Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back to School Goals

I just started following I {heart} Recess's blog this week, and I love the latest linky party and had to join.  I am a very goal oriented person, so to put these in writing makes me oh so happy (since I can't sleep)...

Here are just a few of the goals I have for this school year:

Let me elaborate on some of these for those that don't know me well.....

Personal: My plate is full.  People look at my calendar or my Facebook and can automatically tell how busy I am.  My friend tells me my calendar makes her sick and she has 2 kids (I have none) and all of their events on hers.  So here I am at this crossroads of needing for my health and sanity to learn to say no.  This is going to be so difficult, but I am one of those that is always offering to help when I should really just keep my mouth shut.

Organization: I am terrible about putting off grading until I cannot anymore... I need to just get it done and out of my hair each day so that my students can be better informed about their progress.  With this comes the need to post these grades to our online system each time I grade something instead of waiting and doing it every 3 weeks when the office is printing progress reports or report cards... This is a bad habit I have lapsed into, and I need to stay organized to stop this!

Planning: Teaching 6 grade levels is hard, and last year I was so overwhelmed some days that I just planned until lunch the next day and then at lunch, I finished figuring out my last 2 classes.  This is not ok, and I have never been this way before!  My goal is to be ahead of the game and stay that way so my students get the most out of each class period...

Professional: I am a member of our Regional Science Collaborative, and therefore I have set in 99 hours of workshops since June 1st on various topics.  The one I am in the is week is about formative assessment.  There are many things that I am taking away from this workshop that I want to implement in my classroom. These are quick techniques to assess where my kids are so that I can move from being the "sage on the stage to the guide on the side."  I want to be able to take my facilitator hat and put it on and let my kids go with my guidance.  Today we were also introduced to the idea of Wait Time 1 and Wait Time 2.  Wait Time 1 is what we all already do - ask a question and wait 3-5 seconds for students to process and for hands to start flying up before we call on someone to answer.  Wait Time 2 is new to me though, so I will share.   Wait Time 2 happens after the student has responded to the question.  You allow for the others to process what has just been said and mull it over so that you can ask for someone to extend or explain another point of view.  This is 3-5 seconds as well.  Through this workshop, I realized I am not waiting enough for my kids to process, and I need to!

Students: I want my students to feel valued and heard.  I want them to know that they matter and their thoughts and actions matter.  Many of my students are wards of the state and are in the foster system - many have very poor self-worth and need encouragement.  It is my hope that my kids feel safe enough to take risks and that when they come and go from my room each day to know that someone cares and values them.

Motto:  Stemming from my professional goals comes my new motto for the year.  "Learning is a consequence of thinking."  I need my students (and myself) to be thinking so that we can all learn.  The two go hand in hand.  When my kids are off task and not thinking, they are not learning.  When my students are having to think and work through some situations in their heads, they are learning - not necessarily in the traditional format (which is a whole different post).  THINKING will be key in my classroom this year!

I hope everyone has a fantastic rest of the week, and I encourage you to post your own goals and link up at: I {heart} Recess.

I {Heart} Recess

Until next time - I wish you lots of thinking!


Monday, July 22, 2013

SOS - Please Help! Guided Math Presentation

Ok, so I work well under pressure, but I would really like a couple of people to glide through my Prezi for tomorrow.  I will return the favor anyway I can!  It is on Guided Math Stations.  I used phrases since I will actually be up presenting this, but tell me what you think!

Guided Math Stations Prezi

Thanks in advance!


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Liebster Blog Award

Thank you so much to Kelli over at Love N 3rd Grade for nominating me for this award.  I feel very honored for her selecting me!  She nominated me last week when I had very poor internet service, but I am home now where I can write and thank her and fulfill my nomination acceptance duties!

I have nominated the following 3 blogs:
In order to accept the nomination, we must: 
Link back the blogs that nominated us
Nominate 3-5 blogs with fewer than 200 followers
Answer the questions posted by the nominators
Share 11 random facts about myself 
Create 11 questions for my nominees
Contact my nominees and let them know I have nominated them

11 questions for me
Why do you blog?
I blog for reflection and because I love sharing.  I blog for me sometimes, and if my readers are sweet enough to read it, then bless them!

What is your favorite book for a read aloud?
I love reading aloud the Magic Tree House series when I get a chance to.  My kids love them and so do I!

Are you a good dancer?
I am a TERRIBLE dancer.  I am not sure the word terrible is strong enough truly!

Do you have a favorite teacher/education website? is my go to site for many ideas for my Junior High Students... I visit it on a regular basis!  I wish that the website wasn't up for sale :(
My other big teacher life saver is Dropbox!  Saves my life!

