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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Digging for Fossils in the Classroom

When we started our fossil unit, I wanted to spark my kids’ excitement!
I asked my kids to come up to the carpet- a typical request- but then, I asked them to make two columns with some space in the middle. They were a little confused, but complied.
Students in pretend plane for virtual field trip- Luckeyfrog Learning
As they sat down, I started my monologue:
“Please ensure your seats are in the full upright position and all carry-on items have been stowed in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of you. The captain requires that you fasten your seatbelts and turn off all electronic devices until we reach cruising altitude. In case of an emergency, exits are located at the front of the airplane and over the wings. Thank you for flying Garwoodington Air.”
Then, I showed this YouTube video of a plane taking off.

My kids LOVED this! (Yes, even in 4th grade.) They mimicked shutting off their cell phones, buckling their seatbelts, and even shouted out when their ears “popped!”
After the plane took off, I told them, “You may now get out your electronic devices, but this flight goes surprisingly  fast.”
I then turned away, and as I started the next video, covered my mouth with my fist to muffle it. “This is your captain speaking. As we begin our final approach, you can see the mountains in the distance, and the wide open skies that this state is so famous for. Please remain in your seats until the plane comes to a complete stop. We hope you enjoy your stay in beautiful Montana!”

As the plane “lands,” I move to the front of the seats and direct the students to move into the aisle and disembark. Then, they “drive” out to our dig site for the day (back to their tables) and I change the screen to show a photo of Montana and then of a paleontology dig site.
From there, we went through The Great Fossil Find, a mock paleontology dig from Indiana University. (Did I mention it’s free?)
no-mess fossil dig in the classroom
I read from the script they provided to set the stage for each “day,” and my kids “dug” bones out of these envelopes a few at a time. As they found new bones, my little paleontologists had to change their configuration and predictions.
mock fossil dig IG
I loved this lesson for the excitement it brought- from sitting in a “plane,” to digging up bones, to the moment of discovery when my kids saw how the bones fit together! It was such an engaging way to kick off the unit!
Even better, I felt like the lesson not only taught some content, but also gave my kids a truer sense of what life as a scientist might really be like- needing to work as a team, revising your ideas as you find new evidence, not being able to check your work with an answer key, the need for patience, and the moment of frustration when they had to leave the rest of the bones inside the envelope!
What do scientists do- anchor chart from Luckeyfrog Learning
I did type out a more 4th grade-friendly version of the Fossil Journal for my students, which you can download here: Mock Fossil Dig Handout
Mock fossil dig- fossil journal from Luckeyfrog Learning
All other downloads are available from IU here:
Even if you aren’t teaching fossils, I highly recommend taking 5 minutes at the start of class to “fly” to a destination. It really sets the stage for a fun and interactive virtual field trip that could take you anywhere- to learn about holidays around the world, to visit important landforms or historical landmarks, or even to visit the scene of a story.
take the time
Take the time to make learning come alive. It doesn’t always take costumes and elaborate props- sometimes it’s as simple as prompting kids to use their imaginations!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Why I’m Doing Genius Hour In My Classroom

Last school year, I’d read posts from a few blogging friends (especially Literacy for Big Kids and Runde’s Room) about Genius Hour or passion projects. So when I heard Nick Provenzano (The Nerdy Teacher) talk about his experiences with Genius Hour during our keynote at INeLearn, and I saw the things his students accomplished and learned… I was hooked.

Genius Hour is a time set aside for students to choose and complete an independent learning project that they will share with the class- and maybe the world.

I introduced Genius Hour to my students with this video:

As I introduced the concept to my students, I could see the disbelief in their eyes. Surely, their teacher was just going to TELL them what they’d be learning, stand in front of them and teach it, and then tell them how to show what they’d learned at the end- probably with a worksheet or test.


Genius Hour is all about student-driven learning and giving students the choice to do something they’ve always wanted to try, or learn about something they’ve always wanted to know more about. It gives them a chance to accomplish something that they’d normally NEVER get to do within school walls, and it gives them a chance to accomplish something that can go beyond their school walls, too.

The excitement my kids have had for Genius Hour since Day 1 has been incredible.

As they started to brainstorm and share, I realized this wasn’t just about learning. This was about validating my students’ dreams.

