In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

BC10: Brain Breaks

My kids love these quick Brain Breaks! They are all under 5 minutes and perfect for when your students (or kids at home) have been sitting for way too long. Did you know that 5 full steps sends freshly oxygenated blood all the way through your body? Get that brain refreshed and the mind and body ready to learn more!

 

And check out these 20 great ideas from Minds in Bloom and these Energizers for the classroom!

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BC9: This Week in Learning

My students are currently wrapping up a unit on adding and subtracting fractions with like and unlike denominators. It is essential that fifth graders have a working conceptual understanding of fractions, as well as an ability to practically solve problems that involve operations. By this point, they should be able to extend their ability to model into their ability to solve using algorithm. This week, we will be spending some time working in Thinking Blocks. Thinking Blocks has recently moved to Math Playground, but they also have newly developed apps for fractions, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. It integrates modeling, algorithm, and word problems. I am hoping it goes well with my kiddos this week. I’ll let you know.

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What other sites do you use for an integrated approach to teaching operations with fractions?

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BC8: Book with an Impact

you haven't taught

You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned

I don’t look up to many celebrities. I’m not easily swayed by the famous. There are few people in the world of sports that I truly consider to be “heroes.” John Wooden is one of the few people that I would strive to emulate. John Wooden’s legacy in collegiate basketball is second only to his influence as a teacher. There are many books by and about Coach Wooden, and, frankly, I would recommend them all. Wooden is probably my very favorite book of lessons on life and leadership, but You Haven’t Taught Until They Have Learned is a great look at Coach Wooden’s specific teaching practices. Coach Wooden’s quiet demeanor, poignant influence, and overwhelming expertise is infectious. I have his pyramid of success in my classroom, and it always leads to some excellent discussions about life and character. Whether you are a basketball fan, or not, I’m sure this book will impact your views of life, teaching, and learning.

JRW Pyramid Laminate 07

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BC7: Classroom Management

TUM398Most of the time when people, especially in pre-service and initial teacher trainings, are equating classroom management with discipline. While discipline is a part of management, it is not the whole thing. In fact, the more actual management this is happening, the less likely of a need for discipline. In my mind, classroom management is about organization. Students who are engaged in learning and know classroom routines and procedures are more likely to stay on task with learning targets.

 

One way popular way to facilitate student responsibility is with classroom jobs. Here’s the thing. I can’t ever remember who is supposed to do what and when and where. I tried for years to keep up with different roles. I gave up on that last year, and I haven’t been more pleased. I simply have a STUDENT OF THE DAY. The student of the day runs errands, leads the line, collects and dispenses materials, and does pretty much whatever other jobs we might need for the day. They even get a special chair for the day! If you can’t keep up with who is supposed to do what each day, try having a student of the day. It works for me!

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BC6: Getting Better

Confession time: When I set up my self-initiated blogging challenge, I never imagined it would grow like it has. I am amazed, inspired, and awed by all of the exceptional educators who have taken on this challenge to blog more consistently. The range of ages, levels, content areas, geographical locations, and more astounds me. What I love is the authenticity of the challenge. I am on this journey with each of you!

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This challenge has also led me to tackle one of the areas where I have wanted to improve… reading and commenting on others’ blogs!

So what am I doing about it?

I have set up a column in my Hootsuite for #BC20 on Twitter so that I can see what posts people are sharing each day. If you aren’t using #BC20, please do! It is a great way to support one another on this crazy ride.

Many of you are tagging me on Facebook and Twitter, which I love! I’m trying to read as many of the posts as I can find. I’m already getting so many great ideas from you that I’m starting phase two of the blogging challenge based on what I’m investigating from you!

My goal: Read and comment on at least 2 posts per day. I know this won’t cover everyone’s, but I have to be realistic and fair to my time. I tend to be one who obsesses and goes a little overboard with pressuring myself to be perfect. It’s actually hard for me to let go of the idea that I can comment on every single one of everyone’s posts. Argh.I’m also checking out the list you’ve added to HERE on our encouragement page. Again, if you haven’t signed up yet, go for it! I promise that no one will seek you out if you don’t complete the challenges, but there’s just something about “signing up” that makes you want to finish!

photo credit: Ѕolo via photopin cc

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Join Us!

