Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spark Student Motivation: Games in the Classroom

Saturdays are a perfect day to reflect/think about how to Spark Student Motivation. After a decent night of sleeping and getting to sleep in past alarm time, it is a perfect time to reflect on what is working to spark student motivation. Thrilled to be linking up again with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching

I am going to talk a little bit about games in the classroom. I remember fondly playing Upwords, and Scrabble as an elementary student, so why wouldn't word games work with my own students? 
I have an eclectic group of kiddos with a wide range of dislikes and likes. Some are avid readers and others are avid at avoiding of reading. Some are excited to learn and other are excited to talk. Some are confident and others are afraid to fail. This creates a tough recipe for success. It also means I need to try to find all of their carrots. 
My readers will read without being pushed but even my avid readers avoided reading at dismissal when I watch over 2 classrooms while my teammate walks the group out to buses. I need my room somewhat calm and allowing them to talk just did not work. I would love to allow free talk time, but it always leads to loud and many times teasing or inappropriate talk. I needed a solution and turned to games. 
Pulling out Upwords and Scrabble did not work, those games are not cool enough for my crew. But, Words with Friends, that is a whole new level and is cool because it can be played on an electronic device. Now, I know that seems silly reasoning, because it really is another version of scrabble, but I am not going to argue with them! 
At first I thought about using the games during literacy centers, but honestly, that hasn't happened due to time constraints! I wanted them to practice word work and playing together, so allowing them to play during dismissal is working. They get to interact, do not have to stay at their desk in their seat, and the environment is slightly relaxed and still controlled. I do have to monitor for appropriate play and behavior but I really have found that I am disciplining a lot less than before. And that keeps this teacher happy! (Seriously, when I was enforcing the you must read rule, I was grumpy and burnt out by the time the last round of buses showed up.) 
Since games are working during dismissal I am constantly checking clearance shelves and will watch for the great sales during the holidays of board games to add to my collection. They will bore of WWF, so having more games will help out a lot. I also have Sorry and will include that in the dismissal selection.  I would love some math and logic games for my classroom and plan to add those too. 
Getting my crew up and around also helps a lot, so this week we played find the antonym and find the synonym using one of my newest TpT products.
I designed it for a small literacy center, but once again with out schedule that did not happen so I adapted how we used it (sorry no pictures of them playing because I played along with them.) Each person received a card and they had to find their match. The antonym play was easier for them (was surprised!), but both games led to excellent review of the vocabulary. They loved getting up, finding their match, and then sharing their words with the class. It was fun playing along with them. I need to get a class set of headbands like the ones in the game Hedbanz, so we can all wear the card on our heads and search for our partners. The kids really like the cute apple decor. 
The words I used are from the Wordly Wise Book 5, but they are excellent words as they are used in grade level reading materials. The kids love seeing "their" words in social studies, science, and math texts. Turns out some kids even spotted the words on the ITBS. We encourage the use of the vocabulary in their writing so the more they are exposed to them and have to think about them the more likely they remember to use them. They are motivated to use them because when we spot their use we always brag about them to the class. 

Because it was a fun activity, the kids thought of it more as a game and were a lot more engaged! Their learning certainly improved! Since they liked the vocabulary activity, I will add the game to some independent centers and even let them play during dismissal. 
I already mentioned this in my Five for Friday post, but the kids had so much fun playing, that I have to mention it again. We played Swat 2 times this week and the kids were begging me to play again on Friday. To spice things up a little I quickly threw a power point together with parts of speech and figurative language words. Then I read sentences aloud and they had to identify the part of speech or the figurative language. Wow, they got real serious and competitive. They also were thinking a lot. And of course, got a little too loud! During the loud game I encouraged silent celebrations by awarding bonus points for quiet play. 

Because they had so much, I think I will create more slides with 5th grade skills so I can reward great behavior or review with a fun game. Who would have thought flyswatters and language terms projected on the board would excite my learners? So glad to have found something that is motivating to them and helping me review grammar! 
If you need some great ideas check out the other posts. Joanne has a super cute idea about shout out cards for student papers!  
Thanks for swinging by on this super Saturday! I have scored myself some alone time; the boys are off playing with their Dad's best buddy and his boys; so I am off to shop. Have a super day!  (By the way, think I taught a little too much about alliteration this week!)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Whew, Thank goodness it is Five for Friday!

