Growth Mindset: The importance of "YET"!

"Growth Mindset" is a buzz phrase that we are hearing everywhere these days--in the business world and in our schools.  The research that is happening is pretty exciting--and Carol Dweck out of Stanford is doing some amazing things.  If you haven't taken the time to read about her work--or to watch some of her many short videos, I strongly encourage you to do so!  The information being learned about how students learn, about the "affective" side of learning, the role of praise, and many other critical components of our teaching world is growing exponentially.  We can start to take some steps to implement this new research now!  

First of all...take a little listen to what Dweck has to say ( I posted some videos below), and see if you don't agree that we, as teachers, can take to nurture a growth mindset in our students.  She talks about mindset...about being careful about how we praise children, and how we need to value effort more than results.

What is the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset?  People who have a fixed mindset truly believe that they are pre-programmed for a certain level of success.  "I'm a terrible speller."  or "My whole family is bad at math."  You've heard this--maybe you've even said them!  The simple truth is, scientists have learned that students CAN improve performance--and their attitudes and mindsets can actually change their brains in a way that allows for better learning.  Telling students this gives them so much power!

As a class, we started this year really digging into this topic and sharing some short videos and books that provided my 4th graders with some evidence of the brain science--written right at their level.  In fact, we did a number of activities from the "Week of Inspirational Math" out of Stanford which is all about teaching students about a growth mindset.  Want to check it out?  CLICK HERE!  It wou.ld be a great thing to do at ANY point in the year.

To really put my students in positions to work on this "growth mindset", we did all sorts of cooperative challenges...we worked to solve math problems with many answers...we stacked Oreos for this online data project...we worked on jigsaw puzzles in teams...we did STEM challenges--all with the intent of putting students in positions to practice using the language of a growth mindset.  We didn't allow...

This is too hard.
I can't do it.
I'm not smart enough.

Nope.  Simply not allowed.  I can't do it YET is allowed--and then we work toward the "YET"!
So I wanted to make sure my students had the "language" needed to be able to work on this growth mindset--they needed the words to say to replace the fixed mindset phrases they had grown accustomed too. Similarly...we looked at phrases that we might have heard people say before and talked about how they either represented a "not yet" mindset--or one that was fixed and shut down learning.

Want to try some of these activities with your OWN students?  Just grab this resource and give it a try!
Interested in watching a little more of the research behind this movement?  These two videos are fantastic--so grab a can of Pringles and settle in!

(Here is the book "Mindset" if you want to read even's a GREAT, easy to read book!)

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Tricks and Treats Free eBook for Upper Elementary

{Click to Access and Download the FREE eBook and Printables for Upper Elementary Students}

Halloween is almost here and we are so excited to share a special eBook with you, created by the teachers from Upper Elementary Snapshots. It's filled with Tricks and Treats for the upper elementary classroom! 

In this eBook, you'll find lots of "Tricks" for you (teacher tips you can use now) and "Treats" for your students (free printables for Halloween and Fall) and best of all...the eBook is absolutely FREE!

Hop over to our Upper Elementary TpT store and download yours today: Click here

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Halloween from all of us at Upper Elementary Snapshots!

Tips for Teaching Text Structure with Non-Fiction

I love teaching Text Structure! I love text structure so much that I wrote a blog post about it.  Here you will get a free text structure anchor chart, a list of mentor texts, and some tips to help you teach Nonfiction text structures.  (don't forget to grab the free anchor chart)

Teaching text structure can feel like such a complicated task, but it really doesn't have to be.  Here are a few simple tips for making non-fiction text structures simple to understand for your students.

1. Start with the Basics

I love to start each of my lessons with an anchor chart.  The anchor chart starts off very simple and we slowly add to it each day.  I always try my best to let my students decide what should be added to the anchor chart as we go.  Students will take more ownership of the information on the anchor chart if they have a hand in creating it.  Here is a digital version of my "finished" anchor chart.  Feel free to download it and use it in your own classroom!

I love teaching Text Structure! I love text structure so much that I wrote a blog post about it.  Here you will get a free text structure anchor chart, a list of mentor texts, and some tips to help you teach Nonfiction text structures.  (don't forget to grab the free anchor chart)

2. Look for the Signs

As you can see from my anchor chart, I teach my students to look for signal words to determine the structure of a text.  Some texts are not always clear, but this can be a very useful tool in most cases.

3. Mentor Texts are a "Must"

I use a mentor text to introduce each text structure.  Over the years I have changed the texts that I use. However, here are some that I have enjoyed!

