Monday, July 27, 2015

End of Summer Sale

  It seems like most teachers are enjoying the last few days of summer while the rest of families have one more month. Back to school for teachers means transforming our bare classrooms into a beautiful representation of how we want our students to learn. In order to help you prepare for the school year, I am offering your a 20% off sale so you can get your materials ready for the school year. This sale will be from July 28-31, 2015. Visit my TPT store to check out my best sellers, "My Data Notebook" and "Reading Strategy Posters."  Enjoy your last few days of summer! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Personalized Learning and Understanding by Design: First Grade

This week I was introduced to yet another way of teaching...Personalized Learning.  I thought that Understanding by Design was a huge but rewarding undertaking, but OhMiGosh!! 

When I first learned about personalized learning, I thought that it was just differentiating skills between learning styles and the multiple know, giving kids the choice to learn the content in whichever way they like best (Musical, Verbal, Written, etc.).  
 With Personalized Learning, we will no longer be teaching whole group and then moving into differentiated groups. No more "sit and git"!  No more "falling through the cracks".  Our students will move through each standard little by little until every aspect of that standard is mastered. 

Personalized Learning begins with the LEARNER!  

What skills do they know already?  Where do they need to go? 

I'd like to think of it as a pyramid: 
The top of the pyramid is the starting point and the bottom (or near bottom) is mastery.  Students take a pretest at the beginning of the unit and based on those results, they are placed on a certain level of the pyramid.  If Johnny did great on his pretest, then he will start toward the bottom of the pyramid.  His learning will be challenged...just like we said with Understanding by Design but now, the focus is on the learner:

"LEARN a mile deep and an inch wide"
"LEARNING an inch deep and a mile wide"  

 OhMiGosh!!  Complete epiphany!  This totally makes sense! Right??

Johnny (who did great on his pretest) will stay on the same standard as everyone else but he will be able to dig deeper by completing challenging activities, games, or a project based learning assignment.

For Suzie, who didn't do so great on her pretest, would start toward the top of the pyramid and work her way down toward mastery.  

As a teacher, I know your mind is absolutely boggled right now!  Like, how the heck am I going to get all of my students to learn if they are all at different places on the pyramid...I'm only one person!!  Well that's where the rest of personalized learning comes in.  Students are put on a "pathway" where they will work at their own pace through the standard.  Each pathway is kind of like a road map (in the pyramid) or a video game, where each level needs to be mastered before moving onto the next level.  Once all levels (or until your expectation of mastery) are completed, they complete enrichment activities until you are ready to move onto the next standard.  

As I sat through this Personalized Learning training, I didn't know how this would work in my classroom.  My colleagues and I thought that a good place to start was with the standards and the developmental process that students should go through each standard.  And then....

This is where I'm thankful for Understanding by Design!!  

We have our UbD units planned out in a developmental sequence with all of the activities .  Now, all we have to do is take the UbD sequence to make the learning pathways.  

Last year was a learning process for my grade level because the teachers at my new school had never done UbD units before.  We basically took all of my previous units (created back in 2012-13) and revised them.  At the time, we still used Investigations Math so some of those resources were added throughout the unit.  Some components of the UbD were updated: advanced assessments, and a new journal entry process;  Some components were added: Paideia Seminar, exit tickets, and a scoring sheet.  Check out our October math unit from last year (2014-15) on addition, subtraction, and word problems.  Click on this link to download the 38 page file for FREE.

The next step toward my Personalized Learning process will be to take our UbD units that were created last year, and drop those activities into a pathway.

As summer is coming to an end, I am excited to get to work on these pathways and see how it all turns out in the classroom.  I'm scared about trying something new, but change cannot happen without being scared.  
I'm sure you know where I'll be the rest of the summer!  HA!  I will be posting my Personalized Learning resources and pathways here when they're done!!  Stay tuned... 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Understanding By Design Success and Unknowns Assessments

Anyone who knows me professionally knows that I'm very passionate about curriculum planning and Understanding by Design.  I was introduced to UbD about 3 years ago and each year I have learned more and more about the process.  

This year I took on a huge project of introducing the UbD process to 50+ teachers at my new school.  Most of the teachers had never heard of it before and were scared to make this change.  I understand that change is scary but I tried to reassure them that the process really does work.  

The UbD process allows teachers to teach content developmentally and with rigor to ensure that every child meets or exceeds the required content.  The most important thing about UbD is to "begin with the end in mind".  If you know what you want your students to learn...then lay it out!!  Show your students what you want them to know!  If you see that they already know a specific skill, then you don't need to spend as much time teaching that content.  You can spend more time focusing on the skills they are lacking and have plenty of time for remediation and enrichment. 

