Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sites I Use: Class Dojo (@Classdojo)

I'll apologize right now for the number of images in this post. There's 16 screen caps - excessive maybe, but this site can be a little intimidating at first. It is so EASY to navigate and understand once you SEE it though. call themselves "Realtime Behavior Management Software." I simply call it AWESOME. We are a PBIS school and track a LOT of behavior data.  Typically we've tracked the negatives - this allows the tracking of POSITIVES too! Which really makes sense.  In the past, I've had to tally behaviors by hand then compile them into a grade level report to be turned in monthly.  Thanks to Class Dojo, my September report was super easy... a few clicks and done. As a CRAZY busy teacher, there is nothing I appreciate more than something that my students enjoy that is also extremely useful to me as a time saver.

Here is the site as you see it upon arrival (image on the left.)  You'll click the yellow button to register.  You could also click the  Tour or FAQ links in the upper right hand corner. (image on the right, below.)

 Give some simple information and you are ready to go.  After registration (or login) you see this screen:
 Clicking the blue "Click here" box walks you through setting up classes, behaviors, and awarding points.
 I've set up a "class" for my daughters to use at home. (We've got issues *roll eyes*)
 I added their names.  It looks like I can select to add in their picture, but I've found that the students really enjoy the random monster/critter that is assigned to them.
 Now I'm setting up behaviors - both positive and negative.  For my daughters I'm keeping it simple. In my "real" classes, there are 8 positives (my choices) and 8 negatives (school-wide tracked behaviors.)  There are suggestions that you can take or leave and the icons are changeable too.  I've used all green thumbs up or red thumbs down.
 Here are all the classes I've got set up - 3 "block" classes, 2 homeroom classes, a demo, and my Daughters.
 Here are the girls, with the positive choices and the negative choices.

 I've awarded both of them points. You can do this by click the child's avatar or by selecting their name along the left side. You can choose which notifications show - a pop-up window at the bottom and sounds, and can turn them on/off for positives and negatives individually.
 After being awarded points students have little green circles with their totals.  After loosing points, their total drops.  If they have no positives to balance it, their circle turns red and shows a negative total. (Excellent opportunity to talk about negative numbers!)
 To leave you click "End Class." This shows you a nifty summary of the "class's" activity for the day.
 I like to review the reports - Simply click "Report Cards" on the left side and select your class.
 I changed the date to show all of September and part of October (the entire time I've used it.) You can see this class has an overall percentage of 92! The diagram is color coded and labeled to show which behaviors were observed.  The black bar is individual students for the same time period. (I'd love to show you their individual data, but I'm not sure about the confidentiality of it all. Sorry!)  You click a name and a similar diagram and breakdown will appear for the student. I'm going to be tying this into quarterly conduct grades.  I'm working on a written plan for the implementation of Class Dojo.  When it is finalized I'll link it here and on the Documents tab.
I will close by saying that I'm LOVING this site. I'm telling everyone I know about it - I think it is especially helpful for upper grades who switch classes.  Those kids (many of them anyway) still need a visual reminder of how they are doing behavior wise - but they often don't have it because they are migratory during the school day. My 6th graders have completely bought-in to this and are anxiously awaiting the final word on the "rewards" for points.  We are going to start with rewarding weekly then move to monthly.  Ultimately, we'd like to reward quarterly.

What are your thoughts?  Do you track behavior data? Have you got other resources? Please share in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

21st Century Teacher?

I was at a workshop today (and again tomorrow) when I got a text message that my first class was "out of their minds." Gotta love that! So after talking to a colleague on the way home, I decided to make a video to be shown to the students tomorrow.  And I had so much fun making that one, I decided to make one praising my other 2 classes for behaving appropriately.  If this isn't an example of being a 21st Century teacher, I don't know what is!  Enjoy the videos - and please pardon my:
  • crazy facial expressions (bug eyes anyone? and why does it look like I talk out of the corner of my mouth???)
  • slightly crooked appearance (stinky old tripod!)
  • accent
  • wild curly hair
Let's hope tomorrow is a better day for the one class and another fantastic one for the other 2!

