Sunday, November 9, 2014

Why a Teacher?

Why Do You Teach?

You would assume that if you asked a teacher why they chose this demanding profession, you would expect to hear "for my summers off." Sadly, for a few teachers that is the main reason they chose to be a teacher. For the vast majority of us, we are here for different reasons. 

The top 10 reasons to be a teacher according to
1. To Make a Difference 
2. Summers Off
3. To Ignite the Fire
4. To Find Success
5. To Be Virtuous
6. To Affect the Future
7. To Be Global
8. To Have Job Security
9. To Be a Good Citizen
10. To Stay Young

Why Do I Teach?

It doesn't take me long to come up with my top 5 reasons why I teach:
1. To make a difference in the lives of my students.
2. To share my love of learning.
3. To be a positive role model.
4. To feel successful.
5. To be a life long learner.

This school year marks #10 for me and as I think back over how different my first year was compared to the last few I wonder if I had to do it all over again if I would still choose to be a teacher. 

My reasons would still be the same but those reasons are greatly impacted by the overwhelming daily responsibilities that fall on a teacher's shoulders. On a good week I have about 4 hours of planning time built into my schedule so why do I feel like I'm drowning? I also put in about 12 more hours of my own time before, after and on weekends in any given week. One would think that with all this time spent I wouldn't be drowning. Sadly that time isn't all spent around planning. In order to live up to reasons #1, #4, and #5 a great deal of that time is spent looking at data to figure out what my students really need, to continue to grow as a professional myself to be the best I can be for my students, and to feel like I'm making a difference. Some teachers refuse to put in the extra time, but for me teaching isn't an 8:30 to 4 job like our contract states. I will continue to go the extra mile for my students even if it means I sacrifice a little on reason #10. Lord, knows I've been going in more and more for massages and to color the gray!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Class Dojo -- Love It or Leave It?

What is Class Dojo?

I'm sure you have heard of the online classroom management website called Class Dojo. If you haven't, then I truly think you are missing out on a great tool. Class Dojo makes classroom management fun and motivating to students. It allows you to encourage positive behaviors with real time feedback, share data with parents who connect to your class, and save time with only having to record the data with a click of a mouse at the moment it happens.

My Class Dojo Journey

I was introduced to Class Dojo two years ago at a behavior professional development provided by my district. 

I immediately took this tool back to my classroom and implemented it. At the time I thought it would be a good tool to use to randomly track student behavior during Reading Workshop when I couldn't be up and around the classroom tracking their behavior. The students would hear the positive reward sound but not know who was receiving the points so they would continue to stay on task. 

The following year I used Class Dojo the same way. I only used it to track their behaviors during Reading Workshop and I only used it on the days they were having trouble staying focused.  

The Way It Is Now

After a lot of research and thinking this past Summer I decided to make a few changes. I was aware of a tough group of students coming my way this year and thought about how I could use Class Dojo to help them self-regulate their behaviors. 

I set it up and explained the expectations on Day 1. The students even helped decide on a few of the behaviors they thought would help them be successful 3rd graders. It was even their idea to make a few behaviors worth more points than others. We agreed on how it would help us and started our Dojo journey.

Each day they are working to earn the most points possible. They earn positive points for behaviors that help them to be the best person they possibly can be. If they're responsible and return their Friday folder and homework each week they earn points. They earn points for being on task during whole group and individual work time. They also earn points for earning rewards from other teachers in the building. They can also lose points for being off task, forgetting their folders and homework, office referrals and leaving their reading spot during workshop time.  

I love the random option because they never know when their name will pop up for a point.  I don't project the class screen so everyone can see the points. I will show it from time to time so they can see where they are it for the day. The random option is also great for those times when a few students are following the expectations. I award those that are following expectations their point and those that aren't I let them know that they missed out on a point for making a poor choice. Their behaviors usually change after their reminder.

Parents love having instant access to how their child is doing throughout the day. The messaging portion of Class Dojo is great for instant communication. With just one click of a button I can send a message to all the parents who have an account. I can also choose to send a personal message to a parent as well.

How I Manage It All

I use this sheet to track their points at the end of each day. I had planned on having the students record their points, but in reality there just isn't enough time in the day.

They have the opportunity to earn punches on the behavior punch card based on the number of points they earn each day. 10 or more points earn 3 punches, 8-9 points earn 2 punches, and 6-7 points earn 1 punch. Each Friday this sheet goes home to their parents. If the sheet isn't returned on Monday they don't earn their points until they return their usually shows up on Tuesday so they can earn their points.

