Monday, November 19, 2012

Essential Questions

I got observed today.  I have been teaching ten years and I still feel nervous, put on a pretty dress, and make sure my room is spotless!    I am sure many of you feel the same way.  This year is a little different for me because in NY we now have the APPR system.  Our district has chosen the Danielson Rubric.   I really don't feel like I have a firm grasp on what is expected of me or what I need to produce at the end of the school year.  It is an unsettling feeling.   My goal is to not stress and take this one step at a time and I KNOW that I will make it through the year.   So for all you teachers dealing with APPR, know that you are not alone in your confusion and stressed-out state of mind!

For my observation today, I used math center activities from my Thanksgiving Art, Literacy, and Math Activities Packet.  I was observed with our school's math specialist.  She had a guided math group of her A.I.S. students at Turkey and Cornucopia Ways to Make Ten, I had a guided group of students of mixed ability at Turkey Feather Find the Missing Addend, my classroom aide had a guided group of students of mixed ability at Our Favorite Thanksgiving Foods: Tallying, Graphing, and Analyzing Data, and the last group was an independent center of students of mixed ability at Turkey Domino Fact Families.  I decided to add essential questions to the centers.  I thought this was a good way for my students to see and know the objectives.  It also worked as a good reminder for me to review the objectives before the start of the centers.  Essential questions are something new to me, I first heard about them from my sweet friend, Anna Brantley.  She has an awesome packet of essential questions for first grade.  My fabulous friend, Deanna Jump, has an essential questions packet for K.   The essential questions are Common Core Aligned, making everything tie nicely together.

Here are the questions I created and added to my packet (re-download if you already purchased):







I think these questions helped my students understand WHY I was making them do these math centers.  I go for my post observation on Monday.  I hope my principal thinks our observations went well.  I thought it went well, but I really hope with this new system, I am still on the right track!   I know my math centers really lend themselves to authentic and engaging learning.  

Please, note that I am able to provide my students with more challenging activities and create guided groups because of the number of adults in the room at the time of math centers. I have also included less challenging centers in my Thanksgiving Packet.  These centers work well as guided centers for K or independent centers for first. 

Here is Anna's packet.  Click below to check it out. 

Here is Deanna's packet.  Click the image to check it out:

Here is my Thanksgiving Packet:

So what do you think of Essential Questions?  Are they something you would like to see in more of my packets?   I appreciate your feedback.  I plan on updating my Have Yourself a Very Common Core Christmas Packet  this week.  



19 comments:

  1. Congrats on being finished with your observation! We had a complete shift over to a new evaluation system last year and it was incredibly hard. It is much easier this year because I know what to expect. Enjoy your Thanksgiving holidays!

    Swimming into Second

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  2. Wow, I'm impressed that you have an aide in your classroom! Super nice. Congratulations on doing a super job on your observation! Happy Thanksgiving!

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  3. Yep, yep, yep! We have to have Blooms type higher level questions in our lesson plans the last couple years.

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  4. Sounds like you did great! I'm in upstate NY so we have the APPR and my district also adopted the Danielson Rubric. I'm right with you, I'm not sure that I have a good handle on all of these changes this year! My observation is the first week of December - I'm thinking of doing reading and making inferences - a little hard for first grade but I think they are ready since we've done a little already. I just need some free time to plan! With 3 kids of my own it's a balancing act! We'll see!
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Kristen

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  5. I definitely understand how nerve-racking it can be. I'm observed at least twice a week. We are a phase IV Literacy First School. My principal and Literacy First coach do "walk-throughs" and formal observations in each classroom each week. We adopted the Marzano Model which will be implemented next year in our district, so we are trying (and I use that term loosely) to understand what is expected of us.

    On a side note, I have to mention how jealous I am that 1- you have a MATH specialist and 2- you have an AIDE?????? Lucky!

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  6. I'm in California at a charter/district school hybrid (weird, right?) and this year I'm focusing on Math in my observations as well. I use many of your Math centers for independent stations (no adult helpers in my class, but I pull groups as needed to go over a center or focus on a specific skill, often using some of your resources). As one of my goals in Math is communicating and tracking learning goals with students, I would love it if you included these essential questions in your packets...it helps make the objective clearer for both the students AND myself. Thank you!

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  7. I'm sure you're thrilled it's over. I love my job, but I am always a nervous wreck when it comes to planned observations. I think I'd prefer a surprise visit so I don't have time to get worked up. As for your observation system... I work in Florida and we adopted the Danielson model too. I actually was part of a PLC group to study it last year. It's so complex. Even though it only contains four domains, it has over 40 components! That's a lot to grasp! This is our second year with the new evaluation system and it's becoming much more clear. We use essential questions too! We only use one for each subject area to cover each unit. I love the way you added them to your centers! Our county writes our essential questions and sometimes I wish they would remember the vocabulary of a 1st grader. They can be very wordy (I may do a little bit of editing) but overall, I like the idea and I think it helps my students better understand what they are learning and WHY they are learning!

    http://frugalinfirst.blogspot.com

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  8. I took a break from writing out your adorable Thanksgiving notes to my students...something I have always wanted to do but it took your hard work to motivate me! I love your essential questions...our observations are "sometime in the next few weeks" kind of set up. Just wish I knew when!

