Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What's "App"?! A Front Row Seat to an Amazing App!

Ok, I think it's safe to say I'm a creature of habit and routine.  I swear my second graders could run my classroom because of the insane structured routine we follow each day. :)  I thought it would be fun to share a new app or website I've found that is WORTH buying and using with your kiddos each week.  Therefore, I've devoted Wednesdays as "What's APP Wednesday?!" Creative isn't it--until I realized there was already an app called WhatsApp... crap...

So, it's Thursday night, and I'm paroosing around the app store wanting to update our class iPads with some new apps based on specific skills/ standards. I typed "Second Grade" into the search bar and little did I know, doing this would literally change the way I teach math in my classroom.  It was two little words that kept me up for the next 45 minutes clicking and reading and watching the awesomeness that is "Front Row."

Front Row is a FREE (yes FREE!) math app that is naturally differentiated.  Now, I don't know about you, but I think people throw the term "differentiated" around like it's going outta style {which we all know it definitely is not...}, so of course I was a little skeptical.  As I started reading it said things like:

"Naturally differentiated based on the various domains of the common core state standards."
"Provides over 15,000 common core questions which are graded automatically, and given to students based on their level." 

Ok, "Well, I'll just download it and see what it's all about," said the hesitant second grade teacher. 

This app literally changed my life....well, that's a little overkill, but it has changed my math life!! In a week's time, my kids now know how to round to the ten thousands place, multiply, (intro to) division, how to decipher word problems with three-four digit numbers involving multiple operations, and SO MUCH MORE! The best part about it is, the majority of them have learned it all on their own!!  Ok, let me slow down a minute because I'm getting ahead of myself...let me break it down na'--

1. Create a quick account via the Front Row app or (must use google chrome or firefox).  You will then get a student access code which your students will need to log onto Front Row.  **Another perk, your kids can add themselves into the system so you don't have to!  All they need is their first/ last name and the code and go to "I'm a New Student."  You can also add them in in about 3 minutes or less--either way, it's simple--no more laminating cards with their username and password-Thank Goodness!!!

App Sign In Page:

Computer Sign In Page:

2. The kiddos take a pre test on the domain(s) you are working on.  We have started with "Numbers in base ten," since that is the most involved standard we have, and will most likely move onto measurement next week.  The test takes no more than 15 minutes.

3. Once the students take the pretest, it generates questions based on his/her level. As students answer questions, they earn coins, which are then used to rank students on the class leader board for the day (top 5--see number 5 for more info on the leaderboard).  "What if they keep missing a question?" you may ask. As students work and miss a question, a short, one minute video pops up MODELING how to solve the problem!  It is amazing!  The kids can also choose to watch the video before they answer the question, instead of waiting until they miss it.  This is honestly how my kids have learned so many new skills in five days!  

How awesome that it has questions like these?!  This dude was so excited to figure out the answer so he could tell me how much the Steelers were winning by!! #badabababaimlovinit

4.  However, a student doesn't always have to watch the video if they miss a problem.  A list of students who have MASTERED that standard will pop up, telling them they can ask any of these students for help with this question.  Wait a minute, now we have students teaching students?! HELLO higher level thinking and HELLOOOOO Mrs. Perchinsky not answering 8,000 different questions at one time!!! Holla!!!!

5.  As stated in number 3, students earn coins for answering questions correctly.  The coins reset each day, which is different than other programs I've used in the past.  However, this is probably the best thing Front Row could have ever done.  I've made five medals attached to different lanyards for the top five leaders of the day (which I think you can only access through a student account, so I made one for me and log on to to check the leaders for the day).  It's like the Olympics at the end of every day when we announce the top five leaders.  I let {student} number 1 come and choose his/ her lanyard first, followed by the second, third, etc.  These students then get to be the "leaders" for the entire next day.  They get to line up first, be first in the lunch line, first to sharpen pencils, first to come to the library, choose inside recess game, first to pack up,  and anything else that requires someone being first {even though my husband says they aren't really "first" because there are five of them... ) #ifyourenotateacheryoudontgetit   

They are SO incredibly motivated to be one of these top five leaders they are on Front Row during their RECESS time!  It truly is so awesome to see... I think if you are going to use it in your classroom, I suggest using the leaderboard as some sort of incentive (having them be "first" costs me no money, and it's nothing to keep up with--I like it).  Front Row will also email you each week with the most improved students, which will be our next medal, who deserve to be recognized just as much as the leaders for the day!  Haven't worked out all the details as to what I'm going to do with the most improved leader, but it will be something special to make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside! :) 

