Saturday, September 24, 2016

Week 3

Three weeks down! Unbelievable! (Somehow I expect that will be my refrain this year...it 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) yesterday...it 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.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Guided Math (Third Grade Version)

I attended a free webinar about Guided Math at the end of the summer and decided I was going to just jump in with both feet and do a math rotation this year. I have tried it before but never really went all in and therefore it was not successful (no surprise there).

But this year, I decided to go all in and make it work. I gave the students a pretest of the first unit which is on rounding and adding and subtracting within 1000 (3.NBT.1 and 2 respectively). Some of the students did pretty well on it but a good amount of them were totally lost on it as well. So I used that data to form my groups for this unit and we have taken to teaching most of the math lessons in a small group (some I do whole group because it is just easier with the type of lesson). 

We are using what I have dubbed "The Georgia Units" as our curriculum this year because we have had the old version of Everyday Math since I started teaching. Not only is it outdated but it is also not Common Core aligned and our standardized tests are. We have common assessments in our district that are Common Core based so we were told as long as we use the common assessments we could use whatever resources we wanted. As soon as I heard that, I knew I would toss the EDM curriculum out the window in terms of whole group teaching. I don't hate EDM but since it doesn't align well to what kids need to know, it is not gonna cut it.

So I checked out the Georgia resource and convinced my team that we needed to use these units this year. They are perfect for Guided Math. So many of the lessons are hands-on games or activities that let the students actually practice rounding or manipulating numbers. Plus doing them in a small group I can see immediately who is totally lost or who is getting it with some extra support. 

I have 20 students this year so for now we have 3 rotations. It may change if I get new students throughout the year. 

My rotations are: Teacher, Technology and Workbook. 

At the teacher station, they are working with me at the small group table. They play a game or complete the task with me right there to guide and support their learning. My lowest group gets much more hands-on direction from me than the highest group does because the higher group catches on so quickly. I can basically sit back and observe with them which is nice too because it helps me to know what I need to do to continue to push their thinking. The middle group ("on level") gets the general lesson but I can quickly scaffold up or down based upon the particular lesson or strategy because there are, at most, 7 students in front of me and I can see them all around the table. It's been going awesome so far.

The Technology station is where they use the iPods to play math games. I have all of the Everyday Math apps plus some fact fluency apps and games that help them to practice their facts quickly and efficiently. That has been helpful because they love the games and since I am using small groups, each student gets their own device and they think it is awesome :)

The last rotations is Work Book. I do use the Everyday Math journals for this time. The kids either review with math boxes or they work on pages that are similar to what we have been working on (or as close as I can get them). This station they are allowed to work together with their group for extra support if needed and it has been a great reinforcement tool so far.

I spend about 15-18 minutes with each group and it has been going pretty well for just jumping in and trying it! The only thing I need to be better at is remember to take anecdotal notes when the kids are working. I am watching them of course but over time I know I am not going to be able to remember what I saw with the first group when I get to the last group. So I need to be better at making sure that I use sticky notes or something to jot things down as we go along so I can make better instructional decisions. I just haven't figured out the form or method I want to use for that quite yet.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Two Weeks Down!

I still can't get over how different this year is! I feel so relaxed and happy when I go home at night which is refreshing and so needed.

I have a great group of kiddos this year too. I am enjoying them so much. Even The Husband has pointed out how much happier I am when I come home :) 

It's been so busy though I haven't had much time to think, let alone blog :) I did want to quickly post and update some of the pictures from our room.


 The first week of school we talked about our brains and how important it is that we drive our own brain toward learning mastery. We talked about growth mindset and how that means not giving up and using the word "yet" when we don't know something (i.e. "I don't know how to do this, yet"). It was a powerful lesson and I love the brain cars :) They are so cute. The kids refer to this poster ALL THE TIME during the day which is even better. I hear them telling each other "you should say YET"

Last year I did away with my prize box and used Brag Tags instead. I wasn't sure how it would work out but it was awesome. The kids LOVE them and honestly it is so much more meaningful than a dumb trinket that will break because they get to KEEP these at the end of the year. This is our Brag Tag board. Each student has a ball chain necklace and they hang their brag tags here all week. On Friday morning during our Circle Up time, the kids get their brag tags and I present any tags that were earned that week. They then get to wear their brag tags around on Friday (except to lunch and recess because I don't want them to get lost or broken). The kids LOVE it and it was so fun to see them talk about their Brag Tags to their parents at Open House too. :) 

I bought some foam insulation at Home Depot and a fabric shower curtain at Target and made this word wall (or "No Excuse Words" Wall as I like to call it). It is so stinkin cute! It has words on it now but I didn't take a new picture of it after I put them up. I just love how this looks. So adorable and fun.


I am truly enjoying my job so much more this year. That is such a nice feeling. I liked my job last year but I am LOVING it this year. So much less stressful with fewer kids and my only behavior problems are talking. Since I get paid to talk all day, I can definitely deal with that :)

And we had a full moon yesterday and my kids were not crazy! (Hoping that doesn't mean they will be on Monday haha). This year is off to such a fabulous start and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What a Difference!

Wow! What a difference a year truly makes.

