Daily 5 Differentiation

25 September 2015

Daily 5 Differentiation

Daily 5 is a wonderful tool to use in your classroom, but let’s be honest, this is when the behavior problems are more than likely to come out of their shells, students aren’t making good fit book choices, and you wonder if some are really even benefiting from the time spent working independently.

I’ve been there! I’m not knocking the sisters by any means (OMG aren’t they brilliant), but what works for them and many others, just wasn’t working for me. Maybe I was doing something wrong I don’t really know, but I found a way to put an end to the madness so that I could meet with the students and groups that I needed to meet with.

 Last year was the first year that I learned about tic-tac-toe boards from a professional development at our school. The tic-tac-toe boards are a wonderful tool for differentiation. When I first learned about differentiation I thought that it must be teaching students instruction on their level. Yes, but it is also so much more! You are not only teaching them instruction on their level, but true differentiation is teaching them instruction through their learning preferences as well. 

There is a ton of research that indicates that when students have the power of choice they are more likely to stay on task with fewer behavior incidences, the students take responsibility of their own learning, and high achieving and low achieving students can benefit from taking learning into their own hands and having the opportunity to have one-to-one support from the teacher.

I used these tic-tac-toe boards last year, and I am happy to say that it was the most successful year in Daily 5 out of all 4 of my classes. I set up my whiteboard so that they could make their choice in the morning using their magnet. They only make their choice one time. After each round, their magnet stays in the spot they chose, but I will switch the round magnets. I really switch it up so that they have no clue what they are getting next.

Once the round is picked and we begin, students would take out their Daily 5 folder and choose the appropriate tic-tac-toe board according to their particular round. They would choose an activity from that tic-tac-toe board.

I had a laminated copy for each individual student, but if you cannot afford to laminate or copy that many, then I recommend creating 6 and laminating for each round. That way, the students in that round can reuse it.

The thing I loved most about this was that I didn’t have to hold the students accountable for completing their work. They just did it! Many were happy to have some guidance on what they should be doing, and all of them were happy they had options!

If you wanted to hold the students accountable and keep track of their progress, I would recommend keeping a scoreboard somewhere in your classroom. I have them as a FREEBIE here.

I have some more in depth tic-tac-toe boards for Word Work and Work on Writing that included activities for visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learners and went through the whole range of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Check them out and let me know how you like them.

I hope you get inspired with these and use them for your classroom. Your kids will be so happy you did! Read more about differentiation here.

-Sarah Barnett

How to Create Meaningful Discussions

18 September 2015

     Today I had one of the best AHA! moments while teaching. We were sharing our writing journals after morning work, and I wanted the students to share what their thoughts and opinions with one another in their groups. I simply said to them, "You have one minute to share what you liked about or share what you hope we add to our new Edmodo account."

     I observed the students sharing their own ideas with the group and assumed the others were listening. Then I asked for a speaker from each group to present the likes and wishes. NOT ONE OUT OF THE SIX GROUPS COULD TELL ME WHAT ANYONE IN THEIR GROUP SAID! 

     That's when I realized, I need to teach these kids not only how to think but also how to speak and listen. 

     I know I have to teach them those big ideas because they're Common Core Standards, but how the heck to you actually teach students how to speak and listen? Here's what I've come up with:

1. Set ground rules. You can create your own ground rules or have the students come up with their own ground rules. Prompt them with questions like, "So what should you do if someone is talking off subject?" or "What do you do if you want to speak but someone else is speaking?" Create a problem and solutions chart or simple ground rules. Keep them short and sweet between 3-5 rules. 

2. Have them discuss higher order thinking questions or prompts. Try to use topics where there is no right or wrong answer. Everyone will come up with different opinions and they need to learn that not everyone will think like them. 

3. The best thing I did today was tell them they couldn't restate what they said in the group, have the students share another students' opinion from the group. I finally told my class today, there are no "I" statements, you have to start off by saying, "___________ said we should have..." 

