Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday Scoop!

It has been way too long since I participated in the Sunday Scoop! I love this linky party because it is just so darn easy, and easy is good!

Thank you to the Teaching Trio for hosting! You can check out all the other Sunday Scoopers by clicking the link below!

And here is my Sunday Scoop...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

How to Deal With a Disruptive Student

I am writing this blog post for one specific reason. I needed it. I searched everywhere for information on how to deal with a disruptive student in the elementary classroom. All of the typical vague recommendations came up, but nothing concrete that I could actually use when everything else had failed. 

I had tried redirection. I had tried positive reinforcement. I had tried giving choices. I had tried empathy when I gave consequences. None of it made a difference in the daily struggle.

I had a kid that I am sure many of you are familiar with. He was a sweet boy, but behind academically. He had learned at his previous school that if he misbehaved the teachers left him alone and didn't push him on what he didn't know. His naughtiness was a disguise so that the other kids wouldn't know how much he didn't know. 

The frustrating thing was that he was very smart and capable when he tried.

I have had many students like this, so I am sure that you have had them too. You want to root for them and pull out your hair at the same time.

When our spring conferences came up, I made sure to schedule a conference with his mom. I wasn't sure what the plan would be, but I knew we would have to work together to address this little boy's behavior in class.

I tried searching for ideas. I talked to my principal. I talked to another teacher who had a similar student in her class. I talked to the school counselor. I talked to anyone and everyone.

Here is the plan I came up with (and the plan that you could try too).

1) The good thing about my situation was that I have a really good relationship with my student. I like him and he likes me. I was able to build this up over the past couple of months by constantly reminding him that no matter what he said or did, I still liked him. I paid attention to what he was interested in. I complimented him when he deserved it. I never gave him a consequence without telling him how great I thought he was despite his poor choice.

2) I ran my whole plan past his mom before I explained it to the student. This way if he came home complaining, his mom would understand what we were doing at school. She was also able to explain the plan to him at home - away from his friends.

3) If bad behavior occurs as school, he will go down and work in our school's main office. He won't be in trouble and won't need to talk to the principal or anyone else. He will just be going somewhere he can work without distracting anyone else. This will help him get his work done, and help the other students get their work done as well. When one student is consistently misbehaving it has a huge impact on how well the other students can concentrate.

4) When he has completed his work, he is welcome to come back to the classroom. I will be happy to have him back in class, and we will be starting over. If he needs to return to the office, then he will with his next assignment.

5) Now, if he is able to do his work in the classroom, he will earn a break after each task. This was especially important for my student because he is an ELL kid. (English Language Learner) His poor brain is working so hard in school that it gets worn out. After an assignment is completed he is able to play a game on my laptop. He loves 

At first, I was hesitant to give him this many breaks, but another teacher reported that this is what she has had to do with a similar student. He is working about half the time and having "free" time half the time. I felt like this gave me permission to do this with my student - something I wouldn't have done before.

Well, we are just a couple of days into the plan, and it is working beautifully. My student has worked harder and gotten more done than ever before. Even better, he isn't distracting the other students at all! These have been the best two days of school in a long time. We are all happier.

I am so proud of my little guy. I know that if he keeps this up, he will get to grade level by next year. He deserves to go into fourth grade feeling confident in his abilities.

I hope this helps you if you are searching for a solution to a difficult student. With kids you never know what will work when. There will probably come a time when this plan doesn't work anymore. i will share what I try next and how it works.

I'm Going to Vegas!

I am so excited! Our tickets are bought, our room is booked, and in just a few months we will be in Vegas for the Teachers pay Teachers convention!

I was so bummed when I couldn't go last year. I was too pregnant to fly (and I didn't have the energy to walk down the street let alone go on a trip). 

This year I am not pregnant, and I have tons of energy for taking a trip! I can't wait to meet all of the amazing people I have been reading about and buying products from!

As a bonus, my husband gets to come with me. I am sure he will find plenty to do while I am at the conference... He told me, "The hotel has a gym, so I will probably work out." Yeah, that is what people do when they come to Vegas - workout. I was just teasing him. I am so excited that I am going to the conference, and that we are getting a little trip away from the kids. It has been a long, long time since that has happened!

If you are going to Vegas, leave a comment! I can follow your blog as we get ready for the big trip!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fraction Number Talk

Today our third grade team went to a special training on teaching fractions for the new SBAC test. It was a pretty fun training, and it was really good to stretch our own thinking about fractions.

My favorite activity was a number talk we did on how to spot fractions. The presenter showed a picture like the one below and first asked us, "Who can spot 1/2?" 

The first couple answers were obvious, but as we pushed further we saw more and more halves. (Hint: change your definition of a whole to see more halves)

Then, she asked about one fourth. We were ready to show our thinking and came up with lots of answers.

