Friday, June 29, 2012

Math Fact Fluency In My Classroom {Incentive Freebie}

Since posting my math contracts for addition and subtraction facts, I'd gotten a lot of blog comments and questions sent to me through TpT about my fact fluency routine and how I use the contracts in my classroom, so today I'm answering those questions for y'all. :)

I teach in a district that has used Investigations for many years, in fact we are still using one of the very first editions in our rooms today.  When I first started teaching in the district, as a student teacher, seven years ago, there was not a lot of focus on mastering math facts at all.  Everything was inquiry based and focused mainly on problem solving.  Which isn't necessarily bad, expect when you're trying to teach higher level concepts that really require a solid foundation of fact knowledge.  We got a new math curriculum specialist in our district who implemented a math fact fluency program a few years ago, and then tons of focus was put on math facts.  I felt sometimes, I was teaching math facts more than my math curriculum.  Through trial and error, a more balanced math fact diet is now occurring in my classroom.  

I spend probably about ten to fifteen minutes a day on math facts.  Some days, we play a review game during morning meeting involving our math facts.  Some days,  one of our brain breaks is quiz/quiz trade with flashcards. Below is a You Tube video of quiz, quiz trade in action. This is not my classroom, fyi. :)

Basically with Quiz, Quiz Trade, every student in the room gets a flashcard.  I set the timer, and they start pairing up.  Student A shows Student B their flashcard.  Student B answers and Student A lets them know if they are correct, or incorrect.  Correct answers get a simple praise, incorrect answers they might prompt them on a strategy to use to get the answer.  Then Student B shows Student A their card and Student A answers.  Once Student A and Student B have correctly answered each others flashcards, they switch cards and find new partners.  This process of quizzing and trading continues until the timer goes off. I love Quiz, Quiz Trade because it gets the kiddos moving, it encourages cooperation, and exposes each student to a wide variety of facts quickly.  Amy Lemons has some great addition and subtraction flashcards  as well as multiplication and division flashcards that I used in my classroom this year. 

At the end of math, we spent about five minutes working on fluency packets for either addition or subtraction, I taught second grade last year, but I wasn't super crazy about them.  I felt they wasted a lot of paper and it was hard to manage as a teacher, as I was the one checking them.  This upcoming year, my fourth grade team and I will be spending about ten minutes a day on Rocket Math.  They love it, but honestly I don't know much about it other than the apps look like a lot of fun. I hope to share more about this later in the school year. :) 

I also try to incorporate math fact practice in my centers as much as I can.  There are so many great ways to do this.  One of my favorite ways to do that is with spinner games!  I LOVE spinner games because they are so easy to prep.  All your kiddos need is the board, a pencil, paper clip, counters, and a recording sheet. :) Easy breezy, nice and easy. :) 

In fact in my classroom, I have my kiddos put the spinners in clear sleeves and use their dry erase markers to play.  This way they can play without getting out markers/counters when they finish work early.   

Not only do I love spinner games for centers, math rotations, and early finisher work, I also love them for parent helpers.  I just jot down the boards I'd like for them to work on with each student. This works out perfectly, because they get to work with kiddos and I don't have to spend lots of time prepping for their visit.  

I have two spinner games available in my store right now, and I hope to add subtraction and division before the summer ends. 

There are lots of websites too that you can use to for workstation rotations with your class as well.  My favorites are Fun4theBrain and  Arcademic Skill Builders. It is my understanding that these websites have Apps as well for Apple and Android products.  I have heard really great things about XtraMath but I have not used it in my classroom.  My district has a subscription to FasttMath, and I'll usually let kids on that as well to practice their facts.  Although the appealing thing about XtraMath is that they can practice at home too! :) 

Obviously my math contract homework encourages math fact practice at home.  I send the contract home on Tuesdays and they are due the following Tuesday, so my kiddos have a week to complete the three activities.  Even though I have math fact homework routine, sometimes it's nice for my students to practice their facts even more than that, especially those pesky multiplication and division facts!
When I taught third grade, I'd have my kiddos fill out raffle tickets when they practiced their facts at home, after they had completed their math contract homework for the week. I'd try to pull raffle tickets each day to pick from the Treasure Box, but that got costly and I didn't always remember to pick kiddos.  While I liked the concept of rewarding extra practice, the system was easy for me to manage and it only excited a handful of kids.  I just uploaded a freebie to TpT that I hope gets my whole class excited about mon "star" ing their math facts. :) 

Anytime a kiddo gets extra math fact practice, in addition to weekly homework for me but you can make the rules in your own room, they will fill out a link and bring it into school.  We will hook our links together and once we reach our goal length, the class gets a treat.  I plan to start off with a small length a first, and earn a special snack during math, and then work to a big length, like around the room for a pizza party/ice cream/etc.  I hope these incentive links gets all of us excited to practice our math facts, rather than just a group of kiddos, because they will really need everyone to participate to earn their treats!

