Saturday, March 18, 2017

Amazing Race: A Fun Way to Review or Get Ready for State Testing

It's about that time when teachers start reviewing previously taught skills and/or getting ready for state testing.  I'm in Texas, so we have the STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) for 3rd grade and above.  I teach 4th grade, so our students have three tests to take; reading, math, and writing.

This is my second year in 4th grade, and let me just say that test prep can be so boring!  Let's be honest how much fun can it be to read passage after passage and answer question after question.  I teach four classes of reading, and I don't even want to prepare like that day after day.  I'm always looking for ways to make my class more fun and engaging, but I really wanted to do that for test prep. There are times when my students have to sit in their seats and read the passages and answer the questions.

We have completed 2 Amazing Races and my students are still begging for another one!  That should tell you how much they enjoy it.  It is similar to the reality show in the fact that there are road blocks with challenges and a detour with a task to be completed by one person.

Each time I had my students work in pairs.  I only had one group of three if the class had an uneven number.  I wanted both partners to do the work, so I tried to be very thoughtful about making my groups.  I did not want one partner to carry the group.  This is a self paced activity, so you may not want to put two slow workers together unless you plan to take time to keep them moving.  We worked on our Amazing Race for 4 days.  You can definitely complete it in less days by having the students complete the challenges a less number of times, and not assigning as many questions for the skills.

I work with an amazing group of 4th grade reading teachers across my district and we actually put together this Amazing Race together, so that it was not a lot of work on one person.

First, you need to decide what skill or skills you want to review.  The second time we played, we were reviewing for our upcoming benchmark.  We were reviewing fiction, drama, expository paired passages, and poetry.  This would enable use to review many TEKS (Texas Essentials Knowledge and Skills). Here in Texas we have our own standards instead of following Common Core.

This is how I displayed my objectives just in case I had a walk-through by one of my principals.
We picked out one passage for each genre (fiction, drama, expository paired passages, and poetry). Since we were getting ready for benchmarks, we rewrote some of the questions to look more like questions our students would see on the test.  We are 1:1 with Chromebooks in 4th grade, so we decided to save paper by only giving the students the passages (so they could locate text evidence). All the passages were stapled in a packet (the only time I've ever given them a packet of any kind), and given to the students after they completed the first challenge.  We put all our questions in Canvas (our learning management system).  You could put your questions on a Google doc or Google Slide, or you can have them on task cards.  You do not want to give them the questions in advance.  They complete the challenges to earn their questions.

Each student had their own set of passages, but each group had one answer recording sheet. After they completed a challenge and earned the questions, they read their passage and answered the questions by locating text evidence.  I would not even check their answers if each partner did not have text evidence underlined or highlighted in their passage.  In order to move on to the next challenge, each group had to get 100% of the questions correct.  I checked their answers and if they missed any they had to go back and make corrections.  This way groups are not just rushing through and writing anything down instead of taking this activity seriously.

Update (2018-2019) I now give each student their own answer recording sheet.  This way if they disagree with their partner they are free to write down their own answer.  They still can not move on until both partners have 100% of the questions correct.

Next, you will want to pick your challenges.  You'll want to pick challenges that you have most of the materials on hand, and that will not take a long time to complete.  Since we were reviewing four genres, we needed four challenges.  These are called Road blocks in the Amazing Race.  You will want to designate a space in your room for each challenge to be completed, so you do not have materials all over your room. Students complete road blocks to earn their questions.  This is the fun part for your students.  Be sure to pick challenges that will be engaging for your students to complete. Pinterest has many pins for Minute to Win It games.  Our students completed each challenge 4 times (2 times for each partner; groups of 3 decided which partner would go twice).  If you need to complete the Amazing Race in a shorter amount of time, you could have them complete them 2 times instead of 4.  Each partner needs to complete the challenges one at a time.  They can not work on completing their part of the challenge while their partner is working, and they should not help their partner complete their challenge.  We decided on the following challenges; run of four, coin sort, cereal box puzzles, and hula hooping.  We created cards for each part of the race with directions for the students to prevent lots of questions.

