Thursday, July 24, 2014

Play = a Brain-Friendly Classroom

I love, love, LOVE this book! Silly Sports & Goofy Games by Dr. Spencer Kagan. Like most of you, I realize that play is important to kiddos. Sure it's important for kiddos' physical health....it's also important for the brain and learning!

Here's the nitty-gritty: "As students play, even if it is only for a two or three minute game of quick tag, their heart rates and volumes increase, pumping more oxygen and glucose to the brain. Their respiratory rates and volumes increase as well, oxygenating the blood. With more oxygen and glucose pumped to the brain, students are more alert. Thus, Silly Sports & Goofy Games actually nourish the brain, aligning our classroom practices with how the brain learns best."

How awesome is that?! I had already planned on using lots of the games in the book in my classroom. My teamie & I have noticed that kiddos really just don't know how to play. When we go out at recess...out kiddos mostly swing or play chase. We actually are having a CAMP IN with our class tomorrow (yep-- roasting hotdogs, making s'mores, lots of fun stuff, and actually sleeping in the gym!), and are planning to teach them how to play some games so that they have a repertoire to pull from when they go to recess. BUT - now that I realize the benefits I'm actively trying to think of how I can build games into our day!


If you've read my blog, you know that I teach a 1, 2, & 3 Multi-age classroom...and I also team teach, so what we've really got going on is 54 kids -- 2 teachers. We really focus a great deal on being a TEAM - what it means, what it looks like, what it feels like. We try to do lots of team-building activities, which is what drew me to this book in the first place.

I really, really like that the games in the book are all divided into sections according to what skills they help kiddos develop. How cool is that?
You can actually take into consideration the skill your kiddos need to work on, & find a game that supports that!

So -- here are 5 ways to use play to create a brain-friendly classroom.

  1. Teach games to students so they have a 'toolbox' to pull from when out at recess.
  2. Use games that foster balance, coordination, & challenge when students aren't working well together.
  3. Provide some 'comic relief' by playing a couple rounds of tag, or some Goofy Games when the class has been working on a challenging activity.
  4. Some kiddos have too much emphasis on winning? Try some Silly Sports to emphasize the joy of play & deemphasize the outcome.
  5. Pull kiddos up out of their seat with a helper game to build empathy, caring, & mutual support.

Aaaand....Guess what!! I just found out that Kagan's Silly Sports & Goofy Games is currently on Educents!! You can grab it at an excellent discount (but it ends on Sunday....so don't wait too long!)

We've had a lot of fun practicing the games here at home (so I know how to play by tomorrow night!)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Announcing....Build Your Own Bundle!

Did you know that today is
National Ice Cream Day?!

That's right....time to enjoy a creamy, sweet sundae...or a cool ice cream cone...or a decadent banana split! (As if we needed a special day for that, right?). Before you head out the door on your way to the local Tastee Freeze, I want to make sure you know about the special way my sweet friend, Ciera from Adventures in Room 129, are observing the day.

We'd LOVE to invite you all over for a Build Your Own Sundae Bar.....but since we can't do that, we decided to do the next best thing!! That's right......we're hosting a

Build Your Own Bundle Bar!!

That's right...and we have 3 sizes available. Small, Medium, & Large (of course!).....Your choice!! This deal is TODAY ONLY!! 
Just click the pic to head over to my store.
Happy Scooping!!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Some Vegas Swag for YOU!


I know you've already heard how fantastic the first-ever TpT conference was in Vegas......and they're not lyin', friends! It was MARVELOUS! The week was inspiring, exhilirating, motivating. I met so many great people.....some of them new, & some of them old friends, but the first time meeting in real life. What a wonderful experience!

My first evening in Vegas, I was lucky enough to meet the co-founders of Educents! What a brilliant pair of women! I loved hearing how they came up with the idea & how Educents was born. Such an inspiration to me & a reminder that we can all do anything we put our minds to!

Kate - one of the founders of Educents


My good friend Krea, from Learning in Progress & I also went to the SDE I Teach 1st Conference earlier in the week. Got to see & hear some GREAT sessions! Wow! If you're ever on the fence about going to a National SDE Conference....GO! Check it out....

The incomparable Erin Klein -- Magical Math-Creating a Playground of Innovation. What a thrill to meet her, too! I have followed her for many years....she's been instrumental in my learning about and implementing so many things in my classroom! I am so thankful that she shares all of her tech knowledge with teachers!
(Sorry for the blurry pic..it happens when you have strangers snap pics for you! ha!)
Hope King - Setting the Stage to Engage. Oh my word, friends, this gal is a ball of energy! What a fabulous session! Can't wait to use these ideas in my room!


