Friday, September 28, 2012

Daily Math Calendar (Freebie)

As many of you know I participated in the Guided Math book study this summer and have been attempting to incorporate some of my learning into my math program. I didn't want to overwhelm myself so I set some long and short term goals. If you are interested in reading my previous posts about this topic please click the following two links:

Morning Math Meeting/Math Stretches (Freebie)
Math Stretches and Calendar (Freebie)

As per my goals I have implemented Math Stretches and Calendar, or as I call it, Morning Math Meeting everyday this year. I have found that the Math Stretch is a a great way to get my students on task as soon as they arrive each day and we are able to gather on the carpet immediately for a small bit of community time as well.

I feel like I am learning new things about my student's abilities everyday during our quick Math Stretches. I have seen that the same students struggle repeatedly with completing a number pattern or skip counting which has allowed me to easily target who needs a little extra practice. In addition, our discussions about the Math Stretch has provided information about who is comfortable communicating their knowledge about math in front of the class as a group and who tends to hold back and let others do the talking.

Our Morning Math Meeting (Calendar) has not been done as consistently as our Math Stretch due to the fact that there were certain days in our timetable where we only had 20 minutes in the morning before my students had a rotary class (gym/music/art/etc) but after receiving a new timetable this week that small problem may be fixed!

I did find that the Calendar board I had created for September didn't quite fit all the needs I had for this time with my students. There was nothing wrong with the board per se but I just wasn't super happy with it! At times it seemed almost too easy for my class, (i.e. when we were using small 2 digit numbers) but then other times they really struggled with completing the tasks (i.e. using a 3 digit number). I decided to stick with it for the month of September just to get some routine under our belts and then change it up a bit.

So here is the new board I have set up for October. 

If you choose to download this freebie please remember that feedback and comments are always appreciated.

In other Math-y news, I think I am going to attempt to go whole hog next week with Math Workshop! I am going to jump right in with 2 feet. I have noticed that quite a few of my Grade 3 friends are getting lost in the crowd and just can't concentrate during a whole group lesson so I am going to get together some games and independent practice work this weekend. First thing Monday morning we are going to jump in and see how it goes. Nervous? Yup!!

I did a small trial where I had my class divided into 5 groups- while I met with one of the groups the other 4 played games. It worked well except for the noise level in the class. However, this is something I have been working on with my students in almost every setting and I feel like if I wait until we are totally perfect in this area I might never get Math Workshop off the ground!

Have you tried Math Workshop yet?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Book of the Week/Daily 5 Update (Freebie)

As I have mentioned before I am trying to integrate The Power of Retelling into my Daily 5 (or Literacy Workshop) program. So far we are just in the guided retelling stage and things are moving slowly but I am really happy with how things are going. We hit a small snag this week and won't be doing a "Book of the Week" for the first time since the school year started but I am feeling okay about it. 

We are up to 17 minutes of stamina in Read to Self!!! I am sooo excited about how well things are going. I think that quite a few of my Grade 3 friends need some help choosing books that are a good fit but all things in good time right? Plus my class LOVES Read to Self so that is a huge bonus. I was even able to get a few reading assessments done today as I am hoping to start guided reading asap!

We have also started to do Working on Writing and are up to 5 minutes for our stamina. I think my class can do more but I also know how important it is not to rush things. We have been working on procedural writing separately from Work on Writing and my class needs A LOT of work on how to complete a task effectively in pairs so right now that is taking some precedence over building our stamina too quickly. 

Here's a quick freebie of some of the things we have been doing for procedural writing.

I am quite happy with how things are progressing in my Literacy program and hope things continue to go as planned!!

Now, to talk about my Book of the Week program.

This is how I have organized the front blackboard of my classroom according to my reading of The Power of Retelling by Vicki Benson. Each week I pick a picture book (so far- it could be non-fiction or non-continuous texts as well) and we work through the book together over the course of the week.

On Monday we make predications based first on just the title and then on the title and the cover photo. You can see a line on the board to show where we made predictions after we could see the cover. 

