Thursday, February 25, 2016

Student Interest Project

 This school year I incorporated Genius Hour into my classroom. After reading how it worked for other teachers, and talking to other teachers at my school, I came up with my own take on Genius Hour.

What I loved about the Genius Hour concept was the focus on self-directed learning. I wanted to give my students the chance to have complete freedom over what they wanted to learn about and how they wanted to learn it. Also, to be honest, I didn't want this new endeavor to become another burden on my never ending to-do list, so I knew I had to give my kids just the right amount of direction in order for them to take over the responsibility and ownership over their projects. 

The Student Interest Project books give my second graders just the right amount of direction that they need to plan, record, and share their research.

Each of my students were given a manila folder to store their interest list, resources used recording sheet, and their current Student Interest Project book. 

Student Interest Project book font cover


back cover

I take my kids to the Media Center every other Friday to research. After they have completed their book, they present it to the class and I take a Speaking and Listening grade on their presentation. Then, they begin another book on another self-selected topic.

If you're interested in using this in your own classroom during your Genius Hour time, you can find it here

The pictures used in this post are of my own example that I made for my students. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Revising Writing with a Hamburger Twist

Last week I had my last formal observation of the year! Woo Hoo! Done and done! Since we are knee deep in revising our opinion writing pieces, I decided to channel my inner Hope King, from Elementary Shenanigans, and throw in a little hamburger writing twist!

Here's how it went down...

First, I told my students that I was going to show them the best burger in the world. I showed my students a hamburger with only the top and bottom bun. To say they were disappointed would be an understatement. Ha! I then asked them to tell me what was missing. Of course they shouted out the meat and toppings! I assembled the hamburger with the missing pieces and we talked about how that hamburger looked better than the first one. 

As I walked around to show them the new and improved burger, I "accidentally" tripped and my burger fell all over the floor. Oh no! My students helped me pick up the pieces and put them back into my basket. Now the burger was all mixed up! So, I took the opportunity to talk to my students about how we can't eat a burger with the ingredients all mixed up. This led right into my teaching point... Just like you can't have a burger without the meat and juicy toppings, you can't have a good piece of writing without your details. Also, just like it would be hard to eat a mixed up burger, it's difficult to read a piece of writing that isn't organized. "OOOO! AHHH!", they said. Ha!

We looked at a writing example and broke down the components that make a good opinion writing piece. We talked about how the topic sentence and the conclusion sentence is like the top and bottom bun. The topic sentence states the opinion and the conclusion sentence restates the opinion in a different way. This is just like the top and bottom bun; they are made out of the same thing, bread, but they look a little different than one another. We also looked at the reasons and examples that the writing piece provided to support the opinion. We talked about without those details, the writing would be boring. Just like without the meat and toppings in a hamburger, the burger wouldn't be good. Then, we looked at how each of these components are organized in an opinion writing piece. We also color coded each of the sentences to help us visualize how each sentence helps to form our opinion writing "burger".

After the mini lesson, it was time for my kiddos to get to work revising their own opinion writing piece. They color coded their writing using the colors we talked about in the mini lesson (brown=bun/topic and conclusion sentence, red, yellow, green=toppings/reasons and examples). As they were finding each of their components in their writing, they built their burger. I gave them vanilla wafers for the bun, a York Peppermint for the meat, icing with food coloring for the ketchup and mustard, and coconut dyed green for the lettuce. This was the perfect opportunity for them to visually see what they were missing in their writing. Some only had the toppings, while some were only missing the bottom bun. As they finished building their hamburger, I had them share with the rest of the class what they learned about their writing. The next day, they worked to add in their missing pieces. 

I have to say this lesson was too much fun! My kiddos learned so much about themselves as writers! (Disclaimer... The writing pictured above isn't color coded correctly. I made a note of it and I will use what I noticed about her writing as a teaching point during our next writing conference.)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Menu Math {A Real World Math Activity}

Boy, have we been busy working on word problems involving money?! I wanted to give my kiddos a more real world approach to adding and subtracting money amounts. That's how Menu Math was created! 

If you know me, you know I love doing mini transformations in my classroom. My students now know that whenever our tables are covered and I have props out, they are in for an exciting lesson! Menu Math was no different. My students walked in to our classroom after Specials to find each table had been transformed into a different restaurant. I used butcher paper to cover their tables and various props I either already had or that I found at The Dollar Tree to set the stage.

How cute are these steak coasters that I snagged at The Dollar Tree?! I also put fake flowers in a vase on the table to make it "fancy".


For the lesson, I broke my class up into four groups. I had them take turns choosing a waiter/waitress for each restaurant they visited. The "customers", the remaining kids in the group, each ordered one item off the restaurant menu. The waiter/waitress wrote down how much each item cost and went to the "kitchen" to total up the bill. This also helped us review adding up to four numbers.

While the waiter/waitress was in the kitchen, the customers had to total up their bill too. Then, they checked their total against the server's total. If their totals didn't match up, they had to figure out why.

This lesson was so much fun! The conversations I heard as I walked around were priceless! One of my kiddos said, "Man, I wish I would've ordered the lobster tail instead". Ha! Talk about real world applications! 

If you want to try out this activity in your classroom, you can find my unit here. I also included task cards for each restaurant menu to help my kiddos work on those money word problem skills.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Addition and Subtraction Strategy Playbook

If you've followed me for some time, you might already know that I'm a sucker for a good theme! I created my Addition and Subtraction Strategies {A Math Playbook} product with a football theme in mind to get my kiddos excited and keep them engaged while learning about addition and subtraction strategies! It also didn't hurt that I blasted the NFL theme song at the beginning of every lesson! HA! 

Here's how it all went down in my classroom...

