Ooka Island - Review

I recently had the opportunity to try out Ooka Island. I had heard good things about the online program, and I wanted to see if it was something that would work well in my classroom. (I'm thinking workstation possibility).

Well, I don't have access to my classroom kiddos (only 7 more days!), but I do have a couple 3 year old granddaughters I could use as my guinea pigs. Ooka Island is billed as a "Learn to Read Game for Ages 3-7"...so I figured that was reasonable.

Now, there really are a ton of 'reading' websites out there...so I looked into this to make sure it had the stuff to do the job. I found that it's based on research. Ooka Island uses  the Eye/Ear Reading Method-- children learn to use both their visual and auditory skills to master the building blocks of reading. Compared to other reading websites, I thought this was impressive: "The Eye/Ear Reading Method is embedded into the system and includes 562 meticulously scaffolded phonological skill activities and a built-in e-Reader packed with 85 leveled and sequenced Ooka Island e-Books". The method & this program was developed by Dr. Kay MacPhee, whose first reading intervention program was recognized by the US Department of Education’s, What Works Clearing House, as the top program in the U.S. for developing reading comprehension. That carries a lot of weight in my area. What Works Clearing House is highly respected.

I like that the program is very deliberate about activities and the sequence of the activities. Take a look at this graphic. Isn't this what we wish all reading programs did?

SO-- let's get down to the nitty gritty!
How did the program work with my 3-year-old?
  • Engagement - she absolutely LOVES it! She asks often if she can get play Ooka Island, and she definitely focuses and follows along with it.
  • Effectiveness - in the two weeks that we've been playing around with it so far, she has mastered 9 sounds: oo, ee, aw, sh, m, f, p, oy, and s,  & it's added 2 more that she's working on. She's only 3 folks!!
I have decided that this would be an excellent resource to add to my classroom!! Piper has already mastered all of those sounds...in only about two weeks...never playing more than 20 minutes at a time...and not even every day!! I'm excited to think about the difference this can make for some of my kiddos in the classroom!

Here are some logistics teachers would want to know:
  • Feedback/Reports - You can access reports that give you data about student progress, and can be viewed for individuals, small groups, and whole class.
  • Ooka Island can be downloaded on multiple computers.
  • Ooka Island also offers offline components as well such as: downloadable book paths, reward certificates, and downloadable books. They also have ebooks and workbooks to complement them.
I'm so excited that Educents currently has Ooka Island for 50% off! That's a great deal! Click to find out more about it at Educents!
 Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If these links are clicked, I may receive monetary compensation. If this is a product review, I may have received the product to facilitate my review. No monetary compensation was provided. All opinions are my own & my participation is voluntary. I am disclosing in accordance with FTC 16 CFR Part 255.

Indiana Goes Back To School! FREEBIE Blog Hop!!

Hello! Welcome to the last stop on the 
Indiana Goes Back To School Blog Hop!!

If you've hopped here from Learning in Progress...welcome! 
Hope you're enjoying our Hoosier hospitality,  having lots of fun & grabbing lots of terrific freebies!
I have been feverishly working to get my room ready because it is indeed time for Indiana to go back to school! I have FIVE days until our Meet the Teacher/Open House next Thursday, and that room has got to be ready!! I made these Number Posters in Turquoise, Lime, & Pink to match my new color scheme this year.

I wanted my number posters to include information for my kiddos. These posters have the number of course, and the written name, but they also have the number represented in
  • Ten frames
  • Tally marks
  • Longs & cubes (or Tens & ones)
I've included numbers from 0-20, and there are both full size and half-size poster sizes.

You can grab your free copy by clicking the pic below (while you're there, I'd really appreciate a little feedback!)

I also updated my Calendar Math Pack so that there are more color options to choose from. There are pieces to match you color scheme no matter what you're going with this year! This is one of my favorite products....it has had such a huge impact on my kiddos' math understanding. You can't ask for much more than that, can you? 

