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Character Education

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Digital Learning

Creating Kids Who Love to Write

Our awesome blogging group decided to share some ideas about creative writing with you this week. Here's my take on it!

By far, the best idea I have ever found to create better writers is to make sure that kids are writing every day. Good writers are people who write. You can't get to be good at something you don't practice. I know. I can't ever run a marathon alongside my hubby because I don't go on all of the shorter practice runs and long bike trips that he takes to build himself up for the big race. Okay, I don't go on any of them. I sit on the couch and read. Don't expect me to ever win a race. Ever. I read and write and then take a cab to the finish line to celebrate with my sweetie!

I do know a few things about teaching writing, though! Here are a few:

  • Kids need to write. Every day. Journals, interactive notebook responses, letters and thank you notes, responses to reading. Every day.
  • Writers need to talk to other writers. Give kids time to discuss in pairs or small groups after a topic has been assigned. We can do this for most classroom writing situations. Not for big assessments, of course!
  • Writing should be fun! Make sure that your topics are broad enough so that students can interpret them in a way that is meaningful to them. This is especially important with personal narratives! 
  • Show students ways they can embellish their writing. I have another blog post about that here. Embellishing their work with drawings, diagrams, color, glue - ins, etc., will add interest and encourage reluctant writers who enjoy art to add more to their work.
  • Probably the most important thing to remember as you encourage your young authors: Give them time to write. This is a hard one, given the time crunch teachers are under every day to fit everything in. You won't find this time if you try to have the whole class write at the same time every day. You can find it if you use a station or center approach (like Daily Five). You can be covering lots of ground with small focused groups and even individual conferences while some of your class is involved in other activities - like writing! 
As you work with your budding authors this year, you may find these resources fun and helpful:

I hope you'll check out these other posts from our great blogging group!


Math Warm Ups

As a student and ever since I began teaching so many years ago, the Fourth of July has always marked a change in my summers. It's more of a change in focus. Before the fourth, the summer seemed to stretch out in front of me forever. After the fourth, each day brought me closer to the start of school, and my focus shifted to all the plans I was making for my classroom. If you are shifting focus this week and thinking about how your math practice will go in the new school year, I hope you'll find a helpful idea or two here!

My students and I have never liked jumping into math class feet first without a chance to dip our toes in the water and get used to the idea first. Math warmups, short whole group activities based on the math you'll be studying during the lesson, are a perfect way to dip your toes.

Calendar Math
Calendar Math is a part of several commercial math programs, one of which your district may have already adopted. If you don't have a Calendar Math component though, it's easy to start one yourself. Just gather students around a calendar (the pocket ones work great for this activity), and use the dates of the month to talk about patterns in our number system.

  • You can use each day as an opportunity to add on to a coin collection, adding certain amount each day. We used quarters in fourth grade and wrote a new total each day in our Math Notebooks.
  • Practice liquid measure by adding a half-cup or cup of water to a gallon milk jug each day. I added some liquid watercolors to the water we were adding, just for some added fun.
  • Move a marker along a number line, a ruler, or a yardstick each day and talk about the patterns in those measurements.
Number of the Day
You can randomly select a number of the day to use as a warm-up activity by rolling dice, selecting  number tiles, or selecting students who will call out their favorite digit. Put those digits together in any combination for the number of that day. An easy-peasy way to select the number of the day for older students is simply to use the date for a six, seven, or eight digit number. (Example: July 4, 2015 would become 742,015.) You could then discuss place value, periods, decimals, factors, and multiples. I'm sure I've missed a few that you'll add on here yourselves!

Show Me!
This has been a favorite of my students, and a great way for you to do a quick entrance assessment. You will find yourself changing up the lesson as you go to accommodate kids who gave you some information about their learn
ing needs during Show Me!  

  • For this activity, you will need individual whiteboards for each student, dry erase markers, and something to erase the boards. I bought white boards a few years ago, but before that, I laminated white cardstock and asked each student to include in their school supplies at least one dry erase marker or dry erase crayon and an old sock for erasing. Students can keep these tools in a gallon ziplock bag in their desk. 
  • To begin, students get their boards and markers ready. You tell or show on your presentation board a problem for them to solve.  It can be simple computation or a story problem. Wait an appropriate amount of time (when most or all seem to be finished - up to you) and then say, "Show me!" 
  • Students hold up their boards and you scan the room, making a mental or quick jotted note about their understanding. Congratulate all on their effort, announce the correct answer and move on to the next problem or on to the lesson. 
  • I like to use "Show me!" during small group time also. It works for all subjects.

Quiet Tiles
I first learned about Marcy Cook and her Quiet Tiles in Rafe Esquith's amazing book Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire.  A major highlight of my entire teaching career was when I contacted Rafe about using music in his Shakespearean performances because I was beginning to add music to the performances my 4th and 5th grade Shakespeareans were working on. Rafe actually called me and we  talked Shakespeare, music, and teaching for quite awhile. I am still starstruck from that phone call! (That is for another time and another post!)

Back to Quiet Tiles and math class! The tiles themselves are simple and easy to make. Just make a strip of boxes with digits from 0-9. Print on cardstock, laminate, and cut.

For a full-page download of the digit strips, click here!

Once each student has a set of these digit tiles (in a ziploc snack bag), the possibilities are endless.
  • Mental math: pose a problem and students hold up tiles that show the answer.
  • More mental math: Tell a multi-step problem and students use tiles to get answer for each of the substeps. Example: Start with the number 9. Add 5 (display tiles 1 and 4 for 14), subtract 2 (display tiles 1 and 2 for 12), and so on. When you have completed the sequence you have in mind, students hold up final answer tiles. 
  • Create a page to display on your presentation board with a set of problems in which each digit is used only once for the answer. You can make these up yourself or purchase ready made cards from Marcy Cook Math. I did both. You can see examples at Marcy's site. 

Daily Graph
Each student will need sticky notes for this one.

  • Sketch a quick graph outline on board as for a pictograph. 
  • Title the graph with a question of the day. 
  • Label the x-axis with possible responses, such as favorite colors, foods, how much time was spent on homework or reading the night before, etc.
  • As students enter or transition to math class, ask them to write their name on a sticky note and place it on the graph to indicate their answer choice.
  • After all students have answered, discussing the graph completes your warm-up.
My all-time favorite warmup is Eliminate-It! Kids love it and it's a perfect little formative assessment tool. Here is my fourth grade version of it! Grades 3 and 5 coming soon to Rainbow City Learning!
Click on the image below to find out more!

For more ideas to make your math class flow like a summer breeze, you might be interested in:


So happy to be sharing some math warm-up ideas with you and with this group of wonderful bloggers!