Thursday, June 30, 2011

So What's In Our Desk???

With and without textbooks, there have been a few things that have become staples for me to give to my students to keep in their desk.

One of my favorite things is my students' KWL book (green book above).  I buy these because the ones I buy use heavy duty paper, and they hold up all year, but you could make them by just folding paper in half with a piece of cardstock or construction paper for a cover.  Each time we start a new unit in social studies or science we add an entry to to the K and W sections of our KWL book, and when students finish a unit they add what they have learned in the L section of their book.
Students decorate the cover of their book and refer to it regularly.  By the end of the year their books are almost completely full.  Here is a few samples of a student's book from last year.  It's a little light, and I'm not sure how to make it darker.  The K and W are on the left side of the crease, and the L is on the right side of the crease.

I also use Lakeshore Learning's vocabulary journal for our content vocabulary.  Adding vocabulary words is such a slooooow process at the beginning of the year, but I'm committed to teaching academic vocabulary using Marzano's vocabulary strategies, which require a vocabulary journal.
I will also be using data folders this year.  I attempted them last year but bit off much more than I could chew.  I love Amanda's approach on One Extra Degree on data folders, so I'm going to incorporate them this year.

I will be team teaching again this year, so I won't teach reading and writing, but if I were I would also have writing notebooks and reading journals for students.  My writing notebooks are very simple 1-inch 3-ring binders, and most of my students usually bring those in as part of their school supplies.  In the past I've always bought reader's notebooks for my students, and I loved them!  I loved their durability and the tabs on top for easy navigation.
However, they are kind of expensive, so when I teach reading again I might try to make my own.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Textbooks or Lack Thereof

I thought that now would be a good time to share a little background information on the district and school where I teach, because this greatly influences why I do the things I do.  I feel privileged to work for a district that places a huge emphasis an authentic learning and critical thinking have seen many changes in our instructional policies over the past several years.  However, these changes have not come without cost.  One of the most controversial decisions was to more or less remove textbooks from the classroom.  The district now uses the allocated money for a large variety of instructional resources.

This decision did not drastically impact me, because I had already fallen in love with guided reading and writing, our math textbooks were absolutely horrible, and our social studies textbooks weren't even remotely close to the standards, so I wasn't using them a lot in the first place.  However, it has been very interesting over the past several years to discover some of the surprising pros and cons of not using textbooks.  I think the biggest advantage for me is that I feel free to teach each lesson the way I feel will best benefit my students.  It allows me to get creative and to try many new ideas.  As I said before, I am a huge fan of reading, writing, and math workshop, and I love the flexibility I have in using a variety of strategies and lessons.  I think the biggest disadvantage is that it is very difficult for new teachers to get started, because they often feel lost with the only real guides being the state standards and curriculum map.  I would love to see us have some type of mentor program to help with this issue.  We already have frequently collaborative planning, but that doesn't seem to help.  Another consideration is the huge amount of time it takes planning each day, because it can certainly be overwhelming at times.  Another one of my concerns is that I do think there is some value to being able to use a textbook, and I can certainly say that my students have NO CLUE how to use one.  To help with this, I've started sparingly using some of our old science textbooks to teach a few of our science standards.  It cracks me up, because it is such a treat to my students whenever I break the books out.  They get so excited about it, and I remember HATING using them when I was a student.

Whether we like it or not, it certainly has been an interesting process.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Measurement Is Ready

I have finally finished my new measurement unit, and it may very well be my new favorite unit.  I've always loved teaching measurement, but I didn't feel like I had a good written plan for teaching it.  Now that it's summer and I actually have time to sit and develop the unit, I'm more excited that ever about teaching linear measurement.  I've upgraded all of my tried and true lessons and added several new activities as well.

You can click on the link if you're interested.

I've added a lesson from the unit that you can download for free!
Just click on the link.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Can't Stay Away

No matter how excited I am about summer vacation, I can never stay away from my classroom for long.  My hallway was the first hallway cleaned which means that I'm already able to get back in my room.  We have to move everything out for our custodians to wax our floors, but they do move everything back in our rooms as soon as the floors dry. It's always a little overwhelming to walk into the room  and see everything in a big pile in the center of the room.

I spent almost an entire day arranging my furniture.  I've had the same setup for the past few years and felt the need for a change, so it took me a while to decide what I wanted.  My room is a challenge, because it is tiny, very, very tiny.  There are lots of things I want that are just not feasible.  When I started arranging my room, I first thought about the areas that I don't have a choice about.

