Tuesday, May 31, 2016

See what we are all about!

Convince ME! - This was an assignment from our Principal asking us to convince a parent, student, or colleague that a personalized mastery learning classroom experience is awesome and that they should enroll their child in our school or come work with us. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Just When I Thought It Couldn't Get Any Better....

It's been awhile since we have posted on this blog, but we have been crazy busy this school year! To get caught up a little on what has been going on this year, you can refer to Miss Wright's blog. 

I am here to share something amazing that happened today during phonics.  We are at the point in the year where kids are growing insane amounts and at very different speeds.  At the beginning of the school year, we maybe had 4-5 phonics group levels going on at once.  At this point in the school year, we have 10 different leveled phonics groups.  During our phonics block, we have 3 teachers and 2 paraprofessionals to teach 40+ students at these 10 different levels.  To accommodate this, some groups get on ChromeBooks and work on activities in their PLPs (Personalized Learning Plans).  

We switch groups often, so that one set of students isn't always on ChromeBooks or one group of students isn't always working with the same teacher.  With the personalized learning that we are doing in K/1 this year, we have been talking about implementing more voice and choice into our phonics time.  Voice and choice means that the students take more of a lead role in their learning, deciding how they want to learn, what they want to learn, and where they want to learn.  Instead of the teachers telling kids what they have to do, the kids decide.  

Today, during phonics, I decided to give this a try.  I had a group of students working on final /k/ and a group working on prefixes and suffixes.  I planned on working face-to-face with the final /k/ students, so I needed to explain to my prefixes/suffixes group what their expectations were.  While I met with the prefixes/suffixes group, I had a review activity ready for the final /k/ group to work on.  I explained to them that I needed to meet with the other group and I needed them to work on their own for awhile until I could get back to them.  

As I began explaining to my prefixes/suffixes group, the other group went off, completed the activity while working together.  Not once did they interrupt my meeting with the other group, come to me with questions, or bother us in any way.  They were able to work collaboratively with each other to problem solve and complete the activity.  

With the prefixes/suffixes group, I showed them the variety of activities they would be able to complete during phonics.  Their activities ranged from videos and lessons on the computer to using Google Drive to create their own prefix/suffix game to paper-pencil activities to hands-on activities and games to working with partners to practice.  I cleared a shelf in my room that contained all the activities, manipulatives, and resources they would need to complete any of the activities.  I gave them some expectations, as well.  I expected them to work quietly for the entire time.  I expected them to keep a log of what they worked on or to turn in their finished products at the end of the period.  I expected them to clean up their area when complete.  They also had folders to keep their unfinished work in until the next day.  With these expectations, I explained that everything else was up to them.  THEY were in charge of their OWN LEARNING.  They had the choice of which activities to complete, how long to spend on them, and where in the room they wanted to work.  

You probably think we are nuts to let kindergarten and first graders make these types of decisions and to put that much trust into them.  But, guess what...

They did it...and they surpassed my expectations.  As I was working with my final /k/ group, I overheard them discussing prefix meanings, and working together to figure out the meanings of words.  I watched them help each other solve for the answers.  I saw all 6 students working on different activities at different times.  They all didn't just flock to the same activity and copy.  They worked at their own paces, in their own areas, yet still were able to help each other and work together.  

I was mind blown.  On the FIRST day of letting the kids loose, they took control of their learning and soared.  I am just amazed at the things these kids are accomplishing.  I can't wait to see where they are in May.  I can't even imagine  I am so proud and feel very blessed to be working with such an amazing group of kids.  

Stay posted for more awesomeness as our year continues! 

-Miss Wright

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Own It! - Our journey with children owning their own learning!

Own it!

