Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Section 4: Foster a Positive Classroom Environment

I am definitely losing steam with my "book study." My original goal when I started was to read and study each chapter, reflect on the questions at the end and post them here.
The thing is with about a month left until school starts I'm totally feeling anxious because there is still so much to plan and prepare!  I have even started having difficulty falling asleep because my mind is going a million miles per hour.
That being said, this chapter of the book has a lot to offer, it has everything to do with your classroom environment, from making the kids feel safe, routines and procedures, keeping them engaged etc. Lets get to the reflection questions.

1. I never really thought about the safety of my classroom.  I teach at a very small charter school, we only have 36 kids in 7th and 36 kids in 8th grade!  My classes are made up of 2 7th grades with 18 each and 3 8th grades with 12 each!  I LOVE this about my school!  So, I know my kids very well and I think that goes a big way in keeping them safe!

2. and 3. Oh boy!  Question 2 asks if my class is student-centered and how can I improve the layout so every student is fully engaged.  Question 3 talks about how well do you use the time that your students are with you.  This has been my obsession since May!  I can honestly say that last year Sept-April, it was absolutely NOT student-centered.  Rows ruled, I planned big presentations, told them exactly how to do everything.  Starting in May things began to change.  I made groups and had the advanced kids work totally on their own discovery style and the lower level kids worked with me in smaller groups.  While it was a million times better than what I was doing, it wasn't exactly perfect.  This led me to hitting twitter and google hard to find better ways to teach.  I ended up at a Flip Class webinar by Crystal Kirch and my life changed!
Right now I know that getting them out of the rows and getting them to actually work goes a long way in keeping them engaged.  My struggle is creating my class routine.
 In the past it was: 
1. Do now, discuss homework from last night
2. Lesson (I do, we do) then independent practice (you do)
3. and if time share out or exit ticket (which we hardly EVER got to finish.)

What I am thinking about now starts the day before:
1. Stop class activity 10 minutes prior to end, pose a difficult question relating to the next lesson.  Have students work independently writing/trying to solve the problem in their notebooks.
2. Homework is video with basic skill needed to solve problem given at end of previous class.  1st activity next day is discussing previous problem with group first than share out with class.
3. Practice skill (which used to be the homework)  Ask 3 than me, I meet with each student to assess. etc.  Students who finish the required practice set move on to choice of activities.

Ahhh I just love how that plan looks!  Now, some of the things that I am struggling with are, I don't plan on doing a video every day, what does the class routine look like when there is no guiding problem?  I want to group them by ability and I don't have faith that everyone will be able to do a google form that night so that I can do that before class.  I may have a do now question to quickly assess them in the beginning of class then change their seats.  I want to start using interactive notebooks, when does that happen?  Do they use them to take notes? Activities in class? These are the things I need to think about this week!

Monday, July 30, 2012


No, not the homework I am assigning, but hw I gave myself after #flipchat tonight!  I read about this cool website www.ifttt.com and had to try it out! So my 1st "recipe" as they are called is anytime I write a blog on Blogger, it sends a tweet to Twitter with the title and url of the blog. Pretty neat, right? Itwlrks with a bunch of different websites including youtube and vimeo, so it would be useful for posting my flipclass videos to my website if I chose to go that way.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Burnt out-but some great finds!

I have to remind myself that summer is also a time to recharge and rest, I've been so obsessed with PD this summer that I kind of wore myself out!  I am still rereading my classroom management book, Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Teacher, but took a little break, Twitter has me going in 1001 different directions so much good stuff to read and research. Here are some things I found this week.
I discovered the Layered Curriculum website and immediately loved it, however, it might just be a little TOO much to start with along with my flipping.  I have decided to start more slowly with that, but I will absolutely incorporate some choice and points for grades right off the bat.  Our school motto is "Failure is not an option!" I love the idea of giving them a point sheet that has the lowest grade as a D. I am actually thinking about making the lowest grade a C by having them keep making corrections until they get at least the C.
Another cool website I discovered this week is Powtoon and its really easy to use and super duper cool, but I feel like I am just not that creative!  I really need to sit down and decide what  message I want to communicate and then start. I am so guilty of just wanting to "play".
Just today I read a blog and found this Mastery Connect I signed up for the free account and just peeked in for a minute. From what I can see so far is that it is a social site where you can search for and share assessments.
Another awesome thing I found was that Edweb has a whole series of webinars on Common Core that are available to watch! Holy moly you can really get sucked into this!
Finally since I have nothing better to do this summer, I signed up for the free 5 week course on Design Thinking at Edutopia. What is Design Thinking? Not really sure! But I think it has something to do with creative problem solving. I guess I will find out!
Oh one more thing, gosh no wonder I've been feeling overwhelmed!!!!, I also signed up to participate in Connected Educator Month at P2PU it starts August 1st also.
Whew, I think that's it!  Unless you like zombies, Amazon has a free book right now called Dead Things, pretty good so far!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Going through my piles...

