Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday's Words for the Week

It is nearly January. A month of new beginnings. As winter weather draws us indoors, it allows us the perfect opportunity to look inward. Only dreams give birth to change. So what are your dreams for 2014?  The New Year brings with it a bountiful blessing of time;  three hundred and sixty-five days  of opportunity, fifty-two weeks of promise, twelve months of possibility and four seasons of abundance.  We are blessed to be given another year to live inspired.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Guided Math and a Holiday Game

Ha...I'm feeling like I could use a long time out.  The holidays are upon us and the kids are super excited. It can be a real challenge to get them focused on instruction this last week before our holiday break. 
I'm running math stations on a regular basis this year and am looking to incorporate some hands on math activities to keep the little ones as engaged as possible.

Do you use guided math in your classrooms?  I would love to hear from others on whether or not you find it to be an effective way to teach math.
I'm also always seeking out the most efficient way to organize and run the groups. So please share your management strategy. 
I've gotten questions about how I run it in my class so here is my approach for now. Currently I run three groups: Teacher Time, Partner Practice and On My Own Time.

I have a very diverse group of learners so creating these flexible groups has been critical  in differentiating my math instruction.   I gear my teacher time to the needs of these groups. The content and pace of my instruction will vary depending on the group that is with me.
My one concern is time.  I need more of it for some of my groups.Some days I will  skip my teacher time for my most capable math students; giving them an additional partner practice activity to do. This gives me more time with those who need more direct teaching.

My math tubs have grown in number.  I have organized my partner practice games into these drawers by math strands. The organization of materials can make a huge difference in how well this approach works for you. Simplicity is key.  I only keep about 3-5 games in each drawer.  I make sure they are simple enough for students to learn and then remember.  We keep going back to review the concepts already covered.

One of my favorite purchases for my guided math time have been these transparent sleeves from Really Good Stuff.  We use them all the time.  I can slide in papers and students use them with dry erase markers for practice.  This was a really good buy and saves me on copy paper.

I wanted to share a quick and easy math holiday game.  Here is a rounding practice game that I will run during partner practice time this coming week.  I covered rounding weeks ago but running stations allows students more exposures to previously covered material so it always stays fresh.

Go to my Teachers Pay Teachers store to download your free copy of this game if you would like

Would love to hear your tips and tricks to making Guided Math work for you and your students!
Please share!
Comment or Email me 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Integrating Content into Reading: The Moon and Cycles

This is the name of my game!  I'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around the fact that we are only 8 DAYS until this sweet moment.  We have been working so hard but there is still so much to teach in this nine weeks.  I've been talking to many of my Virginia teacher friends and it seems we are all in the same boat.  LOTS of curriculum to teach in a short time especially if you factor in the varying abilities and readiness levels of some of our third graders. 

One way I've been trying to get it all in has been to do a great deal of integration across the curriulum.  The state has suggested we increase the percentage of nonfiction we are using to teach reading and so we are reading tons of science and social studies texts during our reading block.  This helps especially since the state of Virginia has also reminded us that our pass rates for our social studies and science tests go up this year. YIKES!

Along with our reading we are creating our make and take study guides to give students some hands on materials to review key information with.  Here are the materials we used to teach our Cycles Unit  information with. 

We store it all in a file folder with a ziplock bag stapled to the back.  Along with these manipulatives, students have vocabulary cards that they can use to review the key terms.  

Students enjoyed making and using these moon viewers.  They took them home and used them to identify and record the moon phases for the month.


Along with the nonfiction reading, we read some tales from different cultures.  Tales like this one: Why The Sun and Moon Are in the Sky  were told as a means of explaining why the sun and moon exist. 
We added a poem/song to our poetry anthologies during our study of the moon.  This song was sung to the tune of "The Ants Go Marching One By One" and helped students review the phases of the moon by singing a silly, catchy song.  There is strong research backing up the use of songs, rhythm and music to help with memory. Kids love it when their homework is to go sing their learning songs to a grownup.  Not so sure what the grownups think about it..oh well, whatever it takes, right?

I've also started giving my students weekly nonfiction passages to practice their fluency with.  They read it with their reading partner each day and time the readings.  Students love to see their graphs go up over the week's time. They are very motivated by the graphing of their own data.  I love the fact that they end up reading important content information five times!  I make sure that key vocabulary is included in each passage.  I can check off five exposures right there. They illustrate the text with a meaningful diagram or drawing.  After the week is through we practice our test taking skills by answering some comprehension questions modeled after the BIG TEST questions. I make sure they are text dependent questions and students must highlight where they find the proof for each answer they mark.

Training the students of the correct way to be a fluency reading partner was important. They have done such a great job.  I teach them to give positive praise and friendly feedback after their partner reads. They are so encouraging of each other.  Awesome!
We are also writing across the curriculum.  I've loved the connections that result from an integrated approach. Will post about writing next time.
How about you?  Would love to hear how you are managing to "get it all in"!!!
Comment or Email me at

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sunday's Words for the Week

This quote seemed fitting for the upcoming week.  For one, my third graders are  currently learning about the contributions of the Ancient Greeks.  It's crazy to think that over 2,000 years ago Socrates was thinking and sharing these words. I wonder what the Ancient Greeks filled their "too busy" days with.  It is clear from my overscheduled, overbooked, and often overwhelming life that I can still learn a lesson from this ancient philosopher.  
Many months ago I went on an outdoor retreat and as I enjoyed the serenity of being in the woods I was struck with the realization that nature is never in a hurry. Rather, there is a calm, peaceful and even divine rhythm to it all.   After that time I began making a more deliberate effort to protect my peace and to practice walking gently through my days. I believe it is what God intends for me.  Yet, with the demands of school and now the holidays, I again run the risk of living on autopilot and rushing right past all of life's small wonders. So this December I will guard my peace with all I have and will refuse to overload my holiday schedule. 
 I will beware the barrenness of a busy life. 
Thank you for this reminder, Socrates.