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Flexible Seating - The REAL Scoop!


I took the leap and implemented flexible seating in my classroom this year!

Here are the things that I LOVE and the things I DON'T LOVE about it.....

LOVE

Students have the opportunity to make decisions about where they sit.  This helps them learn about making good choices, being responsible, and taking charge of their own learning.

Many seating options, including yoga ball chairs, wobble stools, flex bands, seat cushions, bean bags, camp chairs, and even working on the floor, are available to my students.  They can work in a place where they are comfortable!

I love that students can MOVE!  Wobble stools, flex bands, yoga ball chairs and other options allow students to move as they sit.  I also have standing tables for my non-sitters.  In addition, I do allow my students to move about the room as needed, and this allows my wigglers the freedom they need to take moving brain breaks!

If a student is having a conflict with the person sitting by them....they can get up and move away!  I can't tell you how this has simplified things!

Students always have the choice to work next to someone or by themselves in a quiet area.  I have a class set of study carrels, which easily turns any spot into a private "office."

No more late nights trying to work out the perfect seating arrangement, separating talkers and making sure to give everyone a turn sitting next to "that one kid that bugs everyone."

I am able to arrange my classroom in a much more visually pleasing arrangement that is also more spread out.  This has given our classroom an amazing feeling of open space and makes things a bit quieter (because the kids are spread out around the room).


The kids LOVE it and surprisingly, the parents do too!


DON'T LOVE

It is very, very difficult to pass out papers when students are not in the classroom (since they don't have a desk of their own).  I have come up with a system that works for me to resolve this issue, but it is still kind of a pain.

We have to use storage bins and cubbies for keeping student supplies and materials.  It works...but is not as convenient as having a desk or chair pocket right on hand.  Students are forever having to go get something out of their bin...which takes up more time than I would like.


Most of our whole group lessons must take place on the floor.  There are some benefits to this (students are in close proximity to me when I'm teaching), but during longer lessons, students can become fidgety and uncomfortable.  Also, being on the floor makes it difficult to use manipulatives for math.  We have made this work, but I can see how it would be difficult for some (more challenging) groups of students.  Students do have assigned floor spaces, which helps a lot!


Substitute teachers DO NOT understand or enjoy flexible seating!

Some students clique together and have to be strongly encouraged to sit with new friends every once in a while.  This is currently a real issue in my class.  We are planning a class meeting to come up with some solutions!

Although we have many, many different and appealing seat choices, students still argue over the BEST ones (i.e., the wobble stools and yoga ball chairs).  I had to implement a VIP seating schedule for our comfy camp chairs and Big Joe bean bags!
THE FINAL WORD

I really, really like flexible seating!  It works great with my class this year and I think it has gone a long way to help us to create a very special sense of community in our classroom!

I would not say that it is for every teacher or every class.  It takes EXTREME organization and planning, not to mention $$.  Also, some classes just need more structure and flexible seating is the opposite of structured!  It could be a disaster for a classroom full of students that struggle with listening, following directions and getting along with one another.

I would love to answer any questions that you have about flexible seating!  Thanks for visiting!

2016 Classroom Reveal!!


I still have some things to finish up, but my classroom is mostly ready for a new school year!  I am making the dive into flexible seating.  I don't have a lot of options at the moment, but I have made the best with what I have.  I plan to add more choices as the year progresses...and as some funding hopefully comes through!  Enjoy the photos...I'd love to know what you think!!






















Have a great year!!

Setting Up a Scoring Toolkit for Student Writing



Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner; put yourself in his place so that you may understand . . . what he learns and the way he understands it. ~Soren Kierkegaard


I just love that quote....it really does capture what assessment is all about...at least for me.  I find it really hard to grade the writing of the children that I teach.  They put their little hearts on the page....so who am I to judge what they have to say or how they have said it?  But in order for my students to become better writers, I must learn to evaluate their writing and give meaningful feedback in a way that pushes them forward in their journey as writers.  It is a means to an end.  Writing is such a powerful tool and I want my students to sharpen their skills (and their pencils) so that they may see themselves as writers...and from that, find their voice in school and in life!

