Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Are you the oddball of Classes? - Teach Like a Pirate - Chapter 5

Are you the Oddball of Classes or is your class like everyone around you?  Yes, we all try to decorate our classrooms and make them unique in their own way, but come on - we all know that decorations only hold a kids attention for a certain period of time, and then what does?  What makes your class stand out?  What makes kids want to come to your room to learn?  What makes your class the one all parents want their child in?  Are you the Oddball of classes?

These are questions that Dave asks and want us to consider.  Do we really want to be the same boring class that most kids are going to?  Why are kids not excited about school anymore?  I was when I was a kid.  Maybe it is because we have more to compete with.  Video Games, Computers, Ipads, Etc.  So what creative things are we going to do to bring their attention and engagement in?

Here is a couple of questions Dave asks us to ponder:

1) If your students didn't have to be there, would you be teaching an empty room?
      - Yep, would they be there if they didn't have too?

2) Do you have any lessons you could sell tickets for?
       - Do you have lessons that are so cool everyone wants to come and now you have limited space?

So how do we do this?  How do we create these classrooms?
According to Dave - mix lessons with entertainment - yep, you heard that right.

Positioning - Why should students listen to us?  Believe me, because their parents made them. or because the principal says to, or because they  have low grades means diddly squat to a student at my school (at least most of them).  What is in it for them?  That is what we have to figure out.  Again, it could be different for each group or each student, and yes we have to serve and meet all their needs.

Reframing - So not only do we have to position ourselves as a person who should be listened to, but we have to reframe our content to have purpose in a students life.  I know as a teacher when I have had students hit the point where they are transitioning from picture books to chapter books, the desire to read takes a tremendous drop.  Why, my guess, they have to now visualize what is going on by themselves instead of having a picture to do it for them.  So Why read chapter books?  How do we go about reframing the students mind to help them understand what reading chapter books can do for them.

So Dave gives a great example in his book on page 63 of his son using quarters to get something out of a "bubble - gum" machine.  The child's friends had gotten a dinosaur and dragon tattoo, and he son pulled out a bracelet with hearts on it.  Devastating for a little boy who's friends got all this cool stuff, but the minute his dad (Dave) called it Pirates Treasure, all was good.  He reframed the bracelet from being a silly girly thing to being cool pirates treasure.

How can you reframe some of your lessons to be more like pirates treasure and less like a girly braclet?

Link up with Lisa @ Growing with Firsties for her comments on Chapter 5, and then click on the button below to go to the masters of this book study to link up with lots of others who are reading and blogging as we go through each chapter.   


Monday, June 24, 2013

Are you tuned in to creativity - Think like a Pirate - Chapter 4

We all like creative lessons, but coming up with them can be  hard when it is sunday evening and you have to get lessons done for the next day.  

Dave asks "are you asking the right questions" or "are you waiting for the idea to drop into your lap?"


We are taught in training to become a teacher to ask open ended questions so we get good answers, but are we asking ourselves questions about our lesson plans in a positive open ended way or a negative - only one answer way?

Examples (I came up with these myself off of Dave's Examples)
                   Positive                                                                    Negative
How can I add manipulatives to this lesson?           Is there a way to add manipulatives to this lesson? 
How can I word this to make it intresting?              Can I change this to make it intresting?

Have you ever had to attend a workshop about something that you are going to be "required" to implement in your classroom?  If you are like me, panic sets in.  How am I going to do this on top of everything else?  Why should I change what I'm doing if it is already working?   Then you get to the workshop, listen and participate in activities, and go "I'm already doing this" it is like _____________.  (Fill in the blank)  Why - because all the sudden what we had been doing becomes more important and we are tuned into it.  Just like if you start working on more creative ideas in your classroom, you will see more creative ideas around you.

Hello - You mean as we practice it, it will become easier?  YEP - same thing we teach our students.

6 Words  - So 6 Words is a story Dave tells.  It is about a lady who says "It is easy for you.  You're creative."  Dave goes onto explain that 1 - he doesn't feel it was easy, he spent 16 years brainstorming and coming up with ideas and 2 - the lady essentiallly just said she wasn't creative.
   How many times do we think the same way?  How many times do we hear from a student "I can't" or "but ____________ is so smart, it is easy for them?"  Are we taking the easy way out?  Are we letting our students have an excuse?  Maybe it is time for us (okay me) to stop making excuses and to start putting that little effort in and ask the right questions.  I need to tune into my creativity radio station.  

