Friday, December 28, 2012

Author's Purpose

Here is a poem I found about author's purpose. When we get back from break, this is the plan to study, so I found this poem. I like to give the kids poems because, in this case, it helps them learn about a subject, and it helps them to build fluency. Enjoy!
 Click here for poem.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Who Are Your Go-To People?

Wow! I forgot how busy the beginning of the school year can be. And to think, the first nine weeks will be over in a little more than 2 short weeks.
My beginning of the year is filled with a lot of data analysis and initial assessments to see what my new class is capable of. Then I typically begin to plan and research how I can best meet the needs of all of my students. I thought now would be a good time to talk about "go-to people." You know, the ones you always turn to when looking for ways to help with your planning.
These are my "go-to people." Their ideas and inspirations are forever present in my classroom year after year:
  • Language Arts
    • Linda Hoyt-I love her book Spotlight on Comprehension
    • Tony Stead-a wonderful guy from Australia who has great ideas for teaching comprehension, especially with Nonfiction. Great reads are Reality Checks and Good Choice!.... He also recently co-authored a great book series I'm currently reading with Linda Hoyt called Explorations in Nonfiction Writing. I had the opportunity to meet him a few times, and he is incredibly nice and extremely knowledgeable. You've got to love his ideas and his character.
    • Ralph Fletcher-I cannot say enough about this guy. He is a master writer! Author of Craft Lessons and I absolute love his books about using a writer's notebook, Poetry Matters, and How to Write Your Life Story.
    • Katie Wood Ray--great resource for word study. Try Study Driven.
    • Kathy Ganske--another word study great. Check out Word Journeys.
    • Beth Newingham--an absolutely AMAZING! Scholastic teacher. I get a lot of ideas from her for reading workshop.
  • Social Studies
    • Beth Newingham--great resource for social studies as well. I love her geography scrapbooking idea and the videos she makes with her class.
    • Scholastic--They have some great books and ideas for social studies on their website. I especially love their books on interactive projects like 25 Totally Terrific Social Studies Activities.
  • Math
    • Guess who?!--Beth Newingham
    • "math workshop" ideas--Google it. There are tons of resources.
  • Behavior
    • Ron Clark--My absolute favorite right now! I've read The Essential 55, seen the movie "The Ron Clark Story" (he is portrayed by Matthew Perry), and am currently reading The Excellent 11, which is mostly about teaching philosophy. More great reads.
    • Ryan Delaney and Quality Tools--great ideas for students' data binders and keeping track of students' learning and behavior.
After several years of not teaching science at the intermediate level, I am self-contained and teaching science this year. I don't have any "go-to's" for this subject YET, but I will be sure to share once I find them.

I would LOVE to hear who your "go-to's" are!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"The Essential 55"

I just finished watching the movie "The Ron Clark Story," and I loved it! One of my students was kind enough to lend me the DVD for the weekend. It is a great teacher movie.

If you haven't heard of Ron Clark, he is the author of "The Essential 55." I have had this book for a while now, but could never find the time to read it. Finally, I decided to borrow the audio book from the library, so that I could listen to it on the way to and from work. One of the best ideas I've had. =) If you have never read his book (or heard it), you should go get it. For lack of a better word, the Essential 55 are "manners" for the classroom, but if you are a parent, they work there, too.

I started using some of his rules in the classroom and came up with some of my own. My students absolutely love them! The rules are manners like "Always use sir or ma'am when talking to an adult," or "Cover your mouth when you cough, sneeze or burp," or "Walk in a straight line," or "All rules apply when there is a guest teacher (substitute) in the classroom." I've had the kids do these things in the past, and would remind them of these rules whenever I needed to, but it was never a focus.

Make it a focus. When you stop and take the time to focus on these things in particular (ie., catch them being good), write them down and post them on the wall, have the kids really changes the importance of these "small" acts of kindness. These are things most kids might hear at home, but when their teacher is saying them, too, it changes things. The kids really begin to focus on doing all of these things and go out of their way to be "caught." The classroom atmosphere is better, there is more respect, they try harder with their behavior and their academics because everyone is feeling good!

One thing to keep in mind, though. You can't just go and write 55 rules on a piece of paper, go over them with the class, and expect things to change. You have to "BE" the rules, they apply to the adult as well. "Rule #55: Be the best person you can be!" 

"The Essential 55" is a keeper. "Rule #54: Carpe Diem!"


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Should You Do What They Do?

I’ve learned a few things from sports coaches I know, especially my husband. He no longer coaches, but he taught me a few things while he coached and continues to teach me things. One thing I learned from him is that whatever he asked his kids to do, he did it, too. If he told his athletes that they needed to run 5 miles, he ran the 5 miles, too. When he told his athletes that they needed to lift weights for 30 minutes, he lifted weights for 30 minutes, too. If he told his athletes that they needed to volunteer to work a football game, he volunteered to work the football game, too.

When I found out that this is what he was doing, I thought to myself, “Why?” “Why is he doing these things?” “Shouldn’t he be spending his time doing what he wants to do?” "Shouldn't he be spending more time with ME if he has all this extra time?" “Doesn’t he have lesson plans or posters or data to analyze?”

