Friday, July 3, 2015

Whatever Wednesday - Math Shifts Continued!

Hello all!! This will be the second post in a short series about MATH! Hooray! (If you aren't as excited as me, just play along!)

Last week, we started talking about the 3 key shifts required by the Common Core State Standards.

The first shift was all about the focus and you can read about it {here}.

Today's post is all about shift #2: COHERENCE.

Has this ever happened to you?

It's halfway through the school year. You've already taught a great unit on addition of whole numbers and your class did pretty well. You feel great about their understanding and now it's time to start on your unit about adding fractions. When you start teaching your lesson, the confused look on your students' faces tell you that they have no idea what you are talking about.

Teacher Meme - Giving Instructions

Even though it's frustrating, this feeling isn't new, right? Every time you start to teach a mathematical idea, your students treat it like it's the very first time, even if they've been taught it before. As the teacher, you know there are connections to what's been previously taught, but most students act like every day is completely brand new and relates to absolutely nothing they've ever seen before. (I'm not blaming the students or the teacher here! It's just something that happens!)

This is where coherence becomes your new best friend! Coherence is the intentional linking of topics and thinking across and within grade levels. It's overcoming the idea that mathematics is a set of disconnected procedures and rules, and helping students see how mathematical ideas are interconnected. Coherence allows students to see that each standard is "not a new event, but an extension of previous learning."

Some very smart people created learning progressions to help design the CCSS for mathematics in a coherent way.

For example:
In third grade, students are introduced to interpreting products of multiplication by thinking about equal groups of a certain number. i.e. 4 X 5 is the same as 4 groups of 5 objects each. (This is 3.OA.A.1, in case you were wondering!)

Fast forward to fourth grade, and students can use what they learned about equal groups in multiplication to help them start to think about how to multiply fractions with a whole number. This foundational understanding about equal groups of whole numbers can apply to "groups" of a fraction. i.e. 3 X (1/6) is the same as 3 groups of 1/6. (This is 4.NF.B.4.A!)
Click the picture to buy the great basketball clipart from Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs!
I LOVE that the same representation covers this type of problem with whole numbers and fractions AND it's easy for kids to transfer that underlying concept from one year to the next. I think this is especially true if we put the problem into a context (read: word problem) but that is a post for another day! 

This is just one example of how coherence appears in the CCSS for mathematics. We could even extend this example to show how this concept supports fifth graders when they begin to learn about multiplying two fractions.

Remember those confused faces from before? With a combination of focus and coherence students can start to see mathematics as a set of interconnected concepts and ideas, instead of a bunch of disconnected topics and tricks. Lessons are extensions of their learning from previous grades and earlier in the year, and hopefully the look of "I've never seen this before" will be a thing of the past. :-)

I've linked up with April from Grade School Giggles for

Whatever Wednesdays

Want to learn more? Check out the resources below for more information.

Achieve the Core: VIDEO - The Importance of Coherence in Mathematics

 Achieve the Core: Shifts in Mathematics - At this link, you can find information about the major work of each grade level, and general information about the Shifts.

Core Standards website: Key Shifts in Mathematics - You can read more about all 3 Shifts here.

Are you working towards having a Common Core aligned math classroom? I would love to hear about your experiences with the 3 shifts in the comments or through email!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Whatever Wednesday - Shifts In Mathematics

Hello all! Today, I wanted to write about something near and dear to my heart....math. I know that actually sounds crazy. But I am a math person. And an elementary school teacher. Sometimes those things don't go together, but for me they do. You can read a little more about my math journey {here}.

This past year, I worked hard to turn my classroom into a Common Core classroom. Especially in math - because it's my favorite thing!

Once I started working towards becoming a Core Advocate, I learned about the 3 Common Core Shifts for Mathematics. These shifts completely opened my eyes!!

The shift that really spoke to me was the first one - FOCUS.

This shift stood out to me because it's basic premise makes. so. much. SENSE. And it's exactly what teachers like me have been saying for a long time.

"We try to teach WAY too much."

"There's not enough time to teach EVERYTHING in the standards."

"Kids don't remember the important things from year to year and I feel like I'm starting over!"

"The curriculum is a mile wide and an inch deep."

I know I've said ALL of those things. And said them over and over for a very long time. So when I first heard about the shift towards FOCUS, I thought that my head might fall off from all the nodding. I was completely flabbergasted that this idea was finally being addressed!

