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Student Partnerships

I mentioned in this post that I was going to be writing a series about being deliberate in the classroom.  My favorite way to be deliberate is in setting up student partnerships, so what better way to kick off this series?  A new school year is upon us and you'll soon have a new crew of kiddos to get to know.  You'll also probably be doing many get-to-know-you types of activities, benchmarking your students, and establishing your routines and procedures so I hope this post is one that can help you right from the start!

There are many ways to partner students in the classroom and there's not one right or wrong way.  I used to use popsicle sticks with students' names on them or a randomizer app.  Both are fun, but can be a bit time consuming.  Over the last several years I came up with a few ways to partner my students so that they had "set" partners that worked for many different activities/reasons.

I found that there were a few partnerships that I needed in my classroom.  These included...

* Reading Partners - sometimes I would want to pair students high/low and sometimes with partners of similar reading levels

* Math Partners - sometimes I would want to pair students high/low and sometimes with partners of similar fluency levels

* Convenient Partners - sometimes I would want students to have a partner at their seat without moving around, often for a very quick activity

* Random Partners - sometimes I would want students to have a random partner...someone they didn't work with on a daily basis

* Choice Partners - occasionally I would still let students choose their own partners (or have the choice of working alone)

So, how could I establish all of these partnerships and easily remember them all?  It ended up being pretty easy and it all centered around a single index card.

At the beginning of the year, I was already benchmarking my students in word and addition fluency, so this seemed like a reasonable place to find my partners.
I used the simple F&P word lists to benchmark my students.  I created this PowerPoint of the word lists to make benchmarking easy.  I started my students on level 1 (slide 22) and each time a red slide popped up (indicating a new leveled-list), I would tell them they were going to try some words that were a bit harder now.  We continued until a student missed 3 (or more) words on a single list.  At that point, I knew that list was too hard and their level was the previous list.  Of course, you may have a different way to assess your students, but the point is that you need to identify higher and lower readers to establish good partnerships.  While this benchmark doesn't consider comprehension, it's still usually a good base to begin with partners.

The levels of my students may end up looking like this:

Using these word list levels, I sorted my students...
I then partnered a lower reader with a higher reader until all students were matched.  My partnerships ended up looking like this...
I call my reading partnerships "SuperSpeed 1,000" partners because I use Whole Brain Teaching's Super Speed 1,000 in my classroom daily.  It's word fluency practice for partners (a high reader with a low reader for support) that takes 2 minutes per day and I swear by it for building word fluency!

Now, do I always want to pair a lower reader with a higher reader?  Of course not!  For many activities, that partnership will be frustrating for both partners. 

But, since we use SuperSpeed 1,000 daily, I can just say, "Get with your SuperSpeed 1,000 partner" and students know exactly how to partner up.  If I want reading partners of the same/similar level, I can quickly use this handy index card (that I keep on my desk) and call partners by looking at names stacked on top of each other instead of side-by-side.  So now, instead of Carmen and Landon being partners, Carmen would be  partnered with Amanda while Landon would be partnered with Heyward.

One benchmark. One index card.  Reading partnerships for the year are set.  Of course, I sometimes revisit throughout the year and make a few adjustments due to progress, comprehension levels, etc.

I set my math partnerships in much the same way as my reading partnerships.  Since at the beginning of the year in 2nd grade, we're focusing on addition, I give my students a basic addition fluency check, such as this one here.  Since this one has 50 problems, students are given 2 minutes to solve as many as possible.  The number correct is their addition fluency score.  These scores are sorted in the same manner as my reading scores above and students are paired together (low/high) for daily SuperSpeed Math practice.  Just like SuperSpeed 1,000, SuperSpeed Math is a 4-minute daily partner practice by Whole Brain Teaching that builds fact fluency by having high and low math students working together.  But of course, I can again easily and quickly pair students with like abilities which is SUPER important for playing math games in the classroom (otherwise, the high student will always win and that's not good for either partner).

I write my SuperSpeed Math partners on the back of the reading index card so I only have one card to keep up with but I have 4 partnerships already set for the year - low/high reading partnerships, same level reading partnerships, low/high math partnerships, and same level math partnerships.

Sometimes, my partnerships are more about convenience rather than math or reading levels.  For example, if we're working in our science interactive notebooks and there's a partner game, I want students to pair up quickly for that activity.  Seat partners are a way to do this super quickly as it doesn't even require anyone to move around the room.  I assign seat partners at the beginning of the year - you can add sticker dots to desks to help students remember which neighbor is their seat partner, if needed, but my students usually don't need any help. 

We have trapezoid tables pushed together to make hexagonal teams in my classroom so my seat partners look something like the first picture.  If you have circle tables in your classroom, your seat partners would look like the second pic.  The importance is just that seat partners sit next to each other so they can partner up quickly without even leaving their seats!

