Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Teacher Week '13 Day 3 ~ Organizing for Instruction

We are "Blog Hoppin'" our way through Teacher Week '13 in the blog world.  Today's topic is one of my favorites...organization for instruction.  I've decided to put together a Top Ten List of some of my "tricks of the trade" for classroom organization.

1.  Class Rules:  Use a pocket chart to organize them so that they can be taken out easily.  When a cherub of mine breaks a rule, I bring the card to him or her to reread the rule and to discuss what we can do to fix it.
2.  Check In:  Start the day off right with an organized check in system.  Here is what mine looks like.  Everyone starts the day off as being absent.  I use numbers instead of names so that I do not have to write them over year after year.
3.  Bins, bins, bins!:  I never put anything on a shelf that is not in a bin.  It makes things look organized, maximizes the space and keeps things tidy.  Also, I always label my bins.
4.  Hardware Holders:  This handy dandy organizer is perfect for keeping tiny things organized.  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, these are fairly inexpensive--BONUS!

5.  Portable Clothes Hangers:  These are way sturdier, less bulky and cost tons less money.  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.

6.  High Storage:  Utilize the tops of cabinets to store even more teaching supplies.

7.  Magnetic Shelves:  These are a great way to organize and to display holiday, theme and content books.  I got these from Calloway House.
8.  Shelf Benches:  I turned these shelves on their sides and made an instant bench.  They are a great way to give fun reading seating for buddy reading.  They also, yup you guessed it-- give you MORE storage.
9.  Easter Baskets:  I am a bit obsessive when it comes to these baskets.  They get really cheap after Easter.  They are definitely fun looking.  I use them to organize books, learning tools, etc.  I spy an Easter basket in this photograph...
10.  Centers on Wheels:  I use these rolling cart shelves to store centers.  This way I can turn any area into an instant center by rolling it over.  Here is my fluency center as an example.  This saves time.  I never need to search for my timers, flashcards, etc.

Well I hope you have scored some terrific tips.  I'm off to start checking in with you bloggers to see what inspires me.  Good luck!  Be sure to check out other bloggers by clicking HERE.

Teacher Week '13 Day 2 ~ Check Out My Classroom

As you may have heard, all this week I am joining Blog Hopin' in celebrating Teacher Week '13!  Each day this week is a different topic.  Today is all about classroom digs.  I have to say that setting up a classroom is my favorite thing to do.  I love the bins, bulletin boards, name tags, bins, new supplies and did I mention bins?  My goal in this post is to make you all feel better if your classroom is currently a work in progress.  As you may know, I moved schools after a whoppin' 15 years of accumulating junk teaching tools.   

My new first and second graders do not start until after Labor Day.  Here are some pictures of what I have managed to do in a matter of two days.  WARNING!  Scary classroom alert.  Be prepared and forewarned.  Here is my home away from home early this morning.  Believe it or not, it's a huge improvement from yesterday.

Check out a finished section of four shelves.  I use curtains with tension rods to cover up materials that we don't need everyday as well as materials that look a little on the messy side.  Underneath I have cut up magazines, random supplies, newspapers, etc.  See- through containers are the best; no labels needed here.

Here are my cabinets.  I have more clear bins (to make the contents visible).  I always suggest to utilize as much storage space as you can.  Think of adding bins in those highest of places and be sure to invest in a nice and safe step stool.  

Here is a close up of my math manipulatives in BINS.  The labels are part of my All in One Mathematics Center that you can get by clicking HERE.  I really like how all the same type of bins gives off a uniform look.

Here you see a tiny "glimpse" of my classroom library.  I'm a book fanatic.  I had help all day from a good friend getting this part of my classroom together.  I will be making huge strides tomorrow in the AM.

Please check out a slide show of clips from my old classroom in the right hand margin.  Come back to visit for a tour of my new room once it is all done.

Now I'm off to check out your wonderful classrooms.  I can't wait to be inspired.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Teacher Week '13 Monday ~ Let's Talk About Me

All this week I am joining Blog Hopin' in celebrating Teach Week '13!  Each day of this week I'm joining many talented teachers out there in celebrating all that we do and picking up some great ideas along the way.  Here's the schedule of blog topics for the week.

I'm excited to get to know a little bit about the many bloggers out there that keep me inspired.  I have an "About Me" page on my blog that has a Top Ten list of interesting tidbits about me already.  Click HERE to view it.  In keeping up with the schedule, though, here are ten things that come to mind.  Sorry, for the overlap.  I'll try to be different.

1.  I'm going to be beginning my sixteenth year teaching and after fifteen years, I have decided to move schools.  I'm still in the same district (Salem, MA), however.  Salem is the place to be.  Also, I teach at Salem State University.  I'm a busy bee!

2.  I'm a coffee-holic!  Yes, I do like me some Starbucks, but I usually go for Dunks.  My preference, even in the winter time, is always a large iced coffee, extra milk, two sugars.

3.  Currently, I'm in the middle of unpacking my things and setting up a my new classroom.  Here is what I walked in to this morning. YIKES!

4.  Tax money this year was spent getting a lawn--thank you landscapers at GreenPro Landscaping Company. Yippee!  I also planted a perannual flower garden.  I did this part myself.  Can you believe that all these rocks came from the dirt?  Oh, I also do not like birds.  They are bad luck.  I do have a birdbath though, I feel bad.  MA had a major head wave this summer.

5.  Seems like these days I have become addicted to Candy Crush--anyone else relate?

6.  I enjoy cooking.  My favorite food to cook is Italian style.  I don't eat pork or red meat however, so my meatballs are always turkey.  Oh, and I say GRAVY, not sauce too.

