Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Currently...halfway through October

I'm way behind the ball this month.  Actually I've been hiding from my blog for a while.  But first, I'll link up to Farley's October CURRENTLY.

Listening:  I've been suspicious of my fridge for a while.  I have it on the lowest cold setting right now, but I'm still not convinced that it is functioning properly.  Help!  Someone with fridge experience, advise me what to do or what to look for to know if it's working or if I need to tell landlord to replace it!

Loving:  Yay fall, my favorite season! :)

Thinking: Part of the reason I've kind of been avoiding my blog, and all teaching blogs lately.  I still feel like I'm so under water and drowning in everything that I have to know and do.  It's not just because I've switched schools - I've done that every year.  It's not just because I've switched grades - I've done that almost every year.  It's something more than that.  I'm just... tired.  I always feel like I'm never getting anything done, and I feel like I can never catch up.  Teaching just isn't FUN anymore.  It just feels like a lot of drudge work.  And I know I'm not alone in feeling this.  When I finally decided to look at teacher blogs again, one of the first posts I was greeted with was Farley's post echoing my own sentiments.  I don't know.  I feel so conflicted about everything. And...just lost.  Siiiiiigh.

Wanting: A break.  That's all.

Needing: same same.

Book: "The First Forest" - I'm not up on all my cutesy Halloween books, but this one does talk about the changing of the seasons in a pretty creative way, so we'll go with that.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

SIOP Saturday 9: Review and Assessment

The eighth component of the SIOP model is Review/Assessment.

We've reached the last step in the SIOP framework!

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Lesson Delivery

This final component reminds teachers that review and assessment should be present throughout any lesson plan framework.  Teachers need to take time to explicitly review key terms and concepts with their students. Feedback should be constructive and timely, and teachers should use information gained through assessment to further guide their instruction.  This component contains the last four features:

27. Comprehensive review of key vocabulary
Multiple exposures to new vocabulary terminology build familiarity, confidence, and language proficiency.  Terms can be reviewed through paraphrasing or in a more systematic manner.  The more exposure to these words that students have, the better they will be able to remember and learn them.

28. Comprehensive review of key concepts
Just as it is important for vocabulary to be reviewed, concepts also need to be reviewed, especially at the close of a lesson.  This review is often informal, but still needs to be planned with careful thought.  Stopping to summarize between paragraphs or sections in a text is a good example of this type of review.

29. Regular feedback provided to students on their output
Feedback needs to be supportive and validating.  Teachers can use feedback as a way to model correct English usage, and also to scaffold students to further proficiency.  Teachers can provide feedback through oral or written responses, or even through facial expressions and body language.

30. Assessment of student comprehension and learning of all objectives throughout the lesson
Review and assessment are an ongoing process.  However, it is important to note the distinction between the terms "assessment" and "evaluation" - assessment is gathering data about student learning, while evaluation is making judgments about student learning.  Assessment is periodic review throughout the lesson to determine student learning, as linked to content and language objectives.  This can be group-administered or individual, oral or written.

*Thumbs up/down - could be used for true/false or yes/no responses.
*Response boards - using individual dry-erase boards for an informal review of math equations, spelling words, etc, etc.
*Number 1 to 3 for self assessment - students can indicate how well they believe they met the objectives (1=I didn't/can't meet the objective; 2=I didn't/cant meet the objective, but I made progress; 3=I fully met the objective), or however the teacher decides to phrase it.

What are some other ways that you review and assess your students in your classroom?

Next Saturday's topic: Wrapping up the SIOP model

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Featured blogger!

I was featured today on Fun in 1st Grade!  Dana features new teachers every Tuesday, so head over there to check it out!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

SIOP Saturday 8: Lesson Delivery

Lesson delivery is the seventh component of the SIOP model.

Here's the whole framework:

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Lesson Delivery

The lesson delivery component reminds teachers to stay on track with their teaching, sticking to the objectives they have laid out for their students.  It also discusses student engagement.  This component contains the next four features:

23. Content objectives clearly supported by lesson delivery
Objectives should be both stated orally and displayed in writing, in student-friendly terms.  Many schools, my own included, choose to have these phrased as "I Can" statements.  Before the lesson, during the lesson, and after the lesson is finished, the teacher and students should refer to these objectives to see how well they are being met.

