Thursday, June 30, 2011

Skills Work

I went to school yesterday with a friend to get going on setting up the classroom. The big surprise was that where I wanted to put the meeting area rug totally FIT!!! Then I ran into a problem...what to do with all the other stuff in the room. I guess I should go back to the drawing board on that one. Excited that something actually worked though.

So today...

I decided to work on some concrete projects to make myself feel like I am doing something. I worked on and completed my "catipillar word family". I found it in "Really Good Stuff" but didn't want to buy it so I made my own. Here is the completed picture:


I figured as long as I ma on the Skills Block kick, I should just finish planning it and that way it will be done. So here is my initial plan:

Daily Oral Language
  • Done as morning work, correcting it part of morning meeting
  • Monday through Friday

Handwriting without Tears Grammar 
  • Done within Skills block
  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Words Their Way
  • Done during Skills block
  • Tuesday, Thursday, TEST Friday
  • Since I will be doing Work on Words during Daily 5, I don't want to over do the words...I will be doing word families, spelling word review groups, etc 

I also reorganized my files so that everything is together and I can file things and ideas for each subject as I go.IMAG0153.jpg

Here are two garage sale finds that I painted for the classroom. The bat is going to be a pointer for calendar time. The Magazine rack is for my books that I use during whole group.



I also made a "who's next jar" for having helpers, choosing jobs, etc...


Then, from I this idea for my Lays Potato Chip containers... This one is for basic math facts, doubles, frequently used math facts. I plan on expanding these into other areas, but this was the only one in the house.


As I was reading blogs the other day, I ran across Keep Calm and Teach on (the link is in my blog favs) So I made myself a set of activity sticks...

Now for a little frustration...I made these cute word family books and bubbles to go with the Caterpillar...I tried to upload them to my Google docs to share and the whole format is messed up. I will upload those as soon as I can figure out what to do about it.

I think on one of my previous blogs, I had this brilliant idea to do a separate lesson plan for each subject. I got done with Math, Science, Social Studies and was working on Reading when I had a major meltdown about it.  I was looking forward to January and having a panic attack about bringing home all these separate binders because all my lesson plans were in them. I am rethinking the idea and will be working on it tonight. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Reading - last year I did a lot with Daily 5. I loved the structure and the kids did really well. They liked the choice time and knowing that they could do everything. I had six reading groups. I saw 3 everyday and my para saw 3 everyday. We did 4 rounds so everyone did a reading group and 3 of the daily 5 - read alone, writing, and word work. On Fridays we did read with partner. I also did centers, but sometimes I felt that I was forced and rushed. With Daily 5, I could be flexible with time. The only problem that I had with Daily 5 is that I wanted the kids to have time to put into practice what strategy that we were practicing and I found it difficult to monitor their success. In that aspect I wanted centers so that they would have practice time. 

A fellow teacher did a true reading workshop in the beginning to build up reading stamina and then slow introduced centers that were geared around the strategies. So the first part of her workshop was reading and response journals and then the second part was centers. I am not sure how I think that would work...It sounds a little too crazy for me...holding students accountable and also my self is important this year. 

Another teacher did something a little different. She had her mini lesson and then the students were dismissed to reading workshop. The students had to read 5 books, enter one of them into a reading log, respond to that one book in their reading response journal. Students would then get it checked by the para and then they could move onto centers. I can see myself doing this method, but I really don't want the para to be only sitting there and looking at work. I want her to be working with students and small groups during reading workshop/D5. See my problem...I can see Reading workshop working really well in my class, I can see D5 working, what do I do.

There are some non negotiables that I need to have in my classroom during reading...

Reading Response journals
Reading Log
Guided reading groups
Mini Lessons
Some sort of center...independent work

Maybe I should start with the non-negotiables...

