It takes no time to get into the swing of things, huh? I have only had two days with my new grade 7′s (and I’m aware that it’s still the honeymoon period) but they are simply a lovely bunch of kids and I’m really looking forward to my year with them! That being said, I found a cool new writing tool over the summer that I plan to try out with them and so I thought I’d also share it here. So, just to be clear it’s brand new to me and I haven’t used it with a class yet – but it looks REALLY cool!
The site is called “Figment” and it’s a site where your students can write, collaborate with each other and ultimately publish their finished pieces online for either the whole class or the entire Figment community to comment on and/or review.
Here’s how I plan to use Figment in my room – hopefully in first term!
One of the first major writing assignments that my students will have this year is to write a Memoir. My plan is to have them type these memoirs into the (simple) template on Figment – basically a word processor. Educators also have the option to “create groups” which means I’ll have all of my students in a private group. I hope that some initial sharing, giving of feedback, revisions and edits will occur in this group. When the pieces are ready, I plan for my students to publish to the Figment community! It’s very fulfilling when you become a “published author”. Using this site, all students will be able to label themselves in this way – which I love.
There is a special spot on Figment for educators to create those private groups, so if you’re interested, be sure to check it out. You have to send off an email request to have access to the private groups and so it’s not immediate. You kind of have to plan ahead, if you want to use this as an option. From what I can tell, though, I can start a thread in the group, asking students to work on a really strong lead today. Perhaps next class, I’ll ask students in a new thread to replace three of their verbs with more precise, active verbs. Students can also start threads, asking for advice and feedback. I’m very excited about this site and I think it has amazing potential.
I’ll be sure to post again after we actually get started with it, to let you know how it’s working in “real life” with real kids.
I also have my plan laid out for my students to blog again this year. I’m excited to begin that process with them this month and I already have two teachers (one in Pakistan and one in USA) who my class will be collaborating with – we’re going to be audiences for each other! Lots of plans! Don’t you love September? Everything seems possible and exciting. I have lots of energy and I just can’t wait to get started!
Side note: If you were interested in blogging with your students this year, I started a Google Doc a while back to help us find each other around the globe and to make collaboration a little bit more structured. Feel free to have a look and add your info if you’re interested and be sure to contact any teachers on the list who have a class that matches yours!
Please, share your goals for writing with your students this year! Cool sites, blog plans – I’d love to hear what you’ve got going on!
My first day with students will be tomorrow. There is so much build up to the first day of school! I always look forward to it, but I am also happy when it’s over. The ice is broken, introductions have been made and I can start to get to know the young people in front of me.
I am just about ready to go, but still have a few preparations left to make. It’s an exciting year for me, for a few reasons. This will be the first year that all teachers have SMART Boards in our rooms. Also, my school is in transition. We will be coming together with our high school in the fall of 2014, and become a K-12 facility. Construction is well underway, as they are renovating the high school and it will become our new home. Lots of changes! A new administrator at our school, being another. She actually began our day on Tuesday with this funny little video and so I thought I’d share it with you!
We all know that teaching can be hard (as you’ll see in the video). You may get stressed, feel over worked and isolated… At those times, when you’re not sure if you can go on, just remember that at least you’re doing a better job than the teacher in the video! On that note, wish me luck tomorrow! I hope that they like the Banana Chocolate Chip cake that I made for their break time! (Hard not to respect someone who feeds you cake, fruit and juice on the first day - wouldn’t you agree? Well – it can’t hurt!)
It’s finally here!
We all know that Back to School is just around the corner, and you know what that means…It’s time for a REALLY BIG Giveaway!!!
Before we get going, congratulations to my Early Bird Winner ~ Jessica G.~ who has won a $10 Amazon gift card and 20 bonus entries for this Back to School Giveaway. Way to be on top of things!
I already gave you a sneak peek of the prizes, but just in case you missed it….I’ve got something for everyone!
Whether it’s teacher resources and accessories that you desire, cool wall word decals for your classroom, a hot cuppa java to get you through those first days or some hand made soaps to enjoy in a stress relieving bubble bath after that first week- I’ve got you covered!
