Monday, January 26, 2015

"Snow" Much Fun Blog Hop

Welcome to the "Snow" Much Fun Blog Hop! Whether you jumped over from Susie at Panicked Teacher or landed here on your own I am glad that you came by.
This post is all about surviving indoor recess, while still maintaining your sanity and classroom control. 
I live in Texas, and while we don't get long spans of time when we can't go outside, one day of indoor recess is enough to make me feel batty sometimes. As a result, I have honed a few basic games that can be played and activities to do that still have students moving while maintaining control in the classroom. 
All of these ideas require very few materials, and can be done in as short or long a period of time as you have. I have been known to use all of them to fill an extra few minutes throughout the day, because sometimes it just happens. 

By far the easiest activity is turning on GoNoodle. I am not going to spend a lot of time on this one, because there is a lot of information out there about it, but I wanted to make sure to include it in case you have not come across it, (or maybe just needed to be reminded that you heard of it and were going to try it but then didn't remember because you swore that you didn't need to write it down.) 
Even if you do use GoNoodle, did you know that they have a whole selection of indoor recess videos that are about 12-15 minutes each and are perfect for getting your students active. 

My next favorite activity is Mumball. Basically the gist of the game is that you stand in a circle and throw a ball. There are only three rules. 
#1 If you talk you are out
#2 If you drop the ball you are out
#3 If you throw the ball to the person next to you, you are out
I have seen this one keep students busy for the entire 20 minutes of recess It is amazing. Of course the idea came form an amazing person, The Science Penguin. Click on over to her post on the game here.   

Another standby game is Four Corners. My students love to be the person that asks the questions/make the statements, and get super silly with it too. A quick summary of this game is that you label four spots in your room with definitely, most likely, probably not, and no. Then the "Asker" asks a question or makes a statement of opinion. For example I might say, "Lime green is the best color in the world." Then students walk to the spot in the room with the label that they agree with. It is so simple, and yet students will fight over the chance to be the "Asker" and if we don't have enough time for everyone to take a turn, I have to assure them that we will play again soon and start with those who didn't have a turn. 
If you want to put a more active spin on the same game then you can pick an activity for students to do when they get to their spot until everyone has chosen a spot. For example, when you get to your spot hop on your right foot until everyone has chosen a spot. This element puts in a little extra movement, but can be tricky if you have indecisive students. 
You can click on the image above for a free download of the signs for the four places in your room to play Four Corners. 
My final idea is another super simple one. I call this one dance party, and it entails exactly that. We turn on music and dance it out. I usually start with freestyle dance where everyone does their own thing, and then switch to a follow the leader type dance where we mimic the dance of the leader, changing leaders every thirty seconds or so. 

I hope that you were able to find at least one idea to help save your sanity during indoor recess this winter! For another fantastic post on something "Snow" Much Fun hop on over to see Kady at Teacher Trap! 
Teacher Trap

Monday, January 19, 2015

Julia Cook

Oh my goodness I have a new favorite author to have visit our school! Julia Cook came to visit us last Friday, and I was hanging on her every word. 

I have been reading some of her books in my classroom for the last several years, and earlier this year was fortunate enough to get about thirty of her books from a Donor's Choose grant. We have been reading her books and working with the ideas that she presented all year long. These books have come to have a really big role in our classroom this year, and as such, I was completely starstruck when I met her.

As teachers we were able to meet her and hear her speak on Tuesday afternoon. She delivered a fantastic key note on motivating students. This presentation had the perfect combination of making me feel like I am not doing enough, but leaving me with the idea that not only can I do it, but I GET to do it! She left me feeling so ready to go back into my classroom and get things done!

She also introduced us to her service dogs Kirby and Angus. They are precious. I got to hold them. That is all, and it totally made my day!

On Friday she was at our school all day. In the morning we went to the gym for an hour presentation for 3rd-5th graders. Julia Cook is so dynamic that she had over 300 students absolutely engaged for the entire hour. She read  (and I use that term loosely, because it was more like acted out a completely memorized version) three different books to our students, and they, and I were hanging on her every word. That is really the only way to describe it. Then she brought out Kirby and Angus, and of course she had everyone completely hooked.

