Sunday, September 7, 2014

The dreaded observation

We all face it, we all stress over it, we all feel relief when it's over. I'm talking about the formal observation. It exists for us all, and even though I hate it's just a part of teaching.

This year in my district we are facing a lot of changes that make the formal observation more stressful. Just to name a few of the major changes new Common Core (College and Career if you're here in Arizona) standards. New Curriculum to go with the new standards. I'm working with new admin which always makes for added stress. As always in the face of complicated teaching moments I turn to WBT and it comes through for me.

As I'm preparing and looking at all of the things in the observation and comparing it to the new math curriculum I'm finding that it needs help. Of course I figured this out weeks ago and WBT has become an even more important element in my room.  It's taken the fancy new material and made it a useful element in my room. I'm not going to say the new materials are now super simple, they aren't I'm still struggling to figure it all out. WBT is my go to for making this material student centered, versus the teacher center style of many textbooks.

Let's talk about Whole Brain Teaching and the Observation. 
WBT is all about procedures, you can quickly get the routine down and since it's fun the kids are involved. It's active with hand gestures and that makes it easy to see that you have students engaged. Because we use things like hand gestures and teach-ok the students are taking responsibility for their education, with smiles and all. We are also able to monitor their activity instantly. Teach-ok involves gestures and once a kid stops we know somethings up.

Student engagement is covered, we constantly go back and forth between them interacting and listening/interacting with us (the teacher). WBT forces kids to take ownership of the material regularly, not just at the end. It takes time, don't be afraid of the time you use for teach-ok and repeating/gestures. It adds time but in the end less time than all the reteaching you will do.

Plan down to the minute if you need to to stay on track. Don't drop those little things just because admin happens to be watching and typing all you do. I'll admit it when I'm in the observation, and know I have a strict time to stick too, I get stressed by letting them Teach-ok or start repeating/calling out to me. I regret it more if I start dropping WBT.

After students have had practice with teach-ok you build in higher expectations and start making them really discuss and prove things to each other. My class is there already, I'm amazed by their conversations, my principal was too. We're moving into week 6 and I already have them justifying why without much prompting. But when you practice talking about school subjects 20-30 times a day you get good at it fast.

WBT teachers break down the lesson automatically for our procedures and to incorporate all the wonders of WBT. This breakdown is helpful for the instruction part of the observation. Students need to have things in small chunks. It's easier to get your brain around when it seems manageable. Students will tackle anything for you if they know you work hard make it easier for them to understand.

Personal outcome for me:
I managed to make 2 digit by 2 digit multiplication into a "fun" lesson, words from my principal. I'm just happy someone who isn't in my room daily sees that my students are learning and having fun all at once.

I'll admit it the observation got in my head a bit and I had some "duh" moments when meeting after my lesson. That happens to us all, specially when it becomes such an important moment in our year. Another year of WBT and I what I felt was my best observation yet. All I can expect of myself is to keep getting better and improving.

How about you?
Any other observations coming up? Let me know how it goes!

Or, bring up any exciting moments or worries you have. The WBT community is amazing at jumping in with help or joining in an excited happy dance. Whatever you need!

I'll happily go into more detail about mine if anyone needs it or wants it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Teach-ok Teacher Heaven Moment

I've always loved Teach-ok. It is a simple yet powerful tool. Once the class has it down teach-ok is so easy to modify and improve on. Today though was a milestone in my Teach-Oking.

We took a district benchmark test. We've all seen it, we all hate testing because of it. It's a bunch of silent time for little bodies that are not made to stay silent. We don't want to wait while they take the test any more than they want to take it, but we really dread the aftermath more.

Every teacher knows it will be a crazy day. In the past this is a great review day or some super fun easy lesson. I have a tight schedule this year with common core, we just don't have the flexability to move things around. For better or worse I had to teach, new stuff- new to me for 5th grade. Exponents of all things. It can be fun or a mess, my brain was ready for both mixing into an afternoon of chaos and no one actually learning.

Teach-Ok to the rescue. I followed it to a tee and this group was really ready for it, today. I'm not sure if I just went heaver on it today than normally or if I made the gestures bigger or what I did. Maybe I stuck closely to the 1-2 minute goal. Like any normal lesson.
     I teach, they T-O.
     I call them back- share or continue on (all depending on the teack-ok task)
     I teach some more and the cycle continues.

Our math lesson progresses and they are really the ones figuring out what to do with exponents. I love that teach-ok adds that investigative/inquiry element from common core, in a natural way. It also requires them to explain their thinking helping teach justifying/proving their response.

The class did great we were having a blast and they were so proud that they were telling me how to do exponents.

