It’s been two weeks since I’ve blogged and am happy to be back. The two weeks before Thanksgiving break were crazy and I also came down with walking pneumonia, causing me to miss the two days of school before break. I never realized how hard it would be to miss school as a teacher, not just for the lesson plans and extra prep work you need to do, ( which luckily I didn’t have to do because of my co-teacher) but because of how much I missed my kiddos. I am so thankful for a job, students, staff and PLN that make me cry when I have to miss work. Luckily I’m feeling better and am in the swing of things again. I did get the chance to start and finish a book over break that was recommended to me by a colleague, “Move Your Bus” by Ron Clark. It’s an unbelievably meaningful and life changing read that I highly recommend. I’m moving on to Crash Course written by a teacher from Ron Clark Academy. I’m slowly becoming a groupie.
The last blog post I shared was part of the D100 book study on Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild. The blog post and book itself were both incredible, engaging and an overall amazing learning experience. If you want to continue to follow along in the book study you can click HERE to view the schedule and all of the direct links to each blog post. Thanks to Colleen, my mentor and remarkable educator, over at Literacy Loving Gals for putting all the direct links in one place.
Since having blogged last, there’s quite a bit to catch up on. Irving hosted our Student Recognition Night, in which we took the opportunity to recognize some of our students in our class who have gone above and beyond. The awards of recognition included, Student of the Month, Apple Mac Pro Award, Heart of Gold Award, Class Dojo Champion, Academic Excellence and the Caught Doing Good Award. It was such a fun night being able to showcase the excellence and achievements of our Brainstormers. We also had some students come in to recognition night to showcase how they have been going “above the SAMR line” in class. These students showcased book trailers and math screencasts that they’ve created that will be posted to our class Youtube channel to share these resources with other students.
Just before Thanksgiving break the students finished up their very first math unit in the new structure, utilizing Blendspace and goFormative to differentiate, engage and change up the structure of the math classroom. Overall, the results of each student’s math score improved significantly. However, what I was really looking for as a teacher was not if they could memorize something for a test, but if they could legitimately understand and explain what they were doing. It was so special to see some of our kiddos with math goals pushing themselves to explain their thinking in places where they weren’t required, to try to get to that 4. My ultimate goal is not to have students memorize an algorithm for a month to get a 3 on their test at the end of the unit, my goal is for them to develop foundational skills that they will remember and utilize as they move forward in their careers. I will continue to utilize this method, especially since our iCoach and unbelievably amazing educator, Jenny Lehotsky, came in to my room to collaborate and share ideas of how I can differentiate my math using MAP scores and Khan Academy. I am so thankful for the collaboration and support I have had from Jenny. She is so skilled and has amazing ideas. She also was kind enough to share a blog post on her blog, Teaching and Learning Redefined, about what we’re doing in our math classroom, which you can check out here. Thanks again, Jenny! I’m hopeful that with these tools she’s given me that we will be able to give our students more supplemental activities to build their foundational skills and increase their overall understanding of content.
I had the opportunity to observe Annie Forest over at Show Your Thinking this past week. She is an educator of math over at one of the middle schools in our district. I was fortunate enough to observe two of her 6th grade math lessons in which she integrated a warm up where students were able to create a Tweet through Schoology, a math talk, and Class Kick which seems to be a combination between Educreations and goFormative to use for her math lesson. It was great to see students engaged and excited about their learning.
I had so many great take aways from observing Annie, but when I really learned the most was simply listening to her and taking her advice on many different elements of the math classroom. Annie is the one who truly opened my eyes to the quote above. I was complaining that sometimes during a lesson one of my kiddos will ask me the simple question of “why” this is the way we do things, and I have to be honest with them and say that I have to look up “why” we do these things, because all I was ever taught is “because it is”. I DON’T WANT THIS TYPE OF LEARNING FOR MY STUDENTS! Annie told me that it truly is all about the understanding behind why we do things, to give those students foundational skills to build on. She also explained that I should try to anticipate where some of my students may go wrong before a lesson so that I have some answers ready to go for them. She is an incredible educator and I am hopeful that we can get together again soon so that I am able to learn the most I can from this amazing educator.
