Alternative Seating Classroom

Hey, everyone! It's Cyndie from Chalk One Up for the Teacher to share one thing I am absolutely loving this year...

For the past few years I have allowed my students to sit where they prefer to learn, but this summer something dawned on me...I never sit at a desk and work. When I am on the computer or grading papers, I am almost always sitting cross-legged on the couch. So if that's how I work best, what about my students?

I began poking around on Pinterest (isn't that where so many great ideas are found?) and came across several posts related to alternative seating or flexible classroom environments.

So very slowly we began transition our classroom. The way our classroom looks now looks nothing like it did at the beginning of the year...and believe it or not, we have much more room now.

Here are some of the places to work in our classroom.

 We started the year with these crate seats that are in our little house. I know several of you use those in your classroom. This year I tried a little something different and put two layers of fabric on top so that when one gets dirty I can just pull off one layer.

Thanks to my sweet and wonderful friend, Lisa, from Growing Firsties, I grabbed these scoop rockers on summer clearance at Walmart. They happened to have perfect colors to match our classroom.  
The bonus is that they stack and don't take up very much room at all.
P.S. My sweet friend, Carina, from The Teaching Tornado says they work great for teachers, too.
(You'd never know she was a couple months pregnant in this picture!)

This is an old coffee table that belonged to my mom that my wonderful son sprayed with chalk paint.

Those were the places that were set and ready to go when school started. Since then, we've added
this cool futon that was on sale at Walmart. My son has it and slept on it every night this past summer 
(his choice), so I knew it would be durable. The kids added the pillows.

So one morning I was scrolling through Instagram and saw Angie Olsen from Lucky Little Learners' post about these yoga balls from Oriental Trading that were on clearance for LESS than $5!
(Sorry, but last I checked they were all sold out.)
Anyway, they were wayyyy better than I thought they would be !

This past Friday, I had my amazing custodian raise up one of our tables after Valerie from 
All Students Can Shine posted the suggestion as an alternative to standing student desks.
My kiddos LOVED it, and it saves tripping over chairs, because several of them stand to work anyway.

I have absolutely loved the flexibility that this has provided in our classroom. Of course, we have rules and expectations and if those are not adhered to, my students know they will be asked to make a better choice for themselves. Honestly though, there has been minimal issues in relation to where they sit to work.

One of my very favorite places to be is sitting and working right alongside of them on the floor, or wherever they are.

Now, if you want to check out an inexpensive seating choice that also works in emergency situations, hop on over to my blog to check it out.

Read Like a Techie - Using your Board for the Ultimate Big Books

Hi, Friends!  It is Autumn from The Primary Techie.  Today I am going to blog about one of my biggest passions - reading books off my smartboard.  This is really the BEST use I have found for my smartboard.  It literally changed the way I read to my kids.  (By the way, you do NOT need a smartboard!  Any board with a projector will work for this!)

This all started with a book about ants and an "ah-ha" moment.  Several years ago, I grabbed a book off my shelf to read to my first graders.  Now, let me start with a little honesty.  I had already read this book to a few classes and I know that kids do not like this book.  Why read a book kids don't like?  I paid like ten bucks for this book and I liked it!  It fit perfectly with the ant theme I was teaching.  How do I know kids didn't like it?  I didn't hold their interest.  Every time I read this book, my class turned naughty (which told me they were bored).  I decided I was going to try it again with this class.  After all, that book was TEN BUCKS!  I started reading and sure enough, the naughty stuff started.  Rolling around, beauty shop, flicking rocks.  It all started happening as I read.  I asked (more to myself than to them) "Why don't kids like this book?" and one of my little guys said, "It is because we can't see it."  It was the most profound "ah-ha" moment for me.  Of course!  They need to SEE it!  I decided at that moment that I was going to scan the pages of the book and read it again on my board.  I worked on it while my kids were at recess.  I scanned each page and then put the images together in a PowerPoint.

