Monday, September 20, 2021

Small Group Reading

Royalty Free Photo of a Teacher and Student Reading. Stock Photo. School Edition, Vital Imagery Ltd., 01-09-2009, Accessed 20-09-2021.

I have chosen to focus on small groups in reading...again!  This continues to be a frustrating endeavor for me because of time and behavior management issues.  As a kindergarten teacher, I train kids to a degree I think my expectations are quite clear.  However, in reality, I get about two minutes of quality instruction before the decibel level is unacceptable.  I also feel like my small group instruction is good, but maybe I could get better results if I landed on the right routines and instruction.  I'm hopeful I have been led to the perfect thing.

This summer when I taught summer school, I was asked to use How to Plan Differentiated Reading Instruction by Sharon Walpole and Michael C. McKenna.  I used the program with 3rd graders, but it is intended for K-3.  My plan is to use the interventions in this book, along with the readers from my reading series, to meet the needs of all of my students.  I am still working on a plan for what the rest of my class will be doing, but I am planning to have at least three groups as I only have 11 kids right now.

My BIG WHY for wanting to work on my small group instruction is because I feel like kindergarteners have a hard time meeting benchmark by the end of the year.  Most of the students reach benchmark in the Fall and Winter, but Spring seems to be hard to reach for many of them.  I feel like my whole group instruction is solid, although I know there is always room for improvement, but small groups are where I feel I need the most improvement.  I will know if my small group changes are working if I can keep 80% or more of my kids at benchmark by the end of the year.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Group work and Classroom Management Research

Group work and Classroom Management Research 

What did you learn about this topic?

As mentioned in previous posts, I have decided to focus on group work and classroom management this year.  I have noticed that students often have a difficult time working in groups and I hope that helping to improve these practices for them will also improve our overall classroom management.  I read an article about emotional intelligence in Edutopia that really opened my eyes to different things. Emotional intelligence includes information on students’ ability to monitor their own behavior and feelings.  This has a lot to do with the self-assessments I will have students do in class to reflect on group work practices. In addition, there was an article in Edutopia about transitions and this is an aspect that will also help facilitate better classroom management.

What resource mediums were used?

I read a lot of articles on Edutopia, but also decided to investigate Solution Tree. When researching on my own, I also found examples and guides for how to create self-assessment rubrics which is helpful.

How will this topic enhance and support student learning?

Classroom management, in my opinion, is the single most important thing in a classroom.  In order for students to learn behavior-related topics, the class needs to run smoothly.  In order for students to learn academic topics, the classroom needs to have certain expectations and procedures in place.  In order for students to transition well, they need to know what is expected of them and be able to do it quickly and quietly.  All of these things lead to more successful learning processes for all involved.

Submitted by: Leah Piper

Engaging Students through Bell Ringers

What's My Plan?

Young student is lying on the floor and looks his laptop. Isolated on white. Stock Photo. School Edition, Vital Imagery Ltd., 15-06-2012, Accessed 12-09-2021.

I would like to focus on bell ringers for my courses to improve classroom management and MTSS. I think having an attendance question at the beginning of each class will help build relationships with students. Then having them work on a bell ringer prompt will help keep them on task at the beginning of class so that class time is not being wasted. From past experience, I recognize that the days I have bell rings students are more focused compared to the days we do not have a bellringer. 

One of the areas I want to research is best practices for bell ringers. I want to make sure that my bell ringers are accessing students’ prior knowledge and that they are being used as a formative assessment. I plan on using a tally system to track what classes are on task at the start of the period from using the bellringers. I also plan on surveying the students about the bellringers to get their feedback on how well it helps keep them engaged.

Submitted by: Kelsie Engelken

Motivating Students to Work Independently


Excited Students Watching Robot Vehicle Move After Coding Lesson In Computer Programing Class. Stock Photo. School Edition, Vital Imagery Ltd., 05-08-2019, Accessed 12-09-2021

SMART GOAL: I will learn about and implement strategies to motivate students to work productively and assume responsibility for their own learning during group work through SEMBH and academic rubrics in order to produce an improved classroom environment which will lead to better classroom management.

