Thursday, April 17, 2014

Math Facts...A Teacher's Continuous Frustration

Hello lovely people! You are almost there. Only today and tomorrow and then it's the weekend. We can do it!!

So I don't know about you but the biggest frustration that my team and I have found is kiddos knowing their math facts. Our 3rd graders come in (most of the time) not knowing their addition and subtraction facts, which leads into frustrations when we begin 2 and 3 digit by 1 digit multiplication and long division.

Every year, since my 2nd year of teaching, I have required my kiddos to complete at least 5 minutes of math fact practice a night. We started out by focusing on addition and subtraction at the beginning of the year and now moving into multiplication and division. has been the easiest way for me to keep track my kiddos' progress within their math facts, plus it's FREE. You can keep your class open until August (whenever the next school year begins) so your kiddos can practice their facts over the summer as well. You can also set up your student computers so your kiddos can just click on their name, put in their pin, and practice on student computers as well.

There are various reasons why this tool is amazing to me. However, one of the biggest reasons why I love using Xtramath is due to being able to see if your kiddos have practiced their facts.

This is part of my current class.

As you can see above, it shows different colored dots (these all mean different things) for each day my kiddos have logged on. I check this every morning to make sure that my kiddos have signed on and practiced their facts.

 Another benefit is you can also view which facts your kiddos are struggling with. All you have to do is click on one of the student's name (whoever you want to investigate) and a calendar will show up. You can pick whatever day you want to view (I always choose the most current day). This screen will pop up.

One of my student's progress on her multiplication facts.

I like to use this to have my kiddos create their own flash cards out of these problems. The red X's are the ones that this student struggled to answer within 3 seconds. The check marks represent the problems that she knows and could answer within 3 seconds.

It allows your to differentiate your kiddos so they can practice whatever math facts are suitable to them.
The different programs that you can place your students in.
At the beginning of the year, I always start my kiddos out with addition and subtraction. If they pass through those, then I move them to multiplication and division. I have had one kiddo pass all 4 levels this year, so I had him complete the Advanced 2 Second for all four operations. This is where he gets 2 seconds to solve the problem. He also graduated from that so he doesn't have to practice his facts nightly anymore. This really pushed some of my kiddos to practice their facts so they get the same privileges.

As your kiddos complete a program, Xtramath will generate a certificate to give to your students. You can print these out and present them to the students.

I love to make this into an awards ceremony. It makes the kiddos feel good and gain confidence.

Some of you may be wondering, "What do you do with your kiddos who do not have internet access at home?" Well at the beginning of the year, I had my kiddos do flashcards. However, as the year went on, I had some of those kiddos who I noticed weren't making gains. Therefore, I started making them fill out a math facts sheet. Some of the kiddos who complete Xtramath nightly and weren't making progress started completing these as well. I copy these front to back (1 sided to 2 sided) and make sure that the front is different from the back. They are to complete one half of the page a night. I just put a check mark at the top of the completed section. To keep my kiddos from just copying down the same answers from one sheet to the next, I keep the sheets that were completely filled out. This seems to be the easiest for me to manage with my kiddos who do not do Xtramath. (Click here to check out Math Facts CafĂ© where you can create your own math facts sheet.)

Besides Xtramath, I also used my groups and RTI time to give my kiddos the chance to practice their math facts. Throughout the year, I have my kiddos complete timed tests. I started out my year by using my Addition and Subtraction Racing School pack so I could focus on addition and subtraction. Click here to read more about my pack.

My kiddos created their cars and moved them among the lap cards that I created to place on the wall to show which fact they were working on. As soon as they passed both addition and subtraction, they got to move to the finish line. I started them out by completing a pretest (which is within the pack) to determine the facts that they needed to work on. Then I gave them flashcards for them to practice with at home. The kiddos who completed both addition and subtraction got to have free time while the rest of my kiddos were completing their timed tests.

Now that we are towards the end of our year, I now have started implementing Amy's Multiplication and Division Boot Camp so I could focus on multiplication and division. This works just like my addition and subtraction pack (Amy had the idea first). Click here to see what her Boot Camp entails.

