Testing Testing Testing

It’s that happy season again. State standardized testing has begun and I am trying to be the best cheerleader I can.

When we come back on Monday, my students will start the MCA (Minnesota’s standardized test) reading test and I have tried as hard as I can to prep them for what’s in store. We spent the whole week this week prepping for what the test is going to look and be like. We went online and watched tutorials on how to use the test and did practice tests all together as a class. By the end of today my kids were shot, and we haven’t even started the official test yet!

The past few weeks we have practiced with different new passages and taking comprehension test questions on them. We’ve gone over test taking strategies and have watched motivational videos but I don’t think I’ve done enough.

My students are 3rd graders, so in Minnesota, this is the first official year they take the MCA standardized test. I’ve done my best to prep them the best I can and explain how serious this test is but after today, I’m not sure they really understand. We’ve talked about how it’s important to do our best and to stay focused, but these are 3rd graders. Needless to say, I’m very nervous.

I know being a teacher, we are supposed to be positive and motivational but there is only so much I can do. I wish I could tell my students how I really feel about the test but we all know that isn’t possible. We are all set to “teach towards the test” in any state we’re in and we are seen as bad teachers if we don’t. I’m ready for the next few weeks to be over.

That being said, we have to give out the tests and they have to take it, it’s part of the job. I try to make testing days as low key and as exciting as possible. For our tests, we are given a total of 4 school days to work on them (2 for reading and 2 for math.) We get about half of every day to test and the other half to have classroom time. I try to utilize my classroom time to get them in the mood for the test and to relax and destress after the test.

When they come in every morning, I have a treat on their desk with a motivational note. I downloaded these FREE notes on TPT last year from Math Mojo‘s shop and I LOVE them.

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The students come in each morning of testing excited to go! I usually put on a few GoNoodles before we head to our designated testing room so they can move and get their blood flowing. After the test, the rest of the day is for relaxation! Depending on the weather, (again, love Minnesota…) we will either go outside or play games in the classroom. The test takes out SO MUCH that I want them to decompress as much as they can. Once the 4 test days are over, I spend the rest of the next week doing fun art projects and team building activities.

I wish all of you luck as we head into testing season. Hang in there and be the best teacher/cheerleader/counselor you can be for you students! All I can think about is when I had to take these wonderful tests in 3rd grade. I want my students to have better memories than I have, that’s for sure!

My fellow teachers, we got this!

Multiplication Can Be Fun

Happy Wednesday! It’s another day which also means another snow day. Yes, this is officially the 5th snow day so far this year. It’s insane but I’m starting to accept that this is beginning to be the norm. Since I have the whole day off I figured I would share with you some of my favorite multiplication games that are helping my students memorize and learn their facts in a fun entertaining way.

As most of you know, one of the main things that you learn in 3rd grade is your multiplication facts. We’ve been working HARD on this since November and we’re slowly making progress. In one of my older posts I shared our multiplication sundae incentive and that is working great but I still have half of my class stuck on similar facts.

Last year I taught 4th grade and I was shocked that at the beginning of the year less than half of my students knew their facts. I found all of these games last year and it helped them remember their facts by October. I don’t want my 3rd graders going into 4th grade in the same boat so I took out all of these games (and found more) to use daily in my room.

The first game is a HUGE hit with my students! It’s multiplication connect 4. I found this on Grace Hartman‘s store on TPT. It’s as easy as it sounds, students have 2 dice, role them and then multiply the 2 numbers. Whatever the answer is they cover up that number. Their goal is to get 4 in a row before their partner. It is SUPER easy and SUPER fun. One of my students yesterday told me it was her favorite game that we’ve learned so far.

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The next game that was a hit last year with my 4th graders as well as my 3rd graders this year is multiplication squares. It’s just like the normal squares game that most kids play at restaurants on their kids meal mats. I found this activity on Flying Through Fourth‘s page. All you need is 2 dice and 2 colored pencils. It is similar to connect 4 because students role and multiply their dice. They find that number and make a line by that number. The person who completes a square around that number gets to color it in. At the end of the game, the student with the most colored squares wins. Super easy!

