Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October is all about the PINK!

There is a reason for everything...


Yesterday, I took my big Senior Citizen Yellow Lab into see the vet.  She is spoiled.  Usually, he comes to the house.  We decided that she needed some X-rays and tests.  She is almost 13, and recently she started skipping meals.  She is a Lab, they always eat.  

In between the X-rays and the stomach tap, she slipped the leash, pushed open the heavy glass door, and ran into the parking lot.  The vet dove for her, I jumped up off the couch and ran after her.  She just ran to the car.  She wanted to go home.

Her X-rays were clear, blood tests good, and as the vet said, "She is clearly not slowing down."

But I am.  I wrenched my foot chasing after her in my orthopedic granny sandals.  I taught multiples from my rolling chair today, and managed the classroom by shouting, "Hey you, stop that."  I went to get it checked out, and X-rayed.  Not broken, but strained the tendons.

While I was there, I made my appointment for a mammogram.  I managed to get it in before the month ended.  
 
 
On Halloween, I will be back in radiology.

If Maddie hadn't made a dash for the car, if I had been wearing my running shoes, if I had the luxury of staying off my foot for a week...I have to admit that I would have put it off.


 Have you made your appointment?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Peek at Multiples and Divisibility

Sunday afternoons are the worst.  They are quiet and sleepy, yet there is an underlying vibe of panic.   I catch myself finding important things to do, as my unopened rolling briefcase of papers and notebooks mocks me in the corner.

Which is why I am linking up with Jennifer of Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for her Peek at My Week.
 
What?  It is important. At this moment, it is far more important to talk about my lesson plans with the blogosphere than actually writing them.

1st Up
I get to go to another day of district mandated training on how to write lesson plans.  The day before Halloween.  Out of my classroom, again.  I am really struggling with whether I am insulted about having to go to a training about how to write lesson plans, or whether I am just mad that it isn't the day of Halloween or at least the day after.

2nd Thing 
We really need to finish the Iceman Projects.  We were going to finish them last week, but when I got back from last week's training on writing lesson plans, they were put in lockdown.  I hate it when I have to follow through on "promises" of what will happen if I do not get an excellent note from the substitute.  It messes up my lesson plans, and teaching is so much more fun than running "lockdown bootcamp."  We didn't get to do our cave paintings either.  I really wanted to paint.

3rd On the List
Before we start fractions, we have to have a lesson on divisibility rules.  We will be adding this foldable in to our Interactive Notebooks.  If you would like some more information on this, click here to read my post from this summer.


4th, But Not Finally
Multiples with our 100's charts!  Last year, I had to stop during fractions and do this lesson with them.  This year, we are doing it before we even start fractions.  Check out the whole lesson here.

5th,  And Finally
I should start working on those actual lesson plans and papers, but I think I might have a closet or two that have to be cleaned out...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Math vs. Language Arts Teachers

This will be a short post, actually more of an observation.

Two weeks ago, my jury duty and a mandatory district training conflicted.  During a desperate phone call from the courthouse parking lot, our wonderful school secretary managed to get the district office to allow me to attend the training for 6th grade Math teachers rather than the Language Arts training.  I say desperate because there was crying and frantic high speed whining interlaced with, "What am I going to do?  I can't serve on a jury for a murder trial!  The judge said 6 to 8 weeks...my year is over!"  It turned out that they made some deal and did not go to trial.  Which is good because I can't even watch Law and Order without having nightmares.  Not only did she calm me down, but she got my teaching partner into the Math training too.

Being a Read 180 teacher in a self-contained classroom, I have always gone to Language Arts trainings - heck, I have led Language Arts trainings.  I cannot remember the last time I sat down for a training with "Math People."  Quite frankly, they usually intimidate me and make me feel as if I am back in 6th grade myself.

Going into the training, I was skeptical and was sure that I did NOT need a two day training on writing lesson plans.  Seriously, lesson plans.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the table discussions and by how much we were allowed to explore Common Core standards - long story, but as of today, my district is still sticking to state standards.

But my biggest surprise was learning that "Math People" are much better listeners, don't have sidebar conversations, and are amazingly flexible with their strategies and practices.   I left the training today looking forward to more discussions and interactions with my newly discovered 6th grade "Math People" colleagues.

Now my Read 180 teaching partner and I are plotting to only go to Math trainings...so much quieter and more productive:).  Are all Math trainings this way or was just an exceptional day?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Student Led Conferences

Student Led Conferences are amazing!  I have been doing them for over 20 years now, and they still continue to challenge and motivate myself, and my students.  Which is exactly why I thought they were a perfect reason to link up with Joanne at Head Over Heels For Teaching for her Spark Student  Motivation Saturday Linky!

In my class, we just finished our second set of conferences.  Crazy, I know!  We started in early August, and because I have a self-contained Read 180 class, I held Goal Conferences with parents during the first 3 weeks of school.  During those conferences, I just chatted with the parents, shared a few of the diagnostic results, and answered any "middle-school" questions.  The students participated by sharing a few goals, but did little else during the course of the conference.