Because students get tired of working with the same partners over and over, I also like to have a "random" partner for them to work with when activities allow it.  I call these random partners "table partners" as they are the person that sit directly ACROSS the table from each other.  When I'm partnering students and academic abilities or convenience doesn't matter, students partner up with their "table partners" and head to choose a spot in our classroom to work together.

Table partners in our classroom would look like the picture on the left.  I wouldn't recommend marking these with stickers if you've already marked seat partners since that could become confusing.  When I want students to work with table partners, I just have them stand up, face their table, and point ahead of them.  That person is their partner!

Reading partners, math partners, seat partners, and table partners are my way of deliberately pairing students for meaningful partnerships throughout the year.  I'm all set whether I need high/low or same ability partners or if I need partners at tables or with a little more freedom to move about.

Of course, at times throughout the year, I also let students choose their own partners.  However, this is few and far between.

As a reward usually, or later in the year when students are much more independent (and responsible with our routines/procedures) I will let them have free-choice in choosing their partners.  However, I do use this one scarcely.  Using this partnership may depend on your class, but it's nice to keep in your back pocket as a little surprise reward some days.  :)

I hope this post helps you to think about how you use student partnerships in your classroom, how you can have them set up and organized ahead of time to minimize taking away from instructional time, and how to deliberately think about what partnerships would benefit students at particular times throughout the day.  By thinking ahead and having a plan for partnerships, transitions can be smooth and partnerships can be more successful. 

Let me know if you have any questions!

Being Deliberate in the Classroom

This past year my school did something a little different with our book study.  Instead of a book geared toward educators, we "read" StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath (affiliate link).  I put "read" in parenthesis because this is not a book you read from cover to cover.  Instead, you read the introduction and then take an online quiz (that you only have access to using a scratch-off code inside your copy of the book). 

After taking the online quiz, which consists of questions with a "range" on how you feel about various topics/scenarios rather than right or wrong answers, you are given your top 5 (of 34) strengths.  I must say that they were spot on and the detailed descriptions of each of my top 5 strengths described me to a tee!  It's interesting to think about actually taking each person's strengths in a workplace and building on it.  Letting those people do the things that make them shine!

At first, I was a little disappointed in my results as I figured "achiever" would be my number one strength - that's always been my personality.  However, it was number two.  My number one strength was....DELIBERATE.  Hmmmm....I wasn't happy with that word.  It seemed to have a negative connotation to it.  Then, I read the description for this strength and it was an AHA moment.

I am deliberate.  In everything I do.  In throwing parties, in planning vacations, in planning my week, and in running my classroom.  It all made sense.  I'm a planner.  Rarely do I do anything without having thought through it beforehand.  I have a backup plan for my backup plan. Anyone else?

Being deliberate is SO important in teaching.  I've always been told classroom management has been one of my biggest strengths....this is why.  My classroom runs SMOOTHLY.  I have a system for everything.  I sometimes watch other teachers take their students to the hall restroom, go out to fire drills, or monitor their students at lunch or on field trips and think WHY?  Why don't they have a system in place?  Things just run much smoother with a system that has been deliberately planned ahead of time. 

So...I'm sharing some of my favorite systems with you just in time for the new school year!  In my next few blog posts, I'll share with you how I'm....

  • Deliberate with student partnerships 
  • Deliberate with classroom management
  • Deliberate with routines
  • Deliberate with classroom supplies

I hope that if DELIBERATE is not one of your top strengths, you'll pick up a tip or two that may help you start thinking and planning ahead for the new school year.  If you've taken the strengthsfinder quiz before, what was your top strength?  Be sure to share it with others and use your strength to help them!

Missing Addends Made Easy

Missing addends are always a tricky concept for many students.  I believe the cause of this is many reasons.  Some students are still building their number sense, some students are simply careless, and some students don't truly understand that equal sign.

When a problem such as this is given to many students, they will simply see two numbers, add them, and write the answer in the blank.

You'll get this in return.  Obviously, the 12 doesn't make sense when the problem is read back, but since most students at this age don't check over their work, they don't know to go back and rework it.

And, let's face it. Most of the time, students have been taught to look at the sign and put the answer in the blank.  That's exactly what this student did.  They think they've solved it correctly.

I've found something that works with my students.  I call him THE EQUALIZER! (said in my best superhero voice)

First, when presented with a problem like this...
we talk about the equal sign and what it means.   Many students will say it means "the answer" so this is something we clarify.  We learn that equal means "the same" and we do a lot of demonstrations with manipulatives to show "the same."

Then, I introduce THE EQUALIZER who is a super hero with special powers - he makes everything "the same" or "fair." But, his super power is in his muscles and if his muscles aren't the same, his powers won't work.

So, we practice drawing his muscles.  To do this, we always find the equal sign - his muscles grow from there.  We draw a circle from one side of the equal sign, up and around the numbers, to the bottom of the equal sign and then repeat on the other side.