The next unit that we are working on is for Missing Numbers (Unknown Equations).  My students took the pretest this past week and there were several students that knew the simple equations and word problems.  The majority of the class struggled with "start unknown" equations and word problems.  Analyzing this data will show me what I need to teach in order for every student to master the concepts that I want them to know by the end of the unit.  Once students master those concepts, then I can enrich them with advanced content.  The pretest that I created in pictured below.  Click HERE or on the picture to download the pretest and post test.
At the end of the unit, it's important to reassess your students using the same format or types of questions.  You want to see if your teaching really worked and that your students really mastered the content that you taught.  I like to keep the test format the same and just change to numbers or words.

If your school is contemplating the implementation of Understanding by Design, please accept the challenge!!  It really is beneficial for teaching and learning!!  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Seminar in the Classroom

As educators, we like to chat with each other about things that go well with teaching and things that we can work on to make our teaching better.  Our students can do the same thing during a seminar.  Some call it Socratic or Paideia Seminar but all in all, it's about the same thing.

When I first heard about doing a seminar, I was completely overwhelmed.  I didn't know what it was and I certainly didn't know how to do it.  Over the past few weeks I have been researching, as well as working with my team to develop our first seminar for our first graders.  I like to have careful guidance when I'm doing something new with my students so they feel comfortable learning and communicating with each other, even though I may not be comfortable with trying something new.  I came up with several resources that made this transition helpful for me (and my team) to conduct our first seminar.

Here are a few of the resources that are included in "Talking with Friends: SEMINAR":
I have included an explanation of what seminar is (in kid friendly words), reasons why seminar is so great, seminar procedures, tips to conducting a great seminar, seminar guidelines, student goal choices, student reflection on goals, talk helpers (in case students get stumped and can't think of anything else to say), teacher question stems (to help guide the conversation in the right direction), and participation logs (to keep track of how the students talk with each other).

Your students will love having the opportunity to talk to each other as they develop speaking skills necessary in everyday life.  If you have tried seminar, please leave some feedback on things that work well and things that are a challenge for you.  I would love to get more teachers on board with this collaborative teaching method.  Give it a try and share your thoughts! :-)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Kids Can BLOG Too!!

I've been thinking about incorporating a blogging program
into my classroom and then I had an epiphany....

Kids can BLOG about the books they READ!!

We all know that responding to reading increases reading comprehension and we always have our students respond in a reading journal using paper and pencil.


Why not have our students respond to their stories in the form of a blog post??

Blogging about the stories they read will allow collaboration between students and even parents. Students will be able to reflect on their stories and get excited about learning.  See below for resources on how to use reading responses as blog posts.

I will be using Kidblog (a free blogging site for students) this year and let me just tell you that the set up process is super easy.  It doesn't take long at all but if you start it now, then once you get your class list, you'll be able to get your students blogging sooner.

Click on this picture for set up instructions:

Technology makes anything fun!! We have to get our students to read and have fun at the same time. Blogging about reading will allow us to do that.  Set up an account with Kidblog and get your students started early so they can blog independently by the end of the school year.  

I know that starting anything new is always scary, especially when it involves technology, so.....
I have created a few products to help you with the process. 

Blogging for Little Learners will help you implement the blogging program.  You can give your own blog prompts, use the ones included in this product, or just let your students blog about anything they want.  Just be careful to set your blog settings where the teacher has to approve blog posts before they are public.  

Click on the link below to take a closer look at Blogging for Little Learners.  
You can also download the preview for some FREEBIES.
"Blogging for Little Learners" provides you with everything you need to start blogging:

Purposes of blogging - explanation about why blogging is beneficial
About blogging - information for parents about blogging
Teacher duties - everything you need to know to get the ball rolling
Parent permission form - you must have permission before starting
Internet safety guide - students need to know how to be safe online
Blogging guidelines - instructions about how to blog
Password cards - students need to know where to go to log in
How to make a blog post - labeled picture showing how to post
Guidelines for commenting - instructions for how to comment
Blogging Rubric - grading blog posts will keep students accountable
4 Choice boards - ideas for blogging about reading
Graphic organizer - "My First Blog Post"

If you want your students to be consistent with what they're blogging about, then you could have them blog about what they are reading.  Students read a book, respond to the reading using reading response sheets, and then use that sheet to drive their conversation for their blog post. 

Your students can use these Reading Response Sheets before heading to the computer.  They can be used individually (if you prefer not to do the blogging thing) or along with "Blogging for Little Learners" (if you decide to take the blogging plunge).  

The reading response download contains:
4 choice boards along with response sheets for each choice:
Back to school - easy "make a list" prompts
Fiction - 9 responses to any fiction text
Nonfiction - 9 responses to any nonfiction text
Opinion - opinion prompt template

 I have the BUNDLE available as well:

 I encourage you to step into the 21st century and give your students the opportunity to write their VERY FIRST blog post!!  I'm sure it will make your students feel important and parents will have something to brag about as well.  :-)