#Osmo Review and Giveaway

Recently,  I was asked to review Osmo; an interactive iPad game that uses real objects within the digital realm.  I have used this with my own child and with my students.  I love how this game is not limited by age or grade. Rather, it appeals to all ages because it uses logic and creativity.

Osmo comes with a reflector, a base for your iPad and supplies for two of the three games. Set up is easy.  I recommend that you install the free apps (Tangrams, Words, and Newton) prior to playing.

My students were very curious as I was setting up our classroom iPad for them to work with me.  First, we tried Tangrams. The objective is to build the picture as shown on the screen. The colored tangrams coincide with those displayed on the screen.  For some of my students, this was a bit difficult but with the help of a friend, they were able to create.  This is a perfect game for developing spatial relationships and learning how objects can be moved and rotated to build.

Next, we tried Words.  Words comes with letter tiles and has preset word games which you can play.  This is perfect for my 7 year old but not so great for my emerging readers.  Thankfully, Osmo  lets you create your own set of words to use; myWords.  All you need to do is upload a picture and add the word.

Artwork by Whimsy Clips.

This was a bit hit!  Not only were they engaged and wanting to build the words.  They were learning.  They literally clapped and cheered after each word we built. They had so much fun that they begged to play the same game over again.  As teachers, we know that it is not often that our students want to repeat the same lesson again.

Osmo is a great tool for the classroom. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to use one of Time Magazine's best inventions of 2014 in my classroom. And, now, you can too! The folks at Osmo have generously offered to giveaway one to you.

Enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hurry so that you can begin the new year in your classroom using this fantastic iPad device.

Good luck!

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Please note: This is open to US residents only.  
I received an Osmo device to use in my classroom for this honest review.  

Common Core Math from a Common Core Kid

I have been thinking about this topic for some time now.  My son is a child of the Common Core State Standards.  Good. Bad. Or indifferent.  He is.

Let me tell you a little about him.  He is in second grade at the school I teach and loves it.  He is an avid reader and reads a wide range of texts.  Once he learned how to decode, reading came naturally.  He does well in all subjects and is proud of his academic accomplishments.

But, in his mind, he is not good at math.  Math does not come naturally.  He has to work harder to understand the concepts.  Memorizing his math facts with fluency was a struggle in first grade.  There were many times where he cried when we practiced this skill.  That said, he knew enough to get by.

But this year, it seems to be changing.  He is beginning to "get" math.  How do I know? Well, it's the way he talks about it.  It's the way he has learned to solve a problem.  Both of which are different from how I learned math or how I taught math as a second grade teacher.

Here is an example of how a problem might be solved.

In the olden days, we may have said that this is subtraction by regrouping or "borrowing'.   We may have told our students to "go next door to borrow more."

But the way he tackles the problem shows me that he understands the Base 10 system, number relationships and place value.  Although, there are many more steps, I am amazed by the thought process involved.  He is learning that there is more than one way to solve a problem.

I must admit that as a mom, I struggle a bit.  It takes me longer to see the number relationships.  I want to revert to my ways to get the answer because I am familiar with it.  But, as a teacher, I am beaming with pride.  Thinking, "Wow, this is what common core thinking is all about."

What are your thoughts about problem solving and Common Core?

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Using Educreations in Kindergarten

This school year, I have been trying to integrate technology as a learning tool more often in the classroom. One way I have found is using Educreations.  Educreations is a free iPad app which becomes an interactive whiteboard.  It allows you to record, draw, add text and photos while creating your screencast.

Our textbook adoption has a weekly retell component that goes with our main text.  I have been using these cards to model how to retell the story.  First, we look at each card and practice what to say.  We do this several times. First of all, to help us memorize what to say and to help the 3/4s of my students who are learning English as a second language.  When the class is ready, we record ourselves using Educreations.    Finally, we hear our selves and watch our mini movie.

Here is a sample of our most recent retell.

The Bus For Us

You will notice that it is not perfect. At this time, you can not stop recording and fix mistakes. So, that is why memorizing what we are going to say is important. I will coach and prompt students as needed since the goal is to practice retelling.

Educreations is a powerful app that could be used in a variety of ways.  This week, I am going to have my students record themselves decomposing numbers.  Wish us luck!

