Thursday, August 30, 2012

Monday (Thursday) Made It Time Again

I can't believe I forgot about Tara's Monday Made It!  When I logged onto blogger Monday morning for my short burst of wake-up blog reading,  I was excited to see everyone's made its.  Ah, too bad I don't have a made it to post about my 5am brain said.


I have made so much in the first week of school!  It seems like every time I have a moment to breathe I'm making something!  I realized this after I got home.  My brain was apparently working better last night.

BUT ...

I didn't have any pictures.  So I'll take pictures tomorrow and post tomorrow night.

Tuesday night:  I forgot to take pictures.

Wednesday night: Took pictures but just too tired (didn't get home until 9:30!!!!).

So here I am now, somewhat awake, knowing that I have made things, and armed with pictures to prove it.

My Math Board

I'm trying Math Workshop this year.  My district is starting to heavily heavily suggest we do a Daily 5 type structure for math.  Since I'm just dipping into Daily 5 for reading this year, I don't feel ready to do it for math too.  When I read about the Math Workshop Rotations on Clutter-Free Classroom, I realized that would fit perfect!  I just changed my M from Math Facts to Mental Math.  Because of that change, I made my own board items instead of buying Clutter Free Classroom's.  Once I have a  few days of workshop under my belt, I'll post about that, but for now, here is my board:

The whole board.  The student's names are listed under their group in the blurred out area.

Close up of assignment part of board.

Close up of rotation schedule

Behavior Clip Chart

I'm trying out the ever-popular clip chart this year.  I'm not sure where I first heard this idea from (let me know if you know!), but here's my incentives:  Get to Excellent Effort, get a sticker on your clip.  Get 6 stickers on your clip, get a new, prettier clip.  Repeat until you get the gold sparkly clip.  They're into it, and it's been working great so far ... until today when I basically forgot it existed so the entire class was still on Ready to Learn at the end of the day, even though they were fantastic.  Oops!
I just printed black letters on white paper and then used scrapbook paper to make it colorful.  I laminated each one with a thin piece of cardboard behind it.

I'm excited the monthly Made-Its start next week.  With back to school night next Thursday, I know I'll be busy this weekend making more!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

First Week of School

Wow! Two posts in two days!  I'm on fire after 3 weeks of no blogging. :)

We started school on Wednesday, so I've had three days with my kiddos.  They are still being perfect little angels, and, boy, am I enjoying it!  Aside from the fact that I have a TON of planning left to do to be ready for tomorrow, I'm excited for school.  That was rarely heard from me last year.

Some great things from my week:  (Sorry, no pictures of most of it ... I didn't take ANY with my kiddos this week!  I'm so beyond grumpy with myself for that!)

  • Teambuilding.  My new principal supports us spending time team-building/building community in our classrooms even if it isn't content related!  Yay!  We did puzzles in groups (all 8 groups with the same puzzle.  Thanks Dollar Tree!) and Saving Fred.  Then we spent time talking about what worked well and what didn't.  Thanks for these ideas,  Lorraine at Fabulous Fourth Grade Froggies!  For those of you who don't know about Saving Fred, Fred is a not-so-smart worm (of the gummy variety) who went boating even though he doesn't know how to swim.  He brought a life preserver (gummy lifesaver), but wasn't wearing it when his boat capsized.  Now the life preserver is under the capsized boat and poor Fred is on top.  The students have to work in groups to save Fred ... BUT ... they can't touch Fred, his boat, or his life preserver with their hands.  They have to use paperclips only.  I had them use toothpicks instead because I don't want them to think there can ever be a undone paper clip in my classroom (I think I'm a bit neurotic about that, but my first lesson of my first student teaching placement had a opened up paper clip poking fight interrupt it, so I'm forever scarred).  It was an awesome way to end our first week of school!
  • My Classroom Library.  I reorganized my classroom library big time this year.  Moving classrooms inspired me to take the time because the books got unorganized anyway during the move.  Gotta love little helpers.  I don't have a picture of my library from last year, but imagine two tall book cases (taller than many of my kiddos) jammed in a corner between cubbies and the door.  Imagine them jam-packed with books.  All you can see is the spine, which has the AR level taped to it.  They are organized by level.  Here is my library this year:

