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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Don't Get Scared! Freebie!

It's a snowday!! I'm so excited, the flu has been going around and I think everyone needed a day to rest up, heal up, or just stay healthy.  The moisture is desperately needed too!

Back to school life... MTSS is going well, but it's very repetitious. So I'm spicing things up just a bit.

They are pretty scarey, aren't they? :)
Enter... "Don't Get Scared". My fifth graders really weren't scared of the cute monsters in this game.. but the monsters made things a little more cheerful and fun! Them game is similar to the popsicle stick game BANG that I've seen around Pinterest using the short vowel words that we are working on currently. I enjoyed the movie "Monsters Inc." and used that as an inspiration in this game.

Since we used the Quick Phonics Screener (QPS) to sort the students into groups, we were able to see the students "word attack" skills through the use of nonsense words. Our district hasn't taught nonsense words per say, but I did throw in nonsense cards to use with this game. I've touched on nonsense words more during MTSS as the kids told me it they look like another language and they just don't get it. Why would we want them to read stuff that wasn't real? After explaining why, and going over the short vowel patterns again, I think they are getting it.


To see what this game is like you can click the picture above for the Short A freebie

Or to purchase the whole bundle, or to just check it out, click the picture above.

*Note.. this game is strictly three letter CVC words. I'm working on creating one that has more difficult CVC pattern words for my current MTSS group.*

What games or activities do you with your kiddos to reinforce short vowels? I'd love to hear your ideas to keep our MTSS/RTI time engaging. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Grad Classes, Evaluations, & State Testing, Oh My!

I'm lucky to be able to continue on into graduate school with one of my good friends. Unfortunately we are cray---to the--zee! For whatever reason, we decided that taking not one, but two classes this semester would be a good idea. I don't know what we were thinking, just looking at the syllabi was depressing. It's become even more depressing as I just finished reading hours worth of textbooks. Gulp. I need a little more Eric Carle in my life and a little less collegiate text.   It'll be worth it in the end, but as I glance at my calendar that never ceases to become filled.... I just wonder where I'll find the time to do that much more.

I have a spontaneous pop-in for my induction program coming soon. Puts me on edge a bit. I like planning everything down to the last detail for observations.. for an unscheduled one I don't feel like I can prepare well enough everyday. I know I do well, teaching kids every day of the week. I just like to have something extra for an observer to see. Stressed. Another evaluation for the COOP is coming soon to. Thank goodness that one will have to be on the docks!

State testing is gearing up around the corner. Although scores won't technically count, it's still there and nobody wants there kiddos to do bad.. including me. So that nasty list of things that we still need to cover, or go over again just never seems to dwindle. Sigh.

I've been playing around, trying to make a math unit for our Friday centers that'll be a little more adapted to what my kiddos are working on/ needing review on, but whew. I don't know where so many of you find the time! I was just starting to enjoy things, and a little bit of free time... but with the outlooks for this spring. It's going to be hard to carve out time as well as find time for all the other wonderful things in life.

Not much of a post today, just trying to find the motivation and become mentally prepared for the rest of this semester. Although, since it's past the midway mark in the year, we're on the downward slide now, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Getting Into the Swing of Things: RTI

What a week it has been, but things are going good.

Just a refresher: we completed Aimsweb testing, sorted kids, and this week began our Tiered times to implement RTI/MTSS. We were told that sorting was the hard part, and that anxiety builds while trying to get all the particulars figured out {materials, staff, and spaces for instruction}, but once we could start teaching kids, things would get better....and they have.

This was my coffee table this weekend. Hopefully the early onset of carpol tunnel brought on from cutting lamination becomes worth it.
With my short/long vowel groups, last week I  used lesson plans from West Virginia's Reading First these are very good, explicit lessons...but... I like to make lessons my own. I'm did the activities as they were called for last week, I typed up and laminated all of the necessary flashcards and word lists to go along with it. While I like the convenience that can come with the Reading First lessons, they are very elementary...great for K-2. I'm looking for and hoping to create some more resources that are a little more 5th grade friendly.


