Sunday, July 17, 2016

Oceans of Steals, Deals and Giveaways {Week 2}

Did you get a chance to participate in our Oceans of Steals, Deals and Giveaways last time? If not, no worries! You have a second chance. Week 2 is here and you are going to love some of the great deals you can snag during this week.

In this post, you can get a preview of what's happening all week long! 

Monday is another Monday Madness sale! Tons of dollar deals will be happening. Just search for #mondaymadness on Teachers Pay Teachers to see all of the awesome deals.

My #mondaymadness deal will be one of my favorite products! These Questions to Encourage Mathematical Thinking have been a great addition to my classroom. You can read my blog post about asking questions here. This resource will be just one dollar for all of Monday! 

Tuesday will be another 2 for Tuesday! If you are the kind of person that plans ahead, you won't want to miss this 2 for Tuesday. It's like Christmas in July! Two of my seasonal resources will be half off, and you won't have to worry about finding a great activity when winter rolls around. Restate the Question with CSIQ: Christmas Edition and my Winter Sentence Activity Pack will both be on sale for 50% off on Tuesday.

Wednesday is going to be wacky with some Flash Freebies! If you aren't already following me on Facebook, you might want to do that here. I will be announcing the flash freebies throughout the day over there!

Thursday will be an even better deal when you can get bundles at an even bigger discount! My 2D Shape Sort Bundle includes my 2 best selling products - the Quadrilaterals 2D Shape Sort and Triangles 2D Shape Sort. If you teach geometry concepts in 3rd-5th grade, this is a bundle that can add a lot to your instruction! On Thursday, the bundle will be on (even more) sale for $4.50! (That's going to save you $3.50 over buying both products separately!)

Last, but not least, is Free Stuff Friday!! You can enter this awesome giveaway by visiting our stores and giving us a follow. There will be SEVEN gift cards up for grabs! Check back on Friday to enter this awesome giveaway. :-)

Tons of bloggers and TpT sellers are participating in great week of deals, so hop on through to check them out!

Mathematical Mindsets Book Study - Week 2

Hey everyone! I'm a little late to the book study party this week, but I wanted to share some thoughts on chapter 2. I'm loving this book more and more, and I hope that you will get something out of what I share here!

I got busy reading chapter two while I was on a plane coming home from Orlando and it was the perfect way to end my 2 inspirational days at the TpT Conference. It solidified many of the things I had been thinking about and learning while I was there! LOVE it when so many things come together.

Chapter 2: The Power of Mistakes and Struggle

Chapter two focused on how vitally important mistakes are to the learning and growing process - and how our brains don't grow if we get everything right all the time. It also discussed the importance of helping students (and ourselves) to view mistakes differently, and how we can help students get there.

My Big Takeaway

When I was getting my masters, I remember discussing the power of struggle and the importance of letting kids struggle without jumping in to "rescue" them. This was a huge lightbulb for me at the time - I mean, I just wanted them all to be successful and I could totally help them do that! But letting students wrestle with problems and "get their hands dirty" really does help them grow, and this chapter reiterated that for me. Mistakes shouldn't be viewed as bad, but as ways that our brains are creating connections and growing. This new view on mistakes is going to be the forefront of my classroom this year - in all subject areas! 

I think the first part of that quote is what got me - "If we believe that we can learn.." I want every student to feel that they can, and especially in math!

3 Ideas to Bring This Chapter To Life

1. Change our message. In math, I think it's really easy for us as teachers to unintentionally focus more on correct answers vs. incorrect answer. In reality, we need to be giving kids the message that mistakes are important and they grow your brain! If students are consistently getting the message that they are failing, what incentive will they have to want to move forward? By changing this one message, students will know that their mistakes are helping them grow, not making them failures.

2. Keep it visible. So often, we start something in our classrooms and then things get crazy and we forget about it. But I don't think I can afford to go through that cycle with this. I think keeping our messages about mistakes at the forefront of our teaching will help remind students (and US!) about the power of mistakes. There were some great ideas in the book that I think I will try - like having students draw and write about their favorite messages about brain growth or having students identify their feelings about when they make a mistake and reflecting on how that makes them feel.

