Thursday, July 31, 2014

Guided Math Conferences Book Study: Chapter 6

I think I need a math lesson in calendar skills...this post was supposed to be up yesterday.  I'm so sorry.
I am really enjoying this book by Laney Sammons. I am glad I am following up my reading of Guided Math:A Framework for Mathematics with this...
Here is what I am taking away from chapter 6, "Managing Guided Math Conferences to Promote the Success of Young Mathematicians":
  • I found myself guilty of doing what Sammons says many teachers do.  We intend to confer consistently with students, yet find that something always interferes.  She says we need to carve out specified time for conferring which is spelled out in our lesson plans. I don't think I am allowing for enough time in my day.  I put it in my plans, but the things I have planned to do before that tend to spill over into the conferring time.  I'm going to work on that!
  • Sammons says it is best to confer with all students occasionally, but with some more frequently than others depending on student needs.  I'm so glad to be assured that this is okay to do.
  • She also says it may be easier to write down notes after the conference is over.  We want to remain with the students until after recording the notes in case questions arise during notetaking and to help avoid interruptions.
These are the reasons keeping accurate and timely notes are important:
  • To identify needs.
  • To promote equity.
  • To hold students accountable to previous conference teaching points and learning goals.
  • To hold teachers accountable.
  • To determine grouping.
  • To document growth.
  • To show students we care.
  • To provide informal formative assessment.
  • To share when meeting parents.
If our conferences are to help us in the areas listed above, we have to be cognizant of recording useful information.  Sammons shared advice from Calkins, Hartman, and White: "If we do not have a pressing reason to record a note, we shouldn't write it." 

So, it's important to have a REASON for everything we record!  I for one, don't want to have to spend loads of time reading over the notes I take; I want to see the useful, specifics that can guide my teaching. 
Sammons says our notes should...document the students' understandings of mathematical big ideas or their ability to apply those ideas in other contexts, give information that will help determine where on the learning progression toward grade-level learning goals the student falls, and be specific enough that several strengths and needs are clearly identified. Our notes should be guideposts for future instruction. Better notetaking will be another goal of mine this year, both in reading AND math conferences.  

The forms we use during conferences will have a huge impact on how we can use the information we gather. Sammons suggests having a checklist on which you can record information about the whole class on one page.  She says when a student demonstrates mastery during a conference we can place the date in the students column of the corresponding row.  This will help us plan groups and determine individual needs.

In addition to a checklist, we need an individual notetaking system. Suggestions shared include a sticky-note organizer forms, mailing label forms, sectioned notebooks, student flipcharts , electronic notes, and...the method I plan to use, individual recording forms. Click on the sample form below if you would like a copy.

On the form, I have the categories Sammons recommends for mailing label forms.  I hope you find it useful.

So, that's my take on this chapter.  I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!


Happy Teaching!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Being a Difference Maker/Five for Friday

Happy Friday, all!  I'm linking up for another Five for Friday with some tips I shared at our district Summer Learning Days...

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I was fortunate to attend the Second Annual North Knox Summer Learning Days Conference.  One of the workshops I presented was called, "Being a Difference Maker."  To prepare, I poured through books authored or co-authored by Todd Whitaker.  He is AMAZING!  You can check out his site and learn about his publications here.  I am going to share five ideas from him that I presented in the session I led.
This seems like something that would go without saying, but it's great to be reminded now and then of how important little things are in the world of education.  Smiles set a positive tone in our schools. When the atmosphere is positive, students can do their best. I know we don't always feel like smiling, but we've got to force ourselves to appear positive and cheerful when we are with our students. To paraphrase Whitaker..."Can you think of one student who will benefit from having another negative influence in his/her life?"  Let's all remember to put on our happy faces this school year!
Again, this seems like common sense.  But I like to have confirmation that I am on the right track.  I spend LOADS of time at the beginning of the year teaching my students routines and procedures.  When I do this, I am able to sail through the remainder of the year with a classroom that runs smoothly. Take time before school starts to think about time-suckers and disruptions that you would like to eliminate from your classroom.  Begin planning now how you can create and teach a routine to your students that will help your classroom run smoothly.  Students like structure and feel safe in a structured atmosphere. To many kiddos, structure and routine are new concepts. They are proud and happy when they know what is expected of them.

Here is a simple example of something I do to eliminate disruption in my room...I ask all of my students to bring in yellow #2 pencils.  I put the pencils in a community stash. Everyone has an opportunity to sharpen two pencils each morning during our warm up time.  The pencil sharpener is off-limits the rest of the day.  Because the pencils are all the same, there is no arguing over lost or stolen pencils.  There is never the disruption of a broken pencil that needs sharpened because sharpening is not an option. No one has the excuse to walk across the room to sharpen a pencil in the middle of a lesson.  Pencils are a non-issue in my room.  This seems so simple, but it makes a major difference in how smoothly my room operates.  I encourage you all to reflect and select ways to let procedures help you eliminate disruptions from your classroom and teach, teach, teach them at the start of the year.

How many times do we interrupt our own lessons to correct someone? Are there things we can overlook to keep a good flow going during our lessons? Can we ignore a misbehavior so the student doesn't get the desired attention/reward? If the behavior can't be ignored, how about praising someone who is behaving the way we want instead of correcting the one who isn't? 

