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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

FLASH FREEBIE for 12/8/15

It's about time for a gift for the teachers! So here's a flash freebie.


Although this center has overtones of Christmas, it is actually holiday neutral in the materials your students use.  Thus, you can use it at any time of the year.  It's a great addition to any gingerbread man activities you may do, as well.

          Run, run
          As fast as you can!
         So you can catch
         This gingerbread man!

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Saturday, December 5, 2015

A Shopping Story

It's about time, teachers, for . . . 
holiday shopping. 

Thus, I took a trip to Target today to gather stocking stuffers (and whatever else jumped into my cart). Imagine my delight when what to my wondering eyes should appear --

but this forest of friends!

Since I decided last summer to create a Forest Friends classroom, I have been amazed at the number of products available in a forest theme. However, mittens and stocking caps, towels and sheets, shower curtains and crib mobiles were not priorities for my classroom. But these ornaments, well, that's a different story entirely.

I have visions of sugar plums forest friends dancing in my head. These little guys will be adorable hung about my room, adding swag to centers and shelves.  Now my dilemma is which ones to choose. The buri animals are a definite.  Their natural look is perfect.  But the fur wrapped birds and the scarf cloaked owls are so darn cute.  

The white knit animals are appealing, but perhaps impractical in the elementary school world. The little felt fox is mighty dapper, but not so natural looking.  The metal owls are bells. Pretty sure I have to have those.

Then I wandered over to Pier One and there were even more buri forest animals. Larger, but they were sporting small amounts of glitter. The glitter eliminated them from my wish list. 

I had to give myself a stern talking to about having priorities and making careful budget decisions, especially this month when expenses sky rocket. And so I drove home hoping that before I can get back to Target, they will have sold out of precious woodland wonders. OK, not really, because if they are still there when I go back it's a definite sign that I am meant to buy them! 

Some forest friends products you may like in your classroom:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Thrilling Thursday Flash Freebie!

What makes it thrilling? Well, it's only 1 more day until the weekend. That's pretty thrilling. But if that's not enough thrill for you, how would you feel about a --

You can grab Turkey Tails for free on Thursday, 11/5/15. Turkey Tails is a literacy center focusing on the long and short vowel sounds of a and e. Students sort the 28 words on the turkey feathers, placing them on the turkey that sports the same vowel sound.

All of the words used in this activity come from the 1st 200 Fry words.

Turkey Tails is CCSS aligned to K-2. 

If you snag this Thrilling Thursday Flash Freebie, please leave a comment and/or follow my TPT store.  Thanks!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

To be effective problem solvers, children must be able to think fluently and flexibly about numbers. This requires frequent and enduring practice as a well-developed sense of numbers grows over time. Young learners will usually "make friends with numbers"* by interacting with manipulatives. The physical experience of making sub-groups from groups of objects and, conversely, combining small groups to make larger groups, is nearly universal in developing counting concepts.  

Once children have developed a sense of what numbers mean, they can begin to see connections. This, in turn, promotes mental math and estimations. These abilities enable children to operate with more complex mathematical concepts. Students who do not develop a good number sense will struggle with simple arithmetic. More complex math will be even more problematic. 

In order to promote number sense, teachers must provide frequent and on-going practice. One of the activities my students enjoy the most is "Wednesday's Wanted Numbers Posters."  

In completing WANTED NUMBERS posters, the students demonstrate their progress in acquiring number sense.  This open-ended activity requires them to express numbers in a variety of ways: meaning, relationships, magnitude, operations, quantities, … 

I use 3 versions of WANTED NUMBERS posters. The first poster, intended for early learners of a concept, provides a drawing space for students to depict a variety of visual representations for the number. This poster also provides a list section for descriptive phrases.  

The second poster, appropriate for advancing students, calls for descriptive phrases and equations. The third poster has additional space for longer lists; hence it ups the ante.

Expectations for the representations of the WANTED NUMBER will naturally evolve as your class advances through the curricula.  Primary grades may begin with single digit numbers; adding digits as their understanding grows.  Upper elementary classes may start with multiple digit whole numbers, then progress to fractions, mixed numerals, decimals, negative integers, irrational numbers, etc.

WANTED NUMBER Posters can be used in myriad ways. Students can select their own number, the teacher can give parameters for the selection (e.g. a 3 digit number), or the teacher can assign a specific number. They work well in math centers, math journals, and/or as an anchor activity.  WANTED NUMBER Posters provide instant differentiation within a class and can be effective in every elementary grade level.  

*Carlyle, Ann, and Brenda Mercado. Teaching Preschool and Kindergarten Math: More than 175 Ideas, Lessons, and Videos for Building Foundations in Math, a Multimedia Professional Learning Resource.Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions, 2012.

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Brag Tag Nuts & Bolts

If you are new to brag tags, I have some nuts and bolts advice that may help you get started.

Ball chain necklaces are my favorite way to adorn my students with brag tags. A lot of teachers use key chains, but I prefer the glow my students emit when they get to wear their brag tag necklaces. Moreover, when we are walking through the halls, the kiddos gather lots of compliments from other teachers, administrators, and support personnel. But the best reinforcement may be the thumbs up other students give them.

A 24 inch necklace should be fine for any elementary student. I have found them for as low as $.50 each on the internet. Some teachers buy the chain by the spool, cutting it to their desired length. I'm not a fan of this as it is labor intensive and time consuming. You also have to buy the connectors separately and add them to the necklaces. It's about time, teachers! And time is precious.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is essential that you add each child's name to the necklace. You can do this by giving them a name tag to put on their necklace. It is simply inevitable that one or more necklaces will eventually end up on the floor. The name tag will settle any disputes about ownership.

