Saturday, September 21, 2013

What are you teaching?

I stumbled across this video on Hello Giggles and felt that it was just too cute to share.  A great pick-me up after the long week!

This video not only made me giggle, but also made me question - what am I teaching?

I aim to teach my students reading skills, writing skills, and the other educational skills they need to make it in the workplace.  However, I strive to teach my students more than that.  I desire for each of my students to walk out of my room with:

1. A respect for others

In my classroom, students must treat each other with respect.  We often talk about what respect means and we apply that to the literature we read.  I want them to respect themselves and others (especially people who are not just like them).

2.  A wider view of life/the world

Living in a smaller town where most people have similar values, many of my students have been raised with a singular view point on life.  One of my big goals in my classroom is to show them that there are other ways of thinking and that not everyone HAS to agree.  Its ok to disagree. AND it is ok to respect the other person even if you disagree.  We read literature from around the world, watch videos on feminism, talk about book burnings, think about stereotypes we assume, etc.  This is probably my favorite part of teaching - expanding thinking :)

3.  Loving learning

My students walk into my room and say "I hate English/Reading" and from the moment those words form on their lips, my goal is to make them say "I love learning."  Students think English is about reading and writing, which is true.  But I hope to show them new information, ways to do things, and new ways to think.

What are you teaching your students???? Comment Below !

Friday, September 20, 2013

High Five For Friday :)

I'm linkin up with Lauren Elizabeth for her High Five for Friday post this week!

 photo H54Fbutton-1_zpsa7aaa665.png

1. Dress Down Jeans Day TODAY!!! 

jeans + black top with beading: LOFT
watch : Liz Claborne (JCPenney clearance)
Woo!!!! I'm rockin' my new(ish) LOFT jeans.  Heck, yes.  So comfy and cute.  I am saddened though because we've had another heat spike here in the Ohio... and its going to be 81 today.  No boots for me!  Still rockin the cute sandals... I guess I should revel in it.  I love sandals.... well, maybe not today.. but usually.

2. I've found a new "system" for making dinner

Since school started, I've dreaded making food.  I come home from school and I'm exhausted.  Thus, I usually opt for the unhealthy, pre-packaged food for Wade and I for dinner.  I hate being unhealthy all the time.  And when I don't even want to do pre-packaged .. we eat out.... even more unhealthy... 
BUT, I had a revolution in my kitchen late Tuesday  evening.  I realized, that if I make our dinner... eat... and then cook the next day's meal so that all I have to do is heat it (crockpot, stove, oven, microwave) the next day-I will cook healthy things!  Its awesome!  I spend about the same amount of time cooking, but I'm not starving like I usually am when I make dinner the old-school way.  I kinda feel like what I'm doing with my kitchen could be compared to "flipping" a classroom --- it's the "flipped" kitchen :) 

3. Tomorrow.... Tomorrow... I love you... 

I'm getting a massage and my hair dyed/styled.  So excited for a mid-afternoon of relaxation!  Much needed after the chaos of life lately.  

P.S. : It seems that many of the blogs I'm reading have a general theme (as well as other teachers I talk with)... we are all tired and dealing with things in life that aren't easy.  I'm just glad to know that I have kindred souls who remind me that I'm not alone in my fried, mush brain syndrome I've been dealing with lately.  Maybe, we all need to carve out a little love time for ourselves.  
My new favorite hair spray

4. Birchbox love <3

I ordered my first Birchbox inspired purchase yesterday.  I just love this hairspray .... Meta Luxe Hair Spray by Serge Normant. It has amazing hold and kept my spiral curls in tact all day while teaching - with humidity in the air!  That never happens!  Its not the best on my flat ironed hair because it seems to sticky/stiff to run my fingers through, but its great for updos or curls!  Love!  

5.  My man :) 

My man cleaned- swept and did the dishes for me this week.  I came home from the longest day ever and he had cleaned.  That's why I love him!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Collaboration = Creative Genius (Better Together Linky)

M*Print, one of my daily blog reads (from Bloglovin), is hosting a linky, where teachers are focusing on being Better Together.  I love that Megan created a link up that is not only about teaching, but also concentrates on how teachers can become better together, rather than alone.

Megan's blog is filled with creative ways to get students engaged, and her linky stems from her own complications in the classroom.  She brings up classroom management, differentiation (high AND low), and others.  

