Mastering Math Facts (At Home)

I see parents as my partners in their children’s education.  The obvious reason is that parents are absolutely the most important people in their children’s lives.  They know their children better than anyone else, and they are an essential resource for information and problem solving.

And philosophically, I think it matters to kids when they see their parents and teachers working as a team, supporting them.  When I was a kid, my mom and my teachers were friends.  My mom was always involved — president of the PTA one year, making talent show sets the next — and school felt like an extension of home, a place where I belonged and was cared for.

There’s a practical component to this partnership, too. Continue reading

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Implementing an Independent Reading Choice System: Part 1


"Bear on a Unicycle" by Julius N. Santiago (www.bulius.com).

"Bear on a Unicycle" by Julius N. Santiago (www.bulius.com).

Sometimes, Reader’s Workshop makes me feel like a bear on a unicycle.

I’m pedaling and pedaling… trying to keep “balanced literacy” balanced, all the while worrying about reaching all of my kids’ needs.

And just look at the little guy’s giant head!  It’s just how I feel, always thinking and planning, sometimes even dreading how much work needs to be done.

And I know I’m not the only teacher who feels this way. Continue reading

Effective Effort: Key to Girls’ Success in Math

It seems every year, I have at least one girl in my class who says, “I can’t do it.  I’m no good at math.”  These students believe that math comes “naturally” to other people (and not to them) and that there is little they can do to become strong math students.

Nowadays, the words “I’m no good at math,” just get me fired up.  I hear them, and I think, “that’s a student who is going to have a transformative year.”  Because I know that effective effort + time = success, and soon, she will, too.

I’m far from the only one who thinks this way.  Check out this research summarized in the most recent Marshall Memo (9/14/09): Continue reading

Homework, Week 1: Our First Reflections

I am really pleased by how smoothly homework choice went this week. I followed my plan and had students set a simple class goal on Monday: “to have a good homework routine and have fun.” Then, students brainstormed how they could achieve that goal. Students wrote plans like “find a quiet spot,” “start immediately when I get home,” “do my homework at ____ [name of after school program],” and “set a timer.”

Instead of assigning the Thursday Night Reflection for homework, we did our reflecting as a class Friday morning. Before we began, I brought us back to the equation, “effective effort + ____ = _____.”

Continue reading

Making Homework Choice Work: First Steps

Lots of people tell me they think homework choice is a great idea, but they’re wondering how to make it work in their classrooms.

In my classroom, we’re almost finished with our first week of homework choice. From where I stand (make that sit, totally exhausted) there are three keys to implementing the system successfully: Continue reading

Help Needed! A Choice System for Independent Reading

I was thinking about homework choice this morning, wishing there were more times during the school day when kids could set, work towards, and achieve their own goals as learners.

The problem was that I almost always make the choices for kids, whether it’s during math, writing, or just about any other subject.

If only there was a time in the day when kids had a lot of choice… when they’d benefit from setting goals… when they need to be held accountable for putting in effective effort and not pretending to read a book while really staring into space…

That was it!  Independent reading!  Duh!

Why didn’t I think of it before?  I could marry the homework choice system with independent reading time! Continue reading

The Power of Professional Learning Communities

I think there’s a 99% chance that I’m the only one who wants to read this post. And if that’s true, I’m cool with it. I’ve been at a really exciting conference for two days, and I need to sort out everything I’ve learned.

On the other hand, I think there’s at least a 1% chance that you might want to read this post. Perhaps you went to the conference and want to reflect together. Or, maybe you’ll find what’s here interesting enough that you want to learn more. If either is true, please leave a comment! I’d be happy to hear from you.

PLC CoverSo, this week, I attended the Professional Learning Communities at Work Institute.

I did this because my district just hired me as one of the two Elementary Instructional Leaders for third grade.

Once upon a time, professional development in our district was organized top-down, and teachers in different elementary schools often did very different kinds of learning. Continue reading