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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Didn't Choose To Teach

I didn't choose to teach.

I didn't choose to be exhausted the entire month of August just to get a classroom ready and a group of 25 firsties ready for the school year.  I didn't choose to be called, "Mrs. Shaddock," for 178 school days every year.  I didn't choose to prepare first graders to meet national standards set for them by people who think they are smarter than I am.  I didn't choose to love 25 babies as if they were my own.

I was chosen.  Before time began, I was chosen to teach.

By God.
"All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be..." Psalm 139:16

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord..." Jeremiah 29:11

"Here are some of the parts God has appointed for the church: first are apostles, second are prophets, third are teachers..." 1 Corinthians 12:28

Though I love teaching dearly, I firmly believe that I love it because I am doing what God chose me to do.  

I have a gift.  I didn't go pick out my gift at Wal-Mart.  It was chosen for me.

I can teach.  And I can do it effectively.  No, I am not the best teacher in the world.  I'm not even the best teacher in my school or district.  And there are days that I'm not a very good teacher at all.  Many days, actually.  And there are countless teachers in the world who are much better at their gift than I am.

But I have a God-given gift to teach, too.  And I am determined to do my best at it.  Whether it is teaching 1st graders at school, teaching preschoolers at church, or teaching my own kid at home.

Being chosen by God to teach means several things.

It means that I need to use my gift, not just let it sit on a shelf and go to waste.
"Each of you should use whatever gift you have to serve others." 1 Peter 4:10

It means that I'm called to a higher standard.
"Not many of you should become teachers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." James 3:1

"In your teaching show integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about you." 
Titus 2:7-8

It means that I am an example to others.
"But be an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

And it means that I'm chosen to help others see the possibilities.
"With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible." 
Matthew 19:26

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

...which reminds me of one of my all-time favorite poems by one of my all time favorite poets, Shel Silverstein...

I may not have chosen to teach, but I did choose to accept God's gift for me.  So, again this year, I choose to use my gift to glorify God, because it's what He chose for me to do.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mrs. Mom: Potty Training

I was going to just post this on Facebook, but I decided I wanted to blog this too so that I won't forget these sweet memories!

Excuse all of the personal posts lately... 8 days later, here are...

13 Lessons Learned From Potty Training:
1. It is super exhausting the first three days...like never-been-so-happy-for nap-time-to-come exhausting!

2.  Just. Stay. Home.  For 3 days.  Nothing is important enough to leave the house for during the first 3 days.

3. And when you do venture out, count on getting asked to go potty as soon as everyone is buckled up in the car.  Even if you just tried before you left.  Every. Time.

4.  Toilets are not the only acceptable places for a little boy to potty.  Bushes are okay too.  And showers. All 3 will get a resounding, "Yay!" from said little boy...

5.  Always, ALWAYS wipe after an "attempt." Even if it's not successful.  I repeat.  ALWAYS wipe!

6. Which, of course, means that baby wipes and carpet cleaner are the best inventions ever.

7.  Nothing will make you jump higher or faster than hearing the words, "Uh-Oh," during training time.

8.  Stickers motivate first graders and stickers motivate toddlers.  And the process of choosing the "perfect" sticker can be a very intense process!


9. 3 full days of complete success does not mean you are out of the woods yet...

10.  21 month old boys like to dance.  Naked.  A lot.

11.  A naked toddler bottom running around the house {or apartment} is the cutest thing in the world...

12. ...except that a toddling bottom in underwear is actually the cutest thing in the world...And that little bottom will get patted and squeezed all day long.  Trust me.

13. For whatever reason, my toddler in underwear means he wants to snuggle a lot more than normal...and I am SO okay with that!



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Mrs. Mom: Training Up A Child

There are many reasons why I love my job.  But my favorite is summer.  And it's not because I'm off work...I love my job!  And it's not because I get to lay around in a pool a lot--but I love that too! :)

It's because I get to be a mom...and I get to be Mommy 24/7.  Not just after school hours.  Don't get me wrong...I love teaching.  It's a wonderful, WONDERFUL job.  But my favorite job is Mommy.  Hands down.

