Saturday, November 21, 2015

Inference Investigation: Turning My Classroom Into a Crime Scene!

Tired doesn't even begin to cover it y'all! This past week was American Education Week. Now, if you are one of those lucky teachers that live in an area where American Education Week is nonexistent, let me break it down for you. AEW is an entire week where family members and family friends visit their students during the school day. Now in theory, AEW is great! I whole heartedly support connecting parents and guardians to the classroom and allowing family time to see their children during the school day. However, if you are a teacher, it is beyond nerve wrecking to have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, and who knows who else sitting in the back of your classroom for an entire week!

As stressful as this week was, I will say that I am happy it happens. It's only one week out of the entire year and it really pushes me as a teacher to create engaging activities for my students.  Although this may be easier said now that it is over!

I always save one of my absolute favorite activities for this week - I call it "Inference Investigation". 

Basically, I transform my classroom into a real, live crime scene and my students become the investigators! Without even realizing it, my students make so many incredible inferences as they uncover the clues and decipher what they mean. Here's the layout:

I complete this activity during my fossil unit in science so it works perfectly! However, you could easily adapt this activity to work with any unit or theme!

First, I set the stage for my students. I convince them that a real Paleontologist is coming to the classroom after lunch to talk to them about fossils and will be set up at the back table with plenty of samples for them to see! Then, when my students leave for lunch, I set up as quickly as I can! I mean, sacrificing lunch one day is worth it, right? I seem to think so ;)

The first thing I do is open the window and tape dinosaur footprints to the floor leading from the open window to the back table. The footprints are just printed on regular paper and taped to the floor! My students never seem to noticed ;) The perks of teaching second grade! I also flip over a chair and the trash can to make it appear as if the dinosaur knocked them over on his way to the back table!

Next I set up the back table to make it appear as if the Paleontologist was hard at work when the dinosaur broke through the window! I bring mulch from my garden at home to cover the table with dirt (this is where it pays off to be really tight with your custodian!) The plastic Paleontologist hat was found at the dollar store a few years ago and always comes in handy! The dog bone (uh, I mean dinosaur...), paint brush, and mask were also found at the dollar store! You could also include any other tools you have laying around!

Then I leave a trail of dirt from the back table leading towards the classroom door and use my shoes to make footprints! I also knock over another chair because I don't know about you, but if I were a Paleontologist running from a dinosaur, I would probably be leaving in a pretty big hurry!

Then I tape off the back of my classroom and classroom door with CAUTION tape (thanks Home Depot!) and voila! My crime scene is ready to go!

When the students return from lunch, I remind them that the Paleontologist should be set up at the back table and let them enter the room ahead of me. I almost immediately hear a murmur of whispers and the look on my kiddos' faces is always priceless!

I give them time to get close to the CAUTION tape and investigate on their own. I am always impressed with their investigation skills!

Once the excitement has dulled down, we work together as a class to identify all the clues and then the students work in small groups to identify the meaning behind the clues! Then students are given time to independently write a narrative of what happened on the back.

This year I got extremely lucky! Towards the end of the activity, a helicopter happened to fly by outside and my students came to the conclusion that the helicopter was looking for the missing Paleontologist!

Now, it is entirely your choice to tell your class the truth after the activity or not! Personally, I let my students continue to believe the Paleontologist is missing because I don't want to break their trust. But I typically tell them the truth at the end of the school year.

If you are interested in completing this activity in your own classroom, click the image below for the FREE download!

If you complete this activity in your own classroom, please share your experience with me! I would love to see how this activity has been adapted to fit your students' needs! :)

Friday, October 9, 2015

FREE is my Favorite Number

It's crazy that the first month of school is over and October is officially here! This means I can finally wear my scarves, boots, and vests without being judged TOO harshly! Not too mention... use candy corn in as many lessons as possible!

This week on my Periscope stream, I decided to bring you the TOP 5 FREE WEBSITES I USE IN MY CLASSROOM!

Yes... you read that correctly! All of these websites are completely and entirely FREE! I don't know about you but free is my favorite number!

If you click each image, it will take you directly to that website so you can create your FREE account right away!

