Monday, May 25, 2015

Not Your Typical Friendship Fruit Salad

As a former Kindergarten teacher I have always enjoyed doing the Friendship Fruit Salad activity- you know the one where your students bring in different kinds of fruit and you talk about how the different fruits represent the different children in the classroom.  It's a great community building activity that shows that everyone is special and different but we can all make something amazing when you put us together.  Then, you bring in a very old, mushy banana.  You start to put it in the fruit salad and hopefully someone tells you not to because it's old, disgusting and will make it all taste really bad.  That's when you tell them that the rotten banana represents the times when students misbehave or are mean to each other.  You tell them that you don't want the rotten banana in the fruit salad, just like the students in the classroom don't want someone in the classroom who is always mean or misbehaving.  You decide as the teacher not to put the rotten banana in the fruit salad and you ask students to promise to try not to be rotten bananas in the classroom.

Well, as a 3rd grade teacher this activity is do-able, but kind of babyish.  BUT, I decided to put a 3rd grade spin on it.  I decided to make it into a close reading activity.  One of the first standards we focus on is RL3.1- the one about asking and answering questions and referring explicitly to the text for the answer.  I wrote a close reading story and some 5W questions.  I am going to teach my students a color-coding system at the beginning of the year when they are just beginning to refer explicitly to the text for their answers. They will highlight the answer to each of the 5W questions with a different color of crayon/colored pencil.  This gets them used to highlighting the text, and it provides them with practice finding the answers in the text.

I am also including a proficiency scale I made for RL3.1 skills for first quarter- we will add more rigor to the scale as we go throughout the school year- this is just the beginning skills for this standard.  Here are some pictures of the activity and grab the freebie at my TpT store Friendship Fruit Salad: A Close Reading Activity

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Collaborating for Success with the Common Core Chapter 2

Change is so hard! I really don't know why, but we fight it so much in education when we are asked to change the way we are doing something. I think partly it is because we feel so helpless to the change- we are not in charge of it at all and have little or no say in the process- we are just told to do it. And, if you've been in education long enough, you will eventually see everything cycle back around just in a different package or with different words. So, I completely understand why people are reluctant to change to the Common Core.  Especially, when our politicians at the state levels are getting pressure from constituents that don't like the Common Core because they themselves don't want things to change.  It's so political and so frustrating!
This chapter does talk about changes in expectations as people transition to the Common Core Standards.  In ELA, it talks about seven different changes:
1. Text complexity
2. Informational text
3. Interdisciplinary literacy
4. Close reading
5. Text analysis
6. Argumentative writing
7. Academic vocabulary and language
With some of these, we just need to shift our thinking a little to provide different types of activities; with others, we need to completely rethink what we've been doing.
In mathematics, there are four main shifts:
1. Fewer but more focused standards
2. Habits of mind- these are the mathematical practices standards.
3. Progression of skills and concepts
4. Procedural fluency (Right now I disagree with this one- I think we're NOT focusing on procedural fluency in the early stages of implementing the standards because we need to get them caught up on all the gaps they have because we are still transitioning to the standards from the old standards. So, I think this will come back to bite us later when we have students at the higher grades that have fluency gaps because they were some of the first classes to be taught with just the Common Core Standards.)
Again, with some of these it's just a little change in mindset, but other requires a complete overhaul of what we've done before.

The next part of the chapter is called Getting Aboard the Change Train. It talks about how this type of transitioning is a second order change- one that is not incremental but one that requires new thinking and a new direction for the school organization.  It requires a change in the culture in order to make it happen. This is what we are dealing with at our school and in our district. We are not recognizing that it is a second-order change and we're treating it like a change that just has incremental steps- the first year, Kindergarten will implement the standards, the second year 1st and 2nd grade will implement the standards, the third year, 3-12 will implement the standards. That's what we did really- we didn't look at changing the culture of our school and district as we make the shift.  And now, we're struggling because we didn't do it right in the first place...