Medals for the Front Row Leaders--didn't put their "place" on it since I let them pick by lanyard and don't feel like changing the medals over every time-KISS: Keep It Simple Sista!
6. Another perk of using Front Row, I am available to meet with students based on standards they need help with, which is GIVEN TO ME via the teacher dashboard under the "groups" tab.  It has the students divided up by standard and their proficiency level.  Wondering what in the world that standard is? No problem!  Click on it to find an explanation of the standard and sample questions to correlate to it.  I told's amazing!  I pull those students from centers to work on the specific standard, and then practice, practice, practice. At the end of the mini lesson I allow them to practice a few problems on Front Row to prove to me they are good to go and can move on from that standard.  They seriously cannot wait for math class everyday-and honestly, neither can I! It has cut down on the amount of time I spend planning math since everything is in one place.  Not to mention you are using ALL data to drive your instruction. :) 

Strands for each individual student--we all LOVE our strands don't we?!

Showing where each child is "grade level" wise

What I use to build math lesson plans for the week--looks like I need to bust out the fourth grade material... :)  #notcomplaining

7.  It has things like a matrix to tell you what grade level each student is working on, a report card with EVERY math standard we are teaching this year {which is identical to our county's report card! How awesome would this be to be able to attach this to their report card for clear cut, black and white data!? I'm still working on our county allowing us to do this instead of our eyes crossing trying to read and write in those tiny boxes...fingers crossed}.  It even has manipulatives for the students to use to solve the problems and it can also read it to them!  It also shows each student's average compared to the class, along with their starting grade, current grade, and grades grown.  As you can see, this little one has grown an entire grade level in 5 days! I'm serious people, stop reading this and go download it now!  Well, maybe finish reading about how awesome it is first :) Almost done I promise!

Tool I use to help build small groups--best.thing.ever!!!

Report Card-generated for each student-broken down by standard and their score

Student Average Compared to Class Average, growth, and accuracy
Did I hear someone say, "Data Documentation????"
Some other great info...
8. Working on standard 2.NBT.2-1, skip counting by 5s within 1000 and want to assign math homework? Great! Pull the drop down menu to choose your standard and with one click, you got it.  However, what if you want to assign homework, but know you have some kids on a first grade level and others on a fourth grade level...hmmmm......what a pickle we're in!  Not if you have Front Row you're not!!! Simply click the blue "Generate Individual Practice" button and PRESTO!  Leveled homework/ test/ classwork for each of your sweeties with their name at the top! I TOLD YOU IT WAS AMAZING!!!

Homework/ Classwork Generator Leveled or by Standard

9. You have the option for parents to sign up so they can access their child's report card, which will be the next step in incorporating this amazing program into our classroom.  I had a kiddo absent the other day, and when we checked the leader board at the end of the day, they were number one on the class leader board.  So glad to see they were using their sick day wisely :)  

10.  This app seriously is amazing and it will change the way you teach {math} for the better!  This is simple differentiation at it's finest and your kids will no longer be wasting their time practicing a skill they already know how to do!  Please click the links below to watch a few short videos on this program and how to use it in your classroom {just incase I may have missed something... :) }.

Here's to Front Row and all the Awesomeness it brings to our young minds-at all levels!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Life Happens--Yes, Even to Teachers...

So I have to admit I have been totally lacking on my blogging hobby, however sometimes real life gets in the way of the things you enjoy.  Some have been blissful moments, while some have been things I wish I could put in a bottle of liquid nitrogen and never think about again.  But sometimes we're not that lucky and have to deal with the cards we're dealt and make the best of it.  **Ironic since we've been learning about idioms this week (you can bet your lucky shamrock I taught my kids the 'When Life Hands You Lemons' analogy and all the different times it will appear in your life-especially when you never thought it would).  So, now that that's out of the way, let me tell you some of the things we've been up to in our happy little classroom...

We started and ended our fairy tale unit for the month of February!  **Resources to come--have had ZERO time to start putting this pack together, but it is one of my FAVORITES so I am overanxious to get it posted!  To give you a little preview, here are some darling pictures of my sweeties during our Second Annual Fairy Tale Ball we had to culminate our unit on Fables and Fairy Tales.  #totallypresh

Is this not the cutest picture ever?!

We three pigs outsmarted the Big, Bad, Wolf-he was no where to be found {aka at the doctor's}

I think this should be our class picture for this year ;)

 The kids never seize to amaze me at how seriously they take this and their presentation project I assign them at the beginning of the unit. The students were to present a fairy tale character of their choosing to the class, and answer several "I want, I wish, I can, I am..." callout questions {given} to place on their poster. They then had to answer questions from their classmates and myself by answering in the point of view of that character.

