Monday, March 17, 2014

Differentiating with Area and Perimeter

Being on Spring Break sure does have its upsides doesn't it?!  One being the fact I am able to sit down and finally blog...AKA relax on my own terms.  I have a Lifetime movie playing in the background called The Grim Sleeper.  Did you get to watch it?  What can I say?  I'm obsessed with watching their newest 2 hour TV movies.  Reading my book here and there when I want, going to the bathroom whenever I want, and snacking on whatever I want is definitely the bee's knees.  It makes me look forward to summer break that much more!

As we all know (it's what nightmares are made of)'s that time of the season.  Testing is just around the corner and the pressure is on!  With trying to fit everything on our district benchmark testing and the state test in to such a tiny time frame, it is that much more important I push that rigor and multiple opportunities for practice with my students.  So, bring on differentiation!

By first having my students complete a multi-level exit ticket (which ended up becoming more like a post test) I was able to figure out which levels of area and perimeter each student met in or what they needed more practice in.  As a gifted-cluster teacher, I try to do as many tiered differentiation lessons as possible.  In this case, it means I have 9 gifted learners while the rest of my students are mainstreamed. It can get pretty hard when I don't have as much time as I want to plan them out, but each year I end up with more and more.

Below you can see part of a screen shot of the flipchart I had up on our ActivBoard during the day's lesson. Every time we tackle a tiered lesson, I go over the Owl's assignment first so those students can get straight to work on their extension.  But I need my other students to sit and take it in because if they complete their activity and show mastery, they are able to move on.  That's why I love tiered lessons!!

Extension/Tier 3 Group

**Always works solo/independently**

My group of about 6-7 Owls worked in the library on their own and had quite a time with their activity. They were doing so well I only had to check on them a couple different times to make sure they were measuring the area and perimeter correctly, since this was something we didn't do with irregular polygons as a whole class (we only had to use grid paper).

Extra Practice/Tier 2 Group

**Always works with 1-2 other students**

My Eagles were able to gather in the back of our classroom on the strip of tile we have in order to practice identifying the perimeter and area using square units.  I found this idea for regular polygons on Pinterest, but needed to use it for the irregular aspect.  Many of my students were having trouble with larger figures where they had to count and solve for the formulas when there were upwards of 20 or so square units and multiple "irregular" corners.  By making it a bit more hands on for them and on a smaller (although larger...LOLOLOL) scale, that group of kids grasped on to the application of the formulas we had already discovered and practiced a lot easier.

Please ignore our dirty floor...the kids tend to bring in everything off our wet grassy field when they come in in the morning.  Sigh.

Reteach/Tier 1 Group

**Always works with the teacher and/or small group**

For this group of kids, it was a bit tricky.  Each set of students needed additional reteaching and practice with a different aspect of perimeter and area (i.e. area of triangles and parallelograms versus perimeter of squares and rectangles or even irregular polygons)

I decided to have them make flashcards for each formula, since many of the students in this group kept getting them mixed up between the different figures themselves or area versus perimeter.  Then, we went from there with some extra practice on identifying perimeter and area using those formulas.

My students crave tiered lessons because they truly appreciate being able to have the chance to not only move on if they are ready, instead of sitting through another reteach lesson, but they appreciate being able to jump to the next level when they are done working with me during the reteach.  Everything is very fluid and depending on the tiered lesson, kids are not always in the same group to start with.  I use exit tickets every time to determine which group students will be in.  Sometimes, I even find I have to reteach as a whole class.  All students are a lot more invested in the outcome of their learning and they enjoy some of the hands on and project-based opportunities to show their learning.  Sure, the planning can take a bit more time than regular lessons...but in the end, it is soooooooo worth it!

