Saturday, May 30, 2015

Teaching Numeracy: Habit #2 - Develop Schema & Activate Background Knowledge

Welcome back to my Teaching Numeracy blog series! Today, we're chatting about Habit #2: Develop Schema & Activate Background Knowledge.

I had a really hard time connecting with this chapter. Perhaps that tells me that this is the most important chapter for me to reread later on. I didn't feel like my practices connected with the author's examples at all. I know that I have to work on this!

Here are two areas where I think that I can improve developing schema and activating background knowledge:

  1. Use a cloze activity in math. I loved this idea because I haven't tried this! I have found that my students struggle with building the academic language that they need to write about their thinking and share their understanding of key mathematical concepts. Structuring a cloze activity will allow students to practice using mathematical vocabulary while also demonstrating what a student knows about a topi.
  2. Frontload, frontload, frontload. I have always had a hard time doing this. With the way that my schedules are set up, my small group time is after our whole group lesson. That means that it will take some thoughtful preparation to make sure that I'm hitting the required vocabulary and concepts the day before I teach it. I don't think that this is impossible and it's definitely worth a try!
What do you do to develop schema and activate background knowledge?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Teaching Numeracy: Habit #1 - Monitor & Repair Understanding

Welcome back to my Teaching Numeracy series! Today, I'll be sharing Habit #1 with you! 

Habit #1 is about monitoring and repairing understanding. I really appreciated this chapter because this chapter presented ways that you can get students to own monitoring and repairing their own understanding! This aspect is just what I needed because sometimes it gets so hard to even think of ways that I can do more, be more, see more. So, I'm going to highlight the strategies that assist students in looking at their own understanding.

First, let's talk homework!

Margie Pearse shared a strategy that she picked up from one of her son's teachers. She calls this strategy "Working Answer Keys." What is a working answer key? Well, it's basically a homework answer key that you share with students. In this answer key, you go through the process of finding the correct answer so that students can check their process along with their final answer. After all, we want them to see where there mistakes are in the process, not just whether or not their answer is correct.

BUT--wont they copy the answer key? Sure, they might. However, in order to be proactive and hopefully alleviate this occurrence, you need to spend a lot of time in the beginning teaching students how to use a working answer key as well as how not to use a working answer key. This includes teaching students how to talk through the answers together as well as a plan for copying. While you're building this expectation, let students know explicitly that copying will not be tolerated and call home immediately if you notice a student copying your work. If you explain to students why it's not ok to copy, they'll also have that reiterated by their peers when their peers see them copy.

If you're're not learning.

Plus, there's something that I like to say:

"You don't have to be right, you just have to try! Mistakes are proof that you're trying and learning."

So, the first takeaway is to consider working answer keys next year! I can see so many benefits here. Of course, if you want to read the full extent of her working answer key plan, you'll need to pickup the book for the full explanation! 

My second takeaway was to do more think aloud while I'm solving problems. The author notes that students don't understand that the "smart kids" or teacher are processing too. They just think that we're smarter than them. There is an incredible amount of value to be found in showing them HOW you're processing and HOW you're working through problem solving. 

This brings me back to something that I tried to accomplish this year, which was mathematical discourse. I definitely stumbled here and I know that I need to do a better job next year. I really wanted my students to use more mathematical language and explain why they agree or do not agree with another students work.

The reality is that, at the end of the year, students still come up to solve a problem and scribble out the answer as quickly as possible and then walk back to their seats without saying a single word. This means that I end up doing all of the explaining of what the student did to solve the problem. This is exactly the opposite of what I hoped to accomplish because now it's still just me telling them how to solve something. Yuck. Next year, I really hope to train them more to use language and talk through their mathematical thinking.

So, do you have any strategies for building strong mathematics discourse? What are your struggles or successes with this?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Teaching Numeracy - What is Numeracy?

I hope you're ready to dive right into this book study with me! Let's start by defining what numeracy is. The book by Margie Pearse does a great job at illustrating exactly what numeracy is and why it is so important!

Numeracy is a term that was introduced more than two decades ago in the UK. Since this term's introduction, the United States has not made numeracy a goal in the educational landscape, focusing instead on literacy instruction. The interesting thing here, though, is that many of the principles of a highly-literate society also lend themselves to developing highly-numerate individuals. It should not, then, be a discussion of "this or that." Rather, educational policy-makers should see that one lends itself to the other and they should strive to develop a closely-tied relationship between both literacy and numeracy.

