Tales from Outside the Classroom

Need a little Back to School Boost?

I know teachers all across the country (and world!) start schools at different times.  Heck, my BFF's kids started school a week earlier than my school and we only live 30 minutes apart.  When the TpT sale happened a few weeks ago, you might not have been ready.  I wasn't ready.  I tried really hard to make my decisions and make some purchases, but I was SUPER excited to hear about TpT's BOOST sale for tomorrow.

TpT realized that many teachers weren't heading back to school until a little later in August (or those lucky ducks that don't start until September) and so they thought another sale would be a good idea.  I agree!
To head to my store and buy during the sale, just click the image above.  Don't forget promo code BOOST.

Here are a few products you might be interested in.

My new 2nd & 3rd Daily Math Warm Ups for 3rd grade (with review of 2nd grade)

And since I did it for 3rd grade, I thought it made sense to do it for 2nd grade too.

My 3rd grade Problem of the Day bundle.

My 3rd grade Story Problems Task Cards bundle

If you're looking for other items for the intermediate grades, these sellers have amazing resources!   I'll be going through their stores as I'm putting my wish list together.  Happy shopping!

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Using Class Dojo with a Classroom Economy System

I heard about ClassDojo partway through the year last year and it was a HUGE tool in my class.  My class needed some sort of cue when their behavior was less than stellar and THRIVED on positive reinforcement.  I am not a fan of public displays for behavior management, but my kids needed recognition.  They needed that extrinsic reminder and reinforcement.  I was also excited that I was able to incorporate my individual behavior plans right within this system so I was no longer managing four different plans.  I know a lot of people are familiar with it already, but I thought I'd share specifically how I used it in my class.

First, I modified the behaviors in the system to more accurately reflect what I wanted to recognize my students for.  I used Dojo ALL.THE.TIME. to praise my students so there were a ton of positive behaviors in there.  These are the positive behaviors I used with my students.
I also did use it, at times, for consequences.  I know positive reinforcement is the best way to manage behavior, however, as I described my students needed to have something tangible attached to their behaviors, so at times, after multiple reminders, a point would be taken away.  Because parents could also log in to see how their student's day went, I didn't want them to only see positives if a child had a rough day.  The ins and outs of positive and negative reinforcement is worthy of its own post so I'll just leave it at that for now.  Here are the negative behaviors I used in my classroom.
My students earned many points each day.  At the end of the day, the students recorded their points on a chart.  I walked around and monitored their recordings and honestly never had any issues with students being dishonest.  
It was a simple four column chart (the left is cut off in this picture).  Students recorded the date, they wrote daily, their points, and then their new points total.  Students kept their chart in their binders that we used each day.  At the end of the day, I reset all the bubbles in the system.  A few days a week I would allow students to use their points for rewards.  I didn't do it all within ClassDojo because I didn't want it to inaccurately reflect as a problem behavior if I deducted points so we did it all on paper.  This also allowed me to then use the percentages within ClassDojo as a behavior grade since we have to give a letter grade for behavior.

The students and I brainstormed rewards together as a class.  I wanted the students to get involved to have buy in with the system, and this helped me give them rewards they actually wanted.  We combined some tangible rewards with more classroom-based no money rewards.  I determined the points value for each reward, however, and explained that part was negotiable.
The point systems seem high, but that's because I was constantly awarding points to my students.  I really wanted to focus on the positive and reinforce them for the great things they were doing so many students were earning 10-15 points a day.  The PAWS card was our whole school recognition program.  

I hope this gives you a couple ideas on using ClassDojo in your class (maybe a bit differently than you have been).  I hope you liked this Bright Idea and will check out the other Bright Ideas posts for this month!

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Meet the Teacher

I'm excited to join in on this fun linky from Falling into First.  This is a fun way to help you get to know me a little better.

Here I am on Friday (my birthday!) with my best girl, Piper.  The picture is a little fuzzy and there's terrible lighting with the windows behind me, but you get the idea.  

I'm excited to begin my second year teaching 3rd grade next week, though I wish it was just a few more weeks away.  This is my 9th year post college graduation and I've done just about everything that's not a traditional educator (assistant, reading resource, instructional coach, ESL, etc).  I'm starting at a new school because my last school closed due to funding cuts.  I'm excited to see what the new year holds.

 Coffee and Ice cream.  I could seriously live off of that tacos and pasta.  Seriously.  I'm also obsessed with my new Gear Fit.  So much so that I'm going to post about it soon.

