Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tear Self-Portraits

When I taught 6th grade my teaching partner and I would have the students do a great activity during the first week of school. We would print each of their photos in black and white onto a full sheet of paper and then cut them in half down the middle. The students would paste half of their face onto a blank sheet of paper and then use their pencil to draw the missing half. This was a great activity because they were working on symmetry and it was a great display that we would leave up the whole year. Parents and visitors would always do double takes because they didn't realize at first glance that half of it was a drawing. Unfortunately I don't have photos to share of this activity.

Moving to 5th I didn't want to step on my previous partner's toes because she will have some of those kiddos next year. Besides I had seen what 5th grade does and I was excited to give it a try. They would have the students do tear self-portraits using only construction paper. It was an extremely challenging project because students have to go slowly and make small tears. In the end they came out pretty impressive, especially because most of them you can look at and totally see that kid.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Room in Progress

So, my classroom is still not completely set up (it is set up enough to effectively learn though), and I'm ok with that. I'm not one of those teachers who create elaborate themed rooms or make fancy bulletin boards, I like to keep things simple and I love to fill the walls with student work. Besides, our fire code is extra restrictive...nothing 24" from the ceiling or 24" from the floor, no paper within 6" or outlets, no paper around the door, nothing hanging from the ceiling, etc. You can see from the following photos that I haven't followed this 100%, and if something is said, I'll deal with it then. Anyhow, here is a mini tour of some of the room.

My sister (and nephew) came in over the summer to help me get my walls up and unpack and she did a PHENOMENAL job. I have the best sister ever! She put up this totally cute Domokun board above a bookshelf. Domokun (or Domo as most kids know him now) is pretty popular right now, but I've been a fan for years. The plan is to have Domokun reading a book and to have a cute saying in the cloud, but I obviously haven't gotten to that yet! Any ideas for what to put in the cloud?

One of the Pinterest projects that I couldn't get out of my head was the crate seats. A teacher friend and I went to Treasures4Teachers (a post coming soon) and I found 3 yards of Ikea upholstery fabric for $3. I couldn't say no to a deal like that and within days I had my new crate seats. The only other items I had to buy were: the plywood (about $25), mattress foam ($10), and duct tape ($4). I already had a surplus of crates, and it just so happened that I had three green and three blue. I lowered my round table and have a great new reading/center area. It's only day three of school and I have kids trying to finish their work so they can get back there and read. At one point today I had the table full of quiet boys devouring comic books. Probably the highlight of my day. I put duct tape over the staples so that students can flip the cushions over and use it as a writing surface. I didn't add the loops that other teachers have because it is easy to just stick your hand through the crate handle and pop them out. I also put our dictionaries and thesauri in them to keep them somewhat anchored and sturdy. I'm very pleased with how they turned out and I'm so glad that the kids are excited about using them too.

The biggest project (and the one I was most excited about) was to put contact paper on my tables. I've been hinting at this and now can show some before and after photos (although I wasn't smart enough to get the same angles).

I was inspired by Ladybug's Teacher Files and I chose a formica-esque contact paper ($5 for a 24' roll) and did the edge with black electrical tape. I bought 7 rolls of contact paper and covered eight rectangle tables and one round table. I have quite a bit leftover, and I'm still deciding if I want to put contact paper on the long table I have in the back against the wall.

You may also have noticed my nametags. I used chalkboard contact paper for those and wrote on them with a chalk marker. So far they are not as awesome as I had hoped (students touching them causes them to fade quickly and the marker doesn't come off as easily as the directions state). But I think they still look nice and I can wipe and re-write them when I move students.

I've gotten great comments from teachers that have stopped by my room and even the custodian. Some can't figure out what looks so "nice" and others ask if I got new tables. I'm pretty pleased with them and the kids seem to really like them. I've gone over the expectations for caring for our tables and I'm hoping they last the year and beyond.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day Two - Class Rules and Time Capsules

On the first day of school I always guide my students to create the classroom rules. I base this off the Ideal Classroom activity in the TRIBES book and it really helps the students understand the importance of having classroom rules (to keep us safe and help us learn). Usually the students come up with A LOT of rules and I help them narrow them down to five (and they are usually very similar, if not the same, year to year). This year, though, I was quite impressed with the rules that my students came up with, and they couldn't narrow it any further down from six. I always write the rules on a poster board and the kids sign this "contract" for the year.

