Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Holiday Blog Hop With the Grapevine

Welcome to our holiday blog hop here at the Elementary Grapevine!  We are so happy to have so many wonderful new friends here with us, and wanted to take a minute to share a little holiday cheer (and maybe even a freebie or two) with each of you.  First up is a darling Christmas cookie mat craft that is perfect for students to make right before Christmas.  You can check out the post and snag the freebie by stopping by "Good Enough Teacher"... keep hopping along from blog to blog and pick up a few holiday goodies along the way. 

Click on the image below to start hopping through the grapevine.  Thanks so much for stopping by today :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Graphic Organizers for Language Arts!

Hi everyone, Krystal here from "Good Enough Teacher"... I have been so busy learning the ropes of third grade that I just haven't had time to blog or create at ALL lately! I think I mentioned it before, but I am LOVING third grade. Loving it. Such a refreshing and much-needed change this year, but the time it takes to learn a new grade is kicking my butt! The good news is, I will have TONS of projects to work on this summer and will be able to fill my store with all sorts of awesome third grade resources, but for now, I just quickly pull things together for my own students and never really get around to turning it into a complete TPT product (I call these my “quick and dirty” projects!) Anyway, I wanted to share a few graphic organizers I've been using with my students as we've been working on "close reading" this year.... At one point I had hoped to make a whole pack of close reading style graphic organizers, but that's clearly not happening anytime soon. So in the meantime, I am sharing them here with you for free :) simply click on the pic below to download them. I hope you can use these in your own classrooms. Enjoy!

 Click here to download these graphic organizers!

Pin it for later:

Also, I almost forgot to mention, today is the last day to grab your favorite items on TPT for up to 28% off!!  Remember to use code TPTCYBER to save an extra 10% off in all our stores.  Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Parenting Conferences {A Few Helpful Tips & A Freebie}

Hi y'all! It's Sara from Miss V's Busy Bees.
I hope you had a FANTASTIC Thanksgiving with your family and friends! How many of you braved the crowds and went shopping, as well? Too crazy for me!

I did, of course, hit up my favorite stores to get some supplies for my craft room for cheap - Hobby Lobby and Michaels would be out of business if it weren't for me! ;)

Anywaaaaays, on Monday, we resume our normal school days with our kiddos for 3 weeks until we hit a break again.

During those three weeks, in my district, we are required to hold parenting conferences. Who has already had conferences once this year? Twice? THREE times?? You lucky duck, you.
I held a few conferences before the Thanksgiving break so as to not bog myself down after the break.

Doing that, I learned a bit about my students and their likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses, but also learned a bit about my parents and their likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses.

It's true, conferences are for you to tell the parents about the students and how they are doing (or how they are NOT doing…). But, little did college let you know, during these conferences, you get to know and see why your students are the way they are.

The saying the apple does not fall far from the tree is SO true. I have some of THE best students. The only reason I have THE best students?? Because I have THE best parents.

But I digress.

I'm here to talk to you about some tips and tricks when holding conferences with your parents, regardless of the time of the year.
Start out with the positives! Every parent finds GREAT joy in hearing how fantastic their child is. Even if the positive is that Johnny can sit in his chair for 30 minutes at a time, a positive is a positive.

In my conferences, I've found that they go MUCH smoother and parents are more willing to listen if you tell them the positives of their students and then follow it up with ways to take the negatives to positives.
That leads me to tip two. Instead of saying "negatives," use the words "opportunity for improvement." This is a much more positive light to shed for parents, because we all have opportunities for improvement. Yes, even us teachers have opportunities for improvement!

I liked to refer to the places my students could work on (multiplication, comprehension, vocabulary, phonics, main ideas and details, etc.) as opportunities for improvement and plan to take that jargon back to the daily classroom with me, as well!
Take notes! Whatever you tell your parents as to what YOU are going to do for their child, write it down. Then, when parents tell you what they are going to do, write it down. Document, document, document.

That way, when your student improves tremendously, you can credit yourself and the parents for working together to get the student to where they are. When your student goes downhill or even plateaus, you can also back that up by stating what you and the parents agreed to do in order to help students.

Document, document, document!!
Have a short list of resources that parents can utilize at home with their students. Whether this be a list of websites to help students practice skills, a list of books to read to or with the students at night, or games that the whole family can play, which in turn help the student, provide it for your parents! They WILL be thankful, trust me!