As an elementary teacher, at first glance, this was a hard concept to grasp. Especially because I knew he coached AND did the lesson plans, posters, and data analysis. “WHERE did he find the TIME?” I don’t know, but the point is that he did find the time, and it was not "extra time." It was a necessity to his coaching style. And then I thought, if Coach can do it, I can do it, too. This is now a concept I try to live by in my teaching.

It started to all make sense to me once I began. I thought, "I need to go and check this out. I need to know WHY he's doing what he's doing. I need to LEARN." Sooo, I started to do the things he was doing with his athletes, mostly volunteering to work the football games (which was a pretty big deal to me since I don't like football at all). I did what I volunteered to do, I watched what he did, I watched what the other adults did, I watched how his athletes interacted with the other adults, and I watched how his athletes interacted with him.

What did I find? The athletes were teenagers, and I expected some disrespect and "water-testing." My expectations were met. But, what I also found was that Coach was treated differently. EVERY SINGLE athlete respected him. They all answered "Yes, Sir" or "Yes, Coach" when he asked them to do something, and they didn't argue about it, even if he told them to clean the bathroom. They didn't make fun of him behind his back after he walked away. They asked him what else they could do to help when he was around. He was there "go-to guy." ALL of the athletes came up to me at some point to let me know, "I really like Coach," "You have a great husband," "I'm glad I know Coach," and (my favorite) "Coach changed my life."

Nobody told those kids that they needed to do the things that they did when it came to Coach. They did it because they wanted to or felt that it was necessary. And I thought, "Whooooaaa, I want THAT."

“If I want the kids to be writers, shouldn’t I be a writer, too?” “If I want the kids to be a reader, shouldn’t I be a reader, too?” “If I want the kids to work on a project, shouldn’t I do the project, too?”

For me the answer was YES! In my classroom, if I assign a piece of work for the students to do, I try to do it, too, especially if it’s a project that involves writing because, in my experience, that seems to be the most UNpopular area of learning. I do not do the project once and then, the following year, use that piece as an example and let the kids do it by themselves. No. I do the project or other work EVERY TIME I assign it. I also do the project to MY ability, not theirs. We talk about this and I teach them that we have differences in ages and abilities, so I should (not can) do more. I'm working to my ability and doing the best work that I know how to do, and they are expected to do their best work, too. This idea is taken collectively to the heart, and I always get the best work, even from the most reluctant learner. To me, it’s only fair that you do what you are asking others to do, and I think that this is the idea that Coach was trying to convey to his team.

Am I saying that I do every assignment I give to the class every time? Unfortunately, no, I don’t, but I think I should try. This is my weakness in life right now, but it is also my goal. I think I SHOULD do all of the assignments I give my students.

Currently, I keep interactive notebooks with the class for social studies, and I do all long-term projects with the class no matter what subject. I also do in-class writing prompts with them and read the books I ask them to read for guided reading (unless I’ve already read them once). What do I need to work on? I need to do more math assignments, read those guided reading books even if I have read them before, and do the same homework they do. Why not? I asked them to do it. Shouldn’t I do it, too?

Those are 3 of my goals for this year: do the math, guided reading (even if I’ve already read the book before), and do the homework. Next year, I'll figure out what else I have them do and should be doing too. I have found that when I do the same assignment with the students, there is less complaining about doing the work, all of the students get it done, and, most importantly, they RESPECT me because I try very hard to show them that I am willing to do the work that they do. To them, it is fair, and that goes a long way. It's not a waste of time. It helps them to be better students, and it helps me to be a better teacher. This is the end result that the Coach taught me.

Thanks, Coach!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Artwork Posted

I've finally had a chance to upload photos of most of my artwork onto the "My Art" page. Please take a look and I hope you enjoy it. Please don't copy or download any of my art without my written consent. If you like any of it shoot me a comment or email and I will be happy to respond.

Now it's off to do lesson plans for the week. Any interesting ideas? Post a comment...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Near the Door...

