Making Sense of Math Journals

I have to use a math journal?  
How will I ever fit it in?  
I don't have time to use journals!  
Where do I start? 
What do we even do in our journals?  
These are just a few of the questions and concerns that come up when the math journal discussion is brought up.  Let's make sense of math journals once and for all! 

I have to use a math journal? 

You GET to use a math journal! They are excellent tools in implementing the Common Core Mathematical Practices standards.  Here is a quick overview of the standards.  
1.  Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. 
2.  Reason abstractly and quantitatively. 
3.  Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. 
4.  Model with mathematics. 
5. Use appropriate tools strategically. 
6.  Attend to precision. 
7.  Look for  and make use of structure. 
8.  Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.  

Math journals (solving problems daily) give opportunities to practice each of these standards daily.  Too much for kindergarten?  NO WAY!  We reason with each other, discuss our problem solving strategies, and challenge each other when we disagree (respectfully).  There is nothing sweeter than hearing a 5 year old say, "I disagree agree with you because...."  Seriously, have you ever heard a 5 year disagree in such a nice way? 

How will I ever fit it in? 

 My math journal routine takes about 10 minutes.  Of course we can take longer if time allows but if we are pressed for time we can do it in 10.  I like to have 15 to 20 minutes for math journals. 

Where do I start? 

Start with routines.  Using the journal, opening to the next page, recording takes weeks to get the basics down but it's not difficult!  We spend about 3 to 4 weeks opening to our next new clean page in the journal, counting a handful of objects, and recording them.  During this time we discuss making clear pictures to represent our objects and the fact that we do not need to draw PERFECT pictures of our objects.  This is not art class or writer's workshop.  We can draw a circle to represent a counting bear or a square to represent a building block.  This takes a little time but they get really good at it! 

   What do we do in our journals?

We solve problems!  Every. Single. Day.  Sounds boring right?  Not if you get the students involved!  I write problems of the day for my students and  I include their names and their favorite things to get them engaged.  Here is an example.  My friend Emily loved playing dress up, so she helped me write this problem: 
The problems are printed on regular paper and students glue them into their journal to save time. (Can you imagine 24 Kindergarten students writing out that problem?  Oh my.....too much time!) 

This student was using the tally mark strategy to show their thinking.  They also circled their numbers to show the two groups of dresses.  The only thing missing from this picture is the total number of dresses, and I'm sure I discussed this with them after I snapped the picture!

Here is our outline of our daily routine: 
  • listen to the problem of the day
  • glue the problem of the day into your journal
  • draw a picture and write the answer to the problem of the day
  • (later in the year) write words to answer the problem of the day
 I have put all of my favorite story problems together for Kindergarten HERE and also a detailed outline of how I get things started.
I've included labels for your math journals and an editable page that you can write your own problems on when you are ready to start using your kiddos for the problem of the day.  

Do you use math journals?  How do you use them?  I'd love to hear about your favorite part of math journals! 

5 Ways to ROCK Your Next Observation

It's 3 weeks into school and your principal wants to do your formal observation.  Really?  We can barely transition from reading to math without someone bursting into tears and you want to see a REAL lesson?  No fear, you've got this, put on best smile and say, "Sure! When would you like to come in?"

Whether it's August or April observations always make me nervous.  ALWAYS!  I've been teaching 11 years, you would think they get easier but they just don't.  It's probably because I'm a perfectionist (not) and I want everything to be perfect (not really) but it just makes me feel like I am under a microscope.  Here are my top 5 ways to stop stressing and ROCK your next observation. 

#1 Prepare! 

Really, don't put this off to the last minute.  Think about what skills and procedures you want to highlight in your classroom.  What works really well for you?  Showcase that!  My students are really good at turn and talk by the 3rd week of school so I made sure to include that.  Is it a required lesson?  Put your own spin on it.  I taught a curriculum piece (sight words) from Reading Street but taught my own lesson to go with it.  I spent A LOT OF TIME thinking about it before hand to make sure I was planning something I was comfortable with and that we could be successful with.  

#2  Have what you need at your fingertips

I am the WORST about this in real life.  I need sticky notes?  Oops, they are sitting on my desk all the way across the room.  In real life I walk across the room and grab those sticky notes and just keep on going.  Don't let that happen during an observation because it will make you even more nervous!  Make sure the night before you have everything you need wherever you are going to teach the lesson.  This year I needed our class big book, sticky notes, prepared anchor chart, and a marker.  I put them all behind my easel so I wouldn't have to do the dreaded "search" right in the middle of my lesson.  (PS....this should probably happen every day, but we all know it doesn't!)


