The post Curriculum Mapping with Excel appeared first on Tales from Outside the Classroom.

]]>I’m so excited to be joining in with some friends to bring you some Back to School Survival Tips. At the bottom of this post is a linky so you can check out ideas from each of us. There’s also a giveaway at the bottom to make BTS even less stressful for a couple winners!

I’ve done curriculum mapping in a variety of ways the last couple years. From completely mapping everything for multiple grade levels without any textbook, to only aligning my textbook because I was told I couldn’t vary from it (and needed to know what to supplement), to mapping it and using the textbook to teach often. Even if you’re someone who receives a district mandated map, this post should give you some new ideas for planning your instruction. And I think curriculum mapping is a huge stress saver as the year goes on!

Curriculum mapping is what it sounds like- mapping your curriculum. It’s about creating units and planning out your year. Each week you’ll know exactly what you’re teaching and you’ll ensure you’re reaching the rigor the standard expects.

The first step to curriculum mapping is to begin with the standards and group similar standards together into units. While standards are often clearly together based on their domain, there are standards that are often better suited grouped with another domain.

These are the two geometry Common Core standards for 3rd grade. The two of them don’t relate to each other so well. However, 3.GA.2 discusses both area and fractions. Where would you choose to group it? I think it fits best in our unit on fractions as I think applying fractions of a shape is a simple transfer for many students. Alternatively, a strong claim could be made for including it in a unit on area.

Your textbook (more on that in a moment) may also be a resource you can use to decide which standards to group together. Your textbook might choose to teach that in the area unit and so for ease, it makes sense if you teach as the textbook has laid out.

When I do content areas, I often look at both my science and social studies standards together because I’ve found I can coordinate a couple within a unit in the other content. Rather than teaching skills and standards in isolation, it makes more sense to me to put similar ideas together regardless if they’re social studies or science.

Once you’ve decided which standards you’re going to include in each unit, now you’re ready to map out when you’ll teach them. Some units may make sense broken down into two or more smaller portions and taught at two different times during the year. I’m not going to teach the distributive property of multiplication the first time I’m teaching multiplication. I do a second multiplication unit a little later in the year, after we’ve done area, and relate it all together. Your units also don’t only have to be that whole domain. For example, I teach area and perimeter as a separate unit than the rest of measurement as it’s an in-depth concept for students and is difficult for them. I also teach that other geometry standard listed above while I teach the rest of measurement since it doesn’t really have a very natural place to fit. The easiest way to do this is to use your textbook as a guide. For example, your textbook might include place value as the first unit. It would make sense if you taught it as your first unit if your textbook is already providing you resources to do so.

With that said, I urge you to look at your textbook closely. I urge you to look at your textbook and the standards together and ask yourself if your textbook is adequately teaching that standard. Is it rigorous enough? Does it leave portions of the standard out? Textbooks have not changed very much over the years, especially in math. However, standards have changed.

With the standards already grouped together this process is fairly simple and straightforward: you look at the table of contents and find the lessons that teach those skills. If you’re teaching a spiralized curriculum like Saxon or Everyday Math, the process is a little more difficult. You can use the tools the company gives you to identify where the skills are taught and practiced. However, in my experience, I was often directed to workbook pages where students practiced 4 problems of a skill at a very low level and so this practice was not something I’d include as I laid things out.

If you do not have a textbook, you have the opportunity to map things exactly as you’d like. Discuss with your team, especially if you’re new to the grade level, on how you all think the skills should best be laid out. Think about related subjects together. I teach certain reading skills based on when I’m teaching specific writing skills so I can relate the two. But I have less flexibility on when I’m teaching writing so I start there.

You have your units. You know how you can use your textbook to teach them. You have an idea of when you’ll teach each unit. Now it’s time to break everything down into specific skills and specific weeks.

Start with the standards of that unit (the end goal) and list actionable skills that will result in that standard being mastered.