You can read how I use the Calendar Math Pack in my classroom here. Just click the pic below to check it out in my store!

Don't leave yet!!
We're also giving away a $75 Winner's Choice Gift Card!

woohoo!! Just THINK of what you could get at Target....or Amazon...or The Container Store!

Get your entries in!
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If you're jumping into the hop here, make sure you click the link at the bottom of this post to hop over to the first stop at Teaching Through Turbulence and follow along through the whole circuit! You don't want to miss anything!

A Visit from Heather at Teaching Through Turbulence!

Hello!  I am very excited and honored to be guest blogging today for Brenda!  I blog at Teaching Through Turbulence. Did you fly over there last week to see Brenda's guest blog post for me? It was great!!

As I am preparing for the new school year, I have been thinking about procedures that I always have to teach.  Of course, there are all the classroom procedures, but we cannot forget the Social Skills that need to be taught also.  Many kids these days are not getting out and playing with others.  Social experiences outside of school are very limited.   I have found with my primary students that I have had to teach how to take turns properly many times.  I am a Special Education teacher, so I see this often with the lack of Social Skills, but I know that when I was a general education kindergarten teacher that it was very difficult for some of my students to work in small groups and center times productively.

Here are a few easy ways to help kids with turn taking in your room:

There are many good books for Turn Taking.  I was going to make a list for you, but I found this list to be a great one at Children's Books Guide. What are your favorite books for sharing and turn taking?

I love using Apps to help with Turn Taking.  One of my favorites is Your's Turn Free (Okay.. so I don't like the weird name - shouldn't it just be Your Turn... but it is a good app). 

With this app, you can put in the specific names for each person and set a time limit for each person.  The time limits can be different for each child.  I like this because you can differentiate for kids that need to be challenged and for those that do need more time.

Under settings, you will find different options.
  • You can enable rotating or not on the device.  
  • You can pick your end sound.  
  • You can set an intermission between turns.  I think this is very important because it allows time for the sharing aspect of it to make sure that one person ends and the other has time to start without the 2nd person's time running low.  You get to set the amount of time you want for the intermission.  
  • You can also add in a first bell which is just a warning that the time is almost up.

Once you start it, it will show the following green screen and then the color will move down the screen and slowly change to yellow and red as time runs out.  During intermission, it will count down and tell who is next.  

I will sometimes just use a Visual Timer when I just need a child to wait their turn and not really take turns with me.  I use the following 2 most:

 Timer+Touch HD

And when I don't have an IPAD or electronics available, I use Turn Taking Cards, which I have a set for free for you!  You will put the cards together with the green on one side and a red on the other.  There is a couple ways to do this, so I have provided different red ones for you.  You can get your free set by clicking on the picture.

My favorite way to do it is to put My Turn on one said and Wait on the other.  I give each child their own card to control.  When it is the child's turn, he/she turns the card Green Side Up.  When he/she is finished with the turn, he/she turns "Wait" up to remind themselves to wait and to cue the next person to go.  

You could just use one card with My Turn/Your Turn and have the child that has difficulty with taking turns to be in charge of flipping it to say whose turn it is.

Those are some of my favorite ways for turn taking.  I would love to hear some of your favorite ways to help with turn taking also!  Thank you Brenda for having me here to guest blog!

You are welcome to come over and see me on my blog sometime also!  I would love to have you.

Teaching Through Turbulence

Tree Hugger Linky~Giveaway!!

I'm linking up with Teaching Ever After's super creative Tree Hugger Linky. What a great idea for a linky!
Love it! Now, I'm not really what you would consider a tree hugger....but I do try to keep Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in mind. On this linky, Stacey's asking us to share projects or things that we have reused in our classroom.

I LoVe my unifix cube containers! Recognize them? Yup! They're animal cracker containers! I adore them! Cute in the room, & super functional! My kiddos think they're super fun, also.All I did was create a label for them to hot glue over the animal cracker label. So cute...right?!

