Friday, March 29, 2013

Fish Bowling

Is writing a friend or foe in your classroom? Here we're suppose to "write across the curriculum", but I mean in actual writing classes. Do you use a writer's workshop format? Student teaching and subbing I have loved fish bowling. It gets hard to read 20-30+ rough papers 3-5+ times. If you have never done fish bowling, when your students have completed their rough draft, you place them in groups of 4-6. The first time you do it with your class, you should should guide each group through it. Once they understand it you can place the groups together (different or same groups) and only work with 1-2 and let your stronger students run the group themselves.

Once the group is formed, everyone will take turns reading aloud their writings. You can choose to have your students read their own writing or to have them swap papers and read a classmate's paper. When they swap and have to read it aloud the classmate reading it tends to catch spelling and grammatical errors. It's completely up to you though. After each paper has been read, students go around the circle and comment on something they liked about the paper. Then they go back around the circle and comment on something they think could be improved. We call these our "stars" and our "wishes".

I really love this format because each student gets a lot of feedback from their peers and it really doesn't take a long time to do it.

So tell us, is writing a friend or foe? Have you ever fish bowled? Or what do you do?


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Picture Walk Drawings

Hey guys! It sure has been a crazy week around here for us but its time for Through Time and Space Thursday! This week we are focusing on Social Studies.
I have been thinking about some of my favorite activities I have done for social studies lessons. One that has stood out for me is an activity that can be used for most history topics in social studies. I enjoy doing a picture walk with students. This is where I use chart paper and markers and draw pictures as I give facts as if I am telling a story. It is a great way to introduce a certain event. I used it last year while student teaching. I discussed the beginning of WWII and how the US became involved in the war. I "told the story" about the Axis and Allied Powers and ended with Pearl Harbor and the US entering the war. The students enjoyed listening because I was drawing pictures to illustrate what I was discussing I also wrote little facts on my paper as well. My paper remained on the wall as we explored the events in more detail. The students often referred to what we talked about during the picture walk. I enjoyed doing this activity with them and I think it could be used to cover most events in history.

Has anyone done an activity similar to this? What are some ways that you enjoy teaching social studies/history?


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Podcasts pt.4: Blogs & Wiki

What Steph has to say:
I love blogs! I have always enjoyed posting to and reading blogs, even the old Myspace and Live Journal kind when I was younger in school. Blogs in the classroom sound like an amazing opportunity to have your students write (about anything, whether it's a teacher given topic or individually chosen topic). It gives those students who "hate" writing but LOVE being on the computer a new medium to write on.

Yes, blogs are more informal and should not be your only medium for writing in the classroom, but it opens so many doors. Students could comment on classmate's blog posts and so can the teacher. Depending on the nature of the post it could be discussions with thoughts and feelings about the post or it could be constructive criticism for a piece that is to be published in another medium.

I love having this blog. I hope to someday have my students write blogs, like writing journals. I would also like to have a blog "writing journal" with my students. I even love the idea of having a blog to share things we do in our classroom and communicate with the students' family at home.

What Manda has to say:
In my podcast I discussed Wiki Spaces and the ways they could be used in a classroom. As a teacher I would love to have a space for students and their parents to access info about my class from home. I would love to have that available for parents to stay involved in what their kids are doing. I would use it to communicate with parents as well as post reminders of upcoming school events. I would also love for my students to make their own wiki and use it for assignments and communication with classmates. I think it is important to give students the chances to work with technology since it is such a huge part of our world.

Do you use wikispaces in your classroom? Do you use a website or blog to communicate with parents?

~Steph & Manda

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

School Support Staff

Not sure how all of you feel about your school's support staff, but I love the staff at SCE (where I sub). The custodians and lunch room staff are great! And if you've never been told this before, these are definitely people you want to get in nice with! If you're in good with these staff members, you can get anything.

Well we just found out that the custodians in our county may lose their jobs this year. Part of the budget cut for the county is to cut these jobs and bring in a third party company to clean these schools. I know that a few surrounding districts have done this and it works well in means of the budget, but what about the people?

Maybe it puts more money in the schools, but doesn't it take money out of the community? These people (mostly elderly) are being put out of jobs...

Does your school/district still have employees for these support staff positions or a third party company?


Monday, March 25, 2013

Money, Money, Money

This past week one my groups of 2nd grade kiddos focused on money. We worked in centers (something new for them in this class). They really enjoyed doing these centers and I liked how well they ran too!

Here's the centers I used:
Click on the image to download from each TpT store!

