Monday, January 28, 2013

Problem Solving...

What more can I say?

That seems to be my biggest area of concern/what I wish I could focus all day. Technically we do throw it in there in all subjects but I feel like I've had so many epiphanies lately when it comes to how to teach problem solving.

In the past 2 weeks I've gone to 2 Professional Developments and my favorite part of them has to be hearing what other teachers do in their classrooms. Get this... Today a fellow 2nd grade teacher in my district, on their second week of fractions, gave her students this problem:

"Sarah has 348 gel pens. She gives 3/4 of them away. How many pens does she give away?"

In my mind I'm thinking there is NO WAY my sweet little babies could figure this out and we are on our third week of fractions. But then again, isn't this the level of questions we SHOULD be asking of our students? All we keep hearing is Rigor Rigor RIGOR. Well, it's just like it was back in the day when we changed from TAAS to TAKS. People would say it's "too hard" and "we're asking too much of these students". Now look at us. If only the TAKS was still around. It's the STAAR we dread. It's always going to be something new and I'm sure in a few years we will be wanting the STAAR back. 

The rigor is always increasing and as an educator we are only doing our students a diservice if we don't give them the opportunity to succeed instead of doubting their capabilities and saying "that's way too hard". Sure it may be hard but confusion is a step in the right direction. It means they are trying. I don't know about you but the best tool that has helped me learn thus far is the mistakes I've made along the way. 

I heard the same teacher relate problem solving to gaming. Our students will continue to play a level where they fail and fail, time and time again. They are determined to beat that level and after awhile they do. I can't wait to have my students make this connection and preserver until they can get a hang of certain strategies to use to make problem solving that much easier for them.

So speaking of problem solving.. I am going to compile all the of our Daily Problem Solving problems that we have done in Q1 and Q2 and get them ready for this weekends Super Sale for the Super Bowl! Check back WEDNESDAY for their debut!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Penguin Palooza & Classroom Goals

We have literally hit the ground running this year. My kids and I decided that we needed some Goals to strive for. They literally come up with these on their own and wanted to do ALL of them. I was thinking 3 or so, nope.... they wanted 5. But I made sure they were all attainable if they worked hard so here we go!

They're posted at the front of the room so we can refer back to them throughout the year.

2nd graders have to read 15 Caldecott books to become a Caldecott Kid.

We have 4 Fact Fluency goals for the students to meet by the end of year. To differentiate and give everyone a fair chance we chose to have them focus on moving up at least 2 ranks. Check out more here
We are definitely Bucket Fillers, individually and as a class.
Here's our FILLED bucket as of lately!!

Our district uses iStation as an Reading Assessment tool and let's just say my kids are both rocking it AND have high expectations for themselves. (That would mean 11 out of 16 kiddos on Tier 1.)
Check out our growth so far. If you can't tell green is good, and I've still got one baby waiting to test  for January but as of right now I've still got 9 on green. So I would definitely say 11 is attainable.

I love that my kids came up with this one. This helps everyone, at every reading level,  have a goal to work towards.

 On another note, every second grader in our district is starting our huge research project called Penguin Palooza. Technology plays an enormous role in their final projects and the kids will get to choose how to they want to present it. There will definitely be more on this to come. 

 To get them excited about penguins I had them write what they want to know about penguins on a piece of paper, crumble it up and throw it as far as they can towards the front of the room. Then they each got to come by and grab a paper (that wasn't theirs) and share the questions aloud. I recorded them all and we went over all the things we were excited to research. Here's a sneak peak of that:

 That's all I got for now. 

Here's a nice little pic of my cat Buster to make the rest of your Hump Day the best it can be!
This is what it looks like ... Facetime-ing with my kitty.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Reading Bingo, Math HW and House Hunting

Alrighty. So I have crossed off 2 out of the 4 things on my previous to-do list, all while watching HGTV and house hunting with the wonderful hubby. 

Here are the 2 things I have taken care of.

1. Reading Bingo Board. I will collaborate with my team tomorrow and see if we all agree on the things listed and then make any revisions necessary. (Stop. Collaborate and Listen...Vanilla Ice anyone?) Either way here is a freebie of what I threw together. Feel free to see if it works for you and your students and please email me if you'd like for me to edit anything for you and I'd be more than happy to send one your way. Click either here on the pic below to download it as a Google Doc.

