Sunday, January 27, 2013

*STAR* Teacher--Kathy Sweet

Norman Elementary's New *STAR* Teacher is...

Kathy Sweet
Title 1

How long have you been teaching?

I have been teaching for 32 years. I taught 20 years in first grade, 9 years in a multi-age first and second graders and 3 years in Title 1.

What was my Funniest moment?

Children say the funniest things, so it is hard to pick my funniest moment. After looking through some magazines for a new art project I found this really cute Easter bunny basket. It looked a little difficult but I thought we could do it (not a great idea). We had worked very hard on it and about half way through I thought never again, but we kept on plugging away. Finally we were almost finished when a little boy, whose favorite subject was not art, called me over with an upset look on his face. He had the bunny all put to together and it was missing an ear. I thought he was upset about the missing ear when in fact he was just tired of this art project. I offered to help him make a new one. He looked me in the eye and said “ No, let's pretend that he got it shot off.” It was a perfect end to a terrible art project!

Best Memory

My best memories come from my multi-age classroom. Becky Mackowiak and I taught a multi-age first and second grade classroom with fifty students. It was very exciting to watch children grow and learn for two years. At the beginning of each year the older children helped the younger children with rules and procedures and we knew exactly were the older children left off before summer so they didn’t loose any time getting started.  Since we often had other siblings from the same families, we might have had a family with us for four to six years. That made our home and school connection even stronger. I really learned and grew as a teacher in those nine years.

Reading strategy

Children need to be reading and writing at their level all through the day. I tell the children it is just like sports or other things they want to be good at.  It takes practice, practice, practice.  Walk around and listen to them read.  You can learn a lot about what skills they need to work on by just listening to them for one or two minutes. Then design your small group lessons on the information that you have gathered during this time. If you want children to remember what you are teaching, you need to teach lessons according to what skills they are ready for next.

Math Strategy

Young children need a lot of hands on activities to gain deep understanding of the math concepts. When designing your lesson, be sure to take into consideration the styles and levels of learning and set up centers that provide practice. Also give the children a chance to discuss with others what they have learned. The biggest thing that I have just recently added to my instruction is WAIT TIME. When you ask a question, give time for the child to think and expect some answer, even if it is just part of the answer. We can learn so much about what a child knows when we listen to them explain. Many children have learned that if they say nothing, we will move on and ask someone else, or just give the answer and then they don’t have to think about it.

Advice to new teachers

Since young children need movement and need to talk about their learning, take the time at the beginning of the year to teach, practice procedure and set expectations. This will make centers and other movement activities run smoothly. Students need a classroom where they feel welcomed, safe, respected, and challenged. Take the time to create this atmosphere in your classroom.

Pictures from Kathy's RTI classroom. 
Students are working on Partner Fluency Stories and using "story pointers" that she made.

Kathy has been a great mentor to me personally and to many teachers new to the field and that have been around a long time. She is a Master Teacher - she is an amazing reading teacher and her skills go across the curriculum. Thanks Kathy for the years of great advice to your colleagues and to the many students that have had the good fortune to be in your class.


Chapter 3-Learning Targets Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson "Book Share"

Learning Targets--Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson
By Connie M. Moss & Susan M. Brookhart

I highly recommend that you read this book. It will really help your understanding of what Learning Targets are and their importance.

 *I found used copies on inexpensive to purchase  ISBN  978-1-4166-1441-8

I'm going to highlight the important points that I've taken from each chapter throughout the next few weeks so I hope you follow...

Chapter 3: Sharing Learning Targets with Students

This chapter will explore how to put the learning target into the minds and hands of students in ways that make learning visible, develop students’ sense of personal agency, and enable them to take responsibility for their own learning throughout the lesson. There are suggestions for effective ways to help all students recognize what success looks like for today’s lesson.

*Sharing the Learning Target:

Sharing learning targets with students means more than simply writing the target statement on the board or stating the target at the beginning of the lesson. When we use the term share, we mean that teachers use multiple strategies during a formative learning cycle to make sure that students recognize, understand, and aim for what is important to learn during today’s lesson. Teachers share the learning target when they embed it throughout today’s lesson in ways that keep students “on target” and help them sharpen their aim in pursuit of essential understandings. Sharing the target means that students are engaged in a performance of understanding, use look-fors to assess the quality of their learning, and receive timely suggestions and strategies that feed their learning forward while they are learning.

