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December 8, 2016

Christmas Around the World Research

Hands down, Christmas Around the World is always my favorite topic. In Kindergarten we would read great literature, eat cultural foods and my students would be exposed to different languages and cultures!

Christmas Around the World is a fantastic way to bring diversity into your classroom. Which I am a huge advocate for! This year I knew that I wanted to bring this engagement to my 5th graders, but was not sure how I would go about it.

Then, LIGHTBULB! We had just transitioned into informative writing and that was the route I was going to take. I would not be teaching my students, but rather they would be teaching each other!

Step 1 - Assign the Countries

There was no real solid method for how I did this. Essentially I printed off my brochures in duplicates, went down my list and gave the student their country by what brochure was in my hand. :) I have to say, I am SUPER excited for these research brochures!

Step 2 Research

This was amazing because this is where the connections began. The first day we just read about our country. Then we dove in and started recording with our graphic organizer. Students minds were opened by reading about when Christmas presents are opened, foods that are eaten and different traditions that countries have. 

I had my students utilize the search engine kiddle.co and whychristmas.com to gather their information. We worked on paraphrasing what we read and putting it into our own words.

Step 3 - Rough Draft

Now that my students have filled those brochures they are organizing their thoughts into complete paragraphs. Since this was their first writing I assisted them with their introduction and the forming of their paragraphs. I had my students label which fact they would focus on for each paragraph. I had all of my students utilize food as a topic because that is something that is so strong in every culture. The remaining two facts were their choice.

Step 4 - Publish and Present

Okay so this is that part that my students were very nervous about. They do not enjoy speaking in front of others and just can not understand how I do it all day!

I want to set my students up to be successful with this so I really broke it down for them. I did a sample presentation on a country that no one was assigned. We then used a note card to write down what we wanted to share with the class. Finally, they created a poster to serve as a visual aide and a talking point. 

This was a fantastic experience for my students. One student was so into it that his family actually purchased a traditional food from France! How cool is that! 

Want to bring this same excitement to your classroom? 

Check out my resource here.

November 27, 2016

Cyber Monday TPT Gift Card Giveaway


**Keep reading for chances to win some fantastic prizes! You will want to scroll all the way to the end of this post!

I hope you are all enjoying the beginning of the holiday season! 

Did you get some awesome deals with Black Friday Shopping?! Well now it is time to sit in the comfort of your home and do some online shopping! (My personal favorite!)

While you are busy filling up your online carts I would love to give you the chance to get some FREE cash for Teachers Pay Teachers

How to Enter

Simply check out the Rafflecopter below! I will notify the winner by email on Tuesday morning 6am EST. This will give you plenty of time to use your gift card during the Teachers Pay Teachers Site Wide Sale!

TpT Cyber Sale

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want Some More Chances?

Hop around to a few other blogs and enter their giveaways. If you complete the loop, you have entered for a chance to win up to $260 in Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Cards! Good luck!! Start the hop by clicking below. 

More Giveaways

While you are visiting, I am celebrating a year with Teachers Pay Teachers. Check out my blog post for a chance to win a $25 spa gift card! This giveaway also closes Monday night!

November 23, 2016

My TpT Anniversary


WOW! I cannot believe that I have been part of the Teachers Pay Teachers community for a year!! 

Be sure to enter the contest below by 11/29/16. Winners will be notified by email on 11/30/16.

Months ago I did a Periscope on how TpT has made me a better educator. Hands down, that remains true. By creating resources for other educator's I am challenging and expanding my own teaching. When I create for my classroom and share with you, it is what will work for my students. Every resource I have, I hope makes an impact in your classroom.

To celebrate this 1st year and an amazing journey I want to spoil you! As educators we are CONSTANTLY working beyond our contracted hours. We pour our heart and soul into our jobs. We do so much for our students. Why? Because they deserve the best educational experience AND we want them to be successful. 

We work so hard for our students that it is SO EASY to forget about ourselves. I am so guilty of this. I find myself burning the candle at both ends and then burning out. 

I have consciously worked towards leaving school at school and it has made a world of difference. 

Teachers: our job is hard. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. But, our job is crucial and beyond worth it.

So to celebrate I want to spoil you. I am giving away 3 gifts to 3 lucky winners! I am so excited for this!

