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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Setting Up a Classroom


Every year I am amazed at just how much time and effort it takes to get a classroom ready for students.  I'm not sure if it has anything to do with how much stuff I have accumulated after teaching for so many years, but let's pretend it doesn't!  It may take a lot of work, but it's something I enjoy doing and will miss again this year.  So I'm taking a quick look back at what it takes to set-up a classroom.
This is what teachers in my school typically return to each August.  All of the furniture is pushed to one side and a few things might be found on the built-ins.  It seems overwhelming.  The good news is on the first day I am ready to hit the ground running!

When setting up my classroom, I typically have four stages that I go through:
The first thing I do is move all of the furniture into my basic arrangement.  I need to make sure the desks fit, my teaching area has enough space for my tools, we have a gathering place on the floor, and that there are still enough places for students and small groups to work around the classroom.
Once I know that my arrangement works, I begin unloading the cupboards, boxes, and tubs onto my bookcases and shelves. I need to be able to see my stuff so I can clean, organize, and replace as I go.  This is also when I start putting things on display on the walls and cupboards.  I save a lot of space for student work, but I like the classroom to be warm and inviting for the first day, too.
  
Once everything is out, clean, and organized, I'm ready to tackle the paperwork.  I grab my B2S masters and head to the copy machine (all the while crossing my fingers that the fun colors of copy paper have been restocked over the summer).  If not, I set aside a few of my masters and will run them on my favorite Astrobrights colors that I have purchased on my own.
The last thing left to do is put the final touches together and label everything.  This is my favorite part, but it can also be very stressful.  Our class lists are constantly being updated with new enrollments and students moving away.  I'm always making extras of everything, just in case!  Besides, I use the extras for my new students when they arrive.  

Here's a pic of my classroom set-up a few years ago right before Meet the Teacher.  It may not be absolutely picture perfect, but it's my second home for 10 months of the year!

For the record, our school always starts the Wednesday AFTER Labor Day.  Our teacher meetings start about one week prior.  Our building opens about mid-August, but I try not to head in before August 20th.  Setting up a classroom DOES NOT happen overnight, but I'm sure I don't have to tell you that!




Monday, August 24, 2015

Setting Classroom Goals


Goals help set a purpose and a direction for where you are headed.  While you are building your classroom community, why not take the time to make some common goals that EVERY student in your classroom can work towards?  Here's a little glimpse into how I do this in my classroom.


Have you ever tried setting goals with second graders at the beginning of the year?  It can be quite an entertaining process.  In fact, it actually makes a great conversation starter!  Here are several examples of what is usually suggested:





Once I take all of the suggestions, I focus in on two things: goals must be specific and realistic.

We then go through the suggestions and have some great conversations about what specific and realistic actually mean:
 This one is specific, but not realistic.  I don't want my students coming to school every day if it means spreading sickness like wildfire!  Ugh, I still remember December of 2012 when my attendance was hovering around 40-50% each day because families weren't keeping their kids home or sending them back before they were feeling better.

This one is realistic, but not specific enough.  I start probing for more information - how will we know it is clean?  Who decides when it's clean enough?  Fortunately, our night custodian decided to award the Golden Garbage Can for the cleanest classroom each week.  He also started giving classrooms a grade every day so we could see how clean our classroom was in someone else's eyes.

 
This is another specific goal, but unrealistic.  I politely ask how many students have ever done their homework, but left it on the bus, left it on the kitchen counter, or just plain forgot to complete an assignment.  Most hands are raised.  We talk about how nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes.  

 Another specific goal, but unrealistic.  In our school we use guided reading levels and our curriculum and testing materials top out at level W (though we have access to the A to Z materials).  My last group of students entered reading anywhere from level A to level Q.  This is when I explain to students that academic goals are not the best choices for classroom goals because everyone learns at their own speed and academics should not be a competition in second grade.


So, what kind of goals do we set?  Here are the goals one class made:
Not only are these goals specific and realistic, I love that there are visuals so students can track their progress all year long (students can help color in the images as they are completed).  


With any goal, it's also important to help determine a celebration for success.  This particular class decided on the following rewards:
1 Goal Met - Homework Pass
2 Goals Met - Extra Recess
3 Goals Met - Ice Cream Treat
4 Goals Met - Pizza and Movie Party

I should also take the time to mention that this class also had a unique situation arise that I didn't anticipate.  They completed Goal #3, then Goal #4, and then Goal #1.  Each time they met a goal, we added another page on top.  Well, they completed Goal #3 again.  
At first they were celebrating because they thought they had earned the pizza & movie party, but when we talked about whether all four goals had met, they realized they hadn't.  We decided it would be fair to earn one of the previous rewards again instead because, let's face it - they deserved to be recognized for their efforts!

So there's a little glimpse into how I set goals with my students each year!  Let me know if you have any questions.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Made-It (8.10.15)

After a week of vacation I returned to a few days of normal routine before it was time to start priming and painting our new house.  Luckily there was one day where my hubby was painting the garage and vaulted entryway (which I couldn't really help with) so I got a day off.  I kicked my productivity into overdrive and completed not one, not two, but THREE projects.  

 I decided that I'm going to continue making these flip book & craftivity packs to accompany some of the chapter books I use in my class (I already made a pack for the Cam Jansen series).  Sometimes I just need to mix things up to keep reading skills fresh and exciting for the students.

First up is a pack that can accompany any of the Magic Tree House chapter books.  There are two options in this pack: the flip book or the library card craft.  The flip book already has pre-made pages that you just need to print, cut, assemble, and staple before student use.  The library card craft has two options: pre-made pages or open-ended response pages.  

Take a look at the pictures below to get a better idea of the contents:




Along the same lines, I have made a pack that can accompany any of the Magic School Bus chapter books (although I'm guessing you could also try it with the picture books, too).  This pack also contains a flip book with pre-made pages.  The craft is a school bus.  The school bus booklet has options for pre-made pages or open-ended response pages.  

Take a look at the pictures below to get a better idea of the contents: 

  



Then I decided it would be fun to create a flip book and door craft for the books in the Horrible Harry series.  Just like the other two packs, there is a flip book with pre-made pages.  The craft is a classroom door with options for 2nd grade and 3rd grade, depending on which book you are using (in some books Harry is a second grader and in others he has moved on to third grade).  The classroom door booklet has options for pre-made pages or open-ended response pages.  

Take a look at the pictures below to get a better idea of the contents: 




If your students enjoy these chapter book series as much as mine do, be sure to check out these packs.  They are even on sale right now!  Click on any of the images below:
     

 Have you made anything to share lately?  Check out some amazing creations over at 4th Grade Frolics:




Tuesday, July 21, 2015

2 for Tuesday (7.21.15)

It's Tuesday, so I'm back with two more great deals to help you prepare for next school year!

First up is my Roll & Cover Game Board Bundle.  These games are great for both first and second graders to use during your word work rotation or even during small group time.  I have included directions on how students can use independently, as partners, or in small groups (6 or fewer).  Here are some previews:




My second deal is my Grab a Book, Take a Look pack.  This pack is filled with graphic organizers you can use with a variety of books.  There are response sheets for both fiction and nonfiction.  There are graphic organizers with clipart that is appealing to younger students as well as a more streamlined section of organizers for older students.  I have also included book review pages, bookmarks, and reading calendars in the pack.

Here are some pictures of the pages in action:






These packs are marked down significantly for today only.  Grab them while you can!
   


Don't forget that today's the last day for my Magic Tree House sale.

If you love a great deal as much as I do, be sure to head over to Chalk One Up for the Teacher and look around!