Saturday, December 3, 2016

SMILE Folder Goal Setting & Tracking

For several years, my colleagues and I have tried various ways to help our students to set and track academic goals. Most often these goals surround the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test because it is the most frequent test that is given for our students. There are also a wide variety of resources available for teachers (ala the Learning Continuum) to help find materials and resources to support students who are struggling in any specific areas of the test. 

Since moving down to 3rd grade, I have definitely discovered that they are not fourth and fifth graders. For one thing, they aren't quite as mature and for another, most of them have never been asked to set goals before. (I even asked my colleague who went to 4th when I came down to 3rd and she said it was definitely easier to do this with 4th graders in her opinion.) 

At any rate, since last year was my first time in 3rd grade, I didn't do some things I would have done if I had stayed in 4th where I knew the curriculum very well. I spent the majority of the year focusing on learning a new curriculum and managing a very large class. But this year, since I have a much smaller and better behaved group, I have been able to up my game again and push myself to help them to be the best they can be. 

This includes our Power of Yet poster to foster growth mindset to getting back to helping student to set and work toward goals. I feel this is so incredibly important for the students I work with because many of them will be first generation college students. If they can learn to set and execute a goal starting in 3rd grade, they will be better off in middle and high school. 

A fabulous colleague of mine showed me this cute file by Teacher Karma called the Smile Folder. I absolutely love the kids' smiles and I had to download this file and make my folders. Super cute! I just want to smile every time I see these little faces.

I started by making a copy of the cover for each student. I also typed out the SMILE acronym onto smaller strips that I could glue onto the folders as a reminder. I used colored manila folders, drew a design on them for hte information I wanted to include and then laminated them. I write on them with a Vis-A-Vis marker so that they can be erased and reused. 

 Sorry for the reflection. Aren't they adorable? 

This folder is from one of my highest achieving students. You can see that I wrote the student's spring score (from 2nd grade) in black. The current score is in blue. It is very normal for the students to have a big slide back from 2nd to 3rd grade because our district has students taking the primary test from K-2. So in 3rd grade, the test no longer reads to them which can throw them off at the beginning of the year. Our school goal is to have students meeting at least the 60th percentile on the MAP because studies have shown that if they are at or above that range, they are more likely to pass the state standardized test. 

I wrote the test information in for the students and then they made a short-term goal for the winter test. We revisit these every couple of weeks to help students remember their goal and discuss how we can ensure we will meet that goal (for math that might be practicing math facts or practicing word problems). 

This is the same student as above, the other side of the folder. You can see that in reading, she stayed in the same place, but with a slightly lower number. At the bottom of this page is also their reading tracker. I am using a running record intervention program this year and this is how the kiddos are tracking their reading. I do not ask my students to read books only within that level but for the running records, we are keeping track of the level they are at. (I will write a blog post about the interventions very soon.)

This is a different student's folder. You can see the student was very high achieving at the end of 2nd grade (the black) and had a huge backslide (the red) for the beginning of 3rd grade. Again, this is actually fairly normal...I saw it last year as well because they are so used to having the reading support and once it disappears a lot of the students panic or they don't read carefully and thus they go backward a lot. (Personally I like to consider the fall of 3rd grade data to be "dirty data" because I really do not believe it reflects well their January when they are used to taking some tests on the computer -- as they take their weekly reading tests on the computer -- they tend to do much better with the MAP and those scores are usually much more reflective of what they are able to do.) 

This student was much more stable in reading scores than in math. She stayed within the same band and actually went up a few percentiles over the spring. It doesn't happen very often but sometimes they do come in with a higher score than they had in the previous spring.  This student is in a much lower reading level than the student above and we will track their progress in the same way. Any students who are not at "benchmark" are doing two intervention cycles with me a month so much more tracking comparing to students who are benchmark or above and are only doing one cycle a month (again more on that in a future blog post). 

I absolutely love this system. First it is very easy for my 3rd graders to follow and track their own goals. Second because I can add their new scores when we get them and the students can track their progress over time (in January/early Feb when we take the next test, their scores will be recorded in green so they can tell which is which). 

