Sunday, May 31, 2015

Getting to Know You - a back to school resource

..a back to school resource?? At the end of the school year??

I know!! If you're like me, at the end of the year, you're trying to prep some of the most basic essentials for the beginning of the year so you don't have to worry about it later.  At my school, we have a certain amount of copies per month to use.  If you don't use them, you lose them!

So.. I go through my August folder and pull out any of the things I know I will definitely need for the start of the year.  I especially like to pull anything that isn't grade level specific just in case I get a phone call over the summer to tell me I'm switching grades!

This one is one I use year after year!
Getting to Know You
 I send these home the first week of school with the kiddos.  The kiddos get excited when I tell them, they don't have homework, but instead, their parents have homework!
Front Page
Back Page

This past year, I tried out a class instagram account where I would post pictures from our classroom activities and events.  On the back of my getting to know you page, I had parents check whether or not their child's picture could be posted to our account.  I'm not sure if I'll do an Instagram account this year.  I created 4 different versions of questions on the back for various permissions. 

The first version asks if the child's photo can be posted to the class's website and also to instagram.  It also includes a question asking if the child has access to a computer at home for class homework or projects. 

The second version does not have any of these questions at the end.

The third version asks if the child's photo can be posted to the class's website and also to instagram.

The fourth version just asks if the child has access to a computer at home for class homework or projects.

I hope you find this useful for your classroom!! 

Get your copy here: Getting to Know You

Friday, May 22, 2015

Let me tell you about my new best friend... or my new digital best friend... my new digital and free best friend!

A computer app that uploads your files and folders to a convenient website, accessible by all of your devices, anytime, anywhere!

Here are 5 things I LOVE about
1. You get 15GB of free storage just for signing up
2. When you sign up from someones referral link, you get 5GB extra free storage
3. For anyone that you refer to, you get 5GB more free storage
4. You have a digital copy of all of your files.. should you ever need to recover your data!
5. You can log into from any device and have access to all of your files right there!!

Seriously.  My MacBook Pro crashed last week and I was.. horrified.  I called Apple Care and the (very hopeful) guy over the phone had me run some tests to figure out what was wrong.  He sounded so hopeful, but the news wasn't good :( In the end, any solution that would resurrect my MacBook involved wiping it clean.  Erasing everythingSayonara.  Adios. 

I know I totally need to back up my files.  I have many of them on my external already, but I don't remember when I last plugged it in and backed it up.  That's the trouble with backing up your files.  You actually have to DO IT instead of just THINK about doing it.
Of course, I took it to a place in hopes of recovering the data before everything was erased.  I paid $150 dollars, but I walked away with 140GB of my data on my external hard drive.  Whew.  I didn't have too high of hopes for the data recovery, but I was happy they were able to get the data off after all.  What I didn't expect, is that every single file had been renamed to "unknown############." Every single file.  What's even worse is that each file had been taken out of it's folder.  Now I have a million (140GB worth) of files all labeled "unknown######."  I have quite the job ahead of me in going through each file, one by one!

Yes, I was totally bummed out about my files - all of my files for work, my personal pictures, documents, and TPT products that I've been creating were all part of the tragic mess of "unknown########." 

This is where comes in!  My school/work files were all in my file on my computer.  Everything saved into my folder on my computer is automatically uploaded FOR FREE to my account.

Once I got my MacBook back up and running, all I had to do was login to my account and download my folder to my computer.  Instantly, all of my school/work files were back in business!!

Check it out.. seriously, you have nothing to lose :)


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ideas for next year!

Oh my goodness! I can't believe it's so close to the end of year year! We have just 21 student days left.

About a month ago, I hit a metaphorical wall.  The wall you hit when you realize that any *new* idea you come up with between now and the end of the school year would be best saved for the following school year.  I know we all hit that wall!!

When it comes to remembering things I want to do, I always feel like I'm holding a million imaginary balloons, each with it's own unique idea or task.  It sounds silly, but stick with me!! I'm holding all of these balloons, and when a new idea pops into my head, here comes another balloon to add to my bundle.  It almost feels as if adding this balloon makes one of my current balloons escape from my grasp as if to make room for the new one.  Anyway..

Usually I try to jot these ideas down in a little notebook that I vow to always keep with me when ever my inspiration for the next year hits!  I can not tell you how many times I completely fail at doing this!! I end up with a million little note books, pads of paper, or post-it note collections scattered around that take more effort to collect than I had anticipated.

