Friday, February 10, 2017

So Many Task Cards, So Many Uses

Do you use task cards?  I love these handy little teaching tools because they are so versatile.


Here are seven different ways that I use task cards in my classroom.


Use them as a fast finisher activity
I always have several activities available for my students to use when they finish an assignment early.  I typically rotate these activities, and several times a year, task cards make an appearance.  I simply place the cards into a gallon size zip top bag with a stack of recording sheets.  You can also put your task cards on a ring before placing them in the bag.




Use them in your small groups
When working with my small group of math students, I use the task cards during our time together.  I can place a ring of cards in the center of the group and everyone can respond on their own recording page.  It's a quick and easy way to see how they are doing with the skill.


Use them as a cooperative learning tool.
Pair students up and let them share the stack of task cards. They can help one another solve the problem/answer the question on the cards, or they can solve the problems independently and discuss how they arrived at their answers.

OR

Use them to play Quiz-Quiz-Trade.  Quiz-Quiz-Trade is a Kagan engagement strategy.  Each student gets a task card. Student pair up and read/answer each others cards.  Here's a breakdown:
  • Student A asks Student B to answer the question on his/her card.  
  • Student B answers the question.  
  • Student A lets Student B know how they did.  
  • Student B asks Student A to answer the question on his/her card.  
  • Student A answers, and Student B lets him/her know if they were correct or not.  
  • The students trade cards and find someone else to read their new card to.  
  • The process repeats until the teacher calls time. 
At the end of this activity, I like to go over the cards as a whole group.  YOu can read more about Quiz-Quiz-Trade HERE.


Use them as a center
Once again, you can place the task cards on a ring and inside a zip top bag with a stack of recording sheets and students can use those materials during your centers time.


Use them as a whole group teaching tool
I frequently use task cards as part of our math warm up.  I project one card at a time via my classroom projector.  The students use their personal whiteboard, or a piece of paper that they fold into fourths, to solve the problems on the cards.  It's a great way to check for understanding on the spot, when you use the whiteboards.



Use them to play Scoot.
Scoot is a well loved game in my classroom.  It has been for years!  Simply place a task card at each desk and have your students scoot from desk to desk, on your cue, to respond to each task card.  Don't forget to establish a path of rotation prior to scooting!

 You can read more about Scoot HERE.


Use them to play a game of I Spy
I Spy is another huge deal in my classroom.  The kids looooove it!  I Spy is also commonly called Around the Room.  I place the task cards around the room, and the students go from card to card and respond to each one.  It isn't necessary that they visit the cards in order, they just have to make sure that they visit all of the cards.  As you can see, I place the cards on the floor.  Sometimes, I just don't have it in me to tape the cards to the walls, cabinets, etc.


I like to use this activity as a follow up to our whole group instruction or to review a skill as needed. Sometimes I set out all of the cards and sometimes I set out half of them.  It depends upon the time we have and the needs of my students at the time.  I love that task cards are so versatile! (I may or may not have already mentioned that in this post).  You can read more about I Spy HERE.

Well, there you have it, seven different ways that I use task cards in my classroom.  Who knew that one little stack of cards could be so very, very useful? 

The task cards shown in this post can be found in my TPT store. :)

I hope you were able to take a new idea or two away from this post!

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Sneaky Spinach {A Book to Teach Kids About Making Healthy Food Choices}

I love spinach.  Like, I love, love, love it.  I make my salads with spinach, I saute it (with mushrooms and onions) and eat it as a side dish.  I even blend it up in my smoothies.  So yummy! Spinach tastes good and it's good for me (and you!).

Now, in case you're wondering why I'm blabbering on about spinach on a teaching blog, it's because I have a fun new book to share with you. Introducing, Sneaky Spinach!


About the Book
Sneaky Spinach is a sweet story about a little boy named Nick who refuses to eat his vegetables.  His favorite foods are basically anything classified as junk, and he's always sick and sluggish as a result.  His mom tries to convince him to eat his veggies, but he just won't do it.  Enter the spinach!  One day, some spinach leaves sneak into Nick's morning smoothie.  That day, he had more energy.  Each day, more and more spinach leaves sneak into his smoothie.  He gains more energy each day, and starts doing better in school.  When Nick eventually finds out that he's been eating spinach, and learns that it is helping him do better in school, he decides that he wants to add spinach to his smoothie every day.

About the Author
The author, Alexis Schulze, is the co-founder of Nekter Juice Bar.  Nekter is a restaurant and life style brand.  She helped found Nekter to fill a need for natural, pure juices. Their juices are unprocessed and do not included any added sugars or artificial flavors (as they should be).

When Alexis wrote this book, her aim was to encourage children and families to make healthier food and lifestyle choices. I love this!  Everyone can always use a good reminder to make healthy choices.  She also donates $4 of each book sold to the Festival of Children Foundation. How awesome is that?

In the Classroom
I shared this book with my students as a read aloud, and they really enjoyed it!



They giggled when the spinach sneaked into Nick's smoothie each morning.  I used the book to review cause and effect (during the read aloud).  It's perfect for making those kinds of connections.  After the reading, we talked about making healthy choices and why it's important to eat foods like fruits and veggies.  We recently had a chef come to our class and teach us about another super green food (kale) and we were able to connect this book to some of the things the chef taught us.

 There are a million different ways you can use this book in the classroom. But, here are my top three:
  1. Share it as a read aloud (like I did).  Read alouds should be purposeful, and this text definitely has purpose.  We should always be looking for ways to encourage our students to make healthy choices and as we all know, sometimes messages like this click best when a book is involved.
  2. Integrate it into math.  After reading the book, follow the recipe in the back of the book and make your class a smoothie.  They will get practice with measuring, and they can taste for themselves just how tasty a smoothie with spinach can be.
  3. Use it to teach cause and effect.  At the beginning of the book, Nick eats poorly and is always sick.  Each day one more spinach leaf than the day before sneaks into Nick's smoothie and he experiences a new type of success. n Students could use these details to identify cause and effect in the text.
For more ideas, download the free reader's guide HERE.  :)

Happy reading!


