2014 to 2015, 4th grade, Just thinking, The New Florida Standards

It’s been a tough year…so I need to establish some poise?

This is a tough year.

I feel like that has been the mantra for teachers and me for the last few years.  Is it the Common Core?  Misguided accountability?  Children now-a-days?  The mountain of paperwork?  Who knows… In the end, what it comes down to is that I love teaching.  And when it gets hard, I head back to one of my favourite books…

Simple Abundance is a staple for being the better me.

So, I went to open it up today…I do try to read most days in order. But when a topic speaks to me, I let it.

My Nook literally took me to October 10th…the date 3 days before my anniversary, and a month and 7 days before today.  “Poise Wreckers.”  Just the title gave me pause.  I feel surrounded by chaos and difficulty.  People I love are struggling…are sad.  I just can’t manage to ‘master’ my classroom this year…and my family seems in some disarray.  And I haven’t felt up to par.

So why poise?

Honestly, I don’t think much about poise.  I’m not exactly sure what poise is.

 Well, maybe it’s time.


“No quality is more attractive than poise – that deep sense of being at ease with yourself and the world.”

Good Housekeeping, September 1947.


Sarah Ban Breathnach describes a day she changed herself for a meeting rather than relax and be who she is.  In the end, she worried herself up to late at night, dressed outside her comfort zone, and ended up farther away from happiness and peace.


“To achieve order within, begin with outward order.”

Sarah Ban Breathnach


When I start to struggle, I always look for clues for how to get back to the better me.  It’s true.  It’s difficult to feel confidence and serene amid piles of stuff.  My classroom feels in disarray…my home is still not done from summer….I feel like I am always a full five steps behind where I need to be.

How can my teaching feel together and with it, if my life is ‘cluttered’ and ‘jumbled’?  The Common Core feels like a ‘new look’.  (The new Florida standards is the Common Core – except for a sentence or two each grade level.)

According to SBB, “If you want a new look, put it together thoughtfully and gradually, so that you’ll be at ease with the final effect.”  Well, I don’t feel like I have put this new look together well.

The implementation feels jumbled, my thoughts are cluttered with new stuff, I just don’t have the ‘poise.’  Maybe that is where I am going wrong.

“Poise is often overlooked when we think of putting together our authentic look.”  So…if I stop focusing on what’s going wrong, what feels off, Sarah says my smile will become ‘warmer’, my laughter more ‘spontaneous’, and my thoughtfulness will ‘blossom.”  I soooo want that!  I am very reflective and I feel if I am not quite right with the world, my students aren’t heading down the smoothest path possible.  And honestly, I know I challenge them…but I still want their challenges to feel they are developed in strength and not chaos.  Does that make sense?  So, I need to gain some poise…find some order and take time to have a ‘beauty routine’ that sets my day BEFORE I leave my home.

Poise is more than just looks, it is that ease with my self.  As a leader in my classroom, I need be the calm before the storm, rather than the wind than brings in the tornados and hurricanes.  And these days, I feel more like I am weathering storms, rather than having the confidence gained with good planning before one. (I feel like I’m thinking in idioms.)

That said.  I am heading back to blogging my thoughts….getting my mental dressing table prepared for each day…making sure my classroom plans reflect the planning and preparation I expect for myself…and that I need.

I need to include my family in that…and my own health.

You are probably thinking I am already out timing myself…where will I get all this time?  I need to focus better, rest more, and exercise.  I need to eat healthier…and use each minute well.  More important…


The only way we become truly at ease with ourselves is by knowing who we are.

Sarah Ban Breathnauch


Maybe that is what is the most wrong this year.  With all the changes and piling paperwork…less time…mounting family challenges…maybe I’ve lost sight of who I am in all of this.  I have always sort of know who I was as a teacher and my strengths.  This year I feel like I am facing so many challenges, I am losing site of who I am.

Well, regardless…resilience is one of my superpowers.  In the end, I love my family, I love my students, and I love to teach.  So, I need to put my head down and organize my ‘dressing table’ and closet.  I need to spend some time putting my new self together thoughtfully and gradually…and enjoy the growth and change.  I need to gain order outward, before I truly have that inward order.  I need to personally groom my inner self..my own sense of style…that comes from celebrating on my strengths and less on the shortfalls.  I need to place nurturing my ‘inner poise’ into A daily ritual…I need to have a daily beauty ritual!

And of course…it only costs me time…ugh..and self nurturing…well…. as many spouses, parents and teachers will tell you…that will be the biggest challenge.  ‘Who I am’ and ‘time for me’ seemed to be at the end of the line when it comes to work and family.

That’s where I am going wrong…so…Poise wreckers…move over!  I can ‘bend and snap’ like the rest of them!

