Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Gingerbread Time!

Omyword this has been a cool week. I love love love this time of year. I have been celebrating all things Christmas since November first and now that we are past Thanksgiving the rest of the sane world has joined me. Yay!
Can I tell you how much I love Pandora and Youtube? Listening to music that matches my mood or the mood I want to be in is increĆ­ble! (I sit in on my students' Spanish class on Fridays so sometimes, on the weekends, I think in Spanglish.) Normally, I listen to Michael Buble (who I would marry in a heartbeat if he wasn't already married) but lately I have been playing my Straight No Chaser station, which is a male a cappella  group. They have a great Christmas Album and everything else they do is amazing as well. The music makes the mood of my classroom so light and happy. On Friday, we were in such a celebratory mood that after our normal assessments we had a Rebecca Black dance party. I played her "Friday" video on Youtube and we danced and let out our cheers for the weekend. My kids have the moves letmetellya!

Another reason why this is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (insert music) for me is because this is when I finally pull out my Gingerbread book collection. (They have been on display all year but I have not allowed the students to read them yet.) We do a story study and lots of gingerbread crafts and activities. My goal for the unit is for the students to recognize the pattern of the story. There are elements that are always the same and present and then there are variables to the stories. I have several versions of the story, some of the stories are more difficult and others are very simple to read. I love that I can differentiate like that. Last week and this week we have read through my collection and have discussed the changing and consistent elements in the stories. This week (just happened to be during a formal observation) the students were grouped in 3s to read and discuss an assigned version of the book. I made sure that one strong reader was in each group so that they could work without needing my help. Each group had to draw a story board to retell their version of the story. Then they had to present their project to the class. Great gravy they did a fantastic job! I couldn't believe the maturity my kids showed.
To be fair and give credit where credit is due, because it was an official observation, I made sure to have a detailed rubric for their group work and I previewed the everloving stew out of the group activity portion of the lesson. Also, I included an anticipation guide to be sure that text complexity was addressed in a very obvious way. My motives for doing all of these "extra" steps were self serving to be sure but I have to admit it made my students work harder and inquire deeper into what they were doing.
I almost cried when I came to one group who had just finished reading their version (step one on the rubric) and were going down the check list (rubric) discussing the specific questions on the list. This is what I saw and heard: student 1 - "Okay, so which character actually baked the Gingerbread Man?" Student 2 - "uh...THE LITTLE OLD LADY!" Student 3 - "correct!"
Then student 1 handed the book to student 2 and she asked the group another question about the book. They were using the comprehension checking skills that I use on them to determine if they are ready for an AR test. I am telling you there were actual tears in my eyes. That they are paying such close attention to what we do in class and can use the skills on their own without prompting from me makes me feel like a super star teacher.
The same process was pretty much taking place in each group and the end products were very high quality. Each group completed their rubric (which was a checklist and a self evaluation) and didn't even want to stop because they wanted to continue adding details to their story boards.
I started the year off by telling my students that I always get assigned the best students in the school and they are proving that statement to be true. I love my job! Can you tell?

Next week we will begin writing our own versions of the Gingerbread Man story and I will send them off to be published over the Christmas break. I am so excited to see what they write and to see the finished (professionally published) book! Also, we will be doing lots of fun activities like making cinnamon smelling gingerbread ornaments and designing and building gingerbread houses. I will post pictures next week. I wish everyone could experience the joy and magic that happens in a classroom.
Here are pictures of the Gingerbread Story Boards and the kids presenting. Also, I am including pictures of these cute snowman donuts we made during snack time one day. I got the idea from one of my teammates who got it from pinterest which my whole grade level team is obsessed with.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Wow, it has been a long time since I have posted. I have been really surprised at the feedback I am getting from my little blog. It is nice to hear that the things I go through as a teacher and the things I am learning are universal (at least in the education universe). Thanks to all of you who have emailed me, commented, or pulled me aside to say that you like what you are reading. I like sharing and I love the fact that I will be able to look back at this first year, in first grade, and remember the details and the important lessons that I am learning.

