Thursday, July 24, 2014

Writing in Math Class?

Minds in Bloom is happy to present this guest post by Kim of Teaching Math by Hart. We just know you're going to love this post on journaling in math class!

When I first introduce journaling to my students in my class, I generally hear comments like, "Aren't we in Math class right now?", followed by, "Isn't journaling for Language Arts class?".

Who would have thought that you can journal in Math class too!

Why Journal in Math class?

A Math journal can be used as a strategy to provide students with an opportunity to:
  • reflect on their math understanding and learning
  • search for real life connections
  • openly write about ideas, thoughts, and feelings about math
  • become more actively involved in their own learning
  • make use of the math vocabulary presented in class
A Math journal can be used as a strategy to provide teachers with an opportunity to:
  • differentiate for a variety of learners
  • assess their students' knowledge in a variety of ways
  • provide students with an alternative way to explore and enhance their learning
  • integrate outcomes/standards from other subject areas

How to Journal in Math Class

How and when to journal is completely up to you and your students. To maximize the benefit of journaling, I recommend doing it at least once a week as a warm-up/warp-up activity in your math class. To help me incorporate journaling into our weekly routine, I refer to Thursday as, "Thinking Math Thoughts". At the beginning of the class I present a journal starter to the class and allow them 10-15 minutes to write their thoughts in their journal. Depending on the topic, we may have a class discussion afterwards.




Another way to encourage your students to journal is to keep a basket of journal starters our in your classroom. If students finish an assignment early, they can grab a starter and write a journal entry on their own.

Journaling can also be a very insightful form of assessment. Journal entries can be both an effective and efficient way to check for understanding. Once a lesson is complete, it can be followed with a quick question for the students to solve. They can then elaborate in their journals. Use as an exit slip to determine where you students are today and what they will be ready for tomorrow.


Using journals as a formal assessment will often tell you more about your students' understanding that a test would. In order to assess specific skills, relate your journal entry directly to the concept you want to assess. Journaling requires students to put their thought process on paper, a difficult task for some. I always find it fascinating that the ones that struggle the most with this assessment are often my strongest math students. They often default to, "I just know it. I can't explain it." 

Student sample explaining Order of Operations to another student.

I encourage you to attempt journaling in your own Math class. As this becomes an established expectation, your students will gradually become stronger mathematical thinkers and more confident math learners. To help you get started, I am offering this FREE sample of journal starters on Minds in Bloom only! If you see value in incorporating this into your teaching practice, you can check out the full resource here.




Kim is a devoted mother, wife and teacher. She is currently a middle years math teacher in a school in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. She spends her time planning and thinking of new and innovative ways to teach math to her students. Why, you ask? Believe it or not, she thinks learning Math should be FUN and it should be REAL!

If you are interested in finding more math activities to try in your own classroom, please consider following Kim on her blog Teaching Math by Hart, or her Facebook page.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Using Exit Tickets

Minds in Bloom is so happy to welcome Cassie from Create-Abilities! This post is a little goldmine of ideas on how to use exit slips...and tons of examples too!



I need to tell you about one of my obsessions: exit tickets! I love them! They are the quickest and most effective way I have found to assess your students understanding of core concepts. I have tried various ways to incorporate exit tickets. I have had students write answers to questions on scratch paper, have had them answer questions on index cards, and even had them tell me something as they walked out the door (for example: two equivalent fractions as the walk out the door to recess).
All of these worked out okay, but I wanted something that was easy to prepare beforehand that met the exact standard I needed met. It was a lot of upfront investment but it was completely worth it. By preparing my exit tickets beforehand (instead of in the moment like usual) I was also able to keep my teaching on track and make sure that I was incorporating the strategies I wanted to use. It kept me focused on what our learning objectives were for the day as well. I don't know about you, but I the more I plan beforehand, the better the lesson seems to go. 
What's great about exit tickets is that they can be used as formative or summative assessments. In my classroom, I used them mostly as formative. It seems to me with all of the testing we now need to do that I have enough summative data. I wanted something that would help me see a snapshot of where my kids were and where I still needed to take them. I like to think of these exit tickets as "checkpoints" along the way. I feel like if I am not constantly checking in with my students learning, then I as their teacher can't do my job to it's fullest.
This is a nice little video about formative versus summative assessment. I really like how he talks about turning a summative assessment into a formative assessment if your students do poorly on it!


I want to see what my students know and if my lesson/strategies were effective (of course I love to assume that my teaching was perfect!). The students would be given an exit ticket that had a few problems on it that tied in directly to what I was teaching that day. They would answer them and come check them off with me before they headed outside to recess. Depending on the day, I would either grade them immediately and have students go back and fix mistakes (that's the beauty of having only a few problems per ticket), or collect them and use the data to form my teaching for the next day.
Sometimes, I would also do a "Student Teacher". That means, the first 1-3 kids that finished with 100% could help me grade using their ticket as an answer key. This was really helpful when we got near testing at the end of the year and I wanted to work more one on one with the students who needed it. Those who just needed a quick check could go to the Student Teachers and I could pull the kids who were struggling and work with them. 
Another way I used exit tickets was to help differentiate my instruction by working with my teaching partner using the data from the tickets. We would take the students who really struggled and they would work with one teacher going over the problems on the tickets. Then, the kids who could use an extension or extra practice would work with the other teacher on going beyond the ticket.
When I created my tickets, I made two to a page for easy printing. I try to save paper anywhere I can!

