Saturday, October 22, 2016

3 Ways to Promote Student Accountability During Number Puzzles

Number Puzzles are not a new concept in early elementary classrooms. Playing puzzles has been around since...well, a long time! Large quantities of puzzles are available to download at the tip of your finger, but it is up to the teacher to determine how to hold students accountable for their learning while they “play” with them. Let’s be honest...we expect our students to complete the task (number puzzles) during math centers with little direction, interaction, or evidence of learning...GUILTY! After years of simply filling up my tubs with puzzles, I began supporting my students in three SIMPLE ways. (It’s not as puzzling now!)

Number Puzzles Build Proficiency 

1. Establish, Practice, and Enforce Expectations 

When using number puzzles as a math center, it is too easy to add the puzzle pieces to a brightly colored tub or basket and assign students to “work” on them. I mean, how hard can it be to put a puzzle together?! It is more complex IF you want to improve your students’ academic performance. What does that look like? What does it sound like? We often model behaviors, like walking down the hallway and putting away our materials; why not apply that same model to teach students how to work on number puzzles? This is especially important if you will be using number puzzles frequently or as a year-round center.

Number Puzzle Anchor Chart
It’s important to teach the routine of working on number puzzles. Take one puzzle from a set and model the expected behaviors so your students will maximize their math time. 

2. Encourage Accountable Talk During Math Centers 

Student discourse plays a large role in the development of students’ mathematical understanding.Students do not naturally engage in this level of talk so it is our job as teachers to facilitate it. What can students say about number puzzles? A lot! Check it out in the photo below.

Math Sentence Starters
Classrooms are made up of diverse learners whether it be English Language Learners or those with special needs..but really ALL students can benefit from a systematic way to lead a discussion on their mathematical learning. Tying a visual aid, such as a speech bubble, can remind students of their task. 

3. Implement a Tool as Evidence of their Learning 

As students complete the number puzzles with a partner or small group, it is easy to end the activity there. If you are busy engaging with other students, perhaps in a guided math model, you may never get the chance to check in with the students and see if they completed the puzzles. Let’s face it! It happens! Having a paper-pencil or whiteboard-marker routine students complete after they finish the puzzles allow you to track your their learning. You will get bonus points for progress monitoring!

Recording Sheets for Math Centers
Students need to record their learning as evidence of their work during center time. For sequencing puzzles, students may write the numbers in the order they appear on a sheet of paper. This is also an extra dose of practice writing their numerals! (This is a permanent work sample.) For representing number puzzles, students may write or draw ways to represent a particular number on a whiteboard. (This is a temporary work sample. The whiteboard can be left in a particular spot or shown in the air to the teacher before clean-up time for a quick check.)

Number puzzles used for math centers are abundant. Whether you purchase them at your dollar store, download them from the internet, or create a DIY puzzle out of popsicle want students to take responsibility for their learning and improve their academic performance. In an age where every student, and, sadly their test score, counts...we as educators must maximize every learning opportunity by holding students accountable. I hope this post inspired you to implement accountability routines in your classroom, and if you want to use my set of number puzzles you can find them in my TpT store! 

Have you used number puzzles in your classroom? 
How do you hold students accountable? 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

How To Track Stats for TpT Sellers

Howdy, Friends...and TpT Sellers!

Today I am coming at you with six simple steps to start tracking your TpT Seller statistics! I have been part of the TpT family for two years and have learned so much a long the way.

Teachers Pay Teachers is making data collection easier than ever with their new Dashboard for sellers. Personally, I have several different platforms to share ideas with other teachers, including this blog, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. Followers here, followers there, followers, followers everywhere! I figured new sellers especially could benefit from a starting point.

Create a convenient place to store the data you will be collecting. For the past year, I have been using a 1/2'” binder. I didn't like that my binder had to be planted on my desk. I often found myself taking screen shots of my stats at certain times of the month when I remembered what day it was...I'd forget, delete the photo, and well, it wasn't very successful.

