Saturday, April 2, 2016

Currently April 2016

I'm linking up with Farley for her April Currently.  I can't believe I have not blogged since January.   I am having a great school year with wonderful students again.  Life with three boys seems to leave little time for blogging these days.  I am thinking of doing some posts about getting ready for the end of the school year and all that entails.  Feel free to email or leave in the comments any suggestions for future blog posts.




Listening:  I'm watching Live with Kelly and Michael episodes I have DVRd.  I hate when they do repeat segments and that is what the last week has been so I'm just watching the host chat portion and then deleting the episode.  

Loving:  My new black storage boxes from IKEA.  It was on my To Do List last summer to switch out all my ugly old white storage boxes for new black ones from IKEA.  Unfortunately I ran out of time last summer and was never able to make it to IKEA. My amazing husband indulged me and took me to IKEA in Schaumburg, IL on Monday.  I have not been there for nearly a decade and didn't realize how confusing the store layout is.  Afterward we had a delicious lunch at Joe's Crab Shack.  I spent a couple days in my classroom decluttering the contents of the white boxes (so not fun, but so necessary) and then reorganized everything in the beautiful black boxes.

We shopped till I was ready to drop
Before
After-one box is still empty
Fruits of my decluttering labor

Love the posters from Carnegie Learning I finally put up

Thinking:  About some of the projects I want to create with my new Astrobrights packs I ordered from Amazon.  They will arrive tomorrow.  I also need to go back to Office Depot today and pick up one pack of cardstock that was much cheaper at the store than on Amazon.  I plan on sprucing up the blue wall cabinet shown in the photos above.  I never got around to putting up anything on the right side last summer before school started.  I think I might redo the posters on the left to incorporate some more color.  Please share any favorite Astrobrights color combos you may have.

My name is Sherrie and I'm obsessed with Astrobrights paper
Wanting:  The weather to warm up once and for all.  We have had lots of sun and warm weather lately, but the picture below shows what's happening right now.  We have LAX and BB games this week with rain and snow in the forecast so things might be interesting, not in a good way.

Snow snow go away and don't come back until November
Needing:  I'm going to spend some time this weekend trying to finish up the most important items on my Spring Break TO DO list.  Our trip to IKEA was very productive and we got a bench for shoes and backpacks for the laundry room and new shower curtains and rugs for the boys' bathroom.  RIP Pottery Barn Frogs that I loved so much, but my youngest is 10 now so it was time for a redo.  I also spent a couple days in my classroom and got those boxes done which was a major project.  Lots of housecleaning left to do this weekend.

Spring Break To Do Lists
Whatever:  This week marks the beginning of 4th quarter.  Every year I feel like 4th quarter is over in the blink of an eye.  School will be busy, but family life will be even busier.  My oldest plays Varsity LAX. My middle plays BB, and my youngest plays LAX and BB.  I love this time of year, but it will be crazy and suddenly it will be summer break.

My room all ready for me to return from Spring Break

The adorable and super yummy cake my mom made for Easter

I hope you all enjoyed your Spring Break and wish you the best of luck on successfully finishing up this school year.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Currently January

I cannot believe 2016 is here already.  2015 seems to have flown by with the blink of an eye.   I'm linking up with Farley for her January Currently.




Listening:  Right now all three boys are still sleeping and my husband is making breakfast.  I am very lucky to have a husband who is also enjoys cooking. I smell eggs, polish sausage, and hash browns  Yesterday he made individual beef wellingtons for dinner.  We always invite my parents to a fancy dinner every January 1st to ring in the new year with them.

Loving:  This has been a wonderful break.  It's been filled with family, fun, and lots of relaxation.  We celebrated with my family Christmas Eve and I have to say, having my 5 yo niece and 2 yo nephew just makes family gatherings so much more fun!  Other than them, my son Cooper is the youngest and he is 10.  So much fun to see Christmas through the eyes of little ones.  Thanks to Direct TV's Binge-a-thon I watched "The Knick" and "Flesh and Bone".  Loved them both.

Thinking:  I really want to refocus my time & energy on what is really important.  This from both a personal and professional perspective.  Sometimes in education we are forced to spend too much time on meaningless tasks that don't end up benefitting students. I want to be more purposeful on how I spend my time.  It's too precious to waste.

