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    Preparing to Teach Order of Operations and Whole Numbers

    The first math unit I teach is Order of Operations and Whole Numbers.  I try to be strategic as I jump into any unit, so the first thing I do is pre-assess my students on all of the standards I'm about to teach. 

    *Our units are grouped by the state of GA and are from the Georgia Standards of Excellence.  Unit 1 contains the following standards:  5.OA.1, 5.OA.2, 5.NBT.1, 5.NBT.2, 5.NBT.5, 5.NBT.6

    Pre-assessments are a great way to find out what your students already know.  It helps with:
    • determining what skills each student or the class has already mastered
    • helping to form small groups based on data
    • determining timelines and mapping out how long you may need to teach each skill
    • differentiating instruction based on the pre-assessment data

    What Does My Pre-test Look Like?
    • multiple choice - I use a multiple choice pre-test in order to easily interpret data so I don't spend weeks having to grade it.  I can plan immediately.  
    • paperless - A few years ago I took all of my math assessments and put them into Google Forms.  This has saved me TONS of time with grading
    • 20 questions - this is a pretty reasonable number of questions
    • standards included - I include the standard with each problem.  I do this because when you get the data in Google Forms, it will pop up and show you exactly which standards you need to focus on. 
    ***I only use multiple choice on my unit tests (pre and post).  On quizzes, quick checks, and classwork, the questions are open-ended.***

    Students still work out their problems on paper, but they're now able to get used to online assessments (our end-of-year state assessment is online) and I'm able to get the data instantly.
    Once my students have completed the pre-test, I will take the time to go through the data and responses in order to plan my unit.

    Click here to find out what the data can look like and how I use it for planning.

    Click here to see all of my paperless math assessments for grades 3-5.


    Analyzing Pre-Test Data in Google Forms

    Once I've assigned a pre-test to my math classes, I utilize the tools available in Google Forms to understand the data.

    I have my assessments set up so that the data can be easily interpreted and will help me to structure my unit to meet the needs of my students.

    What I Look For in the Data 

    • Overview:  What's the overall pulse of this pre-assessment?  Are some students coming in with mastery already?  
    • Standards:  Which standards are showing the least amount of prior mastery?  Which ones have students clearly already been exposed to before?
    • Questions:  If there are some standards that show varying mastery, which particular questions did students have trouble with?  
    Google Forms make this analysis very easy.  

    How I Use This Information to Plan

    I currently teach three different math classes, so I actually dive deeper into the data and sort my students by their class period.

    I make a list of each standard and create groups.  These groups are usually based on which students showed mastery of all questions on that standard, those who showed no mastery, and those who showed some evidence of mastery.

    Depending on the skill, I typically include all students in my mini-lesson at the beginning of the class.  As we move through the gradual release model, I begin to differentiate, allowing some students to work on an assignment that is more challenging with higher level thinking.  I will usually pull a small group of students who are struggling with the skill and break it down further for remediation.  My students who show some mastery get the opportunity to begin independent practice and then I check in with them to ensure they are on-track.

    Groups are flexible and frequently change day to day.  I also use quick checks to help with this flexible grouping.
    Overall, these pre-assessments provide valuable information to help me get started at the beginning of a unit.  At the end of every unit, I give a similar post-test and compare the data in order to see the growth that each individual student and the overall class has made. 

    ***The growth data is also a helpful addition to your portfolio for observations.  I usually share the forms with my admin team so they can see how data is being used to strategically plan.

    Click here to see all of my paperless math assessments for grades 3-5.

    Build Trust Week One: A Back to School Activity

    The first week of school is filled with creating routines, establishing expectations, and connecting with your students.

    Each year, I have an activity that I love doing with my students both at the very beginning of the year, and then again at the very end.  I call it "The Compliment Paper".

