Friday, June 26, 2015

Five for Friday

Good Morning!

This morning I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for her Five for Friday linky party.

So this was a big week in our house. My sweet 1 year old daughter has been sleeping in our room since March. She was sick every few days the last three months of school so we just kept her in our room since her room is on the other side of the house. Well that changed this past weekend. Our sweet girl is finally back in her crib sleeping the nights away. Now if I can just get the fur baby (90 lb golden retriever) out of the bed we will be sleeping peacefully again.
I was able to completely redo one of my favorite units. I have so much more clip art now that it was really fun to go back and make my Johnny Appleseed product look nicer. It also motivated me to go back and start updating the products that I put on TpT preclipart and boy do those products need a little TLC. I am excited to see how different and more professional they look when I am finished.
I had the privilege of spending the afternoon with some amazing Arizona teachers at the AZ Teachers Brunch and Bubbly. It is humbling to be a part of a group with so many creative and talented women. I am learning so much from them and I look forward to all the things they will be able to teach me about TpT and blogging.
I got to spend another week at home with my sweet girl. My favorite part of summer vacation has been being a stay at home mommy. I love spending time with her even on those challenging tantrum filled days. I will definitely have a hard time going back in August. I love my job, but I also love being a stay at home mommy.
I love music and I love Christian music. My sweet girl and I jam to Air 1 whenever we are in the car. This is another one of my recent favorites. Enjoy!



Ashley

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 4

Hello!

This afternoon I am linking up with The Primary Gal for chapter 4 of Learn Like a Pirate.
I love the focus of this chapter: improvement focus vs. grade focus. My teaching partner and I have been trying to move away from the heavy focus on grades. We teach first grade and it is hard to see our kiddos getting letter grades and OSN's. We would love to send something different home to parents (more skills based) since we know that something has to go home. We just haven't quite figured out what that is yet. Hopefully we will be able to come up with something that we can get approved so that we can eliminate extrinsic forces like those Solarz states below.
I work in an affluent area so I hear students talk about rewards or punishments that they receive based on their grades. For starters, I still can't believe that I hear it from my little firsties. They should not be paying attention at all to their grades. They should only be focused on learning and having fun. When a reward or a consequence is applied to their grades then they are only working hard to receive the reward or avoid the consequence. I want them to work hard because they want to learn and because they are having fun learning.
To ensure that our students are learning we need to be present. We need to make sure that we are walking around listening and observing so that we know what our students are thinking. It enables us to give them the feedback they need to understand better and make their learning more effective. This is so important no matter what grade level we teach. Being present will also help us guide students through conflicts or observe as they use a strategy that we have taught them to solve a conflict. Either way observation, being present, is important for us as teachers. 

These were my two most prominent thoughts from this chapter. Solarz also discussed a really fabulous idea called ePortfolios, but unfortunately I don't see that as being something my little firsties could handle at their age. I think its a brilliant idea for older grades though. Having students write their assignments and reflections on a blog so that peers, teachers, etc. can read it is fabulous. Although as I watch my one year old figure out how to unlock my iPhone and play music (who would have thought) I can't help but wonder if sometime in the future my firsties will be doing something like an ePortfolio. Either way coming up with some form of reflection for my class will be something I look into for this next year. I like how it gets them to think more about what they are learning. 

Thank you for letting me share my thoughts. Have a wonderful evening!

Ashley

TpT Seller Challenge: Week 2

Good Morning!

This morning I am finally linking up with Sparkling in Second, Third in Hollywood, Teach Create Motivate, and Peppy Zesty Teacherista for the TpT Seller's Week 2 challenge. This week's challenge is about what our dreams are for the money we make from TpT. I definitely do not make much on TpT but in my dream world this is what I would do with more money earned.
 Family: My husband, daughter, and pup are my world. We are on our own, aside from amazing friends, here in AZ so we are always together. Budgets are tight given that both my hubby and I work in education so it would be amazing to be able to use money for nights out to dinner, movies, parks and events for the little one, more grooming days for the fur baby and much more. I would love to be able to spoil my little family, even just a little.

Savings: This last year has been quite the demonstration of how nice it is to have a savings when things come up. I would love to build it up more and create a larger cushion for any more expensive life moments. It would just be nice to have that beautiful peace of mind.

Travel: Both my family and my husband's family live in California. We don't get to travel there as often as we would like, especially now that we have our daughter. We would love to have money set aside to be able to just decide to head out to SoCal for a three day weekend or for special events. Right now we typically only travel for major holidays and the really large special events like weddings and such. Traveling more would allow for our daughter to know her amazing grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. We really would love to be able to give that to her since both of us grew up with all of that craziness.

