Reflections and Resources from Tarheelstate Teacher: 2017
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5 Rules for Math Stations...that you can break!

Are you a little giddy (and overwhelmed) as you think about implementing math stations this year? Are you trying to figure out your activities for BUILD stations or pinning down what your MATH acronym stands for? Worried about teaching routines and procedures for math stations or how you will keep up with all of the groups and assignments? Stressing over what your math bulletin board will look like?
Trying to implement math stations or guided math centers into your upper elementary math routine this year? Well, I've got 5 rules that you can plan to BREAK as you set up your routines, schedule, and teaching plans. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will love this approach to math stations, and teachers will feel RELIEVED to break the rules that may have been ingrained in your mind about "how math stations" must be done. Check out these "new" ideas for upper elementary math stations and make your life easy as pie!

Well, let me stop you there!

Using stations, centers, or guided math in an upper elementary classroom doesn’t have to be complicated or a management nightmare. You don’t have to plan or search for an outrageous number of activities or spend hours laminating and cutting. And you don’t have to have figured out these uniform categories of activities that you use all year.

I have implemented some form of math stations with my 4th grade and 5th grade students since my 4th year of teaching, and let me tell you, it made a tremendous difference in my ability to differentiate for and engage my students. {My last post was an overview of my take on upper-elementary math stations--head back there first if you missed it!}

I want to share with you some “rules” for upper elementary math stations that you may have somehow got the impressions that you must follow. I will admit, I can be a bad influence, but I encourage you to break these so called rules if they aren't working out for you and your students.

Let’s be Math Station Rule Breakers together!

Rule # 1: Figure out a Fancy Acronym to Organize Your Stations/Rotations

I’ve never used a fancy acronym for my math stations. I’ve tried. I’ve obsessed over it. I’ve come up with activities I want my students to complete, and I’ve tried to force them into this perfect acronym. What I’ve found is that I’m much happier with my math stations without over-structuring them in this way.

We can still have common routines, procedures, and activities that occur regularly enough that students “understand the drill,” but I don’t have to force my math stations into specific math categories. To me, this over-complicates the planning process and sometimes forces teachers to find “filler” activities just to fit a category.

So, the first “rule” of math stations that I break that you can also break is that you don’t need some fancy acronym. You can simply have ideas for a variety of activities or just create stations as you find resources you love for your unit.

Ahhh, isn’t this freeing?!?

Rule #2: Plan for and Have Math Stations Every Day

You may think that the only way you can get started with math stations is to get them going every day. 4-6 different activities or groups each day of the week sounds like a lot of planning and laminating fun to me (not!). Before you go all in like this, ask yourself why you are committed to have stations every day and consider the benefits of only having stations a few days a week.

The biggest secret to my enjoyment and management of math stations (IE—keeping my sanity)—is that I do not run math stations every day. Just because I (you) see value in this teaching structure doesn’t mean I (we) have to be married to it every day or even every week.

Whole-group instruction and whole–group learning activities also have value. Engaging students in problem solving, inquiry, and math talk where everyone works together and learns from one another also has value!

Often when I launch a new unit, we do a lot of whole group activities, discussions, group, and partner activities. I work hard to get students to elicit prior knowledge about our new math topics (tap into what they learned the year before) and I collect information about the strengths and weaknesses I see. I keep a notebook handy and I jot down their misconceptions and insights word for word so that I can use them later in lessons and “bell ringers.” Then, I’ve got more information to help me proceed with planning my math stations. We may spend the first week or two of a unit in whole group discussions, inquiry, and partner activities.

Rule #3: I must tie myself down to a small group table and teach my students never to interrupt my small group.

Running math stations doesn’t have to mean that you are always tied down to a table teaching a guided group. There are lots of ways that you can meet students’ needs and often for 4th and 5th graders, a new lesson is not needed every single day. (Repeating yourself over and over for 3-4 small group lessons is also not a very efficient use of your time. If you find yourself doing this, ask why and if it is effective.) What many of our upper elementary students often need is PRACTICE, new challenges that they have to grapple with, and consistent feedback throughout the learning process.

Providing consistent feedback and support is easier when I am not tied down to a kidney table.

Re-teaching can be done one on one and as needed while you are rotating the room and checking students work. This does not mean that I never plan for a “with Mrs. Roose” station, but I don’t require this of myself for every rotation plan that I make.

Rule #4: Every station and activity must be differentiated.

Now, I have to give you permission to break this rule because I know you know that I am a passionate differentiator. I am a growth mindset enthusiast and a huge advocate of challenging our gifted students while meeting the needs of our struggling students.

But, let’s keep it real. Your students will be a-ok if all of your stations are not differentiated all the time. I have numerous reasons for running math stations—differentiation is a big one, but it is not the only one.

One big reason to launch math stations (and hold them twice a week) is to break up the monotony of a regular math class. Now, I know if you are reading this, you are not aiming to be a boring math teacher, but it happens to the best of us. Math stations force you to be a little more creative and gives students more time to work and less time playing "sit and get."

In addition, differentiation happens through more than the resources we assign. You differentiate for your students based on the level of support you give them—are they working alone, working by your side, do you grab a whiteboard and re-teach something to them, do you partner them up with another student so that they have to explain their thinking?

When I run stations but have not assigned different work to different students, it is often because I want everyone to be able to work at their own pace. (A quality of an ideal math class that is hard to achieve when using a whole-group structure). I also want to use math stations to break up the rut that we can get in with “regular math class” and to motivate my students to push themselves and work hard.

