Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Year of Awesome - Week 24

I love this blog series. It forces me to find something good in every day. It hasn't been easy this week... we have all been cooped up inside for far too long because of the cold temperatures. The kids are struggling to get along, and I'm working harder at staying patient. Here's hoping that March brings some more reasonable weather conditions!
Today I just knew we were going to need to be moving to keep the kiddos engaged. With the bitter cold temperatures and the fact that it is a Monday (which is never easy in itself). So since Swiper has been challenging us to find the difference between two 2-digit numbers I thought we could spend the math block working on my Be A Subtraction Star SCOOT game, and it was the perfect choice!! It gave the kids plenty of time to move around - no sitting for us today! - and it gave me the time to work one-on-one with a few of my struggling students. That's awesome!

Our second day in a row (this week alone) of being stuck inside because of the extreme cold - not awesome at all. It is really hard - 20 kids and an adult stuck in one room together for the ENTIRE day. Luckily, we at least had phys. ed. to look forward to in the afternoon!

Today, in anticipation of tomorrow's Pink Shirt Day here in Canada, I read the book If Kids Ran The World to the class.
I've been saving this one for a while. Well, you can imagine when I asked the kids to think about what it would be like if kids ruled the world what sort of answers I got. Everything from free money to no parents to candy for dinner. Of course this was BEFORE I read the book to them. I wanted them to get the silly answers out of the way before we settled down to some more serious discussion. Once they did, I read the first few pages and then asked them to think about how they would change the world. The students first worked alone, then partnered up to share ideas, then partners joined up to create small groups.
I think most of the kiddos had some awesome ideas in front of them by the time this activity was done. We're going back to this next week - there were too many other things going on this week to spend the right sort of time on it. I look forward to what they come up with!

Today is the 8th annual Pink Shirt Day in Canada! Celebrated on February 25th each year, Pink Shirt Day is all about solidarity against bullying. It has its roots in a story out of our east coast where a male student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to his high school. A pair of Grade 12 students organized the first Pink Shirt day in support of this student. You can read more about the origins of this date {HERE}. My students and I participated in this, complete with a pink bow tie! (I wish I had a photo!!) Awesome!
Today I introduced two-part problem solving to my kiddos. I wanted to see what they could do on their own before we delve too deep into instruction, so I partnered them up, spent some time with them at the T.A.C.K. Board, and let them get to work. I love observing kids when they are puzzling through problems - what they do, what they miss, how they tackle problems - it gives me such insight into how I can help them and where we need to go next.
Today was a partial release day for me to participate in a collaborative inquiry. I spent the morning with some colleagues investigating strategies and resources for developing mental math and number sense in the primary grades. We watched some interesting videos about the use of number lines and number strings, and were reminded of some valuable resources we have in our building - John Van de Walle's Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics, Number Talks, and Number Sense Routines: Building Numerical Literacy Every Day in Grades K-3. (Click any resource title for more information.)
I'm looking forward to a full-day of release time next week to dig right into these resources and get some planning done for after the March Break!

Do you have an AWESOME story to share from your week in the classroom? Link up or leave a comment below! 

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Year of Awesome - Week 23

Yippeeee!! It is a holiday! That's awesome!
Taught my kiddos another new game during phys. ed. today! They are soccer-CRAZY so I'm not sure why I didn't pull this one out of my sleeve earlier, but better late than never!

This is four-corner soccer. We lay the benches down on their sides in the four corners of the gym and I split the class into four teams. The pinnies help the kids tell their teammates apart, as everyone is all over the gym at the same time. The goal is basically to score against any other team so it is constant running from one end to the other. (It's all part of my master plan to tire them out! I love how they're all a-blur!! Awesome!)
Today I shared a special little writing book with a little person in my class. One of my more emotional students is about to welcome a baby sister into the family, and it is just an added layer of excitement, nerves and apprehension to an already busy little mind. I decided some time ago that I was going to create a special journal for this little peep, and knew today was the day when the student shared the rapidly-approaching arrival date with me first thing in the morning. The response was AWESOME!! This student was thrilled to receive this book! (Update: every day this week since receiving this journal, the student has dropped it on my desk so I could look to see what had been written. I think it is working in exactly the way I was hoping for this little one! Yes!!)
Did I mention yet that this is a Spirit Week? All the excitement is catching up with me - I'm a little tired today. After Monday's holiday we've celebrated Sports Day and Plaid/Camo Day. Today is Fashion Disaster/Crazy Hair day, and with that comes some equally crazy energy. Combine it with indoor recesses all day because of the cold and you can see where I'm coming from! lol

