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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Parent Teacher Conferences

It's that time of year again.. Parent Teacher Conferences! I love conferences in the spring (or in my case this year beginning of February... yikes) because the kiddos have come so far and are so proud of all of their accomplishments. I do student led conferences so the kiddos can show and tell their parents all about what we do in the classroom!

Now before I get into all the deets about my student led conferences.. I do not offer a student led conference for all students. There are always some students who have not progressed as planned, or have other issues that need a different type of conference. I schedule private teacher led conferences for these students and do not offer another option. Also, some families don't want this type of conference, and if that is the case then I meet with them on a different day during conference week.

Anyways.. back to student led conferences! I do mine open house style on one day during conference week. We have a "family conference day" where families with multiple kids can come to school and do all of the conferences in one day. This is when I offer my student led conferences - open house style. I have families sign up for a 45 time frame that they would like to come to the conference, and let them know they can arrive at any time during their time frame. I schedule up to 5 families per time frame so I can still meet with them to discuss their child. I just find that most of the time I don't have a whole lot to share with their child. I mean.. I can rant and rave about how amazing my students are or blab on and on about things they need to work on, but most of the time I don't have a whole lot of new information to share. I keep in touch with families throughout the year so most conferences go quickly.

We practice how the conferences go a lot leading up to "family conference day". The kiddos take on the role of a tour guide and start the conference off by giving their parents a tour of the classroom. They go over:

1. Each bulletin board and the things that we're learning about that are displayed
2. Their cubby and desk
3. Race their parents on a math fact test - the students do their current level and choose one for their parents to do
4. Read a book with their parents - I put out only grade level books so the parents can see how their child does while reading an on level book
5. Their writing portfolio - I send home all of their writing at the very end of the school year, but I let the kiddos take home up to 3 pieces at this conference.
6. A brief visit with me - I go over the most recent testing data and classroom or behavior observations about the child.

 I watch the conferences from a distance and meet with the parent when a) the parent is antsy and obviously ready to leave, b) there is a lull in the conference and the kiddo needs redirection, or c) another family walked into the room and I get anxious about how many more people will walk in next.

I send home a preconference form (included below) so I can get an idea of what the parents want to know at the conference. This way I can make the most of the limited time we have during the student led conference, and I know exactly what they have concerns about and can address them quickly. At the completion of conferences I ask the parents to complete post conference form so I can determine what to improve for next year and make sure that the parents left with information they needed.

The resources I use are in my TpT shop as a FREEBIE until my conferences are over on February 5th. Check it out and grab it while it's free!

Click the image to view the product in my TpT store!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Big Bad Detective Agency Literature Circle

I love reading "real" books with my students! That sounds so weird to say, but teaching from a basal reader makes this even more important. 

I remember when I was in elementary school I hated reading for the longest time. I thought it was so boring to read from the basal reader, round robin, blah blah blah. The stories were boring, and I hated "following along" with the other kids who couldn't read. It was the absolute worst!

This is why I love love love Literature Circles! Students are doing "real" reading and *hopefully* reading something that they enjoy. They can read on their own so they don't have to "follow along" with students who read faster or slower than they do. 

This resource includes 2 spelling lists, a vocabulary list and activities, book club pages, and a writing prompt at the end. Everything you need to get started with this literature circle in your classroom! AND it is on sale for 20% off until the end of the week! Click the image to check it out in my TpT store. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Silent Directions

I used to despise making crafts, foldables, and things like that with my students. I hated giving up the order and calm (haha) of the regular school day to have organized chaos. The kiddos were always so excited that most of them barely listened, or needed more help because they couldn't figure something out and it all just gave me a headache. I realized I needed to find a way to make this work since I couldn't easily give up making crafts teaching 2nd grade! 

Fast forward a few months - I started trying new ways to get the kiddos engaged like acting more things out and one day it hit me. Why not mime the directions? I now call this "Silent Directions". 

To make this work, you need to be consistent about giving directions silently. Do not back down on this, or it will not work! Then take on the role of a mime and have fun being silly while modeling how to do the foldable, craft, etc. Depending on how complicated the steps are I will model it more than once, and the kiddos are always really good about helping each other. I think they get really excited when they realized they followed directions, and can now give silent directions to a partner to show them what to do! 

