Sunday, August 16, 2015

Flipping the Upper Elementary Classroom

Math in most upper elementary classrooms like this:
  •  The teacher stands up in front of the class and teaches a lesson.
  •  Students follow along in their notebooks or workbooks and volunteer to answer questions up on the board. 
  • Then, students complete an activity independently or with a partner/ small group. The teacher walks around the room helping. 
  • After, the class pulls back together to close out the lesson. 

So, what is the downside to this traditional method? Well, a lot of the time when teachers teach a lesson to the whole class, they are teaching to the "middle". Students who are lower get lost and left behind, and students who are more advanced get board. 

Now picture this classroom: 

Students rotate to centers where they work on higher-order thinking projects while the teacher pulls a small group of students  to review a concept, or perhaps push them with more difficult work. Twenty-four students in a classroom may, at any given time, be doing totally different things. This is the perfect picture of a differentiated classroom!

It sounds like a teacher dream-world, doesn't it? The idea of centers in an upper elementary classroom is wonderful, and most teachers WANT to incorporate it! But the reality is that sometimes there just isn't time! Because when you think about it, how can your teacher a lesson, AND have students work at centers, AND work with a small group, ALL IN ONE PERIOD!? (The madness!) 

There is a way, my friends! It is..... the Flipped Classroom! So, what is the flipped classroom? 
Instead of the traditional method, students come into class already having learned the lesson. 
  • For homework students watch a 5-7 minute video of the lesson. This could be a video that you created yourself, using a iPad app like Doceri, or a pre-made video from Khan Academy or Learn Zillow. 
  • When students come into class (or when your math period starts), you immediately start centers! (YAY!) 
  • During centers, you pull small groups of students. I usually start pulling groups of kids who had trouble with the lesson, first.
One of the biggest questions that teachers ask when it comes to the flipped classroom is "how do I keep kids accountable?" Because, although it sounds really great, how do you know that your students actually WATCHED the video? We would hope that they would be honest, but this isn't always the case. Luckily, there is an awesome solution to that as well! 

At the beginning of the year one of the first things that I do is sign up my students for Edmodo. Edmodo is amazing because it is a social-media platform for students. I love that they're able to ask and answer each others homework questions, have book discussions, etc. But I also LOVE the apps that Edmodo has. And, conveniently, one of those apps called Educanon, keeps kids accountable for watching flipped videos. 

Simply post the YouTube link in Educanon, and BAM! You can see who watched the FULL video and who did not. Educanon also allows you to insert questions (YESSSS!!) into the video. This allows to "check for understanding"-- you can see who got the questions right and who got them wrong! I insert vocabulary questions, word problems, algorithms, etc. The students can even right in comments if they have a question, or want to share something with you! This way, when the kids come in, I know who needs the lesson re-taught. 

Commonly Asked Questions:

  • Doesn't it take a lot of time to make the videos? If you are planning on making all of your own videos, it doesn't take some time (especially if you redo them a bunch of times like me!) However, you are set for the years to come once it's done! You can also team up with your co-workers and split up the work, or use some videos from Khan Academy and Learn Zillow.
  • What it a student does not have a computer or the internet? OK so I had this problem. I had a student whose internet was down for a while, and they went to the library and a friends house. I also had a student without a computer, and they just watched the videos at the end of the day (before it was due). I always found time in the day for them to watch it in class!
  • What do you do if students don't watch the videos? Let me tell you, there is nothing worse for the students than not getting to do centers right away! That means they have to play catch-up with their work, and they love the projects! If they don't watch the video for HW, they have to watch it in class before they start centers. 
  • What types of projects  and do you pull in? The possibilities are ENDLESS! We did a year-round stock market project (I will write about that in another post), I also use Khan Academy and students complete printed-out projects (I love the projects from Teaching With a Mountain View!!) 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Trifolds to Organize Center Work: Part Two

