Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Differentiation in Small Bites: Mindset


   This seems to be the catch word of the day.  We all have a particular mindset towards how we believe instruction should look, feel, and be implemented.  It is important, in my humble opinion, that to start off this series, you should be well aware of what I believe is the foundation of differentiation.  Your mindset. You mindset towards teaching a classroom full of children who come from variety of backgrounds, interests, abilities, and strengths. 
    If you believe, all students deserve to grow each year they are in school. (This means the students beyond grade level keep moving up the educational ladder, as well as, the on level and struggling students.) If you hold fast to the thought, every child is unique and can fully participate through their strengths in your classroom. Plus, if you desire to do the work it takes to make that happen, you and I have the same mindset.
    You may not agree with all those statements or you may believe it to pie in the sky thinking.  You can still differentiate without the same mindset as mine.  I encourage you to take time to reflect on what your mindset truly is and how it shapes your instruction.  Those just exiting the teacher preparation stage of life, you have been doing this all along.  Those who, like me have been in this career for multiple decades, we sometimes need to be reminded to revisit reflective practice.
    Basically, in a nutshell, I whole heartedly believe to make differentiation work you must cling to the premise that each and every child deserves the best teaching I can provide for them.
     Give me your thoughts and feedback. Best practice includes conversation, which strengthens and extends our views and practice.
Next bites: management....one loaded word!!!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Classroom Differentiation in Small Bites - What is and is not?

Differentiation started out as a way for teachers to teach their highest learners, much like accommodations are for the students on IEPs.  Many misconceptions have arisen through the years.  This poster addresses the principles that I find important in differentiated instruction.  It by no means covers it all. It is meant to give you a glimpse into my viewpoint as I start this series.

Please, feel free to copy, pin, or pass along to other instructors.

 What would be on your differentiation is and is not list?


Saturday, December 27, 2014

February is on its way!

I have been given the opportunity to speak at our Nebraska Association for Gifted this coming Feb.  It is just as one of the break out sessions.  My nerves have been on high alert since the announcement earlier this month.  There is a FANTASTIC Facebook page ....  Encouraging Teachers... of which I belong.  I asked the members to let me know what they would like to know about the subject of differentiation.
DRUM ROLL.....teachers want to know....
       * Time management
       * Managing independence while teaching small groups or     individuals
       * make, take and use items
       * What to do about the unmotivated gifted students?  Boredom?
       * How to get other teachers of same students on board or working together?
       * teaching independence
       * ways to monitor independent work
       * keeping "superiority complex" at bay

Tall order!!

I will keep you abreast of how it is going and think out my ideas here as well.

The questions and some pleas for information bolstered my thoughts about this not forgotten but definitely on the FAR back burner blog.
It is my intent....with prayer and commitment...to start writing regularly on my blog in order to get ideas flowing about how to truly have a classroom where EVERY student learns and accomplished all they can each day, each quarter, each year.  Another tall order!

I found it easier to comment and give thoughts towards questions they asked.  So, I have only a few followers, but I hope you ask questions about how to differentiate.  That will spur this blog along.

Hallways, Classrooms, and Computer Labs "OH MY!"

It is the best thing!

    It is FINALLY October!  (Or end of Dec.  Not sure why I didn't post this! Crazy yr.)

         Not only do I love it for the crisp fresh breezes, pumpkin everything, smells of  baking and fireplaces....But the greatest is that my kiddos are demonstrating the constant consistent work of following through even when I just want to through my hands up and say fine run the room!!! 
    When you take the time to send a small group back to practice for the five hundredth time, while the remainder of the students turn the corner making their way out of sight, integrity! Will they make it to the room without disrupting every classroom along the way? YES!! In fact, doing so impressing teachers as they make their way through the crowded hallway.
    INSERT~~~ Happy dance! Happy dance!
    Music Master turns on Weird Al's "Eat It" and even students working in the hall hop up, come in, put away one subject, and set up for the one after lunch. YES!!! Other adults in the room recognize the students' behaviors and independence. Lunch is a huge motivator!  Students are taking on responsibility in the classroom, following through without reminder after reminder, and independence is flourishing. 


