Thursday, December 13, 2018

Welcome to the 2018-2019 School Year

I finally have the desire to blog again!  We have had two days of school so far and I am in love with every single one of my new students.  I know that it is easy to say that after only two days, even after only a few weeks, when students are on their best behavior, but I am getting a really good vibe from these kids.  The first thing I'm reflecting on is how what I'm doing and how I'm acting is affecting the class.
I have worked very hard to plan out this year with every rule, routine, and procedure with the students in mind.  How will the classroom run best for them, not so much what will make it easy for me.  I know that I have REALLY good students this year, but I am feeling very confident that we are building a great classroom culture in all of my classes.

So I have totally bought into this!  The only problem is for me, is that I'm not that creative!  Enter Classcraft.  I love that this is all thought through and ready to implement.  Don't get me wrong it is extremely overwhelming!  There is a LOT to learn to get started with it.  The nice thing is that I started last school year with my only 7th-grade class.  Since I started my new school in February I was able to "experiment" a little bit more than if I had started in September.  After my 4 month trial (with many failures and mistakes LOL) I've decided that it was worth it to go "all in" this year with both 7th and 8th grade!
So far, I am trying to introduce it very slowly.  Building it up and also having the students build the game with me.  The first day I only showed the introductory video and the second day went over XP, HP, AP, PP, Gold and the basics of the characters.  Next week, the students will start by making their characters and teams and then work on creating behaviors, sentences, and random events.  (I've only set a few non-negotiables.)   The few 7th graders that I had last year and now again this year as 8th graders seem to be enjoying this new roll out.  They were also extremely happy that we were going to play it again this year, so that pumped up the rest of the class that had never played before.

I'm not sure why I never hit submit on this post, but here we are in December.  Guess what?  I still absolutely adore every one of my students!!! That culture I thought I was building in September has firmly cemented and I only have one class that is a challenge, yet so manageable.  Classcraft is still going strong and I can't say enough about how much my students and I love it. 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

"But its different with the numbers!"

One of my students who I would consider one of my top students, is defending her opinion that she can subtract 24 from 18 and get a positive number.   She's telling the class you just have to carry!
I write the problem vertically on the board and ask her to come explain what she means.   I want her to figure it out or have another student pinpoint her mistake, but it's not happening.  
I draw base ten blocks and start illustrating what she says.  She is convinced and getting more convinced each time that she is correct.  None of the other students are speaking up. 
Finally I take out 18 cubes and ask her to take away 24 of them.  She confidently removes the blocks one by one and counts.  When she gets to 18 and there are no more she looks at me and declares "But its different with the numbers!!" 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Year 2 WBT

Gearing up for my move to 3rd grade last year, I became obsessed with learning everything about Whole Brain Teaching. In the past I used Class! Yes! and the scoreboard, but that was all I mastered.  So last year I implemented a little bit more, added 5 Rules, Super Improver Wall, Hands and Eyes and a little bit of Mirror/Words.  It was a challenging class and I didn't keep up with Mirror/Words as much as I wanted but the rest worked pretty well.

This year I had read the book Love and Logic over the summer and knew a teacher that had a lot of success with it, so I wanted to give that management style a try.  I didn't teach my 5 Rules (but kept Class!Yes!, scoreboard and Super Improver Wall) The Love and Logic way has only one rule: You may do anything you want as long as it doesn't cause a problem for me or anyone else.  They are supposed to solve the problem they make or I will do something.  Unfortunately, I was missing something because three weeks in I was not a happy teacher.

So, I tore down my love and logic poster and put up my 5 rules.  By the end of the day I was back in Teacher Heaven!! It amazes me how fast they learn the rules using the mirror words and teach/okay.  Gee maybe they will learn the math I'm teaching if I used the same format? Duh!

My goal for this year is to really implement the WBT lesson format.  I am also determined to get guided math going as well.  So my plan is to use WBT style during the mini lesson.

