Thursday, August 21, 2014

Back to School - Day 1

Yesterday was my first day back in the building. I have been doing some training, but hadn't been in my classroom yet. I don't have a lot of exciting things to report, so I thought I would share some of the things that I did today.

First, I had to reorganize the furniture in my classroom. When I arrived this morning, all of the furniture was on the opposite side of the room from where it needed to be. Additionally, all of the desks had been taken out of the room so that the floor could be waxed. Needless to say, I had a bunch of moving around to do.

Here are a few pictures of what the room looks like at this point:

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Obviously, I still have a lot of work left to do.

In addition to moving furniture, I also got a little bit crafty. I am going to have 23 students this year and my co-teacher will have 24. I soon realized that I didn't order any name tags in my school order and I didn't have enough left over from previous years. What was a teacher to do? I pulled out my laptop and put my Teachers Pay Teachers skills to work. Here are my new name tags for this year. My students will have blue and my partner's students will be in red.

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Another thing I made was a cover for my students' binders. It is pretty simple, but I think it makes the point.

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Finally, we will be sending out our placement letters to our students on Friday. Our principal asked that we put together a personal letter to the students to introduce ourselves. Here is the letter that I made to send out. To be honest, the idea is not original with me. I got the idea from Pinterest.

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So, that was my day. How was your day at school? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Student Teaching - What's the Worst That Could Happen?

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Everyone has memories of their student teaching experience. Some are good, some are bad. While my student teaching semester was one marked by the worst kind of tragedy (my classroom experienced the death of a student), my "worst" experience happened on the very first day of "Full Responsibility."

For those of you not familiar with that term, "Full Responsibility" is the week where a student teacher is completely in charge of the classroom. My supervising teacher handed me the roll book and walked to the back of the room, where he picked up a novel and started to drink coffee.

When students are coming into the classroom, the best word to describe this is chaos, pure, unadulterated chaos. Even the most organized and managed classrooms experience this chaos every single morning. As I was standing there greeting the students and collecting notes, one of the girls came up to me in a bit of a panic.

"Mr. Pearson, I don't know what happened. I just looked down and noticed that my skirt was covered in blood and I don't know where it came from!"

Did I mention that I was teaching 6th grade? Yeah, that should set some context for this story.

I didn't really know what to say, so I looked back to my supervising teacher. He shrugged, took a sip of his coffee, and turned the page in his book. Great.

The poor girl looked like she was about to cry, so I did the only thing I could think to do: I sent her to the nurse. "Quick, here's a pass. Go to the nurse. She'll take care of it."

The girl left and I was able to get the day going without any further catastrophes. About an hour later, the girl returned to class wearing a new skirt. A little later in the day, I asked her if everything was okay, secretly hoping she wouldn't share too many details of what had been going on.

Oh yeah, everything's fine. There was a kid on the playground this morning who cut his leg open. I guess he brushed up against me and that is where the blood came from. I had to wait in the nurse while my mom brought me a change of clothes. No big deal."

No big deal for her. It certainly threw a wrench in my plans for the day. And, fortunately, that was the most traumatic (for me, anyway) thing I had to deal with during my student teaching. Interestingly enough, my student teaching experience is not at all what my actual teaching experience has been, but I guess that is the case with most teachers.

What memories of student teaching, good or bad, do you have?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Five For Friday - A Bunch of School Crafts, Comics, and Bow Ties

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Another week has come and gone which means it is time for another Five For Friday. As always, I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching. Be sure to swing by there to see what some other awesome teacher-bloggers have been up to this week.

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I think the fact that school is just around the corner has caused me to get a bit "crafty." I have a confession to make, however. I hate doing crafts and making projects. I shared this information with my wife and her response was, "And why are you an elementary school teacher?" That being said, I made a few things this week to get me ready for the upcoming school year. First off, I made some pencil cans. I took some old fruit cans and wrapped them in duck tape. I think I got the idea on Pinterest or somewhere like that. Here are the originals and the final product.

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The second product I made was a multiplication math fact center. Again, I think I saw this on Pinterest (I really need to write these things down), so if this was your idea, I apologize for not being able to give appropriate credit. Anyway, the activity involves using an egg carton to create math facts. Inside the egg carton, I wrote the numbers 1-12. I put some duck tape across the openings and painted the tops and bottom. The students will put two markers inside the carton and shake it. After opening the egg carton, the student will multiply the two factors together. Here are the pictures I took:

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Another thing that I worked on this week was finishing up some bow ties. I wear bow ties every day to school and a few months ago, I started sewing my own. I'm still learning to make them look good and some are better than others.

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I'm probably the only one who cares about this, but about a week ago, I was able to get a month's subscription to Marvel Unlimited, an online comic book collection. I've spent a bunch of time going back and reading old Marvel Comics, especially a set of stories called "Planet Hulk" and the old Frank Miller Daredevil comics. Some of you may recognize the name Frank Miller as the director of the movie Sin City. I've never seen it, but I hear it's good.

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The last thing is that this is the beginning of my last week of summer vacation. It is shaping up to be a busy one, beginning with a doctor's appointment. This appointment was rescheduled from an appointment I was supposed to have in April. My wife has been bugging me to go to the doctor for a check-up, especially now that we have five kids. I am very excited about the beginning of the school year. Each new year is a new adventure and I am ready to get this one started.

Thanks for checking in from another week. I hope you all ready for the fun to start. Those kids are coming soon, if they aren't with you already.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Guided Math in Action - Chapter 9

We have come to the last chapter in the book, Guided Math in Action by Dr. Nicki Newton. I hope that you have enjoyed reading my recaps and that I have convinced you to purchase a copy of the book for yourself. Seriously, it's a good one.