I’ve found that breaking my math block into 2 parts (usually 20-25 minutes each) helps keep students from getting bored from the same activity. Math stations allow me to incorporate seat work and independent practice AND games, partner activities, and mini-projects within one class structure. My students are often “in the zone” in their math stations and then eagerly awaiting their opportunity to get to work on something new. This doesn’t mean that I have differentiated their work all of the time.

> > > Lastly, I WANT TO BUST THE BIGGEST MYTH THAT YOU MAY BE BELIEVING ABOUT MATH STATIONS right.now.my.friend.

YOU, yes YOU, (repeat after me) DO NOT have to have it all figured out before your school year begins. 

Seriously! Your math stations can evolve and progress as the year goes on. Your math station experience can be organic. You can keep it loose and fluid (like I suggest) and you can choose to add new station ideas every time you start a new unit, or a new quarter, or a new week if you get a sudden (awesome) burst of teacher energy.

Trying to implement math stations or guided math centers into your upper elementary math routine this year? Well, I've got 5 rules that you can plan to BREAK as you set up your routines, schedule, and teaching plans. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students will love this approach to math stations, and teachers will feel RELIEVED to break the rules that may have been ingrained in your mind about "how math stations" must be done. Check out these "new" ideas for upper elementary math stations and make your life easy as pie!But, you really don't have to know every little thing you and your students are going to do before the year starts. Just plan that you are going to have math stations 2 days a week with 4 different stations. Sometimes those station assignments will have students finishing work that was started during a whole group lesson or independent work time.

It's okay for a set of math task cards that you launched in whole group to show up the following day as a math station. It's okay for you to pull out a game that students played in the past to help them review previously learned content. (Actually, these two math station ideas are my preference!)

Then, you can have them experience something new in a small group with you or a station that you monitor and support heavily during station time.

It’s never too late in the year to add stations into your math instruction, but you don't have to follow a set of arbitrary "rules" that you've heard rumors of. 

You have my permission to implement math stations a few days a week, keep yourself available to help all of your groups rather than tying yourself down to a small group all the time, and to use assignments that you had students start with in a whole-group lesson.

Oh, and those bulletin boards and beautiful {fancy} math station acronyms---I'll show you how to get around those in my next blog post!
Management Tools for Upper Elementary Math Stations
An Overview of My Upper Elementary Math Stations

An Overview of My Upper Elementary Math Stations

Deciding to take a step back from whole group instruction in math can be scary. If you are thinking about implementing math stations, math workshop, or math centers, you may be excited, but you may also be having some concerns.Looking for ideas to implement into your upper elementary math stations or guided math centers? Well, you will want to read my tips and ideas for math stations and why I love them before you dive in. Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade students are ready for this framework for math learning--and you can be too when you find out why I love math stations and how I schedule them into my teaching plans.
How will you move students through all of the material they need to learn? How will you teach them new content and new strategies? How will they learn from YOU as the teacher? How will you keep track of who knows what?

Today I want to share with you my take on math stations, why I love to use them, and a bit about how I schedule our time for math stations.

How I Define "Math Stations" for my Classroom

Math stations are a teaching approach that allow me to use a small group model for teaching math. I can group students flexibly and use stations to assign different activities within one math class. 

I can group my students heterogeneously, homogeneously, based on skills and mastery of concepts, personality, work ethic, how much attention they need, and in cooperative partnerships. I can pair students with partners who will challenge them and partner up students that need more support with a student who is eager to help. 

Math stations allow me to reduce the amount of whole group instruction that I use and provide more variety in activities and assignments than through a whole-group (sit at desk) instruction model. I have 1 hour for math and typically hold math stations 2-3 days a week. I plan for 4 stations and students complete two a day.

Why use math stations?

(See above, haha). Math stations can be a wonderful framework for math instruction to help break up the monotony of whole-group instruction. I have found that math stations encourage my students to develop greater work-ethic and independence. Students learn to work cooperatively with classmates on math-related endeavors.

Juxtaposed with whole group instruction, I find that math stations encourage students who are typically quiet during whole group to ask for help when needed. Because students are spread around the room and working on different assignments, getting help can be done without reservation or stigma attached. During stations, my students are also more likely to seek help from a classmate when struggling (and this is often allowed as long as students are not helping one another too much).

Students who are self-motivated can push themselves during station time. They don't have to wait for other students to "catch-up" or get needed help in order for them to be able to move forward. #wholegroupstruggles right?

Another helpful aspect of math stations is that you can plan for just one small group of students to do an activity with manipulatives at a time, saving you some prep and organizing time because you don't have to get materials together for the whole class. (Like, who is lucky enough to have a class set of fraction manipulatives? Usually not me!)

You should also know that my version of math stations and my use of task cards in math are almost synonymous things. I can use two (or three or four) sets of task cards to create differentiated stations--so, if you are interested in hearing more benefits, you should also check out my blog post about why I LOOOOOVE math task cards

Timing & Scheduling Math Stations

My stations are typically held two times a week. I plan for 4 rotations and spread those across two days. My math blocks have always been an hour, so I plan for students to have 20-25 minutes for a station and then to rotate to a new assignment/activity.

I’ve found that I can run three stations max during my math block, but I am happiest (IE-less stressed) when I have planned 4 rotations across 2 days because of that whole one hour thing. If you have more time, you can have more stations or increase the time for each station. You can also add a whole-group bell ringer, minilesson, and/or a closure about something you see during station time (math related) that you want to address.

For me, 15 minutes for a math station is NOT ideal and I truly caution you from cramming so many stations into a math block that students don't have time to "get in the zone." (I feel the same way about literacy stations!) 4th and 5th graders really should be learning to work and stay focused for 25-30 minutes at a time. With a 15 minute station schedule, by the time students settle and get in the zone, it’s time to move on. Very little work gets completed this way and I find that students have a lack of investment because they simply don’t have enough time. 20-25 minutes is an ideal chunk of time. 