I was a little worried that it was going to be mission impossible getting my students back to our room with any sense of order, but Julia Cook had a solution for that too! She issued them a challenge to go back to their classrooms silently, and they bought into it hook, line, and sinker. It was amazing!
At the end of the day we were able to meet her again in the library, with just fourth grade. I loved how cozy it was! She had our students up close and personal, and again they, and I, were hooked. She read them a copy of the book she is working on, talked about the writing process, and then left lots of time for questions.
Then came the dogs! Angus and Kirby were definitely the stars of the show, and were the topic of a lot of the questions. My absolute favorite comment was at the very end when she was talking about how her dogs are service animals and can go anywhere, they can even fly. One of the little boys in the back screams out, "They can fly?!?!"and hilarity ensued. I loved it!
All in all, I loved every moment that Julia Cook was at our school. If you are looking for an author to visit your school I cannot recommend her more highly! 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Throwing Stress and Worry Away

Thank you for popping by for this installment of the Bright Ideas Linky! We are coming together as a blogging community to share more than 100 bright ideas with you! 

Now on to the meat of things!
The first day back from winter break was different this year. In the past I have had students come back super chatty and ready to go. This year there was definitely undertones of stress as each student walked in the door. I learned more about each student's worries during our morning meeting. One student's dog had passed away. Another student had fallen and had to get stitches, and was worried they would come out. Each and every student was worried or stressed about something.
I thought about it, and remembered a book, Blueloon by Julia Cook, that we had in our library. I jumped up, grabbed it, and we read. As we read I saw that many of my students were identifying with the story easily.

After the book I gave each student a plain piece of notebook paper and an envelope. We each, myself included as I am always stressed about something, wrote for five minutes all the things that worry us. We wrote and wrote, and at the end of five minutes we read our lists to ourselves. We discussed how sometimes it helps to just write it down, and that no one even needs to see it. We also spoke about how sometimes you really need to talk to someone about it.
Next came the exciting part! We took those papers and ripped them into the tiniest pieces we could get. I mean seriously tiny. We then put the pieces into the envelope and sealed them up. I gave students the option of keeping their envelope, or recycling it, but either way we were each going to let go of our worries just a little bit. I was half tempted to play "Let It Go," during this process, but thought it might make it a bit too cheesy.
I was really impressed with how into this my students were. Even my tough as nails boys who don't do anything they don't want to do were really into it. They were shocked when I said to rip it up, and couldn't get over the fact that I didn't want to(well of course I wanted to, but I kept myself from) read all of them.
Overall, I think this is a really positive activity that could hold some real power at stressful times of the year. I think we will probably do it occasionally, especially right before our big testing season!
If you liked this post, please consider following me with Bloglovin', on Facebook, or on Teachers Pay Teachers for more great ideas! 

For more amazing ideas, from fantastic bloggers check out the linky below. Items are listed by topic and grade level to make your search a little easier!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Real Teachers, Real Messes

I am linking up today with Hilary from Second Grade is Out of This World to share some real teacher talk. Today's topic is our messes. 

I try to put off an air of organization, I really do. Most of the time I can manage to hold it together, but there are some things that just fall through the cracks. 
My classroom organization is something that I pride myself in. I feel like an organized classroom allows me to be the best teacher that I can be and provides a great environment for my students to learn in. I am not a clutter person, and certainly not a hoarder, BUT sometimes I just can't part with something that I just might need at some point in the future. 
Enter the back corner of my classroom. This corner is kind of a little alcove of space off of our classroom on the way to the bathroom with a door that links to the next classroom. You can't see it from the rest of the classroom, so it has become a bit of a dumping ground. 

Everything back there is something that I want, but am not using at the moment, and may not again, but I definitely want it. 

I really don't know how this happened as I am the type of person that gets rid of something as soon as it isn't wanted anymore, but it happened, and now it is all over the internet where people can see it. 

I want to say that I am going to go clean it up right now, but we all know that isn't the truth, and why should I even pretend? I mean we are being real here aren't we?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What's the Story?

I came across what I find to be a really entertaining linky party about where bloggers came up with their logo, so I thought that I would join in! Art with Jenny K. is the brain behind this linky, so pop on over and check her out!
My logo for Teaching in the Fast Lane is actually pretty easy to explain. As a hobby I race cars. It is one of those things that always seems to interest people when I talk about it, so I thought it would be a unique spin on a blog name combining the two ways that I spend the majority of my time; racing and teaching. 

To add to this, my classroom has the theme of Ms. R's Racers (because who doesn't love alliteration?) so it seemed like a natural fit. As I have continued on my blogging journey I have been very happy with my choice, as I find that it is just different enough to make it memorable. I hope so anyway! 

