The year 2012 marks the end of another chapter in my expat life. I say good-bye to Hong Kong and relocate to Australia. You can look forward to hearing about the wonderful ideas I get from Australian colleagues. You may notice I've re-set my spell-check to the Oxford Dictionary as a step in getting accustomed to a slightly new form of English :).
|Planboardapp.com - 100 free lessonsand hopefully at lot more worry free lesson planning!|
I have checked out the on-line planning programs. I will make a run down of them on Monday if I get time….hopefully, it will be a post sooner than later. But no promises. I am getting organized and spending more time with family for 2013!
For now, I am going to jump to the end of all my research and experiences and tell you what I choose!
But first…my disclaimer. Part of my excitement for my on-line software choice comes from knowing what I needed out of a lesson planning program.
Before starting the search and testing of any software you are CHOOSING to use (rather than being directed by the county), walk through these simple steps. They should save you frustration and help you avoid the struggle of FITTING to a software program rather than finding the one that FITS YOUR NEEDS. The set up will be a time investment…so invest your time wisely!
- How do you plan right now? (In a paper plan book, have done the Word doc 8 1/2 by 11 or legal, I’ve done drawing on a drawing pad…stored in a binder.)
- Who will see your plans and why do they review them? admin, parents, peers (looking for standards, differentiation, instructional methods, set lesson cycle elements). If you don’t know, ASK!
- What do you need to show in your plans? Does your county have a set format? ASK!
- What would you like to show in your plans to achieve strong results on the new teacher evaluations? (Admit it…this is a consideration you should think about!) Marzano, differentiation, Blooms.
- What do you want to show or just want to have in your plans? files, photos, videos (I hate being so prepared for a lesson, and then setting down that one paper I wanted to show on the dot cam. UGH…NO MORE!)
- What do you like about the way you plan now and how they look? (I loved the block periods, being able to use Post-it and make notes).
- Are there areas that are simple and seem to save time? (Some of my time slots repeat…spelling and vocabulary instruction or independent practice…it’s the same standards and I used a core set of centers).
- What are the areas that are challenging and take the longest? (I lose my plan book under my ‘stuff’, lose my post-its..even though I bought the expensive, super sticky ones, feel I’m repeating what I write in my plan book and worry it won’t be easy to read or find lesson ideas/benchmarks next year because they will take my plan book away..OH NO!)
- How is your day really set up? Your week? Your month?
- What elements of all this repeat? or have a structure that seems to be similar enough?
- What do you do with your plans once they are written? (I draw and take notes all over mine. Add sticky notes.)
Ok…now for my experience.
|This was where I put in some elbow grease.I entered the Florida Standards for 4th gradelanguage arts, social studies and I will do math.
I also want to add the Fl. Gifted Guidelines.
However, Planboardapp.com already has the
Common Core Standards up
and ready to
I did try out MyLessonPlanner.com pretty seriously. I felt the site did more, I’d have my own lesson plan website to share with parents. It was just under $8/month.
But I’ve been reflecting on making life simpler and this bells and whistles site was really cumbersome to navigate and get set up. I really gave it an effort! A few hours of effort.
I realized I was fighting the technology rather than using it to make my life easier. I gave up after using way too much time on it.
I don’t have time to read the directions, I’ll admit it.
|This is the lesson from my independent reading block, you can see I have
embedded a video for my ENGAGE! LOVE THIS! I can also
attach files and pictures. I WILL be organized!
Plus CUSTOMER SERVICE!!! Every question I asked of Planboardapp.com was responded to quickly (sometimes in a matter of minutes) and cheerfully. (I’m still awaiting a reply from MyLessonPlanner on a question I asked yesterday morning….) I’m not impatient normally. However, I really have a plan for this New Year and I want to hit the ground up and running on Monday. So I’m motivated and was very thankful for the super customer service. THANK YOU!!!
So…after a few hours on Planboardapp.com, then a few not so productive hours on MyLessonPlaner.com, I asked myself why I was fighting this.
|Here is what my schedule looks like.You can see the rotations and periods I set up for my day.You can even see where I started planning and added
Florida standards. I love that it has the block elements
I enjoyed in my paper plan book.
