Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Problem Solving Strategies Winners!!!

Well my husband had the honor of picking ten random numbers out of everyone who commented  on the giveaway for my Problem Solving Strategies Flip Chart!  I made him hide in another room and call out numbers so he couldn't see who he was picking (that's as fair and legit as we get in this house, lol).  Here are the winners and you can expect an email with your goodies today!  If you would like your own copy you can click on the photo above and find it in my TPT store :o)
  1. Katie (the very first comment)
  2. Amanda Yoshida
  3. Overachiever
  4. Ursula
  5. Kellard
  6. Katie (signs her name Kat)
  7. Mandy
  8. Monica R.
  9. Jill Hatcher
  10. Rachel Yates
I will be sending these through email, so if you are a non-reply comment blogger, please change it!!!  If you see your name here and still have not received your Flip Chart by tomorrow that is because you are a non-reply blogger.  Email me through the blog so I can send it your way!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Guided Math Conferences Chapter 4: Types of GMC

This is my second Guided Math book study (two summers in a row) and I am L.O.V.I.N.G. them!  This year's book study is all about Guided Math Conferences.  I can't begin to tell you what an impact guided math groups had on my kids last year.  Now to be fair, it was my first year teaching math so I have nothing to compare it to but... 93% of my math kids made gains on "the big test."  That's huge!!!  And to be honest, I think the way I formed my math block had a lot to do with it.  So I knew when this book study came along to enhance my guided math groups, I had to jump on it!

Today's chapter is all about the different types of conferences!  Now, be fair warned: it is a long post but there might or might not be some goodies for you if you hang in there ;o).  The whole point of having conferences with your kiddos is that through these conversations you are helping build your student's confidence while also getting the information you need to help get them to the next step.  Here is the definition of each type of conference along with some of the things I thought were important from the chapter!

1. Compliment Conferences: teachers use these conferences to motivate young mathematicians or to lift the spirits of discouraged learners.
  • beneficial in the beginning of the year
  • focus your attention on what they are doing well to reinforce their strengths as mathematicians
  • build relationships, confidence, and trust
  • lift their spirits and increase engagement
  • we usually focus on what students are doing wrong in the problem and try to fix it - SWAP IT! Focus on what they are doing right!
  • motivate students to make mathematical connections and use previously mastered skills to help with current learning
2. Comprehension Conferences: the focus of these conferences is on assessing and then extending the degree of student comprehension of mathematical concepts.
  • can be used to verify learners' understanding of new or previously taught math concepts
  • serve as a formative assessment to shape upcoming instruction
  • lead students to think more deeply and critically about the math they are working on
3. Skill Conferences: the aim of these conferences is assessing and then extending the skills of students, including both process and computation skills.
  • similar to comprehension conferences but these check what the student can do, not what they are learning about (may overlap though)
  • used to assess prerequisite skills
  • good formative assessment
4. Problem-Solving Conferences: these conferences are used to explore the problem-solving strategies being applied by students and then to strengthen their toolbox of strategies, if needed.
  • Problem-Solving Process
    • Understanding the Problem
    • Devising a Plan
    • Carrying Out the Plan
    • Looking Back
  • Problem-Solving Strategies:
    • Guess, Check, Revise
    • Create an Organized List
    • Create a Table or a Chart
    • Draw a picture, use manipulatives, or act it out
    • Look for a Pattern
    • Simplify the Problem
    • Write an equation
    • Work backward
  • This website has "math stories" for most of the strategies to show kids examples on how to use each strategy!
5. Student Self-Assessment and Goal Setting Conferences: together, students and teachers review progress toward meeting learning targets and establish learning goals.
  • LOVED this quote!: "Students who set goals, make flexible plans to meet them, and monitor their progress tend to learn more and do better in school than students who do not."  This part always seems like such a time suckage but it really is SO important!  The kids actually understand what they are work towards and are now working smarter not harder.
  • encourage students to review and clarify learning goals, their progress, and set their "next steps"
  • students are essentially answering these three questions
    • "Where am I going?"
    • "Where am I now?"
    • "How can I close the gap?"
  • students set specific learning goals!  The goal should be difficult but achievable with effort.
    • identify the goal
    • include a plan of action
    • time frame (how long till they accomplish their goal)
    • evidence of accomplishment (how can they prove that they've accomplished their goal?)
6. Recheck Conferences: Teachers use these conferences when they want to see if students are using what they learned during earlier conferences.
  • follow-up on progress
  • can be through a variety of methods: observations, written assessments, etc.
  • an effective and comprehensive way of verifying students' mathematical progress
Whew!  You made it!  That really wasn't sooo bad, was it?  As I was reading this chapter I kept thinking to myself how I do some of this anyway, just maybe not in a formal conference setting (and it doesn't always have to be that way), but I also realized I need to make a point to do more of these conferences in general, especially the student self-assessments.

