If the Shoe Fits...{An Inference Activity FREEBIE}

Making inferences is such a challenge for some of my students.  Better yet, many students can make an inference, but they struggle to support their inference with details, facts, or background knowledge.  Today, we did a fun activity to begin making inferences and supporting them with evidence.

While my students were at special, I hid twelve shoes around my classroom.  They each had a number assigned to them, and they ranged from nice, new shoes to old, yucky shoes.

After explaining their task, my students moved throughout the room to scope out each shoe.

They wrote down their inferences, but most importantly, they recorded the evidence that led them to that conclusion.

After a few minutes of inferring and exploring, we came together as a class.  We shared their inferences and worked to support (or not!) each inference.  Many of their inferences were on point, while others were a little off.  Either way, they had a great time and are ready to take supporting their inferences to the next level tomorrow!

If you want to try this out in your classroom, you can download the shoe numbers and recording page for free, just click the image above! :)

Managing Your To-Do List!

Ever feel like you have an ENDLESS to-do list?  I know I do.  Between home, teaching, and blogging, I always have something that needs to be done.  Actually, I am often asked I how am able to manage it all.  Today's post shares my method for keeping my life organized!

It isn't rocket science by any means, but it keeps me organized.  I am a very routine person.  I like to find a method that works and stick to it.  Each week, I print off my weekly to-do list.  The printed portion includes the tasks that need to be completed each week.  I also include blank spaces because we all know.....more things are a comin'! :)

As the week goes on, I mark off my completed tasks and breathe a sigh of relief!  I really love using this because it helps me focus my ADD mind.  If I have an insane week, this helps ensure that I have the basics completed.  It also helps me to stay on track when things get a little out of control!

Click the image above to grab an editable version of my Weekly To-Do List!

Lint Roller Schema Activity

This summer, I began reading the book Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading. I immediately fell in love with the suggestions that Tanny McGregor offered.  This week, we are beginning our school year by talking about schema, and this was the perfect opportunity to use Tanny's lint roller idea as inspiration.

To begin, I had several pieces of paper with various words based on experiences that I have had.  I had several clusters of words with the intent to roll them onto separate sheets of the lint roller.  The lint roller represented my brain, and each individual pieces of the paper represented the things that your brain comes into contact with.

As I "rolled" each of my experiences, the kids totally chuckled at the things that I had experienced.  It was also perfect, because some of the students had experienced these items, while other students have never had the opportunity to do them.

After watching my "brain" collect several experiences, I pulled off the lint roller paper, and we gave it a hashtag to describe it.  My students decided on #momlife!

We repeated this process a few times, and hung our hashtags on the board, each describing a part of my background knowledge.

Then, I wanted my students to create their own hashtags to share various aspects of their own background knowledge.  I particularly loved this one, because it allowed me to show my LACK of background knowledge.  I have little background knowledge in video games!  This sparked a great discussion about how background knowledge affects the reading process.

We've been displaying them on our classroom door to show them off!

Why do I differentiate? Three demonstrations for students and staff!

Differentiation is something that is so close to my heart.  I can't say that every aspect of my instruction is differentiated, but I do my best to ensure that I am meeting all of my student where they are.  As I was reading "Leading and Managing a Differentiated Classroom" by Carol Ann Tomlinson this summer, I was inspired to do a few demonstrations for my students at the beginning of the year.  All of these activities are intended to be light-hearted and funny.  Excuse me and my silliness as you read this post.

Everybody Gets an Aspirin!

What would happen if we all went to the doctor complaining of different things, and the doctor gave every single one of us aspirin?  Would that mend a broken bone?  Would that cure a bad case of acne?  Heck no!  Each problem, ailment, and symptom requires a different treatment.  Although I'll be passing out Tic Tacs, this is exactly what I plan to demonstrate to my students.

I will be using the patient cards above to select eight students to play along in my demonstration.  Each student will take turns visiting the doctor.  I'll sympathetically listen to their complaints, and with as much composure as I can muster, I'll give them an "aspirin" to make them feel better.

The eighth and final patient card is for a poor patient complaining of a simple headache.  Then, after seven other silly attempts to solve the problems of my patients, I'll finally be successful in handing out an aspirin!

Just like passing out an aspirin to every person sounds ridiculous, so does instruction that isn't differentiated.

Sharin' Clothing

We all know that instruction isn't one size fits all.  For this demonstration, I am planning to walk in to the classroom wearing my husband's jacket and struggle to put on my seven year old daughter's gloves.  While it might *somewhat* help the situation, neither of these items are tailored to ME!  Just like Goldilocks and The Three Bears, they are either too big or too small.