I had my kiddos play the "Build Your Own Soldier" game two weeks ago when we did our stations. I laminated them so they wouldn't fall apart. To show them off, I placed the soldiers under the Smartboard in my room. Then I used a paper clip to put their dog tags of the drills that they completed on their hand. I thought they turned out really cute.

A close up of what the dog tags look like
After they pass a drill, they get to put their dog tag on their soldier

Soldiers lined up

A close up of one of my kiddo's soldier

Timed tests can be very hard to manage at times. They have to be checked daily. To cut down on the amount of stuff for me to check (check out my Checking Homework...A Time Saver post for more information on how to cut down on the amount of checking your kiddos' work), I have my kiddos check their own timed test.
This is the picture I was referring to from yesterday's post...Wordless Wednesday: Math Facts
As you can see, the timed tests and answer keys are in the cups, along with some pens. I call the kiddos up to check the drill number that they are on at the time. They get the answer key out and check the answers. They circle whatever answers are not correct or put a star at the top if they are all correct, put the cup back, and head back to their desk. Then they fill out their drill sheet. They love this as it gives them the immediate feedback so they know which drill to practice next.
In addition to timed tests, I have my kiddos complete math facts practice when they are playing a game with their math group and when they are at a math fact station for RTI. These come from the Addition and Subtraction Racing School, Multiplication and Division Boot Camp, simple deck of cards games, and websites.
As you may already know, I love to implement technology in my classroom anytime I get the chance. I try to place shortcuts to websites on my student computer so my kiddos always have resources that focus on the concept at hand. Here are some other great websites that I have used to help implement math facts:
  • Fact Monsters: Your kiddos can choose between the operation that they need more practice on and choose a level to practice those facts on. Tracks how many they have correct and contains milestones that they can reach.
  • Math Facts Pro: Your kiddos can choose between the operation that needs to be focused on. Your kiddos can then decide which grade level needs to be done (this will allow for differentiated instruction). The kiddos have the opportunity to click on the answer and it tracks the amount of time for each problem that is completed. Once the round is complete, your child can print out his/her progress. You can pay for an upgrade to get more options.
  • ABCya Math Fact Shoot-Out: This is a game where your kiddos get to practice math facts while playing basketball. Again, this is differentiated where your kiddos can determine the level and operation that can be practiced. It also tells you a report of the percentage that was done correctly.
  • Sheppard Software: This website has a ton of games and resources for basic operations.
How do you implement math facts into your every day routines? I would love any feedback you may have.
Hope the rest of your week goes well!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Math Facts

Hey lovely readers! I am linking up with Christina from Sugar and Spice. I thought this was the greatest idea so I thought I would participate. The purpose of this linky party is to post a picture and ask one question for your viewers to answer.

How do you implement math facts in the classroom?

Leave a comment below and head over to link up!

Stay tuned for more information about math facts. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Checking Homework...A Time Saver!!

Happy Saturday to you! I hope you are having a wonderful day! It is beautiful here in the St. Louis area. It's supposed to be in the 80's today. I just love this time of the year.

I was thinking throughout this week how there are so many things in our classrooms that we do on a normal basis that are just routines to us. Then I started thinking how one thing that isn't a big deal to me could really help another teacher. I guess that's one of the biggest points with blogging...sharing ideas to help others.

Anyways, I don't know about you, but with all the other demands of teaching, I find grading papers to be overwhelming at times. When I first started teaching, I graded and checked everything. However, I started to learn that I don't need to grade everything, especially homework. One of my teammates shared this with me at the beginning of last year and it was genius to me. This isn't something brand new and some of you may be doing this. However, I wanted to share this, just in case you weren't.

So we start math right after the announcements. Before the announcements and while my kiddos are unpacking, I remind my kiddos to make sure they have their homework out from the night before on their desk (this has been a daily routine since the beginning of the year). Once the announcements are over, I have my kiddos get with a partner and check over their homework with each other with a pen or pencil, depending on what I want them to do for the day (pen is used to just check their answers and a pencil is used if they are going to redo the answers together). Since I have two different math groups who do different homework, they have to pair up with someone who did the same homework as them. As they check their answers, I walk around and chime into their conversations (some of them need some gentle reminders to stay focused and some others have questions about the problems that they didn't do correctly).

