Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Getting to Know You Game... Updated, Upgraded and Uploaded

Frame from Scrappin' Doodles

As the new school year approaches, I begin thinking about ways to develop that all-important classroom community that is a first step to enjoying a successful year together.  During the first week of school, I like to have my students participate in a variety of games and activities designed to help students get to know each other better.

Although this game has appeared before on my blog, I have updated it a bit and uploaded it again here. In this version, I have included a spinner, but I prefer to have my students play this game with colored dot dice (Someday I'd love to post about the variety of different activities we enjoy in our classroom that use these cute little dice!) Either way, you simply need something to choose colors and something to choose numbers.

If you click on the game board above or the cover below, it will take you to TpT, where you can downlaod this product for free!
And since I actually finished my game on Monday, I am linking this back to my very sweet pal Tara at 4th Grade Frolics. You should link up there too--you'll be amazed by all of the amazingly cute, crafty and creative stuff you'll find there!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Back-to-School Shopping Begins...

Even when I was a little girl, the smell of new crayons filled me with anticipation...

I would find myself peering into classroom windows every August--whether or not it was my school! The stacks of books, the sharpened pencils, and the shiny waxed floors always left me feeling giddy. I should have known then--rather than changing my major twelve times in college--that new crayons and shiny floors would be in my future.

I generally spend my limited back-to-school funds at two places: WalMart and Office Depot. Our school doesn't give us any funding, but there are just some things I cannot do without! WalMart has wonderful Back-to-School sales items, and Office Depot has just changed its Star Teacher purchasing policy: You can now get 10% of your purchase of school supplies back in Office Depot Rewards (Which equates, simply, to more spending money at Office Depot!) It used to be 1%... but I am really liking the sound of 10%!

So I made my first trip to WalMart this morning and I returned with several bags of treasures...

With the exception of the small purple whiteboard (I couldn't resist!) everything in the picture above was less than a dollar--most of the items were 88cents! Those mini clipboards are my favorite! I'm not sure what I am going to use them for, but I am sure that I love them!

And there were more good buys... The crayons were only 50 cents. You can often find them for 25 cents at a sale somewhere in early September, but I wanted to cross them off my list today.And I bought 36 glue sticks for 10 cents each. Colored erasers and multiplication flash cards for 88 cents each? You can't beat that price! And I just adore those cheerful magnets... They match my room perfectly!

I still had more things to buy... And while only the folders were 88 cents, the rest of these things were calling my name..

My room is purple, turquoise, hot pink, and lime. My notebooks and the white board pens have to match the decor right? And who can resist the blinged out pink calculator? I'm trying out the curtain panel to cover my supply closet this year... and I already have a lime and a turquoise panel at school. Yippee! My heart is racing!

I will posting soon about the way I organize the supplies in my classroom. But for now, I am just admiring the pretty colors and thinking about possibilities. And the smell of new crayons is making me happy!

What about you? Have you finished your shopping yet?

Monday, July 16, 2012

My FIRST Monday Made It!

As most of the modern world already knows, my sweet friend, Tara, hosts a linky party every Monday on her blog, 4th Grade Frolics. It's called Monday Made It, and I am surprised and awed each week by the variety of things that people create.

Now I am not the crafty sort. I have said many times: My craftivity score is -17. I can manage straight lines with my ancient paper cutter and I remain in awe of Ladybug Kristen and her circles. I have neither modged nor podged, and my only trip to a scrap-booking store was to purchase a burnishing tool that made straight creases in folded cardstock!

So, I woke up this morning reflecting: "I must MAKE something! What can I MAKE?"

Baby steps... Baby steps...

First I decided that I would MAKE some coffee. This is something I know how to do! But I didn't think that would count for Monday Made It.

I had to finish cutting the numbers that label the tables in my classroom. And I had four different tasks going at once--including a task of making a task list! After that effort, it was pretty clear that I could MAKE a mess.

You can tell from the picture above that I was formulating a plan...

A-Ha! I could add a little pizazz to my "Go Home" system.  This is something I could MAKE and share. I acknowledge there is little more than printing, cutting and folding--but it's a start, right?

