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It's All Thanks to Google Drive

Saturday, September 19, 2015
It is insane how quickly this year is flying by.  We just completed the sixth week of school and I feel like we are just getting started.  Routines are falling into place and learning is happening!

When this school year started, my team and I were anxious about the state of our professional learning community (PLC).  Although we have worked fantastically together in the past, a new schedule and other commitments have cut our collaborative planning time together drastically. We struggled in the first couple of weeks of school finding time to meet, plan lessons, and discuss student data.  We persevered, however, and discovered something that has completely revolutionized how we plan and collaborate.  We owe all of our sanity to Google Apps.

For most of you out there in the blogging and social media world, I am sure this comes as no surprise.  You're probably saying to yourself, "She's just now discovering Google... Has she been living in a cave?" The answer is yes.. and no.  I have been aware of Google docs for years and have used it myself to store documents.  Until recently, however, I was completely unaware of the power it harnessed for effective collaboration.

Let me start by explaining how my fellow second grade team members and I would plan in the past.  We would come to the same room and split up the content (someone would take reading/writing, someone would take math, and someone would take science or social studies).  Then, we would pull resources and discuss ideas while one person was typing plans onto the lesson plan template we used.  It was a great way to plan, but also time consuming and limited because we needed to be there together to bounce ideas off of one another.

I threw out the idea of using Google Docs to manage our lesson plans and resources to my teammates this summer.  Their response went something like, "Yeah, sure... we'll talk about it when school starts."  When school started and we discovered our collaborative planning time was in danger, we knew we had to come up with a new plan to collaborate.  Google Drive has been our savior.

In Google Drive, we house a folder that is shared with each person on the team, as well as our goal clarity coach.  The folder has many different sub-folders and we are also adding or combing folders as needed.  As of right now, here is how our Drive is set up:

2015-16 Second Grade
 - Pacing Guides
 - Weekly Lesson Plans
 - ELA Resources
 - Math Resources
 - Parent Communication
 - Student Data

Not only can we share something with everyone simultaneously, each person has access to make changes or comments.  It allows use to collaborate like we used to - share data and resources, bounce ideas off of one another, complete our own part of the planning - without the restraints of time or space.  It. Is. Amazing.

Our next goal is to find ways to effectively use Google Apps within our instruction and with our second grade students.  What are some ways you utilize Google Apps for collaboration or in your classroom?  I am curious to hear!

Reading Response Journals

Monday, July 6, 2015
I have been in school the last two years getting my Master's degree.  Here in Kentucky, you have to have your Master's within ten years of your initial certification.  I am about to start year five of teaching and I am almost finished with school.  Finally!

Last semester, I began working on a teacher inquiry project on reading response journals.  I have always had my students respond while reading, but I have yet to come up with a consistent format that I feel really works for my students.  This upcoming year, I plan on implementing reading response journals in my second grade classroom to see if there is any significant impact on their reading comprehension.  I want the journals to be a way for students to take ownership of their reading  I would like for the journals to be a place for them to practice skills and strategies we have learned in class, but also allow them to respond to the text as they feel appropriate.  It has been hard figuring out a way to give up all control, but still make them structured enough to be effective.

Here's where I need your help!  How do you use reading response journals in your classroom?  Or how do you allow students to respond to their reading?  I have seen lots of great ideas for implementing journals including using a double entry journal, diary-style writing, and response prompts.  I am interested in learning about the response types that you have found work well for your classroom.  So share!

Also, how do you assess your students' learning through response journals?  I am thinking about using a rubric to score their weekly journal entries.  I was going to focus on the quality of the response.  For example, do they make connections to the text?  Do they use textual evidence to support their response?  Let me know how you assess your reading response journals.

I will be finishing up the project this fall with my new set of second graders.  I'll keep you all posted along the way about how their comprehension was affected by the reading response journals!

Sunday, July 5, 2015
Here it is - my brand new teacher blog!  I have been a huge fan of other teaching blogs and have found it to be a wonderful way to share ideas and resources, reflect on teaching and learning, and connect with others who love teaching.

I am going to start my second year of teaching second grade in the fall.  Last year around this time, I was a little apprehensive about moving down to second after being in third for so long, but I loved every second of teaching second grade last year and I can't wait to start this year.  

In addition to teaching second grade, I am also teaching in my district's Summer Literacy Boost starting next week with upcoming first and second graders.  This is my second year teaching in the program.  Last year, I worked with upcoming second graders and watched them make huge progress in the few short weeks I had them.  I am more than happy to be working with future first graders this year!  I will be working with another classroom teacher, as well as a reading recovery teacher.

I'll be sharing some of my experiences with the Summer Literacy Boost here.  Stay tuned!

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