Friday, February 28, 2014

My Favorite Finds #1

Getting kids who struggle with math and reading to be excited about doing math and reading is no easy task! So when I find something that they are over the moon excited about, it needs to be shared!  I am calling this series "My Favorite Finds". All of this excitement was made possible by Melissa at Pink Cat Studio on TPT! I recently purchased her Pop and Drop Games Bundle. I am so glad that I did! You can check it out
here. There are so many cute games in this bundle. Today we used the party balloon version.

Here is how the game looked while we were playing on my SMART Board. You don't have to have a SMART Board to play-- a computer and projector could work, too. I divided my kiddos into 5 teams. I love the cooperative learning flexibility. My larger RtI groups were in five groups of three. My smallest group had four kids all competing on their own.

My favorite feature is that there are no questions included. You can use this for ANYTHING!  We needed a fun way to review 2 digit subtraction. So, that is what I chose. I picked problems off of an old worksheet and called them out. The kids had to record the problem on their dry erase board, decide whether or not to regroup, and solve it.

The best part is when they got the correct answer, I clicked the slingshot for their character. It launches the animal up. It pops a balloon and parachutes back down. They nutted up over this!
The first character to pop all of the balloons spins around, receives a cheer, and gets a star over its head. 

I hope you will check this out! She also has a free version that you can download and try for yourself. Click here to see that sample. I actually had one boy say to me, "Can we play this again tomorrow?" I said, "Tomorrow is Saturday, Sweetie." He replied, "Can I come here on Saturday to play this again?"  See! This one is a keeper for sure! 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Small Group Student Engagement and TPT Sale Fun

Do you ever roll your eyes and sarcastically think, "Yeah, right, that will work for sure!" in a Professional Development Class? I had a moment like that at the beginning of the year. The instructor was showing us how the program we were implementing recommended that we keep students engaged and focused during small group instruction. It seemed too simple! I thought, "They have no idea what the kids I work with can be like sometimes! This would NEVER work with them." However, we were required to implement their idea and at least give it a few weeks before writing it off. I don't like to be wrong, but boy was I wrong on this one! Their idea worked wonders, and it was so easy that I am kicking myself for not using it for the last 17 years!

All you do is explain your small group expectations and tell the kids that you are going to keep score. For my RtI reading groups the rules are as follows:
1. On the page we are reading, if everyone is looking at the text, tracking the print, and participating in reading or answering questions, that is a tally mark point for the students.
2. If anyone has wandering eyes, loses track of where we are in the text, interrupts, or distracts the group,  that is a tally mark point for the teacher.

The kids were seriously psyched when we started the program! We kind of made a big deal about how my parapro and I were unstoppable and we were surely going to win. Challenge accepted!

At first, I had to take some points for myself on a regular basis. They needed to know that their points were not going to come easily. I was also concerned about taking a point from the group due to one student's lack of participation or focus. However, I soon learned that that one student will quickly fall in line when the rest of group is not happy about losing a point. Now, I rarely win a point! The kids help keep each other stay on task. If they see that someone is not focusing, they nudge them. If they notice that a friend has lost their place, they point out the correct word to them. I love it! There is such a sense of teamwork as we press on through covering the critical skills that they are lacking.

You can set up whatever incentives you like for when the students win a session. We started off with daily incentives. Then we tapered off to incentives once a week. The incentives are seriously tiny! I couldn't believe that they would work so hard for five straight days for a sticker, a stamp on their hand, a couple of Skittles, or a Hershey's Kiss. I think the real reward is the feeling of accomplishment and teamwork that they receive. My fake tears about losing the game might help, too!

If you would like to give this a try, I am including 2 versions of a scoreboard in this Google Doc. I laminated mine and keep score with a dry erase marker. Then, I can wipe it down and have it ready to roll for my next group. I hope this will be helpful to you!

