Friday, July 29, 2016

Target Tags

I want to share something that I've been doing in my classroom for the past few years that has really made a difference in my students' engagement with, and understanding of, our learning targets...Target Tags! You may know them as Brag Tags, but I like the name Target Tags better, because it puts the emphasis on working towards academic or social targets. My district is big on teachers setting clear targets, communicating them with students, and having students self-assess where they are in their learning. Target Tags have been a HUGE help with this!
Since I began using Target Tags, my students have become more articulate about which targets they are doing well with, and which ones they still need to work on. And I absolutely love having them for parent conferences! We do student-led conferences in February, and part of what students share with their parents is their Target Tag collection. They are so proud of them!
My tags are different from most other sets out there, because 25 tags fit on a page, instead of 15-18 for most other Brag Tags. This means that one page of each tag will be enough for most classrooms. (My tags are 2 inches high by 1.5 inches wide.) 
My most popular set of Target Tags is my Genre Genius Challenge, (formerly known as the 40-Book Challenge). I wanted my students to read more books of different genres. As soon as I explained the challenge, my kids became so motivated to earn tags! They were reading more, and trying genres they had shied away from before. Some even discovered a love for a new genre...yay, happy teacher heart! For younger students who are mainly reading picture books, I have a 100 Book Challenge, which has the same tags for every 5 books read, but no genre tags, and easier recording sheets.
A target that many of my students struggled with was learning multiplication facts. I made multiplication Target Tags, (with and without timed tests) to recognize students' progress towards that goal. Again, my kids were all in, and I had students asking for extra practice pages of multiplication because they wanted to earn their tag on Friday, which is when we did timed tests. It's been awesome! I now have more students meeting their fact fluency targets than ever before!
My sister is a second grade teacher and she reports similar results with using Target Tags for addition and subtraction facts.
I knew I was on to something, so I decided to try Target Tags for homework, calling it Homework Club...another success! Students who pass in their homework every day all month earn that month's tag on the last day of the month. (I do allow everyone to forget once during the year without penalty, but after that, if they miss even one piece of homework, they do not earn the tag for that month.) At the end of the year, I award a Homework Hall of Fame tag for the students who passed in all their homework for the whole year. (There is also an Honorable Mention tag for students who only miss one month of Homework Club all year.)
 Along with academic targets, I also have Target Tags for social skills. My school follows the practices of Responsive Classroom, which believes that the social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum. I love recognizing positive character qualities!
Based on feedback from buyers, I have made two editable sets of Target Tags. This way, teachers can customize the wording to be exactly what they need, whether it's to recognize meeting an academic target, or celebrate effort and improvement of a student who always does their best, but might not be at grade level. The same tag can be used multiple ways! My editable bundle is a great way to try Target Tags for the first time.
I pt my target tags on cardstock and laminate them, but it's not necessary to do both. One of the teachers on my team prints hers on regular paper, but she does laminate. Another teacher I know prints on cardstock, but doesn't laminate. Do what works for you...your kids will love them!

I display my Target Tags on 1.5 in. metal book rings, hanging on magnetic hooks on my chalkboard. My students each have a number that they write on all of their papers, so there is a round tag with each student number. I realized that the only picture I've taken of them hanging is from my first year, when I used ribbon. The book rings are definitely easier to use when you're adding new tags! Other teachers use ball chain necklaces, or even shower curtain rings from the Dollar Store! Most sets of Target Tags comes with a choice of at least 3 signs for display

This summer, I've had fun making holiday tags!
Elementary aged children are natural collectors. Target Tags take advantage of this and increase student motivation and engagement. My students consistently rate Target Tags as one of their favorite memories of 4th grade. You can see all of my target Tag sets at the following link, including a couple of freebies! Target Tags

Is there a theme of Target Tags that you'd like to see?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What Are You Wishing For?

It's almost here!! The much-anticipated TPT Back to School Sale will be this coming Sunday and Monday, August 18 and 19. Everything in my TPT store will be 20% off, even my bundles! On top of that, TPT will take an extra 10% off the sale prices, to give you a total of 28% off the original price! (To get TPT's discount, you must use the code BTS13 at check-out.)

Like so many other teachers, I've been busy all summer creating, not to mention loading up my own wish list with a ton of fabulous resources. I don't know how I will choose which ones are must-haves for the start of the year... I want them all! 

