Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Day in My Shoes

I'm joining this super fun linky party hosted by The Adventures of a Sixth Grade Teacher!

This one is based on my Tuesday!

5:40   First of my two pre-alarm alarms go off--I have to have warning before I get up!!

6:00   Second pre-alarm alarm goes off--the next one is the real one!

6:30   Alarm goes off--time to hit snooze.

6:39   Tempted to hit snooze again but I really gotta get to school! We only have one copy machine...

6:39-6:49   Get ready and head out--I'm a night shower-er so I have more time to sleep in the morning :). I also don't own make-up so that saves time too! Tell husband good-bye, but don't dare wake the baby...

6:57   Load arms and haul my weekend shopping bags into school.

7:00   Arrive at school, set all 90 bags I'm carrying down, turn on lamps, student computers and my computer.

7:05   Head to copy room to make copies for the 3rd reteach lesson I planned over the weekend.

7:08   Leave copy room and head back to classroom to grab the pages I need to copy!! Head back.

7:15   Head to another teacher's classroom--I am her official mentor (I actually mentor three new teachers which is strange because I think only 4 years under your belt like I have is still new!) and we have to meet weekly. This is a fun one :)

7:45   Leave meeting to get book I forgot to give her--see one of my kids on the way walking to the 4th grade waiting area and instruct him to get the class and head to the classroom. Head back to drop off book.

7:50   Stop in and talk to the librarian about Dr. Seuss day plans.

7:55   Wonder where my class is when I get back to the room--I don't see the kid I ran into or the others I know are in the waiting area...

8:00   Head to waiting area and find my class still waiting. Apparently the kid I ran into wasn't fully awake yet and didn't remember the conversation we just had.

8:07   Class is in, I unpack while reminding them what they are supposed to be doing....for the 6th time....Check voicemail from a teacher having printer problems.

8:10  Realize that I don't have marbles to complete the marble painting art project I planned for my awesome all-work-turned-in kids. Start calling other teachers!

8:15   NO marbles anywhere--time to improvise!! I decide upon thumbtacks.

8:20-8:35   Pass out missing work and rework, get my awesome kids started on the art project. (This is supposed to be science time--not today!)

8:35   Pack up and get ready to switch classes.

8:43   Let the sub from my next class know that we were supposed to switch 3 minutes ago.

8:45-9:15   1st math class in--work on problem solving, introduce two new fact practice games and complete daily fact drill.

9:15-10:20   Reteach equivalent fractions and mixed numbers for the 3rd time with 4 phone interruptions and 1 visitor. Good lesson though and I am fairly confident that they FINALLY get it this time!

10:20   FINALLY come to a stopping point, but not soon enough! Remind students of the fraction project they received last week that is due this Friday. Remind half of them what it looks like.

10:24   Line kids up and check all of them to make sure they have homework, rework and project papers in hand. Instruct the 6 that "lost" theirs to come get it after school.

10:25   Switch classes--2nd math class comes in.

10:25-10:50   Work on problem solving, introduce two new fact practice games and complete daily fact drill.

10:50-11:45   Reteach equivalent fractions and mixed numbers for the 3rd time. Bang head on desk a few times.

11:45-11:53   Wrap it up and breathe. This was not a very successful class period.

11:53    Line kids up and check all of them to make sure they have homework, rework and project papers in hand. None lost in this class!

11:55-12:00   Switch classes. Get my homeroom back.

12:00-12:07   Indoor recess because I need those 7 minutes to catch up!! Return phone call from this morning about printer problems. Whoops.

12:07-12:15   Take students to lunch and buy my taco salad--it's Taco Tuesday!!

12:15-12:17   I promised the kids lunch in the classroom for a week as part of an incentive last week. Enjoy 2 minutes of peace while they are still in the lunch line.

12:17-12:38   Kids come in, eat lunch.

12:40   Drop off kids at P.E./Music.

12:40-1:25   TRY to be productive but end up not getting much done during planning period due to finishing up last minute phone calls to parents about tutoring that starts today after school. This would be a much easier process if 10 of the 20 had working phone numbers...

1:25   Pick up kids and bring them back to classroom. Make them clean up the MESS they left on the floor from lunch that I didn't notice until they had left the room.

1:25-1:35   Work on problem solving, introduce two new fact practice games and complete daily fact drill.