24. Language objectives clearly supported by lesson delivery
These language objectives can be related to ESL standards, or they may be related to a teachers' own scope and sequence of the language skills that their students may need to develop.  Just like the content standards, these should be stated orally and in writing, in student-friendly terms, and referred to throughout the lesson.

25. Students engaged approximately 90% to 100% of the period
Students should be paying attention and on task, following the lesson, and responding to teacher direction, as well as performing the activities that are expected of them.  The more that a student participates during a lesson, the more he or she will gain from the learning experience.

26. Pacing of the lesson is appropriate to students' ability levels
The pace depends upon the lesson's content, as well as the students' background knowledge.  Finding an appropriate pace is also a tricky element when working with ELLs of varying language skills.  It is also important to note that teachers should make full use of the time they are allotting to any given lesson.

*Think Pair Share - when the teacher poses a question, students should think of their answer, share with a partner, and then the teacher can call on a few students to share their answers with the whole class.  This way students have a greater chance of more time being actively involved.
*"Chunk and Chew" is a technique teachers can use that states for every ten minutes of input, students should be given a chance to discuss or reflect on the information they just learned.

What are some other lesson delivery techniques you use in your classroom?

Next Saturday's topic: Review/Assessment

Saturday, September 15, 2012

SIOP Saturday 7: Practice/Application

Oh man, another week flies by!  Still feel like I'm trying to get a handle on everything.  Most days I don't even know where my planning times disappear to, as I'm still bringing things home to plan and create and grade.  But I'm happy, SO much happier in this environment, than I was last year (even though I still think Angi needs to move out here so we can teach together again!) that it's a good busy.  Hence my lack of posts... but I will try to work on that!

Anyway, we are up to our next installment of my SIOP Saturdays series!  Today's topic on the menu is the sixth component of the SIOP model, which is practice/application.

Here's where we stand with the whole thing again:

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Lesson Delivery

The section on practice and application discusses ways to make learning hands-on and relevant to students.  Learning activities need to support and scaffold students' progress toward mastering content, while allowing students a context to practice the academic language skills they are acquiring.  This component contains the next three features:

20. Hands-on materials and/or manipulatives provided for students to practice using new content knowledge
Research has shown that students have a greater chance of mastering skills and concepts when they have multiple opportunities to practice in ways that are relevant and meaningful.  New material should be introduced in short amounts, with opportunities for students to practice their new knowledge right away.  Using manipulatives or other hands-on materials also allows students with lower language skills to still be able to demonstrate and practice the content concepts being addressed.

21. Activities provided for students to apply content and language knowledge
Opportunities for applying content concepts are great for helping students to make abstract knowledge concrete.  The activities should be related to the learning and should be meaningful, and allow students the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge through a variety of ways.  Especially through interactions and group discussions or projects, students are able to integrate their language skills with the task(s) at hand.

22. Activities integrate all language skills
Teachers should try to allow students to express their learning through reading, writing, speaking, and listening.  Because all of these practices are so intertwined, skills that may be further developed in one area may lend themselves to help strengthen another area.

*Using manipulatives to make a math lesson more concrete
*Incorporating kinesthetic activities (for example, instead of doing a worksheet about ordering numbers, give each student a number and have them order themselves in a line)
*Using a scaffolded listening cloze dictation: the teacher provides a copy of a text with words or phrases omitted; the teacher then reads the text and the students record the words that they hear that are missing from their page
*Students could engage in discussion circles after reading a text to practice listening and speaking about the concepts, and then write a response to questions posed by the teacher after discussing the questions in their groups

What other ways do you have students practice and apply new concepts and language skills in your classroom?

Next Saturday's topic: Lesson Delivery

Saturday, September 8, 2012

SIOP Saturday 6: Interaction

Today I'm highlighting the fifth component of the SIOP model, which is student interaction!

As always, here is where we stand within the entire SIOP framework:

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Lesson Delivery

This section on interaction describes the importance of allowing students to have opportunities to talk about and engage with the content they are learning.  Some of the benefits of this include brain stimulation and higher engagement, increased motivation, more processing time for students, and increased attention to the subject material.  This component contains the next four features:

16. Frequent opportunities for interaction and discussion
This feature emphasizes the importance of balancing teacher-talk and student-talk.  Students should also be asked to elaborate on their responses, instead of just giving yes/no answers.  Researchers have found a high correlation between students' oral proficiency levels in English and their reading comprehension and writing skills.  In other words, students who are more proficient orally in English will also be more proficient in reading and writing.  Therefore, by giving students more opportunities for dialogue and interaction in class, teachers can help students to develop their language in more than one area.

