Day 4 – Professional Learning Conversations & ISN’s

Yesterday I found out about a meeting I needed to attend today that all of the interventionists/specialists from the district were invited to attend. It is the first of four professional learning opportunities with Dr. Pam Rosa. Here is what I found out about her online, prior to attending the meeting: Dr. Pamela Rosa, a certified Danielson Facilitator, and a consultant of educational initiatives, specializes in teacher and principal evaluation, professional growth processes, as well as mentoring and coaching. She has worked as a teacher, literacy coach, principal, district administrator, and state board consultant. Her educational leadership and policy degrees are from Illinois State University and University of Illinois.  I wasn’t sure what the focus of the meeting was going to be and because I only met my 6th grade students yesterday, I decided to attend the meeting for the morning portion and come back to teach my students.

We received the book Learning-Focused Supervision – Developing Professional Expertise in Standards-Driven Systems.  Dr. Rosa talked about how the title should really be Learning-focused Conversations because Supervision makes it sound like we are higher than the teachers we are working with, which isn’t true.  We had a lot of great conversations in our groups and I am excited for the next three meetings to continue the discussions.  It sounds as though my district is trying to move towards having the interventionists also be “coaches” to work with teachers as well as the students we are working with.  I LOVE this idea and it is something I think I will be good at, however I thing they should be separate positions.  If the interventionists are really there to assist struggling learners across all grades in their school, then there is little time to really focus on helping teachers in an effective way.  This isn’t finalized, just an idea I think right now, but I will be interested to see how it all pans out.

Today in 6th grade students completed a reflection on yesterday’s Pentomino activity for their warm-up and were given their composition notebooks for their Interactive Student Notebooks.  Times have changed and students are not issued textbooks anymore because our math resources are fully digital.  However, we still need to practice good note taking and have a place to show our work and practice, so the students and I will be creating our own textbook this year, called the Interactive Student Notebook (ISN). I have used ISN’s for a few years now and love them.  It will be different working on it along side the digital math program, but I am sure we will find a process that works well.

I collected their homework from the night before which was the pennant about themselves. I had two students not color or decorate even though the typed directions said to and I had one student who didn’t complete it. When I asked him why and had him complete my missing homework form, he stated he had soccer practice and couldn’t do it.  Seeing as though it was the FIRST assignment that required them to tell me a bit about themselves, I was a little surprised…I could expect that from an 8th grade student, but I wasn’t expecting it from a 6th grade student.  I had a conversation with him about making sure he brought it on Tuesday and I debated the rest of the day whether I should use this as a first contact with his parents.  I decided to let it go and see what he brought on Tuesday.

They completed their “I Notice/I Wonder” again for Friday and some of the things they wrote were adorable and insightful:
I Notice
“That I am making new friends.” (I forget that the 6th graders come to us from 3 different elementary schools.)
“You are a really fun teacher.” (YIPPEE!)
“That you wrote back from yesterday.” (I heard them talking when they sat down that I wrote them back. I am glad they liked it.)
“Everything is organized! I love that!” (Awesome…a girl after my own heart!)
“There is a basket that looks like a basketball hoop.” (Yep, bought it last year for Trashketball!)
“You play music everyday for math.” (Yes and I need to get more music to play. I use an app called Seconds to organize music with breaks and this idea came from Mr. Vaudrey and I have LOVED it since I started using them! I think it will work better with the 6th graders too.)

I Wonder
“When we will have a party.” (Hmmm…this is middle school, no parties. Unless we are celebrating Math!)
“If I’ll ever memorize my passwords.” (Yikes, we even tried to make them easier for students by having most logins & passwords for multiple sites be the same. But this is all new for the 6th grade students.)
“If Math will always be this fun.” (ABSOLUTELY!)
“What digits is about.” (I need to explain this more. It is our districts adopted digital resource for our curriculum.)
“How many pages we will use in the composition notebook.” (All of the pages! Actually, good question, close to all I think.)

ISN Pages – I will link to my printable pages or where I found the pages.
Title Page – Math Coloring Page
Author Pages (in Pictures & in Words – Sarah Hagan’s Math Autobiography Foldable)
Study Buddies & Clock Partners
Table of Contents (TOC booklet – Shelli’s great one page TOC)

They seemed excited about the ISN and I was reminded that I need to get more tape dispensers and glue sticks.  The materials I had from last year didn’t quite make it. I purchased new materials bins with lids that don’t come off, but they are smaller, so I think the tape and glue sticks will have to stay somewhere else.

