Friday, September 21, 2012

Everyday Math Self Check Math Boxes

Last year was the first year I had my students self check their EM Math Boxes.  {If you're not familiar with Everyday Math, each lesson has 5 - 6 boxes that practice skills from all different topics.  For example, there will be one problem each of geometry, basic facts, number stories, data,  and measurement on one page.}

Here has been my evolution of thinking:

6 years ago I would take home 76 Math Journals a couple weekends a month and give most of the weekend to check math boxes---INSANE!

The next couple years I just check the boxes linked to assessment, but I didn't like the lazy work habits I saw in some students.

I thought long and hard.  I thought about what I really wanted my students to accomplish.  I wanted them to get maximum practice and feedback for the practice.  

Last year I started having students check their own math boxes.  I create and display a key.  All the keys for the current unit go into a clear pocket.  Students use red pen to make all corrections.

Of course there are a few cheaters, but most students thrive in the low pressure approach to practice.

I do check occasionally for effort, but I'm able to invest more energy in the lessons and what extra support kids need.

What's working for you about the way you teach math?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Poetry Writing Early In 4th Grade

I chuckle at the response of 4th graders when I tell them they are going to write poetry--disbelief, groans, cheers are heard!  I don't usually start this early in the year, but I think poetry is great for reluctant writers, because poets don't have to follow the conventional rules of sentence structure or grammar.

Last week my students wrote Auto-Biography Poems, using the rough draft template over at Create Teach Share.  I loved this activity!  It was so successful.  Everyone has a poem hanging on their locker.  I totally enjoyed reading them, too!  I'm going to keep this as an early in the year writing workshop activity.

What have you tried this year that you know you're going to keep for future years?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spaces Where Kids Love To Work

Creating spaces in your classroom where kids love to work do NOT need to be expensive or permanent!  Here are two of my favorite ways that are working this week--and have worked for many weeks in the past.

First, I have a wooden TV Tray that I bought for $5 at a garage sale.  I originally bought it to demonstrate science activities.  It's not pretty, but my students LOVE to pull over a couple of chairs to work around it.  It's ideal for a partner activity.  It also folds up and fits in the locker in my classroom.

Additionally, I LOVE my little rugs.  I got them for less than $2 each.  They fold up and hide in one little bin.  Some kids sit on them, and other kids set out their work on them.  Some kids sit there to read.

These things are simple, cheap, portable, and HIGHLY MOTIVATIONAL.

What simple and cheap ideas do you have for the classroom?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ahhh! The Weekend

Sometimes I'm tempted to so overpack my weekend with both school and homework and, even fun.  Sometimes I just need to face it--I NEED A BREAK, A REST, A SABBATH!

This morning I got to spend time with my little family out in nature and at a gorgeous farmers market.  It felt like Fall--sweatshirt weather and then sunshine and back into short sleeves.  It was simple and gentle--a break!

I'm trying to accept my human limitations and accept that this is enough.  I also want to share lots of stuff I feel good about in my classroom.  I think that can wait for another day!

Hope you have a break this weekend!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Super Improvers Wall

This summer I went to a Whole Brain Teaching Conference, and it got me really excited about doing some new classroom management and lesson delivery methods in my classroom this year.

This week we just started our Super Improvers Wall, even though it has been in place since students first entered the classroom.  Every day I was asked multiple times what it was--curiosity was peaked!

Here's how we are doing the SIW:

  • Everyone has a card with their name on it.  I stuck a printed address label with first names on black business card size card stock.
  • The levels are listed in corresponding colors on the side--Rookie (red) all the way up to Living Legend (silver sparkle with sparkling dots--fan-cy!)  There are 10 levels
  • Each child has an index card on their desk--they are completely responsible for their "Star Card."  {You lose it, and I say, "I'm sorry.  Help yourself to a blank index card to start this level over." No cards lost this week!
  • When I see you improving yourself, your work habits, your effort, your behavior, the quality of your work, then I can give you a star with my special teacher pen.  {I was skeptical that my first little behavior guy would rise to the occasion, but on the first day he spent most of my teaching time with his eyes glued to me and hands folded on his desk--this is a cool 4th grade boy!  Shocking!--Of course he earned a star!}
  • You can NOT ask for stars or point out your own good work, but you can point out the super work of other students for teacher consideration!
  • 10 stars on your star card and you get a red paper around your name card on the super improvers wall.  Yep I've been told that my students will improve and work hard for a small piece of construction paper around their name.
  • Half way up the chart you also get your picture taken for our Wall of Fame.
  • My class is so enthusiastic about this!  So am I!
  • Here are some questions they have:
  •                        Can you lose stars?  NO
  •                       What happens after you become a Living Legend?  This will be revealed after we    have our first living legend!  Oh the suspense and anticipation!
The Super Improvers Wall is such an easy way to challenge kids to always improve.  It's also virtually free!

