Sometimes, it's easy to get in a bit of a rut with student responses to reading.  I do see lots of value in Post-it notes and reading response journals.  I also see lots of value in trying different response modes.  I have blogged about how I use Padlet as an alternative way for students to respond to reading, and that works great in my classroom!  I recently tried using Flipgrid for partner responses to reading.  If you are looking for a motivator to up your engagement for reading responses, this is a great option.  Flipgrid is a FREE video service that Microsoft offers to educators.  There are a few kinks to work out for future use in my classroom, but overall it was a huge success!

Flipgrid is an excellent way for students to record video responses to reading.

The goal for this activity was to get students to talk more in depth about their topic, using a graphic organizer as a guide.  As with all new activities, I knew I would have to provide a model, so I filled out this graphic organizer ahead of time based on the book Tigers by Laura Marsh.

Tigers is a great nonfiction mentor text for thinking about reading.

Next, I recorded my response.  I added a few extras in addition to what I had written on my paper.  You can watch my video by clicking here.

After students saw my video, we worked together to create a list of rules and procedures for this type of response.  We discussed possible problems and how to avoid them.  Here is what we came up with.  

Expectations for recording video responses to reading.

When students finished completing their organizers, they had to checked by a teacher.  (I am very fortunate to have a fantastic Intervention Specialist teach with me during this block.)  Once the organizer was approved, students rehearsed and recorded their videos.  Despite a few minor technical difficulties (which are always to be expected when trying something new), students were able to record their video responses.  At the end of the recording, students were prompted to take a selfie.

After I listened to the videos, we had some follow up discussion on voice level, background noise, and elaboration, I allowed students to rerecord their responses if needed, keeping the rules we had established in mind.  They did a fantastic job!

Next, students took turns listening to responses recorded by their reading partner.  I love how this program allows students to record a video response.  Before recording feedback, we reviewed the list of sentence starters below.  I also printed this slide out (four to a page) so students would have a mini chart to keep with them when we do this activity in the future.

Providing specific feedback to a classmate's video response to reading.

I found this activity to be highly motivating.  Students knew that they needed quality written responses prior to making their video.  I was very pleased with the thought that went into their responses.  They loved being able to take a selfie holding their books at the end!  (There are options to decorate the selfie.  I disabled them for this first round, but I am going to let them play around with those next time.)

If you are interested in using the graphic organizer I made for this activity, you can download it here or by clicking on the picture below.

This graphic organizer is a great way for students to share what they learned as well as what they think about their reading.  Bonus: It's free!

Have you tried Flipgrid in your classroom?  I'd love to hear how you are using this awesome resource!

Thank you!

I always love it when I can find a way to add a little more fun into my classroom.  I like it even better if the way is free!  I found an awesome set of randomizers here.  Today I'd like to share some ways I use this great site in my classroom.

This post shares some great ways to use a (FREE) set of random generators.

There are currently 22 different randomizers on the site.  Here is a sample of how I am using them.

There are a variety of different name pickers you can use.  I selected the one below and filled in values that were +/- multiples of 10/100.  I can assign students a number to write on their dry erase boards.  Next, I tap the SMART Board, and the second part of their equation appears.

Use this free randomizer to generate problems using multiples of 10/100.

I love the random dice option.  You can choose between one and ten dice to roll at once.  This works great for differentiating when you are doing activities like number strings.  After sharing the site with students, they can choose (or you assign) the number of dice to roll and add.

Choose up to 10 dice to role for a variety of fun classroom activities.

I used the random spinner when we were working on action verbs.  I added a variety of different animals on the spinner.  (You can add as many as you want.)  Students spin the wheel, and then they have one minute to brainstorm as many action verbs as they can to go with the animal.

I like putting animals names on this random spinner.  After students spin, they need to list as many related action verbs as they can in one minute.

The claw machine is one of my students' favorites.  I used this one when we were practicing possessive nouns.  The claw grabs a noun, and the students write a sentence using the noun in a possessive form.

