Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Bright Way to Manage Incomplete Work

It's time for another Bright Ideas Blog Hop! Are you as excited as I am?! The idea I am sharing today is one that I have been using since I started teaching and will NEVER change. It works out so effortlessly for me that changing it would be the complete opposite of bright!

Scenario: Johnny is absent for a couple days... and his work is piling up. In the shuffle, papers fall off the desk or get misplaced. Or.. Johnny doesn't go into your stash of papers from the week to get what he missed. Or sometimes it wasn't a sheet to complete,  but instead an assignment on blank paper. He wouldn't know he missed that paper.

Another scenario: Susie leaves early for the day or Sammy goes to ESL. Sarah didn't finish her work on time. Now they have papers that they need to finish that get stuffed in some random place in the abyss we call a desk, never to be seen again.

Solution: Incomplete Work folder. Sounds like "great, another folder to handle and manage", but I promise you this is easy. And, my incomplete folders have been the same folders for SIX years. And I don't even need to replace them yet!

Here's how it works. All of my students are assigned a class number. Each folder is numbered and hangs in this pocket chart. This is where the folders stay unless they are needed.
When students are absent, their neighbor (the person who sits next to or across from them depending on my seating arrangement at the time) will get their folder out of the pocket chart and place it on the absent student's desk. Any time I pass something out, the responsible friend, puts the paper in the incomplete folder. The folder stays here until the absent child returns to school. When the child returns to school, they look for any papers that have to go home (spelling lists, newsletters, etc) and place the folder in this "incomplete work" bucket. (This bucket is shelved right next to my turn in work buckets that I shared about last time.) Any time the child has free time, they know to get their folder and get to work.
The same thing goes for when a child doesn't finish work. They simply grab their own folder, put the work in it, and stick it in the bucket.

When students finish an assignment, they check my turn in drawers to see if the assignment is still in there. If it is, they simply turn their assignment in with the rest of them. IF the assignment is really late or I have already taken the papers out to grade, students turn the assignment into the late work bucket, which is just below the late work bucket.
This has saved me SO MUCH time and aggravation. Students are responsible for their own work and I don't have to worry about me losing or throwing away extra copies.  My buckets aren't the fanciest around, but they serve the purpose and save me sanity, and for that, I am super thankful for this bright idea!

If you enjoyed this bright idea, consider liking my facebook page!  And be sure to check out the link up below for 150 bright ideas!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Another Bright Idea... on collecting papers

Are you ready for this? It's time for another Bright Ideas Blog Hop! And I am so excited to be back with another idea you can start using in your classroom right away. (And even more excited that I am on spring break and have time to look through all the ideas... even if I do have to sneak the time in while packing up our house). This one is one of my favorite management tools I use.

Scenario: Class is working on an assignment. You set the timer for 20 minutes. 10 minutes in, a few kids finish and they have to sit there with that paper on their desk... or they bring it to you (which, if you are like me, ends up in you losing the paper)... or they lose it because they shove it in a folder... or they sit there and doodle all over it.

It happens. Collecting papers is no longer a hassle for me. In fact, I don't even have to collect the papers! What's that? Not have to collect the papers? Yep, I said it! Here is how my paper collection is handled.

These drawers and my students do all the work for me. It is extremely simple. Students are told which drawer their assignment will go in when they finish. Then I take a slip of paper with the students names on it (I have 100s of them printed and cut to last me all year), write the assignment on the bottom of the slip, then stick the slip in the drawer. (see below)
When students finish their assignment they come to the drawer and highlight their name on THEIR assignment (see the basket up there that says WAIT!... it has highlighters for them to highlight their name. I never have papers without names because of this trick.)  Then they take out the slip from the correct drawer, cross their name off to show they are turning their paper in, and then put their assignment and the slip back in the drawer. That's it! The pen is on a yarn and taped to the drawers so it doesn't grow legs and walk away. When I am ready to grade that stack of papers, I simply take them out of the drawer and grade them. Even better- I can write their grade write on that little slip of paper and then input the grades into my gradebook when I get a chance. (This year we have been having a hard time getting access to work from home... so this way I can still grade from home and not have to flip through the stack of papers to see what each student got. I can just glance down the list and input the grades quickly.)

