11.27.2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving week at school! Two days of fun followed by three days off. What could be better? It seems that we spend every single second of our day stuffing the kids full of knowledge, testing, remediating, retesting, and analyzing data. There's so little time left for anything fun. But Thanksgiving week is a nice reprieve from all of that work!

Here are some of the fun things we did this week..
  •  made Indian pudding in the crockpot
  • played a game of "Classroom Feud" with questions about Thanksgiving
  • made handprint turkeys
  • went on a virtual field trip to Plymouth Plantation
Want to try making Indian pudding yourself? It's super easy and really tasty! The following recipe is done in the oven instead of the crockpot. It's much better that way!




 I wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving! Don't forget to check out the big sale at Teachers Pay Teachers on Monday and Tuesday. Everything will be discounted!

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Fishyrobb

11.16.2013

Teaching with Task Cards

If you could find the perfect teaching tool, what would it be like? Versatile? Ready to use? Engaging? Skill-based? Inexpensive? Sounds amazing, right? Sounds like something every teacher dreams of. Well believe it or not, this wonderful teaching tool actually exists... task cards!

http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Fishyrobb/Category/Task-Cards

Task cards are my absolute favorite resource for many reasons:
  • Versatility - Task cards can be used in a lot of ways... small group centers, independent practice, whole group games of Scoot, quick assessment, test prep. The list is endless! When I need to find out who gets a concept, I pass out a stack of task cards (one to each student) and have them write their answer on a sticky note. Everyone gets a different question, so there's no copying and I can quickly see who understands and who needs more help. Task cards are also a staple in my independent reading and math centers. Students are able to work at their own pace and then check their own answers. They really love it!
  • Ready To Use - Task cards require no prep at all. Once they're printed, I put them in a labeled envelope along with recording sheets, the answer key, and pens for checking. Whenever I need an activity, I just go to my task card drawer and pull out an envelope. It's ready to go!
  • Engaging - My students love using task cards. There's something about a little card they can hold in their hands and work on just one task at a time. I find the kids to be more focused and engaged than they are with worksheets or other activities. They actually LIKE using them!
  • Skill-Based - I love the fact that task cards target a specific skill. If a student has difficulty with main idea, I can send home a pack of main idea task cards for extra practice. Sometimes parents have a hard time helping their child, but task cards are easy to understand and use. They also work great during guided reading or math groups. This past week I had a group of students who weren't getting multi-step word problems. I have a set of task cards just for that concept (You can see them here.), so I pulled them out to use with the group. We worked through the first few together and then I gave each student their own. I was able to watch exactly what they did to solve the problem and see where they went wrong. So easy!
  • Inexpensive - For the most part, task cards don't cost very much which is really important when you live on a teacher's salary. There's nothing I hate more than spending $25 plus on a resource only to find that I can't use half of it or the kids don't like it. Task cards generally cost around $3 which is a bargain for any teacher.
One way to use task cards that I mentioned is for playing Scoot. If you don't know how it works, keep reading. Scoot is a way to get your students moving around while practicing important skills. It's so much better than seat work! First, you need a pack of task cards. Ideally, each card will be numbered. If not, you'll need to number them yourself. Place the task cards all around the room. Some teachers put one on each desk. I like to spread them all over... on tables, hanging on the board, taped to the door, etc. Give each student a recording sheet and a pencil. Now you're ready to go. Here's how to play...
  • Have each student stand at a different task card. This is their starting point. They will work through all of the cards in number order until they end up back where they started.
  • Put on some music (This just makes it more fun).
  • When you say "go", the students read their card, complete the task, and record their answer in the box with the SAME number as the card. It's really important to tell them this, repeatedly. You wouldn't believe the number of kids who take absolutely no notice of the numbers. Well yes, you probably would.
  • After a minute or so (depending on the tasks), you call out "Scoot" and students move to the next card. Make sure to give enough time that all or most of your kids can complete the card.
  • Keep going until everyone has gotten to every card. When you're done, you can go over each card while they check their own answers. Or, use them as an assessment.
  • One important rule - no talking during Scoot. You must enforce this. Otherwise, it gets really noisy really fast. The kids need to be able to concentrate on each task. I find that playing music helps them to not talk. If a student insists on talking, he or she has to sit out. That's my mean teacher rule, but it works. 
If you haven't used task cards before and decide to give them a try, I'd love to hear how it goes. Come back and let me know!