Having students complete two stations per day puts me in my happy place. With two stations, we have around 25 minutes, saving a few minutes for one transition. Students are not rushed in their transition from activity to activity, and with their attention spans, at about 20-25 minutes, they are ready to do something different. With two stations, I can often plan for a quick minilesson (or “commercial” as I sometimes call them) and then send students off to work.

Two ways that I tend to plan and organize math stations in my classroom

1) Most students complete the same activities, just at different times, through a rotation schedule. You may be asking, “If everyone is working on the same assignments, why use stations?” (See all of above again and read on ;) 

My classroom make-up always includes students who work above-grade level and at least a few students who are 1-2 grade levels behind the rest of the class. During whole group instruction, some students zip through practice problems and are left waiting for the next step while slower-working students are unable to complete an assignment and need a great deal of assistance from a teacher. (Does this sound familiar?)

I find that no matter the skill level, most 4th graders still need to complete practice work for our “on-grade level” math standards. Many new concepts are introduced at this grade and I want to be confident that they can multiply, divide, and solve fraction problems with accuracy and deep understanding. I can easily add levels of challenge by having students solve problems in more than one way and use different methods to check their work. I also use my differentiated math sheets to provide tiers of challenge for everyone within one station.

With stations, students can work at their own pace, but still experience variety in the activities they complete during our math block. No one is left waiting for a few students to finish a piece of the lesson before he/she can move on. (This makes stations EXTREMELY MOTIVATING for some students!)

So, even if I am not providing really different assignments for different students (in general), math stations provide lots of benefits. (And in this example, I would need 4 station assignments/ideas.)

Looking for ideas to implement into your upper elementary math stations or guided math centers? Well, you will want to read my tips and ideas for math stations and why I love them before you dive in. Your 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th grade students are ready for this framework for math learning--and you can be too when you find out why I love math stations and how I schedule them into my teaching plans.2) On the flip side, I sometimes plan stations where students complete 1-2 of the same activities but other station assignments are differentiated. With this stations structure, students on different mastery levels may not complete the same activities. For example, everyone completes pages from the math textbook, but students work on different task cards based on their level of mastery. Or, a struggling group meets with me for one of their stations, but other students do not.

Looking for more information about the types of station activities and assignments I use with my students? Read all about the Activities I love using for math stations (coming soon!).

If you still have questions about math stations, please DROP THEM IN THE COMMENTS. I'm writing a whole series about using math stations in upper elementary and I want to share ideas and lots of helpful information to help you reduce the "stress" (fear? anxiety? boy do I have a story to share about my "math station" anxiety during a principal observation) that you may feel as you think about implementing math stations this year.

Be sure to catch these upcoming blog posts:
→ Rules for Upper Elementary Math Stations...that you can break!
→ Management Tools and Classroom Resources that I think are Critical for Math Station Success
→ Activities I LOVE using for Math Stations

10 Things You Should Know about Boom Learning

It's not every day that I find a piece of technology that knocks me out of balance, but Boom Learning has made it really hard for me to focus on anything else lately! I can only compare it to when my district went 1 to 1 laptops in 4th and 5th grade and all I could do was try to see the world through an "All of my students will have a computer next year!!!!!" lens. So, now with Boom Learning my brain is consumed by how I can go digital and paperless with my resources..."Self-Checking, interactive, Digital Task Cards? Yes! ! !"
I have fallen fast for Boom Learning  and am in love with all of the cool features! Self-checking digital task cards? Yes, please! More ways to use my interactive whiteboard? Yes!!!! More ways to give students' feedback WITHOUT me having to do the checking?!?! ALL GOOD! Head to this post to learn what you need to know to get started with Boom Learning. If you are going 1 to 1, are a fan of Google Classroom or Google Apps, or need another way for your 3rd grade, 4th grade, or 5th grade students to use technology independently, this is the perfect app for you to check out!
Today I'm going to tell you a little more about Boom Learning by sharing some of the nitty-gritty things you would want to know if you are trying to get started with Boom Learning in your classroom.

1) First, let's make sure you know the lingo. A set of Boom Cards is called a Boom Deck. 

2) A starter account on Boom Learning is currently free for teachers and parents. At this price level, you can create 5 private decks and add 5 students or student groups to share the decks with. Yes--you can create on Boom Learning for your own classroom without having to buy decks! If you can handle Powerpoint, I know you can do this! You can check out the other three user packages here.

3) You can preview 4 cards from ANY deck for free. {I love that you can try them out to see how the card sets work and make sure you like them before deciding to pay for them!} You can also access a lot of Boom Decks that are offered for free. {My full Multiplying 3 digits by 1 digit Error Analysis set is free!}

4) It's quick and easy to create student logins! In your dashboard, click "Add Many Students," and enter nicknames for each student. Boom Learning will automatically generate passwords, but you can create personalized passwords for each of your students. {Often times, students already have a login and password for another account--like Google Apps/Google Classroom so you can just use the same ones!} With older students, you can share the classroom username and password and let them set up their own account details. {More trouble than it's worth if you ask me! I'd set those in 5 minutes and save my students {self} the headaches!}

5) Boom Decks can be played in two ways:

Fast Play: With your free account, you can have unlimited access to playing any purchased or free Boom Cards through an interactive whiteboard, tablet, or other device. In Fast Play, you are unable to record student progress {however, Boom Learning is giving this capability away for free for one year for new users!}

Sent to Students: You can send Boom Cards to individual students or groups of students for up to 80 students. {Think--instant differentiation after you do a little prep work! #bestillmydifferentiatedheart!!!}
I have fallen fast for Boom Learning  and am in love with all of the cool features! Paperless, self-checking digital task cards? Yes, please! More ways to use my interactive whiteboard? Yes!!!! More ways to give students' feedback WITHOUT me having to do the checking?!?! ALL GOOD! Head to this post to learn what you need to know to get started with Boom Learning. If you are going 1 to 1, are a fan of Google Classroom or Google Apps, or need another way for your 3rd grade, 4th grade, or 5th grade students to use technology independently, this is the perfect app for you to check out!
6) Unless the order in which students solve the cards is important, Boom Decks are randomized. In a randomized deck, students will be given 20 cards to play. Students are shown cards that they have seen less frequently (perfect if you want to use them again and again to develop mastery and growth mindset!). Students will see the entire deck before seeing repeat cards.

