Interventions and Progress Monitoring

My favorite part of teaching, if you haven’t guessed it, is my small group time.  A large part of that small group time is differentiated instruction– much of which is intervention and accelerated instruction, as well as literacy circles and novel studies.

Let’s discuss each of these small group areas! We’ll begin with reading interventions!

What exactly do my interventions look like? I’m glad you asked.

I’d like to do a series of posts centered on analyzing student data identify the strengths and difficulties of students and then the targeted instruction given based on that information.  Some of the interventions I’d like to focus on are word sorts for encoding and decoding, repeated readings for sight word automaticity and fluency, close readings for better comprehension and answering text based questions, just to name a few.

What are your favorite interventions for students in need of remediation?

Pencil Problems

If you’re like me, you struggle to keep up with pencil demand.  And I’ve tried everything:

Pencil pouches
The “sharp cup” and “unsharp cup” trading system
The “You can sharpen your pencil anytime unless I’m talking,” system
Personal sharpeners
Assigning a student to the pencil sharpener job

Five years later and I’m still having pencil problems. We’ve been in 5th grade for eight days now, and we’ve been through FOUR boxes of pencils in our class supply basket. This does NOT include students’ personal pencils, mechanical pencils, or diverse writing tools.

Something’s gotta give. We’re in 5th grade now.

Enter the July Pencil Challenge.

Untitled presentation    Pencil ChallengePencil Challenge2

 

 

 

 

 

There is one week of July left, and on Monday our challenge begins.  Students will receive one specially marked pencil.  They may not trade or replace their pencil at all throughout the week. If they lose their specially marked pencil they are disqualified. On Friday we will measure our pencils and the winner of “the longest pencil” and “the best eraser” will get to choose from our Reward menu.

If all goes well we’ll repeat the challenge when we track back in in August.

Cheers to not only saving pencils, but also trees, money, and my sanity!

UPDATE:
Our July Pencil Challenge went great! I did not have to add any additional pencils to the class pencil cup.  Everyone turned in their original pencils on Friday and they were in GREAT shape!  The only issue we ran into was if someone was absent a day during the competition.  We decided that it wasn’t fair if they were eligible to win due to going a whole day without using the pencil.  We had quite a few folks out during the week so we are going to have another challenge when we return from track out.  This time we will do it for TWO weeks!
On another note– my students are so kind hearted.  If they found a pencil on the floor they brought it to me and I told them that they had to choose if they wanted to return it to the owner or turn it in to be disqualified.  Every time they chose to return it.  They chose kindness over winning– which I think is a great quality to have. I’m one proud teacher!

(Borders, clipart and backgrounds courtesy of https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Krista-Wallden)
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Twitter in the Classroom and as a Professional Tool

*Chirp Chirp*

For soScreen Shot 2015-12-04 at 11.58.47 PMme of us, hearing the quiet whistle of our Twitter app ding on our smartphone is common place and almost background noise in our busy, multitasking, digital heavy world.  But for many, talk of Twitter, tweeting, hashtags, and favorites are more like a foreign language than social networking lingo.

I’ve had a twitter account for a while now, but have only recently begun using it to its full advantage as a professional networking tool withScreen Shot 2015-12-04 at 11.58.33 PMin the last year/year and a half.  I use my account to connect with other teachers and even in my graduate school classmates and professors. I also have a second account that I use with my students to help them become moretechnologically, globally, and self aware in our community.

Every day more research is published listing the benefits of Twitter in the classroom.  Studies have been done and articles have been written involving teachers and students on the elementary level as well as post secondary levels and graduate levels of education.  Majority rules in that the benefits of using the website greatly outweigh the drawbacks, and the possibilities of use are limitless.

I have used twitter to follow colleagues around my school, my school district and content departments; I also follow my university and college professors. I have followed educators from around the country and even those from around the world! I follow famous authors and news stations, politicians, and celebrities– anyone on Twitter who I feel can and will help to and inspire me to further my educational and professional goals.

