Monday, October 29, 2012

Guided Math–what’s working and what isn’t!

I've made the leap to guided math and I’m not missing whole group math instruction even a little bit!  My group this year is very polarized and whole group instruction was a depressing failure for us all.  I couldn't meet the needs of my students.  My struggling students were able to slide under the radar while my math rock stars either stole the show or were bored.  Does this sound at all familiar?  If so, guided math is for you!

I’ll be honest, I didn't read the guided math book.  I understand the theory behind guided math and knew it would take some time to find the right approach for my class and teaching style. I’m enjoying the process and trust my students will reap the benefits.
At first I tried a structured rotation.  Students knew when they were coming to me and exactly what they should be doing when they weren’t with me.  Their options were Everyday Math games, multiplication and a higher level calendar math sheet. 
On the surface it looked nice…
...but there wasn't enough accountability built in.  IN FACT, on the second day ever of guided math I scheduled my first observation of the year.  The lesson was great, but kids who weren't meeting with me were not all on task…one student even made a point of discussing his “mustache” (not noticing the assistant principal listening in). 

I’m lucky that my assistant principal is understanding and loves teaching math.  She had lots of good ideas, which I've since been able to implement with much more success. 
Instead of the assigned rotations, students now have a weekly contract where I list the activities they are responsible for if they want to achieve a certain grade for their week’s work.  This is good for everyone because:

*I’m planning ahead more effectively - looking at the exam before planning so I know exactly what my kiddos are expected to learn.  For whatever reason Everyday Math does not always explicitly teach items that are on the test (not spiral items, new items).  So now, I’m prepared to prepare my students!  Following the lessons wasn't enough!

*I’m planning ahead more effectively - choosing with care which official pieces from the curriculum to use, and what activities I need to create.

*Items are ranked between must do items - things my students have to know in order to do well on the test, and extension activities.  I hope that this way I meet the needs of all my learners!

*Now all students are held accountable and know what is expected of them if they want to earn a certain grade.
Here is an example of how I’m planning the week and what the contract looks like right now.  It’s a work in progress.  I’m thinking about adding a rubric piece to it, so students know what is expected in terms of completeness, organization, neatness, etc. 

My Plans:

The Contract:

I project this fun image for students to refer to as well – just in case the contract isn't enough.  They seem to need this visual to support the contract. 

Are you doing guided math?  What works for you?  Any tips or suggestions for me and my readers?

Happy almost Halloween!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"I have…Who has"–Bilingual freebie

I hope your school year is going well!  It seems like it’s so easy to forget how overwhelming the beginning of the school year can be…or maybe it’s a case of selective memory.  This school year has been great so far!  My kids are great blend of sassy and respectful.  My teammates are amazing! And, I love 5th grade!

BUT, I won’t lie…I’m overwhelmed.  There is so much to learn when switching schools/grades/program models.  I have a lot to learn, and as always feel the pressure of doing my best to help my kids be as successful as possible.  You know the feeling, I’m sure!

Because I’m overwhelmed I haven’t been keeping up with my blog.  Finding time to post something insightful is too much for me right now.  Once I figure out the grade level, curriculum and dual language hopefully insights will just pour forth.  But for now I’m noticeably lacking insight.

Instead of insight I thought I would share a quick freebie.  I’ve definitely noticed that my dual language students are struggling with large numbers.  They lack confidence when required to say a large number out loud, especially in Spanish.

I created a quick “I have…Who has” set for them to practice saying those big numbers.  There is a set in Spanish for my dual and bilingual friends.  But I think it’s unlikely my students will only need practice in Spanish, so I created a set in English too!

So instead of insights I offer a freebie hopefully a few of my loyal readers can use or share with someone.  Click the image below to download from my TpT shop.

Read and Say Large Numbers - Bilingual B&W

Happy October!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Divisibility Freebie

Teaching 5th grade math is different from teaching 2nd grade math.  Shocker!  It’s especially a big adjustment for me because I’m teaching using a different curriculum, and I used to teach math in English but now teach it in Spanish.  Do you use Everyday Math?  Does it get easier?  I feel like I read and reread the lesson (in Spanish!) and I am rarely 100% certain I’ve figured out the main idea of the lesson.
We did have an excellent lesson on divisibility yesterday, though largely due to another blog!  Shocker #2! ;)

First, Andrea from For the Love of Teaching Math, has a lovely post on a divisibility foldable.  Here is the image of my original inspiration:

The second key to this lesson came from my 5th grade teammates.  They have a copy of a mysterious table they use to teach divisibility.  They have one copy and NO idea where it originally came from.  The table breaks the rules up into three different patterns, which I liked!

See the original table:
2012-09-07 09.38.18

So with the foldable and table in mind I got to work!

