Thursday, July 24, 2014

Guided Math Book Study - The Final Chapter

Welcome back for the final chapter of The Primary Gal's Guided Math book study!! I am so thankful to have participated in this book study this summer. I needed the weekly deadlines to finish reading this book! It was actually one I bought last summer but never got around to reading it. 

If you saw my post about the lessons I learned in Vegas (click here to read it), you know a personal goal of mine is to READ more, especially in front of my own children. I'm going to have to learn how to turn off "The Bachelorette."

Anyway, this chapter was very short and served as the conclusion to the rest of the book. Sammons reminds us that the goal of using Guided Math in the classroom is to help students become mathematicians. 

While learning math, Sammons says students should be experiencing the following: 
  • explore problem solving in a safe environment where they can learn from their mistakes
  • have opportunities to use strategies on a variety of problems
  • identify appropriate strategies to use when problem solving
  • feel the satisfaction of solving a difficult problem
  • receive specific feedback from teachers and classmates
  • participate in mathematical conversations using appropriate vocabulary 
  • expand their mathematical knowledge through problem solving and conversations about math
  • recognize patterns and relationships 
  • make mathematical connections
She also reminds us in this chapter to use the same strategies we use to teach reading comprehension in Guided Reading in Guided Math. Instruction should be scaffolded to meet their needs in a "mathematically literate" environment, and kids should take ownership of their learning, selecting their own mathematical tasks, while constructing their own meaning in math. They should be encouraged to see the mathematical connections and should be free to make mistakes.

My favorite quote from this book can be found in this chapter. Sammons writes, "a large part of what makes learning a joyful experience for students is the relationship they have with their teachers. Only when these relationships are built are students willing to take the risks necessary for profound learning, whether in mathematics or any other subject area." Amen, sister. 

The only bad thing about this book study ending? It means summer is almost over! :( 
I went to visit my classroom this morning. I mostly just sat and stared at the walls and tried to figure out where to start. 

Then I left and went to Target. 

I'll get it done next week (procrastinators unite). :) 

I hope you have enjoyed following along with this book study and maybe even learned a little something! I know I did! Be sure to enter the final giveaway below and check out the other posts! Thanks for reading! 

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Vegas: Teacher Edition

So when I said I'd be back later this week to post about the teacher side of Vegas, I really didn't think it would be Saturday before I got to it! 

My husband has been working crazy hours since we've been back, so I've basically been a single parent all week. Props to those of you who parent on your own full-time. I don't know how you do it.

It's been a crazy week. 

This is what my kids' playroom looks like. 



How one and a half children can make this much of a mess is beyond me, but I show you this because this was the first lesson I learned in Vegas: 

1. You don't have to be perfect, and you don't have to have it all together all the time.

If you're like me, you subscribe to a ton of blogs and follow all of your favorite teacher bloggers on every form of social media. As you scroll through your newsfeeds, you are bombarded with images of colorful new ideas you HAVE to implement RIGHT NOW in your class, teachers who are perfectly dressed and coiffed, and students who are all engaged, happy, and eating up every word their perfect teachers say. Every lesson appears to run smoothly, no child is left behind, and everyone is happy. 


What I was THRILLED to learn on the first day of I Teach 1st is that we all tend to show the highlight reel. Our favorite new outfit, great hair day, a lesson where we really nailed it with the kids. This doesn't mean those teachers we all know and love have it all together every day, but they are still amazing and are doing great work with kids, and THAT'S WHAT MATTERS. 

Enter one said teacher, the fabulous Mrs. Cara Carroll from The First Grade Parade

Now this woman really does have perfect hair and looked gorgeous every time I saw her, and it's impossible not to be happy when you're around her. Her infectious smile and warm hugs (just call her Olaf) make you want to be her best friend. She is a wealth of knowledge about all things primary and the best practices to use with kids, but she also isn't afraid to admit that she doesn't have it all together all the time.

I went to three of her sessions about her math, sight words, and vocabulary instruction, where she shared GREAT ideas that I can take back and use this year with my own kids.

But my biggest takeaway - as she talked about some of her kiddos who "ride the bus down Struggle Street," worried about tripping over the microphone cord, and apologized to the line of eager teachers waiting to take a picture with her for being sweaty - is that it's all ok.  

