Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Math Treats: Blog Hop

I am so excited to partner up with Doc Running from Everything Education and other wonderful math teachers to share some Math Treats.  From the looks of it; I may be one of the only elementary level teachers that is participating in this blog hop.  Although this may be true, my experience as a sixth grade math teacher knows that a few of my "treats" are acceptable and have been used successfully in most if not all grade levels.

"Treat" #1: Task cards

All of my students love task cards.  I have utilized task cards in a variety of ways.  Most often, I use task cards as a scavenger hunt in my classroom.  Depending on their level; I hide my task cards very well; or in more conspicuous places.  Depending on the skill I am targeting, I either have students work individually or with a partner.  The latter tends to happen the most in my classroom. can be heterogenous or homogeneously grouped.  Not only are the students up and out of their seats, but they are having fun and completing/practicing math problems along the way.  The scavenger hunt idea is used mainly as a review of the skill or topic most recently addressed.  

I found that task cards were great for reluctant learners and for completing during after school activities to keep the students engaged.  During guided math; I also use task cards as a center activity.  This activity is done independently, so it is primarily a review of previously taught topics or a skill that needs continued practice throughout the school year.  I do this so that I know that students can work independently and quietly while I am working with a small group of students. Additionally, task cards have been used in my class for earlier finishers.

"Treat" #2: Choice boards    

For every topic or unit of study that is being completed; the students are given a choice board.  This choice board allows the students to pick activities they would like to complete when they are not meeting with me during our guided math time.  It is a great way to differentiate activities to meet the needs of all of your students.  The choice board is posted in the classroom but a copy is also given to each student to keep and reference back to if needed.  The board if actually a 3 box by 3 box grid, like a bingo board with the center box being a "free space".  This allows for eight different activities for the students to complete.  Each choice board is given by topic; so it may seem like coming up with eight different activities is a lot of work, but it's all relative because it is not changed weekly but rather every two or three weeks. 

There are certain assignments that I want students to complete throughout the topic, I label them MUST DO's.  Meaning that the students must do two (at maximum) of the activities listed on the board before the end of the topic assessment.  All of the other activities (six of them) are available for them to complete.  Depending on the activity, students may be given bonus points on that topic test if they complete the activity, or even given a homework pass.  I have used a choice board in both my sixth and third grade math classes and have had very little trouble having the students "buy in" to the idea.  They love having the option of the work they want to do.  Let me stress though, that the activities provided are not "busy work" but rather, meaningful activities. 

"Treat" #3: Grudgeball:

I have posted about this in the past; but it's so great that it is worth mentioning again.  I actually found the idea of Pinterest.  It's a game that I thought would be great to motivate my students.  With the Common Core Standards in place; the pacing of our Math curriculum has become insane. There is so much to cover within a given time period. This often makes it difficult for mastery of this skills because we are often have to go on to the next skill or topic. Being that this has been this way for a while, my awesome co-teacher and I decided that we needed to switch some things up and add some more fun to math.  Our students needed to be motivated in order for them to want to learn and enjoy math. Enter Grudgeball.

As the students were comparing answers, one of us divided the board into four groups and labeled. Each groups had five rows of four X's, for a total of 20 X's under each group. We also set up a "basket" and shooting lines. (Think of a two and three pointer in basketball.) we used an empty trash can and walked 10 feet away from the basket and placed a piece of tape on the floor for the first shoot line and a second piece of tape about another foot or two from the first taped line. 

At the start of the game, we explained the rules and stressed that we will go in group order to answer the questions. The group will answer their question, and the other groups need to agree or disagree. If they agree students one student in the group gets to shoot a ball (we like one that can't bounce and is fairly small; about the size of a baseball or softball). That student can decide if they want to shoot for two extra points or three extra points (based on taped lines on the floor). If a student misses the basket, but answers the question correctly they can erase two (2) X's from any group/team they want. They can split their points into different groups. If they get the basket from the first taped line on the floor, they can erase four  X's and if they get a basket from the second taped line, they can erase five X's. If the group gets the question wrong, they do not get to erase any X;s and we move onto the next group. The students are very competitive and it becomes a fun battle as to who will erase from which of the teams. Often times, they majority of the teams go against one, or teams align with one another. Once a team no longer has X's, they have to start adding X's back, following the same point value rules. This continues on until the end of the review questions.   Again, the team with the most X's wins.

