Sunday, July 27, 2014

Smooth Sailing Back to School Tips and Giveaway {Organizing Math Centers}

This post is all about "Sailing into a Smooth School Year" with Math Center Materials!

Do you use math centers or small math groups in your room? I have been using them for 5 years, and I don't think I could teach Math without them. I love teaching with math centers, and my students cheer when they know it is Math Center day. To read more about how I structure my math time, click here.

In order to use Math Centers effectively, you have to have a good organization system to organize the games and task cards. I like to have mine set up from the start of the year, so I can just pull what I need as the year goes on. Here are some tips I have for how to effectively organize and store your math centers for optimal use:

1.  Store all of your materials in labeled tubs or bins.

I use the three drawer sterilite bins from Walmart. I store them under the markerboard in my room for easy access. The students, as well as me, go in and out of them on a regular basis. Having them front and center in the room makes it so easy to use.

2.  Store centers by domain or by skill.

I have my drawers labeled by Common Core Domain and then a 6th drawer labeled Seasonal Centers, where I store all of my holiday math centers and test prep centers. As you can see from the image, I have each item in the drawers labeled by standard.

3. Store task cards in labeled containers or photo albums.

I actually use both labeled containers and photo albums to store my task cards. I use the photo albums primarily for independent practice or partner work. The other plastic containers (Ziploc bags would work just fine, but I snagged these at Office Depot last summer.) contain an additional set of task cards that I use when small groups are working on the skill.


4. Store "larger" center materials in gallon bags or other containers.

I bought these plastic containers (similar to my smaller ones from Tip 3) at Office Depot as well. They are perfect to store my Roll and Answer Math Centers. You can read more about those by clicking here. I use gallon bags to store other larger math centers like my Halloween Math Centers seen in the image above.

This system is by far my favorite one that I have used over the years. This upcoming year will be my second year using it, and I am not changing a thing about it.

Those are the Back to School on to the Giveaways!

I will be giving away two $25 Gift Certificate to!

Your entries on this rafflecopter also qualify you for Grand Prize Package where one winner will win nearly $300 worth of intermediate resources for Back to School. I am contributing my Roll and Answer Math Centers complete collection for 4th or 5th grade (winner's choice) to the Grand Prize Package!
When you enter the rafflecopter above, you are also entering to win this Grand Prize! Check out the Grand Prize Package by clicking on the links in the below image.


Here is some more important giveaway information:
  • I will be drawing three names on my rafflecopter. Two winners will each win $25 TpT Gift Certificates. The 3rd person will be entered in the drawing to win the Grand Prize Package.
  • The giveaway ends August 2, 2014.
  • Winners will be announced on the blog and by email.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

And don't forget to stop by these blogs, read the tips, and see the amazing gifts they are giving away.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Good Questions for Math Teaching {Data and Chance}

Today I am back with another post about the book "Good Questions for Math Teaching"! See my other post by clicking here.

  Every other week we will be bringing you posts from the two "sister" geared more for elementary, and one geared more for middle.  Today is the fourth post, and it is all about Chance and Data.

I loved the questions in this chapter because they really instill in the students that there is not just one answer all of the time. Here are my favorite questions from the chapter:

Notice how only one of the questions actually requires some algorithms or "math". The others are critical thinking questions that must be justified.

Chance and data are actually not part of the standards I teach in 5th grade, but I am definitely going to be using some of these questions in some math warm ups to get the students thinking.

What are your thoughts on these type of questions that don't have numerical answers? Do you teach this type of skill to your students? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Interactive Math Notebooks: Word Problems

Summer is flying by! :( I report back to school in two weeks from today. Yikes! I have spent the majority of this summer with my family, but I was able to get a resource finished that has been on my to do list for a loooong time. This resource will come in handy as my county introduces constructed responses on the state assessments.

This resource contains different world problems or tasks for the students to solve and "interact" with in a notebook. Each task is aligned to a Common Core standard and labeled with that standard. I plan to use these word problems in conjunction with my other interactive flippables which you can read about here.

My favorite part of this is the simplicity of it! The student cut and glue the word problem paper (most 2 to a page) to their notebook. They write the answer or solution on the word problem paper and then show their work, explain their thinking or prove their answer underneath the word problem on their notebook paper. Super easy, but super meaningful and important practice!

Here are some examples:

Sorry about the picture quality on these. I desperately need a camera to take better pictures.

