Monday, August 31, 2015

5 Fun Facts

Tonight, I'm breaking basic blogging rules. I think there's an unwritten rule that you should NOT write two blog posts in a day. (It may actually be a rule that's written somewhere.) Also, you aren't supposed to rely on linky parties for blog post inspiration. Well, I'm breaking both of those rules.  I've been waiting for Blog Hoppin' Week, and I don't want to be left out! So, here's my second blog post of the evening. I'm sharing five fun things about me.

I'm a sucker for musicals, but I've only seen two on the stage. I saw a version of Fiddler on the Roof while on a fourth grade field trip.  I saw Phantom of the Opera.  Although I'm only about a 3-hour drive from New York City, I've never seen a show in NYC. Sad, I know. Mostly, I'm a homebody so I watch the videos.  I've also been know to listen to the songs in my car while singing along loudly! 

This is my wonderful family. It's rare for us to have a photo taken together. These are my favorite people in the world to spend time with. My son, Seth, is 12. Gabrielle is 6.  They're a blessing!

We're a two-cat family. Herbie is still a rambunctious kitten. Sunshine's huge, fluffy, and totally sweet.  We do like dogs, but we'd want a German Shepherd. Our yard is just not sufficient for that!

Fall is my favorite season. When horrible winters hit, sometimes I HATE living in Connecticut!  But gorgeous falls are one of the perks of living in New England. I love everything about fall except that it's too short! Our family always goes to the orchard and on long leaf-peeping drives.  We've started a new tradition of going to the corn maze.  Scuffing through the fallen leaves is a given.  Fall's the best. 

I have a corny sense of humor.  It serves me well, because I actually find many of my third-graders' jokes hilarious.  My kids and I will often spend a little time watching funny animal videos. I thought I'd share a couple of our favorites!

Head over to Blog Hoppin' to join in the fun! Thanks for stopping by. 

My Moderately Mishmashed Classroom Library

My classroom library is a work in progress. It works for me and for my students, but it is (as my blog post title indicates) moderately mishmashed.  That being said, I'll explain in more detail. 

I do have leveled books. I never mention that the books are leveled.  My leveled books are color-coded, and I've been collecting them since I started teaching in a regular classroom 14 years ago. Back then, I told students they had to pick "red dot" books or "green dot" books to read.  Now, I teach them HOW to choose appropriate books and let them shop for books for their book bags once a week. I do like having some leveled books. Students will tend to gravitate toward a color that they know is right for them without me saying a word. Sometimes, I'll notice students choosing books that are WAY too easy. I might ask them to try a few "green dot" books, because I know those will be more challenging.  

I also have several baskets and bins of books organized by author, series, or genre.  Following are photos of some of them! (On my idea list is a basket full of cookbooks. Good or bad idea? What do you think?)

I also have a spinning rack of chapter books. I put out somewhat easier selections in August then gradually add more challenging titles.  Next to my rack is a basket that says, "Help, please! Where does this book go?"  This prevents students from just sticking a book anywhere if they don't know where it belongs.  I encourage students to ask me or their classmates before using the basket. You can grab the free label by heading to this blog post

This is the shelf that I use for seasonal books and books related to topics that we're studying in science or social studies.  These books are switched out regularly. 

My books are located around the carpet area, which serves as a multipurpose space for whole group lessons, read alouds, working in small groups, and reading. I don't have a specific library area.  The students are encouraged to choose a good spot, get comfy, and read.  Some prefer their desks. Some prefer the floor!

Visit Second Grade Stories for more classroom library inspiration. Thanks for stopping by!  

Sunday, August 30, 2015

SO LATE Five for Friday

How can three days with students feel so LONG?  My new class is adorable, energetic, and fun. Some are a bit sassy! I love them already.  The first three days are rough, though!  The children are not used to being in a classroom all day. (Particularly a hot classroom!)  I'm linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching with a few highlights from my first week back at school.

Monday and Tuesday were filled with meetings, professional development, and curriculum work. The laminator at work was broken, but my husband saved the day! He bought this and laminated all of my nametags. He's the best!

I got this card for my friend who teaches across the hall.  Last year, one of her students spelled turtle "T-U-R-D-l-e".  We found this hilarious, so our new exasperated phrase is, "Oh, turdle." 

Having playdough out on the first day was SUCH a great idea. Lisa at Second Grade Stories blogged about giving her students playdough as their first "morning work". I decided to try it, and I'm so glad.  The children were relaxed and quietly chatting right from the start. It gave me a chance to move around the room and talk with everyone, and I didn't have twenty nervous pairs of eyes staring at me like I was about to swallow them whole!

On the first student day of school (Wednesday), two bags of brand new tennis balls for my chairs were left on my table. I was very glad. Last year, the old ones kept falling off and were really, REALLY dirty.  Several times a week, a child would bring me a filthy tennis ball covered in scuzz and hair and say, "This fell off my chair" or "I found this".  Ew.  I was too tired after school Wednesday to put all of those tennis balls on. So I procrastinated. I promised myself I would do it Thursday. Or maybe Friday.  But, when I arrived Thursday morning ALL OF THE TENNIS BALLS WERE ON MY CHAIRS! I can't even describe how happy I was.  I suspect it was our wonderful custodian. She is such a blessing. She also changes my date for me, because I always forget. She has lovely handwriting.

On the second day of school, I read Mr Peabody's Apples. The lesson in the story is to be careful what you say, especially when you don't have all the facts. In the story, a boy assumes the worst about his teacher and spreads rumors. At the end, he realizes that his teacher is blameless and that there is really no way to completely undo the damage he's done. The teacher provides an object lesson by having the boy cut open a feather pillow case and release all of the feathers into the wind. Then, he asks the boy to retrieve all of the feathers. As a follow-up, we did the "toothpaste squirt" activity. Students worked in small groups to squeeze all of the toothpaste out of a travel-sized tube. Then, I instructed them to put ALL of the toothpaste back.  They quickly realized that it's impossible. It's also impossible to take back lies and hurtful words. You can apologize, but you can never completely undo the damage.  The recording sheet we used was a freebie created by Jamie from Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher. Click here to go the blog post with the link. 

