ShArK Week = FrEEbies

It's here! One of my favorite weeks in summer! Why is it that we are so drawn to these amazing creatures? I mean...they're a little bit scary terrifying....& yet we're drawn to watch them. It's true, though...right? And here's the thing....if adults are fascinated by sharks, just imagine how fascinated kids are!

I'm always excited to check out the shark-themed resources during this blog hop Luckeyfrog's Lilypad & Digital: Divide & Conquer host because I know how much my kiddos love shark anything.

I hope your kiddos enjoy using these ar, or word skill activities in your classroom as much as mine do! In addition to the

  • Word skill poster
  • I Spy activity page where kiddos have to use magnifying lenses to find & then sort ar & or words on the recording sheet.
  • 'Cinnamon Roll' spelling page - kiddos write the word around & around to fill each cinnamon roll. (See how that gets that muscle memory working?)
  • Spiral spelling bracelets (Again...muscle memory at work!)
Just click the pic to download from my dropbox!

Keep on swimming! Your next stop is over at Teach123. Enjoy!

It's Here! 5 Ways to Win at Fact Fluency

1. Make sure kiddos understand what they're doing.
Do kiddos already have conceptual understanding? Do they know WHY 8 + 7 is 15? Or for older kiddos: why 8 x 4 is 32? Do they know what it looks like? Have they had an opportunity to move manipulatives around and experience addition (or the other operations)? Without that conceptual knowledge, those math facts are going to take a much longer time to 'stick'. After kiddos have an understanding of operations, they're ready to tackle developing fluency.

2. Don't rely on computer-based programs as a means to increase kiddos' math fact fluency. 

I remember several years ago, my building purchased a site license for a math fact fluency program....we were all instructed to use it for both our fact fluency and assessment. The program seemed was engaging, it was adaptive and moved with each child's success, and it was even instructional! Not just games and tests, it also 'taught' new facts. It was supposed to be a win-win: capitalize on kiddos' interest in online games/activities, improve fact fluency, and free up instructional time. In reality? Yeah....not so much. After some time, we all came to realize that kiddos
just weren't making the gains that we'd hoped. They didn't even seem to be doing as well as they had before the program was implemented!

What went wrong? Well, turns out that online programs are just not effective.  Yep. Studies show good 'ole flashcards are more effective than online programs. Who woulda thought? We use fact triangles in our building. They work the same as traditional flash cards, with the added benefit of illustrating the fact family. Knowing fact families is so powerful. Like my kiddos say, as they make a triangle with their fingers....if you know addition, you know the subtraction fact. Same for multiplication....if you know multiplication, you know division. LOVE that they can make that connection, and it's all due to the using those fact triangles.

3. Sustained practice? Think again.
Short, sporadic practice sessions are the way to go! Kiddos cannot focus on practicing math facts for more than 4-5 minutes. After that, you've lost them. You can do multiple practice sessions a day, but keep them short. 3-4 minutes is good!

4. A Little Goes a Long Way 
Resist the urge to jump in with both feet and give kiddos ALL.THE.FACTS. Be very deliberate and intentional in the way and the progression that facts are introduced for kiddos to master. In this case, a little goes a long way. The goal is automaticity. If kiddos have too many facts to learn at one time, they naturally fall back on  calculating the answer rather than working toward
memorization. Only after the first set of facts have been mastered should new ones be added.

At the same time, those facts that have been mastered need to stay in the rotation. A couple things are going on here: kiddos are still practicing the known facts (we don't want to get rusty!), they're experiencing a level of success as they encounter the new facts in the rotation, and they're becoming faster and faster with those known facts!

The fact tests I use in my classroom are set up to maximize this.....we start out with +1's for example, and after a kiddo has mastered those facts we move on to the +0's. But guess what? Those +1's still show up! And it continues on like that all the way through. At the end, when we're on that +9's test, facts from any of the other tests pop up.

