Math Story Books

I really enjoy using math story books to introduce tricky concepts in my lessons. My students find them engaging and they really help to bring concepts to life and put them into context. Here are three of my favorite math story book I like to use in the classroom.

How Big is a Million?

by Anna Milbourne

Skills: Value of large numbers

This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Pipkin the penguin and his quest to discover exactly how big one million is. On his way, he finds ten fish, one hundred penguins and one thousand snowflakes, each one individually illustrated to show students exactly how big these large numbers are. At the end he discovers one million stars, each one of them illustrated on a giant poster. I love using this book to help students grasp the value of large numbers and they find the poster at the end particularly fascinating.

 

One is a Snail, Ten is a Crab

by April Pulley Sayre and Jeffrey Sayre

Skills: Multiplication

Addition facts

I love using this book for investigations. One is a snail, two is a person, four is a dog… this book is all about feet! This book introduces the reader to different characters and their number of feet. It also introduces a number and the possible characters that it could be referring to, i.e. three is a snail and and a person, 20 is two crabs etc. I use this book to reinforce multiplication and addition facts. I give my students a number of feet, i.e. 18, and challenge them find all the different possible combinations of characters whose feet could total this number. Not only is this activity great for reinforcing multiplication and addition facts, it also helps student develop logical thinking and problem solving skills.

 

Spaghetti and Meatballs For All!

by Marilyn Burns

Skills: Area and Perimeter

Mr and Mrs Comfort have invited their family round for spaghetti and meatballs. All 32 of them! Mrs Comfort rents 8 tables to seat her family round, with four seats around each table. However, when the family begin to arrive they begin to push tables together to sit closer to each other, but not all the family will now fit! This book is great for using as a basis for investigating the possible arrangements of the tables, so all the family have a seat. Students can experiment with more than eight tables and find different combinations for the seating plan. It is great for demonstrating that shapes with the same area do not always have the same perimeter. I also like to use manipulatives of card squares to help students in their investigation.

Have you used Math story books in the classroom? I’d love to hear about your favorites!

 

How I Teach Non-Fiction Close Reading

Hi everyone,

In this blog post I’m going to discuss how I teach close reading in my classroom with a focus on non-fiction. Close reading means to read a text more than once in order to develop a greater understanding of the text. I teach close reading in small groups of no more than six students, whilst the rest of the class rotate around independent reading activities.

Before reading

Firstly we look at the overall layout of the text together before starting reading. We focus on organisational features, title and briefly scan the text. What do students predict the text is about?Is it fiction/ non-fiction? What is the genre? Have they seen a similar text previously? Before the first read the student begin to form ideas about the text based on their own experiences and knowledge.

 

The first read

I encourage students to annotate the text, i.e. highlight any words they are unsure of, anything that they find particularly interesting or something they’ve learned.

Students then read quietly to themselves.

I then focus on the new vocabulary students have highlighted. I model reading the sentence around the word and putting it into context. ‘Can we work out what the word may mean using the sentence around it?’  Students then apply this skill to their own highlighted words.

We also discuss parts of the text the students may have annotated. What did they learn? What did they find interesting?

I use sentence openers and for partner discussion about what the text is about. These could be basic ‘W’ questions such as ‘Who…’, ‘What…’, ‘Where…’, ‘When…’. sentence starters to get an overall basic idea of the text.

 

The second read

We then move on to the second read. This a more in depth read where the student really delve deeply into the text and dig out meaning.  I like to concentrate on one comprehension skills. This could be making connections, inference or main idea, for example.

If focusing on the main idea. I ask the group to summarize particular sections or paragraphs to draw out what the focus is. Which parts are relevant to the key idea? We may look for evidence to support their ideas, which I draw out through questioning. This is where ‘How’ and ‘Why’ questions come into play. These could be, ‘How do we know…?’, ‘How does the text say..?’ ‘Why does…? , ‘Why do you think…?’  I usually ask students to discuss their responses in pairs.

