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Brainy Apples: April 2014
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Have you heard of GoNoodle? It's a great website that offers free brain breaks for your kiddos. There is also a paid subscription service, but keep reading and you will have an opportunity to win a free 1-year subscription :)

I just found out about GoNoodle, and so far I am lovin' it! I haven't had a chance to use it in my classroom yet due to the timing of spring break, but I have used it on my own kids during the monsoon we had for a couple of days when they were stuck inside the house driving me C.R.A.Z.Y!

There are a few reasons I really like GoNoodle and am excited to use it with students. One, there are different games/videos depending on your purpose. You can choose games/videos to calm your students and clear their minds, or maybe you want to focus your students to get them ready for a lesson, or perhaps you want to help them get their wiggles out in a positive way. This is the purpose I had in mind for my own kids! Two, there is zero prep. Nada. Ziltch. All you need is a computer with internet access and either a projector or interactive board so students can easily see the screen. Three, students who partake in brain breaks tend to be more focused and engaged during the school day. Four, the brain break I used for my own children is only 1-minute long…which is perfect for those "dead" times during the school day when there isn't enough time for students to do something constructive, but there is too much time for students to not do something constructive. The time between recess, lunch, specials, dismissal…you get the gist.

The game I used is called Freeze It.
Why do I love Freeze It? Besides being the PERFECT way to spend those few lost minutes during transition times, my kiddos are getting to practice a variety of skills in a fun way! You can choose addition, subtraction, time, letters, colors, geography, and more! I chose addition because my lovelies need extra practice :)

The idea of the game is that your kids can wiggle all they want until they see the word "Freeze."

Then they have to stop and solve the problem. You might let your kiddos shout out the answer, but I like to use popsicle sticks with their numbers written on them to choose who to answer because my kids would get WAY to carried away otherwise ;)

After you get the correct answer, you click continue and the kids proceed to dance and wiggle to their hearts' content until "Freeze" pops up again.

When the minute is up, you can continue with another skill or end the game.

I think one of my favorite parts of using GoNoodle is that your class can track their progress with their own little noodle monster.

My kids love this part! I know that whenever I try to implement something new, I have a VERY hard time remembering about it. Our class noodle monster helps my kids remind me because they want to watch him grow!

Go ahead and visit GoNoodle to sign up for their free service, then head over to Primary Chalkboard to enter for a chance to win a free 1-year subscription worth $99! You can also click on the image below to go to the Primary Chalkboard and not only enter the rafflecopter but also see the rest of the Chalkies in their GoNoodle t-shirts! Be sure to click on everyone's picture to be taken to their blog post about how they use GoNoodle and why they love it so much!

What do you think about GoNoodle? Have you used it before? Are you gonna try it out? I would love to hear your experiences!

Until next time!
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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Close Read Linky Party #4: Student-Led Discourse

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. It's a time for new beginnings, a time to get past the standardized tests, and a time to wind down the school year (unless you are unfortunate and your school year goes through June). So, if you haven't tried out Close Reads yet. maybe now is the time to give 'em a whirl!

**Be sure to visit the other blogs in the link-up below for additional tips and strategies on Close Reads. And if you have a blog post on Close Reads, feel free to link up yourself! The more the merrier!**

I hope that you have been finding these Close Read posts helpful during your journey of implementing Close Reads. In case this is your first visit, I encourage you to check out previous posts from the Close Read Linky Parties before or after you read this one:
Close Read overviewgetting started with Close Readsindependently read text vs. read aloud text, what do you do when your students give you the "deer in headlights" look, and should you do leveled reading groups or Close Reads.
Each one is focused on a different aspect of Close Reads, but all are beneficial in understanding how and why to use Close Reads.

And don't forget to check out my Close Read Tip of the Day that I post on my Facebook page. Click on the photos tab, then albums, then Close Read Tip of the Day to see all my previous ones. I don't post every day, but I try to at least once a week.

Close Reading certainly isn't a "new" thing. It has been around for decades, and, honestly, a lot of strong reading teachers have been doing Close Reads all along. Choosing a text based on a specific purpose, having students read for a deeper understanding, and asking probing questions while encouraging student-led discussion. I know for me, the more I read about Close Reads, the more affirmation I am given for what I have been doing for years.