What are you wanting to change about your practice and how will that impact student learning?

Science and social studies are subjects that lend themselves well to group work.  Often students work on experiments or projects with a partner or multiple students to learn.  I want to be able to not only facilitate group work well for students, but also help students take responsibility for their own learning when working with others or individually.  

What do you see as your topic for research?

My topic for research revolves around both classroom management and group work.  I believe these topics are very fitting because many of my students have trouble managing their time well and also completing assignments when working with others.  Through rubrics and self-assessments I hope to help students in their ability to work responsibly and complete their work successfully. 

Where will you look for resources on this topic?

I plan to not only talk to other teachers about the work they are doing or have done in the past, but I also plan to find resources in a book study that staff members are doing this year - “Improve Every Lesson Plan with SEL” by Jeffrey Benson.

How will you know you improved in this area? What evidence will you have?

In order to note improvement or lack thereof, I plan to use rubrics for both SEBMH concepts and academic concepts.  These rubrics will include both self-assessment and the assessment of others.  In general, I hope that grades would provide a good indication of student work, as well.

Submitted by: Leah Piper

Monday, May 24, 2021

Elementary PE Curriculum

 This year I decided for my Individual Career Development Plan I would rewrite the Elementary PE curriculum. It has been a few years since I have done this.  I wanted to use this time to reflect and update what I did in PE class.  In the past I have lumped elementary into one category.  This year I decided to do each class as a separate curriculum.

I gathered as much research as I could find, past curriculum, state and national standards, and any curriculum online. I "pulled out" the artifacts that went with Kindergarten Physical Education.  This was the information I used to develop/rewrite the Kindergarten curriculum.

After I was done writing the curriculum I made a slide show to present what I had done to the curriculum director and my principal.  That slide show is at this link.

Kindergarten PE Curriculum

Rewriting the Kindergarten PE curriculum has been a good way to reflect on what I am teaching and it will lay the groundwork for rewriting the curriculum for 1st Grade through 4th Grade.  

If you have any comments about the curriculum please feel free to leave them.


Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Mindfulness & Technology

Module Mindfulness & Technology

After doing some research regarding teens and using technology/social media/texting/etc I came up with a mindfulness survey for students to complete hoping it would give them some awareness of how these issues affect their well-being. I also had them watch some videos regarding Mindfulness & Technology Survey.

Class discussion What was the first thing you do in the morning and what is the last thing you did before going to bed? Does it involve technology? If so you are like most teenagers around the world.

Module Activities:

1. Complete the Mindfulness and Technology Survey.

2. Take the Digital Distraction Test Write a short document to share how you scored and why you received this score. Turn in the document to share with Mrs. Schewe in Google Classroom.

3. Watch the video Mindfulness & Technology: Do They Mix?

4. Watch the video Is Technology As Dangerous As Drug & Alcohol Addiction For Teens?

5. Watch the video Technology, Teens, and Taking Responsibility.

Results to Mindfulness & Technology Survey:

What Worked/Didn’t Work:
In the first class, I gave them the Mindfulness & Technology Survey at the end of the module. I changed it to the first thing they did in the module. It seemed after they had viewed the video content it might have influenced their survey choices.

Moments of Personal Enlightenment:

When I have lunch duty I notice all the high school students I am monitoring are on their phones about 85% of the time they are in the cafeteria - some while they are in line to get their tray they are on their phone, even when they are eating they are on their phone, and the only time I see the majority of them socializing the “old way” was when they were talking to one another walking to their class after the end of lunch bell rang. 

