Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Today's Main Events

8:00 Virtual Math Talk with small group of students: Fraction, Mixed # Addition & Subtraction
10:00 Two Truths and a Lie Game and Class Meeting with my Homeroom
11:00-12:00 Lesson planning, response
12:00 Lunch break
1:00 Virtual Math Talk with small group of students: Fraction Values
Late afternoon: touch base with family members, prepare dinner, engage in some entertainment i.e. games, reading, genealogy research, movies. . . . .

Teaching Math Virtually

With students at home, it is my goal to continue to support their math learning. Yet, how do I do that without the typical staffing and supports?

This is the challenge many educators are facing during COVID-19.

I have decided to explore this problem in a number of ways.

Online Math Practice
There are seemingly limitless math practice sites online. This is positive. My students are accustom to using IXL, Symphony Math, and Khan Academy on a regular basis. I've encouraged students to continue this practice with the goals of finishing Symphony Math first, then completing grade five on either Khan Academy or IXL. If needed, I offer students one-to-one and small group support via email or small group coaching. What is positive about this practice is that students may do it on their own and there are videos and other supports on each program to help students out.

Deeper Learning Menu
I have also created a deeper learning menu that takes students step-by-step into deeper learning with concepts that have been introduced, but not explored with depth. This deeper learning menu includes watching short videos, taking practice tests, taking tests, and engaging in related projects. Students may take the tests and practice tests as many times as they would like. Each time they can see their score as well as the correct answers if they got an answer wrong. The scores don't count, but the goal is to work on the topic until you get a good score which shows you have a good understanding of the content. The projects are deeper and provide students with multiple options of exploring the topics and showing what they know in creative ways.

Small Group Math Talk
Each student is invited to two small group math talks a week. The focus of each math talk is open ended problems to explore, solve, and discuss together. Each problem has been presented on an interactive Google doc "white board" - which is simply a Google doc or presentation where editing privileges have been opened up to the group so they can color, draw, or write on the document as we solve the problems together. The goal is to engage students in discussions about the deeper learning aspects of the content which also gives students the opportunity to practice using mathematical thinking and language. Each activity has an extension that students can follow-up with if they would like. I've tried to make the extensions engaging and fun to deepen their understanding and extend their playful math learning time.

All of the learning opportunities are open to all to review and utilize on a grade-level learning menu with links. Family members are welcome to join in and participate in any activity. Special educators, teaching assistants, and other staff members are also invited to join the activities to help out.

This menu offers me considerable opportunity for professional learning too as I carefully listen to and observe students' efforts and try to respond with positive support and tailored follow-up activities. Thanks to our shared teaching model at fifth grade, I am able to focus deeply on math education while my colleagues focus deeply on other subjects.

So far, so good. I'll continue to develop this practice with the objective to deepen math engagement and understanding now and better my understanding and lessons for the future too. Onward.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

COVID-19: The Teaching/Learning Week Ahead

Today I'll prep a better space for at-home teaching and learning.

I've located a cozy corner in the den with plugs and a narrow shelf. I have a small desk and old office chair upstairs that I will move into this corner. I may even find or make a small inspirational poster to place behind the desk and I'll collect a number of pencils and markers to have on hand should I have to demonstrate a concept on paper. Mostly, I've created a number of Google doc "whiteboards" that I'll use for teaching--I can create and color tables, use the draw feature, and even ask students to write, color, and draw too if desired on these documents.

The lessons, in general, will follow a similar pattern. I'll greet children as they log in.

After that, I'll take attendance and check off the names at the top of the lesson Google document "white board." I will also remind students of the supplies they need for the lesson which are paper, pencils, and markers, crayons, or colored pencils. And, I will invite them to open up the Google doc on a separate window so they can work on the document with the small group. (I've created open share w/editing privilege on the lesson documents)

Then I'll review the lesson order:
  • Present the problem
  • Call on people to answer questions and add to the discussion
  • Time for more questions and a review of the optional extension. 
I will review the lesson protocols too:
  • Mute your mics
  • When I call on you, unmute your mic and answer the question or say "pass"
  • If you have a question, unmute, and politely say, "This is (name), I have a question."
  • Patiently wait your turn if many students have questions.
Then we will begin the back-and-forth lesson/math talk. Each lesson reviews a concept students have been introduced to with a goal of deepening their understanding of the concept as well as their ability to break down math problems into manageable chunks with tables, models, algebraic expressions, and equations. 

Each lesson is planned to last about 45 minutes. Each student has been invited to two small group math meetings this week. I have found that the small group meetings give more children a chance to ask questions, share their understanding, and participate in the lesson. Typically a teaching assistant or special educator joins me at these virtual meetings and that is very helpful.

My new teaching week has the following expected routine:
  • 8 - 12: meetings, prep, and planning
  • 12-1: lunch break
  • 1-2: more meetings, prep, and planning
  • 2-3 and various other times during the day: more planning, prep, and response to requests and emails. 
It will be a full week of teaching and learning. My overall objectives during this teaching/learning week include the following:
  • Positively engage students in math conversation and problem solving
  • Make time to connect with each student with a positive greeting and time to ask them if they have questions or concerns that I may be able to answer and support.
  • Develop my ability to teach, learn, and connect virtually.
  • Develop my ability to engage students in math talk in a meaningful, engaging, standards-based way.
  • Continue to strengthen the fifth grade made teaching/learning community  by fostering these discussions as well as students daily independent practice online and offline
I am happy to have a schedule to follow. However, like so many today, there's a bit of worry that I will get the coronavirus or that someone close to me will come down with the illness. If that happens, everything will change. I know that the families, colleagues, and students I work with have that potential too as the numbers continue to grow in Massachusetts so I know that I have to be ready to be flexible and respond accordingly. 

Let's see how the week goes. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Thinking about the virtual side of teaching and learning

As we leap into the world of virtual teaching and learning, I believe that we are all noticing some bright sides to this as well as the many limitations that exist.

Clearly, virtual teaching and learning does not live up to the rich teaching/learning programs we can provide in real time with colleagues and students. Yet, as we engage in this way of teaching and learning, there is a lot to learn.

What am I learning during this time?

Teamwork Matters
Our grade-level team has worked together for years now to strengthen our team approach to teaching fifth graders. During this virtual learning time, that teamwork has been a clear advantage. Everyone on our team represents a different scenario during this time, and we are able to support one another's situation with a "divide and conquer" mindset with regard to serving all the students. We all have different capacities during this time, and we are maximizing that differential to serve students and families well.

Virtual Classroom
Over time we have worked on creating a "virtual classroom" which is a website that includes almost all the information and links that support our grade-level teaching/learning efforts. This has been a terrific resource to have during this distance learning time and remains a terrific resource when we are teaching and learning at school too.

Online Learning Menu and Independent Learning
We begin the school year by introducing students to the "virtual classroom" website, online learning, and independent learning mindsets and behaviors. This practice has helped us during this virtual teaching/learning effort and makes me want to do it with even greater depth and commitment next year as we begin the year. To help students understand how to learn on their own with a positive, can-do mindset and behaviors supports good learning wherever and whenever students are learning. During our virtual class meetings and conversations, independent learning mindsets and behaviors have been a positive common ground for the learning community of students, educators, and families

Choosing the Best Online Resources
Our system has a large number of very positive learning resources that students are used to using. This has been a good foundation to fall back on as we teach virtually. As educators, we can log in to see students' progress on these venues. While they don't replace the time-on-task with students, they do offer some good practice and learning. Continuing to choose, curate, and connect on how and when we use resources like this is a positive momentum for optimal teaching and learning.

Collegial Meetings
A few meetings weekly help us to keep the momentum going, but too many meetings are tiresome. There's a just-right quotient for this.

