Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sharing The Stage (Christy Constande)

Question: Dear Mrs. Constande,
I was in your classroom last week and got to see a great lesson that you and your co-teacher taught together. :) I just started co-teaching this year and was wondering how we could smoothly transition into "sharing the stage" like you and Ms. Anderson do so wonderfully!
Thanks for the advice!
Vicky Sharpe

Dear Vicky,
Sherrie and I believe whole-heartedly in co-teaching. Co-teaching allows each of us to have our areas of expertise, but to also learn new practices to make our own teaching stronger.

When we first began it was trail by error. Through training and in service we have learned how to teach collaboratively. I think 4 things are important for the model to work between the two teachers: trust, knowledge, and flexibility, and planning.

Sherrie and I have total trust in each other. I trust her with her content areas and she trusts me with mine.

We learn about the different content areas through planning and practicing it day in and day out. We actually sit down and determine who is going to say the connection, teaching point etc...

In all areas, we discuss who is working with a small group, conferencing or facilitating.

We also must be flexible. Time is precious, but sometimes she will need more time or vice versa and I just have to know I'll get more time later.

"Sharing the Stage" is important for the students. They need to see you both engaged in all content areas, and it's powerful for you as the teacher to see the "whole" child's strengths and weaknesses in all content areas.
Hope this helps,

Christy Constande

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Relationships (Karen Morris)

Okay, Karen, now it's your turn. Many people probably don't realize that you are such an awesome caregiver. You often cook meals for those in need, you're very thoughtful with birthday cards, you never forget to thank someone that's helped you out (usually including a Starbuck's card for their troubles). My question is, why do you do so much for others? Especially when your time is so full, keeping track of your kids, running back and forth to the ball park, organizing play group activities, taking Sarah to Spanish classes, etc. etc. etc.

As much as I do love to write to people, I've pondered this question all week and actually procrastinated journaling this response. I guess it is the questions of "why" that threw me.

I can easily answer the how do you... ( write notes, remember to thank, etc...) I work late every Wednesday night (unless something big is going on - like tomorrow night...Halloween). I go home and make dinner and by 6:35 am back at school.

I stay until 10:30 when the custodians lock the doors. Although I really only have about 3-1/2 solid hours - I get all kind of things done because there are no interruptions! I work on lesson plans, write Target team referrals, catch up on my diagnostic and assessment notebook anecdotal notes, etc. And... I always spend the last 1/2 hour "loving on people" (as Stahlman used to say). I try to write "noticing notes" (to Chets grown-ups - teachers, staff, parents, etc.) or positive post cards... I really like my Wednesday nights and suggest this to anyone - especially if you have other obligations (like small children at home). My husband also gets a night to work late (and I catch up on laundry and whatever at home) and other than that we generally don't bring a lot of work home! I know this doesn't exactly answer the question that Lori asked...

So I guess I'll have to jump right in, "Why do you do so much for others?" I have been fortunate to work for good bosses in my employment history. Before teaching, I was a social worker and an Administrator and can tell you how each of my supervisors led by the example of running a tight ship and meeting goals, but complimenting worthy team members along the way. Shortly before delivering Sarah (and changing careers) one of the most rewarding professional moments came. As the Director of the Full Service School program in Jax, I was put in a position to apply for staff bonuses because our program exceeded its goals. I was able (right before Christmas) to sit with my 6 Full Service School Coordinators and 6 secretaries (and my secretary) individually and give them a $1500 check (each). It was completely unexpected and a big surprise. What a great day that was! (Social Service organizations don't get monetary recognition very often).

And then I became a teacher. A Chets Creek teacher. And I met Stahlman...