Discovery Education’s monthly What’s the 4-1-1? webinar series continues this month with a discussion about being a connected educator.  Join me a fellow DEN Guru, Dean Mantz,  for a deeper dive into how the DEN brings educators together through video conferencing, social media, and blogging for your professional growth and for classroom learning. We will explore these platforms through the lens of maximizing the best professional network around, the Discovery Educator Network.

 

Wednesday, January 8th, 7:00 pm ET

REGISTER HERE!

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BC5: Assessment Tips

I’ve used Google Forms for a long time as my parent/student information survey at the beginning of the school year. This year, I decided that I wanted to find ways to use this free, digital tool more frequently and for assessment. It allows my students, who will be taking end of year tests online, a chance to practice assessments online. Here are a few I’ve done that I post to my class blog for the kids to access easily.googleform

Unit ELA Assessment (students had printed copies of the texts)

Matter Post Test

Student Mid Year Survey

I love how easy they are to access from home, and they are a lot lighter to carry home than a stack of papers. I’ve recently discovered the joy of Google Forms Templates, and I found this post by Tammy Worcester Tang. She provides detailed instructions and a variety of templates for self checking quizzes. So cool! I thought I’d try it out for this post, so I’m prepared for my students.

Take my quiz and then check out the results! Let’s see how it works 🙂

Here’s the spreadsheet. You can see the ANSWERS on the top page. Click the SCORES tab at the bottom to see how they are checked. SO COOL!

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BC4: This Week in Learning

OK, so I didn’t quite plan this one right as I was spacing out the blog challenge. I’m not back to school yet! I’m certainly not complaining, but I am looking forward to Monday with my students. I’ve missed them lots! As I’m reviewing my plans for next week, I am going to be starting a unit on Myths, Legends, Folktales, and more. There are three of us who teach 5th grade at my school, and we do all of our planning together. We create our ELA units, and we often do a “rotation system.” At the start of the unit, we plan everything (homework, reading passages, writing lessons, grammar mini-lessons, technology activities, extra reading materials, and whatever else we would need). We break the unit into chunks, and we create a box with all of the materials needed for each chunk. We, then, rotate the boxes weekly (or bi-weekly). This saves us on copies, texts, materials, and more. We are doing this for our new ELA unit, and I am starting with Mythology. Yay!

medium_4838866948I thought today that I would share a few of my favorite resources for teaching mythology! This is an awesome unit to bring in the use of art as media. Ancient art was the storyteller, and it’s representations were like books. What an amazing story telling medium. I like to let my students create story telling urns of their own lives. They truly learn about choosing important events and figuring out how to represent them carefully but simply.

StoryNory offers free audio stories for kids. They are typed  and recorded, so they are perfect for students who need stories read aloud for access.

Mr. Donn’s Website offers tons of resources on Greek and Roman gods, including a comparison breakdown.

History.com offers a concise “crash course” on the Gods of Olympus, and there are other great photo galleries and resources to teach in more detail. Note: Beware of Cupid’s “black box”.

photo credit: 5telios via photopin cc

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BC3: Websites I Love

Technically, my original thought was to blog about a classroom website that I love to use, but I’ve decided to take this a different way.

A website that I cannot live without is Hootsuite. hoosuite

Hootsuite is a social media dashboard. The free version allows you to manage up to 5 social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc.) from one dashboard. You can also easily schedule posts for a later date or time. You can set up different streams to follow conversations, direct messages, or whatever you want. Did I mention that the free version is really pretty robust?! If you are looking for a great management client that is web-based (iOS and Android apps are available), check out Hootsuite. By the way, it often works in school buildings where Twitter is blocked. I’m just sayin’…

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Getting 2014 Started Right!

2014

I created this using PicMonkey. This was a super easy way to create a collage, add backgrounds, and add a variety of text. The free options are numerous and very customizable. Check it out!

 

You can follow along with the Techformers Unite challenges, too. It’s an open group on Facebook, so hop on over. Here’s our mission:

As educators (of any form or fashion) we are constantly saving the world through various challenges! Join the Techformers Unite team to boldly take on technology challenges that increases the use of these tools in your classroom. If you are ready to be a part of the Techformers Unite group, you just need to join our group and start attempting the various challenges! These challenges can be completely done by you, or you can do them with the students that you work with! Remember that any challenges you complete and post about need to comply with your schools/district rules for posting pictures/information. You are in charge of keeping up with what challenges you complete when you fill out the Google Form at the end of the month! On other social media? Share using #TechformersU
http://techformersunite.weebly.com/

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