I read the book again when they came back.  The difference was A-ma-ZING!  They were engaged and focused.  They were asking questions about the story as I read it.  THEY LOVED THE ANT BOOK!  I immediately noticed a difference in MY reading.  I was not reading TO these kids; I was reading WITH them!  It was so much easier, effortless, and natural to model think-alouds and comprehension strategies.  We were SHARING the book as we never had before.  We stopped to talk about details in the illustrations and text that I never would have mentioned before.  They were actually reading along with the words as I read.  I knew that very day that I needed to scan ALL my books and read to my class in this new way.

That year, scanning books was my life.  I scanned before and after school, during recess and lunch.  If I was not teaching, I was scanning.  I scanned...(are you ready for this?)....800 books that year!  Yee-haw!  I saved each file as the book title.  This makes it so easy for me to find the books I want.  I also created folders on my desktop for each month.  I can easily find Christmas books in my December folder.  This has saved me tons of time plus the joys of NEVER HAVING TO PUT BOOKS AWAY!!!!

But wait!  I don't want to be a party-pooper, but we better talk legalities.  I must tell you that I was quite worried that I was going to go to jail for scanning all these books.  800 books seems like a pretty serious offense, right?  I have a super guilty conscious and I worried about going to jail for scanning books all the time.  I knew it was the best way to read to my class, but I wasn't sure I was willing to go to jail for it!  I literally worried that one of my students would mention my scanning to their fathers (I had a couple cop dads that year) and I was going to go to jail.  So, I came clean and asked those cop dads about it.  They assured me that I didn't need to worry about going to jail for scanning books.  I still felt kinda bad, so I asked a judge (guilty conscious strikes again) and he put me at ease.  He said, "Do you worry that you will go to jail for putting music from your CDs on your ipod?"  I told him no.  He said it is the same thing.  As long as you purchased those books and you are using them for your own personal use, you don't need to worry about going to jail.  I felt SOOOO much better after hearing it this way.  When I tell teachers that I have scanned 800 books, sometimes they ask to buy them from me.  This is a huge no-no.  I could NEVER sell or even give away the books I have scanned.  I never-ever-ever post them online or anywhere that they could be copied.  I don't even share my books with my teacher friends.  I am encouraging you to use YOUR OWN books for YOUR OWN classroom.  You don't want to worry about going to jail, right?

Why not just read big books?  Reading from the board is 100% better than reading big books.  While big books are bigger than regular books, they are so much smaller than my board.  It is also such a pain in the patootie to turn the pages, hold the books, and don't get me started on storing them.  What about ebooks?  Now, you certainly can buy ebooks and save yourself tons of time and energy.  I chose to scan my books because I had such an extensive library and I could not justify buying digital copies of books I owned.

I hope this gives you some ideas for incorporating digital books in your classroom.  If you want to read more about scanning books, click here to visit my blog.  Thanks for reading friends.
Until next time,

Turkey Trot


Welcome to “The Chalkies” Turkey Trot! We hope you enjoy a jog through our blogs gobbling up freebies, ideas, and recipes for some holiday joy!

We have a new blog name!  We switched out the word "Primary" for "Elementary". We want to meet the needs of any teacher K-6. Our blog has been thoughtfully designed to help you find what YOU need for YOUR classroom level!

I love those grade level tabs {seen above} that help me grab what I need. This trot will also take you through the grade level blogs of your choice.

To help you get exactly what you are looking for on our Turkey Trot, we have split up into two "tracks." Both tracks have three courses waiting to be gobbled up! Pick up an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. Do we have your interest yet? Come along with us and find out what we chose for each course. :) You won't be disappointed!

Click on one of the pictures below to get started. Come on back and start the other track. Even if it's not your grade level, you are sure to find great ideas and some fun recipes!

K-2 Track

3-6 Track

Must-Have Fact Fluency Apps for the Classroom

It's me, Matt from Digital: Divide & Conquer, to share some of my favorite math apps for improving fact fluency (and making them more fun for the kids). I have a small bank of iPads in my room, and when they're not being used for break time to play mine craft, math fact fluency practice is the big agenda item. 