The UK Department for Education and Skills defines numeracy as:

  • Numeracy is a proficiency developed mainly in mathematics but also in other subjects. It is more than the ability to do basic arithmetic.
  • Numeracy develops confidence and competence with numbers and measurement; it requires understanding of the number system, a number sense.
  • Numeracy demands understanding the way in which data are gathered by analyzing and evaluating, as presented in graphs, diagrams, charts and tables.
  • Teachers of numeracy develop critical thinking and foster behaviors that enable students to make sense of numerical information in their world. 
  • Numeracy is about applying mathematical concepts in sophisticated settings.
  • Numeracy is about making sense of numbers and understanding the effect numbers have on the world around us.
Now, when I read this, I couldn't help but think that this really defines everything that I WISH my math instruction was providing. That is my goal! I want for students to be able to apply mathematical concepts in a sophisticated way and I want for them to be able to think about and analyze their problems and solutions. now what?!

It turns out that I am not the only person who finds this to be incredible valuable. In Teaching Numeracy, the author makes some startling points about the career options of students who are numerate and graduates who are not numerate. IT IS SCARY! 

"Evidence shows that poor numeracy skills 
are a greater impediment to life chances than poor literacy 
skills and by raising standards of numeracy, 
we will be improving the career prospects of our pupils."

Now, if that doesn't make you want to go out and rev up your math instruction, I don't know what will! I'm excited to read further into this book because it connects the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice with techniques that you can use in your classroom tomorrow to improve numeracy in your students!

Check back on Thursday for a report on Habit 1: Monitor and Repair Understanding

Be sure to leave a comment below! Are you experiencing the same struggles with numeracy? Has something been successful for you in improving numeracy? Do you find numeracy to be an important instructional focus? Let's chat!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Teaching Numeracy Book Series Introduction

5th grade math

Welcome to my series on Teaching Numeracy!

I am currently in an educator's book club group on Facebook and we're reading Teaching Numeracy by Margie Pearse. I was instantly drawn to this book club for a number of reasons. Most notably is my love of math. Let me be clear, I am not the person who has always been good at math and had an easy go at it. In fact, it's quite the opposite. You can look back at all my standardized test scores since I was in 1st grade and you will see a continual struggle in math and computation. Then, in an instant, you'll see me excel in math as a junior in high school. I also remember and recognize a distinct shift in how I felt about math at this time. For the first time, ever, I understood math. I loved math. It made sense and it felt great. So, my first desire is to get kids to that point at a much earlier stage than I what I had experienced. 

Second, my students struggle in math and I want to be the best possible math teacher that I can be for them. I want to show them that love of math and allow them to all feel the success that I've felt when math finally clicked for me and it all made sense. The obstacle, now, is getting my students there. I've noticed many of the problems that the author of this books describes in my own classroom. It is true. We're not producing numerate citizens at a high rate in the United States. My students can read but they can't apply a math problem in context. They can perform computation but they can't see when they're totally off base and their answer doesn't make any sense. 

I've watching this happen over and over and over this year and each time I've thought to myself "WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?!" I realized, upon picking up this book, that this isn't just a problem in my classroom. I'm not some awful math teacher that's lacking the ability to teach critical mathematical thinking. This is a problem all around the United States. 

So, now that I've realized that this problem extends beyond the walls of my classroom, what can I do about it?! Well, this book series is going to share that answer with you! So, if you've struggled with the same things in your class, you're going to want to stay tuned to my blog! I'm going to be posting to the series on Tuesday and Thursdays so that I can share all of my discoveries with you!

I hope that you enjoy this book series. It's the first post of its kind on this blog and I'll be happy to do future book series posts if you end up liking this one!

So, let's get chatting...

What are your biggest challenges when teaching math?

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Sunday Scoop - May 24, 2015

Since we don't have school tomorrow, I almost forgot that it was time to put my Sunday Scoop up! Wow! I hope you're all enjoying a fantastic Memorial Day weekend!  I know that I can't complain! My mom came into town last night and we got to spend some quality time together before her flight out to Hawaii this morning! I love when I get to visit my mom! I also redecorated and rearranged my apartment and I am loving the new setup!