This shift takes us away from a "mile wide/inch deep" and pushes us as educators to narrow and deepen how we spend our time in the classroom. The call for focus wants teachers to give a majority of their time to the major work of their grade. I know I had to repeat this to myself many times. You mean, the CCSS WANT us to slow down and spend real, actual time teaching things that will move kids forward? And you are telling me that we should NOT spend time on things that aren't important for that grade level?

Doesn't that make so much sense?? We already knew that we didn't have time for EVERYTHING that the previous standards wanted us to do. We knew this. So the CCSS allows us to spend our time on the things that REALLY matter to student learning.

In fact, the standards ask us to spend 65-80% of our time during the year on the major work of our grade level. 

Let me give you an example. I teach 5th grade, and I have taught 4th and 3rd grade in the past. When I started really looking at the focus that the standards ask for, I read my 5th grade standards over and over, trying to make sure that my instruction was aligned. I found something shocking, people. Mean, median, range, and mode...NOT in my 5th grade standards. I kept looking, because I was sure I was just missing something. I mean, I have a whole unit in my resource devoted to measures of central tendency. But it's just. not. there.

So what does that mean? It means I can let something go. Thank you 6th grade teachers!! My students will be learning about measures of central tendency, but not until 6th grade. I can use that time to focus on the major work of MY grade: multiplication and division of whole numbers and fractions! All that instructional time, back to the focus of 5th grade. WOOHOO!

So, let's do it!! Let's get rid of the "fluff" that won't give kids a solid foundation moving forward and only devote our time to what's actually in the standards! Let's give them the focus that they deserve. Let's spend our time digging deeper into mathematics and mathematical thinking, and less time speeding through a million skills and standards.

From the Common Core website: "This focus will help students gain strong foundations, including a solid understanding of concepts, a high degree of procedural skill and fluency, and the ability to apply the math they know to solve problems inside and outside the classroom."

Couldn't have said it better myself...

I'm linking up with April from Grade School Giggles for her Whatever Wednesday link up! (Yes, I know it's Friday.)

If you would like to learn more about the Shifts here are some resources for you:

Achieve the Core: Shifts in Mathematics - At this link, you can find information about the major work of each grade level, and general information about the Shifts.
Core Standards website: Key Shifts in Mathematics - You can read more about all 3 Shifts here.

Achieve the Core: Instructional Materials Evaluation Tool - This is a tool you, or your district, can use to determine in your resources or textbooks are Common Core aligned.

What steps are you taking in your Common Core journey? Or what questions do you have? Leave comments or questions below. Let's start a dialogue to help us all improve our practice!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dare to Dream BIG

I'm excited to be participating in the second week of the TPT Seller Challenge! This week, the challenge asked us to think about our dreams, and dream BIG. I can't resist sharing some of the things I hope to accomplish through this journey, so I'm linking up with The Peppy Zesty Teacherista, Third In Hollywood, Sparkling in Second and TeachCreateMotivate.

1. One of the things I adore about this community of bloggers is the ability to share ideas, resources, stories and more across the world! I love getting ideas from other teachers, and sharing my little bit of the world with others as well.

2.  This is a dream that seems far away at the moment. I hope that by participating in the blogging and TPT community that it might help me get there....eventually. A little background: My husband read the book Drive Nacho Drive. This book is the inspiration for our dream...we would love to take a year or so off from working and drive from our home in Colorado to the tip of South America. We love to travel anyway, and this book truly showed us what an amazing journey that could be. We both have dreams about saving up enough money to not have to worry about anything back home while we are on our's a pipe dream for sure, but hey, I'm dreaming BIG here!

3. I think that TPT has helped me to examine my practices as a teacher. I love learning from others and seeing how they use the products they create. I hope to be able to learn and grow from them - to improve my own practice AND to be able to create products that teachers can easily use to grow as well!

What are your dreams?? Whether they are TPT dreams, blogging dreams or dreams for your future, I want to hear them! Leave a comment and then link up your own Dare to Dream post at one of the blogs from the lovely ladies below!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Well, That Escalated Quickly. {Makeover Madness}

Well, it's summer, and even though I have spent a number of hours (that I can't get back) watching Judge Judy and participating in other summertime guilty pleasures, I have gotten ONE - count it, ONE - thing done this past week. Slow clap, people. Slow clap.

