Interdisciplinary Context

I’ve been meaning to make a post about the interdisciplinary context in which I would love to teach. Other, slightly unrelated news though, I just found out that this summer I am going to be a Teacher’s Assistant for Duke TiP’s CRISIS Camp. The class will be Broadcasting and Journalism and it will take place at Meredith College in Raleigh. I’ve always enjoyed working with Duke TiP on the residential side, so I’m excited to try it on the teacher assistant side and to watch the project-based learning that my students will be doing. It’ll be nice for me to learn the new material and may give me some new ideas for my teaching style in the fall.

Now back to the reason for this post. My undergraduate program was very big in interdisciplinary learning and incorporating experiences across a variety of curriculum. In January, I was able to tie science and math into reading, with a few passages. We were learning about patterns in math, and our story that week was about patterns. Patterns was a vocabulary word and it talked about the different ways you could see patterns. In addition, I found a cross-curricular passage on patterns with comprehension questions . I loved incorporating the mathematics vocabulary and lesson with the literacy aspect. Third grade is where students start honing their skills with reading comprehension questions so I want to incorporate that as much as possible. In the future, I would love to do that with more mathematics, science, and social studies lessons. I had a student stop on one of our benchmarks because they didn’t know a mathematics vocabulary word that was important to answering the questions. Math requires vocabulary just like any other subject, so it’s important to teach both. Luckily, I’ve now amassed quite a few cross-curricular passages for the rest of the year!

I still have a lot of planning to do to make my classroom completely interconnected, but I’m always ready to try new ways or ideas.

Come to the Edge

The Google Summit for Education taught me that as a teacher, I can’t be afraid to try new things or change the routine. So in my latest way of coming to the edge, I started a Positive News bulletin board. The students find something positive to say about another classmate and then stick the note to the bulletin board. I have a word wall, important information wall, and a wall with our objectives. I figured I could spare a little space in my classroom for this wall.

At first, I was hesitant, but now I’m surprised at how well all of my students responded to the wall. During bus call where they wait in my classroom, they grab a note and write. Students who are very quiet have been recognized on the board, as well as students who have had problems with their behavior at times. The kids love to check the board to see if anyone wrote to them.

I have a great classroom community thanks to Class Dojo where I recognize them for being kind to classmates or working together. We also do a morning meeting every day where the students pick a question to ask all the other students. An example question would be: “Which do you like better, pancakes or waffles?” Something simple where every student has an opinion and feels like they can voice them. My students can then tell me whatever they want to about their lives, and they can call on someone if they do a special signal which means they have a connection. This takes maybe 5-7 minutes of my classroom time, but allows students to have a voice and to connect with each other. Right now, guinea pigs are a big talking point in our classroom, but the week before it was video games. All in all, it works out well.

 

There’s A Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom

In the quiet of Christmas break, I finally have a slight moment to make a blog post. Right before school let out for Christmas break, we finished the book There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, by Louis Sachar. This book has taken us all year and at points I asked the kids if they wanted to stop and do a picture book for a day. Nope, they always wanted to read this book. I believe it was one of the best lessons I could give my kids and I’m really happy I chose this book. Bullying is a major issue in schools and this book hits that topic. The main character Bradley is a bully. He has no friends and sits in the back of the room ignoring the teacher most of the day. One day a new kid comes in and befriends him and over time Bradley changes.

On the last day of us reading the book, we watched a book trailer I found that summed up the book. Then the children and I had a book circle where we talked about our favorite characters, favorite parts, and what they would change about the book. I was surprised at how many children noticed that Bradley made a conscious change to be good. They realized he was not included in many activities and that’s what made him mean. Many of the children identified with him and his quest to change from being a bully to being a great student and friend.

My next steps with the book will be to incorporate it into our friendly letter writing, which is a standard for the second nine weeks in third grade. The children are all going to write letters to Bradley. First we will brainstorm as a class, then make graphic organizers and write sentences. Finally we will be writing him a letter using the stoplight technique.
Next year what I would love to do is for the children to read a series of picture books by their favorite author. Then have them write a letter to their favorite author. I love friendly letter writing so I’m excited to see where we will journey next in the wide expanse of learning that is third grade.

Dear Beginning of the Year Me:

Lately, I’ve been finally feeling like I’ve caught my breath with teaching. It’s taken about three months to get there. Three months full of showing up extremely early, and leaving late so that I can accomplish everything. In those three months, I’ve come a long way. I can now load grades for report cards, print testing tickets, run guided reading groups, have math centers, and manage classroom behavior like a pro. To brag a little (sorry! I’ve worked hard!), I’ve spread Class Dojo to ten teachers at my school, have recently been told my classroom management is “awesome” (a feat for a new teacher) and scored way above a district percent on a benchmark. This is all due to my awesome coworkers and teammates who always support me, but I’m still excited. So here’s a letter to me at the beginning of the school year.