At the end of the week the student with the most points earns a monster paw on the monster for the month. This is how I'm tracking behaviors to see who will earn the silver Lynx paw at the end of the school year. They love seeing their names up on the monster paws.
Students can also earn the opportunity to change their monster on the website if they earn enough points for the entire month.

A Few Final Thoughts

Whether or not you use Class Dojo in your classroom is totally up to you. How you use it is also up to you. There will always be critics out there who say it's like tasing your students to get them to behave the way you want they to. I truly believe that without implementing Class Dojo this school year would be a lot rougher than it is going now. Class Dojo is in my classroom to stay!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Model Math -- The Way I Wish I Was Taught Math

My Model Math History

My Model Math journey started 5 years ago in the Spring of 2010 when I EXCITEDLY accepted the challenge to take on extra training and expectations for Math in my 3rd grade classroom.  That Fall, after the 1st Model Math meeting, I was asking myself, "what did I get myself in to?" I walked out of that meeting with about 50 pages of reading to get done while trying to set up my classroom and prepare for a new group of students as well as implement the new Council Bluffs Literacy Model. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed. I even shed a few tears that year.

Since that 1st year I have worked along side some of the best teachers unpacking the Common Core Standards and writing curriculum for the district. We have lead staff development at our building and the district level. My understanding of Math has taken on an entirely new level.

Why I Wouldn't Change a Thing

The first year of anything is always the hardest and I'm proud to say that I stuck with it and it has greatly impacted the way I teach Math. I have seen my students make huge jumps in their thinking and understanding about how numbers work, and in their confidence in themselves as Mathematicians. I no longer teach my students how to do Math. I let them discover how Math works and let them teach me and their peers what they've discovered during Math each day.

Here my students are analyzing their own errors in word problems.
Analyzing Student Errors

The Then and Now of Math

Who doesn't remember the days of sitting in Math class and feeling totally lost and confused only to have the teacher continue to stand at the front of the class "teaching" you "how" to do Math rather than "why"?

If only that teacher would've known there was a better way to teach Math so more students could be successful, imagine the impact they could have made on so many lives. Fewer adults would be able to say "I'm just not good at Math." Everyone can do Math when they understand the why.

Math Can Be Fun

Today, teachers in Council Bluffs are asked to make the Math they are asking their students to do connected to their student's real life. If my teachers would have done this I can guarantee I would have paid better attention trying to understand math...what if my future job required me to create new package sizes for Starbursts? Having done a task like this in class would have prepared me to problem solve my way through the task. Instead I was given a worksheet with pictures of equal groups and I had to count how many were there. I honestly don't think I really knew what an array was until I started teaching 3rd grade!

Why So Many Strategies?

A huge gripe floating around the Web about The Common Core is "Why does my child have to know so many different strategies to do math? Why can't they just teach them like I was taught?"

Growing up I was taught the traditional algorithm and I grew up not knowing my basic facts without having to stop and really think about a few of them. I grew up hating subtraction problems that required me to regroup. To say the least, I hated Math growing up and I hated teaching it the first few years of my teaching career. I felt their pain as they had to sit and count on from nine, eight times because no one taught they to use their doubles and near doubles to be efficient.

Math completely turned around for me and my students once I discovered the different strategies I could use to solve problems mentally. Who knew I could use negative numbers instead of dealing with all those steps to regroup? Why didn't someone tell me I could add up to figure out the difference in a subtraction problem? Why didn't my teacher let me discover the patterns in multiplication so I didn't have to memorize all those facts that I never knew 100% until I was 28! Why do parents want teachers to only teach their child the way they were taught when there are so many more accurate and efficient strategies their child could be using?

I'm glad this student understands the Commutative Property so he doesn't have to learn multiple multiplication facts.

I Think I've Said Enough

I could go on and on about this topic, but I think I will wrap it up. Having been given the opportunity to grow my understanding of how students should be taught Math has opened my eyes as an educator. I just wish it was possible to reach out and open everyone else's eyes too. Teachers who don't want to take the time or effort to teach Math this way are only hurting their students. Parents who aren't willing to listen to research and only see it as another thing to blame President Obama on are only hurting their children. Why either would want to do that is beyond me!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The first 13 Days of 3rd Grade

13 days later and it seems we are off on the right foot for learning. Don't get me wrong, we still have to practice some routines from time to time, but overall they are starting to mold into responsible 3rd graders!

A lot has happened in 13 days! We have learned what Reading, Writing and Math Workshops should look and sound like. What it means to be an active listener and how to ask a friend to repeat if we need them to do so. This skill helps Number Talks to go so much smoother!

We started the year by talking about these 4 quotes that we find on our behavior punch cards. These quotes inspire us to be our best each day. By following the 4 Bloomer Expectations we can be our best!

