Wednesday, January 21, 2015

5 Reader’s Theater Myths Debunked (and Tips to Make it Work in YOUR Class!)

Guest post by Sarah Wiggins

I first heard about reader’s theater in college and thought, “How fun! I will definitely do that when I have a class of my own.” When I did get my very own classroom, however, I was overwhelmed with everything that I was supposed to fit into my reading block. How could I possibly add one more thing? In my mind, I had made it this giant production that required tons of time and involved massive preparation including sets, costumes, and tense practice sessions. I soon realized I had been thinking of reader’s theater all wrong and letting the misconceptions prevent me from utilizing a valuable teaching tool.

Maybe you have believed some of these misconceptions, too, and my goal is to help debunk the myths.

MYTH #1—Reader’s theater must be a big production. 
TRUTH: You can make reader’s theater as big or as small as you want it. You don’t have to have props, sets, or any of that. The fact that it is divided into parts is special enough.

Try This:
  • Just print the scripts and go. 
  • Have students sit in their chairs in a circle with everyone’s knees facing the center, no need for “places” or acting, just reading. 
  • If you do want to go all out, wait until the last week of school or the week before winter break. Divide students into groups, and put them in charge of producing a play. Hey, that energy has to go somewhere.

MYTH #2—Reader’s theater takes too much time. 
TRUTH: Reader’s theater doesn’t have to require a huge time commitment. Carve out 15-20 minutes when you can.

Try This:
  • Pass out a script after the test on Friday or in place of a textbook story one day. 
  • Try finding scripts that match up with your social studies or science standards, and do reader’s theater during those times. 
  • Pack up a few minutes early, and let students practice their scripts until their bus is called. 
  • Do reader’s theater in lieu of morning work a few days a week. Just have students come in and begin working on a script instead of completing a worksheet.
  • Use it as a literacy center with a new script each week.

MYTH #3—Reader’s theater is just putting on a class play for fun. 
TRUTH: Unlike doing a play, where the focus is the acting, reader’s theater focuses on reading. The repeated reading aloud enhances fluency and word recognition skills. Not to mention, it addresses the Common Core speaking and listening standards. Added bonuses are teamwork, cooperative learning, and problem solving skills.

Try This:
  • Rather than reading a script as a whole class, divide your class into groups for reader’s theater. This way, each student gets more actual reading practice.
  • Before beginning reader’s theater in your classroom, set guidelines for fluent reading practices and behavior so that students know this is not just playtime. You may even create an anchor chart with your students like the one below.

MYTH #4—Reader’s theater takes too much preparation and paper. 
TRUTH: Initially, there is some work involved to get it going, but it will pay off in the end. Plus, you can re-use scripts from year to year.

Try This:
  • Make 5 copies each time you get a new script. Print on the backs of pages when possible. 
  • Highlight the parts ahead of time. If there are more than 5 parts, choose parts that have fewer lines and double them up. It’s ok for one student to read multiple parts. 
  • Keep the pre-highlighted scripts in plastic sleeves in a three-pronged folder.
  • Invite a trustworthy parent volunteer to do the highlighting and setting up.

MYTH #5—Reader’s theater is just for little kids. 
TRUTH: Reader’s theater can be adapted for students of all ages. Even “big kids” get excited when you break out a script.

Try This:
  • Find engaging scripts on your students’ reading levels. Many scripts are based on well-known books. Look for high interest topics, popular characters, and higher-level vocabulary. You may even find scripts that address your content area topics.
Think you’re ready to give it a try? Here is a FREE script to get you started. How Dorothy Saved the Scarecrow is a four-page script for grades 3-5 based on a familiar chapter from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t go perfectly the first time. Just jump in and try it! See how it goes, and tweak it as needed. It will get easier each time as your students get accustomed to your expectations.

Sarah Wiggins has spent eight wild and crazy years in the classroom and believes learning is more than a worksheet. She is on a quest to help students think outside the box, and she likes to share creative, practical teaching ideas on her blog, Using My Teacher Voice.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Penguin Fractions = Fraction Fun!

Fractions can be a tough concept at any grade, so I'm always looking for fun ways to teach them. A few months ago I decided to create a hands-on sorting activity, and I thought it would be fun to use penguin theme. I envisioned activity cards with penguins having fractions on their tummies, and that's what I created. I later added matching fraction bars which can be printed on the backs of the penguin fractions. Visual models are important for concept development, so being able to flip a card over and see that the fraction looks like makes them even more effective.

As usual, what started out to be a simple activity quickly exploded into a whole collection of resources! I created the sorting activity as planned, but then I started thinking of other ways to use the Penguin Fraction Activity Cards. I ended up creating several variations and sizes of the cards, too, in both black and white and color. The color cards are especially helpful if you can afford the ink because all penguin fractions of the same color have the same denominator.

