Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tell Me About Your Reading and Writing Programs

I am on our K-12 Language Arts committee. We are in the midst of a major curriculum review. We have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on new curriculum in other core areas in the past five years while other districts struggle to keep the doors open. We have been very fortunate.

We present our proposals to building council and our professional council in a few weeks. We just aligned to the common core standards. At the elementary, we aren't unhappy with our reading program, but are looking to tweak it. We are adding non-fiction and some trade books to supplement our Scott-Foresman series.

Writing is where we have been struggling. Our school improvement goal has focused on writing forever. We have tried all kinds of things, including the 6+1 writing traits. We used writing coaches before, but cut them when grant money disappeared. I am piloting the Scholastic Traits program. I like it, but it is too costly with cuts in school funding in Michigan. We have just been given permission to pursue the Write Steps program for writing. We loved it when we saw it a couple of years ago, but had to "wait our turn".  The company is here in Michigan which makes it even better, as we keep money in our own backyard. They offer Michigan districts a break.

Some of my colleagues have never heard of Daily Five, don't use anchor charts. We want a program that offers consistency K-5.

Before we present our proposals, I just wondered, "What do you use for your reading and writing program? What do you love about it?"


Monday, January 23, 2012

Clutter-free Week 3, The Purge

Last week was a very hectic week for me. I had PD at the county on Monday, a two hour delay that took my planning time, and two half records days working on grades. The grades were due in the office at 7:00 AM this morning, so needless to say I worked on them for several hours at home. 
I didn't have much time to declutter, but I did clean off my corner shelf and paper organizer. It felt great to purge some of the old curriculum materials. My students were pleased because many took home new binders that I had emptied. I also gave away two dozen VHS cases that used to hold game and math manipulatives. I purged those this summer since I don't teach math any more. They were repurposed into pencil boxes.The custodians hauled away three boxes full of recycling and two bags of trash. I used my labeler to put labels on everything, so students can help me stay organized. 
 I still have a lot to do, but it is a start. Thanks for inspiring me to purge, Jodi! If you need some motivation to rid yourself of clutter, join her challenge.

Monday, January 16, 2012

My PD Day

       While many teachers and students had the day off, I spent the day in two county in-service sessions. My county has committed itself to offer a wide selection of professional development on MLK day. It is our first chance since August, and I actually look forward to it. Teachers could choose to do field trips, multi-cultural experiences, Daily 5, CPR and first aid, technology, and so much more.
        I choose a session on using iPads and iPods in the classroom and another on Stop-Motion Animation. I learned some new apps that I will share in another post. I was convinced to purchase a VGA adapter to connect the Ipad to the data projector in my room. The iPad 2 can show apps and video. The original could just show apps.
        Another accessory to consider is an IPEVO camera, $69. I first saw it at a Learning in Hand conference. Tony Vincent used it with the iPod and iPad. It is little, at about three inches in length. It comes with a stand and plugs into a USB port. I loaned it to a colleague when I got my SAM CAM document camera(see post on Wax Museum). It doesn't work well with my splitter for the dual monitor/smartboard. I love my splitter! My students never see my desktop, just the items I want them to see.
        I have two iPads, an iPad 1 that I won at the county's session (August of 2010) with Tony Vincent and The Technology Symposium. The second one I got last spring from Scholastic Book Club with 20,000 bonus points. This year's cost is 36,000 points! I guess they realized the value was worth the increase in points.
        For those of you considering an iPad of your own, you may want to check to see the differences between the iPad 2 and the new iPad 3 due for release in March.
       My other session on Stop-Motion Animation was fun. We used a program from iCreatetoEducate. We used the free version. A paid version is $30. If you buy the Klutz Book of Animation, it comes with a complimentary copy. It costs about $15 on Amazon. There is also an app for stop-motion animation for the iPad! I will share that on another day.

