Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer "School"

As an educator, I strive to continue to be a life long learner.

I have half of my master's degree completed and am spending the majority of my summer reading reading professional books, participating in a book study online and going to three days of professional development. (I mean, who does that? Of their own volition? It all adds up to NERD-but, hey, I'm owning it.)

I thought the most beneficial lesson I'd learned was how to successfully teach guided reading. Until today.

Today I learned that if you're meeting your friend Jennifer for lunch there are a couple of do's and don't s. For example:

  • Do take the time to make sure you put some kind of cosmetics on your face. Because it will be the day that you get interviewed for KET (Kentucky Educational Television).
  • Don't leave the house with wet hair. Because it will be the day that you get interviewed for KET. And God and the Commonwealth will get to see you looking like that.
  • Do make sure you have on clothes that are not wrinkled. Not only will you be interviewed, you will meet your next door neighbor. This proves that you do have clothes other than your pajamas.
  • Do be prepared to face anything, including questions about how you utilize KET in both your personal viewing and professional viewing.
  • Don't be insulted when the KET people ask you adapt your answer. Because your answer was too long. (This same thing happened to me at the Houston Final Four last year-what are the odds?)
  • Don't sing "The More You Know" jingle. (Okay, so I really didn't do that, but had to fight myself to keep quiet.)
  • Do enjoy every second of adult conversation, even if it's punctuated by diesel trucks, motor scooters and a weird California Raisin guy with Darius Miller's jersey. (Seriously there was a man walking around in the Raisin get up, striped pants, and Big D's jersey. I can't make up this foolishness.)
I know "they" say education is a mix of experiences in the classroom and outside of it. And sometimes, like today, the outside experiences prove to be way more beneficial. Life skills were definitely learned today.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Re-using Plastic Divider Tabs

So can you spot the difference between my Math Assessment Binder tabs and my Essentials Binder tabs? (Hint: it's not the numbers or whether the letters are bold or fine print.)

It's not readily apparent, so let me just tell you: it's $4.32.

As I prepare for my kiddos in the fall, I went on ahead and made four binders: an ELA Assessment binder, a Math Assessment binder, a Small Groups binder, and an Essentials binder.

I wanted them to look cute as well as be functional, so I sprung for the prettiest tabs I could find at Walmart.  And labeled them accordingly.

For my assessment binders, I took a beloved Sharpie and labeled them without thinking of anything.

But then I remembered how cheap money efficient I am.  And when you multiply that number by four...ouch.  I mean, hello, $4 alone is cup of coffee at Starbucks, one of McDonald's chocolate chip frappuncino wannabes-with change left over-or 2 pints of strawberries.    (But now I'm off task, so let's get back to the topic.)

After realizing how much money I'd spent on tabs, I knew I had to think of a way to make them re-usable. 

Enter our friend Mr. Scotch-the tape, not the drink.

I realized by putting tape over the labels and then writing on them, I am free to re-use the tabs as often as I need. 

I am now kicking myself for not thinking up this earlier.

Feel free to make the most of your tabs as well!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Daily 5 Chapter 3

Hi friends!

I can hardly believe July is just around the corner...where is this summer going? 