I've been soaking up all of my time with Cooper this summer and cherishing every single minute of Mommy and Cooper time!

Cooper is right in the middle of that "Let's see what I can get a way with" phase of toddlerhood.  Which is challenging Mr. and me as parents in a whole new way.  No, he's not a bad kid.  Not at all.  In fact, while I'm partial, I'd say he's an extremely well-behaved boy.  He's mild-tempered.  He can say, "thank you" on his own now without reminders (although not all of the time!)  He is extremely friendly toward other people.  And he's just an overall happy boy 99.9% of the time.

But he's pushing limits.  He's doing what every kid does: trying to figure out what it is he can get away with.  How far he can go before mom or dad step in... He's trying to figure out the rules.

As a teacher, I see this every year in my classroom.  A good portion of my kids test boundaries for the first 6 weeks of school.  And it's mostly not because they want to misbehave.  It's because they want to see what my response is going to be.  Am I going to get angry and yell?  Will there be consequences? Am I going to just ignore it?

And Cooper is doing the same thing at home.  And he probably will for the foreseeable future.

I'm a firm believer that {for the most part} kids just want to know the rules so they know how to play by them. They not only need rules, but they crave them...they actually want rules.

But I'm also a firm believer that we are all born with an innate desire to sin. {"For all have sinned...Romans 6:23}

Somewhere in between a desire to follow rules and a desire to "see what's on the other side" is where parenting lives.

"Train up a child..." 
There are so many areas we are "training" Cooper for right now.  But we are trying our best to keep our focus on our biggest goals for Cooper.  I could nit pick all day long, but I want what I say to have meaning. And purpose. And to be long-lasting.  So we have tried to limit our "parenting" lingo with Cooper to a few, thought out goals for what we want for Cooper as he grows into an adult.

1. We want Cooper to grow to love God because of a personal relationship with his God.
2. We want Cooper to be respectful to others.
3. We want Cooper to have a "just do it" work ethic and attitude.  A servant's heart.
4. We want Cooper to be a "me second" caring and empathetic adult that sees the needs of others and tries to meet them.

And the list continues, but those are the important goals for now...

There are 2 main pieces of advice that we have used to develop these goals over a short time of parenting.  One is from a lady whom I respect more and more the longer I am a mommy: Michelle Duggar.  I know, people.  You think she's crazy for giving birth to 20 children.  I do too sometimes.  I know....you think she and her husband have crazy conservative beliefs about dressing and dating.  I do too.  But you know what?  Her kids are good kids.  The Duggars live in the same town as we do and I grew up playing in piano recitals with her oldest kids.  I've seen them out and about in stores around town.  And I have not one bad word to say about them as people.  Not one.  In fact, I would say their kids are some of the nicest, most well-mannered and well-behaved kids I've ever met.  And I've never, not once heard Michelle raise her voice.  Not on camera.  Not in person.  And as a mother of 20 children, that's quite a statement.  So when she talks about parenting, I listen.   Michelle Duggar has a lot of valid things to say about parenting and mommyhood, but one of the main things I remember her saying is that one of the first things she teaches her children as early as she can is to look her in the eyes when she is talking to them.  I will never forget how she explained it at one point,

"If I have your eyes, I have your heart."  

Man, that's powerful.  From the moment Cooper was able we have used this with him.  When I'm telling him something important, or disciplining him, I always make sure I have his eyes first.  Now...he's a toddler and I may not have them long, but he is learning.

Having his eyes does two things: It helps him focus on what I am saying.  But it also helps me keep my cool and my focus.  It's hard to get overly excited and loose my cool when I'm staring at his sweet baby blues.  In fact, I've noticed that my "worst" moments when I've raised my voice as a teacher or a mommy are when I'm not looking a first grader, or my child directly in the eyes.  Seeing his eyes helps me "see" him and see my purpose for discipline.

The other piece of advice we've used is from my childhood.  One thing I explicitly remember my parents doing with me is quoting the Bible.  When my brother and I fought, I would hear one of my parents in the background quoting verses.  When I complained about my life, I heard a Bible verse quoted to me.  And one thing I learned from that is....You can't argue with the Bible.