One student wants to create a fashion blog. And while that may not seem to have a lot of learning involved, when you think about creating a blog, finding out why some blogs are successful, writing content, changing a blog design, taking photos, etc… I think this kid’s going to get a lot out of this project. And even if someday she doesn’t end up making a living as a fashion blogger, the skills she learns may still be valuable to what she does do.

Another student wants to make the next Minecraft, so he’s set out to learn more about video game designers’ jobs and how to code. He’s pretty sure he’ll finish his game in the next few weeks… and I’m pretty sure he’s going to fail miserably at that goal. But I’m even more certain that he’s going to learn a lot in the process- and because Genius Hour doesn’t have grades and I’ve made it very clear that learning is the priority, he can feel disappointed but know that he’s in a safe place to fail.

One kid wants to write a book. Another kid wants to find out about how engines work. From making posters about an endangered animal to finding out why so many shelter pets die to raising money for kids with cancer, very few of my kids had a hard time deciding what to learn during Genius Hour.

Most of them had an idea from the very first day that I asked them, “What do you want to learn?” which really says something about education, doesn’t it?

The kids WANT to learn.

They know WHAT they want to learn… but no one ever asks them.

Genius Hour is one way we’re tapping into that.

It’s not to say the process has been easy… and that’ll be my next post. But when I have students working on projects at home without being asked, asking their parents if they can please go places in the community for their project, or disappointed that we’re not researching today, I know that there’s something powerful in giving students this kind of choice and independence.

The kids are excited. I’m excited. And I can’t wait to see the amazing things they do!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Turquoise, Lime, and Chalkboard Classroom Decor

Sometimes when I see classroom décor on Pinterest, I get a little overwhelmed. I LOVE bright colors so much, but sometimes a mix of a lot of colors and patterns can feel a little too ‘busy’ to me.

For my upper elementary kids (4th grade), I really wanted to make my room cute but still simple and clean… but sometimes that’s harder than it seems!

When I first saw the Creative Teaching Press Chalk It Up! line at the EdMarket EdExpo last year, I swooned a little. THIS. This was what I was looking for- sophisticated and cute, but not overwhelming and distracting!

Here are my 8 tips for keeping classroom décor simple:

1- Use one color for all bulletin boards to give the room a cohesive look.


I try to use similar borders, too, so everything looks like it matches. You won’t believe what a difference it makes when they all look similar! My mom has fabric sheets instead of bulletin board paper so she can use them year after year.

2- If you want to try layering borders, stick to simple shapes and patterns.

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This was the first time I’d ever layered borders, and after hearing how complicated it was, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Using a rectangular border on the bottom made it EASY for the borders to look really good.

The Dotted Swirl border is my favorite. The long, sweeping pattern makes my boards look longer than they are. I put the Lime Hexagons border behind it- a “solid” color from far away, but with a little detail and texture up close! Putting a bold pattern with a solid (or at least something close to a solid) really holds back the sensory overload.

3- Don’t be afraid to try something new.

As I started putting the borders up, I did the top and bottom and realized I kind of liked the look without borders on the sides… so with some confirmation from my friends on Instagram that I wasn’t crazy, I went with it!

4- Use what you have!

Why did I choose lime? Well, I like it- but more importantly, the lime color tied in well with the palm umbrella I’ve had for a few years (yay for “end-of-season” Big Lots finds!) and the dollar store baskets I picked up for my very first classroom. New teachers, pick a color or two that you love, and stick to them when you can!


It was funny to me that a couple of teachers at my school assumed I’d spent a lot of money redoing my room, but I had long been collecting containers in my favorite colors (turquoise and green), so when I used those colors and added just a few new details, it really didn’t cost much to give my room a fresh new look!

5- Don’t forget the text.

Little things go a long way in giving your room a little pizazz! For me, the Chalk It Up! letters were easier than making my own letters in the workroom, and added that extra element of cohesion when I used them around the room.


To make them stand out, I used green duct tape or green paper plates. LOVE how this Scientist board turned out! (I can’t wait to show you what else I’m going to add!)


6- Shop for deals- but be careful!

In the past, I’ve used a lot of borders I’d found for $1 at a dollar store or spot- thinking I was saving money. I finished my ENTIRE ROOM- well, minus the one tiny spot- with one pack of Dotted Swirl, one pack of Lime Hexagon, and one pack of the lightbulb pattern (with a lot to spare in this one!) Plus, the borders were a lot longer, so it didn’t take me as long to put them up. Pretty sure the “cheap” borders ended up costing me more in time and money, by the time I got enough for what I needed. Lesson learned.

