IXL

So I don't know what I did before IXLIXL is an online practice program that has language arts, math skills, and more. My school just purchased it for our grade level and I love it already! The kids also love it too and ask to play it! That is a refreshing change from the groans I used to get when we'd work on some of our other math programs.  We've mainly been using IXL for  math so I'm going to share a few of my favorite things about it....

Image result for ixl


  • Differentiation
    • With IXL you have access to multiple grade levels and skills, which allows you to have kids move at their own pace.  I teach second and I can use first grade practice for some of my struggling students and use third grade practice for students who have mastered the second grade skill and need a challenge.
  • Real Time Data
    • This is the best part of IXL.  They have real time data. I can have my students working on IXL in class and/or in study hall and see exactly how they are doing and what they are doing. It lets you know if a student has missed so many and is struggling and needs help.  This instant access to how they are doing is fantastic!
  • Multiple Skills
    • As I mentioned in my differentiation point, there are many skills for each topic. For example, we've been working on patterns. It has repeating patterns and growing patterns and different variations of each. I love that there are many options and that it covers so many math and language arts skills.
  • Instant Feedback for Students and Teacher
    • This is why I like using it especially for homework. Feedback is instant. Once the student submits their answer they know right away if they got it correct or if they got it wrong. If they got it wrong it coaches them through some tips to see what they did wrong.
  • Appropriate amounts of practice 
    • I'm not a fan of worksheets and I've been saying this for years. I do not think every child needs to be doing 50 problems on a worksheet to show they have mastered something. Some kids do need more problems to demonstrate mastery, but some can demonstrate it in 10 problems instead of 50.  As they get problems right on IXL, it moves them closer to 100 as they get them wrong the lose points. It gives them the practice they need. If a child understands the skill it gives them a few problems to show that and then they are done.  I like that it isn't drill and kill - a billion problems that many students do not need.
So there you have it - some of the reasons why I love IXL. I'm still learning so I'm sure there are more features, but I am a fan so far!

Ideas for Teaching Rounding

Every year, without fail, rounding has been one of the harder concepts to teach and one of the harder ones for kids to understand. Before starting our unit this year, I did a little research on Pinterest and came across this aha moment and wonderful idea from Mr. Elementary Math - vertical number lines! While yes a horizontal line will work, it's confusing when we tell kids to round up and down because on a horizontal line you're really moving left or right.  This is where vertical number lines come in.  You really are rounding up or down and visually it's much easier for kids to see. Check out Mr. Elementary Math's ideas for interactive number lines here...

Here's how I started my rounding introduction....
So, we started by creating a list of multiples.To make it easier to figure out the two numbers that it was between, we created a list of multiples of ten and multiples of 100. While yes most kids are quite capable of counting by 10, it's amazing how when you are talking about rounding some of those common skills go out the window.

Then, we created the anchor chart below and went through a few examples together...  Here you can see the vertical number line in action. The lower number goes on the bottom of the vertical number line and the higher number goes on the top. Then the kids place the number and see which it is closer to.  Then, they literally round down or up depending on where the number is. This made rounding so much easier for so many of my students!

To review - we played this rounding game called Roll It. This game is from Game for Gains and can be found....here....
Want a FREE rounding game to use in your math centers tomorrow? Learn how to play this differentiated Roll It! Rounding Game. You'll even get our free game boards to use!

Hope these tips are helpful for you!  Vertical number lines have changed how I teach rounding and I'm so glad I found it!


Quick Synonyms and Antonyms Activity

Last week when we read our Journey's story - What Do Illustrator's Do - our vocabulary skill was synonyms.  We had been talking about synonyms and antonyms during small groups in past weeks and I had isolated the skills using activities from Florida Center for Reading Research.  

I decided since synonyms came up again to create a quick sorting activity with both synonyms and antonyms.  This activity was perfect for my small groups and gave me a chance to see who understood the difference between the two skills.  This would also be great in a literacy station or as a partner activity during reading. Synonyms and Antonyms Sort can be found in my TPT store...here.

Class Dojo Videos

I absolutely love the Class Dojo videos.  I use Class Dojo as a way to grade/track our non-academic standards (conduct, effort, and personal habits).  But, my favorite part of Class Dojo is the videos tab under Big Ideas. You can find it....here...