If this is a brand new topic, I have my kiddos just circle the answers they do not have the same answers on. I will go over those problems when I meet with their group. If the topic has been discussed for several days, then I have my kiddos circle the answers they do not have correct and then work the answers out. I make sure to tell them my expectations before checking the homework.

Due to the Common Core, I am trying to implement conversations within all subject areas. I find that it is simple within Reader's and Writer's Workshop. I have them turn and talk frequently. However, math was a bit more challenging for me, until I decided to incorporate these within checking homework (and other math areas as well). Not only do my kiddos have to check their homework, they have to prove to each other the answers if they don't have the same answers. This creates some great conversations amongst my kiddos.

This has saved a lot of time and also gives the kiddos immediate feedback. It also allows interactions among my students and allows kiddos to carry on their math skills that they understand and know.

How do YOU check your kiddos homework? How do you get conversations going within math?

I would love your input. Thanks so much for stopping by! Have a wonderful weekend!


Friday, April 11, 2014

MORE Testing Strategies...PLUS some pics!

Hey there! Happy Friday to you! My weeks seem to be passing by very quickly since Spring Break. I am having a hard time believing we have been back for 2 weeks already. This time of the year is crazy busy though, which makes time go by so much faster.

We have been working hardcore the past two weeks to continue to prepare ourselves for that wonderful MAP test. Speaking of the MAP test, if you haven't checked out my Fun Test Taking Strategies post, then you are missing out. Click on the link to check it out as it contains some resources on how to make test prep fun. As stated within that post, I wanted to share some pics of some of the things I have completed so far.

I started off my test prep by completing the testing pamphlet. We completed the first 4 flaps on the first day and then second 4 the next day. Here is an example of one of my kiddo's completed pamphlet:

I used the teacher resource page as a guide. However, we brainstormed each flap together. As I introduced each flap, I tried to keep it geared towards music. For example, on the first flap, "Don't Skip a Beat," we talked about how does the music sound when music skips beats. The kiddos shared their thoughts (sounds funny, hard to understand). Then I shared how we could relate that to test taking. We decided that if you don't listen to or read the directions, you can miss out on what to do. We did this for every flap. They recorded notes behind each flap. My kiddos loved this as it pertained to every day life.

Towards the end of last week, we created the guitars I mentioned in the Fun Test Taking Strategies post as well. I wanted them to be completed so they could start to earn their rewards during our Friday stations. Here is a picture of one of my kiddos completed guitar:

I let them choose between two different colors (I didn't want a huge mess and it made it easier to manage). They cut out and traced the guitar cut out onto the construction paper. Then I cut a piece of black yarn long enough so they could wear the guitars. I hot glued the yarn to the back of the guitar.

They love to act like they are playing a guitar like a ROCK STAR. As a matter of fact, they ask me if they can play their guitars when we take brain breaks throughout the day. I will have them use these when we do our fun testing videos before starting the test every morning.

As I mentioned in the past, I was going to have my kiddos decorate their guitars with stickers. Well, I don't know about you, but I love to change my mind frequently (my kiddos had to adjust to this quickly as I will change my mind 10 times before making my final decision). I think that's a trait of being a teacher. You seem to change things in the moment. Instead of using star stickers (my original plan), I decided that I would cut little pieces of colorful yarn. The kiddos get to tie the strings that they earn onto the strap (attached yarn) of their guitar. I decided that I had a ton of yarn to use up so why make things more complicated. Besides, I loved the colors and thought it would add more character.

My kiddos are able to earn pieces of string by doing different things. Since one of my biggest strategy that I stress is listening to and reading directions, along with checking their answers, I give kiddos pieces of string when I see them doing this on ANY assignment. It has really helped those kiddos who seem to tune me out or rush through their work. I also hand them out to the kiddos who do the other testing strategies that we have been talking about (underlining important words in the questions and story, Xing out the wrong answers or the answers that don't make sense, numbering the paragraphs within the story, answering their questions in a complete sentence on constructed responses, etc.). One of the biggest ways my kiddos earn their string is by completing the Friday stations correctly.

