Thursday, April 2, 2015

Currently April

Currently it is April 2nd. I didn't get home from a long day of conferences yesterday until after 9:00 last night. Blogging was the furthest thing from my brain after a draining day. I did want to see what Farley came up with for her last spot on the currently. She did not disappoint. How fun!


After a very long month that included March is Reading Month activities, 5th Grade Outdoor Education (Camp), Project Unify activities, and a whole lot of test prep, I am spending the first day of an extended spring break (today was a comp day!) catching up on missed episodes of some of my favorite shows. 

Yesterday was a long day. We had conferences from 8 in the morning until 8 last night. We had time off for a soup and salad lunch from our PTO moms, and dinner. My dinner was a piece of pizza at a  union executive board meeting. Some great conferences, some difficult ones. Glad they are over. Students get twelve days off and we get eleven days for break. I am staying home. Hubby doesn't have vacation and the youngest had her break three weeks ago. 

I hoped to get a long walk in today in warm weather, but the rain kept me inside. It is warm, but very wet. Snow is forecast for tomorrow night. That is Michigan weather for you.

I am looking forward to some long lasting warm weather. The students have passed flu and viruses around forever! I want them to get outside to play. I need to open windows and get some fresh air into the room. Hopefully April will bring better weather.

I have several projects planned. Some are for school, some are for home. Hope I can get them done without running out of time and energy.

My blog's name "Learning in Bliss" got its name from the fact that I am a lifelong learner. I try hard to keep a blissful environment in my classroom. My school is located at the edge of a small town that takes great pride in being a blissful place to live and learn.

What is currently happening in your life?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What Works Wednesday


In this week's installment of What Works Wednesday, I thought I would discuss computer apps and programs I use with my in-flipping. All of my students do not have technology at home. Instead of flipping my classroom, I started to in-flip the room. I use video and apps to free me up to give more individual instruction. One of those apps/websites that I really like is Edmodo.

Edmodo is a free website and app. I like that I can load individual and group lessons for the class or small groups. You do not need individual email addresses for students. When you sign up and claim your school, it allows you to use Snapshot. Snapshot is a quick pretest on a set of skills. In a "Snapshot" you see at grade level, behind, and intervention students identified. You can either assign a skill from the results, or use other apps within Edmodo to address weaknesses.

I started my in-flip and pretests with math. I have three math groups, but could have four. Two students are above grade level, but need hand-holding to get them through lessons. The next is at grade level. Another is at grade level, but struggles (my inclusion and RTI students). The third group is one student working at late first/early second grade level. If I could squeeze out a few more minutes, I would split the struggling group into two groups and have one leave the fifth grade material for fourth grade skills. I just cannot seem to be able to make the move.

My in-flipping is at least allowing me more time to work with students that are not "getting it". In a perfect world, every student would get quality teacher time each day. In my world, the struggling get the most. I individualize the single student, and cheer on the top two students as they watch a power point. I cannot get videos made for each group. Not.enough.time.in.my.day!

 I use Voki Presenter ($29.95) to make my instruction videos. The kids like that the avatar I use is an improved version of me. They are begging to teach a lesson themselves, using their own Voki. Voki is like having 25 clones of me. Unfortunately, the Voki cannot answer questions they may have. After the Voki lesson, students may have task cards, a practice worksheet, or an online lesson.

Check out Voki Presentation

My students like the improved Mrs. H provided by the Voki avatar, but also love having a dog, of famous person teach their lesson for the day. Their curiosity gets them to want to see the lesson just to see who the guest teacher is for the day. A few students are giving up recess time to record the voice portion for a lesson their Voki will teach.

As a note: if you use iPads for your in-flipping, you need a browser like Puffin that allows for Flash.  Puffin is free, but I still need to download it on our grade level iPads. Some of the Edmodo features works better with Puffin and Google Chrome.

Edmodo has several apps you can add-on. CK-12 Math Practice is one I use for skill practice after my lesson.

