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BUILDing Math Skills!

Hi Friends, Please enjoy this great guest post from Tessa Maguire. She's got some great ideas for looking at math in a new way!

Math.  What do we do about Math?  There are tons of great resources from knowledgeable experts like Fountas & Pinnell, Richard Allington, the Two Sisters, and Debbie Miller for reading instruction.  They offer tips for structuring your day and tell you how you need to meet with small groups of students to ensure you are reaching your students' needs.  They give you ideas on how you can still, just maybe, use your basal.  But that's reading.  What do we do about Math?  Where are those great resource books that tell us how we can structure things to better differentiate for our students in Math?  I haven't found anything that I've really loved.  And I don't know about you but I've always struggled with those students who breeze through the work in .2 seconds and are done and you haven't even had time to pull the students who need extra support yet.  What's a teacher to do?  I'd like to share with you two common, but different, ideas my teachers have begun to use after we researched and tried some things out.

Games
A couple of my teachers have built in game time during their math block.  We have 90 minute blocks and they are able to get through  the lesson and guided practice within the first hour.  The last 20-30 minutes of time is spent to review, reinforce, and enrich.  The teachers, with the help of myself, find games that practice skills they are working on each week.  Does this take time?  Absolutely!  But after a year or so they will have a great resource file and won't spend as much time looking.  They can pull out games from previous weeks to build in a spiral review, and this also helps keep them from finding different games for every day of the week.  Sometimes the games are just simple gameboards with different cards so rules don't need to be reviewed.  For those higher students, they can briefly meet with them one day during the game time to explain a new, higher level skill, and the students can spend time that week playing games reinforcing it. The teachers are able to choose which games they think will most benefit their students.  If you're using Everyday Math, it's part of the basis of the series.  My teachers find additional games outside of what EM suggests.

BUILD
Have you heard of BUILD?  I first learned about it from Adventures in Teaching. It is set up much like Daily 5.  I shared it with my kindergarten team and they were ecstatic to try it with their students since they already do Daily 5 and their current math centers weren't as effective as they used to be.  
B- Buddy Games
U- Using Manipulatives
I- Independent Reading/Independent Work
L- Learning about Numbers
D- Doing Math
Like Daily 5, you need to spend some time getting materials ready for your tubs in the beginning, but you don't have to spend the time each week changing it up.  It's also very flexible so you can make it work for your classroom.  You want students to go to 3 stations?  Sure!  You want them to go to 5 so you can meet with 4 or 5 small groups?  Sure!

I created posters for each of the BUILD buckets similar to the ones above.  Mine are set up like Uno cards, though.  If you'd like them, click on the picture below to download them for free.  There's another BUILD freebie for you on my blog if you'd like to stop over and grab it.


I hope I've been able to share a few new ideas with you.  Have you found something that works well for you and your students?  Do you do something similar to BUILD?  I'd love to hear more new ideas!

Tessa Maguire is a former reading teacher and differentiated instruction coach.  She currently is in a dual role administration and curriculum coaching position.  She spends her days helping her K-3 teachers find what works best for them and their students.  She blogs about the resources she finds and creates and she shares tips and strategies for effective instruction.  You can find out more information on her blog Tales from Outside the Classroom: http://talesfromoutsidetheclassroom.blogspot.com
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Jellybeans, Cartwheels and Peppers

Sometimes I watch kids and they just seem so...well, I guess fearless is the word. I watched a little girl pick out bright blue nail polish the other day in about five seconds. Meanwhile, I spent the better part of my "relaxing" pedicure debating between red and frosted red. When we were doing jelly bean math before spring break, one of my girls proclaimed that she wanted to try a black one because she never had before. I was proud of her for that. I fished around for one and she just popped it in her mouth and chewed - and she liked it! We've been sampling fresh fruits and veggies in the cafeteria twice a month and on pepper day I was sure they'd walk right past the table, but nope! Here are my little risk-takers ready to take a bite!
I've got one little girl in my class who wore a rust colored knitted cap with a huge flower on top and knitted braids that hung down on each side for about a month straight. Now she's moved on to wearing two different shoes. I'd never dare to persuade her to be a little more "normal" about her interesting dress habits. I think she's a pretty neat kid for having the moxie to express herself like that.

