Saturday, August 30, 2014

Day Three, the frustration continues

My day of frustrating them didn't end with math.

Later in the day, we went over sorts.  They did "no way Jose and that's a fact, Jack!" first.  In this sort, they separated statements about fifth grade into true and false statements. 

They also learned the procedures for gallery walks, where they critique the reasoning of others without touching the other team's sort.  It's a great opportunity for them to also practice using the accountable talk stems that we brainstormed together.

I color coded the stems to help my visual learners.

They also did an editing and revising sort which I used as a formative assessment.  They're still a little fuzzy on the differences between the two, so that's a teachable moment for me in the next few weeks.  We didn't provide any instruction on their writing task this week because we wanted to use it as an informal benchmark.  This week they wrote a letter to their future selves, which they'll get back the last week of school.

They were pretty good with the first two sorts, but then I gave them a syllable sort.

They were completely stumped.  Some groups used their responding cups to ask for help, one group tried to bribe me (both with food and a dollar), some made piles of what they thought they knew and what was confusing, some started sounding out the syllables, and others were on the right track.  They asked for help, but I let them struggle.  Struggle is a good thing.  When we came back together, I had a lot of grumpy students.  I told them that this activity helped me to see where I need to start phonics instruction (with what is a syllable), and showed me that they knew to ask for help, were comfortable asking for help, and could work together.  No groups quit during their struggle time (which was five minutes, I'm not that mean).  

They wanted to know the answers.  I said no, they don't get to know that yet.  We'll start instruction next week, but I'm not just giving you the answers without the practice.  

This was very irritating to many of my students, especially the higher ones.  I told them they won't always get the answers right away.  They won't know everything right away.  Learning is a process and it takes time.  They aren't used to not getting the answers right away and I told them this will be an adjustment.  They'll have to work through things.  They'll struggle. In the end, it will make them stronger thinkers.

I think some of them get it, but it doesn't mean they like it.

Best part of day 3?  This happened:

Oh yes, it happens in real life. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Day 3

Day 3.

Also known as the day I pissed off most of my students, on purpose.

I didn't plan to irritate them.

We did our number talk and it involved a subtraction problem with lots of regrouping.  After walking around and seeing my students' answers, I noticed about half of them got the answer right. Others were having calculation issues or subtracting from left to right and getting all confused.

So I started the problem and asked what my next step was (it was regrouping).  The answer I got was to add a "1" to the one's place.  I asked if I was adding one or ten. I was told one.  I asked where this one came from. No one could tell me.

Face palm.  This does not bode well for math this year.

So we stopped solving the problem.

I gave them a two digit subtraction problem instead: 51-37.  Almost all of them got it right with the algorithm.  I saw one student try with a number line (yay!).   Then I modeled the problem with manipulatives (rods and cubes).

I explained that when we are regrouping, I'm not adding numbers out of no where.  I'm taking a set of ten from the next place value and redistributing them.  I wish I had these to use to show them actually breaking apart a set of ten:

But alas, I don't.

I gave them another problem to solve, both numerically and with a picture.  Most of them got it right using both ways.

Next week we'll go back to larger place values.  We'll also use manipulatives because they don't have enough hands on experience with making groups.  I've got some large gaps to fill!

After math, I asked them how they felt using this system:

Most of what I got in response was this:

They aren't there yet.  They told me they need more practice.  I told them good.  

I got a lot of confused faces.

I told them that in math, they aren't going get the concept on the first day. I told them I'm going to require multiple ways of thinking about the problem.  I told them they're going to have to prove they understand what is happening with the math, not just show me the right answer.

Many of my higher students are not happy with this challenge.  

To them, I say good. They'll be better off in the long run.  I had some grumpy math faces today!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Year Six, Day 2

Day Two

With no duty to be had and the kinks from yesterday all worked out, the morning ran much smoother.

We started our day with this meme:

Before I showed them the wordle from their first day feelings exit tickets:

I was pleased many of them wrote in complete sentences.  My favorite may have been the child that just wrote "I'm satisfied."  I still have a few that are nervous, but that's to be expected. 

We went over more classroom procedures, did our number talk (which lead to some awesome discourse about making sense of problems!), made our class norms with a gallery walk, and did another read aloud:

This mentor text focuses on life skills and provides strategies on not erupting (interrupting).  Again, most of them had never heard this book so I'm on a roll!