Remember, sharing the learning target is the means. The desired end is students who develop into self-regulated and assessment-capable learners.

*Engaging Students in a Strong Performance of Understanding:

The single best way to share the learning target and success criteria for today’s lesson is through a strong performance of understanding: a learning experience and resulting student performance that embody the learning target and provide compelling evidence of student learning. 
A strong target-performance match translates the learning target into action. Engaged in a strong performance of understanding, students should be able to conclude, “If I can do this, then I will know I’ve reached my learning target.”
What we ask students to do during today’s lesson should help them make meaning and give them a chance to observe their growing competence.

A performance of understanding is not the same as an assignment, an activity, a task, or homework. Although a task may be hands-on or interactive, it needs to fulfill important requirements to make the grade as a performance of understanding.

“Performance” is only half of the concept. The crucial other half of the concept is “Understanding”
A performance of understanding both develops understanding of the concept and produces evidence that helps students and teachers gauge where that level of understanding resides in relation to the learning target and the success criteria.

A performance of understanding, therefore, is a carefully designed learning experience that happens during the formative learning cycle in today’s lesson.
Its purpose is to:
            Embody the learning target.
            Promote mastery of essential content.
            Develop students’ proficiency in specific reasoning skills.
            Provide compelling evidence of student learning.
  Prepare students for elevated degree of challenge that will face them in    tomorrow’s lesson.

**Students should be able to recognize what is important to learn, how they will know when they have learned it, and how they will be expected to demonstrate their learning. It also means that the level of challenge in today’s lesson prepares students for the increased level of challenge they will face in tomorrow’s lesson in a different performance of understanding guided by tomorrow’s learning target.

**Increasing the Degree of Challenge
A lesson should never ask students to do more of the same. Lessons should continually challenge students to set, aim for, and reach short-term goals that progressively take them to long-term outcomes.

*Defining and Designing Strong Criteria for Success

Even with a strong performance of understanding, students cannot become sharp-shooters until they are able to discern the levels in quality that differentiate hitting the bull’s-eye dead center from hitting one of the target’s outer rings. To hit the bull’s-eye, student need criteria for success—a set of student look-fors—to use during the formative learning cycle in today’s lesson and to apply during the performance of understanding.

To be useful the criteria must be specific to the learning target, understandable, and visible. Success criteria answer an important question about the lesson from the student’s point of view: “How will I know when I hit my learning target?” Many educators mistakenly assume that they are sharing success criteria when they tell their students how many questions they should get right on an assignment or encourage them to shoot for a certain score or simply to “do their best.”

Success criteria are not ways to certify student understanding in terms of grading, rather they describe what it means to do quality work in today’s lesson in student-friendly terms that are “lesson-sized,” observable, and measurable. Students can use the criteria to plan, monitor, and assess their own learning progress.

A helpful way to think about success criteria is to envision an actual target (this target is shown on page 47). The bull’s-eye, dead center, depicts mastery—what students will aim for and what success looks like when students hit their learning target. The target’s outer rings represent the typical levels of understanding we expect to see as students move closer toward mastery—proficient, basic, or minimal.

**So…visualize a target…

The middle ring=  Mastery of the learning target
Next ring=            Proficiency (substantial understanding)
Next ring=            Basic (general understanding)
Next ring=            Minimal (misunderstanding/serious misconceptions)
Last ring=             No understanding

** I think this Learning Target would be a great visual for your students. It would help them to understand where they are at with their own learning.

Once you craft the specific learning target statement for today’s lesson, consider what growing understanding and competence will look like for students as they progress from little or minimal understanding toward a more sophisticated grasp of the content. Think about how typical learning progress plays out for your students (at their age and developmental levels) in this chunk of content and during this performance of understanding.

-How will you describe mastery to them so that they will be able to tell when they   hit the bull’s-eye?
-How will they know where they are in relation to mastery—the distance between their performance and the bull’s-eye—so that they can assess their progress?

Useful success criteria can take many forms, but they must do two things really well:
1-They must fit the performance of understanding.
2-They must make effective teaching and meaningful learning visible.
Strong criteria precisely describe what good work looks like for the specific performance of understanding in the lesson.
The best form for expressing the criteria depends on the learning target and the specific performance of understand you designed to make that learning target visible.
-First, decide whether your learning target is comprehension of a concept or term, demonstration of a discrete skill, creation of a complex product, demonstration of a complex process, or use of critical reasoning. Then you will know whether you can use simple “I can” statements to communicate criteria for success to your students or whether you need a more complex format—like rubrics, exemplars, demonstrations, or guided questions—to communicate the criteria.

