Saturday, January 31, 2015

timely parent engagement

Have you heard about Remind

Remind is a free tool for teachers to use to communicate announcements and other information with the parents of the students in their class. Teachers set up a "class" for parents to join and then are able to text parents without anyone sharing their personal phone numbers. Once the class is set up, Remind gives a little image that can be shared with parents to get them enrolled:

This graphic includes a secret number to access the class (in this case 81010) and then a code to text for parents to join.

Teachers share the graphic, parents text in the code, and then they are enrolled in the class updates. I've been using this since October with the parents of my Tiger Blogging Club. I text them once a week to let them know that we will be meeting (or in just a few cases when I had to cancel the meeting). You can set the message to go out right in that moment, or you can schedule it to go out later on. Either way, it's a very convenient way to share information with the parents of my bloggers!

Last week I also sent an additional message:

In this message, I asked parents to take a look at their child's blog and gave the link that has all their blogs listed. I kid you not, within 10 minutes, I was getting emails stating new comments had been left on the children's blogs - comments left by the parents I had just texted! In their research, Todd Rogers states, "What's really cool about this is that the messages reach parents at a time when they can act on them." That was exactly what happened to me last week!

Because of that article I quoted above (which my principal shared with me in November) a colleague and I are teaming up to start Tiger Tips for Parents. We created groups for parents to join - by grade level and by language - and plan on sending out weekly tips to parents at the various grade levels. We're thinking these tips will provide information about literacy, math, and content areas and our PBIS goals. Plus, with the ability to send links, it's an easy way to share great articles or blog posts we find online.

To set this up, we have explained everything on our Emerson Collaborative Blog. We'll share that link on our PTA Facebook page, via twitter, on our school home page, and through emails with parents to get the word out and have parents join. Once we get families enrolled, sharing Tiger Tips will be a piece of cake!

How else are you using Remind? Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions for us as we begin our journey with Tiger Tips for Parents!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

growing fluent firsties

It's that time of year again - time for testing. Time for ACCESS for our ELLs and AIMS Web for our kinder and first grade kiddos. As someone who is new to elementary, I've been learning lots - I did ACCESS with kinders and have been looking at the AIMS Web fluency data with our first grade teachers. Today we were able to sit down and brainstorm some ideas for increasing the fluency in our little readers!


Of course, we have to start with the data. What follows are two reports we pulled from AIMS Web...

Here is the Tier Transition Report for one of our first grade classrooms:

This report shows the percent of the class at each of the three tiers. When we add the spring scores, we'll be able to compare both triangles (hopefully the Spring one will be all green!)

And below, you can see the Class Distribution by Scores and Levels Report:

In this classroom, we see four kids in Tier 3 and another five in Tier 2. Now that we have this information, what do we do with it?

But before we get there, let's remember that numbers can be deceiving. The report above only tells us how many words were read correct - there is no indication of the inflection of words or a rating on how their reading sounds - too fast? too slow? Like every assessment, there are always limitations, but used in conjunction with others, we can get a bigger picture of the whole child!

So, we've got this data, but now what? What do we do to help children improve their fluency? Here are just a few activities that are easy to implement!

Activities to Build Fluent Readers

Read Aloud
Obviously, firsties need to hear fluent reading every day. If you are not reading aloud to your kiddos, you have to find time to do so. If children never hear how a fluent reader reads, how will they know what kind of reading to mimic? This is only one of the many perks of reading aloud!

Repeated Readings
Another activity is to allow for repeated readings of short texts. This could be a poem or a part of a song or an excerpt from a text you've already read. Repeated Readings allow students to build their automaticity with text and their prosody. Automaticity refers to the ability to read quickly without thinking to much about decoding. Then, when that brain power is freed up, students can spend it thinking about the prosody, or the rhythmic, intoned qualities of the text. Readers read by tending to punctuation, dialog, and even read sentences in chunks, phrasing groups of 3-4 words together that go together. Allowing students to read short texts on a repeated basis allows for practice of inflection!

Click the picture to read more!

Reader's Theater
I'm sure you know all about Reader's Theater - scripts that are built from stories where students all read their "part" like a play. By practicing these together, students can build their automaticity so they can begin to read with inflection. Plus, these are meant to be performed for their classmates, so the Sense of Audience really revs up their engagement!

Tech Time!
If you have access to technology, students can use their devices to record themselves reading. They can do this over time and then reflect on and evaluate their progress. They can also create readings for their peers to listen to! One of my fave bloggers, Colleen over at Literacy Loving Gals also shared a great website today on her Instagram - Vocaroo! This is a website that can be used to record readings and it looks so easy to use!