Here is an example of the specific skills I want to work on for this standard. Now I’m able to judge how many days I’ll spend on this specific standards. This helps me nail down exactly how many weeks I’m going to teach that unit. While I’ve listed specific skills I’ll need to teach to reach that standard, I do map everything out day by day. That’s too rigid for me and too many things come up throughout the week. If I felt like I had to redo an entire year’s daily map because a couple special occasions came up, I’d have a panic attack. However, since I know the skills I need to teach, I just include shorthanded skills that I want to accomplish each week, knowing that I already know the steps I’ll take to get there.

As teachers, we know things do not go as planned. Someone has a nose bleed and it gets all over the room. Surprise! There’s an assembly you didn’t know about. Or, your kids are still totally baffled by regrouping in 3rd grade and you need to spend a few extra days with the base 10 blocks to try to help them understand this necessary concept. It happens. I build in a week at the end of every unit as a buffer. I call it a review week on my map. However, it’s not meant for a week-long review. It gives me a couple extra days in case things go awry in the unit. It allows me some time to work on difficult and rigorous story problems. I might decide not to use it and begin the next assessment early. I like including it so I can make sure we’re not getting too far off of our pacing and run out of time before our state testing.

With curriculum mapping and breaking things down into manageable chunks, it’s easy to forget the big picture. Students need to be able to apply skills in complex, rigorous tasks. Students aren’t just comparing and contrasting a picture. They aren’t only doing elapsed time from looking at two visual clocks. Students have to compare and contrast the theme of two texts. They need to figure out how much time has passed in a multi-step story problems with extra information included. They need to stay strong on skills throughout the year and they need to practice them with an increased difficulty throughout the year.

I spiral through my curriculum a couple different ways. We review each comprehension skill at least twice. We then spend a good chunk of time applying a variety of skills to a text based on that specific test. In math, we do a daily spiral review of a variety of skills and do a word problem daily. The word problems build in complexity, and go through a variety of skills, so students know what to expect on the state assessment and are prepared for real-world situations. Some days the problems are more simple so students grow confident in their abilities. Other days the problems are complex so students try a variety of strategies to help them solve it.

The story problem pictured above is intended for the first two weeks of school. It’s an easy problem but it walks through identifying unknowns in any position. This is not difficult for students but builds their confidence early on and helps ease them into complex questions that they’ll see start seeing pretty quickly in the school year. To see more about my Daily, Multi-Step Story Problems for 3rd Grade, click the image above or below.

How you store and access your map is of course up to you. I know a lot of people are frustrated or fearful of Excel but it’s my favorite tool to use for curriculum mapping. I like the way I can lay everything out on the screen. I like the ease of grouping things together. And, I despise Word, especially trying to work with tables in Word.

I created a video to show you how I use Excel to map my curriculum. Hopefully it shows you some of the ways you can use the program to help you plan out your year. I had a time limit and was cutting it really close at the end so a few things were rushed. If you have any questions please leave a comment. I’m happy to help!

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]]>The post Introducing the Distributive Property appeared first on Tales from Outside the Classroom.

]]>Two years ago was the first time I taught the distributive property to students. There was one (and I think only one) lesson in our textbook and it had students relate the distributive property to basketball. In theory, it’s a great idea, and I’m sure I could have livened up that lesson to make it even better. But it was flat and I’m sure the students didn’t really retain or master the skill. Last year, I wanted to introduce it on our own before getting to that basketball lesson. It went something like this…

“Okay, so the distributive property is when you take a multiplication problem and you break it down into two or more smaller problems that are easier to manage. Choose one number to keep the same. Then break down the second number into smaller numbers that equal that number and add them all together like so…”

4 x 5 = n

“Since 5’s are easy to work with I’ll keep the 5 the same. I know two 2’s are 4 so I’ll choose 2’s. I could do this problem like this…”

(5 x 2) + (5 x 2) = 10 + 10 = 20

“So, you see, the distributive property is super simple because it’s just breaking it down into pieces we know. Let’s practice”

Golden. It’s super simple. I even said so.

Except it wasn’t. My kids had no idea what the heck was going on, why I was speaking another language, and they certainly had no idea the point of any of this. So I was sent brainstorming to find out how to make a new lesson for the next day that might actually make sense for them. I knew I needed to back up and begin with something more concrete. So, I headed over to my first grade friend’s room and I asked her if I could borrow some Unifix cubes.