More on this tip in a few… :)
Finally, tip 5. THANK THEM. Thank your parents for taking the time out of their busy schedule to meet with you. Thank them for helping their students at home. Thank them for working with you to make sure their child succeeds. While we, as the educators, would LOVE to hear a thank you ALL day long, imagine what these parents might feel.

They DO thank you as educators. They thank you for all that you do for their child. They may not show it nor ever say it, but they DO thank you! So, return that thanks to them - thank them for helping Johnny remember his multiplication facts, or subscribing to Spelling City so that their child will get better grades in spelling. Or for helping Carla work on her typing skills using the program Word on a Sunday night.


Do you have any tips to give for parenting conferences? I hope that when you DO have the conferences at your school that they go as smoothly as possible and you hit ZERO bumps!

To help with your conferences, I have included a link to a freebie for some of MY favorite resources for students. A list of apps, websites, books, and games for kiddos to play and practice at home with their families.

Grab the freebie by clicking the picture below!
Thank you for all that you do, teachers! You ARE appreciated!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's a GRAND Opening Giveaway!

Hey all! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

We wanted to celebrate our NEW blog with you, so we decided to host a quick giveaway!
It's JUST in time for the TPT Cyber Monday sale, which happens December 1st and 2nd. With the code TPTCYBER, you'll receive up to 28% off of your FAVORITE products. Awesome, huh?
We figured that a few $25 TPT gift certificates were just perfect for this!

There will be four different $25 TPT gift certificates being given away to four winners. The fifth winner will receive a winner's choice product from each of the participants' TPT stores with values up to $5 each.

Pretty fantastic, huh?!

It's all thanks to the following AMAZING collaborative authors of this blog:
Teaching with a Touch of Pixie Dust
All Things Apple

{Ride Away with Mrs. Ridgway}

Well… what are you waiting for?! Enter below :)

Good luck!!

The Ladies of The Elementary Grapevine

Using Padlet in the Classroom

Hello y'all!  So excited to be joining the great teachers here at The Elementary Grapevine!

I'm Debbi from 3rd Grade Pad.  I spent most of my early career teaching Pre-K and Kindergarten, but the last eight years have been pretty awesome in my 3rd grade classroom!  Don't you agree that 3rd graders are just about perfect??  Still so sweet and loving, but they are so capable!  I have truly found my home here.

This is the third year that our district has been implementing a Digital 1:1 with students.  Third graders here have laptops that they use in the classroom and take home each night.  Classroom management and a consistent routine are key features needed in all classrooms, but it is especially important when you add devices.

I use two tools on a regular basis that have proven to be tried and true for me!

First of all, I use Symbaloo Edu to organize all of the websites for my students.  Don't know about that one?  Pop over to my blogpost during a Tricks & Treats Bloghop at 3rd Grade Pad to read how I use it.

Secondly, I use Padlet WITH my Symbaloo.

What is Padlet?

Padlet is a Web 2.0 tool that allows the user to create a space, much like a bulletin board, to stick website links, pdf & word files, and there is a web camera option (that I've never used!).  It is a perfect tool to share a variety of sources in one cohesive location.

Before I show you how to make one, let me share the ways Padlet is used in my classroom, keeping in mind that my goal is to share links and files in one location for my students.

Weekly Reading Padlet

If you will notice in the screenshot above, I have a button that is labeled Reading Street with the name of the Unit and Week of study. This is a quick link to get to my Padlet page.

As you can see on this Padlet, I have my Spelling HW for the week, a copy of the heading for the Spelling Sort homework, Grammar homework for Monday and Wednesday, Family Times Newsletter, and the Unit Spelling List.  My parents quickly appreciate the routine in format.  Students are able to work ahead on their homework and see the week in one location.  This is a paper AND a time saver for me.  My kids do homework in folders, so there are no worksheets to print.  If you will recall from my Symbaloo post, a whole year of tabs of these Padlets are waiting for the school year.  I created them each week LAST year.  I am reusing them each week THIS year.  I may change it up a bit, but I have the bones ready to build!

Final Project Padlet
I also create Padlets for my kids to submit their final projects.  These start as a blank slate for kids to submit their work when they are ready.  For example, last year my kids created PowerPoints of American Symbols.

Rather than save them on a thumb drive, line up at my computer to submit them (which I've done....NIGHTMARE and a time suck!), kids add a tab on the Padlet themselves.  This would also work with the all important writing that we want our kids to do!!!  The beauty is that:
1.  The projects are in one location and can present to the class on the Promethian board.
2.  Kids can look at each other's projects outside of class.
3.  I can sit at my computer to grade with my rubric.  No paper to take home!!

Once we are done with the projects, I can remove the Padlet link.

