Wednesday, October 15, 2014

You Matter Cards

You Matter Cards
We have lots of visitors to our space. It is a true blessing that we get to share our journey with others. We love that we have connected with so many educators from our area, our state, and even from around the country!

We recently began leaving our visitors with a little something to remember us by. They are called "You Matter" cards. We can't take full credit for this brilliant idea. I read a different blog post on Twitter about a principal from a school that uses a similar card for the entire school! I believe he is working with the great Angela Maiers! Talk about making an impact with a small piece of paper! Think of the message he is sending to his entire community when they step foot in his school! Truly inspirational!

When we read this blog in late August, it was a little too late to start a school wide initiative. So, Kate and I decided to start small! We created our own version of "You Matter" cards.
Click to see the full file
We want our visitors to know they are special. We want our visitors to know that staying connected is important to us. We want our visitors to know that we do what we do, because it is what is best for kids. We want them to know that their visit MATTERS to not only our journey in personalized learning, but also in the lives they will now go and impact on their own journeys. 

Our next bring "You Matter" to the kid level. Each student in our space has their own "square" in the hallway outside our doors. We are personalizing those squares with their pictures and work samples. Kate and I are also planning on leaving our students "You Matter" notes throughout the week. We want them to know how much they MATTER to us, as well! Our secret hope??--That it spreads like wildfire and kids start telling each other why they MATTER!

Everyone deserves to know they MATTER--no matter how big or how small--it feels good. It feels right. It is important to our well-beings. It is amazing how two little words can leave such a lasting impact.

Be sure to tell someone in your life that they MATTER to you! What impact can you make?

QR Code Homework Help

We love QR codes...can we just start with that? We use them for SO many things! One of our favorite ways to use them is in Math Workshop. We often offer our students independent "May Do" activities with QR codes attached to check their work. We have done QR code scavenger hunts. They are so versatile! We are continually looking for new ways to use them!

As with any classroom, our students have trouble from time to time with their homework. The typical routine is that they contact Kate or I via Edmodo to ask for help. We often, then, would create Show Me videos from home to post back that would answer their questions. So, it got us thinking...why create the videos on the back end? Why not be proactive

Enter the glorious QR code! We decided to put QR codes on our math homework assignments that give one example or review crucial vocabulary from that mini-lesson!

An example of our QR code homework help

Each QR code links to a Show Me video, made on our iPads. We used PDF images from the textbook website and inserted them as images in the app. We then wrote over them and spoke using the app tools. You, then export the file ("publish" it). Copy that link and paste it into any QR Code Generator tool (online or via apps). Voila! You've got a QR code linked to a video!

From there, you can copy them, cut them out, paste them, etc. Or, for even easier application, print them on labels and have the students stick them on their own homework!

How do you use QR codes? Sound off below!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Learning Models in Math

At the end of each math unit our students complete a Learning Model to show us they have mastered the unit standards. Yes, yes, yes...we still give the end of unit math assessment, but they're Learning Models are uploaded to their digital portfolios to showcase their work for that unit.

We provide our students with a list of skills we'd like them to tackle, along with a rubric, and they are left to show us what they know. Some students choose to do this with paper and pencil, but most utilize technology to share their knowledge.

I can not tell you how impressed I am with what some of our kiddos come up with! I am so proud of our crew!

Check out a few exemplars from the Unit 1 Learning Model!

Grace's Learning Model using Powtoon

Maika's Learning Model using Prezi

Manal's Learning Model using Google Presentation

Way to go, Ladies!!

~ Kate

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Social Contract

One of the best parts of looping is that we could hit the ground running this year. So much so, that we didn't even realize that we hadn't had the "Behavior Conversation" until the 3rd week of school. I'm not saying that we didn't talk about the basics, but it was a very different experience than last year. In all honesty...we didn't really "need" it...our students simply picked up where we left off.

The foundation for our behaviors for last year and this year is our "Social Contract."
Our Current Social Contracts
But to create these beautiful documents, we needed to move in "baby steps!"