It looks so much more friendly.  Books organized by genre, author, and series.  You can see covers.  Every kiddo can reach every book!  I was happy with it before any of my students laid eyes on it, but their excitement confirmed mine.  We spent some parts of the morning gathered near the library (it's my whole group floor area too), which I know was a tease of the library for them.  After recess, we brainstormed how we choose books, and I introduced IPICK.  We went over library rules and being respectful of books.  They were practically drooling to look at books at this point.  I gave everyone an independent activity to do and then called small groups over to choose a book.  They were so excited for their turn and were hugging the books as they walked back to their desks.  All they wanted to do was read.  It was WONDERFUL.  Almost every student asked to take a book home to read.  I love the excitement over reading!
  • My rainstick.  I got a rainstick during student teaching.  One of my professors ordered them in bulk and then sold them to us.  They were cheap because of buying in bulk, but they are really high quality.  For some reason, I never used it last year.  This year, it was my first attention getting method I taught the kiddos.  They are doing FANTASTIC with it!  The look so quickly every time and are completely silent!   When my new principal came in to introduce herself, they did it just as perfect as they had before, and she was impressed.  Nothing like having your kiddos impress the new principal during the first week of school!
  • Privacy screens.  For state testing last year, I had a parent laminate file folders to make privacy screens (sorry no, pics, but it's two file folders end to end).  This year, I have them where the students can get them any time they want.  About half of my class has chosen to for every independent assignment we did this week.  They were silent while using them.  I'm hoping that will last!

I hope all of your first weeks went/go well!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

My Classroom

Yikes!  It's been almost 3 weeks since my last post!  Since I got my classroom keys, I have been so focused on getting the room ready and going to my district professional developments.  But now I've survived the first three days, so I can take a breath.  Right?  

I've been so excited to share pictures of my room.  It is so different - more organized, brighter, more welcoming - than last year. My BTSA mentor was amazed when she walked in for the first time!  I just wanted to wait until it was "all done" to post about it. Silly me, I forgot our rooms are never all done - just done for now.  So yesterday afternoon, I finally took pictures of my room in its "done for now" state. (To be completely honest, there are a few corners I skipped because they don't even qualify as done for now).

Ok, enough with the rambling, here are some pictures!
View from the door.  The board with the pink boarder will be my science board, the board with the blue writing you can't read is my writing board, the map is for our culture project (I mentioned it here and will post more about it once this group of kiddos does it).  My desk is in the back right corner.  I didn't have a desk last year, and I'm not so sure how I feel about it yet.

View from my desk.

Right next to the door.  Social Studies board and We're So Proud board.  For We're So Proud, students choose assignments they want to put up.  More about that later.

Cubbies and we're so proud.  I love how nice and neat the cubbies are at the beginning of the year!

Classroom Library
I am so excited about how it turned out.  Last year, I had two tall book cases.  I arranged the books by AR level, spines facing out.  This library is so much more welcoming and easy to find interesting books!  The AR levels are still on the spines, so they can check that, but they are organized by genre/series/author.  In the bottom right, you can see my make-shift chart paper easel.  It's a bookcase for front facing books.  The chart paper is in it and then I used pushpins to hold the top to the wall.  It's working, but not great!

Math board and mailboxes that my mom's boyfriend refurbished from his work for me.  Sorting student work to hand back is going to be a breeze now!  There are 36 cubbies for my 32 students, so I'm using four of the boxes for extra copies of worksheets, newsletters, etc.  That way the paper passers don't have to hand them to me and the students they skipped accidentally don't have to ask me!

Right side of my whiteboard.  I'm really excited about my When You Finish Early list.  I have a bunch more options laminated and cut that I will slowly introduce.

Close up of my desk and student supply table.  My new turn in boxes are working great!  The black magazine holders on my desk are for all my copies.

Science board, computer area, birthday board (not done yet, but the border is super cute cupcakes!), and the edge of where students' writing will hang.