After I did this (which literally took two minutes) we had meaningful conversations about what information we should share on our Edmodo account. My students request learning games that were like sandbox games (any good suggestions just post in the comments), interactive games, and homework help. How cool was that? I heard many of them saying, "Oh yeah that's a good idea!" Or "I didn't think of that!" 

I have plenty more instruction and tips on how to teach speaking and listening along with lesson plans in my Wild Weather Collaborative Project in my TpT store. 

"If you can teach a child to speak, then you give them a voice. If you teach a child to listen, then you give them an opinion." -Me, Sarah Barnett, Teacher, Blogger, want-to-make-a-cool-quoter


September 11 Lesson

13 September 2015
 Patriot's Day, or known by most in the U.S. as September 11, is one of the most difficult days to teach my students about because I'm emotional and this event happened before they were even born (I teach 2nd-- and holy cow that makes me feel old)! 

Each morning we start the day with an American song like America the Beautiful, The Star Spangeled Banner, or My Country Tis of Thee and then we say the pledge. I have found it extremely helpful to post the words on our promethean (like a smart board or mimio) nice and big so that the students can read along. It helps build fluency and we talk about the meaning of the words. This particular morning however, the words of the Star Spangeled Banner resonate so many different emotions and memories. They sink in. I talk to my students about what they think was happening while Francis  Scott Key was writing this song? What event do you think he was writing about?

Some students say things like, "The Fourth of July!" Or "I don't know because they talk really old." But after my explanation the majority of them get it. They all know that it's a special song to our nation. They know that it was written about a war that we persevered and won and waved our flag as a symbol that we were still there. And they are comforted knowing that they live in a place where we have a history of defending our freedoms. 

After our mini lesson on the Star Spangeled Banner, I made a KWL chart and asked the students to think about what they knew when I said the words 9/11, September 11th, or Patriot's Day. I was shocked at what they didn't know. One student thought the world had caught on fire and everyone died. Some thought tornadoes destroyed the Earth. At the ripe age of seven, most of their imaginations run wild! Some said that planes fell from the sky. 

Then I asked them what questions they had about 9/11, September 11th, or Patriot's Day? It was clear that they didn't know. They wanted to know more. They wanted to know all the details. 

I started my lesson off with the story A Man Who Walked Between Two Towers to give the students a little background about the World Trade Center. The story is awesome, the illustrations are beautiful, and the kids really enjoyed it. We talked about what people did in the towers and how high Phillipe Petit walked on the tight rope. 

Without video, a book, or music, I sat with my kids and shared my story of 9/11. They respectfully listened. It went something like this:

"I'll never forget that day. I was walking into my World History class late with a biscuit from Chick-fil-a. I was always late, but this day, I wanted to be inside quickly because I wasn't sure if I was safe out in the opened. My sister and I ran into the school after learning the news that the trade towers and pentagon were being attacked by planes. Some bad guys took over the pilots job and stole the planes in mid air! They tried flying the planes into important building. Four planes were hijacked. Two flew into the Twin Towers, one flew into The Pentagon, and one crashed near Camp David. The passengers heroically took down the hijackers. 

The World Trade Center was terrible since the buildings were so tall. People had trouble getting out, and many who were trapped lost their lives that day. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends and family of all were gone forever. Many police officers and firefighters also lost their lives trying to rescue those who were trapped. 

Today is the day remember all of those who lost their lives and honor them." 

We then listened to a story written by kids, September 12, the Day We Knew We Would be Alright. 

It brought tears to my eyes! Oh my, I had to turn away from the kids. They didn't see, but gosh it was hard. Afterwards, I asked them what they learned about 9/11. Here were their responses: 
-A man walked between two towers. 
-Airplanes attacked America. 
-Everything was alright. 