When my desk is a disaster, my Promethean board pen has grown legs for the one millionth time, I have to run to the copy machine last minute, or one of my kids just DOESN'T GET IT, I will take a breath and remember that it won't always be perfect. It won't always work. And that's ok.  

I'll learn from my mistakes with a smile on my face. 

And I'll go back and try again tomorrow. 

2. READ!

This is a little out of order since I actually saw him first, but Marc Brown (author of the Arthur series) was the keynote that first day at I Teach 1st, and he was fabulous! 

He was funny and engaging, and he truly respects the work of teachers. 

One thing he said hit home for me. He said, "Our kids don't read books because their parents aren't reading books." I realized that not only do I want the parents of my students to set a positive example for their children when it comes to reading, but I need to put my money where my mouth is and do the same thing at home. I read to my kids, but I don't read with them. 

I need to make a concerted effort to put down the laptop/phone/stackofpaperstograde and get out a book. My four year old loves to "read" now, but she may not always. 

Now is the time to create new habits.

3. There are countless amazing apps and tech tools available, but you don't have to try to use them all at once.

I have been following Erin Klein from Kleinspiration for years, too, and she is an absolute pro. I happened to be in the room already when she and her husband walked in. It was clearly not their first presentation rodeo. She started hooking up her macbook while he opened the suitcase full of samples from her classroom and spread them out on the tables. They were up and running in three minutes flat.

Her presentations were no different - flawless from start to finish and overflowing with amazing ideas.

While she truly did seem to have it all together, her advice was exactly what I needed to hear.

Don't try to do it all at once. Instead of trying out EVERY new app, choose one, use it, and then try another one.

The one (ok two) that I want to try this year are Aurasma and ColAR. I'm especially excited about the latter and hope to use it during the first week of school if I can get my hands on some iPads! 

4. Inspire kids to be passionate about learning.

Even more than her knowledge of all things tech, I was especially impressed by Erin Klein's desire to make connections with kids and help them to achieve greatness. She included several videos in her presentations, but one entitled Caine's Arcade had people in tears. If you've never seen it, click the link to watch.

You will be inspired.

Inspired to let your kids pursue their passions and see how far they can go.

I've already talked to my principal about starting #geniushour in my class, and I can't wait to see what my kids are passionate about.

And finally,

5. Make friends.

Let's face it: our job is tough, and we can't do it alone. More than just connections, it's important to build relationships. I'm blessed to have taught (and currently teach) in buildings where I've made lasting friendships. Without them, I would not have been able to do this job.

I've also been fortunate enough in my short time as a teacher blogger to connect with amazing teachers from all over the country through social media such as Instagram, but it's been even more important to me to be able to meet some of them and call them friends.

I was so excited to get to spend more time with Holly from Mrs. Ehle's Kindergarten Connections and Krea from Learning in Progress. We met this past March at the Spring Teacher Blogger Meet Up, and seeing them again was definitely a highlight of the trip!

I've also connected with other Indiana teacher bloggers, who are always there to answer questions and help a sister out!

Bottom line: We're all in this together. Let's be friends. :)

I learned so much in a few short days.
I can't wait to see what this next school year brings and to head back to Vegas next summer to do it all again!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Guided Math Book Study - Chapter 8

Welcome back for Chapter 8 of The Primary Gal's Guided Math Book Study! 

As the title suggests, this chapter focuses on assessment. As we all know, there are two forms of assessment: formative and summative. Summative assessments are usually used at the end of a chapter, unit, grading period, etc. and are often used to determine mastery. Formative assessments are used frequently throughout a unit to give the teacher an idea of student understanding and help to determine where to go next with the lesson. 

A critical part of assessment is the feedback teachers provide students. 
Sammons references Ann Davies and says "descriptive feedback:
*comes during and after the learning
*is easily understood
*is related directly to the learning
*is specific, so performance can improve
*involves choice on the part of the learner as to the type of feedback and how to receive it
*is part of an ongoing conversation about learning
*is in comparison to models, exemplars, samples, or descriptions
*is about the performance or the work - not the person" 

I just attended a workshop yesterday on Professional Learning Communities, and the importance of specific, meaningful, timely feedback was emphasized there, as well. Formative assessment, or assessment FOR learning, can be so powerful for both students and teachers if used correctly and is a defining characteristic of Guided Math. This includes teachers providing feedback and using the assessment data to guide instruction. 

