Aug 25, 2012

Math Journals

I have decided that some of the best teaching resources come from our school's copy room.  Seriously.  I'll see something on the printer, or laying on the counter, and have to find out whose it is, how they use, and if I can copy it please!  The reverse happened last week when a brand new teacher was looking at a couple of my math Quick Quizzes that we use every Friday.  She asked me about it and that led to telling her about my Math Journals and how I use them.  I started math notebooking several years ago, after coming across some good research about them, and have been tweaking and perfecting each year.  I love that everything is in one place-assessment results, math notes, curriculum resources, standards, etc-and that the kids know exactly where they are in their learning, how to improve and in what ways. 
 I've noticed that the trend is catching on and now there are a million different ways to implement them.

How do you use math notebooks in your class?

What are some great math notebooking ideas you love?

Aug 22, 2012

Peace Chairs

My peace chairs were a solution to the huge tattling problem when I taught Kindergarten.  I finally realized the kids tattled for two reasons: 1) they want my attention and 2) they didn't have the social skills to deal with problems.  So I got two chairs (free from Scholastic-yay!) and introduced them as our Peace Chairs.  I taught the kids that they were special chairs only used to work out problems/practice communication skills, and taught the Peace Chair Process, which is...

1. Remove yourself from the situation
2. Listen to what the other person thinks and feels
3. Tell the other person what you think and feel
4. Decide together on a good compromise

(Yes, the word 'compromise' was big for a Kindergartner, but most new words are big for them-I just taught them what it means, like any other new vocab)

This process was posted right next to the chairs for them to reference.  Anytime there was drama, or tears, or someone was suddenly uninvited from a birthday party, they would head to the chairs while the rest of us continued with our day.  The two kids would follow the above process to come to a compromise everyone could be happy with, then they would report to me what they decided.  At first I was worried they would miss out on learning...until I used it and realized it usually only took 30 seconds or less.  Nearly every kid I've taught, Kinder through third, just wants a structured moment to be heard by the other person.  And if it does take more than a minute or two, the situation probably needs teacher intervention anyway.  It's been great for the kids to learn how to communicate positively and best of more tattling!

Aug 16, 2012


Is it just me, or does it seem like kids have a harder time using their imagination?  Some students struggle to be creative and picture things in their mind.  To practice visualization, I taped butcher paper to the wall and had kids paint what they were picturing as they listened to a certain type of music.  I did this during our rotation time, so there five groups listening to five different types of music: mariachi, Italian, classical, luau and classic American tunes.  At the end they compared how and why each group's pictures looked different from each other and connected this to visualizing when reading.  They had so much fun!

Aug 13, 2012

Graffiti Wall

I love to fill our classroom with inspiring things that motivate the kids.  But sometimes what I think will inspire them-for all the cutesy signs and printables-mean little to the kids.  Enter the Graffiti Wall.  I grabbed some light-colored contact paper from Smiths, covered the closet door and hung some fun-colored permanent markers next to it.  Whenever the kids finish their work early, have an indoor recess, etc., they can head back to the Graffiti Wall and draw or write something on it that inspires them.  Sometimes as a class we'll add things to it.  For example, when we were reading a book about Harriet Tubman, a kid mentioned that she inspired him and made him want to help other people.  I handed him a marker and sent him to draw Harriet Tubman on our wall.  A few days later, someone made a deep connection to a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote and added that quote to our wall.  By the end of the year, it had become a very personal timeline of the year and when the kids were struggling with a hard day or difficult concept, they could head back to the Grafftii Wall to get remotivated.  This year I'd like to get some showerboard, mount it to the back of a bookshelf and make it into a whiteboard Graffiti Wall.

Aug 10, 2012

Morning Starter

Have you noticed all the Number of the Day forms floating around Pinterest and tPt?  I decided to take that idea and run with a way that would include almost no daily prep on my part.  (Don't you hate when a good idea ends up being more work for you??)  I liked the idea of manipulation of a number and wanted the kids to also practice manipulation with vocabulary and word parts.  So...I made a morning starter book with 4 different page types-one for each day Mon-Thurs.

*Every day, the kids will start by writing the answer to a daily "secret password". This is a question about anything I want them to know, especially facts or repetitive information they need to memorize.  In order to exit the classroom to go to recess, the kids have to whisper to me the "secret password", or answer to the daily password question.

 Monday-Number of the Day 

Kids start by writing the password of the day and number of the day, both posted on the front board. Then they write the number in word form, expanded form and multiply the number by 10, 100 and 1,000.  In the grid they write each digit of the number in the bottom row boxes, and the name of the place value in the top row boxes (ones, tens, hundreds, etc.).  Finally, they use the month number to list its multiples and factors, then list which of those numbers are prime (ie. July is the 7th month, so they would list the multiples 7, 14, 21... and the factors 1, 7 and write that 1 & 7 are the primes).

