Primary Chalkboard: August 2015

What We're Chalking About September: A Visual Calendar

Hi all, Happy September!  What the what? September, oh my... How did that happen? 

It's Emma from Clever Classroom bringing you another, ''What We're Chalking About" post that covers what our multi-talented, cyber writers are posting about this month, via a visual calendar.

What We're Chalking About September: A Visual Calendar of blog posts from the authors at Primary Chalkboard

As you can see, our visual calendar aims to help you preview who and what is being posted.  

We have content for both primary and intermediate students, and topics that cover science, social studies, literacy, math, routines, planning and themes. 

This month, we are also featuring a few flash back posts, which we have aptly named, "Way Back Wednesday".
What We're Chalking About September: A Visual Calendar of blog posts from the authors at Primary Chalkboard

If you would like to receive notifications from us this month, click here to follow our blog. 

Here's what we have planned for you this month. 

1  Jessica from Second Grade Nest - Labor Day

2  Way Back Wednesday

3  Haley from My Silly Firsties - Morning Messages

4  Vicky from Teaching and Munch Moore - Poems in Primary Classrooms

5  Matt from Digital Divide and Conquer - MVP Partner Management

6  Autumn from The Primary Techie - Remembering 9/11

7  Karen from Mrs. Jone's Class - Interactive Notebooks

8  Nicole from Mrs. Rios Teaches - Back to School Night

9  Way Back Wednesday

10  Valerie from All Students can Shine - Primary Ideas

11  Naomi from Read Like a Rockstar - Class Newsletters

12  Sarah from Sarah's First Grade Snippets - Parent Involvement 

13  Anna from Simply Skilled in 2nd - Constitution Day

14  Emma from Clever Classroom - Social Skills and Classroom Expectations

15  Terry from Terry's Teaching Tidbits - Senses

16   Way Back Wednesday   

17  Katie from Teacher to the Core - Bats on the Brain

18  Laura from Peace Love and First Grade - Easy Ideas for Fundraising

19  Jennifer from Teaching to Inspire - 3-5 Ideas

20  Meg from The Teacher Studio - Accountable Talk

21  Ariane from The Science Penguin - The 5E Model Engage

22  Alyssha from Teaching and Tapas - Primary Ideas

23  Way Back Wednesday

24  Latoya from Flying into First Grade - Math Talks

25  Lisa from Growing Firsties - Student Goal Setting

26  Corinna from Surfin' Through Second - Math Games

27  Cyndie from Chalk One up for the Teacher - What's for Lunch?

28  Heather from 2 Brainy Apples - Social Studies

29  John from An Educators Life - Positive Culture

30 October's What We're Chalking About: October - Visual Calendar

What We're Chalking About September: A Visual Calendar of blog posts from the authors at Primary Chalkboard

To remember this post, you might like to pin it.  That way, you can come back to see the posts throughout the month. 

On the last day of each month, we will post this visual calendar for you to see what we have planned. 

If you have any suggestions that you would like us to write about, please comment below. 

Click here to see our posts from July

Click here to see our posts from August

Thanks so much for dropping by. 

Engaging Strategies for Integrating Reading in Social Studies

Hi everyone! I am so excited today is my blogging day at Primary Chalkboard! I am Heather from 2 Brainy Apples, and I am so excited to be teaching middle grades social studies this year! There is a LOT of content in our 6th grade SS curriculum. Lots of facts, lots of geography, lots of everything! And being an ex-elementary teacher, I believe that integration of reading into social studies is a non-negotiable. But reading passage after passage can get downright BORING. Even if the content is interesting, my students are sitting through 7 55-minute classes a day. If they are with me first thing in the morning, they may not mind sitting and reading....but, if they are with me at the end of the day, this is the last thing they want to do. And I totally understand how they feel. How do we feel after an all day professional development or meeting where we sit most of the time? I am ready for a nap! Or I am so focused on how much my bum hurts, I don't pay much attention. Knowing that reading is necessary, I decided to mix things up a little bit for my kiddos to keep them engaged and attentive to what they are reading, as well as having them look forward to reading about social studies content.