Now, I did splurge on a few things- but I try to make those splurges something I will use for years to come, like my new sign from Tallahassee Sunday. (He’s so HAPPY!)


7- Don’t be afraid of white space.

Sometimes I look at a teacher’s wall and it’s as though they want everything a student will ever know to be plastered on the walls. I know that we need to have reference material for our students, but sometimes students don’t use the things we put up before they arrive- especially when it’s one little section of a COVERED wall.

There’s nothing wrong with a little blank space. Just ask Taylor Swift- and any kid in your class with ADHD.


It’s also okay if your room is not done on the first day, too. This is what my biggest board looked like when students arrived. Yes- with a stack of books, and a small piece of border missing because I ran out! Just a background and borders go a long way.

8- Function over fashion. Always.

As I said in my post about classroom design for new teachers, “You were hired as a teacher, NOT a classroom cutesifier.” Your class should be designed around the instructional spaces you need. I am big on using anchor charts, so one of my walls is almost completely blank- ready for me to hang the anchor charts we make together.

I teach 5 classes of science and 1 class of social studies and keeping track of make-up work for so many classes was a struggle- so this make-up work system is a necessity!


We are required to post our I Can statements, so these posters have already been worth it. (I laminated them and use a chalkboard marker to write on them. Easy peasy!)


Ultimately… what is most important is our teaching. But there’s also power in giving our students a space they are excited to walk into, and enjoy spending time in. Our students should feel comfortable and happy in our space- and so should we- because we spend so much of our time in our classrooms, and we learn and teach better when we feel content!


When you start thinking about a classroom makeover, please consider Creative Teaching Press. I did get a chance to work with them this fall, so I’m definitely a little biased, but I think the photos of my room speak for themselves. This company makes some beautiful, practical teacher décor- and it really is perfect for that simple, upper elementary look!

You can check out more cute classroom décor from Brenda at Primary Inspired!

Primary Inspired

Friday, July 31, 2015

My Teaching Beliefs

I am so excited to join Whitney from With Love from Texas in sharing my beliefs about education! I go back to school in a couple of weeks, and this was the perfect way for me to review the things that I believe in as a teacher.

teaching beliefs linky

These are the things that matter to me.

I tried to narrow it down, but I couldn’t do it!

I love learning. And I want my kids to love learning. I want to foster that curiosity they naturally have and introduce them to new things to be curious about.

I know that learning doesn’t happen without me knowing my kids and building relationships with them. I know that learning doesn’t happen without me making school fun and meaningful, and motivating my students to grow as people and push themselves. Learning doesn’t happen without my kids knowing that I value growth and effort over A+’s. Learning isn’t always staying on the lesson plan, and it’s definitely not keeping the same plans from year to year- because it’s ultimately about the kids.

And learning doesn’t keep happen for my kids unless I keep learning, too!

This summer I got a chance to go to a Picture-Perfect Science Workshop, an Indiana eLearning Technology conference, and a Scholastic Reading Summit. I chatted with teacher colleagues at the TeachersPayTeachers conference and hosted a Cincinnati teacher blogger meet-up. I blog to reflect on my learning, and creating for TpT pushes me to craft even better materials for my students. I participated in a Daily 5 book study, read Reading in the Wild, finally delved into the amazing world of professional development on Twitter, and bought lots of books to share with my kids, too!

{Note: Some of the links above are affiliate links!}

I hope you have done something this summer to keep learning too! And I'd like to encourage you to write down your educational beliefs somewhere- because it really does refocus you!

If you’re looking for a little more back-to-school inspiration, check out more education beliefs from Michelle at From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. B!

(I really love her third one!)

Thanks for stopping by Luckeyfrog Learning!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Core Beliefs of the Daily 5- Book Study Chapter 9

As the Daily 5 book study wraps up, we’ll return to the core beliefs of the framework.  I love that this chapter acknowledges the realities of a classroom- the substitute teachers, the kids who are always pushing our limits, parent volunteers, and new students- and shares insight for how to handle these situations without letting them ruin the good parts of the Daily 5!

daily 5 chapter 9

Again and again, the Sisters talk about the core beliefs:
community, accountability, trust, and respect.

And with most of our students, the steps outlined in setting up the Daily 5 allow these things to resonate and really take hold in our classrooms.