 

In my classroom we use Twitter to post and answer essential questions.  We answer our own questions and those posted by other classrooms.  We follow our favorite authors and performers and the local museums.  By reading their tweets we stay informed and up to date on whats going o
n in the lives of others we care about.  By tweeting to and about these people/businesses we make connections that are visible, instant, and real to students who may have difficulty envisioning them otherwise.

As a writer I have been able to cScreen Shot 2015-12-04 at 11.42.04 PMonnect with other authors who inspire me.  I have also been able to easily publish ideas and concepts that I feel are important quickly and instantly. I recently wrote my first Twitter essay and have been exploring the (relatively new) genre that has come about via the Twitter platform.
Twitter can also be used for community building.  I feel closer to the staff members that I follow at work.  I keep in touch with and communicate with my graduate school peers through twitter for both school and non-school related issues. In my classroom I connect with parents by sharing updates and photographs of whats going on in the classroom in real time.  They can send questions and comments to students and we can read them and respond as they’re being received. Again, the possibilities are limitless.

As an educator and as a student I strongly encourage not only fellow teachers, but any and all professions to use Twitter as a professional tool. Social media isn’t going anywhere.  The famous motto of “work smarter, not harder” holds strong. Let’s use our resources, people– and change our worlds one tweet at a time!

Follow me @JmeBoozScreen Shot 2015-12-04 at 11.48.21 PM

PICTURES VIA https://twitter.com

What Happens When Data is the Only Thing in the Driver’s Seat?

“Data driven”

“Data driven instruction”

“Instruction delivered based on assessment data”

The above buzzwords and buzz phrases are so commonplace for multiple reasons.  Some of those reasons are even practical.  I enjoy digging into student data, finding trends, discovering areas of strengths and difficulties, knowing what to hit again and what’s been mastered.  I enjoy having snapshots of how my students are performing.  I don’t, however, appreciate the weight and magnitude that some of these “snapshots” have on my students.

In third grade here in North Carolina, students are expected to show proficiency in reading before being promoted to the next grade level.  One way students can show this is through mCLASS data.  Please don’t misunderstand what you’re about to read– I am all for reading inventories.  I love running records and the data that they provide.  I see the value in oral reading fluency checks. I also appreciate and recognize the human element that is needed to analyze and interpret the data that is derived from these assessments.

You see, naked numbers, or colors in most mCLASS cases, aren’t enough to describe a student’s reading ability.  One of my biggest frustrations is when a student can read, comprehend, and answer any question about a story orally, but can’t for the life of them write to explain their answers.  Well, to be honest, their inability to do this isn’t what frustrates me, it’s the fact that when a student runs into this situation they are given easier texts to read (and sometimes go down multiple levels) and are labeled as “below grade level” in reading.  In many cases, this is inaccurate; students can in fact read on grade level, they just need to be taught better strategies for writing and answering comprehension question in the written form.  Instead, students often time receive reading intervention using texts and targeting skills that they’ve already mastered.

Many of these issues and mislabeling can be solved by teacher input.  Classroom observations and assessment data could be used to create a more well rounded reading level for students, but instead a computer program and universal screening books are used to form an opinion of students’ abilities.  This data, these opinions, rather, are then used (or are expected to be used) to group students and “drive instruction”.

Two of my colleagues, one a first grade teacher, and one a second grade teacher, share express the same frustrations with mCLASS data and expectations.  You can read their thoughts and hopes for their students here and here.

You can also enjoy this parody we created to express our concerns and the concerns we see our students face everyday set to the tune of Oops I Did It Again by the once great Britney Spears.

Are you frustrated with mCLASS data? What solutions do you find when faced with school, district, and state expectations?  Share your thoughts below!

Updates and Feelings for Gamification– Both As a Player and as a Game Master.

Hello once again!

