Friday, July 28, 2017

Let's Partner Up!

I love using cooperative grouping in my class and I try to group kids in different ways. I was so very fortunate to work beside a teacher who used lots of Kagan grouping strategies. From colored dots to letters on desks, this teacher was a master at pairing students up. I borrowed her strategies and use lots of grouping strategies in my classroom.

I must confess that I'm not so good at pairing up students. I try to give students choices to help them  take ownership in our classroom, so I'm not always as structured with pairs. I frequently let students choose their partners. At other times I pair students up purposefully. Other times I want to randomly pair students up. Enter the partner pair-up cards. 

These cards are set up in pairs. Pass out the cards randomly and then have students go looking for their partners. It's a fun way to pair up the kids. Interested in a set of cards for yourself? Click here to download the file!





Monday, July 17, 2017

Back to School: Personal Identity Maps

Summer is one of my favorite times of year because I can catch up on all of my professional reading. I have a stack of books by my bed that gets taller and taller throughout the year. I spend my reading time during the school year on books that I can recommend to my students. Summer is my time to dig deep into professional books to learn and grow.

One of the books that I'm reading this summer is called "The Curious Classroom" by Smokey Daniels. It is all about student-centered inquiry teaching. I felt like a lot of my teaching in the previous year was very teacher-driven. My goal for next year is to move away from so much teacher-directed activity to more student-driven learning. This book was filled with a bunch of great ideas and suggestions to get you started on inquiry teaching.

Something Daniels discusses in this book is the importance of building a strong classroom community by getting to know each other. He mentions teachers sharing personal information about themselves with students. Can students tell anything about you as a person? My students know all about my kids, my dog Chance (who can snarf down 4 blueberry muffins from the kitchen counter in the blink of an eye), my car named Dora, and my love for Walt Disney World. I make a video each year with pictures to tell the kids all about myself that I show on the first day of school.

(Here's my video from last year. It's a tradition and part of my summer homework. My son is already asking when I'll make my video for this year.)


It's not really practical though for kids to make a video about themselves to share. Enter "Personal Identity Maps" as described by Smokey Daniels in his book. For this activity, students make a concept web all about themselves to share. I decided to make one for myself. I like to have a sample ready to show kids for some assignments (but not for all - sometimes it can really stifle creativity), so I decided to make one for myself. Here's my identity map. I'll use this to show the kids as my sample so they understand my expectations for the finished product.


I made a little set of instructions for the kids to use. Click here to access the PDF file with instructions for students and possible categories of information that students might want to include.


When the students have finished making their web, they can share with a partner and use that as a basis to create a venn diagram to observe similarities and differences. The book suggests putting them up around the room and having students do a gallery walk and jot on post-its about things they noticed or were surprised about after looking at the webs. This sounds like a great way to launch into the year and building a great classroom community.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Let's Measure!


I love to integrate picture books into my math teaching. It is fun to weave in reading wherever I can in different subject areas, and math is no exception! 

One of my favorite nonfiction picture book authors is Steve Jenkins. He has written several books that focus on unique characteristics of animals - how they sleep, how fast they run, or why some animals behave the way they do. The information in the books is just plain fun, but the illustrations are awesome! His style is very distinctive and after showing the kids one of his books and discussing the illustrations they were able to find several other of his books in the nonfiction section of our classroom library.

During my nonfiction reading unit, I always make sure to read aloud Steve Jenkins' book Actual Size. This is a fun book that shows various body parts of animals in real size! The goliath spider is twelve inches in real life, and the illustration of it in the book is twelve inches. The saltwater crocodile's head takes up three pages to show it in real "actual size."

Image result for steve jenkins actual size

After reading the book I realized it would make a great resource for measurement lessons in math. The picture of the gorilla hand on the cover is also a page in the book and is a natural comparison point for children. They are amazed at how big the gorilla's hand is and how it compares to theirs. So for our comparing length lesson, we compared our hands to a gorilla's hand!

I took the gorilla hand from the book and copied it actual size on paper. This was challenging because it won't fit on a letter or legal size page. We had to use ledger size paper (11x17) to get the gorilla's hand to fit without shrinking it down. 

For the lesson I started by giving out the gorilla hand and ruler to the students. They measured the length of each of the gorilla's fingers. Then I had students first draw their hand at the bottom of the page and color it in using a bright colored crayon (yellow or white) so that it would be easily seen. Afterwards the students measured the length of their own fingers and record those and then find the difference between the gorilla's fingers and their fingers.


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Steve Jenkins also has another book similar to Actual Size called Prehistoric Actual Size. This book features dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals with their bodies again shown in real size. While I didn't use this book for a lesson, I did put it out as a station for children to visit. They read about the animal, made a sketch, and then measured to compare. Measurement is much more meaningful when it is hands on!
Image result for prehistoric actual size