Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Eureka... 5 weeks in.

Well, we are on our fifth week of school.  Today I completed lesson 14 in Module 1.  Yes, I am sticking to one lesson a day, for four lessons a week.  I decided to leave Friday open for review and diving deeper into problems that require RDW.

I am not in full swing with my math stations on how I want them to be.  I am doing, for the most part, three group rotations.  I don't really like it.... if I had a lower class size, yes.  With 32 students, three groups still makes for a large number of students in my groups.  The benefit of lower group size is that you can see how they are performing right in front of you.  10-12 in a group, I can't see each and everyone's work.  I need four groups, numbers wise.

The trick is getting my lessons down to 20 minutes each.  I know my group of higher level students can plow through the lesson in no time.  My lower group needs more reinforcement, for them I might have to go slower through the week or not follow lesson to lesson for them.

** On a side note, someone asked how I group students... we use NWEA MAP testing.  I group my students according to their RIT score.  Another way you can do grouping is by pre-test scores.**

Here is what I will tell you... with my old math program EDM, I absolutely could get in my lesson in 20 minutes.  When you are teaching small group, you actually go much quicker through the lesson and examples.  I like to follow the lesson format of I do, we do, you do.  First I'll demonstrate the math concept, introduce terminology, etc.  Then I will have the students complete the problem with me on white boards, then I have them try it on their own.  Plus, in all honesty... do students really have the attention span to listen to a full lesson lecture for over 20 minutes, especially in the primary grades?

Remember this is my year to figure this all out and write about my journey.  There might be things I don't know how to incorporate yet and things that are going really well.

Here are some Eureka newbie observations...

1.  When you start a program in fourth grade, for example, there is a certain background knowledge from the previous grades they miss.  RDW is a prime example.  I love how the lesson says to use RDW for a problem but there is not a single bit of formal instruction to teach, model, and practice RDW.  In fact, it really should be a whole week of lessons on it's own.

2.  10 minutes for problem sets is very unrealistic.... do I have to say anything more on this?

3.  I like how the problem set closely correlates to the homework.  At least the students are taking home examples of problems they are going to have to do on their own.

4.  I miss the hands-on games that help reinforce skill/concepts.  Hence the reason I need my fourth math station up and running... math game/card station.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Eureka Math.... A Journey and a Start

Yesterday marked day 10 with my new group of student.  All 32 of them.  Yes. 32 of them!  It took a few days to get over the claustrophobic feeling of having that many desks and bodies in a room all day.  However, they are a fantastic group that I have the pleasure of calling mine this school year.

Eureka Math... I jumped right in on Day 2.  Let me say that the very first lesson in fourth grade is quite a doozy!  Wow!  I prepped and read the lesson but miserably failed at teaching it.  I will full on admit that yes, my lesson was bad. (I'll explain why in just a bit).  I could see the looks on their faces, like I was speaking a different language.

So I thought,  "Ok.  Let's do this again."  I'm going to retry the lesson the next day.  No go.

Oh man.  Things are not looking good.  So I sit and reflect, what is happening here.  **Lightbulb**
I need to ditch the script.  The script was killing me and my teaching style.

Third day... I have this in the bag!  I ditched the script.  Made it my own, presented the concept in my own words, and there we have it.  I was back on track.  The kids responded well too!

Note, if you follow the WHOLE lesson from beginning to end, especially for Module 1, Lesson 1 for fourth grade, it WILL take over two hours.  Realistically, that is not going to happen any day or anytime in my classroom.  If you follow the script and rely on your manual for all the wording, you are going to sound like a drone and who wants to listen to that?  Lesson learned for me!

By the end of the first week, even though I figured out I needed to ditch the script, still use the examples and vocabulary, I was drowning with trying to reach 32 kids.  I never.  I repeat. NEVER start stations without proper training.  I had already introduced the math card station the first week and wrote the expectations.  The kids had two days of practice.  By the beginning of the second week, I knew I had to make a decision to do something rather than whole group.

I decided on a slight modification to start.  I broke the kids up into three groups.  They were going to rotate between the three stations, around 20-25 minutes each stations.  The three stations I had were... meet with teacher, independent (practice pages) and then computer station.   It was a glorious first day of stations.  It was so much easier to teach a small group of 10.  The kids loved the computers and it was quite quiet the whole math block!

So that is where I am at right now.  I have three temporary groups rotating between the three stations.  I'm eventually going to move to my traditional four stations.  That is my goal for September.  I'll keep in the loop as I go along on this Eureka Math journey!

I hope you are all off to a good start or about to have a great start of the school year!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Eureka Math - EEEKKKK!

Our district is making the switch to Eureka (aka Engage NY) math, all grades to implement starting this fall.  I'll admit, it's a bit overwhelming but then again, it's bound to be anytime you take on a new program.

