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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Back to School Whip and Nae Nae: PBIS Song

       As we were heading back to school this year, we all couldn't escape the viral song that is "Watch Me" AKA the Whip and Nae Nae. With a title like that, I figured it was a perfect song to make into a PBIS song to encourage good behavior and remind students of the expectations at the beginning of the year.
     With this in mind, I went to work rewriting the words for a staff song and dance. I had a great time brainstorming the words, and then having my brother come over to record our version. (This was a whole family project with my brother, his girlfriend, my husband, and myself all on the track- many laughs throughout the recording night.)
       When school started, we got the staff together to teach them the dance moves and then presented to the students at our first Golden Awards assembly. The video is below, although the quality isn't a great. (I guess that's what you get from a 6th grader...) The students loved seeing their teachers make a fool of themselves and left school singing and dancing that day.

     After posting this video to my Instagram account, I got many requests for the words and a clearer track of the song. Although the song was written to our school specifically, it's pretty easy to still use the song and just skip through that part. Here are the words and the soundtrack:

                                                               Watch Me Lyrics

   Enjoy! Happy Dancing!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Back to School Technology Tips

   Welcome to Coach and Teach, a space I have dedicated to help teachers lighten the load. Although we are all fresh off summer vacation and full of energy and excitement for our new students as they walk through the door, we have to remember we can't all do it alone and we need to help each other with ideas, lessons, and encouragement. So, just as we encourage our students to create community and rely on their classmates this year, please join me in a teaching community to do the same for ourselves. Feel free to peruse my blog for ideas, but please feel free to leave feedback or your own ideas in the comments as well.

   To get you started thinking about heading back to the classroom and creating the best learning environment possible, I am dedicating this post to some of the ways I incorporate technology into my classroom. I am lucky enough to be in a district where every student has a Google account and I also have access to 15 iPads. However, I'm going to share a few ways that you can use technology even if you only have access to a few devices, or you allow your students to use their own devices- because they have them, we might as well use them for a good purpose!

   This past year I made it my goal to keep parents better informed about the happenings of our classroom on a more consistent basis. In order to do this, I started by creating a Twitter account for my classroom. At the end of each day, as a closing activity, we gathered to discuss our learning for the day and see how we could best summarize our learning in 140 characters. This not only helped students to work on the important skill of summarizing, but also updated parents daily on the most important happenings and learning of our day. As the year went on, I chose a weekly "Tweeter" to update our Twitter account. This was a highly sought after position, plus it's always nice to turn over some of our tasks to the students to keep our "Teacher To-Do List" to a minimum if possible.
Here are a few examples of our classroom Tweets. Feel free to follow our class if you're interested.
Grab this Back to School Time Capsule activity here! 

   In order to get parents on board, I created a classroom Twitter board on my door that actually had two purposes. First, it was a way for parents to quickly scan a QR code that led them to our account so they could follow us, and secondly, I used it as a quick and easy "Ticket out the Door" assessment for daily lessons. Each student received their own Twitter bubble, and at the end of the lesson I would ask a summative question to check for understanding. Each student would then use a post-it note to answer the question, and hang it on their bubble. This was a great organizational tool for me as well, because I could easily see which students had completed the task and which hadn't with a quick glance. It was also very simple for me to check their understanding without having to gather up papers, store them on my desk, and then grade them at a later time. Just a quick glance with my clipboard and we were good to go! Small groups could easily be made for reteach or extra support that day or the next.  

   Today just happens to be your lucky day as well, because as a FREEBIE you can upload my Twitter Board to use in your classroom as well! Just click here for your own copy! (Available for free through August 5th) I would love to see how you use it in your classroom as well, so be sure to take pictures and use the hashtag #CoachandTeachInAction to showcase your class on Instagram or Twitter.

    Many of you may already be aware of this classroom management system, but if you haven't, you definitely need to give it a try. I was a little skeptical at first having a class of 6th graders, but they absolutely bought into it and would keep me accountable for using it if I ever happened to forget.
    Any teacher can sign up for a free account at www.classdojo.com and create their class account from there. The site will generate an access code and you can have students sign up for their own account. The kids at that point have full access to change their avatar, check their points, and even communicate with the teacher. The best part is that parents can also sign up for an account that is linked to their child, where they can receive daily or weekly updates about how their child is behaving in class, taking out the middle step of you having to email parents daily or weekly.

Here is an example of how the program will send home reports to families. 