Engaging Reading Strategies for Social Studies- 2 Brainy Apples Primary Chalkboard
Photo courtesy of umjanedoan CC license

I like to write my own passages for the social studies content I have to teach. It allows me to make sure I include everything my students should know, I can leave out unneeded info, and I can add in fun facts that they may not have to learn, but it sure does make reading it a whole lot more fun! Even though I write the passages, I do get that my students may not be as excited about reading them as I would like. We do a lot of close reading, too, and this can be exhausting on their minds! I am on the team that doesn't believe in making my students close read everything I put in front of them. OVERLOAD. Some days my students might close read a paragraph. Other days they may close read half of the passage. Some days they will close read all of the passage. The goal is to get students to close read all on their OWN, without me having to tell them to do it. Easing them into, not forcing it will help them see how much close reading does help them understand the text, which will result in students choosing to close read the entire text without prompting be me. Lofty goal? Yes. Totally realistic? Absolutely! Has this happened in the past? Yep! 

Movement Reading
One way I bring novelty into reading is by taking the passage my students need to read and cutting apart the paragraph. Then I hang each paragraph in a different place in our hallway for them to find.
They are still reading the passage, completing the activities that go along with it, but they are moving about the hallway. There's something about just being up and moving, reading one paragraph at a time that really engages them! I do this with passages that have paragraphs that don't need to be read in chronological order. Otherwise it would be very difficult for the students to glean the meaning from the text. One passage I did this with was the passage I wrote about air pollution in the United Kingdom (one of our standards addresses environmental issues). I wrote the passage with 4 headings: overview of air pollution, sources of air pollution, effects of air pollution, what the UK is trying to do to solve the issue of air pollution. There ended up being 3 paragraphs about the effects, 2 paragraphs about the solutions, 1 paragraph about the sources, 1 paragraph about what air pollution is, and a conclusion paragraph. Students did not need to read the paragraphs in order to be able to complete the activity pages I gave to them because it was not a chronological text structure. Students were free to wander the hallway looking for each paragraph that would help them complete the activity pages. I gave students activity pages because I wanted them to be accountable for what they were reading. One activity page was about how smog is formed, one activity page was about the solutions the UK is implementing, and they had to create a foldable with the sources and effects of air pollution. My students were totally engaged the entire 55 minutes because they were able to move at their own pace. They read in chunks, moved, read some more, completed an activity page, moved again, etc. The movement really helped my kiddos I teach at the very end of the day keep from being bored and kept them focused.

Jigsaw Reading
Another strategy I use is the jigsaw method to integrate reading. The next passage I had my students read was about the acid rain issue in Germany. Instead of having my students read the entire passage, I broke them into 8 learning groups because I had 8 paragraphs (each group had about 3-4 students).
Again, because the paragraphs did not need to be read in chronological order, I did not have to worry about students reading a paragraph out of order. If the text structure was chronological, I would have had my students read more than just 1 paragraph of the text in their learning groups to prevent confusion. The headings of the passage were similar to the air pollution passage: what is acid rain, sources of acid rain, effects of acid rain, and solutions Germany is implementing to decrease acid rain. Each learning group had the same paragraph to close read. After they read their paragraph, they then discussed the ideas presented and took notes to ensure they were experts on their information. Once they were comfortable with the information they read, I reassigned them into expert groups. I took one student from each learning group to make 3 or 4 8-person groups, depending on how many students I had in my class for that particular period. Yes, these groups were larger than the first grouping, and sometimes having a large group can be a problem because each student's voice won't be heard. However, since only 1 student (or at the most 2) in each group was an expert on his/her particular paragraph, this wasn't an issue. Students also had 2 activity pages and a foldable they needed to complete while these discussions were taking place, so they knew they needed to be attentive and participate. Each student took time to share his/her information, answering questions the other students may have had about the particular aspect presented. I loved this! I was able to walk around and listen to the conversations taking place, making notes on which students understood the reading and which ones did not. Students having to answer questions to clarify to their classmates is such a powerful learning tool! And the best part? I did not have to teach my students anything about acid rain because they did it themselves. And I guarantee they were more engaged and interested in the topic than if I had led the discussion after they had read every paragraph by themselves. 

