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How to Teach Shades of Meaning




Vocabulary matters. Knowing what words mean is one of the keys to reading comprehension and words are also HOW we communicate.  Understanding the meaning of words and actively learning new words helps students to become better communicators - in their reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Shades of Meaning
Understanding the subtle differences and nuances in similar words is a great way to expand a student’s vocabulary by connecting words they already know to words with similar, yet slightly different meanings.



Making Math Work Stations Work for YOU (and your students)!




Meeting with small groups for math instruction is so important for student success.  It can sound so easy to just give the rest of your class independent work to do while you are meeting with small groups but we all know this is much easier said than done.



THE PROBLEM

The problem is that students who are not engaged or are struggling with independent practice will either: 

  • Do nothing,
  • Interrupt you with your small group, or
  • (the worst) Find something more “fun” to do unrelated to math, like talk to their friends, go to the restroom, doodle/draw, or whatever it takes to avoid the task that needs to be done!

This is a huge PROBLEM. Students not engaged in independent practice are distracting their classmates and your important small group time.  Having practice work that you know they can either complete independently, with a partner or is engaging will allow you to focus on your small groups and the supports or enrichment you can provide there.


NO (or at least minimal) INTERRUPTIONS

Having engaging Math Stations are the key to having uninterrupted time to meet with your small groups.


The MOST important thing to limit interruptions is to have expectations and procedures in place. If students don't know what to do, they need to know where to find that information. If students have a question about what to do, they need to know that they can ask a classmate in their group. If they need to go to the restroom? Have a non-verbal signal. Need a bandage? Make sure students have access, and know where they are. Having procedures AND allowing students to have access to the little things that they might need (bandages, paper, pencils, erasers, water, etc.) will help minimize any interruptions while you are teaching your small groups.


THE SOLUTION

The solution is simpler than you think. You need to plan activities that you know that your students can complete without you (or at least with only peer support), that also have easy-to-understand directions, and are FUN. The most important thing though? Students need to KNOW what they are supposed to be doing!

Teacher Hack for EASY Student Engagement



Student buy-in and engagement is the KEY to getting your students to practice what they need to practice.  Giving students a CHOICE in what they practice is the key to success!


The problem? Students either do sloppy work or won’t do their work at all. They are either just trying to get it done or avoiding the work altogether. 


Imagine if your students WANTED to do the work they needed to do to practice and be successful!





Giving students a CHOICE in how they choose to practice can make all the difference.  I use Choice Boards in my classroom for independent reading, spelling, and ELA. Using Choice Boards in my classroom has greatly impacted students practicing the skills they need to practice on their level. YOU can choose the word list, spelling list, or book selections for students OR you can let YOUR students choose the word list, spelling list, or books. Giving your students the choice will make practicing a whole lot more engaging and fun for all of your students. 

Test Prep SUCCESS

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Engaging students in review and test prep can be stressful for you and your students. You want your students to take the "big" tests seriously but at the same time don't want to put pressure on your students. Test prep and review can be tedious AND stressful but it doesn't have to be. I have some tips for you to make it fun and engaging.

Rewards

After every test we take, we review the questions either as a whole class or in small groups. No matter where or how we review the test, I offer rewards to students who try their best to see where mistakes were made and finding the right answers. 

image of mini animal erasers to use as "desk pet" rewards

One of our FAVORITE rewards is desk pets. Have you heard of desk pets? They are just mini erasers shaped like animals. My students can "adopt" a new pet if they are engaged and working hard during our review.  We love desk pets in our classroom and they are cheap and easy to find. Here is one of my favorite sets on Amazon  (affiliate link).  You can also offer classroom economy money, Class Dojo points, or whatever you may already use in your classroom.

5 Tips for Using STEM Challenges in Your Classroom



STEM Challenges are one of my favorite ways to engage my students. STEM challenges require the use of problem-solving and critical-thinking skills in a way that replicates real-world challenges and how teams really work together to solve a problem. A STEM challenge is also a way for students to be creative and hands-on and may help students who seemingly struggle academically, to show off their creative, innovative design and building skills. A well-designed STEM challenge can teach students so much more than just academic standards.



  1. OBJECTIVE. What is your objective?  STEM challenge activities can be planned around a theme or a standard. Either way, a STEM challenge is targeting engineering, design, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills.   A theme could be a season, a holiday (Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc.), even a book.  A STEM challenge can also be planned around a standard in any subject like social studies, music, art, and of course, science. For St. Patrick's Day, you could have students build a Leprechaun Trap. To integrate with other subjects or seasons you could have students design a house for the 3 Little Pigs, float for the Thanksgiving Day parade, or a catapult for launching pumpkins in the fall.

Start the New Year Off Right in Your Classroom!

Image of an iPad, pencil, and paper with text that reads 5 Simple Tips for a Great New Year




Happy New Year!  I always like to start the new year with renewed energy and a positive outlook.  I am excited to get back into the classroom with my sweet students - I've missed them!  The school year is nearly half-way over (already??!) and I want to continue pushing my students to learn and grow to be their best!  I want to maintain a positive and safe classroom environment - the new year is a perfect time for a review of procedures and to introduce some new ideas!

Here are 5 things I plan to do to start the year off right:

1. It's the First School Day of the New Year!  You've been on break for a bit now, right?  So guess what? Your students (and YOU) are a bit out of the school routine.  While it's not actually the first day of school, try incorporating some fun activities to review procedures and expectations.  At the beginning of the year, I show a meme slideshow to go over procedures in my classroom.  My students love it! And the best part?  They remember the procedures! Search the internet for a couple of silly memes that will help you review your procedures.

Celebrate Christmas with a FUN Math Project!

The week before winter break is always an exciting time in the classroom and it can be a challenge to keep students on task and learning!  Students seem even more energetic than usual and less focused on learning.  I'm always looking for fun and meaningful ways to integrate the holidays into my classroom to keep my students focused on academics.   My 12 Days of Christmas Math Project is challenging, yet fun, and allows students to practice problem-solving skills by calculating the cost of the 12 Days of Christmas and now includes a DIGITAL version in Google Slides for distance learning.



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