The report below shows an example of a daily, weekly, or monthly chart that can pulled for the whole class or individual students to track specific behaviors.  

     The basis of the management system is that the teacher can either give positive points, or take points away for various positive and negative behaviors. This is highly effective when parents want to know what their child is doing well or can work on, because you can easily look up their personal account and note things such as, talking out, participating in discussion, off- task, etc.

     For students to keep themselves accountable and on task, you can easily project the scores along with their points, or to keep it more private you can just use the sound option. This is my favorite because when a positive point is awarded, the program makes a happy dinging sound and without a doubt the students get smiles on their faces and wonder if it was them that received the point. The same goes with the negative sound, without the teacher pointing out the negative behavior and drawing attention to the student, the negative sound is heard and all students (unsure if it's them or not) strive to work harder in hopes to gain more positive points. I love that you can easily deter negative behavior without having to say a word or give the "teacher look" to anyone. Less time wasted on behavior management= more instructional time!

Example of the whole class scoring view

      While some students are just intrinsically motivated to do well with the idea of earning points, I found that my 6th graders needed a little extra incentive. To do this I created a points list with my students where they would receive certain privileges when they reached set amounts of points. For example, my students decided that at 100 points they wanted to be able to use a pen for the day. At 200 points they wanted to sit by a friend, and they were even striving for 1,000 points where they would get to teach a lesson. (They suggested Teacher for a Day, and of course my principal happened to walk in right when this happened, so we settled for a lesson.) I also posted the leading boy and girl in the morning on our "Leader Board", and they loved to work to be in the spotlight.

      I believe the biggest factor in this being a success is including the students in the decisions, and also including them in the logistics of running a management system like this. I even found it effective to let one student (who proved to be exceptionally trustworthy and dependable) use my iPad to keep track of points throughout the day. Once again, one less thing for me to have to manage and it helped keep the students involved, especially during class discussions when things often move too quickly for me to facilitate the conversation and give or take points. If you haven't given it a try yet, think about adding this great FREE tool to your classroom routine this school year.


   Hands down the favorite use of technology in my class this past year was Kahoot! This does require students to have access to a device, however you could do small groups if you have limited accessibility. This is an online website where teachers can create interactive quizzes, or use ones from the pre-created test bank that other teachers have made, to quickly engage your class and get an idea of general understanding.

  Each student, or group, will start by logging into a screen that has a game pin. This is determined based on the test you have chosen. Once all students are logged in, the teacher will project for the whole class each question, and they will then be given four different choices. On their device they will choose the color and shape that corresponds with the answer they have chosen. Once all students have selected an answer, or time runs out, a bar graph will be shown so the teacher can see how many students chose each answer. The only downfall of this is that you can't see answers for each student, but you can get a general idea. The leader board is then shown, and students compete for the top spot. More points are awarded the faster they answer, and of course for accuracy. Warning: Sometimes it becomes a race to see who can just pick an answer fastest, so be sure to emphasize the importance of choosing the right answer.

   I prefer to make my own quizzes, which doesn't take too long, but if you choose to start with a pre-made test be sure to read all the questions and answers all the way through before giving the quiz. It's never fun to have the kids choosing the right answers, but the quiz is telling them they are wrong, and don't get points because of mistakes by the creator.

   This game will have your class on the edge of their seats begging for more, and you can just sit back and smile because they are begging to learn!

    Hopscotch is a great free app that can be used with students as an enrichment activity, during free time, or in small groups to practice coding. I always tell my students that when they grow up and get a high tech job that makes lots of money using coding, to remember who introduced them to coding and come back and say hi to their poor little 6th grade teacher. :)

    Whenever I have given my students a chance to code, they usually latch on immediately and pick up on the skill so quickly. This is an app they often beg to use, and I'm more than happy to let their creative minds fly with this one. While using this app they will create their own game by dragging blocks of code into place in order to create a sequence that will do what they want it to. They will need to use math and logical thinking to make it work. Making this a team project would also be a great way to incorporate a teamwork activity into your day.

      Once students have mastered this type of coding, you could introduce them many other programs that allow them to continue with their coding skills. Khan Academy has a great program that walks them through step-by-step and eventually leads them to using html code as well.

