Call me Mr. Rubric

I'm not sure why I didn't roll these out earlier, but I'm so glad I did. I put the question out about rubrics on Facebook and the responses were pure gold. So I have a few rubrics for specific projects and some that can be used for general stuff.   For the latter I'm going to laminate them and allow the kids to keep these at their tables. The specific ones I'll have to print off as needed and I'll make a large one to go over on my promethean board. After the kids get used to it I'll have them help me make rubrics for each project. Going to laminate a large 4 x 4 grid on some chart paper. I'll use that to make new rubrics that the kids will be able to write the needed elements on. I know my students don't care that much about paper. They're not that into NOT wasting it. Matter of fact it's a big deal that I repurpose old lesson plans and scrap paper for them to do morning warmup work on the back. I'm going to have to drill and drill that this is what I'm going to use to help you get the most from each lesson/activity. Should be fun. 

I’m ready! Are you ready?

Yesterday the kiddos were ready to learn. Sure hope they're ready for another great day. Got some good stuff planned for them. I'm ready. I sure hope they come in ready as well. 

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I moved the small bookcase from along side the big one. This opened my room like "Wow". Not sure why I didn't see this before, but it helped a lot. Today I'm introducing 4 new centers. I'm also to the point that every kid could have their own center. I'm thinking of doing a video of the centers so the kids can see HOW to utilize them. That would be fun and they'll get to post something cool on schooltube. My plans for next week are 75% done. 

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Now my room isn't as dark. The curtains worked to well. Hot glue and some binder clips make for great curtain pulls. I feel like my room is done now. All that needs to happen now is keep the learning, flowing. 

Administration stopped by yesterday to compliment on the class and my work with these children. It's not me, trust. These kids just want to learn. Though their desire to learn is buried under a lot of distractions, they do want to learn. 

 

Didn't get into Crossfit SCobb this week, but I did workout at Basement Crossfit. Though the trainer at Basement is a slacker I got a good WOD in. 

A lot going on today

Here…we..go! Another day is off and running. I'm supposed to have a visitor today to watch me teach my reading lesson. I have 2 meetings during my planning time and I have to finish the language arts assessment. Supposed to tutorial this afternoon and hit my favorite Crossfit gym as well. Let's just say this afternoon my students are going to get a healthy dose of centers. 

Thinking of doing an AR scramble. See how many AR tests we can take in an hour. My kids do read a lot of books and getting time to do the AR tests seem to be the real issue. Maybe we can do that this afternoon. 

Not sure what I'll teach for Black History Month. I enjoy looking back at the past. I'd like to tie in some form of looking forward as well. My students are gems and one day they'll be discovered. It's just a matter of time. Some how I want to get them looking at themselves in that way and acting that way. They are Americans and this is their history and future. 

There's a big push in my school to make sure kids are wearing their school uniforms. I used to not be a fan of them, but I've been won over. besides if there is one area to focus on getting kids to comply with a simple rule like that is the easiest. I wonder if other schools have dress codes/uniforms? Anyone? 

Ok, off to set up for the day. Make your day awesome!

My teacher’s Christmas list

Got a little inspiration from another fun teacher blog.

My Teacher's Christmas list

1. A magic potion that transforms my classroom without me ever having to move a chair. 

2. Faultless technology. Nothing like starting a session and the tech not work like it should. Had a dance party during my End of the Semester Party and the streaming wasn't very hot. 

3. EVERY PARENTS correct and updated information. 

4. Air freshener that does. Nuf said. 

5. A teleporter that can zap me to anywhere in the building. Walking is getting old. Ok, can I at least wear roller skates?

6.  A scanner that scans the student's papers and automatically loads their grades into the system sans me having to do anything. 

7. Fantastic school lunch program. It would be awesome to see the kids eating natural and fresh foods more often. Matter of fact I think this is my #1 request. 

8. Magic lesson plans that just are done by themselves. I wouldn't mind little elves who set up my centers before the lesson, too. 

9. Copiers that wouldn't break down, ever. 

10. The super power to write lessons (just in case I don't get #8) that reach every student no matter what their levels, abilities, background and up bringing. 

Stocking stuffers

Classdojo adds new features to their great site

A metric ton of pencils, crayons and markers

Aerosol that I can spray to cause my students to desire to learn

I hope you all have a fantastic, restful Christmas. May 2012 be even better than you expect. 

Wordless Wednesday the recap

I started out today planning to do a Wordless Wednesday. I was going to not speak to the whole class, not until 2:15pm. There are always some housekeeping things that go on at the end of the day that I need to give some directions for. Back to Wordless Wednesday. The kiddos would have to a) follow board directions or directions on a particular assignment b) consult a classmate who did follow the board direction c) I did write some directions on the board and even scored work using my smart board. 

I have three different math classes and a homeroom. The homeroom is only 15 minutes so that goes as smooth as silk. Some of the babies aren't awake enough to cause any fuss. Now the math groups. My morning one has been whipped into shape and they took the Wordless Mr. Whitaker as a nice change of pace. They were quiet and quickly powered through their work. They're not (on paper) the strongest math group, but I'm sure I'll see a great deal of them move up and do well because it's a small group.

The group right after lunch can be a hand full. More rowdiness and certainly more talking. One reason they're coming from lunch. Makes me wonder if the cafe served a strict Paleo or Zone lunch menu what would change with this group. This group had already heard about Wordless Mr. Whitaker and wanted to get me talk to them. More time was spent trying to be funny than moving along in the assignment. Sadly, more kids lost points on Classdojo than I would like to have seen. This group is going to do well over all. I know that if I can really spark their brains, make them excited about the next lesson the silliness will be left at the door. It's not really a matter of what they ate at lunch as much as it's about me really lighting a fire in their minds about the wonders of math. I have a few ideas for them. 

My last group, is considered a middle group. I seriously think this group is just tired by 120pm. They've been in school all day and this is their last class just like it's mine. They don't really have the drive to push into hard concepts and would be just fine chilling all day. The boys LOVE to goof off and a football field sized room isn't big enough to keep them away from each other. If it's not talking about another's parent, throwing something gross or just being rude by talking, it's something else I haven't been privy to. There are some really, great kids in this pack. They want to learn and do their best to stand out (in a positive way) from the pack. I often apologize to them when the day really hits the fan cause I can see it in their eyes that they want this material.

Needless to say this group needed me to give it some direction at 215pm. Wordless worked well, but not stellar with them. I couldn't stand over each of the offenders in order to get them all to quiet down and refocus at the same time. Wordless Wednesday didn't work so well for them. Next time I just do Less Words Wednesday for that group. I'll only say 100 words or something. LOL!

For all my groups they have to do a Ticket out the Door. I usually ask a question recap of the daily lesson and have them write a response on a note card as the Ticket. Today I asked them a bonus question "What did you think of Wordless Wednesday"

Here are some responses:

  • I didn't like it. The kids were bad. 
  • I liked it, because I had to listen. I talked to my neighbor and got a few answers. 
  • This was hard! I didn't like it at all. I had to be quiet to understand what was happening. 
  • Don't do this again!!! I didn't like it. 
  • We should always be quiet cause I learned a lot more about angles today. 
  • Measurement is ok, but you not talking to us was hard. Why did you do this to us? 

I have some other daily ideas. I think what I'll do in the future is quash it for the last class and just teach that one as normal. I believe we're going to change schedules in 2012 so my last class might be my first class and all this could totally change.

My biggest take away is that I have to really kick my lessons up a lot to make the gray matter start sizzling. But here are somethings I also picked up.

  • The roughest kids want to know what's going on. If they feel left out they'll quickly try to figure it out or just show out. 
  • Having classroom managers seems cool, but if it takes to long to train them it's a moot point. 
  • Maybe doing a Wordless day in the AM would throw off the afternoon group because they heard that Mr. Whitaker isn't speaking to us again. Only to find out that it wasn't true when they come to class. 
  • For some reason I think I make more noise than the kids do. When I'm not talking, repeating, strongly repeating myself. The kids don't have to make noise over me. This isn't always the case. Maybe, just maybe I'm the problem. 
  • Spotify is killing me! At one point they played "My Favorite Things" by Miles Davis. I almost said, "This is my jam".  Almost ruined my scheme. 
  • One of my co-workers said I shouldn't talk to anyone, children or adults on WW. I think I'll just ignore her all day tomorrow just for kicks. 

I got my butt kicked at Crossfit South Cobb after a good day at school. No words on how horribly I did. 

Habits

Most of us have some bad habits we'd like to cease if we could. Most of our kids do, too. They just don't know they're bad habits. I've been thinking about what I can do to help my class want to learn more. Thankfully the thought of building a habit of learning came to me. 

Recently I started having them jot down on an index card what they learned each day as a "Ticket out the Door." I was pleasantly surprised how some of my more difficult students picked up the concept. If only they knew that I was using these tickets to see where they are and what I can help them with moving forward, they'd probably sabotage my ticket drop. Anyway, that's a small habit. I wonder if I can get them to pick up other small, useful habits before Christmas break. Doing homework would be fantastic, but I can't shipwreck my faith just yet.

What I would like to see is my student's writing more, listening to adults and seriously seeking to learn their basic facts. My homeroom is so short. Getting them in, settled and pen in hand would take the entire time. I could have them write two things they heard from our morning announcements and give out something tangible as they leave for doing so. That would at least in theory encourage them to listen. I already penalize them for rude behavior, but I need to find a way to promote being children and not just highlighting the bad behavior. They write some already. Some how I need to increase that several fold by the next break. 

Keeping your game tight packs

No, I'm not sending homework home over Thanksgiving week. That would be crazy. Who does that? I'm sending each of my hungry learners home with an "Keep Your Game Tight Pack". Each one is chock full of neat math games and skill builders that are going to help them keep their minds sharp over the week off. 

After doing my grades this week I know who NEEDS a pack and who will DO a pack. Shocking and sad those two people aren't the same. There are some who'll do any extra work I send home. I really heart those kids. They want to get the most out of 4th grade. Then there are those who need every extra bit of help I can give them. I really have a heart for those kids. So I have the packs ready and during Family day tomorrow I'm going to roll up on mom/dad/grands and put said package in their hands. I'm certain they'll appreciate the help. My kids that will do the work will just get their pack on Friday. Since I haven't received one phone call to complain about the work I've sent home I guess I'll just keep piling it on. Surely I can get one call my Christmas. 

The next 4 weeks is going to be tough. We have Thanksgiving week then 3 weeks then Christmas week. It's going to be tough keeping them all in the game. If this week was any indication I'm going to have to keep my own game tight. I start back at Crossfit South Cobb Monday. Can't wait! The game plan for the kids is to keep them going. I have a ton of out of class activities and we're going to exhaust them all. No long term sitting and getting antsy. We may bundle up and get outside or we maybe in the Kindergarten class teaching a 5 year old how to multiply. Something, but what we're not going to do is give me 1 more gray hair in my beard.

I’m pushing the envelope

My school isn't the most affluent. My kids don't come to class with the latest and greatest gadgets, cell phones and wads of disposable income. So why did I just roll out on-line homework that can only be done from the class website? Because I don't embrace excuses, only solutions.

Each kid has to go to a particular website and complete 3 10 question math assignments by Friday. All assignments are within the kids abilities and just reinforce what they've learned last week. 

I did a non-scientific survey of the class and about 40% of my students have readied access to the internet. The others did the deer in the headlights when I told them "so what are you going to do, because your homework all needs to be turned in Friday." In all fairness I did give them the option of doing their homework in class or in the computer lab during the week. I have set up time for all kids to go to the media center to complete it during class time and on Wednesday during after school tutorial. I'm certainly interested in how many will go to the library, which is 2 blocks from our school and get it done. And even though I want to not have paper to grade, I made a few copies of the assignments to pass out on Thursday if I see that some kids aren't making the effort. Each week I hope to get fewer and fewer excuses and more solutions. I'm also interested in seeing how many parents call, write or visit me about my new project. Pretty sure they're going to find this a hoot. 

I have some "Go Getters" in class and I know they'll find a way and not come to be with reasons why they can't. I want those kids to rub off on those who are already thinking of reasons why they can't get the work done. I'm going to keep highlighting the solution finders rather than invest time in the excuses. 

The grade level is doing a two week project as well. Each kid is going to have to spend $1,000,000 in their community helping others and making their area better. The assignment ties in Social Studies, Math and it has to be written/typed out. We're giving them 2 weeks to complete, but the students have benchmarks everyday/week. This project doesn't get class time, but when we go to the library I'll certainly encourage them to use their time checking on various parts of their project. 

Asking better questions in class

It's so easy to blame everything under the sun for why kids don't learn. I caught myself the other day in faculty meeting realizing that I was blaming the kids for their not getting a concept. But truly the power is mine. I have the power to not blame, but to take responsibility for the kids learning or not. So rather than asking "Why won't these kids get this?" I started asking "What can I do to help these children learn this concept?" The first question made me a victim while the second question put all the strength in my hands to deal with the issue. 

When I swapped from finger pointing to looking for solutions I gave myself permission to find an answer not wait for someone to fix the problem for me. Now in all honestly, I'm still trying to find how to reach each of the 64 kids I have to work with. Some are ready to learn and are rocking and rolling. The others…not so much. But I take responsibility for that and I also know that I can find a solution.  I know that I can find the way to teach each of them and that I will. It's just a matter of time. 

Let's see how the kiddos respond. 

Proper prepartion prevents poor performance

This week's been good. I've done a fairly good job preparing and planning out my lessons. Since each class is 90 mins not planning right can really ruin the day. Going to really blow their minds when I roll out their official homework website. (Need to find out how many have net access at home, before hand.) I wanted to be able to work on next week's lesson a week in advance. I haven't gotten organized enough for that yet, but I certainly don't plan to be waiting until Saturday to turn them in either.

Working on getting the kids into a more streamlined routine. To much time is lost getting "settled in" when the classes switch and transition. One thing I did was put the kibosh on students leaving from my homeroom only to return in 2 minutes to their first class with me. I didn't realize that was happening, but once I put that on pause a lot of the "extra-ness" that started the first class ceased. Now to get the restroom silliness under control. SMH

Pencil-gate update. The first day I went through 25 pencils in a day. Day 2 I went through none. I started charging the kids rent to use my pencils. They had to give me a jacket or a book to use my pencil and they'd get it back once I got my pencil back. Shockingly I haven't lost 1 pencil in 2 days. Also a lot of kids are finding pencils to use. Shocking.