What are you most excited about for the new school year?
I am excited to get back into my classroom.  I miss my students!  I get to have most of my kiddos again, and I am excited because I know where we are and where we are going!  I am loving this teaching them for multiple years ideas.  I am also excited to see the new ceiling work and new tiles I am supposed to be getting thanks to the F1 tornado (see previous post).

What subject do you love to teach the most?
Well, that is a tough one.  I love teaching Science, but Math runs a very close second!

How do you handle a tough day on the education field?
A few intense games of bowling with my competitive coaching husband usually lets me unwind, but if we cannot bowl that night, then I turn into a complete nerd and resort to World of Warcraft (yes, I am one of those people).

Which holiday break is your favorite?
Spring Break is by far my favorite.  It is the one time of year I don't have to go, go, go... I get a few minutes to breathe which doesn't happen any other time of the year.

Which is better... pens or pencils?
For me personally, I like pen.  I don't like the way writing with pencil feels, but if I write with pencil it is always mechanical.  It is a sensory thing for me!

Favorite type of music?
My music loves are very random.  For those of you familiar with Sirius XM, my favorites set in my car are Prime Country, The Highway, The Pulse, The Blend, and 90s on 9.  I also love jazz and classical music and very much miss living in the city where I can go to the orchestra concerts.

Favorite piece of advice to share with educators?

11 RANDOM Facts about Me
1. I am a firm believer in Jesus Christ and His saving grace. 
2. I am a country girl to the core!
3. My favorite colors are red and blue.
4. I believe short people should stay on the ground, hence my fear of ladders.
5. My nieces and my nephew are the loves of my life!
6. My 2nd anniversary is Tuesday and I am in love with my husband :)!
7. My favorite candy is Starburst.
8. I am allergic to strawberries and shellfish.
9. I love, love, love the rain. It calms my soul.
10. I am a travel bug, and wish I could travel more with my hubby!
11. If it is sunny, I want to be out on the jet ski!

11 questions for my nominees
1. Why do you blog?
2. What is the one supply you cannot live without in your classroom?
3. What piece of advice do like to share with new teachers?
4. How many different grade levels have you taught?
5. What is the funniest thing that has ever happened in your classroom?
6. How do you handle the tough days?
7. What is your favorite movie?
8. What is the one lesson you really look forward to all year?
9. What is your favorite quote?
10. As a student, what was your favorite subject?  Is it still your favorite to teach?
11. What is your favorite app?

Again, THANK YOU for nominating me!  I am still learning, but I look forward to connecting with people!  Now can someone tell me where you get those cute blog backgrounds from?????

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Force and Motion Overload while Guided Math Station Presentation Hangs in the Rafters.....

Alright my few followers, this may not be a post that interests you, so if it is not, I totally understand!  Let me just say in all of this, I am praising God for the rain that He is bountifully blessing my home area with right now.  We were at the point where we were about to go to Stage 4 water restrictions in my hometown, and our lake has risen 3 feet since Sunday!  Glory goes to the Lord!

First of all, my poor guided math presentation, neglected presentation..... This training this week has me coming back to my sweet cousin's house (she is nice enough to let me crash so I don't have to drive 2 hours each way for 5 days) with my brain completely fried with no brain cells left to sort through my presentation!  However, this afternoon, I met with the lady that is putting on this idea share at our Regional Educational Service Center (ESC) to discuss my presentation.  I am officially on the calendar, and she told me that even though my focus is stations in Grades 3-5, she is going to add 6-8 teachers to my list of possible audiences.  YIKES!  I want them to be able to walk away with something as well, but goodness I have some thinking to do!  I know how my JH students are and what I can trust them with - I do use stations with them for some Science activities that I don't have enough equipment for everyone to do it at once, but I am hoping I can give those teachers who come something useful as well.  We will see!  I am working on a Prezi for my presentation, but my cousin has very poor internet out here in the boonies, so I am not really able to work on that part here at her house :/! I know where I will be all weekend and what I will be working on, but I am super excited.  Speaking of this weekend, someone remind me to go get an anniversary gift for my poor husband who did not get a birthday gift because I am such a slacker!!!!

I have been sitting for the last 2 days in an awesome training on Force and Motion, but it is meant to help with teacher understanding and how we can help minimize the misconceptions we can unknowingly cause in students.  (Not that any of us ever mean to cause any kind of misconception ever).  This post is more about me trying to process the first 2 of 5 days of this training...  By the way before I go much further - this training is out of the book Making Sense of Science: Force and Motion by Kirsten R. Daehler, Mayumi Shinohara, and Jennifer Folsom - it is put out by NSTApress.  If you are a 6-12 teacher, I highly recommend looking into this - while it will challenge you, I know you will have many ah-ha moments like I am having.

