Monday, May 18, 2015

10 Engaging No Prep (or Low Prep) Ways to Use Task Cards!

In this age of differentiation, I have recently realized that I pretty much need to be prepared to not only teach the curriculum but remediate, enrich, and reteach all at the same time. As in, at the exact same moment. (GULP!) 

Since the scientific community has not developed the capacity to make human clones and since I have 3 small children of my own who expect nutritious and savory meals at least 3 times daily, clean clothes, and hours of my time and attention. Every. Single. Day. I don’t have lots of spare time. I need something that I can make quickly and “grab and go” whenever I need it (usually in about 3 minutes ago).

This is how my task cards were born. I needed tasks/problems that were aligned to the common core, but that are also “self checking”. I can figure the answer out myself, but I am usually multi-tasking so much that I don’t have the time to spend doing this. Also, I wanted to have a resource I could give to anyone who works with my kiddos (students, parents, tutors, other teachers etc.) that I could just let them grab it and go with it! With my task cards all I have to do is print them, cut them and fold them (laminating is helpful, but optional). I love, love, love having these! I use them all time in many different ways. 

Eventually I made a set of math task cards for each of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade Common Core Standards. I have tons of task cards; I might be able to wallpaper a mid-sized house with them I have so many. They make teaching math so much easier. If someone is going to pull a small group of students for extra support, BAM, I hand them a pack of task cards and send them on their way. If a  student finishes an assignment in 17 seconds (and gets everything right), BAM, I give said student a pack of task cards. If I need an enrichment lesson for one small group and a different lesson for a remediation group, BAM, I pull the appropriate sets of task cards and BAM, I am rocking it!  While on this task card loving roll, I have come up with lots of no prep or low prep ways to spice up the whole task card experience. Below are my top ten, all time, toe curling, I hope the principal does an unannounced evaluative walk-through during this awesome activity, ways I use task cards. 

  1. Scoot Games - I discovered Scoot a few years ago and let me tell you it was love at first sight, as in the clouds parted and angels sang kind of love. Scoot is a fast paced whole class game, where students “scoot” from desk to desk solving problems. If you have never used Scoot in your classroom, I created this All About Scoot Freebie. Do yourself a favor and try it out! It is PERFECT for the end of the school year!

2. Enrichment - This was a game changer for my high performing students. When I give a math assignment, I often list the 5 most difficult problems and give students the chance to do the “Most Difficult 5” first. If they can do the most difficult 5 with 100% accuracy, then I let them do an alternative enrichment activity (because they have obviously mastered the skill). The students love doing task cards and will happily work on challenging task cards. I love the task cards because the students can check their own work and I am always giving kids that need an extra challenge something meaningful to do!

3. Formative Assessments -  I project a task card and have the students solve the problem on white boards. Then, when everyone is done I have the class hold up the whiteboards so I can do a quick formative assessment. I can quickly determine who “gets it” and who needs extra help. I can group students almost instantly.

4. Centers - I put a set of task cards on a binder ring (or if I am feeling really fancy I put them in a mini-photo album with 1 task car per page) and have a recording sheet and students complete the cards at a center in the classroom. Instant center!

5. Small Group Remediation - I pull a small group of students and hand each one a task card to solve. I can check it right away and each kiddo can work at his/her own pace. Simple, yet effective.

6. At Home Support - When parents ask, “What can we do at home to help?” Or if I notice a student could benefit from some extra help, I often send a set of task cards home. Since they are “self checking” it takes a lot of stress of the parents and student. 

7. Scavenger Hunt - You can hide cards around the classroom. I give each child a clip board and a recording sheet. Then I let the kids find the cards and answer them.

8. A Board Game - Take almost any board game (checkers, Monopoly, etc) and have students answer a task cards before they get to take a turn. It is a great way to make a “fun time” academic!

9. Fast Finisher Activity - When a student finished his/her work quickly, task cards make a great “sponge” activity to “soak up” extra time. Students can work independently or in pairs.