Stay tuned for more information about the reading intervention running records I am utilizing. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016


*knocks on the screen*

Is anyone out there?

I've been so busy lately that I haven't really even thought about posting here. Sorry! This year is FLYING and I'm so darn tired when I get home that there are many days I don't even make it upstairs to my office (thankful for my laptop where I can still get some grad work done while lounging downstairs on the couch).

You'd think since I have a student teacher I'd have more time. Ha! Nope. It's even busier to have an intern because you have to help them figure out all of the ins and outs of being an elementary teacher. I'm very lucky right now that my student teacher is willing to come early so we aren't staying late. That helps but I feel like sometimes lunch is the only time I'm not running around like a chicken with my head cut off. Sheesh.

I have been able to implement some things I'm not sure I would have been able to start if I'd been on my own this fall. I have to remember to take pictures of these things so I can share them here. I always remember after I get home (to be fair, I also left my keys AT WORK on Friday because my brain is fried).

Alas, we have been moving along quite nicely. 10 less kids than last year sure makes a difference! For awhile I only had 18! Unreal. I am back at 20 and for the most part they are awesome kids who really are letting me push them to their potential. It's pretty fabulous to see them growing every day.

We had parent teacher conferences and all but two showed up! I had lots of compliments from parents which is not necessary but definitely nice to hear. I'm happy to know the kids are enjoying school and that the parents are also happy with what we are doing. Makes coming to work so much better and more fulfilling.

I hope you are having a great year also and enjoy your upcoming holiday! I'm hoping to remember to take pictures of our SMILE folders and the running records/intervention program I am using this year (guarantee both would have been much harder to get off the ground without an intern because I get it all together while she is teaching). I'm super impressed with how both systems have been implemented and I will do my best to try to remember the pictures so I can share them here.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Product makeover & a Freebie

Happy Saturday! I don't know about you, but this last week felt like it was at least three! Whew! Full moons are not a joke! I think Monday might have been three days all by itself. ;)

I'm coming to you today with a quick product makeover and a quick freebie!

I do not have the time, nor the inclination to create a billion products on TpT. I am very grateful for teachers who do have the time because about half the things I use in  my classroom on a daily basis I have purchased from TpT! Alas, every once in awhile, I find something that works for me that I'd like to share.

First up is a product makeover. A few years ago, I read Total Participation Techniques. I was instantly sold. I created a printable set of Total Participation Task cards and it is by far my most popular product. I just gave the front a little makeover today.

I totally love this background paper :) Since this is currently my only paid product on TpT, I decided to put it on sale for the weekend. You can save 10% of this product today and tomorrow!

I also added a new freebie skills tracker and accountability sheet.  This is a very simple form (no fancy schmancy design or anything), but very useful for helping students stay accountable to the goals they set and complete. This one is and will always be completely free.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Fun in 3rd Grade

I am all about rewarding my students for working so hard all week. Friday is seriously my favorite day aside from the obvious (almost the weekend, wearing jeans at school, etc). For the last five years I have been pretty successful at keeping my Fridays pretty darn epic. This year is no exception. Our Fridays look something like this:

Arrrival tasks (pledge/morning work)
Circle Up Brag Tag celebrations (absolutely the highlight of the week!)
Spelling test
Computer Lab (weekly test)
Literacy (assembling the notebook for the next week and read aloud)
Lunch and Recess
Math (with a visit to the school store mixed in)
Fun Friday

So I teach one thing all day and get to enjoy my kids and celebrate them. It's pretty wicked. These friends are so stinkin hilarious and sweet too. I just love them.

Today I had a student success team meeting in the morning so I was only in my room basically long enough to do the Pledge and take attendance. Some of my kids still forget we cover our heart with our right hand so I always show them by turning every which way to show them no matter what direction I face, it's still the same hand. Today one friend was trying to be helpful and said "yeah it's the one with that tattoo"...and I had to burst her bubble and say that wasn't a good reference point because I have a tattoo on the left side too (it's covered by my watch so they don't notice it much). Maybe you had to be there but it was funny.