I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as fluency goes - what are your go-to activities to build fluent readers? Let's keep the conversation going...leave me a comment below!

Have a great night!

Friday, January 23, 2015

defining moments

The moment I because a Social Constructivist is as clear as day.

There I was, standing at the front of my classroom. My kids sat in groups of four. They had their basal (gasp!) out in front of them and we were reading a story from the book as a whole group (the horror!) It was some kind of traditional literature story about how the stars became in the night or something like that.

I would read a little, and then as prompted by the questions along the side of the book, stop periodically to ask the questions to the kids. I would pose a question, they would think and then turn and talk, and then we would share out.

This particular day I was modeling how to draw inferences as we read. The book told me to stop at some line and then share the inference listed. But there was a problem (well, there were a few, namely 1. basal reader, 2. whole group instruction, and 3. kids didn't do any independent reading, but I digress.) At that moment, my problem was that the inference that the book publishers were telling me to make made absolutely no sense to me. Zero sense. Zilch.

This happened in my fifth year of teaching when I was in the midst of my graduate work at ASU. I was learning about best practices in teaching reading and all the pieces suddenly fit together so perfectly.

Pearson or McGraw Hill or whoever was the publisher of this book was trying to instruct for me. I had no accountability to this book and this story, because it was all laid out for me. I just opened it up and read what it told me to. And usually it made sense, but in this moment when it didn't, it finally clicked. If I want to give my kids the best instruction, *I* have to be the one to figure it out and make meaning that makes sense to me. I have to be the one to prepare it for my kids!

I can't say that from that moment on I began doing what I'm doing now in year 12, but I was acutely aware that I had to construct my lessons myself.

I still used the basal, but I prepared how I was going to teach from the stories. Before I taught them, I sat down with that book - just the story, nothing else - and I read it through. I considered what my during reading strategy should be and picked places to stop and model what that would look like. I figured out if we would do any analysis after our first draft reading and planned that. 
The teacher who teaches kids each day should plan everything out. Not Pearson. Not McGraw hill. The practitioner.

Today, I am proud to be a part of a district that operates under a constructivist philosophy. In year 12, this makes sense to me and I believe it's what is best for kids.

But then I think of our first year teachers and how overwhelming it can be. I was lucky to be handed a basal in year one, and continue using it for five years. I got my feet wet, got my management down, had the kids do worksheets and everything was there for me. It was laid out and easy. That was all well and good, but it wasn't what is best for kids.

So to the newbies out there - the ones who are trying to get everything down in year one - the ones who are exhausted and have no time to do anything but work because on top of managing a classroom, you're also trying to learn how to teach a Reading and Writing Workshop - please know that you are giving kids amazing instruction, coming from what I believe is the hardest teaching philosophy out there. You're putting in all the labor to figure out how to model what good readers do and then give differentiated instruction in your guided reading groups, get kids to love to read and write, and then having them share. You're keeping anecdotal notes and using running records to inform your instruction, and writing Common Formative Assessments with your team, and grading them and then figuring out what kind of reteaching and enrichment needs to happen - you're doing all that work plus teaching three other content areas. I, on the other hand, opened a basal.

It's time for you to pat yourself on the back and appreciate all the work you've done, because it's outstanding and you're amazing.

Defining moments...mine was a sunny day in Phoenix during my fifth year of teaching. What is yours?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

what I'm loving Wednesday

WRITE a list of things you're currently loving.
LINK your post to mine.
COMMENT on the other bloggers' posts!

Hello! Hope you're having a fab week! Join me for What I'm loving Wednesday!

This tote

Yes, you're reading correctly - it says Totes ma Goats. I saw it at a Home Goods out in the suburbs and I love it. Totes wanted to buy it but it was $8 and I couldn't justify buying it for my grocery shopping. Next best thing? Save it on the blog!

Biggest Loser Challenge

We are having this challenge at work right now - for 12 weeks so it's going to end by spring break, but it's so awesome doing this with friends from work. Everyone is eating healthy and encouraging one another and I just love it! Plus, I'm trying out new recipes:

Gluten Free Blueberry Pancakes with Pure Maple Syrup

These were so good! I just used a mix I found at the grocery story. See, my whole strategy is eat as close to a whole foods diet as I can. It's not 100% of the time, but the more food I eat that is only one ingredient, the better. I'm trying to avoid processed food - just because it's so hard for our body to break it down. Whole foods are the way to go!

Cauliflower Crust Pizza
Yes, that's right. A crust made from cauliflower and cheese. This wasn't as good as the pancakes, but it was healthy! The cool thing is that the crust stayed in tact. The bad thing was that I think I made it too thick. Taste wise, it wasn't a Chicago Style Deep Dish by any means. It was just okay for me. Not sure I'd make this again - just eat salads all week and save up for a real pizza!

Also: We weighed in today and I was down 1.5 pounds! And: I totally had a few cheats last week!

Meeting with the Literacy Coaches

Today we had a great PD in our district so all the Literacy Coaches got together with a professor from National Louis University. It was great to learn new things about coaching and be with the group of coaches from the district. One thing that is standing out to me was a comment that Felicia, one of the coaches made, "Teaching is artistry in the classroom." She's so right. I believe there is a science to teaching, but it's also an art. Not just anyone can get up in front of a class of students and make learning happen. There is so much that goes into teaching and learning. I love that I get to see amazing things happening in classrooms at our school all the time!


Skyping with one of my blogging friends

Blogging is so amazing. I have friends all around the country because of it and on Monday night I got to skype with Alyce from Mrs. Bartel's School Family about reading instruction. How amazing is it that we live in two states (Illinois and Kansas) and we're collaborating?! The power of technology, blogging, and social media is truly amazing!


Well, that's all for me today! Please follow me on facebook (or IG or Twitter) so you'll be in the know for my linkys! I'd love to have you share what you're loving with me!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

always amazed after these parent meetings!

This past Thursday, our third grade team held their second of three Academic Parent Teacher Team (APTT) meetings. Parents were invited to come in for a quick hour on Thursday to learn about what students are learning about at this point in the year.

Our Third Grade Team! :-)

APTT Meetings were created by Maria Paredes of my former district in Phoenix, Arizona. I had heard about them the year I left Phoenix, and then last year, tried them out with a kinder teacher here at my elementary school. For more of an explanatory description of the APTT meeting, please start here and then read here.

In our district, these kinds of meetings aren't required, and so they are just one more thing that the teachers who choose to do them have to plan for. That being said, once the parents get into the meetings and they begin, I'm always reminded, "Oh, so that's why we do this."

These meetings get all the parents together at one time. One big idea of these meetings is that parents will network with one another and build collaborative relationships to support each other. That couldn't have been more true in one of the meetings I sat in on - it was the classroom teacher and a room full of moms, sharing about how they are doing everything they possibly can, but the work still isn't transferring to the assessment the children are taking. This led to a great discussion about how all kids develop on different paths, and that if we just do what we know is best, we're doing the right thing.

In addition to the networking, the parents are given activities to support their children at home. At this time in the year, the third grade teachers want the kids to elaborate more, especially with higher-order thinking questions. So, they shared these two activities with them:

The first....Why?

Teachers are hoping that parents can have natural conversations about anything that a child might have an opinion on - so this activity of asking why is perfect to get them to elaborate on their opinions in a variety of ways.

The second activity was book reviews:

Third grade students write letters to their teachers each week about books, but teachers noticed that the students need to put more specific reasoning in to evaluate the text. So they shared this book review activity, plus a list of questions and a link where students can review books online. By sharing all of this with parents, they are much more likely to practice these activities at home!

With any APTT meeting, three things have to happen: sharing of class-wide data, goal-setting, and aligned activities. The third grade team hit them all and also shared about Standards Based Grading, which our district will be moving to in the coming months.

All of that, plus collaborative conversations with parents. Even in the cold weather, we had 8-10 parents in each of the three rooms! It was great!

If you are looking for a way to share more with parents, this method works so well. I mean, if you're not in education, does running record mean anything to you? Or Standards Based Grading? or the CCSS of RL3.4? All of this teacher jargon is shared with parents so they can be more informed of what we do each day with their children, and they can support us at home with specific strategies!

And I can't speak enough as to how much our parents appreciated what we planned and shared with them. I believe that many times parents want to be engaged with their child's education, but don't even know where to begin. These meetings share many things about education that parents are unaware of.

Anyone else out there holding APTT meetings? What do you do that is similar or different? Please leave a comment so we can keep the conversation going!

Just a reminder before I go: My "What I'm Loving" Linky will be up this coming Wednesday if you want to link up! Just get together a list of things you love and share with your readers!

That is all for today. Have a great 3 day weekend!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

leave your ego at the door

Collaboration is happening so perfectly right now with one kid I teach.

I am with him for a 30 minute intervention with a group of 3 and then 1:1 again for another 15 minutes. Because I see this kiddo so often, it's very clear where he's making progress and what he still needs.

His classroom teachers are great - we work together so well so it's easy for me to run in and ask a quick question and the same for them to me! On Monday, one of his teachers emailed me asking about a specific phonics strategy he needs because she wants to tailor his word study even more for him. I suggested the Magic e rule because it's still not automatic for him when he's writing, and so she started with that right away.

This morning I already noticed that he was remembering that better as he wrote dictated sentences for me.

This is the thing with teaching - it can be *beyond* effective when we work under the assumption that we are all here for the child's best interest. I know that we all think this and say this, but are you really living it? It's going to happen that we make mistakes, and there are always instances when we could instruct more effectively, but are you comfortable telling your colleagues that? Do you feel comfortable saying, "Yeah, I screwed that up....but learned a lesson!" ? That's what it's all about. That right there, that's working in the best interest of kids.

Today I am so thankful for these awesome collaborative relationships with teachers here at my school. Love that our students are making gains because we are confident enough to share when we didn't get something right. What this also means is that we can celebrate when get it just right! (Like today!)

I know I haven't been around here much, especially with content blogs, but there are some coming soon, I promise! Here's what I'm planning to write about very soon:

Blogging with kids
Backwards Design Planning
Academic Parent Teacher Teams

Anything you're particularly interested to hear about first? Leave me a comment!

Have a great night!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

sunday letters

Join me every other Sunday to share your letters.
Write to people or inanimate objects and then link up below.
Don't forget to leave some love for the other Letters Bloggers!

Chello readers!
I'm late again...I know. I actually was stuck this time - left my computer charger at my boyfriend's house and he watched a lot of football with his friends yesteday so I had a dead macbook and was not about to go interrupt guy time. Anyways, at least they're getting published by Sunday and not monday, so that's good!

Let's get on with it!

Dear Self,
Great job on food prep for the week! In two hours, you went to the grocery store, made a lot of salad, chicken, and broccoli, and have everything prepped for a healthy week back to school. Now, if only you can forgot those mint M & M's are hidden in the drawer with the foil and plastic bags, you'll be good to go!
Love, a determined blogger

Dear boyfriend,
I had such a great time at the Art Institute with you this week...It was definitely Michelle and Hektor's day of fun...seeing art, getting a coffee to share at Starbucks, and then ending with a slice of the best deep dish in town from Pequods! My fave part was your commentary on all the art:

"Well, she's all about that bass...isn't she?"

"What's with all those statues? Are they the same? They're's like an ugly version of Guess Who."

"I call this one 'Red-Headed Stepchild.'"

"Ohh's my bros! Hanging out, around 1800..."

Anyways, we really do have a great collection at our Art Institute...

Seated Budda
I thought he'd be fatter!


American Gothic




Van Gogh


Brought back my Art History class of freshman year of college (all the way from like 1999!) If you ever visit Chicago, this musuem is definitely worth an afternoon!
Love, Michelle

Dear Chicago Weather,
I had been crossing my fingers for a white Christmas and even thereafter, I was waiting and waiting for snow. And now you wait till the day before we go back to school? Com'on!
Sincerely, Over the Cold

Dear Work,
I have some mixed feelings about going back. Part of me be like:

but then another part is like, well, I get to see my friends and the kiddos and I actually did a little work this weekend so Maria will be all excited I have more things to order! So, definitely mixed feelings...but either way, see you tomorrow, bsd100.

That's all for me today. Did you need to send any letters? Link them up with me!

One more thing: Going to continue Sunday letters but only once a month from now on (first sunday) and then the third Wednesday of the month I'll do "What I'm Loving Wednesday" - so I'll see you back here on the 21st for that linky!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

one little word 2015

Happy New Year, friends! Hope you're off to a better start than I am.... #pajamasALLday since I indulged in red wine a few too many times last night! But besides that, 2015 is off to a great start!

You know I usually make a bunch of resolutions and goals, and I do have some in mind, but I'm finding that the One Little Word I read about on blogs last year (didn't really get it) and then saw it again this year on teacher blogs and a few friends on facebook - the OLW seems like a better idea - do all things with this in mind.

And so I'm going with....

Thanks to Jennifer over at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for the cute little graphic!

okay so onward!

tenacity. noun. the quality or fact of being very determined; determination

So all things I do this year - I go forward with tenacity. Tenacity in getting serious about being more healthy. Tenacity in being more fully present in my life, minus the mind-numbing time I had been giving to technology. Tenacity in remembering that my goal in all things I do should be grace, not perfection.

I got a super pretty frame from my secret santa at work and I'm going to use that for my OLW. Keep it visible, keep it up. As soon as I get that project done, I'll be sure to share with you all!

So what about you? Writing resolutions? Goals? OLW? Leave a comment and let me know yours!

Happy 2015 from me and my most favorite person!

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