 

Finally

I like to summarize the session by bring the group together to share their responses to the questions and I encourage students to support their ideas by backing up with with evidence from the text.

 

Of course, there are many ways of teaching close reading skills, but this is they way I find particularly useful for my students.

 

Finding reading passages for non-fiction texts can be challenging, so I created some of my own based on animals. I have six sets including rainforest animals, arctic animals, African animals and Australian animals. The can be used for group instruction or for independent student work. They cover a range of comprehension skills from summarizing to vocabulary development to reasoning. They come complete with student response sheet and answer keys to save you time.  Both US and Uk spelling options are included in each close reading set. They are available here in my Teachers pay Teacher store, where you can save 25% when purchasing as a bundle. You can also download my Mountain Animals Close Reading set completely FREE!

How do you teach close reading? Id love to hear your thoughts.

 

How to Hygge your Classroom

I recently read The Little Book of Hygge – The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking. Denmark is often considered to be one of the happiest countries in the world, with many Danes enjoying high levels of happiness, well-being and quality of life. Could hygge be the reason why?

Hygge (pronounced hoo-guh), taken from the Norwegian word meaning ‘well-being’, is a feeling of cosiness, contentment and togetherness created by taking pleasure in the simple things of life. This could be anything from sipping hot chocolate from your favourite mug on a cold winter night to wrapping up with a chunky scarf and taking a walk in the woods or having your friends over for an evening of board games.

As well as creating a warm, cosy atmosphere, hygge also emphasises the importance of togetherness and community. These are two things that I am always aiming to create in my classroom. Read on for my top tips for bringing hygge into the classroom.

 

Put up some Fairy Lights

Fairy lights are perfect for creating a warm, inviting atmosphere. Hang them across walls, ceilings or around bulletin to boards.

 

Use Electronic LED candles

Candles are one of the key elements to create that Hygge atmosphere, but flames are an absolute no-no in the classroom. However, electric LED candles are flame free and perfect for creating that cosy environment safely. They even flicker like a real candle! During story time, turn down the classroom lights, switch on the LED candles and enjoy a good book together.

 


Create a Cosy Book Corner

A cosy reading corner or nook is is perfect place for students to enjoy a good book away from the hustle and bustle of the main classroom area. Soft material such as cushions are perfect for helping to creating that hygge feeling.

 


Get Some Indoor Plants

Nature is an important element in Hygge. Bring nature into your classroom for your students with some potted plants. Plants help to ‘soften’ the indoor the environment and studies have shown that plants can reduce stress and help create a feeling of calmness. If you don’t have time to look after them, you can even cheat and use plastic ones!

 


Play Relaxing Music

Soft music can be used to create a calm atmosphere within the classroom. I always find that soft classical music works well. I also enjoy using sounds from nature such as rain or waves breaking on a beach.

 


Have a Slipper Day

What we wear is important to help us feel relaxed. Swap school shoes for slippers once in a while to help create that relaxed, cosy atmosphere.

How do you create hygge in your classroom? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Top Tips for New Teachers

It’s back to school season and teachers up and down the country are returning to the classroom after the summer break. For some of you this may be the first time you have stepped into the classroom with your own students. All that studying and hard work has finally paid off! These are exciting times! However, for many new teachers, taking charge of a class for the first time can be daunting and a little overwhelming at times. Here I’ve put together my top tips to help you along the way in your first year!

School supplies on table on blackboard background1. Be Consistent

Establish your classroom management system and be consistent when implementing it. Giving students a secure, stable environment where they know where they stand and what to expect will save you and your students a lot of frustration in the long term. Children learn best when they feel safe and secure and having a consistent classroom management system is key.  So establish it, implement it and make sure you follow through with it!

 

2. Just say no

Do not feel guilty about saying no to extra responsibilities. As a new teacher (and an experienced one!) there are so many things to learn in terms of managing your class, planning lesson, assessments, parent communication and so on and  these can often seem daunting  on their own, never mind taking on extra roles. Do not be afraid to say no to running that after school club or organising that science week. If you feel ready to take it on, then go ahead, but do not feel pressurised into going above and beyond. You are a new teacher and learning how to manage your class is your number one responsibility.