Help: I would love to be able to provide products that help other teachers the way I have been helped. I am only in my eighth year of teaching but the blogs that I follow and the products that I have purchased from TpT have helped me so much on my teaching journey that I would love to be able to help others in their journey. It would mean so much to me to be able to give to others what they have given to me.

This is a tall order for my little store but in a dream world anything is possible. We will see throughout my journey how much comes true. Have a wonderful day and thanks for reading my thoughts.

Ashley


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Teaching with Intention: Chapter 4

Hi Everyone!

Tonight I am linking up with Schroeder Shenanigans in Second , Positively Learning, and Kindergarten Smorgasboard for chapter 4 of Teaching with Intention. Our wonderful hosts gave us two questions to help guide our thoughts on this chapter.
 
This has been a very eye opening book for me and this chapter is no exception. Thinking about my classroom culture was interesting. Looking back at this school year I don't feel like I displayed my thinking in all areas like I should have been. Reading and Math are the areas where I share the most and where I encourage students to share the most. We discuss stories and what we think about them as we break them apart. We talk through different ways to solve a problem or what tools we can use to solve a problem. We write things down a lot in our journals or on our desks. Most of those are not displayed so this next year I will need to make sure that more of these moments are displayed in the classroom for them. Only a few activities each month were posted in the classroom. All the other subjects will need to be improved upon when it comes to more thinking being displayed by myself and my kiddos.

To help us with displaying our thinking and our students thinking Miller gives a lot of scenario examples. I loved it. In here examples she words everything so wonderfully and she makes them think through everything and say their thoughts out loud. I also loved how she handled the attention seeker students. I have met the sweet kiddos who will be in my class already and I can see a few who have the potential to be that attention seeker who will say anything whether it is on topic or not. Asking students to provide evidence for their statements is perfect. I wish I could say that I had been smart enough in the past to do that with those attention seeker students. I believe that I responded mostly with a little frustration because they were not paying attention. That will change this year.

Throughout this next school year I will also make sure that I am present more. I walk around observing and helping pretty often. I am rarely at my desk, but there are still too many times that I can remember where the assessments, meetings, tests, technology problems, and all the other craziness distracted me from being present with my students 100% of the time. I think this will be the hardest thing for me to work on because I can be easily distracted with the tech issues that my classroom has and unfortunately there are a lot. It will be worth it in the end to make sure that I am present more. It will help me display my thoughts to my students more often when they are partnered or in groups. 
 
During our reading time we discuss the stories. We stop every couple of pages and start by discussing Who and What. From there we talk about why we think things are happening, what we think will happen next, what characters are thinking, etc. I love hearing their comments. Some are very out there and some are really in depth for such young minds. It makes the stories more interesting to me. This is probably where the most discussion happens, well here and devotion/Bible story times.

We also discuss a lot in math. I had the privilege of teaching Singapore math for a year and fell in love. It opened up a whole new way of teaching math. I loved how much it made the kids and myself think about the methods of solving and how many different ways a problem could be solved. I think it made kids more open and creative in the way they look at math. I no longer teach Singapore but I still use a lot of the strategies in my room which leads to lots of discussions on how things can be solved, number talks, etc.

Other subjects are not as open as reading and math but discussion do happen is smaller capacities. This will definitely be something to work on for this next school year. 
Thanks for reading my thoughts on chapter 4. I look forward to reading your thoughts!
Ashley


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Mindsets in the Classroom: Chapter 9

Good Morning!

Today I will be sharing my thoughts on Chapter 9 of Mindsets in the Classroom over on the Hello Sunshine blog. I encourage you to head over there and link up with us. We would love to know your thoughts on Maintaining a Growth Mindset School Culture.

Ashley

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mindsets in the Classrom: Chapter 8

Good Evening!

Normally I would not be writing on a holiday but my sweet girl and her wonderful daddy are both napping so I have little free time. I am writing tonight about chapter 8 of Mindsets in the Classroom and I will be linking up with the ladies at Hello Sunshine as well.

 This was an awesome chapter. It had so many wonderful lessons and books for all grade levels that we can use in our classrooms to teach our students about the brain and growth mindsets. She gives us ideas for everything from preassessments to teaching growth mindset terminology. I thought I would share two of my favorite ideas with you that I will be using during our first week of school this year.

 She gave the example of using thread, yarn, and rope to show how neural connections grow when we continue to work at something new. Thread is the first stage of the connection. As you practice more and get better at the concept your connection grows which is represented by the yarn. Once your continue practicing and reach mastery your connection is even stronger and is now represented by the rope. She also used the thread to demonstrate how a connection can stay thin and frail or even break if we do not keep trying to learn and make that connection stronger. What a simple, engaging activity to help young elementary students understand how neurons build connections and grow stronger as we learn and practice each new concept. 

