Friday, September 25, 2015

Five For Friday - September 25

It's Friday, which means it's time for Doodlebugs Teaching's link up!  This week, I've got a theme going on:  my 5 favorite TpT purchases (as of right now, anyway).

First up, this is fab-u-lous.  If you teach third grade, you NEED this in your classroom.  I love it because it takes my kids through learning their multiplication facts, one at a time, and in a logical order.  The work can be done independently (hello, early finishers!) and coordinates perfectly with what we do in the classroom to learn multiplication facts.  I have the division one, too, and she has versions for addition and subtraction.  Just get them.  You can thank me later.  Snag it here.

I love all things Kristine Nannini, and this is where it all started.  A colleague suggested these, and they are incredible!  I use them for assessments when I feel like we've mastered a standard, but also as review questions.  The assessment items reflect different levels of DOK, and each standard comes with a place for students to note pre- and post-assessment data.  Truly a great buy that I've turned to time and again.  Get it here.

I also love these quick checks from Blair Turner.  Each standard has one page of about 10 problems that helps you see at a glance who is mastering it and who isn't.  I love these!  Check them out here.

This is one of the best writing resources I've seen, and I wish I'd used it right at the beginning of the year.  You'll want to make sure that you have the selected texts on hand (I had to beg around for the books), but at the end of the unit my kids were able to write a paragraph!!!  Woo hoooo!  Get your copy here.

I am diving into this one beginning this week.  I have never felt like I've given writing the focus it needs, but this seems like it's exactly what I need to give some structure to my lessons.  I've never seen a curriculum that I like nearly as well, and I'm excited about getting started.  You can buy it here.

Of course, I have bought tons that I love from fabulous sellers, but these are a few of the products I find myself turning to over and over because they're just so good!  

What have you bought that you love?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Student Led Conferences

I know that parent-teacher conference time is right around the corner for many of us - and not that farther behind for the rest - but last year was the first year that I didn't hold parent-teacher conferences.

Last year, my students led the conferences.  They compiled the data, archived work samples in portfolios, evaluated their behavior and work habits, invited the parents, reminded the parents, presented their data, answered questions, and even sent home thank you notes to parents for attending.

And it.  Was.  Glorious.

I decided to look into student-led conferences after one particularly disastrous evening.  In my district, all conferences are scheduled on one evening and the following morning, which means you are exhausted by the time everything is done.  Half of those who said they were going to attend don't show up.  And when you need to share less-than-stellar work, the person responsible for that work (the student) isn't even there!  So, guess who's on the hot seat for it?  Yep.

Student-led conferences solved all of those problems for me.  First, I'm sitting in, guiding and answering questions that the kids can't, but my role is more supervisor than leader.  Second, participation was through the roof - almost 90% of my kids had parents attend.  Third, the kids were the ones presenting the work, so they were the ones responsible for explaining the how and the why behind their learning.  At the end of the evening, I knew I'd never go back.

Here's how you can begin student-led conferencing!
  • Begin archiving in students' portfolios and data binders.  Plan to capture a variety of student work at regular intervals so that parents will have an accurate picture of how their kids are learning and growing.
  • Sketch out your timeline.  Begin with the date for conferences and plan backwards from there.  Pencil in dates for capturing data and work samples, rehearsing with students, sending home invitations, sending home reminders, making copies for the evening, and then following up with parents.
  • Rehearse with students.  I provide mine with a script to use during the conferences, and we practice daily in the days leading up to the conferences, with other students providing feedback.  It's a new experience for the kids, and the more you practice, the more comfortable they'll feel.
  • Plan the evening.  Will you do one-on-one conferences or will you host multiple conferences at one time?  Where will everyone sit?  What data will you need to have at your fingertips?  Where can students store their materials until they're ready?  Where will you have those waiting sit until it's their time to meet?
  • Reflect.  How did it go?  What would you change next year?  Consider getting feedback from your students and their parents to see what adjustments you need to make.
  • Follow up with parents.  Students can send home a thank you note with a line or two from you thanking them for attending.

One unforeseen yet pleasant effect of this type of conferring was that my students OWNED their work and learning.  It was theirs - their samples, their data, their evaluations - and they knew it.  And they loved it.  I had some even show up in ties and button down shirts with portfolios in hand, ready to lead the conference.  It made a difference in how they approached their learning in our classroom, knowing that it was truly their responsibility.

This type of conferring takes more planning on the front end - really, from the first day of school - but is totally worth it.  So, I created all of the forms, timelines, and instructions I would need to make sure my conferences run even more smoothly this year.  You can absolutely plan student-led conferencing on your own, but if you'd like a little help, check out my student-led conferencing kit in my TpT store!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Techy Tuesday - Planbook

I heart all things Erin Condren.  I love to plan with pencil and paper.  Put the two together, and you have the perfect storm for an Erin Condren teacher planner with all of the bells and whistles.

However, our principal purchased Planbook for our school and wanted us to use it this year.  I resisted.  I dragged my heels.  I didn't want to like it.  I wanted my pretty teacher planner and pretty pens.

But then.  But then I fell in love.  And even though I'm really, deep down, a pen and paper type of girl, I will never go back to pencil and paper planning.  Here's why I love Planbook.

See those standards?  Totally available to automatically insert from a menu.  They have CCSS and my state standards for science and social studies available.  And since we're asked to attach standards to our lessons, this makes it so easy!!  Plus, when I print my plans, I can uncheck the box to print the standard descriptions, so I don't have to see the whole standard written out.  Or, I can uncheck the standard box altogether and not see the standards at all!

See that YouTube link?  Yep, you can put links right in your plans.  Keep your plans pulled up on your computer, and links to anything you need are right at your fingertips!

Same thing here.  See the PowerPoints and pdfs that are on here?  You can upload any type of document, so not only does your administrator see it, but, again, it's at your fingertips and ready to open when you need it.

You can customize your Planbook with templates for different classes.  Since my math lessons tend to follow the same general format - direct instruction, workshop, and closure - I can have the template set up and then fill it in with specifics.

Planbook has a complimentary one month trial, and after that it's only $10 for the year if your school isn't purchasing it.  That is money VERY well spent.

I still use my Erin Condren life planner, and use it as my calendar, to do list tracker, etc., and I don't know how I'd get through life without it.  But for lesson planning?  I'm a Planbook fan!