Monday, January 30, 2017

This Is What Happens When You Don't Fight Valentine's Day.

This Is What Happens When You Don't Fight Valentine's Day by A Word On Third


Are you ready for it? It's really simple.

IT'S ENJOYABLE AND FUN FOR YOU!

If you are worrying about addressing 12,409 Common Core standards and making sure that all of your Valentine's Day lessons fit into your curriculum and align with your district's sequencing and pacing guide... well, I'll be honest. I don't think that's the best use of your time. Do you?

The kids are going to be excited and all riled up; this is the perfect opportunity to engage them in some fun learning. If you are the kind of teacher who worries when he or she sees his or her kids pick up a crayon... well, stop that right now! I challenge you to step away from the curriculum guide and do what your heart wants to do. Holidays are perfect opportunities for that.

I've got you covered with the basics. First of all, to keep all of your hair in tact, you will want to read my post on keeping calm and focused during the holidays. Click the link below to see all of my tips!


Now, what should you do on Valentine's Day?? I've got you covered. Check out my suggestions for each subject.


1. Reading

I love making sure to do a read aloud with a Valentine's Day theme. Your interactive read aloud can still focus on any skill you want. Have kids stop, think, and retell as you read. Have kids work on coaching partners to be fluent as they read. I don't care what you do, but for goodness sakes, please pick a Valentine's Day book to do it with! It's so much fun!! My favorite book to read on Valentine's Day is Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch. If you don't have that book, your kids can watch it on YouTube with the link below.


Do some shared reading with a Valentine's Day poem all week!

2. Writing

This one's easy... write some Valentine's Day cards! You can talk about words that might be difficult to spell and write them so your students can see them. This is also a nice way to inject some art into your day. Have the kids make cards for their family members at home.

3. Word Study

Even giving the kids 5 minutes to do this is super fun. (You could use this activity in your Morning Meeting too if you wanted to.) Write the words HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY in big words at the top of your chalk board/easel/smart board. Tell the kids to make as many words as they can with the letters in those words. See what they come up with!

4. Morning Meeting

If you want something different than the above activity, I recommend trying a Valentine's Day themed bingo mix. Give each student a bingo board, and in each box, write some criteria down that fit with Valentine's Day. Each student will have to find classmates that meet the criteria inside of the board. For example, the inside of one box might be "loves chocolate." Students then find a student who likes chocolate and writes their name in the box.



If you don't want to make your own, I have a pack of bingo boards that will last you all year, and there is even a Valentine's Day board included in this pack! You can re-use these each year with your class, and you can re-use some of the boards in there a few times a year too! It's less than a dollar. Just click the picture above to see this product in my store.

5. Math

I LOVE logic problems. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them. It's a great way to build problem-solving skills and build confidence without arithmetic getting in the way for anxious mathematicians, and it's a great challenge for your high flyers too! There are tons on Teachers Pay Teachers. I also made one which is differentiated, so you can snag a version good for students from first grade to eighth grade! Just click the picture below.


The premise of the problem involves students putting their teacher's chocolates back into the right spots inside of the chocolate box. It is perfect for active and tactile learners; students will cut out each of the chocolate pieces and move them to their designated spot inside of the chocolate box until they have solved the puzzle. It is a concrete method of solving the puzzle for younger learners who may not be as familiar with logic puzzles. It might even make a nice Valentine's Day display if you hang the finished product up!


I've also seen a lot of cute estimating activities with candy hearts. If you google around for them, you can find a few great free ones! 

6. Science

Two. Words. CANDY. HEARTS. Experiment on those bad boys! Add some iodine to figure out if they have starches present. See if you can figure out the color of the candy heart just by tasting it without seeing it. The possibilities are endless!!


If you are also nervous about what to have your students give to their families as gifts for Valentine's Day, check out 3 easy ideas in my post below.


Happy Valentine's Day, Teachers!! What are you doing with your class on Valentine's Day??


Monday, January 16, 2017

How To Use Data... The Quick And Dirty Way!

How To Use Data... The Quick And Dirty Way! by A Word On Third


Do you ever pre-assess students only to find that you're half-way through a unit of study and you haven't even looked at the pre-assessments yet?

UM, YEAH. PSHHH. ME NEITHER. DUH. That has NEVER happened to me! NEVER EVER EVER. IN FACT, I AM SO HIGHLY EFFECTIVE THAT I GRADE ALL OF MY ASSESSMENTS WHILE STUDENTS ARE TAKING THEM. Yeah!!


