Know Your Students: Five Ways to Check for Understanding in Your Classroom

Here is a perfect scenario for you:  
1.  You teach a lesson. 
2.  The kids listen carefully and soak up every detail.  
3.  The kids are excited to apply their new learning
4.  Each kid aces the test!  It's a victory! 

We all know that almost never happens.  At least with me.  Checking for understanding has to be constant.  It doesn't always have to slow down the momentum of the learning.  Checking for understanding has to be presented in a way that is fun for the kids and you will have their buy in.  My kids love these parts of the lesson, and they have so much fun showing what they know.  

1.  The first one is a big one for me in my classroom.  When you have your students discuss something, you want to make sure you are proctoring.  If you have not been proctoring the room, you will quickly find out that the conversations are not as authentic as you think they are.  You will also make sure you are REALLY listening to your kids when they are talking.  Because they know if you are not! When you are listening, you can check to see if a student is really getting the content you are teaching.  When I check for understanding using partner talk, ask questions, reroute conversations, and I add important details that the students are missing.  

2.  Letting your students move to show you what they know is so important because they are releasing that energy and they are able to use their brain and their bodies at the same time!  We all know how important kinesthetic learning is important to the learning process, so use it when you are checking for understanding!  Here are a few of the ways we use our bodies and motions in the classroom.  

  • Sign Language for multiple choice questions.  Teach your kids A, B, C, and D.  When you have a multiple choice question, you can tell them to put their answer close to them, and when everybody has an answer you can have them hold it high.  I always figure out who has it and who doesn't.  I never call a student out that doesn't have the correct answer, but if I have a few kids that choose the wrong answer, I know the next steps to take in my instruction will be to address why the other answers would be incorrect.  I will definitely have those kids in my mind and engage them in my instruction for the rest of the lesson. 
  • 4 Corners.  Put A, B, C, D in your classroom and use the corners for the multiple choice questions. They go to the corner they think is the answer.  I made a modification to this one because I noticed the kids that didn't get it would just follow the other kids around.  I made them all commit to an answer by writing it on their white boards or a sticky before, and they had to go to the corner they committed to.  I create a risk-taker friendly environment in the case they were wrong, it was okay.  
  • Close Your Eyes "Take Off Touchdown".  I will read a question, and they close their eyes.  I will go through the question and the answers, and if they agree with an answer, they will stand up "Take Off" really quietly.  I will them prompt those who "Took Off" to "Touch Down." The trick is they have to close their eyes until all answer choices have been read.  This REALLY works and gives me a chance to record things in my checklist.  The best part is that no kids will ever know who picked what.  When I read the answer, they are to remain neutral and not tell other kids what they picked.  
  • Make things up as you go.  I am always thinking of a way to get a total physical response from my kids.  If you keep it in mind, you will be surprised how many times you can actually get your students in motion.

3.  Don't just use your desks and the carpet to check for understanding.  Use the ENTIRE room!  One thing I always like to do is gallery walks with anchor charts.  I have my students work together to create informational pieces of something we are learning.  They use an anchor chart to show what they know.  When all groups are finished, I let the kids peruse the room.  The trick is to give your kids a sticky note (with their name on it), and let them add or ask questions for the other groups.  They can put the sticky notes right on the anchor charts so you can see what they think or how well they are understanding.    You can also have them do this for a desk gallery walk for individual projects, and have them visit each student's desk.

4.  I know a lot of students that have tablets.  I worked in a Title school and students still had a tablet. Get those things in the classroom! There are so many apps that students can use.  There is actually a free website out there called "Poll Everywhere."  You sign up, and a few minutes later, you have your own code where you can have your students text an answer and it will show up with a graph on the your computer! This is the same concept we used when I took a class from the wonderful Jennifer Jones from Hello Literacy, she had us text an answer to a number.  When we finished texting, she was able to pull up a graph with all our answers categorized with a percentage!  I thought, "How clever!  That is a great way to check for understanding with students!"

