Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Made It - Frozen Party!

Yay! I'm linking up again with 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It! One of these days, I will make something for my classroom, but today is not that day. 

We celebrated my daughter's {gulp} fourth birthday on Saturday. Four just sounds so much older than three, and it's killing me. Anyway, just like every other little girl in America, my little love is obsessed with Disney's Frozen. If you follow me on Instagram (Click here to follow me), you saw this little preview last week: 

I bought some scrapbook paper (on sale!) at Hobby Lobby and used my Silhouette Cameo to cut the circles, snowflakes, and letters. 

 I punched holes in each side of the circles, strung them on this snowflake ribbon I found in my mess ribbon supply (score!), and voila! A fun birthday banner! 

Here is the banner in all its glory with my second Made It - favor bags! Thankfully, this project was not as time-consuming, and my daughter loved helping me! If you're like me, you roll your eyes when you see the Christmas decor out at Hobby Lobby in June. This time, though, I was super excited to find a package of these glittery foam snowflakes that I just glued onto gift bags (also found at Hobby Lobby). 

And here's another reason to love the Target Dollar Spot (as if you needed one)! I found these Activity Books (with stickers!) and the socks in the Dollar Spot, and boxes of the fruit snacks at my local grocery store! Perfect!! 
Note: The boxes of fruit snacks with Elsa and Anna on the box contain some packages with Elsa and Anna on them and some with other princesses. I didn't realize this when I bought them, but I bought three boxes, so I was covered. 

Next up: Food! I scoured Pinterest (Click here to follow me on Pinterest and see my Frozen Party board) to come up with a menu and made some cute little labels to go with the food. 

 These are pretty self-explanatory. 

 I kept it simple with chicken salad and ham and cheese sandwiches. I couldn't remember what the little shop was called where Anna and Kristoff met, but now I know it was Oaken's Trading Post. So I would make that change if I had to do it all over again. Basically I just needed a reason to buy Munchies! 

 My daughter couldn't believe the tag on the left really said "eat" a snowman! :) And if the tag on the right doesn't make sense, we have a restaurant here called Wolf's BBQ, and they make THE BEST potato salad. And since Anna and Kristoff have wolves chasing after them at one point, this worked out perfectly! 

Sorry about the blurry label. I was snapping these quickly!
And I'm completely in love with the cake. No label necessary. 

And finally: the dress. I used to do craft shows and had a little hobby business called Baby Z Boutique. Technically, I still have it, but I don't do much bow or tutu making anymore, except for for my own daughters. Mommying, teaching, blogging, and TPTing just take up too much time! 

Anyway, I ordered a turquoise lined tutu top from Etsy and then got to work cutting tulle pieces. 

I should've taken a picture of the finished dress before she put it on, but she COULD. NOT. WAIT. to get dressed. I had to set an alarm on my phone so she would stop asking! :) You can get the idea, though. 

She was testing out her new roller skates! 

I always wait till the last minute to do everything, but it all turned out pretty well! I can't wait till next year! :) 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Guided Math Book Study - Chapter 5

Welcome back for Chapter 5 of The Primary Gal's Guided Math Book Study! We're halfway through the book! That also means we're halfway through the summer, and I'm not ready for that, yet!! :(

In this chapter, Laney Sammons dives into the importance, challenges, and procedures for effective small group instruction. If you already use some form of Guided Reading (I use Daily Five), the structure for small group instruction in Guided Math is basically the same. Sammons says that by teaching in small groups, teachers can more effectively:

*differentiate instruction
*teach mathematical "hot spots" (especially difficult concepts)
*teach with manipulatives
*informally assess student learning
*support mathematical process standards

Teachers form their small groups the same way you probably already do in reading - by student ability/need. You can do this in a variety of ways - unit pretests, formative assessments, performance tasks, etc., and Sammons emphasizes that these groups should be flexible. I especially like the idea of the unit pretests because some students may excel in a concept like composing numbers to 10 but don't fully understand the concept of place value beyond 10. Flexible grouping (based on data) allows students to always be taught at their instructional level, regardless of the topic. 

When preparing lessons, teachers need to be aware of their students' "zone of proximal development (Vygotsky)" in order to maximize their learning potential. Teachers should also "promote mathematical discourse" through thoughtful discussion about students' thinking, as well as through the use of Math Journals. I especially liked the part about having students record their thinking about how they solved a problem in their Math Journal. I have always had my students keep a math journal, but it has been more of a place to record the "Problem of the Day" than anything else. I have always had them show their work and justify their answer in a sentence, but I really like the idea of making the Math Journal a place to record their own independent thinking about problem solving. Sammons says teachers should also take the time to provide specific, meaningful feedback to students about their thinking and performance during this small group time. She suggests meeting with each group for about 20 minutes each time, but the number of times you meet with each group depends upon their specific needs and behaviors. 

