Thursday, January 4, 2018

My blog has moved to a new address! Please visit me by clicking here at Life Between Summers

Monday, December 18, 2017

2018 New Year's Resolution Balloons

Crazy to think that 2018 is right around the corner! If saving money is up there on your list of resolutions, I have a FREE New Year’s activity to share with you!

I always like to have my students set new goals and resolutions when we first come back from winter break. This year I’m having them brainstorm and then write their resolutions down on these festive balloons:

These will be displayed on a “Flying Into 2018” bulletin board with all of their balloons so that the kids will have a visual reminder of their resolutions.

Since we’ve been practicing having a Growth Mindset all year, I also plan to share this sentiment with them:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.” -Neil Gaiman

Must remember to tell myself the same! If you’d like for your class to make these New Year’s Resolution balloons too, you can find the free templates here at my TPT store. 

Come visit here again for more freebies throughout the year. Wishing you a happy 2018 full of love, laughs, and learning!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

"Gifted" Math

When kids have Christmas on the brain, why not add a little holiday cheer to a time of day when their brains have to work the hardest? A time of day such as…solving word problems!

I want my kids to be able to feel like they can always tackle any word problem that comes their way, so this Problem Solving strategy is something my class practices on almost a daily basis. And thanks to a cute idea from a couple of amazing teachers on my grade level team, today it was daily practice in the form of a fun holiday craftivity!

When we do our usual daily Problem Solving, the kids divide their white board into 4 squares. Here’s what each box stands for:

Find: What is the problem asking you to find?
Know: What information do you already know from the problem?
Show: Show a visual representation for the problem (picture, part-part-whole model, etc.)
Solve & Explain: Write a number sentence to solve the problem and explain your strategy for solving.

To spice this up for the season, today my kids solved a holiday themed word problem:

Instead of using their white boards as usual, they each got to show their work on their own Christmas present. They loved getting to prove how “gifted” they are in math!

If you wanted to provide an opportunity for higher order thinking, here’s another variation of how to “present” this to your students (no more puns for the rest of this post, I promise)!

You could give them a word problem where it shows how another student solved the problem, and the kids can analyze that student's work. Here is an example word problem that my colleagues created:

This is what the kids could work on for each square of the grid:

Operation Used- What operation was being used to solve the problem?
Explanation- Explain whether the problem was solved correctly or incorrectly and why.
Another Pathway to Solve- What is a different way that the problem could have been solved?
Visual Representation- Draw a picture to represent how to solve the problem.

Student Work:

Hopefully you will find one of these problem solving activities to be a good fit for your kids (or you could even use both and differentiate for your class)!

Now, bonus points for anyone who can solve THIS word problem: Today is December 12. Our last day before winter break is December 22. How many days are there until winter break?? 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Conversation Starter

Let’s get right down to business! For my first idea to share, I’m going to start out with something super simple. I’ve found that my favorite teaching ideas are often the least complicated. 

This one’s called “Ask Me About Stickers.” After school, it’s not uncommon for kid/parent interaction to play out something like this: 

Parent: “How was school today?” 
Kid: “Good.” 
Parent: “What did you learn about?” 
Kid: “Nothing.” 

Nothing, kid?? Did you not SEE the overflowing rigor and engagement in my Irregular Plurals lesson? So to help kids elaborate about their incredibly awesome, life-changing day at school…Voilà! Ask Me About Stickers. 

I first got the idea for these when choosing to adopt a no homework policyI didn't want parents to feel like they were being left in the dark about what their child was learning just because they weren't helping with homework every night. 

Now I know we teachers find all sorts of amazing ways to communicate to parents what’s happening in the classroom. Class websites, newsletters, communication folders, the list goes on. But I thought, wouldn’t it be even more amazing if I put more of that responsibility on the kids themselves? Yes. Yes it would. 

Here’s how they work. Every student has a sheet of these mailing labels in one of their desk folders (I call the labels “stickers.” Why? Because I work with seven-year-olds). No frills, just the words “Ask Me About” and a fill-in-the-blank line. 