7) Once you access a Boom Deck, it is in your "library" forever. You will always have access to play it in "Fast Play" mode.

8) There are "student," "teacher," and "classroom" accounts. Students can only play assigned decks and view his/her own progress on their assigned decks. Teachers (and parents) can organize classrooms, add/remove students, assign decks, buy decks, and use the deck editor to create their own Boom cards and assignments. Classroom accounts are shortcuts for older students to log in and set up their own accounts.

9) Students have a "notebook" that they can store their cards to. Students can "Remember" and "Trash" cards that are assigned to them. This allows a student to "save" a card that they want to go back to. If a student "trashes" any cards, a record of the cards that were trashed will show in the students "notebook." BOOM--COOL!  

10) You can purchase Boom Learning Decks through Teachers Pay Teachers (that's a link that is always up to date with all of my Boom-Ready task card sets). And if you search Boom Cards or Boom Learning on Tpt, you can find a ton more Boom Cards for your needs!

11) You can also purchase Boom Decks straight from Boom Learning. To purchase from Boom Learning, you purchase a points package. Currently, Boom Points are less than 1 penny per point. Most teacher-authors are pricing their task cards similarly to their tpt prices. Mine range from 200-1000 points (that's for a huge multiplication bundle at the high end!)

One last thing I would love to share with you is how Boom Learning came to be: Rachel Lynette, yes, the Rachel Lynette of Minds in Bloom and task card queen extraordinaire, was talking to a friend one day about how nice it would be to have an app for task cards.

One thing led to another and Rachel's friend connected her to Mary and Eric Oemig, and thus began a journey to create an open marketplace for digital, interactive task cards. Rachel is now an adviser for Boom Learning. (I got to meet Rachel at #tptvegas2015 {wasn't I lucky :)}.

I have fallen fast for Boom Learning  and am in love with all of the cool features! Paperless, self-checking digital task cards? Yes, please! More ways to use my interactive whiteboard? Yes!!!! More ways to give students' feedback WITHOUT me having to do the checking?!?! ALL GOOD! Head to this post to learn what you need to know to get started with Boom Learning. If you are going 1 to 1, are a fan of Google Classroom or Google Apps, or need another way for your 3rd grade, 4th grade, or 5th grade students to use technology independently, this is the perfect app for you to check out!SO MANY cool features are in development for Boom Learning! Voice and audio (where students can have things read aloud) is in beta right now! Boom Cards are designed with multiple choices, open-ended answers, and clickable buttons.

And I am telling you, so far, it has been way easier for me to figure out how to use Boom Learning than to create similar self-checking, instant feedback kind of questions for google drive. {I'm going to figure that one out too, it's just a little more complicated to do in Google what Boom does so masterfully.}

Have you tried Boom Learning yet?!?!?! What are you waiting on? Start with my multiplication freebie and see what you think! I'd love to hear what you think in the comments!

Also, if you've purchased any of my task cards, make sure you check the list below to see which ones have FREE Boom Learning versions included! You can go to your TPT purchases and re-download those task cards if you have purchased any of these!
Go digital with Boom Learning digital interactive World Biomes Multiple choice review game!Coming Soon!

Task Cards are Going Digital with Boom Learning!

Have you gone digital or paperless in your classroom? Are you using Google Classroom or Google Drive Apps with your students? Are you lucky enough to be in a 1 to 1 device or 1 to 1 laptop situation or do you still have to sign up to reserve the computer cart? Well, I've just started diving into a new educational app and website that you can use with your students called Boom Learning that can help you go digital more often and paperless (at least some of the time!).
My 4th grade and 5th grade task cards have gone digital with a new interactive platform called Boom Learning! Digital task cards are  especially awesome for math centers, math stations, whole group lessons, and differentiation. If you've been looking for alternatives to Google Drive or Google Classroom--you probably want to check this out! Are you going paperless in your classroom (or at least trying to reduce your copies at school)? I'll give you options for getting the pdf printable versions as well as the digital versions so that you will have the choice for how you use them in your classroom!
I have wanted to format my math task cards for digital uses for a while now, and a few weeks ago when I was ready to delve in, I happened across Boom Learning. It truly was a star-crossed kismet event because all of a sudden, I found an easy way to make digital task cards accessible for students and teachers! I've truly fallen in love with Boom Learning and have formatted quite a few of my math task cards on the Boom platform.

Best of all, Teachers Pay Teachers has given teacher authors the green light to list Boom Learning task cards in our teachers pay teachers store. {I'll tell you how that works in just a bit!}

Don’t get me wrong—I LOOOOOOOOVE paper-based task cards, especially because they allow me to easily differentiate for a wide-range of abilities during math workshop. However, I have also recognized a need for digital options that allow teachers to make task cards more engaging with the added possibility of instant feedback. And, most importantly, I am thinking about how I can use digital task cards to create better differentiation opportunities for teachers. {Think--sending different task card sets to different groups of students--yes this is possible on Boom Learning!}.

