Have you enjoyed your Christmas break?  I know I have!  I'm also sure you are in need of some great resources to use when you go back :)  The ladies of the Lesson Deli and I have put together a Jumpstart January Blog Hop to help you create your plans for the next few weeks and a chance to win a $50 Target Gift card!

One of my favorite stories to use this time of year is Snowflake Bentley.  This is a great text to use for informational text, biography, timelines, sequencing, character traits, and science!  I love a text that touches on a variety of skills!

My freebie for you is a mini Snowflake Bentley unit!

This unit includes 4 comprehension questions (that require Higher Order Thinking) for Fan-N-Pick or Team Showdown, Character Trait Map, and an Informational Text Feature template for student writing.

Some of my favorite ways to use task cards are by using the following structures.  With these structures you only need a few task cards instead of a whole class set.

1. Provide each team (4-6 students) with a set of cards.
2. Each team member should be assigned a number (1-4).
3. #1 Fans the cards
4. #2 picks a card
5. #3 reads the card aloud to the team
6. EVERYONE writes their answer on a sheet of paper or student white board
7. #4 shares his/her answer first and then students continue to share their answers in order.
8. Rotate the deck of task cards to #2 and repeat the steps. Each student will have a different job this round.
9. Continue the steps until all cards have been answered.

I combine two of Kagan's Cooperative Learning Structures to ensure ALL students are actively engaged and participating in the team discussion.

When students identify the character traits of Wilson Bentley they are also required to support their thinking with evidence from the text.  I have also created a text feature template for students to write their own summary or informational text piece on W. Bentley or snow using a variety of text features.

Along with the other members of The Lesson Deli I am putting a few of my products on sale for $1!  This is a great time to stock up on some great deals using those TpT gift certificates you received for Christmas!

Math: Fractions with Recipes
Fractions with Recipes 4.NF.4

Science: Nutrition Close Reading Passages
Nutrition Close Reading Passages & Corresponding Activities
Social Studies: The Scarlet Stocking Spy

The Scarlet Stockings Spy {Unit ONLY}

There is an epidemic in our upper elementary math classes...teachers are not using manipulatives!  Many teachers are still stuck to the belief that our children MUST memorize their facts and no longer use hands-on experiences in math.  Our students in the upper grades are still children and enjoy learning through manipulatives, play, and interaction with others.

A few weeks ago my 5th grade teachers said they were in need of fraction bars, so I went on a hunt throughout the school to track some down for them.  I was amazed and disappointed by the amount of dust on the teachers tubs of manipulatives!  I'm sure this is happening in classrooms across the country.

I can assume that manipulatives aren't being used because 1) it takes time to pull them out 2) the students will play and not pay attention 3) teachers don't see the importance of using them in the upper grades and 4) teachers aren't comfortable using the manipulatives.  There are solutions to all of these 1) prepare ahead of time 2) set expectations for your students use of the tools 3) understand that children learn by doing and 4) practice with the manipulatives yourself.

Using manipulatives at the beginning of a new concept or skill is vital to many students.  They need to experiment with the tools and tasks, along with conceptually see how to perform the algorithm or skill.  I still see students in the upper grades struggle with regrouping because they are still in the conceptual learning of the skill and not the abstract, and many upper grades quickly move to the abstract. 

Every year I taught 4th grade I always had a handful of students who still struggled with regrouping in addition and/or subtraction. This year I was helping out in a 4th grade classroom and saw the same struggle, a handful of students who were still in the conceptual aspect of regrouping.

I created a small set of task cards for these students, and those in your classroom too, for them to practice and hopefully move over to the abstract level of thinking with this skill.  There are eight addition and eight subtraction task cards. Each card has an equation represented by base ten blocks.  I also created a record sheet where they read and write the equation in the box and a record sheet where the equation is already written for them.  This is so you can use a record sheet that best meets the needs of your students.

I recommend laminating the task cards or placing them in a small photo album (see above) for students to actually write and manipulate the equation.  Ideally students would set up the problem with actual base ten blocks. :)

These task cards are great for intervention and for students who are in the RtI process for math.

It's been awhile since I have blogged...I think this is the longest blogging break I have ever taken, yikes!  This is my first year as an Instructional Coach and I am still adjusting to the new job, new district, new school, and new responsibilities.  Over the first half of the school year I have learned that the role of an Instructional Coach (IC) is different across the country, districts, and even schools.  