17. Grouping configurations support language and content objectives of the lesson
By using a variety of grouping configurations in the classroom (whole-group, small-groups, partners, individual work), teachers can provide students with a variety of ways to learn new information, discuss it, and process it.  Teachers should also be mindful of providing students the opportunity to interact with a variety of peers - groupings should not always be homogeneous, but should be flexible and change according to the purpose of the activity.  It is also recommended that at least two different grouping structures be used during a lesson, depending on the activities and objectives.

18. Sufficient wait time for student responses consistently provided
In US classrooms, teachers do not often provide enough wait time for their students to sufficiently process questions, answers, and understanding of concepts.  By providing longer wait time, researchers have found that student discourse increases, as well as student-to-student interaction.  Students should be given the opportunity to express their thoughts fully without being rushed.  One way to accommodate this, but without letting classroom learning time lag too much, is by having students write down their answers first.

19. Ample opportunity for students to clarify key concepts in L1 (native language)
While this may not always be necessary in ELL classrooms or in regular classrooms, students who can make connections between concepts and ideas they may have learned in their first language and the new vocabulary and concepts they are learning, the link will be that much stronger, which will lend itself to deeper connection to the material.

*using interactive dialogue journals to share ideas and learning
*"Stay or Stray": students work on an assignment in a small group; the teacher randomly chooses one group member to rotate around to another group to teach the new group the information that was worked on in the first group; the teacher randomly calls a different student in that second group to take the information that was just introduced and go teach it to a third group, etc.  That way, all students are held accountable for learning new information because they never know who will be chosen to be the next presenter on what they just learned!
*Start the day in pairs and have each pair discuss the content objective for the class period
*Using "50/50" or "phone a friend" help lines for students who don't know how to articulate an answer.  However, that original student must be the one to give the "final" answer, to ensure practice with the language.

What other ways do you promote student interaction within your classroom?

Next Saturday's topic: Practice/Application

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Open house night...already?!

That's right...tonight was my school's open house!  Kind of crazy and exhausting having it the day we come back to school after Labor Day weekend, but at least now it's over!

The best moment of tonight (besides meeting my students' families and such) was definitely one of my boys.  He brought his dad into our classroom and proceeded to give him THE most comprehensive explanation of how everything in our class works, and all our procedures (including all our hand signals and the Whole-Brain Teaching elements that I have started incorporating).  I told him I would have to have him come back next year to explain to my new fourth graders how everything works, and he just beamed.

Moments like that are what remind me how much fun this job can be... to see students take ownership like that.


Monday, September 3, 2012

September currently!

New month, so that means it's time for a new currently!  Go link up with Farley to join in the fun!

My favorite things:  I'm loving powerpoint so much this year.  Since reading teacher blogs and seeing all the amazing things people have created, and especially after learning that Kristen uses powerpoint for all of her beautiful things she creates, I started fiddling with it some more and have really found that it is an incredible tool to use!

The fun fonts lend themselves to that too.  I love finding new, fun, FREE fonts to spice up the things I make!

And I already feel like I really belong at my school, even after only being there two weeks now.  The reading teacher mentioned in a staff meeting that she loved the way I was starting to teach root words to my kids (which is a new school-wide endeavor for my building this year) and asked ME to be the guinea pig to have my class create a display for the reading teachers' bulletin board in the hallway - and in time for open house tomorrow too! Hehe.  I can't stress enough just HOW MUCH happier the beginning of this school year feels compared to last year.  SO MUCH HAPPINESS.  Even amidst still feeling like I'm trying to get my feet on the ground as far as lesson planning and expectations of what my students can do.  But I just have to remind myself to keep breathing, keep working at it, and NOT to stress too much.  It will all come in time. :)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

SIOP Saturday 5: Strategies

What a whirlwind week!  We started our curriculum, and switching for math, and my ESL block this week, so things have been rather hectic, and I haven't had time to post!  And now already it's Saturday again, so we're back to SIOP!

Today is highlighting the fourth component of the SIOP model: strategies!

