Texas Teaching Fanatic

A look inside a 4th grade classroom

How Expectations Can Manipulate Success

no-fail

For those of you who don’t know, I’m teaching math again this year after taking on Reading and Writing for the past three years.  Teaching math is a little stressful intimidating when your passion is in language arts.  BUT–I’m putting on a smile and doing my best.

Last Friday, I gave an assessment on rounding.  My students have been doing so well that I just skipped that crucial piece of giving assessments: expectations.  Yep, I just gave out the test, reminded the students to put their name and date at the top and put it in the turn-in basket when they were finished.  The students put their name and date on it.  They took the test.  They turned it in.  They failed.

Or was it me who failed?

After stressing agonizing over the tremendous failure rate (to the tune of 17 out of a class of 22), I started to think.  Why did they fail?  Was it because I stink at teaching math?  Was it because they really didn’t know the material?  Was it because they were tired?  Why?

Then my brain turned on.  I didn’t see that they had shown their work.  I didn’t see that they had circled important information in the question.  They hadn’t labeled their numbers.  We did all of these things during our lessons and in their stations, but I didn’t see it on their tests.  Why?  Because I didn’t set up those expectations.

I’m all about giving my students a fair chance, so on Monday morning I spoke with several people about the problem and we came up with a simple solution.  Give the test again, but set up the expectations before allowing the students to begin.

So I did.  I told my students EXACTLY what I wanted to see on their assessment–all of the things mentioned above.  I told them that I expected nothing less.

Again, the students took the test.  They turned them in.  They succeeded!

First Round (Class #1): 2 100’s/17 60’s or below        First Round (Class #2): 2 100’s/16 60’s or below

Second Round (Class #2): 7 100’s/6 60’s or below     Second Round (Class #2): 9 100’s/6 60’s or below

A lesson on how expectations can manipulate success slapped me in the face.  Setting up expectations truly is VITAL to student success.  Students have to be reminded of what teachers expect out of them.  They have to know that it is not O.K. to settle for mediocrity.  We expect the best.  We expect them to try.  Most of all, we expect them to succeed.

**Oh, and this week, all but 4 (from both classes together) passed their end-of-week assessment.  🙂

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I’m tired…”zombie” tired!

There’s nothing quite like beginning-of-the-school-year tired. I know this will get better, but right now I’m pooped!

Celebrations: We had our first PLC (Professional Learning Community) meeting today. We talked about what our school is like currently–the good, the bad, and the ugly–and talked about what we want our school to look like. It is always good to get those feelings out on the table and collaborate about what we can so to make positive chances. think this is going to be a great year!

My kiddos are learning. That’s always good! We are working hard, asking questions, participating in discussions, and becoming more independent. So far, I’ve been impressed with how much my students are willing to take risks and so things out of their comfort zones. LOVE that! 😉

Too tired to post much more. My next post (hopefully tomorrow) will be dedicated to setting goals and expectations with students. I was slapped in the face this week by how much teacher expectations play into student performance… Stay tuned!!

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2013 Classroom Reveal: Inside My 4th Grade Classroom!

I finally did it.  I cleaned up my room and snapped some quick pics before I left.  Warning: I make all of my anchor charts and rules and wall decor with my students, so the walls are very bare.  I’ve covered my bulletin boards, but there isn’t anything else on the walls.  You at least get the idea of what my “home away from home” looks like.  🙂

Here goes:

photo 1(8)This is a picture of the wall/bulletin board/shelf behind my desk.  I put pictures of my family at the top on the shelf, along with some keepsakes from past years.  I also put up all of my class pictures on the side of the bulletin board.  I have my own references and books on the shelves, and I figured you didn’t care about that stuff, so I cut it out of the pic.

photo 4(5)This is my whiteboard easel that holds the Writing Binders that my students will use to publish their writing, along with posters and chart paper.

photo 4(6)These are my classroom computers and my ELMO (document camera).  I have a Promethean board in my classroom and my projector is mounted in the ceiling.  You can see that from the whole classroom view.

photo 2(9)My mom made me some awesome curtains this year!  I love them very much!!  I used to have boring green ones, but luckily she was willing to help me give my room the facelift it needed.  This window is right by the door and looks out into the hallway.

photo 1(9)This is the sign-in area set up for Back to School Night and for parents to fill out on the first day of school (for those that missed B2SN).  I found that cute little whiteboard/chalkboard at Hobby Lobby for $5.99.  I just HAD to have it!!  🙂

photo 3(8)At the front of the room, underneath the Promethean board, I have just enough room to have a small shelf to hold materials that the students will be using on a regular basis.  I’m teaching math and writing this year, so it is a mixture of both.

photo 1(10)These are the table cubbies that I bought at Dollar Tree for $1.  Some of my students have already claimed their desks, so pardon the papers and names on them!

photo 4(7)Here is a closer look at my desk/teaching table.  I don’t have a “real” desk because all I do is junk it up!  😉  Instead, I just have a small table for my computer, a bucket of supplies underneath, and a small rolling cart with drawers to complete it.photo 1(12)A view from my teacher space.

photo 3(12)And last but not least, a look into my classroom from the door.

I’m super tired from my first week back.  The students come on MONDAY!  Where has the summer gone?  I’m signing off to enjoy my weekend.  If you are already back at school, hopefully all is going smoothly.  For those of you receiving students on Monday like me, good luck!  And for those of you who start even later, I’m only a little jealous…  🙂

Done for today!!

