Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Google in the Classroom: Anecdotal Records

We are surrounded by technology in our lives, and so are our students. I admit, I am not the most tech savvy person out there, and I can be resistant to adapt to it at times. But when I come across a way to use one of my "rectangles" to make my life easier, I am all about it!

I struggle with organization, and my guided reading binder was no different.  I had all kinds of anecdotal forms and lesson plans sticking falling out, and it was a hot mess! The excellent first grade teachers I work with came up with a way to streamline guided reading notes using Google Forms. Let me tell you- LIFE. CHANGED.

What is a Google Form
An easy survey-style way to collect data. It is an awesome tool for collecting classroom data because it takes the information that was entered and creates a Google Sheet (spreadsheet) to easily organize all the data. They are accessible from anywhere (no more "Crap, I forgot that at school!") and you can share them with one click (to interventionists, literacy coaches, administrators, their next teacher, etc)!

How do I use it for guided reading/ small group notes? 
On a tablet or laptop, open a Google Form when you start your group. I keep a shortcut to each one (guided reading and math) on my desktop so it is easy to pull up. You can customize the fields you need, and instead of scribbling notes like a crazy person, you click some fields and type in your notes. All of it will be saved, time- and date-stamped, in your Google Drive!

Here is what it looks like:

So, what happens when you click "submit?"
In your original form, you can select "view responses," and a Google Sheet pops up that looks like this:

Clearly using fake names, here

What I love about it:
  • All of your data is RIGHT THERE. All you did was hit submit and it is ALL RIGHT THERE!
  • It is time-stamped so you have evidence of when you met with your groups (my admin is very big on accountability- I have it all there, my booty is covered)
  • You can filter and view it in so many ways- by date, by student, by level, by book. It makes it SO easy to look for trends and create groupings- no flipping through pages
  • You save paper! No more bulky binder to lug around! This is a huge plus for planning at home
  • You have instant data for conferences, referrals, and lesson planning. Here's an example:
 I was able to quickly filter by student, and see that this guy knew to reread and use visual clues, but needed more coaching to chunk words. As he got to higher levels, he was able to decode, but needed to amp up fluency. This was an easy way for me to strategically group him with other kids who also needed that coaching, and I was able to talk with his mom about how to support him at home at his level.

Seriously guys. Life changing. I can't begin to describe how much time and frustration using Google Forms has saved me this year.

There are SO many other ways I use Google in the classroom, and you'll hear about them soon! Have you incorporated Google into your teaching? I'd love to hear about it!

EDIT [8.29.17]: Here is an updated link to the template of the form that I use to take notes. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE make a copy for yourself before making changes! When you make changes to the original, it makes it much harder for other to access :) Please let me know if I can help you with anything!

Google Forms Link

Monday, July 20, 2015

All About this Kinder Teacher!

We are a rare breed, huh! Along with some of my new kindergarten teaching friends from our Kinder Tribe facebook group, I have joined the Kinder Tribe collaborative blog! YESSSS!!!


Our own Yukari from A Pinch of Kinder designed everything herself! It is absolutely gorgeous, and I am SO excited for what is in store for us! 

Besides our huge amazing blog launch giveaway, we are going to be having weekly linky parties for all of our kinder tribe friends! 

The first one is All About this Kinder teacher! Let's learn more about each other! 

 Here is a little about me...

Name: Deirdre (thought I'd add in a little prounounciation as well!)

Years Teaching: I will be going into my 5th year! One in 2nd, one doing a K/1 split, and now 3 years of alllllll kindergarten! It is definitely where I want to be!

I can't live without my coffee and "looks." I have one of those faces that doesn't hide what I'm thinking very well, so it can be hard to keep a straight face sometimes. I have my looks that I will shoot to one of my fellow teachers that just says it all, something to let us know how humorous our lives really are. Plus coffee, of course. Or I'd be asleep by 10.

My favorite school supply is hands down a nice smelly set of Mr. Sketch markers. They bring me back to the days when I was a kid, longing for my teacher's markers. They look gorgeous on charts, and brighten up everything. I have a set in my "superstar bin" for my kids to use when they table has earned points for excellent behavior! They love this because they know they CAN'T touch mine!

My favorite Kinder book is a tough one. There are SO MANY! My kids are always like, "How do you have so many favorites?" Don't know what to tell ya, kid. I'm going with Circus Ship by Chris van Dusen. It rhymes! It has incredible illustrations! There is some I-spy action going on! It is also inspired by a true event, which is a great starting off point for using our experiences as inspiration to write. If you don't know this one, I'd HIGHLY recommend it!