Dear New Teacher,

You are scared. I see you trying to hide it, wondering if you can pull out of your contract. Thinking that this isn’t right for you, as you had a birth-kindergarten degree. Not third grade! What you don’t know, is how strong your team is and how much your school is like a family. How much your mentor believes in you and will support you. There’s so much to worry about and do, and I understand that. But you also have to believe in yourself. A very important person told you once “teaching is not about perfection. It’s about being the best you can be and teaching above the standard.”

You’ve worked hard your whole life. You aced 17 semester hours once, and could have graduated high school at 16. You’ve beaten the odds more times than you can count. And yes, things will be hard these next few months, but you’ve got this. You just have to believe, and be willing to try anything. The Google conference will teach you to come to the edge and fly, and now you hopefully are. All you have to do is be willing to embrace new ideas and always be willing to change.

All my best,

MW

Class Dojo!

In a hazy world of grading and blue pens, but wanted to make a post about something I learned about at the Google Summit conference recently. As a first-year teacher, I’m willing to try anything that could improve my class and my teaching.

About two weeks ago I implemented Class Dojo in my classroom and have been able to watch the sparks fly. For those of you who don’t know about Class Dojo, here’s a brief overview. Class Dojo gives each student a monster and they gain or lose points for various behaviors. I have personalized the different behaviors for my students, from hallway behavior to sitting quietly at their desk. When I teach in small groups or have the students working independently on a worksheet, it allows them to monitor their progress. The bell ding has almost a Pavlov response as it makes students sit up straighter and work harder to earn their points. This allows me to reinforce ALL my students, from those who continually do the right thing to catching those who may not always do the right thing.

For the first week, I didn’t involve parents to see how it would stick. I already utilize Whole Brain Teaching so I wanted to see how an extra system would play into our approach. I was hooked by the end of day one! I love being able to reward my students and looking for the positive! When I chose to involve parents, I truly realized the awesome power that Class Dojo wields. Involving parents allows parents to see what areas their child needs to work on to be successful in our classroom. Class Story allows parents to see what we are doing all day. I can easily post pictures of the work we are doing and how hard we are working. On these stories, I can see which parents have seen the story. I can also see when parents last logged in. Messages allows parents to easily message me and stay in contact. Some parents that I haven’t had enough contact with this year are able to keep in touch with me.

Also, as I write this post, one more parent just joined our Class Dojo! I’m definitely a Class Dojo believer now, and can’t wait for another great week utilizing this tool.

My Mentor

I had a bit of a stressful day today with starting my day with a meeting with the principal. Since my VA teaching license is not in yet and I teach at a Title 1 school (my NC one came in two weeks ago, so VA will take another month), I had to send home a letter to all parents explaining that I was not licensed YET. I remember when I first heard that I would get a mentor in August. I thought, what if she doesn’t like me or isn’t nice? The whole school seemed like a weird maze then and my classroom like a huge battleground. When we started texting, I realized how sweet she was. I realize now that she’s the most inclusive, kindest, and sweetest person I’ve ever met. Over the past few months, she has guided me through so many aspects of daily teaching life that I would not have been able to do without her. From plans to homework to word sorts, I can always count on her.

Flash forward to today: My mentor knew that this week has been super stressful for me with that and trying to get centers set up, so she walked into my classroom during the middle of Morning Work and gave me a silver box and told me “I was saving this but it seemed like you needed it now.” Inside was a bracelet with the a script around it that read: “Fancy jasper promotes tranquility.” Honestly it was the best moment of my teaching career. The best moment of my week by far. They say Oakland is a family, and my mentor is at the head. She never fails to speak up at meetings for the good of the rest of us and will be the person we throw under the bus if needed. A lot of times I go to her just to get a story from her to start my day. I wouldn’t be making it this far without her. ❤ Best mentor ever.

“Welcome to the edge.”

“EmIMG_0244brace the messiness; produce the flexibility.”

This weekend I had the lovely fortune of attending a Google Summit for Education conference . To say I was excited would be an understatement. I can’t wait to take these tricks and techniques from the conference into my classroom and life.

I never realized how powerful Google Chrome could be. I can block YouTube ads via AdBlock, make GIFs, and even have a virtual classroom for my students where they will find their assignments and turn it all into me. The drive saves all of it, and Suffolk Public Schools gives me unlimited storage.

One way I want to harness this power is to take an extension called Snagit (example below). This captures your screen and you can do a video as you flip tabs or try to explain something on the web. You can watch my GIF of this below. How I want to harness this power, is to use our computer book that we do read alouds on for Reading/Writing and record my voice reading the book. Then I can add my own comprehension questions for the different levels of groups. I can also review the vocabulary at the end. That way, while I’m pulling groups, I can still “meet” with every child. I can even shorten the link via another Chrome extension and put it in my Google classroom.