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Technology For Teachers

At our training today, we were given quite a few apps and websites that I’m going to try out this year. Hearing about so many in such a short amount of time was a little overwhelming, but I’m going to take it one step at a time and really get comfortable and knowledgeable about one or two at a time before moving in to the next one.

Here is a list of some of 5 of my favorites:

1. Teachnology – A website full of critical thinking activities and printable pages for students.

2. Storybirds – Short, visual stories that you make with family and friends to read, share, and print.

3. ZooBurst – A digital storytelling tool that lets anyone easily create his or her own 3D pop-up books.

4. Pics4Learning – A website with thousands of copyright-friendly photos to use in your lessons.

5. Moglue – Interactive eBooks for iOS and Android.

Hopefully you can use some of these in your classroom, too. I love incorporating technology whenever I can. I’m always looking for new websites and apps that will increase student engagement and performance.

What is your favorite new website? Please share!!

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Back To School I Go

Tomorrow I go back to work after a nice summer break. I always wish I had “just ONE more week,” but I’m also sort of secretly excited. The beginning of the year is always full of anxiety, hope, excitement, nervousness, panic…did I miss any? 😉

I’m almost ready for my classroom reveal. This week is only for teachers, and we have some time to finish up our rooms before “Back to School Night,” so I spent my last few days of summer away from my classroom.

I will be posting pictures soon. Hint: I’ve incorporated my black, blue, and zebra “theme.” I’m not really a theme person, so I decided to stay simple. 😉

For all of you that go back to work tomorrow, may the force be with you!! And for those that are already teaching your hearts out, we are right behind ya! 🙂

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The Safe Place

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The Safe Place is just that…safe. Safe from people being bothersome. Safe from people talking. Safe from harm.

I have a special place in my classroom where students may go when they feel angry, sad, or upset. It’s a comfortable space in the back of the room that is still visible to me, but not in the line of sight of any other students.

Have you ever had that kid that always came into your room in a bad mood? Or the one who gets upset after recess? Or that other one that gets frustrated with everything his neighbor does or says? Yep, we all experience some sort of issue throughout the course of the year. Let me tell you, my friends, the Safe Place is a great way for students to get away from peers or other issues that are bothering them.

Here’s how it works. As a class, we talk about the Safe Place on the very first day of school. We talk about the rules of the Safe Place. 1. You may go there ONLY when you are angry, sad, or upset. It is not a place to relax and read or play with anything that belongs there. 2. You still have to pay attention and listen. I will not directly call on a student who is in the safe place, but work is still expected to be completed. 3. This is NOT a permanent seat, and the goal is to transition back to your desk within 10 minutes. (Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances)

Some teachers think that I’m crazy for having such a place in my room, but it has worked miracles for some kids!! And I always hear, “Oh, my kids would just always go there or would abuse it.” All I have to say to that is, if you set up the expectations early and stick to it, they won’t. In 6 years I’ve never has a student abuse it.

This, coupled with the Social Contract, is a great way to manage an effective classroom with a positive atmosphere.

Try it. What have you got to lose? 😉

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Back To School Forms: Make Up Work & Corrections

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time keeping up with students who have missed assignments and those that need to make corrections.  In order to remedy that, I have created some forms for both the students and the teacher.

Make Up and Corrections

The student forms will be cut apart, hole punched, and put onto a ring to keep track of them before handing them to students.  You could just file them away somewhere, but I think the hole punch idea works better for me.  Click here to download Student Copy: Make Up Work and Corrections.

Teacher Corrections

Here is the Teacher copy for keeping up with students who need to make corrections on assignments.  At our school, we are allowed to work with students to help them make corrections to raise their grade to a 70.  (That’s why I put a conference date on the student copy.)  I will put the date of the Correction Conference underneath the student name in that column.  Click here to download Teacher Corrections Sheet.

Teacher Make Up

Last but not least, the teacher copy for keeping up with students who have been absent.  I will put both of these forms with my grade book to make tracking these kiddos easier.   Click here to download Teacher Make Up Work Sheet.

Hopefully these will help you organize your classroom, too!  🙂

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Parent Communication Log

Parent communicationI think the next few days I will be uploading more documents that I’ve been creating.  Today’s FREEBIE: Parent Communication Log.  It’s simple, but exactly what I need.  I have other documents that house phone numbers and important information, so I wanted this form to be skimpy and just focus on the communication rather than have too much on them.  I’ll print one for each student to put behind the parent survey.  I have the Word format, so I can always adjust it if I find that I left something off.  Do you use parent communication forms?  If so, what information do you put on yours?  I’d love to hear back!

Click here to download the Parent Communication Log.

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Parent Survey

I’ve been working on some documents for the beginning of the year.  I have created a BOY (Beginning Of Year) parent survey that can be used with any grade level.  Feel free to use it or change it for your needs.

parent survey

Is there something else that you would like to see on it?  If so, please leave me a comment and I will try to add it and repost.  At our school, the teachers are given cards with lots of other information, including address, special needs, comments from the previous teacher, and educational data, so I left some of those things off intentionally, but I can make one personalized for you if you want it.  Just let me know!  Click here to download the file –> Parent Survey.

This is part of TBA’s Linky Party!  Head over to their blog to find AMAZING blogs by AMAZING teachers!!

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Great Ideas for Elementary Teachers

Great Ideas for Elementary Teachers

As I was searching through blogs today, I found a link to this article about various things teachers do to organize their classrooms and make them child-friendly.  Some of them I already incorporate in my own classroom, and others I will definitely be implementing this year!  Take a look for yourself!

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