“Giftedness is not what you do or how hard you work. It is who you are. You think differently. You experience life intensely. You care about injustice. You seek meaning. You appreciate and strive for the exquisite. You are painfully sensitive. You are extremely complex. You cherish integrity. Your truth-telling has gotten you in trouble. Should 98% of the population find you odd, seek the company of those who love you just the way you are. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are utterly fascinating. Trust yourself!”

Linda Silverman~Gifted Development Center Denver

Friday, 25 January 2013

Report Card Comments & a FREEBIE

Let me start off by saying although it has been crazy busy for me at work and in my home life, I have tried to make time to update my blog each week.  Taking pictures, writing the entries and crafting new FREEBIES helps give me a place to focus all my positive, creative energies!  To that end, I am thrilled to have been chosen for a blog award from We Are Teachers.  I look forward to writing a guest blog entry for them sometime in the upcoming year, and to being a Guest Pinner of the Week on Pinterest!  Being nominated for and winning an award for my blog content has seriously brightened my week!  .

For the past couple of weeks all I have been able to focus on is updating IEPS, writing IPRC review invitations and getting my report cards finished on time.  Although I tend to use similar comments from year to year, I have been trying to update the comments to reflect the increased focus on the BIG IDEAS being taught in my program. I have started to create a comment bank for all areas of the curriculum.   I will try to post updates as the year progresses. The comments included below were created from the Mathematical Process Skills listed in the Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8, Mathematics, 2005.

"Presented at the start of every grade outlined in this curriculum document is a set of seven expectations that describe the mathematical processes students need to learn and apply as they work to achieve the expectations outlined within the five strands. The need to highlight these process expectations arose from the recognition that students should be actively engaged in applying these processes throughout the program, rather than in connection with particular strands. 

The mathematical processes that support effective learning in mathematics are as follows:

• problem solving 
• reasoning and proving 
• reflecting 
• selecting tools and computational strategies 
• connecting 
• representing 
• communicating

The mathematical processes can be seen as the processes through which students acquire and apply mathematical knowledge and skills. These processes are interconnected. Problem solving and communicating have strong links to all the other processes. A problem-solving approach encourages students to reason their way to a solution or a new understanding. As students engage in reasoning, teachers further encourage them to make conjectures and justify solutions, orally and in writing.The communication and reflection that occur during and after the process of problem solving help students not only to articulate and refine their thinking but also to see the problem they are solving from different perspectives. This opens the door to recognizing the range of strategies that can be used to arrive at a solution. By seeing how others solve a problem, students can begin to reflect on their own thinking (a process known as “metacognition”) and the thinking of others, and to consciously adjust their own strategies in order to make their solutions as efficient and accurate as possible. 

The mathematical processes cannot be separated from the knowledge and skills that students acquire throughout the year. Students must problem solve, communicate, reason, reflect, and soon, as they develop the knowledge, the understanding of concepts, and the skills required in all the strands in every grade. "
 (The Ontario Curriculum Grades 1-8, Mathematics, 2005)

I have chosen to use these expectations as the basis of my mathematics reporting because they address the "bigger picture" of mathematical learning.  These processes are deeply connected to the knowledge and skills which all students are learning across the grades. 

I will often include an "e.g." similar to those seen in the comments below.  The examples describe what students have been learning in class during the previous term.  Since the parents will be familiar with work which has come home over the course of the term, they will be able to identify where the content of those "e.g."s (specific skills and concepts) fits into the process expectations. Using this type of comment also allows me to identify student strengths, and help set specific next steps for improvement.

Click on the image above to download you own copy.

Looking for more ways to include assessment practices in your classroom?  Check out this great visual representation of the 4 Levels of Achievement.  You can EDIT the file to make the criteria match your classroom needs.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Portfolios and Self Assessment FREEBIE

Well it's that time around my school.  No, not just the post-holiday diets and blues...but REPORT CARD time!  My school district uses a program which allows us to create our comments and input our marks on line.  This has made some aspects of the reporting process easier, and as long as the software functions properly (which it frequently doesn't when you have 10,000 teachers trying to log on at the same time) writing reports is no longer what it used to be.  

Page 2 of the Ontario Report Card Gr. 1-8

When I first became a teacher we hand wrote all of our reports.  They were in triplicate, with a white page on top , the middle page was yellow and the bottom page was pink.  I remember having to scour the stationary stores looking for yellow and pink correction liquid!   Needless to say, I was loathe to make a mistake!  These days making a mistake is easier to fix, and  I no longer need liquid paper...mind you, 2 bottles of liquid paper and a pen cost considerably less than a computer does!  

Liquid Paper® Stock Color...
I could only find an image of a bottle of  "blue" as the other colours have been discontinued! 

I digress...I was starting to think about reporting today and was looking through the things I had collected in my assessment and evaluation binder as well as my student portfolios.  While I was leafing through, I discovered a form I started using this year which I have found to be a highly effective student self-assessment tool.  Weekly I send things home with my students so they share what they are doing, and how they are improving with parents/guardians.  

