It's over. How is it over already? In a flash it is gone.
"You should really plan an Edcamp for Las Vegas" or something along those lines is what got me started. I was hesitant but promised I would have lots of support. Flash forward to yesterday, August 2nd, 2014 and who knew it would all come together?
I woke up at 5 am after not being able to sleep for the past three nights, butterflies and a slight feeling of nausea decided to join the party. I loaded up the car and was only having a slight freakout as I pulled into SWCTA.
I was surprised to see so many volunteers there at 7 in the morning. We unloaded and started setting up right away. Craig and David started on the session board while everyone else did things from opening up rooms, hanging signs, setting up food and even starting to register people who showed up at 7:30.
The event got rockin' and rollin' really quick, folks were talking, brainstorming ideas, checking out Twitter, and of course jumping on that free coffee and bagels. As the session board was made, I tried to get the 200+ attendees excited for this new experience. Once we went over the basics I let em' loose.
As session 1 and 2 were going on, I was interacting in the sessions, loving the ideas, hearing great discussions from tech in the class to Genius Hour. It was a lot of fun! During session 3, Craig and I decided to do a Things That Suck session and it was awesome! We talked about Las Vegas Buffet (Great idea Craig!), Frozen, School Uniforms, Unfiltered Wifi, and so much more.
Finally it all came to an end once everyone was back in the ballroom. We did a raffle with amazing prizes from our sponsors, announced that Nevada FINALLY has and EdChat (@NevadaEdChat), and my good friend Devin told everyone they needed to take a selfie with me. All in all it was a whirlwind of a day. I got the feeling that you get when your student has an "Ah-ha" moment and your heart swells, tears of joy come to your eyes, and you see your labor of love transform into a reality. This is by far the most stressful, exciting, invigorating, and amazing thing I thought I could never do. Thank you so much to those of you who helped out and those of you who attended. I hope that if you didn't go that next year you will be sure to join us!
Check out the pictures below!
I was recently looking through some old files on my computer and stumbled upon my teaching philosophy from September of 2011. I instantly had to click onto it to see what I had written. Did I have the same philosophy? Did I feel completely different from just a few years ago? I HAD to know... so I clicked and learned quite a bit about my former and present self.
First off, I found out that I was soooo cheesy! "We need education like we need air; and allowing it to be free and plentiful is one of the greatest gifts that our students can take advantage of," if that isn't cheesy I don't know what is.
Secondly, my philosophy of education hasn't changed though my view of education has. I still enjoy the classroom and think that it needs to be about the kids. Little did I know in 2011 that education wasn't all it is cracked up to be. I wanted to use the latest and greatest strategy, be the best at grouping my students, and teach the important things.
While I do those things and so much more (as all teachers do) I didn't realize just how draining and exciting it would be. I wish that I could go back though and tell my 2011 self that it isn't as easy as I thought since I thought student teaching was a breeze, no worries or cares here ladies and gentlemen. Just an ordinary student teacher who thought she was all that HA!. Teaching has been one of the toughest things I have ever done. It could be from bouncing from grade level to grade level or for being a scatterbrain. Whatever the reason is, I don't care since it has all been worth it in the end.
One thing hasn't changed though and I hope never will. My former, eager, and overenthusiastic self said "In the end, it has always been about the students and it will always be about the students. From the moment I start until I retire I promise myself it will always be about them. "
I remember the first experience I had with differentiating in a classroom and man was I horrible at it. Three weeks after graduating college I was put into a second grade inclusion classroom with students who had already had three...yes three teachers before me. It wasn't easy and I got a lot of support from my team. In those six months that I was there, I learned that differentiating isn't easy but is necessary for every child.
Now enough of that, what I'm sure you want to know is how am I making it work now? Now differentiating is easier for me, while it is still not flawless, I have developed a system that has worked for me. Be forewarned, we don't do math rotations every single day. If my kids are struggling with a concept, we do it whole group and just nix the rotations.
Back to the rotations.... I'm sure that most of us have heard of the Daily 5 Reading and if you haven't, it is essentially a different way of looking centers and you let the students have their own choices. Really cool stuff if you ask me. I use the ideas from Daily 5 Reading to create my own version of Daily 5 Math. As you know, I am super geeky so of course there is technology included.
When first starting out, I assessed my students using a variety assessments; AIMS Web M-Comp, 3-minute math quiz, Discovery Education Assessment, and my own simple observations. Once I had decided where my students were at when it came to math, I created the sacred chart. Students were grouped depending on their scores from all of these different assessments. Once the groups were made, the fun began!
Typically, we do a Number Talks for the first part of our math session. My kids sit on the floor while I write a problem for them on the board for them to do mentally. After that, we usually go into a mini-lesson of what we are learning this week. This can range from 5 minutes to up to 20 or so. I just gauge where my kids are at and some days we end up skipping our math groups because I feel that they need more time.
On the days that we do our math groups my students have four rotations: Meet with Ms. Boucher, Sumdog.com (Computers), Math Worksheet/Math Facts, and Math Games.