3. Let them struggle. This chapter did a great job of talking about students being in a state of "disequilibrium." This is the idea that when new information is presented and doesn't quite fit, that students have to find a way to make it fit into their mental model. The only way to reach a new state of equilibrium is to fit the new information that doesn't fit yet into the puzzle. Until they do, they are in a state of disequilibrium. I hadn't really thought about Jean Piaget for awhile (ahem - since college? - ahem) but his theory was that disequilibrium "leads to true wisdom." Even though students (and adults) are uncomfortable when they are in this state, it's the brain's opportunity to find new pathways and ways of putting pieces together that leads to new learning. If students are never in this state, they are not learning! We have to help students start to get comfortable with the struggle and let them know that if they aren't feeling a little bit uncomfortable, they aren't learning anything new.

Wrapping It Up

Chapter 2 really helped me get focused and challenged my thinking about how I approach mistakes in my classroom. Even though I believe that struggle is vital, I don't think I'm doing a good enough job helping students see mistakes as learning opportunities. I need to do a better job of this! Putting these practices into action is going to be a priority for me when school starts in August. 

How do you feel about this chapter? What does it look like when students make mistakes in your classroom? What do you think you might do differently to let kids struggle? Let's chat in the comments!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mathematical Mindset Books Study - Chapter One

Today is the first day of our collaborative online book study on Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler. I am so excited to be reading this book and to hear/read what others are thinking!

Have you ever picked up a professional book and immediately started nodding your head at everything you were reading and/or furiously started scribbling sticky notes? That is exactly what happened when I began reading. I was even reading passages out loud to my husband while I was reading. (I'm sure I wasn't annoying him, AT ALL.)

I want to start out by saying that math is my THING. It wasn't always my THING but it is now. I can relate to so many things in this book simply because I feel like I have lived them myself! My mathematical journey hasn't been easy, but it has been rewarding and I'm glad that I get to share that with my students every year, and now with you! You can read a little bit about my math journey here.

Ok, let's get on to the book!!!

Chapter 1 - The Brain and Mathematical Learning

This chapter focuses mainly on giving a short overview - the author discusses new research about the brain, as well as gives a little heads up about what to expect in the upcoming chapters. She also talks about how we can use the new information scientists are learning to inform and change instruction for the better.

My Big Takeaway

I think what really struck me from this first chapter was damage that can be done when teachers and students have a fixed mindset about mathematics, BUT that when the right conditions exist - when we CREATE the right conditions - that our brains CAN change and grow. My favorite quote from this chapter:

This quote actually gets me a little teary-eyed. EVERYONE. This is the message I desperately want my students to hear every single day. "You can do it. You are a hard worker. I believe that you can learn this!" Even though many of the statistics quoted in the first chapter are pretty scary and sad (40% of students surveyed believed that intelligence was a gift - you either have it or you don't), I have hope that we can all do a better job of helping each and every student that walks through our door be successful in mathematics.

3 Ideas to Bring This Chapter To Life

1. Choose our words wisely. Students, especially girls according to the chapter, are looking to connect with their teachers. When we say things like "I was bad at math in school" or "I never liked math either" we are inadvertently giving them a pass on being a successful math student. Just being aware of our words could have a huge impact. We can also work on how we praise students - instead of telling them how smart they are, praise them for the hard work they put in. {More on this in future chapters!}

2. Be open to change. I think that the rest of this book will be eye-opening and I need to be ready for some big ideas to come my way. As teachers, we need to be open to thinking about things differently. We need to give up the idea that some kids are "wired" for math, while others just don't have "it," whatever that means. We might have to expand our thinking to new ways of doing business in our classrooms, and that means an open mind to new ideas.

3. Learn more about the brain. I found the research in this first chapter fascinating! I had no idea how our brains' plasticity worked. Boaler cited several studies where individual's brains were able to grow and change - even adults - when they were learning new things and creating new pathways in their brains. Check out this story about Cameron Mott for a pretty amazing look at how the brain can learn and develop new connections in order to grow.

Wrapping It Up

This chapter just barely scratched the surface! I can't wait to read more and learn strategies to be a better teacher for my students. I can't wait to help them discover everything that lies within them, just waiting to be tapped into! 

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts on the first chapter? Did you see something different? I'd love to chat about your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Oceans of Deals, Steals and Giveaways {Week 1}

I am in denial. I refuse to accept that July is already here.


I know July is going to go fast, so to help myself feel better (and to help YOU feel better) I joined with almost 80 bloggers and TpTers for a week of awesome deals, steals and a HUGE giveaway! Make you sure to get a nice full cup of coffee each day so you can check it all out...

This post will give you all the information and links you need to navigate the week!

On Monday, you can find a ton of dollar deals for Monday Madness! Search #MondayMadness on TpT to save big on some great resources.

