Thursday, March 19, 2015

How To Effectively Use Interventionists In Your Classroom

Guest post by Lindsay Perro of Beyond The Worksheet.



Do you have an interventionist in your classroom? Do you sometimes struggle with how to use him/her? Do you sometimes forget about them all together and then either send them away or give them something not very meaningful to do? If you’ve answered YES to any of the questions above, I’m here to help!

As a former math interventionist, I was fortunate enough to work with many different teachers and students in every math class in the building. Some teachers were always prepared for me and others didn’t seem to know how to use me.


How not to use an interventionist:
  • As a babysitter. I often entered a classroom to hear “Oh good! I can go make copies!” or “Can you watch them… I need a break!”
  • As a way to get rid of “those kids.” You know… the kids who’ve been plucking your last nerve all day?
  • As an assistant. Your interventionist is not there to make copies, pass out papers, or go grab your lunch.


How to maximize time with an interventionist:
  • Plan ahead 
    If you know your interventionist will always be there on Tuesdays, keep that in mind when making your plans. 
  • Co-Teach 
    Interventionists often don’t get the opportunity to teach large groups anymore. They should welcome the chance to occasionally co-teach with you. This should be something the two of you plan in advance. Determine who will have which roles and how the two of you will work with the class during independent or group work time. 
  • Small groups
    This will probably be your go-to for your interventionist. The groups should be strategically chosen based on who needs a little extra help with the skill you are currently working on. Intervention provides the opportunity for students to work in a very small group with individualized attention. These students can really benefit from this time, so choose wisely! Small groups can be held either in your classroom or pulled out to another area of the school. This will depend on what else you have going on in class that day. It is important to make sure you do not introduce any new material while a small group is being pulled. You don’t want those students to miss anything. 
  • Stations
    I LOVE stations but they can be a little stressful if your students are less than cooperative or you have a large class. Your interventionist could have a specific station to work at. As each small group comes around to that station, those students will have a great opportunity to work with your interventionist. 
  • Special Education Modifications 
    This one can be tricky depending on your district. If your interventionist is scheduled to come into your classroom on a day you are giving an assessment, you can either send them to another teacher (tell them in advance) or use them to help meet IEP goals for students who need extra time, small group testing or some other modification.

Here’s a free resource just for Corkboard Connections readers! These small group planning sheets will help you organize your intervention time! Click directly on the image below to grab your freebie now!


After spending 8 years in the classroom, Lindsay Perro is currently a full time teacher author, creating math resources for the middle grades. She believes in providing students with work that is hands on, engaging and relevant to the real world. She is the author of the blog Beyond The Worksheet.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Building EQ While Expanding IQ

Guest post by Neetu of Cinnamon's Synonyms.

I'm honored to be guest blogging for Corkboard Connections today. In this post, I'll be sharing a vocabulary building activity that also serves to increase students' emotional awareness!

I have always had a strong belief that a high EQ (emotional quotient) is much more important than IQ (intelligence quotient). In recent years, there have been more and more studies to support this notion. Research shows that people who have a high EQ are more confident, have healthier relationships, and see more success in their careers. If this is indeed true, then I believe it is my job as an educator to ensure that I'm helping my students enhance their EQ.

One of the five key components of emotional intelligence is "emotional-awareness." EQ experts say that being able to accurately identify and label ones emotions, as well as identifying it in others, is an essential ingredient in building emotional intelligence. This means that having a strong emotional vocabulary is a crucial part of this EQuation. For example, just saying "I feel angry" isn't enough because there are so many shades/levels/degrees of an emotion.

With this in mind, the following lesson was born! I love an activity that integrates curriculum (like writing descriptively and expanding vocabulary) with building stronger, more confident children. This lesson strives to help students expand their emotional vocabulary while enhancing their EQ!

I have included two FREE resources to help you get started.
  1. Angry Picture Thesaurus - To help students expand their vocabulary of emotion words.
  2. Writing template - Students can write their reflection on this template.
In addition to these resources, you will need a book wherein the main character gets angry. Any book will do (and there are heaps to choose from). I chose When Sophie Gets Angry - Really, Really, Angry by Molly Bang.


Since the key to building EQ is teaching students to label emotions accurately I told my students that saying "really, really, angry" (as the author does) isn't near as accurate as saying "I felt irate." So, as a class, and with the help of my Angry Picture Thesaurus (shades of meaning cards), we brainstormed other ways to label the character's varying degrees of anger.
My shades of meaning cards have 26 words for "angry" and each card represents a different shade of anger. The pictures provide students with context and the splash of color on each image helps students zero in on the most important elements of the illustration. These visuals really help my students understand that the word "frustrated," for instance, is very different from "ballistic."