Randomly select nouns with this claw machine.  The students will need to use the possessive form of the noun in a sentence.

These pickers could easily replace or enhance the "picking sticks" system.  I like that there is an option to remove words/numbers as you go.  You can also save the link the for each set.  This helps to keep different turn taking systems organized.

I also thought about using these in some whole class games.  I might make it so the amount of points earned is random.  You could also use these for rewards or the type of party the class earns.  There are so many possibilities!  

***There is a paid version to this site which I will likely purchase if I continue to use the site as frequently as I do now.  My understanding is that the upgrade gets rid of all the ads and allows you to organize your randomizers on the site for easy access.  It is only $12 a year, so I'm seriously considering it.  In the meantime, I'm going to continue to enjoy the free version.

I'd love to hear your ideas on how to use this great site.  Please feel free to share below.

This post shares some great ways to use a (FREE) set of random generators.

Thank you!
We recently finished our writing unit on personal narratives.  As with all of my units, I like to take a little time to reflect on what went well, as well as what I would like to do differently.  Today I'd like to share my thoughts and strategies on narrative leads.  We spent quite a bit of time discussing how to compose narrative leads that hook readers.  Overall, I was very pleased with the leads my students used for their narratives.

First, I went back and talked about the leads in several of our past read alouds.  I have used a variety of narratives mentor texts over the years.  The image below shows three of my all time favorites: Thundercake, Bigmama's, and Shortcut.

Mentor texts with strong narrative leads

After going over these leads, we discussed the different strategies authors used to hook their readers.  I gave my students the list below to glue in their notebooks and to use as a reference.   (You can download a copy here.)

These great charts for writing strong leads are perfect for interactive notebooks!  They are a free download on this post.

I also gave them this list to play "Name that Lead".  

Students practice identifying strong narrative leads.  This activity is a free download.

I made two copies of each of the leads below and placed them in various spots around the room.  Students worked with their writing partners to discuss and name the strategy for each lead.  Students placed the number of the lead next to each strategy on the recording sheet above.  Then, I displayed the leads on the SMART Board, and we had a discussion about the different types of leads.  Students weren't always in agreement, but that's okay.  The purpose of this activity was to expose students to the different types of leads and encourage them to apply the strategies to their own personal narratives.  I was not super rigid on coming to a whole class consensus on each lead.  

You can download a copy of "Name that Lead" here.

We will continue to address composing strong leads as we write different genres throughout the year.  One of the things I like best about teaching second grade is the huge growth that I see in my students as writers.  I am looking forward to seeing how they take what we have learned and apply it to future writings. 

I would love to know if you have a favorite mentor text for teaching narrative leads.  I am always on the lookout for great books!

Great resources to help your students compose strong narrative leads!

Thank you!
The start of a new school year is just around the corner.  As I started looking through my plans for the first couple of weeks, I decided that I wanted to freshen up the books I read at the beginning of the year.  I had a Barnes and Noble gift card burning a hole in my pocket, and it was time to use it.  After a lot of browsing, I found three great books that I'd like to share with you today.

These three books are perfect for back to school read alouds!

Neck & Neck, by Elise Parsley, is the story of a giraffe named Leopold who is very used to getting plenty of attention at the zoo.  That is, until one day when a boy brings a giraffe balloon and argues why the balloon is better than the live giraffe.  Jealousy gets the best of him, and the giraffe pops the little boy's balloon.  However, the boy returns with a whole bunch of giraffe balloons, clearly getting on the giraffe's last nerve.  The boy eventually looses control of the balloons, and the giraffe has to make a decision.  It's a tough choice, as you can see from the picture below.

Neck & Neck is a great book about making decisions and dealing with jealousy.  It makes a great read aloud for the beginning of the year!
This is such a great book to read at the beginning of the year when focusing on kindness, decision making and/or dealing with feelings like jealousy.  I'm planning on having students do several turn and talks, especially about empathizing with the giraffe and giving him some advice when he has to make the decision.

