Posted in Christian education, educational leadership, elementary math, elementary science, KCK, learning, reflection, relocation, teaching

The End or the Beginning?

The state of Kansas with its beautiful natural prairies, green trees, rolling hills (yes), friendly and relaxed people, and the ever-present teacher shortage gave me quite a surprise when I applied for my certification.  But I think it affirms the reason I am here in the first place, and it will end up changing my life as an educator for the better.

I did not want my teacher friends who only subscribe to my teacher blog to miss this one!

See my reflection on my “life” blog here

Posted in educational leadership, elementary math, elementary science, learning, reflection, stay at home mom, teachers pay teachers, teaching

Mind Change (not exactly a “mindshift”)

A girl has a right to change her mind…so the blog is back in business. Those toilets can wait.

I am really trying to get this Teachers Pay Teachers gig to take off, and it is waaaaaaay harder than I thought (whiny voice).  The most successful Teacher Authors have blogs that go with their products and really cute stuff.  I REALLY put a TON of effort into the things I already posted.  Like 5-6 hours for a short lesson or even just a thinking map! I have been watching videos and reading posts on how to market my stuff.  And one thing I am going to have to do is actually market! This part is kind of stressing me out. I am not good at making things cute or convincing anyone to buy anything.

But I am pretty good at writing. And I am REALLY good at connecting with others. And as long as no one is mean to me in the comments, I am really good following up with people or helping out.  So I think I still have some skills here…

I am pretty sure I can give this a go again–posting my teacher wisdom and resources here.  I might even learn how to make it (ugh) cute.  But probably not with the ever-present chevron, flowing script letters, or those ubiquitous stick figure kids with the big heads. Gotta be me.

Well, don’t miss my (rather colorful) comments on life on my for real blog but stick with me here for lots of teacher biz, just like in the old days.

Oh, here is my uber-outstanding TpT store.  Oh my gosh, please follow me. You could help me get to TEN FOLLOWERS!

 

 

Posted in elementary math, elementary science, learning, teaching

The Necessity of a Wonder Wall

Kids today…

What are they thinkin’?

Well, they are thinkin’ a lot. And often.  And I don’t know if you have really talked to one lately, but if you can stop them from talking about Fortnite, they are pretty amazing creatures.

Educators, please, please, for this reason: don’t skip out on a wonder wall.

Kids are filled with so much wonder.  So much positivity and hope.  They are fully convinced that they can change the world.  My students and I spend time on the IUCN red list, and every time we do one of my kids is ready to ship off to Madagascar to save a frog.  They would too if they could.  And I’d let them (I’d go too. Contract shmontract)

The thing is somewhere along the way this changes.  These are not kids that expect you to hand them anything, these guys want to help EVERYONE and wonder about EVERYTHING.  When we are learning together and someone asks an off-the-wall but not-to-be-funny sort of question, I have a choice.  I can acknowledge her thinking or dismiss it.  “Hmm…good question, you should look that up…” (DISMISSED!) or “That’s interesting, but we can talk about that later…” (Nope. DISMISSED!)

That’s where this comes in. Make it a part of your classroom culture.  Let them wonder.  “Ooo! Good question…put that on the wonder wall!” (That is important to me. Let’s keep it.) The student who really wants to know will write the question on a sticky note for all to see. The one who was messing around won’t.  The whole community now has interest piqued. This becomes our question. In upper grades, let a kid research and report back.  I would write some answers, stick them back up and spend a couple of minutes going over the answers.  This took maybe five minutes, but the value! Oh my goodness! And to make it, I just put the words “I wonder” on a piece of chart paper and laminated it!  Since I buy so many school supplies, I have plenty of Super Stickies for the job.  The question is still there, literally hanging out, until it is answered.  Not forgotten.

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*original poster buried with                 school things*                Just like this. Well, maybe not just like this. My guy looks weird.

Kids today believe they can change the world.  They are hopeful. They want to soak up knowledge and wonder about everything.  Yes, they ask why.  Yes, they get you off topic.  Yes, some of those questions may be weird or nothing you were even talking about.  But none of those questions, or the kids, are dismissed.  If you want to create an environment of wonder and curiosity, don’t dismiss–let those questions fly (to the sticky notes).

Posted in educational leadership, elementary math, learning, reflection, teaching

Making a Math Class Kids Will Love, Part 2: Goal Setting (and Collaboration)

Making a (1)

I finally did it! I unlocked the magic behind SMART goals. And, hey, it only took me, like, a school year and a little more 🙂 We started goal setting as a school-wide focus a couple of years ago, and I just couldn’t figure it out with my 4th graders (see my post about that struggle).  I tried. I read. I read lots. I tried something else.  I collaborated. But nothing seemed to stick.

Enter my brilliant friends, Monica Maynor and Shayla Johnston, who (somewhere between the two of them) came up with an easy to follow progress monitoring sheet perfect for the kids to use and reflect upon themselves. Monica had the idea of having the students record their pre-test scores on a bar graph on the front of the page. Later, we take the exact test as a post-assessment, and the kids mark this test right beside it.  They are then able to see in bold colors or pencil scratches the gains they made during the module.  We teach through the use of Learning Targets and on this sheet there is a spot for each lesson and a short reflection on why they met or did not meet the day’s target. Perfect, right? All that was missing was some goal setting in the little box that remained.

So we discussed our goals. With the momentum of our newly organized goal setting sheet, I knew exactly where to go…

“I want to be a better mathematician.” Me, too! But…how will you do that or decide that you are?

“I want to get better (or faster) at multiplication (division/subtraction/addition).” Me, too! But…how will you do that or decide that you did?

“I want to be the best in the world at math!” Me, too! But…that’s not my only job, nor is it yours! Think that’s doable?

Time for a quick lesson on SMART goals!  We talked about SMART and ran all of the above (and a few more) through the test! They helped me with a few of my own goals such as getting into grad school and running another 5k. They loved it. We turned each of our goals into something…

Specific: We always have a number. 7/12 learning targets, increase post score by 40 points.

Measurable: Kids can see if they’ve done it or not.

Attainable: Goal is to gain, not make a 100…not everyone will. Especially if one started with an 18. Bringing that up 60 points to a 78 shows tremendous learning!

Relevant: Keeping in mind the idea: how is this important to my future success as a 4th grader? In middle and high school?  Why do I need this in the first place?

Timely: “By the end of this module…”

After we wrote, we did a “whip around” quickly sharing our goals out, helping to fix any that are missing an element of SMART, in particular the S, M, and the T.  We are on our third module, about to begin our fourth tomorrow, and we’ll follow the same procedure, checking in to make sure we have a SMART goal in this way. Many sound the same, but we are all working on the same work, so that is to be expected. Besides, save the uniqueness for the celebrations when we end the module!
My kids now understand how and why they met their goals or know they still need help. When I am ready to form small groups for tiered instruction, I use these goal setting sheets and their reflections to guide me. This, sometimes more than a post-test, tells me how well they comprehended the module.

This level of voice in their reflections is starting to come through stronger as we move into the fourth module.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring. They’d never know to have this conversation had they not set a goal and had it to reflect upon. It only took me a year, a couple of good friends, and a lot of collaboration to figure out how to do set SMART goals that work for kids, but learning takes time, even for us big kids!