Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TpT Leap Day Sale Linky Party

Are you looking for some great sales from TpT (Teachers Pay Teachers) head on over to the linky party at Step Into 2nd Grade (Click on the picture below) to see all the great sales on teacher made products. I have added 2 more products to my store, they are both PowerPoint presentations that are set up like the Jeopardy game show. One is a review of fractions and the other is a review of decimals. They are both on sale for the Leap Day sale! So head on over to my store and the Linky Party to check out all the great things you can get to use in your teaching!!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

My Teachers Pay Teachers store!

I have been thinking about doing this for a while but, I don't make cute stuff like so many of y'all do and I figured that if it isn't cute no one would want it LOL. Then I started thinking about the things I do make and decided that someone might have a use for them so I set up my account. You can check it out here - My Store 

I currently only have my Cereal Box Biography project on there and a set of Marzano Learning Scales I created for reading strategies. I will be adding Math scales as well when I get back to school and can put my Math scales into my Dropbox so I have access to them at home. I will also add myPresidential Portrait project once I have it fully developed.

Our school - actually our entire state - has moved into using the Marzano evaluation model for teachers and one of the requirements is not only having a learning goal scale posted but to also have them accessible to the students and written in a child friendly manner. This was a huge headache at my school so I set out to create a child-friendly and teacher-friendly scale for each of our reading strategies and our math topics. My whole team uses the scales I created so I thought I would put them out there and see if anyone else could use them.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Biography Cereal Box Project

This week my students presented projects that they had been working on for the past 2 and half weeks. They had to create a Cereal Box Biography for Black History Month. They got to chose a famous African American, read a biography about that person, and then create the cereal box project. The front of the box had to have a picture of the person, along with a name of the cereal that had something to do with the person. The back of the box had to have a written report about the person including certain details like what the person is famous for. Then on one side of the box they had to list the person's "ingredients" which were 5 character traits that described the person along with a sentence about why that character trait fits the person, and then the other side of the box had to have a timeline about the person, the first entry had to be when the person was born and, if the person was dead the last entry had to be the ate of death and they had to include at least 6 events in between.

You can find the directions for this project on my TpT page by clicking HERE

They LOVED this project and did a really good job! I have also included a few pictures of some of the finished products. Here are some pictures of my favorites:

This one is Shaquille O'Neil - the student named his cereal Dunkers and he said they are basketball shaped. Even though this one seems pretty basic, it was done by my student who has Asperger's Syndrome so I was very proud of the work he did on this.

 Here are the character traits he included

This is his time line. 

This one is Louis Armstrong - Loopster Notes LOL

This one is Bob Marley
 LOL Love love love the name - Rasta Wheats

Finally - my absolute favorite - Rosa Parks

 Love the name - Oats of Rights

 The quote from Rosa Parks says "Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it"

 She went all out, she added copies of nutrition information and the Whole Grain checkmark LOL
 She even put a box top for education on the back of the box, like on real cereal boxes

On the last page of her report she even put a coupon for $1 off Oats of Rights cereal (Love this girl!)

Here are her ingredients

And her timeline

I just loved this project and the kids did too. This week coming up I am going to be assigning them a new project - they will be doing a Presidential Portrait where they will be doing a report and poster about a president. I will post that when those are finished as well. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Another good day... sort of

Ok first off let me start off with a little 4th grade humor. On our morning announcements the last few days they have had our drama club talking about famous African Americans for Black History Month. Well the other day the little girl was doing her little speech, I can't remember who they were talking about, and at the end she said "You might think I am really old but really I'm only 55 years old" well when she said this I heard one of my students whisper "That IS old, that's like saying I'm ONLY 5,000" LOL They just crack me up sometimes. I think I will leave them in the dark as to my age, being almost 43 they would think that is equivalent to quite elderly LOL

Well today was once again a pretty good day. My students have their first math test, since beginning rotations, tomorrow so our rotation time today was spent reviewing. I am once again so thankful that I have started math rotations because it let me see right away who needed some extra help before tomorrow's test. I had them use their slate boards and I would give them a fraction that they had to change into a decimal. I knew my lowest group was in trouble when I gave them the fraction 4/5 and they ALL wrote 4.5. BUT because I was in a small group I could address that misconception right away and we reviewed the process to change decimals to fractions and I think by the time their group was over they were really understanding it.  Unfortunately they did not do well on the mini benchmark exam they had to take on comparing and ordering fractions and decimals. Of course the test is only 5 questions and if they miss more than 2 then they are considered not passing. These are the assessments my data meetings are focused on so I am trying not to worry. However, they should have done better because we have been working with this a LOT. So I plan to work with them on that some more in small groups.

