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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Renewing Myself - Meditation Time

I pick up my students outside under the covered walkway at 8:25am. The principal makes announcements,  I take attendance and bring them to my classroom at 8:30am. Now the day officially starts.

Every day, though, at 8:20, my alarm rings. I have a nice soothing song for this ring! Because . . . it is meditation time!

I sit down for 2-3 minutes and remember about what this day is about. It is about connecting. Being calm. Being a loving presence in the life of all of my students. At the end of the day, ALL of my students may or may not remember about how to add fractions, to use a Venn diagram or correctly use a thesaurus.

I do hope, though, that ALL of my students know that I cared for them. As a person. 

So I take some time to pause, breath and remember my job. My real job is planting seeds. The seeds of understanding - both academic and emotional!

These three minutes help me stay focused through the day. They are renewing for me.

How do you renew yourself daily? Is it a walk you take during lunch? Is it reading a book? What do you do to take care of yourself and remember the bigger picture?


Friday, November 1, 2013

What is rigor?


Rigor isn’t throwing students in the deep end of the pool and hoping they don’t drown. Rigor is leading the development of each student so that they become incrementally stronger and stronger.  - Reading Without Limits by Maddie Witter

I freely admit that my ability to teach reading is an area where I have a lot of potential to grow! For the past 9 years I have worked with students who had yet to learn to decode. So, I am very good at teaching decoding. Give me a 12 year old child who can barely read CVC words, and I can teach that child to decode.

This is my first year working at a school where the majority of my students can actually decode and comprehend prior to entering my classroom! What a gift and a challenge.

My test scores show that my students do consistently make over a years worth of gains. So, while they are not bad, I still do not feel they are good enough. I would like to consistently see ALL my students make 1.5 years gain in reading class.

My lowest students do make these gains. But not my average and high performing students. They tend to make 1.0 gains. I have identified that my weakness is in the area of higher level comprehension skills. I need to add more rigor to my instruction in this area.

So, it an effort to become a better reading teacher myself, I am reading a phenomenal book called Reading Without Limits. This quote above really spoke to me. Both for my growth as a teacher and for my expectations for my students.

If I am to move from being an excellent decoding teacher and teacher of basic vocabulary and comprehension strategies to a full-rounded teacher who is also comfortable with a variety of comprehension strategies, I am going to need support. I am going to need to incrementally learn new techniques.

How do you learn new reading comprehension strategies? What do you find works well with your high level readers? Do you have any suggestions for me?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sentence Frames for Partner Reading

I love partner reading! It can be challenging to keep both students engaged at the same time. Too often one child is reading and the other child is tuning out.

Then I had an Ahh! moment. Why not make the child who is listening point to the words and the child who is reading NOT point to the words. Suddenly, I can see across the room who is engaged and who needs a quick check in with me!

Now, partner reading is one of my favorite activities. Here are the sentence frames I have my students use. They use them when filling out a bibliography page and taking notes during partner reading. It also includes the sentence frames and instructions for partner reading time.

Feel free to make copies. I have a file with 30 - 40 copies of this in my room. The students know how to find the file, take out the sheet they need, and return it to the correct place. Not only are they engaged during partner reading, they are learning to be organized. This is a skill that they will use their entire life!

If you do use this in your classroom, please share this site with some other teacher's as a thank you to me. Feel free to copy, change and make these sentence frames work for you!

Thanks!
Sacha

Sentence Frames For Partner Reading

Online classes I offer for teachers through HOL.edu:


RENEWING OURSELVES & OUR TEACHING
FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life   

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Thoughts Vs. Comments: Classroom Management

 I have, over the years, done a lot of talking with my students about thoughts versus words. Students are going to have thoughts that are not appropriate to say out loud in the classroom. I let them know, it is ok to have just about any thought in your head. It is not ok to say whatever is on your mind at any time.