I mean, really.  If you believe that the Bible is truth and that,

"The Word of God is alive and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."
{Hebrews 4:12}

then you have to accept that the Word of God is the end all be all.

Mr. and I have used this principle in our marriage.  If we feel like one of us isn't doing something right, we just quote a Bible verse and that's the end of it.  Not in a "I'm better than you" way, but in a "Matter of fact" way.  It's the quickest way to get silence in a conversation or argument.  Because we know...can't argue with that.

And we are using this same principle in parenting. Because,

"Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee." {Psalm 119:11}

For each of our major goals we have for training Cooper, we have a Bible verse that backs us up.  And it gets quoted.  Daily.  One thing I told Mr. that is great about quoting the Bible is it gives me something meaningful to say to Cooper.  That's positive. And not in a yelling voice... {I mean, can you really yell a Bible verse??}  There are times {we all have them, right??}, where I'd really like to growl and yell, "STOOOOOPPPP!" So I'm thankful for something else to say in place of that!

Obedience...If we want Cooper to be respectful to others, than that starts in toddlerhood as obedience.  And we are still working on it.  And 15 years from now we will still be working on it!
 But he is learning...and he is obeying!  And can I just tell you how much my heart melts when Cooper tries to say, "Obey!" after I ask, "What does the Bible say?"  He may just be 21 months, but he already can say two of the words in that verse: obey and right {as he bobs his head up and down!} It is the cutest thing!

Kindness...If we want Cooper to have a servant's heart, then that starts in toddlerhood with kindness to others.  When the whining and fits started {yes, grandparents, there are occasional fits...}, the need for this verse came about quickly!  For the most part, our philosophy is to ignore the fit until it's over {since fits are really just attention getters anyway} and then we ask him, "Was that kind?" And he knows it wasn't.  And the occasional, "The world does not revolve around Cooper" speech!  
This is the verse my parents quoted to me and my brother...again, and again, and again.  It's a judgmental verse and just saying it to Cooper every day makes me do a little quiet assessment of myself... "...it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart..."

Gentleness...If we want Cooper to be empathetic and see needs in other, than it starts with gentleness.  He needs to understand that throwing toys breaks things and makes others sad.  And biting and hitting hurt.  NOW, is he hitting out of meanness? No.  But, sometimes out of no where, Coop will start hitting my arm and smile at me.  And I have to say, "Gentle, Cooper.  Gentle..." And after a few times of showing him what gentle actually means, he's working on it.  He'll even hit me and then immediately shake his head no and say, "gentle" and do it again softly.  How can I be mad at that??

...and then there's potty training.... {Read more about that here.}
...sigh... only Bible verse I can think of to get me through this goal is...

"For the things we see now will soon be gone..." {2 Corinthians 4:18}  
This too shall pass. :)

Mr. and I are not perfect parents.  We do not by any stretch of the imagination have it all figured out.  None of us do.  But we are trying.  And we are training based on goals we have set for what we think is best for our kid...and that's all anybody can ask, right?


Friday, July 11, 2014

Setting Procedures in First Grade

And just like that I am more than halfway through my summer...*sigh*...

Which means I'm gearing up for next year's crew...or at least trying to....okay, I haven't even been back to my classroom yet, but I'm getting there!

Every summer it seems like I'm always trying to think of something new or better to do in my classroom.  And I always--yes, always--end up tweaking my classroom management system.  Happens every year.  Did last year's work? Yes, but I'm just a believer that nothing is perfect and it can always get better.

So, in honor of all of the procedures and more procedures running through my head...here are my top 5 things {old and new} that are a "must include" in my classroom management system for this year's group of firsties...

1.  Whole Brain Teaching - Y'all, seriously!  When I came across this 4 years ago my teacher world stopped.  Literally stopped.  After a particularly rough year {you know the kind!}, I started looking up brain based research stuff.  In college, we learned all about it and I had a professor that was particularly fond of it.  I had used bits and pieces in my first few years and loved it, so I started looking for more.  And whadyaknow?  When you google, "brain research classroom management" you stumble upon Whole Brain Teaching {WBT}.