I received this product for free to provide an honest review.  All opinions expressed within this post are genuine and impartial.



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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Easy Ways to Teach Grammar

Our language is made up of all kinds of words and there is so much to learn about them. Nouns, plural nouns, irregular plural nouns, collective nouns, possessive nouns, verbs, past tense verbs, irregular past tense verbs, adverbs, and so much more!  Whether you're introducing a new skill or looking to review a previously taught skill, there are so many different ways to share this content with students.
What follows are some of my favorite ways to teach and practice the various language skills included in the standards.

Picture Books
I love, love, love using picture books to introduce or reinforce a new language skill.  Picture books always capture the students' attention, so why not capitalize on that and use a book to help share a new language skill. There are tons of great books out there.

I love this Grammar Tales series!  I purchased it several years ago through a Scholastic book order, and I've been using them ever since.


I also love this series of books.   The illustrations are great and the content is thorough. Random tidbit, I purchased these through a vendor who used to sell books at our school on a weekly basis, but you can find them on Amazon. This link will take you to the Adjectives book, but if you scroll down the page a bit, you will find more titles in the series. :)


I also love Ruth Heller's books.  They are great for providing students with visuals when teaching parts of speech.  I usually check these out from our school library.

Tip: Check to see what your school librarian has on his/her shelves.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the variety of books available in your building.  :)

Hands-On Partner Activities
Once I introduce a skill, I like my students to practice it, but I try to look for opportunities that give them hands-on practice.  Task cards and match up games are just a few of my favorites.

When a skill is brand new, I like to set out task cards around the room.  I pair the students up and let them work together to answer the questions.  They enjoy working in pairs, and it's also a good way for them to learn from one another.

The game pieces shown in the above picture are from my Collective Nouns unit on TPT.
 
Match Up games are always fun. When we use them, I have the students make their matches and write them down.  Once they do that, they can use them to play a game (or two) of memory.  They love this!  And, it makes for another good time filler/review activity once they have experience with how to play/the skill being practiced.

This game is from my Plural Nouns unit on TPT.


Whole Group Activities


I Have, Who Has is one of my favorite whole group activities. Read more about this activity HERE. This amazing game can be used with any skill, in just about any subject area. What I love about this game is that it can easily be used to fill a small chunk of time.  Got 10 extra minutes one day?  Play I Have, Who Has!  You can review important content and it's fun!


You can grab the free game shown above by clicking HERE.

Quiz-Quiz-Trade (a Kagan strategy) is another favorite of mine.  Sometimes, I call this activity a "mingle."  It gets the kids moving around. It also gives the students an opportunity to interact as they read to one another.  You can read more about Quiz-Quiz-Trade HERE.  This game is also a quick one.  It lasts as long as you want it to last, making it the perfect time filler or warm up.

The game pieces shown above are part of my Arrrsome Irregular Verbs pack on TPT.

Another variation of a match up game, is Find Your Partner. Give each student a card with your content printed on it.  Their task is to mingle about the room and find the person whose card matches their card.  For example, someone with a singular noun written on their card would try to find the person with the plural form of their word and vice versa. The version shown below requires the students to match a phrase to its collective noun.  This activity is great for quickly reviewing content at the beginning of a lesson, and it gets kids up and moving. 

The game pieces shown in the above picture are from my Collective Nouns unit on TPT.


P.S. You don't need fancy cards like the ones shown!  Grab a marker and some index cards and make your own! I do this often and it's just as effective.  :)

Mad Libs
Mad Libs are the best!  The kids get a total kick out of them, and they are super quick (and fun) way to quickly review parts of speech. It's also a great way to encourage students to think of interesting words.

I remember my own second grade teacher sharing them with my class way back when.  Every day before lunch, we sat on the carpet and completed a hilarious story.

I like to start with Mad Libs, Jr. and work my way to the original Mad Libs.


Videos
This year, we have access to You Tube at school! It's been blocked for years. This has been a game changer, and a welcome change.  It's the little things, friends.  Now that we can use that site to show videos, I do.  With that said, it isn't always easy to find exactly what you're looking for and I don't show videos every day.  I show them when I find something of value. It's a nice way to mix things up.

Playing a video at the beginning of a lesson makes for a quick review of previously learned material.  If you show it at the end of the lesson, it could make for a great recap of that day's objective.
Tip: Be sure to preview any videos you show ahead of time.

I wish I had a mind blowing tip for how to search for amazing videos on You Tube, but I don't.  I just enter my search terms and look through the results.  However, there are a few channels out there that you might find helpful. :)
  • The Grammarheads have lots of videos to choose from (but some aren't really grammar related).  The videos themselves aren't anything super exciting.  I mean, you definitely aren't watching a big budget music video, but the songs are great!  I like the Contractions song.  And, the Their, There, They're song.
  •  The Grammaropolis channel has some fun videos.  They are mainly short cartoon videos. Some are full length songs and some are just short clips (no songs).
  •  You can also find several School House Rock videos. I remember watching these when I was young.  I'm dating myself, but I'm OK with that.  
I hope you loved these easy ideas for teaching grammar in the classroom.  Be sure to grab the I Have, Who Has freebie, and pin the post for future reference.

Looking for some resources with hands-on and engaging activities to teach grammar?  Below are some resources you might find helpful.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Plural-Nouns-306325

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Collective-Nouns-309498

 https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Irregular-Verbs-326176

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