This afternoon at recess duty a colleague told me she overheard one of my kids say to a 2nd grader that she would LOVE third grade because she would have the best third grade teacher ever (meaning me). So sweet <3 div="">

And finally for Fun Friday, the friends who earned it got a lesson in the circle of life...we have a gecko I got from a colleague 18 months ago. He lives at school during the year. I had to feed him before the weekend and the kids were fascinated watching him eat his worms. (It IS pretty fascinating.) We also had to "give him a bath" by putting him in a tub with a small amount of water to help him shed. They thought it was the coolest thing in the world. 

I am so, so thankful for this group this year. They are so kind and sweet and I just enjoy going to work to be with them every day. :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Literacy Rotations in 3rd Grade

One of my very favorite things about teaching is how vastly different every year and every class is. I can learn and grow alongside my students and experiment with new procedures that work for a specific group of students.

Last year I had a very large class and zero technology in my classroom except my document camera. Literacy stations was a complete and utter nightmare last year because of trying to keep 30 kiddos on task without the support of any technology aside from that document camera and a CD player. 

This year, I have a much smaller class (currently TWELVE less bodies than last year!) and also have three laptops and four tablets! Man oh man what a difference having the technology makes! I am able to have groups and keep the rest of the kiddos on task with other literacy related activities without a huge fuss. Game.Changer.

My student teacher and I tried three groups (with six or seven kiddos each with a total of 20 kids) for a few weeks and finally I decided it was not working. There were too many kids in each station and they were off task and not engaged. That was not going to work for me at all. So last week I sat down and created a rotation chart. It looks like this. 

This is only Monday's. Each day is different so that I can see each group twice per week. This schedule really changed it up for me because I have 5 groups and none of them have more than 4 kiddos. Firstly they fit so much better around my group table but secondly, the amount of kids in each of the other stations has been cut almost in half and thus the kids aren't having to argue over who gets what and when. It's actually QUIET in my room during stations now :)
 Each kiddo has a folder. I labeled them with their group letter A-E so to make it easier to sort them. They keep all of their literacy stations work in the folder along with their checklist.

 This folder is from a student in the higest group. You can see on the left she has her checklist. I circled the stations that the kiddos visit each day based upon their group and then as they complete the groups (before we rotate to the next station) they check it off or cross it out. This helps keep them on track and provides a nice visual. (For the checklists, I just used pencil so I can make changes later, then I photocopied them so I have a master set that I can just copy each week.) The work from any of the stations goes into the pocket on the right. They will be collected daily so that we can cut down on a ton of grading at the end of the week.

This is another student who is in the intensive group. Same concept. They use the same worksheet/assignment to get exposure to the grade level material but I can differentiate with this system by having them only complete half of the problems so that I can see if they are understanding the concept without overwhelming them.

The best news is we now have Google Classroom and I have figured out how to turn these worksheets into Google Docs so next week the kiddos won't have ANY paper/pencil during literacy except the work they do with me in groups and their vocabulary :)

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Intentional Educator Planner {Review}

I am so excited to share this review video with you today. A very special teacher that I met on Voxer (seriously if you aren't on Voxer, you are missing out!) designed a teacher planner that is just awesome. She was very kind to send me a copy for free and I decided to do a vlog to showcase it because talking about it just isn't good enough for this product.

Check out the video below!

This planner was designed and created by a high school teacher. This means some of the design features aren't as beneficial for elementary teachers. For example, there are five boxes for plans each day where most elementary teachers would probably need six or seven. I also wish there were checklist pages included because I totally use checklists for EVERYTHING (i.e. I always spend the extra $10 to get the extra checklists in the Erin Condren planner because I end up using all but like 4 pages throughout the year). 

That being said, however, I would still buy this planner. Elementary teachers are creative by nature and I would definitely figure out a way to make this planner work for me despite having a desire for more boxes to plan in. It is less than half of the price I have been spending on my EC planners (even with the discounts) and it definitely lends itself to reflection and cultivating a growth mindset for the TEACHER. 