Our school district has adopted the Writing Pathways program, by Lucy Calkins, for assessing student writing, so that resource is highlighted in this post.  However, the elements of your scoring kit can come from whatever resources that you use in your school district.  I have some things that I will gift you in this post and some suggestions for where you might find resources if you are starting with nothing.

Here is a scenario that maybe rings a bit familiar to you you:

Your students just spent an hour in class completing their on-demand prompt.  You are excited to see what they did!  You pack that stack of papers into your adorable Vera Bradley bag to take home with you this weekend.  On Saturday morning, you pour yourself a cup of hot coffee, grab a purple flair pen and place the stack in front of you.  Crap!  Where is that rubric?  So, you head to the computer to find it, which is like finding a needle in a haystack.  Once you have that, you can finally begin scoring.  Right out the gate, you find yourself struggling to understand that darn rubric.  Did she tell the story "bit by bit"?  What does that even mean?!  Did she show what happened to 'and in' the characters?  Ugh!  Five minutes in and you have the worst headache since the end of the first day of school...the year you taught Kindergarten!  So, you gingerly rub your temples, place that stack back in bag (for safe keeping) and promise that you will give it another go....maybe next weekend.

Trust me....I've been there!  What I hope that you can accomplish today is to have the information and resources that you need to put together a scoring toolkit, so that when you sit down to score your students writing prompts this fall, you will have everything that you need in one place.....right at your fingertips....without the headache!

Following is a list of what you will want to have in your toolkit and a brief description of each item and why its important.  So let's get started!

Your "toolkit" is basically a binder with tabs.  You will want a tab for each writing genre:  Narrative, Opinion and Informational.  You might also want a few extra tabs for extra stuff you add.  I added one for the Progressions that come with Pathways because I find those extremely helpful with scoring.  Behind each tab are all of the resources that I will use to help me to score my students' writing prompts:  rubrics, student checklists, exemplars (student and teacher), scoring sheet, and a form for notes and strategy groups.



Obviously, you will want to have the rubrics that your school or district uses to score writing.   Pathways has a very consistent rubric for all grade levels that has helped our staff develop a common language for discussing and evaluating student writing.  If you want to improve student writing at your school, a consistently used rubric is critical!  If you have not adopted Pathways, I have a Writing Assessment Kit that contains common core aligned rubrics and checklists that you could use in a pinch (see the end of the post for more information).


I cannot tell you how helpful these checklists have been in helping my students to set writing goals!  They are also something that I can use as a reference when I score.  The Pathways checklists are a kid-friendly version of what is on the rubric, and I love that they are illustrated!  There is also a double checklist that you can use with students at the beginning of the school year that shows the previous grade's checklist and the current year non the same page!  It is important to note that the checklist states the expectations for the END of the school year (so students have all year to get there).



Pathways offers a teacher created annotated text (for each grade level) that gives specific examples of what is expected within the context of an actual written text.  So when you start scoring, and you're like, "What does that mean?"  you can use this example to get a better idea of what that skill looks like in a piece.  You could also use examples that you have written for your students.  I put together a whole collection of Teacher Mentor Texts to use with my students and have made them available in my TPT store, so if you don't have Pathways, these might come in handy (mine are not annotated, but you could easily do that yourself or with students).  (Tip:  A great time to write a Teacher Text for your students is while they are doing their on-demand prompts!)



It is also helpful to have student exemplars, or good examples of student work that show clearly the items expected on the rubric.  Pathways has some examples, but you certainly have access to plenty of your own!  I try to make it a habit to keep a file of student writing to use for lessons.  Our copy machine at school actually scans to a file, so it is super easy to copy a student's paper and keep it as a digital file for future use!   Our third grade team has a shared Google file where we share student writing exemplars....how sweet is that?!



I have a form that I use to take notes on my students' writing.  I like to look for class trends or group trends.  For example, I might notice the majority of students in my class struggled with use of transition words.  I make a note to do a mini-lesson on that soon.  Or I notice that a small group of students are just not getting the structure of a personal narrative, so I will plan a strategy group for those kiddos.  I keep a form for organizing some possible strategy groups as well.  I find that if I don't write that stuff down as I score....it just might not happen at all!