Big Ah-Ha #1: We have spent a lot of time looking at the many ways students represent situations and go about describing situations.  While I am a very strong math student, I was a math student who always liked the justify your answer part because I got to use words to explain something.  Many of my colleagues went from reading situations straight to drawing a graph or drawing a picture.  What I realized as I watched this happen and as we discussed is that all to often we "limit" our students in their mode of response.  I do it all the time, but that goes back to being a math person where I see things in black and white sometimes.  I am not saying we don't need to teach students all modes of responding and encourage them to use them to make sure they know how to use them appropriately, but sometimes we need to step back and let them decide.

Big Ah-Ha #2: Science-Content Reading is HARD for students (and truth be known many adults) and now I am starting to see why.  One of our ESC Facilitators made the following point about reading in content areas that I think is really worth considering.  When our students learn reading they mainly read fiction which has a plot that builds until a climax and then the book is pretty much over.  When our students read in social studies, they are taught to look for those cause and effect relationships that circle back like a figure 8 over and over.  When students read in Math, we teach them they are looking for what the question asks and the parts of some story problem they will really need to solve the problem.  When they read in Science, it is still another type of reading where we are introduced to some fact or law and then given all of the proof to support it and then finally wrapped up in a conclusion.  I might add this is the types of writings we expect from our students when we ask them to write in the content areas at times, but through this conversation this afternoon, I realized that possibly students struggle so much with Science reading because we don't spend enough time modeling for students how to read a passage.  I know I am super guilty of this, and now I understand why one of my projects for my JH kids flopped when I left it with a substitute.  They did not understand!  I am planning to integrate more reading in my Science classroom next year to teach my students these skills.

Big Ah-Ha #3: The vocabulary of speed, velocity, and acceleration are all to often used interchangeably when really they are not.  In calculus terms, speed would be our first graph, velocity graph would represent the first derivative of the speed graph, and the acceleration graph would be the second derivative.  But think for a minute about the word acceleration - what does it mean in most situations?  If we accelerate a car or a student or a process, we speed it up, and what I have come to realize is that students are not truly understanding acceleration in the way scientists use it.  Acceleration to them is speeding up (so speed) and if we decelerate, we are slowing down.  What most students don't realize is that acceleration in science means 1 of 3 things: speeding up, slowing down, or changing direction - scientific formula says to divide the change in velocity by change in time.  There were some great graph pictures we looked at today and after I spent time figuring out the relationships, I was quickly able to identify them but many others in this workshop were very frustrated because it did not fit the picture that was in their head.  Again, this workshop is about teacher understanding, so we spend a lot of time talking through these things.  Velocity too is often a tricky topic because it is speed with velocity.  We looked at some situations that involved negative velocity, and what I realized is that just because it was negative did not mean the object got slower, it meant that the object changed direction and move back toward the starting point.  This concept blew people's minds, so can you see how just from talking about acceleration and velocity how warped my brain is?!?  This is just the surface of our discussions, but it is some big ideas I walked away with today and yesterday.  This makes me think twice about how I use these words as I talk to my 6th and 8th grade students about motion.  I know I probably fed into some misconceptions now, but good news is at least for my 6th graders I get to fix those next year or in 8th grade!

Those are just 3 of the many big ideas that we have discussed this week.  I am still processing on some others, but I have to say  I am excited about tomorrow.  I just read my homework, and we seem to be looking at Newton's Laws and unbalanced forces.  These are some things my elementary kids start to understand, but I am sure based on what I read I will learn more tomorrow from the discussions and find myself up late trying to wrap my head around it all..

It is WAY past my bedtime, and I need to be awake for this tomorrow, so I am off to dreamland!  To those of you that read the whole way through this post, I applaud you and thank you - feel free to discuss your knowledge or insight on anything above!


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

New Texas Math TEKS Training

All of you Texas teachers out there, let me encourage you to attend the new Math TEKS training that most ESCs are turning around now. It is jammed packed with information and includes some great documents for helping understand the changes and challenges that we will be facing! However, be prepared it is a lot to take in. I got home yesterday afternoon after the 2nd day and crashed because I was so much on overload. The thoughts I have in my brain revolve around the new curriculum focal points for math that are a big thing in this training. There are 3-4 main focal points for grades K-8. These are the big ideas that all of the standards fit into somehow. They show the connections between all of the areas and are very different from the 6 domains that we have had in the past.

 As for me in my 3rd grade realm, these 4 focal points are 1. understanding and applying place value and properties of operations to solve problems involving addition and subtraction of whole numbers; 2. solving problems with multiplication and division within 100; 3. understanding fractions as numbers and representing equivalent fractions; and 4. describing characteristics of 2-D and 3-D geometric figures including measurable attributes. The one big change thing that I noticed in 3rd grade was the focus on understanding fractions throughout the TEKS. Fractions give many of our students trouble throughout school and for some students on into college. I truly believe that this change will help our students in the long run. I am excited about those changes. The interesting thing to me though that went away is all of the probability in elementary school. Students will not do probability until 7th grade now.