...Ok, yes it has happened to me. But only once.


Okay, it has happened more than once!!! And when it happened, I would feel a mix of really negative emotions. I'd think I was ineffective, bad at managing my time, a terrible teacher... the list goes on. Over time, I've figured out how to collect data and USE IT so that it actually helps me to inform my instruction and differentiate. I'll show you how I do it during writing class, and hopefully you can use some of these same strategies in other subject areas too!

First of all, GIVE YOURSELF AMPLE TIME TO LOOK AT YOUR PRE-ASSESSMENTS!!!

Did I make that big enough so you would notice it? This is probably the change that has made the most significant impact on my teaching. I try to give my pre-assessments 4 to 7 days in advance (including weekend time). Therefore, in writing, I give my pre-assessment a minimum of 2 days before we start editing. I can't grade all of those suckers in one day!!! NO WAY!!! Nor do I want to!! After the day I assess my students, we will have 1-2 more days of editing and 1-2 days of publishing and celebrating our writing. (Notice I don't give my class more time to publish--we are all about the process more than the product in our room. I don't mind if our published piece is messy--we can show off all of our learning that way. But! That's another post for another day).

When I'm giving the students a writing pre-assessment, I like to give them a direction sheet with exactly what they are expected to do on it. It might say something like:
"Write the very best realistic fiction piece that you can write. You'll have 40 minutes to complete this and make it your best writing, so you'll need to plan, draft, edit, and revise in that time. Remember to write a beginning, develop your character, use transitional words and phrases, and write an ending for your piece. Use any and all of the tools in the room to help you."
Once you've got your assessments in hand, you can see a LOT about them. Here's a recent writing sample from my class:

How To Use Data... The Quick And Dirty Way! by A Word On Third

I didn't want to put a student's writing on blast, but just looking at this blurry piece, you can see a TON of things that this writer is doing well, even without being able to read the words. This writer is making sure to hit each stage of the writing process when writing her piece. You see that red pen on her paper? That's HER writing! Already, that's one obvious strength of hers.

When I look a pre-assessment, the first thing I do is just read it for pleasure. That's it--a simple read through. Sometimes we can't notice all the awesome things a student is doing in their work without reading over it for fun. Once you've read your piece, make a T-chart on a post-it note and stick it right on his/her writing. I make one that looks like this:

How To Use Data... The Quick And Dirty Way! by A Word On Third

Now, of course on the strengths column, I can write that she edits and revises. She's shown me that clearly on her work. I'm going to write all the things going well that I see. What does your curriculum ask you to teach? If the writer does that, write it down. Write about structure, organization, spelling, grammar, elaboration, craft, knowledge of genre, etc. Then, when you can see everything the writer IS doing already, what do you think the writer's next step is? Building on a writer's strengths instead of panicking and trying to fix what you perceive as a weakness will help you move your writer along much, much faster.


Now after I've looked over each student, I say think about a few things:
  • Are there any lessons that I don't have to teach because all (or most) of my students are already doing it? If so, great. You earned yourself an extra day to teach something new. I'm guessing there's got to be at least ONE thing your students don't need you to teach them. If, say, 16 out of 20 kids know something, then just teach the other 4 students that skill in a small group.
  • Are there any things most of my students have listed as a next step? Perhaps that will be a mini-lesson on it's own.
  • How can I form small groups? I like to teach kids in small groups of no more than 5. If I have more than 5 kids working on something in a small group, I either teach two small groups or I reconsider if my whole class might need that lesson. 
Usually when I plan small groups for writing, I will just jot all of these things down on a paper:
  • Introduction
  • Conclusion
  • Structure
  • Organization
  • Elaboration
  • Craft
  • Grammar
I probably write a few other things down too. Then, I flip through each pre-assessment and check the strengths/next step post-it. If the student's next steps have to do with crafting, elaboration, etc, I write their names down on that list next to that category. This list becomes my small group instruction list.

Viola! I'm pretty much done now! I will use more data that I get from small groups and conferences, but I have used my pre-assessment data in a way that's meaningful and efficient for me. I could go crazy circling a million rubrics and making a check-list and scoring each child and color-coding... but the truth is, I just don't have time for that. This system is not as pretty or Pinterest-worthy, but it WORKS and it gives me more time to TEACH and PLAN INSTRUCTION. That is a much better use of my time if you ask me!

So what are your hacks for using data to drive your instruction without going crazy and pulling all of your hard-grown hair out!? Comment below!!