Wow! A long week for sure. I am so thankful for cooler weather and the weekend! I am ready to relax. 
Being that it is Friday, means that it is time to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday!
It was a particularly long week because we were testing again. Yep, had the lovely pleasure of reading the script and walking circles while my kiddos shaded bubbles."Does everyone have the right place?" and  "If you have any questions, I will help you after the others have started." 
Thankful that my own son made it through his first round of the ITBS and hopefully feels more confident in his abilities. Testing anxiety is a huge issue, so trust me, I was worried about an administrator showing up with him in tears. I have no idea how he actually did, but he made it, and that is something to be thrilled about!
Next week, it will be nice to get back on track and actually hold math class and return to my normal routine.
Since their brains were fried from standardized testing I kept our post-test lesson learning light and fun. We played some rounds of Swat to review parts of speech and figurative language. They loved competing against each other and I quickly identified that they are struggling with prepositions, verbs, metaphors, hyperbole,  and idioms. Check out our figurative language "swat" game. 

They suggested I add flies, cute idea. I added "Fly Guy" next to personification and onomatopoeia (saying Buzz), and the pun of a pair of pants with the fly down. Some asked me to make the words fly around as they tried to swat, I opted out of that, but so glad to see them thinking. 
I think I  will make a swat the vocab. word game to review before our next Wordly Wise test.

I have clinical proof that my boys are great at sharing. Yes, 2 trips to urgent care and 3 positive strep tests! I also have 3 amoxicillin prescriptions and lots of Tylenol to ease the discomfort. During the second trip to the urgent care, I insisted that he run my throat culture since they love to hug, kiss, and share their germs with me. I escaped with a clean culture, but 3 sick children during testing week means I am one tired teacher/mom! 
As I mentioned, my oldest had ITBS this week, he insisted on taking the test with his teacher and not during a make-up session. "Mom the test is important, I don't want to take it with a stranger." How can you argue with that? So, I did what I could. Gave two rounds of antibiotics before going back to school, insisted he take Tylenol, and had my sweet hubby pick him up after the test was over. 
Like I said, he has high testing anxiety, so it was the best solution for him, eased his worry, and stopped his tears. I think he was more stressed about the potential of missing the test than the news that he was sick. 
How do you improve social relations in a class with kids who bicker and tease each other? Level the field by letting them play board games. 
They are whizzes on apps and video games, but none are super savvy with word building nor board games. I decided it was time to get out games for them to practice game playing (taking turns, teaching each other, working on following directions).  
I used to require them to read during dismissal, but I found that the majority were avoiding reading and I was repeating, "Sit down and read for the last 20 minutes of my day." I was wiped out and frustrated. 
I have a handful who still read, a few who love to listen to audio-books, but the others were avoiding reading every way possible. During dismissal, trying to coerce them to read was not productive and was spoiling our relationship. So, it was time to change things up. 
Words with Friends is "cool" to play because it is like an App.
I scored some Words with Friends for a few bucks at Wal-Mart, and during dismissal I group kids and let them play. I am called on to help them find words, or remind them about how to play. Their choice of words are very simple, but they are thinking and playing together. Our interactions are also better during this time which means we all score extra points! 

The rubber band fad has entered our home. My son recently spent the night at his grandma's, and while over there his aunt and him bonded over rubber band bracelets. She made bracelets with him and sent him home with the rubber bands. I finally broke down and ordered some from Amazon. 
He loves sitting in his room creating new bracelets. When I go to say hi to him at lunch, his best friend and him are either drawing or making bracelets together. It really is a great fine motor skill/sit still activity for him. 
 He was really proud of this one since it is our school colors. Wonder how long this fad will last? 

I hope you had a great week and have an even better weekend! Don't forgot to hop over to Doodle Bugs Teaching to see what everyone else has been up to! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

M is for Mathematical Monday!

I am linking up with I Heart Recess for
Make sure you check it out for great math ideas to use in your classroom. 