Yesterday, I used a math exit ticket to assess their ordering decimals knowledge. Today I assigned a Tenmarks lesson as a review of the skill for the students that scored earned a 1 or 2 out of the 3 questions on the exit ticket. Tenmarks is a free site. I assign a lesson with ten problems.

Students have three hints they can use. There is also a video clip. The site will read the problem for students by chosing the speaker icon. It is a great supplement to my lesson I have already taught. It also uses a format similar to our standardized test, where multiple answers might be correct. This is helpful practice with M-Step test scheduled for April. I hate the thought of having to teach to a test. In-flipping gives my students experiences that prepare them for the test, while covering my curriculum expectations. Reading math and solving math on a computer may be a difficult thing for some students.

Do you do any flipping or in-flipping? I am just beginning to use this format. I like what I can do with it, but need more time in my days and nights to make the videos.



Sunday, March 1, 2015

Currently March 1

With the weeks of cold, and the fact we haven't see grass in well over a month, March crept up slowly! I cannot believe it is March 1st already. This means it is also time for Farley's Currently.

I like listening to television while I work on the computer. It usually doesn't matter what is on, just that it is on. Funny, when I work at school, I prefer silence. Maybe because it is usually noisy there. At home, the dog likes to sit at my feet or cuddle on the couch. The youngest is home, so the dog is with her tonight. 

My son and his girl friend recently announced their engagement. She compliments him. They are beginning plans for their wedding. Cannot wait for their visit in two weeks!

My lesson plans need to be completed. So many extras to fit in before we go to camp in two weeks. I have a special guest coming this week, a PLC meeting during the day Wednesday, and a Mystery Skype this week. We also have a planned Fire Drill. Snow is still about a foot deep. That should be fun for the classes that go out side doors without sidewalks. Lol! Looking forward to it all, except the substitute plans for Wednesday morning. 

The house and my classrooms are both in desperate need of a good cleaning. That may be my Spring Break plans after all! I need to at least clean some before son's visit.

We have had so many inside recess days, but only three snow days. The few inches of snow today won't keep us from school tomorrow. They are predicting snow, sleet, freezing rain, then rain for Tuesday. We will likely have school as it standardized testing for Juniors in Michigan. Also, our superintendent takes great pride in not cancelling school. 

Spring Break for me isn't until April 2nd. We have Parent Teacher Conferences all day on April 1st. It will be our longest spring break in my 32 years. With family all on different schedules, my break will be uneventful. I hope to get some cleaning, reading, and projects completed.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Plickers Works!


Last Wednesday's What Works post talked about how I am using exit slips to assess my students. I also talked about using a Senteo response system. While I like both of those assessment options, I don't always like the preparation it takes to get things set up for both. My response system can be quirky. 

On one of those days, where technology was not my friend, I happened to come across a post about using Plickers. I had not heard of Plickers, but was eager to try something that I had more control over. 

The Plickers app is available for Apple OS and Android. It is a free app available for iPads or smartphones or tablets. Students names need to be entered. A predesigned code, like a QR code is printed for each student. I printed on cardstock.

The questions can be typed for display, like on a smartboard, or Apple TV (two devices needed - one to display, and one to scan). Alternatively, you could read the questions aloud. The questions can be multiple choice or true/false. 

Students turn their card so their answer choice points up. The letters are small, so students cannot "cheat" from across the room. I put small answer choices on the back of the card, so students can easily decide which way they want to turn the card. My students stand in rows, so I can quickly scan the room.
Cards 1 and 2 for 2 students

The cards are scanned quickly with an iPad, iPod, or smartphone. I recommend not laminating the cards, as the half sheet card reflects light when laminated, making it more difficult to quickly scan the answers. I have students hold the cards against their chest when they have made their choice. The Plickers program will let me know when it has recorded the answers, and who still needs to answer. 

My students like Plickers as a pretest or a quiz. I like the instant feedback and access to the data, the ease of use, and the price. My only real cost was for the cards, as a device is almost always within reach in my classroom. 