A lot of PD books would stop here, but the Sisters are teachers. They GET that what works for 95% of our students the first go-around isn’t necessarily something that works for every kid without some extra support.

They describe that last 5% of kids- the “challenging” kids- as the barometer kids. As they put it, these kids “dictate the weather in the classroom.”

Again, the Sisters’ response to a misbehaving child is not to assume they can do it and are being defiant, but to look at the why, and teach that child to succeed, adding support as needed.

We can’t assume our students know how to meet expectations without teaching them, and we can’t expect that every student can meet those expectations without extra support.

Here are the levels of support in the book:

1. Reflection

This is when we look at ourselves. Did we model? Did we engage the student when we should’ve let him or her be independent? Did we use positive voice and tone? Have we checked his or her book box for engaging, appropriate books, and helped the student choose new books if needed?

Essentially- this is when we look at ourselves. WE are on a behavior plan, and we even ask colleagues to see if they notice anything WE can improve.

2. Extra Support

If a student struggles, they need reteaching and practice. The Sisters suggest doing this during recess if needed to build accountability. By taking just 2-3 minutes and giving that child a specific goal to work on, it builds urgency- and being one-on-one with the teacher definitely puts the goal at the forefront of their minds.

In the classroom, I would likely try this during the reading block when possible. I think staying in from recess feels too much like a punishment, and I don’t want that associated with our reading time at all. Instead, I can quietly confer with the student about a goal at the start of a reading round and then give them a few minutes of specific practice within the context of reading time. Of course, using a couple of minutes of recess could be an option if the student is just not taking it seriously, but I don’t think we should try it first.

3. In-Class Modifications

Just like with any instructional needs our students have, the next step after reteaching is to provide some modifications in class to help our barometer students be more successful.

For this, consider how your student struggles. Having a hard time sitting in one spot? Give them a defined space or “office” to sit on. Having a hard time sitting still for so long? Add small brain breaks with kinesthetic tools in between reading. Essentially, look at what your student needs- and try to offer scaffolding towards that goal.

For my barometer student, L, a couple of years ago, he struggled a lot with staying in one spot and focusing. I let him choose what he felt like he needed to work on the most, and he chose focusing on his book. I asked him what might help, and he asked if he could sit by a responsible student who could give him a silent reminder if he was off-task. She was very patient, and he wanted to do well- so it worked for him! I also contacted his parents to let them know we were working on stamina, and suggested they spend a little time building reading stamina and even stamina to sit still during other activities at home. He began to see success, and as his confidence grew, I saw his independence grow, too!

4. Gradual Release of In-Class Modifications

At a professional development session I attended last week, I heard a sentence I just loved: “Scaffolding is meant to come down.” If we continue to provide the same supports that a student initially needs without ever reconsidering their needs, that student may come to depend on the supports forever. If our goal is truly to build independence, we need to slowly remove the modifications that helped our student succeed.

The Sisters suggest sandwiching quick check-ins within a round. I found that sometimes, this gradual release happened naturally- and all I had to do was check in with students. With my student L, his friend stopped needing to give him so many reminders, and one day he asked me if he could go sit by someone else. I turned it back to him and asked what he thought. He was pretty sure he could do it- and so I encouraged him to go for it and told him we’d check in again at the end of the round. Guess what? He rocked  it. I really think that giving him ownership over the modifications was a big part in his success.

At the end of the year, his mom asked me for a conference. The year prior, he had been a “behavior problem.” This year, though, L loved school- and even though he still struggled to focus at times, his behavior had improved immensely. At our conference, his mom wanted to know what had helped, and what she could do to continue his success- and I begged her to please keep him reading for a round or two every day of the summer. For him, learning to be independent went beyond just reading independently- building stamina and taking responsibility for his choices and success were paramount in his improvement.

Ultimately, I think a lot of why he had been in so much trouble the year before was that his teacher didn’t think he could do it- but the Daily 5’s core beliefs made a difference.

“Trusting children is the underpinning of what makes the Daily 5 work.”
- The 2 Sisters

And for this eager-to-please boy, knowing that I trusted he COULD do it and WOULD do it (even if he needed a little help at first) made all  the difference.

The Sisters know that moving to this framework isn’t easy.

They describe the initial discomfort to not having papers that prove your children’s learning (although my students’ reading notebooks helped with this for me). They understand the impatience you’ll feel when it takes days to launch and build stamina. They get that it’s hard for us to try something new and not feel like it’s running perfectly right at the start.

