calm breeze

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Data, data, and still more data

Wow...where has the school year gone?  It is already the second week in November - report cards and conferences are just around the corner!

In my building, we are transitioning to our first year of being self-contained classrooms.  For everyone, this means learning new curriculums -  some more than others.  For instance, I am 'trained' in Reader's Workshop and taught our social studies units and Writer's Workshop last year in my team.  My team teacher taught the science and math units.  Well this year, I am responsible for all of it and have these two new curriculums.  Other teachers (last year's math/science teachers) are saddled with implementing Reading & Writing Workshops (no easy task!) and the social studies component.

HOWEVER, we have a brand new math curriculum - Bridges in Mathematics/Number Corner.  Everyone is in the same boat here...but I love this program!  It is very constructive and scaffolds student learning to allow them to build their mathematical knowledge with manipulative and concrete models.  But it is VERY, VERY time consuming.  Prepping for the lessons and the materials is extensive....a metric ton of copying.  And then there is the math calendar called Number Corner.  I was very excited about this!  It only takes 10-15 minutes each day but Number Corner builds computational fluency and exposes my students to concepts like measurements (metric & standard), fractions, observations, number sense, and problem solving every day! 

And the data!  This program has many assessments and data collection pieces the help me monitor and document student learning and growth.  It is very time consuming (when is data collection and analysis not?) and I often spend hours each week grading and inputting data.  All just for math...

I have separate sheets for whole class data on each pre-assessment and post assessment as well as the Number Corner check ups.  I also have individual student record sheets for data on each unit.  In my Math Data Binder, I have tabs for each student were I keep these record sheets and 'work samples' such as assessments and graded homework samples that I believe will be valuable evidence at our up-coming conferences.

Now, I just need to get my data binders for Reading and Writing Workshop to look just as good....but this is truly a challenge because Reading and Writing have so many components and it is very difficult to measure things like inferring, analyzing character traits, etc since it can be so subjective!  Sure, we have data from our Dibels/Daze benchmarks, Star Reader, and Fontus and Pinnell word lists, but these are only benchmarks and don't show growth (yet...winter benchmark is coming!). 

What do you do to track student learning and growth in Reading & Writing Workshops?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Operation "Classroom Upgrade" Complete!!!

Pinterest is evil.

And by evil, I mean complete genius.  Thank goodness it's free because I've spent quite a few 'professional development' hours researching how I want to redecorate my classroom this year.

Last year, I was called back to my public school at the very last moment.  Long story short, I walked into a classroom that another teacher had (lovingly and beautifully) put together the night of the open house and had little time to make it my own while treading the waters of a brand-new curriculum.  It was sink or swim time and I really didn't have much brain activity to spare to classroom decor.

So when I found out I was fortunate enough to be in the same classroom teaching the same grade again, I began to envision how I wanted my 'ideal'classroom to look and operate.  I am delving into creating a Responsive Classroom ( this year, so how students would move and utilize our space was top priority.  BUT that didn't mean that our space couldn't also look nice and inviting! :)

I began my redecorating journey with a Classroom Couture theme from School Girl Style called Lemon Chiffon.  It is a beautiful yellow and grey theme that I thought was a nice detour from the primary/cutsie animal themes that dominate elementary classrooms.  (Not that there is anything wrong with those themes...they just aren't me.)  Since I had my color palette, the rest of my redecorating fell into place.

I spent my summer scouring Target Dollar sections, dollar stores, educational blogs and websites, and of course PINTEREST.  Most free nights were spent actually doing some of the projects I pinned (and aligning my curriculum to the new CCSS).  Here are a few pictures of the Pinterest-inspired projects in my classroom:

 My father-in-law humored my by cutting the plywood for these milk crate benches.

 Can't wait for this to be used!  One of the hardest things to get a fourth grader to do is to put their name on their papers!!!  And they didn't like it when they went into the recycling pail if the papers went unclaimed...

 This was a download from the 3rd Grade's a Hoot store on TeachersPayTeachers.  Love that website!  And I love the little reading super heros!

 This job chart was also inspired by a pin.  I customized it to fit my needs in my classroom.  The library pockets (cut down to a square shape) are from Dollar Tree.

The curtain over my window is actually a re-purposed table cloth from the Dwell Studio collection at Target (I stalk Target!...Opps!  I meant I <3 Target!).  I added the grey material to blend it into my color theme.

A view of the back of the classroom
Our classroom library and morning meeting area.  A great multi-use space.

Currently slated to be the writing center....and the future home of our listening center...pending the funding of my latest DonorsChoose project!

Another view of the morning meeting area with our Number Corner calendar.
Love, love, love how it all turned out!  I am so proud and the feedback I have been getting is great.  I can't wait to see what great things my students do in our space this year!  Without Pinterest and other teacher blogs, I probably never could have done it.  How on earth did teachers ever tackle such a task before such things existed?

P.S...Pinterest is still way too addicting.  Now that school has begun, I will be curbing my pin-surfing!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Teaching (and Learning) as a Parent

"Parents are teachers too."

Teachers know this (many are parents themselves) and most average parents latch onto this nib of knowledge as well.  However, not all parents act on it or enable themselves to become their child's most important, life-long teacher.