Here's where we stand within the framework:

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Lesson Delivery

This section about strategies provides resources for teachers as far as what they can do to help students connect to knowledge, problem-solve, and retain new information. This component contains the next three features:

13. Ample opportunities provided for students to use learning strategies
Many researchers have found that students are more successful when teachers explicitly and carefully teach self-regulating strategies to students.  There are three different types of learning strategies:

Metacognitive: strategies used for monitoring thinking (including predicting, self-questioning, monitoring, evaluating, summarizing, visualizing, inferring, and clarifying)
Cognitive: strategies that help students organize information (including rereading, highlighting, reading aloud, taking notes, mapping information, self-talk, finding key vocabulary, and using mneumonics)
Social/Affective: strategies that facilitate learning through interaction (including questioning for clarification, cooperative learning to solve problems, talking to someone, and group discussions)

These strategies should all be taught through explicit instruction and modeling, as well as teaching students HOW and WHEN to use each strategy.

14. Scaffolding techniques consistently used, assisting and supporting student understanding
Scaffolding is a term widely associated with Vygotsky's ZPD (zone of proximal development - when the student is in that "just-right" stage of learning and can accomplish a task alone, but it's not too easy for the student).  Teachers can help by providing three types of scaffolding for their students:

Verbal scaffolding: using prompting, questioning, and elaboration to facilitate students in reaching higher levels of thinking and language proficiency (including paraphrasing, using "think-alouds", and slowing speech and phrasing)

Procedural scaffolding: using explicit teaching and modeling, and giving opportunities for students to interact with each other and with the teacher to practice

Instructional scaffolding: preparing students in advance for the material they will learn (including using graphic organizers or any other instructional tools)

15. A variety of questions or tasks that promote higher-order thinking skills
Because it is difficult for teachers to think of these higher-order thinking questions off the cuff, teachers should prepare them prior to teaching the lesson.  Teachers can help students become strategic at recognizing the levels of questions, and what they would have to do to find the answer (this is basically QAR, Question-Answer Relationships, and recognizing if questions can be answered by looking in one place in a text ("right-there"), or that require more thought and searching through the text ("think and search").

*SQP2RS ("Squeepers"): teaching students to Survey, Question, Predict, Read, Respond, and Summarize when interacting with expository texts.
*GIST (Generating Interactions between Schemata and Texts): after reading a text, students underline ten or more words or concepts that are deemed "most important" to understanding the text.  Write a summary sentence or two using as many words/concepts from the list as possible.  After finishing, students can write a topic sentence, and the end result can be used as a summary paragraph.
*DRTA (Directed Reading-Thinking Activity): a strategy that can be used when reading fiction texts.  Preview the story, make predictions, and stop periodically through the text to confirm predictions, make new ones, and think about/question what is happening in the story.

What other strategies do you use to help promote student learning in your classroom?

Next Saturday's topic: Interaction

Saturday, August 25, 2012

SIOP Saturday 4: Comprehensible Input

Happy weekend!! Today's SIOP post is our third component in the SIOP model: comprehensible input.

Here's where we are within the whole SIOP framework:

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Lesson Delivery

The comprehensible input component reminds teachers that they need to be mindful of the words that they use, the rate at which they speak, and to make sure that they are explaining themselves clearly to their students. This component contains the next 3 features:

10. Speech appropriate for students' proficiency levels
This feature refers to rate and enunciation, and the complexity of speech used.  Students, especially ELLs, may need more time to be able to process words.  If a teacher talks too fast, much of the information is lost. However, if teachers remember to slow down, use pauses, and speak clearly, students will be able to understand much more.  Paraphrasing and repetition are also two techniques that can help give students multiple exposures to the words and ideas that the teacher is conveying.  If teachers are familiar with the student's native language, a special emphasis on cognates (words that are nearly the same in both langauges) can also be beneficial to aiding student understanding.

11. Clear explanation of academic tasks
Teachers can help ELLs better understand required tasks by breaking directions down step by step.  Giving directions in more than one way (for example, explaining directions orally and also writing them on the board and/or providing visuals) allows students to process them the way that they are strongest, and the written directions or visuals give students something to refer back to if they need to check the directions again.  Further, teachers should model or demonstrate what they are asking their students to complete, as this gives ELLs (and ALL students) the chance to see the steps in a process in action.