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In this chapter of the book, Dr. Newton provides a day-by-day plan for how to introduce the guided math framework to students. She gives the topics for mini-lessons and provides a number of anchor chart examples to be used in the classroom. If I can be honest, these examples are worth the price of this book alone. She has has some really great stuff here, many of which I am going to be making for my own classroom.

The framework that Dr. Newtown provides covers 4 weeks, or 20 days. In the first week, the focus is on the structure of math workshop and the ways that mathematicians communicate with each other. The second week is for focusing on the routines and procedures for things like the daily calendar and how to work together in groups. Week three continues the focus on the routines and provides guidelines for using manipulatives and playing games together. In the fourth week, the students are taught what is expected of them at the end of math workshop, or "debrief."

I didn't feel the need to go into a huge recap of each day or week (you can read the book for more specific details.) If all of the information that needs to be covered in the first 20 days seems overwhelming, Dr. Newton has provided a rather specific chart at the end of the chapter to help you know what to cover and when. I will certainly be referencing it in the days and weeks to come.

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Question 1: There are so many things that I need to prepare/finish up for the upcoming year. These include:

  • Hot topic centers
  • Anchor charts
  • Take home bags (love this idea!)

There really are so many things that I learned in this book that I could attempt to make a part of my instruction. There is so much that it can be a little overwhelming. I think the best thing to do is choose a small part or parts, put it into practice, then implement another part and repeat.

Question 2: The things that I am going to continue include:

  • My Problem of the Day
  • My Number of the Day - very similar to Calendar Activities, but teaches numeracy

Again, the key is to take things slow and steady. I know that if I try to implement all of these awesome ideas at once, I will quit and that's not good for anyone.

Thank you for joining me as I worked this book this summer. I hope you have learned as much as I have and, if not, get a copy of the book!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Guided Math in Action Book Study - Chapter 8

Chapter 8 of Guided Math in Action is the chapter that everyone has been waiting for: this chapter is all about centers!

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Because most classes are made up of more than the five or six students that work in a small group, a teacher needs to have a plan for what the other students are going to be doing. In a perfect world, all of the students would sit quietly and engage themselves, but that is certainly not the case in any classroom I have been a part of. To do that, the teacher provides the students with centers, or independent activities that the other students can work on while he is teaching a small group.

Dr. Newton begins the chapter by offering some suggestions about how to set up centers and to keep them organized. These are important to use as guidelines because it will help the centers to run smoothly. We all know that students can't breathe on their own without specific instructions, so the better organized your centers are, the smoother the process will go.

It is also suggested that students work in various types of activities throughout the week. These include individual work, partner work, and group work. During individual work, a student is working on an activity by himself without the help of another student or group. In my classroom, this is when students are doing a math sort or working on task cards. There are times where students may work beside other students, but each student is doing his or her own assignment. When my students are working on task cards, they will often share the set of cards, but each student is doing the problem on the card by himself.

During partner work, students are working together with one other student. During this time, they may be working on a project together, such as a puzzle or matching game. In my classroom, my students will often work together on the Monster Match Fact Family Puzzles. They can also play games against their partners. This is a large part of the centers we do in my classroom. An example would be Pirates vs. Ninjas - A Comparing Numbers Game.

During group work, the students are working together with a bigger group of students. This may involve each student having a role in the group. Dr. Newton described each student in the group having a role in solving story problems, such as number cruncher, illustrator, and problem checker. Students can also play competitive games against others in their group. A wonderful teacher named Rachel Lynette has created a set of game boards that she offers for free in her Teachers Pay Teachers store. These boards are excellent for use in group work. My students love playing them.

Dr. Newton also gives a list of the seven centers she believes should be in every math classroom.

  1. Basic Fact Center - students are practicing math facts.
  2. Hot Topic Review Center - students are practicing and reviewing skills taught up to that point in the year.
  3. Geometry Center - students are exploring shapes
  4. Word Problem Center - students are working to solve story problems at the pictorial, concrete, and abstract level
  5. Math Poem Center - students are working with math poems and other written materials
  6. Math Journal Center - students are working on math journals, including foldables and other activities
  7. Math Vocabulary Center - students are practicing with math vocabulary

Chapter 8 was the most exciting chapter because this is an area that all teachers want to improve in. Dr. Newton offered a number of great examples and ideas for getting centers up and running so that small groups can take place

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Question 1: The majority of my math centers are individual activities or partner activities. My students play many math games (especially ones that will help them improve their fact fluency) and work on sorts, cutting activities, or task cards. There are some times when there is group work involved (making graphs, using measurement tools), but not as much as I would like. I hope to make it a goal this year to introduce groups to solving story problems. This may make for a great small group lesson (introducing the procedures and modeling the steps) before adding it as a center.

Question 2: At the present time, my students are accountable for their centers work through something I call the Centers Grid. The centers that we are working on for that time period are listed on a grid. I will often assign three or four "required" centers and allow the students to choose 2-3 others. The majority of the centers have a student recording sheet that goes with the activity (this is especially true of the Scavenger Hunts or task cards). I did like the idea that was introduced in the chapter of calling on students to share what they completed during centers. I am also going to be making reflection sheets for my students to use a few times a week to share what they have done in centers and what they are learning. Dr. Newton provided three different examples of forms, each becoming increasingly more involved. I hope to add reflection like this to my math classroom next year.

School starts in just a few weeks (or days, depending), so I hope you are getting some great ideas from this series on how to run your math class for next year.

Here are some other great blogs to check out their thoughts on this chapter.