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.

Image result for student engagement


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.)

Image result for quiz images
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.  
Image result for clarification
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!!)
Image result for classroom rituals and routines
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?


Saturday, June 4, 2016

Praise Video

I just found a video while reading a blog that I thought fits right into the discussion of feedback/praise as discussed in my blog today.

The blog I found this on is Laura Chandler's Corkboard Connections,

20 Tips for Motivating Gifted Kids to THINK!

Click above if you would like to read what others are saying about how they use praise as feedback. 

Achievement Mindset

Achievement Mindset

How do we develop a drive, motivation, or foster effort for learning in our students?

Too be honest, this would have been the largest issue I faced this past year.  A class full of students who simply put little to no effort into their work.  
(Note: This portion is going to be extremely simpified.  Each of these items has its own full chapter in the  Poor Student, Rich Teacher book by Eric Jensen.)

1. Offer choice...A good start but effect size is only 0.48

2. Teacher mindset about who can and cannot achieve has a greater impact than IQ, socioeconomic status, or reading ability.  WOW! Take time to reflect on that.  WE HAVE GREAT POWER to MOTIVATE! (Chpt 10 discusses our modeling of high achievement thinking)

3. Providing high true relevancy to learning

4. Effective feedback = effect size .65 (chpt 11) We all know the 3 positives to 1 negative.  Plus, the use of specific tasks not just the general, "Well done." phrasing.   Interesting parts of this chapter was that formative assessment that is used as a learning tool for the students has an effect size of 0.90.  Using statements such as... "I like the way you used ____strategy on that problem."  Even to go further and ask why or how they chose that strategy reinforces the positive use of their learning.  Mentioning to students when you see them using a positive attitude going into a new concept, gives them strength as well.

5. GUTSY GOALS - get ready....1.44 effect size!!  (Chpt 9) The kicker is starting from day 1 of the new school year and setting what may seem like a unattainable goal in conjunction with very attainable small bites (steps).  This will be my Proffessional Goal again this year as I did not get to where I want to be with it last year.  In fact, I went backwards a bit from what I had done in the past.

How do you use goals within your classroom?  Which one of these can you improve upon or already do well?  

Lets change lives through providing students with all they need so they can't help but achieve!!


Cartoon to Share

How can we remove or at least lessen the block that keeps several of our students from being able to "see" what we are tying to teach them?

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Battling the Poverty Brain in the Classroom - 3

 Student Relationships 

   If you were a fly on my classroom wall, you would see desks in groups, students working together throughout the day.  Beyond cooperative groups the students sit on the floor 1-2 times per day. Reminder: I teach upper elementary.  While on the floor they talk with various partners depending on the color or shape (Sit Spots) on which they are sitting.  Several times a week, student mix up by roaming the room and when the music stops or I say, "freeze" they find the closest person. Paired students share their learning.  

    Cooperative groups have a 0.59 effect size. Groups of 4 increases effect size to 0.69 It is worth the effort to take the time to teach students how to work together. Kids need time to talk and feel like they belong.  This is especially important as peers become their focus in mid-elementary.  Plan for these students to have time to build friendships and accountability for each other.  

    Probably the one activity I have seen cooperative groups thrive upon is the test autopsy.  A test autopsy is simply taking time after a test to work through the assessment as a group.  The entire group is responsible for assisting each other figure out answers. There are several strategies for completing autopsies.  Find one that fits your style of teaching. 

   What ways do you encourage students to build relationships within your classroom?  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Battling the Poverty Brains in Our Classrooms - 2

EFFECT SIZE...0.72 & 0.87....WOW!! 

  Relationships Matter

    This is not new information.  We all have heard it, do it, and want it.  OR have we?  Relationships, according to Eric Jensen have a whopping 0.72 effect size as average for all students. For secondary students, the effect size is 0.87.  Kindergarten teachers, the relationships you build with male students especially were correlated to their academic success through middle school!! Feeling a bit of pressure.  Chapter three of Poor Students, Rich teachers states that students from low-income families can perform equal to their higher-income classmates with teachers who are strong in instruction and emotional supports.   Another study discussed in the same portion demonstrates how IQ is effected by classroom relationships.  IT DOES MATTER!
    I consider myself a relationship building teacher, but if it is THAT important, maybe, just maybe, I should take time to reflect on my practice. 

    Using student names....
        How do you learn your student's names?  
                       How long does it take you to learn their names?
                                          How often do you use their names after you have learned them?
               +Use name tags not only for you, but it is important for the specialists to learn and use the                     student names.  They may need more time with name tags. 
               +Link name games to lessons - alliteration, rhyming, setting...Students state their name or a                classmates using the concept that you are teaching.  EX: "I am Katie and I live in a small                      green house. "

    Get to know you activities... 
            What activities do you use to learn more about your students?
                        When do you use these and for how long?  (10 min. for first 10 days, once a week                                  throughout the year)
              +Personal timelines, pennants, posters (throughout the year)
              + Passion Projects (a couple times per year)
              +Interest and learning surveys (start of year)
              +ebook about self (want to try)
              +Favorite book/author talks (throughout the year)

     Sharing your story/life...
             What is a story you share about you at their age do you use?
                        When do you feel comfortable telling personal stories about your life? 