Wanting:  Can I just hit the pause button?  Or even rewind?  My oldest is turning 17 one month from today and sometimes I have trouble grasping where his childhood went.  He is driving, has a job,  and even has his own truck thanks to my dad. My middle son is in 8th grade. Even though he goes to the school I teach at, he rides the bus this year so he can be with his friends.  Because I teach 7th grade I never see him at school.  Due to the different bell schedules for 7th & 8th grade it's as if we have two separate schools where I teach.  The thought of him going to high school next year blows my mind.   Don't even get me started on my baby who is now 10 and in 4th grade.  I feel 4th grade is the shift from little boy to big boy and it saddens me greatly that he no longer wants to read our favorite picture books together and watch episodes of "Little Bear".  The boys have spent much of their break hanging out with their friends which has provided me lots of time to read and relax.  

Needing:  I usually spend some time on NYE reflecting and thinking about my goals for the coming year.  This year I did do that.  I'm going to spend some time this weekend thinking about how to achieve the goals that important to me without sacrificing family time.  I feel as educators we often sacrifice our own family time for the benefit of our students.  I have really tried the last couple of years to get a better balance between school and home life.  I feel it's so important to continue this as my boys are getting older.  I want to cherish the time I have with them all still living under the same roof.  Exercise and Whole 30 are going to be coming back in 2016.

One Little Word:  Declutter  I know it's not a profound word, but I really want to declutter my home, my classroom storage, and my schedule.  After this Christmas I have made the conclusion that we have way too much stuff and I want to start getting rid of the stuff that does not in fact bring me joy and satisfaction.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

My Top Ten Blog Posts from 2015


I hope all of my teacher friends out there are enjoying a very relaxing and rejuvenating vacation.  Today I'm sharing my Top 10 most clicked on posts from 2015.  I also threw in the last one as a bonus because Friday Letters is one of my favorite new things I've implemented this year.  I'm hoping to spend some time over break getting myself back into blogging about all the great things that are going on in my school and classroom this year.
1)  Workshop Wednesday #1: Getting Started    

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Currently December

I'm linking up with Farley for December Currently.



Listening:  I love Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce on Bravo.  Most network shows are wrapping up their winter finales (what's with the change in programming?) so it's nice to have something new to watch other than the million Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies I have DVRd.

Loving:  Everything Christmas related.  My husband hit the Yankee Candle outlet the other day and picked up several new Christmas scents.  I'm loving them all.  I also am loving listening the Christmas music on XM radio or Pandora.  I love Andy Williams Christmas station on Pandora.  I listen to it every chance I get.  I can't wait to drive around looking at Christmas lights.  We just need some snow on the ground!

Thinking:  We spent a lot of time getting decorations put up around the house last weekend.  We even got our tree up and it my husband put the lights on it, so now I need to put the bows on it and then we are ready to decorate it with ornaments.

Wanting:  I went the my church's Ladies Christmas Brunch on Sunday.  The pastor spoke about not letting nostalgia overtake the anticipation of the advent season.  Guilty as charged.  I did love the sermon and I'm excited to celebrate advent.

Needing:  To get a few more goodies for St. Nick.  Can't believe he comes Saturday night already.  Where has 2015 gone?

Tree:  We always get a real tree.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Friday Letters-Student Self Reflections

Today's #sunchat on Twitter inspired me to do a blog post explaining my Friday Letters, my students' weekly reflections.


A couple summers ago, post TMC, I remember seeing people tweeting about the idea of Friday Letters.  I think the teacher had her students write her a letter every Friday about different topics.  That is about all I remember, but I have wanted to do that with my students ever since.

Fast forward a year or two and last Spring when I piloted using Google Classroom with my Honors Math 7 class, I had them do Friday Letters for just the last few weeks of schools.  I wanted to try it out on a small scale (and do the Friday Letters digitally on a running google doc) to see how to manage the workflow.

This year I knew I wanted to start the Friday Letters right away and establish it in a meaningful way for student self reflection.  I had not yet chosen my PPG (Professional Practice Goal) at the beginning of the school year when I started Friday Letters, but was very happy to realize they would end up being a key component of my PPG. In WI part of Educator Effectiveness (how we are evaluated as teachers) involved writing a PPG.

I've copied and pasted a portion of my PPG below so you can see how the Friday Letters are used to assess student understanding of math concepts, as well as, to uncover misconceptions.

Identify related Danielson Framework for Teaching domain/component(s):
Educator:       3d Using Assessment in Instruction
Focusing on:  Taking the pulse of the class by monitoring student understanding and using strategies to elicit that information.

