Thursday, July 16, 2015

Organizational Tips for the Trade!


After fifteen years in the same school, I began a few summers ago packing and unpacking due to my decision to change schools. Once the city movers unloaded all my things, this photograph shows my classroom after a week of unpacking. YIKES! After days, it appeared as if I had not accomplished a thing.

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Now that the move is behind me, I’m pleased to be able to share some organizational tips with you. To begin with, an organized classroom library is essential to foster a love of literacy. Here you see a number of blue and orange tubs. These are actually coolers—the kind intended to fill with ice and cold drinks during a hot summer day. They double as sturdy book bins.

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I’m always looking for ways to store things. Here you see some orange buckets. They are perfect for holding reading pointers, phonics phones, etc.  You can also see one of the many brown ottomans that I use for chairs around my guided reading table.  Inside of course, is storage perfect for running records, assessment folders, etc.

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Teachers often ask me how I am able to store so many things in my classroom. The answer is that I put bins in high spaces. Here you see clear and colored tubs. In these, I place items that I don’t use on a regular basis, such as fabric, scraps, extra sentence strips, yarn, etc. Over the sink, I store my stickers in photo boxes—one for each month.

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A great way to make things look neat and organized is to purchase plastic shoeboxes or similar sized tubs. They are relatively inexpensive, so you can buy them in great quantity. As you can see, rows of the same container look more uniform and tidy. What you don’t want to be seen, cover with fabric and tension rods. You don’t even need to know how to sew—just use a glue gun.

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Another favorite way I keep things organized is by using hardware holders. This handy-dandy organizer is perfect for keeping tiny things in their places. I use it for my student banks (a form of positive rewards), magnetic letters, calendar pieces, etc. I suggest that you always glue an item on the outside for easy ID. Oh, and—BONUS!—they are fairly inexpensive, too.

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If you are like me, you have loads of posters and a lack of wall space, or should I say FREE wall space. To solve this problem, get a portable clothes-hanger rack. These are way sturdier, less bulky, and cost tons less money than a pocket chart stand. I use one to organize my charts for instruction. This way they are easily accessible. I can put one up using the hanger and do not need to fuss over tape. Easy up, easy down.

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I hope you have gained an idea or two and are off to organize your classroom. As I always say, an organized classroom is a well-managed classroom.  This summer, I'm at it again!  I'm not changing schools or positions, I'm just moving to the end of the hall.  Look forward to seeing me document this move from beginning to end soon.  Happy Summer!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Family Roots: A New Resource

This year, I am enjoying teaching our second grade social studies curriculum to my first and second graders.  This is in part to a series of activities I have created featuring my projects completed both at home and at school.  My newest unit (click HERE) incorporates these standards from the Massachusetts History and Social Sciences Curriculum Framework (2003).

•Explain the information that historical time lines convey and then put in chronological order events in the student’s life (e.g., the year he or she was born, started school, or moved to a new neighborhood) or in the history of countries studied. 


•Explain what buyers and sellers are and give examples of goods and services that are bought and sold in their community. 



•On a map of the world, locate all of the continents: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica.

•On a map of the world, locate the continent, regions, or and then the countries from which students, their parents, guardians, grandparents, or other relatives or ancestors came. With the help of family members and the school librarian, describe traditional food, customs, sports and games, and music of the place they came from. 


•With the help of the school librarian, give examples of traditions or customs from other countries that can be found in America today.


•With the help of the school librarian, identify and describe well-known sites, events, or landmarks in at least three different countries from which students’ families come and explain why they are important.


To kick off our study of family roots and family history I sent my students home with a letter introducing our new unit and asking families to list countries from their roots.  After that, we made a bulletin board with yarn and a map of the world with yarn depicting our roots.


Close Up of Each Student's Family Root Card



They really enjoyed studying flags and researching them in various atlases and online sources.  After this kick off, I sent home an at home project where my learners had to research one country out of the many that make up their family roots.  This at home project included making a family tree, placing their roots on a world map, listing historic landmarks from their country, describing foods, traditions and other cultural elements, etc.  It also asked families to research the influence on America as well as goods and services found in their chosen country.  When all were passed in, they were so excited and eager to share all that they have learned.  It was fantastic!




Other projects we enjoyed were creating family flags and making a mobile with each member of our family represented on it.  We made a class book of our "classroom family," designed family stamps and made personal time lines.   Here are some finished projects.