On a personal note, tomorrow is a sort of tough day for me. It will be my youngest son's last day of high school. My "baby" is 18 years old, he will be 19 on May 1st and is a junior in high school. He is a victim of NCLB and the state of Florida's high stakes testing. He is an extremely bright young man who has a learning disability that was identified in 2nd grade, after he had been retained in Kindergarten.  Then when he got to 3rd grade he was not able to pass our state standardized reading assessment and was retained yet again (which is mandatory in FL). he struggled and struggled all through school. When he entered 6th grade he was reading at about a mid to late 1st grade reading level. That was the year we discovered he suffered from Convergence Insufficiency which is an occulomotor dysfunction. He received 8 weeks of vision therapy and made tremendous gains but by then the gap was just too large to be bridged and he was already 2 years older than his peers. He hung in there for so long but a few weeks ago he came to me and told me he didn't want to do it anymore.Now, he is a VERY smart young man, when he was diagnosed with his learning disability they told me that his IQ score was only 3 points shy of qualifying him for the gifted program as well as the learning disabled program so he is a very bright guy with a processing disorder and I was sure that he would beat the odds (the percentage of students who graduate high school after being retained twice is less than 1%). I was not at all pleased with the idea of his leaving high school in his junior year. I have nothing against getting a GED because I, myself, didn't graduate from high school the regular way. I hated school and I dropped out at the end of my junior year, I took the GED test and passed and got my GED. I now have my Master's degree and am beginning to work on my 2nd Masters degree so it wasn't the GED that bothered me. I told him that I understood and that I wanted him to really think about it, I said to him "Baby, I've been there and I have regrets. I never got to have a senior year, no senior pictures, no senior prom none of that." and he said that he didn't care about that stuff he just wanted out of high school because he's 2 years older than his friends, and he's even a year older than the seniors who will graduate before him. He said he wanted to quit high school, get his GED and begin community college in the Fall and major in Art. I was still really upset I said to him "You don't understand what you're giving up, you don't know what its like to watch your friends all walk across that stage without you" and his response to me shut me up he said "But Momma, I DO know what that's like, my friends all graduated last year when I was supposed to" he was right he had already experienced that. He went on to tell me that he couldn't stand being in high school with kids who were below his maturity level, he said "I can't even just ask a girl out if I think she's pretty because I am 18, almost 19 and I go to school with girls who are 14 and 15 who don't LOOK 14 or 15 and who LIE about their ages" He had a lot of good points and finally he said "Momma I just want to be where I am supposed to be, I want to be in college." So his dad and I gave him our blessing but made him agree to stay at school until the school psychologist could complete his final reevaluation so that we would have an up to date report for the community college so he could have his accommodations there as well. The testing was completed earlier this week and tomorrow is his last day. I have bittersweet feelings about it because I feel like I failed him by not finding out about his visual issues earlier when the gap wouldn't have been as tough to bridge and in the same breath I am also so very proud of him that he has a plan, he's not quitting school to get a dead end job or lay around the house, he is leaving high school so he can start college. We have gone to the local community college to see what all he needs, he has decided to start off by taking just 2 classes at a time so he can acclimate himself to college courses and then once he is more comfortable he may move into a full-time schedule of 4 classes and he is so excited about his decision and I am so proud of him. He has grown into a wonderful young man. He has always been a remarkable guy with a huge heart. When he was in 6th grade and we discovered his visual issues no one we knew had ever even heard of these types of issues so when he started having major success with vision therapy I felt that it was important to tell his story. I went to him first and asked him if it was OK for me to write an article about him and his story. At first he said no he didn't want me to do that, then he came to me and said "Momma, do you think if you write that article someone might read it who has a kid with the same problems as me and they might get them vision therapy to help them when they're little so they don't fall so far behind?" and I said that I hoped that was what would happen and he said "OK,,then you can write it. Will you tell me if you find out about it helping someone?" I told him he would be the first to know. So I wrote an article about him and his journey and it was published in Educational Leadership the journal for ASCD in October 2007. About 2 weeks after the article was published I got an email from a principal whose 6 year old grandson exhibited many of the same issues Garrett had when he first started school and because of my article they had an appointment with a developmental optometrist the following week to have him tested to Convergence Insufficiency. I couldn't wait to tell my son. Of course he acted all cool when I told him but there was no hiding the smile. I have received multiple emails since the article was published and I share everyone of them with him and he always just smiles and then asks me the same question... "How many is that?" I think we are up to 8 or 10 kids that he has helped by letting me write his story. If you would like to read my article of Garrett's story let me know. My copy of my article is on my school computer so I will post a link to it tomorrow for anyone who wants to read it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reading Rotation Board help needed - I will even pay!

