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Classroom Management

You Can Use This Cute Bulletin Board Idea to Recognize Achieving Students

Every year we recognize students who scored proficient or above on our state test.  We think of a theme and build a wall around it.  Our principal usually is the one who decides on a phrase for the year.  This year she coined the phrase “Ignite and Inspire (our school’s name) is on Fire”.  I really can’t take credit for all the decoration because several people were involved in the whole project.

If you have been following my blog for long you will remember our Olympic themed bulletin board from last year…well we put all that yellow, orange, and red cellophane to good use again for this year!  Oh, and the Christmas lights that we made the fire out of…yep, we used them again too, but in the rocket flame this time…see….

Then to recognize all of our kids, we took their pictures and placed them on little fireballs.

We got the glitter scrapbook paper at Hobby Lobby and our whole staff helped cut most of them.  One of our teachers freehanded the stencil for the fireball. (how talented!)

Here is an up close view of a fireball…this one turned out lopsided.  I’m not sure why I chose to take a close up of it????

Finally the hallway view…

Have You Tried This Simple Idea to Ensure Serious Test Takers?

So often I see students blow off a test, rush through it, make careless errors, and become too lazy to show their work.  Because of this, I have to share what this 5th grade teacher did whenever her students did horribly on a test.  Many of the grades were failing.  Now regardless of whether the grades were failing or not, she will have them do this–student test reflections.  I love how she is holding the students accountable for their work by reflecting their test performance.  Just take a look below at their writing prompt.  (I am sharing this with her permission.)

Maximize Your Space with this Pencil Holder Creation

I saw this idea on Pinterest last year and am just now getting around to using it.  The original post showed a wine rack that held the wine at an angle with plastic cups holding different writing utensils.  I loved this idea because it gives more desktop space to work.  I have always felt that I had a dozen pencil cups sitting on my small group table, which didn’t permit much room to spread out for one of the people sitting there.  Since the wine rack stores pencils in a vertical direction, it allows for me to have more desktop space–just like tall buildings in big cities!  I’m taking a hint from China and building upward!

I found the wine rack at a junk store for $4.50 and the plastic cups at the Dollar Tree–2 for a $1.  I’m still going to be looking for a wine rack that will hold the cups at an angle, but for $4.50, I couldn’t pass this up!

In case you’re looking for a picture of my door that I posted about earlier…it is coming.  I still have to put some finishing touches on it before I take a picture.

I Just Saw the Most Brilliant Use of a Flip Cam!

When I stepped into a classroom yesterday I was so intrigued that I couldn’t leave.  Before I spill the beans on what I saw, I must say this.  There has been a lot of emphasis at my school about having students share their work for a lesson closing.  This idea could also spill over into the common core mathematical practices in which students must “construct viable arguments and construct the reasoning of others”.  Now I understand that when students share their work in front of the class that this does promote other students’ higher levels of thinking as other students decide whether they agree or disagree.  On the other hand at this late point in the school year the downfall of student sharing is that even with a doc camera and students’ micro phoned voices other students attention spans are likened to a fly hovering over a summer picnic buffet.

Now, onto what I saw.  Ms. T was showing students a flip cam video of herself talking to a student named ‘Briana’, who was solving a double digit addition problem with base ten blocks which she had taped during the students’ work time.  She showed the video to students after their work time and paused it after the questions she asked Briana in the video.  Then Ms. T would ask the class what the answer was to the question in the video.  The class would respond.  Then Ms. T would un-pause the video to allow the class to see if Briana answered, counted, or exchanged blocks correctly.  I absolutely loved this–so much more engaging than regular sharing!

Thanks to the literacy people who ordered these flip cams with literacy money! 🙂  They were originally bought for students to do book talks.  Using them for math sharing–so much better in my unbiased opinion ;).

Free Test Taking Rubric or Checklist

I showed the fifth graders that I have been teaching for the past few weeks this page before they tested.  I let them know that I was going to be looking for these actions or test taking strategies while they tested.  Our principal gave the students extra recess time at the end of the day if they worked hard on the test all morning long.  I wanted a way to measure “working hard on the test”,  so I used this checklist/rubric.  If students did 4 of the 6 actions or testing strategies  listed on the sheet, then they were able to have extra recess.  Across the top of the page the categories read:

  • Underlined Key Words
  • Brain Dumped— Writing important information down on the math reference sheet that they may forget
  • Eliminated Wrong Answers (on multiple choice)
  • Used P.E.C.E (an acronym that stands for using a picture, equation, complete sentence, and elaboration to solve an open response)
  • Persevered When Problem Solving
  • Checked Work or Used the Entire Time to Work

If you would like to use this form, you can download it for free here.  I am posting it in Word format so that you can open it and change the wording to suit your needs.


Testing Rubric Checklist

7 Ways to Improve Standardized Testing and Practice

1.  Teach students to “Brain Dump”.  As soon as students are allowed to begin their test, tell them to write everything down that they worked hard to remember, but are afraid that they might forget during the course of the test.  Our state tests give students a math reference sheet, card stock rulers and pattern blocks.  Students could write other formulas down on their reference sheet, write the name of the pattern blocks on the pattern blocks, and write the fractional measurements on their rulers.  If your state doesn’t provide students with these materials, then they may provide them scratch paper, or they may be allowed to write in the test booklet itself.  Students could “brain dump” in these areas.