Since all of your students will start at the first road block, you will need enough materials for each pair to complete the first challenge at the same time.  We decided to start with a run of four.  For my largest class, I needed 12 decks of cards.  A run of four is 4 numbers or face cards in order.  For example, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 9, 10, Jack, Queen.  Player one deals 4 cards to Player two.  Player two decides which cards to keep and discards the other cards.  The dealer gives player two the same amount of cards they discarded.  Play continues until Player two has a run of 4.  Students shuffle the cards and begin again until they have completed the challenge 4 times.  I forgot to take pictures of this challenge.

The second road block was coin sorting.  I borrowed a bunch a plastic coins from second grade.  I filled baggies with a mixture of coins.  For this challenge, I only had enough materials for 8 groups. Since groups get here at different times, I did not have enough for each group.  Partly because I did not have enough materials for 12 groups, and partly because I did not have enough space in my classroom.  Students take turns sorting the coins into different piles.  When finished they had to put all the coins back into the baggie and shake it before their partner was able to complete the challenge. I forgot to take take pictures of this challenge too.

Our third road block was putting together cereal box puzzles.  I got this idea from Pinterest.  Click here to read more about it.  I had the students bring in the front of cereal boxes.  You will want a variety, so that each group can put together 4 different puzzles.  You'll want to express the importance of putting all the puzzle pieces back in the baggie and closing the baggie.  A few of my puzzles were missing pieces by the end of the Amazing Race.

The fourth challenge we did was to Hula Hoop for 10 seconds.  The students either loved it or hated it, but the majority loved it!  Some of my boys had trouble hula hooping, but I insisted that everyone try.  You will need hula hoops and timers.  I only had enough for 3 groups to go at a time.  I borrowed the hula hoops and timers from our P.E. teacher.  Decide how long you want them to try before either letting them try to hula hoop on their arm (which most of my boys could do, just beware of flying hula hoops), letting their partner complete the challenge 4 times, or adding up all their attempts to equal 10 seconds.

We included a detour in the middle of our Amazing Race.  For our detour we decided to practice vocabulary skills.  We did a two part detour.  For part one we had the students read a short passage, and answer context clues questions.  I checked their answers and when they had 100% correct, they moved on to task 2.  For task two the students went on a figurative language scavenger hunt. Even though we taught many types of figurative language, our scavenger hunt focused on similes, metaphors, and idioms. I set this up in the hall to have more space.  Pairs had to get 100% correct to get back to the Amazing Race.

The last thing you will need to do is give each road block a location.  You would be surprised how excited your students will get about the locations.  We picked Dubai, Iceland, Finland, and Paris.  For our detour we picked Venice.  I found a picture for each location and included a map.  I put this up a few days before we started the race, to get the students excited.

We decided to give our students a finial destination task.  They had to label each passage with the genre of that passage.

I kept track of where each group was at in the race by quickly checking in at the end of each class as they turned in their passages and answer recording sheets.  As they moved through the race, I let them know what place they were in for the race.  In one of my classes, a team that was in 7th place going into the detour ended the race in 1st place.  It's all about the work they put into answering their questions.

The engagement level in my classroom was 100% each day while doing the Amazing Race.  My students are begging to do another one, and have been making suggestions for locations and challenges.  It was well worth spending four days to review in this manner.  We did very well on the benchmark!

Well, that's all I got!  See you around the blogging world!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Do you Kahoot?

I'm linking up with a group of amazing second grade teachers to bring you some awesome ideas for this month.

Isn't it funny how educators have two end of the years and two beginning of the years?  School wise we are in the middle of the year.  The end of Christmas break to be exact.  When we return to school next week, we will have to review many things from skills to classroom management.

I'm here to share with you a way to review skills.  Have you ever heard of a game called Kahoot

My students absolutely LOVE Kahoot!  Students need a device (iPod, iPad, Tablet, cellphone, etc.) to play.  Students can either play with everyone having a device or on teams.  If your class does not have any devices, you can still enjoy Kahoot by having students write their answers on dry erase boards or their desks.
Kahoot is an interactive engaging techy game.  You can create your own game with your own questions or you can use games that have already been created by other teachers.  Below is a tutorial for setting up and using Kahoot.

