Organize and Simplify Archive
Clear October

First up, big hugs to Rachel from The Tattooed Teacher!  She’s showing you how to use one of the anecdotal notepads from the shop and is giving one away too!  So head on over and enter!

Now on to something else that’s been on my mind: multitasking.  I’ve written about it before and I’m going to recap a bit again, but also discuss some new thoughts as well, including my Clear October list.

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Lately I haven’t been blogging much because I’ve been focusing on preparing for my next course to start (I teach at a local University).  This weekend, we had a lot to do.  Lincoln had a fall festival at school, I wanted to read some articles and go visit the library to do some research, I was planning on meeting up with some other teacher bloggers for the evening, and I hadn’t seen my husband all week because he was traveling.  Not to mention, I wanted to blog and focus on ordering some holiday things for the C. Jayne Teach shop.  Of course, I tried to multitask.  I was reading articles at the library and texting people to meet up.  I was hanging out with Eric and Lincoln at the festival, but my mind was on the shop orders and that’s when it hit me.  Stop trying to multitask.  It doesn’t exist and you know that.

See, I hate the word multitasking.  I always have.  I made this graphic above feel very dreamy because I think that’s what “multitasking” is.  A dream that we imagine ourselves in, doing everything at once and doing it well because isn’t that the only way we’ll be a good ____ (mom, teacher, spouse, friend, etc).  As a teacher I always felt like this was something that not only existed but something I had to be good at.  I had to run a small group, while talking to a student on the side, all while answer a parent email.  And I actually tried that!  We all know how I reformed my email policy, but even after that, I still “multitasked”.  But I really wasn’t.  Because it doesn’t exist.  You cannot do two things (or more) at once.  You are either doing one thing or another.  I was either giving my attention to the students in my small group or I wasn’t.  I was either teaching a lesson or answering an email.  I was either collaborating with a colleague or checking Pinterest.  Or in the case of this past weekend, I was either spending time with my family or I wasn’t.  Seriously.  You. can. not. do. both.

It wasn’t until I heard Lara Casey say this exact statement to me last October that I realized, it was okay to feel this way.  At some point of trying to do multiple things at once, your attention and focus have to shift.  As a teacher and now as a mom, I’ve had to realize that I have to devote my attention to one thing at a time.  When I am playing with Lincoln, I am not answering email.  I am not scrolling Facebook or Instagram.  I am not talking on the phone.  I am being present as his mama.  Sure, there are times when he plays by himself and I talk to my sister on the phone or I scroll through my Insta-feed.  But I recognize that I’m doing one thing and he is doing another.  Regardless of your role, teacher-parent-administrator-spouse, don’t you want to be present in that role and be great in that role?  I do.  This was a big a-ha moment for me once I realized that the “multitasking” had to stop.  But especially in the classroom, I think we tend to feel like it we don’t try to multitask, then we’ll never “get it all done” – right?  Let’s try to sort that out here and now.

Focus

This month, Lara is talking about Clear October (go follow her on Instagram @laraacasey – she’s such a light and inspiration in my life).  She’s focusing on those things that help “clear” your life this month.  I know, you have a million things to do and a million things running through your brain at once (at least if you’re like me you do).  But I’ve had to make a conscious effort to focus, both now and during my time in the classroom.  What I found was that when I was trying to do a bunch of things at the same time, none of it was done well.  When I stopped and focused on just one thing at a time, I realized that I was able to (for example) finish the small group more efficiently, meet the needs of my students, and still have time to plan for our next meeting.  The same thing happened after I established my email policy.  When I wasn’t trying to hastily write an email in between a math and a science lesson, I was able to concentrate and compose a more thoughtful and meaningful email to the parent or colleague.  My students also knew that I would only be doing one thing at a time.  I had implemented an “ask 3 then ask me” rule, so that if they had a question when I was speaking with another student or another adult, they had to ask three other friends to find the answer first.  If they still needed to speak to me, they had to wait until I was available.  After about a week or two of turning them away when I was busy, they got the hang of it.  It also made each question they had to ask me meaningful and purposeful.

So in the spirit of #clearOctober, I’m making my clear list.  Things I’m going to focus on and dedicate time to.

