Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tips for Using Remind in the Classroom

Hi friends! Tonight I'm stopping by to share about one of my favorite ways to keep families in the loop - Remind - and tips for getting the most out of it!  Our students spend 8 hours a day in our classrooms, and even though I'm not a parent, I can't imagine not knowing what's going on. So from Weebly, to Twitter, to newsletters, to YouTube - I want families to know what's going on in the classroom. Remind texting has been the most effective of resources for joining all of these communication methods. 
Remind offers teachers a FREE and safe way to send out information (texts, pictures, documents, links) to families. You don't have phone numbers of those who sign-up for your class list and the subscribers don't have your phone number. Rather, every time you send a message (via phone, iPad, or computer), they receive it! Here are my 3 top-tips for getting the most of your Remind texts!

#1 - Use Bitly when using Remind!
Remind is perfect for directing parents to a new post on a class website or a new photo album of your latest science experiment. We work hard to document and explain these moments for families, but sometimes I wonder - Is anyone actually using this? That's why my #1 tip for using Remind is to include a Bitly link anytime you are sending parents to a website or video. Bitly is a web-link shortener and tracker, meaning that you use less characters in your text messages AND you can track how many people clicked on the link. Say what?!? Yep! You can check your Bitly Dashboard (for free) to see how many people followed your link.

Here is an example of a link I included in a Remind text and on our website about Making 10 to Add (a hard skill for kids and an even harder one for families to understand). Over the course of a week, I saw that the link was clicked on 72 times. Having this information, I knew that my tutorial video was helpful for families and worth making!
#2 - Send Personalized Letters!
When I first set-up my classroom Remind account (very, very simple), Remind gave me the option to print parent invitations. At the beginning of the year, I sent out a batch of letters without any explanations. After 2 weeks or so once registrations stopped coming, I re-printed the letters and sent them with a personal note to each family that had not signed-up yet.

Today I have 35 people on our classroom's Remind account (note - I have 23 students). I want ALL the people who are helping to raise my students on this list. Many of my families have a mom and a dad on the list, a grandparent, or an aunt/uncle. Family members always have the opportunity to unsubscribe, but I've never had that happen. My families love receiving pictures, videos, links that spotlight their child, grandchild, or niece/nephew.

#3: Send a Mix of Media
Remind has gone through some awesome updates in the last year that allow a ton of versatility. Pictures, links, voice recordings, and documents can all be sent via text. On an iPhone you can send a picture or a voice message (i.e. a group of children singing a song or a Whole Brain Teaching oral writing paragraph). On a computer, you can send a picture or a file (i.e. Newsletter), or a link. Make sure to utilize ALL the features Remind offers and give your families a nice mix of media. Plus, don't forget you can schedule all of these messages, so your spelling list can go out every Monday evening around 5:30 PM and your class newsletter can go out every Friday afternoon - teacher's choice! :)

Well, friends, I hope you use Remind to keep families in the loop. It is a phenomenal FREE resource for classrooms, sports teams, and church-groups around the country! If you're not using Remind, you can start a class here for free.

If you are using Remind, what are your tips and tricks? I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

1st Grade Math Center Ideas

Hey friends! Today I'm sharing about a math-transition our classroom has made since Winter Break. Having a 2 week break I was able to really reflect on our learning, what was going really well, and what still needed to be tweaked. By far, reading is our strongest subject and our reading growth has been amazing. While we were growing in math, it was definitely not at our reading rate. So, I started to compare the 2 blocks. For reading, we use a Daily 5 model, so 80% of my instruction is in small groups during guided reading. Rather, in math, 80% of my instruction was whole group with enough time for a math center 3-4 times a week. 
Realizing that a majority of my instruction was not targeted and after reading several books (Number Sense Routines, It Makes Sense!, Number Talks), I knew it was time to transition to Guided Math in which whole-group instruction was traded for small-group instruction. Our math block takes a little longer (around 75 minutes), but it is completely worth it! Our math routine looks like this - Number Talks (5-7 minutes), 3 Rotations of Small Groups/Technology/Centers (17-20 minutes/each), Reflection (5 minutes). 

