Sunday, April 12, 2015

Smart Art: A Very Grouchy {Reading & Math} Craftivity

Hi, Friends! Has spring fever sprung in your classroom already? I think my class had bowls and bowls of Loopy Fruits before school on Friday…but I think, I think we managed to survive it!

It also turned out to be a very grouchy day in our classroom….BUT, in a good way!


Our smart art for the week was a fun connection between reading and math. Initially, my kiddos were wondering why we were doing math during our Daily 5 block, but after we got started with a fun interactive reading of Eric Carle’s The Grouchy Ladybug they quickly understood! Reading this book together was fun and everyone was able to participate because of the repetitive “call and respond” pattern found in the text.


This little activity helped us to wrap up our time unit, practice retelling, review shapes and use fractions in a fun way!

Each student was given a time taken from the story to represent in 3 different ways…how they would “read” the clock in words, how it would appear on a digital clock and how it would appear on an analog clock. That bold little ladybug had quite the busy day, so there were lots of times to represent!


The clock hands were colored to match our classroom set of Judy clocks. Each student had to show their time and get a thumbs up before gluing it to the clock face. After gluing the hands to the clock or ladybug’s body…students wrote to fill in their ladybug labels, then cut and glued them to the wings. In our classroom, students have creative control…so they did not all have to create their ladybug in the exact same way….BUT they had to make sure their analog time was visible after having glued the wings on.

See the whiteboard in the background? That was my little example projected onto the board to serve as a guide for their completed project.


We have new math standards in TX this year…the ending of the story worked very well for explaining “about time” or how we use quarter hours on the clock too. As the little ladybug flies through the story picking fights she moves from hour to hour. At the end of the story, she harasses a whale every quarter hour, which made for a great “teachable moment”.

After leaving for lunch and recess to let our little ladybugs dry, we returned to the classroom to retell the story. Each student grabbed their little ladybug and we sat in the hall in front of our lockers. Our intent was to sequence the times in the order of the events of the story {and hang them on the lockers] and we DID….BUT, HOLY MOLY did it look busy once we were done! I couldn’t even look straight at our lockers without getting dizzy! LOL!

Sitting in the hallway added a little novelty to the lesson too! With spring fever in full swing, finding new spots to learn in will be definitely be on the agenda!


See?! BIIIIII-ZZZY! Look away….scroll down, before your eyes begin to cross!


Whew! Much better!

If you look very closely, there are two little empty spots. Smart art is serious FUN, but also serious business. Students ONLY get to participate in smart art IF they have completed the two “must do” activities from work stations during the week. If it is not completed, then they must use their smart art time to become, well……smarter…and complete the work that was required of them. NO “must-do”, no smart art.This practice prevents students from being rewarded without having earned it. In our classroom, we have a lot of fun. Students are rewarded well, but it is because we make things look easy by doing the hard work, first. =)


Feeling grouchy? Click the pic above to grab this little activity for your class of ladybugs!

Happy reading! =)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites: Strategy 7

Hi, Friends! This strategy is all about using manipulatives, experiments, labs, and models. We’re teaching at a time when assessment has been placed at the forefront of well, just about….everything. Often times, we rush too quickly to abstract paper and pencil tasks without allowing students adequate time to enjoy concrete experiences. By using hands-on objects that students can touch, manipulate, change, pull apart, put together to create…we help them to build a deeper understanding of concepts that will be easily remembered in order to apply the learning to real world situations.

How many students do you have that get frustrated or misbehave when a piece of paper is put in front of them or even flat out refuse to complete work? The frustration may not be with the work itself, but in being rushed to show it in a way that is uncomfortable…too soon. In the real world, no one takes away our support. No one insists that we “figure it out” and solve problems based on memory alone. We have calculators , fingers….tools and apps that we use to solve problems….all.the.time. So, why do we as teachers take away support from students because we feel they’ve grown dependent on it or have used it for too long?


Students understanding of mathematical ideas is broadened when they’re allowed to use concrete representations. In our classroom, when students visit work stations, manipulatives are provided as support. If students need them, they have assess to them. If they don’t, they’re not required to use them.


