Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Christopher Columbus: A 1492 Lesson Kids Will Remember

This year I have a goal to teach meaningful and educational lessons about holidays. Don't get me wrong, I love teaching about holidays and doing fun holiday crafts in my classroom, but I am ready for a change. I normally read a cute story about the holiday and then do a fun craft, but I really want to dig deeper into these important events in history and teach my students something new and interesting. Finding holiday materials that are educational and engaging can be difficult so we (The Core Coaches) worked together and created an amazing Christopher Columbus lesson. We decided to create a close read interactive drama pack. We wrote complex text for primary and upper grades and made posters for text coding.
4-6 Text Coding Poster
1-3 Text Coding Poster

During this lesson, we will read the complex text and code the text as a class. Then we fill out a main idea graphic organizer and sequence the events from Christopher Columbus's timeline. We use the beautiful illustrations to have really good class conversations about the dialogue and we predict what some of the people would have been talking about in each picture. Then we make a tableau of the illustrations from the text. The students work together to decide what the actors will be doing and what the narrators will need to say. The actors and narrators collaborate in each group to create a tableau that really demonstrates their understanding of the events from the text. Here is an example of our group planning sheet for the "Tableau, an interactive drama" activity!

This close reading and interactive drama lesson plan is meaningful and engaging! These activities support students (even our cute firsties) in remembering this important time in history.

 Grab the Grades 1-3 unit from our TPT store by clicking on the image below:

Or, grab the Grades 4-6 unit from TPT by clicking this image below:

Here are some other fabulous resources that we use with our lesson plan sets on Christopher Columbus.

We enjoy using these books and videos to compare and contrast with the Christopher Columbus texts that come in the pack.
Younger grade video and picture book-

Upper grade video and book-


Monday, June 29, 2015

Don't toss out your audio cassette tapes just yet!

Maybe I'm old fashioned....or maybe I'm way behind the technological times. (Probably both.)  At any rate, I've got a ton of audio cassette tapes lying around my classroom. Besides being bulky, they're almost obsolete.  I mean- I can hardly find a reasonably priced cassette player anymore!  I needed a better solution than letting them collect dust, or sending them to a landfill.   

I figured that replacing the music isn't a big deal thanks to iTunes, but what about those three dozen listening center stories that my students still enjoy??  They would cost a fortune to replace! And anyway, throwing them out goes against my penny-pincher, conservative self.  So, I did some research.  It turns out there is a solution to my archaic woes.  
Introducing the USB Portable Cassette to MP3 Converter!  

Did you even know these existed?

Insert your dusty cassette tape, plug the USB into your computer, press play and voila! Your favorite stories and songs go digital.  

If it looks complicated, let me reassure you- if I can do it, anyone can do it!  Maybe you're thinking, "who has time to convert it all?" I've thought of that too.  I started downloading some this summer, but I’m planning to send the rest home with a parent volunteer once the school year starts.  The digital files can easily be sent back to me, and having a willing parent helping with this will save me a ton of time!

You can snag one on Amazon for  $15 to $20.  
Or do what I did and write a grant through Donors Choose. 

Hey, it sure beats tossing them in the trash!  ~Tatum  

Font credit: KG A Year Without Rain

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Dare to Dream

We are now a little over a month into our TPT journey. This is week 2 of the #TPTsellerchallenge which got us thinking about our dreams. Our dreams change day-to-day as we embark on this adventure. Right now most of our dreams are very small. We dream our preview stats go up by 1 or 2 views or we dream that someone will purchase one item from our store. We dream that our newly created pins will get repinned or that we will get new followers on social media. These little dreams are exciting and new to us. We are enjoying seeing many of our little dreams come true on a daily basis. Now we are being asked to dream BIG! It is fun to think of all of the possibilities that can come from a successful TPT store. Here are our big dreams for our TPT store...

1- Extra Money to Pay for my Girls’ Dance. 
They dance many hours a week and compete in different competitions throughout the year. They love dance more than anything, but it is so expensive. It would so helpful if I had extra income to help pay for it.

2- Travel 
I would love to have extra money to be able to travel. My girls are older now and being able to go on family vacations would be amazing.