I am linking up with Ideas by Jivey for a fun Wish List Linky.

The idea is to share which two of your products have been wish-listed the most, followed by the top item on your personal wish-list.

 It gives regular practice with so many Common Core skills that need daily reinforcement. It's colorful, interactive, and this one file can be used all year!

My second most wish-listed product is my SMARTBoard Word Work Letter Tiles.
These templates contain infinitely-cloned letters so that you can create exactly the word work your students need. I include complete directions for how to customize the file. It is a resource that you can use all year with the whole class, in strategy groups, for literacy centers, or Daily 5 Word Work rotations.
My wish list is so-o-o-o long! I am constantly blown away by the quality of the resources that are out there, and grateful that I don't have to create them all myself! One item I will definitely be purchasing is Rachael Parlett's Nonfiction Reading Unit. This picture only shows one little part of the huge, (230 pages worth), unit! There is a 74-slide SMARTBoard presentation that goes along with all the student resources. (I love, love, love using my SMARTBoard whenever I can!) The unit integrates science curriculum with reading, with an emphasis on ecosystems. I think it will be perfect for my 4th graders!
I'd love to hear what's on your wish-list! It's a great way to learn about other sellers and find awesome resources! If you don't have a wish-list yet, go make one! You won't find a better time to stock up on high-quality resources for months to come!

(Just don't do what I did last sale and forget to use the TPT code at check-out and miss out on the extra 10% off...yeah...true story.) Happy Shopping this Sunday and Monday, and remember...BTS13!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ten Reasons Why I Love Morning Message

Last year, I began consistently writing a morning message every day for my 4th graders. I know that many primary teachers already do this, but I had not, until I attended a week-long Responsive Classroom training. I decided to commit to writing a daily morning message, (which my SMARTBoard make so much easier, since my handwriting is not the best, and I can easily edit any mistakes.)

After a year of doing morning message, I have become sold on the benefits of this daily routine. Here are some of the things that I love about it.
1. It helps with building routines and getting to know each other in the early days of school. The images above are from the first two days of school last year.
2. It teaches students a predictable structure. Every morning, students enter the room, make a lunch choice, pass in homework, and then read the morning message.
 3. It reinforces and reviews a variety of curriculum concepts. The message does not start out all marked up. That happens at morning meeting when we read the message together, such as in the example above when I asked students to find the nouns and adjectives.  Sometimes I do have students mark the text, such as when they edit my mistakes.

4. It gives those students who need to know what will be happening that day more information than a typical schedule listing just subjects.

5. It prepares students for what I might want them to talk about at morning meeting, so those students who need time to think can have that processing time and are not put on the spot.
 6. It is very current with what is happening on that specific day, in that specific year. This is why I can't imagine using a prepared set of morning messages; you need them to be personal for that group of students on that particular day. However, now that I have a year's worth of messages done and saved, does that mean I won't reuse certain messages with a little tweaking? Absolutely not!
 7. It allows you to address issues in your classroom in a thoughtful way. After Christmas break, my students were having a hard time settling back into the expectations for working quietly. Morning message was a non-threatening way to address the problem and invite them to collaboratively come up with a solution.
8. Morning Message is very flexible. You can use it to reinforce curriculum in any subject area, as you can see in the above literacy, social studies, and science examples.

9. It allows shy students an opportunity to participate nonverbally at times, such as the example above about electrical devices.

10. It helps kids feel connected to their classroom community. They look forward to reading the message each day. On the rare occasion that I was out and there was a substitute, I always made sure there was still a morning message.

The templates you see around my morning messages are available in my TPT store either individually, or bundled. Click on the pictures to check them out.

Set 1

Set 2
Set 3
Set 4

Set 5

Holiday Set
Template Bundle
Are these templates necessary to do morning message? Of course not! They just make it so easy to have a page that is colorful and attractive. I save each template in the My Content" section of the gallery. Then, whenever I have Smart Notebook open, I can go to the gallery, double-click on the thumbnail of the template I want, and it opens on the page, ready for me to type on it. I just keep adding another page each day to the same file until I have a month's worth of morning messages. Then, I start a new file for the next month.

I also have a couple of FREE mini-samplers that you can check out!

Do you do morning messages with your students?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Finding Factors Freebie

Ooh...alliteration and math, all in one! How very cross-curricular!