I have grouped the following prizes into 4 Prize Packages (plus a bonus prize). Make sure to enter to win each prize package – they’re all equally awesome!
Prizes to be won:
~20 TPT Shopping Sprees in 20 different stores
~$10 Starbucks gift certificate
~$75 WiseDecor gift certificate
~$25 gift certificate to Black Rafter Soap Works
~Five Duo Binders
~Tote from Thirty-One
Of course I need to give a big thank you to all of the people who have donated for this giveaway – your generosity has blown me away as it always does! You all ROCK! Those who have participated are pictured with each prize package, with links to their blogs or sites.
This giveaway is running for a few days – so you have lots of time to follow everyone and get yourself entered to win ALL of the packages!
Also, make sure to take a second and promote this giveaway on your blog, FB page, Twitter feed or Pinterest boards etc. to gain extra entries!
Okay folks, this only happens once a year – so get to it and good luck!
Bonus Prize (An extra little something for those of you who like to share)
Winners will be contacted on August 15th and announced on the later in the week. Please make sure to check your email (and your junk mail) on those days just in case you’re a BIG winner. If you are a winner and don’t respond within 48 hours of being contacted, another winner will be chosen in your place.
I wish you all the best in the 2013-2014 school year! Work hard, play hard and have a fantastic year!
I’m pathetic. I’m the grown-up at Christmas time who just NEEDS to open ONE gift on Christmas Eve because I can’t wait until morning. Looks like one of you is about to benefit from my sad lack of willpower!
I have decided that Saturday is TOO far away and I’m having an EARLY BIRD draw! I’m going to keep it simple.
There is a site called EdWorldExchange where teachers can buy and sell teacher resources. They are still just getting established and so they don’t have the volume that some other sites have, but everyone has to start at the beginning, right? I have some of my work on their site and I’m trying to help them out with getting more traffic and new users. That’s where you come in!
Here is your task to qualify for this EARLY BIRD draw: Sign Up with EdWorldExchange using this PROMO CODE: EWEpromo1.
That’s it! You don’t have to buy anything, it’s free to sign up and you never know, maybe you’ll go back and find some great resources for yourself.
Now on to the really important stuff…
What could you win?
I will choose ONE EARLY BIRD winner before the BIG Giveaway begins and that person will receive a $10 Amazon gift card and 20 bonus entries for the big Back to School Giveaway that starts on Saturday. Pretty sweet! I know!
If you do choose to enter this draw and register with EdWorldExchange:
You sign up right under the Log In button on the EdWorldExchange homepage and it’s important that you use the promo code above, or I won’t know that you signed up! You enter it right after you select a password. Finally, just so that you know, when you register as a new user, only a few of the fields are mandatory (it should only take you about a minute to sign up). It’s not necessary to enter info in all fields – but you can if you want to.
Let the fun begin! Who will be the lucky winner of a $10 Amazon gift card and 20 bonus entries? It could be you! Good luck!
I know that some of you have already headed back to the classroom this week. Here in PEI, we don’t begin until September. Whether you’ve started back this week or still have another few weeks left to enjoy, I’m pretty sure that you’ll all be psyched to win some great goodies for your classrooms!
It’s almost time for my annual Back To School Giveaway! I thought that I’d give you a little sneak peek, so that you know what’s up for grabs!
I have Shopping Sprees to give away in 20 different TPT Stores (including my own) an awesome bag from Thirty-One, FOUR Duo Binders, a $75 gift certificate to WiseDecor, a $25 gift certificate to Black Rafter Soap Works, and a $10 Starbucks gift certificate all to give away to you guys! Wow!
It’s going to be great and I’m very excited to be able to get to provide all of you awesome teachers with the opportunity to win some goodies for yourself. You deserve it!
In case you’re unfamiliar with some of the companies mentioned above…
Thirty-One provides fantastic options for school and lunch bags, purses and totes, organizers etc. in a wide variety of styles and colors. They are offering a small organizing tote for the giveaway!
Duo Binders are a wonderful option for teachers or students to stay organized. They are essentially a binder, with a portfolio included to stash away single sheets. Again, a wide variety of styles and colors are available. They’re also perfect to use as sub binders.
