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Integrated Learning for Deep Understanding

Hello again everyone!
It's Susanna from Whimsy Workshop Teaching and today I'm sharing ways implement an integrated learning approach in your classroom.

There's a lot of attention on integrated learning as many schools are moving away from the traditional "single subject blocks" model, to a multi-subject, project-based model. 

Here's a quick video from Edutopia to explain the benefits of this approach for deeper learning.

Click for Introduction Video

 Project-based learning is perfect for this kind of approach because within each project there are multiple problems to solve, drawing from knowledge in various subject areas.

Our school had adopted Genius Hour as another way to facilitate project-based integrated learning. With this model, students spend 20% of their school time working on a project based on their own interests.

Click for introduction video

However, you don't have to adopt a whole new program or educational movement - you can simply choose projects that focus on more than one subject at time. 
Here are a few small ways to start, and some free activities to try:

1. Integrating Literature and Math

Any form of literature can be used as a springboard to math. I tell students "Did you know there are math problems hiding within every story? They are there - and it's our job to find them!"
For example, after reading the story of the Three Little Pigs, generate math questions for the class to solve. 
Invite students to do the same once they get the idea. 
Adapt the questions to your students' level.

*If each little pig had one cookie, how many cookies would they have altogether? 1+1+1=3

*If each little pig had 3 cookies, how many cookies would they have altogether? 3+3+3=9 or 3x2=9.

*Why didn't the brick house fall down? 

The advantages of inviting this sort of thinking: 

-It reinforces the idea that math is meaningful and useful in daily life.

- It creates a habit of looking for math outside of math time, which means more practice outside of the classroom.

- It’s a wonderful way to challenge those higher level thinkers, since they are learning to generate their own questions.

-It’s involves questions that are student-generated, which leads to more overall engagement, especially in small group challenges.

Grab this free template to use with younger students to create and solve story problems:

2. Integrating Drawing & Writing

 Traditionally students write journal entries or stories, and then illustrate later -- but we flip that idea and draw first! 

Once they've finished drawing, they are so motivated to write - because they are writing about their own adorable creations. Start with a topic such as "Draw yourself as a super-hero". 
Once the pictures are done, it's time to describe  super powers or amazing adventures! 

With younger students I use step-by-step drawing templates, such as the ones below.
You can try it yourself with these free templates.

3. Integrating Math and Writing

Another way we build pictures to write about: using dice games; this integrates art, writing and math.
In the example below, students roll dice and draw parts of a monster as directed. Roll to see which head to start with, then roll again for eyes, nose, mouth and ears. I would challenge older students to create their own templates.

The monsters always turn out different, and we can change the math rule (ie. double the number or triple the number, etc.) to challenge advanced students. You can make your own template, or grab this free game HERE in the preview for the set. Once the monster is created, students are motivated to write about it on differentiated templates!

 As with Genius Hour projects, students are eager to participate actively in their own learning because it is personal and FUN.

4. Tech and Reading
 Shared Reading with EPIC online

One more tip that has been a game-changer in terms of integrating technology into my daily Shared Reading time: EPIC Childrens Literature collection online. 
This is a favorite in my class because of the popular choices, and students are learning computer skills while they read.  You can make a free teacher account and let students explore the fantastic collection; click here to take a look.   

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Take a look at the other great posts from this month!

How I Create and Maintain A Positive Classroom Culture for K-2!

Hi everyone! It's Naomi O'Brien from Read Like a Rock Star! I've noticed a lot of teachers heading back to school, and thought I'd share a few of the ideas I use to create a positive classroom culture. For years, my coworkers chalked my sweet and well behaved classes up to the "luck of the draw", but then they had to admit, it must have been something I was doing.
We, the teachers, really are responsible for setting the tone in our classroom. Our children are always watching us and how we respond to situations teaches them a lot about how they should respond to us and each other.

How I Create and Maintain a Positive 
Classroom Culture for K-2!

I Tell them They Were Handpicked to be in My Class, but Shhhhhh, It's a Secret:
On the first day of school, I always let my students know that I have a HUGE secret to share with them. The secret is that I asked for only the best students to be in my class. I let them know that I read information about them, talked to the principal and other teachers, and that I only allowed the best kids into my room. I tell them that this is a secret and that if the rest of the school knew, everyone would be trying to be in our class and then it would get too crowded and too crazy. I let them know they can tell their parents, but nobody else. During restorative conversations, I remind them that they are still the best, deserve to be in my class, and to never forget it.
It's always really cute when we get a new student and my students are so excited to have someone new to share the secret with!

I Let Them Take Over the Classroom:
I give them a lot of opportunities to learn and share with each other. Sometimes it's hard to give up the reigns, but they learn to respect and listen to one another.  Every now and then, I pretend to be the confused one, and have them help me learn a concept. They think it's hilarious and they come together for a good cause; to teach their teacher.