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[Image by Lindsey Ocker Photography.  (List by me)  Her prints and photography are AMAZING.  Go go go check her out.]

My challenge to you is to make your own #clearOctober list and join in Lara’s movement.  And take time this month to re-focus on what is right in front of you.  Most of you are on fall break now or will be soon, so use this as a re-charge.  And don’t be too hard on yourself.  We all have moments, especially as educators and moms when we feel like we need to “multitask”.  But next time you get the urge, take a deep breath and focus.  Happy Clear October!

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Why assessment is the most important thing you do.

Question: How many times a day are you assessing your students? 

Answer: Constantly.  (If you said anything less than this, I’m glad you’re here.  Read on.)

Recently in my Method course at a local university, I had students turning in lesson plans without assessment in them.  Confused by this, I asked them why most of them had left out such a crucial piece of every lesson.  Their answer?  Well it wasn’t the end of the unit.  I wanted to fall off my chair, BUT, I realized that that is so often what we associate assessment with.  And if you’ve never been in the classroom full time or have been there very recently, that may be what you think you should do.  Teach a lesson/unit.  Give a test.  Repeat.  And I realized that it is still that way for most teachers who are in the classroom right this minute.  This is one of the very reasons why I created the Teacher Anchor to included student data as a crucial piece.  Teachers I know and have worked with needed this piece of the planning puzzle.  They were only using assessment to see if their students got it.  And even if some didn’t, they moved on anyway.  So, let’s talk about why assessment is so important and let’s get you on the right path (if you aren’t already there).

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When do you pre-test?

  • At the end of the previous day’s lesson
  • For Morning Work
  • Any time that will give you accurate time to review the results
  • If the skill is a reviewed skill, you may pre-test in the beginning of a lesson.

For every Common Core standard you teach, you should be pre-testing your students to see what they already know.  For example, if one of my standards is CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.A.2 Count within 1000; skip-count by 5s, 10s, and 100s and I’m tackling skip counting by 5’s (5, 10, 15, 20…) and my students already know how to do that, I’d be wasting precious school time of theirs and mine going over it again, right?  But how would I know if they can skip count without a pre-test?  You can’t.  So let’s start there.  When I was in the classroom, everything I did included a pre-test.  Once I had my standard(s) laid out, I’d create an assessment to evaluate how many of my students had mastered* this skill already.  So before I’d even begin to teach, I’d give a pre-test.

*Mastered means just that.  They know it front, back, and sideways.  Not just every once in awhile or just on this day.

Types of pre-tests

Now if you are thinking of a “test” being with pencil and paper, that’s not what I mean. There are various types of formal and informal measures.  Here are just a few that I would use:

  • Formal: Written assessment (multiple choice, fill in the blank, open response), Digital Data Collection system (Student Response system by SMART, Clickers, Survey Monkey, Socrative)
  • Informal: Oral assessment (white boards, thumbs up/thumbs down), Entry Tickets, Checklists* (whole group, small group, or individually)

*I used checklists most often.  And if you have the Teacher Anchor or you’ve purchased one of the Student Data sheet sets (which are still available even though the Anchor sold out), then you already have these checklists built into your planning system.

So let’s walk through a pre-test.  Let’s say I’m teaching skip counting by 5’s, as I mentioned before.  (CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.A.2 Count within 1000; skip-count by 5s, 10s, and 100s.)  I may pre-test by using my SMART response system, by asking students a variety of skip counting questions and have them weigh in with their clickers (only allowing me to see their results).  Don’t have a fancy system?  Let’s go old school and ask them to skip count one at a time.  I’ll call them up to my desk as they come in in the morning, ask them to count by 5’s to 100 and mark my checklist with a yes they did it or no they couldn’t do it.  Easy as pie.

I pre-tested.  Now what?

Now you proceed with your whole group lesson (unless every single person in class has mastered it.  Then you put your checklist in your Anchor and move on to the next standard).  As you teach your whole group lesson, be aware that some students are above and below target.  When you break up to do an independent activity, plan to pull out or provide differentiated activities for those students who are above/below target.  The student sheet set also has these differentiated anecdotal notation forms available too.  Or you can purchase an anecdotal notepad right here in the shop.  It’s important to make sure you are enriching for your high learners and scaffolding for those who are below target.  This is why planning and differentiation is a crucial part of the assessment process.  You have to meet each student at their level.  Bloom’s Taxonomy and Higher Order Thinking skills are SO SO important to help you meet each students needs.  Visit those links listed there to help you differentiate via various levels of questioning.

