Mapping Fun!

Hey there! 

So last week we started our unit on mapping and landforms. Our social studies curriculum is unfortunately rather bland and leaves little hands on practice for our kiddos. So reviewed all the main components that my nuggets were expected to know by the end of the unit and I created some interactive games and activities to help reinforce all the necessary mapping skills they would need.

Next, I went into town and found a variety of different city maps. The local train, bus station or city center are great spots to pick up maps. You can also go online and search your city for walking maps.

After I had all my maps ( I looked like a crazy tourist by the way) I put my students in groups of 2. I gave each group one map and they each got their own mapping activity.

The kids worked together to find specific things on the map. At the end we shared out what we found and the landmarks they would want to visit and why. (They loved that part)

I HIGHLY suggest getting actual maps, the kids felt so grown up and really enjoyed the activity. Many of them had never looked at a real paper map before.

The next day I had the kids design their own maps of make believe cities. I passed back out the maps from the previous day to give them some ideas on what they should add. I also included a dream bedroom activity which they always love, but doesn’t include landforms of course.

After they completed their own imaginary place maps they got with partners to play “I’ll Race you There” or “That Be My Treasure” 
You  can purchase compass dice on Amazon:
I also created printable compass dice or spinner options.

I wanted to share one of the fun games I created as well as the compass spinner and dice. FREEBIE TIME:

I hope you have fun exploring with your kiddos!

If you want to check out the full product:


A Review of Stephanie Harvey's "Amplify Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom"

Inspired or Overwhelmed?

If you are anything like me, you see something new and inspiring and you instantly try to figure out how to incorporate that into your classroom. We all want to offer our students the best we can. Now in the age of social media, we can glimpse into thousands of classrooms every day. I don’t know about you but this can both be inspiring and downright overwhelming.
This spring our district was offering a series of book studies and I of course hopped in both! Reading a good professional development book can refresh you and leave you ready for action. July hit and I looked over at my stack of personal and PD books and decided to take Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom by Katie Muhtaris and Kristin Ziemke with me on our first summer trip. Though I may have been looking forward to the quick summer read I also brought along, I decided to give Amplify a go.  I am so glad that I did.

You Don’t Have to Do It All, Even Though You’ll Want To!

I will let you know I consider myself to be pretty “tech savvy” and up to date on most educational trends. But, within each chapter I found new tools, approaches and activities. This is when I got out my favorite flare pens and started jotting down all the new approaches I was going to somehow incorporate into my classroom. I mean who wouldn’t want to set up a recording booth that allows readers of all levels to review the latest book they’ve read? And that was only Chapter One! As I read deeper into the text what I found was less of the “big ideas” and more on how I can make technology work in my classroom: ME… not my teammate, not the tech leader at the school, me. WOW, that was refreshing, what do you mean I don’t have to do it all?
So, this is what made this book different for me than many of the others I have read. The authors ask you to foster your own “growth mindset” and learn along with your students while simultaneously telling you not to do everything. …“just because we can do something innovative, doesn’t always mean we should.” Implementing technology into our classrooms is important, but we should do it in a way that is meaningful to our students and, frankly, to us. Within each chapter, Amplify reminds the reader of the importance of literacy, critical thinking and independence and how, within these foundations, we can incorporate technology.
Growing Your Technology Mindset
Each chapter has a focus that will support your growing development as a teacher and learner of technology. A few examples are “Developing a Mindset for Technology”, “Connecting Technology to Existing Classroom Practice” or “Foundational Lessons for Independence.” Each chapter provides multiple avenues to reach the goal set forth. Depending on your experience level, there is an option for you and an option to try something out of your comfort zone. Real-life stories and examples are shared as well as additional resources to take your learning further. At the end of each chapter are “three things to try tomorrow.” These were things we, yeah I said we, can do!
For example, in Chapter Two the reader is challenged to
  1. “Set aside thirty minutes a week for you to discover and play,
  2. Carve out classroom time for students to discover and play”
  3. Sign up for a conference, webinar or Edcamp.”
Overall, Amplify will leave you feeling inspired and confident to hit the ground running with ideas that resonate with you. Whether it’s implementing the various activities or trying different approaches to teaching and learning technology, you will walk away knowing yourself better as a learner, leading you towards the best next steps in your journey.