Click the picture to go to the lessons
This week I'm trying out some of the resources, that actually come from an adult reading course. The lessons are structured a little more upper elementary friendly. Working on passages that they may actually see out and about. The lessons are super scripted (page after page...) but I really do like the questions and progression. So we will see how this works, maybe I will mash up this with some of West Virgina's materials.

Another teacher I know is using Rewards it also incorporates multisyallabic words so I like that aspect in that program too. 

Groups that are working on more advanced phonics skills are working with Spiral Up, a program our school bought. Again, although the lessons are explicit, these with all of the necessary flashcards and materials, all the teacher's I've talked to have been finding other materials to add to it. Our principal is okay with purchasing other materials if they are of need, so who knows maybe we'll find something super stellar. So far, there hasn't been a cookie cutter recipe, a program that is so great that it works for all... but in my opinion that's the way it should be...supplementing, differentiating, individualizing. These programs are good in their own right, but it takes the teacher element to make them great and make them work for the best ability for the students.

Click the picture to learn more
So for now, that's where things stand. It was fun to see during inservice earlier this week, how much the 4th grade has accomplished in so little time. I teach in a 4/5 building, in October 4th grade started their MTSS switches and 5th grade just this month. The MTSS teams made a visual using sticky notes (color coded too!) to show where the students were when taking the test and where they have moved up/down to. Almost all showed progression. There were a few yellows (inaccurate and slow, group 4 on Aimsweb, and in need of phonics interventions) that bumped up to white!! (Accurate and fluent, group 1!!) 5th grade didn't change quite so much, but by the time they had compiled the data, we'd been at it only a few days.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Background Information: RTI/MTSS

I thought, since I sort of introduced the story of my districts MTSS adventure in the middle of the story, I should back it up and give you a little more information and a behind the scenes look.

MTSS Team
A group of teachers and the principal who are working to figure out all of the ins and outs. They've also spent countless hours rounding up and preparing materials. They all deserve medals, extra pay, or some extra days off! Our school has voluntarily entered this process to help benefit our students, this team is a huge part in pulling off this whole venture.

Testing
Our school uses Aimseb testing 3 times a year (fall, winter, and spring). Using the online program, students data is processed and we can see if they are 'on target'.

Testing: Part 2
For students who are not quite up to the target, additional testing is completed. We used the Quick Phonics Screener (QPS) for students to be inaccurate and not fluent. I love this test! Although it doesn't tell you every single skill that might be missing, it does a pretty good job, and it is quick and easy to administer.

Sorting
For any subset of the QPS (which the majority of it is composed of both nonsense/real words so that student's ability for word attack can be gauged too) that the student scores 8 or lower, a mark is made. The lowest number subset, that has a score of 8 or below, will be the first group the student needs to be a part of. The kiddos I'm working with had a missing skill of short or long vowel, relatively low skills on the spectrum. This does not mean that they have to work through 8 different groups to make it up to multi-syllable words. Almost all of the student's I'm working with skip several subset skills before landing into their next phonics group (or even a fluency group.) Phonics groups will be monitored weekly.

For students who weren't on target, but were accurate just not fluent, these students were placed into fluency groups. These groups also work 30 minutes a day. The groups are not small (10-15) as compared to the phonics groups (no more than 4 students). The fluency groups are monitored bi-weekly. There is a lot of repeated readings, readers theater, and Read Naturally programming in these groups.

The last group of kids were found to be both accurate and fluent. These kiddos are also going to a "reading skills" class (this is what we are calling our MTSS time so that no child is stigmatized). This group is at and most are above where the target line says that they need to be. These students are having enrichment time. Learning about roots of words, where words come from, doing digital readings and then writing about them on blog-like platforms. They are also working on creating materials to share with their peers through classes like science to make the curriculum more successful for all. 

Backwards Testing
For the kiddos being monitored weekly and biweekly, before any real teaching can begin, we started with backward testing. For my kiddos, I used the Aimsweb probes, the lowest number, for grades 4th-1st. Then, I took students one at a time to do a running record. Using the Aimsweb progress monitoring, it shoots out the probes to use based on the grade level that the students are working at. 