I've spent the past few days soaking up the sun in Florida-- but I am also here to help my mom set up her fifth grade classroom! My parents just moved down here and my mom is switching from teaching third grade to teaching fifth-- my specialty! She decided that she is going to have a nautical theme this year, so I have been making her job charts, name tags, and working on center project boards for her! I bought adorable nautical themed clipart from Etsy that I LOVE, and I am having so much fun designing things for her! This is making me want to use a Nautical theme for my own classroom this year, but considering that I bought circus tents from Ikea for my library, I think I am going to stick with my owl-circus hybrid theme. ;) 
Designing the labels for Trifolds!
My mom is going to use two trifold boards for her math centers-- one is for task cards/ worksheets, and the other is going to house projects! The game area, small group center, and computer center won't need project boards. I made three different levels for each-- the task cards/worksheets will have: Anchors Away (review), Out to Sea (on level), and Shore Excursion (enrichment). The project trifold will have: Boarding the Ship (review), On Deck (on level), and Crows Nest (enrichment.) 

Putting It Together:

Friday, August 7, 2015

Tried & True: A Kingdom With No Rules

We all know that one of the most important things to do on the first day of school is set the classroom rules. For the upper elementary grades, I am a big believer in allowing students to create the classroom rules. This helps them "buy in"-- think about it! If someone handed you a giant list of rules to follow, and you had no say in any of them, would you be as willing to follow? This is the activity I use on the first day of school for rule setting:

  • We read the story A Kingdom with No Rules, No Laws, and No King by Norman Styles. You can grab a copy by clicking HERE or by googling the title! It's free!
  • We discuss the moral of the story. The kids should understand that for the classroom to run smoothly, there MUST be rules!
  • I get a giant piece of chart paper out, and ask the kid's to think-pair-share some rules they think our class should have. I list all of their suggestions-- some might be a little repetitive.
  • I tell the students that this is a LONGGGGGG list of rules, and that we should try and combine them so we just have five. You can ask for students help to combine the rules.
  • By the end, you should have a list of about five classroom rules. I copy these rules onto poster paper and have all of the kids sign the bottom. Laminate your rules list, and hang it up for the year!
 photo Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 6.16.41 PM_zps90tnwew4.png

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Trifolds to Organize Center Work

Okay so I am completely obsessed with a HUGE FAN of using trifolds as a way to hold center work! When I first started using the center method with my fifth graders, I found that they would leave a mess didn't know where to get/put back their work! Trifolds meant that Messy Margaret and Disorganized Danny knew exactly where everything belonged when they arrived at and left each center!

I created a trifold board for several centers(both math and language arts) and glued a few laminated and labeled file folders to each trifold. This allowed me to differentiate the work at each center AND keep it organized! My trifolds lasted me two years and are still going strong-- so it was totally worth the time it took to make them. Even better than that, it only cost me about $3.00-$4.00 per trifold-- many of the materials I purchased were used on multiple trifolds. (YES that includes the actual trifold-- the DOLLAR TREE had tons of them in stock!)

Materials (all purchased at the Dollar Tree)

  • Trifold boards
  • Bulletin board border
  • File Folders (you can buy these in a pack of 12!)
  • White Boards (I super glued them on and left directions on these)
  • Bulletin board lettering
  • Clear pocket folders (holds task cards or anything else you need!) 

Math Centers:
So the next question you might have is, what did students do at each center? Well, for math we had 5 different centers:

  • "Workout Zone": Also affectionately known by students as "task card world"-- this center housed task cards for each concept we were working on in math. The "workout zone" trifold had three different folders-- extra review (for kids who needed a review), practice makes perfect (the middle group), and challenge accepted (the advanced group). 
  • "Project Zone": I had a pretty good group of math students, so I only have two levels at this center. This is where projects were held. P.S.-- Teaching with a Mountain View has fabulous math projects for upper elementary. This is where I got most of my projects from!
  • "Khan Academy": I used Khan in my room, so when students got to this center, they would log into their accounts and get to work! The trifold at this center had rules, the "playlist" (lessons and videos that had to follow), and reflection worksheets. 
  • "Game Zone": the Game Zone trifold was home to playing cards, flash cards, and I had a basket full of math games as well. I gave 2-3 choices per day for this one, and they were typically a "spiral review"  or directly related to whatever concept we had been working on!
  • "Small Group": this is where I met with students in leveled groups-- no trifold here, just colored bins to organize and each student had their own folder to keep work!
Language Arts:
I did my own version of the Daily Five in my room (I'll tackle that in another post!) 