    Here's What You Do

    1. Have your students (and you) sit in a circle - You'll want everybody to have a hard surface to write on, so you can rearrange the desks or move chairs around all the tables or desks in your room.
    2. Pass out two things to each student: lined paper and a pencil.
    3. Everyone writes their name on the top of the paper.
    4. Everyone passes their paper to the person to their left.
    5. Everyone writes a kind sentence about the person whose name is on the paper.
    6. When everybody is finished writing, pass them to the left again. 
    7. Continue to pass the papers around until you receive your paper back.
    8. Everybody will read all of the kind words that their classmates and teacher have written about them.
    9. I suggest each student keep their paper somewhere safe (a pencil pouch, their locker, etc.) so that whenever they're having a bad day, they can take out the paper, read all of the wonderful things that everybody has said about them, and hopefully turn their day around.
    Things to note
    • Encourage your students to write something more than just "you're nice" - give them an example of what they could write such as, "You're a kind person and I appreciate that you invited so-and-so to sit at your lunch table".
    • Ensure that nobody writes anything negative on somebody's paper - only compliments allowed.
    • Don't rush anybody.  This activity takes time and that's okay.  I don't have the kids pass their paper until I see all pencils down.
    This activity has created trust among myself and my students as well as themselves and their classmates.  It gets the school year started on a positive note and allows everybody to feel good about themselves right from the start.

    I love doing this activity again at the very end of the school year because it allows us to end on a positive note and the comments students write are much more meaningful and detailed after they've spent an entire school year with each other.

    How do you build trust and create a positive classroom environment at the beginning of the school year?

    PAPERLESS Back to School Info Form

    I can't believe I spent so many pre-planning years doing this....
    • Typing up questions to ask about my new class of students
    • Printing the form and handing it to parents
    • Waiting 10-15 minutes for them to fill it out (pens usually going dry, parents shaking their hands out from cramps)
    • Receiving (some) of the filled out papers and then going into a spreadsheet on my computer to type in all of the info.
    NO MORE!!!  Let's face it.  We do NOT have time for this.

    Since I started using Google Forms with parents at school, my productivity has increased, even if it's just by minutes or hours.  

    During our "meet the teacher", my entire grade level now has parents fill out a Google Form in order to gather all the information that we need to know.  It came in handy when organizing contact info for our 5th grade overnight trip!

    If you're self-contained, you can use your own classroom form.  If you're departmentalized, you can send out one form to everybody.  

    What are the benefits?
    • parents can fill out the forms faster
    • they can access the forms from home and don't have to get lost in backpacks on the return
    • you have ALL the information you need in ONE spreadsheet
    • sorting - your spreadsheet allows you to sort the information.  You can sort by
      • transportation (perfect for forming lists)
      • HR teacher (if you're departmentalized)
      • last name (if you need an alphabetized list)
      • and more!

    How can I distribute it?
    • Cf you have classroom computers, Chromebooks, or tablets, set them up and open them to the Google Form during your meet and greet.  Once the parent clicks submit, I have it formatted to allow another person to fill out the form next
    • Create an easy bitly link to shorten your link and make it easier for parents to type in their web browser from home or their phone - provide the link on a classroom website or small slip of paper
    • copy the link onto a QR code and print out small copies for parents 
    • Add the link for the Google Form onto your school or class website so parents can access from home
    If you're interested in getting my pre-made form (which is editable within Google Forms), click HERE or on the image below to subscribe to my e-mail list and I'll send you a copy!
    If you're brand new to using Google Forms, I have a helpful tutorial video below to take you step-by-step through the process.


    Don't spend all of your time obtaining and sorting your Back to School Information from parents.  You're going to be too busy hanging posters, getting plans ready, and trying to manage your personal life as well.  Do not miss out on this complimentary paperless resource that will help you start the year off right with a little less stress.

    CLICK HERE to sign up and get yours!



    Instagram in the Classroom: A Communication Tool

    We're always asking parents to question their children when they come home from school or when parents get home from work or whatever the scenario may be.

    Parent:  "What did  you do today in class?"  The usual response?....

    Student:  "nothing"...

    Parent:  "Nothing? Your teachers aren't teaching you anything?"

    While it would be ideal for us to encourage our students to communicate with their parents (and I still do), sometimes they're wiped by the end of the day and are more concerned about homework or playing.

    What's the solution?  Bring the parents INTO the classroom.  Virtually

    Create a private class Instagram account.  I did it and you can, too!