First on my list..going to be early and getting some good sleep!

zzzzzzzz

terricupsig

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2014 to 2015, Family, Florida Education, Planning, Planning2Learn, Teacher Evaluation, Teacher Mentoring

Understanding by Design…. new year, new teams…but old ways!

 Back to school in a week and this kitchen remodel has placed me well behind my goals.  Still…it is a good experience for someone who loves to plan and keep chaos at bay…because, there has been so much I could not manage.  Sometimes, I realize I just need to “Let it Go!”  (My summer mantra.)

PlanningbyPool
Getting started for the new year!

Well, now that I have a floor, I have started to clean inches of concrete dust, have a clean space, and I have found my work!!   (Although, I am wondering why I didn’t just hang out here by the pool most days.)  All in all, it was needed.  I can honestly say I barely thought about the new Florida standards and this year, which I think was good.  I also better see my priorities…I have an amazing husband and family that needs my time.

As far as school, I’m fresh and unfocused…sometimes needed for creativity or starting a new path. 

To gear up, I have started Wiggins’ “Understanding by Backward Design.”  Although I usually start with the standards and student outcomes, with all the changes this year I figured I needed to go back to the foundation. So, I’m heading back to the ‘old ways’ –  focusing on assessment for learning and student outcomes.understanding by design

This blog will be up and going more this 2014 to 2015 school year.  There was a lot of great things that happened over this past year, but time seemed so fluid it was difficult to write down my reflections.  And yet, I felt I should have.  There were times I thought things through, had great ideas, was trying to self-assessment a path I was on…and I would wake up, or drive home, and it was gone!  Sometimes temporarily…sometimes I would think, “I had it all figured out and it’s lost.”

I was going to start my MA in Ed Leadership.  However, I am the 4th grade team lead, on the team for the new Florida Standards Implementation at our school, and have 2 interns from August to December.  Although my degree is important (  :0 )   , I want to achieve better balance this year (don’t laugh).  I want to be more present with my family and more targeted at work.

I have always wanted to be a teacher trainer, and now it’s here!  I love teaching and want to share that.  At the same time, I am curious when it comes to adult learners.  Having taught grown ups in the Air Force, I have some experience; however, I expect this to be very different.

Teaching can be personal.  It is not a career that ends at 5pm and you leave at the office. Curriculum, students, events, moments…all stick in your head when it comes to the children you teach.   They are not computer programs or ‘widgets’ you walk away from when you turn off the lights.

Although I wonder if teaching has to be a passion or calling, I do feel that our education mentoring program here in Brevard (education in general) could be improved – and I hope to see if my thinking has positive outcomes.

Just like I believe in assessment for learning, metacognition, and personal goal setting with my students, I intend to use those strategies with my interns.  At the end of our time, I want these new teachers to feel stronger, more knowledgable, more skills, and better prepared for teaching with a greater idea of their personal strengths and challenges.

Therefore, “Understanding by Design” will not only help me think through the new Florida standards, but I intend to ‘plan’ my time with my new teams and my interns.  We’ll see.

We will see.  All very grand ideas and then the school year hits….

#EduChat, 2013 to 2014, 4th grade, Assessment for Learning, Florida Education, Gifted Education, Teacher Evaluation, Using Data in the Classroom

No…I am, was, could be…one of the worst teachers in my state! Florida VAM #higherED Where are you?

I read Simone Ryal’s post today…http://simoneryals.blogspot.com/2014/02/im-one-of-worst-teachers-in-my-state.html

Then KAFKAteach’s post: http://kafkateach.wordpress.com/2014/03/01/gosh-damn-thats-a-bad-vam/?relatedposts_exclude=732

I know Valerie Strauss stepped up to the plate: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/25/the-most-meaningless-teacher-evaluation-exercise-ever/?wp_login_redirect=0

However, at the end of the day, the State of Florida has data that says I am not a valuable teacher. 😦  In fact, I’m pretty bad according to them.

Tuesday, after the Florida Writes, I was tired.  It is a tough writing test to work towards because 3rd grade teachers, rightly so, spend so much time hitting reading for the Reading FCAT – writing is not their focus.  So in 4th grade, we have from August to February to get students writing a solid, organized, fluent, well-developed 4 to 5 paragraph essay that ‘feels whole’ and has vivid detail.

So, it’s kind of the night that should be about kicking back and taking a deep breath.  I’m so proud of my students.  They worked hard.

But, I heard the VAM scores were out.  I looked myself up. I love teaching, I get good results, I work hard, tutor after school, help my students achieve their best…or at least try…right? How bad could it be?

I was devastated.

(In the end, the district said the data on the website below was “nothing related to reality…all over the place…and inaccurate.”)