I can't wait to have a discussion with my students about the things that we do in my classroom to ensure that all of my students have instruction that actually fits.

Brown Paper Bag

I recently posted (and shared a freebie) about my Welcome to Fifth Grade Postcards.  On this postcard, I have asked all of my students to bring in three to five items that describe them!  I've also been collecting a few things about myself.  On our first day of school, we will be sharing their items as a class.

After all of the students have showcased their items, I plan to discuss how many items were the same and how many of our items were unique.  My guess is, we will have many items that are very different from one another.  Most importantly, while we may have some similarities, no one has brought in three identical items!

Just as the items in our bags, we all have different likes and dislikes.  This also applies to our learning.  Maybe I like practicing my spelling words by putting them to music (honestly, that's how I always practiced my spelling words), but someone else really prefers to write them on the chalkboard repeatedly.  Our likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses all impact our learning!

Four Activities for the First Day of School!

Each year, I scour Pinterest trying to find activities for the first day of school that are engaging for upper elementary students.  I want to find activities that will allow me to learn and connect with each student.  After FINALLY nailing down my plans, I wanted to share a few of my ideas for my first day.

Brown Paper Bags

I have wanted to send postcards to my incoming students for years, but I hadn't found anything that I loved.  This year, I created my own and ordered them from VistaPrint.  They were so inexpensive, plus they serve as an activity on the first day of school.  The back of this postcard asks students to bring in a brown paper bag (or something similar) filled with items that tell about themselves.

I can't wait to see what they bring in.  I have an extension to this activity that can be used to demonstrate why teachers differentiate! I plan to give each student time to share their items, as well as share a bag that I've been working on all summer.  :)

First Day of School Task Cards

I played a variation of this game on the last day of school last year. When I was brainstorming ideas for the first day of school of this upcoming year, I wanted to switch it up to make it work as a get to know you activity.

Here's how it works:

1. Gather students in a circle.
2. Have one student draw a card from the bucket in the center of the circle. That student will answer the question on the card.
3. Relax, sit back, and get to know your students.  

I'll be honest.  I don't plan to use these task cards to play a game or stress about writing down answers.  As a matter of fact, there isn't even a recording sheet included.  It is simply to sit around and get to know each other! I have included a few cards that are serious, while others are just silly! 

Cootie Catcher

Who doesn't love making a cootie catcher?! Afterall, it is a childhood requirement, right?  This year, all of my students will have spelling partners.  I am planning to use this activity for them to get to know their new spelling buddy, but it could be utilized for any "Get to Know You" type of activity.

Here's how it works:

1. Students play with the cootie catcher for 5-10 minutes.  Students will take turns answering various questions about themselves.
2. When students are confident that they can answer all questions about their partner, they will give one another a quick assessment.
3. Students independently answer all questions about their partner.
4. Students switch papers and grade their partner's answers! 

Post-It Note Questions

This isn't my original idea, but I love it! I found this idea last year from Middle School Math Rules's blog.  My teaching partner and I did this last year.  We had our students complete their Post-Its before the morning bell rang on the first day.  It sparked great conversation later in our morning meeting.

4 Ways to EASILY Integrate Subjects!

Each school year, I set a goal for myself.  This past year, my goal was to do a better job of integrating science and social studies into my reading and writing curriculum.  Although I'm pleased with my progress, I can't wait to make a few more changes to make this upcoming year even better!  Below are four things that tremendously helped when integrating science and social studies easily.  

1. Align Science and Social Studies with your Basal
Regardless of what your feelings are about your basal series, some schools are required to follow it.  Meaning, whether you like it or not, you'll be utilizing it.  Why not align your weekly basal stories to match the time periods and topics in your science and social studies curriculum?  This was also perfect for sharing with my specials teachers, special education staff, and our reading intervention teacher.  I'm making a few changes this upcoming year to this spreadsheet, but I really loved having our reading stories match our science and social studies material.

2. Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers give my students a purpose for reading and allow them to remember important details.  As you have probably noticed, each chapter of most science and social studies curriculum has a targetted reading skill.  I take a look at my textbook ahead of time and create graphic organizers to align with the subheadings throughout the chapter.  Then, as we read, my students are intentionally seeking information.  It gives them a purpose for reading, and requires them to record key ideas from the text.  I also love to use graphic organizers to differentiate.
3. Ditch Your Schedule
Maybe it is because I have worked in a departmentalized setting for too long, but I find myself a slave to the schedule all too often.  From time to time this past year, my teaching partner and I decided to choose a topic of the week and ditch our typical schedule!  We would focus on a science or social studies topic that needed to be addressed and spent our time reading news articles, picture books, or watching short videos.  This was a perfect way to spice up test prep season!  One of my goals this upcoming school year is to ditch my typical schedule more often.  Why can't we be working on reading while doing a science lesson?  Why can't we be writing an informative piece about a social studies objective? 

