Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Google Classroom-Part II (Using stream for announcements and assignments)

You can check out my previous post on Google classroom Google Classroom-Part I

In case you missed my other post, this is what my home page on Google Classroom looks like.  I only used it with my Honors Math 7 class at the end of the year to test it out and see how it worked.  I loved it (as did my students) and I will be starting off this coming school year using it with all four of my math classes.

These are my four math classes.
My main purpose for using classroom was to store documents students needed access to like assignments, answer keys, and PDFs of the mini lessons I teach on the SMARTBoard as part of my math workshop.  I wanted students who were absent to be able to stay caught up if they chose to and I have to say they have impressed me with their responsibility.  My previous blog post linked above explained in detail how I used the About page with my students.

This is what the top of my home page looks like
This post will focus on how I used stream with my class.  Stream is where you can post announcements or share assignments with students.  I did not share assignments this way often because I don't really do the grading on Google (although I can and maybe will down the road).  I do, however, have two examples of house I shared assignments with my students.

Each day I put out a daily announcement to my students after class was over.  That way if a student was absent or missed part of class for a music lesson, or just plain was not paying attention and didn't  remember what we did or if there was an assignment, s/he could check without having to ask me or another student.  The majority of my Honors Math 7 students were highly motivated and would check classroom if they were absent, look at the mini lesson, and print out and do the homework assignment.  It was so nice for them to come back to class and be right on track with the lesson and homework even if they missed class.

This is what my stream looks like

I really liked doing "Friday Letters" as a running google doc.  Even though we only tried it out for a few weeks, I think I will stick with this method next year.  I also plan on commenting back to students on their letters. I think this will definitely help me develop a great rapport and connect with each individual student of mine.  Because this was a running document it was important that students did not submit it as finished.  If they forget and submit it, it's very easy for them to back in and change it back to not done.  I really think Friday Letters deserves it's own blog post, but maybe that will wait until next fall until I have done it for a longer period of time.

Friday Letter assignment on classroom

This is an actual letter one of my students wrote to me.  Each week they put their new letter at the tope of the document.

Friday Letter student sample

This was an assignment where the students did their "Critical Concepts" (which is key vocabulary) as a google doc.  They each got a copy via classroom and then submitted the assignment when finished.  It's really nice because if it shows any students "not done" you can click on and find which students are not finished.  It's very easy to keep track of who still needs to finish.

Critical Concept assignment on classroom

This is a an example of what one student did for Critical Concepts.

Critical Concepts student sample

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Made It- 6/29/15

I am linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for this week's Monday Made It link up.

At the end of the school year I did a lot of planning and organizing for the upcoming school year on Google Docs.  Teaching middle school means I cannot do all the fun and cutesy things I see elementary teachers do, but my students still love a nicely decorated classroom and they still love to get little trinkets, candy, or stickers.  I made a doc with all the ideas for monthly decor and treats.  I like to change out my window borders and clings to easily change the decor in my classroom without spending a ton of time putting things up and taking them down.  Some things stay up for more than one month. depending on the season.

I have three seasonal bins (Fall, Winter, Spring) for storing items like pencils, paper pads,  and stickers.  I store items for September, October, and November in Fall, December, January, and February in Winter, and March, April, May/June in Spring.

Fall items container

I got really organized at the end of the school year (when I should have been packing up my room LOL) and separated items into monthly baggies (instead of having everything loose in the container) that now go into each seasonal container.  I like that I will be able to easily grab the bag of goodies for the month rather than sifting through the whole container to see what I have.

Baggies of items for each month of the school year

I finally got around to making my own font.  The process of creating the font is super quick and easy.  Being able to neatly write the letters in the small space without cutting anything off is not so easy.  I will have a blog post soon about how to create your own font.  Stay tuned.

Love it!

