Sunday, July 29, 2012

Preparing for School Linky Party

Everything was purchased at
I know I am little late to the party, but I was in math training all last week (I have tons to post about that coming up).  I am joining Mrs. Crouse over at 6th Grade All-Stars for a linky party about preparing for school.  I am going to share this sneak peek of goodies I purchased for my math room decor.  I plan on using much of this for my new Math Focus Wall.  I cannot wait to get into my classroom and put all the ideas I have swimming around my mind onto the wall.  If you are a follower of my blog then you most likely know that my classroom color scheme is pink, lime, and blue.  I decided this summer to add some touches of zebra to my color scheme.  The file folder holders are my favorite item that I purchased.  I am excited to    get into my classroom in a couple weeks and get going on the math focus wall.

What grade do you teach?  7th Grade Math and I absolutely love it.  If I were to teach anything else it would probably be 6th grade math.  Math is definitely my favorite subject to teach.  I taught 6th grade my first 7 years of teaching and I taught everything, except science which is my least favorite subject.  I blame my college biology professor from turning me off from science for life.

What was the greatest advice I received during my first year of teaching?  I don't remember any specific advice as my first year was a LONG time ago.  I do remember getting lots of great ideas from other teachers I taught with.  I also remember what a blast I had with my class and my coworkers my first year of teaching.  We had so so much fun! I used an incentive system called privilege points (two of my team members had this system) and my kids would do ANYTHING if it meant they got privilege points.  It was a great classroom incentive system.

Do you have a checklist you follow when preparing your classroom?  I did a blog post on the After School Routine I try to follow everyday so I come to school the next morning all set to teach.  As far as getting my room set up for a new year I have a much more extensive list that would probably overwhelm you as i overwhelms me every August when I look at in and see what I still have to do.  I will do a post on that soon.  I find having a list is extremely helpful so you don't forget the "little things" that are so important.  I will tell you that my categories for my list are:

  • Bulletin Boards/Decor
  • Organization (think of looking around your classroom at every single piece of furniture or space you decorate and make a list of what needs to be done
  • Hook-ups (of the electronic variety)
  • Summer Projects
  • Lesson Planning
  • Back-to-School

What are some must haves in your classroom that you cannot live without?  First and foremost would be my SMARTBoard.  I love my organization systems like using Day Files for materials that need to be handed out and Class Hour Files for keeping track of absent work.  I also could not live without my two Paper Sorters for organizing all the paper copies I make.   I cannot live without my Lesson Plan book to keep me on track with my pacing.  If we have a half day or some type of assembly I put a post-it note on that day so when I go to write my lesson plans, I realize we have a schedule change.  I have found that keeping my previous year's lesson plan book is an invaluable resource to watch my pacing and also I always put notes in my book after teaching a lesson if something needs to be modified or if it took more or less time than planned.  That is so helpful when planning the next school year.  This year my old lesson plan book with not be helpful at all because we have a brand new curriculum we will be following so nothing will be the same.  In this post you will see photos of my Lilly Notebooks.  I take either the small or large one to every meeting I go to if I do not bring a computer with me.  Who says school supplies can't be adorable?!  I also love am very particular about what I write with.  I am very particular about my writing the writing utensils I use in my classroom.
I cannot express the depth of my love for Flair pens.

I have the twelve pack, but now I want those other 6 markers!

Pink and turquoise are my faces, big surprise. ;)
What is something that all teachers should have in their classroom?  I think the most important thing all teachers should have in their classroom is a system of clear and well established routines and procedures.  The more systematic your classroom procedures are the more easily students will develop routines for how to do things in your classroom, thus saving precious minutes to be used on instruction instead of other classroom tasks.  Students crave consistency and well defined expectations.  Setting these up from day one and spending time the first several weeks of school going over them daily will sow the seeds for a classroom that eventually can run itself because everyone knows how to do things efficiently and effectively.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Birthday Week Recap

This post has absolutely nothing to do with teaching, so if you are first time visitor of my blog please feel free to scroll down to other education related posts.  If you enjoy reading about fabulous birthday celebrations then read on!