She also used a clip from Meet the Robinson's to help students understand that failure isn't the end of something; it is only the beginning. It's something to celebrate because we discovered a way that something doesn't work. Now we look at the problem again and see if we can find a new path for solving it. This is such an important lesson that I think all classes should start with at the beginning of a school year. Students need to know and understand that failing at something is not the end and they need to know that their teachers and classmates will be their to help them find another path to learning the lesson. She includes a list of discussion questions for the middle of the clip and the end of the clip to help with your discussion on failure. I think that young kids would love this and learn from it. Besides, what little kid doesn't remember a cartoon? I've included the clip below.

Remember: KEEP MOVING FORWARD!!

I would love to read your thoughts on this outstanding, idea packed chapter. Link up with us at Hello Sunshine if you can.

Ashley

Friday, June 19, 2015

Five for Friday

Good Morning Everyone!

This morning I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday.

This week my sweet girl and I had a lot of fun shopping together. I picked up a bunch of new bins in my room colors (bright blue and green). I am really excited to put new labels on these and start organizing my classroom. 

We received an invitation to my Aunt and Uncle's 20th wedding anniversary vow renewal. We are so excited and happy for them. We are also excited that my mom will be coming for a visit that weekend to see her adorable granddaughter and watch her step sister renew her vows. It will be an awesome weekend!

I had a lot of fun beginning to makeover my old TpT products. I have quite a few that were posted before I had my large clip art collection. I have 2 completely done and am working on my third one now. They are looking so much better!!

I was blessed to have a dinner with some great friends last night. They are such amazing women and I am truly blessed to call them friends. They bring so much to my life and my daughter's life. I look forward to all the times we will share in the future. 

Every time this song came on the radio I would feel so much calmer so I thought I would share it with you all. Its a wonderful reminder that we never walk alone. It is also wonderful to see my daughter's face light up when this song comes on. 

Ashley

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 3

Good Afternoon!
I am returning today to link up with The Primary Gal for chapter 3 of Learn Like a Pirate. This chapter had a lot of great information on peer collaboration.  

The part of my personality that feels the need to control everything was twitching throughout this entire chapter. I loved what he had to say but at the same time I know it will be a challenge for me. I am always hovering over my kiddos ready to jump in if a problem arises. I can't think of too many situations where I let my kiddos handle their own conflicts. Most of the time I worked with that group, separated them, assigned them to different partners, you get the idea. But I like the idea of teaching them strategies to handle their own conflicts without me hovering over them. It is definitely a skill they need to learn and as Solarz is gently pointing out, letting go is something I need to learn how to do in a much greater way so that I can be a more effective teacher to my kiddos. 

I love the strategies he gave to help students solve their conflicts. The first was Rock, Paper, Scissors. I can remember playing that in grade school or with my cousins because we were trying to solve a problem. I never thought to use it in the classroom but it is such a simple one to start with that most kids already know. The second strategy is compromise. Teaching my kiddos to take ideas from each other and find a way to combine them may take a little time but in the long wrong it will lead to some creative, independent thought. My favorite is Choose Kind. I love this one. It teaches students that you both have good ideas but your choosing to let another member of the team lead because it is a kind thing to do. I think all kids and even adults good benefit from this one. It also teaches them to respect each other and each others ideas. That is an awesome lesson for kids, even my little firsties, to learn. 

As a final thought, I love Solarz's statement, "Our differences help us grow and change and experience new things." This is so true. When our students collaborate in groups or with partners they will learn so much from each other because they all approach things differently. Their differences will make each other stronger and more effective learners. 

My students and I will be embracing many new things together next year. Letting go of this much control will definitely be an adventure for me but it is one that I am looking forward to. Talk to you all next week for chapter 4. 

Ashley
















Mindsets in the Classroom: Chapter 7

Good Morning!

This morning I am linking up with Hello Sunshine for chapter 7 of Mindset in the Classroom.


I like the way that this chapter approaches the gifted title. It really points out a good way to look at the potential that all our students have and that this potential never ends. 

"Too much emphasis on who is gifted creates kids who think they have to be infallible." - Carol Dweck.

Telling a child they are gifted or they are so smart is setting them up to have a fixed mindset. Ricci also points out that it can make these kids into perfectionists which is not a good thing. Kids that have that mentality tend to avoid risks or challenges because they don't want to fail. This is not the mindset that we want our students to have. We want them to look at failure as a learning experience. We want them to keep trying, to face challenges with the thought that they can figure it out as long as they keep trying. This is where the growth mindset comes in. By continually praising their efforts instead only praising their success they learn that it is all about trying. This helps those students who truly do fall in that gifted category remain students who are willing to work hard and keep trying to work through challenges. I love the quote she uses by Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius, and Worrell, "What determines whether individuals are gifted or not is not what they are but what they do."