*Sharing the Learning Target and Success Criteria Verbally

Verbally sharing the learning target and success criteria means more than simply telling students what to do in the lesson. To be effective, the language we use must be descriptive, specific, developmentally appropriate, and student-friendly. And it must be stated from the point of view of a student who has not yet mastered the learning target. 

Two strategies promote effective verbal sharing:
1- Four-Step Framework
2-  I-Can Framework
A third strategy—listening to students as hey paraphrase the target—deepens student understanding when used in conjunction with either oral sharing framework.

**Nice Table with examples on page 49& 50—3.2 
           Tailoring the Criteria for Success to the Performance of Understanding

The Four-Step Framework

This framework employs a set of “starter prompts” that unpack the learning target, performance of understanding, and success criteria from the student’s point of view. 

The successive steps of the framework outline what students will learn during today’s lesson, explain what they will do to learn it, describe what they will look for to know they are doing good work, and make the target relevant by connecting it to the potential learning trajectory, future academic learning, or real-world applications.

Step 1—Explain the learning target in student-friendly, developmentally appropriate terms.
Step 2—Describe the performance of understanding.
Step 3—Describe the student look-fors.
Step 4—Make it relevant

The I-Can Framework ( table is on pg 54 for examples)

This strategy pairs a description of the learning target with an “I Can” statement that describes the performance of understanding for today’s lesson and translates the criteria for success into look-fors that students can understand and use.

Step 1—Use the first starter prompt to describe the learning target: We are learning to…
Step 2—Use the second starter prompt to alert students to the performance of understanding as an “I Can” statement. The statement should tell students what they will do to deepen and demonstrate their understanding and provide a short list of student look-fors that explain how well they are expected to do it.
-Is simple, clear, and direct.
-Says what’s important.
-Is easy to remember and understand.
-Announces what the audience should do, feel, think, or agree with.
-Explains a benefit for the audience.

**There are examples of the I-Can Framework on page 54 figure 3.4.

Listening to Students as They Paraphrase the Learning Target

Ask students to paraphrase the learning target and success criteria. After you use one of the frameworks, ask students to spend a few minutes putting the target and the student look-fors in their own words. Then have them talk about where they are on the way to the learning target. They can do this with a classmate or whole group.
Rubrics are great tools for sharing learning targets that are parts of complex concepts, processes, or skills. Some complex understandings can be accomplished in one lesson, but most require teachers to scaffold student understanding across a series of interrelated lessons.


Connected learning targets help students reach complex learning outcomes. Complex learning outcomes usually require more than one lesson and develop over a series of lessons as part of a potential learning trajectory.
A quality rubric, especially an analytic rubric, stipulates the essential elements of a complex performance and describes the levels of quality (success criteria) for each element. A series of lessons, then, can take students through the different elements of the complex performance to help them put it all together in the end. Quality rubrics allow the teacher and the students to assess exactly where students are and to select strategies that students can use to improve their work.

On page 56 Figure 3.5 show several strategies on how to use rubrics.


An effective way to share the learning target and help students discern different levels of quality of work—a process that moves them closer to being assessment-capable—is to ask students to apply a rubric to work samples that match the performance of understanding for today’s lesson. You can either collect papers or products from past students or share anonymously or create examples to represent various levels of quality—examples where the work is successful or flawed in one or several areas.
Ask students to examine the work samples or observe the performances using the criteria in the rubric. Students should underline or highlight the exact language in the rubric that describes the quality of the work. Then, in groups or as a whole class, students should share their assessments using the language from the rubrics to support their judgments. As an alternative or complementary activity, have students sort the products or performances into different levels of quality and then explain their rankings using the language from the rubric you provided or from one they created themselves.
Students who examine examples of work against criteria in a rubric will be better able to assess their own performances. They will develop a more nuanced view of what quality work looks like for today’s lesson and use that knowledge during the performance of understanding.

There are great tables on pages 56 & 57.