Building a Contract
Last year, as our first year in TEAM Togetherness, we spent the first 3 weeks of school building "T-Charts" in SMART files that focused on everyday skills that we needed to practice or discuss as a "TEAM". Examples: Transitioning to whole group, lining up for _____, independent time during reader's workshop, etc. It was time well-spent. We framed the T-Charts as "Looks Like" and "Doesn't Look Like" behaviors, with the skill listed at the top. The students had the most fun coming up with the "Doesn't Look Like", of course, but they really knew what it should "Look Like", as well. These T-Charts were printed for reference in the room until our contract was written. If a behavior were to arise, we could simply use that same language: "Is this was it should "Look Like" or is this "Doesn't Look Like" behavior?" or "Show me what a quiet line "Looks Like"-and they would quiet down and straighten up right away!
Click to see full T-Chart list
From those T-charts, we wrote our classroom social contract. The social contract dictates the rules that we will function under as a classroom community. The students helped us word them and deemed what they thought was most important. We did need to guide them a few times in the "right" direction of how to word things (ex: celebrating differences), but they were very proud of their work.

This year, when we broached the topic of our social contract, we reviewed last year's copy. After a quick discussion, they all agreed that they wanted to continue to work off of that contract--and why wouldn't they??--They wrote it! :)
Click to see the full size version
What we did spend quality time with this year, was writing a technology component.  This was something that we felt was missing in 4th grade. Because our student engagement is so high, the majority of the issues we ran into with regards to behaviors, were minor technology infractions (ex: not being on the site they were supposed to be on, searching for music videos on YouTube, using the chat function instead of working, etc.) We, again, began with T-Charts and discussed appropriate behaviors that tie with our technology privileges. We, as per usual, were incredibly impressed with the rules they came up with!
Click for the full view!
Most importantly for this type of behavior management system to be successful, we had to have consequences that were decided upon by the students. We had to insert one in their list with regards to district policy, but in all honesty, we had to scale them back some! The punishments they came up with were often much more harsh than what we would have generated!

When a student breaks these rules, they have to complete a "Think Plan"--this document gives them the opportunity to reflect on their actions and make decisions about how they will make it right. This document has to be signed by them, us, and their families. This year, we have both contract agreements on the document, so they are visible for their reflection.
Click to See the Full Contract (2 sided)
These foundational pieces are critical in our environment. The student voice and choice involved helps set up our community for success. How do you establish community rules? Feel free to sound off below! We'd love to learn with you!

~Angela :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Learning from Others

Our classroom is a revolving door for students, teachers, parents, administrators, even community members. We love having people pass through our learning environment to check out our space and see the exciting things our students are doing on an hourly basis. I used to be intimidated by having people observe, now I welcome the opportunity. It gives us the chance to showcase our students' amazing effort and share the exciting happenings in T.E.A.M. Togetherness!

Earlier this fall, Angela and I were approached by the Institute @ CESA #1 with the opportunity to participate in a Round Robin. Typically we are the ones with the teachers rotating through, but yesterday Angela and I had the pleasure of touring KM Explore and the F.L.I.G.H.T Academy within Horning Middle School. It's always difficult when both of us are out of our space at the same time, but yesterday was totally worth it. I always walk away from these observations with my head spinning with new ideas- things I can't wait to try with our own students.

Every time we have had the opportunity to meet with other teachers along the personalized learning journey, we learn something new and bring pieces of their world back to our own (I only hope we do that for others as well). Yesterday was no exception! I walked into a Social Studies Seminar at F.L.I.G.H.T. Academy, and after a brief conversation with a very well-spoken middle school girl, I realized this was something I wanted to start in our space. Immediately.

During a 2am feeding of my daughter Piper, I started brainstorming how I could implement "seminars" in our math workshop. We've used a Bullpen (taken from another wonderful classroom model) to offer reteaching or enrichment opportunities, but typically the students participating in the Bullpen are dictated by the teachers in the space. We always have an optional Bullpen for those that feel they're struggling, but it's not as used as we'd like. This morning, after an 8am staff meeting, I ran back to the room, grabbed a white board easel, and started a Seminar Sign Up.

Before our mini lesson, we told the class about our site visits yesterday and explained to our them that Math Seminars would give them an opportunity to advocate for themselves and seek support in a given topic of need or interest. To start, we decided to address learning targets that have come up within our current unit, but explained that in the future we hope to address students' areas of growth, strength, and interest. This morning's focus was on Subtracting Decimals across Zeros and Writing and Solving Open Number Sentences- two areas we felt students could use additional modeling.

It was so rewarding to watch the students race over to sign up for the seminar sessions. By the time 9:45am rolled around we were ready for our first crew. Way to take charge of your learning T.E.A.M. Togetherness! Next up...Socratic Seminar. Stay tuned!

~ Kate