Finally, the part I had been waiting for throughout the entire chapter - and it's a long one - a sample small-group lesson! One thing I wish this book contained more of is specific examples, like the one at the end of this chapter. So if you can only read a small part of this chapter, skip to page 176 and start there. My brain needs to see the actual dialogue in order to visualize how a lesson would look in my own classroom. 

I *really* hope to be able to use small group instruction for math this year. I know it will benefit my kids greatly. The challenge (as Sammons explains, as well) is the planning and preparation that goes into it, as well as time constraints. Maybe if I get started now…

Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter below and check back next week for Chapter 6! Thanks for reading! :)


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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Guided Math Book Study - Chapter 4

Welcome Back to The Primary Gal's Guided Math Book Study! 

This week we read Chapter 4, which delved into teaching math in a whole group setting. This is the go-to method for most teachers who are short on time and feel pressured to "get it all in" (myself included). Although this isn't necessarily the best method for teaching math, Laney Sammons presents situations where whole group teaching is ideal.

She says the best times to teach math whole group are when you are:

*presenting mini lessons
*using activating strategies to tap into students' prior knowledge
*reading aloud children's literature related to mathematics
*setting up Math Workshop
*conducting a "Math Huddle" (time to discuss mathematical thinking and learning)
*practicing and reviewing
*giving formal assessments

Teaching all of your math lessons to your entire class is challenging because you likely have a wide range of ability levels in your room. Some kids may already know how to do the particular skill you are teaching, while others are seeing it for the first time. It is difficult to keep an entire class engaged for very long when you are teaching them in a whole group setting. Sammons suggests using the whole group method when you are doing any of the above activities but using small groups, individual conferences, and Math Workshop for everything else. 

I was happy to see that she provided a sample mini-lesson in this chapter, including the teacher's dialogue. I really need specific examples in order to implement something in my classroom. She also included several "activating strategies," such as a K-W-L chart, anticipation guide, and "word splash," where you "splash" the vocabulary words you will be teaching in the next unit all over the board or chart and ask students to predict how they are connected. I was thinking that Wordle would be a great tool for this, so I made one using some of the vocabulary from Topic 15 in Envision Math for first grade: 

My favorite reason to teach math in whole group is to read aloud math-related children's literature. Sammons emphasizes the need for students to make mathematical connections and learn that math doesn't just happen during "math time" at school. Using children's literature allows children to see their favorite characters using math in stories and allows teachers to make cross-curricular connections between literacy and numeracy. Sammons writes, "This integration of disciplines reinforces the message that mathematics is a part of our lives, not an isolated subject only directly linked to the textbook." One example she gives that I absolutely love is to model a think aloud as you read a story, describing the mathematical connections you find as you read. Eventually, the responsibility shifts to the students, who will find their own mathematical connections as they read their favorite trade books. 

I created this little freebie for you to use to allow your students to find their own math connections as they read. Click on the picture below to download a copy! 

I can't wait to use this with my kids next year! 

Thanks for reading! Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below and then check out the other fabulous bloggers to read more about Chapter 4! Check back next week for Chapter 5! :) 

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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Guided Math Book Study - Chapter 3

Welcome back for Chapter 3 in The Primary Gal's Guided Math Book Study! 

This has been my favorite chapter so far. Laney Sammons provides some practical ideas for "Math Stretches" as part of a daily math warm up that everyone can easily include in their day. I know that I will be making a lot of significant changes to my math instruction next year, but this part will just need a little tweaking. I already provide morning work for my students that is often math-based, so to make it more Guided Math-based, I just need to include more open-ended questions and problems that lend themselves well to class discussions. 

The other focus of this chapter was on including a Calendar Board in daily math warm ups. I have always done some form of a calendar, so finally a point for me! :) Since Promethean Boards have been installed in our classrooms, I have used a flipchart for Calendar Math activities instead of a bulletin board, so it's not something you would see when you walk in the door, but it's happening.

 Let's get right to the reflection, shall we? 

It's important for students to make connections in all aspects of their lives, including math. We often focus so much on making connections in reading that we forget that the same strategies can be applied in math. Kids need to see the connection between math and their "real lives" so they learn to take ownership of their learning and realize that what they are learning in school doesn't just stay at school. Just as making text-self, text-world, and text-text connections improves comprehension while reading a story, making math-self, math-world, and math-math connections will improve students' math comprehension as well. There is a purpose behind their learning, and when they can make that connection, their new knowledge will be more meaningful to them. Authentic learning at its finest, folks! :) 

I love the idea of including family members in the "How Did My Family Use Math Last Night?" Math Stretch by asking students to write down a way their family used math at home. Sammons suggests assigning this for homework, but it may also be effective to simply include the question in a weekly classroom newsletter. Even better, parents and kids can BOTH write down various ways in which they use math at home, and you could create weekly charts or graphs using the sticky notes or note cards or whatever they use to record their math activities. Then in class, students can compare and contrast the different math activity descriptions and make observations about any patterns they notice from week to week or draw conclusions about why a particular math concept/skill is important (not just to earn a passing grade). 

