Friday, November 7, 2014

Ocean Unit BAM: Differentiation for All

When I started teaching 8th grade science this year I had a vision. That vision included a couple different aspects.

  1. I wanted to not lecture. It bores everyone and in my experience 90% of behaviors come during lecture time because a student is bored and doesn't want/can't focus on what the teacher is saying. 
  2. I wanted the students to be able to collaborate and work with whoever they wanted. By asking questions and teaching each other I feel like they will get more than working independently in rows.
  3. I wanted students to have a choice in how they learn. Not all students are created equal and therefore there is no set way on how ALL students can learn material.
Up until now I have been pretty successful with 1 and 2. All the lectures I pull from online sources (thanks YouTube!) and the students are able to sit in pods and work with whoever they want (as long as they ARE working and all school rules are being followed). 

Disclaimer: I have had to go back to assigned seats for some classes at some point during the school year because either a majority of students did not finish their assignments or they were so awful for subs that a consequence had to be given. My students are not perfect.

I needed to work on #3. All first quarter I was giving students just a list of tasks they had to do. I did add in some Menu Assignments (check that blog entry out if you didn't get a chance) but really the students did what was assigned. So, I did it! I created their first go at picking their own assignments! I even went so far as to create two different versions- one for my low students (SPED, ELLs, Chronic Absentees) and one for the rest. 
This is the accommodated choice sheet. 

This is the regular choice sheet.
The point was the students had to complete three in a row. There are some over-lapping assignments and I attempted to have the board be so their three in a row had different types of activities that encompasses everything they need to know for the standard.

For the most part, I was happy with the outcome. However, there were some rough patches that had to be fixed.

  • It still wasn't giving the students complete freedom of assignments. Towards the end of the unit I was just like "Whatever! Do 3 assignments at this point or you are not going to be finished!" 
  • Students are still having time management issues. I had one student that picked a 3D model and then spent a week working on it. He didn't get the rest of his work finished. :-(
  • Students knew that there was a difference in the two charts. It made for some awkward conversations that I wasn't super fond of.
Even with all of that, the students did do some awesome work!

Menu Assignments in the Science Interactive Notebooks

"Alright, students. Today we are all going to be writing a poem about the rock cycle."
Half the class cheers, a fourth roll their eyes, and a fourth begin to fall asleep.

The more I teach the more I realize, even the most "fun", engaging lesson or activity is still just school work to some students. It is still an assignment, there is no choice in the outcome. You do it you get a grade, you don't do it you get a zero. Very cut and dry. And for some students who lack motivation to begin with, even your fun "Let's make a video!" might not be reaching everyone.

Possible solution time... A menu of assignments.

Now, I did not come up with this. I definitely stole it from a highly creative teacher friend of mine from my first teaching gig. We were an AVID school and since AVID preaches Science interactive notebooks she came up with this menu to give students a choice.

How it works:
Have students take notes over the topic. Every school I've been in I have the students take Cornell Notes. Again, AVID schools. This step will definitely work with whatever note taking process you use.

Students then use their notes to create a synthesizing project. This is meant to have the students look back at their notes and find a way to understand and present them. I have had different sets of menu options throughout the years.

Their menu this year includes:

Tee Shirt Art- Students create the front a tee shirt that represents the topic. Back of the shirt includes a clever 1-2 lines about the topic. They then write telling about the shirt and how it ties into the topic.

Rhyming Poem- Student must create a poem with at least 5 couplets and a picture about the topic.
*Unfortunately, the poem writing is not the kids favorites so I have no good examples of this one.*
Cartoon Project: Students create a single frame cartoon- it doesn't have to be funny- with 2+ lines of captions. Must include an explanation of the topic. 

Song or Rap: Students create a song that includes vocabulary from the concept. It can be a popular song that change the lyrics to. Must include an illustration.

Superhero Assignment: Students design a comic book hero/heroine. Costume has to reflect the name and the name has to reflect the topic. The Superhero also has to have a power that correlates to the topic. Must include an explanation of the name, costume and super power. 

Band Buzz: Create a band logo, name and 3 songs that have to do with the concept. Explanation of how they all connect to the scientific concept.