In addition to the energizing affect that seeing the students has on my work at home, I am also inspired by the need to respond creatively to this pandemic. Once I coached myself through the initial worries about imperfection, error, and change that supporting students virtually birthed, I was able to embrace the situation as a creative endeavor, one in which I'll try out a number of venues with colleagues to see what works best. For example, yesterday a colleague and I coached a small group of math students on fraction values using a Google document as a presentation board. I set it up so that we could move the fraction values into the right spaces. The example below shows the board, but doesn't provide the "move around" or edit opportunity that teachers and students have. I also played Fraction Bingo with students. After the lessons, the special educator who joined me and I were able to discuss the merits of both lessons. That conversation and critique informed the creative process that I'll use with next week's small group math talk problem solving lessons. In each lesson, students and I will discuss the many ways to solve open-ended, standards-based problems. For each lesson, I created a Google doc "whiteboard" to use as the focal point of discussion. I also added an enjoyable extension to each lesson that children can do on their own if inspired. The extensions included making marble mazes and play dough, and plans for their ideal room layout.

We are all learning a lot as we embark on a brand new situation and as much as possible we have to coach ourselves forward with positivity in the weeks that follow. This won't be perfect, but we'll learn a lot if we are open to it. Onward.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Catapulted into the Virtual World: COVID-19

COVID-19 has catapulted most people into the virtual world. Who would know that we would be prompted to leap when it came to our tech skills, but whether you like it or not, almost everyone is learning a lot about technology these days as we are restricted from our typical days that include lots and lots of social interactions.

As far as my life goes at the moment, I am trying to build some structure into this unstructured, unimaginable time. To do this, I did the following.

School Schedule
Now that we know we'll be home for another month, my colleagues and I have put some structure into our virtual teaching/learning/coaching efforts. We've outlined each of our roles for each other and the students and families. We have also created a schedule of homeroom meetings as well as protocols for responding to families and students. Further, we updated our weekly learning menu to make it more streamlined and user-friendly, and we added some parameters for when we expect students to complete the assignments if possible. We clearly noted that we realize that in times like these we understand that families' schedules and efforts may be consumed by a large number of situations.

My main role is to focus on my homeroom community with regard to checking in and facilitating homeroom class meetings. I am also in charge or managing the math learning which includes monitoring students' practice efforts, responding to students/family member's questions, and running a series of small group virtual learning opportunities. Next week, I'll work as I do at school from about 8 - 2 with some time in between and after that for lesson planning and student response and review. The week includes a virtual PLC, a virtual faculty meeting, a number of virtual student meets, time for planning and prep, and time to respond to the many questions, comments, and requests families, students, and colleagues pose. I believe I have a good week planned should the week move forward without any unexpected COVID-19 related personal or professional events.

Systemwide leadership is working to provide a bit more structure to our days too, so I expect that I'll have to revise the plans somewhat for next week in response to those efforts. We'll see.

At Home Schedule
The most challenging part of this COVID-19 event so far is the fact that my elderly parents live about an hour away on their own. Yes, I've tried to encourage them to live closer or with me to no avail, and while I would like to drive up to be with them, I don't want to infect them and I don't want to be infected. None of us who are symptomless know if we have the virus or not, and even if we were tested, the fact that the virus is everywhere all around here means that we could not have it one hour and get it the next. Hence, since my parents appear to be doing well, I'm staying in touch and opting to stay home.

At home, we have a good schedule of working during the day, sharing a delicious meal at night, and entertaining ourselves with walks, movies, reading, and more. We're taking it day by day.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020


In many ways, we are walking on eggshells during this COVID-19 event. These fragile eggshells that line our path remind us that everyone is impacted by this event in different ways. For some, they have ill family members. Others are distanced from those they love and care for. Still more are facing layoffs and financial uncertainty. Many too are juggling the needs of work and family at home often without the material and personal supports they typically have to care for themselves, their family, and their work responsibilities. For certain, we are all at a somewhat different place as we navigate the COVID-19 event, and while we need to be sensitive to that, I don't believe that should silence us from sharing our thoughts, doing our best, asking needed questions, and offering suggestions too.

Where am I at this time?

Teaching and Learning
I am learning a lot about virtual teaching, learning, and collaboration during this event. As school teams connect online, we are all navigating new tools to do our best by each other and our students. Connecting with the students is the inspiration that is moving me ahead. They clearly want to connect online, and I want to respond to that need. Hence, with my team, we are trying out a large number of ways to respond to students and families, support students' education, and motivate students to cary on with their learning during this at-home time.

Three family members are home including my college-age son, husband, and me. We have each made specific corners of the house our home-offices, and during the day we are all busy working in our designated areas. In the evening, we generally share a good meal and some entertainment. As for my sons and extended family who don't live with me, I stay in touch by phone and computer.

Elderly Parents
I talk to my elderly parents once or twice a day. My siblings as well as their neighbors have been checking in with them too. Many have dropped off food and other helpful supplies as well. My parents are taking this very seriously and following the good leadership of Massachusetts' Governor Baker and his leadership team. They are impacted positively by the good leadership shown as well as the comforting and helpful communication they are receiving from many.

Our neighbors are also taking the virus seriously. Many can be found outside hiking or biking along the sidewalks and woodsy trails. The fact that they are all taking it seriously, makes it easier for us to do that too.

Since I am a fan of servant-leadership, I am thinking about the ways that I can serve and partner with the families and students I teach and the colleagues I teach with.

Going Forward
If this school closure is going to last, I'm hoping to put a little more structure into my days. That said, I recognize that structure during a pandemic is an oxymoron in many ways since we really don't know what is around the corner. Right now, I think we can predict the numbers of sick/dying to increase for some time and then eventually start to go down. In Wuhan, the event lasted from early December until late March, yet they are still on a lockdown of sorts and are wary of re-infection of the area. If we are going to experience this like them, that means we'll experience this in a big way from now until early July. Hopefully the Governor of Massachusetts, unlike the President of the United States, will continue to consult the experts in this situation as he guides efforts in our state--that will cause less frustration, worry, and illness.

For me, I am going to use this time to focus on ways that I can best support student learning online. I am going to try a number of new ideas with my colleagues to both inspire and teach students. All the ideas I try online are ideas I hope to use offline as well in the future such as today's fraction bingo game and fraction value lesson.

We all have to be cognizant that we are walking on eggshells in many ways these days. We have to be compassionate to the roles and challenges our many colleagues and family members are facing, and we have to do the best we can. Onward.

Virtual Math Lessons: Fraction Bingo

Educators are supporting their learners via online learning. That's a steep learning curve for many of us who are accustom to teaching in classrooms with a large variety of differentiated hands-on learning activities. So how can we meet this challenge?

That's a question educators all over the world are asking now. What can we do?

I jumped into an online math lesson the idea to find the lesson turn into a virtual recess again. I tried to teach too much too soon at a time when students simply wanted to connect with one another and get used to the Google Meet platform we were using. I disbanded the lesson and let the recess continue for a while. Then I reached out to colleagues for advice. They offered great tips including the following:
  • Have an agenda
  • Make sure that everyone mutes their mic
  • Give each person a chance to speak
  • Keep it simple
So today, I'll try another math lesson. Here's the plan.
  1. I placed a link for the Google Meet on the grade-level learning menu.
  2. I introduced the lesson and lesson prep on the grade-level math Google Classroom
  3. I'll start the lesson by introducing the agenda to students including the following steps:
    1. Thank you for coming to this lesson
    2. Mute your Mics
    3. I will call on people to answer specific questions. When I call on your, unmute your mic, then you may answer the question or say "pass." If you pass, I'll call on someone else. 
    4. We'll spend about 15-20 minutes on the lesson, then you'll make your boards, and after that we'll play Bingo. 
  4. We'll review the lesson with an interactive Fraction slide show. I created the show so that I could review a simple fraction concept, then move the fractions to exemplify that concept. There is an example of what the slideshow looks like at the bottom of the page. (it is not interactive in this mode, but it is interactive in the document-form).
  5. Then I'll give students a chance to create their boards, and after that we'll play Bingo. 
Let's see how this interactive online lesson goes. I know families are looking forward to time when their children can engage with learning with their classmates and teachers at a specific time. I hope this responds to that desire. 