I introduced one strategy a day {hundreds chart, number line, make a model, break apart}. I used the posters included in this product as my teaching tool by displaying them on the projector. Students recorded notes for each strategy in their Addition and Subtraction Strategy Playbook.

After I taught the strategy for the day, my students completed an interactive journal page to show their understanding. 

After doing a quick check of their journal pages, I was able to see who needed extra reinforcement. While my other kids worked in their daily math centers, I worked with my struggling students to complete an additional practice handout.

At the end of the week, we played a game to review the strategies.

I spread green butcher paper on their tables for them to use as a workspace to solve their problems. After the game, I felt confident that my kiddos were ready to rock their test! I think they did too!

This product is on sale for 50% off until 1:00 PM tomorrow {Wednesday, December 30th). You can find it here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

parent/teacher conferences

Yes, it's that time of year again! It's parent/teacher conference time! Now that my conferences have come and gone, I wanted to pop in and share a little bit about how my conferences went this year. To do that, I'm linking up with Ashley and Angie in their #2getherwearebetter link up!

For starters, at my school we use Sign-Up Genius to schedule conferences. If you haven't tried Sign-Up Genius yet, you better get on that! It is seriously super easy and it can be used for more than just conferences. In the past I've used Sign-Up Genius to organize class parties, Mystery Readers, and supply donations. What I love most about using Sign-Up Genius for conferences is that it puts the responsibility of scheduling conferences in the hands of the parents. All you do as a teacher is set your dates and times. Like I said, super easy right?! For parents that did not sign-up online, I sent home a conference reminder form with a date/time slot that I had available. 

To prepare for conferences, along with completing report cards, I also sat down to write individual comments on each one of my kiddos. I made one copy of the comments form for my parents and one for myself. This way parents have a record of what was discussed at conferences and I can stay on track with the information I want to share. Our conferences are only twenty minutes, so I have to make sure I'm spending that time wisely! 

I also had my kiddos complete a self-evaluation that I gave to their parents at the conference. I always find it so interesting to read what my kids think of their performance in school! It usually matches up with what I think too! 

As parents arrived, they saw a table set up outside my classroom with mints, student work, and a class book.

It is very important to me to create a warm and welcoming environment. To do this, I used my lamps for soft lighting and I also gave parents a small bottle of water. 

Making everything you need for conferences easily accessible is a must! I like to keep my student data binder close by just in case I need to pull out specific work samples to address a concern or to answer a question. It always helps to be prepared!

 If you would like any of the forms/printables pictured, you can grab those here. You can grab my editable comments form here.

Overall, conferences went well! It also doesn't hurt that our PTSA caters lunch for us during conference week!

Have you had conferences yet? If so, how did they go?

Friday, October 30, 2015

halloween decor

Every once and awhile I will be sharing a little bit of my personal side because, well, teachers have other interest too! Am I right?! Ha! Can I just tell y'all how much I love decorating my house and crafting? I seriously I decorate for EVERY holiday and I'm constantly changing out my decor every month. Crazy right? But I love it! 

Today I wanted to post a few pictures of how I decorate my home for Halloween. 

I made the garland out of black and orange tulle from Hobby Lobby. I just tied the tulle to a black ribbon. The glass bottles and black netting are from The Dollar Tree.

The wooden pumpkins and black crow are from a little boutique in my town.

The owl is from Target, the spell books are from Hobby Lobby, and the wooden crows are from Michaels.  

I made this wreath out of orange mesh from Hobby Lobby. The ribbon and the "Boo" letters are also from Hobby Lobby.

This is my buffet in my dining room. I covered it with burlap and placed all kinds of random pumpkins/Jack-O-Lanterns on it. The big pumpkin is from Hobby Lobby, the chicken wire pumpkins are from Target, and the Jack-O-Lantern candle holders are from Target. The light up Jack-O-Lantern is actually made from a real gourd. The company that makes them is called Meadowbrooke Gourds. They have all sorts of gourd type decor. I also have a witch. They are too cute! The branch Jack-O-Lanterns are from Nordstrom. 

This is what I have on my front porch. The Jack-O-Lantern buckets are from Target and the scarecrow and big Jack-O-Lantern are from Hobby Lobby.

If you can't already tell, I love me some Target and Hobby Lobby! I also don't do scary Halloween! That's just not my style. I get too freaked out for that. Ha!

I just had to throw in a picture of the crafts my little man did at his "school". I mean... look at all that cuteness! His teachers are amazing!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Halloween!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Halloween Fun {with Freebies}

Lately I've been trying to incorporate as many Halloween themed activities as I can into our daily lessons. I feel that kids are better able to make connections to the material when units of study are thematic. One way I incorporate themes into my classroom is through holidays. Since we've been learning about addition strategies, I used Frankenstein to make a "Frankenline" for our number line strategy and googly eyes to count with for our make a model strategy. Being able to incorporate a theme into my content is a win/win in my book!

You can find the "Frankenline" here and the Monster Addition handout here.

Last month I shared this picture on Instagram...

If you would like to snag this tag you can find it here.

This month, I wanted to give little man's teachers another small gift to show just how much we appreciate all that they do. 

A student gave me this cute Frankenstein treat one day and I knew I just had to make my own for little man's teachers.

I stinkin' cute are these?! I used green grapes for the body and marshmallows and chocolate chips for the eyes. So simple!

I also filled a small, plastic bucket from Target with a cute notepad, Halloween pencils, and chocolate {What teacher couldn't use chocolate right?!}. The pencils, notepad, and bucket were all from the Target Dollar Spot. To make the bucket even more festive, I added black tissue paper, shredded Halloween paper from Michaels, and this tag. 

Make sure you follow me on Instagram, at Teach Dream Inspire, so you don't ever miss an idea! Happy Halloween!!!