It was so sweet listening to their answers and really getting creative with it!  As they were presenting, I recorded some notes and gave them a score on their poster and presentation.  I then added a photo of them dressed in their fairy tale garb and attached it to their score sheet.  I know my mom would always save things like that when I was growing up, so I wanted my kiddos to remember this special time in second grade as well.

If I had a dime for how many times they've asked me, "Will we learn fairy tales in third grade and get to have a ball, too?"  Broke my heart to say no, but at the same time, brought the biggest smile to my face knowing they LOVED this unit that much!!

Since then, we've been doing some St. Patty's Day fun and working hard on our leprechaun engineering traps!  We started some engineering during our fairy tale unit and the kids are SO in love with it, just like I knew they would be.  Having taught at a STEM school during my time in Tennessee, it really has become one of my passions.  The only problem is finding the time to teach all of our math standards in a week and completing some STEM projects in an hours time.  I'm hoping to really move more into small group math to allow for more STEM time, since some of our weekly standards are starting to spiral.  I shouldn't be concerned since STEM is all about using your math skills in a real world situation anyway!  There, now that I've got that out of the way...

I've always made the leprechaun traps an optional project since we do our fairy tale projects a week or two before {which I made a requirement}.  Also keeping in mind not all my little cuties have someone at home to help them concoct such a thing, so I do give them the option to draw it and explain how they WOULD build it. I was actually thinking about skipping the traps altogether this year (not only because of the fairy tale project, but because our school wide Spring Auction is around the corner, and EVERYONE is very busy preparing for that, and sometimes I have to remind myself you can't do EVERYTHING), however, I'd left pictures up from last year on our Classroom Webpage, and the kiddos couldn't stop talking about making them!  So, I'm very anxious to see what my loves come up with this year.  #greatexpectations

Some of year's past traps:

My OCD can't handle those little green dudes destroying the classroom, sooooo I he usually just leaves a few gold {chocolate} coins and a little note on their traps, thanking them for their hard work and impressive engineering skills, but they'll have to try better next time!

{also have one for the LADS of the class}

I have the students explain their traps and how they work to their classmates in the form of a "science fairy" type setting {lined up like little booths around the room}.  They LOVE demonstrating and talking to their friends about their creation, and I love listening to them explain how they created it, too!

If you'd like to have your little ones construct one in groups this Monday or put this in your files for next year, you can find the directions and engineering project form on the link below.

Grab your freebie HERE!

Our skill this week focused on analyzing characters and how a character changes from the beginning of the story to the end.  If I said it before, I'll say it again...I love teaching character traits!!!  The kids are getting soooo good at developing traits on their own to describe characters in a story and WHY they exhibit that trait--without me even having to ask!  It really is so refreshing and really makes times like these so rewarding. <3

Some great St. Patrick's day books to model character analysis are...

*The Luckiest Leprechaun was definitely our favorite--you could literally hear a pin drop while I was reading it, and they broke out in applause simultaneously when I was finished--adorbs.

We also did a little musical mingling with our traits.  Each child was given a construction paper four leaf clover in which they decorated their name in the center.  

As the music played, the students mingled around the classroom until the music stopped.  They then sat in the nearest chair and wrote a character trait to describe that person {the previews of songs on iTunes works GREAT for this}.  We use musical mingling at least once a week--it's a great way to get the kiddos up and moving around before or at the end of a lesson and you do use it with pretty much any skill! 

The students LOVED reading all the warm and fuzzy things their classmates wrote about them--definitely a bucket filling activity! :)

With the LEGO movie recently playing in theaters, not to mention my kiddos being INSANE over them, I decided to try and incorporate these Lego dudes into this week's lessons...

Enter the BLANK LEGO MAN!  Who knew something so simple could get their attention so...well...intently! 

I blew the document up to poster size, laminated it, and used it for each story we read Monday through Thursday.  The kiddos then used the same template after partner reading our weekly story at the end of the week.  Let me just say how eager they were to complete this and how engaged they were during the process!  They turned out so cute and this is one of those things you can keep on hand and use with pretty much any lesson or story (hello Sub Folder activity!)

Grab your copy HERE and I hope your little ones enjoy it as much as we did :)

Next week kicks off our two week Wizard of Oz unit! Bring on the Wicked Witch of the West, because after these past few weeks, there's nothing that can scare me!