Below are some of my go-to math fact fluency apps. These are the apps that keep my kids engaged, motivated to learn, and are extremely easy to use. I've been using most of these for a couple of years.

The James Bond of math games. The time and number of problems are the villains.  Speed is your friend. Games last only a minute, so my students can get in quite a few in a short time.  I love this game.  $

Surprisingly simple and easy to use. My students and own children love it. They seem to really enjoy the ninjas fighting (go figure).  Lots of levels to choose from, about 10 problems in a level, and it moves quick.  It's perfect and my students will play it forever.

This is the team version of Operation Math. Kids compete against the time and even against other students. Four kids can play at a time, but it's really engaging for them. Plus, if students miss a certain amount they get locked out of the game, until the next round.  These games are about five minutes long.  Just be ready for the kids to get loud when they play.  $

Monsters and sushi. The kids eat this up, no pun intended. It's from Scholastic and fun and easy to use. It's new to me, but my students are quick to use it.  It'll be on our iPads for awhile.

Exactly what it says it is, math and zombies. Knock out the zombies with math facts. It's gone through a few updates and keeps improving.  They've also added more number sense and counting to the app, which is definitely a plus.  $$

Made by the same company who did Operation Math, it reminds me of the Price Is Right game with the yodeler. Same great music too. It's awesome.  $

These are my six go to math fluency apps. Most can be changed for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They're also game based, which is pretty important for the kids because math facts can be pretty boring. I don't blame them. Sure, most of them cost $2.99 --but based on my bad math it averages out to about three cents a week.  I'll take it.


The Power of Do It Again

Hi friends! It's Haley from My Silly Firsties. I'm sitting at the Detroit airport after a fabulous weekend with my sweet sister. I flew up to surprise her for the Aaron Watson concert and some sister time! We had a BLAST! I am definitely excited to be home to my sweet husband, puppy, and my 19 little monsters that I missed today! 

Here's a picture of my sister and I! Please excuse the eyebrows...whoa, hahaha...

Anyway, I thought I would do a short little post about one of the most powerful tools I have used this year! If you try it, and give it time to work, I promise it will make a huge difference in the way your classroom runs! 

So a little background...our summer reading from my district was the book Teach Like a Champion. 

If we're being real here, I will tell you this book is NOT my style. I am not the kind of teacher that shoots out be honest, when I first started reading it, I felt like a drill seargent! BUT...implementing it wasn't optional, so I figured I would do my best to use it in my room. There are tons (49 to be exact) strategies to implement, but these are some of my favorites. I do feel like this book is geared towards older kiddos...especially middle school and high school. BUT the ones below...are applicable in absolutely any classroom. 

No Opt Out means a kiddo can't say "I don't know." They can ask for help...they can ask a friend. But ultimately, they should give the correct answer. The way I implement is a kiddo can say "Can I get some help?" and I call on another friend to answer. THEN (and this is super important) I go back to the original student and ask them to restate the correct answer. 

100% made me go "yeah right...come on..." when I read it. The expectation is that 100% of your students comply to your directive. To be honest, this year, I have a sweet little friend on a BIP and sometimes he just does not comply, hhahah. But he is a special circumstance, and my kiddos KNOW they all must "do it right or do it again." 

What To Do is giving very specific and understandable instructions. 
"Class, take out a pencil and your math notebook. Then put your head down and sit at a level 0." It tells them EXACTLY what to do and HOW to do it. 

Format Matters is SOO important. My sweet friend Christina Decarbo is the QUEEN of oral language, so I am so not the go to for this! But, I have tried really hard to have my students answer my questions in complete sentences. The right answer is great...but the right answer is a complete sentence is better! on to "Do it Again." Like I said, the expectation is 100% compliance. SOO...if we are walking down the hall, and 2 sweet friends start jumping over the white squares becaause they are lava...they do it again. Sometimes the whole class does it, but usually the few students who need the extra practice do it again. 

At the beginning of the year, I believe you should explicitly teach and practice routines over and so many times you want to punch something. But that is the way to ensure our little guys know exactly what is expected of them. If they don't do it right, I don't take away a point or anything like that...the consequence is "do it again and do it better." If they don't do it better, they do it again. Here are some times I implement it a LOT because it's times that I need their focus and attention so we can transition smoothly. 