Needless to say, I needed to change things up a bit to keep everyone interested. With an hour-long arts period this afternoon I decided to scrap my original plans to introduce the kids to a new game I purchased from the Scholastic catalogue, Mental Blox.
The kids absolutely LOVED it!! They are split into two teams, each with a set of these fun blocks. We discussed the attributes that differ from block to block (shape, color, pattern) and then launched the game. One player from each team comes to me and gets to look at a card for ten seconds. The card depicts a particular arrangement of these blocks that needs to be exactly reproduced. Players return to their group and their set of blocks to try and replicate what they saw. The next two players come up and look at the same card and make changes to the arrangement if needed. When a group thinks they have exactly what is in the photo on the card, they shout "Mental Blox!". What an awesome thinking game! I highly recommend it!
Another day of indoor recesses due to extreme cold, and why not let this one be paired with Halloween?! Yup... today was "Dress As Your Favorite Movie/Book Character Day". We don't even dress up at Halloween in our school - that is reserved as Black & Orange Day.

Oh.My.Word. I remember now why we DON'T dress up at Halloween. The kids were bouncing off the walls (literally for some of them!). They were cute, and they were having fun, but I am one exhausted teacher today, and so ready for my weekend!

I'm feeling pretty Awesome about my first-ever guest post on a collaborative blog today, though! Please pop over to Who's Who and Who's New to check out my post all about how I organize guided math in my classroom. I hope you like it and would love for you to leave me a message!

Happy Weekend, Everyone!!

Do you have an AWESOME story to share from your week in the classroom? Link up or leave a comment below! 

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Guided Math Guest Post

Hi everyone! I am guest blogging today at Who's Who and Who's New all about guided math! Pop over and check it out by clicking the image below. Be sure to leave me a comment, and follow this fabulous collaborative blog to get TONS of other great posts from top teachers!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Year of Awesome - Week 22

Today I shared a fun new game with my class during phys. ed. This is one that I used to play with my fifth graders and I thought, why not?! I divided the class into four groups and sent them to the four corners of the gym. I explained to them that just like quadrilaterals have four sides, the gym has four quadrants, and each team practised walking the perimeter of their quadrant. Next, within each game area I set up a pylon with a basketball balanced on top. I place a hula hoop around this as a no-go zone and then toss tons of soft "elephant skin" balls into the play area. The goal, obviously, is to knock down other teams' basketballs, but the fun is that everyone is being attacked from all angles. They LOVED it!! Awesome!

I taught the class how to play charades during drama today! A few had played before, but many hadn't. I demonstrated a couple of times (boy, did they love that!) then split them into two teams and got the game started! They had a ball! Some were reserved in their actions, as I'd expected, but others really got into it! It was really fun to watch each individual personality shine through during the game. Awesome! :)

Today I decided I needed to change up our Word Work centers for The Daily 5. As I wrote last week, the students have been struggling to do their chosen activities for the full 20 minutes without becoming distracted or not accomplishing anything. I targeted the main problem areas and removed them for now.

I've heard from a couple of parents recently that their kids are really into word searches so I thought I'd incorporate some into our choices. I also added some of my February Writing and Word Work centers.

What a difference!! The kids are ALL engaged and working the whole time. Teacher Love!

Today is the one day of the week that I have lunch duty in the grade one classroom. This is a busy bunch of first graders and this 20 minutes isn't always easy. I've figured out a fun little strategy for keeping them calm and eating during this time, and today was especially effective.

Before she left for her own lunch, their teacher put on some soft piano music. I've told the kiddos since the beginning of the year that when they are eating really nicely it is just like being in a "fancy restaurant" complete with soft music and (imaginary) candles on the tables. Today I told them that I was looking for some extra-special tables to "light their fancy table candles" and a hush fell over the classroom. Haha! I tiptoed around the classroom and flicked my fingers in the center of the quietest tables to "light their candles" and TA-DA...! Calm, quiet lunchtime! Awesome!!

Best day of the week!! Today was our school-wide Valentine celebration. After our morning math warm-up and calendar routine, I began the day in a way I never thought I would - with our Valentine card exchange. I have ALWAYS left that until the end of the day, but let me tell you that is now a thing of the past. My friend Christina at Hanging Around In Primary posted a brilliant idea - one that had never crossed my mind before... exchange cards at the beginning of the day and actually use them for something!!