No papers covering all my tables. No papers busting out of folders in my bag. Nice, organized, out of view to others, and simple! My favorite kind of idea! (And kinda 3 ideas in 1- highlighting the name ensures you have no papers without a name, turning in papers so you don't have to collect, and recording grades so you don't have to flip through the stack of papers!)

Be sure to hop over to my friend Lisa at Fourth and Ten to see her amazing idea on Mystery Motivators... I promise it is sure to be good!
You can also check out the linkup below to find topics that might help you out!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Slim Down Saturday- Week 8

I am back for week 8 of Slim Down Saturday. (I know it is Sunday... I just realized I never published this... and therefore not only am I late, but I am also breaking the one post a day "rule" sorry!!)
I am not doing as good as I had hoped and I know it is my own fault. Something needs to change here friends. The good thing is that I am at least not gaining weight. But I am also not losing like I want to. It is because I need to incorporate some cardio.... our schedule is just so crazy that it is hard for me to fit it in at the right time.

Ultimate goal- lose 25-30 pounds. I want to feel happy with how I look. 

Gain/Loss for this week: Since two weeks ago (remember I didn't get on the scale last week) down .6

Total since starting-  Down 6!

Positives from the week: I got situps in 4x (my goal was 5x but I forgot that), I lost weight, and I went on a walk. I know my goal was 3x but I went on two in one day with the dog... that counts right?

Something to do better: Water and less snacking. The past week I have been snacking too much. No more!

Goal for this week: 150 situps 5x and lose one more pound. I don't usually do a weight loss goal but I am hoping that if I do make one, it will push me more.

One word: Public- I think making this public is really helping me keep going. I am not losing a ton and I know I am not working out like I want to. But I am making progress. Slow and steady wins the race right?

Here is the blank template. 
And the wordle:

Hopefully there are a few people who have posted and want to link up. Sorry this is so late! Things have just been hectic here! 

Are you a text detective?!

A couple weeks ago I shared how I use Close Reading with my reading groups. (You can find that post here.) I mentioned that my tier 3 group had to do something a little different and I want to share with you what that is...
In December I found out about these amazing Text Detective packets on TpT. I knew they were good... but little did I know just how great they would turn out to be for me. I originally started using them just simply... read together, color code the text, answer the questions. But now, now they have taken my tier 3 group to a deeper level.

Reading the passages and answering the questions wasn't taking too long so I knew I had time to build more into each passage. So here is how we use each passage (sometimes we finish in a day, sometimes two or three days).

First, I read the passage to the students, them following along. Then we all read it together. Finally, they read it twice to themselves using the whisper phones. While they are reading to themselves I am listening to them one at a time and taking notes.
After we have read the passage and I finish taking notes on each child's reading, we flip the paper over and practice with a reading skill. This week, we worked on sequencing. The students told me the events from the story in order and we wrote them out together. I ran out of time but we are also going to complete a main idea and details graphic organizer for the story we did this week.

Once we finished writing out the important events, we went back to the front to start answering the questions. While this might be easy for the typical 3rd graders, this group of students has a hard time pinpointing the EXACT answer. And this is PERFECT to help with that. The students might know the answer, or have a general idea of the answer, but forcing them to identify exactly where it was found in the story and justify their answer is big. Some of them are fairly easy, which is nice because the students don't get to a frustration level. Each question has a color next to it that the students use to underline their answer. Add a little crayons or colored pencils and all of a sudden this is the best assignment ever!
I absolutely LOVE these and love how they are forcing this group of students to think just a little bit more.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Slim Down Saturday... On Sunday!

Ok let's just blame this delay on Valentine's Day weekend. We had been celebrating Valentine's Day since Thursday and I am just now sitting down to get this post taken care of. Sorry!! 

Week 7 of Sim Down Saturday. I am going to be honest here. I am not doing so great. I am not eating bad (with the exception of indulging a bit this weekend) but the working out... just not happening. And because I had quite the Valentine's celebration, I refused to get on the scale this weekend. Next week is another day.

