Sunday, June 29, 2014

What worked... what didn't!

Long time, no see... blog... read... anything (whomp, whomp..)!

Well, it was quite the year. And honestly, I just had NO energy to blog. Common Core,  (yes, I'm in Cali so we are just getting on board), a CRAZY class, and the desire to just come home and VEG!

I wanted to blog, trust me. I tried to get them in, but life took over.

But, I am back and making a commitment to BLOG!

So, I am re-starting with a look back on the school year. What worked and what didn't ( yep, some things didn't work... does that ever happen to you? :P)

What Worked:

1. Math Journals

I don't really know where to begin. I LOVE MATH JOURNALS! Well, my version at least. I decided to do a daily journal prompt for my students in a spiral review format based on the skills we were learning throughout the month and past months. The week went through: Make It Monday, Talk About It Tuesday, Word Problem Wednesday, and Think About It Thursday. I tailored each of the journal prompts to fit the day of the week. Within 15 min, my students worked on a math problem, used critical thinking skills, explained their thinking, and conveyed agreement or disagreement. It was the 1st thing we did EVERY morning and it was a wonderful way to begin the day. I will post more about math journals soon... so check back!

A Make It Monday prompt and student entry from early in the year

2. Morning Runs

I mentioned that I had a CRAZY class this year?! They were wonderful, smart, thoughtful, and ACTIVE! Many wiggly bodies roamed my room and a long morning of language arts was just too much for them to handle, especially since many did not arrive early enough to enjoy before-school-play-time. So I took matters into my own hands and started morning runs!

Our school is lucky enough to have a 1/8 of a mile track. So each morning we hit the track for a run. Yep, WE! I donned my favorite running sneakers and ran right along with them. It was tough at first because half of my class was SUPER into it and the other half whined and complained, but we trudged onward. At the beginning they could run 1 and 1/2 laps without walking. And by the end of their year, kids were requesting running shoes for birthday presents,  signing up to run local fun runs with their families and completing 8-10 laps without walking. They learned that sweating is OK (even their teacher does it, lol) because it just means we are working HARD! And it boosted their minds for a long day of thinking. It provided challenge, with only self-satisfaction as a reward. This was one of my favorite things this year and I will do it again next year!

3. Science

I have always liked doing science with my students. But I don't particularly find the 1st grade science curriculum riveting...  But thanks to some AMAZING ideas on Pinterest. I was able to transform all of my Science Units into learning exploration. Here are a few of my favorite ideas that will be sticking around next year too!

All of these are from Pinterest Pins. Some were real links and others I had to do some Google research on the "how to's".

What Didn't:

1. Math Centers, Tubs...

I tried fitting in hands on math learning SO many ways this year. And none of them worked. Well, not to the extent I wanted.

Centers- This works in many classes for Language Arts, so why not math? It was OK. It did not give me the opportunity to meet with students. It required a TON of prep work to change the centers each day. I couldn't quite get it to align with our current math program (Saxon- a spiraled program... no units of study). I abandoned it after two months.

Math Tubs- I read up on this. A LOT of classrooms do math tubs, too. Maybe this would be IT. Well, there was less prep. I got many things from TPT and created some of my own things. I only changed the tubs each week instead of each day. But, clean up was a mess. The kids had a hard time completing meaningful work in the amount of time we had for each tub. Still needed too much time to explain all of the various tubs each week. Copies were excessive (we are on a copy # limit...). This one lasted the rest of the year, but we were only doing it one to two days a week by the end.

In both math centers and tubs, there just wasn't enough time. I need at least 30 min for the normal lesson and GP that comes with our current program. I have a pacing guide to keep up with (so the other 6 teachers and I are somewhat on the same ground in math) and fitting in time for math centers/tubs in addition was a strain on our day- often causing us to miss out on science, social studies or PE; something I'm not willing to do.

So what's a girl to do? Try again! Next year's plan is going to be Math Workshop. I am VERY excited about this. I have been out of school for three weeks and am full on into planning Math Workshop. I think it will be a great mash-up of traditional lessons, centers and tubs. As soon as I have it up and running I will post on it. I hope that this will be the one, fingers crossed!

2. Workshop Next Do's

Now when I say this didn't work I am partially lying. Sorry. It works. It works well. It has been working for the last three years. A few tweaks each year has actually made it more and more successful. So why did I put it here? I need something new. A new way to explore language arts workshop. A way to give my students opportunities of self guided learning and more accountability.

After learning about the Daily Five (which I think is fabulous) I also know that it is not exactly what I want in my room. So next year my students will do an adaptation of the Daily Five system for their workshop next do's. I think it will provide them with more independence and choice. They will be able to be in charge of their learning in a "distantly guided" way. More to come of course...

So there you have it. This was a long one. But it to SO good to reflect and look for ways to improve! What are your big plans for next year? How do you think you'll improve upon this past year?