Saturday, September 28, 2013

Vocabulary Poster Project & A Question For You

Hey friends...its been a while!  I've been SO busy planning, teaching, and working in my classroom I haven't even been able to read anyone else's blog, much less write a post of my own! So I wanted to pop in and say 'Hi!', share something that I've been working on, and get some advice.

But first, just a little catching up about life in September.  I'm LOVING my new school!  You know how sometimes you start a new job, and each new thing you find out after you start makes you wonder if you really want to work there?  I've had the exact opposite experience so far...each new thing I learn about the school and administrators makes me feel like I'm exactly where I belong.  This school is SUCH a good fit for me!  The only thing I'm having to adjust to is how much more communication parents expect at a private school.  But, I guess I'd rather have parents who want to know every little thing, than parents who don't care at all...we all know there's too much of the latter going on out there.  And it's such a blessing to be able to pray with my are a couple of pics from 'See You At the Pole' day this past week.

I'm also very excited that my youngest son decided to join me at my new school!!!  He'd been attending the public middle school near us.  It's a great school, but really big, and I felt like he was getting kind of lost in the shuffle.  I know it's been a big adjustment for him, but he's doing great, and I love knowing that he's just down the hall (and I have easy access to his teachers to make sure he's staying on track...he's not so crazy about that part...ha!).  I get to drive back and forth to school with him and see him at lunch every day.  It's been SO nice to have this time with him.  I've always felt like he got gypped in the 'one-on-one' department, being the youngest of four.  He's running Cross Country for our new school and is doing great!  He's the one in the dark blue... moving on to what I've been working on...

We just finished our first Social Studies unit and are moving on to the next one, and while I was planning, I wanted to come up with a way to get the kids engaged with the vocabulary.  You know how they GROOOOOAANNN when they hear 'vocabulary words'?   They're picturing being given a list of words and having to look them up in the dictionary to write down the definitions.

So, I'm going to have my kiddos make vocab posters.  I know this isn't a new idea, but it's still a good one.  They're so much more engaged, and learn more deeply, when they're given one word to make a poster for, and when they learn the other words from their friends' posters!  I'm planning to have each student do a quick (2 minute) presentation of their posters, and then have the kids do a gallery walk to write down all of the definitions.

I put together a Vocabulary Poster Project that includes instructions, objectives, criteria, and a quick and easy grading rubric.  If you'd like to check it out, click here, or on the picture below...

And finally, here's my question for you.  I know that one of my biggest challenges as a teacher is time management.  I'm always catching myself going over the amount of time I have for one subject, thereby shorting myself in another area.  How do you keep yourself on track, timewise?  Any suggestions, tips, etc would be appreciated!!!

I hope all of you are having a great school year so far.  Let me know how things are going!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pics of My Classroom...FINALLY!!! (and a freebie)

Hi Friends!

So, after three weeks of madness, I feel like I'm j-u-s-t starting to settle in to the 2013-14 school year.  My first week with kids was great!  I teach ELA and Social Studies to 4th and 5th graders (my teaching partner teaches Math & Science, so we switch groups for part of the day).  I'm loving all of my kiddos (and have already identified the two that I'm going to have to keep a tight rein on!).  We had a great week learning and practicing routines and procedures (although I did get some eye rolling when I actually made them come into the bathroom with me so I could model EXACTLY what I expect their behavior to look like in there...including washing hands thoroughly and throwing the paper towel IN the trash can...not AT it!).

The kids did an AWESOME job of building reading stamina for the Read to Self piece of Daily 5!  I only had to stop my 4th graders once the first day (the 5th graders took 3 attempts to get it right) and they just took off.  We made it to 15 minutes this week, and I'm hoping we'll be at 30 by the end of next week.  Then we'll add in the next component.  Any opinions on what that should be?  I was thinking of either Word Work or Work on Writing.  I know that I'm saving Read to Someone for last (I use our read aloud for  Listen to Reading).

