Sunday, September 30, 2012

Daily 5 Update!

We just finished the 5th week of school and I have successfully implemented Read to Self, Work on Writing, Listen to Reading, and Read to Someone. I am so relieved that my kids are excited about building stamina and know the purpose of each Daily 5 activity. In the book, it always mentions that the purpose of Daily 5 is for students to become better readers. I kept having to remind my kids of that last year and I felt that it wasn't as present in their minds as I wanted. This year during our class Daily 5 meeting for Read to Someone, one of my students reminded the class that this is "for us to work together and help each other become better readers". It was such a sweet moment and I hope that it really sets the tone for our little learning community this year.

My kids are almost to 15 minutes of stamina in Read to Self. I make them work to reach a certain number of minutes three times before I fill in the stamina chart. That way they are working on consistently building stamina. It has definitely made them more aware of their purpose and they know what they need to work on each time we practice read to self as a class.

This past week, I finally introduced Listen to Reading with the computers and books on tape station. We received two companion computers in second grade to go with our two desktop computers. I am THRILLED. I love technology and I have really needed some more computers for the kiddos to get their hands on.

Tomorrow I am introducing Word Work. Wish me luck! :)

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Differentiation is a buzz word you have hopefully heard about. I've been hearing it since college but it wasn't until last year that I really started to build a more complete knowledge of what differentiation means in my classroom. Last year I was chosen to be a part of an intensive differentiation pilot in my district where a specialist was in my room once a week, I observed other teachers in the district, went to cohort meetings, and eventually was a model classroom for other teachers in the district. It was an eye opening experience that overwhelmed, educated, and pushed me to really embrace and be an advocate for differentiation.

Before being in the pilot program,  I knew that it was about meeting students' needs based on their learning styles and ability levels. I knew that it would mean more small group instruction and assessing students throughout each unit and changing my lesson plans based on what my kids need at that time. I knew it would mean more flexibility in my planning and that every year and every kid would be different. What I didn't really have a handle on was HOW to do it all and not lose my mind. (I'm still working on that.)

My principal recently gave me the book, Managing a Differentiated Classroom- A Practical Guide by Carol A.Tomlinson and Marcia B. Imbeau.

I love the section about what differentiation is NOT and I would like to share that with you.

Differentiation is NOT:
- new; They included a parenting example: it is something parents do with each child they have. (No child is the same at home or in the classroom) You don't parent exactly the same so why would you teach 20 kids the same.
-for a particular group of students; (gifted, special ed, or ESL) It is for ALL students.
-something extra teachers do on top of regular lesson plans; it is a different approach to planning with student needs in mind. It takes more time but is worth it because you really see the growth in your students.
- watered down teaching; it is an approach that teaches up from each child's point of entry.
- a specified set of tools; it is a way of thinking about the classroom that attends to students' needs
- extreme teaching that only few teachers can accomplish; it is described as a best practice for teachers and it is something that all teachers can and should do in some capacity.
- something teachers already do, most teachers do some things that differentiate for certain learners in the classroom but few differentiate for all students.

Differentiation IS a teacher's response to a student's needs. You do this by building a safe and comfortable learning community, following the quality curriculum based on standards, getting to know your students, using ongoing assessment, creating fluid groups that change with each assessment, and more flexible classroom management where you are a facilitator not the lecturer.

With that being said, here are some things that I have learned so far about differentiation.

- You can't differentiate everything all the time. NO ONE is perfect.
- You can use resources from the district and tweak them as you see fit. You can use a whole group lesson and turn it into a small group or independent activity.
- You do not have to be at your back table all the time pulling small groups. You can turn "guided practice" into you going to each group of students at their stations and give guided questions and informally assess.
- Pre-assessments can be formal or informal. You can pull questions from the standards in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd and make a formal assessment or you can do something more informal in their journal with open ended questions depending on the topic.
- Menus are not what differentiation is all about. Menus can be used with long units to reinforce a set of standards. They can be done by the whole class, or just a small group that is above level and needs something more long term and in depth than your other students.
- You should know what your students are interested in, how they learn best, and what type of products they like to make. This can be done by an interest survey. (We use in our district and it is incredible)
- Most importantly, you need to find a way to keep up with your data to back you up when making lessons. You can't just give pre-assessments and do nothing with the data. My problem was not that I didn't use the data, it was that I didn't have the best organization system to look at throughout the year. I have a binder this year and data collection sheets from my lovely differentiation guru friend Arianna.

This year, I am a differentiation coach for my school. I have to take what I've learned (still learning) and teach it to my teammates and other staff members. I'll keep you updated about how that goes. My plan is to include information about what I am doing with differentiation in the classroom, what comes up when working on implmentation with my teammates and any other interesting tidbits in these blog entries.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Dallas Flea

Since my friends have way better posts than I do, I'll keep this short and just link their amazing blogs. :)
Florence's blog: Creating eunoia
Arianna's blog: Lavender + pink

Yesterday I rolled out of bed early, somewhat unwillingly, to go downtown for The Dallas Flea upscale market event. Luckily, I have incredible friends who bring me Starbucks and remind me of what it feels like to enjoy doing things outside of school.

