Monday, March 31, 2014

Are You Ready for Camp?

Greetings to you...from Camp Comprehension! 

I'm here to share one of my latest goodies that has helped my kiddos become more familiar with non fiction text. Welcome to Camp Comprehension
I'm sure you've heard that new/old buzz phrase in teaching - Close Reading! Just in case you haven't, Close Reading is an engaging way to help students work on building their comprehension. The Common Core Standards ask students to dig deeper into informational texts by answering questions and citing evidence. 

So...what does this mean in the classroom? Kids now need to "show what they know!" As we know, most kids are SUPER into animals. I thought if I created high interest topics, the kids wouldn't mind reading and answering questions about the text.  

I used 20 different animals to create 40 reading passages.  Having two passages for the same animal allows you to differentiate for your classroom of readers! 
I should point out that Close Reading is a challenging skill for young students to master. I use these non-fiction passages WITH my students during small group reading time.

This is the easier of the two passages.  
 This is the harder of the two passages on ants. 

All of the passages are set up in a very similar way, so my hope is that the kids will soon become familiar with the questions and skills, allowing them to complete the activities independently down the road. 

If you have some smarty-pants 1st graders or independent second graders, they could probably rock these passages on their own! 

Wanna try out Camp Comprehension? Click the picture below to snag this freebie!
 Don't worry - answers are included, too :) 
If you can use it in your classroom, I hope you'll leave some TpT love! 

Stay tuned for more Camp Comprehension “Sessions!” 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Personal Space Camp

Happy Sunday, everyone!  It's Lisa from Second Grade Stories coming to you from a VERY rainy New England.  I can't complain though - at least it's not 20 degrees and snowing!  Spring has finally begun to show up around here and nowhere is this more evident than in my classroom... with my kiddos' behavior... argghhh!
We definitely have some spring fever going on here and that means it's time to review and role play some social skills again - just enough to keep us going for the next three months.  (Yes, that's right... mid-June is our last day!)  My seconds have been SO all over each other lately - poking, tattling, interrupting... it makes the day so much more tiring and even they are feeling it.  So, I decided to jump right in and help them fix this so we can be a happy and productive classroom again. 
Welcome to
But before I share, let me explain how this all fits in.  (And I apologize for the lack of photos in this post - I'll try to get creative and put some in as much as I can!)  We all know how important teaching social skills is as part of our classroom.  Not only does it help keep things running smoothly during our day at school, but those same skills are an integral part of being successful out in the world.  I have an outline for the year of social skills for us to focus on - things like being a good listener, staying focused on your own work, taking turns and working together.  We focus on one skill for 3 or 4 weeks, doing most of our activities during morning meeting and then reinforcing throughout the day.  The first two months of school focus on:

I have a general plan of when we'll do others, but many times it depends on how things are going in class and what I see a need for.  Like now - we definitely needed to focus on two specific skills again - personal space and not interrupting.  I tackled personal space first, since I thought (hoped!) maybe reviewing that one would have an impact on everything else.  I enlisted the help of our fantastic school psychologist intern and we got to work. 
We started by reading this book - it is a must have for any elementary classroom!!!

Had I known about this book, I would definitely have used this at the beginning of the year.  (Already bought it from Amazon for next year!)  It's all about Louis, who has some issues with personal space (described SO perfectly from a kid's point of view!)  He's been asked to join a group that works on "space camp" - and he's ready to go because he knows a ton about outer space.  Louis is a little disappointed to discover that it's not THAT kind of space being talked about.  But, he learns a lot and even shares what he discovered with his family.
After the story and some discussion about what personal space means, we started talking about strategies for knowing the boundaries of your personal space - in line, on the rug, at your table, etc.  We brought out hula hoops for everyone and asked them to sit themselves on the rug, inside their hula hoop, in their own space.  AMAZING!  Kids who usually ended up on top of each other saw that you really CAN fit everyone on the rug comfortably.  After a few more quick activities (stuffing LOTS of kids into one hoop!) and role plays (how do you handle when someone is a "space invader?"), we moved the discussion to how personal space is different depending on the situation.  Sitting at tables means less personal space than a hula hoop, and in line is even less - but we modeled and role-played so everyone had a clear idea of what personal space meant.
At the end of the activity, each student received a "personal space camp" award.  Boy did they eat that up!  We told them that meant they knew everything about personal space and now they were expected to show it.  Here's the one I created.  You can click on it to use it with your own kiddos.

I can't say this completely fixed our personal space issues, but it made it easier for students to talk to each other about staying in their own space, using the hula hoop idea.  And it gave us a common language to use in our classroom.
Julia Cook, the author of this book, has MANY more great books on social skills that are perfect to use with elementary kids.  I own a ton of them.  They are written in a way that students can connect and some of them have an activities guide to go with them - perfect for classroom ideas.  Visit her website to see all the books she has.