Can't wait to read this gem on day 3!

I did make my first student cry.  Yes, we made it through a day and a half of fifth grade before there were tears.

He had his phone out and in his words, was just looking at the time.  Since his back was to the wall, I chose to believe him.  We had a conversation in the hallway because it's not a conversation for the whole class.  He apologized, we talked through strategies (look at the clock, keep phone in backpack), and I moved him seats so he would face the clock.  I gave him his phone back at the end of the day, but there were still tears. 

I guess the honeymoon is over?

Day three is a weird day.  We'll tackle second prep and our first assembly.  Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Year Six, Day 1

The weekend before school started, I was a wreck.  I worked Friday night on various small tasks for my classroom, took all of Saturday off to spend with friends, and worked for a little bit Sunday morning before heading to B's family's BBQ.  Sleep did not come easily Sunday night and nightmares of past students and worst case scenarios flooded my mind.

I got to work about seven am on Monday.  Our start time is 8:26. My first task was hanging our classroom pom-poms:

 I had duty (bummer) and I struggled with undoing the folding gate.  See, the gate was run over by a (rude) parent, so it's bent in a strategic way.  This means it doesn't fold up nicely and has quickly become my new Monday/Friday morning nemesis. 

Luckily a parent helped me wrestle the gate.  I was also burdened with both a stop sign and radio, so next time I'll not carry those.  Or wear open toed shoes.

My other job at duty was to help direct drop-off traffic.  We have a lot of red curbs in front of our school and I had the unfortunate job of trying to tell parents not to park.  These parents were obviously very excited for the first day and taking pictures of their kiddos in front of the school.  I had to be the bad guy and ask them to not capture this precious moment.

I went to the wrong spot to find my class and our line got bisected when we were entering the building.  I forgot to collect lunch money and we were a few minutes late to specials, after I tried to take them down the wrong way.

Thank goodness for first prep!  I took a few deep breaths, calmed myself, and proceeded to tackle my to do list.

The rest of the day was smooth sailing :)

I had 27 students show up and they were talkative from the first moment.  They're responding really well to my positive classroom vibe, which is good.  Considering how frustrating last year was, I'm determined to stay positive.  I want my room to be a joyous place.

I didn't spend hours on procedures.  I gave them a first day treat.  We covered a lot (norms for read alouds and number talks), learned some procedures, and practiced structures like Kagan pair up and share.

We read First Day Jitters, which many of them had never heard before.

It's a cute picture book with a fun twist at the end. (Spoiler--the teacher doesn't want to go to school!)

Prior to reading, we went over read aloud norms:

I was a little worried about some of their initial responses.  I asked what my job was during a read aloud and the first response I got was "to grade papers."

I clarified that during a read aloud, I was the one reading.  They were dumbfounded by this notion and asked when I would grade.  I told them they wouldn't see me grade in the classroom unless it was a one on one assessment (Aimsweb, Core phonics, etc).  They were bewildered and asked when I would get their stuff done.  I said at home, in front of the TV, or while they're at specials.  This seemed to satisfy most of them, but that does worry me...

A teacher shouldn't be known for spending hours of in class time grading.  Yes, it happens.  But that shouldn't be what your students expect you to do.

Instead of me giving a tour of the classroom, I sent them on a scavenger hunt:

It's way more fun when they investigate!  Plus it gets their bodies up and active, which is crucial.

I went over the hand procedures for number talks and then made an anchor chart about the strategies they used:

After we did our number talk, I had them create their fractional me sheets:

They had forms for homework and left with smiles on their faces.

The hardest part of day one?  Well, besides the rough start?

Wearing shoes the whole day!

Goals for the Year

I love goal setting. I expect my students to make growth, so it's natural I expect the same from myself.

Here are some of my goals for the upcoming school year:

1) Look more like a teacher.  While this may seem vain, I want to put a little more effort into my appearance to look older.  Yes, older.  I was recently at a high school for math training and got hit on by a student council boy...because apparently I look like them.  I've also had cashiers ask what grade I'm starting or if I'm excited to go to UNLV...several times.  Yes, I know I'll appreciate good genes when I'm older but for now, I'd like to look more like the teacher and less like a student volunteer.

At my last school, we had standard student attire (uniforms), so looking different wasn't a huge challenge.  This year, my new school is open dress (but still adhering to the district's dress code).  I've got to put in more of an effort to visually separate myself from them.