Check it out and let me know what you think. Be sure to visit Nicolette at to learn more about this great product and order your own copy.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Week 3

Three weeks down! Unbelievable! (Somehow I expect that will be my refrain this is FLYING!)

We had a great week this week. The kiddos are really settling into routines and I can definitely see who needs a tighter reign in order to stay on track during stations time. 2nd grade team did stations all last year so it is disheartening to see several friends who talk and mess around instead of doing their work. We have had to have some conversations about responsibility and doing what we are supposed to do even if the teacher isn't sitting next to you.

I am huge into Growth Mindset and we have talked a lot about how they are hurting themselves if they aren't asking for help and getting their work done. I have one student who NEVER finishes her work on time. I mean, not a single week has passed where she had everything done on time. She is able to do everything in group (without specific help so I know she isn't confused or lost). We have a couple of days where our specials make it difficult to complete an entire lesson of certain subject so I will be using that time for conferring and/or reteaching and she is the first one on my list for a meeting because third grade moves fast. I don't want her to get behind.

I feel so much more at ease this year as well. Obviously, ten less students makes a HUGE difference, but I also feel so much more comfortable with the curriculum the second time around even though I am using a different math and science program than I did last year. I guess I just feel more confident that I can help move them along. We just finally finished up our MAP testing (except for one friend who has been absent) so I am looking forward to getting the kiddos into the habit of looking at their own data and making goals for improvement also (hmmm...that conferring and reteaching block is already filling up fast haha!)

On Mondays my kiddos take home their STAR folder with all of their work from the previous week. It also includes behavior sheet that needs to be signed (the kiddos are in charge of filling these out each week). I write a short comment on them and there is a spot for the parents to comment and then sign. For each of my families that came to Open House, I wrote a short note thanking them for coming. One parent (whom I have had another child of before) wrote how happy they are that I have their daughter. :)

On Wednesday I was out for the morning only and my student teacher is not ready to sub yet so I had my usual sub there in the morning. Most of the time if I know I am going to be gone, I tell the kiddos but I had forgotten in our rush out the door on Tuesday. We do a check in each morning so we can see how the kiddos are coming in (emotionally) each day. My student teacher had collected them Wednesday morning since I wasn't there and she said at least half of the kids wrote that they felt worried because I wasn't at school. How adorable and sweet is that? :)

On Friday my student teacher was out sick (bad reaction to some medicine) so it was just me and the third graders. Fortunately Fridays are SO EASY that it wasn't a huge deal at all. We also had the school store (Estrella) is run by mom volunteers. Each class has a 20 minute block of time to go shop. My kids did a great job waiting in line for their turn and they went two at a time in the bins so it wasn't a complete disaster and mess. 

At the end of the day, after Fun Friday, I reminded the kiddos to put their ticket envelopes back into their pencil pouches so they wouldn't lose them. One of my boys called me over to his desk and was clearly upset. He said he had 6 tickets when we went to the store and now he had 5. I thought he was trying to tell me that he had lost one. But he said no, he spent 5 tickets but the mom volunteer only took one and gave him back 5. He didn't want to keep any except the one he knew he was supposed to have. Melted my heart. What a great display of honesty and taking responsibility! So I relayed the story to our principal and she is going to issue this friend a Golden Ticket next week :) (The golden tickets can only be given out by her and are worth 10 tickets so they are a big deal.) 

I am so proud of this little guy. Even better, when we were still at the store and he was waiting his turn to go, he says to me, "Mrs. Wood, my mom REALLY likes you" :) Sweetpea, you have no idea that us teachers absolutely LIVE for feedback like that :) (Note: I also had this friend's brother a few years ago so mom has known me for awhile.) 

I'm happy I have these friends this year! After two years of some incredibly tough kiddos, it is pretty awesome to a) have a small class and b) have such NICE and THOUGHTFUL kids. They make going to work such a joy.