When going on Sumdog.com (Computers), the students get to play for 10-15 minutes participating in contests, reinforcing their core skills, or practicing the standards that I have picked for that lesson. I can go onto Sumdog and decide how long I want my lessons to last as well as what standards I want my students to work on.
Meeting with Ms. Boucher is the most flexible of the four rotations. We will usually do a math problem in our math notebook (and more recently using the Educreations Application- Free on iTunes) and then reinforce the mini-lesson that we did that day. My students in the past two sessions have learned how to use the iPad and have even recorded their own math problems. (If you would like to see examples, please feel free to contact me).
Math Games come from K-5 Math Teaching Resources and are easy to use. Each game is linked to a standard, has instructions, and even has the materials needed for the games. The kids love to play these and have 2-3 games to pick from each week.
Math Worksheet/Math Facts can be done independently or with a partner, this is really when the students show what they know. The math worksheet is whatever we have learned about that day and should only take 5-10 minutes. I wanted to keep all of my rotations under 15 as I have 11 boys who are bored after that amount of time ;)
When they are done, my students do Math Facts which is just flash cards that I have made out of construction paper. They get a new set every 2-3 weeks, one to keep at home and one set to keep at school.
After I have rotated with all of my students, they get ready to transition into the next subject. I have found this system to work much better than typical lecturing and doing everything with the students. When learning a new skill like we did this week, I kept the students at their desk majority of the time and we used manipulatives and went through each problem together.
I am not opposed to doing this when needed, but I have found that I can really see where my students are struggling when they come back with me that I never want to go back to the old way. I love my math groups, I love the technology used, and I also love the independence that my students are learning.
How do you structure your math time? What works for you and what doesn't?
I would love to hear what you use in your classroom!
Have a great rest of the week and
5 Things That Changed The Way I Teach
First off, I apologize for not putting up a blog last week and being a few hours late this week. I had family in town and forgot to post before they came in.
Secondly, I had such a great time at the EMU (Educational Meet Up) sponsored by CCSD last week and can't wait to attend another one! Check it out and join us if you are a CCSD teacher, you won't regret it!
Anyways... enough of that awesomeness (It's a word right?) and on with the show! Here are 5 things (applications, websites, etc.) that have changed the way that I teach both in and out of the classroom.
So there you have it, my list of 5 things that have changed the way I teach. There are a TON of resources out there and there are a lot more that have changed the way I teach. I hope that these 5 are diverse enough to get you started thinking about doing cool and exciting things in your classroom
Keep on searching the internet and share your favorite websites with me!
Have a great rest of the week and don't forget to share your favorite resources with me, I can't wait to see what you use in your class!
Those are the first two words that come to mind when I think about my first year as a struggling teacher. After those two words though, I remember how much a single classroom with 19 adoring kids changed my life forever.
It was an awesome day, Monday, January 3rd, 2012 to be exact. It was my first day as a long term sub position that I would eventually turn into a permanent teaching position. The walk into the school was a whirlwind of emotions. I had only graduated a few weeks earlier and had only been to this school one time for the interview. I had read books on how to teach, went to college for this. How hard could it be? Nonetheless, I was scared, nervous, and overall so excited to have a class to finally call mine. I brought a notebook and pen with me not really sure of what to except.
I was greeted with another teacher and was told that I would be the students fourth teacher of the year. I also found out in the days to come that I was the inclusion classroom. I had students who had fetal alcohol syndrome, low I.Q.'s, Autism, were non-verbal, and one student who constantly threatened lives and could only read at a kinder level. What did I get myself into?
Everything seemed to be going smoothly for the most part. At my first grade level meeting t we got a lot of work done and the lovely ladies in my grade level let me copy their lesson plans considering I was so lost. Then, February hit. Out of nowhere I was hit with a migraine that didn't go away for days which turned into an entire month of hospital visits, I missed my first Valentine's Day party, I had MRA, CT, and MRI scans. Nothing the doctors gave me would help my through the day. What did I get myself into?
What did help though is seeing my kids and how excited they were to play a new game, learn about their favorite animals, or sort our words with our interactive whiteboard. They came in everyday with an eagerness to learn and how could I bring them down? Most days went well, and some went not so well. Tantrums, crying, screaming, and fighting. What did I get myself into?
I was stuck in the "Disillusionment Phase" where you feel that everything is falling apart and you constantly ask yourself "What did I get myself into?" so I decided on 5 simple steps that will help you get through this phase. Remember, "This too shall pass."
1. Leave at 5 o'clock (Unless it is time for report cards then you stay all night)
While I don't really enforce the 5 o'clock rule, I try to only stay as long as I really need to but never past dinner. As teachers, we are perfectionist and we want everything to be perfect. Our bulletin boards, our centers, our books, and everything else. As a first year teacher, it is impossible and that is okay. LET ME REPEAT... it is OKAY! When our kids enter our class, they are not prepared for the end of the year goals so why should we try to be prepared for the end of our career goals? There will always be work to be done as a teacher so just do what is important for the next day or two and go home. Your couch misses you.
