Friday, February 28, 2014

Mardi Gras Freebie

     I know this has nothing to do with teaching, but I wanted to make something fun for you. Mardi Gras is coming up really soon, and I thought it would be great to make a Mardi Gras Subway Art Printable. I've used a Mardi Gras clipart from Melonheadz Illustrations, and fonts by Kimberly Geswein and Khrys Bosland for this little project. (Credits and their links are provided within the printable.) I hope you love it!

Before downloading, please understand:
1) This printable is for personal and single classroom use only.
2) Please do not modify, redistribute, resell, or claim this printable as your own.

To Download:
 Please click on the image provided above.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Don't forget the big TpT 3 Million Strong Sale begins tomorrow, February 27 and goes through Friday, February 28!  Remember to use promo code TPT3 at checkout!  

Thanks to JD's Rockin' Readers for the cute button!
Many sellers will be having  a sale!  Now is a great time to empty out your wish lists!  If you are a seller and having a sale, I'd love for you to come over to my blog, Mrs. Wheeler's First Grade, and link up your store! We'll see you tomorrow and happy shopping!!

Megan & The Class*y Collaboration Crew

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Three-Part Lesson

My math series is continuing over at Thinking of Teaching with not just one, but two posts on the three-part lesson.

The three-part lesson is a great method of ensuring that you are giving your students ample time to work with the math concepts you are covering and that they are actively involved in constructing their own knowledge.

If you haven't tried a three-part lesson before I strongly urge you to try won't be disappointed with the amazing learning that happens in your class.

Click here to go to my first post that explain the three-part lesson, and then click here to see an example lesson I used in my classroom last year. 

And.....I've finally decided to open a TPT store! As of right now it's only got one little freebie in it, but I promise I am working on more stuff. Hopefully in the days/weeks to come I'll have all sorts of stuff available that you are interested.

I'd love for you to come by and check it out. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Leadership and Classroom Jobs

Help Wanted Picture from A Class*y Collaboration

Do you have student jobs in your classroom?  When I first came back to the classroom after being in a central board position, I was hired as the grade six teacher in a new gifted program.  I had the assumption that perhaps the students in my class were too "mature" for classroom jobs.  I also thought I could handle the day to day aspects of running my classroom.  Fast forward several years...and enter a new gifted program in my school board.  

One of the main themes of teaching gifted is "leadership".  I really had to ponder what that word meant, and how I would provide opportunities for my students to demonstrate leadership skills. Last year I implemented a leadership team in my classroom.  The students were given a list of jobs I had created, and were asked to apply for a position they would like.  I sorted through the jobs applications and assigned a job to each student. 

In the beginning my students were quite motivated to take on the initiative and challenge of jobs such as attendance monitor, kindergarten assistant, lunch bin monitor, etc.  The enthusiasm waned around Christmas and we went through the process again, and students took on new jobs.  

By the end of the year, the students were well versed in being a library helper, a Daily Math manager or Absentee Assistant.  The list of jobs kept growing and I realized how much help the students were providing me with.  I always have several jars of candy on my desk. The students asked if they could take a candy if they completed their job for the day.  I had no problem with them receiving "compensation" for their jobs, but I quickly ran out of candy.  We regrouped and discussed that there are other benefits to completing their jobs, including a sense of pride and showing leadership.  I noticed then that most of the students would take a "treat" once or twice a week, but they respected that I could not fill my candy jars every week!  

At the end of the year, I presented each student with a certificate for a job well done.  I felt that the experiment with the leadership team had merit but needed to be modified.  I wanted the students to really feel that they were making a difference in the classroom and the school. I wanted them to take ownership of their jobs.

I spent some time over the summer pondering what had worked with the leadership jobs, and what needed to be tweaked.  One thing the students had really enjoyed was reading the job descriptions and then filling out an application.  I built upon that idea and approached my class with a "draft" list of jobs I thought would be useful to assist with building leadership skills.  I asked for their input and they had some suggestions which I had not thought of.  One suggestion was that we have a "sub" who will fill in for jobs when someone is absent.  Another suggestion was to have a "teacher assistant" who would hand out paper, collect forms, etc. so that I would not have to do all the mundane tasks each day.  I was happy to add these jobs and their descriptions to the list I had.  I also removed some jobs which the students felt were redundant or that didn't meet the criteria for leadership.

