June 2013 - The Teacher Studio: Learning, Thinking, Creating
From baseball games, to district meetings, to taking my kiddo to driver's ed--it was a busy week!  I have been trying so hard to learn new technology "things" . . . from Dropbox to Google forms to Photoshop Elements . . . I am NOT feeling like the sharpest crayon in the box!

On a positive note, I have been able to check quite a few things off my "to do" list!  I have finished up a few products that have been in the works for weeks or months . . . I have almost finished reorganizing my laundry room (if you saw my post the other day--you remember that this is a big deal) . . . I have gone on some one walks . . . I have gone to the library to check out books for an upcoming project . . .  I have discovered a new snack item (note the calories--not bad!!!) . . . I have ordered from and received Amazon Love . . . 

I just KNOW that label maker is going to get me organized!  NOTE:  It is already out of the box and loaded with ALL . SIX . BATTERIES .

Here it is.  Six bars.  One left.  Bought 3 days ago.  I'm the only consumer.  You've been warned.

L-O-V-E Eve Bunting.

Really trying to do some brainstorming about what do to help some of my strugglers next year during our I/E time.  This is one of 5 stacks of books that are home to "inspire me".  Stay tuned.

So--I feel pretty good about what happened this week--and hoping next week will lead to some more productivity.  My basement is calling my name.  For those of you who are interested, here are the latest products that I have put into my store over the last week.  Check them out if you are interested!  Remember to check out yesterday's post to enter my raffle if you haven't already--and make sure to check out the AMAZING giveaway on Ashley's blog today--one of my products is a part of it.  The giveaway is HUGE--and she has a wonderful blog for you to check out!  

Ashley's giveaway over at
 The School Supply Addict!

 






Thanks for stopping by!  





Greetings!



This is my SECOND time writing this post as Blogger completely WIPED out the first one--even after I saved it!  I am sooooo sad!

I'll keep it short and sweet!  Google Reader is going away on July 1. Bloglovin' is a great option.  Good news!  I am making it easy for you to follow me (and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest if you want!) . . . all buttons and links are to the right.  I have been using Bloglovin', and I must admit that I like how easy it is to follow people!


I decided to sweeten the pot a little!


To make it more fun, I'm hosting a mini-raffle starting tonight at midnight!  Enter to win a chance to win $15 worth of products from my store--and you have all summer to cash it in in case you want to wait to see what's coming soon!  I will announce the winner on July 1--the same day I announce my July special!  That means there are 3 more days to cash in on the June deal!


Ready to enter?





A few more things . . . have you seen Ashley's giveaway over at The School Supply Addict?  It's unbelievable--and she is celebrating quite a milestone!  You really should check it out (one of my products is featured Saturday!) and enter!  She has tons of amazing things as prizes!

Have a great weekend . . . and good luck!





It's here!  The final blog post about "The Differentiated Math Classroom".  On Saturday I asked you to think about your next steps.  Here is your chance to let us all know what your hopes, dreams, and plans are for the following school year when it comes to differentiation in math.  I had posted the following as possible topics to get you started, but the sky is the limit!  

  • What next?
  • MY teaching style?
  • Math pedagogy?
  • Randall Charles' "21 Big Ideas of Math"
  • Professional development?
  • The lesson list--pages 173-175
  • Anchor activities?
  • Homework ideas?
  • Any other thoughts?

Let's hear what YOU want to do next year.  Even if you weren't a part of the book study, I think we can all relate to the issues surrounding our "fast finishers" and our "need more coaching" kiddos--and that we could probably be doing more for both groups.


Here are my goals for the upcoming school year:

1.  Offer differentiated homework on a regular basis.

2.  Do a better job of using a math workshop approach so I can meet with small groups.  I know I have both strugglers (many) and very able (a few) learners next year so "one size fits all" instruction is just not going to cut it.

3.  Do a better job challenging my top kiddos with meaningful work.

So let's hear it!  Shout out your goals here--and let's help each other make them happen!  Thanks for participating in my first try at a book club!