I attempt to make every single lesson engaging.  I teach Kindergarten so if it's not engaging you can just throw everything else right out of the window.  When planning for an observation lesson though I make sure that I include whole group, partner work (turn and talk),  small group, and independent practice.  It's a MUST that we state our objective (throughout the lesson) in our district so I am sure to include that right on my anchor chart so that I don't forget.  Let's face it, if you are nervous you forget things!   I also start the lesson with an engaging activity and refer back to lessons we have already had (to show that we have some background knowledge).  Of course these are all best practices and if they are not part of your normal routine it will looked forced or fake. Be sure you are including things your students have experienced before!

#4  DON'T tell your kids you are being observed.  

Really, it's not necessary.  I honestly don't make a big deal about it.  Our principal is in and out of our classroom on a regular basis so it is not unusual to see her there.  I had a teaching partner a few years ago that would tell the kids they were being observed.....please no.  They don't need any added pressure either!  If you have your routines and procedures in place it shouldn't matter if the President of the United States is at the back of the room watching you. 

#5 Relax! 

Really.  Most principals are not out to "ding" you on your evaluation.  Just be yourself and show how much you enjoy teaching.  Your rapport with the students will shine through if you let it.  If you have prepared before hand you don't have anything to be nervous about.  A couple of teachers and I  had a conversation in the lunch room (yes....I eat there sometimes) about observations and how that ONE kid will always raise their hand and give a totally off topic response.  That's OK....that's real life too.  It happens daily in the Kindergarten classroom and you just nod and smile and keep going in real life right?

Here is the outline for my latest observation.  It went pretty well and I'm thankful I did the extra thinking and planning to make sure I included all the elements I needed.  The lesson went so well I've included it in our weekly routine (for now) because the kiddos seriously won't stop talking about it.  I'm going to run out of sticky notes soon!
  You can see where I have added "a" and "to" to our anchor chart for this week's lesson.  
You can click on the lesson plan to download it!
Now I am curious. What is your favorite "off topic" question/comment that happened during a formal observation.  My favorite......I was looking for an answer about sounding out words (or something like that) I get, 
"Tomorrow we are having donuts for breakfast!"
No...I wasn't serving donuts for breakfast the next day. I have no idea what she was talking about!  
Share your favorite in the comments, I'd love to hear them!

Five for Friday September 11

 It was a LONG fun Friday.  Lots going on in Kindergarten this week!
 We spend the first few weeks of Kindergarten reviewing the alphabet to get a handle on all the letters.  We use Reading Street in our district and after the 5th week of school we go back and have a letter of the week.  We create these posters together to focus on first sound fluency. I love making these with the kiddos!  This week my favorite was mud and muck! 
 We've been talking about COOPERATION this unit and have covered cooperation at home and at school.  This week was all about cooperation in our community.  I used this great resource from First Grade Schoolhouse.  It was a perfect resource to hang in the hall to share our knowledge of community helpers!  I love how it filled our work wall in the common area.
 We had some parents come in and share their jobs today to finish off our week about community helpers.  It was fun to see the excitement from our 2 classes of kinders as these parents shared a little about their jobs.  We had a highway patrol officer (we got to hear the siren!), physical therapist, school district secretary, and a fireman share about their jobs.  We focused on asking good questions (if you've ever been in a kinder classroom questions vs. stories is a struggle!) and they did a great job!
 I left school today with my plans DONE!  I love my Erin Condren planner and the tip about sticky notes from Tami at OH so Blessed.  She CHANGED MY LIFE with planners!  I love how they look.  Now I need to work on my subject tabs and date tabs.  I refuse to write in my planner.  Is that weird? it's not. 
My last Five for Friday doesn't have any pictures but it was PURE MAGIC today!  I tested ALL of my 47 Kindergarten students on Letter Naming Fluency (UPPER and LOWERcase) in one day.  WHAT?
I said.....
Just kidding.  It is a big deal though!  It is so difficult to give this test.  And keep track.  And keep motivated to keep going.  And to not lose your sanity.  
ESGI to the rescue!  
I'm trying it out and today I was SOLD on their product.  You simply sit with your student and flash through all the letters and answer "yes" or "no" if they answer correctly. When you are done there all kinds of resources to print out.  Flash cards for students to take home, student reports, and class reports.  Now I know where to spend our precious time.  PURE MAGIC!

Peek at my Week September 7

I can not even tell you how LAZY I have been today.  It's been absolutely fabulous! 

I played around with my Erin Condren planner today and I love it!  It was super easy to print out these post it notes to keep everything organized.
I've stressed about writing in my planner...yes......weird I know but that's just life.  I'm loving this alternative. I found the template and guide from Tami at OH so Blessed.  

So now my visual plans!  
Here are the products I am using this week! Click on any of the pictures to see the products on TPT.