 

3. Use your planning time effectively

Try to get as much of your work done in school as you can. Before your planning time starts know what it is that you want to achieve.  This could be getting next week’s planning done, making copies, marking a set of books etc. Try not to get distracted and stay focused on your task. Try to find a quiet place to work (not always easy in a school, I know!). Try to have all your resources ready, i.e. planning templates, worksheets to print out on a storage device etc. so you are ready to go. This time is yours, so make the most of it!

 

4. Don’t struggle alone

Find a trusted mentor and ask them for advice if you need to. If you are struggling with a particular child or you are looking for ideas about how to teach a particular tricky concept, don’t be afraid to ask for help. While googling is great for this too, it doesn’t beat talking through ideas face to face. Find someone you trust and don’t be afraid to ask. In the UK you should have an assigned mentor during your first year and this is what they are for!

 

5. Learn to draw a line under your work

It took me a few years to accept that there will always be something else to do when it comes to teaching, but it’s fine if I don’t manage to do it all! Teaching is a practice where there are many ways of doing things and there is always something else you can do to improve, but the quicker you learn to accept this and be ok with it, the better. Your students would much rather have a refreshed teacher who is well rested than a tired, frazzled teacher who has been up all night planning and replanning a lesson because there was ‘something else that could be done’. Learn to draw cut off points and stick to them.

 

6. Go to staffroom at lunch

You need a break away from the classroom during the school day. Make sure you make time during lunch to spend in the staffroom. Get to know your colleagues and spend time with them. You will feel ready for the afternoon session after a decent lunch break!

 

7. Go with the flow

I used to get frustrated when that lesson I’d carefully planned was interrupted by a surprise visitor or an extra singing practice for the school concert. Learn to accept that this is school and things often don’t run as expected. So don’t worry and just pick up where you left off tomorrow. At least all your prep will be done!

 

8. Make time for yourself

As much as you can, try to leave school work at school – where it belongs! You need to make time for yourself and be able to relax and spend time with your friends and family. This can be harder than it sounds (see point 5), but it is important to step away from work and make time for yourself so you are refreshed when you step back into the classroom. Make sure that you make time for your own hobbies and interests away from school.

 

Have a great year!

10 ways to relax this summer for teachers

Here in the UK school’s finally out and the summer is stretching out before us! After all that hard work, it’s time to wind down after the end of another busy year. I’ve put together my top ten ways to relax and unwind. Each idea is simple to do and requires little or no cost. So, forget about school, put your feet up and give one or two a try. It’s time to chill!

10 ways to relax

Read a Book

Remember that book you’ve been meaning to pick up all year but you’ve been too busy to find time? Well, now’s the perfect opportunity! It’s time to grab your book and get lost in the story.

Film Night

Grab some nibbles and your duvet and get comfy on the sofa while you enjoy your favourite film! Invite friends over, or simply enjoy by yourself!

Pamper Yourself

You don’t need to book into an expensive spa to rejuvenate yourself. Run a bubble bath and unwind whilst you treat yourself to a DIY facial and manicure. You’ll feel better after a bit of pampering!

Go for a Walk

Get outside in the fresh air and enjoy nature as you explore your local area. It’s great exercise and a great way to lower your stress levels too.

Meditate or try some Yoga

I joined a local yoga class at the beginning of the year and it is a fantastic way to clear your mind, forget about school and de-stress. It really does make you feel calmer and more relaxed.

Gardening

Like taking a walk, being outside with nature will help you to feel relaxed and calm. If you don’t have a garden, you could make a window box with your favourite plants. Just having greenery around will help you feel chilled out!

Learn a New Skill

Whether it’s learning a new language, taking an art class or joining that dance class you’ve been meaning to go to all year, summer is the perfect time to try something new. You might even be surprised to find that your new skill comes in useful in your teaching practice.