Stahlman (Dr. Terri Stahlman for those who don't know her well) built Chets on relationships, risk and rewards and walked the talk. She gave me a note on my first day of school (in Feb. 2000) with a pen that was both inspirational and motivational. She pushed me like I had never been pushed before - I remember one particular year after FCAT scores came out sitting in the conference room defending, analyzing, and reanalyzing my scores to her (not because she asked but because I felt I owed her an explanation). You would hit the bottom - feeling completely overwhelmed (and perhaps peeved because you didn't get a TS on the newsletter, but an "edit" instead...) and she would build you up with a note. It would highlight how she noticed your bulletin board, or it would thank you for helping at Arts Extravaganza, or it would say "Hang in There with Suzy Jones..." It would say I NOTICE you (and sometimes she would attach a $100,000 bar and tell you that you were worth more...) or if you really needed it - you would get a Starbucks card.

Stahlman's notes said - I appreciate you. And you would climb, climb, climb the next hill and move the next mountain.

Why do I try to build others up? Because someone built me up (or I wouldn't be here.) People told me I could do it. People told me I was on the right track - or that I'm doing a good job.

I like to cook for others or gift others because it makes me feel good to help people )I guess that's a selfish reason). I'm also lucky that I can - my husband is very supportive of me.

I believe in relationship.
Karen Morris

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Organization (Lori Metzger)

To: Lori Metzger (Mentor Extrordinaire)
I always say that I used to be very organized, until I became a teacher!! You are known around the kingdom for being extrememly organized and having a spic-n-span classroom at all times. Please share some pearls of wisdom, maybe some simple things you think every teacher could do to get even a little bit more organized. Maybe you could also address dealing with the infamous beast of paperwork!

You are awesome and amazing! Beth

Organization is my specialty! I'll share my paperwork secrets here in this magical blog.

First, create a filing system that works for you. In my file cabinet I set my folders that correspond to each reading and writing skill or strategy that I teach. For example, I have folders titled main idea and sequence in the reading section of the drawer and I have folders titled setting and character development in the writing section of the drawer. Everything that I come across for that skill goes into the folder, but only one copy. That way the folders aren't bulging full of extra papers that I don't need.

I also have a set of weekly files labeled Monday through Friday. I try to organize the papers that I'll need for the week in these folders. If I have a test run off that I'm giving on Friday, I keep it in the folder and pull it out after school on Thursday.

My secret to being organized is my third set of files. Before the school year begins, I take a copy of the school board's yearly calendar and Chets Creek master calendar: I use four different color packets of construction paper, one color for each quarter. I fold the paper in half and use one page for each week of the school year. So this week's packet has the following dates on it: Oct. 22, Oct. 23, Oct. 24, Oct. 25 and Oct. 26. Next to the date I write anything important, such as early release, WOW days, picture days, tests that I know I'm giving, etc. Inside the construction paper I slip anything in that I can get ready ahead of time, homework and test papers, blank progress reports, field trip permission slips, etc. It does take some time to plan ahead but I don't find myself scrambling at the last minute for papers I need. I keep my construction paper files in milk crate in my office. Stop by if you'd like to see how it works.

One last tip is something I read years ago. I learned to touch a paper only once (if at all possible). For example, when I received the ballot for the Teacher of the Year, I stopped and grabbed a pen and filled it out right away. Then I turned it in.

I hope these organizational tips work!

Lori Metzger

Thinkmarks (Vicky Sharpe)

Question: Dear Vicky,
I know that you like to use your own modified versions of Kylene Beers' 'Think Mark' in your Readers' Workshop. Can you share some of your favorite or more effective thinkmarks? and do you think that the think mark could work for First Grade Readers?
Can't wait to hear what you "think."
Patty VanAlstyne

I like to use Thinkmarks for a lot of different strategies. It is a great way to see who is, and who is not, understanding the things you are teaching. I usually use them during active engagement and/or independent reading. Some different reasons that I use them for are:

*Questioning (Beginning, Middle, End)

*Inferencing (I see, I know, I infer)

*Main Idea/Summarizing (Somebody, Wanted, But, So)

*Retelling/Story Elements (Character, Setting, Events, Problem, Solution)

