Quote of the Week

Never say you are "just" a teacher. That's like saying Clark Kent is "just" Superman.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Hey, New Teacher, Don't Quit. It Will Get Better!

Thank you, Gayle Yarik, Teacher at Lebanon High School, for sharing this timely link!

Great read for anyone who's "feeling it" right now:

Order your FREE Disillusionment Power Pack!

Stay Calm and Teach On!, by Bobbie Ford, ERC Teacher at Watertown Elementary School

Stop for a second and think back to just a few months ago...

It's the first day of school; the halls are filled with excited students, happy parents, and determined teachers. Classrooms have been arranged and decorated for the new school year. You are eager to get through the first few days, set a schedule and get down to the business of learning!

Now, imagine just weeks into the school year...

You arrive at school as usual to begin your day. However, this is not an usual day. You learn that your classroom may not be a safe environment for your students. Because of this, you have been given hours to pack up the materials you need to teach, relocate them, and set up a new classroom for tomorrow.

This was a reality for many Watertown Elementary teachers. On Monday, September 14th, we were told we would begin classes at Watertown High School on Tuesday, September 15th. We were all overwhelmed, frustrated, and determined by the time we got home that night. We were determined that despite all that was happening, our students wouldn't miss a beat of learning.

On Tuesday morning, teachers met the students at the busses and used all our resources to make this an easy transition day. Was it perfect? No. Was it successful? Yes!

We have now been housed at Watertown high school for almost 3 months. We have been accepted by the faculty and staff and have been treated with much hospitality. Many teachers willing gave up their classrooms and materials for us. Not only have we been displaced but so have the high school students and teachers. Schedules were changed and new rules were implemented to make this arrangement work. We are very thankful for all that Mr. Luttrell, his faculty and staff have done for us.

There are days we are still overwhelmed and frustrated. We don't always have the materials we need, or things we would like to have for our students, but we are still determined... Determined to give the students 100% of what we have to ensure that their learning continues. There is much truth to the saying "Good teachers can teach in any situation" because it is happening everyday at Watertown High School!

We are more than ready to go "home," but in the mean time... We will "Keep calm and teach on!" 

Making Inclusion Work in Wilson County Schools, by Jennifer Ankney, 8th grade ELA/Exceptional Education Teacher at Mt. Juliet Middle School

Fairness is not giving everyone the same thing.  Fairness is giving each person what they need to succeed.  Fairness is what lies at the heart of inclusion.  According to the Individuals with Disabilities Act Section 612.5 A, all children with disabilities are to be educated to the “maximum extent” with children who do not have disabilities.  There are different inclusion models schools can implement.  The model that is most effective is the co-teaching model.
Dr. Rebecca Hines, Ph. D, is an expert in inclusion.  She firmly believes the co-teaching model is the best choice in the inclusion setting.  She lists "old school" proven steps to teaching (Gagne) that, if implemented will result in good co-teaching, which in turn, will result in student achievement.  The co-teachers decide who will be responsible for each step.  Ideally, a co-taught classroom should have twice as many instructional interactions happening, and twice as many layers of instruction.
1.  Gain students attention.
2.  Bring to mind relevant prior learning.
3.  Point out important information.
4.  Present information in an organized manner.
5.  Show students how to categorize (chunk) related information.
6.  Provide opportunities for students to elaborate on new information.
7.  Show students how to use coding when memorizing lists.
8.  Provide for repetition of learning.
9.  Provide opportunities for overlearning of fundamental concepts and skills.
Below are some suggestions for how I have made inclusion work.  This is my third year teaching inclusion at Mount Juliet Middle School.
1.       Plan with your teachers.  When you don’t have time to plan together, ask the general education teacher to send you the lesson plans for the week.  As the exceptional education teacher, look over the plans and add in strategies to aide in student understanding. 
2.       When looking at plans, think about how you can meet the needs of visual learners, auditory learners and tactile learners.  Use videos, technology, read aloud, tutorials, etc. when possible. 
3.       At the beginning of the year, give your co-teacher your roster of exceptional education students.  Ask for his or roster of general education students.  While you only need to keep track and enter grades for your roster, it is still a good idea to have the names of the rest of the students in your gradebook.
4.       I grade papers for all students in my class.  This includes my inclusion roster and the general education roster.  This has been beneficial for me in order to see how the exceptional education students are performing in comparison to the general education students.  If you do this, be sure to get the papers graded in a timely manner and given to your co-teacher to record.
5.       Have a designated place on the board to state the learning goal for the day.  The format I use is the following:
·         Today I will…
·         So that I can…
·         I will know I know it when I can…
6.       In our ever-changing technological world, students are using Chromebooks, IPADs, and even cell phones in our classrooms.  Have a designated area in your classroom for headphone storage.  The headphones can be used in your class, and it allows for the instruction to be differentiated, in that each student can be watching tutorials, videos, or listening to an audio version of a story or lesson based on what he or she needs.  I ask that students bring headphones to class, and I put each student’s headphones in a Ziploc bag.
7.       Below are some resources I use frequently in my inclusive classrooms.
·         www.brainpop.com This site has videos for all subjects, quizzes, activities, and graphic organizers.
·         www.readworks.org This site contains fiction and nonfiction for kindergarten through 8th grades.  You can search by content, grade level, literary skill, or Lexile level.
·         www.learnzillion.com This site has lessons for each state standard along with quizzes for students to take afterwards.
·         www.newsela.com This site has up-to-date current event articles written on the Lexile level you choose.  This is great for differentiated instruction, as the students can read articles containing same content with adjusted difficulty level of vocabulary.
·         www.readwritethink.org This site has useful graphic organizers.
·         Google Classroom
·         Edmodo (like Google classroom)
·         www.classdojo.com This site is great for classroom management.
·         www.studyjams.com This is a math and science site for audio and visual learners.  There are videos for different skills with practice and quizzes.