Students love novelty.  This is definitely a game you can add to your lessons or reviews here and there to get your students to be actively engaged.  Students can even create questions for you!  If you haven't already used Kahoot in your classroom, consider giving it a try.
That's all I got!  See you around the blogging world.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Personalized Stamps

I am beyond excited about the personalized stamps that I created on  I can not wait to use them on my student's papers!  I really hope they love them too. 

All this started last year when I was on Pinterest and came across two pins that made me think, "Hmmm... I could do that!"  Isn't that how it always starts?  Lol...Thankfully this time I was oh so right!  The first pin that I pinned was a tutorial by Kindercraze on how to create stamps on Vistaprint.

Vistaprint stamps
Click the picture above to pin the video tutorial.  It'll make you wonder why you didn't already know how to create these stamps!  It really is that easy.  I also pinned this pin by 2 Crazy Texas Teachers.
Vistaprint Stamps

Click the picture above to pin the post by 2 Crazy Texas Teachers.  So even though a year had past, I REALLY wanted to create my own stamps.  So, when I saw an amazing Groupon $17 for $70 on Vistaprint I had to buy it.  The stamps are not cheap, but with this Groupon I was able to make the three stamps.  I did have to pay shipping, because the Groupon does not cover shipping cost.  You need to keep your eye out for that Groupon. They run that same special every so often.

I'll have to let you know what my students think once I get to use them on their papers.  My goal is to use the stamps on graded papers, station assignments, homework, and other things like that. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

B2S Sale & Get to Know You Activity

Have you heard that TpT is having a site wide sale on August 3rd and 4th?  I'm so excited to stock up on some back to school needs.  This is a great chance to save up to 28% on your purchases, so don't forget to fill up your shopping cart! Use the code BTS15 at checkout to get the full discount.

Are you looking for a couple of interactive activities to use to get to know your students?  I created a Getting to Know You Would You Rather Four Corners activity.  If you have never used four corners in your classroom, you should try it.  I blogged all about using four corners in the classroom on a guest blog post over at TheHappyTeacher.  You can check it out by clicking here.  Here's a short Flipagram of the PowerPoint I created for this activity.
Also, included with this product are the four corner signs, 6 Find Someone Who printables, and directions for the PowerPoint and Find Someone Who.  Here are a few of the Find Someone Who printables.  Click on the pictures to get a better look.

I hope you'll check it out in my TpT store Primary Essentials.  That's all I got!  See you around the blogging world!

Saturday, August 1, 2015


I'm linking up with Farley over at Oh Boy 4th Grade for the August Currently.  I can not believe it is already August.  YIKES! 

I was searching for something new to watch on Netflix, when my sister reminded me that I wanted to watch Blacklist.  I was hesitant, but didn't really have anything else to watch.  Oh.My.Word.  I'm hooked!  I'm almost done with season 1 and just realized that season 2 is not on Netflix.  Say What?!!?  I checked Hulu and they only have season two episodes 18-22.  I must find season 2 and watch it before B2S.
I am loving my personalized stamps!  Last summer I pinned a pin on Pinterest about creating your own stamps at Vistaprint.  Well, I gave it a try and it worked!  I LOVE them!  I plan to blog about them sometime next week, but here's a sneak peak.
I blogged last week about my job change.  I not only changed from primary to intermediate, but I changed school districts!  I have so much left to do in my classroom.  I have been lucky because I have been able to get into my room the past week and a half, and the air conditioner is on as well!  I've only really worked about 2-3 hour each day, because my girls have been tagging along.  You know how it is when you move into a different room.  You have to organize what's there before you can unpack.
My goal is to only work in my room 2 days next week and then enjoy about a week until New Employee Orientation.  I really, really want some time to read a "fun" book before school starts!  I know once school starts it will be all about learning a new grade level and trying to keep my head above water.
I really need someone to come spray paint some things for me.  I spend quite a bit of time spray painting a book shelf last week and although it turned out fine some other things I spray painted did NOT!  I really need some HELP in this area.
For a B2S RAK, I was planning to either bake some homemade treats for my team or put together a small goodie bag.  It will all come down to how much time and money I have left by then!
I can't believe I'm actually posting my currently on the first of them month!  I think that is the first time ever!  Woot, Woot!
That's all I got!  I'll see you around the blogging world!