In the same vein, it is advisable to label the space where the necklaces hang. Many teachers devote a bulletin board to this purpose. As a huge fan of interactive bulletin boards, I am loathe to sacrifice a board to this purpose. Using command hooks, I hang the necklaces under the front board. 

The hooks are labeled with each student's number using a label maker. This allows me to use the hooks for several years without having to redo the display. (Remember, it's about time, teachers!The real estate under the front board is pretty much wasted, so hanging the necklaces there seems like a good use for it. Furthermore, I teach small groups near that area. My proximity prevents students from fondling the necklaces, which are, of course, very attractive to them.  

I do NOT laminate my brag tags. Just printing them and cutting them out is time consuming enough. Rather, I print them on cardstock. So far, they have been sufficiently durable without lamination. I encourage my students to write their names on the back of each tag they earn in case one tears away from the necklace. (Another reason to hang them where they will attract a little less attention.) You can call me Viola Swamp, but I have a strict rule that lost or destroyed tags will not be replaced. Who has time to deal with all that drama???? 

I will, however, supply adhesive reinforcement rings so that students can repair their tags. So, another advantage of not laminating the tags is that students can write their name on the back. Thus any lost tag can be more readily returned to its owner.
We all struggle with printing costs, especially when using color ink. I'm unwilling to avoid all color printing since it adds so much panache to the tags. However, I print a good supply using the gray scale tags and colored cardstock. The children seem equally happy with either type of tag. 

Once again, because it's about time, teachers, I enlist the help of others in cutting out and punching holes in the brag tags.  If I choose to send some home to helpful parents who are willing to donate their time, I always include sharp scissors, a hole punch, and ziplock bags in which to return them.  I have a special canvas bag in which students carry all of the supplies back and forth.  Of course, it is never sent home without first contacting the parent to ensure that this task is suitable to their time constraints. I have also enlisted the help of upper elementary students who may wish to help when they have time, and have had teachers use this as a reward for students who need extra encouragement from their favorite primary teacher.  :)

Finally, you will need a storage system that keeps the brag tags organized and handy. My tags are 1 3/8" x 2" so they just fit in this storage chest (that is intended for nuts and bolts). Again using my handy, dandy label maker, I am labeling each drawer with the tags it contains.   

Do you have any other tips for those considering using brag tags?

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot. -- Michael Altshuler

Monday, August 31, 2015

Brag Tags

Since I discovered brag tags, my life as a teacher has taken a positive trajectory that I could never have envisioned.  Using them in conjunction with a behavior clip chart has proven to be epic!

I created forest friends brag tags to compliment my forest friends clip chartThere are 3 categories of tags: behavior, academics, and events. Because the primary purpose is to reward positive behavior, the majority are behavior brag tags. 

Academic brag tags are included to encourage and reward hard work and scholastic success. 

Event brag tags recognize just a few events that are important to children. 

Common holidays are not included because I feel awarding brag tags for them just undermines the power of the system. You don't earn a holiday, after all. I included 100th day because it is such a milestone for primary grade children.  Also included are tags for birthdays, 1/2 birthdays (as a summer birthday girl, I have very strong feelings about including summer birthdays), losing a tooth at school, student of the week, and surviving testing.

Every student gets a ball chain necklace that hangs in the classroom. The day I introduce the behavior chart and brag tags, I have each student add a forest ranger badge to the necklace so there is no question about necklace ownership. To get things started, I also give everyone a brag tag to start their collection. It welcomes them to the forest.

Initially, it is important to catch the kiddos being good. Because everyone likes instant gratification, I will interrupt everything to heap praise, award a brag tag, and invite the recipient to move his/her badge up on the clip chart.  

Obviously, this practice cannot continue.  So I begin weaning the class by waiting to handout brag tags until we are in a transition period, such as before lunch, after a specials class, after recess, before dismissal, ... Eventually, brag tags are given out only before dismissal. By second semester, we hold an awards ceremony on Friday mornings.  Then the students can wear their necklaces all day. Well, not ALL day. Necklaces cannot be worn to recess, P.E., or lunch. EVER. 

So, what do we do with the necklaces the other 4 days of the week? They are on display in our classroom. My favorite place to display them is at the front of the room under the white board. That's unused real estate otherwise. Moreover, the necklaces are where everyone can see them and where students are least likely to fondle them. (I teach small groups at the front of the class and it's all about proximity!)

Join me next time for some nuts and bolts info about brag tags.

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Clip Chart + Brag Tags = Happy Class

Do you use a behavior clip chart in your classroom? I have just personalized my behavior plan with a clip chart and brag tags to compliment my Forest Friends classroom theme. And I just have to share it with you.

All of the students will start each day on the middle sign, "On the right trail." Each one will have a Forest Ranger badge to clip to that sign.   

Then, depending on the choices they make, their badges may move. Those making good choices will move up to "Caught being good." Continuing to make good choices can elevate them to "Flying high" or even "Soaring with the eagles."

Conversely, those who make poor choices may move down to "Taking the wrong path." More poor choices will earn them a spot on "Danger Ahead! Turn Around!"  Finally, they may find themselves "Lost in the woods," and in need of parent contact to find their way back.  

Behavior clip charts are sooooo much better than treasure chests, in my opinion.  Not only does a chart save me from buying all that loot, but it moves the students closer to finding intrinsic motivation.

Couple the behavior chart with brag tags, and you will have a good chance of achieving classroom bliss!

I'll talk about brag tags in my next post. In the meantime, you may want to check out my clip chart for your own classroom.

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