WiseDecor has generously offered a $75 gift certificate for this giveaway which is amazing! They offer wall word decals for all occasions, but they have some specifically appropriate for use in the classroom. I have one for my room that will go right above my new SMARTBoard:
Finally, Black Rafter Soap Works has graciously donated a $25 gift certificate in their Etsy Shop, because they know that we deserve a little pampering – especially at this time of year! What will you choose: Hand made soaps, lip balm or the natural sugar scrub?
As you may be able to tell, I have put A LOT of work into organizing this giveaway for you and I’m really excited to see how it goes! The giveaway runs August 10th – August 14th, so don’t forget to come back and enter!
Thanks again to all of my generous contributors – you rock!
Do you LOVE your school bag? I mean do you REALLY LOVE it?
Every August I search for THE school bag that will hold all of my files and correcting, keep me organized and still look pretty. I usually find something, but it’s never exactly what I’m looking for.
So when Jen, teacher and Canadian consultant for Thirty-One, contacted me about holding a party on my Facebook page I jumped at the chance.
I have been admiring Thirty-One’s stylish school bags, purses, and organizational totes from afar for a while now. Many of my fellow bloggers have been singing their praises, as Thirty-One has been available in The US, but is just now breaking into Canada!
So, guess what? I’m having a party and you’re invited!
Here are the details:
Come to my Lessons From The Middle Facebook Page this Thursday, August 1st at 9:00pm – 10:00pm (Atlantic time, which will be 8:00pm Eastern time).
Don’t be late! Jen’s going to be doing a roll call and the first 10 people to chime in at the party will gain extra entries for the evening.
There will be a few little giveaways - some products, free shipping and discounts will be up for grabs.
Jen will also be sharing the August specials with us. It should be LOTS of fun!
PJs are optional, ( I’ll be wearing mine) deals will be scored and fun is sure to be had by all!
A few links and photos to get the juices flowing!
Thirty-One Shop Link - for your browsing pleasure….Although Jen may have some other things for us to check out as well!
What will you be on the look out for? The perfect school bag…a hot purse…a new lunch bag…a tote.. Don’t miss out on the fun! I look forward to seeing you at the Party in Your PJs on my Facebook page this Thursday at 9pm AT (8ET)!
I have decided to make this my last post on Accessible Mathematics: Ten Instructional Shifts That Raise Student Achievement. I have 2 other math books that I am reading (What’s Your Math Problem? Getting to the Heart of Teaching Problem Solving and Minds on Mathematics: Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep Understanding in Grades 4-8) and would like to make some comments on those as well! SO much to say – so little time! Anyhow, I am going to chat for just a bit on shift #9, which is one that is important to me, but that I struggle with at times:
It is extremely important to me to try my best to find connections to the real world and have answers ready when students ask the question, “Why do we have to know this?” And teaching grade seven, there is no shortage of students asking this question. It’s a good question, though and it’s my job to have an answer ready which is more than just, “Because you’ll need to know it for grade 8.”
Some concepts are much easier for me to find realistic connections to than others. I struggle with the first unit that we do, which is coordinate geometry. I know that reading a map (longitude and latitude) is an obvious example, but what about GPS? Realistically, can’t many people use the GPS in their vehicle or on their iPhones to get where they want to go? How many people on a daily basis need to use longitude and latitude? A yearly basis? I know that certain professions do for sure, but is it something that people outside of those professions NEED to know? I’m talking about the average person. I’m not saying for a moment that map skills like understanding longitude and latitude are unimportant. However, I personally have never needed that skill in my own life. Ever. (Outside of my profession, of course). I did find a video of an archaeological dig (it’s a little pixelated though) which somewhat shows people using coordinate geometry in a different sense – but what if you’re not in one of those jobs either? Hmmm…
Switching gears, what about teaching students the formula for area of a circle – when will they USE that formula in real life? Of course, if they’re making a table-cloth and need to know how much material to buy…but wait a second…how many people are at home making their own table cloths? And in real life, if we need to know something, like a formula, what do we do? Google it, of course. Within seconds we’d have that formula at our fingertips. So again, when was the last time you used the formula for area of a circle? I’d honest to goodness LOVE to know, because again – I personally never have (and am searching for more real life examples).