(I talk about Class Dojo in the videos, I'll be blogging about it later this week!)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My First Month in 6th Grade Reading

So I've been in school with my students since August 25th. A month.  Time for me to look back and think about how things are going.  And since I only teach reading this year, this is deceptively simple.

The year started with some chaos about what materials I was going to use.  I made a plan to use Reading Street and then changed it to use Elements of Literature.  I'm generally happy with that decision, even though I now have a set of Reading Street textbooks (and leveled readers!)

Why am I happy?  Well, my school has over 100 copies of Elements of Literature.  After a few weeks of using it, I was able to approach the principal and write a permission slip for families to check out a textbook to keep at home.  The kids do not need to carry it with them daily, since we are only using it once a week or so in class.  So this is a good option - the real test will be how many of the textbooks we get returned later in the year.  I'm hoping for the best (but prepared for the worst - I only gave out copies of the books that were damaged in some way, not the nicest ones.  That way not too much is lost if the books aren't returned.)

I've started "centers" as the district expects.  The original centers just didn't work out - not enough accountability, too fun centered, not rigorous enough.  I revamped them (keeping in mind the kids' needs and keeping it simple for planning) and started them again on Thursday.  What a difference!  The biggest drawback is the amount of copies I'm now using.  I hate it but for now there is no way to avoid it.

I need the kids occupied and semi-quiet because I've been asked to assess all my students using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment kit.  This reminds me of my years in 2nd grade, doing DRAs on my (17-20)students 4 times a year.  Luckily, I think I'll only be doing this 3 times a year (now, January, and May) but I've got almost 80 students!  I've been told to start with the lowest and move up from there.

I have 3 classes - a high group with many AIG kids, a low-ish group with my special ed kids, and a low group with kids who have fallen through the cracks.  I really feel the high group needs to be doing more Reading Workshop style things - conferring and spending most of their class time READING.  My lower students do need the structure of centers, at least until their stamina develops. 

We have a curriculum night scheduled with a set of 7th grade teachers - we are going to talk to parents and students about 6th grade and then what to expect in middle school.  I'm really looking forward to this - I want to adapt my classroom (later in the year) to be more like what students will encounter in middle school.  I am fairly confident that students aren't doing centers and meeting with the teacher in small groups, but I could be wrong. The students will benefit from the structure of middle with the support of an elementary school setting.  I'm hoping it will ease the transition, especially for the low performing students.

I'll end with how I've beaten some of the stress - by getting crafty! The giant binder I need to use as a data notebook had an ugly, stained cover.  Here are a few pictures of the cover I made.  (And I can't have a post with 0 pictures!) It was super simple and I'm now looking for fabric to make several more covers - we teachers use a LOT of binders.

How has your year gotten started?  Have you had to majorly revise your plans and expectations?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It Pays to Plan

A quick post to share some good news! This is a lesson on why it pays to have a plan.

We had grade level meetings on Wednesday.  We'd been hearing from the Tuesday groups and the early Wednesday groups that it would be rough.  We made a few little jokes about flak jackets and braced ourselves.

And imagine how surprised our team was to hear that everyone (principal, assistant principal, instructional coach, and most importantly district folks) was happy with our PLANS and said to, "Leave them alone."

Happy Dance!!
We are so relieved.  The math teacher has worked really hard to improve his instruction - he's got a great plan for individualizing math instruction for mastery. Awesome stuff.  And you know all about my plan.

So let this be a lesson to us all - working on a plan pays off! (And it is now posted on my school website for parents to reference throughout the year.  No more explaining how things work!)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Where to start?

I had gotten in a good blogging mode in July and early August.  I was feeling reflective and had big plans. Funny how going back to school changes plans!  The early mornings and long to-do list just zap my energy.  Here are my thoughts on the first 7 days in 6th grade.

