Friday, 14 July 2017

Writing Rubrics

Writing is my favourite session of the day so I'm super excited to start using these writing rubrics in the new school term!

Providing feedback to students about their progress towards their goals has always been a vital part of the writing session. It usually happens at the end as part of the 'sharing circle'. This is where students read their work to the class and then I provide feedback about their work.

I decided to work on something to make providing feedback a lot easier. Say hello to Writing Rubrics!

These slips of paper come in two different designs; Checklist and Goals.

The Checklist Version contains a list of key writing goals such as spaces between words, capitals, full stops, hearing, recording and proofreading. I decided to level these rubrics to suit the different needs and abilities of the students in my class. Some students would receive a slip with three basic writing goals and others would receive one with five writing goals. The slips vary in the range of skills covered. When marking work, the slip is attached to the page and students receive a tick/stamp in the star for each goal demonstrated. I have made the checklist visual so that students can see and understand each point.

The goals version contains a "big picture" writing goal and then visual representations of other writing skills. Just like the checklist version, the slip is attached to the piece of work. Students receive a tick/stamp in each box that was demonstrated.

As you can see from the pictures, this makes marking and providing feedback easier. Students are also more likely to understand the feedback because it is very visual. These slips allow parents to see their child's progress and what skills they are working towards.

Like what you see? My Writing Rubrics can be found here.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Using Goals in the Classroom

I'm so excited to share this post! I've had the photos for ages all ready to go, but haven't really had the time to put this together...until now :)

"Student Goals", "Student Targets" you've probably heard these two terms thrown around a lot. It can be overwhelming having to incorporate this into everything else that we need to do as teachers. Maybe you're thinking "I don't have time for that!" or "Where on earth do I start?! HELP!". Guess what? It's super easy and will help keep you on track of your data and reporting requirements. Win!

Here is how I have successfully incorporated Student Goals in my classroom for the past two years.

#1 Bump it Up/Data/Goal Wall
These walls have multiple names but pretty much run on the same idea with minor variations. I have a wall for Numeracy, Reading and Writing.

The goals are all written in child-friendly language while still using the technical terms from the syllabus/continuum. Reading and Writing Goals are self-paced, meaning students move to different goals based on their needs and progression. There is no one set path that students progress in.

My Numeracy wall follows the same concept, however, there is a set progression.

I love my Goal Walls as it means that when I'm working with students I can simply look at the goals to see what they are specifically working on. These walls also come in handy during data and reporting time as I can refer to them to help me plot where my students are as these walls are constantly updated.

Added bonus; Students love moving their names from goal to goal!

You can find my Reading, Writing and Numeracy goals by clicking on their names :)

#2 Goal Cards
When working with students in Numeracy, I used to send home their target numbers on a post-it note in the hopes of their parents seeing it and then asking them to identify and count to the number. Only I realised that it wasn't very effective as my students are constantly taking home random pieces of paper and it was getting lost amongst all those. So I decided I needed something a bit more "official".

Goal cards to the rescue!

I had positive feedback from parents about these cards. They were happy be constantly informed about their child's progress and they used the cards to work with their child on what they were working on in class. I noticed a quicker progression as students were going home and working on what we had worked on in class. Yay!

Based on the success of the Numeracy Goal cards, I decided to branch out into other areas.

These cards are not just limited to sending home, you can stick them on desks, use them at rotational activities and clip in books!

With the letters and sounds cards, I stuck them on student desks and turned it into a game. If they can read or identify any one of their target letters they get a point for their table. This has become one of my class' favourite games and it's something so simple! It's also a great way of dismissing students to recess and lunch.

Another way of using goal cards is to clip them to workbooks. This serves as a visual reminder while students are working and eliminates the problem of having to flick through pages to find student work!

Goal cards are not just limited to academics, they can also be used for classroom etiquette. I use them for desk tidiness, chairs and following instructions.

Goal Cards are easy to use and set up. The numeracy, sounds and sight word cards are done in large batches and are updated as the need arises. The writing and etiquette goals are laminated and re-used.

My Individual Goals Card pack can be found here.

