Friday, February 29, 2008

Humor (Sherri Anderson)

Sherrie Anderson— Please share how you infuse humor and engage all types of learners so effortlessly. How does this effect your relationship with the children in your care as well as their learning? (From Tammi Sani) Dear Tammi,
Thank you for your sweet words. I absolutely love my job, and I love to laugh! I remember when I was in elementary school. I felt sooooo lost most of the time. I didn't get what was going on. But when a teacher cracked a joke or was funny, I seemed to "get it." Since then, I have always wanted to find a way to reach children that seem as lost as I was back then. Laughter helps everyone feel comfortable. If I can help even one student feel capable of learning something new by making them laugh, what could be better? I know all children can learn. My challenge is to figure out how. By creating relationships with my students they are able to feel safe, are engaged, and ready to learn. They are willing to try much harder because they know I believe in them 100 percent! I absolutely relish hearing a child's laughter. A good belly laugh gets the juices flowing. Learning then becomes easy.

Your friend,
Sherrie Anderson

Co-teachers (Brooke Brown)

Brooke Brown— Would you please share with me some advice and or thoughts about your co-teaching experience - vs. - departmentalized teaching? (From Wanda Lankford)Dear Wanda,
Co-teaching is like a marriage and school is your home. Two different people are taken from their own classroom and have to learn how to productively co-exist together. Classrooms function like a family. Sometimes the children do the “ask mom, ask dad” thing, and if they don’t get the answer they want they go to the other person. But we caught on to that tactic very quickly. :-) I found that the best part of co-teaching is getting to be with the children the entire day so you see how they function in the morning/afternoon and you see their strengths and weaknesses. I feel like I know each child more completely then I did last year when Vicky and I were departmentalized. And as a teacher in a co-teaching situation, you gain so much by having someone who you can always bounce ideas off of and always have constant support. It’s also a great opportunity to learn the ELA aspect of second grade. Just like children, the hands-on learning for me is so much more beneficial than just going to a day of training or reading a professional development book on these subjects. I am very fortunate to have a partner who has developed into a very dear friend. End result, the children see our friendship with one another and that helps set the tone for our classroom. I feel co-teaching is a win/win situation when the mix of the two teachers is right.

Friday, February 22, 2008

How can 1st teachers prepare kids for 2nd Math? (Wanda Lankford)

Question to Wanda Lankford

Dear Wanda Lankford,
WOW! All I can say it WOW! You are such an amazing teacher and friend. I know that you touch the hearts of every child in your classroom. My kids from last year come and see me everyday and I ask them about their favorite part of their day. It NEVER fails to lead to something you have done in your class. My kids love you and all of your strategies that will help them in life. SOOOO my question is… As a 1st grade teacher, I am getting my kids ready for 2nd grade Math. Are there any strategies or Math skills that I can teach that will help them for 2nd grade? I feel that there is a big disconnect between 1st and 2nd grade Math! Help!

WOW! Thank you so much for your kind words. As much as your students say how much they love me it is evident that they still have a great deal of love and admiration for you. Whenever you stop by my cottage they go crazy with happiness! Thank you for passing on such beautiful minds!

Now to answer your question: Are there any strategies or Math skills that you can teach that will help students be more prepared for 2nd grade?

Answer: After chatting with my awesome 2nd grade Math team, here are a few suggestions: If your students are drawing pictures please encourage them to group

  • In sets of tens
  • When using tally marks, group in fives
  • Be familiar with Combinations of Tens
  • Be familiar with skip counting patterns
  • Understanding Doubles.
  • Recognizing coins and their values.
  • Using the 100’s chart.

Hopefully this list is not too much. Just know that when I’m with my 2nd grade Math team we are excited about teaching and jump for joy when our students get it! With that said what you and your team have been doing has been great! So keep up the great work in 1st grade.
With love,

Math Strugglers (Tammi Sani)

Tami Sani, I hear you are wonderful and have incredible results at teaching math to students who consistently struggle. Do you have any suggestions for general classroom teachers to improve our practices with students who frequently struggle? Joe
Dear Joe,
First and foremost thank you for your kind words. I feel quite honored receiving the pixie pointer. Teaching at Chets alongside incredible leaders, coaches, and teachers has made quite a difference in the way I tackle math with my students. Here are a few tips that I find useful with the children in my care.