Kiddos distributed their goodies into the mailboxes (paper bags) we decorated yesterday. Then, they settled back into their seats to take a look at their loot and do some sorting. We've been working on data management, so the timing couldn't have been more perfect.

Using Christina's freebie, the students tallied up the different kinds of cards they received, then created a graph with the data. I was amazed at how engaged and into this activity they were! It will definitely be on my must-do list for next year!
After recess, we were joined by some of my former fifth graders - now in seventh grade - and their classmates to help us with a fun Valentine craft & gift for our parents. I mentioned this activity in last week's post. I love watching the big kids interacting with the little kids! They were such a huge help - I couldn't have pulled this off on my own...
The final results were awesome!

Afterward, we had a few minutes to squeeze in some Franklin before heading down to the gym for a Just Dance party! (The "big kids" were just as quiet and absorbed in the video as the little ones! Awesome!)

What a truly Awesome week!! (And to top it off, this is a long weekend!! Woo hoo for the Family Day holiday!!)

Do you have an AWESOME story to share from your week in the classroom? Link up or leave a comment below! 

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Year of Awesome - Week 21

Can a Monday ever get better than a SNOW DAY exactly one week before reports are due at the office?! I think not!! Today was an absolute gift!

After a 4-day weekend for the kids (after Friday's P.A. Day and yesterday's snow day) everyone was totally out of sorts. Mondays are often tough, but today seemed to be extra challenging. Daily 5 was looking and feeling much like it does in September, so after the first round I challenged the kids to show their Read to Someone stamina. We reviewed the I-Chart, took some time to carefully choose a good-fit partner, and off we went. They did an awesome job!
Today held one of the year's top Awesome moments. A volunteer in our building whose own children attended our school many years ago came to me during recess to thank me for the year I taught her daughter in Grade 5. This young woman has just finished university and started working with the Boys & Girls Club and her mom said she felt like Grade 5 was a defining year for her daughter and that I was so great for her. WOW! I can't even express how amazing it was to hear that. I always love hearing about former students, but to hear from a parent that you were so appreciated is truly AWESOME!

National Sweater Day is a super opportunity to talk to the kids about conservation of energy! Sponsored by WWF Canada, this day encourages people to decrease the thermostat by two degrees and don a fun sweater in recognition. This is the third or fourth year I've participated with my class, and it won't be the last. I invited my students to wear a crazy sweater, we had awesome discussions about energy and energy use, and celebrated with some hot chocolate and a Magic School Bus episode about recycling. It was great fun!
It's the 100th Day of School!! We started the day with a special attendance slide on the SMART board and the kids were SO excited! Even Swiper got into the fun... check out the numbers he swiped from us today:
Following our morning calendar routine we started a variety of fun 100th Day activities from my new 100th Day of School Writing and Word Work activity package. There was a great brainstorming activity - 100 things I want to do before I turn 100 - and I was SO impressed with the variety of responses... including bungee jumping, going to a circus, becoming a teacher, winning a lottery, owning 200 books, having a big brain (lol!), eating the best pumpkin pie, and even having a good hair day! I LOVED reading these. This activity set the stage for our writing activity with the aged student photos - "When I am 100 years old..." - I wish I could post each of the finished pieces, but you can see the nearly-completed bulletin board below. They also worked on a 100-word collection - I even made the cut in one of the books...!
We peppered the day with some 100th Day challenges like sitting in absolute silence for 100 seconds and having a stare-off with a partner for 100 seconds, and the students each received a new Brag Tag for their necklace.
Finally, at the end of the day, the kiddos shared the special collections of 100 things they brought with them to school... we had everything from marshmallows to Lego to gumballs to 100 books donated to our classroom library!! Wowzer! It doesn't get more awesome than that!
As the day finally ended, I gave each of my kids a special 100th Day wand that says "I Am 100 Days Brighter!". These were a hit again this year.
I am utterly exhausted, but it was truly a fantastic day and a great way to end an awesome week!

Do you have an AWESOME story to share from your week in the classroom? Link up or leave a comment below! 

To link your blog: Grab the button below, add it to your blog post, link it back here, and then add your link at the bottom of this post!

I am also linking up with my friend Christina at Hanging Around In Primary for her 100 Days of School Linky. Be sure to head over and check it out!!