Student-led Discourse
The post I am writing today is going to focus on your Close Read discussions. I say discussions because one huge goal for any Close Read should be an engaging and thoughtful discussion that takes place among your students, and your students should be responsible for leading and continuing the discussion. You shouldn't be in charge of keeping the dialogue going. Your students should be so engaged in the discussion and thinking about the text, that they are responding to one another with their own question or thought. What shouldn't happen is a Q&A session where you ask a question, one student responds and provides evidence for his/her answer, and then you move on to the next question. You should asia question, a student responds, and then you open the floor for the other students to agree, disagree, give their own thoughts, etc. Students need to feel comfortable enough to question each other and add their own thoughts.

We want the student who answers, the speaker, to become the listener, and we want the listener, the other students, to become a speaker. This becomes more of a give-and-take conversation where multiple students offer new ideas. These new ideas may change another student's mind, or a new idea that combines old ideas might emerge.

Why do we want student-led discourse? Because when a teacher asks the questions, students become passive. They are simply providing information. But when students begin asking questions and/or commenting on other students' responses, they become active. Their minds start churning on comprehending the text because they begin thinking about if another student's answer is correct, partially correct, or incorrect, and they begin to ask questions so other students can clarify their answers.  Thus, true engagement occurs, the teacher steps back, and the students become responsible for continuing the conversation.

Yes, teachers want to provide the initial questions that students will answer, but the question should require higher-level thinking to answer, so that it prompts students to engage in a discussion.

Silence- What Do I Do Now?! Well, Prompts, of Course!
There will come times where the classroom falls silent (you can read my earlier post here about how silence isn't always a bad thing). Last summer I read "Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading" by Beers and Probst. I am now rereading it because it is a gold mine for anyone wanting to begin implementing Close Reads or those who want to sharpen their skills. It's OK when the room falls silent to give prompts to students. An interesting spin that Beers and Probst offer is instead of the teacher verbally giving prompts to jumpstart the discussion, ahead of time write prompts on index cards and pass them out to a handful of students. Let students know when there is a lull in the discussion, that they can read the prompt on their index card. Yes, the prompt is your prompt, but because a student is reading it, when another students answers he/she will be speaking to the student who asked the prompt, not you. You can write generic prompts on the cards such as "Which character changed the most in this portion of text?" or "Tell me more about the problem in this section of the text" These are very generic, but you could also write prompts that are more specific to the text your students will be discussing. Another tip is to give your quietest students the prompts. This way they will interact, but they will feel safe to do so because they have something that came from you to read.

Student-led discourse isn't something that will happen overnight. You will need to model. A LOT. So when one student offers an answer, pause, and, even if the answer is correct, call on another student and ask his/her opinion or thoughts. If Bob says that Tuck doesn't want Winnie to drink from the spring, I might say, "Sally, why do YOU think Tuck doesn't want Winnie to drink from the spring?" I am calling on another student to elaborate on the given answer. If the initial answer was wrong, I might ask, "Does anyone else have an opinion?" Usually someone will not hesitate to share what they think is correct. I never tell a student that he/she is wrong. I always ask if someone else would like to add to the response or if anyone has a different thought. This helps students feel safe. When a teacher tells them they are wrong in front of everyone, that student will be more hesitant to answer in the future. But, if a student is wrong and they realize they are wrong because another student gives the correct response plus the reasons, all of a sudden the student is more focused on understanding the text instead of being embarrassed. By asking other students for their thoughts, they will begin to learn that it is expected during Close Reads, and soon you won't have to ask them to join in the conversation. They will begin to do so on their own.

What About Lower Grades?
Even lower grade students can have student-led dialogue. Yes, it will look and sound a lot different from older students, you may have to give more prompts, but I taught K and 1st grade reading and even those kiddos learned how to respond to each other. Now, we had to work a LOT on respectfully disagreeing and not shouting out, "You're wrong!" But, once we got past that, I found that my younger students were less hesitant to share their own opinions and thoughts than my older students were. I also did a lot more scribing and doodling of their responses so that they were more focused when they were responding, and when the discussion started to get sidetracked, I had a visual I could point to to get the conversation back on topic.