We also look at vocabulary on Monday. Sometimes I give the students a list of words that I think are important from the book, as you can see- they are the three words above the line. Below the line are the words the students predicted might be in the text based on the predictions they made on what the text might be about...whoa, that's a lot of predicting!!

It's very interesting to hear the reasons behind why the students are making their predictions. :)

On Tuesday, we read the book together and do a variety of activities to show our understanding of the book. So far we have just been working on things we have noticed in the book.  For this particular book I also asked my students to list the actions that made Tacky different than the other penguins (in the book Tacky the Penguin) because I am working up to talking about character traits and the evidence we can use to show that a character has a specific trait. 

On Thursday we have been working on our interpretations.  In this case we looked at the list of actions Tacky did that made him different and what it told us about him. I was very happy with how my students were able to think really deeply during this activity and used their schema effectively. 

On Friday we retell the story. Our end goal is for students to be able to write their own retell but obviously in the first weeks of school that is just not happening. During this week I copied some of the pictures from the book and the students and I worked through an illustrated retell orally. 

I think I am close to being able to move on from a Guided Retell to a Story Map Retell and am very excited about my student's progress. Word Work is next on the list for our Literacy Workshop as well as getting Guided Reading up and going.

Isn't it nice when things are chugging along?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Why Did I Become A Teacher

As some of you may know, and many of you may not, this is not a fun time to be a teacher in Ontario. This past August the contract between the teachers of Ontario and the government expired. In the past the unions that represented the varied interests of teachers across the province (i.e. elementary, Catholic, secondary, french-speaking, etc) entered into negotiations or collective bargaining with the province. This year our government legislated our contract. They made a law that stated what our contract was without talking about it at all.

Needless to say, things have gotten pretty ugly over here. I know that there are other teachers, in other places facing similar adversity (like in Chicago) and I feel for any educator who has been put into this position.

In the past three weeks since school as started I have felt like my morals and my dedication to my students has been questioned. As with many of these types of situations the media coverage is not exactly free of bias. It's a tough situation to be teaching in and sadly, it has not driven me to want to blog about teaching.

For that I am sorry.

But I would like to tell you why I became a teacher. I think in times like this it's important to think about where we started and why we are here.

I became a teacher because...what else would I be? I remember taking the babysitting course when I was around 12 years old. By then I had been going to summer camp for 6 years and I loved being around kids my age, kids older me and kids younger than me. By the time I was 16 years old I was a camp counselor and continued to be a camp counselor until I was 25 years old. I have always been a teacher it seems. Some people may not see being a camp counselor as similar to being a teacher but I think they are wrong. 

I have always enjoyed being with kids when they were learning something new. Whether it was how to properly saddle a horse, mastering a difficult stroke in swimming or creating a beautiful pot on the pottery wheel I have been around kids enjoying a love of learning my whole life. The joy in a child's face when they master a new skill is like no other feeling in the world. 

Children are incredibly dedicated and devoted to learning. They crave it. They desire it. They attack it. Why wouldn't everyone want to be around that as much as possible? I am thankful everyday that I get to spend my career in a classroom with children who are seeing the world for the first time. It doesn't matter if they are Grade 3's or Grade 8's (because as of this year I have taught them both and every grade in between)- the world is a brand new place, full of ideas my students have never encountered and I get to be a small part of their journey.

I became a teacher so I could continue to learn. I became a teacher so I could inspire children to hang on to their love of learning for as long as they can. 

I became a teacher because I could.

To anyone that isn't a teacher, I say...why didn't you?

If you'd like more information about what's going on in Ontario- THIS is a great post. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Math Routines and Settling In

Things are finally starting to feel class is settling in and we are getting down to the business of curriculum. Things are feeling good in Grade 3. I was very nervous (and still am a little) about teaching such young friends but I must say that apart from a few moments of frustration I am really enjoying being a primary teacher. Now, I will fully admit that things are slooooooooow going. How can it take that long to write one journal entry?? I mean, really? But I am getting used to it. On the flip side, my former teaching partner moved from Grade 4 to 8 this year and he is shocked by how fast his students complete their work and how much he has to have ready for them to do!


