Sunday, January 1, 2017

Newest Read

The post title is a bit misleading as I have not technically been "reading" Ron Clark's The End of Molasses Classes.  I actually listen to it now and again. That is what I did on this first day of 2017 during my 3 hour drive home from Hays, Kansas this morning.

A couple points made me think about my teaching and how I can take what Ron Clark has to say into my classroom.

*Study Skills - Be delibrate in teaching them! DUH! I think I have done it.  Then I listened to his suggestions like taking one page of notes and ask the students to show you how they studied.  WOW! What you will see will be amazing.  So....looking myself in the mirror so to speak. I have NOT taught them quality study skills.  
    My goal: taking time each day to spend 5 minutes to delibrately teach these skills.
   How does this play into differentiation?? 
      Some of your students will need to have an outline that gives them the specifics and how to do this without your direct help.  Others have never needed to study, my husband.  They need to be made to study because when they get to college it may not be so easy.  So, how do you get them to see that it is important?  They need to be given deeper learning, higher language/vocabulary.  Anything that is just out of their reach so they have to engage their brain.  *Write a summary of the notes adding how this concept will change their life or be useful.  *Write a 7 word jingle or gist that will help them remember it.  *Find synonyms or antonyms to vocabulary and explain how knowing these alternatives help them to understand the original word.

*Use Music - Well, I do this but in the book it pushes it to new heights. I have even given them a choice of writing a rap or song for a project.  I have only had a couple kids actually do this.  But if the entire class worked together to develop a song that reviews or teaches a concept then it will STICK.  Again, nothing new, but a reminder that there are things we can take to deeper learning if we invest just a bit more.
     My goal: In our next social studies unit, I plan to use this technique to have students engrain the causes of the Revolutionary War.  I am sure there are songs out there. But if the students do it, it will stick.
   How does this play into differentiation?? 
     Use students talents...someone is good at writing, another has rhyme down to a science, the music lover can suggest a tune to write the song to, and the musician has rhythm or musical note knowledge to add to the project.  Everyone has a place to add what they are good at doing.

Here's the deal....

  Sometimes as teachers we get a new book or go to PD and want to do it all.  FIND the one or two tweaks to your instruction.  If you go in a 180 degree directions the likelihood of you continuing is not in your favor.  Looking for that small tweak or addition that works into what you already do well, then you will come out on the side of success.  That is best practice for you and your students!!

As always, I would love to have comments, especially if you have read this book or visited RCA. 


Friday, October 7, 2016

Simple Tweaks

Simple Tweaks

    Our district just had 1/2 day PD in which they brought in speakers to present on differentiation.  I was not in attendance due to a trip planned four months ago to visit our son in New Hamphsire. Teachers seem to have a way of always finding excuses for why the information they receive isn't going to work. 

        As I have blogged before, it is a mindset. So, I want to say, we can tweak what we are doing and it will help kids! 

 tweak - to change something slightly especially 
                                in order to make it more suitable.

Keep in mind this definition.... change something SLIGHTLY to make it more SUITABLE.  We all want the best for our students. You, me, WE can do this so that ALL students are challenged to grow this year.


        1. Adjust the number of assigned problems.  
             *They know it they don't need to keep showing it.
             * If they don't know it, practicing it wrong only leads                to firm set wrong procedures.

        2. During guided practice while you are walking around,                change the problem, question or thought by increasing or            decreasing the deepth of knowledge.

                 EXAMPLE: In math, if practing multiplication of                      fractions. Give the class a problem to work such as                  1/2 X 2/3.  Student who do it in their heads and                    are done in a nano second...give them 24/10 X 5/9.                  When they finish, check to see if they have made it                  into a mixed number if with their heads                  by telling them it isn't correct yet. They don't                    need to be told to change the improper to mixed                      numbers. It is something you already taught.They                    will can and will do it. 
        3. Change the vocabulary on a page you type up. Up the
           verbage for those who need to stretch that vocabulary.              In directions for students who struggle with reading, cut            out flowery language, bullet point it and add
           illustrations if necessary.