I have also used the book
to work on interrupting.  Everyone has SO much to say and it is important for kids to know there is a time and a place for when to share things.  This book gives great strategies to hold those words in until it's time to share your ideas.  My kiddos LOVED practicing the strategies (lots of snorting going on here - you'll see!)  As I was hunting for ideas to use with this book to make our lesson more hands-on and give students something to refer to, I came across a great blog called Speech Room News.
Jenna is a pediatric speech language pathologist who works with students in an elementary setting.  Her blog is filled with ideas on teaching social skills in the classroom.  We used her volcano craft to follow up on our interrupting lesson.
We decided to write strategies we could use to stop interrupting on our volcano strips so students could refer to them as needed.  For the next week, our volcanos sat in our room and you could see everyone trying hard not to interrupt.  All I had to do was say "volcano" when someone interrupted and immediately everyone smiled!  On Friday, students took their volcanoes home, along with a quick note from me explaining what they were and how to use them.
Although working on these social skills takes time out from our "academics," it really pays off in the long run.  I'm looking forward to using more of Julia Cook's books (and Jenna's ideas!) in my classroom.  What great ideas do you have for working on social skills in the classroom?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

There's No Place Like Home: Making a Literacy Connection

Hello there!  It's Tamra and Sarah here from First Grade Buddies!  We hope your weekend is off to a great start!  

Over the last couple of years there have been many changes in terms of rigor and expectations in the classroom.  We feel a lot of these changes are seen most in the vocabulary used and higher order thinking skills required.  We got to wondering, how will the parents help their kiddos at home when they themselves are unsure of what we are teaching?  We were especially concerned with reading.  Starting at an earlier age kiddos are asked to answer questions about the main idea, to make connections, and they are also expected to use summarizing and inferring skills. 

We know when we were young these were certainly not the expectations.  If we weren't teachers ourselves, would we know to ask these questions of our own kids when reading?   

We wanted to find a way to help parents and families understand reading comprehension vocabulary at home.  We created monthly take home reading strategy packets called "SPARK Bags" to do this. 

The premise is that each student takes home a packet of "parent friendly" information and activities for each of 8 of the reading comprehension strategies (one SPARK Bag is sent home each month). Our goal is for the child to get extra practice with each strategy while parents and families can become familiar with language and vocab used in the classroom.  We feel this is a win/win!

We created a SPARK Bag for each of these reading comprehension strategies: 
Mental Images
Main Idea
Story Elements

In our classrooms we have had great luck with them.  We find that the kiddos enjoy "showing off their knowledge" when working on the strategies with their families and the parents have a better glimpse into what reading comprehension means in classrooms this day and age.  
{Families SPARKing Together can be found here in our store.}

Another way we make Literacy Connections at home is to send literature that we've been reading in the classroom home with the kids and other special activities or projects to go with them. This way the students can share a familiar book from school with their families.  We try to do this quarterly.   

 Currently, students are taking home our classroom bunny, Hopper!  

Our kiddos enjoy sharing their love of reading with their family and we love that they are practicing their literacy skills while having fun! 
{Adventures with Hopper is part of our Spring has Sprung packet and can be found here in our store.}  

Next quarter, our students will take home "What a Wonderful World:" 

This is a great way to celebrate Earth Day in your classrooms.  We have kept our books from year to year and they serve as a great memento of the kiddos we teach. 
{What a Wonderful World can be found here in our store.}

How do you make a literacy connection in the homes of the students in your classrooms?  We are always looking for more ideas, as we know it is SO important!!!

 Make sure to visit us:

Our blog:

Our store (which is having a sale):

 Enjoy your weekend!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Doodle?

How can we afford to "waste" valuable time in our classrooms letting our students doodle?

Sunny Brown gives the current definition of “doodle” in her TED talk, “Doodlers, unite!”:
“In the 17th century, a doodle was a simpleton or a fool, as in “Yankee Doodle.” In the 18th century, it became a verb, and it meant to swindle or ridicule or to make fun of someone. In the 19th century, it was a corrupt politician. And today, we have what is perhaps our most offensive definition, at least to me, which is the following: “To doodle officially means to dawdle, to dilly dally, to monkey around, to make meaningless marks, to do something of little value, substance or import and,” my personal favorite, “to do nothing.” No wonder people are averse to doodling at work."

However before a child can speak, they can draw pictures. Drawing helps children understand the world around them and helps them to make sense of the world. When children draw, it is without fear of what others will think, or to try to make a perfect representation of their world, but rather an attempt to communicate and understand what is going on around them. Here's a drawing of friends by a young student.

To take it one step further, the beginning of humankind first communicated through the use of cave paintings and we've learned more about that time from their artwork than in any other way.

So why spend valuable class time doodling?

Doodling greatly benfits our students and gives voice to learners who learn visually. According to Linda Silverman, director of both the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development and the Gifted Development Center and author of Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner, 37% of the population are visual learners.

Doodling helps students retain information. When students read a story or listen to a lecture and  doodle their understanding of that information their retention is increased.