The next thing I did was improve the application process to make it more closely mirror a real life job application.  Students still filled out a job application but I also created a reference check form which students needed to ask responsible adult (parent, grandparent, former teacher) to fill out. The form also asked the reference to rate the student's abilities to fulfill the job(s) they were applying for.  I asked each student to apply for a maximum of three positions so that I would have a better chance of matching each student to a position they not only wanted, but that would suit their abilities.

I spent a weekend going through the applications and the references.  It was refreshing to see what parents had to say about their child and to see how honest most of them seemed to be in their assessments.  For students who were applying for jobs outside the classroom (kindergarten assistant, main office assistant, library leader) they had to meet with the teacher/administrator responsible for that area and undergo a brief interview.  Each student was "hired" for a job which they had applied for. 

I created a database and spreadsheet of the jobs the students had applied for and listed their names beside their job.  After making the announcements of the job positions, I posted the lists and schedules on the chalkboard.  Students were able to refer to it to see when and where they had to perform their leadership team job.  I was amazed at how seriously the students took their jobs right from the first day.  In the beginning the students were often referring to the schedules to ensure that they were "making it to work on time", but eventually the schedules were used to assist students in finding someone to "sub" in for them if they were unable to perform their job.  Just like in the real world, if students are unable to make it to their job, they need to find someone who can fill in for them.  They also make their own arrangements to trade when and where appropriate.  There are several students who are kindergarten assistants for example, so they can switch periods (morning or afternoon recess) and not leave the kindergarten teacher without the help they are depending on.

This year the students have been very good about being punctual and they have not asked if they can switch jobs.  I have asked a few times if anyone thinks they would like to change, but most have indicated they are comfortable with their positions and are happy to maintain the jobs they have.  I will revisit this after March break this year, but so far so good!  The feedback I have received from staff has been mixed.  Sometimes I need to have discussion with a student about fulfilling their duties in an appropriate manner, or to suggest to them a different way of going about the same task, but for the most part, the students have demonstrated leadership skills appropriate to their age.

Ontario has mandatory volunteer hours for students in high school.  I am hoping that the experiences I am providing the students with now in elementary school will help build up their confidence for larger responsibilities.  Our school has many high school students return to volunteer and collect their mandatory hours.  It is good for my students to see these older role models providing service similar to that they are responsible for.  I also hope that I am helping my students prepare for the realities of the real world.  In their roles they are working with a variety of students, staff and teachers.  They need to develop their social intelligence as well as their leadership skills.  

If you would like a FREE sample copy of my leadership team package for reference click HERE to download it.  This item is not editable.


Teaching is a Gift

Friday, February 21, 2014

One Sweet Book

     I had a fun time making a great  book recommendation, last week, that I decided to do it yet again. Today, I'd like to recommend you read, "Hugs and Kisses" written by Christophe Loupy and illustrated by Eva Tharlet.  This little book is such a sweet story about a puppy named, Hugs, who goes out searching for the farm animal that can give the best kiss. Hugs does get a lot of sweet kisses from his barnyard friends, but he soon finds out that the best kiss of all, comes right from his mom.
     This story is really simple, sweet and fun. Christophe did a great job creating repetition in the story. He used some creative words to describe each kiss that Hugs received on his farm. These words can help your kids imagine what it would feel like to receive a kiss from each farm animal very well. I can also appreciate the gorgeous illustrations that Eva created in this book. I love how she blended colors in the background, so that the focus was on the sweetness of each animal. Just like last week's recommendation, this book has been made for ages 3 and up to enjoy. If you haven't read this book, you should. Go pick it up at your library, and read it with your kids. They'll love it!

Mommy and Me Creations

Thursday, February 20, 2014

How-to Writing Freebie

Hi everyone!  Today I am popping in to share a great freebie with you!  If you follow me over at my blog, Mrs. Wheeler's First Grade, you already know my passion for teaching little ones to write!  I use a writing workshop system in my classroom that has been tweaked and perfected {ok, nothing is perfect but you know what I mean!} over the past 11 years.  One of my favorite writing units is the Nonfiction Unit.  My kids and I always have a blast with it!  It teaches children how to write expository text.  Today I'm giving you a freebie from my unit.  It's "How to Make a Dirt Cup Snack."  This is a big hit with kids!  I hope your kids will love it as much as mine!  Enjoy!  Be sure to check out the full unit if this freebie is appealing to you.

