Friday, November 7, 2014

November -- Time to take a deep breath and do what I can!

I know that I say this every year, but I really can't believe how fast time goes and how long my 'to-do' list feels. The last two months have been a challenge. My class makeup is very different with various needs that is requiring me to go about my instruction differently. I am so thankful for the technology that makes my life easier and the opportunities that help increase the motivation in my scholars.

Here is a quick and easy list of what I have done in my class the last 6 weeks and the successes and failures that came with it! :)

Google Classroom - My life from an organizational stand point, just got easier!

  • I love that Google Classroom shares documents with my students quickly and avoids the whole seeing who did, or did not, share their document with my correctly. I was using forms in the beginning of the year and was feeling frustrated at the amount of time spent reminding students how to copy links and share their docs so that I can view and edit them. 
  • I also like that my drive is now automatically organized for me and I don't need to go through the 'shared with me' files as much. 
  • My students like seeing when assignments are due and what they have to work on. I think this helps with accountability.
  • I would like to use Google Classroom more to differentiate assignments, but I am still thinking about how that would look.
  • I am still learning how to manage the grades with it and the flexibility to keep assignments pass their due dates.
  • My challenge is around determining when it is best to use my website versus Google Classroom.
Writing Partners - We now have a bigger audience!
  • This is my first year sharing our class writing with a 4th grade class in another school. My students and I really enjoy seeing what others are doing and determining what we are doing well and what we need to try and improve.
  • The bigger audience has increased my writer's desire to monitor their work they are publishing.
  • The use of different reviewers and their comments helps make my writers feel more accountable to their work.
  • I like that I can use the writing partners as a platform for encouraging my students to have a voice and use it wisely.
  • My challenge with this setup is that I don't have enough time to really put what I'd like into it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

September --- aaannnddd.. here we go!

We are a month into school and I am relieved to be over some of the annoying challenges of using technology on a normal basis.. like the whole "Wait.. what is my log in again?!"

Though that step is done, I still feel very overwhelmed about getting my kids to work at a faster pace and knowing how to track with me. For example, I was doing a math lesson and I was trying to have the students toggle between a Google document and my website. They were to read what their task was on the Google doc and then use a site to hep them with the assignment. HOWEVER, by the time I had already gone to the other site and pulled up the information, I realized my students didn't know what I was doing because they didn't know to scroll the page down. I didn't even think that I needed to talk through that. Now I know that I need to literally walk through each step and not assume. Huh... I think this has been a reflection of mine at the beginning of every school year. :(

Thursday, August 7, 2014

August 2014 Inspired Writing

Wow! A great start to Inspired Writing with LPS!

I think I love this cohort more every year. It is always amazing to hear about what other teachers are doing in their rooms. There are so many different ways to help support your students as well as make your life easier. This year, I hope to try the following:

Google Classroom
-- general use (may use more than Jing)

Google Forms
-- keep track of students' assignments
-- possibly use for book recommendations

-- use for Math Circles
-- beginning of the year "get to know you" activities

Class Website
-- file documents and websites under Teacher's Resources in a file cabinet

-- use for writing conferences
-- homework support

Oh the beginning of the year... when you are pumped and excited, rested, and still in denial about the amount of time you will have.

Here we go!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My March Madness

As we close in on our last day of TCAP testing, I find myself eager to get back into routines and actually teach. I feel like we all do so much better in an enviornment that is predictable and efficient. This was how I felt until our team looked at the units we need to teach and the amount of testing that still needs to get done. It feels like a rushed spuratic race to the finish line! I was hoping to really enjoy the last units of studies with my class and try new projects with lower stress. However, I now see that our return from break is full of MAPS, CMAS, as well as unit and district writing assessments. While I know this data is important, I feel like my kids are going to hate me by the end of all of it! I feel like I will be cramming curriculum down their throats inbetween testing and crazy schedules. I know I will find joy and great teaching opportunities in the midst of our crazy, but I just needed a moment to freak out about the amount of things that need to get done and the amount of things I'd like to get done in the short time we have left. :)
Monday, March 17, 2014