The Word Work Trifold Board
  • Word Work: This was my vocab center. I used two huge trifolds for this center with about 6-8 file folders on each. In each file folder was a different Word Work WS. I introduced one at a time in the beginning of the year, but by the end I left them all out. The kids were pretty responsible and enjoyed all of the options! For this center, I made my own Word Work Worksheets because I couldn't really find anything that met the needs of upper elementary students and kept them engaged-- If you would like to grab em', click on the image below.
    Grab Word Work from my Store!
  • Passion Project: Students worked on whatever they were passionate about (some learned to code, some did a project on their favorite animal, etc.) Once again, I'll tackle Passion Projects later on, because that deserves a post of its own! Anyways, that trifold housed the rules for Passion Projects, suggested websites, forms to fill out, directions for how to complete, etc.
  • Guided Reading: No tri-fold here, I had colored bins to house guided reading work and the kiddo's all had their own folders and notebooks
  • Read to Self: At RTS all of kid's had to complete a menu project for the book they chose to read. The trifold was home to the menus, directions, and a "submission" folder. 
  • Work on Writing: Two trifold's housed menu options for Work on Writing, a folder with some shared writing journals, rules, and "descriptive word" suggestions. I made my own Work on Writing, which you can check out at my store by clicking the picture below!

Organizational Ideas and Back to School Tips: A Blog Linky Party!

To participate, click "add your link" below! 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Linky Party

It's that time of year again! I can't believe how fast summer has flown by. I know that I am excited to meet my new students and kick off a great year! To celebrate back to school, link up a back to school product from your TPT store! Please only link up  one or two products! I can't wait to check out the products you post!

Click "add your link" to start!

 Enjoy! :)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Yay! Today is an AWESOME day because it is the TPT back to school sale!

 Although I am also a seller on TPT, I buy lots of awesome resources from amazing sellers as well. Because I am moving to K this year, I have been scouring the website looking for some great resources to help me start the year off on the right foot! One of my most favorite purchases thus far has been the "Chit Chat Morning Messages" by the amazing Deanna Jump!

I was super excited when going through her incredible product-- morning meetings and morning messages are totally new to me coming from upper elementary world, and I was nervous about how to get started. I really wanted to focus on building reading skills, so I was looking for something to help me with that. Her product features messages that are meant to build phonics and phonemic awareness and are going to be a life saver when teaching speaking and listening skills! I think I am going to either post the documents up on the smart board, or transfer them to large chart paper. Either way, I am absolutely following the format she suggested in her product introduction!

I will post more about this great find when I start using it with my Kinders once school starts in September!
I will be making some more purchases as the day continues, and I will be sure to write about them. For now, it's time to take this giant greyhound of mine out for a walk... even though she looks perfectly content right now. ;) 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Socratic Seminars

 Well, this is more of a upper elementary oriented post, although I am for sure going to try and adapt this method with my Kinders somehow! One of my FAVORITE things to do when I taught fifth grade was Socratic seminars... especially during Social studies!

If you don't know what the Socratic method is, it is a teaching method that encourages conversation (not debate) so that students come to a mutual understanding. This is an awesome way to get your kids using their critical thinking skills and an amazing method for teaching speaking and listening skills.

This seminar was about the Trail of Tears. Students Analyzed primary source documents to complete these questions!

When I first started using this method, the reaction that I got was "I thought that was only for high school and college kids!" One thing I learned while teaching fifth grade is that kids can do way more than you'd initially expect them to, especially if you raise the bar high! When I first started this with my students, I shared with them that this was something mostly bigger kids did, and that got them ready for the challenge!