Ultimate goal- lose 25-30 pounds. I want to feel happy with how I look. 

Gain/Loss for this week: I decided not to get on the scale. I enjoyed myself this weekend (I honestly don't think I gained weight) and don't want to stress about it. I will get on Saturday.

Total since starting- Down 5.4 pounds. 

Positives from the week: I did my sit-ups. I only managed 3x and my goal was 5 but I was really sick this week. I fell asleep at 7:30 Thursday. THAT never happens! 

Something to do better: I am running out of creative ways to say I need to work on this water thing. I need to find a big water cup to bring with me to work. The one I have is 20oz and that is not enough. I end up being worried I will drink it all... so then I drink it too slow. And once I get home, I don't want anything else to drink. Maybe the new cup will be my solution... once I find one. 

Goal for this week: I want to do my sit-ups again and add to it taking Payton and the dog for a walk 3x. 

One word: Relax. I chose this one because I got all my planning done for the week by Thursday and intentionally left my school bag in my classroom. I needed this long weekend for me.. not for work. And I am loving every minute of it!

Here is the blank template. 
And the wordle:

I am sorry I am late. Hopefully everyone still sees this and joins in!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On Cloud 9... Science Fun!

The words science and fun are rarely in the same sentence for me. Honestly, I have always been awful at science. And my kids sometimes know more than me because they watch Animal Planet, Nat Geo Wild, and read all kinds of science. Believe me I am grateful they are into it all.. but whew sometimes they ask questions that I stutter to answer. But we all learn, and in the end, that is what matters.

This week, we are learning about clouds.
More specifically cirrus, stratus, cumulus, and cumulonimbus clouds. And in order to get more done in a short amount of time, I turned all of my activities into "centers". I have a lot of activities I like to do with my kids when we learn about clouds, and having the students complete one activity a day with a small group is a much better use of time. So this is how it is working...

I have 4 activities that I use. The first one is

All of my students are in a colored reading group. I put the leveled passages in a folder that matches their reading group color. When they get to this center, they take their passage and questions out of their colored folder and work. The groups for science are heterogeneous groups, so sometimes the students have someone in their same reading group and sometimes they don't. The passages all have the same information, just written at different levels. 
Each passage also has comprehension questions with it. There are short answer, fill in the blank, and multiple choice. The way I have it set up, students have the questions that I made to go with their passage. But it is possible to use any format of questions with any of the passages. 
My students even managed to work together even when their passages were different. They read their individual passages on their own then came together to help each other answer the questions. 
The second activity I have is a note taking center. 
The students are given facts about the different cloud types and sort them out based on the type of cloud the fact is describing. Once students finish, they create a foldup. On the inside they write the facts about each cloud type and on the front they use cotton balls to create each type of cloud. (I didn't get a picture of the cotton ball clouds because I forgot-sorry!)
This one definitely took the longest. It was definitely my fault because I didn't clarify that when they were filling in their foldup they didn't have to use the complete sentences. Once I went over to them and told them to ONLY use the key words, things moved a lot faster. 

The third activity is 
This activity was a big hit. Bigger than I expected it to be! Students are given puzzle pieces- words, definitions, and pictures. They have to find each piece to the vocab puzzles. Once they put them together, students fill in the matching sheet with their answers. 

And the final activity was a fan favorite for sure... 
I originally planned to do a cloud in a jar for this activity. But all the ideas I found involved hairspray and matches... and well, I am one of those people where if it weren't for bad luck I probably wouldn't have much luck at all sometimes. So I wasn't about to brave it. (Of course after I decided this I found one that involved hot water and some ice.. but it's ok because this was a big hit too.)
Students first predict how many drops of water their cotton ball will hold. Then they start dropping water and realize very quickly that their predictions were way off. Most of them guessed close to 10 drops. And they had so much fun with this one. Who knew dropping water onto a cotton ball would be so much fun. I think it was that they were just very fascinated with just HOW MANY drops the cotton ball would hold. Four of the five students had about 110 drops and one student had 179 drops. We discussed how this represented clouds, what causes precipitation, and why the students had different numbers. 
All in all, I would say we had a lot of fun in science today and will continue to have fun all week since they do one "center" a day. (My time is very limited otherwise we would do a couple a day.) We will review with task cards after they finish each activity and then take a quick quiz. Fast, fun, and effective. 

