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Brainy Apples: August 2013
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Joining Forces to Bring You Super Savings for 4th and 5th Grades!

I am so excited to be teaming up with 18 other amazing bloggers to bring you a Super-Sized 4th and 5th grade bundle at at 78% discount!

That's right! Back to school savings with Educents is here!  

You could snatch up 27 amazing products which include my 4th Grade Math Assessments for the Operations and Algebraic Thinking domain! This is one of my more popular products. You get a pre and posttest for each standard in this domain as well as a pre and posttest for the entire domain. Great for pre-assessing student knowledge to create skill-based groupings. You will also get an answer key for each of the 12 assessments, a student recording page, and a small group planning page.  


And it does not end there.  You get all the following downloads that will stretch learning across the curriculum and throughout the year!  YOWZA!




















It's only for a limited time and so you will want to head over and check out this and other amazing deals over at Educents!


Enjoy! 
Heather

Best and Most Linky Party

We are super excited to link up with Christina over at Bunting, Book, and Bainbridge! Like in high school, she is hosting this really fun "Best..... & Most....." superlatives linky party where we get to highlight some of our product superlatives. Fun!


My "Teacher's Pet" is my most popular item, Close Read Comprehension Question Stems for Literature and Informational Texts. This product can work for grades 1-5 and it provides an easy way to integrate reading into science and social studies. If you haven't heard of Close Reads yet, you will love them when you do!I have been doing some summer reading to further my own knowledge of Close Reads, and this product will make writing higher-level questions so much easier! Each stem is labeled with the anchor standard AND Bloom's Taxonomy level.

"Most Likely to Help Students Succeed" goes to my monthly Daily Math Reviews. I created these spiraling reviews so you can either quickly preview skills before you teach them or reinforce skills after you have taught them. Don't let the preview pic fool you.....I have a Daily Math Review for every month for grades 1-5....and if I don't have it made yet for the month and grade level, it will be completed very soon. I am currently working on September for all grades levels and will be starting on October very soon. If you click on the link you will be taken to my September review for 4th grade, but you can use the custom category tabs on the left side of the page to go to a specific grade level.

Lastly, I award my "Best Couples" award to two of my math assessment packs for 3rd grade (again, don't be fooled! I will have these completed for grades 1-5, as well. These are currently a work-in-progress, too). There will be an assessment for each domain for each grade level. Each assessment pack includes a pre and post-assessment for the whole domain as well as for EACH standard. That means some of my packs have up to 20 assessments or more! The preview features my 3rd Grade Number and Operations in Base pack and my 3rd Grade Operations and Algebraic Thinking pack. 


AND be sure to hit TpT tomorrow and Monday for our site-wide Back to School Sale! TpT is offering 10% off ALL items and I am throwing in an extra 20% off ALL items in the 2 Brainy Apples store! NOW is the time to get started on clearing our your wish list. Be sure to use promo code BTS13 to get that extra 10% from TpT!


Heather
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)
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Back To School Sale!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's BACK to SCHOOL which means TpT is throwing a MONSTEROUS SALE and ATUE is joining in!  


We are guessing that many of you have been adding items to your wishlist (or the wishlist in your mind!) and this is THE time to stock up on all the resources that will make your teaching better and your planning easier. Whether you need something "extra" to spice up a unit or are ready to try something brand new--this is your chance to get amazing resources at an even more amazing price.

Make sure to stop by all of our stores and stock up on the amazing savings!  UP TO 28% OFF in each of our stores!!


New Beginnings....

Hey everyone! I thought about writing this post last night, but I didn't know how long it would take me, and I wanted to make sure I was in bed early enough so I would be ready to send my kids off today for for their first day of school....without.....me.

Yeah, I know, every year for the first day of school, we all get butterflies in our tummies, but those are quickly shooed away because I am just a few steps away from them. They know if they forget something, or just need a pat of reassurance, I will be there for them. Maybe it isn't so much for them as it is for me. This year will be the first year I am not teaching, so this is the first first day I have had to drop them off and leave. Such a strange feeling. Add on top of that they are starting a new school, and it was a difficult morning for all of us. Since I am not teaching, it made sense to put them in the elementary school across the street from the high school where my hubby teaches. Easier for him to take them or drop them off. Plus their old elementary school does not feed into the middle school where our children will attend because they will attend the middle school that feeds into my hubby's high school. Better to make new friends in elementary school than in middle school. We have it all mapped out...so far :)

Where Have I Been?