I love teaching Text Structure! I love text structure so much that I wrote a blog post about it.  Here you will get a free text structure anchor chart, a list of mentor texts, and some tips to help you teach Nonfiction text structures.  (don't forget to grab the free anchor chart)

4. Graphic Organizers are Gold!

With all of my students, no matter their ability level, I have learned that graphic organizers are key in teaching text structure.  Graphic organizers allow students to make the structure of a text more concrete, and as a result, more obvious.  

Here is a passage about Harriet Tubman.  As you can see, the graphic organizer included lends itself to a chronological order text structure.  Having the organizer to work with greatly helps my students deepen their understanding of the text structure.  Eventually, I require my students to choose their own graphic organizer for each text.

I love teaching Text Structure! I love text structure so much that I wrote a blog post about it.  Here you will get a free text structure anchor chart, a list of mentor texts, and some tips to help you teach Nonfiction text structures.  (don't forget to grab the free anchor chart)

5. Practice, Practice, Practice!!!

The only way your students are going to get better at identifying and analyzing the structure of a text is by being exposed to various examples of each structure.  Spend some time collecting non-fiction articles for your students to read.  Here is a list of FREE online non-fiction websites with tons of great articles.  

Once you have collected enough texts, split your class into small groups.  Give each group a few texts to analyze.  Have them work together to determine its text structure, the clue words that helped them identify the structure, and why the author chose that structure. This activity will allow you to see exactly where your students are struggling.

Looking for some "No-Prep" text structure resources?  Check out my Non-Fiction Text Structure Resource Pack for everything you will need!  This pack includes student practice pages for each structure (including graphic organizers), a review game including numerous short texts, and an assessment.

I love teaching Text Structure! I love text structure so much that I wrote a blog post about it.  Here you will get a free text structure anchor chart, a list of mentor texts, and some tips to help you teach Nonfiction text structures.  (don't forget to grab the free anchor chart)

Check out my Text Structure Pinterest board for even more ideas!

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7 Math Games Using Playing Cards

I have always loved using games in the classroom. I think games are a great way to reinforce the skills we're targeting, while keeping our kids engaged. It's really a win-win teaching strategy for so many reasons! 

Math is one of my favorite subject areas, as far as incorporating games goes, so I thought I would share some of my favorite games with you that use a deck of cards. If you don't have many cards, I would really recommend going to the Dollar Store/Dollar Tree and stocking up...and by that, I mean I would get at least one deck per child, so you'll have more than enough to make your games a success. they are. Seven math games using cards that will work well for many grade levels, particularly 3rd - 5th. Just a note, most of the games can be tweaked by difficulty (for example Multiplication War could be Addition War), so hopefully, you can make them work for your particular group of kids.

1. Multiplication War

You'll need one deck of cards per student, with all the face cards taken out. To make the game more challenging, you can also remove the 1's (aces) and 2's as well. Players turn over the top card on their deck and the first person to multiply the numbers shown and say the product out loud (not too loud though) is the winner and keeps both cards. If there is a tie, cards go in the middle and the winner of the next round gets that pile too.

2. 30 More or Less

For this game, kids will need 1 - 2 decks of cards (your choice), with only the kings removed. Aces are 1, Jacks are 11, and Queens are 12. One child is designated as "More than 30" and the other is "Less than 30". Each player gets half of the cards and then players flip over their top card. Students multiply these cards together and if the product is below 30, the Less Than Thirty child keeps the cards and if it is greater than 30, the More Than Thirty child keeps it. If it is exactly 30, the cards are left in the middle and the next winner keeps those cards as well. Play continues until the cards run out. The player with the most cards wins.

3. Place Value Challenge

Use 1 - 2 decks of cards and take out all of the face cards and the 10's. Aces equal one. Once the cards are shuffled and each child gets half, each child turns over the number of cards that you specify...If you're working with hundreds, use 3...One thousands would be 4 and so on. Players may arrange the cards to make whatever number their little heart desires. 

You can tell them that the greatest number wins but what I like to do is to use a "More or Less coin" to determine the winner. These are simply made using a round plastic chip, a checker with a sticker in the middle, or a foam circle. I write more on one side and less on the other with a sharpie. That way no one knows the winner and gives up early. When both players have their numbers ready, the kids flip the coin to see if the highest or lowest number wins and keeps the cards. The one with the most cards at the end is the winner.