I thought after the lesson fail the day before, that I better introduce the topic in small groups where students could focus and join in on our lesson. So, the next day we split into groups and I started each lesson by taking out some red cubes and arranging them in two equal columns. I asked students to write the multiplication equation for what was shown. This was super easy for them; they’d been doing arrays since second grade. I asked them to keep that on their boards as I showed an identical arrangement in blue unifix cubes and asked them to write the multiplication equation for that one as well.

I put rows together and asked them to write the equation for that array on their boards. At this point they had written,

7 x 2 =14

7 x 2 = 14

7 x 4 = 28

I used parenthesis to show the students how they could write their top two equations using the distributive property. We talked about how each parenthesis represents one color and that I could add another set to the right in another color and that would add an additional equation with parenthesis.

I then took black cubes and laid them on top of the ones below (you can see the red and blue peeking out just a bit). We talked about how the black is what they’ll normally see (a rectangle, an array, the whole number) but they can break it down into smaller parts by separating it. We then began working on another problem.

{In my spontaneous grabs for cubes, we ended up working on the same equation- just the turn-around fact- though that was not my intention.}

I created a new array using the unifix cubes and we wrote the multiplication equation that was represented. Again, easy peasy and the kids felt confident. Then I pulled one column to the other side.

I then wrote the two multiplication equations that were shown and reminded students that the addition sign in the middle shows that when we put the two together we get the whole.

Then I had a student move another column over. This time, I asked students to write the two equations on their own before we went over them. They were understanding how the two parts make the whole. We continued to use cubes in different combinations for guided practice before they completed their exit sheet independently.

The next day, students practiced independently using my Distributive Property Mustache You the Equation Task Cards.

There are two sets in the pack. The first set lists the smaller equations and students rewrite the equation in traditional form. It includes equations with two sets of parenthesis only as a beginning practice for students.

The second set includes the traditional equation for students to break down using the distributive property. There are no specific directions for students so that you can let them write the equations as they choose, or tell them the amount of pieces it needs to be broken into.

You can choose to do the two sets on separate days, or you can intermix the sets (even/odd, 1st half/2nd half) for a mixed review. To check them out, click either of the pictures above or click here to head to my TpT store.

Do you have any great ideas for introducing the distributive property to students?

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]]>The post Word Work in the Middle Grades appeared first on Tales from Outside the Classroom.

]]>As a third grade teacher, I find that my word work center activities cover a variety of skills. I want my students to review and refine their sight word knowledge specifically focused on the correct spelling of many high frequency words. I want them to apply the phonics skills from the previous years and our current year’s instruction. I want them to begin to recognize and apply affixes and have a base level understanding of roots. And, of course, I want them to practice and apply what we’re working on. Unfortunately, when I search on Pinterest, I find that most of what I find is targeted towards the primary grades with a heavy focus on phonics skills like short vowels, long vowels, CVC words, etc. I hope this post gives you some ideas for ways you can beef up your word work centers, whether you do Daily 5 or not.

As of now, I just have a large white bin with dry erase boards, markers and erasers, and various tools in it. I need to work on this area myself. I’ve been looking on Pinterest for ideas to help make our word work center organization a bit more usable and tidy.

I love this idea from Daily 5 for My 3rd Graders! She used black art boxes and put supplies for each different center inside its own box. Then each box goes in the bin. Students just grab a box and go. Spelling word lists are stored on the front. This would not be able to house specific organizers or pages for students to practice on, but those could be stored near or inside the container in file folders or another system. Nicole has great ideas for the centers themselves, like using old non-working cellphones, so head on over there to check them out!

In order to give students a variety of ways to practice spelling and word wall words, and various phonics skills, I often provide a variety of printed resources as activities in our Word Work center as well.

I use these no-prep printables from my Word Wall Word Work set as a center activity after the first quarter. At that time, our Word Wall has quite a few words on it that students can look at to help them complete it. I just printed off about a dozen different pages double sided, laminated them with my personal laminator so they were thicker, and give students fine-tip dry erase markers to use.