Ok, I now absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE my Math rotation board and I am trying to make one to use for my Reading Rotations but I just don't have the skill set or know how to do it. Does anyone know of a blog or a TpT file that has a similar layout for reading rotations? OR Does anyone have the skills to make what I am looking for and be willing to make it for me? I will be more than happy to pay for it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Math rotations ROCK!!!!

Oh my gosh I LOVE LOVE LOVE my math rotations!! My kids also loved the new rotation board! I took in the foam board and the other pieces I made and put them all up this morning before they came in. I LOVE how cute my board looks now and it is SO easy for the to follow.

Here is a picture of my completed Math Rotation bulletin board:

Now I am trying to figure out a way to make a similar board for my reading rotations. Here is a picture of my now boring reading rotation board.

 I am not really that good with making graphics and all like so many of you are so I have to really work on it to try to figure out how to make it look good. I know what I need I just need to find the right graphics and fonts. Anyone with any good sites for fonts and graphics please share them with me!

My kids were so engaged during math rotations today, I could hear them talking but they were talking about math. At the Math Facts station I had 2 little girls using the flashcards and they made up their own game with the flashcards and their slate boards. They were all engaged. I only had to redirect 1 group, it is a group of all boys and as my students at the teacher table were working independently I got up to get my water bottle from my desk, as I walked by one of the little darlings hid his slate board, LOL they always give themselves away LOL I stopped and made them all show me their boards, the one that had hidden his board had drawn on his instead of doing the math, he was easily redirected and when given the choice to stay on task or move his clip down he chose to stay on task.

Below are some pictures I snapped of them all engaged in different stations.

 These students are doing the At Your Seat station - working on their workbooks 

This is part of the Math Facts station
They had the choice between flash cards and using a computer program called FasttMath

Teacher Table - Working independently on with their slate boards 

Hands On station - Playing a game that goes with our math series

On another note, we had another of our dreaded Data Meetings today and for the first time I walked out of the meeting without being stressed. I said to myself when I walked in the door - This is NOT going to get to me I am doing what I know works - and it worked, I left the meeting feeling just like I did when I walked in. We have our state writing test next Tuesday so that was a big focus of the meeting. At one point our principal asked us "So what will you all be doing on Monday" the room was silent, no one saying anything so I spoke up and said "Praying" LOL the whole room started laughing and it broke a lot of the tension in the room. All through this data meeting I kept thinking about my math rotations. My kids were working on decimals, fractions, and percents and I had 2 students from 2 totally different groups say to me "Mrs. Foreman I really like these rotations, I don't get it when you are teaching the whole class at the same time but when I come back here to the teacher table I totally get it." You can have all the data meetings you want... THAT was all the data I needed to know that I am doing the right thing. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Math Rotations