One of those areas is my computer table, because that is the only place that I can hook the computers up to the school network.  The other area is for my Smartboard.  I just got my rug in January, and I absolutely LOVE it!  It's so nice having a place for my students to gather together for our mini lessons and closings.  After setting up my computers and Smarboard area I arranged by desk and small group area.

 The mailbox system on the front of my desk is my absolute favorite piece of furniture.  My husband built it for me last year, and I don't know how I ever taught without it!  I would love to have a kidney table for small groups, but I can't remember the last time my school bought new furniture.  I'm going to buy a small white board to screw in the wall behind my small group table, because I use this area for math groups all of the time. 
Last but not least, I crammed all of my desks in the room.  I like groups of 4 because I do think, pair, share very frequently, as well as partner and group work.  I know it still looks messy, because all of my smaller goodies are still packed up, and I have all of my bookshelves and bulletin boards covered.  I've only organized the big stuff at this point, but I'm excited to start on the fun, little things.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Back At Home

Going on vacation is wonderful, but it's nice to be home.  I had not realized just how dependent I had become on Internet access until I didn't have any.  It was nice to have a break though.  My family and I had a great time at the beach, but now it's time for me to get back to work-well not too much.  I intend on savoring every second of my summer, but I am ready to get back into my classroom.

Buggy About Geometry

I'm finally able to post the geometry unit that I've been working on for a while now.
There are six lessons and activities. The lessons geometry vocabulary are all aligned to the Common Core Standards.

There are six sorts and worksheets.

I also included a geometry vocabulary booklet, with all required key terms.

There is a I Have, Who Has game.

Geometry Concentration
 An entire set of geometry task cards.

You can get the Geometry Concentration game FREE here!

Types of Polygons

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Not Again

I know this is an older post, but I'm going to join Nancy's linkly party at The Apple Basket Teacher.  Let's all share our amazing creations.

Every summer I go a little crazy with Vista Print orders, and I tell myself that I am not going to order anything new next year.  Of course, I keep ordering again and again.  I'm still waiting on a big sale, but my shopping cart is loaded full of goodies.  I thought I'd share some of the things I've made.
I use these business cards as a reward in my treasure chest.  Some of the things I write on the card are sit by a friend, sit in the teacher's chair, chew gum for the day, wear a hat to school, etc.  Everything is something that doesn't cost me any money, and my students LOVE it.

This return address label will be new for me this year.  I've yet to find a system I really like for saving my students' work when they are absent, so I'm going to try this out next year.  I'll just write their name on the sticker and circle if I want them to complete it at school or home and stick it in my makeup work box.

I'll send these postcards home a few weeks before school starts back.  If I get my class list in time.  Last year it was too late :(

I'm excited to try out these reflection cards next year.  I hope they help students reflect on their choices and how their choices effect others.

These return address labels will go inside students' library folders to help select "just right" books.

I'll use the return address labels on tests that I want students to retake. 

I love the brochures I make for open house.  They're much cuter without all of the red arrows :)

I'd like to make something to stick on papers about how their work meets the standard, so let me know if you have any great ideas.

On another note, yippee for 100 followers!!!  I promise that as soon as I get home from vacation and have my real computer I'll post a freebie!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

All For the Sake of Research

Two of my grade level friends and I did a little field trip research yesterday.  We took our own kids to Animal Safari outside of Atlanta, and we had the best time seeing all of the animals and just hanging out together.  It was amazing to be able to get so close to the animals, and the kids loved it!  More than likely, we won't be able to take our students there for quite awhile due to the distance (we couldn't take school buses and can't afford other means of transportation), but I would love to have seen some of my students' faces when a huge buffalo tried to lick them-yuck!  I'm also so thankful to teach with a group that works well together and truly enjoys each others company.  We missed the other two who couldn't make it.


I've also been working on my fractions unit, and I'm happy with the end result.  This is one of those units that I always feel rushed in, but I'm going to try to slow it down a little next year, because there are a lot of fun things students can do when studying fractions.  I may also make a small mixed numbers unit,  because I still need to create a few additional lessons on mixed numbers, because even though that's not in our standards, it really helps when I get to my measurement unit.

Here is a link to the fractions unit

You can download one of my favorite activities from the pack on the link below!  Enjoy!
Fractions Avenue