Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Struggle is Real!!!

     For the past 5 weeks I have been in a brutal war.  The majority of the time I felt like multiplication was winning the battle.  Just this week I realized that I was going to be victorious in this fight.  In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that during this war I doubted my abilities as a teacher on more than one occasion.  Many a day I went home ready to pull my hair out.  If you are having the same troubles as me I know you are dying to know how I got (most of) my kids to successfully multiply multi-digit numbers.  The answer is: a plethora of ways.

     The first thing I tried with my kiddos was popsicle sticks. When working with my small group students told me that having so many numbers was confusing.  I showed students how to use a popsicle stick to cover the bottom number in the tens place while they multiplied the number in the ones column.  Next, students used the stick to cover the bottom number, and answer in the ones column while they multiplied by the tens column.  This also helped them line up the answer from the tens column since the popsicle stick served as a place holder.  Luckily, about 1/3 of my class had success with this method.

For the rest of my class I had to try another method.  We moved on from popsicle sticks to color coded multiplication.  I found this idea on pinterest and a few of my kids really seemed to understand better when they used the colored pencils.  Rather than try to explain it and confuse you, here is a self explanatory picture.

Also included in the picture(on the right) is the expanded form method I used.  I had students break the problem down into expanded form and multiply from there.  This method helped those who still hadn't learned all their facts, but were good at multiplying by 10s.  For others they started with this method, and once they fully grasped the process they were able to move on to the "old fashioned" way.
This week we have moved on to division (shoot me now!!!), and all the success I felt with the multiplication is gone.  I already have a few tricks up my sleeve to help students find "their way" that makes the most sense to them.  Check back next month to see how my students do with the division.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Looking for a way to practice boring grammar skills? Tired of boring worksheets that your students dread?  Then you have to try Roll and Rewrite Grammar Cubes. I made these a couple months ago and they have been a permanent staple of my literacy/writing centers.  The full product has over 21 different cubes that you can put together. Once you build them you can use the cubes all year long.  I mix up the cubes to keep them fun, and I add in new ones as I introduce new skills.  Student roll the cubes and then they rewrite the sentence that they roll on their answer sheets. Grammar Cubes are a fun twist to the boring test "drill and kill."
Whole Group Instruction/Independent Practice:
They can also be used as a way to master a new skill. After teaching or reviewing a concept, I will give these to my students to see if they understand how to apply the new skill. Pass out dice and have students assemble and then roll to practice their newly learned skill. I do this and have them practice with a partner.  If you have the kiddos assemble ,then you can use the dice they put together later centers.  Great time saver!!

Download a freebie of this product here:


Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Teaching students to compare and order decimals can be a very challenging task, but over the past few years I have found a few activities that help to reinforce the initial instruction of these skills.  I often begin my instruction by introducing my students to our new friend “Al E Gator” which is just an alligator head cut out of paper.   I always tell the student to imagine that the numbers they are comparing are pieces of alligator food and point out that Al E Gator doesn’t have a stomach, so when he eats, he never gets full.  Because he is never full, his mouth will always open to the bigger number.  I then teach them my basic rules for how to work out a comparing decimals question.  These rules are:

1.       Stack your numbers while lining up the decimals

2.       Count the number of place value positions to the left and right of the decimal point

3.       Add zeros to each side of the decimal point (if needed) so that there are the same amount of digits to the right and left of the decimal point
Check out a FREEBIE notes page that you can give your students:
Comparing and Ordering Decimals-Student Note Page (FREEBIE)

Once my students understand these basic rules, I provide two groups of students with large numbers and a decimal point.  I then tell them the number I want them to create and I have them arrange themselves to form the numbers.  Once both groups form their numbers, I have them “Stack” themselves to work out the problem.  To do this, I have one group of students stand and hold their cards under their chins.  Then I have the other group kneel in front of the first group while holding their cards under their chins.  Once the students “Stack” themselves correctly, I provide other students in the classroom with “zero” cards and have them go to the front of the room and place these cards where they need to be so that there are the same number of digits before and after the decimal.  The kids enjoy moving around the room and love this activity!


Comparing Decimals Math Center - Decimal War...Greater Tha
This activity will provide the students in your classroom the opportunity to work with a partner to review the concept of comparing decimals.  The game is played with a stack of “Decimal” cards, which are divided equally among the two students.  Each student flips one of their cards over and both students write the numbers on their work-mat.  The students follow the basic rules I have set forth for them to compare the numbers and then write the appropriate sign between the two numbers on their work-mat.  Whoever has the largest number collects the cards and play is repeated.  The student with the most cards at the end of the game wins.
I Have, Who Has Cards...Decimals Between Whole Numbers
Another way I reinforce the concept of decimals is with a whole class active listening game. The interaction in this activity provides a motivating and entertaining way for students to reinforce their knowledge of decimals as part of a whole number. The game starts when a student reads the first card. The student who has the card with the answer reads his or her card. The game continues in this manner until the last card is read. Students love this game. The first time around is always a little slow, but then I love to let them play two or three times and try to beat their time.Can also be played during center time with a smaller group of students. Also, it help improve the listening skills of your students, which is always a bonus