Karen Clay said, “The severity of one’s disability does not determine their level of potential.  The greatest barriers that persons with disabilities have to overcome are not steps or curbs, it’s expectations.”  Students with disabilities deserve to be held to high expectations like their general education peers.  When we have high expectations and hold all students accountable, the students will rise and meet our expectations.  In the end, the goal of co-teaching is not to bring two teachers together.  The goal of co-teaching is to serve students.

Brain-Compatible Strategies, by Melodie Collier, 1st grade teacher at Tuckers Crossroads

The information for this article is from the Marcia Tate Seminar, June 2015
Marcia Tate is the author of Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites.

*What is a Dendrite?  It is pathway in your brain that leads to learning.

*Dendrites are tiny branches on the end of neurons that are responsible for passing information in the brain.  The more you learn the easier it is to retain knowledge. This is why every moment in class is so important.  The brain must be engaged constantly because when there is down time.  The brain will rest and then must be restarted.

*There are many strategies other than worksheets that are more effective in helping students retain information.  These strategies are useful for every grade level and subject.

1.  Graphic organizers make thinking and learning more visible.  (Fogarty, 2009, p. 112)
The graphic organizers can be made on poster board, the floor, chart paper, or have the students become the graphic organizer.  When the students are moving while they are learning, they activate the frontal lobe where skills of organizing and analyzing occur.  (Willis, 2007)(Allen & Currie, 2012)

2.  Storytelling helps students digital brain become more attentive and is an effective way to enhance emotional connection to the content. (Sprenger, 2010)

3.  Real World Application helps the students relate to life.  Example:  Tell how this situation will connect you to the inside or outside of the classroom. (Tileston, 2011)

4.  Humor in the classroom will promote a higher level of thinking.  The students can visualize, create analogies, anticipate, and recognize relationships from different point of view.  Jokes and riddles are key in the classroom.

* The following activites will promote brain compatible learning:

1.  Use of visuals- pictures, internet, books, illustrating vocabulary words

2.  Movement- Go Noodle website, teach mini lessons with activity breaks

3.  Games- Jeopardy, Tic-Tac-Toe, True or False games

4.  Role Playing- Acting the scene just studied or create a new version of the lesson.

5.  Cooperative learning- Working in small groups.

These are only a few of the learning suggestions.  Read the book or go to Marcia Tate website.