Equivalent Fraction Freebie
If you would like to try one of the penguin fraction lessons, you can download this free 10-page Equivalent Fractions Sorting Freebie when you sign up for Candler's Classroom Connections newsletter.

This packet includes a complete lesson from Penguin Fractions: Exploring the Basics and it comes with the penguin fraction cards you see here.

If you are already receiving my newsletter, look in your inbox for the last newsletter I sent out, and you'll see a link to the "Subscriber Freebies" page where you can download this game.

Penguin Fraction Resources
So far I've completed four separate products and two combos in my Penguin Fractions series, and I've got more planned. My next project is a set of task cards to go with Penguin Fractions: Comparing and Ordering, and then I'll be working on some activities for mixed numbers and improper fractions.

All of the products are aligned with Common Core State Standards for 3rd and/or 4th grade, but they can also be used for review with older kids.

One reason I'm excited about these new resources is the fantastic feedback I'm getting from teachers who have started using them. When I work on any new product, I share my early drafts with my "feedback team," a group of teachers who try the resources out with their students and let me know what works and what needs to be tweaked.

Tami Terry tried the activity with several of her classes and snapped a picture of these 4th graders testing out an early version of the benchmark sorting activity. The directions call for students to work with a partner and take turns sorting fractions into three groups: less than 1/2, equal to 1/2, or greater than 1/2. As the students work, they are encouraged to talk over the reasons for each fraction card placement. The kids loved it and it helped them understand the concept of comparing fractions to benchmarks. The final sorting board included in Penguin Fractions: Comparing and Ordering ended up looking like the one below.

Where to Find Penguin Fraction Resources
If you are creative and have time to make your own games, you can purchase the Fraction Activity Cards alone. If you would rather spend a few extra dollars and save yourself time, consider purchasing one of the ebooks or combos which include the activity cards. Both ebooks include complete lessons as well as printable games and activities for practicing fraction skills. If you love the whole concept, you might want to purchase my Penguin Fraction Concepts Growing Bundle. I will be adding several more items to the bundle, and if you purchase it now, you'll get anything added to the bundle for free!

You'll find links to all of these resources at the end of this post, or you can click the titles below where you can preview them in my TpT store. Be sure to read the descriptions for each product before you make any purchase so you don't end up making duplicate purchases.


Years of Penguin Fraction Fun!
Yes, I know what you are thinking! Those penguin fraction cards are going to be a bit of work to print, laminate, and cut out. You want to print them in color, too, and color ink isn't cheap! Just remember that after you have them made, you'll be able to use them year after year. You'll be glad you invested the time and energy into creating these cards, because the penguin fraction activities will make fractions fun to teach and even more fun for your students to learn!

 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

5 Math Games Every Classroom Needs to Play

Guest post by Leigh Langton

Hey guys! It's Leigh from The Applicious Teacher! I am super excited to be blogging at Corkboard Connections today. I'm sharing a practice that I use to help increase my students' engagement and number sense during my math block.

Do you play games in your classroom? Wait... what?! No time? Well... you should make time! Especially during your math time. To me, math and games go together like Nutella and pretzels. Delicious separate, but amazing together.


As a third grade teacher, I know how limited our time can be, so I am here to share with you 5 math games you should take the time to play this year!  All of these games are fun, easy, and require little to no prep. They are math games that I've played for years with my second graders. When I moved up to third, I was able to easily modify these games for my new "big kids".

First up... 100's Game 


This game can be played in a k-5 classroom. It is perfect for building number sense and it's only prerequisite is that students can count. There's no supplies needed to play and my kids loved playing this as a "brain-break" before math.

Here's how to play... Have your class stand in a circle. Moving in a clockwise direction, have the students count out loud until they get to a hundred. The person who says, "100" sits down. The last person standing, WINS!

The idea is simple, but can be modified for your students. In second grade we'd count by 5's,10's, and 25's (to help with money later on in the year). For third, we count the multiples of numbers. For numbers that don't have a multiple of 100, I choose the last number in the sequence of 12 as the "end number."

Other Variations 
Students sit down on a certain multiples (like the multiples of 7) Students don't say the multiple. Students can count by ones to a hundred, but all the multiples of say, 4, are "off limits." If a student says them, they sit down. You could also change it to student don't say the divisors (perfect for those 4th/5th graders who need more practice with their facts!)

101 and Out...


This paper and pencil game works well in second to fifth grade classrooms and can be played by teams of students (like boys against girls) or in pairs. To play you will need a sheet of paper, a pencil, and one dice. The object of the game is to score as close to 101 without going over or "out."

