Saturday, March 26, 2016

Easter EGGstravaganza Sale!

Hey Peeps!

I'm just popping in briefly to let you know that I am participating in the {unofficial} Easter EGGstravaganza sale on TPT! Many other stores will be joining the fun!

Stop by my store and fill up your Easter basket with lapbooks and interactive kits! Treat yourself to some easy lesson planning this Spring! Every product in my store will be on sale at 20% off!

Check out some of these products!




Saturday, March 19, 2016

Slash the Trash!

You may already be familiar with my feelings about state mandated testing. If not, you should probably read this post. It is one of my most passionate (and popular) blog posts, all about the impact of state testing from a classroom teacher's point of view.

I am still hopeful that these tests will eventually go away so that we teachers can go back to teaching, and kids can go back to being kids. Despite my intense dislike for these tests, it is still my job to prepare students for the inevitable. I focus my efforts on giving my students strategies that will make them feel confident when taking the test.

"Slash the Trash" is by far my favorite test-taking strategy to teach kids. I have actually seen dramatic improvements in test scores after explicit instruction in the use of this strategy. Today I am going to share with you how I introduce this strategy in my classroom. Then I am going to share a FREEBIE that you can use with your own students!

Here's how it works! "Slash the Trash" is basically the process of elimination with a makeover. Students are taught to get rid of the answers that don't make sense or are unreasonable. In doing so, they are usually able to narrow a multiple choice question down to two choices. Then, they think carefully about the final two selections to determine which one makes the most sense.

During my introduction lesson, I gather my students in a big circle on the floor. I place my small "dollar store" trash can in the center of the circle. We have a candid conversation about how most multiple choice questions have a couple of answer choices that are just plain silly. Then, I demonstrate with some multiple choice questions about myself. Here is an example.

In this question, my students are asked to make an educated guess about how I spent my weekend. Choice A is unreasonable since a weekend would not be enough time for me to take a trip to Australia. I would ask a volunteer to crumble this paper up and throw it in the trash. Choice D is also trash. It is unrealistic that I won a marathon because, well, let's just say that I am not very athletic. :-)  Again, I would have a volunteer toss it in the trash can. Then, we would be down to the final two choices. Choice B is a possibility, but my students would probably have a hard time imagining me at a rock concert. We would set that one aside and think about it some more. Choice C makes the most sense because my students know that I have a camper. They have heard me tell stories about going camping in the past. They know that I like to spend time with my family. We would then crumble up Choice B and put it in the trash. Finally, we would be left with the best answer!

I go through this process with a few more questions about myself. Then I make the transition into reading comprehension materials. Here is an item sampler from the PSSA test in Pennsylvania. We would immediately "slash" the two "trashy" answer choices. Then, we would discuss the final two options and decide which one is the best fit for the question.

The little trash can is the perfect hook for this strategy. Plus, kids love to crumble paper! When I introduce the "Slash the Trash" strategy this way, my students really seem to remember and use the strategy on their own when taking any type of multiple choice test. They definitely begin to analyze the answer choices more carefully.

If you would like a copy of the label I put on my trash can, plus some editable question and answer cards to use with your students, click here. You can change the questions and personalize the answers if you download the file and then open it in PowerPoint.

Also, you may be interested in my Testing Strategy Flip Book, which is a very simple tool for teaching six common test-taking strategies. I use it every year during the week before the big test in order to give my students the confidence they need to succeed. "Slash the Trash" is one of the testing strategies featured in this flip book.

Best wishes to you and your students during these upcoming tests. May we all find the strength to just grin and bear it. :-)

Friday, March 4, 2016

Keeping Organized

Teach your students how to make a diagonal fold on the used pages of their homework notebook so they can keep their place and easily find the next page.

Here is a very simple tip that will make a huge impact on student success in the homework arena. Parents will thank you immensely. Trust me.

If your students use a homework notebook to record assignments, you have felt the pain or seen the struggle. Kids have trouble finding the page they need. Paperclips get lost and sticky notes get ripped and crumpled. Parents get frustrated.

Teach your students how to make a diagonal fold on the used pages in their homework notebook. It is best to start at the beginning and fold one page at a time. Some of my students get fancy and alternate their folds from the top and bottom, but that is not necessary. A simple fold from the top corner will do.

Over time, it turns into a "collection" of folds that gets higher and higher. Kids actually seem to enjoy the process and it develops into a quick habit. They can easily find the page to copy their homework, and parents can easily check the notebook at home.

Say goodbye to skipped pages or assignments written on the wrong day. Say hello to easy organization.

Just fold and flip, lickety split!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

March Pick 3 Pinterest Linky

Well, March has arrived and leprechauns are definitely lurking. My students are making plans for leprechaun traps, while {sadly} I am making plans for the state test. Booooo. Does anyone else feel the stress? Every year, around this time, I remind myself not to succumb to the pressure. I give myself permission to occasionally set aside the test prep. I simply refuse to let this test suck the joy out of my teaching.

Once again, I am linking up with Inspired Owl's Corner, Pawsitively Teaching, and Just Reed for the March Pick 3 Pinterest Party! Come join the fun!

Here are the March pins that I am currently writing into my lesson plans!

Click on image to see the original Pinterest link
Doesn't this look like a great way to promote critical thinking on St. Patrick's Day? The students design and build bridges out of pennies! The bridges are supposed to be at least 3 centimeters in length and should stand for a minimum of ten seconds. That sounds like the perfect blend of holiday fun, plus science and math to me!

Click on image to see the original Pinterest link
Now this idea is just good, old-fashioned fun! My class is quickly approaching a class reward and these "Minute to Win It" games might be the perfect bribe incentive to reach our goal! You should definitely check out the Creating Readers and Writers blog for more information about each game. Her photographs are so wonderful.

Click on image to see the original Pinterest link
Have you seen these shrunken hats?!? I had this one pinned last year but decided that it was too risky an endeavor since my daughter was a student in my class. I couldn't figure out how to pull it off without blowing my cover. I am definitely going to make it happen this year! Click on that picture to find out how to surprise your students with some magical leprechaun hats. 

If you are looking for some more March inspiration, check out what others have picked for the month of March! The March Pick 3 Pinterest Linky is open through the end of the month. All are invited to link up below and join the party!