Tuesday-Good, Better, Best 

Kids start by writing the password of the day and then analyze three items to determine which one is good, which is better and which is best.  Here's some examples...
 *list 3 adjectives & kids determine which word is good, better, best
*show 3 sample journal entries and kids decide which one is good, better, best 

*show 3 Google entries and kids determine which one would be good, which is better and which would be the best

*post a number addition problem (good), a straightforward word problem (better) and a more complex word problem (best) and let kids choose which they can answer

*list 3 fractions or decimals and have kids write which one is good, which is better and which is best (& write an explanation for their choice, since this could go multiple ways) 

Wednesday-Word of the Day 

Kids start by writing the password of the day and word of the day, both posted on the front board. Then they look up the word in a dictionary (this can be done with a partner if you don't have enough dictionaries) and write its definition, part of speech, a synonym and antonym for the word and the guide words at the top of the dictionary page.  In the grid, they write a word that's an example of each corresponding part of speech.  The last box is for them to use the word in a sentence and, if time, diagram the sentence.  (In our class, we diagram sentences to help with grammar and writing structure; there's a great resource for learning to diagram sentences here)


This is a craze that has been going around Pinterest quite a bit lately!  I tried it with my kids and they LOVED it, and it actually engaged my high kids and low kids the whole time.  So I decided to add it to our morning starter book and have them do it every week, which will help develop phonics and word parts skills.  

My board in the morning, with the number of the day, word of the day, password and boggle letters ready to go for the week.

Aug 9, 2012

Phonebook Fun!

In my math area, I keep a stack of old white pages and yellow pages.  What can you do with a bunch of yellow pages, you may ask?  Here's a few ideas...

*Math facts-have kids choose a phone number and add the first 3 digits, or the last 4 digits

*Addition/Subtraction with regrouping-Have kids choose two phone numbers and add or subtract them, or subtract the first 3 digits from the last 4 digits, for younger grades

*Expanded Form-Have kids write phone numbers, or the first 3 digits of a number, in expanded form

*Comparing Numbers-Kids choose two phone numbers or house numbers to write down, then write <, >, =

*Phonics-Go on a vowel or digraph search and have kids circle all the vowels, underline all the prefixes, etc.

*Writing prompt-Have kids choose an add in the yellow pages and write an advertisement for the company, a letter to the company, etc.  Youngers could use the ad as the setting or character in a fictional story (ie. a pizza place becomes their setting or a bug exterminator becomes their main character)

*Descriptive Writing/Biography-Have kids choose a name from the white pages and write a biography about who they think that person would be
I keep them handy anytime a student or a lesson finishes early.  It's the perfect no-prep go-to.

What would you do with a stack of yellow pages?

Aug 7, 2012

Story Mapping

Last year, I saw several super cute story maps circulating around and decided to try my hand at it too.  Cut to me typing, cutting, gluing, mounting on construction paper, laminating, and cutting again.  And then the posterboard was too small to fit all of the characters or settings that many of our books had!  So here's try number two for the older kids...  This time I printed off the titles and mounted them on foamboard, and stuck them straight onto the bulletin board.

As we read a story, the kids use post-its to add to our story map.  This one has more parts for 4th grade, but the one I used with 2nd graders only had Title (and author), Characters, Setting, Beginning, Middle, End, Problem and Solution.  Here's a student version for the kids to fill out on their own book, or with our class map.

Aug 3, 2012

Place Value Cards

I have become a huge fan of place value cards!  I first saw this handy teaching tools last summer while I was at a teaching conference in Vegas.  Now that I’ve used it with the students, I can’t imagine learning without them!  The place value cards have solved so many mistakes kids often make, such as not lining up digits correctly when adding or subtracting, forgetting the place of each digit, or not understanding the true value of digits in numbers (such as, the 5 in 59 actually represents 50, not 5).  We have used these handy cards for place value, multi-digit addition and subtraction and composing and decomposing numbers. but the biggest help has been teaching the students to write numbers in expanded form.  Here’s an example; this is how we show the number 485 using place value cards.  
Each place value is color-coded so kids realize that each digit in a number has a different value.  When they realize this, they no longer line up digits incorrectly because they understand that the ones have to be added to each other, the tens have to be added to each other, etc. 
Then, to write in expanded form, the kids simply pull the cards apart, or “expand” the number. Expanded form is suddenly a piece of cake!

I was so excited to find smaller student sets  at and had copies available at Back to School night for parents to take home and cut out.  (Teacher Tip: Store them in snack-size baggies to keep them in order & organized)  Keep in mind that color-coding is vital!  If you want, you can buy a teacher set at Crystal Springs Books; I put business card magnets on the back of mine so I could use them on the board. 
For older grades, there are also ones with decimals you can buy here.