Last Thought:  Jail cells are calculated by Third Grade Reading Scores!!!!!  So start moving and motivating your students.    

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Interactive Notebooks—Graphic Organizers at their Best, by Mary Lee Burkett, 5th GradeTeacher at Elzie D. Patton Elementary

What are interactive notebooks?  They are journals that students use to make graphic organizers, take notes, illustrate concepts, etc.  They utilize several modalities and learning styles, especially linguistic and visual intelligences. As a reading/language arts and social studies teacher, I have found one of the most successful strategies has been utilizing interactive notebooks. 

In my classroom, I make my journal an example for students to follow.  I keep them year after year to help me plan for future lessons. Students can reference my journal whenever they want, and it models the importance that thoughts must be organized for optimal learning.  Students can learn to color code key concepts, group important ideas together, and make decisions on what is the most important information to highlight. The students enjoy making choices and being creative.

The student can use the notebook as a resource to study for a test, review a concept, or use to complete an assignment in the future.  It can also be a resource for a parent that is trying to help a student with homework. Teachers, parents, and students will be able to see the work that has been completed throughout the school year and how much knowledge students have gained.

Ideas can easily be found on Pinterest in sites such as these:

Literacy Ideas to Fit Any Curriculum, by Lauren Lasko, Language Arts Teacher at West Wilson Middle School

Coming into this year I, as many of you were, felt so overwhelmed with the new curriculum.  I have been teaching 7th grade Language Arts for a few years now and finally felt that I had all of my ducks in a row, and could teach the standards backwards, forwards, or in the dark!  Then came the TNReady curriculum…(cue the ominous sound effects.)  It was overwhelming to think of all the new standards and taking everything I had taught and presenting it all in a new way!   The first few weeks I definitely felt that I was drowning, but with the help of my team and a lot of PLC meetings we were able to come up with some great ideas for our classes that can be adjusted to fit almost anyone’s curriculum. 

1.        Let your students decide things!  This is a big one for people like me who have definite type A personality tendencies, but the more I let the students have control of different things, the better they do.   For example: 
a.       Grouping-  Pick a category (such as Hamburger) and write all the different components (or as many as you need) of that category on the board-  Bun, Burger, Cheese, Tomato, Onion, Lettuce.  Each component stands for a different group role.  Example-  Cheese: Leader, Tomato: Writer, Buns: Researchers, etc.  Students in each group pick one of the components for themselves, and then you reveal the group roles.  
b.      Projects-  Create a project Menu.   This allows the students to pick a project that would allow them to present their strengths.   For our last 2 pieces of literature we have created Menu Projects.   They may look something like this:
                                                              i.      Draw pictures:  Choose a scene from each of the texts we have read in this unit (“Monsters”, “Blacklisted”, “War of the Worlds”).  Draw or paint a scene that conveys the meaning of each scene.  Write a paragraph explaining the importance of each scene to you and to the story. 
                                                            ii.      Research a time in history where there was mass hysteria.  Find a time in American history where there was mass hysteria amongst our citizens.  Write a well thought out full typed page on this event. 
                                                          iii.      Newspaper:  Create a newspaper with articles and illustrations based on the events from the 3 texts we have read in this unit (“Monsters”, “Blacklisted”, “War of the Worlds”). 
                                                           iv.      Add Scene to “Monsters are Due on Maple Street”.  Write an additional scene to “Monsters”.  You may choose to change part of the last scene, and add on your new scene.  
                                                             v.      Theme Poster:   Create a poster that illustrates an overall theme from the three texts we have read (“Monsters”, “Blacklisted”, “War of Worlds”). 

1.       Writing!  My students this year were required to get a composition notebook in addition to their regular class notebook.   This is where we do our daily journaling, and write/edit our essays.  
a.       Textual Evidence-  I’m sure my students get tired of hearing me say, “Why?” or “How do you know?”  This is probably one of the hardest things for my students to learn.   Use sentence starters and anchor charts to help them understand how to cite evidence in their writing.
b.   Different types of writing-  Do not focus on 1 type of writing.  With the new testing, students will be required to understand how to write not only narrative essays, but also informative and argumentative.   Be sure to introduce and acclimate your students to all types of writing.

