Sunday, December 15, 2013

December 15th

Our whole school participation in The Hour of Code on Friday the 13th was AMAZING!!!  The feeling on campus was reminiscent of last year's Innovation Day. Below are several snapshots of the event. Students were excited, engaged, and learned A LOT!! The video below shows two campus monitors and a student working through the "unplugged" Kodable activity. Priceless!!

video





Crystal Middle Rocked BYOD!!

Students worked in pairs. Teachers learned to code alongside the students. Every student that completed a tutorial received an Hour of Code completion certificate.

Student coding on her Nintendo DS.

Ipads, Tablets, PC's, they all worked!!

Students working on "unplugged" versions side by side with "plugged" in versions. 



This Wednesday at 7:00 PM is going to be an evening for our students and staff to shine and show their talents at our Crystal Middle Talent Show. I am so happy to see so many staff members that have signed up to perform. I can't wait to hear Maurice sing, Rachel and Leslie perform a comedy act, and Tammy play the piano. This will be a great way to wrap up our 2013 year.





Remember that this Friday morning Leslie and I will be cooking each of you breakfast. We will be serving waffles hot off the iron, sausage hot off the griddle, fruit, juice, and Peet's coffee. Come join us in the library at 8:30 AM on Friday the 20th. You can then finish your grades with a full stomach and a happy heart.







Word of the Week: Establish  is to find out facts that will prove that something is true.






HAVE A GREAT WEEK!







Sunday, December 8, 2013

December 8, 2013

Each day you plan instruction for your students to engage them, to make them think, and to support their growth in becoming successful productive citizens. Our journey this year has reached its half way point. Every interaction you have had with your students has made an impact; some small and some great. Keep in mind that everything you do is seen and heard by your students. You have the power to make an amazing imprint on the lives of your students. Let's use these last nine days before break to engage, encourage, motivate, and most of all lead the students to the doors of knowledge. Knowledge is power.




We held our PIQE parent graduation ceremony this past Wednesday. We had a total of 20 parents graduate from the program. This was our first year for PIQE and it was an amazing experience for those that participated.  These parents are motivated to help their children navigate through the educational system and now feel armed with the tools necessary provide the support needed to ensure their children have the ability to attend college if they choose to do so.We had three parents give some very motivational speeches. I have created a short clip from their speeches. Check it out here.

video

PIQE Graduation Program

2013 PIQE Parent Graduates


The Hour of Code is set for this Friday, December 13, 2013. We will be on assembly schedule that day. Depending on if you are an "A" assembly or "B" assembly teacher, you will have your sixth period participate in The Hour of Code during your normal assembly time. Remember to poll your 6th period by the end of Monday and let me know how many "unplugged" versions we need to prep for. We have certificates for each of our students that you will distribute at the conclusion of The Hour of Code.


If you want to use the Chromebooks in your class, remember to sign up using the Google Form. I have included the link here. Several of you have begun to make requests and that is great. The Chromebooks are reserved based on the order the requests are received. This week is now reserved with the exception of Tuesday. If you want the Chromebooks for Tuesday make sure to fill out the form. The calendar in this blog is updated each time one of you signs up for the lab.
https://docs.google.com/a/fsusd.org/forms/d/1kC7nKyhbDQwgnsNoRt3YpZMkQ5yXYch0B1reKqx2lIM/viewform





Distinguish is to recognize and understand the differences between two or more things or people. 





HAVE A GREAT WEEK!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Reconnecting after Unplugging for a week

During our week long Thanksgiving vacation I was determined to "unplug" so that I could spend quality time with my family and make sure to not create any work for any of you. The first two days were tough to not check email and even look at Twitter. I will admit I sent two tweets during the first few days of vacation, but then that was it. As each day passed it was much easier to not be concerned with what was "trending" and to silence my phone so that I was not notified of every new email that came through in my inbox. Not having that constant need to check my phone every few seconds was actually rather liberating. I can say that I was much more connected with my two girls and husband during the week. I enjoyed playing cards, hanging outside as my girls rode their bikes, making homemade tortillas, exercising, and getting a lot of holiday shopping completed. This week off has helped to put things in perspective. Email and social networking are great for us to stay connected and instantly communicate with one another. However, it is important to remember that work should stay for work hours. As many of you know I tend to be up late at night during the week sending emails, reading articles, and staying "connected." But, maybe I can be more productive during the day if I am unplugged more at night. We all need to decompress and unplug after our busy work days. I can't expect all of you to unplug and decompress each night if I am not modeling that behavior.  As I go back to work this week, I am going to try to unplug each evening. I want to not only be more in the moment during the day, but I want to help those of you that are often engaged in late night chats with me online to be able to unplug and spend some time decompressing.  It is important for all of us to not constantly keep working. We need to focus on work and be as productive as possible during that time, but then stop and re-energize ourselves for the next day. If we don't stop we never give ourselves or those around us a break. Here is to the days and weeks ahead in my journey to "unplug" in the evening.

