Category Archives: Meredith B.~Teaching with a Twist

Getting Students to Think Outside the Box

We are always looking for ways to get students to think outside the box and to expand on their thoughts.  My gifted education supervisor gave us the book, Making Thinking Visible, in hopes that we’d use some of the routines in the classroom.  I’ll be the first to say that I immediately thought of this as just ANOTHER thing to do, but quickly changed my mind when I opened this book.

Screen shot 2014-11-17 at 8.14.12 PMI’m not much of a reader, so I randomly picked what I thought was  one of the shortest routines and started reading.  This was a routine called, Step-Inside.  This allows students to step inside the shoes of a character or object from a book, passage, picture, or poem.  This is a wonderful routine to use when you want students to open up their thinking and look at things from a different point of view.

I used this with my first graders.  We were already in the middle of a study on the book, Charlotte’s Web, and Step Inside worked perfectly.  I gave my students some academic choice by allowing them to choose if they wanted to “step inside” Zuckerman’s barn as Wilbur or as Charlotte.  At this point they were given Post-It notes with the chosen name to use for answering the proposed questions.

  • What does Charlotte/Wilbur see, feel, notice in the barn?
  • What might she/he know, understand, or believe?  Why?
  • What might she/he are deeply about?
  • What might she/he wonder about or question?

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Notice the keyword is “might” in each question.  This is because we don’t truly know what anyone or anything else is feeling.

After all the questions were answered we went back through each question and discussed the student responses.  This thinking routine helps students explore perspectives and develop empathy.

Our next step is to use what we learned from this thinking routine and create a writing piece from the point of view  as our chosen character.  They, of course, will be writing in first person.  The sentence starters I will be giving them are:

  • Hello there, I’m Wilbur______________________________.
  • Salutations, I’m Charlotte __________________________.

This activity really requires students to think outside the box and look at things from a different perspective.  So far, I’ve been really impressed with the depth my first graders have gone to really “become” their character.  I can only imagine how they will grow the more we explore this thinking routine.

Have you used any Visible Thinking Routines in your classroom?

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Winter and Christmas Brain Breaks

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If you are a teacher, no matter what age group, you will know the frustrations of the time leading up to the Christmas break! Yes, it is a time of festivities and excitement and these are the exact reasons for the frustrations. Teaching ANYTHING during this time is difficult challenging impossible. Students are so busy day dreaming about the magical happenings going on in The North Pole, or whether the marshmallow they left in their mom’s bed by accident constitutes as being “naughty” or whether or not to give Tommy a Christmas gift without it being too obvious of the feelings involved.

Winter and Christmas Brain Breaks

These last few weeks can give even the coolest, calmest and most collected teachers a few extra grey hairs. It’s not exactly the right thing to give in to the excitement and proclaim that the two weeks leading up to Christmas break is  “Movie Time,” (although I do know some teachers who did *frown*).

To help to prevent you from falling into ‘that’ group, I have compiled a list of fun Christmas/Winter brain breaks that can be used as soon as you see your students drifting off into a world of elves, tinsel and cookies.

These YouTube videos offer lots of fun with movement to music. To me there is nothing better that jumping up and moving to a catchy tune to get the blood pumping and the brain juices working! Have a look at the links provided below:
Just Dance Kids 2 – Jingle Bells is a simple yet effective dance routine for younger students. The same movements are repeated so students will catch on quickly.

Winter and Christmas Brain Breaks - Teaching 2 Step

The Dancing Christmas Tree is also perfect for young children. The words are simple and repetition gives students an opportunity to learn them quickly and easily to sing along with the movements.

The dancing Christmas Tree

Jingle Bell Dance. This version of Jingle Bells has such a catchy beat! Students will be very excited to jump up and join in the moves. I have to admit… my favorite part is “Weeeeee.”

Jingle Bells

Just Dance 3 Santa Clone is a more vigorous dance where students need to copy Santa’s dance moves. These moves are more complicated and vary quite a bit and change frequently so I would recommend it for slightly older students, maybe Upper Elementary. The movements are fun and not your average swaying of the arms. The dancing only starts 30 seconds into the 3 minute video, so you might want to avoid students standing around waiting for the dancing to start by forwarding to the exciting bit.

Santa Clone

Let’s not forget about The Sid Shuffle or Continental Drift. Sid, from Ice Age, talks students through his fun and energetic dance.