Hope your day was as enjoyable as mine!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Clutter-free Plan (Week 2)

My plan has required me to work on one of my biggest challenges. Letting go. I started this process when I moved classrooms before the start of last year. After a short time, I ended up calling it quits, and quit purging things.
In starting this challenge, I have repeated the following phrase to myself over and over again. "We are departmentalized. You don't teach math, science or social studies any more. Let it go!" It has finally started to sink in! I have to keep the grade level copy of curriculum and support materials that are required. Why? That content area teacher should be able to keep it, but who am I to complain? That's what the corner bookcase is for.
The rest of my plan follows:
1. Empty the file cabinet of all materials that are not related to reading, spelling or language arts.
2. Get rid of all extra copies of materials you are going to keep. No need to keep old copies when you have made new, prettier copies in the last year.
3. Offer the materials to colleagues that do teach those subjects. We have new curriculum in science and social studies, so it no longer is applicable at fifth grade anyway.
4. Scan anything that you really can't part with and save it digitally. Hard copies must be put in the appropriate binder coming off the printer or you can't keep it!
5. Recycle hard copies that you don't need and can't use.
6. Clean and organize my "no desk" area.
7. Use follow Jodi's rules for other parts of the room. Keep, recycle, donate or pitch anything I haven't used since I moved into this room.

The hard part of this is not know what next year will bring. I was told by someone (not my principal) that my role will be different next year. Another teacher called my room "homey" and lived in. Another questioned why I was "allowed" to keep my lamps, benches (she called them couches), and other things. These hurtful comments sent me home in tears twice in the last week. I've decided I won't be held hostage by others. If the job changes, so be it. I will make my room comfortable for my kids and me. We are what matters in the long run. Until I am told differently, I keep it if I use it. Well, that and if it fits Jodi's rules!

Sorry about two posts in one day! This was supposed to be scheduled for yesterday!


A Day in My Shoes

                                                          A Day in My Shoes Linky Party

I am joining up for the linking party. Won't you join us?
6:00 Wake up before alarm goes off.
6:15 Wait for the weather and news update on the radio before I climb out of bed.
6:30 Climb out of the shower. Do make up and hair as quietly as I can, so hubby can still snooze.
6:45 Make sure teen daughter's alarm has gone off. Get dressed. Change outfit when I don't like it.
7:00 Grab frozen lunch entree or salad and diet pop.
7:05 Begin the 20 minute drive to school. Usually in quiet, as I us this as think time.
7:30 Arrive in room after greeting all the fifth grade early birds in the hall. Get smartboard and computer going with the daily agenda. Make quick breakfast to eat before kids arrive at 7:40. Can't eat before the drive, or I get sick as my world spins.
7:40 Kids arrive. I greet my kids and other fifth graders by name as they pass. See who needs some TLC to make it through the morning. This stops some of the problems if they get an ear to hear about their bus issues.
7:45 School Day begins with students copying agenda, collecting notes, connecting with kids.
7:55 Off to special classes 4 days, Library on Thursday. I meet up with team members. We fill each other in on any news, etc. I run copies.  Yes, we do our own copies. On Friday, I make sure all copies are ready for next week. Finish plans. Mondays I upload spelling list to my class page and Spelling City.
8:30 Pick up students. Use the facilities. Get ready for changing classes.
8:40 First rotation. This group is the "talker" group. They talk non-stop. Some students that struggle academically and others that are very good students. We work on spellling. Spelling tests or spelling contracts based on learning styles are addressed.
9:00 Reading Group including guided reading and independent practice. It is a mad rush to get in during the time limit.
9:45 This group is grabbing and going. It's on to science with them. My kiddos are in math. I get the readers and thinkers group. They like to talk, but can work in total silence for long stretches. A welcomed relief! This group will however surround me wherever I sit or stand. They love attention. They usually breeze through their tasks and assignment, finishing before the time is up.
10:55 Switch time. Band leaves for the bus. Choir or recorder ensemble leaves. My homeroom kiddos return. My co-teacher comes with them from math. We work on math until recess. We circulate to help the special ed students and anyone needing help.
11:20 Recess! Aide takes them out and then to lunch. We switched recess and lunch order years ago. It has been a gift! Fewer problems from bellyaches, and discipline problems in the cafeteria.
This is my lunch/prep time. Sometimes I have students stay inside to make up work, but usually have a "Lunch Bunch" literature group to eat lunch with me. This is my favorite time of day! This is also my video making time.
12:00 I start down the hall to get the kiddos, check mailbox on my way.
12:05 Reading and spelling with homeroom. It is an inclusion room. I have several special ed. students. I love working with my co-teacher. She took over my role when I moved to regular ed. years ago. We have this inclusion thing down to a science. Friday we do spelling and reading, making accommodations for her kids. We also do a Three-Minute Write to do a quick writing assessment.
1:00 I continue with language arts/writing on my own. This may also be my arts and crafts time a couple of times per month.
1:15 Tuesday or 1:45 Thursday we do reading buddies with two kindergarten classes.
2:00 RTI students go. We have work time. Some students go to my co-teacher's office for help. I help the others in my room. On Wednesdays we have Zookeepers with my students helping in our life lab.
2:25 Students are all back. I do read aloud. Announcements and bus changes are at 2:30. I read up to and after the announcements. When it is warm we go outside for a recess.
2:45 get ready to go home.
2:52 We walk students to buses. I personally escort my troubled student to the bus, focusing thoughts on the positive things that occurred so the ride home is better.
3:10 Staff Meeting or another meeting of some sort. I don't know the word "NO!" so I end up on most committees. I don't mind, I would rather be the one deciding what we do. Better than sitting back and complaining. I start checking papers here, while I wait for printing/copying. Return phone calls or emails. I usually have about an hour to do at home.
5:00 Leave for the day after I make sure things are organized and ready for tomorrow.
5:30 Help or make dinner.
6:30 Read the newspaper. Check blogs and email while family does dishes.
Family time, bball game to watch.
8:00 Head to the treadmill. This was recently added. I walk for an hour while I watch television.
9:30 After shower, I grade last of my papers and stalk blogs until bedtime.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week One of my Clutter-free Challenge