To play, students take turns rolling the dice. As they roll, they can either take the number as a one or a ten. For example, if a student rolls a 5, they could take it as a 5 or a 50.  Students keep a running record of their total as they play.


I love how the kids start to form a strategy for what numbers they want to roll next. It's a great way to build mental math strategies. To introduce this game, I usually play it as, "The Teacher vs. The Class". This allows time for modeling while keeping the kids in on the action. What class doesn't love beating the teacher? They always want to play again if I win the round.

This game works best in longer stretches, so multiple rounds can be played. I usually like to use it at the beginning of the year as a class game before math centers. It then becomes an easy and fun game for the kiddos to play during math centers.

Back 2 Back


Seriously, hands down, my class' favorite game to play! This game is perfect for inside recess as the whole class can play at once and everyone is excited for the game. This game requires some "brain sweat", so it works well for grades 2-5. There are two different versions of this game. Supplies needed are minimal:  a writing surface, writing utensils, and someone who is quick with their math facts for a "caller."

The object of the game is to guess the other player's number before they guess yours. To play, two students come up to the board and stand back to back (hence the name). This allows for the students to write on the board, but blocks their view of the other person's number.

The "Caller" states, "Numbers Up". This signals the two students write a number of their choice on the board. I usually play with numbers 2-9 to keep kiddos from dwelling in the 0's and 1's easy train, but you can play with numbers as high or as low as needed for your group of kids.


The caller then states the sum (for younger students) or product (3rd-5th) of the two numbers.  The students use their understanding of math facts to figure out what they other person's number is when added or multiplied by their number. The player to say the other person's number first wins the round. The "loser" gets to choose the next person to come to the board. Please be warned... this game can get a little rowdy as students win and lose rounds and somehow the teacher always gets pulled up to "clear out" a player who's been up a little too long... But it's a lot of fun and well worth the 10-20 minutes! Beats the repetitious practice drills of flashcards!

Guess My Number



This next game is very versatile and can be modified in so many ways! It can be played in kindergarten all the way through 5th grade classrooms. To play, you need a number chart and a dry erase marker. This game can be played whole group, in pairs or in small groups of 3-4.

To begin, one student chooses a number. The other players try to guess the number by asking a series of questions. The student crosses off numbers it can't be and circles numbers it could. The person who guesses the right number, wins and gets to choose the next number.

The best part of this game is that it can be played with laminated personal hundreds charts in small groups.

It can also be played as a whole group game using  a large chart.


For third grade, I encourage the use of question clues like "Is it a multiple of 5? Or greater than 70?" To introduce the game, I usually model crossing out numbers as students ask questions about the numbers and help link the clues to finding the right number.

For a kindergarten or first grade classroom, you may want to play with a number line with numbers 1-20.  Then, students could ask if the number is bigger or smaller than numbers within that range.  A 4th or 5th grade classroom can beef up the game with question clues like, "Is it divisible by 3?" or "Is it a multiple of 5?" The possibilities are endless! Time range to play can be from 5 minutes to 20 minutes and can be used as an inside recess game or a quick brain break before or after a lesson.

Math Fact Top It!


This last game works well in 1st through 5th grade classrooms and is best played in groups of 2-4 students. All that is needed to play are math fact flash cards. You can use addition, subtraction, multiplication or division cards. It just depends on where your students are in their math skills. I like to think of this game as "War for the Classroom," as the rules for the traditional card game apply to this math fact version.

To play, students divide the flash cards evenly among all players. Then, on the count of three, all students throw down a card. The card with the highest sum or product wins all the cards in play. This can be modified to lowest difference or quotient. If students have the same answer, then they play each other again, with the winner capturing all the cards in play. Students play until all the cards are won. The student depending on the flashcards you are using. with the most cards at the end wins. I find this game works best in math centers and is an easy way for students to practice their math facts in a new and unique way!

Download Freebie with Game Directions 
So go forth and play! Get your students engaged and learning in the new year! If you're not sure you'll remember all these games I shared today, I've compiled all the directions in one file for you. It's available here at my TpT store!


Leigh is a wife, mother, and a second-grade- turned-third-grade teacher. She currently resides in Central Florida where she has been teaching for 7 years. When Leigh isn't teaching or writing for her teacher blog, The Applicious Teacher, she enjoys snuggling up with a good book, running a few miles, or spending time with her family.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Tips for Classroom Goal Setting

Goal setting is a powerful process for bringing about change. Identifying what you want and mapping out a plan of action helps you achieve your dreams, both personally and professionally. The same is true for students. Since the goal-setting process can be unfamiliar and challenging, I'd like to offer a few tips, a freebie, and some additional resources for teaching these skills to students. You can find even more strategies in my ebook, Classroom Goal Setting.

