Friday, August 3, 2012

F is for Finally

Hello again!

I was doing so well and then I kind of fell off the planet. Here's why.

Up until this morning, I had no idea what grade I would be teaching this school year. I am certified K-6 and my school goes from K-8. It could have been anything. I spent the whole summer freaking out and very anxious. I spent roughly five weeks of not knowing what I needed to plan for.

I asked and asked and asked. It got to the point where I couldn't even open my Daily 5 book to continue the book study. I felt sick about it all summer.

I am a worrier and a very very nervous person in general. Slowly that anxiety started to build into anger and I started a series of projects that I started to call Rage Crafting.

But between all of that I had a really good time this summer. I got to go to Michigan and see a dear friend. I spent some quality time with the hurbs. I spent time with several of my parents. Hurbs and I made a very big purchase (more on that later). Life was good.

So now I'm in crazy mode. Our PD stuff starts on Monday with our Meet and Greet on Wednesday. I have to move classrooms (luckily only next door) and my new room currently has no furniture and no carpet. But it does have cabinets and a sink! My room is the only one that has that! Woo woo! I'm so happy about those cabinets I could cry.

Any way. Anticipate more posts coming your way. I feel like I spent the summer in a twisted knot and now it's time to loosen up and kick it in gear. I have a million ideas and I'm ready to get started!

-Ms. A

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Daily 5: Chapter 2 (Part 2)

So I did some more noodling on D5:Chapter 2 today and here's what I came up with.

Click on the picture for the full version.

I hope this adds to our discussion. It certainly helped me flesh some things out.

Thank you for all of the wonderful comments!! They truly make my day!!

-Ms. A

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Daily 5: Chapter Two

Click to link up!

I'm starting my homework early! For the first time ever! It was bound to happen sooner or later. (Turns out it's later.)

I'd certainly like to say I trust my students. True, I trust some more than others. 

I like that "new driver" analogy because I don't think my own parents trusted me very much. My mom had her invisible break pedal that she would SLAM whenever she thought I was following too close. Honestly, I DO follow too close but, man, that scared the crap out of me more than anything else! So I'm not sure I developed confidence as much as I developed defiance. 

I have to ask myself, "What am I trusting them to do?" I think a lot of the time I skim over the "explicit instruction" piece. And I know, to a degree, that my children are not as in control when I'm not the teacher. For some reason this happens more often when they are in specials and not when I have a sub. I'm not sure what that says about them or me. 

I think my kids are more independent than others. Mostly because I can only handle someone asking me for an eraser so many times before I show them how to get one. But how does apply to my current reading system? 

I know I do A LOT of checking on kids. Why?

Well some kids aren't on task. This falls on me. Have they been explicitly shown what to do? Have I asked them to outwork their stamina? Do they have "good fit" books? 

Other kids don't know what to do. This falls on me too. Did I give them explicit instruction? Did I do enough modeling? 

I wonder: Can you really trust ALL kids ALL the time? What happens when a student breaks your trust? 

You guys, I hate having a schedule. I know it's good for kids. I know it's good to build a routine. To me, it might as well be a diet. Or a budget. Oh, and I have that one kiddo who says things like, "Ms. A! It's 11:15 so we are supposed to go to lunch NOW!" Ok, cram it stinker thank you for reminding me! Needless to say we don't "go over" our schedule because I have ADHD and my Adderall wears off before noon.

Any way. 

Where is choice in my classroom? Um... they can choose... to... Okay. Guilty again. My students can't even choose what to wear to school each day. The have one shirt that they have to wear every day. They can't even choose "blue polo" or "white polo". 

"Purpose + Choice = Motivation"

I know I like choice. In fact, I am actively combative when I'm not given a choice! Or a purpose! Ack. 

I wonder: Do kids need to choose one of each D5 choices every day? What if they only want to read to self? 

The Sisters say that community comes from "experiences [the students] have during that year". We're good at that. My students will even dig something up from six months ago and say, "Like the time that happened!" 

We also talk about holding each other accountable. And model it. And practice it. And model and practice it some more. However, we are still walking the fine line of accountability and being bossy and flat out tattle telling. 

With Kindergarten, I am perplexed as to how to build rules together. A lot of my students this year had NO prior school culture to build from. I felt a little lost. 

I wonder: What are the "how to's" for building community? 

Sense of Urgency
I really, really don't like "Because I said so!" See also, "Because I'm the mom and you're the kid!" Or Matilda style, "I'm right and you're wrong, I'm big and you're small, and there's nothing you can do about it."

And then I throw erasers at them with my MIND!

Understanding the "why". It's so essential. 

Live, Love, Laugh Everyday in K posted a great organizer on filling out the "whys" of the D5 for your self. Click here to grab it. 