Monday, March 23, 2020

Structuring Learn-at-Home Days

This is week two of our learn-at-home weeks. Week one, overall, went well. I think that week two will be better. And the key to that betterment, is to add some structure to the days and the weeks. What will that structure look like?

Daily Reflection, News, and Writing
Similar to the way that I start most school days, I'll start each day with reading, writing, reflection, and watching/reading the news.

Morning Meetings, Prep, and Teaching
During the morning I'll work on prepping teaching materials, meeting with colleagues, and teaching/meeting with students virtually.

Noon News
I like watching the briefings from the state and federal governments when possible to stay abreast of what is happening with regard to COVID-19.

Afternoon Meetings, Prep, and Teaching
Similar to the morning.

Afternoon walk, dinner with the family, more news, and an evening of reading and good shows. 

This weekend I hope to have my parents to dinner. It's been 14 days for me and I've hardly been out so i think I'm free of the virus. No one here is showing any signs. We are really being careful. My parents have shown no symptoms yet. They've been careful too so hopefully we can have this gathering next weekend.

Today's Learning Curve: Virtual Meetings, Learning and Teaching

Today I'll spend most of the day virtual meeting, learning, and teaching. This is a learning curve for me since I have spent almost no time with virtual meeting, learning, or teaching. What will that include?

Professional Learning Community (PLC)
Our grade-level professional team will meet this morning at 9 a.m. to discuss multiple teaching/learning topics. This meeting will include the grade-level teachers, special educators, the school psychologist, principal, and perhaps more.

School Committee Meeting
I'll likely watch the 10 a.m. school committee meeting today to see what they are talking about with regard to this learn-at-home time.

Faculty Meeting
Our entire faculty will meet online at noon to discuss multiple issues.

Online Coaching
I'll coach a number of students via one-to-one meetings today. I did that for the first time last week and it went quite well. The student and I worked together using a Google doc as a shared "white board" to study fractions. I'll do the same with students today.

Planning for a virtual learning future
Virtual learning is here to stay with greater strength. I want to think about when and how this works well as I climb this learning curve today and in the days ahead. It is a bit daunting for me, but every new learning is a bit daunting. Here goes.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

At-Home Teaching/Learning Week Two

Our first week of at-home learning is complete. So far, I've heard no complaints and many families and students have reached out for consult. Next week, I want to use what I learned and take this at-home virtual teaching a bit more seriously. What will I do?

Virtual Collegial Meetings
Two virtual meetings are set up for Monday. That will help me to prioritize how I spend my time teaching from home.

Weekly Newsletter
Each week during the school year, our grade-level team sends out a newsletter. We'll continue that and likely send out a new newsletter on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week to guide our learners.

Learning Menu
Our team created a beefy learning menu with lots and lots of learning options and expectations. There's not a shortage of learning ideas for the children. Next week, I want to zero in on the learning by offering some one-to-one chats with students to assist them with their learning. I will also contact families and students from my homeroom who I have not heard from yet to see how they are doing. Further, I'll comment on students' learning to date with the projects and assignments offered. So many are doing terrific studying online. I've made one main math goal for all and most students are meeting that challenge which brings us together as a team and helps them to solidify past math learning. This is good.

Virtual Class Meeting
We'll have our first virtual class meeting on Tuesday. A parent and child have offered to set that up and I am thankful for that. On Monday, a colleague who has already done that, will offer some suggestions as to how to lead this meeting and how long it should last. I look forward to this, but must admit I'm a bit anxious about it as I have not done that before.

Teaching Space
We have three at-home learners and workers here. My college son is learning remotely in the dining room. My husband is working in the kitchen and living room, and I am working in the den. I'll set up my space a bit better prior to the Monday morning meeting as that will be my office/classroom for the next two weeks at a minimum.

Professional Learning
Most of my professional learning at the moment will be based on learning to manage at-home teaching and academic support with colleagues for students and their family members.

Now that week two of virtual teaching/learning is planned, it's time for the weekend. Onward.

People- and Earth-Friendly Living

The COVID-19 event is giving most people some time to think about what matters when it comes to living in Earth-friendly and people-friendly ways. Clearly, many of us have been on a frantic, too-busy conveyor belt of life. It's important that we make the time now to think about how we might better living for ALL Americans.

Realistic Work Schedules
Life has changed a lot since the five-day work week became a staple for many. I think it's time to make a three- or four-day work week the staple now. Perhaps a good schedule would be three collaborative days on the job, one virtual day, one day for family/personal chores, one day for family/personal fun, and one day for family/personal reflection/study. As I rode my bike around the neighborhood yesterday, I noticed so many happy children and pets. Children thrive with attention and teachers everywhere know that the attention to children has been compromised by parents' too busy schedules and too great job demands. It is time to make time for both personal time and family time as integral parts of everyone's work/home schedules.

Less Pollution
More days to work from home means less pollution from car emissions and other sources. If we focus on making people's homes as sustainable as possible and then implementing schedules that give people more time to work and study from home, we will lesson the carbon footprint and mitigate climate change. This is positive.

Also more time at home, may mean that people have more time to grow their own food and prepare healthy food at home. It may mean that people can live with greater intention rather than rushing all the time.

Stronger, Better Communities
Clearly the United States has to put communities at the center of policy and practice. Strong communities will ensure that people have the basic needs and rights for good living. There is so much more we can do to strengthen communities in ways that make those communities safe, enjoyable, Earth-friendly, smart, nurturing, and sustainable. I will think more on this in the days ahead and likely write a more detailed post later.

American's too-rushed, impersonal, and conveyor-belt lifestyles have compromised good living for so many of us. This situation has also made us pawns in the hands of those with great power and money--that's one reason why President Trump's lying, ignorant, and manipulative rally calls have been popular--people are seeking connection, but without strong communities, they blindly follow the words of self-serving tricksters rather than their own hearts and minds. There is much we can do, and during this challenging time of quarantine for so many, we can think about how to revise society and make it better for modern times and good living for ourselves and the generations that come after us. Onward.

What is your job description?

Words that I want to lead community building at school.
Years ago when I was looking for change in schools, I wrote my own job description. I was prompted to do this since I felt that many of the expectations for my work were outdated, misdirected, or missing. Since that time, there has been substantial change in my work environment, positive change. Yet, a teacher's role and responsibility is still limitless, thus I desire a revised job description, one I will write today to lead my efforts in the months and year ahead.

Online Educator
The COVID-19 event has made me an online educator. Our team has already been using a virtual classroom and learning menus to lead a lot of what we do in school so students have some experience when it comes to learning with online tools and menus. During this time of online educational support, I want to update our resources and build my skill for interactive online learning via virtual tutoring, class meetings, creating online tools, and teaching online. Today I'll set up my work at-home space to support these efforts. Then, on Monday, I'll listen to what colleagues say about this at our virtual team meeting and then later during our virtual faculty meeting. On Monday afternoon, I'll tutor at least young student from my class online as I did yesterday, and then on Tuesday, a parent and her son, my student, will lead the homeroom in a virtual meet-up. Online learning can be very positive, but it certainly doesn't take the place of school where we are coaching and teaching children in real time--the social side of teaching and learning is critical to good learning, and that cannot be replaced altogether by online learning.

