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Showing posts with label Teaching Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Teaching Tips. Show all posts

Tackling the Test: Begin with the End in Mind

Help students prep for state testing with these test prep review ideas

Avoid the stress of testing and create an actionable plan to prepare for the testing in August, rather than April.

Tackling the Test: Meaningful Review

Help students prep for state testing with these meaningful test prep review ideas

Once you have the objectives selected, let the fun of the review begin. Keeping reading for some of my favorite test time review activities.


Tackling the Test: Identifying Your Testing Priorities

Help students prep for state testing with these test prep review ideas

When preparing for the state test, it can pretty daunting to determine which are your priority objectives.  Best case scenario, you have been tracking student progress all year and have a good approximation of how your students will perform on a standardized test. Worst case, you are just prepping for the test and it is days away. If for some reason I was thrown into a class room with 10 days until the test, this would be my go to plan to help my students.

Tackling the Test: Tips and Tricks to Prepare for Standardized Testing

Help students prep for state testing with these test prep review ideas

Testing season right around the corner? Test prep not as organized as you would like? Keep reading for more tips and strategies to make your life and that of your students easier. 


Tips for Coaching Teachers

Practical tips for helping new teachers organize and get ready for classroom instruction

Hi Teacher Friends!
Want to try your hand at coaching? I have been working at developing the content and coaching that I share with teachers. So far this year, I have worked with 10 teachers individually to support their classrooms and trained 45 new teachers through my summer training work. Coaching/helping teachers is my true passion. In my new vision board, I outlined my vision of being a full time teacher coach/TPTer #dreamjob!

In that time, I have learned a bit about problem solving and trouble shooting with teachers. The tips below have helped me to be more purposeful and strategic when working with a new teachers and their needs. 

You Oughta Know: Classroom Library Cards

Hi Teacher Friends! So glad you are stopping by on this fabulous blog hop hosted by the wonderful Jasmine McClain from Buzzin with Mrs. McClain. This month, I thought you oughta know about setting up a classroom library.

Sailing into Summer Blog Hop!

Happy Sunday! So happy to be linking up with Julie Faulkner and the Language Arts Classroom!

It is so crazy that there is only 10 days of school left! ESPECIALLY, when we lost all those days due to snow and the huge fear was the year going into June. But, fortunately for us, there are many suuny days ahead and summer approaches and our time as teachers to reflect and rejuvenate begins. I am happy to participate in this link up and share some final ideas for this school year and prepare  for the year ahead.

1. Hold a morning meeting to talk about their fears and anxieties before they take the test.

With the huge test culture we have developed, students have a lot of fears and anxiety about tests and their performances on it. If you still have time before the test, let students have a space to talk about the test and for you to reinforce your belief in your students. Intentionally putting this time on the calendar will help you to hold this commitment to yourself and your students. For your students, they can write or talk out how they feel about the test or what areas they feel weak in. On your part, its an opportunity to reassure them, go over test content, planning review sessions, and most importantly, check your own mindsets about your students and their progress. I remember feeling frustrated at the end of my first year because I felt one group of students was not motivated and turned in mediocre work. It was until I had an impromptu group meeting that I learned that they did care, but they were overwhelmed and unsure in their abilities, so they checked out as a cover. Even if this isn't a problem in your classroom, it couldn't hurt to have more spaces for student voice in the classroom. 

2.Thing to do again: Daily activity countdown

One thing that I would do again would be to have a balloon count down for the last day of school. If you have multiple sections of classrooms, you could just have envelopes taped to the wall. 

In my classroom, I would intentionally plan 10 activities for students to engage in every day until the last day of school. I selected 10 activities I thought students would like and put a strip of paper in the balloon and blew it up. Every day, I would share the class goal/expectations as the condition of popping the balloon. If we completed the task, I would have a student pop a balloon. The activities were things like a water balloon fight during field day, making food (to teach following discussions), GoNoodle videos, etc. To improve for next year, I would talk more with students to get their feedback. 