Ordering Decimals Math Project or Center Activity
After I have taught the concept of comparing, I expand upon it by teaching my students how to place decimals in order from greatest to least and least to greatest.  If the students have a good grasp of comparing decimals, then this concept can be taught fairly quickly.  I spend a few minutes introducing the concept and then go directly into having the students place 4-5 decimals in order following the same basic rules that I set forth for comparing decimals.  This can be done in many ways, but I choose to place my students into groups of 3-4 students and provide them with a set of cards to place in a certain order.  They are instructed to follow the rules for comparing and work together to complete the set.  By placing the students in groups I am providing the students the opportunity to learn from their peers while freeing myself up to walk around and work with struggling groups.  After the students complete several packs of cards together, I then provide them with an Ordering Decimals Packet to complete individually. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

5 Awesome Tips for Getting Kids Hooked on Books

This is an awesome  Guest Blog Post from Carmen.  Feel free to check out her blog over at 
1. THE POWER OF EXAMPLE— Let them see you reading. A lot. And enjoying it!
2. BOOK HOOKS— Read the first page or two of a new book, and then put it into the classroom library.  Kids who were blasé became hooked on the books.
Our classroom's reading jar
3. READING JAR—  In my reading corner I have a jar to record how many books we have read collectively. Every time a student reads a book from cover to cover, they can put a stone in the jar. I love hearing the clink, clink!
Our reading goal
4. MAKE A GOAL—  As a class, set a goal for how many books you want to read throughout the school year (the reading jar helps me keep track of this). Display your progress with pride.
5. READ—  Read aloud, every day, no excuses. Our schedules are tight, but defend your read aloud time! It is powerful.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Parent conferences here we go!

Although it is a hectic schedule I do like having the opportunity to talk to my students' parents during conferences. Knowing what is going on at home and connecting it to school is very important. I try to show the parents different ways on how they can help their child at home.  I begin my conference with a form that student fills one week prior to the conference, where the student evaluates their habits at school.  I absolutely love how honest my kindergartners are, and I also get to see which ones are too being hard on themselves. I usually have one or two students that have no behavior issues and they still say they need more work on one of the areas.  Click here to download this FREE resource:

I hope you can use this with your students!  Have a great week,

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Teaching and Assessing with Task Cards

      I have found a great new way to teach and assess my students, task cards! I like task cards because they are fun, easy and informative. One way I like to use task cards is in centers. I typically place the cards in my centers right after we have finished a unit. For example, when we finished our place value unit I put the place value cards in my centers. Once we finish our multiplication unit I will put the multiplication cards in the centers and move the place value cards to my early finishers bucket.

      For my early finishers I have a section on my board called "I'm Done! Now What?" Students may choose any of the items in that section to do if they finish early. Some of their choices are: read a book, write a story, practice spelling words, and task cards. Once I have used a set of cards in centers for a while and students have been assessed on them I place them near my board for students to use when they have finished their assignment early.

      Occasionally I like to use the task cards as an assessment. I usually use them for formative assessments, but occasionally they are used for summative assessments. I also use the cards from previous units to work with my small groups. They are a great resource for re-teaching a skill that students may have missed.

      If you have not used task cards before, or even if you have but you are looking for something new, I hope that you will try out my new Fall themed math and literacy cards and tell me what you think. You can get this set for free here: 

Fall Themed Task Card Bundle

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Our Past Month in PHOTOS!

We have been working non-stop in out little turquoise room. We have had visits from Zero the Hero, pirates, Johnny Appleseed and an observer or two. Yes, I had my first formal observation of the year! One down just three more to go! How many formal observations/evaluations do you have in a year?

As an Apprentice Teacher, I have four every year. Woo! Talk about stressful. I was so proud of my little firstie friends though. They were amazingly behaved and had their higher order thinking caps on to boot! Thank goodness! Ok back to this past month......

This is the beginning of my favorite time of the (teaching) year.....all the fun, holidays and "extras". It just makes teaching and learning that much more fun!

The classroom got a mini makeover with some cheap (like Dollar store cheap) decor. A few leaves here, a pumpkin or two there and.....Presto! It's Fall! 

I really have no clue why they have that yellow tint to them. Sorry, I promise I was not playing with the filters. 

We had a ton of fun this past month and it all began with a mini unit on worms.....

There was a divide in the classroom. Those that had obviously been fishing with a worm and those that probably were not allowed to play in the dirt. I had kiddos screaming and running for their lives. The "worm friendly" kiddos and I were cry laughing. You know when you laugh so hard you are crying? Yep, we could not stop laughing. I had kids seriously wigging out over these little guys. I have to admit, I was a bit creeped out at first but we ended up having so much fun and learning a TON!

