A Favorite Lesson

Last week my class did one of my favorite lessons.  We created family trees.  They turned out beautiful, and I wanted to take a minute to share the beautiful bulletin board we created.  Since this is one of my favorite lessons, you can find more about it at my store.

Here is our bulletin board:

Students love writing about their families, and it is a great way to get them writing.  Creating the Family trees, is also a great way to bring the family into what you're doing in school.  Enjoy!

Grading Tips That Save Time

The school year has just begun and so far you’ve been getting to know your students and assessing where they are individually.  Who has been thinking about grades?   Well . . .believe it or not they’re just around the corner.  

If your district is anything like mine, grades come out every ten weeks.  In my district, however, we also have the five week progress reports. . .which essentially are the same as grades.  So, how do you fairly assess where your students are this early in the school year?  This is the perfect time for a multi-disciplinary assignment.  One where you can get at least 2 grades from one assignment.  If I teach a social studies lesson, and have students write a response about what we're studying that assignment is both a social studies grade and a writing grade.  This can be done with math and science, or reading and writing as well.  Morning meetings are great for assessing students for listening and speaking grades.  

The most important thing to remember with grades is that every grade does not need to be based
on a test or quiz.  Simple assignments like a page in a math book can be great.  When grading regular in class assignments remember to use a fair rubric for your students – effort truly counts if you’re grading an assignment on a skill you just taught.  My philosophy has always been that by using more assignments to assess my students’ grades, the fairer their grades will be.  If I use a page from a math workbook, I pick a page that my students had plenty of time to work on, and an assignment that I was able to circulate through the classroom and assist students with.  Then when I grade the page I use a very simple assessment like a check, check plus or check minus.  This way, if students get most of the page correct it’s a check plus (B).  For my students who have fully completed each problem correctly it’s a check ++ (A).  If they have most of the page completed with a decent amount of it correct it’s a check (C).  If most of the page is incomplete or incorrect it’s a check minus (D).  If a child put forth no effort whatsoever it’s an F.  Using a system like this you can walk around with a pen, and a classlist and quickly put a grade on each student’s page and in your gradebook.
If you're looking for some ideas of quick lessons that can count for more than one subject check out my eStore.  Happy Grading!

The First Week of School

I was planning my back to school purchases for my classroom the other day, and remembered back to my first year of teaching.  I had no idea what to buy, and as a result I purchased a ton of things I had no need for.  The worst part was that within weeks of the year beginning, I discovered materials that I truly needed.

So I decided to dedicate this blog to some back to school advice for new teachers.  If you’re not sure what to buy. . . then wait.  Even though you’re watching all of the back to school ads on TV, and a lot of supplies are on sale, you still don’t know what supplies you will truly need.  In addition, you don’t know which supplies your students will come to school with.  My first year, I spent a ton of money on crayons and markers only to discover that most of my students had come to school with their own. 

The only exception of course would be tools you used during your student teaching that you know will be a part of your regular teaching.  In addition, if you have had the opportunity to speak with members of your grade level team they may have some good tips.  That being said, however, there will be some differences between grade level classrooms – for example I like glue sticks and my teaching partners prefer liquid glue.  It seems silly, but we all have our preferences.  So, while you’re still learning yours hold off on spending a ton of cash.

So what should you spend these last few weeks doing?   Your time will be most effective right now planning that first week of school.  Actual activities you will do with your students.  I recommend over planning.  It’s better to have more planned than you can actually get to, than to be left with an hour and no idea what you are going to do with your new class. 

The first few days are crucial to building a strong sense of community with your students, and for setting up the rules and procedures for your classroom.  I always plan a ton of activities to help students (and myself) learn one another’s names, learn more about one another, and learn our rules, consequences and procedures.  After over planning all of my activities, I go through the actual lessons and number the activities in order of importance.  This way, I make sure I get through the most important activities, and if there is time we can complete the others.  If I miss an important activity on Monday, I simply push it into Tuesday.  By the end of the week, I’ve always covered what was most important and my students leave happy and confident after a very positive first week back. 
Happy Planning!!

Another Great Read Aloud

For my second blog post I thought I’d write about another one of my favorite Read Alouds.  It is called Heckedy Peg
and it’s written by Audrey Wood.  Unlike my last recommendation, this story has an interest range for Primary students so I’d really recommend it for Kindergarten through the very beginning of third grade. 

"Heckedy Peg" is about a mother and her 7 children, which are all named after the 7 days of the week.  What story, however, would be complete without a witch, and the witch is named Heckedy Peg. In the story each child asks their mom for something special.  Their requests are as unique as their names, and once again engaging for children.  The story continues and Heckedy Peg proves to be a villain.  Each child’s unique request of their mother, however, ends up being a clue for their mother later in their rescue. 

Primary aged children are quickly engaged by this book for several reasons.  The first is the illustrations.  They are amazing and draw the children in.  The second reason is because of the names of the children.  They are named for the 7 days of the week.  Primary aged children find the names very funny, and it helps them reinforce the days of the week and their order.  Finally, children like stories with witches, and love seeing good triumph over evil.  Young primary children might be a little scared at first, but love the part when the mother comes to the rescue of her children.

I enjoy sharing this book with my students not only to reinforce their days of the week, but because the book helps my children with deduction/matching skills.  In the story, the mother has to identify what Heckedy Peg has turned each of her children into.  The mother is able to think about what each of her children wanted, and uses that as a clue to identify each child.  It’s fun for the students to try make this connection as well.  Each year, Heckedy Peg is one of my students’ favorite stories.  I highly recommend it.  Happy reading!

A Favorite Read Aloud

Read Aloud time is my favorite time of day with my students.  So, I decided to make a few posts describing some of my favorites.  A great story that incorporates literacy and math is The King's Chessboard by David Birch.  This story is about a wise man who wants no payment for a service he has performed for the king.  The king, however, insists on paying him, so the wise man asks the king to give him one grain of rice, and then to double that each day for 64 days.  It's a great story, because it introduces students to the power of doubling, and allows them to see just how quickly numbers can become very large.

When I read this story to my students, I remind them that economies did not always run with currency, and in the past a commodity such as rice could be used as payment for goods.  I then ask them to think of the grain of rice in the same way they would think of a penny.  Of course, just like the king in the story they do not think that the wise man has asked for very much money.  Once I get into the story, however, my students begin to realize just how quickly that penny doubled becomes more than even the king can afford to pay.

This is a great story because it incorporates math, and a bit of history into literacy.  I also enjoy it because it teaches students about the importance of asking questions.  In the story, the king refuses to ask how much rice it will take to fulfill the wise man's request.  The king is afraid of appearing stupid.  I use this as an opportunity to teach my students that it is by not asking questions, that people end up in awkward situations.  I highly recommend this book.  Enjoy!


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