I loved how throughout the chapter the example teacher kept referring to their anchor chart of problem solving strategies to use.  Well I do not have one of those in my room (shame on me!) but I wanted every students to be able to access it quickly and have one of their own to take home as well.  So what does a teacher do when she can't find what she wants or needs... She creates it!  I have made my own Problem Solving Strategies Flip Chart to create with the students.

Inside you will find steps on how to solve a problem for that particular strategy and an example word problem along with space to solve!  Now I fair warn you, I teach intermediate and so the problems and wording might be a little more than your kiddos can handle.  That's okay though!!!  Want to know why???  Because I made it editable!  The steps and word problem areas are both editable for you to fit it with your own class.  Even if you teach intermediate, you might want them to write the steps themselves.  Go hog wild!?  All I ask is that if you do edit it in any way and/or post on it later, please give credit where credit is due.

You can win your own copy of this flip chart if you pin it and leave the pin address where I can find it in the comments section, along with a nice little note!  I love to read notes :o)  The giveaway will only last until tonight, July 20, 2014, at 10:00 PM EST (that's when I turn into a pumpkin and have to go to bed).  After that it will be for sale in my TPT store!  I will be picking multiple amounts of people to win!  I'm thinking 10... but let's see how many comments there are.  If there way more than I expect then I will pick even more winners!  Yea it'll be like Oprah, "You get a flip chart, you get a flip, you all get a flip chart!!!!!!"  Well maybe not all, but who knows!?  You'll have to wait and find out ;o)

Check out all the other fabulous blog posts about this chapter as well!  Happy Sunday y'all!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Notice and Note Book Study: Anchor Questions and General Language

These two sections in the book are pretty short and sweet!  So shall this post be ;o)

Anchor Questions
After finding the different signposts are they were reading, the authors and other teachers kept coming upon the problems of questioning.  "Problem?" you might ask?  The problem was that prior to this, we (the teachers) always asked the questions.  It's in our nature!  But they were our questions, not the student's questions and all that did was have students look for one particular answer and then be done.  Not continue to question, as they should.  Thus they created the Anchor Questions!

I found it pretty amazing that they could come up with one question per signpost that could cover all possibilities, but they seemed to have done the impossible!  Once a students has noticed and noted a signposts then you ask the anchor question to further their thinking and questioning.  When teaching the signposts, also teach the anchor questions as well.  I've updated my organizer freebie from the last book study post to include the anchor questions for you!  Click on the image to get your copy.

The Role of Generalizable Language
This whole section was about using a "general language" as you read through multiple texts.  When you are pausing and reflecting on parts of a story with your class, you only talk about that particular character's issues.  That is only showing the students how to understand one character in one book.  By using a general language about the signposts, you are constantly showing students how to find and comprehend those moments in ALL texts, not just the one you are reading.

We have all been here.  Reading aloud to the class, reflecting and discussing, thinking they've got it, and then you move on to individual conferences and they are lost.  They can't form these reflections on their own because they don't know how to do it with a different book.  By using a general language, always referring to the signposts and then adding in specific detail about your book, you are showing them how to find that general language in all books!

Sorry, it's late and this is one sleepy girl.  I hope that all made sense!  Essentially, use the signposts in discussion and the anchor questions! :o)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunshine State Book Reviews 2014-2015: 8 Class Pets

Hey y'all!  Today's post is another Sunshine State Book review for the book 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel Divided by 1 Dog = Chaos by Vivian Vande Velde.

Here is the summary from Amazon:
Twitch, the school yard squirrel, has really gotten himself into a bind this time. While trying to escape from a hungry owl, he roused the principal's dog and got chased into the school. Now he's locked in for a dangerous and disastrous night. Can Green Eggs and Hamster, Sweetie the library rat, and the other school pets save Twitch from the crazed dog, Cuddles? In this uproarious chapter book, a group of small animals manages to turn an elementary school into a real zoo.