I am sure that there are many more ways you could use them even in the first grade!
Let me know if you "think" of any more! :)
My thinkmarks--

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Africa Experience (Beth Young)

QUESTION: Ms. Young -
You just returned from an incredible trip to Africa where you were able to learn a lot about a culture of people, different from your own. How have, or will you use this experience in your classroom, to make your students more "in tune" with the world around them? from "Toon Town" J.S

Answer: Beth Young
My Africa trip was so amazing and I should never put into word everything I learned and experienced. I feel like my whole personal and spiritual lives have been jostled around in a very good way. I'm still learning and reflecting daily on what this trip means for me personally, that I honestly, haven't considered much how this experience will impact my teaching. In general though, I know that this trip has and still is changing me into what I believe to be, is a more mature individual and hopefully a "better" person. As we know that which affects us so deeply in our personal lives will eventually flow into our teaching. So we'll have to wait and see what "changes," if any, occur in my day-to-day teaching role.

I will say it was a lot of fun to share with the kids my Africa experience. I even did share with them about the poorness of the people. I explained what the homes - aka huts - were like (showed pictures too) and how they have no electricity, got water from the crocodile river, and had to make their own toys. Of course, they seemed surprised, but I think for even adults, until you see the situations people, other than Americans, live in; you don't fully understand. But, I did have a parent say her child is actually helping out more at home and taking better care of stuff, because of our talk!

Co-Teaching Benefits (Patty VanAlstyne)

Question: Dear Patty,
Since co-teaching seems to be in the near future for us all and it is your first time in a co-teaching situation, I was wondering if you could ease my worries and concerns about co-teaching by shedding some positive light on your experience so far. What do you see as the pros of being a co-teacher?
Chevaugn Sasso

Let me start by saying that I love co-teaching! There are many positives, but I feel that the most important benefit of co-teaching is that it allows for much more individual contact with all students. It enables us to work one-on-one with our struggling kids as well as implement guided reading and strategy groups twice as often as we would on our own.

I also love the benefit of being able to plan together--it's great to be able to bounce ideas off of one another and to get feedback from someone on a regular basis.

If you have an open mind about co-teaching, I think that you will be pleasantly surprised once you give it a try--I say Go For It!
Patty VanAlstyne

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Artist Trading Cards (Jen Snead)

QUESTION: Dear Jen Snead,
I love the idea of your art trading cards! How can we incorporate that idea into our classrooms? (example - at dismissal time, etc.) And what's the easiest way to create a card? Melissa

Thank you for thinking of me to send and share Tinkerbell! What fun!

Artist Trading Cards are tons of fun and they seem to be exciting for all the students that have been involved in their making. The best way to make the card is to cut down white posterboard into 2-1/2-by 3-/1/2 inches. I believe one posterboard makes about 40 cards. Then have students use crayons, markers, watercolor paints (or any kind of paints), construction paper and glue or just about any two-dimensional art medium you can think of, to decorate or create a picture of their choice.The neat thing is, because of their size, they don't require a large amount of time.

Have the students write their first and last name on the back of the card, along with the date it was completed. They may also write a brief "artist statement" if desired. It could be a sentence telling about the artwork or what inspired them.

The really fun part is the TRADING!! After students have built up a small number of cards; let them begin trading with each other, or even with another class. Pretty soon they will have their very own private art collection.

ATC's can be incorporated in a variety of ways. Because they can be used in almost every academic subject, they can be used as a fun review of a concept learned during the day. Examples are:

MATH - create a repeating pattern to decorate a card.

SCIENCE - draw an animal that you learned about and include the habitat in which it lives.

ELA - Listen to a story and illustrate what you hear. Add as many details as you need to tell the story (or scene) in your picture.

SOCIAL STUDIES - design your personal symbol that tells about you and your family.

These are only a few ideas. Really, the sky is the limit with ATC's!