5.  Lastly,  get a set of easy assessments that align to the skill you are teaching.  There are so many resources on Teachers Pay Teachers for you to look through and find something that fits you.  I made a set of Math and Language Assessments for my class, and I use them all the time.  They are 5 questions, and most of them are multiple choice.  It takes me about five seconds to grade the multiple choice ones.  This gives me direction as to how I can bring my kids to the next level, or if I can even go to the next level.  If you would like to learn more about my Math and Language Assessments, click on any of the pictures, or the link here.

Checking for understanding will always remain an integral part of each lesson.  If you make the best of it, your kids will love to show what they know.  They will also be more willing to admit what they don't know! 

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to stay posted with fabulous freebies and ideas!

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Reading Strategies Posters and a FREEBIE!

Just wanted to share something I use with my kids in my classroom.  I tend to keep things simple, and I have narrowed down my reading strategies to several I think that stick with kids in the primary grades.

The strategies I use for not being able to read a word are:
Sound it out.
Look for a base word.
Chunk it.
Try a different sound.
Read on.

The strategies I use for not being able to clarify the meaning of a word are:
Read on.
Use picture clues.
Use context clues.
Use your background knowledge.
Use the text features.

Click on any of the pictures or the link to my store to learn more about these Reading Strategy Posters!

I designed posters for my kids so they could refer to them when reading.  Each one of them is different they can remember the different strategies and their uses.  I have made a set of black, white, and black and white posters.  Click on any of the pictures, or the link to my store to find out more.

I also make sure to laminate the strategies for each student onto a strategy folder.  Be sure to click on the picture or the link to my store for the free download.

If you would like to read more about how I teach kids to use their strategies, be sure to visit my blog post, "10 Things You Have to Know When You Teach Reading."

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to stay posted with fabulous freebies and ideas!
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Print and Go Resources for Journeys!

Just wanted to give a little shout out to Angie Neal from Fall Into First!  If you have not seen her Journeys Resources, you absolutely must check it out.  My students have fallen in love with her activities, and they have truly made our reading block such a special time.

Each unit has so many activities for word work and writing and there is also an interactive journal section!

My kids love the picture card activities included in the pack.  They use the cards to help them understand the text, and write a simple sentence about it.  I can see this strategy has really helped them to improve their writing.

We also love the interactive journal piece because it is so closely aligned to the skills they are learning for the week.  They interactive journals can be such a blessing because the kids are really involved in what they are learning.  

I hope you enjoyed this post.  Be sure to follow Angie on Teachers Pay Teachers to stay posted on upcoming bundles! If you would like more ideas and resources from Angie, you can follow her blog, Fall Into First, or Pinterest!

Community Helpers Learning: A Great Choice for Primary Students

Let me just start out my saying that my kids had a phenomenal week learning about communities and community helpers.  I used my Community Helper's Unit this week, and it was an absolute blessing to have so much into one unit.  My firsties were able to read (with a little help) about all the community workers at their level.  They were able to record their findings in their graphic organizers. At the end of the week, they were able to produce a nice writing piece on the community helper they chose.  If you would like to find out more, click on any of the pictures, or the link to this product in my store.

The mini books come with 11 pages of different community helpers.   This book comes in both color and black and white.  You can have your kids cut it out, or you can just leave it as is.  When I am pressed for time, I just send mine home and I tell my kids they can put it together with their parents or guardian.

Now, for the fun part: My kids were able to choose the community helper they are interested in.  They cut the separate parts and glued them on to colored paper.  We avoided construction paper because it was not as sticky as the multicolored paper.  I chose bright colors to use, and I am so glad I did because it made my bulletin boards look great!  All the community workers available are in the description.  Here are a few! 

Here is a fabulous center for you to just print, laminate, and cut!  Students have to match the community building to the community helper.  

And finally, our beautiful bulletin board display.  This activity really made our week.  My kids are so proud to see their writing craftivity hanging on the wall.

To generate thoughts, I have put together a few graphic organizers that hit several skills.  My students were able to compare and contrast, identify the 5w's of a community helper, write instructions on how to be a community helper, and use verbs to describe a community helper.  Be sure to grab these free graphic organizers in my store by clicking the link or the picture!

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to stay posted with fabulous freebies and ideas!