P.S. - If I'm modeling this more than once I will usually use a different piece of paper and/or materials. There are always some students who are absent, or you know cannot follow directions if their lives depended on it and then you can either use it as a back up, or give it to them instead of having them make their own.

Now with Silent Directions we have our foldables done in 5 minutes or less, and everyone is ready to go and I don't have a headache. I recently did this with a craft so I could kill 2 birds with one stone: writing step by step directions and then following their own to make a snowflake. 

This whole lesson took place over the course of a few days. We talked about how to write step by step directions, practiced, and all that good stuff ahead of time. We made the step books one day, from following silent directions of course, and then decorated them. 

Day 2 - I modeled how to make the snowflake using silent directions while the students wrote the directions down. The only talking I did with this is to tell them when to move on from step 1 to step 2 to step 3, etc. The different steps are all on a different tab, and I encouraged them to draw models, too. Anything to help them remember how to make the snowflake, since I would not be helping them make the snowflake the following day.

We made the snowflakes the following day for 2 reasons:

1. I wanted them to forget how to make the snowflake so that they would have to follow the directions they wrote. (At the end of the unit I had them reflect on their directions and parts that helped or needed more details.)

2. Halfway through making the model snowflake I realized I didn't have enough beads to go around, so I had to go to the store that night. OOPS!

Day 3 - I gave the students the materials and let them follow the directions in their step book to make their own snowflake. I walked around while they made it, but I didn't help them. A lot of students asked me for help, but in this case I didn't help them.* I reminded them to read their own directions or ask a partner to borrow their directions.

This took a looooong time, a lot longer than I had anticipated. I planned for about 30 minutes, but it ended up taking about an hour from start to finish. I was really impressed with my kiddos - they were so helpful and kind to each other! I had one student who put the beads on in the wrong order, and I overheard another student say "That's okay. All snowflakes are unique and beautiful, and I think yours looks cool." Makes my teacher heart happy!

Next time you make something with your students give the silent directions a try! Let me know how it goes. Good luck!

*I did end up helping 2 students after the fact. There's always someone with some kind of disability or processing issue that will need some kind of help. #teachersunderstand

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Last Call!

Hurry! The Start Your Year Sale ends today. It's time to stock up on some inspiring resources so you can rock the rest of the year!

Click here to visit my TpT store!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Reading Intervention - Part 2

I recently wrote a blog post about how my team and I divide and conquer reading intervention. To read about how we leveled the students and about the groups click here. This post is about what I do with my reading intervention group to get these kiddos reading!

My group is the 2nd lowest group. At the very beginning of the year I focused mostly on filling in the phonics gaps these students had, and would run small reading groups. The students showed improvement, but if we do the same thing next year I won't do that again. I had too many little behaviors show up from the students in other classes, and I am really big on time on task. There just wasn't enough time to really set up and enforce the expectations, and I didn't think the kids had enough "turns" while reading. By the end of the semester, I made some changes and had it running smoothly. Students get more turns, time on task increased, and behavior issues went down. #win

I had to take a whole group approach. I wanted to stay away from that so the students could get more individual time reading and more direct feedback, but this is the only way I could get it to work. Luckily with 15 kids the whole group thing isn't too bad!

I use resources from Reading A-Z and also from our core curriculum. I typically use the decodables on Reading A-Z and the leveled readers from the core. I found that the students needed more exposure with phonics patterns that we covered in Harcourt, and I wanted to use a different text so they could be exposed to another book. I use the leveled readers in Harcourt so we can compare and contrast stories, but I could also use Reading A-Z for this. If you don't have a subscription to this website I highly recommend it!

Day 1: We start out by learning a new phonics pattern and practice with phonemic awareness to "warm up". I once heard that struggling readers often have low phonemic awareness, and that explicitly teaching this skill can drastically improve their reading and decoding strategies. I try to add this in as often as possible, and so far it's been successful! Students cut out word cards and play "the spelling game" with a partner practice the skill. 

Rules for The Spelling Game: One partner draws a card and reads it, the other partner spells it. If the partner spells the word correctly, they get to keep the card. Then they switch - Partner 2 draws a card and reads it. If partner 1 spells it correctly they get to keep the card. The winner is the partner with the most cards. 