We have been working on our first week time capsules. Yesterday the students wrote their first day letters to themselves and today they worked on a posted that includes: handprint, footprint, thumbprint, and list of favorites. I went around the room and cut a piece of string to the length of each students' height. All of these are placed in an envelope and sealed until the end of the year. I got some free envelopes a few years ago and loved the black ones, but never had a chance to use them. I figured this was a perfect opportunity. They put their photo on the front of their envelope and wrote on them in white crayon/pencil. We have a few more items to add to their time capsules before we seal them up! Here are a few from today.

Monday, July 23, 2012

First Day of School!

Yeah, you heard me right, school started today! I know most people have weeks of summer vacation left, but we are already in learning mode!

This is the start of my 9th year and it is starting out to be so different than the previous 8. The biggest difference so far, is that I haven't been stressing, and that is a HUGE deal for me. I still haven't finished unpacking from my classroom change and even though the school was open on the weekend I didn't go anywhere near campus. Usually the weekend before school starts is full on anxiety and moping (can anyone say 'pity party'!). But not this year! It was a weekend like any other.

Then this morning came around, I walked into my room and was not greeted by a nice, cool, air-conditioned room. My AC wasn't working! So my new fifth graders and I endured in there for an hour until they headed to specials. We were drenched, but we persevered, and I continued with my theme of not stressing. An hour later the air was fixed and the rest of the day was much more comfortable. Despite the AC fiasco, this was the smoothest first day of school in my career.

I have a lot to share in the coming days/weeks as I get my classroom completed as the kids start diving in. Probably the highlight of the day was Classbook. Each kid (I have one too!) has a status box on the news feed and the kiddos wrote their first day "status" at the end of the day. For now they have the generic Facebook profile pic, but I will be adding their photos soon. I am also going to be introducing a like button and a comment box as well. For now I will be using the Classbook as a place for reflection and for students to write what they have learned. It seems to be a hit so far!

My favorite status of the day: "I had one of the best days of all my school years."

Stay tuned for more Classbook updates!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

My new team!

I'm sooooo excited to be joining a new team this year. These three lovely ladies welcomed me with breakfast, flowers, and a sweet poem. Am I lucky or what!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Last Day of Summer Vacation - it's been a tough one.

Today has been just awful, and it so happens to be the last day of summer break. I went in to school early to finish putting contact paper on my tables (I finally found some!) and it was pretty hot in my classroom. Normally the district has the AC on a system that shuts off during breaks and in the evening, but we can override it by hitting a button on the classroom unit. I hit the button and heard the AC start running, and it continued to run, and it continued to be hot. 15 minutes later it was still unbearably hot, I called the office manager who said "I'll call it in" meaning there was nothing we could do at our site about the problem. I tried to push through, but I was drenched in sweat and dripping, so I gave up and headed home.

So, I came home to work on the crate seats (you know that great project that has been all over Pinterest!) well, I was kneeling on the wood pieces as I stapled the fabric on so that I could get the fabric nice and tight. I took a break and just sat on the floor, then, as I am trying to get up I feel a pain in my leg/knee. I couldn't straighten it! And I still can't! If I try, the pain worsens. I'm hoping that ice will help, but I'm feeling like I might end up having to visit Urgent Care tonight. Oh joy!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Contact paper preview

I had hoped to get all of my tables covered today, but I've been to a half dozen stores and they are all out of the paper. I only need one more roll! Here is a little sneak peak.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Classroom Economy Revamp {Part 1 of many}

I have been using a classroom economy system in my classroom for 5 years now. Our economy system is check based, I don't use any cash at all. Students keep a balanced checkbook register and I have bankers keep computer based register for each student. Students get a weekly paycheck and pay rent, fines, and taxes. They can use any extra money to purchase items from the class store or buy items from our quarterly auction. That is it in a nutshell. There is SO. MUCH. MORE to it, and it can be time consuming. But I love how it ties in the economy (which is in our standards) and math, and it is real-world based! Parents love it and the kids enjoy it too. I've decided that since I have only made a few tweeks over the years, and this past year we came across some issues, that the system needed an overhaul. It's taking me longer than I had hoped, especially because school is less than two weeks away, but I'm sure I'll get it all done!

