Sunday, November 16, 2014

Teachers Thanking Teachers With Gifts for You!

I'm thankful for so many things in my life, and I feel blessed beyond belief. For starters, I'm thankful for my loving and supportive family, my wonderful friends, and my excellent health. I love creating resources for teachers, and I appreciate those who support me by purchasing my resources, connecting with me on Facebook, leaving me awesome messages in their feedback on TpT, and collaborating with me on my projects.

Today I'm joining over a dozen of my generous blogger friends in a big link up called Teachers Thanking Teachers. We are showing our gratitude by giving away one of newest products absolutely free for two days! After you download my free gift and enter the giveaway, please visit the other blogs linked at the bottom of the post to find all of the goodies being shared.

Download Your Free Gift November 16th or 17th
I love using math games and interactive lessons. The kids think they are playing, but they are actually learning! Recently I've been working on a series of CCSS aligned fraction lessons that feature cute penguin fractions while digging into important concepts.

The first pack in the series is ready now, and it's called Penguin Fractions: Exploring the Basics. I'm so excited about this new resource, and I'm thrilled to give it away free to my followers on November 16th and 17th!

I had the best time working on this unit, and I love that it includes lesson ideas, games, and cooperative learning activities that will make exploring basic fraction concepts FUN! The activities in this pack are directly aligned with 3rd grade standards, but many of them can be used with advanced 2nd graders or as a review with 4th and 5th graders. My next pack will include more advanced activities aligned with 4th and 5th grade standards. Follow me on TpT if you are interested in seeing it when it's finished. Here are some of the concepts covered in this one:
  • Basic fraction terminology
  • Matching fraction numbers with word names and with illustrations
  • Exploring how to express fractions of a group
  • Locating fractions on a number line
  • Comparing Fractions to 0, 1/2, and 1
Penguin Fractions: Exploring the Basics is absolutely free to download from my TpT store today and tomorrow (November 16th and 17th). On November 18th it will turn back into a pumpkin no longer be free, so download it now! If you want to share it with others, please don't send it to them by email. Instead, send them a link to this blog post so they can download it themselves. Thanks!

$25 Wishlist Giveaway
I love hosting giveaways, so I decided to show my appreciation for teachers in another way. I'm giving one lucky winner $25 worth of teaching resources from my TpT store! If you follow me on Facebook, you might have seen me do a Wishlist Giveaway, and that's what I'm going to do now. To enter, just go to my TpT store and find at least 3 products that you wish you would win. Add those items to your TpT wishlist. Then come back to his blog post and complete the Rafflecopter form below to tell me what you wished for. 

You'll notice that the Rafflecopter has lots of options for entries, but you don't need to complete them all to enter. However, the more options you complete, the better your chances are of winning. If you already signed up for Candler's Classroom Connections and follow my Teaching Resources Facebook page, those will be easy entries for you! The giveaway ends at midnight PST on November 17th, and I'll do the drawing for the winner on Tuesday, November 18th. If you win, I'll contact you by email to let you know and to find out which items you want me to send you, up to a $25 value.

Ready to check out the products that are being given away that the other bloggers are giving away for free? Click the links below to find some wonderful blogs and download some amazing products! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 13, 2014

20 Tips for Motivating Gifted Kids to THINK!

Advice from Real Teachers Series

Chances are good that you have at least a few gifted children in your classroom, even if they aren't formally identified as being gifted. These students can be a joy to work with, but it does take a special teacher to know how to motivate them to set high goals for themselves and being willing to take on challenges.

Today's Question
Taylor is a fan of the Teaching Resources Facebook page who asked, "I'm working with a great group of gifted students. The only problem is that some of them don't like to have to think because they're used to everything being so easy. How do I motivate my top students to want to push to the next level? How do I get them to want to dig deep and not just to be masters of the surface level?"

Encouraging a Growth Mindset
Dozens of teachers shared their expertise in responding to Taylor's question, and many of them referred to Carol Dweck's work on encouraging students to develop a "growth mindset" where they accept challenges and see the value in tackling difficult work. Dweck wrote, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and it's a life-changing resource. If you aren't familiar with her work, watch this fascinating YouTube video that gives a great overview of some of the most relevant information for teachers. If it interests you, purchase the book to learn more.