This summer, I plan on trying to put as many of my tiered lessons and choice/extension menus in my TPT store.  But if you would like to check one of them out now, I have had my Plot Elements Choice Menu pack up HERE for a couple months (all based on Bloom's Taxonomy).  It is starting to sell like hotcakes and that makes me so excited to know other students are able to partake in choices and extensions to show their learning!  Yay!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Setting the Mood and Tone...or at Least Identifying It

Prepare yourself for one seriously picture-heavy post!  I had way too much fun with this lesson and so did my students.  Not only did they enjoy it, but they did phenomenally well on their post test.  I would say that is a big, huge, GIGANTIC thumbs up to it all.  Oh and also?  Read all the way through because I'm finally sharing a bit of fun info from AAGT (local Arizona Gifted Education conference) that I attended a couple weeks back.

And I would like to thank Miss Nannini at YoungTeacherLove for posting her lesson on this exact skill because I was able to be inspired and applied pieces of her well-taught lesson and added elements to it that I knew would be successful for my group of kids.  Since I'm especially lacking in my creative side for anchor chart creating, I used hers to help me out.  We used a different book to practice mood and tone though so maybe others will get a kick out of it and like to use the mentor text I chose.  Enjoy!

I've mentioned before on the blog about how our district is still sticking with state standards for now. So, while Miss Nannini quoted the CCSS version, our Arizona version is more focused on intended effect (AKA mood and tone).  This is why I love Common Core...the language of our standards will be the same!  Now if only we could go ahead and jump in.  In the meantime, I'm trying to be patient.  No matter what, it was a whole lot easier to get my students to grasp onto intended effect by teaching them mood and tone.

Okay so...we always want to reel in our students' with a BIG hook whenever possible right?  Well, in this case, my team and I used music!  Thanks to one of my teammates and what I learned at the AAGT conference, I used YouTube to bring in lyrics and music to my classroom to help students get a feel for mood and tone.

After we put together the left side of the anchor chart you see above and chatted all about the difference between feelings and attitudes we jumped right in to the juicy stuff...the music!  Before I explain how I used three songs for the hook, let me give you a little heads up, especially if you decide to try this out in your own classroom...

While at the AAGT conference, I attended a session called, "Pop Culture in the Classroom," presented by DJ Graham.  Due to a huge need for differentiation in a Gifted classroom (a bit different than other populations) and the importance of pulling in the upper 2 levels of Bloom's Taxonomy, he decided to tie it all together with how pop culture helps to make a connection between the students and teacher as well as making the material directly coincide with what is most relevant to our students today.

You MUST know, we as educators are allowed to use copyrighted video clips and music in our classroom under a fair use guideline, "Movies:  10% or 3 minutes (whichever is less)," and "Music: 10% or 30 seconds (whichever is least)" (from U.S. Copyright Office, 2009); (Harper, 2007).  Also, if you want to use music in your classroom for teaching purposes, you should definitely search You Tube first.  It is chock full of lyric videos...meaning only the lyrics play across the screen.  There is no music video to worry about or content kids shouldn't see.  Sure, you can print up the lyrics and have kids just read along as they listen to songs, but this is so much bigger for them!  Just do a search for any song and add "lyrics" to your search and you'll get exactly what you need.  As always, make sure you view the full video for content.

How did I bring this into my classroom for a lesson on mood and tone?  Like I said, one of my awesome teammates had the idea to play Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri, Happy by Pharrell Williams, and Phantom of the Opera (from Broadway or the movie version).  Each one covers a super specific and obvious mood and tone.  I went straight to YouTube to find the lyric videos for these as soon as she mentioned she had played the songs for her kids...I wanted to step it up a notch!

My kids and I discussed how the lyrics truly set the mood (kind of like pictures in a picture book) and the actual background music sets the tone.

Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri

"...from the ice inside your soul," from Jar of Hearts

For your downloading pleasure (source):

Happy by Pharrell Williams

And here (below) is my favorite moment!  I danced around the room as this one was playing here and there.  But this student of mine couldn't help sitting in his seat any longer . He jumped up and started dancing right as I was taking this picture.  So, I of course danced over to him and we did a little bit of the "Carlton" and sung the song at each other.  Basically?  My kids immediately identified and felt the mood and tone so overwhelmingly, there was no question about it!