To start, I made this nice little job poster. In the past every job had the same pay rate, $20 per day. The bankers usually do a phenomenal job, and work more than anyone else, so I bumped them up to $30. I decided to have more of a pay scale this year. Not only did I want to better compensate for the harder jobs, but I wanted to encourage certain jobs and maybe make some jobs (like zoologist) less desirable. We'll see how it goes this year! Any economy suggestions out there?

(I even made the cute striped background!)

Yesterday I went in to school to start setting up. My fabulous sister joined me and we started to put contact paper on my tables. We'll head in tomorrow to finish up (as long as we can locate more contact paper!) and then I'll get to show off the finished loveliness.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Working with my BFF

Met my BFF at Starbucks today so we could work on our respective jobs. She has some research project going on and I'm revamping my classroom economy system.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Room 37

When school got out I packed up my old room, cleaned it out, and then started to move into my new room. I had to also clean out the new room as the previous teacher had left a lot of things that I wouldn't be needing. I spent a few days after school was out trying to get some order established and then left the rest for the custodians to do their awesome cleaning work. I stopped by today to drop a few things off and snapped a few shots of its current status. I go back to work in just over a week! I'll probably be heading in next Friday to start setting up. I'm so excited about this classroom. The old classroom was very awkwardly set up and this building has rooms that seem more spacious and creative. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I *Heart* Wordle

I first learned about Wordle when I was working on my Master's (in Ed Tech) and immediately fell in love with it. If you are unfamiliar with it, it is a web-based site that takes text and makes word clouds. This is such a simple and easy tool for kids to use and it can be applied in many ways in the classroom. Students can make clouds.....
* using adjectives to describe themselves
* with words to summarize a book/story
* by adding words on a certain topic
* paste in any text they wrote such as an essay, story, report etc.

Unfortunately I haven't been able to have my students use Wordle because the computers did not have updated Java. I am *hoping* that these get upgraded this coming school year so we can Wordle everything!

Even though the kids can't use it, I still can. Today I decided that I needed to start updating my class website since I am moving grades and needed a fun front page image. I used to have a photo of my open classroom door, but I don't have a photo of my new room yet, so I played around with Wordle for a bit and came up with a nice little image. As you can see, I am also a fan of alliteration.

Have you used Wordle in your classroom before? If you haven't tried it yet, go to wordle.net and play around with it!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Taking a vacation from my vacation

I spent the first three of my six weeks (we are on a modified year-round schedule) of summer vacation getting a lot of school work done. I have been reviewing 5th grade materials, updating materials I have made, making lots of lists, and creating new materials. Last week my sister, nephew, and I traveled to Washington to visit my grandmother (who just turned 94!) and uncles, aunts, and cousins. Before we left I was torn about taking my laptop and/or tablet with me or leave them behind. I knew there would be downtime with my family, and figured I could squeeze in some work, but realized that leaving them behind would be a great way to force myself to take a vacation during vacation. So, the only connection I had was on my phone, which I used only sporadically for email, Facebook, and photos. I thought that I would have regretted this decision, but it actually turned out great. There wasn't much downtime because I filled it with playing with my nephew or reading and it was nice to not be staring at a computer screen.

Now that I am back I've been trying to limit myself, but there is just so much that I want to get done! I created a really neat little wheel of common core math standards for 5th grade and I have been getting so many requests for this for other grades. I'll be posting more about these soon! For now, here is a little collage of some of the Instagram photos I took.