Ok I just had to post a photo of these Spanish Go Fish cards that I had over 25 years ago!  I was a double major in Eled and Spanish in college and spent a couple summers teaching Spanish to young children.  Sidenote I completely designed the course myself and got it up and running.  After college I then taught summer school Spanish for three summers.  I made this cards way back then and my parents still have them at their house.  We were at my parents' house the other weekend and my youngest was playing go fish with my dad (they play a combo with Spanish/ English) and I just had to take a photo of the cards my son had won so far in the game.  I just have to say these are not even laminated.  If TPT had existed back then I could have made a mint off the teaching materials I created for those classes.  Everything was done via *GASP* spirit duplicating master!  LOL

Spanish Go Fish Cards

I have already made this Nectarine Muffin recipe twice this summer.  It is very quick and easy.  It's especially great if you have any peaches or nectarines that are getting overripe.  I had two nectarines today that were on the verge and so I made another batch of muffins.  My changes:  I use two nectarines and no peach, I make 12 muffins instead of 8, and I just sprinkle the brown sugar on top, no measuring of that.  These are the moistest (or juiciest if you hate that word) muffins.

Nectarine Muffins

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Intentional Talk Book Study-Chapter 1 "Introduction

This summer I am participating in the Summer Book Study on Twitter hosted by @BridgetDunbar

I'm joining this book study because I really want to learn "how to structure and lead productive mathematical discussions" in my 7th grade math classes this coming school year.  I use the workshop model of delivery and students already do a wonderful job of working collaboratively.  I would like to improve the mathematical discourse during group work time and during whole class discussions. The book study started a week ago and I pretty much took week 1 of my summer vacation to catch my breath and spend some quality time with my family.  I did not join the twitter chat for chapter 1, but posted my answers below.
Question 1:  What steps do you take to set up a classroom environment where students see the importance of classroom discussions?  During the first five days of school I set up the expectations that discussion is an important part of our workshop model, both in collaborative table groups and whole class sharing/reflection.  We model this during our team building activities the first few days.  We also discuss norms and expectations for classroom discussions.

Question 2:  What moves as a teacher do you make to encourage students with low math confidence? How do you engage these reluctant students in classroom discussions?  I really try and build student confidence through pre or reteaching concepts during Core Plus or small group lessons during class.  Sometimes we will have a discussion prior to a class (during Core Plus) about upcoming concepts and students will have the confidence to then contribute in class.  Letting students pair-share or share at table groups prior to having whole class discussions also helps reluctant students to participate more.

Question 3:  What strategy do you use the most?  Which do you want to know more about?  We spend a lot of time having students justify their thinking and answers.  Justification is one of our three report card standards so we model this all the time in class.  We also use the Disciplinary Literacy strategy of Do/What to help students set up good justification of problem solving.  I'm very much interested in learning more about helping students focus on What's Best and Why.  I think it's important for students to realize that some strategies are more efficient than others when problem solving and getting students to discern what is a more efficient strategy will help them become better mathematicians.

Question 4:  As we are ES, MS, HS teachers looking for discussion strategies...How might we support this process at each grade level?  Including the support of students with special needs and ELL...  I think modeling is very important at the middle school level.  Also pre-teaching any requisite skills and vocabulary will help to front load for special needs or ELL students.  Often just making students understand the context of any new vocabulary will be helpful.

Question 5:  What questions about discussions in the math classroom are you hoping to get answered throughout this book study?  I'm just hoping to get tips and strategies or making this sustainable in my classroom.  I'm also looking to gain confidence in my ability to make connections between student thinking.  I also need to hold back and let students make the discoveries together.  I am used to modeling my thinking during the mini lesson portion of workshop so it will be different for me to not jump in and save them if they begin to struggle during a discussion.

I'm really looking forward to spending some time this summer, reflecting on how to improve mathematical discussions in my classroom this coming school year.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Five for Friday- June 26th (End of the School Year Edition)

I'm linking up today with Kacey at Doodlebugs Teaching to join her Five for Friday link up.  Let's call this the "end of the school year" edition.