This is one I'm going to need to work on as I read chapters 4-6 on the different components of the D5. I know others will answer it, but I really need to do it for myself if I want to authentically present it to my kids. 

I wonder: How can I get kids so invested in this that they will not allow interruption of their own learning? 

Building stamina is something I've never even tried with my kids. Much like the example, I saw a trainer last year and she was excellent at helping me build stamina and endurance. Now, I still wanted to kick her a little each time she told me, "Five more! Okay, now five more!" 

Favorite part: The Daily Five allows for teachers to have instruction time in one-on-one and small-group settings because the bulk of the class is independently engaged in worthwhile and meaningful activities. 

Yes, dear Sisters! I DO spend my time keeping kids on task! And YES, dear Sisters! I DO NOT have enough time for teaching and letting kids read! Kindly stop spying on my classroom.

To manage this, I would like to set a goal. I saw an awesome Pinterest find that I would like to incorporate. Click the picture to go to the original source.

I like that it is very visual and it helps kids see how much progress they are making towards their goal. 

Stay Out of the Way!!
This is something I know I can do once all of the other components are in place. I would LOVE to stay out of the way. The more independent my students are the more time I have.

More proof that the Sisters are spying on me: The first day students read without our hovering reinforcement, their behavior fell apart. 

My students are independent in some aspects and not at all in others. They are trusted with somethings but not with everything. 

I've got to start from the bottom and built up. Then I can stay out of the way (and stay out of my own way). 

Again, if you made it this far through my post, THANK YOU! Please comment, follow, etc. so that I know you were here. 

- Ms. A

A is for A-Ha Moment

I'm teaching summer school and I get to work with one of my kiddos who drives me crazy who is very special to me. We are choosing to retain him for next year so I've spent as much time as possible working with him on skills he missed throughout the school year.

This week we've been learning simple addition (sums to 10). And you guys! YOU GUYS! He started counting on all by himself! I about fainted. He still needs a lot of help, but woah.

So, for example, the problem was 7+9. Here's how it went down.

Me: What is the first number?
A: 7. (Puts 7 blocks on the 10s frame and counts out 7.)
Me: What is the next number?
A: 2. (Puts 2 blocks on and counts 9, 10).
Me: (Making my OMG face).
A: 10! It's 10!!

So... yeah. I'm impressed. We're still working on  recognizing and writing numbers from 11 to 20. He can count up to 30, but cannot identify or write the numbers in isolation. 


-Ms. A

Friday, June 15, 2012

Daily 5: Chapter 1

I know I'm slightly late to the game on this one but I have something to confess: I HATE WRITING ANSWERS TO DISCUSSION QUESTIONS!!

Phew. I feel better. 

I don't answer questions well. Anyone who has ever interviewed me can attest to this. I ramble incoherently until something falls out and I end up asking, "What was the question again?" 

Moreover, I'd rather talk with someone. My (super awesome) teacher for literacy in my graduate program would say, "It takes two people to read a book."

Chapter 1 of the Daily 5 is something I did on my own. I read it on my own. I took notes on it on my own. I thought about it on my own. I printed out the discussion questions as things to think about and my brain said, "This is homework! Abort! Abort!"

(And, yes, I know that this isn't mandatory.)

But I want this. I want to read and discuss and learn. So I need to change how I go about this book study. Fortunately, I have a fabulous friend in my building who is also doing the blog book study. (I'm looking at you, Dia-buddy. We're making a date next week to talk about Chapter 2.)

At this point, Chapter 1 has come and gone. To gear up for it, I read stuff from everyone else to give me things to think about. Here we go!

 Teaching New Behaviors and Expectations
This is something I really want to work on in my classroom. I don't do nearly enough modeling or reinforcing.   Figure 1-1 (p. 7-9) was a wake up call. It felt like a Cosmo Quiz: Which Daily 5 Teacher are You?" If you circled mostly A's then you are a First Year Teacher! (Full disclosure: I just finished my second year overall and my first year in K.)

I spent way too much time on this.
And yes. That's me. In the words of the esteemed LMFAO, "I'm sexy and I know it."
Any way...

I loved how Little Miss Kindergarten summed this up with the gradual release model:

Step 1. Model 
"I do, you watch."
Step 2. Guided Practice
"I do, you help."
Step 3. Independent Practice
"You do, I help."
Step 4. "You do, I watch.
My biggest downfall is not immediately correcting old behaviors. A little one slips through and then soon I have chaos. My expectations for behavior are very high. My kiddos are constantly told how awesome they are in the hallways and at specials. But behind closed doors, things get hectic.

Whose Classroom is it?
This one is probably 50/50. My students are very independent. They know where stuff is located and how to put it back. Their biggest hurdle is that their teacher's desk area is probably a fire marshal's worst nightmare. Poor babies. If they could find it they could use it! 

