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I hope everyone is having a great summer!  If you're like me, thoughts are starting to swirl around in your head for the next school year.  (We go back early - 8/13.)  Today I would like to share a great book I read this summer about math conferences.  I like how I've done my conferences in the past, but I know they should be better.  With that said, let's get to it!

Maximizing Math Conferences

The book is call Conferring with Young Mathematicians at Work, and it is awesome!  The book covers general topics such as comparing writing conferences to math conferences as well as specific topics like conferring to develop an understanding of fractions.  

At the end of each chapter, there is a QR code, so you can see the concepts put into action.  For example, after reading the section on what to do when students are stuck, I watched this video.  The combination of reading and watching helped bring the concepts to life, and I immediately found actionable steps I could take to improve my own conferences.

An awesome mentor text for math conferences - includes links to videos with conferences in action

Key Points
While I read the book, I took notes of ideas, things I was doing right, and steps I could take to improve my math conferences.  Here are a few of the key points I plan to keep in mind for next year.
*Focus my talk on questioning over just getting students to the correct answer.
*Make sure conference questions are open-ended.
*Enrich by having students go beyond showing their work and have them defend their answers.
*Challenge students to justify each step in the process.
*Continue to compliment students on their thinking.
*Focus on the next step (no matter where students are currently).
*Use a continuum.
*Use quotes from mathematicians to encourage students to try "juicy problems".  Hard=Fun!
*Continue to reinforce a growth mindset.

***My plan for future posts is to go more in depth with how I plan to implement some of the key points from my reading.  I will share any related resources with you as I create them.

Thank you, and have a great week!

Happy summer everyone!  (Or maybe almost summer to some)  We finished at the end of May, and I have been using my time to catch up on some things that I was not able to get to during the craziness that comes at the end of the school year.  It's nice to have time to refresh and get some new ideas.  One of my favorite places to get new ideas is Pinterest.  As I was looking through my feed last week, I got inspired to create an activity for my students to practice gratitude.

A great way to have students practice gratitude.

Expressing gratitude is a practice that I try to implement daily.  I know that feel happier since I've started doing this, and I would love to promote it more with my students this school year.  When I found this pin from Teach Beside Me I became inspired and put my own twist on this activity.

Next year, I plan on using a similar activity at the beginning of the school year to help me get to know the kids as well as getting them in the habit of practicing gratitude.

I'm going to to start with these fun erasers from Amazon.

This post shares a way to use these fun erasers to have students practice gratitude.

Students will pick an eraser at random and respond to one of these questions that will be posted on the SMART Board.

Great questions to help get to know your students.

This activity will double in a practical sense because students are constantly wearing down their erasers.  Now, they will have a backup eraser right from the start!  If you would like to download this slide, you can do so by clicking here.  After you make a copy, you can edit it however you would like.

This activity will help students practice gratitude right from the beginning of the year.

How do you have students practice gratitude?  

Thank you, and have a great week!
On Wednesday, I shared three successes from the school year. Although I had a great year, there are definitely some areas where I want to improve.  Today I’d like to share three goals I have for the next school year and what I’m planning to do this summer to get ready to tackle them.

Three things I plan to do to make the next school year even better.

I know goals are supposed to be very specific, and eventually I will get my three to some sort of SMART format.  However, right now I am just gathering information so I can make some informed decisions about my goals.

So... Here's what I plan to work on in the 2018-19 school year.

I feel confident when it comes to reading and writing conferences with my students, but math conferences are a little different.  I can handle troubleshooting and some extensions, but I want to get better at note taking and asking students questions that push their thinking further.  At the end of the year, I spoke with our coach about this goal and she recommended that I read Conferring with Young Mathematicians at Work by Catherine Fosnot.

An awesome book for conferring with students about math!

I fully trust my coach, and I am very grateful that she lent me a copy of the book to read over the summer.  The two chapters I am most excited about are "Conferring to Support the Development of Proof" (Chapter 8) and "Documenting the Learning" (Chapter 9).  I would love to hear your thoughts if you have read this book.  I am looking forward to sharing what I learn.