 This year I realized that only my comments were going home on the work.   The assignments rarely  included  comments or reflections from the students.  I frequently require that the students use a rubric or checklist to self-assess their own work but I tend to be the one who decides what goes in to the portfolio each month.  

Portfolio Self Assessment Form

This year, I have encouraged the students to take greater ownership of their portfolios, and choose some of the pieces which will go into it.   The students use the reflection form above to explain why they are putting the chosen piece into their portfolio.  They take it home attached to the piece of work, and discuss their reflections with their parents/guardians.  Students then return the form and work to school and place them in their portfolio.  The portfolio is brought out during parent/teacher/student interviews, or when I want the students to reflect on their progress.  This form helps to organize the portfolios, and stands as a record of what the student was thinking at the time they chose the piece.  I also use these forms to assist me in looking for patterns in what the students choose to put into their portfolios.  Often, they only choose their "best" work, so I added a section to the reflection form which asks them to think about ALL the reasons they might include the piece in their portfolio.

Please leave a comment about how you have students choose their work for portfolios, or what you use to have them reflect on their learning.  I would love to hear from you!
Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Linky Parties and Blog Logs

I am forever saying "there are no Canadian bloggers" but I guess I am wrong...I found a post linking me to Making It As A Middle School Teacher's Outside- the-U.S. Blogger Linky Party.  I noticed that there are several other Canadian bloggers already linked up!  This is great!  I will have to spend some time checking out all the local bloggers.

Speaking of Canadian Bloggers (also Middle school) I came across the 2 Peas and a Dog: Middle School Blog Log. It helps you find blogs related to your middle school specialty subject.  I just linked up and you should too!  Make sure you check it out!

Blog Log Button

Friday, 4 January 2013

100 + Follower Giveaway and a FREEBIE!

Well Christmas is over, the New Year Linky Party was a HUGE success! I know you are asking yourself "What have you been doing to keep yourself busy?" I am loathe to admit, I have been doing marking. (Note to self, don't EVER make three major projects due the Friday before the Christmas holidays.)  What was I thinking? I have been teaching long enough to know better.  This lead me to some (not so deep) thoughts and some resolutions...

And,to thank everyone for helping make the Linky Party such a HUGE success I am now going to hold my first EVER giveaway.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you are already a follower...THANK YOU for making my New Year special.  If you are not a follower, please take this opportunity to join in the fun!  You can enter the giveaway in other ways too, follow me on Twitter, or on Facebook, tweet about the giveaway!  I appreciate all the love and support I have been getting!

What about the FREEBIE you ask?  Well, there is a back story to it....so bear with me....While marking, (did I mention I will NEVER do this again over Christmas holidays???) I observed that my students really need to have more exposure to guided language instruction.  I decided to create a plan which combines the forms of writing covered on the "EQAO Assessment of Language and Mathematics" and my classroom instruction.  ( I intend to write a post about that later). While doing some research online, I came across a blog posting which described how some teachers in my school board have been teaching their students to over "APE" (or in my case APEC the construction of extended response answers.  I found this to be an interesting comment, as I have always had great success with my students using the APEC approach.  I stress the word approach, because what I do in my classroom is to teach students HOW to fully answer literature based questions.  I do not encourage them to craft answers in a formulaic or rote fashion.
Needless to say, this blog post got me thinking, (and a little off track of my original research into forms of writing!)
Was there something different I could use along with APEC? I am not willing to give up my successful approach but I am willing to try new things.

This lead me to thinking about what I was doing in January with my class.  As I have for the past few years, I am  going to introduce my favourite novel to the students in January. 

 This novel integrates really well with the grade six science unit "Air and Flight". The students will collaborate in Literature Circles again, and also respond to some specific questions which are structured in a style similar to the types they see on the EQAO Assessment of Language.  For the first few chapters,I usually use APEC to model the questions and answers.  I am fortunate that my students have been using APEC as a scaffold for writing extended responses for a few years now.  I introduced APEC to the staff at my school several years ago, and most have used it with their students. 

Recently, I came across a slightly different method/approach to teaching students how to respond to extended answer questions.  It's called ACE.  I am sure it is not new to most of you...but it IS new to me and will be new to my students.  It will link to their prior knowledge of APEC.  I think my junior level gifted students will be intrigued with the idea of trying to "ACE an ANSWER".   Even I have to admit it's a little more catchy than APEC an answer!

I constructed some simple, colourful posters which I intend to print, laminate and then introduce during the first week back in January while doing some guided and direct instruction in Language.
You can join me in trying this strategy!  Click on the image below for a FREE set of posters. 

Have you used ACE or APE or APEC in your classroom?  What have you observed?  Do the students understand it?  Does it help them respond to questions in a more detail? Share your stories with me.  I would love to hear your feedback!

Classroom freebies