We started stations last Friday. I divided my kiddos up into 7 groups, since there were 7 stations. They got 15 minutes (or until everyone completed each station) to complete their station. They had to work together as a team to complete the station. I stress this as I think team work is important for them to learn. If they completed their station before time was up, I had them complete the "Build a Soldier" game from Amy's Multiplication and Division Boot Camp. When it was time, I had the kiddos move on. They moved around the room in a circle. Before they could complete the next station, they had to check their answers from the station they just came from with a pen. They circled the ones that weren't correct. If they got them all right, I had them put a star at the top of the page. Here is what one of my stations looked like:

As you can see, I had the kiddos keep the answer key from the prior station on top of the next station (the one they moved to next). I like to have the stations on the floor so they can spread out and have more room to work. Last year, I had them complete stations at their desk, which seemed to work too.

While the kiddos checked their answers, I walked around to make sure they were on task and weren't being sneaky. I have some kiddos who try to change their answers when I am not looking.

After all stations were completed, I had the kiddos head back to their desk and get their guitars. I had them count how many stars they had within their recording sheets (I copied the recording sheets into a packet to make it more organized). Each kiddo got the number of strings for the number of stars. I handed the strings out and they got to tie them anywhere on the strap. They loved being able to see how many strings they had. Whoever has the most strings on their guitar strap at the end of MAP testing will receive a prize. I haven't decided what the prize is yet. However, I want to make it meaningful for them.

This past week, I had my kiddos complete my Rockin' Review stations. My kiddos loved them. You can check them out by clicking on the link.

I know that was all a review from the last post so thank you for baring with me. However, I wanted to show you it in action. I have learned from Amy to take more pictures of things I do in my classroom. She definitely has been a great inspiration for my teaching career! :)

So...something new...the "I Rock" Table. Thanks to Amy again for this wonderful idea! My kiddos loved it last year and I can already tell my kiddos are thrilled for it already. So the grade level sent home this parent letter this week on Monday.

I have already gotten prizes and letters from the parents. I decided to get some items from the Target $1 bin to help show it off. My kiddos are ecstatic to be able to choose off of the table.
Since we can't look at the test to see how they are doing, I choose my kiddos in different ways. If I know that a kiddo struggles, I will let them choose if I see them put any effort towards doing their best. I take a mental note of the kiddos who I see checking their answers and underlining important words. Sometimes I use it as a confidence booster as well. I try to choose each kiddo at least once. Last year, I had enough donations to have each kiddo choose twice. They don't get to choose until the testing time is completed.
When I handed out this letter, I told them that they had to tell their parents they had homework to do. They thought this was the coolest thing. Within this letter, it explains how the parents write letters to their child for encouragement. I also give the kiddos envelopes for their parents to use, that way they don't have an excuse for not having one. These letters are great to give out on the first day of testing. It makes them feel so important and helps to build self-esteem and confidence. Unfortunately, there are always those kiddos who do not have a letter, so I make sure the letters are due the week before testing so I can write those kiddos notes. Last year, I wrote every kiddo a letter as well on the first day (this doesn't include the little encouraging notes I give them with the candy...refer to my last post for more details).
I hope you have been able to take away something from the past testing prep posts. I always find it helpful when I get different and new ideas from you wonderful teachers!
What do you do to motivate your kiddos when it comes to any type of testing? I would love any feedback you may have.
Thanks so much for stopping by! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Made It & Time Freebie

Hello wonderful ladies and gentlemen! Today was opening day with our St. Louis Cardinals (opening day is a big deal in STL if you don't live in the St. Louis area or aren't a Cardinals fan). My hubby and I decided to watch the game at his parent's house. Otherwise, this post would have been published much earlier.
So I must admit, I am venturing out of my blogging realm. I was talking to Amy and she had mentioned how link up parties are the best way to get involved with blogs. So I am taking a stab at it and decided I would link up with 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It to do something different than just show you what I have been creating for my classroom.
I also have something to admit...I didn't recently do all of this. I apologize that this isn't anything educational. I haven't made anything more recently for my classroom to show off (unless you count all of the resources, centers, games, etc). State testing has taken over my teaching life. However, I have been wanting to blog about this ever since my sister's shower (back in July). What better time than Monday Made It!
To start off, I need to tell you that since I grew up on a farm, my mom and I couldn't resist doing a farm theme for the shower. Therefore, I put my computer skills to the test and created banners for the tables (food, cake, gifts, and welcome sign).

