Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Got the Wiggles? Just Dance!

I can't believe I've gone almost a week without posting anything! Actually... I can. It's been the most insane and hectic week and a half ever, but I am glad to say it's beginning to calm down a bit. My kids at school have caught a bit of the "spring fever". Spring Break is right around the corner and they're ready for a break. With this in mind, I am dedicating this post to all teachers out there who's classes have a serious case of the wiggles!

The Beach Brains and I take 5-6 minutes out of our day to do some kind of physical activity to do in-class. We call it a brain break. YouTube (if unblocked in your district) has several different Just Dance Kids videos my kids absolutely love. When we dance, I set very explicit expectations: be safe, practice self-control, and have fun! Here are some of our favorites and we challenge you to cut some rug during your next brain break! :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

You Like Me! You Reeeeally Like Me!

Howdy, friends!!

I hope you all have had an amazing week. Mine has been full of ups and downs, and I'm so glad the weekend is almost here! I'm not going to write a novel this go-around, but I did want to take this moment to thank the Diva from Down Under, Miss D, for awarding me the...

Evidently, this award is given to "up & coming" bloggers that have less than 200 followers. I am touched and honored to be given any recognition for the craziness that ensures here! Thank you, Miss D! As promised, I am going to pay it forward and award the Liebster Blog Award to the following bloggers:

1. Kelly Hall - Fabulous in Fourth! - Mrs. Hall's blog is a great source for lesson inspiration. You would be remiss if you passed her blog up. You won't be sorry!

2. Molly - Lessons with Laughter - This is my most recent "blog find". Molly integrates literature, technology, and character education into her lessons. Her passion for learning and teaching is very evident in this upbeat blog. Check it out!

3. Mrs. Landers - Mrs. Landers' Little Learners - In my opinion, anyone who teaches primary grades deserves an award! Mrs. Landers and I actually know each other outside of the "blogosphere," and is a very dedicated & creative PreK & Kindergarten teacher. You'll love her ideas!

Now that you ladies have been given the Liebster Award, go ye therefore and find other budding bloggers like ourselves and pay it forward. :)

Have a great Thursday!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Brain Books - Follow Up

Update: Mrs. Poland has put her personal twist on Brain Books! Check out Brainy Matters to see how she plans on using them in her classroom.

Happy President's Day, everyone! I hope you are enjoying your day off! (or if you're like us and are in school for a snow make up day, I hope you're having a wonderful day with your students!)

I don't have anything to post for President's Day, but Misty from
Think, Wonder, & Teach had some great questions concerning my previous post about Brain Books. I replied to her in the comments section, but thought I'd post for everyone else in case you had missed it.

1) Are parents actually reading these and signing them or do they treat them like reading calendars and planners where they may or may not actually be reading/signing?

I'd be naive to say that ALL parents are reading these ALL the time, but I can say with confidence MOST of the parents are reading the BBs. I encourage parents to write notes to me, notes to their kids, etc. so they do read it while they are writing in them.

2) How long did it take you to teach this concept to your students? 

Many students in my class have never done anything like a brain book before so it took a few weeks to get the students to get a handle on what I expected. Even today, I am repeating the verbage from our anchor chart, guiding the students in using the academic vocabulary from our lessons, and reminding them to produce quality writing. 

3) From my understanding the student is summarizing the knowledge gained/lesson. Do you ever allow for reflection in the BB? Meaning - can they state they do not understand something, need further clarification, found it boring as they already knew it, etc... ?
Yes and yes! One of the struggles I am having with the BBs is that students are not generating questions about what they don't understand even though that is a part of our anchor chart. It may come down to explicitly telling my students I want them to write 1 thing they gleaned from the lesson and 1 thing they still don't understand. Maybe questioning needs more explicit instruction?!

4) Are these kept confidential or do you have a student help you check them like with planners?
This is a really good question I hadn't thought of, until now. There's nothing in the BBs that needs to remain confidential, but if a student has a concern or if a parent has written in it, the kids are pretty good about showing me. I will have students help me check signatures and completeness of Brain Books as well. 

I'd love to answer any other questions you guys have about Brain Books, so feel free to leave me a comment. Misty is also going to post about Brain Books with her special spin on it. I can't wait to read it and learn something new. I will link up to it when it goes live.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Planners?! Who Needs'em?

Ok, let's have a show of hands... how many teachers out there make their students use daily planners to record assignments, notes to parents, etc.? Wow! That many?! You're probably thinking, "Now, Josh, don't you start bad-mouthing my planners!" Well, have no fear! I think planners are great tools to help students develop responsibility and to develop time management skills; HOWEVER, I would love to share with you an idea I stole ...err... borrowed (thanks, Mrs. Golmen!) that made me kick planners to the curb and has revolutionized the way we communicate our learning to ourselves, our parents, and teachers.

(with your best singing voice, please)
Da, da, da, da!! I give you the Brain Book! Here's a quick run down of how Brain Books work:

What is it?

Brain Books are spiral bound notebooks students use to record their reflections for each content area. After a learning opportunity, students write for 1-2 minutes about what they've learned. Here's an anchor chart I used with my students to teach them how to reflect and think about their learning. 
Students will also write in homework assignments if needed. Students record outside reading (our grade level assigns 20 minutes each night as homework) and will write a short reading response each night in their BB. Parents must sign their child's Brain Book each night as well.

Why use Brain Books?

