Saturday, July 28, 2018

Beginning of the Year Math for Second Grade

Hey y'all! As you're thinking about heading back to school, it's time to start doing a little planning. I think I have tried just about everything when it comes to teaching math. I have taught whole group, small group, rotations, BUILD stations, district provided curriculum, a mixture of resources...nothing had been quite right. So I tried what I do with science centers....

Basically, we have a whole group lesson on Monday, the kids go to stations Tuesday through Thursday, and Friday we have a culminating lesson and activity. Each week is highly focused and the kids are so engaged with what they're learning that there are rarely any behavior issues. You can find the whole scoop on it here.

So when we start off at the beginning of the year, we spend a lot of time on routines and procedures. Students need to know how it works, where they put their recording sheets, where to go next, etc. You can find a free startup kit for organizing things here. (It's really simple!)

The first week of school, we do lots of hands on explorations with manipulatives so we can get the play out of the way and set the tone for math time. After that, we focus on how to use these things as tools, not toys.

The first week of hard core math is reviewing addition and subtraction strategies. We can't get anything else done until we remember those things! We do this with anchor charts, games, interactive notebooks, write the rooms, and task cards. The best part is students begin to take charge of their learning. Each station has direction cards for students to refer back to if they forget what they're supposed to be doing at a center.

The second week, we review skip counting by 5's, 10's, and 100's. Again, games, task cards, notebooks, and write the room activities help facilitate instruction. While students are at their centers, I am checking in with them and addressing any misconceptions, answering questions, providing scaffolding, and doing all the things I'd be doing in a whole group lesson without having to compete for attention with whatever has them silly today. 

Week 3, we dive into number lines. Most of my students remember being exposed to number lines in first grade, but often forget how to use them. With a week of dedicated stations, they become pros and aren't intimidated by them when it comes to standardized testing time. 

This is a three week long unit that includes everything needed to get students back into a math mindset and ready to dig deeper. It includes lesson plans, direction cards, puzzles, games, recording sheets, interactive notebook pieces, and math crafts to end the week and add to your bulletin boards.

For more details, you can check out the whole unit here. This is the first of several units coming this year. Stay tuned for many more exciting resources to engage your second graders and build a student-centered classroom.

Thanks for stopping by, and don't forget to pick up your starter supplies. You can get them here and full math unit here. Have a great week and stay sweet!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Making the Most of Math Time (with a Freebie!)

Hey y'all! We all know how precious time is in the classroom. There literally is never enough time to do all the things, check in with all the kids as much as we'd like, and actually have fun at the same time. #toomuchpressure

One of the best ways to ensure that I can reach all my students and adjust instruction as needed is with stations. If you're familiar with my science units, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If not, you can check out the original post here.

Basically, on Monday we do a whole group lesson which introduces the topic and sets the stage for the rest of the week. We create anchor charts and get our notebooks ready for the week.

Tuesday through Thursday, students go through a series of stations designed to enhance learning of the given topic. While they are at stations, I am up moving around, checking in with students, providing support as needed, checking work, addressing any misconceptions, and all the other things you do while students are working independently. The kids are engaged in hands-on activities and constructing their learning while discussing concepts with their classmates.

On Friday, we do a culminating activity to put together all the things we've worked on during week. We share out Ah-ha! moments throughout the week and discuss our thinking about the concepts we're working on.

But how do we manage all this? It's really simple.

Students are grouped into teams of 3-4 students (depending on class size) and rotate through stations together. I tend to group students more-so on who works well together rather than ability level. You can get a free copy of my group rotation cards and station labels here.

We also need a place to put all these thoughts, ideas, and recording sheets. That's where math notebook come in. I like to use tabs in ours so that students can easily find what they are looking for without having to thumb through every page. These are also free and you can get a set for your classroom here.

The biggest impact we can have on our students is mindfully and purposefully planning instruction. If we just throw it all out there or blindly follow the district resources without really thinking about all the things, we will waste our instructional time and do our students a disservice. This setup is easy to follow and several resources are already ready to get you started. Click here to find out more and stay tuned for additional units coming soon. 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you got some new ideas for your classroom. Have a great week and stay sweet. 


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Hey y'all! Do you read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom at the beginning of the year? I read it the second week of kindergarten and it's the perfect introduction to learning our letters and investigating our names. It is one of my favorite units in kindergarten.

