Monday, October 20, 2014

Our First Webinar

I realize I haven't written about our first webinar. I can't believe I waited so long! The webinar was based around the children working in groups of three to conduct an experiment. I had three people log on for the first one, but the feedback was amazing! The children were focused and enjoyed the activity and the few parents that logged on asked when I was going to do another one. I love the idea of bringing school to the parents in a different way.

Using anymeeting.com, I simply set up a webinar. I opted for that since it was one way communication, meaning parents could hear us, but we couldn't hear them. They could type if they wanted to comment. Parents were required to register prior to attending. Once they registered, they were sent the link for the meeting.

We are planning on doing another one this week to share a look into the Daily 5 model as utilized in our classroom. I will be anxious to see if the attendance grows with each webinar.

Test Product - Estimation Station

I am testing this product tomorrow in class. I am thinking of doing it in partners or groups of three. I also played with the idea of doing it as a fast finisher or center. My hesitation with it is the number of problems on the page that was needed in order to spell the word ABOUT.
I would love to know your thoughts. It will eventually be part of a bigger bundle.

Estimation Station

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Thursday is the day!

Thursday is the day we do our first live webinar from the classroom! I am excited to see how it goes! The class will be doing a science experiment, so it will be engaging for both the students and the viewers! This post is short and sweet, but my anticipation is giving me a writers block. The only words coming to mind are excited and can't wait!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1!

I had a colleague ask me how long I have been using a certain classroom management tool the other day. She has seen it used before, but realized just how effective it can be in the classroom after seeing it utilized a couple times in the fourth grade classroom. This tool was the simple partner pairing system Clock Buddies and I do love this tool. That conversation got me thinking....what are my favorite classroom tools. As a result, I made some lists (in no particular order):

5 Favorite Classroom Management Tools

1) Class Dojo - Class Dojo provides immediate acknowledgment of the behaviors and, when utilized at home, gives parents insight to their child's day.
2) Clock Buddies - A great way to quickly pair up students.
3) Silent Signals - The Dollar Tree sells a set of signs (for $1!) on large popsicle sticks that works great for this. It has reminders like: Line up quietly, Eyes on me, Quiet, or Please raise you hand that you simply hold up to signal to the students.
4) Audible Reminders - Class Dojo give great audible reminders for positive and negative behaviors. I also use a wind chime for silence or when it is time to meet back in groups.
5) Whole class or individual Panther Paws- Out school is a PBIS school and this is how we reinforce positive behaviors. When those Paws come out and are handed to the students displaying proper behaviors, other follow suit.



4 Favorite Ways to Communicate to Parents

1) Remind.com- A text messaging tool to text parents pictures or reminders about school. The best part is it is one way communication, so there are no replies.
2) Reflections on the Week - Every Friday, the students fill this form out and I write a little message in the box. They then go home in the Friday Folders for their parents to see.
3) Weekly emails - In lieu of printed newsletters, I send home emails to the parents about what is going on a school or what is coming up in the next week. In these emails, I try to give them specifics about their child's day to talk about a the dinner table.
4) Personalized emails - this year I have started doing personalized emails.  I have a class list and I pick 2-3 students a week to send an email to their parents. In these emails, I write a quick 2-3 positive sentences about their child and what a pleasure it is to have them in class. So far, the response has been amazing!

3 Favorite Classroom Tools

1) Paint Strip Notes - A colorful and different way to take notes that the students collect all year long. I take the paint strips that have 4-6 colors in a vertical column, and we put the important points in each square. For example: We recently did one for the 5 bordering states of Virginia. The top square was the title (5 Bordering States of Virginia) , then the next 5 squares were: Maryland (My), West Virginia (Wild), Kentucky (Kangaroo), Tennessee (Tasted), North Carolina (Nachos).
2) Post-It Notes Exit Tickets - A quick check for understanding in  fun way. Who doesn't love Post-It notes!
3) Online Stopwatch- Class Dojo has one (I just discovered), but there are also many different versions online, and I have the one I commonly used linked

2 Personal Goals to Work on

1) Organization - This is every year and more for visual beautification, but also a little for efficiency.  99% of the time I can find anything needed or asked for, but to look at my table it seems that I just have piles. My piles range from student work to upcoming resources and tests that need to be copied or are copied and then a pile or "What?". Those papers you get in your mailbox and you just aren't sure if you should keep it or not.
2) Can I say organization again? No, well then I would have to say time management. I have to laugh because it seems that the copier always clogs right when I need to leave or that I have to print one more thing right before I have to pick up the class. I try to squeeze as much into those 20-25 minutes that I can and end up being a few seconds late, on a good day, to pick them up.

1 Thing I am always Thankful for

1) A kind word of encouragement or gratitude by colleagues, parents, or students. I truly believe that teachers are, or feel we are, the most under appreciated line of work. It seems that they are always trying to prove to others how well they do their job. I feel that is a direct result of a need for some sort of gratification or word of encouragement since what we may hear from parents and students  is the opposite when they don't do well on a test or get in trouble at lunch.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Waiting to Go Live

This year, I am going to be using technology in the classroom in a way that I have never used it before.

