Friday, September 30, 2011

UHM Documents

 I have had some requests for my homework notes to parents.  I was unable to upload to Google docs, so here is a screen shot of the paper I sent out the first six weeks.  I plan to slightly alter it each 6 weeks by increasing minutes of reading, length of the letter, and spelling choices.

WBT Intern, 2011-12

Saturday, September 24, 2011

This and that...

Super Improvers Wall
I put up my Super Improvers Wall about 2 weeks ago.  It is so different from any other reward system I've used, but it makes so much sense!

-It's free and easy.
-Simply adding a couple of stars really motivates the students.
-As with all things WBT, the teacher has control to manipulate the wall to create anticipation and encourage all students.
-I love how the challenging students have even more of a chance to earn stars, and "alphas" also have to work hard to improve themselves.

I can't wait for the first students to reach the photo level!!!  Check out the webinar on the Super Improvers.

Smoothy Bumper Planet
I printed the Smoothy Bumper Planet on 11 x 17 paper with the Number Towers on the back.  I like the bigger size so that we have room to work on things like number patterns.  I've ordered some transparent counters to use on the charts.

For the first time I'm using the Number Towers.  I'm realizing that it is very helpful in teaching my 2nd graders to count beyond 100.  They learn the pattern of the ones, tens, and hundreds.  I pulled a small remedial group to count with me while the others counted with their partners.  The free ebook can be downloaded on the website.

Universal Homework Model
As we were counting the total stars for the week one lovely student called out, "I wish we could do homework on FRIDAY!"  :-D 

WBT Intern, 2011-12

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

UHM Update

The 2nd week of the Universal Homework Model went even better than the first.  Here is a list of positives I noticed:
  • Turning in HW and tallying stars took about 5 minutes or less each day.
  • The class gets to practice math skills while tallying the stars.  They have a vested interest in adding, skip counting, and graphing when it relates to homework stars!  Later in the year I may even have them calculate the stars themselves.
  • Coach B's prediction came true!!!  Students actually asked for FOUR STAR HOMEWORK!
  • Students asked, "How many more stars do we need to earn 3 minutes?"  That fit PERFECTLY with our subtraction lesson.  It is important to them, so they actually care and pay attention.
  • Mind Soccer was better this week.  I took more control and volleyed the ball back and forth.  I love how it leaves them wanting more!
Something else I noticed:  It's harder to earn enough stars when the stomach bug hits the class and many students are absent.  I considered lowering the goal...but no, let's use the  absences to motivate the others to work harder!

WBT Intern, 2011-12

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Universal Homework Model

This week I began implementing the Universal Homework Model.  The UHM allows students flexibility on the homework they complete each night because they get to CHOOSE how much they do!  It is also easy on the teacher!

According to the Model Classroom Handbook (which can be downloaded for free), homework should include:

1.   Free reading for at least 20 minutes
2.   Increasing reading fluency with a reading speed exercise
3.   Increasing math fluency with a math speed exercise
4.   Recording results for 1-3 in a homework log
5.   Recognizing significant improvements

I made it work for my classroom by deciding on the following.  See my HW checklist on the left.
One Star Homework: Do a spelling activity and practice math facts.
Two Star Homework: 
Do a spelling activity, practice math facts, and read for X minutes.
Three Star Homework: 
Do a spelling activity, practice math facts, read for X minutes, and write a letter to your teacher about the book you read.

After I introduced the UHM my students explained it to each other using the teach-ok. They were excited to start having homework!  It was cute to hear how they planned to schedule their week and decide how many stars to do on each day.

The class tallies the stars earned each day.  The number of stars earned determines the number of minutes the students get to play Mind Soccer on Friday.  On the spur of the moment, I decided to draw a simple graph on the board to visually represent the number of stars the class needs to earn.

While it would be wonderful if everyone did 3 star homework every night, it really doesn't bother me in the least if they don't.  Why?  Because if they simply study spelling and math facts each night, I'll be a happy teacher.  I can't wait to see how this impacts our math data!  If they do 2 star homework and read for fun beyond the 20 minutes we do daily in the classroom, I'll be thrilled!  If they choose to practice their writing by writing me a letter, that is awesome!

I did have a couple of challenges, but that is to be expected when you do something new.

  • It took a while to tally up the stars each morning.  The students will learn the procedure and it will become easier.  I'm thinking about making a magnetic chart like people do to take attendance but have the students move their name to show 1 Star, 2 Stars, or 3 Stars each morning.
  • A few parents had some questions, which I expected.  It is an unusual way to do homework.  A few of the ESL students may need to be pulled aside next week for a UHM reteach to help them understand the details.
  • It was my first time to play Mind Soccer.  The teacher is really in control of the game and since the class only plays a few minutes, you really have to be on the ball!  The losing team was a bit disgruntled.  We'll work on that next week...
Each 6 weeks I plan to tweak the requirements for each star level.  For example, I will increase the number of minutes should be reading as the year progresses.

WBT Intern, 2011-12

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Practice, practice, practice

The second week of school was a week full of PRACTICE.  I kept reminding myself to practice and not scold.  Boy, is it hard sometimes!  

By the second week of school the class was tired.  The novelty of the first week had worn off and the sleep deprivation from starting school at 7:30 am had set in.  Lets just say....they were not very energetic.  They were not following directions quickly or responding appropriately.  

My first line of defense is the scoreboard.  It is an amazing tool.  According to the +/- 3 rule, neither side should ever be too far ahead so as to maintain the anticipation.  There are some days, like I had last week, where I could have easily had 3 happy points vs. 15 frownie points.  However, I realized that it was important for me to keep the +/- 3 because...
  • it forced me to look for and celebrate positive behaviors.
  • when we were 3 frownie points ahead it gave me a big reminder to STOP and PRACTICE.  Continuing to add to the frownie points wouldn't be very effective.  The class needed time to focus on procedures.  
  • it has the ability to bring amazing energy to the classroom!  Maintain a fast paced volley between Oh Yeah! and the Might Groan and it draws the stragglers in.
Here is a little look at my scoreboard- its not pretty, but it serves its purpose and gets plenty of use!

Here are some ways that we practiced:
  • We reviewed proper procedures using Mirror.  (You should have seen my "How to wash your hands" lesson!  We mirrored, taught, non-exampled, exampled, and then actually practiced at the sink!)
  • Students taught their partner procedures using Teach-Ok.  (They told their partner many times what to do when the teacher says "Class".)
  • We pretended in order to offer practice opportunities.  (Pretend to talk to your partner....."Class, class, class!"...."Yes, yes, yes!")
  • We did things over, and over, and over again.  ("Page 32....I don't hear any voices, we need to practice again!  Page 32."   "Page 32, page 32, page 32," as they open their books quickly.)
  • Students modeled the wrong way and the right way.
I know that we will continue to practice as needed ALL YEAR LONG.  But I also know that intensive practice now will produce a smoothly run classroom later and a very happy teacher! :)

Check back soon!  I can't wait to tell you more about our new line up procedures and the Universal Homework Model!

WBT Intern, 2011-12