Evaluator comments:       

Describe applicable instructional or non-instructional activities:
Educator:       
Using formative data to drive my classroom instruction:
  • Daily warm ups
  • Check ins during collaborative group work time
  • Students self correct homework via google classroom
  • Homework assignment questions/discussions posed by students
  • Exit slips
  • Formative assessments
  • Friday Letters- student self reflection on learning

I will provide individual feedback to students through their Friday letters and pull small groups based on any misconceptions I discover.  Students will use Google Classroom to correct their own assignments.  This allows them to assess their own work. I check in with students every day to make sure assignment are completed and that I answer any question for clarification.  Students may be pulled in small groups or individually based on this formative feedback.  Students are required to fill out a google form if they plan to reassess any standard,  This form requires students to reflect on their study habits and areas of difficulty.  They also decide on when they will reassess and what they need for me before reassessing.

Students write their Friday Letter reflections every Friday.  I usually provide a prompt and they respond to the given prompt in the format of a letter to me.  When I want to comment back to a student I highlight the date of the letter and then comment from there.  This is an easy way to comment back to the entire letter instead of highlighting bits and pieces and responding that way.  I have about 120 students and the commenting back to them is the hardest thing to manage.  I spent over 2 hours commenting back to every student in just one of my four classes.  Students know that I do not comment back every week.  They do love to ask me questions and sometimes my comment will spark a side conversation with them.

As I read through their letters I jot down notes of things I need to clarify or really focus on due to misconceptions that I see.  This may be something I address with all my students, just one class, or I may pull small groups, or even conference with a student individually.  It depends on what I'm seeing in the Friday letters that week.  I'm also really trying to give them ownership of their learning and assessment, by having them self assess understanding and reflect on their own learning.

I've talked about the whys of the Friday Letters, now onto the hows.  I set up a google doc Friday Letter template that I shared with students in Google Classroom.  Each student made a copy of the Friday Letter template and then bookmarked it in their math folder.  That way every week they just go to their math folder and click on the link to their Friday letter.


 This shows you what a student's Friday letter document looks like.  That formatting box at the top always stays.  Every Friday students write the new letter at the top of the doc, right under the Friday letter formatting box.  Students sign their names to each Friday letter, even though you don't see that here.

When I want to comment on a Friday letter I highlight the date of the letter (or the most recent dated letter if I want to give comments about more than one letter).  I type in my comments and they show up to the student as you see below.  Very important...tell students to NOT RESOLVE the comments you make, otherwise you will get an email that the comment was resolved.  I've told my students that if they want to respond to my comment, just add it to their next Friday letter.  The comments stay next to the letter so it won't clutter things up.



Most of the prompts I give students are designed for them to reflect on their learning that week and so I can see where they are at in their understanding of the math concepts. I'm also trying to get them to be more self reflective so they can see the impact of their own actions on their learning.

Some topics we've covered:

  • Introduce yourself to me
  • Tell me what you understand about ratios, rates, and proportions
  • What is the difference between discrete and continuous data?
  • Tell me everything you know about direct variation
  • Give me feedback and suggestions on math workshop: opener, mini lesson, group work time, sharing and reflection, small group lessons/individual conferences
  • How does homework help you learn?
  • How do you prepare for assessments so you are able to demonstrate your understanding of the math content and skills?
I'm really enjoying reading students Friday letters.  Not only am I getting a very clear picture on where students are regarding the math content, but I am finding out what their likes and dislikes are and how they spend their time out of school.  I feel like I am getting to know students much better on a personal level thanks to the Friday Letters.




Friday, October 2, 2015

Currently October 2015

I am linking up with Farley for her October currently.  I'm shocked/not shocked that I haven't blogged since August.  It's pretty typical for me to get caught up in back to school and put my blog on the back burner.


Listening:  My husband woke up and turned on Sports Center.  It's on way too much in this house where I live with 4 guys!

Loving:  I love everything about October, the leaves changing colors, the crisp cold fall air, everything pumpkin related, fall candle scents, I could go on and on!

Thinking:  We have passed the one mark month at school.  Things are going great.  I have wonderful students, but this is a large class.  Last year I had 21 students in Honors math and this year I have 33.  Things are very crowded in my small classroom.  Students are doing awesome with math workshop and we've already had our first summative assessment with great results.  I'm using Google Classroom with all my classes and I completely love it.  So many great things going on at school I need to start blogging about it!

Wanting:  I want to spend more time relaxing and recharging this weekend.  Last weekend was crazy and I think I was only home for about 2 hours until Sunday night at nearly 8 PM.  I went to 3 fall BB games and a LAX game.  With 3 boys playing 3 different sports on 5 different teams this fall my weekends are CRAZY. Basketball will be starting soon for my youngest. Yes, sometimes I do feel like I might lose my mind.  I do love watching football and LAX, but I could most definitely do without the fall BB!