The folders initially come with little tabs. I have never figured out how to print on those, so I developed my own system. First I made a series of rectangles that matched the size of the tabs. Then I printed the names on what would be the bottom "half" of the rectangles, and then raised the print up just the tiniest bit. I run these off on cardstock because, once folded, the thickness makes them stay in the divider tabs without sliding out. I cut the name tags with the paper cutter. I confess that I cut inside the lines so there are no "edges" showing (That's just the OCD talking...)

Being obsessed with having all things cut and folded straight, I made a template the size of the tab and marked the center. then I used a fancy, expensive always available tool: a T-pin (or a push pin, or a straight pin... usually whatever has tangled itself into my carpet!)

I fold the name tags and insert them into the divider tabs. I alternate the colors of the tabs and folders to make it easier for the kids to alphabetize (which seems to have become a vanishing skill).

I made a label--my first real creation with "digital papers." (After eleven tries, just the label could have been the subject of Made It Monday!) The paper is from Just Jens Creations. I attached the label with padded adhesive strips because the circles are a little raised above the surface of the box.

And now it's finished! The "Go Home" mailbox is ready to go, awaiting those first day papers to be taken home. And I finally have something to share for Made It Monday... 

Click on the link below to see some really fantastic crafts and creations. Add it's time for you to get your craft on and join Tara's linky party... because it will be a lot more fun if YOU'RE there too!

Skipping Ahead... Guided Math, Chapter 8

We're skipping ahead through Guided Math by Laney Sammons and arriving at chapter eight!

If you are interested in joining the study, click on the graphic to the left to get an overview of the Book Study at Primary Inspired. Brenda does a great job of explaining the Book Study adventure!  She has organized this study so that we can all learn from one another.  You can also click on the guided math tab below her blog header. She's got everything organized there!

Chapter 8 is brought to you by Finding Joy in 6th Grade. Hey! That's MY Bloggy Button! That's because it's my turn to be the hostess!

I am sharing these duties with Guided Math Study Group. Why don't you hop over there and read Suzanne's perspective too

With the help of KPM Doodles' sweet borders, I am addressing each chapter in two parts:

1) What stood out to me in the book chapter and 2) How I might use this new learning to shape the way I teach math to sixth graders....

So, let's get started...

          The eighth chapter in the book is entitled:
          Assessment in Guided Math

It is common knowledge that assessment drives instruction. "The more teachers know about their students' learning during instruction, the more accurately instruction can be tailored to meet their unique needs" (Guided Math, Laney Sammons, 2010, p.227). Including students in the assessment process allows them to assess their own understanding and to set goals for further learning.

Sammons presses the reader to differentiate between assessment and evaluation.  By her definition, the ongoing formal and informal collection of evidence  that is used to inform teaching practice is considered assessment. "With assessment, a large amount of information is collected from a relatively small number of students.... this process is assessment for learning, rather than solely of learning" (Guided Math, Laney Sammons, 2010, p.228).

By contrast, evaluation is the determination of whether or not students have learned the information--and how well this has been accomplished. In this case, a small amount of information is gathered from a large number of students. "Evaluations are frequently used as forms of accountability, for reporting student progress to others, or used to identify trends" (Making Classroom Assessment Work, A. Davies, 2000  in Guided Math, Laney Sammons, 2010, p.228).

Assessment and evaluations both have a place in determining students' learning and planning for instruction. Sammons cites Fountas and Pinnell (1996) in listing the following rational for systemic assessment:
  • continually informing teaching decisions
  • systematically assessing students' strengths and knowledge
  • finding out what students can do, both independently and with teacher support
  • documenting progress for parents and students
  • summarizing achievement and learning over a given period--six weeks, a year, or longer
  • reporting to administrators, school board members, and various stakeholders in the community
 (Guided Math, Laney Sammons, 2010, p.228-229)

Sammons is careful to include the role of the student when designing assessment. "Students improve their performances and increase their learning when they know precisely what they have done well and exactly what they need to do to improve, and then are given opportunities to do so" (Guided Math, Laney Sammons, 2010, p.229) The importance of specific feedback cannot be underestimated in helping guide students to improve their understanding of the concepts being taught and to improve the quality of their analysis of their own learning.