It's my turn!

For those of you following along with our collaborative book study, it's my turn to share an overview of a chapter.  Chapter 3 provides a foundation for "getting started" strategies.  As you know, sometimes getting started with anything is the hardest part!  Take this photo for example . . .


Please don't judge.  I have other strengths. 



Where do I even get started on this little project? This is a combination of the stuff that has piled up on my counter and one drawer for the last  . . . um . . .. school year.  It's so overwhelming to tackle that I have simply shut down and avoided it.  I think some of our students feel this way when they see a math problem!  There is so much there and no clear direction.  So  . . . I'm going to try to tackle THIS problem using the steps in this chapter.  Bear with me!

The entire premise of chapter 3 is a set of 4 "strategies" to use when addressing a problem.  Gojak stresses that these can work for tacking routine and novel problems and can be used at any point when you reach a roadblock.  Here they are:

  1. Restate the problem in your own words.
  2. Identify wanted, given, and needed information
  3. Identify a subgoal
  4. Select appropriate notation
OK--here goes.  For the first strategy, we need to "restate the problem".  In a math context, this might involve the student reading and reread the problem to get familiar and comfortable with it.  I love that she talks about visualizing the objects and activities in the problem.  I go in waves where I work on this with students, but I am going to do more and more of it next year.  

In my non-math example, I think it's pretty easy to restate the problem.  I won't put words in your mouth--go ahead.  I can take it. 
{Insert descriptive language here}

Moving on . . .

The next strategy asks students to "identify wanted, given, and needed information".  The book points out that this is the time when students need to decide if they need more information from another source, whether there is insufficient evidence to solve it, or if they need to do a step before they can actually get the final answer.  The author even suggests that we have students get in the habit of recording wanted, needed, and given information as they solve.

So, moving back to MY problem.  I think it's clear that in order to solve this problem I need to find out what I have, what I need to keep, and then find places for the rest.  This may mean that I need to create places (ex. folders) for some of it.  It also means I need to make some hard decisions about what is really important!  In order to solve it, I need to be clear about what I need to keep and what I can let go.  For example:

Now on to strategy #3--"Identify a subgoal". Gojak explains that this is closely connected to the last strategy. Students need to be able to recognize if certain actions need to be done before a solution can be reached.  These multiple step problems can be particularly tricky for some students!  She stresses that students need to show their work at each step so they can share their thinking with others.  I would add that it makes it MUCH easier to troubleshoot when the steps are clearly laid out!  

My subgoal?  Sorting my pile into categories.



Finally, we need students to be able to "select appropriate notation".  This is a huge part of the "precision" component of the Standards for Mathematical Practice, so we need to get even our littlest mathematicians in the habit of this!  Whether we use numbers, pictures, symbols, charts, or other--students must be deliberate about how they represent their work.  The next chapters of this text will dive into this in more detail.

As for my problem?  I am going to say that MY appropriate notation involves some hanging folders and a recycling bin!  

So . . . let's hear your thoughts!  The author has started us off with the following three questions:

1.  How did these problem-solving strategies help you to solve the provided problems in this chapter?  (I really DO recommend you actually try them with these problems!)

2.  How will these strategies help students with comprehending the problem they are trying to solve?

3.  What steps can you take to teach your students how to use these strategies when solving problems?

And if you finish all those . . . feel free to come on over and help me with my laundry room!




Hello Everyone!

Just thought I'd share that I am linking up again with Made It Mondays over on 4th Grade Frolics!

What did I make today?

As you know, I am a huge fan of formative assessment--and asking students to self-assess.  I often do a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" or have them rank themselves on a one to four scale.  I wrote a post about it many moons ago . . .