But they remind us of this:
Trust our students and our teaching, and read research to allow the experts in our field to give us courage.

They also provide tips in this last chapter for working with parents (who may be skeptical of something so different), introducing the system to new students, and how to make sure everything runs smoothly even with a guest teacher. The appendices provided have everything you need to know to start the Daily 5- lesson plans to launch it, a stamina chart, the 10 Steps to Independence for each task, sample substitute plans, and even a sample parent letter. If you don’t have the book (or if you only had the first edition), it’s worth it.


{affiliate link}

Ultimately, the Daily 5 in my classroom was a resounding success. Less busywork for me, less busywork for the students, and kids who went from hating reading to loving it.

I can recall L finally making it to 20 minutes of stamina, and the look of pride on his face. I remember two of my students finding a contradiction about Abraham Lincoln’s life in two different texts, and hunkering down to do research for days to find the answer. I think back to the conversations I had with my students in their journals, and especially a  girl who wrote to me about how she hates books where kids have a perfect life, because she doesn’t- and being able to recommend the perfect book to make her feel less alone.

Reading is powerful- and the Daily 5 will get your kids really reading.
And is there really anything more important than that?

daily 5 1

In case you’ve missed any of my previous posts about the Daily 5, you can read them here:

Chapter 1– What is the Daily 5, and How is the 2nd Edition Different?
Chapter 2 – Core Beliefs of Daily 5
Chapter 3 – The Ten Steps to Independence
Chapter 5 – Launching Read to Self in the Daily 5
Chapter 6 – Daily 5 Foundation Lessons
Chapter 7 – When to Launch the Next Daily 5 Task & Introduce Choice
Chapter 8 – The Math Daily 3

Organizing My 90 Minute Reading Block with Daily 5
How I Manage Small Group Materials
Keeping Students Accountable in Daily 5- Without Taking Away Choice

You can also read more about chapter 9 from Primary Inspired (the wonderful host of our book study!) and the other Daily 5 bloggers in the links below. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Classroom Supply Organization for Departmentalized Teachers

Back-to-school time is always a little crazy, but a few of my upper elementary blogging friends have teamed up to share some of our back-to-school tips and tricks!

Last year, I moved into a departmentalized 4th grade classroom for the first time. I love getting a chance to really focus on teaching science, but seeing 125 students instead of 25 really changed the way I set up my classroom! Today I’m sharing supply organization tips specifically for departmentalized teachers (although many of them would work in any classroom!)


I set up these Sterilite drawers at the end of each table, and they are a lifesaver! Everything my students need on a regular basis is in these drawers. Because they switch classes, it’s really helpful to have the glue, scissors, markers, and crayons here (rather than having them carry their own). The bottom drawer holds our science textbooks (the drawers struggle a little with that much weight, but we don’t actually get them out much), and the top drawer holds small whiteboards, dry erase markers, extra pencils and erasers, and sets of markers.

IMG_5571   IMG_5594

Having the markers in individual “sets” made it so much easier to find text evidence in the passages from my Text Detectives (for 3rd grade and now 2nd) and Colorful Close Reads. This year, I’m keeping an eye out for travel soap containers so I can store my crayons in  similar way. I love Crayola, but those boxes just do NOT hold up!


Last year I used shower caddies instead of these smaller craft caddies. They held a little more, but they hung over the sides of the white drawers and sometimes my students would bump them… and of course, everything would fall all over the floor.

IMG_5499   IMG_5555

My solution this year was smaller caddies and Velcro on the bottom. (I start with both Velcro dots on to make sure they will line up.) I’ll keep you posted how it works!


My kids have science notebooks that stay in our classroom, and sometimes last year one was left behind. Despite sticker labels, it sometimes took a little time to figure out where it belonged- so this year, I’ll be using duct tape on the spines to help easily see where it goes.

I can use the same color-code for almost everything in my classroom, too!


I store my notebooks in these Dollar Tree bins. The same color of duct tape helps students identify the correct bin quickly, and once the school year gets started, I’ll write the homeroom on the frog, too. All of the bins sit on the floor under the whiteboard, in the order of when I see each class.

Since my students come in and start their day with a Science QuickWrite, I have a couple of students pass out the notebooks at the start of class. As I dismiss groups at the end of class, each group can drop their notebooks in the bin on their way out.