  Epic! is an app for iPads or Google that gives you access to hundreds of books for free at a variety of levels. I used this with a few of my struggling readers last year, because they could easily log in and choose books at their level without having to worry about the stigma of someone seeing them holding a thin book, or one with less words than everyone else. I also love that this program has many books that can be read aloud to the students. It doesn't matter if you are a fluent reader or struggling, everyone can benefit from hearing fluent reading at a higher level. When a student has a pair of headphones in, no one is aware of the level they are listening to. We can give students access to higher level vocabulary and content, while being able to differentiate for all our readers. This is also an app that I recommend to parents often when they struggle with buying or finding books at their child's level. Check it out!

   Hopefully this blog post inspired some ways to help you incorporate technology into your classroom this year. If you are uncomfortable or have limited access to devices, just take it slow and work it in a little at a time. Carry on  the hop over to The Learning Effect and see what amazing tips and tricks she has in store for you! 


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Come CONNECT With Us!

Hillsboro C.O.N.N.E.C.T.S. 
(Communities Online Networking Nationwide to Engage in Common Teachings for Success) 

  I  am so excited to share some exciting news with the online teaching community, as well as give you an opportunity to join my school on our new adventure. While attending the iPDX technology conference this past winter for the second time, I met up with a few other teachers from my district to discuss an innovative and engaging way to integrate technology into our classrooms and allow our students to collaborate together. Our district is lucky enough to have a Google account for each student, which is an amazing opportunity with endless possibilities. Through this cross district initiative, we decided to start a Google Classroom between our classes to start. All students were given an access code and joined the classroom so we could hold weekly discussions online. We started by using CNN Student News as background knowledge, so all students would be on the same page, and we then created a discussion question from the news that week. The teachers posted the question, and then all students responded with their answer. Through this format we were able to work on CCSS W.1, as students needed to clearly create an opinion and then supported it with evidence from the video, research, or their background knowledge. We then had a rule that all students needed to response to at least two other classmates, which attended a different school, and either agree or disagree with their response. This allowed students to thoughtfully consider others’ ideas and then respond respectfully with their opinions and give evidence to support. Students were also encouraged to pose more questions in order to dig deeper into the issues. With just this simple connection, students were highly engaged in discussions and more carefully analyzing their responses, as the stakes were higher with students they didn’t know.

 After much success with this format, we decided we would like to try and expand our collaboration by using Google Docs to work on larger pieces of writing. For this activity the classes paired up and both worked on the same writing assignment. For our first run, both classes worked on my Climate Change Performance Task. Students spent time analyzing and taking notes from the resources and then wrote their full length composition. The teachers then matched up the students, and had them share their papers with each other through Google Docs. Then the real fun began. We all logged onto our documents at the same time and began simultaneously editing each other’s papers, utilizing the chat and editing features. Students were able to read, edit, and then discuss changes with each other through their document. The two schools that were working together were demographically very different, with one class being about 45% SPED and 50% English Language Learners. This opportunity was beneficial to both classes, and there was much to be learned on both sides of the experience. The students enjoyed this experience so much they requested to switch twice more with different partners. In the end, their papers had been edited multiple times and it was beneficial for all the students to experience other examples of writing and styles from students who they are not used to working with, or may have other techniques they could learn from.

  After many months of online communication, the students began to become extremely interested in who their new classmates were, especially after talking with them so often (plus they are 6th graders). To solve this problem we decided to enlist the help of Google Hangouts. Each teacher gave a quick lesson on Google Hangouts and the kids did the rest from there. They were able to video chat with their editing partners from before. We were only able to try this once (great engagement for the last week of school), but it is definitely an activity that I will be incorporating into my practices as more often.

  Now, this is where you come in! I am currently writing a grant that could potentially give our school 1:1 Chromebook access. The goal of my grant is to connect our students with other students, businesses, community leaders, and role models nationwide through this same type of interaction. If you are interested in joining our online learning community, please fill out the Google Form and let me know to what capacity you are interested in joining up. I look forward to seeing the community we can grow and the impact this will have on our students. So what are you waiting for? Let’s CONNECT!

Link to Google Form: Click Here

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Earth Day Study

       As many of us head back from Spring Break, we head back with renewed energy and excitement to see our students. I personally am excited to head back and launch my Earth Day unit of study in April. This month will be busy with SBAC testing starting and the end of the third quarter, but my students absolutely love the type of hands on learning and teaching that comes along with this unit. 

     To start this unit I begin with my Climate Change Performance Task. This performance task is aimed toward students in 5th and 6th grade, but could easily be adapted for older students as well. This activity is an expository writing activity that prepares students for SBAC and PARCC testing. 