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

You Are My Hero!

Thanks Melon Headz Illustrating and KG Fonts

Teachers Pay Teachers is having a sitewide sale tomorrow and Thursday. As educators, we often get a bad rap. The public often doesn't understand all the things we go through to educate our students. The public doesn't realize how much personal income teachers pump back into their classrooms. I know my own classroom has benefited from thousands of dollars spent on units or worksheets, furnishings, decorations, storage and organizational materials, and thousands of novels purchased for my classroom library. Teachers Pay Teachers is letting the teachers know how much they are valued. They really are heroes to their students, families, and communities.
As a tribute to all those teachers out there, I am joining Teachers Pay Teachers in offering 20% off of my store. With the additional savings, you will save 28% off any item in my store. It is my way of trying to help you provide for your students, while saving you some cash.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Addressing Professional Goals - Testing, Testing

I work under a contract that includes merit pay. We use the Danielson model for teacher evaluation. As part of the process, we have to do a mid-year self-assessment. As I worked through the assessment, I pinpointed some strengths and weaknesses in myself or my teaching. I am going to do a couple of posts on what I am doing to address these professional goals.

One area that I am working on is aligning my assessment with my instructional outcomes. I am using a variety of formative and summative assessments. One of my favorite formative assessments are exit slips for math, reading, and writing. I purchased the sets of passes from Melissa O'Bryan last summer. They are common core aligned, so you just need to print the relevant slip for the day. They are easy to use. They do require printing and storing the slips. They give you a snapshot of how students are doing on the concept. You can graph responses to track student progress, so you don't need to keep the individual slips. You can check the exit slips out here, in her store.
I also use technology based assessment. My students love the instant feedback. I was using a Senteo response system for all of out selection tests for stories from our anthology. Our system is older, so I am limited to multiple choice, true/false, and numerical answers. My neighbor and I both use Senteos, sometimes at the same time. They are great for giving feedback, and grade the test for me. It helps save time. What I don't like, is that the technology can be quirky. Sometimes the computer acts up, or the receiver cannot "find" our class. 

Class and individual results are easily accessible. I can easily see what concepts were difficult and may need to be readdressed. I export the results on an excel spreadsheet. It makes transferring to the grade book easier. Overall it works well, but there are other ways that use other devices that I will get into in next week's installment. 

 In the meanwhile, I would love to hear what works for you.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Currently a very snowy Feb. 1st

It is February 1st and time to link up with Farley for her Currently Linky.


After last year's record sixteen snow days, we have only had one this year. Our luck will likely change for tomorrow, as it is snowing as I type. We have been north of most of the storm paths, but the bull's eye is right over Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan. Every hour it seems the local meteorologists have changed the forecast. They are now predicting 10 to 14 inches of snow by the time it ends tomorrow morning. Winds should bring drifts of three feet. 

My husband bought a new snow blower. Our old one is very picky, and doesn't like to start for me. He knows me well, and knows I will clean the drive before he gets home tomorrow. He didn't want me to have to shovel by hand. The new one has an electric start, and is lightweight. It should be much easier for Princess, Hubby, and me to use.

I have a long list of things I want to do if I have the day off. Today, I completed one, by making a delicious breakfast for us. I am making snacks for the game tonight as well.

I hope we get a snow day, or it will not be fun driving the country roads to get to school. The winds should drift over many. 

I have been making a few lessons for my kids. Although it isn't really "flipping" because many of my kids don't have computer access at home, it does allow me to add technology to my lessons. I was posting to my password protected website, but want it to be easier for kids to access. Videos are on my thinking and needing list. Only problem, I hate hearing myself on videos!

My Pageant title is because I love technology and often are sharing, and encouraging my colleagues to try new things. It often backfires, as then they want me to share the technology with them. That means less time for my kids to have it. Argh! 

How are you spending your first day of February? Link up!
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