Friday, August 17, 2012

Simple Lesson Design 8-14-12

“Failure to plan is planning to fail”
-Benjamin Franklin

What a great way to put my lesson plans in an easy to use form.
This is like having mini notes as I teach.  I appreciate the idea of boiling down the lesson plan to the main ingredients and reminders for me as I teach.  This is no different that having the rules posted, the scoreboard, or the WBT signs reminding kids of what they are to do in class.    

The emphasis on practice as crucial to our success as teachers is a point well taken.  We always talk about the importance of kids practicing, but we don’t talk enough about the importance of teachers practicing.  Why shouldn’t we practice our routines and lessons  so we make permanent what we teach?  Practicing requires us to critically examine what we do every day in the classroom. We need to ask ourselves if what we are doing is relevant and important.  If not, get rid of it.

Another good idea is the Bridge.  Having students repeat the question I pose is a great way to get kids thinking critically about content and I can quickly check to see who is on task. Using the Because Clapper in conjunction with Bridge will really help me focus my students this year and get them to think deeper and formulate better answers. 

Finally, the point of praise and improvement was well taken.  We must never forget our year long goals of recognizing every student in our classroom.  Improvement rather than achievement is what we should be having our kids strive for.  Consistent use of the SIW is a great way to reinforce improvement.  I found allowing the students put the stars on the SIW really reinforced the idea their hard work earned them the reward.  All in all, the Simple Lesson Plan is a great alternative to traditional lesson plans with all the “administriva” that can get in the way of teaching. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Red Green Marker Writing

Red Green Marker Writing

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”
Dr. Seuss

Teaching writing skills to my middle school students is one of the toughest tasks I undertake every year.  For me, it is very complicated.  How do I get students to edit and proof-read their writing effectively?  Where do I begin with students whose writing skills range from second to fifth grade?  Do I teach organization or how to write a complete sentence first?  The questions are complicated. 

Before watching Red Green Marker Writing the answers were elusive and complicated as well.
This strategy is quick, efficient, and effective.  The part I really like is the immediate feedback I am able to give kids as they write.  Rather than spending hours after school looking at paper after paper with the same mistakes over and over again, I can quickly let students know if they are practicing the skill correctly or making mistakes that need to be fixed.

Red Green Marker Writing is the simple answer to my complicated questions.  I am able to teach the skill, allow the kids to practice it, and monitor their progress during the timed writing exercise.  If they are doing it correctly, they receive a green mark indicating they are right on track.  If they are practicing the skill incorrectly, they receive a red mark telling them they need to correct the error as they continue to write. As always, WBT principals are embedded with the students required to give verbal affirmation with an “okay, or thanks,” after I give them a red or green mark.

Finally, kids are required to consciously think not only of what they are writing about but how they are writing during the timed exercise.  They must critically analyze their writing focusing on a specific skill or skills as they write.  Critical thinking is now purposely part of the writing process, and for my special education kids this is a big step.
Typical timed writing would be looked at as something to get done as quickly as possible with little thought to the writing other than what they are writing about.  Now, the students get help and guidance as they write and I improve my use of teaching time.  Red Green Marker Writing is the simple answer to my complicated questions.

CP 100
Medallions:  Super Speed Math (1), Webcast (2)
Followers 14

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Lovely Blog Award

Nancy Stolton and Pinetreelia have both awarded me the prestigious One Lovely Blog Award. Thank you both so much. Make sure you visit these two fantastic teachers'  blog.

Blog Awards

Here are the rules for this award:

Once you receive the award you have to pass it on to others! Here are the 3 rules to follow:
1. Follow the person that gave you the award.
2. Link back to the person that gave you the award.
3. Pass the award on to 15 new bloggers.

Here are the blogs I am passing the award on to.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Super Improvers Wall

How do you motivate students to want to improve their behavior, academic skills, or social skills without the need for candy, pop, or monetary rewards?  How do you reach tough to teach middle school students?  I found the answer in the Super Improvers Wall.

