Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November Updates

There comes a point in the school year where everything is due at once.  November is that month.  Grades are due.  Informal observations may be happening.  Bulletin boards must be updated.  And oh yeah, you still need to keep planning and grading as usual.  Last week for the first time, I have felt a little stressed.  I am feeling better after last Wednesday (I had my first official informal observation by my AP) but I still have some grading to finish up.

Superintendent Visit:
On October 30th (yes, the day before Halloween) we had our first visit from the Superintendent.  He visited one of my 6th grade classes with my Principal.  I was a little stressed out the night before because I wasn't sure which class he'd visit (math club, 6th grade, or art) but it went well.  Here was my feedback:
  • Glow
    • Your classroom procedures and expectations are firmly in place. There was no time wasted and your expectation of getting started on time is firm. Your knowledge of content and academic vocabulary were evident in your responses and your student's responses. Continue to implement efficient time management. In addition, continue to ensure that academic vocabulary is modeled by you and used by your students.
  • Grow
    • During the share outs, students did not respond to one another. You paraphrased responses and/or asked for more ideas. For future lessons, challenge the students to directly respond to one another using evidence to support their claims. You can even ask students to paraphrase each others' comments.
Moving forward, I would like to build on that, and do less talking.  This was the beginning of the lesson, so I must be mindful of that, but I know it's something I can work on.

Getting Mail:
It took two months, but I am finally getting mail delivered to my new school.  I had ordered shelves for all my lovely math manipulatives and they finally came (after being delivered to the wrong school) and my National Math Club Box finally came (after being sent back twice).  Also my Scholastic Math Magazines are coming in now.  So yay!

7th Grade Unit 2 & Interim Assessments:
After much thought, I decided to skip my next 7th grade unit (Stretching & Shrinking) and go right into Comparing & Scaling (my kids did one of my favorite problems from there today - The Orange Juice Problem).  Most of my 7th graders did really well on the unit 1 assessment, and I don't think all of Stretching & Shrinking is necessary, so I decided to skip it for time.  I may pull out one or two problems from there, but so far I am happy with my decision.  I am loving both of my current units (Comparing Bits & Pieces (6th grade) and Comparing & Scaling (7th grade).  Comparing & Scaling definitely has some of my favorite CMP problems.  (I might even give some to my 6th graders)

Both grades will be taking their first interim assessment (IA) (which I created) later on this week, so that will give me a better idea of where they stand in terms of overall standard mastery.  Both IA's have about 20 questions (all released state test questions)  It's meant to be done in one class period, and they will have some time with calculators.  I'm also going to try to use Flubaroo to help with the data analysis, since we don't have a scantron machine.

Student-Led Conferences (SLCs)
Last Tuesday I gave my colleagues a PD on student-led conferences, and today we started preparing our students for them in advisory.  I felt really good about how things went.  I was happy to share my knowledge and experience with my team and then to work together to make SLCs our own.  We're all even using You Can Book Me to schedule them.  I've been preparing the slides everyone is using during advisory and our kids have been working hard.  Even though conferences are always a long day, I am looking forward to them next week.

Video Intervisitations:
We also started video intervisitations last week.  I had shared the template that we used to use at my old school, and we watched a video of our science teacher and used the template to give her warm and cool feedback.  I volunteered to go next, so I will be videotaped sometime in the next couple of weeks and then we will watch the video and my colleagues will give me feedback.  Based off my informal feedback, I might record one of my Socratic Seminars with my 6th graders.

Speaking of informal observations, I had my first one with my AP last week.  I was happy with how it went.  I got Effective in all categories except 3c (Engaging Students in Learning) and 3d (Using Assessment in Instruction), where I got Developing.  Here were my Glows and Grows:

  • Instructional materials and resources - Experienced teachers provide students with meaningful instructional materials and resources and provide opportunities for students to make good choices about the materials they use. In this lesson, students were able to decide whether or not the use of a calculator or ruler would help them be more efficient in completing the task at hand. Anna should continue to allow students to make smart choices about the materials and resources they use to make meaning from their work.
  • Teacher interactions with students, both words and actions - Strong instruction requires supportive interactions between teachers and students. During the lesson, Anna created an environment of respect and rapport through the use of a respectful tone, countdowns, and her interactions. When a student corrected her about the date, Anna thanked them for their observation. When a student said, “But you’re the teacher, shouldn’t you know the answer?” Anna demonstrated patience and humor by responding, “But it’s no fun if I know the answer” and proceeded to continue the lesson. Anna should continue to engage in supportive interactions like these in order to help her students be successful.

Grow (Next Step)
  • Discussion techniques & student participation - At the beginning of the lesson, students engaged in whole-group discussion where Anna posed questions and students responded. In highly effective classrooms, students pose questions to one another and respond using accountable talk to extend their thinking. In this lesson, "A" used accountable talk when he said, “I want to add on to "C" .” Anna should build on this practice by encouraging students to call on one another and paraphrase each other’s thinking with limited teacher support. For example, students can use some of the Socratic Seminar techniques to deepen their questioning and discussion during more traditional lessons such as this one. Additionally, Anna can begin encouraging student to student discussion by asking students to paraphrase each other’s thinking (“Can someone tell us what "A" just said?”) and asking them to call on one another. Practicing these skills explicitly will teach the students to call on one another without teacher support in future lessons.

My AP's Grow feedback was really helpful and I was able to implement it the next day.  During the Launch and Summarize, instead of having individual students answer my questions (ping-pong style) I have been having whoever answers, call on another student to add on to the discussion.  So it is slowly becoming their discussion, and not necessarily going through me. I want to keep developing this practice and my goal is to speak as little as possible and let my students really own their discussion.  Something that has been helping with that is the my Document Camera is finally working, so I am finally having students put their work under the cam and have them explain their thinking.  My 6th graders are much better at showing their work than my 7th graders (who just write down their final answer).

On a slightly unrelated note, one of my 6th graders, who had never participated in a class discussion before, rose his hand this week to share and my co-teacher and I were so proud of him!  (I feel like only a teacher or parent would appreciate this).  I was so proud of him - definitely a highlight of my week!

Math Club & Art:
I am very happy to report that my Friday morning math club is now Silver Level Math Counts Club! So the next step is to work on a gold-level project and we can become a gold-level club.  I am so proud of them.  This Friday is also our Canstruction trip and the first trip that I am organizing.  I think it's going to be great!

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