Sunday, August 31, 2014

First Week Activities

While it was surely a busy week, the first week of school was definitely a good one! We started all of the high level activities I told you about a few weeks ago in this post, as well as some great team building things as well.

My students loved doing the cup stacking challenge again! Only this time, I added a twist...

Last year we simply had the challenge of building the tallest tower with the number of cups that I gave them (56 this year). After seeing them build this year, I could tell from the conversations my students were having that we could take it a step further.  On the second day, I gave them the challenge of creating the most stable tower using all of the cups I gave them. We tested it using a white board as a platform and stacking books on top of it. They had so much fun with this! I think the record was 31 books!

This activity will be great to refer back to when I talk about the Design Process and when we talk about different topics in science.

Another activity that was great for team building was our Eggbert Poster. We used the book Eggbert throughout the week to talk about how he was like us, to introduce thinking hats and then as the shape of our mystery puzzle. (If you don't have the book Eggbert, Elmer is a great one, too!)

To prepare for this activity, I drew a large egg on a piece of poster board and divided it into puzzle pieces. I took a picture of the puzzle to refer to if I needed to give them help, and wrote all of their names the correct direction so we knew which way was up (very important step).

I handed my students a puzzle piece and let them decorate it however they wanted without telling them what is was. It was neat to watch how they worked together to figure it out. 

Here is the only picture I managed to take of the activity:

We are going to keep this puzzle on the butcher paper on our wall this year to to remind us how we are like Eggbert and to remember the team work it took to put together.

I hope everyone else had or will have a great start to their school year!
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

FREEBIE: Start out the Day with High Level Thinking During Morning Work!

I try hard to make sure my students know what I expect of them as soon as they walk in the door.

As teachers, we know that morning work is important to set these expectations. Last year I made one of my students' spirals a morning work notebook, and we often did 2 different things to make our morning work creative and high level.

We often did "What's the question?" I would write a number on the board and they would decide what the question could have been. It's very similar to this bulletin board that I posted about a while back, but not quite as fancy!

I also often wrote letters on the board such as T i g t b a g d! The students would work to create different sentences with those letters. I always had a sentence in mind and would share it with them after they had time to work on their own. That sentence was "This is going to be a great day!" 

They are 2 very easy morning work ideas that elicit higher level thinking and don't take much prep work.

I loved doing these 2 things last year, but wanted more for this year. So... I went ahead and created morning work through September with these activities and more to keep my creative thinkers busy! 

Here is a free week of challenge morning work:

GT Morning Work

Here is what I created for September:

GT Morning Work

If you're interested in higher level morning work for you entire class or just your few creative thinkers who need a challenge, this would be great as you can just print it and give it to your students who need it. 

I will add the rest of the months throughout the school year, so be sure to follow my TPT store if you want to know when they are posted!

Off to get ready for tomorrow... my first day back!
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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Starting off the school year right... with critical thinking

At this point in the summer, I would typically find myself thinking about and working on the look of my room. I might create new table signs, change my classroom theme, go out and buy cute lanterns... whatever it takes to create a cute environment in my classroom!

But this year is different.

I don't know if it's because it's now my 6th year teaching and I'm tired of redecorating every year, if it's because I have a new baby at home and don't want to leave him to redo my room, if it's because I'm finally staying in the same grade level and the same room this year, or it it's simply because I want to focus on what really matters. 

Aside from replacing a few borders and moving furniture back since we had carpet replaced, I'm going to focus my time on making sure I set my students up to be critical thinkers from the start.

As teachers, we know that we need to dedicate the first few weeks of school to routines, procedures, and setting up our expectations for the year. If I want my students to be deep thinkers, then shouldn't I start this from the beginning of the year?

Well, here's what I'm doing to make sure my students know I want them to be critical thinkers:

Back to School Activities that Build Community and Depth of Thinking:

Last year I created my "Not Your Normal Back to School Unit" because it is just that... not typical. It has 7 different activities to help students get to know each other, but it elicits deeper thinking. My students loved it last year, and I plan to do it again! It's a great place to start adding depth of thinking if you're tired of the typical back to school activities.

Setting up the year with critical thinkers

Using Thinking Hats:

I have my bulletin board all set up and ready to go so we can use Thinking Hats from the start! I'll probably start this the first week and introduce a hat or two each day. Here is the link to my post about my Thinking Hats bulletin board and chants.

