Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back to School Weekly Linky: Week 2!

We're BACK!! Time for Week 2 of the Back 2 School Weekly Linky with Stephanie & myself. 
This week, we're talking ALL about assessment! We're giving ideas, tips, strategies, success stories, and other sorts of information. SO read on below and then check out the links in the link up to see other's tips!
When it comes to assessment, I'm a big time newbie. I didn't know much about it, nor did I learn a lot in college about it… kind of just a "teach yourself" sort of topic, in my opinion.

This past year, I did a LOT of observing as a form of assessment. I liked to walk around with my students working and get down on their level to see what they were thinking. I asked them questions to gauge their understanding, to gauge their thinking, and so forth.

I also relied a lot on Bloom's Taxonomy when trying to make my assessments up. We would do a LOT of explaining, which fell under the evaluation part in Bloom's. Also, we did a lot of labeling, arranging, and identifying (from the first two levels of Bloom's). 

In terms of testing, I made a lot of my own assessments up to meet the needs of my students. They did a lot of remembering and recalling information, especially in mathematics.

But, a lot of my science assessments took the form of projects to show what they've learned. 

My absolute FAVORITE project I assigned, by far, was the Animal Habitat Diorama. This project required students to create a diorama about an animal, uncommon animals to be specific. You typically see animal projects about dogs, cats, lions, tigers, etc. BUT, this project held animals such as ducks, quails, zebra, prairie dogs, komodo dragons, gorillas, anteaters, buffalos, and so on! My kiddos LOVED it.
But, I had to find a way to assess their work (and man, did they do some awesome work!!). So, I turned to a rubric. Rubrics are easy for me to create because you identify your category/area, assign the points, and then leave comments to support your stance on the points!
Students can easily understand the rubrics, as well, and if not, they can hand it to you, ask questions, and you can easily explain.

I also really enjoy doing portfolios. When it comes to writing, it's easy for my students to look back at their work using their portfolios. Portfolios help my students participate in self-directed learning, assessing, and they are able to hold themselves to goals, as well! Portfolios allow for students to hold themselves accountable for their work, as well.

When it comes to portfolios, I used two specific types - documentation portfolios to show my students' growth over time and process portfolios to show my students' work over time as they started with the brainstorming, to rough drafts, to final drafts. My students this past year thoroughly enjoyed being able to look through their portfolios to see how they have grown, and I enjoyed looking through them for this reason, as well!

In our class, we used MANY more assessment strategies than just the two I identified, but those were our two major assessments. Other assessments we used on an "every once in a while" basis were:
-conferences (especially with reading)
-end of the year tests
-oral fluency assessments
-fluency tests
-performance assessments (especially with mathematics)
-standardized tests (agh…)

What types of assessments do you utilize most?? Write up a post and link up below! I'd love to hear all about it. If you don't have a blog, feel fee to leave a comment so we can discuss it!!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Do You Wonder?? A Bright Idea!

Time for another Bright Ideas linky! We're onto our 5th month and I have SOOOOOO many bright ideas lined up for when I get back into the classroom!

But, this week's bright idea I'm bringing you is one of my FAVS. I'm actually reading the book "Reading in the Wild" by Donalyn Miller and SHE even mentions it. AMAZING.
Do you ever WONDER something and hope to find the answer? For example, do you ever wonder what gluten is, how mountains are made, how dynamite works, or how fireflies glow?? Well, I've got the site for you!
Cue Wonderopolis. Wonderopolis is one of those amazing sites you just happen to come upon and it turns out to be fantastic and something that your students ask if you can do every. single. day. 

Wonderopolis is a website created by the National Center for Family Learning (NCFL). It's a website where "natural curiosity and imagination lead to exploration and discovery in learners of all ages." 

The cool thing about Wonderopolis is that it aligns in the following ways:
-with Common Core State Standards
-with STEM Standards
-with Bloom's Taxonomy

A website that covers ALL that AND it intrigues children? Win, win! 
Wonderopolis also has a random "wonder of the day" that you and your students could read, question, analyze, and discuss each and every day. It changes and you NEVER know what's next, unless you take the vote on what the wonder of the day should be!

This website is intended to be an interactive, engaging site and I personally feel that they've achieved it! It's not only geared towards students - it's great for parents, educators, and administrators alike!

Have you ever used Wonderopolis? Go head on over and play around - you never know what you'll discover!

If you liked this bright idea, be sure to check out the other bright ideas listed below! And, check out my Pinterest page for more bright ideas!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Back to School Weekly Linky: Week 1!

Welcome!!! It's FINALLY here - the weekly Back to School linky that Mrs. D's Corner and I are collaborating with - a labor of love :)

So, what is the B2S Weekly Linky all about?? Well, I'll tell ya!

This linky is a linky that is dedicated to getting you as educators, parents, and administrators ready for BACK TO SCHOOL!! As a group, we will share tips, stories, advice, and other such information on ten different topics, each week being a different topic. 

Topics might be about behavior management, your schedules, online tools that you love, and so on.

Check out the schedule below to see each week's topic.

