Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Centers Management...and Next Steps (of course!)!

Welp, my goal of a weekly blog post=so far not working out for me! I don't even have much time to get this post written, because it's already 11:18 p.m., and when your day starts at 7:15 (and by "when your day starts" I mean instructional staff hours are 7:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), well sleeping by midnight is usually a goal! :)

One goal I have been keeping up with though is taking more pictures of my classroom. I never realized what a visual person I am until I noticed that:
1. When I do classroom observations, all I really want to do is look around at what is on the walls of each teacher's room.
2. I cringe at anchor charts I make that are messy and feel tempted to make them again (I've been known to "prettify" my anchor charts overnight!).
3. I scroll through blog posts and stop and read the ones with pictures I like.

So, here in fewer words and more pictures is how I manage centers in my class:

This chart shows what center students will be going to each day.

Writing Center--
Filled with anchor charts galore (and trust me, I know some of these anchor charts need to be re-done!)

Poetry Center

I recently starting adding the vocabulary charts we make each week for reading comprehension as a challenge for my higher students.

Sight Word poems from the best book ever! Thank you, Scholastic! http://www.amazon.com/Sight-Poetry-Pages-Fill-Blank/dp/0439554381

Listening Center--
I just had an amazing volunteer come organize all my books on tape! I'll have to take a photo soon--it's beautiful! We are now venturing into non-fiction stories to support our non-fiction writing.

ABC Center

Library--Featuring new pillows from the Target Dollar section. :)

The Seldom Used Computer Center...

We have an awesome program called Dreambox for math, but I don't know the best program for phonics/reading to help students and to keep them from playing too much! Any suggestions? I really do want to get my students back on computers!

My next centers steps (a.k.a. please tell me how you do these things!):
1. Differentiating work for students
2. Increasing student responsibility and accountability for work (Right now we use folders, and I check their work...I'm learning toward a "centers rubric" to help students evaluate themselves!)
3. Library: How do I increase accountability at this center without lessening the idea that we can sometimes just read for fun?

I've been loving reading all the blogs popping up in my reader--I promise to follow up on some of the comments that recently popped up on my blog too! For now, I'm off to bed...

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Take a Step Inside My Classroom

On Friday, we had 25 teachers visiting our school (which is quite a few teachers for a school with 8 classrooms) as a part of the early childhood and elementary teacher retreat for our school's network. The last time I had so many teachers in my room, it was the day I had returned from being home for my mom's funeral, so that must have been an interesting observation for those teachers, because I really wasn't 100% sure what I was teaching!

However, this time, I was actually far more prepared and ready to go. The night before though, I couldn't help but wonder what the teachers would actually be looking at when they came to visit. Whenever I go visit other classrooms, I spend maybe 1-2 minutes watching the teacher and instruction, and then I spend time walking around looking at what is up on the walls, trying to learn about the class from its set up and what I see. Obviously if I am looking to observe something specific, like writer's workshop, I will carefully watch the instruction taking place, but on a general school visit where I can observe classrooms at my leisure, I love checking out how teachers organize themselves and their classrooms. I think you can learn a lot about the teacher and the learning that takes place just by looking around!

So, if you're like me (and some of the teachers I noticed taking photos in my class), here's a peek into my classroom.

As you walk to our classroom you will see:
Our bulletin board currently has work students created in art class; art is one of our core subjects, along with reading, math, and Spanish. I love the quote below the bulletin board too--we are preparing our students to go to and through college, and I love having this quote reminding all of us daily why we are in school! Our school leader made sure quotes like these were painted on the walls throughout our building.
Our message board--it often has messages for parents. This week I had our newsletter taped up for parents to see.
And of course, our door. Welcome, Cal Bears! Every classroom in our school is named after a college.