I thought I'd talk about this picture for a minute...or five. I'm in a blogging mood tonight. (This is probably my "pencil sharpener." See below.) What should go by the door? Surprisingly, there's a lot there, and I've never thought about it before.
  • For starters--emergency escape procedures. That's what the posters on the wall are. The red card near the bottom is where the fire drill card is to record the date of the drill and who is there...or not there. Tape a class roster to the back in case you ever have a "guest teacher."
  • If you have a window in your entrance, I've heard you are supposed to cover it up as part of lock-down procedures. Does any one know this for sure?
  • There's a mirror under the black owl. This is new to the classroom, and I've discovered that the kids LOVE it. It's near the door, so they can only ever get a "quick check" as they come in and out of the classroom rather than "preening." Easy dollar store find. Use the foam mounting tape.
  • That wooden block on the wall just near the bright blue container was where our classroom pencil sharpener is...was. I found out that the newer pencil sharpeners are usually made from recycled parts of old sharpeners. When we had ours, it had to be replaced a lot because it kept breaking. It's also well-known that the kids like to use it when procrastinating. I actually asked the custodian to remove it and I put in an electric pencil sharpener. It has done wonders for the classroom--not a lot of procrastination with an electric pencil sharpener. If you don't want yours removed, I got this idea from a colleague--put a plastic sandwich bag over it when you don't want it to be used. That works very well, too. I still use that idea with the electric.
  • There is laminated black paper around the pencil sharpener (or what used to be the sharpener). The wall is dry wall and go figure...pencil sharpener + drywall = pencil holes and writing on the wall. Put laminated paper around it and there's no more holes and writing. They won't write on the wall farther away from the sharpener.
  • Put a poster behind the trash can. School trash cans are made of good old metal. Whether the wall is dry wall or concrete, those cans scuff the wall. Put a poster there or more laminated paper to protect the wall.
  • Put a small outdoor mat underneath the trash can and/or pencil sharpener. This protects the waxed floors from getting all dirty. It's not the custodian's fault if there is A LOT of dirt there. Heavy pencil marks on the floor will not scrub off unless you strip the wax and put new wax down.
  • Carpet squares are underneath the table. If you do not have any, it's a great idea. Usually you can have them donated to you by your local home improvement store.
  • Speaking of donations...AAA recycles their maps every few months. Ask for them to save them for you and give them a date when you'll pick them up.
  • Hall Passes: another great idea. Never thought of it until last year, but...if you do think about it, it is kind of gross that they take those to the bathroom with them. lol I started this last year, thanks to another colleague's idea-sharing. Have them put the pass on their desk instead. You still know where they are, the bathroom is in use because the pass isn't on the wall, and who is out, but the pass no longer gets bathroom germs.
  • My favorite poster on the wall above the light switch?--"I don't GIVE grades, YOU EARN THEM." with a picture of me on it. =)
  • The welcome mat at the door--so inviting. (Don't get a grass one, very messy.)
  • Pink sign hanging from the table in the lower right corner?--"Bear Cave." That's a reading nook. Kids LOVE crawling under things.


Modify and Accommodate?...Okay.

It's the seventh day at school where I'm at, and I was just thinking that interims were due in 3 short weeks time. I thought maybe several readers may be in the same boat, and that now would be a good time to share some modifications/accommodations/tidbits I do in the classroom. I strongly believe that children need to feel successful, no matter how small that success may seem to you, the teacher. I try to do everything I can to help my students feel that success.

A friend of mine asked me once to share some of the "tidbits" that I use in my classroom at a staff meeting. I thought that I would share some of the things I do with you. I'm always looking for ideas to use and would appreciate any comments/posts of the same sort. They may not be modifications/accommodations but they are always helpful. Not all of my own ideas are of the sort. If you have a question, feel free to ask. =)

Here are some simple things I do that I can think of off of the top of my head.

  • A lot of IEP/RTI students are visual learners. There is always difficulty transferring information from the classroom board to the paper. An easy fix--I tell my students that they are more than welcome to move closer to where I am any time they choose to. The classroom carpet is situated in the front of the room for this purpose. I also have carpet squares they can use.
  • Self-Made Tests--If you make your own test for a particular topic, the test CAN and SHOULD be modified, and color-coding is a good idea. I also sometimes will create a test with 5 problems as opposed to 10, there may be less choices, there may be picture-answers instead of words. Also, allow students to draw a picture instead of write if they need to. Below is a simple continents and oceans test that I modified to help my IEP/RTI students. The concept is still being tested, but the modified piece is "friendlier." If students have difficulty writing a lot of words, I work with them to number their choices and then have them put the numbers in the boxes. Abbreviations work well, too.

  • Ready-Made Tests: What if the tests go with a program we use like Everyday Math? Do I have to take that test and create a new one? I haven't. Again, color-coding is key, and I do a lot of highlighting. I also shorten the test or extend the students' time. The questions meant to drive your instruction?--I usually don't ask my IEP/RtI students to do those because I know they will need help with those concepts any way. I WILL ask them questions, now or later, if I want to check their progress or analyze what they need help with.
  • Multiple Choice--Highlight half of the possible answers, eliminating the other half.
  • Two-Column worksheet with words on one side and answers/definitions on the other side--color-code them to group them: i.e., 4 are orange on both sides, 4 are green, 4 are blue, etc. In essence, they are taking several smaller tests rather than one big large one. 
  • Highlight important information and questions.
  • If the class writes 6 sentences, have them write 4.
  • Shorten spelling lists. Focus on word families.
  • Writing--They dictate and you write or they can have a partner (the one always finished first with good quality work) write for them.
  • Writing--You write it in pencil. They trace it in marker. Again, they can have a partner for this as long as the partner writes neatly. Below is an example of a writing project we just did. One student has Asperger's and the other does not. The writing looks good on both of them.

