Saturday, August 31, 2013

My Two Cents on Pinterest and Twitter...

It has been one heck of a week!  Returning to school from summer break always seems packed with "have to dos"!!  I'm entering my second year as a campus instructional specialist and I still feel like a newbie and that it's just a matter of time before everyone finds out I'm in the wrong position!! But, I love working with teachers and helping them find out what works (and doesn't!) in their classrooms.

Now on to the reason for my post...

Pinterest and Twitter have been invaluable resources for so many educators.  Where else can you find exactly what you're looking for, in all content areas, without having to type 15,000 entries into Google search??  But many teachers, I feel, fail to use these social media sites effectively.  You may have a classroom loaded with Pinterest ideas, but do you really know why? 

I encourage all of you to take the time to investigate the ideas you gleam from Pinterest.  Don't just pin the idea without clicking on the link.  You may be surprised at what you find...and not in a negative way!  Links take you to the website the idea was originally pinned from.  Don't just look into the clicked idea, peruse the website.  Many of the ideas I initially pinned led me to new, exciting ideas on the same website!  It's also interesting to see why a teacher had an idea and how they actually use it in their classroom.  I'm always leery of using ideas that a teacher created, but has not used.  What is the purpose?  What are the results? What were the kinks that had to be worked out? If they don't know, then why would I try it???  It's great to have a cute classroom with 100 anchor charts, but did you use them the way they were intended?  What is the relevance in your classroom?

If you don't have a Twitter account, I highly suggest you get one.  Almost every educational institution, including local school districts, regions, colleges, and government educational agencies, have a Twitter account.  The great thing about Twitter is you don't HAVE to tweet to use it!  I follow so many blogs and educational accounts.  There always seems to be a link to follow full of ideas that I would have never seen on Pinterest or Facebook!!!  There may not be cute posters or colorful baskets to label, but Twitter keeps me updated on every day education news that I never see on a news website!  I can follow whomever I want.  It may be a classroom teacher tweeting about a new activity they've tried in their classroom.  Or a blogger with no cute pictures to pin.  But Twitter is happening NOW.  If a teacher posts to their Twitter, they are sharing an idea they JUST used!!!  I don't click on a five year old idea that is no longer relevant.  If an educational institution tweets, it's about what's happening NOW in education; not what happened in 1972!!!! Love, love, love it!!!!!

On to one of my many favorite Pinterest pins::::
every time.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Just sharing...

As an instructional specialist on my campus, I have the opportunity to write "creative" lesson plans for our teachers and students.  I don't do this for their classrooms; I do it for our Saturday Academy.  This is a special instructional time, where selected students get to learn skills they are struggling with in a "new" way.  I get to create games, and write unique plans.  Then, I have to gather the materials.  That's the hard part...I have to make foldables or game pieces for 7 classes of 10 students.  Time con-su-ming...and time is not what I have a lot of at the moment!!!

I wanted to share several foldables that our students have done.  Our 5th grade students are working on inferring (yikes!!) and our 4th grade students are working on revising and editing.  All are preparing for the first round of STAAR testing the first week in April.

Let's begin with a foldable and an anchor chart for FANBOYS.  These are the conjunctions students need to expand sentences.  They include For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So.

I did this activity with my small group first.  They looovvveeeddd it!! It's something they go back and tell their homeroom teachers!! Wow!

They have also worked on subject/verb agreement.  Here is a foldable we created:

Finally, here is the foldable we used for my 5th grade group to continue our work on inferring:

I truly believe that using creative ways to reach students, which includes creating fun foldables, reinforces learning and helps students gain ownership over what they need to know.  I love allowing students to use foldables to help them answer questions or create their own questions.

On a personal note, I am working on my Masters Degree in Teacher Leadership.  I am currently working on Student Motivation and Achievement.  Though I'm excellent at time management, I found myself, for the first time since I started in January, struggling to get motivated! HOW IRONIC! (Alanis Morrisette is playing in my head right now!)  However, I completed my assignment 5 hours before it was due.  So, at least I wasn't late. Hmph.

Here is a great quote from my the creator of my favorite cartoon characters, Calvin and Hobbes:

"You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet.  You have to be in the right mood.  What mood is that?  Last-minute panic"--Bill Watterson

My. Point. Exactly.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Lazy Sunday Review...

What a beautiful southeast Texas Sunday!  It makes me excited for spring...and Spring Break!!

I wanted to share with you an activity I did with my 5th grade Alternative Learning Time group.  ALT groups, in our district, are used as reteach moments for students who are struggling or enrichment for students who are on the right track.

My lesson for my ALT group students involved reviewing and reteaching how to "infer".  This is just such a difficult concept for students to grasp!  It's also one of the things that we ALL do EVERY DAY...several times a day!!  But when it is put in the context of education, children just don't "get it"!!!

With this group, I'm having to revisit the concrete before we can move on to the abstract, i.e. STAAR test question stems and practice materials.