Another way to do this is to correct in a positive manner.  Instead of, "Don't run!"  try ,"We walk in the halls."  Instead of "No talking!"  we can say, "Let's all lock our lips."  Tell kids what TO DO instead of what not to do.  If we minimize the criticize, our classroom environment will be more positive for all.  Kids feel great when they are who feel great are empowered to learn the most and do their best.
This is a favorite piece of advice I share with anyone who will listen...When talking to kids, try to replace the word but with and.  Look at these two examples of feedback given to students:

A. "I like the ending of your story, but you forgot to put periods where you need them. Go back and do that."

B.  "I like the ending of your story, and when you get the periods placed correctly your work will be even better."

Which student is left feeling positive?  Which  student will hurry back and improve his/her work?  Which student will feel free to take risks in the future? Enough said. :) 
This isn't always easy to do, yet it's possible and necessary...
This will make your job more enjoyable and help you be the most effective teacher you can be.  

As we prepare for the upcoming school year, let's all focus on our reason for doing what we do.  Let's all be DIFFERENCE MAKERS!

Happy Teaching!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Christmas in July

So, who can't use a little financial break with all of those back to school expenses?  Check out the dollar sale at TpT Wednesday and Thursday.

Because I appreciate my followers, I am glad to help you all find some bargains!  

I'm also linking up the The Candy Class today.  She is having a HUGE 500 FOLLOWER GIVE AWAY!  

One of the items I am offering is my Number Bond Activity Bundle.  

Here is what's included..." title="click to view in an external page.">An InLinkz Link-up

Happy Shopping!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Five for Fourth of July and a Freebie!

Happy Independence Day all!  I'm participating in the Five for Friday linky once again.  
Since it's the Fourth of July, I tried to make this post look a little patriotic.
First a confession- I do NOT like fire or anything to do with fire! Seriously, I won't even light our gas grill.  It freaks me out.  So, how lucky am I that the hubby is ALL ABOUT FIREWORKS?!  Every year he spends a fortune so we can have the biggest, baddest, backyard fireworks display. We always have a backyard full of people. Every year I am terrified.  So, tonight's the night I dread. I snuck out into his mancave and took a pic of this year's stash...
Uggg! Wish me luck!  Thank you.

Does anyone have kids who struggle making the greater than and less than symbols correctly?  I always have kiddos whose symbols are tilted in some funky way.  Here is a cool way to teach your kiddos how to make them...

How cool is that?  My students love learning this trick and do a super job with it,

I put a new freebie up in my TpT store.  Actually, I put two new items; they have the same content but there are two color schemes to choose from.  Every year, I incorporate Math About Me into my daily calendar meeting. These products share ideas I have used in my classroom with great success.  The kids especially love the "birth weight bags" and they have a good grasp of pounds and ounces when we get through every student in the class. I hope you find you can use some of the ideas.

I would love to have your feedback on this item.  If it's good feedback, post it on TpT.  If it's bad...e-mail me.  LOL!

If you have ideas I could add, that would be AWESOME! I would love to hear from you!
This is very random, but I still want to share it with you since summer time is bug bite time!  If you've never tried Sarna Lotion for itchy bites or poison, go get some now!  You can find it at any drug store or Wal-Mart. It stings a little at first, but works like magic.  It takes away the itch for good, not just a while. ;)

Finally, I had lunch with a coworker on Thursday.  We had a great visit.  We both LOVE talking school.  One thing that came up was cursive writing.  I shared with her how much an animated cursive writing product had help me when teaching my second graders their letter formations. The program continuously loops a step-by-step formation of each letter.  I leave it playing while we have our practice time. You can check it out for yourself here.

Well, that's it for this week.  I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend.  Let's be praying for our friends affected by the hurricane!

Happy Teaching!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Five for Friday and a Freebie!

Happy Friday!  We had a gorgeous week here in Southern Indiana. 
I'm linking up for another Five for Friday...
iRubric.  Do you?
At my school, we still do letter grades.  I am passionate about differentiation. Coming up with percentages and fair grades is difficult.  I have found a way to make rubrics work for this.  
I complete a reading rubric each week for each student.  The writing/language rubric is done every 2-3 weeks.  Math and spelling rubrics are filled out at the end of each quarter.  I've been using these forms (or similar ones) for YEARS now. They work well for me.  If you would like to get a closer look, click on the picture for a dropbox link.

I would love to know how others do letter grades with their students.
I am so excited to have finally purchased a laminator for home. While I've been too busy to try it out yet, I know it will come in handy.  The one I purchased was based on a recommendation I read on a blog (but I can't remember which blog).  It's on sale right now too!  The list price is $229.95.  I got mine for $99.95 with free shipping. Click on the pic if you want to check it out.
Guess what else I got!  For my birthday, I bought an Erin Condren planner. (I told my husband I LOVE the present he bought me... he,he!) 
It's soooo much prettier in real-life than in the pic from her site. For the past few years I've been doing my plans through It was handy, but I was ready for a change. Every time I look at it, I smile! Sad, isn't it? 
On Thursday, I had to pick something up at my daughter's high school.  It sits on a hill in the country.  I was struck by how lucky my kids have been to go to a school in such a beautiful location. I took a picture to share with you. Here is the view:
Is that not gorgeous?  You can literally see green for MILES! It looks beautiful during the fall and winter too.   

So, I have a freebie to share.  I blogged about Gator Gumbo back in March.  It's one of my favorites.  I have a readers' theater script to share with you.  Click on the cover for the link. I hope you'll check it out this terrific book and find the script helpful.

Have a great weekend!