Saturday, April 26, 2014

Whatever will I do next year?

As this year is coming to a close, and my M.Ed. journey is ending, I'm thinking about what I will do in my classroom next year to continue to improve my instruction.  Even though I used math journals this year, I would really like to expand on them next year, using them more frequently & really making them an integral part of my math class.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Action Research Journal- Revisions, etc.

After conferencing with my students about their dictation sentences and really using the COPS poster and rubric, I noticed a few things that I wanted to change with both.  Neither were big things, but I wanted the grammar on the rubric to be more just wasn't flowing right for me.  So here is the updated rubric.  The COPS poster didn't need to change, but I wanted more of a color contrast between the border and the visual that went with Spelling.  So here is the updated COPS poster.
One of my biggest struggles with my data collection tools has been the Math Journals.  I do really like them!  I think they are a great tool to add to our math class, but I need to be better about using them.  I said I would use them once per week- I didn't want to go overboard and say 2 or 3 times, and then feel like I was failing I only actually did once.  But I think that plan backfired.  Because I have only been using them once/week, I've noticed that if the week gets busy and we run short on time (that would never happen, would it???), the math journal has sometimes fallen by the wayside.  Had I built it into our math time more consistently, I don't think that would've happened.  So...for the remainder of the year, I am going to commit to using it every Tuesday and Thursday.  That's more specific than 'once' per week, and I do think it would be beneficial for the students to utilize it more often.
I also decided that my AR question was too wordy.  I needed to fix it.  

So it went from:  How will the implementation of specific writing literacy strategies during reading and math instruction improve the overall writing of ELL students?

to:   How will the implementation of writing strategies during reading and math instruction improve the overall writing of English Learners?

Action Research Journal- More Improvements & Revisions

After deciding to change my 3rd data collection tool to field notes, I wasn't satisfied.  I didn't think there was enough "substance" in doing that, and I was still really disappointed that I wouldn't be using the COPS writing strategy poster & rubric.  So I kept thinking of what I could do differently, and I came up with a completely different 3rd data collection tool- dictation! 

Dictation would encompass all aspects of COPS, it would involve more intentional writing practice (and how can you become a better writer if you don't practice?), and it would be much more measurable than field notes.  I also think dictation is a great way to help students develop their listening skills.  They have to listen in order to know what to write, and through that writing, it would be much easier to tell if they are transferring what they're learning about the sight words in their sight word books to actually writing them on paper.  Then when I read what they write, I will be able to see the types of patterns that emerge.  Are there vowel sounds they still don't know?  Are they able to hear all the letters in consonant blends?  Do they know the digraphs?  I could then focus some of my teaching more intentionally on those skills. 

I started by showing them the COPS poster and modeling what each of the 4 categories would look like in a sentence.  I created a few practice sentences that we evaluated together using the rubric.  We do 1 dictation sentence every day, M-Th.  The sentences incorporate sight words and other high-frequency words, as well as words that fit any word patterns we're studying- blends, digraphs, etc.  I conference with 2 students every Friday, and we use the rubric to evaluate their writing.

We started doing this mid November.


Then I started to think about my other data collection tools, mainly the Sight Word Book.  It's great that the students are doing this, and they really seem to enjoy it, but this is helping them read the sight words.  If my goal is for their writing to improve, I should also be checking to make sure they can write these words!  I decided to to start doing pre & post spelling tests for the sight words in the book.  I developed a spreadsheet to help me keep track of each student's progress.  They seem to really like knowing how they improved from the pretest to the post-test, and when we did the post-test for the 1st 10 words, one of the students was absolutely delighted and very proud of herself that she got all 10 words correct.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Action Research- More goals to improve/revise Data Collection Tools & Implementation Plan

The first part of the school year proved to be quite eye-opening as far as what my expectations were for my students in regards to my action research project, and what their writing abilities really were.  I decided I needed to make a few changes:
  1. My 3rd data collection tool needed to change.  There was no way that my students would be capable of completing a writing portion of a Practice ACCESS test this early in the year!  A few were still struggling with knowing their letters and sounds, and none of them were able to read all the sight words from kindergarten.  I could absolutely not put them through something where they would struggle so much, undoubtedly to a point of frustration.
    • Instead, I decided to use field notes that I would take of their writing habits, what strategies they were using while writing, etc.
    • This was slightly disappointing, though, because now I wasn't sure if or how I would be able to implement the COPS writing strategy and the rubric I created.
  2. I also realized I hadn't really thought out how I was going to measure student improvement in their writing.  This was a problem.  So, I decided the way that would make the most sense would be to compare their ACCESS Writing scores from 2013 (spring) to their ACCESS writing scores from this coming spring, 2014.  
    • The downfall of choosing this as a measurement for growth is that the preliminary scores for 2014 will not be available until late May or early June, meaning I will not have the results in time for the Spring Conference.

Leadership- Being a Teacher Leader

This is the 4th year that I have served as a building representative for our teacher union.  I have been involved in many different facets of our union- I've gone up to the Capitol to lobby for various pieces of legislation, I've attended School Board meetings to support teachers speaking on behalf of the membership during contract negotiations, I've participated in Settlement Activities to help encourage the School Board to settle our contract in a more timely fashion, and I've attended numerous conferences, conventions, and seminars across the state and nationally to learn more about how the Union operates alone and with its affiliates.  

In 10 days, I will going to Las Vegas for the National Leadership Summit.  I have never attended something like this for the Union before, and as much as I am looking forward to a change of scenery for a few days, I'm also very excited to learn what this is all about and to find out what type of information I can bring back to my colleagues to get them more interested & involved in the Union.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I Am Documentary: Tom Shadyac

I discovered this hiding as a draft from Aug/Sept but never here it is :)

1.  What are the concepts embedded in the movie I AM?
  • People are not machines, but that is how society is set up
  • Loneliness
  • Perception
  • Lost communal mentality
  • The economy is the new monster
  • Separation of humanity from natural world
  •  Essential nature of humans
    • cooperation or competition?
  • Basis of cooperation is democracy
  • Consciousness is somehow linked to the behavior of the quantum world
  • Nothing in nature takes more than it needs 
  • Love

2.  What are the enduring understanding(s) from I AM?
  •  We have the power to change the world
  •  We are all interconnected at a fundamental level
  • Money does not equal happiness
  •  Compassion is our nature
What is YOUR new story?
  • This documentary has really made me think about what I want to instill in my students.  Yes, of course, I want them to be successful in the classroom.  But more powerfully and worldly, I want to teach them to be compassionate.  I truly believe that when a person has compassion and projects their compassion onto other people, the whole world benefits from that.