I am a huge fan of these types of assignments just because it breaks up the "You do because I tell you to" mentality of school.

Mrs. C

Friday, September 26, 2014

Classroom Management: Star Bucks

It's Friday... It's Friday... Do the Friday Dance! 

Since, my last post was about classroom management I thought I would continue down that path. Where my friend is having success using her Three Strike System, I have been using a ticket system that I modified to fit better with my class.


Of course, when I introduced it to my students every single class had someone ask "Are you really going to bring us Starbucks?!" HA... please. I can't afford Starbucks myself. Which is pretty much the beauty of the system. I don't have to buy anything!

I printed out a bunch of these onto green paper and cut them out. I put 21 on a sheet so they come out kind of small. The kids earn Star Bucks and then get to spend them on "prizes". 

The Ways to Earn a Star Buck:
  1. Show excellent behavior/participation- At the beginning of the year I was giving them out like candy for everything- being on time, starting their warm up right away, etc. Now I cut back to only the REALLY good behaviors.
  2. Use Science Vocabulary in class discussions- I walk around during class time and ask questions of students and give away Star Bucks if they use the correct vocabulary.
  3. Ask extraordinary questions (level 3 or 4 DOK or 3 Costas)- This one is my favorite! I give them away for their online discussion board questions as well as if I catch them asking higher level questions of each other. 
Rules on Star Bucks:
  1. Star Bucks are earned, not asked for 
  2. You may not "share" your prizes- if your friend wants it they have to buy it too- I do let them buy things for each other. Hey, if you want to be giving then sure!
  3. Bathroom cannot fall in PrimeTime- We don't let any student go to the bathroom in the first 20 minutes of class.
  4. Do not interrupt Mrs. C to ask to buy something- Oh, is this a life saver. There is nothing worse than having a good light bulb moment with a student and have it ruined by another student asking if they can listen to music. If I am working, you need to wait.
  5. Keep your money safe- I do not replace lost or stolen Star Bucks-I am not a bank, I do not do fraud protection. These kids guard these things more than their lunch badges.
Things Students Can "Buy":

$5.00     Positive phone call home
$5.00     Leave class 3 minutes early
$10.00   Restroom
$15.00   Free WQA
$15.00   Listen to music
$20.00   Snack in class
$20.00   Free 10 minutes computer time
$25.00   Cell phone use
$25.00   Quiz Score 100%
$30.00   Free 100% on INB grade

  • I will call home for something good if you have give me something to work with. I will not call home and lie.
  • They can listen to music but they may not share. Their friend has to buy it too if they want to listen together.
  • Cell phones are okay but no picture taking. 
  • They have to take the quiz first (so I can collect data on their unit mastery level) and then they can pay for the 100%. If they throw it on purpose I won't accept their money (i.e. they can't just click through since they know they are getting a 100%)
If you want to check out the posters I made to go along with this or have the sheets of Star Bucks I have it available on Teachers Pay Teachers for free all you have to do is download it and it is all yours!

Mrs. C

Monday, September 22, 2014

Classroom Management Three Strike Policy

I have a teacher friend who has been having some struggles with student behaviors. You know, calling out, inappropriate language, wandering the room, typical middle school behavior. However, instead of letting the students control the room, she took action and created this ingenious management plan.

Every student has a white piece of paper that has the classroom expectations on it. She said she likes that the students have those reminders right in front of them. If I student breaks one of those expectations she simply, and without a word, moves their paper clip down a notch. "Strike one". She does this until they get to "strike three" and upon that strike the student relocates themselves to the refocus area in the room.

The green card is actually double sided with a green side and a red side. Green side up means the student does not need assistance in the activity. We've noticed that our students just like to yell "Miss" really loudly when they need something and this way the expectation is that they are to flip their card to red to signal help is needed.

Finally, the good kids. Each classes is given a container and at the end of the class period if a student has no strikes they get a piece of macaroni to put into the container. Once the container is filled the students in that class well get a reward. Always remember your all-stars!