5. Track Progress & Celebrate Success 
Tracking learning and progress toward goals is empowering! Studies show that when kiddos have that opportunity, they build intrinsic motivation, and perform better. In my classroom, we graph progress on each level. They can see how close they are, and how much closer they've gotten with each's exciting to see how their graph inches up (or speeds!) toward to top of that graph!

We also chart progress toward mastering ALL of the facts.....+0's through +10's. I think this piece may be even more powerful than tracking progress for each level of the facts.

Each kiddo gets an addition chart. The first thing we do is talk about facts and the inverses. So....really, we only need to learn HALF of the facts on the chart! We also learn that when we pass a level, +4's for instance, we get to shade in both the horizontal +4's and the vertical +4's. Wow! That chart gets shaded in pretty fast! It's nice to actually see that you only have so many facts left.....rather than '' looming out there somewhere which we still have to master.

And don't forget to celebrate!! As I hand back tests before they go off to graph and chart, I announce those who have gotten 100% on their tests. Everyone claps and cheers...the best way to celebrate ever! Of course, we all know that setting a date by which we need to have mastered facts adds an element of urgency. My class works together to set a date by which we'll attempt to have all the facts mastered. I plan a movie for that day complete with snacks....which really makes the celebration more exciting!

Classroom Decor SNEAK PEEK

First, I'd like to give a great big 
to Debbie C.! You are the winner of the Upcycle Style Inspire U Prize Pack, Debbie! I know you're going to LOVE it!

Who wants an EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PEEK of all the brand new COMING SOON products Creative Teaching Press has in store for us?
You don't have to be a ninja! Just click that Creative Teaching Press image below & you'll be magically transported to an exclusive landing page where you can see it all!

You can actually pre-order the coming soon items & be one of the first to get your products when they come in! the way? If you're disappointed about not winning the prize pack Debbie won, you've got another chance! Over on that exclusive landing page, there's another giveaway!! FIVE teachers are going to win a $50 CTP gift certificate!! Wahoo! with so much of the new stuff! A few highlights of my faves:

Magnetic Decor Strips?!? Stop.the.presses!! These are goin to be so great on magnetic white boards! I mean....SO much better than the bulletin board strips I stuck magnets on the back of!

 There's also a whole new line of content area mini bulletin board sets. This Life Cycle of a Sunflower set is just part of the 48-piece Life Cycles set! I am super impressed with the quality! And there are more sets: Plants, Earth, Moon, & Stars, Human Body, Math Talk, and Depth of Knowledge!

I know it's way too early to be thinking October & Halloween....but can we just talk about how aDORable this Pumpkin Patch Bulletin Board set is?! I am in LOVE!!

There's so much more than this to love that's coming soon! Take a sneak peek and see for yourself! And remember to enter the giveaway! 

Rethinking Classroom Design

It's that time of year again......time to start thinking about next year. If you're like me, you're already thinking about what you want to tweak for next year - whether that's schedule, instructional strategies, or classroom environment. Classroom design is an important consideration. Consider that kiddos spend the greatest portion of the day in your classroom, and you realize just how important it is!

Playful Patches 6" Designer Cut Outs
Your classroom should be a safe haven. Kiddos need to feel welcome and respected, and it ought to be a calming (rather than overly stimulating) environment. I like to make the room as homey as possible so that we're all comfortable. I put a lot of thought into color schemes as well as furniture arrangement when I'm planning my classroom. Colors and textures are as important as the anchor charts that we hang on our walls.

I'm very pleased to be an Exclusive Blogger for Creative Teaching Press. Their products really fit the bill when it comes to effective classroom decor. They have so many wonderful options! The past few years, I've love my Dots on Turquoise...but I'm ready for a change. Enter Upcycle Style! Oh my gosh, y'all!!! Have you seen this collection yet? I promise, you'll love it too! (CTP really makes choosing'll love them all!) I love the rustic, down home feel of the collection. The wood grain and metals, the distressed wood, and the use of textiles like denim, quilts, and needlework just all come together to make a beautiful collection!