2.  Have a Mathlete’s Challenge.   To give students a break from the mundane multiple choice test prep and practice, allow them to work in pairs to discuss which answers are correct.  Give the top three student pairs a prize for answering the most questions correctly.  The competition helps keep the students focused on the task.  Students get the benefit of discussing with their partners which answer is correct.  Allow students to move to a quiet corner of the room to work in their pairs.  Remind them that because this is a competition, they need to work quietly so that no one steals their answers.

3.  Weeks before the test make  vocabulary or spelling lists based on most often used language in test questions.  Your list might include words such as represent, approximately, elaborate, explain, outline, trace,  support etc.

4.  Time students like they will be timed when taking their real state tests.  Allow students to see the timer as the minutes pass by to help them pace themselves.

5.  Practice bubbles.  Make sure students are bubbling in the whole bubble.  Practice bubbling in bubbles darkly.

6.  Practice using the calculator.  If students are allowed to use calculators, make sure they know that they are smarter than the calculator and that the calculator is only a tool.  For example, many students may have difficulty inputting money in the calculator.  Instead of typing 0.50 for 50 cents, students type 50 and then add 1.50 for a dollar and fifty cents.  Then they get the wrong answer.  Students also build a misconception around the calculator showing 0.5 and thinking that the calculator is showing them that they have 5 cents and not 50 cents.

Another common misconception students have is when they are dividing numbers.  Students tend to misread the number behind the decimal as the remainder.  On a recent test, I noticed that many students saw 29 and divided it by 5 only to read 5.8 on their calculator screen.  Many of the students wrote that the answer was 5 with 8 leftover (as a remainder) in the word problem.

7.  Eat a peppermint candy.  Peppermint oil is excellent for mental fatigue and depression, refreshing the spirit and stimulating mental agility and improving concentration. It helps for apathy, shock, headache, migraine, nervous stress according to this website.  We always give students a few peppermints during testing to give them an extra boost.

Got Tattletales? Try This…

I learned this tip from a fellow teacher.  Pick the current heart throb or popular personality for your grade level.  For example, if all of the kids have Bieber fever, then simply find an 8 x 10 or larger picture of Justin Beiber.  Post Justin in an out of the way corner of your classroom.  When students start pointing or blaming another student with their tattle, then simply say, “Go tell Justin.”  More mature students will find this absurd while the usual tattlers will eventually feel absurd as well since their peers will think they look silly talking to a picture.  For young children stuffed animals work as well.

Never Underestimate the Power of Anchor Charts

If you have been teaching any time at all, you have multiple Christmas ornaments and other assorted Christmas trinkets from your precious little ones, who are so proud to bring you a wrinkly, wrapped Christmas package.  One particular year a student brought me the yellow, glass ball pictured above which beckons the memories of one particular student–Christopher.  His sandy, blond hair nearly dangled into his brown eyes.  Christopher was intelligent, however he was one of those students when called upon who says, “oh, huh?”.  I constantly had to redirect his attention to class discussions and to complete his work.  During class one April day after testing I inquired of the class how many feet were in a mile.  I must have called on at least 10 students letting them at least have a guess, but none of them coming anywhere close.  When I called on Christopher, he said, “5,280”.

I asked, “Wow, Chris, how did you know that?”

He explained, “That chart you used to have there, ”  pointing  underneath the white board.

The chart Chris was speaking of was one that had been taken down because of testing.  I had not put the chart back up, and the writing was very small for him to see from where he was sitting.

I tell this story over and over to teachers to let them know the power of anchor charts on their walls.  Students must look somewhere when they are bored and tired of listening to the drone of the teacher’s voice, so they might as well absorb learning from their walled environment.  Christopher’s ornament reminds me of this powerful lesson he taught me every time I pull it from the wrinkled tissue it’s wrapped in.

How Can You Get Your Classroom Cleaned Up Fast?

Does this sound familiar?  You are surprised when you look up to see the clock shows that you only have 9 minutes to pass out end of the day papers, close your lesson, to have children to clean their desks, to have children get their backpacks, and line up in an orderly fashion.  You look at the floor and think  the custodian will groan will he comes to your room.  You think you don’t have any time to have the children clean the classroom floor, but that’s because you have never played “I Spy” the trash version!  I learned this antic from a P.E. teacher.

The teacher says, “The person who gets the piece of trash I spy gets_______ (you fill in the blank–a treat or prize?).  You have 30 (etc.) seconds.  Go!”

Students then frantically look for pieces of trash and try to figure out what piece of trash you see.  Don’t stop the game until the classroom floor looks as clean as you desire.  Students will ask you if they found the piece of trash you spied, but don’t stop the game until you get the floor clean.  Sometimes I tell students that I spied another piece of trash if I want to spur on more meticulous trash gathering.  If you have a group of children that aren’t well managed this game can become rambunctious, but I have found that if you have high expectations and procedures with the rest of your day students will stay focused on trash finding.  This game is fun for both the students and the teacher.

Quick, Cheap, and Easy Share Chair

One of the teachers at my school made this share chair.  I thought it was clever and cute.  I had never thought of using a plastic lawn chair for a “Share Chair”.  She decorated it with stickers and the kids love it.  She uses it for not only literacy, but other subjects as well such as the closing of her math lesson.  I asked her permission to share it on my blog since I thought her “Share Chair” idea was such a great idea!


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