"...clap along if you feel happiness is the truth," from Happy

For your downloading pleasure (source):

Phantom of the Opera (movie version)

" power over you grows stronger yet," from Phantom of the Opera

For your downloading pleasure (source):

As I played the 30 second clips, students jotted down certain words or phrases they caught under a T-chart with mood and tone written at the top.  At the end of each clip, they did some quick Rally Robin style discussing, and we came back together as a class to share what we saw and heard.  It went swimmingly and they absolutely loooooooved it!

Once my kids felt confident identifying mood and tone within music and lyrics, we read The Dark by Lemony Snicket, together.  Through modeling, I made sure to inform them authors tend to repeat the same adjectives or phrases in order to make the audience feel and understand the mood and tone.

I was ecstatic to find my kids not only identified those key words, but they also figured out some really good ways to describe the mood and tone according to what they felt and were thinking exactly.  I recorded them on our anchor chart. They realized that not only was the dark meant to be creepy but they also felt surprised and relief at the ending.  Yessssss!!!

Pulling from Miss Nannini's lesson, she used the Aesop Fable, "The Ant and the Grasshopper" to assess her students and compare the mood and tone they read to what they saw in the Disney Silly Symphony version.  But, I decided to use this as their independent practice.  We watched a short clip near the end of the Disney video (downloaded from YouTube), meanwhile they jotted down any key words or phrases they noticed on a T-chart in their notebooks.

They used Close Reading strategies as they read "The Ant and the Grasshopper" text in order to locate those special key words and phrases that show mood and tone.  

I decided to have them write a descriptive paragraph with text-based evidence for that day's exit ticket to let me know the mood and tone (intended effect) of the fable.  

Have you taught mood and tone to your students yet?  What sort of ideas or strategies have worked well for them?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Currently March

Sure, I'm supposed to be working hard on my National Boards Entry 3 right now, since I'm at a Coaching Saturday event.  But I really wanted to get this up first!  Sooooooo...this is a bit of a Boards themed Currently.


I am at a Coaching Saturday event in order to work on my National Boards entry 3.  There are a ton of people here getting coaching and work done, so there's a ton of talking around me and amazing conversations about collaborating, reflecting, and imagining.  For me, I'm just supposed to be sitting here planning my next several Science lessons because I need to make sure I am using Math to move the Science learning forward.  


It rained this morning.  For about 3 minutes.  Seriously Arizona?  I despise you right now.


I'm here working till 3 and the celebration starts at 5:30.  Soooooooo...this is all about concentrating on my HUGE task at hand.  You know?  After I'm done with this blog post of course.  LOLOLOL


Did I mention this rainy weather didn't last long?  I suppose I should at least be happy that the cloud is still full of dark clouds.  So there's that.


I had really hoped to have videotaped my entry lesson by now.  But it is testing season and so this hasn't happened.  So, planning these lessons today will definitely help!  Next step, figuring out who is going to tape me.  My hubby did it last year but his new job is during the day...soooooooo I am in quite the conundrum.  


These are the items I really NEED whenever I am at these coaching events!  Mountain Dew is especially essential after lunch when I hit a wall.  

Have any of my readers achieved National Board certification or are in the process?  I am a retake candidate and am working on 1 entry and 1 assessment exercise this year.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Time to Pass It On! Ratio, Proportions, and "Playing" with Dolls {STEM}

One of the things I love most about my district is the amount of consistent and in-depth professional development classes they offer us.  I try to sign up for classes often so I can hone my craft and really figure out ways to better my students' learning in the well as keep myself on my toes. There is just no way I want to be one of those teachers who gets in a rut and that can be easy to do after 9 years of teaching.

Does anyone else have these kind of opportunities in their district?  How often do you take advantage of them?  Do tell!!