This is DEFINITELY something I want to include more next year! 

This year when my students entered our classroom, they always had some kind of morning work waiting for them. Often it was math-related, but not every day. They also had tasks like choosing their lunch, putting folders and behavior sheets away, turning in homework, etc. I would like to incorporate some of the "Math Stretches" that Sammons suggests in this chapter, like a daily graph/data analysis question, a number of the day, the next numbers in a pattern, etc. These would all be simple additions to  our morning routine that are meaningful and will enhance our mathematical discussion. 

Sammons emphasizes that these warm ups need to be simple and require only a few minutes for students to complete independently. They should also lead to more student questions and observations they can record in a math journal and can discuss later in the day. She describes the role of the teacher as the discussions progress and the gradual release of responsibility necessary for student independence and success. 

I am loving this book and can't wait to incorporate some of these strategies and ideas in August! 

Don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below! Thanks for joining us! Be sure to check out some of the other posts from the fabulous bloggers below and come back next week for Chapter 4! :) 

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Me Time Monday - Michigan Weekend!

I am so excited and relieved to have found this linky party by Amanda at One Extra Degree! I was feeling a little bit like a failure since I hadn't created anything for Monday Made It, so this Me Time Monday is PERFECT!

If you're anything like me, your summer schedule is JAM-PACKED. My calendar is literally covered in activities for my kids, for me, and for my family. We have Kindermusik, gymnastics, birthday parties, dentist and doctor appointments, play dates, and of course some professional development thrown in (and VEGAS of course). In the midst of the craziness (and FUN!), it's hard to squeeze in some "me time," too. Thankfully I was kind of forced to this past weekend. 

I'm a bridesmaid in my long-time BFF's wedding {we met in sixth grade, and she still makes fun of me for my alleged cat sweaters and stirrup pants - thankfully there is no evidence}, and her maid and matron of honor hosted a fabulous bachelorette weekend for her in this adorable lake house in Lakeside, Michigan. It was so stinkin' cute, and had everything ten women could need for a weekend getaway (including wine). 

Saturday morning, we awoke to the most beautiful day and headed to the beach! Toes in the sand with a view of the water is the best kind of me time. We couldn't have asked for better weather, and we all enjoyed a couple hours of basking in the sun and scenery.  

Our next stop was a wine and canvas party at JLN Studio. I had always wanted to do this, and it didn't disappoint. I don't know who thought it would be a great idea to combine drinking and art, especially while wearing nice clothes (thank goodness for plastic aprons!), but it worked out and was so much fun! 

How pretty is this bride-to-be? Love this girl. 

Finished products. The important thing is we had fun! :) 

Next up was dinner, but we chose a really popular restaurant called The Stray Dog, so we had some time to kill before our table was ready. Only one little shop along the street was open, so we all went in to look around, and when we came out, our bachelorette had her hands full. She opened them to reveal these bracelets. So corny, but I love them. And I may love this impromptu photo even more. 

After dinner, we drove back to our house for gifts and CAKE! One of our very talented friends bakes these fabulous cakes and cupcakes as a hobby, and they were just as delicious as they were beautiful. Trust me. 

I was apprehensive about leaving my girls for an entire weekend, but I'm so glad I did. It was so nice to relax and hang out with my friends, and I'm convinced that girl talk is good for the soul. 
Plus, my husband got to have a daddy-daughter weekend with our loves, which he enjoyed. He may or may not have met me at the door with them when I pulled into the garage, but he said he had a good weekend. :) 

Take a little time this summer to do something for YOU! You won't regret it. Happy mama (or teacher), happy kids. :) 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Guided Math Book Study - Chapter 2

Thanks for joining me for the 

Welcome back for my reflection on Chapter 2: "Using Guided Math to Create a Classroom Environment of Numeracy" in Guided Math by Laney Sammons! If you missed my post on Chapter 1, click here to read it. 

This chapter was very interesting for me and lends itself very well to reflection. Laney Sammons could have been describing my own classroom in the beginning of this chapter. I strive to create an environment of literacy that is print-rich and encourages a love of reading and writing, but I haven't spent nearly as much time creating an environment of numeracy. 

In this chapter, she explains how teachers can establish a mathematical community in their classrooms and create such an environment. Thankfully, Guided Math is set up similarly to Guided Reading, which I am already doing, so the main challenge is finding the time to implement it during the school day. 

