher.  They get fun books (even though they are short!) and still practice a much needed skill for the week!  I love having that opportunity!

I love integrating technology into my class!  This is one easy way to do it! Using EPIC or QR codes to listen provides great way for students to be more oriented with technology! The listening Centers we use are self-checking so they can get immediate feedback from what they read and learned to apply the skill.  So easy for a teacher to keep track of and for a student to use. 



















Listening to stories can also be a great whole group activity!  Sometimes listening to reading just like read alouds we do in class provide different opportunities and conjure different visualizations depending on the student.

If you are interested in learning more about skill specific QR Listening Centers click any of the pictures or this link!






Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Upper Grades Test Prep- FREE ideas!!

No logins - no problem!




If you are like me and are drowning in test prep ideas but need something low prep and FREE then look no further!  I have been lagging in the test prep department.  I have seen so many great ideas from other people but with spring break and Easter craziness have not got a chance to implement. If you are in the same situation I'm here to save the day!

We normally have MAP practice books - how boring - but great to review skills.  We have online testing in our state as I know most do in the US.  I wanted students to have opportunities to practice online testing in a way that is fun but costs my school no money.  We don't have MobyMax or IXL sadly and it's a little too late to get them now so I scrambled and found some amazing ways to practice that are FREE!  Run don't walk to get these in your classroom NOW!!








Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for task cards and spiral review but when it comes to crunch time even though I say it every year - I still feel like we need a comprehensive review.  I need something fast (preferably self checking) that I can get immediate reteaching in if necessary -- these ideas incorporate all that!!















1.  Mr. Nussbaum Reading Passages 

What a lifesaver! These reading passages look exactly like our state testing with the passage on one side and the questions on the other.  Self checking or self paced - BONUS!!!

They are listed by GRADE LEVEL -  a great tie in to history or science!!

173 reading passages - all FREE -- listed by grade level -- can't go wrong.


Some stories like the one below even offer multiple quiz choices. 



Here is a sample of the quizzes. They are timed (our state tests this year are not) but it has a great layout. 


The best part - ALL FREE!!!

My plan to use these in my classroom is through our computer time.  All these quizzes are iPad accessible (so the website says - I have not tested)  I plan to do these a couple times this week and assign some on Seesaw to students that have internet access at home.  I would just make this a "app" on my iPad in order for students to access easily.

This would also make a great site to use whole group and practice testing strategies. I might try that once this week to show more examples of types of questions, narrowing down options, highlighting words, etc.. on Smartboard like students are able to do on the real test. 

Next year, I plan to incorporate these as a center in our room with a recording sheet.  They must complete the quizzes with a designated percentage or redo with me.  





Another amazing FREE lifesaver! We used this site already today and I was able to modify our grammar review based on what I saw my students needed to review!

No logins!  I got this great website idea from Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6

Head to the website click on your grade level and Common Core.  For us it was the blue pawprint.  



Next you see the list of tests available to take.  Since I do not teach math, I made a short recording sheet for scores with just the 1-17 and 1-3.  We started doing the language tests (10 questions each) and they recorded their scores.

If I had dishonest students, I would record scores or a partner would.  I was immediately able to see we needed to review who/whom and can/may/must  again before testing.  

Each 10 questions focuses on a specific skill although not named it is easy to figure out.  We do not study the names of all tenses so we skipped one but I feel it was extremely valuable for students.  


Below is what a sample test looked like.  Easy to choose answers and it GRADED after you click "Check Your Work." 

Easy peasy!


We did notice some slight spelling errors so it wasn't 100% perfect but overall an excellent easy way to practice with great immediate feedback. 




I found some FREE review ELA games all geared toward 4th grade just by typing them in.  It was extremely easy to follow and although I modified some questions to fit more to our class, they turned out great. 


I like these more than some other game shows. 

My version: I pair students up.  They get a dry erase board and every single team answers every question.  They keep their own scores after I acknowledge they got it right and then I choose 1 team to pick our next question.  Everyone is involved the whole time. 