I’ve now been able to experience gamification in my graduate class and class badges in my own classroom for several weeks.  I see a running theme here that has become quite worrisome and leaves me with several questions and wonders.

PLAYER UPDATE
As you know I started the semester out on 100– super excited and motivated. As soon as quests were posted I began completing them. I checked for secret messages every time I logged into my computer.  I made sure that I was at the top of the leaderboard each week… and I was, at least until the slump hit.

The game started when I was tracked out.  I was working at a reading camp, but it was pretty low key and not extremely time consuming.  I started back to school (week 3 for students) the same week that the semester officially started. Tracking back in was slow, which left time for (my) school work, but as things picked up at work, I began to skip or put off quests, and for the first time I wasn’t on the top of the leaderboard. I knew, before I checked, that I hadn’t earned any points for the week.  I also knew that my classmates were posting things left and right so they were without a doubt catching up.  I prepared myself for the let down.

But when I checked the leaderboard I had no reaction.

Let me say that again– NO reaction.  None.

The more I went about my week (the second one of doing nothing) I kept coming back to the fact that I didn’t care about others passing me.  The not caring, the “unfeeling” I had really demotivated me.  I had no inner voice telling me to get busy, nothing whispering, “You got this! Let’s win!” There was absolutely no competitive feeling left in me.  I didn’t even feel like competing against myself, and if you know anything about me then you know that this is very, very uncharacteristic.

I had a twinge of panic when I first realized being passed didn’t cause a reaction.  I immediately thought of my students and the Camp Badges that I had been busting my hump to get out.

AS A GAME MASTER
Leigh, my professor, gave me the best gamification advice that I’ve heard/read when she told me that it’s all about instant gratification.  That is the aspect that got me hooked right away in our game in class and I wasn’t providing it for my students.  At first I was waiting to give out badges until everyone had turned in their work.  I did this in hopes of encouraging students to turn their things in on time and to use some positive peer pressure, but I saw the error of my ways once Leigh helped open my eyes.

I began grading everything right away.  I wouldn’t let myself “wait until tomorrow night”.  I would create and print badges immediately and post them on each student’s pennate first thing after grading them.  Students were racking up on badges.  They were excited.  Their little third grade faces lit up every time they saw be get out the glue roller. The hallway display looked pretty awesome and I took pride in it when others asked me what “that means” while pointing at our banner.

When my sudden loss of motivation hit it caused me to take a closer look at the badge pennants.  Yes, most students had multiple badges.  Two students had every badge possible– which I thought was great considering some of them (badges) were very hard to get… but there were a few students (too many for my taste) who still had zero badges. Now, I know that gamification, or competitive learning isn’t everyone’s forte, but I had hoped that everyone would have at least one badge on their pennant.

This caused me to do even more digging.  I wanted to figure out which type of students were benefiting from the badges.  Of course it was my top students.  The ones who were good at school.  The ones who would complete (and complete correctly) any assignment or challenge that I gave them.  They already followed directions before I implemented “the cool badge thing”.  Of course they were the ones excelling.

[Connection:  I’m a good student– of course I’d do any assignment my professors post.]

I did hear some of my “bubble” kids admire their badges in the hallways and say, “Man, I want that one!” which made me smile. But the kids I wanted to reach, the ones who were so unmotivated are still that– unmotivated.

So with all of this back story, I’m here to voice my concerns and ask some pretty serious questions about gamification, both as a player/student, and as a teacher:

  1. Who truly benefits from the game aspect of the classroom set up/learning/teaching style? Is it just motivating the already motivated?
  2. Is this strategy of teaching/learning just a fad? Do players typically get tired of/grow out of the game?
  3. Can my excitement be rekindled?/Was I just unmotivated because I was very busy at work and this is just me being totally dramatic?
  4. How can I keep badges exciting for my students?
    1. Do I need to implement another game-like aspect to our classroom?
    2. Should I make a badge that is even easier than my previous easiest badge to ensure that everyone gets one?
    3. Is the game aspect big enough in my classroom for students to notice?
    4. Are my students mature enough to handle intrinsic motivation only? Do they need points to spend? Things (other than pretty badges on the wall) to win?