Before beginning independent work, examples of expected outcomes are projected to provide clarity…


…and a quick reference {example}. Using manipulatives can also provide game-like opportunities for learning.


In order to display our understanding of edges and vertices, students constructed models of 3-Dimensional figures using toothpicks and marshmallows. (I’m sure there were a few missing vertices, by the time this lesson was done!)


We could have read lots of books, colored pictures, looked at video clips....and we did, BUT none of those things could replace getting our hands dirty to plant real seeds.  Planting in our classroom is definitely an experiment because growing dendrites might be a talent, but growing plants is NOT! Ha!


When we compared living organisms to non-living objects last year, the kids couldn’t wait to get their hands on worms! Real…icky, slimy…wet, muddy worms! Yuck! Now, while I enjoyed watching them enjoying themselves….the gummy worms were more my speed! Lol! =)


Concrete experiences like this and labs also help ELLs when focusing on new vocabulary and concepts at the same time! There’s no doubt, every student in the room knew the difference between the living worm and the non-living gummy worm…not to mention, which one tasted better!


So, the next time you’re planning….think of  tactile ways to engage students in learning! Kids remember what they experience and DO!


I love my big take away or “aha” from this chapter. Provide students with the support they need for as long as THEY need it. It’s not up to me to decide it’s time to force them away from it. When a student is ready to show what they know independently, they’ll tell me they no longer need the aid or simply stop using it. Let them guide the learning. Let them touch, manipulate, feel, and experience as much learning as possible with their whole bodies. Paper and pencil tasks should be the very last step in learning….learning IS in the doing.

Allow students to use manipulatives, conduct experiments, build models and watch them flourish! Hands-on learning is FUN!

Stop by Mrs. Jump's Class to hop through the other posts about this chapter. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites {Chapter 5 & 6ish}

Hi, Friends! How are ya? I’m excited about jumping into the book study about Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites by Marcia L. Tate! While we’ve been enjoying lazy days around the house, I’ve had pen and highlighter in hand busily doodling over the pages as I’m reading. Hopping from post to post to read how this book is impacting other teachers has been inspiring!

When I read Michelle’s post about Strategy 5, I just had to jump in because this chapter addresses a topic that is near and dear to my heart…something we use in our classroom In fact, her chapter kind of incorporated every single chapter leading up to it.

Before I jump into Chapter 5, here’s my big “take away” or “A-Aha!” from each of the previous chapters.

Chapter 1: Brainstorming and Discussion….Classrooms should NOT be quiet places. There should always be a consistent hum or buzz about the room as children are working and learning together. Opening their mouths to talk allows oxygen to get to the brain which in turn allows for a greater depth of learning.

Chapter 2:  Drawing and Artwork…I could write about this strategy all day, every day! Art is not fluff! Can I say that again? Art is not fluff. It’s the stuff…that you can use to your advantage to make many meaningful cross-curricular connections. Art inspires creativity. Art requires creation, problem solving and THINKING. Art inspires deeper learning by engaging all senses.

Chapter 3:  Field Trips…Sadly, the decreasing of school budgets have brought a screeching halt to taking field trips. To improve in this area, we’re going to look for opportunities to learn outside of the 4 walls of our classroom on campus. I’m also going to get with my favorite techy guru to plan a virtual trip! =)

Chapter 4:  Games…I need to use them more. In classrooms full of boys, games are a great strategy for learning because boys are inclined to compete in everything!

NOW…Chapter 5Graphic Organizers, Semantic Maps, and Word Webs! =)

The best classrooms are ones where students are actively engaged in the learning-talking to one another, moving to learn content, connecting ideas together, thinking positively, and having a purpose for learning. ~Marcia L. Tate

Creating graphic organizers incorporates all of these things! Not only are they engaging, but they’re fun! Every Monday, we create a word web together to introduce our phonics focus for the week. The kids get so excited listing words that it’s hard to get them to stop! I LOVE to doodle! Win-win!