Wondering if this is standards based?  This article does a great job of showing how it applies to Bloom's Taxonomy.

Happy Teaching!

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Rakin' In Learning

Here's a fall themed center that can be easily adapted to meet the needs of your students.

To make
You will need a leaves which can be easily found at your local craft store or dollar store, bags or buckets for sorting and a rake.  I found the buckets and rake at Target.

Next, using a Sharpie write on the leaves whatever concept that you would like your students to focus on.

I created this center for Word Work.  Students had to sort words, letters and numbers.  But it could be easily turned into a math center by writing number sentences on the leaves and having students sort the answers into the appropriate buckets.

To play
Students will toss their leaves up into the air or scatter their bucket.  They will rake up the leaves and sort as they go.

If needed, you could easily add a "worksheet" for students to fill out for accountability purposes.

Honestly, though, my students have loved working at this center.  They love it because it gives them the sensory experience of playing with the leaves.  I like that I can incorporate the sensory and learning.  

Happy Fall!

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Lessons Learned - Not School Related

In life, we will have people who will impact you in many ways. They teach you lessons about life, love and/or career.  Within a month, I've lost three people who have influenced my life. This post is a tribute to them.

Mr. R was my first principal.  He hired me as an intern with only a few weeks of student teaching experience. He was a man of conviction.  He taught me to stand up for what I believed in.  Even if it meant going against the norm.  He believed in teaching first; not better test scores. He trusted his teachers and staff. In fact, I taught his grandson as a second year teacher.

Mr. R did what all great teachers do.  He let you learn; sometimes from your mistakes and then, he shared his words of wisdom. I remember vividly during my first year teaching, he told me that I had the "ganas" to make it as a teacher. When I feel down about myself and my profession, I am reminded of his words and it gives me the courage to continue to have faith that I am doing the right thing educating the lives of young people.  I will always remember Mr. R with a smile on his face and his love of being an educator.

Sometimes, friendships cross multiple generations.  I've known E. since my early 20s.  For almost two decades, a group of us have met regularly for tea.  And, when I say tea, I really mean: tea, crafting, games and a full weekend of fun.

This group of woman have stood by me on my wedding day, handmade the quilt my son used as a baby and comforted me when I miscarried.  Now, our group has suddenly lost one.  It's hard to describe the loss each of us feels.  E. was always the one who organized our games, kept us on time and always had some tidbit of wisdom to share.  What I loved most about E. was her ability to do it all.  Even in her 70s, she managed to have a calendar full of dates, volunteering, and family gatherings to attend.  She devoted her life in helping others as a wife, mother, volunteer and friend.

You can pick your friends but you can't pick your family.  T. welcomed me into my husband's family from the moment we met.  He always had a smile and a joke to tell.  Over the years, we've spent summer vacations together, shared birthdays and holidays with one another.  He lived life to his fullest. He worked in the aerospace industry and was invited to Cape Canaveral to watch a space shuttle launch.  In fact, he has his fingerprints on a machine which is on the moon.  T. was never one to boast and I only learned this recently.  He was like a second grandfather to our son.  Donald drew this for T. while he was in the hospital to remind him of all the great times they shared together.  He will be missed.

In fact, I will miss each one.  All lost their life while battling cancer.  Each lived their life fully.  Each taught me lessons that I will cherish for years to come.  In my heart, I know that heaven is a better place because they are there.

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It's All Good!

Wow!  It's hard to believe that we are entering our third week of school.  We have 10 days under our belt.  My class is doing great; all 23 of them.  This is one of the largest class sizes that I've had in over a decade.

I thought I'd pop in to share a few photos and a little freebie to use now or tuck away for next year.

While setting up my classroom, I decided to dedicate an entire white board space to math.  I am not a huge calendar fan but do use our calendar time to teach many math routines.  This trimester we are focusing on substizing  numbers from 0-6,  counting orally to 20, decomposing teen numbers, and showing multiple ways to make 5.

The monthly headers and papers above the calendar will serve as a timeline of our kindergarten year.  It was inspired by A Place Called Kindergarten.

I am in love with these Melonheadz Learning Objective Headers from Learning in Wonderland.  Although not required, during my summer course, I read about the importance of students knowing what they are learning.  These objectives will help me be more purposeful in what I am teaching and sharing that with my students.   