Top 20 Suggestions for Motivating Gifted Kids to Think
Here are 20 of the best suggestions for motivating gifted kids to stretch themselves and reach their true potential. If you would like to read them all, click over to my Facebook page where you'll find them.
  1. Steve Miller - Raise the rigor and your expectations. Failure IS an option in the real world. This means YOU have to be more rigorous in designing, prepping and executing difficult concepts. Your kids will step it up only when YOU "teach it up." The first grades will be a wake-up call. Reel 'em in and teach!  That's what all of us were called to do!
  2. Matt Squires -They're used to being praised on their intelligence, not their effort. They do not have 'growth mindsets.' (Watch this YouTube this from Carol Dweck- it's incredible stuff). Make a huge effort to reward and praise their effort , not their intelligence and natural talent.
  3. MeLinda Gray -The main thing to focus on is what they are interested in. Are they gifted in your content area?  If they have are identified gifted you need to know in which subject areas. Then, remember it is not giving them extra work, but giving them challenging work that is on a different level than the regular ed students, if you have any regular ed kids.  After that, find out what they are interested in and try to design lessons, reading, etc, around those interests.  Using webquests online can be a huge help in language arts, plus they love using the internet.  It is a lot of extra prep, but they will really start responding and it will be so worth it.
  4. Mary Breveleri - Asking for evidence to back up an answer can get them to think deeper.  What did you read or see that makes you say that?  Deeper questions will result in deeper answers. Surface questions will result in surface answers. :)
  5. Sarah Smith - I had the same problem with my high math group. I would have the class solve a problem and choose 3-4 students with different answers or methods of solving the problem and have each student explain their solution and how they got there. I would then have the rest of the class debate on who was correct and why. It really made the students think about their own thinking (if that makes sense).
  6. Mary Moncus - We do team competitions.  My gifted kids are very competitive and working in small groups they can help and motivate each other.
  7. Pam Dobrowski - I have to give them graphic organizers that prompt their thinking otherwise they won't give me what I know they can do. I teach second grade.
  8. Cathleen Triplett - Project Based Learning:  Have them brainstorm problems in the community and research and solve them. They could create a website to show what they've learned and educate others.
  9. Morgan Callahan - Try the book Your Fantastic Elastic Brain! Great for teaching kids how we can expand our minds.
  10. Zanda Clearbrook - You could try a flipped classroom, or at least incorporate some aspects of it. Give them the information up front, and they come back and do some kind of research/project that shows their understanding of it. Layered Curriculum could also be a choice to use, but that takes a bit to set up the first time.
  11. Michelle Watt - The important thing to remember about gifted students is to challenge them to go deeper not broader. Also, reward the process rather than the right answer. Research fixed vs growth mindset. They have likely been rewarded for always getting the correct answer rather than their thinking process.
  12. Lorri Hurst - Use guided inquiry to push them outside of their comfort zone.  I do this with my AP students all the time.  When they ask me a question I ask one in return.  Ask questions to guide them to the place they need to be. You may have to explain this to your principal and even send a letter of the change in expectations.  Make sure you explain your goal is to produce the Best Most Productive student you can.....thinkers not memorizers!
  13. Connie Copenhaver - The passion and drive GT students need are firm, fair, expectations from a teacher who embraces growth mindset and gives challenge, rigor, enthusiasm, to academic choices to student-driven projects.  Allow the GT students to soar and be guided by you.  Give room to grow within your lesson standards.  Do not fear the what ifs...allow students to truly enjoy and engage in self-selected projects within a good question as stated in genius hour standards. You will see such joy of learning like never before!  It will transfer into all areas in your classes.  Good  luck!
  14. Kathryn Rasinya-White - Give them CHOICE! Find out what interests them and let them explore that topic using a multidisciplinary approach.
  15. Kathleen Curran - Read the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. By focusing on a growth mindset it may get them working more. They're used to being praised for how smart they are, not how hard they work. Works for low students as well
  16. Granny Bee - Genius & Passion Projects. STEM & STEAM. Anything where they get some choice and they have to set goals. Odyssey of the Mind. I tell my smart ones if they don't challenge themselves they are going to get lazy. Rabbit & the hare? The slow and steady ones will pass them up.
  17. Stephanie O'Moghrain - Genius Hour!!!  Google it, and spend about 6 hours absorbing all the info.
  18. Patricia Sardina - Try to change their mindset. If they've always been told that they're gifted failing might make them feel awful! The frustration would be just the beginning... Instead of everyone telling them how smart they are, go for, "You can learn anything." This implies a process; trying, and failing and trying again until you've got it right. If they believe that being challenged will help them learn more and keep them at the top they will go for it! Make it a game if you can: "let's see how many new words you can learn this week" or "What do you think is the best way to do this?" Good luck!
  19. Pe Howell - Give them some challenges. Can you assign a project on a topic of their choice that utilizes some of the skills you want them to enhance?
  20. Reuben Hks - Try using Kaplan's icons of depth and complexity. Here is a link to some information about them from, which is also a great website for GATE ideas. 
Do you have any of your own strategies to share? If so, please post it in a comment below. If not, which strategies in this post interest you? 

