Monday, October 27, 2014

Courage to make a Change

For the past 10 years I have been teaching 1st and 2nd grade. There has been a huge focus in school on grades 3-5. The intervention and most heavily weighted remediation all occurs in the upper grades. It makes perfect sense at first thought because the upper grades are the testing grades. If you have kids that are struggling in 3-5 you need to give them intense intervention to bridge their gaps. You want to ensure success for those kiddos not just for the scores of our school but to ensure the child's confidence and academic knowledge to lead them to the next grade.

What is the problem with this method? 

If a student struggles in kinder, the gap widens in 1st grade, and by 2nd grade you have basic foundational skills that have not need attained. Teachers often assume (for the purpose of teaching the grade level TEKS) that certain skills have been mastered in K-1. Reading instruction intensifies and the educational gaps widen considerably in 2nd and 3rd grade. Then comes testing time... all of a sudden that student is receiving heavy intervention in hopes to pass the STAAR test. 

Doesn't that sound a little bit miscued? Should the heavy intervention not happen as soon as the gap is identified in kinder and 1st grade? Placing your heavy intervention in the lower grades will aid in filling cracks in the educational foundation before they are widened to a point where the student is in a daily struggle. 

I believe the intervention needs to happen early before a student starts thinking, "I can't." Catch them young before they know that it is harder for them that others. Give them confidence and skills they need to work through problems. Bridge gaps. Plant the seed to a growth mindset.

Interventions in k-2 aren't working? Maybe we need to look at further testing or other factors for that student.

So, why is this not happening in every school? How hard could it be to switch intervention from 3-5 to k-2? The answer is VERY DIFFICULT. The first couple of years after this switch occurs you will most definitely see a drop in scores and until the current 2nd graders have reached 5th grade you will have kids in testing grades with existing foundational gaps not bridged in k-2 and not receiving the heavy intervention once given in 3-5. Can you imaging the questions from parents, the district, teachers, and the community during the transitional years of this switch? 

Making a change of this nature as a principal would take a TON of courage. Man-O-Steele... Mr. Ryan Steele seems to be just the person with the right amount of courage to implement this change. 

Now, patience as change is in progress....

I am very excited!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Diaper Dome

My 4th graders were very excited as they entered my room today and saw a glue gun and big bag full of diapers. The task was to build a structure out of only diapers and glue. Yesterday they decided on building a "Diaper Dome." I gave them paper and told them to work as a group to create a blue print and then they could begin to build. I sat back and watched. Very quickly I  busied myself recording some of their comments.

"We need to compress them together to create a firm foundation."

"I think we need support beams on the bottom. This must be done first."

"Stop...If we don’t have a strong foundation it won’t work."

"What is we made an arch in this section? Well, all a dome really is -just a bunch of arches."

"I think rolling the diaper will be its strongest state."

"Maybe we could put a long corridor in the middle?"

"Guys, a dome is the best example of compression and tension. Let's stick to that."

"We could use these for tension rings around it."

"We could do a geodesic dome. It could be a good info structure. We could actually make a dome inside a dome.

Student 1: What is the width?
Student 2: Width is how wide it is.
Student 1: I what is means, I am saying what should the width be on this structure?
Student 2: Oh, good question. The foundation should be a minimum of 2 diapers and a maximum of 7. Remember, not too much, not too little.

Half way through construction of the dome this happened:
Student 1: It's not working. I think we are going to fail.
Student 2: It's too late to change things now!
Student 3: There is no failing unless you don't try. It's not too late. What can we do to fix it?
Student 4: What about an Arch? Like the St. Louis Arch?
Student 2: That was my first idea! Look, we can do this....

...and just like that the plan changed and they all got right to work. 

The students redrew the arch on their blueprint and were able to successfully make an arch. They explained their design when complete and told me "The center beam was added just to support the structure."

Design Success!
Start to finish? 30 minutes. 

My favorite comment of the class: 
"I thought this was reading group? Are we even allowed to be doing this? It's so much fun!"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Happiness deflates like a balloon...

Don't let the title of this blog fool you... happiness has NOT deflated in my rainbow room today! Read on to uncover the mystery of the blog title.

Today has been a busy day in my room...

My 4th Grade book club met for the first time and read Iggy Peck Architect. After reading we discussed how Iggy's interest could have been fostered instead of stifled by his teachers. Then we focused on the quote, "Young Iggy Peck is an architect and has been since he was two, when he built a great tower-in only an hour-with nothing but diapers and glue." The kids thought this was hilarious and got into a discussion about how difficult a diaper tower would be to implement. They were then given the task of drawing a blueprint for a tower made of diapers and glue. This assignment fostered a discussion on domes and the support that design brings to a structure. Luckily for that group I have a bag of leftover diapers in my garage.... I can't wait to see if they can really make a diaper tower tomorrow.

Today my 5th grade group identified and illustrated a simile from the book we have been reading. I am often amazed at the creativity that seeps from these students... if only given the chance. This was a quick draw response that took all of 5 minutes.

They were asked to illustrate this simile from the story:
  Happiness deflates like a balloon with the smallest tear. 

I am excited to hear the explanations of their interpretation of this simile tomorrow!

2nd grade is working on Touchphonics and short i CVC words. There was a moment during our time together that I was thankful for 2 things...
          1) 2nd grade innocence
          2) no one else could hear us
I asked my kiddos to spell KID. They built the word with letters and unfortunately one of my kiddos built them backwards. I then said, "touch each letter and say each sound" ... because that's the procedure and when you get in the habit of a procedure you just keep going, right? The theory being that when they touch the letters and say the sounds they will be able to blend into a word OR find the mistake and self correct. The student said each sound. Another student shot us a strange look and then said, "Um, I think that's backwards." My thought at the moment... abort mission, abort mission! Lesson learned, always read a word backwards and forwards before presenting for Touchphonics.

While working with a group in the 5th grade hallway today, I noticed many kids walking to pack up with strained muscles and stacks of books. It looked more like they were lifting weights than getting ready to go home. I am totally on board with AVID and the binders, but doesn't THIS look like a little bit too much? Maybe the kids should have backpacks with wheels to roll around? ...Maybe I'm just a weakling.

Thus concludes today's edition of Random Ransom Ramblings.... until next time. 

Monday, October 6, 2014


Today our school hosted it's first ever whole school read aloud day. We read A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon.

After each read aloud, we went live with Camilla Cream to read tweets from the broadcast. I am excited to report that every child in our school heard the story of Camilla Cream today.

At the end of the school day we tried yet another first... we broadcast live on location from Mrs. Sanders classroom. They were the winners of the MOST TWEETS award. The students assisted Camilla in reading the top tweets from the day.

Hearing the kids comment on the stripes was quite funny. The best part of the day by far was when Camilla came face to face with a class of kindergartners that had LOTS of questions! Today at dismissal I heard kids from different grade levels discussing the story and the events that took place through the story. Isn't this exactly what we want as a school? Kids excited about learning and choosing to talk about their connections and experiences even after the 2:45 bell? I consider that a success!

I was so proud to see our school come together to integrate literacy and technology. There were numerous connections and higher level discussions that sparked from the story. Thank you to the awesome teachers at Christie for participating!

This will definitely NOT be the last #CubRAD!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Help my kids Wobble!

As an instructional Coach I find myself sitting with diverse groups of readers throughout each day. One common thing I hear repeatedly is about comfort.

When I read at home I like to curl up on the couch, lay in bed, or sit outside on a cushion. If you are not comfortable, you cannot concentrate. Ball chairs worked great in the classroom however I have found that kids are often getting into their book and rolling off. Sitting on the floor is NOT ideal and often times kids stand up and their foot has gone to sleep.

My goal is to create an environment where kids can read comfortably. I strive to bring bean bag chairs and WOBBLE chairs into my room as seating options for my students. I desire to create an "at home" feel in my classroom where kids can be comfortable to be who they are and exceed expectations in their learning journey.

Please spread the word and support my classroom!

The first thing I am looking for is to get Wobble chairs so my kids can rock and fidget at my table without actually rolling away!

My ideal room would have wobble chairs and ball chairs as options at the teacher table. The floor would have beanbag chairs and rug space available for comfortable lounging. It would be filled with little ones reading and learning together.

Can you imagine it? Utopia!

FALL into thoughts of the future

Today I borrowed some chairs for my kiddos to use just to change up the space in my classroom...
They looked pretty funny reading their books in these pods.

It's crazy to think that it's THESE kids who will grow up to take over corporations and become policy makers in 30 years.  Can you imagine if you walked into a board meeting and the CEO was presenting from this upside down position? ...Or perhaps the board members were all bouncing around on ball chairs interrupting each other with excitement. 

Take a minute to imagine a world filled with...

-floors made out of trampolines
-Lego walls
-launch pads to catapult you up to the next floor
-swirly slides to take you down to the first floor 
-projectors that turn the wall into a virtual gaming center
These ideas and many more are the things my book club decided they would like to have in their dream rooms.

They were so excited to begin reading their first book club selection...

When gave them their books and the room fell silent...something that never happens with this group! Then, this happened. 
Yes, he was actually reading in that position. 
Maybe he took "falling into a good book" a bit too literally?

My biggest victory today? When a struggling group of 4th grader readers came into my room and began arguing over who got to read first. Their willingness to take risks and read aloud in front of each other... amazing! This is the same group that often shuts down when asked to read in class and falls silent.