With 5 classes of science and 1 class of social studies, I occasionally struggled to keep up with make-up work. While my students were supposed to come pick up their work independently, it rarely happened- and then I spent time later trying to figure out what was missing.

Putting these open folders up on the cabinet in the back of the room helped me so much! As my students get started on their QuickWrite, I take a moment to catch up with any students who have papers here- whether they are absent work, papers to re-do, or pages I kept aside for reteaching.


Being a science teacher, I could spend so much time handing out materials. As much as possible, I try to keep common supplies at the supply stations and any special supplies (such as those for a lab) in a bin at the front of the room. I can simply call up one student from each group and most materials are ready within a minute!

This also helps because I see my classes every other day. (Our kids go to reading and math every day, but during their third block, they alternate between science and social studies.) This means that I teach the same lesson for two days in a row- so being able to keep all materials in a bin makes for easy clean-up at the end of the day, too!


While the “stuff” can be overwhelming when you see six classes, the paperwork can be even worse! The students each have a binder with tabs for each class, and my teacher binder has tabs for each of my classes, too.

Once the papers are turned in, I group them together with Clip-Rite BinderTabs (shown above). I use a small class checklist to mark off whose I have, whose I’m missing, and what the scores are. (Makes it so much faster to put grades in the computer!)

IMG_5667   teacherbinder2

As soon as I have copies made, I keep my papers that I’ll need for teaching in the purple, blue, and green plastic drawers. (I love that they’re the 12x12 size so I can put one stack horizontally and then the next vertically!) I use the top black tray for the kids to turn in regular work, and the bottom tray for the kids to turn in anything late (make-up work, late work, redone work, etc.). I love having a central spot for any other supplies a kid might need (stapler, tape, hole punch, etc.) so they don’t have to ask me!

There is so much to do this time of year- but hopefully these tips give you some classroom organization ideas! For more tips on starting the year off right, I hope you’ll check out the rest of the Back to School Survival Guide.

back to school survival guide

And to thank you for checking out our blog hop, we’re EACH giving away 2 gift cards to TeachersPayTeachers. If you could use $25 to spend on back to school goodies on TpT, be sure to enter the giveaway below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you’d like a few more Back to School ideas (and more chances to win $25 gift cards!), please be sure to check out some of the other blog posts. Good luck as you start another school year!

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

How to Do Daily 3 Math – Daily 5 Book Study Chapter 8

The Daily 5 offers valuable independent activities to build my students’ literacy skills, so it’s natural that I wanted to extend the same kind of framework to math. After all, a format that strengthens foundational skills while I can reteach or run small groups should really be the goal across every subject!

The Math Daily 3 is the Sisters’ solution to this. The set-up is even simpler than the Daily 5, with three tasks for students to do independently. Here are my notes for this section:


As you can see, the three main tasks (Math By Myself, Math Writing, and Math with Someone) have mini-lessons in between. This is new to the Daily 5 second edition, so I haven’t taught with this system yet- but I’m already brainstorming how I would!

Where Math Daily 3 varies from Daily 5 is that the activities do not necessarily stay the same all year. Ideally, some of the activities students are doing are directly tied to the previous unit (especially as you start a new unit) or the current one (as you’ve taught some lessons that students should be ready to review).

Because math activities may require hands-on materials or games, it’s best to introduce these activities one at a time and truly teach each one.


Games and hands-on materials can very, very easily become playtime- so make sure you give students very clear expectations, and have ways to keep materials organized.

I like to store “game sets” in easy-to-grab cups- just a couple of dice and counters- and my number tiles were stored the same way. (I have the kids count the tiles as they put them back to make sure each one always has a complete set!)

game cups number tiles

As more choices for Math by Myself, Math with Someone, and Math Writing are introduced, you’ll want a way for students to easily see their choices. You can add to this choice board as you’ve introduced more activities.


The key with Math Daily 3 is remembering to use the 10 Steps to Independence to really train your students in the expectations so that you are able to be differentiating instruction during this time.

Here’s what that choice board might look like during a subtraction unit (using some borders I love from Creative Teaching Press!)

Math Daily 3 Choice Board mock-up

I think the key will be sitting down before each unit and brainstorming a few activities your kids can do to review the last unit and to practice skills for this unit, too. If this were my classroom, I’d probably use some routines (such as task cards and a math journal) that would be easy to swap out for each unit without having to teach new expectations.

daily 3 math freebie screenshot

Feel free to click on the image above if you think this Daily 3 Math Planning Sheet is something you could use!

