Using Technology to Create Meaningful Independent Practice!

Shhhhhew!  Today is the first day of my second week of school.  I always seem to forget how exhausting the first week of school is.  The good news is that I survived my first week in general education and am excited to see what this school year brings me!

Today, we were able to finally able to actually begin ‘real academics’ as we began practicing our “Bubble Pages”.  You can check out my post {here} to see what a bubble page is and how I use them!  I wanted to share a quick post with you on how I am using my iPads in my classroom to make independent work time more valuable and effective.

When students approach the computation center, they will find the following materials:
  *Set of Task Cards
    (rotating skills from Subtraction, Multiplication, Division, Fractions, and Decimals)
  *Recording Sheet QR Code
  *Video QR Code

They are instructed to scan the “Recording Sheet QR Code” as shown above using a QR Code reader, which can be downloaded for free from the app store for nearly all mobile devices.  This will allow them to have a digital version of the recording sheet.  This saves a tremendous amount of paper and as well as time.  It also makes a rather boring, repetitive center a little more appealing.  I say that’s a win, win! ๐Ÿ™‚

In the picture above, this student has began working on subtraction task cards.  To do so, she began by scanning the QR Code for the recording sheet and selected to open the document in the Smart Forms app.  This is a free app that allows her to write on any image or PDF that I send to her or she scans by way of QR Code.  After she completes this assignment, she uploads it for me to grade through Google Drive.

After she works through her problem, she can switch apps and open the QR Code reader once again.  By using task cards with QR Codes, she can immediately check her work.  I require my students to put a check or an x in the corner in a different color to easily show me if they were correct or incorrect.
After my students complete their ten problems (or before even if they feel the need), there is a card with a QR Code to a video that I made using Educreations.  The video goes step by step through two or three sample problems.  If students miss three or more of their ten problems, they are required to watch the video and take notes.  Many students watch an example or two from the video in order to get a quick refresher prior to practicing the problems, especially when working on fractions and decimals.  As some students dive in, they miss the first couple of problems and stop themselves in order to watch the video.  I love the ownership that this teaches students about their own learning.
Students receive constant support and feedback as if a teacher was present.  The wonderful part of this is that I’m NOT present.  Instead, I am off helping a small group of students without being disrupted.  I’ll warn you, this takes a LOT of prep but it totally pays off.  I’m attempting to help you get started by offering the freebie below.  These are simple cards with QR Codes linking your students to the QR Codes.  I also included a couple of blank pages so you can insert your own QR Codes.  Feel free to download the freebie for use in your classroom!  
If you are interested in the task cards used in this post, check them out in many operations and skills below!  They are currently only $1.00!!!

Back to School Addition Task Cards
Back to School Subtraction Task Cards
Back to School Multiplication Task Cards
Back to School Division Task Cards
Back to School Multiplying Decimals Task Cards
**Fractions and more with Decimals Coming Soon!!!!

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My Beliefs on Education!

I’ve been reading my way through “Teaching with Intention” by Debbie Miller and I am IN LOVE with the idea of determining what your beliefs are on education and making sure that your actions and classroom practices actually align with what you do on a daily basis.  Because of this, I couldn’t help but put my beliefs out there for the world to see.  Just for fun, I want to challenge each and every follower and blogger to do the same!

If you blog, I would love for you to complete a post telling about your beliefs on education and link up below.  You can also participate as a follower to be entered to win the fantastic prize below!

If you are a follower, I would love for you to create a little Facebook and Twitter “buzz” by sharing your beliefs on education and use #MyBeliefsOnEducation.  Then, tag two of your teacher friends in the post.  They can then take their turn at sharing their beliefs on education!  When I search #MyBeliefsOnEducation, anyone who used it to share their beliefs on education will be entered in chance to win a $50 Gift Certificate for TeachersPayTeachers!  You CAN NOT pass this up!!!

So….drum roll….I became a teacher because….
*I believe that education should be as individualized as possible.  I know I sound so special education right now, but seriously.  How often do we do one sized fits all types of instruction, activities, or assessments?  I try to do my best to make opportunities for differentiation and individualization.
*I believe that education should be as authentic and real life as possible!  Maybe it is just because of my learning style, but I like to dive in and figure out real life problems.  I like to see the way that skills learned in school are actually used to help it make sense to me.  I love doing the same with my students.  I love making it REAL LIFE!
*I believe that education is the most powerful tool in which we can give our students and should be done with love.  In my classroom, I often tell my students that I love them verbally, but I always tell them I love them non verbally as well.  I try to make the atmosphere of my classroom emit the feeling that they are loved, respected, and can be themselves.
*I believe that assessment should drive our instruction but should not dominate our buildings in the way they often do.  I know the anxiety that comes with getting back scores from statewide testing but should be forced to feel that pressure all year long?  We do because as teachers we are perfectionists and care about our student’s success.