Day 2: Students get their word cards and play the spelling game with a partner. During this time, I pull a small group and introduce the words on a toughie chart to the students. This lasts for 10 minutes or less because I need to get to all the students in 1 day so that we can get to the text ASAP. Once they have read the words in the toughie chart correctly, I send them to practice with it in partners. I pull the remaining groups back and do the same thing.

Using a Toughie Chart in partners - Roll the dice and read the words in that box. This toughie chart doesn't have a 6, so if the partners roll a 6 then they need to read the entire chart. This can also work with lines of practice in a pocket chart - just number each row. 

Day 3: We review the toughie chart quickly using a Kagan Structure called "Inside Outside Circle". This takes maybe 5-10 minutes. The students are divided in half, and set up in 2 circles - on inside and one outside. Each partner gets a turn before we switch. I roll the dice to determine what they read, and I do this for each partner before we switch. Just like with any Kagan structure, we work on our social skills by thanking our partners before we switch.

When we switch partners, only one circle moves at a time. I have that circle raise their hand, so I know they know who is moving and point in the direction they're moving. Then I give them 10 seconds (way more than enough time) to get to their new partner. I switch circles each time so that way everyone gets to move, but they move in opposite directions.

This isn't my class, but it's a short video of inside outside circle in action.

Day 4: It's finally time to read the decodable! I divide the class into 2 teams, and we switch off reading so that I can listen to the students and give feedback. After one team reads a page, I choose one students to reread the page independently so that I can "check out" their reading. The students who are not reading are thinking of a question they can ask the class about something that happened on that page. This is really similar to the "Test Your Friends!" product I also use, but this is all done orally. There just isn't enough time for the students to write their questions. This usually takes the entire class period this day, but if we finish early then the students will play the spelling game with partners.

Day 5: These kiddos need to reread and develop their fluency. This next activity combines inside outside circle, and quiz quiz trade. I give the students 1 page from the decodable, and we get set up for inside outside circle again. The students will take turns reading the page they have, and then trade pages. They they move to the next partner in the circle and repeat.

If there is time, we will read the below level and/or on level book. It really depends on the week. 

Wow, that was a long post! I hope you found some ideas you can use with your struggling readers. Share your great ideas in the comments so I can better meet the needs of my kiddos.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Start Your Year Sale

It's time for the Start Your Year TpT sitewide sale! 

On Wednesday and Thursday my TpT shop will be on sale for 28% off. 

Happy Shopping!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Divide and Conquer...Reading Intervention!

My school has a large population of struggling readers. It's a Title 1 school, and everyone gets free lunch. The reading specialists are fantastic and pull kids as often as they can, but there are simply just too many struggling readers and not enough teachers to get them the small group help they need. This post is all about working with your team to get your students reading!

This year my team and I decided to try something new. Well, this idea certainly isn't new, but grouping the students this way and working together was for us. During reading intervention time, we decided to level the remaining kids and divide and conquer reading intervention. There are four teachers and roughly 80 kids left in our rooms during intervention time. We have four groups - on/above level, approaching level (strategic), below level (intensive), and way below level (intensive). As we call them, 2 high groups and 2 low groups. 

The low groups have fewer kids so we can focus on more intensive instruction and more individual attention. The way below level group has 12 students, and the below level group has 15. The 2 higher groups have about 27 students each. Each group has a different focus depending on what the kids need. The lowest group focuses mostly on phonics and decoding strategies; 2nd lowest group phonics and fluency. The higher groups focus on fluency, comprehension, and writing. 

To figure out which students go where, we ranked the students by their DIBELS scores. At the beginning of the year we started at the bottom and went up; second semester we started at the top and went down. If at the "break" there were multiple kids with the same score we put them in the same group. So far it's worked out pretty well - many students in the lowest groups doubled their scores and students in the higher groups showed a lot of improvement, too!

I'll be back in a few days with a post about what I do with my reading groups. Stop back to see what I do to get my kiddos reading!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Test Your Friends

I get sick of hearing my own voice sometimes. I talk all day while teaching, and I do try to get the kiddos talking more with partners and in group discussions, but they still need teacher support and guidance for the most part. We work so hard all the time, it's time for the students to work just as hard, if not harder, than we do!