Now that my husband and I have gone back to a restaurant a few times I am mindful of different people at tables. Such as a couple at one table were on their smartphones the whole time during their lunch except when they ordered and ate; another table three people socializing, one on an iPad, and one on a smartphone except then they were eating; table of an elderly woman and what appeared to be Apa daughter - the elderly lady was visiting on a phone the whole time other than when she was eating and not visiting with the other lady at her table except when they ate. Then I left my phone in my purse but then I did peek at my Apple Watch when I felt it vibrate that I had a text. So I am just as guilty as others addicted to technology.

Iowa Teaching Standards:


Essential Concept and/or Skill: Understand the underlying structure and application of technology systems.
  * Utilize technology for everyday use and understand how technology systems can be  

Essential Concept and/or Skill: Understand the legal and ethical issues of technology as related to individuals, cultures, and societies.
    * Use technology efficiently and in a manner that does not harm them or others.




Friday, June 5, 2020

So now what? Formative Assessment

A little review of the whole process of my quick formative assessments. I would teach one or two lessons, then give students a quick formative assessment quiz over those topics to see student understanding. This formative assessment did not count against their grade, it was purely to see their knowledge and give them feedback on what to continue to work on. If a student scored lower than a 3 (which on my scale is proficient), they would come in for a reteaching of the target before the summative assessment. 

This process had its pros and cons, but overall I felt the students embraced this process and feel the data shows just that. Most students improved over the course of the unit and performed better on their summative assessments. This helped eliminate retakes after the summative assessment, helping to move the class along at the same pace. I fully expect to continue to use this process with a few tweaks next year, but the question is should I expand this into my other classes next year?

I plan to expand this process into my Algebra 1 class next year, and then follow it with my 7th grade class the year after. The biggest hurdle I am going to face next year is how to use my time management skills for these re-teachings outside of class. It was tough allowing students to schedule their own time slots, as they would procrastinate. I found the most success when I gave my Algebra 2 students a deadline for scheduling their own advisory times, but if they chose not to schedule I would schedule for them. I plan to make certain days specific for each class so that my advisory time (a study hall time at the end of the day) is not overrun with several students and I am able to best serve the students in the room. 

I anticipate with my Algebra 1 students being younger learners to have to walk them through this process more than my Algebra 2 students. This may help my time management, but could also take the student ownership out of the process. I look forward to seeing how it worked in these other classes next year and hope it has as much success as I had with my Algebra 2 students this past year, below is a QR code to my reflection over the process on my flipgrid presentation!

The Data: Formative Assessments

I am going to go over the data from the second quarter. I will be comparing the scores of individual students and also compare the class average on the formative vs the summative.  I want to start by making it clear this is just data from 2 class sections for a total of 26 students, mathematically this can be insignificant, but for me this information was important to making changes to the process as we went into the second semester. 

Below is a scores grid, I have highlighted improved scores from the QC to the summative assessment, or a perfect score on both. If you view the data, generally over half of the class would improve between the two assessments. This view of the data gave me confidence that the students were getting something out of the process as they were improving their knowledge in some way between the two assessments. This score sheet also shows how/if the class average went up between the two, again over half of the targets had an increase, I would have preferred to see more of the class averages increasing. Two of the chapters the last learning target did not have much success. I am curious to dig into this further next year if it is just the topic of the target or if it is the turnaround between initial learning and summative assessment. 

Looking at Learning Target 4.1. This was one of the sections that due to the class average I planned a whole class reteaching. Based on the improvements from the formatative to the summative assessment, identifying the topics of struggle for all students is very important to student success. I feel more confident in identifying those and coming up with more engaging lessons to help students with the understanding.

This is just a snapshot of my class in one quarter of one year, but seeing the data makes me confident that this process has shown success. I really look forward to adjusting a few aspects of it, to reach more students in the process.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Student thoughts: Formative Assessments

After over a quarter of school completed, I wanted to get the students' opinions on what they thought about these quick formative assessments. After a final assessment, I had students complete a short answer questionnaire. The following questions were asked.