 I've been known to give my opinion even when it's not wanted.  I'm working on that.  I also have diagnosed myself with ADD.  I am always going a million miles a minute and can't keep myself straight.

 Hello extra forty pounds since I started teaching!

 I often feel like my life should be a t.v. show.  Seriously.  It would get amazing ratings.

 See statement above about being opinionated.

 You know you just started singing it.  You know you did.

"I'm the one who wants to be with you.  Deep inside I know you feel it too."
"Feel it too!"

 I hope you enjoyed getting to know me a little bit better.  Click the button below to check out other bloggers and get to know them a little better too!

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School Supply Deals- Week of 8/10/14

I missed last week's school supply deals.  Oooops!  With the TpT sale, the back to school rush, and just some other busy things going on, I just didn't get to it.  i didn't even really do any supply shopping other than a quick trip for penny composition books (Thanks Office Max!).  This week it looks like I'll need to make a few different trips!

  • Sharpie Chisel Tip Highlighters 5ct.- $3- FREE after rebate- Limit 1
  • Hammermill Copy Paper- Use $3.99/1 coupon from Staples.com- FREE after rebate- Limit 1
  • Mr. Sketch 12 pack- $4.99
  • Ticonderoga 12 pack - $0.99 (if you prefer this brand over others)
  • Sheet Protectors 50 pack- $0.99, with card
  • Wexford 5" scissors- $0.39, Limit 3
  • Wexford 100pk index cards- $0.49
  • Wexford Index Card case- $0.49
Office Max/Office Depot
  • 1 subject notebooks- $0.01 with $5 minimum purchase, Limit 3
  • Office Max mechanical pencils 24 pack- $0.25, Limit 3
  • Expo Low-Odor Dry Erase Black Markers 4 pk- $1, Limit 3
  • Office Depot Copy Paper $3, Limit 4
  • Papermate Ink Joy pens 8pk- $1
  • Scotch Expressions tape- $2
Happy shopping this week!  There's only a few weeks left!

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Do you Audible?

Have you heard of Audible?  It's Amazon's marketplace for Audiobooks.

Audible has over 150,000 titles in audio format.  That's the biggest inventory I've been able to find.  As a teacher with a long commute, and I know many other people have them too, I like using Audible to continue reading the books I'm currently sucked into.  I just turn it on through the app on my phone, connect my phone to my car speakers using Bluetooth, and listen in.

In the classroom, Audible is fantastic for using with your iPads, tablets, or iPod as a listening center.  Just purchase the audio text, put the book in place, and it's an easy and stress free center.  So often with technology we currently have, we don't have CD's or books on tape, or we do but don't have the rest of the technology to make it a center, so Audible is an easy substitution.

You can also find Audible promo codes through Coupons.com.  Here are a couple that are available today.

The site is set up as a membership system.  You pay a monthly fee and get a free audiobook each month.  You then also get a discount on any additional books you may purchase.  Finding Audible promo codes makes things even cheaper!  Audible has quite a few popular children's books in audio format for less than $1!  Here are a few favorites that I found.
Are there other ways you could see yourself using Audible in the classroom?

I was paid to write this post, however, all ideas and suggestions are my own.

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Heading Back to School

I go back to school in two weeks and I'm nowhere near ready.  I'm not sure what happened to this summer, but it flew by extra fast.  My to-do list for what I was going to work on before this year has hardly been touched.  Spelling for the year?  Haven't even started on it.  A new curriculum map for math?  Haven't started on that either.  July just didn't seem to have as many days in it as normal.  :)

I did get a few things completed.  I bundled half of my 2nd grade math warms up and half of my 3rd grade math warm ups.  This is how I used them last year since my kids weren't ready to try to start tackling the 3rd grade standards until about October.  I thought there might be others out there who felt the same way.  You can click the picture below to check it out on TpT.

And since I did it for 3rd grade, I thought it made sense to do it for 2nd grade too.

I did get two new sets of monthly Problem of the Day story problems done.  We have about two weeks of school in August, but I know not everyone attends at all in August, and some people in my state started in July!  So, I didn't put an August set together, but instead put 10 pages together for a freebie!

In my room we'll be beginning to practice story problems by about day 3.  We'll do some other things the first two days but we'll really start to get into our regular routines by the third day, and I want my students to start building their problem solving strategies right away.  By September, it'll be a daily routine.  I'm glad to have the September set completed so I'm not worrying about it during the Back to School rush.

