Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Grading Smarter Not Harder Book Club - Unit Plans

I have linked up with Jen Bradshaw of Teaching, Life, and Everything in Between and others to do a book study on Grading Smarter, Not Harder by Myron Dueck.  I am really getting into this book.

My school system has devoted much time in the past talking about assessment and grading -looking at both formative and summative aspects.  It is a topic I am very interested and believe in, but still need to work harder to feel comfortable and accomplish.
Unit plans are one of those things that I have thought about doing for my students, but have yet to do.  I am determined that I am going to select one of the subjects I teach and work on them for the remained of the year.
We as teachers use unit plans to guide us all the time, but how many of us actually hand a student-friendly version out to our students?  I can say that I never have, and do not know of any of my colleagues who do it regularly.  Honestly though, I am really liking the idea.  Don't we all like to know where we are headed, so why shouldn't our students.  

The author discusses various types of learning targets:  knowledge, reasoning, skill and product.  They do not necessarily all apply to everything we teach, and some just lend themselves better to particular subject areas or content.  Whenever possible, we should provide our students with examples of the types of learning targets in which they will be assessed.  
Because I am a self-contained 3rd grade teacher, I teach a little of everything:  reading, writing, math, science, social studies, and a little of anything else that should pop up and need to be addressed.  In saying this, I guess all four types of learning targets are applicable to my classroom.  They all apply to all the core subjects in some way - maybe not in every unit.  This all depends on how the content standard are worded and how in depth the standard expects us to dig.  

In order to teach most anything, we need to establish a knowledge base.  Reasoning also tends to fall into place with the core areas I teach.  However, depending on the specific content, we may address it with a skill or a product - sometimes both.
Yes, I do think that students should have the opportunity to observe and analyze the work of others (students and/or others) before they embark on their own work.  Do I do this all the time, NO!  I know that I work better myself after seeing a model.  It actually allows me to see where I need to go - much like the unit plan, and what is expected of me.  

I know that some people think that students just "copy" from these models, but my opinion is if they take the time to recognize and copy a good model, at least they have had the experience of what good work looks like and had to read or examine it so they have learned at least a little of what I wanted them to learn.  Another argument that often arises is that individual student creativity is taken away, but I disagree.  I think that looking at a model enables me to be more creative.  I always wanted to shoot for better than what the model was, and I have watched students do the same thing.

I am trying to build a collection of previous projects that we have completed, but often times I am chaining things up some, and I don't feel that it will match what I want.  Unfortunately, I just have not taken the extra time to create models myself either.  This is an area that I want to really improve / increase.  
I know we have to start small and build our way slowly to our goal, but how do others find the time to do everything?  I create my unit plans, and I need to convert them to student friendly versions, but it is so much simpler to say that I will than actually carrying that out.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Email!!!! What a Chore it Can Become!!!

Do you get overwhelmed by your email?  Do you have more than one account that you have to handle on a regular basis? - one for work - another for personal stuff?  Oh boy - do I ever!!!!

Email is the next topic on the Together Teacher schedule.  I have joined up with Kelly @ An Apple for the Teacher to work through the process of becoming a better organized teacher.  So far I can many improvements, but I still have a way to go.  The process has been wonderful, and I highly recommend reading The Together Teacher by Maia Heyck-Merlin.  She does not prescribe a certain product that you have to go out and buy, but rather helps you through the process of looking at the various things that often get us into a mess.

The current chapter helps us look at email in such a way that it will no longer be our enemy!!!  I used to love to check my emails, but lately it has become such a job!!!!!!  I looked at my inbox and could not believe that I still had several unread messages from back in 2012!  What the @#$!  I have been so guilty of signing up for updates to various teaching websites, shopping sites, and just random stuff.  Then, I get so overwhelmed with the sheer number of emails I get - hundreds a day!!!  Really!!!!

I think the best advice that the author gives us is the right to Declare E-mail Bankruptcy!   Wipe that email box clean - just this once.  Start from scratch and get things set up the way it needs to be.  I know - scary right.  Surely there is something there that I really need!!  But heck, I bit the bullet and pushed that delete button!  How in the heck was I going to find what was in their anyway.  Even when I did a search I often could not find what I needed to anyway!  Will there be something I miss - probably.  Oh well!

But you really don't have to start there.  She walks you through a way to get organized without being that drastic.  You can put your emails into a folder and deal with them a little at a time.  That way if there is something there, you might find it - eventually.

The basis of the system is to set up folders within your email inbox.  She suggests a few folders, but you can adjust it to meet your needs.  Her suggestions are:

  • Follow-up - for those emails that take more than 5 minutes to address.  Make sure you also note it in your Weekly Worksheet or Comprehensive Calendar though.
  • Projects - if you have any ongoing projects you are working on.  This will help you find those emails when you need them.
  • Meetings - for agendas and other info related to different meetings you might have.
  • Administrative - for non instructional matters that you might need again
  • Processed - this is that place where you can store those old emails that you are afraid to delete.  
  • Others - these you will set up to meet your needs.
Once you have the folders set up, this is where the hard work comes into play - you have to create good email habits.  You have to decide how and when and how you will check your emails.  Don't make it a time-waster!  It should be part of your regular routine.  She has a suggested STAR method to checking emails:  
  • Scan for senders and subjects
  • Trash non-relevant emails
  • Archive relevant emails (use those folders)
  • Respond to what's left
Our author also gives us suggestions for writing better emails.  How great is that??!!!!