We started school on 8/25 and let me say - I'm so glad! It was awesome to begin on a Thursday - I didn't feel guilty for not beginning academics. I took (and am still taking) the time to teach routines, procedures, and expectations.  Since the kids are 6th graders, they know most things (especially school wide stuff) but it never hurts to go slow now to go fast later.

The first full week wasn't without its issues.  We still aren't on a regular schedule (won't be until this Friday) because of the 10 day attendance counts.  We have to wait in homerooms for the principal (or data manager) to come count the kids each morning.  Also, we have  a block of intervention time (for RTI) that we are currently using just as a cushion since we are getting a late start.  We have Benchmark/Universal screening day on 9/12, so after that we'll get groups set up and start Tier paperwork.

I'm surprised by how my classes have sorted themselves out. We knew one group was high - it has the AIG kids and potential AIG kids in it.  We deliberately made that group larger (29) so the lower functioning groups would be smaller.  I was initially nervous about having 29 kids in a group - but it works.  Now I just have to figure out how I'm going to manage them.  My feelings (and I've got some back-up from various sources) are that they are high enough (mostly at or above a 7th grade level) to not need typical guided reading groups.  They need more of a reading workshop approach (like I've been reading in The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell and Teaching Reading in Middle School by Laura Robb.)  I've got my Google forms set up so I'm in good shape for this - I can conference, they can read.  Perhaps the last 30 minutes will be "centers" so they get word study, writing, etc and maybe I'd pull a small strategy group.

My 2 other classes - whew!  The 2nd is low, it is where my special ed kids and ESL kids are.  I've also got a TA during this block.  She will be providing support for them when they do centers/independent work.  I think it will also work well because she can help with providing their accommodations and modifications during classwork and testing.  My 3rd class, which is after lunch, is just your run of the mill LOW kids.  There are a few who are doing ok, but they all did poorly on the first administration of the EOGs last May.  A few passed on the retest, but most did not.  This group is more boy heavy than the other 2 classes.  Add to this that we meet after lunch and you've got a recipe for disaster.  I'm really banking on them being motivated to go to recess (which is RIGHT after this class.)  I've got support from the other 6th grade teachers that if they don't get their stuff done, they stay in and work until it GETS done.

That's an overview for now - there are a boatload of other things I need to blog about.  Here's a list so I can remember them all: (I'll try to come back and make these links as I write the posts.)
  • Reading Street (remember this debacle??) - I've now got SOME (used loosely) materials for it, not sure how to use it with it being so incomplete
  • Spelling
  • Guided Reading vs. Reading Workshop
  • Computer testing expectations
  • Uses for TAs in upper grades (must be student centered, not clerical)
  • Centers/Stations during Guided Reading
  • Books I've read (wow! some awesome ones out there!)
How has your year started?  Have you got any suggestions on what on Earth I can do?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to School 2011

Well, today marks day #5.  And I must say, I'm very pleased with my decision to move to 6th grade reading. I love teaching only reading.  I feel very focused - I'm putting all my attention there and trusting my colleagues to do their parts in math, science, and social studies.  I've done a lot of revising to my original plans - amazing how different things are once you meet the students! (And once you get the gist of their abilities!)  There are also school-wide mandates coming down (as always this time of year) and new programs (RTI) and different expectations (regarding TA's among other things.)  So I've got plenty to blog about - now I just have to find the energy and time!

How has your school year kicked off? (Or are you one of the lucky ones who don't go back until after Labor Day?)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

2011-2012 Bloom's Taxonomy Bulletin Board

Last year's Bloom's Board can be seen here.  I've done some thinking about it here.  This is what the end product looks like!
I'll be adding symbols/icons for websites and things we use to the appropriate spot. Things that fall in more than one spot might get added to the blue field.  I might work in some common verbs too. I'm going to let it develop without any real plan and see what happens.

Here is what the rest of the board looks like:

Graffiti board for the kids to make book recommendations.

The whole board.  My NBCT certificate is now hanging near my desk. (And no, it isn't the original. I took it to Staples and had them make a color copy. Looks good enough from a distance! And the original is safe at home.)