Setting up the year with critical thinkers

Solving Multi-Step Word Problems in Math Workshop:

As I set up my math workshop, I want to make sure my students know that I expect them to really think when they solve word problems. I don't want to give them problems that don't require them to think. You know the typical "There were 7 frogs on the log. 3 jumped away. How many are left?" Without even closely reading, many students can tell that all they have to do is 7-4 to find the answer. Instead, I am using word problems that still require them to do simple addition and subtraction, but also require them to do multiple steps and decide which information they need to solve the problems. This is what I'll be using to start that off:

Setting up the year with critical thinkers 

Using an Interactive Writing Notebook:

I also want my students to know that we can be critical thinkers in writing, too. Anytime we read a book or have a neat experience, my students are looking for ideas to write about or phrases and words to try in their own writing. Since writing is something that many students in my experience do not enjoy, it's important that I help them realize how creative they can be by introducing them to wonderful authors and fabulous words. In order to keep track of all of this, we use our writing notebooks. By the end of the year, I hope my students each have their "WOW Words" page full of exciting new words!

Setting up the year with critical thinkers

I hope this helps you to think about the kind of thinking you'll expect from your students right away. I can't wait to meet all of my new thinkers!
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Monday, August 4, 2014

Rigorous Multi-Step Word Problems

After teaching third grade, I realized just how important it was to make sure students do rigorous multi-step word problems in the primary grades. 

Last year, I made it a point to be sure that my 1st and 2nd graders were solving word problems that required them to do multiple operations and read closely in order to find the solution.

I searched so many places, but couldn't find very many good ones that were appropriate for 1st and 2nd graders. So, I ended up making them myself! Each week I had my students do 4-6 word problems as part of our math workshop. I'd look over them with the students and would create 4-6 new word problems for them based on what they needed to work on. I had at least 4 levels of word problems going on each week in my classroom! Talk about a lot of word problem creating...

If you don't have 100s of multi-step word problems saved somewhere or don't want to spend hours and hours creating word problems like I did, you may want to check out my multi-step word problem scoot.

250 × 120

I plan to use it at the beginning of the year with my 2nd graders to see how well they do, and then create word problems based on that.

Having young students solve rigorous word problems has become very important to me. I'll be putting together more word problems throughout the school year for various levels, so be sure to check back on my blog or at my TPT store to grab them if you'd like them as well!

I'm sure you've heard it plenty of places by now, so I'm just going to simply say... don't forget to check out my store when you're shopping the TPT sale!

250 × 120

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Thinking Hats Interactive Bulletin Board

Last year I wanted to be sure that the Thinking Hats were visible in my classroom so we could utilize them as much as possible.

I created this bulletin board to make that possible:

The hats are a thin plastic from Party City that allowed me to punch a hole in them, tie a string through that, and attach it to a thumb tack. 

They are next to the chants I typed up thanks to a very clever colleague of mine! The chants helped my students to remember what type of thinking each hat represented.

If you'd like to check out the Thinking Hats Chants Posters, click the picture below:

Thinking Hats

On another note, if you are wanting to connect with other classrooms across the world this upcoming school year, you will want to fill out the form by clicking the button below:

Global Classrooms

We have 43 teachers across all grade levels and 2 continents who would like to Skype, write, blog, Tweet or do some kind of project with other classrooms. You can read more about it here.

Hope you're enjoying these last few weeks of summer!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Let's Go Global!

As I'm thinking about this upcoming school year, I know that I want my classroom to become more global. I've been searching the web for different projects and sites to make connections, but most things are still set up for the 2013-14 school year.

I'm a planner and want to be able to intentionally plan global lessons and projects when it's applicable, so I'd like to make some connections with other teachers BEFORE the school year begins and gets crazy.

A colleague in my district set up a google form for teachers last year to get connected with others, and I thought I'd try that again for the upcoming school year.

So... anyone out there want to Skype, blog, or communicate in some other way with classroom outside your school? If so, click the button below to fill out the form and let's start making connections!

Global Classrooms

When you fill out the form, you will have access to a spreadsheet of other teachers who want to get connected. It will update as people fill it out, so be sure to bookmark this page and check back!

If you have any other ideas or resources, please share!
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Student Driven Games

With the class I had last year, something I made a priority more than I ever had before was letting my students drive the learning. With a class of 21 gifted children, I felt that I had no other choice but to follow their lead!

My students loved playing games, especially in math. They loved when I would create games for them based on specific skills, but I didn't have time to create 21 different games tailor-made for each student. Instead, I let them create the games! With a class of so many creative thinkers, I thought it was a great way to get them to practice skills they needed to work on specifically while letting those creative juices flow.

They loved creating games, but some students who were perfectionists had a hard time finishing them quickly. At the same time, other students who wanted to finish things quickly left game spaces so tiny they could hardly fit the eraser end of a pencil in it! To help with that, I created some templates for them to make games from. They used manilla folders or construction paper for the board, and then used my templates for the spaces, dice, spinners, cards and directions if they needed the support.

They liked creating games so much that we ended up creating games for our buddy Pre-K class. They had a blast!

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