Prepping for a New Year

Not having a classroom hasn’t stopped me for prepping for a new school year.  I’ve completely organized my TPT purchases into a categorized PowerPoint thanks to a template by Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd.  Have you ever gone to plan, then realized later there was a file you had downloaded from TPT that would have been perfect, but it was lost in an abyss of resources?  I filled 92 pages – well including the category pages, but, wow, that is a lot.  I’ve also created a class set of Writing Resource folders, including a 7 page picture dictionary to aid students struggling with reading or new ESL learners.  This will supplement my word wall, color coded by subject, that will need to be revamped with a new job.  I’m up for the challenge – eager really.  This year I will focus on technology.  Though I use technology routinely such as Padlet, PeppleGo, Epic, NewELA, xtramath, etcetera, I’d like to utilize SeeSaw and Google products more extensively.  To this end, I’ve been doing some exploring through different educational web pages.  I’ve re-created my Parent Contact Information, which I used last year.  This is an incredible idea I found on Pinterest; no more illegible email addresses or phone numbers and it’s all congregated into one Excel style page.  I’ve also created a Google Form for reading assessments in case I teach Language Arts.  Again, it will be all documented for me in individual student folders for better individualized instruction.  Right now, I’m creating my own Symbaloo of recommended websites for parents to provide a fuller list.  Typically, I have a handful of links on my webpage and the grade level webpage.  Other than that, I’m working on small items: making sure my newsletter is ready minus the year expectations, placing Meet the Teacher items in a bucket, and preparing a new teacher planner.  It’s late in the summer, but the area here is growing rapidly so one can still hope for new classes to be needed.  I’m ready to share my passion for learning with a new group of students.  Regardless of the outcome, may all educators and staff have a fabulous 2017 – 2018 school year!

Here’s a link to my Google Form for a Reading Assessment.

My symbaloo is in the early stages, but here are two pictures from my TPT PowerPoint Organizer:

 

Latest Technology Finds

This week I came across two teacher tech tools to use in the classroom.

First of all, I joined The 40 Hour Workweek Club earlier this month; it’s a year long cohort to learn more efficient teaching strategies.  No, I’m not hoping to reduce my hours to 40 hours per week, but I thought it would be helpful to learn more organization tips.  It seems that much of what we learn as teachers is through trial and error.  When I can use professional development to avoid pitfalls and improve my teaching in a collaborative manner, then I’m all in.  In the Club, we are beginning with planning and time management as a means to organize before school begins.  Angela Watson shares great resources to help with this.  What I wanted to find for time management was a paperless structure that I could easily access.  I tried Google Keep, then Google Sheets, then stumbled upon Trello, a software and app to manage tasks.  Guys, I can create task lists for home, school, lesson planning, project based learning, etcetera AND choose participants to join so it’s collaborative in real time.  Yes!  As far as the Workweek Club is concerned, I am receiving great value out of this program already.  The number of resources we are given is outstanding, plus the shared information comes in different formats so you can choose what works best for you.

Then proof that Facebook can sometimes be a valid use of time, I discovered classroomscreen.com.  I already use dailyalarms.com to manage our multiple reminders for transitions, but I can see using the timer for a quick write, partner discussion, or other use.  I usually use Online-Stopwatch.  However, I prefer that this screen has multiple tools incorporated into one page.  The traffic light could be used as a reminder during BAS assessments or one to one conferences as a visual for when it is appropriate to approach the teacher or not. It could be a gentle reminder for volume control, but I saw another app called Too Noisy that has incentives for volume control that I’m interested in if I have access to Ipads.  Another tool on the screen are the work symbols for volume expectations.  This might be a great visual at the front of the class if the screen is not being used for the lesson/activity.  There are other gadgets on the screen, but I’ve discussed the ones of personal interest.  Overall, I wanted to document this website so I can try it out this coming year.  Hopefully, it will evolve.

I love technology when it’s relevant and makes work easier.  If there is a more effective alternative, then I think we should teach the students to evaluate when and how to use technology.  We’re still in the infant stages of using technology in the classroom so we want to be careful to not use “a square peg in a round hole,” but use the right tool for the right job.