That's my Mom on the couch!  ;)

I also found some great new flowers for my apartment and I love them! I got the orchid that's on the dining room table in the pictures above, a new calla lily for my deck and a new hanging basket for the porch! This summer, Cory and I are going to be purchasing a new dining room set and I can't wait!!

Anyway, let's get to the purpose of this post....

Have to Do

I really bit off more than I could chew when I decided to take on TWO books for a book series for my blogs! I have been struggling to get it up and running but I am hopeful that between this evening/tomorrow that I will be able to get at least the next week's worth of posts up! I really wanted to kick of the series for both books next week and I can still hit that deadline if I get cranking! They're great books and I am excited to share both of them with you!!

Our print shop deadline to have stuff in August for next school year is Tuesday. Yes, the day after this lovely holiday weekend! That means, of course, that I'm struggling to put those final touches on some things to have them in the fall. I have to finish getting this math written response journal together and then I should be mostly set for least all of the big stuff! I feel so good knowing that I'll just have little things to run off between now and then!

Now let's talk about working out! I picked up the PiYo series from Beachbody and I have been obsessing over it! If you've read my blog for a while then you know that I am a major yoga lover. I also love strength training. This is such a lovely little mix of the two and since the workouts are only ~30 minutes (with most being 25 min.), there really aren't any excuses NOT to do it! I've already lost 7.4 pounds in two weeks since I started PiYo and changed up my meal plan and I am feeling amazing! I have a review coming soon on my personal blog of Fabletics workout apparel and I can't wait to show you what I got! 

PiYo Reviews

Hope to Do

There HAS to be some relaxation time in this holiday weekend! I've been so busy with cleaning, rearranging, redecorating, taking my mom to the airport, appointments, prepping stuff for printing next year, end of the year classroom rewards, end of the year volunteer thank you gifts, etc. I really hope that I can just take some time to relax, read out on my deck and enjoy some time to myself!!

Happy to Do

Today is my niece's first birthday party and I am so excited for that. She's so adorable! I can't believe she is already one!



Thanks for making it to the end! Please leave a comment so we can connect!!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

End of the Year Classroom Management

5th grade teacher

Hello fellow teachers and readers!! I am so happy to share some great end of the year classroom management thoughts and tricks with you for this month's Bright Ideas Link Up!

5th grade teacher blog

If you're like me, you're getting pretty tired right about now! Those little annoyances that have been happening throughout the day since December are starting to build up and build up and build up some more. On top of that, you have state testing, the return of sunny weather, stress about getting your end of the year assessments or portfolios done, maybe you have to pack up your entire room so that you can move rooms this summer, and maybe your class is just really trying your patience!

Well, I'm here to deliver a little dose of classroom management positivity to help you regain your focus, rally in your class, and end the year with positive vibes!!

1) Remember who your students are. 

I truly believe in the quote below. When that kid gets out of his seat for the 17 time during and you think your brain is going to explode, take a second and remember what you're doing in that moment that might be triggering it.


Yes, seriously...this late in the year! I don't think there's a time that they need the reminder more than they do right now. We teach them in September. We teach them again in December. We teach them again in April. Save yourself some stress and anguish and teach them again in June!! Reteach them it's day 1. 

"We're going to pack up and now and I need to see people with their voices off. You should go straight to your backpack and mailbox and then straight back to your desk. (Insert struggling student's name), do you think you can show the class how we pack up in this room?"

All of the routines, all the time.

3) Don't just let it slide. 

When you let their disrespect or poor behavior slide, you're passively teaching them that it's ok. "Sure, it's ok to scream your head off in line from the playground to the door." It's not ok. You know it's not ok. Don't make it acceptable by avoiding it. Implement an immediate consequence so that it stops there and doesn't continue for the next 2-5 weeks.

4) Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. 

If they're too loud in the morning, stop them. Walk all the way back and do it all over again. Too much talking when they lined up for recess? Go all the way back and start all over again. This kind of goes along with not letting it slide. Remind them what your expectations are and don't let them get away with anything less than that!!

5) Watch great teachers in action and get inspired!

