Thursday, July 3, 2014

#3 Classroom Management-Class Dojo

So for years I have been using a regular "clip-chart" to help with behavior management in my classroom.  You know the one with student's names on clothes pins and you move their name up and down the chart according to their behaviors throughout the day.  In the past few years, this system has worked for me with my students.  This year was different (I had an extremely "chatty" class!!) and the clip chart did not work like it had before.  I will stop right here and tell you that if you do not have a Smart board/Promethean Board in your classroom this is not as easy to implement (you may want to keep your old clip charts up :-)
It started last summer when I was taking a Professional Learning class that introduced me to a website and app called Class Dojo (there are other websites and apps that are comparable to this one but this was just what was introduced to me).  In August 2013, once school started, I did not take the instructor's advice and jump right into using Class Dojo-I LEFT MY CLIP CHART UP!   So for months and months my poor clip chart was not an effective tool within my classroom-most of the Chatty Cathy's were ending up on the "red" each day due to talking.  However, the same behaviors were occurring day in and day out.  In January, a co-worker of mine brought to our attention that there was a cool website that she had begun trying in her classroom called Class Dojo that was helping with the behavior management in her classroom.
It is as simple as inputting student names, and student's earn point all day according to their behaviors.  The student names and icons are listed on the Smart board at all times to show students where they stand.  
It looks like this:

You would be AMAZED at what a little competition does for students!!  Set a goal for all students to earn 10 points for the week.  Then, have an easy reward that does not require you to buy things for the students.  The students are really good with coming up with ideas-chart the ideas and let them pick which one they earn.

The behaviors that your students are rewarded for are able to be customized too!  Here's the screen for that:


Ok and for the best part--you can download the Class Dojo app to your Iphone and take it with you around the school as your are transitioning in the hallways (my students have a real hard time with transitions!).  It records the behaviors that you are rewarding and punishing by taking away points.  When you return to the classroom, they are listed on the Smart board to see.  

So, I hope you like this site and this wonderful suggestion from my friend Mary!! Have a great day!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

#2 Coding...our class obsession!

Back in February of this year, I attended the Georgia Gifted Convention in Athens, Ga.  I gained so many great ideas from these workshops!  One idea that I picked up was in a class taught called 50 APPs You Must Have-by Brian Housand (love him-check out his website!), and learned about a site called:  Coding is where your students (or you!) learn basic computer programming skills in a fun game-like format.  I thought to myself while in the meeting, "I'm not sure my 2nd grade sweeties will be able to handle this."  So, I took it back to my classroom, and on computer lab day-we tried it.  WOW!  I was astonished at how they took to it.  I had 7-8 year old students who were finishing the whole site activities in a few months. These were not easy to do!  They were very challenging, and I had some resisters and whiners at first because it was a challenge for them. I just said, if you get stuck, "Try it a different way and see if that works!" There is no need to sign your students up, unless you want them to be able to save what they are doing.  My students were good at remembering which puzzle number they were working on from the week before.  Signing them up does allow them to access the website at home too on their account.

Please promise me you will try this with your students.  I do have a classroom full of gifted students, but I'm pretty sure that high achievers (and maybe others) can use this to enhance their learning.  This is a terrific way to promote beginning computer programming with our primary students.

Other coding websites are that I have stumbled across are:

There are many other apps that you can download that work in the same way for your student's devices: Lightbot, Bee Bot, Robofree, Cato's Hike, Hopscotch, Scratch, Daisy the Dinosaur, Cargo-Bot, Tynker,  and My Robot Friend are a few that I have on my Ipad.
Many Android apps are available as well.

Other apps are being added constantly to both platforms,  I have found though that the website is the easiest for my students to navigate. Here's a screen shot of the site--yes, you guessed it, they are trying to write code to move the Angry Birds around the platform.  

Good article on Coding....
How to Raise the Next Zuckerberg

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

#1 Checkmate...Why play chess with 2nd graders?