So, what did I create to help?  I made these nifty little "show your understanding" thingies!  Whether I give one to each student to use in large groups or provide small groups one to use to show their status, I think these will be a fun way for students to either tell me 
"I know it!"
"I don't know it!"
or
"I'm not sure"

You could also do . . .
"I get it!"
"I don't get it!"
or
"I need more help"


So here's what I did . . .
I made this template . . . in color if you don't have "ink limitations" and black and white it you do.  But don't worry--black and white can still be cool . . . just wait!

Cut them into sections . . . 

See . . . if you have to make them in black and white, just mount them on colored paper to differentiate them!

Find a way to attach them together . . . a brad . . .  a ring . . . or even spiral binding if you have that option.

I laminated mine so they will last all year.

See!  Still in color!  Students could even color the inside part if you wanted to personalize them.

TA DA!  Here is a completed set all ready to go!

So--pretty easy, right?
So, when I think about how to use this I'm pretty sure the sky is the limit!
  • How well do you understand how to multiply two digit numbers?
  • Do you agree with the author's viewpoint?
  • Do you think (insert character name) should (insert action)?
  • Do you think students should have school all year (think persuasive essays)
  • Can you make a triangle that has two right angles?
and so on!

I'd love to hear YOUR ideas too!  If you like it, you could easily make these on your own.  If you want my freebie print out with the thumbs and question mark, click here!

The Freebie!

and then hop over to visit Made It Monday Linky! to see the amazing ideas from others!  And by the way . . . don't forget today is the last day of my 15% off the entire store "Thank You!" sale at My TpT store





Happy Sunday, everyone!  It's been stormy around here, but the crazy weather has given me some time to wrap up loose ends on a few things!

First of all, I had to share some of the nifty things I have bought to use in my classroom next year.  I just KNOW these will increase test scores!  HA!

Check out this monster tape runner!  I know tape runners are expensive--so when I mount student work I usually just use glue stick and hope.  But now???  I was so impressed with its size and its pinkness that  I couldn't stop myself.


OK.  I fess up.  I bought all 5 of them on the clearance shelf.  I've seen this buggers go for $20!  I got each one for $2.56!  Check out my stash.  I'm a little embarrassed.  Just a little.


Scrapbook storage boxes . . .  can you say "Literacy Unit Storage"?  They will stack so nice--and I can keep project samples. folded anchor charts, and so on.  MUCH better than a file folder!


Have you seen these?  It's a drawing pad--but the pages are sticky at the top like those cool chart pads!  I am POSITIVE there is a very important use for this!

So . . . with MY shopping complete, it was time to get to work.

I dug into my computer files and finished up a few new products--and when I posted them to my store I noticed that I now have 100 items!  What does that mean?  A SALE!  That's right--today and tomorrow only--15% off all 100 of them . . . and YES, the June special of buy 2, get 1 of equal or lesser value free.  Who doesn't love a bargain?  So . . . stop on by and pick up some of the new products or some of the old ones you've had your eye one.  Here are my most recent additions!  Not sure about the deal?  Here is a link to the post explaining it.        June Special!


Here's the new stuff! 
This bundle saves you 20% off buying each product separately . . . so it's 15% off of 20% off!



The third and final "Pausing Point" product!


Watch for a blog post about this coming up soon . . . this is a remake of one of my early products--but WAY improved!



Another set of word problems for the Grade 3-4 range!


Have a great day--and stay safe if you are in the path of some of these storms!  This week on the blog . . . a "Make It Monday" link, information about my math journal prompts, the final book study post, and more!



Well, here we are!  The end of the book . . .



I don't know about you, but I have lots of thinking to do about next year.  I think what I'm going to do for this week is simply post once--perhaps Thursday--and I am simply going to ask for final reflections.  I will include the following list of terms/concepts that I found in the last section in case it triggers any ideas.  