We have used behavior clip charts at our school for as long as I can remember.  As times change, so do our methods.  Next year we are doing away with the clip charts and moving toward conscious discipline.  We are a "Leader in Me" school, so we will definitely continue with the wonderful systems we have in place there.  

I wasn't really sure where to start in gathering ideas, so I turned to Pinterest.  I conducted a search and added to my behavior management board.

I was happy to see some strategies, like a calm down space, come up that were already in place in my room.  I don't think there will be any huge changes in classroom management, but I need to be prepared to explain the expectations and natural consequences to the students who are used to using the clip chart.  For now, I'm going to keep pinning.

This year, we were very blessed to have Chromebooks for all of our students in grades 2-5.  Full disclosure, I was a bit unsure of what my second graders would be able to handle as far as the technology goes.  Needless to say, I was very impressed.  

We used the Chromebooks mainly for writing and math.  Our school adopted the Investigations math programs which has almost all of their games available online.  We also used them for listening to books and some short videos, such as BrainpopJr.  Next year, I'm definitely going to incorporate additional digital activities.  I started playing around with creating digital resources, and I'm looking forward to adding them to my store soon.  

Here is one digital sort that I used with my kids this year.  It's pretty simple, but the kids enjoyed it.  I am definitely encouraged to try more.

A free digital proper noun sort!

(This slide is available for download here.  You can edit the words if you wish.)

Those are my big three goals for the year.  I know the school year has just ended, but I like to come up with my goals while the year is still fresh in my mind.

I hope everyone is enjoying their final days with their students or their first days of the summer!

Have a great weekend!

Wow!  I can't believe another school year has already come to an end.  Our last day was Thursday, and I feel like I have been going nonstop since then trying to catch up on everything that I did not have time for during the crazy end of the year period.  I made sure to find time to reflect on the school year while it is fresh in my mind.  In doing so, I came up with some things that went very well, and some clear goals for next year.

Today, I'd like to share three of my successes from the 2018-19 school year.

Three awesome teaching resources that helped make 2017-18 a successful year.

I truly believe in trying new things as an educator and as a person.  Sometimes, they work out great, and other times... not so much.  Either way, I always learn and grow.  I never want to be the person who says, "But this is the way we've always done it."

So... here are three things I tried this year that worked out very well.

I loved using the Homeroom app.  This is a great way to connect with parents about what is going on in the classroom.  It is basically like a closed Instagram account, so there are no worries about unknown people peering into your account.  If you are not familiar with Homeroom, you can read more about it here.

Parent response to this was very positive.  I would always end my posts with a question they could ask their child.  For example, if I sent a picture of students playing a math game, I would suggest that the parents ask their child about the strategy he/she used while playing the game.

Explaining the "new math" to parents can be a challenge because math has changed so much over the years.  I am very fortunate to have parents who want to work with their children and reinforce what we are working on at school.  I wanted to find a way to clearly share strategies with parents.  This year, I used Screencastify to record myself working out math problems on the SMART Board.  I shared the videos with parents, so they could see the entire process of solving the problems (including underlining the question and circling key words).  This Chrome extension was a huge help!  My only regret is not doing this earlier in the year.  I will definitely add to my video library next year.

If you'd like to read more about how I used Screencastify for math, you can read this post.

I have used Planbook.com for my lesson plans for several years now.  However, this was the first year that I tried out the grade book feature.  (I'm not sure when this was added.)  I love that you can add notes to a student to help you remember specific information (e.g. "Great job showing work!" or "Correct answers, but he needs to write in sentences.")  Another great feature is the ability to generate performance reports for individual students.  These come in very handy for conferences.  You can also excuse students from assignments or mark them as missing.  Planbook has great video tutorials that do way better job explaining the features than I ever could.  If you'd like to see their grade book in action, you can click here and view video number 17.  