Class Dojo started this a few years ago and started out with their videos on Growth Mindset. They also have videos on perseverance, empathy, gratitude, and mindfulness. All important life skills for students to learn!


My favorite one and the series we always start with is the series about Growth Mindset.  As we know Growth Mindset is a big talking point in education and so important for kids to learn about at a young age. However, it can be quite tricky to explain it in kid friendly terms! But, Class Dojo has done it! They use friendly characters - Katie and Mojo and have them encounter typical kid type issues - making mistakes, not knowing how to do something, wanting to give up, etc. Through these videos it teaches kids that your brain is a muscle that can get stronger, that just because you don't know how to do something means you don't know it yet, and more...


I've been showing these once a week for Growth Mindset Monday - Morning Meeting. Students greet each other and share growth mindset type questions. For example, what is something you're good at, what is something that is hard for you, and more.

Students also focus on the videos for their Morning Message. I like to have students respond explaining what they learned in past videos. It's a great way to jog their memory and lead in to the next video since they build on one another.


Then, for the activity we watch the episode and discuss.  The kids love these videos and I find them applying what we learned in class.  For example, we were working on rounding which was hard for some of my students. We focused on the fact that we just don't know it "yet," but the more we practice the better we'll get at it!


I'm excited to finish up the Growth Mindset series next week and then we'll be moving on to Empathy.  How do you use Class Dojo videos in your room?  Comment below and let me know!

Ideas for Teaching Properties of Addition + a FREEBIE

We recently finished up our unit on Properties of Addition. This is always a tough unit for kids.  While they are able to add - being able to identify the properties and figure out missing numbers has always been challenging.

Below is the anchor chart we created together the first day after exploring each property using a balance scale...see below.

I saw the balanced scale idea online.  Using unifix cubes/snap cubes you can show each property and the balance scale is perfect because it shows how things are equal no matter what order they are done in.  The picture below shows the Associative Property.  We had (4+2) + 3 on one side and then (3+2) + 4 on the other. We discussed how both equals 9 and the scale is balanced because it's the same sum. This then led to the chart discussion about how it doesn't matter which way you group the numbers you're adding - the sum will still be the same.


After learning the three properties, I had students practice whole group. I projected my Properties of Addition Practice (a freebie in my TPT store) on the board and students responded to the questions on their individual white boards. 

Below's slide is asking them to identify which property is shown in the equation...


This slide is asking them to find the missing number that goes in the blank.  We talk a lot about how you want to look and see which numbers are there and which one is missing. Since you see 2 on the other side and not 5 - 5 must be the missing number to make this equation equal.


If Properties of Addition is something you teach - check out my freebie! Great way for kids to practice this skill whole group.



Ideas for Teaching Subtraction

We recently finished up our unit on subtraction and I wanted to share with you a few activities and things that we worked on. I teach second grade and our goal is for students to be able to subtract 2 and 3-digit numbers with and without regrouping. We also use CGI (Cognitively Guided Instruction) at our school so there is more than one strategy that can lead you to the correct answer.

Below is the anchor chart that we created as a class. We worked on a different strategy each day.  Day 1 was place value. I started off with a story problem and then had a student share who had used that strategy. Then, we added it to the chart and practiced whole group and small group. This continued until each strategy was added. After practicing and trying each strategy, students were able to pick the strategy that works best for them.


I use a lot of small group instruction now during math and we have math rotations 3-4 times a week. Here one of my groups is working on a 3-digit subtraction problem. As you can see, everyone is solving it in a way that works for them!

Also during rotations we have game time.  I introduced Subtraction Memory first. Subtraction Memory is a game that focuses on 2-digit subtraction. There are two versions. One version doesn't have regrouping and the second version has problems with and without regrouping for differentiation.  It can be found in my TPT store...here...

As the week continued I changed the game up.  Later in the week students worked on Subtraction True/False Sort. This activity is also differentiated to help all learners. Version 1 has 10 problems to sort and the problems are a little simpler. Version 2 has 20 problems to sort and they have more difficulty. This is a great activity for students to practice the different strategies and work together to see if the problem is true or false.  This can also be found in my TPT store...here...

Check back later this week for another round of math ideas - this time for Properties of Addition and it will include a FREEBIE!