4. Build a Number (Either a Humongous Number or a Smaller Number)

This is a different place value game because it really requires higher level, logical types of thinking. Start by taking the face cards and 10's out of the deck(s). Aces equal one. Kids can make simple place value mats on scratch paper with a dash for each place value (if you're focusing on ten thousands, you need 5 dashes with a comma between the hundreds and thousands). If you like the game and have time, you might want to just make construction paper place value sets and laminate them. 

To play the game, shuffle the cards and divide the deck in half for 2 players. Players turn over one card at a time and place it on a dash on the place value mat. Once it is placed, it can not be removed!!! Here's where the thinking comes in. If you play the Build a Humongous Number game and get a 9, you would want to put that as close to the beginning of the number as possible and if you get a 2, you would want to put it near the end of the number... The player with the biggest (or littlest, if you're playing that game) number wins. Teaching decimals? This can easily become a decimal place value game. You can even throw in a few joker cards for zeroes!

5. Fraction Battle

This game's purpose is to compare fractions. Start by shuffling the cards. Leave the face cards and aces in. Aces = 11, Jacks = 12, (no 13's for this) Queens = 14, Kings = 15. Kids need either scratch paper and a pencil or whiteboards and a marker to do a bit of problem solving. 

Split the deck(s) and each player turns over 2 cards that he/she will use to make a fraction. The smaller number is the numerator and the larger is the denominator. Kid's compare fractions and the larger fraction wins and keeps the cards (unless you use a more/less coin as explained above). If the fractions are equivalent, the cards are put in the middle and the winner of the next round takes those too.

6. Simple Simon Fractions Race (Simplifying Fractions)

To prepare for this game, take out the aces. Make the Jacks 12, Queens 14, and the Kings 15 (no 13's again). Split the deck and shuffle the cards. Each player flips over the top two cards from his/her pile and makes a fraction with the smaller number on top. The first player (yes it's a race) to correctly simplify his/her fraction may keep the cards from that round. If there is a tie, cards are put in the middle for the next round's winner. If a player's cards can not be simplified, the other player may keep the cards IF he she simplifies his/her own fraction correctly. If not, cards go back in the center for the next round. The player with the most cards at the end wins.

7. Improper Fraction War

Students will need scratch paper or a whiteboard to work out some of their problems in this game. For this game, Aces are one, Jacks are 12, Queens are 14, and Kings are 15. Shuffle the deck and split the cards evenly. Players turn over the top 2 cards and make an improper fraction (big number on top). Each player converts that improper fraction to a mixed (or regular) number and the largest number wins (or use the more/less coin again). Winner keeps the cards and play continues. If there is a tie, the cards go in the middle to be taken by the winner of the next round.

More Math Fun:

Besides using playing cards to make math more engaging, I love to use task cards. If you're interested in math task cards for any or ALL standards for the entire year for 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade, I would love for you to check these out. 

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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Choosing The Daily 3 in the Upper Elementary Classroom

As a fifth grade teacher, I was excited and hopped on the bandwagon of the Daily 5 in 2010. I loved the structure, loved the purposeful activities, and loved how it seemed that my students were engaged from the get go.

But as the first few weeks of establishing routines, and building stamina came to a close, I noticed that not all of my fifth graders were engaged or using their time wisely with all the choices. I knew right away that changes had to be made.

When looking at The Daily 5, I analyzed what choices seemed to be the most troublesome as far as classroom management. "Read to Someone" came right to the forefront of my list. Yes, "I" charts were made, routines were established, and stamina was practiced. But as soon as I started my guided reading groups at the back table, read to someone became an issue. I could see that students were not always fully engaged with their reading partner, and I sometimes had to interrupt my group to remind the students what their job was during this time. It became clear to me that this choice would be abandoned in my fifth grade classroom. They just didn't need to read aloud to each other anymore.

The second Daily 5 choice that I eliminated was "Listen to Reading." This choice involves having devices in the classroom that students can use to listen to literature. My first dilemma was that I did not have anything to start with. I had to get a radio that had a tape player, then find tapes to go along with books. Once I had that set up, only one student could use it at a time. My school district purchased a device that would allow four students to listen to literature at the same time, but this became a management issue as well as I could see students not using their time wisely sitting next to each other. This was my second Daily 5 choice that went by the wayside.

I was left with three choices: "Read to Self," "Word Work," and "Work on Writing." These became the foundation for my Daily 3 rotations during the school year.  Below are some helpful tips and ideas that I have used to implement these three components in my classroom.