I truly hope that my attitude/reaction/concerns for my gamified class is fleeting.  I mean, when really playing a game it’s typical to spend more time playing when you have the time to play.  Then you put it away while you’re busy and pick it back up again when you can.  If this is the case, then what a wonderful gift I’ve been given.  If not– what now? Will I procrastinate until time runs out and then that becomes my final motivator?

I gotta psych myself up again.  Not to win the game (which I totally could– if I wanted to), but because I know I can do better.

Have a great week.  Let’s hope I get the urge to totally crush it.. in which case: You’re going DOWN!

Camp Badges in 3rd Grade

Hello again!

Disclaimer:  This post isn’t so much about learning in small groups as it is about getting my students to engage in small groups… or at all.

I have had somewhat of a rough start to the year.  The students that I have this year, like the ones I had last year, have been with each other, like a cohort, since kindergarten.  In addition to that, they only had 4 days off between the last day of 2nd grade and the first day of 3rd grade.

School started.  After the middle of the second week I felt defeated.  I had never been so discouraged in my career as a teacher.  No one in my room was excited.  My class came with an aide that had been with the group since kindergarten (as she is paired with one of the students) and she assured me that the year was going great.  She left me notes that listed “never have I evers” and referenced moments in the day where she saw students engaged in learning that she hadn’t witnessed prior to this year.  This was done with the best of intentions, but I wasn’t satisfied with the level of engagement or the level of learning that was going on in room 310.

Graduate school started and one of my classes is game-ified.  Even through the struggle of the beginning of the year this motivated me and sparked my interest enough for me to buy in to the idea and try it for myself.  I’m not sure what exactly I’ve gotten myself into, but below is the beginning of my journey.

I decided that since our class theme is “Camp 3rd Grade” we could earn Camp Badges, much like how the Scouts earn badges and have vests/sashes, etc.  I brainstormed badges that I thought would motivate my students academically.  I came up with a few:  the Scholar Badge (level 3 on report card- any subject), the Geography Badge (geo. unit), 2D Shape Master Badge (geometry unit), etc.. But I also created some badges that would help with technology integration and following the expectations with our iPad and laptop uses. We have the Edmodo badge, the Kidblog badge, and soon students will have the opportunity to earn the Big Universe Badge and the Discovery Ed badge.  Possible badges for the future are: Dojo Queen/King, Respect Badge, Safety Superstar, etc for when I catch students really following our classroom rules.

The TA in my classroom and I created a class pennant banner and I asked each student to think of an avatar or “screen” name just like they would for Minecraft or Animal Jams.  We discussed keeping them secret and private, which really drew their attention.  We hung the banner out in the hallway and I began giving out badges as each student earned them.

I directly told students about the Geography Badge. I told them that they had to accurately complete their final Geography project in order to receive that badge.  Others, like the Edmodo and Kidblog badges were less direct.  I asked students to log into Edmodo and follow the directions.  When/if they did that correctly the student got their Edmodo badge.  Likewise, after students created their first Kidblog post they received their Kidblog badge.

We just started earning badges and I’ve seen a bit more success with students following directions.  We still need more work in that area so I’ve begun leaving “Secret Messages” around the room for a possible future “Close Reader” badge (more on that later), but for now the Camp Badges have at least increased their engagement noticeably.  The only con that I’ve ran into so far is that students expect these badges in a timely manner.  I am a bit behind on grading final Social Studies projects and I’m beginning to feel the pressure!

Check out our banner below.  I used MakeBadges to make my badges and then just printed them on a colored printer. I chose to make them paper/visible to help use the competitive-ness of my students in my favor. I was afraid that if they were done online they may create more of a distraction in the classroom with students constantly checking websites than they would benefit our learning.  So far they’ve kept their avatars a secret, and I’ve heard “Oh man, I don’t have that badge yet!?” as we walked down the hallway!