In Language we have been studying the work of Eve Bunting. We investigated her books to find strong verbs that we could use to make our own writing better. Here is a list of verbs we found.

In Math we have been working on the 100s Chart to help us to add and subtract numbers.
We have also been learning and using efficient strategies for addition during Number Talks. Here is our current anchor chart.
 The part-part whole box is so important when it comes to solving word problems. Here are 4 different examples of what the box could look like based on the situation in the story problem.
This week we have started exploring the concept of MULTIPLICATION. We have investigated the relationships between 5 and 10 as well as 2, 4, and 8. Check out this anchor chart that shows the great thinking we had during Math Workshop.
As we have solved multiplication story problems this week we have discovered 3 strategies. So far everyone is working to understand multiplication as equal groups that can be tracked by using Skip Counting and Repeated Addition. There are a few of us that are starting to see the relationship between doubling and halving.
In Science we have been learning about the 4 things animals need to live and how they are grouped. One way that scientists group animals is by their skeletal structure. Animals with a backbone are called vertebrates and animals without a backbone are called invertebrates. Here is our anchor chart that tracks this learning.
We have also been using our Chromebooks A LOT!!!  We love to use them during Spelling and to practice typing with the home row keys so we can type as fast as Ms. Graham. But our favorite time to use our Chromebooks is Writing Workshop....notebooks...what are those??? Here is a picture of Aaron writing about his dog on his Chromebook. Check back later for our first published pieces of writing!
Before we could write on our Chromebooks we learned that authors gather ideas. We used Play Dough one day to help us gather ideas. Here are some of our creations that we used to turn into a piece of writing.
Vincent wrote about his family trip to Arizona.
Here Bella wrote about a family trip to Colorado.

Be sure to check the student work page for more Play Dough writing pieces.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Adventures

I can't believe that summer is over and it's soon time to head back to the day to day life of school. I do have to say it has been an AMAZING summer!! 

Kirby and I spent a lot of time out front reading many great books! Here is Kirby relaxing while I was enjoying one of the books.

I spent a great deal of time at the zoo with my nieces and nephew.  The zoo is a great place to learn new things and get some exercise too!!
I absolutely love this picture of my nieces in the rain forest!
Here is Olivia checking out one of her favorite zoo animals...the cooooocodile as she calls it!!  She loved being able to be nose to nose with it!
Her other favorite zoo animal are the gorillas. Here she is giving the statue a kiss since she can't give the real ones kisses.

5 hours at the zoo in one afternoon proved to be too much for this little monkey. She crashed before we were even on the interstate heading back to Council Bluffs!

Olivia and I also had a sleepover this summer.  We enjoyed popcorn while watching Alvin and The Chipmunks. The next morning we ate breakfast and colored on the porch while waiting for her mom to come.

Spending time at the Public Library, playing with her cousin Cameron at the park and stealing Grandpa Gary's chapstick were just a few of the other adventures we went on this summer.

I also spent some time this summer working on projects around my house. I got crafty and made a stepping stone of Kirby's pawprint to put in my flower garden.

Kooper and I tried to make our own bouncy balls but we were unsuccessful! =(

Everything looked good but they just wouldn't bounce!

The summer started with tearing out the old clumps of grass out front and planting pretty flowering shrubs.

Another project was to clean up my back patio so Kirby and I could sit outside on nice nights after a long day at school.  
Here is the before picture with just the new bricks and rocks to hold back runaway dirt.
Here is the after picture. I would have to say it looks much better.
Here is Kirby trying to find the squirrel that woke her up from a nap on the patio.

I also repainted my bathroom and bought new shower curtains.

Kirby and I spent a couple days at my parent's house after I had a mole removed from my back. The results came back clear and as of now I am no longer at risk for melanoma. That scare was enough to get me to wear sun screen more often now!
Here is my incision with 6 staples right in the middle of my back!
Here is Kirby watching the cars go by on the front porch.
Kirby entertained herself harassing the ground squirrels.

Kirby and I also spent time this summer doing some volunteer work with Domesti-Pups. Here are Kirby and Ivy relaxing at Primrose Retirement Home.

Kirby also enjoys getting lots of love while at her therapy visits. 

Our last adventure was to go camping at Mahoney with family.  Kirby was so exhausted!!
But she was awake bright and early the next morning waiting patiently for someone else to get up.

Kirby ended her summer adventures by enjoying an ice cream cone at Cristy Creme.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Our Math Workshop Anchor Charts

Here are pictures of anchor charts created this year. 

These are computation strategies charts.
These charts were developed during our study of multiplication and division.
These were developed during our study of fractions

These were developed during our study of measurement.

These were developed during our study of geometric shapes.