Sunday, January 19, 2014

Highlights from MiFlip14

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend MiFlip 2014, and it. was. awesome.  Steve Kelley and Zach Creswell kicked off the keynote with the top 10 tips on flipping.  The keynote was filled with great advice, and lots of humor.  Some of my favorite lines were:

"Teachers teaching in isolation is a travesty."
"Can your students best work be found online? How about yours?"
"Everyone is trying to create the same stuff.  That's dumb. Collaborate."
"If your comfortable with what you're doing in the classroom, then you're moving too slow."
"Create, borrow and share"
And my favorite...
"Tell your story, and if we don't have a story, then shame on us."

I think I could write a post about each and every one of these quotes.

I was also lucky enough to present with Erin Klein. To say it was an honor to share the podium with her is an understatement.  She talked about her "internal" flipping that she does as centers in her classroom.  My challenge now is trying to figure out how I can tweak that and make it applicable in my class of 5th graders.

So the keynote was awesome, presenting with Erin was awesome, but neither of those were my highlights of the day.  My highlight came directly after lunch.  As a member of the planning committee, we decided to have a student panel.  One of the biggest worries many teachers have when beginning flipping is how will students/parents take it.  So, I invited all the kids in my class, and 4 committed and showed up, parents in tow.  I was so nervous...super nervous.  You want to do something brave, put a bunch of your students on a panel to answer questions & tell them to be completely honest.  Terrifying!  I knew what I hoped they would say, but I had no idea what would actually come out of their mouths.

I was beyond proud of them and their answers.  They handled themselves very professionally (at least as professionally as you can expect a 5th grader to handle themselves).  They even wove some humor into their presentation.  We finished our presentation a little early, so we joined in a session called "good teaching".  When we went in, the group was discussing what you look for when hiring a teacher.  They turned and asked my students and the students came up with some really insightful responses.  They said that they wanted someone who was fun and would joke with them, and who was willing to try out new stuff because not everyone learns the same way.  They even got a chance to talk about their Genius Hour projects, and their enthusiasm was contagious.

Just writing about the experience makes me smile...I am so proud of those kids.

Friday, January 10, 2014

20 Day Blogging Challenge...Day 2

Today's blog assignment on the 20 Day Blogging challenge is to "share an organizational tip from your classroom."

Over Christmas Break I reworked my reading notebook that I use to keep track of my student's reading data, and I'm super excited about it.  To start off, I found some super fun fluorescent paper at Walgreens.  I save it for special occasions and my reading notebook seemed like a good one.  Then I thought about what I wanted to have tracked for the year.  For me, it was students' scores on their MAP tests, their AR points, and the genre's that they've read.  After writing most of their information out by hand, I decided that next year I would use a typed version (which I have shown below).  Also on my chart is an area for the students to set goals for themselves for their MAP tests and AR points.  One of the things I do during my reading conferences with the students is go over their goals.

At the beginning of my binder I have a calendar that I use to keep myself on track with my reading conferences.  I have a tab for each student, where I keep their tracking form & my conferencing forms.  I've found this binder to be incredibly helpful keeping me on track, and keeping my information organized.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

20 Day Blogging Challenge...Day 1

During my snow day yesterday I was checking out Twitter & I saw a link going around about a 20 day blogging challenge.  As someone who has sort of fallen off the blogging wagon, I was looking for something to kick my butt into gear, and I think I might have found it.  While I doubt I'll be able to blog everyday, if I could get all 20 in by the end of February, I think I'll be doing pretty good.

The first day of the challenge is: Tell about a favorite book to share or teach. Provide one example of an extension or cross curricular lesson.

This is a fun 1st topic for me because I LOVE reading.  When I taught 3rd grade, my absolute favorite read aloud was Because of Winn Dixie. I found it so easy to get into character.

I've now taught 5th grade for 4 years, and probably my favorite read aloud, up until this year, is Bud, Not Buddy.  Again, it's super easy for me to get into character, and the fact that my school is in Grand Rapids makes it really interesting to students.  

This year I have 2 new favorite read first I haven't actually read to my kids yet (it's coming at the end of the year when we study mysteries).  That book is Capture the Flag.  I enjoyed it so much that I am sure my students will too.  The book I'm actually going to share a lesson from is the book I started my year with, Wonder.  Wonder is an amazingly enjoyable book that the students can all relate to.  In the book their teacher has monthly "precepts", which we talked about while we were reading, and the students really got into them.  They are now starting to pick up on morals/lessons of different books that we read.  I always start my year with a classroom vision, and this year was no different.  What I thought was really interesting was that after we read Wonder, my students wanted to revisit the vision & at the end they decided that we need to add "to be kinder than necessary" and That. Was. Awesome.

Monday, January 6, 2014


It's been awhile since I blogged...I've been meaning to, but I just haven't.  I'd sit down at my computer & try to figure out what to type & my mind came up empty.

Actually, that's not entirely true.  I have a lot of things that have been on my mind, but they aren't positive.  To say that it's been a frustrating year is an understatement.  I've had things happen in my classroom that make me question whether I'm in the right profession.

I know it's totally cliche to say "I care too much", but at times I think I do, and that's just sad.  How is it possible to care too much about my students.

One thing I know is true about myself is that I am an eternal optimist, but my optimism has been dying a slow and painful death this year.  So I've decided to change my perspective.

When I get an angry email from a parent, instead of letting it keep me up at night, I'm going remember the numerous emails from parents thanking me for what I do for their child.

When a student refuses to do their work, instead of getting frustrated, I'm going to think about that student who worked so hard on his genius hour project that he spent 2 months learning how to play a song on the guitar, which he then performed in front of the class.

When I have a student (or 15) that don't do their homework, instead of letting it drive me bonkers, I'm going to remember the 40 students that did do their homework.

When I have a student talk back, instead of letting it get to me I'm going to remember the student who helped out their friend just because it was the right thing to do.

When I have a student that I just can't reach, I'm not going to give up, I'm going to smile, keep trying, and think about that student who I know I have touched, and who is comfortable enough to tell me when they're having issues at home.

It's all about perspective.