These are my 2011 to 2012 Scores right from the site.  I was a Kindergarten through Second Grade (Year 1 to Year 3) Science Teacher (No FCAT tests in those grades) and a Gifted Pullout Teacher for 1st through 6th.  I saw the GSP students for 3 hours a week total.

My scores show I taught 41 reading and 41 math students for a combined total of 8200%.  My reading VAM was -15% and my math was -0.042  My VAM combined was -9%.  I was one of the lowest ranked teachers in my school.  I’m not sure who the students are that I received my grades from.  I was one of the lowest teachers…so it couldn’t be a grade level score or a school score.  It’s just my score.  (I don’t want to be a GSP pullout teacher again!  NO WAY!)

Image

In 2012 to 2013, my scored looked like this…

I was a 4th grade reading teacher for 44 students.  The entire 4th grade had 87.  I only taught 44.

According to the state, I taught 81 reading students and 4100% math students for a combined total of 122!  My VAM reading was -9% (I’ll round-up) and math was -4%.

I looked up the science teacher because I taught reading to my 22 home room students and her 22 home room students.  Her VAM states that she only taught 44 students in reading and had a positive reading VAM of 10% (I’ll round-up).  Although she saw all 87 students in the 4th grade for science only…she had no math scores?

But I only taught our 44 students reading…no math…no 81 students…and not all the 87 in our grade level.

I really don’t understand.  How can she show positive reading gains on students I taught…yet I show negative reading and math gains on more that the students I taught?

And where did the math come from?

And why does it not appear across the board for our whole team of 4.

Image

I did forward the data to my district, my boss…I was truly prepared to apologize to my students and parents….because in this age of accountability…I am terrible right?  I really intend to apologize to my family.  You know how many times I am grading or planning or researching for my classroom?  (Or buying?)  And for what?  I am significantly below the expectation for value.  I am not just maintaining the standard…I am more that 10% below expectation.  I am a “Loser” – Big ‘L’ – that was the sign for the day as we passed through the halls.

Wednesday was a dark day.

Isn’t the assumption that the State of Florida, who is going to use this data to assess me and decide any future raises…who will use this data as 50% of my teacher evaluation…isn’t there accountability for them for accuracy?  Honestly, it felt terrible…but I didn’t truly believe it was wrong.  I don’t still understand it…but I assumed the state would not give out wrong data. Right?

I am truly grateful for my administration, district accountability team…and my teammates.  Even when I was  (not am) a ‘negative’ VAM…they still encouraged and were supportive.  However, it was devastating.  I didn’t look up my teammates in my new school.  However, I guess there are quite a few that join me in the VAM ‘pit’.

I can tell you…as someone that loves teaching and that works so hard… it’s just sad.  For our whole team…it’s just sad.  As someone who has spent too much time and money on teaching and could spend more time on family and self…it feels like I made a big, long-term mistake.

In the end, the district said the data on the website was “nothing related to reality…all over the place…and inaccurate.”

According to the district, my VAM scores for the last 2 years were positive.  Marginally so… between 0 and 1.  We had VAM scores over in England and the range was between those values…so I think I’m where I need to be…but always have room to improve.  The district said I was right where I needed to be.

Ok…at least I’m not hurting the children I teach?  Because for a second there…  I want to be improving their lives…ugh.  I’m grateful for my district…but I’m at a loss for the on-line data published.

I still don’t know what to think.  However, it has really been on my mind. I need to re-group and re-focus on my students and my job. I have an observation on Tuesday…I have the FCAT reading and math in 2 months…tests that will determine the next round of scores, that I am sure, will be published.  Is this process supposed to make me better?  Because right now…it’s not.

I have 5 students with perfect scores in my class right now.  Imagine… ‘I’ have to maintain that.  I was up for the challenge and have monitored, tracked, differentiated, taught them metacognition, assessment for learning, choice, critical thinking…and hopefully, a love to learn.

I love to teach! I felt like I wanted to be an astronaut and did work in space…but this profession was just so dynamic and working with children such a joy.  Never did I ever think…I would be labeled a ‘loser’ on the world-wide web. 😦  I wanted to teach teachers…I’m not sure that’s the best option for teachers right now.

I am blessed…and I will refocus….I always do.  But there is something different this time.  I’m not sure about teaching for the first time.  I need to step back.

I do have a challenge though…

I challenge higher education to step in…true researchers and teachers…to give us researched based practices.  I challenge parents to help those who love their children.  We need education professionals, not politicians, to have a strong voice in Education.  We need people like Cambridge and Harvard, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Columbia, UCF…all these universities and more to step forward to lead us – at a national level….at a local level.  I want to hear from you!  Not Scott, Bush, and all the others benefitting from the sale of education…but true educational researchers leading us with strong, research based practices.  Isn’t that what you ask of us?