* manipulatives, manipulatives, manipulatives...... Your visual and tactile learners will have an extremely difficult time grasping new skills unless manipulatives are used. I find that you have to model repeatedly to your struggling learners HOW to use the manipulatives.

*TRUST..... Earning a struggling child's trust and getting them to the point where they communicate with me what they don't understand is key to my success with them.

*mnemonics......... My students know that I live by the motto "Whatever it takes!" and I will do whatever it takes to get them to commit math terms to memory and understand math concepts. I sing, make up poems, rap, etc, etc, etc.

*repetition..... A national conference my special ed. team and I attended years ago had a presenter share with us that most learning disabled children need to hear something 1400 times before it is committed to memory. This really helped me become more patient with my learners. Don't think that just because you've taught a skill more than once that everyone is going to grasp it. Your naive learners will need repetition.

I hope you find these useful. I will be glad to share my songs, rhymes, etc. with you. Happy teaching!


Saturday, February 16, 2008

In-class Safety Nets (Joe Montisano)

Joe Montisano—We saw your increase in diagnostic scores…How do you TARGET students in the FCAT danger zone? What system for strategy groups do you have in place?
From Lynn Patterson & Lindsay Hoffman

Thankfully, I have a job at Chets Creek where we use a wonderful diagnostic test that helps teachers categorize students into groups based on their strengths and weaknesses. Before teaching a specific unit I go back and look at the diagnostic profile sheet, which allows me to gain an understanding of what to expect in the upcoming unit and anticipate possible struggles. I prefer to start the unit knowing which students came to my class with a limited amount of prior knowledge on a specific unit.

During the work period I focus much of my time conferring with individuals or tables of students improving their skills on particular strategies that the students can be confident in, successful with, and rely on.

Mrs. Tsengas has been a wonderful addition to our team this year. She has done a wonderful job in assisting me with the strategy groups. She pulls the students who struggle in particular areas to her clubhouse, located in the bookroom. At times, students looked forward to going with her to her “cool” club house, rather than stay in the classroom with me. She is a natural at making students feel comfortable.

Furthermore, all students who are in the FCAT danger zone have been invited to tutoring on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I focus my tutoring lessons on individual student weaknesses. I spend this time revisiting concepts from past investigations and units utilizing teacher made story problems.

Joe Montisano

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Monitoring (Heide Donalson)

Dear Heide,
You are such a great teacher in many ways. You shared with me how you monitor and keep track of each child's progress in your classroom. Heide, please share with all of us your successful, monitoring plan.
Your buddy,
Cathy Daniels

Answer from Heide Donalson to Cathy Daniels
Thanks friend for thinking about me. I am very type A with a lot of wanting to find a better way of keeping my life easy.

Since I am in a co-teach model, I had to come up with a system that would benefit the two of us plus the 3 ESOL kids, 1 speech child, 13 PMP kids, 11 target children, 14 kids being pulled by Mrs. Williams, and the wonderful Landstar readers! AHHHH! So, I created individual folders that include their diagnostic profile sheet, a yellow form that allows others to know what that child is working on, a reading form, any target information, and a place for everyone to sign that works with that child.

This took a lot of work in the beginning, but now it is very easy and it benefits everyone!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Can You Imagine? (Cathy Daniels)

Cathy Daniels,
Can you imagine a day… at the end of a perfect school year? What dreams have come true? How did you so masterfully touch every child in your care? I can imagine because I see it unfolding everyday in your classroom, but if you could have it ALL come true… Liz

Dear Buddy (Liz),

Is this a trick question? I believe every year that the precious students that walk through the door are mine for a reason. From the first day of school to the last day of school, I tell them that they are the BEST first graders in the WORLD. I believe it, and so do they. Each year I look at my students as the perfect class for me.

You ask me, "What dreams have come true?" I think daily I see dreams coming true within each child. It's the best feeling when the magic begins, and the light bulbs start to go off throughout the class. Their excitement alone is reward in itself. I meet every child where they are, and take them daily to that next level. I must interject right now, how wonderful it is having you in the class with me. You are incredibly instrumental in making dreams happen.

Each day, I tell myself, "Okay, I've got to get them ready for second grade." I can't settle for anything, but their best, and my best.

