Outsmarting Common Core

After the arrival of my sweet baby girl, I took an extended maternity leave for 5 months. I came back to school a few weeks before the end of the year. People were buzzing about Common Core and these new modules and Engage New York.....meanwhile I was nodding my head with absolutely no idea what was going on. After the panic officially set it, I began the daunting journey of reinventing the way I teach math.

I worked all summer on creating projectable math lessons for my little learners. (Through trial and error, I have found that this is the best way for me to teach math.) At the beginning of the year, I was totally filled with doubts- Could I explain this right? If it doesn't make sense so me, how will they ever get it? Is it too hard for these little ones?

After 45 days of school, I can officially answer those questions. YES- I can explain this in a way that makes sense to me and to them! NO- it's not too hard, they are rocking the socks off common core! #yayyy! We are having a lot of success so I wanted to share what we are doing with you. I model most of my lessons after EngageNY, but sometimes the order is different or we add things that are lacking. 


Each of my lessons has 6 components. I have a promethean board in my room that I use for my math lessons. I wanted to give you a glimpse how how math looks in my room. Here is how I taught addition using a numberline....

It all starts with a Warm Up! This is usually a game or partner activity that builds math fluency. We teach math at the end of the day so it gets everybody alert and focused before the lesson starts. We really do warm up our brains! (My common core calendar companion kit comes with a set of math games that we use for warm-ups.) 

This is followed by the Brain Stretch when we do an application word problem together. We are working on solving our problems by drawing a math picture, making a number bond, or writing a number sentence. We practice different ways of thinking and explaining. 

Next, it's on to the Pep Talk! This is when we get excited about learning something new! I introduce the skill and vocabulary. We practice together at the board and prepare for how the work will look on paper. (In the past, it drove me crazy when we learned something one way, and then the practice page or test was formatted completely different!)



Now it's time to Huddle Up! Each pair of learning partners works together to practice or to solve problems. Learning to talk about math can be harder than actually doing it so it's a great thing to practice each day! We share some solutions aloud and record them on the board.



Now we are onto Practice Time. Sometimes we have an independent job to do, and sometimes we play a new game before it gets put into a math center. If we do an independent job, I can project it . I love this because we can work through the page together, check our work, and talk about the process.


As the kiddos finish they move onto their WORKOUT, which is what I call our centers. (Look for a blog post about them soon!) We wrap things up with our Cool Down. You can print this slide and use it as an assessment or just practice together. 
A full math lesson for us takes about 45 minutes, including our WORKOUT at centers. Having all of the components of the lesson ready before we start means that we don't waste any time. I am so impressed by my little learners this year, and I hope you feel the same way. If you would like to try this lesson with your kiddos for FREE, you can grab it here!
Addition Using a Number Line Projectable Lesson and Practice Page
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Wordless Wednesday Science Nerd

Sorry friends...I have been neglecting you.  It's been ages since my last post, but I am thrilled to finally link back up with the fantastic Miss DeCarbo for Wordless Wednesday!

I LOVE teaching science! Inspiring kids to love science is what motivates me to make great science plans.
When I started lesson planning for science this month, I was looking for a new experiment for my kiddos. I turned to my dad who is a retired science and horticulture teacher for a little inspiration. He taught me some AMAZING facts about acorns, and I found some incredible resources online (...and I got some super lesson plans written too!)


My little guy and I had a great time doing this experiment together to find out if acorns sink or float.


Do you know the answer??!! 
Or do you know any other amazing fall facts?

To learn more about this lesson, just click here.
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Seasonal Science

Last weekend, my dad took my little guy to collect some acorns.  They gathered quite an assortment of sizes and shapes. Rusty loved telling us that some even had "little hats." My dad is a retired horticulture and science teacher, so I knew he could help me plan out my newest science experiment for my firsties. 

I always love doing the traditional pumpkin sink and float experiment. It's perfect for teaching how to use your senses, and it makes the scientific process easy and fun. Plus kids are AMAZED when a giant pumpkin floats! It's like magic, but really it's just science! So I started asking my dad if he knew whether acorns sink or float. (Do you know the answer?!  I did not...) I was surprised to hear that some do and some don't, and it's all because of a little insect gal called the acorn weevil. 