I really can't even explain all of WBT in a blog, much less the first part of one.  And really, it's best explained by going to their website and watching their videos.  You can also find lots of videos on YouTube.

Basically, WBT is based on the philosophy {and my philosophy} that kids learn best when we teach with the brain in mind.  Knowing how the brain learns and responds to certain things helps me as a teacher know how to teach best.  It helps make learning more efficient.  It helps transitions.  It helps behavior.  WBT isn't just a classroom management approach, it's an approach to teaching in general.  I've used it for 4 years now, and I won't go back.  I've seen the results and I've had more engagement and learning in those 4 years than I had before it!

In my latest packet, I've added all of the materials I use to implement WBT in my classroom... You'll find class rules posters, smiley/frowny cards for tallying class rewards and more details on how I use it in my room!

And you can also check out these good-for-your-brain Brain Breaks as well...all of my firsties' favs on one page! :)

Speaking of brain stuff...  I'm pretty much a nerd.  We've established that. And now you know how much I love learning about brain based research... So, for those of you as interested in how the brain works as I am, you MUST check out this book my dad recommended to me at the beginning of summer.

I'm not quite finished with it yet--almost!--but it is absolutely FANTASTIC.  And it's not really even a teacher book.  It's just great for anybody who works with, and wants to better understand, people.  For each of the 12 principles he talks about, he gives suggestions on how to facilitate that best in the classroom and, ya'll, it's good stuff!  It's an easy read to... not too terribly over-your-head-wordy!

Next on my list is this one...Same author, different perspective.  This one is less for "teacher me" and more for "mommy me!"

2.  Class DOJO - So apparently I've been hiding under some sort of prehistoric rock and have totally missed the DOJO bandwagon.  And I'm totally embarrassed about it.  For reals.  Like 50 something year old Superintendent, Dr. Daddy, has known about it for a few years.  And he made fun of me for not knowing something he already did...share the wealth, Dad. Share. The. Wealth.

Anyways, ya'll know about this already I'm SURE, but I found it on Pinterest earlier this summer and just thought it was the perfect thing to use in my classroom to help me go paperless.  Really what I've been looking for is a way to cut down my end-of-the-day routine of writing in behavior calendars in my kiddos' take home folders and putting stickers on sticker charts, blah, blah, blah...  I know it's important, but it seriously gets old.  And then on days when we have an afternoon assembly and such...well...it's just plain hard to get it all in.

So, I'm goin' DOJO this year.

For those of you under the same prehistoric rock as me, Class DOJO is just a system to keep track of behavior.  No need for color changes, stickers, etc.  And it's all on your computer or iPhone or iPad or any other handheld device.  You can customize it by adding your own class rules.  And you can also email reports to parents...in their home language!  The students and parents can both log in and check their points and see why they had points taken away!  That's the basics and you can check out all of the details on their website.

I've added a parent letter and a customizable behavior calendar to coordinate with DOJO in my BEHAVE packet as well!  There is a blank calendar for each month.  You can write in the dates or import as a picture into Word or PowerPoint and type over it.  I also like to add our important school and class events since the calendars stay in their take home folders.  It has the class rules I use at the bottom, but if you're not using the same rules, you can always cut that part off before you copy...and paste in your own if you want!

At the end of each day, students will write how many points they earned for the day.  This is where I hope DOJO is going to save me a lot of time during my school day.  I have always written in folders for kids who had to "change their color" or were in trouble for some other reason.  Now I won't have to worry about all of that paperwork because it will all be online for parents to login and view.  ....I know, I know, I'm sure there will be a few parents that won't check or have access online.  But most of my parents, even my high poverty families have an iPhone or iPad at their house.  And since the app is free I'm hopeful there won't be too many calendars I'll have to write in...although I'm sure there will be some.

3. Rewards - I've used rewards since the first year...really, who could live without a treasure box??  But my treasure box has changed over the years.  I'm pretty much Mrs. El-Cheapo when it comes to treasure box junk {yes, junk...}  I have never bought anything!  This comes from the fact that I'm cheap, AND because when I did my internship 9 years ago {holy cow!!!}, one of my mentors collected junk for her 4th graders and did an auction on Friday afternoons for the junk that her kids could bid for with money they earned throughout the week.  The kids LOVED it and LOVED the junk.  Seriously...an empty box of kleenex easily went for $10 week after week after week!  Granted, my mentor teacher was quite the salesman and got the kids thinking of ways they could use her junk and what they could turn it into, but it was perfect!  And then kids learned a little creativity and imagineering alongside some economics!