The Gifts

1. A resource from my store. From digital to printable! **Email address required, limit to one resource for one educator.

Why? Because it is my goal to give you resources that will prove effective in your classroom. And make life easier.
A Year of Kindergarten Writing Prompts                  Digital African Animal Research Report

2. A one month legging subscription to Myranda Sue LuLaRoe. You will receive 1 pair of leggings! If you choose to continue the subscription you will be invoiced monthly. **Email and mailing address will be required. I will provide you with the consultant email.
 Read about them here.

Why? Because coming home and changing into my leggings instantly improves my mood. I also LOVE getting snail mail! Hello happy mail when I get that pink package!

3. Finally - A $25 spa gift card. **Email address required. Expires 12/1/17
 Image result for $25 spa and wellness gift card
Why? Because you are a hard-working, butt-kicking, student-impacting, educator! And.....that makes you tired LOL. You deserve to relax and spoil yourself.

And in case you have yet to treat yourself to Rocksbox. Use my code: KRISTENZBFF1 for a free month!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

November 22, 2016

Division Bootcamp

WOW! I have been so MIA lately! But I know you understand, grade changes are crazy right! 

Well if you have read my previous posts you know that I love to engage and excite my students. As Hope King calls it, set the stage to engage!

As a part of my teaching philosophy I fully believe that students need to be up and moving and working hands on in the classroom. This year in 5th grade I wanted to find a way to make content heavy activities that excite my students. 

I teach math (and social studies and language) and it can be such had subject for many kids, myself included! I kicked on the school year with Whole Brain Teaching and excitement. Not only did it get my kids to say "I love math!" but it also made me feel more comfortable. Now don't get me wrong, it is easier to sing and dance in front of 5 year olds than it is 5th graders. BUT you have to just let your hair down and let go of your own personal worries.

I HATED math growing up, there were plenty of tears and lots of tutoring in my school years. HA, the irony that I am teaching it now, right?! But I take that "weakness" and turn it into my greatest tool. 

Can I just share with you - my students call me M.O.M. - Master of Math - I could have cried tears of joy!

So fast forward to today. Today we kicked off Division Boot camp. Why? 
1. It's fun. 
2. Why not? 
and 3. They need the review.
(**pictures to come)

What We Are Doing 

I purchased this awesome resource from Amy at That Teaching Spark, and my one regret is that I did not find it sooner!! Next year I will absolutely be using the multiplication part of this resource (I already laminated and cut!)

Multiplication and Division Boot Camp

The Content
So obviously we are working on division. Right before Thanksgiving was the perfect time for this because we are just about to begin our division chapter. And it helped control the craziness excitement. 

We started last week by completing their PT (pretest) on division facts. I purchased these dog tags from Oriental Trading for $3 for a dozen!! I loved Amy's idea of having the students earn beads for each drill they passed. 

So today when my students came in I passed out their PT and recording sheet. I was really surprised and excited to not have any kids upset that they "only had so many beads". I think they were just excited to be doing something different that they did not put themselves down, and now they have a goal to work towards!

What happens if they didn't pass a drill? I am giving them the options of testing on 1 drill a day. If they pass, then they can earn their bead. They already want to retest!
Image result for engaging our students quote

The Engagement 
So yes, I did it! I dressed up and got into character. No longer their teacher, I am now their Drill Sergeant. Oh yes recruit - drop and give me your math facts! ;)

So I start off each day with getting them up and marching in place and doing a cadence with me. I have to give props to these educators that are spitting out lyrics for content. It's so hard! This is what we will be doing:
I don't know but I've been told!
Math facts are a need to know.
Add, subtract and multiply.
Break apart to divide. 

As we are going through this we are using hand gestures for the different operations. There is so much research for putting movement and song to help with memory. These had gestures are used with WBT to activate all parts of the brain.

The Centers
Since this is boot camp, we are working hard on our facts and fluency. Each day my students are working in groups on a different task. They are all division tasks, simply structured in a different way and on their level. 

This is how I keep my centers organized.

The Homework
All my students have been doing this week for math homework is practicing their drills. If they have already mastered them, then it means they will be done quickly. Once again, no complaints. 