**The FAME Team at Norman Elementary is in the process of creating “Writing Folders” for K-5th grade that teachers will be able to use as a rubric for their students such as was described in the previous paragraph. A great example of this is a video that I posted on this blog back in November in the Formative Assessment post.

Looking Forward
Learning targets inform the most important data-driven decision maker in the classroom—the student—by providing information about what is important to learn, how the student will be required to demonstrate that learning, and what will count as evidence of mastery.
Chapter 4 will show how teachers can use learning targets during a formative learning cycle to make teaching and learning visible, maximize opportunities to feed students forward, and increase student achievement.

I tried to highlight the most important parts of chapter 3 but again, I recommend that you read the book so that you are able to view all of the tables and other examples.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Writing -Formative Assessment Process-Jackie Clark

Norman Elementary, Reed City MI

Jackie Clark, 2nd grade shares a Writing Formative Assessment with her "FAME" Team Colleagues.
FAME=Formative Assessment for Michigan Educators

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Norman Elementary's Formative Assessment-Jackie Clark

As I've shared in previous posts, Norman Elementary in Reed City, Michigan has formed a "FAME Team" which is Formative Assessment for Michigan Educators. This is a MI Department of Education Initiative. Jackie Clark, a 2nd Grade teacher came back from our FAME Kick-Off this fall, and tried the Formative Assessment process in her classroom. As you will see in this short video she was very successful. 
Thanks Jackie for sharing at our Staff meeting---you are AWESOME!!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Chapter 2-Learning Targets: Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson "Book Share"

Learning Targets--Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson
By Connie M. Moss & Susan M. Brookhart

I highly recommend that you read this book. It will really help your understanding of what Learning Targets are and their importance.

 *I found used copies on inexpensive to purchase  ISBN  978-1-4166-1441-8

I'm going to highlight the important points that I've taken from each chapter throughout the next few weeks so I hope you follow...

Chapter 2:  How to Design Learning Targets

Mining the Instructional Objective: What Is This Lesson’s Reason to Live?

*Learning Targets use words, pictures, actions, or some combination of the three to express to students, in terms the students understand, the content and performance they are aiming for.

*Your leaning target should spring from the instructional objectives that guide a set of lessons in this particular unit of study—your learning instructional objective for the lesson should be solid, teachable, assessable, and appropriately derived from curricular goals and state standards.

*To plan effective instruction, teachers need to know three things about today’s lesson:

            1. What are the essential knowledge (facts, concepts, and generalizations or principles) and skills    (or procedures) for the lesson.
            2. What is the essential reasoning content for the lesson?
            3. What is the potential learning trajectory  (path or course) in which the lesson is situated?

***If the essential elements of the lesson are trivial, or if they do not advance learning on a trajectory toward more learning, then it is questionable whether this lesson should be taught at all. The whole concept of standards-based instruction assumes that individual lessons, over time, will amount to achievement of a larger standard.

            *Where does the lesson reside in the potential learning trajectory?
                          Ask yourself…

                        -Where are my students headed?
-What specific content (concepts and skill) must be in place to lay the foundation for the next lessons?
-What must my students learn during this lesson so they will be prepared to tackle the content and the reasoning processes in the next lesson?
-What did my students learn in previous lessons?
-What can I build on?
-What should I reteach?
-What concept can I enrich or expand?
-What should my students practice?

The following sections discuss the four steps of designing a learning target.

STEP 1:  Define the Essential Content for the Lesson

To define the essential content for the lesson, you need to have a deep understanding of the intended learning. If you find yourself able only to list the facts and concepts that students should know, without placing them into any larger learning picture, you should work on your own understanding before you try to plan instruction.

-What does your lesson-sized “chunk” of your instructional objectives look like?
-What portion or aspect of the instructional objective are you going to work on during today’s lesson? If you’re only working on part of the lesson today then you should communicate longer-range goals to students but don’t lose sight of the fact that students need a learning target for today’s lesson.

*Once YOU have a deep understanding of the instructional objective and what aspect or aspects of it you will base your lesson on, ask yourself these questions:

-What content knowledge does this lesson focus on? It should include more than facts; is should also include concepts and generalizations or principles.
-How will this particular lesson add to what students have learned in previous lessons?
-How will this lesson increase students’ understanding of the content? Will students develop a more sophisticated understanding of a concept, or will they tackle a brand-new concept?
-What skills does this lesson focus on?
-Will students learn a new skill, practice one they have yet to master, or apply a highly developed skill to a new context?