The last day of school when I look at each child and remember where they were when they arrived in my classroom, I do feel that all my wishes, my goals, and my dreams for each child did come true.

Love ya like a sister,
Cathy Daniels

"If I do not love, I am nothing..." (Liz Duncan)

Liz, Let me start by saying, "I luv you girl!" You have been an incredible presence in my life professionally and personally from the moment I stepped inside these walls. I have admired your talents for years and have watched you sprinkle your magic fairy dust inside and outside of school (if you know what I mean, New Orleans, Louisiana, baby)! Okay, so on to what I really, really, really want to know.

I know this magical part of you must come from within but how do you crawl, tiptoe, cuddle or love your way into the heart of every child you speak to? I watch you again and again hoping to catch just a glimmer of the magic. Maybe you carry it inside your pocket but I have a sneaky suspicion it lies right there within that good ol' country girl heart.

"Carolina girls, the best of the world!" Love, Randi


Thank you from the bottom of my melted heart. You amaze me. Another cool chick in my book is a contemporary Christian musician, Ginny Owens. She is an inspiring singer, song writer, keyboard player, and oh yes, she’s blind. The words to my favorite song of hers remind us…

“…I could sing like an angel, songs so humble and so thankful so the world would know Your truth…I could give away my life to restore the people that are so important, yet lost, down, and out…find favor with peasants and kings….but if I do not love, I am nothing..

….I could speak so kindly, smile so warmly…I could achieve success on earth, but these things will not matter in the end…stories will cease, the dust will settle on my selfless deeds…but if I did not love, I am nothing. I will love my brother like no other….as You first loved me…

…When I leave this earth, will they choose to say, that I chose to love?”

Every little face I see, is an opportunity to love. Children connect with their hearts, whether broken or whole, so I try to humbly give them mine first, whether broken or whole, with sincerity, respect, and a whole lotta childish humor.

What other career allows us this amazing opportunity?
Can You Imagine, a Day …when everyone loves others as they would be loved? I bet you can…



Thursday, February 7, 2008

Co-teaching- Departmentalized (Lindsay Hoffman/ Lynn Patterson)

My Question is for Lindsay Hoffmann and Lynn Patterson:
Lindsay and Lynn how have you all managed as 1st year co-teachers and still stay “departmentalized”? What is a typical day like as you both interact with your class (specifically focusing being “departmentalized”)? What are some things that you have learned about co-teaching since the 1st day of school this year? Ashley

The answer is that we don't... We are always thinking of ways to integrate subjects. For example, if we're working on visualization in Writers', we can practice in math when working with story problems, or if we are working on report writing, we may brainstorm doing reports on a current or recent topic of study in Science.

The overlap of subjects allows for a deeper understanding in a more well-rounded learner, who is better prepared for the real world, where things are rarely isolated or departmentatlized!

L & L

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Is there a 2nd-3rd grade Math gap? (Ashley Russell)

Ashley Russell - How has the experience of being a 3rd grade Math teacher helped you with your transition to 2nd grade? Do you feel there is a gap between the 2nd and 3rd grade Math curriculum. If so, do you have suggestions as to how to better bridge the gap? Kathi

In my opinion, my experience as a 3rd (and 4th) grade teacher has been an enormous asset in my work as a 2nd grade teacher. Even though I have not taught 2nd grade, I feel like I have an advantage because I know what the students will be expected to do next year (and the next for that matter.) As I teach, I often find myself “slipping in” 3rd grade terminology or skills thus making my job easier for next year as I hope to loop my kids to 3rd grade. I also feel that I have been able to help my 2nd grade math colleagues better understand what their students will be expected to do next year as I am on the only one who has taught in the intermediate grades.

As far as a “gap” between 3rd and 2nd grade goes, when I taught 3rd grade I used to think there was a gap but now I have come to a new realization. As I have been teaching my heart out this year, I have come to understand that students in 2nd grade must learn everything that is taught. There is absolutely no room for missing any of the concepts in order for them to be “successful” in 3rd grade. This so-called “gap” seems to be the result of any concept that was not learned in 2nd. The curriculum is set up well enough; however, it is my job as a 2nd grade teacher to make sure that the concepts are not just taught, rather that each child has a deep understanding of the concepts. No math concept can be skipped in 2nd grade. Great question!!Ashley