    Taking time....3 weeks or more at start of school....
to get to know students
 (inventories and surveys)

teach about how the brain works
setting expectations together
follow through with consequences
reteach expectations over and over and over...
put students in charge...give them responsibilities
expect that they will and are able to complete the task
continually remind the class that everyone learns differently
and have different talents to make our classroom the best ever
teach and talk like you believe every child can and will grow everyday in your room
It is NOT good enough to say it then treat them like one large group.
They are individuals.  They all learn differently and deserve our passion to teaching them
where they are and move them from there to where they can go.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

AHHHHH....Frustration Sets IN

Okay, this is just a tiny issue, but it drives me CRAZY!! The file folders fall down the small crack between the door front and side walls. Then I have to dig it out since it gets stuck especially if two get down the whole. 

In a moment of desperation, which is the always where inventions are born.  SO, if you have the same issue, here is a simple fix.  Put smaller binder or alligator clips on the edge.  YAHOO! No more files slipping and getting stuck in the hole.
Love it when a simple fix can save my sanity. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Decisions, Decisions....Setting Up the Classroom

It is time! Time to take those last few hours to just sit on the porch and breath in the fresh air.  Time to get the brain transitioning to the new year.  Time to be inspired!

I had decided early in the spring to have a superheroes theme this year.  It has been fun! There are many great ideas.  See my Pinterest Board http://www.pinterest.com/kremm/addicted-to-teaching/ to see what is out there to use and inspire your creative juices!

Now for a picture walk through my room as it is right now.  Not complete at this point.  More to come soon!!!
Writing bulletin board

front left side
Missing from picture are the objective strips which are located to the far left.
Recycled overhead apron holds student sticks and brain breaks.
"Don't Forget" is the space used for reminders and notes.
"Reading Buckets" normally have student list attached to front so I can mark who needs materials from each bucket for guided reading.
Visual student materials magnets.  There are now fancy ones to buy.  These were homemade as I started using them long before the commercially made ones.  Another opportunity missed!
Lastly the behavior chart. Instead of using clothes pins, I am using magnets.  BECAUSE...I am addicted to magnets right now!

Right hand side of front white board.  In the middle it is normal work space.
Started this last year and will keep using it. 
One of the best ideas I used last year.
Each student has a numbered glass pebble with hot glued magnet. 
When students leave the room they move their pebble to where they are going (resource room, restroom, nurse, office, band....).

 The back white board: Homeworkopoly board; homework turn in file holders;
"Extras" is where I put papers for those who have been absent or loose one;
The middle spot are the stats we keep.  I plan to also keep how many days we go with everyone turning homework in.

"Keep Calm and Superhero On" 
Students will make their superhero symbol and they will go up here all year.

The corner says, "News Flash"
This will be our current events bulletin board.
The border is made from superhero Duck tape.  Easy and fun way to make borders.

This is the board we will use to focus on character traits. 
The cloud looking poster is a place the class can write positive things about their classmates.

Still trying to come up with a great title for this one.
It contains popsicle/craft sticks with better word choices.

It is where my L to J and other class data graphs will reside.

 OOPS.. out of order.

 I have a whole wall that is sectioned off, so....I use it for each subject.
Vocabulary and key concepts to here for easy access throughout an unit.

"Incredible Work"
The Hulk is a Pinterest find.  As well as using clothes pins for hanging their papers.
I have had a "brag" board for a few years.  The students love having control over what they put on the board to show off. 
That is the start to my room.  Stay tuned, I have more to share coming soon!

Recycling the Overhead Apron

I love cleaning out the drawers and cabinets before school starts. It is my cleansing process, which prepares me for the coming year.  This year I found my old overhead apron. 
WALA! Just want I needed!!! Pockets ready to hold stuff.

Supplies for the creation of my newest organizational tool.

Glue the button magnets on the back.  I am a bit obsessed with magnets and my hot glue gun!!!