From my store, you will be able to snag my newest resource for just $1.00! Last year, my kids got obsessed with LOVED finding and learning about a new word each day. (You can read the post here.) I created this resource to help anyone get started building vocabulary, driven by students, by learning about a Word A Day!

Tuesday is 2 for Tuesday! Two of my favorite classroom resources will be 50% off. The Decimal Cards Activity Pack has tons of different uses and has been great practice for my students in naming and comparing decimals. The Questions to Encourage Mathematical Thinking resource has been my go to when working with small groups or my whole class - it's just a good reminder how important it is to pay attention to the questions I ask my students! Each of these will be just $1.75 on Tuesday.

Wednesday is going to be wacky with some Flash Freebies! If you aren't already following me on Facebook, you might want to do that here. I will be announcing the flash freebies throughout the day over there!

Who doesn't love Thrifty Thursday?? On Thursday, you can grab bundles (already a great discount) at an even better price! My 2D Shape Sort Bundle includes my 2 best selling products - the Quadrilaterals 2D Shape Sort and Triangles 2D Shape Sort. If you teach geometry concepts in 3rd-5th grade, this is a bundle that can add a lot to your instruction! On Thursday, the bundle will be on (even more) sale for $4.50! (That's going to save you $3.50 over buying both products separately!)

Last, but not least, is Free Stuff Friday!! You can enter this awesome giveaway by visiting our stores and giving us a follow. There will be SEVEN gift cards up for grabs!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to check out the other bloggers who are participating in this fun week!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mountain States Meet Up Recap

A couple weeks ago, we had a great time meeting up with a fun group of teachers from the Mountain States region! We chatted, learned together and ate some yummy food. Some of us even went bowling afterwards.

I was so lucky to work with the lovely ladies below to get the meet up planned and set up.
L to R: Ashley from Teaching in Bronco Country, Lori from Live, Laugh, Love, Second, ME, Kristin from Holmquist's Homeroom
So many amazing donors helped to make our raffle a huge success! Everyone walked away with an awesome prize - and maybe 2 prizes!

I got this awesome t-shirt from The Wright Stuff Chics, which I cannot WAIT to wear in my classroom! (Maybe I should wear a tiara too? I'm just thinking out loud here.)

Mary from Teaching With a Mountain View got an awesome shirt too!
Our awesome donors also helped us fill these swag bags with extra fun goodies for every participant at the meet up.

Stay tuned for a giveaway at the end of this post!
All of these amazing donors contributed to success of our meet up!
Here are a few pictures of everyone who attended!!

It was so great to meet so many new people - and a special thank you to those that traveled from far away and/or out of state to join us!

Check out the rafflecopter below for your chance to win one of 5 Mountain State Meet Up swag bags AND a subscription to! (You can see how I use {here.})

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now head over and check out what others are saying about the Mountain States Meet Up!!

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Classroom Clique LOVES Teachers

It's Teacher Appreciation Week! One of my favorite weeks of the year. I love how PTAs, parents and students show teachers how much they mean to them!

AND I love being able to show my appreciation to all the amazing teachers out there as well! My friends at The Classroom Clique are all pitching in to show how much we LOVE teachers!

We have all come together to share a useful tip, a fun freebie and you can enter to win a great giveaway! (Wouldn't you love a little TPT cash to spend at the sale tomorrow and Wednesday??)

This is an oldie, but a goodie. A couple of summers ago, Teacher Toolboxes were all the rage, and of course I had to have one! It is one of the best organizational tools I have ever used and I literally use it every day.

I bought the tool box from Home Depot (I think it was $19), and I used a template to create the labels. I found some cute stickers in my scrapbooking stuff, and voila! My teacher toolbox was born.

My tip is: find a way to organize your things! This works really well for me and my students know this is MY stuff. They have their own bins with things they need, but this is just for me. As my dad used to say, "Mitts off!"

First up, a fun end of the year freebie for you! I love using the 3-2-1 graphic organizer to get a quick read on information students have learned, but it also works great as a way to reflect or look forward. It gives me great information and doesn't take kids very long to write. It's a great way to gather their feedback!

Click the picture below to grab this end of year freebie!

Last year, one of my students wrote her 3-2-1 on paper, and you can see what she said below. It made a tough year worth every minute to read her reflections on the year!