No beginning of the school year would be complete with Pete the Cat! We used I Love My White Shoes to review our colors. Each day, we would create a color anchor chart and share an item from home with that color.  This bulletin board display will hold my students' writing; their first opinion piece.  We also played this Pete the Cat Roll and Color game which my students loved.  

Well, as you can see, we've been busy.  But, it's all good!

Happy Teaching!
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Becoming a 21st Century Teacher

Header with words: Becoming a 21st Century Teacher

This fall my school hopes to become a 1-1 school; a mixture of iPads and Google Chromebooks.  Although, this is an exciting time, it can be a bit intimidating knowing that you are responsible for fully implementing technology into your classroom throughout the day.

As a result, I have been taking an online course for a Leading Edge Certification.  The programs teaches you how to become an online and blended teacher.  Personally, for me, it has made me shift some of my 19th century teaching practices and move it to the 21st century.  I am halfway through the course and I have learned so much.

Photo of Voki Screenshot
It has challenged me to rethink what my classroom will look, sound, and feel like as we add this new dimension into our learning.  During the first weeks of school, we will model and work together with our technology tools. I plan to incorporate the computers during my math and language arts center time using the rotation model.  I really want to be conscious not use the technology in isolation.  So, I also plan to incorporate the 4Cs into our units of study.  Just the thought of this makes me a bit nervous.  But, I know that this change will be good for me and my students.

As I create my projects for class, I always have my students in mind. I know that they are digital natives but they are also emergent readers and writers.  Web 2.0 tools like Voki help me record directions for my students.  They can access their learning without needing to read or have me by their side.  I am excited to use Plickers as an instantaneous way to access students' learning. I plan to continue to use some of my favorite iPad resources like QR codes and iMovie.  But look forward to some BIG changes.

I am hoping to network with other teachers and classes, too. I'd love to create a classroom blog, Skype or even Tweet (if given permission by my administration) with other classes.  Let me know if you are interested.  I hope to hear from those of you who are 1-1.  What are some of your favorite apps?  How do you successfully integrate the computers into the classroom?  What are some of your challenges? Please share. I'd like to make the transition into 21st century learning as smooth as I can.

Happy Teaching!
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Beginning Reader Nonfiction Books

I am so excited to be joining Mrs. Jump's Class book link party. I love books and am always on the look out for new ones.

Since the Common Core has a heavy focus on informational text, I thought I would share with you my favorite nonfiction books; Pebble Books or Pebble Plus Books.  Our school library has many of these beginning reader nonfiction books but recently I have begun purchasing more for my classroom library.

Although there are many nonfiction series, I like this one the best.  The text is easy to read for end of the year kindergarteners and first grade students.  I love that my students can not only enjoy the photographs but feel proud of themselves for being able to read the text.

Currently, Scholastic has some of these books for sale.  Just type on their search engine to see their selection.  I have purchase most via Amazon.  I assure you, once you start purchasing this series and see your kids reading them, I am sure you'll want more.

Happy Reading!
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My Mentors, My Teachers

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought I'd share a bit about the people who influenced my life and helped me become a better teacher.

My Mom
My mother has to be the biggest influence in my life.  Like many moms, she would do anything for her children.  She sacrificed so much of her life for my sister and I.  But there was one thing that was different from my mom than some of the other moms.  She could not read well.  You see, my mom was a migrant worker during the days of segregation.  School to her was not a welcoming place.  Despite that, my mom was always an advocate for education.  She saw its value.  She taught me that perseverance and hard work can make dreams come true.

Mrs. Albertson
Mrs. Albertson was my first grade teacher.  It was 1979 and my family had just moved to California.  I remember that she told my mom that she would take good care of me.  And, she did.  My fondest memory is of Mrs. Albertson sharing her sandwich with me on a school field trip.  I didn't have one because my mom had said that I could not go because she was afraid of me riding the bus.  Mrs. Albertson called my mom and changed her mind.  That act of kindness changed my whole life. I knew I wanted to be just like her; a teacher.