*I want to add this website: http://www.visnos.com/demos/clock because it’s an excellent interactive clock.  You can turn off the time, then check your answer.  I found it earlier this summer.

Making Thinking Visible Chapter 4

I love getting into the nitty gritty or meat of a book.  Now I can explore new routines to use to prompt further thinking and use for assessment!  In chapter 4, you are introduced to 7 new routines.  At our last school, we were already using See, Think, Wonder in response to a visual in math and science as a tool to understand where students are in their understanding or to prompt discussion.  Also, Think, Puzzle, Explore just sounds like an alternative to a KWHL chart.  Zoom In is similar to See, Think, Wonder but focuses on a small piece of an image, then yielding to a larger view.  I think this would be handy as a lesson to show students the value of close reading and reviewing material.  It also gives a different perspective to how you see something.  Chalk Talk is similar to how we opened up new units in our International Baccalaureate program: Ideas?  Connections?  Questions?  These were all valid tools, yet I didn’t feel like it was anything truly new from what I’ve been practicing.

So let’s get to the 3 which I found the most interesting:

3-2-1 Bridge

Here is a quick method to stimulate background knowledge, promote thought, then assess connections/growth.  The idea is that a student provides 3 words, 2 questions, and 1 metaphor/simile in response to a topic, then repeats the same activity after learning more about the concept.  If time, I might would ask students to write a brief explanation and draw a diagram to show their thinking.  At a minimum, I would ask for because to be added to each of the 3 words to deepen the activity and provide a better understanding of what each student is thinking.  Otherwise, you’re just playing word association – I can do this without really knowing what I’m saying.  Because is such a powerful word in education.  I’m always about students writing down their thoughts to practice explaining ideas.  If you’ve ever taught, then you know a student saying the sky is blue because of the angle of the light coming through the atmosphere sounds like he/she has some understanding.  However, when you ask for an explanation you might get something quirky such as, “because the aliens from other planets are shooting rays of light from different places, which planet is shooting rays decides which shades of blue you see or if it’s red,” which means Suzy actually doesn’t understand at all and has access to alien movies at home.  Ah, small moments such as these bring joy to teaching, almost as well as that aha moment by little Suzy.  I’d like to play with this routine several times to see what types of assessment I can gain.

Compass Points

In second grade, we teach interpreting information on a map including orientation and legends.  How fun to tie in the compass points with a method of sharing our ideas.  In this routine, E = Excitement/advantages W = worries/concerns/problems (which leads to action needed), N = needs, and S = stance/opinion.  I see this as a different structure for a concept wheel.  I can imagine using this when researching landforms, considering how people settle according to their environment or considering the concept of saving money.  I think I will tie in the Carousel Kagan structure with this routine for a unit allowing for movement with activation, the revisit the same activity for assessment.

The Explanation Game

This routine allows for a student to look closely at one piece of a larger concept and consider its function or role.  The steps are Name it, Explain it, Give reasons, and give alternate reasons/possibilities.  I like that it is asking for reasons, then asks a student to delve more deeply into possible alternatives.  I will need to really work on modeling this to promote thought beyond the superficial, but it allows for a natural differentiation with infinite growth.  This is an excellent match with open ended projects in science and social studies.  In a way, I think Number Talks provide this type of thinking in math naturally.  Students are describing their observations/steps, explaining them, then discussing alternative perspectives.  I’d like to try this with the program SeeSaw, allowing students to record their thoughts individually or in pairs, then discuss as a class.

Overall, I’m always looking for engaging ways to get my students thinking about their learning and better understand what they know.  I’m excited to implement these ideas in my next job.  I can’t wait to be back into the classroom to try these ideas.

Get Your Teach On – Dallas Day 2 Review

Day 2 was all about Writing, More Games, Technology, Back to School, and Top Tips.  It was just as jam packed with new information as Day 1; I believe I enjoyed it even more, excited to try new ideas, excited to get back to school.  This is something because I love summer time with family and friends.  To be honest, something most teachers understand, school breaks and summer are practically the only time I get to visit with friends.  Luckily I have some golden ones.