I also have no storage in my room. No cabinets. No shelves. No closet. It's a big, empty rectangle. That means I have stacks of buckets in the back of the room. Right now I live in an apartment that is already full to the brim. Seriously, our spare closets stack to the ceiling. When we have a house, I won't have to keep so much of my classroom stuff in my classroom. Or maybe the cabinet fairy will come. 

As far as stations go, I am this person that The Sister's talk about on pages 4 and 5:
  • Clusters working on worksheets
  • Stacks of "things" our children had done during literacy time
  • Things used to keep children busy while we attempted to work with a few small groups and individuals
  • Stopping to tidy and restock materials
  • Dreading the next weekend when we would spend so much time to create more centers for the kids to help keep them busy
  • Majority of time spent on preparing for and reviewing busy work
  • Not enough time for small groups because of constant management

Locus of Control/Behavior Management
Stickers. Behavior chart. Classroom group rewards. Bribes. Bargains. Pleading. $2.50 drafts at Houlihan's on Thursday nights. (Okay that last one was for me.) Lots of, "If you do X you will earn Y!"

I do a lot of talking but it's mostly with my kids. If we're trying out a new routine we work out expectations together on an anchor chart and review them. Then we try it out. When we're finished, we all come back together and talk about what went well, what needs to be fixed or reinforced, and what my part will be in those changes. We review them... but not as often as we need to.

The biggest lesson for me was that I was keeping my students "busy". We just want them to do something so we can do something else. I am committed to stopping this. I spend way too much time putting out small fires and so little time working with small groups. I need to move along the continuum from "teacher driven" to "student driven" and that takes trust.

If you read all of my rambling, kudos. And I appreciate it. I would love for you to follow me and leave comments, especially with questions or suggestions.

I can't wait for Chapter 2.

-Ms. A

Monday, June 11, 2012

F is for Father's Day FREEBIE!

Father's Day is one of those days that I think about a lot when it comes to kids.

When we celebrated Mother's Day we talked about moms. We also talked about all kinds of people who act like mothers and how to celebrate those people, too. However, when it came down to it, everyone of my kiddos had a mom in their lives. And that is awesome in about 100 different ways. I got lots of positive feedback from moms who loved what their kids made at school for their special day.

When it comes to Father's Day, I tend to get a lump in my throat. I want to make sure every child feels included but I have so many kids who don't have fathers in their lives. I even have several who don't have men in their lives at all.

Basically, it's something that is on my mind and on my heart. We no longer live in a time where the only option for families is to have one mom and one dad at home. I want to do all I can to help kids honor what their families look like, no matter who they go home to at night.

With that being said, I have a Freebie activity that can celebrate dads, grandpas, moms, neighbors... Which ever person a kiddo will pick to celebrate on Sunday. It is a fun and easy project and I'm looking forward to doing it with my summer school Kinder class.

Click on the Rock Stars below for your download!

If you decide to use my Freebie, please comment and let me know! I would also appreciate a follow if you can!

Happy "Fill in the Blank" Day. 

- Ms. A

Saturday, June 9, 2012

H is for Holding My Breath

So it's now been over a month since my last post.

Our last day was May 23rd and summer school started on May 29th. I have twelve of my nineteen kids for summer school which is nice. I love my babies. I'm still adjusting to my new ones. My kids are very independent and I guess I took that for granted in a big way!

I finally found out that I have a job for next year though I haven't been told what grade yet. I feel like I'm wasting so much time I could use to prepare for next year. I don't even know when I'll know.

There are lots of changes going on at school and there are many things in the air or unknown altogether.

Big, deep breaths.

I've been doing some deeper digging into Common Core and it's giving me all kinds of anxiety. "Common Core Standards" is not even something I've heard the administration at my school say. We're supposed to start the transition this year. I have several colleagues in other districts who are planning PD and workshops and yada yada yada! AHHHHH!


Silver lining time: Because of the less-than-stellar support from those above, I've found that I have some really talented and creative coworkers who are just as eager as I am to grow professionally and create positive change in our school and for our kiddos.

My Firstie friend and I are gearing up for The Daily 5 book study over at Live, Love, Laugh Everyday in Kindergarten. I'm getting pretty excited about it. I've kind of read through Daily 5 before but it was a "required read". As I was just beginning my Master's program at the same time, I wasn't terribly motivated. Now that I'm choosing to read it, I'm really soaking up every word. I PICK indeed!

A lovely fellow K teacher sent me the document below. It's from the International Reading Association's (IRA) annual conference. It's about the Daily 5! So well timed! It's FREE and also very cute... So grab it up!

I'm glad I can at least put my anxious energy into growing as an educator!

Okay! Enough whining for one post. (Now where's my Xanax...)

Here's my June Currently from Farley at Oh Boy Fourth Grade:

- Ms. A