*This unit meets the Common Core State Standards which state:
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of “how-to” books on a given topic and use them to write a sequence of instructions).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.2 Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fact Fluency

Fact Fluency

The debate of whether students should know basic facts from memorization or through automaticity is always at the forefront in math class with teachers.  This is the expectations with fact fluency in Common Core for  grades K-5:

               K- Add and subtract within five
                1-Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and                          subtraction within 10
                2-Add and subtract within 20 using mental strategies. By the end of                            Grade 2, know from memory all sums of two one-digit numbers.
                3-Multiply and divide within 100. By the end of Grade 3, know from
                   memory all products of two one-digit numbers. Add and subtract 
                   within 1000 using strategies and alogrithms based on place value, 
                   properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and
                4-Add and subtract multi-digit whole numbers
                5-Multiply multi-digit whole numbers

 Some people think memorization would be easier.  Not true!! "Kamii (1985) compared two first-grade classrooms in the same school. In one, the teacher focused on relationships and worked toward automaticity. In the other, children memorized facts with the help of drill sheets and flash cards. The children in the classroom in which automaticity was the goal significantly outperformed the traditionally taught students in being able to produce correct answers to basic addition facts within three seconds—76 percent compared with 55 percent."  This leads teachers to thinking and planning lessons not based on memorization, but lessons that involve number sense and practice. In this article, Learning Strategies for Addition and Subtraction Facts: The Road to Fluency and the License to Think, Lisa Buchholz, reiterates the importance of teaching number sense and strategies as an everyday practice. I truly am with her on this belief. My second grade class has been learning the relationship between addition and subtraction with two-digit and three-digit numbers. I have seen students eyes "light" up when relating addition and subtraction. However, during our class we do have a time for Fact Fluency Fun through games. Yes, we play many games to practice strategies, as well as, help us practice our fact fluency. Yes, we do use flash cards, dice, Bingo, Around the World, and play Addition War and Subtraction War with cards. However, our most favorite game is Scoot. My school also has a fact fluency initiative in which I must follow that includes timed-tests. Students are given a variety of addition and subtraction equations and are timed for two minutes each week. Rewards are given for those that reach their goal. This in only one way we practice the Common Core Standard 2.NBT.5 Fluently add and subtract within 100 using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.

 Here is a link with a Fact Fluency Scoot!

How do you practice and/or incorporate fact fluency?

Be sure to check out my blog for units, games, problem-solving, and more fact fluency!

Friday, February 14, 2014

For the Joy of Reading

     As a child, I loved having the story of "The Three Little Pigs" read to me. I begged to have that story read to me over and over again. It was a must read, especially at bedtime. I also enjoyed many others like, "The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs" by Jon Scieszka, and "The Three Pigs" by David Weisner.  Even though, I love all of these books, and recommend them to anyone, I would like to make mention of one special book. That book is called, "The Three Little Javelinas".

    "The Three Little Javelinas" was written by Susan Lowell and illustrated by Jim Harris. This book shares an American Southwest version of the three little pigs. Susan used two written languages to tell the story, both of which are written in each copy.  I thought that it was such an amazing idea to incorporate two languages into one book, because I had never seen two written languages in one single children's book before. Not only could it be read in one language, but it could also be shared in another, or even both at the same time. What a great way to unite diverse cultures and backgrounds, in the classroom! This book has been written so well that it could entertain children ages 3-8 years old. That's a HUGE age range, in terms of early child development, and for teachers interested in bringing this book into their classrooms.   
     If this book were read to kids, who had never visited the west before, they would most definitely get an idea of what it is like out here. I was born and raised in the west. It's very dry and very hot, especially during the Summer. The illustrations did an excellent job in portraying that heat and dryness, in this book. I have to give Jim Harris two thumbs up for that! The illustrations are absolutely beautiful. He did a marvelous job on making the javelinas come to life, and even that coyote. Yes, there is no wolf in this story. Instead, we have a coyote who wants to feast on those little javelinas for dinner. It's such a great book! If you haven't read it, you need to! Add it to your library, and share it with your kids. They will laugh, and they will be routing for those javelinas to get away from that blasted coyote. It is such a joy to see that excitement in our kids' little faces, as we read to them. :)

     I would love to have your classroom libraries grow, if you would like to see more of my favorite books, please click here. Thanks for stopping by the "ACC", and for taking the time to read this post. Now hurry! Go grab a book and read, read, read to your kids. Thanks again! Hope to see you soon, on the other side of "blog-land".
     Mommy and Me Creations

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

School Wide Writing Initiatives

As Literacy Coach at my school this year, improving writing has been a major focus. So one of the first things I did was to try to establish a way to recognize and highlight writers around the building.