I would make the copies I needed and cut them in half. I also created answer keys two to a page. This made it so both teachers could have a copy of the answer key. Sometimes we had para-educators or parents that could help us grade and having multiple answer keys really helped.

Here is a short video showing how another teacher uses exit tickets. 


If you are interested in trying out my exit tickets, I have attached a sample of them across a few grade levels. They can be found by clicking on this link: Exit Tickets
My name is Cassie and I am the creator of Create-abilities teaching resources. I have taught third grade for five years and have a Masters of Education in Instructional Design. I love using whole brain teaching and differentiated instruction in my classroom to engage the learners and make learning fun!
You can visit my Teacherspayteachers store by clicking on the link: Create-abilities




Thursday, July 17, 2014

"It's Rigor, Not Rigor Mortis" A Short Reflection from Notice and Note

Artwork credits: Edusong, Dancing Crayon Designs, KG Fonts

The title of this post (It's Rigor, Not Rigor Mortis) comes from a subheading in the book, Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst. I love this subheading because it speaks to what so many fear will be the outcome of close reading: the death of the love of reading in our students. And it certainly could be. But it shouldn't.

According to the authors, the rigor isn't in the text itself. Forcing students to slog through text that is way above grade level is not the point (and in fact can reduce rigor as students are just trying to get a bare-bones comprehension of the text rather than a deeper understanding). Rather, "the essential element of rigor is engagement." How cool is that? It is what we do with the text that matters. What questions do we ask, and more importantly, what questions do our students ask? When we help our students to dig deeply into the text - to make inferences, to consider different points of view, explore the structure of the text, to form their own opinions and so on, that is rigor. And it is engaging. And it can be, dare I say it? Fun!

So, what do you think of the authors' definition of rigor? And is that definition different from how rigor is defined at your school? Please share with a a comment.

Looking for other bloggers' thoughts on Notice and Note? Check out this link up at Dilly Dabbles.

Monday, July 14, 2014

TpT Sellers Conference: Best Day Ever!

Those of you who follow Minds in Bloom know that I rarely write about topics that are not directly related to, and useful for teachers. But I am making an exception today because the last few days have been so amazing and profound in my life and because I thought those of you who use Teachers Pay Teachers might enjoy a look behind the scenes.

Last Wednesday I flew to Vegas for the very first Teachers Pay Teachers Sellers Conference on Friday. I was a little nervous because I was slated to present two sessions, but mostly excited. A lot of incredible things happened over those few days. But I am going to keep it to just three.

Paul took this selfie of us! I was so honored and thrilled!
First off, I got to meet Paul Edelman, the founder of Teachers Pay Teachers. I was one of the first sellers to join TpT back in 2006. In retrospect, it was one of the luckiest days of my life. TpT has changed my life in so many ways, not just financially, but it as also given me the opportunity to share my work with thousands of teachers and students, and that is simply amazing to me. So, I was thrilled to finally have an opportunity to thank him (and to give him a giant hug!) and also to spend some time with some of the other members of the TpT team. 

Even if you are not a seller, if you have downloaded resources from TpT, then this man has impacted your life too. How would your life be different right now if TpT had never been founded? It is something to ponder because, as I heard one seller say (and I am so sorry, I can't remember who), "TpT has changed the landscape of education."

This is a group of 3-6 sellers I network with. Ari (AKA The Science Penguin)arranged a wonderful dinner for us all! How many do you recognize?
Second, I met so many amazing sellers! There were 746 sellers in attendance (which in itself was incredible). Some of us have been chatting in Facebook and in email for years and finally meeting was such a joy. We were Facebook friends, but now we are real friends. I also really enjoyed meeting sellers that I was not familiar with before the conference. Many sellers came up to introduce themselves. I was really touched by their kind words.  One theme that ran through the entire conference is that we really are a collaborative group. We help each other. We pay it forward. Often it was said that TpT is a family, and it really did feel that way. 
Presenting is fun! Photo from 3rd Grade Gridiron
This is all the presenters. Photo from TpT!
Finally, a huge highlight for me was that I got to present. Once by myself, and once with Laura Candler (who was wonderful to work with and wonderful to hang out with too! We had the best time together!).  The session I did by myself was first. This was my first presentation, but surprisingly, I wasn't nervous. I had done my presentation at least a dozen times for my dog and I really had it down. The room was packed...people were standing at the back and sitting on the floor. I found out later that they think there were nearly 400 people there. I did my presentation and it seemed to be going well...no one seemed restless, lots were taking notes, and they all laughed at the right times. It was really fun and I was had a great time. The next one was with Laura and it went really well too!  I got a lot of positive feedback, which I am only writing about here because several of the sellers who have done a lot of presenting told me that I should present at educational conferences. I am thinking about doing just that.

