Common Core – The National Word Problem

1619_131794753693811_1561166653_nIn most math programs in California, you have two types of assessment of the standards: a multiple choice format and an open-ended word problem. Most teachers are too busy to grade a lot of written answers for math so the multiple choice assessment has been the mainstay for teachers. In Language Arts, the same has been true. Why assign 2-3 long written answer assignments when you can just feed multiple choice tests through a scanner and have data immediately … in colored charts. After some more exposure to Common Core, I have come to see it metaphorically as the long written response. It will be harder to grade but the states have stepped up and hired graders to do it. As a parent, I think this is great. It is preparing my kids for the real world. As a teacher, I recognize that the days of the bubble sheet are all but gone.

We can use bubble sheets to build the skill necessary but synthesis of those skills is a year-long revisiting. Practicing connecting standards and identifying them as such will be our challenge. I could almost always show growth when the assessment piece was standards based and each question like a sample of the standard. I actually loved teaching that way. I used EDI to cover every standard and item by item I could see what was strong ad what needed revisiting. Common Core takes that way of teaching about 3 steps beyond. My that I mean, what was “1D” is now “4D” testing. It is no longer multiple choice. We are catapulted into a “national word problem” if you will. I predict national scores will drop the first year. The second year they will rise a little as teachers and students get used to Common Core. The third year, I think we will see growth in the classrooms where teachers are willing to take up the challenge of casting away multiple choice and embracing testing that is more akin to word problems. But what about the kids that don’t do well with word problems? As Bruce says in the photo in this post, “People outside of that structure get lost.” Will we reach more kids or less with word problems? Time will tell.

3 Offbeat Tips From My Classroom

These are offbeat tips that may or may not work for you. I offer them freely to you. All teachers in California as most of the country now are learning to teach with the “Common Core.” This is exciting to me but we shouldn’t lose sight of the timeless things that work with whatever curriculum you use. These are three offbeat things that I have tried and that have worked to foster literacy and meet academic goals in my classroom. Maybe these things are powerful or maybe it’s the intent behind them that seeks to reach human in the child and awaken her/his sense of wonder.

12506845744_0120be8609Kids are just like us only smaller. There is a reason music is a multi-billion dollar industry, people are inspired by it. Kids get burned out after hours of academic stuff. Occasionally I will pass out age-appropriate lyric packets and we sing together. The relieved look on some of their faces says to me that music heals and fosters. MY favorite song to do with kids so far is “The Rainbow Connection.”

9847439604_8e8a1b40f7When I graduated, I paid 50 bucks to have both my degrees mounted on wood. This was a great decision because it allows my kids to pass them around and look closely at them. I want my students to see a diploma and know they can do it just like their teacher did. At the very least, post your diplomas. Your kids are watching.

13015781444_c483b14fd5Puppets are the weirdest things adults can do, that’s why we should use them! Kids are so freaked out by puppets that they just might listen. I have said some things through a puppet that are outside my personality type. Kids respond too. I’ve had better conversations with kids during “Say no to drugs” with my pig puppet than any teacher talk could ever generate. I highly recommend getting puppets in your room. You never know when one will come in handy. Like music, they are a temporary escape from the required rigor. In my opinion, music and opinion have the potential to teach just as much as the most rigorous of lesson plans. It’s all in how you incorporate them. Those are my three things to share. What are yours? I’d love to read about them and they don’t have to be as offbeat as mine.

Dr. Jim and Bob’s Entertaining Medical Topics

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of © Blue Shield of California for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

PhotobucketHealth should be a focus in all our lives. It's great to have a family doctor and even better when they can make housecalls. But unfortunately for many of us, a doctor visit isn't always convenient. In that situation, many people turn to the internet. This can be a good choice as long as the website you use is credible and trustworthy.

There's a new online doctor in town: Dr. Jim and Bob's Fun & Helpful Health Advice Check out a video I watched recently that he made:

Dr. Jim and Bob are medical experts who entertain but also lead you toward medical solutions. I have them bookmarked for when I need guidance on issues like: sunburn, insomnia, snoring, hiccups, etc. They are on Facebook and that includes all their free videos. One member of my family has a cold sore right now and we both laughed as we watch the above video on that ailment. Bob is a crack-up and appears to be part of the videos for comic relief. It's effective.

Dr. Jim and Bob are a product of Blue Shield, a non profit company. They have been an excellent access point to alternative care like chiropractors and acupuncture. They are a portal to great doctors and they offer a wide range of affordable health plans. As I am getting older I find myself more interested in issues of blood level like cholesterol. Blue Shield is an excellent source of information for that. I have Dr. Jim and Bob "Liked" on my Facebook and I look forward to getting tips and laughs from them in the future.

 

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Teaching, Inspiration, and Rock ‘n Roll

The world is so full of boring people. It’s important for leaders, teachers, writers, performers, and artists to share an influence that is NOT boring with this starved-for-passion world.

The world is so full of boring people. It’s important for leaders, teachers, writers, performers, and artists to share an influence that is NOT boring with this starved-for-passion world.

I started teaching at age 27. Though I thought I was old then, I look back now and see that I was most assuredly still a very young adult. Back then I was very much a self-starter. After subbing in a district for 3 months I managed to get hired on a year’s teaching contract with NO credential based purely on my wit and candor and my ability to speak Spanish and English. In California, this is called an “emergency credential” and it’s rarely done nowadays . . . for good reason. I had absolutely no classroom management skills, apart from being a sub which is vastly different from being the only grown-up in charge of 36 ten year olds for 185 days. Those first 3 years were very tough, but I got by on the inspiration of my twenties. It seems like my thirties have required more strategy than instinct to find success.