I had already been giving Planboardapp.com a go in the morning, started to set up my schedule and periods. I had found it simple. I gave the other site the same attempt with much less progress. So I headed back to Planboardapp.com.
I worked through today and this evening tightening up my schedule and periods – that’s the key.
Then, I started developing my templates. There are lesson plan templates that I can assign to any day and/or periods that I’d like.
I enjoy the squares in my paper plan book and feel that different areas of my day require different types of lesson planning.
So I created formats for the most common way I think through a lesson and used the strong guidelines for lesson planning. I’ll share those up close a little later.
In the end I had a plan formats for:
- my beginning of day routines that include grammar and literature analysis – along with small group pulls that I do.
- Independent reading time – with engage videos and small group pulls.
- Whole group reading instruction.
- Small group instruction with small group enters.
- Writing lessons
- Spelling and Vocabulary lessons.
- And an Assessment Day.
- Some of my plan formats were for periods like Activity, Additional PE and end of day duties.
|Here is where you set up your days. I choose a 5 day rotation with 8 periods.There is a drop down arrow where I
named each period.
I want to show it off for now and then I’ll walk through in a different post how I set up my on-line plans ,if this is something you are interested in. (Just comment and let me know.)
As far as cost, there is a cost after the first 100 lessons. But if you share Planboard with friends, each signup gives you 100 additional lessons for FREE! They allow up to 1000 extra lessons a year for free…but I’ll be honest. The $29.95 would be worth it if this truly continues to be as good as it seems.
I have already received 500 additional lessons. So if you find you really can us this on-line lesson plan site, once you sign up, spread the word.
I have to admit, it is very rare that some form of technology really sticks out at making life that much easier. I love my IPhone…but my IPad is OK. I’m a laptop user…
Essentially, I have been using and around technology since the 1980s…yep I’m old. I tend to think sometimes in computer-ease. However, that does not mean I jump at every piece of technology out there.
Over time I have learned to really discriminate, because there is a lot of software and hardware that takes up more of my time rather than save me time (think about how many emails you read and respond to a day). I had considered on-line lesson planning software this summer…but I didn’t feel the programs I tried out would save me time. I took a look again over the holiday break and still wasn’t too sold until I came across Planboard. It had the right look and feel, as well as the flexibility and structure that I needed.
|This is what sold me and brought me back aftertrying a site with more bells and whistles (and more cost).It’s the look and feel of Planboardapp and the POST-IT!
I can record my observations and/or reflections just like I do now!
Something I learned about myself was that I react to the look of the planning software. I really like how Planboard is set up. It navigates and looks like a plan book I would use, as well as my passion for Post-Its! I use Post-its in my plan book to record observations. That was a MUST for an on-line plan book. Many had places to take notes…but Planboardapp actually had a POST-it for each day!!! It’s a visual that I connect with and appreciate. Especially because I lose more Post-its that I care to admit. (I even bought the ones with 100% sticky on the back…and those still fell out…ugh).
I have asked if they would consider allowing multiple Post-Its and being able to change there colors.
OHHH….that would thrill me. Yes…I’m a simpleton. Click on any PlannboardApp and give it a go!
I hope you enjoyed my rambling…
Yesterday I posted about the tensionbetween school and family. I’d like to find the one teacher who doesn’t feel that.
So,I took time to work it out through good, old-fashioned work! I headed out to my fruit trees to harvest the rest of our lemons.
I’m a thinker…deep thinker. The long, sharp thorns I had to navigate to cut off dead limbs and bright fruits brought reflection. The branches holding so much fruit were weighed down…some looked to be black and dying; struggling just to live.
It was kind of sad. I realized I neglected this tree by just focusing on the growing and not the cutting back. We did talk about pruning this spring, but my husband wanted to see just how much fruit the tree would yield and felt any cuts would take away from any gains.
I’m not sure how smart we were. Yes…there is some beautiful fruit we have and can harvest. However, inside the tree the limbs were dark, thin and the fruit was smaller. They seemed to being trying, fighting to reach the Sun – blocked by foliage – by too much ‘stuff’.