I just read on someone else's blog the saying Practice=Progress (not perfection) and I really liked that!  So here is to more practice with WBT and I look forward to the progress I will make this year!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Learning to Persevere

Today I asked my third graders, "When is a number rounded to the nearest ten greater than when rounded to the nearest hundred?"
We had just finished a problem where they had to round 315 and 558 to the nearest ten and hundred.  My students were getting stuck on rounding 3-digit numbers to the nearest ten but they started getting the hang of it. That was when I posed the question. I was hoping they would see the pattern and then we could discuss why.   Well, it didn't quite go as I planned.

In the past, after about 15 minutes I would have just told them the answer I wanted to hear, but today I made them press on.  It was uncomfortable for them and me!  I made them take a stretch break.  I told them there are mathematical questions in the world that still have never been answered, like the Hailstorm Sequence we worked on the first week from the Week in Math. (I assured them there was an answer to this question.)

They used open number lines on their dry erase boards to find the nearest tens and hundreds and I recorded the results on the board.  At first I only had written the 315 and 558 on the board.  They sat there looking back and forth and couldn't notice anything! I gave them more numbers to round and they told me how to sort them on the board.  I could tell this was the first time they were asked to think about a problem like this.  I made sure to give them numbers that had 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9 in the tens place.
I was hoping they would notice the pattern in the tens place.  The only thing they noticed that they could explain was that when rounding to the nearest ten, the hundreds place always stays the same and when rounding to the nearest hundred the hundreds place can stay the same or go up.

A couple of times I told them that we should stop and try again later or another day because I seemed more interested in figuring it out then they were.  They didn't want that.
Eventually I had to stop them.  I took out my phone and took the picture and told them to keep thinking about it because we would be looking at this again next week.   They were mostly shocked that I ended it with explaining the answer to them!

I was happy that they wanted to keep going and not give up (which I told them many times) but disappointed that I didn't know if there was more I could do to pull it out of them without giving it to them.  I am looking forward to learning how to do this better this year!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Reflection Questions to Start the Year

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to Principal Kafele deliver a Back-to-School Message -YOUR Power is in YOUR Attitude.

Due to technical difficulties we actually got a two hour pep talk, actually a motivational kick in the pants to get this year started. I can't tell you how much this man motivates me.  He is a great speaker, but beyond that his passion for education just oozes out of him and it is so authentic that you can't be an educator and not be inspired.

He asked us to reflect on 5 powerful questions.  I will share them here and start to answer them.  I say start because this is going to take time to develop. However, I don't think it is something I can put off for  someday when I have the perfect answers, because this is what will shape me as a teacher.  And every single day I am in front of my students is critical and I must be prepared.

  1. Are my students at an advantage because I am their teacher?
    This question is more of a mantra I’ve got to start convincing myself of.  You cannot expect greatness out of your students if you don’t believe you are great.  I’ve had a not so hot track record with my test scores that I constantly allow to bring my self confidence down, but I have to remember that even though the test scores are important they can’t be the only indicator of success.  I know from students that I’ve taught in the past that I am making a difference and giving them confidence in their abilities and teaching them to strive for greatness.  To that end my mantra is this:
    My students are at an advantage because as their teacher I believe in them and I believe in my ability to mold them into exceptional learners.
  2. Why do I teach, anyway?
    This may not sound polished and worded correctly, but I do feel this is accurate.  I feel that I allowed doors to be closed because I thought I wasn’t a good math student.  I once took a mathematical aptitude test at the Chubb Institute and they were shocked by my high score.  I was too and didn’t believe it or pursue the opportunity to get into the tech field in the late 90’s which could have really changed my life. This makes me passionate about helping students avoid this same mistake.