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The next few are more activities that I do with my whole class at once. The first activity is a free multiplication scoot game that is just as it sounds. I’m using this tomorrow in my room as a full review. The other activity I will be trying (that I did last year twice a week) is a free multiplication “I have/who has” game. Again, just as it sounds. It helps with concentration and knowing facts fast! I found the free scoot game on Teaching with Heart in Texas‘s page and I found this version of I have who has on Erica Castillo‘s page. The last activity I will use as a “homework assignment” that is all about multiplication/division fact families. I got this from Alissa Manning-Telisak’s store and I am so excited to use it! They role their dice and practice their facts while also understanding the relation between multiplication and division.

The next few games I have never tried before but I plan to use them in the next week or so. I found all again on Teachers Pay Teachers and they are all FREE as well! From Light Bulb’s and Laughter‘s page I found a fun Penguin Multiplication dice game which is exactly like the connect 4 game except that it has a fun penguin theme and is super cute! The second game I’ll be trying is a 7s facts game. This was found on Games 4 Learning‘s page. Like most of the other games, you need 2 dice. The twist on this game is that when the 2 dice are rolled the student adds the numbers together and THEN multiplies the sum by 7. 7s are tricky for my students so I plan on using this multiple times over the next few months.

A final game that I love to use isn’t something I found on Teachers Pay Teachers because it’s a game most of us grew up playing with a twist. I love to have my students play multiplication war. All you need is a deck of cards and groups of 2 (you can have larger groups but that takes some more planning.) Just like normal war, the students each have half the deck and flip over a card at the same time. The first person to multiply the 2 cards and say the answer gets the pair of cards. The person who ends up with all of the cards wins the game. I have my students take out the Jokers and tell them that all of the face cards equal 10. That’s because we only have to memorize facts up to 10, but if you want to go higher you can make the Jack an 11 or the Queen a 12. This game is the easiest by far and can get pretty intense. Last year my 4th graders got into some heated arguments over who said the answer first.

The best way for students to learn is by having them not know they are learning! By playing these games, they get to practice their facts while having fun. They get so caught up in the games that they don’t even realize they’re doing math. I LOVE all of these activities and plan to use them every day for as long as we can! The best part about all of these is that they’re all FREE!! Who doesn’t love that!?

For more of my day to day school life and the activities we do, go follow me on instagram @lifeoftherookieteacher!

Valentine’s Day Craziness

Hello fellow readers, and if you’re still awake after Valentine’s Day week, teachers! This was a super fun week (but yes, very exhausting.) On Valentine’s Day we went all out all day long while still incorporating our daily curriculum. I had the best day but I am tired!!

We started the day off with a Valentine’s Day surprise. I put a donut on each student’s desk for them to see and eat when they walked in. We also were celebrating our great behavior in the past few weeks by having a pajama day! They walked in and were so excited it made my day!!

To calm the craziness and chaos, they started the morning laying in a cozy spot with a book and their donut. It calmed them down from the excitement of what was to come that day and they thought it was so cool because they were wearing cozy clothes, had their blankets, and were eating donuts on the ground while reading.

For reading we did a fun creative writing project. My mom is a teacher and I got the best activity from her (I actually did the activity with her and her class 3 years ago while I was volunteering one day so the example below is mine! Haha sorry for the lame writing.) They each got a box of conversation hearts and a piece of pink paper. They had to come up with their own creative story using the conversation hearts as they wrote. They found it so silly because they had to use hearts that said “I love you” and “kiss me.” They had so much fun and I loved watching them and reading what they wrote.

During math I had my observation (of course on Valentine’s Day) with my principal so I needed to find a quality lesson but also something fun because it was V-Day and they weren’t going to focus on anything serious lesson. We are currently learning fractions (and struggling) so I went on the trusty Teachers Pay Teachers and found another conversational heart activity that related to fractions. They had a blast with this as well! I found the activity on Miss B and Grade 3‘s store. I actually did this exact same activity last year with my 4th graders but my 3rd graders did just as well with it.

