Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Let's Help Our Brains Grow!

Have you ever had one of those days where the students are about to walk into school to start the day and you completely change your lesson plans?  Today was one of those days......
Today was the fifth day of school.  Being the planner that I am, I completed my weekly lesson plans last week and was all prepared for the day.  At least, I thought I was prepared.  While driving into work, I thought to myself that I need to do something fast about changing some of my students' mindsets.....

Yesterday, the students and I discussed our interests and I had my students complete a Reading Interest Survey.  This survey was going to give me insight into their reading habits, what they like and don't like to read.  I took the surveys home Monday night and after reading through them, I felt sad.  Unfortunately, it was getting late and my three year old was not sleeping, so I had to set the surveys aside.  But once I woke up, I couldn't stop thinking about the surveys and the lack of interest my new third graders have for reading.  In fact, some of them stated that they hate reading, they can't read, and don't want to read. their reading teacher, this broke my heart.

So, while sitting in traffic this morning, I realized something must change.  I want to get them to change their mindset about reading (plus develop the habit of changing their mindset).  I know that I can't make every student love reading.  We all have different interests, but I at least I want my students to change their mindset and be open to reading.  

Well, at 7:30 am (40 minutes before going outside for morning duty) I decided to completely change my lesson plans.  Everything I had written down and prepared for the day was a waste.  I wanted my reading class today to be geared toward growth vs. fixed mindset (I ended up using the terms open vs. closed mindset with my third graders).  Quickly, I jumped on Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and google.  I found some amazing ideas.  

Pinterest lead me to an excellent Growth vs. Fixed Mindset post by Judy from It's Raining Resources!  Judy talked about the same struggles I am having right now with my third graders.  Her post also lead me to an AMAZING and interactive  PowerPoint presentation created by Eve Coates on Teachers Pay Teachers.    It is a MUST buy!  My students loved it!  BUT--before I showed the PowerPoint, I displayed a pretty challenging riddle on the board.  I told the students there was no talking, no asking questions, no sounds.  They must figure out the riddle within three minutes.  I tried everything in my power to keep a straight face.  Some of my students looked scared....upset....challenged...and some just put their pencils down and didn't even attempt to try and solve it.  (btw way, I quickly found this riddle online year, I think I would do something different:  "What is something that happens once a minute, twice a week, and once a year?").  After the three minutes, I asked the students how they felt.  Most of their reactions were just as I thought they would be....."I give up."  

So, this lead me into the PowerPoint.  It really helped them see that you are not born smart.  You become smart by doing challenging things.  It also showed that harder things can actually be more fun!  Plus making mistakes is good because they help us learn and grow.  

It's Raining Resources!
After the PowerPoint, I took Judy's idea from It's Raining Resources! and made an anchor chart with the students.  The chart was a great way for students to hear what a closed and open mindset sounds like.   I had chart paper on the board with the pictures to represent open vs. closed.  The picture below is from Judy's post.  Creating the anchor chart lead to so many great discussions with my students.

Next, I pulled out one of my favorite picture books, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.  If you don't have this book, you need to buy it.  I love  LOVE this book.  This is a perfect example of what it looks like to change your mindset.  The unnamed girl in this book wants to make the most magnificent thing, but she keeps failing repeatedly.  Eventually, the girl gets so mad and quits.  With the help of her furry best friend, the little girl ends up changing her mindset and is successful in the end.  Such a great book to end the class period.
Don't anchor chart would have been prettier if I planned further in advance! :)

Phew....I loved this day.  It started off rocky because I felt like I was running around with my head cut off at 7:30 this morning.  But once I had a plan and started teaching, it went great.  I left the building today thinking that my students truly understood the difference between an open and closed mindset.  I am still going to revisit, reteach, and add to my lesson today.  But I can definitely say that  I think I will sleep great tonight!!

Tell me about your growth vs. fixed mindset ideas!!!!!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A New Way to Communicate


I wanted to write this post about something new that I came across.  My school recently reduced the number of copy machines in our building.  So, the copy machine that was located right next to my classroom is now an empty space (tear).  This means that I need to cut back on things that I need copied because I cannot run down four flights of stairs to the nearest copy machine in the middle of teaching.  So, one thing I know I can cut back on (plus I want to cut back on these) is the weekly newsletters.  For one, I feel like weekly newsletters can be a waste of paper because I have no idea if my parents actually read it.