    What's so great about it?

    • communication 
      • broadcast live about your class routine and expectations, then save the video to your feed or highlights so parents and students can refer to it
      • post weekly with highlights of what you taught and what students worked on
      • post about upcoming events
      • create stories for daily content
      • create highlights of specific skills, events, etc.
    • student-involvement 
      • have them share a new skill they learned or film a short tutorial video
      • allow students to create educational content to share on the feed
    • documentation 
      • keep a running record of ways you've communicated to parents (administrators love this!) 
      • add to your portfolio or artifacts for your evaluation
    • connection 
      • use it as a way to let parents know who you and your students are
      • let students connect with you and each other while creating content to share
    • privacy 
      • Instagram allows you to create private accounts, so you can share all photos, videos, and information exclusively to followers you choose to accept
      • always ask parents for permission and have documentation of this to avoid any issues

    My favorite experiences this past school year
    • Getting direct messages from parents with compliments about what we were doing in the classroom
    • Creating a highlight story of our overnight 5th grade class trip - parents loved knowing what was going on
    • making expectations clear to parents - I filmed our routine for the beginning of class
    • tutorial videos - I clarified some standards we worked on so that parents would understand the math

    Want to try it out?

    I'll send you an editable permission form that you can provide to parents.  I'll give you exactly what I send to them and you can edit the form to fit your classroom needs.  Click to subscribe to my e-mail list and I'll send it right to you.

    Already a subscriber?  Check your e-mail.  I've sent it to you.
    Not sure how to create or add another Instagram account?  Click here to get directions right from Instagram.

    Let me know how you already use social media in your classroom, how you plan to use it, or what may be holding you back from using it.


    Interactive Place Value Chart

    Do your students struggle to have a strong understanding of place value?

    One of the skills I have found most challenging to get across to my students is not only the value of a digit, but also its value compared to others.  I wanted to find a way to get my students to be able to see place value in a different way and be able to move numbers around with their hands and manipulate them.

    I created this interactive place value chart in hopes of increasing my students' understanding of numbers, digits, and their values, but I also wanted my students to have fun.  And guess what....it worked!

    It's so versatile that you can adapt it to fit the needs of your class in grades 3, 4, and 5.  Check out how your chart can be modified:


    What did we gain in my classroom?
    • EXCITEMENT from my students - they bought in!
    • participation - my kids wanted to ask questions because they wanted to come up to the chart!
    • resourcefulness - even when we were doing classwork, they would ask if they could go use the chart to help them with their work.
    • growth - I saw struggling learners make progress with the skills we were working on and making academic gains
    How do you set this up?  Click here to find out.

    If you're looking to try out place value activities with your class, sign up below and I will send you a complimentary activity (4th and 5th grade is available) and place value chart.




    Interactive Place Value

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      Setting Up an Interactive Place Value Chart

      How Can I Set Up An Interactive Place Value Chart?

      Take a day where you can devote time to printing, laminating, cutting, and assembling.  Although it can take some time, I promise that it will be time well spent, especially if you find a space that you can keep it up all year long and use again in future school years.  Watch the video below for more information.


      Printing options:
      • large place value chart:  I print each set of values on a different color paper to make them stand out.
      • smaller individual charts:  I try to print each type of chart on different colored paper so that students can quickly identify which place value chart they need to use or which one we're using as a group.  
      • ***CLICK HERE or on the image below*** to access a list of materials that I used to help in creating and assembling this chart.    (Amazon Affiliate link)

      Assembling Tips:
      • laminate for durability
      • use hot glue or large business card magnets 
        • hot glue is great if your board isn't as magnetic but can sometimes fall off - I like using the 
        • business card magnets are my favorite because you have more flexibility to move your chart around - you can also build your board slowly with your students
      • if you have a bulletin board, use push pins 
      Once it's ready to go, it's time to dive in and use it!  Click here to find out what you can do with your interactive place value chart.

      If you're looking to try out place value activities with your class, sign up below and I will send you a complimentary activity (4th and 5th grade is available) and place value chart.


      Interactive Place Value

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