As much work as it may seem to get set up with Daily 3, I think the value of small group instruction is WORTH it! And I think with routines and a few basic, adaptable activities, your students can be so independent while you work with a few.

daily 5 chapter 8

You can read more about this chapter at these blogs:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Daily 5- When to Launch The Next Task (Chapter 7 Book Study)

Welcome back to our Daily 5 book study!

In case you’re new to the Daily 5, there are 5 main tasks that students perform during the Daily 5 “rounds”:

  • Read to Self
  • Read to Someone
  • Listen to Reading
  • Word Work
  • Work on Writing

A big piece of the Daily 5 is to introduce the system slowly, and it starts with introducing Read to Self. After that, though, teachers need to know when to launch the next task, and that’s what chapter 7 is all about!

daily 5 chapter 7

The biggest question to ask: How do you know when they’re ready? The Sisters say, again:


One year, you may move on to the 2nd Daily 5 task in 3 or 4 days. With another class, it might be two weeks. What matters is not the specific timeline, but that you treat this like any other skillset to be learned.

“Every class is different.”

When YOUR class can demonstrate independence and stamina, they’re ready to move on- but the Sisters suggest different limits for different groups of kids.

daily 5 chapter 7

When I taught with the Daily 5, I waited to move on until my 3rd graders had about 15 minutes of stamina- but we continued to practice it until our graph reached 20 minutes. (We just alternated practicing Read to Self and Read to Someone.) Now, though, the Sisters suggest moving on to Work on Writing next.

(Yes, if you read the first edition, this is a change!)

Basically, they say that writing is too important to wait any longer- and it’s also something that most students should have a little stamina in. 

This summer I’ve been sharing some of my notes on Instagram, and people seem to like them… so I thought I’d share my notes from this section of the chapter:


Just like with Read to Self, we instill a sense of urgency and purpose in our students by telling them that Work on Writing is “the best way to become a better writer.”

Keep in mind, though, that Work on Writing is not replacing your writer’s workshop time!

In my classroom, I wanted my 3rd graders to be responding to text, so we switched “Work on Writing” to “Writing About Reading.” I had to add in a few extra foundation lessons and modeled journal entries to teach my students what this looked like- but then I gave them pretty free reign to write about their thinking as they read, because I didn’t want them to be worried about a formula. (You can read more about our reading notebooks here.)

notebook 1

For those students who weren’t ready yet, I conferred, led small groups, or wrote responses back in their notebook to help guide them in the right direction. It just meant they needed more teaching- not that they couldn’t handle it!

This chapter walks you through the 10 Steps to Independence for this specific task, including giving your students choice. Yes, it’s hard to give up choice- but it’s important. Why? Here’s another excerpt from my notes:


Once you start letting students choose which task they do, you need to give them a little accountability. The Sisters use check-ins for this. And while I can see the benefit of keeping an eye on where your kids are spending their time… I felt like I could usually keep an eye on this by watching my kids’ reading notebooks and glancing around the room. While they use check-ins to make sure an even number of kids go to Read to Someone, or to dismiss in smaller groups, I focused more on teaching my kids strategies for problem solving in those inevitable situations.

I do like the idea of having students set a goal and a strategy they will use to reach their goal- something about voicing a goal helps you make it there!- but taking even a couple of minutes out of each round seemed too much. With older kids, I think setting the goal could be done at the beginning of the week in their notebooks.

As the rest of this chapter focuses on launching the other tasks, the foundation lessons focus on identifying potential pitfalls and setting the expectations before you even get started. Here’s another glimpse at my notes…


If you feel like the Daily 5 takes too much time to get going, keep in mind that you are teaching each one of these things now, so that you won’t have to stop learning much later. I did have occasional times where we reviewed expectations, but it was so much less than in previous years- because we did it right the first time. This is really a case where slow and steady wins the race (and makes the teacher less crazy later!)

And please- if the idea of giving your kids choice is terrifying, read this post from a couple of years ago…  it can work with accountability- and work SO well!

daily 5 choice

I have so enjoyed revisiting the Daily 5 during this book study. I hope you are loving it as much as I am! You can see everyone linked up to this chapter at our host - Mrs. Price’s Kindergators- or check out the linky below!