I especially LOVED creating a digital format of my "What's My Error?" error analysis task cards because the "instant feedback" feature allows students to pin point the error on the task card, input the correct multiplication answer, and get immediate feedback! Students really have to analyze the work carefully, but the instant feedback adds the FUN element to an already awesome task card set.

Click here or on the image to give the What's My Error Task Cards a try!

My 4th grade and 5th grade task cards have gone digital with a new interactive platform called Boom Learning! Digital task cards are especially awesome for math centers, math stations, whole group lessons, and differentiation. If you've been looking for alternatives to Google Drive or Google Classroom--you probably want to check this out! Are you going paperless in your classroom (or at least trying to reduce your copies at school)? I'll give you options for getting the pdf printable versions as well as the digital versions so that you will have the choice for
Now, I will be the first to admit that I have a lot to learn about going digital, but I can already see myself incorporating these self-checking task cards into stations, whole group instruction, and partner activities. I love that while I’m working with a small group or a few students who need additional instruction, my other learners can work through the digital task cards and get instant feedback! No more standing in line waiting for me to check their answer sheets!

You can find all of the task cards that are currently BOOM READY by checking out my Boom Cards category on TPT. {I highly recommend doing this because it may include some task cards that you have ALREADY purchased that I have added the FREE Boom Learning link to.}

MORE ABOUT BOOM LEARNING

Boom Cards play on modern browsers (browser must have been released or updated in the last three years) on interactive whiteboards, computers, and tablets. A Boom Learning app is also available for Apple products and Chrome Books/android devices.

Not sure your browser is modern enough? Click here to try a free Boom Cards deck. 

My 4th grade and 5th grade task cards have gone digital with a new interactive platform called Boom Learning! Digital task cards are  especially awesome for math centers, math stations, whole group lessons, and differentiation. If you've been looking for alternatives to Google Drive or Google Classroom--you probably want to check this out! Are you going paperless in your classroom (or at least trying to reduce your copies at school)? I'll give you options for getting the pdf printable versions as well as the digital versions so that you will have the choice for how you use them in your classroom!
When you redeem your purchase, Boom Learning opens an account for you if you do not already have one. For TpT customers new to Boom Cards, Boom Learning will give you a free upgraded account for one year that lets you track student progress for up to 80 students. At the end of that year, you may choose to renew your account. If you do not renew, you will still be able to continue using Boom Cards with the Fast Play feature. You will have access to all boom cards that you have previously purchased or have been given access to.

Are you ready to give Boom Learning Digital Task Cards a try?
 Try BOOM LEARNING DIGITAL TASK CARDS free with this preview link!

GET STARTED WITH BOOM LEARNING BY CREATING A FREE ACCOUNT!

When you redeem your purchase, Boom Learning opens an account for you if you do not already have one. For TpT customers new to Boom Cards, Boom Learning will give you a free upgraded account for one year that lets you track student progress for up to 80 students. At the end of that year, you may choose to renew your account. If you do not renew, you will still be able to continue using Boom Cards with the Fast Play feature. You will have access to all boom cards that you have previously purchased or have been given access to.

This includes FREE ACCESS that I am giving you if you have already purchased my task cards that have been updated with a Boom Learning access Link.

My 4th grade and 5th grade task cards have gone digital with a new interactive platform called Boom Learning! Digital task cards are  especially awesome for math centers, math stations, whole group lessons, and differentiation. If you've been looking for alternatives to Google Drive or Google Classroom--you probably want to check this out! Are you going paperless in your classroom (or at least trying to reduce your copies at school)? I'll give you options for getting the pdf printable versions as well as the digital versions so that you will have the choice for how you use them in your classroom!

My 4th grade and 5th grade task cards have gone digital with a new interactive platform called Boom Learning! Digital task cards are  especially awesome for math centers, math stations, whole group lessons, and differentiation. If you've been looking for alternatives to Google Drive or Google Classroom--you probably want to check this out! Are you going paperless in your classroom (or at least trying to reduce your copies at school)? I'll give you options for getting the pdf printable versions as well as the digital versions so that you will have the choice for how you use them in your classroom!

This won't be the last time that I chat with you about Digital Task Cards and how to use Boom Learning, but today, I just wanted to make sure that you know you should go dig in to your TPT purchases and redownload those task cards if you have purchased any of mine!
My 4th grade and 5th grade task cards have gone digital with a new interactive platform called Boom Learning! Digital task cards are  especially awesome for math centers, math stations, whole group lessons, and differentiation. If you've been looking for alternatives to Google Drive or Google Classroom--you probably want to check this out! Are you going paperless in your classroom (or at least trying to reduce your copies at school)? I'll give you options for getting the pdf printable versions as well as the digital versions so that you will have the choice for how you use them in your classroom!
These Task Cards are BOOM LEARNING ready!
Coming Soon!
Go digital with Boom Learning digital interactive World Biomes Multiple choice review game!
Note: For helping to get the word out about Boom Learning and sharing my experience with the site, Boom Learning will be giving me a membership to the site for one year. However, even if this were not the case, I would still tell you all about the digital task cards that I have created and shared with my TPT buyers through the Boom Learning digital format. I truly have fallen in love with how Boom Learning has allowed me to GO DIGITAL. Really guys, I've created over 20 sets of Boom Decks based on my existing task cards in just two weeks! I wouldn't work that hard on something I wasn't passionate about!

