Saturday, March 22, 2014

Weekly Student Reflection

A major focus of mine this year is trying to give my kids multiple opportunities throughout the day, week, month to reflect on their learning in many different ways. One way that I have been having students reflect, for the past couple of years, on a weekly basis is by having them fill in their STAR reflection sheet (a fabulous creation made by my all-talented-and-wise mentor teacher!). On this sheet they are to fill in something (usually our learning goal) that they learned that week for each subject. This is my "weekend homework" along with reading and must be signed by a parent. I have found that parents really seem to appreciate this small, but consistent, glimpse into what their child is learning on a weekly basis. Many of them respond that their child explained their learning in depth to them with it as well or will write their child something they learned from them or want to share that connects with our learning in the classroom! Parents often leave notes to their kids, which I find neat too since it allows them to reaffirm their child's learning and show them they are proud of their accomplishments.
I put this out for morning work on Friday mornings. I encourage them to use what they remember, the learning goals written in their thoughtful log notebook, friends knowledge, and the anchor charts around the room to help them reflect on their learning from the week.
Something new that I added to it this year was having them really internalize the actual SKILL that was learned and focus less on the activity that got them there. 
For example, A student may put "We practiced division" under the math heading. This is an action that they did this week, however, I'm now asking students to add to this and break it down to show the Skill/Focused Objective that goes with that. "We practiced dividing 2 digit numbers by 4 digit numbers, I learned that you want to use an educated guess when deciding how many times the divisor can go into the divined."  
                                          Non- Example                                         
"We learned about the Explorers"
 "We learned the five reasons why the early explorers came to the New World, they included gold, a water route to Asia, spreading of Christianity, new lands/products, and adventure."
What do you do to help your kids reflect on the learning that happened through the week, month, day? 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Determining Importance through Music

One way to help determine the main idea is to look at the evidence that the author is giving us. We have been working a lot on how readers need to justify their responses and the details they deem as important. Today, I shared that it isn't some sort of guessing game between the author and reader. It is more of a treasure hunt to pick up the clues/support that the author "drops" for us as to what the Main Idea is.
We recognized that the most important details always support the main idea and that when these match we are able to clearly understand the text.

Once again, Tanny brings this concept to life in an out-of-the-box way through listening to music. I shared with the kids Dolly Parton's beautiful biosong "Coat of Many Colors". I shared with the kids that we can often find out the topic/main idea from the Title. We inferred that the topic was probably going to be A Coat. We also inferred that the Main Idea would have something to do with a coat, but would go much deeper.
Then, I gave them the mission of hunting for the evidence that our author, Dolly, left for us throughout the song that helps us find the Main Idea.
I had the kids listen to the song through once just reading the lyrics so they were familiar with the song. The second time, I challenged them to underline/circle the lines, stanzas, or phrases that they felt were IMPORTANT (noodles) to understanding the Main Idea.

They did SUCH an amazing job of being able to pick out what the main idea was based off of their text evidence. We agreed that, while to topic was A coat that her mother made her, the main idea was that Money does not buy happiness and that you don't have to have money to rich in life (especially those things that money just can't buy - love, family, comfort, security, etc.)
I also shared different evidence sentence stems to help guide them in their response to the text.

We talked about how it is very difficult to express your opinion and point of view about ANYTHING really without providing valid evidence to back it up. I think it is important to always remind students of those things that apply to things outside of the subject (this applies to math, science, social studies, etc) AND out side of the classroom (including conversations with others, proving a point, standing up for yourself or someone else, sharing an opinion, offering a suggestion, etc.)

Determining Importance Some More!

Last year, I posted a quick over view of some activities that I do to help my kiddos determine what is important, specifically in non-fiction text. However,  I just HAVE to share the learning that was happening in the classroom today while we were straining NOODLES from WATER.
If you are unfamiliar with Tanny McGregor's visual metaphor for this comprehension strategy, please check out my Determining Importance Post for more detail.
 After teaching the lesson and completing our notebook insert, I had the kids choose to read one of two non-fiction books on either Turtles or Ants. While they were reading, they looked for "noodles" (important facts and details) and "water" (interesting, but not important to the main idea) details. They text coded their "noodles" onto sticky notes. This was their MUST DO assignment during independent reading time.

After reading time, I had them meet in groups of 4, with similar books, to share their thinking/reading through Purposeful Talk. They shared their "noodles" with each other and discussed whether some of them were more "watery" then others. 
As I walk around monitoring and facilitating learning, I like to take notes of neat things I see groups do and say to each other, that way, at the end I can recognize these kids as well as reestablish what purposeful talk looks and sounds like. Please ignore my messy jotting! 