This past month, I signed up for a STEM professional development class that our STEM department put together alongside a grant via Arizona State University.  These awesome gals from the department (I've worked closely with several of them multiple times) attended a summer class in which they learned about the lesson I am passing on to you here.  They brought it back to our district and were even able to buy us supplies to take back to our classroom the next day.

Thankfully, I also got one of my first trainings in what STEM truly is.  THE biggest piece I walked away with (besides the super sweet lesson below) was the knowledge of knowing I do not have to use Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math in every single STEM lesson.  Phew!  Somehow, this is what I thought it was.  Remember how I said I try to hone my craft and keep on the latest and greatest? Since STEM came along long after I finished up my Bachelors, student teaching, and Masters degree, it is one of those huge elements of present-day education that I just don't know a whole lot about. But...I'm getting there!

Enough of the background...let me share this lesson already!  This was based on the Ratio and Proportion CCSS and it can be used in grades 5-8.  It also ties in measurement and data analysis. Score!!

The idea is to have students use measurement, ratios, proportion, and data analysis to see if they are in proportion to a Barbie or Ken doll.

I was nervous my 5th graders weren't going to feel comfortable enough with ratio.  Despite teaching it and finding the majority of my students meeting our state standard (we have not fully switched to CCSS yet), I still did not know if they'd be able to figure out whether their measurements were proportional to the doll's proportions using ratios.

But I modeled my heart out for the first piece of it in order to make sure they knew what I expected and we reviewed equivalent ratios as well.  They were seriously chomping at the bit to get started.  And wouldn't you know it?!  I had to redirect my boys triple the amount of time versus my girls because they kept playing with the Ken dolls.  It was quite a fun time reminding them that the girls were knee-deep in work while they were too busy styling their Ken dolls' hair.  Ha!

They worked in small groups since I only had about 8 Ken dolls and 8 Barbie dolls.  By the way...have you seen Barbie dolls lately?  If not, they are soooooooo cheap looking now.  Blasphemy!!  It was rough only having about 4 rolls of measuring tape.  So, many of my students improvised and used the yarn they used for the dolls on themselves and then had to carefully use a meter stick.  Part of this was also giving them calculators if they chose to use them.  The idea is, it doesn't matter if they are doing the computation on paper, it mattered to me if they were understanding comparing one measurement to another and if they were finding equivalent ratios to compare proportions.

I was given copies of a graphic organizer that asked students to record different ratios for things like head circumference to height and head height to neck height, etc.  Each student had to measure on both the doll and themselves.

Once they found an equivalent ratio for both, they had to indicate if they were in proportion to the doll or not in the last column.

As I was coming around to each group, I noticed some were having issues finding equivalent ratios with such large or mixed numbers.  But I did find they fully understood ratios and how they relate to finding proportions.  This was a HUGE success!  I love that with STEM students don't necessarily have to do everything correct or perfectly.  If they are grasping on to the concept and reaching it via discovery...then you know what?  I determine that to be successful in a big way.  

Once students have gathered the data, they create a graph from scratch.  I had quite the goose-bump raising moment when my students took to creating double-bar graphs without any prompting from me at all.  When I asked several groups why they chose to make a double-bar graph versus any other, they told me right away that it was because they were comparing to sets of similar data!  Yessssss!  What an amazing teacher moment.  Don't you just love those?!  

While I noticed they chose increments that didn't necessarily match the data, what I found was they knew exactly how to compare the data.  My kids also had all the pieces of a properly made graph. After creating their graphs, they had to look back at their data and analyze the bits and pieces to explain whether they were in proportion to the doll and why or why not.  This was another spot where I found they had a good understanding of proportions.  

All in all, this was a successful lesson in my class for multiple reasons.  Not only that, but my students enjoyed themselves and didn't complain at all about how difficult the math concepts were for them. They put both feet in and jumped right in to the measuring and comparing.  I'd say they are definite fans of STEM as am I!  

Have you used a lesson like this in your classroom before?  How do you implement STEM in your classroom?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Gettin' My Fix with Stitch Fix {#4} - In Need Of Your Opinion...