Once the muscles are drawn, students have to make sure they are "the same" so THE EQUALIZER will have his powers.  In the illustration above, we see that one side is complete with a 10.  So, we need to make the other side also equal 10. Drawing these "muscles" really lets students see the two sides of the equation.

This visual is just what many students need to be able to understand the problem and filll in the missing addend.  However, a few students may still make careless errors. So, once the muscles are completed, the final step is to check.

I actually have my students label the muscles when checking to prove that the are equal.  If they're not, the student knows they need to go back and try it again.

So, to review, these are the steps we use to "equalize" a problem.

When we're practicing this as a whole group, I let students who solve the problem correctly stand up on their chairs and flex their muscles for us!  They've become EQUALIZERS!

They kind of eat it up. :)  I hope this little tip helps your students master the tricky concept of missing addends!

KAZOO Are About To Go Back To School!

Just popping in to leave a little Back To School Freebie for you today.

You can pick up the KAZOOS at Target in the party section (12 per pack).
Download the tags for free HERE.

TC Turns Ten!

Hi friends!  I found it a struggle this past school year to balance everything (for a multitude of reasons) and sadly my blog was the one that suffered most.  I aim to change that this summer!

My first post back is to announce that I did not forget that Teacher's Clubhouse turns TEN this year! It's hard to believe that I started officially sharing all the resources I created ten years ago!! Wow - time flies!  I couldn't let it pass me by since I always love to do a big celebration.  This year is no different.  There will be TEN WEEKS of FREEBIES!

The first freebie ends TODAY so be sure to go grab it from my shop. It is my newly updated Birthday Bash pack to help you celebrate students' birthdays in the classroom.  You can grab it HERE.

Inside you'll find tons of stuff including...

...an interactive birthday photo booth background

...an interactive birthday book

...and everything you need to create birthday cups for your students.

I'm also hosting a SUNDAY SALEBRATION every Sunday during my 10 week Birthday Bash, where I will be posting one of my yearlong big bundles for 50% off for ONE DAY ONLY.

Here's a peek at what you can snag today....

one of my Differentiated Spelling Packs for just $9.99!  Everything you need for the year - word lists, spelling tests, practice activities, games, homework menu, handwriting practice, and MORE!

So, don't miss out over the next 10 weeks!  I'll have a brand new freebie to post tomorrow in my shop!  Follow along so you don't miss out!

Parent Gift Idea {Tag Freebie}

Everyone is so busy this time of year.   It's easy to forget to grab a gift for that special parent who comes through for you in your time of need.  If you're in a crunch, I've got the perfect gift idea for you.  It comes from my brilliant teammate and it really is the perfect token of appreciation.  It would also be great for custodians, teammates, or any other staff member!

Just grab paper products and wrap them up with this gift tag.

I love to purchase my paper products at Hobby Lobby - they always have a cute selection and all holiday items are usually 50% off!  It's also a great idea to stock up AFTER Christmas for next year!  In mine, I included two sizes of plates, napkins, cups, and plastic cutlery.  I placed them in a clear gift basket sack and tied with ribbon.  Easy Peasy!

Appy Classrooms {Word Clouds}

Hi all!  I'm back to share a super easy but very useful app for your classroom!

App Name: Word Clouds
Cost: FREE
Here's what you will look for:

This is app is very simple to use.  Students simply type in words to show up in a "cloud" format.  The more times a word is typed, the larger it will appear in the cloud (very similar to the Wordle site if you have used that).  Students then have the option to change the font, color pattern, or layout design.

Here are some ways we use this app in my classroom.

As we studied adjectives, students worked in pairs to create a word cloud of adjectives using the five senses - How does it taste, look, feel, smell, and sound?

This led into our next session on adverbs.  Students were given a verb which they typed in 8 times (to make the verb larger) and then typed in adjectives describing how, when, or where that verb happened.

A science use is to give students a topic, in this case an animal classification group (mammals) and have students create a cloud of words associated with it.

My favorite way to use Word Clouds though is for student birthdays.  For this, I set one iPad out and type the birthday child's name eight times (to ensure it is large).  Then, students go one at a time throughout the day and add a character trait that describes the birthday child.  If character traits are repeated, it's okay - those words will appear larger.  Once all students have typed a trait, I quickly make the cloud (but you could also let the birthday child do this) and let them upload it to their Seesaw portfolio.  I'm also considering printing them out to frame as end of the year gifts.  I've done word cloud frames as gifts before at the end of the year and the fact that the clouds will all be done for me as an added bonus! <3

Since character traits are something we are really just starting to learn about in 2nd grade, I do post a {positive} character traits sign in the room for those students who may need the support (or help spelling their word).  You can grab my character trait signs (both positive and negative) FREE in my shop by clicking the link below!

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