Common Core

It’s all Common Core now.  Just 4 years ago, we were monitored to make sure that we were teaching our math and Language Arts material with “fidelity”.  Basically we had to follow the teacher’s guide exactly and parrot everything.  This year, it’s “teach the standards, use the commercial programs as resources”….  I’ve finally got my head around this with math.  The enVisions (Pearson) math program that we are using has been really frustrating to follow.  Now, with the Common Core mandated, I can justify moving away from the enVisions, and focusing more on depth of knowledge aligned to the Common Core.  I  use more outside resources.  Common Core in kindergarten seems to focus much more on number sense and manipulating number than enVisions.

There have been some significant changes in what we teach.  We don’t really teach time, money, calendar, and patterns much in kindergarten now.  At least not with nearly the emphasis we formerly did.  But they have to know much more about the topics that we DO teach.  Counting for example goes from counting to 20 to counting to 100.

The Common Core in math starts with 8 basic standards. These standards each start out with, “a mathematically proficient student will….”

  •  Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  •  Reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  •  Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
  •  Model with mathematics.
  •  Use appropriate tools strategically.
  •  Attend to precision.
  •  Look for and make use of structure.
  •  Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.

The second part of the Standards are the strands by grade level.

Common Core has a deeper emphasis on math discussion and math journals(at least as they want us to teach here), with the students sharing their thought processes.

Dibels, Wireless Generation’s mClass Math, and the Renaissance Learning Star Early Literacy test……..

I thought I was a teacher, but apparently not.  I thought our school was losing the battle with NCLB and that TEACHING would be important, but apparently not.

In one week the window opens for the middle of year benchmark tests in all of the above assessments.  Four Dibels tests, Four mClass Math tests, (ALL administered individually to each of my 32 students, and then the Star Early Literacy test administered on the computer (for which they want me to sign up for a 50 minute block of time in the computer lab).   Funny that, I wonder how long it will take me to login 32 kids in the lab into a program they have never used before, and how many will actually finish it……..

The mandated testing window for ALL of these assessments is two weeks.  The same two weeks. 

And I have pacing calendars that mandate specific lessons for Voyager Learning intervention groups, Trophies Reading Lessons, and Envision math lessons, all of which give specific dates when specific lessons will be taught.  If an observer comes into my room, it is expected that I will be on the specific lesson at the specific time.  Funny how all this testing wasn’t built into that schedule……….

My wife suggested that I get the “two-week flu” since I have enough accumulated sick days……….

It’s tempting.

Math……..

I gave the kids (29 of them) our Unit 5  test.  I spread them around the room with lap boards and gave them the test.  Unit 5 is numbers 6-10.  We are 7 weeks into the school year, we’ve now covered extensively 0-10, our district trimester exams are next week, and if this test was any indication of what’s to come, we are in trouble.   Twelve of my kids totally BOMBED the test.  I did it whole group because I don’t currently have any help in the room and if I’m doing small group, I have to have something for the rest of them to do while I do the small groups.  After they were done, I looked at all the test booklets, put a math video on for the rest of the kids and called kids over who had problem tests or test questions.

In the process of checking their answers, and asking questions,  I found out that a whole bunch of them couldn’t even do one-to-one correspondence.  Some have little to no number recognition, and a couple can’t count to 3.  How is that possible?  Three.   Some of them couldn’t do it in either English OR Spanish.

I have gotten to know and love my kids this year but, this class is NOT my class from last year.  The first grade teachers have told us repeatedly that they have been impressed with the batch of first graders that we gave them.  This year the kids seem more immature, not as ready for school, and we don’t have the support we had last year to help them.  We didn’t make AYP last year and a decision seems to have been made to put all of the focus onto 3rd, 4th and 5th grade to try to hit AYP this year.  So we aren’t getting the  aide-help we got last year, they pulled our aides to work with the older kids. 

I don’t know, it’s just really frustrating when the expectations just seem to get higher and higher, and we are supposed to do it on less and less.  I don’t know a single teacher at our school who doesn’t appear overwhelmed this year.

Graphing with Kindergarteners

OH MY HECK!!!!!!

They are making me freak’n CRAZY.  All  I want them to do is tell me the difference between one number and another (within the context of a graph).  5 Apples, 3 Oranges, “How many MORE apples are there than oranges?”  or “How many fewer oranges are there than apples?”  (My aide says it because I’m trying to compare oranges to apples……)

We have HAMMERED on the key words MORE, FEWER, LESS THAN.  We have matched up and counted how many of anything is left, etc, etc.  We’ve approached every way from Saturday,  the ones that get it, get it, the ones that don’t, I wonder if they ever will…….  I’m pretty convinced that it’s developmental and they won’t get it until they are ready.

None-the-less, it’s on the test.  And the test cometh.

I do not like mClass math, I do not like it, Sam I am……

mClass math is “supposed” to be a math version of Dibels and we do the assessments on the same Palm and upload the data.  Unfortunately it is NOT anything LIKE Dibels and for Kindergarten at least, I think it’s stupid.  At the BEGINNING of the year for example, to be benchmarked in counting, they have to count to some ridiculous number like 80(Steven could count to 2..), never mind the report card only goes up to 20(for the whole year)……  The rest of it is like that as well. I don’t find any useful information, but it is a colossal waste of time.   Hummm, how do I REALLY feel about it……..

Anyway, the 6 or so lowest kids are supposed to be progress monitored every month.  The test we are to use for the monitoring is ADDITION.   We haven’t actually TAUGHT addition yet, nor will we until almost the end of the year.  Lowest kids, concept not yet taught, THAT makes sense.

The math specialist doesn’t really help, she just fires off emails that are all labelled URGENT.  Out of 27 emails, 20 of them were “urgent”.  I put a copy of the book about the little boy who cried wolf too many times in her mail box…..   You can’t talk to her about anything that is bothering you, she takes it all personal and gets defensive.   The new math program is less than stellar(hint: it will be one of my linked categories at the bottom of this post).  Her main answer is to just DO it and stop complaining.   THAT’S helpful.

Someone (probably her) decided that our aides couldn’t do the diagnostic interviews (progress  monitoring) but the classroom teacher has to do it(that way we will understand where the kids are better or something like that, so apparently the score they get doesn’t actually DO that….).   She’s been getting on our cases because we haven’t really done them.  Yesterday she walked through the lounge while the kindergarten teachers were eating, and stopped by one teacher and LOUDLY told her what a good  job she was doing getting it done(funny thing, the aide that did her’s for her later did mine too), while pointedly ignoring the rest of us.  Reminded me of myself a few minutes earlier on the way to the lunchroom with the kids, “I like how Nancy is walking in line…..”

I about gagged.

Out of ALL the cuts they are making next year, apparently she isn’t one of them.  Worst luck……..

The New Room

OK, now I’m getting excited. Yesterday I went by my new school and got my room assignment. I went by the room and took some pictures so that I could begin planning the layout. I won’t actually be able to get into it for a few more days yet. What is SO cool about it is that it was actually made as a kindergarten classroom. At my old school, in the 18 years I was there, the kindergarten rooms were never used for kindergarten. In one of the rooms there was a long entrenched preK program. And the other room was used for special ed early childhood programs.

The room has two bathrooms, two storage closets, two sinks, four bulletin boards and two white dry erase boards. I should have three Waterford computers and three classroom networked computers. Our school programs are, for Reading, Trophies by Harcourt, supplemented by Reading First, Voyager Learning (we get handhelds for scoring and administering the Dibels tests), and Waterford; our math program is enVision Math by Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley (new this year).