Fast forward to now with my firsties.  An auction is just slightly out of the realm of possibilities for my 6 year olds, but the junk stuck.  My dad collects all of the freebies from conferences he goes to and I collect freebies from kids meals I eat or my mom or mother-in-law eat...or random stickers I get in the mail, or left over gift bag stuffers from party days, or TOMS flags and stickers from my shoe purchases...all of it goes in the treasure box tubs.  And with "junk you can sell to kids" in mind, the possibilities are endless.  Really.  At the beginning of the year and then a few times throughout the year, I "sell" these items just like my mentor did, by saying things like, "Can you imagine what you could do with this??" It's really a great thinking extension for them and they get so. stinkin. excited.  Over junk.  Makes my heart happy...and probably makes some of my parents cringe.  Ha!

In addition to my "treasures," I have always had things like "free computer time" or "lunch with the teacher" cards too.  But in the last few years, I've expanded my reward cards too!  I now have 10 different reward cards for kids to purchase.

And in this mini-size, they fit so cutely in this tackle box!

In the past, I have had kids pay for rewards in a bunch of different ways.  I've tried it all--money {before Common Core when we had to teach money...*wink wink*}, points, stickers...This year I'm going with some suggestions from other teacher friends who are apparently much more in the know than I am and have already used Class DOJO and I'm using fake dollar bills for rewards.  My plan is this: Give students one dollar for each DOJO point they have at the end of the day.  I have already ordered these super cute colored envelopes to laminate for kids to keep their dollars in.  2nd grade and up could easily use coins in a similar way to incorporate more money connections!
Add a  little cutesifying {yep, I just made up a word!} with these numbers from my letters & numbers die cut set ...

...and these are gonna be sooooo uh-dorable!

Aren't they the perfect size for this play money?

On Friday, I'll let them cash in their dollars for prizes.  Once I see how many points they get, then I can "price" my treasure box and reward cards.  I always have priced my reward cards higher than treasure box stuff because it's what most of my kids go to first.  This year I plan to price some of my tech rewards and lunch rewards even higher because of their popularity!  I'm excited to go back to "pricing" items because I think it is such a natural way to incorporate economics like spending vs. saving!

All of my reward cards along with the other materials I've talked about for management in this post are all included in my BEHAVE packet.  Check it out and let me know what you think!

4. Lunch Choices - The longer I teach, the more I find that I need wall SPACE--and more of it!-- for all of those lovely anchor charts I need to hang for my babies!  Any chance I have to free up wall space and I'm all in!  2 years ago, I decided it was time to get rid of my lunch choices display which took up wall space and do lunch choice on our Promethean Board.  My kids come in and make their lunch choice on our Promethean Board by moving their name to the choice they want.  Simple as that!  And when I have the inevitable new student, or two, or three each year, I don't have to worry about throwing away clips or cards or whatever from the student that moved.  I just simply type over the old students name and resave my chart.  But what about subs, you ask?  No problem, they just do lunch choices the old fashioned way..."Raise your hand if you want...."

The trick to making it work is to make sure you don't save the lunch choices file each day so you start over fresh each morning!

Download your copy here!  There are several designs to choose from and several layouts so you can pick the one with the lunch choices that match your school {and you can also message me and let me know if you need one formatted differently and I will be happy to add it for ya!}.  They are PDF files so you can import and use on SMART or Promethean Boards or you can upload as an image and print a poster magnetic poster to post in your room too. {Thanks to one of my TPT buyers for that great idea!}

5. Transitions - I'm always looking for and changing up my transition songs, but last year I found a few gems that I'll definitely be keepin' around this year!  I keep this flip chart open every day.