The Real Law of Attraction - In order to get what you want, you must decide what that is an WORK for it.  Yep, you must try to get it.   "Ideas are great, but implementation is the key." (pg 44)  
As I read this section, all I could think of was all the times I came up with or liked an idea, and then didn't follow through or said "but my class couldn't do that ".  Maybe it is time I implemented more, and tried.  

Designing a System to Capture Ideas - Do you have a way to record your ideas as they come?  Do you have a way to write down that amazing idea?  Dave says we must, because I'll do it later, means it won't happen.  I don't know about you, but I keep my phone with me at all times.  I pretty sure we all have a way of taking a note or two on that.

Make It Easy -  Keep things simple, make it easy to record ideas and write them down

Failure vs Feedback - So all this is great, but what happens when things don't go right? Have I failed?  According to Dave we can look at it that way or we can look at it as feedback.  What were the students telling me about the lesson that wasn't engaging?  I don't know about you, but who says every class has to be taught the same?  Sometimes each class finds different things engaging.  No biggie, it is the same objectives, right?  When those students are chatty instead of engaged, maybe the feedback is "Hello, we are bored".  Look for the feedback, not the success or failure.

Creative Alchemy - Use your outside interests to find creative ways to do things in your classroom.  Bring your loves in.  It may not come immediately, but keep trying.

Link up with Kate and see her summary on Teach Like a Pirate - Ask and Analyze.  The head over to the main blog and see what others said.  Click on Kate's name to access her thoughts, and the button below to find others.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Behavior Management or Engagement Management - Teach Like a Pirate Chapter 3

Okay - I know, its late.  I just got my book in the mail Tuesday, and I am just now getting to Chapter 3. Forgive me, but there will be at least 4 posts today on Teach Like a Pirate. 

I'm in the Ship and ready to go.  I must get caught up.

Here we go!!!

Engagement - Why is it one year a lesson works great, the students are engaged, and grasping the concept and the next year, they aren't?  My lesson didn't change?  My way of implementing the lesson didn't change? The concept to be taught didn't change? What changed, THE STUDENTS!!!! What works for one group, might not work for another group.  So how do we make it so the next years group stays engaged?  HELLO - FIND OUT WHAT THEY LIKE!!!  Sorry, all caps has to do with I just hit myself in the forehead and went DUH!!!  That is where Rapport comes in.  What isn't that helps this group of students to be engaged?

You mean that I must learn what each student likes, and get to know them?  YEP!!  So as I'm reading, I'm thinking about all those interest surveys I have seen.  Maybe I should use those, but that would be more paperwork.  That isn't much fun.  I don't have time to talk and have a here is what my life is about conversation with each individual student.  So how do we do it?  How do we build rapport?

        -  How did what we read in class connect to your life?  Remind you of something?
        -  Did you hear what happened on the news?  Maybe that can lead you to learning something.
        -  Hello, Writing - I have learned so much from my students through their writing.
        -  Everything we do on a daily basis, leads us to learn more about each student.

But then aren't we becoming more like friends and not teachers?  Doesn't this allow for them to take advantage of us? Not if we model appropriate behavior according do Dave Burgess.

We have all been taught to get procedures taught at the beginning to have a successful classroom.  Yea, so - Ive done that and six weeks down the road, I feel like it has been a wasted effort.  Why do it?  Dave puts it in a great way.  "Nothing is more important to me than creating the proper atmosphere right from the start. No content standard matters to me until I have established the safe, supportive, and positive classroom environment I need to successfully teach my students." (Teach Like a Pirate, pg 22)

Light bulb went off - Hello, Procedures are what create the right atmosphere.  Now it makes sense, it isn't about the actual procedure, it is about the atmosphere in the classroom it creates where a student can feel safe, supported, and encouraged.

Dave's first few days:

Day One -
      - Intro as into a movie theater
      -  Class is being hosted, not taught
      - One rule - NO MEANNESS (it is in all caps in the book too)
      - Playdoh activity (yes, he teaches High School and does this, so why can't we)
                - Create something that represents you
                       - Must be school appropriate
                - As host, I will ask you a couple questions about the item and your name
                - This allows me to go around and have conversations with students.
     - Part of building rapport is getting the students to know each others names and who each other is

Day Two -
     -  Collaborative Group Activity
     - 10 Stranded people, and can only save 5
     - Sorry fellow readers, but this is one you almost have to read to get.  I can't explain it with out rewriting they whole thing.

Day Three -
     -  Convincing the students  they can be successful no matter what their past school experience has been.

Wow, that was a long chapter.  All in all, build relationships, they are important.

Now for a brief break, and then for chapter 4. 

Hope you are having an amazing weekend.

