Confession Time: Please don’t hate me!

Confession Time: Please don’t hate me!

Hello fellow teachers.

I have a confession to make.

Please don’t hate me…because…

I seriously love data.

I love testing my students and tracking their growth with them. I love to see the progress we make throughout the year and I love to see their excitement when they realize they have reached a goal.

Disclaimer: I know testing has gotten out of hand and we as teachers are TIRED of it. I hate that many teachers feel like they have to spend all of their time teaching to a test. That is no way to teach. I am telling you right now: this is not the kind of data I love. Mandated testing is a huge problem and I have no solutions.

The kind of testing I am talking about is much, much different. It is an opportunity to turn that testing you hate into something enjoyable. It is a relationship between teacher and student like no other I have found and I want to share that love with you.

Here are a few of the many benefits I have found in tracking data with my students:

  • Better understanding of one another: I know exactly where my students are at any given time because we test together. They know how much I want them to succeed because I get to celebrate their growth so often.
  • Classroom community: We set goals together and help each other reach them. When a student masters something like a sight word list or their letter sounds, I yell something like “Woo hoo! Jesus mastered his alphabet!” and the whole class cheers. Every. Single. Time. Talk about heart warming!
  • Better instruction: when I test a student and he is obviously struggling with something, I jot down  a note to make sure I cover it in small group. I have closed so many gaps this way!
  • More directed small groups: I know exactly who needs to come to my teacher table together and why. My groups are literally always changing because students are mastering different things at different paces. Our time together is meaningful and focused and therefore very valuable.

I was inspired to share my ideas after I posted some pretty amazing data in a Facebook group a few weeks ago: IMG_4432

The first picture shows my student’s alphabet mastery at the beginning of the year. The second shows our mastery after one month of focused instruction. My kindergarten class is at 89% mastery! I will tell you, I have a really great group this year and we have worked hard this month! Each one of my students has a “brain book” (that is what we call our data notebooks) with several data pages.

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This is what my alphabet page looked like. Can you believe this growth?! Our class had a dance party after testing on September first!

After I posted those photos, I was asked to share my files. I decided to create a whole literacy brain book for Kindergarten! This is my first teachers pay teachers project and is definitely a leap of faith for me. It is free for a short time in the hopes I will get feedback on things that could be changed or adjusted. If you decide to download it, please email me with changes you would like to see! If you love it as much as I do, please review it on teachers pay teachers! I would really appreciate it!

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You will see several posts about tracking data with students because I love it so much and feel it is so under utilized in teaching these days. I definitely do not want to overwhelm anyone so I am going to take it slow. I will be posting more specific strategies and benefits as well so please subscribe if you are interested!

Thank you for joining me in this journey to discover the best way to help our students succeed!

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Rainbow Names

Kindergarten is so fun. Especially at the beginning of the year.

I tend to ask myself a lot of questions before the years starts:

  • Will students know their own name?
  • Have they ever seen scissors before? What about glue?
  • Will they try to eat it?
  • What are they going to do with a frantic totally calm teacher who tries to do a complex craft the first week of school?

Oh, the questions. They go on and on and on, but this last one brings me to a funny story about my fifth day teaching this year. That was the day I decided we should make a really great name craft to put up at open house. I had dreams, people. Big dreams.

I took large pieces of art paper and cut them in half. I wrote their names nice and big and had this picture in my mind of *rainbows* (and maybe unicorns – who knows). I cut construction paper into tiny little squares and kept them sorted by color.

Then I realized there was no actual way the kids would be able to glue and place these pieces on their own. (To be honest, I always knew this in the back of my mind but I wouldn’t admit it to myself until I was in too deep.)

So I brainstormed and the best strategy I could determine was to put one color of paper on their tables at a time and put glue on one letter at a time for all twenty two students. At the same time. On our fifth day of school.

Good plan, right?

Right.

Luckily my students were quite patient and didn’t really seem to mind their teacher running from table to table to glue names and change out the tiny strips of paper. And who cared that some names had four letters and were done almost immediately while some had TEN LETTERS. Let me repeat TEN LETTERS.