Mrs. C

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Donors Choose Project

As I have talked about in couple different posts my students are having to use these kinder-sized junk head phones to watch lectures in class. They break, they don't produce sound and it is miserable for my students who are actually trying to receive content. I created a Donors Choose project to try a get a class set of nice head sets for my students. If anyone would like to help out I would be so extremely grateful and I know my students would be too!

And Now We Have Sound

Check it out, pretty please!

Mrs. C

Update: I wanted to share a picture of the headphones they have to work with and tell you a story... I had a student who wanted to watch another video on our new topic of the rock cycle, so like a good teacher I went online to find another video that might help. I had left my own ear phones at home so grabbed one of the students headsets and they were AWFUL!! I couldn't hear anything but muffled noise and they volume was turned all the way up. Embarrassed, I had to borrow a student's ear buds and they laughed asking about the class set. 

We need help!

Flipping Feedback Unit One

The first unit is complete! (Finally). I feel like it took way longer than it should have but we have finished, nonetheless. I gave my students a survey about how they felt the "flipped classroom" is going.

As a reminder, I don't MAKE my students take notes. I do grade if they write and answer a WQA. It makes me smile thought that a large majority of them are taking notes anyways. It also makes me smile that 3 students say they most definitely do NOT work in my class and they are most definitely the students who don't take notes, don't use anything to write questions and are not doing well in my class...sooooooo...correlation? 

This is the part that makes me reflect on how the classroom is set up. I have quite a few students telling me they don't even go onto Schoology outside of class. As a reflection question to myself, I am wondering how to structure the class so 1) they are responsible for logging on at night for "homework" while 2) maintaining the self paced classroom. I am struggling with this one. 

This data chart really does make me feel like my students are getting something out of the class. I was afraid the WQAs were going to be a flop but it seems like a large majority of the students are finding them helpful. I also am EXTREMELY torn about the students being able to sit where they want. I really REALLY REALLY want them to be able to have discussions with whoever they see fit to help them solve the problem instead of me dictating. I am trying to get them to be self-sufficient. And yet, with them sitting where they want they can get a little off track. It is a classroom management thing, I know, but I need a solution. They enjoy it and most of them do work wherever. I am torn.

I did have some open responses for them
Favorite things about the class:
"Being able to have other resources rather than just Ms. Callahan. I also liked not having to carry around a lot of papers." 
"Moving at your own pace"
"My favorite part about the "flipped classroom is that I can learn the things we have to learn at my own pace instead of learning with classroom and moving on when I don't understand something."
"Taking responsibility"
"Being able to use technology to do work at home or at school."
"My favorite part of the flipped classroom is that we are able to stop and replay the lessons/videos."

What part of the "flipped classroom" would you like to see changed?
"More videos."
"The ear phones are really bad quality"
"Check on us every once in a while"
"To eliminate the whole "flipped classroom" thing. I want to work as a class or at least a group with a helper or teacher."

Now, if I only had a week to digest the information and try again. Unfortunately, I have until tomorrow. 

Mrs. C

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Flipping the Classroom Series: What Does It Look Like?

Where, I do NOT have everything figured out nor do I claim to be an expert on "flipping", I do want to talk about the awesome going on during the class periods. I absolutely love that everyone has something to work on. (I know my friend in the foreground of the picture looks like he's causing mischief, but he actually is extremely far in the unit and has been doing a really good job). 

I encourage the students to work with each other, even if they aren't on the same assignment. These boys are of different folders and where the one taking notes is a couple folders behind notebook boy, he spent the period asking notebook boy about what he was watching on the video and what compared notes to make sure he didn't miss anything important. Side note: both of these gentlemen have had behavior issues in the past and since starting self-paced curriculum I actually am getting work out of them and way less behavior issues since they are constantly engaged. 

This group of students had moved on to the lab portion of the unit. It is so cool to watch which students become leaders and want to help others. The girl standing had already done the lab but the other students asked for her help. She then grabbed the slinkys, grabbed a textbook and led the lab herself. It was so fun to watch!

