Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Resolution

My New Year's Resolutions for 2016

I normally do not make New Year's Resolutions because I feel like people do not keep them. This year, I have four goals that I've been pondering for a while, so I will call them my New Year's Resolutions. Here they are: 

Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Middle School Math Monday - Math Practice Standard 3

Students will critique the reasoning of others on standardized assessments. Do you want the first time they do this to be on the “big test”? Of course not!

You DO NOT need to spend hours developing problems for them to critique. Instead, use the students’ actual answers. Here is an easy way to do this.

Give your students a problem. Have the students do the work on a dry-erase board, or index card. Instruct them to show all of their work.

While they are working, walk around the room. Note which answer you want the students to critique. You may choose a student’s board with a wrong answer or correct answer. It doesn’t matter as long as you practice with both wrong and right answers as the year progresses. 

When the time is up, share the work you want the students to critique with the entire class. Have them get out a piece of paper and write if the student’s answer is correct and then explain why or why not. After they are finished, have them share their reasoning with a partner. Then you can discuss with the group.

If you do this every single day, then your students will have practiced critiquing other’s work 180 times. Now, tell me they will not succeed on standardized tests with that much practice!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Close Reading Cheat Sheet

Need help with performing close reads? This FREE Close Reading Cheat Sheet teaches you how to conduct a purposeful close read with any text. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Middle School Math Monday – Ways to Keep Math Meaningful

When I think back to my junior high math class, I remember sitting and taking endless notes while my math teacher rambled on and on. I think those days are gone…right (please say yes)? We all know that students need to experiment with math to really understand it, but do you understand that even if you teach math in an engaging way, students still may not think it’s important or useful? If they don’t think it’s important or useful, then they won’t buy in and most likely won’t retain it. 

So, how do we make math meaningful? The kids need to know how the lesson or skill will help them. Kids are egocentric by nature. If they feel it will serve them, then they will buy-in.

In order to get that buy-in, start each class with a chart (like the one below). Brainstorm with the students FUTURE JOBS THAT WILL USE (insert skill here) and FUTURE CLASSES THAT WILL EXPECT THEM TO UNDERSTAND (insert skill here). Write the student’s responses on the chart and add your own to it. This will help the students understand that you are teaching them something meaningful and they will be more likely to buy-in to your lesson. 

Keep the charts on the wall through the year. Call their attention to the charts often throughout the school year to remind them why we are doing this stressful thing called math and why it’s helpful!

Come back to my next MiddleSchool Math Monday next week. Until then, you may be interested in my Fractions FlipBook or Decimals Flip Book. Keep up the great work and remember that your job is the most important job in the world. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Preparing for the New ISTEP

Indiana teachers are no stranger to change. Our state has changed standards twice in recent years. In the 2014-15 school year, our accountability measure changed as well. Teachers learned in August that there would be a new ISTEP test. Without much knowledge of what to expect, and a whole new set of standards to learn and teach, teachers were overwhelmed.

Indiana teachers are used to aiming at a moving target, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. In light of the new test in 2015, we spent the entire year aligning our curriculum to the new standards (which none of our textbooks cover)! In addition, we unwrapped the standards and assigned each standard a DOK (Depth of Knowledge) Level. 

Now, we have another new ISTEP coming in the spring of 2016. Again, we have no idea what to expect, other than an even more rigorous test from a new vendor. Currently, we are creating common formative assessments. However, the common formative assessments alone will not help prepare our students for the rigor of the new test. Therefore, we need to make sure that our common formative assessments contain DOK Level 2 and 3 questions. More importantly, teachers will have to start asking these higher level questions in class. Everyday. 

Asking rigorous questions (DOK 2, 3 and 4) does not come naturally. I have provided Question Stems for Reading and Writing for FREE to anyone who would like to have a cheat sheet when you are teaching. Some teachers have chosen to laminate it and keep it close to them. If your students are not asked these types of questions on a daily basis, your students will not be ready for ISTEP, PARCC, Smarter Balance, or any other rigorous standardized assessment.

If you align your curriculum, use formative assessments to guide instruction and ask rigorous questions daily, then it doesn’t matter which test you take next year. The state can change the questions, change the vendor, change their minds (over and over) and we won’t have to stress about a moving target any longer. 