All the products in this posts are linked to my TpT store and the incentive chain links are FREE. :) If you like them, don't forget to leave me a little note either here or on TpT.   Since it's so hot, hot, hot, I'm throwing a little beat the heat sale today and tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Parent Communication Freebies

I'm going to take a tangent here for a minute before I get to your freebies.  I hope ya'll don't mind. ;) Building a house is really stressful.  People warned me, "Building a house is one of the most stressful things you'll ever do." The whole process of picking the fixtures, the financial paperwork, and drafting of the contract was pretty painless.  The actual construction, tests my patience every day.  I'll drive by and see crews working on every house on our street but ours, or multiple contractors working on other houses, while only one contractor works on ours.  Then you see houses that started after you get ahead, and well you feel frustrated.   It's hands down the most stressful thing I've done other than job searching for my first teaching job six years ago, and I'm more than ready for it to be over.  Originally, we were given a projected closing date that was before my school year started.  Now, we are looking at closing after school starts.  :( Taking time off, for closing and a final walk through, is just not something I'm really looking forward to right now, even if that does mean I get the keys to my very own house at the end.

Okay, rant over, I just had to vent for a second to people other than my husband...  :) You want to know another thing that stresses me out? Parent communication. I'm talking about the parent communication outside of newsletters and conferences, you know the difficult phone calls, the small talk while they volunteer, classroom parties, etc...  Maybe it's because I'm not a parent and I can't connect with them on the parenting level, or maybe it's just my personality, I'm very much an introvert. 

Parent communication got easier as time went by at my old school, because I had a rapport with many of my parents from either having one of their other children previously and because I had been in the building for a while.  Even though now and again I had to make some really difficult phone calls and deal with some uncomfortable situations, most of the parents I dealt with were very kind and respectful, and I felt overall I had a really good relationship with the parents of the kiddos in my class. 

Moving to a new school this past year was hard, because I didn't have that rapport.  Many parents thought it was my first year of teaching ever, even though it obviously wasn't. I even had one parent this year pretty much bully me with very mean notes almost daily. Thankfully, I have a great principal who is very supportive of his teachers and who basically told her "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it all." 

Since parent communication can be a source of stress for me, I try to keep it as organized as possible.  I have a binder with tabs for all my students, numbered so I don't have to change them each year, with the forms pictured below for each of my kiddos. 

I run these two forms 1-2 sided on the copier and have them on my students desk at Meet the Teacher Night.   These forms are super helpful, because I know exactly how the parents want to be contacted when I need to communicate with them and I have a place to record notes of our communication, this is especially helpful for phone calls and little school chats about various issues.  If a parent sends in a note/email, I place a copy of the note/email, as well as my response, in their child's spot in my binder as well.  

I give my parents this form at Meet the Teacher, but encourage them to take it home, and really think about their answers.  I tell them to write as little, or as much as they would like, but this form really does help me get to know my students so well from the people that love them the most, their families.  I also refer to the goals they have for their child/any concerns they have for the school year during our first conference as well.  

I have upload these forms to Google Drive for you, so strange to not say Google Docs.  Just click on the pictures to download.  The parent contact information sheet and the parent survey are in one PDF, and the log is a separate PDF file. 

What tips do you have for organizing parent communication? Do you have any tips to share for dealing with difficult parents? Share in the comments below, so we can all learn from each other! :) Oh, and don't forget you can like Fourth and Ten on Facebook, my page has been feeling a little bit lonely. ;)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Math Fact Fluency Flash Sale

As a thank you for being the sweetest followers on the planet, I'm having another flash sale tonight!  Tonight it is Math Fluency themed, meaning all my math contracts and other math fluency materials will be 20% off until midnight tonight! I just uploaded the Subtraction Facts Contracts and a bundle with the both the Addition and Subtraction Contracts moments ago! :) My math contracts now include a blank template that you can type your own activities into!  If you've already purchased the addition facts contracts, please redownload the new file on TpT for free! :)
Click on the pictures to check them out at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  :)

 I'm heading over to change the prices now, so you might be able to get your hands on some great savings before 6pm! :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Craftivity Flash Sale

Swing by my Teachers Pay Teachers store to check it out!