Neck & Neck is a great book about making decisions and dealing with jealousy.  It makes a great read aloud for the beginning of the year!

I can't say enough good things about Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty.  This is the story of young girl who was bursting with questions.  She wants to know how and why everything works the way it does.  Although her curiosity exhausts her parents and teacher at times, it's highly encouraged.  I just love how her questions keep growing and getting deeper as Ada gets older.  Ada's never-ending perseverance to find answers to her questions is sure to be an inspiration for students to ask questions and foster their own curiosity.

Ada Twist, Scientist shows how scientist are always asking questions.  It's a great book to encourage questions and promote a positive attitude toward science.
This is the perfect book to read during our first science class.  I especially love how the main character is female, busting the (hopefully shrinking) stereotypes about the talents that boys and girls "should" possess.  Asking questions is such an important skill in any subject and in life.  Any book that encourages this in such an entertaining way definitely becomes an instant favorite to me!

Ada Twist, Scientist shows how scientist are always asking questions.  It's a great book to encourage questions and promote a positive attitude toward science.

Perfectly Norman, by Tom Percival, is a great story about having the courage to be yourself.  Norman is a very "normal" boy until the day he grew a pair of wings.  Norman instantly loved his wings, flying all over the place.  Shortly after growing his wings, however, Norman realized how different he was.  He became worried about what other people might think.  To solve this problem, Norman decided to cover his wings with his coat, which made him miserable.  I love how Norman eventually realized that he was responsible for feeling miserable, not the wings.

In Perfectly Norman, Norman learns a big lesson about being responsible for his own happiness.
This book could lead some great discussions about finding and sharing your talents or aspects that make you unique.  This will be one of the first books I read at the beginning of the year because it is the perfect lead in to get students talking about sharing their talents, and accepting others even though their talents and interests may be completely different.

In Perfectly Norman, Norman learns a big lesson about being responsible for his own happiness.

What books are you most excited about right now?  I'm always looking for new titles, so please share.

Thank you!
It seems like feelings toward challenging math problems tend to lean toward extremes.  Students either really enjoy them or they really don't.  Many of my goals for this year revolve around math, including helping students stay motivated, even when the problems get tough.  I'm working toward having a math class where students take on challenges with optimism and enthusiasm.

Today, I'd like to share some strategies I read about regarding conferring with students when they are stuck and aren't sure where to start.

Strategies for math conferences when students are stuck

The focus of my professional reading this summer has been on helping students overcome obstacles when tackling tough math problems.  This year, I am going to model my approach to math conferences based on Catherine Fosnot's awesome book, Conferring with Young Mathematicians at Work.  You can read more about this book on my post here.

I plan to start off the year with some discussion on appreciating and valuing math struggles.  Fosnot suggests using quotes from mathematicians to lead discussions on the value of "being stuck".  I hope that some of these quotes will bring an understanding that even famous mathematicians get stuck.  In fact, that's what keeps them going!

I created the poster below, and I plan on posting in on my wall where I have problem solving strategies.  If you'd like a copy, you can download it here.  You can find some more great quotes here.

Free poster to promote taking on challenges

In addition to whole group conversations, I want to carry out this love for a challenge to my conferences.  I definitely plan on using Fosnot's suggestions for conferring with students who are stuck.  Below is a list of some of my favorite ideas from that chapter.

Strategies for Conferring with Students who are Stuck
*Agree that the problem is challenging.  This will help students view the teacher as part of the learning community.
*Remind students about of earlier conversations about how even famous mathematicians struggle.
*Focus on questioning for strategies over leading students to the correct answer.  These questions include ones like, "Does this problem remind you of a similar problem?"  Another open-ended question is, "What resources might help you solve this problem?"  My focus for these students will be to just get them started, whether that's with numbers, words, or pictures.
*Acknowledge and celebrate any math that was done correctly.
*If the process seems to be going well, but the answer is incorrect, try saying something like, "Let's make sure that we got that correct."  Focus on the process.
*Review strategies from the beginning of the year.  (I made a presentation slide with a list of strategies.  You can see it below and download it here.)