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New Blog Design & Job Change

How do you like my new blog design?  I LOVE  it oh so much! It was actually redesigned way back in April.  I know.  Shame on me...I haven't blogged in FOREVER!  I promise to do my best to blog more going forward. 
Back to my new blog design...So, Gabby from Gabby's Classrooms designed my blog. 

Gabbys Classrooms

Isn't it Ah-Mazing?!??!  I can't sing her praises enough.  She is so easy to work with and she's very affordable.  I searched high and low before deciding on a designer.  If you're in the market for a new blog design, you should definitely check her out!  Thank you Gabby!

Now on to my job change news. Not just a job change, but also changing districts.  So, I've been working in a district other than where I live for ten years.   I really enjoyed my time there and made so many wonderful friends.  You might be thinking, "Then why change?"

These two are my reasons.  As they get older I really need to be closer to home. (Note:  I have a son, but he is 19 and spends very little time with us.)  And there you have it.  Sometimes a mama has to do what's best for her kids.  So for the BIG NEWS...
So, I have been trying to get a job in the small town where I live for about 3 years.  When I finally landed an interview it was for 4th grade ELA. 4th grade! This grade level is way out of my comfort zone.  I've pretty much only taught and worked with Primary grade levels.  Even while teaching intervention for K-5 reading and math the past two years, it was kinda like teaching primary.  We taught intervention below grade level, so teaching my 4th and 5th graders was like teaching 2nd or 3rd grade.  Hey even my blog is Primary Essentials.  After I accepted the job I was like...
And I may have even cried.  The tears were more about my friends and the students I would be leaving.  I built some great relationships with some students and will miss them dearly.  I am however excited about my new journey.  I have a lot to learn about dealing with big kids and teaching the 4th grade ELA TEKS (our standards in Texas).
I'll still be creating products and blogging about primary things as well as some 4th grade stuff.  It's going to be an interesting school year.  I've been working in my classroom a few hours each day for about a week and a half.  I can't wait to show you my decorations.
Well, that's all I've got!  See you around the blogging world!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

If You Give a Teacher a Gift Card...

Who doesn't like gift cards?  I know I sure do!  Especially the FREE kind! lol...  I'm a contributor on the collaborative blog iTeach Second Grade.  We are hosting a Teacher Appreciation giveaway this week.  You could win one of four gift cards totaling $25 each.  If you win all four gift cards, that's a total of $100 in gift cards!!  The gifts are for Amazon, Starbucks, Target, and TeacherPayTeachers.

If I had a gift card to Amazon it would be so hard to not go over $25 and to narrow my purchase down!  Here are a couple of things over there that I would love to have!

Classroom Discussions Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn K-6
I would really love to read this book.  I'm always looking for ways to get my students involved in their learning. 

Belkin Rockstar Multi Headphone Splitter
I really want a few of these to use with my 6 HP Slate tablets.  This way students can play games with a partner(s) and still hear the sound, but not distract others around them.

If I had a gift card to Target I would get:
I absolutely love these pens!  I'm a flair pen addict, and once I discovered they made a liquid version I had to have a pack right away!  They are amazing!
I love these markers!  I don't know how I would ever be able to make anchor charts with a set!

If I had a gift card to Starbucks, I would get my favorite drinks!  I'm not a coffee drink so I usually get either a Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino or a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino.

And last but not least, if I had a gift card to TeachersPayTeachers, I would get:
Interactive Notebook -Place Value Foldables and Pockets (ones-thousands):  I really want to give interactive notebooking a try.  I think this would really help my intervention students with connecting to the skills. 
Learning Our Addition Strategies:  I think learning addition strategies is just as hard a memorizing addition facts for intervention students. 
So, that's what I would buy with IF I won the gift cards.  What would you get?  Let me a comment below.  Check out the giveaway over at iTeach Second Grade.
iTeach Second Grade

Well, that's all I got!  I'll see you around the blogging world!  I hope you win!