Step into our classroom and this is what you will most likely look at first:
Half of our room--set up for nap (I thought to take pictures in the middle of the day!) You can see we have circle tables, which I love, that are color-coded. :)
Our classroom library (yes that's a fireplace--it no longer works, but it's one perk of having a classroom in a building that is not a school!). Around the fireplace you can see our poster from the Winter Festival, and I just put up the students' family trees that the they had to make for Spanish. You can also see three values characters above the fireplace--a fourth I believe is in the making!

Our values on the door: Courage, Ganas, Honor, and Reflection. We don't have class rules, but as a schol we have values that guide students' choices and behavior.
An anchor chart to help remind students how they can show our values and be rising leaders. We'll revisit this soon and add more ideas to the chart.
Take a peek at where the learning takes place:
Our math wall: calendar, shape anchor charts, 100s chart, number line,  number "name" boxes.

Close up of the shapes anchor charts
Number "Names" Boxes--A K Teacher at our school introduced us to this strategy for helping build number sense. She had previously used them in 2nd grade so students had more "formulas" for each number. Soon we'll add actual addition problems to the box.

Top Poppin' Work! The best work of each day from our class gets put up on the bulletin board.

So there you have it, a sneak peek into our room. Now, out of curiosity, what do you look at when you observe in a class?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My First Blog Award! :)

How fun! My first blog award—thanks to Marie from It’s a Jungle Out There for awarding my blog with The Versatile Blogger Award! 

Here are the “rules” for the award:
1. Thank the person that nominated you with a link back to them. 
2. Tell 7 things about yourself. 
3. Pass this award on to 15 newly discovered blogs and let them know that they’ve received an award!  

Thanks, again, Marie, and now here are 7 things about me:
1. I recently gave up my diet coke addiction after many many years loving it a little too much. :P Crazy, but true! I go back to work tomorrow, so we’ll see if I can get back in the swing of things without my lovely d.c…and if I really can make it 2 months with no diet coke in the house!
Side note: When I was younger, I won a diet pepsi drinking contest while on vacation in Mexico. Should it be any surprise I later discovered that diet coke was better and as a result drank it like it was water?

A photo of two of many diet cokes I've had in my life...

2. I am a huge Chicago Cubs fan. If I were to take a picture of myself right now, you would see that I’m sporting a Cubs shirt. My first year teaching I had friends make videos to my kinders about going to college and the jobs they had…and one friend of course encouraged my students to be Cubs fans.
Okay this is a picture of my brother, not me, 
but c'mon, clearly we were trained young to be Cubs fans! :)

3. I went trapezing in college. Talk about fun—I have debated taking a trapeze class, because I had so much fun when I went!

4. I love reading children’s books and reading with children. This of course comes in really handy as a kindergarten teacher, but I seriously may have an addiction. This is my third year teaching, and if you saw all the books I have, you’d probably think I’ve been teaching for much much longer. Right now I’m resisting (not very well) the temptation to buy lots of George and Martha books.
In case you’re wondering, that’s one of my students reading a big book at indoor recess. Thank goodness my students love reading too!

5. I love to go to the beach with my dog. Way too fun. My dog is 5 pounds, and she races around the beach like crazy. She might be the friendliest dog in the world. Bonus: after racing around at the beach, she is super calm, which for her is a rare moment.

6. My brother is an opera singer. No joke. I think it’s pretty cool. Here’s a semi-old photo of him. He’s the awesomely dressed guy in the green standing on the table.

7. I firmly believe everything in life can relate to the TV show FRIENDS. I even wrote one of my final papers in college on the show and how it shows several sociological theories about love and relationships. This is one small downside of teaching 5-year olds: They likely will not understand Friends references, and thus I have to use them at other times in the day. 
A mug I received as a present from my roommate who, incidentally, hates the show.