Math Teacher
The main focus of my teaching job is to teach fifth graders math. I have a solid curriculum for the current standards. The limitations that exist are time, students' developmental capacity, and long list of deep standards we have to teach. Time is a limitation because students are learning multiple subjects. You could teach math all day in a large array of ways, but that time isn't available because there are many more subjects to teach. Some may respond to this limitation by asking for longer school days, but I don't believe that would make a difference since there's a limited capacity related to children's developmental stage and ability to take in new information. We all can only take in so much of one subject and new learning at a time, and that's true for children too. So if we did lengthen the school day, I would build in some time for math practice and personal/small group coaching, but not a lot of added time for new learning since I think that one-hour a day of new learning in addition to all the other new learning in multiple subjects meets the capacity of most students in the intermediate elementary school grades. The long list of deep standards is both good and not so good. This list is good because most students gain a strong foundation for continued math learning. The list is not so good because it doesn't leave time for some of the rich and engaging math learning games and projects possible. In order to teach all the topics, you have to move through some information fast and without depth or great engagement. If the curriculum were project based, I think we would foster greater depth, engagement, meaning, and commitment to math learning. This year I tried to meet that goal by adding performance tasks to the mix, but I ran out of time to include the performance tasks with the depth and commitment I wanted simply because I needed the time to teach all the standards, give all the systemwide tests, and allow students to practice discrete skills. My job focus now, however, is to teach all standards to all fifth graders with as much success as possible. I want my fifth graders to master the grade-level curriculum with engagement, skill, and strength.

Reading/Writing Teacher
My goal in this area is to follow the lead of my teammates and support their terrific teaching/learning programs in reading and writing. They are both talented reading specialists who lead engaging, successful programs. I love supporting their find leadership and good work with students.

Community Builder
Another big goal of my job as an educator is to create and develop a warm, welcoming learning environment where we regularly work at building a community of dedicated, collaborative, and successful learners together. This includes a substantial focus on social-emotional skills, an engaging menu of varied team building and independent learning experiences, and positive, proactive collegial and teacher-student relationships. This area of school life is paramount to students' lifelong living and learning success.

With regard to the wider school community, my role is to contribute when I can in ways that are positive. In our successful school system, there are many, many opportunities to contribute. The key is to contribute in ways that your knowledge, skills, talent, and interests are positive. There are ways to contribute to the greater educational community to with regard to presenting at conferences, sharing ideas, and political advocacy. I will contribute in those ways if possible, but that is not a main objective of my job description now as now I want to be focused on my grade-level team first, school second, and system third.

Having a good job description truly helps you to do your job well. When the parameters of your job are too vague or limitless, you spend too much time trying to figure out what your job is. That's why it is important to sit down now and then to focus on the priorities of your position. Once you do that, you'll be able to follow that job description towards doing your best and being successful. Onward.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Making fun of teachers' efforts

This morning as I glanced at the news, I found one article that poked fun at teachers' at-home learning menus. As a teacher who did create an at-home, color-coded learning menu, I was sensitive when I read that,  but not surprised. As a teacher, I'm used to being the butt of jokes, disrespect, and criticism as that's a hobby for Americans, some who even are family members of mine.

Yes, a color coded, ambitious learning menu is not ideal. What's ideal is having a terrific learning environment staffed with educational professionals to meet the needs of children with time-on-task engaging activities every day, but during this period of school cancellation, that's not possible. There are clearly multiple other ways to engage students while they are at home, and using a menu approach was one way to connect students to multiple learning opportunities to continue their learning and add some structure to their days.

My team and I thought a lot about our menu and included activities to continue the focus of our at-school learning. We also included lots of other ideas that children and families may find interesting or inspiring. Some teachers are adding virtual meetings, lessons, and coaching too.

So, as I think about this more, I implore news agencies, parents, and others to resist slamming teachers at this time with mean critique and judgement, but instead, focus on supporting your children in ways that matter most to you. Some families will continue their child's education with menus and see those menus as helpful, others may find other useful learning techniques, and there may be some who just let their children play and do what they want. Is there a right answer in all of this? I guess the right answer is to use this time to connect as family members, read, cook, play games, create, and, if possible, complete some tasks suggested by teachers to gain grade-level skills and strength so you're ready when school opens up again.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Don't Get Stuck in the Trump Hole

I turned on the news to catch up on what was going on and it was another White House Briefing. I was tempted to turn it off because those briefings make me yell at the television, crave comfort food, and generally find me researching all the words that appear to be untruths for hours after the briefing. I'm sure if Trump reads this, he'll laugh as he loves to unravel people and squander their time--it's a pastime for him.

So what did I learn today as I got stuck in the Trump hole for hours. I learned, once again, that the reasons I don't like Trump are very clear: he lies, he grandstands, he disrespects, and he pretends to know all in almost every field when it's clear that his knowledge in many fields including the coronavirus are limited.  Step aside, Mr. Trump, and let the experts lead.

Now I know it's not an easy job being President of the United States--a job where you are the butt of constant critique, but all my life, I've seen Presidents treat the job with respect and try to do a fair and just job. No time in my life, did I think a President was out to trick the American people and promote bigotry, hate, and injustice until now. I truly believe Trump's inability to see past himself has made him the worst President in the country's history. It's no wonder the market has crumbled  since it was built on poor policy, backwards ideas, and poor leadership. We can do better.

Message to self is that I'll probably have to turn to the written news and avoid the noon time news since it's likely going to be a Trump rally everyday. I don't want to waste my time on Trump theatrics and mistruths when I've got a lot to do and I could be learning a lot about this virus and current events via multiple other channels online and offline.

We simply  have to elect a new President as soon as possible, and in the meantime, every good person in the know has to continually speak up as Trump and his heinous cronies continue to take apart our good government and replace it bogus policies, cronyism, nepotism, and self-serving actions. Onward.


As we age, we have to be mindful about the fact that we can become outdated.

I was reminded of that recently when I had a discussion with a contemporary in the hallway. Her language was outdated and embarrassing. As I listened to her, I remembered how that kind of talk was common about twenty years ago, but today the kinds of words and phrases she used are considered outdated and derogatory That person has been working in somewhat isolated settings so I'm sure she was unaware of the impact of her words. Since I don't know the person well and will work with her infrequently, I didn't say anything. She didn't harm anyone.

The film, Late Night, is a good reminder about what happens if you don't update your approach as times change and you age. Lately, I've been working on listening more than speaking, observing more than acting, trying out other's ideas rather than just my own. I have liked what I've learned during these new approaches--in a sense, I'm in the process of updating as I watch my my younger colleagues do in multiple situations and let them lead me.

Just today, on social media, an individual made fun of teachers in a way that was condescending and hurtful. The note implied that approaches used by many hard working teachers who work day in and day out with their students was all wrong. I know this person has little day-to-day interface with children, and while his ideas are solid, his approach to change is frustrating. You can't make change by making fun of people or blasting forth your ideas. I myself have tried this approach to little success. Good changemakers know, that the best way to make most change is an incremental approach that includes modeling, risk, sharing ideas, assessment, and presenting the results. Generally good change usually catches on because those changes positively affect lives in doable and manageable ways. It can be overwhelming to listen to preachers of change who speak a lot, but don't help out in ways that make that change happen.

As I consider the forward thinking ideas of the individual who ridiculed many teachers, I am wondering how to make those ideas come alive in incremental way--how can we work for that kind of change? In our own sphere we've inched toward more child-friendly, open, project-based learning endeavor and we've made some progress. Yet, there's more we can do. I'll listen to the many young leaders around me to hear their ideas about this forward movement and hopefully be able to help out.

We all have to continually update ourselves for the world we live in and the people we live with--that's a positive process for good living. A process I want to think more about in the days ahead. Onward.

Learning altogether

I tried to think of a good metaphor to help me navigate the collegial learning we're doing right now as we all seek to support our students' education and take care of one another, ourselves, and our families too.