These are some of the books I have laying about at all times. While I am trying to do a solo book study on Discipline Survival Guide, I feel the need to reread all of these as I make my plans for the new year.

Section 3 Cultivate Your Role as a Classroom Leader-Reflection

Reflection questions
1. I think as an "older" new teacher I have agood handle on this. I am a mom too so that helps as well. My students definetly look to me as the leader and even when some misbehave the others turn to me to fix it.

2. Do my students pay attention to me? I would say for the most part yes. I feel like if and when they don't it is because I'm talking like Peanut's parents.  So the whole key to that is to shut up!!!!  Actually, in addition to Flip Class and Layered Curiculum the other teaching strategy if you want to call it that, that I have latched on to is Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say

3. One thing that I am being firm on is parent contact. We are a very small school, I only have 72 students total. I am going to make sure I build very good relationships with every single parent. I really feel that will be the key to my success this year.

To do
I feel that I have not made a lot of progress this summer with redoing my lessons for flipping. I wanted to get at least 3 units done and recorded, but now I will be happy with just one!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Section 2: Adopt a Comprehensive Approach-Reflection

Chapter Reflection Questions
1. After reading the list of common mistakes, the most glaring one that I make is being inconsistent. When I think about it, I really set up my classroom to fail. When I look back at some of the trouble I had over the past two years, it was always when I wanted the students to sit still and quiet while I talked/demonstrated for 15+ minutes. I know that they should be able to do this, but I have to admit sometimes my lessons were boring as hell! So, my biggie no-no, is that I would let a little misbehavior slide, because if I could just "get through" this example or explanation I could let the good kids get to work and THEN I could handle the trouble makers! As the kids say SMH! I slowly learned by the end of the year that it doesn't work for me or for them. If I look back, the last month or two, I was pretty much having them do "flip class" work without any instruction or real structure at all. Given those two points, the last two months were joyful and productive and I loved going to class everyday. I am so excited to see what happens when I add the videos and structure to make it even more meaningful.

2. I have always thought that I was clear about communicating my high expectations and that students understood them, which is why when they didn't act like they did, both of us were confused. One of the many ways I am changing my class this year is how I grade. Each unit will have a point system and the students will choose how they earn those points. Since our school motto is "Failure is not an option" I am removing the F grade completely from the points, the lowest they will get is a D. I think that is going to have a huge impact on my kids. I will ask them "what could you do if you knew you could not fail?" I think that by them knowing exactly what I expect from them and giving them control of it will take away any doubt of my confidence that they can be successful.

 3. I haven't figured out all of the details yet, but this year I am definitely getting the students involved with creating the discipline plan. The two things that I will not budge on though is that disrespect of any kind will not be tolerated and parental contact will always be involved. I plan on recording my students teach and model the rules and procedures and keep that video accessible. We can even review it after long breaks.

  Based on my reflections these are things I need to do before Sept: Create first units activities and points Make lists of procedures Decide how to I will have students create the rules of the class

Friday, July 20, 2012

Section 1 Successful Discipline Rests with You-Reflection

1. I do agree that every teacher has discipline problems, it is the way that they react to these problems that determines the success of their classrooms.
The implication of this belief for me, means that I must be proactive and think through how I will handle situations, not try to create a room that has NO situations or problems.  Previously I just thought that if I made my plan and communicated my expectations that I would have no trouble at all. Big mistake!