The activities are used in different combinations on pages, so students are often practicing different skills or rewriting the words in new and different ways. In this page students are choosing 6 random words to put in ABC order; writing a word from the word wall and then finding or brainstorming a word that starts the same as that word, and a word that ends the same as their word wall word; the last activity has students choosing one word to illustrate its meaning.

If you would like to take a closer look at my Word Wall Word Work unit, just click the image below to head to my TpT store. You can download a couple pages for free from the PREVIEW file to take a closer look.

I bought these cheap photo albums from Dollar Tree last year. {Please pardon the blur on the photo. They’re holographic and that doesn’t photograph well. :)}

I print out the spelling lists 4 to a page and then insert them into the album. Then, students have them easily accessible so they can practice current and past words. They use these albums with some of the tools below to practice them with tiles, markers, rainbow writing, etc.

Last year I created an easy-prep, blackline Word Work Centers set. I wanted to have something that needed no spelling lists, that was engaging, and didn’t require a lot of work on my part. Most of the centers are partner activities which help keep students engaged in their centers. This one, Words Mix-A-Lot, is played like Boggle where students try to find as many words as they can and record them.

Spin a Word is another partner activity. Students spin for a letter on each section. Then they create as many words as they can using ONLY those 4 letters. They total up their points for the number of words created and then they record it, spin again, and play again.

Make it Fast can be played independently or with a partner. The object is to find as many words as you can given a set of letters. The rules can be changed by the teacher to make the game more difficult (ie you cannot create an 2 or 3 letter words).

4 in a Row is played like Connect 4. Students can only use consonants and try to build a 4 letter word. The partner is trying to sabotage your game while also trying to create their own four letter word.

These 4 centers are found in my Word Work Centers. Click any of the pictures above, or the cover below to head to my TpT store to check them out.

I love to use die cut games to practice sight words and phonics skills. They take generally less than 10 minute to prep, have easy rules, and can be used again and again. When I worked as a Title 1 teacher, I had a TON of these games in my cabinet organized by specific skills. Click the image above to head over to the Ellison blog and see how I created AAAAHH! to practice sight words.

I think every teacher has dry erase boards and markers in their Word Work centers, but here are some ideas and/or resources that you might not currently be utilizing.

Bananagrams are a cute little letter game similar to Scrabble where students build words against each other. The tiles could also be used separately as students build their words.

Scrabble Tiles can be purchased quite cheaply from Amazon and can be used in lieu of magnetic letters in your word work center. You can also buy used Scrabble games from your local thrift store and just take the tiles out of them.

I know that creating a DIY Boggle Board in your room is all the Pinterest rage at the moment, but I still think that having the game on hand is a fun center idea. The letter dice can also be used separately as a center where students roll the dice to try and create a word.

Keyboards are great as a way for students to type to practice their words. This helps build their keyboarding skills naturally as well. You can often find old keyboards at local thrift stores for a couple dollars. You can also ask your classroom parents and friends if they have a few lying around. If you’re still struggling to find some, you can get a printable version here.

It seems we’re always looking for ways students can practice their skills with technology. It keeps students engaged in their independent practice and allows us to work with other students in the classroom. These websites and apps are great ways for students to do Word Work practice in the classroom.

Probably the most well known word work website is Spelling City. While they have a subscription service now, you are still able to add your word list and have students practice their spelling words right on the site. With the subscription there are additional games, resources, and app functions than you get with the free version.

Chicktionary is a fun game that is used similar to Making Words. Students are given a bunch of letters and try to find as many real words as they can. This sort of activity helps students apply what they’ve learned in phonics. You can click the link above to head to their website to find links to download the game from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, or the Amazon Store. You can play a web-based similar game at Primary Games called Fowl Words here.

Hooked on Words is similar to Boggle. Students swipe across the letters to create words. Right now Hooked on Words is only available through the Apple Store. To head there, just click the image above. You can play a similar game, BookWorm, online here.