1- Stay at Home
I have an adorable 10 month old daughter.  I want more than anything to stay home with her.  She is at such an amazing stage, where every day she hits another developmental milestone.  It breaks my heart to miss things when I am at work. This summer has been a dream come true.  I have been cherishing every moment I get to play with my baby girl.  When she naps, I spend my time creating products and blogging.   I would love to be able to create teaching materials from home full-time.  

2- Inspire other Educators
This virtual community is amazing.  When I was a classroom teacher, I relied on my teammates and professional books and articles to find strategies to improve my teaching.  I was hungry for information and loved bouncing ideas around with colleagues.  I love the way technology is permeating our field and connecting us all together. I can now collaborate with thousands of teachers, instead of relying on just the teachers in my school building.   I love learning from others and hope my products can inspire and help other educators.    

3- Landscape my Yard
My husband and I bought a fixer-upper home. We spent every penny we had remodeling the inside. We have simply run out of funds to fix the yard. We tore out the grass and tried to reseed it ourselves. Let’s just say this project isn’t going well...

1- School Loans  
I would love more than anything to pay off school loans.

2- Travel 
Taking my family to D.C. & my hubby to Italy (where my family is from) is big dream of mine.

3- Remodel 
I dream of being able to remodel my kitchen floor one day.

4- Stay at Home 
I dream of being able to stay home and create products for other teachers.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Morning Greetings: Hug, Handshake, High-Five, or Fistbump

When I was a classroom teacher, I moved from Utah to Virginia.  In our first back to school meeting my new principal asked all teachers to greet students at the classroom door each morning.  Prior to this request, I hadn't given much thought to my morning routine. As I reflected, I realized I typically ran around the classroom performing last minute tasks, just trying to squeeze in one more thing before all my students arrived.  I always said hello to each of my students as they came in, but never took the time to stand at the classroom door to formally greet each one.

Once I started greeting students at the door, I fell in love with it. I quickly realized how much of a difference this simple change made.  I truly believe it was a classroom game changer. Greeting students had an immediate impact on my classroom culture.  I believe that my friendly greeting helped set the tone for the day.  My students felt welcome and safe, the moment they arrived.  I feel like this practice also strengthened my relationship with each student. The brief time I spent chit-chatting with each child helped build a connection.  I could tell immediately if a student needed to talk later or needed a little extra attention that day.   

I loved this time with my students so much, I decided to start and end each day with a hug, handshake, high five, or fist bump. This upcoming school year I am going to encourage the teachers at my school to begin greeting students at their doors. I know it will make a positive difference in our school. 

These colorful signs are available on Teachers Pay Teachers. 




Saturday, June 20, 2015

Cooperative Grouping Strategy

I love summertime! It gives me a chance to recharge, reflect, and revamp for the coming school year.  With my move from 1st to 4th grade, I feel even more motivated to reflect on my teaching practices and make some adjustments!  This week I've been considering some of my tried and true classroom management strategies.  I pulled out these old, hand-drawn cooperative grouping cards.  Though they are tattered and worn, this is a management tool I'm not ready to throw out because it works so well.  So, instead- I decided to give them a much needed makeover!

These grouping cards serve two purposes- 1) quickly group students and 2) assign a responsibility to each group member.
When cards are passed out, the groups can be separated by color, number or letter.  I love this because when I pass out the cards, students don't immediately know which group they will be in.  It also gives me a secret way of separating students that I don't want to be in a group together.  (Hey, you know you've done it too!)
The picture on each card assigns the student to a role for the activity.  I find that it is important to take time at the beginning of the year to train students on my expectations for each of these roles.  Once the procedures and expectations are in place, this grouping strategy runs like clockwork!

My expectations are as follows:
Supplier- gathers, maintains, collects and returns all supplies for the group
Leader- keeps everyone organized, guides the group to complete the task correctly
Writer- acts as scribe and/or illustrator during group work
Time Keeper- keeps all members on task, assures the task is completed on time

*Most importantly I expect that everyone contributes their thoughts and ideas to support the group’s work for the duration of the activity.

