Saturday, January 31, 2015

Alternative Classroom Seating

What kind of seating do you have in your classroom? 

I stumbled upon a great seating solution and wanted to share with you how it is working in my classroom!

Ta-Da!!!!  Have you seen these before??  They are totally funny looking, right? 

These are Stabili-T-Stools and my kids and I love them!

I teach special education resource classes, which means I see several groups of students ranging from Kindergarten to Third Grade.  My students are struggling in math and/or reading and come to me for about 45 minutes per day. 

I noticed that many of my students were having a hard time sitting still during our classes.  They would wiggle in their seats, rock in their chairs, or even completely fall out of their chairs from sitting incorrectly.  Needless to say, it's super hard to work when you can't sit still.  

So I did a little research and started looking for an alternative seating solution.  I had tried exercise balls in the past, but honestly I got tired of them rolling around the room.  

Enter the Stabili-T-Stool.  Funny name.  Funny looking.  But oh-so-effective!!!

I purchased mine from Abilitations. Stabili-T-Stools are made of hard plastic.  One end is flat and the other end is rounded. They come with a circular rubber spot to place underneath.  This is important, because otherwise the stool could slip out from under the student.  

The awesome thing about the stools is that they allow the students to move while they are working.  These Stabili-T-Stools are great for strengthening students' cores and helping them to perfect their balance and coordination.  Some of my students were able to sit on the stool and get to work right away.  For others, it took a little bit of time for them to get used to balancing and working at the same time.  It was interesting to see how different students adjusted differently.  

In my classroom, the stools are an option.  I give students a choice of sitting in a regular chair or using one of the stools.  Most of the time, they choose the stools. 

Have you tried any alternative seating in your classroom?  How did it work out and what has been your favorite option so far?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Valentines Ideas for Bigger Kids

I'm gearing up for the last big holiday celebration before the end of the school year/my maternity leave: Valentines Day! Even though I teach 4th grade, my student's are always ready to celebrate whenever they can; I just try to make it educational too.

A year or two ago, I saw a fun idea from Ideas by Jivey, and I challenged my homeroom students to this last year. It really got them to thinking. Nothing like throwing in a few fractions to make decorating a Valentine's Day bag more fun.

Working with figurative language, while it can be difficult at times, it can be fun change of pace for the holidays. Last year, student's worked with similes and metaphors to describe their families and share the love a bit.

To try and brush up on skills before the "big test" I created some centers with a Valentine theme to help my student's review. Learning through centers and games are a classroom-favorite.

A very sweet paraprofessional with an artistic flair, helped me create some valentines for a few ladies in my building who don't always get the recognition they deserve: the lunch ladies. A freebie for kiddos to color and surprise the cooks with. I know the ladies sure enjoyed the extra showering of appreciation.

A little Valentine's Day flair found itself in one of my RTI groups. A fun game to work on nonsense long and short vowels

Here's hoping you and your student's have a wonderful Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

mClass Math and RTI Math Practice

Do you use mClass math assessments at your school? It's a standardized test given at the beginning, middle, and end of the year. It helps us decide what level students are on, and who may need to be put into math RTI. In Kindergarten, the skills tested are counting, quantity discrimination, missing numbers, and number identification. The students have one minute to complete each activity with includes numbers 1-100. I created a set of worksheets to help my students practice these skills throughout the year, so when assessment time rolls around, they'll be ready to go! 
For each month, I have colored versions and black/white versions of the worksheets. Since my school counts our copies, I put the colored version into sheet protectors and use in my math centers or RTI Math small group. Students LOVE to use dry-erase markers and this makes them easy to clean and re-use. 
I put these worksheets front and back in the sheet protectors. One side includes numbers 1-10 and the other side is 11-20. 
I use this worksheet (below) and a sand timer to work on number recognition to 100. The students work in pairs with this game. One student is in charge of watching the sand timer, while the other student tries to say as many numbers as they can in 1 minute. My competitive students have so much fun with this, and have no idea it's helping them become more fluent in their numbers! :)
You can find all of these activities in my "A Year of mClass Math" bundle. You'll get 10 months worth of worksheets including color & b/w versions!
If you want to try this before you buy it, grab a FREE sample of the product here!