And, speaking of down home feel.....check out this matching flameless candle from Zazzle!! Oh my goodness! Can you picture a few of these on your desk or on top of a bookshelf or two? And it even has a TIMER! Love!! Make sure you check out the items over at Zazzle....they match many of the other collections, as well!

Beside candles, you can also find pillows, dry erase boards, stickers, magnetic frames, iPad mini covers, and lots more goodies for classrooms. You can even get matching shoes, earrings, or ties!!
Just a few of the Inspire U posters paired with the Denim Border and Rustic Medallions Border.
Pair Upcycle Style with the Inspire U collection? LOVE!! My school has really been focusing on growth mindset this year along with standards based growth model report cards, & I really appreciate how the Inspire U posters fit in with those!! I mean seriously? Perfect! I truly cannot wait to set up my classroom with the addition of these posters....they fit in so well with what we tell them about growth mindset! (Ya gotta love it when everything comes together like that!)

Pssst! Guess what!! CTP is letting me giveaway the whole Upcycle Style Inspire U Pack!! Yep! Everything you see up above: all of the posters (including Dream It. Believe It. Achieve It.), the patch cut outs, AND the two borders in the graphic!! Make sure you enter down in the rafflecopter widget! (US & Canada residents only, please).
And wait until you see these! Exclusive....COMING SOON!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Make sure you hop over to visit my friend Cassie & see what she's working on! 

Standing for Change #supportDPSteachers

Life's most persistent & urgent question IS 'What are you doing for others?' As we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I hope that you have had an opportunity to hear and think about the words of this amazing man. I'm joining in with other bloggers in hopes of bringing attention to the horrifying and intolerable conditions of the children and teachers of Detroit & hopefully make a difference.

You may have seen some of these pictures illustrating the conditions in Detroit's schools. If you haven't, do a quick'll turn up articles, you'll find posts and pictures on twitter and on Instagram. Search the hashtags #supportdpsteachers or #dpsteachersfightback. I find the images are sickening. I mean...these are not pictures from abandoned buildings. Nor are they pictures from schools in third world countries. These are pictures from schools in the great United States..... classrooms where children are supposed to be doing the important job of learning. Where teachers are tasked with the job of helping kiddos feel safe and welcomed and ready to learn. It's a travesty that children and teachers are expected to perform in these conditions. I am appalled. 
Toilets leak into a Preschool room
Mushrooms grow from a wall
I am appalled that adults are letting this happen. One teacher is quitting over health care concerns (& rightfully so!). Her KINDERGARTEN "classroom is connected to a dilapidated greenhouse that hasn't been cleaned in years. The windows are covered with a black substance & hasn't been cleaned in years. And it smells. The door to the greenhouse doesn't have a doorknob, insulation, or lock. She put bags in the doorknob hole after SQUIRRELS KEPT GETTING IN HER CLASSROOM." SQUIRRELS IN HER CLASSROOM, FOLKS. We are talking about real live, living in the United States kindergarten babies who have squirrels getting into their classroom. It's disgusting that adults are allowing this to happen.

 Students and teachers in Detroit are most assuredly suffering an injustice. Are we as a society okay with that? We better not be! As Dr. King said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." And the quote that really resonated with me today as I read more about the educational system in Detroit: "Life's most persistent & urgent question is 'What are we doing for others?'"

So, what CAN we do for the students and teachers in Detroit? For starters, we can educate ourselves about the issue.

Take a virtual tour of a Detroit school.

Take a look at this news coverage which details Detroit's Mayor Duggan's tour of a Middle School Building.

Read the article linked above, or this article in which the author implores us to not turn away from this issue, believing that because we don't live in Detroit that this educational travesty doesn't impact us -- it does!

Do a quick search on twitter or Instagram for the hashtags #supportdpsteachers or #dpsteachersfightback.

Sign the petition.