Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer Stock Up!

Hello Friends! I hope you're having a fantastic & refreshing summer! I'm linking up with The Primary Gal to Share & Show you some amazing products.
My Multiplication Loops & Division Loops were life-savers this year!! They were a quick & easy way for the kids to practice their math facts. Plus they were fun!

I stored them in a little file folder that I found at The Dollar Tree. I printed a bunch. Then I cut & sorted them in the file folder so they would be easy to find and refill. This would last a few weeks so it was low maintenance for me to keep up with in class. 

The kids would help themselves to a loop at their level. They would complete it on their own after morning work, or if they finished a task early. Sometimes they wore them like a bracelet, but most of the time the kids added them to our math fact chain. The chain went around the room and the students were motivated to make the chain grow.

My Freebie is a sample of these Multiplication Loops! 
Be sure to check them out & see if they could be successful in your classroom!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Learn Like A Pirate: Improvement Focus

As I started reading this chapter I immediately thought of so many former students.
Kids who worked hard and it just didn't come easy to them.
I specifically thought of one child who had made so much growth. I was, and still am so proud of the growth that was made in one year. At the end of the year, I even said, "Look at all you've learned this year! I'm so proud of you!"
The response, "Then why are my grades so bad?" 
He/she didn't see it. I saw a kid who put forth effort, made great growth, and all he/she saw were the numbers. I was so shocked I could barely formulate a response. 
All I could think was, "How did I let this happen?" 
After reading this chapter it is obvious that I have the power to control this thinking.
I can control how students respond to assessment.
However, this is another one of those not-so-easy tasks.
It feels awkward to say grades don't matter, but I see the value in it. I see it because if you always get poor grades you will eventually think it's not worth it to even try in class. If you only ever see negative that's how you feel about learning, school, and yourself. 
Honestly I'm not exactly sure how to fix it.
We're in a time where it seems numbers are the only things that matter. I found myself falling into this black hole of, "all students must measure to this level." 
And it's sad. It makes me sad that my mind switched at some point.
Somewhere recently in my teaching journey I got lost.
I could feel it too. You know that moment where you know your professional judgement is correct, but there's all this other buzzing behind you stating the opposite? Hearing it so often you start to fall for it too. You figure your judgement must be off if all the buzz is saying something different.
Here's the thing... Your gut is almost always right.
At this point my gut has the feeling that what I was doing didn't work for everyone. It worked for many, but not all. I could reach more students by implementing these strategies. I can help create a positive feeling about what is accomplished rather than what isn't achieved. 
I have to focus on the improvement of skills rather than grades only.
Paul Solarz shows this can be done by having high expectations in class, providing useful feedback, giving students ownership of their learning & by tracking progress. 

My current questions are: How can we only focus on improvement when all students are to learn certain standards in each grade? We're responsible to teach skills, and what if they just don't master them?  What do you do when you have a student that isn't interested or motivated? 

What do you think about focusing on improvement rather than grades in your classroom?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Learn Like A Pirate: Peer Collaboration

Ready for some honesty? 
This chapter overwhelmed me...
You ever feel like that? Just totally overwhelmed by a task...
Collaboration is IMPORTANT. 
It's been SO important to me as an educator. It is when I collaborate that I become inspired, excited, encouraged, and honestly it helps me make clear decisions. When I bounce ideas off of someone I trust and respect I feel clear.
I'm sure you feel this way too. You're an educator. We thrive on good conversation, solutions to problems, and implementing strategies that work.
This is a major goal of a student-led classroom.
Before I can have a strong student-led classroom I have to teach them how to work together.
They need to learn how to respect each other, empathize, problem-solve, compromise, discuss calmly, and be motivated to participate.
See!? I got overwhelmed again just thinking about it.
I've found that the best way to teach a skill is to model the skill. If I want students to be calm, I have to be calm. If I want students to respect one another, I have to respect and treat everyone just the same. It's not always easy, and I'm an adult. 
But it's a part of life, and these are skills they'll use forever. 
*Sidebar: I totally just said forever like that kid from The Sandlot.*
It will be a lot of effort and most definitely doesn't seem easy, but I'm just going to take it one day at a time. When I feel like it's too  hard I'll remind myself that I have the great opportunity to teach these kids something that will help them forever.
That's pretty amazing. 
Not academic, but important, real, and necessary. 
These skills with lead to more success.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Learn Like A Pirate: Concerns You Might Have

Change is hard, but take a risk!
This is the biggest lesson I've taken away from reading this section of the book.
It's so true! There are SO many truths in this section. 
Here are a few of the concerns that are addressed:

"What if it doesn't work?"
Many examples are given to show how it can work if implemented properly.
I say, what if it does work!? You end of up with a classroom full of independent, engaged, self-directed, excited, students. Those students are on their way to becoming life-long learners. 
That is the main goal of education.