11.10.2013

Making Centers Work

I've linked up with KTP's blog series on using centers in your classroom. What a great topic! I can't think of one teacher I know who doesn't use centers in some form or another. In fact, chances are pretty good that you're required to have your students working in centers during guided reading time. But if your district is anything like mine, no one has actually showed you how to make centers run smoothly. It's one of the hardest parts of managing a classroom full of little people.

I use centers during reading and math. For reading, I follow the Daily 5 structure and I don't think I'll ever go back to my old way ever again. Daily 5 eliminates a lot of planning because the students go the the same five centers every week and most of them run themselves. The centers consists of:
  • Read to Self
  • Read to Someone
  • Work on Writing
  • Work on Words
  • Listen to Reading
 I won't spend a lot of time describing Daily 5 because the best source of this information is from The Two Sisters themselves. You can find their site right here: Daily Cafe. I highly recommend both of their books! My principal actually bought them for the entire faculty so we could have a school-wide book study. How awesome is that?!!

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1571104291/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1571104291&linkCode=as2&tag=makwavin2ndgr-20       http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1571107282/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1571107282&linkCode=as2&tag=makwavin2ndgr-20


Now what about math? I think students get the best practice during centers. They work cooperatively to solve problems, share strategies, and help each other when they get stuck. We don't do math centers every day. Usually, it's two or three times per week; whenever I need to work with small groups or individual students. My students have four centers to choose from...
  • Task cards
  • Games
  • Computer
  • Write about Math
At the task cards centers, the kids can choose any bag of task cards that I have put in the basket. They can work together or individually. I always include recording sheets, answer keys, and red pens for checking each others' work. The kids LOVE to grade each other!

Games, of course, is the students' favorite center. There are so many free game ideas online that you really don't need to spend any money. A good supply of dice and playing cards are a must-have. Here is a great site with math games using dice and cards (just click on the picture)...

http://www.kidscount1234.com/mathcentersandgames.html

For the computer centers, we use Scootpad. It's a free web-based program for both reading and math that is Common Core aligned. The kids earn coins every time they practice that can be traded in for rewards that you set up. My students love earning extra recess, lunch in the classroom, and treats from the candy jar. Another really cool feature is that they can use it at home and parents can add rewards for their kids to earn too! Scootpad is definitely worth checking out...


http://scootpad.com/289099


I think my most important center is Write About Math. Here, students create their own problems based on whatever skill we are currently learning. This center has chart paper, scrap paper, manipulatives, and pencils. The kids work with a partner to create their own problems. They must test their problem out and show how to work out the answer on the back of the chart paper. Each week I choose the best problems to share during our Morning Math Meeting. The kids love to get picked for this! This center really develops their critical thinking and problem solving skills. 

So those are my math centers. I don't have a set rotation for them but when it's time for centers, I pick the best behaved kids to choose their center first. Once everyone has made a choice, they start working while I call kids to the table to work with me. Depending on how much time we have that day, they usually get to rotate once or twice. The important thing when implementing math centers is to teach your procedures thoroughly and review them often. It can be rather noisy but it should be good noise full of math talk. That kind of noise is music to my ears!


11.09.2013

Welcome

Welcome to Teacher Times Two ~ my new blog dedicated to newish teachers who could use a friend along the way. I'm a wife, a mom, and a teacher... and I was right where you are not so long ago. Teaching is the most rewarding job in the world, but it isn't always easy {especially when you're just starting out}. I hope this blog will become a place where you can come for a lot of great ideas, a little inspiration, and maybe even a recipe or two.

I think a good way to get started is to share a few things about myself...

  •  I do not like heights. In fact, I'm scared to death of them. My worst experience so far this year was standing on the top step of a ladder to hang word wall letters. Never again!
  • My very first teaching position was co-teaching in a tiny classroom with 38 students. Fortunately, my partner teacher happened to be my best friend since second grade. Who could be so lucky?
  • I cannot whistle.
  • I knew my husband for 20 years before getting married. It was worth the wait!
  • Math was my worst subject in school but I LOVE teaching it. Maybe I should move to high school so I can do math all day long!
  • I would love to raise chickens for fresh eggs and have a pet pig. I'd name him Kevin Bacon.
  • I hate cherry tomatoes. Worst food on earth!
  • I have lived in the same place all my life.
  • Before becoming a teacher I worked as a nanny, a job placement specialist at a mechanic school, and a waitress.
  • Wow, ten things is hard. Apparently I'm not as interesting as I thought. (Does that count as number 10?)
That's me in a nuteshell. Thank you for stopping by my brand new blog! I hope you'll come back soon.

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