I think it is also important to note that fact fluency is defined as being able to complete a set in 30 seconds. While I believe it is useful to memorize our facts, and that is the way its always been, our students need to have  strong understanding of the concepts. If a student can't spit out their facts in a certain amount of time, does that mean they do not know them? Absolutely not! It is so important to remember that our learners come in a wide variety. 

Do I think math drills have a purpose? Sure. Do I think they cause test anxiety. Heck yes! These are reasons why so many of our students do not have a joy for math. Math gets a bad rap - time to dispute that!

The Feedback

The day began even before math class. One of my students peaked inside a box I had sitting on my desk. Of course she wanted to know what all of it was for. When I replied it was for math, she got this huge smile on her face, "Math just keeps getting better. Who knew it would be my favorite class." BOOYAH! And THAT right there people, is why we do what we do! Never forget that you are impacting some wonderful future minds right now in your classroom. 

Image result for engaging our students quote

October 15, 2016

Multiplying by Powers of 10

I find so much value in using centers for my students. During our RTII time I can differentiate my math instruction through the use of math games and task cards.

Currently with my students we are working on our topic of multiplying by powers of 10. 

My classes have not yet mastered the concept of exponents for powers of 10. After our last quiz I created this center to allow for them to visually see how numbers grow when multiplying by powers of 10.

How To Play

Students will receive a bag of candy corn puzzle pieces. The objective is to have students sort and build the pieces to create a visual puzzle for powers of 10. The product of the multiplication expressions will always be the yellow piece. The exponents will be represented in the middle segment.

I have included pieces in full color (because HP Instant Ink is my everything - check out my referral code to try a free month!) and B&W for printing on colored paper or card stock.

After students have built their puzzles they will complete the recording sheet. 

This center is perfect for the fall season. Who says upper elementary can't be cute and fun?!

This a topic that I will also be creating Plickers cards for. Let me know if you'd be interested in a copy of them!

October 2, 2016

Using Plickers for Math Review

Have you heard of Plickers?! 

Plickers are a simple formative assessment tool to use in your classroom. They require minimal technology. All you need to use plickers is a smartphone or tablet loaded with the plickers app and a printer!

Below I will share with you on how to set up your account and ways that you can use plickers. I have used plickers in both my Kindergarten and 5th Grade Classrooms. Below I will also share how to use plickers for math! (I also included a freebie!)

How Plickers Works

Step 1 - Sign up for free at plickers.com 
Step 2 - Add you class! You can add multiple classes under your account, for example I teach 2 classes of Math and Social Studies.
Step 3 - Upload your roster, you can copy and paste your roster into the class. You can choose to sort by first or last name. I sort by last name so that they line up with the number they have for the school year.

Step 4 - Go into your LIBRARY and create some folders. I suggest using folders because your questions will be organized and therefore can be managed more easily.
Step 5 - Create your questions. Within each folder you can create the questions for your students. You will also insert the answers options and select the correct response.
Step 6 - Try it out! Print off your free plickers cards in your account. Do not laminate them, the shine can prevent them from working properly. Also - encourage your students to take care of them because if they are bent they may not read correctly. Remember though - my kinders could do this! Set your expectations, or keep them in a safe place ;).

Step 7 - Check our your reports! When you then scan your students plickers, those with the correct response will be shown in green. You can also go into the reports tab to see a break down of your results, as well as print your data! What a fun way to assess your students! (yes, there can be some user error on the part of your students - so I recommend having them practice and become familiar before using this as an assessment.)

How I Use Plickers

I started using plickers when I was teaching Kindergarten. Yes, my 5 year olds were able to manipulate these cards! I stuck mostly with true and false questions. They were also sucessful with MC questions!

This year I am teaching 5th grade Math, Language and Social Studies. I introduced plickers to my students on the 1st day of school. I wanted to quickly have them become familiar with the cards so that I could use them as a form of assessment later in the school year. I had my students complete a survey for how they best learn. This was able to provide me with an insight into the makeup of my classroom.

I moved on to using plickers to have my students respond to comprehension questions from our read alouds. I honestly have to say, my students LOVE using plickers. It is a great way to break up the day. They do often want to see the graph break down of how many people got the answer correct, but I rarely share that with them.

Using Plickers for Math Assessment

Okay, right now the program does not allow for creating math equations. However! If you save your problem as an image you can upload it! As you can see below. I created the question and answers on the same image. I uploaded that image as my question and simply selected the correct answer. 

