Sunday, December 20, 2015

#MTBoS Blogging Challenge Day 1

It seems that I'm 15 posts short of 50 this year!  Might as well try to get there with the Yule Blog challenge I read about today!


I'l start with an easy one, I cook Thanksgiving at my house and this is my favorite recipe.  I am also making it and bringing it to Christmas Eve dinner at our aunts house.

Roasted Sweet Potato, Red Onion and Brussels Sprouts
Super duper easy and super duper yummy!
1 bag or box of sweet potatoes/yams peeled
1 large red onion
1 container fresh Brussels Sprouts
olive oil
sea salt

Peel and wash the potatoes, and Brussels sprouts.  Cut everything into quarters and place in a pan sprayed with Pam or other spray.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until potatoes are soft. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

2015 EdcampNJ Reflection

Today I attended my 4th EdcampNJ and it was again one of the best PD's I've attended all year.  I love the Edcamp format and today I did something I never thought I would do.  Before we got our breakfast and sat down to listen to the live #Satchat, I went up to the board and put up a session on Whole Brain Teaching!  See, I wanted to learn more about it, so I decided to lead an open talk on it hoping that I could learn from others who are using it.  I didn't know what to expect, but over 40 people showed up to talk about it and it was sooo cool! Yes, there were others that use it and I did learn from them!  I did feel a little pressure to be the "presenter" and I did give a lot of the initial information but just really running down the "first steps" from the website.
One of the things I wanted to learn more about was using gestures and from this session I learned that the gestures don't have to actually be the content.  I watched a first grade teacher show how she uses gestures when giving the objective.  It made me realize I can be doing more gestures that don't actually have to match the math content since all I could come up with right now is crossing my arms in an x to mean multiplication!

I urge everyone to do this.  At the end the day I was talking to a few teachers who were kind of saying that it was the same old stuff over again, meaning nothing new.  I admit a lot of the resources that I learned about today I already knew, but I think if more people jumped in and led sessions that maybe they don't know a lot about but want to, things might get more interesting.  My friend and I have decided that next year we might do just that, suggest a session for every time slot!

The next session I went to was Middle School Show and Tell (@sanwoz/ @njamle).  This was cool, I learned about a lot of tech stuff- one of the best things about edcamps, learning new websites and apps!  I like shoutkey a lot!  You take a url that you need your students to go to and it gives you a simple word for them to enter. For example, we typed in and it took us to a (another cool brainstorming website) that we collaborated on.  So in this case, jeep was the special word that took us to the shared site.

After that we went to Turning Tricks in the Classroom (@schleiderjustin) and it was all about time saving tricks like using google forms and such. The best trick I learned here was using ctrl shift T to open the last 10 tabs you have open.  I also learned I think it was this session about the onetab extension so that you can keep tabs as a list instead of keeping them open.  Here is where the only glitch occurred.  I was taking notes and relying on the google doc created for each session when suddenly I no longer had access to them.  It turns out people were moving them around so they locked everyone out.  I can get into most of them now, except for the whole brain teaching one and this one.

The last session I went to was on Alternative Assessments (@mmkillion @julieelliott08 ).  These presenters I think did the same thing I did, they use alternative assessments, but wanted to learn more from others.  I had high expectations for this one, but didn't take away too much.  The best one was having the students make an instructional video which I have done in the past.  It was a good reminder to use that again though!

You may have noticed I've been referring to "we" and "our" a lot, that is the other thing that makes Edcamp so much fun for me, it is a time I get to catch up with one of my favorite people.  Vesta (@vestageorge) and I went to college together.  As the "older moms" returning to school we instantly bonded and formed the type of friendship where if we don't speak for a while with our busy lives we can still pick right up like we've talked yesterday.  I love her and getting to spend time with her.   I am hoping that one day we can teach together in the same school.  We would be unstoppable!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

1st Week Reflection

Almost done with my first week of totally WBT!  Some very interesting observations.  My most difficult class has become my BEST class! Not only is their behavior on point, but they are engaged active learners.  It is truly teaching heaven!  Like I said in my previous post, I have always incorporated the "Class!/Yes"  attention getter in my classes.  I learned about leveling up somewhere in the last week so I decided to level up that great class.  They ATE it up!  I love this because it was starting to go to their head a tiny bit getting all of these compliments and they were kind of (but not even really) slipping.  So I had knocked them back to Class a few times and the message was loud and clear.  They love being the best! 
Here is another procedure I'm having a lot of success with, it is the scoreboard game. Again, something I've always kind of done, but I took it up a notch this week and it is working beautifully.   Basically when they do things right/good they get a point, when they need reminders or are off task I take a point.  If they have more tally marks than me at the end of class they win, if I have more I win and if we are even its a tie.  My school does a "Battle of the Homerooms" contest each month so I play into that.  100 points if they win, -100 if they lose and zero for a tie.  They have the opportunity to win 500 points on a full week or -500 which could be quite embarrassing!  I also have a small board where I record their points so they know their standings. I'm hoping a little competition will grow, but so far they haven't really went in that direction, however the "great" class is super excited about their winning streak!

The biggest thing I've noticed this week since I fully committed to WBT is that everything seems easier.  Before I would fall off the scoreboard game or not use silly voices/variety in my class/yes.  That is no longer an issue. And I NEVER used the Rules/Hands and Eyes/ Teach-Okay procedures but they have become second nature in only a few days!  The Teach-Okay is the one I need the most work on figuring out gestures, but I'm confident that will come and become more deliberate with this process.   I think it is also worth mentioning that I have read "Teach Like a Pirate" by Dave Burgess and this is making me feel more "pirate-like"

Next Wednesday I give my first tests since starting and I'm excited to see the results :)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Dipping My Toes into Whole Brain Teaching

