Saturday, June 3, 2017

Community Supplies vs. Individual Supplies

Community Supplies vs. Individual Supplies.  A very hot topic on the Facebook teacher boards and it's one that I don't think there is a right or wrong answer to.

So let's see.  How do you decide?  What are the pros and cons of them both?  What grade level do you teach?  What are the socio-economic status of the area in which you teach?...These are just a few questions that you can think of as a teacher that can lead your towards supplies, handling them and *replinishing them*.

So let's dicuss:  Pros vs. Cons.

Community Supplies

  • Everyone always has access to supplies that are needed.
  • Students are asked to practice sharing.
  • Germy?  LOL...It is though
  • You are responsible for replacing them.
  • They fight over them.
  • They steal them.  (Could just be my class, EVERY YEAR)
Personal Supplies
  • They keep up with them.
  • Their parent's replace them.
  • It teaches them responsibility.
  • No stealing
  • Don't really have any personal cons.
So here's my opinion (even though you didn't ask), I think it's both to have best.  In the K-1 classroom it may be easier to have community supplies.  They students aren't really responsible enough yet to keep up with their own supplies.  It's easier to keep them in one place and students at this age aren't typically territorial yet over their things.

But come on down the hall to 2nd - 3rd grade.  They are absolutely getting to that territorial age.  They want to use the mechanical pencil their mother bought and they don't want to share it.  As a mother, I also don't mind purchasing for the class but I do mind when my daughters things are taken from her to be shared with other students.  Students at this age are old enough to keep up with their own things.

Let's turn the corner and go down the other hall to 4th and 5th grade.  They are just too old for community supplies.  They don't want to share.  They can absolutely keep their own things.  Other than scissors, markers and pencils I can't seem to find a reason for community supplies.

So here is what I do and have always done, even when I was a 1st grade teacher.  I typically do both.  Every summer, I purchase crayons, glue sticks, paper, dry erase markers, more scissors, etc for my classroom.  I place them in cute buckets with labels and I have a student supply shelf where I place them.  My students are aware that they are there and they are allowed to use them anytime that they want to but there is an understanding that I WANT THEM BACK!  They are for the class NOT the individual. I will replenish my own classroom supplies and if I need donations from parents, I'll send out a letter explaining we are short on ___, can you please donate to the classroom.

I, however, allow them to keep their own supplies.  I take nothing from them but dry erase markers and glue sticks.  Everything else (notebooks, folders, pencils, crayons, etc).  It's for them to keep.  I don't want it, I don't collect it, I don't store it.  Keep it in your desk.  I provide them with pencil pouches if they don't bring one and they keep their own things.  If they run out of room in their desk, I have one empty cabinet that they are allowed to use to store their things but that's it.  Their parents are responsible for replacing their personal supplies.

I allow all students to use community supplies but I do not make them share their own supplies.  I teach 3rd grade and I have a 3rd grader at home, so it's very evident in how she feels about the same thing.  If my students offer to let someone borrow their pencil, then I make sure the other student gives it back. But I've personally never been a big fan of students sharing supplies that were bought specifically for them.  

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Unit 1: Place Value - How I Taught It

Place value is the first unit taught in most 3rd grade classes across the country and it's the one that a lot of students tend to not do so well on.  The kicker is, everything in the unit except for rounding is a repeated skill from 2nd grade.

Question:  Why are the students often so puzzled about the concepts?

Answer:  Duh, because they just came in from summer break like we did and they are still in summer vacation mode.

Third grade teachers often start the year off in panic because we are the new testing grade.  Our students have never taken standardized test before and many of them aren't phased by it.  We look at a tight scope and sequence and become panicked when students aren't understanding the skills because we think, "I need you to get this so I can move!".

Over the summer as I reflected on the previous year, I looked at the standards and decided that I needed to clump some things and change the order in which some things were taught.  I decided to pull out some priority skills and teach those whole group and teach the other things in small groups.

Our Unit 1 (in Georgia) consisted of 2 standards:  
3.NBT.1(Rounding) and 3.NBT.2 (Addition and Subtraction with Regrouping). 

However within those standards there is a lot of embedded skills that students need to know:
Embedded Skills for 3.NBT.1
Rounding to the nearest 10, rounding to 100, estimating sums and estimated differences (word problem form).