IMG_2772 IMG_2773

Please feel free to share your comments or suggestions.  I’d love any feedback as I go further in this quest!

New Beginnings

How are your experiences within this course shaping your instruction and you as a teacher?

Class is back in session and the above question is the basis of my blog journey this semester in my “Content Area Literacy” course.   The question seems to be fairly straight forward, yet very open ended– the best type of question really, but the answer is a loaded one.

You see, I can’t answer that question without writing about the program and my graduate school experience in general.  Graduate school came at a very vital time in my life both personally and professionally, and I needed it far more than I realized.  Somewhere between the first day of class and now I have found my voice, my passion, and my confidence.

Not only do I know more theories of education, research methods, and  teaching practices, I now know how to listen to and how to reach my students.  Rather than asking questions and seeking approval, I trust myself to make the decisions that need to be made and to take action within my classroom in order to provide the best education and learning environment for my students. Gone are the days where I wait to be told it’s okay to read a possibly questionable picture book about a black girl who wants to be Peter Pan.  Gone are the days where I’m afraid to discuss poverty because I have homeless students sitting in front of me that don’t have clean underwear or a bed to sleep in.  Gone are the days where I timidly write original lesson plans that go against outdated, unsuccessful teaching methods and my neighbors across the hall. Here are the days where I know what is best for my students and I am not afraid to get the job done.  

These days have arrived because of this program.

I have no doubt that this class will enhance my new found love for instructing my students.  I am excited to learn how to use graphic novels to reach my students in new ways.  I am excited to learn more about teaching content areas through literature in general, and I am also excited about implementing some aspects of gamefication into my classroom.  I’m mostly just excited to learn.  This semester I know that’s one thing I will absolutely get to do.

If I take the mush factor down a notch and look back at the question through the lens of this course ,I must state where I’m at here in the beginning.  Below is a plus/delta or pro/con list of how I feel about my reading instruction.  I am curious to see how it may differ as the semester moves forward.

Strengths:
building reading stamina with my students
establishing a love for reading within my classroom
understanding of characters/character motivation/etc
literary genres and standards (RL.3.whatever)

Difficulties:
non-fiction genres and “reading to learn” standards
teaching parts of words/decoding (blends, cvc, multisyllabic words, etc)
integrating reading into other content areas such as math/science/social studies

My goal for this class is to work on the latter difficulty.  I love read alouds, and I believe that my students enjoy them as well, so I have been trying to integrate more reading into other areas of our curriculum– specifically math.  I have not been able to do so consistently enough for it to be successful, and I hope to change that this semester.

I also hope to build my library of socially just books that will help my students view the world realistically, with compassion and empathy, and with hearts ready for change.

I have high hopes for this course.  All I can say is: bring it on!

A Letter to Me

We had an activity during our last Enrichment Wednesday where students wrote a letter to their past self.  They were supposed to think back to themselves exactly a year ago and write a letter explaining them what to expect in third grade.  I was so excited about this activity that I had to participate myself!

June 24, 2015

Dear Jaymie from last July,

I know that you’re somewhere in the woods in the mountains trying not to think about how nervous you are to start your new job in a city that you don’t even live in, but you’re going to have the best year ever!

Your kids will love to read and write just like you do!  They love to be outside.  They love animals, adventures, and they love to learn.

You’ll also be amazed at how the parents like to be involved with the class.  You may be nervous at first, but they’re helpful, don’t mind sending in supplies, and they plan the best parties.  Don’t be afraid to ask for their help or to encourage their participation.  Your room won’t be big enough for all of the family members that come to celebrate with you.  You’ll have to rent out the media center or have learning experiences outside!  They will really make you feel appreciated and purposeful!