The Homestead
As a senior in high school, I decided to volunteer at a museum to beef up my resume before college.  I volunteered throughout college and later worked in the Public Programs department.  While there, I learned about public speaking and interacting with people of all ages.  The Homestead taught me about computers, design, how to coordinate events, set up and clean up events, and more.  I still use many of these same skills today as a teacher.   It was also here that I made lifetime girlfriends and said my I dos on my wedding day.

The Office of Admissions
As a first generation college student, leaving home and going away to college was huge.  My University's Office of Admissions took care of me not only as a prospective student but more importantly afterwards.  The Office of Admissions became my home away from home.  I would volunteer as an Admissions Host and later, work as Admissions Intern.  The Office of Admissions taught be real world skills such as etiquette and discourse.

Mr. R
Mr. R was my first principal.  He took a chance on me.  He saw my potential even when I may have not seen it in myself.  He allowed his teachers to take risks as learners and to make mistakes.  He also believed in his staff.  During my first year teaching, he told me that he believed that I had ganas or the desire to be a good teacher.  At the time, I didn't really understand what it meant.  But over time, I have learned that it does take ganas to make it as a teacher.  Without it, it just becomes a job.

I am so thankful to the mentors and teachers I have had in my life. I am a teacher because of them.

I've learned that teaching isn't about reading the scripted lesson.

Kudos to teachers!  You do make a difference!

Happy Teaching!
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Earth Day Mobiles - Freebie

We've had such a wonderful time learning about our environment in preparation for Earth Day.  I was able to use two wonderful resources to help me teach.  If you have not done so, go purchase Earth Day Activities and Crafts by A Year of Many Firsts and Fran Kramer's Friends of the Earth unit.  You will not be disappointed.

As a culmination of our learning, we created these Earth Day mobiles using washable markers and a coffee filter.  After our Earths dried, I used contact paper to preserve them for their memory box later. 

The next day, we brainstormed ways how we could take better care of our Earth and wrote our Earth Day Promise.  The kids did such a wonderful job applying their new learning into their promise.  I thought you might like to try this with your class too.  Click here for your freebie.  Enjoy!

Happy Teaching!

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Play Is Serious Learning

Can you imagine a world in which there is no play? I can't either.

Why is play so important?  According to  the American Journal of Pediatrics, "Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development." 

I know that as districts and schools move towards the CCSS and 21st Century skills, sometimes play can get lost in the shuffle.  But at what cost?

Currently, I have a Donor Choose project which would help my school develop and foster active engagement in outdoor play while building upon 21st Century skills of communication, creativity and collaboration.

I would appreciate your help in this endeavor.  My kids need many opportunities where they can learn to talk and problem solve with one another.  We need them to be able to work together both in and out of the classroom.  I can think of no better place to learn these skills than through play.  

I do believe that play is serious learning.  If you do too, I would hope that you consider sharing my project with others or consider donating yourself to this cause.

With Gratitude,

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Buttons Come and Buttons Go

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons is my favorite book to use when introducing subtraction.  Children can't resist singing along and participating with the book.  We listen to the free publisher's version of the story.

Afterwards, we made our own Pete the Cats and created our own subtraction problems. In the past, I have used this but this year, I wanted to try something new.  I found several great ideas on Pinterest but ended up making my own version.

Here's how I did it.

I made my own template for Pete the Cat's face but you could probably use this one if needed. I used KinderBlossoms Template for our subtraction word problem. I liked that it was easy enough for them to read on their own.

I monitored students as they created their word problems.  I did not let them glue on their buttons until they had shared their problem with me.  This gave me a chance to do a quick check on who needed more support.  Most students only had one button pop off but a few choose to do more.

When we create these types of craft lessons, I like to break it up into small chunks of learning so that everyone is successful.  I usually model a portion and then they go and do it.  I also do not keep all the supplies needed out in the open.  They had to tell me how many buttons they were making before getting those supplies.  They also had to ask me for the accordion folds to make their buttons pop off.  I find that this way helps me know what they are doing but it also alleviates some of the rush and messiness and makes for a better overall project.  Fast finishers help with cleaning the carpet, recycling,  or help friends.  It does take a bit more time but it is worth it.

What are your favorite ways to teach subtraction?

Happy Teaching!

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At School - Social Story

A social story  according to Wikipedia, is "a tool to help individuals on the autism spectrum better understand the nuances of interpersonal communication so that they could interact in an effective and appropriate manner."

