Monday, January 23, 2012

What do we do at Math Stations anyway?

We do Math Stations 3 mornings a week. I have the students in groups of 3 and they do 3 stations per day. The stations are in math tubs and each tub covers different prescribed learning outcomes (otherwise known as plo's). Some tubs involve games. I love that the students love playing the math games and don't even realize that they are practicing math skills! Others involve pencil and paper jobs. These are great because I can really differentiate activities and have a written sample of how they are doing.
Here is a sampling of what some of the tubs look like this week:

This is a game where we practice adding doubles. Being able to know that 4+5 is really only 4+4 plus 1 more is a great strategy for addition. Or that 4+3 is the same as one less than 4+4 for subtraction. It is played kind of like BINGO only there is no caller. Instead, you roll a dice, double the number rolled and try to get 5 in a row.

 Here we are playing Domino Parking Lot. Each player takes a domino from the tub and adds the two sides together. Then they place the domino in the correct "parking space" that has the sum. The objective is to fill your parking lot first.

Here is a 2-D shapes activity. Some cards come with the shapes in them and students have to rebuild the shape but other cards are more challenging with only the outline of the shape and a list of shapes needed to created the final product. Students are expected to work with the cards that challenge them. No easy, peasy, lemon squeezy choices allowed!!!!

This is a patterning job. It is not actually the one we are doing this week. It is from last week when students were making matching mittens that had to have a pattern of some sort. Other weeks this tub has different patterning and sorting activities. Students are expected to challenge themselves to create more complex patterns. For example, I expected the grade 2's to do more than just a simple ABAB pattern on their mittens. They had to have at least 3 colours and more things going on in their patterns.  

This tub has math fact practice booklets in it. Each student has a booklet for the level they are currently working on. Some only have addition. Others have addition and subtraction. One of our other paper and pencil tubs has printing practice and set making activity booklets.
Some days I work at a tub and teach each group a new game. This gives me a chance to watch each student and see where their strengths and weaknesses lie. (This helps me to form groups and activities for the next week) Other days I pull a group of students for a particular math activity like beginning addition with regrouping. The math groups change weekly. Sometimes I put 3 students together who are all working on the same skill. Sometimes I mix up the students so that they can better learn from each other. The activities and groups are always changing and evolving depending on the needs and abilities of the students.

So, there you have it. Math Stations 101! This is probably my favourite way to teach math (and, believe you me, I have tried more than a few!)  The students are independent workers, I get to work with small groups and there are a number of activities each day. In between the tubs we meet at the carpet for an Energy Blast (or 4) and then some Calendar pages on the Smartboard. I am able to introduce new concepts to the whole class through the Calendar before putting out games or activities using the concepts in the tubs.

Ms. Hughes

Sunday, January 22, 2012

There are days when my job is just hard. Days when nothing seems to go right and I feel like none of the students will ever understand the concept I have tried a dozen ways to teach them. Days when their ears don't seem to work but their mouths are moving at the speed of light. Days when I have to reach deep down to pull out the last shred of patience I have within me. Days when I just want it to be 3:01 already so that I can close my classroom door and call it a day.

And then, there are days like this past Friday. Days when students do things like this:
Days when a grade 1 student who had only written 2 or 3 sentences before suddenly comes out with an entire page of writing that makes sense! It has a beginning, middle and end!!!! And it is good!!!! I am so happy that I could do cartwheels across the classroom floor! I read his story to the class, to his old kindergarten teacher, to the school secretary. I run outside at home time to tell his grandma what an awesome job he has done. The lesson on narrative writing clicked with him. Yes!
Days when a grade 2 student who often sits with her head in her hands telling me she can't think of anything to write suddenly writes a piece that has lots of juicy, descriptive words to go with the wonderful pastel drawing of her snowman at night taking pictures. Words like sparkling, crisp and glittering jump off her page and grab me. All my talk about using juicy words did sink in! And here I thought I was talking to myself. WOW!