Last year, during my first year of teaching, I taught 4 inclusion classes a day.  I struggled with making sure ALL my students were learning.  I had several students with very low reading levels and several students who seemed to already know everything I was teaching (or they learned it so fast that most remedial stuff bored them) and I also had kids who many times were lost in the shuffle because of the students who "needed" more help.  This year, I teach 4 periods of general English 9 and 2 periods of inclusion English 11.  As I struggled through this in my first year (and even this year), I shared my frustration with many other teachers (some in Language Arts and some not), and through my collaboration, I was able to learn a few things:

1. Paired Work

Students who do not want to engage in work or who "seem" to know it all both benefit from paired work.  I almost always pair my students and I do it based on personality and ability (usually diagnosed from a formative assessment or observation).  Letting students pair themselves defeats the purpose.  I love pairs and speak highly enough of paired work!  

First, the high knowledge student who knows all the content and that you can't keep engaged focuses because now they have to help someone else and often times "teach" what they know to someone else. Second, the low knowledge student who doesn't know the content learns from a peer (which often engages students ... you would think that they don't want to show that they don't know to a peer, but they are more likely to show it to a peer than they are to a whole class).  

I have had so many students that paired work benefits (it shows not only in the quality/quantity of work they turn in during paired work, but also in their individual assessments).  Paired work is also a great way to create modifications for students - i.e.  students who struggle with handwriting can be paired with someone who enjoys writing and they complete one paper.  

One student I had last year began the year as a non-responsive student.  He would almost never complete in class work, he was being suspended frequently, and he struggled to pass the class even with his accommodations/modifications.  As the year progressed, I began to do more paired work and I moved his seat near the front with a higher, highly engaged and social student next to him.  He was paired with this student and was able to show incredible growth by the end of the year.  He went from an angry kid who hated anything a teacher asked him to do - to a engaged student who even participated in class and shared learning with others!! (Note: I know this students change cannot be completely attributed to pairs or my teaching even; however, I KNOW that he benefited from the grouping procedures in the room in the process of his learning).  

2. Tiering Your Questions, Handouts, Projects, and More

Last year, I began tiering handouts and class questions for students.  The idea is that students will work through the questions they are able to do and the questions will slowly push them to think in a more critical way.  This benefited students because they were able to be pushed to higher level questions if they were able to and gave all students an opportunity to grow in their learning.  

This year, I and the lovely teacher down the hall from my - Jules, spent several days this summer creating 4 point rubrics for each standard in the common core for our students.  We pre-assess, track learning, progress check, and post assess using these rubrics for each skill that the common core requires.  (Right now, we've only made our 1st Quarter curriculum map standards..... we have to carve out a Saturday to keep truckin along on them).  

These rubrics are great because each # on the rubric (0-4) outlines specifically what a student is able to do - and students need to show their growth when they track from the pre-assessment to the post assessment. It is a Marzano style way to teach/assess and I discovered it while student teaching with my cooperating teacher. See my post Classroom Management and Zen which shows several of the handouts the students use to track their learning and the basic rubric shows the 0-4 basic idea that I've then modified to fit each Common Core standard.  

I love these rubrics and the kids are slowing getting the hang of it.  Jules and I are hoping to possibly post all the rubrics on TeachersPayTeachers when we have critiqued and perfected (and created) all of the rubrics.  I love collaborating with her :) 

3. Extension Cards

Extension cards are a discovery I made earlier this summer on TeachersPayTeachers.  

These cards are amazing!  They are from the Super Hero Teacher and she did a wonderful job making it :) They use each Reading Literature Common Core standard and give 4 different prompts for students to use.  I copied each standards cards on card stock and then laminated them.  They sit in a lovely little "extensions" box on my student resource bookshelf.  When students finish early, I send them over to the extension box and they choose any card they want.  These cards are high level thinking and are great for those students who "know all the answers."  I give students a bonus point for each one that is completely completed-- quality and quality of work.  (So far this year, I've only had 2 students who have finished things early and who have successfully completed their cards... it's not like the bonus points are raking in...)  I highly suggest using these cards in a language arts classroom.

4. Switching Students

One last collaborative decision that I just did today with one of the other grade level teachers (you guessed it, Jules...) was to switch students.  We grouped our students based on the ones who knew the plot stages and can identify/explain them and students who were still struggling with that skill.  Jules took the higher group and I took the lower.  We had students analyze narrative songs :) SOOOO FUN !!!  We used an 80s rap song "Just a Friend" by Biz Markie and "Ol' Red" by Blake Shelton.  

My group of students identified the plot stages and conflicts and the words that let us know why we were in that plot stage.  We used highlighting and color blocking to help students learn definitions, how to apply them, and finding words that support our thoughts.  (a "2" on our rubrics... the basic skill of the grade level standard)

Jules group worked to review plot stages and conflicts and to get students to analyze the suspense, mystery, or tension created by those plot stages and conflicts.  (a "3" on our rubrics... the basic and complex skill .. the student is at grade level).  Then tomorrow she is spending time helping the students compare the plot structure of the two songs (a "4" on the rubrics - above what we explicitly teach/the grade level standard).  