It's that time again!  And...what a nice treat!  I went out of town for a quick trip and when I came back, my Stitch Fix box was waiting for me.  It was like going to the mall without having to drive all that way after a long drive home.  I chose to have Brent as my stylist again...which is something you can choose to do if you really like what your stylist is sending to you.  He chose my 2nd and 3rd fixes.  

So, just in case you just found your way over to my little blog, here are my first 3 fixes for your viewing pleasure.

In case you've never heard of Stitch FIx, go ahead and check out these quick tidbits...
  • Sign up using this referral code and get yourself on the calendar.
  • Take a styling quiz so your stylist can see what you like, dislike, your body type, sizing, etc.
  • $20 styling fee (you don't pay it till your fix is put together) gets you a personalized box of 5 hand-picked items from tops to bottoms to necklaces to everything else you could imagine
  • Sign up for a monthly fix or whenever you'd like as often as you'd like, it isn't a subscription service...which is a PLUS!
  • Keep all 5 items and get 25% off your total and also get your $20 taken off the price
  • You have 3 days to try everything on and send it back in a pre-paid envelope
  • If you don't keep anything, your $20 is well...wasted. But there are ways to ensure your fix is right for you. (see first review or the pro-tips I give each time)
  • Feel pampered and like a bit of a celebrity as you try on items picked just for you!

First Look

I absolutely loved how they tied up my little bundle of 5 items with the belt from a dress that came in my fix.  It was a nice little touch.  And, thankfully I saw those bits of color and character that I dug in my first 2 fixes.  In fact, Brent apologized for my last fix (he told me how everything had been picked over by stylists at the beginning of the month from the holidays)...I like how he is getting to know my style and flair each and every time.  This of course brings me to my next point:

{Stitch Fix Pro Tip #3}

Back to Pinterest again...make sure you let your stylist know that you are keeping your board updated.  I had added some items since my first fix and I don't think my stylist knew.  So, I mentioned in my comments that he should take a look.  He saw a pattern in things I had posted and sent an item or two according to what he noticed.

Look #1

THML Tiller Sailboat Sweater | $68

Okay, so I wasn't exactly a fan of this sweater.  But Brent really did try to match up with what he knew about my wants!

My stylist mentioned he had seen I was obsessed with logo sweaters, via Pinterest, so he picked this new to the Stitch Fix collection sweater.

Can you tell by my first picture...I don't exactly dig the sailboat.  The sweater itself is a nice lightweight casual top and I totally would have kept it, had it not been for the sailboat.  It's just not me.  Dare I say it reminds me a bit too much of my midwest friends that I pick on a tiny bit for wearing their boat shoes and boat jackets while they are living in the desert now.  It's all in good fun, believe me...but this just doesn't fit my personality.  At first, I figured I would keep it since the other 4 items looked to be keepers for me.  More on that below.

Status:  Sent Back

Look #2

C.Luce Ashton Bejeweled Neckline Short Sleeve Top | $48

I really need to teach my hubby (as sweet as he is for taking these pictures for me) how to take focused pictures.  Please pardon the blurriness you see in some of them.

When I saw this top at the top of my stack, it reminded me a lot of the similar top I got in my first fix HERE.  I had high hopes this one would fit me much better.  And it did!  

The length was perfect, it has darts at the chest, and I like the cut of the collar much much more.  It also has a texture to the material itself.  You can't really see that here, but if you look at my first impression picture you can spot it.  This is the type of top I wouldn't have tried on in a store because it looks boxy. Thank you to Stitch Fix for getting me to try on something different!  Following the styling cards included in my box, I tried it with my red heels and a black pair of skinnies (from my 2nd fix) and then a dark pair of blue skinnies and black flats.  I only wish it was in a lighter color or something brighter.  I'm thinking that is something I am going to indicate in my comments this time around...especially since spring is around the corner.

Status:  Kept

Look #3

Papermoon Jerrod Textured Striped Pencil Skirt | $48

In case you hadn't guessed...the pencil skirt was Look #3!  And, I need your help, so definitely keep reading.