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They each got another box of hearts and then had to sort out 10 hearts into their colors. They had to then create fractions of a color out of the 10 total pieces they had. They did well! (Better than my 4th graders actually!) Luckily for me as well, they were on their BEST behavior! When the principal walked in my students were talking and one of my boys, WHO ALWAYS IS TALKING, goes “shhhhhhhhhhhh guys, Mr. G**** is here.” Man, kids are so weird and unpredictable during observations. Overall, it went super well.

After lunch we braved our “party.” (Which consisted of opening boxes and listening to music for 20 minutes.) With not having school for almost 2 weeks total, we never had time to make any boxes, so they had to create their own at home. Holy cow, I want to do this next year again because they were SO CREATIVE!!! I attached my favorites below but I was impressed. When I was in school, we NEVER had boxes as cute as the ones they made.

To end the day, I turned on the Berenstain Bear’s Valentine’s Day episode (free on Youtube) and enjoyed the silence of my student’s as they intently watched this cute 25 minute video.

It was a crazy day, and a fun day, but I’m glad it’s over and that it’s officially the weekend because I’m tired! My mom said something to me yesterday that really stuck. She told me that she believes Valentine’s Day is probably most students’ favorite day of the year. That really hit me because after seeing their excitement and happiness opening their Valentine’s and doing all of our activities throughout the day, I think she might be right. Watching them and all of their reactions had to have been my favorite part of the whole thing!

I hope you had a good Valentine’s Day!  I hope that if you’re a teacher, you had fun and aren’t too exhausted from the craziness. In my personal life, Valentine’s Day is just another day, but seeing Valentine’s Day through their eyes made me see how great the holiday can be when you’re surrounded by those who love and care about you.

To see more of my day to day experiences and the live activities we do in class, go follow me on instagram @lifeoftherookieteacher!

Snow Day Valentine’s

You can’t make this stuff up but we had ANOTHER DAY OFF today from school! That makes 4 1/2 days off in a week, which NEVER happens! With the extra free time I figured I would use my time wisely and make my Valentine’s for my class.

The reason we didn’t have school today was because the roads were so icy they were too dangerous to drive on. I got pretty antsy shut up in my apartment so I waited until the roads cleared up a little bit and ventured out to the one and only Target.

I went back into their seasonal section and found some amazing Spritz Valentine’s party favors to create a fun little goodie bag for each student. The first thing I found was a pack of heart shaped putty packs with cute little goggly eyes. My kids are OBSESSED with putty and slime so I thought this was perfect!

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The second thing I purchased for them was this pack of eraser toppers. The package has a variety of different characters to choose from. The pack I bought had mermaids, hedgehogs, sloths, and dinosaurs. (You can also buy an all dinosaur pack which is also super cute!)
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The last thing I included were some Utz “x” and “o” shaped pretzels. I know Valentine’s Day is ALL about candy and sweets but with 23 students all bringing sweets for each other, they end up with plenty of candy by the time the day is over. I thought that pretzels would be a fun snack they could have that day or save for another time. (I also found that the fact they were “x” and “o” shaped was pretty adorable!)

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I wanted to attach a fun and cute card to my goodie bags but I also didn’t really want to make one. I looked on Teachers Pay Teachers and found these cute cards for my kids free on Erica Bohrer’s shop.

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I LOVE putting together little goodie bags for my kids so I had a blast making these today. It also felt good to do something productive today since I couldn’t go to school once again. I really miss my kids!

I have 2 super fun activities that I’ll be sharing with everyone next week that involves candy hearts, math, and creative writing to make for a fun and educational Valentine’s Day morning.

Signing off once again from the frozen tundra that is Minnesota! I am keeping every finger and toe crossed that we will have a full next 4 days of school!

For more fun activities and day to day life, go follow my instagram account @lifeoftherookieteacher to see all of my daily stories and posts!

 

Thanks Minnesota

Oh my goodness last week was a whirlwind!

Like I said in my last post, it was SO COLD here in Minnesota that we had 2 cold days off on Tuesday and Wednesday. To make it even better, we had ANOTHER cold day on Thursday. That made 3 DAYS OFF because it was too cold to go outside! I also mentioned that last Monday, we had a late start because there was a snowstorm the night before and the roads were too bad right away in the morning to make it safely to school.

