Fruit Snacks & Task Cards

Do you ever teach new skills and feel like your kids are doing amazing, only to circle back to them and realize that your kids don't "have it" like you thought they did?  That was me about a week ago.  My kids were doing great in small chunks, but their long-term retention wasn't quite there.  I wanted to slow down and spend a week just reviewing!  I just didn't feel comfortable moving on.  So, I tossed my regular routine just a bit, and we reviewed using games and activities that covered many skills.

By Friday, they were finally to the point where I felt like they were on the right track.  They may make silly mistakes here and there, but overall, they were doing great.  So, I grabbed a few boxes of fruit snacks from Walmart, and I was ready to engage my students in a fun review activity.

I prepared a basket for each table in my classroom.  I used colored paper that coordinated with each of the fruit snack colors.  I printed a set of task cards on each color.  For example, I printed adding mixed numbers on red paper, subtracting mixed numbers on green paper, and so on.  Each color had its own fractional skill that we had reviewed throughout the week.

Then, I passed out a pack of fruit snacks to each student.  It was their job to open their fruit snacks, sort their colors, and work out a problem that matched each fruit snack.  After they completed the problem, they could eat the fruit snack and move on to the next problem.

In the end, most students worked out 8-9 problems, depending on their fruit snack packet.  My kids found it hilarious that they might have four of one color and only one of another.  Someone else at their table might have several of a completely different color.  It made each student's work unique and engaging.  It was definitely a fun way to review!

You could use this activity with fruit snacks like I did or any other candy that you'd like.  I have recording pages for both!  Grab them for free by clicking the picture above! :)

I have math task cards for nearly every skill that I teach throughout the school year!  Click the image above to see all of my math task cards.

Struggling Readers: Do you know the three most common challenges?

Today's post is all about our struggling readers.  We've all had them.  We all want to do our best to help them.  But sometimes, that is easier said than done.  To begin to help our struggling readers, we have to begin by identifying their greatest need.  For most readers, they are struggling in one of three areas.

Struggle #1: Sight Words

One of the most common struggles that students have lies in their ability to recall basic sight words.  We have students begin memorizing words in primary grades, because we all know that some words just cannot be stretched out.  No matter how long you spend stretching out the word WAS, you are never ever going to get it right.  Because of this, we have to help our students memorize those dreaded words.

As you likely already know, your brain has two hemispheres.  Each side of the brain has its own role while reading.  The right side of the brain houses the visual aspect of reading, such as seeing a word and realizing that it is familiar.  The left side of the brain controls the auditory functions, which is where the name of the word is stored.  If these two portions of the brain are not connecting and functioning simultaneously, students will struggle to recall or verbalize the word.   

Ideas for helping students who struggle with sight words:

Struggle #2: Decoding

Decoding difficulties are the mystery of the learning disability area.  At this time, the reason or cause of this struggle is unknown.  However, the effects on reading are huge.  I love this exercise from Misunderstood Minds that allows you to experience the effects of decoding struggles.  Wow!  I was able to decode it, but geeez! It took me forever.  I was constantly stretch, stretch, stretching each word.  I had to go back and restretch many of the words to ensure my accuracy.  I had a hard time recalling the sounds and would have to look at the key.  In real life, there would likely NOT be a key to help guide me.  

Ideas for helping students who struggle with decode:

Struggle #3: Reading Comprehension

We all have those readers that read fluently.  Their reading sounds so beautiful.  They can read every word on the page with ease.  Then, you ask them a comprehension question.  You have to try to hide your shock at their seemingly random answer.  You want to ask, "Ummm, did we read the same passage?"  Sadly, they aren't being silly.  They truly struggled to actually comprehend the passage that they read so beautifully.

There are MANY factors that impact reading comprehension.  This is actually one of my favorite areas to address.  Struggles in reading comprehension occur typically because of an inability to naturally do one or more of the comprehension skills that we routinely teach.  Visualizing is the number one comprehension strategy that students are unable to do.  For me, I visualize like no other.  If I'm reading a novel, I become the main character.  I dream about what I believe will happen in the next chapter.  I can't get "out" of the story.  Maybe that's why I love to read so much.  However, some of our kids are not able to visualize at all.  Can you imagine why they hate to read?!

In addition to visualization difficulties, students could be struggling with unfamiliar vocabulary, figurative language, the ability to multitask (thinking while reading), or poor working memory.  

Ideas for helping students who struggle with reading compehension:

If you're looking at assess the comprehension of your students, check out this FREEBIE!  I have two versions for upper and lower elementary.  You can choose the one that fits your classroom needs! 

I also use these progress monitoring forms to assess the three areas that I described above.  In this set, I have forms for assessing both Dolch and Fry sight words as well as decoding CVC, CVCe, and long vowel teams.  

Visualizing Tubes

This year, I've been working to integrate multiple subjects into our daily activities.  Today, I want to quickly share a fun activity that is perfect for both reading and writing.  Our reading strategy this week is visualization, and we began writing personal narratives last week.  I wanted an activity that would introduce visualization, yet give my students a chance to enhance their writing.  

I placed a bag in each corner of my classroom and divided my students into four random groups.  Each group pulled out their object and used their visualizing tubes to really scope out the mystery object inside their bag.  They used the graphic organizer to describe how the object looked, tasted, felt, smelled, and sounded.  

After several minutes, we all returned to our seats and took turns describing each of the objects.  While each group shared their description, the students at their seats were attempting to draw what was being described aloud.  

Some of their visualizations were spot on {number two was the sand paper block}, while others were way off {number one should have been a scarf}.  

During the last part of the activity, I allowed each student to wonder the room and secretly check out each item.  It was their job to attempt to describe the object BETTER than the original group.  The challenge was totally accepted by all! They were using similies and incredible adjectives to do a better job of describing the objects in each bag.

This was my favorite picture from today's activity!  I was seriously wondering if I was crazy to ALLOW my kids to roll up a piece of paper and use it as a telescope, but it seriously worked to my advantage today. 

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!