Toddlers and little kids flash big huge smiles no matter how crooked their teeth are. They cry when they're sad or angry. They express their emotions openly and freely. They fall asleep wherever they are when they're tired.  Somewhere along the line we start to be self conscious of our teeth that might not be perfectly perfect and learn to keep our emotions to ourselves. Even though I have felt like screaming, crying, laughing out loud or curling up for a nap at various times this week, I  didn't. Well, except for the curling up and sleeping part. I did manage to fit in a nap or two after school.

I watch kids who just break into a skip walking down the hallway or do a cartwheel on the recess field and I have to say I'm a little envious. When's the last time I skipped? Have you done a cartwheel lately?
I passed by the pepper table empty handed. I haven't worn a hat in ages, let alone a knitted cap with built-in braids. I have worn two different shoes to school once, but only because I got dressed in the dark and have a few pairs of the same shoes in different colors.

Now I know that not all kids would seek out the black jellybean or bite into a fresh pepper, but it's pretty cool that I get so surround myself with the kind of kids that do just that every day

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Quick Secretary's Day Gift!

With Secretary's Day coming up on Wednesday, I was going to share the post I wrote last year about how to decorate Altoid tins for gift giving, like the ones below.
But then it occurred to me, that: 1. It's kind of short notice to make those today and 2. Maybe not everyone has the craft stash that I happen to have hoarded collected over the years. Never fear, my friends! I have come up with a crafty shortcut for you! I created these cut and stick printables that will do the job quite nicely in half the time with a quarter of the work. Sound good? These would also make a nice small token for volunteers.

I happen to have family members that eat Altoids like they were candy (hey, wait...) and they save the tins for me. This explains my obsessive need to make stuff out of them. I'm currently working on plans for an outdoor fire pit...surely I have enough, right?


However, if you don't happen to have Altoid-aholics living among you, these labels are perfect for an actual full tin of mints. Just a little something from you to the ladies in the office who make our lives so much easier. Here's a little glimpse of the finished product.
All you have to do is cut them out and glue them on. I highly recommend running them through a Xyron machine (my loyal readers will remember that I have a serious craft crush on that thing) but if you don't have a Xyron, try a tape runner like this that you can pick up in any craft store or double sided tape. I haven't tried glue stick, but in my experience, it's not the best. You can also try to print them on self adhesive paper like this. I'm not a mod podge chick, but you can certainly give that a whirl if you are so inclined.

Another tip: Print them on regular copy paper, not card stock. The heavier the paper, the harder it will be to get the edges to stick down. I made labels to match the spearmint and wintergreen flavors. The traditional red just wasn't doing it for me.
Click on the picture above to get your copy. Happy Crafting, peeps!

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Getting Reflective & TpT Advice

My reflective post yesterday on TBA about my blog birthday has got me reminiscing about the last year. One of the many big leaps I made was joining Teachers Pay Teachers as a seller. That was a huge one for me, it was a very difficult decision, but one I'm glad I made. One of the best parts of being a tpt seller is getting some free materials into the hands of teachers across the globe. I know it's appreciated from the crazy awesome, totally heartfelt emails and feedback on tpt. My friend Angela Watson recently wrote a great post on this very subject. I've gotten to know Angela a bit over the past year and she always impresses me with her clear-headed, straightforward thinking. She speaks her mind freely without being swayed by others, which is a trait that I admire more than I can say. So, yeah. I'm a big fan of Angela...Fangela, maybe? Maybe not...click here to read her article.

As I was thinking back, I was trying to remember the first item I ever posted when I realized It's actually still my featured item.  I'm not sure how many of you may have seen it. TpT did a site redesign a while ago, and while I love it for the most part, one of the things I don't like is that the featured free download kind of blends in and is easily overlooked because there are not thumbnail images, see? It's a little lost down there. It just says "free download".