4. Fall in Love with Close Reading
Close reading is a great way to allow your students to dive deeper into a text while focusing on a specific science or social studies topic. These passages from The Sweetest Thing are the PERFECT way to do just that.  I am amazed at the deep conversations that take place while doing a close reading of these passages.  My students are analyzing text, comprehending difficult material, and conversing over excellent fifth grade content.  Plus, they really seem to enjoy it!

Bring Writing into Math?! 6 Ways It Will Benefit Your Students!

Math Journals are an excellent way to bring writing into math instruction. These Math Journals are an excellent way to reinforce fourth and fifth grade common core standards. They are great for centers, assessments, or whole group discussions.
Two years ago, I transitioned from special education to general education.  One of my main goals was to not just shove content and procedures down their throats, but to help them truly understand math.  Math Journals were one of the first things that I implemented to help accomplish this goal.  After two years of tweaking, revamping, and organizing the Math Journal process, I am pleased to say that my students have flourished in their ability to not only complete mathematical concepts, but explain and truly understand what they are doing.  Want to know how I believe it has benefitted my students?

1. Math Journals require students to dive deep.

Do you know how many kids just follow a list of steps that you teach them without knowing why?  I was always so surprised to hear students' responses when I would ask them why they were putting a zero placeholder when they were multiplying.  They honestly didn't know.  They were just doing what they were told.  While that might be ok on standardized testing, I wanted my students to be able to do more than just pass a test.  I wanted them to dive deep and discover why we put that darn zero there.

2. Math Journals serve as a resource for later.

One reason that I LOVE about using Math Journals is that I now have the ultimate way of requiring independence in my classroom. At our school, we use Accelerated Math and IXL to continually review skills throughout the year.  If a student comes to me in January to ask about a skill that we covered in September, I can send them to their journal.  Typically, once they refer to their journal entry, they are quickly reminded of the steps or process, and are able to continue the problem on their own.  I seriously love watching them flip through old entries and see the look on their faces when they are thinking, "Duh!  How did I forget that?!"

3. Math Journals reinforce comprehension and writing skills.

I love the first time that I ask students to compare and contrast adding whole numbers and adding decimals.  They are instantly saying, "Comparing and contrasting is for reading!" (They do this to me in science and social studies too!)  My response is usually something like this, "Actually, comparing and contrasting are just real life skills.  Don't you ever compare yourself to another student? Or Justin Bieber and One Direction?"  Over time, students are easily able to compare and contrast, write how-tos, or explain the sequence of mathematical procedures.

4. Math Journals are naturally differentiated.

Although there are requirements for my students when working on their Math Journals, the process is also just naturally differentiated.  They are always able to reference their math notes, seek help from classmates, ask the teacher, or have things read aloud to them.  They are able to answer the prompt in only words, only illustrations, or a combination of both.  My students have complete freedom to answer the prompt in whatever mode works for them.  By giving this freedom, it allows my students to each work at their own level and learning style, and receive help as needed throughout the process.

5. Math Journals allow teachers to easily assess understanding.

After reading (or let's be honest, skimming) a response from a student, you can EASILY tell their mathematical abilities.  With a quick glance, you can also tell who truly understands the concept that you are covering.  After all, teaching and explaining a concept is one of the best ways to demonstrate your knowledge.  If they don't know or understand a concept well enough to write about it, it requires them to seek help, or gives you the opportunity to pull a small group and reteach!

6. Math Journals don't feel like math!

We all have "that" kid, who just HATES math.  Well, this doesn't feel like math.  It could play to other strengths that they have in language arts.  On the flipside, we all have those students who EXCEL at mathematics, but dread writing.  I have never had a kid who can't complete these Math Journals, and this is my theory: Regardless of their strengths, they have enough to get these thoughts on paper.  Maybe they are phenomenal writers, but poor in math.  That's ok!  They have the writing skills to carry them through.  Maybe there are terrible writers, but kick butt in math.  Again, that's ok!  They have the math knowledge to be able to outshine their writing weaknesses.  At the end of the day, although this incorporates math and writing, I don't think it feels like either!

If you're thinking about implementing Math Journals in your classroom, here is my rubric that I use for assessing my students' responses!