Saturday, May 21, 2016

Summer is Here; Now What? - The Importance of a Planned Foundation

Summer has arrived, or at least the end of the school year has.  As usual, this year flew by!  I know I haven't kept up with my blog as I had wanted, but I have a good reason!  Baby girl #2 arrived in mid-December and it has been a whirlwind ever since.

Adapting to life with two kids and being a full time ELA teacher was a challenge, but I got through it due to the planning I did beforehand and along the way. I know I didn't keep up with the blog, but my family is an important part of my life.  Therefore, it was something I let "slide".  You have to decide what is important to you and plan around those things.  I know people rush off to the pool, camps, vacations, and Netflix right as the summer begins.  However, I make sure that I have my ducks in a row for the next school year first.

In true Chameleon-fashion, I am going to be not only changing grade levels, but will be changing to a resource position next year.  In order to get ready for this, I spent time with the teacher who will be leaving getting on the same page about students who are on plans, undergoing evaluations, or need help in general.  My first month in the job will be full of transition meetings, student accommodated testing, and getting up to speed.

To make MY transition easier during any year, I fill out my teacher planner's calendar, put in standards for the year, and try to put together my pacing guide/curriculum map together for the year.  This year, the only pre-planning in that sense that I can do is fill out my calendar (preliminary) and print of the standards for K-8 as those are the grades I will be teaching.

Here's how I got through the last 4 months of pregnancy as a classroom teacher:
1. My calendar
 My calendar and planner were pre-filled in with the important dates for the year. This allowed me to see what was going on each month and week at a glance and I could plan accordingly.
2. Curriculum Map
I have an idea of where I want to be and when.  Teaching the same grade level, I knew from the past years where I "should be".  This is why I used #3...
3. Last year's lesson plans
I always save old lesson plans.  I've referenced them to jog my memory on how I taught certain things and when.  This was especially helpful with the mommy brain fog!
4. Meal Planning
This was a necessity as it saved me time in order to grade, lesson plan, create flipped lessons, etc. I use a few things to help with this. Wildtree has great freezer workshops that I did 2 of (20 meals) before I had the baby.  I still plan on using them along with the Deals to Meals service.  It's 4.95 a month and gives you a shopping list, recipes and what's on sale in your area.

These are just a few of the things that helped me pre-baby, but you might find helpful in general.  I also use my weekly planning sheets and check in monthly on where I am and where we are going.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Flipping My Classroom

It has been a very long time since my last update. I am currently 8 months pregnant and frantically getting ready for my long term sub.

I did, however, want to post a little update on something that I have been doing in my classroom this year: flipping.  For the uninformed, flipping is the process of making the lecture/learning portion of the class period homework and then making the practice (used to be homework) portion in the classroom.

So far, it is going very well. I am currently flipping the grammar portion of my language arts block. I have found that it is giving me more time to help students understand the material.  Here is a little run-down of how it works in my classroom:

Twice Weekly Video Assignments
- I assign two videos a week. I currently assign videos on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- Assignment videos are posted to YouTube and our school homework pages.  I tell the kids on Monday the videos for the week if they want to work ahead.  Many do!

Question and Answer Sessions
- I assign a Your Turn assignment that is much like an exit slip.  Students that watch the video know what the assignment is and show it to me in their notebook the next day.
- I ask if anyone needs clarification on the previous evening's assignment before moving to the in class work.
- Students that did not complete the assignment or forgot their Your Turn assignment are required to watch the lesson during the question and answer session.  I also reduce the points given.
- I circulate around the room and answer questions during the in class assignment time.

Pros
- I have found that I have more time to answer student questions.
- Students are able to stop and rewind the videos as many times as they want.  Pause even helps!
- Parent feedback has been great.  I have only heard one complaint and that was through another teacher.
- Students seem to enjoy the method, and they know how to access the videos on their own.
- Student scores are the same or better than previous years.

Cons
- I have about 5% of students that routinely do not complete the assignments. Their grades definitely reflect this.  I am brainstorming ideas on how to get them to work on it at home.

Method of delivery:
I use the ScreenCastify.com screen recording service. I then share the videos to YouTube and download the video to my PC to upload to our homework site.  I have half go to YouTube and the other half accesses the videos from the homework site.