At the end of the day, they take out their sticker sheet and I have them write something important we learned about in the blank on one of the labels. Here was one we did for math: 

The kids peel the sticker off the sheet and put it on their shirt. Then I send them on their way and when their parents see it after school, they do what the sticker says and ask their child about even and odd numbers. The kids get to practice their academic conversation skills (hashtag commoncore, hashtag speakingandlisteningstandards) AND review what we learned at school. It’s a win-win. 

At conferences, an overwhelming number of parents told me how much they love these little stickers. A dad said that his daughter makes sure to keep it on until dinnertime when he gets home from work and is excited to show it to him. After an “Ask Me About: Growth Mindset” sticker, a mom told me that now their whole family practices having a Growth Mindset at home. This is the stuff teacher dreams are made of, folks. 

Now I know you might be thinking, but what about those certain kids? The ones who will probably say “I don’t know…” or despite our magnificent teaching, show that they didn’t quite get it (“1 and 3 are even numbers”). At Back to School Night and through a parent letter, I let parents know that this is a clue that their child probably needs more support in that area. It’s a direct way of informing parents that they could help their child with understanding even and odd numbers at home. Here’s the parent letter: 

If you didn’t happen to read through the whole letter above just now (you're a teacher, you're busy!) I’ll go ahead and mention that my parents know not to expect the stickers on a daily basis. For me, it’s not meant to be a chore that I feel pressured to always remember to do. When time permits, I probably have the kids do it about once or twice a week. 

Now for you over-achievers, here are a couple of extra ways to use the stickers: 

1. Sometimes we will do a little role-playing in class before they go home. I have a couple different kids come up in front of the class and I pretend to be Mom (which they get a kick out of). I’ll ask them about the sticker and they’ll share their responses. I find this worthwhile because not only does it help model for the kids what the conversation could look like with their parents, but it’s also a quick and effective whole group review of what we learned earlier that day. 

2. Occasionally I’ll take a picture of something we did in class that can help give parents a reference. Then I post the picture with a short explanation on ClassDojo (if you don’t use ClassDojo, email or a class website would also work). Giving parents a visual can help them be better equipped to have a good discussion with their child (especially if it’s something they might be unfamiliar with, like “Open Number Line” or “Break Apart to Add”). Math just ain’t what it used to be when they were kids! 

If you’d like to try these stickers out in your class, you can easily make your own or just click here to get the free template and parent letter

I bought a huge box of labels here on Amazon (sorry, this part’s not free, but it’s much cheaper in the long run to purchase them in bulk). To me, Amazon Prime is one of those simple little pleasures in life- right up there with ice cream and golden retriever puppies. Anyway, it’s a box of 7500 sheets so you could split them with co-workers or just stock up for your own class. 

For more teaching ideas and freebies, click “Follow” on the right hand side to follow my new blog. I’ll be back next week to share another idea- you know where to find me :)

Sunday, December 3, 2017


Well, I’ve decided to take the big plunge and start this little blog of mine! While staring at the intimidating first blank page, I thought of inserting a self-motivational quote here, something like “Every journey starts with a single step…” But I do realize that I’m not writing to high school seniors. The more fitting quote that actually comes to mind: “Is anyone reading this??” And by that, I mean anyone besides my family (hi Mom)!

If you are, I’m so happy you’re here! Feel free to take a tour through the different tabs up top where it says Home, About, Shop, etc.…make yourself at home :)  

This Home tab right here is where I’ll be sharing all sorts of teaching ideas. You can expect a wide range, as some might be related to those ever-changing buzz words, like “Close Reading” and “Collaborative Conversations” etc., and on the other end of the spectrum, some of it will be just plain fun/cute stuff. I love an adorable craftivity or wacky PE game now and again to break up a rigorous day of finding the main topic of a multi paragraph informational text. So anything goes as long as it’s something that could be useful for you and your students.

I’m new at this whole blogging gig so it’ll be a learning experience, but I guess as a teacher I’m no stranger to that. Thanks for coming along for the ride with me! 

Leave a comment below if you’d like, I’d love to hear from you!