STEP 2: Define the reasoning Processes Essential for the Lesson

Ask yourself these questions:

-What thought-demanding processes will allow my students to build on what they already know and can do?
-What kinds of thinking will promote deep understanding and skill development so that students can analyze, reshape, expand, extrapolate (infer) from, apply, and build on what they already know?

STEP 3: Design a Strong Performance of Understanding

Ask yourself this question:

What performance of understanding will help my students develop their thinking skills and apply their new knowledge?
            -The performance of understanding is not the instructional objective, but it embodies and exemplifies the instructional objective, so it influences the language used in framing the learning target for students.
*A common mistake teachers make in lesson planning is to confuse learning targets with performances of understanding…
            Think of it this way…a performance of understanding provides one of a number of possible ways in which students can learn and produce evidence of what they are learning in today’s lesson.
The performance of understanding is what keeps students’ heads in the game as they work toward a learning target; from their point of view, what you ask them to do becomes inextricably bound to what they intend to learn.

STEP 4: State the Learning Target

During this step, you describe the lesson-sized chunk of learning for your class as a statement of what the students will learn and do during the lesson. Make sure that this learning target expresses, from the students’ point of view, the knowledge and skills they will be using in their performance of understanding.

An effective learning target must speak to students, express the essentials of the lesson, and provide students with a rationale for why what you are asking them to do is in fact a performance of understanding.

Stating a learning target well is a skill in itself: you must state the target in a manner that students will understand, using student-friendly language and relevant illustrations.

Use Student-Friendly Language

*Student-Friendly Language = language that students can understand

The language of learning targets should enable students to see themselves as the agents of learning. Using the first person works well: targets that start with “we” or “I” communicate to students that they are the ones who will be doing the learning.

“We are learning to…”  or “I can” statements. You can also take cues from the language your students use in the classroom when they describe their understanding.

-There is a nice table on page 33 that gives examples of Writing Learning Targets in Student Language, I’ll go ahead and include some examples below…

Guiding Questions:
-What will I be able to do when I’ve finished this lesson?    (I Can…)
-What idea, topic, or subject is important for me to learn and understand so that I can hit the target?  (To be able to do this, I must learn and understand that…)
-What will I do to show that I understand the target, and how well will I have to do it?                      (I will show I can do this by…)

Use Relevant Illustrations
A strong performance of understanding functions as an illustration of the learning target. From the student’s point of view, the performance of understanding implies a learning target that says, “I can do that.”
*Illustrations or demonstrations that show students as well as tell them about the learning targets are powerful. A strong performance of understanding is the most important but not the only way to illustrate a learning target. What makes a particular illustration useful is that it helps focus students on what they are supposed to be learning. Effective ways to illustrate learning targets include:
-Showing examples of the kinds of problems that student will be learning during the lesson.
-Diagrams & charts that demonstrate the kind of thinking that students will learn to do during the lesson (Venn diagram or time line)
-Use a story or scenario that students know about (news story)
-Use real life experiences (shopping)
-Create an experience for students (watch a video clip)
-For certain learning targets, demonstrate the skill itself (tie your shoes)
Showing Examples
Sometimes you can communicate a learning target to students simply by rephrasing your instructional objective in words that they can understand and adding examples. This method works well near the end of a group of lessons focused by mastery-type objectives, where the goal is for students to learn a specific skill and its underlying concepts.
3rd grade math class—your instructional objective might be “Students will be able to use place value to compare two whole numbers (as greater than, less than, or equal to each other). You know that your students are already familiar with the concepts greater than, less than and equal to, as well as the symbols for those concepts, and you know that you introduced place value at the beginning of the unit. So today, you transform your instructional objective into a learning target and criteria for success simply by telling and showing:
Today our learning target is to put numbers in order using the greater than, less than and equal to signs and to be able to tell how you use place value to do that. Here are some of the kinds of problems you can solve if you meet your target: 378__387; 154__593. Listen for two things as your classmates work the problems on the board: did they talk about place value as a way to solve the problem, and did they put the correct sign in the box? Then ask yourselves the same questions as you work.
*Teachers can write an abbreviated version of this target on the board, such as “Use place value to put numbers in order” and the two example problems.