Speaking of lessons, because it has been over a month I have a lot to share. Whole Brain Teaching is still the miracle I have always thought it was. It has been such a neat experience to demonstrate some of the WBT strategies to the FSU education students who are always in my room observing. I try not to give these observers too much attention when I am teaching. Every now and then though, when my students are doing teach/ok or using words and gestures to retell, teach, or discuss a topic I will glance their way, usually to see big smiles and huge unbelieving eyes. I know they must be wondering where these things come from so I always tell them to look up Whole Brain Teaching because it will rock their teaching worlds.
We are now in the middle of the second nine weeks and oh my have we accomplished a lot. Even so it just makes me realize how fast the year goes by and how much work there is to be done so that ALL of my students are ready to move on to second grade. I am constantly looking for best teaching practices, especially on those subjects I feel that I am weak in. (Don't tell anybody but I am always wondering if I am missing the mark with writing.) Towards the end of the first nine weeks I found something called Four Square Writing and once again fell in love. This organization strategy has helped my students so much. They are writing such thoughtful paragraphs.
In the past couple of weeks my students have really demonstrated just how much they are growing in reading. Even those students who I was concerned about at the beginning of the year are eager to come up to the smart board to read and move the correct word into a cloze sentence.
They all want to be teachers. That is our thing. Every day during my reading lesson I tell the students I need a teacher (this is someone who shows leadership by being focused even when it is not their turn). I will choose one student at a time to come and teach part of the lesson. They do a fantastic job and love every minute of it. I love that learning can be fun!

So, because I don't want to write a novel today I will end this post by telling you about our Thanksgiving Friendship Feast. This activity was something that I promoted for a couple of weeks. Everyone wanted to know what it was and what we would be doing. I like suspense so I gave very little information until the day of the event. I asked all of the students to bring in a fruit to contribute to our Friendship Fruit Salad (of course I had extra just in case). Last week we began learning about the Pilgrims (or Planters as they called themselves) and the Amer-Indians who helped them. On Monday, we took a virtual field trip to Plymouth. On Tuesday, we focused on the Wampanaog tribe and their involvement in the "first" Thanksgiving. We even made headdresses with one feather like the tribe used to wear and I gave all of the students authentic Amer-Indian names. We discussed at length the importance of people helping each other and how a community thrives when they can work together in peace and with generosity and kindness. A perfect lesson for this time of the year when the students are restless and can be a bit self-centered and unkind to each other. At the end of the day on Tuesday (the last day before Thanksgiving break) each student added his or her fruit offering to the salad and we made our Friendship Fruit Salad. We waited until all were served (a great social lesson) and then each student had an opportunity to share what they were thankful for. Then we had fellowship as we ate. (The students really liked the fruit which made my heart sing because I have been promoting healthy snack options all year long.)

This activity lesson was so powerful and successful that it is going in my tool box as a Thanksgiving staple lesson plan. The conversations during our feast were so sweet and kind that I couldn't stop smiling and any stress I had been feeling about paperwork, grades, and other organization/administration duties melted away. It was such an honor to experience these moments with my students and it just made me realize once again how much I love being a teacher and that I am absolutely in the right place.
Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy the photos!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It is so good to be back on track in the classroom. I usually write about the week as it is just finished but this week I am going to write about my Monday. If you teach in Florida you know all about the FAIR test and how time consuming it can be. At my school we get a substitute for one day so that we can get all of the testing done quickly. Well my testing day was on Monday. What a strange thing it is to be in the classroom but not be in control of what is happening.
In the morning before the students arrived I was able to explain some of my classroom procedures to the substitute. I had everything written out for her in my sub plans but I wanted to make sure she understood how I run my classroom. It can be so disruptive for someone to come and disregard your classroom procedures, not to mention it is unsettling for the students.