Probability? You bet!
These are things that I can easily relate to with examples from my own life. For instance, I brought in my bills one year when we were doing integers and my students weren’t grasping addition and subtraction. When I showed then my debt and then my payments – it started to make a bit more sense. Real life! I just wish that every unit was as easy to find examples for as integers!
I guess what I’m saying is that this shift has made me reconsider something that I’ve thought of often: How can I make math more “real-life” for kids? You may say it doesn’t matter – solving problems is solving problems. Who cares what the actual problem is about? Well, they do, actually. Our students. They want to solve problems that may actually exist for them some day. Think about it. How much time would you care to devote to solving a problem of any sort if it had no context, or importance to you? I’m guessing not much. Why? Because it doesn’t matter, so why would we care?
Coming up with “real-world” examples and problems for my students is something that I’m working on and will continue to work on, as I know it’s at the heart of student engagement and understanding of math.
How do you try to bring the “real world” into your math classes? I’d love to hear what you have to say!
I love the summer for many reasons. One of them, though, is that I find time to post about things that I meant to post about all year, but got too busy for! This, is one such post.
We all know that it depends on the year, the mix of kids, class configuration etc. etc….as to what kind of behavior issues we may end up with in a class. In my time teaching, I have had lots of different behaviour issues to deal with, as I’m sure you have. I came across Behaviour Needs a few years ago, and it really helped me to gain some insight about my behavior management skills. Summer can be the perfect time to check out sites like this, because although we’re not in front of kids at the moment, and in need of the material – we actually have the time to browse. And we all know we’ll be back in front of kids before too long!
Perhaps you’ve noticed a button in my sidebar for Behaviour Needs. Well, it’s there because I think so much of what they have to offer (25 classroom management strategies to get silence from a noisy group of students, Take Control Of The Noisy Class – video 1, Behaviour Tool Kit, webinars, free behavior management resources, videos, and much more) . I really support what founder and teacher Rob Plevin tries to do for teachers. He’s been there and he understands! He’s created resources and networks to help teachers in their classrooms, to gain control and maintain sanity so that they can teach their students.
There are tons of resources on the Behaviour Needs website (free and priced). Just to be clear, my aim is not to “sell” anyone on the site. I am an affiliate of theirs, but that’s because I have purchased and believe in their teacher resources and I know that they can help teachers with their behavior management skills, because they helped me with my own. Because I have found these resources helpful, I’m passing the link along for anyone who may want to sharpen up their behavior management skills – that’s all! Posts like this are risky to me, as I do NOT want them to come off as a sales pitch. However, I know when I was a new teacher especially, I couldn’t get enough information on classroom and behavior management. I was (and still am) always on the lookout for new tactics and tools to add to my “teacher’s toolbox”, especially to deal with difficult and unmotivated middle school students. Perhaps you are the same.
Okay, that’s it for now! I’m off to camp with my boys for the first time this summer. I hope you’re having a fantastic weekend – lots of sunshine here!
Let me know if you try out any of Rob’s resources. Also, please feel free to share your favorite behaviour management tips/sites below for all of us to check out!
Have you ever had one of those moments when you’ve just savored the simplicity of what was going on around you? I had one of those moments just the other day…
I have lived on this Island my whole life and my mother has lived on the same lot of land her whole life, which is where I grew up. My husband, the boys and I popped in to visit my mom and dad just the other day and they told us that we had to come down to the shore to see something. Mother Nature had quite a little surprise – something none of us had ever seen before. There were thousands and thousands – maybe even millions of silver-sides which are little fish – like minnows. It was almost biblical, if that makes sense! What was cooler though, were the thousands of mackerel fish who were following and feeding on the silver-sides. These fish were schooled in the water where I grew up swimming and still do swim sometimes. The water was absolutely black with them – it was amazing! And you know the saying, “When life gives you mackerel, get the fishing pole!” Well, at least I think that’s the saying Regardless, we grabbed the fishing poles and my boys (Hubby most of all, I think) had a fantastic time reeling those fish in one after another, releasing and catching again within seconds.
