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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Feel the Love (And grab a freebie!)

What happens when you try to explain to your first grade students that you started a blog about teaching over the weekend?

"Blog sounds like a monster. Why do you want it?"

Hmm, not quite what I was going for.  Maybe we do need to spend more time on those technology benchmarks. (Sigh - add it to the list)

After the incredible support, warm wishes, and cheers of encouragement from you all this weekend, I practically skipped into school Tuesday morning. How could I not? THANK YOU to everyone who has made me feel so welcome in giving this thing a shot. And a GIGANTIC thank you to my favorite teacher/mentor/best friend/comrade, Jillian  (The Starr Spangled Planner) for sharing this teeny tiny little piece of the internet with you all. I've been lucky enough to work with Jillian for the last few years and am so inspired by the outstanding work she does everyday!

This year I have been gifted the most amazing group of kiddos. They are kind, sensitive, and inquisitive little learners and I am already having nightmares about letting them go at the end of the year!


They are also the most challenging group of students I have ever worked with.  This year in particular we are balancing many different academic, social/emotional, medical, and behavioral learning needs and challenges.  As teachers, we are constantly reinventing ourselves. (This is why pencils have erasers. Am I right?) So this year in Room 339, we are taking differentiated instruction to the next level. What does that look like? Mostly chaos. And lots of coffee drinking. And lots of Taylor Swift playing in the background to keep everyone me happy sane.

This year, it quickly became apparent that my guided math model just wasn't working to meet the needs of all my students. Normally, I run math in a small-group workshop model, where students alternate between independent and small group work, along with guided teacher instruction to deliver academic content.  After spending way too much time trying to effectively group my kids, I realized that this system simply wasn't going to cut it.  So I threw up a Hail Mary, ditched our old model, and started having my kiddos work in math partners.

KenKen puzzles in CD covers helps means they can be used over and over!

I LOVE IT! Math is quickly becoming my favorite part of the day. Students begin each day by greeting their partner with a smile and a handshake, and say 'It's great to work with you today!'. Community building, social support, and math all-in-one? Yes please.

They get to work by heading over to our work board {photo coming soon!} and finding materials for their daily activities, or meeting me for guided delivery of our academic content. To keep track of each student's learning goals, and manage the weekly activities of the partners, I've redesigned my lesson planning to support our partner-based model.  A full set of my student data-tracking forms and planning sheets will be coming to my TPT Store soon (I hope - stay tuned!) but for now, here's a guided math planning sheet FREEBIE! This page helps me plan my direct instruction for each week, record notes on student learning, and maintain data for conferences, team meetings, etc. Just click on the image below to try this freebie out!
We are definitely still a 'work-in-progress' on this new approach, so I hope to share more soon with you on how things are going. Next time, I'll be posting about differentiating our math activities for each partner set. Until then, what are your favorite ways to differentiate math instruction for all students?

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The New Kid on the Block

It's 9:21 on a Tuesday. It's literacy time, and I am: running a small reading group, tying a shoe, settling a conflict between two students that both want the same colored pencil, and trying to find another kiddo who is responsible enough to set our class time timer without pulling it off the wall. I've been at work since 6:17AM, answered 7 parent emails, reorganized my classroom leveled-library with a new color coding system, and slurped down some sort of green juice for breakfast before my students even came in the door. Sound familiar? You must be a teacher, too. 

Anyone who has spent time in a classroom knows the constant mayhem that ensues. Equal parts chaos, comedy, and beauty, we all know there's never a dull moment. So why write this blog? Each evening I find myself reflecting on the madness and magic of a day in the classroom. Sometimes through laughter (and sometimes through tears) it seems I can never quite stop thinking about teaching my amazing group of first graders. And if you're like any of the other incredible teachers I know, I imagine it's the same for you. On this blog, I hope to share thoughts, stories, ideas, and inspiration from the trenches, and join the amazing community of teacher bloggers out there. I can't wait to get started!