You are probably already familiar with Class Dojo as more and more teachers have started using it! Class Dojo is a behavior management system that students LOVE! Not only do students love it, but parents too! After you create an account and add a class, Class Dojo automatically creates parent invitations for you! All you have to do is print and send them home! Parents will follow the directions provided and enter a unique code to create an account. Parents are able to view their child's progress online and receive weekly e-mail updates if they wish! 

The best part is... students are able to create their own account separate from their parents! Students can customize their Class Dojo monster and track their points from home!

Here's how it works: you are able to customize the positive and negative behaviors you choose to use along with the point values for each. Students will earn points for positive behaviors and lose points for negative behaviors (if you choose to have students lose points - some teachers don't!) Then, you can have students "spend" their points any way you like!
You can message parents directly through Class Dojo... much faster than e-mail! You can also send out class announcements through Class Dojo that will be sent to each parent. With Class Dojo, it's super simple to remind parents of upcoming events such as tests, field trips, and picture day!

Class Dojo has recently expanded and started implementing "Class Story". Class Story is similar to an Instagram... but for your classroom! As the teacher, you are able to post pictures to keep parents updated with what students are learning.

Here is a recent Class Story post of mine! My parents love being able to see actual pictures of what is going on in the classroom!

I personally use Class Dojo in conjunction with a clip chart.  I found it was too hectic to try to give students points throughout the day so I decided to pair Class Dojo with a clip chart! I have my students move their clip throughout the day and then I award points at the end of the day depending on which level they made it to!

Super Student - 4 points
Awesome Behavior - 3 points
Good Choices - 2 points
Ready to Learn - 1 point
Think About it - -1 point
Teacher's Choice - -2 points
Parent Contact - -3 points

Students are then able to "cash" in their points for various prizes such as stinky feet (take off their shoes in the classroom for the day), lunch bunch, and even be teacher for the day!

EPIC is by far one of the most amazing websites a teacher could find! There are hundreds and hundreds of FREE books at all different levels! You can access these by visiting the website OR downloading the app! The website is super user-friendly so students of all ages can enjoy this website/app!

Teacher accounts are absolutely FREE and you are able to make profiles for each of your students! You will create a 4 digit code for each student to access their profile. You are then able to see what books your students are reading, how long they are reading them for, and more!

The best part is... this website has fiction books, nonfiction books, math books, science books, social studies books, and MORE! You can use this for literally every subject! You are also able to "favorite" books so you can find them more easily.

I personally use EPIC to display books that I want to read with my class but may not personally own. It is so much easier than taking a trip to the library and trying to locate the book! It displays the text and pictures big enough for all students to see!

As an incentive, I love to bring my personal i-Pad into the classroom (especially on Fridays!) and pick students who are doing an excellent job reading to self during our DAILY 5 time to use the EPIC app! I personally believe it is super important for students to have opportunities to read digital text... especially when they will need to do so for standardized testing in 3rd grade in my state!

You will never see my class as happy as when I announce they are going to use Kahoot!

Kahoot is an amazing website where you are able to create and play your own fun learning games! Here's how it works:
Sign up and make a FREE account
Create a Kahoot (either a quiz, discussion, or survey)
When you're ready to use it with your class, click "play"and select your preferences
Click "launch" and a game pin will appear on the screen
To join the quiz, students will enter the game pin on their device ( on a web browser or use the app on a phone or tablet)
Students will enter their name and join
Then students are ready to start answering the questions!

The best part of Kahoot? If you don't feel like creating your own quiz or survey, you can search through hundreds of remade Kahoots that other teachers have already created!

I personally use Kahoot to review math concepts, reading stories, language topics, or science or social studies topics. You can use it for literally ANYTHING!

I tend to use Kahoot in groups. I have access to 5 mini laptops in my classroom so I use one per group. Students will rotate the laptop around the group so each person gets a chance to answer a question. If I want smaller groups, I sometimes am even brave enough to let students use my phone as another device!

Plickers is such an easy way to formally assess your class and the students won't even realize they are being quizzed! 