Gates Foundation…I believed it you!  Rick Stiggins, Black and Wiiam, HELP! Howard Gardner… if it’s right, if this is valuable…then so be it.  But it’s its not…please let us hear from you.  Where are all our great leaders in Education?

Also, I truly wish, these political ‘leaders’ would be required to step inside the classroom for a full FCAT cycle.  Then let’s see their VAM scores.

Higher Education….where are you?

terricupsig

#EduChat, 2013 to 2014, Educational Technology, Gifted Education, Planning, Teacher Evaluation, Using Data in the Classroom

The Common Core Lesson Plan app – simple, easy assessment! #edchat, #4thchat, #edtech, @venataur, #A4Learn

This is a review for an App I was introduced to on Linkedin.  I am always up for a good lesson planner and tracking assessments.  What I thought was unique (and worth looking into for $4.99 for my iPad)  was the promise of simple, student assessments.

I am going to borrow a few pictures from the site for the post…but the website is really filled with good visuals and information.  Common Core Lesson Planner App Website.

My review follows some general thinking…and this app is truly under development.  So there are more amazing things coming!  Could I switch to planning everything here….it’s a real possibility.  Thomas Story (@venataur), the developer, is a practicing 3rd Grade Teacher.  This whole app reflects his years of teaching experience and I really felt it intuitively fit my thinking and practice.  It’s really simple and smart.  I can’t wait to see where he improves upon it.

This is the window for assessing students on a standard…
My review explains how I already use a color code system like this to assess.
What I am so excited about is how simple it was to just press and assess!

I am still planning on using Planboard for my overall planning.  In Florida, we still use NGSSS and I like the desktop of that planning software.  However, this app will support some key goals I have set for myself this year.  These are the goals and how this app will apply.  To see the goals outlined, see my Post on Goals for setting up the 2012 to 2013 year.

  • #4:  Shows the standards so simply it will be easy to look up, add a standard to assess, and the monitor the ones I’ve used and assessed.
  • #6: My lesson plans will be on Planboard and my assessments will be on Common Core Lesson App (CCLPa) to monitor how I use the Common Core this year as I finish with NGSSS.  CCLPa is going to update with an option for teachers to add their own standards…I may add the Florida NGSSS standards and track…we’ll see.
  • #10:  This whole app is just smart assessment!  I love how visual it is and the color code scheme is ME!
  • #11:  It also will help with progress monitoring.
  • #17:  It’s not out yet…but Thomas sent a link to a home/school template that shares the standards students are learning with room to personalized.  (Loved it!)
  • #18:  I really think the assessment area and standards tracking will be efficient and I found the whole app..simple and easy!

I will be working next week to set up my Planboard and Common Core Lesson Plan App next week!  I won’t have students but I can add my student numbers. 🙂

Here is my review for iTunes.  First one oddly…so I’m interested to see how it worked and glad Thomas reminded me to review.  I’ll have to look up some other apps I love to feedback!

—————————

Review for The Common Core Lesson Plan APP used on an iPad:

I loved the clean way I can read through the standards. The overall design is simple and makes sense. This app will save me time and improve my progress monitoring.

Some thoughts from an educator who has taught in England and now Florida….

Set up was really fast and it is so easy to navigate and edit.

The presentation of the standards is also designed to support lesson planning. I don’t have to go back and forth between windows. The standards are easy to scroll through, by subject, and once I used them…the app keeps track of how many times in the year.

I can also send or print out plans…but I am not sure about assessments. However, it’s just a matter of time I am sure. Update:  Assessment reports are coming!

What I love……is the assessment tool. It tracks 10 assessments per standard! So if I have to re-teach or progress monitor, I can easily show personalized learning and progression.

I love how it tracks 10 assessments per standard. I will easily see how students are progressing.

What surprized me was the use of color coding to gauge mastery of a standard. Why? Because I do that! My students learn to color code their work as a formative and meta cognitive assessment. And….they offered the 4 colors!! (You could use each color with your own key.

I use the four colors to show:
Red – introduced but no progression. Normally I use this to show no understanding or progression after teaching. For someone below grade level…I would be assessing in the previous level/grade standard any way (such as 3rd grade if I am teaching 4th). So this app allows multi-grade level options and I would color code the standard I am teaching that child. If the standard is a year below, even though the student might be yellow or green..with the standard number, it would show below grade level work. So for me, red wouldn’t be used to show below grade level. I love that the developers did not label the colors and allow teachers to use their own thinking!

Yellow – Progression toward standard but not mastery.
Green – Demonstrates mastery of standard.
Blue – Mastered standard and moving on. (When have you seen a grading system that remembers the high achieving! So impressed with designers!)