I think this is a good metaphor--this is like bringing your whole school system up to the top of a mountain, handing each educator a pair of skis and poles, and telling them to head on down the slopes. Imagine what would happen with this group that ranges from experienced skiers to those who have never skied the slopes before. How would everyone react How would you support the skiers at your side and support yourself too. What is important?

To me this is the kind of metaphor I need to remain patient, collaborative, and focused as we chart these new hills together. Onward.

Time to rethink your digital tools and lifestyle priorities

In the early days of online teaching and learning, people were sharing ideas online and in real time regularly. It seemed like almost everyone was learning to navigate these new tools together with countless ideas and a fair amount of freedom. Then, many settled into patterns with a few trusted tools and a number of systemwide or school rules. While some continued to venture into new tech realms, others were satisfied with the tech integration they utilized in their educational and home settings.

The worldwide coronavirus, in my opinion, has reignited conversations about digital learning and digital tools. With so many educators and learners at home seeking to use tech tools to best develop and exchange knowledge, we find ourselves in a ripe environment for innovation and change. How will we react to this?

Online Learning Menu
My first reaction was to join colleagues in my school system in setting up a fairly simple daily learning menu for the students I teach. The menu included all subjects with multiple activities students can engage in to continue the learning. This cannot, and is not meant to, replace the rich daily learning environment we have at school, an environment where multiple professionals including educators, special educators, specialists, therapists, guidance counselors, para professionals, and administrators work together to meet the varied needs and potential of many students in countless hands-on, face-to-face ways. But, this is a good alternative for the challenge we face with the highly contagious coronavirus pandemic.

Regular Contact with Learners
As systemwide educators dive into this new reality with online learning menus, the next challenge is choosing the best ways to stay in touch with our learners and the frequency of contact. Our grade-level team is committed to sending out a weekly newsletter, responding to parent/student email, fostering ongoing online "conversations" and contacting individual students and their families when advantageous. For example, we have a tech program we hope every fifth grader will complete during the school year. I can easily see the stats related to that program and noticed that 43/69 have already completed it, and all but about 10 are still working to complete the program. I contacted the 10 students who have not been active, and asked how I might help them to practice their math each day using that program. As soon as I wrote, about five students started practicing. I'll likely follow up with those that still don't practice with a phone call as I suspect they may be facing some connection issues with their computers, and the system has solutions for that which I'll relay to them.

Providing an Engaging Learning Menu
Systemwide leadership created a document for all educators' learning menus. We have the chance to look at what teachers across the system are doing to support their learners. This share has been helpful because when I look at the other menus, I get some good ideas about how to best support my fifth grade learners. In the weeks ahead, I want to make the menu more interactive and responsive to the students' interests and needs.

Reorganizing websites, learning menus, and files
I'm making the time to re-look at the online tools and files I use. I've sent many companies to spam as my private email has become a haven for unwanted outreach. I also deleted countless documents that have no good purpose anymore. The next step is to place the best of what I've saved online into easily accessible folders and websites. Believe it or not, this is the first time in almost ten years, that I've taken a deep look at all the tech-connected work I've done. So this time at home is a good time to rethink and reorganize that work.

The Future
Since I will retire from classroom teaching in a few years, I want to leave the good work I've created well organized should the person who takes my position wish to use any of the materials. That includes science and math websites with many activities and links that teach the standards. Those will be helpful to a new teacher if well organized and easy to access and use.

I also want to keep some of my best creations on my private file, should I want to write a book or use those materials in another position. My time at home has demonstrated to me that the work I enjoy most is work that helps children, teens, or families learn and accomplish goals that better their lives--I like that one-to-one or small group teaching/learning work that empowers and engages people and helps them to see and develop the wonderful potential they hold for good living and learning. I don't want to manage people or work for money alone, but instead I enjoy being part of something that makes a difference in meaningful and positive ways. So I'll seek that position after I "graduate" from classroom teaching. I will miss the synergy and camaraderie that occurs in schools, but in two years I'll be ready to move on from the tireless schedule and the endless needs that classroom teaching presents--it's a big job that equals about 50-70 hours a week.

In the days ahead, I will be very discerning about the tech I use with and for students. Clearly, some tech venues are invested in developing and improving programs to best support student learning while others are glitzy, but not that valuable.

Building Out: Community Focus
This pandemic has demonstrated the value of strong communities--communities that connect well and support each other in positive ways. I believe that this pandemic has demonstrated to Americans that the school cannot be the hub for healthcare and nutrition, but instead that we have to make schools part of the greater child-friendly community that includes nutrition programs and places, vibrant learning environments, beautiful parks, bike paths, and well-supplied, staffed, and accessible health care agencies and hospitals.

We have to move away from communities where Industry is the king, and instead move towards communities where people come first. We can do this by re-looking at who gets the best properties, buildings, and service--do people get to live in the most beautiful spots or does industry own those areas? I remember that long ago I wrote a fictional story about a city saving the best lands for schools so students could learn in beautiful places. I would still like to see this happen. I would like to see community development put people's needs, services, interests, and potential at the center rather than mostly focusing on those with big money. Yes, we need an economy and have to support businesses big and small, but not at the expense of not serving all people well. We can do bother, and I am committed to that.

The Days Ahead
So in the days ahead, I'll nurture and work with the communities that I belong to including my school community, family community, and neighborhood community. I'll update the learning menu, respond to students' efforts, and "converse" with colleagues, students, and their families via online documents and venues. I'll organize my home, plant seedlings, and do some yard work. We'll enjoy good movies, healthy meals, music, games, reading, and outdoor activities while respecting and partaking in the advised social distancing.

Later On
I'm planning a couple of road trips when this passes. One will be to visit my son who lives in The South and another will be to travel north to some of my favorite forested and seashore spots. I'm also planning to partake in a beautiful wedding ceremony that is planned for just after we believe stage one of the pandemic will pass. Those are bright lights to work for and plan for as we shelter-in-place during this unusual, unexpected, and challenging time.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Coronavirus Event Reflections - March 16, 2020

If there were no coronavirus event, I would be writing the day's schedule on the white board right now as I readied for a day that included a school assembly, lots of math teaching, and a reading lesson too. Instead, like most Americans, I'm working from home, listening to the news, and prepping a schedule for the day's activities. Also, like most Americans, I have that cloud hanging over my head that wonders if I'll get the virus, if family members will get the virus, and if anyone I love will be compromised greatly by this contagion. I find that having a good plan for the day's activities is the best way to counter that worry cloud.

Before students left school last Thursday, we introduced them to a learning menu. When I look at online stats, I can see that almost every child has been working on those practice tasks--that makes me happy as that helps children to continue the learning we've started as they reach for specific fifth grade learning goals. Once we hear from the system administration about next steps, then we'll contact families and students again about an updated learning menu and expectations.

Today I'll check in on my parents and siblings, start my vegetable garden seedlings in the sunny window, and likely go on an outdoor walk with my husband. I shopped for food for healthy meals so I'll likely cook a chicken today and then use the leftovers to make a good soup for tomorrow.

I've got a nice stack of books to read, movies cued to watch, online learning venues to review and update, and house chores to do, so I won't be bored. I just hope that my health stays positive, and I'll be on the lookout for ways I can help the community if needed. Onward.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Time to create that virtual classroom

I was an early tech enthusiast mostly because technology was a great match to my learning/teaching style. Tech provided the many hands I needed to do the work I wanted to do as an educator, mom, and researcher.

That tech enthusiasm led me to countless conferences, books, and creative expeditions online and offline to learn more and do more that involved blended learning with the right match of online and offline resources.

Time and again, my enthusiasm was energized by powerful moments when technology deepened engagement and education for students and me. One pivotal moment was when a student in my class was going to China for an extended stay. Our class made a movie for his Chinese class, and he was able to follow our class curriculum via our our class website throughout his trip. To me this was a win-win. We learned a lot about China and the student was able to stay abreast of his studies back home too.