I'm not sure where to start with this, but I want to start documenting my use of Whole Brain Teaching structures in my classroom.  I learned about this teaching style back in 2009 and have implemented two of the techniques my entire teaching career, first  the Class!/Yes!  For me, this is my favorite and most effective way to get the class attention.  I say "Class!" and the students stop what they are doing and say "Yes!"  They are supposed to say it exactly the way I say it and I'm supposed to mix it up and say it fun ways, but I'm guilty of not doing that.  This week I have been better about it though.
The other thing I've always used to some extent is the scoreboard game.  You basically make a t-chart with either a Smiley and Frowny face on each side or Teacher/Students and you give a tally mark on the student/smiley side when they do what you want or a tally mark on the teacher/frowny side when they are doing the wrong thing.  You make sure you keep the score difference no more than 3 so that they don't give up and lose interest.  The students are trying to win by getting more tally marks on their side or the smiley side.  At our school we have a Battle of the Homeroom competition each month, so I tie this in.  If the class wins they get 100 points, if they lose its -100 points and if we tie its 0 points.  I will make another post on this and show the board I use to keep track of this.
And that was where I stopped with whole brain teaching.  
This year has been a weird year for me so far.  I am a huge planner and have always spent the summer planning out my year and have all of these great new ideas I want to implement.  This year I did not.  I think in some ways I started the year a little burned out.  I'm not sure why this is, and I really tried to fight it and figure it out.  Anyway, what kind of led me to start implementing more of WBT, was that even though I have a pretty good grip on classroom management,  I wanted to run a tighter ship. Now I'm not one to be the mean military style teacher,  I want kids to have fun while they are learning, so I figured why not give this a try.  
I  started  out with the 5 rules.  I've always had my doubts about using the 5th rule "Keep your dear teacher happy" but I decided to keep it in and I told them it was like a bonus for them since they always make me happy. We'll see how that plays out.
So last week I taught them the 5 rules, hands and eyes and teach/ok.  Here are some thoughts on each:
The 5 rules are working well, students have the hardest time with raising their hand before they talk so when that happens instead of reprimanding the student I hold up two fingers and say "Rule 2!" and they all have to say the rule with the hand gestures.  They are seeing that this gets old really quick and it is beginning to sink in!  The rules really are effective and I have referred back to each of them in every class. 
The next thing they learned was hands and eyes, when I need to give them directions I say "Hands and eyes! and they repeat it back and fold their hands on the desk.  I love this!  It makes it so easy for me to make sure everyone is listening and I have their attention.
Finally I taught the teach/ok routine.  This is used for direct instruction chunked into short bits.  I teach something then clap twice and say "Teach!"  They clap twice and say "Ok!" then turn to their neighbor and pretty much repeat what I said.  Its loud, crazy and fun.  However, in order for this piece to work you need to have hand gestures. This is where I'm a little concerned, I'm not sure how to make up the hand gestures for the math I teach.  I figure for now I'm using this more for the routines and procedures, but I would like to see how it impacts learning in my class.  
Oh and it was fun to watch the reactions of my students to all of this.  For the most part, they loved it, it is definitely NOT boring.  I do have one or two students in each class who give the eye roll and look so annoyed by the whole thing.  I'm not worried about them, I think they will come around.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

2015-2016 Here We Go!!

Students came back to school on Wednesday and all I can say right now is I am excited for my second year in 5/6!
Here are some things that took place this week:

 I am not a terribly crafty person, so when I had this idea to fix my HORRIBLE hallway bulletin board I got very excited.  I don't even have a before picture of it because I hated it so much.  It goes from the ceiling to the floor and in a dark corner.  It is also directly across from the lockers and after about a day the bottom half of the board is ripped and falling off from kids kicking into it.  I absolutely love the way this came out.  The wainscot panel was exactly the right size, I didn't have to cut it at all.  Plus it brightens up the corner so much!

If you browse Pinterest you many recognize the signs.  I decorated the board with wanted signs  for positions such as Team leaders willing to build a learning community, Dreamers who dare to be successful, etc.  I also turned this into an activity for my 6th graders.  I printed out the signs again and hung them around my room, as a class we talked about want ads and how they are written and I told them they were going to write the descriptions for these wanted signs.  I had then break into groups and write adjectives that would describe the perfect candidate for the job.  Then using the adjectives create a sentence to go into the description.  Since I am a math teacher not ELA, this is all so new to me and its taking a little longer than I thought to get all 7 signs done, but we are making great progress and I hope to be completely done by next Wednesday which is Back To School night for the parents.  I will eventually have the students write their names on the chart paper under the descriptions for the jobs they are committed to (hopefully all of them!)

For 5th grade I had planned to read book Math Curse by John Scieszka and Lane Smith and then work on some of the corresponding activities that I found on various websites.  Well, I read the story, we did a crossword puzzle, and then our new math coach sent me a link to these great getting to know you Bio-Glyphs  I remembered that both of my own kids did these in 6th grade math and how much fun it was on Back to School night as a parent looking for my kids picture.  So I jumped on it and am so glad I did!  Here is a sample, I can't wait to hang them up around our room!  I asked the students to put an O on the back if they would't mind if I hang theirs in the hallway too.  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Fit To Teach

I have another blog, which I actually have a link to in this blog called "Fit to Teach." I started it almost exactly one year ago on 8/24/14.  I intended it to help me stay on track, but I got somewhat blindsided by a tough year and gave up once again.  However, as I tell my students, you only fail when you give up.  So I'm at it again.  Lately I've just been using it as a log for my weight lifting workouts which I intend to keep up this year again!

I was going to post something I discovered  just recently but figured it would be worth sharing with other teachers who may not be inclined to read my fitness blog.  Now this is not new at all but it has me so excited!  I love to walk for my "cardio" exercise in addition to lifting weights and I usually make a Spotify playlist and go.  Well, for some reason my playlist wasn't doing it for me and I started surfing around on my phone while I walked (actually I stopped at corner since I did fall one time while trying to use the internet on my phone and walk at the same time!) Anyway I stumbled onto Bam! Radio Network and I am now hooked!

I can listen to 3-5 clips at a time and get 45-50 minute walks in all while learning a ton!  I LOVE it!!
I've been hitting my 5 mile+ goal everyday and almost got 10 miles on Friday!  I also like the fact that I don't let myself listen to it unless I"m walking so I'm getting 10 min mini walks in every once in a while too.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Blogging Challenge FAIL

I am admitting defeat with this blogging challenge.  Loved the prompts and wanted to do it, but it wasn't meant to be.

Two weeks left of summer vacation and I am really excited to get back to school.  Am I the only weird teacher out there that misses school when its out?  I really love the challenge and excitement of the school year.  Last year flew by and I am looking forward to my second year of 5th and 6th grade.  I am also excited and a little nervous to work with a brand new in house instructional coach this year.  This will be a new experience as well and I am hoping to learn a lot from her!

Yesterday I attended a workshop on analyzing student work.  Very informative and the workshop is part of a series taking place this year.  The best part was making connections with other teachers in my grade level.  Since I am the only 5/6 math teacher in my school it is going to be awesome collaborating with others who are teaching the same thing.  We are pretty much using the same the curriculum!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

#ReflectiveTeacher Blogging Challenge Day 6

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers

Day 6: Explain- What does a good mentor “do”?

