Monday, May 1, 2017

Teacher Tips for Student Engagement

Student engagement is one of the buzz words that teachers hear more and more of every single day, as we should. If our students are not engaged in the learning process, can we be sure they are learning the material we are trying to teach them? Student engagement doesn't have to always be big, flashy lessons. Engagement just means you are trying something different than you've done before and that the students are enjoying the way you are delivering the material. Novel idea, right?

One easy way that just about EVERY teacher can increase student engagement is to create props around their classroom. Our fourth graders recently finished a unit on measurement. We created a map around the classroom with trees and "pit stops" that students had to stop and measure different items. This was super easy to do and was very cost efficient. 

I used butcher paper from the teacher supply room the create a tree and a road map. The road map went around the classroom and I moved the students desks in the middle of the room. This was super easy to do! The students were shocked to walk in and see the room "transformed" into a road trip adventure! The magic of butcher paper and the movement of desks! We had another station where the students measured suit cases. 

That brings me to my next tip! One of the stations was to measure the sleeping bags. The students had to convert the measurement to both inches and feet. 

Another easy tip to raise engagement is to use a different type of materials for reading. For the same lesson, we used brochures that were free from the local travel station. I did a text feature station and added laser pointers that were a Dollar Tree find! The students had to find the text feature with the laser pointer. Some might thing, Ashley, that sounds like a classroom management nightmare! One might think, however, set your expectations and clearly state how the laser pointers are used. I did this with two classes and only took one laser pointer away. So if a student is using it incorrectly and you lay out the expectations, take it away if they break the rules. 

Another great way to increase student engagement is to put the worksheets a way and have students work out real world math problems on their desk using expo markers and counting chips.The colored chips really bring math to life for the students. Students are able to make connections and develop a deeper understanding for more difficult concepts such as multiplication and division.   In this activity, students had to practice dividing and determining if there was a remainder. While I was monitoring the students thinking, I was asking questions like "What if the problem was dividing people or a car, can you cut those in half?". I wanted my student to practice the basic skill of division, however, I wanted them to begin to think about interpreting the remainder and what it means. Even though I wasn't using a "workbook" to teach it, they still had to have a paper- pencil based assessment and these are the type of word problems we would eventually get to. I didn't want them to waste any time and wanted to have my students to start to think about these steps as soon as they started working with remainders. 

Once we moved past division, later in the year we moved into decimals, I used my handy expo markers AGAIN! In a different format though. This time, I used coins to show the students how they already used decimals in their everyday life. I wanted my students to connect to the fact that they could already apply this skill prior to the teaching, this is known as activating prior knowledge. Again, my students pulled out their expo markers and because I was using different manipulatives and in a different way, the students were still engaged in the process. Changing the way you teach in just the simplest manner can and will increase your students engagement! 

Fractions are such a difficult concept for students to grasp. Moving to a different area that students are not normally at, adding the white board, fraction bars,  and expo markers gives this student another chance to practice this skill. Students who are used to a workbook based model of instruction do well with this at the beginning of the year. This is an easy step to increase engagement at the beginning of the year. 

The last tip to increase student engagement is to transform your old board games! Students LOVE using these! In the photo below, I used a Jenga game for math facts. Another way I've used Jenga is for sight words! Students love the twist to the game and the game is so inexpensive. All you need is a label marker or dot labels and a sharpie!


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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Math Intervention in the Upper Grades

Hey friends!

Since switching to the upper grades, I wanted to take my Math Intervention for Primary grades  and bring the same concept with me.

For small groups,  our plan looks like this:  We start with a Review skill. This is a skill we've previously taught in the weeks before.  Next, we do a preview skill. This is a skill that we will teach in the next few months or so. This gives the students the chance to be exposed to the skill prior full instruction. Then, we dive into our current skill. We use our Math Intervention Binder for Fourth Grade to review, preview and teach our current skill. We just use a different section of it. There are 14 sections to this binder and it's always growing as my students needs are always changing! The teacher  pulls and sees every student. We have a para for 30 minutes and she pulls our bubble students. She uses the intervention binder as well and does a spiral review of the previous week skill. I will often have the para go back to place value, multiplication or division because those are foundational skills that students need to grasp in order to do just about anything else. Also, that's another reason why I'm constantly updating these binders because as I find new strategies that work for my students, I add them to see if they will help with your students as well! 