Click here for some images I created to review for place value. I will be continuing to use Plickers to review for our math assessments. I use enVision 2.0 so I will be continuing in that order. Be sure to check back through the link for additional images.

I hope they will be useful for your classroom!

September 28, 2016

United States Presidential Election [& a freebie!]

Okay, I went there. I feel like this year the presidential election is the elephant in the room. It is a hot topic in the United States. I promise to not get too political on you! The fact is our students look up to us and value our opinions. During the 2012 election with Obama and Romney it was very interesting in my classroom. I could tell parents were talking about the election in front of their kiddos and it trickled down to my classroom in the form of "Who are you voting for?" "Are you a Republican?" "My mom said...". Oh yeah, I am sure you all had the same experience. And I was teaching Kindergarten!

What does this tell us?

Well for one, that these two people will be talked about in the homes of our students. Our students are exposed to these political commercials. That, well lets be honest, information may not be portrayed accurately. The beginning of the school year is the time you bond with your students and build their trust. You job as a teacher is to help them grow in many aspects. Now, I am not telling you to go into your classroom and discuss your opinion of politics! NOPE. Do not do it. Don't get that personal. There is a reason that people do not discuss religion and politics. We JUST CAN'T do it. And really, is it a fight you want to take on all by yourself? I agree with you. We need to speak up for changes to happen! But, there is a time and a place.

So WHAT do I teach my students?

Good question. The facts. You stick to the facts. If you are teaching older students you can examine both sides of the debates. But not with our little ones. SO I decided to help you out! I truly believe that this needs to be discussed in our classrooms, but in an appropriate way. That's why I created this product.

A big part about this election is teaching my students to look further than the commercials or what they hear around them. Below I share two great resources to help them do that.

In case you missed this freebie in the Teachers Pay Teachers Newsletter:
The Wise Guys put together a great list of Dos and Don'ts. They have also included a parent letter to send home. Check it out here.

Resources for Upper Elementary/High School

Teaching Tolerance is one of my favorite resources. They have been very helpful by creating a location for their resources. You can find them here.

The NY Times has a election unit for teachers that help students to further investigate. Their goal is the same as all educators, to have our students back up their opinions with evidence.

This year I am teaching 5th grade and they have be dialoguing about Trump and Clinton since the first week of school. Since I teach Social Studies I will be taking the first week of October to get my students to really find their evidence to their opinions. Click here to see what I will be using from the NY Times.

My 5th Grade Lessons

Before I begin any instruction in regards to the election process I am very explicit with my students that they are to leave their bias at the door. The election this year is already impacting our students and my role is to educate them on the facts.

We then view the Kid President video on How to Disagree. It is a great reminder for students on how to speak to one another. (P.S. read about how to remove ads from youtube - tips from The Brown Bag Teacher)

I have students complete the anticipation guide prior to discussing any part of the election process.

Click here to download the anticipation guide that I utilized with my classes. I also had my students read and respond to The Road to the White House, I have provided these questions for you as well!

Scholastic has a fantastic collection of materials/videos for the election process. You can find them here.

Presidential Candidate Election Report

I created this product around my other Famous People products and my Presidenital Report. I kept it neutral and kid friendly. So much of it can be left up the teacher to decide which direction it can take.(Please note - This product includes only the Democrat and Republican Candidates. Green Party Candidate is Jill Stein and Gary Johnson is the Libertarian Candidate.)

KWL Charts

Even if this is the ONLY thing you do with your class - it is a step in the right direction! (in my opinion). Safe and to the point. However, you may decide to complete this as a whole group and rephrase comments from your students. Remember - just the facts.  

Research Report

Again there are multiple ways you can have your students complete this. For my President's Day report I give students one president to research about. They then come back and share with the class what they learned. 

Gage your school community and family relationships to make the best decision for your class.

Compare and Contrast

Finally, work with your students to complete the Venn Diagram. Older students may choose to discuss political standings. With your primary students you could stick with their background: growing up, education, and so on.

Flip Book
This flip book will be a great addition for upper elementary classrooms. 

