Sunday, September 28, 2014

Math Tool Kits

Is anybody using tool kits for math? I have been using the kits and the students love the concept!  I stocked my third grade kits with playing cards, plastic coins, sticky-notes, base ten blocks and units, paper clips, dice, tiny erasers and calculators.  I chose these items because the students have access to several counting methods as well as various items to solve a problem.  Each student has a ruler they keep in their desks that they may use at any time. 

Today, I wrote random numbers on my dry erase board and the students had to work with their elbow partner (person next to him/her) to get to “that” number.  They were allowed to use any manipulative as a team.  I was amazed with the creativity. I believe they used every manipulative in the kit at one point or another.   

In addition, my students utilize the kits while solving problems from their daily math review.

What do you have in your math tool kit?  How do you use the kits?  Where do you find the resources?   I got my supplies at discount stores. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Classroom Practices/Strategies/Getting Started in the Morning

I am always “all ears” when I hear how teachers implement management practices in their classroom.  I love listening to what strategies work well or what new approach showed results.  It can be anything from a song played in the background during transition time to line order. 

Even though I have been teaching for several years, I review my policies and procedures over and over at the beginning of the year as well as throughout the school year. I believe consistency is important for the students. Established routines give the students direction.

I’ll share several approaches and practices in upcoming blogs.

We do a choral reading of this pledge every single morning.  

        Class Pledge

I will bring a positive attitude to school each and every day.
I will complete all my assignments.
I will be respectful and kind to others.
I will try my hardest at whatever I do.
I will be the best possible student that I can be.

Class Pledge- Click on link to get your copy of the Class Pledge

I have the students recite the class pledge to promote an understanding of daily expectations. I try to build morale and the students understand this pledge is simply a guideline.  They don’t get consequences for minor infractions that fall under the lines in the pledge.  For example, a student might have a lot on his/her mind and it may be difficult to bring a positive attitude one day. I always compliment the class when they have a great day.  

Class Greet

Once we finish the pledge, I quietly play a small section of a song that is appropriate for school and students walk around the class and say hello to one another, myself included.  This allows for a student to discuss that home- run he/she hit, a music recital, a great book they read, a birthday party, a weekend away, or a goal scored in soccer, etc.  It also gives you an idea of student likes and dislikes.  Students enjoy telling you about something funny their pet did or a family event that brought them joy.  I file their interests in my head.  When it comes to an upcoming writing assignment, I can refer back to a memory discussed during the morning greet if writer’s block is occurring with a student.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Building Silent Reading Stamina

We have been working on building silent reading stamina in my class over the last two weeks.  I’m not implementing the full version of Daily Five just yet as I haven’t been trained, but I am borrowing the Two Sisters’ idea of building stamina during silent reading time. I’ve heard amazing things about the program from several teachers of all grade levels and I intend on reading up on the program this school year.

I decided to try the silent reading aspect of the program with my 27 third grade students. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, but I made sure the students knew the basics of the program.  They have to be reading and settled in a spot anywhere in the room.  They are not allowed to walk around or exchange books during the reading time. Every student had to be reading.  Talking, laughing and looking around the class during this time is not allowed.  Students need more than one book to prevent any breakdown in the system.

I review the appropriate way of silent reading every day before we begin.  There have been ebbs and flows but they get so excited when the reading time improves from the previous day.  I am going to continue this model for the rest of the year.

As you can see from the photos, I have some lamps in my class.  I turn the overhead lights down and put all the class lamps on during Silent Reading time.  I want the students to get the understanding this time is special.  It’s almost like our class evolves into one huge study area. 

My class library is a suitable place for the students to read but they have the option to read anywhere in the classroom.  I have a rotational system of students using the pillows.  The rotation consists of five students getting the pillows and the next five and so on…  A very special treat is when students get to read in my Chair of Excellence. 

I knew this concept of building stamina would be a struggle but I was all in!  I also knew it would take patience, understanding and discipline on my part. Here is a breakdown of the first ten days:

As you can see, the beginning of the reading stamina had some ups and downs as well as the ending. The listed times on my board are all over the place but I think that’s normal.  This program takes a lot of buy in from the students and the teacher.  

In the past, students were less settled in and more restless during silent reading time.  Now…I feel they are putting their best foot forward. I am looking forward to this week's results!

Has anybody else worked on building silent reading stamina?  How has the approach been working out for you and your class?  

Thanks a million,


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Summer Adventures

A few weeks ago we journeyed to the east coast.  We were able to set foot in eight states.  I’m not going to count stopovers at airports as that doesn’t quite register as “visiting” to me. We had an awesome time!