One of our school wide goals this year is to increase student achievement in the area of writing as measured by the 5th Grade Georgia State Writing Test.

In grades 3-5, our students are taking or have taken three practice writing tests throughout the year to allow students and teachers to become familiar with the test taking process. It has also allowed teachers to look at objective scoring of their student's writing, as well as to really take a look at strengths and weaknesses of their class according to the writing domains on the state rubric.

It has really been a great learning experience for me also! I have researched and learned so much this year about teaching and scoring writing! I have also read almost every paper each time to assess where we are as a school. Believe me, it's been a lot of reading before and after scoring!

Our principal is rewarding those students that exceed on our practice tests that are scored by UGA's Office of Assessment with lunch from McDonalds. So, I just decided to turn that into the Principal's Writing Club and created a bulletin board by the entrance/exit to the cafeteria to be viewed by all.

Well, this was just the beginning!

I was going to write this series after the 5th Grade Writing test on March 5th but since I've had snow days, I decided I may as well get this show on the road. 

Be sure to stop by 

to see what else we're doing to improve writing at my school!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Timed Tests using Bubble Gum Math

Hello Friends!  My name is Julie Marciniak and I am author of
I am so honored to share my first post with the blogging community here at Classy Collaboration!  I can't tell you how excited I am to be included as a new author to a wonderful network of teachers and fellow educators!
Several weeks ago, I shared a post regarding timed tests in the primary grades, specifically first grade. This is definitely one of those challenging areas for me because the weekly tests I have given for the past 12 years have been lacking incentive and missing the self-reflection component to math fact fluency.  I knew if I was to make it through another semester of weekly timed tests, I had to do something to make this important math concept tangible and reachable for my first graders.
Lucky for me, I have TWO incredible first grade experts (and friends) who have totally changed my opinion of managing these weekly math assessments!
Let me introduce you to Bubble Gum Math.
Christy and Tammy over at Fluttering Through First Grade
have made my job so much easier this year!
 I was jumping for joy when I was printing these units out!
Then I got on Amazon and ordered a gumball machine!
Gordon Food Service has the gumballs for eight bucks!   
Next up:
Copying the timed tests.
I decided to color-code, so all addition tests are on blue and all subtraction tests are on red (hot pink).
Then, I made divider-tabs (in the corresponding color) to separate each level of tests.
Laminate for durability.

Parents received a WELCOME to BUBBLE GUM Math letter like this-
I also sent home a set of addition fact sheets on coordinating BLUE paper and subtraction fact sheets on red paper.
I made two separate folders for the Answer Keys.

Students will keep track of their gumballs earned and graph growth of weekly tests using their blue Bubble Gum Math folders.

I made color copies of the gumball machines.
One for addition and one for subtraction.
I walked the kids through the steps and process of picking up the correct test(s).  I want the kiddos to be as independent as possible!

These eager-beavers were so stinkin excited!
One minute on the clock, and......

I gave the test in the morning, graded them (easy-peasy) during lunch, and returned the tests to the students in the afternoon.
Students get busy right away and graph their stamina for each test!

The timed tests are out of 15 problems.
If students earned 12 or higher,
I circled the level indicated at the top of the test and made a star above it.  That indicates a PASS score and students can pick up a gumball to add to their gumball machine. 

We are keeping the folders in our desks for now!
If a student does not reach their goal,
they can sign up to take the TEST B during recess the following day.  I will take the higher score of the two.
Here you see a student today signing up to retake subtraction tests during recess tomorrow.
I have set up our "cheetah table" with our Bubble Gum Math supplies.
Gumball Stickers and sharpies-
I keep track of the points earned on these tests using GradePro.
Then I print out a copy and keep it on my clipboard for check in's.
I also have a bag of pennies in there too!
Once students have passed 3 addition (levels), they earn an Award and penny to buy a gumball!
Needless to say, my students are EXTREMELY stoked about this new find! Bubble Gum Math has made taking timed tests
I have created some additional Bubble Gum materials for these units and I am happy to share them with all of my Bubble Gum math fans!  
Click here or on any image to download-
We have also added the Math Fact Fluency to our Focus Wall to remind us to check in on our stamina each week and set goals for the following week!

So, in a nutshell, First Grade Timed Tests are running much more SMOOTHLY this year in Room 102 and now the purpose and understanding behind taking the tests seem to validate students' growth in more meaningful ways!
HOORAY for Bubble Gum Math!