So I thought I'd take a minute today to share it because (if I do say so myself) it's a pretty good one! I think having such a unique, useful freebie as my very first item was one of the keys to my relatively quick start on TpT. I really had no contacts, no help, no idea what the heck I was doing but I submitted this freebie to be featured in the newsletter and it was featured the first week I was a seller! It also got noticed by some other bigger sellers who promoted it as I was welcomed into the fold. I distinctly remember Rachel Lynette sharing it on Facebook and almost passing out from excitement! So, to those of you thinking about venturing into tpt, there's my little nugget of advice - have a fantastic freebie to get the ball rolling. I've received several emails from readers asking me how to get started. I know I've answered some and not others. The reason is that it's not an easy question to answer. It's a lot of work, a lot of hours, a little talent and a little luck. I spend at least 4 hours a day (usually more) beyond my full-time school day working on TpT products - both free and paid, blogging and networking every single day. But the one thing I know for sure, is that it's totally worth it. Be prepared to face others who disagree with your decision as well because you will face at least a little bit of that from time to time.

So, on to that first activity. It's a set of task cards that can be used with any book club order form. If your kids are anything like mine, they freak over those forms! Even though a lot of the kids don't actually order, they love looking through it. I decided to capitalize on that excitement with these cards. It's a favorite center for sure. It also gets them excited about books and introduces them to new series and authors they might not see in the classroom or school library.


Lots of different literacy skills are represented along with a few math skills as well. 
So, if you haven't yet, you can click {HERE} to get to my tpt store, then just click on that  Free Download button to get your copy. So, thanks bunches and bunches for being here with me through this first year of my journey. It's been an incredible experience venturing outside the walls of my own school and into the limitless arena of the internet. It's a journey I hope to continue for many, many years to come and I hope you'll all be along with me for the ride!


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Join the party!

Can you even believe that I missed my own baby's birthday? My blog turned one and the day just passed by like any other! How did I let that happen? This little blog of mine brings me such joy and happiness and I let its birthday pass by unnoticed. For shame.

To make up for it, I'm throwing a belated blog birthday party and you are invited! What's a party without favors, right? So I have some fun freebies to share with you. I have been eyeing up those Pixie Stick birthday balloons floating around Pinterest, but something inside of me is saying, "You're going to give your students a ginormous straw filled with sugar...are you INSANE!?!".  Until I resolve that disagreement with myself, I'm going in another direction. Although I've been known to change my mind so who knows what I'll actually do next August when I'm setting up the room again.
I have two alternate ideas, shown in the pic above. One does involve candy - but it feels a little less panic inducing than the jumbo sugar straw. This one is a birthday candy bar.  These would be pretty easy and relatively inexpensive if you buy the candy bars at Sam's or Costco.  You can just cut and wrap them all at the start of the year (and hide them from yourself during that time of the month) and you're ready for any birthday! There is a little poem on the back says A birthday treat is always fun, but it’s not over when the candy’s done!  Bring this wrapper back to class, because it doubles as a homework pass!
Click the pic to grab your copies!



The second one is a pencil flag. Kids love a new pencil, so you can quickly and easily dress one up for your birthday kid! Just cut the flags apart, pinch it in half horizontally and punch a hole to slide a new pencil through. Fun & super cheap easy on the budget.


So, we have a celebration, we have gifts, now we need guests! I'm throwing a little linky party so that you can all share your classroom birthday ideas! I'd love to see how you celebrate birthdays in your room. Feel free to share anything birthday related - birthday bulletin board ideas, parties, freebies (just not a paid product please). You can link up a new post or even a "vintage" post, but either way, please grab the image below and link back here to this page so that everyone knows how to get to the par-tay!
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Picnik Break-up & Last Chance Slideshows

I met Picnik shortly after I started blogging. We hit if off right away and I was smitten. At first we spent time together just brightening up a picture, cropping, adding a caption. But then, we ventured into more serious territory and I trusted him enough to make slideshows together. As a couple,  we chronicled my classroom set up this year, even though I was dead-tired. We oohed and ahhed over all of the amazing storybook pumpkins at my school this fall and we laughed over that crazy elf mischief around the holidays. Times were good, my friends.

And then, just like that - the relationship was over. Apparently, some "ants" had moved in and taken over and I was out. It was sad, I was stressed. I did not know how I would go on! And then I met PicMonkey! That cute little guy really renewed my spirit. I thought I was over  Picnik since I found my new love. I was happily moving on. I had moved past the break-up and was looking forward to a future with my sassy new monkey when Picnik had to send one last cutesy little reminder to pick up my take-out order. Yes, all the pictures I'd ever edited were ready for me in a neat little bundle. Just like with any break-up, I was prepared to pick up my belongings that I left over at Picnik's place with dignity and move on. But, then I had a startling realization. Picnik had the last laugh after all. He left a note that said that he was keeping my slideshows. I don't know if I'll be remaking these slideshows any time soon, so while I still have joint custody, you are invited to view them one last time before Picnik is gone for good. sniff, sniff.