1.       Testing-  it’s not always a bad word!  Testing, such as STAR, MIST or MICA, is a great tool to use to really understand how your students learn and what they excel at. 
a.       Share the data!  Let your students take responsibility for their test scores.  At the beginning of the year I gave my students a small sheet to record their STAR360 scores for each screening.  This helps the students know and understand where they have come from and what they need to do to do better. 
                                                               i.      From MIST and MICA-  Print off 1-2 essays of each level of proficiency.  Make copies and allow your students to score and critique each essay.  This really helps the students know what a good and not so good essay looks like.  Students will then be able to compare their own writing to the exemplars.

Changes in curriculum are hard for everyone.  I believe that teachers are the best at “Modernizing the wheel”.   There’s never a reason to reinvent the wheel…but modernizing and adjusting to the times?  We are usually pretty good at that.  The best sources of information we have are each other (well… and the internet of course).  In the words of Dori, “Just keep swimming; Just keep swimming…”     

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bless Your Heart, By Amanda Roshon, ELA Teacher at Wilson Central High School

I have been teaching for 14 years now, and without fail, when people ask me what I do for a living, they often reply with, “I could never do that,” “Bless your heart,” or something along those lines.  It always makes me laugh.  What these people do not realize is how lucky I am to be a teacher. 

Forget about the testing.  Forget about the evaluations.  Forget about the hours spent planning and grading.  J Those things are all secondary.  What is important are the kids that we teach…the kids that we influence every day. 

Teaching is not a job that you can leave at school at the end of the day.  These children become our children, our family.  We play a part in these kids’ lives that we can never even imagine.  I sincerely hope that all teachers realize that.  It is essential to realize what impact we have on them.  We cannot let negativity invade our classroom because the students can sense that negativity.  It makes me so sad when I hear students come into my room talking about how their other teachers are complaining about their jobs or testing or anything else.  Not only is that completely unprofessional, but it also has an effect on the students.  For some of these kids, we may be the only bright spot in their days.  Be positive.  Love what you do.  Love these kids.  That is what teaching is all about.  Yes, content is important, but teaching is so much more than imparting knowledge. 

I know that it can be overwhelming what with all of the expectations placed upon on us, but at the end of the day, remember what you are here for…the kids.  

How to Make PLCs Work for You, by Laura Brown, Math Teacher at Lebanon High School

If you are like many new teachers, your first year can be very overwhelming. I can specifically recall those pre-inservice days and trying to keep up with the new school year information and teacher jargon. It’s as if school professionals speak a coded language, such as the ever growing list of educational acts and acronyms: IEPs, 504s, RTI, PLCs, etc. At the beginning of the year you might have been assigned or asked to join a PLC by your administration. But what is a PLC and how can it make your job easier? 

PLC stands for Professional Learning Community. These Communities are the new trend in teacher collaboration designed to provide support for each member. PLCs are implemented in various ways from teachers with common interest, common planning time, common subject matter / grade level, to teachers who share the same group of rotating students (think Mini Schools within larger school settings). The one thing in common no matter the grouping is the goal for student growth. 

PLCs are setup to function as a constant cycle where teachers meet regularly and work collaboratively within their team to achieve positive results with the students they serve. (see figure)
As a member of the PLC team you will work with your fellow teachers to establish norms for your weekly meetings as well as goal(s) of what you expect to accomplish. My team of 5 geometry teachers has chosen to officially meet every Wednesday after school, although we talk and brainstorm daily together. An agenda is submitted beforehand so that we all come prepared and use our time wisely…. because it is precious! We also have a designated member who records the minutes of the meeting so the important discussions are saved for future reference. 

Together a PLC should develop the common assessments that measure the students understanding of your S.M.A.R.T. goals. PLCs can make your job easier by sharing lesson plan duties for the teaching part of the cycle. Each member has a strength that can be contributed to this process. If you are struggling with how to teach a certain standard, one of your teammates should be able to support you by showing you how they would teach it, share a best practice, or invite you into their room for an observation of the lesson being taught . One member might excel at powerpoints, or putting together the activities. Another member could make the assignments and share them with the rest of the team. The important part is that you plan together and are all on the same page. This process relieves the
stress from having to create the “wheel” alone. Once you have taught and assessed your students along the way through exit tickets, and quick checks, making adjustments when needed, you will administer the common assessment. The data you get back will be analyzed as a team and a decision on what to do with those that did not learn the concepts (intervention) vs. those that mastered the standards and need enrichment will be decided upon. Then you repeat the whole cycle. 