In this section, the students work on number sense. 
Students have multiple ways to practice "building numbers". This takes the boredom out of math. Students are engaged and ENJOY it. They look forward to this activity every day and ASK for it. WIN WIN!

We spend a lot of time practicing and reviewing place value nearly all year long! It's a big and important skill. Students have to grasp this skill in order to move into harder skills like decimals later in the year. To do this, expanded form is important. Start with the basics, and move into the larger numbers. The intervention binder is put together in building blocks. It starts smaller and works into larger numbers to allow the students to gain confidence and a strong foundation. 

In the geometry section, we work with symmetry, angles, lines, rays, points and more!

Division can be such a hassle in fourth grade. The kids get practice with partial products, the box method, traditional method, long division, base ten strategy, and more. 

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

From First to Fourth

Hi Friends! 

So, we've been SO busy the last 10 weeks that I haven't had a chance to mention all of the changes that have happened. We ended school in VA on June 20th. We packed all of our belongings up on the 21st and moved south on the 25th! We spent most of July by traveling and visiting family before we finally settled in. I started my new job on July 25th! So we had a very brief, but fun summer! I was pretty nervous about making the jump from my comfort zone (primary grades) to the big, scary world of fourth grade! We are only three eight weeks in, and can I tell you how much I LOVE THE BIG KIDS??!?!? They get my personality, they roll with the punches, and most of all, they still LOVE SCHOOL!! For some reason, I had it in my head that they do not like school past third grade! I was WRONG! They are witty, quick and just plain fun. They get my weird personality. Fourth grade is a whole new world, but man, I'm loving it so far!

Here's a peak inside my new classroom!

These activities were so great for small groups! My students practiced building numbers.

I found these jumbo post it pads at Target and we put them to use right away! We started our vocabulary maps before reading. We defined the word and discussed it's meaning. I encouraged them to point out when they come across the word in the text. During reading, if the students find the word, they would write the "example from the text". Next, the students would finish reading. After reading, they would identify a synonym and antonym of the word.

In this activity, students are using colored dominoes to build numbers. They can practice building numbers and place value skills literally everyday and develop a different number each day! 

We've had a blast so far and I'm excited to share this journey with you. Since I've not had as much time (like that exists), I've been sharing a lot on my Instagram  and Facebook pages on what we've been doing.

Since my Facebook page has grown so much, I've teamed up with my amazing friends Michelle and Fern to bring you some awesome prizes!

I will have TWO winners!
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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Crusade for Safety 2016

I can't believe only a few years ago, I shared one of the most personal and traumatic events to ever happen in my life with you. I woke up one day and heard God tell me "It's time, Ashley". He meant, it's time to do something you've always wanted to do. Use that horrific event to help someone else. I wish that this wasn't my story to tell. I wish that it never happened to me. But it did. Someone once told me that I shouldn't keep bringing this up. I find that kinda of comical, because other than on this specific type of post (Crusade for Safety), I typically do NOT bring it up. However, everytime I have a facial or switch hair dressers, I am asked "What happened to your face?". Most people tell me they have never noticed, and that might be true. I notice, every single day. I know the scars and the pain that is behind the story.

17 years ago today, my life changed. 

