Saturday, September 24, 2016

Day 13-Thoughts Have Power

Even though I consider myself a positive person and very optimistic, when I reflect on my work I usually focus on the negative.  Not in a negative way, but in a "how can I fix this" way.  I feel like that is very important to do in order to improve, but I'm also realizing that I spend too much time focusing on what is going wrong.  I need to also look at what is going right and try to learn from and build on that.  
Image result for thoughts are things

So as I look back at this week these are the things that are going well and I hope to build on:

1. I am getting more comfortable with the centers!  My students have learned the procedure for transitioning to the next group and they are getting better at it each time.  I have them switch on a count of 3, at 1 they all stand up and push in their chairs. On 2 the back row comes to the front of the room and stands in front of the first group.  On 3 they all go to the seats behind them.  It has a good flow. 
For now I am keeping the activities simple, but I'm working really hard to make sure they are meaningful and not just busy work. These are Learning Stations, not just Doing Stations.  I am working on building students understanding that the work they do here is their opportunity to play with the new concepts and develop their own meanings.  

2. I feel like my lessons are becoming more effective using the resources and methods I've been accumulating over the years.   For example, I've started pulling the concept development ideas from EngageNY which I think work very well, but also using Whole Brain Teaching to teach vocabulary.  I also like how the Whole Brain Teaching management techniques fit with the Teach Like a Champion strategies, such as 100% and No Opt out.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Day 9/10-"Centers"

I tried the reworked version of my centers and found that it still needs a little tweaking, but it is definitely headed in the right direction.

The baskets worked great!  I had all of the supplies including printed directions in each basket.  I assigned a Captain and a Supply Manager for each group. My Captains kept everyone focused on the task and kept track of time.  The Supply Manager distributed the supplies out of the basket, read the directions and collected everything at the end of the time limit.  I feel like they did a good job with their roles so that is staying.

I did change the desk set up though, I had three groups of six which I really liked, but 1. it was hard to get them in position, and 2. this is a very chatty group of students and although I'm working on getting that under control, I think its too many together.  Right now they are paired up in rows and I have three groups, I had  the middle pair split up and one will move to the right and the other will move left.  So it will look like this:

xxx     xxx
xxx     xxx
xxx     xxx
I  still had 3 activities but I made two baskets instead of one.  Also, instead of the basket moving, I had the students move in order to give them a little leg stretch during this long block.  This worked really well even on the first try!

This afternoon, our external instructional coach came in and I got some really good feedback.  She said I was on the right track and gave me some things to tweak. Especially the type of work I should be having the students do.  I am super excited to try it out tomorrow.

Another observation I've made is that this group of students, while they are challenging as far as their behavior goes, they have already demonstrated some great math talk and reasoning!  I can't wait to start actually blogging about their math soon!!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Day 7/8-1st Full Week Done!

First let me say, I survived the first full moon of the year!  If there is one thing that I have learned during my time as a teacher, it is that students are definitely more challenging on a full moon.  That doesn't have to be a negative thought either, and its not just them, I believe I have to watch my own behaviors during this time as well.  I try to be more soothing and calm and not get them too hyped up.

I have learned soooo much this week and I am excited about that!
I attempted to introduce "centers" and conferencing with students.  This is something I have struggled with forever and I am more determined then ever to get it right this year.  I now have a 120 minute math block in the morning and about 95 minutes in the afternoon.  There is no reason this can't work!
Lets just say this was a great learning opportunity for me.  Especially since our wonderful RTI specialist, who I just respect so much and adore was in the class with me.  She gave me some really great suggestions and helped me make a plan for next week!
What I learned and how I'm changing it and concerns:
Not enough structure!  Since I have 18 students and set my desks up in three rows of pairs, after the mini lesson, I will have the pairs of students turn their desks and face each other. This will create 3 "groups" of 6 students.  I will have 3 activities planned with all of the supplies in a basket.  I will designate a captain for each group, that person will keep the group focused and on task.  Each group will have a supply manager who will be responsible for distributing and collecting supplies from and to the basket.  There will also be a messenger who, if the group is having a problem or question and cannot figure it out themselves, the messenger will be the only one who can ask me the question.
Concerns:  I'm pretty sure I know my high, middle and low groups already, but I know there is not a perfect 6 of each.  Something I plan to do is pull 4 students at a time to my back table.  So I will also have to take that into consideration, would I want all lows together and when I pull my 4 only 2 are left?  Still a lot of learning for me to do and I think I won't be able to know for sure until I try it.

