Tuesday, April 28, 2015

If You Give a Teacher a Gift Card...

...they'll run out like a mad woman/man and spend that sucker in 5 minutes flat...because it's SUMMER BREAK!  OK...so it's not here just yet, but people... we are hitting the home stretch here!

We can leisurely enjoy a latte from STARBUCKS, or mill about smartly in TARGET...for hours, or sleep in-sip on said coffee-order online because we like to shop whilst still in our PJ's-because we can...on AMAZON, or peruse the goodies on TEACHERS PAY TEACHERS whilst still in aforementioned PJ's!

If this sounds like a perfect way to pamper yourself just a little, then head over to iTeachKinder and enter the giveaways for the gift cards you love!  Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

$100 Teacher Appreciation Giveaway!

Psst!  Hey you!  Yes, you there buried under paperwork, feeling stressed, wondering how the heck you are gonna survive the next few weeks!  To be honest, we don't have a perfect solution for you! Not helpful, right???   BUT we DO have something for you to look forward to once the smoke clears and we all check to see if we are still standing come SUMMER, sweet SUMMER!

Teacher Appreciation is right around the corner.  And we know (seriously KNOW) what you do every.single.day to lift up your littles and help them soar!  It's not an easy task for sure, but one that is SO worth it!

And to make sure you know we SEE you, KNOW what you do, BELIEVE in who you are, and want to LIFT you up for all the goodness you bring to this world... we want to pamper you!  Head over to our wonderful new iTeachKinder blog to enter our giveaway for some gift cards to our FAVORITE pampering places.

Who doesn't love TARGET...I mean you can hit up their home goods section for some sweet new decor, hop over to their clothing for some cute summer swag, or hit the beach collection to get your "beach on"!

Or how about STARBUCKS...did someone say "Grande Cinnamon Dolce Latte Extra Hot...and HECK YEAH I want whipped cream!"

And AMAZON...well seriously...you can get ANYTHING and EVERYTHING here!

And lastly, TEACHERS PAY TEACHERS because every teacher needs a little "please help me so I don't have to create this stuff on my own" pampering!

So please take a minute and head over to enter...you're WORTH it!

Friday, April 24, 2015

iTeach Kinder and Learning from Others

Happy Friday Friends!! Hope you had a great day!! We are having a blast getting to know other bloggers and sharing on the  iTeach Kinder collaborative blog! Each day of the week, different bloggers are blogging about a different topic each day. Yesterday we posted some great tips on a STEM lesson!!   It is soo awesome learning from so many great teachers!! Check it out!!
Let us know what you think!!!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Student-Led Conferences: Um, Yes Please! Part Two

So...time to finish up our post about our AMAZING student-led conferences!

Now that the kiddos have completed all of the legwork, it's time for them to practice and get ready for the main event!  Now the level of your kiddos will dictate how much practicing they will need.  When I first started these, I felt they needed practice.  Now...to be honest...we wing it!  I sit in on the conferences and I can gently guide them to the next section or give them a little nudge to get them going, but they really are pretty amazing at sharing their own work!  When the parents come in, I have them sit on either side of their kiddo.  I sit on the opposite side of the table.  This allows the parents to see their kiddo's conference form, view their math and writing samples, and see the actual book their little one is reading.  I sit opposite them so that I am present, but NOT the central focus.  This is after all, a STUDENT-LED conference!  Can I get an AMEN!
Basically the kiddo runs the conference by reading each section of their form and then sharing the work from that content area.  I only interject to keep them on track or ask them questions to help them share what they are thinking.  When they read the book, we do only have them read 2 or 3 pages to save on time.

This is BY FAR the best part of the whole process.  The kiddos are beaming from ear to ear with pride as they truly see just how far they have come.  I'm talking not being able to write jack at the beginning of the year, to writing spin-offs of their favorite class read alouds!
This was from about 3 weeks in.  She was using sight words we had been working on to write simple sentences.
 She was already using some good phonetic spelling even at this early stage!
This is actually a piece from early February, and we didn't have conferences until late March...so she was doing some fantastic writing already.  She didn't use punctuation here, but she wrote over a 4 page story based on My Lucky Day.  She kept the characters, but changed the story line as the story progressed.  She has phenomenal skills happening here!
This is always a favorite part for the parents too because when they see their little one flip the first page over to the current writing, there is literally an audible gasp escaping from them!  They too can not believe just how much growth has happened, but alas...it's right there in front of them as living proof!  