What do we mean by student ownership of learning? In my definition, it is students becoming the driving force in their education, becoming actively engaged in their learning from where they have been to where they are going, reflecting on their learning, as well as setting their learning goals and working toward them. Over the last few years, I have been working toward fulfilling this definition, and this year I have come much closer. Marzano has shown that students who track their own learning learn at a much higher rate (an average of 32 percentile point gain in achievement).. Through the Battelle For Kids Modules, we learned the importance of student ownership of learning, and I immediately tried to find ways for kindergarten students to track their learning. I had tried many different approaches (just posting I can statements as learning it without tracking, roadmap on board with a race car to show where we were as a class - before differentiation, and put stickers on a ladder of math skills in individual folders), and none of them seemed to be effective or efficient because they were either not practical for a whole group or it was too hard to keep up with..
Midway through last year, I tried something completely different. I put the learning targets on my bulletin boards, and students marked off their names once they mastered each skill. This worked really well, and my students were more excited about learning than ever before. They knew what we working on, where they were with each skill, what they needed in order to master each skill, and what was next when they learned the skills. These all developed from conversations because I posted what we were working on and gave them the opportunity to mark it off when they knew it. I set up my new room the same way.
This year, I am working in a K/1 Fusion with two awesome colleagues - Miss Wright, an Intervention Specialist, and Miss Fry, our 1st Grade teacher, who is a first year teacher. (We all remember our first year teaching and how overwhelming it is. Not to mention that she had to jump in with Miss Wright and myself with this K/1 Fusion, and was forced into a huge learning curve.) We began with baby-steps. We started the student ownership project by ensuring that we had the the correct procedures in place to make it effective, efficient, and not too overwhelming. We ensured that we had our formative assessments created, and the percentage in which mastery would be determined for each learning target. We fortunately were given a day on Nov. 18th (no water, teachers still reported) to organize, align, and create learning targets and formative assessments.
It was becoming apparent right before Christmas Break that Miss Fry was ready to jump to the next step in student ownership. (I  had continued to have the “I can” boards in my classroom and was marking names off of skills for my Kindergarteners, as well as any first graders who were in any of my learning groups.) When we were trying to decide what she should take down in her room to allow for room for the boards, Miss Fry had said that it would be nice if we just had one board for everyone to mark their names off on, but she didn’t want to have to interrupt my groups to mark off names once they master a skill. THEN IT HAPPENED! I LOVE HOW IDEAS JUST COME TOGETHER! Someone mentioned it would be great if we could do it in the hallway between our classrooms. We then decided that we could incorporate all Kindergarten and 1st Grade in the hallway. To do this, we would need bulletin boards mounted in the hallway and new Learning Cards for each skill (I only had K skills, and they needed remade in color!). Miss Wright and I immediately went to our principal to advocate our new idea and to see what the chances were that we could continue with this project in this new direction. He was all for it! During Lunch, I pitched the idea to the our other Kindergarten and First Grade teachers, and they said that they were willing to join in too. By the end of the day, our principal had 3 bulletin boards in our hallway, and they were mounted by the end of the week. Over Christmas Break, I created the Learning Cards for Math and Literacy, and we decorated the board in the hallway. (Miss Wright is an amazing artist!)
I can board (1).jpg

Also over Christmas Break, our principal, Mr. Moore, shared with us a new app that just came out called SeeSaw. www.seesaw.me  This app allows you to share personal learning journals with families. This was a perfect fit to what we were doing, and now it could be extended to give families an opportunity to see what their children were learning. I figured out how the app worked and the easiest way to set it up to do what we wanted it to do. We created our students’ personal learning journals on SeeSaw. I also created Learning Checklists where parents can check off skills at home once the skills have been entered in children’s learning journals. This allows parents to see what is next.

Currently, our K/1 Fusion children have the “I Can” board caught up with everything that they have mastered, and the excitement has begun! Our parents are connecting to the SeeSaw app, as well. We even have had our first groups who have mastered new skills since the board has been up, take snapshots of their learning skills.  Some students have added a voice message to their learning journal. Parents are excited when they get real-time notifications that their child has mastered a new skill. I had one parent tell me that she got teary eyed when she got the notification and opened it to hear the excitement in her daughter’s voice that she passed a new Reading Level. Another parent stated, "I LOVE the SeeSaw App! I downloaded as night. The girls were so proud to show me! "
What started out as one teacher using an “I Can” board in their classroom for students to mark off skills once they learn them turned into one system that we all can use K-1 to empower our students, engage our parents, and simplify our workflow! Since we do this at the time of mastery, our next steps are to immediately talk with our children to ask them where they are headed next - the final step in Student Ownership: students setting their own goals!

Links to our “I can …” cards

These are the little cards in the hallway. We put little strips of children names under each card.

These can be used in the classroom to display what groups are working on. I refer to these prior to teaching and during the Plenary after the lesson.

We put these checklists together for families to know the progression of learning, and they too can track their child’s learning journey.

These are the little cards in the hallway. We put little strips of children names under each card.

Math Posters
These can be used in the classroom to display what groups are working on. I refer to these prior to teaching and during the plenary after the lesson.

We put these checklists together for families to know the progression of learning, and they too can track their child’s learning journey.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

ASSESSMENTS? .... Are they really necessary?

We are BACK! Wow, time sure has flown by this year! We have been very busy in K/1 Fusion, not to mention all the SNOW DAYS! This has been a wild, crazy, and COLD winter thus far. We fear that it may not be over quite yet either! Enough about SNOW! ENOUGH SNOW!