Days when one of the grade 1 students who speaks English as a second language writes three whole sentences that I can read! With only minimal support from me in sounding out the words. How awesome is that?!
Days when a student from last year invites me to eat lunch in his new classroom and then proceeds to go down memory lane telling me about all the things we did last year that he enjoyed. He remembers things that I have forgotten I did and makes me want to do them again with my new class. Telling me how much he loved being in my classroom. My heart just melts....
Days when a student comes up to me and, out of the blue, says "Ms.Hughes, I just feel like I need to hug you" and then gives me a great big squeeze. Sigh...
This is what teaching is all about.

Seeing the light bulb go off and being able to experience the joy in a student's eyes when they do something that they have never done before.

Having a student remember what you did with them and be grateful for it.

Receiving the love of my students and being able to love them back (even when they are making choices that are not so lovable!).

These kinds of days make up for all of the times when it is just plain difficult to get through the day. These kinds of days remind me of why I became a teacher and how grateful I am that after 19 years of teaching I still love my job 99.9% of the time.

Ms. Hughes

Monday, January 16, 2012

Finally Some Photos!!!!

It seems that I promised a life time ago to post some photos of our word work activities. I finally managed to remember to bring my camera home from work to download photos.

Last week was the first full week where they had to use the tic-tac-toe word work sheets. Since we missed one day of Daily 5, I let them only do 2 jobs on the board instead of 3. Every day at the start of Daily 5 I did my little spiel about how they needed to go to word work and get two jobs done. Even with me telling them EVERY single day to get the jobs done or they wouldn't get choosing time on Friday, I still had 15 students who had not completed their work. Some of them had spent over an hour at word work during the week and gotten NOTHING done!!! Not even one job or even half of a job done! Nada! Zippo! How is that even possible?

Ohmigoodness, I am convinced that the majority of the class just heard blah, blah, blah, word work, blah, blah blah!!!!!  I could have just torn my hair out and screamed when I was marking the Daily 5 books. I mean, what were they doing all week?!?!

The shock on their faces Friday morning when they realized that I was dead serious about taking away their choosing time was priceless. And the speed at which some of them started doing their word work this week was pretty funny, too! My fingers are crossed that I will not have to take away any choosing this Friday.

So, what does word work look like these days? Well we are doing jobs that require specific words using our weekly words (this week they are all with short vowel e). The tic-tac-toe sheet looks like this:
The words on this one are the more difficult level words.
Short vowel e at the beginning or inside words.

Here is a sampling of the work sheet options:

Rainbow  Writing

Clipboard Cruising

Shopping for Words

Stamp A Word


This week we will be learning how to do Super Sentences and Magnet Words. Students will then be able to make a tic-tac-toe in three different directions.

In other subject areas, today the grade 2's started their interviews for Social Studies. One of our learning outcomes is to learn about the roles and responsibilities of people who work in our school. To that end the grade 2's have been in project teams for a week preparing questions to ask in their interviews. Today 3 teams did interviews. We had interviews with one of our kindergarten teachers, the principal and the vice-principal. Everyone did an awesome job! I am videoing the interviews so that the class can watch themselves later. I was so proud of how they all conducted themselves while our guests were visiting.

We did some really fun art today around the story Snowmen At Night by Caralyn Buehner.
Snowmen At Night

We did pictures of snowmen doing different activities at night using oil pastels then we wrote about what they were doing. They turned out great! The imaginations in our class are pretty stellar. We had snowmen golfing, racing cars, playing wii, skating and more. I will upload photos soon but, in the meantime, I am going to do a bulletin board beside the office to show them off.

Anywho, that is it for now. I am off to eat some dinner and scour pinterest for more ideas. I swear it is more addictive than caffeine!

Ms. Hughes

Friday, January 13, 2012

Spelling City

I just loaded this week's words to Spelling City. I decided to give the two grades different words this week. Both grades are working with short vowel e but one grade has slightly longer words that do not fall into word families (like pet, get etc). I differentiated the word lists by putting a 1 or 2 behind the name. Students also wrote their new lists into their planners today. If you can, try to find some time at home to work on these words this week. Thanks!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

We have been having a blast with Energy Blasts this past week! 

