Archive for July, 2011

Making Best Practices Automatic

School is on Monday. I have been going to professional development workshops, planning with my grade level team, discussing details with my principal, and producing: posters, seating charts, homework, activities… The list goes on forever.

Then last night I woke up in the middle of a deep sleep, suddenly realizing, “Oh my gosh, the students will be there.”

This might sound like a silly realization, but it takes a real mind-shift to start thinking about “the first day of school” as “the students’ first day of school.” If you do start thinking about it this way then you start to think about how intimidating it can be. And how exhausting. And how boring. Really, if we’re honest, about 99% of what we do on the first day is going to be blocked out by all the overwhelming emotion that comes with just showing up after a long summer break.

It is these concerns that make me so grateful for my lesson planning template (download sample here). I imagine that at first glance it would appear pretty complicated. It started out a simple place to list the objective, the agenda and the materials. But  as I have added new “best practices” to my repetoire, I have added to the template. For me, it is a constantly evolving document that reminds my present self what my past self found was important. When I make changes, it becomes a gift to my future self.

You will see that I have broken things down into 5 minute chunks. That’s because I used to be really bad at budgeting time and keeping the lesson flowing. You will see that I put a place to record “sparkle,” the place in the lesson where something magical will happen. Every lesson should have some sparkle. You will see that I broke my 5 minute chunks into what the teacher does and what the student does. I did that to remember to plan exactly how the students would move between activities.

The part that stood out to me today was the reminder to highlight my movement breaks. The students are going to need that.

Thank you, past self. All last week, I kept thinking about my first day back. Now it’s time to put myself in my students’ shoes. It is their first day back.

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July 7, 2011 at 10:01 pm Leave a comment

Coming Back For More

I am getting ready to teach place value for the seventh year in a row. But I am totally not bored. In fact, I am pumped that I’ve been able to collect better and better ideas for teaching the topic as time has gone on. It makes me proud. It makes me feel like a professional. And it makes me want to keep teaching.

For example, I used to give my students digit cards to do place value games. They were just cards with single digits. They worked. My students learned.

But…

…it is just as easy and MUCH more meaningful to use value cards.  They are cards with multiples of ones, tens and hundreds that can be stacked to make multi-digit numbers. With value cards, students have to think about a digit’s value as they are building numbers like 395 or 1,026. They are learning the purpose of place value while developing the understanding needed to write numbers in expanded form. 

I don’t remember who shared the idea of digit cards with me, but I am grateful. The idea didn’t just help my students. It got me excited to keep learning and growing as a teacher.

And now I’m attaching my digit card templates for someone else out there. Simply print them out so that the different place values are different colors, and go. I hope they get you excited to teach place value one more time.

July 5, 2011 at 10:50 pm Leave a comment


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