  • Is it ok to think that you don't like the assignment? Yes! I don't like everything I have to do either.
  • Is it ok to shout out in class that you don't like the assignment? No. But, if this is an ongoing problem you can talk privately with me.

I teach my students to say, "May I talk with you please?" in private if they have a concern they want to share. This phrasing lets me know that I really need to listen, and that the student is going to disagree with me. We roll play how to do this in a respectful manner.

This proactive approach to negative comments prevents a lot of classroom management problems. By explicitly teaching what is ok and is not ok in the classroom, students are set up to be successful!

Online classes I offer for teachers through HOL.edu:


RENEWING OURSELVES & OUR TEACHING 
FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT 
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life   
EDITING MADE EASY: Strategies For All Writers 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

First Days of School: The Three C's of Class - Yes

It is that time to be getting ready for the school year! How are you going to get everyone's attention in school? Does your grade level or school have an expected routine?

No matter what the routine, you can still use the Three C's of Class.

The first C - Get the attention of your CLASS.

  • Class - Yes (check www.wholebrainteaching.com for more information)
  • May I have your attention please?
  • Hold up the peace sign
  • Count back from 5
  • Turn off the lights
  • Ring a bell 
  • A special hand clap
While I prefer the class - yes version (it is very fast and has tons of variations) any method that you are consistent with will work.

The second C - COMPLIMENT
  • Thank you ____ for looking at me.
  • I see _____ has their hands free.
  • Thank you table group ____ for having your hands free and eyes on me.
  • ___ is quietly waiting for instructions.
You only need to give one or two compliments. Try to vary who gets the compliment each time. 

The third C - CORRECT
  • If you need to, offer a quick, one sentence correction.
  • Table group ___, I need everyone's eyes on me.
  • ______, you need to have your hands free.
You may or may not need to correct. Obviously, don't correct the same child or group of children every time. 

Bonus C - Be CONSCIOUS of your patterns. 
  • Are you more likely to correct girls or boys who slide on the instructions? 
  • Are you more likely to correct white students or students of color? 
  • Try to be as equitable with your corrections as with your compliments.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Sentence Frames for Math Games

Have you ever listened to students talk during math games? This is what it often sounds like.

Student 1: Grunts
Student 2: Oh Yah. 1, 2, 3 (moving ahead 3 spaces)
Student 1: Sweet. (Moves ahead 2 spaces)
Student 2: Grunts

Not too much academic discourse is occurring! The game comes out.  Students go into "Game Mode."

I've started using sentence frames to combat this tendency. I use a lot of games from Drops in the Bucket. (I love their products, but really any game would work in your math curriculum etc.) You might need to modify the sentence frames to match your games. Feel free to change them around and make them work for you!

Enjoy!

Sacha

PS: If you choose to use these frames, please share my website with some other teachers as a thank you to me.

Game Time Sentence Frames


Online classes I offer for teachers through HOL.edu:


RENEWING OURSELVES & OUR TEACHING
FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life   


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Teaching Hot Tempered Children

You will find here links to the assignments you will need for this class.

For the Ebook called The Agreement Bridge, here is how to find it:
  1. Open www.wholebrainteaching.com 
  2. Sign up for a free membership
  3. Click on "Free Ebooks" and under that menu, choose "General"
  4. You will find the books organized by date, click on Name to sort the books alphabetically
  5. The Agreement Bridge will be on the first page 
  6. Download the Ebook The Agreement Bridge following the instructions
If you have any problems downloading the Ebook, please email and use the subject "HOL class help"


Here are some links to some articles on Anger Management and social emotional skills:


Sentence frames for tutoring time

Why have one teacher in the classroom, when I can have 4 or 5? I use students for tutoring all of the time! Students make great tutors, especially the students who are just at benchmark. They know what it is like to work hard to learn something, and benefit from teaching it to a peer.