I loved this book!  It was SO cute!  It's essentially a comedy of errors as this squirrel is running through the school, classroom to classroom, looking for help trying to escape an angry dog.  As he visits each classroom he also finally meets the class pets he has only seen through the windows.  Each chapter is a new class pet and these characters are hysterical!  I think my favorite is Miss Lucy Cottontail (the bunny rabbit in second grade).  She is very smart, almost too smart for her own good, and doesn't really understand how others are not as smart as her.  Needless to say we've all had a kid like this in our class and I just love them!  They might drive some people batty and others might think they have bad manners but I don't know what it is, I just like them!  So of course, I love Lucy - which is also my favorite TV show ;)  Fancy that!

Now, this SSS list is for third through fifth grade but I think this book falls into a much broader category.  It is a very short read and a very easy read.  Here are it's stats:

Reading Level: 4.4
Lexile Level: 740L
Pages: 68 pgs.

You look at that and say, "Besides the small amount of page numbers, what's the big deal?"  I think the only reason it got such a high Lexile level is because at the beginning of each chapter it tells some background information about that particular animal: what it eats, where it lives/comes from, habits, sometimes it even goes into their Latin names, etc.  I really do think that some second graders could read this independently or it could even be a first grade read aloud.  Some of the scientific information and sarcasm might go over their head but they will still understand the story.  Now, this in no way diminishes the book in my eyes!  This will be perfect for some of my lower readers and might entice them to read more of the SSS books after they finish this one.  I did want to give you a heads up that this is not the normal size/readability that we have seen from the SSS list in the past ;o)

Possible ways to use this in your classroom:
  • Compare and contrast two of the class pets in the book.
  • Research one of the class pets.  You can come up with your own criteria on what you want them to find and how you want them to present it to the class.
  • Come up with your own class pet!  What would their name be?  What is their personality?
  • Divide your class up into roles and reenact the story.
  • Create a book trailer.
I hope y'all enjoy this book as much as I did!  Very quick read but it will bring a smile to your face :o)  Next up on the review list, thanks to my friend Alison over at Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin' for the recommendation, Elvis and the Underdogs by Jenny Lee!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Notice and Note Book Study: Defining Signposts (Freebies & Giveaway)

Welcome to the Notice and Note book study!  Today is all about the parts of the book that make you pause and reflect on what you just read: the signposts.  First off, let me say that I am L.O.V.I.N.G. this book!  Once I was finally able to start reading, I couldn't put it down!  There are so many great ideas to use in your classroom.  Some things you might already do and some things help you take it a step further.

My section was all about the signposts we see in literature as we read.  While Kylene Beers and Robert Probst were reading novels that were commonly taught in certain grades they kept comparing notes and finding that they were pausing and questioning and reflecting in the same areas.  Not only were these parts of the story helping the reader analyze, they were also causing the reader to comprehend and reveal literary elements in the story: conflict, plot, theme, symbolism, setting, etc.  As they kept looking for those features they wanted to set up a criteria that had to be met so they knew that feature was worth teaching.  That criteria was:
  1. The feature had to have some characteristic that made it noticeable, that caused it to stand out from the surrounding text.
  2. The feature had to show up across the majority of books.
  3. It had to offer something to readers who noticed and then reflected on it that helped them better understand their own responses, their own reading experience, and their own interpretation of the text.
From this criteria they established the six core signposts and which literary elements they help the reader understand:
Notice and Note Signposts

Contrasts and Contradictions
A sharp contrast between what we would expect and what we observe the character doing. Literary Elements: character development, internal conflict, theme, relationship between setting and plot.

Aha Moments
A character's realization of something that shifts his actions or understanding of himself, others, or the world around him.  Literary Elements: character development, internal conflict, plot.
Tough Questions
Questions a character raises that reveal his or her inner struggles.  Literary Elements: internal conflict, theme, character development.
Words of the Wiser
The advice or insight a wiser character, who is usually older, offers about life to the main character.  Literary Elements: theme, internal conflict, relationship between character and plot.
Again and Again
Events, images, or particular words that recur over a portion of the novel.  Literary Elements: plot, setting, symbolism, theme, character development, conflict.
Memory Moment
A recollection by a character that interrupts the forward progress of the story.  Literary Elements: character development, plot, theme, relationship between character and plot.
I've already started to bookmark these signposts in my first novel study for next year and I can already tell how helpful they are going to be!  When students pause and reflect on these signposts they are also using the comprehension processes: visualizing, predicting, summarizing, clarifying, questioning, inferring, and making connections.  You really can't beat that!