I LOVE Teach Like a Champion. It inspires me endlessly! Watch some of the videos if you can!!

6) Listen to some inspirational podcasts! 

Have you ever heard of Sheila Jane Teaching? If not, you should really look her up online or in your podcast app if you have iTunes. She inspires me daily. Heck, even follow her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. She's always brining cheerful thoughts and peaceful mantras to the table. Sometimes, I just play one of these in the morning while I'm getting ready for the day. It always changes my mood before the kids come in! I love her videos and podcasts!  She gets it, I promise!

Now, I know that none of these ideas are breathtaking strategies that you've never heard before. However, I just wanted to send you a little positive reminder that you can make it through. The struggle won't last forever if you push through and fall back on what you know to be effective!!

Please leave a comment with your favorite classroom management strategy below!!

If you enjoyed this bright idea, please consider joining me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for more great ideas. 

For more bright ideas from other bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Stitch Fix #4 Review AND a giveaway!!

Alright, this is a super special Stitch Fix #4 review because there's a $100 Stitch Fix Gift Card giveaway to go along with it!  Can you believe it!?! Not only am I showing you my latest fashion picks but you can get the chance to order a box of your own with a $100 gift card!

What is Stitch Fix?!

In case you're not familiar with what Stitch Fix is, it's a subscription personal styling service.  You can control how often you get shipments, what the price range of items in your shipment is, and what colors or types of items are sent to you! 


The service costs $20 a month to be styled but the fee is deducted from any items that you decide to keep out of your box.  If you keep all 5 items in your box, you get a 25% discount.  My boxes usually run around $170-$200 to purchase the entire box. I usually just pick a few pieces for under $100.

When you get your box, it's wrapped so nicely!  It includes a gorgeous box with details about what to do next, a letter from your stylist, style cards to help you style your items, and a bag to return anything you're not keeping!

My FULL Review of Stitch Fix #4!

This is a very special review for another reason...I AM KEEPING EVERYTHING!!! Yes, I love the entire box. Everything is unique, gorgeous and perfect!!

Of course, I've loved all of my fixes for one reason or another. However, I was getting tired of getting so many darn sweaters and cardigans. It's 80 degrees out, people!! BUT...ask and you shall receive, right?! Yep...I asked and I didn't get one single sweater. I got quite the opposite, loads of tanks! I love tanks and I am excited to start showing you what I got!!

Cloey Keyhole Top - $48

Let me start by saying that there was a time in my life where I HATED the color blue. I refused to wear anything blue. These days, I am ALL about the blue!! This top fits so wonderfully! I love the laid back, casual style of the top and the way that it can be really dressed up with a simple cardigan or jacket for work. It's like the perfect mix of summer-time casual meets work casual. The keyhole detail at the top keeps it fun, the fabric is ultra lightweight and comfortable and the print is gorgeous!!!

Stitch Fix Review

Stitch Fix Review

Stacia Cuffed Ombre Short - $48

I've had mixed reviews from people about these shorts BUT, if you could feel the way they feel when they're on, you would change your mind! They are the most comfortable jean shorts that I have EVER put on!! They have the slightest bit of stretch to them! I also like that they are longer so it doesn't feel like I'm dressed inappropriately for a teacher when I go out and run into a kid or family that I know! They have a really cute ombre design on them that mixes it up and sets them apart from most jean shorts! Plus, jean shorts are super versatile and like the ultimate summer staple! I am loving these!!

Stitch Fix Review

Stitch Fix Review

Cheli Striped Maxi Dress - $68

I am a sucker for a maxi dress that fits nicely! The trouble is...I'm 5'2". Those things are HARD to come by! When I pulled this out of the box, I thought "oh great...I'll have to add a $20 hemming fee to this if I like it!" Well, let me show you something...this dress does NOT need hemmed. I repeat, this dress does not need hemmed!! 

Definitely, my favorite part about this dress is the loose fit of the bottom and the way that it has a slight twirl to it. There's just the right amount of movement to the dress. The cut of the dress makes it super figure flattering! The neck isn't too low either!

I love every single thing about this dress!!