Over the next few weeks, I am going to try and post some things that we do in our classroom that I have not mentioned that worked for my class last year...
#1--Play Chess
I know you are wondering why I am posting a blog post about chess.  Chess is a game that promotes intellectual growth and has been shown to improve academic performance among students.  It is a logic game that helps children-adults practice critical thinking skills.
I know you are also wondering how in the world can I fit playing a game into our school day?  I teach a Gifted and Talented class of 2nd graders, and I use a teaching method called Curriculum Compacting.  This just means that I pre-test students before I teach a unit (usually math), then plan the unit based upon what they already know--using extension, enrichment, logic, critical thinking, and flexible thinking activities to fill in the extra time that I usually have because of prior knowledge of students.
So, with all this free time, in walks...chess.  This past year I began by introducing the chess pieces one by one--each week we spent practicing another piece--and playing a game with each piece introduced.  I teach 2nd graders, I didn't think they could handle it!!  So, in the middle of introducing pieces, I went to the Georgia's Gifted Convention in March and was told that we should NEVER introduce one piece at a time.  Ok, so I was a novice and didn't quite know what to do.  We all make mistakes, right?  What the experts said was that you should introduce a few pieces a week.  And so, I searched around for a cute 2nd grade appropriate way to introduce these pieces. I found a website called that has a wonderful free curriculum for you to use that tells cute stories with each pieces introduced.  When I returned from the Convention I immediately went back and changed how I was introducing the pieces using the materials from Chess Kids.  THANKS to CHESS KIDS for the help.  Go to the Chess Kids website.  You will have to create an account (which is free), then click on Learn, Articles, and Download Free Curriculum. Videos are also on this site to help with demonstrations, and printable posters for your classroom for each piece.  LOVE IT!!  Chess Kids also has an IPAD app that you can download and use :-))

Chess games are expensive but I found a set at the Dollar Tree for 1 dollar-they are rather cheap but will work for my students.  I am only out 1 dollar if they lose the pieces.  At the Gifted Convention, I went ahead and bought a few of the rubber mats (see below)-they are also on Amazon and large chess pieces, but until I get enough of those we will stick to dollar store mats.  

I wanted students to learn how to play on the actual boards first before using their devices (We are a BYOD school).  So, we played on the boards for a while before allowing them to use their devices.  There are many apps that can be bought or for free that allow students to play chess alone or two-player.  Chess Free, Chess Kid, and Solitaire Chess Free are just a few of the ones that we have downloaded.  Many more are out there. Most devices have a chess game already included on the device.

I will admit that some of my students at the beginning did not enjoy chess (I think it was because they weren't sure how to play).  But by the end of our school year, my students were so excited when it was time to play chess each week.  We did not do this everyday, but we did try and incorporate it into our schedule at least 2-3 times each week!

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

January Learning About Penguins

I know that it is not January, however, I have had this idea since then and just thought I would share...
So January in Georgia was unseasonably cold--and we were hit with not one, but 2 ice storms!  We did have to miss school a few days too.  WOW!

Since, we had the cold weather, I thought it would be fun to learn about an animal that we think of living in colder climates-the penguin.  After searching for neat activities, I ran across this website called Nothing But Penguins:

It was exactly what I was looking for!!  The site was great in allowing students to learn about the types of penguins-17 types to be exact. 

We spent the week learning about penguins, and finished the week by choosing our favorite  penguin and making a mini-book out of notecards about it.

Here are a few samples of what my students made.  

There were guidelines of information that I wanted included on each card.  I also developed a checklist to help easily grade the book, and allowed students to share their learned information with a partner while comparing and contrasting the learned information with their partner's penguin.  We graphed the penguin sizes, and made an actual life size model of a penguin!

All of the activities that we completed can be purchased on my store on TPT or by clicking on the link below...


Monday, February 17, 2014

Do you have Fidgety Kids?