I know there is a significant amount of details that I left out in teaching my students, but at seven and eight years old, I don't want them to live a day in terror like my sisters and I did. I want them to know that like the Americans who fought in the Revolutionary War, we would still be there waving our flag, and things would continue moving on. We will continue to do great things and always work on being a better country. 

My kids got that. 

Great Day

08 September 2015
     Today's glorious day began with a yoga session followed by Banana Oat Pancakes. Oh my, were they ever so delicious! I love starting my mornings out with an early workout and a huge breakfast. 

Here's my bubs balancing his cup on his pancakes. 🙌🏼 You da man! 😆

     The school day was on par as well! First off, it felt like Christmas in my room. We got a Japanese Culture Kit from Carolina Navigators (I'll post more about that later this week), and then our school store opened up. My kids were so excited! Finally, the cash they had been earning grew in value!!!! 

     Rafe Esquith devoted an entire chapter of his bestseller "TeachLike Your Hair is On Fire" to rewarding students with cash. I tried it during my internship with my partnership teacher. She was a master! Oh. My. Lord. It works so darn well! Basically, kids earn money for positive behaviors. Don't take the money away for negative behaviors (Rafe explains why in his book), but pretty much, when they earn it, it's theirs to keep for-eva. 

    I had no clue what our school was going to do for the school store. I imagined it being outside in a small trailer with broken stuff laying all around (I really don't know why), but it looked so nice! The items were reasonably priced, and they were things the kids were going crazy over.


         Before we left, I told the kids that they needed to set a goal. I explained that a goal is like a wish. I have each one a post-it and had them take their pencils. They had to write down the item they wanted and the amount it costs. Don't even get me started on writing down goals. That's a whole other magical post waiting to happen! Anyways, it was going to be their goal to earn that cash. 

     They were excited! 

     When we got back to the classroom, I told the kids to place their post-it and the corner of their desks to remind them of that goal all day everyday. Let me tell you, not one of those post-it's were on the floor! They are motivated! Every single of my students went home on a good color today (PBIS chart). Whoop! 
     Okay and finally to make my day totally awesome, my husband cleaned the kitchen and brought me lunch on his day off! What a man, what a man, what a mighty good man! 🎶



Happy Labor Day!

07 September 2015
Hey teacher!

     I hope you are enjoying this well deserved Labor Day with good company, good health, and good food... and hopefully a good read! ;)

     While enjoying my cup of hot Joe on my day off this morning I was watching the news when a piece came on about "Stress at work can be just as harmful on the body as second-hand smoke." Teaching can be the most rewarding job and the most stressful at the same time. Right!? I guess with good there comes evil, but why not focus on the good? Let's crush the evil crap! 

     Teacher, I want you to know, that when you feel depleted and defeated, you are making a difference. Okay, I know that sounds cliche, but know that everyday you are making small gains in your classroom - some days more than others. You are a ROCK STAR! Those small gains add up. People don't lose 100 pounds overnight! It takes time.

     So you may have upset some parents on a new policy to help build independence in your classroom, but  remember your sole purpose - you are a teacher not a pleaser. Easier said than done, I know! When people give you grief for what you know is right, stick to your guns, and focus on what is right. You have great intentions!

     You have students that are way far below grade level, but you believe in them not for what they can do now, but for what they'll soon be doing. Communicate those goals with your students. For example, "Suzie, I am so proud of you for learning these new five words. I cannot wait until you master this next word list. I know you can do it!"

     You have crap overflowing your desk and grade book, but your students don't see the papers, they see you as their leader, their confidant, their support. Organize the papers as the come. Don't put it off or trust me, it will get bad.

     Teacher, you are amazing! You will create greatness within the walls of your classroom. Do not succumb to the mediocrity crap that gets shoved down your throat everyday. Focus on the blessings, the miracles, and most of all the love that is reciprocal between you and your students.

Have a beautiful and happy Labor Day! It is well deserved! 


Sarah Barnett 


Scoreboard Success!