Thanks to Jodi at Clutter-free Classroom for helping us all get organized for the new year.

It's amazing how much you learn to ignore when you are forced to look at it all day. You begin to not see the piles of papers, things that need to be filed, and more importantly the things that were not put back in order. The following pictures were taken when I walked in last Tuesday morning. I knew I had not put some things away when I stopped during vacation, but didn't realize the janitors wouldn't be back to empty trash. It made things look even worse than I expected.
View from the door
I don't have a regular desk, but my computer desk is somewhere in behind the piles! The storage units hold all of the desk items. The paper sorter needs to be sorted and relabeled so students can put extra copies back. Too many papers on the bulletin board to the left, and the file cabinet needs work inside and out. It holds binders of blackline masters. There are things on top of the cabinets behind the desk that need to be put away. I need to do something with my rug. Duct tape isn't cutting it! The little bookshelf needs organized. Some of those things haven't been touched since September. Time to pitch it! 
The toner cartridge in the box needs to be recycled. The AR computers need organized. I need to remind students about reshelving library books to keep baskets neat. 
My library needs straightening, but it isn't too bad.  The top shelf on the other hand needs to be de-cluttered. I don't think I'll need the fans for a while, although it was fifty degrees on Friday!
The counter needs a little work. It is the only place for my Cricut (LOVE IT) and one of my iPads. The Senteo Response Clickers need a better home. The leveled readers in the little crates are still in baggies. Those need to go! The other crates (on top) are more leveled readers for guided reading.   
The display frames need changed out. The students want their pictures (flipped earlier to protect students' identities during a photography session) and their new art projects showing. 
The "Talk Show" area isn't bad but the sticker needs to  be removed from the storage unit. Magazine crate under chair needs sorted and the raggedy ones need to go. The stack unit by the door needs new labels for the various classes and subjects to encourage students to turn in completed work to the right place.
The bookcase in the corner holds the grade level copy of all curriculum and support materials, as I am lead teacher. I should find another location. The rest needs to be sorted, recycled, and purged. The snowman with "snow" needs to be packed up but has been almost our only snow! It was for our unit before break. Student cubbies need to be cleaned out. I saw one had papers from September in the bottom! Out of sight out of mind?

Notice I didn't show the insides of cabinets?  They really aren't too bad. I spent days organizing and purging before school started. They may not be so good when everything gets sorted and things I need to save need a home.