If you watch the app’s YouTube video my thinking is pretty aligned with the developers intention. I love strong assessment and it drives my instruction.

So…one more GREAT aspect of this app, it shows where my class average is with progression through a standard. So I will easily be able to see those standards mastered quickly and ones I will need to review and/or really reflect on my teaching and learning.

Hands down…great app…well worth the money…easy…and will save me time…while helping me become a stronger teacher. So glad I made the purchase!

My recommendations for future updates…provide an area or teachers to add their own standards so educators not using the common core or those international can use this app. This year in Florida we are still using all Florida standards. I am thinking of how this could work, because I really want the assessment tool.

For planning…I would need a laptop interface. My lessons are pretty in-depth. But…tracking student assessments, progress monitoring…WOW!  Update:  CCLPa will have this option soon!

Thank you for sharing on Linken…glad I checked it out!

terricupsig

Planning2Learn

The 18th Emergency by Betsy Byars – A Retro Review by Tony Keefer

Sometimes real life endings are better that ones we hope and strive for. Of course, I’d rather have students talk than fight. However, with bullying on the rise, this book may be a pathway to authentic discussions. I will be looking for it to read.

Pressed from the Nerdy Book Club…click below

The 18th Emergency by Betsy Byars – A Retro Review by Tony Keefer.

#EduChat, 2013 to 2014, 4th grade, Educational Technology, Gifted Education, Teacher Evaluation, Using Data in the Classroom

Goal 17: Create stronger home and school communication with @Edmodo, @Remind101, #Edtech, #4thChat

My summer goal #17:   Develop a system to improve communication between my classroom and our families.  I want parents to feel informed and connected.

2computers
Yesterday, I reviewed my options,
enlisted the help of my husband and son,
and worked through the communication technology I have available.

I thought through what I wanted to achieve with my experiences of being part of a busy family.  And after some research, my communication platforms will be Edmodo, Remind101, and Word Press (or Edu blog).

***

I felt there are two ways to go as a teacher…active and passive communication.

  ***

  • Passive communication:  When my parents have to decide to go to a website or link on their own, without prompting.  Signing on to Edline, going to a class website or blog, when they remember, are examples of passive communication.  I update and sit back…hoping the parents will check in.
  • Active communication: I give “push notifications” that alert parents, then give them an option to click or read to learn more.  I do this through emails, texts, or app alerts.  I initiate the communication for events, homework, changes, or anything that warrants their attention.  Parents can go about their day with a sense that I am activity working to keep in touch and will let them know what is going on.

Last year, parents fed back that they valued my notifications. I had used Edline to email homework, grade updates, and general info – keeping them up to date and aware. They easily read the information available by e-mail.  However, most parents, even my most tech savvy, found Edline cumbersome and difficult to navigate. So in some cases, my e-mails gave them basic information, but working to get grades or into the homework site was enough of a challenge that they didn’t sign in to the program.

parentviewplanner

Edmodo has a fabulous, clean interface between parents, students, and teacher!
I can post homework, assignments, tests, events, and tasks on the planner and they come up on all 3 user accounts.

Now, for students, we used Edmodo last year.

For some of my most cunning, “Homework?” students, the excuses hit a wall.

Once I sat down with parents and showed them Edmodo and how easy it was to access via their smart phones and the internet, then rarely, if ever, did parents face the homework black hole again.

I also really liked Edmodo’s layout for progress reports and used it with students for goal setting and monitoring.  However, since I had Edline, I never really engaged with the planner and the parent side of Edmodo.

Well… silly me!  

  Edmodo

  • We brought up and viewed the Edmodo platform for student, parent, and teacher simultaneously.  It was insightful!
  • I can post homework, assignments, tests, events, and tasks on the planner and they come up on all 3 user accounts in a clean, easy to read way.
  • Parents can view quizzes, pre-assessments, tests and assignments with simple, easy clicks…very little searching.  It was all right there.
  • They can look over their children’s posts and any feedback I leave on assignments (and I tend to leave typed feedback for most – seriously!)
  • I can create quizzes, upload photos, web links, files, connect Google documents, and more!  So I can upload homework assignments, handouts and such!
Parents can easily click to see the planner, assignments, grades, comments, and more!
Parents can easily click to see the planner, assignments, grades, comments, and more!

Forget it in your desk at school?  No problem! Edmodo it!

  • Edmodo can be accessed from the web, tablet, iPod, or smart phone.  However, I recommend having families set up accounts by internet first (rather than an app). When my husband went to set up his account using the android app, it didn’t cue him to sign up as a parent ANYWHERE (I looked) and he ended up with a teacher account.

OPEN HOUSE:  I will have my computer up at open house for student and parents to sign up right then.