Christi from Design by Christi is the one who actually created my button, so I can't take the credit there. She is amazing!

To read more stories about how bloggers came to create their logo click on over to Art with Jenny K. to check out the linky!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Plickers for All!!!!!

On our first day back from Christmas break we had a teacher from another campus in our district come to present about writing. She was a fantastic presenter, and you can check her out at Taylor-Made Teaching. I am not going to lie though, my biggest takeaway was not about writing, but was instead a new to me technology tool, Plickers

If you think back, you can probably remember using clickers either as a teacher or a student. For me it was both. I remember using them in a few high school and college courses, then again my first couple of years of teaching. From either side, student or teacher, I remember it being frustrating. They never seemed to work quite as advertised. The software always needed to be updated, and we never seemed to be able to stay ahead of the curve. 

Enter Plickers, which is essentially clickers without the clickers. Instead it uses your smart phone and codes that you print for free. So, I signed up right away and got started. 
 The website is incredibly easy to navigate, and I was able to sign-up, input my class, and begin using it all in the same day. It honestly took me about 30 minutes from beginning to being ready to use it, which is pretty miraculous in my book.

To get started, you simply go the to Plickers website and sign-up in the top right hand corner. It is completely free, and requires very little information.
 Next, you add your class which is as easy as naming it. You can have multiple class, so if you are departmentalized it is easy to keep them separate.
 After that, you input your students. I matched my students to their class number and used first name only, but this is up to you. Just know that ultimately students are going to be assigned a number. 
After assigning your students to a number, you print the cards. I chose to print two to a paper, but they offer several different options. The REALLY great thing about these cards are that they have a number specific code. SO, if you have multiple classes, you still only have to have one set of cards, because whoever you assigned to be #1 in each class would have the same code.

A couple of tips for the cards:
-print them on cardstock for durability
-do NOT laminate them, as the sheen can cause it to be difficult to read

 You are now ready to make your own questions, which could not be easier. You simply type in your question and answer choices, and mark the correct answer. It does give you the option to allow multiple correct answers on a given question. Remember to hit save after each question, and it will ask you which class you would like to add the question to.
 Ready to go now? I projected the questions using one of my Chromebooks onto the screen and read it to my students.
Each student has their own card with assigned number. Each card has a unique code. On the four sides of the square are the letters A,B,C, and D. For students to answer, they simply hold the card with their answer choice on top. 
 With your smartphone you open the app, select the question, and walk around the room scanning. I was thoroughly impressed with how quickly it picks up the codes. A little bar appears with the student's name as it scans each code to let you know it got it. I was able to pick up students from the other side of the room.

Make sure for this your overhead lights are on. We found that when we turned them off it didn't work. Additionally, any students that were sitting near the projector (ours are not mounted on the ceiling) had to face away from the projector in order for their code to be read.
On your smartphone it will give you a display of who has answered, if they answered correctly, and a graph of your students overall. From the website you can generate reports of how students answered as well. 

My students absolutely loved this strategy, and I love that you can put pretty much any type of content into the questions. It is incredibly easy to use, and they BEG to do it more. It is now officially a part of our classroom routine.  

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Favorite Things

Today is my last day of break before heading back to school for the spring semester. I have been taking stock of what is coming up, and wanted to put a few of my favorite items all in one place in case anyone else can use them too!

January has a lot of really fun curriculum to get through in all subjects.

In reading we are working on main idea. This is always a tough one for our students, and we will practice it any way that we can. One of my very favorite products for practicing main idea are these task cards from Teaching with a Mountain View.
My favorite thing about these task cards is that along with the usual text are picture prompts. My students get really into the photographs, and they make for easy differentiation on my part. 

In math we are getting started on measurement. Measurement is another one of those topics that students seem to either understand right away, or need some extra time with. For this reason, I always have some choice boards ready to go, so that I can ensure that students are challenged regardless of their level of understanding. 

In science we are getting started on natural resources. Of course, my favorite science products all come from The Science Penguin! We will be completing this set of stations on Natural Resources
I LOVE using these sets of stations, because students are able to work together to complete tasks, and it frees me up to work with students that need a bit more help with the topic. 

In Texas History we are finishing up the Texas Revolution. We are nearing the end of this unit. We should be finishing it up this first week back, and be ready to move onto the Republic of Texas. 

I hope that you found something here that can be of help to your classroom. I will try to continue to post randomly about what items we are using in our classroom to improve engagement and learning!