Another fun way to review missing numbers is with my Missing Numbers Fluency & Fitness game!  I've mentioned this game before, but for you new followers, here's how to play. You simply project one of the slideshows onto a big screen and flip through the slides as fast or slow as you think your students can do the skill. When they see an exercise slide, they have to do that exercise until you click to the next screen. I like to tease my students and stay on the exercise screen for a while. ;) I have Fluency & Fitness available for many reading and math skills.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Vowel Songs

Hi all!  It's Whitney here from The Crazy Schoolteacher.  I'm lucky enough to teach in a first grade classroom.  One thing we spend a lot of time on in first grade is vowel sounds.  

Let me start by telling you that I was one of those kids who could NEVER tell the difference between a short vowel sound and a long vowel sound.  I don't know what it just always stumped me!  During my first year of teaching first grade there were a group of kiddos just like me.  They just didn't get it.  It didn't matter what I did, how I explained it or how much we practiced...they didn't GET it.  

I racked my brain on how to help those little ones.  I started with thinking about what would have helped me as a kid.  Then it came to me...songs.  That is when my vowel songs were born!

I started with the short a song.  I introduced it to my kiddos at the beginning of the week and we sang and sang and SANG that song for the entire week.  In fact, we sang it at the start of every phonics lesson or activity.  And guess what?  IT WORKED!  My kiddos GOT it!  Hallelujah! 

After seeing how well my kiddos did with the short vowels, I wrote a long vowel song out of necessity.  My kiddos responded well to the songs and now have mastered both long and short vowels.  We still use the songs.  This time of year is perfect for a review!

To grab my short vowel songs and long vowel songs for free, head over to my tpt store right now! :)

Monday, January 26, 2015

25 Ways to Dismiss Your Class

I am always looking for new ways to dismiss my class. Whether we are going from the carpet area back to our desks or from our desks to the carpet area or from either place to the door, I don't want my students rushing in a big mob to where they are asked to go. To avoid this I always usually have my students go a few at a time. To add fun to this transition I have a variety of criteria for who gets to go when.

An example is, I say "If you had cereal for breakfast then go _________." Those student move and then I continue. "If you had _________ for breakfast then go ________." and so on until all students are lined up. 

The 25 options I use the most are:

1.)          Month in which they were born
2.)        Beginning letter of first/last name
3.)        Number of vowels in first name
4.)          How they got to school (bus, walk, bike, car)
5.)          Favourite ice cream flavour
6.)          Favourite school subject
7.)          First letter of middle name
8.)          Number of syllables in last name
9.)           Colour of pants/skirt/shorts
10.)        Colour of shirt
11.)         Colour of hair
12.)        Colour of eyes
13.)        Colour of coat at school
14.)       Colour of shoes
15.)        Type of ties on shoes (Velcro, laces, none)
16.)        Type of shirt (short/long-sleeve, color, buttons)
17.)        Length of hair
18.)        Number of brothers/sisters
19.)        Colour of socks
20.)       What they ate for breakfast
21.)        What they ate for lunch
22.)      Number of family members living in their house
23.)       Type of pet
24.)      Number of pets
25.)       Movies they have seen

I have compiled the 25 different options on one page that you can print out to have on hand. You can get them by clicking on the picture below.
I hope this helps you have smooth transitions in your classroom!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Prepping for the Big Test!!

We all know those dreaded days in the spring.  They come around every year.  Sleepless nights..  or if you do get to sleep then you have nightmares about accidentally giving answers to students or everyone failing!!  So awful!!!  And as a teacher - we NEVER want to 'teach to the test'.  We hope that what we teach them through the year will prepare them for what's on the test.  But that can't always be just it.  There does need to be some getting ready - some pumping them up!  Here are just a few things I try to do to get them ready.  :)

In writing, we use the acronym of SLAMS.  I know there are different ones out there (RACE, etc).  I find this one to be the most helpful.