All you need is your computer, a projector, a phone, and a Plickers card for each student! It's THAT simple!
After you make an account, you can create your roster. I recommend entering student names alphabetically. They will each be assigned to a numbered card. Print the Plickers cards on cardstock and laminate for durability.

You are able to create as many questions in advance as you want and add them to your queue when you are ready to use them!

Then, when you are ready to quiz your class, give each student his/her Plickers card. Every student's card will be different! This way, students won't be able to see what other students are answering! Students will hold their card different ways depending on which answer they want to choose.
For example, if they want to choose A, they will hold their card so the A side is on the top.

Start the quiz on your computer that is projected on the board. Students will be able to see the questions and answers as you go. When students hold up their card to answer, you will use the Plickers app on your phone to scan the room. The app will quickly read the students cards (like a QR code) and store their answer. You can then reveal the correct answer and move on to the next question!

Front Row is the ultimate website for differentiation! Teachers are able to make a FREE account and then add student names to create individual accounts. Students are able to access their account using their first and last name and their class code (which the website will create for you). 

Students are able to access math and reading lessons that are perfectly adapted to their ability level. As students' performance increases, the lessons will increase in difficulty. Or, if students need more help with a particular topic, the lessons will adapt and become easier.

ALL the lessons are aligned to Common Core!

Students earn "coins" for correct answers, which they love!

This is a great website to give to parents who want to challenge their kids at home! They can work on the lessons at their own pace and it will always be the perfect difficulty level!

Those are the top 5 free websites I use in my classroom! I hope you will find these websites helpful in your teaching!

If you are not already following me on Periscope, please do!
Just download the Periscope app and search for me @pocketfulofprimary!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Carnival Themed Math Centers

Happy Fri-YAY!! As tired as I am, I can honestly say that I have had an amazing first two weeks of school! I have an amazing group of 23 students who are so kind, helpful, and ENGAGED! Can I get an amen?!

I am so thankful to have such a well behaved group... it makes it that much easier to do fun and interactive activities! Because let's face it, no kid wants to complete worksheets all day (and I don't want to grade them!) especially in math!

Last year I tried math groups for the first time and it was a complete and utter WRECK! My students were constantly arguing with their peers, goofing off, and just not engaged in any way, shape, or form!  I took a step back this year and realized my mess that I called math groups last year were disorganized and unstructured! No wonder my kids couldn't get the hang of it!

I decided this year to rejuvenate my math groups and try something completely different!

I now use the acronym MATH for my math groups and it has saved my sanity! Each letter allows my students to practice important math skills while still interactive with peers in a controlled manner.

Here's the breakdown:
M - Math facts
A - At your seat
T - Teacher time
H - Hands on

I have 75 minutes of math daily.  I use about 5 minutes for a math meeting and 30 minutes for whole group instruction.  Math groups lasts about 40 minutes daily.  This means each "center" lasts about 10 minutes.

Here's what I display with my projector during math groups to guide students to the correct center.

Each student is assigned to a color group: blue, orange, green, or pink.  Students will change color groups depending on their ability level for each skill.  The four "rotations," each lasting about 10 minutes, are shown at the top of the table.  Students are able to quickly find their color and figure out which center they should visit during that rotation: M (math facts), A (at your seat), T (teacher time), or H (hands on). 

Here is a brief overview of each of the centers.


I have this basket full of different math flashcards, mostly addition and subtraction. I do have some money and time flashcards that my students may use during those units.  Students visiting the M (math facts) center will either work independently or with a partner with these flash cards.  All students visiting the M center must stay in the library area of my classroom! I like them to all be in one area and obviously the library is the most comfy place to practice math facts!


During this time, students work independently at their desks on some kind of worksheet or project.  If students are completing a worksheet, I try to make it a cut and paste activity so students are more involved and aren't just filling in the blanks!


Students will meet me on my front carpet with a dry erase board and marker.  Typically during my math group time, I have a paraprofessional in my classroom meeting with a small group at my back table.  Otherwise I would have my students meet there for teacher time (although they do love sitting on the carpet and I love being able to sit right on their level!)  During this time we practice problems or skills that those particular students need extra help on.  With my above level group, I use this time for enrichment and challenge them with 3rd, 4th, and even 5th grade skills!