Rachelle Smith - Guided Reading Mini-Lessons: Reading Thoughtfully & Attentively. What GREAT ideas for guided reading mini-lessons! Rachelle is such an inspiration! If you haven't checked out her blog at For Blogness' Sake, you really need to! She's really been an inspiration & helped motivate me to live a more healthful lifestyle. Baby steps, folks!

Amanda Nickerson - Interactive Notebooks. As you can guess....just an amazing presentation. Loved it! She's just a sweet person, too!

Of course, there were blogger meet ups....both impromptu & planned! 



There were lots of meet ups & lots of swag! Weren't able to go this time? Well....guess what?!!
I've got a swag bag for YOU!
Just enter your info in the Rafflecopter below & cross your fingers!!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Christmas in July DOLLAR SALE!

The Indiana Bloggers are at it again! We've teamed together to bring you one of the biggest Dollar Sales in Blogdom! haha! Seriously, though....there are over 110 products that have been deeply discounted to just $1. There are probably several that are already on your wishlist! Just cruise through the linky below. Each product links directly to the product on TpT....

Are you ready to 'shop til you drop'?!

Happy Shopping!


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Guided Math Conferences - Chapter 1!

Woot! So happy to get this party rolling! I was super excited when this book crossed my path. I implemented Guided Math a few years ago and absolutely LOVE it! It has transformed the effectiveness of my math instruction. I honestly believe it has improved my kiddos' performance and more importantly, their understanding! BUT - the math conferences piece has always been something I've struggled to do effectively...so I practically did a little jig when I found this book!

First of all, as you've probably already guessed, math conferences are very much like guided reading conferences. You get such a rich and valid picture of kiddos' thinking and understanding in conferences. Let's be honest....it's hard to get a really clear picture of kiddos' true thinking or understanding from class discussions OR even assessments! I SO relate with Marilyn Burns' statement, "I never really knew what students were thinking or whether their correct answers masked incorrect ideas. I only knew that they had given the answer I sought." Anyone else relate to that?

Think about these components that we believe good reading instruction should have:

  • match the individual reader
  • teach toward independence
  • explicitly teach strategies
  • value time to experience reading
  • follow predictable structures & routines
Doesn't it make sense the good math instruction should have similar components? Guided math conferences is a way to meet those expectations.

What are Guided Math Conferences?
Simply put, they are one-on-one conversations with students about their math work...like one mathematician to another. Of course, there's a tiny bit of a difference between a conversation & conference. A conference:

  • has a purpose
  • has a predictable structure
  • lines of thinking are pursued with the student
  • teacher & student has conversational role
  • students are shown that teachers care about them
Wondering what the Guided Math Conference Structure looks like?

Yup...me, too! Here's what it looks like - I bet you already do it...just maybe not a consistent or planned basis.

Reasearch Student Understanding & Skills
Observe the student's work, listen to his responses to your questions about his work to try to get an understanding of what he's trying to do as a mathematician. Probe to glean more about his intentions and comprehension of the concept as well as his mathematical capability. But - remember...the student does most of the talking during this part!

Decide What's Needed
Weigh the validity of his current strategies and processes and determine what his next step in learning should be. Decide on ONE specific learning point and how you're going to teach it. Name specifically what the student has done WELL with an authentic compliment, link it directly to the language of the standards, and remind him to continue to do this in the future.

Teach to Student's Needs
Use modeling, guided practice, or explicit telling to correct or extend the student's understanding & ability. Have him briefly practice and explain what he has learned.

Link to the Future
Again, name what he has done as a mathematician & remind him to continue doing this in the future. Ask him to share a reflection on the math that was just learned.

Okay - so that's the general structure...but they won't always run exactly like that. In fact, there are different kinds of Guided Math Conferences!
  • Compliment Conferences - used to motivate kiddos, or to lift the spirits of discouraged learners
  • Comprehension Conferences - you're assessing and extending the student's degree of comprehension (as in the sample structure above).
  • Skill Conferences - the focus is on assessing and extending the SKILL of the student (both process & computational)
  • Problem-Solving Conferences - used to explore the problem-solving strategies kiddos are using and then to add to their toolbox of strategies, if needed.
  • Self-Assessment & Goal-Setting Conferences - I'm super excited about this one...student self assessment & personal goal setting is on of my professional goals for the year! In this one, you & the student review progress toward meeting learning targets and set new goals.
  • Recheck Conferences - You can use this type of conference to check in with students to see if they're using what was learned in earlier conferences. 
I just cannot tell you how excited I am about setting the conference structure up in my classroom! I've got a couple questions for YOU....
What do you think is the most important benefit of math conferences?
What is the biggest barrier to implementing math conferences in you classroom?
How could you overcome those barriers?