If you want to look closer at this unit, you can click here.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Task Cards in Action

I am sure everyone has seen all of the amazing task cards floating around TpT and the blog world. At first, I had no clue what to do with them. And now, we use them almost weekly. I want to share a few ways I use them with you because until now I had no idea how else they could be used other than Scoot. But.. some people might not even know what Scoot is! So let's start there...

Scoot is a fan favorite in my classroom. Last year, I would hang the cards in the hallway because I was in a portable and didn't have the space to do this in the class. But now that I have a real room, I hang them (in number order) around the room. Students start at one card (I have them start at the card that is the same number as their class assigned number) and rotate clockwise around the room, solving the problems and answering the questions on the cards. Depending on the skill, I give the students anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute and a half to answer the questions. Usually we are in the range of 30 seconds to a minute but some math problems take a little longer. I don't say scoot usually though. I just ring my bell. And off they go. They like this because they get to move around while working through questions. Sometimes, to make it a little more enticing I offer a "prize" for the student who gets the most correct- a starburst, homework pass, pencil, etc. I do this when I know it is a skill that requires a bit more thought and I want to make sure they really put their effort into it and not rush to pick an answer. 

A new way we tried to use task cards was to play it in scavenger hunt form! I found this idea (and the next one) over at Task Card Corner. I decided to try the scavenger hunt idea with my telling time task cards. Let me tell you the general idea before I tell you how I completely botched this one up! The idea is that the cards are around the room and above them are answers to OTHER cards. So once students answer card #1, they have to find the answer around the room, then solve the card that is under it. It gives them a break from just going in order AND it ensures they get the answers correct and have to check their answers. Any time I had a student say "this answer isn't here" I told them they had to go back and check their work because they must have made a mistake. It was perfect. Except for my snafu... See, I decided last minute to try this out. And so I quickly wrote out all the answers on little index cards to attach to the questions. What I didn't think of was... I was just randomly placing them. And some of my students started going in circles. I accidentally had the answer to card 11 go to card 16... and the answer to card 16 took them back to card 11. I fixed that mess... then it happened again. So I fixed that one... and then... you guessed it. It happened again. So I finally said "if you end up in a circle, pick a card you haven't done yet and start a new loop." That worked. I realize NOW that I need to plan out where the answers are going and lay all the cards out and logically place them next time. But my kids were good sports about it and just carried on. I did let them work in partners for this one because I figured that would leave some open cards so that when students worked at different paces they weren't stuck waiting for someone else. That worked out well too.

The last method I tried was to give each group 3 cards on half a sheet of chart paper for them to solve. The cards in the pictures are elapsed time from Courtney. You can find them here. What no one knows is that there are two levels of cards on those posters. I believe the blue ones were easier than the red ones (but of course I can't remember now). But this allowed me to give certain groups more of a challenge.
Once everyone finished, the groups rotated and checked each other's work. I gave the half size sticky notes and they had to put a sticky note on any answers they didn't agree with. I made them label their group number on the sticky note so that we could discuss the discrepancies as a class when we went over them all. The kids LOVED getting to check their classmates' work and didn't even realize that they THOUGHT they only had three problems to solve, and in the end did anywhere from 6-12 problems. (Some students moved faster than others.) When we finished, I hung all 5 posters on the board and we went over every single problem together. (I forgot to take pictures, sorry!) Students got their white boards and markers and individually solved the problems too. This helped them to see what mistakes they made. Elapsed time is so not fun.... but they REALLY enjoyed this one!

I can't tell you enough how much fun we have with task cards in my room and how excited the kids get when I say we are going to play scoot or use task cards. If you have never used them, I suggest trying them out. There are TONS on TpT for everything you can imagine! You can even teach your kids to play scoot in a fun way with no worries from the students about actually getting the content portion. You can grab that freebie here.

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