The purpose of my "Crusade for Safety", isn't for my therapy, it's for you. You see, I have a constant reminder about why safe driving is important. I don't want YOU to have that same reminder. Although I will probably NEVER remember the exact details, I remember enough. I know that a car full of teenagers  can not be a safe idea. I know that newly licensed drivers are 4 times more likely to be in a fatal car accident (U.S. DOT) 

If you have a moment, please take the time to talk to your kids about safe driving. A few guidelines/questions I always like to mention:
*What kind of car will your teen have? Sports car? Research the stats on teen BOYS with SPORTS CARS...the stats are not pretty. 
*How many kids will my driver have in the car?
*How far will my teenager be driving?
*Do they have a cell phone? Do they understand the importance of not texting and driving? 
*What should my teenager do if they are in an accident? 
*Does my teenager feel comfortable calling me in the case of a bad decision that leaves them impaired?
*Does my teen know what to do if a friend is impaired and tries to drive?
*Do we have a set curfew that our child cannot drive after?
*Does my teenager understand why it's important to wear a seat belt EVERY SINGLE TIME? My friend, Jimmy, insisted that we wear our seat belts. It saved our lives. Plain and simple. 

I love that you all let me share my heart and soul of my classroom with you. I also love that you allow me to share this with you and  you take the time to read and think about my story. I can't bring Jimmy back, it's not in the plan. I can, however, tell as many people as I can about him. 
All of these years later and I want his memory to live on. He saved my life. He changed who I am is a person. He believed in me. He would have wanted me to be "ME"....and sharing my heart is who I am. Just ask anyone who knows me IRL. I never stop talking and smiling. Even as I write this out, I'm smiling. Of course, I miss him. Of course, I wish that he didn't have to die. But he did. He did. 

Thank you friends. I love you for letting me share this part of my life with you! <3 nbsp="" p="">

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Hands On Math

Hey Friends! I'm so excited to be linking up with the amazing Mrs. Wills Kindergarten for some ideas regarding hands on math! 

One of my favorite ways to teach place value is with this old and trusted flip chart. My students EVERY YEAR love this thing. Every year, I say "I could really update that and give it a new digital spin"....and yet I never do. Because it works and I love it. Plus, it's been with me through all the moves and schools, since my very first year of teaching....>>>>I might be a *bit* of a hoarder>>> haha! This is just an easy way to give students a visual of how to build a number. We've found that the ability to break apart and build numbers is the real foundation to number sense, not simply being able to recognize the numbers. 

Addition is another skill that we use a lot of manipulatives and hands on instruction. We are always counting objects. I have a few pictures on my SD card (that is with my husband for the moment) on how we use classroom objects for counting and applying numbers. I'll update later in the week with those pictures!

This next activity is a great way to get kiddos moving and using their hands to manipulate through the skills. Students should practice applying the skills they've learned in a variety of ways in order to retain the information they've learned. Sliders are a great way to practice addition skills while practicing math fluency at the same time. 

We finished learning about estimation a few months ago. We did a carnival theme and incorporated our math and english strands into our celebration. The kids had to practice estimating tickets, bouncy balls, animal crackers, and rubber ducks. Our parents sent some items in and the rest was purchased from the dollar store and Amazon! ! I. LOVE. THE. DOLLAR. STORE! 
 You can get all of these games for free
 We are planning another one soon and I can't wait to share it with you! 

This activity was so easy to prep and use! Just a simple fact toss ( remember what I said about the push for math fluency.... ) It's amazing how much fun the kids have when you move a table and put paper on top!

Remember how I told you I was a hoarder? A few years ago, I saved a bunch of bottle caps. I had no idea what I was going to use them for. We've had a big push in our district for math fact fluency lately, so I used this little mats. The students have different prompts to create number sentences.  You can read more about that here. 

Another thing I like to do is periodically go through my game closet or stop at garage sales to find new ones. You can take just about ANY board game and make it into math game! I keep a pretty good stock of neon dot stickers. They peel off pretty easy and you can use them for so many different mathematical problems!

My kiddos favorite right now is addition Jenga.

It's amazing what happens when you "throw" something at children! This beach ball was another dollar store find! We always see the beach ball reading games on them, so I thought why not make this apply for math? On this particular ball, I have numbers written in a ton of different ways. Expanded form, standard form, word from, groups of tens and ones and more! When the student catches the ball, they have to identify the numbers BOTH thumbs are on. I teach them to identify it in another way than the way they are seeing it on the ball! Talk about hands on math! This is a class favorite! 

Stay tuned, more to come once I get my  card back! Thanks for stopping by!

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