Stay tuned tomorrow for another special flash sale! :) I think you'll LOVE it!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Back to School Product Maddness

Holy Smokes, I can't believe that I've been on summer vacation for a month now!  I'll be teaching summer school next month, and before I know it school will be here.  My husband and I will be closing on our house right around school starting, so I've been trying to get most of my back to school products ready now, so I can be ready for the new year in the midst of the crazy sauce that will be back to school this year.  

One of my favorite writing assignments to do all year to have my kiddos research the story of their names.  They always get a kick out of learning how/why they were given their name.  In fact, I get a kick out of it too! I've had students named after actresses, after athletes,  after a family member, and after places.  They always love hearing what their name means too.  

While the book Chrysanthemum is great to introduce this project, my favorite book to read is actually When Jo Lewis Won the Title. It's a book that is less popular and therefore my kiddos pay a lot more attention while I read it, plus I use Chrysanthemum in another back to school activity that I'll be blogging about later this summer. :)
This is one of my all time favorite books.  It's a touching story of how a grandfather tells his granddaughter all about the story of her name.  It's not only a great story of self acceptance, but a beautiful piece of multicultural literature as well.  After reading the book, I have my students complete a homework assignment where they ask their parents some questions about their name.  Then we review the structure of an informational paragraph, and my kiddos write an informational paragraph all about their name.  Once finished, we make mini versions of ourselves and hang our completed writings up outside. It makes an adorable back to school bulletin board! :)  Here's a little sample picture.  :)  The one on the left is the actual true story of my name. :) The little guy on the right is the story of my dad's name.  My hubs was sleeping at the time that I made my sample. ;)

 I've uploaded all my Story of My Name resources to my stores. 

We have a half hour math tutorial block at my school, and I'd like to do more with small groups during that time rather than doing whole group lessons.  To do more with small groups, I need purposeful activities for the rest of my kiddos to do. I dabbled in centers/workstations last year, and love it, but I felt I was always grasping at straws trying to get activities ready.  So I decided to get a head start this summer by preparing my centers.  I started with this Back to School themed centers to refresh my fourth graders on some of the skills they learned in third grade. 
 To keep myself sane, I plan on using half of my back to school centers and half of Hope's monthly centers for two weeks and then introduce the other half of my centers and Hope's for the rest of the month.   

I also like to spend a little bit of time reviewing sentences, and the various types at the beginning of the year. Oh and reminding them over and over that sentences have capital letters and punctuation.   Texting certainly hasn't done my kiddos any favors.  I can't tell you how many papers I see without any capital letters or any type of punctuation.  I created a little activity pack to make what can be a dull subject, a little more exciting. 

Okay so the first person who comments gets all THREE of my new products for free.  Don't forget to leave your email address. :)

Place Value Block winners I will be sending you your files in the morning! :)  So sorry about the delay! 

This weekend has flown by! I had the best time with my hubs at a Greek festival today, and he's off again tomorrow! I'm a lucky, lucky girl! :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

STAR Binders: Getting and Keeping Kids Organized

I'm not an organized person.  Organization just does not come easy to me.  I literally need to label every single drawer, every single shelf, and every single and basket to keep myself organized in my classroom and at home.  

My first year of teaching I labeled my kiddos folders and expected them to just organize themselves.  "Okay, let's get out our math folders," I'd call out, and ten minutes later would all finally have our math folders out.  I swear that desks eat folders, pencils, and crayons at night.  I really do.  Because even though I was blamed for it a lot, I never, ever, ever creeped in their desk at night and messed things around so my kiddos couldn't find things.

I knew something needed to change, so I did a STAR binder the next year, all their folders where in a binder and the binder went back and forth each day.  I got the idea from Mrs. Van Dyke, you can check out her informational page about STAR binders here. However, no matter how many times I begged, begged, and begged my parents that year to not empty their child's folders, they always did. Meaning daily little Susie and Tommy was missing the paper we started the day before because their momma cleaned out their binder's folders the night before.  Although I liked the organization the binder provided, the trip back and forth to school really caused a lot of additional wear and tear on the binders and I always had a few darlings that forgot their binders at home almost daily. 

