Wednesday, April 13, 2016

High Five's for Multiplication

As I planning my lessons and activities for the upcoming week, and by that I mean getting absolutely distracted by browsing Pinterest.  I came across this pin:

I thought to myself that this would be a great way for the third grade students to practice their multiplication facts.  So I took the idea from Pinterest and made it my own.  I focused on the 6's, 7's, 8's and 9's, knowing that these are the facts that my students struggle the most with.

It was amazing how quickly the students took to the multiplication hands, and were giving high fives while repeating the facts as they walk through the hallway.  Here's hoping the facts sink in and they learn their facts without realizing it.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Managing Behaviors

Since coming into my new position, I have been having quite the adjustment.  It's really hard to jump in during the middle of the school year with 3 different teachers that all have 3 different approaches to behavior management.  This is the first year that my new school is departmental starting for students in 3rd grade.  So my students travel to reading/writing, math and science classes, and I jump in and work with them in all three settings.


My biggest struggle so far has been working out a system that I can use with my students across different classrooms, but is not intrusive when it comes to the other teachers management styles.  So I have developed these behavior folders.  The students and I monitor their behavior throughout out the day, and they move a clip up and down based on their behavior.  So far my students have been really receptive to the system, and the general education teachers have been really supportive as well.  They have done a great job rewarding the positive behaviors, as my students are always real proud to share and show their charts.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Mid-Year Transfer

I have been navigating the 3rd largest school district in the nation for almost 8 years now, and it is definitely not the easiest thing to do.  I started my teaching career in a large elementary school on the west side of the city.  The last year or so the commute and the politics at my school started to become more than I could handle.  I knew that I wanted to transfer schools, but it wasn't going to be easy.  I made the really tough decision to transfer schools at the end of the first semester.

While I am really excited to be starting a new position tomorrow, I am feeling really guilty about leaving my students and co-workers behind.  In order to ease some of the transition for my students and the new teacher who should be coming into my position, I have been trying to leave things in place for them.  I put together portfolios for my students with their work from math, writing and reading.  I explained the portfolios to the students and the paraprofessional so they would be able to share that information with their new teacher.

I am also not the type of person to leave someone else in a bad place, so I've put a lot of pressure on myself (as you can see from my todo list above) to leave everything pretty much done and set up for whoever comes into my position.  I even made a binder with unit guides, and all the information the new teacher will need.  I truly hope this will help make the transition for my students as easy as possible.

Monday, January 18, 2016

New Year - New Goals...With a Bit of Arts and Crafts!

Being a special education teacher, much of my practice is centered around setting goals for my students.  With my student's IEPs the goals are often coming from a team of adults, teachers and other specialists, using data from the student to help them grow.

I do always try to start the year when we return from break with my students setting goals for themselves.  This year I wanted to do something a little different with my students and I found this great freebie on TpT from Created by MrHughes.  The mobiles were exactly what I was looking for, something that got my students writing and offered a chance to be creative with some coloring, cutting and gluing.

We started off by watching BrainPop's video on Setting Goals.  This really helped my students understand what a goal is, and how to write a good goal.  Next we took the time to write a first draft of their goals.  Then both myself and the paraprofessional held writing conferences with the students, and we provided support with spelling and grammar, as well as provided clarification for goals as needed.

The 2016 mobiles are a great decoration and inspiration for our classroom.  They have been a conversation starter for everyone who stopped by to visit our classroom.  The students enjoyed sharing which mobile they made and what their goals for 2016 are.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Year Later: Reflections from the Strike

It’s been a little over a year now since the historic Chicago Teachers Union Strike of 2012.  For seven days, we were 30,000 strong on the picket lines and in the streets.  Being a delegate during this time has been one of the greatest experiences and learning event in my life.

I will never forget the outpouring of love and support from Chicagoans, and fellow educators worldwide.  I teach in a community where the families do not have many resources, but everyday families would drop off water, Gatorade, and homemade goodies for us.  The support ranged from thumbs up from customers at Target, to honks from CTA, CPD, and CFD, to churches dropping off coffee and tamales, and  truck drivers passing out candy bars.

I loved traveling around the city, and striking up conversations with Chicagoans.  People wanted to know what was really happening, what we were really fighting for, they were listening and sharing our story.  Taking the ‘el downtown for a rally and watching the train car become filled with more and more red shirts, never became less exciting.  I miss the feeling I got when we took over the streets, the excitement in the air combined with the solidarity was breathtaking.

Today as I looked around at my colleagues proudly wearing RED and CTU gear, I think about how we have changed since last year.  When we returned from the strike last year, we felt the pressure being placed upon us from administration, both locally and district wide.  We worked as hard as we could, gave everything 120%, but no matter what we did it never seemed to be enough.

This summer gave everyone and chance to relax and recharge, and we have returned with a new perspective on things.  I know for myself personally I am remaining in a peaceful state of mind.  I am not letting myself become stressed out over things that I cannot control.  My focus is on providing my students the best learning environment and learning experiences possible when they are with me.  (Despite this “lovely” reminder of the dangers of the neighborhood, on our classroom window)

Things are still far from perfect, my school has issues, as do many other schools, but what’s different from a year ago, is that my colleagues are no longer afraid to speak up.  From the strike, we learned that there is strength in numbers.  We are asking questions, we are challenging thinking, we are not okay with being quiet, and we want our voices to be heard.

I know that this fight, our fight, is far from over, the strike was just a first of many battles to come.  I know that with solidarity anything is possible.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How Are We Learning? - Anchor Chart

I recently came across this anchor chart on Pinterest:

I knew that I just had to have this in my classroom.  With a few tweaks I made it my own, I can't wait to use it this year!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

8 Books for 8 Weeks of Vacation

With a few weeks left in the school year, my co-teacher and I noticed that our students seemed to have lost their motivation. While I too was feeling that same way, there was no way that we could let our students wander through the last couple weeks with no focus.  So I had the students write down three goals that they had for themselves for the summer.  I began jotting down what my goals were for the summer.  

Here are my goals:

1. Go for bike rides
2. Go swimming with the dogs
3. Read 1 book every week

Now I absolutely love to read, and it's something that has been put on the back burner for these last couple of months.  I've challenged myself to read books that are outside of my comfort zone.  The first book that I am reading is called "The Space Between Us" by Thrity Umrigar.  
Now I have to confess this book is not one that I picked out, its actually required reading for a grant I got through Boundless Readers.  But I am looking forward to reading it because it is not something that I would normally read.