If you would like to submit a teacher question of your own, be sure to watch for the Question Connection announcement every Wednesday at 8:30 pm EST on the Teaching Resources Facebook page. Even if you don't have a question, please follow me on Facebook and offer your advice when you see the questions come through! Working together, we can accomplish more!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Teaching Kids to Write Super Sentences

How do you encourage your students to write longer, more interesting sentences? You know what will happen if you simply them to write longer sentences...  they'll just add more words to the end, resulting in long, rambling run-ons!

After struggling with this problem myself, I developed a three-step process to help my students turn boring sentences into super sentences. I began by teaching them the difference between fragments, run-ons, and complete sentences. Then we practiced revising and expanding basic sentences to make them more interesting. After I modeled the activity and they practiced it in a whole group setting, they played a game called Sentence Go Round in their cooperative learning teams. The difference in their writing was dramatic! Before long, they were adding more detail to their sentences without creating run-ons in the process.

Step One - Mini-Lesson on Sentences, Fragments, and Run-ons
Begin by explaining that complete sentences can be short or long, but they must have two basic parts, a subject and a predicate. The subject tells who or what the sentence is about, and the predicate is the action part of the sentence, or the part that tells what the subject is doing. If it's missing one of those parts, it's a fragment. If it has a whole string of sentences that run on and on without proper punctuation, it's a run-on sentence.

Next display a series of phrases or sentences and ask your students to decide if each on is a fragment, a complete sentence, or a run-on. Try these:

  • Rabbits hop. (Your students will say it's a fragment since it's so short, but it's actually a complete sentence.)
  • The big brown fluffy rabbit in the garden. (Looks like a sentence, but it's missing a predicate.)
  • Rabbits love to eat carrots and one hopped into our garden and I thought it was cute even though it was eating the carrots. (A run-on of course ... kids don't usually have trouble spotting these, but you might want to have them find all the subjects and predicates to make your point.) 
  • The hungry rabbit hopped into the garden because he wanted to eat a carrot. (Even though this one is long, it's not a run-on because it only had one subject and one predicate.)

Step Two - Mini-Lesson on Revising and Expanding Sentences
After your students can distinguish between fragments, run-ons, and complete sentences, it's time for them to practice their sentence-writing skills by learning how to revise and expand basic sentences. This activity should be modeled in a whole group or guided literacy group first, and older children can do the activity later in cooperative learning teams. To start the activity, you need a set of task cards with basic sentences that lack detail. You can download the freebies below for this lesson. 

Click to download the free Fall-Themed Basic Sentences below.

Whole Class Modeling:
  1. Start by selecting a basic sentence from the task cards above. Let's use "She picked apples." Write the sentence on the board or show it to the class using a document camera.  
  2. Explain that "She picked apples" is boring, but if we ask ourselves questions about it, we can add details that answer the question and make it more interesting. For example, if we ask "Who picked apples?" we can name someone specific. Demonstrate how to make the change as shown below.
  3. It's still a boring sentence, so let's ask, "How many?" and say that Mary picked a dozen apples. 
  4. Go through the same process, each time repeating the revised sentence and asking another question. After 4 rounds of changes, it might look like the one in step 4 below.

