What’s Working!

How has it been over a month since my last post?

School has been off to a good start – new things happening there:  first year co-teaching, incorporating more technology, and switching things up a bit due to my 5th year in 5th grade (I’m getting antsy).  Every time I look at a new unit, I’m changing my plans because I’ve done some things a few times and want to update/make it better!

I just wanted to share what I’ve used in my classroom so far, because many of these ideas were found on Twitter this summer!  So what’s working for me this year?  Well…

Paper Blogging!

1) KidBlog & Paper Blogging –  We started with paper.  When we were commenting, they were so quiet – it was awesome and engaging!  Blogging on line: my students are loving this!  We will be connecting with other classes as soon as we have some more experience under our belts!

2) Wordle – How much fun are word clouds?

3) Video Usage – Science extra credit:  Make your own original song about Heredity or Systems of the Body and record yourself singing or making a music video.  A hit so far!

4) Flipped Videos – Tried out in Science, all went well, and now trying out Math this week!

5) Using interactive whiteboard – Hard to figure out at first, but now, really great! Super similar to what I used to use – SmartBoard.

6) IDE Corp. – A few teachers in my school are working with this program to promote problem-based learning and student responsibility.  I’m loving the tenets behind the training, although it is a lot of work.  It will all be worth it at the end, and I thank the administration for giving us so much time to plan the units!

What’s working for you this year?  I’d love to hear/discuss more ideas!

Tremendous Twitter: The School Year Begins

School began today and will continue tomorrow with PD days, and then the 9th with students.  Before all the craziness begins, I wanted to reflect on my summer, and look forward to the f..f..f… FALL. (I’m a summer girl at heart, warm weather suits me – NJ makes it difficult).

Being on Twitter, I have a renewed sense of excitement for the 1st day of school.  I’m thrilled to incorporate blogs, TLAP ideas, and just utilize WAY more technology than I have in the past.  I’m using this post to reflect on what I want to use from my “Summer of Twitter” and set goals for myself!

1) I WILL have my students blogging.  KidBlog is all set up and ready to go!  I won’t grade their responses as I want to use this year as a pilot year, but am thrilled about the students reflecting on their learning and being able to WRITE while having some fun!

2) My school district (many thanks to the administration) has purchased new laptops and new Windows 8 tablets for our use.  Although I am accustomed to an iPad, I’m head over heels about having the tablets – can’t wait to test drive them.  I plan to utilize them much more in my lessons!

3) On my first day of school, there will be play-doh.  That’s all I need to say.

4) Going along with the pirates, I want to use more music in my room.  I’m a band geek from way back, and music holds a special place in my heart.  From Science to Writing to Math, I want to find songs that fit in with lessons to change things up for my students (and for myself).

5) Personal note:  I will be co teaching with a wonderful colleague this year, and can’t wait to learn & grow with her.  It will definitely be a change, but one that I’m finding will be awesome. (Two heads are better than one, as two famous co teachers once said…)

Yes, I’ll be using other Twitter & Pinterest ideas along the way, but here are some BIG goals for my upcoming school year.  I feel like I’m a brand-spankin’ new teacher again, with all these ideas that I can’t wait to try! Woo!

One last point that has been drilled into me this summer by my PLN is that I don’t want to be afraid to fail.  I don’t want to be safe all the time – I want to try different paths, see where things take me and my students!  I think that just by starting this blog and trying to stick to the above goals, I’m already on a different path than my previous Septembers, but I’m super excited for this ride.

Magnificent Math

I’ve been finding so many wonderful articles/posts about Math and felt a need to make a post on math – my favorite subject growing up and still is to this day!  After undergrad, I went back for my Masters in Middle School Mathematics (Montclair State University, great program).  I learned and ENJOYED learning so much from my professors.  They made me realize that the “drill and kill” days need to come to an end.  This was 3 years ago, and the push towards more understanding in mathematics is pressing.

We can no longer have children divide fractions by saying “keep the first, change to multiplication and flip the second”. (Yours is not to question why, just flip and multiply… a colleague told me that one!)  They need to UNDERSTAND why you are doing that!  That you are using the inverse and seeing how many of those fit into 1… the whole shebang!

In New Jersey, we are moving towards the PARCC testing, and with the new Common Core standards, we see that students do need to know the why AND the how.  But, honestly, why wouldn’t we want them to know both?  I know SO much more about math now than I did growing up, granted that comes with age, but things were explained to me in my Masters program, as never before.  We used Algebra Tiles, I found patterns in triangular numbers, I made string art to see that enough straight lines can make a curve! (See my project below — yes, I made it with string, and nailed the nails into the wood – took a while, but SO worth it).

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One professor told me that if you want to teach middle school math, you need to know high school math; if you want to teach high school math, you need to know college math… any way she put it, she is saying that you, as the teacher, need to know where you’re kids are going!  How can you prepare them for something you, yourself don’t know?

I suppose what it comes down to is that I LOVE math and I want to instill that into my students.  I don’t want them to be afraid of graphs or fractions (I always ask them, are the fractions going to bite you?!), I want them to feel comfortable in any topic we are discovering (not covering).  And above all, I want them to persevere through problems, trying multiple strategies to arrive at an answer, even if it’s wrong!  Problem solving strategies aren’t just for math — they’re for LIFE!

Here are some more pictures of a project I had to do for that program – make posters showing relationships between US Customary System and Metric.  Some parts have been worn, but I’m fixing them this summer to use in my class!

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Perusing Pinterest…

Like I said, I’m relatively new to Twitter, but I’ve had a Pinterest account for a while.  HOW did I never see classroom/education pins?!

Completely reasonable that others would post about classroom posters, decor, and even student work… why did this not occur to me sooner?  So, adding to my twitter fun, I’ve begun “pinning” to Pinterest ideas I LOVE and hope to recreate (some of which I already have). I’ll be sure to show pictures of posters I am making/made as I embark on this new adventure of creating meaningful (and my favorite) classroom posters.  Image

WHAT IS A SCIENTIST — REALLY?! I LOVE THIS ONE – MAKING IT SOON!

If you’re new to the world of PLN’s, like I am, I highly recommend you check out Pinterest for ideas to inspire your teaching, to ignite your passion, and to just plain enjoy!

Interesting Introductions…

My first post – well, I feel like I should do some introducing to start!  Introducing my hopes, why I started this and of course, some of the people who inspired me to blog!  This summer, my school district is participating in the “Summer of Twitter Challenge”, led by Dennis, @gordonshistory (really great resource for Tech and anything – he WILL be on Jeopardy one day).  Being new to Twitter, I was a lurker for a while.  Yet, after participating in many chats, and creating new connections, I am so excited about new prospective ideas for next school year.

In my travels on Twitter, I have met so many other educators and have shared many discussions and ideas.  The sense of community is unbelievable!  Two educators, Rafranz Davis, @RafranzDavis, and Sean Junkins, @sjunkins, inspired me to begin this blog, not just for others, but also to put my thoughts into written words, on which to reflect and become a better educator and better person!

My hopes for this blog? To create entries to catalog my adventures with my 5th graders and, hopefully, help others along the way.

Side note: Fact – Independence Day is my FAVORITE holiday.  Happy Birthday America! 🙂