Wednesday, January 31, 2018

San Marcos

I hope everyone enjoyed the conference! I think I have uploaded everything to my website. If you can't find something, email me:  Thanks so much for coming to my sessions!

Making 10s Card Game

This works if you remove all the 10s and face cards so students are always covering two cards that equal 10. You can also split the deck in half leaving 2 of each card. It still works!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Digital Writing for the 21st Century

Less is more. It's not about how much technology you use. It's about how you use technology. Download this poster to learn more:  FREE Digital Poster from ISTE. 

If you're familiar with the ideas in the cloud below, I've linked a 2019 website that has 75 ideas.

Technology and Writing:  Review of Research (2019)

75 Digital Tools (2019)

DI Strategies for Math and Reading

Link to handout:

Differentiating for Special Populations

Food Matters! Brain-Smart Food

Information from this session will be found at this link. If you need information sooner, please email me:


More resources:
Get Moving:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Project-Based Learning - Soil

I've been working on how to EFFICIENTLY create PBL units that my 2nd graders will enjoy doing -- while learning at the same time.  The Garden Challenge is a work in progress that I started today. I'm sure it will grow and change over the next few weeks when I implement it in the classroom. I think it's ready to go, so feel free to use/modify if you'd like. Let me know if you find typos or have suggested changes. :) Thanks! Be sure to check back to see how this turns out.

 Link to PBL Garden Challenge: has some excellent articles that can easily be added into ELA instruction. These are the ones I assigned to my class:

Update on the project:  I ended up jigsawing the types of soil. Students also used KidRex to search because they didn't  more information than we could find in Epic books.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Language Acquisition: Research-Based Strategies for Acquiring Vocabulary

We'll explore the power of the read aloud, conversations, questions,  games, gestures, and so much more. This is a fun session, and you'll walk away with practical ideas that you can use with little to no prep. 


Morning Message - Compare and Contrast Conventions

Writing a letter to your students is a wonderful way to build relationships with them! You can also use this time to review important skills. Tomorrow morning, my 2nd graders will review motions for the parts of a friendly letter. They'll also practice reading it with a partner. Each time they find punctuation, they'll pause. We'll talk about how the punctuation helps us know when to breathe.

Then, they'll read the same letter with a partner, but this time it'll be missing capital letters and punctuation. The goal is for the students to see how important it is to add punctuation. Punctuation reminds us to breathe. :) If you use this strategy with your students, remember to start with the strong example. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

How Do You Fit It All In? Scheduling ...

The schedule below allows me to meet with every group every day in English/Language Arts. In math, I pull groups based on data. Sometimes I'm reteaching skills and sometimes I'm teaching the students in the advanced-readiness group 3rd grade skills. Integrating content in ELA is crucial to make sure that all content is taught.

Open-Ended vs. Closed Research Questions

If you live in Texas, 2nd and 3rd graders are expected to generate open-ended research questions. In 2nd grade, they do this with assistance, but by 3rd grade, they're expected to write their own. Closed questions typically have one answer and open-ended questions have multiple answers. Open-ended questions should encourage students to use critical-thinking skills. Well, I don't live in Texas, but research indicates that we have to get students asking questions.

How do you teach a child to generate these types of questions? Typically, how and why words are a good place to start.

You'll want to model how to create open-ended questions. One of my favorite teaching quotes is by Dr. Rich Allen. He said,  "If you're not modeling, you're teaching something else." That's so true! 

In my 25 years of teaching, I've used the QAR (Question, Answer, Relationship) strategy and Thick and Thin Questions. Typically, these lend themselves well to fictional stories. A quick Google search should yield you a plethora of ideas that are ready to use. I didn't have much luck finding information on open-ended vs. closed research questions, so I wrote this blog post to help you (and me) get started.

The last four questions are content related. I'm planning to present this idea to my 2nd graders and let them generate their own questions for our next science or social studies unit. Then, I'll take some of their questions to create a question sort for them.  Whoever is doing the most work is doing the most learning. This question sort will make a wonderful center idea! 

Closed vs. Open Question Examples:

Closed:  Who is the author of ______?
Open:  Why do you think the author wrote _________? Use details from your research to support your answer.

Closed:  What is Project-Based Learning?
Open:  How can Project-Based Learning benefit students?

Closed:  How many snow days are built into a school calendar?
Open:  Why is it important to have snow days built into the school calendar?

Closed:  Who is ________?
Open:  What kind of person is ______? What evidence do you have that leads you to this conclusion?

Closed:  Do predators help the ecosystem?

Open:  How do predators help the ecosystem?

Closed:  What is a magnet?
Open:  How are magnets used?

Closed:  What is soil?
Open:  Why is it important to have humus or topsoil in a garden?

Closed:  Where do alligators live?
Open:  Why do alligators live in warmer climates?

Math Center Idea -- Multiple Sort

This center covers so many standards. Students can sequence number from least to greatest. Once their multiples are up, they can work together to remove a number from the multiple list for a friend to figure out. Yesterday, my principal even suggested letting kids create their own patterns. 

An anchor chart provides support for students with early-readiness skills.

As I'm adding more math center ideas into my classroom, I decided a multiple sort is just what my students need to become fluent in multiplication. They WANT to learn multiplication, but I tell them that they CAN'T until they master addition and subtraction fluency. 
Then, I do a whole-class mini-lesson showing them how multiples and multiplication are related.  I love watching their excitement as they learn something new. Now, I won't let them PRACTICE multiplication/division number bonds as a center choice until they demonstrate fluency in addition/subtraction. However, they CAN CHOOSE them if they have free-choice time. It's amazing what students will learn when they don't "have" to learn it. 

