Tuesday, November 11, 2014

End-of-the-Day Routine

Nothing mindblowing today but I just wanted to share with you my end-of-the-day clean-up routine.  I know that sometimes this time of day can be completely chaotic, but I have tried my best to cut down on that and have us end with calm.  Here is what I do.

I start about 25 minutes before the dismissal bell rings.  I begin by announcing that I am "looking for people who are ready to go home."  This is students' cue to sit down, clear off their desk space, and look at me.  Then, we have our 60-second clean up (I wrote in detail about that here), our 15-second box clean and our 15-second furniture straighten.

This is an old picture.  They also have POTW!
Then, I ask the kids to take out their planner and we go over the homework.  I have the assignment written on the board, and used to just have them copy it down, but I have found that if I *also* say it aloud, the kids have a higher rate of writing it in their planner and not missing any homework assignments.   So I orally go over the assignments.

Next, while some students are still writing in their planners, I have the kids who have classroom jobs begin.  Now here is where it gets a *teeny* bit chaotic.  Librarians are straightening up the library, while custodians are sweeping the floors or wiping off the whiteboard.  Distributors and Table Captains are passing out homework, and President and VP are stamping the planners with the signature stamp.  Most are organizing their stuff to go home (putting names on new homework sheets, getting things in backpack, etc...)

When the kids finish getting ready and have a clear desk, they join me on the rug and wait for the majority of the class.  We then begin our read aloud.  We read the story until the bell rings.

What I LOVE about this is that there is a built-in incentive to get ready for the day quickly:  the read aloud.  My students can not wait to hear the story and they want as much time as possible to be able to listen.  So they clean up FAST!  And since we are reading, it is calm, cool, and collected in my room at the end of the day.

What is your end-of-the-day routine?  How do you combat the chaos?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Seriously....They HAVE to Write Stories

I know that for most of us, teaching writing is a struggle.  Yet, in this day of performance based testing, it is a MUST.  The kids no longer can just rely on filling in bubbles and hoping for the best. Now they have to actually *write* complete, coherent sentences and paragraphs.  They need to have topic sentences, details, and closing sentences.  They need to be able to write on any topic on demand.

I looked over the released questions for the new nationwide state test (we are taking the SBAC) and saw that the kids will be given pictures to write stories about, graphic organizers to write stories about, and prompts to write stories about.  STORIES.  Not lists of things.  Not what what they see.  Actual stories

Can you say DAUNTING???

Yeah...I am a little overwhelmed by it all too.  I mean, I had gotten so good at teaching the kids how to find evidence in the text, eliminate answers, and basically take a multiple choice test.  But now they are going to have to write their ideas.  So, I need a new plan.

I took a hard look at what I was doing already and decided a little tweak was in order.  I took what we had learned about Plot, Setting, Character, and Conflict, as well as what we were already doing in Paragraph of the Week, and decided to combine it all so that the students could use the ideas to write clear, coherent STORIES.

At first, the kids tried to write lists of things they saw in the pictures.  They wanted to tell me that the man was running.  That he was wearing a shirt.  That other people were there.  But that isn't a story.  So I asked the kids to give the man a name.  Tell me where he was.  Describe what he was doing.  We brainstormed it all.   Then, I had them go write again about the man.

I would love at this point to say that my mini-lessons and discussions on this throughout the week resulted in an awesome fictional narrative....but it didn't.  The kids were still writing lists.

So the next week, we focused on the conflict.  What was the problem?  How could it be solved?  After a week of this, the kids had more and more elements of an actual story in their writing.

We kept at it.  I gave them 4 weeks of pictures to write about, then 4 weeks with a partially filled in plot diagram.  Each week, we did mini-lessons on topic sentences and introducing characters.  We talked about how the problem comes to a head in the climax.  We discussed the resolution and how you can't leave the reader hanging.

And it finally clicked!  I can honestly say that now my kids are writing stories!  Real, honest to goodness stories.  There are beginnings and middles and ends.  It all (for the most part) makes sense.  The stories have characters and setting and conflict.  They are true stories and not lists!  I have never been happier with fiction writing that is taking place in my room.  I am LOVING reading their writing like I never have before.  I am so so so excited by this all.

If you would like the pages that I used to get my students writing fiction in a way that truly makes my heart sing, you can pick up the pack in my TpT store.  It really is one of my most favorite creations to date.

How do you get the kids to write fictional narratives in your room?

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Periodic Table

Our first science unit focuses on The Periodic Table of Elements and we have dived right into it these past two weeks.  I wanted to share with you a few things that we did, just in case you are doing that unit too!

I wrote about what we did last year, and basically, the introduction was the same.  So to spare you having to read it twice, here is the link for those of you who would like to take a gander.

After the same basic intro, I wanted them to actually look at the Periodic Table itself.   We discussed a few of the elements, and I told them about how the table was grouped.  Which lead me into giving them this foldable that I made with four different sections on it.  I found some great information about each grouping from this website and the students took notes as we discussed what was happening.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5-R28AdFXfob2FkQUN0UjZrd2c/view?usp=sharingThen, to get them to dive into the actual table and learn a few of the elements, I had them do some Periodic Table Spelling.  Basically, they searched around the table for element symbols that spelled out various words.  For example, Neon (Fe) and Argon (Ar) spell FeAr.  Fear.  Some kids were super creative, spelling their own names or really long words.  Others attempted sentences!  Here is the worksheet I gave them to write down their ideas as they were spelling. 