I think that there should be two types of mentors.  One who mentors a brand new teacher and one who mentors a new to the school teacher.
For the brand new teacher, the mentor should be in the same subject area and possibly the same grade.  That mentor should be really involved, they should share common planning time, review lessons, be available for peer observations, and just be a lifeline for that new teacher.  I think that first year is pretty stressful and if there was someone you can trust to show you what to stress over and what to let go would also be a big help.

I also think any new hire teacher should have mentor no matter how many years they have been teaching. I think this mentor should be more like a buddy who's "got your back".

This year we have a ton of new teachers especially since we have expanded K-3 grades and added an additional section to each.  I know the principal keeps talking about implementing a new mentor program, but she hasn't said much about it.  Whatever she decides to do, I plan on being a help to these new teachers however I can.

Friday, August 7, 2015

#ReflectiveTeacher Blogging Challenge Day 5

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers

Day 5: Post a picture of your classroom, and describe what you see –and what you don’t see that you’d like to.
This is my bulletin board right outside my classroom.  I HATE it!  It goes from the ceiling to the floor and is a B**** to cover with paper.  Plus the student lockers are directly across from it in the narrow hallway, which means it is always getting ripped and torn and awful!  I really want to plan out a year worth of boards in advance this year since we have to update them every month.

Here is my word wall, which I end up using the whole wall, not just the little board.  I leave the words up all year.  

My desk area.  I usually start the year with my desk facing out but by the middle I turn it around to have more room.

This is my back wall next to my desk.  I never really know what to do with the big bulletin board.  Last year I had the "how to learn math"  stuff that was all over Pinterest, and left it up all year.  Underneath are two of my only shelves where I will store all of my class textbooks.  

This view shows my desks.  I really love these desks, but I wish my room was bigger so that I could make other configurations with them.  They really only fit when I have them in four groups of four with a group of two.  You an also see in the back there my bins for the class portfolios.  Another goal I have this year is to plan out really good assignments to go in these folders.  Last year I just used the benchmarks, but I would like to use more problem solving type assignments.

This picture and the one above it are on either side of my white board.  I use one for 5th grade and one for 6th grade. This is where I put the homework and objective for the day.  I really like having the two boards for this purpose and will continue again this year.

This is above my white board.  I have a number line, the 8 MPs and a place value chart.

I guess that's it for my room. These pictures were taken last year and I'm not planning any major changes. Except for the back bulletin board. I decorated loosely with a superhero theme which I really liked and will continue with this year. I also really like red/white/blue so it fits.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

#ReflectiveTeacher Blogging Challenge Day 4

What do you love most about teaching?

Living with a person who absolutely hates his job (my poor hubby) makes me even more aware of how much I truly love everything about teaching.

I never ever feel like I am going to "work" and I am actually sad during the summer.  I can't really pick one thing that I love most.  
I absolutely love my students. Even when I think I have a challenging group or student, I am able to separate the student and the behavior.  I also love when I can see the light-bulbs go off for a student that has been struggling.  I think that is what really made me realize I wanted to be a teacher in the first place.  I can remember that feeling from my own days as a struggling student and there is nothing like it!

I also love the continual learning and growth that comes with this profession.  Before I became a teacher I was always reading self improvement books and learning new hobbies.  I love that every day is a chance to learn something new and that I will never stop striving for improvement.

Monday, August 3, 2015

#ReflectiveTeacher Blogging Challenge Day 1, 2 and 3!

Each summer it seems I stumble across a blogging challenge or book study that I can blog about. This summer is no different.  I happened to notice one of my favorite blogs in my reader, and was so excited to see a new post. Then when I read that Sarah was participating in a blog challenge, I was like "Cool!"  I knew there was another blogging challenge going on, but when I saw the prompts for this one, I knew I had to join it. I'm already a day  or so behind, but I'll just jump in anyway!

Reflective Teaching: A 30-Day Blogging Challenge For Teachers

Day 1

Write your goals for the school year. Be as specific or
abstract as you’d like to be!

As always, my number one goal and priority is student achievement.  What does that mean?  I would like to see my students score above 70% on our four benchmark exams.  Last year was our first year using Achievement Network and I have to say I really like it.  They give us a very detailed report on what will be assessed each interim and the bar is set high.   Unlike the standardized testing at the end of the year, I like that these are given every 6 weeks and we get our results immediately.  I use the benchmark as a "unit test" for my students so that I'm not over testing them.  I really believe if they are doing well on these tests they will have learned what they needed to for the year.

Another goal I have is to refine my grading policy and move more towards something like standards based grading.  Last year I gave my students the chance to retake all of their concept checks.  I also stopped giving F's or zeros.  If students didn't get a 70 or higher, I wrote "not yet" on their paper.  I was really hoping that students would take advantage of this and work on bringing up the grade.  Sadly, they did not and would wait until the last minute and desperately try to retake everything they did not pass.  Since my students are only 5th and 6th graders, I know I need to take a little more control for them and not let them wait so long.

Day 2

Write about one piece of technology you would like to try this year, and why. 

I already blogged about this the other day!  Here is the link: Technology 2015-2016

Day 3

Discuss one "observation" area you would like to improve on for your teacher evaluation. 

As a former 4.0 student, I want to improve everything about my evaluation that is not perfect! LOL.  This year I am going to focus on Domain 4 specifically since that is what brought my overall score down the most.  The nice thing is that my admin is already bringing in PD for the first week of school on this and our union is also providing us with PD and a complete binder to help us keep are records organized!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Technology 2015-2016

I am at that point in the summer where I decide I need to start planning but then my temporary ADD kicks in.  Standards, Lessons, Benchmarks, PARCC, Technology, Class Rules,  INBs, Flipclass...
It drives me crazy!  I always say to myself KISS! But of course my brain doesn't work that way.

So I start by breaking it down into categories,  This post is obviously about technology.  I won't lie I am the teacher in my school that loves technology and gets super excited about trying new things  However, I am also not naive enough to think that tech is the answer to every prayer and will change everything about my teaching.
The main thing I try to ask myself when thinking about technology in my classroom is:
Will it improve student learning?

The following are things that I know for sure I will use this year.
All things Google:
 We are a GAFE school and I have totally fallen in love with Google Drive after having to send out my laptop for repairs last year, got a loaner and never missed a beat since all of my files were on Drive.  I plan to use Google Forms for administrative tasks like parent logs and for stuff like formative assessments.  I plan to use Google Drawings by uploading photos of student work and annotating them to provide feedback.  I plan to use Google Classroom to share this feedback, along with flipped videos and to provide a place for students to communicate with me and peers. (*along with other uses I find after reading Alice Keeler's great post:

I know I just raved on about how much I love Google and we are a GAFE school, but my admin wants us to use Weebly sites.  I have no clue why, but it is what it is.  I have a class webpage where I share info with parents, the weekly assignment sheets I make for students and any videos they need to watch are there in addition to Classroom.  

