Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Let it Snow!

With winter break only 2 days away, the energy has taken a physical presence in the room! Thus, it was a perfect time to update my brain tools bin by adding some fun new ones and throwing out some of the old dirty, sticky, well-loved ones. :) I went to this neat PD this year where they talked about the importance of brain tools and having a variety to choose from in your classroom since we as individuals all have different preferences. Even something as inexpensive as a pipe cleaner can be quite effective as a brain tool. Today I went shopping with variety in mind, and I was in luck. I stopped at Target and Michael's on my way home tonight and found some really cool ones! I will use the giant green ball and the long caterpillar in box pictured below as rewards for behavior. Students love getting to use the special brain tool.

The key I have found with brain tools being effective is having clear expectations. The instant a "tool" starts becoming a "toy," the privilege of using one is gone. What constitutes a tool becoming a toy? I spell that out very clearly with my students: throwing it, playing with it and completing no work, talking about it with others, etc. That way, students are set up for success right from the beginning. When it is time to write, students are trained to put their brain tools to the side of their desk, and when they are finished, they can pick it right back up. They love their brain tools and so do I. They work!

Another way I combatted all the "winter break is almost here!!! energy" today was by turning on some holiday jams during snack time while students created snowmen for decorations for our song-a-long we will have as a school on Friday. Check out my cutie-pies' snowmen!

Gotta love pig-tails on a snowman or the rainbow colored body. So sweet. :)

As for all you teachers out there, hang on to your hats for the next two days! We got this!

 photo Katie120_zps8b8e103b.jpg

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Today is December 12th, and as of today, we have totaled 11 and half inches of snowfall this week in good ol' GR. Last year, it took until January 21st to get to this amount. And WHEN has this delightfully delicious snow been falling may you ask? Oh between the hours of 7:30 am and 4:30 pm each day of course. Thus, timing is everything. If this snow had chosen to make its grand entrance during the wee hours of the night at any point, we would have had a snow day or two. Instead, we have had indoor recess, frigid dismissal, and interesting commutes home due to the freezing windchill and nonstop snow. I take that back, it does stop snowing, AT NIGHT. :) Gotta love that whining you hear from all the teachers kids about not having a snow day. Now before I start sounding like a meteorologist, let's talk about what we have been doing all week during this time AT SCHOOL. :)

A few weeks ago, I blogged about increasing the amount of writing my students are doing for math as well as making sure this writing involved rigor and critical thinking. To do this, I created C-E-R (Claim-Evidence-Reasoning) journals for my students, and I am really starting to see my students take flight with this.

Each day, my students respond to an open ended story/prompt by making a claim (What do you think?), providing evidence (What proof do you have to support your claim?), and tying it all together with some reasoning (How does your proof support your claim?). Check out some of their work!

My students were given the prompt, "Carl uses base-ten blocks to represent numbers. He makes the number 72." My students came up with different claims like Carl had 5 tens and 22 ones, or Carl had 6 tens rods and 12 ones cubes. They were using the concept of trading beautifully, and I could hardly stand it when I saw a student make a data table without any prompting!

To download your own copy of the CER template to use, click here.

Now it's time for me to put on the boots and go shovel up some of that snow! :)

 photo Katie120_zps8b8e103b.jpg