Post-Testing

So you’ve finished your lesson.  You’re done differentiating.  Now what?  Time to see what they’ve learned!  This can be done on the same day or the following day.  Or even when you’re done with the standard.  Here’s are some guidelines to post-testing:

  • You must give the SAME post-test as you did pre-test in order to show growth.
  • You can add questions to the post-test, but you must keep all of the original pre-test questions on there too.
  • Post-test at the end of each skill lesson or at the end of your unit. (For example, if your skip counting lesson is just part of a bigger unit, you may choose to pre-test at the end of this skip-counting lesson to assess this particular skill but then give a overall “unit test” where you pull questions from each post-test throughout the unit to gauge their overall learning of the unit.  Make sense?)

How did your students do?  Did they show mastery?  If yes, then wonderful!  File individual student data in your Anchor and move on!  If no, re-teach the standard in a different way.  Provide enrichment for those who have mastered and assistance for those still below target.

Want a summary of this entire post?

I created a flow chart to give to my Methods students and wanted to make it available to you, for FREE!  Hole-punch it and stick it in the front of your Anchor.  You can also find it in my TpT shop for free download as well.

Download the Assessment Flow Chart here.  Or click on the graphic below.

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Why does assessment matter?

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Your data should drive what you teach.  The way your student perform on each pre/post test should determine how you proceed with your plans.  No more testing and moving on.  If you do that, then stop it right now.  If you don’t use the data to drive the instruction, then you are wasting everyone’s time.  Most importantly, your students aren’t learning and what good is that?  You should pre-test and post-test for every single standard and objective that comes across your plans.  Use the flow chart to help you.

And as always, if you have questions, please contact me or email me at chandra@cjayneteach.com  And if you feel like you need a little extra help, the student data sheet sets are still available.  They come with a complete explanation on how to use them and how to best benefit your students learning.  Trust me, they’ll make you a better teacher.  And your students will thank you.  🙂

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Fired Up Friday: Full Disclosure

Today’s “Fired Up Friday” is a post dedicated to all of the teachers who “do it all” or actually, who don’t do it all.  Hear me out.

Remember that sweet post about Lincoln’s first day of school.  Well here’s what you didn’t see, in the photo below.  Also, just so you know, after that glorious first day, he screamed and cried the entire day for the next two days of school.  He’s just now getting used to school, but he still cries terribly at drop off and clings to my neck for dear life.  When his teachers pull him off of me, I sprint for the door.

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The amazing Whitney English wrote this blog post today titled “Death to Doing It All”.  It really resonated with me because, as she says, we don’t do it all.  I remember when I was a teacher and single and even when I was then a wife (not even having any children yet), my schedule was as follows: I would wake up at 5, get ready, drive an hour to work (yes I did this every day), worked with 20 precious 7 year olds, stayed a little after school to prepare and plan, drive an hour home, get almost home and think “I cannot possibly think about making dinner”.  And I’d swing by Chipotle right as I got off my exit.  By the time I ate, showered and said hello to my husband, it was 9 pm.  And I was hitting the pillow… hard. I would never have described myself as “doing it all”, but it sure looked that way.  I couldn’t imagine how teachers with children felt!