I plan to print each set of multiple cards on a different color of paper. For example, 3s will be on green, 4s will be on pink, 5s will be on blue, and so on. I also plan to make a prettier anchor chart to hang up in the room -- the one above is the one I made with the students. Some day I am going to master efficiently making anchor charts in class that actually look nice enough to display. Since I'm 25 years into teaching, the likelihood of this actually happening is slim. :) That's okay -- it's still a goal of mine. 

You could do the multiple sort on a clothesline. Laureen Reynolds, author of Creating Classroom Centers, gave a clothesline idea that can be used for many types of sorting activities. Once cards are made, students use clothespins to hang the cards in correct multiple order. Then, they can check them against the anchor chart to make sure they're correct. This is a simple, engaging center idea that is self-checking. 

Link to online class, Creating Classroom Centers:

*Photos used with permission from Nixa Public Schools.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Turn Your Classroom into a Brain-Friendly Zone

Link to PDF of PowerPoint from the session:

As years pass, your students may not remember what you taught them, but they will remember how you made them feel. As teachers, our jobs are to ignite a passion for learning so students will learn for the rest of their lives. Students are empowered to learn in a brain-friendly zone. Setting up a brain-friendly classroom isn't hard. Some guiding principles are:

  1. Build Relationships
  2. Safety Matters
  3. Learn from Your Mistakes
  4. Get Students Moving
  5. Allow Choice
  6. Provide Real-Life Learning
  7. Give Descriptive Feedback
  8. Use Patterns
  9. Reduce Clutter
  10. Take Time to Celebrate
  11. Encourage Healthy Eating
  12. Play Some Music

What's Missing? Identifying Foundational Skills Gaps in Reading & Writing

I've been creating checklists for students in my RtI group.  My district has us give a Words Their Way spelling test that I wasn't all that excited to give at the beginning of the year, but the data it gave me changed my mindset! If you give an assessment and do nothing with the data, it's simply a waste of time. I linked the spelling test in the document below - it's FREE online through Pearson. It also has directions on how to administer it -- well worth the time to read and learn how to grade. If you give this, please don't teach the students how to spell the words on the list. Then, you'll only be grading how well they memorize. Give it COLD. Then, use the data to adjust your teaching. That's what good teaching is all about. Let me know if you have questions. 

Link to More Foundational Skills Rubrics:
Guess the Covered Word Examples:
Link to Parts of Speech PowerPoints: (FREE)
Morning Message Ideas:
Temporal/Transition Words Lesson:
  • Epic Books (Free for TEACHERS)
  • Cinderella's Big Foot by Laura North

Easy-to-Prepare, Easy-to-Implement Content-Area Interventions

Link to handout:

City Government Cheers:

Spectacular Hands-On Science!

Science Picture Books:

Project-Based Learning for TODAY'S Students

Engineering PBL Draft:


PBL Links:

DIY: Managing Math Centers & Small-Group Instruction

With this small-group math framework (above), students are placed into math groups by the teacher and rotate through stations at the same time with students that have similar learning needs. Each group meets with the teacher each day, and the teacher differentiates based on learning needs.

*This framework inspired by Laureen Reynolds Creating Classroom Centers online class:

With this small-group math framework(above),  students are placed into random math groups. Since they work independently on most items, they don't need to be placed in homogeneous groups. They also work at their own pace. The center choices are differentiated as some students may be doing addition/subtraction number bonds while others are doing multiplication/division ones.

The teacher pulls flexible groups based on data while the rest of the class works through their designated stations for the day. The students' station choices change each day, and on Fridays, they either work on unfinished station work or they have free choice from any of the items on the board.

If starting with 16 centers adds stress to your day, start with less and build up to 16. ThatQuiz, FrontRow, and SumDog are free sites. My school pays for Study Island. Be sure to model each center before expecting students to work independently at them. 

I use both of these frameworks in my classroom. I may use the first one for a couple of weeks. Then, I use the 2nd one for a few weeks. Whatever framework you choose, be sure students have computation practice, problem-solving practice, and a chance to review previously taught items each day in your math lesson.

It's easier to pull flexible groups based on data in the 2nd example because you simply call students to your table based on learning needs. You may pull some students from the green group, some from the blue, and some from the orange for subtraction practice. They stay with you as long as they need to, so they may not get a chance to work through their stations. That's okay -- we're looking for mastery. The extra time spent with you may give them the time needed for mastery. 

Number Bonds
Free Downloads of self-checking multiplication/division and addition/subtraction at PD sessions. :)

Math Talk:  What math problems could be written for the pictures shown below? (FYI -- The young man throwing the oars out of the boat was the last one to fall out. You'll see his feet in the 2nd photo. He's also my oldest son, JT.)

The young man in the top hammock is my youngest son, Kyle. My boys sure didn't get their adventurous spirit from their momma. :) 

Making 10s Card Game Directions:  Remember to remove the face cards and 10s if you're using cards. You can also split the deck in half. You'll end up with two of each card instead of 4. 

This works if you remove all the 10s and face cards so students are always covering two cards that equal 10. You can also split the deck in half leaving 2 of each card. It still works! Model Drawing Directions

Toss That Spelling List! Making Word Work More Meaningful

I think I have everything uploaded. If you can't find what you're looking for, email me: Thanks so much for coming to my session! :)

Link to PowerPoint:

Link to Lesson Planning Template:

Link to word-wall words:

Link to Making Words Example:

Nifty Thrifty Fifty:

Writing in the Content Areas

Content-Area Writing: 

Writing Mini-Lessons:

Parts of Speech Power Points:

Editor's Checklist Example:

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Addition/Subtraction Number Bonds - Free Download

I made these number bond flashcards tonight, but I haven't had a chance to print/proof them yet. I will print them sometime this week and correct mistakes if needed. If you get a chance to print and proof sooner, let me know if you find mistakes. :)