For the past 12 years I've been using Everyday Math.  It was a good program but even with the newer fourth grade edition, it was full of common core holes.  So this past year I went off program and used all my own resources to teach.  It was actually a very successful year.  We worked more on mastery of concepts rather than the EDM spiral.  My teammate and I focused on one standard a week, which made it more doable and were able to cover all fourth grade CC math standards.

But now onto Eurkea...

At the end of the school year I received seven bound books, one for each of the units I am going to teach my fourth graders next year.  Those suckers are thick and wordy!  *Gulp*

I did attend my first district/Eureka training and thankfully, after hearing from the Eureka trainer, the parts seem a little bit more understandable.

My big dilemma will not be teaching Eureka math itself but navigating a new program and fitting it into my Guided-Math format!  It is going to be a journey of trial and error to fit it all in.

My plan is to still have four math groups, there might be a slight chance it could go down to three groups but that is yet to be determined.  I'm going to put my head back into the hole for now and enjoy my summer, while it lasts.  Come August, I'll hit the planning hard to figure out what I am doing!

Anyone else out there use Eureka and Guided Math?  Please share your experiences in the comments! I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading... a book study!

Hello Everyone!  I hope you are having a fabulous summer so far! I am excited to be participating in the Notice and Note book study that is being hosted by Melissa at Dilly-Dabbles.  To catch up on all the chapter reviews/posts you can click on the above link to see all the hosted chapters.

Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading
By: Kylene Beers & Robert E. Probst

With that being said... onto my chosen chapters: 

Lesson 3: Tough Questions and Lesson 4: Words of the Wiser (pgs. 140-162)


There is probably little to say in terms of how great this book is that hasn't been already shared in the previous book chapter reviews.  At the beginning of summer I took a district literacy workshop.  Part of the morning they focused on close reading.  I had heard of close reading but hadn't learned or practiced it in my own classroom, so being in this book study and my district workshop has been fantastic.  I am taking away so many ideas and practices that I actually think I can successfully utilize in my own classroom this upcoming school year.

What I loved about my two chapters is that they are step by step directions of how you can introduce both the tough questions and words of the wiser signposts to your students.  They give a script of how this signpost was taught in a classroom, what the teacher said and also student reactions.

Let's start with Tough Questions...  Here are the highlights or jist of what you need to know about Tough Questions.

1.  This signpost helps students identify and recognize the importance of the major problem the character is facing.  Think deeper questions here, not just "What is the characters sister's name?"

2.  Share with your students examples of tough questions and non-tough questions so they understand what the difference is.

3.  For this modeled lesson in the book they use the chapter book, A Long Walk to Water... which by the way I haven't read but heard at my last workshop that this is an EXCELLENT book.  Now that I see it in this book and heard from other teachers I have to read it!!

4. As you read the chapter they will give you excerpts of the book, so you get an idea of what they are talking about with the class and how they can identify the tough questions.

5.  Troubleshooting... what do you do if you have a student that just can come up with an answer to the tough questions.  Some students might just respond by saying, "I wonder what the answer is."  Thankfully the book gives examples of different types of wondering such as "How would I feel if I were in these circumstances?" or "What would happen if the character made this choice, instead of that one?"

6.  As a fourth grade teacher, I am thinking what chapter book would I use to introduce this signpost?  I'm thinking it can't be too hard of a book, something just right or a little below.  I think I'm going to give it a shot with Fourth Grade Rats.  I think there is a lot of character dilemma where Suds is questioning who he is and what he should do.  I also think fourth graders can identify with him and come up with the answers to the tough questions for Suds.

And now onto Words of the Wiser... if you are still with me!  :)  I hope!  I know there is a lot of information within these two chapters that I don't want to leave out!

1.  I was originally excited about this chapter because they use the book Ride to Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan.  I KNOW THAT BOOK!  I use it for a guided-reading or lit circle book time to time.  So when I read this chapter I can see how Words of the Wiser works and how to model it to my students!

2.  Words of the Wiser... students are taught to identify the scene in which a wiser, and generally older, character offers the main character some critical advice.

3.  Usually this lesson is taught fourth, after Contrasts and Contradictions, Aha Moments, and Tough Questions.  Also note that these lessons are not mini-lessons.  You need a good chunk of time, say 30-40 mins to fully teach and model the concept.

4.  As with Tough Questions you are going to begin by explaining what wise words are... how your parents or older siblings give you advice.

5. Using scenes from the book, you show how someone was giving Charlotte advice.  Example, when Vern was telling Charlotte "You gotta do what your heart tells you."  You ask questions to the students such as, "How could this advice affect the character?"

6.  The authors do state that most of the chapter books they have read do have Words of the Wiser moments, not all but as long as the main character is a child or young adult, then a wiser and older character often gives advice.