Link up with Jana from Thinking Out Loud to see what her thoughts are on Chapter 3.  Don't forget to click on other peoples links to see their views of chapter 3.  Just click the button below to get started.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Shhhhh!!!! - It's time for the Book Whisperer

Yes, I know.  I'm doing three book studies at once.  Hope I can keep up with it all.

Chapter 1 is where we begin.  First of all, I love reading book written by teachers who are still in the classroom.  They seem so real.

A comment in her introduction, really hit home with me. Donalyn Miller on page 2 says "They (the children) don't read well enough; they don't read often enough; and if you talk to children, they will tell you that they don't see reading as meaningful in their life."   What do you mean they don't see it as meaningful, why not?  Could it be because it makes them think a little and sitting in front of the TV or computer is easier to do?  So how do we change it?  I can't wait to find out.

"A trail of worksheets from a teacher to their students does not build a connection with readers, only books do."  Powerful quote...how can we expect students to learn to love reading only from practice passages and worksheets?

Okay, so all that above came just from the introduction.  Now in to the real chapter one.

I have to admit as I read chapter one, there wasn't really anything that totally struck me as new.  As a teacher with 11 years experience teaching a variety of grade levels, every situation seemed familiar to me.  The one thing I have noticed and agree with, is as students get older their interest in reading tends to lessen.  I haven't figured this one out.  Is it because you don't have picture clue and visualizing is harder to do? Is it because you have to infer a little more? Is it because it seems like fewer students have books at home, or are encouraged to read at home?  

I am ready for chapter 2 and I hope I can get. Few ahha's out of it.  Happy Reading.


Link up with "We Blog, We Read, We Teach" to see what others are saying.  Just click on the button below.

Friday, June 14, 2013

NERDS - Word Nerds that is!!!!

I know, I'm late, but I just got my book in late yesterday (Thursday 6/13/13), and haven't gotten a chance to start reading till today.  Here goes nothing.

So of course, like most books - Chapter 1 starts off with why is vocabulary instruction important. We all know the obvious - so we understand what we are reading, but there is more.  One thing that is said in the beginning of the book that really stuck with me was the authors quote from research done by Keith Stanovich (1986) where he hypothesized that "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer" because the vocabulary gap often actually widens as students advance through school.  Well doesn't this make sense.  As our student age, the ones who have the ability to "see the World" do, and get to add that rich vocabulary, while our ones who can't go out and do things, miss that vocabulary and fall further behind.  But how are we suppose to fill all those gaps?  Why doesn't the definition, picture, use your own word, and put it in a sentence for us work?  Why can't they take the word we give them and use them in their writing and conversations? Maybe the same reason spelling words don't work (or at least didn't for me), they memorize them while they have to, but 3 months down the line, can't remember to save their lives.  So what now?  Where do we go?  How do we incorporate?

Here what Research has told them:
    1.  Some words are more important to teach than others!
           -  No I'm not talking cuss words (what teacher would want to teach those)
           -  I'm talking those high frequency words that will be used across all subjects
    2. Students have to learn words at more than one level (They need to know them deeply)
    3.  Students learn words when they experience them multiple times
          - Hello!!! Ding Dong!!!  The light went on, the door opened.  We don't expect our kids to learn
            their multiplication facts in one sitting, what is the difference with new words.
    4.  Asking student to look up words and write definitions from the dictionary DOESN'T HELP!
          - WHAT???? WAIT A MINUTE!!!! That is what we have always done, why not.
          -  Disclaimer - if it is a student friendly dictionary using everyday language, it cold help
                  -  OKAY - I get it now. (Sorry for the commentary, but this is fun)
    5.  Word Schemas - Can we say Context Clues
         - Patterns to connect meanings of words
         - Infering word meaning from context clues in a story
    6.  Students can learn some words through use of wide reading.
         - What make them read more......SHHHHH - don't tell my students, but I may have to increase
              their homework to include more reading.
        - Reading a wide range of books (Vocarious Reading )
    7. Students can learn through rich conversations with adults and peers
        - Oh No.....You mean I should let the talk more.....If I must.   Maybe I should join in on the 
          conversation to facilitate that rich conversations.  "Get in the Pool"
    8.  Students can learn some words through play
       -  Play - We don't do that in 6th Grade - maybe playing with words through song and art will be
   9.  Students can learn SOME words by direct instruction
       -  Okay everyone, that says SOME, not all.
 10.  Most students need word - learning strategies to become successful readers.