Of course, I started with an anchor chart...because, well, I love them and it's so totally the way I teach.
Sorry for the "sideways" pic!  I now work out of a small office instead of a regular classroom.  Once I add a table and students, there is no room to maneuver and take a full-frontal anchor chart pic!!  Essentially, we talked about what infer means:  what we already know PLUS what we learn.  In fifth grade, students must infer through generalizing, predicting, and drawing conclusions.  That was our concrete focus.  Oddly enough, my group came up with an acronym for the chart:  Gus Plays Dodgeball! They know I love my funky ways of teaching!!

After much discussion and examples, I had an "on the fly" moment!  Why not have students create a quick foldable with this big stack of extra paper strips I have???  "Why yes", I said to myself, "I think I will!!!"  So, I grabbed an handful of paper strips, and some paper clips, and "Mobiliarbus" (Harry Potter, people!), here is what we created:

The closed strips list how we infer (know+learn), and each type of inference (generalize, predict, draw conclusions).  When students opened each strip, they wrote the definition of the term:

 generalize=we talk about the group
 predict=an educated guess; what we think is going to happen
draw conclusions=come up with a new thought

The whole paper clip thing came up because I couldn't find my ball of twine, or any yarn, and I only have 45 minutes to work with these kiddos.  I did, however, have a massive bag of old paper clips from the last 13 years!!!!!!!  Some of them even had rubber bands melted to them! The kids had so many comments about "paper clip boogers" that I couldn't help but crack up!!

"Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.  All life is an experiment."--Ralph Waldo Emerson

My classroom life is nothing but one!!!!  Happy Sunday!


Saturday, February 9, 2013

About Time!

Well, well, well...I imagine most of you thought that I had fallen off of our great, round planet!  It has been so long since I posted that I, myself, wondered if I could still do it!

So much has happened in the last three months...where to begin???  My personal and professional lives have been crazy busy! 

Personally, I have had to watch my daughter graduate from college (with a degree in Elementary Education...yay!) and move off to Ft. Bragg, NC to be with her husband for the first time in their 2 years of marriage.  My son has moved back home to attend college nearby...the nest is adjusting to his return.  I adopted a puppy from the shelter, only to have it die from distemper one month later, on the day before Christmas Eve.  I then decided to foster-to-adopt another puppy from the same shelter.  That puppy ALSO has distemper, but she is flourishing, happy, and healthy.  Of course, she requires lots of meds and nebulizer treatments.  But, hey, she's ok! 

Then, I got a wild hair to go back for my Masters in Teacher Leadership.  Yes...really.  I love learning and I am adjusting to re-entering school as a learner...but I didn't need anything "new" to do.  Right now my course is over Understanding and Analyzing Data. Wow.  But I love that stuff! Haha!

Professionally, I spent my first semester in my new position getting to know the new campus, my colleagues, and the routine.  I had the opportunity to model lessons for teachers. I was lucky enough to create an academic vocabulary plan for our campus!!!  I absolutely loved doing that!  I used our TEKS, Bloom's taxonomy, and question stems to come up with words for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade.  Our awesome teachers came up with definitions and quizzes on those words for their respective grade levels and off it went!  Since my model was based on something junior high students in our district use, I can't share with others.  But academic vocabulary is important...see what you can do for your campus!

Now, however, I get the chance to work with students again!  I provide a small group setting for selected students.  I am having the time of my life doing that!  I feel like I'm back to what I do best...teaching!  The best part is that I get to work with third, fourth, and fifth graders, instead of just fourth.  I love it!  I get the chance to introduce a skill (3rd graders), build a skill (4th graders), and perfect a skill (5th graders).  Wow!  As educators, seeing a skill from beginning to end, across grade levels, rarely happens.

I am also having to write lesson plans for our Saturday Academy.  Teachers conduct tutoring on selected Saturdays for "bubble" kids.  While they get paid for their time, they still have to volunteer to give up their day off for the good of our kiddos.  It is definitely weird to have to write plans for educated people who know what they are doing.  But I've been encouraged to write "out-of-the-box" plans.  Now THAT is something I can do!!! I loved creating a game, called "SPUNO!", out of parts-of-speech.  It's a combination of the parts-of-speech and the popular game, UNO!  I look forward to hearing about it on Monday.  If plans worked...woohoo!  If not, least I have a starting point.  It can only get better.

One of the things that I seem to address in all three grade levels is context clues.  Students seem to have major difficulty when it comes to finding the meaning of new words and words with multiple meanings.  While teaching one particular group, I realized that they didn't know what "context clues" meant.  So I created an anchor chart for that! (Of course!)  I will post a picture soon, but suffice it to say, we made the connection between context clues and "in text hints".  We connected to the tot show "Blues Clues".  Even with 5th graders, I hit a three-pointer! Can you say "swish"??

I promise to get some anchor chart pics up ASAP.  Thank you for sticking with me, or joining me, even though I was missing in action!

“My blog is a collection of answers people don’t want to hear to questions they didn’t ask.”
Sebastyne Young

 Why, yes...I think that's what mine is!