We used this wonderful unit by Kristen Smith.....
We had a pirate dress up day next for National Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19, 2014. We used various pirate packs and Pinterest finds and had a blast....Here is peek at our Pirate week....

We had four graffiti table change-ups but I only was able to capture two on film. We played around with nouns in NOUN TOWN and took a closer look at Poetry....

We ended the month with two fantastic weeks of APPLES!!!!!

Zero the Hero stopped by with some Apple Jack fun to kick-off the week!

We made apple pies from the applesauce. See the picture below....I apparently uploaded the pictures in backwards. A normal person with normal internet would just upload again or rearrange....but my internet is acting super crazy and I just figure y'all understand. Right?
 We made homemade classroomade applesauce. It made our room smell so yummy. Needless to say, we made a few new friends. :)
 We taste tested red, yellow and green apples. The weirdest thing happened...every year red wins. Yellow won! It was like the twilight zone for a second. 
That's it friends! 
I hope you enjoyed our classroom photo montage!!!! I can't wait for October and all the fun things that go with this month....pumpkin, bats, spiders.....the list goes on and on. What will October look like in your classroom?

Friday, October 3, 2014

$uper $aturday $ale!

Hi friends!

This is Laura from Where the Magic Happens I hope you are enjoying the fall weather and sipping on a lot of pumpkin lattes!

I am joining my sweet friends from The Learning Highway to announce the $uper $aturday $ale for this month!! All our featured items are 50% off for today ONLY!!

Until next month!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Word Study that Works...

As a fifth grade ELA and social studies teacher, I am always looking for ways to making word study or vocabulary instruction more meaningful to my students. Over the past couple of years, I have been trying different strategies and ideas with a lot of trial and error. One of the most recent activities that I’ve tried is a spin off from “10 Important Words”.  This activity can be used with any grade level or subject matter. I call it “Sticky Words.”

Sticky Words:
1) Using any text, pass out ten sticky notes to each student.
2) While the students read or you read aloud, have them underline and write 5 to 10 unfamiliar words on a post-it note
3) I ask students to share their words and if anyone else in the room has the same unfamiliar word we put them on the board in a column.
4) I repeat this step until all of the sticky notes are on the board.
5) As a class, we analyze the graph on the board and the most frequent words become the assigned vocabulary words. The other words can still be studied in small groups. (This is a wonderful opportunity for differentiation.)


Vocabulary Word of the Day:

Every day (or every couple of days), I introduce a new vocabulary word. It can be any word from a list that is relevant to your grade level or other words you think your kids need to know. We spend a couple minutes talking about the meaning and giving examples and non-examples.  I then have the kids record the word in their vocabulary journals.  I keep these words posted on notecards along the top of the whiteboard. You could put them anywhere the kiddos can see them on a daily basis.

My kids always love this activity because I encourage them to try their new word at home, in class, and in their writing. I tell them they can’t just make up reasons to use their word, but they need to use it naturally in conversation.  I reward the students that are able to do this with tickets from our classroom reward system. This has been one of the most successful activities I have done in my classroom with word study. This activity seems to appeal to even the most unmotivated learner. I have seen challenging vocabulary words pop up months later in student writing because they are motivated to use their new vocabulary.
I don’t assess words of the day at all except once every nine weeks. I give them a VOCABULARY THINK-TAC-TOE activity to complete using their words.  This is a choice menu that allows them to demonstrate their knowledge of the words with three different activities. One child might do charades for their words, and another child might make riddles. It is a fun and engaging way to hold all students accountable for their words.

Vocabulary Journals:

When my kiddos complete vocabulary journals for me, I always have them write sentences using their words. Over the years, I have become frustrated with the sentences that students write for me. My students usually write sentences that are limited and do not have context clues.  This year I was determined to get better 'showing' sentences from my students.  I started the year of giving my kiddos a stretch your sentences printable to keep in their notebooks.  Their sentences seem to be much better when they know they have to answer the questions; who, what, where, & when.  Download this printable for free.
I construct my vocabulary journals using a cover sheet that my students decorate and a copy of the stretch your sentence sheet. I then include many copies of the free organizers below.  You can also use a simple composition book and have them glue in the organizers.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Curriculum for $15 or less Sept. 21-28


$15 Frenzy is BACK at Educents!

From Monday, September 21 - Sunday, September 28, 2014, Educents is bringing back the ever-popular $15 Frenzy! Here's your chance to get 15 different curriculum bundles for less than $15 each! Some incredibly talented teachers have come together to bring you Science, Reading, Language Arts, Interactive Notebooks, Planners, Math Centers, Social Studies Units, Reading Comprehension Units, Clip-art & more! You're sure to find something during this amazing sale!

Here's just a sample of the awesome curriculum and activity packs that are on the site--
  our very own Totally Sweet Math Centers by Tabitha has a bundle in this deal that you're sure to love!