If you are interested in these grouping cards, click on the "after" picture and it will take you to our TPT store where you can download them for FREE!
~ Tatum

Friday, June 19, 2015

Taking Notes Without Copying

This strategy teaches even our youngest writers to take notes and write about text.  You will be blown away at the writing your students will produce after a couple of taking notes lessons. I like to use differentiated printable books so all students can easily read the text and be successfully take notes.  I also love integrating this strategy into science or social study units. When we were learning about continents I used  Printable Books About Continents and then taught the lessons that scaffold from teacher model to independent practice.
Here is an example of first grade work that was done using this strategy. 

After your students find the important words from the text and compose sentences they can use their sentences to write paragraphs, research papers, make informational posters, etc... The possibilities are endless! 
Here is another example:
I read the National Geographic Sea Turtles book.

I used sticky notes to write the important words. 

Then I used the important words into sentences.

I just posted this writing about text strategy on our TPT store it includes detailed lessons that scaffold from teacher model to independent practice to show you exactly how I get my first graders writing about text. This can be used for any grade, just grab a more complex text! 
Important Word Strategy on TPT

Monday, June 15, 2015

Makeover Madness

Just completed the first #tptsellerchallenge! This product definitely needed a makeover. Parents love this homework pack in my class. It really helps them understand vowel patterns so they can help their child begin to read. I print it all off and put it in a homework folder at the beginning of the school year. It is a work at your own pace packet. Some students finish it really fast, while others take all year to complete it. There are 67 pages in this pack and it starts by reviewing letter sounds and CVC words. Then it works through all of the vowel patterns and sight words for first grade. I let parents count working on these pages towards their nightly reading minutes. Once students finish the packet,  I have them read books for their nightly reading. The students who finish are usually ready for chapter books so I encourage parents to start with some age appropriate chapter books like Rainbow Magic or Magic Tree House. 
Click on image to get it at our TPT store!


We entered the world of Teachers Pay Teachers, Blogging, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter about a month ago. It has been a fun, crazy, ride entering this new world. We have learned so much about social media and how to market our products. Yesterday, we decided to join the #teachersellerchallenge. It's so awesome how many teachers/sellers/bloggers are willing to help each other. After we joined the challenge we found we didn't even know about another form of social media: Bloglovin'. We are excited to learn more about Bloglovin' and other ways to increase our followers during this challenge. We got the Bloglovin' widget and are ready to start with challenge 1 "Makeover Madness!" Since we have only been selling products for one month it is going to be hard to decide which product needs a makeover, but we can do it!

<a href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/14102351/?claim=5gmyhe8j3nq">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Map Skills and Little Red Hen

This spring, I did a fun mapping unit in my classroom. Before the students learned anything about maps they looked at different maps and did an "I Notice/I Wonder" activity. They walked around the room and simply wrote what they noticed about different maps and what they wondered about them. It was so fun to see what they thought they knew about maps.

I integrated some literature into our mapping unit by reading Little Red Hen. After the first read, I had the students draw a map of Little Red Hen's farm. This was before they knew anything about maps and before we really dug into Little Red Hen. Then, we read All About Maps to learn about maps and some map skills. We did some fun activities with cardinal directions to learn about the compass rose too. Next we re-read Little Red Hen and dug into the setting and the characters. Finally, the student drew a second map of Little Red Hen's farm. The second drawing really showed their understanding of both text.

We took all of our new knowledge about maps and put them to work at a airplane museum by our school. We used the map of the museum to find specific airplanes. The students had to understand how to read a map and cardinal directions to be able find the airplanes. They loved it!

I loved this unit so much that I revamped it a little and made it available on TPT. If you want to put a twist on your mapping unit this pack is for you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

All About Rocks

This pack integrates ELA, science, writing, and hands-on experiments.  It is a close reading and writing unit designed for young learners. The lessons carefully scaffold from teacher modeling, to guided practice, to partner practice, then to independent student practice. Each rock section consists of a 3 part close reading lesson. After teacher modeling, students will read the differentiated text, text code,  answer text dependent questions, and take notes.  