  • For parents without smart phones or the internet, I can export my Edmodo planner to PDF and print it out each week to send home with students. I have a feeling that will be the exception in this day and age…but I want to be prepared.
  • Edmodo Negatives:  I was surprized parents could see other students’ posts. I thought they could only see their own child’s replies. This seems to be the case when their child posts and other students reply and when their child comments to a teacher post.However, each child has their own unique parent code and I can monitor parents who are signed up. So that provides some oversight.  I was still surprized.

“A positive parent-teacher relationship helps your child feel good about school and be successful in school” by Diane Levin, Ph.D.

Remind101 – Texting Platform

  • This past year I used Remind 101 as a texting platform to communicate with families.  This helped with immediate alerts and with parents who have text but not app capability.  I used this for quick updates or immediate alerts!

Texting can increase classroom participation by up to 50% 

from Kraft MA, Dougherty SM. The Effect of Teacher-Family Communication on Student Engagement: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness

Remind101 from remind101 on Vimeo.

The positives:

  • I give parents a phone number, they text it, and they are signed up!
  • No website to go to.
  • No family data to enter on my end (except for the actual texts).
  • I can view who is signed up.
  • Simple!
  • Communication is one way: teacher to user cell…but parents don’t access my cell phone number!

Real life example:  We have thunderstorms that love to hit during car line.  One day as we were walking to the buses…BAM!…thunder and lightening (yes it happens that fast).  Students were put in the nearest classroom and I had parents in cars or waiting at bus stops.  Remind101:  Sent out a notice…Lightening Dismissal.  Buses at school until further notice.  Parents must walk to classroom #___ 4 pick up.” 15 minutes later…students were able to get on bus.  Remind101:  Sent out notice…”Buses leaving school. Lightening Dismissal over.” Students got on buses and as they were leaving…BAM!…  Remind101:  “Lightening dismissal back on.  Students on buses and have left school.  Car and walk up parents must come to classroom #___ 4 pick up until further notice.”

So it was a crazy hour!  After, I received so many “Thank you’s” by parents because they knew what was happening minute by minute, at a time they could not access the email notifications sent out by school wide Edline.

WordPress

Look at us! WordPress:  For a Blog and Class Website...a prettier interface to highlight class activities with pictures and more details!
Look at us!
WordPress: For a Blog and Class Website…a prettier interface to highlight class activities with pictures and more details!

I researched Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress, and Facebook…. (I have a Google Site but it doesn’t have e-mail notification.)

With WordPress, I can update my blog, use it as a class website, and send e-mail notifications automatically (once I enter parent emails). I can do that with Blogger…but for WordPress, parents can receive the emails each time I update.

  • WordPress vs. Blogger app (this was the key):  If parents like, they can also set up the WordPress app to click and review as well – WordPress has a blog reader in the app – so there are no second parties.
  • The Blogger app allows them to post to their own blog...but I didn’t see where they could ‘read’ the class blog – so they would either have to download an app like Bloglovin or another 2nd party app if they wanted to use an app interface.  (If parents use the email, they don’t need the app.)  
  • I can also link Flickr to my WordPress and upload class pictures – which I would like to try to do more this year.

I am wondering about the WordPress option of placing a password to protect it…but my Edline site was open so I’m not sure there is a difference.

EduBlog has the WordPress platform…so I may take that route.  I have to look into it a little more.  The EduBlog platform may be more accessible from school computers.  There was a time when we couldn’t access WordPress and Blogger from school computers, but I’m not sure that is the case now.

Breaking it down…

Alerts:  Remind101 – simple, fast, text access.

Weekly homework, notices, assignments, file downloads:  Edmodo – connects teacher, students, parents with the same planner!

A more in-depth, visual look on occasion:  WordPress or EduBlog – email updates automatically by email and with a simple click!

I can use all these platforms well and they are quick and simple enough that they should save me time and increase home/school communication…helping me work towards Goal #18: Be more simple and efficient so I have a balanced life!

terricupsig

Some great sites I researched on family communication and parent engagement:

#EduChat, 2013 to 2014, 4th grade, Gifted Education, Planning, Teacher Evaluation, Using Data in the Classroom

It’s Monday…and 5 1/2 Weeks left until school starts. So let’s set some goals! #4thchat #edchat

It’s Monday, the 1st of July.  There is just over 5 weeks of summer left!  With a new school and the ability to teach all the subject again…to say I am excited doesn’t seem enough.

Just take one giant step at a time!
Just take one giant step at a time!

So what do I have to do the rest of summer?  

A mixture of personal and professional goals.