            +Play ask the teacher 20 questions (I play this the first or second day and each student gets to                ask one question.)      
            + 2 truths and a lie (start of year or later)
            +Power Point:
                         pictures of family, picture of me at their age,  favorite music, hobbies, my pets, map                              of all the places I've lived, Sonic Tea (my obsession), favorites...      
             ***Many of these ideas can then be expanded by the students doing the same activity to                            share with the class.                        

I would love to hear your ideas!!!
Next post will be about building relationships amongst students. :) 


Friday, May 27, 2016

Battling the Poverty Brains in our Classrooms - 1


    Lets change pity to empathy.  Pity allows teachers to not hold high expectations and make excuses instead of changing our tactics towards how to assist the students to be all they can be.
    First, lets recognize that bad things happen to everyone.  We can choose to sit and stew in it or pick ourselves up and do something to change it.  The difference is that students in poverty may not have the skills needed to cope or change it on their own.  Chapter 6 of Poor Students, Rich Teachers by Eric Jensen discusses this.  Students living in poverty have less gray matter, smaller white matter, and a hippocampus with reduced volume. That all equals...the brain needs help to overcome the effects of poverty. Teachers who show empathy demonstrate support.  Supportive relationships actually heal the hippocampus.

How do we show empathy or develop supportive relationships?

1. Make caring explicit.  Some students can not read body language.
        *Seek understanding by listening and talking less
       Try: Two 4 Ten - choose two students who need that relationship building.  Give them each two          minutes for ten days.  Repeat...make it a daily habit.  If you work in a team where several                    teachers see the same students, talk about who is going to be the "Two 4 Ten" teacher for those            who need it.
       Try: Three 4 Thirty - Find out 3 things about each student beyond their name within the first 30          days of school.

2. Connect outside of school.
        Try: Show up to ball games, skate park, concert...

3. Connect at the end.
      Try:  Connect at the end.  Watch how students leave your room.  Do they need a quick chat time?       Do you have a period near the end of the day that is set up for quiet or homework time?  Could           you use that time to quietly take 5 minutes to talk to a student.  Acknowledge what their body             language is saying and ask them if they are okay?

Moments matter...let's make most of them.

What is this "Effect Size" researchers throw around?

Effect Size Explained

We hear about effect size all the time.  I don't know about you, but I didn't completely understand the numbers.  Eric Jensen's  Poor Students, Rich Teachers (ch 2) explains effect size. Ah-ha!! 

0.00 or less = negative effect
0.00 - 0.20 = Negligible or unclear effects
0.21 - 0.40 = small/moderate effects
0.41 - 0.60 = moderate to strong effects --> 0.50 is 1 years worth of growth
0.61 - 2.00 = extremely positive effects --> 1.00 is 1 is 2 years worth of growth;1.50 is 3 years growth

As you look at strategies that provide effect size take into account that students coming from poverty have academic gaps and usually need more than a years worth of growth.  It can be accomplished if we focus our efforts by using what researchers have found to be the most beneficial tactics.  

Don't simply keep adding to what you do.  
Take a good look at your overflowing toolbox...
now let it go (singing...) and put in what works.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Poverty...what does differentiation have to do with it?

As I stated in my last post, I am current involved with an independent study.  I am primarily using various Eric Jensen books.  Eric Jensen is one of the gurus of taking brain research and applying it to teaching strategies.  As a former teacher, he gets that we need to understand our students but also need strategies.

Why am I studying this?

Last year, I had several children who were in poverty or close to poverty levels.  Behaviors were rampant in my room....disregard for authority to the point where a discussion with another staff member ensued about how they as 5th graders were smarter than any adult.  So why should we listen to them.  When the staff member interjected after 17 minutes of this "talk" that adults have wisdom that comes from experience.  At this point, the 6-8 students leading this "discussion," turned on her. They accused her of being a liar. "You said we could always say whatever they wanted without her judging. See adults are all liars." That is an example of the attitudes of some but not all of my students.  Motivation was LOW even with all my best engagement strategies.  Self doubt, anger and control issues were norm in my room....the list could go on.  Even with all of that, I cared deeply for these kiddos! However, felt unprepared for what they needed.  Hence, my independent study to give my belt a few more tools. 

Why do you need to know this?

Poverty is all around us.  Teachers therefore need to stop making excuses like "well its the home life," or "they will always just have issues."  WAKE UP!! In Eric Jensen's book Poor Students, Rich Teachers, he spends two chapters helping us see the URGENCY of this social issue.  "Percentage wise we have about the same number of poor as in 1964." (ch.1, pg 3) I will not bore you with all the numbers but lets just say...I was surprised!! Then with a quick question, I found that my district is at 64% Free Reduced/42% free lunch status.  I am NOT in a urban setting.  This is Nebraska.
     "So, what? Other than they are in my classroom, what does it mean to me?" You may be asking yourself. Well, first off, they are in your classroom! Secondly, when poverty increases then tax base decreases.  Who/what pays your salary?  Jensen goes into all of this much deeper.  Not convinced, read the first two chapters of the book mentioned in the paragraph above.  

      We need to understand how poverty effects the brain and hear the GREAT news: 


We have the power to improve this issue.  

So, lets do it! 

The forthcoming blogs will be insights on how to make tweaks to your teaching in order to change the future.  I plan to share which strategies I am going to implement and hope to have a "book study" style conversation about those and other strategies that we can use.  This is just another way to differentiate for what students need.  Meeting them at their step and giving them the tools to climb the steps of academics. 

COME JOIN ME....LETS CONQUER THE WORLD of POVERTY one classroom at a time!!!