I Take Time to Start Personal Conversations:
Instead of walking around or sitting at my desk, I like to sit with my students and get to know them. I let them know I'm interested in who they are, not just what they can do. It's this relationship building that makes them naturally want to behave better for me. They know I care about them, and it makes them care about me too.

I Give Them Plenty of Opportunities to Work Together:
Team work makes the dream work! I make them discuss everything with each other, and collaborate often. Also, they are not allowed to tattle! Once they realize they need to work together without any help or conflict resolution from me, they learn to get along (slowly, but surely).

I Don't Allow Tattling:
I know I just mentioned that, but I wanted to bring it up again. Unless something serious happened, I ignore any and all tattles. Sometimes I say, "All you've done is let me know that you're a tattle-tale. Thank you." They learn very quickly that tattling won't get them very far and it forces them to talk to each other and work out their problems on their own. I always drive home the point that we have to look out for each other, not try to get each other in trouble. Instead of telling me that someone isn't working, they learn to nicely remind the friend to get back on task. This takes a few months to master, but it works out beautifully!

I Teach Character Traits:

I pick 6 traits that I think will help my students excel. I make sure to make time in our busy day to teach them about these traits; usually right after lunch/recess as a "cool down" activity. I chose Kindness, Ambition, Self-Confidence, Honesty, Thoughtfulness, and Respect last year. 
Think about the traits that are most important to you. Focus on the traits that you'd like to teach your students to possess. Find creative ways to encourage your students to take on these traits for themselves. I made badges for my students to earn to make sure they were aware of the traits and working on their own character.

You can also post pictures of students that show a specific trait frequently in class, write positive notes about good or improved behavior you've noticed, practice acting the traits out in student led plays or skits, make class videos showing the traits, or read stories that exemplify characters that show good character traits. Make sure to point out the traits and have discussions about them. In order to create a positive classroom culture, you must truly be intentional about creating one. It's important to use your character trait vocabulary throughout the day too.

I Teach the Art of Giving a Compliment:

Compliment Plates were always a hit with my students! Give out plates, give out markers, have a good time! In the beginning of the year, with my first graders, we brainstormed nice compliments and I wrote them on the board for a writing support.
They loved going around filling them out, and they loved reading what their friends had to say about them. This was always followed by "Thank you's" and "You're welcome's'" being called out across the room. Even hugs were often being given out for the kind words shared.

I pick a Kid of the Day to be showered in compliments! I truly believe doing this daily is one of the most beneficial activities I have done for my students.
 I found that with my first graders, we had to first discuss how to give and receive a compliment. Outside of "You're my best friend", they really couldn't think of anything else to say. After a lot of discussions and practice, they were giving out compliments left and right, even when they thought I wasn't paying attention.
I also had to teach them to accept the compliment with a "Thank you". Surprisingly, some of them would say something like, "No, I'm not pretty." and really had a hard time accepting nice things being said about them. We also had to discuss that simply saying, "I know I'm cute." wasn't acceptable either...

I also have a Compliment Count on the board. It's quick and easy, and it gets their attention. (Side Benefit: It helps them count tally marks really well!) If ever anyone outside of our classroom gives us a compliment, they get a tally mark added to the Compliment Count
If the principal gives them a compliment, it counts for two tally marks! This promotes great behavior when they are walking in the hallways, at recess, at lunch, and at Specials.
Whenever we reached 20 tally marks, they got some of my stash.

I Make My Students Reflect on their 
Unsavory Behavior:
 When students act out it is important to give them consequences for their actions. I believe it is equally as important to follow up with the  student through a reflection sheet. After the student has been given time to cool down, I take the time to fill this out with them, or have them fill it out themselves if they are able (only after a discussion to make sure they understand what they did wrong and what they can do differently in the future). My students so loved and responded to this that when they were sent to their seats or to a cool down area, some would ask, "Are we still going to talk about this later?" I think they appreciated being heard, forgiven, and accepted again. It's so easy to hold a grudge for the rest of the day, but we have to be the best example of forgiveness to that child and for the rest of the class to see.
This is a resource that I made and used, but a quick TpT search will surely bring up a few freebies, if you don't have time to create one yourself!
This is also great to make a copy of and keep data on students. It’s also a wonderful way to keep parents in the loop of what’s been going on in class. At Open House, I let my parents know that if they see one of these sheets it means their student has already had consequences, so they should just discuss their child’s plan to make better choices in the future. This helps to build a parent/teacher partnership.

I Created An Outsider Looking In:
Creating an outsider to notice your class is a great way to promote a positive classroom culture. In addition to our Compliment Count that I track on the board, I created an invisible fairy friend!

Sylese, the kindness fairy, would stop by our classroom every once in a while leaving a note, treats, and glitter in her wake. She watches the class without them knowing because she's invisible. They never know when she's watching or when she's coming for a visit. You can have another teacher write the note so your students don't recognize your handwriting.