When I told my students we were making a foldable for math, you would have thought they got an extra recess!   Note: 5th graders like foldables!

We color coded our foldable, and wrote the rules in the same order as the table, to distinguish these patters visually as well.  We glued them into our math notebooks and I will give them a copy of the table to glue/tape into their assignment notebooks to use for homework.

Here is what it looked like:

I’ve also created a divisibility freebie for you.  You can have your own divisibility rules table!  I had to make one for my team so we wouldn’t be fearful of losing our one and only copy!

You can download the freebie through Google Docs, or TpT.  To download through Google - just click any of the images of the actual freebie.  To download through TpT - click the green TpT button at the bottom of the post.  :)

green TPT.png
Mrs. Castro
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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Catch up and The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

I hope the beginning of the school year has been a positive experience for all of you!  I have to say I’m amazed at how much more smoothly the start of the year goes with 5th graders compared to my former 2nd graders!  It’s a whole new world!  Thank you to all the primary teachers who work so hard to get them ready for us!

I am so happy I made the switch to 5th grade. I truly enjoy my students, and am constantly amazed at their ideas, conversations and maturity. 

However, I know everyone’s brain works differently.  I officially am a “big-picture” person.  I have a hard time wrapping my head around details until I’ve figured out big ideas, and how things work as a whole.  Consequently, I’m taking 5th grade a day at a time, putting the pieces together.  I’m making decisions slowly about how we’ll do our reading logs, use our notebooks, folders, etc.  I have to have a vision for everything until I’ll commit. 

This is why I am absent from blogging.  I don’t have a lot to contribute until I've wrapped my head around my new role as a 5th grade dual language teacher.  I hope to be sharing ideas and activities soon, but right now everything is in the very beginning stages.

One of the ways I’m wrapping my head around the intermediate grades is by reading…I’ve been reading more children's/YA books to keep my book recommendations relevant and up to date.  I’ve also been reading some teacher books.

I want to share one with you that is truly amazing!  If you teach in the intermediate/middle school grades this book is definitely for you.  Teachers of other grade levels this book is still a good read, it might just not be quite as easily applied to your classroom.

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child
The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  Did you ever watch/read Anne of Green Gables?  I remember the main character always carrying on about kindred spirits.  Well, I can honestly say that although Donalyn and I have never met, we are kindred spirits.  Donalyn is a teacher and a true book nerd, of epic proportions!  (She would probably say bibliophile…) 

As a teacher Donalyn initially struggled to find a literacy instruction approach that engaged students and inspired students to become true readers.  In this book she shares her experiences and methods for creating lifelong readers. 

Her book left me inspired, motivated, and wishing I had had a teacher like her!  Donalyn promotes more student freedom, choice and independent reading in the classroom.  Under this approach her students have shown incredible growth as readers, and have proven time and time again that “no single literacy activity has a more positive effect on students’ comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, spelling, writing ability, and overall academic achievement than free voluntary reading”.

This book is very reasonably priced and is an easy read!    I read it in less than 48 hours! 

What now? 

Now that I’ve read this book how am I going to apply Donalyn’s wisdom to my classroom?  It is important that I strive to be a teacher like Donalyn so that my students aren’t left wishing they had had a teacher like her, as I am now.

Here are some of the things I plan to do…

1.  READ – more books that are geared for my students reading levels.  A huge part of what makes Donalyn’s approach so successful is her knowledge and passion for literature.  She is very up to date on what kids are reading and can make recommendations to any of her students.

2.  Students will be expected to read 40 books this school year, with genre requirements built in to help them expand their lietrary experiences.

3.  Create our reading response journals…because I have about 100 composition notebooks I believe we’ll be using composition notebooks.  Donalyn uses spirals, and a former colleague of mine used three-pronged folders with loose-leaf paper.  Included:
  • Table of contents
  • Genre Notes
  • Literary Terms
  • Bridge (for dual language)
  • Have-Read List
  • Want to read list
  • Lots of space for reader response to text (letters to me, and my answers)
4.  Genre discussion with students – this week!

5.  Continue organizing classroom library by genre using Donalyn’s model.

6.  Build my classroom library – another secret to Donalyn’s success is her HUGE classroom library.  In order for students to choose they have to have books to choose from…so I’ll be working on this too.

7.  Decide what this will look like in a dual language classroom.  I need my students to be growing as readers and writers in both Spanish and English.  So I will have to set certain requirements for language.

This will be a work in progress, but I will be sure to share what works and doesn’t work. 

Have a wonderful labor day!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Monday, August 20, 2012

It’s Monday What Are You Reading?

I’m linking up for the first time with a great reading linky, It’s Monday What Are You Reading, hosted by Shelia at Book Journey and Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.