I am always looking for opportunities to collaborate, connect and learn from other educators. Twitter is most invaluable and instant PLN you can be a part of. Our district has launched it’s first Twitter Chats using the hashtag #d100chat. We are able to collaborate with teachers in our district every other week to hear about all of the great things we are doing in this unbelievable district. Literally professional development in your pajamas. Leah O’Donnell, astonishing literacy coach and blogger at Responsive Literacy, is our guest moderator and then two teachers in the district will host the chat, providing us with questions. It’s the best. Think about starting one up in your district.
In addition to Twitter Chats with your district, Twitter can connect you with educators you may never even meet. This proved true this week when I gave goFormative a shoutout on Twitter, thanking them for their product. We have started using goFormative for exit slips to continue to make flexible groups. After giving them a shoutout on Twitter their community manager reached out to me to ask if he could share what we’re doing in our classroom on Facebook. He also invited me to collaborate in a Google Hangout, happening tonight, with two other educators and some people from goFormative. I’m so jazzed about this and can’t wait to expand my PLN and learn some great new tools from these other incredible educators. If you’re not on Twitter, or you are on Twitter but aren’t using it, I highly recommend that you jump right in and start becoming integrated into a network that can take your PLN, PD and overall educator experience beyond anything you thought possible. Here’s their post from Facebook that they shared about what’s happening in the Brainstormers classroom.
In other news, the iSWAT team over at Irving is hustling and bustling to get their first “News from the Nest” (an Irving News Channel) launched before Winter Break, as well as prep for the Hour of Code next week. They are doing great and absolutely LOVED their iSWAT badges. We’ve created some really great stuff using Touchcast. Without saying too much and giving away our first launch, our students are working on self guided, created and directed news production. They have developed the questions, content and ideas. I’m there to facilitate, guide and help if something breaks, which it hasn’t yet. This is exactly as it should be. I love just stepping back and literally watching their energy and enthusiasm radiate through their fingertips. Here’s some cool pictures that we snapped of the kiddos during iSWAT. Thanks to Ramona Towner at Tales of an iCoach and Grace Kowalski for coming in last week to help! We’re so thankful for you.
Hour of Code launches next week and I was lucky enough to come in contact with a female computer scientist who has volunteered to come into the Brainstormers room next week Friday to help us with Hour of Code. Sakina is incredibly knowledgeable about programming and will be talking a little bit about her history and background with coding. I’m so excited for the kiddos to try this and push themselves and just have fun. Each of our kids will get a certificate stating that they completed the Hour of Code as well, giving them more ownership for their work. In the week leading up to Sakina’s arrival, I’ll be showing students some videos from code.org to help them anticipate what they can expect, and why coding and programming is so cool! Also, thank you to Bitsbox for my package, mini books and poster to hang in my room to get my students even more eager to code!
Last but not least, one of the coolest things the Brainstormers did this week was participate in SkypeClassroom’s global Skype-a-thon on Friday, December 4. We traveled approximately 753 miles during a mystery Skype with another 5th grade classroom. The other 5th grade classroom was able to guess our exact location in the world using deductive reasoning, maps and technology resources. It was incredible. We then had a collaborative discussion at the end of the questioning about some of our similarities and differences of our school. The best thing we found out about their school was that they also are the “Eagles” and have PBIS just like we do. We will continue to collaborate with this classroom throughout the year. Next, our students will guess and figure out where they are located. After that, we hope to continue the collaboration through virtual pen pals so share some of the great things we’re doing in our classroom. I can’t wait to watch this grow.
I am so blessed that I get to wake up everyday and spend my hours with the most amazing, students, staff and admin. I couldn’t be more thankful to call D100 and Irving my home. Each week just gets better and better as I learn more from the genius’ I am surrounded by–my colleagues and students.