12. A variety of techniques used to make content concepts clear
This feature reminds teachers of the importance of approaching learning from many different ways, and allowing students to interact with content material in more ways than just copying notes, or reading a book.  These can include: using gestures/pictures/objects to accompany speech, using multimedia within lessons, previewing the material and noting which parts to emphasize to the students, or allowing students to use a variety of ways to demonstrate their learning.

*Being mindful of using expression and body language
*Speaking slowly and clearly
*Using more pauses between phrases
*Using shorter sentences with simpler syntax
*Repeating and reviewing vocabulary
*Using visuals to accompany discussion
*Watching carefully for comprehension and being ready to repeat or clarify if necessary

How do you monitor the ways that you provide information and interact with students while teaching?

Next Saturday's topic: Strategies

Friday, August 24, 2012

First week done...and those boring perpendicular lines!

Blogger friends!!  I survived my first week of fourth grade!  Not only survived, but I absolutely love it. :D

This is the first year that I've really felt like I have a stronger handle on my classroom management system.  I did so much research over the summer (and thanks to some of you for sharing your wonderful ideas and serving as inspiration!) and really hit the ground running!

Last year Angi and my first-grade teammates introduced the clip-chart system to me, and I loved it!  The thing that I love most about the clip-chart is that you can tie it in nicely with any other behavior systems, such as schoolwide systems, or even integrating it with my classroom economy system like I want to do!  So I am still incorporating the clip-chart in my classroom this year.

However, with learning more about whole brain teaching, I'm also incorporating elements of that with my classroom.  I created my own set of class rules, but much like whole brain teaching, I make it a point for my class and I to recite the rules every day, and I also tied in some gestures to go with the rules to help us remember them.

I'm also using some of the "chants" (for lack of better term) from whole brain teaching - day one, I introduced "class-yes" and "hands and eyes" and oh goodness, I so wish I had known about them YEARS ago!  Honestly, "class-yes" is the most basic idea ever (for those of you unfamiliar, you teach your class that whenever you as the teacher say "class", the students have to respond with "yes" and then be silent and ready to listen to what you will tell them next) but it is by far ALREADY super effective at bringing my kids attention back to me when necessary.  I do have a few chatters (haha, what year have I not?) but I've already noticed the positive peer pressure from other students to encourage them to kick it in gear and get on board with the rest of us. Love love love this idea the most of all.  Honestly, try it, and I bet you'll be pleasantly surprised as well! :D

I am loving the difference between first grade and fourth grade.  My kids can already read, and can already express their ideas through writing.  We can get to the meat and bones of stories now, really thinking about what is happening and the devices that the authors are using, instead of just working on decoding words.  In math, (most of) my kids already understand how to add and subtract (one I'm not too sure about...poor sweetie) and even have experience with multiplying (dividing is still a little shaky).  I introduced silent reading and talked about the behaviors we should be using during that time, and today (after only 2 days of practice) we sat and read...actually READ...for 20 solid minutes.  My kids were engaged with their books, and we were working on writing down predictions as we read.  I was able to walk around and give individual attention to some students who needed a little extra help.  SO NICE!!

And my team of fourth grade teachers...no, I take that back, basically all the staff at my school... are so WONDERFUL to work with.  And SO extremely willing to help me out with whatever questions I have, even if I've already asked them the same question 5 times in a row for 3 days straight. Haha.  Friends, I have NEVER felt so much at home in a school setting...and this is STILL just the first week!  Even after the first day, one of the other teachers asked me how things were going, and she said it just looked like I was "radiating happiness".  I'm head over heels with it all. :)

I want to leave you with my first funny... we took a math pretest before beginning with the first lesson in the book, and I didn't realize (because I wasn't the one who typed up the page) until I went to check over them that there was a typo on one of the problems.  The question should have read "are these lines perpendicular and INTERSECTING" but instead said "perpendicular and INTERESTING".  One student really considered this as she wrote her response:

Happy Friday!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

SIOP Saturday 3: Building Background

It's Saturday again!  That means time for another installment of SIOP Saturdays!