Last Tuesday was my birthday I did this post about what my 45 self would say to my 20-something self.  I am a very lucky girl and was spoiled with several celebrations.  Monday night two of my sweet girlfriends and I met at PF Chang's to celebrate all three of our birthdays.  Kelly's was in May and Lu and I both have July birthdays.  It was quite a challenge for us to find a time all three of us could get together.  So much for having summer off.  These girls know where I love to shop!  I just had to show you the beautiful wrap job that Lu's daughter did.
Love my girlies!

My birthday was Tuesday Ben had a basketball camp until noon, Drew and my husband had All-Star scrimmage (Greg is the manager) and Cooper had a t-ball game that night at 7 PM so I wasn't even sure how we would have time to celebrate, but celebrate we did!  Greg and the boys took me to lunch at the Chancery and then my parents came down and spent the afternoon with me and took Ben, Cooper, and I out to Carraba's for dinner before Cooper's game.  Unfortunately Greg and Drew did not have time to go to dinner with us.  

Beautiful flowers from my boys.
My husband also knows that I love to shop.  
My parents got me two tops and a gift card to one of my favorite malls.  Everyone knows where I love to shop.  :)
Be still my heart.  

Cooper made this all on his own as you can tell.  :)
Friday night Greg and I went out to my favorite restaurant Bacchus for a romantic adults only birthday dinner.  The food and atmosphere was amazing as always.  We shared a fabulous escargot appetizer they made in honor of Bastille Days that was going on downtown last weekend.  We each got the spinach salad that I love so much and I got the filet and Greg got a veal chop that was delicious.  The food at Bacchus is just unbelievable.  I just took a few photos of the wine and desserts.  If any of you live anywhere close to Milwaukee I highly recommend that you check out Bacchus.  You will not be disappointed, I promise. We only got a couple texts from Ben during dinner.
Nothing like some pinot grigio to start things off right!

Almost too pretty to eat!

My birthday ice cream sampler.
That pretty much sums up my birthday celebration that always seems to stretch out for several days.  I am so blessed with great friends and family!  I count my tremendous blessings every single day. :)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Guided Math Book Study-Chapter 8

Thanks to Kim at Joy in 6th for hosting this chapter.  I really enjoyed this chapter and had some good reflections.  I took five pages of notes in Google Docs and definitely had to pare things down for this blog post.  I previously took a district sponsored grad class on assessment so most of what I read I had already heard about.  I also had to do a Summer Academy project a few years ago and one of the strands we focused on was assessment, so I found my files on that to answer the reflection questions below.  I do need to continue to focus on purposeful assessment and carving out the time to use the results to tailor my classroom instruction.  Hope you all enjoyed this chapter as much as I did.


"Assessment in Guided Math"
A Vision for Learning
When planning a unit of study, teachers need to closely examine the standards, identify what students need to learn, and determine how to assess and evaluate students’ learning.

Three steps for teachers in the process of linking descriptions of expectations to instruction:

  1. Describe what students need to learn in a language that students and parents will understand.  
  2. Share the description with students and explain how it relates to success in life outside of school.  
  3. Use the description to guide instruction, assessment, and evaluation.  

Establishing Criteria for Success with Checklists and Rubrics
With today’s emphasis on standards-based learning, teachers now determine how they will assess student learning by focusing on the standards before planning for instruction.  When they have determined how to assess their students, many teachers develop specific criteria for success from which they create checklists or rubrics.

Using Checklists
Although there are criteria listed, the checklist itself does not describe specifically what would be required to be considered proficient or exemplary in each criterion.  Even though a checklist maybe be more easily created than a rubric, it may not be as effective when used with students, unless the teacher provides a significant amount of very specific feedback supporting students as they strive to improve their work.  Checklists give students criteria without distinguishing levels of quality.

Using Rubrics
Rubrics usually list several criteria or domains and then specify gradations of proficiency for each criterion.  Sometimes, a scale is included, which allows teachers to determine a numerical grade using the rubric.

Rubrics that are developed to be used with multiple tasks or assignments allow students to become familiar with the criteria and the levels of proficiency described.  They should be available to students before they begin their work and should be posted in the classroom for reference by the teachers and students, whenever applicable.  Teachers should introduce rubrics by modeling their use with an exemplar, thinking aloud as they rate the quality of the work.