Formative assessments can be as simple as students holding up the number of fingers that represent their understanding of a concept (5 - I get stand can teach it to someone else, 1 - This is totally new to me). Exit slips are also a great tool for formative assessments, as are using dry erase boards for students to hold up their answers to a problem or question, using Activotes or some other type of clicker/device to quickly gauge the understanding in the room, etc. 

I will definitely be using more formative assessments with my kids this year! 

Thanks for reading! Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below, and check back next week for the FINAL chapter of the Guided Math book study!

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Everything's A Dollar!

Just wanted to let you all know about the $1 sale that some of my blogging friends and I are throwing this Wednesday and Thursday! All of the products shown at the bottom of this post are marked down to ONE DOLLAR! You seriously do not want to miss these UNBEATABLE deals! 

Here are the products I have marked down for you:

This pack is my number one seller! It is so versatile and can be used in almost any grade level. You can give it to your kids on the first day of school as a no-pressure writing assessment that you can also use to assess their writing skills, use it as a fun assessment after a writing unit, leave it for a sub, put it in a center, etc. The kids just turn the picture starter into anything they want (I ask my kids to fill up the page), and then they write a narrative (or opinion, persuasive piece, whatever you want) on the back about their picture. Kids love it because they get to be creative, and teachers love it because it's easy to use! 

This pack includes activities to teach the parts of speech we teach in first grade (and is normally $5)! 

I used this toward the end of last year when pool noodles came out, but it would also be a fun review if you teach second grade (while pool noodles are on sale, too)! Use your noodles to teach addition and subtraction with regrouping in math and the four types of sentences in reading! 

And finally is my word wall pack! We use the National Geographic Reach for Reading series, so the words are listed in the order given in that series. Cute star headers included! 

Have fun shopping! Be sure to check out all of the fabulous products below! :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Vegas Trip - Tourist Style!

I decided to split my Vegas experience into two blog posts since I went for two different reasons. So if you're only interested in my teacher experience, stay tuned for that post later this week! This one is a recap of my time spent outside the conferences. 

When I found out that the SDE National Conferences were in Vegas last week, I mentioned it to my husband, who had been trying to convince me to take a trip without the kids for our anniversary for a while. He thought it was a great idea, of course. We hemmed and hawed over it for a couple of weeks and finally decided to go for it. We were both so glad we did! 

 It took everything I had not to burst into tears in the airport. I don't even think I told my dad I loved him when he dropped us off because I could already feel my voice cracking. 

Thankfully, my girls stayed home with my stepmom, where they were happily playing when we left. Otherwise, my husband would have had to peel me off of them to get me out the door.


It's unreal how the city of Las Vegas just appears in the middle of the desert! 

WE MADE IT!! Whew, now we just have to make it back! 

Spoiler Alert: we did. :) 

We made it to the Venetian, which is clearly GORGEOUS, and set off in search of a buffet! 

Nailed it. 

There isn't a buffet restaurant in the Venetian, so we walked next door to The Wynn, and voila. The picture says it all. If you're wishing you had "taste-o-vision" on your screen right now, you're not alone. 

We found some video craps (his back doesn't show it, but he was super excited) and then called it a night. He spent my conference days exploring this and other casinos. I'm not a gambler, so it worked out well.  

On Sunday we spent the morning at the pool then explored the hotel a little bit more. 

Then this happened. 

Carlo's Bake Shop (Cake Boss, anyone??) opened recently in The Venetian, and OMG. 
That big box was mine. 

We needed to walk off some of that deliciousness, so we headed down the strip, bought some surprises for our girls, and decided to ride the High Roller.

Um it's amazing. 

If you're ever in Vegas, do it! And go during the day, when you can have the whole cabin to yourself (plus it's cheaper)! 

Note: I told myself I would not be photographed with my hair in a ponytail while in Vegas. I literally NEVER do my hair in real life, so I vowed to actually fix it every day while we were there. 

Newsflash, Marissa: it's HOT in Vegas. Like too hot for long, thick hair in the middle of the afternoon on the strip. 

So there went that goal. 

 Sunday night we ate at Buddy V's to make it an all Buddy Valastro day (delish!) and then walked down the strip again to the Eiffel Tower at the Paris hotel. We watched the Bellagio fountains from the top. 

Best seats in the house! 

