Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Review of The Complete Common Core Standards Kit

Last week, I purchased the Carson Dellosa Common Core Standards Kits for grades 4 and 5.   Since I purchased the kits, obviously this is not a sponsored post.  All thoughts are my own.

In my district, we haven't had to post the standards . . . up until now!  This coming school year, we've been told the standards must be posted in the classroom.  It's caused a mini kerfuffle, but to be honest I don't have a problem with it.  Yes, it is more work for the teacher.  It's another job to do each day, and goodness knows there isn't any teacher that needs yet another thing to do in the school day.  However, I think the most effective teaching is focused teaching.  Not that we can't embrace those teachable moments, but it is important to know exactly what my goal is as a teacher for that lesson.  It's also important for our friends to know why they are doing the work assigned and need to participate in the lesson being given.  I find this particularly true in the upper grades.  From enrichment students to basic skills students, when they know the end game they are often more willing to do the work.  So, posting the standards seems to be a natural part of that process.  Since I wasn't thrilled with the idea of having to write the standards every day, I went looking for something to make this task a bit easier.  That's where the Carson Dellosa kit comes in.

Before I begin, let's take a look at what Carson Dellosa  (CD) has to say about them.
So, that gives you the basics:  
  • The kit contains all the Math and ELA standards for the grade level. 
  • Each card contains the original standard on one side and a kid friendly "I can" statement of the standard on the back.
  • The kit is organized by the different standard sections.  Each section comes with its own divider to keep it all organized.
Here are a few pictures from the kits I purchased.  Sorry the pictures kind of mess with my blog layout, but I wanted them to be big so you could easily read them.

Here are the boxed cards and a view of some math dividers.

Here is a picture of two math standards with the kid-friendly "I can" 
versions of the same standards in the picture below.

 Here is an example of three ELA standards and their kid-friendly versions.

Pro:  I like that the standards are organized and sorted with dividers.
Con:  I wish they had included a typed page of all the standards with the "I can" statement under it for a quick reference.  It would be easier to look at that and then know exactly what card you want to pull instead of having to sift through the cards.  Now, if you are really familiar with all the standards this won't be a problem.  But, for those still getting to know them all, it will be a bit of a hunt for the card you want.

Pro:  Each card is about the size of a 12 inch sentence strip.  Small enough to not take up a ton of space on your walls.
Con:  That pro is actually more of a con for me personally.  They are a bit on the small side.  In their video, CD comments that they purposely made them this size so that they don't take up too much wall space in your classroom.  If you plan to use them to have the standards posted in your room because you are required to, then they're great as is.  It does that job.  However, if you want them to be something you can refer to, that your friend can see, know that there is no way you or your friends will be able to read them once you step a few feet away.  I actually did a post a while ago that asked us to consider how effective are the posters we hang in our classroom.  Unless you are up close to these cards, they can be difficult to read.
Pro:  So, let's turn the pro that became a con back to a pro!  These cards are perfect for posting next to your meeting table.  They would be easily read by the friends seated at the table.  You can even pull the standard card that is the focus of your small group lesson and put it right on the table.

I really didn't find any other cons, but here are a few more pros:
Pro:  The kid versions of the cards not only help the students, they can be a big help to the teacher.  Keep it simple silly!  I have to admit that I have read one or two of the standards and had to think hard about what it really meant.  Having it translated on the other side in kid talk makes it easily understandable for us all!  Also many of the standards, while not hard to understand, are lengthy.  If you look at the math standard 4.NBT.2 in the pictures above, you can see how they easily summarize a lengthy standard in to a simple sentence.  They have done a nice job "translating" the standards.
Pro:  The cards are sturdy.  They have a card stock-like feel and are laminated.  These will last a while. Also, since they are laminated you can easily use a dry or wet erase marker to highlight or underline key words in a standard.
Pro:  They're moderately priced.  Each box on the CD site sells for $19.99.  The teacher store I saw them in didn't have the grades I needed so, since I had a gift card, I went on Amazon to see if they had them.  I was actually able to get each kit for $16.52 with free shipping.  Amazon prices change from time to time, so I can't promise you it will be that price, but it's worth checking out.  The kit does not come with the pocket chart.

So, am I happy with my purchase?  
YesI think all the pros outweigh the few cons.

Interestingly, I couldn't find any upper grade bloggers who have reviewed this product.  There were a few from the K-2 grades, so I've included their links below if you want some more thoughts.  They also seem to like the kits.
If you have and use the kit, please feel free to tell us about it in the comments or link to your blog post in the comments.  Or, just comment?  What do you think?  Is this a product you could use?  Do you have another way of posting your standards?

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On another note, check out what a library the next town over from me did to their side lawn.

How awesome is that?  
They are going to plant different colored flowers in each letter.  
Wouldn't that be great outside of a school?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gifts and Shopping

So, no posts for a while.  I've been busy teaching with all the end of the year craziness thrown in!  Today, June 27th, was my last day of school.  I don't think they could have kept us in any longer if they tried! Having a heatwave the last week of school didn't make it much fun.

It was odd to visit all my different classes to say good-bye to my friends today.  Usually, I make an end of year gift for them, but this year I had over 75 students.  I did get ice pops for all my classes, because did I mention it was 90+ degrees this week as we toiled away in second floor classrooms with no air conditioning?!  A cool treat in the afternoon was very much appreciated by all.

One of my 4th grade classes did receive a little something.  It was the class in which I teach two subjects and spend a good part of  my day with.  I decided on a fun gift for summer - Super Bouncy Balls!

I was able to find super bouncy balls that were about the size of tennis balls at Five Below.  They came in a bunch of colors and patterns.  Each was put in a cellophane bag, tied with some curling ribbon.  Then, I printed out a poem I had tweaked, printed it on some card stock, and stapled one to each bag.  It was actually much easier and faster to do than it sounds.  I'm happy to say that the kids loved them.  I think this could easily be a back to school gift with a card saying, "We are going to have a ball learning together this year!"

As I sit here tonight, I have to say I am so glad to be on summer vacation even though I'm teaching summer school again.  This summer  I will be working with friends who are moving from third to fourth grade  in September.  I have exactly three free days until I go in on July 1st to decorate my air conditioned (Thanks Goodness!) room.  I went with a star theme this summer.

I had a lot of this in my closet, but I did run to a local teacher store to pick up a couple of things.  Of course, it's never a clean get-away when I go into a teacher store.  I've had my eye on a new product by Carson-Dellosa.  They have put out a common core standards kit for each grade level that has kid friendly "I can" statements for all the standards. 

I purchased the fourth and fifth grade versions and am planning to do a full review for you, most likely posting this Saturday or Sunday. I've been doing a lot of thinking on how this can best be used in the classroom.

For now, I'm off to enjoy what is left of my first night of summer vacation!  See you on the weekend!