Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November already??!!!???

Wow!!  Time has surely flown by.  We are practically half-way through the 2nd quarter & it seems like we only yesterday I was on Fall Break.

Well a new event that has come around...I am now coaching the Girls Basketball team.  After a week of tryouts I have selected my 15 girls who will represent our school on the court.  Recalling what I witnessed from the team last year, I believe we are already surpassing ability and skills since practicing this past week.  Our first game is on November 18th, I have quite a bit of work to make sure my girls are ready and able to prove their ability on the court.  I cannot wait to see the results of our daily hard work.

The end of October brought our school's first evening dance.  Being the Student Council advisor & remembering what it was like to be in Junior High I thought it was my duty to change the dance times from 3:30 - 4:30 (right after school) to the evenings.  This also allowed the students to go home and change clothes & look cute rather than trying to have fun staying in their uniforms.  Due to the great success of that dance, we are planning a Winter Formal.  The dress code will be Sunday/Church attire (no t-shirts or jeans) and we will have a Queen/King & Prince/Princess.  I think this will encourage and hype up the fun had by participating in school activities.

We are doing something special in honor of Veteran's Day.  Through brainstorming our Student
Council thought it would be a great idea to have the students here at our school for our Veterans.  We are requesting teachers to take time in their lessons to create/make Thank You cards for the Veterans.  Then on Nov. 11th I will deliver a package of cards to the Veterans who are being serviced at our Veteran's Hospital.  I know our VA Hospital has been a focus of wrong doing by administration, but we want to bring a little joy and brightness to those who fought hard for our freedom.  Our goal is to make this an annual event.

So, has anyone else out there had the battle of showing kids how to divide fractions by fractions using modeling?  I too didn't understand the concept, but with perseverance, I was able to understand the process and how it helps prove how the multiplicative inverse works.  But, OMGoodness!  the kiddos still cannot seem to get a grasp on the process.  I really want to guide them to understanding what they are expected to understand, but I cannot spend 2 months on the topic.  Because of this we are moving onward to Expressions & Exponents by way of the Properties of Multiplication because we will be learning about Inequalities after that.

Well here is where I leave off again...hopefully you all have a wonderful 2nd quarter...BTW only 48 days until Winter Break!!!

Monday, October 13, 2014

The 2nd Quarter Begins

Well here it is, the first day of the 2nd quarter.  Parent/Teacher conferences are finished, student grades are finalized and report cards handed out.  I cannot believe how fast this first 8 weeks of school went by.  To finish off the quarter my students were kept pretty busy with projects.

In Math I gave them a real life project which involved integers, as well as use of division and decimals.  Basically a culmination of everything they had learned this past quarter.  Their assignment you ask?  They, with an assigned partner, had to budget a cross country trip, starting on the West Coast then going to the East Coast & back.  They had to plan for a family of 5,6, or 7 people.  Included in their cost for the trip was renting a vehicle to fit their required travellers, figuring out the mileage, how much mileage was available for each full tank of gas, the cost to fill the gas tank, hotel stays, entertainment/attraction fees for the travellers, food costs, and planning a route.  They had to visit three different attractions in 3 different regions of the United States (like the cross-curricular involvement with Social Studies?), plan the route, and include the cost for souvenirs.  They were given $1000 for each traveller in their party to use for their overall totals.  It was really interesting to see the things they came up with to complete the assignment, and it gave them a real life scenario of what their parents have to do before hitting the road for any family trip/vacation.

Then in Science I gave them two projects to accomplish.  First is they had to create a 3D Plant and/or Animal Cell.  I gave them a copy of the following pictures to use as a reference.

They colored and labeled one picture to put in their interactive notebook.  Then to accompany the diagram they were assigned to create their 3D masterpieces.  Here a few examples of what some of the students turned in.  I will post more as I get the pictures taken.

Along with the 3D models I had the students research different Scientists who have had an impact on our lives.  I found a list of 340+ scientists, then had the students select one scientist and do some research on these great minds.  Then once they had gathered the information they were to create a "Wanted" poster about these intellectuals.  They put how their Scientist influenced the way we live and put it in a creative outlet.  So, in the upcoming week I am going to select the best of the best to present their Scientist information to our 1st grade classes.  So, not only did they learn about different great minds, they get the opportunity to introduce even younger kiddos about these outstanding people and share what they know.  I know they will do an amazing job.