This could also be played in small groups for reteaching and you could certainly make your own templates but this worked much faster!

Here are some other links to ELA grade 4 games that I plan to play as often as allowed for some fun review:  (Just Google your grade level to find some you can use) 

*I did not make these*












I love these Scholastic News Reading Skills Practice Tests.  They provide one for Fall and Spring of that year and you can download the 2 previous year versions as well.  



Although these are not FREE (without subscription) it is worth noting in case you know of a teacher that does have a subscription and could use this!  They provide great articles, questions, and even language questions!

I send these instead of my regular HW packets leading up to testing.  The paired texts make for great comparing with how high interest they are. 






5.  Listening Centers

Finding great listening center practice for upcoming testing can be tricky.  All year we practice skill driven listening center tasks.  Students read or listen to a story and then answer questions just based on that skill.   You can check out my post about NO PREP listening centers here.  This gives great feedback to me as an educator and students get experience with test like methods and quality of questions.


You can get a FREE sample by clicking here



or you click here to see more about the skills covered in the bundle!  


















Sunday, March 20, 2016

Reference Book Flip Book - QR linked!


Have you ever wanted your students to know more about reference sources? Do you get the blank stare when the dreaded - where would you look to find this answer question comes up.  Somehow my students always know dictionary and sometimes thesaurus but other than that...we come up empty.

My librarian mentioned that this is their curriculum but it is also in just the general CCSS for grades 3+ using these in print and digital form!!


The pages are awesome because it is like a scavenger hunt and they have QR CODES!! You can scan for your students to get practice with the digital book as well really hitting the full standard.

I make my students do both so they know where all options are in our classroom.



These would be great to pass along to your librarian or your classroom as well because we know some students that could use practice.  



My students completed these in their literacy center one week and it took awhile or you could do it as a whole class over 2-3 days.  

They love using QR codes finding the answers was fun for them to do.  They worked in groups, I observed to make sure they were using both sources.  Click on any of the pics or here - to grab a copy for your classroom!







Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Staff Easter Egg Hunt


















 I posted about a Staff Easter Egg hunt on Instagram and many people were interested in how it worked.  I don't have too many details but I will share what we plan to do in case you want to do something like this at your school!

First step, get approval.  We don't have a morale/sunshine committee (we are tiny!) and I know I have seen this idea somewhere....maybe not a staff one...but workplace nonetheless.  I asked my principal if this is something we could do this year and I would just take charge of it.  I know it is extremely busy in the office and with testing season coming up, I figured I could plan.

I love that this idea is SO LOW COST!!

All you really need are eggs, and prizes.  Most of our prizes are FREE and I also got those admin approved before putting in eggs so she knew what she was getting into.  Prizes I chose are ones offered in some capacity before so I knew she would be ok with them.  If one is too much or didn't get approved I just didn't put it in an egg. 



List of Prizes: 

  • $5 Target Card 
  • $5 Starbucks
  • Sharpie Pens
  • dessert cooked by our class (we have a class reward coming up and they love this so we plan to cook for one teacher.)  Yes we can cook at school....beside the point.
  • coupons donated by McDonalds.  I called the business office in our area and they mailed  me some after explaining it was for teachers.  These are my fillers to ensure everyone gets an egg!  I planned to call Sonic too but didn't get a chance, they might have coupons as well. 
  • VIP parking 
  • 30 min class coverage (only 2 of those!)
  • Free ice cream or soda (50 cents) included in each of those eggs because that is the cost at our school
  • JEANS DAY passes
  • Pizza or Grill - we have 1 local restaurant in our town so 4 people on the same day can order food from there for lunch and have it delivered. 
  • duty free lunch - eat in the faculty room!  Wouldn't believe how much I want this one!!!
*Obviously, these need to be customized to fit your school and needs so I don't have a something you can print and easily use. Feel free to adapt or use any of these ideas to spread some school cheer!*

You could just print coupons and put them in eggs.  You could hide them around school or just have teachers pull one from the lounge that day.  I have a recording sheet typed up that coordinates with our coupons for our admin so she can record who gets prizes that she is in charge of.   It just have blank lines and the prize names. 