At my school, in the upper grades,  we ability group our math classes to a certain extent to reach all of our learners. (The groups are flexible and we make adjustments as needed.)  It really helps us challenge the higher kids to achieve as much as possible and create small groups to reach out to our struggling mathematicians. 
I am lucky to work with an interrelated resource teacher with kids who have IEP's and am able to work with struggling students in an inclusion setting. Not all of my students have IEP's, some fall in to that grey area, and benefit from the extra time to process and tackle the concepts before becoming completely successful. 
Many of my students claim to be lousy at mouth, hate math, and say they just don't get it. It means one of my jobs is to show them they are capable, they can do it, and math is important to them.
It is incredibly important to model and show them how it is important to them. We spend lots of time talking about how it will help them in their life and showing them ways to think logically about math. 
Case in point, does it make sense that 1.5 pounds of salmon would cost $149.50 if 1 lb costs $9.99? (This was an actual conversation we had the other day.) So to help them we give them perspective, we discuss common sense, discuss how to read math problems, and discuss how errors occur. 
One of the things we incorporated in to our lessons last year was finding the error in their own work, and errors in hypothetical students. We found this made a big difference in how they think through their own work. If they can find an error then they truly understand how to solve it. We also have them explain the error and how to solve it correctly. 
One thing we learned was that they often struggled to use the math terms when explaining their thoughts, so we started providing word banks with our find the error problems. Wow, what a simple solution adding a word bank was. Suddenly they were using more words and eventually they used them without being prompted. Of course, it was a process and required lots of modeling. What we learned though was to practice, and keep at it.
Here is an example of a problem we have used
What is the error sheet from Order of Operations Matching Centers Activity Packet
Here is another example that we will be using in the near future (after we finish the good 'ole ITBS). 
Error sheet from Decimal Multiplication Models Packet
We use find the error problems as warm-ups, in their math journals, and also include 1 problem on each assessment. It was something simple to add to our daily routine and really helped us spark mathematical conversations with our students. They quickly recognized what they can do, what they are doing right, and become mathematical thinkers. Those kids who used to give up, don't throw in the towel as quickly, and start to see themselves through a different lens. 
As I remind my students daily, everyone makes mistakes, and we really can learn from our mistakes. 
What are you doing in math in your room? 
Don't forget to check out the other great ideas at I Heart Recess!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sharing in the Wealth

I am linking up with the great Mr. Hughes at An Educator's Life Blog for the Share the Wealth Saturday Linky Party.
I know, you are thinking, it is Sunday, well, yes it is. However, the party is all weekend long so I am taking advantage of the opportunity to join the fun.
Check out all the links, there are some great gems and they are free!

First I would like to highlight my newest freebie, hot off the presses. I know it is a little early for turkeys, but I am planning ahead.

We are starting fractions after we wrap up ITBS next week so I am ready for my fraction passes. The turkeys are precious and the homework passes require a little math thinking, they have to figure out what half off and 1/4 off is to use the pass. So it is a math assignment hidden in a homework pass.



There is also a task card that I plan to use as a punch card. Students will earn a treat at the end of the month if I don't have to punch their card. I think I am going to focus on punching the cards when homework or assignments are not complete. The plague of "I forgot," is creeping in to my room, I need an incentive to "Nip the bud!"

Another freebie I have been using is my exemplar form.

One of the annual goals for my students this year is to show growth on their ability to problem solve, as is evaluated by an exemplar. This group is struggling greatly. Weekly we work on an exemplar and it usually takes the entire class period. It is frustrating for them, but I am not giving up. They are still trying to quickly tackle the problem, yet they are missing some of the "tircks" in the written problems. They are also struggling with explaining how they solved the problems and finding the patterns. I am not giving up and I know with continued practice they will make progress.
Each week I collect their sheets as a monitoring tool, I can see where they are struggling and what we need to work on. I will keep them in their exemplar portfolios and at mid-point we can confer about their growth.

It is almost National Candy Corn Day and if you are looking for a break in the mundane word work, check out my candy corn sentence packet. We used them to create a graphic organizer for an informational paper as a grade level, and then followed up with creative statistics to look like experts in our writing. The kids loved the sweet topic.

