States & Capitals Memory Game

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img_0564I love to incorporate games into the day. I mean, we begin the day by playing board games! So why not use games to help students learn their states and capitals?

We have been playing a few games in regards to this subject. Using a few items that I have collected through the years, students are practicing their knowledge of U.S. geography.

Most recently we have been using cards with a state or capital printed on each one to play memory. I have 5 groups of cards so that students can play in small groups. Each group of cards is printed on a different color. I have separated each deck of cards into groups of 4. This way the students are familiarizing themselves with approximately 12 – 14 states and capitals at a time. Students use the aid of a few maps that I acquired along the way. Fortunately, the maps were from an old curriculum set and there are several sets in the classroom.

This is such a fun and easy way for students to learn. They are really getting into it! One student even begged to play it (I had it in the plan for later in the day). She was NOT happy to hear that we weren’t playing it at that moment. THAT is how you know you have a winner on your hands!

End of Year Gifts

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It’s nearing the end of the year and many of us are thinking about giving gifts to our students. Years ago I began creating word clouds for my students.
Screen Shot 2019-05-19 at 2.36.17 PMI use Google Forms to collect adjectives from students. The students don’t know why I’m doing it. I ask for three adjectives to describe their classmates. We brainstorm a list of positive qualities that could be used to describe someone. I do 3 students at a time. Any more than that and the students start to repeat themselves and it’s less personal. I take the adjectives, check spelling, and place them in a word cloud generator. I use Wordart. I try to pick images that match each student’s interest, passion, or personality. The secretary at my school is kind enough to print them out for me. I cut them to size and place their school picture on it and put it all in a frame that I purchase from the Dollar Store. Adding a short message on the back of the frame is also a nice touch. It’s a personal gift and easy on the wallet.

I love this gift so much!

Tic Tac Toe Math

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I have been on a creative streak lately. I LOVE #EduProtocols by Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo. I LOVE #MathReps which were inspired by Jon Corippo’s 8 p*ARTS of Speech (read the full story). As a result, I have been working on Math EduProtocols. My latest one, that is ready to share with the world and receive feedback, is Tic Tac Toe Math.

Tic Tac Toe Math (1) This is a sample I created for my class. My intent was to review some basic math concepts while having fun. The rules are simple:

Each player writes their name and chooses either X or O.

  1. Player 1 chooses a square to complete. BOTH Player 1 and Player 2 independently work out the problem in the chosen square.  If Player 1 is correct, Player 1 gets the square and circles their symbol (X or O)
  2. IF Player 1 is incorrect, Player 2 has a chance to ‘steal’ the square. Player 2 MUST complete the problem correctly AND explain where Player 1 was incorrect.
  3. Player 2 chooses a square, even if they stole Player 1’s square. BOTH players must work independently to solve the problem. If Player 2 is correct, Player 2 gets the square. If Player 2 is incorrect, Player 1 has a chance to ‘steal’ the square. Player 1 MUST complete the problem correctly AND explain where Player 2 was incorrect.
  4. This continues until someone wins or all squares have been completed.

I tested it out on my students. They liked it and had some good feedback. Some wanted ALL algorithms. Some wanted harder problems. This was a fair statement as I purposefully chose easier problems. I wanted to hook them before going all in. Two students worked on the middle square together and decided that they both claimed it; that worked for me. Overall, it was something that they all enjoyed.

The set up of the problems was purposeful. The four corners are meant to be easier problems (DOK 1). This allows all students success. Those that are between the four corners are meant to be a bit harder. Finally, the center square is to be the hardest. A challenge problem. A player can still win without choosing the challenge problem. I did like the modification my students came up with for that middle square. It takes the pressure off one particular player and allows for collaboration, problem-solving, and communication between players in a friendly manner.

I have created a template with directions and the above sample. Feel free to copy and create your own. I would love to hear how you are using it and how your students feel about it. What modifications have you made? Please share!

Check-In with Flipgrid

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Last week I went back to Michigan due to a family emergency. I didn’t think I was going to be out of the classroom, but as it turned out I was. I was out for an entire week. The week AFTER Spring Break. Not great timing especially since I was out the two days before Spring Break. I knew I had to tone set with my students. Some would be thrown off by my absence.