At our site, teachers were only required to conference with "C-" or below students.  I can hear the elementary teachers gasp in horror, but that is middle school for you:).  Since I had already done "conferences" with my whole class, I was not "required" to hold conferences for the whole class.  But this year, I am determined to have a good year, and that does not happen without building community and communication!

So we put our beloved Iceman Projects on hold - they are doing a phenomenal job, and I did not want to rush perfection - and got ready for their first real Student Led Conferences!  I kept it really simple!  



Since all but three students demonstrated amazing growth on their 1st quarter SRI, we agreed to start with Language Arts.  During this portion, we shared their Interactive Notebooks.

 Then we moved into Math and their Math Notebooks.  Again, I kept it simple because the stress of leading their own conferences was enough.
During the last part of the sit down portion, they shared their Behavior and Study Habits Self-Reflection.  They gave themselves a grade, then they read over it with a partner.  This part is my favorite part, because even if their partner is their best friend, my work is done!  Their partners call them out on unreasonable grades, without hesitation.  The deal is that if they give themselves a grade that is less than honest or one that I disagree with, then I will put my score next to their score with a marker.  By the time it gets to me, I have to make very few notes.

 I kept it really simple!  Just three reflections and a tour of Read 180.  We worked on their reflections in small groups for two days.  Then we practiced using a bulletin board style script and role-played for approximately 2 hours.

Some of the conferences were just magical!  One of my students who routinely struggles with the truth and self control, gave himself brutally honest scores.  It was amazing to sit and hear him be so honest.  He stood straight and tall, and told his mother where his weaknesses were, and more importantly, what his goals were for the next quarter.  I was never prouder of any student than I was with him yesterday afternoon.  

Another student finally admitted that he was not doing his best work, and that he needed to try harder.  His Reading Notebook was a thing of beauty on Friday!

My favorite thing to whisper to a student off task is, "This will be difficult for you explain at your conference."  Just knowing that they will have to explain their behavior and show evidence of their learning really helps keep them on track.  

Student Led Conferences really motivate students; they give them the power and the responsibility for their education.  It forces them to communicate with their parents about their progress - on student terms.  As they were leaving, my students and parents were asking me when we were having our next set of conferences.  If you haven't tried doing Student Led, or haven't done them in a while because of curriculum demands, think about it!  There are so many more important things than keeping pace with the curriculum guide.  If you have questions about Student Led, please ask!  They are so worth the time!

If you are interested in the Behavior and Study Habits Self-Reflection rubric, it is now in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Finally Five For Friday and Bigfoot Essays!

Life has been busy and tough the last few weeks.  So many good things and a few not wonderful things have been happening, that I am just plain exhausted at the end of the day.  All day I was reminding myself that today was Friday...and that no matter how tired and stuffy-nosed I was at the end of the day, I HAD TO post!  So here goes the first post in two weeks!

1.  1,009,487 words read by my 28 Read180/System44 students in our first quarter!  We issued a challenge today to our "rival" Read180 class and our administrators; 2, 275,000 words or more by Christmas!  If one class fails to meet the goal, they have to sing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on stage at lunch - with antlers and red noses.  If both classes meet or surpass the goal, then my fellow Read180 teacher, principal, assistant principal, and myself, will perform the carol by ourselves at lunch.  I am hoping to sing Rudolph!

2.  The Vampire Diaries...this is just plain embarrassing, but my humidifier and I have become obsessed with The Vampire Diaries.  

I was going to drop a picture in, but that made it seem too real and more embarrassing. 

I might need an intervention.  I am a grown woman, and I am watching high school vampires.   An intervention is definitely needed.  Darn you allergies and Netflix!

3.  Just a quick question...when I get home from Saturday School tomorrow (yes, again), should I try the lawnmower or just go straight to the scary rusty machete hanging over tool bench?

Darn you allergies..., and Santa Anas..., and the rain..., and Netflix!

4.  Have you ever had one of those students who you are just praying will finally have a good day?  Well mine finally had a good day!  In my class...I am pretending not to know about what might or might not have happened in the later part of the day.  In my class, he had a great day!  I will take the victories when and where I can get them:)!

5.  Finally, over the last two weeks, our Bigfoot essays and the Iceman have consumed our days!
So what?  I have a Bigfoot action figure:).
The kids did so well with the new organizer, and wrote up a storm!
For some reason, they got really excited about the topic.
I could not be more thrilled by how much effort they put into their writing and how much it looks like actual writing!  In the past with my Read180 kids, it was difficult to get them to write complete sentences and paragraphs.   We have been writing and writing in our Interactive Notebooks daily and they have gotten really confident about their writing!

Since this prompt and tri-fold organizer were such a hit in my class, I put together the Tri-Fold Narrative Prompt and Organizer packet.  It will be the first item for sale in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  It includes the instructions, a sample prompt filled in, a sample essay, Bigfoot prompt on a Tri-Fold,  and a blank Tri-Fold organizer.  Be one of the first 5 comments and I will send it to you for free!  This is a big step for me, so leave a little love after the download, I am needy that way.

Make sure to head on over to Doodle Bugs Teaching for her wonderful Friday linky party!  It is a nice way to cruise through everyone's week and catch up!