Strategies for moving forward when students are stuck on a math problem

One more key idea to help students get through any roadblocks they have in math is to help them maintain a growth mindset.  This is something I will promote across the entire school day (and beyond).  I am  placing another poster on my math board to remind students that it's not only okay to make a mistake, but it's a very positive thing!  (You can download the poster here if you wish.)

Free Growth Mindset Poster

I will keep you posted on how these strategies are working.  Right now, I am going to continue my reading and resource gathering.  We just have 2 1/2 short weeks of summer left, so I'm definitely in "back to school mode".

This posts shares strategies for math conferences when students are stuck.

Thank you!
I hope everyone is having a great summer!  If you're like me, thoughts are starting to swirl around in your head for the next school year.  (We go back early - 8/13.)  Today I would like to share a great book I read this summer about math conferences.  I like how I've done my conferences in the past, but I know they should be better.  With that said, let's get to it!

Maximizing Math Conferences

The book is called Conferring with Young Mathematicians at Work, and it is awesome!  The book covers general topics such as comparing writing conferences to math conferences as well as specific topics like conferring to develop an understanding of fractions.  

At the end of each chapter, there is a QR code, so you can see the concepts put into action.  For example, after reading the section on what to do when students are stuck, I watched this video.  The combination of reading and watching helped bring the concepts to life, and I immediately found actionable steps I could take to improve my own conferences.

An awesome mentor text for math conferences - includes links to videos with conferences in action

Key Points
While I read the book, I took notes of ideas, things I was doing right, and steps I could take to improve my math conferences.  Here are a few of the key points I plan to keep in mind for next year.
*Focus my talk on questioning over just getting students to the correct answer.
*Make sure conference questions are open-ended.
*Enrich by having students go beyond showing their work and have them defend their answers.
*Challenge students to justify each step in the process.
*Continue to compliment students on their thinking.
*Focus on the next step (no matter where students are currently).
*Use a continuum.
*Use quotes from mathematicians to encourage students to try "juicy problems".  Hard=Fun!
*Continue to reinforce a growth mindset.

***My plan for future posts is to go more in depth with how I plan to implement some of the key points from my reading.  I will share any related resources with you as I create them.

Thank you!
Happy summer everyone!  (Or maybe almost summer to some)  We finished at the end of May, and I have been using my time to catch up on some things that I was not able to get to during the craziness that comes at the end of the school year.  It's nice to have time to refresh and get some new ideas.  One of my favorite places to get new ideas is Pinterest.  As I was looking through my feed last week, I got inspired to create an activity for my students to practice gratitude.

Expressing gratitude is a practice that I try to implement daily.  I know that feel happier since I've started doing this, and I would love to promote it more with my students this school year.  When I found this pin from Teach Beside Me I became inspired and put my own twist on this activity.

Next year, I plan on using a similar activity at the beginning of the school year to help me get to know the kids as well as getting them in the habit of practicing gratitude.

I'm going to to start with these fun erasers from Amazon.

This post shares a way to use these fun erasers to have students practice gratitude.

Students will pick an eraser at random and respond to one of these questions that will be posted on the SMART Board.

Great questions to help get to know your students.

This activity will double in a practical sense because students are constantly wearing down their erasers.  Now, they will have a backup eraser right from the start!  If you would like to download this slide, you can do so by clicking here.  After you make a copy, you can edit it however you would like.

This activity will help students practice gratitude right from the beginning of the year.

How do you have students practice gratitude?  

Thank you!

Wow!  I can't believe another school year has already come to an end.  Our last day was Thursday, and I feel like I have been going nonstop since then trying to catch up on everything that I did not have time for during the crazy end of the year period.  I made sure to find time to reflect on the school year while it is fresh in my mind.  In doing so, I came up with some things that went very well, and some clear goals for next year.

Today, I'd like to share three of my successes from the 2018-19 school year.