Article Read: No Wonder Nobody Wants to Come

By: Ira Socol

Summary: This article discusses the need for more classrooms to operate as a whole group collaboration instead of an independent work environment. If students want to do independent work and just check in with an expert on occasion, then why should they waste their time coming to school. There are plenty of educational video resources (Khan Academy) that could provide that learning and the students could be in a more relaxed environment. The idea of isolation learning is not much different from the teacher that has taught the same material in the same way for the last 30 years. In order for students to be better learners and more engaged, classrooms should support the following structure: driven by student choice, personalized time lines and schedules, technology that supports their learning, and adult rankings to standards. Without this structure, the author suggests that students have no reason to bother coming to school.

My Reflection:

The writer addresses many hot topics that educators are discussing more and more. She has many great points but also limited perspective to truly making this environment work consistently in a public school setting. First, I agree with the need for students to have as much choice as possible in the work they do. While it is still guided and monitored, I feel that students will push themselves far more when they are engaged. Also, I agree that working together to solve problems and analyze new information is very important to be molded in our classrooms. That is very true to how our work world operates and is an enviornment that students need to be familiar with. This article also addresses the use of technology. Technology is not going anywhere so it is imperative that students learn how to use it to assist their learning as well as expand their current world. I would rather teach students the appropriate use of technology while under a protective umbrella of school moderation. My concerns about this article stem from the realities of having very diverse learners at many different levels, classroom size and lack of resources, as well as the importance to learn to do tasks well that you may not completely enjoy--i.e. perseverance. So, yes, I do embrace many of the practices this author states, but I feel that there are outside factors that drive your teaching as well as different groups have different developmental needs. My goal is to use collaborative teaching that allows my students to be the forces behind the work selected while also instilling foundational concepts and work habit.

Monday, March 17, 2014

So why is it that every insecurity I have as a teacher feels extremely heightened in February and March? Oh wait... I know... let the standardized testing begin. I have had many days where I have felt like I was harming students more than helping them! I know that I am, by nature, very hard on myself but I just want to see my students shine as the writers that I know they are. Therefore, when I do some practice test writing samples, and a student asks me what a paragraph is, or doesn't include a topic sentence, or is still not indenting, I feel completely discouraged. I understand that the high stakes tests are just snapshots, but I still feel a great deal of pressure for them to succeed. I will be very happy when this week is over and we can get back into our routine of Writer's Workshop. Oh wait... then we have MAPS and CMAS. I guess this is why this time of the year feels so hectic. I hope all of you are seeing great success in your classrooms and are getting through these weeks of testing. :)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

International Collaboration

I am now an international collaborator! I had the opportunity to be connected with a 4th grade class in Alberta, Canada. When we realized that Scholastic was hosting a webinar with two of our favorite authors Jeff Kinney and Dav Pilkey, we agreed that this would be the perfect opportunity to join our classrooms. It was amazing!

During the webinar both of our classrooms joined a TodayMeet room. They were able to blog back and forth with one another while watching the interview. On the webcast, the authors presented a contest. Students were challenged to write the ending to one of the stories Jeff and Dav started together. The winner will have their ending published in the book! My class and the Alberta class are going to participate in this contest. The students will share their stories with one another throughout the process. I’m excited to see how my writers change with a different audience!

Positive and Negative Things Happening in My Writers' Workshop

Making Progress: I am feeling more and more confident with trying new tools with my writing instruction. I have been very excited about doing some of my conferring and mid-week workshops through video. It has allowed me to be more effectively involved with my students throughout their writing process. I can give instant feedback or provide different lessons that directly apply to that writer. Also, I am finding that if I have my kids watch a video at home focused on the skill we will be doing the next day, I have more use of my workshop time. I don’t have to spend as much time modeling the new skill, but rather spend time helping them use the new skill. 

Hoping for Change: The area I need help with is being consistent with consequences of misused technology or independent writing time. It seems that my most reluctant writers, need the technology the most. However, they are also my students who are most likely to abuse these privileges. It is so frustrating because a natural consequence would be loss of technology, but that consequence hurts me more with managing their writing process and hurts them by creating more of block to engaging them as writers. ….gggrrrr