    I teach because I want to be the person in a young person’s life who shows them that they have a choice in their future.  That there are doors that can open and close, and to guide them to decide that they will not have any of those doors close so that they can peruse their greatness, especially if they don’t know yet what that might be.
  3. How badly do you want to see your students succeed? What will be the evidence?  How much time will you devote?
    This is my 7th year as a teacher, I still have the same drive and determination as I had the first year.  The only reason I can think of for this is because I truly want my kids to soar. Its not about me being a great teacher, it's about seeing students reach their greatness.
    I will do whatever it takes to make sure my students succeed.  Success means that they master the content that they are required to and also to become lifelong learners themselves.
  4. Where will my students be ten years from now as a result of having me as their teacher.
    Principal Kafele stresses that the ten years is just an arbitrary number, and we have to think about the impact we are making on students futures.  I am lucky enough to be connected with a few of my former students on social media and it brings me such joy to see them soaring.  It is my hope that the majority of my students have successful lives.

    In ten years from now, my students will be first year college students.  It is my goal that my students develop the mindset that they can grow their brains and do anything they set their mind to do.  Not only will they go on to college but they will not need remedial classes because they learned the value of hard work and perseverance.
  5. Do my students see in me who and what they can become?
    I love how Principal Kafele explains that you can be a role model to anyone in front of you, it doesn’t matter if you are a different race or gender.  I will strive to be that role model to my students. I think the most important thing is to be authentic. Kids can sniff out fakes like nobody's business!

I can't stress enough what an impact Principal Kafele made on me today with his Facebook Live message. I really urge anyone who reads this to look him up on Facebook and listen to these recordings.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

My Data Wall

I've never been a fan of the data walls that show where students fall individually in three levels, above level, on level and below level.
However, I have created a data wall for my third graders as a visual motivator on the whole class level.  They love it and so do I!

I have two classes of third graders so I kind of put them in a challenge to push each other.  I haven't promised them any prizes for winning, but they know as a whole 3rd grade they are working to get to and stay in the green area,
Since my school uses benchmark testing every six weeks, I've used the standards they are working on for this upcoming benchmark.
I've also indicated on here the attempts.  So last week they were only around 25% and 30% on 3.NF.A.1 and with a little more work this week they knocked it out of the park getting all the way up to the 80% range!  They were so excited and noticed their growth.
I can't believe what difference a little thing like this is making.  It is giving them a new purpose to work hard and try their best.  I also notice them glancing over to the chart when I tell them the objective for the day and they see the CC standard listed.
I can't wait to see how they do on their benchmark test in February!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Can I tell you about a game that both I and my students love?

First of all they love it because they think they can be loud and obnoxious (which they can) while playing it...they can.

I love it because they have to complete a boring review worksheet, but then check and confirm the answers with their "team" and if they don't agree they have to explain and convince the other person why they are right!

Ok, here is ZAP!

Split the students up into two teams.  Have them complete a worksheet ideally with the number of questions as you have students.  I have 18 students and had them do a 12 question worksheet so had to make a few questions up at the end.  Today it actually got really good and suspenseful!

Basically you are going to alternate between the two teams to answer the questions.  The nice thing is that before you start you let them collaborate. This way they all have the correct answer and if you are monitoring while they collaborate you are making sure they explain why instead of just forcing the answer on the other person.

Now when you call on a student it must be quiet the student you call must give the answer, when they get it correct (which they should since they collaborated) they pull a stick from the ZAP jar.  The sticks are EVERYTHING in this game and range from +2, to -20, ZAP! which brings you back to 0, ZAP the other team! and 10 second dance party.
It is freaking awesome on so many levels!
First of all they are completing a boring review worksheet and confirming their answers and making sure like their life depends on it that they have it right.
Then for the game, since the sticks are so wacky it means that the "smart" group isn't always going to win.
Finally similar to above, since it is so random, the kids love it!!

I totally use this for test review, since I tell them to take their papers home to study, this way I know they have the right answers.

Like I said today was the perfect example of ZAP!  One team was up 28 points the other had -14 and the negative team ended up winning with a ZAP and a few other sticks.

Another benefit is I teach 3rd grade, they are already learning a context for negative numbers!!!!  My -14 team was wishing for a zap to bring them to zero...  Gotta love it!!!