Sunday, February 21, 2021

Tried & True Fraction Freebies

 What are you teaching in math right now? We are exploring fractions but doing this virtually has needed some thinking outside the box! Here are some of my tried & true activities and websites to use.

Students love learning about each other! When teaching in person, I used to put students into groups of 4 or 5. (Specifically groups of 4 or 5 so it would be easy to make equivalent fractions with hundredths, for decimals and percentages) They would have to talk to each other and ask questions to find out what they had in common. Next, they would write their findings as a statement, fraction, decimal and percentage. This year, since we are virtual, breakout rooms was the perfect way to group kids. I popped into each room and took a screenshot of each group to use as their photo.

You can download a copy of People Fractions directions and templates HERE (You will be asked to make a copy)

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Helping Students Navigate Tough Times

Over the past 10 months, we know Covid,  politics, and civil unrest have taken a toll on us as adults: mentally, physically, and emotionally. However, children often have a difficult time processing what they are feeling. Since we are home all the time now,  kids are bombarded by images on the news or overhear adults talking. How to help our students navigate an uncertain world?

I was thrilled to discover Skills for Big Feelings , written for educators and mental health professionals as a 12-week guide which seeks to empower children aged 6-12 to cope with their feelings, manage anxiety, and learn to thrive. It includes a coloring workbook for kids, trauma-informed guided relaxation scripts, family handouts, letters, surveys, S.M.A.R.T. objectives, and more. The author, Casey O'Brien Martin of Whole Child Counseling initially developed the activities in this book for use in small and individual counseling settings. However, it is perfect for whole class instruction, and especially during distance learning. 

Skills for Big Feelings complements our health unit; focusing on mental, social, and emotional health. Each week's lesson is on a different topic with action steps, a guided meditation (mindful moment) and an informational parent letter.  My students LOVE these lessons!

There is a hard copy book or e-book option, plus the digital bundle includes everything set up for Google classroom or your LMS.  The 12 weeks include: 
  1. Naming Our Feelings
  2. Triggers
  3. Helpful and Unhelpful Thoughts
  4. Changing Thoughts
  5. Measuring Challenges
  6. Equal Measurements
  7.  My Relaxing Happy Place
  8. My Sunny Breathing Words
  9. Positive Self-Mistakes and Supports
  10. Mindfulness and Gratitude
  11. Closure
I was little skeptical at first, thinking the kids might not take it seriously. Was I wrong! We've incorporated these short lessons into our morning meeting and students eagerly ask what the new strategies are each day.  The biggest testimonial is emails from parents, saying their child has been teaching their whole family what they've been learning. They've even been making them practice the calming techniques together!
Each week is carefully laid out and builds in progression. I cannot wait to for my students to reflect on and gauge their progress in a few more week! Be sure to check out Casey's website; it's filled with so many resources, helpful information and her Facebook group is so helpful! Every teacher needs these tools to help our  students feel empowered to navigate tough times.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Bringing in the Experts

Anyone else tired of hearing your own voice? Or constantly looking at yourself on Zoom or Google Meets? When teaching in person (remember back in the good 'ol days?), I loved taking students on field trips to experience what we were learning about in class. Due to "shelter at home" orders and remote teaching, we still cannot gather in person in my district.
However, one of the benefits of distance learning is that so many organizations have revamped their programs, offering virtual options.  Here's a round-up of some amazing programs (in California, although since they're virtual, maybe teachers in other states can access them).

I've scheduled several programs through California State Parks PORTS Program. They offer FREE interactive virtual field trips for K-12 students to stay connected to our state's natural, cultural, and historical resources. Connecting your students to California State Parks allows them to explore our parks guided by California State Parks interpreters working in parks across the state. Some of the programs that connect to our fourth grade social studies curriculum are:  Immigration Stories Told from Angel Island, California Mission History, Gold Rush History, Mexican Rancho Era.  There are also science programs such as: Understanding Climate Change, Kelp Forests, Sand Dune Habitats and the Rock Cycle. 

 The California Science Center offers free virtual lessons and videos. Connecting with our fourth grade life science standards, students can play a “choose-your-own-adventure”-style game in order to test interactions between an animal’s environment and the structures of its sensory system. They will use the game to develop and revise a model showing how information is received by the senses and processed through the brain.

CA Science Center also offers paid virtual field trips. My class participated in the life science field trip, Busy Body. They navigated toward a deeper understanding of how organisms receive and process information. Students were introduced to creatures that live at the California Science Center, as they used and developed models to explore how the internal and external structures of plants and animals function to help them survive and experience the world around them. And of course, a cow eye dissection was quite memorable!