All seven Foundational Principles of Guided Math are important, but if I have to choose one, I think Principle 6, "Modeling and think-alouds, combined with ample opportunities for guided and then independent problem solving and purposeful conversations, create a learning environment in which students' mathematical understanding grows," is the most important for me. This is something I already do in reading and plan to implement in math as well next year. 

I think most teachers would argue that modeling and think-alouds are an integral part of literacy instruction, but we don't always include them in our daily math instruction. It is important for students to be able to "see" what you are thinking and how you can attack various problems using a wide range of strategies. They need to know that there is more than one way to come to the correct solution. 

It is also vastly important to gradually release responsibility to the students through guided practice and then independent work, allowing for thoughtful conversations and questions along the way. I have done this to an extent but need to find more time for those "purposeful conversations" next year. Laney Sammons emphasizes the importance of giving students time to discuss their thinking and to make learning a social experience. 

I hope my students believe they are members of a mathematical learning community! I strive to maintain high expectations for all of my students, and they all know I expect them to engage in their learning and participate in the discussions. I use dry erase boards in math daily as formative assessments to gauge their understanding of skills and standards. They record the problem and their answer on their dry erase board and flip it over on their desk when they're finished. When I see that most of the class has finished, I ask them to hold up their boards. This ensures all students are participating and allows me to see the range of understanding in the room. They also see that I value their thoughts as I ask how they solved their problems and to describe their thinking to me. I then write the different solutions on my Promethean board to model various ways to solve the problem. 

I do have students who seem to be afraid of making a mistake and do not feel like they can contribute as much as some of the other students, so they let the others answer and participate for them. This is an area in which I hope to improve next year. Some days time is limited, so I end up focusing on "getting it all in" rather than taking more time to create the kind of classroom community that Laney Sammons describes in this chapter. I want all of my students to understand that they can learn from their mistakes, and they shouldn't be afraid to take risks in their thinking and share them with the class. I also want to be more of a "model, facilitator, and co-learner" in the future (p. 38).

The rest of the chapter includes directions for setting up a classroom conducive to Guided Math. Classrooms should include a whole-group and small-group area, and a math workshop area where students can work independently. Class-made anchor charts, a math word wall, and problems of the day/week should be displayed. Teachers should also organize manipulatives and tools for measurement and store them in a location where students can access them easily. Students should have math journals,  which include graphic organizers to help them make connections and visualize relationships and patterns. I love, love, love that she states that numeracy-rich environments also include math-related children's literature. Trade books make everything better, even in math! It is important to make those cross-curricular connections that can help strengthen students' understanding of the math concepts they are learning. 

I hope you are enjoying this book study as much as I am! Be sure to enter the rafflecopter below for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate for Really Good Stuff! And check back here next week for Chapter 3! :) 

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Monday Made It - Nursery Edition

I'm so excited to be linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for my first Monday Made It! 

My "Made Its" this week have nothing to do with school; hope you don't mind! I spent the majority of this past school year on bed rest and maternity leave, so it's fitting that my first two "Made Its" are related to my baby's nursery. 

While going through things at my grandparents' house last year, my husband and I found this dresser and nightstand in their basement. Not exactly my style, but they were in excellent condition, and we wanted to bring them home with us and attempt to refinish them. 

We had no idea what we were doing, and I use the term "we" lightly. My husband did almost all of the work on these babies. He sanded, painted, sanded some more, painted again, removed hardware, and sealed them. I bought unfinished knobs and painted them. See? I helped a little. It counts. 

Folks, refinishing furniture is no joke, and I doubt I will ever do it again, but I'm in LOVE with these two pieces of furniture. And they are even more special since they once belonged to my beloved grandparents and are now in my sweet baby girl's room. 

My next creation took a whole lot less time, but it is also in my daughter's room, and I love it! This time around, I couldn't find a bedding set that I loved, so I pieced some things together on my own. We (ok not really me) painted the walls a beautiful turquoise blue, and I found pink and white polka dot curtains on Zulily that I fell in love with. Then I was on a mission to find something to tie together the pink and turquoise, and I discovered the perfect fabric at the mothership - Hobby Lobby. {You can see the package of curtains and the fabric on top of the nightstand above.}

I can't even sew on a button, so I enlisted my neighbor to make a blanket and pillow for the rocker for me. But the room needed something else. 

 I think I bought 1/4 or 1/2 of a yard of the fabric and a white 8x10 frame from Hobby Lobby. 

I put the fabric on top, cut out the center, flipped the frame over, and hot glued the fabric to the back side.

An important step so you don't get a fabric bunch in the corners is to cut the fabric at the corner, fold it over into a triangle, and then fold that straight edge up and hot glue it. 

Finished product. The lighting was obviously not great that day, but you kind of get the idea. :) 

Hopefully this will be the first of many Monday Made Its for me since it's SUMMER!!