One thing that should never change is how we look at our students. All students have potential. All students can achieve great things if they are given the opportunities and the encouragement to keep reaching for the next level. So it comes down to us making sure that we provide our students with what they need to the very best of our abilities. 

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on this chapter. Link up with us at Hello Sunshine if you are able to. We would love to know your thoughts on the chapter as well. 

Ashley

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Teaching with Intention: Chapter 3

Hello!
This morning I am excited to be linking up with Surfin' Through Second, The Learning Chambers, and Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching for Chapter 3 of Teaching with Intention.

Chapter 3 was all about the environment we create in our classrooms. She posed a lot of questions in this chapter that really had me thinking about my room and what I want to keep or change for this next school year.

One thing I know for sure that needs to be changed is organization. I thought I was pretty organized until this year and I was a new mom out a lot with a sick baby. You realize how much more organization needs to happen in your room when you have subs in your room as often as I had to have this year. Kids know where supplies and basic materials they use are but when it comes to my centers and teaching materials they are organized for me, not necessarily for someone else to locate things. I have already started labels for just about everything in my room so we are off to a good start.

I am also excited to change the set up of my room. I want more comfy work areas for my kiddos instead of the main focus being desks. I would also like to spread out my reading bins a little more and expand our meeting area. I don't have any pics right now. They are cleaning the carpets in our rooms so everything is stacked in corners and on shelves. Hopefully we will be allowed in next week to start setting things up and I can begin sharing about all the changes happening.

Make sure to check out our three leaders this week. There links are up at the top. Until next week : )

Ashley









Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Mindsets in the Classroom: Chapter 6

Good Morning!

Today I am coming to you with my thoughts on chapter 6 of Mindsets in the Classroom. I will be linking up with the ladies of Hello Sunshine. Join us if you can.


In this chapter Ricci discusses the importance of keeping the parents connected with the growth mindset you are creating in the classroom. She also stresses the importance of encouraging them to use the same language at home. Our students need to hear praise for their efforts from parents and teachers. It helps to build their resiliency. To help with this she gives 4 steps that we can all follow.

1.Use growth mindset praise - make sure that you are praising their efforts and attempts instead of only praising the successes. She offers sample newsletter blurbs that we can reference when sending information home to parents about the language we use in the classroom and its impact on the kids.

2. Model Flexibility - Children are not naturally flexible when it comes to a change in routine, when something goes wrong, or a change of plans. This is something that they learn. One of the ways that they learn this is through observing parents as well as teachers and how they respond to these moments. They need to see us face these situations with grace, calmness, and a mindset that is prepared to try a new approach. This will help them learn to be flexible and to teach them more about the importance of a growth mindset.

3. Adopt a "glass half full" mentality in the home - Adopting this mentality will teach children to find a positive in the situations they face. "A child with "hope" believes there can be a positive side to most situations." - Mary Cay Ricci. This needs to be modeled by parents as well as teachers, with their words and their actions. Our children need to see us face all the challenges that we face with a positive attitude as well as an attitude that is prepared to try a different approach.

4. Help children find their own niche. - Our children need every opportunity to explore the options that the world has for them. They need the chance to find that area that they can really thrive in. Finding that are helps them to develop confidence in themselves and their abilities.

I love that she gave these four steps as well as the sample newsletters. I feel that these are things that parents and teachers should always be modeling for the kids in our lives. We want them to grow up to be successful and ready to face all the challenges that come their way. These are simple ways that we can help them along their journey.

I hope you are enjoying this book study and all the wonderful lessons it has to offer. Talk to you again Thursday for chapter 7.

Ashley


Monday, June 15, 2015

TPT Sellers Challenge: Week 1 (Makeover Madness)

Hi Everyone!

So I have joined the TpT Sellers Challenge this summer. Our week one assignment was to makeover a free or paid product. I have several products on my list that will be receiving makeovers this summer just because they were made before I had the crazy collection of awesome clip art that I have now. The one I finished today is one of my free products that I use at the beginning of the school year. I have a bottle of bubbles tied with a cute tag waiting for my new kiddos on their desk when they come to school. The tags were rather sad looking but thanks to the adorable Bubbles clip art from Educlips I think they look much better and I am excited to use them. This is just one of several pages. I hope to makeover a few more files this week as well.


Along with making over this file I also figured out Bloglovin' and got that all set up. I am learning so many new things on this journey and I have a feeling this challenge will have me learning even more. You can follow it here if you choose to.

See you next week for challenge number2!!

Ashley

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Mindsets in the Classroom: Chapter 5

Good Morning Everyone!

I am coming to you this morning with thoughts on Chapter 5 of Mindsets in the classroom.