1. Read to Self
This option is the most important one to me. This is a chance for my students to read books of their choice independently and to practice fluency and comprehension. This is a must choice every day for my students. The only requirement I have is I would like them to read from a variety of genres throughout the school year. They keep track of the books and genres they have read on a simple log in their reading notebooks. We have a free chart that you can download here.

Daily 5 Read To Self Poster FREE

It is easy to get the students excited about books for read to self, either from my personal classroom library, or books they could check out in the school's library. I do book talks and even sometime show book trailers that you can find online. Click here for one such website that has numerous titles. This gets them fired up to read!

2. Word Work
Word work has evolved quite a bit in my classroom. What started out as daily task cards has turned into a weekly word study. On Monday students are given a set of words based on a spelling pattern at their level. They are to determine what pattern(s) the words can be classified into. On the next day, they write down those words onto paper based on the categories they discovered. The third day is dedicated to sorting the words once again and using them in meaningful sentences. The sentences have to have at least five words and cannot begin with "I." The fourth day is two-fold. Students once again sort their words, but then they write them in cursive. You may hear moans and groans, but the practice of sorting and writing them in cursive will help them remember. The fifth day is always quiz day. You can match up partners from different lists and have them write their sorts on paper to be handed in. I can then check the papers and if there are any students that struggled with the sort, I can meet with them and see what issues they were having. This option basically ran itself after I got it up and running in my classroom.

3. Work in Writing
The number one goal of work on writing is for students to continue to work on the piece that they were doing during writing class. However, there are times that students are either done or that there was no assignment. During these times, I love for students to have the freedom to write about what they want. To give them a little guidance, I created 40 engaging writing choices that my students could pick from. They loved the variety, and it made writing time during Daily 3 more exciting for them. You can download the writing choices for free here.

FREE Great Writer's Race Q & A, Writing Rubric, Activities

If you would like 15 FREE Daily 5 Resources (that does include read to someone and listen to reading), you can access them by clicking here or on the image below!

Here is to a successful Daily 3 schedule in your upper elementary classroom!

Author's Purpose in Upper Elementary... Increasing the Rigor

At a staff meeting about nine years back, our principal had us look at the previous year's test results, identify one or two areas of weakness, and then write a plan of action for improving that weak strand. Well, my colleagues and I recognized that Author's Purpose was a weak area for our third, fourth, and fifth graders that year. We wrote what we thought was a fabulous plan to help our students better understand the concept of Author's Purpose... and thus be better equipped to score higher in that area on the annual spring standardized tests. Our plan even included placement of a huge "pie" in the central part of the hallway, where each class wrote the titles of books they had read that fit into each category!

As teachers, our confidence soared as State Assessment time approached! When assessment time arrived, however, my heart sank. As an ESL teacher, I was providing the accommodations of reading the test questions aloud to limited-English proficient students. I felt more and more defeated with each test question I read aloud that was related to author's purpose. I realized that the test authors did not limit the answer choices to persuadeinform, and entertain. Rather, I saw answer choices that included words like explaindescribe, share, and occasionally even illustrate.

Furthermore, I realized that sometimes, the test authors required students to differentiate the main idea.  For example, answer choices might include:
          A.  To inform the reader about the formations found in caves
          B.  To describe the formations in a cave
          C.  To entertain readers with a story about a cave
          D.  To inform the reader about how caves are formed

It was then that I set out to do more than just teach the basic PIE method for Author's Purpose! I happened upon the PIE'ED method online, and from there created several resources to support this approach and ultimately increase the rigor for my upper elementary students.

Have you increased the rigor in order to prepare your students for authors purpose test questions? FREE author's purpose test prep passages, posters (persuade, inform, entertain, explain, describe), and many classroom ideas!

I used my newly created materials the following school year, and was encouraged by what I saw! Whereas in previous years, students often seemed to "skim" a passage to decide which of the PIE purposes best fit the passage, once I started using this new approach, I observed students reading the passages more carefully.  When testing time arrived again, I felt assured that I had done everything in my power to set my students up for success.

What is the PIE'ED method of Author's Purpose?
P-persuade (to convince the reader of something)
I-inform (to provide the reader with information)
E- entertain (to provide a story readers will enjoy - it can be sad, scary, or happy, and often includes dialogue)
E-explain (to give the reader directions or explain a process)
D-describe (to appeal to most or all of the reader's five senses)

If you decide to dive deeper into author's purpose, but fear you don't have the materials to support this approach, here are some materials to help you get started (the first two are FREE!).  You can also hop to my store and click on the custom category "Author's Purpose PIE'ED".