Math!! I am loving it. Who knew that I would ever love teaching math? Not me. But in the past year or so I have learned so much from other blogs and professional reading that it has become one of my favourite parts of the day.

I have fulfilled a few of the goals I created for myself after reading Guided Math as part of this summer's book study already. We have been doing Math Stretches every morning when my students enter the portable. I have a dry erase easel that I have been using for this and planned to take pictures of the different stretches we did each day this week but, unfortunately, I kept forgetting and erased it at the end of the school day in order to get ready for the next day! So sorry! I am going to try to remember all next week to take a picture each day and post it for you. Here is the last one we did this week.

My students were struggling with the concept of "place value"- the idea that the location of a digit determined its value, or how much it was worth. This Math Stretch and the following discussion really seemed to help cement the idea for my students.

The discussion that follows each of the Math Stretches is one of the most enjoyable parts of the whole exercise. So far at least one student has made a small mistake each day but that seems to really be a good thing as it gives us a chance to talk about how to correct mistakes and re-clarify our thinking. I have also been able to see which students are hesitant about math and or are struggling with certain concepts. Isn't amazing how much information can be gathered from such a simple exercise? 

We have also been doing our Number of the Day exercises each day. I am not loving this. 

It takes a long time unless I pick a pretty simple number. I can't even imagine how long it would take if I asked my students to write down anything during this time! Here's a picture of what it looks like so far. It's my own adaption of other Calendar Boards and Number of the Day's I've seen posted in a variety of places. This will definitely be a work in progress and something that will probably change relatively frequently in my classroom as I try out new ideas and bring in new concepts. I welcome any and ALL suggestions people may have for things they are doing in their class that's working for them. 

We have also got our Math Journal up and running. I used the amazing posts from Janaye over at Frogs and Cupcakes to set up and organize my journals this year. I loved all the organizing tips and ideas she has shared.

Tales of Frogs & Cupcakes

This is inside the front cover- the rules of our math journals and the start of the Table of Contents.

I also saw a great post awhile back about creating a web of numbers that related to each student as the cover of their Math Journal and I loved the idea....unfortunately I can't remember where it came from. If you know, please leave me a comment so I can give credit where credit is due. Here are some pics of how ours turned out.

Our first two entries include an anchor chart and a short check in question so I can assess how they are doing so far with place value.

 And that's it so far!! On Monday I am going to try a mini-workshop type class. I will be having different groups of students playing some math games while I call others over for a lesson on number lines. It's a little warm up for me before I dive in full force with a math workshop structure. Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Math Freebie- Place Value

I promise, promise I am working on some good posts. Some actual real posts...but for the next day at least I am trying to collect my bearings.

I do, however, have a little freebie for you. It's just something small that I threw together for a Minds On activity in my Grade 3 math class this week.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

The First Week...How did it go?

Thank you to all of those people who sent well wishes after my post yesterday! I appreciate it and I know that if anybody understands how I am feeling, it's you all!! LOL But I am feeling better today, the baby is napping (again!! The poor thing keeps asking to go to bed :(. I just want to hug her and hug her all day.) and the hubby is watching I finally have some time and the inclination to post a real post!

The first week!!! Doesn't it just send shivers of excitement and dread down your back? I read a post yesterday from another blogger that described exactly how I was feeling all week. Of course, now I can remember or find the blog...le sigh, but the gist was that during the first week it's so hard to adjust from last year's class in June who knew how everything worked, who knew just what you expected, who were able to walk across the classroom to sharpen their pencil without telling you about the time their dog's brother's aunt's mom rode a bike under an elephant. Lord, the stories!!!!! I know that they will get there. I know that we will be able to get through a read aloud without Little D shouting out a thousand and ones ideas that come to his head. I won't always have to explain the entire day's schedule the moment we walk in the door. At some point they will raise their hands when they have a question instead or trailing me around the room like 20 extra shadows.