Use Students’ Real-Life Experiences.
Learning targets come from the chunk of the instructional objective that the students will see as the short-term focus.
The teacher is going to work with Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells.” She might communicate the learning target by starting with a question: “Think of some different kinds of bells you have heard. Describe the sound of one of them. What does that sound make you think of? How does it make you feel?” After a brief class discussion of these questions, the teacher says.
Today, our learning target is to be able to describe how Poe thought and felt about different kinds of bells, and to explain how we can figure that out from his poem. We’ll know we are successful when we can explain how imagery from the poem creates thoughts and feelings for readers in as much detail as we just explained how real bells conjure up thoughts and feelings in us.
This way of illustrating the learning target doesn’t mean that students (or the teacher) lose sight of essential questions and the big ideas, like “Poetry uses imagery to express meaning, and certain literary techniques are common in poetry because they work with both the sound and meaning of the words.” Using real-life experiences to communicate the learning target engages students’ attention and enables them to succeed in the immediate context of the lesson as well as building up, over time, their understanding of the big ideas.

Create an Experience
This strategy doesn’t work with every kind of learning target, but when it does work, it’s powerful and fun.

Another great table is on page 38—I’ll include this because it will show you in detail the 4-step process.
*Defining the specific learning targets for a lesson in four steps:
Instructional Objectives for the Lesson:
            Students will explain how the element of chance leads to variability in a set of data.
            Students will represent variability using a graph.

Step 1.   Define the essential content (concepts and skills) for the lesson.
Potential Learning Trajectory Considerations:
            *My students can create a simple bar graph given a set of data.
*My students have a naïve idea about the concept of chance, and this lesson will deepen that understanding.
            *My students have a solid understanding of how to look for and represent a pattern.
*My students already know that chance exists in games like bingo, dice, cards, etc., but do not understand that chance exists naturally in the everyday world.
Elements for the Lesson:
*My students must learn that chance occurs naturally during everyday procedures—like when they make cookies.
*My students must learn that chance causes the values in a data set to vary.
*My students must learn that variation in data creates a pattern.

Step 2. Define the reasoning processes essential for the lesson.
Potential Learning Trajectory Considerations
            *My students have little practice with mathematical predictions.
            *My students have experience with analysis.
            *My students can build on what they know about cause and effect.
            *My students know how to brainstorm.

Elements for the Lesson
Reasoning Processes-
*My students must learn to analyze an everyday procedure to recognize the elements of chance embedded in that procedure that might cause a data set to distribute itself randomly.

Step 3. Design a strong performance of understanding that will develop student thinking and understanding and provide compelling evidence of student learning.
Potential Learning Trajectory Considerations
            *My students can observe and analyze a simple procedure.
            *My students need to demonstrate an understanding of cause-and-effect reasoning.
            *My students have practiced brainstorming reasons for common occurrences.

Elements for the Lesson
            Performance of Understanding-
*My students must engage in a performance of understanding that simulates naturally occurring elements of chance in ways that require them to observe, graph, analyze, and explain the effect that chance has on data patterns. We will use data on a number of chips to chocolate chip cookies for these purposes.

Step 4. State the learning target.
            *We will be able to see a pattern in graphs we make about the number of chips in our cookies, and we will be able to explain what made that pattern.

I really only meant to highlight the chapter, however there is so much good information that I felt I should include. The book goes into more detail so I do recommend it.
Looking Forward:
We have seen how learning targets work and how to state them, but using learning targets effectively requires two more elements: criteria for success and a plan for sharing the targets and their success criteria with students. Chapter 3 will discuss these elements in depth.

Please add your comments and/or experiences with Learning Targets and check the blog out next weekend for chapter 3.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

*STAR* Teacher---Stacy Gilland

Norman Elementary's New *STAR* Teacher is...

Stacy Gilland
2nd Grade

Words from Stacy...

I have been teaching seven years.
One of my “feel good” moments is at the end of the year when I look back at my students and see how they have grown and matured.  I get sad and teary-eyed on the last day of school every year!  It seems like you get comfortable and used to the schedule and everyone’s personalities and the year is gone.  I really miss (most of) my students when the school year is done!

Funny Story?  
One of my former preschool students called me Mrs. Fish by accident and said, “Oops!  I mean Mrs. Gill!” 

Teaching Strategies?
Read! Read! Read! Reading is one of the most important things a child can do.  It gives students practice with words at their level, as well as new words.   Some books expose students to new topics that they may have not learned about and different genres. We listen to a lot of books on tape, popcorn and partner read, and I read aloud a picture book and chapter book each day.