Learning Pad
I have one blank Padlet that I leave available to my kids.  I use the blank one for Exit Slips.  Sometimes, I just don't want to spend the time preparing formative assessments.  I can display a task card from the topic we are teaching on my Document Camera.  Students will answer on the Learning Pad.
They will:
  1. Create a spot
  2. Enter their class number in the top portion
  3. Enter their final answer in the bottom portion.  (Oh!  Lightbulb going off!  They could take a picture of their white board work and submit that!!)

I have also used my learning pad as a place for kids to submit their stories or creations to share with their classmates.  Last year, I had a student share a 500 slide PowerPoint that she created.  She was dabbling with the idea of tapping on the next slide quickly to create motion.  I would have never known of her interest if I hadn't given them this creative spot.  She started teaching other kids how to create them on our inside recess days after that!

My Learning Pad has also been a place where I can leave videos from Educreations for my kids.  Sometimes I teach something that I KNOW they are going to be a little fuzzy about when they get home.  This gives a "taste" of me at home, and parents can give the added support in knowing how "Mrs. Watson" does it!  Below is a screenshot from the fall.  And look what I found?   A message from one of my babies from last year who moved away!  How sweet is that!

Themed Padlets
Sometimes we have a short unit when I want all the materials my kids will need in one place.

We always do a Bird Research project to prepare for one of our field trips.  This particular year, we decided to narrow the choices to Alabama birds.  They began with one of the sites listed.  Extra sites were also on the page.  By putting the pre-approved sites on the Padlet, it saved class research time.  (And wasted time popping from site to site and not getting very much done).  It really helps to keep the kids focused on the task.  There is also a document that they can use to ensure that they are following the rubric.  

I also created a collection of Math Games for my kids.
My rule for getting free time for "math games" is that it HAS to come from my page.  It makes it pretty easy to let my kids have 5-10 minutes of free time, if I know that I have set the parameters.

Setting Up Your Padlet
It is pretty straight forward setting up your Padlet page.  However, I'm going to give you a quick video to walk you through it-with a few tips........from me to YOU!
Sorry this is so "echo-ie".  Need our IT to update my Java and had some troubles with easier screen recording options.  You MIGHT need to turn down your volume.  Not sure....

That's it for me!  I'd love to hear how YOU use Padlet in the classroom!  Comments make me smile!


Monday, November 17, 2014

Classroom Technology 101: Searching Apps Based on Content

So you have been given a class set of iPads....or perhaps just one...or maybe a few were purchased through your amazing Donors Choose project.  However you got your ipads and however many you have access to in your classroom the bottom line when using them is still the same.

IPads should enhance your instruction...not replace it!  

In the words of Bill Gates, "Technology is just a tool.  In terms of getting kids working together and motivating them--the teacher is the most important."

Well if you are like me, that helps about as much as cold soup on a winter day!  I am in my second year as a 1:1 iPad classroom and there are a few things I have learned over the course of two years both through workshops and trial and error.  

In this blog series I want to take you beyond the introduction of iPads and actually show you...or attempt to show you...how to use them, in your classroom.  While I started this journey in a first grade classroom, most of everything I used for my first grade class has transferred to my 2nd-5th grade ELAR classroom.  

While I am going to feature some apps I use in my classroom, a word of caution, or heads up rather, I won't only be sharing FREE apps.  We are teachers, we are under-paid and under-appreciated. However we all know the best things in life are NOT free.  It's just how it works. There are some amazing free apps out there but I challenge you to open your thinking to finding apps that will actually enhance your content areas rather than be just an app to help with a skill.

On another note, if you are the poor teacher who looks at your iPads as "something for the students to use when they finish their work" then boy are you in for a ride.  Ask yourself this.  What would my classroom look like if students were actually using the technology they have to complete their work instead of a time filler or reward after the fact?  Wouldn't that be a great use of the technology we have access to?  

I fell into this category at first and truth be told it took me a while to realize I was not utilizing my class set of iPads to their fullest potential.  I attended the BER National K2 ipad conference in Chicago and gained a wealth of knowledge but it was so much that it has taken me two years to digest it all.  Other conferences and workshops I have attended have been great but focused so much on the basics that I was bored.  Until today!  

The workshop I attended was absolutely fabulous even if only three of us showed up due to icy weather.  It was titled "Don't put the cart before the horse: Using the iPad with your IFD".  Now for those of you outside of Texas, IFD stands for Instructional Focus Document.  These are the guides we use with our TEKS standards to know what we are teaching and when.  I am assuming that every state has something similar and they may even call them the same thing.  So forgive me for the ignorance on that issue.