So, let's begin with Week 1's topic!
Behavior management is a struggle for many teachers, especially new teachers like myself. I have taught myself that I don't need to be my students' friend, but rather, someone they can talk to but still look up to. 

So, I make sure that my behavior management techniques employ the positive reinforcement rather than negative.

For example, this past year, we used three separate things in my classroom.

First, we used our star chart.
Sorry for the blurry picture, but you'll get what it is after I explain it!

I purchased gold star stickers and a blue incentive chart from the teacher store. The students' names are written down the side and then the dates that we are in class are written across the top.

As you can see, the school I was at used the "behavior chart" with green, yellow, orange, and red cards. If a student made it through the day on green (with lots of other positive reinforcement, many ended up staying at green ALL day), they received a star.

At the end of the quarter, I counted up how many stars student MISSED. They were allowed up to 5 "no greens" and then they were out of the running for a Target gift card. I did this for 2 quarters and saw the behavior improve tremendously.

I will DEFINITELY use the Star Chart in the future, but in a different context. Next time, I will be using a personal, smaller star chart that I created. I think I will also do the chart monthly instead of quarterly and will also give a LOT of responsibility to the students by having them hold on to their own star charts!
Want a little freebie star chart to implement in your classroom this upcoming school year? Hang tight and check out the bottom of the post for a mini-freebie from the larger pack :)
Another positive reinforcement I used in the classroom to help behavior was the Homework Club created by Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics.

The idea behind the club was that if you did your homework, you stayed in. If after the month ended you were still in, you received some sort of prize. It could be take your shoes off for the day, write in a pen for the day, homework passes, sit at a different table during lunch for the week, or anything else - prizes were things that did NOT cost me any money. So, it worked out well.

Their enthusiasm for the homework club impressed me and I had a few still not turn in homework… but a majority turned it in daily!

Finally, we used my fantastic system known as Party Puffs.
Others may know it as a marble jar or star jar. But, I found these BRIGHT, fun puffs at Hobby Lobby two years ago and thought of the name party puffs… why? Well, after the jar is completely full, the class gets to have a party!

How did they earn puffs? If they received a compliment from another teacher, parent, etc., they get 1 puff. If they received a complement from the principal, vice principal, or anyone else that holds an upper position, they got 22 party puffs (1 for each student in the class). They knew, though, that if behavior went downhill, I had the authority to remove the puffs and start over.

That crushed them so they ALWAYS did their best to make sure they didn't have to lose them, and instead, they were probably the BEST class when walking through hallways, when someone came into the classroom, etc. I was impressed with how well they acted and couldn't have been happier with the outcome of our party puff jar.

As of right now, I'm not in the classroom as a full time teacher next year. But, when I do go back, I plan to employ a few other techniques… one being a classroom economy system. This will help with the bathroom trips, daily jobs, and the overall behavior in and outside of the classroom.

My good friend Corinna who blogs over at Surfin' Through Second has a great product called Beach Bucks Classroom Money System.

I'll be using it to help my students not only practice their math skills, but also their social studies/economy skills... AND we'll be working on behavior at the same time! Amazing.

Oh yeah, that freebie! Are you still interested? Click on the photo below to be taken to GoogleDocs to download the Star Chart freebie :) 
So, what kinds of behavior management techniques, stories, advice, or other tips do you have for others? Link up below to let us know!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday Made It: Week 6

It's that time again! Time for Monday Made It with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics!

I have got to tell you.. this is my FAVORITE linky in the entire world. I love how it inspires me to not only be crafty, but to get up and move and do things instead of just saying I'll do them eventually..

NOPE. Not with this linky. It puts me in such a good mood when I read other posts, too! I can feel the energy from people and I love it!

So, needless to say, here goes!
As I was perusing Pinterest one day, I came across this pin (of course) by Cool Mom Tech.

I loved the idea of putting our wifi password onto paper in a picture frame. Our guest room is bright pink. And when I say bright, I mean BRIGHT!!! So, I wanted to make something that would match the decor.
I used a quatrefoil background paper and then a bright pink frame to tie in the colors. I used a few KG fonts and typed it up! It's now hanging in the guest room and looks tiny on the wall… but I love it!!
Keeping with the theme of printables from Pinterest, I then came across a pin with a quote by the character Blair Waldorf from Gossip Girl.
{There wasn't a link to a blog or anything… just a dead-end picture with a great quote}

Well, I wanted to cutesy it up and make it match the color in my craft room. My craft room is that mint green, so I went with green, blue, and white!
I absolutely LOVE the way it turned out. It's so pretty, fun, and a great quote to keep my mind on the goal :)
Finally, I needed a way to keep myself organized with all the projects I want to complete. I had no idea how to make sure I got all my projects written down and remembered what they may look like.

I initially had all my projects written on a whiteboard, but it wasn't very pretty.

I love the way it turned out. I have plenty of room to attach pictures of projects or just sticky notes or ANYTHING. I absolutely adore it and love the bright colors in the "pinspired" word. It just makes me happy walking into the room and seeing it!

So, what did YOU make this week? Link up with Tara for Monday Made It - Week 6.
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