Three awesome teaching resources that helped make 2017-18 a successful year.

Although I had a great year, there are definitely some areas I want to continue to work on next year.  Later in the week, I will share three goals I have for the 2018-19 school year and some resources I plan on using to help me accomplish my goals.

Have a great day!

Hello Everyone!  During writing workshop, it can be hard to get students to break out of their comfort zone when it comes to word choice.  Today I'd like to share a new resource (and a freebie) designed to help you lead your students to choosing "just right" words for their writing.

Awesome references and activities for students to practice shades of meaning!

My newest TPT resource provides ample opportunities for your students to practice using words with subtle differences.  Here's what's included and how you can use it in your classroom to encourage growth in your students' word choice.

I created 12 alternative word list cards to use as a resource during writing workshop.  I printed mine on card stock, laminated & cut them, and then placed them on a ring.  I take this resource with me during writing conferences, so students can see some options if they need to be more specific.   You can also have your students cut out the words and place them in their writing notebooks as a reference.

Meaningful references to get your students to intentionally think about word choice

For practice and assessment of this skill, I provided eight printable activities.  Your students will enjoy ordering, illustrating, and spinning.  There is something for everyone!

Awesome no-prep activities for your students to practice words with different shades of meaning

The Shades of Meaning Spin is a great way to get your students actively engaged with alternative words.  I am offering this as a freebie.  You can download this game by clicking here or on the picture below.

Free Shades of Meaning Spin!

The activity below makes a great center.  However, there are several other ways you could use these cards in your classroom.
     *Pass out the cards to your students.  They need to find their group and stand in order of least
       intensive to most intensive.  (Great to get your students up and moving!)
     *Use the cards in a small group activity for students who need to advance their word choice.
     *Use when you have a few extra minutes: place several words on the document camera.  Students
      can say or write sentences, sketch, or act out the subtle differences in meaning.

Engaging center for your students to practice shades of meaning.

Grab all of these activities for 20% off if you purchase by the end of the day on Wednesday, April 18, 2018.  Have fun leading your class to better word choice!  You can make your purchase by clicking here or on the picture below.

Awesome references and activities for students to practice shades of meaning!

Have a great week!

A couple of weeks ago I shared some upgrades to my math workshop.  One of my favorite upgrades was creating a challenge bin for some of my students to use when they were finished with the assigned activities.  Today I would like to share what I have in my bin.

Creating a math challenge bin - Lots of freebies on this post!

On the left, you can see the math Power Towers for multiplication.  I found this wonderful idea at Fabulous in fifth.  You can read her post here.  On this site, you can learn how to make your own Power Towers as well as download a free label.  I had already made a set of Power Towers for addition and subtraction.  They were such a hit, I knew I needed a multiplication version for the challenge bin.

Inside the bin, I have an additional activity for multiplication.  I created some puzzles for my students who are working on multiplication to enhance their understanding of the concepts.  

Free Multiplication Match Game

I made 12 puzzles, but I have found that it worked better after I separated them into two sets of six.  I  put the Answer Key with both sets.  If you would like this set, you can download it for free here.  There is a sample included for your students to use as a model.

I also included four bags with place value task cards and activities.  You can view the video below to see what I include in the bags.  Then you can check out the links to the items below.

When I taught fourth grade, I created of task cards that I used for place value.  These cards are working out great for my second grade challenge bin.  You can see pictures of each type below.  You can also click here to view the entire set in my TPT store.  (The posters from the video as well as a print-friendly version for all four sets of task cards are included.)                                                                                                                                              
Awesome Place Value Task Cards!

Awesome Place Value Task Cards!

Awesome Place Value Task Cards!

Awesome Place Value Task Cards!

I love the game option (from the video).  I found some great free game boards to use with the task cards.  You can download them at Tim's Printables by clicking here.

You can download the list of uses for the task cards by clicking here or on the picture below.  This list works great for any task card center.

Free directions/task card options - Great for centers!

I definitely have more ideas to add to my challenge bin.  I will share them with you as I create them.