The students absolutely LOVED this game.  I mean, really LOVED.  I hadn't seen my students so excited about math.  I think the competitive nature of the game gets the students hooked; and promotes students collaborating. This was a Pinterest tried and true success! I hope you can find a way to incorporate it into your classroom too!

These are just a few of the "treats" that I have used in my classroom with success.  They have not only been a treat for me, but for my students as well.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Little Things

This past week, I had a student say that no teacher ever made him feel the way that I made him feel that day.  To back track a bit, this student is a very quirky one.  He has friends, yet he can be very immature, make silly voices, and annoy others.  This student believes that Disney characters are real, is obsessed with Star Wars and even asked if we can watch one of the movies on his birthday and was quite disappointed,almost shocked, when I told him that we could not fit it into our schedule.  

This student tends to struggle paying attention in a whole class setting.  If you are a teacher, you know how you feel after you get asked the same question that you answered 10 times before they even asked.  He was that student.  I always felt that I was on repeat.  But that day last week, made me see a whole other side to him.  In our guided reading group, we are reading one of the Judy Moody books and I saw this student come alive.  He had a sparkle in his eye that I hadn't yet seen from him.   As a kid that struggles staying with the whole class discussion, I was so happy to see him shine in a small group.  Excited to see him completely engaged in our activity, I kept asking him his thoughts on our novel.  The book is a bit humorous and has some silly parts, such as a musical toilet bowl.  This student created and sang a song that he felt would come from the musical toilet bowl.  Totally creative and off the cuff; my heart smiled that he was so into the book.  His song made me and his peers laugh so hard.  But what touched me was what he said afterwards.  

This student told me that I was the first teacher to ever laugh at his jokes.  My heart had been smiling, and now was a bit broken from what he said to me.  He said that everyone told him his jokes were silly and stupid.  I can't believe this.  First, I hope it isn't true.  Secondly, all I know is that I made him feel respected and appreciated.  Something as little as a laugh; and I feel that we now have a connection.  

I thought that this needed to be posted.  Not to necessarily praise myself, but to bring attention to the little things.  You never realize how important you are to a child, until one says what this student said to me.  We need to realize that a "good morning" might be the only one he/she hears in a day.  These are my tips to make your students feel extra special.  

 1.  I think one of the most important thing to do with all students is to build a relationship with every one of them.  

Get to know what interests them outside of school.  Students will feel special that you are interested in things they do.  This is important to do with all students, even the most difficult and will keep you from having issues with them in the future. I also ask students to give me their schedule for upcoming sporting events or activities that they are involved in.  I like to attend these events, again to show them that I care.  For those of you that can't possibly do that, try to ask them how things went back in school.  

2.  Praise students for even the smallest of things.  

One thing I have found that makes an impression is putting Post-It Notes on a students desk praising them for the little things.  "Great job participating yesterday!," "Thanks for being a role model for the rest of the class."  "I loved that you helped clean up the room yesterday."  " Great job practicing your multiplication facts." Little handwritten notes go a long way.  It is definitely a great confidence booster for students, and perfect for the student that starts "slipping" in class.  

3. Be specific with praise.  Avoid just using simple praise, such as "Good Job!"

Be specific in what you praise them on.  For example, I often say, "I like how you used pictures to solve your problem."  "i love how you explain your answer in detail."  " I love that you supported your answer with evidence from the text."  " I love how John is quiet in line."  It can be specific for students, but I especially like it to bring attention to other students that are not doing what they should be doing.  It kills two birds with one stone; praising one student and letting others know what your expectations are.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Kayla Itsines' BBG workout

I've tried quite a few workout routines.  By far my absolute favorite is Bikini Body Guide (BBG) by Kayla Itsines.  Kayla is from Australia and studied at the Australian Institute of Fitness where she became a AIF Master Trainer.   She became famous by using social media, such as Instagram and Facebook and posting the wonderful transformations of her clients.