"It will be too chaotic! I'll lose control of the group."
After reading it seems that if the goal of a student-led classroom, and a model of how that looks is shown to your students they will be on task. This concern made me think of when I started Daily 5 in my classroom. At first I thought, 'If they're not completing a something I've specifically assigned they'll waste the time." 
I was so wrong. 
After discussing and modeling Daily 5 for a few weeks the kids had it. Sure, there are always a few that need to be reminded, but more often than not I had a classroom full of engaged readers & writers.
Teachers would come into my room and say, "Wow they're all so engaged." My students were engaged because the tasks they completed in Daily 5 were meaningful.
They were actively taking part in their own learning goal.
I'm thinking this is key with a student-led classroom.
I'm wondering if Daily 5 would be considered student-led... It seems like it, but I'll keep you posted on what I find out!

"There's no time for this. There's too much to do."
I could use about 6 more hours in the day. I know you could as well.
This one is always a big concern of mine. So much to do and so little time.
In this section I really started to see a big benefit of a student-led classroom....
Imagine you're in the middle of a whole class lesson. You are guiding the discussion. It's going well. They "get it". Then the phone in your classroom rings. You have to answer it obviously. You end up on the phone for maybe 2 minutes, but in that 2 minutes your class has lost that line of thinking and engagement. The learning flow has halted. They students started thinking of other things, perhaps they're chatting with a neighbor. You get off the phone, have to bring the group back together, and then get the class on task. Time lost that you can't get back...
You continue your lesson. The class again becomes engaged in the discussion. Then there is a knock at the door. Again, you have to stop the lesson to talk with the person at the door for another few minutes. The class has now lost more minutes of precious learning time.
This happens in my room, and I'm sure it happens to you as well.
If you had a student-led classroom that time would be used more wisely. The kids don't stop learning when you have to talk with a teacher, or answer the phone. They continue on their learning journey. 
Think of the time you would be gaining. 

Many other concerns are addressed in this section. It's as if the author, Paul Solarz, is reading every teacher's mind. In the end it seems the risk is going to be worth the reward.

Here are some rewards or treasures from implementing a student-led classroom:
*Better retention of learning
*More time for the teacher to give feedback to students
*Engaged teacher & students
*Students that are excited about what they're learning.
*Opportunities to model how to learn from our mistakes
*A classroom environment where students respect one another.
*A classroom environment where students are encouraged to problem-solve.

It can be so easy to keep doing what we've always done.
But here's a quote from the book to keep in mind...
"Children are different; the world is different"

It's so true!
Change is hard, but the reward could be big! 
It can be rewarding for us as educators to try something new. 
We can get that new, excited feeling when we see that it's working. That our hard work and modeling is really paying off. That the students like school and feel empowered in our classrooms.
I feel excited already! I hope you do too!
Take a risk!
You'll always wonder if you don't at least give it a try Matey! Ha! Pirate humor is so much fun!
Hope to see ya next week!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 1

Hello friends!! I'm so excited to be joining The Primary Gal's book study this summer!
This book is already so inspiring. It's written as if the author is sitting with me just chatting about what goes on in his classroom. So let me fill you in on the first chapter...
This book is all about creating a student-led classroom. In this chapter the author defines what it means, and begins sharing the benefits. Here's how he defines it...

"A student-led classroom is one in which students make decisions and choices
 throughout the day without consulting the teacher." ~ Learn Like a Pirate, page 8.

Now I read this and my Type A personality flares started going off. "Uhh what do you mean they don't consult me!? I'm in charge of my classroom!" 
But I read on and began to see that although we are giving up some control, which can be scary, we're gaining a whole lot more. Students will be taking ownership of their learning, they'll be engaged, inspired, AND meeting the goals necessary at their grade level. 
This is done in most cases with a mini-lesson from the teacher and then students move out into their student-led activities. That's my understanding so far. In the author's words...

"The teacher says what needs to be said and then gets out of the way." Learn Like A Pirate, page 10

This made me think about the similarity between student-led learning and my writer's workshop time. I teach a mini lesson, and then the kids try out the skills mixed with previous skills they've learned. I've seen amazing success with this type of learning. This could work in my 3rd grade classroom! 
In order to be successful with this type of learning the author stresses the importance of students feeling safe to share, feeling appreciated for their contribution to the class, and having a positive connection to their teacher. So in order for this to work you must begin to create that connection the very first day, or even at your "Meet the Teacher" night. 
I'm really excited about this book friends! I hope you'll join us for the other chapters, and maybe even read on your own. Let us know your thoughts & be sure to check out all the other fabulous bloggers' thoughts too!