We caught the DART train and headed to South Side on Lamar. The weather was gorgeous and we had fun taking pictures and getting some fabulous flea market finds. I got a vintage silk skirt and handmade pewter cuff links for Ryan!

It turned out to be a really great day getting to hang out with coworkers and do something that doesn't involve school. I'm so blessed to work with people who I am proud to call my friends. Thanks for wanting to hang out with me outside of work girls!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Proud to be an Aggie

It is game day in College Station, Texas and I am full of emotions. This is the first game with Texas A&M in the SEC. I'm a little bummed because Ryan and I had a playful rivalry with both of our teams in the Big 12. Now all of that is gone and it's on to new experiences. I am really excited about the new season starting but it also brings up some sadness too.

I haven't been able to go back to College Station since I graduated back in 2009. The game tickets are really expensive and as I've said before, I married into a Baylor family so if we're going to pick a college football game to go to, I am outnumbered. Don't get me wrong, I love going to the Baylor games but I just miss getting to show my college pride and go back to my school.

I love everything about College Station, especially on game weekends. There are so many people camped out and tailgating outside of Kyle Field, it is unreal. I've never seen anything like it. Once you get into the stadium it is sea of maroon and white and everyone is in good spirits. It was so fun to go to the games and do all the chants, stand up the whole game, and have a shared experience with thousands of people. There is nothing like experiencing a football game in Aggieland.

 I'll never forget the time I took my dad to the A&M vs. UT game on Thanksgiving in 2009, right before I graduated in December. He wasn't on board with me going to A&M at first and had a hard time when I turned down Baylor scholarships to move to Aggieland. It wasn't until we were in the stands at that game, that he turned to me and said "I get it. I finally see what you have been talking about all this time."  

Hopefully some time soon, I'll get to head back to College Station for a game. I will buy every shirt at the tent sale, eat a huge hot wing potato at Potato Shack, and then spend my after game festivities on Northgate. Oh Aggieland, we will meet again. :)


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Math Curse

One of my favorite lessons to do the first day of school is to have my kids do a classroom scavenger hunt. The questions are pretty straight forward. I ask about the number of chairs, desks, bookshelves, etc. Then I throw in this question, "How many numbers do you see in this classroom?" It is my absolute favorite question because the past two times that I have done this, my kids have figured out that there are thousands of numbers in the classroom. They start to see the number line on the wall, the clock, the hundreds chart, rulers, the calendar, book box numbers, clip chart numbers, etc. Some even noticed the nameplates on each desk that also include a ruler, hundreds chart, and number line.

My favorite memory of last year was when one of my kids stood at the front of the room, arms stretched out, and shouted, "THIS WHOLE ROOM IS MADE OF NUMBERS!" It seems like a silly thing for the kids to do but you really get to see your kids' ability to observe and think outside of the box. This little discovery leads into my explanation that math is EVERYWHERE and it is so important for them to realize the real world connections with math.

To close the lesson, I read The Math Curse by Jon Scieszka. It is a book that appeals to students from 2nd grade to college. My college professor actually read it to us during math methods. Some of it is way over my kids' heads but they still get the overall meaning that you can make anything into a math problem.
I love reading it!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Banana bread, Buffalo wings, and Baylor football

It is officially football season and my husband is THRILLED. As a graduate of Baylor University, Ryan got to be at Baylor during the RG3 years. He is so anxious to see how Baylor does this year now that Robert Griffin III is in the NFL. Even though I'm a proud graduate of Texas A&M (WHOOP!), I support the bears since my grandpa and I are the only aggies in my whole family and Ryan's ENTIRE family went to Baylor. Anyway, since A&M isn't playing until next week, I put on my green and gold and supported my husband's team. :) As part of our football tradition, we get buffalo wings and Dr Pepper to kick off the season.

Since this past week has been super crazy with school starting, Ryan went to the grocery store for me. It was so helpful and I really appreciate it except for the fact that he didn't check to see what we already had. He did pretty well until he realized we ended up with two bunches of bananas. Luckily, this is a three day weekend and I am a Pinterest addict. I spent today making banana bread and Ryan made shakeology banana smoothies. Tomorrow, I'm making banana-cranberry-oatmeal muffins. LOVE.

I got my recipes from Miryam has amazing healthy recipes!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Techie Post #4

I LOVE THIS WEBSITE!!! It is a free site that helps students master basic facts. It starts out with addition and subtraction but you can change each student's program to move up to multiplication and division as they reach that level of mastery. It is so easy to sign up and set up your class. Also, the site generates parent flyers that you can print out and send home. This allows for the parents to link to their child's profile. That way parents can see their child's progress through weekly emails. As a teacher, you get a weekly email showing the progress of your entire class. 

This can be done during computer lab or during your math block with students taking turns at your student computers. It only takes 15 minutes for the students to take a placement quiz, progress activity and race the teacher game. It is basically online flash cards but the kids love it and they get to see a grid that shows which facts they have mastered and the ones they still need to work on. Once they master a program, you will get an email that gives you a certificate to print out for that child. It is AWESOME. The screenshot above shows all of the instructional videos you can watch to walk you through the set up process. 

This screenshot is the sign up screen. Do it now and thank me later! :)