Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Planting my First Seed

My teaching inspiration has blossomed since I discovered the many teacher bloggers and pinners on the Internet. Their creative visuals, words of advice, and endless ideas to bring into my classroom has helped me create my very own classroom this year. Although this is my third year teaching, I was given the honor of teaching my own substantially separate classroom of special middle school learners this year. It has been positively rewarding and challenging every day. I live for the "ah-huh!"  moments. I rise to the challenges, and try to create a teachable moment out of each. I am empowered every time I take a wrong turn to do better the next time. I know this is where I belong. I also know I wouldn't be teaching if it weren't for my teaching colleagues both near and far. The role modeling, advising, and endless support has given me the power to be my best, to admit my mistakes, and then make many more in an effort to reach students who needed just needed some sunlight and water.

Did I mention I love metaphors?

I hope that if your visiting my blog, I pass along a few tidbits of advice. I hope you can get a good laugh out of my crazy days and that we can collaborate in an effort to teach.

My Best,


About Me and a Freebie!

Today I'd like to tell you a little bit about myself. I am teaching for my third year in Massachusetts: first I taught preschool, then fourth grade special education co-teacher, and now 7th and 8th grade Lifeskills (a substantially separate special education classroom). I am growing older every year it seems.
I LOVE having my very own classroom this year. It is equally the most challenging position I have held. I am responsible for so much paperwork, and I still have a class of 7 students with me all day. I have 3 aides, yes 3, so we are able to do a LOT of 1:1 support. This is fantastic. We require that time as my students range from accessing preschool curriculum to accessing late elementary curriculum. They need me to plan a curriculum just for them! I have found ways to group students for different activities and on occasion I differentiate a lesson enough that I am able to get all of my students working together. It takes time and a bit of creativity but it is so fun when it works right!

I am a graduate student at Lesley University and I will graduate in December of 2013 with my Masters in Severe Disabilities. I am absolutely loving graduate school. Great friends, great professors, great ideas. I love learning something one night and applying it the next day in the classroom. School and school are my life right now. Except my boyfriend. He makes dinner sometimes so that makes him pretty important too ; D

I love to craft, cook, read, sing in my car, scrapbook, play video games, and pinterest! Maybe this blog will be on my love list soon. I will have to get used to logging on regularly. I do follow some of my favorite blogs rather religiously, you blogging teachers have fabulous ideas! I spent last night trying to join a linky party, but I just couldn't figure out how to link in- anyone want to explain?

 Lastly, I'd like to offer this little freebie.

This activity is a great listening center for a math class! It works on place value and listening skills. I open this activity to students who need extra practice identifying numbers. I will record myself saying numbers (Through the 10,000 place value) and have students listen and write the number they hear. I give directions at the start of the recording: Listen, write, record. I make sure to speak slowly and repeat each number 3 times. We spend a lot of time teaching students to read numbers, but how much time do you spend teaching students to listen and understand numbers? This is a necessary and functional skill!

I personally use the classroom IPAD to record numbers. I can use a students answers to confirm that he/she is absorbing our place value practice and use it as data for progress or even a grade because it was completed completely independently!

My Best,

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Daily Reading Data Collection

Hello Everyone,

As I am just getting started, I know you may be visiting my blog for the first time. I want to share a freebie that I posted on TPT some time ago and how I use it in my classroom.

             This data sheet is part of my daily guided reading intervention. My seventh and eighth grade Lifeskills classroom has 7 students, all reading at different levels. After determining their reading level (I used an assessment that is used to level students within the reading program that the district provides me) I am able to  assign my students instructionally appropriate reading levels. Each day I meet with each student (this is an important 1:1 teaching opportunity that I make the time in my schedule to do, you may prefer having an aide support this task each day or not meeting every day) and have him or her read a story to me. My lowest leveled students, who are not yet reading, must be read to. Using this data collection sheet, I write the date, title, and level of the reader. I take notes as he or she reads, did he say very instead of really, or four instead of fork, these types of notes support my planning for work work. I will get to that later. But it is important to note what types of mistakes your student makes as you may begin to see patterns of errors as well as the types of decoding strategies he or she is using while reading. I also tally every reading error in the # of miscues box, all this data helps me determine progress and write data driven progress reports.
         When the reading is complete, I allow the student to flip through the pictures one more time if he or she would like to. Then we begin a discussion where I am able to assess comprehension. The questions I ask are  wh questions/knowledge based. We are not yet predicting, analyzing or synthesizing. When I began, most of my students were unable to recall these simple facts that I list  on my data sheet after the reading notes. I ask about the characters and the setting, details of the story, feelings of the character, etc. My questioning follows the basics of the Story Grammar Marker program for story retelling. I love this program! 

Here is a PPT that I think explains the program really well:

I like the simplicity of the program and it can be embedded into story sharing as well. I know that most of my students are lacking knowledge of the structure of a story. I notice that as they share stories, they do not embed the proper details and sequencing that is a part of storytelling. Teaching story structure through this program and by studying the structure of stories in print in a routine fashion has really helped develop their skills in both reading and sharing. The program has tons of visuals for the visual learners and likewise a "story braid" for the tactile learners. I have used both and found them extremely useful. I do not always need them though. Some of my students understand me when I say, "What was the kickoff of the story?" (The Kickoff is the initiating event that puts the story into motion). As my students become more skilled in the structure that stories typically follow, they have begun to retain more details that support them building comprehension to the story. As their accuracy with my routine data collection has reached 100% accuracy over a series of trials, I am begging to ask a few higher level thinking questions. I will let you know how this goes as we move forward : D

I hope that this data collection sheet helps you in your classroom as much as it helps me daily. Here is a link to the free download, along with several other formats and organizational forms. 

My Best,