As we come back to work for only three weeks before we go out on winter break, there are a few areas to keep our focus on. At all of the parent events we have held recently there are three main topics that have surfaced that our parents want more information about and want to help with. They are the Common Core standards, technology, and fundraising for our school. The parents that I have met with recently at PIQE and at our Coffee w/Principal are aware of the CCSS, what they want to know is how they can best support their students at home and how they can help prepare their students for the CCSS assessment that will be coming. In your communication with parents you can emphasize your changes this year with Common Core and how parents can best support their child/children at home.

As far as technology parents are aware that we are working on getting as many student devices as we can.Parents are willing to have their students Bring Their Own Devices for those that can. All parents expressed that they are in agreement with us that students need to learn basic keyboarding skills and also that they need to understand how to navigate through the online research to use understand what is valid and what is not valid. I would like us to find the best keyboarding program that we can have our students use during time in the library, during lab classes, and any time any of you want to check out the Chromebook lab for your class. If you know of a good program please either email me or add that to the comment section below.

Parents are eager to help with fundraising as well. Several ideas are floating around that our newly formed PTO are looking at. I let the parents that I have met with know that many of you are now using many more copies since you are providing informational text for students and asking each student to annotate his/her copy of the text. I let the parents know that they can help volunteer time to make copies. We currently do have one parent who is now coming in two days a week to help with the copy needs. I also let parents at the PIQE meeting know that they can make monetary donations to our donation account as well and specify how they want the money to be spent that they are donating. If you have fundraising ideas pass those on to ASB or to me to pass on to our PTO.

The Hour of Code is set for December 13, 2013. We will be on assembly schedule that day. Depending on if you are an "A" assembly or "B" assembly teacher, you will have your sixth period participate in The Hour of Code during your normal assembly time. I will continue to promote and advertise with students and parents that December 13th is a BYOD day. Additionally, student can access the tutorials on their smartphones and we will have the Chromebooks and our current computers to use. For any student that does not have their own device or one of our devices, he/she will be able to participate with the "unplugged" version. More details of The Hour of Code will be distributed and reviewed at our December staff meeting this Tuesday. Posters were placed in your boxes before we went on break. Make sure to place them in a highly visible location in your classroom. Feel free to visit  http://csedweek.org/ to watch promotional videos and learn more about The Hour of Code.

If you want to use the Chromebooks in your class, remember to sign up using the Google Form. I have included the link here. The calendar in this blog is updated each time one of you signs up for the lab.
https://docs.google.com/a/fsusd.org/forms/d/1kC7nKyhbDQwgnsNoRt3YpZMkQ5yXYch0B1reKqx2lIM/viewform

WORD OF THE WEEK: DISCUSS: Discuss is to talk about something with another person or a group in order to exchange ideas or decide something. 


HAVE A GREAT WEEK!!




Sunday, November 17, 2013

November 17, 2013

The Common Core Standards will be the topic of discussion at this week's staff meeting. If you remember, we moved our staff meeting to this week to accommodate for our 2013 IPR.  This will be the first time that Crystal Middle school has had our entire staff participate in our IPR. What is an IPR? It is our annual In Progress Review. The point of the IPR is to look at the goals of our school and see how we are progressing towards those goals. We then have the opportunity to reach out to Ed Services, who will also be in attendance, to get additional guidance and support.

The format for this IPR will be a unique set up and a great opportunity for everyone to be a part of the discussion. We are going to set up in a "fishbowl" like setting. In the inner circle will be our math, science, English, and history department chairs, as well as me, Leslie, and members of Ed Services. In the outer circle will be all other staff members. The department chairs are each going to give a brief five minute presentation on how their department is implementing the Common Core this year. They will give us insight to how they are working with DOK levels and how they are implementing writing. They will also speak to the support they need in order to best move their department forward with implementation of the Common Core. During this time the outer circle will log into a back channel using either their Ipad or Smartphone. On the back channel you will be able to make comments and ask questions without stopping the presenters. We will then be able to cycle back to the comments and questions in the back channel and review those. Not only will this be a new format for our staff and for an IPR, but my hope is that it will give you ideas of how to incorporate both "fishbowls" and back channeling into your classroom.