20 students this year. They are nice and sweet. I haven't had to be a cranky person. (Happened that first day last year.) There is so much SPACE in my room with that extra table group not being there! You could do a complicated dance in my room and not run into anything! 😊

We had an amazing first day yesterday. We did tons of procedures and such mixed in with some content. We spent some time talking about Growth Mindset and the kiddos made their brain cars. So stinkin cute! And I made a quick poster to hang them on that simply days "The Power of Yet" which the kids were totally drawn to. They loved the idea that things will be hard sometimes but we just haven't figured it out YET. (They even repeated this to each other today which was music to my ears.)

Today we really dug into some content and I'm starting to see who is stronger where and will be making some changes Friday to help balance our class better in terms of table groups and such.

I will also post updated pictures of our "YET" poster, our new word wall space and the Brag Tags board with the brag tags on it. I really think I have the cutest room this year and I love being in the space with 10 less kiddos!

Monday, September 5, 2016

T'was the Night Before the First Day of School

Here we are...the night before the first day of my 11th year in the classroom. (How is that even possible??) I do not think I could accurately express my excitement to begin anew this year. While I never kept it a secret that I was unhappy the last two years, I also didn't go into a ton of detail because it wouldn't have changed anything.

I am so happy to say that I am very excitedly looking forward. We have a new principal (who won me over the second that she said that she didn't think she could be an administrator if she couldn't still teach--she teaches high school students in the summer--because it helps her feel relevant). She is energizing, fun and just gets it. We have been beaten down a long time. I can't imagine her ever saying anything to someone that isn't meant to help them grow. What a change that will be.

I'm also excited for a fresh start with my team. We spent a good four hours last week just going over curriculum and setting the tone for what we plan to do this year together (which hasn't happened for me in two years). I will absolutely hold them to it as well...we have to be there for each other or why bother? 

Mostly, I am excited to move forward with some changes in how I plan to teach my little friends this year. Every year I try to learn and grow and do something to better how my students are learning. This year, of course, our entire school is beginning by holding our kiddos to their spring MAP data. I also like to try to implement new ideas and strategies to make teaching more enjoyable and effective but also to make learning more fun for my students. 

I have successfully implemented things like interactive notebooks, reading challenges and brag tags over the past few years. This year, I am super excited to be transitioning my students to Guided Math. I have read the book about Guided Math (even did a book study here on the blog about it--you can read those posts here), but I've never actually given it a try. I attended a free webinar this summer about it and decided to just jump in with both feet.
 
I am super excited to get it set up and implemented in the first couple of weeks of school. I will definitely blog about our progress as we move forward.
 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Exhausted, but Ready! (Classroom Reveal)

This week has been a whirlwind! From our uber energizing PD on Monday to the multi-hour work session my team did to make some plans for this year to our super productive meetings yesterday and this morning, I have been going-going-going since setting foot in the school at 7 am on Monday. Whew! 

I am WIPED. (Not to mention there are domestic duties and grad school on top of all of the aforementioned things. Whew!) Alas, I am so stoked for our first day of school on Tuesday! My student teacher was a ton of help in helping me set up this year, do some reorganizing and making the space feel so much more open and kid-friendly than it did last year (to be fair, we also got to set up for 7 less students compared to last year).  

We spent a ton of time today sorting, organizing and relabeling the baskets in the classroom library. I am so happy with how it all turned out. It's functional but cute. 

Copies for the first day are done and I only have a couple of things I need to do this weekend for the first day. I have some small "housekeeping" type of tasks to do on Tuesday morning before the kiddos arrive but otherwise, we are pretty well set for the first day! 

You can check out this year's classroom reveal here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Energizing

It's pretty rare that I come away from a professional development session where I can say that I feel energized and fired up, genuinely, to start a new school year.

That is exactly what happened yesterday. On August 1st, the leadership cohort in my school and I met to plan the PD that we gave yesterday. It was all about data and how to look at it from a different perspective in order to help our students grow and truly reach their potential.

We have used NWEA/MAP for about 8 years I think. I know some people aren't a fan of it, but I like it because it gives me immediate results that I can use to help design instruction for my students. I also like it because the learning continuum (used to be called DesCartes) provides me with invaluable information about where they are, where they should be and what I need to do in order to get them from A to B. 

We have always looked at student growth from fall to spring. This makes sense, doesn't it? That's the time that the child is with you. But consider something. How many students in a low-income urban district such as my own have so-called "summer slide"? Truthfully, a lot of them do. In fact, I asked two of my former students (brothers) at registration how many books they read this summer. They said none like it was no big deal. Grrr.

Alas, this is part of the problem. We more or less have let them get away with that summer slide. Not anymore. What we did was look at their SPRING data. When school starts next week, we are going to hold them to those spring scores. We want their growth to be determined from Spring to Spring because if the score is higher from the spring compared to the fall, we know they are capable of getting back to that spring score because they already did it once

As a staff, we ran through some research, did some discussion and then jumped into actually looking at our data. We made data boards and looked at trends across the grades. It's difficult because the higher the grade, the more kiddos are in the "pink zone" (ie not where we want them). So our task is to hold the kiddos to those standards--you did this once, I want to see you do it again. Focus on a growth mindset, perseverance and a can-do attitude and help THEM to push THEMSELVES toward higher achievement.

I'm telling you...when we reflected at the end of the meeting, our new principal had everyone go around and share takeaways. You could have cut that energy with a knife; it was palpable (but in the best possible way). People left feeling fired up, empowered and ready to move forward to better our kids.

That's what it is supposed to be about. No, test scores are not the end all, be all, but they are part of our evaluation and therefore we have to consider them and do what we can to help our kids be better.