    Students will read two paired non-fiction passages about climate change, and then watch a video that correlates. They will work to closely read and watch the sources and take notes. 

    Students then use their notes to answer three comprehension questions that require them to synthesize the information from all the sources in order to answer. 

    Then, they will write a full length expository essay as if they are an expert on the subject and have been asked to present to the community at a town hall meeting by the mayor. All scoring guides and sample answers are included in this product. 

 Check it out!

    Following the performance task, I have students break up into small committees to perform research on specific topics applicable to Earth Day. These topics include recycling, composting, litter clean up, replanting, clean water, global warming, car pollution, and air pollution. Students will research these topics, take notes, write a research paper, and finally prepare an activity that will teach other students about these problems. If you would like a freebie to get your students started, click here!  

    After students have done their research and written their papers, we will then plan an Earth Day Festival in our classroom and invite the younger students to come and take part. Here is a quick video our Earth Day Festival last year!

      Each Earth Day committee is responsible for coming up with a game or activity that takes about 10 minutes to teach about their concept for the younger groups. In the past we have had Earth Day promises on paper earths, composting sorts, attempts to clean dirty water with limited resources, recycling basketball, and seed planting. The kids have a wonderful time teaching, and the younger kids love to learn from their bigger buddies. (My students are usually exhausted and have some sort of comments about it being hard to teach kids...hmmmm)  The younger students enjoy taking part in the festival so much that they have requested to do it each year, and now it has become a 6th grade tradition! 

      I hope you enjoy these quick ideas to incorporate Earth Day into your classroom this year! Please leave feedback on any other activities you like to do, or let me know how this goes in your classroom!


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Friday, March 20, 2015

March Madness Giveaway

It's March Madness! 
I have joined up with 63 other wonderful bloggers to celebrate March Madness, and I'm throwing a giveaway! To celebrate my favorite time of the year, I'm giving away my Engineering and Bridge Design unit. Check it out HERE !

 Time is ticking, so enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Teaching Literacy Through Art

    A few weeks ago I had a revelation after my brother visited for a career presentation about his job as a digital artist... That revelation was that the kids at my school don't understand the basics of art! His lesson consisted of a very engaging lesson where students created a brand, determined a target market, and then created a t-shirt design. The thing that disturbed me most was that they wanted to have a red shirt, with teal and purple lettering on it... it was immediately obvious that most of them had no concept of the compatibility of colors, or any basic understanding of the color wheel.


     Now, I teach at a Title I school, and like many of you, we are highly focused on academics and preparing for the SBAC test that is rapidly approaching. However, this can't be what school is about all the time. The design lesson didn't sit well with me for a few days, so I made a promise to myself that I would find a way to integrate art into my lessons. In order to do this though, I felt I needed to have an academic basis for my lesson to ensure we were still working toward the Common Core. And then it hit me... I would teach the color wheel and integrate the idea of reliable sources while working on our research projects. Then as if by magic, my mind started putting it all together into the lesson that follows. I appreciate all the positive feedback I received through Instagram and Facebook about this project, so here is the rundown.

      The objective of the project is pretty basic: Students will be able to compare the mixing of colors on the color wheel to the reliability of sources used for research. They will learn about primary, secondary, and tertiary colors and sources.

       - Materials Needed: paper, primary colored paint, paintbrushes, palettes, scissors, and markers.

      - Time: About and hour for the painting of the color wheel, and an additional hour for the creation         of the color wheel and lesson about reliable sources.
       The first step of this lesson is to set the stage by having students think of all the sources that we can gain information from. Examples include, the internet, books, encyclopedias, Wikipedia, pictures, diaries, etc. After that, have students begin to sort these sources into groups based on reliability.
  To begin, students take an 11 x 14 piece of white construction paper and fold it into twelfths. (I of course used this as a chance to reinforce fractions and determining portions visually before actually folding the paper.)

   After their paper is folded, introduce the idea of primary colors, blue, red, and yellow, as pure colors that all other colors can be created from. Have students paint one square each of the primary colors. Then, introduce the idea of primary sources as the purest sources, original pieces of work, or the purest sources of information. Diaries, pictures, autobiographies, letters, or first hand accounts fall into this category. I had my students take notes on the side while they were painting.          

   Continue on with the color wheel lesson by introducing secondary colors, or colors made from mixing two primary colors. Have them mix the primary colors and paint each one in a square as well. (It is important they mix a good amount of these colors so they can make the tertiary colors from them.) I then had my students related the idea of primary colors to secondary sources. They came to the conclusion that they are mixed sources, where someone else is creating a new source based off of primary sources. We then came up with examples such as biographies, books, textbooks, and websites.