What does it look like in my room?
I use a combination of primary and secondary source documents, along with guiding questions for each. I like when there is a "BIG question" to answer. For example:

  • When we had a Socratic Seminar on Christopher Columbus, the big question was "was Columbus a hero or a villian?" 
  • When we had a Socratic seminar on the lost colony of Roanoke, the big question was "what happened to the colony?" 
  • When we had a seminar on slavery in the southern colonies the big question was "why did plantation owners consider slavery a 'necessary evil'?" That was an interesting one!
  • When we had a seminar on the Puritans, the big question was "why did the Puritans consider themselves a 'City Upon a Hill'? Were the Puritans hypocritical?" YES fifth graders CAN answer that question, and probably better than most adults!
I normally had my kids push their desks out of the way and push their chairs into the circle, but sometimes when the library was available we went there! Sitting in a circle is ideal, because everyone can be seen and heard!

At the beginning of the year, we use the "throw it" method. If a student has something to say, they flip over a green circle and the last person who spoke throws a ball to that person. If students do not want to speak yet, they have their red circle turned over. I do this at the beginning because not all students are comfortable sharing yet, and it is difficult for them to understand the concept of "free talking"! 

To ensure that the same kids don't get called on all the time, I have a student keep "record" of who has already spoken. If I have a student who is really shy and does not want to speak, I allow them to do a written response at the end.

Later in the year, I start doing "free talk". This is where students speak freely after the previous student has finished. This is not easy because kids are afraid to "step on" each other, but they get it eventually! I use the same method of "record keeping" so that we don't have a handful of kids talking all the time!

"Socratic Circle", students are listening and taking notes!

Where to get resources:
A lot of the time, I find primary source documents on my own and draft the Socratic preparation questions. I also use Reading like a Historian by Stanford, which you can visit by clicking here!

The First Seminar:
This past school year, I wanted to do a Socratic seminar that would get my kids excited! I was also asked to create a video of a Socratic seminar for other teachers, and wanted to pick one with content that would be relatable to anyone watching it! So, I developed the Lorax Socratic seminar. If you would like to purchase this seminar, it can be found on my TPT store by clicking the link below!
Grab the Lorax Seminar at my store!
Here are some other Socratic methods that we have done:

  • Fish Bowl: several students sit in a circle and have a discussion regarding a document they have pre-analyzed. These students are the "fish". The students outside of the "fishbowl" cannot speak, they must listen to the conversation going on between the fish. When time is up, the students standing outside the bowl share what they learned. Then, students switch roles and the "observers" become the "fish"!
  • Airplane/ Co-Pilots: Students are paired up in teams of two. The "pilots" sit in the circle and the "co-pilots" sit directly behind their assigned "pilots". The only students allowed to speak are the pilots, but the co-pilots pass notes to the pilots with comments that they would like the pilots to share!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Very First Post

Well, here I am...! 
I have been thinking about starting a blog since I first started selling on Teachers Pay Teachers last August, but between coaching and teaching I just hadn't found the time! For the last two years, I taught fifth grade and LOVED it and I LOVED my school! But, I had to move... and that meant finding a new school. I was offered a teaching position in.... KINDERGARTEN! It's going to be a big change for me, but I am really, really excited to go on this new journey!

I am planning to use this blog to share some of my ideas to use in the upper elementary grades, but I am also going to be sharing my journey navigating this whole new world of Kindergarten! I have been exploring lots of really amazing Kindergarten blogs this summer. Reading all of the wonderful ideas makes me look forward to the fun things that my Kinders and I will do as we learn and grow together.

Oh, and some things about me... 
I completed a five year teacher education program and finished with my Masters in Elementary Education and Middle School Social studies in May of 2013. In my fifth grade classroom, I focused a lot on developing center-based learning. We used the Daily Five and CAFE model, which I adapted to the Upper Elementary level. I am planning on using center-based learning in Kindergarten as well!

I love to travel, although I am not too keen on the whole flying thing! I also have a retired racing greyhound named Zoey. She is four and a half years old, and we love to go exploring together!

Well, that's it for now!