I heart XtraMath.org.  It's a free online math program that allows kids to practice their math facts at home or at school.  It self-adjusts for their level of expertise with an operation, and spends more time reviewing/reinforcing the math facts they haven't mastered rather than making all students go through the agonizing all too familiar process of the weekly test of 1s, 2s, and 3s.  Just to be clear - this is not used until we have the conceptual understanding of addition/subtraction; this is to improve automaticity and recall.  Rather, my students treat this as a daily "Math Vitamin," and practice for 3-5 minutes daily.  Since we have 4 computers in our classroom and 30 minutes when students are arriving, turning in work, working on the problem of the day, etc., the students are responsible for taking their "math vitamin" before lunchtime daily.  That way, they are not penalized if their bus was late; they just work on it during their independent work time.  They offer a tutorial online, and it's free.  I showed XtraMath.org to the Math Coach for our school, and she loved it; she encouraged all of the upper grades teachers to use it.
In life, it's the little moments that can make your day a bit brighter!  :)  Last night, I had an email from Donors Choose telling me that my latest proposal has been funded.  Since it was for resources to strengthen addition/subtraction with composing/decomposing tens and hundreds (and this is something my students are *struggling* with right now!) I'm so excited to get these resources.  If you haven't checked them out before, you should.  If you're curious about the funded proposals, check out my class giving page at DonorsChoose.org

Teacher Tip: My favorite way to write proposals is to look at other proposals for inspiration!!
Poor old electronics... get left in the junk drawer or the garage... nobody notices them anymore.  Until now!  I asked friends/family on Facebook for their old mp3players, and rescued one from my dad's junk drawer.  I loaded it with the CDs for the vocabulary readers that came with our reading program, put a copy of each book in a bucket with the player, and voila!  The most popular listening center ever was created!  So... now I'm on a mission to liberate a few more older mp3 players to create more listening centers.  I've put the word out to parents via emails and our newsletter, and hope to get at least 1 or 2 more.  My struggling readers are really enjoying the vocabulary readers, and they are providing them with needed background information.  Hope that helps someone out there!
Sooooo...  Ever have the feeling that the blogger you've been stalking following really knows you and the problems you face?  I was reading The Clutter-Free Classroom, and her post about Math Workshop Rotations.  I nodded along as I read, thinking, "she understands!"  Check out her method of organizing Math Workshop rotations here!  I especially adore the way her rotations spell the word MATH.
  • M=Math facts
  • A=At your seat
  • T=Teacher's choice
  • H=Hands on manipulatives
I'm one of those amazing lucky people to have a SMARTBoard in my classroom, and it is so very cool!  I totally heart mine; what a great way to involve the kiddos in a lesson!  There are many good websites for teachers to share SMARTBoard files.  My favorite lately?  The SMART Exchange.  Check it out!  :)
I do enjoy using SmileBox to make a cute year-end collage or slide show to tell about a recent field trip, but I always stuck with the free account since I'm a frugal person.  (Read: "cheap!")  Super happy news - SmileBox is giving teachers a free account for a year.  Just Google "smilebox for Teachers" for more details.  Smile on!  :)
Wow... so I really heart the state of Florida, but truly only because of this website.  I mean I lived there for a little bit during my childhood, but it didn't make much of an impression on me.  However, this website from the Florida Center for Reading Research absolutely rocks!  Try out any of the student center activities here, and you'll be hooked, too!
My second grade team has been talking lately about ways to expand our students' vocabularies...  Here are several of my favorite Mentor Texts for Vocabulary Instruction:

  • Miss Alaineus a Vocabulary Disaster, by Debra Frasier. 
  • Donovan's Word Jar, by Monalisa Degross
  • Frindle, bu Andrew Clements
  • Fancy Nancy, by Jane O'Connor
Sooooo, every time I'm asked about the mini lessons to use during Daily 5, I recommend this website.  It breaks down common mini-lessons by grade level and give a suggested timeline for teaching the concepts.  Be sure to bookmark it, as you will find yourself referring back to it often!  :)
Oh, to be Irene Fountas or Gay Su Pinnell!  Their books are so amazing, as they offer such insight into literacy development in young children.  You can access the printables from their book, Teaching for Comprehending and Fluency, here (Graphic Organizers) and here (for Forms and Resources).  Enjoy!
Back to Top