Then, they had to choose at least one of the words and create a flip up for each of the elements.  Inside the flip, they wrote things that the elements were used for.  Here is a very simple and informative Periodic Table chart that my kids used to help them with the flip ups. 

Finally, the students researched two elements each to create little element squares, based around my Element Project.  The kids had a whole list of requirements that they needed to find and create a display that told about the element.  We then put them together to form this awesome full sized Periodic Table!  I love the way this one came out.  It is so eye-catching and really screams "Science!"  You can pick up the Element Project here.

So there you have it, some easy little things you can do in your room to introduce your students to the Periodic Table.  What is something you have done in the past?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Day AFTER Halloween

Yesterday was quite the day for us all in Teacherland, wasn't it?  Halloween AND Friday (which I guess is better than Halloween and a Monday ;))  Anyway, I thought for my Currently with Farley, I would share some pictures of yesterday's festivities to inspire you for next year.
We started the day with Dry Ice experiments.  I promise, we were all very safe with gloves and eye goggles. (the million warnings about not touching the dry ice also helped ;) ) The kids had SO SO SO much fun.  Seriously...they loved it.  All of the science connections we made, all of the investigations, all of the smoke!  It truly was a blast.

At school we have a pumpkin contest.  Here is the pumpkin that my daughter and I entered.  It is our school mascot.  I think I love it :)

A classroom parent came in to teach the students how to make this fun little spider craft.  It was CRAZY EASY.  Four pipe cleaners (cut in half) and a lollipop.  The kids twist the pipe cleaners around the lollipop, bend them into legs and, viola, they have a spider!  The kids had so much fun with this little gem of a project.

For the Halloween Parade, my team and I dressed up as a huge weather map.  You see, we have to teach the kids how to read weather maps, about warm fronts and cold fronts, high and low pressure.  So, being the conscientious teachers we are, we made our costume standards based.  We figured, why not make Halloween a learning opportunity?!  ;)  Hee Hee
Do you see the blonde with the blue high pressure front?   That's the Panicked Teacher :)

And, finally, here I am.  I wore this shirt all day long.

So that was my Halloween.  How was yours?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How Spiral Math and Calendar Math Have Changed my Life

Ok...so that is a bit dramatic.  But really, I am not exaggerating.

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you have no doubt heard me talk about how much I love Calendar Math.  I mean, I have written about it more than any other single subject on my blog.  It is something I feel so strongly about that I preach it to anyone who will listen (especially you, my faithful blog readers :))

But, a second math component that I talk about occasionally, but really has just as much impact on my math teaching is my spiral math homework.  I literally could not live without it.

Let me tell you why I love these two pieces of my math block puzzle.  You see, these both take care of those rote standards that I need my kids to know, yet they just don't seem to grasp from that one lesson I teach that one day of the school year.  Things like place value (have you ever tried to get the kids to remember to write expanded form in March????), plotting on number lines, or general multiplication and division.  These are skills the kids MUST know, yet don't get nearly enough practice in the traditional way of doing things.

But with Spiral Math and Calendar Math, they not only get more practice, but they get DAILY practice!  The homework is 10 problems a day, not of what we just learned, but of EVERYTHING that we learned. The kids were constantly seeing the same style problem over and over and over.  Their skills were always being refreshed....and it works like MAGIC!

Because nothing is being forgotten, the kids are always practicing those basic skills they need, nothing is ever lost.   I can honestly say that because of this homework and Calendar if I don't get to a lesson in math that day...I STILL FEEL OK!  I know all of the standards are covered and I simply DO NOT EVER stress about math.  Ever.

Doing homework and Calendar in this daily, repetitive way has freed up all that time I used to use for rote skill to work with models, explore concepts, and get really deep into CCSS!   I get the kids thinking about math processes, instead of always worrying about the rote memory of it all.   It really is amazing what one little 10 problem page can do and one math warm up (that takes all of 10 minutes).

However, doing the work isn't enough.  The key to this is that every.single.day, without fail, we go over the homework AND Calendar.  I have it worked into my math block (just 10 minutes each) to go over the problems.  I don't teach during this time, I just show the students how to do the work, with their help at times, on the ELMO and then they take it home to study for later.  This review of the problems is what makes this homework and Calendar better than anything I have done before.  If the kids didn't get it at home the night before, they get it when we go over it.  Then, when they see a similar problem on a homework that week (or the next or the next) they *do* get it.

Really, this is the MOST meaningful time of my day.  It makes math a stressfree zone in my room.  The kids like it, they benefit from the repeated practice, and I am a happy teacher because of it.

Do you want to try this out in your own room?  Leave me a comment with why with your grade level and email, and I will send you a week's worth of either 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade!  It is the best thing you will ever do...I know it!

Do you do any sort of spiral math or daily calendar math?  Tell us about it!