I'll be honest, it's definitely messy. My teacher table routinely looks like this - piles of unifix cubes, ten frames, and number lines strewn about...but that's okay! We accomplish so much in our 17-20 minutes together, and I am loving teaching targeted skills to my small groups. For my classroom and my group of kids this year, guided-math is the answer! 
So, the question- What are students doing when they're not with the teacher? While I am working with a group of students (6-8 students at a time), my other friends are working with technology or working with a partner at centers. Each day students visit all three rotations - me, technology and a center. I offer students 5 centers a week and students choose which center to visit each day. One center is always math notebook, one center is always Versatiles, and one center is always a Solve the Room; so I am only introducing 2 new centers each week (although we have practiced these activities in small groups at some point, so they're not completely new). 

I store our math centers in large Sterilite containers with all the materials students might need. Our number lines are hung in the front of the room for students to grab, and our manipulatives are to the left of the math tubs for easy access. Students know they can grab whatever math tool they need to do their work.
As I do with reading, students have a math color (green, yellow, or blue). When they visit the individual centers/pick a tub, they know to grab their colored folder. Each bin contains the same activity, just a different set of numbers or a different pack of dice. (Green = approaching grade-level, yellow = on-grade level, blue = above-grade level)
Since I picked up this set of dice on Amazon for $20, differentiating has been especially easy. Each colored set of dice came with 6-7 dices with 3 sides to 20 sides. 
So, what's in those bins?! Great question. Here are pictures of some of the activities we're using or have used in the last 4-5 weeks. As a number-sense review, we've been rebuilding the 120s chart. I copy charts on color card stock and then, cut them into pieces. I color-coded the puzzles ROY-G-BIV with red being the most difficult and purple being the simplest (the more pieces/the more intricate the cut the more difficult). My kids are so 'gamey' that they love the idea of leveling up!
Using ten-frame and twenty-frame cards from our school's Making Math Magic program (THE most fabulous number-sense program), we are also enjoying Making 10/15/20 Go Fish with our math center partners.
Solve-the-Room is one of our consistent centers each week. From subtraction to addition to greater than/less than, to missing addends, it is the perfect time to practice using a number line. Students grab a recording sheet, a clipboard, a number line, and a pencil. I love pulling from Crazy for 1st Grade and Thank God It's First for many of our solve-the-room cards.
We also use our set of foam dominoes for sorts. They're perfect for adding and sorting types of strategies we might use to solve the addition sentences. For my above-grade level friends, they will often use double dominos and then, create word problems to accompany the sorts.
Use our DI dice, one of my favorite centers is Add my 3 Numbers! Students roll 3 dice (the number of sides are based on their color group). Their first step it NOT to go to a number line; rather choose 2 'easy' numbers to add. Once they've turned the 3 addends into 2 addends, they may go to their favorite math tool. It's really neat to see what relationships the students see (counting on, doubles, doubles plus one, etc.) and it is great fluency practice. We use this recording sheet to save our answers.
Another of our always-centers is Versatiles. Versatiles are an awesome self-checking resource for math and reading. For centers, I pull 3 pages on the same skill at different levels. On the bottom of each page there is a visual answer key. When students finish placing the numbers, they file the tiles to 'see' if they are right.
Starting 2 weeks ago, we've also started practicing with nonstandard measurement! It isn't a skill we've explicitly taught, but it is a skill where students can get perfect, hands-on practice within centers. I use a recording sheet from my Math Centers pack to guide what objects students measure, and the last 2 objects are their choice!
Well friends, this is what our center choices look like when friends aren't with me. I'll be back in the next couple of weeks to talk about our technology choices, as well as, what my guided-math teacher-table looks like! In the mean time, what questions do you have? I'd love ideas for future blog posts. :)

I've complied many of our favorite centers, visual directions, and recording sheets into a 1st Grade Math Centers pack. If you're looking to add to your math-center repertoire and just-starting to dabble in centers, this pack is for you. You can snag it here or by clicking below!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