15 Blogs to Check Out (I'm not 100% sure what the award means by "newly discovered"--so I went with blogs I recently discovered, so they are newly discovered for me!, and absolutely wonderful!):
1. Pencils, Crayons, and Books, Oh My!
2. Coloring Outside the Lines
3. Empowering Little Learners
4. Teaching and Learning Make the World Go Round
5. Kindergarten Lifestyle
6. Heather's Heart
7. Pencils, Glue, and Tying Shoes
8. Curls and a Smile
9. F is for First Grade
10. Teaching Happily Ever After
11. Thirst for First
12. Lessons Learned
13. Peace, Love, and Learning
14. Super in Second
15. Sweet Times in First

Now I'm off to get ready to go back to school tomorrow! So happy that Monday and Tuesday will be PD and prep--which means I don't have to be at school until 8 tomorrow! Woohoo!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Need New Shoes?? Or a New Bag??

A friend shared this great link with me for a shoe site that I have been passing on to friends...and every teacher loves a good deal right? The deal for a pair of shoes (or a bag or other item) is half-off their usual price, so $19.95.

To get the 50% offer you have to buy your item the day you join just a heads up so I wouldn't join unless you know what you're looking for--here's the link to the site: http://www.justfab.com/invite/3702234/, but I had to share with all you awesome bloggers!

It's been a while...

Hello teacher blogosphere! Oh my goodness, how have I not posted anything since September here?

At first I was amazed at how long it's been (I even forgot how cute my blog design is--it makes me so happy!), but then I looked at the date of my last post, and things started to make sense. The day after I posted the lovely pictures of writing from our library field trip, my dad called to share some news about my mom who had been sick for a very long time. After 10 years of battling Alzheimer's and a recent diagnosis of cancer in late May of 2011, my mom, on September 29th,  had trouble breathing and was refusing fluids. On October 3, 2011 my mom passed away. What a start to the school year! I took two weeks off to go home to be with my family, and then I came back and jumped back into teaching...but other parts of my life got a bit neglected, examples: this blog, oh and P90X? Yeah, that didn't happen either--at least I got 4 days in before I had to fly home in October!

One thing that I just have to express here that I've already shared with so many people is that I don't think I could imagine being at a better school when everything with my mom happened. I was just a month into the school year at a new school with many colleagues I'd only known since July. Everyone went above and beyond their job descriptions, covering recess time and helping each other out since an amazing apprentice teacher who usually helped then stepped up to teach my class. For two weeks, I got to spend time with my family, and I wasn't worried about whether or not my students were learning or how they were doing. I knew they were in good hands, and I have never felt that way before, so at ease with not being at school, and I am so grateful for that!

Life at school has been pretty amazing this year. It's been such a change from where I taught the past 2 years, in many ways, and I'm reminded of why it can be so hard to ignite change in other schools: there are MANY things that make a school functional or dysfunctional or somewhere-in-between.

If several things need to be changed anywhere, it's going to be a long process. Dramatic, lasting change doesn't happen overnight, and that's frustrating! Change needs to happen now for our students and their futures.

I've had time over the holiday break to think and reflect about many things...and I know I made the right choice to switch schools this year. I'm learning every day, and I'm starting to think about where I might be in my career a couple years down the road. I'm also very grateful I had the past two years at my old school, because I think the fact the schools are so different has really helped me start to think about what makes a class, a teacher, a principal, a school successful. I don't know yet, but I'm starting to have more ideas.

Like I said, I'm learning a lot, and while I definitely learned at my old school, I also had never taught anywhere else so I felt like I had very little perspective. Don't get me wrong, I've only been teaching for 2.5 years--I don't have lots of perspective yet, and I won't profess to know everything or to have all the answers when it comes to education, but I have more ideas than I did a year ago! As much as I think teachers learn from changing grade levels (yes, I'm still in kinder, but somewhere down the road I want to change!), I now also believe that changing schools can help teachers learn too!

So there you have it, my giant reflection and explanation of where I've been. I actually really missed this blog, and I didn't realize it until I started typing. This blog, and the teaching blog community!, helps me stay true to who I want to be as a teacher, and I hope this year I can post more. I'm hoping to post reflections on my teaching and all I'm learning as well as posts with what we're up to in the classroom.

Happy New Year teacher friends,
ms. m