This program isn't just for women that want to lose weight, but women that want to become lean, strong and the best they can be.  The workouts consist of resistance training, cardio training and stretching.  Kayla has BBG 1.0 and BBG 2.0; each of which is twelve weeks.  The resistance portion is done in circuits.  Each day consists of two rounds of two different circuits.  For each circuit, you have to complete the four exercises as many times as possible in  seven minutes.  The total workout is about a half hour.  You are to complete these circuits three times a week.  On the other days of the week, Kayla wants you to do low intensity work; what she called LISS.

This workout can be done at home (within minimal equipment...dumbbells, medicine balls, chairs/benches) or at the gym.  I sweat like a pig so doing these exercises at home is for me.  Thus far, this exercise has made me the leanest I've ever been and I noticed a big difference.  But I will say that I also continue my other classes at the gym too.  I just love spin and my weight lifting classes too much!  These HIIT (high intensity) circuits have helped me make the most change.  I am actually on my second round of 1.0.  This time around, I hope to go from BBG 1.0 to 2.0 for a total of 24 weeks.  When I first started BBG, I was lucky if I could get through two rounds of the circuit within seven minutes.  Now, I can do the same activities in four rounds within the seven minutes.

If you reached your plateau, then I think this will be just the thing to get you to see change.  I love the flexibility that you can have with it, and after 30 minutes your workout is done.  No excuses anymore.     It's definitely something you want to look into.  Check out some of these transformation photos.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Apparel for my #fitfam

This week I got a special delivery; my new workout tanks!  Not only are they cute; but are super soft, fun and motivating.  I found mine on Etsy from Blessons Apparel.  Find them at or see others @blessonsapparel.

Can't wait to wear one of these adorable tanks to my next body pump class! Strong is the new skinny!

Where were these when I needed purple and gold for pledging??? I would have rocked Little Miss Fierce! #dphieproblems

Perfect addition to my #fitfam wardrobe!

Girls Pumping Iron

My normal Saturday routine is going to the gym and take a body pump class.  I'm not talking, your 5 or 10 pound free weights; I'm talking about barbell lifting.  Many women are afraid of lifting weights due to the fear of becoming "bulky"; but we simply don't have the level of testosterone needed to bulk up like guys do.  The girls that are bodybuilders probably are taking hormone supplements, and training specifically to get that bulk. 

In researching this for myself, I learned that if you lift weights, you can have more effective fat loss.  Additionally, the more muscles that you have, the more your metabolism speeds up and the more calories you will burn at rest.   Here is a great website that I found, that even provides videos of how to effectively complete some of these moves.

Since taking these classes, I have seen more definition in my muscles (as little as they are...LOL).  Seeing this progress (not perfection) has had its benefits for me.  I feel ten times stronger than I was in my 20s, increased my energy levels, and increased my overall confidence.  Now, I don't feel like a tool going out onto the weight room floor with free weights or the machines.  I don't feel silly lifting in front of the guys either.  I honestly feel that you attract people when you exude confidence.

You can start small to see what you can handle.  I suggest either trying a class or going with someone that can assist you.  The weights I lift now are double the size, if not more, than my initial lifting weight.  Everyone starts somewhere!  Try adding some routines to

Here's to a cuter booty!


Rates, Ratios, and Proportions Task Cards

Using task cards has always been something I have loved to utilize with my students.; and they tend to love them as much as I do.  They can be used many different ways.  They can be used as a center activity; as a game with a partner or the entire class; used as a scavenger hunt around the classroom; and even for an early finisher.  I love that I can make my own and adapt them to fit the needs of my students.

One of the reasons that I love using task cards, is that it is a way to get my students out of their seats for our 90 minute mathematics block.  Ninety minutes can be a long time.  This is especially wonderful for my students with focusing issues, as well as some of my squirmy 11 and 12 year old boys in class.    Another way we get our students out of their seats and moving is during Guided Math time.  These tasks cards are perfect to use at a center/station during this time of math class as well. 
It's so nice to see my students working so nicely together! I love to pair students up with someone they don't normally associate with, or with someone with a different ability level! Task cards are even great for students to complete individually! I love making it a game and seeing how competitive these kids can get with themselves or one another! They try their best work and focused to answer all questions accurately! That's a win for me too!

Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers Store for these task cards as well as other educational material.