It's almost 9 p.m. on Sunday night, and I'm finally ready to post this! I'll be in my room bright and early tomorrow! Have a good week. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sneezing Practice

Sneeze into your elbow, please!  Please cover your sneeze!  Do you find yourself saying that often? Last year, during Smarter Balanced testing, one of my THIRD GRADERS sneezed right on the keyboard! So gross!  

Lately my daughter has been forgetting to cover her sneezes. She'd sneeze on her breakfast. She'd sneeze all over my car. She'd sneeze on the cat.  

Fortunately, I read Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids by Chris Biffle this summer. If you are at all familiar with WBT, you know that rehearsing the rules in a fun and engaging way is a big component. I was inspired!

The other day, the kids and I were going somewhere. I stopped for gas, and my daughter sneezed all over my backseat.  Gross. Gross. Gross. I was tempted to have a fit and give her yet another talking-to about how nasty that is.  Instead, I had her practice sneezing into her elbow twenty times. My son counted.  

I'm happy to report that practicing helped!  We'll have to practice periodically! I might just have my students practice in class as well!  Maybe NEXT year nobody will sneeze on the keyboards.  

If you're interested in learning more about Whole Brain Teaching, I highly recommend Chris Biffle's book. There's also a fabulous and free website.  

Sunday Scoop

Busy brain. That's what I have. It's the last day of summer vacation, but my brain wants to go back to work early!  Why does it DO that? I had no trouble coming up with things I have to do for this week's Sunday Scoop, which is hosted by Kristen, Juliet, and Cassie from The Teaching Trio

My car has beach toys rolling around in the trunk, a beach chair, and LOTS of sand!  I put off taking care of it, because I was thinking maybe we could fit in one last beach day!  We didn't, so now I need to clean out my car and vacuum it.  

My toenails could stay unpainted, but where's the fun in that? I just bought new polish yesterday.  

My roots are showing. If you read my blog regularly, you might know that I usually let my hair get ridiculously gray before I bother coloring it. I thought I'd try something different this time and color it before it looks horrible!

I read pleasure books and professional books this summer, and I'm hoping to finish the most recent "for fun" book I started before going back tomorrow. 

My windowsill at school needs some livening up. I was considering an ivy. Do you have plants in your classroom?

Tomorrow is our first teacher day. All three schools (elementary, middle, and high schools) will meet at the high school for breakfast. Then we gather in the auditorium.  The rest of the day will be meetings at our respective schools. I always look forward to seeing my colleagues after the summer break.  Tuesday is a professional development day, and students start Wednesday!  

Thanks for stopping by. Enjoy your Sunday. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

My Room Is Ready!

On Monday, I went to school for about 4 hours. I didn't accomplish everything on my to-do list, but my room is ready for students to walk in and learn.  I've promised myself that I won't go in again until our first "teacher day" on August 24th. 

The BEFORE picture!  This is what my room looked like in June after the custodians cleaned. Shiny floors. Lots of stuff to put away! No rug! I was a bit concerned.  My former rug was old and unraveling, but at least it was a place to sit! Now for the current photos...

Desks are set up. Each child has essential materials in a pencil box and a welcome bag. (I'll be blogging soon about what's included in my welcome bags.) The finish-the-picture freebie sheet is courtesy of Michael Friermood of The Thinker Builder.  He blogged at Who's Who and Who's New about setting the tone on the first day of school.  Lisa at Second Grade Stories blogged about how she gives each student some homemade playdough on the first day. It's a nonthreatening way for students to settle in and chat with their new classmates while the teacher collects supplies, meets each child, and shows students how to sign up for lunch and put away their belongings.  My playdough is NOT homemade! It was much easier to buy the packages of small containers. 

This is the view from the door... I like the desks to be in groups, because we work collaboratively often.  I like desks instead of tables, because it gives each student their own personal space.  There are times when I'll switch things up and create rows or pairs of desks. 

My focus pocket chart is large.  I like to be able to see the "I Can" statements from all over the room.  The kindness posters were a freebie. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the source! The generous and talented poster-creator didn't include his or her name in the file. I created the "3 Kinds of Writing Poster" using clip art from Educlips and Krista Wallden.  

This spot right near my desk is where students place notes (in the drop box) and sign up for lunch.  Each child has a colorful popsicle stick with his/her name on it that is placed in a bucket to indicate lunch choice. The cute dog dish (from my friend) holds "paw" tickets, which our school gives out for positive behavior. The plastic container with paws came from the dollar store. Students put their filled-out paws into that one. 

See the carpet? It's new and not unraveling! I inherited the rocking chair from a colleague.  Tucked in the corner is my math rotations board.  This is my first year doing math in small groups. I'm really hoping it works well! I'd appreciate any tips you may want to share. There's also a place on the board for me to assign Focused Intervention Time (FIT) activities. Our daily FIT time is a set aside block of 30 minutes. Some students receive interventions during this block. Others stay in the room and work on other tasks. 

This board is ready for our first math activity.  I've blogged previously about the mathematicians craftivity that we'll be doing. Click here to go to that post. The cute kids are by Nikki of Melonheadz illustrating.  I created the lettering using colorful purple circle frames created by Clipart 4 Teachers.

I read Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids by Chris Biffle this summer. I'll be incorporating most of the strategies. I'm really excited about my Super Improvers wall!  

Well, this has been a sneak peek.  I hope you have a great year! Thanks for stopping by.