This was basically another way for me to give them a compliment, make them feel proud of themselves, and strengthen our positive classroom culture.
This was done once a month, or once every other month.
I simply leave glitter on their desks, bring in a treat, like stickers, cookies, candy, a movie, popcorn, (really anything you’d like to reward them with) and post the note somewhere in the classroom. I would usually wait for them to find it, and act like I was just as surprised as they were. Whenever it had been a while, someone always says something like, “Guys, why do you think the fairy hasn’t been back? We need to do better!” You could use anything to keep an eye on your class that leaves notes and fun treats!

I Focus on the Behavior I Like:

While it can be so tempting to want to always address a disruptive child right every time at the exact moment of disruption, I've learned to ignore it and focus on the behavior I like. If I have 23 students and only 1 is acting out, I'd rather give my attention and energy to the 22 that are doing a great job. I'm sure they appreciate it too. I always let them know when they are doing something that makes me happy. Scratch-n-Stickers were always a quick and easy reward. I also made up some "Caught Ya" cards to reward this good behavior and would slip them onto their desks. They could  turn these cards in to enter a weekly drawing. This was a great motivator, and usually got that one disruptive child to stop what they were doing. If not, I would pull them aside at a later time and address their behavior. Because of the way I handled those situations, even at 6 and 7 years old, the rest of my class learned to ignore those behaviors too. Some would even ask if they could help that student make good choices, which was just fine with me!
When you've got students that care about themselves, each other, and you, you've got a well oiled machine that is bursting with positivity! 
I hope you enjoyed these ideas and are able to take some or all back into your classrooms this year. Believe me, you won't be disappointed.

Don't forget to come back tomorrow, and for the rest of the month to check out all of the other amazing ideas offered from your friends at:

Classroom Set-Up - A Look Around My Dream Classroom

Hello, Friends!  It is Autumn from The Primary Techie.  I am super excited to be blogging about one of my favorite places - my classroom.  Here is a very nerdy confession: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE setting up for the new year!  It is actually one of my favorite parts of being a teacher.  I love the anticipation of the student's reactions, planning how the room will function, and organizing all of my teacher treasures.  Have you started setting up?  I bet every teacher is at least thinking about it.  It is a big job!

I have been in the same first grade classroom for ten years and last year, I did a complete classroom make-over.  Don't anybody tell my husband, but I spent entirely too much of my own money on this project!  The way I see it, I spend more than half my life there.  I want it to be the best it can be for my students and myself.  Some ladies buy Coach purses and Louis Vuitton shoes.  I bought my DREAM CLASSROOM! No regrets!  Here is a look at my room and some of the reasons why I set it up this way.  I hope it gives you some ideas and excitement about setting up your own room.

The Library
Metal door to was used to create book display with magnetic shelves

Above all else, I want my library to be inviting and comfortable.  I also want it to fit lots of kids since reading is such a focus in my little world.  My library is almost one fourth of my classroom.  There is easily room for 3 groups of 4 students during stations.  I have used storage benches that I purchased from Wal-Mart to form one corner.  These create comfy seating and also store seasonal books.  There is a cart for my leveled books and several book baskets full of books we love.  There is a table with listening center activities and a comfy corner for audio books.

The Writing Area

Dry erase board on the back of the cabinets in writing area
Close-up of clear paint cans used to sort supplies
Paint bucket stools store seasonal writing supplies
I added "shelves" to crates by using old dry erase boards.  Perfect fit!

I am a crafter at heart and I think this really influenced my writing area.  I have a round table with paint bucket stools.  Inside of each paint bucket, I have seasonal supplies for the writing area (Halloween stamps, Christmas gift tags, etc.).  I hung milk crates all over one wall to store the writing area materials.  I love this option because I was able to make it exactly right for my needs.  On the other wall in my writing area, I hung clear paint cans filled with art supplies.  Writing center is always a station and my students have a specific task.  On Fridays, we have free choice stations and this area becomes PACKED with kids!  They make the coolest, most creative things.  Although I am a hoarder, I share all my fun goodies with them because I know how much I would have loved this as a kid.  (Let's face it, I still love it now!)  I use the metal door (which leads to my bathroom) to hang a magnetic board.  Here, I write their spelling words or weekly writing task.  I also have turned the back of a cabinet into a dry erase board.  This is a fun way to practice spelling, writing sentences, labeling drawings, and so much more.

Teacher Work Area

One of my favorite drawers.  Can you ever have enough rubber stamps?

At my small charter school, every classroom has a full-time aide.  I KNOW, RIGHT????  It is a pretty cool lil' school.  I never sit down, but I needed a place for my aide to be productive.  I have created my dream work space, but I only get to visit it before and after school.  The rest of the day, my aide uses it.  There is plenty of counter space, a coffee maker, fridge, microwave, and even an ice machine!  I had a custom counter top made to cover the desk.  It is long on one side making a perfect spot for my aide to work one-on-one with students.