  • What next?
  • MY teaching style?
  • Math pedagogy?
  • Randall Charles' "21 Big Ideas of Math"
  • Professional development?
  • The lesson list--pages 173-175
  • Anchor activities?
  • Homework ideas?
  • Any other thoughts?
I know, for me, I need to figure out how I can deliberately structure my math instruction to better serve the needs of all students.  I need to think about tiering my activities and my homework.  I need to think about pretesting and compacting students out of sections of instruction (I was surprised the book didn't address this more!)--and what to do with them if I DO this!  Anyway...watch for a post on THURSDAY for you to share your final thoughts and ideas!

Just a few other reminders . . . if you are a follower via Google reader, remember that July 1 is the end of that resource.  Most of my followers who have done that have signed on with Bloglovin'.  The link to do that is right on my home page.  

Also, I am retooling many of my products in my store and adding new ones each week!  Remember that my June special is buy 2, get one free . . . just send me a comment here or at the store to tell me what you bought and what equal or lesser item you would like.  I am excited that a bunch of you have taken advantage of it!  Watch for a different special in July!



Finally, if you don't follow me on Facebook yet, feel free to hop on over and do that.  I sometimes offer special deals and you get updates on products and blog posts right away there.   I also "tweet" out my blog posts if that is a way you like to follow!  Thanks for your support.  Watch for some posts this week on ideas for next year!  



Here we go!  The final two questions of section two!  


I know that there is SO much variation from school to school, district to district, state to state, and country to country!  How much control do YOU have in your planning and execution of your teaching?  I'm curious!

Consider these two questions and share out your ideas.  Be honest--if you have doubts about something, I guarantee others do as well!  


Chapter 6 is all about planning your instructional time--from yearly planning to daily planning.  How much flexibility do you have with your planning?  What is a "typical" math class like for you--and how do you feel you need to change it?  

Chapter 7 provides us with some detailed examples of differentiation in action.  What "aha's" did you have? What DOUBTS do you have?  Let's be honest--it all sounds good on paper, right?  What do you perceive to be the biggest obstacles to some of the ideas presented in the last few chapters?


Ready to dig in?  Like I mentioned on Saturday . . . this section opened up some glaring "holes" in what I do, and I need to do some soul searching to figure out how to make some improvements!  I look forward to your thoughts over the next few days!



It's time again to talk about our collaborative book study!  This week's post (on chapter 2) is being hosted by the wonderful Jenn!  Click here to check out 4mulafun's Blog Post


Need to catch up?  The first week's post was hosted by Jamie and can be accessed by clicking here

This week's chapter gives a great overview of a problem solving "framework" . . . if you haven't read the book, stop by anyway and check out what people have to say!  Problem solving is SUCH a complex and essential part of math instruction--and this book is a great way to really dig in and think about your current practice and your "preferred state" of being!

Don't forget about our other book study going on!  Come on, followers!  30 of you signed up . . . let's hear what you have to say!  Add on to the discussion on yesterday's post.  We are really getting to the "heart" of the book!

Lots to learn with these great math books, so take a deep breath and dive right in!




It's time to chime in!  



I hope you are all enjoying the book--and are thinking of little things you can do to "tweak" your instruction for next year!

I can't wait to see what you have to say about the following two questions!


Chapter 4 talks about problem solving and "good" problems.  What are the resources we can use to find good problems?  What are some "hints" for making sure ALL students can be successful at some of these higher level problems?

Chapter 5 focuses on grouping students and "flexibility".  What are some ways that you have grouped students successfully?  How do you manage this?  How do you handle students who finish work at different rates?


So step right up!  Don't be shy...share your ideas, ask your questions, reply to each other, and let's get this discussion flowing!



I'm joining up with "Monday Made It" over at 4th Grade Frolics!

Today I wanted to share with you my new anecdotal reading binder that I have gotten ready for next year!  I know it seems early, but I had wanted to make some changes in it and I thought I'd share!  First of all, I want to share parts of an earlier blog post explaining my thoughts about my system--so here goes!  

(From March) True confessions . . .

I am a terrible organizer.  TERRIBLE!  I have spent 40-something years being pretty on the ball and pretty good at keeping things in my head--schedules, appointments, meetings . . . all in my mind.  Something has happened!  Either I am getting old (GASP) or my life has gotten more complicated!