Last week I began using Math Rotations in my classroom during my math block and even though we only did it for a couple of days I love it and so do my students. I was looking for a way to tweak my rotations so that the students could get more out of them and they would have a center that would allow them time to practice independently with the required workbook pages. Many of you suggested I check out Clutter-Free classroom's Math Rotation set and I am SO glad I did. I purchased the math rotation set from TpT and put together everything I would need to set up my Math rotation board first thing in the morning. I actually have an empty bulletin board in my classroom that I have been trying to fill up and I think this will be perfect! I bought a piece of black foam board for the rotation set-up, and I used glue stick and double sided tape to put it together:

Then when I get to school tomorrow I will hang this on the bulletin board (after I add some cute border). Since it is foam board and not poster board I am a little perplexed as to how I can hand it on the bulletin board. I think it will be too thick for staples. I may have to use wax or maybe go buy some Command strips. Any other ideas on how to hang this would be greatly appreciated.

Then, for the groups, I took 4 pieces of purple paper and laminated it and put the group number at the top, I am going to use post it notes to identify group members (this will make so easy to change them if I see that the groups need to be tweaked) - another idea I got from Clutter-Free Classroom.

Finally, I took the header for each of the 4 rotations and I laminated that and attached it to a laminated piece of white card stock and I will use that to write the center activities for the day on it. CFC uses a pocket chart for hers but I don't think my bulletin board is big enough for that. We have small bulletin boards.

I can't wait to introduce this to my students so I am hoping I have it all up and in place before they arrive tomorrow morning. I am actually getting up 30 minutes early soI can get to school a little earlier to get the board al set up.

On a side note, I absolutely LOVE music and I listen to my iPhone all the time. So today, as I was busy working my behind off today making everything for my math rotations I was listening to my music when a song by Rascal Flatts came on and it's called "Stand." I have heard this song many many times and its one of my favorites (which is why its on my iPhone) but as I was singing along today I realized that the first verse and the chorus fit perfectly with my mood/situation/feelings about teaching lately. SO I wanted to share those first few lyrics with you all because they really lit a fire in me and believe me I plan to stand:

You feel like a candle in a hurricane
Just like a picture with a broken frame
Alone and helpless
Like you've lost your fight
But you'll be alright, you'll be alright

Cause when push comes to shove
You taste what you're made of
You might bend, till you break
Cause its all you can take
On your knees you look up
Decide you've had enough
You get mad you get strong
Wipe your hands shake it off
Then you stand, Then you stand

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Starting to figure out how to get my peace back

Today I have spent a lot of time reflecting on my current teaching situation and public education in general. I have come to many different conclusions throughout the day today and I really hope that I can maintain the dedication that I have today LOL. First off I realize that in my state public schools, sadly, are no longer child centered they are assessment centered. Administrators are judged based on their school grade, and the school grade is based on the students performance on the state standardized tests. This isn't going to change and there is nothing I can do to change it. That is the first thing I had to realize, all the whining and complaining in the world isn't going to change this. Then I started thinking about when I was about a 4th or 5th year teacher, I was teaching kindergarten and at that time I was doing something unheard of in Kindergarten. I was doing small group reading instruction beginning in September. At that time it was supposedly not age appropriate to begin small group reading instruction until January (the 2nd half of the year) I was constantly being told that I wasn't doing the right thing and I would say "OK" and I would be told that I needed to teach reading whole group until later in the year and I would say "OK" and I would get sideways looks and whispered comments when we would have team meetings and everyone would be discussing what story they were working on that week and I wouldn't say much, because I wasn't doing what they were doing and I would be told that I need to be doing the same story as everyone else and I would say "OK." Then after all those "OKs" were said I would go back to my classroom, close my door, and do what I knew was best for the kids in my charge. Within 2 years I had students with the highest DIBELS scores on the entire grade level and those same teachers and administrators who were telling me I was doing the wrong thing were coming to me to see what I was doing to get such good scores.