Each letter in SLAMS stands for something important that can be applied to either an extended response or a constructed response on any type of open ended question.  I teach the kids to say "A good answer SLAMS the question".  We use this starting in January to help make sure our answers are the best they can be.  You can download this free poster by clicking on the picture.

We also do some test prep activities twice a week.  Just enough to where we are practicing but not overwhelmingly so!  I incorporate 'cold read' passages every week as well so I can focus on their independent comprehension.  These are SO important.  We so often 'prep' our students on their weekly comprehension stories - even by just reading it to them.  We need to see what they can do on their own.

These are the test prep pages I use.  10 questions.  I model the first 2, we practice 3-8 together and then the last 2 are on their own.  They are great for a quick mini lesson/review.  This packet includes different skills like phonics, prefix/suffix, rhyming, synonyms/antonyms, and syllables.  A lot of those 'word work' skills that sometimes even the more advance readers need.  I've had a lot of success with these!

The other piece that's critical that I do is teach my students important 'testing' vocabulary.  We do a program all year long called "Vocabulary Voyage".  It teaches the students a variety of words they might see on a standardized test.  We learn 5 words every two weeks.  The first week we learn the definitions of those 5 words.  The 2nd week we learn how to answer questions with those words in them.  I have found that a lot of time when students are presented with the 'test' they have the knowledge but the questions are worded in a way that they just don't understand.  This program is designed to help them with that!  They also learn how to sight read the words as well.  The words hang outside the door and we say the word of the day as we enter the classroom each time.  

Other than those components, I really don't 'prep' them that much.  I try throughout the year to use best practices that will give them as much firepower for the test as I can.  We can then only hope for the best.  I wish you all the best of luck with your upcoming testing.  :)  Let me know if you have any questions!  

-Ciera Harris

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Utilizing Downtime Like a Techie

Hi!  This is Autumn from The Primary Techie.  I am so excited to be blogging for Who's Who and Who's New today.  I am a first grade teacher and a techie wannabe.  Several years ago, my school bought smartboards for some of our classrooms.  I didn't know exactly how to use it, but I knew that I wanted to.  I started making resources that utilize my board and they have changed the way I teach.  I am so much more effective with my board than I was before it.  One of the areas that my board definitely helped me with was downtime.  You know those three minutes when you are waiting to go to lunch?  When you are on the phone with the office?  When you need to give immediate attention to a student and the rest of the troops need to fend for themselves?  These little moments happen every day, but they really add up.  I don't want this downtime for two reasons; #1) Our time at school is valuable and we don't want to waste it.  #2) When my firsties are not engaged, problems arise.  By keeping kids focused and engaged, almost all behavior issues vanish.

To fill these little moments, I use digital flash cards.  I call them "more FLASH less CARDS" because they are more exciting than flash cards.  They have sound effects and animations.  Most of my more FLASH less CARDS have three speeds to choose from - click to advance (you must click to go to the next), auto advance (they will go by themselves at a slower rate), quick advance (they go by themselves at a fast pace for a fun challenge).

I pin these resources directly to my desktop.  This helps me find them quickly.  At the beginning of every school year, I find a couple "little techies".  These are the kids who are a little more mature and problem solvers.  I teach them where our resources are saved and how to open them.  We practice this as a class.  I teach the little techies how to open and run each resource and I teach the class what they should be doing when these are on.  I have many versions of these digital flash cards.  I have sight words, letters, subitizing, and more.

 When the phone rings, I just say "Dolch Speed Read" and one of my little techies will go open dolch speed read flash cards for me.  This keeps my little guys focused and lets me do what I need to without worrying about them getting bored.  (Bored=Naughty!)  They are so well-trained that I have even had to step out of the room for a minute and come back to find them doing this.  These are open-ended so you don't need to actually "finish".  You can just stop it when you are ready to move on.
This has made such a difference in my room!  I hope that you can use this idea to help fill those little moments of downtime in your own classroom.  You can click on the images below to check out some of the more FLASH less CARDS in my store.

I am absolutely passionate about teaching in engaging and fun ways.  I want my kiddos to have so much fun that they don't realize they are learning.  Stop by The Primary Techie blog to read more!
Until next time,