Let's face it so far nothing too out of the norm. We're all WBT teachers here, we have all tried it and I know you probably love teach-ok too. My teacher heaven moment was at the end of the fun. we got to the independent practice.

I said "We've done a lot of talking and teaching show me how you're feeling about the practice problems." At this point we all know to show me a thumbs up or down or sideways. They hold it and show me close to their chest so only I get to know. No one gave me a thumbs down, a few were at a sideways thumb. In my room that would mean we're ok to try do it by ourselves, then get help. So my response to them was "great some still a bit unsure they get it but lots of helpers are around to assist. Lets focus on this alone and keep our voices low." Now if a student needed help they can ask a neighbor or me and continue on.

My class has talkers, fine by me I created it. 5th graders need to talk. I had to laugh at them because I heard a few hushed sounds of relief. A group of 10 year-olds wanting quiet work time ON A TESTING DAY!!!!

That, right there is teaching done right. I truly believe that every kid should leave school exhausted from all the fun learning they did. Today they did!!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Decorating my class for the fast approaching new year!!

My class is getting set up. I moved schools this year, back to fifth grade and that meant I needed to unpack and decorate all over again. This year I didn't have a ton of ready made decorations bought from the store. I lost a lot in the move and have no desire to replace any of it. I want to keep the cost down (I can spend a fortune at the teacher store) and flex my creative muscles and DIY my class decor.

I have a couple simple goals with decorating my class. 
1. Paper goes up and stays there- I don't like changing it. 
2. A lot of the things I put up are student created, so I need it to look good empty and remain versatile so it can change and not get stuck as a specific board.
3. Did I say I hate changing paper, I also hate the idea of wallpapering the bulletin board, too much paper and time.
4. I like using things I create they meet my needs exactly and I believe inspire the kids to create their own too.

First let me show you some pics then I'll tell you what I did to get the look. I'm still setting things up so it's a mess. But the walls are nice and the bones are there.

Front corner where the computer has to be for the Smart Board is. Printer and phone must be there. Laptop will plug into the board here. Note the rules front and center.

The other side of the Smart Board.

My desk, now in the back of the room separate from the computer area. A door to my neighbor opens just on the other side of the black cabinet.

Close up of banner above my desk and cabinet.

Next to my desk looking at door to the hall. All those colored strips, by the student desk, are the Super Improver Wall levels.

At the class entrance looking to the front of the class.

Butcher block paper: school supplied, limited colors. I could have waited for the new colors to show up but I liked the blue and orange. I pulled off pieces large enough for the board space and cut it down (extra I will use for class project.)

1. I folded the orange lengthwise (hot dog style) and used a straight blade to cut it in half, it's a narrow stripe so it could be used on two boards this way. I put that up all the way around the class. Then hung up the blue paper, no cutting needed a foot below the top of the board. This way the cut edge of the orange didn't need to be perfect, and was easy to be consistent. I used push pins to stick it up so I could measure and adjust. That was the hardest part. the rest was easy!

 2. Crape paper streamers- I had the streamers on hand I believe they were a dollar store pick up, so each color was a dollar. I made the stripes at different heights so each board is a little different. Plus I didn't have enough of any color to go across the entire room, so the color change is on purpose.

3. Yellow dots- cut from butcher paper using the schools letter/shape punch. I had a ton left over from a different project.

4. Banners- the triangles are cut from a fact book, another dollar store find. I glued them to the ribbon, which again came from the dollar store. (I made four but only used three of them)

5. paper fans- I used these to finish off the end of the banners, they looked a little bare. I got them from the party store a few years ago.

6. WBT basics I had ready to go. The rules are hand painted with cute animals (I'll make a digital version to print out soon) I also had my Super Improver Wall Levels posted already so the kids can start wondering what it is right away.

The hall outside my class, only had to boards now it has four. How did I get so lucky to be responsible for 4 my neighbor has 1?
Similar theme in the hall. I used the only 4 colors available right now, but I liked them all together. I made the stripes using streamers again. I kept them high up so passers by hopefully treat them nicely. Dots are in the corner of the boards.
The colored squares are positive thoughts my students last year created. I laminated them and have it posted for my new students to add to this year.

Here in Arizona we start school in August. I got the decorating part out of the way so I can focus on organizing and creating fun for my students from here on out. My brain just needs this part done first.

What creative things do you do in your class? I'd love to see as you all start preparing your own classes.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Another try-

I have completely failed at this whole blogging thing. No excuses or reasons, I simply let everything get piled on top of my grand list of stuff and never got to it. Really every time I turned around weeks had passes and I had done nothing but school stuff. Totally Unbalanced!

So here we go. I'll try again because I want to blog and one day I might get the hang of it. So thank you to everyone who is still checking in around here. Please don't give up on me yet!