The chapter continued on to talk about the five important steps that are needed. It is based on John Kotter's change model.
Step 1: Create a sense of urgency. People need to understand the reasons for the change and believe it will make a difference for their students. It is also important when doing this to understand and manage self-concerns and task concerns. What support will there be? What is the big picture?
Step 2: Build a Guiding Coalition. Create a team of people who have different areas of expertise that can work together to help with the implementation. As always (but it's rarely done correctly and thoroughly IMO) these teams needs to clarify their purpose, establish team norms, set team goals, define team member roles and focus on the work ahead.
Step 3: Create and Communicate a Vision. Teachers need opportunities to discuss how the envision the school if all students are to be successful with the rigorous expectations of the CCSS. Teachers need to understand why the school/district is making the change, how the change process will occur and what the expectations for each teacher or team will be.
Step 4: Empower Everyone. It is necessary to empower ALL the stakeholders!!! That's so important, but sometimes SO hard to do!  This section was interesting to me because it talks about establishing a loose-tight relationship between leadership decisions and resulting team products. The DuFours and Marzano both talk about the importance of building shared leadership responsibilities so that collaborative teams can make some, but not all, decisions. It states: "Teams are empowered to complete their work in whatever way works best for them around loose expectations but they must follow the expectations of the leadership when completing tight tasks. Of course, the leadership team must be clear about what will be tight as their schools move through this process."
I like this because it provides teams with things that we must do, but doesn't dictate to us HOW to do these things. It gives us the freedom to make it work for our team, while still having things that everyone agrees upon and agrees to do.
Step 5: Celebrate Short-Term Wins. This is so hard at my school. We do recognize people/teams in staff meetings etc... but either it doesn't feel genuine or it feels like we are all in competition or that our administrations is playing favorites...but I think that's a school culture problem that we have to work on...
Good chapter- but nothing earth-shattering that I didn't know before... the next chapters get more in depths into the process.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Collaborating for Success with the Common Core book study

I have decided to do a personal book study of the book Collaborating for Success with the Common Core A Toolkit for Professional Learning Communities at Work.  In March, my administration took a team of teachers to the PLC Summit with the DuFours, Tim Kanold, and Doug Fisher.  It was life-changing and amazing. Here we are with Becky DuFour and Tim Kanold.

As a district, we've been calling ourselves Professional Learning Communities for about 5 years now, but we still have such a long way to go as a district, as a school and as grade level teams.  My administration is new (only been at our school for two years) and we have a lot of problems that need to be fixed/resolved before we can truly function as Professional Learning Communities.  I chose this book as one of many that I hope to read summer to help our team and school.
Each day, I hope to blog about one chapter's A-Ha moments and important ideas.  I know that no one really reads my blog. But, I am doing this more for me to get my thoughts down that for anyone to read it...

Chapter 1: Understanding the Common Core Standards
This chapter was a basic overview of the Common Core Standards. I feel very familiar with the Common Core standards for a couple of reasons: 1) For the previous 3 years in Kindergarten we've been using Common Core standards exclusively; 2) Because I sell on TpT, I feel that I need to have a good understanding of the standards so I can make items that are aligned well to those standards; 3) I am just weird like that.
This chapter also reinforced the idea of the 4 guiding questions which shape our planning:
1) What do we want our students to learn?
2) How will we know if our students are learning?
3) How will we respond if our students are learning?
4) How will we extend and enrich the learning for students who are already proficient?
These are not new questions to be- our lesson plan format is based on these 4 questions.  But, the interesting addition to this was question "2.5" as the authors called it- What effective practices will lead to student learning of essential skills and concepts, including 21st century skills?
This part hit home with me a little because, although I know these four questions, we don't really USE this four questions in our team meetings.  So, as we plan this summer I need to make sure that we focus on these 4 (or 5) questions.
The chapter went on to discuss the shifts in the Common Core and getting familiar with the structure of the standards- all things that we've done before as a school and district.
I look forward to reading and writing more tomorrow.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Behavior Proficiency Scale

We are officially checked out and on summer break!  Woo Hoo!  This year, due to budget cuts, we have a furlough day this Friday which is usually a teacher work day.  So we had to get everything done and checked out before Friday.  Kind of challenging to get everything done, but we made it!
But, of course, I never stop working even when the end is near.

We have seven standards on our teacher evaluation system.  Standard 5 is called Learning Environment.  Here's what it says: The teacher uses resources, routines and procedures to provide a respectful, positive, safe, student-centered environment that is conducive to learning. We are evaluated on these standards and given a score of "Highly Effective", "Effective", "Partially Effective", or "Ineffective."  To get a "highly effective" it says: "In addition to meeting the standard, the teacher creates a dynamic learning environment that maximizes learning opportunities and minimizes disruptions within an environment in which students self-monitor behavior."

So, I needed something to use with my students that allowed them to self-monitor their behavior throughout the day.  We use a 4,3,2,1 scale for report cards- Exceeds, Meets, Approaches, Fall Below so the students are familiar with this scale.  Here's a picture of what I created.  I am going to make it into a poster anchor chart for the classroom. At the end of each day, students evaluate their behavior throughout the day and decide which number they should receive. They privately show me their score and I agree or disagree. They write their numbers in their agenda and give a reason why they received that score.  Parents will be aware of this proficiency scale and will read what their child wrote and initial it.  ** Please note: after I pinned this, someone commented that I should be sensitive to "brown-skinned" children because the pictures show "brown-skinned" children with the lower behavior score.  That was NOT my intention at all- it was just the clip art I had... so, as not to offend or make some children in my classroom feel they could not achieve the higher scores, I revised the proficiency scale to just the numbers. See below.  But I kept the children as well, so you can choose which one you want to use.

Get it here as a freebie at my TpT store: Behavior Proficiency Scale
Hope it's something you might be able to use!

Happy Summer!