The reason I decided to move from 2nd to 5th was ultimately decided by books.  As I thought about how big 5th graders are compared to 2nd graders…and all the attitude they might bring in their bigger selves…I suddenly had an epiphany…with bigger bodies comes bigger reading skills – well maybe that’s not a hard fast rule, but in elementary school I think it makes sense!

Reading...essentially my favorite sport!  Don’t get me wrong some of my little second graders were great readers.  But no matter what kind of reader you are as a second grader, well…you’re no fifth grader.  So, my love of reading and desire to teach rich literature at a higher level I accepted the position! 

I’ve since checked out about 40+ books from the library.  I’ve always read a lot of YA literature.  But, I haven’t been keeping up.  Plus, a lot of the YA literature I read is geared more towards high school or middle school readers…so I’ve been reading.
Here are some pictures of this – you can’t read all the titles but you can get a sense of “she’s compulsively checking books out of the library…and may not be in complete control”.


I try to get the same amount of books in English and in Spanish because I will need to make sure to read and provide my students with equal opportunities to read authentic literature in both languages – no easy task my friends!

Here is what I’ve officially read or am reading most recently:
Igniting a Passion for Reading: Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers Que Locura Por La Lectura / Wild About Books
Shipwreck (Island, #1)FrindleInside Out & Back Again
The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden, #1)The Dreamer

1.  Steven Layne’s “Igniting a Passion for Reading”.  This is not a book I will be reading to my students, rather it’s a professional development read.  I am halfway through and am convinced Steven Layne and I are teaching soul mates.  Everything he says or recommends I’ve either done in one – but less purposefully, or have contemplated.  One thing he recommends is for teachers to focus their “personal for pleasure” reading on books that fit the age group they are teaching.  I haven’t been doing very good at this…so teacher vow: “I solemnly swear to read MOSTLY YA lit this year” (except for during my commute when I listen to books).  I highly recommend this book if you are looking for ideas for reading or are looking to be inspired! 

2.  Judy Sierra’s “Que locura por la lectura” which also comes in English “Crazy About Reading”.  This is a book that is great for almost any grade level.  It’s well written and clever.  Older kids will appreciate they lyricism and wit of the text.  I’m looking forward to using this to set the tone in my classroom – Reading is AMAZING!

3.  Gordon Zorman’s “The Island”.  This was my first read by this prolific author.  It was a little slow to start but I’m a sucker for anything that is a series!  I love following characters indefinitely.  I think this will be a great read for 5th graders – they will have to “freshen up” on their nautical vocabulary though!

4. Andrew Clements’ Frindle.  I LOVED this book.  The characters were all likable and the school setting didn’t feel contrived at completely out of touch the way some do.  This is another read I hope to share with my students this year.

5.  Thanhha Lai’s “Inside Out & Back Again”.  I’m about a quarter through this book.  This is an interesting read about a young girl in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.  It is written from her perspective in verse.  This isn’t a book I would normally pick up, as I prefer prose, but it is well done.  I’m amazed at how much of her spirit, wit and will come through this writing style – more so than in your average novel!

6.  Julie Kagawa’s “The Immortal Rules”.  The first in a trilogy – which means it leaves the reader desperate for the second book.  Typical!  After Twilight I haven’t really read any vampire books, but this one was more “The Passage” meets “Hunger Games”.  I enjoyed it, and found the writing to be well done and the characters interesting.  I’m curious to see how the story continues.  I do not think I’ll be sharing this one with my fifth graders.  :)

7.  Pam Muñoz Ryan’s “The Dreamer”.  I’m actually reading the Spanish version “El soñador”.  A good friend of mine did not enjoy the English version, but so far I’m enjoying the Spanish version.  This story is about Pablo Neruda a famous Chilean poet.  I’m only part way through but is following him through his childhood.  The books is written in a mixture of prose, verse and stream of consciousness all from Neruda’s p.o.v.  I do not know that this would be a great read aloud as a whole, but there are many brilliant sections with beautiful language for teaching visualizations, sensory language and figurative language.  Also, if you ever want a peek into the mind of someone who is brilliant/incredibly easily distracted this book does it! Anything by Pam Muñoz Ryan is bound to be good in my opinion.

Do you have any recommendations for 5th grade?  I’m making near daily library trips, so recommendations are BIENVENIDOS!

Come “friend” me on Goodreads if you’re a YA reader too!
my read shelf:
Laura's book recommendations, liked quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists (read shelf)
Happy Reading!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sneak-a-Peek Linky Party

I've been a terrible blogger lately.  Between summer school, changing jobs and going on vacation I haven’t been responding to emails or comments lately.  I will do better…starting NOW!
While on vacation I made sure to head over to a café for some internet action – since our little cabin was internet free.  Oh boy, I didn’t realize just how addicted I was to constant internet connection.  It was like detoxing, it wasn't pretty!