Get Away

You don’t need to book a holiday to get away from it all. Heading out to a local beauty spot, historic house or the coast (if you’re lucky enough to live nearby) are all great ways to rejuvenate yourself in new surroundings.

Crafting

Get creative and try something crafty! Whether it’s drawing, knitting, sewing or scrap booking, these are all great ways to clear your mind and solely focus on the task in hand.  It’s also extremely satisfying to complete a project and see your finished drawing, knitted hat or scrap book page in front of you – not a feeling many of us get to experience in our everyday jobs, as there’s always something else that needs doing in teaching!

Create a Good Memory Book

I know I said forget about school, but I’ll make one exception for my final tip! Write down some of your happy, positive moments from the school year in a memory book. Record that time a struggling child ‘got’ that tricky multiplication method or when a child in your class was inspired to write their own story at home in their own time after your lesson that day etc. Add in thank you notes from students and parents. It’s great to look back over it and remind yourself why you do what you do!

What are your favourite ways to unwind over the summer? I’d love to hear your ideas!

 

Five Top Tips for a Quiet Classroom

A quiet classroom is one of the key elements for successful learning. Certainly there are activities that require more noise than others, but in this post I am focusing on those situations that require focus and concentration from your students. Getting your class to work quietly can be tough but I hope that these ideas will give you some tips for getting your class quiet, focused and learning!

quiet classroom image

1) MODEL MODEL MODEL!
It was not until a few years into my teaching career that I came across the concept of modelling, but I am so glad I did! It really works. You may be telling your students over and over to ‘work quietly’ or to use ‘inside voices’, but do they really understand what you mean? At the beginning of the year, or whenever they need a recap, show your students exactly what you mean. Run through each voice level expectation (silent, whisper, table talk etc) and demonstrate them to your class. Gather your class and tell them that you are going to demonstrate a voice level expectation. Tell them that you are going to show them ‘silent working’, for example. Pretend you are a student, walk to fetch your work, sit down at a student’s place and begin working silently, eyes on the work, not looking around etc. After your demonstration ask your students what you were doing, not just with your voice, but with your whole body, i.e. were you looking around at other children or were your eyes firmly on your work? After your discussion, ask a volunteer student to demonstrate to the rest of the class. I then usually get a small group to demonstrate before getting the whole class to try it together. Repeat this for however many voice levels you will be using within your classroom to ensure that your students really do know what your expectations are.

2) Play quiet music in the background
I find this particularly useful during silent work. I usually play classical music, meditation music or natural sounds, i.e. waves breaking, rain, jungle noises etc. I find that this calms the class and keeps them focused. Try out different types of music with your class and see what works best.

3) Have a noise monitor on each table
Give a student on each group the responsibility of reminding others to stick to the voice level. The noise monitors will enjoy the responsibility and it will put the responsibility back on the children. When I have used this technique in the past, at the end of the day I awarded the table a who had been the quietest by placing a soft toy on that table the next day for extra motivation stick to the voice level!

4) Quiet Critters
When your class are working silently get out the Quiet Critters! These are simply little pom pom type toys/creatures that I place around the room, or on a shelf when my class are working silently. I tell my class that they do not like noise and only come out when they are working silently. If your class start to talk, put them away. Your class will try extra hard to stay silent so they can see the Quiet Critters come out and stay out!

5) Noise Traffic Lights
When your students are working at the voice level expected display a green traffic light symbol. This could simply be a green circle stuck onto black card. This lets the children know that are working at expectation. If they begin to talk/ get too noisy change the green traffic light to an amber one. Give the children one minute to get back to the expected noise level, in which case you change the traffic light back to green. If however, they do not quieten down, change the traffic light to red. Agree beforehand with the children what the green and red traffic signals mean in terms of consequences and rewards. Red may mean one minute knocked off free time/recess/break time etc. The children could work to stay on green by the end of 10 lessons which could mean an extra 5 minutes of free time/recess/break. This idea could be a lot of work for the teacher in terms of changing traffic light colours but for a particular noisy class it can be great to get them working together for an end goal.