Welcome to My Blog!

Welcome to my blog! I use my blog as a way to reflect, share, organize, and re-conceptualize my views as an educator. Enjoy and feel free to comment, post, disagree, and share your opinion. The more perspectives, the better!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

You Have the Best Clothes

" Miss Prinzo, you have the best clothes. My mom is jealous of them."

Fact: I have never met this student's mom.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fake Mistakes

Today we were working on drafting our family paragraphs. At the beginning of the lesson I drafted an example paragraph with my students. As always, I made a few mistakes. One of my students caught a lot of them, but I told him not to worry I would fix them later during editing. Later we went back to our seats and he asked me, "So we are supposed to spell things wrong on purpose?" Needless to say, he made my day :)

Running in the Hall

Today we were in the hallway and one of the first grade teachers jogged by my class. As she walked by she told the kids jokingly, "You don't see me running in the hallway!"

My kids were fascinated. Of course, they had to know...Are teachers REALLY allowed to run in the hallway? I said yes and one of my students blurted out:

"I want to be a teacher so I can run in the hallway!"

Forget about touching students' lives or instilling a love of learning. The next time someone asks me why I wanted to be a teacher I am going to say that I wanted to be able to run in the hallway.

Morning Meeting

I LOVE morning meeting. It is by far one my favorite part of the day. I love it; the kids love it; and I rarely have behavior problems. Morning Meeting is WAY more fun with 3rd graders. We actually get to do all four parts just about every day. For those of you who are unfamiliar, morning meeting has 4 parts:


I pick a new greeting to share with my students every week. Last we did handshakes (hello important real world skill) and this week we are working on high fives. I will give you one guess about which one the kids like more. For the rest of this quarter my plan is to introduce a new greeting each week. As we learn them they will be put into a jar. After the first 9 weeks we will draw out of the jar for the greeting. I am also really looking forward to having my students teach us greetings in their native languages. My classroom has 6 different languages (not including English) spoken and the kids love to share about their native language.

The share can be anything. So far this year we have done class graphs, shared our starring me posters, read journal entries, and learned about our royal friend. I try to do at least one thing each week in which everyone shares, but on most days 3-5 students share and we celebrate their work with 3 claps or 2 snaps. Shares are usually voluntary/ by sign up and I make sure to tell my students in advance who will be sharing so those students can prepare. 

The message is a short letter to the students that I write each morning. I generally use it to go over the day's standards and schedule changes, visitors, etc. I am hoping to do some activities later in the year, but for now it is a quick way to give everyone a run-down of the day and practice some reading fluency. I also take questions about the day right after the message. 

The activity is some sort of game or small group activity. For example, today we were zookeepers who needed to compare the weight of the different animals we have at the zoo. I put the students into 5 groups of about 3-4 students and they sorted the animals by weight from least to greatest. I love tricking them into doing a little more math or reading! If you are a teacher interested in these cards you can download them here.

My favorite morning meeting moment of this week: "YOU like rollercoasters? Teachers don't like roller coasters!"

Monday, August 13, 2012


1 real week down and I am still loving my 3rd graders. Things are settling down and I am about finished with teaching routines and procedures. I am excited to get to teaching actual content, but I am also admittedly terrified. One of the biggest changes I have observed from switching grade levels is that the achievement gap is so much bigger.

I thought the gap was big with my first graders. I really did. 3rd grade is a whole new ball game. The reality is that some of my 3rd graders are below the level of my first graders from last year. I can compare my first graders from student teaching in a high-performing school to my 3rd graders, and the middle-low of my first grade class would outperform all, but a handful of my 3rd graders. It is scary.

We did a lot of diagnostic testing this week and I have identified our two biggest obstacles for this upcoming year...writing and math. I identified these target areas earlier this week, but I did not grade the diagnostic tests until today. The actual scores made the challenge we have ahead of us so much more real.

The chart below is a crop of my writing and math tracker. The top bold score is where TFA expects my students to be at this point in the year. This benchmark assumes that my students will need to make 1.6 years of growth to be on grade level. The second row is my class average.

I know writing does not look that much lower, but students are expected to average a 5 out of 6 points by the end of the year. As I was grading their diagnostic tests, I did not have a student get a score of more than 4 in ANY of the 7 rubric categories. Many of my students cannot form a complete sentence. 

The math diagnostic speaks for itself. The math diagnostic we give is based on the second grade standards. Our kids are going to have to make extraordinary gains to be on grade level. Our pacing guide has us teaching pretty much all of the 2nd grade prerequisite skills in the next 2 weeks. My roommate/ partner teacher (convenient, right?) has similar data in her classroom and we are working together to decide if we should extend our first unit to ensure mastery or move on so we have a chance of teaching the big 3rd grade skills to mastery. It is quite the balancing act.

