Tuesday, July 24, 2012

2012-2013 Classroom in Pictures

About two hours yesterday and three hours today have whipped my classroom ALMOST into shape. There is still a "To-Do" list with a dozen odd jobs - but the main things are done.  Here's a peek: (as always, click to enlarge images.)

Hallway Bulletin Board. Idea from Pinterest. Already getting comments.

Students will use magnets (either with names or #s) to sign for attendance in the morning.

This year's focus wall!  Will be updated when the UNIT changes. My units are 4-6 weeks long. This will be MUCH easier to keep up with (and hopefully more useful) than last year's weekly wall.

Another Pinterest idea. Made last year. Will be used heavily this year as we will be assessing all students (even 6th graders) with the Fountas and Pinnell reading assessment 3 times. Also going to show how this info would make an excellent summary/book review.

Use to have class library up here. Moved it (and so much move the genre tags.) Now going to be storage for materials (which is a work in progress.)

Calendar, expectations, grading scale. Front and center where everyone can easily see it. (Several Pinterest ideas up there!)

Class Library - it overflows into a small bookcase to the right. The nonfiction books will be in tubs on a shelf under the calendar bulletin board.

Messy teacher bookcase. The top is ready to go. The lower shelves are packed with tubs of "stuff" that needs to be sorted. It is on the to-do list.

More teacher storage near my closet. The chart stand will block the sink but can easily be moved.

MORE teacher storage although this is fairly neat and ready to use.

Teacher table - will use as a desk and meet with groups here.
All my stuff has been condensed from around the room onto the tile. This new group of kids has a... ahhhhh... shall we say... reputation. I wanted to simplify the room by gathering all the stuff I use into one place. Easier for me, easier for the kids.

I'm still tweaking desk arrangement. When I get that organized (next week) I'll post more pictures.  I'll try to write a post about my units and lesson plans too. (Add that to the "to do" list.)

How are you preparing for the new year?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2012-2013 School Year - @Pinterest style

It's that time again! Time to start thinking about NEXT school year. Time to start reflecting on this year - what worked, what didn't, what needs tweeking, and what should be dumped altogether.  To help with this, I created a Pinterest board that my best bud/colleague and I can collaborate on. I pin stuff to it and know that she'll see it at some point. I don't have to remember to tell her - fantastic.  Here are some of my ideas so far...

I am hoping our team will do all our doors this way - one for each subject, show of "team spirit" and a good overview for the kids and parents of what they'll learn.

This site has some AWESOME resources for interactive notebooks for ELA (English Language Arts.) Since I'll be teaching the Common Core next year, I REALLY want to do a better job with this. I expect to spend most of the summer planning what the notebooks will look like.

The pin above and below go together. I love the idea of posting an interactive bulletin board that is curriculum related - offering challenges of various types for the kids. I'd consider offering extra credit to kids who completed a certain number of items. Definitely something to consider this summer!

I cannot say how much I LOVE THIS BB!!! It is hard to see, but there is a picture of each teacher and then their favorite book when they were a child. For our school, I'd like to see this put into the display case in the front entryway. That could be an all year display - possibly extended to include all staff - teacher assistants, office staff, even regular subs. We could possibly pull parents in as well. The whole idea being to show our kids that we LOVE books!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

6th Grade ELA CCSS - #commoncore #ccchat #6thchat

This year has flown by so fast! I just can't adjust to the fact that it is already May - EOG time in fact!

Throughout the year, our district has provided cross grade level meetings to go through the Common Core State Standards. I'm fortunate that I only had to attend ELA meetings. Most K-5 folks had half days on all the subjects - ELA & Math CCSS, then Science and Social Studies Essential Standards. In my meetings and my own learning/research, I've collected the beginnings of a batch of resources. I thought I'd post them here for others to use - it is the time of year when I start heavy-duty reflecting and prepping for next year.

My Resources (collected from across the web)

  1. Common Core - NC SCOS Crosswalks - these docs give a side by side comparison of the two curriculums. This is useful for me - I can see when things have simply moved or been re-worded as well as new items. All grade levels are available here in both Math and ELA.
  2. Unpacking the Standards - this doc begins to translate the "education speak" into more understandable language. All grade levels are available here in both Math and ELA.
  3. General Support Tools - there are many other things on this page - graphic organizers, exemplar text lists, and the two items listed above. (This page is one huge list, so I chunked it.)
  4. Common Core Curriculum Maps for ELA Grade 6 - This originally came from the Common Core mapping folks. But, as seems to always happen, they came out with a new version that you need to pay to access. I have not seen the "new" version, but I can't imagine it being much different. I love this doc. It has everything I could possibly need to springboard into a new curriculum. The best news is that by using the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine, you can access almost anything they used to have posted. That is how I got my version. Very helpful!
  5. Common Core Pacing Guide for ELA Grade 6 - I used the curriculum map above to create a pacing guide. My district likes the maps (and has apparently purchased them for review) but we do not have many of the texts referenced. Therefore, I took all the texts and activities OUT of the doc to leave just the CCSS divided into 6 units. By removing the activities, I did loose some reference to a few standards. I may go back and update this at some point. However, I felt the end result (dividing that huge new curriculum into manageable chunks) was worth a bit of loss.
  6. Common Core Book List for ELA Grade 6 - I went back to the curriculum maps again. This time I removed all the standards and activities and left only the recommended texts. I want to go through my class library and other resources (textbooks, school library, public library, thrift stores) and see what I can collect. If need be, I plan to implement some of the texts as read alouds - which I feel is a good compromise to beginning a new curriculum.
There are LOTS of other resources out there - I've seen items on Teachers Pay Teachers (both pay and free) and of course there are resources and info at the CCSSI website: http://corestandards.org.