This is a lesson I created and used two years ago, but I still really like it! The students completed two of the worksheets independently. Then I led a guided center with the cards, baggies of coins, and other worksheets. While this can be done independently by higher performing students, I find it is best to work with the students in a guided small group. 

This is from Carrie's Creations. I filled 12 plastic eggs with different amounts of coins and placed them in an Easter basket. The kiddos enjoyed getting to open the eggs and count the coins.

This is from Christie Uribe. I placed various coupons in a baggie. My students chose one coupon each and then they were to show 3 different ways to make the amount shown on the coupon.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Earth Science

Hey everyone it is time for Through Time and Space Thursday and this week we are going to focus on Earth Science. What kind of Earth Science topics do your students have to learn? Earth Science is a hard concept for many students to understand. It is a hard to think about the planet we live on and all the things inside it and all the things happening on it.

When my 5th grade students had to learn many Earth Science topics last year we decided to create centers for the students to learn these concepts with a hands-on approach. We also wanted students to make a PowerPoint presentation of the concepts they were learning to present to the class at the end of the unit. These centers covered topics like earthquakes, volcanoes, erosion, weathering, constructive and deconstructive processes, sand dunes, and deltas. It was a two week long unit. It was not an easy task to pull off but we had the 3 teachers in the room at the time. It was really a great unit and the students enjoyed learning about Earth science.

For more information about our Earth Science centers take a look at our Earth Science Packet at our TpT store. (Coming soon...we'll update this post as soon as it's posted!)


Podcast pt.3: Digital/Video Cameras & Computers

Here's our Thursday edition of Tech Wiz Wednesday. Sorry it's a day late, life caught up with us. Trying to transition back into routine has proved to make for a tough routine! 

Our Tech Wiz Wednesday this week is part 3 of our Podcast series. This week we're going to focus digital and video cameras and computers. If you missed the first week's post head on over to read about (and hear) our Podcasts.

What Steph has to say...
Cameras have so many great uses in the classroom. Students can use digital cameras to collect data, evidence, and material for research projects. Teachers can use digital cameras to document student progress. Of course it's always fun to have lots of pictures of your kiddos too! Video cameras are great for filming skits, commercials, and other presentations. This is another great medium for student presentations.

What Manda has to say...
On my podcast I start off by talking about Computers and their importance in a classroom. As teachers we all know how beneficial computers can be. They are a great way to get students exploring their own questions and I want students to be able to tell their classmates about what they find. It is important to have computers for students in a classroom. Computers have become such a part of everyday life I think it is important for students to have access to them at school. Teachers can use computers in so many ways. Whether students are researching, typing, or even taking assessments the computers are a great technology to have in a classroom. What is your favorite things to use computers for in your classroom?

Thanks for bearing with us!

 ~Steph & Manda 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

3 Giveaways!

We're excited to announce that we will be holding 3 giveaways! When we reach each of our goals...Here are our goals...
These will be small giveaways of 1-3 products per giveaway. However, we're hoping as we grow to do even more and bigger giveaways!

We're close to all of these, closest on the blog! We're so excited to get these together!


Classroom Behavior

Today I implemented a new behavior system with my EIP kiddos. I honestly don't have a clue what kind of behavior management system the teacher used herself. I know that a few of the kiddos have clipboards that they get checked off at different parts of their day to earn a given incentive, all of which is part of their IEP. Well, I've realized in the last week that several of the kids have asked if they can have candy when they leave. So I thought I'd use candy to help reward positive behavior as well as punish negative behavior. I'm only doing this with three of my groups (a group of four 2nd graders, a group of six 2nd graders, and and group of six 3rd graders).

Here's how the plan works:
Please don't think that I'm an awful person for the bathroom thing. The reason behind it is that I only have each given group for 30-45 minutes. Several of them make a habit of going to the bathroom during their time with me. Since this is a time they are suppose to be getting extra help, I feel that is is very important that they actually be in the room for instruction. My afternoon groups are coming back from recess when they come to me, and I have asked that they be given a chance to stop by the restroom on the way in before heading to me.

Here's the rules I expect them to follow (very typical):
Here's what my sheet looks like that I keep up with their Skittles on:

The first day went well and everyone kept all of their Skittles today. I'm very excited to see how it continues to progress as time goes on.

What does your behavior system look like?


Monday, March 18, 2013


Speaking of time, I feel like the day has flown by as did our weekend! We enjoyed visiting family and meeting our beautiful niece Cady this weekend, but now it's Monday and it's back to reality.