After choosing the cards that best labeled Sophie's various states of anger, I asked my class to reflect on an incident that made them feel 'angry.' Students then chose a card that they could relate to and used very specific emotion words to write their reflection.


About 90% of the students in my class speak English as a second language, so the fact that they were able to use these words accurately started a little party of high fives inside my heart! I just love seeing my kiddos use such spiced up words!!

I'm sure if I had students use a regular thesaurus, they would have just stared blankly at the long list of words... or they would have selected a word without necessarily knowing how to use it in the right context! The images on my cards definitely helped my students select the best synonym for 'angry'!

Below are some examples of what they wrote. I know it's hard to read, so I highlighted some key parts but I will also decipher a couple of them for you just in case! For "frustrated," (top right), one student wrote about a time when she was trying to build a school out of paper, "but," she says, "the school didn't work out how I askpected (expected)." Another student writes, "I feel cranky when my dad wakes me up early."


For the word ballistic (top left corner), my student reflected on a time when his cousin came over and they had a conflict. He explains how he went "rale (real) ballistic." He goes on to say how he started to throw things, he kicked his cousin, and even broke his PS3. Wow! Now that's some intense rage... but how empowering that he now has the vocabulary to describe this very intense level of anger. One might argue, how could this be empowering? He acted out in a violent way. Yes, his behavior was unacceptable and he will need to work out how to manage his anger... but EQ experts say that in order to manage emotions effectively we must be able to label and identify what it is we are feeling before the management process can even begin!

It became clear rather quickly that my lesson was a success! Students were 'spicing up' their vocabulary and building emotional awareness!

After finishing their writing, they colored in the flame on the reverse side of the template, and I put all the reflections together to create a class book.


For my next lesson I will use the same template to discuss ways we 'put out the fire' and cool ourselves down. By coloring the template blue, the flame turns into water coming out of a hose! Knowing how to self regulate (i.e. manage emotions) is another crucial element in building emotional intelligence so it will be the perfect continuation to this lesson!

For teaching self-regulation, I absolutely adore this book:


It's about a bunny who learns how to deal with his anger... he realizes that being angry is OK... it's all about how we deal with it that matters!

Neetu teaches in a school with a high population of English Language Learners. She strives to create engaging language-based resources filled with illustrations that kids just dig! This is inspired by her need to help her students build the vocabulary required to succeed in every subject, not just language arts. She blogs at Cinnamon's Synonyms

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Memory Game: Making It Meaningful

Guest post by Deb Hanson

I have always enjoyed playing the Memory game (also called “Concentration”). I remember when my twin sister and I received it as a birthday gift when we were about eight years old. We played Memory for hours. When I began teaching, I created several Memory games that matched the various skills we were working on. As is the case with most learning games in the classroom, my students always CHEERED! when I announced that we were going to be playing Memory.

Over the years, though, I have come to realize that students need to be explicitly taught how to play this game. If students play correctly, this can be a highly educational game. The opposite is also true, however. If played carelessly, Memory can end up being nothing more than a meaningless matching-pictures game. I have witnessed the following scene more times than I care to count:

Joe and Kara are playing Memory. It’s Joe’s turn. He immediately turns over two cards, and quickly looks to see if the pictures match. They don’t match so he flips the cards back over and tells Kara that it’s her turn. Kara does the same thing. Although there is writing on both cards, neither student bothers to read the words.

Through the years, I have learned to always teach my students how to play Memory before turning them loose to play. Document cameras make this quite easy. I just spread some cards out under the camera as if I am playing a game, and I choose a volunteer to come to the document camera to play with me. After the cards are arranged, I tell the students that I am going to go first, and model exactly how I expect them play the game.

Step 1: I turn over a card, set it down in its place so that every player can see it, and read all of the words on the card out loud.

Step 2: I tell my opponent(s) what I am hoping to turn over to create a match (or what the matching card might say).

Step 3: I turn over a second card, set it down in its place so that every player can see it, and read all of the words on the card out loud.

Step 4: I say either “These cards match” (and pick them up) or I say “These cards don’t match” (and I flip them back over so that they are face-down on the table in their original position).