Needing:  I feel like I'm exhausted every single night after school.  I try to leave on time (3:30) but I rarely get out of there before 4:30-5:30.  Thankfully my husband has been cooking dinner or we just might starve.  Many nights I fall asleep while watching TV.  I need to start working out so I have more energy.  Also need to do some menu planning on the weekend.  This week was tough because last weekend was just too busy and I didn't get all my household stuff done.  This Monday I have to afternoon off because I have to take my younger two for their yearly check ups so I should feel less stressed next week.

Boo-tiful:  Fall colors are my favorite.  The leaves have started turning!


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Workshop Wednesday #6- Small Group Instruction


Every Wednesday for the remainder of the summer  I will be blogging about the components of math workshop,  how I implement math workshop in my 7th grade classroom, the tools and resources I use, and I will be answering any questions posed by readers.  I have previously written several posts about doing Math Workshop in middle school.

These are the previous three posts I have written in this series:

Workshop Wednesday #1-Getting Started
Workshop Wednesday #2-Opening
Workshop Wednesday #3-Mini-Lesson
Workshop Wednesday #4-Work Time
Workshop Wednesday #5-Sharing and Reflection

Today is the sixth post of the series; Workshop Wednesday #6-"Small Group Lessons". 

Small group lessons are probably one of my favorite things about math workshop.  I also think it's one of the most effective things I do to meet the needs of each individual learner in my classroom.  

I do not have much need to do small group lessons with my Honors Math class, but once in awhile I would pull a few small groups if formative data showed the need for it.

I frequently pull small groups in my regular math classes.  We have a computer program MATHia that our students work on two days a week (on average).  This is the time I will typically pull small groups.  The students who are not working with me in a small group are busy working independently on MATHia.  It works out very well.

I previously blogged about how I did Small Group Lessons during our unit on two-step equations.  I plan my small group lessons based on formative assessment results.  We do Standards Based Grading in my school, so students get a score between 0-4 on anything I grade (which is just formative or summative assessments).  

I will quickly group the formatives based on scores.  Students who receive a 4 need do not need a small group lesson.  Often students who receive a 3 don't really need a small group lesson, they just need to chat with me for a minute or two.  I tend to focus mainly on students who score 0-2 on formatives.  Obviously I need to spend the most time on students who score 0-1 because they have the greatest need for some small group reteaching.

I mix up which groups I start with for small group time, so one day I may start with the students who scored 2 and another time I may start with those who scored 0.  I tend to prefer to start with the higher scores first because those lessons don't take as long the others.  I feel that sometimes if I start with the 0 or 1 I use up all the class time and don't get to everyone.

Each time I do small group lessons this all varies based on the results I get from the formatives and how many small groups I need to have.  My small group lessons are between 1-5 students.  I try to work with groups of 4-5 students most of the time because when you have class sizes of 30 students, it's a more effective use of time.

A couple things that are built into our daily schedule that I really love are Core Plus and Homebase.  Some days I just do not have time in math class to meet with every student that needs small group or one on one intervention.  There is only one of me and 30 of them.  I use Core Plus a lot to pull small groups when I can.  If I run out of time I may have students come back during Homebase for a small group lesson.  I don't need to do that too often because I have a pretty good handle on grouping students effectively and using that Core Plus time.

This blog post explains how I had students request a Small Group Lesson via google form.  I need to do that more often.  I like giving students the chance to request small group instruction when they feel the need for it.

During small groups students either write on their formatives or use whiteboards and dry erase markers.  They love using whiteboards and will usually choose those when given the chance.  We will work through the problems they had trouble with and also do a few other similar problems until they show mastery on the concept.

Small groups are a great way for me to understand their thinking by listening to their reasoning as we work through the problems.  I love to see how students will start explaining to each other how to do the problems once they understand.  I think it's helpful to have students learn from their peers whenever possible.

Feedback from students on my end of the year survey that they really appreciated small group lessons:

What did you like best about this class?

  • Something I like about this class would be the small groups because if we do need help we can fully understand what we were confused
  • I like how Mrs. Nackel gives time for kids who don't understand to get extra time to work with her in small groups or independently.
  • The lessons are easy to understand, and if you don't get something Mrs. Nackel will help you if you need it

What helped you learn in math class this year?
  • The one on one time
  • All of the example that were available such as the small groups or asking questions.
  • The small groups
  • Just that I was in her Math core plus since I struggle in math. 
  • The formatives, because through the formatives I was able to figure out I did not know and what I needed extra help on. 
  • The core plus helped a lot. 


Be sure to stop back next Wednesday when I will discuss my plans for "Conferring" this year as part of my math workshop.