My son Cole is only four years old.  From my pregnancy on, I have tried to be my son's teacher: reading to him on a daily basis (or more!); color/letter/number recognition; early reading skills; trips to inspire his mind and passions; anything that means us spending time together - learning together.

But being my son's teacher is so much more that all of the 'academic' stuff.

Shortly after my son was born, I got a jogging stroller and began running again. (I had run up until I was almost eight months pregnant.)  Running on the local rail-trail was one of the only ways I could get him to sleep some days.  And it gave me a chance to have some 'me time' while still juggling with how to be a new mom.  Fall and winter put a stop to my running.  I attempted to pick it back up the next spring while I coached a Girls-On-The-Run team.  Cole would have nothing to do with the jogging stroller - absolutely nothing.  He had the tenacity to learn to walk at nine months old and no one and nothing was going to stop him from his new found locomotion.  While I was coaching girls, Cole was watching and running with them too!  Now, he wasn't running miles and miles...but he was having fun.  P.S. - The jogging stroller was seldom used again.  Cole refused to sit in it and would repeatedly try to climb out. 

Last year, I embraced Cole's desire to run with me by entering him into a race (gasp!).  Grand Haven's YMCA has a series of summer races and each of them has a 'race' for the 8year and under set - the Tot Trot.  The Tot Trot wasn't so much a running race as an obstacle course but Cole loved it!  Events this year have prevented us from partaking of this again.

But more recently, Cole has heard me talking about the Color Run in Grand Rapids (  I am very excited about running in this race.  It will be my fourth 5K this summer and one that is mainly about FUN!  This morning, Cole expressed his disappointment that he wouldn't be running with me.  Now, I know that my son is still a few years away from being able to run 'miles' with me - but try telling him that!  So I promised him that we would run a "paint ball" race together (that is Cole's concept of the Color Run) when he was big enough and that I hoped we would run together 'lots.'

I was amazed at my son.  He wants to run.  Because of certain circumstances, Cole is usually at daycare or with a family member while I run.  He does not see me run...only the before and after running.  Even though he is not actively involved in my running, he has a desire to run with me.  By talking about it and by making it something important to myself, I have 'taught' my son that running is cool, fun, and something he wants to do.

I am so surprised at myself!  I am not 'athletic' by a long stretch.  I did not participate in sports until high school and even then it was usually only for a season and non-contact.  I was the quiet, book worm type.  My sister was the athlete.  My brothers played soccer in elementary.  But looking back, while my parents encouraged sports, they never participated themselves.  Had I expressed an inclination for any sport, they would have supported it and found lessons and equipment.  But I did not SEE them running/swimming/golfing/etc.  Therefore, I didn't not learn to want to 'play' at an early age.

So is Cole seeing my running at an early age a key to his life as a healthy, active adult?  I hope so.  Being a role-model is part of being a parent (and a teacher!) too.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Turn On CC Math...a seriously cool interactive tool to unpack the CCSS

Ever heard of a learning trajectory (otherwise known as learning pathways)?  Some wonderful individuals from the North Carolina University developed "Turnonccmath" which is a fabulously interactive tool that shows the learning trajectories for each of the CCSS domains across grade levels as well as 'unpacking' individual domains through each path.  It is very easy to read and navigate!  But....being that this is a purely interactive tool, you cannot print directly from the site.
 To the left is the learning trajectory for Addition and Subtraction as it flows from kindergarten to fourth grade.

I still need to delve into this site a little more....but I thought I'd leave a trail of crumbs so someone can come and rescue me in a few hours!  This will be a useful resource as I dive into teaching math this year.

Welcome to my blog!

In my desire to cultivate my professional life through technology, I have begun my own teaching blog.  I hope to share my ideas and classroom creations with you as well as to learn, discuss, and collaborate with fellow educators.

A little bit about me:

I am going into my third year of teaching and my second year of teaching 4th Grade.  This year, however, I will be self-contained for the first time in my career.  Last year I team taught ELA and Social Studies.  I am excited (but slightly terrified) to be teaching math and science! 

While I will not go into specifics about my school, locations, or students, I will share that I live and teach in Michigan.  My school is in an area where poverty and low socioeconomic status are concerns.  We are currently 'tweaking' our RTI program to a 'push-in' model vs. a 'pull-out' like last year.  State and federal budget cuts have taken their toll on most local schools - bare bones funding have resulted in out-of-date text books and instigated a lot of creative teaching.  We are currently bridging our prior curriculum that followed the standards and benchmarks laid out by the State of Michigan (and the state-wide assessment M.E.A.P.) to the CCSS. 

This has been the first summer where I have had the ability to plan for the following school year.  I was laid-off last summer like many teachers in Michigan.  It was been a real treat creating lessons and planning curriculum for the same grade level!  The thrill of it has been one of the highlights of my summer...and the project list for my classroom keeps growing longer and longer....Pinterest is not helping!

In future posts, I will going into more of my teaching philosophy and my implementation of Readers Workshop, Writers Workshop, Daily 5/Cafe, and Math Centers.  Eventually, I would like to post and share some of my more unique lessons and teaching tools that I have created....who knows...a Teachers Pay Teachers store my be in my future?