#3 Behaviour Goals
My school follows a PBIS/PBL System. So rules and behaviours are defined as being Safe, Respectful and Responsible.

I incorporated Behaviour Goals into my morning routine. These goals are based on the school expectations and use language that is used across the whole school. I change these once most of my class has demonstrated these behaviours on multiple occasions.

My Behaviour Goals can be found here.

Having goals displayed to and referred to on a daily basis has definitely strengthened my abilities as a teacher and helps drive my program so that it targets individual needs. Students are more aware of their learning and what they need to do in order to be able to progress.

I hope this post has inspired you and given you some ideas to try out in your classroom. For all things goal related click here.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Setting Up Classroom Rules and Expectations

Setting up classroom rules and expectations is an essential part of everyone's 'Back to School' routine. A classroom environment with clear expectations will help your year run smoothly and save you a lot of headaches!

For the past two years, I have set up my expectations in an explicit way which teaches students the expected behaviours for each. I love this system because I find it's very easy to slip into the trap of throwing phrases around such as 'Please work safely', but do students really know what that means? Unless we teach students how they can demonstrate this behaviour, then we can't expect a change or expect them to demonstrate it.

Here are 3 tips for setting up your classroom expectations;

1. Positively Worded Expectations
Expectations are set up in a positive way in an affirmation format. Positively worded phrases help establish and maintain a positive classroom environment. Rule reminders are easy; "Remember, in our class we listen to each other". I have these hung up on my 'Super Students Wall' for easy reference.

Find this here

2. Explicit Teaching - Teach expected behaviours
For each expectation, I made up a social story, which explicitly explained the ways in which students can demonstrate these expectations. Here's an example from 'We listen to each other'.

Find this here.
Students are given examples of what they need to be doing in order to be listening; they need to wait until someone has finished speaking, look at the person, keep their body still and think about what is being said. While we might think these are basic skills that they should already come to school with, we cannot assume that this is true. Each student is different and comes to school with different experiences. Teach what you want to see!

Here are some examples from the other expectations;

Find the bundle, here.

When introducing these, I focus on one expectation a day. It becomes our behaviour goal and I remind students that I am looking for students who can do it. When I see students demonstrating the behaviour, I give specific feedback e.g. "I like the way you are moving safely by walking to the floor" or "I like the way you are taking turns by giving the toy to _____". Children love praise/acknowledgment and you'll find that other students will start doing the same in order to receive the praise too.

3. Ownership
Giving students ownership is important too. An activity which builds ownership is student booklets.
Students can colour and decorate to make the booklet their own. They can be kept in chair bags, tote trays or book boxes for when they need to be referred back to. Alternatively, they can be taken home to be read and discussed with parents.

I like using these books during reflection time. Ask students "What do you need to be doing?" "What can you do next time?".

These three things should help ensure your classroom runs smoothly. Remember, expectations shouldn't just be a start of the year thing. They should be referred to as often as the need arises. If you want to see something, teach it!

I hope this post has inspired you in setting up your classroom expectations.

If you are interested in the bundle, you can find it here. It includes 7 expectation booklets and 7 student booklets.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Name Activities for Beginning of the Year

I can't believe it's 2017 already! For Australian teachers, this means that there is now only 3 weeks until the start of the new school year! Where oh where did the time go?

I've been starting to prepare some new activities to start the year off. One of the essential centers in my room for the first few weeks is a name center. Some students come to school already knowing how to spell and write their names, but a majority do not.

One of the activities that I've been using for years is the typical "trace and write" which involves students tracing their names and then having a go at writing it themselves. This is done on a laminated paper with a whiteboard marker.

This activity is great for students practising the motion of writing. However, I wanted something different that would target letter recognition and spelling. So I created these activities...

Caterpillar Names

In this activity, students build their name by finding the letters on their name card and putting them in order.

Letter recognition, text direction AND spelling targeted in the one activity. Win!

You can find this activity here.

Ice Cream Names

This is the same concept as the caterpillar game. However, students are building an ice cream from top to bottom. Once they have checked that their name is spelled correctly, they can place the topping on their ice cream.

You can find this activity here.

The best part about these two activities? They focus on the same skill but because they have different pictures, your students won't get bored of them!