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It’s getting to be that time again….the dreading testing season is about to begin! I know April and May can be quite chaotic for teachers with all of the end of the year activities, but it is also chaotic with all of the testing!  We test in early May so April tends to be a lot of review. And, while reviewing can be boring, I’ve done a few things the last year or two to spice it up a bit.

Reviewing content is important throughout the year, but refreshers are always good as testing approaches. Last year I wanted to freshen things up a bit and try to make reviewing as fun as possible.  One way I did this was by changing up the way we reviewed each day.  For example, in math, we reviewed different skill areas each day. One day we worked on place value, one day operations, one day patterns, etc.  To keep it fresh, we reviewed these skills in different ways. This way no two days was the same. And – it helped! The students enjoyed reviewing more and were more engaged (which is the whole point of this :-)!)

Here are some ideas for how to review math skills…these can be applied to different grade levels and skills:

• Egg Hunt – Yes, I know Easter is over, but an egg hunt is fun for everyone. To practice our operations skills (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) I created an egg hunt for my kids.  They were able to go around the room hunting for eggs and then they had to solve the problems inside the egg on the recording sheet. They loved it!  I also differentiated by putting more difficult problems in certain colored eggs and more on-level problems in others. This way I was able to challenge the kids who were ready.

• Match-Up – Another activity I did was a match-up activity with partners. Students had the multiplication or division problem and had to match the problem with the answer card.

• Around the Room – Kids need to move and they especially need to move as we get closer and closer to the end of the year. Last year I created an Around the Room activity to review place value. It included expanded form, place value model, comparing numbers, and writing numbers in standard form.  Kids were up and moving and able to review the different place value skills we worked on. You can find Place Value Review – Around the Room in my TPT Store…here.  I also created an Around the Room activity to review the pattern skills that we did a different day to avoid repetitious review activitie

• White Board Review – Another skill we reviewed was understanding story problems. Our standards include being able to solve story problems, but also being able to identify the operation and the number sentence that matches. I put a PowerPoint together and the kids would respond to the question on their white boards and then we’d do a quick show and discussion.

• Kids Sharing Out – This was an idea I saw on Instagram last year and I wish I could remember where because it is genius!  I put different operation and story problems on larger poster paper around the room. Students then went around and solved the problems on their own recording sheet.  Once they finished that, I partnered the kids up and gave each partnership one of the hanging poster boards.  They had to solve that problem on the chart paper. Then, they had to get up and present to the class how they solved it.  Great way to practice math communication and review!

I know many of these ideas are focused around math, but you could still use the same review activities, but with reading or ELA skills. I will also be doing language arts and reading review with lots of task cards.  For reading – I also highly recommend looking at ReadWorks. They have tons of multiple choice passages like the students will see on many of these standardized test.

How do you review for standardized testing? Share your ideas in the comments…

Be sure to sign up for my email list below! This Tuesday (April 10) I will be sending out a FREEBIE to all of my email subscribers with some cute testing signs you can use during testing season!

So a little bit of background info about me.  I used to be a huge Phoenix Suns fan. I was such a big fan that my room back in AZ was decked out in basketball and Phoenix Suns decor.  This is also where the name Team J’s 2nd Grade Fun came from.  My husband is also a basketball coach. So – basketball is very important in our household and this is always a fun time of year with all of the March Madness excitement.  Today I want to show you a few ways you can bring some of this excitement into your classroom.

Classroom Decor:

My awesome room moms last year decorated my classroom with all kind of March Madness goodies. I know they found some of these items on Amazon and some at the party stores around town.

Math:

The room decor also carried on outside to my hallway bulletin board. I decided to have students solve a math word problem – basketball themed – on an actual basketball cut-out that would be attached to the bulletin board. To differentiate, I had different types of problems (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) with varying degrees of difficulty. I let the students pick which problem they wanted to solve.  It turned out amazing!

I also created a task card version of these story problems and they are in my TPT Store.  The product is called Basketball Bonanza Story Problems.

This year I am also doing a Tournament of Books March Madness Challenge with my students.  Last week was Reading Week, which fit in perfectly with this activity! I found the bracket board online and picked out the picture books myself. I tried to pick books that had similar features, characters, or storylines to go against each other in the first round. For example – Chicks and Salsa and The Big Chickens. I also tried to pick books that were unfamiliar to my kids.  This past week we finished up the Sweet 16 Round. I would read both books going against each other to my kids and then they would vote.  The winner moves on to the Elite 8 Round.

Do you celebrate March Madness in your class?  Comment below and let me know.

I know how crazy the last few days/week before winter break can be. We are entering crazy times teachers and we need to have as many fun, educational activities in our back pocket ready to go as we can.

So, here are a few things I will be using with my class this week….

Christmas Writing Prompts – This is a FREEBIE in my TPT Store.  It includes two writing prompts that are focused on personal narratives.  Great way to incorporate writing into the holiday excitement.