Today as I was taking status of the class I realized how much I am going to have to change if I am ever going to get good at tracking data for RTI.  Keeping my "stuff" in my head isn't going to cut it!

One system that DOES work pretty well for me is my status of the class calendars.  I keep tweaking my system, but overall I have managed to maintain the system for a number of years.  Here is how I do it. . .

First, I have a calendar for each student.  I used to use a class list, then I went to a page for each student, then I went to a printed calendar--now I use a calendar that only has Monday - Friday so the squares are larger for note taking.  I keep these all in a binder.


Each day before we start reading, I take status.  Each child quickly chimes out what book is being read and what page s/he is on.  This is a time for me to do a quick conference or book talk--for example, today here were a few of my comments:

"Wow!  You must have read a TON this weekend!"  (looked back at where the student was on Friday)

"Hmmm...I've never heard of that book.  Could you tell the class a 3 sentence summary in case others might be interested?"

"_____, you've been reading that book for a few weeks now, what is your plan for finishing it?"

"OOOOH!  You are reading 8 Keys!  That has been so popular.  How many of you have read it?  Who has it on their "to read" list?"

So--in less than 10 minutes I can take the status of everyone, work in a few minilessons and/or conferences and/or book talks!  I love it!

After I take status, the students read.  Most days the students read independently for about 45 minutes. . . sometimes a little less, sometimes a little more.  During this time I confer with students or pull small groups.  I try to keep meetings short as to not take away their reading time.  Students learn to read by reading, right?

I then record conference notes directly on the calendars.  My notes probably look like scribbles, but they mean something to me!  Some students might be working on accuracy . . . on comprehension . . . on reading rate.  It doesn't matter--each student gets what they need.  Here is an example of a March calendar that is a work in progress:



You might notice the post it notes . . . they are my high tech "scheduling" system.  My pink notes are for my solid readers.  I meet with them when they come up in the rotation.  On this day, I met with this student and then moved the pink note to the next independent reader.  I try to get to 3-4 of these students per day.  My purple notes are for my "watch a little more" students--students I try to get to every other day or so.  



The yellow notes are for my daily students!  My daily students either meet with me or an interventionist (and usually both) every day for a lesson or readers' workshop lesson.  For these students, I monitor things a little more closely and inserted behind their calendar is a sheet like this:


I can do a little mini running record if accuracy is an issue . . . keep track of vocabulary words they didn't know . . . write down strategies we practiced, and so on.  I can also take a fluency score each day.

Like I said, it's always a work in progress, but it is one of the very FEW data collection systems that I have figured out!  I would LOVE to have all of you share some of your best ideas!  We aren't going to be dealing with LESS papers over the next years, and those of us who are "organizationally challenged" need the rest of you to give us ideas!

For those of you who don't like to take the time to create things, I do have preprinted calendar sets and reading goal bookmarks in my stores if you are interested.  Again--this isn't rocket science--but for me, any system that works is worth sharing!  OK--fess up organizers!  What works for YOU?


So . . . what did I do?  I updated my files and tweaked my calendars and started making my new one for next year!  I also made a new binder cover and spine and a bunch of other stuff!  Check out some of the photos--and note that I was working OUTSIDE!  It was so beautiful here today!

Adding my new cover sheet to my binder!

Cutting the spine label . . . I went with the blue one!

Ta da!  I made the spine labels wide enough that you can cut them to fit even the chubbiest binder!

Check out one of the yearly planning pages!  I haven't started filling them all out--but I wanted to print them and get them loaded into the binder!

It's super easy to do--and anyone can do it and tailor it just how you like it!  The sky is the limit!  I have to admit that I was so excited about it that I worked it into a product in my TpT store . . . and then I got motivated to revamp my reading logs . . . and then I bundled them together--so if you don't have time to do it yourself, you can check out mine.








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