So how do you recycle, upcycle, reuse, or repurpose in your classroom? I'd love to read about it! Stop over at Teaching Ever After and link up!!


And...along with the tree hugger theme....
Do you use recycled paper? I'm all about saving trees, but a lot of times, recycled paper is not not quite as nice as regular paper....the color is just a bit off...the surface is kinda meh...the weight is kinda thin... bleh. Right?? I found a source for "green" paper that is top quality! It has a very nice weight, the writing surface is smooth, the color is nice & crisp.

Have you heard of Roaring Spring Paper Products? Love them!  Roaring Spring is a 126 year- old manufacturer of paper products (made in the USA) such as notebooks and file folders. Recently, they sent me a selection of their paper products to review. Check these out....

They have these super fun Color Me Products – These notebooks and folders encourage kids to be
creative and personalize by coloring the covers. There are a variety of pre-printed themes on the covers such as Aquarium, Farm, Sports and Fun Park to peak kid’s interest. How fun are these?! They're environmentally responsible, high quality paper, and fun to use, too!

I also tried out Sugarcane Paper Notebooks. Interestingly, these notebooks are made from sugarcane!! This environmentally friendly product is made of paper
from sugarcane, truly a renewable paper. This is a notebook where, by purchasing it really does save a tree. These contain a minimum of 30% post-consumer waste......and still they're a nice, high-quality paper. I also like that each
notebook has a pocket in the front to store papers. I tried out three different types: these fun pastel colored paper ones....mine is green (Go green!), but they also come in blue, pink, and lavendar.

Then there are also the Cross-Over Notebooks - These are pretty the lines are the usual portrait on one side, and landscape on the other side. This unique printing allows you to take notes three ways: wide for sketching or to illustrate diagrams, standard, or use the backlight grid pattern the lines create for graphing. I really appreciate that you can use the grid pattern to create tables. Are you like me? I am constantly mapping out rotation schedules & re-grouping kiddos on tables I sketch out. Love that I can make NEAT lines with this paper. I also really like that the paper is set up both in portrait and landscape. So cool!

And here's some great news for you! Roaring Springs is giving away some of their awesome products! One lucky person will get the same awesome sample pack that I got....two Color Me notebooks, 3 Sugarcane notebooks, & 2 Cross-Over Notebooks!
Just follow the directions & enter your info on the rafflecopter widget below.....cross your fingers...and you're good to go!!

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When Life Gives You Lemons....Synthesize!

A great way to create a concrete anchor to the abstract skill of synthesis, one of the mini lesson suggestions
Sammons gave in Building Mathematical Comprehension was baking a cake (though hopefully not a concrete cake! bwahaha!). Now, baking a cake in the classroom is a little difficult....

I created a mini lesson guide based on making lemonade! You can read more about it over on A Class*y Collaboration. (Pssst.....there's even a Pin It To Win It going on!)

Synthesize! Math?

Welcome to Chapter 8 of Building Mathematical Comprehension....Synthesizing Information.

"The process of synthesizing information may be the most complex of comprehension strategies" (P. 227). Well. I would agree with that! Synthesizing seems to be the most difficult for my kiddos to grasp. 
What does synthesizing look like in math? 
Well, for starters.....there's a whole lot of thinking that goes on during math!

Consider this all of this that needs to go on in those little brains--
  • Conceptual understanding - they need to have a functional grasp of mathematical ideas
  • Procedural fluency - when & how do you use all those procedures?
  • Strategic competence - they've got to be able to form, represent, & solve math problems
  • Productive disposition - they must be able to see that math makes sense & is useful (again--- it's not hereditary!)
  • Adaptive reasoning - we want kiddos to be able to think about & make connections between concepts & relationships.
One of the things that I'm really appreciating about this book is that Sammons points out "What Students Need to Know About ________" (whatever the skill is). One of the (many) things I need to improve upon is making kiddos aware of what & why they need to know whatever it is we're working on. (Isn't that what metacognition is all about?).