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Handling Parent-Teacher Conferences Like A BOSS!

Whether you are a veteran, or a new teacher, conferences are something all teachers have to do at some point.  I have always felt very comfortable doing conferences, and I would probably imagine my stress levels are on the lower end of the spectrum.  I tried to figure out why I don't stress about conferences anymore, and I have pinpointed a few "Tricks of the Trade" for you all.

First off, I always start with a positive.  This seems like a no-brainer until you get in the position where you have a lot to say and so little time to say it.  Spending time on a little positive will get you much further than starting on what needs to be said.  (And quite possibly negative.)  We all know those parents that we have been awaiting a conference all quarter, but it is important to remember to take a few moments to talk about positive things that are happening.  If I can't think of anything positive, which is very rare, I will usually say something like this.

__________ is a great at ___________ when he/she (listens, follows directions, etc) in class.  

The key word here is "when."  You are not making things up.  You are simply stating the fact that they are great, WHEN they are doing XYZ.   This simple strategy also sends the message that there is potential.  Parents are more willing to listen to the things that you need their student to work on if you start with a genuine positive. 

Grades.  The reason why the parents are there.  Dun! Dun! Dun!  When I am going through grades in my grade book, whether it is academic or behavior, I am very careful when there is an "Improving" and a "Needs Improvement" grade.  Nine times out of ten, I will choose improving.  This is not to say the student doesn't need to work on anything, it just means I have seen improvement, and it is noticeable.  If for some reason I have to give a "Needs Improvement" grade, I always have an intervention in mind to show how we are going to follow through on an intervention for that student.

To me, if the student is not improving, I am not doing my job to the fullest.  I consider myself a good teacher, so most if not all my students are improving.  Am I going to tell that parent their student needs to work on something?  You bet I am! Just keep in mind that you can send the same message to parents, without checking that big red box.

Let's face it, there are so many things that go into reading progress.  I like to select a text we are reading, and have the student read to me in front of parents.  This way, I can show them exactly what their child needs to work on.  I know this is also helpful to many parents, because kids sometimes don't read in the same way to their parents as they do in their reading groups with me.  A lot of parents are usually really surprised during the first conferences because they didn't realize the fluency and the capabilities that their children have when reading.

As our conference comes to a close, I always ask if there are any questions, comments, and/or concerns.  I have always found this to be so important because they have to feel comfortable coming to you first.  If there are no questions, I will ask them if they are getting my weekly newsletters and emails.  I will also ask if they understand all paperwork coming home like my parent communication logs.   I also ask about the social aspect of their child.  How are they doing on the playground?  What do they say about school when they get home?

Most parents are willing to share any suggestions or feedback after you invite them to a question.  This sets the tone for the whole year because  you are inviting the questions, comments, and concerns.  This is a great way to let parents know that you are an open door, and that you will be taking a proactive approach on anything that might come up during the year!

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to stay posted with fabulous freebies and ideas!

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Weekend Reflections: Maps, Counting Activities, and Data Organization

Hello there!  I hope you are all having a great Sunday.  In my classroom this week, our focus was on maps.  My kids loved having the chance to get their hands on real maps, and different texts featuring maps.  Since a map is such an abstract concept to a child, I thought I might try Angie Neal's Me on the Map Craftivity from her "Me on the Map" Literacy Packet.

I thought it would be fun to make a flip book, so I just hole punched the top, and put a ring around it. My kids were thrilled to take this little craft home.  I know this activity will further their learning because they were having "aha" moments in class and I know they will be asking more questions at home.  

The finished product!  These were absolutely stunning and so fun to make.  Be sure to budget your time with this activity.  I had my kids cut out the pieces as an early finisher on Thursday, and then for our Fun Friday activity, we put them together.  

I introduced my kids to counting with the 120 chart this week during calendar time.  We always count to 100, but this week, I decided to change it up and actually let them put their fingers on the numbers as we counted.  This "hands-on" strategy will really help them with their number sense in the long run.  The best thing about this chart is that it is free from Ship Shape First Grade! Click on the picture or the this link to find out more!