Now I am faced with a similar situation. We are required to give weekly skills test, whether we have taught the skill or not (don't even get me started) and then we report back the scores, which are then posted in the data room, then we have to "reteach" (which is a little odd since in order to REteach something, you have to have TAUGHT it in the first place... again don't get me started) and retest and report those scores so they can also be posted for all to see. This has been the source of my stress and I have just come to the conclusion that I am going to do what I did before. They are going to say "test this skill" I will say "OK" and then I am not even going to pay attention to the scores, unless it is a skill I have taught thoroughly, they can post them all they want, if mine are the lowest scores and they ask me what I am going to do about it I will simply tell them "I plan to teach the skill thoroughly before the state standardized test." I will give whatever test they want me to give, I will report whatever scores they want me to report, and I will go to whatever meeting they want me to go to. Then I will go back to my classroom, close my door, and TEACH my students not train them on how to take a test. If I do this I really believe my students will do fine on our state standardized assessments and hopefully they will do outstanding on those assessments. The only way I can make a difference is by proving that child centered teaching is more effective than test centered teaching. All anyone seems to pay attention to is data and the only real data that counts is the state test. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Beginning to see a little light at the end of the tunnel

First off let me say thank you so much too all of you that have posted encouragement and ideas on my last few posts. One of the reasons I love to blog is that I have always been one to keep a journal and I work things out by writing them out. Its my way of "thinking out loud." I know most teacher blogs provide great ideas and I haven't been able to do much of that lately so I thank all my followers for sticking with me through my temper tantrums and melt-downs. I am sure they are not over, but hopefully they will be fewer and farther between.

 For the first time in a long time I can post that I had a good day today! I made the changes to my schedule that I posted about before. I changed my math time from being at the end of the day to the middle of the day, right between lunch and special areas. I told my students yesterday about the change in the schedule and I told them that we would be doing math rotations, like our reading rotations. All morning they kept asking me if we were going to do math yet. I told them we had to do our reading block first. After lunch, we have about an hour and 20 minutes until we go to our special area classes. So I did a 15 minute whole group lesson, and then rotated through 4 small groups of about 15 minutes each. The students rotated through the teacher table, where they did an activity with me, 2 centers that came directly from our math curriculum, and the computer, where they played a math game. The kids absolutely LOVED this way of doing our math instruction. I was able to work with 4 kids at a time and really see who was struggling and who was getting it. I did a center activity at the teacher table today, that went along with the whole group lesson so that I could get them started and then monitor the other groups as well. I had one group - my lowest group who had trouble at each of the 2 independent centers so I need to find a way to differentiate the centers as well. The lesson the students were working on was changing mixed numbers to decimals, working in the small group I was able to see that several of my students could do this mentally with certain fractions. I overheard one of my lowest math students say to one of her partners "I really like doing math this way, I think I am getting it better like this." That one comment made my day. My students were excited and yes there were kinks I need to work out but today was the first day they did this and they did a pretty good job. I had to clarify the directions on the independent centers a couple of times but the one good thing about our math program is that the centers all tend to follow 1 of 4 formats so once the kids get used to the formats then this should go a lot smoother. I really wish I would have had this revelation earlier in the year. I think my kids would have really done much better in math this year if I would have thought of using the same framework in math that I use for reading.

With the new schedule it means we have writing now at the end of the day and we only have 6 teaching days left until we have our state writing assessment. I am looking forward to that day being done, but then the majority of the day will be spent on math and reading to prepare for our state standardized assessments in those areas. Once those tests are over then we can begin to have a more traditional school day that actually includes Science and Social Studies instruction. I am going to continue reading and math rotations even after our testing so that I can get ideas for next year as well. I want to start math rotations at the beginning of the year just like I do reading rotations. I think that the 15 minute whole group lesson, then the 15 minute small group lesson, and then 3 more rotations to practice the skill is really going to help. I'll have to see what happens with the next few topics and the tests for those topics. I am really hoping to see the students grades on the topic tests improve.

