Friday, June 28, 2013

Wordle Fun!

I have been on summer break for a while now, so I won't be blogging about happenings in my classroom because honestly, I want to be able to focus my mind on Summer Fun! Woo-hoo! :) But, there is one idea that I did for my students at the end of the year that they really seemed to enjoy. You may have already heard about Wordles, but if you haven't, you can use them for so many different things in your classroom. I love me some Wordles! What is a Wordle? Well, a Wordle is a grouping of words, a word cloud. The more times a word(s) is entered, the larger the word appears in the Wordle. You do have to have Java script downloaded.

Here is what the page looks like where you enter the word(s).

Use #1- In lieu of KWL chart
The first time I used Wordles in my classroom, we were beginning our unit on Paul Revere. I wanted to see what my students already knew about this historical figure, and my students and I were all over KWL charts. So, I decided to give Worlde a try. I had my students each come up to my computer and type in 1-4 words that they felt described Paul Revere. It could be an adjective to describe him (such as brave), or it could be a word(s) associated with him (such as Boston Tea Party). Usually I don't step in and correct my students' spelling, but I did in this case because the words need to be spelled correctly so Wordle can accurately determine how many of the same words were used (you'll see why this is important in a moment). After all my students had typed in their words, I hit "Go" and the Wordle was created! I printed it out and placed it on our board so students could see it during our unit. After our unit, we created another Wordle, and I must say, this Wordle was a lot different! It was a great way to see what my students remembered about Paul Revere, and they thought it was fun. It was pretty cool to compare the before and after Wordle, too.

Use #2- After/during staff development trainings

I also used Wordles after (or in between sessions) staff development trainings. I would ask each participant to come up and type 1-4 words to describe something we had just learned about, and then I would create a Wordle from that. It helped me to see what they thought was important from the training, so if it differed vastly from what I thought was important, I could adjust accordingly for next time.

Use #3- Bucket Fillers

Another way I used Wordle, and this is my FAV way to use it, was at the end of the year. I passed out a copied page that had all of my students's names on it. I asked my students to write 1-4 words to describe each of their classmates. Positive descriptions only, please! Once they were finished, I collected the pages, and this is the tedious part, I typed to compile all of their descriptions on a Word document. If there was a duplicate word(s), I typed it in how ever many times it appeared. Then I just copied and pasted each description into Wordle and pushed "Go". I could then use different options to change the font, color, layout, etc. to make it just the way I wanted it for each student. I also used "fun" paper to print out each one instead of plain white paper.

Yes, it did take a little bit of time to type up each description and to create each Wordle and play with it until I liked it and print each one out. But it was SO worth it. When each child received his/her Wordle, you could see the smiles grow as they read what their classmates thought about him/her. As I looked at each Wordle, my smile grew, too, because I knew that each child was going to receive something to keep that when they were having a rough day, they could look at and know that they are special. They each had a little bucket-filler in their hand, that they could read whenever they needed a pick-me-up. I had a few parents who said they were going to frame their child's Wordle. Huh, why didn't I think of that? Maybe next time :)

Here are examples of a Wordle. The website has a gallery that you can browse to get an idea of how they can look.

These are just a few uses for Wordle, and I hope you will be able to use Wordle, too. If you have a different way of using Wordle, please let me know. I am always up for new ideas!

Thanks for reading!
2 Brainy Apples

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What Do I Need for INBs?

If you are a teacher looking to implement Interactive Notebooks, you are going to need some supplies.
When you care compiling your supplies, you need to know that starting off with a sturdy notebook that will stand up over time.
To decorate and use in the sturdy notebook, you are going to need various types of pens, pencils, colored pencils, markers and highlighters.
And because you aren't only going to be writing/drawing in your notebook, you will need colored paper to be able to create Flippables to hold your notes.
To be able to create those Flippables, you will need scissors to cut on the dashed lines as well as glue sticks to stick them in your notebook. Sometimes you may use tape to create a hinge or for special types of Flippables that need to be sealed on one edge.
Once you have your notes all together, you may want to add in other things like Post It Notes, a handheld pencil sharpener, or some washi tape.
And to keep track of all these supplies, it would be best to put them all in a tub at each table.