I must give credit where credit is due...Emily Nowlain and Jenny Gaona did a get job on this workshop.  While there were somethings I already knew, there was something I hadn't really gotten a handle on...how to use the iPad to enhance instruction.

I am already using apps like Raz Kids and Spelling City for content instruction.  I am using Edmodo for classroom engagement and integration of technology.  These are staples in my classroom. I will even talk about them at a later date.  I have a whole lot of apps that were free and the kids can get on but had I really evaluated how the app was being used and was it of value to my instructional focus?  The answer quite simply was NO!

So here are a few key questions to ask yourself when purchasing an app.  First you must decide the purpose of the app....drill and practice, tutorial, simulation/game?

1.  Did the app meet the rigor of the verb involved? (Verb?  What verb?  I will explain in a moment!)
2.  What does the student need to be able to do by the end of the lesson based solely on the verb and the content of the standard?
3.  Did the app allow for mastery of the objective?  If not how will you supplement?
4.  Could the technology based performance indicator adequately teach other students the content necessary for their mastery as well?
5.  What rubric will you use to assess the students learning?
6.  How will you use the technology product/project in class after it is created?
7.  Did the student creat an end product with the app?  If so, how are you assessing this product?  How are you sharing this product?  How are you evaluating this product?

Pretty intense right?  I was a bit overwhelmed but when I sat down tonight I deleted over 30 apps off our class iPads that just were not showing positive response to these questions.  

Now you may be thinking, "GREAT!!!  Now what do I do?"  Well how about we start with finding some new apps...not just any ole apps...content supporting rigorous apps that will have your technology enhancing your instructional focus.  Here's a place to start!

Did you know when you are searching the APP store you can actually search only educational apps?  In all fairness I did know this but I was shocked that some didn't!  So if there is one then there are others!  Don't be embarrassed if you are one of them!  Someone had to teach me the first time as well!

When you first change your categories to educational apps, you will get a homepage much like the one seen in the picture!  You will see that the apps are broken down into sub-categories and under each sub-category they are broken into content areas!  Cool huh!

Now if you are like me you are not reading any further because your new found arena of goodies has you distracted but let's get a bit more focused!  Remember that pesky VERB that said I would explain?  Well look at the standards that you are teaching!  There is a VERB that states what the student should be able to do.  Inference, draw conclusions, compare, contrast, measure, analyze, ect!!!  Use those for your search terms!  Oh the goodness never stops!

In the seach below I searched "construct grammatically correct sentences".  This search yielded a few results but it was the search beyond that that gave me this app!  I looked at related apps to the ones that came up!  Once I find an app there are some key things I look at, especially before I purchase one!

I look at the ratings and any reviews left for the app!  Does this always ensure that I only buy apps that fit all the above questions?  No but it gives me better odds!  

I am bit more optimistic about the use of technology in my classroom now!  I can be confident that if I seach for apps based on the verb used in my standards and do a little tweaking to the search, the apps I download will enhance my teaching and not be time fillers.  

Throughout this series I am going to share some amazing apps and show how I am using them in the classroom!  Our students live in a technology saturated world and it is only growing!  It motivates them to learn and gives those that traditional teaching left behind a chance to flourish!  Technology can be an amazing tool that can help teachers differentiate learning and create a 21st century classroom that will prepare your students for life beyond the classroom while at the same time hitting the content we all so desperately strive to teach!  

Do you have a tip for using technology in the classroom?  Share it below!!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Skeleton Book Reports and a Freebie!

Hi everyone! Gina here from Third Grade Tidtbits Teaching With a Touch of Pixie Dust. If you follow my blog you may have realized I change my name and design. Teaching a new grade (4th for those that aren't aware) I decided I wanted a blog name that was more "me" and less grade specific. And if you "know" me, you know pixie dust was a perfect choice. But enough about that, back to the point of this post...

Do you have your students complete book reports? Up until this year, I never did. For many reasons. But the main reason being that either students wouldn't do it, parents would do it, or the students who did in on their own had no help/support, thus not being quality. Imagine my surprise when I sent home a book report this month in my new school and every single student brought it back... and they were AMAZING.

Here is what happened... another teacher mentioned book reports. I said I never did them. She seemed shocked and made it seem as though I HAD to do them. Panic ensued and I had to figure something out FAST. I didn't want to do boring old book reports or the same things kids do every. single. year. Being that it was an October book report I knew I wanted something that was fall or Halloween-ish.