Acorn weevils are actually really interesting, and I am so excited to teach my little learners at school about them! Science is going to be epic this month! I created some projectable lessons for my kiddos and student books to go with them. Some of my little learners do much better when they have a reference to look at while writing, and we can keep data as a class. We will start with the traditional pumpkin experiment, because it is more teacher controlled. Here's my plan for this one:



Once they have their little feet wet, I will let them have more control by doing their own test using acorns. I am assuming most of them will think all acorns float because all pumpkins float, but that's just my personal hypothesis. We will use the projectable lesson and the student books for this experiment too. The projectable lesson also includes a link to an amazing acorn weevil video. Here's my plan for this experiment:

The projectable lessons can also be printed and used for displays in your classroom or hallway. It is a great way to communicate what you are learning with others in your school!


If you would like to use these experiments with your kiddos too, check them out here! You will instantly have a whole class of little seasonal scientists!





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Five for Friday Classroom Reveal



Today is a super special Five for Friday! I am linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching to show you 5 areas in my classroom! 



I am really loving my new calendar area and math focus wall. It is helping my firsties to practice a lot of tricky common core concepts every morning, and they are loving all of the activities! I keep everything on magnets so I can move it for math lessons or interventions. Almost every piece of this wall is available in my store: 
common core calendar companion kit
mathematical practices signs
number cards 
calendar signs  
weather sign and pictograph 
addition to 10 chant

We have several areas for reading and writing. We have a writing area that also serves as an area for small group intervention. I made the giant pencil for the writing board from the roll that came inside my classroom carpet. I will display writing samples on this bulletin board throughout the year.
We use this area for our library center. My IKEA chair is perfect for reading books to the class, and two kids can fit together on it pretty comfortably for partner reading. I painted the giant books that hang from the ceiling before my first year teaching. They are getting a little worn, but I just can't retire them yet. 
We use the "book store" for shopping for our leveled books. It's easy to move around the room and super easy to maintain. Click here if you want to learn more about the system. 


We have a school wide positive behavior program, which is amazing! Our kids love it! I use a magnetic behavior chart on my filing cabinet. Each child has a magnet with his/her number and it moves up or down throughout the day to reflect his/her behavior. At the end of the day, they accumulate "rocket fuel," which is similar to tickets. We store them in a pocket chart, and then the kids can buy rewards from our prize catalogs, or they can buy tickets to reward events!

I adore the windows in my classroom this year! I hung some frames on the windows behind my desk and filled them with pictures of teachers who have inspired me or notes from some super sweet kids. I plan on changing what hangs in the frames throughout the year!


Have a fabulous weekend friends!
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Wordless Wednesday with a SWEET FREEBIE!




Happy Wednesday Friends!

I finally get to meet my 24 new first graders today! Yay! #excited #nervous

I am linking up with Miss Decarbo at Second Grade Sugar and Spice again today for Wordless Wednesday, which is always fun!

I made these little goodies for my team at school and also for my son's teachers at preschool. I just attached them to a little bucket or a cellophane bag and poured in a variety of Hershey Kisses and Hugs...super easy!

These little gift tags are editable and FREE in my store, just click here

I love to keep a little something sweet in my desk! So my very important question for you...what snacks do you keep in your desk?

Have a sweet day!!
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Why do I teach?

I am linking up again today with BLOG HOPPIN' for TEACHER WEEK!


"Why did I ever become a teacher?" I called my mom crying during my first week of teaching after an epic catastrophe of a day and asked that very question...despite a few bad days I really do LOVE teaching, and these are the Top FIVE Reasons why...

Number 5
Even if I try, I rarely stop thinking about school! #obsessed
Teaching is my job, but it's really more of my life. I think of lesson ideas in the grocery store, at the bank, on vacation, anywhere and everywhere. I spend my three months "off" making things for the upcoming year. I wake up early on the weekends to read teaching blogs, and now I stay up late to write one of my own. 


Number 4
Teaching is in my blood! 
I come from a very, very big family of teachers. My grandmother was a teacher, and she actually taught in a one room schoolhouse in the mid-west. She later married a teacher, and four of her children, including my dad, became teachers. Seven of my cousins are teachers or principals, and my sister-in-law teaches at my school! 

Number 3
I love office and art supplies!
I love loading my cart with packs of card stock, labels, crayons, glue sticks, markers...the list goes on and on. I also love that I can draw and color almost every single day at work! How many people get to say that?

Number 2
I love kids! #obviously
I have the BEST time with my little learners. Their innocence, humor,  determination, creativity, and brilliance never cease to amaze me! Spending a day with first graders is exhausting, hilarious, heartwarming, and unforgettable! 

Number 1
Teaching simply reminds me each day that the world is filled with hope!


Why do you teach friends?