  • The students above also sit beside each other in class. This is a great tool to use in the classroom. Do you see how it can be helpful?
  • Reading--"Books-on-Tape." There's no reason why a student can't feel like part of a group because he/she cannot read at the same level as the class. Usually struggling students have very good comprehension skills and are able to join a reading group with some partnering, help from the teacher, and a good book-on-tape. If I can't get a book-on-tape, I make it myself.
  • Reading--Make a "modified chapter book (or grade-level book)."  Write in a book? Oh, no!...Ohhhhhh, YEESSS! I've not tried this particular idea in the classroom. In truth...I came up with it as I was editing this post. (I did say they were off the top of my head...) Since I'm on a color-coding kick, why not try highlighting a chapter book. Highlight the book the night before as you read it, only getting the sentences that you believe help with comprehension, eliminating extraneous info. Ask the student if they see any other important sentences that need highlighted. What a great comprehension conversation and they get great lit. at their grade level! =)
These are a few of my "tidbits" I use in my classroom. I tend to be an "in-the-moment" girl, so, as I find myself using other things in the classroom I promise to share. If you see a child sitting in the back of a room and being discluded, help out by sharing some of these ideas and your own. (Also, see how color-coding can eliminate all the words not highlighted and still give comprehension? Always allow them to ask questions and feel COMFORTABLE asking them.)


Enjoy your Labor Day!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Classroom Forest Makeover

It's the night before school starts. Boy, am I tired. We had a teacher professional day today with the staff getting ready, and then I spent the afternoon and early evening doing some fine tuning for my classroom. Below are some pics I took today of my classroom makeover.
I put a welcome mat at the entrance to the classroom to greet the kids.
Classroom Door

I turned my table to add to the length of my desk. I had Lowe's cut me a piece of pegboard and attached it to the front of the desk using cable ties. The letter boxes, I got from Target. They were plain black, so I added washi tape and decal stickers and attached them with pegs. I created a classroom letter for the kids to read. The flag says "Don't give up the ship." It's the Battle of Lake Erie flag. I ordered all my flags a few years ago from an online flag store. (Sorry, don't remember the name.)
This is the calendar wall and behavior chart. I staple a desk calendar to the bulletin board and write all birthdays and important dates on it to save time later. The brown circle is the birthday wheel I created earlier. We also have the state seal and statehouse, a poem a friend gave, some words of wisdom on cooperation. The behavior chart allows kids to move up or down to allow them to improve and not feel "stuck." The markers are to mark their "color" in their agendas.
Brain breaks. The empty bucket is to put used activities so they don't have to repeat the same ones all the time.
Birthday pencils.
Treasure box and desk nameplate I made. (The all-important blue Thermos coffee mug in the background. A definite must-have. ;)
Classroom window. I made the curtains to go with my color scheme (Sorry, the pic is so dark. I'll try to get a better one later). I decorated the wall with kids' bedroom sticker decals from Target. The flags are greate for social studies lessons and Veterans' Day. They are the branches of the military and the American flag. There is one hanging terrarium in the window right now. There will be two more. I just got them today. =)

 The "Fishing Hole" reading nook. There are more flags in the back. They are all the flags that the US has ever had. The larger flag is a copy of "Old Glory" from the Battle of Fort Sumter. I put some stuffed animals in the chairs. They are good for reading time and test taking (stuffed animals are comforting). The black crates will get filled with recent read alouds and popular cookbooks (Kids LOVE looking and reading cookbooks and are always asking me to get more, even reluctant readers. Also, 3D books are great. The rule is to prove they read it and then they get 3D glasses.)
Owl bathroom mat I got from Target to mark the "Fern Gully" reading nook. Easily movable when it is not reading time. My dad is going to give me a small kids tent to put in the back.
Student table. The pink basket is for trash. I thought this would help them stop throwing garbage in their desks. There are 2 ginko leaf flyswatters for pointers, rulers, scissors, glue sticks, and crayons.
Classroom sink with some more wall decals my friends gave me for my birthday. I love them!
A view from the front of the room. There's the state flag (the flags make teaching social studies more fun). There are clothespin hanging from the ceiling. I usually put up large "baseball cards" of the kids that connect to our theme. They are similar to the "All About Me" activities. Pictures of each kid are on one side and the "All About Me" activity on the other.
A view from the back of the room.
More sticker decals from Target. I put up a mirror that I found at the Dollar Tree for the kids to look at themselves (they like to do that at this age level). A friend gifted me the black owl. He is also a chalkboard. I think I might put a piece of whiteboard tape on his belly since they are less messy, and use it to write a simple message of the day for the kids. He is the "Guardian of the Mirror," a rare breed of owl from Ga'Hoole.

There you have it, my classroom in a nutshell. Hopefully, I was able to give you some ideas. I will post some specific DIYs that I did later. Right now, plans for the first day and sleep are priority. =)

Have an OWL-standing school year!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Fingernail Folly

I think I'll stick with being on this one...

So, I thought I would try the latest fingernail painting fashion and make decorative polish, but it turned out that I just ended up with a "teachable moment."

I used pink and brown polishes since those are my classroom colors this year. I painted my fingernails pink and gave myself a french manicure with brown and added some playful dots. Lol...after the french manicure, I was skeptical...after the dots, I was appalled. I remember telling my husband, "I feel like my fingers have some sort of growth or disease."

