Thursday, December 31, 2015

Looking Back at 2015

Wow. I can't believe it is the end of 2015 already! This sure has been a great year.. I got a new car, started a blog, and launched my TpT store... all things that I wanted to do for a while. I can't wait to see where life takes me in 2016!

I don't really do new year resolutions. But here is my "to do" list for 2016:

1. Blog more. I think I'm starting to figure this whole blogging thing out so you should definitely expect to see more posts from me in 2016!

2. Design more TpT products. Just like the blog, I think I'm starting to figure this out. And I'm having a fun time designing my products! 

Side note about that.. While I was student teaching I had a student notice that I gave different worksheets (differentiation) so students could show their knowledge in different ways. I made a joke that I made worksheets for fun, and at the time I was kidding, but it seems like that's kinda true now. 

Anyways.. back to my list!

3. Keep the house clean. Over winter break, I've FINALLY cleaned the place and it was so bad before I was too embarrassed to take before and after pictures so now it's time to really start decorating it. 

That's about it! Well, of course the whole spending time with friends and family, travel, eat healthy, read, but that's old news. 

Stay safe out there tonight & cheers to a great year!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Learning Contracts

Gifted students. Early finishers. We all have those students who sometimes need that extra push, another challenge that they can conquer. The question is – how do we challenge those students with

meaningful work, without having the teacher do a ton of extra work?

I use "Learning Contracts" with my students to challenge my gifted students, and also any high achieving students who can handle an enrichment project. These contracts are a simple solution to keep the high achieving students engaged and challenged, AND they can be used for any grade, any subject, or any standard. It takes the current objective to the next level for the students who have already mastered or have some level of proficiency with the topics you're teaching in class. 

You choose the learning objective, and how the students will show what they have learned. I usually include a few activities, but this could also be one larger project. There are "checkpoints" where you meet with the students and review the work they have completed so far. This keeps you updated on where your students are as they complete the project, and if you see a student is very behind then it will let the students who are behind know that they need to use their time more wisely. This is probably the most important part of the project because the students need timely feedback so they can complete the project correctly and finish by the due date. 

This year I have used learning contracts a lot with phonics. In the past I have used contracts in math, science, social studies, and reading. I have a lot of strong readers in my class this year who don't need as much of the "word work" when learning new phonics patterns, and get bored easily when working through centers. Instead of having these students write words various ways, they have done tasks such as reading through the decodable to highlight the words with the pattern, rewriting them, and sorting into categories when applicable. Many of my other reading groups complete this, but this is done at the end of the unit after teacher directed instruction. The students who complete the contract do this independently without the targeted phonics instruction in small groups. Now I am having my students write their own decodable with words with the phonics. 

This is not intended to be a whole class project. It is designed to challenge the few students in your class who constantly finish early and need an additional challenge. There is no way you could manage 30 learning contracts and keep your sanity at the same time!

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