After the 1st quarter had commenced, we were given our Fall Break.  This week off I was able to attend my 20th Year Class Reunion, and make even more memories than I had in high school.  Our school football team unfortunately lost their game.  The next evening was dinner & drinks.  Lets just say that by the end of the night there was a Bar Crawl involved.  I am so happy I have a great husband who will let me cut loose & keep a close safe eye on me to ensure I don't get hurt or do anything I would regret through photo evidence in the future.

Well onward and upward.  There are a couple of great celebrations which came from this past 1st quarter.  I had one student who went from Fall Far Below (we use the FAME grading scale) to a Meets ...which is essentially like going from a D to a B.  She had never in all the time she has been going to our school seen a grade of a Meets in Math for benchmark testing.  I was so stoked to share the information & celebrate with her & her mother about her great accomplishment.  The second is after benchmark testing it turns out 1/5th of the 6th Grade is in the Exceeds range and an additional 2/5ths Meeting.  So in total 3/5ths of the 6th Grade are working at a B or higher range in the content expected to learn for the 1st quarter.  I believe it has been quite a long time this has happened at our school for the 6th Grade class.  I don't mean to toot my own horn but, TOOT TOOT!!!  I hope this continues for the next quarter and the culmination of the 2014-2015 school year.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

One Quarter Down...3 more to Go!!!

Well at the end of this coming week our 1st Grading Quarter will be in the books.  Now for the first round of Parent/Teacher Conferences.  This year my collaborative teacher and I have decided to have our students lead the conferences.  They have been charting their test scores, been presented with their benchmark pre-test results and how to read them, been given projects to accomplish all leading up to helping them become more invested and engaged in their own education.  I am crossing my fingers that this will work out as well as we as their teachers want.  We are also doing collaborative conferences, where we both meet with the parents & students at the same time.  How do you handle your conferences?  Are they student led, or do you advise the parents about their student's growth with the student commenting when appropriate?  Those of you who do student led conferences -- how successful are they in helping them understand and be accountable for their learning and academic growth?

Along with the quarter coming to a completion, come my first observation of the year.  In our school district teachers are observed 4 times a year.  Twice by school administration and twice by the County Education department.  I decided for my observation I am going to be teaching on Understanding Division by Fractions.  I found this wonderful resource that I am using to help my students get a better understanding of the process before teaching the traditional way with reciprocals.  This is essential since having a better understand why will assist in the comprehension of the process and comprehension of the content.  Here is the link I found for the resource.


You can find the student practice work to go along with the lesson on my printables/templates tab.  I am so excited.  Especially since seeing a model first hand will help them understand visually what they are doing.  I really hope this will help my students gain a better understanding and perspective of dividing fractions by fractions using this process, which technically is review, first.  Wish me luck on my score results on my observation.  I will let you know about the outcome soon.

Have fun & stay sane!!!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Start of Something Great

Well it is finished...the first week of school that is.  I have to say it seems to have come and gone quite peacefully.  As I reflect on this past week and compare it to last year...I believe it has been very calm and stress free.  It most likely has something to do with having some type of expectation of what happens since I am now into my 2nd year of teaching.

The first two days I thoroughly went over policies and procedures.  Since, I am teaching 6th grade & many of my students have been going to our school for multiple years, it seemed like they were riding a bicycle.  They weren't crazy & loud, but ready and willing to get the year started.  I also think it has to do with the way the administration did the schedule planning.  Instead of the students switching every hour for the classes between my 6th grade teaching partner, the students stay with us for 2 hour blocks.  I have my homeroom for the first 2 hours to teach them Math & Science, then I have the other half of the 6th graders and they are with me the other 2 hours before they go off to lunch.  From lunch the students go to their Specials elective and then the last 1 1/2 hours it is Math/OCR Interventions.  It seems to have been planned much better & I get the opportunity to have the students a longer period of time so the teaching doesn't feel rushed as well.

Since Wednesday I have been reviewing 5th Grade Math with my kiddos.  According to their state testing results (we use AIMS), their Math results have something yet to be desired.  So, before they are presented with their first benchmark (Galileo) test on Tuesday, I wanted my students to get a refresher.  Also, by going over 5th grade Math questions, they get a feel for what type of questions will be on the benchmark test because I am using a posted benchmark test I found online as their review.  So far 95% of the kids are receptive and willing to do the practice.  Hopefully this will have a positive impact on their baseline test results, and we will only go up from here.