After all that work, I wiped it off, deciding it would look better on canvas, and went back to one plain old color...
This I can live with.

The point: You never know if you are going to like something unless you try it.

In this case, I didn't like it, and I don't have pretty pink and brown nails to share with the class. But...I DO have an experience and "teachable moment" to share with them. =) Feel free to share/steal/embellish...

Decorating Tips

I have been working hard trying to get my classroom ready for the first day of school, which happens to be Wednesday. It's not completely done yet, but all the little odds and ends should be done by tomorrow. I hope to take some pics to share with all of you.

In the meantime, here are some things I discovered while decorating my classroom:
  • Windows--Check if your window sills are magnetic...I wanted to hang things in the window this year, and I discovered that the top of the window sill is actually magnetic. If you are going to hang something light, like student writing, a hook magnet might work. For me, I'm hanging glass terrariums. I used magnetic hooks and outdoor mounting tape. This makes it permanent, but I'm confident it won't fall, which is a really good thing since it's glass. (It is probably a good idea to pop the magnets out first, because the glue holding the magnet in will eventually give way.)
  • Concrete brick walls--Clean them with rubbing alcohol...Hanging stuff on those things and keeping them up seems to be a constant battle. I know some teachers in my building use hot glue guns. If you have access to an outlet and a glue gun, try that. I have not tried it, but they all assure me it comes off clean. Me? I discovered from reading different  packages that if you clean the bricks with rubbing alcohol first, it helps things to stick better. It really does work, and then I just use frog tape or painter's tape. (FYI, take the rubbing alcohol home when you're done and clean the walls when the kids aren't around. Kids are not allowed to have access to this. Safety first.)
  • Assigning students numbers--Use calendar numbers...A lot of teachers assign their students numbers rather than putting their names on things to allow anonymity, and especially if something is going to be used year after year like a book box. I decided to go with this idea for the things I reuse, but I really didn't want to have to write numbers on everything. I wanted something printed rather than written. A simple solution--use the ready-made calendar numbers (hopefully no one will ever have a class bigger than 31...) They also do sell sticker sheets of just numbers in the scrapbook section at your local hobby store. They didn't seem like a readily available item (I got the last sticker sheet), so it might be better to order online.
  • Pinterest--If you are an avid Pinner and are looking for ideas for the classroom, don't forget to check the home section. Most of us are really good at thinking outside the box, and can turn a home idea into something for the classroom. In fact, I get more classroom decorating ideas from there than from the education tab.
  • Air Plants--These are what are going in the glass terrariums. They won't be ready before the kids get here, so I'll post it now. To be honest, I'm not a plant person (they usually die on me), but I thought air plants might be a good alternative. If you haven't heard of them, they are rootless plants that you spray or give a "bath" to once per week, and they don't need soil. They are small and come in a lot of different varieties. I'm sure it will provide great learning opportunities, too. If you are going to try them and get the terrariums, the tip is to order "votive candle holders." They are the same as "terrariums," but way cheaper. You can even use those clear plastic tree ornaments. Google it. They are fun!
Here's a pic of one of my air plants and the terrarium/votive holder. You can keep the terrariums plain like this or add decorative rocks, wood, moss, etc.

That's all for now, hopefully the classroom will be done tomorrow, and you will see pics to help give you some more ideas.

Have fun on the first day of school!!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Birthday Wheel

You can now get the symbols from my birthday wheel off of my "Freebies" link.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Time to Start Planning

Okay, so looking at the calendar, it's probably time to start planning the school year. For me, I have about 2.5 weeks before the kiddos walk through the classroom door. Some may feel it's "crunch time." This post is for me and for you. (I like to remind myself of things, because if we're not careful, even us veteran teachers can start to panic right about now.)

It is "crunch time" but DON'T start to PANIC. Think about this--our school year is wonderfully divided up into months, holidays, and perfectly segmented nine week periods and semesters. Divide your work up like that, too. Don't try to do it all at once, do a little at a time. Less is more, right? I'd rather see a teacher take the time planning one thing to make it "the best thing ever" than to see him/her take all of their magnificent ideas they have collected over the summer and years and make them "so-so."

This is the time of year I start drawing a map for myself. Think about what needs to be implemented all year. That is probably your priority, lesson planning and projects can come later. If you are going to have a theme, that is important but divide it into things that need doing before the kids arrive and things the kids can help with. Don't panic if all your stuff is not up at the beginning of the year. In fact, do this dividing up with all of your to-do's. Ownership for the kids is a big deal!