After looking at fellow wibeteer Staci Glass’ pictures of her Super Improvers Wall for inspiration, I dove right in.  I created pages for each student in all four of my Resource Room classes and posted them on an empty wall.  The kids were immediately intrigued and started asking what this wall was all about.  After explaining how the Super Improvers Wall worked, my students were eager to start earning stars.

One of the most pleasant of surprises was my 8th grade reading and writing class.  This group consisted of boys and girls with various disabilities ranging from learning disabled to emotionally impaired.  One of my toughest girls bought into the program the minute she earned her first star for cooperating and following the class rules (WBT’s 5 rules, of course).  After that, she was asking and even begging to earn more stars or wanting to know if she earned a star at the end of the hour.

After students had reached the first level, I started giving out small rewards such as stickers, trinkets from my “junk” drawer, and such. After kids starting moving up several levels, the “rewards’ were not the goal.  They were working to improve whatever skills were targeted for that week and merely moving up levels and receiving stars was reward enough.

What a great feeling for the kids to see their own accomplishment through hard work and perseverance.  I too felt a glow of accomplishment at having found something that helped kids improve their skills and was fun for everyone.  Super Improvers Wall really works, even with middle schoolers.

CP 75
Medallions:  Super Speed Math (1), Webcast (1)
Followers 13 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

SuperSpeed Math

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find a strategy to help kids learn basic math facts that was quick, engaging, and kids found interesting?  I believe Super Speed Math is just the ticket.

I have been frustrated over the past 16 years trying to find a way to help middle school special education students learn and retain basic math facts.  I have looked at canned programs, different curriculums, and various methods that others swear will work.  These are some of the toughest kids to motivate and keep engaged in anything I do. 

Lo and behold, I came across SuperSpeed Math.  I started using it last fall with the hope my class would buy into it and actually show growth and improvement in their math skills.  I had to go over how it works several times along with a couple of practice rounds before the students felt comfortable with the format and how it was supposed to work.  By October, they had it down fairly well.

After some experimentation, I settled on using SuperSpeed math three days a week as a warm-up.  Kids really started getting in the groove and looked forward to doing Superspeed math asking me if “today was the day”.  I could see the kids enjoyed playing it and looked forward to setting new personal records every time we played.

At the end of each marking period, I gave the students an assessment to measure their math skills and potential growth.  Improvement in overall math skills started to show up within the last two marking periods.  All but one student raised their math skill level by one full grade and several by almost two full grades!

Now I can’t say for sure student improvement was all due to using SuperSpeed Math, but I am sure it had a direct and positive effect.  The kids enjoyed the practice, and I have found something that is quick and easy to use. There has been positive growth in students who struggled with the rigors of middle school math.  It is a great strategy and I encourage everyone to give it a try.

CP 75
Medallions:  Super Speed Math (1), Webcast (1)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Reflections on WBT in a Middle School Classroom

The weeks preceding Christmas can be full of energy, excitement, and behavior problems in any middle school classroom.  As my class of 8th grade students came closer and closer to the coveted Christmas vacation, disrespect and lack of cooperation escalated.  In years past I might have raised my voice to reestablish control, sent kids to the office at the drop of a hat, or simply given up on certain students and ignored them.  As several students tried to test my mettle, I simply used the 5 classroom rules as my "behavior modification plan".  By holding up fingers to indicate what rule was being broken and hearing them recite the rule, using the scoreboard as a visual reminder of both good and not-so-good behavior, I felt totally in control of my class and confident in my ability to navigate this chaotic time of year with grace and a sense of mission.  No more agonizing over, "did I make the right decision?", in handling a discipline problem.  No more losing sleep or dreading waking up and having to face a group of hormone raging, Jekyll and Hyde personalities fondly known as teenagers.  WBT has brought peace and harmony to my teaching.  Sure, there are bumps in the road and tough days, but when I focus on following WBT,  it makes it much more manageable and I reap many more positives than negatives.  Teacher Nirvana gets closer and closer every day.  Enjoy the new year!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Video of WBT in 2nd Grade Classroom

Here is a video of me showing how to do Class-Yes and Teach-Okay in a 2nd grade classroom.  The teacher asked me to come over and show her how I use WBT in the middle school, particularly Teach-Okay in the classroom.