Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Beginning of the Year Math

When I think about first grade math, I think about addition and subtraction.  I think about the stage of each learner: concrete, representational, or abstract.  I think about strategies. I think about fluency.

I started out using our math series and quickly put it back.  I found out that I should also be thinking about depth and breadth.  It made me think about starting off  in a different way.  Here's what I'm doing now to encourage math fluency, strategies, and depth and breadth:

1. Number Talks- math fluency, strategies
This is a short time, in which you show a problem quickly and the students mentally solve.  I ask, "What did you see?  How did you see it?"  This gets the students doing mental math! and it has them explaining their thinking, which directly ties to strategies.  Read more about Number Talks here:  Number Talks Build Numerical Reasoning

2. Open-ended Math Problems- math fluency, strategies and depth and breadth
Immediately I saw that my students do not know how to read and reason with math word problems.  This is one of our most important math standards.  It helps students with reasoning and knowing what to do is essential.  I knew I needed to teach my students to use the reading & math strategies they already have to understand how to plan, solve and check tricky word problems.
OH.MY.WORD using open-ended questions has been the BEST formative assessment I could have ever used.  What strategies do they have?  Are they in concrete, representational, or abstract phase?  Do they have math fact fluency?  Do they understand how to read a problem?  It has opened my eyes in a new way.  I feel like I'm starting off the year really understanding each child's mathematical abilities.  

I have some problems for you here:  OpenEndedMath.  Pages 1-4 have differentiated addition problems on the top and bottom.  Pages 5-8 have differentiated subtraction problems on two separate pages.  

After I created a few problems, I went on TPT and bought Emmy Mac Shop's A Year of Monthly Open Ended Problems.  This is a bundle but you can also buy it separately.  I am very impressed with the quality and am glad I splurged on the bundle!

3. Math Running Records- math strategies, fluency 
I saw and then quickly bought The Classroom Key's Math Running Records, Addition and Subtraction.  I have always loved starting the year by listening to the readers in my room and conducting a running record.  So when I saw this fabulous idea, I knew I wanted to try it.  And it is AH.MAZ.ING!!  It really helps you grasp what your student gets and what they need help on.  I also loved that I could see how long it took each child to solve the problems.  Now that I have finished (just today), I am ready to use the data to help create groups.  This tells you WAY MORE than a math series beginning of the year test...and it helps you get started right away!

I hope you find these tips helpful!  I feel that I finally understand the mathematicians in my class.  I know that our math time will be more meaningful and focused.

Have a lovely night,

Rubrics and My Anchor Chart Must-Haves

The Growth Mindset is starting to make an impact in education.  Carol Dweck explains Growth Mindset,
 In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities. Teaching a growth mindset creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports. It enhances relationships. When you read Mindset, you’ll see how.
In my mind this directly relates to rubrics being created and shared with students.  If you know what is expected of you, and you know what it takes to go beyond, you can set goals to get their.  I remember when I went to school, I was handed an assignment and told to read a section of the textbook.  I didn't really know what I was working on other than what the teacher told me to do it.  I would turn in my work and hope for the best.  I had no control.  It either worked in my favor or it didn't.

In my own job, I like to know what I'm being evaluated on and I like to know how to accomplish it.  I want to give my students that opportunity as well.  I want them to see that their education is their own and what they make of it goes with them wherever they are.

When a rubric becomes a part of your classroom your discussions change.  The students really understand the standards and why they are learning them.  It creates a culture of learning that is different than before.  I really focus on the growth students are making rather than their level on the rubric.  

My must-haves for anchor charts:

1. Essential question that is standards-based:  I like to create a culture of thought.  What better way than to ask a question at the beginning of the lesson?  This isn't a question that can be answered in one word. You will note that my essential questions are quite different than the reading textbooks questions.  That's because I focus on standards, not themes.   To read more about essential questions, look here:  Essential Questions &/or What is an Essential Question?
2. Rubric with several levels: To create growth, we must show the different levels of learning.  I try to make them kid-friendly statements.  They are discussed again and again.  I also show work at each level.  At the beginning of a lesson, the students goal set with a neighbor telling how they are going to meet that goal.  At the end of a lesson, they self-assess and share how they know.  

3. Steps, Tips and/or Language Stems for figuring out the standard: I want to go beyond what they're learning and teach them steps for getting there.  My students USE the charts.  During a unit of learning, my students get up randomly and walk to a chart and reread it.  Usually there is a "Oh, now I get it!" moment.

I have definitely gone through transformations with my anchor charts.  And there are times where I leave off one of my must-haves but it is usually for a reason.  During a unit, I may make a separate rubric chart to hang and then focus on different aspects on the anchor charts.  
Here is an older anchor chart.  I didn't share an essential question or rubric.  My, my, my, times have changed BUT I feel like I give my students more opportunities to be successful.  I love that as a class we focus on our growth and we know WE CAN LEARN ANYTHING!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Falling in love with bulletin boards

Before I was a teacher, I pined over bulletin boards.  I dreamed of what I would create with my students and looked forward to the process.  Fast forward a couple years later and they became the bane of my existence!  Measuring, changing paper/fabric/border, trying to be cute and creative had its toll.

I now buy a black sheet for all my boards at the beginning of the year and buy borders that can withstand the year and look good no matter the time of year.  The boards in my room are used for our daily learning and reference.  I don't put up cute projects that are only relevant to one day...I save that for the hall.

When thinking of what should be displayed on the boards I think about: 1.what do the students need to be successful, 2. what am I obligated to display, 3. what do I think will motivate the students, and 4. how likely will it be that someone uses the board.

I left this as a whiteboard because we will be using it as our Inquiry Board and I would like the students to write on it as our inquiries grow.