Huntington Library is collections-based educational and research institution. They have numerous art collections,  library collections, and botanical living collections in their 16 themed gardens. It is a beautiful location! Pre-Covid, my class visited The Huntington and explored plant adaptations, our fourth grade life science standards. My kids were in awe over the grounds!
The Huntington Comes to Class is offering free virtual field trips! All programs engage students in Huntington primary sources, inquiry, and conversation. These virtual field trips are an interactive experience, so students will enjoy drawing, writing, movement, and other activities.They open up once a month for applications. My class is participating in Explorations in American Histories: In this program, students will explore the diverse histories of the United States. Using primary sources materials from The Huntington’s art and library collections, students will engage in close looking, critical thinking, and dialogue. In particular, the program will draw attention to the change makers, activists, and everyday people who helped shape American histories. Students will be encouraged to make connections between the past and their world today. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Virtual Math Games to Engage Student Learning

We made it! 2020. . . the longest year ever! LOL! I'm trying to finish all my grading this weekend so I do not do any school work during winter break.  #goals  

One of my struggles during distance learning has been how to keep students engaged during math. When we used to be in person, students would work in partners or small groups.  Breakout rooms have been the perfect solution! Students meet in partners or triads. I digitized a few of the games that I used to print out and laminate. They are no-prep and ready to use!

My students even asked me to post the games in Schoology (our Learning Management System) so they could play over Winter Break! (So you know these are tried & true teaching tools!) Click on the links below to download three of my students' favorite games:

I hope your kids love them as much as mine do! Happy holidays & enjoy your much-deserved break!

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Sunday, October 18, 2020

A Peek into Learning

 For all the grumbling about distance learning (and there is a lot of grumbling!), there are also some perks!  I have a love-hate relationship with classroom bulletin boards. They are such a pain to put up, then you have to change them frequently and other than during Open House, no one actually looks at them! Anyone else?

Here's the beauty of distance learning! I was trying to figure out how to display all the great work my students have been doing. In come digital bulletin boards! I post them on our class website, as well as in Schoology (our secure Learning Management System). 

The beauty is that they are easily customizable; you can change the background, adjust the size of student work, write fancy titles or include the standards.
Now, all families have access to our bulletin boards and parents can see not only their child's work but the quality of work (or if their child is missing work!) These bulletin boards have been terrific conversation starters. I tell my kids to show their parents their work on the digital bulletin boards; they have something concrete to look at while they share. 
The bulletin boards are Google slides presentations so although photos may look rather small here, when posted in your LMS, there is a full screen or enlarge icon so the bulletin board fills their screen & they can click through the slides. For longer writing pieces, I screenshot the cover page for the bulletin board then insert a link to the full story/essay.  Working parents have been so appreciative of the chance to see what their child is learning and for the teacher, it's the perfect way to keep track of what you've been teaching during distance learning!

And the best news of all? I want to save you time so I'm giving you these digital bulletin board templates! Click HERE to download the file and directions!  I hope they are helpful! 

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Sunday, September 20, 2020

What's Saving My Life Right Now

Hey, friends! Okay, I know this title: "What's Saving my Life Right Now" sounds a bit dramatic, but. . . I feel like I've been living in a hole for the last 5 weeks and only keeping my head above water because of what I'm about to share!

All I can say is thank goodness for like-minded, brilliant, creative friends! Knowing how time-consuming regular teaching is, not to mention remote teaching, one of my teaching besties, Claudia & I have committed to walking every morning BEFORE school! We are still in quarantine here in California, so we each walk in our own neighborhoods while chatting on the phone. Not only has she been an amazing support system for school-related issues, but we also are both caring for elderly parents and are a listening ear. We hold each other accountable for getting out of bed and moving every day. Teacher self-care is SO important during these stressful times! Here are some glimpses of my walks. Appreciate the little things!

For organization, my friend, Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6 is SO good at learning then teaching about technology. You need to follow her on Instagram; her stories have tons of tips for building a Google Site, navigating Schoology, and shortcuts to make your life easier! She has been SUCH a timesaver and inspiration!
I couldn't have prepared for distance learning without my friend Susie at The Panicked Teacher ! Not only is she an amazing teacher, but she creates THE cutest and useful materials! She created all those buttons on my class website above plus the virtual bulletin boards below! Check out her TpT store HERE. I was wondering how to simulate bulletin boards and displaying student work while we are virtual. These bulletin boards and library have been perfect, as parents have easy access to them, whereas they might not have stopped into our classroom to see them in "normal" times.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Getting the Most out of Distance Learning

 It's hard to believe the new school year is just around the corner! Anxiety and emotions are running high with all the unknowns: In-person? Masks optional? Virtual? Hybrid? When my district announced 100% distance learning to begin the year, I breathed a sigh of relief that I could finally start to plan. Starting the school year virtually will be different than crisis mode distance learning last spring. By March, we knew our individual students well and although teaching remotely was not ideal,  we knew what our kids needed and how to interact with them. Deep breath. . . 

This begins my 34th year of teaching. I did not yet own a personal computer in 1987, let alone have a computer in the classroom!  Times have changed, yet effective teaching practices have not. Just like many of you, I've spent much of my summer watching videos, webinars, listening to podcasts and reading about distance learning and teaching. I stopped in my tracks when educator and author, John Spencer explained, "The synchronous, interactive nature (of live virtual meetings) makes it a challenge when students have unreliable internet or challenging schedules. It also tends to breakdown in effectiveness as groups grow larger. For this reason, virtual learning is not a great method for direct instruction or for processing new information." Wait! I had to replay that several times. (I was listening to his podcast) I had assumed that my live Zoom meetings were the time to introduce content to my students because it would be me teaching to them, just like in the classroom! However, unlike in the