  1. Get in the habit of exercising!  I truly want to lose weight and become more fit.
  2. Spend some wonderful time with my family!  These last 3 years, moving back from England, have been incredibly fast and furious.  My family has allowed me to focus more than normal on adjusting to new standards and expectations.  In the past 3 years, I have been a 5/6 teacher, gifted and K-2 Science, and 4th grade reading, writing, and social studies for 44 studentes.  It’s been a whirlwind.  So this summer…what’s left…is going to be filled with fun and exploration.  (But, there will be learning involved…so I’ll share.)

    I feel a little overwhelmed..but with 5 weeks...it's all possible!
    I feel a little overwhelmed..but with 5 weeks…it’s all possible and I have friends to help!
  3. I want to get back into the NGSSS and CCSSS rubric I started for ELA.
  4. Begin an annual plan for math, science, social studies using the district pacing guides – so I can look at areas to integrate the ELA standards.  (I really want to integrate!!!)
  5. I have pictures of my new room…and have been reviewing class setups.  I want areas for collaboration, quiet spaces, and an outdoor learning space.  I want to consider colors, boards, spaces, organizing tools – the nicks and knacks I’ll need.  For example, I have a wall of chalk boards and I am thinking of having a a developing picture each week that students craft to show learning.  (More on that later.)
  6. I want to get my lesson plan book up on-line and my paper grade book going so my thinking is organized from the start.
  7. I have been working on lesson plans for Florida’s CPALMS.  The 4 lessons I submitted link to the NGSSS for Science.  I want to use these at the beginning of the year.  One is on bioluminescence!
  8. I need to get a handle on the annual assessments required by the state and our district  – not just to know the time frame – but to have a plan on understanding the data they will give me and how to use it to enhance student learning.
  9. I want to review 3rd grade FCAT reading and 4th grade writing samples to get a sense of where my students can be (that was just one day)…so I can guide my beginning of year plans.
  10. I want to have a strong Assessment for Learning process.  I learned a lot last year from working to implement the Daily 5 (loved it), DIBELS, and more.  I want to get my assessment binder reader.
  11. I want to have a better picture of how to monitor children who are on progress monitoring.
  12. Just take one giant step at a time!
  13. I am going to Flip areas of my classroom – but I will rely on http://www.LearnZillion.com again!
  14. I need a plan for how to integrate technology – using what I will have available and what is useful for my students and families.
  15. I want to have student portfolios…
  16. I need to finish at least one ESOL class.  Ugh..I offered to help run a NASA ZR Robotics Camp at the last minute, and it totally rerouted my focus from these!
  17. Last…I want to have a strong communication system with my parents.
  18. And…I want this all to be simple, efficient so I have more of a balanced life! (I know it can be done!)

There must be more…but I’ll look at this each week. And it’s not lost on me that 3 goals are family goals and 15 are education related (I am such an EduNerd!)

Any ideas or recommendations you would like to share?

terricupsig

Uncategorized

Weekly Reflection: Portfolios

Check out this idea for student portfolios!

Teaching the Teacher

A paper-based e-portfolio.

Sounds like a contradiction in terms.

I’m not a huge fan of paper portfolios.

In fact it is fair to say that I loathe filing bits of paper into folders with the fire of a thousand suns. Supervising a class full of kids updating portfolios feels like a form of medieval torture. Bits of paper are almost always missing or in the wrong place and my patience is in short supply.

Moreover I can’t help but wonder if all those countless hours spent updating, checking, re-checking all those bits of paper are actually worth it. Real learning is messy and doesn’t always lend itself to being filed away in clear files.

Enter digital portfolios.

In theory digital portfolios should be easier to create and curate content for the purposes of showcasing student learning. However in practice clunky content management systems and limited time on computers often add…

View original post 395 more words

Florida Education

New Classroom, New Year…New Hopes #4thChat, #Edchat, #FCAT

Image
Empty slate…but filled with possibilities!

It has been almost a full year since I have really reflected on my teaching and learning. Not because I haven’t spent quite a bit of time doing that, but because I taught 4th grade in Florida this year.

I posted last summer about the Florida Writes. Our district scores had dropped and teachers felt they did not have the support they needed for the new assessment guidelines. I had gone out to the State of Florida Education Department site to review the information teachers could use. The teachers were right. With new assessment guidelines, the older writing samples on the site did not apply and could not be used.

Fl Writes: A 4th grade writing assessment by the FL DOE.
Fl Writes: A 4th grade writing assessment by the FL DOE.

Fast forward a few months…and my absolute excitement at being able to teach 4th grade for 2012 to 2013! My school is departmentalized so I taught reading, writing, and social studies for a 2 hour block. It was tough, rigorous, and required a LOT of wonderful integration.

Still…what was truly wonderful was the help my district writing contact provided!