Last week was our first week of school.  So, I sent home a communication survey (click here to read my blog from the summer where I attached the google doc of my communication survey) to my parents asking them how they would like to communicate (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Remind101, or paper newsletter).  Needless to say, my surveys came back with a variety of choices.  I decided to sit down and do some research on the Internet.  I read different blogs, googled a few things, and I talked to some of my teacher friends.  After talking to Em at Curious Firsties, she mentioned something that her daughter's teacher uses called Class Messenger.

Have you ever heard of Class Messenger???  OMG, I love it!  Class Messenger was created to make sure teachers, parents, and students are all on the same page.  This program creates a constant stream of private communication specific to the needs of your class, students, and parents.  Instead of spending a lot of time (possibly hours) connecting via Twitter, Facebook, email, text messaging, a class blog, or even a paper newsletter, class messenger is your one-stop shop for all of these things.  It is just as easy as text messaging, but definitely more private. Teachers can write general comments, assign homework, write reminders, create order forms & surveys, develop group meetings, make volunteer forms, and list donations that are needed.

There are many different ways that teachers and parents can access the service from class messenger.  The Browser version can be accessed by any computer, laptop, or mobile device.  There is also an iOS application that can be used on any mobile device from Apple (iPhone, iPod, or iPad).  Lastly, there is an Android application that can be used on a wide range of Android devices that include Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, Google Nexus, HTC One Mini, etc.

Are you thinking, "How is that different from Remind(101)?"  Great question! I have the answers.  Below are a few ways that sets Class Messenger apart from Remind:

Doesn't it sound awesome?  If you still aren't sure, check out this Prezi that I found on Class Messenger's website.  It's pretty informative.  I will be sending home the sign up information tomorrow with my students to get my parents enrolled in Class Messenger.  I am excited to let you know how it all plays out.

Tell me what works for do you communicate with your parents?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Reading Strategies Book-Goal 1: Supporting Pre-Emergent and Emergent Readers

I am so excited to link with Literacy Loving Gals and #ReadingStrategiesCrew to discuss Jennifer Serravallo's new book called The Reading Strategies Book-Your Everything Guide for Developing Skilled Readers.   Check out my post from July 23....I gave an overview of the book.   

For the next month, the #ReadingStrategiesCrew will be discussing each goal every Monday and Wednesday.  Yesterday was the first day of the book study and I am so excited.  This book is a little overwhelming because it includes 300 reading strategies....yep-I said 300!!  Once I received the book in the mail, I sat down and read through the beginning pages of each goal.  So, I thought I would link up today to discuss what I read about goal #1.  Goal #1: Supporting Pre-Emergent and Emergent Readers.

I LOVE the way Jennifer Serravallo has set up the beginning of each goal.  She introduces the goal by telling why the goal is important and how to know if the goal is right for a student. Goal 1 is perfect for any child who is just beginning to read text independently, though not yet conventionally.  Also, this goal is for readers who are beginning to read conventionally, yet have interest that go beyond the simple patterned texts that beginning readers tend to read.

After attending a workshop today and listening to Tanny McGregor discuss metacognition, I thought I would share with you one of the strategies from Goal #1 called Readers Explain Their Thinking.  This strategy is best taught in conversation with a reader during a conference or partners.  When you see your reader possibly jumping from one idea to another, simply prompt the reader(s) to stop and think.  I would first model to the reader(s) by reading a page, having an idea about what I read, and ask myself, "What makes me think that?"  Other prompts that can scaffold the reader during the practice with this strategy or when offering feedback is: 

One more thing....check out the other things that are on every single strategy page....(did I mention there are 300 strategies in this book!!!!!)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Reflect and Refresh- Part 2 Looking Forward

Welcome back to Reflect and Refresh hosted by Mrs. D's Corner!  In Part 1, of this two part series, we reflected on the past school year.  We talked about what went well and what we wished we would have done.