Here are what kiddos need to know about synthesizing--
Mathematicians (and we're all mathematicians!)
  1.  are aware that mathematical ideas change with additional experiences.
  2. synthesize ideas when they think about new experiences they have.
  3. understand that synthesis is the sum of all the information gained from old & new math experiences.
  4. realize that their own knowledge of math will continue to grow & change as you come across new ideas.
  5. can explain how using synthesis can help you better understand. 
That's a pretty big order!
If you're like me, you're already thinking about how you can help your kiddos develop this skill. Here are some of the ideas Sammons gives:
  • Modeling & Think Alouds- During reading, we pause every now & then to think aloud to let kiddos hear our thinking. We need to do the same thing with Math! Kiddos need to hear/see how all the different facets of math work together when one is working on a problem.
  • Create Concrete Experiences - I know I'm preaching to the choir-- we all know that kiddos need to anchor abstract on to concrete. I like the example of 
    • Nesting Dolls - as an object lesson for synthesis. Line the dolls up according to size & have kiddos come up with how that relates to our thinking (Your thinking changes & gets bigger with more experience). Amanda Nickerson, from One Extra Degree has a fabulous product on TpT that does just that!

    • Bake a Cake! All the separate ingredients go in together to make a new whole food. I've got some ideas a-cookin' for this one! Make sure you come back to check it out!!

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I'm Teaching Through Turbulence Today! FREEBIE, too!

Teaching Through TurbulenceI am so excited! Today is my very first gig guest blogging!
Today, I'm over at Teaching Through Turbulence.

Heather (the voice behind Teaching Through Turbelence), is a Special Education teacher who focuses on working with kiddos who have Emotional Disabilities & other behavior issues. I was thrilled when she asked me to guest blog for her.

Today, I'm talking about math word problems as a genre and how important it is to explicitly teach the structure of word problems to kiddos. Did you realize most word problems have the same structure? When you unlock that knowledge for your kiddos, you will really give them some power!

Click on over to read more about it (and there's a FREEBIE there for you, too!)

If you do one other thing today, make sure you get over to A Class*y Collaboration to enter the BIG giveaway!! Everyone's a winner in this one, folks! There's a great Freebie Pack for EVERYONE, and one lucky follower is going to win a $50 gift card!!

Gearing Up & You're a WINNER!!

Whew! I spent about 3 hours in my room tonight. We were painting the bulletin boards and doing a bit of construction work. (Who knew you'd need contracting skills to teach?! haha!). We actually primed the boards last night and put on the first coat of paint tonight. I forgot to take a before pic....but here's the after. It's a very lovely, nice crisp light blue. The name of the color is Love Birds hahaha! Don't you just love then names they come up with for paint colors?

Here's where the construction work comes in.....

This is my ninth year teaching. I've been a 1st/2nd Grade looping teacher (love it!), but this year, I'm starting a new adventure! I'm going to be teaching a 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Multi-age class. But there's a twist.
I'm also team teaching with my good friend (who has moved to the classroom next to me). She's also teaching a 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Multi-age class.

So...think 50 kiddos...two teachers. 

We are super excited! We're actually removing one of the wall panels between our rooms. THAT'S where the construction comes in. These wall panels are supposed to be able to fold & slide accordion-style so that you can open the walls between the rooms. But, these walls hadn't been moved in years, and we discovered that years of wax had them stuck tight! We persevered however!
Here's a pic of the wall 'gone'. I took this from the far corner of my room looking across my teamie's room. (Ignore all the other crap important pieces of furniture that will soon be in their organized places!)

Now that we've got that wall thing settled, I can get in there and really set things up! My goal is to get it all done by Monday since I have a full week of training next week, and open house is the week after. Phew!


Never won a giveaway before? Today's your lucky day!!

EVERYONE wins in this giveaway!  Hopefully, you've already heard about A Class*y Collaboration. We're having a FaBUlOuS giveaway right now. Every follower gets a terrific resource pack.