When rubrics are aligned with the mathematical standards, they are not just about evaluating a student’s work, they are about teaching.  Rubrics focus our instruction as we teach.  They help students understand the goals of their assignments so they can focus their efforts.  They allow teachers to provide critiques of student work that are individualized and constructive in a timely manner.

The Value of Descriptive Feedback
Research shows that one of the most effective instructional strategies that teachers employ is providing students specific descriptive feedback.  When feedback is guidance specific to learning targets, this assessment for learning scaffolds students as they work “to close the gap between where they are not and where we want them to be”
The Use of Feedback
  1. Feedback should be “corrective” in nature  
  2. Feedback should be timely 
  3. Feedback should be specific to criterion  
  4. Students can effectively provide some of their own feedback

Assessments for Guided Math Groups
  • Pretests for initial grouping when beginning a new unit
  • Brief formative assessments throughout a unit to monitor learning and adjust grouping as needed
  • Checklists of knowledge and skills based on instructional standards
  • Informal observations of student work
  • Conferences with students
  • Computerized data (MATHia)

What is essential and is a distinguishing characteristic of Guided Math classrooms, though, is the use of assessment for learning.  Assessment in Guided Math classrooms is ongoing and informs instructional decisions.  The strong links between teaching, learning, and assessment are evident.  Although evaluation certainly has a role in these classrooms, it is not a substitute for the consistent and pervasive use of formative assessment.  Formative assessment is the determining factor in creating groups, and, then in planning lessons for each group.  Assessment for learning is the defining characteristic of Guided Math.

Review and Reflect

  1. Why is assessment essential in a Guided Math classroom? It is one of the defining characteristics of Guided Math. What role does it play in teaching and learning? The information a teacher gains from assessment is used to guide the instruction of students. It also lets a teacher know if the student has mastered the given objectives. Assessment helps students shift from being passive learns to active participants.
  2. What kinds of assessments do you use in your classroom?

  • In class √ups  
  • Pretesting
  • Quick Five
  • Notesheet with √point questions
  • Thumbs Up/Thumbs down
  • Completion Assignments
  • Graded Assignments
  • Over the shoulder
  • Five Q Review
  • Quiz
  • Re-teaching
  • Discussion Questions
  • Test
  • Checklists (will do this coming year)
  • Rubrics (will do more of this coming year)
  • Math journal (will do this coming year)
Is there a blend of assessments and evaluation? There is a blend of both, but I do need to do a 
better job of evaluation of learning. That will definitely be something we work on during PLC 
time this year.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Guided Math Book Study-Chapter 7

I am still getting caught up on the Guided Math Book Study.  I think this chapter has been one of my favorite because I will be conferring with my students this coming school year and I think this chapter really gave me a wealth of information to help me set up the structure and record keeping of these conferences.  My to-do list for Guided Math is growing like the weeds in my landscaping.  :)


Thanks to Mrs. Patton's Patch and Thinking of Teaching for hosting Chapter 7. Check out the links for several different posts on this chapter. You may find a freebie or two from some of the teachers who have linked up. I took LOTS of notes on this chapter and decided to just share just two of the main points, the structure of a conference and keeping records of conferences. Do you conference with your math students? Any great tips to share?

“Conferring With Students During Guided Math”

The Structure of a Conference

Research Student Understanding:

  • Observe the work of the student and interview him or her to understand what he or she is trying to do as a mathematician.  Probe to glean more about the students’ intentions.
  • Name specifically what the student has done as a mathematician, linking it directly to the language of the standards and remind him or her to do this in future work.

Decide What is Needed:

  • Weigh whether you want to accept or alter the student’s current strategies and process.  Decide what you want to teach and how you will teach it.

Teach to Student Needs:
  • Use demonstration, guided practice, or explicit telling and showing to correct or extend a student’s understanding and ability to successfully complete the task.

Link to the future:
  • Name what the student has done as a mathematician and remind him or her to do this often in the future.

Keeping Records of Conferences
What teachers learn as they confer with students can be as valuable as what their students learn.  Teachers can use this data to tailor their instruction in the other components of the Guided Math framework.  To do this effectively, teachers must have some method of recording what they learn and then use it.  What is most important is that the notes are not filed and forgotten.