7.  I just got certified this summer in Early Childhood education.  Maybe someday I may teach kindergarten?

8.  I think anyone thinking of getting a dog or cat should consider adoption.  We adopted our dog Winston two years ago this March.  There are so many perfect pets out there that need us.  He came all the way from sunny CA to enjoy his first New England winter.  The incredible Tobias is on the right.

9.  Teaching can take over your life.  Sometimes, I'm convinced that it does.  I try to make time for my family and for my friends.  I love 'em! 

10.  I definitely enjoy being a blogger and learning from other teacher bloggers!  I have only done this for a year now.  It's changed how I teach and has given me so many ideas.

Tune in tomorrow for some pics of my classroom set up, day two.  I'm off to learn more about other bloggers.  Join me by clicking 



Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mr. Giso's Room to Read Bright Idea #13

Make a Classroom Tree

This weekend I came across a really neat idea of making a Book Recommendation Tree thanks to a fellow blogger from Lessons With Laughter.  Click HERE to be inspired by her.  You see, this clever fourth grade teacher places this tree in her classroom and has her students recommend books to each other by filling out a tag and placing it on her tree.  I, being inspired, set out to replicate this fantastic idea.  The only thing is, I'm not sure if I want to use it for the same purpose.  For now, I have an empty tree.  Here is Molly's tree.  I love it.

Here are some pictures that show how I put together my tree.  First, I set out in my forrest, aka my backyard, to find the perfect branch.  As you can see, I had my choice.  Feel free to stop on by to get a branch for yourself--it will save us on the landscaping bill.

Next, I took off the leaves from the branch and decided to use electrical tape to add on a few more small branches to make my tree a little fuller.  I knew I would spray paint over the tape anyways.

After my branch was ready to go, I placed it in an old pot of dirt and covered the pot in a plastic bag in order to prep it for spray painting.   Orange was an easy choice, since it's my classroom theme this year.  I am painting some frames too for my personal desk pictures.

While this was drying in the sun, I painted a clay pot a blue color--also a part of my classroom colors.  I used a plastic carton that had mushrooms in it to hold the paint.  It's easy to throw out afterwards with no mess.

The tree was stabilized with colored glass beads.  I made a colorful bow and attached it to the tree.  Looks fun, right?

Using my Fiskars flower punch, I punched out a series of flowers on colored paper and laminated them.  I added some fancy ribbon and my tree was complete.  Well, it is almost complete...

The only problem I have now is that I need some clever ideas to use this tree with my first and second graders.  I'd like to use it for different purposes throughout the year by using dry erase markers. Let me know any ideas you may have, please.

Happy creating.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A New Beginning

Well, it's been quite some time since my last post.  I know, I know--wrist slap.  In my defense, here's a list of things that have kept me from the Blog World.  I'm not making excuses, just sharing.

1.  I taught a Summer Session I course--it was new to me, so lots and lots of work.
2.  I co-directed a summer program for about 100 readers, writers, scientists and artists; it ended last Thursday.
3.  I taught (and am still teaching) a Summer Session II course--also new to my course load--yikes!
4.  I took our state's mandated SEI endorsement, 3 credit course on sheltering content for English Language Learners which ended last Wednesday evening.
5.  I studied and passed the Early Childhood MTEL (fun teacher tests you take in Massachusetts), so I am now licensed to teach preK and K as well.
6.  Oh, and I packed.  After 15 years in the same school, I moved.  That's 15 years worth of "junk," I mean teaching tools, to move.  Double yikes.  Meet, the Carlton Innovation School.

All and all, I think it's safe to say it's been far from a summer vacation for me, but it's all good.  Moving on to more important things--my new school.  I've been lucky enough to be hired to work as a grades 1/2 teacher at the Carlton Innovation School, still in the same district.  This school, being an Innovation School, has been able to, under the direction of the principal, develop a program that best matches the needs of its learners.  The Carlton School's mission statement sums this up nicely: "The goal of the Carlton Innovation School is to meet the individual needs of our students.  Instruction takes place mostly in small groups through workshops in reading, writing, and math. The use of the Responsive Classroom program helps us create a community of learners while helping students grow socially and emotionally.  Our motto is to 'Try hard and learn a lot!'"

The school's Innovation Plan notes its school, curriculum and instruction structure.  Check it out by clicking HERE.  I'm super duper excited to have this opportunity to join the Carlton team for year two of this model.  Multi-aged classrooms, flexible groupings based on student need (as evident via assessments of course GRIN), project-based inquiry and team-teaching are a few perks that make this move an easy decision for me.  In addition,  I'm excited to join a dynamic staff.  (I've heard they are a bunch of fun-havers!) For more information on this fantastic school, check out Carlton's blog by clicking HERE.

I plan to blog my next few weeks of setting up my new classroom.
It's a tad bit smaller, with a tad bit less storage space--not that I'm
nervous or anything.  There's a storage closet right across the hall,
and I've already been given some shelves to fill.  Here's some 
pictures for you all.

Ah, here is a little glimpse of moving day.  Pictures include my Element, my boxes in the hall and the city's truck.  The city employee was the nicest mover, ever.


Now for my new classroom.  Boy do I have a lot of work ahead of me!  It's good work, though.  My theme is going to be a mixture of three colors: orange (my favorite), blue and brown.  I can't wait to see what it is like to have no desks for the first time in my teaching career.  Any helpful suggestions for me?

For those of you that started school this month, hope you are off to a great start.  For those of you like me who have to set up, good luck with that!

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