You can't completely tell in these close-up pictures, but the skirt has these velvety black stripes and the color is a sort of gray/brown.  And this is where I seriously need my reader's help.  I loooooooove love love pencil skirts.  I have a "leather" one and a regular every day black version for work.  But both of them are cut to right above my knee.  This one is very much out of my realm.  When I first put it on, the length threw me off.  It is very tight as well, so my pear shaped hips definitely were making an out-there appearance.  Yet, when I styled it with these two tops you see above and looked back at the pictures my hubby took, I got stuck.  So, also...I'm wondering, if I don't or can't wear this to work, will I even wear it enough in general?  Leave your opinion in the comments and let me know.

Let me explain, the stripes definitely are tricky for my hips as well as the very tight fit.  But the material is slinky and so it rides up and has a very high waist.  So, it does create a sort of pooch on me when I don't really have one.  My hubby is telling me not to keep it because of that and I do agree with him. Yet, it looks so good in these pictures and I will just have to make sure I am pulling it down...but do I really want to keep pulling it down?  Do I just wait and see if Brent can find me something else like it? Gah!  I don't know!  I tried to style it dressed up and then also more casual using the styling cards.  And, it does work well both ways.  Also?  I tried to turn sideways for a shot so you could see the "pooch" being created...but I seem to have covered it with my hands on accident.  What are your thoughts?

Status:  Up in the Air

Look #4

Daniel Rainn Shanae Abstract Print Tie Waist Dress | $58

Please ignore my fluorescent and banged up legs!  You're lucky I shaved and put on lotion.  LOL

Brent mentioned he included this dress because of how much I loved the shirt dress (sent back) from my 2nd fix.  I am very glad he did because this one is a better fit.  But, it took some tweaking on my part and I truly hope all ladies, who aren't as comfortable with styling or fashion, try these little tweaks. You see, it's not your body, it's the clothes.  Don't change your body to fit the clothes, change the clothes themselves.  I heard that from Stacy London and Clinton so many times on What Not to Wear.  Anyway, the belt on this was to go in two loops on the dress but then it would have tied right below my chest.  It was NOT flattering and I know things are a lot more flattering when I use my natural waistline.  I took it out of the loops and scooted it down and voila!  My hubby is pretty impressed to see this dress has pockets as am I. The sleeves are also adjustable or convertible if you will.  Also?  How much do you love my new black heels I got the other day while I was out of town.  They are Naturalizers from Dillards...and I got them for only $50!!

Status:  Kept

Look #5

Fun2Fun Montreal Arrow Printed Henley Blouse | $48

This was the the let down piece of this box.  I think it was the pattern.  My hubby told me it looked bohemian when I put it on and I didn't believe him until I looked in the mirror.  The pattern is too busy for my frame and I think the neckline might be throwing me off as well.  I had actually requested to get this top sent to me (but a plaid version instead) so I was sad to see the style didn't suit me.  Thanks anyway Brent!!

Status:  Sent Back

All in all, I think this was my favorite fix overall.  Sure, I only kept 2...possibly 3, depending on what others think of the skirt...but I love that Brent used my Pinterest board and picked items from very different brands I've received in the past.  Plus, the variety in styles outside of my normal comforts was good.  The prices are also on point!  

Are you read to try out Stitch Fix?  You can click on my referral link here and I do get a $25 credit, which is one of the reasons I can keep up with getting basically?  I'll love you forever!   But I also really enjoy seeing and hearing from those of you who do click on my referral link so I can see and hear all about your experience.  It's like going to the mall with friends and having a great time in the fitting room.  And please...enjoy it!

For March, I plan to request some bright colors and short sleeve or sleeveless tops.  I'm hoping for some peplum and dressier to dressy casual tanks as well.  I can't wait!...since all my fixes have been during the "colder" months.  

What do you think of the pencil skirt? Have you received a fix from Stitch Fix?  What kind of items have you received?