And as a Structure Sergeant, those tubs will be your lifesaver at the end of each day to wrangle up the supplies for your students to be prepared for the next day.

So, until next time...

Mathematically Yours,

Jennifer Smith-Sloane
aka 4mulaFun
4mulaFun on Facebook
4mulaFun on Pinterest

P.S. The Interactive Notebook Linky returns on June 28th! Get your posts ready!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

End of the Year, Start of New Traditions

By the time you read this, today will be my last day of school, woo hoo!  Over on my other blog I talked about some tried and true activities that I do every year and how they went yesterday.  However, in this post I want to share a couple new activities for the last day of school that I'll be piloting tomorrow. 

Last year I tried having the kids write letters to the incoming class, but I was underwhelmed with the results.  Had I given them more time and more direction I'm sure it could have been a really worthwhile thing.  However since I do the scrapbook/portfolios which are a HUGE project, I felt like another big project would be overkill.  So this year I've given each child their own individual, specific, manageable piece of the "letter" to do.  They'll each get just  a half sheet of paper with a short prompt, and I'll compile them into a booklet.  It will either become part of our classroom library or I'll make copies for each student.  Here are 4 sample prompts:

On the back, EVERY student will have the same second prompt, "And here's something else you should know about Mrs. Thomas's class!"  I'm hoping to get some funny and heartwarming stuff there!  :D 

Finally, before we're all stuck in a 90 minute "closing ceremony" with the rest of the school in the cafeteria, for our final Morning Meeting share, we'll be reading "Memory Strips," which we've been writing all week in secret as part of their Morning Work.  The prompt was simply, "Write a memory you have from this year.  We'll share them on the last day of school."  I have a handful that I wrote myself that I'm certain will get laughs and tears from my group.  I can't wait!

What are your favorite end of the year activities? 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

ATUE Freebie Roundup!

I'm forever in awe at the creativity of my fellow bloggers here at All Things Upper Elementary! Seriously, these peeps are the real deal. And if you haven't checked out my friends' free stuff lately, you are missing out. Collectively, the ATUE staff is one lean, mean, fabulous-freebie machine. :) Today, I wanted to do a roundup of some our favorite free items! Every item in this roundup is totally and completely, no-strings-attached freeeeee!

1) Framed Goals Printable from 4MulaFun

4MulaFun is offering these adorable "Goals4All" free printables over at her blog. I love how versatile these are - you can use them in your classroom or at home! There are 4 different colors/designs and they are all super cute. Perfect to pop into a frame or laminate to use over and over. Click the pic to check them out!

2) Order Up! Spelling Patterns from Mr. Hughes

Mr. Hughes has a new line of products in his store called "Order Up!" and they are awesome. Reviewing spelling patterns can be a drag, but Mr. Hughes' interactive game makes it so much fun! Students will snip apart the Order Up strips and arrange them in the correct sequence on their work mats. Such an easy and useful center activity - and my favorite part is that it is self-checking! Click the pic to download it for free at TpT:

3) Math Common Core State Standards 3-5 Checklists from Miss Math Dork

Miss Math Dork's free CCSS Checklists are a MUST HAVE for any teacher currently using or preparing to transition to Common Core. These checklists will help you track when you teach each standard, as well as when each student has mastered each standard. You will want to have these on hand for the start of the next school year to stay organized in your data collection! Click the pic to check them out and download them for free at TpT:

4) Descriptive Adjective Match from the Peanut Gallery

I love this resource for teaching kids to use vivid vocabulary. Students must match each descriptive adjective to its synonym. Then, they use a color code to cross out the adjective in the word bank. I know in my classroom, one of the easiest ways to keep my kiddos happy is to tell them they get to bust out the colored pencils. I love kids...they appreciate the little things. :) Click the pic to download a copy free at TpT:

5) DIY Reading Calendars from Blair Turner

One day, after forgetting to send in for copies of my monthly reading calendars, I had my kids create their own "bingo" style boards and the DIY Reading Calendar was born. :) I love these because kids get to brainstorm their own fun reading activities and are way more motivated to actually read at home. This is a great way to get students to take ownership of their reading - much more fun than just filling out a standard reading log. Click the link to download them for free via my blog, One Lesson at a Time:

6) Mixed Operations Word Problems Grades 4-5 from Fourth Grade Studio

These word problems from Fourth Grade Studio are a great resource for 4th and 5th grade teachers! I love finding ready-to-go word problems. Some great things about this freebie: it's Common Core aligned, the problems are presented in 3 different ways, AND there's even a rubric included! Click the pic to download it from TpT:

7) Math Common Core Addition Rounding Inverse Paleontologist Performance Task Slice from 2 Brainy Apples

My school did a ton of training with Understanding by Design (UbD) this year, so I was really excited to find this great performance task from 2 Brainy Apples. This is a great resource to assess rounding in a meaningful, real-world context. Students will take on the role of interns going on an excavation trip.  This task is Common Core aligned and is designed using the GRASPS model. Click the pic to download it free at TpT:

8) Dice Games - Reading and Language Arts by Common Core and So Much More

This is a set of super-fun dice games to work on reading and language skills. Included are games to work on spelling, dictionary and thesaurus skills, and reading fiction and non-fiction. Such fun and easy center activities! Click the pic to download them free from TpT:

9) Task Cards Frames and Borders Template by Amy Alvis

Amy Alvis's task card templates make creating task cards a snap. I use them in all of my task card products. :) This template has 4 pre-made task cards to fit an 8.5 x 11 inch page. It's super easy to layer on top of cute backgrounds, or leave blank and just fill with problems or text/clip art. Click the pic to get it for free on TpT:

10) Drawing Inferences Printable Bookmarks and Worksheet from Jen Bengel

I love these adorable drawing inferences bookmarks and worksheet from Jen Bengel. This is a great tool to assess student understanding. They can be used during independent reading time, as well as guided reading or center work. Click the pic to download them free at TpT:

11) Back To School: Pre-Teen Style from Jennifer Findley

This packet of back to school activities is perfect for the upper elementary crowd. A great, ready-to-go resource to save you time as you prepare your classroom for the upcoming school year. Included are handouts for class rules/policies/procedures, along with fun activities to help students get to know their classmates. Click the pic to download your copy:

12) My Summer in Tweets by Right Down the Middle with Andrea

This back to school resource will immediately make you cooler in the eyes of your upper elementary students. Get students excited to share their summer experiences with their new classmates by asking them to tweet about it! Click the pic to download it free:

13) Teacher's Back to School To-Do List from Amber Thomas

Get yourself organized for the new school year with Amber Thomas's Back to School To-Do List. The start of a new school year can be so overwhelming, even for a veteran teacher, so this categorized list of what needs to get done is a must download. Click the pic to grab it for free:

14) Writing Feedback Notes from Yearn to Learn

These writing feedback notes are a great way to get organized before launching your writing workshop. These brief notes for editing meaning and content, grammar, punctuation, and penmanship can be written to help guide revisions. Click the pic to download them free at TpT:

Whew! That's a whole lot of free. There are tons more freebies at each ATUE collaborator's TpT store and blog! We hope you'll check them out and find some great new resources to help you as you prepare to enter a new school year. Have a great week!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Classroom changes.....

Ahhhhh summer! A time to rest, relax, gain back some sanity.... over think all the things you need to do for NEXT year!  YIKES!! Yes, I'm not even a week out of school and I'm already stressing out over moving my classroom.  The last weeks of school were pretty hectic and room assignments for next year were given out rather last minute.  So.... this is what my current classroom now looks like...
I'm panicking a little on the inside just LOOKING at this picture! UGH! Anyway, this got me thinking, new room.... let's make some changes - ORGANIZATIONAL changes!  When it comes to organizing files on the computer, I am a ROCK STAR!  I have folders in folders in folders in folders and can tell you where every last piece of information can be found.  When it comes to my classroom and organizing not only my own stuff, but the math department stuff, and the resource stuff, and 4 grade levels worth of kiddo and teacher stuff.....well, let's just say I'm not exactly rocking out!  