Reflections on Chapter 3:
  1. A place for body and brain breaksMy rooms have always featured an open area large enough to seat kids.  I just need to make sure I leave enough room for a chair for myself and a place for the anchor charts.  I really try and situate this place in the room so the kids aren't playing with books or near any other distractions.
  2. Developing the concept of good fit books: because I knew this mini would arise, I've been keeping track of the books I've read over the summer-I've got some really easy reads (ads I receive in the mail), just right (books I've been reading), and then difficult (a computer website I ventured onto when I thought my computer had a virus).  Being as I'm not a big shoe person (I'd rather spend the money on a cute purse), I plan on doing this lesson using clothes-finding my regular clothes for just right, doll clothes for too easy, and a man's shirt for too hard.  I think you can still discuss the purpose (bring in dress up clothes, yard clothes, etc) and the kids will get the idea.  I did this last year using shoes and realized I needed something more tailored to my personality. 
  3. Anchor charts: I like the idea of creating those with kids-they will created be whole group.  However, there are some super cute anchor charts you can print out.  I think I will leave the large ones up and then after we have familiarity with the routines, introduce the smaller, cute ones so they can refer to them.  I'm pretty big on having a room that has only the necessary info-I've been in classrooms that are beautiful, but I walk in them and I can't concentrate for all the "stuff" around me.  I want the anchor charts to serve their purpose but not overwhelm the room or the kids.
  4. Stamina, Book Boxes, and Book Appetizers:  To keep track of stamina, I will keep a class graph.  As we add to it, we will color in the tick marks.  I adore the ones Nicole made.  I know teachers who use the book boxes-and use them well-but I get bogged down in the amount of room needed to store them.  Hence, my students will have these pouches from Really Good Stuff.  I ordered the extra large ones, so the large picture books can fit inside.  I also prefer these to book boxes because a) they have a handle so they can be moved easily b) they have velcro on them so you turn them every which way c) size wise they can fit into a desk instead of taking up valuable desk and/or floor space and d)  they're washable-I just put mine in the machine and put them on the delicate cycle.  They come out looking as good as new.  The first day I plan to put books that will be easy to read.  I don't have a ton of pre-K and A level books, so I will have to print some.  If you're like me and you need books to print, I found some good ones at Making Learning Fun, Free Kids BooksDLTK, Reading A-Z, Professor Garfield, Scholastic and Very Emergent ReadersI think I'll also ask parents to send in a favorite book to keep in their bags (hopefully this will help us increase our stamina).
  5. Signals & Check Ins: Here's where I need some help.  I have a regular bell (like the "Order UP!" kind) but am cognizant it is not fit to use during this time.  I have some chimes I will use specifically for D5 time.  However, the Check Ins are where I need to adapt my strategy.  It took forever last year!  I think this year before I allow them to go to their spot, I will ask them to partner talk about what book they will read once they are seated.  If they can tell me, "The one about school", I'll be fine.  But I know there are some who will take I need some help with this one, girls!  Any ideas would be gratefully received.
  6. Behavior:  I would like to think I will keep anecdotal records on behavior.  If a child is crying out for attention, they will be our next model...they can act out infront of everyone, then show them how to act correctly (and if they need to do it twice to get it out of their system, we can do that).  As far as showing them attention at appropriate times, there are lots of things you can do-leave them a welcome note on their desk, pat them on the back and say, "I'm so glad you're here!"  when they arrive, when they are acting appropriately at other times call attention to that, and allow them to model incorrect/correct procedures for other routines (going to the bathroom, walking down the hall, arriving in the room).  I also have postcards and when they do something good (make a good choice, line up, whatever the child needs) I let them choose to whom it will be sent.  I've sent them to cousins, grandparents, parents.  Once a parent learns the purpose of the card, they will happily supply the address.  And once that first card goes out, everyone wants one. 

I can't wait to see what everyone else has in mind...y'all are some creative people with super ideas.  Happy Wednesday!

Transportation Change Freebie

I don't know about you, but transporation stresses me out-majorly just a smidgen.

If I receive a transportation note, I either a) email or b) call the parent to let them know I received it.  (I've sent many an email with "Transporation Change Confirmation" in the regarding line.)

I also clip a reminder to myself on the classroom door with a magnet and randomly ask the child throughout the day, "Precious-how are you getting home today?"  (I'm praying with the combo of the note and me asking them about it until they're borderline neurotic answering it automatically will ensure they get to the right line.

I saw a different version of this on my favorite time waster and realized I needed to tweak it.  At my school if a child is a bus rider we have to list their bus stop on notes.  So I fooled around until I had one I could that would work for me.  Click here for the document. 

I plan on printing two copies per kid (hopefully I can find some bright/neon paper somewhere in my school) and including them in my welcome packet at Back to School Night. 

The only thing you need to do is insert your name. 


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Paint Chip Idea #40,248,788

To be honest, there are a couple of things I don't do really well (being tall, being a Louisville fan, and loving the color orange-sorry Rachael Ray).

Boredom is one of those things I just can't do. 

So I present to you my discoveries of June 23, 2012:

If you're like me and you've got some paint chips because the crafts on Pinterest have all but dared you to leave them at Lowe's, I discovered:

 A $1 recipe card box from the Dollar Tree makes a perfect container for the paint chips with a window.

Here's a way to practice K CC 2: Count forward beginning from a given number within a known sequence. I took paint chips, a Sharpie (my favorite thing in the world, next to chocolate and Post-its) and went to work. I plan to laminate them the next time I pop in to school.

I love all the creative things you can do with paint chips.  Do you have a favorite?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Daily 5 Chapter 2

So I'm a day late, but we'll call it "fashionably late".  :)

1. Do you trust your students? How do you build this trust? Are you able to trust them and allow them to be independent throughout all aspects of your day? Are you going to be able to stay out of their way?

I trust my students to an extent.  Whenever I leave my sub plans, I always include a "Reliable Students" bullet.  But kids are kids-some can handle independence and some just need those gentle reminders. 

I think it will be difficult to stay out of their way initially-I would want to go and remind the kids who not looking at their books to help us stay on task.  But I need to remember our goal that first few weeks will be progress, not perfection.

2. How much choice do you give your students throughout the day? Do you go over your daily schedule with your students or is it just 'posted' in the room?

I did Daily 5 last year with a 1-2 split so they had choices during our literacy block.  I'm nervous interested in seeing what will happen with this year's class.  Every class has differences and so I will have to design what's best for the kids.  But we always go over the schedule-and they're good about reminding me if we're running short on time--especially to lunch or recess!