Songs for 5th Grade Graduation Ceremony

Are you searching for graduation songs for your 5th grade students "moving up" ceremony? I've got a pretty good list of 16 songs that will pep up your graduation slide show and make any teacher or parent tear up as they think about the memories they've shared with a group of students. Read on for graduation songs to spark some ideas for your slideshow and musical performances during your moving up ceremony!
Are you searching for graduation songs for your 5th grade students "moving up" ceremony? I've got a pretty good list of 16 songs that will pep up your graduation slide show and make any teacher or parent tear up as they think about the memories they've shared with a group of students. I've got 16 graduation songs to spark some ideas for your slideshow and musical performances during your moving up ceremony!
During my 11 years of teaching, 6 years were spent in 5th grade. Now, that's really just a little bit more than 1/2. (Yes, my love of fractions persists!) But, the truth is, even when I was a 4th grade teacher, I would call myself a 5th grade teacher in a 4th grade teacher's body.

You see, 2 of the 4 years that I taught 4th graders, I really taught them because I had an ulterior motive--my grade level was looping back and forth from 4th to 5th. I was fortunate enough to get to loop twice and I highly recommend it if you ever get the chance, as looping created the most amazing experiences of my teaching career over anything else that I could name on that list.

You see, when you loop with kiddos, you get to spend two years with them. Yes, even the ones that drive you bonkers--if they choose to stay with you--and most of my students always chose to stay with me for another year.

Spending two years with the same group of students really intensified all the reasons I became a teacher in the first place. I got two years to make an impact! I had the opportunity during that second year to tweak things that didn't go so well, to meet the needs of my struggling learners even more, and to let loose and have a little more fun now and again because SO MUCH TIME is SAVED by looping. I dare say, my first loop back to 5th grade was when I became a teacher who could relax a little. And those kiddos that drove me bonkers, well they made the most social, emotional, and academic growth that second year and really were worth the "trouble". 

Now, I didn't pop in today to tell you all about looping, but that part about being a 5th grade teacher at heart is REALLY important. So, if you are a 5th grade teacher, I might just know what you are going through right now.

...your students are driving you bonkers because all of their hormones are imploding on their psyche...

...all of a sudden, they seem more like their middle school brother or sister or their own fabrication of what being a middle schooler looks like and less like that little kid you met at the beginning of the year...

...and most of all, you are starting to realize how much you are going to miss them as you send them off to "the unknown" of middle school.

I feel ya! And, I feel you even harder because I was always the 5th grade teacher who put our grade-level slideshow together for our 5th grade ceremony. I had to compile the music and the pictures into a powerpoint, complete with entrances and exits and fun animations (and HOURS of watching it again and again to edit #allthethings).

I'd like to be able to say creating the slideshow meant that I was able to be stone-cold during the ceremony--but no, I could never keep a dry eye as I sat thinking about our year (or two) together and all the memories and accomplishments my students had made--but most of all, just thinking about the sound of their voices or their funny personalities is what would bring me to tears.

So, what songs were my absolute favorite for including in our 5th grade slideshow and "moving up" ceremony?

1) Forever Young by Bob Dillan (This version is my ULTIMATE FAVORITE! Ohhh, the lyrics!)

2) Forever Young by Rod Stewart

Are you searching for graduation songs for your 5th grade students "moving up" ceremony? I've got a pretty good list of 16 songs that will pep up your graduation slide show and make any teacher or parent tear up as they think about the memories they've shared with a group of students. I've got 16 graduation songs to spark some ideas for your slideshow and musical performances during your moving up ceremony! There's also a Pepsi Commercial with Will.i.am that deserves recognition on this list! It's a more upbeat rendition of Forever Young that I've definitely used a few times.

3) My Wish by Rascal Flatts

4) I Will Remember You by Sarah McLachlan

5) Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) by Green Day

6) I Hope Your Dance by Lee Ann Womack

***7) The World's Greatest by R. Kelly

***8) I Believe I Can Fly R. Kelly

***9) Hall of Fame by the Scripts featuring Will.i.am (gives me chills to hear students sing these three!)

10) Life is a Highway by Rascal Flatts

11) Dynamite by Taio Cruz

12) The Time of My Life by Black Eyed Peas

*** During our 5th grade ceremony, our students always performed the school song and one or two others that we had chosen. These three are the top songs our music teacher taught our 5th graders to perform during our 5th grade recognition ceremony. Apparently, we've got a thing for R. Kelly?!?!?

10-12 are some of the peppy songs we like to start our slideshows off with.

I guess for today's slideshow, you could add "Happy" and "Can't stop the Feeling" to this list. (I've not used these yet since it's been a few years since I sent off a group of 5th graders.) "Best Day of My Life" by American Authors is another favorite of mine, and I'll add some Imagine Dragons "On Top of the World" for good measure. Believe me, you need these peppy songs to balance out the sappy ones that are going to make everyone cry it out!

I really could go on and on. I love music...and sappy songs with lots of symbolism...But, from this list, I think I've given you the best that I can recall from years of "send-off" ceremonies.

I made a youtube playlist that you can access that includes most of these songs.

I guess one of our goals during the 5th grade ceremony was always to make the parents, grandparents, friends, and family members cry. Well, when thinking about how fast the elementary years go by (seriously, in the blink of an eye, a year or even two were over with a group of kiddos! I could always only imagine how it felt for parents to have a child enter as a kindergartner and now watch them pass one of their biggest milestones--leaving elementary school.

So, there you have it--a list of more than 16 songs that are perfect for any 5th grade graduation or 5th grade moving up ceremony. Do you have a favorite song that you use for your 5th grade "moving on"  or 5th grade graduation ceremony?