I recently purchased a planner that fits in my purse and that is large enough for all of my important information I like to keep within it. I can now take everything I need to track my stats with me everywhere I go! So, pick a house…binder, planner, folder, etc. I have used the random sticky note method...but I can't seem to keep track of all of them!

Select or design pages to go inside your house, (binder/planner/folder) that meet the needs of the audiences that you reach. 

Basically, I want to track my TpT store and my social media accounts. When thinking about what sheets are best suited for you, think of what platforms you are a part of...and what platforms you will soon grow into as a seller. You may not have an account yet, but may be interested in expanded into that space soon. I started one at a time and tried to get proficient before moving onto another. There are many free and paid resources of stat trackers/data collectors right within the TpT site that are specially designed for its sellers. 

Decide how often you want to collect your stats (daily, weekly, monthly, and annually). Personally, I track my stats when I am able, but ALWAYS try to record them faithfully on the 15th of the month (middle of the month) and on the last day of the month). This allows me to see growth…and growth motivates me. If I haven’t posted a new product, I might have the inspiration to finish one of my many “works in progress.” The great thing about the data sheets I use is that they are based on a monthly calendar with boxes for tracking data daily, so I just fill in the boxes whenever I am able to do so!

*TIP: A great thing about TpT is you can always go back to specific dates and track your earnings and how many products you sold. (So you can backtrack with this information as needed!)

If today is a "Data Collecting Day," log into each of your accounts TpT and social media and record the number of followers you have on recording sheets or calendars. (Data sheets I use in the calendar format are shown in the photograph to the left.)

Sometimes I make additional notes in extra notes or on the margins if something exciting happens on a particular day, such as "I hit 400 followers today!" or "The Top TpT Seller started following my account."

I like to note when I post new products and on which day I sold my first one. This is another way I encourage myself to stay persistent!

Using the new TpT Dashboard is great for analyzing data. You can look at how your store is doing this week as compared to last year. If you a new seller, you can look at your sales and decide which days are your best days and which are your slowest days. There is definitely a pattern! The most obvious pattern you will note is the summer slide…readers and sellers have this problem! The beginning of summer is pretty slow for most sellers and then it tends to pick up as the Back-to-School rush starts.

I tend to look at weekly and monthly data, more so than the day-to-day data. Within a month, I look at which products were most popular. For instance, this summer my biggest seller is pacing guides. I can make an apparent correlation about this as it is the summer and many teachers are planning their new school year. Also, there are many new teachers who are looking for a starting point so they can begin to look up resources for their new class. You know, Pinterest, and now Instagram are the most popular places for summer professional development! 

I would be amiss if I didn’t include Step 6. Now, that you have reflected on your data, make business decisions based on your data. If you sell Product A during testing months, you might want to change that to your "Featured Product" a few weeks before it usually starts selling. Last summer, I committed to revising some older looking products to bring them up to my current standards! (I still have a ways to go with that being said!) 

Another example of an analysis might be: If I am selling a lot of puzzle type resources, I might want to expand my line in this area.

Think of ways that you can expand on the good things that you are noticing.

If you are using a binder or planner, feel free to check out this resource which is what I am currently using to track my stats. Whatever you use, commit to looking at your data, analyzing it, and making a plan for the betterment of yourself as a teacherpreneur!

Planner or Binder Inserts for TpT Sellers

Happy Tracking!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Top Wishlisted Products in My TpT Store

Howdy, friends. Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!
YOU are the master of your classroom. YOU are the sunshine on a student's cloudy day. Without YOU we would not have inspired students! Thanks for all you do and continue to do to share your vocation with our future.

I don't know about you, but I am counting down the hours until the Teacher Appreciation Sale on May 3-4, 2016.

There are some great end-of-the-year resources I have been dreaming clipart for summer product creation...and of course, finding new resources to start preparing for next year! I have linked up with Teaching in the Tongass to share the top wishlisted items in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Kindergarten Down River.
While these are some of my bestsellers, I have several new resources for spring in the shop, including Organism Lapbooks and Spring Math Printables for Grades K, 1, and 2. Check them out. Wishlist items to your heart's content and wait until May 3rd to checkout with your resources for additional savings!
Remember to use the checkout code: CELEBRATE to receive additional savings on all TpT resources!


