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I am back! Sorry it has been so long since I have blogged.  Let me just say that life got in the way.  I have returned to work again this year after a bit of a family medical emergency.  Do not fear.  Everything should just be fine.  Was it the way I wanted to start the year? No, but it is what it is.  I am now getting back to a routine and we are moving right along.

I thought I would start in with a book that our school is reading.  We are, yet again, a LAPS school.  I will not lie…I am sick of this.  I also really work hard at my job.  I know many people that do! With the way education is changing we are starting to feel defeated.  I will talk about that another time.  I just know that myself and others in my building would love some help!

As part of our improvement plan, we have to read this book and we will be discussing it.  Actually, we are supposed to be discussing it in our team meetings. Please do not get me started on those!  I have not had the opportunity to discuss it with my team, but I have discussed what I have read with other teachers and staff in my building.

This is a book that you may want to read.  I will admit that I did start this book while on my mission trip.  I then finished it before the year started.  I am now reading it again to refresh my memory.  I think being in a school while reading, it helps. This summer I was not in school mode :-). It does seem dry at times, but it also makes sense.  Here is what I have taken away from it so far.  PLEASE BE ADVISED – I am reading it slowly this time and diving deeper into the text (what we now call close reading and being reading detectives 🙂 ).

Things I learned and am thinking about from the forward, introduction, and chapter 1:

First – I loved this quote: “If there’s teaching going on, but the students aren’t learning, is it really teaching?” – I really want you to think about that.  It makes sense! I think that so many are just looking at pinterest and saying wow great idea, or I am going to do that.  It may look like teaching – but is it teaching or fluff?  How do you know the students are actually learning?  I don’t know – that quote just stuck out for me.  I have it written on a sticky note and will be bringing it up for discussion 🙂

Second – Data driven instruction has 4 key principals. 1:  Assessment that is rigorous and meaningful.  2:  Analysis where you look at BOTH strengths and weaknesses. 3:  Action – do something proactive using the data. Teach effectively what your students need to learn. 4:  Culture – we need to create an environment in which data-driven instruction will survive and thrive. Quite honestly, this brought back the conference I went to in Georgia.  I know that I blogged about this before my mission trip. If you are interested read those blogs.

Third – This book reminds me of the backwards design theory.  We tend to look at assessments as the end.  This is not true.  Assessments are not the end of the teaching and learning process, they are the starting point.  As teachers, we need to look at and design effective assessments. Then, we use that assessment to design our lessons. Make sure that your assessments given throughout the year also include material they learned earlier.  Think of this as spiral learning. BRILLIANT! This way the students will keep remembering and practicing those skills.

Fourth – what I like about this book is that it talks about how we are so focused on state assessments. Yes, they are important, but do they really give us valuable information?  Unfortunately, they do not.  By the time we get the information back, those kids have already moved on.  Too much time has gone by.  What everyone needs to remember is that your state assessments that are given once a year, usually at the end, are not the END ALL BE ALL of your students.  You need to use a variety of assessments.  This is especially true with all of the testing mumbo jumbo going on (that is all I am going to say about that 😛 )

Now, how does this apply to me? Well, this year I have tried to be optimistic about our modules.  I am NOT a fan of scripted material.  I am sure those of you that know me or have read my blog know – I am NOT a fan of scripts.  I want children to be creative. I think that with scripts we tend to just create robots. For example, I really feel that math is just strategies.  We need to make them aware of many strategies not just the ones in the modules.  One math problem can be solved MANY ways. However, this year I am making an effort to stick to the modules.  I have done some tweaking! I think as teachers, we always have to adapt the material.  However, I am now using the exit tickets in math.  I have kept them in my data folder.  WAIT a minute – let me correct that….  I have them organized by lesson and thrown in my desk drawer :-P. They will be organized before parent teacher conferences.  However, I do look at them quickly to see who has it, who almost has it, and who needs extra help with a skill.  This is a quick way to assess.  With the ELA, I have done a better job sticking to the modules.  I have to say that I really am enjoying the first module.  The books have some challenging topics.  I KNOW that some parents are questioning the books.  Well, the kids tell me – believe me parents.. your child tells all.  However, I do believe that the books are helping the children to understand that we are lucky where we live.  I am quite sure this will come up during parent teacher conferences happening soon.

With the math – I am making a better effort of doing guided math groups.  We have JUST started this the last few weeks.  I am still in the process of finding materials.  Honestly, I am finding that our module right now deals with multiplication and division, and I have way to many students who are not fluent in addition and subtraction.  Right now my math centers are literally simple addition and subtraction “games”, some multiplication flashcards and projects, and IXL, a WONDERFUL program I will talk about at another time.  Then, I also meet with groups each day at the “teacher table” to work on skills they need help with. This is where you can use your exit tickets, maybe go over work that they missed or struggled with. For my lower group, literally I am working on subtraction with regrouping.  I think you have to teach where they are.

What bothers me about education today? It seems that we are always trying to get the kids behind to catch up and we tend to forget about the ones that are succeeding and can be pushed more.  That is where I am struggling.  Hopefully this book will help!

Well, that is all I have for you! This is just the first 50 pages!  Be warned..I have another 125 to go haha! I am just hoping that we actually have some good discussion. We shall see!

Thanks for reading! Are you reading any educational books or articles? What are your thoughts? Please share!