 While these changes interest me, the one big part that I am hearing the most grumbling about are the Financial Literacy TEKS that are now included in each grade level. I understand the need to educate our students on managing money and so forth, but I fear how well my students will truly understand some of the things in the 3rd grade standards. For example, how in the world am I going to get my students to understand the relationship between availability and scarcity of resources and the impact it has on cost. These are very abstract concepts that many adults don't truly understand. Soap box warning: how in the world are we going to show our students how to be financially responsible when our government does not operate with financial literacy... Ok, stepping off my soap box. Many students will not see these traits at home, and I am not sure they will understand where they will fit in the "real world" when this is not the norm outside of school. I will be working to figure out how to address these standards best, and I will be sure to share my thoughts when I get my head around them, but as for now if you have any ideas, please let me know!

In other news, my principal texted me this morning to share the following picture of my classroom. They are finally getting to start reconstruction after our F1 tornado 3.5 days before school let out.
Do you like my new sunroof??? This is a real test of patience for me. I am the teacher who usually has my room almost done by this time of year. As I have been stalking the last few days I have seen some of you waiting anxiously for the go ahead, and my go ahead will probably not come until mid-August. I too am waiting anxiously, but thanks to the laws that regard construction in schools, we have had to wait for the bid process. I am not sure yet the extent of work that will still have to be done in my room, but time will tell and until then I am using my energy to get things done at home.

 I decided to finally ask my husband about doing a remake on our Master Suite. It has been the same since I bought the house 6 years ago. Even when he moved in 2 years ago when we got married, all we did was change out the bed for his king size. We went to Home Depot tonight and I showed him what I had in mind and we picked up paint chips. The decisions have been made on paint and design, and I am excited about getting my paint on the rest of the week. I have to have it done by Sunday as I am leaving to go to a full week of training out of town on Monday morning. This is my 2nd anniversary present and I am in love :). I will post some before and after shots when I get it all done - it will be the most bold room in my whole house. Right now most of the house is tan, and well, I am ready for a change!

 I hope everyone has a great rest of the week!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bowling, oh Bowling

So today we are off to Beaumont/Port Arthur with the kids from our local bowling association! We are traveling with my bestie who is one of my dearest teaching friends, but just got her first principal job! The children (including my husband) are in the back seat with their games and toys, and we are singing away to country classics with occasional conversations about our school projects! It will be a long busy weekend watching the kids from our center bowl with kids from across this great state, but we are excited about some time away and hopefully some beach time! 

I hope everyone is having a blessed holiday weekend! Working on my presentation for that conference as we travel as I am going back through my Pinterest boards, but the one thing on my mind right now that I hope to get across to people who attend my session is that Math Stations don't have to be all worksheets, but they don't have to be expensive or hard to maintain. I use a lot of different dice games and card games with my students, and sometimes they have a half page recording sheet if I want to see something, but sometimes not. I also hope to convey that you don't have to grade every single little thing kids do in stations, but it has to work for you and your students! What worked with one group didn't always work with the next group, so I learned to flex a lot.... More to come when I not having to write this all on my phone, but some points to ponder....

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Back to School Bloglovin' Linky Party

I just linked up with the Back to School Bloglovin' Party.
Teaching is a Gift
I am just getting into blogging, and I am loving Bloglovin'!  It has been so easy to use to group my blogs that I have stalked for a long time.  No longer do I have to scroll through some of my personal friends' blogs to find my teaching friends.  Love it!

Hope everyone has a great night!


Blog Button First Try

This is my first attempt at creating myself a blog button - I hope it looks ok - I don't have all of the cute papers and backgrounds stuff some of the rest of you have, but here is my try.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Broken Teacher Heart

I am one of those teachers that forms very strong relationships with my students, and I have had several moments of teacher broken heart over the last few months. I have found out that 4 of my former students dropped out of school, and each case breaks my heart. They were such smart kids, they just needed the right structure and right teachers in their lives to encourage them on the journey. One is considering going back, but still it breaks my heart. Tonight though was the topper on my broken heart. I received a Facebook message from a former student telling me of their move to another state. For some reason he has convinced himself that because he is not in Texas anymore that he won't be smart in school. This is one of those students that was super bright and I just knew that he would go far in life. He has a brilliant mind, and it broke my teacher heart as I watched him write about how inadequate his abilities will be in the NYC school system. Teacher broken heart! So this begs the question with me - how do we convince our students they are worth something no matter where they are? How do we convince them they are smart when there are outside factors telling them they are not? This is my teacher broken heart. I love all of my kiddos past and present, and I don't like it when their heart is heavy. This is one part of the job that is difficult - I don't know how students can come and go from your classroom and you not get attached and feel a part of their lives. Have you ever experienced teacher broken heart?