To further show our appreciation?? A giveaway! You can enter to win by hopping through and finding all the words to the secret phrase. We will choose three winners! One will win $50 to TpT, one $30 to Target and one $15 to Starbucks. You will just need the following word to complete the secret phrase to enter:

Once you have all the words, hop back here to enter the phrase for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Teacher Appreciation week!! I hope you get showered with all the love and appreciation you deserve for working hard for kids every day!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Do They Really "Get It?" {3 Ways to Check During Math Class}

Has this ever happened to you?

You teach a lesson, let's say, about adding fractions. As you're walking around the classroom, lots of kids have correct answers - even a few that you wouldn't expect. You're patting yourself on the back and decide to give them a problem that's just a little bit harder. (At this point, I always think to myself, "They've GOT this! We are FLYING through this lesson!")

After a few minutes, you realize: they don't really know what they're doing yet, and you wonder what happened just a few moments ago.

Over the years, this has happened to me so many times that I wondered if there was even a way to really know if they "get" a concept before they crash and burn and I want to cry.

Check out this post for ideas to see if kids are really understanding mathematical concepts.

Here are some ideas I've tried to see if kids are really "getting it" in math class:

1. Can they draw a picture or make a model?

Even in fifth grade, the power of visualizing a math problem is, well...powerful! With younger students, I encourage the students to draw exactly what they see when a problem is presented. With older students, I teach them how to use models to represent the parts of the problem they are working on. (Sometimes, they still draw the actual picture, and I think that's ok too. I just try to get them working towards something that won't take quite as much time!)

Check out this post for ideas to see if kids are really understanding mathematical concepts.

Check out this post for ideas to see if kids are really understanding mathematical concepts.

If they are having trouble drawing a picture or creating a model or representation, that tells me a lot about how they are processing the problem.

You can see this adding fractions product by clicking here.

2. Can they write a word problem?

This is ALWAYS eye opening for me. I can usually tell right away how students are understanding a problem or equation by how they write their word problems. (I can also tell if they can actually visualize the problem from their number story!)

First, we have to define how to write one - this is key!

Check out this post for ideas to see if kids are really understanding mathematical concepts.

Once the students know what a word problem looks like and sounds like, I can start to see understanding through their stories. This mainly helps me assess whether they know how to properly apply their knowledge of different operations. It's fairly evident that they aren't sure what subtraction really means if the story problem written will result in an addition situation!

This student was writing a word problem for 1/2 + 1/3.

Check out this post for ideas to see if kids are really understanding mathematical concepts.

When I read his problem, I could see he understood that he was combining the two fractions since he used the word "altogether." He also uses an object that can easily be split up into fractions, telling me that he has some understanding of what fractions actually are! (Not to mention he uses cupcakes - which makes his teacher very happy!)

Writing word problems is one of my favorite ways to see if students truly have an understanding of the type of problem they are trying to solve.

3. Can they clearly explain it to someone else?

We've all been there, right? You are obviously explaining something in the clearest way possible and the person you are talking to is looking at you with an expression of utter confusion. And this happens to students all. the. time. They think they are being clear, but the person listening has no idea what they are talking about. (This includes me sometimes!) In the upper grades, I think getting feedback and reflecting on their work is essential to learning how to be clear and concise with their mathematical explanations. Besides being clear with their speaking, they also have to learn how to be clear and concise in their written explanations.

One way we accomplish this is by using museum walks to provide feedback to each other and reflect on our own work.

Check out this post for ideas to see if kids are really understanding mathematical concepts.

Each team completes their own work on a poster, then we hang them up and use sticky notes to provide comments and questions about the work on the posters. Each team gets their own poster back and uses the comments and questions to revise their thinking or make their explanation more clear. This has worked wonders for my students! Through this process they often find small mistakes (and big ones) and it helps them to see what others see when they look at their work.

It gives me insight into two things:
1. Can students look at others' work critically in order to provide useful feedback?
2. Can students use constructive feedback to revise their work?

I know this has been a hit in my classroom, because now they demand request time to get feedback on everything from their math work to their science notebooks! And I can see that they are becoming more clear in explaining and showing how they got their answers.

Check out this post for ideas to see if kids are really understanding mathematical concepts.


Sometimes, it can be really tough to know if kids are really "getting it." I have used these ideas to help me gather information about my students for several years and I have learned more about them and their mathematical ideas as a result! It really helps me to inform my teaching - or possibly reteaching depending on what I find out. How do you assess your students to find out if they are "getting it" during math? I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Check out this post for ideas to see if kids are really understanding mathematical concepts.
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