100th Day in 1st Grade

Happy 100th Day Friends! It's true, I survived my first 1st grade 100th day flying solo. It was a blast. SO loud, but the perfect kind of noise. ;) Before my head hits my pillow I wanted to share what our day looked like. 
In the morning, we used Cara Carroll's (The First Grade Parade) idea for a centers checklist. With 8 100s-themed centers, students worked in groups of 3 to visit each of the centers by lunch. I did not assign students to visit centers in a particular order and they only spent enough time at the center to complete it (between 12 and 18 minutes). As students completed each center, they hole-punched the number beside it.
We brought back the 120s puzzles from the beginning of the year. For this center, I did cut puzzles that were a bit more challenging. I color-coded the puzzles ROY-G-BIV with red being the most difficult and purple being the simplest (the more pieces/the more intricate the cut the more difficult). My kids are so 'gamey' that they love the idea of leveling up! 
In our Work-on-Writing center, we used age-progression photos (I made these using Old Fart Booth and then printed them at Walgreens) to write about our lives when we're 100. For my students who struggle generating ideas, I did provide the writing template below as a starting place!
Next, a new-to-us center, my friends LOVED Cara's idea for the Hershey Kiss 100's chart. I number garage-sale stickers 1-100 and placed them on the bottom of Hershey kisses. Students drew a candy from a plastic container and put it in its place on the 100's chart. Wow, oh wow!!! This was *very* challenging. Students had to figure out where the number fit even if the numbers around it were missing. 
 For differentiation, I did have 3 different charts I used. One chart had 12 numbers already written on the chart (at least one in each row/column), one chart had 6 numbers, and then, the 3rd chart had 2 numbers (45 and 17) written on the chart. I'll definitely introduce this game into our normal math-center routine. It required some awesome math talk between my friends!
In our next center, students used 100 foam blocks to create patterns and shapes. Then, students decomposed the larger shapes recording the number and type of smaller shapes each picture required!
 We also took the "Write 100 Words" challenge. Students grabbed a clipboard, pencil, and recording sheet traveling the room searching for words. From content-vocabulary to word-wall words, it was interesting to see where students gravitated.
One of our goals for the day was to read 100 books as a class. That meant each student (myself included) needed to read 4 books from our display shelf, classroom library, or individual book bin.
With all of the excitement of special centers, we did not reach our goal today, making to ~50 books. Tomorrow, we are recommitting to reading 100 books and will finish our list! As students read a book, they wrote it below. (Note - 2 chapters in a chapter book counted as 1 picture book.)
 At the end of the day, each of the four 1st grade homerooms rotated among the classrooms completing a different activity. With one teacher, students read poems and sang a song. In one classroom, they completed 100 exercises. In the 3rd classroom, students, made necklaces. In my room, students turned die-cut '100's into art! (Thank goodness for the parent volunteer that cut 270 die-cut numbers.) It was the perfect time to be creative and use everyday things in an unusual way. Some of the final products were fabulous!

 This fellow was one of my favorites - a boy licking a lollipop!

Lastly, in transition times and in-between activities, we took time as a class to reflect on the things we have learned this school year. It's really amazing to consider how much we've practiced in just 100 days. Each time we met, we added topics and memories to our '100' chart! It was a sweet way to reflect on our 1st grade year. :)
Well friends, we did it! It was a loud, fun-filled day filled with great reminders of how far we've come. I am so happy to be in 1st, and I was so proud of my friends today.

When is your 100th day? What fun things do you have planned? I'd love to hear your ideas for activities and centers I can include next year. Please share!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Penguins and Polar Bears in 1st Grade

Happy day, friends! I just wanted to quickly stop by and share an amazing way we've started doing research this week, as well as some ideas for learning about penguins, polar bears, arctic, tundra, and all things cold.
Please note, I do understand that penguins and polar bears reside on different continents...as do my kids. We've looked at the World Map, we've talked about the differences. I know. But with the 100th Day next week, then, MLK the following week - we've run out of 'winter weeks' to learn with. Therefore, penguin and polar bear week it is! :)

