Classroom Reveal

Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Let me preface this post with I have not had my own classroom in a few years and didn't realize how few materials I had to jazz up my room. I also teach students will all kinds of disabilities so I don't want to overwhelm anyone. This past week was our in-service with some work time. My work time however, was spent with my SPED teach divvying up our caseload and dealing with an aide shortage when another 1:1 student enrolled! I had very little time to prepare, but it is ready to go for the first day.

I found some fantastic free posters and decorated my room that way along with the traditional boards covered in paper. Take a look!

There are a lot of oddities like no shades(butcher paper was used to cover the windows overlooking the hallway) and the Smart Board covering half of my only whiteboard. My favorite part of my room is my green bulletin board. It signifies the changes that are happening in my room which is standards based grading and focusing on processes. I take no credit for any of the poesters. I found some free posters online and bought some great ones from TpT.

Heading Back to School

Monday, August 21, 2017
Even though I don't have to return to my classroom until tomorrow, I have been emailing parents and teachers over the last week with concerns that are already springing up!  Do you feel this way?  Schedules need changed, parents want to meet, caseloads are changing, and new students are enrolling.

I am always a bit apprehensive to actually head back to my blank classroom (I have moved rooms every year) and get back to work.  I try to remember everything I had to follow up on from the last year and struggle to get ready in time for the first day with students.  We are down an aide this year from four to three in our department and are getting more difficult and time-intensive students.  Over 1/10th of our school is on an IEP-probably more than that actually!

This year I am trying to focus on some positives because it has been the hardest for me to agree to go back.  I have a room to myself now which is so nice!  Our administration has taken some things off out plate, but it is still a lot, especially being in special education.

Here are my goals for the year:
1. Be organized.  Especially with my caseload!  Each year we have a larger caseload and we have less contact time with students so I need to have my data recording and student info together and handy for when teachers stop in or parents contact me.
2. Be firm.  I tend to be too lax with my students.  I teach math for the most part and know that it is terribly difficult for them to do so I may not put my foot down enough and then the year drags on.
3. Be proactive.  Instead of procrastinating, work on reports and testing with plenty of time left and work on getting teacher cooperation.

What are your goals for the year?

Enter the giveaway below! Winner will be announced by 8AM tomorrow.

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Engaging Activities for Achievable Challenge

Thursday, January 19, 2017
Welcome to Week 3 of my Thursday Reading Series! Achievable Challenge (aka differentiated instruction, only better) takes a lot of work. In chapter 3, we read about some activities Willis has used to incorporate achievable challenge. What I love about these ideas is that there is a lot of free exploration for the students to learn and ask questions at their own pace. One thing that I really like to do is use manipulatives. For a high school classroom, I have A LOT of manipulatives. One of my favorite things is to use blank dice. This allows me to differentiate what is on the dice for different groups.
Really short post this week, but go out and try something at your student's achievable challenge level! Remember to comment in the giveaway!

Perfect Your Levels of Instruction with Achievable Challenge

Thursday, January 12, 2017
Welcome to Chapter 2!

 This is really where the rubber starts to meet the road. Willis explains her key concept of Achievable Challenge as a task that is just difficult enough to engage students but at a level where they won't get frustrated. Think of it in a Goldilocks style: If a task is too easy, even if you are successful, you do not feel fulfillment, but if the task is too difficult, you give up in frustration. Using achievable challenge, when a task is completed, you feel satisfaction in having pushed yourself while being successful.
Obviously, this sounds just like differentiated instruction, but I like this term much better. There are of course a lot of logistics involved but Willis tries to break it down for us. She says to split the kids into two groups based on learning styles: Map Readers and Explorers. You can probably guess what each of these groups characteristics are. Map readers are more by the book and willing to show work, while the explorers are likely to try to just get to the answer. By determining which groups your students fall in, you can focus on leaning characteristics to guide instruction. Try to have a map reading activity and an explorer activity and see which students are drawn to and more successful. 

The strategies for this chapter are:

1. Using multi-sensory input: use music, videos, movement, and manipulatives in your lessons.

 2. Using flexible grouping: support students and group them with peers with similar abilities. I am not so sure about this one as I have personally seen my special education students challenged by being with peers who are at a much higher level and my special learners can make huge gains.

 3. Scaffolding: break down a task so that students can build confidence and be comfortable before moving on to the next level.

 4. Avoiding boredom: be prepared with higher (and lower) level questions for students who finish quickly or who struggle. Ask students to write how much time they spend on homework to get a feel for the effort involved. Gifted students when faced with a difficult problem are more likely to show work and talk through the steps than with questions they can easily solve in their head.

