Thursday, August 25, 2011

A LOT of stress and self doubt going on (sad face) - I need to make some changes

This is only the beginning of my second year teaching 4th grade. I have taught most of my career in Kindergarten, and I know this sounds like bragging but, I was good at it. Well I needed a change last year and I made the move to 4th grade and I loved it and I still love it and I thought I was doing a pretty good job especially for someone who had never taught this grade level before last year. Well, today in my mailbox at school I find a peculiar looking paper that has the names of my kids from last year and these "bubbles" on it. I stuffed in the pile of papers not knowing what it was. I got back to my classroom and took a closer look at this paper. This paper was a data sheet showing me the kids in my class last year who made learning gains in reading and in math. Well, I was devastated because very few of my kids made large enough gains to be considered as actual learning gains and some of them actually fell back a few points. I sat at my desk for a long time just looking at it and wondering what I did wrong. I was able to come up with a lot of things I would have done different but none of them were really wrong. I began to really sit there and wonder if I had made a mistake moving to 4th grade. Again this is going to sound bad but when I taught kindergarten I was used to being the top of the heap, I was the teacher who had the highest number of kids making gains, I was the teacher other teachers came to for advice, now I'm sitting here staring at this paper that tells me I basically made little to no impact on my kids last year. What am I doing in 4th grade?? I have been thinking all day long that maybe I should have stayed put, even though I was not happy in kinder anymore. For the first time in my career, since my very first year teaching, I felt like I was not a good teacher and I don't like that feeling at all.

 I did feel a little better after a few of my team mates were talking about their papers and how they were not happy with their results either so I had a little glimmer of hope that maybe it wasn't all me LOL - grasping at straws there because I am the type of person who believes it is all me. Anyway I really started to reflect on the way I taught last year. I know that we have a new math series and I had the ESE cluster so I did take a minute to celebrate the small victories that were showing up on that page, hidden between all the defeats.

So, me being the type of person I am, I have spent almost all day long reflecting on this information and trying to figure out what I can do better this year. This is what I came up with:

In Reading: Last year I used our basal series for whole group instruction (which was awful - all we did was read the story basically) and I used Daily 5 and CAFE for small group time. I did not pull small groups as often as I should have because I was trying so hard to conference with students individually and I couldn't get to them all and there was just not enough time. So this year I am going to do Daily 5 ONLY not CAFE, I am going to do Daily 5 as my "centers" and I will pull reading groups to my table daily. The only thing I'm not 100% sure about is exactly what I will do with them once I get them to my table. In Kindergarten we played ABC games and phonics games and ready phonetic books, I don't think that will cut the mustard in 4th grade though LOL. So I was thinking that in whole group we will be doing shared reading of a class novel and doing activities that go along with that, like flow maps, character analysis etc so in small groups I will focus on one benchmark strand at a time and find and pull activities to use to work on that strand in small groups. I have been looking on The Florida Center for Reading Research website (great website for lots and lots of reading of activities) and I have found a lot of great activities to use in both my whole group and my small group time. My only problem is, in a 90 minute reading block I have 30 minutes for whole group and 60 minutes for small group which means only 15 minutes per group. Now I have been really looking at my schedule and first thing in the morning we have a 30 minute intervention block, then followed by an 80 minute instructional block before lunch time which is where I was doing my writing and my science/social studies (because it wasn't enough time for my reading block). Well, the students that are being pulled out of my classroom for intervention are my lowest students so I was thinking about taking that 30 minute block and 80 minute block and combining them to make myself a 110 minute reading block. I would start with small group instruction and start with my highest kids, the ones not being pulled for intervention, and go from highest group to lowest group and then end with my whole group shared reading time. I mean who says whole group has to come before small group? So I was thinking about changing my schedule to look like this

8:55 – 9:15 Blue Group (while red group and some of yellow group are out of the room in intervention)
9:15 – 9:35 Green Group
9:35 – 9:55 Yellow Group
9:55 – 10:15 Red Group
10:15 – 10:45 Whole Group Shared reading
then I go to lunch at 10:50 (or as I like to call it BREAKFAST!!)

I'm thinking that it just might work out. Instead of doing two 30 minute rounds of Daily 5 my kids could do 3 20 minute rounds, and one "round' at the my table. Then I would just switch the Writing and Science/Social Studies to after lunch. 

Ok after hashing it all out in my little bloggy world I am feeling a little more confident. I just need to set up a few management tools in my room and I know just how I'm going to set them up too. I'm feeling better already! Now, I just need some more ideas on what to do in my small groups so if you know of any great websites please let me know!!


  1. Just a suggestion -- I would NOT try to see every group every day. You want to push your higher kiddos but you can do that with only meeting with them twice a week instead of 5 times. Last year, with my 5th graders, my lowest readers were seen every day (by me twice and by the intervention teacher twice) but my high group I only saw on Mondays and Wednesdays and every single one of them STILL made big gains. We did novels and they had assignments to do even on the days we didn't meet in group -- they were motivated and knew if they got stuck they could schedule to see me at recess or something if they really needed help.

    I plan to do the same thing this year once we have our start of the year data and benchmark information -- I will only meet with my highest group once but my lowest group will see me daily because they are the ones who need that extra hand holding.

    I HATE those types of "bubble sheets" because I had all of my students make gains last year, except one who screwed around with the testing, and I was told it wasn't good enough because not all of my kids benchmarked. They didn't look at the GAINS and it was upsetting. Try not to let it bother you. You're doing what you can by reflecting and trying to make changes.

  2. I'm impressed that you have that large block to meet with your small groups. I only wish we did as well! Sigh. I know it's so easy when test scores make us feel like we aren't good enough, but there is a LOT those test scores don't show! Small groups is what I struggle the most with! I'm not sure why, but it is. You aren't alone!

  3. Thank you for all the advice.
    @ Mrs. S. I read that book this summer and have been super inspired by it and my kids spend a LOT of time reading and I have implemented several of her ideas this year, so I really hope that helps as well.
    @Sunny, I agree with you about the highest kids, in the past if I needed to skip a group the highest ones were the ones I skipped. The reason that I am able to meet with them every day this year is because my lowest kids will all be at intervention during that time (except on Wednesdays) so I thought that would be a good time to meet with them. I tried to come up with a predictable scheduled rotation so the kids know what they are expected to do during each round but I am wondering if I am making it too difficult. I am letting my kids choose the Daily 5 activity they will do on the rounds they are not with me and I am wondering if I should assign them to the activity I want them to do at each round? Still more to think about this weekend.
    @ Lana - the only reason I was able to scrape out that amount of time is because I am dipping into our intervention/enrichment time. The lowest kids are pulled out during that time so I figured since they are getting intervention that I could meet with my high group for enrichment.