Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Praying for Rebecca

I work with a family of teachers - a large family - we have over 1300 K-5 students - who have passion, dedication and heart.  We believe that relationships with our students and with our colleagues make the synergy that drives our academic success.  Earlier this year one of our kindergarten teachers was diagnosed with cancer - osteosarcoma.  She is a mother of two year old twins and the loveliest person you'd ever want to meet  The staff has rallied behind her,  providing snacks and meals, and texts, cards, and notes, lighthearted baskets and jokes for her chemo days, endless prayers... Her co-teacher just spent four days with her in Gainesville when she needed someone to accompany her for treatment.  Today Melanie Holtsman, our Reading Coach, unveiled this newest video card to say how much we care.  We decided to all buy yellow theme shirts to wear every Friday in support of Rebecca. She is a remarkable colleague who is a part of our Chets Creek family.  She is always the giver so I am sure this is especially difficult for her, but it is such a powerful example of why I love this place so much! Join us in prayer... Chets Creek Strong!

Update: On June 16, 2014 Rebecca had a full body scan and was declared free of cancer.  She will return to Chets as a first grade teacher in the Fall!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Kindergarten Math Professional Development

Today we had a day of Kindergarten Professional Development in Math.  Oh my!  What a fantastic day!  Not only did I get to spend the day with a grade level of teachers I adore, but Suzanne Shall, who is our Assistant Principal, slipped on her Math Coaching hat and ran the TDE.  What a treat, in so many ways!

We started with a demo in the famous Mall-ard class!  There was so much to take back into my own class that I don't even know where to start.  Since this is my reflection, I guess I'll give you the high points for me and the things that I will be taking back!

1. The demo started with Math Journals. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture but they use composition books with a cross drawn on each page so that the students have 4 squares on each page.  These quick activities review skills/ standards from previous lessons.  Today's skills were: 1) How many more in a tens frame, 2) using pictures of 10 bundles to count by tens, 3) "counting on" starting with 6 donuts and then 3 are added, and 4) a 4+1 __ and 1-1 __ from our One More, One Fewer Math Investigations Game.  They actually set the timer for 5 minutes and called time.  Students that finish early know to go to the left side of their page and start writing the numbers by 1 as far as they can go.  This routine is so firmly established that it looked like most students finished. The compositions books were put away so seamlessly that I didn't even notice how it was done or where the composition books went!

2.  They transitioned to the carpet with a math song with the words on a chart and a child pointing to each word as the children sang.  They use Math in Motion by Mr. Al and Math in Motion by Jack Hartman and change the song every couple of weeks. This week the skill is counting by 5's.  Now, I know I have had both of those CDs at some point in my career.  They are not new, but I can't find them now, so I ordered them both and they will be here on Tuesday!  Woo hoo!

3. Next was a quick skill review.  Today they used an interactive game.  Only 5-6 minutes but today a quick review of ten frames with students sometimes identifying the number filled and sometimes identifying the empty blocks.  At the debrief later, Cheryl would share some favorite 5-10 minute Math Skills that she uses.

4.  We are in the middle of a geometry unit so today we saw the Math Investigations lesson about filling hexagons with shapes. The lesson started with the essential questions and then began with the comedy team of Mrs. Dillard and Mrs. Mallard pretending to be the students and playing the game together.  I blinked and the students were at their seats, playing while the 14 teacher (!) milled around talking to students as they worked.

Mrs. Dillard closed by going back to the essential questions and having students she had pre-selected come to the front and explain the combinations they had used as she filled in a design.

5.  At the end Mrs. Dillard used an "exit ticket" as an informal assessment.  She had five shapes on a piece of paper in a plastic protector sleeve at each student's desk.  She asked the students 3 questions and each student marked their answer and held it up.  This way she could do a a quick assessment of who got it and who didn't.  Master teacher in action. 
They did all this in a one hour Math Workshop!  The reason they can do so much is because their rituals and routines are so incredibly seamless and their time is tight not a second wasted.  As the children got out materials and put them away it was without directions.  They simply knew what to do.  Amazing!

As always, the teachers went back to the conference room and the debrief was full of praise and insight.  If we had done nothing else today, the entire day was worth seeing colleagues teach!  

But that was just the beginning of what Suzanne had planned with our Math Lead Cheryl Dillard for us to do.  We had been assigned a chapter to read from  Number Talks: Mental Math Computations by Sherry Parrish.  Instead of debriefing the chapter, we played a word/ definition/ picture game with partners - love when the coach models by using a teaching strategy we could do in the classroom.  Then we watched 5 minute video clips from the chapter with kindergarten teachers and students.  It makes such a difference when you can see a teacher demonstrating the principles.
This chapter is all about using ten frames, rekenreks and  dot cards to teach subitizing and conserving numbers, one-to-one correcsponse, counting by 1's and counting on by using 5's and 10's.  All of this is our foundation in these early grades.  That's not to say that we didn't have trouble wrapping our minds about how we would fit all this in! Suzanne has copied a stack of work we could use in the classroom tomorrow which is the sequence for implementing these strategies as part of a daily skills review.

The rest of the day was about showing us tools that we could use during our Math Workshop and for our small groups.  Our county has bought i-Ready, which is a computer program.  Although we are expected to use it, there has been little professional development on this massive program so we went through some of the reports and how they could be used to inform parents, but also how to use them to inform instruction, such as forming small groups and then monitoring progress.  Unfortunately we are a school, not living in the 21st century with our technology so the barriers to implementing this program with kindergartners often seem insurmountable but as is our way, we shared the barriers and our frustrations and then quickly went to sharing solutions and ways that teachers were making it work.  Our technology is so less than ideal, but our children will live in an age where technology is part of their life, so we have to embrace what we have!   We looked at the Toolbox Lessons (Access code: NASM-X9SA) for i-Ready and some of the cpalms lessons that might supplement our lessons and our own professional development.  Although some of the lessons were taped right here at Chets Creek, we were especially interested in the videos, Is it still a triangle? and Compare Hexagons for this geometry unit.

The thing about Suzanne is that she walks in the shoes of a teacher.  She has a family.  She knows how tight our time is and how much is being added to our plate every day without anything coming off, so, instead of just giving us a list of resources that we could look at "when we have time" (as if that ever happens!), she made sure that she had carved out time in our day so  that we could look at some of the sights right then and there and see what we could find on our own. That way she assures that we will know how to return to the sights and actually use them later!
Suzanne always ends with time for partners to discuss what they learned and what they want to do with what they have learned and then has them share with the group the first thing that they saw that they want to implement.  You have to have time to synthesize and reflect and then develop a plan.  Each of us left with a plan.
I don't mind telling you that my head is swimming, but what a great day of learning.  Maybe other schools do this on a regular basis like we do at Chets Creek, but that was never true in the eight schools I taught at before coming to Chets.  Recently I inquired from someone in the county about wanting professional development in a reading technique that I knew was being offered in our county, but not at my school.  The person suggested that if I wanted the training, I should transfer to that school!  They so don't get it. Chets Creek is about being a learner and collaborative teaching. It's the leadership, the collegiality, the passion, the synergy that makes it work - that makes it different here. That's why I stay here.  Did I say that I love my job?