Teaching/Monitoring 
This is the heart of the matter. The fun stuff. I enjoy getting to work with some different kids in a small group, with more "fun" hands on activities than can always be done in whole group classes. I'll be posting some of the resources that have been used here soon.

Scheduling
This whole MTSS/RTI programing was suppose to start at the beginning of the year, but things are a lot more time consuming/intensive than originally thought. The administrator was fore-thinking, in that he created two "MTSS" blocks. Both for 30 minutes towards the end of the day.

For the first half of the year, teachers used one time slot for independent reading and the other spelling. Now, spelling is essentially "gone". My groups (short/long vowels) still do spelling but it is very basic, they don't necessarily get a grade for it, I use it more for formative assessment.

Getting rid of spelling on the grade card was debated (as there is parent support for it, since it's easier to help with) but, we are hoping there is good movement by the end of the year and that it would just become too much of a headache to change where the grades would come from in the grade book.
 


Well, that's the nuts and bolts and the behind the scenes look at what we are doing!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Multiplication Madness! Freebie & Sale Through Sunday!

Maybe it's started as a way to alleviate planning, a day to catch student's up if they were absent or just needed a little boost, but since the beginning of the school year, almost every Friday has become "game day" in my small group math class.

During the week, or even on some Fridays, I've introduced games to help solidify concepts. I absolutely LOVE anything by Donna at Math Coach's Corner. I use this Fridays as a way to review concepts from the beginning of the year and to reinforce what we are currently learning. Before break, we worked very hard to learn our basic multiplication facts. Now with break come and gone, we're a bit rusty, but that's the nature of the beast when your working with students with learning disabilities. We review, review, review, and things usually begin to stick.

This coming Friday, we are going to have something new to add to our Friday centers: Multiplication Madness! This is my first product I've ever created (other than a work sheet or CBM)... and the first thing that I am posting to sell on Teachers Pay Teachers. I've benefited so much from the TPT community that I decided to step out of my comfort zone and share with others!

Introducing: Multiplication Madness: Supplementary & Review Materials for Basic Multiplication Facts. 

This packet includes: 
  •  An activity to compare products with a given number
  • Math "Hide-n-Seek" that is differentiated, with all facts 0-9
  • Multiple versions of "Bump" including multiplying from 2-9
  •  The total packet is 72 pages.  
      Click the picture above to be taken to my TPT store. If you download the preview, you'll get a FREE copy of the original BUMP game. 
    Since it's my first product, it's currently 1/2 off, for $1.50 through this Sunday, January 18th. The first person to comment and leave an email address will get a copy of this for free! :)

    I'm looking forward to using this with my students to review. I hope that it can be of use to some of you as well!

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    Stepping Out of my Comfort Zone--Freebie!

    Step 1: Create a blog. (check)
    Step 2: Create items I use in my classroom. (check)
    Step 3: Think about posting items to Teachers Pay Teachers. (check)
    Steps 4-9: Worry that what I have won't be useful/creative/that good... just be super anxious.
    Step 10: Take a deep breath, step out of my comfort zone, and dive on in.

    Seriously though. This TPT venture has been nerve wracking for me. I am in awe of so many teachers out there, even more so since my occasional addiction to reading reading teacher blogs developed. Then there was Pinterest, following more teachers, organizing and pinning so many ideas....what a great experience my first year of teaching has been, and I have so many people to thank. As a way to begin to thank you all and to give back, I finally got the resolve to create and share my own resources. {Can I just say, it's a bit addicting too!}

    My first TPT offering is a freebie. Nothing too fun, but useful for me, and I hope some others out there too! One of my kiddos is working on learning all the letters of the alphabet, and as a subset of that, distinguish consonants and vowels. I don't get to work with this kiddo often, and I try to make the most of the time I have to work with him.

    I created some warmup/assessment sheets to help me get him into the groove of working {he enjoys showing off his skills} and to use as an assessment to see where he is at on achieving his goals as well.

    What You Get in the 23 page packet:
    *Title Page
    *Lowercase key (left to right)
    *6 lowercase pages filled in left to right
    *Lowercase key (up and down)
    *3 lowercase pages filled in up and down
    *Uppercase key (left to right)
    *4 uppercase pages filled in left to right
    *Uppercase key (up and down)
    *3 uppercase pages filled in up and down
    *1 blank fill in chart
    *Credits

    If you think it'd be something you could use, please click on the picture above to download! If it helps you out {or if you notice something is amiss} please let me know! 

