Tuesday, March 26, 2013

KinderWriting: A Balancing Act

My colleague, @beckyannlea, and I worked recently to create a rubric to assess the writing progress of our kindergartners.    We wanted to be sure to give value to a child's ideas and illustrations as well as written letters/words.  We wanted to approach writing as a progression rather than focus on individual skills.  We wanted to keep our goals developmentally appropriate while keeping our expectations high - which can be quite a balancing act!  We also wanted to create a tool that allowed for formative assessment rather than just summative.

As we prepared to make this rubric, #KinderChat was the venue for many discussions about writing in kindergarten.  @bluskyz even hosted a campfire chat on it!  Ultimately, one of our main sources came to us via #KinderChat.  @Learningmurd shared a rubric created by Adrienne Gear, author of Writing Power.

We studied the work of many different authors as we researched and created our rubric. We specifically referenced Linda Dorn and her Kindergarten Scoring Guide for Writing Proficiency in Interventions that Work.  If you are familiar with either of these authors, Adrienne Gear or Linda Dorn, our rubric may seem familiar as it is based heavily on their work.  There are even portions where we used their wording because they put it so well.

I'm a little nervous to put this out for everyone to critique as I feel a bit protective of it and quite vulnerable - like I'm putting a little of my heart and soul out for you to pick over.  I know, however, it is important that I consider perspectives beyond my own.  I appreciate any feedback you would be willing to give.  Kindergarten teachers, do you think we kept our expectations developmentally appropriate and balanced?  First grade teachers, do you think our expectations are appropriate to ensure our students are ready for first grade?  Other educators, what are your thoughts?  Thank you for your time!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

From Math Misery to Math Mania

Teaching is learning.  There is no way around it.  With every lesson I teach, I learn something about myself, something about my students, or something about the world around me.  I would love to be a perfect teacher who always makes exactly the right decisions and always chooses the best way to teach every lesson to every child, but I never will be.  Thank goodness I am given the opportunity to learn everyday!  I won't ever be perfect, but I will be better than I was.

Math has provided me with countless moments of learning this year.  Our district is looking for a new math series so we piloted one this year.  Beginning a new series always has a few bumps in the road so, although things started rough, I tried to be optimistic and look for the good in the series.  However, the further down the road we got, the more I hated teaching math.  My students did not enjoy "math time," which, I'm sure, was a reflection of my excitement for it.  In contrast, however, we did enjoy moments when math naturally integrated into what we were learning during other times of the day.  We enjoyed surveying the class and making graphs.  We enjoyed acting out word problems and greater than/less than situations.  We enjoyed singing math songs and learning through music.  It wasn't "math" that we hated, it was the way I was teaching math that wasn't working for us.

A few weeks ago I discovered the treasure chest of kindergarten teaching, #KinderChat.  I had several conversations with kindergarten teachers who love teaching math (@tori1074, @ryflinn, @CaraSJohnson, @learningmurd, and others).  We talked about fun and engaging ways to address the Common Core State Standards while promoting creative thinking and problem solving.  These amazing teachers inspired me.  More important than anything else, these conversations caused me to raise the bar on my teaching.  I had to put the fun back into math in my classroom.

Using our pilot series as a resource, I have changed the structure of the lessons.  Rather than having four worksheets to get through each day, our math time allows for inquiry and experimentation.  We use our "Math Mouths" to talk about our learning.  We now have math station time, mini-lessons, and small groups.  Since we already had literacy stations in our routine, we needed to think of something different to call their math counterpart.  The class offered up many great options and ultimately voted to call our math station time "Math Mania," which I think is perfect.  Rather than dreading math everyday, my students come in looking forward to it and asking about it.

As we conclude the third quarter this week, I look back on this year and think, "Thank goodness I am given the opportunity to learn everyday!  I'm not perfect, but I am better than I was.  Tomorrow, I will be even better!"