Here are some examples of the math journal entries they share.
We try to encourage them to choose newer entries so it reflects their current level of thinking.
A little more about the reading portion... we have the kids choose a book from their Daily 5 book box.  That means they already have a "good fit" collection to choose from.  We encourage them to choose the highest level book that they can read with fluency and understanding.  We don't even check them on this before the conference as most of them have had a ton of practice deciding if something is the right fit for them.  If they do choose a book that's a bit too easy (maybe one that has been in their box longer and was used to build fluency, but really is a bit too easy), then we just grab another out of their box and get them to have a go.  They are usually pleasantly surprised to find out it wasn't too hard after all.  After they have read a couple of pages, we stop them and show them and their family what level that came in reading at (for 90% of our kids it's a RIGBY level ZERO!) and what level they are currently reading (this ranges from a level FIVE to TWENTY THREE this particular year!)  Level 5 is considered "ready for 1st" so everything after that is gravy!!!  **Disclaimer....We do have 2 cuties who are not reading at all at this point.  They joined us mid year and were far behind at the time.  They are making slow gains, and we will keep on keeping on!  They'll bloom soon enough!  :)
To keep track of the book they wish to share, they again stick a sticky note to the front to mark it.
I don't know if you can tell, but the sweet Mama in the pink shirt up top has a tissue in her hand!  She literally broke down in tears as her baby read.  You see, reading wasn't really his thing right away.  As a matter of fact, he wasn't really loving the whole writing or math thing either.  He lacked confidence and was always worried he wouldn't get things right.  It has been just amazing watching this kiddo bloom right before our eyes.  He read his book with such confidence and didn't even pause to look at either of us to get help when he hit an unknown word.  He just picked a reading strategy, chunked the word, and kept on reading like he was a professional 1st grader!  She is our school's counselor which made it even sweeter!  She was glowing with pride and adoration for her baby's accomplishment.  Now if that's not worth giving these student-led conferences a go...then I don't know what is!

The last piece of the puzzle is our surveys that we send out to our families.  We ask them to be brutally honest, and to be frank, they do!!!  I had 2 families tell me that they loved them, but that I needed to allow longer than 15 minutes per conference.  (Did I mention that my students and I share an affinity for chatting...ANNNND we tend to go over our allotted 15 minutes and then MAYBE the whole schedule gets a bit behind!!!!)  But this feedback helps us evolve and make these conferences even more meaningful!

SO...go wild, have fun, and give STUDENT-LED CONFERENCES a shot!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Student-Led Conferences - Um, Yes Please! Part One

Ok, so maybe I have been promising to write this post for like 2 weeks now.  Let's just say the productivity level around here has hit an all time low.  It's been sunny, breezy, and perfectly perfect spring weather and I may or may not have gotten bit by the spring fever bug!

But...I digress!  (Grrr...see how this vicious cycle works!)

I just finished up meeting with 21 of my students and their families for our spring student-led conferences.  Can I just say how much I truly LOVE these things!!!

3 reasons why...and I'm sure there are more, but since I am slacking a bit...we'll stick to 3! 
 (PS - Did I mention it is officially our spring break...but again...I digress!)

#1:  More work for the kids equals less work for me!  Win and win!

#2:  Parents eat this stuff up...some of them even cry big ol' alligator tears of joy!

#3:  The kiddos' hearts swell with pride at all they have accomplished!  Swoon!

So...if you are thinking "well that all sounds pretty darn awesome" then read on for lots of details and photos to show you just how SWEET these spring conferences can be!

So this 1st part is coming straight from our other post about regular conferences since the sign-up process is the same!