Morning work is on their desk when they get there.  It's a super easy way to make sure I am introducing everything I need to for the week (letter of the week, sight words, and grammar skill) and then they practice it all week long.  I love that they can be independent with these while I take attendance and prepare for our day.

When we are done with morning work (15 minutes) we go to word work.  Students work on the computer, listen to reading, and complete these centers.  These are the products I am using for centers this week.

 Next up is reading.  Most of our reading lessons are covered through the curriculum and Daily 5 lessons but this is our practice we are using for letter naming fluency right now.  We are making so much progress using these during Read to Someone! 
In math this week we are on the final 3 days of Guiding Kinders Unit 1 from Deanna Jump and Deedee Wills.  I can't believe we are already done with a unit!  I'm excited to start Unit 2 next week.  I started on Unit 4 last these are all new to me :)
We are also in full swing now with our math journals.  I put together all my problems for the year and detailed my lesson plans.  It's available HERE:
How about homework?  We are on the first week of September Homework now.

Seems like a lot for 2 hours and 45 minutes right?  We get it all done somehow! 
Have a great week friends, it will be a nice short one! 
Link up with Deedee HERE for Peek at my Week!

Five for Friday: September 4

It's a 3 day weekend!  Hooray!  One of the perks of starting school at the beginning of August....this extra day off is a HUGE treat!

 In math we introduced 2D shapes and we used my MASSIVE box of craft sticks to practice making them all week.  This was a super way to practice sides and corners and they loved it.  I even included it in our Fun Friday centers and they could have played and built with those things for hours.  Who knew I had the secret to keeping kids engaged hidden in my craft supplies?

 This week we read the book Mr. Putter and Tabby Write the Book for Writer's Workshop to talk about "What good writers do".  It was a great book to start my kiddos talking.  
So I have some boys that are not entirely enthusiastic about the whole "centers" thing.  If I let them just play with the play dough every day they would be happy, but make letters?  Practice writing my letters? (even with the cool pens my girls drool over) and don't even get me started on putting the alphabet in order.  Not going to happen....

Until now! Race Car ABC Practice!
 I was brainstorming at home the other night and thought that maybe some cards that would appeal to the boys would help them stay engaged during our 15 minute rotation.  Wowzers, it worked!  I made these race car cards up, printed and laminated, and had them cut out by Thursday.  The boys flocked to them and stayed working the WHOLE TIME!  They were even silently racing each other to see who could finish the alphabet first.  I love it when a plan works! 
Click HERE to see in my store
The adorable clip art from Mel at Graphics from the Pond saved the day!  
 It can't ALL be about school!  This was Sunday.....such a wonderful way to spend the day.  I was a little sunburned all week and had to deal with that but it was so worth it.  We don't do this nearly enough.

Last but not least, this was really the icing on the cake for me this week!  I was a guest blogger for Emily at Education to the Core and it was such an honor!  It was my very first guest blogger opportunity and I was pretty nervous, but Emily made me feel great about my post and I love how it came together.  She is a pretty amazing teacher with so many great ideas.  You should absolutely take a look!

I hope you all had a wonderful week, I know I did!  Have a great holiday weekend! Don't forget to link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday! 

Half-Day Kinder Tips and Tricks!

Half-Day Kindergarten. Is there really such a thing anymore? Even with Common Core standards being implemented across the country and talks of rigor in the classroom I can assure you, it still happens. I live it every day and I am here today to help you organize your half-day schedule!
Organizing Half-Day Kindergarten. Guest Post by Heather Langley from Learning with Mrs. Langley 
I am thrilled to share what has worked for my today as a guest blogger at Education to the Core.  Emily is a wonderful host, and I hope you enjoy my post!  

Classroom Reveal

Even though I've been back for awhile I'm still super excited to link up with Bloghoppin to share my classroom digs.  It's my home away from home! 
AND...I've also linked up with #2getherwearebetter for their classroom reveal too!  I've had it on my calendar all month!  Link up with Schroeder Shenanigans and Lucky Little Learners

Early this year I made a little video to share my space.  Here it is! Please keep in mind this is after a day of open house prep, a week of back to school conferences, and just minutes before I met 47 kindergarteners for the very first time!

That's my first ever blog video friends...if I ever do it again it will get better! 

Here are a few of the details. 

 A little bit of my library and listening station.
 An extra listening station out in the common area.
 My WOW work wall.  We display our summative assessments here from each unit we complete.
 Here is our fun space in action during read to self time!
My math tubs.  I love how they stay organized on this shelf! 

I hope you enjoyed my little tour.  I sure do love my room, although I am ALWAYS changing things up!  I think it's just my nature! 

I can't wait to check out the classroom reveals, don't forget to link up too!