Here's more of a run down of what to start thinking about now. I like to get things done ahead rather than waiting last minute. Waiting is like "cramming" for a test for me and with that comes anxiety, stress, all those "nasties." So, if you are like me, "get 'er done," so you have time to relax and don't panic. You have at least TWO MAJOR PROJECTS to start working on now:
  • The first big event for most of us is probably Open House. Start planning what you are going to do.
  • Theme: what can the kids help with?
  • Rules: the kids can and should come up with these. You can always "guide" them to what you are looking for if you think they are missing an important rule. I teach 4th, so the upper elementary guys have had a lot of experience from previous grades. Every year they come up with a rule that I didn't think of but is great.
  • Procedures: start outlining these so you can teach them to the kids. What to do for each subject time, schedule, lunch, recess, etc. You know the drill.
  • Read-alouds for the first week:  Make a list that includes daily picture books and a chapter book if you do that. (Don't make lesson plans yet. Save it for when it's closer to "opening day." You need to get the other stuff done first and it needs to be fresh in your mind.)
  • The Summer Olympics: If you are going to teach this in your classroom, better start planning lessons (if you haven't already).
  • Decorations and classroom layout: start getting your classroom looking the way you want it to look when the kids walk in the door. Don't worry about anchor charts or anything that you need to teach, but start working on desk/furniture arrangement, behavior charts, etc. (the essentials). This is one of your BIGGER projects. (Ooooh, this might be IMPORTANT. This is a word of advice straight from my students: They absolutely love all the decor, BUT too much is a distraction, especially posters. PLEASE keep that in mind when you do all your "Pinterest" decorating. Don't make your posters and anchor charts "wordy." Don't have "blasts" of colors everywhere, pick a couple of colors and stick with them. Here's a good thought: "If it's too gaudy for your home, it's too gaudy for your classroom." Don't put up a lot of "un-necessaries." Remember, being a student is their "job." Help them do a good job by not getting in the way. If you are unsure, ask a colleague, or better yet, when the kids get to the classroom, make sure they understand that they have the right to ask for something to be taken down if they feel it is distracting. And make a rule that they are not allowed to do that for the first week because they need time to adjust. That's for the kid you know will ask you to take something down as soon as you explain the "distraction right.")
  • What major events do you need to start thinking about? Make a list and start thinking about them, but not necessarily planning lessons and projects (just yet). Here's an initial list of some "majors" I came up with (I am the "social studies" teacher and a major history buff, so I tend to need to start planning these now: Olympics (we already mentioned), it's an Election Year, 2012 is the 200th birthday of the War of 1812 (I'm an Ohioan so that's a big issue), Veterans' Day and Constitution Day (these are both "must teach by law," and I'll probably give specific ideas on these later)...I think that's good. You can see the fall is jam-packed, and I didn't even mention Columbus Day...(Don't panic. That's going to be my mantra for us, lol.) (See, I went back and gave it a soothing blue mantra color. =))
  • Second BIG project: Now's the time to go meet with your team. Collaboration is so important. Your team knows exactly who you are and what you're going through. Build a relationship with them (if you haven't) and go out to eat or get a drink. This is more of a reunion meeting than a planning meeting. Don't go in with your guns blazing thinking you're going to get down to business, that is the wrong mind-set. Meet to reunite your team. It's a "love-thy-neighbor" meeting. (You're teachers so you're conversations will eventually turn to planning anyway, but know that's NOT why you are meeting.)
So, I'll stop now so you can digest the above. Notice I didn't say to start making lessons (unless you consider the Olympics). You have time for lessons later. Hope my advice helps. Enjoy the rest of your summer! It's not over yet, so don't switch entirely to work mode yet. Proof--I'm leaving for a vacation on Wednesday =)


Sunday, July 22, 2012

What to do for Open House?

So the first big event of the school year is Open House. Parents come because they want to meet their child's teacher and see where their kids will be located for the year. You tell them a little bit about yourself, what your plans for the school year are, what they can expect their child to learn, you might even talk a little bit about testing (just a little). They might pick up a classroom supply list, ask you what you think is your most essential school tool...But for the most part it's a "Hello-how-are-you?-Who-are you?" meeting.

To spice things up this year, I think I want to throw a theme party for Open House, and the kids can help. I want it to be just like a kid's birthday party with maybe even "Pin-the-Tail on the Donkey" (do they still play that?).

This year, Open House for me is the second day of school. You can see, there's not a lot of time to get the kids involved throwing up their beginning-of-the-year work to display. So I'm going to have them help me throw up decorations, maybe make some "ants on a log." (Our theme is "forest" btw. I haven't decided if it's enchanted or not yet. I think maybe just whimsical.) It'll be just like a kid's birthday party with snacks, drinks, maybe some kids' DIY prizes. IDK. (Oooh, I should bake a cake...or maybe order one.)

But, as I have no kids in the home, I've never really thrown a "kid party" before. I've been to them, just not thrown them; and I know the two roles are WAY different. So, I'm going to ask my AMAZING FOLLOWERS, any advice anyone has to offer is greatly appreciated. I think throwing a party and having the kids help would make for a great team building activity (which I'm a huge fan of. We even call the class "Team Jayne's Class" instead of "Mrs. Jayne's class." It helps reinforce the team idea. The latter makes it sound like the class belongs to me...You can steal that idea if you want.)

Anyway, this party idea is going to take a lot of planning on my part , especially since the kids will all be helping "last minute." (And I have ZERO experience, which will make it all the more fun right?) I'll go Pinterest-surfing for ideas but, again, any ideas from you are greatly appreciated and thanks a million!