For me, this means jeans will be rarely worn.  I'm trying to wear more dresses and cardigans to look teacher-y.

I dressed up for my trainings last week and had several people compliment me, so my goal must be working.  

2) Do better with this work-life balance. I'll either go in early or stay late, but not both. I stayed later than I intended to yesterday, but that was because one of my kiddos was in the office in tears because his grandfather was 40 minutes late picking him up.  It's the first day of school, it happens.  I didn't want to leave the munchkin on the first day and it was a good opportunity to bond with him.

Now that I have a ten minute commute, which is glorious, I can spend more time at home with B and my fur babies. 

3) Bring back the joy into my classroom.  Last year, for a thousand different reasons, was the worst year of my teaching career.  I wanted to quit on a weekly basis.  I cried on average once a day.  Things started going down hill the first week (yes, week) of school and I knew with complete certainty I would not be at that site anymore by mid-September. It was an unpleasant place to be for both teachers and students.

That's not how I want my classroom to be this year.  I want it to be a joyous place full of inquiry and collaboration.  Based on how day 1 went, I'd way we're off to a good start!

4) Let the horrors of last year go.  It was a dark year that I never want to repeat.  I am doing my best to stop comparing last year to this new school, but the differences are startling.  This new school is a breath of fresh air. I'm going to focus on the positive vibes of my new school instead of complaining about the woes of last year.

I have a few friends still at the old school and they say it's better this year.  For their sake, I hope so! I wish them the best and nothing but good luck.  Hopefully all (or at least most) of the factors are gone, allowing them to have a fresh, positive slate as well.  Everyone deserves to be happy at work.

5) Be open to new things.  I'm the new one on my grade level.  I'm the one, with five years of teaching under my belt, that is the newest teacher.  I like what I've done in my classroom because I've seen the results, but I also need to keep that in check.  I have so much to learn from these four other awesome women. I need to remind myself to be open to their ideas as well, rather than just focusing on my own.  Some days this will be hard for me, but I'm excited to learn new strategies from them.  

What are your goals for the 2014-2015 school year?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Almost done!

I went in yesterday morning to put some finishing touches on my classroom.  I feel mostly ready for today (first day of school), just battling some morning jitters.

I did complete my bulletin board (finally):

First day brave face! Let's do this.

Friday, August 22, 2014

New Math Freebie!

Based on our grade level planning session today, I made a new TpT freebie that we're using next week for back to school!

I've got a bunch of different ideas for the first week of school but wanted something to incorporate math.  So instead of a traditional "top ten things about me" list, we did something a little different...

It's a fractional "get to know you" ice breaker :) 

Snag yours here and don't forget to leave ratings & comments!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Classroom, day 2

I've done a lot of Target trips lately...but my classroom is coming along nicely! I'm trying not to be overwhelmed...

Our book hospital:

Next to it will be my large collection of informational magazines:

There are labels on the book bins:

Here's an overview of the library:

I'll put these cute Harry Potter CAFE signs up as well...

I'm just waiting to go over the components with my students before hanging up the signs.  That way they have ownership over the content as well.

I hung my bathroom log by the door.

I've learned the importance of making sure a writing utensil is nearby.  The twine prevents the pen from walking away.

I finally finished my bulletin board:

I'm happy with how it turned out!

I used washi tape to distinguish certain supplies as mine:

I set up their supply buckets:

I hung my poster about how they're learning:

I like to put it on the board so I can move the magnet to the appropriate spot.

Here's our daily schedule:

I also excited about my board:

I'm excited with how it's coming along!

Math Training, days 4 & 5

Days four and five of the math training continued to be focused on the operations, this time with a focus on division and decimal place value.

The traditional algorithm is not taught until the sixth grade.  So all the cutesy "don't monkey swing backward" sayings...don't.

Just say no. 

They teach a mindless procedure and quite frankly, what's the point in that?  The goal is to help understand math, not just do math.

The conversations focused on helping build an understanding of math for teachers, so this content would transfer to students.

I'm excited to teach math again. I'm now on the math committee which is slightly amusing because I haven't taught a traditional math block in a few years.  It must be time to dust off those cobwebs!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Prepping Notes

When prepping notes for families, I tend to make a template in word.  I like to make tables and use the fun features to jazz up the notes.