THE TWIST: 
Some of the most desired prizes have a twist in their egg.  Instead of the coupon inside a note will say, "Bunny Hop to the principal's office for your prize." If you are all together this would be even funnier!  They are listed on the sheet so the principal knows what prize to give if they do that action :)

I think it will brighten up the day and make us work a little for those bigger prizes.

Here are some ideas to get you started: 
  • bunny hop to office for your prize
  • announce to the group/office "Easter Bunny has been good to me this year!"
  • Give bunny ears knowingly to 3 people
  • high five 5 people before getting prize
  • pretend you laid an egg for your prize (ha- might be too over the top)
  • dance through a field of flowers for your prize
  • cheep, cheep like a baby chick for your prize
  • get 3 people to smell your pretend your spring bouquet of flowers for a prize

Overall, I think this costs around 20-30 to put together for our school with every staff member getting a prize.  The coupons help a lot so everyone gets something.  The admin still plays a big part of what teachers can receive but if you got more prizes donated this might be even more doable. 

This would be a great idea for a PTO to sponsor at low costs or for any workplace! 






Sunday, March 6, 2016

Cause and Effect in the Upper Elementary

Cause and Effect seems like a seemingly easy concept to touch on the upper grades.  I haven't really hit in snags in the past year but each class has different needs and I realized this needed some practice with my class.  

Thinking on my feet - we did some quick great activities that didn't seems too babyish for my kids.

First, we started off with Flocabulary! Awesome of course!  
The activity that comes  with this is awesome! It is listed as second grade but even my fourthies had some great break throughs on the back end.  They had to think if something changed in the story how would it change the rest of the story - in essay form - tough stuff.  Along with writing cause and effect statements with prompts - something I don't normally think of them doing.
Next we did a directed drawing of a cartoon tiger - from the awesome Art for Kids Hub!!  Then they had the prompt, "Because my tiger _______," then they had to pass it to a neighbor who filled it in with a logical explanation.

This was just a short review lesson right before our cause and effect quiz but the kids loved the art twist...I mean c'mon cartoon tigers!!


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Superhero Similes: Figurative Language Fun



If you've seen my Monster Metaphors pack then you might recognize this format! We also worked on Similes in the same way.  I love teaching figurative language but these 2 can be so tricky.  I do my best for students to know they are both comparisons but different because of their language.


Doing 2 individual projects really helps in that way.

I love bringing art into the classroom.  We did a directed drawing for our superheroes but I also included some you could color. Art for Kids hub is the BOMB for art tutorials - I try to incorporate those into many of our lessons throughout the year because it boosts confidence and they just turn out so darn awesome - my kids love learning how to draw and these quick videos do the trick.



We wrote about our superheroes we created and came up with similes to describe them.



There is an extra practice sheet as well to identify some of these which makes for great review or homework after the lesson with still a fun superhero theme.






Wednesday, February 17, 2016

HAPPY Morning Routine for Teachers - 5 Sanity Saving Tips

I'm such a morning person (I realize everybody just cringed there!) and even if you aren't I wanted to share a little of my morning routine and how I get mentally prepared for the day ahead.  I feel like this time is taken for granted and can be really easily utilized.

*note* I'm not overly organized and I'm a mom as well so I understand the craziness that is taking place at home - these are just things I do to help combat it!


1.  Play Great Morning Music


Whether you are into Pop, Rock, Christian - whatever!  Play something that sets a great tone for the day! I love to have this song below linked on my desktop and I play it before school or as the kids are coming in.  I know another blogger suggested it (???) and I LOVE IT!!!

Usually something upbeat so I can get my mind the in the right place and the tone I want to set in my classroom! It helps clear my head and start the day fresh.