I LOVE the technology use in the class. I have been so fortunate to be able to have laptops and a few IPads and they both have really helped the students be successful. The technology, coupled with their Interactive Notebooks, has made them more self-sufficient learners. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Reason Why I Go To Work Early

This year I have been trying extremely hard to get to work early so that I can leave right after meetings in the afternoon. Normally, I am not a morning person but I'm working on it.

Happy Tuesday!

Mrs. C

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Flipping the Classroom: Grading with Technology

I had an epiphany yesterday...

Progress reports are due next week and I need to get some grades in the grade book. Here comes the predicament. The students are only doing work through three grade-able mediums.

  1. WQAs (Watch, Question, Answers- off their video lectures)
  2. Interactive Notebooks
  3. Weekly "Do Now" warm up sheets- they are practicing test taking strategies
WQAs are easy. It is online on Schoology and I am able to grade directly on the discussion board with a rubric that appears when I click on the student.

The next challenge is Interactive Notebooks. The students are expected to take some sort of notes over the videos they watch- Cornell Notes usually- then do some sort of activity. The activity to go with the notes can be things like a foldable, menu assignment, lab write up, diagram, pretty much anything student created.

The Problem

I do NOT want to carry back and forth 90+ composition notebooks NOR do I want to spend my precious weekend going into school to go through all of them. Because, let's face it, good grading only happens on the weekends.

Enter my epiphany

I figured out a feature on Schoology that makes it so the students can use an IPad/IPhone/Android to take a picture or pictures of their finished product and then make a submission in an activity that is labeled the same as their Interactive Notebook activity. Once they upload the picture I am able to view it, comment on it, grade it with a rubric and return it to them via their grade book. I was STOKED!

Assignments as the students see them in Schoology. They now have to make a submission in order to move on to the next activity. Notice how the Layers of the Earth Foldable is checked green. It is so awesome for the kids so they know exactly what they need to do.

They click on an assignment and on the right side is where it says to "submit assignment". I haven't tried to submit through the web based program, only the IPad and phone apps. The apps were super easy and I'm sure the computer is just as easy to operate. (Note: I have been doing the good teacher thing and blocking out the kids names- this particular site is my test one. Rosco is my dog-hence I didn't block it out. Every once in a while I'll have him comment on discussion boards and the kids think its hilarious!) 

On the teacher website it will show like this when I have assignments that are ready to grade.

I click on a students and scroll through their pictures they submitted. I am able to highlight, leave comments, draw and through each one of the rubric categories I am able to leave a comment.

It is awesome! I cannot wait to see how it works out grading tomorrow...

Mrs. C

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Flipping the Classroom Series: Benchmark Assessment Map (BAM)

The biggest struggle in setting up a Flipped Classroom, for me anyways, was the organization. How am I going to get my students to receive the information they need, in a way that is easy to follow, so that they become self sufficient learners?

Enter the BAM- Benchmark Assessment Map. This organizer does a couple different things in a unit.

  1. Shows the student WHAT they will be learning- the exact benchmark as well as the supporting learning targets for that benchmark
  2. Shows the student HOW they will be learning it- I wanted the BAM to go in order. For example, this first unit, the student needs to know the Earth has layers and that one of those layers is the mantle before they can know that convection currents occur in the mantle. 
  3. Shows the student WHY they are learning it- this is always a big point with administration. They always like to not only ask the students what they are learning, but why are they learning it.
I did however run into a problem. Below is my first attempt at the BAM. Where it has the three components I wanted, it was not very clear to the students, which means they were not using it as a learning tool.

I was super proud of this creation until I noticed students were not completing assignments in order- like skipping watching videos and going straight into activities. So, I asked a couple classes on what they wanted to see on their BAM that would be most helpful for them. Below is the new BAM for the same unit.

The biggest complaint from the students with the original was that the order wasn't obvious, it was hard to figure out what needed to go in their Interactive Notebooks (even though it is posted on a LARGE Table of Contents in the back of the classroom) and it wasn't a "checklist". I did have another request to have how much each thing is worth, but I one girl put it best; "What does it matter how many points something is worth? You should do your best at everything." Well said, well said! 

I am going to give the kids the new BAM today and see if that improves the self-sufficiency/productivity of the classroom. Until then...