Now, 10 years later with a full credential and a Master’s degree, I still often find myself at a loss for inspiration. I never give up though. On those days that I am discouraged and unmotivated, I try and get away from the daily routine. I put aside the lessons I had planned (as much as is possible to stay within my responsibilities) and I focus on the things that I truly enjoy: guitar, art, poetry, reading, songwriting, nature, etc. Then I tap into that wonder I have for those things and bridge it to the material I have to teach. For example: if I have to teach reading data on a graph, I make a graph about the different guitars there are.

I adapt my lessons that day to whatever is really giving me personal inspiration at that moment. All people (even small ones) are attracted to a leader or performer who is passionate about what he is doing. Kids want to emulate that energy. I remember going to see REM in concert in my 20’s and being so drawn in to what singer Michael Stipe was doing onstage. I didn’t understand the weird symbols on the screen or the strange movements he made, like hitting a metal chair with a wooden rod on the off-beats on “World Leader Pretend,” but I tapped into his passion and energy for what he was doing, and when they left the stage I screamed for an encore. It was like a moth to a lightbulb, the lightbulb was passion. The world is so full of boring people. It’s important for leaders, teachers, writers, performers, and artists to share an influence that is NOT boring with this starved-for-passion world.

Discouragement that saps inspiration is the teacher’s biggest enemy. By tapping into and bridging my passions with my students, I am able to get through those tough days when I have to methodically put one foot in front of the other and keep remembering that I got into the profession to make a difference. With a brief look inward, it works every time.

10 Resources for Teachers to Manage Stress

Like any other professionals, teachers get stressed. Here are some links that can help get you back and feeling good again.

I wonder if most people think about teachers as being stressed. I think they do. Ironically, we teachers think it’s not necessary to worry about the health effects of stress? This could not be further from the truth. As teachers, we deal with big stress levels each day. We need management stress training. These levels are proven to cause physical problems like high blood pressure and a slew of other problems touched on in the pages below. As a teacher, I owe it to my family and my students to take my health and stress levels seriously. Prioritizing that can prevent a lot of life complications. These links below are all ones I have read and recommend to you:

Identify Stress – Buffalo Counseling offers this excellent resource for teachers or any other person trying to manage stress.

Empathy and Action for Stress Management – The NEA has put together this “empathetic” and educational page with information and resources about stress management for teachers.

Top 8 Fun Stress Relievers – These stress relievers may be easier to practice – because they’re fun.

Retired Teacher Shares Stress Management Tips – You’d think a retired teacher would know a lot about this topic and you’d be right!

Using Acronyms for Stress Management – An article I wrote a couple years back on personal development but it also works for reducing my stress at work.

Pressure Management for Teachers – An interesting page that focuses on the cause of pressure that is causing stress.

An excellent 8 minute video on this topic:

Time Management for Teachers: Your 7 Minute Guide to Mastering TThe most popular videos are here

Managing Stress to Avoid High Blood Pressure Etc. – This blog page talks about all the many symptoms of stress that teachers are prone to due to the stress of the job. Then it gives tips to deal with it.

Resource Blog for Teachers Dealing with Stress – This well written, close to home, blog gives real life example of stress and offers real solutions.

Recording Dealing with Stress Management in Teaching – This is a telecourse that was recorded and is available as an archive.

Stress management classes are not such a bad idea. Now, go be less-stressed!

My Solution to the Copy Machine Conundrum

If you are like me you have been frustrated many times by a traffic jam at the copy machine. You got your materials together and went to the copy room only to find two or three teachers ahead of you with what looks like reams of copies to make. You sort of get deflated at that point. If you’ve been reading my blog for a couple years, you might recall my article on “paperless teaching.” This was a cool concept and one of those that is excellent “in theory.” Unfortunately, the energy required to come up with solutions for paper really wears you down. As a result, it defeats the whole purpose for trying paperless teaching in the first place. I know I am a better teacher because I have some tested alternatives to the copy machine. At the same time, I now know it is unavoidable in our profession. That leads me to my solution.

One excellent solution to the copy machine conundrum is to pick one day of the week to do all your copying. It is definitely a paradigm shift because you can’t be successful “on the fly.” You must get a rhythm and a system to select your papers to copy so each week you have them sorted and ready to hit the copy machine. Of course you will still collide with other teachers but only one out of 5 days right? If you are mentally prepared to wait, it will cause you less stress as well. I have been doing this all year so far and it is going great! What do you think of my solution to the copy machine conundrum?

Sports as Incentive in the Elementary Classroom

Classroom management and academics are the cornerstone of the elementary school classroom. For this reason, knowing ways to encourage and provide incentives is crucial. One way is to have a day in the week when you play a game with the kids who earn it.

We are currently trying something like this we call “Fun Friday.” Basically, all three homeroom classes have the opportunity play a game with me outside at the end of the week. To be part of it, they must have good behavior. This means they have not had any warnings or consequences the entire week It is working very well so far. The usual offenders are even coming to the fence and bragging when they are allowed to participate.

I have done three games so far: soccer, basketball, and dodgeball. So far, dodgeball is the most popular sport. The students always have an inside option to make a craft with another teacher. So far it’s been about 50/50. Not since I started teaching and leading them in dodgeball though. Continue reading “Sports as Incentive in the Elementary Classroom”