My 4th graders used to struggle with the difference between factors and multiples. (Heck, there are plenty of adults who still do, based on watching my students trying to teach their parents when they do their student-led conferences in January...but I digress.)

The Common Core for 4th Grade states that students should be able to “find all factor pairs for a whole number in the range of 1-100” … and “determine whether a given number in the range of 1-100 is prime or composite.”
I don't know about your math program, but mine doesn't spend much time reinforcing the vocabulary of factor, multiple, prime, or composite. They assume that kids remember the difference after a couple of days of review. Doesn't work that way with my kiddos!

This Finding Factors Freebie is what I use to help my 4th graders learn how to find all the factors of “Today’s Number” which is a routine we do as part of my SMARTBoard Math Calendar. Today’s Number is always whatever day of school it is, and we make an organized factor list, starting with 1 and the number.
This is similar to divisibility rules, but because we are making an organized factor list, students use the idea of "doubles and halves as they go in order trying to see which number could be factors. 
As an example, say that it is the 76th day of school. We would start with 1 and 76.
 (1                           76)
Since 76 is even, we know that  2 will be a factor. Half of 70 is 35 and half of 6 is 3. 35 + 3= 38.
(1,  2,                 38,  76)
3 is not a factor because the digits add up to 13, which is not a multiple of 3.  
I teach my kids to use "doubles and halves" to figure out if 4, 6, or 8 are factors.To see if 4 is a factor, we go back to 2 x 38. We can double the 2 to get a 4, and if the other factor is even, we can take half of it and the answer is the same. 38 is even, and half of it is 19, so 4 will be a factor. 
(1, 2,  4,               19,  38,  76)
5 can't be a factor because 76 doesn't end in a 5 or 0.
6 can't be a factor because 3 wasn't.
There are no tricks for 7, but we would know that 10 x 7 is 70, and there is 6 left over, so it can't be a factor.
8 can't be a factor because the factor pair of 4 is odd.
9 can't be a factor, because the digits don't add up to 9 or a multiple of 9.
10 can't be a factor, because 76 doesn't end in a 0.
11 can't be a factor because the digits are not the same.
12 can't be a factor because 3 wasn't a factor.
So, our final factor list is (1, 2,  4,               19,  38,  76), and students tell me that the number is composite because it has more than 2 factors.
My students become experts on prime and composite numbers, as well as the difference between factors and multiples, thanks to this daily repetition.  I reinforce the idea that "factors are few, but multiples are many".)
Click on the picture to get your freebie. There is a large one that can be projected via interactive white board, and a small version for students to cut out and put in their math notebooks.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Geometry Products, Giveaway, and a FREEBIE!

I have been busy creating resources for my class and TPT. One topic that has been hard for my students in the past is geometry. There is SOOOOO much vocabulary that students have to understand about the attribute of lines and angles before they can then use those attributes to classify polygons. Heck, who am I kidding...I still had 4th graders who could not identify the basic regular polygons, much less classify quadrilaterals by the presence or absence of parallel or perpendicular lines. And now with Common Core's expectation for 4th graders to be able to use protractors, something we had not done before, I knew I needed more resources.

My math program doesn't give students much direct instruction with the attributes of lines, angles, or polygons. Much of the geometry unit uses "Power Polygons", little plastic pieces that students use to make other polygons. While the kids have fun with them, they weren't transferring the concepts to the more abstract questions that might appear on an assessment.

This year, I kind of did my own thing, with  SMARTBoard files I created after studying exactly what the Common Core expects for geometry. I created a file for lines and angles, which I taught first, and then followed up with a file for Polygons, since students need to understand the attributes of lines and angles before they can classify polygons. After using these files with my class, (and not using my math book..shhh),  my students scored the best on the spring assessment that any class of mine had ever done! Many scored in the advanced range for the geometry strand.

This summer I tweaked the contents of the files and now have them up on TPT in a variety of formats. I have them bundled with pdf printables or by themselves


Since using a protractor was a new skill for my kiddos, (and maybe a rusty skill for some of you)... like it was for me...I created this "How to Use a Protractor" Freebie. Click the picture to get yours!
And finally for the giveaway! Leave me a comment and become a follower, if you aren't already and I'll pick a random name to receive the Geometry product of your choice for free!
 I'll pick the winner next Sunday, July 28.