Embedded Skills for 3.NBT.2
addition with regrouping, properties of addition, missing addend, subtraction with regrouping, subtraction across zeros (WHO CREATED THIS SKILL),  missing minend, addition and subtraction word problems.

Ahhhh AND I only have 21 days to teach these standards.  Here's what I did:

I decided to not teach the skills in complete isolation but to embed them into each other.  It has been going great.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Back to School Activities

Back to school started off great and then the unexpected happened.  I took all these beautiful pictures of my students working and then my phone fell and the screen shattered.  Crazy thing is I dropped my phone the first day of school last year and the same thing happened.

What a day!

Anywho, my kiddos enjoyed their first week of school and I learned so much about what they could do in Math with these Back to School Math Task Cards.
Back to School Task Cards for Third Graders
I hung them around the wall and students went around the room answering questions which were prerequisites to our Unit 1.  I was very excited to see that they adjusted well to the activity and I was able to see right away which students were ready for Unit 1 and which students needed some review.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Using a Math Rotation Board for Guided Math in a Departmentalized Classroom: Let's Clear Up Some Misconceptions

Good Day!  Today I'm discussing Guided Math and Math Rotation Boards and clearing up some misconceptions. 

                                              Workshop, Paper, Issue, Page, Diamonds, Computer Paper

Guided Math / Math Workshop / Math Stations or whatever you want to call it, has the same goal and outcome.  

Goal: To personalize math instruction for your students and to better meet their needs.

However, there are so many questions, misconceptions and fear when it comes to math workshop.  I get it! I used to be there.  So let's clear up some misconceptions today as I tell you about how I do math workshop and how I use my rotation board.  

FAQ #1: Do you see all four groups everyday?
Absolutely not.  In a perfect world where I teach Math for 2 hours, then yes.  However, like most teachers we are only given anywhere between 60 - 90 minutes to teach Math.  Therefore, in my class I only see 2 groups a day.

FAQ #2: Since you only see two groups a day, do you teach the same lesson twice?
No.  The point of guided math groups is to identify key skills students are lacking or need enrichment in and target those.  Therefore, I rarely teach the current skill in my guided math group.  We use STAR Math as a math diagnostic assessment.  I group my students and I teach needed skills based on STAR Math and/or Unit Pre-Assessment.  If all students are on grade level and doing fairly well, then I reteach non proficient skills from previous unit assessment.  

So yes, most of my groups are doing something different during small group. 

FAQ #3: Is it ok to teach the current math skill during guided math?
Yes.  While my lowest group is mostly working on prerequisite skills or previously taught skills.  If they are all caught up, then I go ahead and work with them on the current skill.  My on grade level students sometimes need support in the current skill so we work on that.  My above group most likely has been taught the current skill before the rest of the class gets to it, therefore they are either working on the next grade level skill or an upcoming skill.

If all students are showing struggles with the current skill or at least 80% of the class are then I cut guided math for that day and focus in on the current skill with more practice as a whole group and work with them individually.

Remember guided math shouldn't be a skill that majority of the class needs.

FAQ #4: Can this be used with a basal math series?
Absolutely.  You have to be selective in what portions of the series you use or think outside the box on how you use it.  We use My Math.  No, we do not have to adhere to the math book so that helps, however we do use a large portion of it.  I will do a blog post on that as well.

FAQ #5: How do you keep track of your group rotations with two classes?

Yes. I am departmentalized. I teach two classes of Math and Science.  Frightened me at first but I'm getting the hang of it.  When I first started teaching two math classes, which was last school year, I had two rotations charts.  It was a mess. I need to go to something that was simplified, didn't require a lot of work or changing out cards for two classes, twice a day, everyday. So I created the above chart.

The cupcakes die cut shapes on the side have both teachers name on it.  My name and my partners name.  I or a student rotate the cupcakes down each rotation.  That way I always know what class is at what rotation.  Most days the are the same, but of course things happen and some days aren't at the same pace.  The next day, we just pick back up where we left off. No sweat.

 I type out the students in the group on paper and tape both classes on these.  That way admin, a sub and the students are always aware of what group they are in.


On these cards I write the activities that each class or each group is working on.  (I'll be sure to write another post of differentiated math stations and I how I use this once school starts back).