2. Here is a preview of how I decided to format the weekly Math homework for second grade. You can also download this freebie as a Google Doc by clicking here or on the picture. I figured they didn't need too much on their plate since they already have Spelling and Reading HW, so a little of what we've recently learned as well as some stuff from the beginning of the year should be a good fit. 

On a more personal note, the husband and I have already experienced some house hunting drama. We found a house listed in a great neighborhood nearby and from the photos, looked like it had great character. We looked at it this morning, found so much to like about it: the layout, room size, chimney and open flow of it all. Found out someone had already put an offer down on it and that we had to decide if we were really serious. So of course, we called in the BIG GUNS... the mother-in-law haha. She is very well educated on home improvement DIY projects and is basically our second-mommy-version-realtor so we knew she'd be able to tell it like it is and gooooooooood thing. She came in guns hot and found a lot of stuff we didn't even bother to look at (of course an inspection would've shown these things too, but she saved us the stress and trouble of worrying about competing with another buyer). So ladies... give your mother-in-law a nice hug (we bought her lunch) and depending on your relationship with her, ask for advice if they know what they're talking about. 

I'm ready to be a home owner and get back into the swing of things school and schedule wise. 

Speaking of schedule ... my TV schedule is about to get WAY busier. 
  • Sunday: Biggest Loser. 
  • Monday: BSC Championship, The Bachelor, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Vanderpump Rules. 
  • Tuesday: Pretty Little Liars, The Lying Game and New Girl. 
  • Wednesday: Modern Family, Property Brothers. 
  • Thursday: Grey's Anatomy, Vampire Diaries, Glee, and 30 Rock. My goodness.. can you tell I don't have children? 

What shows will you be watching this season? Happy Sunday!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

It's Been Forever....

I am terribly sorry for my sudden MIA-ness. What with all the Sandy Hook happenings, Winter Break craziness, Polar Express Day, the holidays, house hunting and being sick I feel like I am FINALLY getting back into the swing of things. So I do apologize for being gone for so long!

I am working on a few things right now:
1. The biggest and most important is my second big pack dealing with ... FRACTIONS! I have told many other teachers that I work with, that creating these packs has made planning and teaching extremely easier and just plain fun. When you're the one creating the materials you really know the stuff and the kids can tell you feel comfortable with it which in return makes them feel comfortable (which should in return help them succeed - it's an endless cycle you see!).

2. Reading Bingo Sheets for Q3. Last year my team and I had the students complete a Reading Bingo Sheet for the quarter. It helped them achieve their reading goals, expand their book selection, and respond to their reading in numerous ways. We had them use Edmodo, Wordle, Tagxedo and a variety of different Reading Response Sheets. I'll post that one later tonight as a freebie for you to check out. So I just changed one up a bit and will have the students help us come up with the rewards for the Bingo's they accomplish next week. 

3. Math Homework. Does anyone else give Math homework? If so, what format do you use? My team and I decided against a Menu since we use them frequently in other areas and didn't want for our students to suffer from Menu-OVERLOAD. We were thinking just a few questions about our current subject being taught, and then spiral in stuff we've learned from the beginning of the year. I am just still deciding what type of format I want to put this together with.

4. Problem of the Day for Q3. We do a daily Problem Solving in Math and the kids seem to really love doing it. In my school district we do what is called UPS Check. One of my fellow teammates found a cute little song to go with it (to the tune of Ten Little Indians) and my kids will NOT let me know go a day without singing it. Anyways.. off on a tangent again as I do so often... I need to create more of those for this next Quarter. At the end of the year I am looking forward to compiling all of the problem of days that we have used and posting a years worth for my fellow teachers. Heck.. I can't wait to just have a years worth in my pocket already as opposed to creating new ones every other week. 

Whew... procrastinate much Amanda? I'm lucky our district has Monday as a Teacher Work Day. This way I can get some extra time in to get my room back to how it should be and get things ready for the week before the craziness ensues on Tuesday. Also, our school has some pretty legit leaders that are holding another Lesson Plan Design PD. I know I sound like a dork, but it really helped us focus on the actual goal of what the kids need to learn.. not just throwing this and that in there because it's "cute". Cuteness doesn't hurt but if it's cute and not covering what needs to be covered, then it can definitely go by the wayside. 

Alright... 1 thing down ... 3 more to go! Wish me luck!