Sunday, September 30, 2012

Got Math? Teaching All Students in a Large Class

Math, Technology, Classroom Management
     As many of you have already read, I have an extremely large class this year.  I've come to the conclusion that I may not get everything done this year that I want to as I find myself moving at the pace of a snail to make sure that I teach all of my students what they need to know.  My organizational skills are being stretched to the limit and I'm constantly reteaching material in about 10 different ways to reach everyone.
     The first thing that I did was to group my students based on information that came to me before school, our state tests, and performance on material within the classroom at the beginning of the year.  I've also started pretesting students before each unit.   If a student scores 80% or better on the pretest, I immediately compact them out for individual work which involves options to extend their learning on the subject we are working on.  I also make sure that they understand that they may have to rejoin the class for individual lessons as needed based on the results of their scores.  This group works quietly at the back of the classroom on lessons and projects using both math books and the computers to assist their learning.
     I create my groups by using Super Sticky Post-it Notes in bright yellow with each subject area designated by pink for math and green for reading. This allows me to change the groups as needed, and as the students move up and down. As I said earlier, my class is large, so I group  them into 3 groups; high, medium, and low.  Students sit in the table grouping assigned to them (lowest group front and center) this allows me to keep track of everyone more easily.  As I move through the lesson, I release students and groups to work more independently completing the assignment and practice work, along with 3 websites that I supplement my math instruction with.
     The first one is called XtraMath, a site that reinforces basic math fact skills and recall. It allows the teacher to monitor and track practice, takes only a few minutes of class time, and can be practiced at home.  The second website is called MathSlice. This site is more traditional in that it allows the student to choose which area to practice and how, but one of the reasons I like it is that it is not really a game, but a lesson with accompanying math worksheets that can be printed off and used at school or home to reinforce the students knowledge.  Lastly is a math site that uses a game type platform, but can be totally teacher directed, motivating for students, and engaging. It's called Qtopia. Qtopia is an online learning platform that offers thousands of ready-to-use activities, motivating games, avatar features, online homework access with automatic grading, in-classroom review modes, and the ability for educators to use 'as is' or completely customize the learning experience. The best part as always with these sites are that they are all F-R-E-E!
     So, I may be overwhelmed, but I'm still striving to meet and teach every student at their level.  By being flexible and dynamic with my instruction and grouping, I hope to help every student feel confident and secure in their knowledge.  When they walk away from a lesson and smile and tell me, "I get it", I feel really good inside.  Isn't that what our job is all about?

Here are couple of grouping organizers and math freebies I'm sharing with you!
Student Groupings
Heart Attackz Addition and Subtraction Game 

Also, check out Laura Candler's October Learning Freebies for more fun activities for fall!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Puppy Training and My Classroom

Classroom management, expectations, praise, Globicate, Heidi Befort

I recently acquired a puppy in my household much to my husbands dismay.  As I was laying in bed this morning at 5:15 AM thinking I need to get up soon and let the little one out to relieve himself, I started calculating the similarities between my puppy training and my students in my classroom this year.  I was amazed at how alike the two are.

Puppies and students need routines they can count on.  They need the constant patterns that they recognize and understand and can depend on. Once they know those routines, they can relax and be themselves.

Expectations and Consequences
As with all of us, life has consequences when we don't participate the way we are suppose to.  My puppy knows already that when he doesn't follow the household expectations there will be consequences.  We are encouraging him not to chew, how to walk on a leash, and play appropriately.  When that doesn't happen he knows there will be consequences. Students are very similar, they need to know you have expectations for behavior, work, and actions.  When they are not successful in meeting them share your thoughts with them in a positive way, but let them know there are consequences.

Students and puppies need lots of praise.  They need to know that when they do something right you think they are special. Hand it out freely, give them a pat on the back, pull them to the side and let them know you noticed what they did or accomplished. In the end, you'll be rewarded with a big smile or a wag of the tail.  You'll see them relax, take more risks, and accomplish more.

Structure and Security
Both students and puppies need structure and security.  They need to know they are safe, and that they can count on the structure you'll give them in their environment.  Provide an environment where they feel they can make mistakes and learn from them.  Give them the structure to learn and grow, where they can slowly expand their horizons.  This morning my puppy bravely explored out large yard while the coyotes howled in the background.  He occasionally ran back to my feet, but continued his quest because he felt safe. Your students will slowly take on more responsibility if you let them know they are safe and secure in your classroom.

Opportunities for both students and puppies should be abundant where they can learn and explore their world.  Learning opportunities should be laced with questions and thinking, and most of all opportunities for wonder and creativity, curiosity and exploration.  It is in this world where both puppies and students will grow, learn to think on their own, and become adults who will continue the cycle of education.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hot Topic Friday! Inside Voice

Technology, Apps for the Classroom, Globicate, Heidi Befort

One of my coworkers recently shared this fabulous and free app from Apple called, Inside Voice. I love this app as it allows me to work with a small group while my other students are working independently or on group projects.  With my large class, the noise level can be excessive and disturb my coworkers classroom.  Students listen for the bell, rooster, or alert signal and are reminded to lower their voice.  You can set the level and notification signal to your desired expectations for your students.  The app has a visual that looks like a sun and concentric circles that can be adjusted.  As students speak, the sound waves move about the circle creating a great visual for the students to watch. I have a three strikes your out policy in my classroom, so students are very conscious of when I tell them to use their inside voice.  Check it out, I'm sure Inside Voice will become your favorite app this year!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Multiple Intelligences seems to be one of the those buzz phrases that comes and goes depending on who you talk to and what year it is. Right now we are more focused on assessment and evaluation instead of the child.  Being a multiage teacher for the last 10 years, multiple intelligences have been a big focus in my classrooms.  I truly believe we all learn differently and some are stronger in other areas than others.  I myself and a total visual learner...I need to see it to understand it.  I also have a strong pull towards nature and outside.  Identifying these traits in our students and helping them identify and understand how they learn is critical to helping them be successful learners.  To help you do this, I came upon a website that does just that, Cybrary Man's Educational Web sites. This site has a whole page on multiple intelligences and finding your multipotentiality. So whether you're a newbie this year or a seasoned teacher, check out Cybrary Man's page, and happy searching! Heidi

Thursday, September 6, 2012


This re-post has some great resources to use in the classroom, plus, I love the picture! In Remembrance, Heidi

As we quickly approach September, a tragic and memorable occasion in United States history will be upon us.  For those of us who can remember, it will never be forgotten as many other similar occasions in the past that affected us so much.  As teachers though, we should be looking at this as a teachable moment and way to bridge those global differences that are so embedded in this event.  Arizona's Frontline and is a wonderful site for videos, resources and teacher and classroom materials. Whether you are already back in school like myself or getting ready to return, this is an opportunity to create discussion and learning experiences for a generation who may not connect with this event. There are many resources out there, but check out and Frontline to help you create and find videos for this event! Heidi

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