Friday, February 22, 2013

                                           INSIDE OUTSIDE CIRCLE

          We are having a couple of snow days here, due to ice.  Yes, that is right, ice.  Luckily though, we haven't lost electricity.   So I am having one of those slow mornings where I stay in my jammies.  They are warm and cozy and I have orange slices and cinnamon brewing on the stove and the smell is wonderful.  Now I want to talk to you about a favorite classroom strategy. This strategy is called Inside and Outside Circle.  You have probably heard of it. If not, you need to, you will be glad you did.  I have been using it for a couple of years now and was trying to remember where I learned about it.  I think my mom told me about it a few years ago, from a workshop she had attended. My mom has taught Kindergarten, First grade, and Second grade and has been a powerful resource for me over the years, and as usual mom knows best.  Imagine my surprise when I was doing research for this blog and learned that this strategy activity has been talked about as being very powerful and helpful with students. I mean, I knew I loved it, but so cool when you find out others do too.  I always like that feeling. I learned for this blog that it is a Kagan strategy and you can learn more about how to use it in your classroom and about Mr. Kagan, the author of this strategy at  You can also go there to learn when and where it was published. Here is how I use it in my classroom.  

1.)  I first divide students up into two groups by saying, you're a one, you're a two, you're a one, you're a two, until everyone is either a one or a two.  

2.)  I then show all the students the task cards.  These are cards that the ones will use to ask the twos a question or it can be a series of flash cards.   The cool thing about Inside Outside Circle is that you can use it for EVERYTHING!  Some examples are story questions to assess for understanding, for those cards you might have the question, "Who are the characters in the story?"  or "How did the story end?"  Was there a problem in the story and if so, how was it solved? etc.  Or flash cards for letter/sound correspondence, or sight words, math numbers, math problems, fluency sentences, etc.  Also, it can be used for any grade.  Make up your task cards ahead of time, these already need to be made up. These are just on notecard or a piece of paper or card stock if you want to use them over and over again.  Then ask the whole class, the questions, reading the cards, so they know what questions to ask when it is their turn to be a one and show them how use the cards.  For example you might say, "The one of your team is going to use these task cards and flash it to you.  You will need to read the letter and tell them it's name and sound, a word that begins with that sound or maybe it is a picture and they need to tell you a word that rhymes with it, etc.  

3.)  I then ask my students who are the ones to get their chairs and they place them in a circle facing out.  Then I ask the twos to sit on the floor in front of the ones, facing in so that the ones are facing the twos and the twos are facing the ones. (Students are facing each other).  If you have an odd number it is okay, there will just be two students who are both numbered two facing the student numbered one at that spot.  (See the above diagram as an example. The green are the ones in the chairs.  The twos are represented by the blue.)

4.)  Now each  student who is a one has one student at his/her feet and they ask that student the question or show them the flash card (whatever you are practicing/or assessing, depending on your purpose)  If letters, then student one (in the chair) shows the student numbered two (sitting on the floor at his/her feet) the letter and student two then tells the letter name and/or sound it makes, etc.  If math equations, then they would show the student on the floor the card with the equation and then the student numbered two(who is on the floor) would answer it and tell how they got their answer.  They stay there for a few minutes then you the teacher will give a word to let the twos know it is time to move. (This is the group that is sitting on the floor facing the students in the chairs).  There are different ways to do this part.  I have the row of twos all move to the right one person, and then they start over with new questions or flash cards from the next student who is a one. So again the two is on the floor but this time facing the student who is a one that was one chair to the right of their last partner.  They slowly move around the circle. They are the outside circle facing the inside circle.   I use the word, "right" to let students know when it is time to move.  We do this until we have made a complete circle and every child has visited with every person.  All twos have met up and answered questions for all of the ones.  

5.)  Then you can say switch, and the student in the chair switches with the person in front of them on the floor and the student on the floor takes the chair and the task question cards.  Then resume play.  

     This is a great way to make sure everyone is learning, to assess how much they have learned, what their weak areas are, and to reinforce skills that are being worked on in the classroom.  Everyone is actively involved and engaged.  Also, students are learning social skills and social relationships as everyone partners up with the job as a one or a two.  Everyone works with everyone else.  (Always a big plus in the Kindergarten classroom!)  I hope it doesn't sound too complicated.  It is actually really easy.  For more information you can visit the West Virginia Department of Education at They talk about this strategy.  They use it a little different than I, but that's the cool thing about a great idea, it is adaptable and can meet the needs of so many.  
You can also differentiate this activity very easily by switching out cards for  different skill levels or by being very selective as to who gets which partner and with what set of cards they practice, meeting the needs of all of your students, even if they aren't all at the same place in their learning.  For example, maybe a few students really need to work on letter sound skills and the others need to work on sight words. Or you could have two circles going at once and each work on different skills. I also like using this for missing number or what letter comes before or what letter comes.  
Happy Teaching!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