On a side note, the 3 Million Teachers Strong TPT Sale begins at midnight tonight and runs through midnight Friday, February 28, 2014. I cannot wait! I LOVE a TPT sale! My wish list is overflowing with stuff for my class, fonts, and clip art. (Pssst! I will let you in on a little secret. TPT sellers LOVE sale days! Did you know that our app makes a cha-ching cash register sound every time we make a sale and sounds like magical stars for feedback? It is so fun!)
Do NOT tell anyone, but when sales come in, I have been known to dance like this....  

Happy Shopping! Please let me know if this student engagement tip works for you! Thanks!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My "Mama's Got a Meeting" Box

     Whew! Do you ever have an unexpected meeting or one that runs longer than you thought it would? I am sure that you have! It is on days when that happens to me that I am so grateful for my "Mama's Got a Meeting Box!" Fortunately, my kids are with me in my classroom after school. Little Man attends my school and the school district graciously buses the children of staff members from campus to campus. So, Sweet Girl arrives not long after I am done with students. Even if your kids are not with you at school each day, they might come along with you on weekend trips to school or summer set up times. You may not want them rifling through all of your manipulatives and centers! You might benefit from a "Mama's Got a Meeting Box", too!

Reasons Why I LOVE This Box!
1. It saves me from being pulled out of my meeting or getting those, "Hey Mom, We're hungry!" texts during the meeting.
2. It is portable. The kids can bring it to wherever my meeting is being held and play quietly (or hopefully silently) in the hallway.
3. It is airtight. I keep everything in a Rubbermaid container with a lock down lid to keep any little closet creepies from getting inside. Eeew!
Here is a peek inside this week's box!
So, what's inside you ask? I always have a snack of the week. This week's feature: Minion Honey Maid Crackers!  Big HIT with the kiddos! Who doesn't love minions!?! The coin purse is full of quarters so that they can go grab a drink from the vending machine down the hall if their water bottles are empty. I change out the activities in the box on a regular basis. This week there is an I Spy book, How to Draw 101 Animals, blank paper, and art supplies. Sometimes I put a bag of Legos inside the box or THIS AMAZING SET ......

I bought this one from Amazon years ago. They still have them. I have used this set in my classroom during indoor recess days, too! We had to develop a system for who got to play with it or there would be WAR I tell you! I ended up drawing student numbers out of the jar  to decide who got to play with it. It was UNCANNY how often the lucky student winners were the ones who needed to work on their fine motor skills. (Okay, okay, so I may have peeked! Don't judge me! Hee Hee!) I mentioned in an earlier post that Little Man could talk the hind leg off a mule as my Granny would say, but when he is playing with this, there is blissful silence in my room! You might want to check it out.

So, do your kids hang out in your classroom?  Got any suggestions for next week's "Mama's Got a Meeting Box" because right now my calendar is clear, but that could change any second!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sight Word Candy Land

Do your RtI kiddos struggle with sight words? Whew, mine sure do! I freak out at the beginning of the year when I do a screening and they know about 20 sight words! I needed a plan! Sadly, in my experience, many struggling students are not going to care a twit about tracking their growth on a graph, chart, or table. They view that as work and work is often something that they avoid like the plague! Also, many students are on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale. So, I needed something with tangible rewards. My kiddos would jump through flaming hoops for a treat! Then, inspiration hit and Sight Word Candy Land was born! I can't wait to share this with you! It is super easy to implement!

Step 1: Deciding What to Track 
I am required to use Dolch Sight Words, but you can easily tweak it for Fry's Sight Words (25 or 50 at a time) or whatever word lists your reading curriculum requires. Divide the words into seven categories. This will give you a goal for each character. My seven goals were Preprimer words, Primer words, 1st grade words, 2nd grade words, 3rd grade words, then I split the 95 most common nouns into two categories: 45 most common nouns and 50 most common nouns. 

Step 2: How to Assess
I personally use flashcards for assessing sight word fluency. That way the order is always different. I have my flashcards sorted and stored by level. Everyone starts with the preprimer words. When they can read the word fluently (no sounding out allowed), I place it in a stack. If there are miscues or delays, I place it in a separate stack. I won't sign off on that level until every word is in the fluent stack. So, it may take a few rounds of assessment before they meet their goal. I am including a tracking sheet where you can keep a record of each student's level.