 Now I'm off to spend my Saturday at a professional development.  And I still have to plan for next week.  Busy busy weekend!

I hope you enjoyed seeing my room!

Edit:  I was just reminded of classroom pictures linky parties and blog hops from Fearless in Fifth's post.  So I'm linking up!  Head on over to these blogs to see some fabulous classrooms!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Notebook Connections

I'm loving having time to read some professional development books.  I posted about reading The Book Whisperer last week, and now I just finished Notebook Connections: Strategies for the Reader's Notebook by Aimee Buckner.  I really enjoyed this one as well and many parts of it went well with the ideas in The Book Whisperer.

Notebook Connections gives really concrete ideas of how to teach/organize language arts, which I loved!  I felt like it helped me bridge a lot of the ideas I have.  It is also great for all of us 4th grade teachers that she teaches 4th because it is written for exactly our level of students, and she gives lots of book ideas!

My favorite ideas from it:
  • Start the year off teaching strategies and making students practice them.  As they get more comfortable with strategies, give them more choice.
  • She gave three different ways of having students self-assess their notebooks: free response, guided questions, and using a rubric.  I love all three!
  • The strategies in the book are awesome!  I also loved that she gave book ideas to introduce some of them.

Right now, I'm thinking that this is how I will have students do responses:  In the front of their notebook, they'll track what they have read, as suggested in The Book Whisperer.  Then, they'll have a section for strategy notes, so they're all together.  Then, the biggest section will be student responses.  I am planning on having students do three responses per week: one practicing that week's strategy done in class, one choice one done in class, and one choice one done at home.  I don't think I'm going to do reading logs this year (we'll see if my new principal is ok with that).  The Book Whisperer convinced me they weren't good and having a homework response makes me feel like students are still accountable for reading at home.

I don't know how often I'll have them self-assess, but I think that I will read 16 each week, so I will see each student's every other week.

This book really helped me feel like I'm getting a stronger grasp on how I will structure language arts this year.  I didn't feel successful last year and it took so much work every weekend for me to set it up.  This year is looking much more promising!

Still on my reading list:
Daily 5
Notebook Know-How (Buckner's writing notebook book)
and maybe some more!

What are your favorite teacher resource books?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Monday Made-It ... and keys!

I love Tara's Monday Made-Its!  It's like a pat on the back for all the work on the things I've made this week!

First up, turn in boxes.  I'm so excited about these!

And matching magnets (well, they need to be laminated and then a magnet put on) to put on the whiteboard next to the assignment, so students know where to turn what in.
Thank you Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files for the editable templates!

I started setting up my planning binder:

The rest of the months are hiding back there!

I still need to decide on/make my planning pages and print meeting notes pages from Clutter Free Classroom (got them as a flash freebie!).  I'm going to have a separate grade book, which also needs to be put together.  I can't decide if I should have my record of parent communication in my planning binder or in my grade book.  What do you think?

I also finished covering the containers from my last Monday Made It and started a few other things, which should be ready for you next week!

Off to get my classroom keys and start on that adventure.  I know it's a disaster in the cabinets.  I'm just hoping it's not more of a disaster than I remember.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


I have had the Olympics on almost constantly!  I've learned that I quite like volleyball (both beach and indoor), and of course gymnastics and swimming.  But my very very very favorite is that water polo is on and ITS ON IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY.  Why did that deserve all caps, you ask?  

  1. Because I played water polo in high school and college and miss it so much, so I love watching it.  
  2. Because it used to be on in the middle of the night.  In high school, we had sleep overs to watch!
The highlights of my days lately have been polo games. :)  I really need to get back to a normal sleep schedule.  The Olympics being on until midnight each night has kept me up way too late!!!

I get my keys back TOMORROW.  My summer to do list is still a mile long, which is stressing me out!  I just keep reminding myself that last year, I set up my classroom and planned for the first day in three days.  I still have two and a half weeks right now, so I can do it.

Both of my back to school must haves have to do with organization because last year my organization was terrible, which is totally out of character for me and made things so much more difficult.  I wasted so much time looking for things.  My goal this year is to be 100% organized!

Thanks to Farley once again for hosting!