You can certainly start this in your drive/walk to school by playing it in the car!  Even a funny podcast or DJ can really start your day off positively.  I know sometimes we leave the house on the wrong foot and it can be hard to not play the sad music that "fits" but I really shy away from that and focus on the great day ahead with my students!





2.  Spend some Quiet Time Alone




You're probably reading this thinking...didn't she say she was a mom...who has quiet time...in the morning?!  I'll let you in on a little secret (well not that little)

I use my car for some quiet time.  I get out the door at approximately the same time every day and get to school around 7:17 (OCD- much?!) and I use about 5 min or so to pray for my students, my teaching that day, my husband and my son.  I have about a 15-20 min drive to work but usually my mind is reeling then just full of thoughts.  When I stop the car I take the extra time to focus on the day and really get my mind in the right place.

Meditating or just some quiet time in general SO HELPS me focus and start off the day on the right foot!  I cannot tell how much this change has made this year alone! I also try to do this at my recess time (we're lucky and don't have to supervise!)  I just take 2-3 min to reflect about my morning with a couple lights off and focus on what we need to accomplish in the afternoon.  I feel so much more ready to tackle anything after stopping to think and praying about it.  


3.  Prep in Advance




This could mean a lot of things to a lot of people!  I pack my lunch and bring it daily so getting it ready and laid out the night before along with clothes for me and my son really helps things run smoothly.  I just take the 5 min the night before and it saves me some running around in the morning.  Does this happen every day - NO! 

On the days it does get done - sweet, if not no big deal.  I tend to cook larger meals and we usually have leftovers frequently and those are easy for lunch.  Otherwise prepping weekly for lunches/dinners can be a great time saver. 

This frees up just a little morning time for extra cuddles, hugs, or play time unless we've slept in late. :) 


4.  Greeting Students





There are a couple different ways I like to do this.  It can be hard when they storm in the room and unpack and get to morning work.  I like to have a relatively quiet classroom and this is one of those times it doesn't seem possible.  Instead of being demanding when I know they have jobs that require noise I embrace it. 

Our bell system makes this easy since we have a "warning" bell and they know they have 4 min to finish up their tasks after entering about 12 min earlier. 

I put on school appropriate music or the song from earlier! Something upbeat they can hum to while making a lunch choice.  I also like to greet students at the door and smile and give them a pat on the back coming in.  Asking about a game from last night or where they got in their book are good conversations as well.

Some ideas I want to incorporate next year are from the amazing Miss5th!  She has secret handshakes for students and awesome whiteboard messages that have been so awesome already this year! Engaging and focused kind of with a morning meeting feel but without the time commitment. Just another way to start the day off positively.   We all know there can be one teacher or student that can ruin a day and starting each day fresh gives everyone a new chance.









We can't be perfect sometimes we bring baggage in and moving forward and starting over are great examples for students in that respect as well.



5.  Clean/Organize just a little



Sorry another cringe worthy one! Who is she kidding, I know!!!  Hopefully  if you get to school just a smidge early this one is possible.  I like to walk in, check my thermostat (adjust if necessary) and write up our ELA plan for the day - easy for me and kiddos to know what's going on. 

I head over to my desk to get papers together and sorted then I find just a little one or 2 things I  can put away/throw away/file and do that! There is always something.  Instead of the end of the year I try to do it bit by bit.  

I organize my shelves by subject so I have to pull papers out each day - I do it that way because it depends on how much we get to (its unconventional but it works minus sub plans being super confusing if they don't know my system)  Does my desk look super clean  - again NO!  Do I know where everything I need for the day is? YES!     Just cleaning and organizing a few of the paper chaos that comes with our jobs helps so much.  You stay ahead.  It's not piled on at the end of the year!  Clean slate for the day/week.  

I can't believe it but I'll show you some of this madness - can't say I don't keep it real.




I hope these tips help you in your routine and your classroom.  It is important to focus on yourself and get the day started in the right place - setting the tone for your students!  What's your best morning routine tip??