Whole Class Interactive Lesson:
  1. Next, repeat the process and actively involve your students. Ask one student to randomly select a sentence card and write it on the board. 
  2. Then ask all students to think about a question they could ask and how they could revise the sentence to add one detail. It can be more than one word, but it shouldn't be more than a short phrase that answers that question. If all students have individual dry erase boards or chalkboards, ask them to write down their revisions and show them to you. 
  3. Call on one student to come forward and display his or her revised sentence.
  4. Repeat the process three or four more times until you've created a sentence that's detailed and interesting, but not a run-on. 
Modification Idea: If you notice that some students are creating run-on sentences, ask everyone to pair with a partner before sharing with the class to make sure all sentences are complete sentences.

Step Three - Cooperative Learning or Small Group Activity
The first two steps are the perfect segue into Sentence Go Round, an activity for cooperative learning teams or small groups to practice expanding sentences. The resource below includes sample sentences for the teacher to display, as well as printables for students to practice identifying fragments, run-ons, and complete sentences. It also includes activity directions and question cards to prompt students as they are creating their new sentences. A recording page is provided for students to write each basis sentence and the final expanded version. Feel free to substitute the basic sentences in this pack with the fall-themed ones in the freebie above. To learn more, preview the entire Sentence Go Round Mini Pack in my TpT store. 

I hope your students enjoy these lessons and Sentence Go Round as much as mine did, and that it results in them writing super sentences instead of boring ones! Don't forget to download the free seasonal sentences that I created to go with the ones in Sentence Go Round. Check back in a month or so, and I'll have a set of winter sentences, too! 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

5 Ways to Engage Parents Using Google Drive

Guest post by April Smith

One of my goals at the beginning of this school year was parent engagement. In the past, our school has sent home between 3-5 flyers every week trying to get parents involved, with little success. I was frustrated with how much work I was putting into communicating with the parents, only to not hear anything back.

I needed something revolutionary to engage the parents. Many of our parents work long hours and often don't even see their kids in the evening to gather all of the flyers we're sending home. I needed a solution that was easier for them to access, and easier for me to prepare.

After attending a workshop on using Google Drive in the classroom, it dawned on me that I could use this completely free service to collaborate with parents in a way that was much more accessible than sending home a ton of paper with a forgetful 4th grader.

Benefits of Google Drive 
  • Parents don't have to pay for Microsoft Office in order to read what you send them digitally.
  • Parents use the same username and password they use for their Gmail account.
  • Google Drive can be downloaded on smart phones and tablets, so parents can access every document without having to own a computer or pay for internet at their house.
  • Google saves everything you're working on, so you won't have to start from scratch when your computer restarts for updates half way into creating your monthly newsletter.

5 Ways to Use Google Drive for Parent Engagement 

1. Collecting Contact Data - I used to spend a great deal of time trying to read parent handwriting as I typed up individual contact information into a spreadsheet. From your Google Drive, you can create a Google Form with as many questions as you'd like. I setup a computer station for parents to visit when they come in for Open House before school starts, and I post the form link on my class website for the parents who weren't able to make it. For parents who still haven't filled out the form, I print and send home a paper copy, then input the information it myself.
With a couple of clicks, you can set up your form to organize the data into a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is stored in your Google Drive and is completely private unless you change the settings to share it. If you share students with other teachers, this is a great way to share contact information - just be view-able by you and the teacher you send it to! Check out this simple tutorial.

2. Sharing a Presentation - Easily upload your Back to School (or other) PowerPoint to your Google Drive or create one using Google Drive's Presentation app. Next, change the sharing settings so that anyone with a link can view it. You can then copy the link and e-mail it to your list of parent e-mails (that you collected from your Google form I hope), and also post it to your class website. If parents missed your live presentation, or want to refer back to it, they can access it at their convenience.

3. Sending a Class Newsletter - Your class newsletter can be created and sent to parents using Google Docs. Check out this great newsletter template that you can edit for your own class newsletter. Make sure you change it so that parents with the link can only view.

When you create your newsletter, you can add photos from your classroom to it and link to resources you want to share.

4. Communicating About Behavior - Every year I have a couple of students who end up needing parent communication about behavior on a daily basis. Instead of coloring in a smiley face every day or sending home multiple notes, why not share a Google Spreadsheet with their parents? Not only is this a wonderful resource for divorced parents and busy families, but it simplifies the process for you. You can add information to the spreadsheet directly from your own device (I use the Google Drive app on my I-pad). I can immediately add an anecdotal note about the student without having to dash across the classroom looking for a pen, or waiting until the end of the day when I've already forgotten what behaviors happened when.