This Word Wall is on a whiteboard and will stay the same except for the addition of words.  I decided not to make it a sight word board but a vocabulary board.  I printed the Dolch words pre-primer through 3rd onto one sheet and laminated it for each child.  You can pick it up here: SightWordSheet

This is my favorite board.  During Meet the Teacher night, I take pictures of each family.  We use this board ALL.THE.TIME!  When the students miss their families, when they need to think about solving a problem, when they need a character for a story...the list goes on and on to how we  use this board in class.

So as I said before, I save the boards in our room for our learning.  Right now our reading and writing have displayed anchor charts that we are referring back to again and again.  Math has our strategies and rotations.  

This board is our display for the hall.  Each month I change the quilt with monthly pictures.  I use props like glasses or hats that show the time of year (bat glasses, elf hat, etc.).  At the end of the year we make a scrapbook of our year.  Parents and students love it!

Now that I have found what works for me and most importantly my students, I don't hate the boards anymore!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Why my perfect set-up wasn't perfect...

So many teachers dedicated their summer time to preparing for the new year to come.  We have the perfect plan and diligently work on making it happen.  But what happens when that perfect plan isn't perfect when the students arrive?  One thing teachers have to fall back on is flexibility.

I am in a new classroom, at a new school and in a new district.  I set up the room with a lot of thought but I couldn't see how the students would use it.  18 bodies definitely change my plan!
This is a panoramic view of my new room.  I loved how the tables were in a straight row.  It was very visually pleasing and tidy...but it didn't work.  I have quite a few students that want to stand with their chair pushed out, or kind of lean on it.  It made it very hard to get around the room.  So we had to fix it.  It's not as visually pleasing but it does function MUCH better. 

Here is the change.  It was one of those changes that had a domino effect.  Other things had to find a new home.  The double sided shelf that holds the students book bins moved over by the mailboxes.  The double sided front loading book shelf had to move over by the library.  Small student chairs and crates were moved.

It wasn't how I wanted it but that's not what's important.  The students are the central reason to make any decisions in the classroom.  Yes, I like it to be pretty.  Yes, I like it to be visually pleasing. But more than anything I want the students to feel comfortable and happy in the space.  So flexibility and letting go of my wishes had to happen.  In the age of Pinterest and blogs, I know so many of us feel the pressure to have the cutest classroom  but make sure it works for your students.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Classroom Reveal 2015-2016

This year I am starting a new adventure!  I'm teaching in a different district and obviously a new school.  The school is an International Baccalaureate and I'm teaching the gifted/advanced first grade (both firsts for me).  
 How to find what you're looking for, if you don't know what you're looking for. Just journey onwards, you'll find something eventually.: How to find what you're looking for, if you don't know what you're looking for. Just journey onwards, you'll find something eventually.
I love a good challenge and I feel like I'm using a lot of brain power to learn many, many new things.  Guess what?  I'm loving it.  My class and families are the perfect fit for me.  Well and the fact that I am back in the grade I was made for.  

So when I set up my room I thought it was PERFECT but then the kids came and I had to make adjustments.  The kids kept bumping their chairs into each other and it was a tight squeeze.  Visually it was my perfect but the best laid plans of mice and men go awry.

So tonight I will show you the before (my pictures won't upload to the cloud so I'll have to wait on the after).  C'est la vie! 


Here is my small group/teacher work area.  I have put my desk in my very large closet, which is the first closet I've ever had.

I used Cara Carroll's back to school ideas and had parents fill out an envelope so I could send a sweet note about their child.

Birthdays and our family wall
I love the family wall so much!  The students and I use it all the time.

This is the back wall and I decided I needed to use it for subject areas.  Anchor charts are displayed on reading and writing.  While math has strategies and our rotations.

Our book bins are held by this double sided shelf.  We went book shopping on day 2!

I saw this idea on pinterest but I'm not sure where.  I put our wishes on cupcakes and the parents grabbed almost all of them!

Here is a close-up of our math rotations.  

I had a table set up for meet the teacher that now holds the mailboxes.

Frame Worthy Work will always have a place in my classroom.  The frames are from Lakeshore Learning and I love them SO much...you just slip work inside.  This is also our supply area, hermit crab tank and math supplies.

The desk were already with Learning In Wonderland's flip book, bubbles, and login cards.

As I mentioned before, we are an IB school.  We display and teach the learner profiles (open-minded, reflective, caring, courageous, thinker, knowledgeable, inquirer, communicator, balanced. and principled).  They are displayed to the sides of the board and below are name tag holders with the traits that students wear for the day when we note them using one of the LPs.

These are the Learner Profile student recognition in name tag holders.  When I notice a student exhibiting one, we all stop and acknowledge and then the child wears one for the rest of the day.

Here is a close up of one of the profiles.

This is the front of my room with my new ActivPanel.  Two weeks in and I don't know how I taught without it.

Most of these read alouds are tied to the profiles.  We use books to introduce them each day. (i.e. Oliver Button is a Sissy helped us learn open-minded),

Word Wall...it was going to be used for HFW but instead I'm going to use it for our vocabulary.

Bucket Fillers Chart 

Close-up of the board

IKEA picture frames for my unit essential questions

Hand signals

ActivPanel with Pink Cat Studios Owl Attendance

Left side of room

Right side of room

The bags are to schedule students for book shopping each day of the week so the classroom library doesn't get jammed.

Book display and Growth Mindset Posters

I put baskets with labels out for parents/students to sort supplies.

Door essentials


The IB materials and colorful classroom decor can be found in my TPT shop: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/The-Go-To-Teacher 

Tomorrow I will share my 2 weeks later pictures with all the changes.  Have a great night!