Three awesome teaching resources that helped make 2017-18 a successful year.

I truly believe in trying new things as an educator and as a person.  Sometimes, they work out great, and other times... not so much.  Either way, I always learn and grow.  I never want to be the person who says, "But this is the way we've always done it."

So... here are three things I tried this year that worked out very well.

I loved using the Homeroom app.  This is a great way to connect with parents about what is going on in the classroom.  It is basically like a closed Instagram account, so there are no worries about unknown people peering into your account.  If you are not familiar with Homeroom, you can read more about it here.

Parent response to this was very positive.  I would always end my posts with a question they could ask their child.  For example, if I sent a picture of students playing a math game, I would suggest that the parents ask their child about the strategy he/she used while playing the game.

Explaining the "new math" to parents can be a challenge because math has changed so much over the years.  I am very fortunate to have parents who want to work with their children and reinforce what we are working on at school.  I wanted to find a way to clearly share strategies with parents.  This year, I used Screencastify to record myself working out math problems on the SMART Board.  I shared the videos with parents, so they could see the entire process of solving the problems (including underlining the question and circling key words).  This Chrome extension was a huge help!  My only regret is not doing this earlier in the year.  I will definitely add to my video library next year.

If you'd like to read more about how I used Screencastify for math, you can read this post.

I have used for my lesson plans for several years now.  However, this was the first year that I tried out the grade book feature.  (I'm not sure when this was added.)  I love that you can add notes to a student to help you remember specific information (e.g. "Great job showing work!" or "Correct answers, but he needs to write in sentences.")  Another great feature is the ability to generate performance reports for individual students.  These come in very handy for conferences.  You can also excuse students from assignments or mark them as missing.  Planbook has great video tutorials that do way better job explaining the features than I ever could.  If you'd like to see their grade book in action, you can click here and view video number 17.  

Three awesome teaching resources that helped make 2017-18 a successful year.

Although I had a great year, there are definitely some areas I want to continue to work on next year.  Later in the week, I will share three goals I have for the 2018-19 school year and some resources I plan on using to help me accomplish my goals.

Thank you!
Hello Everyone!  During writing workshop, it can be hard to get students to break out of their comfort zone when it comes to word choice.  Today I'd like to share a new resource (and a freebie) designed to help you lead your students to choosing "just right" words for their writing.

Awesome references and activities for students to practice shades of meaning!

My newest TPT resource provides ample opportunities for your students to practice using words with subtle differences.  Here's what's included and how you can use it in your classroom to encourage growth in your students' word choice.

I created 12 alternative word list cards to use as a resource during writing workshop.  I printed mine on card stock, laminated & cut them, and then placed them on a ring.  I take this resource with me during writing conferences, so students can see some options if they need to be more specific.   You can also have your students cut out the words and place them in their writing notebooks as a reference.

Meaningful references to get your students to intentionally think about word choice

For practice and assessment of this skill, I provided eight printable activities.  Your students will enjoy ordering, illustrating, and spinning.  There is something for everyone!

Awesome no-prep activities for your students to practice words with different shades of meaning

The Shades of Meaning Spin is a great way to get your students actively engaged with alternative words.  I am offering this as a freebie.  You can download this game by clicking here or on the picture below.

Free Shades of Meaning Spin!

The activity below makes a great center.  However, there are several other ways you could use these cards in your classroom.
     *Pass out the cards to your students.  They need to find their group and stand in order of least
       intensive to most intensive.  (Great to get your students up and moving!)
     *Use the cards in a small group activity for students who need to advance their word choice.
     *Use when you have a few extra minutes: place several words on the document camera.  Students
      can say or write sentences, sketch, or act out the subtle differences in meaning.

Engaging center for your students to practice shades of meaning.

Grab all of these activities for 20% off if you purchase by the end of the day on Wednesday, April 18, 2018.  Have fun leading your class to better word choice!  You can make your purchase by clicking here or on the picture below.

Awesome references and activities for students to practice shades of meaning!

Thank you!

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