This week we decided to talk about time. More than likely you have to cover time this year to some extent. Especially if you are in Georgia (or use Common Core). For instance, my EIP math kids are almost all working on time. My first graders are learning to read and tell time to the hour and to the half-hour on analog and digital clocks. My second graders are learning to tell and write time from analog and digital clocks to the nearest five minutes, using a.m. and p.m. Then my third graders are learning to tell and write time to the nearest minute and measure time intervals in minutes. They are also learning to solve word problems involving addition and subtraction of time intervals in minutes.

What grade level do you teach and where? Are you covering time this year? How are you helping your students learn this concept?


Friday, March 15, 2013

Writing Topics

Time for another Friend or Foe Friday. At this point in the year most teachers and students are probably feeling sick about writing another essay. We have had students write paper after paper on topic after topic. Anyone running out of good ideas for topics?

Teachers always have a few writing topics that they use year after year. Those writing topics that all your students enjoy writing about. This week I want to focus on those kind of topics. This way we can help turn those end of the year writing topics into your friend and not your foe.

I want to talk about my favorite writing topic from student teaching. We used this topic when introducing persuasive writing. In this paper students have to persuade a monster not to eat them. This topic really brought out the creativity in my students and they enjoyed writing it.
We introduced this topic with a fake news cast about a people eating monster on the loose and even showed a picture of a monster to the students. We then told the students that they were to pretend the monster came to our school and caught them. They would then write a paper about what they would say to the monster to persuasive them to not eat them. My students wrote about things like being to skinny or having a illness. I even had students trying to persuade the monster to eat the rest of the class instead. It was a fun topic that all my students loved sharing. My supervising teacher even baked a monster shaped cake at the end of the week and the students got to eat the monster instead of it eating them. It was so much fun and the students loved it.

Your turn! Tell me about some of your favorite writing topics


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Social Studies

Hello Friends! It is time for Through Time & Space Thursday! We thought we would turn the focus to Social Studies since we focused on Science last week. I usually try to focus on a certain activity but this week I just want to discuss the subject itself. 

I have really found a passion teaching Social Studies and I think that is hilarious considering it was my least favorite subject when I was going through elementary school. I always felt that Social Studies meant that it was time to take out a book, write some notes, and answer some questions. Did anyone else feel this way in school?? Although when it came time to plan lessons to teach to my students I wanted it to be fun and engaging. I feel like I learned more social studies in my college years trying to teach it than I ever did when I was in school. I had a blast teaching Social Studies to my fifth graders last year and I really feel like they had fun learning it. My class was so passionate about the topics we covered and I feel like my enthusiasm helped them want to learn what we had to go over. I feel like it was completely different when I was in 5th grade. Instead of sitting in our seats with a book reading, writing notes, and answering questions, my students were up moving around the room. It was as if we had to act out the events in history that we were learning about. We did everything from building a “Hooverville” to recreating the Berlin Airlift. I was amazed at how much fun Social Studies could be and I can’t wait to have my own classroom to teach some of those lessons again.

How do you feel about Social Studies? Do you feel differently about it as a teacher than you did as a student? What are some lessons that you will never forget? 


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Podcasts pt.2: Tablets, iPads, and Smartphones

It's Wednesday!! We're super excited it's already Wednesday because tomorrow we leave for Pensacola, FL to see our beautiful niece Cadence (Cady-bug) who was born March 5th!
Meet Cady-bug!

Steph also started her long term subbing today!! It's a very exciting week around here! 

On to what you came for...Our Tech Wiz Wednesday this week is part 2 of our Podcast series. This week we're going to focus on tablets, iPads, and smartphones (in the classroom, of course). If you missed last week's post head on over to read about (and hear) our Podcasts.

What Steph has to say...

As I mentioned in my podcast, I feel like we could turn the whole ban against cell phones around and use them to our advantage. We used Poll Everywhere in college classes, and I think it could be very useful and engaging for students. Poll Everywhere doesn't need a smartphone just a plain cell phone with text capability. When it comes to smartphones, there are so many free apps out there for all platforms.

But like I said not all your students will have cell phones/smartphones. So for portable connectivity tablets are great!

Now of course while having a 1:1 ratio of tablets to students would be a dream come true it's just not likely. The school where I'm subbing has purchased iPads for the classrooms. In the younger grades there's one per class (for the teacher mostly) and in the older grades there's 4-5 per class. Another dream would be to have 3G/4G connectivity (with the 1:1 ratio), so that like some school districts who pass out laptops like text books, schools could pass out tablets/iPads and students could have connectivity everywhere they go. This would mean all students would have access to the internet at home! An expensive dream...