Discovered Plickers last year and my students and I love them.  My favorite way to use them is for quick formative assessment.  After I teach a whole group mini lesson I give 2-3 problems to see where the students are.  Then I can sort them out to groups based on the results.  I like that it saves the results so you can go back and analyze it a little more when you have time, the only drawback is you can only get a report on one question at a time.

This shows a portion of the report which is really cool.  Not only can I see who got it right, I can see the wrong answers that were chosen so I can figure out where the misconceptions might be.

BRAND new to this!  CueThink was suggested to me by our awesome, amazing, wonderful (can you tell I think highly of her?) technology consultant Lauriene.  I can't even begin to explain how super cool this app looks in this post since I've only just created my account and tinkered with it for about an hour yesterday.  However, trust me it is super cool: teaching students problem solving skills, getting them to share their THINKING, visually and orally, and sharing with peers for feedback.  Since we are not a 1:1 school, I plan on using this in one of my centers so hopefully all of my students can get on and use it within a two week period.

Even though my students didn't exactly love Tenmarks due to the fact that they found it too challenging (too bad!) I am continuing with it this year.  As much as I hate teaching to the test, I feel that Tenmarks really prepared them to take the Parcc test.  Since the questions and responses are set up in the same format.  I really like how their reports are formatted.  Very usable which is important.

We have a subscription for this at my school and we use it a lot.  My students who didn't like TenMarks were happier with IXL, because I think there are less word problems.  Unlike TenMarks, the reports are really hard to figure out and use.  Its almost like there is just too many options. But in general I really like this app because the students really get a lot of practice with the skills we are learning.

There are other things I might throw in from time to time like Kahoot, xtra math, Brainpop, StudyJams, etc.  But the others will be used on a regular basis.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Waaaaay Out of My Comfort Zone

This summer I am tutoring a former student of mine in Algebra 2.  She didn't pass the course and has to attend summer school in order to receive credit.
She is a great student but makes silly mistakes. She really knows what she's doing and we are having great conversations about the math.
However, I haven't done some of this since 2008!  And it is so much fun!  I LOVE it!
Since I don't teach this normally and sadly sold back my Algebra 2 textbook from college, I've been relying on two awesome resources, Tenmarks and Desmos to help me out.
In Tenmarks, I've set up a Tutoring class and when I meet with her we do an assignment together and then I give her another assignment to practice.  We work on the topics they are reviewing in summer school or the ones they told her will be coming up.
The nice thing is that while we are doing the assignment together if there is a place I get a little unsure of myself I just click on the "hint" and its also showing her that its okay to do that.  I know a lot of my middle school students feel like they shouldn't look at the hints, but I tell them that's what they are there for!
Demos is just the most awesome app I've ever played with.  And that is usually what I do with it, just play.  Now it is coming in so handy!  I use it on my phone just to double check some of the work I do to make sure I'm remembering correctly.
I am so glad I agreed to do this, not only am I enjoying the time with one of my former students, but I'm also learning a lot this summer too!

She has been getting high 80's on her quizzes and tomorrow is her mid-term.  I'm hoping she does just as well on it as the quizzes!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Parent Contact Log pt 2

After sharing my idea for the parent contact log using Goggle Forms  I couldn't stop thinking about how something was missing.
Thankfully it didn't take too long to figure out what it was. One of the greatest things about Google products is how easily you can collaborate with other people. In my small school we only have one teacher per subject for each grade level. For example, I am the only math teacher for 5th and 6th grade. So I'm thinking I will share the form with the ELA, science and social studies teacher for 5/6 and then we could really see trends in student behavior!
It will be nice to see if a student is having trouble in one or multiple classes, or if there is a student not getting any parent contact at all. With 72 students it's hard to contact all parents regularly, but this system and working together could make it easier to reach out to every family without feeling overwhelmed.
I'm not sure how it would work in bigger districts, but any school that has teams or sharing students between subjects, I think could benefit from it.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Parent Contact Log

I've said before that this year I have really learned to love Google Drive and since I have learned so much reading other teachers blogs I am always looking to share things that I find helpful.  This is one of them, it may seem basic to experienced Google users, but hopefully it will help someone!

When it was time to upload Domain 4 artifacts into Teachscape I kind of panicked because I keep a lot of my records on paper and the Parent Contact Log was one of them.  I have a nice black binder on my desk where I write it in.  I wasn't sure how I was going to get that into Teachscape other than snapping a picture on my phone and just uploading a page shot.  This got me thinking about getting prepared for next year and how I could make this process not only easier for the end of the year, but easier to maintain and use as well.  
I also like to make videos for my students so I thought instead of trying to explain it all in a post I would record a video to share exactly how I edit and use my electronic parent contact log!  Excuse the "ums" and fast Jersey girl speak!  Here's a link in case the video below doesn't work:

Let me know if you would like me to send you a copy of my form and if you have any questions!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

End of Year Reflections Pt 2 Random thoughts

I've started writing this blog post about 5 times since my last post.  Changing the title and content every time.  To make it easier I'll throw it all together. I will probably blog about each of these in more detail, but I want to get this down so I don't forget!

I have really fallen in love with everything Google this year.  One of the biggest love moments was when my laptop broke and I had to have a replacement while it was out being serviced.  It was wonderful having everything I needed right there on my Drive!
Calendar:  I have started a calendar for both grades and now attach my lessons right to the calendar. Then I share it with my principal, special ed, title 1 and RTI teachers.  Now anyone coming to my room knows exactly what we are working on.
Google Forms and Autocrat:  My favorite creation this year was setting up a form to use for writing lesson plans!  I fill out the information and then using Autocrat merge it into a doc.  So easy!!!

Teachscape/Domain 4- found a GREAT blog that shows how to organize all of your artifacts throughout the year with my favorite thing ^^^ Google Drive!  Here is a link:

Professional Development Plan-This is something that I really love to do each year, but I feel like it gets created at the end of the year and kind of forgotten about.  This year, I plan to print mine out and keep it visible as a reminder of what I really want to accomplish.  I feel like it would be a good idea to have them revisited and discussed at observation meetings with administration throughout the year as well.

5th Grade
Speaking of goals for next year, here is an area I really need to work on.  When I switched grade levels from 7/8 to 5/6 I went from being an 8th grade homeroom teacher to a 5th.  I mistakenly thought that 5th graders were miniature middle-schoolers.  Um NOT true!  These kiddos are still very much elementary students even though they act like they think they are 21.  Over the summer I need to really rethink how I am going to adjust my style for these students.  Also how to help them make a better transition to middle school.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

End of Year Reflections Pt 1 GRADES

I still have almost a full two weeks left of school, but it is the end and as I said before IT came terrifyingly fast.