And then I had a baby!  Luckily, I had a baby in June, so I didn’t have to worry about trying to do it all during the school year.  Yes, I took a maternity leave and had the year off from teaching.  But when my sweet baby was 4 months old, that’s when I had the idea to start C. Jayne Teach (and I also ran that little Etsy shop on the side that I previously mentioned).  I had a lot of people ask me how I “did it all” while having baby such a short time ago.  I just smiled and laughed.  But little did they know, that that was hardly the case.  Full disclosure here: I barely scraped by some days.  I had a really hard time after Lincoln was born.  I cried… a lot.  I had an extremely difficult time nursing and ended up exclusively pumping for 9 months.  That means for roughly 280 days of Lincoln’s life, I hooked myself up to a machine, seven times a day for 15 minutes each in order to feed my child (that’s 1,960 times for those of you who are counting and around 29,400 minutes of my life).  I stayed up late learning Illustrator on Lynda.com and taking care of a baby and (admittedly) left little time to spend with my husband.  I attended conferences (drove to and from Atlanta in ONE DAY for Making Things Happen to get back to be with Lincoln) and learned as feverishly as I could about this new business of mine.  I would have “business meetings” and vendor calls, all during nap time (which changed daily).  And I even had a plate of tacos dumped on my lap in the middle of a lunch meeting with my accountant (by Lincoln not by the accountant).  Here’s the thing though… I wouldn’t trade those difficult moments for anything in the world because it made me stronger as an entrepreneur, as a mom and as a wife.  And I won’t say life is easy peasy now because, well, that just wouldn’t be real, but it is pretty good.  We have a routine, I am able to run a business from my home and teach classes at a University here in town.  And I’m even able to cook dinner some nights!  But I still don’t do it all.

So to those of you who see me as a teacher, a professor, an entrepreneur, a wife, a mom, a friend and you think I have it all and do it all.  Thank you.  But I am as human as the next person.  I want you to be a little less hard on yourself.  You are doing an amazing job.  You are a fabulous ______ (teacher, parent, spouse, friend) and you rock.  I know not every day is good, but you have some great ones too – you do!  And tomorrow is a new day.  (And if you need me to remind you of that each morning, I will… that’s why I created the pep talk mug!  :))

As Whitney says, in response to the question, “How do YOU do it?”, I would like to propose a more productive conversation: tell us about your awesome. Tell us how you do the important stuff. Tell us how you do what matters. Tell us how you found your balance. Tell us what your strengths are. Tell us what lessons you learned. Blog about your awesome loudly. Because the world needs your expertise, your passion, and the lessons you’ve learned. The world needs your AWESOME. The world doesn’t need to know how you do it “all”. The world needs to know how you do that one little thing really, really well.”

So, how do I do what matters?  I focus on my core.  I focus on making decisions every day under the mantra “always make each day count“.  Whether I’m designing something new to help teachers in their classroom, meeting with a student from one of my courses, or taking Lincoln to the park, I’m always trying to make the day count.  I take the little victories amidst the times that I fall down.  (Case and point: Lincoln had a HUGE meltdown on the floor of the Verizon store as I’m trying to purchase a new iPhone today.  I stood in line for 45 minutes and I was NOT leaving before that phone was in my hand.  So I gave him my keys to chew on and a piece of a doughnut that they were giving away… because of course he threw the grapes and healthy snacks I brought with us all over the ground.  BUT little man ended up taking a four hour nap in the afternoon, which totally made up for that meltdown.  And I got to spend time learning my new phone and doing a little finalizing some Christmas products!  Victory!)

And focusing on my core goes for all of the products and original lesson plans in my shop too.  They’re all designed around what matters.  They all have a piece of my beliefs in them and a purpose for your classroom.  The desk pads are to keep you organized, and keep lots of little lists from cluttering up your desk.  This frees up more space for you to work with your students!  Because how many times do we skip reading groups because the table is just too messy?  Guilty!  The rubber stamps are meant to help you easily label your supplies so you don’t have to worry about lending them out and sharing with your students or colleagues because now you know they’ll find their way home.  And we all know about the Teacher Anchor.

So I want you to go into this weekend and into next week and all the weeks following by knowing that you’re AWESOME.  Who cares if you did it all?  Did you make today count?  Did you spend your time making decisions in your classroom and your home based on your core?  Well then, I’d say that’s a pretty good day.

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Fired Up Fridays: A Midwestern girl visits a very Southern home

Yes I know it’s Monday, but I had to post this after the weekend.  You all know that I believe in doing things outside of school time that light your heart on fire.  You need to re-charge your batteries and not focus on school work when you leave.  That’s why I created the Teacher Anchor (which there are only 6 left of!!!) to help teachers focus on school when they’re there and family and friends after school.  You can see what I mean in the video here.  So I’m getting back into blogging about Fired Up Fridays this week!  And I encourage you to make your own fired up list this week… you can download a FREE list from my TpT store here.