I know I am going to be using these 2 strategies a lot more often in my social studies classroom because they kept my students engaged, and they told me that they enjoyed the activities because they weren't sitting at their desks doing it. Sometimes it's the little things in life! Have you tried these strategies in your classroom? I would love to hear about your experiences! 'Till next time!


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5 Tips for goal setting with your students

Happy weekend!  It's Vicky from Teaching and Much Moore, I'm excited to share 5 tips for getting your students to set goals in the classroom!

The first week I started by getting my students 'thinking' about their feelings about school.  I gave them sticky notes { which are always a big hit BTW } and they wrote their thoughts down and stuck them on the anchor charts above.  This was the first step and it really opened up some great peer discussions.

1. Get your students talking - after you have set the 'tone' of your room break them into small groups and get them talking.  Kids like to share ideas/things they are good at, etc.  This will open the door to make them more comfortable with sharing goals.

2.  Have them WRITE their goals down and place them in a TIME CAPSULE.  This can help keep them accountable - keep it in a place to refer to all year.  Cover a pringles can with cute scrapbook paper label it and tie some twine around it.

3.  Have them SHARE their goals with a buddy - either a peer, family member or even a reading buddy. 

4.  Have them write it on a cute piece of scrapbook paper or have them make a collage of things they like by cutting pictures from magazines.  They can write their goal on it and hang it in their room to see everyday.  RESEARCH shows that if you SEE your goal every day you are much  more likely to stick to it and achieve it.

5.  Use your classroom space!  Meg from Oh Happy Day did just that and I think it's brillant!  This would work best for older kids but it would be a great reminder to them so they are seeing their goals at home and at school!

I hope these help you get your students off on the right foot for a very successful year!  Good luck with your goal setting!  Happy teaching!
~ Vicky

4 Ideas to Spread Kindness at Your School: Plus a FREEBIE!

Hello Friends!

It's Jen Bengel from Out of This World Literacy.   I wanted to share a small bit of a blog post I did about a month ago on spreading kindness in our classrooms and in our schools.

I began this idea by asking myself these four questions:

1.  What if we started off our new school years with an intentional effort to spread kindness in our classrooms?

2. What if we found a way to create a classroom where simply being kind to everyone comes first?

3. What if that spills out over into the hallways?

4. What if it even makes its way into the bathrooms? (I know, sounds gross...but hold tight!)

I think that simply being kind to everyone, even when we are tired, hungry, or just plain fussy, is a great way to keep positive energy in our classrooms!

We are the leaders in our classrooms.  And we all know that a group is only as good as its leader.  So why not go out of our way to model kindness every day, especially to the kids who we feel don't deserve it?  Or even the ones who aren't so kind to us in return?

I came up with 4 practical ways we can all help spread kindness throughout our classrooms and our schools.

NUMBER 1: Introduce Kindness Cards

The idea here is to give students quick access to kindness cards so that they can send a little love to a classmate or other adult in the school.  

They may see a friend doing something really awesome.  Or they just borrowed a pencil.  Whatever it is, kids can share kindness with their friends.  

They could even give kindness cards to the teachers, parents, custodians, secretary, special guests, principal, and on and on!  The ideas for kindness cards are limitless.  They are so simple, yet so powerful.  

Be intentional about spreading kindness with them!

Click the image to get your FREE set of kindness cards!!

NUMBER 2: Make Smile! mini posters for the bathroom mirrors!

I got this idea when I woke up one day and went to the bathroom in our guest hallway.  I noticed a heart-shaped piece of construction paper taped to the mirror.  

I immediately grumbled to myself, "oh great, what did the kids do to destroy the house now?" (this was pre-coffee).

But, then I saw the message... 

I COMPLETELY changed my attitude from one of annoyance, to a smile.  My entire body relaxed.  The message had me thinking, can I be nicer?  Especially to my own kids?  The answer was yes!!  

I think there's always room for more home...

at school...

and YES friends...

even in the bathroom!

