Saturday, December 29, 2012

Test Prep Linky!

Cartoon is thanks to Larry Cuban’s article on School Reform.

Yikes! State assessments are right around the corner and the funny thing is that we’re not really that nervous. This year more than ever, we feel like we’ve done a great job preparing our students for testing situations through our day-to-day teaching. In the past two years our students have scored almost 100% proficient and advanced on our state tests and we wanted to share some of our secrets as well as secrets from other top teachers.

To help students with constructed response questions, we teach them through using a metaphor of a great constructed response. This free ice cream packet will help your students write complete constructed responses. Be sure to use this model throughout the year and not just right before the test for the most “delicious” results.

To help students write prompts throughout the year we love our community journals. We try hard to stick to a traditional writing workshop model throughout the year and have it found it hard to tie in prompt writing without these journals. Kids write to a different prompt each week and then give each other feedback. Each journal is unique so we always keep our students on their toes! Our teammates love to use these as homework while we prefer to maintain a testing environment during this practice. The possibilities are endless! Download this packet here.

To help our students use math vocabulary effectively, we use the common core words as our word wall. It’s fun to tie in math vocabulary games to keep our students engaged while learning these words. Download this packet here.

We do the same thing for literacy vocabulary! Download this on TpT here.

Finally, our secret to helping students practice literacy skills throughout the week is a week-to-week bulletin board program where students practice ten different skills. These skills get harder and harder each week so our kids are well prepared. We usually do this during word work time as a “must do.” It is available for purchase on TpT here.

Check out more test prep secrets below!

Sunday, December 16, 2012


"We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.”
― Zeno of Citium, as quoted by Diogenes LaĆ«rtius

I probably say "I am looking for good listeners" a hundred times a day! Listening is such an important skill that is so often overlooked in our lesson planning. Today's blog post is dedicated to helping students become active listeners throughout the day. Here are a few ideas...

1. Teach students what it means to be an active listener. Make a chart defining it.
2. Give your students three step directions and tell them that you are only going to repeat the directions one time. If they know this in advance, they are forced to listen. Do this frequently in all activities and follow through!
3. Model what it means to be an active listener by showing this to your students when they are speaking.
4. Hold them accountable for listening. If you give them all of the notes and directions in writing, they don't need to listen! Be sure that they are expected to be an active participant in the lesson.
5. Surprise them! Make sure you have a classroom environment where students know they might be called on to talk at any time. There's no "zoning out" in these types of rooms!

Download this FREE Christmas Listening activity to help your students reflect on their listening skills in class.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Holiday Math

Racing through the halls,
With a teacher yelling “hey”
O’re the crazier we get
Laughing all the way!

Does this sound like your students this time of year? Sometimes it feels so hard to do any meaningful teaching when the kids are all consumed with the holidays. If you can’t beat ‘em…join ‘em.

Instead of teaching our regular math workshop for the last week before break, we planned fun holiday themed review math games and projects to keep our students engaged and help maintain our sanity! We play holiday music, play the games, and we just might even make some hot cocoa. Time to make it memorable!

Here's one of our favorite activities. Planning a holiday shopping spree is a real life application of math... it doesn't get any better than this!

You can check out our complete math pack for only $3.50 or just print the image above and bring a fun holiday math activity to your classroom this year.

Friday, December 7, 2012

What's Your Opinion?

Opinion writing was new to us this year so we wanted to work on a complete unit to help guide students through this unique style of writing. We started with a big, overarching question, how do we know what is true? Students discussed this in groups and we made connections to reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. Critical thinkers are always evaluating content for truth.

Then we discussed the differences between fact and opinion through lots of books, modeling, and even a game. Here is the chart paper we completed with our students to help them recognize the differences...

You can download these free posters to use with your unit or download the complete opinion writing unit here.

This resource and many more, can be viewed here!
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Check out a finished piece by clicking here.