Once all three rocks are taught, students will use their notes to make a rock trading card as a culminating writing project.
This unit is versatile to meet the needs of any classroom. The student books were carefully written with 1-2 students in mind.  We have spent several years designing close reading lessons that cater to primary students.  These lessons are rigorous yet appropriate for young learners.

Click here to visit our TPT store to learn more about this packet. 

We are so excited about our All About Rocks pack!  We decided to do an Igneous Rocks Pack giveaway!  This pack  is a small taste of our complete All about Rocks pack.  These close reading lessons will hook you and get you ready for more!
 Like us on Facebook to enter the giveaway at The Core Coaches Facebook Page .
Once we reach 100 Facebook likes, we will pick 10 winners. If you tag a friend on our Facebook page we will double your entry. You are going to love this project-based close read pack. It includes differentiated student books, close reading lesson plans, anchor charts, and so much more!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Speaking and Listening Strategy: Partner Talk

Partner talk is a popular speaking and listening strategy for many teachers.  It is often referred to as “turn and talk” or “think-pair-share.” It's a well-loved strategy that never loses its effectiveness, if managed well.  While using this strategy and observing this in classrooms, I have noticed some problems. Sometimes, from the front of the room it appears like students are engaged. Often, upon closer examination students are off task. One student is talking about his dog, both partners are talking about the text, but are talking at the same time, or worse, students are communicating with one word answers or just staring at each other. Trust me, I've seen and experienced it all. What’s missing? Accountable talk.  We designed a simple strategy poster to help curb some of these mishaps.  -Emily

Partner Talk Strategy

  • Partners decide roles, speaker or listener
  • Partners sit eye to eye, knee to knee
  • Teacher poses question and speaker responds
  • Listener listens carefully and is ready to share the speaker’s thoughts
  • Teacher asks listeners, “What did your partner say?”
  • Teacher gives speaker an opportunity to confirm or add additional thoughts
  • Process is repeated and partners switch roles

Motivation to Read with Accuracy

Getting students motivated to read with accuracy can be challenging. Especially in first grade. We talk about the importance of reading with accuracy all year long and we learn many different strategies to decode words, but sometimes you just need a little extra motivation to get the kiddos excited about being accurate. In my classroom we learned reading with accuracy can be sweet! 

As we practiced reading with accuracy I gave them 5 to 8 pieces of candy. When they missed a word, I took a piece of candy away. If they self-corrected they got the candy back. They loved getting to eat all of the candy at the end and best-of-all it really did improve their accuracy. -Amy

Thursday, June 4, 2015

End of School Year Reflection

Today was the last day of school. Emily (curriculum coach) and I (1st grade teacher) took a moment to reflect on this past year. My end of year DIBELS scores were awesome. We were really proud of them and know that our guided reading plan is working. This was a definite success. Then we turned the conversation over to what some of our failures were...my biggest failure was implementing close reading in my classroom. As I talked to Emily about it, we came to the conclusion that there just isn't enough money or time to do close reading the way it was meant to be done.

How do teachers have the money to purchase leveled text for their classrooms? 
How do teachers  make sure the teacher text is complex enough for text dependent questions that meet the standards?
How do teachers find time to write really good text dependent questions?
How do teachers get students to write about the text?

These were some of our big questions. I decided it would be fun to hatch chickens in my classroom last month. I really wanted to find some meaningful lesson plans to go along with hatching the chickens. Our school didn't have any money for us to purchased leveled text about the chicken life cycle so Emily and I decided to make our own. We created a The Life Cycle of a Chicken unit together last month. We made a one page text for a teacher read aloud and a one page text for the students to use independently. The results were amazing. It was just what I had been needing in my classroom and it didn't cost the school a bunch of money. 

As we continued to discuss the the struggle of knowing exactly how to meet core standards with close reading, but not having the resources to do it, we made a plan to create close reading packets that are affordable for teachers. This is a new adventure for us as we enter the world of teacher blogging, social media, and teachers pay teachers. We are super excited about it! We really want to help teachers be able to do close reads in their classrooms. 

You can read more about The Life Cycle of a Chicken close reading unit from our previous post.