With the struggles of the first year of STAR binders in mind, I changed my binder up a bit to something that worked best for me. :) Our binder was still named STAR (Students That Are Responsible), only the binder stayed at school.  I'm telling you friends, it makes such a difference having all of my students important papers all in one place in their desks. The cover for my STAR binder came from Mrs. Van Dyke, it's at the very bottom of this page.

The zipper pouch held our classroom currency, and I kept their reading response questions for self selected reading in the clear sleeve in the front, as well as a clear sleeve for games we learned to play throughout the year.  Having this math sleeve is great! When my students finished a math activity early, they would play game with a partner in their sleeve with a dry erase marker.  My kiddos would also take their binders with them to small groups in reading and math, or for partner work.  This worked great, because they could refer back to previously completed work on a topic. 

Each subject had a folder, along with a work folder, for random odds and ends that just didn't fit in a subject folder, that somehow was not included in this sample.  We'd go through our folders about every two weeks and I'd list on the Smartboard what they needed to keep in their folders.  

In my back to school letter, I asked each family to send in a 1" binder, I always purchased several extra at Wal Mart before school started just in case, a zipper pouch, and five folders without brads/fasteners.  Some sent in paper folders, that I hole punched with a three hole punch, and other sent in decorative folders with the holes already on the folder.  My kiddos certainly loved picking out fun folders and binder colors! :) 

Setting up the binders DOES take up a chunk of time at the beginning of the year, but it's so worth it! I've tried it many different ways, having parents assembling them at open house, putting them together as a whole class, and putting them together in small groups.  I prefer putting them together in small groups.  While the class is working on their time capsules and other beginning of the year getting to know you activities, I pull tables up one at a time and assemble the binders.  It goes pretty quickly, if you involve your kiddos.  I let them put their own labels on their folders, they won't look perfect but that's okay, and put every thing in their binders themselves.

Using STAR binders made such a difference in my classroom, and they really helped keep my students organized.  My kiddos desks were certainly neater too, and they felt like such big kids because of their binders.  I changed schools/grade levels this past year a week before school started, and didn't do my STAR binders this year due to craziness that is packing and unpacking a classroom days before school starts.  Let me tell you, I HATED not having them.  My kiddos desks were so, so, so messy and I felt like we wasted so much time looking for the proper folder.  I always had my students keep their folders in a certain order in the STAR binder and they were all labeled, so my kiddos certainly had "NO EXCUSES" for not having papers in the right place.  The fourth grade team at my school already does organizational binders, so I'm so, so, so excited to be reunited with my beloved STAR binders again! :) Hooray! 

What do you do to keep your students organized? I'd love to hear what works for you! Next week, I'll be posting about my home to school folders, the iPod! :)
Also, don't forget to like Fourth and Ten on Facebook! :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Place Value Block {A Math Craftivity}

One of the things that I loved about teaching math was the games, centers, and projects.  I especially loved creating our Place Value Block bulletin board every year! 

This activity pack/craft is perfect for students grades first-fifth. It has many templates and recording sheets to best meet the needs of your students. 
Your students can practice writing and expressing numbers from twenty to numbers in the hundred millions, with and without decimals, with this pack! Many thanks to my followers over the years for sharing ways to make this product better than ever! :) 

Once your students have decorated their houses and generated a number for their house (I've included ways your students can generate the numbers to use), they represent the number on their house in word, number, and expanded forms.  The forms for the year students also include options for the model (picture) form.  This file can be used as an end of unit activity, or a formative during your place value unit! 

I always loved seeing how creative my students are during this project, and I especially loved putting all of our houses together to make the cutest little block of houses that you ever saw! 

My Place Value Block Craft is available at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Five {Vol. 3}

This week went by in a blur.  I'm not really sure I created much of anything useful, even though I have a to do list a mile long.  I do remember purchasing some clip art for an upcoming place value unit, and reading a chapter or two of The Daily Five. The rest of the week though, is kinda fuzzy.

While I haven't been super creative as far as teaching materials go, I did get creative in the kitchen.  I do like to eat and cook healthy, but I developed some really bad eating habits this school year.  Like frozen pizzas a couple nights a week type of bad habits.  My summer clothes were a bit snug this year, so I've enjoyed cooking and eating healthier foods this summer.