When used wisely, these valuable notes can guide instruction, they can help teachers:

  • Plan for future conferences-If teachers note that many students are struggling with the same concept in a unit, they may want to confer with other students to see if they are also struggling.  Or, if students seem well beyond where a teacher thought they would be, it may be worthwhile to confer with additional students to see if perhaps instruction could move ahead a little more quickly than planned originally.
  • Recognize the strengths of their students-When teachers identify students who have mastered the standards being taught, they can modify the instruction for these students and allow them to move on.
  • Discover future teaching options-Conference conversations suggest lessons from which students can benefit that may not be possible to address in that conference.  The lessons may be ones which would benefit the whole class or a small group of students.
  • Broaden the scope of conferences-As teachers review their conference notes, they may decide to confer with students based on previously noted concerns.
  • Follow-up on conference teaching points-Teachers who have records of their conference teaching points with their students can follow-up on these in subsequent conferences to confirm student understanding.

Review and Reflect
  1. In what ways are you able to discover your students' mathematical thinking? I can do this by observing their written work. I also am able to do this by having them verbally share their thinking or problem solving strategies. I can observe them working out a problem and question them on their thought process.
  2. How frequently are you able to confer with your students? If you are not able to confer as often as you would like, what prevents it? I have previously not formally conferred with my students. I have done some informal conferring with them, but nothing like what is expected in this chapter. This coming year I will definitely be conferring with students. This will be a very big component of our personalized learning model. The plan will be to confer with students on the days when the other students are working on MATHia software. This should helps to keep other students on task while I am conferring with students.
  3. What advantages are there to having structures for conferences in mind as you meet with your students? Having a structure will make the conferring time much more purposeful. The information I gather will be much more meaningful to drive my instruction for that individual student as well as the class as a whole. Taking good notes on the conferences will insure that I use the information for future planning.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Guided Math Book Study- Chapter 6

I am a couple chapters behind on the Guided Math Book Study.  I will blame it on my birthday and baseball games.  My birthday was Tuesday and I had a wonderful day with my boys, husband, and parents.  Tonight my husband is taking me out to dinner at my very favorite restaurant Bacchus for an adults only celebration!  I will hopefully get myself caught up on the book study posts and then share some other teaching/math related posts I have been working on.  Welcome to all my new followers and please introduce yourself and let me know if you have a blog I would love to check it out!


Supporting Guided Math with Math Workshop

Math Workshop Components

  • Review of Previously Mastered Concepts
  • Math Fact Automaticity
  • Math Games
  • Problem-Solving Practice
  • Investigations
  • Math Journals
  • Computer Use
  • Math Related to other Subject Areas

This chapter was all about how to support Guided Math with Math Workshop. I will be using Carnegie Math this coming year and it has its own online math component. I will use Math Workshop, but it might be different because of the online component to our curriculum. Here are some ideas of how I plan on implementing the Math Workshop Components in my classroom.

Review Previously Mastered Concepts
  • Daily warm-ups
  • Skill/concept review check-ups
  • Math Focus Wall

Math Fact Automaticity
  • Flash cards (Study Stack for personal devices)
  • Games
  • Computer activities
  • Mental Math exercises
  • Guess the number

Math Games
  • 24
  • Product Game
  • Bowling for numbers
  • Quirkle
  • Blokus
  • Think Fun games

Problem-Solving Practice
  • Problem of the Day
  • Problem of the Week
  • Ed Zaccaro problem solving books

Math Journals
  • Responses to teacher prompts
  • Math Definitions
  • Problem-Solving strategies
  • Mini anchor charts

Managing Math Workshop
Principles on which a learning community is based:

  • All members are trusted with rights and responsibilities
  • All members take responsibility for their own learning and for helping others learn
  • All members take responsibility for managing their time and activities productively
  • All members learn self-management as part of the curriculum delivered by teachers
  • All members understand that keeping materials in order helps everyone learn

Review and Reflect
  1. What are some of the ways you can organize your classroom to support Math Workshop? I will have a dedicate area for small group mini lessons. I will also have a designated space for all learning materials students need access to. I will spend time at the beginning of the year setting the expectations for Math Workshop
  2. How can implementing Math Workshop promote the learning goals you have for your class? Math workshop will meet the needs of individual learners. Students who need pre or reteaching of a concept or skill will have the opportunity to work with a small group of students who have the same need. Higher level students will have the opportunity to be challenged at an appropriate level.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What I would tell my twenty-something year old self

Today is my *gasp* 45th birthday and I thought it would be fun to write to my twenty year old self.  I cannot emphasize enough to all you twenty-somethings how very fast two decades can pass, right before your eyes.