Then there were times when children had to be out of school due to illness or family events. Again, they were able to keep up via our virtual platform. And in school, the use of the virtual platform with countless learning menus and links has afforded us a greater opportunity to differentiate buying us time to work with individuals and small groups with depth while others simply follow the online menu. This virtual platform has helped us to maximize our time with colleagues too since they are able to easily see what we're doing and how we are doing it which buys more time for the teacher-student experience rather than using lots of time for collegial exchange related to procedural matters. Therefore, our collegial time can be used more for deeper discussion and creation instead.

Now, with the unprecedented school cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our virtual grade-level and school websites have made making plans for at-home study efficient and targeted. While the online study will not replace the rich learning and exchanges that happen in a classroom setting, they do provide a way to support students' steady education and teacher-student communication during an extended school cancellation. We posted a learning menu with project and other learning links. We communicated with families and students via email. This has been positive.

I'm a big fan of grade-level-, subject-, and school-wide virtual platforms, a kind-of home-away-from-home or school-away-from-school platform that children and families can access when they want to know what they can do to help their child stay in touch with the school program and learning. An added benefit to these programs is that families whose first language is not English often use these online resources to better understand school programs and their children's assignments as they can easily translate links or simply take their time with the materials to better understand what is expected and what is shared.

So as I look for the opportunity in this unexpected event, I believe that one opportunity is for educators to enrich the virtual side of their teaching communities in ways that can carry forward the positivity that these virtual communities can be for engaging and empowering learning.

Coronavirus Response: Opportunity for Lifestyle Changes

The upside of the Coronavirus response is an opportunity for lifestyle change. I am thinking about this since the COVID-19 situation struck at the same time that students' presented their climate change projects. Their wonderful projects made me think deeply about the ways we can update lifestyles to live in healthy, positive, Earth-friendly ways.

Since I'll be home for a couple of weeks--a couple of weeks when I'll stay close to home, I'll think about how to update my lifestyle to make it more Earth-friendly. What can I do?

Plant a garden
We know that a vegetarian diet is an Earth-friendly diet, and we also know that if you can grow your own vegetables, those vegetables will be a healthy source of nutrition. So I'll plant seedlings soon to begin this process.

Cook more vegetarian dishes
I want to focus on cooking more healthy vegetarian dishes--this is a good time to try out those recipes.

Healthy activity
This is also a good time to get into more healthy activity such as bike riding, jogging, yoga, and dancing. All of these activities are readily available in your home and neighborhood.

Home Cleaning and Organization
This is a good time to clean the garage, closets, and more. It's also a good idea to reorganize in ways that supports more Earth-friendly living.

Reading and research
This is a good time to read and research about healthy living and Earth-friendly practices.

While the Earth's people respond to this troubling virus, we can use that time to think more deeply about how we live in ways that protect planet Earth--ways that are healthy for our own lives and the lives of others.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

COVID-19 School Closings: Uncharted Waters

Closing school due to a pandemic is an example of uncharted waters. We have not done that before.

Yet, today, at the end of the school day, we were asked to send students home with their computers and chargers. We added science books and a math assignment. Earlier in the week, just-in-case, we developed an online menu should school have to close. Only a few minutes ago, I received the call noting that school would be closed for two weeks due to this pandemic and the desire to slow down the contagion as advised by public health officials.

I've read quite a bit about the virus, and must say that I whole heartedly agree with this decision. Articles from Italy warn us about not taking this pandemic seriously.

After going through this, I would advise other school teachers to do the following:

Organize and clean up your classroom
Similar to when I was expecting a baby, I experienced a bit of "nesting" this week as the virus hit--I felt an urge to clean up the classroom, organize materials, and ready for the unknown. I'm happy that I did that.

Prepare for learning at home
Teachers at our system prepared online menus for student study. We also readied a few packets and sent home some books and materials for student study. This provides students and families who choose to continue studies, what they need to study at home.

Give students a chance to talk about the situation in developmentally appropriate ways
Our class discussed the situation. Children shared their points of view and personal experiences. I shared facts from reputable websites. I emphasized that this is a new event so everyone is trying to do their best and looking to the experts for guidance.

Look for the light in the darkness
As the old adage states, "When a door closes, a window opens," which demonstrates that this unexpected event opens up new opportunities. I plan to work on starting seedlings for a summer garden, do some spring cleaning, care for family members, and respond to my learners online.

Like most people, I'm curious about what will happen in the days and weeks ahead. This is a day-by-day event. Onward.

Time to Focus: Teaching Today

The closing of two local schools interrupted students and teachers' focus yesterday as it brought the COVID-19 pandemic into our community in real time. In response to that, we spent time talking about the virus and consulted the facts of the matter. Absences were up too as families choose to keep children home for all kinds of reasons related or not related to COVID-19.

Today, however, despite an expected uptick in absences, I plan to get back to business with the current curriculum including a focus on fraction study and biography read aloud. I'll stay tuned to the news too as many schools in Massachusetts are closing and I think it would be a good idea for the State to close all MA public schools for a week to buy time to assess the situation, obtain test kits, and create new protocols to mitigate this illness in the state. Let's see what happens.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Changing Days: What's Important

As the days as we know them are changing due to the coronavirus, I am thinking about what's most important before I venture into school today.

A simple, positive routine
I'll make sure that our student routine is simple and positive--that's good for all of us.

Making sure the classroom is organized and ready to be closed if needed is important--this virus catches easily so it's best to be prepared for that just in case.

Contribution, calm
At times of uncertainty, it is important to be as calm as possible and contribute as well as you can. I don't want to add to the confusion.

At-home projects
Since many events are cancelled, this is a good time to get started on at-home projects such as organizing photos, perhaps planting seedlings for a spring garden, deep cleaning. . . . .

Family gatherings at home
Planning a festive St. Patrick's Day celebration at home.

This is a time of worry, particularly for those of us with elderly parents, college students, and populated people schedules during the day. Yet, the way we deal with this is important and potentially life saving for ourselves and others.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020


Must say that this pandemic has me a bit frazzled simply because the typical predictability I'm used to has been replaced with cancellations, quandary, speculation and the effort to understand a phenomenon new to me--the phenomenon of a new virus, a virus that lacks good testing, a vaccine, and understanding by experts.

I am thankful the the wise and preventative measures so many are taking to mitigate this threat. I'm okay with a bit of change in exchange for less lives loss--that's the right thing to do. As an educator, how will I react to this coronavirus reaction as well as typical-last-third-of-the-year trying-to-fit-it-all-in worry.

First, if I'm a bit stressed by it all, it is likely that the children and their families are stressed too. To combat this, I'll make the school day a bit more routine and predictable than usual. I'll also make sure that we have time for open circle discussion, outdoor recess, and meaningful just-right learning activities. I'll work to relieve the stressors in school that I can in order to alleviate some stress for all of us.

Next, this is not the time of year to rewrite or make big changes to the curriculum program. I'll rely on the curriculum program elements that are in place now and put my energy into supporting the children with those efforts. I'll take advantage of the time gained from events cancelled to catch up on a number of projects, research efforts, and more. Onward.

Limitless Opportunity to Learn

The Internet and relatively easy access to technology provides a limitless landscape for learning. I am struck by the potential and need for prioritization this presents.

In a field of countless choices, how and what does one choose?

While I don't have all the answers, I have a few plausible paths.

Question Driven
Make your learning question driven. What do you want to know and why do you want to know it? For example, I want to know about the science standards I teach because I know students love to learn science, science is important to their good living, and I want the learning experiences to be memorable and meaningful. I'm happy to have a good guide of main topics to use as I dig in to learn more science and information, skill, and concept related to all the areas of the curriculum I teach.

Goal Focused
Where am I headed? Who do I want to be? What lifestyle do I want to embrace? These questions help me to set goals, and those goals help me to focus my learning. For me, I want to teach a top-notch, engaging, and empowering learning program in a warm, welcoming environment that puts children in charge of their learning as much as possible. I want to work with the broader teaching/learning community including education organizations, families, colleagues, administrators and students as I work towards that goal. Personally, I want to continue to invest a warm, welcoming home and family life as well as continued interest and enjoyment related to arts and nature.

Regular Updating
In a world of quickly changing events, needs, and knowledge, one has to continually update goals, questions, and direction. A regular diet of good media, reading, conversation, study, analysis, and reflection help you to update in positive, helpful ways. This flexibility is essential. For example, with respect to the advent of the coronavirus, expected events are changing hourly requiring me to rethink plans and preparation. This is the way life is.

Avoid Dead Ends
Some dead ends are unavoidable, but in general dangerous paths of destruction are often avoidable by embracing a positive mindset and behavior. Most of us are aware of pitfalls that lead to dead ends, and as much as possible we need to avoid those.

Lend a Hand
In times of limitless choice, we can become selfish and narrow minded since the choices are everywhere. We can continually work to better and better our situation, yet that narrow, single focus can be a hardship to us and others. We have to make time to contribute to one another, help out, and lend a hand. That's critical to our own well being and the well being of others.

Monday, March 09, 2020

The week ahead: March 9, 2020

The week ahead is another busy and positive week. What is taking center stage:

Climate Change Fair
Students will present their climate change research and action presentations this morning.

Mindfulness with Gabriel
Mindfulness expert, Gabriel, will visit our classroom for a third time to teach us mindfulness strategies.

Our team will meet to discuss a large number of items and plans for the weeks ahead.

Science Planning Day
I'll meet with grade-level teachers across the system to review and coordinate science learning efforts.

Students will continue their fraction study using many models, discussions, and practice exercises.

Curriculum Prep
I'll spend a fair amount of time xeroxing curriculum packets to use with students in the weeks ahead. I've tailored these packets to this year's students and remaining standards' objectives. I will also spend time preparing for an exciting upcoming professional learning event and do some work related to the data pilot our team is involved in. Further, I'll pull together photos and projects related to the Climate Change Fair and host those projects on the project website.

I will begin to organize the remaining science lessons into science-in-a-bag small group investigations in order to fit it all in at the end of the year. This means organizing the science supplies in easy-to-acces, easy-to-use ways. Students' first science-in-a-bag will occur this Friday.

It will be a busy, but positive, week ahead. Onward.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

School Year 2020-2021 Planning Document

I began this post on March 8th with no clue that we would spend the final quarter of the school year teaching online from our homes to the homes of students. Today, I feel ready to think about the year ahead and plan for a good year whether it is online, in real time or a mix of both. 

2020-2021 Success Criteria
There is great satisfaction in teaching well. To work with a team of colleagues, students, families, and administrators to prepare and implement positive learning experiences to elevate students learning, self-concept, happiness, and capacity is a terrific way to use your energy and focus your time.

As I think of prioritizing and targeting efforts for the 2020-2021 school year, I'm thinking about the work I will do to support students' learning paths, paths that lead to success with learning-to-learn strategies, social emotional learning, collaboration, communication, and academic standards.

School Year Prep and Planning Chart 

Spring/Summer Prep for 2020-2021
  • Pack up classroom items. Get rid of old, outdated materials - complete
  • Update  website for 2020-2021 TeamFive - will do this summer
  • Update move-up letter/supply list and presentation place on TeamFive 2020-2021 Website - done
  • Keep a supply list throughout the year and order supplies - ongoing.
  • Virtually Meet with upcoming students - planned
Summer Planning Meetings 

Grade-Level Team
  • Discuss start-of-year signature project  My Three Words  Use the project as a way to teach students how to use a number of digital tools. 
  • Review curriculum map: Look over last year's curriculum - make decisions about what to keep, what to change and timelines
  • Create schedule and weekly teaching pattern review with the team; 
  • Careful attention to scheduling so that all scheduling best meet individual/collective student needs
  • Revisit the curriculum night presentation, decide if you'll include movie/slideshow. Prep this time/place for Curriculum Night presentation with principal.
  • Discuss study protocols and learning menu.
  • Spend initial weeks focused on protocols, building a class community, teaching the tools we'll use, and creating students' online showcase portfolios.
  • Review  Family-Student-Teacher Conference protocols, dates, and focus
  • Review first days of school focus/lessons including SEL lessons (see below too)
  • Review goal list: look at results related to last year's goal; focus on organizing the best materials for teaching the subject including website, Google form practice tests, online tools, hands-on experiences, performance tasks. 
  • Discuss science and social studies priorities. 

Grade-Level and Special Educators
  • Review all ed plans, chart student services and needs to prepare for scheduling meeting
On my own
  • Update curriculum websites
  • Review Graspable math and all online tools we use.
  • Review biomimicry unit for upcoming year.
  • Review, revise, and set up Class Data Chart - keep in mind fall/spring conference data reports; Assess/analyze MCAS scores prior to school year. (when scores arrive)
  • Review and organize lessons for the first six weeks - get a power start with the math curriculum
Teacher Prep Days at end of August:
  • Plan to purchase items that help you to be personally ready and energized to teach--inspiring signage, healthy snacks, cards, little gifts. . . .
  • Organize all materials and classroom set up 
  • Focus on the parent handbook and needed signatures at Curriculum Night
  • Focus on the student handbooks and signatures during the first days of school - Xerox copies
  • Ask about required school forms during set-up days to plan accordingly
  • Communication Protocols, establish routines, plans to recognize each child: lists, schedules.- ongoing 
  • Ordering: Check orders, put away all supplies. - last week in August 
  • Set up sub notebook, update field trip notebook
  • Work on protocols and policies for classroom during first days of the year

First Six Weeks of School Year

For Teacher
  • Complete Mandated Online Trainings: This takes about a half day. Make sure that the trainings are up to date at time of completion. Summer/Fall 2019
  • PLC Start: Establish overall focus, norms, roles, protocols, and note taking document.
  • Send out forms, notices right away--and have extras at parents' night for parents to fill out there if needed. 
  • Curriculum Night: Establishing the Learning Community, Extended time: one hour in gymnasium with a presentation/sound (date? time?)
  • Send out weekly newsletters
  • Evaluation Professional Learning and Practice Goals: Update goals to reflect system-wide goals, summer work, review with admin., continue efforts to meet goals.
  • Determine Buddy Program Time and Focus

For Students:
(Note that these notes will likely be updated over the summer)

Day One
  • Greet children at the door with a smile and ask them to bring their bags in and find their table space and start with the morning work. (Tables will display children's names). Morning work will be a class name word find. 
  • Ask students to say their names, check off the attendance list. Discuss importance of names and why it's important to say each others names with respect and accuracy. Talk about TedTalks as a resource for positive learning. Show this video.  Then talk about what the video teaches us about respect for each other's names. 
  • Review supply list. Make sure that every child has supplies he/she needs. Organize and store supplies. Collect summer math study packets (review in evening).
  • Make beautiful name cards: Have students proudly make a name tag. Teach supply use with a simple lesson about where drawing/making supplies are and how to use them. Walk around the room and listen to children's name conversations, observe their comfort level, respond in welcoming, interesting ways. 
  • Introduce recess protocols, play equipment, and have a recess. Have snacks available for students who may have forgotten a snack--you don't want anyone to be hungry. 
  • Introduce myself via the three word project. Teach computer protocols. Let children work with computers to create their three word posters using Google Drawer. Observe students as they work on this project, help out in any way that you can. 
  • When students begin to tire of the activity, gather them on the rug. Talk about the day so far and ask if students have any questions. Tell them that I am there to partner with them and serve them well throughout the year, and my goal is that they learn successfully all year long. Ask what they think I can do to help them. 
  • Review and practice transition and lunch routines. Then time for lunch.
  • After lunch, discuss our "survival theme" briefly and begin read aloud: Hatchet. Allow students to sit up front on the rug or sit at their tables. Students may drawer quietly as I read. 
  • Talk about the fact that students who play together generally get along better. Share and discuss kickball rules and play a class game of kickball. 
  • Students return to class. Review homework: The Big Day paper and student/family member surveys--a way for children to express their needs, interests, and thoughts about the first day of school. 
  • Review end-of-day routine, dismissal, and have a few minutes to play. 