Story Problem Tip #4

Today I'm sharing with you my last story problem tip for the month! If you missed my past tips, check them out below...

Today's tip is all about students creating their own story problems. Another way to get buy in and engagement is to let students write their own story problems.  Students love it because it can be about what they like and can be about themselves or their friends. This also offers a chance for differentiation. Some students can write multiplication problems, while some might still be working on addition.  Students can also be working with numbers that fit their comfort level. 

The other neat thing you can do is let other kids solve their story problems. In the past, after having kids write their own story problems - I type them up and then have the class work on them.  They loved it!  While it can be "fun" solving the teacher's problems, it's even better solving their friends.

If you are interested in this tip, check out my Create Your Own Multiplication Story Problems product on TPT here...

Story Problem Tip #3

It's Tuesday, so I'm back with another tip for using Story Problems in the classroom.  

For past tips...

So, today I'm sharing tip #3 with you.  My third tip is to let students share their strategies with each other.  

Every Friday in my class we do two story problems. Both story problems are similar - meaning same type, same operation, but different numbers.  I read the first story problem to students and then send them back to their seat to solve it. 

While they're solving, I circle the room and check out what strategies they are using. I then selectively pick a few students to share their strategies with the class.  By selectively, I mean I pick strategies we're focusing on or efficient strategies that I'm hoping more kids will use. I also pick a variety. I do not typically have the same strategy shared - I choose all different ones.

Then, I have each child that I picked come up one at a time to share their strategy with the class.  The audience is supposed to pay attention and see if they can pick up  new strategies that they could use next time. This is also great for kids who didn't get the right answer or didn't know how to solve it. They can now see how their classmates did it and get ideas from them.

I normally use my iPad stand as a doc camera and project their work on the board. The child presenting stands up and explains how they solved it. Some students can explain on their own, while some need some probing questions to get all of the info out.  The pictures below are from a day when technology was not in my favor. I had the students who were picked write on the board how they solved it. While they were writing they explained what they were doing.



This tip is great for many reasons. It lets students teach each other. Students get tired of hearing us all day so it's nice when they can hear the same thing from someone else. It provides opportunities for math communication, which is a huge part of math nowadays.  It also builds math confidence.

Check back next week for my final story problem tip!

Why I Love Sit Spots

I got Sit Spots in my classroom last year and have absolutely loved them! I highly recommend them and don't know what I'd do without them.  

Here are a few reasons why I love them...
  • They are bright and colorful. They come in many different shapes and options to fit your class decor or needs.
  • They last! I used these last year and then washed them over the summer. I was a little nervous, but they look great! I love that you can wash the to disinfect!
  • They really do stick.  The velcro on the back of these is legit! These things stick.  My room gets vacuumed and the Sit Spots are all where they should be.  
  • It's not a rug! Don't get me wrong, I have had a classroom rug for 8 out of my 11 years teaching.  And, I do love a rug, but these are better. Students still each have their own spot and you don't have the issues with tripping over the rug. I can't tell you how many times the rug got caught under something and then there was a bump. I was often the victim tripping over the bump or the edge of the rug. But, that is not an issue with Sit Spots.
  • They are inexpensive. When I bought Sit Spots last year, they were $2 per Sit Spot. Not a bad price and like I said they last!



If you are interested in buying them, check out the Sit Spots website...here.

Story Problem Tip #2

As I mentioned in my post about Story Problem Tip #1, story problems are a huge part of math. It's so important that we provide students opportunities to use math with real world situations.  Last week I talked about how students tend to dread word problems. The see words in math and tend to freak out - it's just supposed to be numbers! That's why I started this little mini blog series.  You can find tip #1...here...

So, for tip #2 to make story problems a little more fun, let the students choose their numbers. A huge part of differentiation is choice.  My example below is from when I taught first grade, but you could change the numbers and story problem skill to fit any grade level.



I often give 3 choices.  One for my struggling students, one for my on-level students, and higher numbers to challenge my kids who are ready.  I let kids pick the numbers. However, I do go around and monitor their choices. If students pick one that is too easy, after they solve it, I suggest they try the larger numbers.  If students pick one too hard for their ability, I suggest they try a different one first and then they can try to go back to that one.

Kids love choice and by giving them choice with story problems we are differentiating for their needs, which will make story problems seem less dreaded and impossible.