My favorite is Good Morning, by Mandisa.  It's such an energetic song and the perfect time for letting my kids clean up their browsing boxes and breakfast {Yes, we do Breakfast in the Classroom.}

And it's such a happy way to start off our mornings.  Honestly, it has put me in the right mind set a day or two!  You can grab your transition flip chart in my TPT store, but this file will only work for Promethean Board users...*sad face*

Those are my "must haves" for procedures in my room.  What are yours?


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fact Fluency Fun and Games

This will be my 3rd and final {for now} post on what math looks like in my classroom...because over 6 years ago now I stopped teaching math with worksheets, workbooks, teacher manuals and "activities."  And it sure doesn't look like math did when I was in school!

My first post was on CGI or Math Mysteries.  As I mentioned before, we do math mysteries 3 times a week in my room {usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday}.  My next post was Counting Collections.  That happens on Mondays in our room.  So what do we do on Fridays?  We do fact fluency... it's called, "Fluency Fridays" in my room.  And don't forget Math Wall which happens Monday-Thursdays in place of the old calendar time!  So, if you're trying to keep track, my schedule looks like this:

Mondays: Math Wall and Counting Collections
Tuesdays: Math Wall and Math Mysteries
Wednesdays: Math Wall and Math Mysteries
Thursdays: Math Wall and Math Mysteries
Fridays: Graphing/Assessment and Fact Fluency

This changes some throughout the year...and some weeks I might skip Counting Collections or Fact Fluency and do an extra Math Mysteries time.  It just depends on my kids.  But, basically, that's what it looks like on a weekly basis.

As far as times go, Math Wall is about 30 minutes.  Counting Collections is 40-50 minutes, Math Mysteries is 1 hour and Fact Fluency is about 40-50 minutes.

Fact Fluency was my newest area of growth in math this year.  I didn't actually start it in my room until after Christmas Break...but next year I'll be starting in August for sure!  Here are some FAQs on Fact Fluency....

So, what is Fact Fluency anyways?  Fact Fluency is basically a new name for practicing math facts. BUT {and a BIG but here...} it is more than that.  It's about helping kids communicate how they fluently got their answer.  We know from recent research that the more a kid can explain his or her thinking in math, the better they perform on state and standardized tests...but more importantly the better their math understanding is and the more successful they are in math.  So the more opportunities we can give kids to talk about, write about, and communicate their thinking in math, the better it is for kids.  Fact Fluency offers kids a chance to practice their facts and explain how they know the facts they know fluently.

So, what do you do to set up for Fact Fluency? First I made several copies of the fact fluency cards from my packet.  The packet has sets of facts for Kinder, 1st and 2nd grades based on the fluency Common Core standards.  Each set is labeled at the bottom of each page!  Even though I teach first grade, I copied a few Kinder sets for my low babies and several 2nd grade sets for my high mathematicians!  I copied about 8-10 on grade level sets and the 2-3 of the above and below.  I color coded them by grade level.  This made it easy for me to tell partners what "color" they would be working on.  Then I put them in some buckets to store.  I stored the addition all together and the subtraction all together.

I also partnered up my kids.  If you are doing Counting Collections like I blogged about last week, then you already know how I partnered them for that.  I use the same partners for FF because I think it's easier on the kids to remember {and me!}.

So, what does the first Fact Fluency lesson look like?  When I introduce Fact Fluency, we do it together first.  The first thing we do is make our I Can Chart.  This is one area I need to do better in...because I got a late start this year, I never actually charted out our I Can list for fact fluency like I did in Counting Collections.  But here is our list and I'll update in August when I chart them with my new class!

I Can...
*fluently add and subtract to 10 and higher in 4 seconds or less{change for your grade}
*explain my thinking to my partner and on my paper
*time my partner
*cooperate with my partner

Then, I have a volunteer come up to the front while the rest of the class is at the carpet.  We just model how to play Fact Fluency with a partner.  I will show them a card and time them and they will answer as fast as they can.  Then I model the next question the partner should ask...which is VERY VERY important: How did you get that? and then the volunteer must be able to tell us how they got their answer.  "I just knew it" is not an okay answer, unless they got it in less than a second!  They might say, "I counted on my fingers," or "I counted up/back from 5," or "I know 5+5 is 10 so 5+6 is 11."  Any explanation is accepted if it makes sense! :)  We practice this several times together.  It might even be necessary to practice together for 2-3 lessons, depending on your group!

