Friday, July 3, 2015

Reflection

My first year as an instructional coach came and went so quickly. I obviously stayed extremely busy and the learning curve was HUGE...moving from a classroom teacher to instructional coach as well as from the elementary school to the middle school made that curve even larger.

Two things I am most proud of at the end of this year:
1. The connections I made and relationships I was able to build with my teachers.
2. Surviving the new SBAC testing (part of my job is building test coordinator).

The great thing about having my first year under my belt is being able to plan what to improve and change next year. It's also nice to have the first year...what is that? how do I do that? you want that when?'s under my belt (well some of them, as we know in education things are always changing).

My number one goal for next year is to get into the classrooms more! Managing my schedule is something that got away from me this year. I'm on a lot of teams/committees and am in tons of meetings! So, I really need to plan being in classrooms, put it on my schedule, and keep to my schedule! One way of going about this is to keep a rotating schedule of visiting specific grade levels on certain days, then hopefully I won't feel like a ping pong ball. The difficult part of this is being available during teachers preps to talk with them as needed. I found this year my teachers were more likely to "pop" in and talk with me during that time of their day.

Which brings me to number two goal, make my visits meaningful. I plan on using some of the tools I have been reading about in a book titled: 17,000 Classroom Visits Can't Be Wrong. I want my visits to be data driven and be able to hand that data over to my teachers for them to use and if they want make a plan to possibly improve areas they feel are weak.

Finally, I am going to be able to have a model classroom! I get to decorate a classroom again!!! Whooohooo! I will be teaching summer school this year and I will use some of that time to begin setting it up. During the school year we will use the classroom for staff development, professional development, our district PLCs, and finally I will invite teachers in to co-teach or model lessons for them.

In closing, a shout out to my Secondary Coaching Team (middle school and high school), we were named Outstanding Teaching Team of the Year.




Finally my cutie is now a 1st grader, and made the newspaper!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

First Weeks As Instructional Coach

It's been a crazy, exciting, and busy first few weeks as an Instructional Coach.

A few things that I have learned are:

1. Google calendar is my friend. If I didn't keep it open on my desktop then I'm pretty sure I would miss a few meetings!

2. Google docs and I have a love/hate relationship. I love being able to share items with my teachers, being able to access documents from anywhere. I dislike that when multiple people are using the same document at the same time, it "jumps" around as changes are made. I also dislike that I can't undo what others have done, I can only revert to old versions. I learned to keep my original and make copies for others to view/edit.

3. I LOVE my aides that help with data input, spreadsheets, and benchmark testing. I don't know when I would get it all done if not for them.

4. Technology is good, when everything is finally updated and student/teacher user names/logins are imputed as well as correct. I spent a lot of time on the phone and emailing district and company personnel getting things in order.

5. Getting into classrooms is hard!

6. Learned I need to run PLCs like a classroom, but also treat them like professionals and experts at what they do...not sure why I didn't think of the classroom perspective prior to teaching my first PLC, but I'm learning! (have a learning target, get them up and moving, etc.)

7. Build trust and relationships!

8. Keep logs! I love technology but I have found good 'ole journals, notebooks, and binders are my preferred method of logging. I keep a simple composition notebook of entries as to when I go into a classroom, what I observed (facts only), when I meet with teachers (things I may need to find out for them, etc.), mostly so I can remember to follow up if needed or find answers for them. I keep a hand written phone log for parent conversations (I'm already on page four). I also keep a spiral for handwritten notes in meetings (already over half way through that notebook).

How were your first weeks of school?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Notice and Note (part two)

If you didn't catch part one of my Notice and Note "series" you can find it here and catch up!

Last post I discussed how I begin modeling what I call Notice and Note...thinking while reading.

After modeling my thinking aloud a few times I begin modeling how to note. I usually start with any grade level by using sticky notes.

Again there are many variations for this process, but I start simple.

For grades 3 and up I use my document camera to project the book. As I am reading it aloud I will stop occasionally and write my thoughts on my sticky note and place it on the page I was reading. I still make these notices aloud as before, but this time I write them down. Like the previous post it may be something I notice about the picture, the text, the way an author foreshadowed, etc. I try to simply write what I notice, but not discuss it in depth.

The students usually get pretty excited about this and want to share what they notice as well. It is up to you if you want to start involving them at this point or in the next read aloud.