3. How are you going to create that sense of community where students will hold each other accountable?

I am looking forward to seeing what everyone else wrote, because this one is kinda hard for me.  I think first and foremost it begins with the modeling-while you're having one child model incorrect behaviors, have another one nearby modeling correct behaviors.  Have the class talk about how distracting it was when the kid couldn't read for someone being up, flipping through books without even trying, and being noisy.  Talk about how our behavior affects others...if I don't teach them all their letters and sounds, when they go to first grade that affects the first grade teacher.  Let them know that in the room we all have jobs-just like a real community. 

4. Student ownership in learning? How do you instill this in every child?

I think this piggybacks onto #3.  If children are able to see, hear, and articulate how they must be diligent, it helps them understand why they are at school.  I would also like for them to bring in a favorite book from home (or maybe two).  I think if they have items in their book boxes that are theirs, they (might) be more inclined to care for it properly.  I also think if they can read a favorite book from home during Read to Someone, it will help keep them focused.  (Hopefully.)

5. Stamina! How are you going to build stamina with reading? independent work? Will you use a timer? Will you set goals?

I like the idea of introducing the term stamina to the kids.  If most of them have never heard it before, and they learn it together, I think this will help build community (a common experience together).  I would like to set the initial goal of three minutes, and use a timer-but I plan to keep the timer to myself.  I want them engrossed in books, not looking at a timer. 

I can't wait to hear what everyone else says...there is so much creativity in this group!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Summer Reading (the Professional Version)

This fall (0kay, it's actually technically still summer since we start so early) I'm teaching kindergarten. 

Which I am super excited about but also a little nervous. I've taught kindergarten before, but it was a long term sub at the end of the school year...when they were practically first graders.

To combat the anxiety I'm feeling, I've spent the last two weeks reading as much I can.  (And, of course, pinning galore on Pinterest.  I seriously wonder how people managed before electricity, cell phones, and Pinterest.)

In case you need something to do, here's my bookshelf:
  Reading With Meaning by Debbie Miller.  Having it referenced in both Strategies that Work (Goudvis & Harvey) and The Daily 5 (Boushey & Moser), I decided to see what the buzz was about.  I found it full of strategies to implement and an easy read. 

  The Next Step in Guided Reading by Jan Richardson.  I didn't read all of this (she devotes chapters to how to teach groups in upper elementary and middle school) but the chapters on emergent readers and pre-K were great.  I loved how she broke the guided reading groups down into specifics (teach new words for 1 minute, preview for 5, work on writing for 5, etc).  There are lots of rubrics you can use to help assess both the progress of your students and your teaching.  And the appendixes can help you target what skills a child needs to be taught if they are not making progress. 

  The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades by Boushey & Moser.  I read this last summer but am re-reading it.  Tammy at Live, Love, Laugh Everyday is hosting a Kindergarten D5 book study and I'm all about it.  I like how the Daily 5 instills independence in children and I can't wait to see how other K teachers have implemented it!

  The Daily Cafe by Boushey & Moser.  If you're going to implement the Daily 5 structure, this is a must read.  It's the companion book to Daily 5 and I felt much more prepared to begin Daily 5 with this tool as a reference.  It goes into what to look for in student conferences and lays out a plan for Daily 5 utilization the first weeks of school better than Daily 5. 

So Each May Learn: Integrating Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences by Silver, Strong, and Perini.  I haven't read this one yet, but now that I've finished Daily 5, I'm looking forward to it.  I am a fan of Silver & Strong, but am afraid I don't use their strategies as often as I'd like.  I read the reviews on Amazon, and when I saw I could purchase the book for a song, I knew I had to have it.
Making the Most of Small Groups  Making the Most of Small Groups: Differentiation for All by Debbie Diller.  This will be the last one for this summer.  I've never read anything by Ms. Diller, but all the reviews were positive.  I want this book to help give me ideas for small group instruction, and everyone says it does just that.

I really want to go in and have a wealth of strategies (more than what I have). 

Do you have any good pro books or websites you like?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Barefoot and Proud

As the tag to this blog says, wearing shoes are optional in my room. 

Let me tell you how I arrived at that...

I spent one year teaching a 1-2 split  (and loved it!).  My class worked really hard for good behavior parties and after the bajillionth one ideas for parties (especially ones that don't cost a lot and interfere with instruction) were starting to wane.  One day, the idea came to me:  a shoe free day! 

We all had a great day walking around in socks or bare feet (doesn't that make you feel like you're at home when you're barefoot?). 

It was such a success that we repeated it-with similar results. 

I hope you'll sit a spell (with or without your shoes) and enjoy hearing about our room.

Y'all come back now, you hear? ;)