1:35-2:45   Reteach equivalent fractions and mixed numbers for the 3rd time while finishing up tutoring business. Hand-write tutoring schedules for all of my math kids (while I'm teaching...that's how I roll) so they know exactlty where to go, when and for how long. The schedule for math is VERY complicated. Good lesson though! They got it!!

2:50-2:55   Homework time for the kids and tutoring schedule delivery time for me!

2:55-3:00   Call students to pack up and line up. Remind them and figure out who is going where for tutoring.

3:00-3:10   Send kids to where they are supposed to go. Consult one of my math group's tutors (who happen to be my two former student teachers).

3:10-3:45   Team tutor my own group with the special ed teacher while checking on the other math tutoring group I am responsible for (the one mentioned above; they are using my classroom to tutor whole I am in the special ed room). Talk to three parents and principal about the kids in attendance who do not have permission slips but parent permission. Allow two to leave early because of this.

3:45   Dismiss my group, Check on other group again. This group will from 3-4:45p.m. Mondays-Thursdays. (It is an intense intervention program to get my kids closer to where they need to be.)

3:45-4:00   Prepare for tomorrow while watching the tutors interact with the group. They are doing a fine job.

4:00-4:15   Look at the clock and wish I was leaving. Finish cleaning off my desk and preparing.

4:15   Head to get my baby from daycare.

4:30   Arrive, wait for her to finish watching her Elmo episode in her classroom. Head home.

4:45   Realize I forgot something at school right after getting home and head back! Looks like tonight's dinner for us is fast food! Run a few errands.

6:00   Back at home, feed and entertain my baby until 7:00 bedtime.

7:15   Finally convince her to go to bed. Read Hop on Pop and various other Dr. Seuss books. She's a big fan.

7:45   Leave her room, laptop out and into blog world! After a shower I spend the next three hours multitasking--grading, pinning, putting in grades, blogging, and working on grad school work.

10:45  Husband home from work, time for bed!

11:30  Finally going to sleep after checking Pinterest ONE last time.........convince self that tomorrow will be the day I go to bed early.

Congrats to you, if you made it his far!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

100th Day of School Bookmarks FREEBIE!

Click the picture to hop over to my store and download a free copy!

Also, don't forget to enter my Dr. Seuss giveaway! :D

Sunday, January 15, 2012

100th Day of School Minibook

The 100th day of school is ALMOST HERE!! Stop by my TN store to pick up a copy of a 100th Day minibook with 10 pages of activities for students! Only costs 100 pennies :D

As with anything else, first 3 to comment (with an email address!!) will receive a free copy! Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Think About It: Tricks for Learning

Only a day later than promised...

Okay, let's hear 'em! You still remember a trick (saying, phrase, chant) or two that helped you memorize something from your own school days! My favorite one for math would have to be for the quadratic formula. My high school Algebra 2 teacher taught us to memorize it by singing it to the tune of "Pop Goes the Weasel." I will do my best to describe to you how it goes since you can't hear me singing it! I put the lyrics of the equation song right underneath the original lyrics so you can put the tune to it.

Here is the actual formula:
And here is the song:

All around the mulberry bush,
x is equal to negative b

The monkey chased the weasel
plus or minus the square root

The monkey thought 'twas all in fun,
of b squared minus 4ac

Pop! goes the weasel.
ALL over 2a!

Were you able to figure it out??

Teachers (myself included) are notorious for coming up with (or googling) little tricks such as the one just described to help our students along the way: songs to help memorize formulas, clue words to use during problem solving, and phrases or chants to help remember procedures (to name a few). My kids love to learn a new song or rhyme, especially when there are body motions involved!

Ever been frustrated when teaching because you know you taught them how to memorize something and it was the coolest little trick and it's so easy and they just. didn't. get. it. ??

Let me give you an example:

My kids are responsible for understanding the difference between area and perimeter and applying that knowledge to problem situations. I find that, most often, they were taught "to find perimeter, add all the sides" and "area equals length times width." Some of them even knew a cute little song to go along with it. The kids can spit back the formulas all day but when it comes to application they struggle. They want to add length and width when finding area and multiply when finding perimeter. I used to ask, "WHY don't you get it?? You can tell me how to do it but you aren't doing it!" OR "The poster is right there--why aren't you using it??"

This all boils down to two major questions: Do your students know what they're memorizing? Do they understand the process of that which they are describing in the songs and rhymes?