2. Honestly, it has been so long since I was a student and I have blocked out a lot of my memory from my younger years that this is hard for me to do.  I would love to be able to visit some other teachers, and Im going to try to do that this year.
Last year my math coach suggested that I take an extreme approach and write all of the students name on a white board and if they so much as said one word I was to give them a check that was detention, then 2 checks for 2 detentions and 3 checks sent to the office, etc. It did get them under control, but what it really did was just train them to watch for when I picked up the marker. I hated it and so did they.

3. I think I can provide them with structure and boundaries as well as freedom and choices by including them from the beginning in making the rules and procedures of the class. 
Since I plan on running my class very differently (flipped and lots of collaberation) I will make the activities that first week all about making and possibly filming the rules and procedures.

Actually, I absolutly love the idea of filming them teach and model the rules! There is no question that I am going to do that! Ok now off to start working on those activities!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Classroom -REFLECTIONS

Okay I will start this off by saying that dicsipline has always been my weak point. I don't know why since I have two kids who never give me ANY problems, but that might be it the reason itself.
I felt last year went pretty well, I definetly had some issues, but I also had a pretty rough group of kids (ex. Talked back/nasty to the principal and called one of  the most loved teachers a "fat skank")
What I really learned last year is that class management is almost effortless/non-issue the less I lecture and have them in groups. That is exactly how I stumbled on flip class methods yay!
So I was given the opportunity last year to read Julia Thompson's book Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Classroom for an Amazon review.  It is an excellent read chock full of useful info! The only critique I have is that itis a little overwhelming. Since I got it last year literally 4 days before I went BTS and had most of my plans and ideas formalized already I didnt get to implement and apply what I read in the book. ( or it seemed that I was already.)
What I hope to do here is use my blog as a book study.  Julia gives reflection questions at the end of each section and I plan answering them here. I would love to connect with other teachers reading this!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Resources for class activities

These are the resources I will be using to plan class activities.
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
I really love the activities in their journal Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School.
This is a website from NCTM, with interactive lessons and activities.
I used one lesson from this last year and the kids liked it.(Tyson v. Lebron)
I will add more as I think of them.

Monday, July 16, 2012

My Secret Fear

Did you ever see that show Hoarders? Yeah my secret fear is that someday I will be on it.
I took these pictures of all the school stuff I have cluttered mostly in my bedroom, but sometimes it does leak out into the dining room. 
The reason its so bad I justify to myself is because I have no space!  I don't always have so many piles, but I wanted to bring a lot of resources home over the summer so I could redo a lot of my lessons.
My goal this week is to organize all of it and really use it like I intended!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

One full week of blogging done!

I think it was pretty successful. There were only two days I didn't know what to blog about and I really feel like I made some progress with getting an idea about how my class will work next year.

Something that helped me blog was setting up a recurring task in Astrid. I have been playing around with different apps and that is one I like.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Start Hard

It may be because I am a new teacher that I think I have this great idea, but I am super excited about an idea for more student engagement.
I have been taught to teach math using the I Do, We Do, You Do method. Starting out with easy computational problems and moving to word and multi-step problems once they "get it".
My brilliant new to me idea is to pose that difficult word problem first. My thinking is that when I model the math to them there will be an interest in why we are doing it in the first place. Duh when I write this out I feel so stupid for not doing this already.
The other part to this is how do I get them thinking about the question beforehand. What I've come up with is that will be the last thing we do each day, and they will have 10 minutes to write about the problem in their notes, it could be anything from writing down what they know to solving it if they know how. Then their next video will be on that topic and at the end of the video I will give the solution to the previous day's problem.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blog blog blog...

Since i challenged myself to blog every day, here I am with nothing to say! Looked over some curriculm stuff today, nothing exciting. Here are some fun summer things going on-
Tonight I am headed to the Plays in the Park production of Damn Yankees. I ABSOLUTELY love going to the Plays in the Park. There are three productions each summer. We've already seen My Fair Lady this year and then in August it will be Grease which my 15 year old daughter is really looking forward to seeing.
My workouts have been fanfreakingtastic thanks to my coworker who wanted me to train her this summer. She is awesome! Not afraid to lift heavy and she has great form!! (My side hobby is bodybuilding and powerlifting btw) She is super fun and motivating me too its a win/win :-)
Tomorrow I am taking the kiddos to Six Flags, oldest wants to see Cobra Starship concert but her friend backed out so we are all going.  Should be fun and very exhausting. I will probably post another "fun" blog from there.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A vision is forming...