        4. Assessments - This one most of you probably do but I am              putting this in here for those new teachers.  Multiple              choice: struggles take away two answers. Give them 50/50            off the bat and don't try to trick them! Vocabulary: High            students make it a crossword, fill in the blank, or other            interest building activity rather than multiple choice.              Short answer: make it fill in the blank with a word bank            for lows but for your children who need a challenge have            them be creative writers instead of simply answering the            question they need to answer from a certain point of

           view, perspective, or genre. Don't make whole separate              test have them pull from a hat and tape that to the test            so you know what they were to do. 

        5. LOVE USING INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS!! My low students need              fill in the blanks or partially complete items to add. No            big deal, but how do you keep those who are to quick for            their own good. When done they are to highlight the key              words or in a space "tweet" the gist of it.  Then they              give that information to the class once everyone has it              ready to go. 

I am only giving you 5. No excuses for not trying 1. We don't let our students excuse their way out of learning. Why do we not do what we preach! 

What tweaks do you do?  I bet you don't even think about them.  You just do it! Share, so we can all make differentiation a long word that is not so hard to accomplish.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

July is Time to Clean & Organize

Okay, I am a little CrAZy.  In July, I take a few hours a couple times a week (sometimes more when I get too involved) to work on fun for me teaching items.  My fun is not everyones fun, though.  Like part of last week, I spent my time learning all I could about Generation Z.  They are who we are teaching after all.  WOW!! Interesting....But that will be a post for a different day.
The other part of that time was spent organizing and classroom desk and desktop.  Well, truth be told the desktop is organized but NOT cleaned yet.  

What does this have to do with differentiation?
Differentiation is easier to accomplish if you can find what you need! So...take time now to organize all those items just sitting around.  We all have them.  
On the desktop:
   *Put everything in a folder.
   *Go through the folders and trash what you haven't used in a few years.  Okay, so as teachers we have an issue with getting rid of things.  SO...
   *Make a "Temporary Folder" that can hold the documents, PPTs, activities, etc. that you just can not part with at this minute.  Then over winter break or next summer feel better about trashing them.  
    *When going through the items in your folder mark items that you know are for scaffolding or extending learning. This will make it easy to locate needed items without opening every document to check it out.  A quick description will also be helpful. 
    *I am also cleaning out my Pinterest boards.  Hi, my name is Kim and I have an addiction to gathering ideas!!! I love collecting and sharing them.  But it is time to cut back.  So, each night I go through a couple folders or two boards.  

Angela Watson has a great blog, Cornerstone, and every once in a while she accepts people into her 40 Hour Work Week. In both of them, she is talking about organizing your day.  Sketch out what you want to accomplish and give it specific timeframes.  That includes the soak in the tub or reading on the hammock.  It simply allows you to get the rest and rejuvenation you need over the summer as well as being prepared for the start without the frantic chaos that sometimes faces us when we return. 

 Whatever you do whether it is putting items into folders or taking time to clean out the clutter, it will all help you feel a bit better when you start the new year.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Poverty Brains in the Classroom - Final post

Eric Jensen's books go into so much more detail than I have provided in these posts.  If these have sparked any interest, please take time to read his books.  As a classroom teacher, I found his new one, Poor Students, Rich Teachering, especially helpful.

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This is an area that I personally excel.  It simply comes naturally to me.  So, as I started this chapter I was simply reading it to complete the book.  Yes, many of his thoughts were not new to me and probably many of you as Marzano's research and books along with Anita Archer are widely respected.  However, I still found new bits of information.  If classroom management or engagement are a growth area for you, I highly suggest looking into this last chapter of  Poor Students, Rich Teachering.  

(#1 & 2 are part of reciprocal teaching.  It has 0.74 effect size. This is an area I want to grow as a teacher.)

