Thursday, July 2, 2015

Classroom Improvements

I'm linking up with Lucky Little Learners and  Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd for Classroom Improvements.

I'm going to focus on some teacher improvements, or things I want to change for next year.

This first one isn't something I want to change, but more of a reminder for myself!
Sooooo, there are a lot of changes coming this year-and not just from our government and politicians!

We have a new principal in my building. A new behavior specialist in my building. A new superintendent in the district. (Hopefully) a new Curriculum Coordinator. A new HR person. Oh and we're completely changing the evaluation system in the state and 4th grade has the biggest class it's had in awhile.

So I need to remember to take it as it comes! :)

Next is

I've been reading Learn Like A Pirate with The Primary Gal (my posts are here), and I'm loving the book!

I hoping that I can implement some of the things to have a smoother run classroom, and my students are taking more responsibility for themselves and their learning.

Which leads me into my next goal
I used data notebooks a very little two years ago, and a little more this year (The first year we just graphed our spelling pre and post tests, and last year I {attempted} to use Jenifer Findley's Delicious Data Tracking)

I really want to focus on grit and perseverance this year, as well as making the students more responsible for their learning. I think setting biweekly goals (as in once every two weeks) is manageable and will help them be more responsible. Plus, they'll track it in their data notebooks :)

And last, but certainly not least
The way I'm doing it now is just not working for me. I feel that I'm not reaching every learner, and I could be doing such a better job.

I've been inspired by The Primary Gal, and how she does her math block, so I'm hoping to do some similar things.

First, I'm hoping to semi-flip it (contingent on me getting the tech I need!).

Ideally, it would look something like this!

~Calendar/Snack (we do both at the same time-they can eat and think simultaneously!) (And I spelled that right on the first try! Woot!)
~Entrance Slip based on today's lesson
     *Students then get sorted into groups based on response
              -Highs go watch a video, Middles/Lows get small group instruction-Middles go for practice and Lows then get reteach
       *Practice Pages
       *Game/Task Cards of some sort
       *Math Journals
~Exit Slip-to see who needs reteaching

^^That's still a work in progress-I need to think about it some more (and find out when we're teaching math-there's been some talk of switching around our schedule!))

I did a Math Workshop/Guided Math a few year ago and I LOVED it-I was meeting their needs so much better, and I felt they were more engaged.

Enter pilot year of programs and new program.

So that changed it up quick!

I still have about a month and half left (although summer school will take up that month!), to refine some things, but I think I'm heading in the right direction!

How will you improve for next year?

Smiles and Sunshine,

Learn Like a Pirate~Chapter 5

It's Learn Like a Pirate week 5 with The Primary Gal!

Chapter 5 is about responsibility.

 Now, my students do have responsibility-through weekly jobs (I only have 5, and we rotate through), and class-wide expectations, but after reading this chapter I realized that they could have so much more.
Towards the end of the year, I started giving them more responsibilities-mostly because my allergies were wicked bad that week and I was losing my voice :)

They THRIVED! I had students running my calendar (which is not easy to run!), reteaching friends some topics, as well as taking some little jobs off my shoulders-like putting out pick-up notes.

I am so totally giving them more responsibility starting at the very beginning!

I'll definitely be emphasizing that we are a class family, and that everyone is responsible for making sure things get done. After all,
Another thing Paul talks about is Literature Circles-which is like the ultimate responsibility for kids!
I've done Literature Circles in the past (at a different school), and the kids really enjoyed getting their book choice and talking about the book.

I'd love to do something somewhat similar this year, but we do guided reading, and my teammates (so far), like to meet with every group every day (that they can-our G&T kids only meet a once or twice due to timing). Which I so totally do not agree with (alas, I'm the lone ranger on this one, and have been outvoted in previous years).

However, we're getting a new principal (our old one was very insistent on meeting everyday), so that may change. PLUS, we have a ton more kids than we normally have (it's a bubble year!), 21-23 each (we usually have 15-17-and it totally makes a difference).

In my class alone, I have reading levels ranging from M to V! Although I think all kids could benefit from literature circles, I'd like to try it with my higher level kids first, and keep them with me, so we can meet as needed. It would also free up some time for double-dosing some of my lower students. We'll see!

If I can do some convincing (and depending on support personnel-they help determine the number of GR groups!), I'll definitely be doing Literature Circles!

I'm looking forward to giving my kids more responsibility and seeing what happens!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Happy July! It's my favorite month (mostly because my birthday is at the end! :)

Smiles and Sunshine,

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Today I'm joining with TWO super 3-2-1 linkys-one for new teachers and one about me!        