We began our adventure off on the wrong foot due to a flight delay out of Los Angeles. Initially, we were supposed to fly into Cincinnati via Dallas, but the flight out of Dallas had already departed when we arrived causing panic. Seriously, are flights always delayed now?   What were we to do?  We could stay at a hotel and fly out the next morning but out of the corner of my eye I saw a flight heading to Lexington, Kentucky that was in the final boarding stages.  I pleaded with the gate agent to let us on the Lexington flight, as I knew it wasn’t too far from Cincinnati.  Fortunately, they did let us board and we made it to Lexington.  The only other snag happened to be the lost luggage arriving the next night at 5 PM. 

Alexandria, Kentucky opened its arms to us and we nestled in quite nicely for a few days.   Banter drifted across living rooms, kitchens, basements, and backyards.  Christy’s relatives went out of their way to make the accommodations as cozy as possible. This ended up being the central get-away point for the week as we traveled near and far. 

My son was so excited to see the shark tanks and petting area of the aquarium in Newport, Kentucky.  The duck boat tour and aquarium in Newport were a highlight of the trip as he sang along with other passengers on the boat and was wide-eyed the entire time.

A few days later found us in Wheelersburg, Ohio for a family reunion on my wife’s side. It was nice to see dozens of cousins, aunts, uncles, and in-laws sitting around and discussing the good old days.   I might not be familiar with all the distant memories but it was great to hear the stories. The shared laughter reverberated across the small town.

Since we were in southeast Ohio, we decided to take a drive to West Virginia.  Country roads take me home!  Maybe West Virginia isn’t home but it sure is a beautiful state.  We ambled around Marshall University and Huntsville for the day.  Marshall has a wonderful campus and we felt an easy-going atmosphere around us.  The locals were quite kind and I’d go back in a heartbeat.

We landed back in Kentucky where we had some more laughs with family and friends.  With Alexandria, Kentucky being so close to Cincinnati, I got to see both Red Sox vs. Reds games. How ironic was it that I went with family and friends on two different days and ended up in the same section? The Red Sox were several games back at the time but that didn’t stop Red Sox Nation from cascading chants and loud claps in enemy territory.  The locals were so classy and handled the barrage with respect and dignity.  (I’ve now seen the Red Sox in 17 stadiums on the road and my goal is to see them play in every ballpark).  That’s a road-trip worth taking further up the road. 

Cincinnati is a great city.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t care for heights and crossing all those bridges made me a little uneasy at times, especially the one I walked…rather quickly raced across to get it over with.  However, the scenery in that city is amazing.  If you’ve never been, I strongly recommend a trip to that area. You might not know if you are in Kentucky or Ohio most the time but that is half the fun!  We didn’t run into locals George Clooney, Sarah Jessica Parker or Pete Rose but we did see a lot of historical sights. 

Next, our adventures took us to my beloved hometown of Boston, Massachusetts. Boston, you’re my home, is one of my wife’s favorite cities in the world. I got to take my son and wife all over the city and they loved the sites. Visiting with family and friends made the trip extra special. 

Being one of six children coupled with six nieces and nephews never allows for a dull moment. Twenty-four family and friends attended a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.  That was awesome!  The Red Sox were on the wrong side of the outcome but the memories will far outweigh the score.  My mom and dad had an extraordinary time and we had a family photo taken that I’ll cherish forever.

The journey wound us through Connecticut, New York City and New Jersey.  My niece and her friend attended an Eminem/Rhianna concert and we made a two-day trip of the ordeal. They had a blast. We did like New York City, but my-oh-my is that city busy.  We took our son to the Hershey Store and Toys ‘R Us in Times Square.   There is so much more to see there.  Start spreading the news… we’ll visit again in the fall or spring one day!

Live Free or Die is the state motto of our neighbors to the north, New Hampshire.  New Hampshire is 85 % forest and boy does it show.  It seems there are trees or vegetation hugging every highway or distant view.  Rolling hills and picturesque scenery lurk around every corner. 

We got to spend the evening with my brother and his family at his campsite in Ossipee.  The aroma from the fire pits throughout the campground drifted effortlessly by like the summer’s breeze.  S’mores were the favorite way to end the evening.  Ok…I don’t eat them, but everybody else enjoyed this treat.

I can’t thank our family and friends enough for the hospitality they showed us throughout the summer.  We can’t wait to return to some of the same destinations next year.  In total, we traveled to Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and New Hampshire.

We flew back to Los Angeles and talked about our trip the whole flight home!