 Preparing for the New ISTEP

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Back to School Sale

This Monday and Tuesday, August 3rd and 4th, you can save 28% in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Rigorous Resources by Lisa. Please stop by to save time and money with my no prep resources! 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Short Writing

Writing doesn't have to be long to be of quality. In fact, short writing pieces should be incorporated in every lesson, for every subject. Harvey Silver calls this "provisional writing". There are two types of provisional writing.

The first is writing to learn something. This includes any type of note-taking or annotating. With this writing, students are writing what they are learning in order to retain it. This is important, but NOT NEARLY as powerful as the second type, writing to prove learning.

When students write to prove learning, they are being asked to write what was taught in their own words, usually without assistance of notes or partners. We often see this type of writing as an exit ticket. This type of writing is so powerful because students are forced to synthesize what they learned, and just as importantly, you will know immediately upon reading this short response if your students really "got it." 

Questions or prompts for these types of questions must be direct and purposefully planned. Don't ask, "How do you feel about what you learned?, What's your favorite part of the lesson?"  or "How will this be helpful in your life?" The prompts we are aiming for are, "Tell me what photosynthesis is and where it takes place." We want to know what they know! 

Sometimes, teachers ask for a short summary after a lesson. This will also work, just make sure that you are specific. "Give me a short summary of the chapter," is not nearly as powerful as, "Summarize pages 121-122. Include specific details of how the colonists prepared to fight the British." 

If you are a primary teacher, don't stop reading! This is for you too! If you are teaching the vowel pattern "oa", then have the students end the lesson with a short list of words that have the "oa" pattern. 

Writing what students learned leads to mastery, so make sure your students are ending every lesson, in every subject with a short writing piece. Even if it's only a sentence long, a short list or in a journal. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ditching the Textbook

Take a moment and review the table of contents in your science and social studies textbooks. You will quickly notice that more than 75% of the textbook is not even your state standards. Yet, year after year we teach the entire book to our students. 

How do we expect them to retain what's important when we throw the entire book at them and hope that the 25% we really want them to learn sticks. THERE IS A BETTER WAY! 

For intermediate social studies, resources like Paul Revere's Ride, The Boston Massacre, and Native Americans of the Great Plains, give students the chance to study informational text before completing writing prompts, activities, practice pages and a project. These NO PREP resources include answer sheets and rubrics.

For primary science, teachers can use the Non-Fiction Text Packets to close read science topics like plants, insects and matter. I am constantly adding new Non-Fiction Text Packets.

For intermediate math, I have created 19 math units that cover most of the common core standards. These include I CAN Statement Posters, Student Cheat Sheets, Classroom Posters, Worksheets, Post-tests and Pre-tests, answer sheets, task cards and more. Everything you need to teach decimals, fractions and geometry is done for you. All you have to do is print. 

Ditching the textbook is easier than you would ever imagine. TpT accepts purchase orders, so ask your administrator to help you ditch your textbook with a financial contribution. Most administrators are happy to assist teachers who go above and beyond to meet the needs of their students!

Most people do not like the idea of creating their own curriculum, but you don't have to recreate the wheel. Purchasing units from my store, or pinning ideas from Pinterest, will save you many hours and help you give your students a creative and rigorous experience while learning. 

Remember, you don't need the entire year figured out right this minute. Focus on the topics you cover in the first quarter for now. The rest will fall in place as you go. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Thank You, Rachel Lynette!!

I am very excited to be a guest blogger on Rachel Lynette's Minds in Bloom. Minds in Bloom gets over 300,000 page views per month!

Thank you, Rachel Lynette!

Check out my post Reversing the Summer Slide

Friday, May 15, 2015

What a Class Trip Taught Me

For the past two days, I have been with the fifth and sixth grade classes in Cincinnati. We visited the Newport Aquarium, The Science and History Museum and the Cincinnati Zoo. Here are my big take-aways from watching one student closely through the entire trip:

  1. As a principal, I have to ask what standards are being assessed with each field trip. Although this is important, sometimes we have to consider that students need more than standards. The student had many firsts on his trip (escalators, sit down restaurants, aquariums, museums, zoos, staying in a hotel...). When students don't have these experiences, they often do not have enough schema to answer those questions we see in our textbooks and on standardized assessments.   
  2. The student doesn't sit still easily and doesn't retain things well. However, after visiting the museum and aquarium, he spent two days telling me about everything he had learned. It was the hands-on activities and authentic tasks that engaged him. We all know that when a student is interested, he is more likely to learn. 
So, I will keep checking for standards when I approve field trips, but I will always keep these take-aways in mind. 

