Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Whole Year Curriculum Map & More

A really terrific past principal, Bobbi Sexson, taught me to use a very simple, 3-column planning map for each year. I LOVE IT. It works. It keeps me on track. When I start to get sidetracked, start thinking about cool lesson plans I've found on Pinterest and then all-of-a-sudden think: "Hey, where have we been and where am I supposed to be taking them?" I grab what I call my TEACHER'S MANUAL. I look in it to see an overall month-by-month plan for topics.

Bobbi taught me the curriculum map. I took it a few steps further. I teach 6th, 7th, and 8th grades in language arts. So within this one binder I have 3 tabs: 6, 7, and 8.

Within each tab I have: 1) a syllabus, 2) a year curriculum map (mentioned above), a year of published writing due, and a copy of the Common Core Standards.

I will show you photos of each.

As far as the papers due page, Note: I started out doing an all-out writer's workshop. For my students, I found they were struggling with the concept of writing whatever genre they wanted to write. They wanted structure and clear directions of what was expected and they wanted due dates. So, I created a "modified" writer's workshop. They keep a "Writer's Binder" in class with 5 tabs with the writing process and they move their work into the tab for the stage they are in. Mini lessons instruct them on the Six Traits, paragraph writing, essays, leads, formats for different genres, and more. They MAY write anything they want and all will be at different stages in the process; however, they have clear expectations for due dates for genres. In the past, At the beginning of the year, I give them this list of published papers due each month.

Here is my own created "Teacher's Manual" that is my 'bible' for the year.

My Lesson Plan Books

I've tried a variety of ways to keep files and plans, and for me using binders has been the easiest and best organized when teaching 7 periods. I keep a three-ring binder for each month. On the outside I label the book using free Chevron patterns provided by Teachers pay Teachers. On the inside, I use a Table I created in Word. One column is for the period, class name, and time. The second column is for lesson notes, and the third column is for the objective. The lesson portion is not a full-out 5E lesson plan; it's simply what I need, which are steps and reminders about the full lesson. Also, regarding the objectives, sometimes I write SWBAT ..... and write a legit objective. These are MY guides for lessons, though, and sometimes I find it easier to just write the topic in the objective column. I can skim through pages later and see what topic we were on and find things quickly.
I use one page (front & back) for each day's lessons.

Within my binder, I have a pocket tab for each week. 5 Lesson Plan pages are behind each week. Resources, tests with keys, worksheets, more detailed schedules, etc. are behind the LP Schedule pages. The first one of each group is tabbed with the grade, either a 6, 7, or 8.

Here is an example of a resource page within a Grade 6 Tab.

These are what my monthly lesson plan binders look like. It becomes my filing system.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Check for Understanding

   This method: "Fist-to-Five" is the best method I've come across to check for understanding as you go along. I borrowed the idea from a British chap teaching in the UK. I wish I could remember his name to give him the full credit he deserves.

   We all have surely experienced the problems with getting true feedback for understanding. Middle School kids who do not understand a concept hate to speak out and admit to being what they think is different (when in reality probably several others are "not getting it," as well). So, asking if they understand is the same as not asking, in my experience. We often find out who is not understanding when a paper is turned in with numerous mistakes.

   My students love this response. I have this poster hanging all year. I teach my kids the procedure. I often will say: "Give me a fist-to-five response on how you feel about this material." The brilliant thing is everyone must raise a hand - not just a few. And, most do not look around to see how many fingers each person is holding up.

   Measurement: A fist tells you they are totally lost and don't get it. One finger means they are barely understanding, and so on. If you get a whole class holding up all five fingers, then you probably need to stop wasting their time on this and move on to another concept. Now and then, if you think they might think they are at a 5 but you aren't sure they are, you could hit them with a pop quiz the next morning to check it out or send home some homework to verify their claim.

   I teach kids that my goal is to make sure I move everyone up into the green. They must have instruction on the procedure to realize that you see this as part of the teacher's duty, not a put-down for them if they don't understand.

   Taking the idea from someone else, I made the poster myself with poster, construction paper, clip art and typed and printed definitions. I glued and laminated. I love this as much, or more, than any procedure I use throughout the classroom.

Writer's Workshop Notes

I have six classes--two 6th grade (6A, 6B), two for 7th grade, and two for 8th grade. Using one nice file folder per class, I tape down large index cards, from the bottom of the inside of the folder, up. I stagger them enough to write the students' names on the portion that shows.

During conference time, I only need one file folder. As each student in a group of 3 or 4 shares, I can jot down what genre each is writing, what stage of the writing process he or she is in, and a + sign for strengths and a - for one or two things the student wants to work on.

This refreshes my memory to keep track on everyone's progress. It's a great reference, as well, when parents ask questions. I can answer with specifics about that student's progress in writing.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Whole-Class Reward Procedure

   Four little flip cards save my voice - and my frustration. When students are talking too much, I walk over and flip a card to show my satisfaction or dissatisfaction with whole class behavior.

Usually, I never get past a B. A B is the only card that can be changed back up to recover an A. Once on a C you can't improve your class grade. Nor a D.

   In one rectangular area of the white board I keep "Celebration Points" tallied for each period. An A whole-class behavior grade earns them 20 points. B earns 10; a C earns 5 points; and a D is zero points.

  Their goal is to reach 250 points as a class. The reward is two cranks of my Skittle machine. I wouldn't think this would be a big incentive, but it motivates them and de.ights them.

   When I walk to the cards and flip a card, I smile to myself as I hear the students saying, "Guys, we got on a B! Settle down!" It's so great having them monitor and scold each other rather than me having to do it.

Monday, June 10, 2013

My Best Friend: Organization Drawers

My goal for 2012-13 was to keep my desk clean all the time. And, I did it. Last year, I had countless compliments from students about how clean my desk was. Little did they know this had not been the case in previous years.

Behind my desk, I have a six-drawer storage unit. Drawers are marked: Out, In, To Do, To Read, To File, and Pending. This one thing is my secret to a clean desk: When I bring mail in from the office, my rule is that it never touches my desk. It goes in one of these drawers.

From the bottom up:
"Pending" means I've looked at something and I haven't decided what to do with it yet. I may need to relook at it or do something later, but it is not urgent.
"To File" This can get pretty full if not worked on at least once a week. I figure if it stays in this drawer too long, maybe it's not so precious to me, and I recycle it.
"To Read" is for messages from teachers, information about my insurance, or a pamphlet I want to read later.
"To Do" gets used a lot. I have a To Do form I keep in here. I also have three file folders in this drawer: One marked Students; another marked Teacher; and the last one is marked Copies To Make. A student asks, "Could you check and see if I'm above a C in your class?" Toss a note in the Student drawer. You get notices to pass along to students, toss in the drawer. Make sure you check this drawer during each plan period. As I come across items I know I need to copy for the next week's lessons, I put them in my Copy folder in the To Do drawer.
"In" is one I make sure I do not use to put everything in. I use it when I'm not sure what drawer to put something in or something I just don't have time to look at. I make sure I do look at this drawer every day and move it to another drawer or the recycle bin.
"Out" is only used for items that I know exactly where I need to take them outside of my classroom. Let's say I signed that new form for my insurance but will not go to the office for another hour. I put it in "out" and take it to the office later.

I have more organization tips for the classroom that I will post later. But this one is my Secret to a Clean Desk and a Happier Me.