However, back to GYTO.  I will give a general review because it would be unfair to give away someone else’s material.  This is to spark interest or remind myself of specific action points.

Writing is an area in which I feel confident.  Yet I feel I will be a stronger teacher this year due to the ideas presented by Hope King.  She has a way of breaking information down for students that stays relevant, yet gives easy clarity for the students.  I kept thinking, “Ooh, I like that one.  Let me add it on my “Try It Out” list.  The index is long enough that I’ve decided to use a Table of Contents this year for Professional Development ideas.  It’s not even August.  I’m even going to follow the suggestion to move out of my comfort zone by trying a couple of content songs taught by the King team, one being about the writing process.  Poor children :).  For writing, Hope uses a hamburger paragraph with on point explanations that are fun for the students.  There were also new ways to learn grammar.

For technology, I plan to look further into tes teach, formerly blendspace,  to congregate links for students and parents under concept categories.  It was a little awkward to be presented with blendspace, then find out the name/format of the website were all changed 10 months before the conference.  There were 4 ideas in this session that look interesting.  Some I already use, but again, the session was worth my time.  For a two day conference, there were no sessions where I didn’t come away with several new ideas.   For games, again, I received new ideas.  One used the human hippos you may have seen on Pinterest, but in an educational fashion.

Amy Lemons presented more math games and fresh back to school ideas.  For math, I really like using the Origo Fundamentals books so this part of the day was probably the least exciting, but only because I feel I have a really strong set of games.  I already own the orange and purple books, and I will buy the green book this year, dependent upon the job I receive.  However, there were still games I can use.  For Back to School, I was excited to see something beyond the same quilt, t-shirt, or books for the beginning of the year.  The games were highly engaging.

Lastly, were the Top 10 Tips for Teachers.  Think of this as the motivational session.  I left feeling as if I had a new perspective on Engagement, new strategies, and new lesson ideas.  Five out of five stars for a comprehensive professional development – definitely worth the money.  Check them out to see if they are presenting on your grade level in an area near you (two at my table were from out of state) Get Your Teach On.  I receive nothing for my review; I’m just a teacher who loves to teach and share.

 

Get Your Teach On – Day 1 Review and Reflection

Wow – I have met the energizer bunny in human form.  Hope King brings a dynamic presentation about bringing engagement into the classroom, as well as close reading, which is one of the main reasons I chose this workshop.  In addition to Hope, Wade King, her husband, and Amy Lemons of Step into Second Grade.  I don’t want to share too much – you can find the daily breakdown on the website Get Your Teach On as I linked earlier.  However, I have to tell any readers that may wander upon this blog that it was worth it.  I came away with several ideas, and fresh enthusiasm.  After giving our heart and efforts throughout a school year, isn’t this what we are often looking for beyond rest and relaxation?  (On this note, kayaking is in my near future, “Oh yeah!”)

There was so much information that I believe participants can come away with many varieties of strategies that differ from one another.  My takeaways?  To try to insert something different (or novel) every day and to add a smile.  I thought about this.  My students (actually I often call them my children – borrowed, but teachers understand what I mean) know I care about them and try to bring their interests into the room, but during today’s presentation I had to ask myself how often I am not smiling.  I like people.  I enjoy life.  Yet, I don’t think I’m walking through the day with a smile persistently on my face.  When I see someone in the hallway?  Yep.  When I greet or say good-bye?  Yep.  Well, that’s a small portion.  What about during lessons?  Certainly, when I share a great book or a new math game, but the students are seeing my face ALL day long.  I think that’s worthy of upping the smile quota so I’ll add it to my yearly goal.  By the way, the close reading presentation was exactly what I needed.  I can’t wait to implement what I’ve learned.

In addition to these ideas, we learned many new math games.  I look forward to incorporating these.  I’ve been researching more on Guided Math trying to decide if I would like to try rotations.  Right now, we have a number talk or CGI word problem, mini teach, whole class practice, partner or individual practice, then games to reinforce/review concepts.  During this time, I work in small group on concepts missed or number sense.  I’ve asked mentors to observe my lessons with good reviews, but I still have this feeling that I can improve it.