My student volunteer and I take a few turns, and I instruct my students to watch and tell us if we miss a step. (I intentionally skip a step or two just to make sure they notice.) Once I feel that they know the correct way to play the game, I pass out the materials and allow them to play. Then, I constantly walk around the room, observing the games, and reminding students if they skipped one of the four important steps. After the first time playing, I rarely need to remind them of missed steps because they help each other remember! You can download these directions in Google Docs by clicking the image below.


Memory Game Freebies!
Are you in the mood to play Memory now? Help yourself to the free games below to use with your students. Just click each image to download the freebie from my TpT store.



Taking a few extra minutes to explicitly teach my students this method has proven to be time well spent in my classroom.  When I teach my students this procedure for playing Memory, the game becomes not only motivational, but also meaningful.  What a powerful combination!

Deb Hanson has taught 16 years in a school district in Nebraska. She has taught second grade, 4-5 Reading, and K-6 ESL. Deb is the creator of the Crafting Connections blog where she enjoys sharing her strategies with others.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Playing the Mystery Skype Game

Guest post by Tina Schmidt



Over the last 6 years I have become very passionate about “flattening my classroom walls” and reaching out to connect with others. One of the easiest ways to get started with that is doing a video conference using Skype. The only equipment needed is a computer with a webcam and microphone. If your current computer doesn’t have those, they are very inexpensive to purchase.

Next you’ll need to do a free download of the Skype software and set up an account which includes creating a Skype ID that you will share with others to make the calls. I have done Skypes with authors, experts in a certain field, and other classrooms. Our very favorite type is the Mystery Skype.

In a Mystery Skype, the children don’t know where the other students are located so they play a game to find out. The winner is the class that guesses the correct location first.


How to Play the Game
  1. Yes/No Questions – In this format the children can only ask Yes or No type questions to narrow down the location of the other class. The students ask questions such as: Does your state border a country? Are you located in the south? Do you border any bodies of water? Are you east of the Mississippi? Once the children narrow down the location, they can start guessing individual state names. In this type of Skype the children really need to think fast and pay attention to the clues they have gathered so far.
  2. Giving Clues – In this game the children give clues about their state to the other class to help them guess. Example clues: We border Lake Erie. Our state nickname is the Keystone State. Hershey Park is located here. Talyor Swift was born in our state. I tweaked this a bit and formulated 10 questions that each class can ask and answer instead of just giving random clues. The questions give enough information to guess without making it too easy. I like to make sure that each of my students get “screen time” so I have them work in pairs on the questions. One student asks the question and the other class answers and then the other class asks us the same question and my second student answers. The first 9 questions give info about weather, animals in the state, crops grown there, etc. Question number 10 gives school info (name, number of students, grade level) and is shared after we guess the state. Here is a free copy of those questions: Mystery Skype Questions
  3. Mystery Number Skype – A third version that I’ve played revolves around numbers instead of location. In this game, the children on each team think of a secret number. The players on the other team ask Yes/No questions to try to guess the other team’s number. Is your number higher than 50? Is it a multiple of 5? Is it even? Since this game only takes about 10 minutes to play, I usually split my class into 3 groups and we play 3 rounds against the other class. Each student should have a hundreds chart in front of them when playing this Skype game.

Finding Classrooms to Play Against
  1. Skype in the Classroom – Skype has their own connection resource page for a Mystery Skype under their Skype in the Classroom website. 
  2. Twitter – If you are a Twitter user you can just search the hashtag #MysterySkype to find other teachers interested. 
  3. Google Search – There are many other websites for making connections, and more keep cropping up every day. Just Google “Mystery Skype” to find some that might work for you. Some examples are the Mystery Skype Wikispace Group, the Catholic Schools Week Mystery Skype Group that was developed last year, or the Global Classroom Project which has a group you can join for either the Mystery Skype or the Mystery Number Skype.

Helpful Hints 
  1. Be sure to remove your location and time from your Skype profile so the students don’t notice that while they are waiting for your call. I’ve had savvy students who were able to figure out location clues from the time listed in the other teacher’s profile before the call even started. You might want to do a quick test call with the teacher ahead of time to make sure that all systems are working properly on both ends. 
  2. Make sure all or a few of your students have maps on hand while playing the game. I also always have 2 students at the board taking notes to help us keep track of what we know so far.
  3. Talk to the students ahead of time about how you expect them to behave during the game. Practice using the microphone and looking at the screen when you ask the questions. Some teachers assign different jobs during the Skype call to keep the students on task. Examples are question askers, question answerers, thinkers who come up with questions, note takers to keep track of what info they have learned, atlas mappers, photographers, videographers, etc. Pernille Ripp explains more about that in her post “Mystery Skype Jobs Create by My Students.” 
  4. If we have time at the end of a call, we always like to ask the other class some spontaneous questions i.e. books they like to read, after school clubs, pets, etc. My students keep a Skype copybook to journal about each new classroom we meet. It also includes a map in the front so the children can color in the state after we do the Skype. We try to talk to classrooms from as many different states/countries as we can each year.

