Friday, June 15, 2012

Photoshop Your Students

One of the things I love to do with my students at the beginning of every year is to take their pictures against a solid background so that I can edit them any way I want with my photo editing software later.

Click on my "DIY Page" for instructions on how to do it.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

You Won't Find Brown Crayons in My Room

Every year, without a doubt, I have the following conversation in my room.

Student: Mrs. Jayne, what’s your favorite color?
 Me: Brown.
 Student: Brown’s not a color. Seriously, what’s your favorite color?
 Me: Brown.

(By this time, they either realize that brown is a color, or I tell them to go back to their seat and look in their crayon box. Sure enough, brown is there.)

Student: Okay…Why do you like brown?

(Perhaps they can get me here…)

Me: Because it is the color of all the things I love: coffee, chocolate, trees, peanut butter…
 Student: Oh…okay. (Makes sense.)

Then they go “skip-to-my-Lou” back to their seats and start drawing. Soon, everyone knows the teacher’s favorite color is brown, and everything they make is that color. What I don’t tell them is that brown is also my favorite color because it gets them thinking. They ask questions: Is that your favorite shirt because it’s brown? Is your dog brown? Do you like brown because that’s the color of your eyes? Should I color the background brown so the teacher will read it and like it?

By the end of the year, my room is filled with brown drawings: coffee, pictures of me and them holding hands (with brown hair even though they are blonde!), dogs, birds, signs, etc…The brown crayons have the paper peeled off or don’t exist, markers are dry (this is when I wish markers were sold in separate colors), and writings have brown borders all over them.

I look at all the things they’ve made throughout the year and smile, or cry, because they made them for me. I am their audience.

I love teaching!

Friday, June 8, 2012

DIY: Desk Name Plate

I finished my first classroom DIY today. I made a new desk nameplate to go with the color scheme I chose for next year (pink and BROWN). I can't wait to put it on my desk. It's so cute, I'm hoping it will help me to keep my desk de-cluttered this year. A parent had given me the wooden cubes a few years ago for art along with a whole storage box full of other wooden ornaments from eggs and acorns to banister knobs and clothespins. We used a lot of it in art club, an after-school club I've supervised, but there still seems to be a whole boxful. I will have to look into what else I can make with all those wood ornaments. There are some mushrooms in there that I could use for something to go with my theme...maybe smurf houses? Will see...

When I went to buy the terracotta pots at the craft store (60 cents each, YES!), I also found some 30% off beads, so I bought a bunch of those. I'm thinking of making some beaded curtains to decorate the windows for my next DIY...
Here's a pic of my name plate.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Classroom Makeover Beginnings

I finished getting my room ready for the summer yesterday. Everything is stacked, put away, and off the floor, ready to be waxed. I've decided to give my room a total makeover.

In the past I've had posters all over the place of things I thought were important for the kids to see: reading strategies, writing strategies, test-taking skills, etc. All of the things most of us put up. But when I asked the kids if they liked the posters, they said they loved them and used them a lot, but they felt it was too much to look at, almost information overload. The plan is to make it look more inviting to a 9-year-old, without being overwhelmed by all the posters. =)

I started with a theme, the forest, since I love the great outdoors. I wanted to make the room more inviting for the kids and myself, a place everyone is excited to go to. The first order of business was to put up some wall decals. I figured if they stayed up all summer, they will stay up throughout the year. Here's a before and after.
 Here's another thing I did before the school year was over. We've all seen the "Types of Writing" bulletin board on Pinterest, probably. I made my own version of the bulletin and changed some of the types of writing to fit more with what I teach. I also had this year's kids make some first drafts of each type of writing for next year's kids to read. The plan is to display two pieces each. I think it worked out nicely. I love the story title, "Chicks with Brains."

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hallway Mini-Posters

Here’s one summer project down…If you think about it, the kids spend a lot of time in the hall. They switch classes, go to lunch, go to specials, go to the library, go to the bathroom, go to the office (for good things, of course), etc. We all put kids’ projects up on the bulletin boards in the hallways for others to see the amazing things we are doing in our classroom. But…do the kids really have time to read them? Maybe they stop to read one or two per month on their way to and from the bathroom, but then they risk the chance of getting in trouble because they took too long. (We should stop and think about why they took a long time, by the way. Maybe they WERE reading something on a bulletin board.)

Any whooo…If you stopped and looked at my Pinterest site, you would know that I love inspirational quotes, and I am always looking for ways to share them! I thought…"Why not share these with the school?" So, I created some mini-posters of inspirational quotes with Power Point to hang from the drop ceilings in the hallway. The good thing about them is that they are short and sweet. Kids and adults alike will be able to read them as they walk from one room to another. Hopefully they’ll put little skips in their steps and smiles on their faces. =)

Click here if you want to print the posters!

Writing Is Visual

When we walk into a bookstore to select a new book to read, one of the first things we do is look at the cover. IF the cover LOOKS enticing, we might take the time to pick the book up off the shelf and take a quick flip through the pages. IF the pages LOOK decent, THEN we might read the blurb. Visual presentation is a KEY to good writing.

So, one of the things that I teach my kids is that the writing they create throughout the year needs to be visually appealing. I tell them, “No one is going to stop and read what you wrote, if they do not think it LOOKS good.” I also tell them, “The main purpose of WRITING is READING. People write so that others will read it.” These statements help to get students to really appreciate neatness in their handwriting and visual presentation. No more paperwork is turned in to me on half sheets of paper nor homework with last night's dinner on it. It also gets them to connect reading and writing and understand that they go hand in hand: Readers are Writers, and Writers are Readers. Here’s a simple, but perfect example of two title pages for the same book side by side. Which one are you going to pick up and read?
 I find that getting kids to pay attention to what their writing looks like helps to motivate them as writers. A lot of kids appeal to their visual senses, and this is a way to get them to do it in their writing. We spend a lot of time looking at different book covers and discussing what works and what doesn't. We also compare different covers of the same book. Then the kids take what they have learned and apply it to their own published pieces.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Make a Summer List

So school is out and summer is beginning. I have lots of plans to go visit with family and friends and finish some art that I have been putting off throughout this past year. I have some tree designs that I have been working on that need to be finished. I have also been working on a novel series for over a year, and I plan to start working on it again now that I will have some extra free time.
I bought an acoustic guitar last fall and would love to teach myself some songs. I had learned most of the basic notes and was able to play one or two Johnny Cash songs (love him), some Christmas songs, and (my favorite) the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Not surprisingly, though, I forgot how to do it all since I haven’t played since December. It is definitely NOT like riding a bike.

So, in short, my summer plans include playing the guitar, writing, family vacations, CAMPING, and reading (I can’t go a day without it). But, even though the school year has ended, I am still thinking like a teacher. I think most can understand “work mode.” One thing I like to do at the end of the year is make a “To-Do” list of all the teacher stuff I want to accomplish this summer. This is one of my favorite things to do at the end of the year because 1—it helps me to unwind and get ready for summer, 2—everything is still fresh in my head (I think I might be getting to the age where I forget things more easily even though I am forever 29 years old), 3—it is a time where I can really reflect on what I want to do to make the next year meaningful and memorable, and 4—it gets me excited for the coming year.