July 5, 2015

Plan With Me Sunday


I’m so excited to share my planner with you! I have to admit that my planner usually stays blank until the summer—it’s when I can really sit and think about my goals, products, and posts. The school year is overwhelmingly busy and with 3 monkeys in tow, life is anything but slow! Please tell me I'm not the only one!?!
 
The way I use my planner is less like a daily keep track and plan {occasionally I do use it to keep track of appointments and events on the calendar section} and more like a fancy notebook!
I don’t really pay attention to the day or the date—I jot what I’m thinking. In this case, I’m planning a tech series since I used a lot of technology in my classroom to differentiate my groups. I wrote my probing questions, decided to include a template, and listed my materials for my post.
I set my own due dates and if I miss them, I’m not really too hard on myself. I set a new one—no biggie!


In the products department, I’ve really lost my mojo. The curriculums that I’ve taught for the last two years were heavily scripted and dense that I have a hard time creating new products. I either don’t have the time to make them or I have no ambition to do so because of the other things I have to do. So I’m taking the summer to revisit some of my favorite products in the hopes of regaining my motivation…I’m hoping the baby steps work and new inspiration hits me!  
 How do you plan for your posts and products? Do you mix it with your daily to do lists or keep them separate? 

Don't forget to enter these awesome giveaways to help you get your planning started!
 

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April 8, 2015

A new venture...Making Liquid Soap

Wow! It has seriously been a long since I last blogged...too much teaching and everything in between and not enough life...lol!

Well...teaching is slowing down for a bit...the state tests are next week! I always love how the state makes us administer these tests just off Spring Break! I don't understand the logic...if there is any!?

One of my goals for this vacation week is to start blogging again {check} and another goal leads me to the title of this post...making liquid soap! {check} Two birds with one stone :)

Soooo the making of liquid soap...
   I decided to try this out for two reasons...{1} the twins use A LOT of soap when they wash their hands and the majority of it ends up all over the sink and on the faucets--boy do they make a mess! {2} constantly buying liquid hand soap for the bathroom is expensive (especially when said twins like to lather...EVERYTHING!)

The whole process is fairly simple...         
teachinglifeandeverythinginbetween.blogspot.com


Here's what you need...
*2 cups of filtered water
*a large pot
*2 bars of soap {shredded}
*3-4 tsp glycerin
*15-20 tea tree oil
*4-5 cups water
*an immersion blender
*whisk

The process...
1. Bring the 2 cups of filtered water to a boil over medium heat. Once you see little bubbles throughout all the water, add in all the shaved soap pieces.
2. Lower the heat and whisk the soap pieces. You want to try to dissolve the pieces in the water, but don't whisk too vigorously--that creates bubbles. You are going to be whisking for some time--until the mixture becomes like paste. Once that happens--turn off the heat.
3. Keep the soap paste in the pot and add the glycerin. Whisk it in.
4. Add the tea tree oil drops and whisk that in as well. The consistency of the mixture seems perfect at this point (other than the soap chunks!), but it's not. {This was where I thought I was done! I walked away from the pot to find some empty soap containers to rinse and get ready to fill. When I went back to the mixture in the pot, it was as thick as thick could be!)
5. Add 4-5 cups of water to the mixture a 1/2 cup at a time. Whisk in between until you get the consistency you want--not too thick, not too thin :)
6. Take your immersion blender and blend the mixture in the pot to get rid of those pesky chunks. It should be cooled enough at this point to then add to your bottles. The remaining mixture can be added to glass containers for use at a later time :)


You can also experiment with adding other essential oils to the mixture. I didn't because the soap I used was already scented.

Has anyone else ever tried this? I'd love to hear what you think :)


October 23, 2014

grading smarter not harder book club {homework}




I honestly can't stand homework--I hate putting it together, marking it, and anything else associated with it. Unfortunately, I have to give homework.  I need some ideas...

there must be a better way :)

I'm guilty of it...yes, I give uniform homework. According to Dueck, uniform homework is homework that follows-up the lesson or practices what is taught in class. Uniform homework is exactly as it sounds--it's homework that has the same answers from every student.

