#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?


#EduChat, International Education, The New Florida Standards

Push to Implement Common Core “Idiotic” “Without Real Scrutiny or Debate”

  • From Terri (Planning2Learn):
  • I have never seen a reflection about the Common Core so succinct as this. During my MA class on Curriculum Design at Oxford Brookes, we discussed the value and appropriateness of America having a national curriculum like they do in England.
  • My professor was surprized the US did not have a NC. However, when we discussed the size and diversity of our country, similar to Europe, it didn’t seem necessary or appropriate. Something I learned was the unique powers and rights reserved for States…and I do wonder the lasting effects a national government tightly defining individual student learning, experiences, assessments will have overall.  Does greater control equal greater creativity?  I’m not sure.
  • However, I am disappointed to learn that much of the development was behind closed doors and that our math standards are not high enough. I intend to look deeper into that.

Scathing Purple Musings

Three influential education policy experts penned an opinion piece for the New York Daily News in which they effectively explain why the “backlash” against Common Core standards “is now in full swing.” Former U.S. assistant secretary of education and Hoover Institute fellow Williamsom Evers joined CATO Institute scholar Neal McCluskey and one-time Massachusetts associate education commissioner Sandra Stotsky gave five compelling reasons why CCS needs to be set aside:

First, creation and adoption of these standards has violated the traditions of open debate and citizen control that are supposed to undergird public schooling.

Though preliminary drafts of the standards were released to the public, the standards were written behind closed doors by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers — private organizations — and copyrighted. There is also no public record of the meetings available.

Adoption was then strong-armed by the Obama administration via Race to…

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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.
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…


Florida teachers had no examples of what student writing should look like last year. FCAT 2.0 Writes

Image from GrayFish 4th Grade Blog

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?



I am a teacher…it’s summer…I’m off of work…Are you sure?

I am a teacher...it's summer...I'm off of work...Are you sure?

This is where the excitement builds. Summer is the time to reenergize, learn new things and revisit great ideas. Teachers, what are you doing this summer?


Why will I be ready for the Common Core? #Edmodo and CommonCoreConversation.org #CCSS

I binded a range of guidance and information on the CCSS as recommended by my Edmodo group.

People seldom see the halting and painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved.  Anonymous

I have to circle around a concept to really work and create materials and ideas out of it.

For the Common Core, I started with what I knew.  From England, I pulled my experience with the National Curriculum (NC) and APP (assessing pupil progress) and from the US, Florida’s  Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS) – not to be confused with the Next Generation Science Stations (NGSS) of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Ugh…

Going through the experience of learning how to implement and assess the NC when I came over to England from Florida was a true team effort. 

With little publisher materials to pull from, my mentor (Nikki) ,county supervisor (Dorothy Kavanagh, from AFL) as well as the rest of the staff at my school came together and supported me as I came up to speed.

It was HARD! Let’s just start there…

You see I could implement a teacher edition well enough.  Give me a TE and I’m off…my plans were Monday: Chapter 1, Lesson 1 through Friday: Chapter 1 Lesson 5 or a quiz or test.

I was creative. 

As I’ve learned…the kind of creative teacher that ‘looks’ and feels fun…but isn’t necessarily teaching my students how to be more creative.

As I see it now, I had a teacher-centered classroom more than a student centered classroom.

In England, I learned how to focus on teaching standards while growing in the ability to assess student skills and understanding.

So now, I come back to the US and I see the Common Core.

My CCSS questions I have been working through….

  1. What are the standards by content area zones?
  2. How do the standards link together by grade level (oh my gosh…I LOVE that they seem to spiral and build upon each other)
  3. What depth of knowledge is a student expected to be at for mastery?  How will I know when they are moving beyond to the next level?
  4. How will the PARCC work? (I’m in Florida)
  5. Will the assessments not only align in theory with the standards but will they assess the depth of knowledge expected?
  6. Will the assessment information be clear and will the examples be available so I understand as a teacher and so I can share those models of expectations with my students?
  7. Will the assessments throughout the year align in spirit and content fluidly so that the end of the year assessments will have no surprises (if I work to ensure my teacher marking is aligned as well)?
  8. How will all this work with my current NGSSS standards?
  9. What is reading complexity?  How will I be able to gauge the complexity of a book?
  10. 10. How can I ensure that my students not only learn a national curriculum, but learn in a way that keeps them connected and growing as a citizen of their local and state community? (I think this is important).
  11. How can I start this year to teach the NGSS and CCSS so that when 2013 comes around my students who have left and are now in higher grades have a strong foundation so they  are ready?
  12. How will I build social, academic and content/discipline specific vocabulary in ways that engage and involve my students to become stronger and more fluent consumers and creators of literacy?

I have more questions, but I’m on my way, in a big part because of Edmodo and the Common Core Conversation group.

They have a group for teachers and for administrators where educators share, can ask questions and access a pool of resources from documents, videos, webinars…and more.

This group is creating an integrated approach to reviewing and implementing the Common Core State Standards.  There are people I can connect with that have been with the CCSS from the beginning.  They share their growing pains, professional development examples and examples of best practices or lessons learns.

I linked from the Edmodo group to the site www.CommonCoreConversation.org  – started by Mrs. H!  A wonderful educator who graciously leads collaboration with the ability to keep our collections organized.

So I’m on my way.  I have downloaded or been given some amazing work by my county team to help my understanding of our districts approach recently.  When I sat down, I realized how far I had come.  I could understand the content shared more so than if I hadn’t had my Edmodo’s groups guidance.

Thank you!  It takes a PLN to teach a child 🙂  Come join us!