Hope your summer is going well!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Birthday Wheel

I needed to get a new sign to post classroom birthdays, but when I looked in the catalogs and at stores, I didn't really see any that caught my eye. I had been using a "birthday wheel" that I had gotten out of an educator's magazine, but it was filled with staple holes, marker stains, and tape remnants. It needed to be replaced.

I took all the things I loved from what I saw of birthday posters, birthday signs, my old "birthday wheel," and things I saw on Pinterest and made what you see. Come the fall, it will get laminated, and I thought I would have the kids get together by month to take a group picture. Then those pictures will get placed in the empty spaces for each month.

I like to use the different "-ology" symbols because:

1. The kids love to look at it and learn what they are.

2. It's great for discussions on symbolism.

3. The kids are reading. There may not be very many words on it, but those are some tough words (especially those flower names), and they are invested in figuring out what they say.

4. It leads to some great discussions and tie-ins when teaching Native Americans and other cultures along with mythology (which is mentioned in the common core).

5. The kids make great connections with the books they read. Those symbols and references to them are found all over literature.

and 6. I just think it's pretty, interesting, and I love making artsy stuff.


Monday, July 9, 2012

For this week's Monday-Made-It, I created new forest-themed book nook materials. (Now there are two themes: forest and ocean. If you're looking for a different theme, let me know and I'll see what I can do.) Go ahead over to the freebie tab to grab and print your copies. =)


Saturday, July 7, 2012

The W.I.P.

The kids will never lose work again!

This idea was actually given to me by a beloved friend and colleague of mine. She is truly one of the greatest people in my life.

W.I.P. stands for "Work In Progress." It's an envelope that you tape to the back of the students' interactive notebooks and wherever else you want to put them. The students keep the work that they are not finished with in their W.I.P.'s. You can also put work that they missed while they were absent in there. I actually have the person who is in charge of the group for the day take care of that for me. It saves me time. The kids always know where to find their work and so do you!

(Word of advice: If you are going to tape the envelope to their notebooks and the notebook has holes in it like the one above, put a piece of tape on the other side of each hole, too, so that there is no dirt collection.)

It also helps to create a W.I.P. for that student who is always forgetting things like homework. Talk with the child about what they always take with them wherever they go no matter what. For one of my students who was a chronic homework-forgetter, she decided that her agenda book is something that she never goes anywhere without. We taped a W.I.P. into the back of the agenda, and she never forgot her homework again. =)

Truly a great idea!


Photovoice Powerpoint Project

Photovoice is designed to be a Powerpoint presentation and personal narrative. I find that when the kids can take a large project and take each section through the writing process, essentially publishing or making a final draft in pieces, it works better. This project is no different. The kids think this project is exciting, and it aligns well with the common core standards, including technology.

Photovoice was first introduced to me during my masters program at Ashland, and I have adapted it to use in the classroom. It gives the kids an opportunity to write about themselves (which they love doing) and learn some good writing skills on how to make a Powerpoint as well as how to write a personal narrative. When it is divided into sections that they can complete independently, it seems like a less daunting task to them rather than trying to complete the whole thing at one time.

I think that it’s important not to give intermediate kids any more than 8 subtopics in any writing project. And then those subtopics are small, consisting, in this case, of only a paragraph. Here are the sections that I used for the Photovoice: introduction, where/when you were born or birthday, your favorite place, school, family, hobbies, favorite toy, home, and pets. I also have a section for work at the end, but the kids don’t really have a job, so we’ll skip that. You can adapt your subtopics any way you see fit. Writing about "favorites" is very popular. For each section, the kids take a picture of an object to symbolize that topic (you’ll have to have a discussion on symbolism with them), and then they write about it.

If you want to take the project further, the kids can make the Powerpoints into movies by saving it as a .PNG file. (Click “save as,” “other formats,” and in the save as type drop down menu click “PNG Portable Network Graphics Format.” Then they can open it up in Windows Movie Maker and add music, narration, and such. Just “Google” for a more detailed summary on how to do that.)

If access to technology is an issue for you, you can also do a paper version, which I have done. For my project, I had the kids make accordion books with pockets (take a 12” x 18” piece of construction paper, fold a long side up about 2 inches, and accordion fold it into 8 sections. Use a couple of staples to hold the fold in place if you need to.). The kids glued the photos on the fronts of the pockets and then put the writing onto little tags to insert into the pockets. (Making a Powerpoint is actually probably a little easier because you don't have to resize the photos and print them out. An alternative might be to have the kids bring in objects that they can glue right to the pockets without taking a pic or draw pictures of the objects. They might not, however, enjoy or be receptive to taking away the actual use of photographs.) They used a lot of art to decorate the pieces and some scrapbook embellishing ideas. This works well, too. It’s a lot more exciting than your plain old paper project or even paper with a decorative border.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Postmodern Literature for Children

  What is Postmodern Literature?

 Postmodern literature is becoming more prevalent in today’s world as new books are published each year and set on shelves in book stores, libraries, and classrooms. These books are a reflection of society, history, and culture and the multiliteracies of today’s 21st century. Authors of postmodern literature step away from traditional forms of literature and begin to experiment with format and style. Readers may no longer take a passive role with these books. They must actively work to comprehend the written and illustrated pages.