I am looking forward to a nice long Labor Day weekend.  I have planning to do for next week, but I will probably save it for Monday!

 

A shoutout to Remind

I don’t hide my love for the website/app Remind. It is fantastic.  I have been using Remind to text my students and parents without sharing my personal phone number for a few years.  It saves time, students love it and it is free!

I LOVE using Remind for my classes to send out positive quotes/inspirations on big days, fun trivia, reminders about homework, clarifications about homework, reminders about field trips, returning papers, etc. I also use it for my swim team practice group to send out positive quotes, fun swimming trivia, reminders about meets and practices, changes to a schedule, updates on meet performance and other fun messages. It’s SO easy to use and can be sent as a text or an email. Students don’t need to have a phone to receive messages, they can get it in their email accounts instead. Parents can sign up too, in fact I encourage it. It is ONLY an announcement system, they can’t text you back!

They just added two fun features in their recent update which came through my app today…the ability to take a poll/ask a question and get a stamped response and the ability to send voice updates. It’s a FREE program and it’s amazing. I like that it goes directly to the students and parents, they don’t have to check for a website, facebook, twitter or blog update…they get a text or an email with it right there. I can’t wait to try out the new features!

I posted my love on Twitter and @StephReilly brought up a good point that students seem to be burned out on Remind because so many of their teachers use it and send out LOTS of reminders. She even said her daughter didn’t want to sign up for her teacher’s account. I find that interesting because there are so many ways to communicate in today’s society and we as educators keep trying to “meet our students where they are” and now they aren’t as interested in the communications.  Maybe this will mean the circle will come back around and they will all learn how to use their assignment notebooks and write their assignments and details down. :) I don’t know what the answer is, but I have yet to receive and negative comments about using Remind with my students or my swimmers, so I will keep it up!

Even though my list above looks like a lot, I checked my sent messages and it averages about two per week.  I like it because I can send a quick reminder I know the students will get and not have to type a long email that goes to their parent’s accounts instead.  I will consider what I send before I send it and I think this year (even though I have a small class), I will ask students and parents if they liked it at the end of the year.

Honestly, it’s great! Try it out this year if you haven’t before!

Here’s the link again.

(Disclaimer: Remind did not ask me to post about their product, I am posting out of my own love!)

Day 3 – I have students!

Yippee! Today was like Christmas! I finally get to meet my 6th grade math class of 16 students.  The day started with a whole school Advisory lesson on CHAMPS, which are the school wide expectations.  There were 8th grade student leaders presenting to the 7th grade students.  It was great to see and there was good conversation about  a few of the items.

7th grade co-taught – We started their ISN’s today.  The teacher I co-teach with took my ISN professional development class last year and implemented them last year and loved them.  She has mentioned a few times how excited she is that I can help with foldables and ISN stuff, that will definitely be fun!  So they started with their author page (it was assigned for homework) and then we glued in the TOC.  We had a good discussion about what an ISN is and how we plan for them to use it.  They were either really sleepy or are great kids because they worked quietly to accomplish the task.  This will be a fun group to work with!

I worked with a couple of teachers today to assist them with the new Pearson digits product the district adopted last year.  We had to work through some bugs, but I think we figured it all out.  It’s a great program and resource for teachers to use and it’s all digital, which is fantastic. Our students do not receive any math textbooks and have not for a few years.

8th grade co-taught – They came down to my room (The MALL) to log into Digits and take the first Unit’s Readiness assessment.  The readiness assessment is a pre-assessment on skills necessary to be successful in the coming unit.  When the students are finished, the program automatically assigns them intervention lessons on the topics & skills they need the most work.  I plan to use those readiness assessments with all teachers in all grades to help identify students who will need more assistance with math this year.  The students didn’t really have issues logging in, but the assessment was a little harder than they thought.  Many said they were happy it wasn’t going to be for a grade.  This is a rowdier group of students, beside myself and the classroom teacher, there are two other aides in the room for 28 students.

My 6th grade math class is coming! I had planned a day of fun math problem solving, no rules for me…they heard them from every other teacher.  I basically told them the same rules apply to my classroom and that we would discuss them as needed.  I greeted them at the door, told them to choose any seat and follow the directions on the daily agenda.  I LOVE Rachel Rosales’s Name Plate activity (& have used it before), so they were working on putting their name on the front along with 4-5 pictures to help me get to know them.  I will say having 16 students is going to be nice and easy to get to know!  They had the length of two songs to complete that part before we moved on.  Then I introduced myself again, told them a little bit about me and asked them to open the flap on their name plate for Thursday and complete the “I Notice” (from Drexel University & Max Ray) before we did anything else.

