Saturday, October 25, 2014

How We Do RTI good and so frustrating, all at the same time.  Kind of like the Ole Miss vs. LSU game I'm watching right now.  Excitement, frustration, good plays, bad plays, flags, unsportsmanlike conduct...I feel like it all applies across borders!  ;)

I know the whole RTI process looks so different everywhere.  Last year we started something new in our building.  We take the Tier 3 students and divide them up amongst teachers with their reading endorsement or Masters in reading.  Tier 3 groups are no bigger than 4 students.  Our building has "RTI time" from 9:10-9:40.  The students can cross grade levels, depending on the skill level they need help with.  For example, I teach phonemic awareness.  Students who struggle with phonemic awareness come to me for 30 minutes and we do exercises and activities built around increasing their phonemic awareness skills.  We progress monitor weekly to keep data on the students.

In order to determine the exact skills a child needs help with, we use a tool I created called, Finding the Root of the Problem: An RTI Assessment Probe.  This helps us determine how to place the students in each group.

During this 30 minute block of time, I inherit 4 students.  We do the Phonemic Awareness Curriculum from Two Peas in a Pod.  Then I pull all sorts of resources that focus on sounds.

In the past, the rest of my class would've gone to another first grade classroom to work on grammar and handwriting.  Since I have no Tier 3 students this year and since our class sizes are much larger (24 students), that means there would be about 40 students in a classroom at one time.  No thank you!  We're talking crowd control at this point.  So this year I decided to keep my students and have them work at their own pace on their own reading level.  I purchased a subscription to Raz-Kids.  They each take an iPad, make themselves comfy, and read at their level for 30 minutes.  They love it and everyone is working at their own pace!

This is working so much better for my students and I feel like everyone is really learning a lot.  What I love most is everyone is learning at their level.  They are at a spot that's perfect for them.  This transition to more of a 21st century classroom is proving well-worth the effort!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's Here! The Introduction of Primary Powers!

Friends, I can't believe today is finally here.  There are several of us bloggers who have joined together to begin a new collaborative blog called Primary Powers!

This has been in the works for MONTHS and today is the day that we can finally share the news and show you what we've been working on!  Words cannot express how excited we are to start sharing with you!  There will be a new post almost every single day of the month, so you'll definitely want to follow closely!  AND during everyone's first post, we'll EACH be sharing a freebie!  This first month will be so exciting.  :)

To kick off our grand entrance, we are hosting an AMAZING giveaway that you seriously don't want to miss.  There are over $300 worth of prizes to be won!

Seriously, check out all these prizes up for grabs!!!!  (Can I just say I'm a little jealous I can't enter?  Ok, maybe a lot jealous...)

Head on over and enter right away!  I'm so excited to be working with these ladies on such a fabulous blog.  I can't wait to read it myself, let alone help contribute! :D

One last thing we have up our sleeve is an amazing Educents bundle!  We have each contributed one of our products from our TPT stores and combined them together for you

And the news gets even better because we are celebrating the launch of Primary Powers with an exclusive deal with Educents!

21 instant downloads, over 1,000 pages of materials that are ready to use, and variety of topics to pull your through months of teaching!  $100.75 retail value available for a limited time for $29.99 which is 70% off!  Extreme value alert!

Concepts covered are:  addition, subtraction, graphing, time, money, reading, fluency, spelling, writing, close reading, grammar, story element in fiction and nonfiction, and much, much more!  

Products are thematically correct for the upcoming seasons!  
- spiders and camping for October
- turkeys, Thanksgiving, scarecrows for November
- winter, penguins, the holidays, and New Years for December

Other great items include:
- a calendar that could be used as a parent gift
- a data folder to track student growth
- literacy and math centers
- printables
- units of study

Check out the previews below....

Eeek!  I can hardly contain my excitement about all of this!  I sure hope you'll check it all out.  Be sure to follow Primary Powers on Facebook and Instagram, too!  :)  Happy Hump Day!  We're almost through the week already!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Classroom Setup, Plus Some Little Miss Muffet

As I've been wrapping my brain around this new way of incorporating more technology into my classroom and making it more 21st century friendly, the first thing I thought about was the way my room was set up.

This year I have 24 students.  For our building and district, this is quite large for first grade.  This is the largest class I've ever had.  I had 4 groups of 6 desks and I hated it.  I hated every second.  I am SO not a put-them-in-rows girl, either.  Don't get me wrong, I liked that they were in groups, but that was kind of the only thing.  Our rooms are kind of small, so I felt like the students and I had no space to maneuver around the room.  It was so cramped and there wasn't any good flow.  Here are other issues I had with desks:

- They kept moving, which means the groups would clump up even more, limiting space EVEN MORE.
- The students would play in their desks when they were supposed to be doing something else because the stuff inside was a constant distraction.  Let's face it...they could hide tons of stuff in there!
- Their stuff could get so disorganized and messy.  They could keep millions of papers just stuffed in there or paper scraps or leftover breakfast (truth.).
- They were crammed right next to each other which meant they had a neighbor practically on top of them that they could talk to!  Arg.

This is what my room looked like before.

So I ditched the desks.  One morning my students walked in and they were just gone.  It's how I roll.  I'm not afraid to change things, even if it's the second day of school, middle of the year, or 2nd to last day of school.  If it doesn't work, change it!  That's my philosophy.  ;)

At first I had NO desks and NOTHING to replace it.  Then I slowly added things as I saw what worked.  I now have 3 tables.  That means I only have enough for about half of my class.  But stick with me...