My First Amplification: Tech Troubleshooting Mini-Lesson

troubleshooting tips full size
One of the first items I am going to implement is a student-friendly resource for technology troubleshooting. If I can give my students tools they need to independently walk through basic issues, it can lead to more time in the actual program and an increase in their confidence. I plan to do a troubleshooting mini-lesson, review the different approaches to solving tech issues, and allow the kids to attempt each one. Front-loading this information will pay off for me. We have all been there: ten hands in the air and only one you or a kiddo who needs help at the tech center while you are leading a small group. Imagine how much further we could get in our lessons if students were empowered to independently take on basic fixes. You can get my printable resources for this mini-lesson free at Teachers Pay Teachers.


Blurt Beans to the Rescue

Hey there!

We've all had chatty classes before, but this year my kiddos were having an even harder time than I was used too. I had tried my regular go to strategies and they just weren't working. So I started doing some blog hopping and research to find the support that I needed... BLURT BEANS!

What you need...

1. A container to hold your beans in waiting or lost beans
2. A clear container to show growth/goals/incentives
3. Beans
4. Containers for desk to hold the beans ( I bought stackable pill containers from the Dollar Tree and put wall Tac 'N Stik under each of them them to hold them on the desks.)

Before I introduced the beans I decided to read a few different stories on the importance of not blurting or interrupting. We had great discussion and even made some anchor charts on what it looked like to be a good listener.

I made sure to let kids now that a busy body/body noises are like blurting too (clapping, clicking our mouths, snapping fingers, etc.) It's not just words that can interrupt someone. (This has been huge for my class)

The stories I chose were:

"Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse" -speaking to how objects and not paying attention is just as diruptive
"Interrupting Chicken"
"My Mouth is a Volcano"
"Lacey Walker, NONSTOP TALKER"

After two days of focused teaching about the effects of blurting on those around us and our learning I decided to introduce Blurt Beans.


1. I put 4 beans in each kiddos blurt bin each morning.

2. Every time they have a blurt I hold the sign language letter "b" close to me, make eye contact and the kids go and put a blurt bean in the discard container. I have also quietly approached kids if they are not paying attention (ha ha)

3. At the end of the day I have all the kids come put their Blurt Beans in the Incentive Jar.


I chose 4 incentives which I will change from time to time.

1. 10 minutes of extra recess
2. 20 minutes of free time
3. 30 minutes of extra recess
4. Popcorn & movie party!

Make that first incentive pretty easy to achieve. We earned our first 10 minutes of bonus recess within two days! The 10 minutes I lost in instruction time for the incentive will be nothing compared to the time I will be gaining by intentionally teaching about being a respectful listener. PLUS we need to find positives in every situation if we can!

Good luck to you!


Math Fact Fluency Program

Hey there!

It's that time of year where we reflect and revaluate the programs we have in place in our classrooms. I have been implementing a computational fluency program in my classroom for over 10 years doing small modifications here and there. This summer I decided to give it a bit of an overhaul adding more accommodations and choice for differentiation as well as ways to reinforce the learning.

I attended a conference this summer and one of the classes was on how we can accommodate all levels of learners. I took away a lot of great ideas. Some I was already implementing and some I was like "HOW DID I NOT THINK OF THAT?!"  I first made a modification to my math tests. I placed a dotted line half way through the test.  This will help if a child is not passing a level with interventions/practice in place. Cutting or folding the test in half can help to lower anxiety or other various needs. *I have also orally assessed kids in the past to help with anxiety or mind to hand fine motor memory.*

Next, I added some fun games that were interchangeable for each level. I am a big believer in math games reinforcing concepts. Before I had a variety of math games all focusing on number sense, but with these games they will be working with the kiddos specific math facts. The more they see those facts the more likely they will be able to build automatic recall.

I use math games everyday in my math workshop. After assessing student understanding with pre-assessments I break my class up into two or three groups. Each group will get a different mini-lesson focusing on their needs right now. I will introduce new concepts or review previously taught skills depending on that groups needs. While I am doing that mini-lesson with the first group, one group is playing math games and the others are doing a technology piece or seat work activity. The reason why I don't do "fast finishers" to math games/technology is that those kids who struggle or who aren't as quick never got to the games and technology and those are valuable tools in their learning. I feel so much better about this strategy!

Over the last couple years our school has been focusing on growth mindset so with that in mind I changed the "pass" vs. "not pass" at the top of each assessment to "pass" and "not yet". Simple things like that can help kiddos build confidence and strengthen their grit.

 I have really loved this program as well as my parent community. It is clear and easy to manage once you decide how it will look in your classroom. I have co-ran it with a parent volunteer or instructional aid as well as solely ran by parent volunteers with weekly flash card and strategy practice, correcting and graphing and refiling tests. It's up to you!

Here are a few more components that are all a part of the program... I also have it posted in my store, just click on this link: Math Fact Fluency Program  to check it out!

Have a great week and happy planning!