This chapter is all about failure and how we handle it. If we have a growth mindset we are able to view failure as an opportunity to learn and try different strategies. If we have a fixed mindset than we view failure as a failure and make the assumption that we just can't do that activity or are not smart in that subject. 

Kids can get into the fixed mindset very early in their academic career. As teachers we need to make sure that our classrooms and the way we teach, embrace failure as a learning moment for our students. They need to feel safe and encouraged so that when they do make mistakes they know that they can turn to a peer or a teacher and they will offer encouragement and helpful strategies to face the challenge in a new way. If we have this growth mindset and view of failure in the classroom we will be teaching our students to be risk takers in their learning which can lead to great things. Walt Disney would be an excellent example of this. I love the quote Ricci used from Disney, "Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things because we're curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." New adventures await all of us when we embrace the growth mindset and continue to take risks in our learning. 

A final thought is that we need to make sure we are motivating them correctly. We need to make sure we are focusing on intrinsic rewards for these foster the growth mindset and teach them to focus on that positive feeling we get when we accomplish something. Extrinsic rewards are temporary and they don't encourage students to keep pushing forward. It tells them that they can stop as soon as they reach the reward level that was set in place. As teachers we want them to keep moving forward and extrinsic rewards are not going to make that happen. This will be something that I need to work on this next year. I have a tendency to offer extrinsic rewards to encourage my students to reach a goal and that is not teaching them the importance of their hard work leading to accomplishments.

I enjoyed this chapter and I am looking forward to chapter 6. I hope you are able to join. Make sure to link up with us every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at Hello Sunshine!

Ashley



Friday, June 12, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate: Chapter 2



Good Morning!

I am back again to link up with The Primary Gal for the second chapter of Learn Like a Pirate.
I felt like this chapter was speaking directly to me. It had all of my concerns about a student led classroom very clearly stated; the first two being my biggest concerns. I am definitely a control freak. I am that person who has to have things in their place, color coated, labeled, taught or led a specific way, etc. The idea of giving over control to my little firsties, no matter how cute and capable they are, is terrifying to me. I have gotten better with this over the last two years as we transitioned to Daily 5 but this will still be the area I will need to work on the most because I do want them to be risk takers, to try new things when it comes to problem solving and creating. 

A second area of concern is with failure. I don't handle that well. I don't like when I fail at something that affects my students. I don't like when they are at the other end. It makes them seem like little guinea pigs. Solarz makes an excellent point here though. Those moments of failure are excellent teaching moments. Students need to see their teachers handle mistakes gracefully and they need to see it demonstrated as a learning experience so they can do the same with their mistakes as they travel through their education. 

One line that he uses towards the end of the chapter stuck with me. He says; "...children learn best when they are encouraged and empowered to explore their passions and curiosities." This is so true. We need to give them those opportunities to be challenged, make mistakes, and learn from them. They need to explore in their learning. Being hands on and presenting what they have learned to their classmates is a way that they can be encouraged and empowered in the classroom. When we give them that freedom they develop the confidence they need to dive into their passions and the many things they are curious about. It brings learning to life in the classroom. Hopefully by reminding myself of this each day I will be able to let go a lot more so that I can make my student led classroom a success. 

Have a happy Friday!

Ashley



Thursday, June 11, 2015

Mindsets in the Classroom: Chapter 4

Good Evening,

I am returning this evening to link up with Hello Sunshine for chapter 4 of Mindsets in the Classroom.


Critical thinking is an important part of a growth mindset classroom. There are three types of critical thinking: reasoning, making judgements/decisions, and problem solving. As Ricci points out we use all three daily but not always at the critical thinking level. Critical thinking is a deeper level of thought then the decision on what you wear or eat for breakfast in the morning. It is also not a skill that can be mastered. It is something that is constantly growing and changing as we grow and develop more strategies for deeper thinking and problem solving. 

Challenging our students with critical thinking questions is so important. They need to have questions and activities that make them interpret information and figure out ways to problem solve. As I was reading this chapter I was thinking about times when we have done this in our classroom. One way is through number talks. I was introduced to these earlier in the school and loved them. It was interesting to see the different ways that students looked at numbers and represented them. We also did a lot of problem solving in our math journals. Towards the end of the year we did a lot more in reading. We began talking about what lessons we thought the author wanted us to learn from our stories. That led to some very interesting discussions from my little firsties, but they need those opportunities to think through problems and stories to interpret information and figure things out.

My favorite line in this chapter is the last one by Ricci; "We can expect students to embrace challenge only if we make it available to them on a consistent basis." I completely agree. They need the challenge of critical thinking questions and activities on a daily basis. They need the ability to expand their thinking to realize that when they keep trying they can figure the problem out which helps them develop the growth mindset. 

Well, that's all for tonight! Have a wonderful evening!