So again, this rotation board is the bulk of my math block.  It's useful for both classes.  It works and the students enjoy it.  It stays the same all year.  I hope this helps.  If you have any more questions, please leave them in the comment section below and I will address them.

Check it out here on TPT:

Monica Parsons: Teachers Sharing Resources

Just sharing on my blog.

Monica wrote an awesome post on sharing resources created on TPT.  Hard truth but needed to be said.  We greatly appreciate your business as teacher authors.  So much time goes into creating these resources.  Let's continue to support each other.

Monica Parsons: Teachers Sharing Resources: This is a hard post to write, but it comes from my heart. I am a mommy to a precious five year old named Blake. My husband is a lineman, so ...

Back to School Team Gifts

It's back to school and like many you realize that the time has gone fast.  You had planned so much to do and you haven't done half of the things on your list.  So what do you do!  You begin making a list of things that you must do.

One of the things that I wanted to do was to make sure as grade level chair my team was prepared for the school year, meetings and Open House.

So here's is what I prepared:

1.) Meeting Notebooks

The meeting notebooks will allow our TEAM to be cohesive and be prepared in grade level meetings, staff meetings and other thing.

I printed them on sticker paper that I purchased from Staples (link here) and just cut and peeled them.

You can grab them for FREE in my TPT store.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer Reading with City Girl in Third: Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind

Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind: Practical Strategies for Raising Achievement  This summer, I had the greatest opportunity to work in our central office on curriculum guides.  Just so happened, central office had moved into a new building and they were unpacking as I was working.  Our learning community superintendent provided me with a ton of professional books.  Amongst those books, I received this, "Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind" by Eric Jensen.

While I thought the book sounding interesting and I had heard about the book before, I have to admit I was a little skeptical at reading it.  Why?  I tend to navigate away from books written about students in poverty, Title I schools, low SES (socio-economic status) because based on experience, the ones I have read before seems to me to be a bit judgmental, unrealistic and always classifies them has "needed special attention because of what they don't have" and personally I've always felt some kind of way about that.

I grew up in SE Washington, DC.  A place known to outsiders as a beautiful tourist site with so much history, but a place known to it's residents as murder capital.  I've seen so much, I've heard so much and I too was a child that attended that school with low scores, lots of behaviors, etc.  I too attended that high school that was a gang rival school, high drop out rate and teen pregnancy on the rise.  However, I too, like many of my friends and associates did graduate, went on to college and as far as we knew or was concerned our neighborhood didn't effect our outcome.

Then I opened this book, "Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind" and from Chapter I I was truly intrigued.  As I read this book and the classroom scenarios I kept picturing myself as a teacher and as a student.  I tried to compare myself to the teacher in the book who was always frustrated versus the teacher in the book who was so excited about what her class had done.  I compared my students to the scenarios in the book and often thought how I have responded to them in those similar situations.  Then at that point, well before I finished Chapter I: The Seven Engagement Factors, I realized that my upbringing had made an impact on me.  It had impacted my teaching.

See, I'm a teacher that has always taught in Title I schools because I have always told myself that "these children just need to see someone successful" and "I can relate to them because I grew up in a similar neighborhood".  However has I began to read more of the book, I realized how I'm nothing like these kids.  My approach to them as been wrong and I instantly began to take note of some of the approaches.  

See I can't relate to a child whose only meal is at school, because even growing up in public housing I had 3 meals a day.  My aunt who raised me, fixed breakfast every morning (no cereal), we took our lunch to school and when we got home there was a snack and dinner being prepared.  My aunt worked every day, sometimes two jobs but I was never home alone. I was attended extra curricula activities and I always had clean clothes.  My life was different because we didn't have to move from house to house. Jensen spoke about students being unstable, going to new schools sometimes every year and worrying about housing and stability.  That's unknown to me.  I grew up in the same house all my life. I had my own room, my own clothes, my own toys so no I'm not like these kids.

What I didn't realize it that socio-economic status is more than how much money you make.  No we weren't rich, but we were definitely not poor.  We were middle class or working middle class, but growing up in DC, which is a very expensive city to live in people often result to public housing back in the 80s before "vouchers" were available because it just was cheaper rent.  It was affordable.  But I began to sympathize for these kids as I read the book because being so young, you shouldn't have to worry about so much.