Have you increased the rigor in order to prepare your students for authors purpose test questions? FREE author's purpose test prep passages, posters (persuade, inform, entertain, explain, describe), and many classroom ideas!
This set of 5 passages addresses the need for students to be able to determine the main idea along with the author's purpose, like in the multiple choice question shown above.
FREE Author's Purpose Posters! Have you increased the rigor in order to prepare your students for authors purpose test questions? This blog post also contains contains an author's purpose test prep freebie and many classroom ideas!

Have you increased the rigor in order to prepare your students for authors purpose test questions? FREE author's purpose test prep passages, posters (persuade, inform, entertain, explain, describe), and many classroom ideas!
 These two passages are part of my 49-slide Author's Purpose PowerPoint.
Have you increased the rigor in order to prepare your students for authors purpose test questions? FREE author's purpose test prep passages, posters (persuade, inform, entertain, explain, describe), and many classroom ideas!

Author's Purpose PIEED Task Cards- Increase the rigor in your upper elementary classroom with this set of author's purpose task cards!

Thanks for stopping by!  

3 Behavior Management Ideas to Try When Yours Is Not Working {Includes FREE Printables}

Hi friends! It's Jodi from The Clutter-Free Classroom and today I am going to share some classroom behavior management ideas that have been successful in my classroom. At this point the new year is underway for everyone and you are all getting to know your new class. You may be finding that the behavior management strategies that have worked well for you in the past are not working as effectively with the cohort in front of you this year. If so you may want to add these three things to your bag of tricks to mix it up a bit.

Secret Student
I really stress the importance of walking quietly through the halls when we are transitioning to lunch and specials so we do not disturb other classes. To make the process more fun I pick a secret walker {read about it in detail here}before we leave the classroom and announce who it was when we get to our destination...but only if that student demonstrates “role model behavior” the entire way. This worked so well that I implemented the same concept into our time in the classroom. It is not something I would do for every lesson or activity, but instead used it when the group needed a reminder and incentive to remain focused and on task. When needed I would get their attention and say, “I am picking a secret student for our math lesson. If the secret student sits quietly, focuses on my lesson and answers questions I will announce who it is when we are done.” If someone was a successful secret student I had him or her “clip up” on our clip chart.

{Click to Access and Download this FREE RESOURCE}

Teamwork Bingo
Print a hundred chart and display it in your classroom. Place numbers 1 through 100 in a can, bag or other item that keeps them hidden. When your class works well collaboratively, gets a compliment from another teacher, or demonstrates whole class role model behavior, draw a number and color in that square on the hundred chart. When there are 10 numbers in a row colored in the class wins a prize. Alternatively, you can just use a game board and the calling card from a traditional Bingo game.

The Paper Chain
This system can be used similar to Class Bingo by having them earn a link by getting compliments or working well as a class. It is also perfect for reinforcing goals and expectations as you establish your new routines and procedures. Start by taping a single loop to the ceiling or high on the wall in the classroom. Prior to a transition or an activity remind the students of the expectations. Let them know that if they work as a team and meet those expectations they will earn a link. If they are successful add a paper strip to the chain and form a loop using tape or a staple. When the chain reaches the floor the class earns a prize.

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Back to School will be a Piece of Cake...Next Year!

Hi! I'm Jamie from Not So Wimpy Teacher! I am so excited and honored to be a new coloaborator for Upper Elementary Snapshots. A little about myself:

Who is back to school? Who is a tad overwhelmed? I have a tip for you today that will make next year a piece of cake!

It's confession time. I was that annoying teacher in the copy room in May who was copying back to school materials. (Please try not to hate me!) I went back to my classroom and started putting my masters back in their respective binders: August Activities, Language, Math Notebooks, Book Clubs, etc.

While filing masters into many different binders- it occurred to me. "I use all of these materials at the beginning of the year. It would be so great if they were all stored in one place." In that genius moment, my Back to School Survival binder was born.

This notebook holds EVERYTHING that I need for the first several weeks of the school year! I have my back to school activities, homework, centers, interactive notebooks, binder and folder covers, open house materials and so much more!
The best part about this was so easy to put together. As I copied something for my class, I just put the masters in page protectors and placed them in the binder. After several weeks had passed, I went back and added labels, checklists and first week lesson plans. Done!

I will kiss myself next year! 

Would you like to grab a FREE copy of my binder cover, spine, and some checklists? Just click on the picture below to start getting yourself organized!

Here's to an amazing school year!