I hope this post is helpful! If you've founds great (preferably FREE) CCSS resources, please share them in the comments!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Collaborative Conference for Student Achievement #ccsa2012


This is the only word I can use to describe the feeling I still have. I'm back home now but I spent Monday evening, Tuesday, and this morning (Wednesday) in Greensboro, NC with some outstanding educators.  In between meals we attended sessions on a huge range of topics.

I enjoyed sessions about data, using technology to enhance remediation opportunities, flipping the classroom, and - of course - READING.  There were a surprising number of sessions about 6th grade reading specifically.

My favorite reading session was called "Ending the Blame Game by Building a System for Success."  This was the first session on the first day - 8am. And the presenters absolutely knocked it out of the park.  They were thorough and thoughtful, practical too - but with a big dose of high expectations.  My colleague and I left awe-struck.We unfortunately spent much of the rest of Tuesday trying to figure out how WE could to THAT. (I can't let myself go into details here - I'll return to this topic later this week.)

Then, today, we had the opportunity to see a session on flipping the classroom.  This is when the teacher makes a series of videos that take the place of lecture in the classroom.  The students then watch these videos as homework.  And traditional assignments - problem sets, projects, etc - that would have ordinarily been done outside of class can now be done IN the classroom - with help and supervision from the TEACHER.

I've heard of this before but was always hesitant to use it because of our school's very high poverty rate.  After hearing from Dr. Lodge McCammon and Katie Gambar this morning, I realized that we can definitely overcome that barrier.  Now, as a reading teacher, there is a LOT less lecture than in other classes - and with the Common Core State Standards, there will be even less.  We already spend a lot of time in small groups and large groups discussing literature.  But what if I can take some of the lessons I present all the time - like the weekly focus wall lessons, grammar, vocabulary, and basic skills and strategies - and video them? Then I can post them to Edmodo, my district wiki, or simply the classroom computers. Kids could access the videos to supplement class time - for review, for enrichment, when they are absent.

My colleague and I brainstormed all the way through lunch and the entire trip home.  We have a list of about 30 videos to make in each area - Grammar, Vocabulary, and Reading Misc. These can and would be re-used each year.  The focus wall videos (which would reference the core videos in the areas listed above) would probably need to be remade each year since situations change. And for the most part, if I changed grade levels, the core collection videos should still be relevant!  A great example of working smarter, not harder.

As I process more of my thoughts about the conference - the sessions, the keynote speakers, the mealtime discussions - I'll post more here.  I'm re-inspired and ready to work on some great new ideas.

If I met you at the conference and you've found my blog through my contact info - welcome! I appreciate your time, inspiration, and kindness in sharing with me. Thank you.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

@Pinterest Revisited

I posted about how I use Pinterest back in July.  I thought that since this is the half way mark in my school year, it would be a great time to share some ideas I've gotten. I love Pinterest more than ever, but I have to be very careful when I go looking - it can be a huge time suck. :) So many lovely ideas, so little time!

I loved this idea - I am always looking for questions to ask in reading groups that relate to Bloom's Taxonomy. I used these in a slightly different fashion though. I have my lovely Bloom's Flag - so I chose 2 or 3 questions and added them to the flag for each level of questioning. It isn't perfect - the question cards are keyed to the "old" Bloom's Taxonomy and my school uses the Revised Bloom's Taxonomy. But now the kids have a very good idea where certain types of questions fall - and I have another good visual reminder to be asking those higher order questions!

We do not require all our students to complete reading logs. Our main purpose this year is to get our kids hooked on reading. And for the most part, most reading logs do not encourage that. We do have a few hard-core kids (perhaps 20 out of 75) who do not meet their goals in AR and who are falling behind academically. We originally had them doing a simple summary reading log. Now we've moved them to this version - and we are all SO MUCH HAPPIER! The kids like the variety and my teaching partners and I like that the kids have more guidance. I found another set of examples here, although most of them won't work very well for my students for a variety of reasons. But it is still a great option!

I love these text structure posters. I added them to my focus wall (which has been revised, like everything else.) The posters hit 5 of the major text structures. There isn't a poster for Question & Answer or for Narrative. I have been considering making one, especially for Narrative. There is so much text written in this structure - but narrative is different sometimes for fiction and nonfiction. It might be a midnight project sometime. :)

You can find my Teaching Ideas board on Pinterest - it is linked to my personal Twitter account.  Are you on Pinterest?  What great ideas have you discovered?

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Nomination Story: Thank You

Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago to walk into a grade level meeting and find my name on a Teacher of the Year nomination form.  My grade level colleagues, teachers from 5th grade, and some Special Ed teachers were all there.  The guy who teaches 6th grade Math put me on the spot, "So, do you WANT it, Bowden?"

My mind was already racing... I've always had a secret fantasy to be recognized in this way. But in my county, just being named the Teacher of the Year at the school level brings a whole host of duties. I'm stressed enough with regular work and some personal issues... So I quickly said, "Heck, no. Vote for me if you want to but..."

I enjoyed greatly sharing the news of the nomination with my husband, daughters, parents and Twitter. It was gratifying to hear their excitement that someone at my school recognized my hard work.  After all, the people closest to me know how hard I work and how much I worry about doing a good job.  After letting go of the awkward feeling of being in the spotlight momentarily, I appreciate the recognition.

I didn't get the title of Teacher of the Year - but I can honestly say that it truly was an honor to be nominated.

So, secret nominator at my school? Thanks for making my year. Thanks for honoring me with your nomination. You'll never know how much it boosted me just when I needed it.