Ways to incorporate these signposts into your classroom:

I saw this photo on Pinterest (it did not have a home, so if you know where it originated from please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due!) and I will definitely be doing this with our novel studies and literature circles this year!  Love me some colored post-its ;o)

I created a few freebies for to use in your classrooms if you would like as well!  The first are two different sets of bookmarks.  The first one has the signposts, definition, and a box for you to put in a text code you might want to use.  I left the boxes blank so you can choose your own symbols/codes for your classroom and just have your students fill them in.  The second bookmark is just the signposts and definitions.  Both sets come in black and white and color.

Click on the image to grab your FREE bookmarks!
 Another freebie I created is this graphic organizer for your students to use while they are reading independently.  You can use this many different ways!  You can send it off for copies whenever you want your kids to write down their ideas quietly before sharing or for their own books.  I'm thinking I might laminate mine so we can reuse them again and again.  Not sure though...  Thoughts???

Click on the image to grab your FREE graphic organizer!
My friend Theresa over at Pinkadots Elementary has a SUPER CUTE Stop, Notice, and Note poster set for the signposts that I have already bought, printed, and laminated - ready to go for next year!  She has also generously offered to giveaway a set of these posters to one of you!  All you have to do is enter in the Rafflecopter below and cross your fingers!  These posters are a chalkboard theme (which I love!) but she also includes a "save ink" set that is on a white background :o)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Rafflecopter will close by tomorrow (Friday, June 20, 2014) at 11:59PM, so hurry and enter for your chance to win!  If you would like to check out even more great ideas for this book study, click on the links below to take you to some amazing bloggers and their thoughts on the book so far.  Thanks for following along and please feel free to comment and share your thoughts and ideas on signposts in the classroom!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunshine State Book Reviews 2014-2015: King of the Mound

It's another year and another set of Sunshine State books!  I'm actually pretty excited about this year's line-up.  There seem to be a good mix of genres and I think my kids will really enjoy them.


I've joined up with a couple other teacher's from my county and we're meeting weekly for a Sunshine State Book Club to discuss the different books and ways to incorporate them into our classroom.  The first book I read was King of the Mound: My Summer with Satchel Paige by Wes Tooke.

Description from Amazon:

When Nick is released from the hospital after suffering from polio, he is sure that his father will never look at him in the same way again. Once the best pitcher in youth league, Nick now walks with a limp and is dependent on a heavy leg brace. He isn’t sure he will ever return to the mound, never mind be the star he once was.

When Nick starts working for Mr. Churchill, the owner of the semiprofessional team Nick’s dad plays for, he meets Satchel Paige, arguably the best pitcher in the world. Not allowed in the major leagues because of his skin color, Satchel teaches Nick that some things can be overcome with hard work and dedication, and that just because you’re down, you are most certainly not out.

As Satchel and his unique teammates barnstorm toward a national baseball tournament, Nick wonders if he can really overcome what seems like the impossible and pitch again.

I really liked this book!  It showed what life was like during this time period, not only the injustice against African Americans in the United States and baseball, but also how the American people were effected by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.  It doesn't come right out and mention these historical moments, so they are something you will probably want to discuss with your class.  I also love that the chapter titles are innings, a wonderful metaphor for Nick's life: top of the eighth, bottom of the ninth, etc.

I would recommend this book for 4th and 5th graders for multiple reasons!  I will read it to my 4th graders aloud because there is just SO much to discuss but your fifth graders can probably understand most of it on their own.  There is tons of fabulous vocabulary, both robust and historical.  There is also an ABUNDANCE of figurative language!  That Satchel Paige is just full of colorful similes and metaphors!  This would be an excellent read aloud during Black History month as well :o)

Genre: Historical Fiction
Grades: 4th - 5th
Lexile: 900
Length: 155 pgs.
Food: Ice Cream, Coke (glass bottle), Sunflower Seeds, Baseball foods (although none of these were actually ever mentioned in the book)

You might or might not remember, but we usually do a Sunshine State Feast at the end of the year for our kids who read all 15 of the books.  Included in the feast are games, scavenger hunts, and a food item from every book.  Hence the food choices above (just in case you want to do the same)!

Supplemental Resources:

This is a short (four minute) video about Satchel Paige and his baseball career.  I love that this video talks about his "mysterious age" and you will hear Satch himself say some of his famous quotes that your kids will find in the book as well!