Sid Shuffle

I would recommend watching YouTube videos in Safe Share. This site requires you to paste the desired video URL onto their page in order to generate a safe, ad-free video. There is a grey frame around the video which blocks out surrounding images and videos. You can also still enlarge the screen to full screen mode.

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For those who don’t have facilities to show a video for a brain break or want to vary the activities, I also loved using this Snowball Fight brain break with my 5th graders, but it can be used for older students as well. This one does not involve following dance moves. I also used it as an informal assessment to check if students grasped the concept I was teaching (while they were thinking of presents and Christmas trees). This is how it works:

After completing an explanation, let’s use ‘properties of quadrilaterals’ as an example, have students draw a quadrilateral on one side of a page. Then on the other side they write down the properties of that quadrilateral. Students then scrunch the page into a “snowball.” I would then tell them to stand up and throw three “snowballs” at one another. Once they had done that (and had a good break) they would each pick up a “snowball,” flatten it out and then write down the properties of the shape on the page. It is a self correcting activity as the answers are on the back of the page.

I’m sure that you (yes, you should also get involved in the fun) and your students are going to love these little brain breaks and they make the time up until Christmas productive and frustration free!

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Quick, Easy Recipes for Busy, Busy Teachers Link-Up

It’s that time of year and the hustle, bustle of the season has officially kicked in.  When we finally do make it home at night we are tired and the last thing we want to do is prepare a meal.  This linky party is the answer to that problem.

We are looking for quick, easy recipes with little prep time.

Slide29Rules:

1.  Use the graphic above and link back to this post. (Using the recipe card graphic provided is optional.)

2.  Add your post below. Please make sure your link goes directly to a specific post about this linky party, not a main page.

If you have pictures of your food, be sure to share that in your post too!

Slide30(Optional recipe card to use in your post)

Here’s my example:

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Link up with your recipe.  Be kind and follow the rules!! 😉

Click the InLinkz icon below to view the link ups and to add your own!

Teaching with a Twist

Manic Monday Link Up

Classroom Freebies Manic MondayHappy Monday guys, it’s Meredith from Teaching with a Twist.  I know some of you are out of school already but we have to go Monday and Tuesday.   So starting next week we will all be gearing up for the BIG winter break and I have the perfect FREEBIE that your kiddos will love.

I’m linking up with Classroom Freebies for Manic Monday to share a fun Winter Holiday Freebie.  I’ve included a winter spin and graph and one of my favorite math games, Bump Addition.  I hope you can find these useful during this hectic time of year.  Please don’t forget to leave feedback. 🙂

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Slide3 Slide2To get more products I’ve created follow my TPT Store and be updated on freebies and giveaways by liking my Facebook Fan Page.

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Veteran’s Day Resources and a FREEBIE

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Veteran’s Day can sadly come and go unnoticed in the classroom, between and excitement of Halloween and the Thanksgiving activities that we start in early November.  Let’s not let that happen this year.

We can start by defining “Veteran’s Day,”  which can be confused with Memorial Day.  Both holidays were established to honor and recognize men and women in the US military, but each day is a little different.   Veteran’s Day is observed November 11, each year and is intended to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military in both times of war and peace.  This is a way of thanking living Veterans for their service and to acknowledge their contributions and sacrifices, while remembering those who may have lost their lives in service.   Memorial Day, on the other hand, is observed the last Monday of May each year and is set aside as a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who have died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.

Additional resources to share with students may include:

(Click on each line above to go to a related link.)

This is one of my favorite mini-books to use when teaching the history behind Veteran’s Day and it’s free!

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Here’s some great children’s books to use as read alouds:

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After exploring the links above your kiddos will be ready to write.  So I’ve thrown together a quick FREEBIE that should do the trick!  Be sure to leave me some love in the comments if you download. 🙂

Screen shot 2014-11-04 at 1.24.00 PMIf you’ve enjoyed this blog post hop on over to my blog, Teaching with a Twist and follow me on Bloglovin‘.  I can also be found on TPT and on Facebook.

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Tic-Tac-Know

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Looking for a fun way to review for those end of the week tests or just want to do an informal assessment of how much information your students are really learning?  Well, Tic-Tac-Know is an easy and FUN way to do just that!!

In my gifted classes we do mini-studies on various topics.  For example, one of the most recent was on kaleidoscopes.  After we did our research and had some discussion.  Then, I wanted to see just how much they retained and really comprehended, so we “played” Tic-Tac-Know.

It’s really simple, but fun and effective.  I use painter’s tape to mark off a large, life-sized Tic-Tac-Toe board on our carpet.