Then I explained the Pentominoes Activity they were going to work on in their groups, handed out the materials and let them play.  I wanted an activity that had a low entry point, where their previous experience and understanding of math didn’t stop them from participating.  I also wanted a good cooperative group beginning activity and when I saw it on that blog, I knew it was the perfect activity.  They worked really hard and there was great conversation, frustration and perseverance.  After about 15 minutes I did provide them with a few hints, but none of the groups were successful in solving the puzzle this time around.

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A great question from one of the students was, “What does this have to do with Math?”. We took a break to discuss and the students came up with answers such as “Area, perimeter, shapes, Geometry, problem solving, working together, etc.” I mentioned that this was a math activity, but the main focus was to work together to accomplish a task. I really liked being able to walk around and observe the students while they work to start learning about who they are as mathematicians.

At the end of the class, with no solutions found, I clarified that in this class sometimes we will be frustrated and unable to solve a problem within our class time and that is OKAY! The most important part is how we problem solve and go about trying to figure out the solution. We closed with having them complete their “I Wonder” for Thursday and turned in their name plates and grabbed a Who Am I flag pennant to complete for homework. I used her free template, but changed what I wanted them to write in each box.  I will use those to decorate the classroom or maybe one of the bulletin boards!

I found an online version of Pentominoes for students to play and sent them the link via Remind. The HARD level in this game is what we were working on in class. http://www.scholastic.com/blueballiett/games/pentominoes_game.htm.

It was nice to finally meet my students today. Keep in mind I haven’t taught 6th grade since my first year of teaching…I’ve been 8th grade since then.  They are definitely smaller and less edgy than the 8th graders are. I am not a convert yet…I love my 8th graders, but I think it’s going to be a great  year!

Day 2 – The walls

This is what I saw when I entered my classroom this morning:

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Four and a half Math Practice posters fell down in addition to a bubble and a number. I was more than annoyed.  I even used expensive Command Strips because they worked well in previous years. It should be noted that they changed from flat paint to semi-gloss or eggshell so nothing sticks to the walls, which meant I had a piece of sandpaper and sanded the shine off the walls in each place I planned to use a command strip.  Still didn’t work.  I cleaned up the posters before I headed to my 7th grade co-taught class.

Today in 7th grade it was going over the rules and expectations of the class  I agree that the rules are important, but I like starting off with something mathy that gets students talking and working together.  I feel like you can address the rules as needed; however that is my style and it not everyone’s style of teaching.  After hanging out and helping out in that class, I went to my office and complained about my posters and someone suggested hot glue and even provided me with their glue gun! Downstairs I went, plugged it in and worked on my table signs. I took the table signs from one of my favorite sites, Technology Rocks Seriously, and turned them into circles to sit in the center of the fans.

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I also worked on the three bulletin boards on the other side of the room while it heated up.  The middle bulletin board is going to be Sarah Hagan’s Growth Mindset posters. Still clueless on the other two…

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In my 8th grade co-taught class, we had an activity where the students worked in their groups to come up with some BYOT rules.  They needed to illustrate the rule and explain it.  Then we switched papers between groups so they could see what others said, we had a class discussion and came to a consensus on the rules.  It was fun and interesting to see the student dynamics in that class.

After two days of working in my room, with no students of my own, no papers to prepare, no planning to be done, I have to say I was a little sad. It is such a change from what I know and have done.  It’s such a change from everything that I feel identifies me, but I know this is something that is going to challenge me, change me and allow me to grow as an educator and I can’t wait to get started!

Day 1 – New Experiences

Today marked the start of my 15th year of teaching and the first day in my teaching career where I didn’t have any students to welcome.  You may remember my job change in the spring to be a Math Specialist at one of the middle schools in my district.  (This is also called a Math Interventionist in my district.)  So because of the new position, I do not directly work on just one team teaching math like my previous 14 years.  I will be working with all of the math teachers and students at 6th, 7th and 8th grades in my building.  My main goal is to help math teachers identify students who are below grade level and either provide interventions through a pull out or by pushing into the classroom (in more of a co-teaching model).  I absolutely LOVE all of the math teachers at my school; I have worked with many of them through the years on various different committees, so that brings comfort to my new situation.