A great companion picture book is Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Rookie Joe DiMaggio by Robert Skead.  They mention this moment, when Satch plays against Joe, a couple of times in King of the Mound but this picture book tells the actual story of what happened at that fateful meeting.
My kids always love the little side stories and want to know more!  This would be a perfect book to introduce the Great Depression, Segregation, and the Dust Bowl.  Again, the author never comes out and mentions these events by name (except for segregation) but the things that are happening to the main and secondary characters are because of these events.  Here are a few resources if your kids would like to know more about them.

BrainPop Great Depression - The Great Depression was a tough time for everyone. Find out just how tough in this BrainPOP movie, as Tim and Moby introduce you to life during the Great Depression! You’ll learn exactly how many Americans were out of work, as well as some of the ways that people tried to make money and survive. You’ll also find out why the Depression was actually good for unions — and why it was especially bad for farmers in the Great Plains. Plus, you’ll see how people tried to keep up hope, and why things eventually started to get a little better. Even the worst of times pass on eventually!

PBS Interactive Dust Bowl - Students will be able to make their own choices one whether they want to stay and risk it all or move away.  They will experience the ups and downs of farming in the 1930's and how the market was at this time.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I do and stay tuned for the next Sunshine State Book... 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel / 1 Dog = CHAOS by Steve Bjorkman.

Friday, May 16, 2014

MEGA Birthday Celebration!!!

This whole month my friend Beth from Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs (you might recognize her cute stuff from EVERYWHERE, including my products) is having a birthday celebration and giving away TONS of amazing prizes!  This week I am featured along with some other 3rd-6th bloggers in the prize bundles.  If you would like a chance to win one of these bundles check out all her details below!
Click on the image to take you to her Facebook page
"Up for grabs this week is almost $400 worth of goodies from 40 fabulous individuals! I'm trying my best to group grade levels in bundles and this week will be 3rd-6th. This giveaway will be held by Rafflecopter. There is be a total of FOUR WINNERS this ...week; 1 Winner Per Bundle. The winners will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter. All giveaways will end on Thursdays at 8:30PM. GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!"



1.) Classroom Compulsion ($10 TpT Store Credit)

2.) The Teacher Studio ($10 TpT Store Credit)

3.) Learning Lab ($10 TpT Store Credit)

4.) Joy of Teaching ($10 TpT Store Credit)

5.) Lessons with Laughter ($10 TpT Store Credit)

6.) Create-Abilities ($10 TpT Store Credit)

7.) Maneuvering the Middle ($10 TpT Store Credit)

8.) Nicole Rios ($10 TpT Store Credit)

9.) Confessions of a Teaching Junkie (Winner's Choice)

10.) Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs ($10 Amazon Gift Card)


1.) Amy Alvis ($10 TpT Store Credit)

2.) Teaching with a Touch of Twang ($10 TpT Store Credit)

3.) Horizons ($10 TpT Store Credit)

4.) Mrs. O Knows ($10 TpT Store Credit)

5.) 4th Grade Frolics ($10 TpT Store Credit)

6.) Beach Sand and Lesson Plans ($10 TpT Store Credit)

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8.) The Extra Energetic Educator ($10 TpT Store Credit)

9.) Primarily Au-Some ($10 TpT Store Credit)

10.) Kristen Smith ($10 Amazon Gift Card)


1.) EduKate and Inspire ($10 TpT Store Credit)

2.) One Sassy Teacher ($10 TpT Store Credit)

3.) Danielle Knight ($10 TpT Store Credit)

4.) The Learning Center (Winner’s Choice)

5.) Where the Wild Things Learn ($10 TpT Store Credit)

6.) Speechercize and Gluten Free ($10 TpT Store Credit)

7.) NC Teacher Chick ($10 TpT Store Credit)

8.) Erica Butler ($10 TpT Store Credit)

9.) Teaching Momster ($10 TpT Store Credit)

10.) Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies ($10 Amazon Gift Card)


1.) Powerpoint Gaming ($10 TpT Store Credit)

2.) Figuratively Speeching SLP ($10 TpT Store Credit)

3.) Brooke Beynon ($10 TpT Store Credit)

4.) Zanah McCauley ($10 TpT Store Credit)

5.) Elyse Rycroft ($10 TpT Store Credit)

6.) This Little Piggy Reads ($10 TpT Store Credit)

7.) Mom2punkerdoo ($10 TpT Store Credit)

8.) Teresa Kwant ($10 TpT Store Credit)

9.) Jennifer Jones ($10 TpT Store Credit)

10.) Kate Wintuska ($10 Amazon Gift Card)

What are you waiting for?!  Click on the link above for the Rafflecopter and enter for one of these terrific bundles!  Good luck!!!