We started our week with a quick pre-assessment. Split into 5 groups, students visited each of the questions (set on a table) and wrote/illustrated their ideas about the true/false phrases below. At the end of the week, we revisited the assessment and corrected our thinking!
This video from BrainPop was a great way to start talking about what the Arctic was and what animals live there. We then looked at a map of the world comparing the Arctic (polar bears) with Antarctica (penguins).
Throughout the week, we read many awesome books together during snack, as well as, stole small moments to read with friends (for morning work, at the very end of the day, and as a choice during Read to Self/Partner). We LOVED the book I Wonder Why Penguins Can't Fly. It was perfect for answer our most common Arctic questions!
From a funded Donors Choose project, our 1st grade team receives a set of 26 magazines each week and we split them between our 4 classes so we all have a small-group set! As a guided reading warm-up, we used Scholastic News' magazines (penguins one morning and polar bears the next) to talk about nonfiction text features. Did I mention these magazines have THE best pictures???
During theme one afternoon, we took time to compare ourselves to an emperor penguin. We explored a ruler and yard stick (not Common Core, but still something very real-world). After comparing our size, we make Venn Diagrams comparing/contrasting penguins with humans. We looked at factors such as size, diet, habitat, our young, how we move, etc!
Throughout the week, we were amazed at just how cold the North and South Poles can get. Living in Kentucky, it's incredibly difficult to imagine what -76 degrees feels likes, and even more difficult to imagine living there. Over and over, I heard - how can animals live in such cold places?? Therefore, a blubber experiment was in order! To make the experiment manageable, a parent volunteer joined our class, so we could split into 2 groups. Thank goodness for volunteers!
We started the experiment by placing our hand in a bowl of ice water for 5 seconds (long enough for students to feel cold but not long enough to hear complaining). We then went back to our desks and wrote about about the first phase using a recording log from my Tundra Resource.
Then, we came back to the bowl of Arctic Waters trying on the blubber glove. It was SO precious to see my friends reactions when they could feel nothing! It was definitely magic. After all of our friends had a chance to try, we had a great class conversation - How do polar bears and penguins stay warm? We decided that the blubber protects these animals from the cold water, just like it protected our hands. For the polar bear and penguin, they may not even know how cold the water actually is! :)
Now, this experiment answered just one of our questions about all things cold and we had MANY! So, we made our 1st venture into research. This is a Common Core skill for 1st graders, but one that it really hard to put into practice....I mean our kids are 7. Still, it needed to happen, so this week I channeled my kids' curiosity. Knowing that my friends were not ready for prime-time research, we used QR Code research mats. Using 6 websites and videos I pre-read and pre-watched, I linked them on the below mat. Then, using iPads with a partner, students explored the resources I included and took notes about their learning.
Using iPads, students scanned the QR Codes (in any order) using i-Nigma (our preferred QR code scanner). 
Our research was the perfect time to look at Live Cameras, videos of the animals in their natural habitats. Typically, I would do these things whole-group on the SMART Board, but this was a great time to release students and get some 'research' in. :) (Note - any YouTube videos I included, I did use a SafeShare link to make sure they were ad-free and safe!)
National Geographic Kids is a great website for student research. They include lots of pictures integrated with a manageable amount of information. Plus, at the bottom of each animal's webpage, they've included videos of the animals in action (living in groups, what they eat, playing with one another, etc.)
This video from the BBC is so sad, but provides a very non-political snapshot of polar bears' warming habitats. Plus, the video of the polar bear swimming is stunning.
As students spent time exploring the resources, they took notes on this recording log. I did not focus their research (this time), and loved seeing what they thought was important/interesting. It was also a great lesson in restating and not copying from a website/video.
You can grab these resources from Drop Box by clicking photo below. Honestly, it was a SMASHING success...smoother than I could have ever imagined - for real! I really feel like QR Code Mats are the way to go. It gives students the independence of research and exploration, but in a very safe and manageable way. We'll definitely make this a monthly habit for the remaining year!
Well, friends, it was definitely an awesome week. You can snag these resources for your own classroom here on Teachers Pay Teachers in my Exploring the Tundra resource.

The highlight was the research. My kids were so excited to explore and learn, and using the QR Code mats made it so simple. Have you used QR Code Mats before? What other tips do you have for research in the primary grades? I'd love to hear your ideas!