06 September 2015
     Ever feel like your kids are looking at you with their mouths wide open, eyes drooped, and occasionally you will see a bugger picker or drooler out in the crowd? I know for most of us the answer is yes. 

     I learned early on during my internship that students were not going to perform to the level I desired them to unless there was some sort of external reward. Sure, there are always some students who have an intrinsic motivation, but when they are rewarded, they usually LOVE showing it off. 

     My first year teaching, I had my class place #17 overall in the U.S. on Scootpad. Last year, I pushed my students to master their math facts, and I encouraged one to master multiplication AND division (second grade). I feel like I know a thing or two about motivation. I've been successful at it. Some need rewards more than others, and some don't need any at all. But here's the thing, deep down inside each and everyone of us, we want to be the best. We want to kick butt and show off our success. We are all naturally competitive in one way or another. 

     Recently our administration had asked each team to come up with a scoreboard. They want all of the teachers to push the students into achieving great things and show it off. We decided to push the kids in math facts because it gets tough and it gets BORING! Here's what wholebrainteaching.com says about it:

     "A central problem in education is that kids can become bored, sometimes with surprising speed, with any learning activity. What mesmerized them in September puts them to sleep in November. The technical name for this is habituation. When students become habituated to a learning experience, they respond with less and less vigor to what had previously been highly stimulating. Thus, we need lots of ways to introduce novelty, motivating novelty, into our instruction. The Scoreboard is a central feature of Whole Brain Teaching classrooms. Experienced WBT educators use the Scoreboard as a continuous motivator for on task, bell to bell, maximally engaged students." 

Here are some tips to keep in mind when creating a scoreboard for your team and/or classroom:

Tip 1: Find what subject or task you have the most trouble getting kids to focus on. It could be something academic like writing or something procedural like packing up. Choose what you and your students struggle with the most to help you both stay on track. 

Tip 2: Don't keep a scoreboard for every little thing. Focus on only the big stuff. Two or three scoreboards max or trust me, you will either forget to keep score or you will want to scream trying to keep up with all of the scoreboards. 

Tip 3: Try to make it teacher versus students. For example, if I want to create a scoreboard for transitioning quickly, I would tell the students that if they are ready to start with materials out, voices off, etc. by the time the bell rings, then they get a point. However, if they are not, then I get a point. Whoever reaches a certain number first wins! 

Tip 4: Get creative! My daughter's kindergarten teacher had a cute scoreboard to measure how many word lists each student learned. She cut out gum ball machines from construction paper. Literally, it was a red triangle and a blue circle taped together. She hung these gum all machines on the wall and every time a student mastered a new list, they got a circle sticker in their machine. By the end of the year, she gave students real gum balls according to the amount they had in their machine. You could also do this with reading or writing levels and ice cream scoops. 

Tip 5: Whatever you do, do not announce the child's level to the class. You should only measure the growth! For example, you are creating a scoreboard for reading levels. If a student is way below in reading, measure how many levels of growth that child has made. Let's say they started on a level B and ended the school year at a level L. That's 10 reading levels! Seeing that number encourages them, and trust me, students that struggle need the most encouragement of all! 

     The most important tip is to just try it! If you feel like it's not working, ask yourself what you could do to make it more enjoyable for yourself and your students. 

      Finally, my gift to you is my FREE scoreboard pennant. Make it a centerpiece in the room to remind your students that they have a goal. I have no doubt that they will want to crush it! 

Written by: Sarah Barnett, second grade teacher, owner of Barnett's Bubbles 



My First Blog... AH!

05 September 2015
     I am beyond excited to finally have my blog up and running! I love to share ideas because just talking about them with other people inspire me to other new and interesting ideas. I cannot wait to share some of the things that have been on my mind this past week... and oh my it has been A LOT! 

     Please follow and share my blog, and I will reward you with a motivating FREEBIE for your classroom on Saturday, September 12, 2015. Get ready for a wealth of information about reading, math, science, social studies, and so much more!

     Thank you so much for your love and support!