Well, I was at a training about a year ago where I learned that whoever is asking the most questions is doing the most learning. Guess who asks the most questions in school? The teacher! 

As soon as I heard that I knew I needed to change. I needed to do better. Why not teach the students how to ask really good comprehension questions while reading? 

I do this with all of my students - it just varies by the group. I do this verbally with my struggling readers for most of the year, and boy do they sure love asking questions and choosing someone to answer - just like the teacher! My higher students practice with me a few times and then they are off to complete this on their own. They pick up the routines quickly and then they can usually run this on their own, most of the time anyway. Usually I have them read the book on their own first and write the questions, and then they can choose a partner to partner read the book with and ask the questions they already wrote as they go along. That way they already have the questions written so they are prepared and they know the answer that they need to find. Hopefully, they won't goof around when they are prepared with questions and answers ahead of time!

This is good for any grade level and any text. I have it on sale for 20% off in my TpT store until the end of the week! Click the image to go check it out!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Red Herrings

Don't you love those students who can finish problems or tasks before the rest of the class has written their name on their paper? You either love them or they drive you crazy and sometimes it is both at the same time. Instead of giving them a ton of extra work, which makes more work for you, why not get them thinking critically? 

Enter.. Red Herrings.

Wait. What?

A "red herring" presents four different problems and asks the students to figure out which one doesn't belong and why. In the picture above, the students had to figure out that 70+10=80 doesn't belong because the numbers in the ones column don't add up to 10. In all of the other problems, the numbers in the ones column add up to 10. But first, most of the students thought the problem that didn't belong with the others was 85 + 15 = 100 because it was a three digit number.

The great thing about red herrings is that students may figure out other "rules" or reasons why some other problems don't belong before they come to the correct reason. They may or may not be right, but either way it is great to get them thinking critically!

Red Herrings could be used in any subject, too!

Word work:

handwriting           handkerchief        photograph          cupcakes

Which one doesn't belong and why?

P.s. it's handkerchief because it is the only word that isn't a compound word.

Language Arts:

1. The children ran to the park on Saturday morning.
2. The mice are in the cage.
3. The tooth fairy found three teeth under the pillow.
4. The cats were scared of the dog and ran under the bed.

Which one doesn't belong and why?

P.s. it's sentence four because it is the only sentence without an irregular plural noun

Social Studies (Native American Tribes):

Sioux          Hopi         Apache          Navajo

Which one doesn't belong and why?

P.s. it's Sioux, because it is the only Native American Tribe that isn't found in Arizona.

Science (Animal Classifications):

Octopus          Gila Monster          Round Worms          Butterflies

Which one doesn't belong and why?

p.s. it's the Gila Monster because it is the only animal that is a vertebrate.

The possibilities are endless! It works for any grade, and any subject. How can you use red herrings in your classroom?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

January Mixed Up Sentences

I think mixed up sentences are a great activity for younger students. Well, all students really. They need to figure out what order the words make sense, and which words go at the beginning or end of the sentence. You can even take it a step further by having the students put the sentences in the right order to form a paragraph. 

This product contains 6 sentences about January themes such as Martin Luther King, Jr. day, the 100th day of school, etc. AND it is on sale for 20% off until the end of the week! Click the image to pick this up in my TpT store.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Ideas for Teaching Word Problems

Today I'm linking up with  K's Classroom Kreations and Theresa's Teaching Tidbits  for Math Tip Monday. This post is all about teaching word problems! 

The math curriculum we use at school has a huge emphasis on teaching word problems. Needless to say, my students get a ton of practice with making sense of word problems!

The key to teaching word problems is to get the students to really consider what the problem is saying and asking you to do. I've found that best way to do this is annotating the problem. We already do this in reading all the time so why not do it in math, too?

This could be glued into an interactive notebook as a resource. The chart in my classroom looks just like this, except not as cute. Click the picture to download this FREEBIE in my TpT store!

We go through each of these steps every time we solve word problems. It is a systematic way to get students to consider the problem, and figure out the best strategy to solve it. The best part - it can be used for any grade or operation! 

Check out some of the other ideas for teaching those dreaded word problems: