Saturday, February 27, 2016

Why should you try ESGI

I'm currently thinking back to the beginning of the year when I had loads of assessing to do to determine where my firsties were. All the paperwork, documents, and finding time for it all was beyond overwhelming. I struggled with keeping track of all the papers, making individual flash cards, and graphs for every single one of my students. Well, fast forward to now when a game changer of a software called ESGI has fallen into my lap.

What is ESGI you may be asking? Well it's software that allows you to keep track of all your data in one place and assess your students one on one quickly. I discovered ESGI through periscope and am eternally grateful. No more mess of paperwork, creating graphs, and individual flash cards. This site does all that work for you! It is easy, stress free, and is changing my life already.

I have been using ESGI for about a month now and I can tell you exactly what each student knows and what he or she needs to work on. (Notice I have not assessed every student, I am still currently working on that! Being out for a few days has really hindered getting it done!)

You're probably thinking, "Sign me up! I need a time saver and better way to organize my data!" First, I'll tell you that you can sign up for a 60 day free trial, but I'm telling you that you'll be hooked! So, boy do I have something for you! I have a code that will make this product only $159 for the year instead of $199. If you enter in code: B2186 you will save $40. I am telling you this is worth EVERY SINGLE PENNY! With the amount of time I'm saving, this program is seriously priceless! It has been proven that this site has saved teachers over 400 hours per year! Think of everything you could accomplish with those 400 hours!

ESGI has common core aligned tests already programmed in, but the fabulous thing is that you can upload any test on this site! The possibilities are endless! AND you can share the assessments that you create with your coworkers. AND this data will all be there for the next year teacher. I mean how fabulous would it be to start the year with explicit data to drive what you do with your students?

Once you've assessed your students, there is an automatic, editable, parent letter that you can send home to let your parents know where their child is. There are also personalized flash cards that you can print out and send home too, as well as graphs that show the student's progress. I am currently thinking of how much time I spend creating all this for Parent Teacher Conferences, and that alone makes this software worth it!

I have been using ESGI mainly to assess sight words, and I was able to asses way more students in a short time period than ever before.  I cannot even begin to share with you the knowledge this has given me! It is helping me assess quickly and efficiently and allowing me to be a better teacher. I have graphs at the end of my finger tips and flash cards with my student's name printed right on them! No more taking the time to generate all this myself! Don't be like me and waste hours of time testing with pencil and paper when you can sign up for ESGI! You won't regret it!

Click here to learn more about ESGI.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

5 things I LOVE to do for & During Parent-Teacher Conferences

This week is one of those long weeks where I spend more time at school than at home. It's parent-teacher conference week and the 100th day of school just so happens to fall during this week too. So, I'm living one day at a time, and luckily the 100th day comes after conferences. So I'm focusing on the task at hand. With it being conferences and the month of LOVE, I wanted to share with you five things I love to do to prepare for conferences and during conferences.

We all have our own way of doing things that works best for us, and I will admit that my way is a bit over the top. BUT it works for me, and that's why I continue to do it.

The first thing I always do before conferences is plan. I have a created my own little planning sheet for each student. I have found that typing it up goes way quicker than writing. It also saves my hand from being a blue/black mess of ink. I make sure to think about each individual student and take some time to really reflect on what I love about them and things that I would love to see them work toward. This planning, this is key. With 26 sweet firsties, I have to have notes and my thoughts in order or my anxiety kicks in and my words are a disaster. So, that's my first tip! Plan ahead and do it in a way that works for you.

The next four things are included in my planning, but I consider them completely separate. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to talk about my students strengths. Even those students who are on your last nerve or smacked another kid for "butting" in line, find something kind to say about them. Starting with the positive is the way to go. I know I always love to hear the good things I am doing, but also appreciate constructive criticism, which is my next focus.

Talk about the negatives as "things to work on." We all have them and I'm not one to beat around the bush. I like to be open and honest with parents so they aren't blind sided when the end of the year comes. With some students it may be tricky because you have a student who does wonderfully at everything. I know you can think of something for them to work on too! Even if you have to dig deep, I know you can do it! With many of my firsties, our "things to work on" include fluency, keeping our hands to ourselves, participating more, being on time, etc.

After talking about things to work on, I love to show parents where their child started and where they
are now. It's one thing I absolutely LOVE about first grade. The kiddos make HUGE progress and it blows me away every year. It is also important to remember that even small progress is progress. I have some students who have quadrupled their words per minute and others who have increased by a few words. I tell my kids we are only in competition with ourselves. You can't compare oranges to apples. They aren't the same thing and it just doesn't work that way. We have to focus on the gains our students have made no matter how great or small.

Another thing I make sure to let parents know is how I am differentiating for their child. This is mainly in reading because that is a major focus of first grade, but every parent wants you catering to the needs of their child. No matter how hard this is, I am a firm believer in changing yourself and your teaching to meet every single student's need. At our school, we as a first grade, get to divide into what we like to call "reading groups" for at least 30 minutes, four days a week. We have leveled our students, taking many factors into consideration, and made groups where we can work on sight words, blending, vowels, patterns, fluency, readers theaters, writing, and so many more things. We have found that this works like a charm. Our scores show that this is an effective practice and the kids love getting to do various activities that are catered just to them.

Now I know I said I would only share five things, but I have to say that you must end the conference on a positive note. Tell something else you love about your student. Share why you enjoy having them in your class. Be positive and take the chance to dote on your kiddos. I love to see their beaming smiles as they hear the "good" things they are doing. I often joke with my kiddos that I am going to tell their parents all the bad things. Of course, I am joking, but I had one students say, "What bad things?" with a shocked look on his face.

I actually quite enjoy PTC week and getting to reflect on each individual student. It may take hours of work and an entire weekend, but this is another reason why I teach. I LOVE to see the progress and helping my students gain the confidence to be the best they can be!