Please feel free to share this image on social media as well as YOUR beliefs on education!  I’d love to hear them! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Guided Math {Chapter Nine}

I want to begin my final
*insert frown*Guided Math Book
Study post with an extremely grateful,


When I began this book study, I never imagined the
opportunities and connections that I would make along the way.  Throughout this book study, I have been
privileged to chat with many teachers about different chapters, questions, or brainstorming
solutions to classroom problems related to Guided Math.  It has been such an amazing experience.  I am also secretly hoping that you are
reading this post and feeling a little bummed that the book is complete.  Yet I also hope that you are totally pumped and
prepared to start implementing it into your classroom. 

I wish I could pick my favorite “take away” from this book
but it is nearly impossible, so I’ll just give a few really broad
statements.  I love how implementing
Guided Math allows for flexibility
and differentiation.  I love it incorporates a place for all levels
of instruction, such as whole group, small group, and individually.  I love how it
encourages students to work independently
and become responsible for their own
learning.  What more could we ask for?!?!

Lastly, what I love about this book study are the
communities of teachers who are voluntarily coming together for the sake of
bettering their mathematical instruction. 
I have had so many teachers send emails or message me saying that they
forward on my blog posts to their friends and staff members each week.  One follower said that her and her grade
level teachers meet for lunch every Thursday afternoon to discuss the chapter
of that particular week and make plans for how to implement it.  How amazing and really puts the pressure on!  Keep at it, ladies!  I’ll look forward to your messages as you sit
and talk at Panera this afternoon and I expect updates along the way! ๐Ÿ™‚

How do you share new information with your colleagues?

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Guided Math {Chapter Eight}

I know I’m a newbie teacher but I feel that assessment has
taken on a different meaning and purpose in the last decade of
instruction.  When I was in elementary
school, which was longer than just a decade ago, you worked on a given topic for
a week or two and then took a chapter test. 
Nowadays, assessment is an ongoing process in which we as teachers are
always provided with information to guide our instruction.  I don’t know about you but I think that’s a
change for the better.

Before you can begin to assess students on their learning it
is important to give them “A Vision for Learning” according to Sammons.  She says that “people tend to be more
successful in any endeavor if they have in mind a vision of success for which
to aim.”  (Sammons, 231)  By showing students what you expect them to
learn or anticipate covering in a given unit allows them to know what is coming
and what they must accomplish.  The
trouble is….how do we do this?

Establishing Criteria
for Success:

Checklists: I personally
LOVE this idea but can’t quite wrap my mind around its use in mathematics.  You can consider this another ‘To-Do List”
item.  By using a checklist, students are
given the opportunity to look at list of steps or procedures and determine if
they have completed the problem correctly. 
In my opinion, we do this all the time with anchor charts.  We show students how to complete a problem
using a given set of steps but how many times to we give them a tool to
physically refer back to it and check off that they have completed each step?  How often do we require them to comment or
reflect on their process versus the checklist given?  These are quality ways in which we can make
sure that students are evaluating their own success. 

Rubrics:  I’ll be honest, I don’t use rubrics in my
room often and I can’t really even think of a justification or reason why.  I guess that means I have another thing to
add to my “To-Do List.”  Rubrics allow
students to see exactly what is expected as well as evaluate the quality of
their own work prior to submitting an assignment.  When using a rubric, you should always give
them to students prior to completing the assignment so that they know what your
standards are.  It would also be a great
idea to post the rubric in the room for reference throughout the completion of
the assignment.  Rubrics also allow peers
to work together to begin assessing and assisting one another develop quality

The Value of
Descriptive Feedback:

Students who receive descriptive feedback throughout a task
are able to see what they complete correctly and what things need to be
corrected.  In this section I absolutely
enjoyed a metaphor about a coach and ball player that Sammons used to describe
the purpose of descriptive feedback.  “The
coaching is not given only at the end of an event, but instead, is given during training so that the athletes
are able to make adjustments to improve their performances prior to testing
them in competitions.”  (Sammons,
238)  DUH!  Do we usually coach our students BEFORE or
AFTER the game?  I’ve been in many
classrooms where the coaching is held off until AFTER the big test to give
descriptive feedback.  By that point,
students (especially my special education students) have repeatedly practiced
mathematical tasks incorrectly.  After
the assessment is too late to begin giving descriptive feedback.   When
giving descriptive feedback, Sammons suggests that it:

  *comes during and
after the learning

  *it is easily

  *is related directly
to the learning

  *is specific, so
performance can improve

  *involves choice on
the part of the learner as to the type of feedback and how to receive it

  *is part of an
ongoing conversation about learning

  *is in comparison
models, exemplars, samples, or descriptions

  *is about the performance of the work—not the person

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Guided Math {Chapter Seven}

I don’t know about you, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the
Guided Math Book Study and am kinda bummed to think about it’s conclusion here
in the next few weeks.  This week, we
dive into the world of conferring during Math Workshop, which is a fundamental piece
of the process.  Sammons says that “in
many ways, conferring is the heart and soul of teaching.  As we confer with students, we sit alongside
them at their levels and listen intently to their words, trying to follow their
reasoning and probing to determine the extent of their understanding.”  I couldn’t agree more that this is so
critical to the success of Guided Math. 

Research Student

The goal of a Guided Math Conference is simple.  Through this process, you are trying to “move
a student from what he or she can almost
do independently to what he or she can
do independently.” (Sammons, 213) But this simple goal doesn’t come
easily.  To begin a Guided Math
Conference, you must take time to listen intently to what your student is
telling you about a given problem or skill. During the research phase, teachers
are determining if students can display mathematical evidence of their
understanding of given skills.  In order
to do this, the teacher must observe students and ask questions in a careful
manner.  In order for the research phase
to be effective, teachers must “differentiate between the authentic ideas of
students and those that are automatic answer to leading questions.”  (Sammons, _____)  If we are leading students to answers, this
does not take from almost to can do a task independently.  Be sure that as you are researching, you

  *Learning Styles

  *Anecdotal Notes

  *Previously Mastered

  *Previous Skills
Causing Difficulty

  *Appears Confident/Unsure


  *Using Appropriate


Whoa!  Daunting,
huh?  Want to know the craziest
part?  This should be completed
quickly!  Conferences are intended to be
short and all four components should be balanced as far as the amount of time
spent in each phase.  You have to quickly
determine where you student’s understanding is currently and move on to the
second step.

Decide What Is

After researching the strategies, progress, and overall
understanding of a given task, it is time to begin the deciding phase.  In this phase, you will begin to determine
what does the student need next?  Begin
by complimenting the student and telling them what they are doing
correctly.  Many students struggle with
math conferences because it can be intimidating!  You can understand the thought of someone
hovering over you, watching your work, and telling you each and every time you
make a mistake or are not being efficient. 
So don’t do it to your students either. 
Build them up before you deliver your instruction and address their
needs.  This allows them to see what they
need to do in future problems as well as keeps them motivated and open to your
suggestions.  As a teacher, you may be
nervous or hesitant about math conferences and your ability to quickly and
effectively confer with your students. 
But the only way to get better is to PRACTICE!  Just do it! 
You may make mistakes in your conferences and struggle to know where to
take students next.  Careful planning and
a little research of the scope and sequence of the topic will be beneficial in
knowing where to go with students to take them to the next level. 

Teach to Student

Here is the FUN part! 
You’ve observed them and determined what you are going to do in order to
help them.  Now you get to teach it!  There are three ways in which you can do this
quickly and effectively. 

Guided Practice:

Depending on the skill and learning style of your particular
student, guided practice might be the best way to approach teaching a skill.  In using guided practice, you sitting next to
the student and allowing them to complete the problem with your
assistance.  The key to guided practice is
that the student is doing the work
and making their way through the process, NOT YOU!  Allow them to do it with your guidance. 


A demonstration is pretty much the opposite of guided
practice.  In a demonstration, they sit
back and watch you make your way through the problem. While making your way
through the problem, you model your thinking aloud with the student. 

You may personally relate to one of these styles more than
the other because most people learn according to a guided practice style or
more of a demonstration style.  Back in
the day when I worked in retail and trained new associates, I would always ask
them if they wanted to do the task or watch it. 
Everyone learns differently, try to appeal to what you know about your
students’ learning styles. 

Explain and Showing an

During this type of teaching, you rely on lessons and
activities that you have already discussed. 
Refer students to anchor charts that you and your students have
developed together.  Show them how to use
resources in the classroom such as interactive notebooks, anchor charts,
textbooks, and math-related literature effectively.  Many times, students are so close they just
need reminders of the steps in the process or terms needed.

Link to the Future:

And last but not least is linking your current task to
future learning.  Make sure that students
realize how these skills will relate to future problems and allows them to
generalize their learning.  This will
take encouragement to keep students from becoming overwhelmed.  You are simply building a mathematical

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