Octopus Feed is a fun game that practices homonyms. It’s one of a variety of games on Arcademic Skill Builders that practices various phonics and language arts skills. They offer a ton- all for free. If you click the image above you can head to their site and try it out. Or, you can click here to download the app from the Apple Store.

Do you have great ideas for your Word Work centers? I’d love if you’d share them below!

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]]>The post Affordable Student Gifts for the End of the Year appeared first on Tales from Outside the Classroom.

]]>As always, the end of the school year snuck up on me a little bit. I mean, don’t get me wrong; I was SO ready for the end of the year. But with our Artifacts Night in May, I really felt like we were teaching and testing and working hard all the way up until the last week. Suddenly, I felt like “Holy moly! I need to get some gifts!” I know not everyone gives their students going away gifts, but I like to give them a little something. I ended up loving what I did this year and how I pulled everything together and I’ll likely do something very similar to it in the future. Also, most of what I bought was from Dollar Tree and it really helped me keep costs down! I know there are a ton of ideas out there, especially on Pinterest, but here are some of my ideas for student gifts from teachers at the end of the school year.

On Monday, I checked out our mobile cart to do one.last.assessment and decided it would be fun to have the students create Wordles for each other.

To start, I had each student type their name 5 times. Because Wordles increase the text size based on frequency, I wanted the students’ names to be prominent on their image. We generated character traits that we could use (all positive) and projected them on the board to help ensure they were spelled correctly. We then walked around to each computer and added a character trait for that student.

I showed the students how to change the font, layout, and colors so they could personalize it to match what they’d like. I only gave them about 4 minutes to do that though because I knew they would spend forever working on that part if I let them. It was also fun to talk about how specific traits really matched students and that nearly everyone used the same one for specific students. Gerald’s up above really shows that he’s funny and that’s what students identify with him.

I had my computer up as well so it was fun to see what the students wrote for me. Just a tip: the program reads each word individually so something like Miss Maguire or best teacher ever gets separated. I was not aware of this beforehand so make sure to explain to students that it works best if they use only one word. Although, Miss Wonderful Maguire works for me!

On Friday morning, the students desks had surprise gifts as they walked in.

I loved the “Donut” tags I used for state testing and so I wanted to do something else with it. I just bought a couple bags of chocolate donuts from Hostess and then gave each student one with this tag. If you’d like to download the tag for yourself, just click the image below.

I ordered books from Scholastic for each student and made them books with individual, positive messages. I originally just purchased a 25 books for $25 box, but, unfortunately, more than half of the books were Christmas or Halloween so I ended up mixing them between those and some others I had. To see more about my bookmark project, just click the image below to head to the Ellison blog to see that post.

I placed the bookmark in each student’s book and told them that I chose that book especially for them. I mean, I did, from the box of books I had available.

I gave each student a deck of cards. Dollar Tree sells cards in packs of 2 for $1. You can also find cards for free from casinos if you ask nicely. This was much easier for me and for $12 I had enough that I needed. I then printed out pages from Teacher by the Beach’s Math with a Deck of Cards. I gave each student a plastic sleeve and they added the sleeves and pages to their classroom binders to take home. They also took home their classroom dry erase markers so they have everything they need to practice a little math this summer!

I gave each student a sharpened pencil (packs of 12 for $1 at DT), a pencil sharpener (packs of 12 for $1 at DT), and a little memo pad (packs of 3 for $1 at DT). I told them that this was so they could continue writing this summer.

And because I don’t want them to think I don’t want them to have any fun, I also gave each student a container of bubbles. They come in packs of 3 for $1 and have two different sets of colors. I also created a tag last year that says “I hope your summer bubbles with fun” and added that to each one. Click the image below to head over that post to download the tag.

I’m sad to see this year wind down, but I take comfort in knowing that we had a great year and I’ll see so many of my kids again next year!

Happy summer days will be here shortly!

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]]>The post Changing Up Bulletin Boards appeared first on Tales from Outside the Classroom.

]]>Head on over to the Ellison blog to see how I gave my bulletin boards a different kind of feel using newspaper and the piece remaining from my die cuts.

The post Changing Up Bulletin Boards appeared first on Tales from Outside the Classroom.

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