You'll probably notice I added a black rug in the middle as an extra space for students to sit and spread out.

I also added a couch.

My school also purchased plastic lap desks from Hobby Lobby for the students to use around the room.  They LOVE these things!  So do I!

I also have a crate full of clipboards that the students can use around the room.

One of my fears when I first decided to do this was where to put all of their things.  I just did some reorganizing to make some space!  I had these book boxes from Really Good Stuff, so the students just store their workbooks, textbooks, and folders in them.  I have them numbered with their numbers so that they have their own individual box.  They are pros at finding their things!  They store their school boxes on the shelf underneath when they aren't using them.  During the day they just keep them near their workspace as long as they are out of the way and nobody can trip over them.

The biggest thing about this room layout is student choice.  It's all about what is comfortable for them.  For some teachers, this might drive you crazy.  This might be a little bit too lax and not be enough structure.  I totally respect that.  I read somewhere to think of it like walking into Starbucks to study.  For me, I completely prefer that environment.  I love that they have couches, tables, comfy chairs, high-top chairs at a bar, and traditional tables.  Depending on my mood that day, any one of those might suit my needs.  To be honest, most of my students sit on the floor, on the couch, at a table, and curled up on a rug with a pillow all in one day.  Can I be honest?  Sometimes I work at my desk in my office.  Right now I'm laying on my stomach in my bed.  I feel more relaxed and I feel a little more creative.

Some students need more guidance.  It's true.  You just have to pay attention to your students and help them.  You're their coach.  Their guide.  Their mentor.  Their teacher.  I'm just a firm believer in options.

I'll be back next week to share how our RTI time works, but before I go today I want to share what we did today!

Our first grade does a nursery rhyme study.  I like to take them as deep as I can with nursery rhymes, since they are something they've been exposed to in preschool and in their homes when they are little.  I found a wonderful resource from Teaching In High Heels called Close Reading for Little Learners {Nursery Rhyme Edition}.  I'm sure you've come across close reading, but in case you haven't, close reading is big in Common Core standards.  It's taking the text and looking at what's explicitly written.  Nothing more, nothing less.  Today we looked at Little Miss Muffet.  I popped it up on the screen and we began to dissect the text.  Can you believe this is what they started saying:

"Hey, this is really fun!"

Seriously.  My kids love learning this year.  They love writing.  They LOVE close reading.

We have to teach our own art, so I tied in a quick little spider craft to go along with Little Miss Muffet.  Paper plates, black paint, 1-inch wide construction paper legs, google eyes, and chalk to draw faces...voila!

I'll be back Wednesday with an exciting post/announcement!!!

Monday, October 6, 2014

A New Direction

Raise your hand if you're finally finding your groove for the 2014-2015 school year?  Raise your hand if you're still trying to figure it out?  For me it depends on the day.  ;)  I'm truly starting to feel a lot better about the year.  Now that I'm getting settled into my routine, I have so much to share about what is going on in my classroom!  I'm hoping you'll find it as interesting as I do.  :)

This post is going to be all background as to my thoughts over the past several months, what I've found so far, and what my plan is.

A few random thoughts from my oh-so-random brain:
1. I'm not a huge fan of whole-group teaching.
2. I love, love, love small groups.
3. Too much to do, not enough time.
4. I always want to incorporate more technology.
5. Math has been the most dry to teach (for me...I know it can be so much better and so much more fun...).

Let's rewind to sometime last year.  I started entertaining the thought of math groups/guided math/math centers.  Sadly, I only had 35 minutes to teach math last year.  This year isn't too much better, but I have about 45 minutes this year.  I'll take it!  :)  With such limited time last year, the thoughts just were just fleeting.

Then we had this past summer where I started thinking about my ideas a little more seriously.  It was going to be my professional goal this year to implement some sort of guided math.  Even if it was one day a week, I was going to make it happen.

Enter August and I was completely overwhelmed with trying to readjust to school.  Preparing my room, making copies, lesson plans, hosting a student teacher, having a new aide, learning about my students, SLOs, professional growth plans, RIMPs, baseline assessments... the last thing on my mind was trying to implement something new.  Especially with a student teacher teaching, it just wasn't a good time to throw something new at her.  ;)

Then my principal showed us something that she saw at a local principal's meeting.  Before I watched it, my thought was, "I can't possibly do one more thing.  I can't even do what I'm supposed to, let alone something new."  But then the wheels started turning, the sparks started flying, and I couldn't help myself but to jump all in.

I want to share the videos of this local teacher so that YOU might be inspired, and so that you know where my inspiration came from.  This is what sparked it and this is the root of what is currently evolving in my classroom.  I take no credit of where she has already paved the way.  :)

I also found a short article comparing the differences between a 20th century classroom and a 21st century classroom.  I love it and it helps give me a vision and direction on how I want my classroom to make a turn for the better.

You can access the link by clicking here.

Now, I will say there are plenty of obstacles and things that I have to wrestle with in my mind about what makes sense for myself, my students, my building, our community, and all of the nuts and bolts (space, length of school day, available resources, etc.).  So this whole thing is evolving on a day-by-day, minute-by-minute basis.

I really hope you'll stay tuned as I show you how this is looking!  I've already started changing things and within a week's time, my classroom is drastically different.  I truly can't wait to share!  :)

In closing, I want to give you a sneak peek about something exciting that's happening!  This is all I'm leaving you!  ;)