I will keep you posted how the kiddos, as well as I do this school year.  I am sure it will be filled with wonderful memories...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

August Currently Linky Party

Well now that I am back in the Land of the Bloggers, I thought I would join up in this month's Currently Linky Party hosted by none other than the amazing Farley at Oh Boy 4th Grade.  Feel free to join in on the fun by clicking on the button below

So on with the show....

So to elaborate on my entries:

  • Listening:  
    • My husband insists on watching NASCAR, thus by default I found myself rooting for Jeff Gordon (#24).  Now I am not a die hard fan, and I would not die if I didn't see the race, but picking my battles I decided to make the best of it and enjoy the show.
  • Loving:
    • I have been working in my classroom since mid July so I am very excited to finally get the school year started.  I moved into a room which was vacant last year & the walls looked yellowish white...so of course I had to paint them, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.  The final product is posted on my blog.
  • Thinking:  
    • I have crafting ADD...I will start a project and not finish it once I realize I can do it, this even goes for posting on my blog..  I don't know what it is, but I can't seem to finish any project (besides painting my room).  This year I am working hard on changing this trait...it has been a long journey, and it hasn't really come to fruition, but I am trying at least.
  • Needing:
    • My little brother is finally getting married!!!  She is a great girl & I cannot wait until she is officially family.  Because of this I am hosting with my mom & sister her bridal shower.  Her theme is pink, white, & burlap with Sunflowers - kindof laid back country.  I finally got the venue secured & the date now to use the cute Mason Jar clip art I found to create the invitations for the anticipated event.
  • 1st days:
    • Contractually we were required to report back to campus on July 28th.
    • Meet the Teacher night was on August 1st (see previous blog for specifics)
    • Kiddos back on campus: August 4th.
Well this has helped my "Thinking" section & I hope I can turn a new leaf and continue on this path.  So, now there is only 19 hours and counting before my students hit my classroom door and the fun begins.

Good luck everyone...this will be a great school year...I know it!!!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Its that time again...

The school year begins in less than 48 hours, and I feel pretty good starting off this year.

Friday was "Meet the Teacher" night.  Here is how I set up my table of information while I spoke with my guests.
My welcome letter, supply list, parent questionnaire, and a bowl of mints with a poem I found on Pinterest.

I had quite a few student come to my classroom and I got the opportunity to meet with them and their parents and chat about my expectations for my students this coming year.  I had my information table all set up with the Cafeteria Menu, Parent Communitation sign in log, Welcome letter to the parents (a letter with clear expectations of the students in my classroom - asking the parents to read & talk w/their student to be clear of what I wan to see), my syllabus along with my colleague's syllabus, and a parent questionnaire.  I put a copy of my questionnaire under my Templates & Printables tab.  I also was greeted by many of my past students, both when I student taught in the 6th grade the year before & my kiddos from last year.  It was fun to see how much they had grown and changed over the summer.  You could see the apprehension in their eyes and uncertainty in their voices.  I just reminded them to breathe and enjoy this time.  Because this event took place I can finally exclaim my classroom is finally finished.  Here are some pictures of the final product.

My classroom from the outside.  My bulletin board includes all the names of the 6th grade students,
This is a closer look of my bulletin board.  The heading states "Welcome 6th Grade Math & Science Superstars!"

Here is the final result of the inside to my classroom...

This is the front of my classroom.  My tables are in an E shape, all the chair facing forward.  This allows the opportunity for Socratic style discussion.

This is the back of my classroom.  I kept my classroom library I accumulated last year through Scholastic book sales and various 2nd hand stores.  Some of my students last year donated some of their books to my collection.  Even though my content focus is Math & Science I will always encourage reading in my classroom.

This is my desk / office area.  I have my SmartBoard & DocCam on a work table next to me so if I need to pull couple of student for reinforcement, I can keep a ready eye on the rest of the class.  There have been a few colleagues tell me I need to come & set up/decorate their classroom for them as well.

