Monday, January 27, 2014

Formal Observations and Student Led Teaching

Hi, all!  I am SO happy to tell you all that I had my (one and only!) formal observation for this year!  In NYC, we have two options for our evals: 1 formal and 3 informal or 6 informal.  Like my entire grade, I took the first option.  Our evaluations are based on the Danielson Framework, so for my formal obersvation, I needed to incorporate all 22 strands. Yikes!

Long, long, long agonizing story short, my observation went really well. I've been working with my class on having them take the lead all year and it really paid off during this observation.  My students were totally on point and engaged for the whole lesson (and my AP stayed for all of focused reading instruction and scaffolded instruction - two full periods!). In particular, my students sustained an awesome "Team Talk" conversation without me stepping in at all.  During this portion of the morning, the students discussed whether it was right for a character to eavesdrop on another character.  My student leader called on classmates who responded directly to claims made by other students. They were supporting with evidence, they were clarifying for each other (!) and they asking each other questions.  This conversation went so well that my AP asked if I could deliver some PD and have my class video taped for others to watch!  :-O

As part of my reflection for our post observation conference, I wanted to write a little bit about how I encouraged my students to really take ownership of class discussions this year.

1.) Establish a culture of respect early on. You may have students who need to see that disagreement can be civil and they need to understand that when someone disagrees with them it isn't personal.  I can't tell you how many times I had to repeat that phrase throughout September and October.  It isn't personal when someone sees another side of things. I'm fortunate to have a co-teacher in my room during the "Team Talk" portion of ReadyGen (our literacy program).  He and I modeled how to disagree but stay friendly.

2.) Respond directly to other students.  A few months ago I posted about how I gave my students prompts to help them direct the questioning.  Their favorite was "Who would like to agree or disagree?" but too often when they called on a classmate to agree or disagree the student would use the sentence stem but never actually respond directly to the idea they were agreeing with or disagreeing with!  Students need to understand they can take a minute to think about what's been said and then speak directly to that rather than sit, listen and wait their turn to say something new.

3.) Remind students frequently to speak to each other. I will interrupt students to remind them to speak to the previous speaker. This keeps the conversation focused and avoids the pattern of student speaks, teacher/student teacher speaks, new student speaks.

4.) Force yourself to step back.  Allow a little bit of silence in the room while students think and train student leaders to be able to identify students how have burning questions.  As much as we do not want our students to call out, sometimes a student may blurt out the exact questions you were about to pose to the class to keep the conversation rolling.  Student generated questions are essential to student led conversations!

5.) Debrief the class after they have a conversation. Take quick notes and highlight the things the class does well.  Do they look at each other when they speak? Did the student leader do a great job calling on many voices?  Was everyone using respectful body language?  Did you refer directly to text? Did anyone ask a great question?  Find those positives and praise the heck out of them!  Then determine the next course of action and tell them how they will improve their conversation for the next discussion.  You might do a mini lesson on what to do if a conversation seems to die out.  This lesson isn't just for the student leading the discussion but all students, because eventually you want all students to take turns leading the conversation.

My next step is to move these student led teaching strategies into math!

Tell me, how do you have your students take the lead in your classroom?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Valentine's Day Freebie!

Hi all!  Just a quick note to let you know that I updated my Facebook Freebie.  You can head over there to grab a multiplying decimals activity that is a part of my Valentine's Day Math Centers that I just uploaded to TpT.

Here is the link to my FB Page: Facebook

To complete the activity, students multiply all 8 cards and then match the birds with the same product.  Gotta love self checking work!

If you are interested in the full set of Valentine's Day Math Centers, they are on sale on TpT for $3 right now.

This set is focused on decimals and order of operations.

Have a great week, all!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Goal Setting in the New Year

Hi all!  Hope everyone adjusted well to be back in school after vacation!

Like most of you, we spent this week doing some reflection and goal setting for the new year.  At our school, we set goals three times a year.  In the beginning of the year, I try to use my baseline assessments to guide students to write their goals.  Now that we've been together for a while, I release the responsibility for goal setting to the students.

To set their goals, I held conferences with each student and reviewed their portfolios.  In math, the students complete their own item analysis after each topic test.  They use their data to write a compliment and a goal for the upcoming topic.

 Students looked at their work and selected a new goal for the middle of the school year. You can see that this student used his benchmark test to set his middle of year goal.  (After he set the goal, I helped him elaborate and create an action plan for the goal.)
These forms were created by my school.  All students have these forms in their portfolios.

In ELA, students reviewed a Unit Test and their two writing pieces to determine a goal for the middle of the year.

This student used the goal I noted after reading his narrative to set his goal for the middle of the year.

For myself, I'm not a big goal setter.  I set a few professional goals in September to assist myself in the new evaluation system, but most of my personal goals are fitness based.  I'm registered for a 10k and a triathlon.  Right now, I'm trying to clean up my diet!

Did your students set some new goals for the New Year?  And how about you?  Did you set any goals for 2014?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Making the most of a non-snow day!

If you are in the Northeast, then you are probably in front of your computer awaiting this blizzard that is about to hit.  In NY, many districts went back to school today, but are in limbo waiting for news about school closings tomorrow.

 In my own classroom, I had 8 absences today!  With the low temperatures, impending snow and vacation, I wasn't really surprised so many kiddies were out today.  But what do you do when you have a super small class?  Do you forge ahead with the curriculum or do you take a step  back and wait for the rest of the class to return?  I decided to wait.  Instead of our regularly scheduled program, here is what we worked on today:

1.) Extended Independent Reading - I have a group that (mostly) loves to read.  All of my big readers were present today and so we talked about what we read over the vacation, grabbed new books, fresh stickies and enjoyed some quiet reading time.

2.) Goal Setting/Revision - Capitalizing on the idea of making resolutions, we set about revisiting our beginning of year goals, evaluating progress and setting new goals for the middle of the year.  With only 11 kids present, I was able to conference individually with everyone!

3.) Review Games - I have so many fabulous resources from the bloggy world that I don't always get a chance to use, so today was a great day to dig up some task cards I printed but never used and put them into practice during a game of scoot.

4.) Conversation  - I love having time to talk to students about what they've done over vacation.  While they insisted that they did "nothing," I eventually found out that they went all over the place during this vacation.  There were lots of car trips and even a cruise!  #jealous

5.) Housekeeping - My "to file" pile has gotten crazy, but today, we took care of all of it.  While revisiting our original goals, students filed their benchmark tests and their performance tasks into their portfolio.  Of course we used this information to set out new goals!

So there you have it.  Today was the snow day that wasn't in our room, but we managed to stay sane and even a little productive!

Tell me: what do you do in the event of lots of absences?  Any special projects you like to work on?  Or do you continue with your curriculum?