One year ago today we didn't have this mapped out, though. I was teaching in the same elementary school as my children and thought I always would be until they went off to middle school, and then my hubby and I joked that I would move up to middle school with them. But then I ruptured a disc in my lower back and missed the last 2 months of school. I finally had surgery on June 11, and I actually started to feel like my old self about 2 weeks ago. After much discussion with my hubby back in May, we decided I would take this year off and focus on getting my back stronger and just being a mom to my 3 amazingly, beautiful children who have had to take a backseat at times to the students in my classroom. Now I only have 3 kids to worry about. MINE. I can't express the happiness I feel when I say that out loud. But, at the same time, I also feel sad that I can't be at school with them all day long. I didn't realize how just seeing a glimpse of them in the hallway, in their classroom, at lunch, or at recess playing with their friends made me happy. And it made them happy to see me smiling at them. I know they will survive without me being at school. I know I will survive without me being at school. But I still feel a little sad. In the past, after school was over I could only think about how far away bedtime was so I could get everyone tucked in so I could finally have a break. I ALWAYS felt guilty about that. When they didn't feel well at night (or, gasp, in the morning) my mind was always preoccupied with having to write sub plans, calling in for a sub, stressing over WORK instead of helping my own child feel better. Or I would try to squeak out them going to school in hopes that once they got up and moving they would be OK and make it through the day. No longer will I have to do that.

Now I understand how moms can't wait to pick up their kids from school to see how they day was and to spend QUALITY time with them every afternoon and evening. I am no longer going to want bedtime to hurry up and get here, because I will have the energy for my own children. It took me a while to realize that I was a better teacher to my students than a mom to my own kids. And when I finally did realize that, it stung. Not just a little, but a LOT. But I am glad I realized it now while I still have many, many years left with them until they graduate high school.

Where Am I Headed?

Why the long diatribe about this? Well, because 10 months ago when I started this blog, my purpose was to blog about my teaching adventures. Flash forward 10 months and I am no longer teaching. Notice I didn't say I am no longer an educator because I will always be an educator. But what I do during the day has changed. My focus has shifted and my priorities have been rearranged. And I L.O.V.E. that. I also need my blog to change, shift, and be rearranged. I am currently working with Honey Bunches Design to give my blog a makeover so that it will reflect who I am today and not 10 months ago. I may very well be in a different place 10 months from now, so I want to make sure my new blog design and blog name can adapt and evolve with me (don't worry, the web address will remain the same). I am very excited to share the makeover with all of you, and I don't know quite when it will be ready, but I will be sure to let you all know of when it happens.

What will my "new" blog be about? Well, in a nutshell, my life. The long version: My life as a work-at-home mom, wife, and someone who has a journey put in front of her but isn't sure which direction it is going to take. A little scary, yes. A lot of excitement, YES! Just the opportunity I had last week (being an extra on a movie set, yeah!), I never would have had if I had continued to teach. I have always lived my life in the "safe" zone. Boring, yes, but it has gotten me to where I am today so I can't complain. But, at the same time, I have lived with regrets of wishing I had had the courage or strength to do something totally new or take a risk (even though I know one different choice would have changed where I am today and who I am today, so I am glad I made the choices I have made). But, now, at 34, I finally feel comfortable enough in my own skin to do this, and I couldn't be more excited. To those of you who began following my blog because of the educational aspect, I do hope you all will continue with me on my journey because there will be some educational topics (I am going to begin submitting proposals to present at SDE conferences and I do plan on having my children complete some fun projects to help their learning), but there will just be a whole lot more variety because there is more to life.

Thanks for listening! Feel free to share any of your thoughts and comments below. I love my visitors!

Heather
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)
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ELA Summer Book Club- Chapter 9: Assessment

I'm bbbbbaaaaacccckkkkkk! :) Ready for some talk about assessment? I was very excited to get Chapter 9: Assessment and the Common Core Standards. I mean, who wouldn't be? While I did enjoy reading this chapter, I did feel as though it would have been very helpful to have had concrete examples of the types of assessment the authors felt would be appropriate or that fit all their requirements. I am like most of you. I want to learn, but I also want examples! Oh, well. You get what you get and you don't pitch a fit, right? ;) OK, let's get started, shall we?

What I enjoyed most about this chapter is that it solidified what I have always felt about assessment: it should be meaningful, frequent, diagnostic for specific skills, shared and discussed with students, and tied across the content areas (ahem...cough..cough...Authentic Performance Assessments!)

The authors state that a quality reading Common Core reading assessment must:
1. Reflect a student's most current and comprehensive understanding of reading.
2. Show a student's progression in daily learning and end of the quarter/year goals.
3. Combine formative and summative assessments.
4. Report, support, and teach in relation to student learning.
5. Focus on a student's metacognition and feelings towards reading.
6. Be developed with a clear understanding of what the CCSS says.
7. Help all students meet the rigorous requirements of the CCSS including our struggling readers.