  1. How do you feel the quick check quizzes have helped you?

  2. What is something you would change about the quick check quizzes?

  3. When do you typically complete your practice problems?

    1. The day they are assigned

    2. Before the quick check quiz

    3. After the quick check quiz but before the test

    4. After the test because I need to do a retake

    5. I never do practice problems outside of class

    6. Other, explain: 

  4. If you have had to come in for a conference explain if/how it benefits you.

  5. Explain any part of the process you would feel could be changed to help you be successful in Algebra 2.

The two most common answers for question 1 were either it did not help at all, or that it showed which sections they needed to do the practice problems.  I found that the ones that said it did not help also chose that they never did their practice problems. These students are students I am brainstorming to reach in new ways as this process is not going to be helpful as they are not attempting to learn the material. Those that answered that it showed them what practice problems to do, was enlightening to me. I was curious if any students were doing their homework in a timely manner or just waiting until they were forced to do it. 

Question 2 had a lot of different answers. The one that stuck out the most was several of my higher grade students wanted to “get out” of the final assessment if they scored a perfect on the quick check quiz. I see both sides of this argument. They have shown their mastery of the topic, but they are also taking this quiz shortly after learning it. Is this just them being good with short term memory? I plan to dive into this more in my next blog post looking at the scores and if they had improved, remained the same, or even scored lower on the final assessments. 

Question 3 the answers were fairly even across the board. Many students admitted to only doing practice problems if done together in class, or only if they had to complete them for the retake process. Students that answered question 1 with that it helped them know what to study did answer this question with option c. Homework completion is the toughest hurdle to manage in a standard based classroom. I have tried multiple things over the course of the last few years. The fact of the matter is if it won't affect their grade many students will not do it. I see most of my students completing homework right after the summative assessment if they know they did poorly because they know they are going to do retake. This makes more work for them in the process and generally I see a switch throughout the year as they learn how to study for tests and find more value in their practice problems. 

Question 4 was the best question I asked the students. I gained a lot of insight. Students loved the 1 on 1 time to ask questions without feeling “stupid” in front of their classmates. They also mentioned the benefits of seeing what exactly I am looking for as well as what mistakes will receive what scores. They felt they actually knew WHAT to ask after the formative quiz to learn it, where before they felt they were stuck at the beginning. After giving this questionnaire, I tried to touch base with each student more frequently. I looked for more ways to make it more anonymous for students to feel more comfortable to tell me they needed help. 

Question 5 students asked to not have the summative if they passed the quick check. Some wanted me to assign them times for their conference with me if they scored low instead of leaving it up to them to schedule. Others wanted to skip the quiz all together since it wasn't graded. Others voiced how much they liked the process all for many different reasons. 

Overall, it was a lot of insight from just 5 questions. I used these to make adjustments throughout the 2nd and 3rd quarters. I made tweaks about needing to have completed their practice problems before the summative assessment to be allowed to take a retake. I also would give students a few days to schedule a conference with me, but if they did not I scheduled it for them. This helped to get more students to show up for those 1 on 1 meetings. I felt this would have started to show the improvements in the process in the 4th quarter had we had the opportunity to complete the 4th quarter this year. Any process has its positives and negatives, I was nervous when giving them this questionnaire but for the most part my students did a great job giving me realistic, honest feedback that I was able to reflect on.

Quick Formative Assessments In Algebra 2


    My goal this school year was to create an ungraded assessment after the initial lessons as a formative assessment for Algebra 2 students. The idea was to allow and show two things, the first was to show me as a teacher how well the students were understanding the material and the second was for the student to be able to check their own knowledge level on the standards based grading scale. These ideas of reflection for both the teacher and the student was great for helping with student engagement, and student reflection of learning. If after the formative assessment the student scored lower than a 3 on my standard based scale they would be responsible for coming in outside of class to go over their mistakes and relearn the material. If the majority of students scored low we would do this reteaching as a whole class. 