Tomorrow is the last day for accepting any graded assignments since final grade are due by Monday morning.
This year I wanted to change a lot about the way I graded.  I wanted to only give a grade on how much math the students learned, not participation, or behavior etc.   I made homework 5%, the benchmark exam 35% (this was because I wanted students to take the benchmarks seriously) and concept checks 60%.  My policy was that you could take the concept checks as many times as you needed to.  I thought this would be a wonderful option for my students who struggled and needed those extra chances and time to get it right.  You know who were the ones who really embraced this?  The students who got 90% or even 95% so that they could get the 100%
Still I didn't mind.  What I did mind was that those who really needed the help and the opportunity to retake never did until the end of the marking period or right before progress reports, of course.  The problem was, I didn't put a grade in until they passed which in our system means it looks like you have a really good grade and then boom you are down to a C or if you wait too long you could be at a D or even F!

So, for next year, I'm toying with the idea of setting up my grade book by standards and then assigning points you would have to earn towards that standard.  So for example in 5th grade the standard would be:
  • Recognize that the value of a digit changes by a factor of 10 when it moves by one place value, having a value 10 times greater when it moves left and 1/10 of the value when it moves to the right. Students do not need to extend this knowledge to moving multiple places values (e.g. knowing that moving a digit two places values to the left increases its value 100 times)
I would then make assignment and quizzes for this standard worth a certain number of points. Maybe practice being like 10 points and having 5 of them (homework/classwork) and then a quiz worth 50 points. Then as they are working each assignment will build towards their 100. So a kid who is getting it fast, blows through their 5 practice assignments for 50 points and then takes the quiz and gets 40 something and the grade shows 90+ but a student who needs more help might need 7 or 8 practice assignments and 2 or 3 quizzes to earn enough "points" to get a good grade in that standard.

I'm thinking this is a way to make standard based grading more aligned with the standard grade book.  One of my fears with doing something like this is that even the "smart" kids would have somewhat bad grades at first.  For example they've completed one assignment and got the full 10, when I enter the grade it will be a 10 out of 100 so an F!  I think though with a parent/student conference in the beginning of the year I could explain the method and hopefully get parental support. 

Another nice thing I could do is spiral in standards that we have already learned/practiced so that students would quiz each marking period on them as a part of their grade.  Maybe they just need 20 points on one quiz to show they retained the concept.  

I'm actually really excited about this idea.  It just came to me today and I'm thinking it might be brilliant!  LOL, I guess  you will have to stay tuned while I flush it out over the summer and then hopefully implement and blog about it next school year!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Countdown Is ON!

Every year I am amazed at how fast the time goes.  This year it was seriously on warp speed.  I feel that this was because I changed grade levels and because it was my first born's senior year.
I am excited to say that I learned SO much this year!  Unfortunately, I did not blog about this learning as much as I should have.  I am going to use this post as a reminder to just blog!

I've been meaning to post (gush) about my experiences with teaching Hands On Equations to my 5th AND 6th graders this year.  It has been amazing for both grades and I am so happy that I decided to include my 6th graders in it.
I went through the program a few years back with my 7th graders, but felt they already had too much experience with the concepts presented to really get anything out of it.  I can already see the benefits for my 5ths and 6ths.  Especially my 5ths since we will be learning all about opposites next year and formally introducing equations.  I am also excited for my 6ths since the biggest complaint I hear and had when I taught 7/8 is that they can't add and subtract integers.  Let me tell you that my 6th graders add/subtract signed numbers like it is no big deal already!!!
I make them sign and date a card to keep track of pieces.
Tomorrow we start working with the green cubes and I can't wait to see them really make the connection to the "rules" they know.
I am also looking forward to see how 5th grade does with it.  If I can get them used to these concepts now, a lot of the anxiety will go away in 7th grade (I hope!) 

I know that next year I will be able to refer back to the Hands on Equations to make connections!

18 days to go!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Writer's Paralysis

Boy do I ever have this!  I can't call it writers block because I feel like that is when you can't think of anything to write about.  I have too much stuff going through my mind and I think that is where I get stuck.  Ironically that is why I started this blog in the first place.  To get these things out of my head and be able to make sense of it all in a useful way.  I get stuck because I know that some people actually read my blog and I feel self-conscious about putting it out here.

What I have been doing is reading a lot of blogs  and I find that the blogs I admire the most are the ones that really focus on the math itself and  math teaching, not just general ed stuff or behavior or the newest tech (for the sake of the tech, not how it improves or assists in learning.)
When looking at my blog, it is mostly that.  So I would like to shift that.

This past Friday I made a huge mistake that turned out pretty cool.  I registered for a conference which I thought was held by the AMTNJ, Association of Mathematics Teachers of NJ.  The focus was on formative assessment and the keynote speaker was David Wees, who I follow on Twitter and really respect.  Now, I've been to these conferences before and they are really big.  So when I got to TCNJ and found the room it was being held in I found it odd that there were only about 20-25 people there.  It then jumped out at me from the registration form, I was at a NJAMTE conference, NJ Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators.  I was pretty embarrassed and intimidated being a little 5/6 math teacher in a room full of professors and supervisors, but I stayed anyway and learned so much.
What really stood out to me is that I am interested in more than just being a classroom teacher . Starting so late in the game to this profession I really thought I would just want to stay in the classroom and keep improving my craft (which I still do) but the thought of helping other teachers improve and grow and having an impact on even more students is really exciting.  I think it is because I have such a passion for it that most people that I talk to immediately recognize.  I don't know if all teachers are like this or not, but most of the teachers I work with are not so much.
Another part of the day that really stands out to me was the conversations that took place at lunch.  The group I was sitting with were totally accepting of me and made me feel welcome.  I learned that teachers have the same issues and concerns at every level.  I also learned that these educators shared the same passion I do.  Also one of them even shared that was why he decided to teach at the college level instead of high school, he wanted to talk about math and math ed and the colleagues he was working with in the high school did not.  

In the classroom, I've been teaching Hands on Equations to both my 5th and 6th graders.  This is the first time I've run through the program with kids who can really benefit from it (as opposed to 7th graders who already had a lot of experience solving equations) and I am so excited by all of the great learning we are doing.  Especially with integers, inverse operations, substitution etc.  I can't wait to see how these students do next year with more formal studies of these topics!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

#AprilBlogADay Number Talks

I've been reading about these for so long and finally took the time to fit it in.  What fun!  The coolest thing is that my students really seemed to enjoy it and bought into it 100%!  I started off easy and kept it short the past two days.  Yesterday I gave them 56 + 7
 Here are some of the responses I got.
63 because I know that 56 + 4 is 60 and 7-4 is 3 so 60+3 is 63
63 because I counted up from 56
63 because I added 6+7 is 13 then 10 plus 50 is 60 and add the 3 is 63
and one of my favorites:  Well, I know that 7x8 is 56 and 7x9 is 63 so the answer is 63 since I know the 7 times tables.