Mrs. C  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sub Binder...Finally

Sub days... in my opinion, I would rather come to school near death than have to plan for a sub. Unfortunately, stuff always comes up- planned and unplanned. Like today for example... good 'ole conferences. I thought, there would be no better time than now to share my sub binder. 

A little background- I did not even make a sub binder until year 4 of teaching, and the end of year 4 at that. It was just never a huge priority. I always thought that I HAD to be out I would know ahead of time or as punishment to myself I would drag myself in, dying, and fix up my room. 

No need!

This thing has anything a sub could ever want. Rosters, seating, phone list, behavior and so much more! The only thing I have to do really is write up a small one pager over the days lessons and done. And even that is taken care of now since doing the self-paced, flipped classroom. 

The cover- I may have a slight obsession with pink...and chevron. Why not make the substitute teacher suffer through it as well! :-)

What's Inside- I actually did a lot of research on what I wanted to put inside my binder since I really didn't want to touch it again once it was finished. I found this blog (My Organized Chaotic Classroom) and I really liked the stuff she had in hers. Obviously, being middle school, I have a slightly different set up so I had to modify but overall I really liked the content.

Daily Schedules- My school probably has the most confusing bell schedule on the planet. Everyday we see a different rotation of 6 out of our 7 classes and Wednesday we see our Advisory twice. I have had many a confused sub with the teacher version of the bell schedule which has the whole week made into a one pager. Where I killed more trees I feel like this was the easiest way to explain what classes would be coming in which days.

Procedures and Management- Whether the sub ever actually reads all this is beyond my control, but I feel better knowing that it is all there. The school does have a school wide system in place for discipline- refocus area in the classroom, buddy room, office referral. There is a sheet for each which I placed behind in a pocket divider for easy access.

Emergencies- Always good to know and I feel like I always miss something, hence the sticky.

To be honest, I am still working through the emergency sub plans. I do think, however, I might just put something on the flipped classroom website and call it good. I probably need to figure out something soon though because I am starting to feel a tickle in my throat... or the beach calling my mental health. ;-) Just kidding, but it is always good to be prepared.

Mrs. C

Monday, August 25, 2014

The 2014-2015 Classroom

Happy First Day to some and Happy Monday to others!

I know he probably doesn't read this blog but I do want to give special shout out to one of my very favorite people and THE best assistant principal I have ever had as he heads to his first high school gig! GOOD LUCK TODAY!! <3

Alright, to celebrate the school year officially on its way for everyone (and not just us crazy year-rounders) I am finally ready to share my classroom for this year. 

Room as you enter. I'm trying for a free seating like environment so I have a pod for tutoring, some groups for collaboration and some straightforward seating for those just wanting to watch videos or anything else individual like. 

As the students walk in. The black box is any paper assignments they have through Schoology. The baskets are anything the would need randomly (Cornell Notes, BAMs) The bin is for my AVID kids.

The front of the classroom.

RUBIES and "Ask 3 Before Me"

Capturing Kids Hearts- I did this training a couple years back and finally implemented it this year. I have these to remind myself and the students the hand signals.

Questioning Stems- We, as a whole school, are working on inquiry. This is my questioning stem wall. The students all have the question starters in their Interactive Notebooks.

My desk- I am really, really, really trying this year to stay organized. I have all my interactive notebooks, writing utensils and papers organized... for now. 

Table of Contents/Word Wall- I am having the students keep up with their own Table of Contents in their Interactive Notebook. I am going to try to include examples as well for them. I am also working on an interactive word wall. Right now we are working on layers of the Earth which is why that is the only one filled out.

Student Cubbies- Throwback to Lower Elementary! I have enough of these things for all of my Science students. I tell them if they don't want to take their notebook home I will house it for them so it does not get lost since it is SUPER important they keep up with it.

Binders- Again, REAAAAALLLY trying to stay organized. I have binders for pretty much everything- Student information, parent contracts that have been signed, any evidence for my professional portfolio, science standards and data from their pre-assessment. This year's motto: "If it doesn't go to a student it goes in a binder. If it doesn't go in a binder, it goes in the trash." We will see.

Happy Monday!
Mrs. C