I have used social stories in various manners with children along the spectrum as well as with "normal" children.  Why? Because it is an effective tool to teach and show expectations.  

If you have ever taught kindergarten, you understand that we spend a great deal of our day modeling and teaching expectations.  A social story is just another support; usually a visual support to explicitly show what you expect.

For example, in the beginning of the year, our kindergarten children were having difficulty keeping our restrooms clean. Each teacher had talked about the expectations, but the behaviors did not improve until a visual support and modeling was provided and taught.

This was especially true for my friend who needed a reminder each and every time he went to the restroom.  It was right there for him.  All I had to do was remind him verbally, "In the bathroom, I pee in the toilet."  He would return, happily reporting that he peed in the toilet.  I would congratulate him and reward him with a PBIS reward.  Eventually, he stopped needing that verbal support and reward but the visual is still there for him and others.

Sometimes it is hard for some children to understand the expectations of a school/classroom setting. This can be true for children who have never been to school or for the child who may need more explicit modeling. I created this Social Story to to teach classroom expectations.  The language is easy enough to be read independently but the pictures explicitly shows my expectations.  

I used this with all my students at the beginning of the year.  It was our shared reading story the first week of school.  At the end of the week, each child was able to read it and understand for the most part what are our classroom expectations. Eventually, the children took it home, except for the child who still needs it.  It continues to be in his book box so that we can review it if I notice a behavior needs review or after a long break.  The book is a reinforcer of the positive behaviors that I expect in my classroom.  It has helped him be more independent as well as helped me teach more effectively.  A win-win for all of us!

I am not an expert, just a teacher, who wants each child in my classroom to be as successful as possible. I've also use this paid site to create more specific social stories. If you would like to learn more about social stories go here.

I hope you enjoy this freebie and consider leaving a comment or following me on Bloglovin'.

Lastly, stop by Melondheadz Illustrating to get this adorable clip art set in honor of Autism Awareness month.

Happy Teaching!

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Life Changers - Autism Awareness

As teachers, we are used to teaching all sorts of children.  But nothing really prepares us for those children who will affect who you are forever.

Well, it happened to me four years ago when I was the inclusion classroom to 3 special needs children. One of the children, N. was autistic.  That year, I learned about the token system, My Turn/Your Turn, sensory input, diet, etc.  I saw my students care and nurture him.  My students could tell when he needed a break or should get a reward.  It was a magical year.  One that I will always cherish.

He changed my life as a teacher and mother forever.  I am a better person because he entered my life.  He taught me patience, acceptance, perseverance, and most of all to love unconditionally.

Since then, Autism Awareness month means much more to me.  So when Nikki of Melonheadz Illustrating fulfilled my request of a clip art for Autism Awareness month, I was in awe.  I asked for an image to upload on the sidebar of my blog.  Instead, she created an entire set of images!
Please stop by her blog to "get" this beautiful set.

I think Temple Gardin sums it up best; with these two quotes:
"Different. Not Less"
"I can not emphasize enough the importance of a good teacher."

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An Educational Journey Through Oz

My class and I have been on a journey; an educational journey through Oz.  For the past few weeks, we have enjoyed listening to The Wizard of Oz.

Each day, we read one page of the book and complete an extension activity.  I like thematic teaching and this book lends itself well to learning about many things.

Here are some highlights of our learning during our unit of study.

We're Not In Kansas Anymore
As you know, the book begins with Dorothy being transported to the land of Oz via a tornado.  We are not familiar with tornadoes so we used this resource here and here to provide background knowledge.  Afterwards, we wrote about our learning.  Here is the finished product.

I'm Melting
We conducted a science experiment to illustrate melting.  (To read why this happens go here.)

This was a perfect experiment to talk about making a hypothesis and how sometimes we are wrong in making our predictions.  Great teachable moment.

We're Off to See the Wizard

We created this pictograph to go with the question - Which would you rather have? Brains? Heart? Courage?.  I gave each child a half sheet containing each of the pictures and they had to pick one.  Each secretly went to a hiding spot in the classroom to make their selection.  Afterwards, we shared our choice with each other.  Later on, they used their choice to write.

At the conclusion of the unit, we watched the movie version and compared it to the book.  All in all, it was a great unit of study.

Happy Teaching!

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