I hope you'll follow along with us! If you don't have a blog, just comment below....we'd love to hear your thoughts & continue conversations. If you do have a blog, feel free to link up your thoughts on guided math conferences. Feel free to grab the button above (just right click, save as picture, then insert picture in your post).





Monday, June 30, 2014

#easydaysies in the Summer!

A few months ago, I was introduced to Easy Daysies. Easy Daysies is a really cool magnetic schedule for kids. I used the Classroom Version at school the last month or so, & I've been using the Home version for the last couple months. I thrilled to meet Elaine Tan Comeau at EdExpo this spring and learn more about Easy Daysies. I knew right away that this was a tool that would help in my classroom! Easy Daysies is a magnetic schedule...there is a magnet for each task. As kiddos complete the task, they get to move it over to the DONE! side. As Elaine explained, kiddos get the same satisfaction moving that we do as adults crossing that item off on our to-do lists! Now that's satisfaction, folks! 
I had a child with autism in my class last year, and he was all about notes. Notes and reminders on post-its, plastered all over the side of my file cabinet. His 'remember wall', he called it. I knew Easy Daysies could take him a step further-- organize all of those notes on the 'remember wall' into a more organized system. I loved that the magnets could be moved from one side to the other: from 'coming up' to 'DONE!' 
We also used the Classroom Set for the whole class. I love that they're on nice, sturdy magnets. To be honest, I've actually made similar cards before and placed magnets on the back...but these are so much nicer than an individual can make, & so much sturdier. I like that I'm able to write the time of each activity beside the magnet...it let me make little tweaks to the schedule as needed (you know what they say....'the best laid plans'). 
Posting the schedule helps kiddos have a smoother day
They have both PreK-K & 1 & Up Editions
...it functions like a cueing system. I love that there are visual representations on each card, too. Children become more cooperative, independent, and feel less anxious knowing what the day will look like and what is happening next. It is GREAT for kiddos with special needs! Does that sound like a win-win to you? It sure did to me! To further cement my excitement about how well Easy Daysies was going to work.....it is recommended by child psychologists and occupational therapists! Awesome!

I was also intrigued by the Home Version. I happen to live with a strong-willed, stubborn...ahem...independent-minded child. Can anyone out there relate? Here's the Top 5 features for families:

  • Helps families feel in control of their hectic days
  • Eliminates nagging and helps you get out the door faster
  • Lessens anxiety for both parents & children
  • Helps children be more cooperative, independent, & confident
  • Teaches an essential life skill: There are things to be done in a day & getting them done is the reward
WIN-WIN...Right?
They're right on the money when they say that kiddos enjoy using their magnetic schedule. We're all out of our regular schedules now with summer here and that sometimes can throw kiddos for a loop. Schedules are all off...we're doing activities and going places we don't normally do...and the routine changes day-to-day (in fact, at my house, I'm not sure we could say we even have a routine in the summer! HAHA).

And with the add-on packs, you can customize it to your family. Start with the Every Day Starter Pack, which has magnetized board & the every day general task magnets. Then, depending on your family's needs, you can add on the Get Dressed & Bathroom Routine Pack, the Chores & Special Times Pack, or the Family & Extra-Curricular Activities Pack. I encourage you to check them out....using Easy Daysies really has made for a happier home. Piper (who is 4), just loves taking care of her 'checklist' as she calls it...& it has met her need to be fully in charge! HA! Raise your hand if you have one of those at your house!

And here's GOOD NEWS for you!

Creative Teaching Press is letting me give away an Easy Daysies Pack & one each of all the Add-On Packs!  AAANNNDD - A set of the Classroom Management Easy Daysies (pictured above)  Woot! Woot! Just click that little rafflecopter widget down there & get started on getting your entries in! Crossing my fingers for ya!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Busy Week! & a SALE!

Whew! What a busy week so far! Ciera (Adventures of Room 129) & I took our show on the road so to speak, & traveled down to New Orleans for the SDE Reading, Writing, & More Conference.


Super excited! Check it out....we look all official & everything! What a blast it's been meeting so many people & getting to chat with others about how instruction looks in their school & compare notes. Ciera Harris (Adventures of Room 129), me, Amanda Nickerson (One Extra Degree), & Jen Sloane (4mula Fun) got to chat a bit during one of the breaks. Love 'talking shop'!


Then this happened....went out to dinner & got caught in a torrential downpour on the way back to the hotel. I am not kidding....DEEP puddles! Wet flip flops can be slippery! But we rocked the bright orange ponchos!


Aaaaand -- we're also having a SALE during the conference. Yup! 15% off until Friday night! 

So excited to see what tomorrow brings!