Untitled GIF

Overall, I learned a lot at this conference and I can’t wait to keep researching at home and to bring more of this into the classroom. As a first year teacher, I am constantly at the edge trying to fly. I’m constantly embracing the messiness and trying to be flexible. I don’t always succeed, but I do try.

Week 6

Week 6 ended a little early.
Or if you count the Google Summit for Education conference I’ll be at all weekend, a little late. I’m having a day off tomorrow for a doctor’s appointment. While I’m excited for a day of peace, I will also miss my children. Writing sub plans made me realize how many procedures and items I have in place. Plus I had to plan so much just in case. I usually have a lot planned, but I definitely have some extra worksheets for tomorrow.

Today we used Twizzlers to make simple machines. It was actually pretty cool some of the inventions my children made. I had the good fortune of buying the watermelon twizzlers that were red and green. The children were able to tear them apart and then design their simple machine. I wish I could do more project-based learning like this and be more interactive with my students. The amount of quiet concentration my students had was amazing. They truly enjoyed this activity. I need to find more hands on ways to allow them to express their learning. I enjoyed watching this one though!

My Favorite Moments

This week I had quite a few favorite moments when I felt like I was accomplishing my goals as a teacher. One was during mathematics on Friday. On Fridays I let my kids use their dry-erase markers on the desk. I tend to use this to reinforce current concepts and to review old concepts. The children were so excited to try new problems and how Miss Romm kept trying to “trick” them. It was amazing to walk around and see entire rows get the problems right. There were a few kids who still needed some extra help, however, for the most part, my students were understanding the concepts.

Another amazing moment was actually an accidental one. I try to incorporate movement in the classroom by having them rotate through problems I put on the walls. One of the problems was an estimation problem that said: Estimate 708+9. However, we have never estimated and rounded with the ones. I had no idea how to solve it so I took it to one co-teacher, and then my team leader. All the while screaming “I UPSET THE MATHEMATICAL WORLD PLEASE HELP ME,” of course. The first teacher couldn’t solve it and my team leader could. My kids were so excited to learn the answer the next day and only one child got it right. One little girl was telling a member of our custodial staff how “Miss Romm lets us ROTATE math problems! She even had one only one person in our class got right!” Adorable.

I’m still trying to incorporate movement more so I will have to see what our week will hold. I know we are hopefully building machines out of Twizzlers this week! Besides that, finally settling into a rhythm with teaching.

One Month Down…8 more to go?

Week 4-Check.
Dumping Desk-Check.
Trying Suffolk’s Best Donut Shop-Check.
Giving my child who does not care a reality check–Check.
Getting creative with three boys goofing off in line by holding their hands as we walked down the hall and making them straighten up–check! (:

There are moments when I make incredible breakthrough as a teacher and I think, hey, this could be fun. Not the usual panic-inducing trying to be consistent and trying to think 5 steps ahead. There are moments when I plan a totally interactive lesson or a lesson where they are able to move around the room. I’m trying to be better at incorporating movement and technology into my lessons so it is less me lecturing and more of their involvement. I have a pretty small room (10 times smaller than other teachers’ rooms) so I have yet to determine how we will efficiently and quietly do math stations. One way I really enjoyed incorporating movement this past week was with our 180 days of reading that we do every day (great SOL prep plus I can model the strategies), I have them move for the last question to different corners of the room. They get moving and get to show me their understanding on the topic. We’ve also done a possessive nouns scavenger hunt. I hope tomorrow we can do an estimation scavenger hunt. I would love to do more movement and be more interactive.

With trying to have more interactive lessons, I’ve discovered my kids love computer games. They loved this rounding pirate game we did, where they solved the problems and held them up on whiteboards and I picked the answer on the screen. We’ve also done a Virginia Trekkers where they matched England, Spain, and France and then we sailed the explorers. I’ve even found a Context Clues Jeopardy game for the end of this week. I wish we had smartboards, iPads, or that each child had their own computer, but for now I’ll be happy with what I have.

I’ve also been trying to be more positive. It is SO easy to yell at a child for the wrong behavior, but harder to notice the right one. The kindergarten classroom where I student taught utilized PBIS (as does most of NC), and I truly loved it. The fuzzies had the children working towards a goal of filling the bucket and kept the teacher more mindful of the positive. We do Whole Brain Teaching, which incorporates stickers and moving up levels. With one of my girls, she does so much better when I’m being positive with her. When I’m noticing others having great behavior around her, she straightens up so then I can compliment her. Less of the yelling and her giving me a lethal attitude. Even in the hallways, recognizing the positive and giving children stickers is so useful. I still have a lot of growth, but I hope I can be more positive this week.