Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Teacher Tricks Tuesday...My 2 Cents on Coin Counting

Hello! We started back to school this week after a fabulous spring break...and boy did we have to hit the ground runnin'!  Next week is testing!!  Eeek!

For those of you under the common core standards in K-1, you know that money is NO LONGER in the math curriculum for us ( I have mixed emotions about this!).  But, until we do away with the current standardized tests, I still feel the need to teach them at least some basics- so I address this briefly during our calendar time every day.

Teaching coin counting can be a pain because not only do students have to be able to identify which coin is which, then figure out how much it's worth, then count it all together- but they have to switch counting patterns....first by 25's, then by 10's, then by 5's, then add ones at the end.  CONFUSING!! But last year a colleague taught me a teacher trick for counting money that I just LOVE!

Teach your students to tap the coins when they count.  Tap the quarters 5 times, counting by fives.  Tap the dimes twice, counting by fives.  Tap the nickels once counting by fives.  Then add one more for each penny. 

This way, they're only counting by FIVES instead of constantly switching the counting patterns!! Genius!   I had never heard of this, but it has changed my teaching and definitely has given my students confidence in such a challenging area!

So if you've never heard of this trick, I hope it makes teaching coin counting a little easier like it did for me!  I love hearing awesome ideas from colleagues and teacher friends across the globe!  Any other great tricks for coin counting out there that you use?  Share your ideas!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Graphing the Playground Plus SPRING BREAK!

Hard At Work!
Well, I MADE IT!! Spring break is finally here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  So before I sign off and refuse to think about work for the week, here's one more post about the last few days.

This week we've been talking about tallies & graphing.  We did class graphs, graphed our Lucky Charms marshmallows, etc.  And a couple of days ago I came up with an idea to end our week with and it turned out to be really fun!

We've been having gorgeous weather, so I created a little sheet with various playground equipment listed (slide, swings, merry-go-round, etc.).  Then I partnered them up and took them outside to tally the equipment we had on our playground.  We brought the data back and compared info. to make sure everyone counted correctly.
Some serious counting going on!

The next day they individually turned that data into a graph.  It turned out to be a nice little final activity/assessment of graphing.  But of course, their favorite part was being outside and collecting the data.  They did a great job of staying focused even though spring fever was personally starting to kick in for me!  

If your spring break hasn't come yet, hang in there (and nanny-nanny-boo-boo!! ;).  For those of you off this week, have a very restful and happy spring break...enjoy every minute of it and may you return to work rested and rejuvenated for the last few weeks of school!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thrifty Thursday: A Serendipitous Discovery

I love dollar stores.  If you’re a teacher reading this, you’re thinking, “DUH! Don’t we all!?”  But this is my blog and not yours.  ;)

Today I’m featuring TWO good finds, the first of which is an idea I came up with last year when  I was teaching the concept of time.  I wanted a more active and fun activity to do with my math small groups, and this idea popped into my head. 
I bought a dollar store shower curtain liner and freehanded a large clock (no clock hands) with a Sharpie marker.  Then, I had my students lie on the “mat” and use their arms/legs to show me a certain time.   They had a BLAST doing this, and the shower curtain has lasted the last two years with no tears-  even with the kiddos wearing shoes!

Here's one of my sweet girls showing 12:30.  I once was that flexible...

To adapt it for math centers, I created large hands out of construction paper that they can place on the clock to show the time (my class is a little wild and I didn’t think that letting them use their arms/hands would be as successful without me there to keep them on task).  Then I wrote digital times on an index card so that they could draw a card out and show the time on the clock mat.

My kids ask to play it every day now and it only cost me $1 to make!  I can just see a pre-made clock mat like that retailing for $20+ at one of those teacher supply stores.  I love cheating the system!
I’m sure there are other great things to make for the classroom with a cheap shower curtain.  I’m picturing something Twister-esque.  I'm anxious to hear if any of you have any ideas for repurposing shower curtains in the classroom!

The 2nd idea is a little bonus addition because I found these puppies today!  I was at Dollar General (which in our small Arkansas town, we happen to have FOUR of these!).  I was checking out when I saw a clearance basket so I sifted through the items.  
I found these little desk calendars, assorted colors.  Originally $1 but clearanced at 90% off!!!!

That's $.10 people!  So I had this idea... I bought 6, for a whopping total of $.60.  I took them to my classroom and cut them into two sides, separating the numbers from the calendars.

I realized that the numbers on the left would only have the numbers 0, 1, 2, and 3 in the tens place since they corresponded to the calendar dates, so I bent the bindings on 3 of them, and removed the numbers from the once place to replace the numbers in the tens place on the other.  That sounds very confusing, so I hope this ends up making sense.  Regardless, I ended up with 0-9 in the tens place and 0-9 in the ones place.  So I bent the bindings back in place and ended up with 3 cute little flip charts to use for place value in a math center!  Plus, I have 6 adorable little flip-chart calendars that I can use to create a calendar concepts game for a math center as well!  