I was mostly intrigued by Chapter 4: Engage to Build Cognitive Capacity.  This chapter spoke a lot about how to get children of SES to reach their full potential.  This chapter intrigued me more and made me pull out a pin and paper because this chapter didn't speak about their deficits due to their environment, it spoke about how to pull them out of their deficits, teach them how to reach their full potential and train them up well so that their brains can begin to work and think like other children who are high SES.  

As I read Chapter 4, which focused on training working memory, developing speed process, fostering self-control, I began to chuckle a bit because I said to myself, these are my students and my daughter. LOL.  I wouldn't classify my neighborhood as a low SES neighborhood.  I'm not rich but we are pretty ok. However, I noticed that my own daughter showed many of these traits.  So I began to not look at this book as engaging students with poverty in mind, but just engaging today's youth.  No matter where they live, just about all the children I encounter could benefit from the tips and suggestions that this book offered.

This book offers titles such as:
Engage for Energy and Focus
Engage for Deep Understanding
Engage for Motivation and Effort
All which were so much more meaningful than your average "students with poverty" book.

I think Mr. Eric Jensen did an amazing job with this book.  He never once in this book said, "treat these students this way because they don't know this or they don't have this".  He said, "you as the teacher have to hold them responsible, having grater hopes for them, train them up and set their expectations for them".  

So what did I, Renee, take from this book.  I took away a mind set change.  Yes I grew up in that area, but no I am not child.  I was "privileged" in a way.  So to myself, no I don't know what they are dealing with but now I feel more compelled to try and understand them.  Funny throughout the entire book, I kept thinking to myself, "you have to provide a snack time" because they too need energy, they need to focus.  I found more ways of keeping my classroom engaging, involving my children more and meeting their needs as a classroom teacher.  I will provide more opportunities for them to see the world and I will be sure to relate my material to more real world aspects.  Making my lessons more meaningful.  And most of all, I believe I am a better teacher just for reading this book.

I plan to share this book with my colleagues and my grade level and encouraging them all to read it.  Such an eye opening book.

Here's a quick YouTube video that gives you insight to what you can learn from this book:
Engaging Students with Poverty in Mind YouTube video

Friday, July 1, 2016

Five for Friday

It's another Friday y'all. As always I'm working on keeping up with my blogging and this Friday I'm dedicating myself to rejoin Doodle Bugs Teaching Five for Friday.  

I've been busy this week so I have a lot to share. Here's my five:

First order of business, is my new patio set y'all.  Boy am I so happy to have finally purchased a new one.  Now I get to sit on my back porch in the morning with my green tea and breakfast and work away.  It's been so refreshing.

Neenah Astrobrights Bright Color Paper, 8 1/2in. x 11in., 24 Lb, FSC Certified, Terra Green, Ream Of 500 Sheets
 Y'all I finally, finally bought some Astro bright paper.  I found the 500 packs of solid color Astro Bright paper at Walmart for *drum roll please * $6.99.  What??? I grabbed 3 packs (orange, yellow and neon green).  I'm going back this week for more.

Rounding Clip Cards 3.NBT.1    Multiplication Clip Cards   Area and Perimeter Clip Cards
                Rounding TPT                       Multiplication TPT                         Area and Perimeter TPT                                              
Clip Cards!  My students fell in love with my clip cards this year.  I started using them in my math fact station and they wanted more.  I created a few more this week with plans to make more.  Check them out in my TPT store.

Teaching the Critical Vocabulary of the Common Core: 55 Words That Make or Break Student Understanding
Reading.  I've been reading this book this week. I plan to blog about how I plan to incorporate understanding these key vocabulary words into my Math and Science class.  This should be interesting.

Follow me on Pinterest
Last, but not least.  I found Pinterest y'all.  Yes, I knew what Pinterest was but I've never had a "store" account. Just a regular one. I create a store account today and have been reading up on everything I can on how to use Pinterest to drive my store sales.  It's been a great read.

Well that's my 5.  Off to vacation for the next 5 days.  So you already know my next 5 for Friday is going to be vacation photos and finds.  See ya then!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dollar Tree Must Haves for the Classroom

It's almost that time again.  Time to get ready for school.  I told myself that I would relax this summer and not to anything school related until July.  Well it's almost July and I'm just about ready to dive into school. 