Any ideas or suggestions?


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Wax Museum and a Contest

I know many of you have seen or present a wax museum, but keep reading to see how this one differs.

For those that aren't familiar, let me explain.

Students read a biography or autobiography on a famous person in history. I stipulate that the person is deceased, or no longer participating in the activity that made them famous. Some of the boys complain because they want to be their current sports hero. Some students are required by their homeroom teacher to be a scientist or inventor.  I allow free choice, as long as it fits the previous guidelines. I did break the rules last year to allow an "Oprah" who was still hosting her show. Students will own it if they can choose it. Students make a timeline, do more research to round out their speeches, and gather their props.

We choose a date in late March before spring break. Our hallways and gymnasium are transformed into a museum. These famous figures come to life when guests press their button.  What began as a small hour program has grown into a two hour dress rehearsal in the afternoon, and an evening presentation attended by several hundred parents, relatives, and community members.

LAST YEAR: I had already planned to tape performances with my flip camera when I received a random email. Samsung was sponsoring a contest. The winning student would win $500 and the teacher would get a Samsung digital presenter.

You submit a three minute video. (Cell phone quality works, as that was what I used when batteries in flip camera died.) The top videos are then in a contest on Facebook. We plastered postings on Facebook Walls, throughout the building, district and in the newspaper to vote for our video.

(Click here for video) Leonardo daVinci Video 
My student won the first contest! I received the document camera and Austin went on a shopping spree on the last day of school.

You can be the next winner. Click here to see how. Samsung K-12 Superhero Contest

Best of luck! Marcia

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Some Great Finds

In my previous post, I talked about how much of my organization items I get from Target. Target has a great little dollar spot that is loaded with finds perfect for the classroom. I found great little buckets for my bucket fillers there last year. On later trips, I found more for two colleagues that matched their color schemes.

I just saw a cute mailbox that would be perfect for valentines,  little heart chalkboards, glow sticks, whiteboards.  I had to grab some desktop caddies, card games and "Jenga" type tower game. The tower game is for a project found on Pinterest. The "dollar spot" has some items for $2.50 along with the $1 finds. I always look here before I begin my aisle cruising. Items rotate by seasons and with limited quantities it may take stops at two or three Targets to meet your full class needs. Several of the items are featured in Pinterest projects. These finds help a tight eacher's budget and make it possible to get inexpensive alternatives to the pricey catalogs.

Hope you have a Target near you! Happy hunting for some great finds. I'd love to see your finds so leave me a link to your blog or your Pinterest boards so I can follow you.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I Don't Own Stock but...

I don't own stock in Target, but probably should.  I used to joke that I cashed my paycheck there because I bought so much at Target. Now, I'm almost sure my pay is delivered directly to them electronically! I didn't realize how much of my classroom organizational items were bought there. It was so much more obvious as I took my pictures for the Clutter-free Classroom Project challenge.  My classroom library baskets (see previous post) and my light colored bookcases, bins for leveled readers, their storage crates, and the colored drawer unit were purchased there.

My all time favorite purchases were my student cubbies.  They are actually 2 sets of the 8 cube units from Target. I turned them on their side, and put them on wheels. (Built by me with our previous maintenance man watching!) The cloth bins are also from Target. It bothers me they don't match, but I couldn't get the light one any more when I added more last year. They are what you see as you enter my room. I don't like the fact they make the entrance congested, but it is a necessity for me.

When we departmentalized, I didn't want to use desks, but had no choice. I turned the desks backwards so students kept everything in the cubbies. It greatly reduced theft of personal items and kept the clutter out of sight. I had less interruptions when students forgot items needed in another class. They crept in, got their items, and quietly exited without interrupting my instruction. I seldom close my door, so they also act as a buffer for distractions from the hall.
How do you control your student supplies? Have ideas to help me as I challenge myself to become clutter-free?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Need to be Clutter-free?

The Clutter-free Classroom is starting a Clutter-free Challenge with daily posts, freebies and linky parties. This promises to be beneficial to all of us. Take a peek and join in the challenge. Click on the link to go to her fabulous blog.


Clutter-free Classroom Clutter-free Challenge
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