April 12, 2017

Professional Learning...ON STEROIDS!

If you are not familiar with Staff Development for Educators, aka SDE, then you are truly missing out on some of the best teacher conferences ever! 
 About SDE
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Come join us this summer! There are sessions for every PreK-12 teacher and every administrator. The menu of session topics is amazing, but the icing on the cake is the networking! There are literally thousands of teachers who attend the national SDE conference. You will make new friends, share ideas, and have so much fun! Don't miss this opportunity...register TODAY!
 SDE Registration
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March 1, 2017

Meaningful Differentiation

For a little more than a week, I have tried to help Ian understand number sense using the Eureka Math book that his teacher sent for homework. I do like Eureka, but like everything else, it is not a "one-size fits all" curriculum. Therefore, some kids will understand the Eureka way and some won't. In my case, my child just did NOT get it. 
As you can see, we did not even attempt to use the place-value chart. I observed the week before that he was very confused with that chart and it did more harm than good. So, we immediately crossed-out those charts. His preferred strategy was to draw place-value pictures for each problem. The effort was great, but the actual pictures were so confusing that he was not able to accurately add using the pictures. It was just a mess! I gave him two opportunities to get each problem correct and as you can see, he was not successful either time. However, I carefully observed Ian's thinking process as he attempted to solve each problem, I listened to how he counted the ones, tens, and hundreds, and I noticed how he relied heavily on pictures. As a result, I created a place-value chart that made more sense to him.
Want a copy? Click on it! 
To my surprise...Ian REALLY liked this chart and it worked for him! This proves that observations are effective forms of formative assessments and when done effectively, observations can help you design meaningful differentiation. So, the next time you see a student struggling, it's okay not to jump right in and fix the problem. Take the time to observe and reflect before offering assistance. This process may save you some time and may help a child attain success; a win-win! 

Click here to see it in action!
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please don't hesitate to post a comment. 

January 29, 2017

No More Reading Logs

Speed Retelling (So Fun!)
Reading to the Class (They Loved It!)

After a couple of unsuccessful years with homework reading logs, I decided to retire that strategy. At the time, my homework reading logs required students to read each night, record the title and author of the text, and identify the genre. Returning a completed reading log at the end of each week would earn a student one-five star stickers. At the end of the month, 15-20 stars would equal a prize from the reading treasure box (Yes, I had a reading and a math treasure box!) This all sounded great, but the reality of it was that my students were NOT reading at home. How did I know? For starters, my below level readers wrote down book titles that were well above their reading levels. In addition, when I randomly asked about particular texts, they had no idea what I was talking about.

In order to make reading at home more meaningful for my students, I implemented 3 really fun activities! 
1. Speed Retelling (Yes, it's like the speed dating game.)
2. Reading to the Class
3. Books and Breakfast

Speed Retelling: This activity occurred three days a week in the morning. All students were required to participate. No excuses. Each student was given a card with either a "1" or a "2" on it. I set a timer for five minutes and the "ones" retold the books they read at home. After five minutes, the timer was set for another five minutes and the "twos" retold the books they read at home. Students were asked to bring their books during Speed Retelling so that they could share pictures and etc. Two - three rounds were possible, but my students definitely wanted more. This activity was successful because as I walked around the room, I could tell that my students were reading and very happy to share! 

Reading to the Class: I had no idea that my students watched me so closely during my read aloud time. However, I was made well aware of that when I implemented the Read to the Class activity. I took a fish bowl and labeled it "Read to the Class." Students who read a really cool book, article, newspaper, or etc. at home could write down their name and the title of what they read and place it in the fish bowl. Every Wednesday, I drew a name from the fishbowl. The lucky student would read the selected title to the class on Friday. In addition, the reader would get a certificate and a bag of goodies for reading to the class. It was an amazing strategy that exceeded my expectations in terms of motivating my kiddos to read at home! 

Books and Breakfast: My students absolutely loved this activity. Books and Breakfast started out as a one-day a week activity, but as the interest grew, I had to add more days. By the end of the school year, I had students signed-up for every day. This is a very simple activity. Students brought their breakfast to my class in the mornings and we would have breakfast while discussing the books/texts they read at home. They were required to bring their texts with them to Books and Breakfast. The most amazing thing about this activity was that some students started trading books to read because they were interested in the books that their classmates had read. It was really cool to see that and know that they made those decisions on their own. Please enjoy the attached Books and Breakfast sign-up sheet that I have attached! Books and Breakfast Form

If you're looking for reading-log alternatives, these activities work great! If you try any of these, I'd love to hear about it! 

January 15, 2017

Motivation is MORE Than Half the Battle

Reading and eating dinner! Wow!

I wish that I could take 100% of the credit for my son reading while eating dinner. However, the fact of the matter is that it was his choice. For some families, this picture represents a normal daily activity, but for families like mine...this is NOT normal. My son has difficulty reading due to many medical issues; including Autism. Reading was a task that he absolutely despised and it wasn't until third grade that he actually started learning to read. 

Homework is not an option for my son. He has to take time each day to practice academic tasks such as reading, math, and writing. But...homework used to be torture for him. I had to change what he did for homework and how he completed homework. In addition, every single day we discussed why practice was so important for him. 

Motivation must come first! When someone lacks motivation to complete a task, that task has a greater chance of not being completed. We all know that most children don't need motivation to play, watch television, play video games, or play sports, but completing homework may require a little motivation. 

How will you motivate your students to complete homework? Try implementing PHUN Homework. It's research-based and it works.