We like to start the week by going on a letter hunt. I place the letter cards around the campus, and together we go find the letters. I usually use the capital letters for this activity since most students recognize capitals before lower case letters. This activity serves two purposes at the beginning of the year: first, we practice identifying letters; second, we practice walking in a line and staying together. Both skills are super important to learn at the beginning of kindergarten! (Sorry they look stripey. My printer had issues. They don't have stripes normally. I bought a new printer after taking these pictures.)

After our letter hunt, we can use the cards in the classroom in a couple of ways. First, we can use just the letter cards to match capitals and lower case letters. This can be done in a pocket chart, by placing them on a clothesline with clothespins (great for fine motor!), or by playing memory. Your students that already know the capital and lower case letters will benefit most by the last game.

Cards can also be put in ABC order either on the clothesline, on the floor, or across the white board. Add some magnet strips to the back after laminating and you'll give the game a whole new novelty.

Another way to play is by using the bonus cards. With this game, students draw a card off the stack. If they know the letter, they get to keep the card. If they don't, they have to put the card at the bottom of the stack. If they draw an "Aw, Coconuts!" card, they put all their cards back. The player with the most cards at the end of the game wins.

This game is a great way to teach social skills--primarily taking turns and how to handle setbacks. I would use this game a little later in the school year when I know which students can handle having to put their cards back and we've talked about how to win and lose graciously.

There are so many excellent activities that go along with Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. These cards will last you the entire unit and more. I usually print a couple of sets so that students at different levels can use them with the different activities. For a set of your own, click here.

Well, I hope you got some new ideas for your classroom. Stay tuned for more great resources coming soon.

Stay sweet,


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Assessing Kindergarten Readiness Skills

Hey y'all! It's getting to be that time again when fresh faces enter our classroom and we start to build new relationships and new memories. The beauty of kindergarten is that everyone starts fresh--no history of behavior from last year, no preconceived notions, just fresh. (I love that part!)

The bad news is, you likely have no idea what strengths and weaknesses your students have coming in. Of course you're going to teach all the things, but if you know where everyone is starting from, you have a much better idea of how far you can go. That's why, at the beginning of each year in kinder, we use a beginning of the year assessment to find out exactly where they're all at.

It's super simple. I sit one on one with each student while the others are working on a handwriting page or a math or fine motor center and assess each student. I ask them to identify as many capital and lower case letters as they can, and the sounds the letters make. I ask them to identify numbers 0-20 (12 and 20 always trip them up!) and to count as high as they can, orally and with objects (this assesses one-to-one correspondence). I ask them to identify basic colors and shapes, and to write their name. When they write their name, I'm looking at whether they can write it and how their pencil grip looks. If it looks labored, I might give them some tools to help or talk to our OT person.

The next part is print awareness. This can be done during the one on one time or while walking around the room while students are working. During this part of the assessment, I look to see if the student holds the book correctly, turns the page the right direction, and knows that words go left to right and top to bottom. I'll ask them to point to a word and a letter to see if they know the difference. The vast majority of my kinders know the difference, but I really need to know who doesn't so we can address that pretty quickly.

You can even use this set digitally now. The deck for Boom Learning has 85 cards that assess students on identifying capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers to 20, shapes, and colors. The only things in the print version that aren't in the Boom version are print awareness (can they hold the book correctly and follow print) and name writing. But you can get both sets bundled here and have EVERYTHING you need for in-person or distance learning. 

Easy enough, right? But then what? When I'm finished, I take a look at all the data and start grouping students on skills they need. Five kids don't know the difference between letters and words? We'll talk about it during our shared reading and then reassess in a small group. Four kids know all their capitals and very few lower case letters? There's a small group. Three can't write their name? There's a small group, too. Six know all their letters and the sounds they make? We've got a guided reading group there.

Throughout the year, I reassess students to check their progress and make adjustments as needed. Groups are fluid and can change as fast the littles grow. Just don't forget to reevaluate their needs and move on as they master new skills.

You can get a copy of the assessment I use here. It's pretty straightforward and easy to setup--just print and go. You can even put cards on a book ring to make it easy to take with you around the room.

I hope this helped. Stay tuned for more great resources coming soon.

Stay sweet,