Candy Cane Science Lab – I did this activity with my class last year and will be starting it this week. We’ve been learning about lab reports during Writing Workshop and this is a fun science experiment to do this time of year. Check out my blog post on it….here

Olive, the Other Reindeer Book Study – This is a cute story and my students love hearing it every year.  This book study is now in my TPT Store. It includes comprehension questions and four different writing prompts. This could be used whole group or as a small group activity.

Christmas Story Problems – We will be starting these today.  I love using holiday story problems as one of my rotations during our daily math time.  The kids love that they are themed and fitting of the season.  The Christmas Story Problems include addition and subtraction problems with and without regrouping.

Winter Story Problems – I will actually be using these when we return to school in January, but if your school focuses on winter instead of the specific holidays – these story problems would be great. These can be used whole group, small group, or at a math center.  These winter themed problems focus on ice skating, hot chocolate, snowmen, etc.  Includes addition and subtraction problems.

Hope these activities and ideas help with the last bit of school before break. I’m down to 7.5 days left with students. We can do it teachers!

My next Jake Drake Book Study is now available in my TPT Store (Jordan Johnson). My students love these books written by Andrew Clements and I’m creating book studies to go with each!  The newest one available is Jake Drake Teacher’s Pet.

Included in the product:

• Cover page
• 3 comprehension questions for each chapter
• Reflection questions for the end of the book
Check it out here

I love doing read alouds with my students and love reading holiday books too!  Today I’m sharing with you 5 Fun Halloween books that I read with them every year!

How To Catch a Monster – This was a new addition this year to my Halloween read alouds, but super cute!!!

Crankenestein – The kids loved this one!! They enjoy helping make the “Crankenstein” noises.

Goodnight Goon – Who doesn’t love rhyming books?

Halloweiner – This has been on the Halloween read aloud list since I student taught. We used this book for one of my student teaching lessons and it’s been in my rotation ever since.

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat – My students always love the “There Was an Old Lady…” series.  This is a great one too! I love how they have themed books for each holiday!

What are your favorite Halloween books? Comment below…

My students love reading Jake Drake books and we just finished up reading Jake Drake Teacher’s Pet as our first chapter book read aloud! We had a class set of Jake Drake Know-It-All with our reading series so I decided to make a book study to along with it!
I use book studies as an activity for my higher students during literacy small groups. Students work in groups of 2-3 on these projects. They read the text together, answer the questions together, and then discuss with me afterwards! Kids love doing book studies and I find it a great way for students to gain some independence and learn how to work with others.
Check out my Jake Drake Know-It-All Book Study – now available in my TPT Store.  I have other book studies available too…here..
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.

Every Friday this summer I am sharing some of my favorite things with you! The month of July is focused on technology and academic areas.

Check out past Friday Favorites…
PD Books
Kids’ Favorite Series
Book Studies
Tech Apps

PBL Activities

Today I’m excited to share with you some of my favorite books for the first week back to school! I’m sure some of these will be old favorites, but I hope to introduce you to maybe a new one or two as well.

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg – This one surprises me every year. This is always the first book I read to students and I think it has been since I started teaching 11 years ago. Every year I ask students if they have heard this book before (I teach 2nd) and surprisingly the majority of the class says no.  Great book to discuss the jitters and nervousness that accompany the first day! It shows students that teachers also have some first day jitters too!

ish by Peter Reynolds – One of my favorite back to school books! This book discusses that it’s ok if things aren’t perfect.  As long as you are doing your best that is all that matters!

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein – This book is great for the perfectionist child.  I was one of these and am still one as an adult. It’s a funny story, but covers the important life lesson that it’s ok to make mistakes and no one is perfect.

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires – I use this book to introduce Project Based Learning. This is a great book that also focuses on growth mindset.

Tattle Tongue by Julia Cook – This book has been one of my favorite back to school books for many years.  Kids love, love, love to tattle. It does a great job covering what is a tattle and what is actually important to tell. It even has a cute little chant!

The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill – I love this book! This book is a great book to use when going over recess expectations. It covers sharing, being kind to one another, etc.

Don’t Squeal Unless It’s a Big Deal by Jeanie Franz Ransom – I use this book the first week to discuss tattling.  Tattling is a big deal in the lower grades and discussing it using picture books tends to resonate more with the kids.

And I got two new books that I haven’t used before…

Spaghetti In a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy – This book has been recommended by many teachers and I’m excited to use it the first week to discuss how we’re all different and unique in our own ways.

Back to School Rules by Laurie Friedman: I’m planning to use this book when we discuss creating rules during my Johnson Elementary PBL.  To learn more about that PBL project – click here

What are some of your favorite back to school books? Comment below….

Next week, I’ll be sharing some of favorite community building activities to use the first few weeks of school.

Every Friday this summer I am sharing some of my favorite things with you! The month of July is focused on technology and academic areas.