10. Spiral Review - It is important to review and practice previously taught concepts. For morning work or bell work (sometimes called “do nows), I pull out  3 - 5 task cards and project them with a document camera. It is a quick an easy way to do a no prep daily spiral review. It is perfect for test prep or review at the end of the year!

If you would like to check out some of my task cards, click on the link below!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

SpOtLiGhT oN sPeEcH bUbBlEs

Everyone who knows me knows I am in love with Elephant and Piggie.  There are a dozen things to love about these books... the kid-friendly topics, the humor, the facial expressions, the readability for beginning readers... but today, I'm talking about speech bubbles.  Mo Willems, the author of the Elephant and Piggie series, isn't the only one who has figured out the magical appeal of speech bubbles. Kids love them and each year there are more and more children's books written in this style.

Do you know what kids see when they look at this page spread?  White space. And when you're an emergent reader, this calls for a sigh of relief because this book looks like something they can read.  And to them, it looks similar to the comics their older siblings are reading, so it's cool too!  

Do you know what I see when I look at this page spread?  A built-in readers' theater!!  I love the fluency and comprehension development that comes with preparing to "perform" a readers' theater.  When you look through an Elephant and Piggie book (as with many books written in speech bubbles), you'll notice one character's dialogue is a bit more challenging than the others.  In this book, for example, the text level of Elephant's dialogue is more difficult than Piggie's. And the reason that matters is because kids of varying levels can read and process the same text together.  And that's cool to me.

The kids in my class are doing more comprehension work than they sometimes realize when they're practicing their "script."  There's a lot of analysis and inferring that takes place as readers study facial expressions to understand emotions.  They also notice details in the print that would affect how their voice sounds, such as punctuation marks or large, bold words inside the speech bubbles.  And they pay attention to the plot line, tying the emotions and the print features all together so they can make decisions about how their own facial expressions should look and how their voice should sound when reading aloud.
If you haven't yet discovered these books, ask your media specialist or visit your local library... your kids will love them.  And there are more than a dozen, so be prepared to become obsessed.  :)  Yo!  Yes? by Chris Raschka is another speech-bubble book my children love to read over and over. (It's even simpler than Elephant and Piggie... perfect for practicing expression related to punctuation.)  Many first and second graders also like the Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold... they are a mix of speech bubbles and narrative text, so they're perfect for adding in a "narrator."  

And, if your writing curriculum will allow for a brief detour, be prepared... your students may want to try writing their own speech-bubble-stories.  These FREE templates can be downloaded in my TPT STORE... they work well for realistic fiction and/or personal narratives... it's really up to what you're working on at the time.

Do you have a favorite speech-bubble book your kids love?  We'd love to find more to add to our list!

Have fun and happy teaching!  :)

Monday, May 11, 2015

Grab & Go: A Portable LIstening Center

Hi again, it's Robin from Class of Kinders.
I am excited to share a little of my classroom with you.
It seems like there is never quite enough space in my classroom to fit all that I want for my students. I have literacy center time for my Kinders and Firsties because it provides independent practice on skills that I have taught ...and it gives me a chance to meet with my small groups.
The problem is…centers take up space! …valuable space.
The answer for me was a few portable centers!
So,  I created a "listening center" using a shower caddy and an ipod shuffle. 
I just add a book and it is a "grab and go" listening center for my students.
Off they go to find a comfy spot to read!

 My little set up looks like this. I just hang the caddies on the wall:
I got these green and blue caddies from a seller on
You can find her store here at SNAPPYDOTGIFTS.

( I love the READING ROCKS message…don't you? )
You can request which ever wording you wish!

Each caddy contains one book and one shuffle and a pair of ear buds or headphones. 
But if I need more than one student to listen to a story, I can simply at a "splitter." 
It looks like this:
This little green splitter can be found at Walgreens, Walmart or even Amazon. Now, there are two headphones going into one shuffle which allows two students to
listen to one book at the same time. Perfect!