Today I gave them 16 x 25.  I thought I would get eye rolls and pencils (I told them to solve it with mental math.)  Again they all bought into it and I could see their brains all working on the problem (I think that is my favorite thing of all time.)  
Here is what I got:
400 because 25 x 10 is 250 and 25 x 6 is 150 so 250 + 150 is 400
400 because 25 x 10 is 250, 250 divided by 2 is 125 and then add 25 to get 150.  150 + 250 is 400.
Then 16=4x4 and 25=5x5 so 4x5=20 and 4x5=20 and 20x20 =400

I really like the discussions that are starting to come from this.  Most students didn't really understand why the kid who divided 250 by 2 did that and I had him explain it further, then had other students summarize or restate what he said.  It was cool to see their light bulbs going off!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

#aprilblogaday Spring Break Nothingness

Today was one of those days that I did nothing but play silly facebook games and was proud of it!  Its spring break and I am enjoying this down time!  Tomorrow I plan to go into school, organize some paperwork and make copies and videos for the week we come back.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

#aprilblogaday 6th Grade Measures of Center and Variablilty

Before break we touched a little on these topics with the intent to dive in a little deeper once we come back.  I feel like students got the basics down and could calculate mean, median, mode, range, and make a box plot etc.  But I don't think they really get the why part. There are two lessons I know that I am going to try with them next week that I'm really looking forward to.

The first is from the Mathematics Assessment Project
I have done these types of lessons before and the students really enjoy them.  I really like the activity where they match their cards and then send out a group member to check other groups work.  I have to decide if I will try to fit this in one class period (50 min) or two.

The second is from Mathalicious which is one of the best web resources I ever found.  The tasks are so good and interesting and it is just set up so well.  Here is the task I'm going to use: Wealth of Nations  This is based off a video I've seen before and it is mind blowing.  I really hope that my students see what a big deal this is and also make the connections between the spread of data and what that means in real life.

Monday, April 6, 2015

#aprilblogaday Spring Planning

Spring Break 2015!  Woo hooo!  After a lovely holiday with my family and getting to really know and love our new puppy, I have only two thoughts on my mind... Spring cleaning and spring planning for the rest of the school year.  The nice thing is both are great distractions from each other.  When I don't feel like cleaning I sit down and plan, when I'm burned out from sitting at the computer I go back to cleaning.

I'm amazed at how fast this year is going and I know that once we go back it is going to FLY.  We have our 4th benchmarks on the 20th and then EOY Parcc the second week of May.  After that it's going to be crazy trying to keep the kids engaged.   I am hoping to use games and projects to end the year. So for the rest of this week I will blog about resources or ideas I have for accomplishing this!

I'll start off with my plan for 5th...a few years ago I won a classroom set of Hands On Equations.  I am excited to use this whole program from start to finish.  When I tried to use it with 7th grade it was already too late.  I really feel that this system works best with students who have not had a lot of formal practice solving equations.  

I am really excited to introduce this to my students and follow it trough the program as written.  I am also going to look into purchasing the second set of books, solving word problems with the set.  I'm already thinking about how the next year when students are 6th graders it will be easy to refer back to the sets so they can make connections.

Friday, April 3, 2015


Something I have not blogged about but I am very involved in is the fact that our charter school just voted to unionize.

I have had very mixed feeling about this, but I am someone who voted yes.  It seems that at my school there are teachers who are perceived as the negative Nelly's and are only looking out for themselves. These are the teachers who organized and got this going.  I am someone who didn't have an opinion at first about it.  I would consider myself someone who is in the select group of "favorites" in my school, I'm not sure if that's just because there is no doubt that my goal is 100% student advancement and success or what.  Even as I type this it sounds weird.  I know the teachers that got this started and I know that they want our student to excel and succeed too.  They also want to be treated as professionals.  However, I decided to find out all the facts and not just say NO because I didn't want to be kicked out of the "in crowd."
I know that my salary is about 5,000 less than I would be making in a public school, but that is not why I teach anyway.  Its not just about the money and benefits.  I like the idea that I would be protected if something horrible happened.  I teach middle school, I know what could happen.
After getting more information from the union, I am also excited about the benefits for our school. Its no secret that the NJEA or teachers unions in general don't really like charter schools.  I think that they have finally seen that we are not going anywhere. They are now fighting against the corporate for-profit charter schools, which we are not, we are public.  There is one of those opening in our town next year and our school is a little worried about losing students to it.  I think having the union on our side (along with their money and resources) can only help us.
There are tons of PD we will be able to take advantage of, plus there are pride grants which will help us with our mission of community building.

One of the biggest concerns I had about this was the long drawn out contract negotiations.  I've heard horror stories of teachers working without a contract for 4 or more years.  That would stink especially since our admin has presented us with a new salary guide which would give me a 5-10 thousand dollar raise.  But I'm thinking since we are such a small school these negotiations won't be as dramatic as those in large districts.  Admin has already come up with the salaries, I think a little tweaking will make everyone happy.

Is it going to be a perfect transition? Probably not, but I am optimistic that there are going to be more pros than cons for our whole school as we take this journey.

Blog a Day April Challenge!

Yes!  I am happy to have found a blog a day challenge!  I am going to play catch up here and post two more blog posts so I feel complete for April.

I always do best when "playing along" with these blogging challenges, plus its always great when there are suggested topics to write about.

March Reflections

I have to say these past two months have been one of the most challenging  and emotional times I can remember.  The challenges certainly include the PARCC testing we had this month and after seeing such great success I had with flipping my class, I was so disappointed when I noticed the old attitude that "the test is over, I don't have to learn" coming from the students.  It was something I didn't expect at all since they know they have another test in May.  We had our 3rd marking period report cards and conferences this week and I'm feeling pretty down about the way the year is going.  
In addition to this stress, we lost my dear mother-in-law two weeks ago.  She was diagnosed in August of last year with pancreatic cancer and about the end of January took a turn for the worse, we went out to KY to see her in the middle of February and that is the last time I got to see her.  My husband went out again by himself a week before she passed.  
I took another week off of school to go say goodbye and mourn with our family in KY.  It was a very sad and hard time.  
However, the Friday before we came home a little miracle came into our life.  My father-in-law lives outside of town in the country and people are always dropping off unwanted kittens and puppies.  Well we found the cutest little puppy who just melted our hearts and we ended taking her home with us.  Meet Ruthie (named after my mother-in-law)  She is less than 12 weeks old, and the vet thinks she is a Yorkie/Jack Russel mix.  