I got a strong sense, as I set to work, that my tree was much worse off that when the season started. And so I started to prune away!
Not quickly…so thoughtfully that my son asked me what I was doing. ”Well, I am approaching this like a Ninja (everything sounds much smarter to a 4th grade boy when you add ‘Ninja’ – try it). I am taking my time to avoid the thorns and keep my strengths. I also want to cut away as much dead weight to let the sun shine on the fruit that is left.”
|Sometimes to make fruitful gains,
one needs to cut back.
How much dead weight was I carrying right now. How much extra ‘stuff’ was I doing in class that might be linked to publisher materials, old habits, tradition that was causing me to sag. Maybe I was harvesting some beautiful, bright students…but were there others that the ‘stuff’ was causing to struggle rather than strive.
This year I have noticed many of my parents struggle under the weight of family and school expectations. I have already been wondering how to help with that.
How much weight do I struggle under with my family…expectations, guilt, working to get them more ‘stuff’!
I really think ‘simple’ is key.
In addition, my husband and I sat down last night to look at the effects of the new tax laws. We will bring home hundreds less each month starting Friday. When we went through the budget, I noticed the one area he kept avoiding, and what was making me very anxious, was classroom and my ‘fun’ (aka give to children when they ask) expenses. I really didn’t have ‘social’ expenses or regular expenses that went just to me.
Still, I would need to change.
In addition to pruning the ‘stuff’ I do in my class, I will have to cut back on what I spend…the incentives, ink, copies I make at Office Depot (who give educators amazing discounts THANK YOU!) We already are limited in school for copies, no more team printers, team resources. Ugh… I am feeling pretty dire. Still I know there are many teachers just like me out there, so there must be a positive.
In addition to pruning the ‘stuff’ for school, I will have to cut back on what I do and spend at home.
So this post will have no answers…however, my lemon tree is only a 1/4 done. So you never know what good work will help me work out.
I was thinking that I really took time off this break…I didn’t do ‘anything’ but enjoy family.
I was relaxed.
Then a friend called to get together on Friday because it was time ‘to get back to work’. As we were talking, I started rambling about the desire to try out some of the on-line plan books (another post), how I cleaned my classroom and reorganized it (came out great..student designed)…enjoyed Christmas and then got knocked out (literally) by the flu on Saturday for 4 days.
I was surprized.
When I hung up, I realized I worked a lot on my class over the week I was healthy, but not as much as I’d like. Still…I have time.
I started to get worried…about the writing assessment…about some of my students’ reading…I need to….
STOP...I started thinking about my own children. My oldest is in college now and has been home to visit, my middle is in high school with a need for independence but guidance (she wouldn’t agree I’m sure), and my youngest is in the grade I teach at a different school – an absolute joy and still enjoys being around me! We need to do his science fair project by MONDAY! Ugh.
I started teaching to be with them..to be a better mom and stay connected. I had launched satellites (doesn’t really fit the time-table for having children, especially when a launch slips). I was going to major in computers… but the school counselor said if I really ‘wanted to be a mom’, I should consider teaching.
Teaching and family has always been a good fit…until coming back to America. ugh..
I find that with all the confidence of the post before (as far as the state assessments), I have a lot of tension between family and school. I work A LOT and think A LOT about how to improve my teaching and learning so my students will be a success. Yet…what time is that leaving me to make sure my family is equally successful. I worry about behaviours and my students esteem. Yet…I haven’t really focused on my own children’s esteem enough.
I began to feel sad….
I’m not one to dwell in pity long. I had purchased the Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self
a while back and cracked it open in response to my worry. You are going to hear about this journey, my reflections and rambling, because EVERYTHING in the introduction and WHY Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote that book hits home.
Some people hmm and haw about New Year’s resolutions. I have always enjoyed them. Not as opportunities for failure… but as opportunities to hope and dream. I have become so focused on my classroom and student learning data that I have lost sight of my students’ hopes and dreams, my family’s, as well as my own.