Besides being a fun learning activity, video conferencing also give students practice with their speaking and listening skills and may even prepare them for a future job interview that could take place in this manner.


Tina Schmidt is a 3rd grade teacher at a Catholic school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. She enjoys introducing her young students to global connections through video conferencing, blogging, and global projects. Check out her blog here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Building a Bridge with Parent-Made Listening Centers

Guest post by Julie Smith

Hello Corkboard Connection followers! I am so excited to be guest posting today since Laura’s blog has been one of my FAVORITES to follow.

Today I want to share with you an idea for “building a bridge” between home and school.

It is quite simple! Many parents have Smartphones these days, and most phones have a voice-recording app built in. Parents, older siblings, or grandparents can use that app to record themselves reading picture books, magazine articles, poems, a chapter in a chapter book, etc. You can use these recordings to create a classroom listening center.

This idea isn't limited to just the younger grades! Hearing well-read, fluent readers is effective for any reading level. Plus, students become ten times more engaged when they can make a connection to the reader. You know how excited they get when one of their family members comes to school to read to the class. This tool will allow for more people to participate in your classroom!

Instructions for Recording Voice Memos
On the iPhone there is an app called Voice Memo that is already preinstalled. It is SUPER easy to use and parents can simply email you the .m4a (audio only) file after they finish the recording. Most mobile devices have some type of recording app, and any Voice Memo app can be used. Click the image below to take you to a FREE packet of resources that includes Voice Memo Directions to send home to parents. It explains exactly how to record a Voice Memo and how parents can send it to you to use in your classroom.  


How to Play the Audio Files
Once you receive the audio file, you have several options on how the students can listen to the texts based on the devices and access to certain programs you have in your classroom.

1. Listening with Computers/Laptops/ChromebooksThe files will play on any media (iTunes, Windows Media Player, QuickTime, etc.).


Option One for Computers: If you have a server at your school that students can easily access, drop these files into labeled folders. I would rename the file to be the book/chapter title so students can easily find what they are looking for. You could even have folders arranged by reading group.


Option Two for Computers: If you do not have a server that students can easily access then I would recommend putting the files in a shared folder in Google Drive (if you are a Google Apps school) or even Dropbox.

2. Listening with iPads/iPods/Tablets:
Download an app called Quick Voice or Voice Memos (there are many different ones that you can also use!) For Androids, download an app called Voice.


Option 1 for Mobile Devices: Open the files via email, Google Drive or Dropbox on your iPad. Our teachers cannot access email on our county's iPads so when you receive the files from parents they first have to upload them to Google Drive or Dropbox. Be sure to install the Drive App or Dropbox App if you are going to go that route. Once the files are accessed on your portable device, they will pull through and remain on the app (you will have to put them on each device). I wouldn't keep too many files on the app since they take up space. Just switch them out.


Option 2 for Mobile Devices: This works best for upper grades but you can train your little ones to do this too! Have your students access the audio files via Google Drive or Dropbox. They can either sign into their account or you can stay signed into your account for quick access. I would advise you to make up a gmail account to have for just uploading/file organization if you choose to keep the iPads signed into the same account for quick access. This way the kids can't get into your Drive and delete/mess with your files! If your students have their own accounts then you can put the audio files into a shared Google folder and they can access them at home on a computer or tablet!! Build that bridge between home and school. :)

You definitely don't have to keep up with this all year long. This is the time of year when you need to pull EVERY trick out of your toolbox to keep those kiddos engaged. Try this out with a few read alouds and change up that listening center. I promise, your students are going to L-O-V-E it!


Julie Smith has been teaching primary grades for 10 years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher at four different elementary schools. She is a certified Reading Specialist and received her National Board Certification in Early Childhood Literacy in 2011. Julie loves using educational technology that enhances collaboration, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, and research with the teachers she coaches. She is the author of the blog, The Techie Teacher.
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