Dear twenty-something year old Sherrie,

Travel as much as you can to exotic locals because someday you will have three moneysuckers beautiful boys and FL and TN will be as exotic as you get.

Enjoy all the dating you do in your 20s.  And that guy you thought you wanted to marry, would have been so WRONG for you.  The one you do end up marrying is so RIGHT for you.

Spend your 20s dating lots of guys.  When you meet the right one you will know it, even if he is not your dark haired "type".

The 20s are not the best years of your life, they are the best years of your youth.  Honestly the 40s are where you finally settle in and start relaxing again, after the kids grow up a bit.

Remember all those times you watched your three brothers in all their sports endeavors growing up?  Your life will come full circle and you will have three boys of your own and spend WAY more time watching sporting events than you ever did growing up.

You are never going to have that girl you hope for, but you are going to have the three most amazing boys you could ever dream of, and you would not trade any of them, for all the white Pottery Barn Furniture and pink baby clothes in the world.

Do you need me to pass you some smelling salts now that you know you are having three boys?

Your parents will end up being the most amazing grandparents.  You probably already knew that.

Your first year of teaching was so amazing, and believe it or not, the girl who begged to be penpals with you so you can always keep in touch, will eventually become friends with you on this strange social network called Facebook.

Enjoy using your Apple II Gs computers and dot matrix printers.  You have absolutely no idea how technology will change and rock your world and change the way you teach.

Don't buy the trendy black laquer furniture for your first apartment.  It will haunt you for decades!  Get something more timeless.

Don't worry about the dust and mess of the chalkboard, twenty years from now you will have this amazing thing called a SMARTBoard that you can write on instead.

Your mix tapes and cassette recorder will be replaced with something called iTunes and your phone.

Your phone will eventually basically be a computer you carry with you at all times.

Flaunt your buff body while you've got it.  Someday kids will change all that, but they are totally worth the sacrifice.

Keep wearing your retainer long after the orthodontist tells you that you no longer need it.  Apparently 20 years ago orthodontist thought they were God and could permanently change the placement of your teeth.  Two decades later, they will start shifting back to where they were supposed to be and it will drive you crazy every day!

Don't withdraw $ from your investment account to start a Mary Kay business.  Enough said.

Don't worry so much about finding the right guy.  Someday your dreams will all come true, great career, awesome husband, gorgeous children, and a big beautiful home you built and decorated.

Remember that first day of interning in 6th grade when you had your very own class, were the only 6th grade teacher in the building and had to figure it all out on you own?  You decided to just start at the beginning  of the teacher's manual.  Enjoy the days of footloose and fancy free teaching without a gazillion goals and standards, you have no idea what it will be like 20 years from now.

Enjoy those years of your teaching career in your 20s.  You will never have so much fun teaching without feeling the stress of the demands of clueless politicians and a general public that vilifies teachers so.  Twenty years from now you will wonder what you have gotten yourself into with this career.  But every time a former student goes out of their way to say hello to you it will all be worth it.

Keep every goodbye letter and thank you note you ever receive.  Those are the true measures of your success and no one can ever take them away from you.

You will eventually teach 7th grade math and love it.  Don't be scared, I promise you were meant to do it.

The only dream of yours you are not going to realize is teaching abroad.  And when you made that comment about worrying about being stuck in that first school district you got a job in, who knew you would build a house in that same city so your children would eventually go to the school you teach.  Hey, don't worry, it's actually a great school district and you are blessed to have spent your entire teaching career there.

Enjoy every day.  There will be amazing moments you think you will never forget, but believe they will fade in time.  All the struggles and disappointments will mold you into the amazing woman who will someday be 45 years old.  I know you cannot imagine ever being that old.

45 year old Sherrie