7.  Other recommended books for additional practice:  Walk Two Moons, Tuck Everlasting, Thank You, Ma'am.  These are geared towards older grades though.

Phew!!  I really am excited to dive into Close Reading next school year.  If you have any doubts or questions on how to do close reading, especially using fiction text, this is the book to get! 

I hope you enjoyed this whole book study!  Make sure to check out the other posts.  A lot of bloggers have included some amazing template that are free for you to use!  I know I will be!

Enjoy and Good Luck!


    An InLinkz Link-up


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Shamrocks and Rainbows

I'm trying to will spring on right now.  I'm thinking if I put shamrocks and rainbows up, that spring is sure to come around the corner... right?

We made these this week and I love them!  So festive, bright, and cheerful!

The first was shamrocks.  They were pretty simple to make.  I originally found the instruction on how to make them here.  I had to draw out a template for each color, one white, one light green, one dark green.  I didn't have specific measurements to go off of so I had to wing it size wise.  I made each one about an inch and half shorter than the next.

I gave the kids the template to trace and then cut out.  I could have pre-made all the strips but I thought I'd make the kids work their fine motor skills!  Something I realized they do not get enough practice with.

The rainbow sort of followed the same way.  I made my own measurements, again each strip about 1 inch shorter than the next.  For that one I had the strips pre-cut and the kids just had to glue the ends together.

So now that these are up, the weather is going to turn warmer, the snow is going to melt, flip-flops are going to come back out, the winter coat is going in the closet!  (Of which I am totally ignoring the weather report that says we might get more snow next weekend.  sigh.)


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Teach Like a Pirate ... A Summer Book Study

Aaarrrggghhhhh you ready???

What do you call a pirate who skips class?   ...... Captain Hooky!

Why does a pirate take so long to learn the alphabet?  ......because they always gets stuck at "C"!

Ok. Ok.  Corny but funny.  I can't resist a good pirate joke!

I am terribly excited to take part in this summer's book study...

 Teach Like a Pirate
by Dave Burgess
Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator.
I am happy to kickoff the Teach Like a Pirate book study!  The book is broken down into three Parts.  Each part has coordinating chapters.  I'm going to focus on the first section of Part 1: Teach Like a Pirate! - The "P" in Pirate standing for... Passion.

I got my copy of this book a couple weeks before school let out (can I take a moment to whoop that it's summer!). The end of the school year, the time where you are running on empty, just making it day by day and counting down the days until summer break...  I think you all get this. 
The arrival of this book came just at the right time. I partly got my head out of the fog and had a moment of clear thinking, "Oh yah, teaching. I do love teaching!"
The author, Dave, goes to describe three types of passion.
1.  Content Passion - Taking a look at what subject matter you are most passionate about.
Personally, I think my Social Studies lessons are my most creative, spark producing.  In my fourth grade, we take virtual trips across the United States.  Each trip features a different region.  It is totally hands on, interactive and the kids LOVE it!  We take a whole morning, three hours, to take this trip.  Once the trip is over, sometimes I really feel like I actually took that trip.  I'd love to put more of this type of teaching into my other subjects. 
2.  Professional Passion- What are you passionate about in your profession
Outside the classroom I love being involved in professional development.  Which should be no surprise, considering this blog! :)
3.  Personal Passion- What are you passionate about outside your profession.
This is a hard answer for me because I'm on of those who dabbles in a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  I don't have one single that I am totally crazy for and I'm ok with that.  I'm the type that when I want to know or try something, I'll go and figure it out.
I would like to think that most teachers got into this profession because they have some sort of passion for kids or learning. I think that passion is always inside you but sometimes it's stronger than others times. I'll admit there are days I'm just trying to get by. Then there are days where I have teaching brilliance. I think it is normal to fluctuate on the passion spectrum, whether it be high or low at times.  I look forward to using some of Dave's ideas and injecting more passion into my teaching!
Be sure to check out the next part of this book study next week at:  The Hands on Teacher in First.
Enjoy your reading!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Word Wall Posters Featuring Measurement - Capacity Terms

The other day, while I stood at my stove, stirring my dinner, I thought to myself, "Man, I should be halfway to retirement by now."  Which really is a joke because I've only been teaching for ten years.  However, when I thought about all the grade levels I have taught in multi-age settings, it really adds up... so here is my experience.

1st grade = 2 years
2nd grade = 4 years
3rd grade = 4 years
4th grade = 6 years

So all in total I have 16 years of grade level experience jam packed into ten years of teaching.  I have loved almost every minute of those "16" years so far!  ... but for the life of me I can't even begin to think how I ever got my mind on that topic while cooking! HA :)

In other news... I have a new word wall set for you today!  I am continuing my measurement theme here.  I created a set before, which you can find here.   Today's new set features the following terms:

Check them out!  Click on the link below to download your free posters today!