I wonder if I should include an independent practice center, sort of like the seat work center I have during reading. We have what's called a "Quick Check" workbook that provides the students with 4 - 5 practice problems to work on their own and I usually take these for a grade. My concern is that with the rotations I do not have anything to take for a grade. Anyway, just more for me to consider and think about as I tweak this plan. Anyone else that does math rotations I would LOVE to hear how you do things. Please share!!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Feeling a little better

After my temper tantrum last night I am feeling better today. I had the chance to speak with a few of my co-workers and found out that many of them are feeling the same things I am feeling better knowing I am not alone in my feelings. Like I said, after my temper tantrum I pulled myself together and did what I do best, I made a plan that fits my teaching style and what I know about teaching, not what I know about teaching a particular grade level but just plain old good teaching. I started thinking that when I first started teaching things weren't easy, and I didn't know how to do a lot of things but I figured them out. I told my husband that even though it was Valentine's Day, I needed to have just a little alone time to work through things. So I got in my car and drove to the nearest Barnes and Noble. I got  myself a Tall Java Chip Frappachinno Lite  from the Starbucks inside the Barnes and Noble (only 4 points on Weight Watchers - oh wait that's my other blog LOL). Then I went over the the teacher section with my drink and started looking for answers. On the drive to Barnes and Noble I started thinking about what I could do to help my students get it. I started thinking to myself, why do I teach math the way I do? The answer was because that's how everyone else does it. So I started thinking, we don't teach reading in a whole group setting because the kids are all at different levels, isn't the same thing true for math? Aren't they all at different levels? So then why do I do reading rotations and have reading centers, and computer work, and teacher table for reading, and not for math? Of course I thought the exact same thing I did when I first started teaching and realized that to be an effective reading teacher I would have to teach it in small groups, the same thing we have all gone through "What are the other kids going to be doing while I am working with a small group?" So I started thinking about my reading rotation, I have 4 groups, 4 rotations - Teacher Table, Seat Work (required by the district I hate it), Computers, and Read to Self. So what would I need to do to make a math rotation. Again I could do 4 groups, 4 rotations - Teacher Table, Computers, ?? and ?? this is where I was stuck. So, when I got to Barnes and Noble my mission (beyond getting my Java Chip fix) was to find things I could use for math centers. I was looking and looking and could not find anything I liked or if I liked it then it didn't mesh with our benchmarks and I started thinking that maybe this was a stupid idea, who teaches math in small groups with math centers on a daily basis. I was thumbing through a shelf of books and tucked in between 2 copies of Fountas and Pinnell's Guided reading was this little book (compared to Guided Reading War and Peace would be a little book LOL) and I couldn't see the title very clearly but I saw the word MATH so I pulled it out and the book title was "Guided Math." I thought "No way, this can't be what I think it is." so I flipped it over to read the back and sure enough it's a book about doing exactly what I was thinking about doing!

I was so excited to find this book. Even though it doesn't have center activities, which is what I was looking for, it totally validated my train of thought. The best part for me was the author, in the preface starts off by saying that she started her career teaching kindergarten and that is where she learned her best practices for teaching. She refers to the old poem "Everything I Ever Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten" but she changes it to "Everything I ever needed to know about teaching, I learned in Kindergarten" which, again validated my thoughts that the way I did things when I taught Kindergarten were not just good strategies for kindergarten students but for ALL students. I bought the book and came home with it feeling much better just knowing I was onto something that had been tried out and found to be successful, enough so that a book was written and published about it so I couldn't be that far off in my thinking. I began to plan exactly what I would do and how I would do it. I was still stuck for those 2 center ideas and then it dawned on me, my math program has an entire math center component that I have ignored up until now, because I could never figure out how to incorporate those centers into the whole group direct instruction rut I was stuck in. I told my students today that we would be changing how we spend our math time, that we would be doing math rotations, just like we do reading rotations and they were pumped. They were so excited about it, and a couple even asked me why we had to wait until tomorrow to do it LOL. Hopefully I will begin to see some improvements. I know that it takes time so I am not going to get down on myself if it doesn't work right away, it took me a few years to get my reading rotations to be effective, I can't expect math to be any different, except I have all those years of reading rotation experience to draw from. I'm actually looking forward to try thing out with them tomorrow and Friday. I am also looking forward to a nice 3 day weekend (no school on Monday)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Frustrated, Fed Up, and about ready to give up...