Ashley

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Teaching with Intention: Chapter 2

Hi!

This evening I am linking up with Flying into First Grade, The Primary Gal, and Mrs. Dailey's Classroom discuss chapter 2 of Teaching with Intention. These awesome ladies are the hosts for this week and they have come up with some guiding questions to help lead our discussion. If you haven't joined this study yet, I encourage you to do so. I love love love this book!

 

If you haven't joined this study yet, I encourage you to do so. I love love love this book! In this chapter she has us looking at our teaching. Do we practice what we preach? Really deep thought for the second chapter but a great one. 


Well, we discussed this in greater detail with the first chapter, but it has been something that I have been thinking about a great deal. I know that no matter what I teach I want my classroom to bright, cheerful, inviting, happy, and full of learning. I want people to walk in and see evidence of student learning in the groups of kids working all over the room as well as in the decor on the walls. I want my students work to be the primary decor for my room. They need to be able to see and feel proud of their accomplishments. I also realize that this takes time to build. I also want to be organized, almost obsessively so that my students and I can find anything we need without frustration. I work with first grades so working in groups will take time and practice. Getting work on the walls will also take time and lots of learning experiences need to happen first.

I also realize that this next year of teaching will be a very defining year for me after reading this book. It will be the year that I ensure that I am actually practicing what I preach. That my beliefs are being displayed for students, coworkers , and parents in the way that I interact with students and the way that my classroom runs. It will be the time that I make sure that the ideal room I have been working on creating in reality works the way it should. I believe that the fifteen minutes of reflection that Miller mentions in this chapter will come in handy.


I believe that a classroom should be inviting and organized. Students, teachers, and anyone else who walk into the classroom need to feel welcome and be able to find any materials they may be in need of without frustration. I think that this helps students feel ownership in their room if they know where things are that they can access them when needed.

I believe that my students should feel safe and comfortable in their classroom. They should know by their teacher's words and actions that they are loved and respected. They will not be teased or made fun of for wrong answers, clothing they wear, things they like, etc.

I believe that students should be engaged in learning. They need to be a part of the learning that is happening. It needs to be presented in a way that makes them enjoy learning. Having students work in groups and giving them choices on the groups they work in helps with this. 

Thanks for reading through my thoughts on this chapter. See you next week for chapter 3. 

Ashley

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Mindsets in the Classroom: Chapter 3

Good Evening!

I am back again today to bring my thoughts on chapter 3 of Mindsets in the Classroom. I will also be linking up with the lovely ladies at Hello Sunshine. If you haven't joined us yet I encourage you to do so. This is an amazing book!

This was a very large chapter but it was filled with lots of great information that I found very helpful. I am blessed to work in a private school and have always had small class sizes. This has allowed me to be very flexible in how I teach. This past year I taught reading and math in groups with whole group mini lessons. It was a rough start but we made it into a functional system that the kids seemed to enjoy. After reading this chapter I have so many things I want to change about how I made the groups and how I assessed for them.

She began by discussing previewing and preassessing. I have always done assessments at the beginning of new units but I had never thought to preview the material ahead of time, other than just telling them what the assessment was on. Ricci states that 5-10 minutes of previewing can help a student unlock prior knowledge so that they can give their teacher a better reflection of their understanding on a topic. 

These preassessments are such an important part of a differentiation. They show you where students are struggling and what they already know.  These can also help you place students in correct groupings that will help them with their struggles and challenge them at the same time. She stressed that you must only measure their understanding in the areas that you are assessing. So if it isn't a spelling assessment, don't worry about the spelling. This is something that I am guilty of but more when it comes to grammar. She also stresses the importance of using different formats and effective questions. I like using different formats because I find it fascinating how my little firsties think. 

Assessing the data that these assessments bring forth is important. I typically create a graph with what was assessed and the names of the kids who struggled. This way I can find overlaps a little easier. This is also what I use when I create my groups. I tend to change my groups every nine weeks in reading because we run several formative assessments to see how they are doing. That usually results in adjustments. I love being flexible in my groups. It was difficult for my at first but once I got a little better at it I was able to see how much more my students learned. I also had fewer behavior issues doing this because my groups were changing and students figured out that eventually they would probably end up with a friend. Math changed a little more often because we use Saxon math so concepts go by very quickly and I need to switch a lot more to help students out. 

One thing that I will always need to work on is management. Every class is so different and the way they handle things is different. I need to make sure that my expectations are posted and very clear when they are in groups.

