Tuesday, June 11, 2013

End of Year Student Survey

After my students took their last SRI test (a test that gives their current reading/lexile level) of the year, I used a Google form that I had made. I shared it with them all and asked them to fill it out for personal feedback for me. I told them to be honest as this would help me become a better teacher. I stole the idea from an article on Edutopia. I can't find the exact one. If I do sometime, I'll link it up. It consisted of three questions. Short and sweet. Not too long for the 6th grade attention span.

These are the three questions the form asked.

1. If you were the teacher in this class this year, what would you do the same or differently than I did? Please be specific.
2. Write 5 things that helped you learn this past year. Please be specific.
3. Write 5 things that made it hard for you to learn this past year. Please be specific.

These were their responses  - Here.  I changed some of the names if they used them to protect the innocent :)

I learned an enormous amount from the survey. I feel that I did a lot of things well this year. I also felt that it was too loud this year. The students agreed. I did have an extremely loud class. I'm not going to do a whole refection on it right now. Mainly because Game 3 of the NBA Finals is about to come on. I'm rooting for the Spurs by the way.

I'll take the feedback from my students who are in the room daily a little higher than administrators who occasionally come into my room. Not that I don't value my admin's feedback. I just think that my students' are more authentic because they see me "do-ma-thang" everyday.

I need to do this student survey at least every semester, if not more often. It gives me really good info.

I'm leaving you with a quote from Dick DeVenzio. A basketball coach. I have loved all of his books. I want to attend PGC one day.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Interactive Notebooks in Social Studies

Last summer, my colleagues and I stumbled upon interactive notebooks. It was odd because we each came together at an iPad training conference all of us were attending in our district and said, "Hey, you gotta check this out!" All three of us didn't know that the others had stumbled upon the same thing. Anyway, long story short, we decided to use interactive notebooks in social studies this year. We collaborated on them. KP did a lot more than I did. :) I really liked it. The students really liked it. Or at least the majority of them did. :)

We all somehow stumbled upon this and this, from www.themiddleschoolmouth.blogspot.com and Mrs. Gannon's site of this all within the same week. We decided that we should do it. That was that.

For a nice overview see below or here for the nice Prezi presentation by Susan Rubin that gives a pretty good overview of them.

The year before, we basically did packets per unit. (The packets were borrowed/stolen/given/whatever from our fearless team leader, Kim P. Have I ever mentioned how much she took me under her wing? No. Well, I'm eternally grateful. Other people I'm eternally grateful to include Amy C., Chris D., Connie B., John D., and Sonna S.) I digress. The packets were good. A lot of the packet material found its way into the new Interactive Notebooks. We just thought that we got tired of rerunning the packets for the kids that lost them. So, our solution was the Interactive Notebook.

You can see from the Prezi above that the INB (they say ISN in the Prezi) is divided into sides. The right side is the input side. What I would consider the "teacher side." This is the side that anything the teacher goes over. Maybe it's notes, questions that  you must answer, essential vocab, chapter reviews, etc. Also, what others typically call it is the "Testable Material" side. Anything that is on the right side is fair game to be on a test/quiz. In other words: know it.

The left side is the output side. It's basically how students make sense of the right side. I typically call this the "student side." I also would consider it the "creative side" because the students create things to show their knowledge of the topic.

After doing it for a year some suggestions that I have come upon.

