Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Test Prep Dress Up {Engaging Test Prep}

I have a love/hate relationship with test prep. I hate it for all the obvious stressful reasons. But, this year I am working with another 5th grade teacher who has the BEST ideas for test prep. Here is my new favorite: Test Prep Dress Up!

  • Various Dress Up Items (I stocked up at the dollar store. I also find things on clearance.)
  • Any review questions

Here is a shot of some of my items in my dress up bin. I am slowly collecting more items when I find them cheap.

Here are my newest items that my students haven't even seen yet. I just snagged these at Hobby Lobby and Walmart this past weekend.

 Here is the bin that I have them stored in. I will need to get a larger one when I get more items. 

 Here is how to play:
  • Divide your kids into teams.
  • Display or read the review questions. Everyone answers the question, but it is only one team's "turn" or chance to get points or get in the dress up box.
  • After a few minutes have passed (you set the time), check the team's answer whose turn it is. If they are right, they get the points and get to choose an item from the dress up box (without looking). They then have about 30 seconds to a minute to choose someone in the class to wear the item for the rest of the game.
  • I do allow the kids to take a penalty (lose points) instead of wearing the item. But the kids love it so much that this is rarely an issue.
Here is a picture of my son modeling my new items. :D
They love this game so much! This definitely makes test prep fun. I would love to know how you make test prep fun in your classroom. Let me know in the comments!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Uncover the Compelling Reason for Every Lesson You Teach!

I recently had the opportunity read Angela Watson's new book Unshakeable: 20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day...No Matter What. This book could not have come at a better time in my life. With state testing and the immense pressure that comes with that, I had been feeling overwhelmed and letting this affect my joy of teaching. I chose "Chapter 10: Uncover the compelling reason for every lesson you teach" because it really spoke to some of my current stress.

The demands we place on students seem to get more and more difficult each year. This year my students (some who are reading on a 3rd grade level because English is their second language) have to read two grade level passages that are 1 1/2 to 2 pages in length each, then write a 5 paragraph essay analyzing the passages and pulling details from both to do so. Unfortunately, I have some students that can barely get through the reading of the first passage. One of my teammates and I are always discussing the fact this is not appropriate to a majority of our students. Instead of complaining about whether or not this is appropriate, I should be looking for the compelling reason that we have to teach this and share that reason with my students.

With all this weighing on me, I dove into the chapter with hopes that I would gain some insight. This quote from the book really summed up my previous thoughts on paired passage analysis as well as many other aspects of teaching. 

I was literally nodding my head when I read this. It was definitely me and how I viewed the majority of the standards that I was having to teach my students.

Angela offered some thoughtful insight and realistic tips to help overcome these feelings and find compelling reasons for even the most mundane standards we are required to teach.  Here are my favorite strategies that Angela recommends:

 Think about the NOW.

Instead of sharing ways and reasons particular lessons will be important in the far off future, think about the now that your students are currently living in. Why is this lesson important to their lives now? I have always believed that students remember skills and content that is interesting or that they feel is important. Make the skill important to them in their lives now, and that may give them the desire to master the skill.

Connect the Learning to the REAL WORLD!

I loved this tip. My students are always interested in current events. If I could find a way to connect some of the standards that seem so irrelevant to the real world, I know they would soar with the standards and the task. There are so many ways that students can help in the community, and integrating real world projects with mundane or seemingly irrelevant standards is definitely a win-win!

Incorporate Life Skills in the Lesson

This strategy is the one that resonated with me the most. So many times, I have complained that my students don't have perseverance, they don't have compassion, etc. However, what was I doing to counter this? Nothing, because the demands of the curriculum were overwhelming. Angela suggests making a list of the skills that your students are lacking. When you are teaching lessons that you cannot find a compelling reason to teach, pull out your list and tie in one of the skills to the lesson. Brilliant!

I can't say enough about this book. Angela's real world advice and tips are just what I need to stay motivated to finish the year. To check out the book and grab yourself a copy, click on the link below.

To read about the other chapters and discover 19 other ways to enjoy teaching, click here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Plan an Easter Egg Hunt Freebie! {Math is Real Life}

 It's the first Wednesday of April which means it's time for our monthly linky - Math IS Real Life!! If you want to see how the linky works, or just want other real world math ideas, check out our Pinterest Board of all the posts so that you can look back and find some great ideas and REAL pictures to use in your classroom!
If you are linking up, please include the below picture AND a link back to all four of our blogs - feel free to use the 2nd image and the links listed below!


A monthly REAL WORLD math blog link-up hosted by
Every year, my family and I love prepping for our family Easter Egg Hunt. We have a large yard with great spaces for hiding eggs, so we love having the hunts at our house. We usually hide mostly plastic eggs with candy in them. Sour Patches and Skittles are some of the favorites!

With Easter Egg Hunts, come Math! I always have to get the guest list nailed down and figure out exactly how many family members will be joining us this year. From there, we have to use all kinds of multiplication and division to determine the number of eggs to hide to have enough, how much candy is needed to adequately stuff the eggs, and how much all of this going to cost.