Our school district is actually allowing students to bring technology devices from home (with a contract signed by teacher, parent, and student). Having any access to tablets/iPads is great in the classroom for so many reasons though. There are so many free apps you can use. These devices open so many doors in the classroom!

What Manda has to say...

In my podcast I talked about iPads and how useful they could be in a Science class. I also want to discuss how they can be used in any content area. iPads are a great classroom tool for students at any age. The greatest thing is their portability. Students can use them at their desk, in the floor, or even outside the classroom. If you were able to have one for each student you would not be confined to a classroom. I also discussed how great it would be to have a classroom blog. This would be great to have discussions with other people. A classroom blog could help with your students working together or it could allow them to work with people that are far away. I think that these would be an excellent technology advancement in any classroom. 

~Steph & Manda

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Routines and Procedures

Happy Tuesday friends! Let's talk...

Are your littles still following the daily routines and procedures? Do you believe it's important to have routines and procedures at all grade levels?

I know this time of year it can start getting wonky (Is that a word?) when it comes to students following procedures and behavior management. There's just so much going on. I've subbed in one class regularly that just doesn't seem to have procedures/routines. It's a first grade class, and they are a very diverse little group. I love them to death, but sometimes they make me want to pull my hair out! They come in and act like they have no idea what to do. They are the same way much throughout the day with different daily routines (exploratory, lunch, recess, etc). The first couple of times I subbed for this class, I thought it was just because I was a sub and they wanted to test me. However, I have subbed as the Special Ed teacher that goes in that class, and they behave the same way with their teacher in the room! I just don't get it!

How do you feel about routines and procedures? Have you found something that works year after year? Or do you find yourself changing things up part way through the year?


Math Challenge Review Pack

 Hey everyone it is the start of a new week and time for our second Maniac Math Monday! We have been working really hard on a project we would like to share with everyone this week. As we all know the end of the year can be very stressful for students and teachers with all the end of the year assessments. We have made a packet that serves as a way to review with your students and also allows teachers to see what areas the students are struggling with. We even used it in the place of weekly homework. It is a very useful tool to alleviate some of that end of the year stress.

We call this math packet the “Math Challenge” and it is aligned with the Georgia 5th grade Math Common Core Standards. It covers many of the topics that are covered throughout the year. It includes daily practice as well as weekly projects. It is designed to take 4 weeks to complete but can be graded weekly in order to assess how students are doing. 

We have posted the full "Math Challenge" in our TpT store and we also have a free preview for everyone to check out. Lets us know what you think!

What are some ways you like to prepare your students for their end of the year assessments? Do you think a challenge like this could be beneficial for your students? 

~Steph & Manda

Friday, March 8, 2013

Figurative Language

Time for Friend of Foe Friday! This weeks topic is figurative language. Is this your friend or foe when it comes to teaching it in a classroom full of students? The 5th grade class that I student taught in last year found it confusing and frustrating. My supervising teacher and I decided to make a figurative language unit that would teach figurative language and poetry but also be fun for the students. We decided to cover different kinds of poetry for two weeks. We chose types of poetry that the students could enjoy and were easy to follow. We would discuss the type of poem and the figurative language that was associated with that type of poetry for a few days. Then the students would write their own poem like the one we talked about. At the end of the two weeks the students would have several types of poems that they had written. Students that worked hard on their poems would be able to participate in a “Poetry Café”. This would be a time for each student to share their poems to the class. We even made a stage and plugged up a microphone. The students really enjoyed sharing their poems as well as hearing the other student’s poems. I found that students understood poetry and figurative language more by writing their own and also by hearing how their classmates used the figurative language in their poems.  

Our focuses during this unit were:
Onomatopoeia – Onomatopoeia Poems
Rhyme Scheme – “My Favorite Things” Poems
Imagery – “Color of Love” Poems

For more information on these activities please view my resources at our TpT store.

During this week we also discussed metaphors, similes, refrains, and stanzas. Even though we did not have a poem that focused on these figurative language elements this unit is a great place to discuss these other elements of figurative language. We also used a PowerPoint as the beginning of the unit. We used movie clips, commercials, and song lyrics that the students were familiar with that included different figurative language elements that we would be discussing. A PowerPoint with examples is a great way to introduce these elements to your students. What have you used to introduce these elements? Have you ever done an activity similar to the “Poetry café”? Let us know if figurative language has been your friend or foe?