So once Friday morning came around, we had only been to school for half of a day. To make it even better, we had a scheduled early release scheduled Friday afternoon for self development. That meant that by the time my students left Friday afternoon, I had seen them for a total of 1 school day….I basically lost an entire week of school.

On the bright side, because we had no school, I didn’t have to make any new lesson plans because I just get to use exactly what I had planned to do last week. The down side is that I’ve been behind my colleagues by almost 2 weeks in both math and reading (and probably a month behind in science) and last week was my week to catch up while they used the week to review. We’re now jumping into this week and they’re moving forward skipping review so I’m pretty sure I’ll be 3 weeks behind. Go me!

It’ll all work out I just get paranoid being the new teacher in my grade level (and school) and not being on track with my team at all!

On a complete separate note, because of the cold, all sports were cancelled and rescheduled last week so my gymnastics schedule is going to be INSANE this week! We had 2 meets scheduled last week (Tuesday and Thursday) that we couldn’t have because we didn’t have school so we had a make up meet Friday, and now this week, we have a meet scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. I love coaching and meets are a blast, but most nights I don’t get home until at least past 10 (when I usually get to bed by 8 on a school night…..) and then have to be up the next morning at 6. It’s exhausting to have 1 meet in a week but 3….it’s going to be rough! Thanks Minnesota!

My plan for this week is to get caught up as much as I can in reading, math, and science while also starting to plan our Valentine’s Day party/activities. Things were so messed up last week that I honestly can’t wrap my head around the fact that Valentine’s Day is next week. I’m usually more planned and on top of school things like this but this one totally through me off! I’m just going to make it day by day and keep my eyes on Saturday morning when I’ll get to sleep again!

Back to Normal (Kind of)

This week has been a normal and solid week. We came back to school on Tuesday after having Monday night and it was a nice refresher. It was hard to wake up Tuesday but once I got my butt to school everything was fine!

We had winter testing this week and OH MY GOODNESS it takes forever! We take the NWEA reading and math tests twice a year and then our standardized grade level tests in the spring. The NWEA test is supposed to show what level each kid is at based on the questions they get. If they get things wrong the questions get easier and if they get them right they get harder.

We tested reading Tuesday morning and math Wednesday morning. I wanted to get them done with as soon as possible so I didn’t have to think about it. I did feel bad giving them these tests right after a 3 day weekend but they did great! Everyone in my class did better in reading! Most of them did better in math which I’ll take since my class really struggles with putting in their best effort when it comes to anything math related.

On top of those tests I had to retest their fluency levels. Once again, most of my class improved by at least 10 words per minute (which doesn’t sound like a lot but when your class is as low as mine that’s a huge win!)

Because of a 4 day week and testing, we had pretty much no reading time this week. We tested during our reading block and then jumped right into math right after. I know I probably could have switched my math test to be during our math block but because my kids aren’t the biggest fans of math, I needed to use the time on that!

Today we started our persuasive writing unit and I am SO EXCITED to share with you what we did! I won’t post anything now but let me just tell you that the activity I did was a complete success and my students are putting their bests efforts into making the best persuasive essay they possibly can! (I may or may not have bribed them with donuts if they do well……..oops.) I wish I could take credit for this awesome TPT resource. Today we did prewriting and rough draft writing so tomorrow we can dive into the final product.

The other great thing about this week is my kiddos are FINALLY back to getting along! I think they just needed some time apart because I don’t have any of the same issues I had last week! (It might help that a few of my instigators have been absent but I’m going to pretend that’s not the reason.)

On top of school, my gymnastics coaching schedule has been crazy! We’ve had at least 2 meets a week which gets pretty draining coming from a full day of school. Things are starting to wind down though and I’m pretty sad about that. This weekend we get to go compete at the Minnesota True Team State competition which will be super fun! Only the top 10 teams in the state are invited and we managed to squeak our way into it! It’s all day Saturday but it’s totally worth it!