I run my classroom the whole brain way so in about 5 minutes she got a tutorial on WBT. I told her about class/yes and the line procedures. I also explained that I don't have numbers to pull or colors to change for "bad" behavior. I told her that in my classroom I take the time to teach my students how to make smart choices. We talk about the choices they are making. If they are not following the rules I ask them about the rule they are breaking and then ask them to fix the problem. They always know what they need to fix and usually know exactly how to fix it. I believe that by having them think about their actions and then immediately fix a problem they are learning how to behave in society without facing negative consequences at every turn. I told her about my experiences with children who would always go home on red or yellow and who never demonstrated changed behavior. They were not learning how to identify and fix their behavior mistakes and negative choices. I tend to get very passionate about this subject and can ramble on. Well I talked so much that I forgot to tell her about the score board.
I am still amazed at how well the day went. The substitute did a great job of using the whole brain strategies that I told her about. My class is well trained and responded to her as if she were me. All day long I heard class, class, class/yes,yes,yes (she said class a lot each time, I think she liked it.) My students used soft voices, were engaged during instruction, completed their work, and demonstrated respect. When the students did not follow the rules she would ask them what the broken rule was and have them correct their error.
I was able to finish my testing (except for two absent students.) Wow wow wee wow! I still can't believe that I was able to test all day long without intervening to correct behavior or to remind the students to show the sub respect.
After the day ended the substitute and I discussed the day. Of course she had questions about Whole Brain Teaching. I told her all I could in a short amount of time and then told her to look it up because it would rock her world. We talked further about the differences in two styles of management: negative consequences (pulling numbers or changing colors) and WBT. In my classroom I am never taking away things from my students. I am always giving. Even if they need reminding to follow the rules or to show respect they get a point. Okay, it goes on the sad face side of the scoreboard but still they are receiving. Also, if they need more reminders (a more personal approach) they earn laps around the playground. This idea of always giving has done a wonderful thing for me. It has given me a sense of peace. I am never mad at my students so I never take things away out of anger. The substitute commented that she noticed she was calmer in my classroom than in other rooms. Her positive day makes me smile every time I think about it. And when I think about the fact that she did not use the scoreboard all day long my smile gets bigger. My students rock! Whole Brain Teaching rocks! I love the successes that are happening in my classroom every week! First grade rocks!!!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Well this past week was a humdinger of a week. On the Friday before last I ended up in the hospital having to have surgery on my stomach. I am just fine but needless to say I am sore. Because the surgery was not that invasive I went back to work on Monday and resumed my normal routines (sort of). I wouldn't even be writing about my surgery except for the fact that there were some repercussions in the classroom. Because they cut through my abdomen I am still very sore and during the week it was pretty bad at times. It was hard to sit down and then stand up. It was difficult to bend over to help the students at their desks, forget about getting down on the floor with them like I usually do. Carrying anything heaver than my beloved Tervis Tumbler was painful. Walking around the campus with the students was something I dreaded every day around lunch time. Another effect was that it was difficult to take deep breaths and in turn I was unable to speak very loudly in my teacher voice. Not being heard is frustrating. That is the reason I am even writing about my surgery/recovery experience. This week was frustrating.
Since school began I have been running my class as a whole brain class. The students are already conditioned to respond to certain call/response commands. We are loud (yet controlled), we move around a lot and use big gestures when we learn, and I am goofy and animated when I teach (I will do anything to keep their attention so they can learn). Well I this week all I could actually think about was my pain. Thank God for whole brain teaching because without that I would have been even more stressed out. That being said, the week still was rough. I found myself using class/yes in a desperate way. My voice was so soft that not everyone could hear the first time I would say class, so I would have to repeat it a couple of times. In my pain and discomfort, the fact that I was having to repeat something (that they usually did so well) made me feel out of control which made me feel emotional. Emotions in the classroom are bad um k. I love my students and think about them often but having emotional reactions to behavior is absolutely the wrong (most unproductive) way to handle things. I am not certain if this was an appropriate way to handle my lack of emotional control but I just talked to my kids about it. I told them how I was hurting and we talked about the surgery. They seemed to understand why I was different this week and for the most part the did what they could to control themselves and help me out. Still. our normally productive, fun loving, energetically controlled classroom was a mess. I did the best I could but I wasn't my best and neither were they. Sweet little angels that they are.
So my point for this week's post is that the Whole Brain Teaching Method is a wonderful tool that has changed my teaching world and makes my class more exciting than ever, but it is only a tool. My classroom management really comes down to me. Wow the responsibility. If I am not at my best the students will not be at their best. Some of my most well behaved students, you know the ones who always want to please, lost their minds this week. I was not doing a good job of controlling myself and they picked up on that. 
I didn't realize that using my microphone would help until Thursday (duh). When I put that thing on immediately the usual classroom atmosphere returned and there was peace. Isn't if funny how much the voice is involved in teaching. Tone and volume matter. With the mic I no longer sounded desperate. I sounded in control and calm and it didn't hurt to project my voice. I wish I had remembered that tool on Monday. Oh well.
Next week should be better, because I have had the weekend to plan and I am now caught up on all the little things that get left behind when you miss two days. Also, I am feeling better so I am sure I will be back to my old self by Monday. Next week is Johnny Appleseed week, we are going to have a blast! We might even do apple bobbing.
On Friday I told my students "You have lost your minds. Please find them, pick them up and put them back in your heads before Monday. We have too much to do and we can't be wasting our time running around without our brains in our heads." They think it is so funny when I say that because then they get to go around  looking for their "brains" and picking them up and putting them in their heads. Gotta love the imaginations of 6 year olds. I love my job and am so thankful that I can reflect and get better at each week.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I have been thinking about something for a few days so I thought I would write about it just to get my thoughts down.
When I make a mistake and am reprimanded I feel awful. I am talking about a mistake, not something done intentionally to hurt or anger someone or something. I can't concentrate on anything else but the reprimand. Negative thoughts and self talk swirl around in my head and I can forget about concentrating on anything else. Also, it takes me a long time before I feel normal around the person giving the reprimand.
A friend of mine was reprimanded in a very unprofessional way the other day. She had not done anything wrong but was being blamed for something because she was around to take the blame. The person doing the reprimanding did not think about her own reaction to the situation, it was clear that she was angry, embarrassed, and probably felt vulnerable. She yelled, pointed her finger, belittled, and bullied my friend with out any regard to the truth of the situation, the bystanders listening, my friends feelings or the employee/employer relationship. Basically she trampled all over my friend's dignity.
Can anyone guess what the outcome was? Well, if I were in my friends shoes I would have done all of the things I mentioned above because that is how my personality works. My friend, however, does not let anyone walk all over her and she (fortunately in private) gave it back to her boss. She had to try to repair her dignity. That is how we humans work.
This incident makes me think of my students. As a human I get stressed, I think about several things at once, multitask, and want perfection. All of these traits can easily cause me to react without thinking in the event of a mistake made by a student. I will be the first to admit that I have not always reacted well to student mistakes like breaking something, making a mess, hitting another student, or whatever it may have been. I have always known that a big negative reaction from me will lead to a big negative reaction from my students but I have not always had the ability to control myself enough to not lash out verbally or by giving every consequence I could think of. Does "change your color, I am calling your mother, you will not have recess and put your head down" sound familiar to anyone. (Wow I am ashamed to even write those things down.) Everyone of those consequences is negative and does not actually teach behavior or thought change. It may have made me feel better in the moment but I think it had little effect on the behavior. In fact I know that is true because those behaviors that "needed" those consequences did not go away so each day I would find myself doleing them out day after day after day.
I am reminded of a wonderful professor that I had, Dr. Bruno, who taught me to stop and look for the cause of a behavior instead of the symptom. When I do this my emotions are not involved and usually I can correct the mistake by teaching the student how to deal with or change the problem.
I am so blessed to have discovered the brilliance of Whole Brain Teaching. Instead of spending my day policing my students and getting them back for not falling in line, I teach. I use the score board to help my students monitor their own behavior. They know my rules well and take it to heart when I remind them of rule 4 (make smart choices). They put their finger to their head and mouth the rule and then nod at like they understand that their previous choice was not smart and that next time will be different. Since I have been using this system, instead of having students change their color for every infraction I simply remind them of the rules and mark a sad face on the scoreboard. This helps them see that their behavior is not appropriate and needs to change. (Alternately when they make good choices they get a smiley.)  I have not had to raise my voice or resort to any of the consequences I mentioned earlier. This is what I know - the change is not in the students, the change is in me. I control how I react by putting myself in their shoes. I would not want to be embarrassed, out casted, told I was "bad", or to think I was not liked. I would rather know what I have done wrong and how I can do better in the future. That is how I want to be treated and how I would treat an adult. Why would I treat my students differently?
Holy moley does this work!                 