3. Thing to improve for next year: Improve communications with parents

Next year, I want to include more parents dreams for their children into my classroom planning. I developed this template to your with some of the new teachers I worked with this summer and thought it was a way to keep them focus on the academic and social component of the work we do. 
The first page has a picture of the students because I think their faces help to remind you of who we are working for/with and how we can adapt our lessons for their interests in needs. 

Overall, the best way to sail into summer is to be reflective of your teaching over the past year and think of specific activities and experiences to engage your students. Opening discussion, injecting fun activities, and preparing to include parent/student dreams in your classroom are all ways to have smoother sailing towards the summer. I hope these tips were helpful for you! 

Click below to continue on in the blog hop!


Thursday Tips for Teachers: Concept to Creation

Happy Thursday! Time for part two of  tips for TPT creation. As I said last week, my first unit took weeks upon weeks to creation. This is also due in part to my perfectionist tendencies and the amount of work I put into my units. I just truly believe whatever I create be something I would love to have and buy in a heartbeat. :)

1. Start with an idea :)

I'm currently working on a middle school vocabulary unit. We serve 3 different middle school sites and the site coordinators requested more middle school vocabulary activities.  

2. Research, Research, and more Research

I began to research academic articles on vocabulary acquisition and middle schoolers. A number of articles cited the need for games, context clues, and text features. After taking those things into account, I created a rough draft on cards.

2. Cover Creation and Inspiration: 

I first start with a graphic image I like and build the color scheme around it. For the last few units, I have used a four color that I simply googled. I then play around with the colors to determine what colors become the title and the background. I usually make 8 covers before I find the one that makes my heart happy. Personally, I can't create the unit until the cover is done. I get so excited about the unit that I can't wait to create it :).
Below you can see the creation of the cover based on those colors. The cover is mostly blank because I intend to place product images on the front. I started with this graphic from Jessica Weible and used the dress as a basis for the color.

 4. Use shapes

For the majority of my sheets, I use the shapes in Powerpoint. By simply changing the fill and line color, you can create any of the frames you would like. I love the edit shape button so I can change the shapes to the way I want them.

5. Make a template

In the beginning, I would make a sheet and duplicate all of them, before I started filling them in. That sounds great but I would have to format all the pages again and again to make them uniform. Now I only make the first set of sheets before I begin and perfect the measurements, fonts, coloring, and position of the text.

6. Ask for feedback!

As I worked on the sheet, I gave it to several of my work colleagues for their feedback. This lead to my adding a picture section and sample sentences on the front page, as well as my reorganization of pages. All these changes hurt a lot less when I only had to change 4 pages instead of 100. In exchange, I give them all a set of the completed packet (along with a business card to pass on to their colleagues) :)

 7. Copy and fill in :)

After finalizing the format of the unit, I then duplicate the sets of pages and organize them by set. Then ensues, the 10 hours of work completing the units, much better than the original 40. I save so much time by having a strong plan and feedback cycle. Read here about how I save time with printing and filling out the unit. Next week, I will share some websites that have helped speed up specific unit creation :).

Speaking of work, that's all for this Thursday! Hope it was helpful!
Now I'm off to finish my units :)


You Ought to Know: Test Prep Incentives

Hi All! Happy Saturday!
Today I am linking up with Mrs. McClain over at Buzzing with Mrs. McClain for her monthly You Oughta Know blog hop. Other bloggers and I will be sharing things that you “oughta know” for your classroom.

For the past three weeks, I have been blogging about Test Prep Tips in an effort to simplify test prep preparation and anxiety for students AND teachers. 


This month, You Oughta Know About... Testing Incentives!!!

With the state test looming at the end of the month, it is easy for teachers and students to be overwhelmed with the preparation for it. 

Enter Star Charms!

Reading Stars

Back Story 

When I was teaching, we had to some up with a way of encouraging our students to show what they know for the ACTAAP test (The Arkansas State Test). We chose to focus specifically on Open Response Questions because of their weight on the test and our students past issues in answering them correctly. 


