Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On Teacher Observations...and the Aftermath

This morning I had my first evaluation as a Whole Brain Teacher. I teach three 90-minute classes of 5th grade science Generally, our principal will observe for about 30-40 minutes. Today, she observed me for 1 hour and 35 minutes...

My bilingual Science students did a great job in following the lesson and doing their part to learn the Water Cycle. They Class-Yes'd, Gestured, Teach-Okay'd, Mirrored, Mirror-and-Word'd with enthusiasm. Everything was going so well, until we got to Yes-No Way. At that point, it became very apparent that they did not understand condensation. So I jumped right back in and retaught, redemonstrated, regestured, re-everythinged...but, we still have work to do to master that pesky concept of "condensation".

I've learned that sometimes what my students simply need is time. Time to "live with" the information. Time for it to soak in and become part of them.

This evening I needed time, too. Time to decompress. Time to reinvigorate my teaching soul. So I wandered over to wholebrainteaching.com and watched tonight's webcast on Inference. Wow! I love the teaching template. I want to bring in my home room next week and practice on them!

I am:

  • ready to go again. 
  • back in the saddle again. 
  • excited about teaching again. 
Thanks Whole Brain Teaching.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Confessions of a Janeite

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a teacher in possession of 60-plus students is in want of a Jane Austen novel...or, perhaps, a Jane Austen movie marathon.

Yes, I am a Janeite. I have read Austen novels, seen Austen movies, and own Austen videos.

I tender the following as proof of my dedication to all things Austen:

  • I recently read All Roads Lead to Austen. What fun! The author traveled throughout Latin America while leading Austen book clubs!
  • I am currently enjoying the book Pemberley's Promise.
  • I am anxiously awaiting the release of the movie "Austenland" based on the book by the same name. I have listened to the audiobook version twice on road trips and am hoping the movie is faithful to the book.
  • My favorite Janeite book series is Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman, a three-book series that tells the story of Pride and Prejudice from Darcy's point of view.
  • I have a license plate holder that says, "My Other Car is a Barouche".

Though I greatly enjoy roaming through Austen's world, I have found my greatest joy in being married to a Darcy!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Genius Ladder

Today I helped teach a Saturday morning Writing Camp for bilingual students. These students need just a little more to reach Advanced High in the state TELPAS rating system so they can be exited from the bilingual program.

Part of my instruction included using the Genius Ladder. I have used the Genius Ladder in my Science classes over the past two weeks to help build writing skill; however, today, I was able to use it in a concentrated way. My students now have a vision of their ability to write advanced sentences. Here are some examples of their work:

Blah sentence: The lion ran.  
Genius sentence: The hungry lion chased the frightened zebra in Africa because she wanted to bring food to her cubs.

Blah sentence: The fireman slept.
Genius sentence: The heroic fireman dozed quietly in his house because he wanted to wake up in the morning with lots of energy.

After we practiced with the Genius Ladder, the students worked on a draft of an essay about Christmas Traditions. Everyone was pleased with their work, and we are looking forward to next week when we will revise the essays using techniques from the Genius Ladder.

It was a very good morning's work. Thanks Whole Brain Teaching!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Guff Counter -- Oh, Sweet Mama, this is good!

Over Christmas Break, I spent time at wholebrainteaching.com reviewing material. Lo and behold, I uncovered the gem known as the Guff Counter. Wow, the students tell the class entertainer to "stop" instead of me! Oh, Sweet Mama, this is going to be good.

So last week I went back to class and rebooted my Scoreboard. This week, I added the Guff Counter. When I explained how it worked to the class, they all turned and looked at the student who had been the source of their entertainment. He was never disrespectful in tone or words; he was disrespectful by adding his narration to my instruction. To make matters even more interesting, the class really likes him and looks up to him.  In fact, they like him so much I wasn't sure if they would come through for me -- but, oh, sweet mama, they came through.

The first time our class entertainer added his narration to my instruction, I said, "That sounds like Guff to me." And -- presto, whammo -- the class turned in unison, held up their hand, and said, "Stop". He was mildly chagrined, and I went on with my lesson. 

A few minutes later, the Entertainer lapsed into his old habits and added his comments again.  Another, "That sounds like Guff to me", and the class sprang into action, "Stop".

And that was that. 

I was able to teach my lesson and play a review game instead of the buckled-down, bolted-down review style I had to use before to keep everyone on board.