*For rigorous activities and lessons for your students, click here.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

90% Poverty, 90% English Language Learners & 90% Proficiency

90% Poverty, 90% English Language Learners & 90% Proficiency
How do they do it? Here is what I found:
  1. A Focus on Achievement
    1. laser-like focus on student achievement
    2. students chart data/growth
    3. charts/graphs/tables were displayed in hallways
    4. trophy cases full of exemplary student work
    5. more than three hours a day spent in literacy
    6. intervention time was scheduled
  2. Clear Curriculum Goals
    1. students, parents and staff all knew school vision, mission and goals
    2. every lesson/every day was a new skill or strategy for learning
    3. core time was scheduled for reading, writing and math (other subjects were part of math and literacy)
    1. students tracked their own data
  1. Frequent Common Formative Assessments
    1. students were assessed frequently with common formative assessments
    2. students knew their proficiency goal and were held accountable for reaching that goal (however long it took)
    3. students are given feedback after each common formative assessment
    4. students were never left behind (multiple opportunities to improve performance and didn’t affect grade) **Kids of poverty are unmotivated by D’s and F’ doesn’t bother them!

  1. Heavy Emphasis on Nonfiction Writing
    1. did not accept oral responses as sign of understanding (Students were required to write at the end of every lesson to prove they learned!!)
    2. demanded a written response in every assignment
    3. one rubric - proved that good writing is good writing no matter what genre

  1. Collaborative Scoring of Student Work
    1. Teachers worked together to score written responses (on CFA)

For more information, visit:

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Guest Blogger

I was excited I was asked to be a guest blogger on A Better Way to Homeschool! Thank you Bekki for the opportunity.

It should post this morning. Please check it out at

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Top 5 Reasons I Appreciate Teachers

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, here are the top 5 reasons I appreciate the teachers in my building: 

1. They are Generous
Teachers not only give their time generously, but they also give financially. Many teachers pay for classroom supplies, but my teachers (and many others) go beyond classroom supplies to meet the needs of their students. They purchase shoes, clothing and medicine out of the goodness of their heart.

2. They are Flexible and Willing to Change
Teachers have to be flexible because there is always something that comes along that changes the schedule (testing, meetings, assemblies...).

Mine are also willing to change. Instead of waiting until the end of the year, I change things when I see they are not working. My teachers understand when things need to change and will often initiate the change if they see it’s best for their students. I love that I can come to them with ideas and know they will not only be open to them, but will give input to make them even better!

3. They are Patient 
Teachers must be patient! My teachers are patient with me, their students and parents.

4. They are Hardworking
Often people will make comments about teachers sitting in desks for eight hours a day. Those days are gone! Teachers spend many hours on their feet and then spend the evenings coaching, tutoring, grading and planning.

5. They are Inspiring
When I miss the classroom, I go into one of my classrooms and feel rejuvenated and inspired. Just visiting a classroom excites me and reminds me why I have chosen this career.

So, this week I want to thank my teachers for their hard work. I am proud to be your principal.

When you have a stressful day at work, remember that you are appreciated and valued. More importantly, you are making a difference in the lives of your students.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

First Post!

This is my first post as a blogger, so I thought I would introduce myself.  My husband and I have three children ranging from 10 to 17 years old. I have a wide-range of teaching experience.  Many years ago I owned a preschool and was a teacher for 4 and 5 year olds. After selling the preschool, I taught fifth grade at a charter school.  For the last five years, I have taught in a public school in the community in which I live. Within those five years, I taught fifth and sixth grade. 

This year, I was promoted to principal of an elementary school and I am the High Ability Coordinator and Co-Curriculum Director for my school corporation. When I took this new position, I feared I would be out of touch with the classroom and miss my students. What I quickly learned was, now I have an even greater understanding of teaching and learning. Plus, now I don't just have one class of students, I have a whole building! 

I am excited to share the tales of teaching and learning my new positions allow me to experience.