Technology Update: We have only the "E" wing and part of "F" wing left to receive the new teacher laptops. The rest of the campus has now received their new teacher laptops. Everyone should have theirs by this Wednesday. We are in the process of ordering a second cart of Chromebooks. That will end up giving us a total of 71 Chromebooks once the second cart arrives. We are also in the process of ordering and transitioning seven more classrooms to the 70" flatscreen displays with Apple TV. Once that transition is done we will have half our campus moved to the new student display system!!! Once the devices are installed there will be some "How To" sessions for those teachers. The seven teacher that are transitioning are: Ken Baptista, Carole Schneider, Tammy Collin, Carla Accetola, Tara Spinelli, Beth Ellis, and Jonathan Dunsworth. These seven will join the seven teachers that are already using that student display set up: Rachel Chang, Shannon Balthazor, Cynthia Merrick, Dawn Kasperson, Clement Lau, Nelda Taylor, and Joanna Rockwell. We need to know what Ipad productivity apps you would like to see purchased and "pushed" out to all the teacher devices. Please let your department chair know before you go out on winter break any apps that you think would be beneficial for all the teachers to have.


The Hour of Code is officially set for December 13, 2013. We will be on assembly schedule that day. Depending on if you are an "A" assembly or "B" assembly teacher, you will have your sixth period participate in The Hour of Code during your normal assembly time. I will continue to promote and advertise with students and parents that December 13th is a BYOD day. Additionally, student can access the tutorials on their smartphones and we will have the Chromebooks and our current computers to use. For any student that does not have their own device or one of our devices, he/she will be able to participate with the "unplugged" version. More details of The Hour of Code will be distributed and reviewed at our December staff meeting. Posters are currently being printed and will be placed around campus as soon as they arrive. Feel free to visit  http://csedweek.org/ to watch promotional videos and learn more about The Hour of Code. 

No Excuses Update:  The No Excuses Team met on Friday and is working on a two-sided laminated "How to Get To College" document that will be provided to all our students very soon. We also discussed incorporating social norms into our monthly Character trait lessons. The November lesson has been moved from Monday the 18th, to Wednesday the 20th. A separate email with the short ten minute lesson will be sent to you. All teachers will introduce the lesson during 4th period this Wednesday. We have two new members that have joined the team, Jonathan Dunsworth and Clement Lau. We are working on starting a NEU student club too!! Any ideas or suggestions you have please share with any of the NEU team members: Kristen Witt, Leslie Marley, Shannon Balthazor, Lisa Lewis, Rachel Chang, Clement Lau, or Jonathan Dunsworth.  

WORD OF THE WEEK: DIAGRAM: is a simple drawing or plan that shows exactly where something is, what something looks like, or how something works. 

HAVE A GREAT WEEK!!


Monday, November 11, 2013

November 11, 2013

A week in review..........

We have only had the Chromebooks now for one week and they have been used each day so far. Shannon Balthazor used the Chromebooks in each of her math classes to incorporate "coding" and use of Google docs for note taking.  Cynthia Merrick used the Chromebooks with her English classes to continue to work on their research papers and specifically to use Google docs and Easybib to cite sources.  If you want to use the Chromebooks in your class, remember to sign up using the Google Form. I have included the link here for those of you that may have missed that email.
https://docs.google.com/a/fsusd.org/forms/d/1kC7nKyhbDQwgnsNoRt3YpZMkQ5yXYch0B1reKqx2lIM/viewform
The calendar at the bottom of this blog shows what days have already been chosen by another teacher.

English 8 students working on Easybib and Google docs.

Algebra I students working on Bootstrapworld.com (coding) and Google docs.

A very happy coder!!!
As you plan your lessons you need to be looking at what DOK or Depth of Knowledge level you are asking your the students to be at. You want your lessons to be planned for DOK level 2 or DOK level 3.  There were several examples this week of students working at DOK level 3. The best examples are the classrooms where the teacher acted as a guide and posed excellent questions for the students. The questions were not off the cuff, but were pre-planned to encourage critical thinking on the part of the students. I have a 30 second video clip here of 6th grade math students in Baptista's class working together to solve their problems. Keep in mind that they had begun this the day before and most of them had "hit a road block."  What you see is the students working through that "road block" to determined their reasoning.

video

Dunsworth's World History class.  Students worked in groups to analyze primary source documents. Every student had to write after each turn.