We're up to the second component: building background.  Here's where we stand within the SIOP model:

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Lesson Delivery

Building background emphasizes the need to connect what students will be learning with what they already know, and filling in the gaps before teaching the lesson so that they will be successful.  This component contains the next 3 features:

7. Concepts explicitly linked to students' background experiences
As educators, we know that students come to school with previous background experiences and schemata that may be different from ours, especially if students come from a culture that is different than that of the teacher's or the general school culture.  Students' backgrounds influence the way they perceive information, and the way that they may process problems or generate solutions.  Thus, it is important for teachers to try to connect the concepts that they will be teaching to relevant background experiences that students have, or if there is no connection that can be made, teachers have to create the learning experiences to build the background knowledge for the students before teaching the new information.

It is important to note that there is a distinction between "activating prior knowledge" and "building background".  Prior knowledge is what students already possess, and thus activating it means that you are reminding students of what they already know.  When "building background" is mentioned, this refers to the need of teachers to front-load information that students will need to know before beginning the lesson in order to be successful.

8. Links explicitly made between past learning and new concepts
Teachers should explicitly build a bridge between what students have previously learned and connect it to what students are GOING to learn.  This way the teacher can explicitly explain how the concepts are related, and help the students make connections between what they know and what they are learning, which allows them to adapt new information into their schemata more easily.  This can be done by simply asking "Who remembers what we learned about _____?" or can be done by reviewing graphic organizers or classroom notes.  When possible, teachers should have and display the item/knowledge being referenced (i.e. show the graphic organizer from yesterday, or put yesterday's powerpoint up again, etc).

9. Key vocabulary emphasized (e.g. introduced, written, repeated, and highlighted for students to see)
This feature actually includes 3 types of academic vocabulary that students need explicitly emphasized:

CONTENT WORDS: the key vocabulary terms and concepts relating to a particular topic (for example, in geometry: circle, square, cube, sphere, vertex, side, face, etc, etc).

PROCESS/FUNCTION WORDS: the words that have to do with performing certain processes or tasks (for example, discuss, graph, classify, share with a partner) and language processes (for example, skim, argue, summarize, question, etc).

WORDS AND WORD PARTS THAT TEACH ENGLISH STRUCTURE: the words that allow students to learn new vocabulary, based on English morphology.  Also known as root words and their affixes.

*Journaling - students can write about their own personal experiences with a certain topic.
*Quick-writes - students can write what they learned, or what they still have questions about.
*"Tired" words - students can identify synonyms for words that are common and over-used to expand vocabulary.
*Word walls - choose words from each topic to highlight, discuss, and display for student use.
*Word sorts - students can organize words based on structure, meaning, or sound relationships.
*KWL chart - the old teacher stand-by. :)

What are some ways that you build background with your students before teaching a new topic?

Next Saturday's topic: Comprehensible Input

Friday, August 17, 2012

Finally...classroom reveal!!

Bloggers, I am exhausted.  It's so hard trying to get used to a new building and a new team and new procedures and a new grade and everything!!  And all at once! Kids start on Monday, as I've mentioned, and I'm looking at probably still having to go in tomorrow AND Sunday to try to finish up as much as I can! But, as I promised, I am FINALLY posting pics of my classroom!  Pretty much the only part that isn't finished is my library area... I still have more organizing and sorting and book unpacking that I want to do.  So pardon the fact that I'm not quite done with that area yet! :)

I'm linking up this post with Brigid's Classroom Tours Linky, and with Courtney's Show Off Your Space Linky!

Welcome to my new classroom!!
BEFORE, whole-class view:

AFTER, whole-class view:

BEFORE, entry corner:

AFTER, entry corner:
(Thanks Kristen for the fun numbered supply labels!)

BEFORE, front of classroom:

AFTER, front of classroom:

(Thanks Angi for the lovely birthday stars!)

(I don't have a before of my teacher corner...haha)

BEFORE, math wall:

AFTER, math wall (and new home of kidney table):

BEFORE, library corner and back wall:

DURING (haha), classroom library:

AFTER, back wall:
(Thanks Rachelle for the Boggle letters that look great in my classroom...even though I haven't added the actual Boggle letters yet...the header still looks great!)

BEFORE, back whiteboard (and old home of kidney table):

AFTER, back whiteboard (now CAFE board and gathering area!):
(Thanks Kristen for the CAFE letters, which actually served as the whole inspiration for beginning this journey into the world of teacher blogging!!)