Now's the Time to Review and Set Goals
Sometime in January many of you may be ending one grading period and starting another. This is a perfect time for students to reflect on the goals they set earlier and to set goals for the new grading period. When I was teaching, this was the time of year that students reviewed their grades and quarterly test results, they identified which goals they had met. Next, they wrote goals and action plans for the upcoming grading period.

Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as simple as it sounds! The process may seem easy, but it's a concept that takes time to develop. I explained the process in great deal in my ebook for teachers, Classroom Goal Setting, but I want to share a few more tips and tricks to help make things even easier.

Tips for Teaching Goal Setting 
  • Record Goals and Action Plans - After explaining the difference between a goal and an action plan, guide your students through the process of writing their own goals and plans. Use this one-page printable as a place for them to record their ideas. You can download and print My Goals and Action Plans for free from the sidebar of the Classroom Goal Setting page on Teaching Resources. 
  • Academic & Personal Goals - Along with goals for grades and attendance, students can set goals for things they want to achieve or accomplish at home. Ask students to set at one personal goal and three academic goals for themselves.
  • Baby Steps - Don't expect students to complete the entire form at one time. Break the lesson up into 4 small chunks. Have them write one goal and a set of action plans each day. Or write all 4 goals one day and all 4 action plans the next.
  • Conferring - Allow time to confer individually with students who are struggling to write goals and action plans. After students write one goal and action plan, collect their papers or journals to review. Many students will need additional guidance and it's best to identify those students early in the process. The single page form makes it easy for you as the teacher to review your students' goals and discuss them during individual conferences. 
  • Track Progress in a Journal - If you are interested in a more elaborate method of tracking goals and assessing progress each week, you'll want to check out Tracking My Goals, my new kid-friendly journal for elementary students. You can use this journal after students complete the one page form with their goals and action plans. I recently created an extensive set of journal pages that you can mix and match to create your own custom journal for your students. See below for details.
  • Review Goals and Check Progress Frequently - After they transfer their goals to a journal, set aside a few minutes each week for them to review their goals and track their progress.
  • Grading Tips - It's not necessary to grade this activity, but there's nothing wrong with considering this to be a writing lesson and grading their work accordingly. I didn't grade what my students choose as goals, but I did grade them on how well they followed directions and the amount of detail in their action plans. They seem to put more thought and effort into the activity if I made my expectations clear and if I treated this as a regular assignment.

More About Tracking Goals in Journals
Student journals are extremely effective for recording goals and reflecting on progress. Even elementary school students can set goals and track their progress when given the right tools and guidance.

I recently created a small half-page journal called Tracking My Goals as a companion to my Classroom Goal Setting book. This mini pack includes directions for assembling the journal and 20 different options for journal covers and pages. You can mix and match to create a journal that meets the needs of your students. To preview all the page options, click here. I also have a version for older students called My Goal Tracker that's available on TpT.

When I first created this item, it was just for upper elementary students. Then 1st and 2nd grade teachers asked for a primary variation, and I worked with them to create a variety of additional pages. Now you can choose between two different cover styles and over a dozen inside pages to create your own customized journal!

More Goal Setting Resources
A few years ago, Education World asked me to write an article about goal setting. I had so much information to share that this one article turned into a series of three articles called Goal Setting 101. It's a great place to start if you want to know more about the goal setting process.

Also, if you want specific, step-by-step directions for teaching students to set goals and create action plans, check out my Classroom Goal Setting ebook. Because the ebook and the student journal work so well together, I have packaged them together in a cost-saving bundle. You can preview those items in full by following the links in the Goal Setting Combo description in my TpT store.

Goal setting is a powerful process. What greater gift can we give our students than to share this process with them?


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Announcing the Top 10 Guest Blog Posts of 2014!


I want to give a huge shout out to all the amazing Corkboard Connections guest bloggers of 2014! All of their posts were terrific, and they've added so much variety to my blog. Last week I featured all 37 guest blog posts in an article and asked my followers to vote for their favorites. Click here if you missed that article and want to see links to all 2014 guest blog posts.

The vote count is in, and the 10 guest blog posts featured here earned a spot on this year's Top 10 list! All of these posts have been extremely popular on my blog, and several of them have received over 40,000 views in less than a year!

I also wanted to recognize the bloggers who contributed the Top 10 posts by listing their names and sharing links to their blogs. Click each blog title below to visit their blogs and read more.

Top 10 Guest Post Authors (No Order)

Top 10 Guest Blog Posts of 2014
The images in the link up below appear in random order, and the order will change each time the page loads. Click each image to read the post, and pin it on Pinterest if you like it! If you have time, it's always nice to comment on your favorite posts. Each and every one is amazing, so feel free to leave comments on them all!




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