And I narrowed it down to two ideas... character pumpkins with a little more rigor added for my 4th graders, or a skeleton book report. I am sure you have seen (or maybe even done) character pumpkins. I was going to do those and have students complete a character analysis including character traits, motivations, how the character changed, and why. But I decided I really didn't want 12 pumpkins in my room.

So I went with the skeleton book reports. I had never done this before so I spent some time trying to find some images of completed projects to show my students. I didn't find EXACTLY what I was hoping for, but I came across something that was pretty good (a school had posted pictures on their site... no project description or anything, just the pictures). I was fine with them not having posted the project description because I knew what I wanted included in the book report, so I just had to figure out where the students would include each element of the report. So I got to planning it out.. and making a little diagram with basic shapes.

I also created a simple scoring guide and a letter to send home with students so that parents and students knew exactly what was expected of them from the start.

Students had a little under a month to complete the book report and were able to pick any book. I originally said it had to be fiction, but one of my students really wanted to use a book about Derek Jeter. I told him that as long as he could complete every element required that would be fine. And he did really well. Students have been presenting their reports a couple a day and I am just so amazed at how good they turned out.

The best part... students are finding more books to add to their want to read list. Any of the books that came from my book shelf, after students present, we put the book on the chalk tray. This way other students can grab the book to read it if they are interested. One of the books flew off the tray as soon as students were able to get out of their seats again.

I typically hate book reports. HOWEVER, I think I have changed my tune. I don't make them too difficult for students and I definitely don't make them difficult to grade. I am not too particular on how I grade them... I am an easy grader for these ones. And my students are jumping to get new books into their hands!

If you would like to use this with your class, you can click the image below to grab the 3 pages you will need. Feel free to use these pictures to show your students examples of finished products as well! And you don't have to use this ONLY in October. It would be fun any time... October, during the body systems unit, or just because you want to try something new for book reports!

Disclaimer: The reason I am not a picky grader on these is because I care more about the fact that the students were engaged in the comprehension of their book than I do about the "extra stuff". As long as the students do what I asked, how I asked, they are getting full credit for that part. The only place students are losing points is on spelling and/or neatness. And we are all loving it!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Building Fact Fluency

Aloha, Friends! 
It's Courtney from Teaching in Paradise.
Today I'm here to share a tip with you on building fact fluency with your students.
I'm not sure about you..but my students always seem to struggle with their addition facts when they enter third grade. Don't even get me started with the subtraction facts either! lol. I also hear from the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teachers at my school that it is a never ending battle. Each year the kids just DO NOT know their facts. 

As teachers, if we expect our students to know their facts, we need to allow them the time to practice their facts! In an ideal world, they would actually be practicing at home, but we KNOW this doesn't happen at home for most! 

In my classroom, each day of our math block begins with Math Drills. This seriously only takes about 5 minutes of our block, and I see improvements daily. Rather than making copies and having them pile up on my desk wasting a ton of paper, I print one copy of each drill and insert them into clear sheet protectors. 

Then all of the sheet protectors go into their math drill folder. 

The students use their dry erase markers to do their drills. I quickly go over the answers and the students correct their own drills. We don't log our grades anywhere. The students take a mental note of how they did for the day, and they are challenged to beat their scores the next day. 

I get my drills from this awesome site: math-drills.comhttp://www.math-drills.com .
You can print addition, subtraction, multiplication an division drills. I begin each year with addition. At the start of this school year, most of my kiddos couldn't even get through half of the page (50 problems on each page). After about a month or so..almost the entire class was whizzing through the entire page-with accuracy! 
Now, we are currently working on our subtraction facts. Eventually, we will add in multiplication drill pages as well. I usually add in 4 different sets of each operation. This way we can change it up each day. The drills from the website are already labeled 'drill a', 'drill b', and so on. This makes for easy reference to which drill set we will be working on.

The best thing about is this is that it's easy and the kids WILL get their facts down! 
I recommend getting thicker sheet protectors, because they will last longer. I am still using the same drill folders from 2 years ago! 

I've also got a little treat for you today :)

I've created some labels for you to add to your math drill folders! All you need to do is print, laminate, and tape onto the front cover of the folders. I have included a black and white version to save on ink. You could easily print on colored paper for a pop of color. Also, there are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple labels in this file. 

You can pick these labels up in my TpT Store for FREE! 

If you decide to use these drill in the classroom I would love to hear about it OR see it!  Tag me in a photo (@teachinginparadise) on instagram so I can check out your math drill folders!! 

Thanks for stopping by today!