We ran the program in 3-5, because those are the tested grades, and the grades of our Upper Elementary School. All students took an open response question in math and in reading and turned them into the principal. It was a simple question taken from past tests, printed on a half sheet of paper. Students had 15 minutes to answer each question and write their names on the paper. Afterwards, all of the papers were collected and turned into the main office. 
The students who were proficient/advanced received their papers back with one of these stars.  


Students loved them! They loved wearing them on their wrists or on their necklaces and earning them for showing what they knew! We saw a dramatic difference in students energy and enthusiasm when prepping for the test. One of the best parts was how inexpensive the stars were. They are $5.49 for 25 multi-colored charms and $20 for a 100.
Math Award Stars


Thinking over this system, I would definitely award students stars based on growth on each category.  You want to encourage ALL students as much as possible and encourage their growth. 

I would also purchase additional charm packs for other incentives. There are number packs that I would use to track how many books each of my students read throughout the year.


Standardized Test Prep Freebie!

I love that the star theme also carries over to this FREEBIE, I made to track student progress on specific learning objectives. 

Click the link for Math Stars and Reading Stars!


Thursday Tips for Teachers: Student Created Questions!

Time for Thursday Tips for Teachers!

This week the focus is on cutting down YOUR prep time for test review. Instead of creating all of the questions for your students, empower them by having them create the questions. Creating is the highest level of Bloom's Taxonomy! Your students would have to think through all levels of Bloom's in order to create their questions.  

You can play review games like Jeopardy or set up stations using the student questions. 
I personally like to have the students critique the questions and give feedback on their quality.
 It is amazing to see students who use the test questions to critique their work. 


  • Select a learning standard. 

    • I like to use this format for grammar questions and math questions. Use any standard your students are having a hard time at mastering or ones they they keep getting tricked on.

  • Find 5 examples of questions/question stems relating to that learning standard.

    • Find multiple examples of the questions to use as models and examples for students to build their own questions. 
    • For older students, you could give them a reading passage and have them create a series of questions based on the text. I could see poems or non-fiction text features being used for example. Find the types of questions that align with those texts for use. 

  • Create a simple template for your students

    • I used Powerpoint to make my template. If you would like it, simply leave a comment below!

  • Give to your students!

    • Let them loose to explore and create their own questions! If they can create the questions, they are demonstrating a deeper level of mastery for all of the questions. 
Hope this helps!


Thursday Tips for Teachers: Quick Daily Practice

It's Thursday! Time for another Test Prep Themed Tip!

Last week, I wrote about selecting your texts based on test item samplers to best support your kids. I know I struggle sometimes with creating text passages, but I still want to provide my students with quality texts to let them show their skills, even if they do have to take these tests.

This week's tips is how I break them down to make them more manageable for you and your students. When I was first teaching, I would give them the whole passage and then go over all the questions in one setting. Needless to say, they were burnt out and depressed over the strain of taking the tests and antagonizing over their wrong answers. 

When I was working with one of my mentee teachers, we came up with another way to make test prep more manageable. Instead of doing all the review on one day, we broke it up over the next four days so that she could incorporate test prep in small chunks, but still be able to teach her lessons. 

Prep Work:

Her prep work consisted of writing 8 questions for two writing passages. She used the same focus skills so she could measure their growth from the beginning of the week. 

On Monday, students take the whole passage and only review their answers for questions 1 and 2. This allows the teacher to record all of their data on how they did and prepare mini-lessons to support her students for the rest of the week. Writing her own questions allows her to work on the skill her students struggle with and prepare to lead mini-review lessons. 

Below is the sheet she gives to students to have them explain their thinking. They record their answers on Monday, so she can take the passages and answers, but the students still have access to their answers. This sheet is great because they can record their thinking and their metacognitive skills to think about their thinking.

When they take the second passage on Friday, they track their progress on individual trackers on how many they have gotten correct out of eight. This is just a simple way to invest your students in their growth.