Now all we have to do is start a Systematic way of Teaching Vocabulary, and I know at least for me, figuring out how to incorporate it in with all the other things I must teach.  However, if it will really allow my students to improve their learning, then maybe something else needs to be lessened to focus on Vocabulary instruction.  More to come with Chapter 2 and how that Systematic Way of Teaching Vocabulary works - The meat and potatoes.

Till next week, I hope you understood my notes.  Also, don't forget to link up with Sabra at Teaching with a Touch of Twang to see what she and others have to say about Chapter 1.  Just click on the Word Nerds Button Below.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Are you in the pool or on the side? - Teach Like a Pirate Chapter 2

I have to start this post with a disclaimer.  I had to read off the preview as I am still waiting for my book.  With this said I am not sure I got to read all of chapter 2.

Are you on the side of the pool?
     I really enjoy Burgess' connection to a swim coach standing by the pool.  This probably has something to do with the fact I was a competitive swimmer in the past.  I guess the question I really need to ask, is am I the teacher who just tells the kids what to do and sit back and just wait for them to do it.  Sometime this can seem like what needs to be done.  I don't know about you, but sometimes I wish it was that simple so I could get all my paper work and grading done.  However, is this really benefiting the students?  Isn't this the time when you feel like they get what you are teaching the least.  This also seems to be what causes the kids to say "she goes to fast," or "she doesn't help me."  Sometimes I feel like I have to be the coach on the outside because I'm looking for that kid that is trying to pull another kid under, those behavior friends we have?

Are you in the pool?
    Are you the teacher who is in the pool?  Are you doing one on one conferences? Are you doing small groups? Are you going to those students and showing them the small things that make them just a little bit more successful?  I believe we all start off wanting to be this teacher.  The one who is in the middle of it all.  The one who has a class of complete engagement with the students totally focused on what is going on.  How many students need us to be totally immersed in what we are doing because it may be the only time during the day that someone shows them they are cared about?  

Is it fair for us to grade a child based on the sidelines (papers only) or should we grade them based on their growth, thinking, and effort (discussion, responses). I know last year I was bad about grading from the sidelines.  I felt like I had to have that paper.  How was that fair to my ELL Learners and my students with learning disabilities?  Just because they read the question and interpreted it differently or could truly explain there thoughts in written words, doesn't mean they don't have all the material.  Maybe if I would immerse myself in my teaching, I would find a few thing to be true:
     1.  I would have more engagement
     2.  I would know who was truly struggling and who wasn't and needed to be challenged
     3.  I would have more fun, and so would my students
    4. My students would feel like their teacher cared.

Till Sunday with Chapter 3.  May your week be blessed with fun and immersion in what ever you may be doing.

Want to see what others are saying?  Link up with Marie from "The Hands-On Teacher" and see her summary of Chapter 2 that she has. Just Click on the button below.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

ARGH.....Teach Like a Pirate Chapter 1

Teach Like a Pirate - Chapter 1

So as I started reading this book, one of the first things I came across in the introduction was:

"Pirates are daring, adventurous, and willing to set forth into uncharted territories with no guarantee of success."

- That describes any teacher at any building with any class.  Here comes this new crew of kids, and we are going to try to incorporate new learning and new material into their brains, with the hope of them taking this knowledge and showing their mastery in an assessment of some sort.  Can we guarantee each child's success, no!  We don't control their home life, their social life, or what they may face outside the school day.  We can only control what we teach and pray that it is enough to lead them to success.

Question 1 - What are you passionate about in your teaching?  - Me, I am passionate about helping those students who are struggling with reading find the one thing that makes reading a joy instead of a chore.  If I had all the money in the world, I would be volunteering at low academic achieving, low income schools and helping those students who need that extra care that is almost impossible to give during a busy school day. 
Question 2 - What ignites a fire inside you? - This past year I had a sixth grader who came to me from another country and due to language couldn't even tell me his colors or shapes.  The joy, the my "heart grew three times bigger that day" (How the Grinch stole Christmas), that I felt is what ignites me.  To see the growth, the passion, the light bulb in my students when they begin to succeed is what makes me want to continue my passion as a teacher.
Question 3 - What is your personal passion? - I'm not sure I would call it a passion, but my stitching.  Can it be considered a passion if you never seem to find the time to do it?  Is that right?  

If you want to see Mary from Guided-Math giver her summary and retell of Chapter one, head on over to her blog by clicking the link below.

  Guided - Math   

Or go here and see what others are saying.