Focus Wall - Finished!

Forgive the slightly blurry pictures. My camera hasn't recovered from our beach vacation.  It got sandy and now it won't zoom and sometimes won't focus. Only real issue is the pictures look fine on the camera! It's not until I see them on the computer that I realize they're off.  I'll try to take better pictures on Monday. In the meantime, here is my finished focus wall! (With some bonus pictures thrown in!)

Class Library Checkout (added 5 more pockets under each board)

Desperate to hide the 50-zillion sets of chapter books, magazines, and extra textbooks.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Record Keeping using Google Forms (#Daily5)

So this year I'll have 3 classes worth of data to organize.  I'd been considering Evernote (but had been warned that I'd probably need to upgrade - and I don't have $50 to spend right now.) I had found binders and dividers in the closet and was going to make them up tonight.

Then I had a brainstorm. Could I figure a way to use Google Docs forms to collect the data (and subsequently organize it - SQUEEEEE!)  Well, I did! And it wasn't as hard as I thought it might be.  So take a gander at these surveys - these are copies I created for you to see. The "official" ones I use will be set to private and I'll be the one filling them out. I can't wait to try it and see how it works! (Being concerned for privacy, I'll only be using student first names and first letter of last names.  I don't feel comfortable putting their entire name - even though it would be safe.)  I'll add direct links to the Google Docs on the Documents page.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sooooo close! (Or, Classroom Pictures 3.0)

So I worked in my classroom AGAIN yesterday morning. I put in a solid 3.5 hours that felt more like 6. Time literally flew and I got SO MUCH done.  I'm not sure if my poor glue gun will ever recover. But the room is thisclose to being done. Just a few nit-picky details - I was planning to go in tomorrow, but I might just wait until Friday (our first official Teacher Work Day.)  For comparisons, look at 1.0 and 2.0. Enjoy! (And as always, comments welcome!)

Hallway Bulletin Board (might adjust a little)

Phone pockets are ready!

Fancied up the class library :)

Class Library extension - hardbacks, oversized paperbacks, and series books.

Entry/Exit bookcase

Jobs chart, calendar, specials chart, voice level star

Reading Groups bookcase - the bucket organizer is now on a lazy susan. Yay!

Student supplies

Pencil Sharpener, spinner for reading games

Entire counter

Got rid of the extra workbooks - extra storage!!
How is your classroom shaping up?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Classroom Progress

Here are some pictures that reflect the progress I made yesterday. (Here is my previous post for comparison.) I'm very pleased with how the room is shaping up!  I got the janitor to move out the teacher desk and I've got him working on getting me tables.  I went ahead and arranged the desks - I was tired of seeing them willy-nilly around the room.  Any suggestions for fine tuning?

View from the door
From the door, looking right
My last dumping ground. Bulletin Board stuff all in one place.
Reading Groups table with bookcase to organize materials
Entry area. Kids turn in papers to the colored trays - one color per block.

Computer station (also be the FlipCam station)

Reading workbooks - for a reading series we DON'T have!

Front view, TV, Bloom's Flag, and computer/doc camera station
I think it is coming right along! Now I'm spending some hard-core time studying my teaching materials - I've got bits and pieces of different reading series.  I'll post later in the week and share what I've decided and created.  Be on the lookout for documents!  I'll be posting info to go with Elements of Literature and Prentice Hall Literature.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bulletin Board Updates

I got to school for 2 hours yesterday and managed to get all by boards covered and trimmed.  I even played with the layout of my Focus Wall and my Bloom's Flag.  Here are some pictures of the works in progress!
(Please pay no attention to the purple and greenish-yellow on the focus wall.  That will get swapped with patriotic scrapbook papers that my mother got me - needed a place holder!)
Version 1 of my Focus Wall
Version 2 - Squeezed in CAFE
The whole board - Focus and a section for the reading groups on the right
Beginning stages of the Bloom's Flag BB.