So, I made these Smile! templates for everyone to use.  Your kids can make their own out of construction paper, or they can use the following templates. 

Click on the image to grab the FREE Smile pages!

NUMBER 3: Plaster the halls with Smiles!

One simple smile can turn someone's entire day around!

Why not make smiling in the halls a part of your school's culture!?

Have your kids decorate posters reminding their friends (and adults in the building) to smile.  They can even add fun quotes or silly drawings.  Throw jokes on posters too.  Keep learning fun by spreading some positivity and smiles all over school!!

Have your kids create their own posters, or click on the link below for these FREE templates!

NUMBER 4: Build Each Other Up With Kindness (the long, personal story part)

I will NEVER forget my fifth grade teacher doing this activity with us 26 years ago (yes, I gave away my age).  

Honestly, I can't remember her name (bad I know) or anything else that happened as far as learning that year.  

This activity is the ONLY thing that truly stuck with me through the years.  

My fifth grade teacher (can't say her name because I literally can't remember) had us all complete a compliments page for every member of our class.  We sat at our desks in rows (it was the 80's people) and passed the pages up and down the aisles.  The only direction we had was we MUST say something kind about whoever's page was in front of us.

The most glorious part of the whole activity was when we got our own pages back.  Everyone was glowing from the kind words that were written on the page.  

This single activity COMPLETELY changed the energy of our class.  We were all suddenly nicer to each other.  We walked around proud and confident in who we were.  

I'll NEVER forget the feeling.  

You can grab these free pages to use or create your own

So that's it!  

If you want to read my personal story about growing up with a difficult teacher that did the exact opposite of showing kindness, you can head over to my blog at Out of This World Literacy.  

Thanks so much for reading!  I hope you all are having a wonderful start to the new year!!!  

Be sure to check back every day to see more awesome blog posts from all my buddies here at the Primary Chalkboard!!

Make Behavior Plans Work For You. And Don't Forget the Data!

Hey everyone!  This is Matt from Digital: Divide & Conquer.  Go easy on me, this is my first post over here at the Primary Chalkboard.  Just to get acquainted a little better, I'm a K-5 SpEd teacher (we call it a resource room) but I love integrating technology, finding ways to learn/teach alternatively, and focus on project based learning because my students like the real-world.

I'd tell you a bunch of personal stuff about me, but no one really wants to hear about how I've wrestled alligators, raised wolf pups by living in a den with them, and created the pattern phenomenon known as chevron.

So let's cut right to the chase...

Behavior Planning and Data Collection!

Everyone's favorite, I know--but I'm here to share (and tell) you there's a simpler way to get it done.  One of the problems I've always had as a SpEd teacher is designing behavior plans for teachers.  It sounds funny, but many plans/charts/scoring are unattainable for the classroom teachers because it wasn't created by them, thus creating them ineffective.  They (you, classroom teachers) need something fast, effective, and easy to use.  It also needs to be effective--wait, I said that.

Last year we really needed a behavior plan/chart that could attain this--AND also allow us to collect that black gold (Texas Tea) know simply as data.  Here's an example of the chart we used (below).

The classroom teacher created the original behavior idea of the chart/plan and it worked so well we've recreated it on Google Docs.  We've since tweaked some of the ideas, added a couple of features, and started using it with many other students.  You can grab your own copy of it here:  Behavior Chart Template.  Make sure you download your own copy.

So why did it work?
The most important reason is because it was created by a classroom teacher.  I can't stress the importance enough of this--because teachers have to be able to handle behavior plans on their own terms and within the environment of the classroom.

Secondly, it worked because we tracked it all.  Using Google Sheets we set up a spreadsheet and input a simple X when the goal was met.  At the end of each day the student brought their chart to me and I input the stars/stickers/checks.  It took about 20 seconds.

It's kind of like sabermetrics for elementary school.  This is really really great data, many times it's circumstantial, until you get something like this.

At the end of the year we added totals, calculated percentages, found on-task percentages, looked at total engagements, and did high-fives.  Why?  We had successful charted, scored, and tracked a chart/plan across an entire school year with stickers, teachers, and a students that bought it.

