Some call it chaos – I call it collaboration

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Mrs. Marino’s Class

At any given moment when you walk into my room this is what you’ll see. Kids are sprawled (yes, I said sprawled) out all over the carpets, soft chairs, and bean bags. They have chairs pulled up in places that they don’t belong. Did I mention that it’s loud? It is so loud. It is messy. There are 20 different things going on at once, and I love every second of it. Some kids will have their own devices out, some may be on my Mac Book, some on the desktops, and some with my little white boards and Expo markers. The noise doesn’t bother me because when I walk around the room I can hear and see that they are on task. A few years back I sat through a training where the lady told us to be facilitators – not to whole group lecture the whole time. I thought she was crazy. How could students learn if we were not standing in front of them teaching the entire class? I never thought I would be doing exactly what she said to do that day. There is seriously so much learning going on around the room that I cannot help but smile. Students are helping students. They are building each other up, and it is so cool. Not on Fridays, though. On Fridays we have a quiet day. We track our data, take assessments, read, and draw. We “ketchup” for the week. It’s our calm in the weekly storm of learning. This is my teaching style, and it works for my students and me. I used to be paranoid about the noise level. I didn’t want people to think that I was out of control. Luckily, my administrative team knows me. They know my personality, and they trust what I am doing in my class. Should everyone’s classroom be this way? Probably not. Students need variety, and they need to learn how to work in different environments. Is my environment the right way for everyone? Nah. But it’s the right way for me.

We must recognize the differences!

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BY: Angela Moses

The first six weeks is almost over.  It is time to ask yourself a few questions.

  • Do I know my students’ learning style? Each child is different in their own unique way.  It is up to us as teachers to recognize and embrace each child in how they learn.  We can teach our lessons in many different ways to reach all students. Will it take more time….YES! If you fail to adapt to their learning styles, you will keep going in circles and learning will not happen! This year has been challenging.  I’m changing, modifying, and reassessing my teaching style to make sure my students are getting the “BEST” from me!
  • Am I teaching them effectively? Communicating effectively? I often say to myself, “Are they getting it?” I have 20 precious students staring at me on a daily basis.  Some ask questions, some don’t.  Am I effectively reaching all 20?  I pray daily that I give my students the best possible.  They deserve my undivided communication, attention, and sometimes just someone to LISTEN!
  • Am I doing everything possible for them to be successful! When a students is unsuccessful, what do you do?  Reteach? Move on?  Reassess?  I always take a step back, reflect on teaching, and view from a different perspective.  Did I not get the concept clear enough?  I never move on and leave them confused!  Especially at a 2nd grade level.  We are building a foundation on which learning continues. Each level must be solid before adding another level.
  • Do I need to change or modify how or what I am teaching? How do we know we need to change our lesson? If a student does not understand, we must present it in a different way.  If we have our students engaged in the lesson, they are learning, then they will be successful!  If they are not understanding, they are not engaged, thus unsuccessful! I want my students engaged.  If that means taking a step back…..then step back for success!

I will continue to teach each day in a way that my students are successful!  Today is the day, tomorrow is the future!  Help our students today on a level that they can feel confident in their learning so that tomorrow they are successful!

Redefinition – Students teaching Students

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Mrs. Marino’s Class

One of my goals this year was to start a school-wide YouTube channel. So far. so good! Our assistant principal has used the channel to flip faculty meetings and to get pertinent information out to parents. My sister that just moved her daughter to the district even commented on how helpful the parent transportation video was. Makes me extremely happy to know that this idea is being well-received. Every week I have used the channel to post a video over our homophones for the week. The students have viewed them at home, and we watch the video together as a group, too. When I play the video in my classroom the students respond back to the “me” on the video which is pretty cool. Often times while they are totally engaged in the short video I am getting papers or manipulatives ready for the next activity. It’s like there are two of me in the room. Today we took it a step further. Today 3 of my students made the YouTube video for the week. They used Explain Everything. I gave them about one minute of instructions, and they took off with it. It is absolutely PRECIOUS. They even mimic the way I usually do the videos. The other students were thrilled and of course all want a chance to CREATE. That’s the key word in SAMR and on the top of BLOOM’S. Creation. These three girls took the knowledge that they have learned in class and made it their own. They did a fabulous job explaining and even gave their own examples. I could not be more proud, and I cannot wait for more students to make videos for our YouTube channel. It’s a powerful thing.