If you google "what is an instructional coach?" you will find that there is no set job description or role, it truly is different for each school.  It all depends on the vision of the district and the Principal to determine your role as an IC.  I wanted to share with you a glimpse of my role as an IC.  

First, I am never in my office.  It's hard to track me down because my schedule is always busy.  I am responsible for providing PLCs every Tuesday, assist with the RTI process, ensure our state Read to Achieve initiative is being implemented, conduct classroom walk throughs, ensure our district's new curriculum and Lesson Plan is being implemented, and many many more things!

At the beginning of the year I was given all of these technology tools!  The Chrome book is for all communication, our district is moving towards Google drive for EVERYTHING!.  The Dell mini is so I can print.  Our technology peeps are not allowed to install a printer on our Chrome books because of the move to straight digital, but lets be real I need to print some things!  Finally, the iPad is again for our all digital movement and makes doing walk throughs easier than carrying the Chrome book everywhere.  We also use mClass state assessments and the iPad is a must have for those.  Even with all of these I still bring my personal computer to school because I like it better...I LOVE my MAC!

It was my responsibility to decorate our PLC room, this was a fun project for me.  Our district didn't do so well on last year's assessments and we have been drilled on these numbers since the fall.  So, in order to keep them the focus of our instruction and remember that we need to make some improvements  this is the front BB in our PLC room.  Our Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction loved this board when she came to visit. She didn't love the numbers, but loved it was part of our focus.

This year our district adopted the Learning-Focused Lesson Plan.  It's a format that ensures that all best practices are included in your lesson plan.  Right now our teachers are only required to use it for their Math lessons.

Every Tuesday I provide PLC for my teachers (we are a 3-5 school).  PLC's focus on our new ELA Curriculum, Learning-Focused plans, planning, Math strategies, etc.

We are using Pam Allyn's Core Ready materials for ELA this year.  This is an AMAZING curriculum!  It's not a basal, but Common Core aligned lesson plans that use literature!  I love it because it teaches students about reading and writing with BOOKS, not a basal!  To help my teachers I have started creating Smart Board plans for them to use.  The lessons are step by step and I create the slides for them to use with each of the lessons.  Part of being a coach my goal is to help take some of the stress and work load off of my teachers, so I try to help out as much as I can.

One important part of my role as an IC is to go into classrooms and do model lessons.  This is also one of my favorite parts of my job!  I will model a lesson if a teacher asks for help, or if he/she is struggling with teaching a skill, classroom management, or just wants to see some new strategies.

Each week I send out a newsletter with information related to the topic we discussed in PLC.  I also include important dates, links to TpT freebies, a reflection quote or question, and other important information.  I know that not all my teachers read the newsletter.  I will say the biggest challenge of being an instructional coach are those teachers who are not open to new ideas or who are not reflective in their practices.  I have learned to not focus on those who are not open to the help, but rather invest my time in those who are reflective and want to improve their best practices and teaching methods.

My goal this year is for more of my teachers to use Collaborative Pairs (from Learning-Focused) and/or Cooperative Learning Structures.  I am always reminding them the importance of using them in their instruction and model CP in my lessons and PLCs.  

As an IC you can quickly pick up on the school's climate. You know when everyone is happy and loving their job and you know when everyone is unhappy and hating their job because ONE more thing as been asked of them.  When the ONE MORE THING has hit I try to leave my teachers with a little morale booster.  I also hold off on telling them about another thing the district or state wants them to do. 

I honestly LOVE being an IC!  It has been the best decision I have made in regards to my teaching career.  I love helping other teachers plan and create lessons to meet the needs of their students.  Even in this role my number one priority is our students.  If it's not in the best interest of our students I will speak up, my teachers discovered this very early on when we had an LLI "issue" at the beginning of the year.  I will also stand up for my teachers, for example my 3rd grade team has a LOT on their plate with local and state ELA assessments.  I have not yet told them about ONE more thing the district wants them to do.  I knew if I told them before break many would not come back after break :)  So, I will share it with them after break and answer to who I need to answer to. :)

Does your school have an Instructional Coach, Literacy Coach, or Math Coach?  What are their roles?

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