Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Classroom: The Physical Design

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm headed back to the classroom after my two year stint as an RTI specialist and I couldn't be happier. I have been working in my room all summer trying to find the best way to set it up to promote the ideas that I have about learning. I want very limited time for students at their desks. (I actually asked for tables, but didn't get them.) I also want comfortable, inviting reading areas and whole group instruction areas (carpet). I teach fifth grade so I tried to balance my ideas of an elementary classroom with the maturity that I know they expect as "kings and queens" of our K-5 school. I went with a jungle/safari theme. Here are some pictures of my design minus a few things that I haven't gotten up on the walls yet. The entire album can be viewed through this public link on my Facebook page.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Back to the Classroom....Hallelujah!!

Two years ago, I was approached about taking a newly created position in my district. It was called Curriculum/At-Risk Data Specialist and would involve studying data and planning interventions for at-risk students and doing PD for teachers at my school. I would not be doing any work directly with students, but would hopefully be helping on a broader scale through my work with teachers. I had been a classroom teacher for 7 years. I wasn't burned out, but I wasn't totally against a change of scenery either. So I took it.

I immediately began the work of training in RTI and assessment. I attended numerous conferences, studied the differences in systems implementing RTI, evaluated different assessment tools, visited and observed at numerous schools and began bringing some of what I'd learned back to our teachers. Data-driven instruction became my mantra. I also preached differentiation, although now I can clearly see the oxymoron. I wanted the teachers to differentiate everything they did with their students based on the data we were getting, but then assess them all the same. I generated spreadsheet after spreadsheet outlining exactly what the students were deficient in. I learned the names of almost all of the 550 students in my elementary school (especially if they were red or yellow). I lost sleep over a 4th grade student who couldn't read. I watched teachers cry over students they couldn't get from "yellow to green". I saw fantastic teachers panic over colors and numbers on a sheet.

Slowly, over the course of the two years I began to wake up and take a good look at what was happening around me. My philosophies began to change. The formative assessments, I really don't have a problem with. I think we do need ongoing feedback in some form or fashion to help direct our path and make sure our students are getting what we're teaching. The summative assessment is a different story and unfortunately that's the one that gets all of the attention. All roads lead to it. Teachers know it, students know it, and unfortunately it's driving everything we do in school.

Because of the recent changes with RTTT, this position went from two years to four years. I've decided that I don't want to ride it out that long. I'm returning to my classroom this year and I couldn't be happier. I feel like a first year teacher all over again! I wish that every teacher could experience what I have over the past two years. I've had training that I never would've gotten in the classroom. I've learned reading strategies, differentiation techniques, different approaches to running centers in my classroom, and so many other things and I can't wait to try them out with my students. I sincerely hope that I'm a better teacher because of everything I've learned over the past two years. I'm certainly enjoying looking at a SchoolBox catalog right now instead of reading a book about RTI!

Here's to the 2011-12 school year for all of us. Hope it's the best yet!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snagit for Mac

Last night I was reading this month's Macworld and I came across an article about Snagit for Mac. This product is made by Techsmith and normally has a price tag of about 50 bucks. Techsmith offers a 30-day free trial so I thought I'd try it out.

When Snagit is open, it stays out of the way at the edge of your screen, but with a small tab for quick access.

 Clicking the big red button will allow you to capture any part of the screen that you wish. You also have other options from this tab such as capturing the entire desktop or a specific window. It also allows you to scroll and capture, which is a feature I haven't tried yet. The picture immediately falls into the Snagit editor. The first thing I noticed within the editor was that it is very "Mac-user" friendly. The interface reminded me of an iMovie and found that it was very easy for me to manipulate without a lot of directions.  From here you're able to customize your screen shot with arrows, speech bubbles, etc. You can also combine multiple images into a collage. I made a quick one here:

Notice you can also color the background of your image and change the edges. Sharing is incredibly easy as well. Drag and drop your finished project into another app or a click of your mouse will send it by email, share to, or to an ftp server. There are lots of other features that I'll try out during my 30-day trial. I'm anxious to see what else it can do. 
What do you think? Worth the $49.95?

Images: ;