BEFORE, cabinets:

AFTER, cabinets:
(The change here was more internal...and you can now see how many storage containers I have left over!)

BEFORE, sink area:

AFTER, sink area (and now word wall!):

And one more view, from the back of the room to the front of the room:

Still more last-minute things to do before I'm ready for students... but I've worked hard and wanted to finally share my progress!  Hope you enjoy! :D

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Back to school jitters linky party!

I'm exhausted!! I've been in my room every day (yes, including weekends) for the past week and a half or so.  It's sooooooooo close to being set!  And that's a very good thing, because today was the first teacher institute day, and our kids start on Monday!

Next post, I PROMISE to have some pictures finally!!  But in the meantime, I'm linking up with A Turn to Learn for the Back to School Jitters linky party! And believe me, I have plenty of jitters!

Back to School Jitters Linky Party

Saturday, August 11, 2012

SIOP Saturday 2 - Lesson Preparation

Let me begin by saying... thank goodness you don't have to have an actual voice to be able to blog, because mine deserted me!  I drove to Indianapolis yesterday to visit a fellow teacher friend... my voice began the trip with me, but did not arrive with me! But I don't need it for typing, thank goodness!  And, maybe I can get this out of my system now so that I don't have to lose it this year when I start teaching, which always seems to happen!

Anyway, time for installment 2 of SIOP Saturday!

Today's focus is on the first component of the SIOP model: Lesson Preparation.  If you remember from last time, the SIOP model has 30 features, broken down into 8 components. Here they are again:

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Lesson Delivery

Lesson preparation contains the first 6 features.  Think of the "features" as "important things to remember".  For me, at least, that makes it just a little easier to understand.  So, let's dive into the first 6 features:

1. Content objectives clearly defined, displayed, and reviewed with students
Many districts are requiring teachers to post their objectives in their classrooms so that any visitors or passers-by can see what learning is taking place.  SIOP stresses the importance of actually talking to your students about what the learning objectives are.  That way, everyone is held accountable for the learning being accomplished, and learning stays on track.

2. Language objectives clearly defined, displayed, and reviewed with students
Here is an important new concept for many teachers: language objectives.  I like to think of language objectives explaining HOW students are going to demonstrate their learning of the content objectives.  Language objectives should encompass one or more of the 4 language domains: reading, writing, speaking, or listening.  Here are some examples:

Content objective: Students will identify parts of a plant and their functions.
Language objective: Students will label (write) the parts of a plant on a picture and discuss (speaking and listening) the functions of each part with a partner.

Content objective: Students will understand the difference between parallel and perpendicular lines.
Language objective: Students will explain (speaking and listening) to a partner how parallel and perpendicular lines differ.

Especially with ELL students, it is important to give them opportunities to practice their language skills, and give them support when they need it (example: sentence starters or a template for note-taking).  The next time you are planning a lesson and looking at the content objectives, consider how you might be able to integrate a language objective for your students as well!

3. Content concepts appropriate for age and educational background
Occasionally teachers may have to build additional background knowledge for students if they have come from another district or another country where concepts are taught in a different order.  The common core standards that many states are adopting should help to be a good framework for teachers to reference to see what students are learning in the grades above and below the grade they teach as well.

4. Supplementary materials used to a high degree
Hands-on learning experiences and the use of realia can make lesson concepts more relevant and meaningful to students, especially if they can see how the concepts apply to real-life situations.  Thus teachers should look for opportunities to use additional materials as they are appropriate.

5. Adaptation of content to all levels of student proficiency
Especially with ELLs, every student in your classroom should be held to the same high standard of learning.  ELLs should be learning the same content, but may require the method of delivery to be adapted.  For example, they may require books at an easier reading level; a template for note-taking, or perhaps a quick one-on-one session with the teacher to build the required background knowledge so that the student can be able to learn the concepts.

6. Meaningful activities that integrate lesson concepts with language practice opportunities
Any time that students have an opportunity to practice a new skill they are learning, or a new concept, the teacher should provide a chance for ELLs to use the appropriate vocabulary and language that accompany the concept.  For example, if students are learning to compare numbers (greater than, less than, equal to) the teacher should provide the students with the chance to practice this vocabulary.  This could include talking to a partner, playing a whole-class game, or writing number comparisons while incorporating the language aspect and not just the number sentences.

Next Saturday's topic: Building Background