But not tomorrow. And maybe not next week. But some day! 

Right? Le sigh.

So while I was working on modelling and remodelling and etc all of my expectations and routines we actually got some great work done in my class this week. I have a pretty bright group of Grade 3's, although I have a feeling reading is going to be a focus for a lot of them, and we got quite a bit of curriculum based work done. Here's a quick peek!

Here is my Book of the Week board in action. I am loving the structure that The Power of Retelling provides for my read alouds and reading strategy lessons. I would highly recommend it for anyone teaching literacy. One of my goals is still figuring out how to integrate my writing program. One day at a time...

Here is my daily schedule board in action. I am very happy that I went with blue and red borders to match the Dr. Suess theme.

One of our many anchor charts.... this is a skill we need, need, need to work on.

The Daily 5 is up and running, well started anyway. We have started Read to Self and are working on our stamina...5 minutes so far!!

This is where I will be conducting my math lessons. I have organized my black board with 5 different sections (I learned this from a colleague so I can't take credit). The first sections is "Getting Started" and this will be where I post a question or a problem as a "minds on" activity. The cue card with blue writing that you see posted around the orange question is the answers that were brainstormed my by my students, I just rewrote the answers in marker so they could be seen clearly.

Underneath you can see the "Lesson Problem". This, along with the next section "Working On It" will be where the main teaching is being done. After posting the question about the place value columns we spent some time with a place value mat and the Base Ten blocks in order to jump start our brains for further learning. Tomorrow, I plan to create an anchor chart together in the "Working On It" section as well as play some games and partner work before we debrief with the "Big Ideas/Highlights" and finally, the "Sample Problem.

You can see the whole board here, and I will post a picture of what it looks like once we have finished with this concept.

Lastly, I jumped right in with Math Stretches on the very first day! I meant to take a picture of the four that we completed from Tuesday to Thursday but the time just kept getting away from me. The one you see here is the prompt for Friday. Earlier in the week we did a graph of our mood (good/bad) about coming back to school, a growing pattern, and composing and decomposing numbers. I am loving it so far and my students seem to be really getting the hang of coming into the classroom, completing the math stretch and sitting on the carpet. Thank you, Laney Sammons!!

Well, that's it for now. I hope to get better at posting regularly as the school year settles in...but I am not going to promise anything!

Hope you are having a great Sunday!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

First Week Slump

I really want to post and tell you all about my first week teaching Grade 3. I want to tell you all about how little and cute my class is, about the 2 letters I received on the second day of school proclaiming I was "the best teacher EVER"...LOL, about the numerous hugs, the thousands of questions and the talking, good lord the talking!!

I was hoping to tell you all about starting the Daily 5, well, at least Read to Self. My math stretches are going sooo well, the number of the day is fun. I've already taught a math lesson using manipulatives. We've read three picture books and started a chapter book read aloud.

I really want to tell you all about it and I want to post pictures.... but, I seem to have caught a cold (ALREADY?) or my allergies are spiraling out of control. The baby is teething and has a cold/allergies. How I wish I could tell you all about it....

But, I am going to go to bed instead.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Meet The Teacher: Open House Week

Open House Week
Well, tomorrow is the day! Our first official day back at school is tomorrow so not only will you be "meeting the teacher" (me!) today, but my new students will tomorrow! To celebrate I'm linking up with TBA's Open House week. 

I am excited to go back to school. I have loved having the last 2 months off with my daughter but I love my job as well. I have often said that teaching isn't what I do, it's who I am!

Over the past 8 years of my career, this being my 9th year, I have taught Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8! The majority of my time has been with Grade 7, which I loved. I looped with my last class of 7's to grade 8 a few years ago and while it was amazing in the fall because we could jump right in, it fizzled out by the spring. I think it's because I also taught the same kids in Grade 5. So we were together for 3 out 4 years by the time they were in Grade 8...that was just a little too much.