As I prepare myself to hit the stores before the rest of the teachers, I often consider my must haves.  The things that I seriously need.  I grab those first before they are gone.  The Dollar Tree is one of those stores in my area that most of the teachers hit.  I don't blame them because EVERYTHING in there is $1.  Makes my teacher bank account not feel so sad. LOL

Here are my must haves:

1. Multiplication and Division Flash Cards
        Assorted Math Flash CardsI teach 3rd grade Math and Science and these cards definitely keep my students actively engaged during down time.  These are great for early finisher activities, morning work group activities and dismissal fun.  

2.  Paper Clips and Binder Clips
Multicolor Plastic-Coated Paper Clips, 80-ct. PacksMetal Binder Clips, 8-ct. PacksI have an unhealthy obsession with paperclips and binder clips.  I feel like I need them for everything.  Paper clips are used in my classroom often to allow my students to keep up with their work for the week.  Binder clips I use to help me stay organized.  Click here to see how I transformed my binder clips last year to fit my classroom needs.

3. Supply Bins
  Rectangular Dry-Erase Plastic Locker Bins with HandlesThese supply bins are amazing for storing my community supplies for my classroom.  Add a cute label and my students know instantly where everything is.

4.  Plastic Caddies
Divided 3-Compartment Plastic Caddies These caddies work great for my tables supplies.  It holds everything my students need daily for learning and they are only $1.

5.  Carry Totes
  Colorful Oval Carry TotesThese carry totes have transformed my library and centers.  I have over 20 of these totes.  They hold my library books in an organized fashion.  They also allow my students to carry their center activities to their working space.  These help keep everything organized.

6. Clothes Pins
Because clip cards are my thing.  My students fell in love with my idea last year to make math fact station fun by creating Multiplication Clip Cards.  They enjoyed them so much that I created more and more clip card activities, which meant I needed more and more clothes pins.  They truly love them.  Check out the activities in my TPT store, by clicking on the pictures below.
Multiplication Clip Cards      Area and Perimeter Clip Cards   Rounding Clip Cards 3.NBT.1

7. Timers
Cooking Concepts Digital Kitchen TimersI use these timers for everything. Timing my students while working, while in stations, while in the bathroom and they are great for timing them during their weekly multiplication times test that you can also check out in my TPT store.

These are such amazing finds. Please share your must haves from Dollar Tree in the comments.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Last Week of 3rd grade Math...Getting Ready for 4th Grade

It's been a long year full year of learning.  Somehow we've managed to get through it and I couldn't be more proud of my students for mastering the 3rd grade standards with ease.  They did so well in Math this year that we've began tackling the beginning of the year 4th grade Math standards.  They were so excited to do this and was so amazed at how "easy" it was.  Here is what we did...

I decided to cover standards at the end of the year that were similar to the 3rd grade standards we teach.  This way my lower achieving students could get the remediation they needed and my on grade level and higher students could get the enrichment they needed.

Activity #1.... 4.NBT.2  Comparing Numbers

Students use shovels that have the < , > , = symbols on them to compare numbers.

Activity #2.... 4.NBT.3  Addition and Subtraction with Regrouping



Fun hands on center that only requires a dry erase marker and a paper clip.  Students spin the paperclip to find numbers to practice their addition and subtraction with regrouping skills.  They can then follow up with this beach themed worksheet.

Activity #3....4.NBT.4  Rounding to any place

This was so much fun.  Majority of my students struggled with rounding all year.  Around February, I decided to do a daily review of rounding even if it was just one number.  It definitely paid off.  They enjoy these rounding puzzle.

Activity #4.... 4.OA.5 Multiplying a 2 digit times a 1 digit

Yes, all of my students can multiply a 2 digit times a 1 digit number.  When they are fluent in their facts, its actually easy.  It's how I taught 10's, 11's and 12' everything else came easy.

Activity #5... 4.OA.5 Multiply a 2 digit number times a 2 digit number using any algorithm.


Surprisingly, I taught my higher students to do this standard using the method we learned.  It was so hard for them that way.  When I used this box method, their eyes lit up.  

Two sets of cards... One set has smaller numbers, while the other set has larger numbers.

Activity #6.... 4.OA.6 Division with and without remainders

This has been by far the most difficult standard. But they are enjoying the challenge.

See it in action and check it out on TPT by clicking the link here or clicking the photo.