For the hands on activity, students meet in the back corner of my classroom where there is some open floor space.  Students each grab a carpet square (which I store back in the corner for easy access) and get to work! THIS IS MY STUDENT'S FAVORITE CENTER! I always make the activity very hands on (duh!) and engaging for my students that need to physically manipulate something to learn best!

Here is an example of at your seat and hands on activities that I am using next week!
I like to keep a centralized theme for these activities for the entire week. The theme will either be related to something we are reading, an upcoming holiday, or something along those lines.
For next week, I chose a carnival theme. What says the end of summer better than a carnival?!  I picked up a bunch of items from the dollar store that I thought I could easily turn into activities and went to work creating! I made sure that the "at your seat" activity mirrored the hands on activity so students were better able to make connections between the two.

MONDAY - Hotdog Doubles

Hands on: For the hands on activity, I was inspired by one of my favorite things... FOOD! Students have to match the doubles fact to the correct answer using the tongs to pick up and move the hotdogs. As students match the hotdogs, they will record the doubles fact and answer on their recording sheet.
To create a "grill," I bought an aluminum baking dish and a pack of 2 cooling racks from the dollar store. I put one of the cooling racks in the aluminum baking dish and the other I left on the side.  The tongs also came from the dollar store! Easy peasy!

At your seat: This cut and paste activity mirrors the hotdog doubles. Students have to cut out the hotdogs and glue them on top of the boy's hands that is wearing the shirt with the correct answer.

TUESDAY - Fish Bowl Near Doubles

Hands on: What's better than winning a fish at the carnival?! For this activity, students will match the fish bowls (with near doubles facts on them) to the fish with the correct answer. As students match them, they will record the near doubles facts and answers on the recording sheet. I used glass fish bowls and colorful stones from the dollar store to hold the cards.

At your seat: Students will cut out the fish and glue them in the fish bowl with the correct near doubles fact. Three of the fish will not be used so they have to be careful!

WEDNESDAY - Even and Odd Popcorn Pieces

Hands on: Students will determine if the numbers on the popcorn pieces are even or odd and put them in the correct popcorn container. I have a set of 2 digit numbers and 3 digit numbers to differentiate for my different groups.  As students place the popcorn pieces in the correct popcorn container, they must write the number on their recording sheet. These popcorn containers were found at the dollar store as well! I taped on the even and odd labels.

At your seat: Students will cut out the popcorn pieces and glue them on top of the correct popcorn container! I have two different versions of this worksheet - one with 2 digit numbers and one with 3 digit numbers depending on the student's ability.

THURSDAY - Make a Ten Tickets

Hands on: Students will search through the bowl of tickets to find the large golden tickets, each with a number on it.  Students will then match the tickets that make a ten.  Students will record the number sentence for each way to make a ten and use two different colors to represent the number sentence on the ten frame. I bought a set of raffle tickets at the dollar store and added them to the bowl to make it harder for students to search.

At your seat: Students will cut out the tickets and glue them under the correct ticket booth to make a ten.

FRIDAY - Cotton Candy Comparing Numbers

Hands on: Students will look at each 2 digit number, decide if it is greater than or less than 50, and place the cotton candy on top of the correct boy. I have a set of 3 digit numbers (and boys with greater than and less than 500) for differentiation as well.  As students move the cotton candy pieces, they will record the numbers on the recording sheet.  The cotton candy numbers will be stored in a small cotton candy tub that I got at the dollar store as well.

At your seat: Students will cut out the cotton candy pieces and glue them on top of the correct stick.

So that is what a week of math groups looks like in my classroom! It takes a lot of preparation but in the end it's worth it seeing the kiddos entirely engaged in their work!

If you are interested in these math centers, you can find them in my TpT store here:

I hope you have a great weekend! Happy teaching!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Back to School, Classroom Reveal, and a FREEBIE!