For me, the most beautiful sound in the world is when students are engaged in a thoughtful discussion of a text, and I can just sit, listen, record anecdotal notes, and enjoy knowing that they are authentically engaged in a text because they are interested in it and not because I am leading the way.

Have your own Close Read experience to share? You can get the InLinkz code here. You don't have to include the linky on your blog post, but be sure to add your own post to the link-up below!

And if you want to read more about how other teachers use Close Reads, be sure to visit their posts from the link-up below :)

Is there something specific you would like to learn more about when it comes to Close Reading? Leave a comment and I might focus my next post on it!

Until next time!

***If you liked what you read please consider subscribing to my email list. You will receive free goodies, blog posts, and updates right to your inbox! Just click here to join.
I do have some EXCITING news! I am going to be offering a free LIVE webinar next week! I will offer one training on Wednesday, July 27, and one more on Thursday, July 28. Both will be at 8pm EST. You can sign up {here} or the image below to save your seat. I hope to see you there!

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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Bright Idea: BANG! A Twist on a Math Fact Fluency Game

So excited to have you back for another Bright Idea! This time I would love to share one of my favorite games to work on fact fluency with students. You can work on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division. Whatever your class needs.

Bang! I love this game as an alternative to Around the World. When your class plays Around the World, the quickest math fact recaller is the one who gets continuous practice. Your students who aren't as knowledgable of their math facts get out right away. So, if your purpose is to have ALL your students practice their math facts, it doesn't take long for your slower-to-answer students to realize that they don't have much of a chance.

Why is BANG!!! So Awesome?
Well, because it makes the playing field equal for all your students. Your slower-to-answer students have just a good a chance as your quicker students to win the game. This helps them gain confidence and not be hesitant to participate for fear of being embarrassed when they aren't successful at answering one math fact quick enough to continue.

All you need are some popsicle sticks, a basket or can to put the sticks in, and a marker to write on the popsicle sticks.

All you have to do is decide which facts you want your students to practice. Then you just write the facts on popsicle sticks, one per stick without the answer. You can create 4 different BANG!!! games, one for each operation, or you can create mixed practice. Totally up to what your students need to practice. You also have to write "BANG!!!" on some of the sticks. I usually write facts on about 50 sticks and "BANG!!!" on about 10 sticks. Once you have your sticks ready, you plop them into a basket or can that is tall enough to cover most of the sticks, and you are ready to go! All you need now are students.

How to Play
Decide how long you will let your students play. I typically give about 10 minutes, but I also let my students play this game if we have 5 minutes of transition time. The object of the game is for students to collect as many popsicle sticks as they can. Whoever has the most sticks at the end of the game is the winer.

Choose one student to begin. He/she selects a stick and I give them about 3-5 seconds to give the answer to the fact written on the stick. I give 5 seconds at the beginning of the year and shorten the time to 3 seconds. If the student answers correctly, he/she keeps the stick. If the student is incorrect, he/she returns the stick to the basket. Then you move onto the next student and repeat. Students are not directly competing against each other. It is a competition because they have to get as many sticks as they can to win, but one or two students can't monopolize the game. Now, here's the fun twist: if a student pulls out a stick that has "BANG!!!" written on it, they have to put ALL their sticks back into the basket. This really allows any student in your class to win because ANY student could draw BANG!!! and lose their sticks. Students quickly realize that anyone can win, and they are immediately hooked. My students prefer this game over Around the World any day, and I do, too. You can really write "BANG!!!" on as many sticks as you would like. Obviously the more sticks with BANG!!! the more often students have to replace their sticks.

Have you played BANG!!! before? Think you will add BANG!!! to your repertoire of games for practicing math fluency? I would love to hear your thoughts :)

If you enjoyed this Bright Idea, please consider joining me on FacebookTpT Store, and Pinterest for more great ideas!

For more bright ideas from over 150 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. You can also follow our Bright Ideas Pinterest board for all these bright ideas and more in one place! Our commitment to you is product-free ideas that you can quickly and easily implement. Who doesn't love that?!?!

Thanks for visiting and until next time!

***If you liked what you read please consider subscribing to my email list. You will receive free goodies, blog posts, and updates right to your inbox! Just click here to join.

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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