A 4 Step Process for Answering Multiple Choice Reading Questions

Do your students think that answering multiple choice reading questions is all about making neat, dark bubbles on their bubble sheet? I hope not! But if so, let's give them more multiple choice test taking strategies right away!
If your students think that answering multiple choice questions is all about fancy bubbling, find out about the 4 step multiple choice test taking strategy I teach my students to go through when answering reading questions. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and even 6th grade students need concrete strategies for navigating the confusing, stressful challenges of End of Grade testing. This easy to implement strategy will give them just what they need to develop confidence and a "game plan" for taking their test!

Once you have helped students connect what they know how to do when reading with how that applies to taking a reading test AND taught them to analyze the type of question they are being asked, what strategies can you teach students for actually answering multiple-choice reading questions? Today, I'm sharing my 4-Step process for answering reading questions that I teach my students each year before our end of grade reading test.

Before I teach my 4-step process, we do a lot of work with our sample passages. I choose to review a focused set of strategies and expect my students to use them rather than review every reading strategy I possibly can and have them forget to use any of them.

We review how to preview a text, "how to highlight effectively" (or underline) to note important information, track our thinking as we read, create chunks and add labels to larger texts to break them up into sections, and discuss how to use context clues to deal with unknown words.
If your students think that answering multiple choice questions is all about fancy bubbling, find out about the 4 step multiple choice test taking strategy I teach my students to go through when answering reading questions. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and even 6th grade students need concrete strategies for navigating the confusing, stressful challenges of End of Grade testing. This easy to implement strategy will give them just what they need to develop confidence and a "game plan" for taking their test!
I usually use one or two of the same passages again and again to model each of these reading behaviors and then have students practice with a fresh passage. As they are working, I monitor and take note of who is using the strategies and who is not. We discuss what I saw again and again to encourage students to do what they have been taught.

I have my students go through the reading behaviors with multiple passages before I have them read and answer any questions because I want to make sure they understand my expectations for how they are supposed to read the text BEFORE we worry about answering questions.
If your students think that answering multiple choice questions is all about fancy bubbling, find out about the 4 step multiple choice test taking strategy I teach my students to go through when answering reading questions. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and even 6th grade students need concrete strategies for navigating the confusing, stressful challenges of End of Grade testing. This easy to implement strategy will give them just what they need to develop confidence and a "game plan" for taking their test!

I teach students that their job is to FULLY comprehend the text {yep, see the crazy handwriting on the bottom of that anchor chart}. If you've read other posts in this series, I've said this before, but it is just so important to reiterate. I don't want my students to think that the test is all about answering questions. The test is all about comprehension and they need to use all of their strategies to comprehend the text first.

The 4-STEP PROCESS for ANSWERING MULTIPLE-CHOICE READING QUESTIONS

When it is time for me to teach my students how to answer reading questions, I lead them through a 4-step process that I came up with a few years ago. In this process, I model how to:

  • reword the question,
  • analyze answer choices and mark out 1-2 choices that are obviously wrong (probably because the choice clearly says something different than what is said in the text), 
  • collect clues (or evidence) from the text related to the other answer choices, and 
  • then make an educated decision about which answer is the best.

Day 1 Minilesson: STEP 1-REWORD THE QUESTION
If your students think that answering multiple choice questions is all about fancy bubbling, find out about the 4 step multiple choice test taking strategy I teach my students to go through when answering reading questions. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and even 6th grade students need concrete strategies for navigating the confusing, stressful challenges of End of Grade testing. This easy to implement strategy will give them just what they need to develop confidence and a "game plan" for taking their test!Using the passages that we have read again and again in our skill lessons, I model rewording the questions with 1-2 examples.

This sounds so easy, huh? Well, I sometimes find that when my students try to simplify a question, they change the meaning of what was intended a bit. If the question is more direct, like "What is the main idea of this passage?" Students can reword the question to incorporate our QAR language and to help remind themselves of how they should answer this type of question. A rewording might be, "What is this story/article about OVERALL?"

I also teach students to think about why the test maker/author is even asking us the question. Let's use a question for an example that is a bit more complicated. In one of the passages I like to use, the question states,
"According to the timeline, which of the following statements about Bearden is accurate?"
Why might the test maker be asking us this question?
  • to see if we read/looked at the timeline
  • to see if we know how to read and interpret a timeline
  • to see if we understand chronological order
  • to see if we can make inferences when reading a text feature
  • to see if we can use the information in a text feature to gain a deeper understanding of the text itself
Obviously, we are just hypothesizing here, but I think it's important to get students to realize that someone MADE UP these questions in order to try to get them to do something with their reading skills. I also think that hypothesizing about why the question is being asked helps students reword the question. I may reword this question by asking, "Based on the timeline, which of the choices is true about Bearden?" or "By looking at the timeline, which of these choices is a true statement?"

At the end of this lesson, students work in partners to practice rewording a few other questions for that passage. I pay attention and pull any rewordings that changed the meaning of a question into our closure for us to discuss as a group. 

Day 2 Minilesson: STEP 2-ELIMINATE "OBVIOUSLY WRONG" ANSWER CHOICES
If your students think that answering multiple choice questions is all about fancy bubbling, find out about the 4 step multiple choice test taking strategy I teach my students to go through when answering reading questions. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and even 6th grade students need concrete strategies for navigating the confusing, stressful challenges of End of Grade testing. This easy to implement strategy will give them just what they need to develop confidence and a "game plan" for taking their test!The next step is all about reducing our answer choices. We read through the choices and decide if any are "obviously wrong."

Given the same passage as we used in the previous lesson, my think-aloud goes something like this...
“Looking at question 7, B and C are obviously wrong because they contradict information that is given on the timeline. For B, the timeline says Bearden was living in New York City, not North Carolina. For C, the timeline shows that Bearden created his most important collages in 1964, many years AFTER graduating from New York University. I can eliminate B and C.”
“Now, I feel like A is the answer, but I don’t have enough proof to mark out D. I need to collect more clues.”