Table Groups

Pegboard attached to each table for organizing resources.  
Over-the-door hooks create storage solutions for our backpacks right on their desks!

I have always placed my kids in groups and labeled them by color.  I started acquiring more and more "stuff" that matched my table colors.  This past school year, I added the most exciting piece of all - CHAIRS!  I think they look so good.  My old chairs were mauve and they just really bugged the snot out of me!  My new chairs make my room more colorful and cheerful than ever before!  I love to frequent the home improvement stores for ideas and inspiration.  One day, I walked down the pegboard isle and thought "That looks like something I could use!"  I started trying to figure out how and where in my room pegboard would fit.  My number one need in my classroom is storage and remember all the stuff I acquired that matched my table colors?  I decided the pegboard would fit nicely on the edge of each table and give me a place to keep these colorful treasures.  I measured the end of the table and had my board cut at the store.  (Did you know they do that?  I didn't know until I found the pegboard isle!)  I spray painted my pegboard black and used zip ties to attach it to the table legs.  This also makes the tables more secure so they don't scoot around the room as much.  I used more zip ties to hang the baskets on the pegboard.  Backpacks hang off the other edge of the tables.  I like having them at the desks so that transitions go quickly.  I found these over-the-door hooks at the dollar store (2 per package).

Extra Storage

Close-up of clear paint can storage
Working pay phone!  My absolute favorite!

I have A LOT of stuff in my room and I really needed storage solutions.  I purchased bookshelves from Target last summer and they have helped so much.  I love the uniform look and the contrast of the black with all the bright colors I have used in my room.  I used clear paint cans to store supplies on the shelves.  I wanted a small counter on the end.  It seems like I am always walking in my room with something that I need to put down quickly and this gives me a place to do that.  There was a piece of leftover counter top that fit perfectly.  I also replaced my school phone with this pay phone!  It is SO much fun!  It really takes money, although you don't have to put money in to make a call.  It has a great ring, too.

Thanks for letting me share my room with you.  I would LOVE it if you would share pictures of your room with me, too.  Click here to head over to The Primary Chalkboard's Facebook page and share your pictures.

The Chalkies are busy bloggin' every day this month!  Here is a peek at what we have got planned:

Growth Mindset

Hi There!
Lisa here, from Growing Firsties & I'm going to share a little bit about Growth Mindset today, which is based on Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck's work.

Heads up that I do have some Amazon Affiliate links in this post. Should you choose to use the links, I'll earn some "circle money" as my daughter calls coins. :-) Half of my affiliate proceeds are for paying it forward - each month I receive earnings I give to my local food pantry/outreach services organization. The other half is spent on books and items for my classroom.
Growing Firsties Primary Chalkboard

With a growth mindset, people believe that through effort and practice, they can develop and improve their talents and abilities. In a fixed mindset, people believe that their talents and abilities are fixed...and that it's talent (not effort) that creates success. Woah.

Years ago, I first began to think about mindset in terms of working with struggling students...those students where the learning is hard. Students, who, if they don't have the mindset to keep trying, will give up. Then what will they learn?

My thinking expanded as I witnessed students labelled as gifted hitting a struggle academically and not knowing how to handle the struggle when they are unfamiliar with the resilience and effort needed.

Then I realized that mindset, resilience & perseverance are critical for all of us. Regardless of age. #helloIhatecardio #gottadoitanyways

You may have seen this Growing Firsties post from a few years ago, containing this freebie download.
Everyone Matters!

Or maybe this post from last summer all about perseverance.
What's Under Your Cape?

I am blessed to work at an amazing school! Some talented colleagues ran a book study on Dweck's Mindset book this year and it was such fun to re-read and discuss mindset with like-minded teachers! I also added Mindsets in the Classroom (by Mary Cay Ricci) to my collection.

We read aloud some great books and I expanded my collection beyond the wonderful texts from Peter H. Reynolds (Ish, The Dot, Going Places...)

One of my teammates asked me if I had a printable for our work on mindset and that gave me the motivation to put my swirling thoughts to work....Here's a little peek at the inside...

Scroll down to download this freebie! :)

You might be interested in reading an article by the always eloquently-thought-provoking Alfie Kohn "The Perils of Growth Mindset" education. You can get to it {right here}.

Carol Dweck, author of Mindset, has written this EXCELLENT'll definitely want to check it out! You can get to it {right here}.

I have a Pinterest board called Mindset and I love pinning to it! You can check it out by clicking here or the screen shot below. You should really check out the Famous Failures video! It's amazing!
Growing Firsties

We'd love to hear what you do to help build a growth mindset with your learners!