 How do you tackle achievable challenge in your classroom? For me, every year, I prepare more levels of materials and different activities so I can change the level of difficulty when needed. Trying to do it all at once would be so difficult. Remember to comment to be entered in the giveaway!

5 Simple Strategies For a Math Attitude Makeover

Thursday, January 5, 2017
Welcome to Chapter 1 from Learning to Love Math by Judy Willis! One thing that struck me about the title this week is that is says learning to love math; meaning it can be taught and attitudes can change because everyone can learn!

 We all have students who have a hatred towards math. Willis discusses reasons why this poor attitude comes about. These are things like teaching ideas in isolation without real life applications and generalizations and changing expectations each year. Parental views and expectations also play a big part in attitude. Teaching style is another big factor. Lecture is seen as bad where hands-on, interactive activities are viewed more positively by students. All of these things should be sounding familiar. But how do we change these attitudes?

 There are 5 strategies meant to foster positive attitudes. (I am going to put some together).

1. Students need to feel comfortable in their learning environment and feel comfortable with taking risks. Enlist the help of parents to add more math into a students at home life to reinforce concepts. As students are fostered with a positive math environment at home and at school, they will succeed more and see the usefulness of math in their lives.

 2. One at school strategy is retesting. Since math builds upon itself, students need to achieve a mastery level before moving onto the next subject. Students need to show the corrective action so they take the retests seriously. Here is a great idea and graphic to explain this process to your students and I love the concept of applying for a retest with older students.

 3. Next is demonstrating that math is valuable and that you care about your students. I am blessed to teach a consumer math class where everything we learn can be applied into the students lives. But, they STILL don't understand the value in what I am teaching and are disinterested. My students know that I care about them. It is much easier for me than most because I am fairly close to their age so I find that 90% of the time it is easy for me to form good rapport with each student. Willis suggests a math autobiography where students can explain their previous math experiences (and don't we always try to get more writing in math!) with extra emphasis on positive experiences.

 4. Finally, have students assess you. This may seem scary, but as something that I have done in my classroom since my first year, you get over what the students may say about you and hopefully there is much more good than bad! Have students grade you in different areas. I often have my students critique a lesson, give input into topics they want to learn, and tell the good bad and ugly about my teaching and the class. Just remember to take it and improve on yourself.

 Which one of these strategies do you currently use in your room or would be willing to try? Comment below to be entered in the giveaway (details here)!

 One really scary statistic that Judy Willis points out is that only 42 percent of people could calculate a 10% tip! That's over half the people in the polling sample and a very basic skill. Helping our students realize that the skills we teach are important will help their attitudes as well.

Thursday Reading Series

Thursday, December 29, 2016
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are enjoying at least some time off from teaching.  As I am thinking about the new year and my goals I decided to create a series here on my blog.  Sometimes I get so burned out with all the SPED stuff I deal with that I like to delve a little more into best practices for the math classes and other classes that I teach.
 I have decided to start a Thursday professional development reading series.  I will be starting out with Learning to Love Math by Judy Willis and each week I will discuss a chapter and some things that I would like to start to do in my classroom with that information.  I hope that you will chime in and discuss things you are already doing, things you will do, and read along with me!
Chapter 1
I just have to say after reading the synopsis of this book (and even the title) I am excited to read this book!  My students in high school already have a bad taste in their mouth about math.  Mainly its because in the past, they haven't had enough time to properly learn the material and feel lost all the time.  I try to make math interesting and relatable to them and I am excited to start using these new strategies in my classroom.  Join me next Thursday for Chapter 1: Reversing Math Negativity with an Attitude Makeover.  You can find it for free here.

At the end of the series. I will be giving away a copy of this book to the person that comments on the most series posts!  Included in the prize will also be a $10 credit towards my TpT store!

1. You must be a follower of my blog to be eligible for the prize.  If you aren't already look to the right and follow by email.  This will keep you updated on new posts!
2. The person that comments on the most Thursday Reading Series blog posts will win this book and $10 Resource Room Relevance TpT Credit.
3. Only one comment per person per post will count (any extra comments will not count towards your total).
4. Comments will only be counted if they are submitted before the next Thursday when the next blog post is published.
5.  In the case of a tie I will use a random winner generator to pick the winner.
6. Comment count starts with today's post!

Do your students love or hate math?  Comment below!

First Quarter Recap

Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Looking back on this first quarter, it has been much harder than usual.  My kids behaviors are worse than usual, I am testing WAY more students for special education services than usual (which takes up most of my planning time) and I have been more unorganized than usual!  I sound like a train wreck!

How do you reign back in a semi-unruly classroom?

Anyways, as I am thinking of new ways to start the new quarter out right, I am part of a giveaway.

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Prize: $25 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card
Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy 
Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. Giveaway ends 11/7/16 and is open worldwide.
Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media?  Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers!
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