 Then, the groups worked together to create charts based off what they had agreed upon as "noodles" and "water" details.
Most of them did a great job at this and it really helped me see where some of their misconceptions from the lesson still were. For example, the group below did a good job of separating factual details from broader/big picture details, however, they have them placed under the opposite headings. Broader facts are generally the more important details that we want our brains to hang onto, while the statistical facts are great, and usually very interesting, they are not usually the focus of the main idea.
Stay tuned for more updates on how we are determining importance while reading! 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Take Home Supply Baggies

Recently, I have been running into an issue with homework/unfinished classwork. There are many things that we do in the day that revolve around "crafty stuff," be it markers, colored pencils, scissors, glue sticks - and all that jazz! That being said, when a student doesn't get it finished, and it becomes homework, they are unable to complete it because those supplies are not available at home (I grew up in a teacher house so this is unfathomable to me but it happens). I have always given the kids the opportunity to borrow any supply they need from the classroom and usually write their name on the board with the item for accountability reasons (and for my own insanely forgetful mind!). However, this system was always tedious for me, items were lost, not brought back, brought back but not recorded ... etc. etc. etc.

ENTER: 25 cent pencil baggies from WalMart! I bought a few of these years ago during a school supply sale but never really found a niche for them. I decided to fill them with the "essential" supplies so that kids could borrow them when there was an assignment that needed completed at home.
I filled them with markers, crayons, a glue stick, pair of small scissors, and a pencil. I labeled and numbered them so we could keep track of them.
I laminated a chart with the baggie numbers and a place for students to put their name, with a vis-a-vis maker, when they "rent"  it out. Notice, I also have empty baggies for rent (with a space for the item) so that students can take home a specific thing instead of an entire bag.
The kids were really geeked about these and I already had two taken home tonight to finish Continent and Oceans maps! Not life-changingly creative, but definitely a better way to organize our classroom stuff for us!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pinterest Addiction Linky

As I sit here, grading a mountain of narrative stories for report cards this week, I decided to take a quick break and join in with Kelly's Korner's Pinterest Addiction Linky.
Pinterest truly is an addiction, but luckily, one that is generally improving many different aspects of life. Recently, I have began trying a lot of my new found recipes (much to the delight of my husband) and it has been making me want to cook more ... not one of my most favorite hobbies.
Two new recipes I want to try:
Amazing looking veggie crepes! 
Zucchini Patties! YUM! 
I cannot even imagine teaching without pinterest now! Seriously, if I draw a blank on how to make a skills anchor chart - pinterest. Want to figure out a new way of managing an area of my classroom - pinterest. Need a fresh approach to an activity - pinterest. It has improve my teaching immensely!
A few new things I want to try in my classroom this week:
Great idea with the prongs and background for displaying student work
{FAB}ULOUS lesson I found on pinterest actually as a video - please go and check this out! It is called Keep it or Junk it on the Teaching Channel. Definitely doing this lesson within the next week!
This one is for next year since we are no long in Native Americans. I already sort of do this with boxes that contain artifacts for the different Native American Regions that kids get to experience, however, I really liked the way these were displayed and labeled...
I get bored of my clothes pretty quickly, however, I don't have the money, nor is it the most effective use of stewardship to go out and constantly buy new items for my wardrobe. Enter pinterest!  I love to change up my outfits and put them together in different ways according to fashions I see on pinterest. It is also a great place to find fun hairstyles to try as well as neat clothes and color combinations!
Two new styles I want to try:
Messy French Braid Bun 
Excited because I own everything in this picture! This is the perfect outfit for me - totally relaxed and casual, yet still dressy enough to go shopping 
Living in an apartment right now makes decorating difficult. I feel that I have done a good job of making our little place an expression of Mr. B and I's style, however, IT. IS. FULL. We have been looking into the potential of buying a house, which is exciting. There are lots of things in our life that are "up in the air" however, a girl can still dream, and pinterest is a GREAT place to organize and plan our your dreams ...
Current apartment style - exposed brick, eclectic, urban style
My home dreams:
I would LOVE to someday remodel an old barn! 
I really like soft, earthy colors mixed with a bright eclectic style
Lastly, II honestly spent a whole evening (while the husband was watching Sports Center) laughing my head off at Pinterest Memes. I love them.
I see this face ALL. THE. TIME! bahaha! 
HAHA! This is TOTALLY me! 
This just made me smile - I LOVE the peanuts! 
 P.S. It was REALLY difficult to choose just a couple items from each of these areas .. I have so many favorites! If you are interested in following me on Pinterest - check me out at