BUT, I was able to buy some things…I wish I had been more prepared and put intermediate things in my wish list!  Live and learn!

1.  Natalie from What the Teacher Wants had this amazing set!  I need all the help I can get since I’m coming from primary.  I’m so glad to have something to help me stay aware of the common core!

2. Kristen from The Ladybug’s Teacher Files cursive alphabet!  The one that was in my classroom was ancient and awful in every way!  This will be great…I just have to figure out where to print it.  Any suggestions for what you do for color printing?

3.  I teach math in Spanish.  But I wanted something to help me keep track of data, and expectations in the 5th grade.  So I purchased Jennifer Findley from Teaching to Inspire in 5th’s Math Common Core Assessments and Data Collection.  I’m sure I’ll be doing some translating, but that’s the life of a dual language teacher!  After a brief perusal I’m really impressed!

4.  Tracee Orman’s Creative Activities & Project Ideas for Any Book.  I thought this looked interesting, and it’s from Tracee Orman who is the queen of upper grades on TpT.  Again a lot of translating will be needed, but I think it’s a great guide!

5.  I’m not sure if I’ll be able to use this or not.  But since I love words and love to see how they are all related I thought this was pretty AMAZING!  Plus, there are so many of the cognates between English and Spanish stem from these root words so I think I’ll find away to use this.  This came from Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6.

7.  Also from Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6 is this calendar math for the upper grades.  Remember how I teach math in Spanish…well I know I’ll need to translate and tweak this for my classroom, but she had such a cool system that I had to get this!  You can see more about her upper grades calendar math at her blog post by clicking HERE.

8.  So this was an impulse buy.  I did not do the guided math book study and I don’t know if I’ll be ready for guided math this year because I’m:
*Changing grades
*Changing curriculums (Houghton Mifflin to Everyday Math)
*Channing instructional languages
But I know guided math is the way to go!  So I got this kit by Clutterfree Classroom, to help set it up…again, I’ll have to translate it and tweak it but how could I not get it!?

So those are my purchases for this big sale.  I’m excited to start using them…but next time I’ll be more prepared!

Mrs. Castro

P.S. New blog look coming soon! Pin It

Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Made it #3 For Me!

Project #1:

This Monday Made It, is rather disappointing.  I had hoped to make my own vinyl.  I found a blog on Pinterest that explained how to make homemade vinyl.
I thought, “that sounds AMAZING!”  I keep looking at all these different vinyl stores online, but can’t make up my mind.  I’m not a great decision maker when it comes to these sorts of things, and I just flip from shop to shop and never buy a thing.  If I could make my own vinyl, having chosen the paper and colors in person– well that would solve my problems!
So I tried it.  It wasn’t easy.  Contact paper is a difficult medium!  I don’t have enough hands to keep it flat…seriously I was using my chin at one point.  But eventually I was able to sort of work it out, and I anxiously awaited 12 pieces of homemade vinyl.

Well…as the cardstock dried…it became very loosely stuck to the contact paper.  Should I have used more mod podge?  Something heavier?  I put a heavy binder on them as they dried. 

Then, when I tried using my Silhouette on them, it failed.  The letters were cut but the cardstock separated from the contact paper.  Needless to say I’m disappointed and back to square 1 when it comes to vinyl.

Project #2:

I still was able to make my Bienvenidos Banner using my cameo.  I just used a touch of hot glue to attach the letters instead of homemade vinyl. The Silhouette cut the pennants (including circles for ribbon) and the letters.  It was super easy!

I chose my color scheme with Kristen’s flipped signs in mind…I love everything she does, so this seemed like a safe plan.


Project #3:

This week I also made these fun duct tape flower pens.  (Once I have vinyl I want to add some grass to the tin).  I also need to add a bit of foam to the bottom of my recycled Tazo Tea tins, because they are too deep for everything I make.  I was thinking they could be some sort of incentive for the kids – after so many pieces of bling you get to use the flower pen…I could have sold that with second graders, but I’m thinking fifth graders won’t buy into it…they’re still cute though!
I used this tutorial that I found on Pinterest. 

It was really easy to follow.  I felt like my fingerprints had been ripped off after so much duct tape use, but apparently not since they scanned properly for my background check for my new employer.

Project #4:

I also had ordered these posters from Vistaprint, and had the dry mounted at Hobby Lobby.  They were too flimsy and I was afraid they would get destroyed in my classroom.  The dry mounting cost $9.00 a piece, but if you consider I got them for free at the clearance sale, I think it’s a good deal!

Krista @ The Second Grade Super Kids made something earlier this summer with the quote from Gandhi – and I loved her idea!  Be the change you want to se in the world.  These will look great in my classroom and are perfect for dual language!

Find more great ideas at 4th Grade Frolics:

That’s it for this week! 
Happy creating!
Mrs. Castro Pin It