NOW… Where to begin again with our journey? In lieu of PARCC testing beginning in the upper grades, how about we talk a little about the dreaded word, ASSESSMENTS! How do we feel about them? How do YOU feel about them? How do our CHILDREN feel about them?

“MORE assessments?”
“Are they really necessary?”
“Are they really that important?”
“Why do I need to give them, I already know where my children are?”
“Assessments just stress out the children for no reason!”

These are all statements that flood the education world more so now than ever before.

Let us begin about us sharing how we feel about assessments. We LOVE them! (Love may be a strong word, but pretty close to accurate. Well, making them is pretty time-consuming, but once we have them made, we are home free! Just tweak them, and we are good!) Assessments basically run our classroom. They have become such an ingrained part of EVERYTHING we do! Our children will even let us know when they think they have a skill mastered and are ready to take an assessment on it! Talk about owning your own learning! To give a clearer picture of why our children are so eager to “show what they know,” let us back up a little bit.

Everything we teach is differentiated. We are fortunate to be able to do this very effectively because we have aligned a Kindergarten class with a First Grade class, which gives us two teachers (twice the children as well). We are also inclusion classrooms, which brings an Intervention Specialist to the mix as well. We also aligned a Special Education Paraprofessional’s schedule for Phonics instruction due to a couple of our children having unique disabilities. To determine our differentiated groupings, we give a Pre-Assessment prior to teaching ANYTHING! These assessments include Kindergarten and First Grade level skills. This way we can determine what our students already know, what they are confused on, and what they need. We then analyze the assessments, score them, and see where the students are based on the results. In the beginning, our students were on more similar levels. In Math, we may have had 4 groups based on the Pre-Assessment results for a particular strand. As we begin teaching the concepts, we give formative assessments throughout to see where we are with the little steps to mastery along the way, and base our instruction  from them. Not every child is ready for each step along the way at the same time, and we shouldn't always make them wait! As the year has progressed, so have our children, and our instruction. Because of this, we have gone from a differentiated classroom,  to a more personalized classroom, and all because of assessments!

From the very beginning, we have told our children that these assessments are nothing to worry about. They are just tools to let us, as teachers, know what they can do. We reinforce to them that sometimes these assessments are going to hard, and that they may have no idea what we are asking them, and that is OKAY! It just means that we, as teachers, either have not taught it to them yet, or we just haven’t taught it to them the right way yet. We never put the pressure on the children. Instead, we assumed ownership of ensuring that the children learn each of the skills. We use the phrase “SHOW WHAT YOU KNOW!” If you were to ask any of our children what an assessment is they would either say, “Show what you know,” or “EVIDENCE.”

We discuss what we are working on continually, and what the expectation is for mastery. By doing this, the children know when they think they have it down, and will even sometimes tell you that they are ready for an assessment.

For example, in one of our Phonics groups, 2 of 3 children said that they thought they were ready to see if they had blends mastered. The third child said that he wasn’t so sure he could do it because writing the words with blends was hard, and he really had to think about it. We decided together that he should see how he does. When given the assessment, 2 of the 3 mastered the skill (thus making it a summative assessment), while the 3rd did struggle slightly with writing words with l-blends. He even recognized that he missed the “l” in both words when writing them, and stated, “I miss that sound a lot.” (His assessment became a formative one because it will inform his instruction.) By him recognizing what he needs to work on himself, he will more than likely master the skill sooner because it is HIS learning.

Not only are assessments PROOF FOR US that our children are learning, but assessments are also PROOF FOR THE CHILDREN! This is probably even more important! One could compare it to any sport. Take soccer, for example. Learning in school is the same as learning the skills necessary for soccer. Children practice concepts, just as they practice foot skills for soccer. We all get an idea of what the children know in academics, as well as the foot skills that each possess. However, if all you do is practice, and never get the satisfaction of winning the game, what is the point? At some time, everyone wants to WIN! Right? Our assessments are just like playing the game. Children can determine how they are doing, what they need to work on, and the satisfaction of winning the concepts! We have broken down the standards into smaller concepts, so all children are successful, and experience winning the game! POWERFUL for motivation to learn!

“MORE assessments?”
“Are they really necessary?”
“Are they really that important?”
“Why do I need to give them, I already know where my children are?”
“Assessments just stress out the children for no reason!”