We also set ourselves up for success by putting together our Reader's and Writer's Notebooks, including putting in a Table of Contents and numbering EVERY page!  And the kids wrote their first letter home in their Friday journals.  I had them include 3 things that we did this week, 2 new things that they learned, and 1 goal for next week.  I hope some of the parents write back!  I made a cute cover for the front of their here or on the picture below if you'd like a copy :)

Ok...on to the Classroom Tour!!!  I don't know if I have ever worked SO HARD in my entire life as I did during the four days before our open house.  We couldn't get into our rooms until Monday, 8/19, and open house was on Thurs, 8/22.  The first two days I didn't stay very late because I could only get so much done, and then needed to wait for other people to take care of some things (like taking down whiteboards, hanging bulletin boards and moving a piano out of my classroom used to be the music room).  So I felt like I was working against the clock on that Wednesday and Thursday.  The end result was SO worth it.  I LOVE my classroom and feel like its a place that my students will enjoy spending time in (at the open house one of my girls told me that she wished it was her bedroom!).

Welcome to my classroom!  I got this cute Welcome printable from Creekside Teacher Tales.  I'm still thinking about changing it out to match the pennants that I made for my room (you'll see those in a minute) but I haven't had time yet.  I have a feeling that May will roll around before I know it and I'll still be thinking the same thing!

I was standing in the doorway when I took this 'desk' (a semi-circle table and a credenza) is in the far corner below the world map.

Just to the right of the door is my 4th grade reading board...this has the Essential Question for the current reading unit, the Concept Question for the week, Daily Questions, and Words to Know.  These will change weekly as we move through the reading curriculum.  We use Reading Street, and I'm planning to use the stories as mentor texts for us to read together as I model/teach reading strategies.  A matching 5th grade board is on the other side of my SmartBoard.

Just below my 4th grade reading board is my birthday display.  It took me FOREVER to decide what I wanted to use for this, and I finally decided on this one from...ummm...I thought this was from Second Grade Shenanigans, but when I went back to look, it's not hers.  Hmmm...well, if you know who gets the credit, can you let me know?  I just got all of my kiddos' birthdates last week, so I'll be finishing those up tomorrow so I can add them on Tuesday when we go back to school.

To the left of my door is this little piece of heaven!  My wonderful administrators let me go and buy these Expedite shelves from Ikea...LOVE!!!  The book boxes are from Ikea too (Flyt magazine holders, 5 for $1.99).  I spray painted them earlier this summer and they turned out great!  I have the 5th graders' boxes on the right and 4th grade on the left.  I made the seat cushion from some fabric I had at home, upholstery cushions from Hobby Lobby, some plywood that was in the garage, and a staple gun.  This, and my classroom library, have quickly become the favored reading spots for Read to Self time :)  The bins under the bench are filled with all of the supplies that parents sent in.

Another view of the shelves and bench...and there are some of my pennants :)

A closer look at my FACE board.  I decided to rearrange the letter in CAFE to say FACE.  I'm going to talk with the kids about the things good readers do.  As we add reading strategies to the board, we'll talk about how the 'FACE' of a good reader looks like this (it ties in really well with using VOICES for writing - both are freebies from Ladybug's Teacher Files)!  The sweet little wreath above the board was a Valentines gift from one of my 2nd graders last year...I think that's the perfect spot for it :)

This is my classroom library!  I still want to get some bean bag chairs, but that will have to wait until I get my next paycheck :)  I love the paper lanterns AND the polka dot rug (Ikea again)!  The backs of the bookcases are painted with chalkboard paint and outlined with bulletin board borders.  I'm planning to get some chalk markers so the kids can write book recommendations on there.  I hate to admit it, but I ran out of time to organize my books (I was planning on sorting them by genre) and now I don't know how I'll ever find the time to do it.  I guess I could put genre stickers on the books in each basket as I have time, and sort them on our next work day.  We'll see.
Another view of the library...and more pennants above the window :)

A closer look at the VOICES board.  We'll be adding strategies under each header as we learn them in our Writer's Workshop mini lessons.  Using these strategies will give us the VOICE(S) of a good writer.  I was SO excited to find out that many of the teachers at my new school share my love of Writer's Workshop!  In fact, a few of them got together this summer to put together a wonderful curriculum for our school called 'Write From the Heart'...LOVE!!!

This is looking from my 'desk' back toward the other side of the room.  I've got the daily schedule on one side of the whiteboard in a pocket chart and our objectives on the other side.  The pocket chart closest to the right side of the pic is the one I use for our Daily 5 rotations

And looking back across the room from my 'desk' toward the door. 
Thanks for sticking with me through this ridiculously long post!  I just had to share pics of my classroom...I worked my tail off getting it all put together and am really happy with the results.  I can't wait to make lots of great memories in this space with my students :)