Why don't I use my highest students as tutors? Too often, they can not break down what they have learned into steps. They don't gain as much from tutoring. They are less tolerant of the time it takes my strategic learners to learn and retain something new. I sometimes use my highest fliers, but not very often!

Now, too often students tell the other child what to do, but don't explain why or verify for understanding. So, now I am using sentence frames with tutoring. Feel free to use this format, or take the idea and make it your own!

If you use the sentence frames, as a thank you to me, please share this site with some teachers who might enjoy it!

Thank!
Sacha

Sentence Frames For Tutoring Time

Online classes I offer for teachers through HOL.edu:


RENEWING OURSELVES & OUR TEACHING
FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life   

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Managing Pencils

I am sure that if you know about pencils. Somehow, it seems like they dissapear faster than ice cream on a hot day! I don't know how, but it just happens that way!

How do you solve the amazing disappearing pencil challenge?

I just read a great post from The Ladybug's Teacher Files on her Great Pencil Challenge! She  created a game where she numbers the pencils  with a permanent marker and challenges her students to keep the pencil for as long as possible. Can they make a week? She has pictures and more about the challenge at her blog. Sounds like fun!

I have also tried having students use pens. With older children, this works really well. I put a piece of masking tape on each pen (actually I had a student do that) and then wrote their number on the pen. This way it was clear which pen belonged to who. The students did really well with not loosing their pens. If they did loose a pen, they had to "buy" one with classroom points.

This year, I just have a bucket of non-sharpened and sharpened pencils. There are 5 or 6 hand pencil sharpeners I got from dollar tree. When a pencil is broke, they put it in the non-sharp bucket. When they need a new pencil, they grab from the sharpened basket. A few kids are always happy to keep the pencils sharp during recess or snack time.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Common Core Math Standards for ALL my students

This year I have started implementing the Common Core math standards for all of my students. It has been quite the challenge! I have some special education students in my 3rd grade group who had yet to master all of the kindergarten standards. I only teach my 2nd graders math one day a week. (ther days they walk to math.)

For the first 6 months, I just taught the lessons as I was guided to teach them. I then used a free trial of MobyMath.com to assess my students. (I am in no way related to the company, but do like their product). What I found is that my students were way behind. Actually, even my top TAG students were not meeting the common core.

My average student of color was over a full 1.5 years behind. Clearly, I was failing.

I now have much more targeted instruction. I have gone back to reteach the kindergarten math standards that close to half of my class had yet to master. One of my SPED students has made a full two years worth of gains, but is still very far behind.

I am clear with my students on exactly where they are and which math standards they have yet to meet. Time management, technology and the support of my building administrators have been key.

During silent reading time, I now teach a double dose math group to all 3rd graders that are behind in math, no matter what class they are normally in. I carefully plan out all of my prep times so I am prepared to teach such a wide range of students. I use technology to differentiate my teaching and reduce my grading load.

Of course, I still have a long way to go! My goal this year is that all of my 3rd grade students reach 100% mastery of 3rd grade common core and 20% mastery of 4th grade common core. My second grade students have a similar goal for their grade level. (I teach a blended classroom.) My only exception is that students who are more than 2 years behind have a different goal. Their goal is to increase their proficiency by 2 years during this school year.

Eight out of ten 3rd graders have met their goals.
Nine out of fourteen 2nd graders have met their goals.


Online classes I offer for teachers through HOL.edu:


RENEWING OURSELVES & OUR TEACHING 
FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT 
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life   
EDITING MADE EASY: Strategies For All Writers 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Best Practices Weekly: Using American Idol to boost reading fluency

I wanted to share an ingenious idea from Best Practices Weekly. If you don't know about this site, it is a wonderful free site. Every week or so, the author takes some research and presents it in ways that you can immediately use in the classroom.

One of my favorite gems is how to use American Idols to boost fluency rates. The gist of it is that each week you choose a poem. The students practice the poem over the course of the week (choral reading, partner reading, echo reading etc.) On Friday three students are chosen to "perform" with a pretend microphone and use a secret ballot to mark choose the most fluent performer. Everyone gets a certificate of performance!