One of the things she closes the chapter with is the importance of formative assessments. I never used to do a lot of these but I have changed the way I teach so much over the last few years that now I do quite a few. I like having my kids write answers on the Promethean board because it focuses their attention and it allows me to see what they know and what they don't. It also is very casual to them because I usually allow them to call for classmate help if they get stuck. We also do games to help us test our knowledge on a subject. My class this past year loved Around the World. We  must have played that in every subject. They enjoyed it and I got to see who knew the information and who didn't. I feel that I need to work more on the enrichment side of things though. I definitely did not do as well as I would like in this area last year. I struggle with ideas for solid enrichment ideas that are not always worksheet based. It is one of my goals for this summer and next school year to find better enrichment activities. 

One thing that I have never done before but would like to do this year is exit slips. I like the idea of giving the kiddos a question at the end of every class about the topic we covered to see what they learned.

Well that is all for now. Talk to you all again tomorrow with the awesome chapter 2 of Teaching with Intention.

Ashley




Monday, June 8, 2015

Mindsets in the Classroom: Chapter 2

Hi Everyone!

Today we get to look at chapter 2 of the awesome book Mindsets in the Classroom and I will be linking up with the lovely ladies at Hello Sunshine for this.


In this chapter Mary Cay Ricci gives steps on how to build a growth mindset school culture. I focused a lot on the 5th step which was all about teaching students more about the brain. I think I focused in on this more than the others because I will be teaching science this year with a curriculum that doesn't teach my little firsties anything about the human body which is definitely an important piece. 

 If you read the study that Ricci mentions in this section that was conducted by Marshall and Comalli you can see how important it is to start introducing how our actions and senses are controlled by the brain. Students learning about the brain as early as preschool helps them understand how much their brain really does and really helps them as they develop a growth mindset. They need to understand that with effort your brain can make new connections and learn anything. I use a lot of Magic School Bus books and episodes in science lessons and their are some really good ones that can help teach students about five senses and brain connections. I like The Magic School Bus: Explores the Senses. Sqool Tube also has several kid friendly videos all about the nervous system that you could use in a mini lesson.

Teaching lessons on the brain to your students will also help us teachers become more familiar with the brain and how all these connections are made. It is just as important for us to learn as it is for our students. We need to make sure that we understand so that we can let go of our fixed mindset and embrace a growth mindset just like we are asking our students to do .

As you teach these lessons, send notes home to parents about what you are doing in class. This will help to educate them as well. They need to change their fixed mindsets and learn to encourage the growth mindset that you are building in their students. It is important to work as a team because students need to hear the encouragement on their efforts from everyone around them.

Well, that is all for now. I hope you all are enjoying this book as much as I am.

Ashley

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mindsets in the Classroom: Chapter 1

Good morning!

So I am back again with another post. I believe this is officially the most time I have spent on my blog since I received a little encouragement last year to get it started again. I guess old dogs can learn new tricks : ) Anyway this morning I am linking up with my lovely friends over at Hello Sunshine for the Mindsets in the Classroom book study.

My statement at the top about old dogs learning new tricks actually ties in quite nicely to chapter 1. Those who have a fixed mindset get stuck with the idea that there are just some things that they will never be good at or some things that they will never be able to do. I am definitely one of those people, but the fact that I am writing this blog post shows that I was wrong when I believed that I could never be a blogger and talk with other teachers across the nation because technology and I do not always get along. An amazing friend convinced me I could do it and has helped me learn along the way. We need to be that person for our students. We need to encourage them and show them that there is nothing that they can not learn. They don't need to learn it quickly. All that matters is the effort that they take to learn it. If they put in the effort they will make it.

Thanks for letting me share!

Ashley

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate: The Student Led Classroom


Hello Again!

Several of my coworkers/friends and I are doing three book studies this summer: Teaching with Intention, Learn like Pirate, and Mindsets in the Classroom. There will be a lot of learning and growing as an educator for me this summer.

Earlier today I posted my thoughts on the first chapter of Teaching with Intention. Now I am partnering up with The Primary Gal for the first section of Learn Like a Pirate.

 

The first part of this book is very eye opening. I am intrigued by Paul Solarz's description of his classroom. I know that I may not be able to completely accomplish that as I am a first grade teacher but I would love to have my firsties become more independent. 

I am always willing to try new things but I also tend to feel like I have failed if it isn't successful right away. Just that perfectionist side of my personality coming out which is why I am happy that he stressed that this isn't something that happens overnight, that it takes time and work to develop this within the classroom. I will need to read that sentence a lot.

With the way that I structure my room now I think that I have a small start to making a student led classroom. When I talked about my thoughts for chapter 1 of Teaching with Intention I mentioned that I have spent time moving away from whole class lessons and working more with groups and mini lessons. I still need to work on this and give my students more group time and more freedom within the groups. I still try to control the groups too much. I need to work on stepping back and letting them work their way through the activity or problem and only use me as a guide if necessary. 