Happy back to school to all of the fellow teachers and parents out there! Back to school is PRACTICALLY a holiday... right? (With all the money I spend around this time it should be!!!) The teachers in my county just started back on August 25th and the students will be joining us August 31st! Our open house was tonight and I left with a HUGE smile on my face! I have some of the sweetest and funniest kiddos in the world and I can't wait to see them learn and grow this year! I have a total of 22 students this year and 12 of them showed up to open house (four times the turn out I had last year!) Considering my room was just about the cleanest it will be all year, I figured this would be the perfect time for a classroom reveal!

My room is DEFINITELY on the small side! It isn't perfect yet and I still have a lot of improvements to make, but it's a good start for the beginning of the year!

Here is the area right by the door and one of my favorite spots in my room!  The job chart is by Amy Groesbeck and can be found here!  Each student is assigned a number and they are attached with Velcro! This year I have opted to hang my anchor charts on a magnetic curtain rod I found at Walmart for only $8.47! The behavior chart is by Learning in Wonderland and attached together with book rings! The alphabet is part of the Black and BRIGHTS collection and is available in my TpT store!

Here are my VERY crooked classroom rules! They are also part of my Black and BRIGHTS collection in my TpT store! Editable rules are included!!

This is my desk area! I am oh so envious of the teachers who have been able to get rid of their teacher desk! I personally spend a lot of time after school at my desk doing work and have not quite been able to make that transition yet!

This is the left side of my front whiteboard where I post my objectives and schedule! I have all my standards and objectives typed up and stored in a binder. Each morning I put the coordinating standards and objectives paper in the page protector for each subject! I use the "NOISE" magnets as a classroom management tool for maintaining an appropriate level of noise in my room! How it works... the students start out with all the letters posted. If the class gets too loud, I remove one letter at a time from the end of the word. After 3 strikes, only "NO" will be left on the board which means NO MORE TALKING!
(Ignore the black and white polka dot border on my board that just kind of stops... it's on my list of things to buy more of!)

This is my reading focus bulletin board where I post vocabulary, reading strategies, and our essential question! The burlap bunting and letters were found in the Target dollar spot along with the blue pocket chart!

I was inspired by Amy Lemons to jazz up my filing cabinet with some magnet border and letters to label what's in each drawer! BEST IDEA EVER!!

I had to cut the burlap bunting to fit on my reading focus bulletin board so I decided to hang the rest of the bunting on my TV!

Next to my desk is my classroom library! The gray and white chevron chair is from Target and I managed to snag it on clearance for only $40 (plus another 5% off with my RedCard!)

My classroom books are labeled with a colored sticker that corresponds to the label on the bin it belongs to!

My classroom library continued! The books in the cart are al books that are provided by my school! Such a BLESSING!

The back corner of my room! The rainbow cart holds all my word work activities... magnetic letters, keyboards, stamps, etc.  The weekly spelling words will be displayed in the pocket chart. The clear bins on the top of the cabinets hold my holiday activities... I still need to make labels for these!

The other back corner of my room!

I love these reading strategies posters! They are perfect for students to reference during guided reading!

My makeshift word wall! I already have the words I plan on posting printed, laminated, cut, and stored alphabetically in an index card holder.

Here is the view inside of one of my cabinets! These are all my extra crayons, markers, and glue! (Trust me, it won't look like this at the end of the year!)  The white bins above the cabinets hold all of my cards and activities that I have prepped!

Here is one of my groups! I absolutely LOVE using the caddies to hold group supplies such as crayons, markers, scissors, glue, and dry erase markers! I also store reading books inside the desk.  
Ugh, that one desk still needs to be lowered! I am hoping one of my lovely janitors will have fixed that for me by Monday!

Here is another one of my groups! They are all slightly different because I just added desks as students were added to my class.

This was my display for parents for our open house! The sign in sheet is part of a freebie in my TpT store!!! Let me just say... the lemonade went FAST! It was super hot in our school because our air conditioner hasn't been working correctly. Lemonade was the perfect solution! The kiddos loved the mints!

Here is a close up of my students' desks for open house! The flip book is by Learning in Wonderland and I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone! It is double sided so there is NO cutting! Just print, fold, and staple! 

 As a thank you for stoping by... I have included the glow stick tags as a FREEBIE! I included several different colors so you could match it to the glow stick color!

I hope everyone has an amazing beginning of school!