Where I teach, homework isn't given a grade based on right or wrong answers--it's more about completion. Dueck is a firm believer that homework should not be graded. There are so many factors that prevent students from doing their homework--one section that really made me stop and think about is the disadvantages faced by lower-income students. My school is a high poverty school where many students live in areas plagued with crime and overpopulation.

Dueck brings up how many of these students inherit low self-esteem, have negative feelings toward school, and own fewer books than other classmates. Evictions and a lack of utilities are common for some of these students.

So what does this mean for my homework policy?

Dueck suggests giving in-class quizzes based on the homeowrk assignments. An example from the book is giving students a sheet with 20 questions in support of a math lesson. The teacher suggests that the students work on the problems at home to further their understanding. The answers to the assignment can be posted in the classroom or posted on-line.

This way homework completion is reflected in the quiz. The more I think about it, the better this sounds! I love the idea of students taking ownership over their learning! This would allow me more time to plan meaningful lessons and activities :)

The frequent quizzes lead to an increase in learning--Dueck mentioned a study from Kent State University that shows that frequent testing involving the recall of information from the memory improves learning.

Whenever I read something like this, math is the first thing that pops in my head. It's very easy to relate math to quizzes. Unfortunately, I don't teach math, so how is this appropriate to reading?

My reading program focuses a lot on vocabulary. Quizzes that help students define words, apply words, and sort words (into nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs) can be beneficial.

What are your current homework policies? Have you thought about ways to changes them? I'd love to hear what you think about Dueck's take on homework :)




October 9, 2014

Grading Smarter Not Harder {introduction} featuring Caroline Gallagher



It's the first day of...
 Today's focus is on the...

To be honest, I usually skip over the introductions whenever I read books. But, for some reason, this one I read. I think what sticks with me is how personable the author sounds--and the fact that he's able to see past the mandates and do what is right for his students, even when his colleagues warn him about the problems with his new approaches.


I give my students a pretest before each unit to assess the key skills within the unit. Based on the data, I form strategy groups and teach a specific skill to mixed level readers. Students practice the skills in stations and whatever skills a large majority of the class gets wrong, I design lessons to specifically teach those skills.


The author, Myron Dueck, writes about how responsive teaching is less about giving a grade than delivering timely, accurate, and specific feedback. I'm hoping to gain an understanding of how to effectively do this because grading and commenting on 65 reading projects is an extremely daunting task. I want to find a way to do so in a more efficient way.

*How can I get my students involved in the grading process?
*What are some ways in which students can self assess?




***************************************************************************
While Caroline is working on getting her blog up and running, I'm posting her reflection of the introduction here...
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I am hoping to learn how to better assess my students to benefit them.  I want to learn some ways in which I can create assessments that will better inform my students of how they are doing, whether it be a pre-assessment or post- assessment.  I would also like to find more about retesting students.  What is the research behind retesting a student when they have done poorly on an assessment.  




I definitely feel like I could do a better job with the feedback part of my assessments- hence the reason I am doing this book study I do at times let students know what will be on an assessment to show them it is everything we have just learned.  If a student doesn’t do well, I don’t just mark it down and forget about it.  I keep track of which skills students need  to work on to feel successful.  I do talk with students on different ways we can work on this particular skill and I have let students retest but not as often as I probably should. 

Although this was a very short introduction, there were two pieces that really stood out to me.  The first one being- Changes to allow for retesting are met with particular resistance, with many educators firm in their belief that “students should get it right the first time” and teachers who re-assess students often seen as “soft.” I just think back to the first time I took my drivers test when I was 16.  I failed the test miserably!  I actually took a whole year off from driving after that because I knew I was bad and just not ready yet.  Well a year later I took the test again, feeling much more confident about myself and passed it!  If I only had the one change and it was a pass or fail- I guess I would be walking everywhere! 

The other statement that stood out to me and it goes along with my passing my drivers test story is –People want to feel a sense of confidence.  I was   clearly not feeling confident when I failed the drivers test the first time.  I knew I was a bad driver and I knew I needed more time to feel confident.  I did well when I had a sense of confidence.  We want to help our students to also feel that sense of confidence. 



So my question I have and hope to find out is how can we make sure our students are feeling that sense of confidence?