Now we are on to Part 2- Looking Forward!  I am looking forward to the new school year (14 days until it all begins!).  I am looking forward to the things I want to try along with the things I will continue to do that went well.

Communication:  For the past ten years I have sent home a weekly newsletter to my parents about upcoming events and reminders.  But now, I feel like everyone has submerged their lives into the world of social media.  So, on the first day of school, I will be sending home a communication survey asking parents how they would like to receive their weekly updates.

Organization:  My goal was to level and label (by genre) all of my books in my classroom.  I have been slowly bringing containers home with me leveling and labeling when I have a spare moment.  I am on my last car load and then I will be finished with all my books.  I am entering my 11th year of teaching and I am just now labeling and leveling my books?!?!  I am embarrassed to even tell you that!

Content:  I am so happy I read the Book Whisper by Donalyn Miller.  I'll even admit to you that I read the book twice this summer!  I am really looking forward to introducing my third graders to the 40 Book Challenge.  Plus, I am going to revamping my spelling/phonics portion of my day with Words Their Way.  Yay!

Summer Project:  I was very productive this summer!  It was probably the most productive summer I have ever had!  I read several books for fun and a number of professional development books.  My husband may not be too happy with the amount of money I spent on Amazon this summer, but it was definitely worth it!!

Share you reflect and refresh ideas below!  Did you have a productive summer?

August Pick 3 Pinterest Linky

August is here!  Yikes!  There is always so much to do between now and the first day of school.
So, to get back into the swing of things, I am linking up with The Inspired Owl and Pawsitively Teaching for some back-to-school inspirational Pinterest finds!

Inspirational Pinterest Find #1:  Sub Tub!!  We all have had days where we unexpectedly have to call in sick from work. I am embarrassed to even tell you how many days I missed last school year. Between my grandmother passing away, a car accident, my son having a sleep study/surgery, and my whole family getting personal life was a nightmare!  

So, on that note, I am going to make sure that I have an up-to-date sub tub! Thanks to Owl-Ways Be Inspired for reminding me what I need in my Sub Tub in order to have stress-free days when I have to call in sick (which I am praying will be nothing like last year!!!!).  Hop on over and check it out (click on the caption under the picture)!  Plus, she has a freebie for you!
Owl-Ways Be Inspired

Inspirational Pinterest Find #2:  Back to School: Building a Community! Hello Sunshine wrote a fabulous post about how you can build a community in your classroom with team-based activities.  The post is jammed with activities that can establish a culture of teamwork and cooperation.  I will be using some of these activities the first week of school.

My favorite team building activity that she described is called  The Marshmallow Challenge.  Groups have 20 minutes to build the tallest freestanding tower using only 20 sticks of spaghetti, 1 yard of masking tape, 1 yard of string, and 1 marshmallow (the marshmallow must be at the top of your tower).  Afterwards, you would debrief and discuss ways teams had to work together in order to be successful.  Jump over and check out the rest of her back-to-school team building activities (click on the caption under the picture)!
Hello Sunshine - Brightening Teachers' Days

Inspirational Pinterest Find #3:  Things That Interest Me! Survey (Book Whisperer).  I know...I know.....I am totally behind on reading the Book Whisperer.  I should have read it a LONG time ago!  I am embarrassed to say that I just read it this summer......(sigh of embarrassment).  Over the past ten years, I have given my students student interest surveys asking them what their interests are so I can pinpoint what kind of books they want to read.  I have to admit, I haven't always been the best at taking their surveys to heart (another sigh of embarrassment).  BUT-after reading this post from The Teacher Organizer, I like her idea of sending it home with the students.  On her website, not only does she include a student interest survey for FREE, but she also mentions how helpful it is for students to fill the survey out with their parents so they can hear the type of answers their child is giving.  This may be helpful making sure that the answers are accurate and not what their friend at school thinks.  This student interest survey will be going home the first day of school with my students (possibly open house).  Click the caption below the picture to go to her website.  Let me know what you think!!
The Teacher Organizer
Check out the friends below and their awesome Pinterest Finds for August.  Link up and share your inspirational finds!!!  Thanks for stopping by!