If you download one of my freebies please leave me some love on Teachers Pay Teachers. Also if you use it with your class please comment and let me know how you implemented it!

I am also going to offer a little giveaway to a reader who leaves a comment on my blog. I worked on 2 new paid products and I would love to give 1 of them away, reader's choice. Check out the products and leave me a comment telling me what you think, and if you would like one. I will pick a winner and email you a copy of the packet.
Here are the 2 products I recently added.
Decimal Multiplication Models Puzzle Matching Activity

The second product is a Synonym and Antonym Matching Card Game which plays a lot like Go fish, however they are picking apples and they play until all matches are made. It contains 30 pairs of synonyms and 30 pairs of antonyms in color and a black and white version.


Hope you are having a wonderful weekend. It is the last day of flag football for my boys, so I am headed out to the fields for the day. Looking forward to the last game and the smiles that will cover their faces when they receive their trophies!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Teachers Pay Teachers Flash Sale

In case you hadn't heard, Teachers pay Teachers is having a Flash Sale in honor of 100,000 Facebook fans (Wow!). I decided to join the fun and posted a 20% off sale until the end of the day tomorrow, 10/14. Don't forget to use the coupon code FB100K to get an extra 10% off. Only 1 item in my store is not 20%, instead it is 50%!
I had a great time shopping this morning, splurged for the 3-5 ELA Bundle that's being sold to raise money for Breast Cancer Research - there are some great resources in the packet at a bargain for $25. It isn't on sale, but I did get 10% off.
Hope you can find some great deals too.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Five for Friday: Made it to the end of the quarter!

It is that time of the week again! Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching.
Well, truthfully, I am a little late, but it was a busy week and a hectic Friday, so I did not quite stay up long enough to finish up the post in time!
I made it through the week and was rewarded with a huge hug from my 4 year old who also excitedly yelled out, "Momma, your phone is here! Hooray!" Hooray is right, almost 2 weeks without a phone - no texts, no calls on the road, and I was ready. I had even missed a text from the principal telling us we could wear jeans the other day, missing out on a jeans day is not fun, nor is showing up to daycare to pick up your son not knowing if his Dad has gotten there first.
Thankful to be connected again!

I made it through the first quarter and only have to finalize report cards. Wow, only 3 quarters to go. We have lots to do this upcoming week because we have the ITBS the following week, so it will be another week of rush, rush, rush, especially since it will be a 4 day week for the kids. I have a teacher workday on Monday.
I was so honored to have a co-worker utilize my candy corn sentences in our grade level televised writing lesson this week. She used them to teach about the elements of informational writing. The topic of the sweet treat was a hit with the kids and they were flowing with ideas.
Next week my co-teacher and I will be teaing the televised writing lesson. Our topic is how to enrich writing using statistics. We plan to start with the candy corn informational plan my coworker used and add statistics to it. We have some fun statistics to add to the lesson.
If you are interested in the sentences, it is a freebie.

I would love feedback and to know what you think.
This week in math we wrapped up multiplication with decimals and reviewed how to use models and how to interpret them on an assessment. As much as I hate it, I do have to make sure I teach things to my students so they will be successful on a test. The visuals do not always come easy to my learners so I created some fun matching cards to help them practice and review. 
They really liked my order of operations puzzle cards so I created puzzle matching cards for decimal multiplication. Some match to an equation, some have just an expression (like above), some have it in written form, some show the final product and they would write out the factors that match the cards, and I even created some with a match with decimals to the second power. 
I am always seeking more examples of the models and I am happy to now have tons of task cards (7 sets of 8 task cards) for them to practice all year long. 
The Decimal Multiplication Models Matching Activity Set is on sale all weekend for $1.00. 
I have a co-worker who is getting married next weekend and I am excited about her shower on Monday. We are taking advantage of our teacher workday, and taking her out to lunch. Afterwards we are indulging in cake. I wanted to make her something in addition to buying something so I whipped up this cute apron using a tutorial on my favorite sewing blog, The Mother Huddle. Mine is not nearly as cute as the original, but I am pleased with how it came out (forgive the picture).

 Hope you had a fabulous Friday and are enjoying your weekend. Thanks for stopping by!