I printed off the banners onto white card stock and then cut them into shape. Before online scrapbooks became popular, I loved to scrapbook, so I put my scrapbook tools to good use. When the letters were ready to go, I hot glued them onto binder twine (the string used when baling hay). I didn't cut my twine long enough so it made it a little more difficult to attach to the tables. I had 4 banners that said the following: Welcome to Ashley's Farm, Cake, Drinks, and Gifts.

To decorate the tables, I decided to create these centerpieces. My mom cans so I used some old Mason jars and put a wad of binder twine at the bottom of the jar to help keep the sticks in place. Then I tied red Raffia around the mouths of the jars into bows. I took little (skinny) doll rods and cut them into little sections (all different lengths to stagger the height of the animals and barn) I purchased some farm clip art off of Etsy and printed off a big enough size of each animal and barn. I cut each one out and using double sided scrapbooking tape, I taped them onto red circles (that I cut out of red cardstock). I hot glued these onto the doll rods and then tied tan Raffia on the bottom (to give the straw like effect).
For the picture frames, I purchased little blocks of wood, little popsicle sticks, and little clothespins. My handyman of a dad cut the blocks of wood into little chunks and put a hole in the middle. I painted them green to so they could act as the grass. Then I painted the popsicle sticks red (farm color) and hot glued them into the holes. At the ends of the sticks, I hot glued a clothespin (open end facing up). Along both sides of the block of wood, I hot glued a farm scene that I created with the same clip art. We put pictures of Ashley (my sister) in the clothespins.
To add some spice, I placed strips of burlap (from my parent's farm) on the tables underneath all of the centerpieces. My mom put some of her farm figurines on either side of the frames. She had barns to all different farm animals. I thought these turned out so cute!
I had a lot of fun creating name tents for all of the food that we had. We tried to keep it all farm themed. Up above you can see that we had little smokies (our name was Piglets).

I also made Miss Piggy. We put fruit salad in a clear, glass bowl. I created ears, a snout, and tail out of pale pink cardstock, along with two black eyes. We had a veggie tray that we named Ashley's Garden, along with deviled eggs (Farm Fresh Eggs) and nachos (Cowgirl Dip). Not pictured was our popcorn bar that we called Chicken Feed.

My sister and I used to make the dirt cups when we were kids for our birthdays and parties at school (back when you could make treats and bring them in). Therefore, my mom and I decided to implement these into the dessert bar (named Farmer's Soil). My sister loves Rice Krispy treats so we made some and named them "Hay Stacks". My creative and talented aunt created the cupcakes and barn out of Carrot Cake. She did an amazing job.

We had a duck pond as well (punch). I couldn't find plain ducks so they were fancier ducks that had hats and sunglasses. They really didn't fit well with our theme. However, you gotta do what you gotta do sometimes.

We put the forks (Pitch Forks), spoons (Shovels), andknives into mason jars as well. We got yellow plates and cute farm themed napkins from the Party Store.

My mom and I had so much planning for this shower. I have such a hard time believing that my niece wasn't even born yet throughout this shower and now she is just over 6 months old. How time flies!!

Just thought I would share a recent picture I took of her last weekend. I never knew I could love a little one so much. Being an aunt is the greatest thing in the world. I love her to pieces and miss her so much when I am not around her. I am one proud aunt!!
Ok. So for stopping by and reading this post I figured I would share (quickly) a new game I created over the weekend. It's called Tick-Tock Time and focused on telling time to the nearest minute. It's very simple to manage with your kiddos and reviews place value, along with time. (Grab it by clicking on the link above.)

Need some other ideas for implementing some fun games with time!? Check out Major League Math Centers, Beat the Clock, and Spring Time in my TpT store.

Thanks so much for stopping by! Stay tuned for more resources on time, as we just started focusing on it today.

I would love to know how you implement time within your classroom. I am always looking for more ideas from you lovely people! :) Hope the rest of your week goes well!

5-Star Blogger