Last Sunday I casually logged in to my 1.7 million social media outlets and immediately was inundated with images of the stats of every blogger I've ever followed. "What's this?" I thought. "Looks like fun. Everyone is doing it. FOMO. Better sign up RIGHT NOW."

I printed my stats page, posted it and waited not-so-patiently for the challenge to be revealed on Monday morning.

I hopped (read: ambled) out of bed to see what the Makeover Madness challenge would be. I was super excited to give one of my products a quick once-over! (HAHAHAHAHAHA...quick.)

I immediately knew which product needed a facelift.

Here's the really sad part...this is actually a facelift of the original. Oy. But obviously, it needed some work.

I redid the cover. It makes me so happy! AND I learned how to create a square cover so nothing gets cut off on my previews on TPT!

I tried to keep it simple and clean and easy to read. I used different fonts, a different background paper and different clipart! I patted myself on the back when I was done. And I patted my husband on the back because he knows how to to do things in Photoshop.

I was all ready to post my happy new cover. But then I started looking through the product itself. Well, I thought I can't very well have mis-matched backgrounds on the other slides. Better fix that.

So I did. Surely, I would be happy with that, right? Done, happy and moving on with summer life??

But no. Not yet.

I remembered reading about some skinny borders that people have begun using to maximize space on their worksheets! And the graphic organizers were looking pretty squished on the pages. How could kids even write in those tiny spaces??? And I didn't even use a good font the first time. Fixed that too.

Lastly, I decided that in order to make this product easier to use as a center that I better include some sorting mats!

To sum up:
  • Updated cover
  • Updated backgrounds and fonts on directions in the product
  • Changed borders and fonts on all graphic organizers
  • Added 6 sorting mats for use in a center
Total time spent: ALL. FREAKIN. WEEK. I had some technical glitches and things I wanted to try to it took me forever! BUT I am happy with the changes and how it turned out!! If you want to grab yourself a copy of this product click {here}.

All in all:

I have LOVED seeing so many great product updates. What did you do for the TPT Seller Challenge this week? 

Don't forget to link up with your Makeover Madness!

Thanks to The Peppy Zesty Teacherista, Third In Hollywood, Sparkling In Second and Teach Create Motivate for hosting and creating such a fun challenge. :-)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Summer Guilty Pleasure - Link Up!

Hello friends! It's summer, summer, summer!! {If it's not summer for you yet, I am so so sorry. I am hoping time moves quickly for you!}

I don't know about you, but I have a list a mile long of things that get neglected during the school year that I save up for summer.

Catch up on the laundry.

Reorganize the closets.

Deep clean the kitchen.

Let's be real...pretty much any chore that can be put off until summer, gets put off until summer.

BUT. {And there's a big BUT here...}

I don't want to do ANY of those things. Even when I make lists, set reminders, tell my husband to text me, or send myself emails (yes, that happens) I cannot find the motivation to get going!! In fact, I do just about anything but the list.

Some of the things are, let's just say, embarrassing. Lazy, even? Even when my to-do list gets longer and longer, you can find me hiding from it in a myriad of ways.

So what better way to continue running away from the stuff that needs to get done than by hosting a fun linky party with Sara from Miss V's Busy Bees??

I'll start small and work up.

Coffee. In a mug. NOT a travel mug and not chugged furiously while driving. Or teaching. Just sipped leisurely on the porch, or while blog stalking/FB stalking/TPT stalking/IG stalking. Obviously, I do a lot of stalking. (That is possibly another guilty pleasure.)

Pets. And also naps. In this picture, I'm pretty sure my cat is wondering WHY I am laying on HIS bed in the middle of the day when only he is allowed to lay on it in the middle of the day. I love being able to just have a quick siesta when I feel like it. And cuddling with one or more pets makes it even better.

This is last one. The most guilty of them all...if you keep reading, you definitely can't judge me. (See what I did there?)

Judge Judy. Look, I realize the whole thing is ridiculous. But I cannot. stop. watching. It is just so unbelievably silly. On the plus side, I feel like I'm learning some very important legal things while I watch. For example, I am VERY aware now that a verbal contract isn't worth diddly. Get it in writing, people! So maybe it's not a guilty pleasure after all. More of a learning experience. I can now base decisions on whether or not Ms. Judge Judy would accept it in her court of law. Seems legit.

See, I shouldn't have even included it as a guilty pleasure.