Ms. N's Message on FlipgridThe question became: How am I going to communicate with my students? At first, I thought about doing videos on YouTube. Easy enough. I could record on my phone and upload. Then, after talking to a friend, I decided that Flipgrid was a better option. I could keep it private AND use the students’ names. I wanted to remind O to clean up, remind A to do work and not surf the web, and give shout outs to those who I was sure were doing the right thing. This worked out well. I was in contact with the sub and could customize my message each day. The kids really enjoyed it and LOVED hearing their names in the morning.

How fortunate that we live in this time where we can connect with our students from thousands of miles away.

Kindness Coin

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Ben's Bells Kindness CoinAt some point last year at a Google Innovator event I was given one of these. I liked the idea of passing along a note to recognize kindness in others.

I recently ran across it again and incorporated it into my classroom. I introduced the idea to my students telling them that when they saw someone being kind, it could be passed along to that person.

Fortunately, my students have really taken to the idea. Each day I see this being placed on someone’s desk. I love that my students do it without making a big deal about it. At one point it was missing for a few days. One of the students asked where it was and what happened to it. I reminded them to keep it going and it showed back up later that day.

A little kindness going a long way!

#MathReps Work!

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Several years ago I created #MathReps (EduProtocols for math) for my classroom. The original idea was based on Jon Corippo‘s 8 p*ARTS of Speech. When I first designed it I was excited and blogged about it. Since then, the idea, and resources have grown. And being who I am, I constantly doubt myself and my creations. I constantly question whether I’m doing good or harm.

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Yesterday, some of my doubts were cast aside and my creation was validated. Recently, I was talking to another 5th-grade teacher at my site. We were talking about some tasks that we have students do. She follows the curriculum to a T; I, however, do not. This is in NO way a slight towards her (she’s new and is doing as she is instructed). She shared that she pulled out a concept the students hadn’t seen in a few months (our curriculum doesn’t spiral. I have much more to say about it, but won’t do it here.). It was adding/subtracting with decimals. I thought THAT was a great idea, so I did the same. She reported her students having difficulty remembering to line up the decimals doing the task. As I gave my students a similar task, I observed that they instinctively lined up the decimals. I found this not only interesting but satisfying. My students had been exposed daily to almost 5 months of this concept on various #MathReps. Needless to say, I was elated and felt somewhat justified in doing what I do.

After completing the task I had a frank discussion with my class. I asked, even though I already knew the answer if they had any trouble adding the decimals. I asked about lining up the decimals. They all looked at me like I was crazy. Of course, they knew to line up the decimals….duh! I then shared WHY! I also shared that a class that doesn’t use #MathReps had trouble remembering that important piece of information. And that it was because we practiced these concepts DAILY that they had no trouble with that part. (They had trouble with the task but weren’t confused about how to perform the actual skill of adding decimals.) Because of the culture of our class, they focused on the fact that #MathReps actually do help them and not on the class that had trouble. It was so awesome to bring to light to them, and me, that this protocol really works. One student even remarked that while they may not like doing them it does help them to learn.

Just like with anything, if we don’t use newly acquired knowledge we lose it. In addition, John Hattie puts repetition at a 0.73 on the Hattie Check Scale. I would caution that there are different types of repetition and we need to make sure that our reps are meaningful.

I did share this with the other teacher. I assured her it was no slight on her, and she understood, rather it was a slight on the adopted curriculum.

Size Matters

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Yesterday, Friday, I had 5 students absent. When everyone is present, we have 26 students in our class. They are an awesome group of kiddos. I’m really enjoying them, but when I had 21 yesterday in class, it was so nice!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Let me explain. First of all, it had nothing to do with which students were absent. It had everything to do with the number of students physically present. I know 26 isn’t a bad number to have (last year I had 31 – THAT was too many). However, 21 students made it so much easier to squash undesired behaviors before the student had a chance to fully commit to the behavior. It allowed me to target individual needs more effectively. Don’t get me wrong, we had some name calling and general playing around but it was easier to manage.

So when school officials, politicians, or policymakers say that handling 31 is the same as handling 21, they clearly have either never been in the classroom (as a teacher) or have been out of it for far too long. There is a difference. I felt so much more productive and impactful than I have in a long time. I felt as if I really was making a difference and reaching all students.

If you are in a position to make a difference in your community, I urge you to do so. Go to school board meetings or talk to teachers. Because in the end, size really does matter!

And yes, I will be happy to see all 26 of them Monday morning!