As you can see from the examples, the students use algorithms, models or written explanations depending on the problem (and the standard).

Click here to check out the resource in my TeachersPayTeachers store! Only 5th grade is available now, but 4th grade is in the works!

Do you use an interactive notebook for Math? Does it include word problem practice? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Reading in the Wild Book Study {Readers Share Books and Reading with Others}

 The social aspect of Reading is one of my favorite things about being a teacher and a reader. So, I was glad when I was assigned this week's section of our Reading in the Wild Book Study: Wild Readers Share Books and Other Reading with Other Readers.

The picture above is from my second year teaching and was inspired by the amazing Beth Newingham. This chapter speaks heavily to the students (and the teacher) recommending books to one another.

Next up, Donalyn Miller discusses having Book Commercials as a regular part of your reading workshop. The best part is how EASY these are to manage! Miller suggests simply having the students write the title and the author on the markerboard. Then have the students sit in a designated spot to share the book with the class. When the student finishes the book commercial, they write the book title and the author on an index card and add it to the existing cards displayed in the room. I plan to use the above image as the sign for my book commercial area (I will probably use the doors to one of my long cabinets).

For more about book commercials and example commercials, click here. I have this site bookmarked for next year. It will be a huge help in implementing book commercials!

Here are some more suggestions listed in this chapter to really inspire your students to share books and their reading with you and each other:

  • Create a Reading Graffiti board to have the students write their favorite quotes from books.
  • Create Reading Door Displays.
  • Create an online community that shares and reviews books they have read and enjoyed.
  • Be well knowledgeable about children's' books and what might interest your students.
  • Be mindful that you are also challenging your proficient, "epicenter" readers and taking them to new heights in their reading.
I'd love to hear from you about how you have your students share their reading and books they love, either by linking up or by posting in the comments below!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Rigorous Reader's Responses

I am very excited about using this resource this upcoming year. I love having the students respond to their reading. It really makes me feel like I am having reading conversations with the students that you just don't have time to do on a regular basis. It also gives teachers that much needed accountability piece. However, I really wanted something that was rigorous, aligned with Common Core, and that would help them on extended response state tests. I played around with the idea and tried it out a few times last year. After those few times, I knew that was going to be my goal this summer. And here it is!

I have created checklists to go with each Common Core state standard for Informational and Literature (4th and 5th grade sets are currently available...3rd grade is coming soon!)

Here is a breakdown of one of the checklists. The second section (Thinking Beyond and About the Text) is where the deeping thinking comes in and where the teacher can really differentiate.

The best part is the flexibility of the checklists. They can be used for traditional letters or the students can use the checklists to respond in different ways (Powerpoint presentations, Prezis, posters, etc).

Click on the images below to check out the 4th grade bundle or 5th grade bundle. Two FREE checklists are in the preview of each set for you to try out with your students.

Do you use reader's response in your classroom? I would love to hear about it!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Back to School Goals (Linky)

Yikes, Summer is officially halfway over. That is what I get for being in a state that gets out at the end of May. :( In the spirit of back to school planning (Do teachers EVER stop planning?!), I am linking up with I {heart} Recess for a Back to Schools goals linky.

Here are my goals:

What is one goal you have for this school year (Choose any category!)?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Math is Real Life {Plan a Trip: Freebies!}

It's the first Wednesday of July which means it's time for our monthly linky - Math IS Real Life!!  If you want to see how the linky works, or just want other real world math ideas, check out our Pinterest Board of all the posts so that you can look back and find some great ideas and REAL pictures to use in your classroom!  

If you are linking up, please include the below picture AND a link back to all four of our blogs - feel free to use the 2nd image and the links listed below!

A monthly REAL WORLD math blog link-up hosted by


 For my Math is Real Life post, I did a little math for our upcoming trip to Disney World. We knew we wanted to drive, but the teacher in me wanted to know just how much we were really saving by driving. 10 hours is a long time to sit in a car, and I wanted to make sure it was really worth it!

So, I gathered my information....

Then I used my information to do some calculations:

While I was writing this post, I thought this would be a great idea to implement into the classroom. So I made a few planning sheets for your students to complete the same task with their own locations and information.  Click on any of the below images to grab your copy from Google Docs.

I completes my information as examples into the planning pages.

And then here are the planning pages for your students to use.

Have you planned a trip recently? Did you choose to fly or drive?

Also, let me know if you plan to use the freebie in your classroom, and how you plan to use it?


To Teach is to Inspire...