My Life: teacher STYLE

Teacher fashion.
Throughout the years, the idea of "fashion" in the world of teachers has often been limited to styles of which we are all very familiar with .... .. ..
Dark colors, tight buns, high collars (early 1900's)
Polyester dress suits (mid 1900's)
"Teacher sweaters" - how I loath remember these. (Late 1900's) 
and the more current "comfortable" direction of Khakis, polos, and solid button up sweaters. 
These days, there are so many fabulous teachers completely breaking the rules on what is considered "teacher wear" and I think it is great! Wearing something fashionable, fun, or a little bit kooky not only shows your kids great personality, it also keeps you going and doesn't allow you to get "stuck" in wearing the same old thing everyday - unless you have a uniform, then I suppose this post does not apply to you! {sad face} 

Meghan over at A Teachanista's 365 Wardrobe inspired me to share a little bit of my own teacher fashion from this past school year. 
I believe four things make for a good teacher wardrobe. Professionalism. Style. Staples {no, not for the stapler ....}. and Spunk. 
Professionalism is important especially in upper elementary and above. These kids are LOOKING to teachers as role models for how to dress. This will impact the way they see you, respect you, and possibly how they will dress in the future for their own professions. If you don't think it makes a difference, change your wardrobe for a week, wear dress pants, a skirt, a nice blouse and set the blue jeans aside - they will notice. Also, keeping the cleavage, tight clothing, and general inappropriateness away keeps you safe both with staff and kids. Kids are strong critics: Students were asked in our district a few years ago to rate student teachers by their appearance for a collage research paper. Here are the things the KIDS picked out as "not professional": Blue jeans, a nose ring, tattoos, t-shirts. I am not saying that if you wear these things you shouldn't or that it makes you "unprofessional, I just want to be clear that kids DO NOTICE and have their own beliefs on what is professional for an adult and what is not. 
Style is personal. I am not one to dress too casual for work. I tend to be more along the lines of  dressy casual .. . once in a while veering more toward one side or the other. But for my own sanity, I try and change things up a bit not only in casual/dressy but also by changing between dresses, skirts, pants, leggings, etc. 

Staples: No matter what style you have, there are always fashion MUST HAVES that go with so many different outfits for work. These are those plain things that create a base for wardrobe creativity! 
 My teacher MUST HAVE's include: 
         black skinny dress pants {preferably more than one pair!} 
         good black dress flats {these get utterly destroyed by the end of the year!} 
         white skinny pants 
         black leggings
         no-show socks
         Jean Jacket 
         Plain colored camis and sweaters
         brown dress boots {no heel - otherwise you are killing your feet!}
 SPUNK! Have something that identifies you. Something that is fun and yours. It doesn't have to be one thing, but make it a fun accessory or style that the kids identify to you. Our school has a dress up day where the teachers are supposed to dress like the kids and the kids like the teachers - it was awesome seeing what they identified us with. My girls all had big flowers in their hair and leggings, my partner teacher's kids wore long maxi type skirts and BIG earrings!
Teacher switch day - my signature items: dresses with leggings, side buns, boots and flats, scarves, and big flowers in my hair.
and YES, that is a boy dressed as me = AWESOME!
 NOTE:  I was  dressed as a mixture of all my kiddos styles both boys and girls. My GIRLS wear those tutu skirts ALL the time, also chunky necklaces. My BOYS wear a lot of jersey's, tall socks/tennis shoes, and those titanium necklaces. 
Spunky ideas: 
     Fun, retro head scarves 
     Head bands
     Great leggings
     Statement jewelry pieces 
     Repeated items 
     Exciting tights or leggings
     Cool shoes! 
     Fun socks {I still remember the fun socks my high school math teacher used to wear!}
     Hair accessories - I am a huge fan of big flowers! 
Lastly, be willing to DRESS UP! If dressing up for lessons is not your thing, than at least put a little effort into holidays and school spirit weeks! Nothing kills a kids ability to dress up more than a teacher not being willing to put aside their insecurities and make dress up days something COOL to do! (Particularly in upper elementary! It takes a whole lot of encouragement!)  

I would love to hear your teacher wardrobe MUST HAVES and unique SPUNKINESS you bring your teacher style! 
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