Now my brother and I, we like a challenge. He had already caught quite a few mackerel with the pole, and so we decided that there were so many fish we could catch them bare handed. Now, I’ll spare you from the long and drawn out hour that followed, in which many different strategies were tried, re-vamped and tried again. The story ends, though, with each of us catching two mackerel – without using a fishing pole. I could totally survive in the wild…ya probably not. Nowhere to plug in my hair straightener! But it sure was fun. The reason I’m sharing this, is because at one point I just looked around and observed the fun that my family was having. It was a perfect Island evening; a small, yet memorable moment. If we had decided it wasn’t worth the effort to head down to the shore when my parents suggested, none of it would have happened. It would have been a completely missed opportunity. Fish, literally jumping out of the water and no one there to catch them. Make sure to grab some of those moments for yourself this summer (and of course in the classroom next fall)!
So, while we’re on the topic of seizing opportunities, it’s crucial to grab those teachable moments in the classroom, as well. In Accessible Mathematics: Ten Instructional Shifts That Raise Student Achievement, Shift #6 is to build from graphs, charts and tables. It may seem like a small thing, a simple thing. I know it does to me. However, I also know that I’ve missed tons of “moments” by not really delving into all of the data in a table, only using the information that was most pertinent to the problem and essentially ignoring the rest. I’m embarrassed to even type that, but in a 38 minute block there isn’t always time to answer questions that haven’t even been asked.
Leinwand’s suggestion for building from given data, is to ask the question, “So?” and see what happens. Rather than just answering one or two straightforward questions, ask your students ”So?” Of course it depends on your data, but the example that is given has to do with ticket sales for a concert. A typical question in a text book could be, “Which musician sold the most tickets?” At this point, I would let my students independently answer this simple question and they’d move on to the next problem. Well, now I’m beginning to see that would be like looking at all of those mackerel swimming around and saying, “Cool!” without actually trying to catch one – missed opportunity! A simpler experience, for sure, and MUCH less satisfying.
In this author’s opinion, when teachers begin to ask, “So?” and their students get used to that questioning, crazy things happen! Crazy-good things. Thinking, questioning, and deeper understanding and appreciation of mathematics. So, with a problem about ticket sales, questions that they could come up with could be:
-How many tickets were sold altogether?
-Why is So-and-So the most popular?
-Which concert would be the least popular?
-How many more tickets did Concert 3 sell than Concert 6?
-Which concert sold the closest to 300 000 tickets?
-What percent more tickets did the most popular concert sell, than the least?
I could go on. The point is, if you’re going to require students to refer to a table, chart or graph for answers, that should be only the beginning of a line of questions (that should come from them, ultimately) about the data so that they care more, engage more and so that you can build in every opportunity to extend number sense (which is Shift #5).
I teach grade 7 and there’s always at least one student who wants to know why they should care about what we’re doing. Why does is matter? So what? These students will be the strongest, I believe, in answering the, “So?” question. I know that I’ve often chosen to have students answer more problems rather than really extend a problem in the way Leinwand suggests. I have my reasons and I don’t think that it’s a bad thing at all. What I can clearly see now, though, is missed opportunities. I have been guilty of getting wrapped up in the three IEPs, two behavior issues and other multiple needs within my typical classroom, trying to meet a vast range of needs, at both ends of the spectrum. Honestly, extending data rich problems has not been at the top of my priority list for teaching math. That’s exactly why I read professionally in the summer. I don’t have students in front of me. It’s NOT overwhelming to think about, “How could I do this?” At the moment, I can think clearly and objectively and see the value in what Leinwand is arguing.
This shift (and a few others, actually) have catapulted me into deciding to make a much more significant change in my math classroom for next year. I have started reading Minds on Mathematics: Using Math Workshop to Develop Deep Understanding in Grades 4-8 and the content supports the shifts in Leinwand’s book, but it actually offers a workshop format for teaching math. I’m loving what I’m reading so far and I know what better problem solvers my students will become if I can make this shift. Anyway, I don’t want to put the fish before the pole…so more to come on this later…
Are there any teachers out there who routinely ask their students, “So?” Please let us know how that works and what it looks like?