Step 3: Decorating (This is my favorite part!)
I covered my bulletin board with black fabric and added a black border. Then, I hot glued an old Candy Land game board in the corner. You can often get these at a yard sale or thrift store for practically nothing. I posted the characters (included in Google Doc link below). I trimmed a plastic page protectors and hung them horizontally to make pockets. You can download the Candy Cane font at I typed the words in a document, adjusted the size, and changed the font color to pink. Then, finally, I die cut gingerbread figures for the students. They all pick one and write their name on it with a Sharpie. I hid the names in the pic to protect their privacy. When a student reaches their first goal (Plumpy), they get to put their gingerbread man in that pocket. The kids LOVE moving their gingerbread man to the next character!

Step 4: Treats!
The last step is the kiddos favorite!  I always keep the treats a secret and they can't wait to see what they have earned. All you need are the little certificates in the Google docs file below, Ziploc bags, and the treats. The suggested treat list is in the file, too! Just for an example though, when my kids master their preprimer words, they get a baggie with a mini-certificate and a Little Debbie Gingerbread Man because their gingerbread man piece is on the board. See?  Super easy! All of the prizes are cheap, too. I often buy bags of them at the Dollar Store. I can make enough for 60 kids for about $5. When I am trying to get reluctant or struggling readers to master sight words, that is an investment I am willing to make!

I am hoping and praying that I did this whole Google Doc thing correctly. If you run into problems, please let me know! I will try to fix it! This file includes the prize list, mini-certificates, tracking sheet, and bulletin board characters.
I hope that your kids enjoy their adventures in Sight Word Candy Land! I would love to hear what you think of it! I have more posts like this one coming. Please follow my blog if you'd like to see them! Thanks so much!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Genre Confusion

     Every year I have kids who read and read but then have no idea what kind of text they read. It usually happens like this. Question: What genre, or type of text, was this passage? Answer: It was a good story. Seriously!?! So then, self reflection happens. Why don't they know? Maybe because I did not explicitly teach them the different traits of the genres. So, I have tried to rectify that situation. I wanted the kids to have some ownership of their learning. So there are several activities that require them to apply their knowledge. This one was one of my favorites. I asked my son to help me out here. He said, "Mom, I'm on break from school. Do I have to be your test monkey?" He is a riot! But, after a little coaxing, he created this sample for you to see.
Little Man was all upset about his shark's eye being too big.
He is such a perfectionist that he was freaking out about
it being on the internet. I think it looks great though. :)

I included anchor cards for every genre I could think of. You can print them as a book, show them as a presentation on a SMARTboard, or post them as anchor cards. I also made a booklet that you can build depending on which genres your students need. They all have black line images so that students can color or decorate their own books.
Here is a sample of the folktale anchor card and the corresponding booklet page.

I also found a great video from Almost a Third Grader. I totally love this video series! You can find them on Pinterest and YouTube. Click here to view the video on genres of literature. I love how they show multiple genres about one subject!

You can check out my genres of literature product by clicking here.

    So do your kiddos struggle with identifying genres, too?  What have you found to be helpful? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Graphing Freebies

     My grade level teaches a mini-unit on graphing and then incorporates graphing activities throughout the year. I made these freebies in case you do the same. I didn't want to make typical graphs though for a very important reason. Part of my job is to administer standardized testing to kids with accommodations or 504 plans. I have been exposed to tests for many of the upper grades. One thing I noticed is that VERY often graphing questions revolved around error analysis or finding the graph that matched the given data. I figured that it would be wise to expose our primary level kiddos to those skills, too. So, I made three fall graphing activities along those lines. They were such a hit that a winter version followed. Y'all liked that one even more. So, as requested, here is your spring graphing freebie. The links will lead you to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store for free downloading. Feedback is always appreciated! :)  If you would like to see a summer version, too, let me know. Enjoy!