My post (rambling) yesterday was focused around the idea that I don't really know what my class is going to look like next year.  I am starting to form some ideas and I am pretty excited about what I came up with this morning.  I need to write it down before I forget.

  1. Start off with a basic video on the "topic" kind of like a how to, the mechanics of a skill, etc.
    1. Use a guided summary sheet to help students take notes.
  2. Students will come into class the next day and take an assessment on the skill.
    1. The result of the assessment will sort them into three categories separated by color.  I am thinking blue, green and yellow.  I don't want it to be hugely obvious as to which group is the basic, on level and advanced, but I'm sure they will figure it out anyway.
    2. Once they finish the assessment they will show me their work and I will assign the color, they will go to the colored folder to take their assignment for that day.  Once everyone has their work they should be seated in groups of the same color, still trying to figure this out somehow.  How do I get them together by color if they finish at different times, etc.  Maybe I will give them a 7 minute time limit and then show the answers on the board and have them self categorize  I am just afraid of them wanting to pick a color based on what their friends get!  -OK this needs some more thought!
    3. Groups-
      1. Basic-I will spend the most time with assisting/reteaching etc.  Basic or Level A problems.
      2. On level-the middle guys!  Level B problems starting basic and getting higher level.
      3. Advanced-Level C work mostly word problems etc.  
        1. All group work will be self corrected with answer sheets.
    4. After the leveled practice piece students will mix together into mixed groups of the three levels and work on either a complex problem or project.
    5. The last piece will be another assessment (based on leveled color.)
Lots more to think about but I am pretty happy with this vision so far! Our school motto is "Failure is not an option!" and I feel like leveling the work and assessments will help achieve this.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What will it look like?

I am really grateful that I first learned about the flipped classroom at the end the school year. It is really nice to have the time and leisure to really learn and digest all of the info available before I start next year.
Today I have been thinking about what I want to accomplish this coming year. This will be my "almost" third year teaching. I started in November 2010 with a really challenging 7th grade class who became my 8th graders this last year and a poorly written curriculm. I "got through" the first year in kind of a shellshock and felt that this year I learned a tremendous amount. I did pretty well establishing routines and procedures but my lessons were just not engaging. By the end of the year I had my classes in groups almost every day and truly enjoyed being the guide on the side. I was looking for my style and finally found it. Stll, I feel like there is so much more I wanted to do, especially as far as differentiation goes. Thats when I stumbled onto the flipped model, I think it was actually Crystal Kirch's webinar where I got my very first glimpse of this! What immediately appealed to me was being able to work with every kid every day. With my lessons I was totally teachng to the middle, and feeling guilty for slowing down for the low levels and boring my high levels to death!
I'm at a point now where I feel like I can anticipate the good and bad I will encounter if I flip. At first I was all gung ho and was going to spend the whole summer recording videos because I was thinking EVERY class period was going to be flipped.  Now I'm not so sure.

Monday, July 9, 2012

9 weeks to go...

In some ways that sounds great, 9 more weeks of vacation! But then I think of all the things I want to do and I almost start to cry...how will I get it done.  Part of my problem is that I still don't love my regular lessons, this is only going to be my second full year of teaching. I've made a new plan and to go with common core standards which don't officially start until next year, but it looked like the NJAsk was leaning that way already, so I figure if I'm going to start making these videos, I better make them long lasting.
I know for sure that I will make guided note sheets for each unit, I feel that will work better for my students as opposed to having them write summaries. Some of the things I want to research this week and try to plan is how I will assess and grade, and how to mix in problem based learning.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reflection and growth

So I've been reading some blogs about blogging, and two things really hit me. One is that I'm told one of my strengths is reflection, yet I never write things down or keep track of these ideas and two I am afraid to blog because I am a terrible at it but as this blog pointed out you have to write to get better at it.
I am challenging myself to write something everyday. Even if its just a paragraph or two.  Ideally i would like to keep it organized, but the only rules I am imposing on myself is to limit exclamation points and smileys :-) !

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Homeroom Ideas

I have an 8th grade homeroom for about 20 minutes each day. Last year they had a choice of writing in a journal or reading, but they still wanted to just sit and chat.  I need to create a more structured environment.
I think what I'm really asking is for ideas that are not just busy work, like my journals and reading.
Any ideas?