Somehow, since coming back from holidays we haven't managed to get through our math routines very well. So, I decided to mix it up on the mornings we do Math. Now students start the day by doing a math tub with their group then they come to the carpet for some Energy Blasts and a few pages of calendar on the Smartboard before going on to the next math tub. We do this combination three times and then stop for snack before recess. It has been a huge success! We have not only gotten through our calendar each day but I have been able to add a couple pages on two digit addition with regrouping and writing numbers in expanded form. I have been able to meet with more groups for longer periods of time to go over math concepts in a small group setting. AND we are all moving more and getting our wigglies out through the use of Energy Blasts!

So, just what are Energy Blasts? It is a DVD made by a teacher named Judy Howard. It has 65 different 1 minute workouts. They are four categories: African, Athletic, Latin and Hip-Hop. I set it on random and we do 3 or 4 in a row. This means that between school starting and recess we have managed to get in between 9-12 minutes of exercise plus do loads of math. It is a win-win!

The DVD came to our school as part of a course I took called Action Schools which is all about integrating more physical activity into the daily routine of school. If you are interested in finding out more about it, I found a couple of videos of showing Judy Howard teaching some of the moves. Check her out teaching the samba here and the robocop here. The DVD looks like this:

If you are interested in having a copy of the full DVD for your own child to use at home, it is available through its publisher Eye Learner. You can find out more about purchasing it here. Enjoy!

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Word About Word Work

Last week we learned some new word work activities to do during Daily 5 in preparation for beginning Word Work Tic-Tac-Toe. (I forgot my camera today but will take pics to post soon so you can see what each activity looks like.)

Today students got their first Word Work Tic-Tac-Toe page. The tic-tac-toe board looks like this:

Find as many words as you can that have the same letter in them.
Clipboard Cruising
Word Work Game

Play a word work game with a friend.
Magnet Words

Build your spelling words using magnets.
Rainbow Words

Print your spelling words using a different colour for each letter.

Stamp each of your spelling words one time.
Stamp A Word
Scoop & Spell

Take one scoop of beans. Make as many words as you can. Print the words on the worksheet.
Shopping For Words

Print each of your words. Figure out the cost of each letter and word. Then finish the worksheet.
Super Sentences

Write a sentence for each of your spelling words. Use details!
Boggle Words

Use the boggle game to get your letters. Make as many words as you can.

Except the tic-tac-toe board the kids have has pictures to go with each item on the board. It didn't copy over for some reason. Oh well! 

Beside the tic-tac-toe board is a list with this week's words on it. The list has 10 words - 8 regular words and 2 challenge words. This week all students are working on words with a short vowel a sound (as in cat and dad). I know that the words are going to be too easy for some students.  As time goes on, students will likely have different lists so that they can work on attributes of words that are relevant to their developmental level. For the next few weeks, though, we will all be doing the same lists as we learn how the Word Work Tic-Tac-Toe system works.

During Daily 5, students are now required to complete one row of tic-tac-toe word work each week. They have to do the activities using this week's words unless it is an activity where they make up words (like Boggle) or search for words (like Clipboard Cruising). Some weeks there will be different tic-tac-toe choices such as alphabetical order or word sorts etc.

As a supplement to the word work in class, I have signed up to use the website Spelling City. At the end of the day today I showed the class how to get to our word list on this site. Here are the steps:

1. Google Spelling City (or click on the link above)
2. Go to Spelling City - it is the first link that shows up when you google it
3. Click on Find A List
4. Search for the list by entering my name Olwyn Hughes
in the search box. Make sure that the second box says you are searching by teacher name!
5. Click on my name at the bottom of the screen. It will be in bright blue.
6. Go to the box that says Vocabulary and Spelling Lists (it is about half way down the page)
7. Click on the list you want.

Spelling City has lots of activities. Students can take a test, practice flash cards and play games to practice their words. Students need to make choices from the Free Choices column (I do not have a premium membership).