While you may not like to draw or are thinking you couldn’t make a stick figure with a ruler….don’t worry! Have a projector? Well, project a picture you’d like to use and trace away. Your kids will never know and they’ll think you’re an artistic genius! Even if you use your own stick figures, they’ll still think you’re an artistic genius!

We incorporate guided writing toward the end of every week [during guided reading]. This is how we address our comprehension skill. Graphic organizers help students to represent abstract concepts in a concrete, organized, visual format. The brain remembers images more easily than just words. When graphic organizers are used to change words into images, both left- and right-brain learners can use those images to see the big picture. (Gregory & Parry, 2006)

Each group completes a graphic organizer or responsive writing that is specific to their guided reading book. Here, after students read quietly…we discussed story structure and I wrote what they told me about the book. After I wrote to provide an example for them, students created their own story maps by copying the information in  an attractive, engaging format in their guided writing journals.

Same week. Same concept. Two different guided reading groups.

If time allows, students also enjoy sharing what they’ve learned and all students get to experience the gist of each of the different guided reading books that have been used over the course of the week.

This is an example of something new we’ve just recently started. As we approach the final six weeks of the school year, our stories are getting harder and much longer. So that students have additional exposure to the story of the week, two of our reading books have been placed in a work station bin for students to read the story independently. After reading the story, there is an 'I Can' statement provided to guide them toward creating their own graphic organizer. Because we’ve been faithfully creating these each week in small group, they’re now ready to make them on their own!

I Can statements don’t always have to be fancy. Sometimes, they can get whipped up from a sharpie and blank sheet of typing paper. The important thing is for students to have an organized model to follow, IF they need it. =)

Graphic organizers can take on fun shapes too!

In our classroom, kids help create everything. They are much more likely to be engaged and remember what was taught if they have a hand in creating it. Just sitting and watching me have all the fun isn’t actively learning.

This year, we’ve also focused on pumping a little life into our graphic organizers! Just like they can take on shape…they can be 3D too! Using 3D graphic organizers lends itself to project based learning….yet another, brain compatible strategy to grow those dendrites!

They’re great for every subject area. Again, let kids help create charts! Let them color them, touch them….construct them. Let them guide the creation of them. It’s in the “doing” that they’re learning. If time is an issue, {When isn’t it?} I create the background and the kids add the content.

They’re not just for reading! We’ve adapted the Frayer model for tons of uses in math too! We fold and learn a lot! =)

We build our classroom community with them as often as possible. This little book is one of my all time favorites! I usually whip it out as we review routines to begin the second semester. One of my coworkers introduced it to me years ago and I’ve been reading it ever since!

Here’s my reflection on Strategy 5. I hope you’ve found a little something helpful in this post. I’m looking forward to continuing this book study. Each of the sections I’ve read so far have been a big affirmation of personal beliefs and strategies we’re enjoying in our classroom. It’s also given me a greater understanding of the brain research that supports each of these strategies. Reading this book has allowed me time to reflect over how I can improve those strategies and consider how to add more tools to the “toolbox”.

Strategy 6 is all about the use of HUMOR in the classroom. What can I say? I’m goofy. I have the attention span of a 6/7 year old. I love to laugh! It makes the kiddos and I ooper schmooper compatible. Humor is usually one of the bullets my administrators list as a strength on my yearly evaluation. I think it’s their very nice way of saying…thanks for sharing your goofiness! LOL!

It’s important to love what you do. How else can you express joy, if you don’t enjoy the work you do every day? My BIG TAKE AWAY from Chapter 6? Sarcasm is the opposite of humor. It tears children down and can be demeaning. Don’t use it. While older students or advanced students may be able to get the humor part of it, most young children cannot and it can be damaging to them. Soooo, share a laugh. Wear a funny hat or shirt. Dance! Play! Make a funny face and LOVE what you do!

I hope you’re enjoying this book study as much as I am!

Stop by Fabulous in First to read about Strategy 5 and hop through the links.
Stop by One Extra Degree to read about Strategy 6 and hop through the links.
Later, gators!


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