Family Mobiles


My Family Flag

My student teacher came up with the idea to introduce graphing by putting together a class graph of our roots by origin.  This product has a page for students to make their own graph--I liked this idea so much, I had to add it.  All and all, we learned so much from each other during this unit of study.  It's great to begin a new school year with it!




Saturday, February 28, 2015

Accountable Talk Tools


Boy, has it been a long time since my last post!  I've been busy, to say the least, with teaching three courses this semester, loving my 1/2 classroom by day and shoveling, shoveling, shoveling the 3 feet + of snow that has plagued the Northeast.  Can we say seven snow days and school on two days during April vacation?

Since last year, my school has had professional development on Accountable Talk across all subject areas.  We want our learners to be thinkers--more than that.  We want our students to think deep, to encourage each other to think deeply and to be able to clearly and accurately explain their deep thinking to others.  We have had quite a few walk-throughs in order to measure our growth (anonymously) throughout our journey.  The results have allowed us to celebrate how far we have come and to plan our next steps to get even better!

Encouraging Accountable Talk in my classroom has been a learning curve.  I was challenged at first to figure out when I could talk and when I couldn't!  At the same time however, I was eager to push my students.  They were ready.

In mathematics one day, my principal and a team were doing a walk-through.  The children were very busy working on a non routine math problem (at the beginning stages).  They hadn't solved it right away.  Some weren't on the right path to getting the problem solved.  Some mathematicians were doing a lot of talking, but were saying incorrect information.  

At first, I thought this went wayyyyy wrong.  I wasn't sure if saying anything to the groups was OK.  Afterwards, my principal said something really powerful.  "You coach the talk, not the math."

Coaching the talking, not necessarily the content was an eye opener for me.  Because I teach first and second graders, my goal was to work on how we talk to each other.  To do this, I need to model it, scaffold it, reinforce it and model it some more!  It's OK to be doing the talking as the teacher when it comes to training our young thinkers how to use accountable talk.  I do this in a number of ways.

If a student appears to be challenged I may say, "How about talk to your team?  Tell them the specific part that has you confused."

If a group is finished with a problem early, I may say, "Talk to each other.  Come up with another way to show your thinking."

In a turn and talk, I am always reinforcing accountable talk "I notice how not only did you say you disagree with your partner's thinking.  You explained why with evidence from the text!"

From the above example, you can notice how I am coaching the talk, not the content of my lesson.  There are so many great resources out there to promote accountable talk.  


My teaching partner and I really like this one because of the icons that diving the type of talk from talk that will ask a question, to talk that will begin to state a friendly disagreement.

In my classroom, I made an Accountable Talk bookmarks and have hung up many banners with questions, response stems, etc.  Both are available in my TpT store by clicking HERE.  Below are some to which I refer when I want to push thinking during mathematics.


I have a whole banner of them over one of my large bulletin boards too.  I have modeled a few at a time over the course of this year.  The reading teacher and the speech therapist in my school have both hung some up in their classrooms too.



Here's what I have used to make handy dandy bookmarks or reminder cards for my students.


Happy weekend.  Melt, snow melt!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

DIY Halloween Shaker

BOO!

It's almost here.  You know you are excited that it's on a Friday this year, right?  No "day after Halloween candy hangovers" to fret over.   I'm looking forward to having an little extra Halloween fun myself.  I made these Halloween shakers last year, but I never got around to blogging about them.  Oh I know that it's so hard to believe that a teacher got too busy, but it's true.  This idea was inspired by lots of fellow bloggers out there.  If you look around you will see sight word shakers, addition facts shakers, verb shakers, etc.  I've made some for spring and for Valentine's Day, too inspired by teachers that are nice enough to share their ideas.  

My Halloween shakers start off by recycling those fancy Tropicana orange juice bottles. I use my all time favorite GOOF OFF remover to take off the labels.  Let it sit on there for about 10 minutes and peel away.


Next, go to the supermarket and pick up some Goya beans that are black and orange--for obvious reasons.  I selected black beans and lentils.  It's odd that the bag says red lentils, but believe me, they were orange.  Here's the picture to prove it.


For my next trip, I headed to the local craft store to buy some orange glitter and some Halloween trinkets.  These eyeballs are actually erasers.  In addition, I picked up rubber spiders, skeletons and some fancy glitter pompoms.  Oh, I got some candy corn too.  




For my next step, I typed up a label for the front of the shaker and a bunch of words to be used to create a spooky Halloween story.  To do this, I printed out the words and cut them so that the same word was on the front and back of the cutouts.  These words were placed inside the shakers.  I laminated them, but I don't think it's necessary.  To use this activity, the students get fun Halloween-themed paper, start to write a spooky story, and shake the shaker to find spooky words to incorporate into their story.  It's like having a 3D word bank.  Check these out!