Group work where students are working together to develop a level of understanding was also seen in Dunworth's class this week (pictured above). The big take away, you don't need to spoon feed information to the students. In fact, students are more engaged and excited about the learning if they are actively discovering. You must spend a great deal of time planning that discovery out in advance, but the end result for the students is so worth it.



As a reminder we are all signed up to participate in the Hour of Code in December. As I mentioned before we will have both "unplugged" versions and both computer and smartphone tutorials. We will be on assembly schedule that day so that no one loses a class period.This will be an opportunity for all staff to participate as well. I am very eager to work through the tutorials to see how much coding I can learn in an hours time. I have had several conversations with many of you about needing a computer literacy class, computer coding class, etc. We are looking at our options.



Our next Technology PD with Geoff Belleau is this Thursday after school in the library from 3:45-5:30. These have been valuable learning experiences for all those that have been attending. Come out this Thursday and learn some strategies to help improve your classroom. You can earn some Buy Back time in the process.




WORD OF THE WEEK: DETERMINE:  is to find out the facts about something.

HAVE A GREAT WEEK!!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

November 3, 2013

Why should we collaborate? There are many benefits to educators collaborating with one another. It provides an opportunity to share strategies and ideas and also brain storm on ways of making projects and activities even better. Despite the fact that we do not have collaborative time built in to our weekly schedule, there are many teachers at Crystal finding time to collaborate. The Common Core standards are making collaboration not only important, but truly a necessary piece to planning. Collaboration makes it possible  to effectively implement the new Common Core standards.

In order to most effectively introduce research to her students, Cynthia Merrick and librarian Jenn Roush have collaborated with each other. The result has been a multi-tiered lesson that both Cynthia is implementing in her classroom and Jenn has implemented in the library. The two of them have decided who will deliver which part of the instruction and at what time. Additionally, they were able to modify and adjust the lessons together after seeing what the students were able to do and not able to do.

The sixth grade English team has worked for several hours with Paul Walpole to go over primary source documents. Not only have they worked together to identify which primary source documents would be best to introduce to the sixth graders, they have worked with Paul to identify how students should read, annotate, and work with the primary sources. To date they have spent over three hours collaborating on this topic.

Ken Baptista, Carole Schneider, and Tammy Collin are collaborating weekly to create common lessons. They work on developing guiding questions, and activities that encourage critical thinking and a high level of rigor and student engagement. Because they collaborate so often, they are able to tweak and modify their lessons to be as beneficial as possible for the students. They have noted to me on several occasions that the new Common Core standards require much more time for planning. By working together to plan, it helps make the process easier.

The Math 8 teachers have collaborated together to implement the problem of the week. All Math 8 students are working on the agreed upon problem of the week.  The problem of the week includes word problems that students must not only solve, but write explanations of how they worked through the process to get to the answer. Additionally, the word problems are real world based and relevant to the students' lives.

We have three of our teachers, Ken Baptista, Shannon Balthazor, and Cynthia Merrick collaborating with the district level team of teachers to create the best vertical alignment approach to the Common Core standards for English and math. I mention this so that you can make sure to get your ideas and suggestions to each of them so that they can pass that on at the district level meetings. They each have met for three days to plan for English and math.  There will be a total of nine full days of planning time this year.

I have been able to learn from educators across the country via Twitter. Following educators that are innovative and working towards implementing 21st Century skills at their sites, has given me new insight and provided ideas for implementation at Crystal. We don't have to only collaborate with the educators at our site or even within our own district, we can branch out to districts across the country using social media.

Since all of us have Ipads, the time constraint to collaborate is not really so much an issue anymore. The reason I say that is that any teacher at Crystal that wants to collaborate with another can do so using Facetime on their Ipad. You don't have to be at school or even in the same location. Try it and see what happens.

The Site Council has also realized the great importance of collaboration. Especially collaboration following the 20% time model. As a reminder, the 20% model provides educators autonomy.  The collaboration time is time spent working with any member of the staff on any projects or ideas you want to work on.  The time allows educators to be innovative and work on what they feel is most important at that time and with whom they want to work with to have the most successful outcome. To this end, the Site Council has allocated $12,700 for collaboration for the 2013-2014 school year.  

How has collaboration worked for you? Share your story about collaboration by posting a comment below. 

WORD OF THE WEEK: DESIGN:   DESIGN is to plan or develop something for a specific purpose.

Our Chromebook mobile lab is in. A Google form will be sent out for you to sign up to checkout the cart. There is a total of 35 Chromebooks in the cart. 

Have a GREAT week!!








Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 27, 2013

This was a very busy and exciting week at Crystal. We had our 1st Spirit Week that culminated with our Super Hero dance Friday afternoon. Each day there were many staff and students that participated in the theme of the day.

Sports Day!!
Sports Day: 49er Territory!!

Disney Day!!

College Pride Day!!

College Pride Day!!

We had a great assembly put on by Kaiser, Nightmare on Puberty Street. The actors were able to touch on some sensitive but very important topics with our 7th and 8th graders. The students were glued to the presentation and were able to gain a lot of useful information.

We had our Coffee with the Principal on Friday with another good turnout. The number one thing that came out of the meeting was our parents want to learn about technology so they can help support their students. I am going to work with Geoff Belleau and see if we can provide some evening classes for parents on how to navigate GAFE (Google Apps for Education) and Digital Citizenship. It was very encouraging to hear that they want to learn too!!

As I say each week, take some time to get into a colleague's classroom. You can gain so much by watching a lesson in action. It is always nice to see your own students in a different setting. It helps give you a new perspective. Below is a snapshot of a "fishbowl" activity in Balthazor's math class. If you remember the video that was shown at our last faculty meeting where we saw a high school class engage in a "fishbowl." Well, it is now happening here at Crystal too. The students are placed in an inner circle and an outer circle. All students are given a math problem (word problem) and then are given a one minute think time. The inner circle students each have a whiteboard to write their solution and steps on. As soon as the minute is up the inner circle has to immediately jump into their conversation. Each student has to speak before anyone can speak a second time. When a student speaks, he/she must explain the steps that he/she took and the answer that was achieved. Students in the inner circle will also say if they agree or disagree with one of the speakers and why.  During the inner circle conversation, each person in the outer circle is taking notes on what is being said and preparing to make a constructive response.  Once the inner circle is complete then the outer circle must all provide feedback/constructive criticism. Once that is complete the groups switch and a new problem is posed and the process begins again. I spoke to a few students about this and the feedback was very positive. The students liked being able to talk about the process of solving the problems and also commented that they liked to hear the feedback from their peers. This is a great way to get all students problem solving, thinking, citing and providing specific and immediate feedback to one another. Common Core all the way!!!

Students during their one minute think time in the fishbowl.

The group set up for the fishbowl. Each student used this to set up their note taking sheets.
On Saturday, I had the privilege of presenting with Josh Harris, Cynthia Merrick, Jonathan Dunsworth, Shannon Balthazor, Geoff Belleau, Britanny Hietala (student), and Erina McSweeney (student) at the Fall CUE conference, Diving to New Depths with the Common Core at American Canyon High School. We presented on our Innovation Day from last school year. We talked about why we did Innovation Day, the planning process, the ups/downs, what we learned, and the students gave the student perspective. It was a great opportunity for us to share with other educators from across California what we did and how they too can make it happen at their sites. A comprehensive digital folder was provided to all of the participants and was made public on the web for anyone to be able to access. We are going to more than likely also present in April at the LEAD conference. It is a great opportunity for us to share what we have done and provide others access to do the same with their students. I encourage you to attend a CUE conference if you get a chance. You can also follow CUE on Twitter @cueinc.  CUE stands for Computer Using Educators.

Innovation Team and Erina McSweeney (8th grade) & Brittany Hietala (9th grade)

Josh, Geoff, Jonathan, and Shannon

Britanny and Erina right before the presentation

The Innovation Team: Shannon, Josh, Cynthia, & Jonathan
The audience/participants listening to our presentation. Tim Goree also stopped by, you can see him standing on the side.

This week is our Red Ribbon Week!! We will have our Red Ribbon Assemblies on Monday. Each day at lunch we will also have additional activities to spread the word to be Drug Free!!

Continue to have your students writing every day in every class. Encourage your students to be the problem solvers and you be the facilitator of the learning. Continue to have students explain and cite their reasoning. Share with another. There are amazing things happening in many classrooms that can easily be adapted and duplicated in your classroom!!

Word of the Week: DESCRIBE:  to say what something or someone is like by giving details about them.


HAVE A GREAT WEEK!



Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20, 2013

"Student Voices" Update:

I shadowed my third student on Friday. I was able to attend two of his classes, Physical Science and Honors US History.

Upon entering Physical Science the students were already seated and busy working on their warm up activity. My "shadow" student and the other three students at his table were all busily writing vocabulary words with definitions and pictures into their notebooks. As I sat down my "shadow student" showed me what he was working on. As I was setting up my paper to complete the vocabulary, my "shadow student" turned to the pages in the book that I would need to complete the assignment. He graciously pointed out each vocabulary word to me.