Well, against all odds, the names turned out beautifully and really made our room look fun and inviting for open house!

Version 2The kids were so proud and the parents were very impressed. They are now hanging out in the hall for the school to admire so in the end it was totally worth it.

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What projects do you like to do at the beginning of the year? Have you ever had an experience like this one?

Chrysanthemum

Classroom community is always my biggest goal at the beginning of the year. We do lots of different activities ranging from being a friend to taking care of yourself to not making  your teacher go absolutely insane (necessary.). My absolute favorite activity, though is when we read Chrysanthemum and talk about how mean words can make other people feel.

I always start this activity by reading the book by Kevin Henkes.

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I read it with my sweetest voice for her and my most snooty voice for Victoria. Man I just can’t stand that little mouse! I don’t say much about how mean they are. I just read it.

Then I give each student a big heart made of construction paper with their name written nice and big on it. I tell them I want them to make that heart as beautiful as they can using lots of color and design and of course, doing their best work. I give them stickers to put on there and let them work until they are just about in love with their hearts. “Can I take this home?” they always say, which makes me hurt a little inside because I, unlike them, know what is coming.

Then I tell them to bring their hearts to the carpet where they show them to their new classmates with pride. “Wow,” I say. “Those are the most amazing hearts I have ever seen!”

They glow.

Then I tell them they have to crinkle their hearts.

They wilt.

I explain, “We are going to read Chrysanthemum again. Every single time someone says something mean about her, you must crumple your beautiful heart a tiny bit. Every time someone says something nice, you can try to smooth it back out.”

So I read. They crumple. And sometimes a student even sheds a little tear. This is not fun but it is necessary. It brings the idea home.

When I finish the book, we try to smooth out the hearts the best we can but the wrinkles just won’t go away. I tell my sweet students that this is just like when we say mean words to or about another person. We can apologize. We can try to make it up to them, but we can never, ever take those words back. The students start to nod sadly. Some still don’t get it, but a lot do.

Then we make a circle and everyone gets to share something that would make them feel sad. Lots of friends nod their heads and we make a list of things that we should never, ever say.

I put the hearts up around a quote and refer back to it a LOT in the first week and then periodically through the year. This alone will not cause your students to be nice to one another, but it definitely helps those friends who are visual and kinesthetic learners.

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This is my wall this year. The quote says ” It is easier to leave mean words unspoken, than to fix a heart that words have broken.” We talk about what that means and I get lots of serious nods. I just love how students “get it.” They want to be good friends to each other, they just need to know how.

I am always searching for new ideas to build classroom community! If you have a great one, please share!

Kelly

Disney. Delightful.

So I’m a student teacher in probably the best second grade classroom in Bartlesville (I may be a bit biased). My mentor teacher is absolutely crazy about Disney. Everything Disney. If you know me at all, you know this is a perfect fit. What could be more fun than a Disney themed classroom?

You’re right. Nothing.

Anyway, I’ve been doing my best to find things I can contribute to our lovely classroom. I found these AWESOME Disney alphabet letters. They’re printable and free! We’re going to put them up on our word wall.

Delightful Disney Alphabet

This was such a great find! Not only does the site give an awesome alphabet for free, it has tons of other ideas and printables for your classroom or kids.

My favorite thing I’ve discovered, though, is an instrumental CD of Disney favorites. It’s called Heigh-Ho! Mozart It features 16 favorite Disney songs in the styles of different classical composers. I ordered this used on Amazon, received it a few days later, and uploaded it to the school computer immediately. We have been listening to it during all the quiet times of the day and the students really enjoy it. So do we! They know it is a privilege to listen to music so they are always on their best behavior when the music is on.

Our classroom is also decorated lavishly with Disney memorabilia collected over a lifetime. The kids seriously love it and it’s just so much fun.I look forward to finding more classroom friendly Disney things to add into the curriculum throughout this semester.