There is so much in this chapter, but I am just eating it up.  I wish I had found this earlier.  Maybe I would not have had to delete over 8,000 emails!!!!!!!

Let's heard about your email adventures!    And don't forget to get your copy of The Together Teacher.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Week's Worth of Readiness - A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Wow!  How to mess something up - not very together for a Together Teacher post!!!  I do apologize for getting this on here a day late.

This was a wonderful chapter full of information that I am going to use.  If I had already done so, this would have been posted yesterday!!!

I am totally in love with the Weekly Worksheet.  Having that to-do list right there in the open in just what I need.
Weekly Worksheet
I continue to appreciate the author's philosophy that "the process matters more than the product".  I totally agree with her.  There is no one-size-fits-all way for everyone to get organized.  Her steps through the process is extraordinary though.  The fact that she offers various worksheets (weekly worksheets) that allows everyone to select their own - or even have something to base their own from makes it very versatile.

Why do I like this weekly worksheet besides the to-do list format?  I like that there are multiple sects to put different types of tasks together.  In previous chapters, the author has mentioned to put like things together.  That only makes sense - right?  Why don't I do more of that?  I am now.  In the past, it would never fail that I would put all of my to-do's in one big list and end up not getting to most of it or get overwhelmed and say the heck with it.  I think that by categorizing things it is in more manageable chunks and that I am able to do like things together when it makes sense to do them - instead of flipping from one type of task to another.  

There are also Daily Worksheets that will also come in handy.  I am starting to put them in place as well.  The come in handy when I arrive at school and I can see what needs to be done before our staff meetings. Are there copies to be made, books to gather for my lesson, people to talk to, etc.  I am feeling so much more prepared for school.  I have to admit though that I am still working on gathering my non-school activities into the same place.  I am going to get there though.

Thank you Kelly from An Apple for the Teacher for letting me take part in your book study.

If you have not read the book yet, please make sure you pick up The Together Teacher by Maia Heyck-Merlin.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

August Currently

Wow!!!  Say it isn't so - is it really August already???  Did we have a summer break?  It sure don't feel like it.  But then again, ours was shortened this year - we are starting a couple of weeks earlier this year!!  UGH!!

Thanks Farley for hosting this linky.  I really enjoy reading other bloggers' posts.  I feel like I am learning so much about each of them when I read them.

Listening:  I have been wanting to watch The Last Ship since the advertisements before it aired, but have not had time.  I am now watching it on demand and catching up with the episodes I have not seen.  

Loving:  I am going to take advantage of the time I have left before school starts - only one full week left!!!!

Thinking:  I really need to balance my time between school and pleasure this week - I have way too much to do.

Wanting:  I really, really need a new printer?  The printer I have has been a great one, but it's on its last leg.  I am babying it along.  I am hoping I can make it until Black Friday when Wal-mart almost always has a printer on sale for dirt cheap!!!

Needing:  I have put off getting my hair done, but with only one week left, I need to get off my but and get it done.  I am going with red and blonde highlights again with a short cut.

First day:  Well, we are starting early this summer - August 11 for me and August 14 for the students. We usually start 2 weeks later, but with new legislation demanding we have our 180 days in, snow days or not, we are starting a couple of weeks sooner to get a those weeks in.  Last year we had over 20 snow days.  We only got in about 157 day last year.

***PS:  I have signed up for a postcard exchange this year for my class.  They are still missing Montana, Vermont, and Wyoming.  If you are from that state and are interested, please go sign up:

Friday, August 1, 2014

Today is the Day - Giveaway Time!!!

This is soooooo exciting!!  To be part of such a great community of creative teachers - what a thought!!!  Everyone is so wonderful.  Today begins the HUGE giveaway.  

 Over 100 TpT sellers and Etsy creators have donated these products. There are 7 prize packs and each are grouped by grade level. You can enter to win them all! The more entry tasks you complete the better your chances of winning. Plus you can share this giveaway on your Blog, Facebook or Pinterest once a day for an additional 10 entries each day! So without further ado.....

Prize Pack #1 includes 18 products from TpT sellers, a handmade "welcome" banner for your classroom from M Paper Designs and a personalized teacher cup from Sugar Stitches Designs!
Click any of the pictures below and a link will take you to the listing for each product. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Prize Pack #2 includes 19 products from TpT sellers, a teacher planner  from The Nifty Planner, and a  personalized teacher sign from Blended Creations Inc.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

                                                          Product of your choice!

Prize Pack #3 includes 17 products from TpT sellers, a handmade classroom garland from MPaper Designs and a pencil door sign from Details in the Deisgn.
 Prize Pack #4 includes 18 products from TpT sellers, a handmade classroom garland from MPaper Designs, and a personalized pencil door sign from Bows and Bells Hangers.


Prize Pack #5 includes 15 products from TpT sellers a personalized sign from MACInspired Crafts plus a personalized teacher block sign from Blended Creations Inc!

Prize Pack #6 includes products from 16 TpT sellers a personalized door sign from Cara's Southern Designs, and a personalized teacher cup from Mommy's Latte Fund!

Prize Pack #7 includes 16 products from TpT sellers, a teacher planner of your choice from Little Drop Designs, a personalized door sign from MACInspired Creations plus a personalized teacher cup from Mommy's Latte Fund!