Finally, she asked us about four thirds. This one was tough. The key here was that you had to think about a whole in a different way. Can you spot four thirds?

Well, there are many different possibilities, but the one I saw was the blue trapezoid plus the blue triangle. So, the blue trapezoid would be one whole and the triangle would be one third the size of the whole, making it four thirds.

Notice how many math terms I had to share to explain my thinking! That is so good for our kids!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Developmentally Appropriate?

Okay, I have to start by saying that I am a huge fan of Common Core math. I think that while it is hard for adults to understand, it is really built to fit with the way kids think. My third graders are just eating up the Engage New York program. They already understand topics better than my fourth graders did last year. Plus, the models help kids focus on what questions are asking instead of trying to guess the right equation based on a story problem.

That being said, I am struggling with the Common Core approach to reading and writing. I agree that the things it is asking kids to do are good and important, but are they developmentally appropriate? We are working on information writing in class, and the students are asked to research, plan, and write their own information books. They are really struggling with this - all of them. Even my top students are just doing okay with it. I had the same problem with narrative writing last trimester.

Now, of course there is the explanation that I am just not teaching the reading and writing parts correctly. I am fully open to this option, but then my question is... how do I teach it better?

Our school is using Lucy Calkin's new program. I think it is called Writing Pathways. I find that some lessons are very successful, and I will admit the kids are learning a lot. On the other hand, many of the lessons flop and I have to go back and reteach another way. This curriculum was definitely more successful last year with the fourth graders. The third graders this year are really struggling with it. 

It seems like third graders are still struggling to write complete sentences. Adding the complexity this program requires is just sometimes too much for them.

How do you teach writing? Is there something that works really well for third graders? Thank you for sharing!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Individualized Learning Presentations

Okay, that totally sounds like teacher-speak. Individualized Learning Presentations. This, if you haven't noticed (or aren't looking at this post on my actual website) is the title of the new page of my blog. Here is where it came from...

I don't know about you, but I have lots of different kids in lots of different places in their learning. Some kids pick things up super quickly, while others seem to take months to pick up a new concept. I value both students as learners and want to do what I can to support the growth of these two types of kids. Actually, I have 23 kids in my class, and I have 23 types of kids. They are all individuals - so, that is where the individualized part comes from in the title.

The learning part should be pretty obvious - I want the kids engaging with the material to learn. That is why we go to school, right?!

Finally, presentations. These are literally Google Slides - PowerPoint for Google. The kids click through the presentations and get a lesson - just for them. Unlike a presentation I do for the entire class, they can click through at their own pace - or go back and see a slide again - or skip ahead if they feel confident. These presentations can be shared with the entire class, but they are designed for one student working independently.

Right now I just have one presentation up. That's the bad news. The good news is that it is totally free. I will be charging for the presentations eventually, but for now feel free to download it and use it for as long as you like!

These are Google documents, so the process is a little different than you may be used to with Teacher's pay Teachers or Teacher's Notebook. 

An important difference is that you need to have a Google account to open the file. If you have a g-mail account, then you already have a Google account.

First, click on the link under the picture of the presentation you want. That is easy right now because there is only one presentation. 

The page below will appear. This is the "working" version of the Google Slides. Your students will have to click on "Present" under the View tab (the red arrow is pointing to it).

You will notice that you are able to view this presentation, but you can't make any changes to it. If you would like to adjust something, just go into the File tab and select "Make a copy". This will save your own copy of the file. 

If you don't make a copy, then the file will be updated anytime I change it. If you do make a copy, then you will only see your changes.

Well, I hope that this is a helpful resource for you and your students. I am excited to share it with my kids on Tuesday!

Friday, February 13, 2015

First Post From the Chromebook

So, if you read one of my earlier posts, you would have seen that our school recently began using Chromebooks. The good news? They are awesome - so many options for enhancing student learning. The bad news? We only have 90 of them for about 300 kids - maybe even more than that. 

Basically, my class gets the Chromebooks for an hour a day, four days a week. Much more than we had access to computers before, but still not a fully digital classroom by any means.

Anyway, I was so excited about the Chromebooks that I decided to order my own. Thank you, Teachers pay Teachers, for allowing me the financial freedom to order a laptop without worrying about the extra cost.

As I find more things to love about the Chromebooks I will definitely be sharing them here. I will also be blogging a lot more. My old laptop was a Windows computer and it didn't get along very well with Blogger. It made everything much harder.

Here is one thing that I am pretty excited about. It is an app through Google Play called Biodigital Human. It was on a list of great apps for the Chromebook, and it caught my eye because we are currently studying the human body.

This will be so fun for my students to explore. I am always looking for fun activities that the kids can do independently. Plus, who knows? Maybe someone will be motivated to become a doctor or scientists because of what they learn using this app... You never know.

Thanks for reading! Please feel free to comment - about anything. It is wonderful to feel connected to others in this very impersonal digital universe.