Reading Response Journals and Reading Logs.
- students need to put at least one book in their reading log each day
- students need to have one entry in their reading response journal

How do I hold them accountable?
- weekly reading log in their folder?
- students need to turn in their logs and journals on Thursday. If their logs and journals are not completed to the standards on our anchor chart...they must work during read with partner and choice time?
- that seems like a lot of work for me on Thursdays...But it needs to be known that I will hold them accountable

Guided Reading Groups
- Last year it worked really well having 6 groups.
- my para this year has her teaching license so it will be a great thing having her with groups. I really want her with groups
- I am going to have weekly lesson plans for her as well as me to hold myself accountable with my instruction

Mini Lessons
- I already have 8 comprehension strategies that I want to teach this year
- I am planning to do one a month (which ends up to be about 3 weeks) each
- I want to have read alouds and each day progression planned 

- I will have word work stations
- I will have writing stations
- what about reading stations
      - I am just not sure what to do. is having work work and writing stations enough and then during reading time their journals are where they show me they understand?
     - guided reading - is this where students can show me and do some work with these strategies?
     - Friday reading stations?
     - what would be different in centers than what I would expect for reading response?
- What if...instead of reading centers, the area for maybe reading can be trays with reminder papers for each strategy that has been learned...ooohhh...I kind of like that idea. That way the students who are more independent can work in their reading response journals and the students who need more support have reminders and have that support.
- I also kind of like the idea of Friday Reading Centers

Who knows?

I am sitting here at the neighborhood pool watching my little guy learn to swim, thinking about what else, but school. I hope that I am not the only one with school on my brain all the time. Even now I am thinking about what's new at Target today that I can snatch up...what new downloads are there on Teachers Pay Teachers...any new ideas on Proteacher?...the list is endless. Blogs have been my new discovery this summer. I, myself, have been thinking about starting one so that I have a personal journey, but I had no idea that there were so many out there that were sharing the same struggles I am or that there were others out there who are...just out there!!!! It honestly has re-energized me and inspired me! So I have decided that I am not going to look at my to do list until next week. I am going to put it away and I am just going to get stuff done. As my grandma would say, I am going to keep chugging along and eventually it will get done.

Last night I did quite a few things...I would love to share them, but as I am still new to the whole blog thing, I am trying to figure out how. Any hits about that would be great. Today, I am just going to go into my make shift teacher room, grab a couple of things and just go do them...we will see how it works!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Where to Begin

Again, I have been thinking about where to start. School has been out for a month and I have been doing some work, but it doesn't seem to be organized and productive. I have made my countless to do lists, separated them into subjects, etc, but still not feeling productive. It doesn't help that my four year old is constantly asking me to build something, play a game, etc with him :)

My school is part of a large district, but we have been given the freedom to teach what we want, how we want. We are an arts integration school that uses an over arching theme to teach with. The school admin likes us to use backward design to complete our planning. I love teaching here, but sometimes the freedom to explore how to teach can be a little bit too much freedom for me so I would like to get more rigor back into my teaching.

There is a lot that I want to get done, so where do I begin? Lesson plans, year long curriculum planning, classroom map, ugh...have no idea.

The one goal I have is that I would like my room set up and organized before the last week in July when my family goes on vacation.Teachers have to return to school officially on August 10th and those days are filled with meetings, catching up, etc that I don't get a lot done. It would be fabulous to have most of all my big planning done before school starts. Just writing this gets me a little nervous. My heart is pumping and my head gets foggy...see this is the problem.

So I have about a month until my vacation (going to the lake with my parents). 30 do my to do list...

So the first thing on my list is the one that I have been putting off the longest:

  • Lesson plans/planning - 
    • I am thinking that I want to make a binder for each subject 
    • So each binder would contain - lesson plans for that subject, teaching materials, notes, etc
    • I would also like to have a general binder for daily routines, gradebook
    • curriculum map for the year
Did I also mention that I am taking a class this summer that is required by the district. I have been putting off the homework for that class as well. But for now, I am off to see Cars2 with the little guy...hope to get something done tonight!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A new beginning

So I am not sure what I am doing here. My husband asked me "who am I doing this for?" I guess I am doing this for myself. I have not been feeling that good for the past couple years - fibromyalsia, celiac's disease, thyroid issues. All of this has lead me to feel like a really crappy teacher. Recently I changed my meds and I am starting to feel like a brand new person. I have always wanted to journal, but haven't liked the paper pencil method. As a teacher, I am feeling like this is a new start to my career so I wanted to document what I am doing this year. There are a lot of changes that I want to make this year in my classroom, in my curriculum, and with my students so I am excited to have a history of my journey.

Thank you for joining me on my journey. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be writing about my curriculum, school, etc.