It was a fabulous day, which is ending in solitude in a hotel room.  Happy lady.  Review  for day 2 coming soon!

Interactive Charts

Going through all of my anchor charts, posters, and large items from my old drawers, I’ve needed to reflect on what has worked well and what needs tweaking.  Much of what I own, I’ve decided to take a photograph, then recreate it once I need it in my new classroom.  However, some are gems that will move with me.  One of my favorites is an interactive Story Map, which I downloaded FOR FREE from Create Teach Share.  Pinterest and Teacherspayteachers are brilliant sites, which take up too much of my time.  Because we have many ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers, I added visuals to my poster.  This chart was used throughout the year as students and I discussed story elements.  It was also used if a student needed some movement towards the end of independent reading or as a lesson extension for an early finisher.  I have to confess to being a post-it snob; I only like the bright colored ones because the adhesive is so much better.  The pale yellow post-its always fall off; I save these for students to record their thinking when reading or for bookmarks.  As for the charts, I have a book called Smarter Charts K-2 by Marjorie Martinelli that I hope to browse through this summer while the teenagers sleep in the mornings.  I included a picture of my Summarize Interactive Chart that I recreated from a pin I found – another favorite.

 

 

The Close and Start of a Chapter

Yesterday I packed up my many belongings from my old classroom in preparation for a new chapter.  (My husband’s witty comment, “Get a job, you have too much for our house.” – all essential items of course).   It was definitely bittersweet.  Before working at this school, I volunteered in classrooms for many years: working with small groups to help those in need of more review or giving a lesson to provide the teacher with work time.  However, the level of professionalism, compassion, and dedication within this community was inspirational.   At the district level, we were encouraged to meet the individual needs of the whole child.  I liked feeling my support system was in sync with my own views on education.  At work, I appreciated an enjoyable atmosphere that felt like home away from home.  After all, we often spend enough time in our classrooms that we can sympathize with the young boy in Miss Malarkey Doesn’t Lives in Room 10.  Who else buys extra Community Coffee for the months September and May?

Beyond the experience I gained, it is the traits and philosophy mentioned that I wish to carry with me.  I was blessed with strong mentors and new friends, often friends who weren’t even on my grade level or vertical team.  It was a positive, friendly atmosphere.  Do I feel some anxiety about beginning in a fresh environment?  Absolutely, but I enjoy change.  I’ll miss my older kiddos dropping into the classroom for a quick hello before starting their school day or stopping to share a new success.    I’ll miss afternoon get-togethers, especially at Jack Allen’s.  Yet I’ll add more adventures, more tools, more relationships, more memories.  Instead of cheers, I’ll leave with a different toast because I am moving to an area with a strong German heritage:

Genieβe das Leben ständig!  Du bist länger tot als lebendig!

“Constantly enjoy life!  You are dead longer than you are alive!”

I like it; it’s quirky and funny with a good message.

Making Thinking Visible Chapter 3

This chapter was pretty quick as it is just laying the structure of how the Thinking Routines are set up and why it was chosen this way.  My takeaway?  First, it reminds teachers that like any planning, you need to look at what specifically you wish to teach during planning in order to be more successful.  Though this felt redundant as I read this section, I have to admit I’ve been caught up in the flow of the year, trying to juggle everything that needs to be done, then needing to stop to remember the real reason I am in the classroom.  It’s not a string of activities; each hour is an opportunity to promote real growth.  I think all teachers need this reminder at some point, whether novice or veteran.

The thinking routines are set up under three categories to support the way we plan:  Introducing and Exploring, Synthesizing and Organizing, and Digging Deeper.  More explanation is given to thinking routines with the main idea being that the routines teach skills of thinking  that support and promote curiosity and true thought, that builds upon older ideas to give new learning.  This continues as real learning should come with new questions.  For some reason, the round “And the Green grass grew all around, and around, and the green grass grew all around,” rings in my head when I think of this.

When implemented properly, the skills will become intrinsic to use, teaching children how to learn.  Throw in kindness, respect, citizenship, self-discipline, and a passion to learn – a teacher can ask for no more.  🙂

My favorite quote from this chapter: “Through ongoing use of the routines, this idea that questions not only drive learning but also are outcomes of learning becomes embedded in the learning process.”