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall?

I am borrowing a line from one of my summer guilty pleasures...Big Brother....but that is besides the point. My daughter is in school, and I would love to have the opportunity to see activities that I can't take off an hour here or a half hour there. As a teacher, we don't have the luxury of flex time or work from home days. We do have some sick time and personal days, but not enough to take off for every clown parade, or class party.

Where am I going with this? Well, I got an idea to give parents a chance to do what I would love to do. I ask for volunteers to help with the many experiments we do each year, but many parents work. Often I will get a reply stating they would love to but they have to work, or that is not one of their days to work from home, but they would have loved to see the activity. This year, I am going to invite the parents in virtually using a online video conferencing, secure website. The parents will receive an email with a specific website. The website changes each time to help keep it secure. The parents will then be able to log on and watch their child do an experiment or perform a reader's theater that they may not have been able to see otherwise.

Daycare facilities have this capability, as does some dog kennels in wealthy areas, so why not the classrooms where the children spend so much of their time.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Nothing? NOTHING!!

Ok, in my ten years, I have found that there has to be a balance between parents and teachers. I think it is like a marriage. The best example I can come up with is that sometimes you take the credit, sometimes you let your husband think it was his idea, and sometimes it really was his idea. It is similar with parents. These are their children, their world, and they just want to be involved. On that note, I like to give them some of the power at home, some knowledge into our daily studies, and help them communicate with their child about school each day.

I consider it my personal responsibility to reduce the "nothings" of the world. That age old response children give their parents to "what did you do in school today?" is like a stab in the heart. All my planning and preparing resulted in a NOTHING? REALLY?? So, as a result, I have used many communication tools in the past to give the parents a jumping off point if you will. Ones that have stuck are ClassDojo.com, Remind.com text messaging, a weekly reflection form, and weekly or twice a week emails with my DDQ (Dinner Discussion Question).

Class Dojo is a behavior monitoring online tool that parents can access at home. It has provided great insight to parents. Children have told me their parents ask them about specific behaviors at night, and I LOVE IT! It also helps me remember specifics about a child's behavior each week. They also have a new messaging tool,which I haven't used but am looking into.

Remind.com is a parent/ teacher text messaging app that I use to remind parents of upcoming quizzes, give questions related to what we are studying for them to talk about it at home, and then have their child answer the next day, or give hints to bonus questions or upcoming assignments.

My weekly reflection form allows a student to think about their behavior and goal for that week and write about how they did. I then collect them, write a comment at the bottom, and send them home. Parents also have a section that they can respond and send back if they would like.

Finally, the emails are another way in which I try to promote, build, and strengthen the home and school connection through communication between the parents and children. I will send home 1-2 emails a week with reminders of upcoming evens or quizzes, to wish a child happy birthday that day, preview what we will be doing, and give little glimpses into what we did that day. At the end of the emails, I will often put a DDQ, or Dinner Discussion Question, for parents to ask their students. The DDQ has proven to be successful, relative to the hectic lives of these families. On any given day, when I ask the class who talked about this or that related to the DDQ, I have consistently gotten about 25% of the students to raise their hands, and it isn't always the same 25% which is great! The hope is that the parents can then build on that information they are getting from their child each day to spur conversations in the future.

All in all, I find that parent involvement promotes success and confidence in the students. It also shows the parents that I am confident in my abilities and want them to know what I am doing with their child 6-7 hours a day.

Live! is one more communication tool I will be implementing and writing about soon!

Welcome. My first post...this is EXCITING!

It is an understatement to say that I am excited about the developments my classroom will be undergoing this year! There are many changes in store that have rejuvenated and reignited my excitement for this wonderful career.

First and foremost, I will be moving back to fourth grade. I have taught fifth grade for the past two years and have learned a lot about this very important developmental and transitional year. Teaching this grade has also put in perspective the difference between learning and mastering skills the year before.  I have new insight into what the expectations are for my fourth graders. Before making the move to fifth, I taught fourth for eight years and am thrilled to be going back to the curriculum I left, mainly Virginia History.

Secondly, I got the go ahead for a Big Brother (one of my favorite summer guilty pleasures) inspired project. It is also the inspiration for this blog. If you are a parent, have you every wanted to be a fly on the wall in your child's classroom? I certainly have! As a teacher, I am not always able to attend the little events that my child's school puts on, so consequently my husband gets to partake in all the fun! Anyway, before I digress too much, I am going to be offering parents a way to watch their child LIVE. I am so excited and will go into this more later.

Lastly, this year I am part of a team again, be it a small team, but a team nonetheless. Teaching, in my opinion, is a social occupation, and when you are teaching a grade that you are brand new to and don't have a team to support and encourage you, it can be very draining!

In summation, I am ready to go (in about 5 weeks..don't get me wrong I enjoy my summers). I hope that you will join me on my journey this year!