Check out past Friday Favorites…
PD Books
Kids’ Favorite Series
Book Studies
Tech Apps

Math Activities

Today I’m sharing some of my favorite reading activities and lessons with you. We use the Journey’s program at my school, but I also supplement using some of the lessons below. These are all lessons I’ve used in my second grade class, but could be used in third too!

Strega Nona Character Bubble Maps – I love the story Strega Nona. It is just a great story and the characters are awesome because they are so different.  I also like using Thinking Maps. My current school is not a Thinking Maps school, but I use the maps anyway since it helps the kids organize their thinking.  After reading Strega Nona, the kids and I come up with a bubble map describing both Strega Nona and Big Anthony. Then, they use the bubble map to help them write sentences describing each character.

The Gingerbread Cowboy – Setting Brace Map – Here is another Thinking Maps example.  The story The Gingerbread Cowboy is another great story especially to discuss setting.  I read it to my class and then we came up with the setting on the left of the brace and then evidence from the story that supported that setting on the right side of the brace map.
What’s In Miss V’s Bag? (this picture is from before I was married) – This activity is from Abby at The Inspired Apple and focuses on making inferences.  This is a great beginning activity before diving into making inferences in text.  I empty out a few items in my purse (select items of course) and the kids have to infer why I have those items in my person. This helps them start to understand the concept of inferring and being able to use evidence and background knowledge to draw conclusions.
Making Inferences – Whose shoe? – I don’t remember where I found this activity, but it’s another great inferring starter.  You bring in a shoe and the students have to make inferences about who they think the shoe belongs to. While making inferences, the students have to back up their thoughts with why they think the shoe belongs to that person.
Inference Pictures – I found this one on Pinterest and it’s another great start to teaching inferences. If you can’t tell, I enjoy teaching about making inferences.  There are a variety of pictures out there if you search on Pinterest for inference pictures. Students then have to use the text/evidence + their schema to infer what is happening in the picture.
Prefixes and Suffixes – This isn’t a super involved activity, but a great way to learn about prefixes using a Thinking Map – a tree map.  To help students come up with words that have different prefixes and understand what they mean, we created this tree map as a class.  We discussed what each prefix meant and as students gave examples, we talked about how the prefix changes the meaning of the word. This could also be done with suffixes.
Vocabulary Flip Books – We have about 8-10 reading vocabulary words each week with our Journey’s program. One activity I like to do to practice is a Vocabulary Flip book.  Each book has four flaps. Students choose four of their vocabulary words and write them on the front and draw a picture that matches the word. Then, on the inside they write the definition and use the vocab word in a sentence.
Whole Class Book Studies – At my school, in addition to our weekly Journey’s stories, we read three chapter books as a class throughout the year. In the fall, we read Charlotte’s Web. In the winter, we read The Chocolate Touch. In the spring, we read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. These books are a nice break from the weekly story and the kids love them. They are entertaining and engaging. We focus on vocabulary and comprehension with these stories.
Thanks for stopping by! Next week I’ll share some of my favorite social studies/project based learning lessons and activities!

Every Friday this summer I am sharing some of my favorite things with you! The month of June is focused on books!

Check out past Friday Favorites…
PD Books
Kids’ Favorite Series

This week I’m wrapping up talking about books for the month of June and sharing with you some of my favorite books to use for book studies…. I teach second grade and have used all of the books below with my second graders. Some books are great for whole group and some books are better for a small challenge group.

Chocolate Touch by Patricia Skeane Catling – This book is funny and entertaining. We always read this book every year as a class and the kids love it.  Every kid can relate to wanting candy and the situations John finds himself in throughout the story are humorous!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl – A classic book to read with your class. I also use this book whole group.  We read this one towards the end of the school year and of course we watch the movie when we finish.  This is a book that really captures the classes’ attention. We read a few chapters a day and every time I stop I always hear groans and please keep reading!

Charlotte’s Web by EB White – Another classic! We read this book towards the first part of the year and it’s our first whole class book study. We also do a reader’s theater version of the book for grandparents on Grandparent’s Day.  This is such a sweet story and has many great life lessons in it!

Surprises According to Humphrey by Betty Birney – My students have really started to get into the Humphrey series the last year or two. Since this is more of a fourth grade level book, I use it in small group for kids who are ready for a challenge.

I Survived the Great Chicago Fire by Lauren Tarshis – I’ve also had students take a big interest in the I Survived Series. I’ve used the Great Chicago Fire book with a few small groups.  It is definitely a heavier content then say a Humphrey book, but for kids who enjoy history – they love it!

Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows – Ivy and Bean are great characters that again students can relate to.  I’ve used Ivy and Bean a few times also with small groups.  The characters have real-life situations and have some interesting personalities which keep the kids entertained.

Thank you for stopping by to check out some of my favorite book studies! I do have book study packets available in my TPT store (Jordan Johnson) for many of the books above and more. If you are interested, check it out here….

Next week I’ll share some of my favorite technology apps and websites!