I hope everyone had a great Valentines Day!!  Can we say "great?"  It was great.  
My school celebrated Valentines Day on Thursday instead of changing it to Friday.  We had the parties right at the end of the day.  The students had Froggy Valentine bags to put their valentines in.  I got them from Oriental Trading.  They were really cute!!  My kiddos were really excited about them and for the party.  We played a Love Bug number game.  I took pink, red, and white hearts and put numbers on them 1-31 and then I took a construction paper love bug that I made and hid it behind a heart with a number.  The kiddos would call out a number to practice their number identification skills and of course see if they could find the missing Love Bug.  We had a great time!  I will get pictures up soon.  Thank you for understanding this is a work in progress and for being patient.    My digital camera was stolen from my classroom and I have not been able to replace it yet.  Thank you for stopping in!!!  Hope your week is very blessed!  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

       This week in the classroom, we tackled our addresses.  With Valentines Day coming up I asked my students to make a very special family valentine for someone that lives in their house, usually a mom or dad or both, sometimes they make it for the whole family or a grandparent if they are the guardian.  They were very EXCITED!!!  A lot of love went into those valentines.  Then yesterday, we took our valentines to the Post Office,  prior to going each student recited his or her address and then wrote their address on the envelope and added the stamp,  they were then ready for the mail.  Since we were learning about our addresses it was a good time to extend our learning to our community and community workers, with this week's emphasis being on mail carriers.  Also, lucky for us our Post Office is just right up the road, a 5 minute ride by bus.  We read some nonfiction books about mail carriers and the Post Office.  My little guys also practiced their motor skills with cutting and gluing to make a mail carrier hat of their very own to wear on our little outing.  The template for these can be found at .  Now we are anxious for the arrival of those special valentines!!!  I think we learned a lot and by adding the trip to the Post Office, the mail carrier information,  students gained an extra purpose for learning his/her address,  gained community knowledge and expanded our vocabularies, and added an extra element of fun and excitement.  It always amazes me how many of my students have never actually been inside a Post Office until we go!!  Happy teaching!! 

A little extra:  I find it helpful that when having students write their addresses on the envelopes (which they did an awesome job at, I might add, the writing was truly their best and it was BEAUTIFUL!) it helps to make 3 lines for them with a ruler edge.  That way the first line they focus on the persons name (yes they are coping it on to the paper) then they recite their street address and copy it on to the envelope, and then they recite their city and state and copy it to the line and then below the line is the zip code.  Then we read it back again together and they will continue to recite and practice writing until they can do it independently. :)  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

    Wow!  It was an awesome week in the classroom.  We celebrated the 100th Day of school and it is always one of my favorite days.  I love being able to share this day every year with every class! This year we did  a lot of the same activities that I hear others talking about.  We did the Hershey Kiss Number Scavenger Hunt, we sorted Fruit Loops into groups of tens and made necklaces, wrote about what we would do with a 100 dollars.   We found numbers in a Hidden Picture, counted to see how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop.   Zero the Hero and his sidekick Squiggy came to visit us and passed out pencils.  Zero counts with the boys and girls and has they jump for every 10.  We did activities like those all day and the Grand Finale was a parade through the Elementary School.  We did at the end of the day as the classes were headed to an assembly giving them an escort so we wouldn't disturb the learning going on any more than we absolutely had too.  My students took little card stock squares (in bright colors) and wrote their numbers to 100 and then taped them to their clothing.  The parade brings relevance and purpose to writing the numbers.  They had funny hats and were all dressed up in their numbers.  They had a great time getting covered in numbers and getting ready for the parade.  We sang a song about the 100th Day and paraded through the halls.  I have wonderful administrators who let us do this and understand the importance.  My kids love it!  I get comments like "Best Day Ever!" "I can't wait to tell my mom what I did today!"  and "They loved me!"  "Can we do this again tomorrow?" They really shine and that is so important.  A few years ago I was at Wal-Mart a few days before school was to start.  There was this boy there that was about 14 years old.  He was very thin and looked like he needed some work done on his teeth from the dentist, and he really looked malnourished.   He had selected two $8 shirts that he wanted for school.  He was begging his parents to get them for him and there was such longing and need in his eyes.  I was changed that day by that little boy.   The Lord used a simple trip to Wal-Mart to change me completely.   I stood around and watched because one way or another that boy was going to have those shirts.  His eyes spoke of such need for acceptance and all his hopes for the school year.  The $8 shirts were only $8 shirts, but for him it was so much more, it was about hope for the school year and  a need to belong.  That boy changed me that day.  To this day I cry when I think of that boy.  I am happy to say, he was able to purchase the two shirts.  I still pray for him and hope he is doing well.  But that boy made me realize just how much every child needs to feel like they belong and how important it is that every child feel accepted and get those moments to shine.  Then of course, they come to us at the beginning of the school year for Kindergarten thinking I am going to be the faster, and the smartest, and everyone is going to totally approve of everything I say and do, and then reality sets in and soon they realize not everyone can be the fastest or the smartest.  But you know what,  you can be YOU and YOU are awesome just as you are.   For me, that is what the 100th Day Parade is all about.  That moment when we walk into someone's classroom and they clap and encourage them.  They love it!!  It is also important that they feel that acceptance every day!!!