STEP 3-COLLECT CLUES RELATED TO THE QUESTION
If your students think that answering multiple choice questions is all about fancy bubbling, find out about the 4 step multiple choice test taking strategy I teach my students to go through when answering reading questions. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and even 6th grade students need concrete strategies for navigating the confusing, stressful challenges of End of Grade testing. This easy to implement strategy will give them just what they need to develop confidence and a "game plan" for taking their test!
In step three, I teach students to collect clues related to the question and decide if that piece of evidence supports an answer choice or disproves it.
"To collect clues, I ask myself "What clues and information did the passage give me to help me think about this question? Answer choice A says Bearden received the National Medal of Arts the year before he died....The timeline shows me this is true...I'm going to jot that down and put a little check beside of answer A. 
Answer choice D says Bearden received the North Carolina Award for Fine Arts before moving to New York City...Well, he was in New York city in 1935, and it never tells me he moved back to NC.
The passage tells me “Afterward (college), Bearden became a social worker in New York City. He worked as a social worker on and off for more than 30 yrs. In the last section, the author lists a bunch of awards that Bearden received. I think the NC award is just another one he got, but not necessarily when he was living in NC. 
STEP 4-MAKE AN EDUCATED DECISION (NOT A GUESS!)
If your students think that answering multiple choice questions is all about fancy bubbling, find out about the 4 step multiple choice test taking strategy I teach my students to go through when answering reading questions. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and even 6th grade students need concrete strategies for navigating the confusing, stressful challenges of End of Grade testing. This easy to implement strategy will give them just what they need to develop confidence and a "game plan" for taking their test!
So, I am now thinking answer choice D is wrong, and maybe even the distracting answer that might trick me. Another way I may have chosen answer D is if I didn’t pay attention to the question saying “According to the timeline.” Now that I think about it, answer A works BEST because it is according to the timeline."
I go through this think-aloud process with a few of the questions that felt "tricky" to me so that students and I can process them together. I encourage you to go through this process with a few test passages and plan to do a "think-aloud" to model how you would go through the 4-Step process with the questions yourself.

BY THE WAY...

I teach students to jot down notes beside of the answer choices and I make this an expectation when they are completing practice passages. I want to SEE their thinking. I want the text to look like it has been read! 

To enforce this during our test prep unit, I will not check a student's work if he/she has not shown evidence of using the "while reading" strategies and shown evidence for his/her answers. Sure, some students may groan about having to show all of this thinking, but it is my job to teach them strategies and expect them to practice them!

DAY 3-CONSOLIDATE STEPS AND PRACTICE AGAIN
If your students think that answering multiple choice questions is all about fancy bubbling, find out about the 4 step multiple choice test taking strategy I teach my students to go through when answering reading questions. 3rd, 4th, 5th, and even 6th grade students need concrete strategies for navigating the confusing, stressful challenges of End of Grade testing. This easy to implement strategy will give them just what they need to develop confidence and a "game plan" for taking their test!On day 3, I use my minilesson time to consolidate the 4-steps of the process. I choose one more question to model rewording the question, eliminating "obviously wrong" choices, collecting evidence, and making an educated decision.

Once you have taught this in whole group, you can have students work independently and then share what they thought for each step with a partner. You can use your small group time to model the process again and again for students who need more practice and you can continue to bring it all back to the point...

→ How do each of these steps help us better answer the questions? 

The first year that I implemented this process, I found that it made an amazing impact on my students. I especially remember an ESL student who had such a big smile on his face and expressed how much it helped him understand what to do when answering the questions. (During this year, I was teaching 4th grade and would loop to 5th the next year with the same students).

I've found that this test taking strategy forces students to refer to the text more and often, students who did not comprehend a text the first time they read it will "fix-up" some of their comprehension issues by going through this process. #worthit

The big point here is that many students think that "reading the answer choices and deciding on the best choice" is what they are supposed to do. The directions given when administering the NC EOG actually say something like that...

"Read each question and all of the answer choices. Choose the best answer. Fill in the circle on your answer sheet with the best answer. Make a dark mark that completely fills the circle....."

WAAAAAIT a minute...
I wish I could express that sound of a record player screeching to a halt through my blog words......

But since I can't, I will just say, now do you see why students think the test is all about reading the choices, choosing an answer, and making a dark circle? I always CRINGE when those words come out of my mouth as a test administrator.

Those are DIRECTIONS, not a process to go through. 

So, as you embark on your reading test prep journey this year, I hope you can make it a little more inquiry based and provide your students with relevant strategies for being smart test takers who can "think through" a reading test and the questions they must answer.

Want to grab my minilesson framework for teaching and reviewing reading strategies, the QAR question analysis handouts, and the posters for the 4-Step process I have my students go through when answering reading questions? Click for my full Thinking Through Reading Tests unit materials!

 Thinking Through Reading Tests test prep framework for 3rd 4th 5th 6th grade

And, Make Sure You Haven't Missed Anything and Stay Tuned for these Upcoming Posts
→ Is Your Test Prep Attitude Broken?
→ A Framework for Preparing for Standardized Reading Tests that Honors Your Teaching Style
→ How and Why to Have Students Sort Reading Questions (to launch your reading test questions unit)
→ "4-Step Process to Answering Reading Questions" Mini-lesson and other Testing Tips

I think I'm finally calling my reading test prep series a wrap for this year, but please let me know if you have any questions! I'd be happy to share more about what I do with my students! 

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