Jen Snead

SmartBoard (Chevaugn Sasso)

Question: Dear Chevaugn,
I know that you use the "Smart Board" with your Kindergarten students. I would love to know what types of activities you use it for. How do you incorporate it into your different workshops? Please enlighten me (us) so that I will have the confidence to use it in my room as well.
Always wondering,

5. In your Skills Block, you can bring up any Literacy based website or software activity that your kids can interact with and navigate through.
4. In Readers' Workshop, you can project different forms of text on the board and have your students come up and highlight any sight words or any particular reading skills or strategies you are working on, on the board.
3. In Writers' Workshop, you can project student work on the board to edit or actually have students come up and write on the board, which you can then save to your computer and print out.
2. In Math Workshop, you can navigate through math sites, complete math problems, and play fun games with your students.
1. EVERYTHING! The possibilities are endless. Just think of anything that you already do on your whiteboard, any writing on it or projecting on it. You can do all of those things and more and look SMARTER doing it by simply using the SMARTBOARD.

If anyone ever wants to use it or see it in action with your students, just let me know.

Che Che Sasso

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Technology in Math/Science (Melissa Ross)

QUESTION: Dear Melissa Ross:
The word around school is that you use a lot of technology in your teaching. Please share your wisdom. What form of technology do you use (i.e., Elmo) and how do you incorporate that into Math/Science instruction? Debbi Harbour

I use a lot of different kinds of technology daily. I use my document camera, projector, and the Internet for everything! Once you have played with it a little, it's not that hard to use, I promise! I use the camera for a lot including:

Read alouds so the kids can follow along. There are a lot of great ones online too.

Mini-lessons to demonstrate how to use a manipulative (example - showing kids how to make 15 cents using coins) or how to put something together for a Science experiment. Check out this
great site for online manipulatives for any grade level.

Take pictures of the way to set up cards for a card game they play for Math ahead of time so I can have it posted during the work period.

If they are all on the carpet for the min-lesson and I need to show them something somewhere in the room, they can't see from the carpet, I turn the head of the camera so that it is filming whatever I need to show them. I then have one of the kids go and point to that item. When they are "on camera," they think they are on WCEE - They love it!

I leave anything I have written for my mini-lesson up during the work period.

Background information for science lessons. Here are some great sites on
worms, space, science clips, or National Geographic for Kids.

Calendar Math Reinforcement. Guess My Number and Math Playground.

During closing I use it to have students share a piece of work (strategy they have worked on, etc.) It saves a lot of time because they don't have to rewrite it. Their handwriting also gets neater during the work period because they want to put their work up. I then take a picture of the work with the camera to post on my blog or to e-mail parents.

I also use it for fun to play math games - Place 23 cubes under the camera - freeze the image, remove cubes, unfeeze it. How many cubes were removed?

I use other technology such as podcasting, blogging, interactive websites, CPS system, computerized chalkboard, smartboard, etc., but I probably shouldn't take up the entire book. Come see me if you are interested in more!

Melissa Ross

The Tootsie Roll (Cheryl Dillard)

Question: Dear Cheryl,

I heard an interesting song during science resource last week. I asked your students what you did to get their attention. I was expecting a response familiar to me. It was not! One student began singing this song; everyone stopped and began to sing. They did hand gestures too. I would love to know the details of this management tool. Do you think I can use it for all my resource classes? All I know is it started with two words... Tootsie roll...

See you in the lab,

Debbie Stevens

I will start by reminding you that I teach 26 Kindergarten students that LOVE to talk. In order to have smooth transitions and on-task behavior I need to be creative (and sometimes just plain silly!) This is a song that I picked up at a workshop--I can't take credit for it. I use the song after we have had turn and talk time or when I need to get the students' attention and eyes on me. It actually words quite well. If you would like to see and hear the "Tootsie Roll" song, just pop the CD into your computer and enjoy! :)

Cheryl Dillard