Saturday, October 12, 2013

Math Journals and Parent Conferences

Over the years I have gotten slightly more comfortable with parent conferences. And by slightly I mean, well, seriously a small amount. I am so much more comfortable conversing with my sixth graders. I have nightmares about parents coming in and yelling at me, even though they have been mostly calm since the first day of school. I'm sure everything will go well, at the middle level they are so concerned about their children making friends that we can use the conference time to reassure and comfort. My intern and my advisory partner will be there to help, which will be wonderful to have another set of eyes and ears in case I miss something.

In order to prepare for conferences our students create goals. While they do not attend the conference, we do like to share their goals with their families. Most of the time everyone agrees on what has to be worked on. I also like to sit and type up some strengths, concerns, and/or goals for the children based on our observations in the classroom. With 15 minutes to meet each parent it certainly goes fast. I'll keep you posted on how they go. If you have conferences coming up soon, either as the teacher or the parent, please be kind :)

My projects today, I think, are a distraction from the above. I am loving, and I mean LOVING doing the math journals and stations with my students. Being a type-A planner I have math journals and standards matched up until the end of October. Here are the next two that we are going to be working on (again, Runde's Room was my resource for all of these ideas).

Equivalent Fractions

The week of Halloween - they will use them to explain fraction operations.
Happy weekend everyone! I hope you have time to do what you want, even if that means sitting and coloring math journals :) Let me know if you have questions about anything you see.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Feeling Like Fall!

Sometimes I absolutely love warm weather. Mostly at the end of the year, when Spring is right around the corner. Right now, I prefer my weather to feel like Fall. It's October people  (just sayin'). My motivation for this post is two fold. One, I think it'll make you laugh. Seriously, how can a day go like mine did. And two, if teachers can't laugh at themselves we'd all go crazy.
No idea where this is...but I want to be there!
Let's start with the fact that it's Monday. There, I said it. Monday. 2:30 in the morning and my dear sweet daughter was freaking out about the wind. It was really windy. However, I did not necessarily see the need for the wind to wake up said child. Regardless, I got her back to sleep and left the door cracked open more than I normally would because I promised to 'be right back.' Oh, don't give me know you would do it to (it was 3am remember!).

Cut to a few short hours later and we have another wake up. This time..a cat. Yep, because I was 'that mom' I left the door open just far enough that our one cat saw the opportunity and snuck in. Mind you, this is OVER a baby gate that we keep in the doorway. She then proceeded to jump up in bed with my dear daughter (and when I say up I mean UP, it's a mini loft) thus waking her up in a terrified state.
Sooo cute! Not my cat. Just sayin'
Around this time I should have been heading in to the gym but, well, I was tired! So I got ready for work while the kiddo snuggled in bed with the hubs and watched Dora on my Amazon Prime app (if you don't have it, get it!). Got the hubs lunch packed, my coffee made, kiddo dressed and was out the door. But, I just happened to glance at my planbook and saw that I had forgotten to get the candy bars that I needed for my lesson in social studies today.

No problem, I had plenty of time! I drive to the store and pull in, as the gas light comes on in the car. I run in, grab my candy and wait for the lovely older woman at the checkout to stop her 50th sneeze so she can ring me up. I run to the car, head to the closest gas station (which I despise going to) and realize that half the pumps are out of order. After doing about a million k-turns I make in and fill up. At this point I had to text my intern to tell him how late I was running, did I mention we were supposed to meet to check in for the week?

After following 3 of the slowest trucks in the world, I made it to school with 8 minutes to spare. Ack! Got settled and realized that my room was hot. I mean hot. Writing was normal (thank goodness) because I told my students of my morning and I think they felt sorry for me. Seriously. And at this point the temperature in my room was so muggy my hair started to frizz. So I probably looked crazy too. Did I mention that it got so dark outside that we thought the world was ending? And then the rain came. Sixth graders inside, on a Monday, because of rain. Sigh.

And to top it off, I had a 'pop in' visit by my awesome principal and curriculum administrator during my first day of math stations. Which just happened to be a 10 minute catch up involving my students being told to do 'yoga' if they needed to read the upside down words on the screen because I just couldn't keep turning it.

Fortunately my day got more steady after that point. And my AC started working eventually which helped too. But man, I hope my Tuesday goes so much better than my Monday. Luckily, I realize it could have been so much worse, and I'm grateful for my amazing intern, patient students, and awesome administration who overlooked the frazzled teacher and focused on the lesson at hand. May all of your Tuesdays be exactly what you need. Happy teaching!
Took this one myself during our recent trip to Greenwood Furnace!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Where did September go?

Oh man. You know those 'blink and you miss it' moments? September was one of those for me. I can't believe that I didn't sit down and blog at all. I know how you all feel, back to school month is generally one of the most stressful. Parents and students alike are finding their way, communication is at an all time high (for the good and bad) and the demands of administration are often adding to what we already have on our plates. But..we survived! A few highlights of my September:
Kicking off our (in)courage group for teachers. Our community is small but supportive and I am blessed to be a part of it.
  • First field trip - hello Greenwood Furnace! 
  • Starting my mentor course via PSU - they offer a once a week class to new mentors to assist in training our interns, it has been amazing
  • Getting to know my students as learners
It wasn't all good, never can be, but overall I finally feel that we are settling in to our routine. I'm excited to share two lessons/activities with you that we are working through right now. The first is a lesson that supports the CCSS argument writing. We did a lesson on cats vs. dogs to introduce the language of claim, evidence, reasoning. It was so much fun! Here are some images from that lesson:

Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning Vocabulary based on Common Core definitions

I started by telling the class how much I LOVED my cats, and that we should all write about how awesome they are. I gave them 'evidence' to support my claim. And wouldn't you know...none of them agreed with me! 
Then they had time to work as tables to 'fix' my claim. These are some examples. We decided as a class to choose the opinion statement to work on the next day. 
Our final product, we worked together to create supporting evidence for our new claim. Finally we wrapped it all up in the reasoning statement. We will continue to use this language in all of our subjects. 
The second is that my intern and I are starting interactive math journals with our students. I picked up the amazing pack from from RundesRoom. If you haven't visited her website please go now. She's outstanding.
If you need ideas for math journals, go buy this now! Don't wait!
We started by modeling with the students our stations. There will be 3, and we are only doing them on Monday and Friday to start. Monday stations will be: guided teaching with me, IXL for independent work (great site if you need a math site for students!), and journaling with a small group and a student instructor from my homeroom. Friday stations will be: guided teaching with me, additional practice with my intern, and the journaling station to complete entries for an independent station. We set up our notebooks last Friday, modeled moving around the room, modeled what it sounds like...and now I just have to squish A LOT in the first day (doesn't that always happen!).

If you are in need of any teaching ideas, feel free to hop over to Pinterest and follow my Classroom Ideas page. Most of my pins are for 6th graders (or can be adapted). I pinned RundesRoom's interactive journal packet on there if you want to check it out. It is completely worth the investment.

And finally, with October starting, I hope that you have settled in and feel slightly more in control than you did in September. If you have parent conferences coming up, like I do, I wish you the very best. May all of your parents come in with open minds and a willingness to work together in the best interest of the student. I'll be back soon (I promise to post more than once a month!). Happy teaching!