Stitch Fix Review

Stitch Fix Review

Gemini Racerback Blouse - $38

This was the most questionable piece out of the bunch for me! In fact, my boyfriend does not like this shirt. However, there are quite a few subtle details that made this a keeper for me. The sides have a slight slit and it laters across itself in the back. The top has a nice open flow to it but not at the expense of coverage! 

I liked the colors in this top. They were neutral enough for me to be able to build it into my wardrobe yet bright enough that it would differentiate itself from what I typically wear! It does lack the flexibility that the other tops have with the vacation to work transition but I figure that it'll be ok to have a couple seasonal items in my wardrobe! I have to keep it fresh somehow.

Stitch Fix Review

Stitch Fix Review

Elyse Striped Sheer Sleeveless Top - $48

Last up is this gorgeous sheer striped top! I love that Stitch Fix sent me a white camisole to go underneath the top since it's sheer! It's good to know that I have a white camisole to make this wearable! I love, again, the cut of the neck here! The stripes break it up and keep it from looking to "old" with its high neck! The break up of the side panels with a solid strip makes the shirt more figure flattering. I enjoy that this is also a very versatile top. It can be worn in the summer as is or it can be dressed with slacks and a nice cardigan or jacket to make it suitable for work wear during the school year! The navy striping helps this top transition seamlessly into my wardrobe!

Stitch Fix Review

Stitch Fix Review

And now, let's get to what you really want, the $100 Stitch Fix Gift Card giveaway!  Here's the info!!

Click the link to head on over to A Trendy Teacher to enter!

I'd love to hear what you think of my pieces or read your reviews of your Stitch Fix! Please comment on your favorite item or leave a link to your own Stitch Fix review!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Sunday Scoop - May 17, 2015

Well, here we are! It's another Sunday and I have yet another Sunday Scoop linky for you!! My scoops are changing dramatically as the school year winds down! 

Have to Do
I am so excited because I started a new meal plan last weekend and I lost 5 pounds last week! That has pushed me into this week with some incredible motivation to keep it up! In order to do so, I have to cook up all this yummy stuff that I bought at Trader Joe's yesterday. I can't survive without meal prep. Any time that I have ever lost weight, I've always had a carefully prepped meal plan for the week. If I don't have something ready to eat at all times, I'm likely to just walk across the street to all the restaurants! Seriously! So, yes, this week...I'm trying to keep it on track! I do have to put on a bathing suit in Greece soon, you know!! Want to follow my workout/weightloss journey? Follow me on Instagram and checkout my personal blog!!

I am actually obsessed with my car. I washed the outside of it already and now I need to dig in and clean up the inside! I feel so good when I'm rolling around in my clean and shiny little Mini.

Along with the end of the school year for my 5h graders comes the end of yet another term at the community college that I teach at. I've taught courses at the local community college for 4 years. I teach them as a hybrid format right now so I can continue to teach full-time and still maintain my employment with the college. I have TONS of grading to do at the end of the term!!

Hope to Do
Let's be honest...sometimes folding laundry needs to be put on the "hope to do" list. There are other things that your soul needs above folded reading an amazing book that lights a fire in your soul!!

I've been reading SuperLife by Darin Olien and it is AMAZING! This book speaks to me! I feel like the author understands me and everything that I've been trying to explain to those around me. I love the no-nonsense approach to all things health and vitality! I'm doing a review of it on my personal blog by posting excerpts and my thoughts on everything! I'm going to have a weekly post up for it. I haven't set a day of the week yet but perhaps Tuesdays and Thursday once I start. I'm going to get some posts scheduled next week.  Speaking of, I should look into doing the same thing here for teaching books or children's literature. What do you think?

21 Day Fix

Happy to Do
I am really on a reading binge right now. Since it's the end of the school year, I've been able to use my Audible credits for the past two months on grown up books rather than read alouds for my class! Can you imagine that?! Reading adult literature?! 

I am in love with Audible because the narration keeps my read alouds super engaging for my class but I can also listen to books that I enjoy while I'm showering, cleaning, doing my makeup/hair in the morning, etc. I can't get enough. Next up on my reading/listening list is Gone Girl. I haven't seen the movie so please don't give me any spoilers!!

Want to try out Audible? There's a 30 day free trial from the link below but I promise it's totally worth it to sign up!


What's going on with you this week? Come link up with us at The Teaching Trio and comment below so we can chat!

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