PLCs are not just another weekly meeting you should dread attending nor are they meant to intimidate. They are meant to be an open dialog between teachers working together towards a common goal. The biggest benefit of the PLC is the support you give and receive from your team. There is a special bond and understood trust that develops in a PLC group that has been established for awhile. Put yourself out there and make your PLC work for you. Our students deserve it.

Monday, November 2, 2015


Teachers are beginning to share best practices that align with the TEAM rubric.  Check it out here: Best Practices Link.  Email Candis Angle if you have other ideas to share!

An Important Key to as Successful Year, by Tammy Curry, math teacher at West Wilson Middle School

Have you ever made a decision whether right or wrong that had an effect over a period of time?

Classroom Management has an effect over the entire school year.  Your success as a teacher and whether you win or lose your class (es) and have success in maintaining a managed classroom will be established early in the school year.  The first couple of weeks of scho
ol are the most important for you and your students.  It is not verbally repeating the procedures over and over that achieves your desired student behavior; it is the repetitive practice of the procedures until it becomes a routine.

Classroom management includes the participation of both teachers and students.  You as the teacher needs to know what you are doing, your own classroom procedures, and your responsibilities as a teacher.  Believe it or not, the students know and pick up on whether or not you know what you are doing.

Good classroom management is having a well-ordered environment with a set of procedures, expectations, and discipline that is followed with consistency.  Practicing procedures and letting students know one’s expectations within the first week of school will maintain an environment in which teacher instruction and learning can occur.  Without classroom management, it is hard for learning to take place.  The more a classroom is well managed, the more both students and teachers can work together to accomplish having an environment conducive for learning to take place.

On the very first day of school, students should feel welcomed.  Meeting them outside your door and letting them know what is expected when they walk in the room will help to set up the environment.  At the door let them know if there is assigned seating or open seating.

Make sure for several days to review specific expectations for inside and outside of the classroom.  Some expectations to include are specific procedures for the classroom, hallways, and lunchroom.

Being consistent and enforcing classroom expectations is important.  If students think you are not going to follow through with the consequences of negative behavior, soon you will have several students not doing what is expected.

Procedures that need to be practiced in order to become routine are :  how to enter the classroom, what to do once he/she enters the classroom (a student should not have to ask what are we doing today?) , where and when to sharpen a pencil, where to turn in and pick up papers, procedures for using the bathroom, when and how questions should be asked,

how to go from one task to another, what to do when they are in groups or working with a partner, how to be dismissed from class, what to do if visitors walk through the door, what to do in an emergency situation, where things are located in the classroom such as a hole puncher, tape, staples,  extra supplies, etc. and where to find makeup work if he/she is absent.

Teachers hold the key to a safe, managed, and successful classroom.

Co-teaching, by Gail Enoch, 6th – 8th grade Language Arts Teacher at Watertown Middle School

A co-taught classroom can be described as one where general and special educators share responsibility for the planning, delivery, and evaluation of instruction for a class.  It is essential that both educators respect the roles and personalities of one another and design lessons based on each person’s strengths.  The students must view both teachers as having an equal role both in instruction and classroom management.
Common co-teaching structures include:  
  • Lead and Support – One teacher leads while the other offers assistance to individual or small groups of students.
  • Parallel Teaching – Both teachers present the same content but use different instructional methods.
  • Alternative Teaching – One teacher works with a small group while the other teacher works with the rest of the class.
  • Station Teaching – Both teachers develop centers and students rotate through the activities.
  • Team Teaching – Both teachers share the planning and instruction of students in a coordinated fashion.
In a co-taught classroom, students with and without disabilities benefit from having the support of two educators.  Content should be individualized to fit students’ learning styles and social needs.  Students with disabilities feel connected with their peer group while still receiving specialized instruction.