Okay, it is time for us to answer these questions according to our beliefs:


Our children are going to take our lead! If we think assessments are ridiculous, then we will subconsciously be conveying that same sentiment to them, and then the assessments will have no value. So, will your instruction, and learning still have value then?  If our children truly can believe in us that assessments are mere stops along the journey of learning to ensure understanding, and trust that the assessments are our (teacher and children’s) shared accountability for learning, then we are doing something undoubtedly EXTRAORDINARY!

Of course, the next logical thing to do for our children, is to find a way for them to “keep score” of their learning! This has been a lengthy process finding the right tool to use for children to track their own learning at such a young age that is practical, effective, and efficient, but we think that we have found our solution!  More to come next time!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

We're Not Here To Be Average. We're Here To BE EXTRAORDINARY.

In our Fusion classroom, we are trying to instill ownership of learning in our students. We want them to take control of their learning and own their growth. When students are able to take control of their own learning, amazing things can happen!

"When students feel a sense of ownership, they want to engage in academic tasks and persist in learning."-Barbara McCombs, Ph.D, University of Denver

Awesome things are happening in our classrooms. Students are working hard and moving through groups like crazy! In our classrooms, we have I Can Statements posted for different concepts students are working on.  Underneath these statements, there is a list of student names.  As students master a particular concept, they are able to cross their name off the list.  They also have personalized folders where they will cross off a concept as they master it.  Each time they master a concept, they get a learning card for the new skill. The kids LOVE when they are able to cross their name off and get a new card.

Students begin to own their learning when they are able to track it.  They help set goals for themselves and track their progress to those goals.  By doing this, students become aware of where they are in the learning process.  They are able to see how far they have come and where they need to head next.  It's amazing to see kindergarten and first grade students so aware of their learning and engaging in it.


Above, students are tracking their progress toward a goal.  Each week, their challenge is to beat their own score!

We are also having a blast working on differentiated groups.  Differentiated groups mean that our kids are split into groups based on what they need to learn at a certain point in time.  Our kiddos are working at their own level all the time! As teachers, we have been having a fun time planning for the groups.   We always pre-assess our kids to ensure they are learning the concepts at a level that is perfect for them.

In these groups, we present instruction in a variety of ways.  We do this to allow kids to learn in a variety of ways.  Some kids learn better through seeing, while others learn better through hearing or a hands-on approach.  We try to hone in on how each child learns best and present information in this way.  When students are able to learn through a modality that fits them best, they are likely to be more successful.

Take a look into our classrooms and our learning: 

Practicing our reading strategies during Literacy Teams!

Reading is awesome!

Playing War to practice addition fluency.  Learning is always more fun playing games with friends!

Practicing following directions to make FLUBBER during Literacy Teams!

FAST MATH FRIDAY! Practicing our facts!

Using QR codes and Smart Devices to check our answers during math class!

Working on reading CVC words during Phonics!

Working on addition!

More addition practice!

We love to use our Smart Devices and QR codes!


Math is fun!

Scanning QR codes!

Working hard in Phonics!

Follow us on Twitter: @misswright06

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E-mail: jamie.wright@rvbears.org

Friday, September 26, 2014

1 Month Later...

Now that we have been in school for about a month, students have been learning lots of new things!  We have started our differentiated groups for phonics, literacy, and math.  We used pre-assessments to group the students into groups where they are learning exactly what they need!  The kiddos progress through the groups as they master the concepts in each group.  We change the groups as often as we need so that students are always learning what they need.  You can learn more about each of our groups by reading our K/1 Fusion Newsletter.

In literacy teams, some groups have really been focusing on putting letters together to build words.  We've been working on manipulating the letters to make new words.  We have also been spending time reading books at our level.  We've even read books aloud to other students!  Students have also been focusing on writing after reading.  We've been practicing using capital letters at the beginning of sentences and periods at the ends of sentences.

 In phonics teams, some students have been focusing on learning letters and the sounds they make.  We have done many activities and played many games while learning and working with these letters and their sounds!

In math teams, we have been working on counting, ordering, and comparing numbers.  We have played games and used the SmartBoard to learn.  Students have even become the teachers during math teams, showing other students what they know!

In our K/1 Fusion classrooms, students are in charge of their own learning.  Students do self-assessments to track and reflect on their learning.  After taking any formative assessments (for learning) or self-assessments, students use devices to upload their assessments to their Google Drive accounts.  Parents can easily log into their child's Drive account to look at their child's progress!  

We use technology a lot at Conesville.  A couple weeks ago, 4th grade went to the fairgrounds for Ag Day.  While there, Mrs. Bigrigg did a Google Hangout with us so we were able to see and learn the same things 4th grade was learning without even being there!  It was super cool!

It has been an exciting time in our K/1 Fusion Classrooms so far!

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