    The first goal of getting the teacher, myself, to reflect on how well lessons went and how the class did at comprehension had positive and negative outcomes. When I was able to stay in a good rhythm of teaching, I tried to give quick check quizzes on Fridays. This allowed me to look and see how the class did as a whole before planning the next week of lessons. I would look at the results from these quizzes and would do a whole class reteaching if more than 50% of students scored lower than a 3 on the original quick check quiz. This worked well and there were only a few instances in Algebra 2 where I had to do this. Finding the right amount of lessons to do the formative assessment was a learning curve, and I have settled on 2 to 3 lessons at a time. A negative side of this happened when multiple classes would have assessment land on the same time table. I felt using this threshold of 50% helped me to plan engaging original lessons and also having different ideas of reteaching already prepared and integrated these into the first lesson.

    The second goal for students to be able to reflect on their learning also had both positive and negative outcomes. Response from students was that they liked the quick check quizzes because it showed them what to expect on the summative assessment. Some also said it helped them know which lessons they would need to do extra studying on to do well by the time of the overall unit assessment. What I found as the year continued was students started to not give their best effort on these formative assessments and that would affect the overall class outcome. Due to time constraints, I was still working on finding ways to hold students more accountable on coming in for the reteaching session outside of class time. Some students mentioned when given a reflection over the quick checks that they wish they could “get out” of the final assessment if they scored a 4 on the quick check as they had already shown their knowledge on the subject, my response was if they had the knowledge one week they should still have the knowledge to receive a 4 the next time I assessed them. This final idea is still something I am reflecting on. 

    Overall, I saw that I was able to use the formative data to create better lessons. I feel with more time to integrate this into my classroom I hope to be able to get better student buy-in from students to try their best on these assessments even if they do not affect their grade. Those students who used the system the way I had intended it typically saw improvement from the quick check quiz to the actual graded assessment and were most successful in the class as a whole. If this is something that has interested you, I will be continuing to dive a little deeper in the process and the reflection I collected from students in my next blog post!

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Expectations Through Rubrics

As a first year teacher there are many things to accomplish in my classroom, however, it is important to prioritize such tasks. One of the most important elements in my classroom is clearly communicating project requirements, expectations, and grading criteria to my students. So far, the best way to communicate these criterion and expectations are through assignment sheets containing rubrics.

If students have a clear idea of what they are supposed to be doing they are less likely to demonstrate behaviors that do not meet our [teachers'] desired expectations. Students also can produce a higher level of work if they know what the minimum and maximum expectations are on the rubric.

Elements integrated in assignment sheet: Photography Final

Review concepts w/explanation
Give specific quantities while still offering choice
Integrate reflection
Clear levels of expectations
Standards based grading
Online rubric allows hi-lighting and making comments for feedback
Inclusion of standards


For the most part all of the students knew what their expectations were for the final project as evidenced by their final projects. If Photography is taught in the upcoming year I would like to integrate more demonstration of my process. Inclusion of more artists of diverse backgrounds could also prove to be beneficial for the students in broadening their worldview and better addressing the Iowa Core Art Standards.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Project Based Learning in my math classes.

When approaching this year, I really wanted to push how I can use projects to assist students in learning and using mathematics in real life. As I pushed forward in learning more of what I have access to, I found that some of my resources were limited.  It was also hard to adjust some of these projects without some of the background knowledge or class sizes necessary.  I felt like the classes were either too small, too big, or I honestly could not trust them to stay on task and finish in a realistic time table.

The first big project I introduced was where students in my geometry class created rooms, spaces, or towns only using construction tools. These tools were a compass, ruler, and pencil.  They needed to create a various amount of shapes such as hexagons, pentagons, circles, and triangles.  They were also required to create various forms of lines and angles.  They did very well overall, working in groups of 2 or by themselves.  I had 96% of students finish on time, and 84% of students accurately draw all shapes, angles and lines.