I personally set up a Google Form that I can fill out quickly, with the particular problem behaviors for that student as check-boxes. I then share the spreadsheet where the data goes with the parents.

*Remember to change the share settings so that only the people you invite can view. This definitely shouldn't be live to the entire internet due to privacy issues. I never include the student's name just to be safe. I save the document and form as the student's class number (i.e. "Student 23") just in case.

5. Conference Sign-ups - This year I sent home paper forms for parents to sign up for a parent-teacher conference slot. They had the option to fill out the paper form with their top 3 choices, or log into the Google Doc to add their name to a guaranteed slot. The parents who turned in the paper form were given one of their appointments depending on the availability, but the parents filling it out online immediately knew when their conference slot was. I only received 4 paper forms, leaving a lot less work for me. I also had 100% attendance this year, which means the parents knew when their time slots were and there was no lost paper between me and their family.

Implementation Tips 

During Open House, Back to School, and even Parent-teacher Conferences, I personally show parents how to create an account and download the Google Drive app to their phone. For parents without e-mail addresses, I also help them sign up for Gmail, and download the app on their phone with notifications turned on. I was surprised to see how many of them were using Gmail and Google Drive for other things once I introduced it to them!

For those parents who do not have smart phones, devices, or computers, all of these files can be easily printed just like any other file on your computer. I've even had parents fill out a Google form using paper and pencil, then I filled it out digitally for them. You can also have a computer available in your classroom where parents can log in and participate.

Get started now at!

April is an upper grade teacher that loves creating fun and interesting activities for her students. She shares technology, Math, and Language Arts lessons on her website

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Exploring 2-Digit Multiplication with Base Ten Blocks

Guest Blog Post by Dr. Shirley Disseler

The way we do math has changed! The Common Core offers a new way to look at an old subject and encourages us to integrate relevant content. There are many new and exciting ways to get students motivated in the math by teaching in this more constructivist manner. For example, manipulatives like base ten blocks can be used to create area models of multiplication. This method’s focus is based on place value, which is an area of great importance for elementary students if they are to master math concepts in later years. Many teachers are just not comfortable with this new format, so I would like to describe an activity to get students comfortable with the new way to use place value to multiply two-digit numbers using manipulatives.

First the teacher should provide a hands-on practice time so that students begin to get comfortable with the manipulatives. To do that students should be given base ten blocks and provided a problem such as 12 x 14. Students then build the model and write the partial products. Students would draw the model and explain where the partial products portion of the model. It would look like this:

This approach is optimal for students because engagement is ramped up. Students do not realize they are really practicing multiplication of 2 digit numbers, and it affords the teacher the time to walk around and assess the level of struggle going on among students.

Area Model Match-Up Freebie
Once students have begun to understand students can begin to investigate the topic in more of game-like format using the Area Model Match-Up Activity, a lesson included in my book Strategies and Activities for Common Core Math Grades 3-5, Part I. My publisher has allowed me to share this activity as a free download. Click the image on the right to download it and read the complete directions.

In this activity, students play in groups of 2 or 3 to draw a two-digit multiplication problem card. Each student models the problem using base ten blocks and the others try to identify the problem and create a solution. Area Model Match-Up covers the standards included in Numbers in Base Ten for grades 4 & 5, as well as many of the math practices of the current standards. This strategy provides a more hand-on approach to understanding the actual number placement in two-digit multiplication problems. It takes out the misconception that students often have about the zero that serves as a place holder in this computational skill.

Math will always be about numbers, but the fact that students now need to “know” the math, not just “do” the math somehow makes it more fun. At the same time, it makes it somewhat scary for those teachers who did not learn to teach in this way.  Try these activities and see how engaged the students become!  Enjoy and remember… Common Core brings the “do” and the “know” together!

Dr. Shirley Disseler is Assistant Professor of Elementary and Middle Grades Education at High Point University in North Carolina. She has National Board certification as a Middle Childhood Generalist. Dr. Disseler has taught both elementary and middle school math and science, and has received many awards throughout her teaching career. She is the author of Strategies and Activities for Common Core Math Grades 3-5, a 2-part series.
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