Monday was the 7th anniversary of 7-7-07 (you'd think we would've been lucky in the casinos, too, but not so much), and we found that super thoughtful gift from my dad and stepmom waiting in our room! After spending the day at I Teach 1st! (more on that later), the husband and I took a cab down to the Stratosphere to have our 7th anniversary dinner at Top of the World

As if the incredible views from this rotating restaurant weren't enough, the food was AMAZING. 

 Tuesday was our last day. After the Differentiated Instruction conference (and a nap!), we went to B&B Burger & Beer and then tried to leave with a little extra moolah in our pockets. I'm sure some people left Vegas richer than when they arrived, but not these two. Oh well. We had a great time!! And our first trip away was a success! 

When we got back to our home airport, my mother-in-law was there waiting with our daughters. Even some of the onlookers were crying when my four year old ran up to me yelling, "Mommy!" She did the same thing for her daddy (I didn't wait for him lol) and then insisted on pulling the suitcase to the van. Love that girl. :) 

Be sure to check back again later in the week for the teacher version of the trip! 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Guided Math Book Study - Chapter 7

Welcome back for Chapter 7 of The Primary Gal's Guided Math book study! 

This chapter focused on student conferences during Math Workshop.  

Welcome back for Chapter 7 of The Primary Gal's Guided Math book study! 

This chapter focuses on student conferences during Math Workshop. In the beginning of the chapter, Laney Sammons emphasizes the importance of establishing effective procedures for Math Workshop before you even begin conferring with students. Students should know what they are expected to do during their independent work time, how to access needed materials, and what do to when they have a question or need help (without having to interrupt the teacher). Once these procedures are in place, and Math Workshop is running smoothly, individual math conferences can begin. 

The structure of a conference with a student includes: 

*Research Student Understanding - observe the student working and ask questions to find out what he or she is thinking about the work.
*Decide What Is Needed - determine your teaching point and how you will teach it to the student.
*Teach to Student Needs - use modeling, guided practice, or explicit teaching to correct or extend student understanding. 
*Link to the Future - name what the student has done and learned and remind him or her to continue using the strategy in future math work. 

It is important to confer with students as often as needed and to provide specific, immediate feedback. It is also important to compliment students specifically on what they are doing well so they continue to use those actions in the future. Conferences provide a great opportunity to correct mistakes in student thinking or to challenge those who already understand a particular concept. Each student can be working toward an individual goal. 

Teachers should take notes during each individual conference to keep a record of the students' understanding and the teaching points given. It is important to refer back to these notes to look for patterns or gaps in student understanding and to plan for future conferences. 

I always enjoy conferring with students about their reading, so I am looking forward to initiating math conferences this year as well! 

Thanks for reading, and be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below!

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Guided Math Book Study - Chapter 6

Welcome back for Chapter 6 of The Primary Gal's Guided Math book study! 

This chapter was all about setting up Math Workshop as a part of your Guided Math period. Basically, Math Workshop is what the rest of the class is doing while you are meeting with a small group or conferring with individual kids. 

The "Effective Uses for Math Workshop" she lists include:

*Review of Previously Mastered Concepts
*Math Fact Automaticity
*Math Games
*Problem Solving Practice
*Math Journals
*Computer Use
*Math Related to Other Subject Areas

Sammons includes a chart for these Effective Uses in this chapter, which lists each use, the objective, and some examples of each. For example, some ideas to use for "Math Related to Other Subject Areas" are "math activities tied to current events, science projects, and math connections from social studies, language arts, and science textbooks."

She emphasizes (and I think we can all agree) how important it is for teachers to spend a significant amount of time at the beginning of the year (and several times throughout the year as necessary), teaching procedures for Math Workshop. As I was reading this, I kept thinking about "building stamina" as is described in Daily Five and The CAFE Book by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser. The kids need to know exactly what is expected of them and have time to practice the correct behaviors and procedures before being released to complete the tasks independently. 

Something I DEFINITELY want to use next year are the principles of a "learning community," which actually come from Fountas and Pinnell. These principles are: 

*All members are trusted with rights and responsibilities.
*All members take responsibility for their own learning and for helping others to learn. 
*All members take responsibility for managing their time and activities productively. 
*All members learn self-management as part of the curriculum delivered by the teacher. 
*All members understand that keeping materials in order helps everyone learn.

I love these principles and want to use them for all aspects of my classroom, not just for Guided Math time. 

Thanks for joining me for Chapter 6! Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below and then check out the other great blogs! 

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