QR Codes + Take Home Folders = AHA MOMENT FOR MRS. MOSES!

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I had a moment last week while making label for my take home folders.  It was an awesome moment!  As I started making labels on Avery.com/templates, I noticed a barcode section.  I had never thought about putting barcodes on my folders.  This is great!  I made my first one for a reading website to help parents with reading strategies at home.  It will be placed on the inside of folder.  I am also making one for the front that will have my contact info, our class website, our class KidBlog, and our schedule.  I have found a way to connect with my kids at home.  I started thinking how could I bring this to a new level?? My kids are working on the basic sight words.  I can use Croak It with a recording of my voice saying sight words and put it on a QR code. A big shout out to Daisy for suggesting Croak It!  When they scan, a picture of sight words will appear and they will hear me reading the words. This a great way to help our kids at home.  It will also be placed in a center in our classroom.  QR Codes are quick and easy to make.  It is kinda like cloning yourself in the classroom.  There are numerous ways to incorporate them in our daily routine.  I will also be adding a math QR code for helpful apps and websites.  I like to use  i-nigma for the barcode scanner.  It is user-friendly for kids. Check back for more ways to use QR Codes in classroom and with the take home folders.

From students to generosity of others…..It’s been a great start to the school year!

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My positives for the week! By Angela Moses

1. First day of school was crazy good! I love my students! They all have different personalities that will create an awesome year of learning! They like to collaborate and share! I’m going to enjoy getting to know all of 20 of them! They have already become part of my heart forever! They are full of joy, happiness, and knowledge!

2. DonorsChoose.org is AWESOME!! My eyes have been opened to the amazing kindness of others! It’s because of their generosity our students will have the tools for success! They give without thinking! They are across the world giving to students in Warren, Texas! I want to thank our community support for our students. I received donations from parents, @KindergartenRocks (follow on Twitter…amazing person), and The Selz Foundation(thank you to the moon and back for completing the funding). Thanks to DonorsChoose.org and the donations from wonderful people, my kiddos are going to have a GREAT year!

3. My family!! I’m blessed to have an amazing husband and 2 wonderful boys to call my family! They support me in everything I do! It’s because of my family’s support I get to do this everyday! I want to thank them for their love and support! My ideas can get crazy sometimes!  It is nice to have such amazing people by my side!

4. Donna Renick- Last night she sent me a message asking about the projects I’m doing in my class. She is a wonderful woman that supports the kids in our community. She gives of her time to help when help is needed! She said she wants to donate to our class project! My heart is full by her kindness for our students! She is giving our students the opportunity to create in a classroom atmosphere that will be open for growth! That is why she will be forever in my heart and the hearts of all our students!

5. My school and fellow educators – Warren ISD is on the move! We have a positive, motivated, and student focused school! We all care and have the same common goal! We have a united vision for our students! We are blessed to have a wonderful school and community!

6. My 2nd grade team – Thank you for everything you do! I’m so glad we get to work together! Our team is works together for the benefit of our students! It’s going to be a great year!

7. A big shout out to Remind for creating such a wonderful communication tool for teachers! Our parents are part of our classroom each day!

8. Sometimes it’s just as simple as getting a Kahoot T-shirt in the mail that can brighten your day! Love Kahoot! It’s engaged learning for students!!

Remember to be positive and SMILE!

 

 

Communication – The Key to an Effective Classroom (PART 1)

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Mrs. Marino

Communication has been a constant in my world in the past year. At work, our goal was to become transparent. In grad school, I write about it in almost every reflection I have. In the past year I can not even tell you how many articles I have read over the importance of internal and external communication in a school district. With communication being a key component to an effective classroom, school, and district I have found it extremly helpful to seek out what other schools and teachers are doing to implement the most useful communication system for their community of learners and stakeholders. In this 21st century, technology-driven world that we are living in communication is easier than ever to implement. If executed properly, communication can be the most powerful element of your daily routine. Here are four platforms that I use to communicate with students, parents, administrators, and community members:

Remind – I was introduced to Remind over a year and half ago. The classroom communication plan I utilized in my class prior to me discovering Remind  reflected the same components that I saw my teachers in grade school implement. Their system was not bad 25 years ago, but for a classroom in 2013 it just was not working. When I started using it Remind was easy, effective, and well-received by parents. Remind was founded as a way to ensure that parents received vital information sent home by the teacher to ensure student success. We have all been there….you send a paper note home and later discover it wadded up inside a desk or under a bus seat. Do I still send paper notes home? Yes. Some parents prefer that. But in the last year and half I can tell you for a fact that most of my parents, in a rural town in South East Texas, prefer a text sent straight to their phone. The power doesn’t just stop there. With Remind’s new features you can now send attachments. Listen, I am not just a teacher I am also a mom. A mom to a very cute but very forgetful 10 year old boy. Many times we have pulled into the driveway to discover that the backpack with the spelling words were left at school. Sigh. Last week, as I mulled this over and wondered how many moms were going through the same thing I thought, “Well, fix it Daisy. Fix that for your busy working parents. Send the spelling list home via Remind.” An a-ha moment for sure. I took a picture of my words for the week, uploaded it in Remind, and with the push of a button every student signed up for my Remind (whether they forgot the list in their locker at home or not) had their words to study. The next day a woman that I work with said (and I quote), “I am so glad you sent that list last night. My child left his at school, and we were panicking.” Powerful. This week is Labor Day. In the past students would receive their list on Tuesday which means they would have one less day to become familiar with their words before assessment on Friday. I went ahead and took a picture of my list on Sunday and any student that is signed up for my Remind now has the list for two extra days. I love that I am able to help my students that way. Yes, Remind has amazing features and ways to empower students and teachers, but that’s not the only reason I love this company so much. They are more than just a tool for me to use to enhance my class. They are now part of my family. They LOVE teachers. Everything they do is based on helping teachers. They are kind. They are hard working. They are the real deal. I am so glad that God allowed me to cross paths with Brett, Christine,  Clara and everyone else on the Remind team.

Class Dojo – Inspired by my student teacher, Kaylee Aulbaugh I decided that I should try this Class Dojo thing out, and man am I ever glad did. I have successfully used Class Dojo for one week. It’s been AMAZING! First of all, the students of course love their little avatars. Several have logged on at home and customized them. Secondly, the classroom management system that Dojo has produced is impeccable. This tool is really top notch for communicating acceptable classroom behaviors to your students without having to create a lot of RULES. My classroom is LOUD. Always loud. We constantly collaborate. We are on the floors brainstorming with peers. We are running to the art center to grab more crayons or markers. We are helping each other navigate through iPads. I call it organized chaos, and I love it. However, sometimes it gets a little too loud. Not last week. Last week when we started group work my first class was typical noise level for my room. Now, they are working…they were just loud. When the second group came in I decided to put their Dojos up on the SMART board as they did their group work. The difference was uncanny. So uncanny that I sent for the other 4th grade teacher to come witness it herself. Both groups worked just as hard, but the noise level of the 2nd group was much lower. I never even had to remind them to keep their talking level down. Because the Dojo was up they just did it. Our 4th grade line of 73 students this year is, for lack of a better word, freakishly quiet….without being reminded. They are working so hard to get those Dojo points. I am AMAZED! Let me tell you the coolest thing that happened this week with Class Dojo. On Wednesday one of my students raised her hand during class and told me the following, “Mrs. Marino, my mom was so proud of me when I got home last night. She showed me on Class Dojo where I got points for helping another student. She said she was so proud of me and that helping others is one if the best things to do.” Melt my heart. Without even meaning to I am now providing students with opportunities to be praised at school and then positively reinforced at home for the same behavior. In hindsight,  by setting up Class Dojo I have created a strong unit, a team, between myself and the parents. This is so powerful. I cannot wait to see how this process continues throughout the school year. There are a ton of features I have not tried out yet, but I know as the year continues I absolutely will.

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 – A SCHOOL FACEBOOK PAGE, YOUTUBE, AND A CLASSROOM TWITTER ACCOUNT.