The ability to truly believe in, love, and consider others have always been my super powers. My mom once said that ability to ‘see the best in others’ is what she regretted most in me. She felt it would not help me in the world.
She is probably right. But in my heart, that brings me joy and contentment. However, it does bring its own struggles. I can care too much and sometimes that makes me do too much.
Moments like these remind me that simple isn’t always stupid. In fact, too much ‘stuff’ can lead to little gains. This year I am going to focus on bringing back the joy in learning through simpler moments, and bring balance into my life by living simple. I intend to do ‘less’ better so I can have more moments of joy with my own family, friends, and pupils.
I hope you had a wonderful holiday and look as forward to 2013 as me!
For those that followed the Florida Writes 2.0 in the news…writing scores were so alarming that the state had to readjust their level guidelines to give more higher scores. The questions were raised of where blamed laid…
Did the teachers teach quality? Was there a state error?
Well…I just found this and it makes sense. It’s just a learning curve.
As far as on the state website…it appears Florida teachers had no examples of what the new higher level writing criteria looked like…so how could they align their teaching/learning/assessments to match the new assessment criteria? Remember…the standards did not change.
I have been working through all the NGSSS standards and, I feel, some are quite general. (I love how the CCSS has more clarity and examples embedded in).
I wonder what student scores would have been if teachers had the opportunity to review and share samples of student work across the 6 point scale. They could have compared and contrasted writing based on the old criteria and then on the new. Since the standards remained the same…the key probably came down to student depth of knowledge and emphasis on different standards…for example, more weighting on conventions versus imagery.
I believe students and teachers could have nailed the FCAT Writes 2.0! But it’s hard to master a level of achievement if a ‘student’ doesn’t know what the reach is. I’d like to see the alignment of student writing turned in this past year against the older criteria. I wonder what the scores would be based on what the teachers had experience with. Interesting…
This year, I plan to critically assess student samples of writing with state examples and teach the ability to my students. I want no surprizes on the FCAT Writes for students…unless they have a bad day. Even then, I want my students to have a strong sense of what they submitted.
For assessment creators…before we give assessments…we should have clear examples of what quality and our criteria look like not just the standards and learning objectives. We need to know the depth and application – is it good enough to know or will the assessment call for applying. Will it be a ‘list’, ‘know’ or USE (I see that a lot in CCSS).
Then we should ensure that our ‘students’ have a clear understanding of what they are learning, how they will be assessed (and why) and what quality work looks like and does not look like
I have been swirling this around in my head…especially when it comes to how I will grade…how my assessments will show student understanding and mastery of the NGSSS and CCSS.
Hmmm….isn’t it summer?
As a teacher, I have found that I have I tend to teach the way I learn best. I have found this isn't always the best way to teach, because not all of my students don't learn the way I do. I began to read a book called Gifts and Talents for Teenagers by Carol Carter. This book isn't for teachers, but obviously as the title says it is for teenagers.
A few times each year, I have the pleasure of visiting my colleagues' classrooms. As my division focused on the implementation of Word Study, I signed up to watch Barry Mernin's classroom in action.
Yes, his Word Study procedures were excellent. More amazing to me were the absolutely seamless transitions his 4th grade students made from one activity to another.
1. Why is a gathering place important?
floor. Students were closer so I
could monitor not only behavior, but I could better assess and observe learning.
2. How can I best support students to pick appropriate books?
|image from Barnes and Noble.com|
What are my concerns?
3. What rituals and routines to I need to teach this structure
to be successful?
- How to use and keep full their book box.
- Developing anchor charts and referring back to them.
- Modeling good and wrong behaviour.
- Bringing students back to the gathering place if they get
- off task to soon.
- Consider my signals and procedures for Checking In.
|IPICK Bookmarks by Treasures for Teaching|
Will I need to adapt any?
Don’t forget to join Mrs. Freshwater’s Class and Jan from Reading and Thinking Out loud for the blog hop!
I know this school year over, but I still think about next year. I have a few goals that I would like to do next year. I want to list them below, and I hope to check back on this to see if I have followed through with a few of this goals.
I want to incorporate more technology into my classroom.