There are several reasons why I chose Brain Books over planners. Here are a few reasons to consider:
  • It's a great formative assessment for you to see what students understand. After reading student entries, you can go back for a reteach or extend the lesson based on the needs of your students.
  • It forces students to think at much higher levels (metacognition) than planners do (depending on how you use them).
  • Students begin to appreciate and take ownership of their own learning. It takes the emphasis off the activities we do in class and helps students focus on the actual learning taking place.
  • It's a great opportunity to reinforce quality writing. I will often times do a quick reteach of a 6 Trait lesson while students are writing in their Brain Books.
How do you use and assess Brain Books?
Students follow a given format for their Brain Books. They copy into their books each morning when they come to class. At first, I take it as a weekly writing/language grade using a scoring guide. This helps me see if students are consistently capitalizing & punctuating, but the real emphasis is on reading their reflections. As students become more accustomed to writing in their BBs independently, I will spot check them every 3-4 weeks for an additional language grade.
I have linked a couple documents from my
Scribd account so you can download and modify as you see the need. Those are located at the bottom of this post, so you don't want to wade through the large embeddings to see the rest of my ramblings.
What do parents think of Brain Books?

In my experience, parents LOVE Brain Books. They really appreciate seeing the "proof" of their child's learning. A few parents have taken the opportunity to help me reteach a concept or even extend their thinking with some sort of activity at home. Isn't that amazing? My administration & staff has also taken an interest in our Brain Books. It's not a building-wide practice, but a few teachers have told me they are trying this in their own classes next year.

There really is a lot of power in teaching students to reflect on their own thinking and learning. Students begin to use reflection in problem solving and as they set, accomplish, and create new goals for themselves.

Allrightythen... I feel like I've written a novel. I am going to stop here. If you have any questions about Brain Books, feel free to post a comment. The Brain Book example and Parent Letter/Scoring Guide are embedded below. Go forth and reflect! :)
Brain Book Example

Brain Book Expectations

Monday, February 13, 2012

Currently - Snow Day!!

Our district called our first snow day of the school year today. I, personally, was excited -- others, not so much. :) It just wouldn't be the same if we didn't have at least one snow day this year. We might get another one tomorrow as they are calling for another 3 or so inches of snow mixed with freezing rain (which I am NOT excited about). 

Anyhoo... I decided I'd post my first "Currently" post today, an idea I stole from Farley's blog. I decided to go with the snow template instead of hearts in honor of our first snow day. Enjoy!

You might be wondering about "OLW." It stands for one little word. I could explain it all here, but I'd miss out on the opportunity to link up to another fantastic blog. So visit Ali Edward's blog to learn about one little word. :) 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Edible Arrays

Our class was reviewing meanings for multiplication awhile back and I noticed students were lacking experience using arrays to multiply. I wanted to make sure my students were adequately engaged and challenged by the task, so what a better way to engage than with FOOD! :)

I bought a huge bag of cheap cereal from the local market and gave each student a handful. They were challenged with the task of creating an array with their cereal, to write the multiplication problem it represents, and to write a word problem to go with it. So easy and fun! The kids loved the fact they could eat the cereal they didn't use.

You can easily incorporate technology into teaching arrays by giving students a digital camera and ask them to take snapshots of arrays around the classroom, school, or even at home. After this activity, my students were recognizing arrays all around them.
What fun ideas do you have to teach arrays in multiplication? I'd love to hear them when you leave comment down below! :) Enjoy your weekend! 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Using Old Book Orders to Teach Author's Purpose

I'm so excited to share my first "lesson" post with you guys! Have you ever had old book orders you don't know what to do with? If you're like me, you're a pack rat and would feel bad if you throw it away. Here's a great way to use old magazines, newspapers, and book orders to teach author's purpose!

If the truth be known, I did not come up with this idea myself. It's a knock-off idea from a lesson I observed while in another school district a month or so ago. The teacher cut out pictures and descriptions of books from old Scholastic book orders (yeah, go ahead, click on the Scholastic link. You know you want to!) to teach author's purpose. Students then had to decide if it was to persuade, inform, or entertain.

Instead of me providing them the examples, I decided to have my students go on a scavenger hunt to find them themselves. Here's how it went down:

 1. I divided the students into 4 groups. 
2. Each group was given butcher paper and they created a 3-column chart.
3. Students were given instructions to find & classify examples of persuasion, information, or entertainment in the book orders or old magazines. 
4. They went to town cutting and pasting these great examples to create an author's purpose poster.

 The cooperative learning aspect of this activity was great. I really enjoyed listening to the kids teaching and helping each other out with this lesson.

How do you teach author's purpose? Do you have a tried and true lesson you want to share? Leave me a comment and I'd love to hear your ideas!

Happy Friday & enjoy the weekend!


Dude! (Said in my best surfer's voice) 

Welcome to our totally awesome learning oasis! My name is Josh Bennett and I am a fourth grade teacher from southwest Missouri. I've been teaching for a little over 7 years now; 2 years as a paraeducator in a special education classroom and 5 years as a 4th grade teacher. I LOVE teaching fourth grade and I really don't see myself teaching anything else, but we'll see where this learning journey takes me!

I lovingly call my students the Beach Brains - we have a beach-themed classroom and we have fun in everything we do. I've created this blog because my students have inspired me and I've been inspired by other blogs like Oh' Boy 4th Grade, Fourth Grade Friends, Fabulous in Fourth, and many others. I thought to myself, "Self! You can totally do this!" So, I am! :) My hope is to share lesson ideas, network with other extraordinary educators, and learn from the best out there. My little blog doesn't look like much now, but I'll be sure to add other bells & whistles as we go along.

Thanks for stopping by! Leave a comment to let me know you were here! 

From my first year of teaching -
ahhh, the memories! :) 
Mr. B & the Beach Brains