So, with all this in place let the 2014-2015 school year begin.  My first days are filled with procedures & expectations.  Then on Tuesday of next week we have our first Benchmark test (the Pre-test) which will give us the baseline for skill leveling and student placement during our OCR/Math Intervention classes which take place the last 1 hr & 30 mins of the school day.  Its going to be a very eventful year and I am ready to go on this adventure full force.

Also, be sure to check out my Printables & Templates tab.  I added some great resources like the Engagement Wheel, Hess' Matrix, and Critical Thinking Skills which I plan on using in my classroom & I thought it might be beneficial to many of my teaching friends.

The best is yet to come....I will keep you all posted....

Sunday, July 27, 2014

T Minus 7 days and counting....

It is almost that time again...time of laughter, lesson planning, assessing, and sleep deprivation.  Yes the school year is quickly approaching.  To commemorate this auspicious event my school district held a two day conference of workshops and development meetings.  Here is a list of the workshops I was able to attend.  I am including what I took from each of these courses bulleted below the title....

Thurs 07/24

  • Breakfast
  • Student to Student Interaction Grades 4-8
    • When planning for s-s interaction you need to ask yourself
      • How will the students demonstrate individual accountability?
      • How will the student demonstrate equal participation?
      • How will the student apply content vocabulary?
      • How  will the student justify their ideas?
    • Some strategies which facilitate academic dialogue include...
      • Expert groups
      • Reciprocal teaching
      • Academic conversation cards
  • Critical Thinking for Grades 4-8
    • Discussed the differences between Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning & Depth of Knowledge Levels and what they looked like when writing objectives.
    • Blooms:  What type of thinking (verbs) is needed to complete a task?
    • DOK:  How deeply do you have to understand the content to successfully interact with it?  How complex or abstract is the content?
    • Great Resource:  Hess' Cognitive Rigor Matrix - combines both Blooms & DOK into one chart to help enhance planning to ensure appropriate objectives for the lesson.
  • Lunch
  • Tiered Assignments for Differentiation
    • Tiered instruction should not leave the students wanting to do what another group is doing.
    • All activities/instruction should be based on assessment.
    • Higher level work is not simply more work.
    • Use the would/should/could questions to breakdown what type of lesson fits the content needed to learn (whole group/small group/individual work).
  • Using Model Drawing in Mathematics Grades 5-6
    • I left this workshop more confused than before.  It was presented by Sue Larson, a phenomenal mathematician.  Who at the end let us know she only learned this strategy 2 weeks before she brought it to us, and then highly suggested to Google the topic and watch the plethora of videos available on the subject.  
    • I found a great app through Google called "Ultimath" which shows modeling drawing as well.  Why reinvent the wheel when "there is an app for that" (LOL)  The link for Ultimath is here http://ultimath.com/

Friday 07/25

  • Breakfast
  • Integrated Language Arts Grades 5-6
    • This meeting focused on the utilization of thematic units.  These lessons help reinforce all content areas and are a great tool to communicate what the student knows or should know throughour all content areas.
    • Plan on focusing this idea especially in Science.
  • Mathematical Practices Grades 5-6
    • We need to shift our thinking in Math from "how to do it" ----> why we do it"
    • Was given a Great Resource for help in finding content: www.illustrativemathematics.org
    • Students should explain & share ideas on how to solve the problem.
  • Lunch
  • Digging Deeper with Student to Student Interaction
    • If you want a great attention getter to settle down your class go to YouTube and search Kid Snippets...soooo many funny clips, soooo many laughs.
    • Be cognizant of where you place s-s interaction in the lesson, it should align with the lesson objective.
    • It will depend on how well the student understands the routine or process which help develop the s-s interaction on a higher level.
  • Balanced Math Framework Fluency & Mental Math Grades 5-6
    • Fluency goes beyond memorization - it help apply what you know.
      • Aromaticity
      • Flow / mastery achieved
      • flexible / ownership
      • accuracy
      • help achieve a desired outcome
    • How to help with fluency
      • provide practice
      • expose to different strategies
      • connections to prior knowledge
    • Mental Math & Fluency help student ownership of numbers.

I took quite a bit of information away from this workshop.  Plus a variety of tools, which as soon as I get the electronic versions sent to me I will be sure to share them with you my friends.
This next week will be filled with final classroom setup, meetings, planning, and to end the event before school begins "Meet the Teacher" night on Friday.  I will post pictures of my finished classroom & the materials I am supplying my parents to help our students achieve success this 2014-2015 school year.