After modeling my noting on the stickies I return to them once the book is done or I am at a stopping point I return to them and explain why I wrote what I did on the sticky notes (this will lead into how to have great discussions about books/articles in small groups later).

A few tips for some of your younger students:

For the "littles" that can write but yet have shorter attention spans you may want to have the sticky notes already placed through out the book, and model actually writing one or two at the end of the book.

For the "littles" that can't read or write yet you may want them to leave a sticky note (limited them to maybe three), draw a simple picture to represent a feeling, question, idea, etc. Example: A smiley face, because this made me feel happy or I like that the character did that. Or have them leave blank sticky notes (possibly cut the sticky notes in half), and leave them on a page. Then have discussions with them as to why they placed that sticky on that page.

At this point you can have them give it a try!

Here are some great examples of using sticky notes when reading, they differ a little from how I use them, but are great ideas and you may find them helpful! (click the picture to link to the blog post)



I choose not to use symbols on the sticky notes because I want them to write and explain.

Stay tuned for part three...What do we do with all these sticky notes!?!

On another note (get it..okay it's been a long day) we had our first day of pre-planning. I feel like it went pretty smoothly. It's different being on the presenting information side, but I'm adjusting!

Here are a few goodies I made to help welcome the teachers back!

My principal chose the theme "Can't wait to see you SHINE" because we have a lot of shiny new teachers, shiny new curriculum, and shiny new technology! Cute huh?!



And I decided to give the teachers these little goodies, with my extension for a quick reference.




Saturday, August 16, 2014

Surprise AND Found Freebie

If you follow me on FB you may already know, but I was fortunate enough to be asked by Scholastic Instructor Magazine to be featured in their back to school edition...in an article about creating a book nook.

Of course I said YES!

Even though the article appeared on their blog about a week ago...two days ago I received my copy in the mail! I was so excited, there is just something about seeing the pictures and words in actual print!

Here it is!





If you would like to read the entire article you can find it online here: Scholastic Instructor Magazine.

Finally tonight I searched and searched for a freebie I offered a long time ago (polka dot numbers). Quite a few of you had asked for more numbers due to higher class sizes. I could not find the original, so I decided to remake them with a few extras! I hope you enjoy!


There are four versions...click on the links below!

Friday, August 15, 2014

OFFICE reveal!

As some of you may already know I will not be in a classroom next year. I am now an instructional coach for the middle school right down the road (seriously...maybe 1/4 a mile down the road) from my "old" (does teaching there one year make it old??) school.

I now have an office!

A few adjustments and problems that I faced moving from a classroom (after 12yrs) to an office.

  1. Narrowing down and storing the teaching stuff! (WOW our garage is packed!)
  2. Deciding what I would need for my new position, or how to re-purpose items I already had.
  3. ...and we thought classrooms were small (I know, I don't have students).
  4. How to mesh "form and function", but make it inviting.
I really wanted to make my office inviting for the teachers. Somewhere they could come, talk, discuss, and be open. Therefore, I did have to make sure I had an area to meet with teachers.

On HUGE hurdle was that the desk and shelving was built in (man I hate when I can't move furniture!).

Here are the before pictures.

The view from the door.

The view from the desk. 

Another view from the door.


Here it is now!

The view from the door.


 I stuck with the same color scheme so I could reuse some items from my room. My mom convinced me the pillow was a much needed touch!  Representing the South! Just missing my computer. (Hobby Lobby: pillow and wood bunting..and yes I bought them in GA and shipped them to myself, no Hobby Lobby here!) I went with burlap on the bulletin board.


Got to have candy for my teacher friends! (fell in love with the saying block-found it at a store called Craft Warehouse, and the tray I found at Hobby Lobby)


 Information central, both boards are magnetic. (White board calendar found at Target, magnetic message board...Hobby Lobby)


One of my bookshelves (the other one is under the white board, and pretty messy with curriculum items). This bookshelf holds professional reading and a bunch of my picture/chapter books that I LOVE and just couldn't bear to put in boxes. I went with a few motivational saying pictures. The small one says: "You are the author of your own story, so make it a good one." (art and bird cage from Hobby Lobby)


My meeting place. My principal suggested that I have a round or in this case octagonal table for meetings. I love it. I added some pillows I picked up at Target in summer clearance section, sewed the ribbon to the back and tied a bow to the chairs. Hopefully this will help keep them in place and not slide down the chair.



This is one of the many things my daughter did to keep busy while I decorated and organized!