Whew! That was A LOT. Like last time, I am not going to go into all the research the authors use to support their view. Instead I will briefly explain what the authors mean by each of the above.


Reflect a student's most current and comprehensive understanding of reading:
Basically, our assessments should not simply test whether a student comprehends a text. Rather, our assessments should assess to see if our students can apply, analyze, critique, or synthesize across multiple texts what they have read. We need to make sure our assessments are assessing what the CCSS are requiring of students, and the assessment results yield where our students are in relation to mastering these standards.


Show a student's progression in daily learning and end of the quarter/year goals:
We need to make sure our assessments not only assess the year-end goals, but also the smaller, more daily goals we set for our students. Meaning that we will have to assess our students' basic skills that may not be included in the standards because these skills are prerequisites that are critical to a student mastering the grade level standards. Assessments should describe students in relation to these prerequisite skills and show student progression to mastering the CCSS skills.


Combine formative and summative assessments:
Formative assessments should be used to guide teaching, and summative assessments should be used to see if a student has mastered standards. In other words, formative assessments lend themselves to teaching moments and informing teachers in how to scaffold lessons/activities so all of our students can master the standard. Obviously, teachers need both of these types of assessments. Formatives help us know what/how to teach our students. Summatives help us know if our students have mastered the standards. Typically, students who struggle may need to have more formative assessments so the teacher can gauge whether or not the instruction is helping a student progress towards mastery of the standard or, if not, instruction needs to be altered. 

Report, support, and teach in relation to student learning:
This area covers letting students in on the secrets of assessment. Why? Because if a student understands how and why he/she is being assessed as well as how to interpret the results, students will begin to be able to set goals, discuss his/her progress (or lack thereof if needed), find and fix problems in his/her learning, and eventually (every teacher's dream): gain independence for assessing their own reading. Which for those of you who read my post on Chapter 7, you will know that this student mindfulness (aka metacognition) would be my ideal runner-up super power, falling shortly behind teleportation. We all know that a student needs to be able to self-monitor and assess him/herself in order to become a master reader, but how do we get them to do this? Ah, one of life's biggest mysteries. This is especially where I wished there had been an example assessment or vignette included. A few questions were included, though, that students could be asked to answer regularly:
~Why am I reading?
~Does this make sense?
~Is there a problem?
~What is the problem?
~Can I fix it?
~Can I get back on track?

Focus on a student's metacognition and feelings towards reading:
Metacognition underlies a student's success with reading increasingly complex texts. I found this point to be very similar to the above. This section, however, also includes a student's motivation, engagement, and feelings towards reading (the latter would be self-efficacy). A student must believe he/she can be successful. The authors state that assessments should track a student's metacognition and self-efficacy.

Be developed with a clear understanding of what the CCSS says:
Teachers must be experts on the curriculum, which will be difficult because it is new for just about everyone. Students must be accustomed to taking these types of performance assessments. Student acclimation to these types of assessment can be enhanced by a vertical alignment of assessments grade level to grade level. If assessment programs are aligned across grade levels and across school subjects (cough...cough....Authentic Performance Tasks that are cross-curricular), students will become more successful in completing these assessments. 

Help all students meet the rigorous requirements of the CCSS including our struggling readers:
Ah, and here seems to be the golden question we all ask, "I have students who could not meet our old standards. How are they going to meet these new ones that have been bumped up a grade level or more?" The authors say that through the use of the correct types of assessments, we will be able to track our students progression and diagnose weaknesses so we can adjust our instruction. MUCH easier said than done!

I know I have dropped subtle hints that I love Authentic Performance Tasks, so here is a blog post I did earlier this year for All Things Upper Elementary where I am a collaborator. I LOVE everything about them. I won't go off on a tangent because I want to maintain the purpose of this post, but feel free to check it out and let me know if you have used them in the past, if you think you might give them a try, and what you think below. I will leave a question below pertaining to Authentic Performance tasks :)

So, as you can see, this chapter had some good info, but I was really missing the vignettes or examples of what the authors feel are matched assessment to the CCSS. As with implementing the Common Core, teacher collaboration is going to be instrumental in creating quality assessments that accurately assess our students.

Please read over the questions below and feel free to join in on the discussion even if you haven't been reading along with us!

And in case you missed the previous chapters, here they are:
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8

And next Monday, August 12, be sure to visit Jen at Out of This World Literacy as she concludes our book study!



Thanks for reading!
Heather
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)
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