You can read more about it on the WBT Forums--just scroll down.  And you can find lots more just by typing the title into a search engine.

What have you started this year that is making your life and teaching better?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Community And Class Meeting

I've written numerous times about how Class Meeting is probably my favorite community builder in the classroom.

It has a crazy cumulative effect!

{Sometimes it's hard to remember this at the beginning of the process!}

This week one outstanding meeting focused around the topic of honesty.  {I love how honest kids are!}

We quickly decided that there are 2 main reasons people are dishonest:

1.  To avoid getting in trouble
2.  To get other people in trouble

{I wondered if perhaps grown ups might need to be reminded of this.}

I'm also a bit surprised that some students already say class meeting is their favorite part of the day.

Our format is super simple:

Students can bring healthy snacks
We face each other
We talk, greet, problem solve, question, etc.

All this takes place in about 15 minutes, and then we go on with our day.

What are you doing to build or strengthen community this year?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Everyday Math Vocab Tip

Every year I struggle with my students really learning AND USING new vocabulary--especially in math.  In previous years I've made a variety of word walls and posters.  This year I'm trying a twist on words on rings.  Students bring in a set of index cards, and this year we've already started putting them to good use.

I'm calling them "Math Code Cards."  The reason for this is that it's rare to meet a 4th grade boy who doesn't like cheat code books.  We've already started calling them "Code Crackers."

At this point in the year I'm writing everything out on the board and students are just copying it.  Eventually it will become more independent.  It is taking a good amount of time, but I feel like it's a good use of time.  I believe this because on our first "Friday quiz"  many students asked if they could use their Code Crackers!

What have you started new this year that you like?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Goodbye Summer

I've had an amazing summer with my little family!  Sooooo many adventures--these are some of the highlights:

Making and eating chocolate chunk pancakes together

Sam's first trip to the ocean, Ocean City, Maryland

Sam's first ferris wheel with Aunt Beth

Visioning the Best Year Ever--live and online workshops for teachers

Hiking and exploring for crazy numbers of hours

The curiosity of cool history--glass blowing at Hale Farm & Village

Feed buffalo out the car window at African Wildlife Safari

Lake Erie and sand make for bliss, Lakeside, Ohio

Camping in a teepee

Discovering the Children's Museum of Cleveland

Celebrating grandpa's birthday

I hope your summer was as memorable as ours.  I'm sure our hearts will be warmed all winter by these great memories!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Brave Teachers Being Featured!

Brave Teachers is being featured on Create A Way Today, an online radio program hosted by Wendy Fedan.  

The magic happens at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.

Here's the link!

Join us live or catch the recording later!

Creating Community

I decided last Spring that I really wanted COMMUNITY to be a focal point in our classroom.  Earlier in the week one student pointed out that a lot of classmates had converse.  When I said I had hot pink converse, another student said we should all wear them on one day.  Yesterday was our official wear converse day.

And so begins the subtle and sublime community building.  I feel a little sneaky because I'm not yet talking much about community, but it's happening already by nature of the classroom climate and environment.

Sometimes I think I try to force that kind of stuff, and then it just feels contrived.  {Kids always see through that, too!}  I'm trying to let it just unfold naturally--with a few gentle nudges!

Belonging is one the four core values in the Circle of Courage.

We are also holding daily class meetings--which I believe is one of the simplest power tools in my teacher kit.  It's just 15 minutes of character development, problem solving, discipline, and habits of kindness.  I'm taking an intuitive approach to this--what do I think or feel that we need..

What are you doing to begin the creation of community where you are?


~Join the Brave Teacher Tribe--receive daily encouragement and insight via email.  As the tribe grows we have more opportunities to interact via social media and live events!

~Retreat with other Brave Teachers--September 28 - 30, 2012, in Lakeside, Ohio