  1. I really like the composition notebooks over spiral bound notebooks. None of the pages fall out. 
  2. I'm going to put a data sheet in the front next year. That way all the students can keep track of all their grades as we go through them.
  3. I took a grade on the notebook after they took their test over that unit. All in all, if they do the notebook their test grades were always very high. Use can use the activities as exit slips as well. You can grade them daily. It makes it really easy to do informal assessments from yesterday's work as they are working on today's assignment. 
  4. Students don't really have any excuse to not understand a given topic because they will go over the material 4 times. All in different ways that hits on different learning styles. 
    1. They will probably read something (more than likely from their textbook)
    2. They will then respond to some of the important questions on the teacher side of their notebook. 
    3. They will then participate in a class discussion on the topic. 
    4. They will then complete an activity on the left side demonstrating their knowledge of the material. 
  5. Typically, we would do a lesson a day. (Chapter 7, Lesson 2) But, I think the students can do more. This was our first year doing it. We also switched to block scheduling. One day they are in SS, the next day in Science. So the students have 2 days to complete the work. You just have to plan accordingly. 
  6. I like glue sticks. Another teachers likes Elmers liquid glue. No matter what, you're going to need more than you think. 
  7. Cutting and gluing - I cut and glue the day's activity every day. Another teacher has her students cut everything out and glue everything for the whole unit on day one of the unit. Either way is fine. You just have to decide. 
  8. This can be used as a textbook for them to take with them as they progress through grades. 
  9. I used the same notebook for the entire year. It ended up being about 135 pages. 
  10. I make a notebook as well. I cut and then glue everything in. Actually, I tape mine in. It's a lot quicker that way. My notebook can be used for the absent students to look at. I don't fill mine out until after both of my classes have put them in. I will fill out the questions on the teacher side so that when we discuss in class they can check to make sure that they have the correct answer since it is "testable." 
  11. I run off everything I will need for an entire chapter before we begin. 
    1. So I can get my plans done.
    2. So I can put everything in my notebook. 
    3. So if a student wants wants to work ahead they can. 
    4. So if a student is going to be absent they can pick it up ahead of time. 
    5. So it just makes it easier and you're not rushing around trying to run something off the day that you're doing it. 
  12. Most of the sheets get shrunk down to accommodate going into the smaller than 8.5" x 11" standard. 
    1. 87% of the original seems to work well. 
    2. If you create something in Word just change your margins to your liking so that when they cut it out it fits in a composition notebook. 
    3. If you run a double sided page, like something you're going to have them read, and you shrink it, sometimes the front and backs don't line up when they cut it out. 
    4. You can run full-size front and back copies of things you want them to read. You just put a pocket into the notebook and fold the handout and put it in the pocket. 
  13. You'll want to have a place for your handouts to go for the absent students. I have a folder in the back of the room. After I have given the material to both of my classes, I put the extras in the folder. I typically run off extras just in case there is some traumatic event that happens like my dog ate my notebook sort of thing. I then never have to mess with that student who was absent. I just tell them to check the folder. If there is nothing in the folder, that means I have ran out. By that time, they'll probably just copy the assignment from my notebook or a friend's. My room is upstairs. The copier is downstairs. I can't get them another.
  14. Digital - I know a lot of this is paper and pencil. Some students created their pieces digitally and then glued/taped them into their books. I have four iPads and one laptop in my room. I had 32 students this past  year. That's not enough for everyone. If they are fortunate enough to have a device that can show me their learning in a different way than paper/pencil/colored pencils then that is fine. I would like to do all of this digitally, we just don't have the firepower currently. I also would like to use a lot of the apps instead. 
  15. Only have them use colored pencils/crayons for coloring. No markers. Markers seep through the pages. 
  16. What students put into their notebook, they usually get out. You reap what you sow. I know it's cliche, but it's true. 
  17. I'd like to get to the point where I model a lot of the creative sides and then second semester let the students decide however they want to show their thinking. 
  18. Some of the things we did creatively ended up going on the walls. Some of those included. 
    1. Invitations to a Roman Colosseum event. 
    2. The students had the choice to do one of these to represent a Roman Emperor
      1. Roman Emperor Report Cards
      2. Sensory Figures of a Roman Emperor
      3. Action Figures that they made of a Roman Emperor
  19. I like to get to the point where students are taking full ownership of the left side with little guidance from me. 
  20. Have fun with them. 
Hopefully, this has helped you get started and maybe consider using them. I have found them very beneficial. The students have as well. Leave your thoughts in the comments. 

Some Resources-
Just google them and you'll find a ton.
Just search for pins on pinterest and you'll find a ton.

Wiki that is chalk-full of great things - http://interactive-notebooks.wikispaces.com/
PowerPoint  that is kid-friendly for explaining it to them.
Lots of examples for Left Side.
We got a lot of things from http://inspirededucators.com/ as well.

Some pics from some of my students' books.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Memories of the Year : Relationships

This is my first week off of school. I've gotten some time to rest up and spend with my family. I recently became a dad. :) Needless to say, having little Grayson around has really changed my thinking on some things and given me a new perspective on life. So, on to what this blog post is actually about.....

On the last day of school with my 6th graders, I had them first come up with their five greatest memories of the year on a piece of paper. Then, I had them narrow it down to their top memory. They had to get up in front of the class and tell everyone their favorite memory.

As I'm listening, I hear a theme developing. Some of it was subtle. Some of them were more direct. Some danced around it. Some just flat out said it. What was it, you ask?


Every single favorite memory was about relationships. Examples -

  • Meeting new friends
  • I was in the same class as my best friend even though I was told I wouldn't be. 
  • the time a girl got a zipper stuck in her teeth
  • Funny moments galore 
  • having a friend's shoulder to cry on when they needed it. 
  • letting us work in groups
  • culture fest (which was a game day that included lots of activities with fellow students)
  • and so on, and so on. 
There wasn't one person who said that doing the social studies country project, or language packets, or reading a specific novel, or interactive notebooks in SS, or you get the picture. None of their favorite memories had to do with "school" work. It was all about relationships and connections with other people. Within all of those relationships the "school" work happened. Or at least I hope it did. Hehe. (Sidenote - I did get feedback on my teaching from them as well. I'll blog it later.)

After they were all done, they asked me to present my favorite memory. As I fought back tears, I told them that it was this moment. The one they had just created. Mainly, I told them that I have loved seeing them grow this year and that I was incredibly happy to see that they have figured out one of the most important things in life. That life is about relationships. I was so happy that they had figured it out. I mean, do I really expect them to remember that the Moors defeated Germanic tribes in the area of Spain? 

When students,... (why am I limiting it to students) When all people understand that life is about relationships and connections, I can imagine a different worldly culture. One where they look to the best interests of others. One of just simply being nice to others. (Bullying comes to mind) One that seeks to not judge others, but to place yourself in another's shoes for a different perspective. 

I'm glad my students understand this. 

Some other blog posts in the near future I'm working on - Interactive Notebooks, Survey Results to Inform for Next Year, and possibly some others. 

A couple quotes to leave you with. Mostly from the book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell. 

"No matter how much work you can do, no matter how engaging  your personality may be, you will not advance far in business if you cannot work through others." John Craig

"Maturity is the ability to see and act on behalf of others." John Maxwell from Everyone Communicates, Few Connect

"I believe that almost everything we become and all that we accomplish in life are the result of our interaction with others."  John Maxwell from Everyone Communicates, Few Connect

"I think the further along in life we get, the more aware we become of the importance of connecting with others." John Maxwell from Everyone Communicates, Few Connect