 Each student also had a States of Matter worksheet. Mrs. Spinelli gave me a States of Matter worksheet and I quickly got to work on it. At first glance I was a little apprehensive that I may not know how to correctly identify the items in the table. However, Mrs. Spinelli went to the Smartboard and did a whole class 30 second review of how to complete the table. Her explanation was clear, she modeled it for us, had us repeat the vocabulary multiple times, and it made the expectation of what to do much clearer for me. Honestly, it was her 30 second review/model that enabled me to fill out the table with 100% accuracy. I can say that the way that she modeled how to first identify the state of matter then go back and check it it takes the shape of the container, if it has definite volume, and/or if it has definite shape made a huge difference. She explained that liquids will have the same properties, that solids will have the same properties, and that gases will have the same properties. So, by first identifying if it was a liquid, solid, or gas, you could then quickly be able to identify the properties.

After about five minutes, Mrs. Spinelli had fourteen student volunteers go up to the Smartboard and mark their answers on the table. The rest of us were asked to check our answers against the answers the students were putting up. Each student that approached the Smartboard placed their answer quickly and each student gave a correct response.  Everyone at my lab table also had their tables filled out correctly.  We then transitioned to our next part of the lesson.  Mrs. Spinelli went back to the board redirected us to the objective of the day and explained what we would be doing next that would work us towards that objective. We were going to begin working on making a graphic organizer to display the different states of matter and the different phases that they go through. We each received a large piece of drawing paper and were told to get out two different colored pencils or pens. Each table was given enough rulers so each person could have one. Mrs. Spinelli showed us a few excellent examples of finished products and then walked us through step by step how to set up our organizer. We had to use our measurement skills to block off the columns based on the specific dimensions that were given. We had to place the appropriate vocabulary words in the correct columns as well. The last step was to use our second color to place arrows showing changes in states and we boxed certain vocabulary words.

Throughout this process, Mrs. Spinelli modeled for us, walked the room and provided one on one guidance and encouraged and provided positive feedback to students that helped their table members. As we were working on our graphic organizer my "shadow student" said to me, "So, do you have any big plans for this weekend?" I answered him and asked him what his plans were. He let me know that his older brother was going to be in a video game competition which was a pretty big deal. I was rather excited to hear that and shared something with him that I had read just the day before about a 20 something year old that was in a video game competition. Now, you might think why did you engage in off task conversations with the student. Well, it happened very organically and it didn't stop either of us from continuing to work on our graphic organizer. We both were still measuring and completing our organizer but it did allow us to have a moment of sharing/getting to know each other.

Mrs. Spinelli wrapped up the period by enthusiastically telling us we would continue this on Monday. When I say enthusiastically, I am not exageratting. She made this learning not only accessible to all of us, but also enjoyable and fun at the the same time. I want to go back on Monday and learn more about the phases and be able to put together my graphic organizer that shows how much I know. That is a very good feeling. I am confident in saying that the majority of the students in the class feel the same way as me.

I left my "shadow student" to go to his next class alone, PE, and I met back up with him in his Honors US History class. The first part of the class each student was asked to answer in his/her notebook one of the two warm up questions. The two questions were: "Tell me a time you were falsely accused of something. Were you able to prove your innocence?" and "What did you bring today that defines who you are?" Each student was allowed to pick either of the two questions to respond to. I liked that there was choice on the warm up, so that students could respond to the question that was most relevant to them. After about five minutes Mr. Lau asked for student volunteers to read their answers.  About six students shared and all but one answered the first question on being accused of something they didn't do.

 What Mr. Lau did that I thought was impressive, was after each student shared their own personal response, he then tied it back to the content of the Salem Witch Trials. He never once just let a student share the answer without connecting back to what the learning objective of the day was. This was a great way for the students to be able to see relevance in what they were learning.  This also made the transition from the warm up activity to the primary source activity more seamless.

Each of us were given two new primary source documents to analyze, one being a chart and the other a map. As a whole class we worked on summarizing what the primary source document told us about the Salem Witch Trials.  We had to describe the piece of evidence, explain what it was and we had to be able to answer, "According to this document, what was happening economically in Salem in 1692?" In this class over the last week or so students have been analyzing other primary source documents such as court transcripts that would give one perspective on the Salem Witch Trials. These two new documents would provide another lens to look through in understanding why the Salem Witch Trials occurred. Since I have visited this class several times in the last few weeks, I was familiar with the process of highlighting and annotating the sources. It was so nice to see that the expectations were routine for these students. As soon as they had been handed their primary source documents they immediately took out their highlighters and began to highlight. That most definitely brought a smile to my face. There was not enough time in the period to complete the analysis of the documents and Mr. Lau stated that we would continue on Monday. Students packed up and when the bell rang each student waited for Mr. Lau to directly dismiss them to lunch.