I have had a week with some interesting medical issues going on. 2 years ago (around this time of the year) I got this weird rash/allergic reaction on my hands. It lasted for about a week and then disappeared. Last year, the same thing happened but it lasted almost a month before I finally went to see my dermatologist and got some heavy duty ointment to go on my hands. Then, what do you know, Sunday it shows back up again when I wake up. The weirdest part is it showed up on the SAME day it showed up last year! It’s super painful and keeps me up at night because it itches so bad! Last year, my doctor came to the conclusion that I had touched something I was allergic to while my body was fighting off something so the reaction was intense and didn’t go away. I believed her until it showed up for the 3rd year in a row. Luckily, it’s not as severe as it was last year and I’m able to function without putting lotion on my hands every 5 minutes but I’m still at a loss for what it might be. This might be a little gross to some of you but I do have these 2 pictures I took of them on Monday morning if anyone has any idea what my problem is.

 

The weirdest part is that I’ve tracked what I’ve eaten, the weather, cleaning supplies that I’ve used, and anything else I could think of and nothing has related to just these incidences. I’ve eaten the same as I do any other time of the year, it hasn’t been super cold like it can be, I’ve been using the same cleaning supplies and laundry detergent for my entire life…..ugh it just makes no sense to me! I went to urgent care twice last year before I saw my dermatologist and they were convinced I ate or touched something different but I hadn’t. I’m just a medical mystery I guess!

Apart from my hands, it’s been a good week and I have a good feeling the week will end just as great! (My kids will have inside recess for the next week though so you might need to pray for me for the next 5 school days! Next Thursday our HIGH is supposed to be -10 degrees….yeah people that’s not including wind chill……..)

Youtube in the Classroom

Happy Thursday!!

I feel like I say this every week but this week has been crazy!! I think it’s just that time of the year when there are so many things to do and so many tests to take.

This week in reading we’ve been working on finding the theme in the story. Holy cow this is hard for them!! We’ve done many practices that show how finding the theme in a story is like finding the lesson learned (moral) in the story. Every day, when I teach it, they seem to get what’s going on but then the next day I ask, “what does it mean to find the theme in a story?” and crickets….so then I have to go back and reteach it again.

I’m a HUGE fan of using Youtube in my classroom. I think that using videos, especially ones that other teachers post, are a huge helper for my students. They get to hear what I’ve been teaching from another person’s perspective AND they get to practice with examples. One video we did as a class yesterday was a video using 4 different songs that they’re familiar with and finding the theme in that song (The video is called Finding Theme with Songs). We talked about how most songs are centered around a theme. We listened to Let it Go, Hakuna Matata, Happy, and You’ve Got a Friend in Me (all songs they are pretty familiar with!) They had so much fun. The video shows a tiny clip of the chorus in each song and then pauses to have them find the theme. I’d pause the video and they’d discuss with their table groups. I

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thought for sure this video did the trick and they knew what theme was but then 5 hours later during our small group time I asked what theme was and they couldn’t tell me. *face palm* Today we are doing one more activity that involves watching Dr. Seuss’s the Sneetches and trying to find the theme of that story. My fingers are crossed that today is FINALLY the day they get it!

In math we’ve been starting work with geometry (while also still working on those multiplication facts!) This is probably my absolute favorite thing to teach just because I get to use my favorite math songs off of Youtube! (Like I said, HUGE Youtube fan!)

We learned about polygons, quadrilaterals, and perimeter. Today we are tackling area. I wanted to share my favorite math songs site because it is amazing! My kids love listening and watching these songs and they’re super catchy so they remember different math concepts that we learn! If you haven’t heard of it go to Youtube and search NumberRock, if you have heard of it you know how amazing it is! I started using it last year with my 4th graders for fun (I thought they’d find it cheesy) and they fell in love with it. It helped them master long division, different types of lines (my FAVORITE SONG!), angles (this is a fan favorite), fractions, and many many more different topics! This week we’ve had a song for every topic we’ve covered!

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Using these songs and videos help reenforce these ideas with my kiddos. They can see it in a fun way and not have to hear my boring voice drone on and on all day long. If you are not a Youtube user in your classroom, I highly recommend it!