WBT is going well and still a lot for me to learn here too.  Of course in my mind I expect instant perfection and I'm not there yet, but that is OK.  In the first week I have seen more than one student who has the tendency to be off task and disruptive, self correct and work really hard to get a "line" on my tracker sheet to earn a star.  That is success in my book!  Here is the other thing I noticed this week.  I've raised my voice once or twice and said some negative things (Do you want to lose recess?  If you can't follow the rules you are not welcome in my classroom-things like that) and some of the support teachers have done the same.  The students respond to that really well AT THE TIME, but then go right back to the behaviors we do not want.  On the other hand, I've already seen as mentioned before, behaviors being changed from the positive reinforcements even when I'm not actively talking about it.  I'm not sure I'm explaining that correctly.  Anyway, I plan this week to really focus on and call out all of the good behavior I see and less focus on the misbehavior.  I won't let the misbehavior off the hook, they have already learned my stink eye and I will stand by students who are talking out or not focused, I will still wait for 100% and things like that, but I will go out of my way to make a big deal over students who are doing the right thing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Day 6 The Super Improver Team

I introduced my Super Improver Team board today and I think it went over pretty well.  I did not hand out the goal cards today, I don't think they need them yet.
Here was the board from the first day of school until yesterday:
And today they walked in to this:
I explained that the SI Team is like a video game where the object is to "level up".  The way you level up is by improving things like your behavior or academics.  It can be anything that needs improving!  As I observe students doing things better than they were, I will praise them and mark a line on my chart.  Each time I mark a line I am making a star.  When they have a complete start I put an actual star sticker on their card, 10 stars and its time to level up.  I showed them that I had already printed their names on every single color so that they knew I expected them to level up.
It felt really good to be on the lookout to catch students following the rules who normally didn't and a lot of students got 2-3 lines today towards their stars.  It helped with redirecting unwanted behavior too, there were a few students who I simply asked if they wanted to earn some lines and they instantly changed their behavior.  I am hoping I can get  a few of them on the yellow level by tomorrow to get them excited.  The hardest part about this for me is the students who are really great anyway!  Its hard to not want to just give them stars for being "good." I think I will conference with those students to see if there are any goals they would like to strive for that we can monitor on the SI Team.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Day 5 Such a Learning Curve!

I have to admit it is very frustrating "starting over" again.  I was just getting into a groove with middle school kids, and even though I moved from 7/8 to 5/6 over the last 6 years, it was an easier transition.
Teaching 3rd graders is a whole new experience and I feel like a first year teacher.  Every day I make mistakes and immediately realize them.  I guess that is better than making them and not even knowing it.  I feel like I should know better though.
For example, I planned to teach rounding 2 and 3 digit numbers to the nearest ten and hundred.  Well, I should have just started with rounding 2 digit numbers to the nearest ten today and build on from there.  Tomorrow we will review just rounding 2 digits to the nearest ten and then 3 digit to the nearest ten.  If they have retained today's lesson, I will move on to rounding 3 digit numbers to the nearest hundred.

I am still struggling with behavior in one of my classes.  There are many students who refuse to follow directions.  Not only do they not follow them, they go out of their way to do the opposite of my directions. They have the mindset that they are "BAD" kids and their expectations of themselves are so low.  Today I couldn't take it anymore and started calling parents.  I am really trying to stay committed to WBT strategies and I feel if I start handing out consequences like calling home it is going to reinforce their beliefs.  I am introducing the Super Improver Wall tomorrow and boy do they have a lot to improve on!  I plan on telling them that I believe in them even if they don't believe in themselves and that I will not give up on them!   I also plan on giving them index cards with the goal I want them to work on.  I know this is the Star Card strategy and I should be waiting to introduce these new "games" but I think this might help them.  I feel like if I just introduce the Super Improver Wall, they will be thinking "I'm never going to move up a level"  but if they have the card and I start making lines when I catch them improving towards their goal, it will make it a little more concrete and attainable.  I really do believe they can do it!

I will blog about the wall and the cards tomorrow after I introduce it.  Wish me luck!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Day 4 Disaster!

Yuck!  Today was awful!  Everything that was wonderful about Friday was the opposite today.  I am going to point it directly at not doing the Teach/Okay!
I am still struggling with this younger grade as to knowing what to do with them and for how long.  I normally would jump into my curriculum starting today just like all of the upper house teachers were doing, but I thought no, I need to stick with practicing routines and procedures.  Bomb city.  They actually know the routines and procedures that I've taught and practicing them over and over is driving all of us nuts.
So tomorrow I am going to start teaching some content, but going really basic with a LARGE focus on the routine and procedures.  I feel that having the content will give more of focus on why we have are routines and procedures.
All I know is that today did not work and if I was to judge 3rd grade by this day I would be looking for a new job right now instead of writing this blog!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Day 3-Glimpse of Teacher Heaven!

Today I pushed myself to fully use teach/okay.  I had taught the procedure to my "good" class, but not my challenging class.  This was the step of WBT that I struggle with since I had such a mental block with the gestures.  Since I decided that I was going to break down the rules on anchor charts (I don't know why I didn't take pictures of them!) I decided that was the "lesson" I was going to use.

