Flash Freebie – 200 Facebook likes!

Hi there everyone,

Yay! I’ve reached 200 Facebook likes! To celebrate I’ve made my Place Value Task Cards FREE in my Teachers Pay Teachers store for the next 24 hours. I know many of you are teaching place value at the beginning of the year and this set helps students to reinforce their understanding of place value up to 1000 in a variety of ways! Check them out by clicking on the image below.

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You Oughta Know About… Speed Challenges

Hi everyone,

I’m very excited to be involved in my very first blog hop. I’m teaming up with Jasmine over at Buzzing With Mrs McClain to tell you about something you oughta know!

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And that is… Speed Challenges on the Top Marks website! This is a mental math challenge against the clock! Each challenge gives the students 10 questions to answer. They are ideal for displaying on an interactive whiteboard or students can access the challenges on computers or tablets.
First you must choose the area of mental maths. There is wide range of topics from number through to fractions and measures.
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The next screen takes you through to more specific areas within the chosen topic so you can choose the level suited to abilities of the students in your class. On this page you must also select the length of time the students will have to answer each question. This ranges from 2 second to 20 seconds. I love decreasing the time my students have to answer the questions over the course of a teaching unit and watching how their mental recall skills have improved.
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As soon as you click on the specific challenge the questions will start. I usually get my students to record their answers on mini whiteboards with a dry wipe pen.
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Next the answer page will be displayed. You have to click on each question to reveal the answers, so you can  reveal them one at a time. I usually get my students to mark their own work.
 
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You can use this anytime during the school day. It is great to use for a mental warm up in a math lesson or if you have a spare couple of minutes before lunch! It really does help the students to practise their mental calculation and recall skills and it is great watching them get quicker at the challenges over time. Check the site out – I hope you find it as useful as I have!


100 TpT followers!

Hi everyone,

I want to tell you all about my milestone!!! I’ve finally reached 100 followers on Teachers pay Teachers! I’ve been watching that little number go up and today it has finally hit 3 digits!! To celebrate I’m holding a flash freebie on my Guided Reading Task Cards for the next 24 hours!

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Grab them while they’re FREE!

Alternative to ‘hands up’

Hi everyone,

Imagine the scenario – you’ve just asked a key question. You want to make sure your students understand the concept you are teaching, you want to get them all involved, you want to quickly assess their understanding of the math concept you have just taught them. This is where multiple choice answer cards come into play.

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I give each student in my class a set of four multiple choice answer cards labelled A, B, C or D. They are quick and simple to make from pieces of colored card. Here’s how it works –  I ask a question and  give four possible answers labelled from A through to D, one correct and three incorrect. The students work out the answer and pick the correct answer card. They can either move it closer to them, away from the other cards, or hold their chosen answer up. This way, every student in the classroom is actively involved in working out the answer. It relieves the ‘everyone is looking at me’ pressure on the more reserved students and gives them a chance to provide an answer in a less stressful way. Its is also great for those kinaesthetic learners as they can physically manipulate the answer cards in front of them, moving the answers they have discounted away from them. When the students have chosen their answer, you can do a quick assessment of the understanding of every individual in your class.

It is great to use in paired talk and get students to consider the different options. The cards can also be used as props in discussion, i.e. which of the following four items do you consider to be the most important for…?  Students can order the cards according to their own thoughts and opinions.

Obviously I still do use traditional hands up as well when the students are given no answer options and it is still important to ask open questions but this is nice little alternative to use now and again to get every student in the class involved in providing answers!

Reading Strategy Posters

Hi everyone,

I have been using my Jungle Themed Reading Strategy Posters this past year. They have been absolutely fabulous in helping my students remember strategies to decode words.

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The Beanie Baby characters are so memorable and my students have found them so helpful in remembering the decoding strategies. They have really helped build my students’ independence and fluency when reading. Download all seven posters here for FREE now at my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Classroom Layout

Hi everyone,

Over the summer I like to reflect on what worked well and what could be improved next year. One thing I have been thinking about a lot lately is my classroom layout. This is such a crucial aspect of the classroom and has such a big impact on the students’ experience and learning in the classroom. I thought I would share some thoughts on planning your classroom and the different set up arrangements and their pros and cons.

Collage2-1 Firstly, you must also consider what the activities will be that the students will be undertaking. This may be group work, independent work, drama/role play activities. Will you need different areas in your classroom for whole class teaching, guided reading, center work etc? All of these factors must be considered when planning your layout.