 TicTacKnow

I compile a list of questions about our current study or whatever we are reviewing.  Next, I divide my students into two teams (Team X and Team O.)

The teams stand, in rows, on opposite sides of the tic-tac-toe board.  We flip a coin to see which team goes first and I ask a question to the first person on that team.  If it is answered correctly, the person takes a spot on the game board.   X’s will stand and O’s will sit, so at a glance, we can see who’s who.  If the answer it incorrect, no one moves and I move on to the other team.  This continues until one team gets tic-tac-toe (3 in a row.)

This game of human tic-tac-know can be used with any subject and is an exciting way to review skills.

Some other ideas for Tic Tac Know could include:

  • reviewing math facts
  • comprehension questions about a book
  • reviewing antonyms/synonyms
  • homophones/homonyms review
  • stating facts and opinions

What’s your favorite way to review with your students?  Leave your answer in the comments, at the top of this post.

If you enjoyed this blog post, hop on over and follow me at my personal blog, Teaching with a Twist.

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I’m Done…Now What?

As teachers we hear this ALL the time, “I’m done, now what?”  No matter how much we plan ahead, differentiate, or scaffold our lessons we have those early finishers.

I have a few things in place for my students to do when they finish a task.  First, they have logic books in their folders they can complete.  You can read about those here.

But since I teach several grades, (kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd) I have to have something meaningful, ready for all grades and ability levels.

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One of those is Boggle. This helps with spelling and decoding skills.  I change the letters every few weeks.  I use this recording sheet.  This particular recording sheet allows students to add points for each letter and get their scores to compare with their classmates.  This usually makes them try harder to get more words and longer words.

You can get the letters to create your own Boggle board here for free. The font is a little different than mine, but this one is really cute.  It includes a recording sheet, but it doesn’t assign points for the number of letters like the one linked above.

VocabJar

The Vocabulary Jar is something new I’ve been using this year with my second graders.  It does a great job of introducing new vocabulary and reinforcing other skills like, synonyms, antonyms, as well as, using a dictionary.  This set contains 378 vocabulary words, a recording sheet, and all the everything else you need to create your own vocabulary jar.  You can get this set here.  This is WELL worth the money.

VocabRecordingI print the recording sheet with two on each side and make double sided copies.  This allows them to do four vocabulary words on one sheet of paper.  I just staple a few sheets together and each child has a packet they can grab as they need it.

sudoku board

My kiddos LOVE sudoku.  We started with picture sudoku and then moved on to 6-square sudoku and now we’ve graduated to 9-square.  I decided to make this into a bulletin board for those early finishers.  These are laminated squares that I just use a dry erase marker to change the numbers.  The more numbers I fill in, the easier the puzzle is for the students.  You can read more about this here.  I’m in the process of creating I have finished an interactive Sudoku bulletin board set for my TPT store.  You can grab it here.

secretcode

Finally, my new favorite.  I just started this one this week with my first graders.  This is a secret code activity.  This can be used for anything.  Since we are currently studying and researching kaleidoscopes, I had my students write a fact about kaleidoscopes in code and have a classmate decode the message. They LOVED it.  I suggest starting out having them code or decode spelling or vocabulary words until they get the hang of using the secret code circle.  You can read more about it and get this for FREE at The Teacher Wife‘s blog.

The key to using these or any other resource for early finishers is to have something for them that they can do WITHOUT needing your help or disrupting their classmates.

I’m Done, Now What? was written by Meredith B. If you enjoyed this post join Teaching with a Twist on Blogger, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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All About Me~Portrait Poems

Hey again, it’s Meredith from Teaching with a Twist.

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With everyone back in school, now we are all looking for new and exciting ways to get to know one another.  My first graders just completed a fun portrait poem activity that allowed us to review some parts of speech while learning about each other.   I teach gifted classes, so this may be a bit advanced for general ed. first graders this early in the school year.  I’d say this is more of a 2nd or 3rd grade beginning of the year activity.

The outline of the poem is:

Line 1: your name

Line 2: two adjectives about you connected by “and”

Lines 3, 4, and 5: phrases about yourself beginning with a verb ending in -ing

Line 6: a synonym for you from line 1

We started by brainstorming adjectives to describe ourselves.

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Then, a list of verbs ending in -ing.

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And finally, synonyms for line 1.  (Sorry I didn’t get a picture of this list.)

Here is an example we completed together about our principal.  Take a look.

photoThen it was time to create our individual portrait poems.  I was pretty pleased with the outcome!

image_3        image_4I allowed them to illustrate at the bottom.  Something about being able to draw makes assignments fun for them.  Whatever works, right?