    Following that, we discussed tertiary colors and created the tertiary colors for the color wheel. This concept was a little more challenging for students, but once they got the hang of it they caught on quickly. It was very obvious to them at this point that tertiary sources were sources that were mixed from many different primary and secondary sources, and thus they were much less reliable than all the other types of sources. We then brainstormed ideas of tertiary sources such as indexes, guidebooks, dictionaries, manuals, and fact books.

   After the color wheels had dried, we then cut each color out and arranged our color wheels in order. After gluing the circles down, students then connected the primary colors in a triangle, and then did the same for the secondary colors, and then they connected all the tertiary colors into a hexagon (another chance for math vocabulary to be added!) I had my students color code the different shapes to make it easier to distinguish the different types of sources. We then labeled each section and added the different types of sources to each.

   The kids had a great time with this project, and I feel that connecting it to something such as art was a more meaningful and visual way to learn about this topic. The paintings brighten up our hallways and classroom and are a constant reminder to me that high level academic learning can be achieved through art. We often need to take a step back from our day to day and remember to make learning fun and meaningful for our students. I'm also hopeful that after this my students won't ever try to mix a red shirt with teal and purple. :)

     I'd love to hear how you incorporate art into your students' learning as well! Leave a comment with your ideas to help bring art into our classrooms.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Engineering and Bridge Design Integrated STEM Unit

This unit of study is sure to engage your students and check off multiple Common Core State Standards and learning targets. But don't just take my word for it, check out all that is included yourself!
Engineering and Bridge Design Integrated Language Arts STEM Unit
Purchase Now!

     I just recently finished teaching this unit with my students, and the activities that are included are everything you will need to incorporate the study of bridges into Language Arts, Science, English Language Development, and Writing. This unit is intended to take four weeks to teach, but if you have more time it can easily take longer. 

Language Arts

    As the students participate in this unit, they will be learning about scientific principles and the jobs of engineers. In order to do this, there are two different (two page) non-fiction close reading passages. Each passage is written at three different Lexile levels for easy differentiation in your class. Along with the passages, students are given directions to annotate the text and given multiple opportunities to discuss it with their classmates. This is intended to build careful and conscious readers.
  Following each reading, the students are given questions that specifically correlate to Common Core standards in the areas of key ideas and details, craft and structure, and integration of ideas and knowledge. They then finish this process with an opportunity to write a response that requires them to cite evidence from the text and incorporate that information into their answer. These reading passages allow for easy assessment of each student's understanding of the standards, as they are each clearly marked, and answers are provided for easy grading by the teacher. 


Science: Engineering and Design

     This whole unit is based around the engineering and design standards that will have students designing, creating, and testing a straw bridge at the end of the unit. Students will work with a partner to earn "Bridge Bucks" in order to purchase the supplies they will need to create their bridge. This classroom economy is key to the process, and acts as a great behavior system as well. Students will also draw a blueprint, create a budget, and then create their bridge. This whole process is highly engaging and they will learn great lessons about bridge design, perseverance, teamwork, and how to deal with failure.

English Language Development

     When studying something as content specific as bridges and engineering, academic language is always a concern. For this reason English Language Development (ELD) lessons are incorporated into this unit for all students, but especially aimed toward second language learners. 
     There are 20 vocabulary words with definitions and pictures included for initial teaching of bridge vocabulary. Following that, there are ideas for interactive games that get the students up and moving using TPR (Total Physical Response) to help connect movements and meanings to the words. Students will also work to create bridge chants from a larger bank of bridge nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and prepositions. These activities are sure to boost your students' academic language while incorporating content at the same time. (Because let's be honest, we all know we are short on time these days!)



   The dreaded research report can always be a challenge to get students excited about, however this research report will have students wide-eyed and asking for more! Everything is included in this unit for students to complete a research paper on a world famous bridge. Many of the bridges included on the list have very distinctive features that keep kids interested and enthusiastic about their research.
   In this unit you are provided with a list of bridges for students to choose from, research questions, an outline for a rough draft, directions to introduce students to citing their sources, and a grading rubric for the final draft. This research paper addresses the CCSS W.2 and W.7-9.                                                      

I would love to hear how this unit goes over in your classroom, so leave your comments or feedback below!