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1. Creating a quiz...I do have my students create tests/quizzes and use them as a grade.  This activity will be added to that arsenal of tools.  Partners work together and each student creates 3 questions.  They share their questions and eliminate one from each persons list.  Then each partner set, finds another partner set.  They exchange questions.  I may change the way it is done a bit by  having the partners only eliminate one question giving them 5 as a set.  If it is used as a test then I would probably have them find another set to exchange with as well for a total of 10 questions.  Yes, they may end up with repeated questions.  I don't worry about that.  
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2. Clarifying Content...This is something as teachers I believe we do but just not regularly enough.  Or at least this teacher doesn't.   Ask questions such as: Can you rephrase that in your own words? What questions does this reading bring to your mind?  How would you explain that to someone else?  In my classroom, I could see this working into my students journals.  At the start of the year, I would have them write out to one of these for various passages/content. Each time write, then discuss it with a partner or group.  Finally take a few answers as whole class.  After several of these types of questions have been used, I would start giving them the choice for which they want to write an answer.  (I have been doing some GenX research and choice IS KEY!!)
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3. Rituals...Chapter 22 goes into rituals and routines. It states that rituals: solve recurring problems, include all students, easy to do, predictable, end with a positive emotional state.  (Note: procedures may meet some of these criteria but do not meet all.)  Examples are callbacks and celebrations.  I have several of both of these, but this year found the celebrations lagging than my norm.  What off the wall, unique celebrations do you do?  

I wish I would have read the epilogue first! It really digs into reflective practice through questioning.  
It also provides a nicely put together checklist to use.  


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Vision and the Poverty Brain in the Classroom

What is your vision of your classroom?
What vision did you have of your future life when you were a child or teen?
Who helped you achieve your dreams?  What did they do?

Vision is our expectations of our own future.  It brings people hope and satisfaction to work towards something.  The gutsy goals we discussed earlier, is all part of developing a vision.

   **Set goals with steps to accomplish them.
   **Help students refine dreams by learning how to think about the end result.  Where do they want to be later in life.
   **Playing music in the classroom that encourages thoughts of making it.  Ideas: Rocky Theme, Unbelievable.
   **Teach envisioning strategies dealing with self talk and how to see what it takes to be what or where they want to be.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Voice and Poverty Brains in the Classroom

Students need a voice in their classroom.  It provides validation.

    **Affirm and gently express the differences between fact and opinion.
    **Teach them how to advocate for themselves.
    **Encourage students to take risks by speaking up appropriately for what means something to them such as taking on a school or community issue.
     **Allowing them to express their identity and culture.

What are ways you give your students voice in the classroom?


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Classroom Weather Report

What's the climate in your classroom?

Chapters 14 through 18 of Eric Jensen's Poor Student, Rich Teacher is all about secrets to a rich classroom climate mindset.  The previous blogs about the poverty brain in our classrooms all intertwine to create a sunny classroom climate.  Affirmation, relevancy, engagement, and relationships all develop this mindset.  Teachers who create a climate that enriches the brain for not only those in poverty, but all of their students do so intentionally.


First lets look at the differences and connections between culture and climate.  CULTURE is what we do and establishes or predicts behaviors.  It is the behaviors and character of the class.  CLIMATE is the how we feel or mood.    The climate effects the culture.    Therefore, us as teachers can create the mood (climate) and ultimately develop the culture we desire.  The mindset we need to impact (0.80 effect size) our students is one that focusses on what students need to succeed.  Must believe that your class is a place from growth and that you will do everything in your power to help your students reach those gutsy goals.  It also includes acceptance of mistakes.  Not only acceptance but embracing them! do we create this climate??
       *Set expectations/classroom norms
       * Create goals/discuss dreams
       *Allow for student voice and vision to be heard (chapter 15)
       *Foster academic optimism (chapter 16)

In the next two posts, I will go into more detail about voice, vision and optimism.

Questions for us to ponder....
      How do you set up your classroom expectations?  How does the school set it's norms?
         What do you do that creates the climate of your classroom?  Greet kids each day, smile....
            What is one step this coming year you can take to improve the climate within your classroom?