Click quick - They'll be gone for good this Thursday.

Setting up for 2011 - Day 1
Setting up for 2011 - Day 2
Setting up for 2011 - Day 3

Book Character Pumpkins

Elf on a Shelf ideas

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Tax Day Sale & Meet Up News!

So, I just, just, just found out about this little sale that some of the other tpt sellers are throwing and I decided to join in! So, if you've got anything on your wish list, this might be a good time to stock up! 
Click {Here} to visit my store!

And, how fun is this?! There is going to be a Florida blogger meet up in June! Barring any weird happenings, I'll be there! Click the pic below for more information.
Happy Sunday, my friends!
Just seven more Mondays till Summer (but who's counting...)
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Field Trip Fun w/ a Freebie

We recently spent a day at the Museum of Discovery and Science in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. We saw an excellent 3D dinosaur movie and had a great class led by one of the museum volunteers. We ran from the otters to the fossil dig to the Everglades experience, we harassed a mastodon and climbed in and out of a giant shark about a thousand and ten times. Then we ate lunch outside in the 90 degree weather while fending off GIANT pigeons that we made sure we didn't feed. Which obviously is not the norm. I'm surprised these pidgies could even fly! But who am I to talk...I'm having some trouble getting off the ground myself these days.



We capped off the day with a 40 minute un-air-conditioned, bumpy bus ride back to the other end of the county. The kids were actually great and we all had tons of fun, but by the time we were back in the classroom the kids were all hot, sweaty and tired! (Wait, maybe that was just me...) Anyhow, I had about 25 minutes before dismissal and ZERO energy, so we welcomed Miss Frizzle to the room to share just a little bit more about dinosaurs, just in case we missed something at the museum.

I had a few little pangs of guilt. I thought I should be leading some great discussion about everything we had just seen and done, but I just didn't have it in me. I was also wishing that I at least had some kind of fun activity that I could give them so that they could work in groups to discuss it with each other because somehow they still actually had some energy left. But, I had nada. zip. zero. zilch. I felt bad, but not bad enough to turn off the Frizz.

I dragged myself home, crawled into bed and settled in for a nap and...I couldn't sleep!! Can you believe?? I was so dog tired, but my brain was racing with ideas. So I stopped fighting it and rolled my butt out of bed and started working.

I ended up creating a packet of stuff that I can not even believe I haven't had before! I made a whole packet full of field trip teacher planning pages, student activities and even a glyph and bulletin board activity. I was pretty impressed with my sleepy self for coming up with what I did. I was a little less impressed the next day when I went back to proofread everything, but no worries, it's all fixed now.

So, the next day we tried out some of my ideas, and I have to say, they were pretty good! With some hot coffee in me and a good night's sleep, we did have a great discussion about what we did and then the kids worked on a few of the activities from the packet. Here is the Field Trip Wrap-up, a nice review of the day:

I'm loving how their drawings so accurately depicted the day. 
They haven't even seen the real pix yet. Love this!

And here are a few of their bus glyphs. The glyph was great, because it allowed them to freely express how they felt about the trip without having to say it out loud. I walked around and listened to the table chatter as they were working and it gave me a some insight into what they really thought and remembered about the trip (the pigeons, the big shark and the bus ride...)

If you're interested, I put the whole packet together on TpT which you can see {HERE} (It's on sale until 4/16!) You can also grab the Field Trip Wrap-up page free by clicking {HERE}.

As much as I'm excited to use these activities for my field trips in the future, I'm secretly relived I don't have to until next year! :)

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Parent Appreciation Idea!