The next step is to plan your layout. You must consider a number of factors – will you use desks or tables? How many students will you have? What is the size of your classroom? Next think about how the students will be grouped. Will they be grouped by ability? Will they have free choice? Will you have different groupings for different lessons and therefore will the size of the groups change throughout the day?
When I began to plan my classroom layout, I cut out small shapes of card to represent the number of desks, chairs and my interactive whiteboard. I have tables in my classroom and 30 students, so I used the card pieces to experiment with different arrangements that would be best suited to the needs of my class. It is much easier to manipulate pieces of card that drag desks around a classroom to design your layout!
Here are some of the different arrangements and their advantage and disadvantages:
Large Groups
These are great to group students by ability. All students of a particular ability sit around one table. it makes distribution of resources and worksheets etc very simple if each table has a different task to complete. Resources such as pencils and rulers can be stored in the center of each table. It is okay for group work, but slightly too large to have all children on one table group working together. It can encourage talking and students can become distracted as they are facing each other. Not all students are facing the board which is not the best for whole class teaching and instruction when you want everyone looking at the front.
Small Groups
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Similar points to the large grouped tables, but these are great for group work and collaborative learning as the students can easily interact with each other as the number of students around each table is much smaller and they are closer to each other. Resources can be stored in the center of each group of tables and it is easier for the students to reach the resources as the tables are smaller than the large grouped tables. It can encourage chatter as students face each other and it is not so good for independent working. This arrangement can also take up a lot of classroom space if your room is on the small side. Some students also have their back to the front of the classroom.
Traditional Rows
 
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All students are facing the front which is great for whole class teaching and seeing the board. Students do not face each other so they are less likely to become distracted with chatty behavior. The teacher can easily access each student’s work, which is slightly more difficult in a grouped table set up. This makes it easier for the teacher to provide support if required. Ideal for independent work. It is more difficult to store resources on tables as they are likely to fall off. It is not good for group work as the students do not face each other. Teacher led group activities such as guided reading are difficult to run on in this arrangement as it is difficult to interact with one another along a row.
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Like the traditional rows, all students can easily see the board and teacher during whole class instruction. Students are not as close to each other as they would be on grouped tables so unwanted chatter will be discouraged. The teacher can easily access the students’ work and give guidance and advice. All students are facing each other (apart from the small desk in the center) so it is ideal for whole class discussions and debates. The small desk in the center can be used for small group activities such as guided reading. However, as children are further away from each other, this set up is not the best for group work. Resources will also fall of the tables easily.
L- and U- Shaped Arrangements
 
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After much experimenting, I settled on this set up this past year. The students face each other so group work can be undertaken easily. However, they are also far enough apart so that unwanted chatter is discouraged. It is easy for the teacher to access all students’ work and give support where needed, by positioning yourself on the other side of the table to the student. Some students have their back to the board and this layout takes up a lot of space, so if your classroom is small it may not be the best set up for you. I also kept walking into the corners of the desks as there were so many sticking out! So take care if you use this set up!
What classroom set up do you use? What are its pros and cons? I’d love to hear about your ideas!

ClassDojo

Hi everyone,

After reading about the positive impact ClassDojo has had on classroom in so many other teaching blogs, I decided to give it a go this year. In terms of behavior management, it is one of the best things I could have done and the great thing is that it is free! It is really simple to set up, just sign up at http://www.classdojo.com/ and enter your students’ names and they will each be assigned a monster avatar. The students’ avatars will be displayed on screen and you can award ‘positive’ points such as for ‘helping others’ or for being ‘on task’ which add one point to a student’s score, or you can click on ‘needs work’ which deduct a point from a student’s total. You can also customize the ‘positive’ and ‘needs work’ categories to suit your own requirements. I do really only tend to use the positive points though as I find them a great motivator. There are also options for reporting student behaviors to parents, but so far I have just used the system within my own classroom. I have turned ClassDojo into a competition and I give the student who has the most points at the end of the week a small prize such as pencil.hero-about2-2

Here are some of the ways in which I use ClassDojo:

Students’ attention
I have tried all sorts of ways in which to get the students’ attention; chimes, counting down from five, clapping a rhythm etc. These days, when I want the students’ attention, I display ClassDojo on the board and award points to a couple of students who are looking my way and listening. As soon as the other students hear the ‘ping’ they soon follow suit, hoping to earn a point themselves!

Tidying up
You can imagine the scene – you’ve just finished a craft activity and bits of paper are all over desks and under chairs, glue stick lids have rolled onto the floor, equipment needs tidying away… You get the picture! I have found ClassDojo to be a great motivator to encourage the students to tidy up. I give students who are tidying up a point, particularly those students who are helping others. I have found that it really has encouraged team work and has turned what was a ten minute job into a quick two minute task.

Random
My students love this feature! Click on the ‘random’ button and one student’s name will be selected at random. It is a great alternative to hands up during whole class teaching. I also use it when students are completing independent work. Now and again I will click the ‘random’ feature and I will look to see whether the child selected is on task. If they are, then I will award them a point – another great way to keep students motivated as they never know when their name might be selected!

There are many other features to ClassDojo and it is so simple to use and really visual for the students. How do you use ClassDojo in your classroom? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Happy Holidays

Hi everyone,

So the final week before Christmas is finally here, so let the card making, concerts and parties commence! My classroom is all ‘tinselled-up’ and I’m ready with the glitter for next week’s craft activities! To keep my students busy over the final few days before the holidays, I’ll be using my Cracking Christmas Math Activities. Included is lots of festive fun featuring co-ordinates, fractions, word problems and much more!

Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store to grab these fun activities. Have a great final few days at school and happy holidays!