Does a tricky leprechaun visit your classroom? Even if he doesn't, your kids
will enjoy trying to figure out what changes he made to the class graph!
This one requires a LOT of critical thinking. Students must evaluate
what is different between the graph and the order form. Then, they
must decide what steps must be taken to fix the error.
I LOVE this one! It integrates the concept of multiplication or repeated addition
with creating a line plot. It takes some real thinking!

Just in case you missed these earlier, here are the fall and winter versions!

Fall Graphing Freebie

Have fun analyzing data! I would love to hear how this works for you!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Five Questions You May Have For Me

Hello, everybody! I am Jenn from 2nd Grade Snickerdoodles. You might know me from Pinterest or from TPT. I am finally venturing out into the world of blogging. I am a little freaked out about that. I am usually VERY shy. So, this blog is going to help me grow and push my boundaries. Thanks for joining me on this journey! Right now, my blog is very basic. I promise to give it a face lift and a custom design once I get the hang of how all of this works. Anyway, for now, I thought it would be best if you found out a little bit about me. So, here is my list of the top five things that you might want to know about me.

1. Teaching experience?
     I have been teaching for 19 years now. I taught 1st grade for two years. Then, we moved to middle Georgia and jobs were scarce. So, I taught 3rd grade for four years at a private school. Then, I landed my dream job. I completely love my school! I have been teaching 2nd grade for 11 years now. Several of those years I was an inclusion teacher. I am now on my 2nd year teaching E.I.P. (Early Intervention Program). Basically, my parapro and I teach about 60 kids a day through small group reading and math remediation. These kids were referred to us through the RtI process. I am looking forward to sharing some of what we do with you soon.

2. Why Snickerdoodles?
Well, when I was a kid, my mom used to call my sister and I all sorts of silly nicknames. I picked up that habit. My kids giggle when I say things like, "Come on, my little doodlebops" or "See you tomorrow, my sweet cherubs". One of their favorites has always been when I call them "My Snickerdoodles". So, there you have it. :)

3. Family?
I have been married to my high school sweetheart for 17 years. He is an amazing man! We have two kids. Our daughter is about to turn 13. Eek! A teenager in our house! She is left-handed and about as right-brained as they come! She is completely creative, gifted, artistic, and she makes me laugh until I cry several times a day. She is also responsible, wise beyond her years, trustworthy, and kind. Right now she would love to teach art or agriculture when she grows up. Our son just turned seven. In many ways, he is the opposite of his sister. He is highly logical, a stickler for rules, a reader of only nonfiction, and an animal lover. He is also the most social member of our family. He talks ALL of the time! You also have to watch him carefully because he loves to pull pranks on people. His life's ambition is to be a marine biologist and work at the Georgia Aquarium or possibly become a ninja turtle. I am one proud mama!

4. Got pets? 
You betcha! Take a look!

Charlie, our chocolate lab, has O.C.D..
You can see his patrol paths of our
back yard on Google Earth! :)
Chloe, our black lab, is totally spastic!
She can't wag her tail back and forth.
It only spins in circles. When she is
really happy, we worry that she might
take flight!
Shiloh is our newest addition. She was only
four weeks old when someone abandoned
her in the parking lot of Shiloh Baptist Church.
She is really unique looking. She is covered in
peach spots and we tease her about having
a hip transplant from some orange cat.
5. Interests?
I am a total nerd!  You have been warned! I love documentaries, history, and mysteries. There is nothing I like better after a long day than watching Classic TV and film. My favorites are I Love Lucy, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Twilight Zone. I also love reruns of Monk. The only new shows that I keep up with at all are Duck Dynasty, 24, and Sherlock. 

My family thinks I am a good cook. I hope to share some quick fixes or crock pot recipes with you. 
I am NOT a fashionista! You will never see me posting pics of my clothes here. Unless you need pics of jeans and sweaters. :)

Well, that's me in a nutshell!  I am so excited about getting to know you! The teacher in me wants to assign you a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting you and me, but I will hold off for now. Feel free to post your work in the comment section if you feel so inclined. :)