Friday, December 21, 2012

Pundles and a Freebie

Pundles/Word Puzzles

I love using pundles/word puzzles in my class because they allow an opportunity for all students to shine.  I incorporate the pundles into my daily morning warm-up sheets as well as throughout the day.   These puzzles are super for centers, whole class, small group, gifted, cooperative groups, or used during transitions.  The excitement created by the word puzzles sets a positive tone for the school day.   The students have a great time figuring out the answers.  

Here is a sample to try out with your students!

I have created enough pundles for the entire school year.  Feel free to check out my TpT store if you are interested.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mental math and a FREEBIE!


I am posting about my mental math creation.  I normally focus on writing, but I like being creative with math as well.  A few years back, I started asking students mental math questions.  For example, “What is 4 x 4 plus 10?”  As the year gradually progressed, so did the problems.  I would add several step problems to the mental math routine where the students had to multiply, divide, add and subtract in the same problem.   

One day, I started mixing up the problems by putting objects around the room into the mental math questions.  Add the number of students in the class to our room number and add fifty to that number.  Take the ordinal number of President Grant and add the total number of fourth grade classes in our school to that number.

Since it wasn’t easy thinking of worldly facts off the top of my head, I decided to write some of my ideas down in the form of mental math task cards.  This concept has taken off in my room and students always ask for more problems.  The students and myself are eager for the beginning of math time.  The cards are leveled beginner, intermediate and advanced.  This is more than a mental math activity because it crosses so many subject areas.

There are various ways to implement the cards.  I hold the cards in one hand and a soft ball in the other.  I walk around the room asking the questions in a step-by-step manner.  I toss the ball to the student who is giving the response.  If that student is incorrect, he/she tosses the ball back and I toss the ball to another student.  I scan the room, but I try to give everybody a chance at answering.  As the weeks pass by, the cards will be repeated, but that is ok because the knowledge is reinforced.  I allow students to write their answers on dry erase boards, but most solve the problems in their heads.  

Another approach is to have students pair up to solve the mental math questions.  Each student receives four cards and they act as the teacher giving the step-by-step problem to their partner.  After a few minutes, the students switch roles and ask their set of mental math questions.    

If you have centers in your class, please feel free to have your students use the mental math cards in that setting.  Maybe you can keep a log, notebook, answer sheet, etc. for the student answers.

You might have your own mental math practices, but feel free to give my cards a chance.  Here is a link to a freebie so you can see what my cards look like!  I believe you will enjoy them.  If you are interested in more you can find them through the link to my TPT store.  I currently have two sets available!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Today’s Tip- Introducing Story Telling with Narrative Writing

Today’s Tip- Introducing Story Telling with Narrative Writing

I am starting today’s blog with narrative writing since this is the writing genre we are currently working on in my fourth grade class.  I will provide the build up in getting to the finished product with future postings.

There are several ways to teach narrative writing with students, but this is how I begin teaching narrative writing with my class.   I like to discuss my own personal stories with my students as a way to introduce narrative writing with my class.  I select one or two funny events in my life that I share out loud with my students.  I’ll even act out sections of the story if needed.  Students are “all ears” and they always ask for more.  Students like when you “open up” a little as well.

Next, I provide ready-made writing versions of that story.   A concrete writing example is a valuable teaching tool.  Students will now have a clear picture of your writing expectations.  I don’t expect students to write exactly how I do because their own creativity will come from within.  At least they have a tangible writing piece as a reference.  A class discussion ensues over the various writing components found in the story.

Does the story have an eye-catching beginning?
Can you find any figurative language examples?
Does the writing have vivid vocabulary?
How is the overall flow of the narrative?

This is just the initial section of this lesson. 

I re-write the same narrative in a step-by-step format over the next few weeks.  Each day consists of one mini-lesson where students are mirroring your lesson with their own narratives.

Thank you,


This is a sample of my own writing that I would share with my class.

My Blarney Castle Adventure

County Cork’s angry, gray skies threw light, chilling drizzle on those anxiously waiting for entrance to the six hundred year old structure, the Blarney Castle. I was one of a million patrons in the mob below along with my wife, Christy and cousin, Katie. When the line inched closer and closer to the Central Gateway, I peeked up in awe craning my tired neck. “WOW! I can’t wait to get to the summit of this massive site.”
The breezy, misty air was overflowing with a multitude of languages and laughter drifting about. Gradually, we shuffled as one, at the pace of a snail. I said to my self, “We’ll never reach the top at this rate.”  (That was a statement I would later regret). The echoing voices ascended to the top of the castle and reverberated down like thunder. A bag-piper filled his windbag and played such lovely Irish Music as we ambled by.
Now that we were on our way to the summit, anticipation lurked around every corner. We climbed the dusty, twisting spiral stairs as the mildew went through our nostrils.  People were no more than a few inches away on either side. Claustrophobia was playing tricks on me, and my heart began racing.
Before long, my eyes spied the grey heavens, where showers were just dissipating and a slight draft caressed us. The air was bone chilling. I was trailing my wife when she stopped suddenly, grinning ear to ear. “Wow, it is gorgeous up here,” she said. Within seconds, my scuffled tennis shoes embraced the ancient castle’s battlements. I took a deep breath, with my cousin just paces behind, and sighed as I took in the patches of vast, green fields. We herded towards the Blarney Stone. (This is the spot where people lean backwards, kiss the wall, and receive the Gift of Gab). 
Panic ensued and I began trembling. I had never had a feeling of such magnitude before. As I wobbled side to side, my wife gawked at me in disbelief. She asked what was wrong, but by this point, I was lying on the ground with my body clenched tight in the fetal position. I murmured, “I can’t bear the heights and I am getting too anxious.” I hauled myself up again, glimpsed over the turrets, and a dizzy spell washed over me.  I felt as if I was spinning in the Tilt-A-Whirl.
With a booming heart, shaky knees, and sweat pouring down my grubby face, I decided I needed to get out of that place swiftly. My cousin said I am “oh so close” to the Stone, but I informed her I couldn’t handle this insanity any longer.
I plunged to the ground like a lead balloon for the third time and did an Army roll though visitor’s legs. I snaked my way under a wire fence which read: “NO ENTRY”. I took a massive gamble but I had to make my get away. I ambled towards the “NO ENTRANCE” sign and marched down a deep, dark stairwell. I thought to myself, “maybe I made a huge mistake, but, I may as well see where it leads.”
I took each step with the grace of a bull in a china shop. It looked as if the stairs were going to lead me to a dead end and my plea for help would fall on deaf ears. It was pitch black and I walked into a few cobwebs. Finally, I heard voices and I headed in that direction. Out of breath, and with feet on solid ground, I shouted, “Do not go up there if you are afraid of heights.” Other visitors gave me a look like they swallowed a pack of Sweet-Tarts.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Intro Blog


My name is Sean and I am from Boston, Massachusetts.  I currently reside in California with my wife, Christy, and son, Ciaran. I have been teaching for about seventeen years.  I am currently teaching fourth grade. 

Blogging is new to me so I will try my best to stay on top of current trends.  I started my blog to share my writing ideas and daily lessons from my classroom.

I will provide lesson plans and writing ideas that have worked for my students.  I will share other curricular ideas as well.  

Thanks for stopping by and feel free to stay as long as you'd like.  Check out my TpT store below.  I’ll throw in some freebies for my loyal followers.  All my products have been self-created.

I am looking forward to sharing stories and exchanging ideas with anybody interested.  

Thanks for listening,