Hey friends!
We have company! Please welcome my blog bud April from A Modern Teacher. If you're looking for me, I'll be at Starbucks preparing for my room parent gifts...but I'll be back tomorrow :)    

First of all, let me pinch myself.  This is my first guest blog and I'm here...where it's so sunny!!? I couldn't be happier!  I am honored to write a guest post for my sweet funny blogger friend Denise. Over the years, I have been blessed to have parent volunteers in my classroom.  And every year, at the end of the year, I want to get my room parent (or other volunteers) a little appreciation gift.  But honestly, rarely do I find creative gifts for parent volunteers.  Of course, it got me thinking...and with a little help from pinterest....here are:
Parent Volunteer Gifts Using Starbucks Gift Cards
I mean who doesn't love Starbucks???  Even if you don't like coffee, you can get tea or a little something to eat.  Yummo. (I prefer the caffeine...sometimes double shots..yikes)
Attach these little sayings and share your appreciation.  For each cup, fill with brown paper, put the gift card inside the cup and add the tag you can find for FREE if you click HERE or on the image.  I printed mine on plain white cardstock.  Another idea is to fill all cups with the different items and then have each gift card equal... say $5 and put it in a to-go container. You have been a LIFESAVER!  Thanks for all your help. Your help ‘mint’ so much!  Thank you! Your help was ‘tearrific’! Thanks for all the EXTRA help this year!
Click on the image to download them for free. What do you think?  Something you could use?  I hope so! Thanks again Denise for inviting me!  Now, if only I could get to Florida...sand between my toes, waves crashing....ah WAKE UP :)
~April

April is the creator of A Modern Teacher Blog.  After 11 years of teaching, she stays busy with her new baby and 3 year old.  She blogs about DIYs, Craftivities, and Organizational Tips for the Elementary Teacher.  April is passionate about 'teaching made simple and fun'.

Earth Day Freebie Linky!

With Earth Day upon us, this is a great time to share a little about my school. We have a school-wide theme that changes every two years. It used to be every year, but investing in a theme that was a one-shot deal was expensive and a LOT of work! Every two years is bad enough just fine.

So the theme for the past two years has been Get Into a Green Routine! Our school is located right on the edge of the Everglades, so we tend to gravitate toward environmental themes. I really liked this one and I'm kind of sad to see it go, it's pretty universal and I like to build on things instead of starting all over again at square one, but that's just me (apparently).

Let's start with my own room. We've been love-love-lovin' Amy Lemons' Earth Day unit. I pretty much {big pink puffy} heart anything Amy makes. I've told her this before, but my kids actually ask "Is this from Amy Lemons?!" when we start something they think is cute or fun. I get such a kick out of that! They know I'm Sunny Days so they look for that too, but I honestly think it's Lemons in the lead in room 852. These super cute books are from her unit.


I always have my iphone with me when I'm walking the halls so I can snap a picture of something that inspires me or I find share-worthy. Here are some that are great for Earth Day or if you're considering a theme like this for next year. 




This next genius idea comes from our fabulous, amazing PTA. Once a month we have a Trashless Lunch Day where the kids are encouraged to bring lunches that generate the least amount of trash as possible. Look at these great visuals they made for the kids!


Some other goodies from around the school:



As I was putting this post together, I intended to share some of the great freebies I've found for Earth Day, but there are SO many! I decided to host a linky party instead so everyone can link up and find all of the environmental goodness in one easy place.

Feel free to link up below! You can link straight to a free product or to a blog post that has a free activity or even just a fun idea. If you link to your blog, please grab this image at the top of this page and link back here. Can't wait to see all of your awesome ideas!
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Bunny Hop Freebie

Look at you, hopping your little cotton tail down the TBA freebie trail! You've found egg 22!
I hope you enjoy today's freebie from yours truly! I'm assuming that an Easter-themed activity would have to be tucked away until next year at this point, so I'm going with Earth Day! 


Below you'll get a glimpse of my gift to you. It's a set of Earth Day Facts & Fun task cards. These are great for a writing center, buddy talk or even a whole class discussion when you have a few empty minutes to fill. Click on the pic to download!


Our school theme is "Get Into a Green Routine" so I'm surrounded by environmental goodness all day, every day. I've got some great pix and some more Earth Day freebies to share with you this weekend, so be sure to check-in between your Peep eatin', Cadburry Egg havin', Matzah munchin' holiday celebrations!

Time to hop to the next stop. Click on the egg below to see what's in store for you at Me & Marie!
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