What do you do to keep your students challenged in math?

Creating a math challenge bin - Lots of freebies on this post!

Thank you and have a great week!

Hello Everyone!  Our weather in Columbus has been all over the place.  One day, I'm enjoying a long run outside, and it seems like the next we are on a delay due to snow.  Go figure.  I hope you have been able to have a few nice days to get outside this winter.

One of my big goals this year is to make some changes to my math workshop.  Originally, I wasn't sure exactly what those changes would be, but I knew things just weren't flowing the way I'd like.  I had a talk with my instructional coach.  She suggested video taping one of my lessons, so I could come up with some specific goals.  Although I was very nervous about being taped, I loved the idea.  Viewing the tape proved to be extremely helpful in pinpointing some specific areas I would like to change.  Today I'd like to share a couple of ways I improved my math workshop this year.

This post shares three ways I improved my math workshop.

So far, I have made three big changes that have enabled me to meet with more students and get a better handle on their needs.  Please understand that my math workshop is still a work in progress.  However, I am excited about fine tuning these changes and coming up with additional ideas for further improvement.

The first thing I did was one of the simplest to create, but probably the hardest for me to reinforce.  During math workshop, I found myself frequently interrupted while I was trying to confer or conduct small groups.  Sometimes it was due to some confusion with the assignment, and sometimes it was a procedural question.  This made it challenging to conduct conferences and small groups as effectively as I would like.  Students seem to follow the "Ask Three Before Me" rule very well in reading and writing, but they have more trouble with it in math.  I realize that I was largely to blame, as I typically answered these quick questions.  After watching myself do this consistently, I knew I needed a more formal procedure to reduce interrupting.  After talking to my instructional coach about the issue, I came up with this sign.

Having students write their questions can help them become more proactive in finding their own solutions (free sign).
(You can download this sign here.)

I have this sign posted on my dry erase board in the back of the room.  It took a while to get in the habit of using it (for both me and the students).  However, I have found that the task of having to write down the question has really helped students become more proactive in seeking out the answers to their questions.

Another area I wanted to improve was tracking the choices students were making after they finished an assignment.  I wanted to make sure students were making appropriate choices based on their needs.  I also wanted to do this without collecting any forms every day/week.

We use Investigations for math.  The workshop is set up with 2-3 choices for students.  I also have students who need to practice their facts, review some previously taught concepts, or need more of a challenge.  Because of this, some days there are additional choices during workshop time.  

In order to see at a glance who was finished with the assigned work and what choices they were making, I created a tracking slide using SMART Notebook.  After students complete the assignment, they move their name under their choice activity.  This allows me to see who is finished, and who is making good choices about activities based on their own goals.

I add a folder, clipboard, or basket icon so everyone will have a visual reminder of what to do with their paper when they are finished.  We may meet as a group to discuss, meet with a different partner to discuss, turn in the assignment, or keep in our folder as a reference or comparison for another day.  

***You can read this post to learn more about the system I use for partners in math. 

Last year, I started a challenge group for math.  I loved meeting with these students to take the concepts we were learning a bit deeper.  Time prevented me from meeting with them as often as I would like, but I felt it was effective nonetheless.  From time to time, I will change numbers or change assignments for the challenge group (flexible for all students depending on the skill).   This year, I wanted to add additional challenges during workshop time, so I put together a challenge bin.  

Create a challenge bin to help meet the needs of all of your students.

There is quite a bit to share here.  Because I don't want this post to go too long, I will share items from my challenge bin (which will include multiple freebies) in next week's post.

These changes have definitely helped my math workshop run more smoothly.  I know I am reaching more students, and students are doing a better job helping each other.  I am thinking about having another lesson taped to see improvements and set new goals.  There are always things that are going to need to be tweaked.  

I would love to hear some of your favorite parts of math workshop.  Please feel free to share what is going well for you.  

This post shares three ways I improved my math workshop.

Thank you, and have a great week!

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