This set up is also wonderful because I can have more than one book available to my students to listen to. It use to be, one book, 4 headphones, and everyone is listening to the SAME story at the SAME time. That's ok, but this works so much better, not to mention it breathes new life into
the listening center.  

I get all of my books on CDs from Scholastic. I usually buy the packs with 4 or 5 books with CDs. These are a GREAT bargain and really good quality literature.
Once I get them from Scholastic, I pop a CD into my computer (I use a Mac), upload it to my iTunes library which saves on my computer. It prompts me each step of the way.

Once it is saved in my iTunes library I click JUST the one book I want. I ONLY put one book on each iPod shuffle…because these little devices can be tricky for little fingers to navigate since there is no window to view the audio selections. One book on the shuffle makes it easy for my students to push play and get busy listening.  And this means less interruptions during my small group time, which is exactly what I need!

Here is the FIRST tab (summary) once I connect my shuffle to my computer:
Then the SECOND tab (music):
And the THIRD tab (on this ipod):
After my students listen to a story in the listening center 
I  ask them to complete a response to the story. (I usually add this part after a while, 
once they get the hang of just using the shuffle and listening to the book.) The response
sheet usually goes with a skill/concept I am teaching.

Here are a few FREEBIES I have found on TpT for your listening center!

I hope this inspires you to create a portable listening center for your classroom! 

…thanks for taking time out of your day to join us in Paradise. 

'till next time,

Monday, May 4, 2015


The loooooonnnnnggggggg awaited end of the year is finally here! Teachers be like "Whoop! Whoop! It's finally here" AND THEN it. hits. us. ALL. Our thoughts seem to change immediately to "Oh SugarHoneyIcedTea, it's here already????"! This happens to me every year.  We are chugging right along and all of a sudden its May. Now we have deadlines.  Progress Reports, Tutoring Data, Field Day letters to be sent home, Water Day letters to be sent home, Planning for "graduation", searching for cuter graduation songs than the other teachers have (You all know you do it!), Practicing for "graduation",  Testing for Report Cards, Report Cards, Profile Cards, Profile Card sorting, Cume folder checks, Summer homework prep, Teacher Evaluations, Teacher Observations, PLUS all the normal stuff we do like weekly newsletters, homework packets, planning for each week, preparing for each week, the list goes on and on and on and on!! My head is spinning like the Gravitron (remember that old carnival ride? Is it still around?Huh?)
Anyways, I figured I could help out in one little area. I love writing lyrics to songs. In my class we sing to do pretty much EVERYTHING. And not boring Twinkle twinkle tunes but fun up beat pop tunes. (Parents -if your reading this-I promise they are top 10 pop hits that YOU sing with them in your car. Besides it's just the tune, I change the words) For instance, instead of saying to Line up in ABC order, we sing, "Line up like you do, l-l-l-line up like you do, A-a-aBC order we do, A-a-a BC order we do, line up like we do, l-l-line up like we do" to the tune of Love me like you do by Ellie Goulding. It is so funny how easy it is to get them to do something super quickly just by singing a tune they know and LOVE! They are constantly coming in with new tunes that they want me to make up words for them to do something to.  This is a super easy, fun thing to do with them to change it up a bit at the end of the year when everyone is feeling bogged down with ALL the testing and JUNK that we have to do!
To make my End of the year Graduation songs upbeat, up to date, and fun, I did just this.  I have two simple, fun songs that you could try at your End Of The Year graduation/celebrations.  Maybe this will take some of the End Of The Year pressure off (cause you know that's what you feel like- a pressure cooker about to BLOW).
One is to the tune of "Roar" by Katie Perry. I call it SEE ME GROW and the other is to the tune of "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen. It is called FIRST GRADE BABY.  Just click the links to see more details about each of the songs.

I hope my little tip helps things stay fun in your classroom as we all start to fall into the craziness of the end of the year!  Deep Breaths and remember, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming"!!!! You are almost done!