My experience on Friday shadowing a student was a positive one. It is interesting, because we have been experiencing  some very negative behavior issues out at lunch and in some classes over the last few weeks.  However, while in these two classes on Friday, you would never know that we have been experiencing discipline issues. As a student in the classroom, you see what is presented in front of you and you experience what the environment is providing to you.

The reason I mention this, is that there will always be struggles and challenges in everything that we do. Those issues that arise need to be addressed and resolved, without a doubt. However, we need to remember that we can't let resistance get in the way of our progress. We are making great strides with our students as a whole. We are challenging them every day to think. By challenging the students it will cause some to get frustrated, some to get excited, and some to shut down. We need to be prepared to respond to each of the different reactions that our challenges create for the students. Sometimes it means responding as a whole staff like we are with our electronics policy. Sometimes it means having a one on one conversation with a student. Some times it means stopping a lesson midway and going with Plan B or C because Plan A was just not working. Give yourself some room to make mistakes and give your students some room to make mistakes. We all have to make mistakes in order to see how to improve. To quote an educator, David Culberhouse, that I am following on Twitter, "People want autonomy...when they feel they have sufficient mastery.  Otherwise, they want and need support alongside that autonomy..."  Remember the three guiding principles in Daniel Pink's Drive, "Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose."  On Monday, when you walk through the door do everything you can to check all your negative thoughts and emotions at the door. Focus on the positive changes you will be able to make in your students' lives on Monday. Try and see the students that are being "difficult" as the ones that are screaming out for help. Those students need more structure and guidance on how to navigate the educational system. For whatever reasons, those students don't have the tools necessary to navigate the classroom or school environment. Make it your mission to help provide the necessary tools for success. It won't be easy, and I truly understand that, but try to approach the student that has been giving you a hard time, differently this week. See if that makes a difference. Whether we think so or not, our intent comes through in every action. From providing feedback to implementing change, we must always be aware of our intent.

Word of the Week: DEMONSTRATE: To  show or prove something clearly.

Professional Development Opportunity: Technology and the Common Core #4, Thursday, Oct. 24th 3:45-5:30 in the library. Presenter: Geoff Belleau from SCOE 

New Staff Member: I would like to welcome, Barbara Macfarlane, to the Crystal staff. Barbara begins Monday teaching our World History line in F103. Stop by and welcome Barbara to the family. We are very excited to have her join the History department and become a new member of the Crystal family.  

October 21st-25th: SPIRIT Week!!  Monday: Sports Day, Tuesday: Backwards Day, Wednesday: College PRIDE Day, Thursday: Disney Day, Friday: Superhero Day!!

Have a GREAT WEEK!!




Saturday, October 12, 2013

October 12, 2013

As I mentioned in last week's post I have a lofty goal. Let's create an amazing lesson plan app that works with Common Core. There are some apps out there, but none that do everything. I envision a template that focuses on our T4S Strategies and a bank to choose from with Common Core standards.  The lesson plan app should also be interactive in the sense it would allow the teacher it import YouTube videos, Google images, etc. Just my idea right now, but if we could make it a reality that would be amazing!!! I am serious about this one, so if you are too, let's start planning it!


What an AMAZING week at Crystal Middle School. Our College and Career Fair was a HUGE success. The math and English department worked hard on Benchmark #1. There were a lot of GREAT rigorous lessons delivered by many of you.

Rachel Chang and students showing College Pride!!

Witt and students showing College Pride!

McCormick, Spinelli, and Baptista showing College Pride!


Marine Corps, Hoorah! 

Balthazor, Garcia, Cougar, and students showing College Pride!

We had ALL 956 students out and participating in our College & Career Fair!!

Student and Cougar showing College Pride! Notice her NEU shirt from elementary school!!!

Chang, Cougar, and students showing College Pride!

Our new banner that graces the entrance to our campus! Our message is loud and clear, Cougars are College Bound!

ASB students showing College Pride!


Great face paint!!

Suisun PD @ the College & Career Fair

Showing CAL Pride!