If you can use Easter themed resources in your classroom, I put together this easy FREE No Prep activity that incorporates my Math is Real Life topic. Have your kids practice real life math skills by planning an Easter Egg Hunt! This activity requires multiplication and division of whole numbers, interpreting remainders, multi-step problems, and multiplication of decimals.
Click here or on the images to download the free activity and try it out with your kids!

Don't forget to check out the other MIRL posts below! Check back over the next few days - more will be added!!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Test Prep Egg Hunt Activity

Test prep doesn't have to be boring and stressful for the teachers or the students! We try to keep some of our test prep activities super engaging and fun to keep our kids from getting stressed. Here is one of my favorites that I love doing, and it works perfectly for the time of year.

Test Prep Egg Hunt!

For this activity, I gathered multiple choice test prep questions (you could use constructed response or short answer) and cut them up. Since I pulled the questions from multiple test prep sources, I re-numbered them on the back with a marker. I folded the questions and put them into plastic eggs. I made about 100 eggs because we joined another class for the activity. The eggs were hidden on the side of the building that way they would be separated from the other egg hunting activities that typically take place on the playground.

Next, I had my kids pair up or make groups of three. The students were given a recording sheet to record their answers and a clipboard or something to bear down on.

Here are the instructions I gave my students:
  1. Find an egg. (No other group can have the egg already.)
  2. Open the egg. Work together to read and discuss the problem. Then record the question number and the answer the question on the recording sheet. Explain or prove your answer on the same recording sheet.
  3. Replace the question in the egg and put it back in its hiding location. 
  4. Repeat.
It was a huge success! The students loved it, and I loved hearing their discussions as they solved the problems. We used Science and Social Studies questions for this, and it worked perfectly!

Take a look at this activity in action!

If you want to grab the recording sheet, you can grab it by clicking here  or clicking on the images below.

How do you keep test prep fun and engaging? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Great Depression Poster Project Freebie

A few months ago, my class created some old-school Great Depression Poster Projects. I know we are in the technology age, but many of my students don't have access to computers outside of school. In order to give them an assignment that could be completed 100% outside of classroom, I had to keep it old school. :D

I gave the students a requirement page that explain the goal and expectations of the poster. Here is the printable that I used:

And here is a rubric for easy scoring.

Here are some of the examples of the posters turned! Many of the students went above and beyond the requirements and included more illustrations and explanations than required.

Click here to download the requirement printable and the rubrics!

Do you still do poster projects with your students?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lucky You! {St. Patrick's Day Freebie}

 It may be Friday the 13th (yuck!), but I have teamed up with some great blogger friends to bring you some LUCK and some great freebies! Some of these freebies are St. Patrick's Day themed and some are not, so check them all out to see which ones you can use!

My "Golden Freebie" for you is a recently updated resource on perimeter and area. This resource includes an area and perimeter reminder poster, a foldable (two versions), and task cards. I have included different versions so that this can be useable for grades 3 through 5.

 This poster and foldable are new to the resource, so if you downloaded this last year, make sure you grab the revisions!

 Even though this has a "St. Patrick's Day" feel to it with the Irish flags, it could definitely be used throughout the year. Click on the cover to grab your free copy today!

Now that you have snagged my freebie, click on the icon below to head over to Lopez Land Learners for another freebie and to continue the hop!

Lopez Land Learners

AND, I am also linking up with my friends at Upper Grade Memoirs for an Easy as Pi link up that will be live 3/14! This resource fits right into that category! It is so easy to use with the options available (keep it low prep with the foldable only or splurge a little and print and laminate the task cards). Click on the image below to check out the linky with the other Easy as Pi resources!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Snow Day Measurements & Freebie {Math is Real Life}

It's the first Wednesday of March which means it's time for our monthly linky - Math IS Real Life!! If you want to see how the linky works, or just want other real world math ideas, check out our Pinterest Board of all the posts so that you can look back and find some great ideas and REAL pictures to use in your classroom!
If you are linking up, please include the below picture AND a link back to all four of our blogs - feel free to use the 2nd image and the links listed below!


A monthly REAL WORLD math blog link-up hosted by
I don't know about where you live, but there is something about snow in the South that has people getting bread, milk, and measuring tapes! We recently had a pretty good amount of snow for North Georgia (although it was melted within two days...womp womp). All over Facebook, people were posting their measurements of the snow. Perfect application of Math in real life!

Here is a night time shot of the snow measurement in my city.

And a early morning shot to show the night time accumulation.

And, yes, that is something to post about on Facebook in these parts. ;)

After looking at these pictures, I started thinking this was a perfect math application of measuring, reading a ruler, determining fractional amounts on a ruler, subtracting fractional amounts to determine the night time accumulation. We have been working on fraction computation, so I decided to whip up a printable to have my students show what they know.

This will be a great way to "break the ice" when we return from almost a week off of school!

Click here to download your copy of this printable.

Don't forget to check out the other MIRL posts below! Check back over the next few days - more will be added!!

To Teach is to Inspire...