Today, I was in Teacher Heaven. Thank you, Whole Brain Teaching.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Gradecam.com -- Oh, Yeah!

This fall I started using Gradecam.com. Can you say, "Oh, Sweet Mama, this is good!" 

Gradecam creates bubble-type answer documents, grades assignments optically using your computer camera or a document camera, creates student-friendly bar charts showing correct/missed answers for each question, and then -- Oh, Yeah -- it can post the grades into your electronic grade book.

Now, my Fridays look like this:

  • Give weekly assessment
  • Put answer document in front of camera where it is graded in seconds
  • When all testing time is over, I immediately go over the test questions using the bar graphs generated by Gradecam, reteaching as I go
  • Transfer grades into electronic gradebook
  • Do my happy dance!
And weekends look like this:

  • No grading!

Gradecam has a free version with limited capabilities which is always available. If you want the full version, and I think you do, they have free trial period to try out the $10-a-month full service plan. 

BUT WAIT -- teachers can get 3 months of full service gradecam for FREE by getting other teachers to try gradecam for FREE. 

Yes, that's right. For every teacher who signs up with gradecam and scans an assignment, you get 3 FREE months of full service gradecam AND they get 3 FREE months of full service gradecam.

To get your 3 free month trial of full service gradecam -- and to help me keep my gradecam service free -- please sign up for gradecam using my referral code:

I love Gradecam; I think you will, too.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Flat Ranger: National Park Explorer

Flat Rangers Ready to Go!

Today I got my Flat Rangers into the capable hands of Karen Weaver, Park Ranger at Palo Alto Battlefield NHP. My Science students colored them before Christmas Break, and now, the Flat Rangers are on their way to visit 60 National Parks!

Our Flat Rangers will visit parks with landforms and biomes that match our curriculum. As each Flat Ranger reaches a park, its Passport will be stamped, a packet of information about the park will be sent to my class, and Flat Ranger will be forwarded to the next park on its itinerary.

It's a great program. I can't wait for the students to start receiving their mail!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

WBT Certification Essay: Super Speed 1000

Super Speed 1000: “Every teacher is a reading teacher.”

Do you ever feel like a hamster running on a wheel? You run hard each day just trying to keep up and then, whammo, you have something else added to your over-scheduled day. I understand the feeling. As a 5th grade Science teacher, my to-do list is packed with concepts to teach and experiments to prepare; but wait, there’s more. Since many of my bilingual students are struggling readers, working on reading skills during my Science classes is not an option. Like the hamster on the wheel, I thought I needed to run faster. Then, I learned how to run smarter.

Let me tell you about one of my favorite teaching tools: Super Speed 1000. Like you, I just do not have time to waste. I need a reading intervention that is both EFFECTIVE and EFFICIENT. Super Speed 1000 fulfills those two criteria.
Super Speed 1000 is effective because it drills the 1,000 most frequently used words in the English language. The first 100 words on the list make up 50% of all the words my 5th graders are going to read!  As students play Super Speed 1000, oral fluency is increasing; students are not stumbling over common words; and they love practicing!

Super Speed 1000 is efficient in two ways: time and implementation. First, Super Speed 1000 is time efficient because in just a few minutes students are focused and engaged in an activity that increases their success all across the curriculum. I see and HEAR their improvement. Even celebrating their daily successes is time efficient. It consists of a 2-second Quiet Riot and coloring in a star “by the count of 10”.

Another way Super Speed 1000 is efficient is in its ease of implementation. My students keep Super Speed 1000 sheets in a special section in their Science binders. Each day, a Materials Manager distributes the Science binders for their table. Students can immediately turn to Super Speed 1000 and be ready to go by the time I close the door. After just a few minutes of intense, fun reading practice, we move to another section of our Science binders and get on with the day’s Science activity.

In addition to being effective and efficient, Super Speed 1000 reinforces the standard in my class that students are rewarded for improvement, not just for achievement. In Super Speed 1000, all students are awarded for improvement. They really like giving themselves a two-second Quiet Riot for reaching a new personal best. The simple act of coloring in a star on their page brings smiles to their faces. When a full page of stars is filled, they are awarded with a sticker – even more smiles.

Simply put, Super Speed 1000 helps students improve their reading ability in just a few minutes a day while they are engaged and having FUN! It is just another way that Whole Brain Teachers experience Teacher Heaven.