Considering I didn't focus much on school this week, this week's Friday Five is dedicated to my husband and I's favorite eats this week. 

1. {this bean burger} This is seriously one of our all time favorite dinners, and one of the few my husband requests.  
 Source: via Lisa on Pinterest

2. {these roasted potatoes} I just used the spices I had in pantry, and these came out fantastic! 

3. {these Greek quesadillas} Words really can't describe how much we love these at our house.  I've made them three times in the past month. Olives, roasted red peppers, and feta cheese are a tasty combination. :)

4. {this salad} Oh my goodness, another repeat offender at my house.  We had it tonight for dinner.  I love, love, love the spicy ranch dressing and crunchy tortilla chip topping. 

 5. {these "healthier" muffins} Y'all my husband manages at a restaurant.  It's a nice gig, but the free bagels and cookies that he brings home from work don't do my thighs any favors. While these muffins aren't exactly the best muffins you will eat, they aren't that bad either, and certainly much better for me than one of those ginormous cookies my husband likes to bring home from work.  

Have a great night, I'm off to finish the dishes, yuck. :(  Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Window Shopping: Polka Dot Edition

I meant to post this yesterday, but I just got so, so excited about my new look.  A day later, and I still can't stop looking at it.  :) 
I'd like to introduce you to a new summer feature on my blog called Window Shopping.  This series is perfect for me right now because well even though I want to try a million different Pinterest/Blog inspired things for my classroom, I can't right now, and well it's kinda driving me bonkers.  The main reason I can't get my craft on is that I moved classrooms when I changed grades, and the dimensions/overall feel of my new room is very different than my old room.  Plus I still need to go through and purge unnecessary things that the previous teacher left behind. Like baby food lids, broken calculators, etc.  ;) The custodial staff won't be done cleaning my room until mid July, and I want to get a good feel for my room and the layout I want before I take on any projects. 

So even though I can't make any of the gazillion classroom crafts I've pinned right now, that certainly didn't stop me from going to one of my favorite stores, Hobby Lobby, and window shopping for inspiration for my new classroom! I've always had a stars and stripes themed classroom, which I loved, but after five years I wanted something different.  I have lots of red and blue painted furniture, so I'm going with a primary polka theme.  

Hobby Lobby certainly had a many, many, many polka dot themed items around their store.  Most didn't fit my theme, for which my husband is very grateful. :)

I'm loving the tall pink polka dot container above, and think it would be perfect for a class set of rulers.  The small polka dot buckets would be perfect for classroom supplies at tables, or at your teacher desk or small group table.  I just adore the polka dot office supplies I found, and I love how the clipboard is actually a portfolio with a notepad!

Again, there were lots of great polka dot items in the office supplies, and I love, love, love the desk organizer in the top left hand corner.  One of my first projects this summer will be using scrap paper to classy up the tool organizer I have in my classroom, and I think the color kaleidoscope color pack will be perfect! There were lots of other paper packs available.  I just snapped a pic of some that I thought would go with the themes I've seen popping up on blogs and Pinterest lately for those of you who aren't feeling the dots.  Of course, how can you classy up your tool organizer or plastic drawers without spray paint?  Hobby Lobby certainly had quite the collection!  They even had magnet paint, which I plan on using to make some magnet surfaces for my Daily Five word work.  :)
I have lots of red milk crates around my room to store various math manipulatives, and I plan on freshening them up this summer with some labels and ribbon.  I'm thinking I'll use one of the wider blue ribbons above.  One of the real reasons I headed to Hobby Lobby was to check out fabric so I could make a new set of classroom curtains.  However, the primary colored options they had were a bit disappointing. :(  However, let me tell you the green, blue, and brown fabrics on the bottom would go perfect with Jodi's Thirty One Inspired Down to Earth classroom theme. 

Plus there were lots of other random polka dot items around the store.  The adorable chalkboard and baskets, made me seriously think about throwing practicality out the window and just going with a light blue, pink, and green polka theme.  I use a fun paper to send my welcome back letters on, and loved the selection at Hobby Lobby.  The Hoot, Hoot paper pack not only had cute owl paper, it also had some darling polka designs as well.  :)

By the way, Hobby Lobby did not compensate me or pay me at all to do this post. ;) I just really happen to like their store. :)

I hope you enjoyed window shopping with me.  Next week, I'll be going on a window shopping trip to Ikea! :) Also, don't forget that you can like Fourth and Ten on Facebook!
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