Yes!  We all do, right?  I just went to a Gifted Meeting (all 2nd grade teachers) last week where our wonderful presenter shared some "fidget stick" ideas that can be placed on student's desk (or inside them) to allow them to fidget when needed.  If you teach gifted children, or any other for that matter, you know that children fidget during the day.  These provide a good outlet for students when they just can't sit still any longer (not that they should be still all day).   Now, if you are like me, I like to have some control.  So, they can have them out during certain allowed times only. They each come from Oriental Trading, but you can get look-alikes from anywhere.
1. Metal Mind Teasers
Metal Mind Teasers

Mind Teaser Game Assortment

3. Individual Boggle Games
Letter Games

Puzzle Balls

5. Cube Mind Teasers
Glitter Cube Mind Teasers

7. Brain Maze Puzzles
Brain Maze Puzzles

Let me know if you use these and they work for you!!

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Gifted and Talented Class

Hello!  I have been given the opportunity this year to teach 2nd grade Gifted and Talented students and can't wait to share with you some things that I have been using with my fabulous class of 22 students. I started planning for the new year in the summer for these sweet darlings (This is the first year our school system has implemented gifted and talented classes in elementary school), and some things didn't go as planned :-(.  However, some things have worked for me and I want to share them with others!!  Here are some gifted activities that I have incorporated into our days along with regular Common Core activities:

Monday: Logic Problems from Logic Safari (This is downloadable online as an e-book on Prufrock Press website--BTW, Prufrock Press has wonderful resources for gifted students!!!)

Tuesday: "T is for Think" Activities--I found this jewel on Amazon!

Wednesday: Primarily Creative--great book to use, you can find it on Amazon too.  This book gets creative juices flowing with lessons in eight areas of creativity including: curiosity, fluency, originality, imagination, awareness, flexibility, elaboration, and perseverance.  My students love it! 

Thursday/Friday: Word a Day-2nd grade/3rd grade Versions- (We use this on Thursday and Friday and actually hang these words up in the classroom on the wall, sorted into Noun, Verb, Adjective, Adverb)  This book gives teachers a fun way to bring in vocabulary instruction.  We do 4 words a week, and then take the quiz at the end of the day on Friday.

We are using Curriculum Compacting so that teachers will have time to bring in the Creative and Flexible thinking, Logic, and other learning activities that gifted students need.  This provides us with much free time that is needed within our  classroom to bring in activities such as chess, some coding activities (YES-I am teaching beginning computer programming to 2nd graders, call me crazy!), learning a foreign language, and research skills.

These are just a few of the things that have worked for me so far.  I will continue to post as things come to my mind that we use.  

I can't wait to share more that we do in the upcoming weeks!!     

Friday, November 23, 2012

Learning About Turkeys

What a terrific Thanksgiving with my family!  This time of year really makes me think about all that we have to be thankful for.  We traveled to South Carolina to visit my husband’s family and now we are back home.  As you can see, I am back in “school-mode”.
We began our nonfiction reading and writing unit before the Thanksgiving holidays.  It was a perfect time to spend talking and learning about Turkeys.  Here are a few of the things I used to help teach about turkeys:

(Turkeys-can, have, are)
Free Thinking Map on TPT:
Turkeys: Can, Have, Are- FREEBIE

Wild About Turkeys-Reading and Writing Informational Texts
It does cost $5.50 but is well worth it!  My reluctant readers said, “Can you please get more of these?”
This unit has 3 different levels of turkey instruction.  Since I teach gifted kids as well as struggling learning, it helped me to differentiate among my students.  The kids LOVED going on a scavenger hunt while learning about turkeys.  We put the scavenger hunt in the hallway and let our students answer the questions while reading and learning about turkeys.  This was also a good introduction about to how to write informational writing!

Here are a few books that I used to help teach about turkeys:
All About Turkeys-by Jim Arnowsky

Kindle  Edition (for Smart board)-Turkeys! Learn About Turkeys and Enjoy Colorful Pictures-It is 99 cents but worth the buy.

Cute read-alouds!

Turk and Runt-by Frank Ansley

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving-Dav Pilkey

Other books that I use to teach about Thanksgiving:
Thanksgiving Is-by Gail Gibbons

Please let me know if you have any other cool “turkey” ideas!

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