For the first time in 12 years I feel like I hate my job, and I feel like I am a complete failure as a teacher. I haven't felt this bad since my first year teaching. This is my 2nd year in 4th grade and I love the age group and I enjoy teaching them. I went through a period of time where I wondered if I made a mistake moving from Kindergarten to 4th grade and I had a profound "ah ha moment" that helped me put things into perspective. However,  it seems like every week I get the wind knocked out of my sails all over again. Every week we have Data Meetings, I feel like these should be called Stress Meetings because they do more to add to my stress level than they do to enlighten me about the data. We now have, at my school, a Data Room where everyone's data is posted for all to see. Now, I'm not sure the reason behind this, all I can think of is that maybe they think that if they post our data up there for the world to see it will make us better teachers because, let's face it, who wants to have the lowest percent of students on target for any skill. Well apparently that would be me. Week after week I bust my backside to get through to my students and week after week they continue to bomb the mini assessments being used to humiliate me in these weekly data meetings. I don't know what I am doing wrong! They seem to get it when we are working through it in small groups or whole group but then when they have to do it on their own they act like they have never seen the material before.

 I am just so frustrated because we have what are called FCIM lessons, that we have to do each day. They are a 15 - 20 minute math/reading concept lesson. Basically we focus on one math and one reading benchmark a week. Well that's what it looks like on paper, in reality we are focusing on one math and one reading benchmark for about 15 minutes a day 2 days a week. The schedule for these FCIM lessons looks like this; Monday we introduce the concept and do basically 1 or 2 modeled practice questions/problems, Tuesday we do 2 - 3 guided questions/problems, Wednesday we give a pre-assessment of the skill, Thursday we assess the skill, and then Friday we reteach. Oh and up until last week the order of the math lessons were based on our weakest strand (as a grade level) which were skills we had not yet taught them because they haven't come up in the math curriculum yet. So basically I am being judged on 30 minutes of instruction a week in reading and in math. I see that other teachers on my team are getting 70% - 90% of their students on target and I can not for the life of me figure out what I am doing wrong. When they are asked, in the data meeting, what they are doing to get their scores so high they say the same things that I am doing and I am just so frustrated. I don't know what else I can do. I have stopped teaching science and social studies and have integrated it into my reading block and I still don't have the time to go in depth in these lessons. I am so frustrated and so angry and so embarrassed by the scores that are posted for all to see that I just want to give up and do something else. I have thought and thought about switching to a non-testting grade level next year but that isn't going to do anything to get me through the rest of this year. I always say to myself "I don't care what their data shows because I know its not an accurate representation of my students or my teaching" but week after week it starts to wear on me and it makes me wonder what I am doing wrong. I don't know why I thought I could teach in the upper grades. My speciality has always been early childhood. I was an idiot to think that I could be successful in 4th grade. I need to figure out what I want to do. I just don't know, I have not been this miserable in a very long time. I even sent my resume to a principal opening a new school on the other side of town. Right now I live literally 5 minutes from my school but because I am so miserable this year I actually considered adding about an hour commute (one way) to my day. I don't know if that's the answer but I do know I can not do another year like this. I have to figure out what I'm going to do. I haven't felt this bad about my job in a very long time and it is not a good feeling. Right now I am just so miserable, I don't know what to do.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Master's in Reading

Well, I have been debating between getting my specialist degree or a second Master's degree and I have finally made up my mind. My daughter, who is a first year first grade teacher helped me to make the decision. She has decided to return to school to get her Master's degree in Reading, which is what I was thinking about getting mine in. Originally she was planning to go to traditional on campus classes but she has changed her mind and was looking for an online program. I directed her to Grand Canyon University, which is where I obtained my Master's degree. My degree is just a general Master's of Art in Teaching but she wants a more specialized degree focusing in reading. So I have decided that I will get a 2nd Master's degree in reading. I spoke to my original academic advisor at GCU and guided my daughter to him as well. He is going to set it up so that we will be in the same classes at the same time. SO even though she lives 2 hours away we will be taking classes together!!  So, in just a few weeks I will begin working on my 2nd Master's degree.