I love when children ask questions (with respect of course), some even that other teachers seem to find frustrating.  Their natural curiosity makes the day more interesting, and often entertaining.  It’s the children that keep me accountable.  The smallest comment reminds me why I teach such as a struggling reader who shares, “Mrs. Achée, last night I read just for fun!  Can I share the story with ____ today?”

 

Get Your Teach On Conference – Dallas!

Each summer I like to learn something new, usually choosing a subject focus such as reading or math. However, I want to try something different, so this year I plan to look for workshops that catch my eye or have been on my never-ending to do list. To Do list – check. That would be the book study Making Thinking Visible for the summer. I’ve already written a couple of posts. To Do list – check again – working to add readily available resources to my Writing Resources page. Eye Catcher – chaching. This came across my Facebook page: Get Your Teach On Dallas Conference. Check out the two day agenda.
I’ll attend the second through fourth grade block. The best ideas often come from our coworkers at large and this conference will give me a little bit of everything: math, reading, writing, technology, and engagement. Deeana Jump and Hope King both hold master’s degrees in education with over 10 years experience so I think I’ll come away with a lot. Deeana is going to talk about close reading, which I’ve tried, but would like to learn more.  Amy Lemons will also present; it was her Facebook post that inspired me. Amy has a reading program, Rooted in Reading, where she focuses on one mentor text a week. The books she has chosen are amazing.  I’ve used her idea some this past year with success. Students feel comfortable with the familiar text, showing higher engagement and thinking.  In this conference, she’s going to cover math.  I have great games and love to use number talks, but I’m looking forward to seeing something new.

I can’t wait to learn from these guys. Let’s be totally honest – I also look forward to Me Time, alone in a hotel room at night. Of course I’ll geek out pouring through my goodies from the day, clicking down internet rabbit holes influenced from my fresh ideas. I bet every teacher can relate.

Making Thinking Visible Chapter 2

This chapter discusses the idea that students need to interact with material rather than superficially receiving information passively and how we can actively make the thought process visible. I was really struck with the challenge to not let thinking left to chance. As teachers, we must maintain the thought process as our immediate goal before the standards. Does this reduce the importance of standards? I don’t think so. The standards provide accountability that we are providing a well rounded, balanced education. However, my prime goal when I teach is to pass on the value of a good education, the joy of learning.

My favorite quote in this chapter is, “What messages am I sending through the opportunities I create for my students about what learning is and how learning happens?” (p. 29) I model my thoughts and specific learning strategies, but how I can further model learning? The book suggests not using canned questions. It is important to listen to the students, then respond with further questions that is a true response to the student. Then students will feel safe and less likely to give an answer that predicts what the teacher wants to hear. We are also modeling active, respectful listening.

Intentional Opportunities for Thinking
So we do not move through lessons in a blind hope that the students learn, there are several suggestions to make our own and students’ thoughts more visible in order to respond effectively.
1. Questioning – Rather than using a list of essential questions, though I think this is also a valid tool, the book suggests asking questions flexibly, in response to the students, by asking your own questions that arise genuinely. The students are learning through your modeling.
2. Constructing Understanding – When I read this section, I basically think it means to use good Essential Questions – concept related questions that ask the students to analyze and synthesize information.
3. Clarifying Thinking – At my old school we called this facilitating students’ ability to explain their thinking. The more practice students have this, especially if you create a respectful community, the more interactive, collaborative learning you have as students think about what they mean and feed off of each others’ ideas. I think this is the most valuable to teaching the skills for students to succeed within a community – the ability to think, communicate thoughts, respect other viewpoints, contribute, and collaborate.

Practical Ideas
1. Provide specific praise verbalizing thinking strategies used. “I like the way you used your background knowledge to…”
2. When we…, When I read…, I was wondering (modeling own interest)
3. See/Think/Wonder (I’ve used this – like it)
4. What makes you say that? Can you explain that in a different way?
5. Sharing documentation from class discussions with peers to search for misconceptions