When you follow the instructions above, you will see that right now there is only one list (Short Vowel A) but we will be having a new set of words every Friday afternoon. I will do my best to have the students write their list into their planners each week (we didn't do that this week as I was sick last Friday).

The goal with these word lists is NOT to have students memorize words and take a test once a week. The goal is for students to practice using words that follow different word patterns and then assimilate that learning into their reading and writing. I will not be giving a weekly quiz. If your child really wants to take a quiz, then I suggest they do the test on Spelling City on Thursday evening each week before getting the new week's words on Friday afternoons.

The class was very excited to get their first Word Work Tic-Tac-Toe board today and I am hoping that they will find Spelling City to be another fun way to practice learning more about word patterns.

Thanks for all your support at home!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Health update and Christmas catch up

Well, being hit by a nasty stomach bug the first week back at school was certainly NOT one of my New Year's Resolutions!!! It hit me right before school ended on Thursday and I had to send one of the student's running for our principal. Thank heavens the principal was in her office! She came and took my class out for home time dismissal and then I headed home and to bed. I felt awful!!!!
I spent all day Friday sleeping, eating Saltines and drinking Gingerale (thank goodness for good ol' Gingerale!) Luckily, it seems to have been of the 24 hour variety and I am now feeling human again! I should be back at work and raring to go by Monday.

Given that I have energy again, I finally dug out my camera (which I haven't even looked at since Christmas) and downloaded the photos.  Most were before photos of the new house that I will post on my house blog when I get the chance to do some after shots. But I also found the one of the gifts I got from my Holly Bloggy Secret Santa that I had forgotten to download and post at Christmas time. So here is a little Christmas catch up a few weeks late! 

This past Christmas I participated in a teacher gift exchange that was created by Caitlin and Sarah. It was called the Holly Bloggy Christmas Gift Exchange and you can find all the link ups here for the participants. I got a lovely package in the mail all the way from Florida!

Thank you to my Holly Bloggy friend, Jessica! I love the notepad (in turquoise, my new favourite colour!), the book and the note cards. So nice to open on Christmas morning!

I forgot to take a photo of what I sent to my holly bloggy friend in Washington state. It had lots of pink in it since that is her favourite colour! I had fun doing this exchange and look forward to the one next Christmas!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

Although I must admit that it never really feels right to say that. For me, the "new" year has started in September since I was 3 years old! January 1st just feels like two weeks into term 2 in my world!

I hope everyone has had a very restful and lovely holiday time. We managed to move house, set up for a party, put up (and take down)our Christmas tree, bake Christmas cookies, enjoy Christmas, have a dinner party and unpack (plus lots more!) in the last two weeks. Can you say busy?!?!

I am feeling fairly settled in to our new home and am ready to get back to the routine of teaching. It is always nice to have some time off to rest but I do get a lot more done when I am in some sort of routine. Must admit that I thrive on the organizing and planning of my time and get far more done when I am busiest than when I have all the time in the world. Crazy!

Thought I would share some great ideas I have found on pinterest lately. Am hoping to be able to fit some of these ideas into the weeks ahead!
snowman sequencing
Snowman sequencing found at

Groundhog Day activities
Groundhog day idea found at

 Tape 6 different MESSED UP sentences and glue them onto a tissue box.  The kids “roll” the box, read the sentence,  write it, and then revise it.  Great for a writing center!
Sentence writing practice found at

for sight words..
Sight word practice found at

Great for mapping skills.
Mapping ideas for grade 2 Social Studies found at

CD weaving..not sure how they did it but I like it!
CD weaving - very cool! Found at

Happy close-up snowman
Snowman art idea found at

1st grade kandinsky
Lesson on Kandinsky found at

I love this
Doubles rap for math - we need to learn this!!!! Found at

So many ideas and so little time! I will be happy if I get to do just some of these in the coming weeks. And I have a gazillion more ideas pinned on my pinterest boards. I love the internet for its ability to let people share ideas so easily. Between pinterest and my teaching boards I have a wealth of information at my fingertips!

Ms. Hughes