Theresa Phelps, Project Coordinator, Brevard County Elementary Writing Resource contact!

My writing hero!!! Picture from Edmodo

She not only sat teachers down at the beginning of the year and walked through points in the FL DOE sample text (which they now had 🙂 ). She also came to our school and provided our 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teachers with professional development!

I learned in December that my scoring was too soft. I was about a point off of what Theresa felt the state might mark the papers from my 4th grade students. Now…you know…this is not an exact science. However, that ability to align my thinking with hers was invaluable!

Strong assessment requires the ability to understand and ‘see’ the levels in students’ work and understand how those levels align with state expectations.

In the end…I really wanted to reach the 80 percentile range for passing. Our school overall was about 58. However, 70% of my students passed! Considering our school pass rate was 41% last year, we grew a lot!

With the departmentalization, “I felt”, we miss out on opportunities to write across the curriculum. That is not to say that my team didn’t try. They taught math or science to 88 students in 55 minute blocks! It was fast and a lot of ‘content’ to cover.

Overall, I feel, we missed out the cohesiveness of a core planning process that could be apparent in all subject areas. Honestly, with the time it takes to assess 88 science notebooks, 88 math assignments, or 44 writing essays (in my case), plus 2 to 3 meetings a week… there was just little time for us to come together as a team to talk and plan. And when we did, it was scheduled data crunch time. With one teacher, you can create time for yourself, when you are able. You can see the day, the week, the year, more clearly, across subject areas! There are less classroom walls to work through.

THIS YEAR… I will be in a self-contained 4th grade classroom!!!!!

As I create plans this year, I am able to backward plans and choose reading that links to the standards in more than just language arts! I can pick a science article for science standards that work for the reading comprehension I intend to teach in my reading block.

Then, I can have students write to show learning of the science content as well as the writing standard we are working towards.

It’s not that departmentalization couldn’t achieve that I guess. But it did feel like for 4th grade, there were a lot of barriers. It was tough. For this year…

The best way I can explain integrated planning is like streams that flow into one river.

All paths lead to strong learning...(public domain image)
All paths lead to stronger learning…(public domain image)

Maybe if you look closely, you can see where water from one stream is in the teaching flow. But day-to-day, hour by hour…the learning is so intertwined that the overall experience is the beauty and process of learning the river ride.

When you finally arrive at the journey’s end, a student should have mastered all that was needed to make their way down…with a depth that can only come from applying the new skills and knowledges in an authentic, holistic setting.

Ok…enough said…

This is the beginning of starting up my blogging again. I learned so much this year. Departmentalization taught me to be faster, more efficient, and make do with less time. I hope that the new year brings a deeper understanding of 4th grade standards and the ability to hone my assessment for learning and differentiated through the flipped classroom and writing across the curriculum.

So excited!!!

terricupsig

Uncategorized

On-line, digital Planning at it’s Best! @Planboard review #edtech, #edchat, #elemchat

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!

  1. 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.)
  2. 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!
  3. What do you need to show in your plans?  Does your county have a set format? ASK!
  4. 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.
  5. 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!)
  6. 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).
  7. 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).
  8. 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!)
  9. How is your day really set up?  Your week?  Your month?
  10. What elements of all this repeat?  or have a structure that seems to be similar enough?
  11. What do you do with your plans once they are written?  (I draw and take notes all over mine.  Add sticky notes.)
Now…there are probably more things to consider…so take a look at your plan book and maybe some plan books of other teachers you admire…then take a few walks.  Yep…I am not recommending jumping right in because the set up will take a good part of a day, and some on-line planning sites require payment first.

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

go for 2014!!

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. 
 I need sometime simple to figure out and to use.
Intuitive!
This is the lesson from my independent reading block, you can see I haveembedded a video for my ENGAGE!  LOVE THIS!  I can alsoattach 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.

NO…NO…NO more!  Keep it simple.
Back to Planboardapp.com and a simpler (which means FASTER) way of working.
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 addedFlorida standards.  I love that it has the block elementsI 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 Inamed each period.
I do teach social studies but it’s completely integrated into the reading and writing blocks.
So, some periods are done for the year!  I wrote them pretty detailed so if I have a sub they can follow along.
I also love that I can print, save as a PDF or send by e-mail my plans to my administrators   In one of the emails I received yesterday, Planboardapp mentioned they are working on allowing us to embedded a lesson plan on a website!!!!!!

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.

And here is where the beauty lies.  I created templates for areas in my day that I canuse similar lesson plan formats.Then I assign them to the day and the period I intendto use them on a regular basis.

I’m not committed though.  I can change a whole

day anytime I want by editing the day!

Flexible but structured…LOVE IT!

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).

NO more lost Post-It for my observations and reflections!!!!

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…