My favorite Kinder blog is Tara West's Little Minds at Work. Boy, can she teach! My school is very academic-focused, and all of the activities she shares are perfect- rigorous, yet developmentally appropriate and engaging. She is my go-to when I am looking for curriculum.

And I love kindergarten because they grow SO MUCH. I have mentioned before how at the beginning of the year, I refer to my class as a bunch of Jon Snow's the first few weeks of school. They come to you knowing nothing of your expectations, they are not used to a full school day, some have never been in the school building before and don't respond to their name. The first few months are rough, but then they soar! They learn so much and grow as people and learners. It is so rewarding to see a girl who came to me not knowing a single number and was too shy to say a word to me until October leading a math talk! First grade sees a lot of growth too, but nothing is as amazing as kindergarten!

So that's a little about me, I'd LOVE to hear about you! If you haven't already, head over to Kinder Tribe to join in!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Must Read Monday: Books about Compassion

Yay, time for another Must Read Monday with Suzanne from Kindergarten Planet and Alex from Kindergarten Connection! I love talking about books! 

This week it is all about COMPASSION. I really love this topic, and it is SO important to teach to little learners. Children are naturally all about themselves, and some have not had to ever deal with other kids before coming to school. They are living in a world with many people unlike themselves, and having compassion is a must. Here are some of my favorite books to teach compassion. 

Those Shoes is a great book for showing that material possessions aren't always the most important thing. Jeremy is pining after "those shoes" that everyone seems to have, but his family can't afford. When he gets teased for having dorky shoes, there is one kid who doesn't make fun of them. When Jeremy finally gets "those shoes," he sees that they aren't all they are cracked up to be. He does a great deed for his friend at the end, and sees how thinking of other people feels pretty darn good. 

Another one I love is Each Kindness. This one is emotionally heavy, and I always have some very silent, very introspective kids as we finish this one. Maya is the new girl at school, and she is poor. Everyone in the class is mean to her because of how she looks and dresses, even though she is always kind to them. One day she transfers and no one sees her again. When the class is talking about the acts of kindness they have done, Chloe can't think of any- but she keeps thinking of how she was always mean to Maya.

This story always catches my students off-guard because it doesn't wrap up in a nice little package. Maya never comes back, Chloe never has the chance to apologize. It really gets the point across that those mean words can stick with people, and that if you are always mean to people, you are going to be facing some major guilt one day.

I love Leo the Late Bloomer! Leo is just that- a late bloomer. He's not yet doing all the things his friends can do, and his dad is worried. In his own time, he blooms! I use this one when we talk about our "just right learning." I always have the "smart kid" who came in ahead of everyone, and has been told by their family how *smart* they are. I always see a few kids glancing between  their A book and their friend reading a K...or looking at their writing and comparing it to the kid who had 2 years of Head Start. I want my kids to know it's okay for us to be at different stages, and that we will all bloom in our own time.

I'll admit, I originally judged Tyrannosaurus Wrecks! by it's cover...and I'm glad I did! Not only does it have great illustrations, it is a short read with a great message. Tyrannosaurus doesn't really know how to play with others- he pretty much wrecks everything around him, hurting his friends' feelings. Around the middle you start to see that Tyrannosaurus isn't merely a bully, but he really just struggles to work with other people and express himself. Instead of holding it against him and staying mad, his friends help him be successful.

I LOVED this one because as I read it the first time, I thought of a buddy I had a few years back. This student had many problems interacting with the others, and did things very impulsively. They weren't trying to be a bully, but if the other kids did the same things back to them, it would be bullying. It is hard to 5 year olds to really understand that their classmate's needs were different than their own, but this story was a start!

What are some of your favorite books for teaching compassion? I'd love to hear about them!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Top Ten Teacher Takeaways for Tell All Tuesday!

Who doesn't love some alliteration? And lists? I love lists! 

I'm linking up with Diana from My Day in K and Jayme at Teach. Talk. Inspire. for Tell All Tuesday! This week is a TOP 10 LIST! DID I MENTION I LOVE LISTS!

It's not personal. Kids are going to act up. Parents might be rude to you. Admin might get huffy. People have bad days. It is very easy to take little things to heart, but it isn't personal. If it's a one time thing, let it go. Don't dwell on it.