I believe Do It Again works for several reasons. I truly believe that consequencces should be as natural as possible. If you break something, you have to fix it. If you hurt someone, you write an apology note. For things like walking down the hallway silently, it's hard to come up with something "natural," but I think "do it again" is pretty close! 

I present it like "oh...I think we forgot how to walk. Can we do it again so our bodies get even better at it?" It's all about muscle memory and practicing the RIGHT way over and over. 

I wanted to share one thing that has worked REALLY well this year. Each time we transition, we have a very specific way of doing it. 

I call out each step, and we ALL do it together. If we don't, we do it again. :) 

I hate talking about really hate it. I try very, very hard to teach my kiddos WHY I ask them to do things and show them the correct way so I don't have to do it very often. But when I do, I always try to give consequences that aren't humiliating or ruin their entire day. I truly believe that "do it again" is the most powerful and EASIEST consequence I have ever used in my class! :) 

I'm curious if any of you have read Teach Like a Champion!? Comment with your favorite strategy if you have!  

Get the most out of Partner Talk and teach your kids how to have effective Academic Conversations

Now that's a title for ya'...quite a mouthful right?!!?  Are your administrators training you in academic conversations or having you encourage your students to 'talk' more?  
It's Vicky here from Teaching and Much Moore sharing my thoughts on this.  My district implemented this a few years ago and I do believe I'm a better teacher for learning about it and using it.  At first it felt awkward and I was afraid I would 'lose' my class       ( especially those classes with tough behavior ).  But through the years and a grade change as well I have become so comfortable with it and it has become second nature to me.  More importantly it has become second nature to my students.  

In our district they were having us focus more on having the students respond to our direct teaching rather than giving them prompts which I think both are important.  It sounds funny but part of having the academic conversations includes teaching your students how to 'talk' to each other.  For instance when responding put part of the question back in the text.  
My friend Christina and fellow Chalkie has a wonderful resource that can help your students with this exact concept.  You can check it out { here }
I love this ~ especially as an introduction to the whole shift in getting little learners to talk more.

I created an anchor chart that reminds my students about key ideas: * building on others ideas means you are being a good listener
* repeat or paraphrasing is a great life skill and shows you are a good listener.
*asking questions is always important too

I think it's important to start small when introducing this and I always make sure that my students understand it's EQUALLY or even more important to be a good listener.  Listening and paying attention to their peer is very important so that they can respond properly.  One way to reinforce this is something my friend Tammy came up with called the TALKING STICK.  I'm sure it's been on the web before but she created these and we laminated them and gave them to our students.  When you have the talking stick it's your turn to talk and the one that doesn't have it just has to look at the person and listen.

I love how another awesome Chalkie friend Meg provides prompts in her pack on this very topic:

You can grab her pack { here }

This one is great because it's for older learners ~  Meg's pack offers prompts on a variety of high interest topics that is helpful to get the students practicing this all important skill.

The main idea here is to get your students to collaboratively talk to one another.  Sharing their ideas and responding to text helps them to sort out their own thinking processes.  Listening to another peer helps them form their own opinion on a topic, do they agree with their classmate on this topic or not and why?  They begin to form their own thoughts and opinions and they will learn to voice it in an appropriate way with lots of modeling by you and practice.  This is a very important 21st Century life skill for sure!

My academic conversation pack includes conversation disks which are similar to cards, it also includes conversation starters and a die to roll as well.  

If you are interested in my pack you can grab it { here }

Building their oral language skills and learning problem solving skills within their day is such an awesome ability to have in life.  Another important part of teaching this is THINK TIME.  It's important when modeling this to actually stop and be quiet in front of your students for a bit to show that you are using think time and that's perfectly fine.  We can't expect our students to learn this skill if they don't have proper think time to process how to respond etc.

Try this concept out in your class and tell us how it goes.  We can't wait to hear from you!
 xox, Vicky
Find me here: