Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Don't miss out!

Teachers Pay Teachers is having a sale Monday and Tuesday!  Many teachers are putting their stores on sale up to 20% off, then TpT is offering an additional 10% off.  My store will be on sale starting Monday!  Enjoy!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thankful Writing Using the Triple Gold Sentence

I don't know how it goes in your classroom, but sometimes getting my kids to write can be like pulling teeth.  So many of them have such trouble with idea generation, and actually putting their thoughts together in a coherent way is next to impossible.  Don't get me wrong, some of my kids are prolific writers with a true ability to communicate.  These children, however, are few and far between.  That brings me to another thing I learned from Mr. Biffle at the WBT workshop I attended.  It's called the Triple Gold Sentence.  The triple gold sentence simply asks students, in their introductory paragraph, to name three things they can make a point about in their writing.  Each of the next three subsequent paragraphs is based on one of those points.  They would then wrap it up with a closing paragraph.

It's really not much more than the old 5 paragraph essay, but it helped remind me that not everything students write has to have some original format.  At the beginning of each year, I use The Important Book as a model for their first piece of writing.  For some reason, once that first paper is written, I drop the idea of having a "frame" for the students to use.  When I heard about the triple gold, I realized that I could help my students see that writing can be simple if you have a plan.

This week we are writing with a Thanksgiving theme.  I'm allowing my students to choose between two Thanksgiving themed prompts:

Today I talked with them about the structure their paragraph would follow:

We also prepped for our writing by making a web, here's my example:

I think that this "frame" will allow for my students to quickly produce a quality expository piece of writing.  I can't wait to share a finished piece with you all. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Whole Brain Teaching & Thankfulness

As I mentioned in my previous post, Saturday I attended an all-day workshop.  I know this doesn't sound like the best way to spend a Saturday, but the workshop was on Whole Brain Teaching, and it was put on by Chris Biffle himself.  That man is full of energy!  I hope I am half as energetic after 40 years of teaching as he is.

Chris Biffle
I'm sure many of you are familiar with WBT, but for those of you who aren't, I just have to share the basics.

The Core 4:

Class, Yes: To gain student attention, the teacher simply says "Class" in any manner they choose (varying tone, or drawl).  The students quickly fold their hands, turn to face the teacher, and respond with "Yes" mimicking the teacher.

I've used this "call back" for several years now.  My students like it, because they never know how I will call for them.  I haven't been very good at asking them to fold their hands and focus on me, but I'm certainly going to work harder at that.  It's not very effective if the only thing you get them to do is quiet down, you really want the students' full attention when you call for them.

Mirror: WBT is big on using gestures, attaching physical movement to concepts to engage the motor cortex. When asking students to mirror, you simply say "Mirror" and students hands snap up, palms out, and they repeat the word "Mirror". Students follow your gestures with their own hands thus engaging that motor cortex. You can use mirror when telling a story, giving directions, describing the steps in a procedure, demonstrating a process, you will have your students locked into what you're saying. If they're not locked in, you will easily know because you won't see the movements.

I've never used this particular strategy in my classroom. Saturday was the first I'd really heard of it. I'm excited to see how it might increase productivity in my classroom.

Scoreboard: The purpose of scoreboard is to motivate your class.  What class wouldn't like to earn a few extra minutes of recess, game time, etc?  You simply have a scoreboard somewhere in the room.  (Drawn on a whiteboard, in a file for your SMARTBoard, or with the new WBT scoreboard app).  The scoreboard is a simple t-chart.  One side is a smiley face, one side is a frown (or you can vary to reflect your preferences).   When the students are doing something right, you put a point on the positive side, when they receive a point, the students clap their hands and say "Oh yeah" then get back to what they were doing.  When the students are doing something incorrectly, you put a point on the negative side, when they receive a negative point, the students lift their shoulders and do a quick "hmmpf", then get back to what they were doing.  The key is to always keep each side of the scoreboard within 3 points.  You don't want to over-reward to the point that positives don't mean anything or over-punish where negatives cause feelings of failure.

I haven't used the scoreboard before either.  I have a clip chart in my room that I use for individual positives and negatives, but I don't have a lot to keep the entire class motivated and working toward a common goal.  I think scoreboard will be a great way to unite my kids in working together and encouraging one another to do the right thing.

Teach, Okay: Have you students partnered or in a group of three if necessary.  Present a small amount of information, complete with gestures. When you finish, look at the class and clap two times, say “Teach!” Your students clap twice and respond “OK!”, then proceed to turn to their partner and teach them what you just shared using the same words and gestures.  We all know that explaining something to someone else is a great way to increase and show understanding.  Teach, Okay is a great place to practice this.

We practiced this throughout the course of the workshop.  I can't believe the amount of knowledge Mr. Biffle crammed into our brains in the first 45 minutes using this strategy.  I know this will revolutionize my classroom instruction.

One of the great things about WBT is that Mr. Biffle isn't in it to make money.  You can go to the WBT website and download the materials FOR FREE!  If anything I've talked about sparked your interest, please go there and check it out.  Also, a lot of TpT sellers have developed FREE items to go along with WBT.  Lastly, there are TONS of videos out there modeling these strategies.  Check them out!

I feel like this workshop is something I will be thankful for.  Which segues to the next portion of my post, the Top 10 Things I'm Thankful For linky party hosted by Stories by Storie.  What a great time to think about all that we are thankful for...

I have a great family.  We haven't always agreed on everything, or understood each other, but we've always loved each other.  We may not have always said it, but we showed it in the ways we cared for one another.  I'm blessed to have a hard-working father who always did what he could for us.  I'm blessed to have a truly empathetic mother who always encouraged us despite her own insecurities.  I love my brothers and their incredibly unique personalities.

My boyfriend is one of the kindest, smartest people I've ever met.  He puts up with me, and loves me unconditionally even when I'm acting unlovable.  I don't know what I'd do without him.

My best friend, Kelly, was my teaching partner 2 years ago.  When the tornado struck our community and destroyed the house she lived in, she and her husband moved in with us until they found a new home.  This transformed us from co-workers to family.  I have unconditional love for her.

I have a great group of friends.  I have friends whom I've known since my elementary school and jr. high days.  They are a quirky and amazing bunch of intelligent and beautiful people.  I don't know what I would do without them.

I have been blessed with hundreds of wonderful students over the last decade.  I cannot picture my life without students.  Every time I run into a former student I'm overwhelmed with the awesome remembrance of a special year.

I have three great teaching partners this year.  I'm so glad that I have them to work with, I don't know how I could do it without them.  I also have a great school, we all work hard to do what's best for our kids.  I work for an AMAZING district that's really pulled itself up by its bootstraps after losing multiple buildings in a tornado.  The same can be said for my community.  I don't know how we did it, but after surviving and EF5, we are rebounding and rebuilding.  Amazed by the strength and resiliency of my Joplin.

Lastly, I'm thankful for freedom.  As I watch the news, I'm daily reminded of how blessed I am to be an American.  I don't care what your politics are, you MUST feel blessed to have so many freedoms.  Think about that as you decide to go to the polls tomorrow!

Much love!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

November Currently

November... it's hard to believe that the first day of school, the first quarter, and parent/teacher conferences have come and gone. We are a mere 12 school days away from Thanksgiving break and only 40 shopping days left until Christmas *mind blown*. When I was a kid I remember how long school years seemed to last, and now 6 and over a quarter of them have flown by with me in the driver's seat! To celebrate November, I'm linking up with Farley's famous Currently!

It's been a mostly lazy weekend.  We went to see Wreck-It-Ralph on Friday.  It was really good.  I even teared up a couple of times.  I would definitely recommend it for anyone who enjoys video game, as there are a lot of references to beloved games from 80s & 90s childhoods.  The message is great too.  Yesterday, I had a workshop in Whole Brain Teaching with Chris Biffle... yes, THE Chris Biffle.  He is so energetic!  I was almost scared of him.  I like his stuff, I plan to implement it with more fidelity now that I've been more officially trained.  Last night was a pizza-delivery-sit-on-the-couch-watch-four-hours-of-Downton-Abbey kind of night.  It was glorious.  I must stay Episode 5 of Season 3 made my jaw drop.  Today we continued taking it easy while doing our weekly grocery shopping (bleh) and then celebrating my step-grandpa's 83rd birthday.  Now, we're just sitting back enjoying the fleeting hours of a relaxing weekend.

While I still don't understand that necessity of Daylight Saving Time as a mostly non-agrarian society, I sure do appreciate the extra hour of sleep it brings me in the fall.  Though I dread that time in the spring when it will be stolen back!

Thinking & wanting kind of go together.  Realizing that Thanksgiving is so close really makes my sense of urgency to get Christmas shopping done sooner exponentially increase.  I really dislike trying to navigate retail stores once Black Friday arrives.  If I want to shop in-store all of that must happen before November 20.  After that, it's just useless so I go online instead.  This year, we are taking a vacation from December 20 through Christmas Eve, so no last minute for me either.  Better start thinking...

Two of my grade-level partners are down-and-out this weekend.  They will have subs tomorrow, and I have a half-day work day at our admin building.  I can only imagine how that's going to go 3/4 classrooms with a sub... Praying that Tuesdays returns us to normality.  Praying that we all stay healthy after this too!  It's hard enough to prepare for a sub, let alone when you feel icky.

In my classroom, I turn to Pandora for music.  Despite the annoying ads, I like the endless options.  We listen to Disney radio and the kids love guessing the movie each song is from.  I love exposing them to songs from classic Disney as well.  Javiar Colon radio is great for mellow tunes.  And of course there's the annoying upbeat Kidz Bop that the kids love so much.

If you'd like to join Farley's linky party, you can find it here.  Be sure to observe the rules!

Last, but CERTAINLY not least...don't forget to vote on Tuesday!  Exercise your right and responsibility!  :-)