Monday, June 10, 2013

I Survived!!!! - Monday Made It 2013

Well, what can I say?  It has been a long crazy year.  75+ sixth graders, 177 teaching days, 2 STAAR tests, too many Curriculum Assessments to count, 3 Field Trips, packing up a classroom, and I can say I survived the 2012-2013 school year.  Some days I wondered if I would, let me tell you , this crew kept me on my toes, and wore me out on a daily basis.  

I have to say the ending to this year was bitter sweet.  I really enjoy the school I am at, but evidently God has other plans for me right now.  Due to a new school being built in the area, I have lost my current position at my campus and have been added to the "surplus" list.  Meaning, I have a job next year with my district, but where, what grade, what subject(s), only the lord knows his plan for that right now.  I also have applied to other districts here in the DFW metroplex, actually been applying since January, and still haven't heard anything.  This is a tough situation for me, but I know come the end of the summer I will be where God wants me and needs me.

Now on to some fun things:  MONDAY MADE ITS - Well okay, things I made/used through out the year, that I will be recreating for my next class, no matter what age/grade/subject.  Kinda hard to make new things when you don't know where you will be.  Would love ideas on something that can be versatile in any classroom.


You may remember me blogging about making these bookbags last year.  2 Gallon Ziplock bags with Duck Tape on all edges.  Well let me tell you, they stood up GREAT! No torn sides, no broken bags, no "my bag ripped", or "I can't find mine."  They were wonderful.  I had 3 big bins that these were stored in based on class.  It was wonderful to be able to have the kids move their bins with them to homeroom during district or state testing and know they all had books.  Why didn't I just save them for next year you ask?  Well, they were in such good shape at the end of the year, I decided it would be a great collection method for all their journals.  So, I stacked them all up, gave them to the first block teacher for each class, and journal adding we did.  What did we fit in them, Here is the list:

Science Journal,  Science Workbook
Social Studies Journal
Math Journal
Grammar Workbook,
Writing Journal and Folder
Reading Journal and Workbook

Yep it all fit.  Here is a picture of the stack, you can see they are still in tack.

Made It #2 - Emergency Binder/Phone Numbers 

We all have to have our Crisis Plan out and available for subs or another teacher who might be in our classroom. Plus, we are required to be able to access all student numbers in case we need them during that "crisis."  Well here is a binder I have used for Two Years and LOVE IT!!!!

First of all, I found this binder on clearance last summer at wal-mart.  Haven't seen them again, but this happens to work perfect.

In the front I have the crisis plan details and a map of the school with my room marked along with the locations for severe weather and fire drills marked.

What is cool about this binder is it has an additional flap, and on the inside of that I have the Green/Red cards our campus uses to let administrators know for afar if we are okay or need help.

 So behind the Crisis Plan, I put each students information (I use a copy of the enrollment card) in a plastic sleeve.  Here is what I have found so beneficial.  Every time I send something home that requires a phone number (Field Trip form, etc) I put in behind the enrollment form upside down so I can see it if I flip the plastic sleeve to the left side of the binder.  I always have a most up to date phone number.  

This binder comes in handy for many things - 
              1.  Fire Alarm Rings/ Crisis Situation - One student grabs the hot pink binder and off we 
                   go.   It is definitely hard to miss on my shelf.
              2.  Great to leave out with a sub, she can have a student call a parent if needed or look up a   
                   number for the nurse as well.
              3.  Field Trips - YES!!! I take the whole binder on a field trip.  It allows me to have all my 
                    forms and numbers and it isn't just a stack of papers that get bent up and messed up.

As for cute covers, well, that is a work in progress.  Maybe someone who links up with Monday Made it can create one for me.  Who knows.

Made It #3 - Data Binder

Let me tell you, keeping up with data on 75+ students can be a hard thing to do.  I started this system last year and really like it.  
  I use a 3" ring binder (big, I know).  You will notice the red, blue, and green tabs on the right.  These designated which class each kid was in.  (They are the post it tabs and I wrote their names on them.)  My binder itself is in alphabetical order, but the tabs help me know which class each student is in.  The top page for each student has up to date data from years past, as well as spots to add data from the current year.  Behind each tab, I might add reflection pages my student write after tests, monitoring notes on each child, or writing samples that I feel need to be kept.  This binder allows me to have all my data in one spot, and all things for one student to share with them or their parents in one spot.  Here are some close ups with more details.

I am going to try to put a link here to access the actual form, but I am not sure it will work.  If not maybe someone in Blog World can help me later with it.  Okay, can't figure it out. I have it as a word document, so anyone who knows how, I would love the help.

Well, that is all for this Monday.  Tell next week, have fun.  Don't forget to link up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics to see more Monday Made Its.