Just like emergent readers need to track their print, I believe that all children should point to the number we are on.  This holds both the student and myself accountable.  This way, I can see the kids are getting it, and the kids that are not. 

As we count, I have found Harry Kindergarten's videos to be so fun and interactive.  The Counting Superhero Video can be found on YouTube.  Be sure to click on the picture below or the link to save it as a favorite for your students.

I am always looking for ways to assess my kids on their understanding of the weekly skills.  I decided to organize the Common Core assessments I use by binding them all together so I can easily find the skills I need for the week when I do my weekly copying.  I am currently using my 2nd Grade Common Core Assessments for Language and Math.  These have worked very well for my higher kiddos this year.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to stay posted with fabulous freebies and ideas!

Follow Education to the Core: Emily Liscom's board Free Educational Resources on Pinterest. Stay tuned next week for another jam packed post of ideas for your students! Free free to post any links or ideas you used in your classroom this week.  Be sure to find more great Weekend Reflections by visiting the Linky Directory hosted by Cyndie from Chalk One Up for the Teacher!

Five Ways to Make your Morning Routine More Meaningful

As the summer draws to a close, I have been reflecting on several things that I could do better in the classroom.  It is nice for me because I started school 5 weeks ago, so I actually have time now to write a little on how I have switched things up in my classroom.  One thing that I always seem to brush off, or put on the back burner is my morning routine.  Previously, my morning routine was satisfactory if my kids were quiet.  Plain and simple! That way, I can take the attendance, check for homework, answer office phone calls and parent messages.  

Life is good right? Until...I decided to change things up! I can still do all those things this year, but I switched up the way I "tackle" our mornings.   I have decided to pin point several things that make our morning a meaningful and special time.

1.  Have a system that works for when your kids come through the door.  Last year,  I used to lay the morning work out on the tables.  This worked great, but I noticed some kids would just sit there because they literally "forgot" what they were supposed to do.  I hold the belief that if a child physically has to grab the paper and pencil and go to their seat, they are more likely to begin working faster.  I just put a table near the door that has morning work, pencils, and anything else they need for the day.  Before the kids come in, I tell them what they need to start their day.

2.  Be strategic on what you give your kids for morning work.  I am not saying you have to plan out your whole year, but don't just give them busy work.   Remember that even if you are only doing morning work for fifteen minutes each day, that is an hour and 15 minutes each week.  That adds up to be about 50 hours each year!  And we all know that 15 minutes spent on morning work is a good day!  I have been using my First Grade Morning Work Bundle this year, and my kids absolutely love it.  It has been very interactive, and I believe this is so important even at the beginning of the year.

3.  Bring the work to life!  Go over morning work together, and make a quick mini-lesson out of it.  I am able to take the roll and write sight words, and step it up a level.  When we check our work, I will have the kids say the word, clap the word, say the word again, and then write the word if they didn't get to it.  If they did get to it, they can write it in the air.  For the math, we do a lot of kinesthetic activities and TPR when counting and going over the math problems.  Whenever possible, I have the kids stand up and move about the room to go over a problem.  This can be as simple as counting to a certain number and having them do pushups or jumping jacks.  If you have time to go over morning work, do it.  It sets the tone for the whole day, and really wakes the kids up!

4.  Go over the schedule for the day.  I always have my kids read it with me so that it is not just me talking.  I make up motions for all the different components of our day.  I will also let the kids know the theme for the week on Monday and I brush over the skills we will be learning in reading and math.  That way, the kids know EXACTLY what they will be doing, and there are no surprises.  I think the kids appreciate this, and their behavior shows throughout the day!

5.  Give your kids a chance to talk.  Let's be honest...they have a lot to say! If you don't give them a chance to talk about whatever it may be when they walk in, rest assured they will try fit it in during instructional time.  I have my tables numbered, so I can tell the kids to take turns and I can have them start and work in a clockwise order.  If you would like to read about how I organize my tables, be sure to visit my blog post on table cards!

I hope you enjoyed this blog post! If you would like more ideas from me, be sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest, and Facebook to stay posted with fabulous freebies and ideas!

Follow Education to the Core: Emily Liscom's board Free Educational Resources on Pinterest.
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