The last twenty minutes of the school day we have a period called Homebase.  It's a time when students can visit any teacher for help or work on homework.  I hit the jackpot this year with such a fun, sweet, delightful group of 20+ students in my HB.  This year my kids started a tradition of "Fun Friday" in our HB where students would play some sort of whole group game every Friday.  I had more than one student unofficially "adopt" themselves into our HB.  This group will always have a special place in my heart because they're that awesome!

These are my amazing Homebase students.  Love, love, love, and miss them!

Packing up my classroom at the end of the year is definitely NOT my favorite thing to do.  So much less fun and rewarding than setting up the classroom at the beginning of the year.  My style of organizing involves spreading piles everywhere.  It always looks so much worse than it is when I am organizing (maybe it is that bad).  When I start to get overwhelmed with the task at hand I find it therapeutic to do some sort of completely unnecessary "micro-organizing" project.  Once I look at something perfectly organized I feel a sense of calm and get back to the dreadful task at hand of packing everything up to close out another school year.

I call this micro-organizing.

It's what I do when I want to avoid necessary organizing.

Like this.  Calgon take me away!

This is where all the important stuff goes so I can find it right away when I come back in August.

After TWO extra days of coming back this summer, I finally got everything packed up.

Finally ready to officially start my summer a week after school ended.

Look how great my door looks after a full year.  I usually take it down every summer, but this year I will save myself a couple hours in August by not having to decorate it again.
I'm happy to say I eventually got everything packed up and closed the book on another fabulous school year.

The end of the year involved several celebrations for all our hard work and accomplishments this year.  We had a party in my Homebase and each of my Core Plus classes.  It involved more food than we could eat in one class period so we had enough food to carry over the next day.  Cupcakes are one of my love languages.

She decorated them with math symbols/numbers.  LOVE!

These cupcakes tasted as amazing as they looked.  This girl loves a good cupcake!

This year marks the end of an era.  My dear friend Linda and I have been on the 7 Blue team together for over a decade.  Our team members have changed over the years, but she and I remained together.  She found out at the end of this year that *surprise* she was being moved to 8th grade.  Linda is one of the most positive people you could ever hope to work with.  I will miss her so very very much and miss our between class chats in our little hallway "cul de sac".  They have not yet hired the teacher that will be replacing her. :(
Good-bye Mrs. Scherrer. *sniffle*sniffle

I'm always amazed and humbled by the generosity of the students I teach and their families.  This end of the year was no exception.  My students know me so well.  It's always nice to be appreciated.  My favorite thing is the good-bye letters my students write to me.   If I need a pick me up I know reading those will put a smile on my face.
Spoiled again by my wonderful students.

Feeling so blessed and grateful. Can you believe that gorgeous bag?!
Well that's a wrap on the 2014-2015 school year.  It was another great one.  Thanks to all my students for making my 25th year of teaching one of my best!  I love and will miss every one of you.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Planner passes

I am linking up 4th Grade Frolics a few days late for her Monday Made It.

I did a previous blog post about How Our School Handles Passes.  It drives me cray cray when students are coming up to me in June and still.not.filling.their.passes.out.properly.  For the past two years I've had "How to fill out a planner pass properly" on my "Passes to Make" over the summer To Do List.  At the end of the school year I finally followed through on making a poster for my classroom.  I will post this in a couple key spots in my classroom and then next year when students come up to me for the umpteenth time with a pass with no date or time, I will politely refer them to the poster.  This may save my sanity next year, we shall see.

Every student at our school gets a student planner that has 6 passes per week.

A close-up of what the planner passes look like.

This is the poster I made:

I will mount this on black paper.
I posted here how I keep track of Student Passes.  I code them LP-Locker Pass, BP-Bathroom Pass, and DP-Drink Pass. Those are really the only three passes they would write out in their student planners.