Finally, you’ve never worked at a school like PUE before and you’re going to be surprised at how inviting the other teachers are and at how helpful they try to be. Your principal will be awesome and so encouraging.  He’s even silly and loves having fun with the students.  At PUE you really get to grow as a teacher and as a person.

Last year Jaymie, I really think you have no idea about the year ahead of you.  After you live it, I think that you’ll call it the best one in a long time.

Love,

Jaymie 2015

Final Reflections on This Semester

The title of this post is slightly misleading.  I’ve put off this post several times over the past week or two because I’m not finished reflecting on this semester.  I think it’s gotten to the point where I don’t even realize I’m reflecting, but I must write the post so, here goes nothing.

This semester really surprised me.  At first I thought I was just learning another way to do a running record and I slightly rolled my eyes (not out of disrespect, but because I do running records weekly with some of my students), but what I learned how to do was a true reading inventory.  I learned what an inventory was and the parts of learning that are connected with the ability to read. I learned how to assess a student in multiple areas and how to make deductions about their strengths and needs by using more than words per minute, accuracy rate, and an average comprehension score. I’ve noticed (I’ve learned how to notice– or at least how to verbalize what I realize is going on) that the standard running record or fluency check is not enough for me to know what my students need.  It’s much too generic.  I hope to use Morris’s inventory, or pieces of it to really target my students’ needs in the future.

From our tutoring sessions I gained an appreciation for a set routine that focuses on multiple aspects of learning but in a repetitive and predictable pattern.  I really enjoyed the structure of our tutoring sessions and it’s something that I hope to translate into my small group sessions and the tutoring that I do outside of school.  It allows me to have a focus and an routine.  This makes for easy, yet targeted preparation and instruction.

Aside from my literacy learnings, I’ve learned so much about teaching and being a leader in general.  Leading a classroom isn’t about standing in the front of the room and reading a book or teaching students how to compare fractions.  It’s about relationships.  I thought I was doing alright in this area, and I wasn’t doing horrible, but I feel so much more confident after reading our Opening Minds and Choice Words (Peter H. Johnston).  I point out what I see or notice students doing.  I encourage them to point out what they’re doing or not doing or trying to do.  I ask them how they do or go about things. I’ve restructured group activities to include more open ended questions and scenarios.  I’ve done all of these things and several of them began to occur without too much conscious effort and I know that’s because of our readings and writings and reflections.  Once I noticed myself trying something new I then purposefully focused on my behaviors and what I wanted to change, and I have had a successful start to a revolution in my practice.

I also learned a lot about coaching, or working with other teachers, this semester. It, too, is about relationships.  To help assist or to collaborate with someone is a great practice to have, but you must go about it carefully.  The “Notice, Wonder, Consider” platform that we used this semester is a great prompt for working with other individuals.  It’s very safe, and if used correctly I can’t see a way that someone can take offense or feel attacked by any suggestions that are made.  This is crucial when working with other educators because we (and I’ll speak for the majority of the educators I know) take great pride in what we do. We work extremely hard, and the ideas that we’ve honed into projects or lessons didn’t just pop into our minds– they were sculpted and purposefully altered to become what (we think) is a perfect, engaging activity for our students.  It’s not hard to offend someone or someone’s work simply by making a suggestion, so I believe the “Notice” part of our prompt really allowed us to positively acknowledge each other (without direct praise), and the “Wonder” part let us question safely what was on our minds, and then the “Consider” portion of our prompt allowed us to make suggestions without having them come off as, “You need to do it this way.”  Now, by no means am I saying that I’d ever speak to someone or imply that to someone, but it’s easy to feel that way when you’ve worked so hard on something and I’m thankful to have that feedback strategy in my pocket for when I work with teammates or other members of our staff at my school.

(Deep Breath! Exhale!)

This semester has been a whirlwind and I’m still processing it.  I’ll be back to continue my reflections periodically!  For now, thank you so much for taking this journey with me and for reading and responding to my adventure.   It’s total impact is still very much unknown.