Happy Loading Up Your Cart!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Magnet Game: Cooperative Learning Strategy

Howdy, Friends!
A special Texas welcome to all of those joining me from the Kinder Tribe! I'm Laura from Kindergarten Down River. In this new year, many teachers are looking for exciting ways to keep students engaged in learning as the next semester begins...and some teachers have set goals to move more...also known as, the E-Word: Exercise. This strategy, the Magnet Game, as I have dubbed it, will achieve both goals: engagement for students and movement for teachers and students alike...great for the heart and the brain!
Before you use this simple eight-step strategy, you must have a question you want the students to ponder. In a bit, they will move around the room as they think about their response and then share with a partner in a fun, exciting way!
You can discuss "good movement spots" such as, the rug or walking spaces behind desks and "bad movement spots" such as behind the teacher's desk, the classroom library, computer center, or any other unsafe spots for movement.
When I first teach the movements that corresponds with this cooperative strategy, I use a basic question: "What did you do during Winter Break?" Or, "what was your favorite Christmas gift?" Then, as I use this strategy throughout the year, I use academic questions, "How did Lizard feel at the end of the story?" Or, "explain how you would change the investigation?"
Teacher can turn on music to cue the movement or tell students "Think and Walk." Students should begin moving around the room staying in their own spots as they meander around the room. It is important that when teaching them what to do, you emphasize some basic rules which will save you some stress when implementing this strategy: Stay in your own space, stay quiet, and keep thinking about your answer while you move.
My favorite part: If you...touch somebody, follow your best friends around the room, or talk, the consequence is having to sit out of the game. Muah, muah, muah. No kid wants this to happen!
Teacher Tip: I use a track I have downloaded on my phone. It makes it fast and easy for me to cue the music and the students know that it is special when we have some music.
This allows students the opportunity to look around the classroom without the pressure of partnering up right away.
Students face back-to-back while teacher ensures all students have a partner. It also discourages talking!
Finding their closest partner encourages students to team up with students whom they may not normally chose to talk to which builds relationships in the classroom and promotes risk-taking.
This is a great time for formative assessment. Select students whom you are working closely with and monitor their responses. You may select students with special needs or English language learners. You can assist them in producing responses by giving the students a sentence stem. For example, "Lizard felt __ at the end of the story because ____." My students use their "question hands to repeat the question to their partners; this is just another way for them to engage in practicing the language...learning to speak in complete sentences and use inflection in their voices.
Students ask their partners the question again before composing their answer.
Probably one of the greatest pieces to this game is having the students turn back-to-back. It is great for the teacher to know when the majority of students have finished their conversations, but it also controls the students' urge to talk to one another during this time! Genius, I know!
You can use this step if you want students to practice multiple times with other partners. You could also change the question and start a second round of the game. If you are short on time, you can students return to the rug or their desks and continue learning.
I hope this cooperative learning strategy becomes a part of your teaching toolbox. I'd love to see it in action in your classroom. Take a picture and tag me @kinderdownriver.
Happy Teachin' Trails from Texas!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Classroom Reveal & Tour 2015-2016