Right now I am intimidated by my data. Not discouraged, but intimidated. Right now my most pressing challenge is how to present this data to my students and families in a way that will inspire hard work and best effort. The gap, of course, is the reason I joined TFA. I wanted to understand it. I wanted to be a part of the solution. I guess you get what you wish for. 

And finally, in an effort to "lighten the mood" I got a friend request from one of my summer school students this week. I am sure you would be shocked when I tell you that I politely declined her request with, "I would be happy to be your FB friend when you graduate from high school."

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Learning and Implementing School Wide PBS

This year my school has mandated that we move to a school wide PBS (positive behavior support) system. I really like the concept behind PBS, but admittedly I do have some reservations. There is a lot that goes into PBS and it has been challenging to implement a system that I am not yet fully trained on. So far I have introduced our school wide expectations (Be responsible, Be respectful, and Give your best effort), school-wide procedures and reward system. I am seeing good results with my students, and would probably see better results if I could remember to keep blue tickets with me.

Here is how I introduced the system to my students:

I started the discussion by talking about why we have rules and expectations (We have rules and expectations so everyone at our school can do their best learning). Then we did a group brainstorm about rules and expectations the students already knew. 

I then told the students that this year at our school there were three words, called expectations, that would help up us all do our best learning. Everyone, including teachers, will be working this year to meet these expectations. 

I introduced the the words responsible, respectful,and best effort. Then I gave a simple, kid friendly definition of each of them. I put up a synonymous word or phrase to help students remember the difference between the words (see below). 

Next we did a sort of procedures that would help make sure we are being responsible, respectful, and giving our best effort everywhere in the school. I modeled with classroom rules and then the students were broken up into groups to do sorts for the other areas of the school (bus, playground, cafeteria, restroom, arrival/ dismissal). 

After students presented their sorts to the class, I put the sorts up on a bulletin board under our key words (expectations). 

To end the lesson I had the students create a tri-fold and give an example of how they can show each expectation. 

Throughout this upcoming week I will be doing a series of character building activities and read alouds. At some point in each activity we will come back to our key expectations and talk about how our we (or the characters in our books) are/ are not demonstrating our expectations. I am looking forward to some great discussion with my students!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Welcome to OUR Classroom!

The kids are here and I am officially making the transition from "my classroom" to "our classroom." I worked really hard to make our classroom student friendly. The only place in our room that is off limits to my students is behind my desk. The front and side of my desk will be shared with my students. The front of my desk plays host to our classroom shout out board and the top of my desk hosts pencils, tape, staplers and hole punches.  I have a ton of storage space and I am planning on labeling all of my cabinets so that my students will have easy access to what they need. One of the things I am already loving about my third graders in their level of independence. It has been really easy to teach them procedures so far b/c they have so much more school experience than my first graders did.

Here is a quick tour of my classroom:
View from my door. I have decided to do tables this year to maximize opportunities to practice English for my students. The white tubs are temporary. I put some books in them for the first day because I have not yet taught library procedures. On that note, check out my BEAUTIFUL library. I added 8 new boxes for chapter books and an additional box of Social Studies books for this upcoming year!

Back of the room: You are looking at my lockers, student mailboxes, homework board, milk crate shelves (holding tracking binders), guided reading table, and community supplies. The back cabinets are dedicated to CAFE and will eventually have different reading strategies that I teach. 

Front of the classroom: classroom expectations board (we are creating graphic organizers on the different expectations tomorrow to add to the board), big goals, daily objectives, calendar/helpers/class promise board, and another view of my library. On the side wall by the TV (the one you can't see) I have FIVE, yes FIVE, student computers!

Side Wall: "Great Work" wall is up top using clothes pins, alphabet strip, word wall, new vocabulary words, student lockers and turn in spot (on the easel so work stays in number orders). 

Close up of desk: The red and white binders are for student tracking, the purple books are science and social studies workbooks, the front of my desk is for students to write shoutouts, and the cart is filled with supplies I need to introduce to my students (math journals, agenda books, etc.)
And finally, my first assignment. I gave my students a chance to write me a question, something they want to learn in third grade, or something they want to do in third grade. After my students wrote, we discussed all of their questions and comments. The assignment generated a lot of great discussions. We talked about college, the Olympics, doing research, the diversity of our classroom (language and nationality), TCAP, monkeys, fish, and recess. My favorite student response is below. This is paper is a great reminder of how important it is to build concrete experiences into my math lessons before moving to abstract formulas and word problems.

"I want to learn math is sometimes its hard for me so I try to figer it out. But I can't so I use blocks for my hands. But if I get it wrong I use my head but sometimes I take it to recess."