Shaky, shaky.  Click HERE to download the label for the front of the shaker as well as my words.



Have fun and happy haunting to all!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Reading Workshop Anchor Chart Mania!

Hi there, bloggers!

Hope you are here because you follow me on instagram and saw that I would be posting tonight.  

It was a great Tuesday back from our Columbus Day weekend. If you are like me, you took advantage of the extra day off to catch up on sleep and that project (or two) you had wished to get done since summer vacation.  For me this project that refused to get crossed off my "To Do" list was making a set of quality anchor charts that go along with our reading workshop language.   

Here's Winston helping me out with my weekend project.  Such a good boy.


My goal was to create three charts.

1.  Turn and Talk expectations

2.  Reading with a Partner expectations

3.  Guided/ Independent Reading Block expectations

Like many of you, I find myself saying the same things over and over to my readers during reading workshop.  Does any of this sound familiar?

"Keep you eyes on your books."

"Face your partner."

"What do you mean you didn't complete your writing in response to reading?"

"Why is your hand up now?"  For this one I follow up with "Unless it's blood, throw up, or a bathroom explosion-to-be, I'm not available."  (I'm not kidding!)

"Look at the way you are shoving your books into that browsing box."  (My books are my babies!)

I was cognizant that I needed quality picture cues to go along with my expectations because many of my multi-age readers are beginning readers as well as English language learners.  SO, here they are. 


Turn and Talk expectations include...

TWIST your legs like a pretzel.
SIT knee-to-knee with your partner.
LOOK at your partner eye-to-eye.
Partner 1 talks; partner 2 listens
SWITCH and take turns.

Click HERE to download the picture symbols for my "Turn and Talk" anchor chart.

I'd like to note that I have a list of partner 1 and partner 2 names.  Partner 1 is stronger, academically and talks first and sets the expectation.  Partner 2 follows up.  Thanks Joia, for this tip!



Reading Partners expectations include...

SPEAK clearly.
LISTEN carefully.
Take TURNS reading.
Stay on TRACK with your books.
SIT shoulder-to-shoulder, elbow-to-elbow.
ASK questions to clarify what your partner means.
HELP each other figure out tricky parts.

Click HERE to download the picture symbols for my "Reading Partners" anchor chart, too.

After my mini lesson, I pull my guided reading groups (along with my awesome teaching partner Ms. Hill and literacy specialist Mrs. Lowd--insert "raise the roof gesture").  Our readers, not in a small group,  independent read, work on phonics activities, and read with a partner following these expectations.  I really think the position of the partners is so important for management purposes.  Also, it allows for the words to subliminally "sink in."  Fluent readers reading to less fluent readers works wonders.


Here are my Guided Reading expectations.  I made two columns.  The eye depicts what it "looks like" and the ear depicts what it "sounds like."  My readers came up with these suggestions during a reading workshop launch lesson.  Based upon my school's model of continuous progress, I have had many of the kids I share last year--you totally can tell.  They are rockin' the reading workshop lingo.  Here's all three anchor charts featured in my library.  My next chart is going to be Rug Expectations...we need them.  Have any suggestions for me?  YIKES!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Loving My New Classroom Alphabet

It's time to get ready for another school year!  This summer, I decided to give my classroom alphabet a makeover, and I'm very pleased with the results.  Let's start with my old alphabet.  It looked like this.


It looks pretty good, but I wanted my front classroom wall to appear a little less cluttered.  I decided to go with a banner style alphabet because these triangle, banner-like signs are all over blogs these days.  I chose colorful backgrounds that had hints of oranges and warm tones which go nicely with my classroom colors (orange, brown and blue).  Here is my favorite clip art, the pizza for the letter "p."



I hung up the letter signs using orange ribbon and those heavy duty 3M hooks.  Here's a pic that shows this.  Because I had used the clips before, I hot glued them instead of buying those replacement sticky mounting pieces--how's that for saving some money?



To match, I dyed my own clothespins by putting them in Rit dye for about half a day stirring occasionally.  Of course they had to dry overnight.  This was a quick and fun DIY project that I had always wanted to do.  Summers are just perfect for that!  I have many clothespins left over.  









So happy with the end results!  It looks clean and colorful.  I really like how it freed up some wall space to make the overall appearance uniform, colorful and uncluttered.  



Click HERE for more information on grabbing this alphabet.







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