As Sunni Brown states further in her TED talk, re-defining what doodling is:
“Doodling is really to make spontaneous marks to help yourself think. That is why millions of people doodle. Here’s another interesting truth about the doodle: People who doodle when they’re exposed to verbal information retain more of that information than their non-doodling counterparts. We think doodling is something you do when you lose focus, but in reality, it is a preemptive measure to stop you from losing focus. Additionally, it has a profound effect on creative problem-solving and deep information processing.”
In the arts, it allows students to draw without fear of failing and helps them to find their own artistic voice.

It uses abstract thinking skills. With the institution of the common core and it's emphasis on the higher level thinking skills, this is a valuable opportunity for students to use those skills.

How can teachers integrate doodling in the classroom?

Integrating doodling into the classroom isn't as hard as you might think. In Language Arts students can be asked to finish a doodle starter and then write about what they've drawn. I have a doodle starter lesson for elementary classroom teachers.

When reading a book for class the students can use post-it notes to doodle their ideas or thoughts as they are reading. This allows them to have a better understanding and recall of the story when they are done.

If you click on the image below it will take you to a great blog that explains SketchNotes in a visual way!

Click Here
I also teach a doodling lesson in my visual arts class. Here are some pictures of my students working on a more structured doodle lesson,  Doodle Landscapes:
Another activity that would be fun for students is to draw flowers, or bugs and then doodle inside the shapes! What a fun, simple craft to celebrate the coming of Spring! Here's a fun blog with step by step instructions on creating zentangle flowers! Check it out by clicking on the image!
You can find lots of great zentangle patterns on pinterest. Here is a board with some zentangle ideas and step by step patterns!
Doodling for fun is a great way to get students warmed up and get their creative juices flowing. The video I put together using visuals of different doodles is free. Access FREE video by clicking on the picture below.

21st Century Skills

Doodling is about using visual skill to solve problems. Creative problem-solving is one of the most important 21st century skills that our students will need to succeed. Best of all, no student ever complains that the day was horrible because they had to doodle! So can you tell I'm into doodling?! Lol! Take a chance and let your students amaze you with their creativity. Start doodling in your classroom! I'm sure many of you incorporate doodling into your classrooms already, how do you do it?
So go ahead, start doodling!

Sabrina Wingren






Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Math Practice with Xtra Math

Hello once again! I’m Jasmine from Buzzing With Mrs. McClain. Today I’m going to share with you a great technology tool that I use in my classroom called Xtra Math. Xtra Math is a great website to use when trying to get your students to learn their math facts.


To use Xtra Math, you begin by setting up your class. Once all of your students are enrolled in your class, they will be given a unique password that they will enter every time they complete a session of Xtra Math. Basically, it will flash math facts and the students type them in. I love that Xtra Math shows them the answers once they get them wrong and gives them the opportunity to correct their answers. I have been using Xtra Math during my Daily 5 Math time and I can really see the improvement in my students’ ability to quickly answer those facts.


As students progress through Xtra Math, they receive reports of their overall performance. This can be shared with parents as well. Hopefully you can use this tool in your classroom too! Enjoy your day!



Monday, March 24, 2014

Augmented Reality App for Increasing Math Fluency!

Hi everyone!  It's Debbie from K is for Kinderrific! :-)

I recently stumbled upon a great little app that is lots of fun and great for practicing math fact fluency!  And it uses Augmented Reality which is one of my new favorite things!!

The app is called Fetch! Lunch Rush and it's made by PBS Kids!  It's FREE!

First, you'll need to download the app onto your iPhone. I was able to download the app onto my iPad, however it did NOT work correctly.  I guess this is one of those apps that can only be used on the iPhone.  The app is based on Fetch, who is a PBS kids character!  He needs to complete orders for sushi and it's your job to help him by completing basic addition and subtraction problems!

Next, print out the game pieces from the PBS Kids site here.  
The game pieces are available in color or B&W.  
Each card has a different number on it.  

The app suggests spreading the number cards out all over the room.....taping some up high and some down low.....  However, since the students were going to be using MY iPhone to play...I decided that simply spreading them out on the table was good enough!

Once you have the number cards spread out, open the app and get ready to play!  
It's awesome because up to 4 players are able to play each game.  

The fun factor of this app comes because it uses augmented reality to make items from the app basically spring to "life" right in front of you!  Students are shown an equation and then have to find the card with the correct answer on it.  The app utilities the camera on the iPhone (or iPod) so all the student has to do is hold the iPhone in front of the number card and look what happens....

In the picture below, the student wanted to choose the answer 3.  So he held the phone over the number 3 card and 3 pieces of sushi "magically" appeared!  To finalize the selection, all the student does is tap the screen and the sushi flies away and another problem is given.

I used this app with groups of 1st and 2nd graders.  My students LOVED playing this game. They truly didn't want to stop.  Between the fun sounds, the 3D sushi pieces coming to life, and the cute character....they probably didn't even know they were practicing math facts! LOL  

One of the things that I really love about the app, is the feedback that it gives students.  If a student chooses an incorrect answer, the app will tell him if that answer is too little or too much.....which gives them a little hint in the right direction.  

If you are looking for a FREE, SIMPLE, and QUICK way to get your students practicing simple addition and subtraction, I highly recommend that you check out this app.  I bet your students will enjoy it as much as mine did!!