Here’s a template, if you want to try this with your kiddos.  You may be impressed too!

Screen shot 2014-09-16 at 9.53.51 PM Be sure to come back and let us know how they turned out.

All About Me Portrait Poems is post written by Meredith B. If you enjoyed this post join Teaching with a Twist on BloggerFacebook, and Pinterest.

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What’s Your Classroom Management Secret?

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Hey again, it’s Meredith from Teaching with a Twist here to talk about classroom management.

When it comes to classroom management, you have to figure out what works for you and your kiddos.  I try to keep it simple and quick.  After the initial lesson on what the rules are and what the consequences are, I don’t like to spend a lot of time referring back to the expectations.  I carry a clip board with everyone’s name on it  and simply put a tally mark if a rule is broken and write a brief explanation.    I also keep track, if someone doesn’t bring back their signed folder and homework from the night before.  At the end of each day, I circle each child’s conduct on the calendar that is stapled inside everyone’s folder.  Each day has a space for the parent’s initials. Done!!!  Easy, peasy!!

Here’s a peek at the very simple, monthly calendar.  The conduct choices for my school district are EE-exceeds expectations, ME-meets expectations, and NME-not meeting expectations.

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In addition to this, I also do Brownie Points.  This is a “class” conduct reward.  When everyone brings their folders back with completed homework and signed conduct, they get a brownie point.  The only other way to gain a brownie point is for them to receive a compliment from another teacher on their positive behavior.  This encourages them to behave in support classes, the hallway, and the cafeteria.  After all, your class is a direct reflection of YOU.  So if they behave in the cafeteria, you look good. When the cookie sheet is full (10 brownies) we have a brownie party.  Simple, but VERY effective.  The cookie sheet gets wiped clean and then we start over.

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This works for me.  You may need something different for your students.  I firmly believe that NO instruction can take place if there is NO classroom management.  YOU have to be in control and you HAVE to figure out how to do this.  If you’re new to teaching and what you are currently using, isn’t working……..ask for help NOW.  You will be respected by your peers and your administration if your students are well behaved, I promise.  And when you figure it out, be consistent.  Children thrive on consistency and your life will be easier in the long run.

Learn your students and learn what makes them tick.  Here’s another classroom management post from Teacher by the Beach and what works for her.  And lastly, I’ll leave you with a FREEBIE from First Grade Fever.  Be sure to leave feedback if you download.

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Using Logic Puzzles in the Classroom and a FREEBIE

Hey there, it’s Meredith from Teaching with a Twist.  Thanks for stopping by and joining us on our collaborative blog adventure.

Screen shot 2014-08-25 at 10.29.55 PMI’d like to share my LOVE of logic puzzles with you today.  The benefits of using logic puzzles in the classroom are numerous.  While they may be initially intimidating, the end results are long lasting.  So, if you’re looking for a one stop activity that will reinforce reading skills, assist in organizing and analyzing information, utilize deductive reasoning skills, use evidence, draw conclusions, and make inferences; logic puzzles is what your looking for!

I like to introduce them to my students as mini mysteries.  Everyone loves solving a good mystery, right?

It’s imperative to work through several logic puzzles together at first.  Modeling is the key to teaching any skill effectively.

There are several types of logic puzzles but my favorite to use for beginners, is the logic grid.  Here’s an example from my Spring into Logic pack.

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Students are presented with a grid and clues to solve the logic puzzle.  As the clues are read, students can deduct and infer information, and begin placing an “X” in those boxes.  After all the clues are read some information is definite and an “O” is placed in those boxes, until the entire grid is filled.  Some cross referencing and re-reading clues multiple times may be necessary, before a conclusion can be made.  The completed logic puzzle is pictured below.Screen shot 2014-08-25 at 10.53.20 PM

Terri Lester, a logic puzzle lover, said it best in this quote, “Logic puzzles test students’ critical thinking in a fun way. They challenge students to read, organize and analyze information to solve an interesting problem. Because the answers to logic puzzle questions never explicitly appear in the clues, they must be inferred. The student concludes that something is true because something else is true, not because it is directly stated. Solving logic puzzles helps develop critical thinking skills important in all subjects and helps students learn to rely upon their own ability to reason.”

In conclusion, the amount of skills students learn while solving logic puzzles is endless.  I have created several types of logic puzzles for my students.  Here are a few for you to check out:

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and of course………a FREEBIE!!!!

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