Sammons again cites Davis (Making Classroom Assessment Work, A. Davies, 2000) in listing the three steps for teachers to follow in linking descriptions of learning to instruction:
  • Describe what the students will need to learn in a language that students and parents will understand
  • Share the description with students and explain how it relates to success in life outside of school
  • Use the description to guide instruction, assessment and evaluation.
Towards this end, Sammons discusses the relative merits of checklists and rubrics. Checklists are more easily created than rubrics, but they do not provide as much information to guide the student toward improving performance. Rubrics are more difficult to create, but they provide students with descriptors of quality for each of the criteria that have been established for the assignment. In either case, involving the students in the generation of checklists and rubrics is a critical step. Further, modeling the use of these tools and giving the students opportunity to evaluate exemplars leads to more skill in critiquing their own learning.

The provision of specific descriptive feedback allows the teacher to share with the student the things that he has done well and the areas in which there is room for improvement. This feedback should come during the learning as well as afterwards. In this way, students have an opportunity to USE the feedback to adjust what they are doing.

Sammons cites Davis (Making Classroom Assessment Work, A. Davies, 2000) in describing descriptive feedback as that which:
  • comes during and after the learning
  • is easily understood
  • is related directly to the learning
  • is specific, so that performance can improve
  • involves choice on the part of the learner as to the type of feedback and how to receive it
  • is part of the ongoing conversation about learning
  • is in comparison to models, exemplars, samples and descriptions
  • is about the performance of the work--not the person
As students become more confident and more adept at evaluating their own learning, they become better able to set goals for their future learning. This type of ownership helps to increase student motivation which can further increase student performance.

Finally, Sammons addresses the importance of assessing student performance so as to maximize the benefit of grouping for instruction during Guided Math. Much like Guided Reading, students may join and leave a group based on assessment data. The recognition of theimportance of flexibility in grouping leads to the most effective use of teaching time spent in Guided Math groups.

Of all of the things I have read about Guided Math, the ideas presented in this chapter will likely be the hardest for me to implement. It's not that this type of assessment is a bad idea--in fact, it is a GREAT idea!

Reviewing the discussion  of descriptive feedback (Davis) leaves me unsettled. That list could easily generate a book all its own.  I will need to look at this list as an ideal, not something that can be accomplished by the end of September (by me or by the students!)

This type of assessment and the related thinking will involve a lot of planning. This is easy to see if you review the process in reverse: Students should have a role in assessing their own work. Which means that students should be involved in the development of rubrics. This requires that assignments must be developed that allow for a comprehensive-yet measurable--response. This, in turn, hinges on students' ability to evaluate a response of product critically (rather than simply checking off each component, which is what my students so often do).

As an additional consideration, much of this work requires students to be fairly proficient in using language to communicate responses and to evaluate their own responses and those of others. This may present an obstacle to many students who are learning English as a second language. An acknowledgement of this contingency and the determination to plan around it is simply another consideration in making Guided Math work and work well.

All in all, assessment is an area where I may need to give myself some grace. Like all of the topics presented in Guided Math, there is room for growth. We want students to move forward, assessing their own learning and then setting goals to take on additional challenges. The same will be true for me as I attempt to improve my assessment of students' work by using rubrics and checklists, all while keeping standards in mind.

"Assessment not only keep students accountable, it keeps teachers accountable" (Guided Math, Laney Sammons, 2010, p.244). I am ready to let this type of accountability better guide my teaching practice, and, in turn, guide my students' mathematical learning.

We're almost to the end of the book! The final chapter in Guided Math will be hosted at two different sites on July 20th: Second Grade Math Maniac and The Creative Apple. Be sure you link up with them when the time arrives.


I've enjoyed this journey with you (even though I didn't always post the chapters that I finished), and I found my first online Book Study to be a valuable learning experience--and much better than many PD meetings I've attended--in part, because I was surrounded by so many BlogFriends who really wanted to explore the information and learn new things.

Now it's your turn! I have now learned how to add an Inlinkz button to link up your learning about chapter eight. If you haven't read the book--or if you have read it and don't have a blog post--I'd still love for you to share your thoughts. Just leave a comment in the Comments section.

Good luck in your own exploration of Guided Math. As always, thanks for stopping by...