Solano Community College @ College & Career Fair

Army Strong @ College & Career Fair

Superintendent Corey and FSUSD Board Member Honeychurch visited our College & Career Fair

UC Berkeley @ College & Career Fair

Armijo High School @ College & Career Fair

Lewis, Accetolla, and Chang teachers showing College Pride!

Students enjoying the many "goodies" at the College & Career Fair

Mr. Walpole holding his weekly Wed. lunch with students

Students enjoying the College & Career Fair 
Students enjoying the College & Career Fair


Student receiving college logo face paint by Ms. Rockwell

Each week I continue to highlight classrooms that are implementing the Common Core and providing rigorous instruction to the students. This week was a great example of the Common Core being implemented from 6th-8th! There is also a lot of collaboration happening across the departments. English and History are working together on Primary Sources. Try and think outside the box with your allocation of FedEx time. The more you plan together the better your lessons will be. The better your lessons are the more the students will learn. Here is a snapshot of some the great work happening. A picture though can't speak as loudly as seeing it first hand. Take some time on your prep and get into other classrooms to see it in action.

Mr. Harris' US History Class: This is a display of an annotated primary source document. Every student had a document that resembled this. The objective for this lesson read as follows: "I will use video notes, close reading, and annotate primary sources to write a paragraph explaining what caused the Salem Witch crisis of 1692." Students engaged in Depth of Knowledge Level 3 questions/discussions in this lesson. Way to go Harris.

Mr. Walpole's US History Class: SmartBoard is displaying SOAPS. Mr. Walpole is walking the students through the process of determining the intended audience of the primary source document they are looking at. The students engaged in Depth of Knowledge Level 3 questions during this lesson. Way to go Walpole. 

Mr. Baptista's 6th grade math class. Students are exploring area. 

Mr. Baptista's 6th grade math class: Students were exploring different ways of measuring things. After a brief activity using various tools to measure their desks (rulers, yardsticks, paper, tiles, rocks, paper clips, etc), students explored the concept of area by covering their desks with paper tiles. They needed to estimate and use partial units to find the number of tile units needed to cover their desks. Lots of strategies for calculating the number of those partial units was evident and there was also quite a bit of discussion around precision (no overlapping tiles, no gaps). 

Ms. McCormick's Science class: Students recently took a field trip to the Suisun Marsh. Students needed to compile a report on the different things they learned. Here students are presenting to small groups. The students listening to the presentations had to fill out a graphic organizer on the information presented. 

More students presenting and recording information in McCormick's Science class. 

More students presenting and recording information in McCormick's Science class. 

I don't have a picture of it, but in Merrick's English 8 class on Friday students engaged in Depth of Knowledge 3 discussions as well. She is preparing students for research project they will begin in a week. There was also a seamless implementation of BYOD in the class. Students were told to use whatever resources they had available to them. About 80% of the students pulled out their smartphones and immediately logged onto the internet to begin finding answers to the questions. Students had to work together in groups to narrow down the topics to one. You could hear students problem solving, and sorting and ranking in order to find one topic their whole group agreed on.

I will not be on campus on Monday, but for a good reason. I will be at the Sonoma County Office of Education with Josh taking part in the 4C's Series. Digital Tools for Communication & Collaboration. I am very excited because one of the presenters is Eric Sheninger who is leading the movement of bridging the gap between technology and education. He will share his experience and expertise on the use of social media and Web 2.0 technology as tools to engage students, improve communications with stakeholders, and help educators grow. He is the principal at New Milford High School (NJ). If you aren't already you should definitely follow him on Twitter @NMHS_Principal. I am looking forward to the many things I will be able to bring back to Crystal. 

WORD OF THE WEEK: DEFINE: Define is to describe something carefully and thoroughly, and to say what standards, limits and qualities it has that make it different from other things.  

Student Voices Update:  I will be shadowing a student this Friday, October 18th. 

Technology Professional Development #4: October 24th, 3:45-5:30 in the library. Geoff Belleau from SCOE will be presenting on Online Smartsearching: Helping teachers and students search smart. 

No Excuses Lesson for October: Tuesday, October 15th during 4th period have your students fill out page 4 and 5 in their student agenda. They will be setting goals for themselves for second quarter. 

New Staff Members: I would like to welcome Clement Lau to the Crystal Family. Clement will be taking on the US History line in F204. Clement begins on Monday. Please stop by and welcome him. I would also like to welcome Judy Sorenson. Judy has joined us in our FA vacancy in G106. Judy has been with us for a little over a week now. If you haven't stopped by to say hi yet, please do. We are so excited to have both Clement and Judy be part of Crystal. 

Have a GREAT week!