Ruthie and Sarah the exact moment we found her.
Country dog is now a Jersey girl and spoiled by all of us!
I am disappointed in my lack of blogging, I have had so many things going on that I should be writing down and its really bothering me.  
Yesterday I received a note from one of my 5th graders.  He has been struggling terribly this year with social and academic issues.  The day after his report card conference he gave me the letter.  I don't have it with me, but he talked about how he is not smart and can't challenge himself among other sad statements.  He also tried really hard to participate in class.  I've been trying so hard to help this student and I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  I know that I have got to change his mindset about himself and build him up, I hope that I can do it!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Small Classrooms and Other Thoughts

I've had many things that I want/need to blog about, but since I read so many wonderful blogs, I often start and stop since I am not a confident writer.  I've also been missing the weekly #flipclass chat on Monday nights lately, at least when I participate with that, I get a blog post done weekly.  Ok, enough of that rant...

Last week I taught my morning classes in a slightly larger room next door due to testing. I can't believe that after only a few days I saw such a huge difference this extra space made in my teaching.
I was able to get around the room to meet with students and pull a small group to the board and work with them indivdually. Now these are things I do every single day, but it was just immediately clear that in the larger room these practices were so much more effective.
There's also the difference in the sound of the room. In my tiny square room students can be almost whispering and it sounds like they are screaming.  It is hard to concentrate, conference with small groups or conference individually.
Being the ultimate optimist, I hate to dwell on negative things, but when I get back to my classroom each afternoon I am frustrated and depressed.  I would love to hear from other teachers who teach in tiny rooms for some encouragement!

So even though I thought my teaching game was more "on fleek" last week with the larger classroom, my students did horribly on their weekly concept check.  It was like they didn't learn a thing!  I was so disappointed.  This was with both 5th and 6th grade.  I was wondering if they have done the "check out" thing that they usually do after the state test.   I think this week they are realizing that they can't do that anymore and we really do have 3 more months of learning to go.

I am teaching both 5th and 6th grade geometry topics and I forgot how much I LOVE geometry.  We ran out of class time while working on a fun trapezoid problem and I almost cried.  Oh and I had my 5th graders do a cute little poster on triangle names.  They still need to fix them up a little bit but here is an example of a good one.  Let me know if you want the template!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Survived the first round of PARCC!

This week my students took the PBA tests.  I have to say it seemed to go quickly and pretty painlessly despite having a snow day on Thursday!
I was really good about not peeking at their screens, but I was able to get a lot of info out of the monitoring software, I could see who and how many kids skipped questions and I was scared by how quickly some of my students answered questions until I realized that they might have been doing the work on paper and then going back in and entering the answers.
I was really happy to see a lot of bar modeling and KWI charts going on in the scrap papers, hopefully those strategies helped them out.
Some of the negatives I noticed, one of my students forgot how to drag and drop and I couldn't tell her how to do it, therefore she couldn't answer a question on the ELA portion that she knew the answer to.  For the math portion students had different number of questions which confused the heck out of them.  Also for the ELA part some had 3 passages to read and others had 2 passages and a video.  One student asked me, "what if I can't understand what they are saying on the video"  I felt so bad that I couldn't check it out and help him out.

I am happy that I was able to convince my students not to stress about the test because it doesn't mean anything for them, but to take it seriously anyway.  It seems that that is exactly what they did.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Making Progress with Word Problems

My students have always struggled with word problems and even the students who get "the answer" have a very hard time explaining their work.
On Friday we tried two things that really seemed to help students with these problems.  I am planning to do this all next week as we prepare for the PARCC test the first week of March.

The first thing was a strategy that was shared by Brian Stockus during the awesome #elemmathchat on Thursday night.  It is called Numberless Word Problems and you can read more about it on Brian's blog here.
This fit perfectly with the KWI strategy I've been teaching all year.  The K (what you know) and the W (what is the question you are answering) have been really easy for my students to pick out, the I (ideas for solving) is where they always get stuck.  However, once we took the numbers out of the problem it became a piece of cake! It was fun to see their ah-ha's when they realized what they were supposed to be doing with that I, and how it really does help them solve the problem.

The 2nd thing that helped was the actual PARCC test itself.  Since the test is done on the computer when students are asked to show or explain their work, they can't just scratch out some arithmetic like they usually do and circle the answer. What I did was after they used the KWI and numberless word problem strategy to solve the problem, I gave them ipads and told them they now needed to write up their solution on a google doc and share it with me.  It worked great!  The responses weren't wonderful but they definitely were writing much more than they normally would and the best part was the mathematical conversations they were having about it while they were figuring out how to write the solutions.  For the next class, I am going to print out their solutions, without names, along with the scoring rubric for the problem and they are going to score them.  I can't wait!

I absolutely love when I can see immediate results from trying a new strategy.  Its so encouraging and gets me totally energized.  I love when I reflect back and realize this is what my students should be doing everyday. This is what I want my classroom to look like.  Sometimes its hard to figure out how to make this happen more often.  One thing that comes to mind is my video lessons and their notebooks.  These are where they will learn the "tools of math" the skills, procedures formulas etc. and then in class should be all about application of the tools.

When I reflect back on what I just wrote I'm thinking to myself "duh" isn't that why you started to flip your class in the first place!  Oh well, precisely the reason I am blogging!!  Reflection and journaling are an absolute must and I have to get in the habit of doing more of it!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

More Positive News!

We had our 3rd benchmark exams this past week and I was pretty excited to see the results.

The first group is 5th grade and on the second benchmark I didn't have any standards reach even 60%.  In 6th grade we only had a 1 standard at 70%. Still a long way to go, but it is really encouraging to see that the students are scoring better on the standards I flipped.

Monday, January 26, 2015

#flipclass Flash-Blog Late Work Policy

As the title suggests today's #flipclass chat is about late work and our policies for accepting/grading it.

Mine is pretty simple.  I will take all work up until about 2 days before grades are due.  However, if it is late I count it as a missing assignment which means the student gets a pink slip.  Two pink slips for missing work is a phone call home and three is a detention.  But that does not impact their grade at all. Just do it!  That is for homework assignments.

