Tuesday, February 24, 2015

And Adding to that Theory...

Good evening!

It's almost Spring Break, and I am definitely happy!!  However....it's the AFTER Spring Break that concerns me!!  A week after we return, it STAAR time in Texas.  And that means our 5th graders need to be reading to read!!

I just wanted to add a little information to the Notebook post.  I am a HUGE notebook fan (in case you haven't noticed).  Last post, I shared information about anchor charts I have students put into their notebooks.  But, I wanted to show some other things we do in our notebooks.

My 5th grade groups are working on novel studies.  I don't use worksheets or prepackaged units.  Since we are so close to STAAR, I spiral through all of the TEKS students need to know.  But everything we do is OPEN-ENDED.  Students have to give me their answer, why they wrote the answer they did, and what part of the story told clued them into the correct answer.  Now, it's really difficult to come up with new questions on a daily basis, but one of the best things you can do is use the LANGUAGE OF THE TEK to create your questions.  If you teach outside of Texas, use the language of your standard.

We are lucky on our campus.  Our district provides us with some question stems, we've pulled stems from released STAAR exams, and we use stems provided by Margaret Kilgo of Kilgo Consulting.  We've attended her Math and Reading sessions, and found her information and work invaluable.  Stems are broken down by TEK, and that makes it so much easier.

Here is how I use the resources in my groups:

As you can see, I ask the question and students have to respond with an answer, why, and where it came from.  (This is great idea that our district coordinator came up with.)  I have two different groups.  One group is reading James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl.  The other group is reading The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff.   (I highly recommend both!)

For assessment, students USE THEIR NOTEBOOKS to answer questions:

Another option is to have students answer multiple choice questions using their open-ended responses.

And I'm outta here...


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Expanding the Notebook Theory

Happy Wednesday!  I can't tell you how happy I am that the week is almost over!  This time of the year, every day is a busy, stressful day, and they can't go by fast enough!

I wanted to continue with a little example on my challenging post from yesterday.  I asked you to think about how interactive notebooks are used in the classroom, especially in elementary school.  I encouraged you to allow students to use their notebooks not only for instruction, but for assessment. So I thought I might give you a little hint of an example..

I don't have my own classroom anymore, but I do tutor students and teach summer school (on occasion).  I absolutely REFUSE to give Pearson any of my hard-earned money for "reteach" or "test prep" materials, so I use only interactive notebooks and novels or grade level readers.   I usually do initial instruction that includes some type of interactive notebook anchor chart or activity.  Here are a few examples of something we have done in our notebooks...

These are anchor charts for their interactive notebooks that were actually used in my 4th grade summer school class.  Each chart gives the elements of fiction, non-fiction, and literary non-fiction.  When we worked on this, we also discussed and listed the types of questions that might be asked on STAAR, or the specific TEKS that might be covered.

I generally don't give my students any type of test.  If  I were in the classroom, I may quiz students over the types of fiction, non-fiction, and literary non-fiction.  I could quiz them over the types of questions that  could be asked...the possibilities are endless!!! BUT....I would let them use their notebooks!!!!!!!  Totally open-ended questions that they could answer using their notebooks!  I can guarantee you, especially in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade that your entire class or block would NOT make 100%!  The way I see it, these charts are building blocks for future knowledge.  Students have to understand these elements before they can even begin to fully comprehend.

I can also promise you that students who use them frequently will eventually stop using them because they now KNOW the information, especially after repeated use.  That's our goal, isn't it????

Ok, ok....I'll relax....

I just get too dang passionate about using the things we work so hard on!!!!!!

"I don't sugar coat crap; I'm not Willy Wonka."---??

teehee teehee


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Stepping Out of the Teacher Box Part 1

Good evening, dear void!

One of the great things about my job is that I get to work with some very creative people.  I also get to work with teachers that are willing to think beyond "What I've always done" and try something different.  Believe it or not, stepping outside of the teacher box we put ourselves in is very hard to do. As educators, we tend to look for what works, or what we think works, and stick with it until we are either forced by administrators to change. decide to quit, or retire.  Yes, it's that drastic.  Yet there's not a teacher out there who would willing admit that they are inflexible.  We all truly believe we are are open to try new things, buuutttt....(insert logical reason why a new idea won't work).

Hey, I'm just as guilty.  But my position gives me the opportunity to look from the outside in.  And I must say that my point of view has changed over the last few years.  There is so much I know now that I wish I would've known when I was in the classroom!

If I had to go back to the classroom, I would step out of my teacher box when it came to utilizing interactive notebooks.  Now, I don't mean just using them in classroom instruction, but using them as tools to teach students how to look up information, find evidence, and go back and investigate previously written text.

I am a huge interactive notebook fan.  I think they are a fantastic tool for the classroom.  I use them in small groups.   However, I know many teachers that spend a lot of time copying materials for students to glue into their notebooks. (Not my idea of best practices, but that's a post for another day.) Even more teachers spend a great deal of instructional time having students create foldables for their notebooks, or enter information creatively into their notebooks.  But at the elementary level, what is the true purpose????  We don't send these notebooks home for students to "study".  They are not developmentally ready for that.  What I typically see is that students enter new information in their notebooks, but never use those notebooks with purpose.

So here's a thought...an idea...a time to try out some of that flexibility...

When you are spiraling through previously taught material, REQUIRE students to use their notebooks DURING ASSESSMENT!!!!  :::GASP:::  I know what you're thinking.  But I have not lost my mind.

Think about it...when you learn something new, whether it be a professional development system or an electronic grade book, you look at the instructions many, many, many times.  The more you use the instructions, the more things you remember.  So you reread, practice, reread, practice...until you finally understand exactly what you need to do.  It's the same with students and interactive notebooks! If they use the notebooks to complete assignments, answer test questions, or even as a guide to help them figure out how to get an answer to a test question, they are rereading and practicing over and over again.  They will eventually learn exactly what they need to do!  It's an open book test.

You'll teach them to:

  • Look back into text for information.
  • Locate key facts.
  • Reread for understanding.
  • Compare what's written to what's asked.
All of these things are precursors to finding text evidence, proving information, gathering information, and clarifying for understanding.

Try it...I dare you!  Give a test over something you've taught and make them use their interactive notebook to answer questions.

You just might be surprised.

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.--Andre Gide


Monday, February 16, 2015

Back to Bloggin'

As I look through my blog, I've come to realize how much I have neglected it.  So many times, LIFE has gotten in the way.

Since my last post in August of 2013, I have become a grandmother to the beautiful Olivia.  My husband and I moved from our home of 20 years, the place where I raised my children, to a brand new home.  I graduated with my Master's Degree in Teacher Leadership.  We lost my beloved father-in-law to cancer.

Yep...life got in the way.

But life has also stayed the same.  I'm still a "former" fourth grade teacher.  I am still an instructional specialist at the same school.  And I still love teaching.

However, I think I may tinker with this blog just a bit.  I may just send more than ideas into the great educational internet void.  I might journal my thinking.  Maybe I'll rant!  Or maybe, I'll just make a list.

That's what I've missed about blogging the most...sharing what I want when I feel it.

 ......Whaaaaaat?  minion

So...I'm back!  I promise there's more to come!