Check out these little cuties!  Too bad they're all in super girly colors, but they'll make fun additions to my math centers!

Well, tomorrow is FRIDAY and just so happens to be a triple whammie:  Friday....pay day....Spring Break Eve!!!!!! Yeeeeeeeeehawwwwwwwwww!  I'm just a tiny bit excited.  I hope you all have a fanTAStic weekend and are getting to enjoy some sunshine like we are here!  I'd love to hear your latest thrifty finds, so leave some blog love to share!  Tah-tah!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Why I Teach Wednesdays- For the Love of Reading

So, today was a rare occasion in which I told my students that they could color after they finished their work (they had a packet about Arkansas symbols that they had been coloring all week for social studies).  I had a student come up to my desk and ask, "Can we read from our familiar reading tubs instead?"  My reply, on the outside, was, "Yes, darlin'!  You can always choose to read in your spare time."  But on the inside, I was going, "WOOO HOOOOOO!!! CHOOSING TO REEEEEAD!!"  Yippee!  It's always good to hear a student make that choice, but this particular student happened to be a pretty reluctant reader when she first came to my class!  It's little things like this that can make a teacher's day and keep us pushing on (especially when spring break is in t minus 2 days...AAAHHHHH!!)

I hope you all are having a wonderful 'hump day'...the weekend is creeping up on us! Happy teaching!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Teacher Tricks Tuesday- Whole Brain Teaching

Last summer was when I made my first pin on Pinterest.  My life, like many of yours, will never be the same again.  As I was preparing for the new school year, I found myself finding so many brilliant ideas on there that made me so excited to get started with my new group of firsties.  One of my most life-changing finds was a pin that led me to a YouTube video of a teacher using Whole-Brain Teaching.  Our school has not had this training,  but I used what I gathered from the videos in my classroom and it is AWESOME!  I have since registered for the WBT website and watched the videos, read the research, and applied other aspects of it in my classroom ( I highly recommend you do this...there's a lot more videos with detailed explanations of their philosophy).  I can't wait to start this next year with an ever better grasp of it!  HERE is the link to the WBT website.

I started to type out a long description of what I’ve learned from the videos, but then I figured it’d be much better for me to just give you links to some of these videos so you can see for yourself and take what you want from them!  WBT is full of lots of little "teacher tricks" that help with classroom management and engagement.  The best part?  You can start a lot of the concepts now- right here in the middle of the year!  Another great part?  These little "tricks" aren't time consuming at all!  In fact, all of these little things you can do are meant to be quick commands with quick responses to keep the students engaged and actively learning!

I hope they inspire you like they have me.  I really have noticed a difference in behavior management, engagement, and information recall!  If you watch these videos and like what you see, you’ll have to let me know what you try in your classroom and what works for you!  And if you already use whole-brain teaching, would you share with us other ideas that bring success to your teaching?

Here you go...

**Search on YouTube for "Whole Brain Teaching" and you'll find lots of great videos for your grade level!

Happy watching!

**Disclaimer: A criticism I have read by from some of the video comments on YouTube is that kids aren't really "learning" this way...that they're just using repetition to recall information.  Let me say, before I receive similar criticism, that my understanding of WBT is that it is meant to be used as an effective management tool and teaching aid, not the sole means of instruction.  Of course, all teachers want their students to think critically and comprehend deeply.  But they need a foundation of basics in order to do that.  I think WBT is a great way to establish that while keeping the students on task. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Musical Monday: Singin' 'Bout the Strategies!

If you’ve ever observed in my classroom, you know that I can and do put anything to a tune to help with my lessons.  I have many, many favorites and will share one or two each Monday.

Today I’m going to share a series of songs I’m MOST proud of…the reading strategy songs.  I hit the mother load when I began Googling to find some songs about reading because I wanted to put together an end-of-year program for my parents for the spring.  I found nothing.  Then more nothing.  Then…jackpot!! I came across THIS website which had a bunch.  YOU HAVE GOT TO GO TO THAT SITE! Now!!

My students were doing so well with the comprehension strategies after learning these songs that I ended up creating a Christmas-themed program instead of waiting until spring!  I called it “Season’s Readings” and invited parents, administration, and our 4th grade reading buddies that come read with us on Fridays.  They wore jeans, white shirts, and Santa hats.  I had each student memorize one short line to help explain the strategies in between each song.  It turned out A-DORABLE! 

And even though it’s not the Christmas season, I’m spreading a little holiday cheer by giving you the two additional songs I wrote to supplement what was missing from the website…AND if you comment with your e-mail address I'll e-mail you the script I typed up for my class in addition to the PowerPoint I created for our program!

