Monday, January 6, 2014

Data-Driven Student Conferencing

Student conferencing has been a hot topic at our school for the last few years, and I couldn't be more thankful that I jumped on the bandwagon immediately. By communicating individual progress with each student, I've noticed increased awareness and accountability on the student's behalf.  While we all hate to watch students struggle, I think there's something to say about the revelations students can encounter when they see their lack of progress for the first time. These conferences have opened the door to enhanced communication between the students and myself as I get to really investigate their progress trends over the year (and even from the past). My students also love the opportunities for student leadership whenever I allow them to set their own goals.

I remember the first year our principal expressed her desire for us to be more deliberate about incorporating data into student conferencing; I sat there thinking "How do I help students understand all of the numbers & scores that I need to share with them?". For me the answer includes using plenty of visuals (charts, graphs, colors, etc.) and better communicating the most important terms that my 5th graders need to be familiar with. For example, all of my students are familiar with the phrases scaled score, grade level equivalent, and percentile rank.  Speaking of visuals, here's one of the forms that I share during my student conferences.
I've redesigned my Student Progress Sheet each year, but currently it includes TCAP information from 3rd & 4th grades. I also left space for them to record their 5th grade goal, as well as a spot for me to record their actual 5th grade data after the scores come back in May. Our system also uses the STAR Assessment series so much of my data comes from the STAR Math tests. I also includes a chart for the system-designed Benchmarks Tests. This is the first year we've used them, so next year I will most likely expand the Benchmark section to include specific skills that were covered within each 9 weeks.
Here's an example of a current student...
 I absolutely love having all of this data in one place - it provides precise talking points! At first glance, I can see that even though this student (female) has always scored Basic on TCAP, there was much growth in her PR between 3rd & 4th grade. I also noted that in 4th grade, she was only 13 scale points away from the mark for Proficient. Because of this she decided that she would like to aim for a Proficient score on the 2014 TCAP. By referencing the TVAASS site I found that the estimated PR for Proficiency is around the 43rd percentile rank so I noted this on her goal column.
On her STAR scores, I can see where she her 4th grade score in May was very similar to her 5th grade Benchmark score in August, meaning that she maintained her standing over the summer. Since then she peaked after the 1st 9 weeks and regressed for the 2nd 9 weeks testing (December).
For those unfamiliar with STAR or scaled scores, it's imperative to keep in mind that TCAP scaled scores can only be compared horizontally. I can use these scores to help rank students who took the TCAP test in 4th grade, however I cannot compare these scores to the scaled scores they may achieve in 5th grade. However STAR scaled scores CAN be used to compare performance within the same grade level (horizontally) AND across grades (vertically). This is one of the reasons that I like to compare their 4th grade STAR score in May to their 5th grade STAR score in August.
There's tons more that I could go into about data-driven conferencing, but I just wanted to share a bit for now. I'm uploading my Student Progress Sheet to TPT in Microsoft Word so you can edit it for your personal needs. Just click on either image above and head on over there to grab this FREEBIE!
- Mrs. Wiggin -

Our First SNOW Day!

First off, let's all just accept that fact that I'm not the best blogger in the world. I have so many great ideas to share with you, but time has simply gotten away from me.

Due to the INSANE weather going in in TN right now (extremely cold temperatures, black ice, snow, yada yada...) I was pleased to get the 5:30am call from our director saying that schools would be closed today. YAY! Now I know that teachers can relate to the feeling of pure joy & giddiness when that call comes in, but today was extra special because it was supposed to be the students first day back after break. PLUS I had planned for a substitute because I was scheduled to speak at Alcoa's (another district) professional learning day. You can just imagine my anxiety last night as I repeated the process of checking the weather for my hometown, checking the weather for Alcoa, searching the news for updated closings, glancing at my email for correspondence from the other district, and finally rummaging through Facebook for rumors of closings. This process continued nearly every 30 minutes until I went to bed, and then every 1-2 hours just because I couldn't get to sleep without thinking about it. Luckily I received confirmation from Alcoa before midnight but had to wait until morning to get word from my own school system. Call me crazy...

Anyway now that I'm home and still in my pajamas at 10am, I thought today would be a great day to get caught up with the virtual world. No workouts, no vacuuming, and no laundry...just time for me. I've got several posts & perhaps some TPT updates coming soon. YIPPEEE!

But first, check out this photo from our fine Greeneville Wal-mart. Keep in mind that this was taken last night by one of the employees, when the temperature outside was still in the mid-50s....
Photo: This is what happens when people freak out!
- Mrs. Wiggin -

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Where did August go?

It's official. Labor Day is almost here...which means we've finished our first month of school with success! So many great things have happened that I'm not quite sure where to begin. Hum....let's talk math first.

We finished the Whole Numbers Place Value unit in only 7 days (including a Review day and a Test day). My Place Value QR codes were a huge hit with my kiddos; many thanks to my TPT followers who have also provided some great feedback on these. If you haven't checked them out, go ahead & put them on your wish list for next year (or even state test review).

Another great FREEBIE resource that I used was the Ordering Numbers Through Millions set from Allison Harig. Comparing & ordering whole numbers (along with decimals) is still in my TN state standards, but I sometimes have trouble finding activities for this skill because most are on a lower level. The larger numbers are perfect for 5th grade, plus students must carefully read each number (lots of similar numbers) & notice the difference between place values before just placing them in order according to the first digit (many of my kiddos tried to order 899,876 before 7,908,994 because they didn't notice that it was only in the hundred thousands place). I even let my students work together so they could share the cards (I try to limit myself to printing/laminating only 5 sets of cards per game). If you haven't already downloaded this set, check it out by clicking the icon below!
My second unit was entitled "Introduction to Algebra" and focused on understanding & applying the Order of Operations. This one served as a double whammy for both my CCSS and TN state standards, however for the TN standards, students will have to apply PEMDAS for expressions with decimals & fractions....go figure! The introduction of brackets & braces wasn't a huge deal as I expected but those darn exponents just got some of my lovelies really hung up. I started only with squared & cubed exponents (think SMALL products) because we haven't "officially" worked on multi-digit multiplication. I'll definitely need to hit this again before throwing in higher powers.

Next Up, Multiplication

After the Labor Day break, I'll start our Multiplying Whole Numbers unit that will include using the Powers of 10 to multiply whole numbers (decimals will come later). It seems like I've used the phrase "Powers of 10" constantly - when referring to those place value patterns and our exponents mini-lesson. However I'll only have two days to with my kiddos in regular classes before we take our traditional overnight trip to 4H camp. I seriously LOVE this field trip. I can't wait to share stories & pictures of our adventures!

- Mrs. Wiggin -


Friday, August 16, 2013

Room Reveal in Pictures

WOW! I hope your first week of school has been fabulous like mine! I can honestly say that this week has been the BEST first week ever. My team & I are totally in love with our kiddos! This is the sweetest bunch of kids I have ever had the privilege of meeting....let's knock on wood that this trend lasts all year.

I'm terribly behind in my blogging, so I'll begin with a photo tour of my classroom. Enjoy!

This is the main entrance to my classroom. The locker space was the perfect size for my motivational display & you can easily spot it when you're walking down the hallway. I like to keep a cute display above my student mailboxes & a large laundry basket below for "Lost & Found" items (just 5th grade items, not the entire school).

This is the view from the back of my classroom. I do a lot with interactive journals so I use a "teaching station" near my Promethean Board. Here I have the dock for my laptop and a document camera (trust me, you NEED one of these).
This is taken from the center of the room, facing the door/hallway. My actual desk is near the door, with a trapezoid table in the front. I've found this table to be extremely handy for papers & random items that I seem to collect throughout the day.
Here is one of my computer tables that I've raised up so that students can sit on medium bar stools. The stools take up much less room than chairs & the tables are the perfect height for students to stand at also.

Now for the Close Ups

If teaching doesn't kill me first, Pinterest will take care of it. Sometimes I feel like Pinterest has exploded in my room. Speaking of Pinterest, there are several ideas below that are not of my own & I am in no way claiming them as originals.
 My team has agreed to try the "Homework Club" challenge. We've decided that any students who have turned in all of their assignments on time will get to join us for lunch at the end of the month (no biggie here - they simply get to bring their lunches to our rooms & eat with us....they LOVE this).
Got to have those Mathematical Practices handy!

  My "I'm Done - Now What?" display is another favorite Pinterest idea. I'm hoping my kiddos will enjoy sudoku & picture graphing as I've added them as fun activities for early finishers.
 This is where I post my "I Can" statements that we are currently working on. We also use an "I Can" assessment sheet, but having the skills posted helps me quickly point out our objectives.
- Mrs. Wiggin -

Saturday, August 3, 2013

My First Award

Oh boy! Debbie over at Flip Flop Hop nominated me for my first award.
Thanks Debbie!
What is a Liebster Award?

It is an award given to "up and coming" bloggers who have less than 200 followers.

What does Liebster stand for?

Liebster is a German word that means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. Wow---I feel special!

My Turn...

Random Facts:

1.  During college I was an assistant manager at my local Zaxby's restaurant. I ate chicken almost every day....AND still love a good salad from there!

2. I did the pageant thing. Yep, I competed at the state-level for the Miss America Organization for three year. Scholarships baby!

3.  I did not see myself as an "intermediate teacher" until I was moved to 5th grade math. In fact, I dreamed about teaching kindergarten for years. What was I thinking?!?!?

4. I'm a musician. I studied piano for 12 years, and continue to play as the worship leader at my church. I love singing too!

5.  My husband & I are both extreme couponers. No joke! We have a special binder that we take out shopping & an entire garage stocked with stuff that we've bought for pennies or, even better, FREE. Maybe I'll publish a post on this hobby soon...

6.  I could live on chicken nuggets from Wendy's.

7.  After nearly 5 years of owning (well kind of, she's my husband's dog) a Husky, I'm just now training her to walk on a leash. Let's just say she's a bit hyper - not aggressive, just excited!

8.  I can't cook. My husband is the chef in the house & I can't complain because he's a good one too!

9.  I stopped drinking sodas (cold turkey) about 5 years ago and now ice water is my drink of choice.

10.  I didn't know all of my multiplication facts until I started teaching 5th grade math. I was a straight A student, but just never fluently memorized those darn 7s, 8s, & 12s.

11.  My husband & I tailgate at almost every TN football home game. GO VOLS!

Questions for me:

1. Are you teaching in the state that you grew up in?
Yes, I've always lived in the same city.

2. If you were to change occupations, what would your next choice be?
Wow, I can't even imagine myself doing anything other than teaching. If I had to choose, I'd probably choose to be a neonatal nurse - one that gets to hold the *itty bitty* babies.

3. How many states have you visited?
Not many - GA, FL, VT, NC, SC, KY...I think that's all?

4. Are you a healthy eater or do you lean toward the junk food side?
Ugh...I really strive to eat healthy, especially after I lost the pageant size that I used to maintain. However I have a REALLY bad weakness for sweets.

5. How long have you been teaching?
This will be my fourth year. I've taught 1 year in 2nd grade and the last two in 5th grade math.

6. What will you miss most about summer ending?
Lounging in the pool!

7. What piece of technology is your favorite?
My classroom Ipad - I wasn't into the Apple products until my tech guru gave me one to use with the kiddos.

8. How long have you been blogging?
Less than a month...newbie here!

 9. How many hours a week do you commit to school work? (Above the normal 40)
Waaaayyyyy too many! I spend 4-5 hours each weeknight...can't even begin to count up the weekend time!

10. Do you have a favorite quote?
"Do not worry about your problems with mathematics. I assure you mine are far greater." - Albert Einstein

11. What is your favorite read-aloud book?
Oh, the Place's You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Questions for my nominees:

1. What's the scariest thing that you've ever done?
2. What's your "go-to" lunch for school (you know, the one that will help you make it through the rest of the day)?
3. If you had to teach a grade/subject other than your own, what/where would you move to?
4. Do you have any fur-babies (pets)?
5. Where would you go for a dream vacation?
6. What do you like to do at home (when you're not working on school stuff)?
7. What are you currently reading?
8. Any hidden talents that your students wouldn't know about?
9. If you had to coach a school sport, which would you choose?
10. How did you get started in the blogging world?
11. What's your favorite song?

