Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Good News Calls and Parent Teacher Conferences

Yesterday was Parent-Teacher Conferences at my school. Though I had met most of the parents before, I was still nervous, but overall they went great. I love getting to meet my students’ parents, as so often I can see exactly where my students get their personalities from. It is also fun to get to tell parents how great their child is. Although conferences are littered with the conversations of your child “is talkative”, “needs to stay in his seat”, or “needs to do her homework”, it is always easy to come up with good things to say about each student (which parents love to hear!).

This has been so evident this year as my school has taken on the initiative for each teacher to make a weekly “good news” call. Once a week, we call home to a parent about something nice, thoughtful, or academically good a student has done. I have made phone calls ranging from students hard work to get an A+ on a test, working to help other students understand class material, or asking great questions in class. Parents are always surprised to get the call and some even start with “What’s wrong?!?” but they loving hearing great things about their child. This is not a new concept to tell parents good things about their kid, but how often do we take the time to do it? I can say it truly pays off as it creates a great parent-teacher relationship and a positive school atmosphere.

Ms. H

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Talking Text Evidence - Literacy Integration Example

Common Core.  Sometimes I look over what my seventh grade students are expected to do and become slightly overwhelmed.  They are so new to the concept of a rigorous, daily social studies course, and the reading and writing tasks can be daunting.  I am doing my best to break it down for them visually so that the process is more easily understood.  This week, we are focusing on the following standard:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

 My students are completing this chart to help them with the task of citing textual evidence.  While the initial set-up was challenging for many of them, most have found success once I  provided one-on-one support.  I think this will be a graphic organizer we go back to throughout the year, and I am hoping they will develop into text evidence pros by June!

What are you using to teach ‘text evidence’ in your classrooms?

--Mrs. K

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Informational Text: Literacy in the Social Studies Classroom

We are officially working in our Social Studies Department PLC this year on the goal of raising standardized test scores in the informational text strand for a selected target population group.  Holy smokes!  Our goal is to help 75% of our identified students become proficient in this by the end of the school year.  Why?!? (I often need to remind myself of the why, as this is quite the process…)

I am lucky to work with a group of teachers that firmly believe that they too are teachers of reading in their secondary content area classes.  We do not just teach students dates, places, and battles!  Our team integrates literacy within social studies to help students use text evidence to support their arguments, summarize main ideas and central messages, evaluate how word choices and structure contribute to the author’s purpose, and offer deep analysis regarding context and audience.  At least this is what we are trying to do, anyway :)

Everyone should go get a MEd in Reading and Literacy!  The things I have learned over the past fourteen months have made me ten times more effective as a teacher.  Not that I am counting down, but only eight more months to go! When a get a free minute (ha!) I will share some specific activities my 7th grade kiddos have been working on this year that integrate literacy and American History.

How are you integrating literacy into your secondary content area class?

-Mrs. K

Monday, October 14, 2013

Literacy in Math Class

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a presentation on literacy in the classroom hosted by a professional development speaker. Initially I was apprehensive about the presentation; what ideas could I apply to my math class from a speech about literacy? As in any good professional development seminar, I walked away with many things to ponder and new ideas I wanted to try in my classroom.

Over the course of the presentation, the speaker addressed the different types of reading students need to be competent in. She also demonstrated how students can organize their thoughts and writing with graphic organizers and how it is important to incorporate reading and writing strategies across all disciplines. I started to think about what reading and writing I currently bring into my math classes. This year, we have been writing more in my classes by practicing extended response problems. I observed that most of my students fit into four major categories when working on word problems:

1. A few students cannot get past reading the problem. After reading, they have no idea where to start or what answers need to be found.
2. Many students can read the problem and understand where they should end up, but lack the critical thinking and problem solving skills needed to reach the answer.
3. The students that do have the critical thinking skills to solve the problem can not explain why they do each step.
4. Then, there is the student who can solve and explain the problem and answer before most of the class even reads the problem.

I made a new graphic organizer (shown below) to help my students solve and explain these extended response problems. Most of my students are at level two or three and will be able to meet my objective of solving and explaining extended response questions through classroom instruction. My level four students will receive challenge problems to help them stay engaged and challenged as I walk through the organizer with the rest of the class. After the class looks at it, I will make sure to pay special attention to my level one students as we go through more examples and utilize pull out groups if necessary. I realize these strategies may need some adjustments, but I am excited to work putting these ideas into practice in my classes this week.

Ms. H

Monday, September 30, 2013

Post-Test Processing

What do you do when some students show mastery of content on a test and others demonstrate little to no understanding of what you have been teaching for the last month?  As a social studies teacher, I have found that this scenario is common in my classroom.  I cannot just move on to the next unit when some of my kids have not demonstrated that they have met our learning goals.  This is where my Post Test Processing activity comes in.

Besides the test question corrections, this activity also gives students the opportunity to self-assess their studying efforts and reflect on what part(s) of the test they most struggled with.  I also get some pretty creative thoughts in the Open Mic section! :)

Are there any post-test activities you do with your students?

-Mrs. K

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cooking with Fractions

Seventh Grade is officially done with their first project in my class, Cooking with Fractions. This was by far my favorite project I have ever had students complete because it so clearly was applicable to their lives. The project had students find a recipe that had six ingredients and at least four measurements of which two were mixed numbers. They then took this recipe and found how much of each ingredient they would need to make one serving and sixteen servings.

Students had three days in class to work on their project. They had access to Chromebooks to find recipes and create a spreadsheet of which their final values were recorded. Students also used that time to write all work down on loose leaf to turn in. The example below is of one of my students who did an amazing job labeling, showing work, and organizing how the information was laid out.

The best part though was having students bring in the food for the recipe they had been working on. This was optional as a fun end to the unit. Each student had a permission form signed saying they could eat the food and if they had any allergies. My students, or maybe their parents, are incredible cooks! We had brownies, cupcakes, cookies, dips, pies, dirt cups, rolls, and more. I was so full at the end of the day I could barely move! Not only did I love the project, but so did the students. They were so excited to be able to bring something into share and get to try others food. Plus they saw the real-world connection, they understood that math can be used in real-life and how important it is. I was so happy with how the project turned out, I cannot wait to do it again next year!

-Ms. H

Friday, September 13, 2013

7-12 Perks

With week two finishing up (TGIF people), I would like to pat myself on the back a little bit.  Eight days of school and 132 names mastered!  That would be first names only, but the last names are slowly learned as I continue to update my gradebook.  Go me!

This is the first year I am working at a 7-12 school.  I have previously taught at a 9-12 high school, a 5-8 middle school, and a K-12 school (the one in Alaska).  I am beginning to dig the 7-12 situation for a few reasons:

  • One class to prep for.  This comes in handy when you are working on a MEd as well.
  • I am teaching middle school students (my favorite) but get to be involved in high school activities, such as homecoming contents, varsity athletics, and spirit week fun.  Love it!
  • I am part of both the 7th grade team of teachers AND the 7-12 social studies department.  This kind of rocks :)

I do miss visiting the “littles” at my K-12 school.  Small Eskimo children are just about the cutest thing in this world.  I can see myself teaching K-6 students in the future as I work toward becoming a licensed reading specialist (this was a choice inspired my struggling readers in Alaska. So glad I decided to pursue Reading and Literacy Education).  But for now, I am loving my 7-12 perks :)

Have a great weekend!  What will you be doing?  I will be heading to a high school football game tonight in support of my husband (also a teacher and a coach).  Friday Night Lights!  

Mr. K in action!

-Mrs. K