Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!!

Never too old for an argyle sweater Christmas manicure! No teaching for a couple weeks. Many breaths of relaxation will be taken. Until January... Happy holidays to all :) now go rock those glitzy New Years manis!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Getting Our Tech On...

This week I broke out a cult favorite. Dawning the Pinterest boards of everyone and their mother, here you have it. 
Super difficult to photograph true to color, but it's a beaut and everyone should have a taste of Ski Teal We Drop. 

I've been tinkering with the idea of alternative assessment this year. My group is not overflowing with strong test takers. So as I realize the importance of teaching them test taking and study skills, I also truly believe in creativity and letting them show me what they know through multiple modalities, not JUST a test. So as I differentiate to lengths for my reading tests (three versions to be exact) I decided not to test for Mesopotamia - Ooooh Ahhhh, yes Mesopotamia doesn't even exist anymore. I decided to make my sixth graders (sort of, OKAY serious) published authors.

Now I'm a tech addict so utilizing our 12 classroom iPads was a must. I gave my students a pretty simple outline for what their book should consist of. They had to have a graphic and text for each of the BIG 5 we study in 6th grade Social Studies. GRAPES: Geography, Religion, Achievements, Politics, Economy, and Social Structure. All of these aspects are apparent in each ancient civilization - nifty I know!
 Let me tell you, these kids SOARED with the project. Now one of those friendly little Common Core State Standards talks about my scholar students being able to display information including graphics and sound. Each student recorded their voices along with their text in the Book Creator app, while creating their awesome graphics in PicCollage.

We gathered 'round with headphones in hand, and just read/listened/discovered/learned through each iBook. As the students read they passed along a "compliment sheet." I really wanted to keep the discussion positive, so as they tapped through the pages of their classmates' books they were required to write one compliment and one new thing they learned from the publication. It was one of those moments where I just sat... and sat... and sat in awe. The lesson was student AND assessment driven, while they were engaging in positive academic conversation. TA-DA!

And lastly... if you have not tried Padlet (website) in your classroom, it is a must. While 11 and 12 year olds have a million and one of their own reasons why cell phones should be used in school and uniforms are a no-no, it is not fun when we all share out at once... UNLESS we can all share at once in an organized manner with our iPads. Hello Padlet! My outstanding (and I mean seriously outstanding) bilingual resource co-teacher showed the students a video and they had to defend their arguments with evidence. Padlet = Argumentative/Brainstorming Perfection. 

I projected their thoughts on my big screen as well as each of them popping up on the ipads as they typed. Genuis I tell ya, genius.

Stay chip free and standards based!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Why HELLO Common Core MAP!

I displayed this beauty on my tips this week...
I'm totally digging the darks. What else is new? This deep just screams balsam to me. Doesn't smell like  Christmas, but that is what scented pinecones from Jewel and candles are for right?

As the snow falls outside visions of sugar plums are definitely not dancing in my head.  Frango mints might be though, I think I stress ate my weight in Frango mints this week actually (thank you Macys  Marshall Fields)! You know when you have those weeks that are just plain old rough? Where as hard as you try not to cry it just all lets loose... especially when your mom calls to ask how your day is going while your kids are in music class? CUE THE WATER WORKS! 

We took our winter MAP tests for reading this week. I consistently set the bar high, not only for my students, but for myself. This test was a rude awakening to say the least. I went in with the same expectations as I have had previously, but this MAP is Common Core, and as we all know - a different animal. This animal lives in the deep undiscovered depths of the ocean which educators humans have not yet explored, and after this week I'm wishing it would stay there.

So I did what any early career - bogged down - teacher would do when they are scared they are sinking more than swimming. I thought about my kids. What could I give them TODAY to truly be more college and career ready. I paused everything else and concentrated on self assessment. You can't learn unless you can actually monitor your learning.

Enter: Metacognition. 
We broke it down. Talked about why in the world a 6th grader would care about the words metacognition and self assessment. After relating the "meta - above and beyond" to Buzz Lightyear, and "cognition - thinking and comprehension" to Mr. Psychologist... we annotated. Still going heavy on the annotations, but in time they will dwindle so I'm not complaining. Their homework was to go home and achieve the highest level on their self assessment scale, teach their parents about metacognition. The fact that they could give their parents homework was just way too exciting for them. My students explained metacognition to their parents  *along with how it relates to them and the process of their learning* Then (insert adult figure at home) had to summarize what their 6th grader taught them. We ALL got a lot out of this lesson and it made this wounded teacher smile a little brighter. 


Each student not only has a "Self Assessment" tag on their desk to consistently rate their learning, they each now sport a "Metacognition Tent." These consist of a green (4-5) yellow (2-3) and pink (1) notecard stack, which they change while I am teaching depending on their understanding of the topic. I love these because the students are consistently thinking about their thinking! They are taking their learning into their own hands. Students who are not always comfortable raising their hand have their own power for self assessment. 

Oh, and say "Hi," to our new friend Ollie. He is our new class pet - Ollie goes hand in hand with our class read aloud. All I am going to say is if you have not read Out of My Mind, just do it. 

Stay chip free and standards based!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Here We Go!

Thanksgiving break is over and we roll into the most fun three weeks of the school year (yes, taste my sarcasm). Why on GOD'S GREEN EARTH would this twenty something decide to start blogging during this time of year? Well here's the scoop. I love teaching, and when I say I love teaching I mean I was that freak child who always had a classroom of my own. Yes, 5 year old with big brown eyes teaching about Martin Luther King to her little brother and plethora of dolls throughout the month of January. So here it is. My love for creating all sorts of pretty in my classroom and seeing the sparkle in my kiddos' eyes will be here. My hub of love. If there is something I love JUST as much as teaching (and you can ask anyone in my life) it would be my sick and I mean SICK obsession with nail polish. So here we go, each post will contain the color I adorn my tips with and a short description of my thoughts. On top of that, the meat and potatoes of my posts will be all about my classroom and it's happenings. Here's to growing young minds and marvelous manicures. Cheers!

Teaching this week in...

Loving this color for fall and the ever so lovely transition into the holidays. Oxblood? I'd like to think so, borderline black on the nails though... foxy.

Before break I started the ever daunting task of a lifelong lesson for readers - cue the choir - ANNOTATING! I went with the true gradual release. Showed my 6th graders some models, did an article together on "Too Much Txting" (always a fave with this age group), then assessed their skills with Sandra Cisneros' "Eleven." The amount of connections they had was INSANE. I can't wait to see what they do with their new found skill of annotating. Lifelong lesson I tell ya! Nonfiction is next on my list. 

Got these bad boys from my Donors Choose project. GOD BLESS ALL OF MY DONORS! The kids went WILD when they finally got to use the "smelly markers." Fruity-est annotations I've ever assessed, that's for sure. 

And one last ode to my inspiration for blogging...
Pinterest how I love you. 

Stay chip free and standards based!