*Now for the Nominees*

The Sally Classroom by Rachel
Making It As a Middle School Teacher by Michelle
To the Square Inch by Kate
 Flip Flops, Polka Dots, & Pre K by Jeannie
To accept this nomination, all you have to do is:
1. Link back to the blog that nominated you.
2. Nominate 5-11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers.
3. Answer the questions posed by the nominator.
4. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
6. Contact your nominees to let them know that you've nominated them.

- Mrs. Wiggin -

Monday, July 29, 2013

Adventures in QR Land

If you're a tech-savy teacher, you've probably already tried using QR codes in your classroom and had wild success. If you're like me, you've probably just read about these cool "code-things" that other awesome teachers are using and made a mental note to "someday" look into them. Well today is the day to venture into the land of QR codes, where students magically scan a code to monitor their progress on a  specific task or question.

In all seriousness, the QR thing was *MUCH* easier than I had anticipated. Basically it's a bar code that stores data, usually in the form of a link. By now you've probably seen them popping up everywhere from fast food containers to print media. When you generate a QR code, you can input any type of data that you want the smart device to display - a website (in the form of a link), photos, or even text! I choose the text method. After I made my task cards, I simply typed each answer into the text box & generated a QR code. Then I right-clicked on the QR image in my web browser, & copied/pasted it to its matching task card. I even re-sized the QR codes to better fit my cards & *fingers crossed* they all worked.

Since this was my first experience with creating QR codes, I'm not even going to try to pretend that my work is perfect. Seriously. I usually don't like to post goodies until AFTER I've tested them out with my kiddos, but I really feel that this item is something most teachers would want to use in during first unit (which for me is less than a full week into school - have to hit the ground running). Therefore I'm releasing this set of task cards a bit early. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated & I will definitely give an update after I've actually used them in class.

Still interested? Click on either picture above & head over to my TPT store. Enjoy!

- Mrs. Wiggin -

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Number Labels

The label madness has continued! In my last post I shared how I was going through a stage where I wanted to make labels for EVERYTHING. Hence I'm ready to reveal the number labels I've created for my student desks, calculators, and lockers. Why numbers instead of names you ask? Since we're departmentalized I don't really want to put name labels on the desks. Instead, I label each desk with a number. I have three pods/clusters with *hopefully 6* desks in each pod (last year I had 8 desks per pod). The first pod has #1-6, the second #7-12, and the third #13-18. I start the numbering at the same location in each pod and number the desks clockwise. This helps me look at a desk and quickly know what number it is. The desks never move - I simply move the kiddos when I need to rearrange my seating chart.

Numbering the student desks spawned the idea of also numbering my calculators. I've only taught math for 2 years, but I can proudly say that I've the students have NEVER lost a calculator. On days when I know that we will need the calculators (mainly when we're practicing for state assessments) my technology guru (student helper) distributes the calculators during our morning homeroom period. He simply places the calculator on the top left-hand corner of its matching desk. Before each class period ends, I check to ensure that each calculator is still placed on its assigned desk. At the end of the day my tech guru collects the calculators and returns them to the caddy (another favorite DIY). When I moved from teaching second grad to teaching 5th grade math, I really wanted to order one of those nice *expensive* calculator caddies from EAI. Instead I stumbled upon a cheap shoe caddy at Big Lots and hot glued it to the back of a book case. I also laminated/hot glued the matching number cards to each slot and *tada* instant calculator caddy. I'm not completely happy with the edges of the cabinet...I'm contemplating adding the scrunchy border to it!

Here's the best part! I've uploaded these labels to my TPT store as a FREEBIE! Simply click on the picture below to head on over & snag a set for yourself!

- Mrs. Wiggin -