You will also need an organized way to record student scores.  I like to record their score for each segment on the rubric, so that I can see those trends that I talked about above.  Here is the one that I use....you can grab it HERE for FREE, along with the notes and strategy groups forms shown above.


As I said, all of these reference pages go behind the genre tab in your toolkit binder.  You will have a tab for each genre and the corresponding pages behind each tab.

I added an extra tab for the Pathways Learning Progressions.  These progressions show the expectations for every grade K-6, so that if your students are performing above or below grade level, you can pinpoint exactly where they are at!



There you have it!  I hope you have put together an amazing scoring toolkit!  Now you just need a cute cover (I might have just included one in that FREEBIE mentioned above) and you will be ready to impress your grade level team (they will all want one)!

If you are interested in learning more about Writing Pathways by Lucy Calkins, you can see the preview and purchase the book at the Heinemann site.  I promise you that this is NOT a paid advertisement.  LOL!

I mentioned some of my own resources too...

I have one of these for fourth grade too!



If you haven't subscribed to Third Grade Doodles yet, I encourage you to do so....you will get updates about new products and free stuff.  In fact, just for subscribing, you will receive a cool FREE GIFT!  Look for the SUBSCRIBE widget in the side bar!  Also look for other posts in this series about Teaching Young Writers!


Have a wonderful week!
Love and peace,

The Ultimate Math Data Toolkit -- and a FLASH FREEBIE!



I am super excited to announce that I've finally finished a MATH DATA TOOLKIT that I've been working on for weeks!


This is going to make my life (and yours) so much easier this school year!  Everything that you need for standards-based grading and helping your students to track their understanding of the common core learning standards is now at your fingertips!

FIRST....

I CAN statements unpacked and in kid-friendly language!  The best part is that you can print these out on post-it notes!!!  I don't know about you, but that makes me super excited!  I plan to print out all of these onto the 8 x 6 sticky notes (using the template), place in a binder and I will never again be writing out I CAN statements during the wee hours of my AM prep time!!  TheY will be READY TO GO!  Of course, if you don't like the idea of using post-its, these can also be printed on colored paper or cardstock.  I plan to create a display for these by laminating several sheets of construction paper to use as a background, and then I can just stick (and unstick) the post-its as needed.  I think I will use black, so that those neon post-its really POP!  (I'll post a pic once I've got that set up in my classroom.)  BTW....the extra sticky 8 x 6 post-its can be purchased at Walmart, Amazon or any office supply store!


SECOND.....

Formative assessments for each and every I CAN statement!  These short, five-question assessments are designed for quick check-ins with your students.  You could give them to individual students, small groups, or the whole class.  Each assessment includes an open-ended journal question to help probe your students' deeper thinking on a concept, giving you a window into their understanding.


THIRD.....

Marzano-like learning scales for each CCSS strand or unit!  In our district we just love Marzano (yep, we do) and are expected to have a scale for each unit of instruction.  These are kid-friendly and will really help your students to know where they are in their understanding of concepts so that they can set meaningful goals.  They align very nicely with the I CAN statements and the Check for Understanding assessments that are included.


FOURTH.....

Student data sheets.  If you use data notebooks with your students, you will find these tracking sheets very helpful.  There is a student self-monitoring sheet for each strand, so that students can monitor their own progress on each I CAN statement as you go through the unit (the learning scales really help with this).  Also, there is an assessment tracking sheet for each strand so that students can record their pre and post scores.



FINALLY.....

A Teacher Record Book.  I have included a record book so that you can keep track of your students progress on each of the standards.  The PDF is great for printing, clipping into a binder and writing student scores with your favorite color flair pen!  But I have also included the Powerpoint file, which contains a table for typing the data into, if you prefer that!



This product will be ON SALE....I'm talking a HUGE discount for the next 7 days!

Also, just for you, because you are reading this blog post.....I am offering the I CAN statements for FREE (for a limited time).   Download them RIGHT HERE!

I'm sorry if this post is more like an info-merical!!  I'm just so darn excited about these resources!!

Thanks for stopping by today...I'd love to hear from the Peanut Gallery...so comment below!!