Sunday, August 13, 2017

First Year Teachers...You're Going to be Fine!

Hi All!
So with all the back to school stuff going on, I figured I would write a blog post for those First Year teachers who are starting out this year.
Two years ago, August 2015, I was starting my first year as a teacher.  Not only was it going to be my first year in the classroom but coming from a non-education background, it was my first year facing lesson plans, standards, data, and everything else.  Needless to say, my first week of RTO (returning teacher orientation) as my school called it, I was FREAKING out more and more by the minute. "What were these standards?", "What am I going to plan for the first week?", "How am I going to plan for the year?!"...this was the ONLY thing running through my mind for the first couple of days.
I'm sure most first year teachers feel the same way, so I am here to tell you to take a deep breath because it's going to be FINE!

Here are a few suggestions that I wish I would have known before I started.
1) Take the first day as a chance to get to know your students.  It will not be perfect and your students will be talkative.  You will repeat yourself until you are blue in the face but in the end, your ultimate goal is to start building a relationship with your students and to get them to build relationships with each other.

2)  Don't worry if some of your activities don't go as planned.  That is 100% normal and to be perfectly honest, it will happen plenty of times throughout the year. πŸ˜‰  Just go with the flow of the day and everything will work out.

3)  I will say it again, your students WILL talk.  You might even have trouble getting their attention.  Take those moments to mentally or even physically jot down what is working, what isn't, and which students you can move around.  It took me a couple of days to realize that I would have to move students around just to keep myself sane...and that's OKAY!πŸ‘Œ

4)  Plan on reviewing procedures in the class over and over.  I did this for the whole first week of school.  We reviewed everything from how to close glue sticks to what to do during any and all emergency drills.  This will take time which is why I say...don't worry if you don't get to finish all of your planned activities.  Eventually they will get done and if they don't that's fine too.

5)  Go to your colleagues when you need to.  Ask for help, tips, or information on anything you're struggling with.  If you have a colleague who has been teaching for one year or ten years...remember that they HAVE been in your shoes.  They might have some tips or tricks that may help your first day, first week, or first year run just a little bit smoother.  Working with your colleagues or grade level team will help a lot.  Trust me!

Finally, keep reminding yourself that it is just the first day of school and you have an entire school year to work with your students.  Take it one day at a time and NEVER compare yourself to a veteran teacher.  You WILL get there in your own time.  All that matters is that your students are learning from someone who loves teaching.  Don't forget to put on a smile everyday because you are their role model and YOU will be the reason why your students LOVE LEARNING!

I hope this post has helped you calm your nerves, just a little bit.  You are going to have a GREAT school year!
Designs to Grow Minds

P.S. Here's a quote that helped me and I hope it helps you.😊

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Data Tracking in the Classroom

Are you tracking your students' data in the classroom? If not, you definitely should be!πŸ˜ƒ  It is so great to see the students strive to meet a certain goal and have it displayed in the classroom as a constant reminder.  My first year teaching, I had no idea how I was going to implement data tracking in my classroom.  The only things I did know were that it was a requirement by admin and that it should have some sort of percentage involved.  So, I stuck with the basic percentage, 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%.  Next on my mind was, "Where do I put this?", "How do I design it?", and "How are we going to manage it in the classroom?"πŸ˜•.  Some teachers had bulls eye targets and I even saw some thermometers but I am NOT an artist, so I definitely wasn't going to draw any of that.  Then, my team lead gave me a sample of something another teacher had done for her class.  I printed what she gave me, stapled it onto the wall, and thought..."This will do!".  Well, of course, everything is trial and error...because I spent the rest of the year re-stapling those little signs to my wall.  The clips were just to heavy and the signs were just too low.  I gotta say, I was THRILLED to rip that data wall down at the end of the yearπŸ˜†.  So over the summer, I thought, I need to revamp this idea.  It was so simple but I needed to make it work.  So I made bigger signs, added some motivational quotes and used the dependable binder rings!  
Finally, I had my data tracker.  I placed it in my room along with my standards tracker and it worked AMAZINGLY all year long.  

The way it works.
Our school has three diagnostic tests that the students take.  One at the beginning of the year, one mid-year, and one at the end.  Before the students take the first test, they are initially put on 0%, each with their own clip.  The students write their numbers on their clips as well as decorate them if their clips are big enough.  As soon as we complete the administration of this test, each student creates a goal, one for reading and one for math (so of course, we have TWO data trackers in the classroom).  

The goals were created based on their test results, their weaknesses, and what is needed to be mastered for the specific standard they are struggling with.  After the next test administration, I calculate how far they get with their goal.  For example, if their goal was a score of 195 and they received a score of 193, they would have achieved 75% of their goal.  At this point, we would have a short recognition "ceremony" in class and students are told in class what percentage they achieved and they were in charge of moving their own clips up.  

At first, students do get a little disappointed that they don't reach 100% right away but this is when I stress, this is a year long goal NOT a mid-year goal. There are students that definitely achieve the 100% goal mid-year and this is when we sit down, re-evaluate our goal, and change it up.  When students do reach the 100% I do remind them that with the new goal, there is the possibility that at the end of the year they may go down a percentage. You can also choose to move those students back down to 0% after a new goal has been made, it is definitely up to you, since you know your students best. 

Now, there are always students that don't make any progress at all (most of the times, these were my lovely students that didn't really put any effort into the testπŸ˜‘) and of course, that's when I referred to the positive language on the data tracker.  I always noticed after the first "recognition ceremony" in class, students realized that they too wanted to move up on that chart, so I definitely saw a MAJOR improvement in effort on the last test administration.  

I hope after reading this you'll start some data tracking in your classroom and if you want a little starter go ahead to my FREEBIES and download my Data Tracking Clip Chart or just simply click on the picture in this post! Don't forget to share how you're going to use my Data Tracker in your classroom, I would LOVE to see it in action!!! 

P.S. I would love to know the amazing different ways that you are tracking in your classroom! Go ahead and share them in the comment section! 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

My First Post!

Hey Everyone! Thanks for visiting my blog!  For my first post, I wanted to introduce myself and a little bit of what my blog will be about.  My name is Erika, as you can see in the about me, I am 29 years old and a teacher in Plantation, FL. Two years ago I actually had a career change and decided to go for what I have always loved to do, TEACHπŸ’—.  I went to school and graduated with a Bachelors and a Masters in Psychology, specializing in Behavior Analysis.  After a few years of doing that, in February of 2015, I decided I would just go for it and do what I love.  That August I was stepping foot into my very first classroom. A few months into teaching I started to create worksheets, activities, task cards, and more for my students.  My room neighbor kept telling me to try out TpT, not that she was a seller, but she would always tell me that what I created (which she always got a copy of πŸ˜‰) she would have gladly paid for.  So, in January, I made the jump.  I've been selling on TpT for a little over a year now and I have loved every minute of it.  With my blog I plan to share about experiences in the classroom, teaching tips that I have learned from experience and fellow teachers, as well as my creations.  I hope you enjoy reading along and connecting with me!