 Postmodern books possess many stylistic qualities that most refer to as metafictive characteristics. It is important to understand these stylistic devices that writers use in order to understand the literature they have written. Stories may not follow a linear path, and readers must decide to whether to read here or there. They can be self-referential in nature, drawing the reader’s attention to the actual creation of the book. Readers are forced to fill in the gaps that authors have left out as they read and continually draw connections with the text, themselves, and the world in which they live. Stories are told from multiple points of view and readers must interpret how characters and narrators are related to each other.

 There are seven defining characteristics of postmodern literature. Let's take a look at them:

Nonlinearity (NL)

  •  Multiple stories can coexist within one text.
  •  There may not be a left-to-right orientation.
  •  Readers must decide what to read and when to read it.

 Self-Referentiality (SR)

  • Characters or narrators may use the actual pages as props.
  • Readers must distinguish between fiction and reality as they read.
  • Draws the reader's attention to the creation of the story.

Co-Authoring (C)

  • The reader must make connections and fill in the gaps that the writer has left out.
  • Readers are required to make many more inferences than with traditional literature.
  • There is room for multiple interpretations of plot and characters' intentions.

  Intertextuality (I)

  • There are references to traditional tales.
  • The antagonist of a traditional tale may become the unexpected hero or have more complex motives or personalities.
  • Characters from multiple texts can be incorporated into one story.

Nontraditional Format or Structure (NF)

  • Writers may use characteristics of more than one genre.
  • This is the most recognized trait of postmodern literature.
  • May have an unconventional layout.
  • Several different type faces may be used.

Sarcastic or Mocking Tone (S)

  • There is a level of irony or contradiction throughout the story line. 
  • There is playfulness to the narration or character perspectives.
  •  The author may seek to make fun of the original tale.

Multiple Perspectives (M)

  • Several voices are used creating multiple narrations.
  • These voices may show the perspectives of different characters within the text.
  • Readers must determine the relationships between narrators and characters and the authenticity of each voice. 

Examples of Postmodern Literature

These examples might not list all of their postmodern characteristics, but they list the most prevalent.
Picture Books
  • Beware of the Story Book Wolves by Lauren Child (I, SR, NF, S)
  • The Secret Knowledge or Grown Ups by David Wisniewski ( NF, SR, S, I, NL, C)
  • A Story with Pictures by Barbara Kanninen (SR, S, NF, C)
  • Black and White by David Macauley (All)
  • The Three Pigs by David Weisner (SR, C, I, NF, S)
Intermediate Books (Chapter Books)
  • A House Called Awful End by Philip Ardagh (NL, S, M, SR)  
  • Cinderella (As If You Didn't Already Know the Story) by Barbara Ensor (I, N, NF, M, S)
  •  Please Write In This Book by Mary Amato (SR, M, C, S, NF)
  • The Secret Order of the Gumm Street Girls by Elise Primavera (I, M, SR, NF, C)
  •  The World According to Kaley by Dian Curtis Regan (NF, SR, M, S)
 Middle School
  • Diamond Willow by Helen Frost (NF, M, C, NL)
  • Old Magic by Marianne Curley (M, S)
  • The Prophecy of the Stones by Flavia Bujor (NL, SR, C)
High School
  • Blue Bloods by Melissa De la Cruz (I, NL, M, C, NF)
  • Deadly Little Secrets by Laurie Faria Stolarz (M, NF, C)
  • Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles (M, I)
  • Wake by Lisa McMann (NF, C) 
References for Further Reading 
Anstey, M. (2002). “It’s not all black and white”: Postmodern picture books and new literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 45(6), 444-457.
Goldstone, B. (2004, January). The postmodern picture book: A new subgenre. Language Arts, 81(3), 196-204.
Knickerbocker, J.L. & Brueggeman, M.A. (2008). Making room on the shelf: The place of postmodern young adult novels in the curriculum. American Secondary Education, 37(1), 65-79.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

The "Date Night" Jar

So here we have the “Date Night” jar, my latest DIY.

Like with most couples, when my husband and I find time for each other we have the age-old conversation:

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. What do you want to do?”…

So, we decided to try out the “Date Night” jar. It's not a new idea, but it's a good one. The goal is to pick something from the jar to do at least once per week with some all-weekenders put in there, too. Once something’s picked, there’s no turning back (unless, of course, it’s a seasonal activity).

For a list of all our ideas, move on to my DIY page. =)

Funny, when I was making it, my hubby commented on me making it like an elementary teacher would. Go figure. (Of course, I do have something similar for my classroom with the kids names on it. I use it when I want to put them in groups or call on random kids to answer questions. I use it religiously. It helps to keep them focused and paying attention. It also eliminates the idea that I have "favorites" that I call on all the time.)
To commemorate our 11th anniversary this weekend, we chose to start picking from “the jar.” Our first pick… “Play pool, foosball, or ping-pong.” I’ll keep you updated =)…

If you have any ideas for great date ideas, let me know, and I'll add them to the jar. Have a great weekend!