All of these sheets are included in my FREEBIE STAR Tracker Packet. It also includes a sheet for students to track their mastery of specific learning objectives.

Hope this helps lighten your test prep!


FAB Activities and the Five Reasons You Need Them

Happy Monday!

Ever been stuck in a long, boring, unimaginative training filled with presenters who know everything, assume you know nothing, and who are responsible for a giant time suck of your day? Well not with FAB. My team and I attended a FAB training and it was honestly one of the best trainings I have ever attended.

F.A.B. (Fabulous Activities for the Brain) is designed to reinforce academics through movement to address the many different learning styles of students. All of the activities were hands on, relevant and easily adaptable to the students. LOVE!

Here are five reasons you need F.A.B. in your life:

FAB reinforces Common Core Objectives

One of the best parts of this program is how it gets the kids moving with still reinforcing the Common Core learning objectives. During the training, we were introduced to 10 different activities that students could use to improve their skills with money, skip counting, determining less than and greater than, and sight word practice. Inside of the book, the primary learning objective is listed at the top of each page. These activities are perfect to play during recess or to break up long standardized testing practice sessions.

FAB gets the whole body moving

F.A.B. is fabulous (pun intended) because the students are up and moving as they go through the learning activities. Instead of worksheets, students are demonstrating their practice as they retrieve the balls, match the cards, and generally engage in the activities. During the training, we were running after the balls, racing to win, and generally sweating to play the game and we were totally engaged with the process. I really wish that I have known about this when I had a classroom of 14 ten year old boys. Would have been great lol.

Easily Adaptable

All of the games were super adaptable. I could see simply changing the cards or objectives to suit your needs.
As we were playing my mind started whirring with all of the adaptations I can make with the kids in our program. We played a game of making compound words like pop and corn. I could easily see playing the game with suffixes and prefixes. We played another game with coins, which could have easily been adapted for dollars, tens, and fives to work with money skill.

Another adaptation is the use of scooters.  I saw a group of children playing with scooters in another program that I am in love with. I have memories of playing on scooters in elementary school and having the inevitable crunch of fingers. These scooters have handles to help protect fingers and add stability to the children racing.

I'm currently in the process of making a list of objectives that our students need the most help with to best support the students. With all the prep to get ready for TCAP, I am identifying the top ten skills to review with per grade and adapting the instructions for our tutors. I plan on posting more about test preparation this Wednesday. :)

Use materials you already have

While I'm planning on getting the scooter, many of the games just needed hoops, balls, and index cards. The picture below is simply a cut up pool noodle used as tokens. How cool is that?! After reviewing the items, it was clear that most of these things can be purchased from Dollar Tree.

Balls in a hoop. Who knew?

Alignment with Specials Staff

I love that all of this instruction occurs during specials on Friday in Physical Education. I love how it empowers special teachers and gives them the opportunity to strengthen students minds, as well as their bodies. In my old school, specials teachers weren't really looped into what was happening to the classroom and we weren't looped into their lessons. These FAB activities really create cross over support for all involved.



I was so invigorated by the training. I loved the content and how the presenters modeled it as well. The training was clear and concise, and they were open to all of the adaptations suggested by the participants. Instead of just watching a slide show, we were up playing the games, shooting the balls, flipping the cards, and racing for the money. We were so happy to win a FREE copy of the book to begin planning with our students.

I highly recommend the FAB book as a means of engaging your students. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE go and visit this site. You will be happy that you did.  


Teach Idea Tuesday Link Up

This Tuesday I am linking up with Teach Junkie to share

I created Fluency Rings as a way to have students self monitor and keep track of what words they are not reading fluently. 

Students read the cards in partners and as one reads a word incorrectly, the other marks the words they do not read correctly. They ten add them to their ring. They must read the word from their ring correctly five times to remove it.

Simply cut out the cards (on colored paper for cuteness) and give stacks to students. They can practice these as time fillers, a center, or during guided reading work.

Simply click the link to download the full file
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