I think those questions are very important. If the answer is NO, then there is a problem. Songs and such must connect to actual concepts and learning if they are to benefit students. Just learning a song is not the answer. Students still need to have an understanding or perimeter and area instead of just learning a song that describes the difference between the two. If there is no connection to actual learning then learning such songs is fruitless.

On the memorization side of it, the kids are more likely to get involved and retain it if the rule, trick, or song process involves them. They will naturally take ownership if they (not just the teacher) came up with it. (Of course you know that kids (and people in general) are naturally more interested in things that pertain to them or things that involve them.)

Along with that, people learn best from self-discovery and hands-on experiences rather than direct instruction. That is why so many of us use hands-on inquiries and anchor charts in our classrooms. Think about it--how many kids learn that the stove top is hot not because mom and dad keep telling them so but because they touched it??! I think self-discovery is especially important when coming up with clue words for problem solving. We want to be able to help our students work through problems by giving them words to look for (especially with all of this stupid standardized testing going on). Allow students to find the words on their own (scaffold, if you will). Telling them "each means divide" and "difference means subtract" makes them think that it is true every time, no matter what context, which is VERY hard to break (all of my students came in thinking that each means to divide every stinkin' time, no matter what!). They will better understand if they are able to see the operation in several different instances. Here is an example of an anchor chart that my kids came up with for multiplication and division:
My kids want to use the anchor charts because they helped make it.

My point is this--involve your students in coming up with these "tricks" as much as you can! I am not against these activities as I use them in MY OWN classroom. I just want to emphasize 1) that we shouldn't rely solely on the songs and rhymes to teach for us, 2) it has to be meaningful if we want it to stick and 3) self-discovery is important.

Here are just three of MANY things you can do:

  • Give your students the challenge of coming up with their own songs to assist in learning. (I've read about lots of you in bloggy land already doing this!) 
  • Create anchor charts with your students. Students are more likely to retain the information if they are a part of documenting it. (I got rid of all of my store-bought posters and have replaced them with anchor charts that we have made together.)
  • Let your students learn by self-discovery. Instead of telling students, "equivalent fractions form a pattern when lined up side-by-side," guide them in seeing it. Have them line it up and ask, "What do you notice??"
Well...that's all I have. A day late and posted way late in the evening... :)

THANKS FOR TUNING IN! I would love to hear your thoughts!! :)

*I received a few emails from you about being willing to post a list of your math music that you use. I'm thinking either linky party or separate posting (depending on how many people are to contribute). Anyone else out there willing to share what music you use? Comment or shoot me an email!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Think About It!: The Next Installment

I am SO excited about the wonderful feedback left in regard to the "Think About It!" series! You all have totally embraced it which makes me that much more excited about posting! Thanks to all of you who have read it, whether you commented or not. I think you can tell how strongly I feel about the subject so I appreciate you taking the time to read and reflect.

I am happy to announce the next installment topic:

This is in regard to using songs, phrases, clue words, etc. in teaching kids mathematics. You can look for the post either Monday night or Tuesday night--not sure which day yet!

Also, I have been contemplating having some of YOU join in and guest post an installment of the series (at some point). Would anyone be interested in doing that?? Comment or email me if you are! :D

"O Geome-Tree" Bulletin Board

Our bulletin board for the month of December was entitled "O Geome-Tree" (after the ever-so-popular "O Christmas Tree" song). This was a good opportunity to talk with my students about what geometry is (since, for whatever reason, my students said they had never heard the term). Geometry is something that students have had experience with all the way back to when they were learning shapes. Don't be afraid to introduce the term to them in the early grades! Anywho, here is the board!:

(sorry for the crooked pic)

This was a very simple introductory activity. We actually will not get into geometry until late March (other than reviewing what was learned in past grade levels) so I kept it simple. All the students had to do was make a polygon, write a fact or two about the shape and decorate it. They then got to staple it to the board as an ornament for the tree (this was their favorite part). Here is the sample I made for them:

The activity gave me a little insight into what they already knew about polygons; it was NOT a good sign that half of them had to ask what a polygon was :/. Anyway, some students did a really great job while others decided to do a very basic job. Here are some student examples:

Click on the picture below to head on over to my Teachers Notebook store for a FREE download of the activity rubric and directions!! Thanks for stopping by!