So, what does the daily grind of Fact Fluency look like?  We start off with a Number Talk {from the book, Number Talks} using the coordinating lesson slides I created.  Then we review our I Can's for fact fluency.  After we review that chart, they are ready to go work with partners.  We either do addition facts or subtraction facts.  Not both.  And it just depends on our goal for the day or week.  Addition is easier so we stay with that for the first few weeks for sure!
One partner is the timer and teacher and the other partner is the student.  Based on research, if a first grader can answer a fact in 4 seconds or less it is considered a "fluent fact."  The teacher partner will beep very quietly at 4 seconds so the student partner knows he/she is over time.  They will still continue to figure out the answer.    You can see this cutie timing with his fingers while holding the car for his "student."


When the student partner answers, the teacher asks, "How did you get that? And the partner must be able to explain it to them and then record their thinking on their paper.  The teacher partner's job is to make sure the student explains it clearly and records it in a clear way on their paper.  Then, they switch jobs.  They continue this until partner work is over.

Notice on these samples that they record their fact in the small rectangle and their thinking below that.  This was from one of our subtraction days.


It really is so cool to see the variety of thinking going on in these smarties!

While students are working in their spots, I walk around and observe and conference with partners.  I'm listening in to see how they explain their thinking and if they are doing what they should be doing in their spot and not just answering facts by explaining and showing their thinking {higher order thinking skills anyone??}

Also, most weeks, I pull a small group back with me that need to work on something specific in fact fluency {whether it's my lowest babies or my high kids...they ALL need our attention!}

At the end of partner work we have share time.  Our share time is set up just like math mysteries and counting collections.  I choose 2-3 papers to put on the ELMO and we have the students share how they got their answers on specific facts.   This gives kids an additional time to communicate their thinking and to do it in a whole group setting.  It also gives the audience a chance to critique others and give positive feedback and suggestions, which is one of the Standards for Math Practice.  I use that time to point out things we've been working on all week, our goal for the day or week, and to model how to notate their thinking.

So how much time does Fact Fluency take? FF takes about 40-50 minutes total in my first grade classroom.  It breaks down like this:

*Goals/Number Talk: 5-10 minutes
*Partner FF and small group intervention: 20-25
*Share time: 10-15

So what will you do differently this coming year? One minor change I'd like to make this year is to have kids star or highlight the facts they were fluent with so that when I come around I can see that they not only got the right answer, but also did it in 4 seconds or less.  This will also be a great self-assessment for my kids!

One thing that is still on my "To-Do" list is to add Number Talks to our Fact Fluency as part of a quick warm-up.  I first learned about Number Talks last summer but just couldn't figure out how to work them in.  When I started thinking about how to use Fact Fluency in my classroom, Number Talks seemed like the perfect pair for Fact Fluency.

Number Talks are based off of this book...

The goal of number talks is to increase students' fluency and flexibility with combinations and operations.  I have done a few lessons from this book and LOVED it...I just never found a way to consistently use it last year.  For the first grade lessons, you basically show the kids a quick image of dots, ten frames or rekenreks arranged in a pattern and then take it away after a few seconds.  Some lessons have a series of equations to solve.  Then you "talk" about their answer or what they saw and how they know...this opens up the door for great conversations on different combinations of the same number {"It was seven.  I saw 5 dots and 2 more," and "It was seven, I saw 3 dots and 4 more."}

My next packet I'm making will be a Number Talks Packet intended to correlate with the book.  I'm in the process of turning each of the number talk "cards" into slides that can be used on SMART and Promethean Boards or printed off to be used the old fashioned way.  This will be extremely helpful for my classroom during Fact Fluency time, and I hope you'll find them helpful too!

***EDIT*** My number talks packet for 1st grade is finished and uploaded!  It's a PowerPoint that can be used with either Smart OR Promethean boards and has navigation buttons on every slide to make it super user friendly!

And don't forget to check out my Fact Fluency Packet here!