My second project introduced was my End Cap project.  Students were to find the volume and area of the base of fireworks in the shape of cones and cylinders.  They were then required to place these on a 6 foot tall end cap with 2'x4' shelves. They were required to find how much space each firework used and how much space was actually wasted with each set of firework. Before this project, we worked on finding area of circles and rectangles as well as volume of cones and cylinders. After this, I walked them through a couple examples of putting things on shelves.  Even with all this frontloading, students still struggled with the project.  I feel as though maybe I could have broken the project up into multiple parts. Stagger a couple things and then have them put it all together at the end. They just could not comprehend all the information given in the days leading up to the project, then use that information all at once. They could not determine what info to use and when to use that information.  Overall though, I feel as though most students did ok. I did have one group not turn anything in.

The next project was finding the volume of donuts. It was a small little fun as a reward for the hard work as our weekly days were continuously getting missed with snow and activities.  I ordered donuts from Casey's and students were first suppose to estimate the size of the donuts.  Secondly, they needed to try and measure the donuts as well as possible, then re-estimate. Finally, we discussed what the equation for the volume of the donut. Once we found that information, we used the equation and found our volumes.  I then showed, using sand and a cylinder, how we can visually find the volume of the donut.  It was a waste of a donut but it proved my point.  We discussed why our numbers were a little off and then the students ate the their respective donuts.  All in all, it was a good day and the students seemed to have a little more knowledge on what volume is used for.

My final project was having geometry students find a cylinder or spherical product and ship it overseas (not really).  They needed to find the volume of the product, then identify a box that would fit these products.  From there, they needed to find out how many of their boxes would fit a 40x48" pallet. They also need to find the surface area of the box and identify pricing of ording their boxes.  Finally, the students had to identify the price of a shipping container and see how many pallets they could fit in one to ship overseas. After all was said and done, they had to identify the cost of everything and identify how much they would have to increase the cost of their product to make up for all the shipping costs overseas.  Overall, I felt really good about this project. Some students really took off and enjoyed it, while others thought it as too much work and annoying.  I am going to stay on the positive end though and say it was a success. Some minor tweaks for next year and I think this is a good project for years to come.

Overall, with all my projects and everything done, I believe it went really well. I wish I could have done more.  I was able to do a fair amount of online breakout boxes.  Sometimes those didn't seem to be challenging enough, but for some students, I think it helped a lot.  I still feel as though I can continue to expand on what I do every year and I think i really found my niche with a couple of these projects.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Building Basic Fact Fluency in the Elementary Classroom

Resources for Building Number Sense and Basic Fact Fluency in the Elementary Classroom

Compiled by T. Crow

The purpose of this blog is to share the resources I compiled for building number sense and basic fact fluency in my third grade classroom.  I've found that consistent, varied practice is key to helping students become familiar and adept with basic facts and number patterns.

Sites with helpful resources/links/ideas:

Sites with games/activities for students to directly use via iPads/laptops:

Helpful YouTube videos my students enjoyed and used often:

Please note that there are many more videos available.  Jack Hartmann, in particular, has many, many videos that you may find useful.

To gauge fact fluency progress, I administered basic fact timed tests periodically (I've found that occasional use is better than overuse, however.).  I used the following online chart creator to make line charts so my students could see their progress over time:

Here is a great online random number generator I use when having the kids practice doubling numbers and adding one, two, and ten to numbers:

A great print resource to use is Mastering Addition and Subtraction by Susan O'Connell and John SanGiovanni. Click here for more information about this book and other print resources.

Math-Aids.Com has an easy-to-use random math fact worksheet generator to create worksheets for practicing fact skills such as adding doubles, doubles +1, doubles + 2, etc., as well as subtracting one, two, and three from a number. Click here to utilize this site.

If you have iPads for your students to use, here are a couple of apps to try with your students, which my students enjoyed and used often:

I hope you find these resources to be useful and effective in your classroom!