This year was different!! I realized that I have this amazing little gadget I take with me everywhere that was fully capable of storing all my new ideas for next year: my iPhone.  Oooooh, how have I never thought of this before?!! I know so many of you out there have probably stumbled upon this idea ages ago, but somehow it was like unlocking a whole new level of organization!

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I love being able to have this list with me where ever I go!

I started adding items to my list with just enough information and detail that I'll remember them when I have a few minutes to carve out some preparation for next year.  Looking over these items, I see a lot of things I want to look out for on TPT or as I scour my favorite blogs.  This list validates my "wow this is a great idea!" without overwhelming me by trying to remember it until I have actual time to work on these things. 

What types of things are you keeping on your "ideas for next year" list?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Fix-It's - Or.. How I reevaluate student work and have them check overtheir work **expecially on tests**

My school day is SO short! We get all of our minutes in we need to, but time goes by so quickly and we move at such a fast pace.  While I love it, one of the biggest downfalls is the lack of time for us to review work we have done.  We don't have a lot of class time dedicated to meaningfully going over any of our past assignments or tests.

So............ I created this "Fix-It" page to help combine my reassessment with a meaningful way for students to review their work as a "must do" type of assignment.  It gives kiddos the chance to review their work and fix their mistakes.

Fix-It pages have my students go back and "fix" the questions or parts they missed on an assignment or a test.  It also gives room to have students explain why they missed the original problem.  I LOVE this part because it has the children go back and evaluate their mistakes and learn about their learning (I kind of love metacognition.....).

I LOVE using these pages on tests most of all.  The school year is so short (though it sometimes seems long!!) and there are so many concepts to cover that it can be SO hard to reevaluate how students are doing on certain topics.  I typically grade tests, enter them into my grade book, and then pull out any test where the student earned less than 80%.  I see 80% as a significant marker that the student knows the concept and can be pretty consistent.  Anything under 80% shows me the student is struggling with a consistent and universal understanding of the material.

I staple a Fix-It page on any of the tests under the 80%.  I also color coordinate the Fix-It pages for the trimester.  This year, I did yellow Fix-Its for first trimester tests, and blue for second trimester tests.  This helps it stand out to me when the test was originally taken and lets me easily show this to parents during conference time.

At the top of each Fix-It page, I write in the student's original score on their first attempt along with whatever trimester that was.  On the edge of the Fix-It page are blank lines for the child to write in the numbers of the questions that missed originally.

Next, I write down the name of the assignment or type - in this case it's the standard we're working on for math.  I write their original score and I leave the outer two columns blank.  I fill in the date for when the student has actually completed the Fix-It page and their new or "final" score on the assignment.
Score Recording - this is not currently included in my fix it packet on TPT at the moment.

I don't pass these back out to students right away.  This is important to mention because if the student doesn't get it the first time around, I don't feel like they will get the concept any better the  next day or a few days after the test.  I typically like to hand these back after about two weeks.  In this time, we've had spiraled review in our math wall and our homework.  I feel this practice helps fill any gaps and that students are more able to see and fix their mistakes when they come back to them.  Depending, I might wait until the 1st trimester is over to give them any test from 1st trimester.  This allows me to see their growth over the trimester and give them a new grade toward that 2nd trimester.

When the kids turn them in, I collect them and grade them again according to the question.  I record their new score on this same score sheet as above with the date they actually did the Fix-It page.  I keep their tests in their folders for conference time.  I use this data tracking page to help me with my grades at report card time in addition to my grade book which is super helpful!!

Recently, my kids have been having to slow down and fix their Fix-Its.  Sometimes they look back at their missed problems and only do half of the problem or sometimes they forget to do a missed problem altogether.
Overall, I've seen a HUGE improvement in my students' understanding of their learning.  From these Fix-It pages, most students notice they do the problems TOO fast and need to slow down.  Other kids say "Oh my gosh! I remember taking this test when I didn't understand multiplication and now I know my division!" or "I can't believe I missed this! It's so easy now!!"

I love the accountability these Fix-It pages require for my kiddos.  I've had a great response from parents as well.  One parent recently said "keep those Fix-It pages coming!!"

I'd like to give a freebie Fix-It product to the first three that comment with their e-mail address! I hope they will work well for you!!