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This week I wanted to focus on two things that light my heart on fire: spending time with encouraging people and visiting cool things in your home city!  Back in March, when I attended Making Things Happen, I met Victoria and MeredithMeredith lives here in Nashville and we’ve gotten to be friends since.  Victoria lives in Texas and came to Nashville this weekend to hang out and visit some friends.  Both of these ladies are so encouraging to me.  Meredith is also a business owner (and is responsible for most of the gorgeous images you see of the product line) and Victoria was an education major who allows me to bounce all kind of fun shop ideas off of her and her teacher friends.  So spending time with them is something that fires me up.  It’s so encouraging and positive to surround yourself with people who support you.  I have made a conscious effort to spend more time lately with people who are loving and positive and less time with the people who bring me down.

This is especially applicable in an education setting.  You know there are those teachers who are constantly negative about the lessons you do or the projects you take on.  Some of them may even be your friends!  But I’ve found it’s best to keep a little distance and not let them get into your head.  Find teachers who you can collaborate with, who make you laugh, and who think that your new ideas are exciting and wonderful!

This brings me to the second thing that fires me up – going out and visiting Nashville!  It is so refreshing to get out and be a tourist in your own city.  Whether you live in a small town or NYC, go out and visit what it has to offer!  I’ve lived in Nashville for 6 years now and still discover new things all the time.  So while Victoria was in town, she and Meredith invited me to the Southern Living Idea House.  Now, being a Midwesterner, I had no idea what the idea house was or even that it is currently located in Nashville!  (For those of you “Northerners” reading this post, the Southern Living idea house is a concept home that they build each year in a different southern city.  They design and decorate it as the quintessential southern home.  Then they photograph it for Southern Living magazine and you can tour it for a few months!  You even get an idea guide that gives you the resources to purchased everything you see in the home, from the furniture to the paint color on the walls.)

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Meredith took the photos while we toured the house and the complete tour is now posted over on Victoria’s blog, but I thought I’d highlight a few rooms that fired ME up and got me bugging my husband to build a southern farm house.  🙂

I didn’t know I loved front porches until we moved to the south.  I don’t know where our family will settle one day, but I can assure you that even if it is back in Ohio, there will be a huge front porch on our home.  This home had 2,000 square feet of porch space (as you can see only part of it in our group photo above).  Whoa.  And I could have sat all day on the covered porch or on that porch swing.

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Next up, the kitchen.  Open, inviting, airy, and I love the dark green color everywhere!

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This home will eventually be turned into a boutique bed and breakfast.  With six bedrooms that were each decorated exquisitely, I want to be the first to sign up to stay here!

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Everything in the home was so beautiful.  I plan on visiting again when it’s decorated for the holidays!  As I said before, go visit Victoria’s blog to see all the complete photos from our tour and if you don’t live near Middle Tennessee, take your own virtual tour here.

And make your own fired up list now!  Then try to do something from it every chance you get.  I make a new list with each season because what fires me up in the summer is very different than what fires me up in the fall.  It can be something as simple as drinking a pumpkin spice latte or something as exciting as going to an Ohio State game, but I know that this is an important part of what keeps me rested, energized, and ready to tackle each day.

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Blog Love + Last Day for the SALE!
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I hope you all are enjoying the last day of your long weekend.  I have two more fabulous blogs to share with you today, Fabulous in First and Mrs. Wills Kindergarten!

Michelle from Fabulous in First is not only awesome because she’s a Miami grad too but because she has amazing, unique ideas and a really cute blog.  She was sweet enough to review the desk pad and other products from the product line and I couldn’t be more grateful!  Thank you Michelle!

Deedee from Mrs. Wills Kindergarten was also kind enough to review the product line and some custom stationery I designed for her in her blog colors.  I love Deedee because she’s really creative and really funny.  Our emails always made me laugh and I love what she says about my rubber stamps in her post – ha!

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Also if you haven’t taken advantage of the 20% off sale this weekend, you only have a few hours left to do so!  Take 20% off all desk trays with code KICKOFF to celebrate this opening weekend of college football!  It is so fun seeing the teams you all root for when your orders come in.  I love it!

Have a great week everyone!

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