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  9. We're all about the EQ's at my district. I have mixed feelings about having to post them, especially with kiddos who can't really read. I find them helpful to keep me on track though.

    We don't have a "model" name for our evals.. Ours are surprise observations though. I HATE IT! I would much rather go back to how it was when I taught somewhere else, where it was planned. I'm one of the last waiting for the big day to come... hopefully soon. Our principal started the second week of school to start her round and it's now the end of November, of me wondering when she'll be in! Next year our formal evaluations will be 50% observation and 50% school data! Yikes! (might actually be less % for observation and higher for school data.. and every kid I teach gets attached to me somehow till they graduate HS)

    Angie
    Rulin' The Roost

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  10. Hi! Hope all is coming back together up there. I'm in Florida and got hit with 2 big hurricanes in '04 - what a mess. We are using Marzano this year and are in the middle of complete confusion. I've been teaching 20 years and feel like I have no idea what I am doing :( EQ are not really my friend either. The idea of them is good, but our district wanted them posted and it became a mess. It's just insane at the early childhood level A) for the most part, they can't read & B)there are too many to post. In 20 minutes of LA lesson, you can hit handful of standards. It would take me longer to keep changing my "common board" than just teach. It's crazy enough to post standards. I think nice student/teacher generated anchor charts are better use for my walls. But I only have a few charts up to hit the main ideas - not every little standard - info overload! Even the definition of essential questions can be different based on who it comes from. Our Intel training says it is broad and elicits many answers, our Math coordinator says it is specific- huh? I'll step down from my soap box now...
    ps on a funny note, I was reading blogs, of course, and my husband walked by when I was on yours with the photo of the big Jeep. Wow, he says, you are looking up Jeeps? :)

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    1. I would probably freak out if they made us post them! You could spend all day just shuffling standards and questions around. Not effective use of learning time. I do not have an inch of space left in my classroom. I think just throwing them in the centers' baskets should be good enough :) We will see. We are going to have to make up four days of school here...BOO! I wanted a pardon! I am glad your husband liked my brother's Jeep. He souped it up himself. He is a Jeep mechanic.

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  11. I think with the Common Core coming down the pike, essential questions are a must so I would love to see them in your packets instead of having to think them up all on my own for each lesson. I teach in Hillsborough County Florida. We piloted the Danielson Rubric with our EET evaluation system. It is in combination with The Gates Foundation Grant by Bill Gates so we always feel like we are being scrutinized more than most... We are now on Year 3 and I still don't like it. Even now we still feel like we don't know what they are looking for and it seems as if the parameters change from year to year. Hopefully in NY things will be different. Good luck with your post observation! Also, I am not saying that my observations have not gone well... they have! I just still feel stressed out about the entire process. It is SO much different than the system we had in place before all of this.

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    1. Thanks I will try and add them. Good luck to you! I hope it does not get anymore complicated in NY. It is so different now. I heard that they want us to have conversations with our students about things not related to school during the lesson. That would so throw me off. If it came up, it would be fine, but I am not going to open a can of worms and ask them about their Thanksgivings during math center time.

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  12. Wow! You are amazing! I love how you connected everything with the essential questions.
    Sarah
    Sarah's First Grade Snippets

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  13. Erica, Your CCSS essential questions look great! I think you did a wonderful job of incorporating them into each of your focus areas in Math. I've been doing the same with mine too! Great Shout Out to A. Bradley and D. Jump for OUTSTANDING CCSS materials! Now if I could just find a fast and easy way to organize them all so that they are more user-friendly to me each week! I organized a binder but that idea has already run it's course! Keep us posted and definitely share more of your Essential Questions!
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    Julie
    Ms. Marciniak's First Grade Critter Cafe

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    1. Thanks! I know I don't know how I would post them in the room. For now, throwing them in a center basket works for me.

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  14. Hi Erica,
    It's funny even us veteran teachers feel the pressure as they keep changing what is expected of us. I'm all up for change and growing as a teacher but sometimes I look at the list: post your objectives, include the essential elements in your lesson, give specific feedback, etc., etc. It can be overwhelming at times. We have the district posse, curriculum police coming around in early December with their clipboards. I think there is about 7 of them. Yikes, sometimes it is overwhelming. You are a great teacher, thanks for sharing and...Happy Thanksgiving!
    Vicky
    Traditions, Laughter and Happily Ever After

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  15. Erica,
    I totally understand about still being nervous for observations! I moved to a new school this year, so with a different principal, I was pretty nervous for my first one! Just wanted to say I love your blog and thanks so much for all your great ideas! Since you are into fashion, you should post some of your favorite looks for work and link up to my Teaching With Style linky party! Love to have you stop by! :)

    Leanne
    Mrs. Prince and Co.

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