Once you get comfortable, things are going to change. Curriculum, school hours, your class... it will change. Probably right when you are comfortable and confident with what you are doing. Learn to adapt to change. It keeps you learning and keeps you on your toes!

You may be the only constant in a child's life. We all know that generally, the kids who drive us the craziest need the most love. It's very true. They are little and don't know how to adapt to change and don't have the vocabulary to ask for what they need. Remember that you may be the only positive person in their life. Yes, you may want to strangle them. Don't. Give 'em love instead.

Real life isn't laminated. As best said by the great Blair Turner, real life isn't always laminated. Don't compare yourself to every beautiful picture on Pinterest. Things may not always be pretty, and that's okay. Your kids will learn if that cute task card border got cut off. Every day is not picture perfect- it is real. Be real, and embrace it.

Invest in a good coffee machine. Nuff said. Keep one at home. Keep one at school. Have some backups, you'll need them.

When you play the game of teaching, you laugh or die. Have fun! If you can't laugh and enjoy yourself throughout your day, you won't survive.

Take pictures of EVERYTHING! See a great anchor chart? Take a picture. Your struggling little just wrote his name for the first time? Take a picture. Want your supplies put back a certain way? Take a picture. Have an old flip phone or ipod? Teach your kids how to take pictures.

Budget. It is easy to get carried away with the Dollar Spot, TPT sales, Creative Teaching Press catalogs.... but you don't need it all, having it all won't make you the worlds best teacher. If you are stressed about paying your bills and have had nothing but Ramen for weeks, your kids are going to feel that stress. Make a budget and stick to it.

All you can do is your best. Lessons don't always go your way. You think your kids know expectations in May, then they break out in a marker sword fight during your formal observation (true story). If today was bad, go home, pour some wine, and think about how to make it better. You did your best, don't beat yourself up. That one bad lesson won't ruin your kids for life. Make it better the next day.

Be prepared for EVERYTHING. Stuff happens. Last minute assemblies, vomit all over your new center materials (again, true story), snowstorms, new students. We teachers are stressed out people. We don't need any more on top of that. Plan. Double check it. Have a back-up. If you are prepared to deal with whatever comes at you, you won't be (as) stressed when it comes up.

What are your top ten teacher takeaways?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Spotlight Saturday!

Happy Saturday, and for my American friends, Happy 4th of July! 

I'm linking up with Erin from Kindergarten Dragons for Spotlight Saturday! 

This week, I'm spotlighting some EXCELLENT resources from Heather at Recipe for Teaching

I first came across Heather on Instagram, and really liked the clean look and simplicity of her products. She mentioned her "How Many More to Make 10?" freebie, and I quickly downloaded it. 

This freebie is great, and perfect for Easter related centers. It was a perfect review for complements of 10, and was easy to prep. My kids didn't use jellybeans, they just used a die and some dry erase markers, but they loved it! 

 Another one of Heather's freebies is her Q-tip painting. I discovered this in those brutal last days of school, and new it would be a perfect way to have some fun, stay engaged, and still review the standards. 

Click on the picture to download
 My students LOVED this one! I mean, they got to paint! Who wouldn't love that? It is also a great way to practice those fine motor skills. 
It is a simple idea that I am excited to add into my teaching more next year to bribe motivate my kids to be good so I can bring out paint. It can even be added into a center, once my babies know the expectations, of course :)

Click the picture to grab it! 

I haven't gotten the chance to use this with my students yet, but I am VERY excited to use Heather's 10-19 Teen Number Activities next year! 

There is SO MUCH in this pack! In addition to number cards and teen frame cards, there are exit tickets, games (cover it, spinners, bingo), manipulative mats, and some excellent teen frame practice sheets that can be used for do-nows or homework. I am so excited to try these out! 

Heather has some really great products, you should check her out

Do you have some excellent resources we should know about? Join Spotlight Saturday with Kindergarten Dragons and tell us all about them! 

Masterpiece Made!

Whew! I am FINALLY done with my "masterpiece." I have been working on this for FOREVER, and finally got the kick in the pants I needed to finish this up! AND I'm giving one away!

I started this a LONG time ago, it kinda sat there, and I figured now would be a good time to finish it up! It ended up being MUCH longer than I expected (over 100 pages), and came out much better than it would have if I had done it earlier.

Here is some of what is in it:

I'd like to give a HUGE shout out to Kelly of Building Brilliance! She looked over all million pages and gave me excellent feedback and suggestions! Thanks for your help, Kelly!