I don't know about you, but when I need help with anything anymore I turn to pinterest!  Here are some fun organizational pieces that I have found on there!  None of these ideas are my own.  However, if you click on the picture, it will take you to pinterest where you can repin, and follow the original link :)
With 40 different kiddos at 4 different times of the day and 2 computer programs, this would have been SUPER handy!  I am in the process of making these really cool Log in cards for my kiddos for next year!
This one seemed like such a no-brainer to me, and yet, I have piles of paper all around that get mushed up when kiddos choose their color.  I will DEFINITELY be using this one next year!
Absolutely LOVE this idea.... pinned it last year and just haven't gotten around to it.  With the way I want to do station this year, this is a MUST!! Binder plus 3M hangy tags = super cheap and super easy.  I may do this with task cards too!
I have 3 of these bags that were given to me as gifts.  LOVE the idea of putting files in them.. 
May just need to make a trip to IKEA or the Container Store! Hmm.... and I need a color theme!
Again, with the way I am doing stations this year, and having computers as part of the rotation, THIS project will DEFINITELY be apart of my classroom.

As many various cards decks and games that I have... I absolutely LOVE this idea.  I will definitely be stopping by the Dollar store over the summer (btw Dollar tree, family dollar, big lots, etc.... all have AMAZING deals on organizational stuff!)
This is such a simple, yet adorable idea for bulletin boards - cheap too!  
I did take the plunge and make myself a planner this year.... I'm forcing myself to use it too! So far so good!
Okay, I'm feeling a little less stressed about my room now.  I'm sure you will hear all about my organizational transformation (HEY! A girl can dream!) this summer.   Oh, and check back in two weeks when I offer up some CCSS organizational help for each of you!  Tons of great time-savers to be shared!

Help a girl out! What are some of your favorite ways to organize?  Leave a comment below with a pin that you have tried or want to try  OR a great idea that you have used in the past! This girl can use all the help she can get!

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Problem Solving

We usually spend the last week of school doing nothing but problem solving activities during our math time. One of my favorite activities to do with my 6th graders is called Paper Pool which can be found on the Illuminations website. The students would spend a whole week on this project if I let them. 

I start by going through THIS worksheet, which explains the activity.

We go through both examples so that they understand exactly what the rules are.  Usually about half of the students have trouble understanding how to draw the lines (they have to be corner to corner), so I usually have to spend time working with them. If I'm lucky, the partner they have chosen understands and can show them how to do it. Once everyone understands how the "ball" moves on the board, they try different size rectangles.

When the students see a pattern, they write the "rule" on the board (they have to have found at least 3 rectangles that fit their rule to write it on the board).  

The next day, we test the "rules".  Every group takes a different rectangle that fits the rule to test it.  If it passes the test for all rectangles tested, it goes on the proven rules list. We had approximately 25 rules when we started and it went down to only 7 after testing each one.  I then wrote down whether each number was odd or even and we narrowed our rules down even further.

I do the "Crossing the River" problem with my 5th graders which came from Fostering Algebraic Thinking by Mark Driscoll (new on Amazon for $19.99 or used for $12.78). I did find the activity on-line HERE. The book is geared for 6-10 grade, but we used it in a class I took that was filled with elementary teachers.  We were able to easily adapt most of the problems.

The goal of the activity is to get 2 children and 8 adults across the river with only one boat. The rules for crossing are the following: one adult, one child or 2 children in a boat. You can NOT have one child and one adult in the boat at the same time. The students have to figure out the least amount to trips it takes to get across the river. Eventually they figure out an equation to figure out how many trips for any number of children and adults.

What are some of your favorite problem solving activities to do with your students?  I'm always looking for new activities and would love for you to share you favorites with us.

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