Video slides are created with Google Slides. I use Google Slides, because I can access between home computers, as well as, my school computer.  Execution is easy as long as I don't get interrupted by my two year old or the occasional visitor.  I was a perfectionist at first, but I think that students should see that I am human and make mistakes just as much as the next person.  I leave my flubbering and fix my typos right during the presentation. I point out my mistakes or ask the kids if they can figure them out.  I will go back and fix those mistakes next year.

Overall, I have been pleasantly surprised with the results.  Sometimes, I find it hard to keep up with the videos, but it's really the slide creation that takes the most time.

Do you flip your class in any way?  How is it working for you?

Colleen

Monday, April 6, 2015

 As part of our 4th grade unit on the revolutionaries of the past, we look specifically at poems and non-fiction texts that address the key people of the American Revolution.

We read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Ralph Waldo Emerson's poems about the Battle of Lexington and Concord.  We compare and contrast the form and content of both poems in venn diagram or In Regards To graphic organizers.  For example, students compare length and time period written.

We also read these texts in small groups:  (Click on individual pictures to find the books on Amazon (Affiliate linked).)











Students choose which texts appeals to them and they read them aloud together. The groups get to decide which way they read---either choral or taking turns. 

As they read, they take notes on the important people in their books.  In Heroes of the Revolution, there are multiple people, and I have them write notes on each.  

After they complete their reading, I have them synthesize their notes into a poster.  They choose facts to share about their character and draw a representation of the character.  Here are just a few examples of the work I get.  



I have students create the posters on easel paper. I keep a stash in my room at all times for days just like this one.  I just cut off how much I need and go about my day.  That way if students make mistakes, I have the paper right on hand, and I don't have to run to the workroom for more.  (Affliate link).


The students really like learning about the American Revolution and the stories behind the people.

Colleen

Revolutionaries From the Past

 As part of our 4th grade unit on the revolutionaries of the past, we look specifically at poems and non-fiction texts that address the key people of the American Revolution.

We read Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Ralph Waldo Emerson's poems about the Battle of Lexington and Concord.  We compare and contrast the form and content of both poems in venn diagram or In Regards To graphic organizers.  For example, students compare length and time period written.

We also read these texts in small groups:




 





Students choose which texts appeals to them and they read them aloud together. The groups get to decide which way they read---either choral or taking turns. 
As they read, they take notes on the important people in their books.  In Heroes of the Revolution, there are multiple people, and I have them write notes on each.  
After they complete their reading, I have them synthesize their notes into a poster.  They choose facts to share about their character and draw a representation of the character.  Here are just a few examples of the work I get.  



I have students create the posters on easel paper. I keep a stash in my room at all times for days just like this one.  I just cut off how much I need and go about my day.  That way if students make mistakes, I have the paper right on hand, and I don't have to run to the workroom for more.  (Affliate link).



The students really like learning about the American Revolution and the stories behind the people.

Colleen

Friday, April 3, 2015

PEEP in for a Sale


Hop on over for 20%  your savings at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.  All of my store will be 20% off on April 5th only!  

Is it time to open your own TeachersPayTeachers.com Store?  Use this link to get started. 

Hoppy Easter! 

Colleen



Thursday, March 26, 2015

Joy in a Jar

On my desk, a small glass jar sits.  Each day, my students fill it up with notes to me from students and with what we call virtue tickets (or good news prize tickets).  Notes range from nice to know things like “I like your dress and please copy my essay for me” to need to know like “Suzy hit me or Johnny is being bullied”.  

Students mostly feel comfortable enough with me to write their names on their notes and if they don’t in case someone else sees it, we have code words that are picked at a different time.  The little notes are our little secret unless of course it’s something that needs to be addressed.  It’s nice in the hussle and bussle of our day to have a place students feel comfortable expressing themselves.  It feels good to be heard even if it’s by a paper ear.  
To my surprise one day recently, a student left me a larger than normal note .  Most are scrawled on paper scraps or sticky notes.  This particular note was handwritten in Sharpie on a piece of full sized notebook paper and was addressed with “Please Read” and even requested “Please Retern”.  This in itself intrigued me.

I opened the carefully folded paper and found it was a story written by the student.  I read the title which suggested a scary story was about to be told.  I read the story word for word.  

I was so impressed with this student’s willingness to share this with me.  I was even more impressed with how it ended.  I would not be able to come up with a more suspense-filled ending to a scary story.  I am hoping this young author continues the story. Or at least leaves me more! For this language arts teacher, it was like finding a little love note.
Do you have a system for your students to tell you things? What are some ways your students leave you little "love notes"? Leave me a comment with your answers.

-C