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Monday, August 19, 2013

A Nice Reminder

A teacher friend of mine shared a blog post this morning that I thought was a great reminder for every teacher before we all go back to school.  It is easy to get caught up in the hussle and bussle of the new year and making sure that everything is perfect but in the end it is the everyday small conversations that the kids remember.  We need to be careful (especially in kindergarten where the kids are in a new big school) what we say and how we say it.  We also need to remember that this is a scary time for them, especially in September.  The biggest lesson that I took from this blog was that it is just as, if not more traumatic for the parents to let go of their child for the first time.  They don't want them to grow up and fell like their 'baby' is leaving them. I need to take as much time easing them into the year as I do the children.

I hope you all take a moment to read this wonderful blog post and I hope you all have a fantastic school year!!!

http://kylenebeers.com/blog/2012/08/20/why-i-hated-merediths-first-grade-teacher-an-open-letter-to-americas-teachers/ 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back to school shopping

So, like most teachers, I was in a bunch of stores buying stuff for my classroom today.  I always know what stores will have certain items the cheapest which of course means a lot of running around but it saves me a ton of money.  I overheard a conversation and was wondering how many teachers have heard the same thing.

I went to Walmart because they have boxes of Crayola crayons for 25 cents at some point in August and they also have 2 packs of glue sticks for 50 cents (which will go down eventually but I have a hard time waiting).  I had my cart full of supplies for my students and I walked up to an open register.  Of course, I was feeling bad because I am one of those "crazy teachers" that has 50 2 packs of glue sticks (I swear the kids eat them) and 25 pencil boxes etc and I know people get mad when they get behind me in line.  I looked up and saw this mother with her young son buying his school supplies.  The mom looked at me then looked at her son and I hear her whisper "that's just too bad".  I of course assumed she was talking about her getting in line behind the crazy teacher with all of her supplies. lol I kept adding my stuff to the pile so she didn't know that I was still listening.  I then heard the boy say "what's too bad, mom?"  and her response shocked me.  She said "I can tell that she is a teacher and I think that it is really sad that she has to spend her own money on her classroom supplies".

I was surprised because I didn't think anyone but teachers knew how much we buy for our classes.  Most of the time people just say "What a great job, you get the summers off and get to play all day."  This mother showed me that some parents know how much we put in to our jobs...energy....love....passion...money etc.

So my question is...have any of you gotten comments or questions while back to school shopping this year?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Break Time


Wow, I can’t believe it is already August and we are beginning to get in to school mode.  The summer always seems to fly by!  Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed, tired and stressed out.  It could be due to the fact that I doubled up on my grad school classes this summer (taking four instead of two) or it could be due to the massive amounts of bridal showers, baby showers, weddings or even working my second job.  I decided that before school gets back in to full force that I need to take a moment to get away with some friends.  So I put the technology away, packed up my car, picked up my girlfriends and headed to Newport, RI for some rest and relaxation.  We had a weekend trip in the middle of the week which was perfect!  I didn’t worry about what I was missing and just stayed in the moment for the two days.  We were able to enjoy sunsets like this:



It was the perfect moment in a hectic summer!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Two Column Notes


So last year, some teachers in my school (including me) decided to get together and form a writing curriculum group.  We wanted to focus on writing because we felt that our literacy curriculum was lacking in this area.  With the Common Core coming in full force we wanted to make sure we were properly aligned.  We started out by deciding on one graphic organizer that we could use from kindergarten to fifth grade. This was a difficult task since some were very difficult for kindergartners to use.  We used to use the four square method which was extremely difficult for kindergarten and first grade to use because they couldn’t follow it.  I was thrilled that my coworkers worked with the kindergarten team to make sure that the new organizer worked for us. They are now realizing that if we start them off using it in kindergarten then it will be second nature by the time they got to MCAS grades.  Through many hours of discussion and trials and error within our classes we decided on using two column notes.  Now at first, some might not think that this would be easy for kindergarteners but let me just tell you that it is.  The kids are learning how to read so going from left to right and top to bottom made sense for them.  At the beginning of the year, I will write the sentence and have them draw the picture on the left.  Then, move on to putting the sentence starter on the left and having the students fill in the sentence on the right.  Towards the end of the year, the students would be writing the whole sentence by themselves and it would be set up more like a paragraph.  Using this type of graphic organizer helped the kids be able to write a full paragraph by the end of the school year.  They also loved learning how they could use it in all aspects of our curriculum.
We then moved on to make a pacing guide for the whole school.  We noticed that in the Common Core each grade was expected to write the same writing styles so we made a universal guide.  We also got together as grade level teams and came up with rubrics that we would use for their writing pieces.  

Last year, I was only able to implement two column notes halfway through and I was amazed at how much it helped.  I am very excited to use this graphic organizer from the start and see how far the kids can go!  I will post pictures throughout the year of their work so you can see how impressive these kiddos are.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Literacy Changes


For the past eight years, our district's literacy program was Trophies which like most programs was good in some areas and lacked in others.  We found that we needed to supplement materials in order to make the program work with our full day kindergarten classes. As sat down to align Trophies to the Common Core we realized that it was going to be a bigger task than we signed up for.  The Trophies program would need non-fiction stories and new guided reading books along with other materials.

So our district decided (after a few schools piloted it for a year), that we were going to get Journeys which was already Common Core aligned.  I am excited and nervous about this change.  Not having to align an out-of-date program is exciting but not knowing the new program is nerve-wracking.  I am going into this upcoming year, knowing that, like most programs, Journey's will probably lack in an area or two but that's o.k.  I am looking forward this year to come so I can dive into all that Journey's has to offer!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Classroom Organization

So today while I was sitting on the beach trying to relax and enjoy my summer I began to think about school and new ways to organize my classroom.  I feel that it is really important to keep my class organized both because it is small, but also, so the kids and myself can find things and put things away easily.  I don't want any distractions for the kids while they are learning and I love the look of a cohesive class.  I'll be honest when it comes to my room (unlike my house), I am a little OCD.  Below is one way that I found to organize my Math manipulatives, craft stuff (both in the pink and blue boxes) and misc. things (like plates, spoons, snacks etc) in the poke dot baskets.


Below is a way that I organized my copies/lessons for the week.  I took two of the plastic 12x12 drawers (that are often on sale in Aug) and did labels for the days of the week.  This picture only shows one set (Mon.-Wed.) but I have another one that goes under this one that has Thursday, Friday and Extra Work (for fast finishers).  I love these drawers! It keeps me organized and allows me to not be bogged down with copies.  Plus, allows everything to be in one place if I am ever out sick.

So I made the drawers and then needed to have a plan book to match.  I told you I was a little OCD when it comes to my room. lol I used to buy a plan book every year but I have moved on to a three ring binder.  I made a template on my computer with my specialist and lunch times on them which I print out a month at a time.  I keep going back and forth between typing up my lessons then printing it or writing in the lessons so it can be easily changed or moved.  It saves me time from having to write in the same stuff every week.  We all know we are always looking for ways to save time.  At the front of the binder I have sub information, specialist schedule written out on one paper and monthly calendars for special events.  Everyone has their own way but I thought I would share the way that works for me.


I still haven't settled on a way to organized my many bookshelves but I will keep you updated.

Happy summer!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Connecting Parents to the Classroom

Like most teachers, I am always looking for new ways to connect parents to what we are doing in class.  I do a newsletter at the beginning of every month in paper form but I would like to do something online on a more daily or weekly basis.  I know there are sites out there like Edmodo but I am wondering if anyone has every used them and if so what are the pros and cons of it?



https://www.edmodo.com