This flip book is designed to have your students gain additional knowledge in numerous aspects of the election process. Your students will build upon their knowledge of the election process in the United States as well as the numerous political parties. Students will research the stances of the Democratic and Republican Candidates on key issues. They will also gain additional knowledge on the history of the White House and the Electoral College.

Assessment FREEBIE

After our lessons on the process to be coming president I assess my students on their knowledge. I utilize this quiz and study guide below. For a bonus question I will ask my students which animal is a symbol for each respective party, and why. You can view the information here.

I am including this quiz as a freebie. Even if you do not use it with your students, it is a good guide for you as a teacher on the areas you can begin discussing with your students. 

My Soapbox

At the end of the day you need to do what is best for your class. But I hope you will guide an intellectual conversation with your students. I truly believe that we need to discuss the "hard topics" in our classrooms because it may not be happening at home or parents may not know how to address it. When we became teachers we took on a lot more than just teaching academics. Everything you do this school year with your students will resonate with them and be a part of who they are in the years ahead. 

September 11, 2016

Teaching About September 11th

15 years ago our world crashed around us.

I was sitting in my 8th grade class. My teacher got a phone call and left the room. She came back in visible devastated.

It is a day, that if you are old enough to remember, you will never forget.

So how do you explain such a tragedy to students who were not yet born? Do you teach them about September 11th?

The short answer is yes, you do. We teach our students about battles and wars that have happened hundreds of years ago. But not we have a war that took place in OUR generation. Yes we teach about it because we have lived it. We have personally witnessed the destruction that took place. 

So for me, the question is not if you will teach about September 11th - but how?

A Sensitive Topic

Yes, it is hard to teach your students about how and why so many Americans lost their life. But as an educator this is your challenge. To bring it to the understanding of your students.

In Kindergarten, yes I did teach my students about 9/11. Some may disagree with me, but I did it in such a sensitive way that it worked. I have also had parents thank me for discussing September 11th because they did not know how to. Remember - it is YOUR classroom and do what will work for YOUR students. 

Lesson Plan

Every day I have been participating in #bookaday with my homeroom. This week will be focused around peace and September 11th.

Monday - 14 Cows for America
Tuesday - The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

Wednesday - Can You Say Peace?
Thursday - The Peace Book

Friday - If You Plant a Seed

Here is how my block will be structured. Click on the links and it will take you to the free resources that I will be using. 

Introduction - I created a a powerpoint with images to use to set the purpose for the lesson.

Video/Activities - I will be using Brain Pop's video with my 5th graders. This is definitely a video for upper elementary as it discuss terrorism. But again, use what works for your class! Take pieces and use them as talking points.  

Afterwards my students will listen to President George W. Bush's address to America. They will then complete this activity in which they will have to infer, identify tone and draw conclusions. 

Conclusion - I fully believe in the power of picture books. I will be reading 14 Cows for America. This is also the book I read with my Kindergarten class. It is such a beautiful story about the power of kindness. As we know, in the wake of tragedy, you need to only look around and you will see people helping on another. That is what we do as human beings, we support one another. Unfortunately, tragedy has a way of bringing together many groups of people for a common good.

In this story, the Maasai tribe are moved to help the American people. Together they give 14 cows to America. This is such a great gift because to the Maasai , the cow is life. 
I end with the story because it is all about the goodness of people and how they unite. This is a message I want to leave my students with. 

While they are reading they will be using a sticky note to write notes about why the Maasai would have given this gift to America. 

Survivor Tree

Amidst all of the rubble and destruction there was hope, in a pear tree. It was found broken and damaged a month after the attacks. It was cared for and replanted in 2010. It has grown and survived.

 "Today, the tree stands as a living reminder of resilience, survival and rebirth."

Click here to learn more about the Survivor Tree.

Additional Resources

Read alouds are always a fantastic resource, especially with sensitive topics when you do not always have the words. 
Mr. Mault's Marketplace has put together a great collection of read alouds for us. 
Need a rigorous and engaging September 11th lesson? This post shares a lesson using paired read alouds (and free printables) to teach about often overlooked heroes of 9/11: boats and their crew.

Also head over to Jennifer Findley's blog for more ideas for read alouds and activities for upper elementary.

New York City Today

Almost every trip that I make into NYC includes a visit to Ground Zero and Freedom Tower. The landscape has changed, but you can certainly sense the patriotism and unity that surrounds this memorial.