I wish everyone the best of luck on their own school year!!!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Countdown Begins

Well there is only 1 week left until teachers have to report to school, but the overachiever I am I have been working in my classroom since last Monday.  This past week I have been focused on painting my classroom and getting my stored stuff into my classroom to unpack.  Here is what my classroom looks like thus far....

Facing the front of my classroom walking in from the door.

Closer look at the wall color, called Sea Glass, and the desk/office area I created.  This will be so needed due to advising the Student Council this next school year.

This is my personal bulletin board in my desk/office area.  I love the hot pink against the light blue/green wall color.  The black border is sparkly/glittery as well.

So, I have at least 4 more bulletin boards to finish and then get all my resources and beginning of the year activities filed away I believe I will be ready to face my parent on "Meet the Teacher" night.  But, before I can meet my parents I need to finalize my math syllabus and get my welcome letter translated along with my supply list for my students so they can be set for success at the beginning of the school year.

I have to say a humongous THANK YOU!! to my mother.  Because I am switching curriculum this coming year getting resources for Math and Science have been priority one.  Upon looking at the curriculum map for 6th grade Math set by the school district I saw they are incorporating EngageNY's Math Modules.  My wonderful and dear mother took the time to print each of the six modules set by EngageNY - all 3 segments for each module; teacher material, student material, and copy ready material.  All this information was put into 3 5" 3-ring binders, and then each element separated behind a tab for each module.  I am very set when it comes to being able to utilize this amazing resource.  So, again THANK YOU MOM!!!

On a side note I was able to spend the morning alongside my sister and 2 of her daughters as we perused the aisles at Treasures4Teachers.  This company is a non-profit for teachers of all kinds to get supplies they need for the classroom at next to nothing.  It costs $35 to join and then you get a bag & everything you can fit in it only costs you $5.  There is also an area that has supplies like pencils, pens, markers for $0.50 - $1.00 for almost everything in the room.  Not to mention the plethora of free items for the taking.  All the products are donated to the business so that the teachers can get the necessary tools to help guide their students success.  If you want to learn more about this wonderful organization/non-profit check out the link below.

Because I have so much to do & so little time I am off to continue to get my homework completed and get the school year off to a great start.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

My Deepest Apologies!!!!

    My wonderful friends, first off I need to ask your forgiveness for my lack of posting over the past school year.  But, as you can tell by the title of my blog I WAS a first year teacher.  I rationally thought I would be able to keep on top of everything and be able to regularly keep you all up to date, but alas I was not.
So, to aprise you of my status thus far.  I did end the school year wonderfully with signing a new contract for the 2014-2015 school year.     There is one great change, I was fortunate to stay on in the 6th grade, but I will be teaching Math & Science next year.  I really enjoyed teaching Language Arts and Social Studies (especially since I am a book hound and I adore teaching about Ancient Civilizations) -- I am ready for the challenge.  So, with my eyes and mouse constantly on Pinterest I think I am beginning to feel that I am ready to meet the task before me.  I also am going to be working with a new teammate.  One of our 4th grade teachers moved up to 6th grade and I am excited.  We have already begun collaborating and getting things planned for the insuing school year.
Along with having to recreate my curriculum from last year I have also been asked to be the advisor for the Student Council.  So, I have to get things ready to help ensure success for our future government leaders and help raise money to better our school community.

    Now on my enourmously growing to do list...

  • Paint my classroom (it is 1/3 of the way done - I am painting it a calming and delightful color called "Sea Glass"
  • Finish printing the the rest of EngageNY 6th grade Math Modules...our district has recommended them for a resource and has incorporated it into our Curriculum Maps
  • Finalize my Math syllabus (I luckily have finished my Science one)
  • Finish completing my bulletin boards for Meet the Teacher night.
  • Get volunteers for our Scholastic Book Fairs (we scheduled it for Meet the Teacher night to boost sales and encourage parents to buy their students books to start the year off).
  • Finish my schedule for the Student Council workshop that I will be advising the week before school.
  • and there is so, so, sooooo much more!!!
So, my friends again I apologize for not making a better presence on my first attempts of blogging.  But, now I kind of know what to expect I will make a better effort on entering my adventures for these first few years of teaching.