Math

Week of Inspirational Math

It has become a routine the last few years of school to start off the year with the Week of Inspirational Math. The WIM was developed by Jo Boaler and her team at Stanford University. Her site, YouCubed has countless open ended math tasks that encourage teamwork, critical thinking, and problem solving. I use her activities quite a bit throughout several units we do in 5th grade.

The WIM is made up of 5 lessons, each with a quick video to show the students. Each day there is a central theme including messages such as making mistakes are important, speed it not, visuals and tools help us learn, working with others helps us see things a new way, and confidence is key. The best thing about the WIM is that the lessons are all planned and laid out for you. They are basically idiot proof (for teachers!) which makes it such a good way to start off a busy  start to the school year. All of the activities are low floor high ceiling, which means they are approachable to all students.

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One of my favorite activities is called Four 4’s. In this task, students need to make different equations using ONLY four 4’s to make different numbers. For example 4+4+4+4=16   and 4 x 4 +4 +4= 24. They can use any operation they want, the only rule is they can only use the number 4 and they must use all four. What I love best about this activity is I get to see what operations my students are comfortable with. Some use fractions, some exponents, while some stick to addition and subtraction. Regardless of their level they can each be successful and challenged in their own way.

When my students create a new number, they write their equation on a sticky note and add it to a class chart. I keep the chart up in my room all year and when students come to me and say “Mrs. Sullivan I’m done with my work” I can point them in the direction of the Four 4’s board and they have something challenging to work on next. Anchor activities like that keep me sane in my classroom.

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The Youcubed site is free to join, and there are 3 full Week’s of Inspirational Math currently available on the site. That’s 15 lessons all planned out and ready to go to enrich your math workshops! The lessons are each broken up into grade level ranges to no matter which elementary level you teach, there is a lesson appropriate for you!

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Reading

Readbox

“I don’t have anything to read!” I hate when kids complain to me about not having anything to read. It’s not because I’m a jerk, but because it seems like no matter what I recommend they always say “naw” or “I already read that”. So, last year I started a readbox. It’s a play on redbox and it holds books that students in the class recommend. My students know that when in doubt, they can check the readbox and grab a book that their peers love. Now I will admit, I sometimes throw in a few books of my own, mainly to keep the genres, levels, and story types diverse. I want to make sure that everyone can find something they can read and enjoy. 20171010_133214

I have seen some teachers do this but with recommendation cards tucked into the books. While I think that’s a great idea, that just wouldn’t work for me. I can see myself after school picking up recommendation cards off the ground, looking for the book they go to and I just don’ have the time or energy for that. The books on the readbox speak for themselves.

Reading

Reading Workshop Notes

This is only my 4th year teaching so there are many things I still don’t feel great about. Reading workshop is one of them. As a teacher of 5th graders, reading workshop isn’t so much teaching new skills, but more like reinforcing them to utilize skills and strategies they have already learned. During our workshops, I do a quick 10 minute mini lesson, and then my kiddos are supposed to have 40 minutes of uninterrupted reading. During that time I typically go around and read with some kids, pull a few for small strategy groups like decoding or fluency, and check in 1:1 with others to make sure they are reading appropriate texts for their reading levels and making headway on their reading goals.

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In the past I have never had a system for this and to be honest, I started using some of that independent reading time to catch up on grading or to prep something for the next activity. Anyone else guilty of this? So this year I am trying something new. A reading notes notebook.

Now this took me…maybe 15 minutes to set up. I have 23 students this year, so I divided the notebook into 23 sections using tabs.

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Each student has 2 pages where I jot down something quick after I meet with them during reading workshop.

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This has really held me accountable, and it allows me to quickly see who I have and have not checked in with in a while. Plus, it looks GREAT when I sit down with colleagues or parents to discuss student progress. It is a quick and easy tool that makes this Type- B teacher appear MUCH more organized than I am.

Classroom Management

Mindset Matters

As a school we have adapted the Growth Mindset Model.  the model showcases the fixed vs the growth mindset. In a nutshell, people with a fixed mindset believe that you are born with a fixed set of skills, talent, and potential. That it’s genetic. These are the people who say things like “my mom was bad at math so I am too.” UGH! People with a growth mindset understand that with practice and perseverance, anything is achievable and our brain learns new things.

I decided to post a board in my classroom full of the fixed vs growth mindset messages to remind me of how I can positively influence my students with my words. I found many different boards on Pinterest (I certainly wasn’t going to make up my own) and settled this one.

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I mean if this board doesn’t show my Type-B teaching, idk what does. Ripped boarder, unaligned words, uneven spacing… how many of you are twitching as you read this?

I am constantly referring my students to this board when they make a fixed comment, and sometimes they even help ME change my language. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy but it really does help my students be more confident and positive. If a child thinks that they only have a certain amount of talent, they will never be self-motivated to try harder and push through a challenge. The Growth Mindset Model proves to them that regardless of their background they are capable of anything with hard work and perseverance.

Uncategorized

Lists, calendars, and post-its OH MY!

I came across these lists the other day and they made me laugh.

Ohhhh so accurate. As a Type-B teacher, I rarely have things written down. When I do, they are scratched onto post-it notes, which I usually do lose or they end up stuck to my shoe by the end of the school day. Should I buy these from Blair Turner Paper? Is it even worth it? They basically speak for themselves- my lists are for show, and they usually get lost. However I constantly find myself trying to look like a Type- A teacher just to fit in with my colleagues. Most of the other teachers at my elementary school are unbelievably organized and stress out if they don’t have every little thing planned out.  Me, not so much.

Just to make myself clear, this is not always the best approach. I cannot tell you how many times I have come into school and found out there is an assembly scheduled. I mean what do I expect when my calendar still says September and it’s October 9th. Even if I turned the page, it wouldn’t matter because I have nothing written down on my calendar to begin with. But I know what day it is, my 5th graders know what day it is, and we were still able to get shit done.