Finished product.  I have since used a white paint pen to record what would be in each pocket.
Yellow: Student name sticks - "choose" and "done"
Red: Sticks with brain breaks - sitting breaks, standing/moving breaks, "walks"
It's place in the whole picture.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Diving into a Different Mindset for the New School Year

   Angela Watson has written two books that are meant to take your teaching up a few notches. Her latest book study and/or companion Bible Study has just started.  I am very excited to have a renewed sense of why I teach and positive attitude to pass onto my students.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Vocabulary and Spelling


Vocabulary and Spelling

   I was going to answer a question posed this week by Teaching in the Fast Lane, http://4thgraderacers.blogspot.com/2014/06/wordless-wednesday-spelling-and.html, and found myself involved in a very long post.  Then thought...THAT IS IT!! Make it part of your blog!! Fantastic way to get back into blogging. (More on my last year and why I have been absent from blogging another time.)

   The question posed was simply wanted ideas on how to conduct spelling and vocabulary.
To see her actual question and responses use the link above.

   First, I believe there should be two discussions.  Vocabulary and spelling can coincide once in a while but in general they are two separate identities.  Vocabulary is about the understanding/knowledge of the word meaning. I use Anita Archer's explicit vocabulary strategies, which have transformed my teaching!! Here is one example of her work.  You can search and find many others.

   There are times that vocabulary and spelling coincide. When learning word parts (prefix, suffix...) you may have a word from the vocabulary that can be used for spelling. However, spelling list should be generated from words that the student will be using in writing regularly.  Primary and approaching upper elementary students should be using word families and commonly misspelled words. They still need a firm foundation. The on level and above upper elementary students usually look into spelling patterns involving multisyllabic words. 
    With all that said, the way I have found to get the best bang for the buck is when I have used individualized lists.  This is not how I did it last year since the district wanted us to try L to J, http://ltojconsulting.com/.  I do love the graphing and the idea of review and preview/spiral.  This is a phenomenal approach for average and some lower students.  It did not challenge my high students because they knew all the words already. My lowest students were frustrated until I modified each week to only 10 words.  I ended up managing 3-4 lists each week.  YUCK!

   My individualized lists give the students responsible for maintaining the lists.  Yes, there are a1-3 students whose spelling folder  needs to be kept safe or a copy made once in a while. However, in general, it is mainly the student's responsibility as 4th/5th graders to manage the list.


  As whole class instruction 2-3 times per week, have mini lessons/activities dealing with a pattern. There are several active games or interactive techniques.  I have a list of words that follow the pattern (10-15 words) usually found from reading series and the internet.  I have to always find the more challenging words for a pattern on the internet.  Our series lacks in depth of knowledge.   Everyone has a differing amount that they need to include on their list from this list. (I wish I would have thought of this while I was teaching...I would add a picture here!)  Then the remaining list (dependent upon grade level and ability level) are words from a list they have which includes word wall words and multisyllabic taught 3rd and under (list previously mentioned). They keep track of missed words from past lists and from writing assignments.  These are the words they utilize for filling in the remaining list.
    Research shows that students should only have 6 new words per week. ( Dr. Lee Jenkins, the developer of L to J has information if you would like to know the research.)  The rest should be words they have been exposed to previously. SO...a list of 20 would include 6 new words and 19 review words.  Repeated exposure being the key.  Another key is that the students do not know which of the previously taught word wall words or patterns will come up again.  I am still working on how to involve that portion of L to J with the individualized lists.

  I like using Spelling City for ease of grading and allows for practice opportunities. This coming year I will be using Spelling City's new individualized testing.  It comes at a cost, however.  I have not played with it as of yet, therefore, unsure how it will really work.  Sounds great on the site but we all know how that can go! 
   The last component of the process other than the mini lesson  and Spelling City are the contracts. You can find many contracts through Teachers Pay Teachers, Pinterest and other teacher created materials websites.  Mine are differentiated by giving choice of activities and there are 3 levels. Once my school computer can send e-mails again, I will attach a link here.
   Thank you, Teaching in the Fast Lane for providing me with the impetus to get my blog back up and running.

NOW.... If you made it to the end of this too long post...WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?  Do you agree/disagree?  Do you have any sparks of inspiration?  I cannot wait to hear what you are doing with instruction of spelling!! I always LOVE new ideas and inspiration.