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Where do I teach?

I am linking up again today with  BLOG HOPPIN' for TEACHER WEEK to tell you all about where I teach. 




I am so lucky to teach at a beautiful school in Pennsylvania. When I got the phone call about my position, I was driving home from Slippery Rock University, and a rainbow seemed to be following me. The picture of that rainbow hangs by my desk and reminds me how blessed I am to have such an amazing career! 

My classroom has been closed all summer until today! I can't wait to set my iced coffee down on my desk and get started. I just love the anticipation filling a classroom in August. All of the ideas in my head are ready to come to life, and all of the projects and supplies that have filled my living room for 3 months find a new home. 

Here are just a couple bulletin boards and displays of years past....I am not using them anymore, but maybe they can inspire you! 

Please stop back soon friends to see pictures of my 2014 classroom!
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Wordless Wednesday



I am teaming up with Miss DeCarbo at Sugar and Spice for the first time today! I have loved reading these posts so I am super excited to share one of my own! 


Next week, I will officially be able to get back into my classroom. As I excitedly open that door, I know an itty-bitty part of me will be frowning as I think about my own little kiddos. I have been spending this week preparing all of us and soaking up these sweet summer moments!



When our little guy started preschool, I remember dropping him off and thinking of the millions of things I wanted to tell the teacher....the list was endless.


I tried to make our communication with our sitter detailed but easy to follow. All of this made me rethink the questions that I ask the parents of my students. I have used the same parent survey for a few years, but I think I can do better! So...I actually have two questions for you. 

As a teacher, what questions are the most helpful to ask parents? 
As a parent, what questions do you wish teachers would ask?

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make a DATE with your calendar


Let me introduce you to one of my favorite parts of my day....calendar! I call it calendar, because we do, in fact, begin by looking at the calendar but it is soooo much more. This is the time of the day when I squeeze in all those super duper important math skills that we need to constantly practice, but can't fit into our math block every day. The best part is that it naturally occurs first thing in the morning so kids are uber focused, I just finished my coffee, and no one has to go to the bathroom yet!



I know it's a bit old school, but I love having a "real" calendar wall in my room. I just can't get into using my Promethean board for this part of the day. There is something kids love about moving the pieces, and I really like that they can view the words and numbers throughout the whole day! I hang all of my calendar components on a chalkboard with magnets. Then I can remove the components and bring them to small group lessons, or the kids can use them at a calendar center. I attach Velcro to the pieces that change (days, numbers, etc) but you can use sticky tack or tape. 




We start each day by updating the calendar. I have used a few different calendars in the past. This is my current set from Creative Teaching Press. You can click here to view their website. We do all of those basic calendar elements you know: month, day, yesterday, tomorrow, etc. This is a great time to help build the confidence of some little learners who may be shy or who need extra support! 

Last year we started writing the date two different ways to meet some learning standards so we do the digital date and the complete date. You can get these signs for FREE at my store starting tomorrow!

Kids love talking about the weather, and it's a great way to tie in some tricky math skills. We describe how it feels and looks outside with words. Then we graph the weather for the week using a pictograph. I use the graph to review application problems! Some of my favorite graph questions sound something like this, "If you only like sunny and cloudy days, how many days did you like the weather this week?" or "If there were 3 more sunny days this week, how many would there be in all?" or "How many FEWER snowy days than cloudy days this week?" 


Of course, we also learn about the number of the day. We circle it on a hundreds chart. (I still love how every first grader thinks school will be over on day 100!) Then we build it with unifix cubes and talk about hundreds, tens, and ones. I used to use straws and then bundle a group of ten, but most of my little learners could transfer that idea to math when talked about place value. We also keep track of the number using tally marks, and we represent the number using coins. We say our money poems each day too!

A few activities are specifically designed to meet those common core standards. We make a number family each day. We repeat the families throughout the year, but it is good fluency practice! We also practice saying our doubles facts or we do our addition to 10 chant


Lastly, we do a counting card and/or game. The counting cards are 29 fun ways to practice counting forward or backward by 1, 5 or 10. The games are quick whole group activities you can use to practice too! I just put all of the cards on a binder ring and hang them on the board.


Phew!! That sounds like a lot, and it is (but it doesn't feel that way when you do it!) My little learners love calendar, because it's fun, and it moves quickly. They don't realize that we are addressing a laundry list of standards when we move across the calendar wall, but I notice it when I teach math!  The important things we do at calendar make my little learners smile and make their brains grow too...and now, we can take a bathroom break!
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