I hope you enjoy!  Let me know if you choose to use this in your classroom.  It’d make my day!
Here are the songs that I added to the ones from the site:

(to the tune of “Jingle Bells”)
When you read a book
And you find a certain clue
If you use your brain
You’ll know just what to do
Good readers will predict
Just what will happen next
It makes you want to read some more
And helps you get the text
Oh! Let’s predict! Let’s predict!
What will happen next?
Look into the crystal ball and give it your best guess.
Let’s predict! Let’s predict!
What will happen next?
Look into the crystal ball and give it your best guess.

I Can Read!
(to the tune of “Let it Snow”)
Oh when I was in kindergarten
My reading was just startin’
But now I’ve got what I need
I can read, I can read, I can read!
When I open a brand new book
I can’t wait to just dive right on in
And now when I take a look
I know strategies to begin!
Oh at first reading was quite frightful
But at last, it’s so delightful
‘Cause I’ve got the tools I need
I can read, I can read, I can read.
I can read…..I can read….I can READ!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Teacher Tricks Tuesday- Push Lights

Ok, I found this great management idea via Pinterest, which is originally from The Lesson Plan Diva

This picture is from The Lesson Plan Diva's blog.

You get one of those cheap push-lights from Wal-Mart, the dollar store, etc.  When the light is on, students are not allowed to come up and ask you questions. This way you can devote your time to the kiddos you're with and not have to be interrupted during that precious, minimal time you have in the small group setting.  As soon as I saw this idea on Pinterest, I bought a light and used it the very next day. I love it!

Then that got me thinking...I have a classroom that has bathrooms in the room- one for boys and one for girls.  It's a one-toilet closet-style restroom.  I can't tell you how many times I've had quiet work time interrupted by someone yelling "I'M IN HERE, CLOSE THE DOOR!!" (which is kind of funny, to be honest, but very disruptive!)  So I recently thought about purchasing two more push-lights to hang on the wall, one by each door, to use as an "occupied" sign.  When they go into the restroom, they push the light to turn it on.  When they leave, they turn it off!  It's a quiet, easy signal that shows when a restroom is available or not.  I can't wait to try it! 

I'm starting to see lots of other great uses for these cheap little push lights.  What are some other brilliant ways you have seen them used?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Long Time, No See!

Well, I had quit the blog because I didn't feel like I had enough time to update, but I have made a (not so 'new' year's) resolution to get it going again.  This time, I have a plan....

Musical Mondays- Music is my favorite method of teaching concepts, so Mondays will be dedicated to how I incorporate chants, songs, and music in the classroom (or songs I find on line and want to share)

Teacher Tricks Tuesday- Classroom management/teaching tools I use or the good ideas I find and want to try

Why I Teach Wednesday- Stories of things that happen to me throughout the week that remind me why I chose to teach in the first place- whether it's funny or sweet, I'll share my favorite story/stories here.

Thrifty Thursdays- This is when I'll share my exciting dollar store/re-purposing finds.  Whether it's an idea I see somewhere else or one of my own, I'll be sure to pass along the frugal finds on Thursdays!

Favorite Finds Fridays- This is usually where I'll post awesome teaching ideas I find on Pinterest and other blogs! 

I can't wait to get going again!  And I'm looking forward to your feedback and ideas as I go!  I hope you all have a great week, and just to get it started (enter Black Eyed Peas song here), here's a "Musical Monday!"


This morning during my planning period I was thinking about my lesson on commas.  I wanted something to make it "stick" better with them.  So, thanks to my mother's genes, I pulled out my old faithful trick...rewriting words to familiar tunes.  I whipped up this little diddy just in time for my class to return to me.  I taught them the lyrics today and they loved it!  I think it's a keeper for the future!  Here it is:

(To the Tune of the "Be Careful Little Eyes What You See" Song)

A comma tells you "pause" when you read.
A comma tells you "pause" when you read.
When you're reading in a book,
Be sure to take a look.
A comma tells you "pause" when you read.

A comma goes between the date and year.
A comma goes between the date and year.
When you go to write the date,
Use a comma to separate.
'Cause a comma goes between the date and year. 

A comma goes between a town and state.
A comma goes between a town and state.
When you want to name a place,
Put a comma in the space.
'Cause a comma goes between a town and state.

Use a comma when you write a list of words.
Use a comma when you write a list of words.
When you want to make a list,
You must remember this:
Use a comma when you write a list of words.

**FYI I didn't write anything about commas in friendly letters b/c we weren't focusing on this.  If you want to write your own verses for those, feel free to and don't forget to share! :)

I hope someone who reads this finds it handy!  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the song, other methods for teaching about commas, and as I said, additional verses you may decide to make up!  

I hope you have a wonderful week.  Stay classy, teachers!