Check out the great video and resources!

Sacha

http://bestpracticesweekly.com/?page_id=1113



Online classes I offer for teachers through HOL.edu:


RENEWING OURSELVES & OUR TEACHING 
FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT 
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life   
EDITING MADE EASY: Strategies For All Writers 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Whole Brain Teaching - Stop Back Talk!

I wanted to share an inspirational post on how to stop backtalk. This is a recommendation from Whole Brain Teaching. If you don't know about this website, it is free and has really changed my teaching! I now spend more of my day teaching and having fun and less time disciplining.

Every week, one of my students signs up to be the student who is in charge of rules. This student rehearses the rules with students in the morning. It is quite the honor to have the rules job! Then, I follow these procedures.

Later I'll talk about how students earn their jobs. That is tied in with the universal homework program in my classroom!

"HOW TO STOP BACKTALK. Please forward this note to your of colleagues, post it on your Facebook page ... let's make America a BackTalk Free Zone.

Coach B says, "To stop student backtalk, teach your kids WBT's five classroom rules. (See WholeBrainTeaching.com, webcast 515 for details.) Rehearse the rules five times a day for two weeks until whenever you say a rule number, the kids instantly respond with the rule and the gesture.

Then, begin the rule cues. If a student speaks without raising her hand, you say "Two!" and the class responds VERY QUICKY "Raise your hand for permission to speak!" If they are very fast, give them a Smiley on the Scoreboard ... if they aren't quick enough, practice a bit until the speed of their response is like lightening.

After a week or so of that, introduce the Rule 5 cue. Explain the most common examples of backtalk you've heard in class. At the first opportunity of genuine backtalk say "Five!" ... the class immediately responds, "Keep your dear teacher happy!" Thus, instead of disrupting your class with backtalk, your student has created an opportunity to unite them behind your leadership!" Who will help teachers everywhere by posting this note on their Facebook page and emailing it to colleagues?"




Online classes I offer for teachers through HOL.edu:


RENEWING OURSELVES & OUR TEACHING 
FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT 
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life   
EDITING MADE EASY: Strategies For All Writers 



Sunday, March 3, 2013

Planning your prep time

Of course you plan your lessons! I normally have mine planned out a week in advanced. But, do you plan your prep times?

I never used to plan out my prep time. So often, the 20 minutes would go by, and I would have very little accomplished. I now have a weekly template for my prep time.

Here is an example:

On Fridays, school starts at 8:30. My PE time also starts at 8:30! I meet everyone outside (we do the Pledge of Allegiance outside as a school on Fridays), and am ready with my clip board. I walk the students to PE after morning announcements and take attendance as they enter. By the time we have had morning announcements from the principal and I've taken attendance, it is really 8:35 or 8:40.

Now I have from 8:35 (on a good day) till 8:55 to pick up my students! Here is my plan for those twenty minutes:

  1. Enter attendance online
  2. Use a template (from last week's letter) and write a parent letter
  3. Email the parent letter to all families
  4. One or two individual emails to families (I don't have enough time in 20 minutes to make any phone calls!)
  5. Pick up my students 20 minutes later!

Do I always get all of that done in 20 minutes? Of  course not! I am human. On the other hand, I know that I shouldn't spend 30 minutes deliberating over what I am going to write to my parents, because I just don't have the time. Also, during the course of the week, I try to jot down in one place any ideas I have for the parent letter.

Try planning just one of your prep times! How does it work for you?


Online classes I offer for teachers through HOL.edu:


RENEWING OURSELVES & OUR TEACHING 
FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL: From Stress to Success
ORGANIZING FROM THE INSIDE OUT 
SAVE TIME: Time Management for Your Teaching & Your Life   
EDITING MADE EASY: Strategies For All Writers