I will also teach one section of 6th Grade CC Math because they like the classes in 6th grade to have a lower teacher: student ratio, which I think is a great idea.  I will have 16 students in that class, but because we follow the middle school model, they will be staying on their team for 6th grade things for the first two days of school.  I get to meet them on Thursday!

I went to my 7th and 8th grade co-taught classes today to introduce myself quickly, but again they were doing a lot of welcome back to school stuff that wasn’t math related. So I hung out in my room (aka The MALL – Mathematics Assistance & Learning Lab) and hung posters on the VERY bare walls. My room is really the math computer lab, so you will see 29 computers in my pictures. I have tables in the middle of the room for my 6th grade class though.

Since I am BIG on the Math Practices and I had  a lot of wall to cover, I decided to make my Math Practices fit most of the wall. I created the Good Mathematicians header in powerpoint and found a legible large font (Janda Curly Girl) and fit it to the slides, printed on cardstock and laminated it. I had the large Math Practices posters already and I used Sarah Rubin’s Kid Friendly MP bubbles (colored coded to match the posters) and created the numbers to label the practices.  Thanks to @mathequalslove, @msrubinteach & @algebrasfriend for their helpful links and suggestions!  I love how it turned out!

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Reminder of Growth

In my spare time I coach swimming and have for longer than I’ve been teaching.  I was a swimmer through college and I loved every minute of it.  Coaching is a way to continue to do something I enjoy and to fill some of those many hours of spare time us teachers have laying around. :)

Today we had our first meet, I missed yesterday because of the math conference, but wanted to see my swimmers swim today.  After the first few swims, I saw some droopy faces…as I inquired, swimmers stated they were upset they weren’t getting all best times. Ahhh…yes, they wanted to reach that mastery level, beating their previous best time with a new one.  However, they were forgetting a few important details:

*Their previous best times came from their rested Championship meet in February/March.

*They had only been in the water 3 weeks for a total of 14 practices.  We had a pipe burst and it cancelled 3 practices.

*In the fall, our first meet happens after 5 weeks of practice simply because it’s a longer season, but it allows for more preparation and practice.

What I found interesting was the swimmers were forgetting that they weren’t adequately prepared for the meet and were holding on to the same expectations they have on themselves at the end of the season.  I kept having to remind them of the above and that this wasn’t a meet for a best time (mastery), this was a meet to practice racing, putting into a race what we have been practicing and to get feedback to improve for our first long course meet in 2 more weeks.

You see, I noticed that FEEDBACK was MY ultimate desire here.  I wanted them to know this meet was about feedback so they have a focus for practice the next two weeks, yet many of them wanted to achieve that best time right off the bat without all the practice behind them.

In the future I need to prep them better for the expectations of this meet.  We talked about it and I sent an email to parents, but I think it’s too easy to be excited about the meet and to forget what the focus is.  This is no different than my math classroom…I need to make sure at the beginning of the year, that I am clear about their formative assessments and that the feedback they get is more important, which is why it won’t have a grade on it.  Connecting back to swimming, it would be like swimming a meet but not having the clock visible to see their final time, but to focus on the aspects of racing, their technique and the feedback they receive.

I look forward to working with my swimmers to focus on a growth mindset the same way that I am working with my students on it and I want them to focus on feedback and not just the time they receive.

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Take A Day to Reflect

After I attend a conference or a class or present, I like to take time to take a step back and reflect.  I wrote down book titles, links to websites and curricular materials…I needed to go through it and hone in on what is important and what I wanted to do with it all.  I also wanted some time to reflect on both of my presentations, take in the feedback given (Wisconsin Math Conference had 2-ply reflection forms so I was able to walk away with the feedback right there!) and make changes so I didn’t forget about them for the future.

Note: Insert feedback from presentations here when I am home with them in front of me!

After my morning of reflecting, I ran some errands and stopped at a few garage sales. Didn’t find anything of terrible significance, but a few fun items for upcoming birthdays and graduations.

One of the things I have learned that is important to me is to make sure I build in my personal reflection time when I need it.  Sometimes it looks different, but that doesn’t matter because it is time for ME to reflect how I need to reflect…it could be on a week’s worth of lessons or an activity and how to improve it or a presentation and how I can make it more meaningful for teachers.   Or it could be on interactions with students, parents, co-workers or admin….regardless of the reason for the reflection, it is important to me that I do it.  Sometimes I blog about it here, sometimes I reflect personally, but either way it helps me grow and continue to learn about myself and the world around me.

Do it…take time for you, reflect on something that happened this week…don’t harp on it, but reflect honestly and consider what you learned and how you can apply it to the future.

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