I hope you enjoyed my little office!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Notice and Note (part 1)

Many of you have asked how I teach my students, including the "littles", how to...what some may call "make tracks" as they read. There are many different things to call this technique, but what I finally boiled it down to was to Notice and Note.

Let me start off by saying I LOVE LOVE LOVE teaching my students how to Notice and Note. I have been to many different Professional Developments and read numerous books and articles, where they teach different ways and techniques. I learned from all of them. This is just my short (if short means a few blog posts), simple to me way of teaching my students. I know it can be more technical and require training...but due to numerous questions and emails I thought I would share my "version". Prior to the first lesson you may want to discuss what it means to notice things. *That was my disclaimer.

The very first introduction to Notice and Note is to MODEL!

It's pretty simple and most of us do this naturally as teachers any way.

When reading one of your first picture book read alouds or articles in class (for me it's usually one of my first day of school picture books)...NOTICE....and NOTICE aloud!

Yes...ask your usual predicting questions, etc. But then NOTICE...

Notice what and how the characters are talking.
For example: "I notice that (insert character's name) said that sadly...I wonder why she said it that way?"

Notice how the author bolded words, used a flashback, foreshadowed (even if you don't use the terms yet due to age...notice the concept without labeling it), the title, or even the cover of the book.

Notice the pictures with all age groups!

When noticing, I remind my students to not just notice the content, but the actual way something may be written, the words chosen (and why those words were chosen).

This gets your students to really begin thinking...and after all Reading is Thinking!


A few tips and thoughts:

  • Don't over notice...in a short picture book keep it to three or so, otherwise reading it may take three times as long! 
  • Eventually the students will start writing their noticing down on sticky notes or in the margins of articles (thus the Noting portion). 
  • Continue to use the word notice for everything! I use it in all subject areas. Examples: What do you notice about this math problem? What do you notice in this diagram of the cell?
  • Continue to model Noticing aloud for three or more picture books or articles before moving to the next part of Notice and Note. 
  • Get a TON of sticky notes ready for the noting! 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

#imstillonvaction

Yep...I'm touring the east coast this summer! Visiting family members, friends, and teacher friends. It's been an amazing few weeks and we will be home soon.

I felt as though I had been ignoring you all and though some of you have already gone back to school, some of you may still be in need of some classroom inspiration. Of course as I was visiting my teacher friends I kept asking them if I could take pictures of their rooms, and they happily agreed.

So here are a few ideas that you may find helpful! Enjoy! (get ready for picture overload)

This first group is from my dear friend, I posted her classroom last year...when I moved from GA she acquired most of my red and black decor. This is her second year in this classroom and I love some of the additions and changes she has made.

Her new reading nook!

Love this reading bulletin board.


Her desk area with the hanging "lanterns" is really cute and organized.


Similar area for her rolling cart with document camera and student computers.


This is new this year. She co-teaches, and kids rotate throughout the day. She is teaching ELA block. When the students are at their "cubbies" outside the classrooms she will pull the tab out of the items needed for the class, for that day. This is something she made herself! Great idea!



This year she decided to go with tables instead of desks, mostly due to room, and the fact that the students don't need desk storage due to the cubbies outside the classrooms.



Another nook in her room where she keeps supplies and writes her targets.


This room is another dear friend that I left in GA. She is a literacy coach. I love the color scheme and bulletin board ideas.




The parking lot is where teachers can add notes or sticky notes about concerns, questions, or ideas they have during and after staff development. She uses them to help guide her next meetings!



 Another teacher friend from GA. She taught SpEd last year and is back in a regular classroom this year. I love her color scheme of red, grey, burlap, and chalkboard!



She is going to use the frames to write center activities for the day that will be stationed at those tables.


Homework club, you bring your homework you stay on the board, you don't do it you take your number off. At the end of the month those still on the board will earn a prize/treat/reward.



Very cute meeting area. The grey pages are laminated and glued to the table for the students to use expo markers on during small group meetings.


Love the colors and design of this board!



Cute little reading nook.


Another cute board!


Whole class meeting area.

Lunch count and sharp/dull buckets for pencil sharpening.

Outside display. Welcome to 5th Grade.

Another version of my work collection station (using pocket folders instead of file folders). They will only put completed work in these folders, whereas mine would put all work in their folders and place it under completed or not completed.



I hope you enjoyed and maybe got a few ideas/inspiration! I'll be back soon with a few new posts about how I introduce making notes and tracks in your reading...even for the littles!