OK, so what are your guilty pleasures in the summer?? Grab the button below and link up your post to share!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Mile High TPT Meet-Up Recap and Giveaway!

What better way to wrap up the school year than meeting up with fabulous and fun bloggers and TPTers from around Colorado??

Thanks to Ashley at Teaching In Bronco Country, the meet up last weekend was a great success! It was so great to meet a whole group of awesome ladies and talk about out blogs, TPT journeys and education in general. I even got to reconnect with my friend Renee! We've been friends for a loooong time - think in the more than 20 years range, folks. Check out her TPT store here.

The folks at the Rio Grande Restaurant were so kind to let us take over part of their restaurant to hold the meet up! If you live in Colorado and haven't eaten there, come on! They have the BEST margaritas and delicious food. If you are visiting Colorado, it's highly recommended...but be careful drinking those margs at altitude people. ;-)

Once we got all of our chatting out of the way (and there was a lot of that!) we all sat down at our seats and checked out all the goodies in our amazing swag bags. Check out all the fabulous donations!!

Ashley rounded up donations for the bags from Learning Resources, Bic, and GoNoodle! More details about the bags later...

This is Renee looking cute and me mid-sentence. As usual!
After eating our yummy lunches (and having one two margaritas) it was time to get drawing for the raffle. Check out this table!!

There were so many awesome prizes from some amazing donors: Lakeshore Learning, Learning Resources, Classroom Friendly Supplies, ScentCo, Learning Expeditions, Little Knits Studio, Gifts By Gaby,, and KristyBear Designs! Whew! We had games, yummy scented pens and pencils, online Planbook subscriptions, blog designs, adorable t-shirts, games, organization AND great products from all of the wonderful sellers at the meet-up.

If you're feeling super jealous that you didn't get to join us, don't worry!! You can enter for a chance to win one of the awesome swag bags from the meet-up! You will get awesome pens and pencils from Bic, a seat pocket cover, magnetic subject labels, and magnetic clips from Learning Resources, a lanyard and bag from GoNoodle, AND a scented marker from ScentCo. You can join in on the fun without making a trip to Colorado. (But feel free to come visit anytime!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

We had a wonderful time as a group, and I'm so glad to have been able to meet up with these wonderfully talented and adorable ladies! I'm looking forward to meeting up again soon!

 Check out the linky below to see other bloggers' recaps of the meet-up - you're sure to see some great pictures from all!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Five For Friday - Back At It!

Well, you probably already know that I LOVE SUMMER. I've written about this before. Bathroom WHENEVER I want. Coffee sipped from an ACTUAL mug. Eating at a leisurely pace instead of shoving a frozen dinner in my food hole as fast as I possibly can.

So to celebrate doing WHATEVER I WANT for the next few weeks, I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for the first Five for Friday of summer.


I am usually a very random person anyway, so this linky just gets me. Here we go.

Divider 1

I finished cleaning and packing up my room this past week. This should not seem like such a big deal. BUT...usually I am the slowest packer/cleaner ever. Like, I have spent many days of previous summers cleaning, sorting, packing, etc. So being done within a few days is kind of a miracle. It felt good.

Oh yeah! And, with the help of two of my awesome colleagues, we cleaned our office area. I was so excited to sit and look at it - so organized - everything in its place - that I forgot to take pictures. :-( But, trust me, it is a thing of BEAUTY.

Divider 2

It seems like I should be posting sunny, warm looking pics. It is June, after all. But no. The weather is's raining. There's wind. There's thunder and lightning. Hail. Tornado warnings. Where is summer??

Divider 3

Ok. Don't judge. This giant mountain is the pile of laundry that has been patiently waiting for me to get out of school. Maybe someone, somewhere has a sad, sad pile of laundry too? I'm working through load at a time.

I have supervision.

Divider 4

I have been enjoying drinking coffee. Out of all my cute mugs. Without rushing. I love taking my time in the morning, but I am not an early morning person, so it never happens during the school year. So I take full advantage during the summer! (Do you love that awesome framed art? You can check out my friend Ashley's Etsy store and grab one for yourself! I love having it on my desk!)

Divider 5

Last, but absolutely not least, I was so lucky to attend the Colorado Blogger Meet-Up last weekend! We had a blast thanks to some awesome planning by Ashley! I was so excited to meet new friends and see some ladies I hadn't seen in a while. Check back here tomorrow because there will be a big meet-up related surprise!!

There you have it! 5 crazy random things!