Howdy, friends.
It has been a busy month, as I am sure it has been for you too! Without further ado, let's take a peek at my classroom! You may notice an apparent theme... BIG NEWS AWAITS YOU THROUGHOUT!
Any guesses to the theme of the classroom yet? You guessed it! My Jedi-inspired classroom is the first of its kind. I have been dreaming of this day for about eight months. My first project towards my classroom was the action figure box photo backdrop! It is a vintage-inspired creation. My sweet mother made a Jedi rode for us to wear for our "First Day of School" pictures. The pool noodle lightsabers added a fun touch too!
Our "Back to School" bulletin board featured movie tickets with the names of the students enrolled. Many people thought I had a "Hollywood" theme going until they walked into the my Jedi-inspired room. 
Our school is in a low socio-economic area and most of our students are "at-risk." For several years, the administration has been very focused on raising student achievement in this student group and have been very successful. One thing, we do as a grade level is plan our unit really looking at our standards. Since I am teaching in the Great State of Texas, we use the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS.) This focus board will be the home of the documents we create to make sure we are hitting the necessary specificity and rigor of each standard.
The whole group area is designed for read-alouds and mini-lessons. Each morning after breakfast, the students join me on the rug as we go through our Fundations (Wilson Language Program) lesson. The beautiful posters on the right side of the whiteboard are for reading comprehension strategies. They were created by the talented Mrs. Melissa Dailey and can be found HERE.
Anchor charts will soon fill the red lightsaber bulletin board. Did you notice those lightsabers? I created them from plain borders and Scotch Expressions tape. It was so much fun creating them! The math word wall is for content-specific vocabulary that my students will need to know. As we learn new words, they will be posted on this board. The beautiful Ombre look for the word wall is created with scrapbooking paper from Hobby Lobby.
You can never have enough details! My handsome husband came up with adding lightsabers to the edges of these shelves. They will store supplies towards the back so they will show nicely. The book boxes are from the Target Dollar Spot (purchased four years ago.) They are always my most complimented storage boxes! They are sturdy and bright!
The focal point of the room, is the leader of the Galactic Empire, Darth Vader. The mask was a Goodwill find and the cape was created from tablecloths from the Dollar Tree. Krista Wallden's colorful speech bubble adds the perfect quote..." I am your Word Wall."
This shows you the transformation of the classroom and how the black butcher paper backgrounds really help the details POP! You will notice many similar details to keep the theme consistent (lightsaber borders, Ombre science word wall, etc.)
For the last two years, I have used the birthday straws as a special way to honor each student on their birthday. This year, they match the theme of the classroom wishing that the FORCE may be with the student on their birthday and always.
This most shocking detail to this reveal is that this year I am a....
I had the opportunity to work in second grade with a handful of the students I taught in kindergarten! I am looking forward to the new year and being reunited with some of my former kiddos. Since I am an early elementary teacher, I hope you will continue to stay tuned to the classroom far, far away, in Down River, Texas.
May your new school year be fruitful and the force be with you today and always.
Happy Teaching!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kinder Tribe: All About THIS Kinder Teacher

Howdy, friends!
I am so excited that you stopped by! For many of you this may be your first time DOWN RIVER! If so, I hope you find something that you are passionate about, get a chuckle from, or that you are curious about...there's a little something for everyone!
I live, teach, and create out of El Paso, Texas, known to my inner circle, which you are now a part of, as "Down River." You'll have to infer the meaning but it has a lot to do with geography and the origin of our local river. (Just sayin'!)
I have been teaching for 10 years and so excited to share my journey with you as I conquer the classroom in Texas (or try like heck to do so!) It is sure challenging at times, but I trust that this is my calling. I love reaping what I sow throughout the school year; that is really the beauty of teaching. It's a highlight! Don't you think?
I am thrilled to be a part of the Kinder Tribe, a group designed for Kinder teachers to collaborate and help one another. I am really looking forward to reading about more classrooms, teaching strategies, and meet all of the beautiful people, who are blessed to be called to teach. I am humbled to be among you.
I added an Instagram account this summer and am really enjoying to get to know more teachers from Texas and around the world, many from the Kinder Tribe. I try to keep it interesting in sharing my life through a creative lens. (It sounds enticing, doesn't it?! Check it out. If you are so inclined, follow me.
Click HERE to check out new collaborative blog, by kindergarten teachers for kindergarten teachers! There's many giveaways to enter when you get there by some creative tribe members near and far.
I hope you will come back and join me for my BIG classroom reveal, coming to a computer near you mid-August.
Happy Blog Hoppin' in the meantime!