So, any ideas about what I might present on? Task cards comes to mind first. Would you want to attend a session on task cards? I could also do other topics related to ELA. Your feedback would be so much appreciated. 

Just one more picture to share with you. This was a gift for Paul from all of the TpT sellers. There were smaller versions for the TpT team members as well. 

Picture from TpT

I really do want to hear your comments. Here are some questions to ponder:
  • How has TpT changed your life and your teaching?
  • If you were at the conference, what were your highlights?
  • And, finally, what could I present at an educational conference that would be useful for YOU?
Thanks so much for sticking with me to the end of this post!



Read about more adventures in Vegas here:



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Las Vegas Summer Sale!


I am beyond excited because I am heading off to Las Vegas today for the Teachers Pay Teachers Sellers Conference! I will be presenting two sessions: one on marketing, which I will be doing by myself and one on creating A+ products, which I will be doing with the always wonderful Laura Candler.  I can't wait to finally meet my TpT friends in person! If you are attending, be sure to come find me and say hello!

To celebrate the occasion, I am putting my entire store on sale for 10% off! from now through July 11th. So if you want to get a jump on next year, now is a great time to do it!  There are of course plenty of Task Cards, as well as Close Reading, and some awesome Brain Breaks.

Happy Teaching (or relaxing, grilling, vacationing, or whatever else you are doing this summer),








Sunday, July 6, 2014

Using Magic Square Puzzles in the Classroom

Minds in Bloom is pleased to welcome HoJo! Check out her awesome video to learn about Magic Squares and what an awesome teaching tool they can be!

Have you heard of Magic Square Puzzles? If not, you are in for a real treat! These puzzles are extremely engaging for students. They work well to review concepts, fill time for early finishers in a meaningful way, or just practice a concept while having fun.


Today, I want you to give these puzzles a try! That's why I'm offering seven Magic Square Puzzles as a FOREVER FREEBIE right here on Minds in Bloom.


Before you get your freebie, I'd love for you to check out my new YouTube video demonstrating how these puzzles work. Watch the video once or twice, download the free sampler right here, try the puzzles a couple times on your own, and you'll be all set when school starts up again!





Click here or on the picture below to get your seven puzzles for FREE!


You can read all about Magic Square Puzzles, how to use them, and even grab some more freebies over at my blog.


HoJo has taught grades K-6 in public schools throughout her career. This fall she starts a new adventure as an elementary principal and special ed director. You can follow her on her journey at her blog - HoJo's Teaching Adventures.


Image Map

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Follow the Character Road


Hello from Barbara Gruener, author of The Corner On Character blog and 
I am somewhere over-the-rainbow with joy and delight today at the invitation to share my reflections about journeying down Character Road as a school family. 
As is customary in my corner, I'm going to start with an inquiry: 
Which character in this film family is most like you?

The school version of the story goes like this: Dorothy is looking for the perfect place to call home. On her way down the Character Road, she befriends the scatter-brained scarecrow, the rusty tin woman, and the cowardly lion. They form an alliance and, with the help of the goodness of Glinda, they make their way to the Wizard whom the hope will point them in the right direction, toward home. And, while the Wizard's powers are somewhat illusory, she is able to empower Dorothy and the others to use those powers that lie deep inside to problem solve and go the right way. 

Characters with character. I like it.
The scarecrow represents the first domain of character development - cognition. We must teach, advocate and model the virtues that we want our children to know. What are those values we espouse? And how does each one look, sound, and feel? 

Once they know the values, have them seared into their mind, they're ready to move to the affective domain, for which the tin woman is a perfect ambassador. 
To take them to heart. 
To love the virtues and embrace them as a way of life.

And then there's the lion, afraid of his own shadow.
Unable to make a move for fear it'll be wrong.
But when character kids move to the third domain - behavioral - they already know the values and embrace them, so it makes perfect sense to now use them. To take action. To live the virtues with every move they make down Character Road.

Character encapsulated: 
Know it. 
Love it. 
Do it.
Beautifully represented by Dorothy's trio of friends.

Click graphic for photo source: Friendswood High School

And Dorothy. Optimistically hopeful.
A defender of what's right and just.
A friend to all.
A true character who is all about character.
Someone who knows it.
Someone who feels it.
Someone who uses it.
With every step she takes down the yellow-brick road.
As she tries to get home to right a wrong. 
And her anti-dote to the witches and flying monkeys
who threatened to keep her from her dream?
Patience. Strength. Forgiveness. Love.
She stands up for what she believes in
and she isn't about to let anything or anybody
keep her from accomplishing her goal.

And since nothing happens in isolation, let's not forget Dorothy's lovely assistant, Glinda, the good witch of the north.
As Dorothy learns that we can't go it alone,
Glinda shows up to give her the tools that she needs
so that she never loses sight of the finish line.

My son Jacob learned in his AP English class the book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was originally penned as a critique of power and greed in America.
I prefer to believe that it was written to teach us about 
the domains of character: head, heart, hands.
And in the end, happiness. For good. 

Here are the lyrics to a Character Rap I wrote
when I was working at a fifth and sixth grade campus.


What will you do differently this year
as you head - heart and hands - into another year 
down Character Road?





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