Here is how it went:
First of all I used big exaggerated gestures, funny voices, walked all around my room (*racked up 16000 steps on my fitbit!!) and just went all in!
Me:  Claaaaassss!
Students:  Yeeeeeees!
Me:  Mirror Words!
Students: Mirror Words!
Me:  Rule 1 looks like following directions quickly but carefully (repeated 3 times)
Students: repeated what I said and my gestures-anyone not engaged (maybe 2 at the most) I would walk over and get right in front of them squatting down if I had to until they did it!
Me: Clap clap teach!
Students: Clap clap okay!
Boom they were doing it and loving it!!!!  I did about 3 "looks like" statements for all 5 rules and it was AWESOME!!!
The best part was not only did my "good" class do it, but my challenging class loved it even more!!!!  It was truly teacher heaven.
It was a lot of work but man, I had a blast.  It was fun!

Now, the only issue I need to work out is this.  I still don't have my challenging class when we are not doing mirror words and teach okay.  I still keep thinking that when I start Super Improvers and star cards and I can already tell I'm going to need the Bullseye for 2 of my students, that things will get better.  Yet I also want to say that its only the third day and they will get it.

The other issue is I feel so vulnerable not having any real consequence like warnings, detentions etc. but then also I guess recess squad will be that once I get that going.  I did take a few students out into the hall for a talk, happy to say 4 of them were to tell them privately how thankful I was to have them in my class, they were doing such a good job and I was proud of them.  Then my two major rascals, I took them out and gently told them to knock it off, very very gently, one cried, but it did "work" for the rest of the class.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Third Grade Day 2

So today I thought that my challenging group from yesterday afternoon would act a little differently since I had them in the morning.  Unfortunately, they were worse.  I fought the urge to move on to keep up with the other class.  I am determined to keep working on their behaviors and solidifying my expectations, rules, procedures until they improve.

I've noticed that although they can recite the 5 rules, they do not put them into practice.  We are working on making anchor charts of what each rule "looks like."  I feel like breaking the rules down and giving that visual reminder will help.  I know that once we get into the super improvers game and the practice cards I should see some changes, but everything I read says to save them for as long as possible.

I will keep pushing, it is so hard to not jump into content, but I know that if we don't get the behavior issues resolved, getting into content will be a waste of our time.  I am giving them a diagnostic test, Its a 6 page test that I've broken down and giving them 1 page per day.  This weekend I will be able to see where they are academically and begin planning from there.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Third Grade - Day 1

I survived!
It was so hard to plan this day since I had no idea what to expect from 8 year old students!  I am extremely grateful for all of the WBT materials I have been studying all summer.   As I thought, it felt like a natural fit in 3rd grade.  Did every student act perfectly?  Nope, but it was a great first day and start.

Since I teach math and science, I have two sections.  I had my homeroom class for the whole morning and then the other class for the whole afternoon.
My class did a fantastic job. We did class/yes, mirror words, teach/okay, scoreboard, 5 Rules and Star, and hands and eyes.  I have two definite beloved rascals in that class but they are not overbearing.

My second class really struggled with  the 5 Rules, LOTS of blurters.  They were not able to handle mirror words or teach/okay - I didn't even try it with them.  They do have class yes, but started to struggle right away with the Mighty Oh Yeah and Mighty Groan on the scoreboard.  I even let them do a "Mighty Dab" when they say Oh Yeah instead of clap, but that didn't get me the 100% I need.  Lots of beloved rascals in this class.  I'm probably going to start recess squad tomorrow!

So tomorrow the groups switch and I have the rascally bunch all morning and the other class in the afternoon.  I am interested to see how that changes anything, if at all.  I know students are usually a little more focused in the morning and "off" after lunch.

One thing I learned today is to slow down!  Even when I think I'm going slow, I need to go slower.  I can tell that if I don't get these routines down now it will be a rough year!    I feel pretty confident that we will work it out.  They are going to be an awesome group for the Super Improver Team!  Can't wait to get that started next week!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

My New Classroom!

In general, I use a lot of exclamation points and this year it will probably get annoying, so I apologize!  I can't help it though, I am terribly excited about this new school year.  We have a lot of great new staff members on board and there is just such a positive vibe running through our school that I haven't felt in a while.  I am also really happy with my new classroom! So I wanted to post some of my hard work and also how some of it relates to my WBT journey.

Welcome!  Yes, I did the superhero theme.  Not usually a big fan of themes but found a new teacher store and went a little crazy.
My outside bulletin board waiting for some student work!

A view of the front of the classroom, calendar, my scoreboard, the WBT rules up top and the Super Improver Team board!  I will cover up the title for the first few days and build suspense until the second week. 

My word wall, or power pix wall, it will probably extend over the windows since I am doing math and science this year. 

Classroom jobs, there is a pocket to put a popsicle stick with the name of the student. Cute jobs like Super Sharpener, Captain Line Leader, etc. 

Close up of the Super Improver Board.  The colored strips have the titles of each level, they will be turned around next week once the board is totally revealed. 
My clock!
So there we have it!  I didn't show the back wall with the student cubbies, I want to go this weekend and buy some plants to put on top of them.  What are good plants for a classroom?