The BEST thing we EVER did was to begin using this "You Pick 3" conference sign up sheet.  We don't have scheduled time off to hold our conferences, so we just choose 3 days that work out for us.  We include as many time slots as possible where we can be available to meet with families.  We always try to include some early morning times for our families that can't take off work or who are just coming in from the night shift.  We schedule slots during our specials classes (music, pe...) and then plenty of after school time slots as well.  We try to have at least 1 late night where we have conferences scheduled for 5:00 or later for our working parents who hit us on their way home.  
Now I know this might seem like a BIG time commitment from you...and it is!  BUT, and this is a BIG but, this is truly one of the BEST ways you could ever possibly spend your teacher time!  It always breaks my heart a teeny bit when the only time some parents hear from us is when something is WRONG!  Conferences give you the opportunity to REALLY connect with families and share some of the GREAT things happening with their kiddo.  Of course not ALL the news will be good news, but we can definitely take this opportunity to FIND the good and share!
And we promise it will SO be worth your time.  You will make some serious partners in educating your kiddos when you build these strong family ties!  And let's be honest, who doesn't LOVE to hear how awesome their kiddo is???
We have been able to get nearly 100% participation in our conferences for the last several years.

And in the case of student-led conferences, who doesn't LOVE to hear how amazing their kiddo is RIGHT FROM SAID KIDDO'S MOUTH!!!!

So now that we have the parents signed up to come in, it's time for the students to get busy on their part.  It takes a little time explaining the conference form to the kids, but they usually catch on pretty quickly.  Here's how we break it down.  

First we have them take out their math journals that they have been working on throughout the year. We ask them to choose 2 entries they would like to share with their families.  Entries include open-ended math journals pages, problem of the day entries, and any other math related activities we have done.  If you don't keep math journals, you can have your students choose 2 pieces of recently completed math work sheets, math recording sheets from Math Their Way or some similar program, really anything that allows them to "show what they know" in math.  We do like for them to be able to share some open-ended response kinds of things so they can explain THEIR reasoning versus selecting pieces with only 1 "right" answer!  Then they fill in the MATH portion on their recording form to reflect their strengths and weaknesses in math in their own opinion.

Next, we work on the WRITING portion.  Again they take out their writing journals and select 2 pieces. Only this time they select 1 piece from August or September and 1 piece from the current month...in our case it was March.  I give them 2 sticky notes to mark the pages they want to share with their families.  They reflect on where they started the year in writing and how far they have come.  They make notes to share on their conference form.  I. LOVE. THIS. PART!  The kiddos themselves truly have NO IDEA just how far they have come until they actually look back in their journals.  We even had a kiddo last year that literally screamed out in distress to tell us "Somebody wrote all in my journal and I can't read ANY of it!"  It was actually HER own writing from the beginning of school!  HA!  Now that was FUNNN-Y!

Finally, they fill in the last section for the READING portion.  They look through their Daily 5 book boxes that have "good fit" books for them.  We tell them to choose the highest level they have in their box that they can SUCCESSFULLY read.  (If it's a good fit, that means there may be SOME words that they do not know automatically.  They SHOULD be using some strategies to figure out words, but there should still be a nice, fluent read happening.)  You can meet with students to make sure they have selected a good fit pick for them, but usually by this time in the year...they do an awesome job with this all on their own!  We will give them another sticky note for them to mark the book they select.  It makes the conference flow much more smoothly when we can reach right into their box and quickly find the book they have chosen!

Now don't stress out if they don't write up the form just like you envision (as in... Sophia wrote all about geometry in her math section rather than telling about her strengths and weaknesses in math). It's ok, I promise.  She'll be sharing 2 math samples which will give her the opportunity to show much more of her mathematical thinking!
Translation:  (Although I know you teacher friends are masters at reading K work by now!) 
Math:  I can make a rectangle and make a hexagon and a octagon.
Writing:  I write on the line and better stories and on the lines.  I can write sight words.
Reading:  A Hot Surprise I can chunk and blend and flip the sound and listen for interesting words.

The last section, Personal Goal for the 4th 9 Weeks, is completed together at the actual conference...so more on that later!

Check back soon for more details from the ACTUAL conference!  (Remember...I did already mention that the productivity level is teetering on NON-existent!...This was all the blogging I could muster for tonight!)

Check back soon for how we gather data as to the success of our conferences!

Also be sure and check out our post from a while back about our REGULAR teacher-parent conferences to see how we get nearly 100% participation!

Please let us know if you have questions, comments, or insights to add!