For retakes, I still let them take as long as they need, but if you read my previous post Tests, Quizzes and Grades I'm trying to make this more effective.  I want my students to learn from their mistakes and take advantage of the retakes, but they are not.
For example, grades for 2nd marking period are due Wednesday, we are in the middle of a blizzard so we had a 1/2 day today.  I gave one student the chance to retake a quiz today, she looked at it and said I need help, I don't know how to do this.  I'm like "What?" This was the second time the student attemped the retake.  Why didn't she study, ask questions or see me for extra help?  I just don't get it!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tests, Quizzes and Grades

One of the changes I made this year is I stopped giving end of unit/chapter tests.  Our school is using Achievement Network to administer benchmark exams every 6 weeks and we have arranged our curriculum so that we are teaching those standards that they will be tested on.  So I thought, these are actually the unit tests, there is no need for two.

What I do give are frequent concept checks.  These are quizzes and I've made them worth 60% of the students grade and I hoped that by now students would get the idea that since they can be retaken as many times as needed, they would look at the mistakes they are making and fix them, study more to pass the second or even third try.  I've taught them this and copied this (I think from Sarah at Math=Love or Sarah at Everybody's a Genius) bulletin board that has been up since September which I refer to constantly.

What frustrates me the most are the students who  wait until the end of the marking period to retake them and I don't think they've even given one thought to the concepts they are being retested on.  I'm not sure what to do at this point.  I've tried having them fill out a retake form and get it signed by their parents, but that resulted in a lot of paperwork to keep track of with no results to show for it.

I do want to add that since I've been running my class as a flipped classroom, my last two concept checks have only had 2-3 kids not passing!  So that makes my frustration a little more manageable!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Weekly Menu

For the second week I am participating in the #Flipclassflashblog!  The topic today is

What is one thing (a tool, technique, pedagogy, app) that makes your #flipclass work better?

Right now my whole mantra is Keep it SIMPLE! My videos are super simple screencasts of me modeling a problem in my notebook. When they get to class they do an "Enter Ticket" and based on those results are put into groups. I work with the students who do not get it and release the others.

My biggest challenge was how to organize classwork and classtime, since my students are really needy and look for constant direction and assurance of what they should be doing. I decided the best way for me to plan everything and keep them accountable and give them a few choices or at least make them "think" they are having some choice was to make a Weekly Menu. Below is an example of this weeks menu for 6th grade.

It is still a major work in progress.  The first box of the day tells them the lesson we are working on, next up is the required practice work.  After they do the Enter Ticket I will usually pull out a small group to work on the first set of problems and do a gradual release.  The rest of the class can just go on and get to work on the requried items.  I also give each table a set of red, yellow and green cups for students to use to communicate with me if they need help.  If the cup on top is green, they are ok and should be silently working. If its yellow, they are asking each other for help and red means they need me.   This really works well (after they got used to it!) at first they would go straight to red, or put it on yellow so that they could talk about anything.  Took some training, but now it really serves its purpose.

The next three items is where their choice comes in.  They have to complete at least 3 Coach book lessons for the week, the Tenmarks assignments that I preset, open -meaning they can work on retakes,extra practice, Versatiles or IXL.  I usually can get about 12 devices and my class size is 18.  I haven't had any issues yet with not having enough devices.

I don't grade this weekly sheet, but I do make them turn everything in on Friday and I record any quiz grades from the week and then they get them signed.  I also use a Pink Slip system for behavior issues which for me is mostly students being unprepared and having to go back to their lockers.  I attach any pink slips they recieved during the week as well.

Oh and in my classroom each student has a folder they keep all of the work in. So they don't lose their weekly sheet. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

In Love with Flipping Again!

Friday I gave my second quiz since fully flipping my classroom and I am pretty impressed and excited by the results.  This is just one class, but it was the exact same in my other 3.

There are so many positives I am seeing that just pop out to me, particulary since I have more teaching experience now,
Although I am embarrassed to show my videos, I can tell they are getting better than they were the first time I flipped, I know that when I make them I can concentrate more and present the concepts much better than when done "live".  As far as the student side of it goes, I totally see the benefits they are getting from taking the notes at their own pace without the distractions of the class.  The nice thing too is that since we use google classroom, they feel comfortable asking questions right away.  So if they are watching a video they won't think twice about popping into classroom and asking for clarification on something.  I love it!  Another thing I notice is that it seems getting the lesson the night before gives students time to let the ideas marniate before jumping in and using it.  When they come to class there is such an improved focus and they are asking wonderful questions.  I really need to blog more about the day to day observations to really document it all. 
There are tons of things I need to improve, but I am really excited to work on this more and more!  I am also super excited to see how our 3rd benchmark exams go in February!  

Monday, January 12, 2015

Flash blog!?? Getting Unstuck

Its funny how things work.  I just in the last two weeks started flipping again and decided to drop into the #flipclass chat tonight.  I have been wanting to get blogging again, but trouble starting.  So I couldn't believe it when Cheryl Morris (@guster4lovers) suggested this flash blog thingy.  Not really sure what it is, but I think I am supposed to be writing for 25 minutes about where I am stuck in my practice and what I'm doing about it.

So cool!  Since that is why I'm back to flipping again.  Not sure how I was "stuck" I was just not happy with how my classes were going and knew that I wanted more work time in my class instead of me lecturing.  I had visitors in my class today who wanted to see a lesson and so I decided to go the traditional way and although it went well, it was today that really showed me I am so much more comfortable with flipping the lesson.

Some of the reasons I think it is working for me better now than it did two years ago is that I have access to iPads and Chromebooks now that I didn't really before.  Also my students seem to have more access to the internet and technology in general.

I am keeping it super simple as well.  I just record my lessons by writing notes in my own notebook under the document camera and record the screen using the free version of Screencast-o-matic.  I upload to youtube and then post on Google Classroom.  Nothing fancy at all, the videos are about 5 minutes, and its basically me modeling a procedure.

The next day, I give a do now ticket that I use to sort the students into groups.  If they get it, they go off to do classwork, if not or they are a little shaky they stay with me and we work on it together until they are released to do the classwork.  I give another exit ticket, leveled for the two groups.

So that is where I am at, I feel like such a newbie again, but a little more comfortable newbie.

After the lesson I did today I met with the visitors to my classroom (actually it was all the math teachers in my school plus an outside coaching consultant.) I shared with them how I've been using video lessons so  this lesson didn't really represent what was happening in my classroom. We talked about it a little bit and I shared one of my videos.  Well, the consultant asked "Where did you hear about this???" He never heard of it before and I was surprised.  I thought everyone knew about it.  Later he told me he was taking notes and was going to tell every teacher he sees about it.  Then he suggested I run a session at the regional charter school convention in April.  Holy cow!