One more thought I liked is his statement about how this will only be "effective if the students feel safe, appreciated, and and connected to their teacher." This is such a true statement! Kids need to make a connection with you in order for learning to happen and the connection only happens when they feel safe and appreciated. I am blessed to work in a private school so my class size has never been higher than 20 which makes it really easy to get to know a lot about your students and their daily lives. Because we are a small campus I also have daily opportunities to interact with the kindergartners and students I have had in the past. This allows me lots of opportunities to build relationships with those coming up, those in my room, and those I have already had. It makes coming to first grade a lot easier since the kids already know myself and my teaching partner. I think it will help us a great deal as we make our classrooms more student led this next school year.

Looking forward to the next chapter next week!

Ashley

Teaching with Intention: Chapter 1

 

I am having one of those weeks where I am ten steps behind everything. Yesterday the book study with Greg from Kindergarten Smorgasboard, Teaching with Intention began. The first chapter was all about what our ideal classroom would like.  This was the perfect thing to start with. This year I will only be teaching math, science, social studies, handwriting, and Bible so the way my room looks and is structured will need to change.

My ideal classroom for my little firsties has a lot of open space. I am not a big fan of little ones spending a lot of time in desks so I would prefer to have several tables to use as workstations. Then kids could work at those or on the floor. I feel that kids need to have some say in how they work, especially when they are so young and are full of the wiggles. This comes with a higher noise level but I don't mind as long as their is learning going on.

The room would also be full of bright colors. Bright colors make me feel happy and I think that they would have the same effect on my little guys. I would also like to have lots of work displayed. They should be able to look all over the room and see stuff they have learned and created. I want them to develop a sense of pride in their work and I think seeing it displayed helps with that. 
          

In my ideal classroom the students would be working independently, in small groups with peers, or with the teacher in a small group. I wouldn't spend a whole lot of time whole class teaching. Kids this little don't have the focus for that and I think they learn better when they are actively creating or using something to help them understand a concept. Listening to me talk continuously isn't going to help anyone. 

I would be either working with a small group who is struggling with something or walking around the room assisting groups as they work through whatever activity we are working on. 
For the last two years I have worked on moving away from whole class instruction all the time and moving to mini lessons and then group or center work. I have also been working on creating more hands on and interactive activities for them to help them understand lessons. This last year was probably the most hands on my classroom has been and I loved it. I had groups all over the room a lot of the time. This resulted in a lot of noise but we were having fun learning. 
I really need to work more on organization.This last year  I was a new mom working full time so I feel like I just shoved things in cupboards and drawers because of a lack of time and sleep. Now its time to deal with all my hidden stashes. I am hoping it will be easier now that I only have a few subjects.

I would also like to add more seating alternatives to my room. I have one table and desks and then lots of floor space. I would like more options so kids don't feel like they need to either sit on the floor or at a desk. I am not sure what that will look like yet but I am open to ideas. 

I would also love to change the lighting in my room. I don't get very much outside light in my room so I have to rely on the overhead lights which just seem to bright and half the time are flickering. I usually only turn half of them on and that helps a little but I will be looking into a few lamps. My teaching partner has a few in her room and I love the vibe they give the room. 

I am so looking forward to the rest of the book and all the changes that are happening in the way that I view my classroom and teaching. Its going to be a great summer of learning and a great year a changes. I hope you can join us on this adventure. 

Ashley

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Together We are Better: Office Space

 
Hi Everyone!

Today I am linking up with Shroeder Shenanigans in Second and Lucky Little Learners for the 2gether We are Better linky. This month it is all about home office spaces. Now I am a day late on this but oh well. Hopefully next month I will make it the day of : )

Our home actually has a designated office that we have decorated because my husband and I both do a lot of work at home. It is definitely the most interesting room in our house. It is the only room that doesn't match. We could not decide on decor for room so we split it in half. The half and half decor was our way of compromising, but it led to what you see below. Maybe someday we will find decor we both can agree on but for now this is what it will be. 

As much as I love my side of this space I very rarely work in it. For the last two years its been mostly my husbands office since he was taking online classes to finish his masters. Since I needed a space to work in at the same time I started working in our loft area at a coffee table. Not a very likely area but I have come to love it.

It is nothing fancy but it is now my favorite place to work. I have plenty of space on the table and on the floor behind me to spread out all my books, papers, etc. and not feel crowded. It is also in the same room as a TV which works to my advantage because I can't work in complete quiet. I always have to have music or a show playing in the background. It gets a lot of sunlight unfortunately I am usually working at night. My sweet girl is my main focus. I take all the time I can to play and cuddle with her. Time goes by so fast and I don't want to miss a moment working, so after she goes to sleep is when most of the creating and planning happens.

Someday I may decide that the floor is no longer a good work place and work in the office again but for now this is my favorite place.

Ashley