Day Two
  • Greet children at the doorway and collect homework. Ask them to read and follow the start-of-day schedule which includes sign-in, readiness tasks, and morning work. 
  • Morning work: students are invited to continue working on their My Three Words projects.
  • When students have worked a bit, start the first lesson which is a lesson on good listening. Begin with the question, Why does good listening matter? Then ask, What makes good listening difficult or easy? List students' ideas. Then have students exemplify what poor listening looks like and what good listening looks like. Partner students up and have them interview each other with a few questions, ask them to use good listening behaviors at they listen to their partner's answers. The questions may include:
    • What is one activity you over the summer in your home that you really enjoyed, and why did you enjoy that activity?
    • What is one activity you did in fourth grade that you really enjoyed, and why did you enjoy that activity?
    • What is one activity you hope we'll do in fifth grade, and why do you hope we'll do that activity? 
  • Have students then create sticky notes with a headline that answers each of those questions and their first names--create a sticky note graph of that information together, and tell them that you'll use that graph, in part, as you think about the best ways to help students learn, be happy, and work together this year. 
  • Recess
  • Tell the story of our United States Constitution, and review school handbook which is like a constitution for our school. What makes our school handbook similar or dissimilar to the United States constitution? Active Reading: The Student Handbook: What do we do well and what can we get better at--how can we shortlist the handbook rules and protocols to a memorable phrase, sign, poem, or acronym? How can we make these rules and protocols are own?
  • Work in teams to determine our class government? Share ideas. Work on using handbook and class government ideas to write a class constitution. 
  • Review lunch routines. Lunch
  • Read Aloud. Review protocols for sitting and behavior during read aloud. 
  • Independent reading - review protocols, let students read quietly.
  • Class game time - about 30 minutes
  • Closing Routine

Day Three: First transitions
  • Review names, jobs, and routines again.
  • Math: What's Your Name - See Magnificent Math website
  • Science: Begin with teamwork focus, then composting
Future Lessons
  • What is the Declaration of Independence? 
  • What was the context of time, place, and experience that led Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence and what does the phrase "All men are created equal" mean today? How can we rephrase this for our classroom?
  • Read the Declaration of Independence together. Discuss history of "All men are created equal" and if that stands the test of time? How can we rephrase that statement for modern times and for our grade-level team?
  • Review transition, recess, lunch routines. Recess
  • Review timeline project. 
  • Time Line Prep: parent interview, template, Dream Me activity, and ImportantChanges (Integrating SEL p. 82-84) Coordinate with tech teacher. Prepare for the project which will be completed in tech class. Self Awareness with Timelines: Students will create a time line that includes a parent or guardian's main event before they were born from birth onward, their own main events, and 4-5 events they imagine for their future. This will be done in technology class. Prepare for this activity with early-year homework and classwork including "Dream Me" activity from chapter 6 in Integrating SEL. 
  • Read Aloud
Days Ahead in Homeroom
  • Review TeamFive website together. Introduce computer use, protocols, safety, digital citizenship. 
  • Marshmallow-Spaghetti Towers
  • Build a tower with four pieces of paper that can hold a quarter.
  • Team Talk: What is a learning community? What makes a learning community successful? What matters when it comes to being a successful learner? What matters when it comes to being a positive learning community member?
  • Complete class constitution, sign, and hang up for all to see. 
  • Set up showcase portfolios and complete Happiness Surveys at start of year. Review this with colleagues -- front page cover ideas and back cover potentially "one word posters."

Days Ahead in Math Class
  • Names, collecting summer homework, Create math class norms, math study spaces/groups and routines for the math classroom. 
  • History of people: introduction to timelines. History of people, skin shade, timeline - "The past affects the future." video
  • Review norms, introduce and begin Name Value activity
  • Introduce Math Reflection Journal (in 3-prong folder). Complete part of the assignment together and assign the rest
  • Work on Name Value activity.
  • Complete What's Your Name name value activity. Students who are done work on Symphony Math. 
  • Symphony Math practice, follow-up goal setting with Symphony Math.
  • Systemwide Assessment if ready. Possible facts assessment.
  • Collect Homework. Review That Quiz and let students practice.
  • Pattern exercise. Pass out next week's homework, pass back last week's homework.
  • Boaler "Everyone can learn math" Ted Talk. Making Mini posters about a positive math mindset. (Teacher professional day)
  • warm-up on facts and arrays: playing a math game
  • Review order of operations with "How Many Ways Can We Make 48?" Pick up/pass back homework.
  • Introduce new homework. Introduce unit one: Place Value
  • Place Unit continues
  • Follow Standards-Based Scope and Sequence in days ahead using systemwide scope and sequence, unit guides, Boaler's grade five book, and other resources.
We may want to embed this language in portfolio efforts (specific ideas from SEL book) 

  • Your one word project and Video with Students. Teach/Review Google Draw.
  • Personal Assessment: Godilocks Games (p. 94-95) is a good activity for children to do an early assessment of themselves. This will provide good information for teachers and family members as they goal set with and for students.  (SEL book)
  • What is a Hero? Who are your heroes? Identifying honorable characteristics, finding people to look up to, learn from,  and follow in real time, history, and literature, sharing the story of Malala.
  • What is your point of view or perception? The birds story, a discussion on classroom needs, wants, and desires.
  • Peer Pressure: Do I Dare Do It (Integrating SEL p. 84-86)
  • Study Skills: What do you really think? (Integrating SEL - chapter 6, Socratic Method)
  • Humor Helps: Integrating SEL p.89-90. I'd like to turn this into an activity where students can create a cartoon, write a paragraph, or write and act out a script. I may integrate this with the writing, art, and/or tech teacher. Students love the integration of humor into the classroom and as one who is very serious, I can see how helpful this would be. 
  • Behaviors at School: To get a head start on conflict resolution and language related to bullying behaviors, students and teachers will use the pyramid on top of the page to discuss the kinds of behaviors that can happen at school, and the appropriate ways to prevent and if needed respond to those behaviors in an effort to build a more caring and helpful classroom community. 
  • STEAM Teamwork: Crossing the peanut butter pit (Integrating SEL - chapter 5), Alphabet Actors (p. 94), Can-moving activity (p. 102) and similar activities such as note card towers (p. 108) and marshmallow or gumdrop structures.
  • Where do you want to live? Introduction to environmental education (Integrating SEL - chapter 6)
  • Solar Ovens STEAM activity - embed SEL questioning and activities from Integrating SEL, chapter 6 egg drop activity.
  • Resilience/Grit Activity. Integrating SEL p. 86-87
  • Curiosity: A Critical Element: Use this lesson from Integrating SEL, Chapter 6 as introduction to current events learning/teaching.
  • Think Positive activities and study Note that several of these activities can be integrated with physical education and music class too. 
  • Self Control Lessons (Integrating SEL chapter 5)
  • The Conflict Within (p.106) - this might fit nicely with the writing program
  • Trust Walk (p. 104-105)
  • Difficult Choices (p. 105-106)
  • Deserted Island (p. 107)
  • Reflection (p. 109-110)