Again, I'd encourage you to download a copy yourself, edit it, and see how it work with your students.  I don't consider it rocket science, but it was extremely effective.  The use of technology played a crucial role because we could share data and information without scheduling a meeting before school.

Some quick tips:
-Don't call it a Behavior Chart.  Give it a cool name.
-Make the goal as an I CAN statement.  EXAMPLE: I can use kind words.  I can finish all my class work.  I can keep my hands to myself.
-Create positive incentives!  We used each star/sticker as a minute of break time (which usually involved me playing Minecraft on the iPads wit the kids.  No joke.
-Don't make this punitive. It doesn't work.  Kids like carrot.  C'mon, even adults like carrot.  We're all working towards something.

That's it!  Thanks for reading.  I know data collection isn't always the greatest thing, but it can be kind of important.  


Setting a climate for problem solving!

One thing that we all know to be true is that "real world" math doesn't show up on a page with 12 problems!  Our job as teachers is to prepare students to solve ANY problem that comes their way!  As we start a new school year, setting a climate for problem solving can set the stage for a year where students are willing to dig in and use their math skills no matter WHAT the circumstances.  

To get the year started, there are a few phrases that I like to introduce to my students and then reinforce all year long--words that help set the tone for the kind of "math learning" I want to happen all year long.  See what you think!
One of the biggest things I have noticed over the years is that many students have a very real fear of being wrong.  This fear keeps them from participating, keeps them from enjoying math, and--worst of all--keeps them from learning!  In the first weeks of school, I push my students to take risks.  I give them impossible problems.  We work in pairs. We solve problems that have countless answers--and I encourage them to find answers that no one else will find.  Throughout all this, I highlight students and teams that have showcased risk taking--even if their answers aren't correct!  
I even share a few quotes about taking risks and we talk about real life experiences they have had where taking a risk paid off!  If you want a copy of these "take a risk" quotation posters, click here
Another idea that I stress with my students is that they need to always be ready to revise their own thinking!  I had a super fun lesson where we debated about whether or not certain shapes were rectangles.  Some students were SO rigid in their thinking that they were unable to take in new ideas from others and revise their own understanding about the concept.  If you want to read more about this lesson, CLICK HERE to see it!
 This, of course, directly relates to my NEXT phrase--"critique thinking".  I always want my students thinking about what they hear, evaluating if it makes sense, and then offering up their own ideas in a polite, constructive way.  This was a HUGE part of the rectangle lesson and many other similar lessons.  Students need to learn how to offer up their critiques in a productive way--and this is all a part of creating that climate for risk taking and problem solving.  
 Another phrase I teach my students early in the school year is "justify your answer".  Students know that saying "I just knew it!" won't get them very far--and that they need to learn to use math language to explain their thinking to others.  Other students should be able ask questions requesting clarification as well.  The discussions are just fascinating!  At the beginning of the year, I need to step in as a coach, but as the year unfolds, the discussions run themselves!
 Finally, my favorite.  Perseverance.  Without this, nothing else matter!  From the first day of school, I stress with my students how important it is to be willing to dig in and WORK HARD.  We talk about how to ask for help--but only after really giving it a good try.  We talk about how to "help" each other by coaching and not giving answers.  We talk about how GOOD it feels to take on a challenging problem--and to work through it.  We talk about how the PROCESS of doing math is more important than the answer (at times)...and to be willing to dig in and try will pay off in the end.  I deliberately present my students with problems that are challenging to help them learn how to navigate this uncomfortable feeling...and how to help each other with the math--and with encouragement.
If you teach intermediate grades, I have a freebie all about perseverance if you are interested!  It gives a little more information plus a challenging problem for you to present to YOUR class to see how well they can persevere.  I have a full resource related to this as well with additional problems to use to help teach perseverance if you are interested.  Just click the "Persevere" sign above.  Want to try the freebie?  Click the image below.
Thanks so much for joining me for my first post here at Primary Chalkboard!
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Blended Learning Ideas

Hi Guys!
It's Latoya from Flying into First Grade.

I have compiled a list of my favorite blended learning ideas.