I originally started creating and using these Problem of the Day Story Problems back in March.  I was really disappointed in what I was seeing my students do with story problems, even though we had started working on strategies early on in the year.  I knew they just needed to have regular practice, and I wasn't giving it to them.  I saw a huge difference in my kids in just a few weeks.

I bundled the sets that I have created (September, March, April, and May).  I will add to the bundle as each month's set gets completed.  Because the bundle is missing a few months, I've priced it significantly lower than it will be when it gets completed.  The price of all of the months on their own will be $28.  This bundle is priced at $15 (which is nearly half off!)

Today is the first day of the TpT Back to School Sale so you can get everything I've posted here for even cheaper!  If you use the promo code BTS14, you can get an additional 28% off!  Now is the time to buy the necessities that'll help you make it through the year.

If you're looking for other items for the intermediate grades, these sellers have amazing resources!   I'll be going through their stores as I'm putting my wish list together.

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Ideas to help kids to Restate the Question in the Answer

A loooong while ago I posted about using PQA to teach kids to restate the question in their answers and to help their responses on constructed response questions.  That post was SUPER popular.  After hearing from teachers from all over, I realized that 1) Many people don't call it PQA and 2) It's a struggle for kids all over.

In my state, 3rd grade is the first year that kids take state testing.  A big portion of our English/Language Arts test is reading comprehension, especially open ended questions.  So, I always start the year, from Day 1, requiring my kids to use PQA in their written responses.  It also helps the kids to answer the ACTUAL question that's written.  You know, because sometimes they write something and you wonder where it came from.  Teaching kids in an intervention setting really strengthened my hold on teaching it right from the start and practicing the entire year.

This year, I decided to change up the way I'm going to introduce it to the kids.  I thought it would help kids to see how it works by spending a bit of time focusing on using it in conversation.
I made question cards so the kids could interview each other in partners.  I'm planning on using it the first week of school.  You know, when the kids are supposed to be spending time getting to know each other and you're getting the I-NEED-TO-START-ACTUALLY-TEACHING-SOMETHING itch.  I think this is a perfect compromise.  You're introducing a skill that will be used the entire year, and is crucial on state testing, but it feels like the kids are just spending the time getting to know each other and building relationships.

I'm going to introduce it by using the first set of question cards and have them use them in small groups to get to know each other.  The first set of cards includes both the question and the sentence starter for the answer.
Then the cards remove the sentence starters.  I'm going to use the next set in small groups as well, so the students are practicing responding with the question.  Then, I'll split them up into partners to interview each other.  I provided blank interview sheets as well as interview sheets with questions to help you decide how independent you want your kids to be.  This helps transfer the skill over to writing.

In my previous experiences I've also seen first and second grade teachers really focusing on this skill.  However, what I made for third and fourth wouldn't work as easily with those grades, obviously.  So I changed up the lines to include writing lines to help young learners.  Some sheets are also provided for the very beginning of first grade, or the very end of kindergarten, where students only fill in the answer and then trace the rest.

An important aspect to consider when teaching students to restate the question is the hook that's going to help them remember.  In my area, we use the acronym PQA.  It stands for Putting the Question in the Answer.  I've also seen TTQA (Turn The Question Around) which is basically the same thing.  I've recently come across RAPS (Restate, Answer, Prove, Sum it Up), and RACE (Restate, Answer, Cite, Edit) which I really like for older students.  Whichever acronym you prefer, I've created posters to help you reference it in your classroom.  The PQA one is at the top of the post.  Just click on any of the images below to go download the set from my TpT store for free.

Once the school year is started, and we've practiced PQA together, I'll often throw practice in as independent practice during the day and as homework.  Most often it's tied to what we're currently studying, but I also put in stand alone practice to help the kids get used to doing a passage and answering questions in one session.

For my students, we start out the year using this set.  It's an older product of mine, but I gave it a bit of a facelift.

The passages and questions all fit onto one page- to help keep it visually appealing for the kids.  I like it because it gives them practice on the skill without making them feel frustrated.
There are 4 free pages in the Preview file.  This lets you get a feel for the set and try them out with your kids.

This summer, I also decided to make an easier set (which is why the previous one is now called Step 2).  This set is all half pages.  It's perfect for the beginning of the year in 2nd grade, and the end of the year in 1st.  The texts are very simple so you're really able to focus on the skill, even with the most struggling of students.

How do you work on this skill with your students?

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