2. Rely on Your Peers
I was always so afraid to ask the other teachers for help my first year and that didn't work out so well. I soon found out that I needed them as much as they needed me. Your peers have been through it, so don't feel bad leaning on them. If you don't lean on them then who will they lean on when they need someone? Don't worry, they will tell you if you are too reliant on them, teachers are blunt like that. ;) All jokes aside, your peers either in real life or on the internet, are there to help you. When you succeed, they succeed so don't be afraid. If you are afraid, you can always contact me, I get it, it is a scary world in that new school and the feeling of the new kid stinks sometimes.
3. Remember What the Job is About
The kids. It is all about the kids. Make 'em happy, be fair, be consistent, and don't forget to be fun. If you do that then the kids will be happy too. I always say to work hard and be nice. With that simple of a rule, everything is covered. Even when I had headaches that brought me to the verge of tears, I always made sure to smile for my kids, they need that love. Remember, you might be the only adult they really connect with everyday so make it a positive.
4. Don't Go Back to High School
Gossip is so 90's and so totally lame. Just don't do it. It will make your first year a lot easier. Plus, I'm pretty sure you should be making up cool new lesson plans instead.
5. Don't Give Up
Nothing compares to teaching. It is the greatest feeling in the world to work with a student all year long and to see them succeed. I encountered a student who never ever received one-hundred percent on any of her spelling tests. I told her she would get one-hundred percent and I promised that I would work with her until she got it. You already know that she got that one-hundred percent, and man did she deserve it. It brought her and her family to tears, and I got the greatest feeling of accomplishment. She did it and I couldn't be more proud.
No matter what happens, or what goes wrong. The kids need you and they will remember you. There is nothing in this world that I would rather do than teach. I don't get up to teach for the money, I do it for the kids. Even just a second of an "ah-ha" moment is enough for me to push through the school year. You will feel it to, and you will love teaching if you don't give up. I promise.
There you have it. I know it is rough, but you will make it through. I ended up with no headaches and was crying on the last day of school like a baby. I miss those sweet faces all the time and don't know how I would be the teacher that I am today without a little bit of struggling.
So, just what was I thinking so long ago when I decided to be a teacher? I was thinking that this has got to be the most amazing job in the world. Man was I right.
Questions? Concerns? Hit me up in the Contact section above or follow me on Twitter @MsGeekyTeach
“The effects you will have on your students are infinite and currently unknown; you will possibly shape the way they proceed in their careers, the way they will vote, the way they will behave as partners and spouses, the way they will raise their kids.”
― Donna Quesada
Table Top Blogs
At the beginning of the year my school was told that we would be partaking in the Writing Academy which is a professional development offered here in my school district. Oh the moans and groans were heard when we were told that every other Wednesday morning and every Staff Development day until January would be full of this Writing Academy. Yuck! However, I am an optimistic person and personally struggle with writing so what was there to lose? Well, the second week in I fell in love with these Table Top Blogs and wanted to share them with the world! So, here I am sharing these wonderful works of awesome with you.
First off, this is a great way to get kids engaged and critically thinking. Second, they also have to work together and collaborate with one another which is something that not all second graders are able to do yet.
I first decided on using five of my comprehension questions from my Trophies story of the week. This was an easy way to introduce them and a much more exciting way then taking a test. I wrote down the questions on large pieces of paper and set them around on the floor, desks, etc. Really, just anywhere where the students were able to circle around and write on the paper at the same time.
I then divided the students up into groups by counting off into five groups. Each person in the group had to grab a marker or highlighter but the trick is that they can't pick the same one as someone else in their small group. Ha! I love accountability! Moving on from my evil teacher ways, I set the timer for two minutes and told the students that they had to answer the question in the center of their paper. They were not allowed to copy another answer and if they saw something they liked or agreed with they could put a smiley face, heart, check mark or write "I agree" next to the answer.
With all of the wiggling and clicking of caps I knew they were ready to go so I hit start on my timer and away they went. I'm going to interject and say that two minutes is the perfect amount of time. They have time to talk to neighbors, share ideas, and write. They have almost no time to mess around which I loved. I would jump into their conversations and ask them engaging questions, write my own answers on the blogs, and when the timer went off we switched. Fifteen minutes later they were done and talking about how they couldn't wait to do it again and again. (I was already deciding on what to say when I received the award for the most awesome teacher, that is how excited I was about these blogs.)
So from that day on, we have done Table Top blogs at least once a week. We use them currently for reading and social studies. Next week we will be using them for writing and math. Turns out days and days of unpaid professional development isn't a wait of time, it is actually one of the best things I have done in my class.
If you have questions or see any mistakes here, hit me up in the Contact section.
Be sure to check me out on Twitter, I follow a bunch of awesome educators and love talking to other teachers!
Sara Boucher is a K-5 Technology Teacher who is developing her own set of super geeks and loves what she does.