We are really enjoying it with our kids!  I love that students who usually are over shadowed by eager participators had a chance to show what they knew.  We were also able to focus directly on what students did not know so that eventually they will be able to apply the higher level skills.  It's also fun to work with a few different kids. I'm excited to continue working with my group tomorrow :) 

I highly suggest this to anyone who works closely with their other grade level teachers!!!!

Side Note: 

Much of what was said in this post is not directly link to the title : "Collaboration = Creative Genius."  However, the title exists because ALL of the above things are ideas that I came up with through collaboration - whether it was a conversation with my mentor, with my co-teacher, with my favorite grade level teacher or other building colleagues, "creatively borrowed" from Pintrest, blogs, or my cooperating teachers during student teaching.  

I believe with all my heart that good teachers THINK, SHARE, and CREATE with each other to help their students.  The best ideas I've ever had came from somewhere else - I just tweaked or changed them or created something new from them and made them my own.  


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sometimes the best laid plans... a positive take on the last two weeks.

After a two week hiatus from blogging, I've returned.  The last few weeks have been incredibly crazy and I've struggled to keep my head a float.

  • My classes this year are full of phenomenal kids! I love how hard they are working and the amazing things that they come up with.  However, I am struggling with keeping up with them!  Lesson plans, grading diagnostic and formative assessments, and trying to keep up with the different ability levels are all kicking my tush to the curb.  
  • Sleep has become a favorite pastime that does not seem to happen as much as I want it too OR it happens for too long and I get very few things done.  
  • Personal life has become an emotional coaster and keeping my head strong has been a lot to hold on to.  
  • Fall open house happened this week and I met some amazing parents.... during the hottest day of the summer (we broke a record - 97 degrees on Sept. 11 - and my room is upstairs!) 
  • The intense heat last week made teaching and learning difficult for my students... BUT FALL IS FINALLY HERE! 
  • I ran my first Marathon Relay --- but woke up with a cold that morning.....
  • Amid the chaos ... there has been many positive things :) ...... 

Marathon Relay

Marathon Relay (minus one)... 

Wade preparing for his 3.4 mile leg of the relay ... bright and early at 5 am

I'm ready!!! 

Our relay - Running Rams 

Fall is finally here! 

I absolutely love fall!  The chilly weather, the sweaters and jeans, my favorite scarves and boots, and most of all - pumpkin flavored things!  LOVE 

First Pumpkin Spice Latte of the year.  It's officially fall!

Fall also means ... FOOTBALL season :) My baby brother is growing up ... he is a big bad senior this year... I'm so proud of him to have done well in school and to be growing up, but it's going to be hard to realize how old this means I am....

Dad, Matthew Paul, and Mom at Senior/Parent Night

Fall also means coffee!!!!! Plus my birthday!
Wade is amazing and bought me a Keurig :) LOVE

I enjoyed the last days of summer in a convertible!  wooo!!

Wedding plans have began again.... below are the cupcakes for tasting... delicious!!! 


Throughout all of the busy, chaos of fall,  I've realized that sometimes it is ok to lay on the couch and watch a football game with the man and not work on school every waking moment.  It is ok to slow down and smell the roses and spend time with those you love.  I stumbled across this blog post from (in)courage this morning that reminded me that I'm not the only one who feels like their house exploded and makes random decisions that were not the best plan (like spilling blueberry juice on the floor or spilling coffee all over student work).  Sometimes the best laid plans.....

Coming soon... a post about some of the things I've been doing in my classroom to get my students engaged and on-task.  Plus I'll be linking up with M*Print this week with a post on working with an intervention specialist and being Better Together :)

- Best, K

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Making Inferences

As my freshman have began their first unit on plot elements, I've realized many of them struggle to make inferences, especially inferences with support from the text.  So for our Fun Friday activity, we worked with inferences :)

Pintrest encouraged me to use pictures to model inferring as well as videos.  Below is the powerpoint I used.

Inference graphic organizer and activities from kmcclai2

After we went through this powerpoint and checked out the pictures first with students and I modeling inferences with support out loud, then students making inferences with supports on their own, we watched a wordless animation and students had to make inferences from the video.
The Literacy Shed has a whole "shed" dedicated to animations.  We used the 5th video down "Girl in the War" which not only requires students to make lots of inferences and identify plot elements, but it also is a great discussion video that allows you to analyze why the composer chose to do some of the visual elements -- we kept asking why did the author chose to do that? These videos are great! Check em out!

I am also thinking about using this video with my juniors to practice inferring at the beginning of our war unit. :)

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