    Whew, stepping out of my comfort zone wasn't so bad once I finally took the first step. I'm looking forward to creating and sharing more!

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    RT What?

    RTI...RT what?

    Well it's... Response to Intervention, Response to Instruction.... or for those of us in the great state of Kansas MTSS (Multi Tiered Systems of Support)... slight variations but all mean the same. No matter which acronym you are used to, they all boil down to the same thing: closing the gaps and helping all children succeed. 

    My school district is in the midst of setting up our MTSS system and I figured that while we are trying to learn, grow, and get the hang of things that I ought to share some of the ups and downs with you as well. This will be a bit of a sporadic series of posts as new things are tried, but I hope you can find something of use to you as the year goes on. 

    As a district, we've administered the Aimsweb tests. Through this testing, we've begun to sort kids into groups based on needs. We have 5 phonics groups, these are our Tier 3 students and will receive 60 minutes of additional reading support in very intense and structured ways. We have two fluency groups, who make up our Tier 2 groups, these groups receive 30 minutes of additional support. Lastly we have two groups of high fliers that are doing enrichment activities for 30 minutes a day.

    Up until today, we've been like Linus without his blanket. There were piles of resources, there was data showing kids and their needs, but we didn't have a chance to teach the material, see what worked, and well... there was just been a lot of anxiety. That ends today. In T-10 minutes our first groups arrive. Backwards testing begins and starting tomorrow we move forward.

    I'll be posting ideas, how things go, and lesson ideas here soon! Wish us luck!


    Wednesday, January 9, 2013

    Kansas Day

    This blog is named "Teaching in Oz" due to the fact that I live in the great state of Kansas. When meeting people outside of this wonderful state always reference The Wizard of Oz, thus the inspiration for my little blog. Well... it's about time for Kansas to have a birthday  (January 29th)  and I thought I'd share a few ideas to celebrate {for any Kansas viewers or those who are curious}.

    Several of these ideas will work for younger grades than I currently teach, but when I first started to scour the web for ideas, I thought I'd be teaching first grade. Although, I think we may have to do a little celebrating in 5th grade too!


    Diane & Kelly from Made for 1st Grade created a wonderful packet of free activities including:

    ABC Order for Kansas Symbols
    Kansas Sentence Scramble
    Map Search
    Expanded Notation of numbers using KS basketball teams
    Kansas Art tracers




    Great activities especially for those in K-3!


    In high school, I worked for the local library, categorizing and organizing materials from the start of our little town in the 1800's. I love history so I enjoyed this part of working for the library almost as much as leading Story Hour/Summer Reading program. What I didn't realize back then was what a WONDERFUL resource the Kansas State Historical Society is, especially for lessons with kids!

    This lesson is Common Core aligned for grades 3-5, a small cost $2-3 you can have a lesson on Kansas crops that focuses on reading expository texts and sequencing. 

    Click the picture to learn more!
    I just noticed that there are lessons available from primary to high school.


    The KSHS has compiled a list of ideas on how to celebrate that you can check out here. There are many more resources for teachers and students to check out. 


    An art activity that I thought was cute was this "Sunflower Sculpture"




    A snack that fits under the same sunflower theme that's a healthy alternative to the tasty "dirt" cups. To find out the how to, just click the picture.




    This read aloud, written by a teacher, has beautiful illustrations that highlights the sights of Kansas.



    The Kansas Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, has a page devoted to Kansas day that talks about some of Kansas' well known symbols. There is also a link that leads to free pdf lesson plans on specific state symbols. Click the picture to check it out.


    Kansas truly is a beautiful state and a great place to live. Happy Birthday, Kansas!

    Monday, January 7, 2013

    Fraction Tree!


    Even though Christmas and the holiday season has already passed, I was delayed in doing this activity due to a snow day the day before break was to begin. {Side note. I never thought I would ever be upset about a snow day, but a day before break, with all of the Christmas parties... horrible day for there to be no school!}

    We've just started fractions in the class I co-teach in. My students were thrilled  horrified at the thought of this topic, and to be quite honest, I don't really blame them. I never liked fractions at their age either... but I'm determined to find things that help make sense of fractions.

    Giant ugly brown area above was suppose to be gone.. and the stump of my tree was already taken down before I remembered to take a picture.

    In the back of my classroom is a bulletin board that I try to keep interactive. {You can see what I've done so far this year in posts here and here.} Well this go around, I made a "Fraction Tree". The ornaments their shape, color, design, the number of them were all part of a fraction review. Students were given a specific item to find. For example: What fraction of the Christmas lights were red? What fraction of the ornaments are round? There were suppose to be presents under the tree and more Christmas-y things around to add to it, but man, December just flew! I had everything hung on the tree with sticky tack, so I could rearrange, take away options, or make the numbers easier/harder to work with depending on the students working in this area at the time.

    Still trying to decide what my next bulletin board will be... any suggestions?

    Saturday, January 5, 2013

    January Currently!

    I've blog stalked this wonderful linky for several months now, but hadn't joined until now. Although you would never believe it from looking at my home or office the vast majority of the time, I am a touch OCD and I just couldn't jump in randomly in the year. Now, it's a new year and a chance for me to join in with all of the fun that's happening at Oh Boy, Fourth Grade.


    Listening: To the hubby and pups snoring while napping. I wish I could join them, don't get me wrong today is a great nap taking day, I just couldn't fall asleep. Boo!

    Loving: A fun Saturday! The hubby and I went to the K-State men's basketball Big 12 home opener against OSU and it was a victory. The rest of the evening, we are just going to relax a bit together. It's nice to have a night together after all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays the last few weeks.

    Thinking: Could I be half as creative as many of you? Since I couldn't sleep I started pinning and looking up font, border, clipart, and printable tutorials. I've been tossing around the idea of creating things of my own to share, I'm just not quite sure yet that I'm that creative or have something new to share. I'm in awe of and benefit from so many of the ideas all of you share. {Which is fabulous for a new teacher!}

    Wanting: To get together with with friends again soon. We spent Thursday evening with a couple of new friends {this town is new to me, and finding people our own age to hang out with that we both get along with... I'm pretty excited.} I'm also missing some of my wonderful teacher friends from college. We've been meaning to meet up, but you all know how time flies!

    Needing: To finish paperwork and lesson planning... both seem never ending!

    One Little Word: Expectant. I've survived the first few months of teaching. It's been an experience with it's fair share of ups and downs, but I love it more everyday. I'm looking forward and expectant to all of the wonderful things to come within the rest of this year.


    Whoot! Participated in my first currently, only a few days late... but I'm looking forward to catching up with others who have posted. January is a great time to link up if you haven't already. If you'd like to, please click here!

    Tuesday, January 1, 2013

    A Little Celebration Freebie

    Happy New Year! What a great year 2012 has been, I'm truly looking forward to 2013.

    My humble little blog has been around since August and overnight, I have climbed to just over 1,000 views. I know several are due to the linky parties I've participated in, but still it's kind of fun to see that there are people bopping by.

    In honor of that, I'm revamping a New Years activity that I used last year during student teaching. I started off my first day with a getting to know you activity. I saw a great New Years Resolution collection sheet at {30 Days} since my student teaching placement started just days after the new year, I thought a similar activity would be a great way to start. With my student teaching placement being on a military base, I tweaked the activity a bit so I could learn a few more specific things about my students, as well as avoid a possible trouble spot in asking about the hardest part of the year (with so many parents/guardians deployed, I didn't want to bring up that topic on my first day). Now, I'm tweaking it a bit more to ring in the New Year. If you would like a copy of this little New Years/ Ice Breaker activity, please click here.



    I hope you enjoy this little activity and all the newness, celebrations, and wonder that a New Year can bring!


    I just saw that Sunny Days in 2nd Grade is having her first Show and Tell Tuesday with New Years activities, so I'm linking up to that too. Be sure to check out all of the other links, there are several great ideas and activities for the start of 2013!

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