This year I am teaching Grade first year in a primary class and I am nervous. They are going to be sooo little!

I believe in having high expectations for my students. Many of my teaching partners in the past often remarked that the work I gave my class would be too hard, but I have never looked at it that way. I think the higher you aim, the higher they go. So I tackled Shakespeare with my Grade 7's and 8's, I wrote essays with my Grade 5's...etc! 

The majority of my career was spent teaching Language Arts and Geography/History with a little French thrown in. I taught in a middle school so we had a full rotary schedule and each teacher only taught a single core load. After 6 years of full-time teaching, I had still never taught my own Math! Then two years ago I moved schools, went from teaching Grade 8 to Grade 4 and had a Math class for the first time. Now, Math is one of my favourite things to teach and I am super excited to implement all the things I learned this summer during the Guided Math Book Study.

So here I am, 12+ hours away from the first day of school! I can hardly wait to see what this year brings.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Reader's Notebooks Volume 2.0 (+Writer's Notebooks)

I originally posted about my Reader's Notebooks last year. This post is an adaptation of that original post. You can view the original here. 

This year I will be teaching Grade 3 and am once again overhauling my entire language program...really? Why do I do this??

I want to use both Reader's Notebooks and Writer's Notebooks in my class this year and am still working out a lot of the details. So this post may be a whole lot of "talking out loud" in order to figure it out. As I have posted about before I will be using the Daily 5 model- although calling it Literacy Workshop, and integrating it with my reading and learning about The Power of Retelling model.

I have always liked Beth Newingham's organizational structure for her Reader's Notebooks. However, I found that my students and I were not able to keep up with it last year. That being said, the teacher whose room I am moving into also loved Beth Newingham's ideas and left an entire class set of binders for me to use....what to do, what to do??

I am going to adopt/modify her idea and use the binders as Literacy Portfolio! This way, the name stays similar with our daily program, the binders will get used and I will have an organizational structure in place that works for me. 

Click the image to download your own copy.

I am hoping to create the section dividers with my students this year as part of our reading/ writing lessons. I think using card stock and perhaps 3M post-it tabs will do the trick?? 

The sections in their Literacy Portfolio will be:

1. Reading Progress

2. Writing Progress

And that's it!!

I am hoping that these binders will actually be something where we can track their development over the course of the year so that at the end of Grade 3 they can see how far they have come. The binders will be something we look at once a month in order to reflect and share our progress.

But what about all the other stuff you had in their Reader's Notebooks last year? 

Great question!

I have decided that a Reading Journal and a Writing Folder will work better for me...or so I think since I haven't actually done it yet. But, here's to thinking positively.

Click the image to download your own copy.

I am unable to to offer this as a freebie due to the images I chose to use! 
Sorry, I do not have a licence to share them.

How Will It All Come Together?

Last year I had my students filling out a reading log as they finished each book they read and we tracked it using the Genre Tally sheets I learned about from reading The Book Whisperer. I am not sure that will go very well with Grade 3' least not in the beginning of the year. So instead I am going to have them track the books they have finished reading as part of their weekly homework.

Here's what I plan to do this year-

Reading Log- This will be handed out and collected every Monday.

The curved frame used in my Reading Log is from- LB Designs

I want to track my student's books by genre but I don't think it's something I want to jump into in the beginning of the year with Grade 3. We will start with just tracking how many minutes we have read and move on from there when the students seem ready. 

Reader Response Work

Last year I planned to have my Grade 4's responding to me about their reading in the same manner I had used with my Grade 7/8's...with some adaptations of course.

This did not work.

I loved it when I did with my big kiddos as it felt like a weekly conversation with my students about books and literature.  My grade 4's really struggled and we just never seemed to get it off the ground. This year I plan to make it more of an in-class task and perhaps more orally based to start. I do think this is where The Power of Retelling will help to fill some gaps in my program!

There are still some things to work out but as all good teaching it will be (and should be!) a work in progress.

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