And it gets even better!! ONE person will win a $50 gift card! 
But you can't win if you don't get your info in that rafflecopter! Get over there & get it done!

Determining Importance-- Building Mathematical Comprehension

The ability to determine importance seems to be one of the more difficult skills for my kiddos. They seem to have such a hard time weeding out the non-useful information. So, I found Chapter 7 to be especially interesting. Consider this:

"Unless they learn to recognize important and useful information, they grasp at facts, no matter how irrelevant they may be to the mathematical work at hand." 

Yep. That's what I see in the classroom.

Just as in reading, there are three levels of Determining Importance:
  1. Word Level - Math has a very distinctive and precise vocabulary.  In addition to knowing math-specific vocabulary, kiddos also need to know that text features matter in math, too. Pay attention to those words in bold, italics, or highlighting! If we don't provide explicit instruction about these, kiddos may overlook their importance.
  2. Sentence Level - Kiddos need to know that some sentences carry more weight.....those that contain a lot of those mathematical words are probably going to matter more. They also need to be aware of the typical structure of word problems: Usually, the first sentence introduces the context, the middle holds the information, and there's a question at the end that tells us what we're looking for. But be careful! "Teaching the structure as a shortcut that eliminates the need for thinking, it should be taught as an aid that may assist in distinguishing essential information from irrelevant facts." (p. 201).
  3. Idea Level - These are the BIG ideas of math....the overall meaning of the problem scenario. Of course, kiddos must have word level and sentence level understanding before they can reach this level of comprehension....which is what we're all about....right?
So, how can we help our kiddos develop this oh-so-important skill? Sammons gives some suggestions:
  • Modeling & Think Alouds - Do you do enough of this in math? I'm afraid that I don't spend nearly as much time in math as I do in reading instruction. I'm putting this on my short list of goals/tweaks for this year.
  • Build on the Concrete - It's hard for little ones to understand the abstract, so it needs to be attached to concrete. Here's a fun object lesson that's derived from MacGregor (2007): 
    • Use a spaghetti strainer to illustrate what our brains do when they're determining importance. BUT, rather than explaining the connection, have your kiddos come up with the connection! 
  • Zoom IN/Zoom Out - Think of the zoom feature on your camera... Help your class zoom in on the information in the problem, then zoom out to take a look at the whole of the problem. 
  • Math Stretches: What's Most Important About __________?- You post the topic, kiddos add their ideas about what they think is most important about the topic. For example, you might post, What's Most Important About FRACTIONS? Kiddos might say they're pieces, they're equal, or they're parts of a whole.

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Oh--- and by the way.....you'll definitely want to check back tomorrow for this....


Flip Flop Swap ~ Addition to 20 Pack

I'm so excited to share this with you! How fun is this Flip Flop Product Swap?! Two bloggers swap products to try out....then get to let you know all about it! I was super lucky to get to swap with Paula from Paula's Place. I got to try out her Addition to 20 Pack. Check this out! It is packed full of awesome activities for your kiddos!

 Just a quick overview--- there are activities for
  • Subitizing
  • Rainbow Addition Facts
  • Adding All - Counting
  • Friends of 10 & 20
  • Doubles
Whew! It is packed! And it is all fabulous!!

I especially appreciate that she has subitizing & the rainbow facts in here because those are both skills that I wanted to hit a little harder this year. PeRfEcT!!

Here are some of the cards for subitizing. Paula even has included a couple different ways you can use these:
  • Memory Game
  • Snap
  • Match the Ten Frame to the numeral or number word
  • Flash Cards for a quick oral response

I'm planning on using the rainbow fact cards at a center with my new SmartPal Sleeves so kiddos can write with dry erase markers.

I'm SO glad I got the opportunity to review and share this pack with you! It certainly is a great value with all of the terrific activities that are packed into it! Go check it out! And make sure you stop over & say hi to Paula, too!

Paula reviewed my Beanie Baby Decoding Strategy Pack. Click over to read what she had to say!