However, I still want these fun borders when I cut up notes, so I tend to organize the table like this:

Parts are intentionally left blank, that way I can cut along the edges

while still maintaining the borders of the note.

Just a friendly tech tip!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Craft time!

The beginning of the year is always an expensive time for teachers. I've stocked up on supplies for six table teams, including new buckets for them.  I bought some new border and letters for bulletin boards, got burlap to make border, and various other items at the craft store(s) for new cute things in my classroom.

One of the projects I just completed is my "good effort beads":

I saw on pinterest a fellow teacher made "smart beads" for her students to wear.  I modified the idea to more mesh with my growth based teaching mindset. 

By switching from "being smart" to "great effort", this shows my students that I'm focused on them. Our goal is progress.  Our academic journey focuses on improvement.  My students are in competition with themselves.  They aren't all coming in at the same place academically, nor will they all end the same place.  I have high expectations and will continue to push each of them to do their best. I believe in praising growth and progress, not "smartness".  

In a TFA (Teach for America) flashback, I vividly recall one of our many Saturday sessions ending with this idea:

Smart is not something that you are.
Smart is something that you become.

How powerful for students to realize that being smart comes from effort, perseverance, and continued hard work.  It doesn't happen overnight.

I can't wait to encourage my students to keep trying their best.

Continuing with empowering students, I picked up some lanyards:

Which I turned into:

I'm very excited for my new brag necklaces.  Again, this emphasizes a student's progress over time rather than a numerical score.  

This year, my students will be reading...a lot.  We are utilizing AR with our "reading rangers" program that focuses on comprehension and stamina.  I'm excited that this is used consistently K-5 in every classroom, so there is a school wide support and buy-in from students.

I also am a realist and know I teach ten year-olds...

Which is why I created this:

I know I will have books get damaged. I understand small rips from wear and tear, but I think if a student completely destroys a book, the family should replace it.  I'll need to double check with my grade level and administration, but I'm thinking of putting that in the library contract I send home at the beginning of the year.  In five years of teaching, I've only had to collect from a handful of families.  One student left my copy of Hatchet on the bus.  One had a water bottle explode and flood her backpack.  A third left it out for the dog to find (comically yes, the dog ate it).  A fourth ripped the spine in half.  A few others lost the books in various places.  I think it's fair to hold families fiscally responsible.  After all, if they lose library books, they have to pay to replace the why shouldn't the same be true for my classroom library?

I wanted to jazz up our information space, so I had a little fun with chalk board markers.  I bought a banner from the party supply aisle at Target:

I also borrowed a neighbor's cricut to make:

We are expected to post our calendar so it's obvious what the students are working on, so why not make it fun? 

I also want to to focus on small groups in math, which means I'll need an additional management strategy.

I decided on student math coaches, which would be designated by these:

I'm all about collaboration, so they'll soon say "math coaches".  Students will prove to me they can handle the concept, then I'll give them the lanyards and let them coach their peers while I work with a small group.

More pictures coming soon!

Second chance!

Life is sometimes filled with "could have, would have, should have" moments.

If you didn't stock up on novel guides and other products at my back to school sale, you have a second chance!

(Image created by Fifth in the Middle)

Tomorrow only!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Classroom 2!

Keys in hand, I'm now a happy resident of room 71.  Perhaps it's silly, but I'm really excited my room not only has a blue stripe at the top (yay color) but also contains windows.  Sometimes it's the little things in life!

My classroom is in no way complete, but here are some snap shots of the work in progress:

Classroom library

I got book bins from a fellow teacher last year and love them!

I'm organizing books into categories, then labeling with twine and paper cards to make it easier for my students:

 However, I still have a long way to go!

I also set up my desk area:

I'm having one of my bulletin board areas be our calendar:

(Stain courtesy of a munchkin's science experiment from last year. I'll be covering it with polka dot border tomorrow.)

One of my goals for this year is to do a better job with vocabulary instruction.  I don't have a traditional (outdated?) word wall, so I'm going to make this vibrant words wall.  Students will put up words on note cards with the definition and examples on the backside.  

I'm going to add "our" in the same pattern as "words" (once I find it) to show my students that it's both interactive and theirs.  Naturally I'll model the first few times to allow for practice time and to clarify my expectations.

It's difficult to see, but the vibrant letters are glittery because why not add that pop of joy?

More pictures to come!  Open house is Friday...I can do this!