#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?


Florida Education

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

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!!!



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…


DaVinci math – looking at the angles in nature #gifted lesson


Looking forward to tomorrow!


New lesson plan format – clearly showing the process, standards, differentiation and assessment

Children need to be at
the center of planning!

Well…it’s late or early (I woke up at 2.30 am thinking I wanted to really wrap this up).  I feel lesson planning is its own cycle..the strongest cycle that connects assessments to teaching and learning.  When I reflect on it…create my lessons…I always break my thoughts into ‘clouds’ (seriously! lol)  In one hovering cloud I have my state standards, one good assessment – how will I know, and overarching, the children and what will engage them.  That doesn’t mean I always do it well. I feel I need more time to really make my plans of a higher quality…but I am working to figure out how to do that in less time.  There is always…room to improve!

I just finished changing my lesson plants for science this week and have chosen a design that integrates areas for our BEST learning cycle quadrants, areas for the Florida Next Generation Sunshine State Standards(NGSSS) and National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) Standards .

Our BEST learning cycle quadrants remind me clearly of the 4 areas my lessons were broken up into in England.. introduction (BEST calls it a HOOK), Whole group learning, Guide group and/or then Individual practice.  As a science lab teacher with 40 minutes a week (or bi-weekly for one grade) I’m not sure how well I can get through all quadrants in one session…so I’ll have to see how it works over two.  The quadrants miss the ‘plenary’ or reflection closing…but I don’t think that is intended.  I think the quadrants are more the core focus of good instructional practice.

So..to have all the elements shown clearly… I didn’t feel comfortable with the circle design modeled by the county.  I need my boxes!  Maybe I’m square! lol

Anyhow, here it is.  I added a place for learning needs and styles I am going to start or try to connect with.  Then at the end, I always leave an area to write assessment observations or notes..  In these examples, I still need to add the next and previous levels and link to my “Must, Should, Could” and add my gifted standards.  This is science…I still want to add the gifted standards though.  So one step at a time…
K Science
1st Science
2nd Science
Medium Term Plan from Last Term

This year its been like riding a wave just to stay abreast of learning about the gifted, my gifted class, my pgp goal, learning about BEST, using district data software, learning the lingo and type of data…what it all means…linking standards for 3 grades of science…learning gifted standards (still in progress I won’t lie)..writing EPs, making audit files, fitting into a new school in a new way and learning more about learning styles and GOOGLE!  And now to juggle it all in short spurts of times with students.

Students are amazing people!

Truly…just think about it…I see 1st through 6th grade students for gifted pullout.  My 1st grade only has 1 but after that I go up to 8 to 13.  Each grade has different NGSS as well as different gifted standards.  I have spend the last term getting them on Google, teaching them about their learning styles and then each grade has their own project.  I truly want to engage them, meet their needs and encourage them to love learning!  This year has been hard…but I truly feel blessed to be their teacher!

Hope you all have a good week!  I know I need to post more.