First is the 3-2-1 for new teachers!

Now for a 3-2-1 about me!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate~Chapter 4

It's week 4 of the Learn Like a Pirate book study with The Primary Gal!

Chapter 4 is about improvement focus v. grade focus.

This is something I've been thinking a lot about recently, as I believe students need to make individual growth and improvement to be successful, not meet a blanket proficiency statement, so this chapter really resonated with me!

Too often, I see my students striving for that "A" on the test, but not remembering what they learned a week or a few months later, or not even caring about what they get.

We need to shift the focus of our students from the grades they receive to how they can improve themselves.
Some students will get paid for getting good grades (which I don't agree with), and others will be grounded for their grades (which I also don't agree with).

If there is a 'grade' problem, we should be working towards how we can improve upon that for the student!

Paul shows us that we can do this by giving feedback.

Feedback shouldn't be limited to teachers-some of the most meaningful feedback will come from peers!
Of course, we want the students to be able to see their growth, and how feedback has impacted their work.

Instead of having piles of papers on your desks-create a set of portfolios!

I've had writing portfolios for a few years, and I love seeing the changes in their writing from beginning to end.

Paul suggests having an ePortfolio-having it all online!

He does it through a blog (KidBlog, Blogger, etc. ) which has the ability for students to comment on each others work, but I think you could also do it through Evernote, (although that might be more teacher focused for data-see how I use it here!) or Seesaw would be another great option-and what I'll be attempting to use with my class this year (and I've already set up my class list for next year-I'm that excited)! I wrote more about it here.

Paper portfolios would work as well if you don't have the tech needed for ePortfolios. Our 5th grade has the students store all their work in a binder-that way, they can see the changes from the beginning of the trimester to the end.

I will definitely be focusing more on how students can improve-after all, the only person they're trying to beat is themselves. By constantly striving to do better, they won't be as dependent on the money of privileges they could earn for doing 'well'.

They'll be learning that you can always be better at something, and constantly reflecting on how to make that happen-which will (hopefully!) make them great members of society who work hard because they know it feels good.

Smiles and Sunshine,

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Math Toolkits~Place Value

Since I last talked about my Math Toolkits, I was able to sneak off to Target and grab a few more containers :)

Now I'm able to start my place value chips set and my base ten sets!

For my place value chips set, I took the bag
and basically just dumped it into a container. :)
There's usually enough chips for kids to share-also making this a partner set! (and BTW, my kids LOVED the chips! It really helped some of them this year learn the concepts-better than the base ten. If you have an opportunity-get some!)

For the base ten set, I needed a larger container-the 8.5 x 11 size.
I was also able to fit two sets in there.
Making this more of a double partner or quad set! (Plus, now I won't need as many containers :)

I'll still need to add labels, and I'll still have some random containers here and there (for cards, dice, pattern blocks, etc), but my storage will look so much  better when I'm done!

I've already been able to consolidate things, and empty containers and neaten it up!

I can't wait to see the finished product-as well as how easy it will make it for the kids to become more independent!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Friday, June 19, 2015

Five for Friday

Today is the LAST day of school (with kids!) :D


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We started the week of with a bang-when my shelves FELL off the wall!

They may quite a mess-and fortunately no one was hurt-although it just missed me and a few students! (I was right in front of my computer-the red chair-and it just fell at my feet).

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We also received a new student-the very next day!

Needless to say, Jack (as my kids named him in the 5 minutes we had him), was quickly relocated outside. Although he did get quickly run over! (I didn't tell the kids that part!)
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My student was able to come in for field day! Which was perfect because our field day shirts this year were orange (for leukemia awareness), and we were all also wearing stickers that they designed!

Our field day is only a half day (the morning), so we spent the afternoon watching The Wizard of Oz and eating ice cream. :)

My student wasn't able to do most of the games, but we were all so happy to have them back and be together (mostly-1 was absent (and has been for a little while-the family was even declared missing for a little bit (but were found in another state a day later) because the mom didn't let anyone know they were's been an interesting few weeks!) as a class.

Field day also marks the annual wearing of the sneakers-which are older than some of my kids!

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We went on a field trip to an old time fort that's been reconstructed to the time before the French and Indian War (1750sish). The kids had such a great time, and it was the perfect way to end our year and our last full day!

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Only 3 days of PD, and I'm free! :D

Smiles and Sunshine,