I also feel that after teaching a new concept that children need time to practice and master it.  They usually do this through stations or with partners in my classroom.  I have many math and literacy games that students use each day.  We have a math cart that we pass around to each of the second grade classrooms filled with different math games aligned to the Common Core.

Advice to a new teacher? 
Stay connected with your colleagues and do not be afraid to ask questions and do what works for you and your students.

Pictures from Stacy's Classroom

Martin Luther King Jr. Writing

New Years Resolutions

November--Class Totem Pole

As a class, we fill one jar up with balls.  I can take balls out when we make bad choices and put balls in when I notice something good.  We set a ball goal each day together.  When the jar is full we vote on a celebration as a class.  We have already had one ice cream party!

Students can earn a ticket each day for good behavior.  When they have five tickets they get a smelly sticker or a small piece of candy.

Each month we do a Classroom Quilt.  Students make two quilt squares each and we put them all together.  It gives great practice with measuring and patterning skills!

December Quilt

January Quilt

Each week we estimate how much of an object is in the jar.
Whoever is closest gets to take the objects home!

Each month students get a new Literacy Menu.  When they finish an activity, they color in the box.

Class Reading Area

Snowman Luminaries

Each day students get two stations folders to work out of.  They are word work, writing, sentence building, reading, and spelling word activities.

Students at work during Stations

Winter Torn-Paper Art

What great activities and Station ideas--thank you!!
(Love the quilt !)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

*STAR* Teacher---Sue Rice

Norman Elementary's Newest *STAR* Teacher is...

Sue Rice

How many years have you been teaching?
18 years.

What is your best memory?

When a high school senior I had as a kindergartener was named with top honors, she wrote that I was her most influential teacher because “Mrs. Rice taught me to love learning”.  I kept that quote in my desk to remind me how important my job is.

What is the funniest memory?
A little boy that had a difficulty saying “l’s” raised his hand one day.  He looked me in the eye and said “Mrs. Rice, we are yucky to have you!”

Can you share a reading strategy/best practice?
I believe in immersion.  Everything we do in the classroom is related to letter names and sounds learning.  Each moment is a teachable moment.

Can you share a math strategy/best practice?
When we learn a new skill or practice an old one, I have 3-4 students stand up and demonstrate.  An example: everyday we count using one-to-one correspondence with our fingers up to ten.  We cheer for everyone, even those who might struggle. This helps me progress monitor students as well as develop speaking skills.
What advice do you have for teachers just coming into the field?
Choose teaching because you love it.  Teaching takes many hours outside the classroom.  Teaching is not just a job – it is a vocation.

Anything else you would like to add?
 Students rise to the bar you set for them; aim high and give support.

Pictures from Sue's classroom:

Penguin game is a Center. They spin the spinner and add the pieces to make the penguin. Increases visual perception and fine motor skills. I do a different one each month.

Snowman Art is using fine motor skills to stay in the lines.

Warming tray writing or coloring. The children place a paper on the warming tray and trace the picture or letter. At Christmas they traced trees and colored them in.

Matching number sets is in a Center each month for extra practice.

Letter Rings are nothing more than a fancy flash card. Students go into the hall with an adult volunteer or with me. If they can give the letter name, sound and Zoo Phonics character they get a sticker on the back of the card. We add a letter a week as we learn them. This is a good progress monitoring tool for me.

Game-two girls are spinning the wheel to make a penguin-good for cutting skills and visual discrimination.

Picture Dictionaries--students cut words and pictures to build a picture dictionary that we will use in our journal writing.

Letter Boards are student created for each letter. Later in the year we write from these letter boards.

Finding Letters--students use highlighter tape to find letters in the Chicken Soup with Rice Book.

Singing Zoo Phonics Song

Snowman Cans are made with Pringle cans and drywall compound. Great for fine motor skills.

Writing Center

Math Center game

Singing with puppets--all the puppets we make we keep in a box. Students use the puppets to sing the songs or say the poems we have learned. This one is about a Christmas tree.

Journal Writing shows how the students write step by step with me. We write using a sentence starter. I always have students go back and trace their pencil lines as an added small motor skill.

Thanks Sue for all the wonderful pictures, activity ideas and teaching insights.