Whole Brain Teaching
Five Rules

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Grade Writing

For as long as I have been studying education I have been baffled by teaching writing. For each grade level that I have taught I have wondered where to begin and what the students' writing should look like. I have tried several approaches and it has been the topic of most of my questions to fellow teachers. Still I felt like there were pieces missing and that although I was trying hard there were gaps. I have never taught Fourth grade so I have never felt the Florida Writes stress that so many educators and administrators are concerned with. However, knowing that one day my students would face this I want to make sure that they would do well by laying a solid writing foundation. This has been my concern and goal, but until this year I was just unsure of what to do.
This year my school is using a curriculum called CRAFTPLUS. I love it! CRAFTPLUS teaches target skills that will turn the students in to great writers and will allow them to be creatively free. The teacher's guide is so easy to read and understand. It does not make you jump from one page or book to another. All of the information is right there in a thin book (that is important when you have so much to do). The pacing guide is more like lesson plans laid out for you. In fact I don't even see a need in writing my own lesson plans because they do such a great job of laying it out. With this curriculum comes a pacing guide (lesson plans) for every day of the school year. WOW! Each week the focus changes and my favorite part is how well it scaffolds the information. After a three day weekend my students were able to tell me about everything we learned last week, even the ones who struggle to focus. Last week was all about verbs and this week they are learning about descriptive attributes. We had so much fun describing our Leo the Lion puppet. Isn't it a beautiful thing when students are jumping out of their seats wanting to contribute to the lesson?
Another reason I really like CRAFTPLUS is that the lessons cause the students to use higher order thinking. For example, last week they were writing sentences using verbs. I gave them pictures from a magazine and they had to write three sentences (I added a little bit to the lesson). Each sentence had to include a verb that matched the picture. Not every picture showed an big action, some verbs were as simple as smiling, or holding. Its easy to come up with running or kicking but they had to think deeper to come up with three verbs for one picture. The sentences were complete and orderly and they all had verbs. Even those students who are not yet strong in writing complete sentences did a great job. It was magical. This year I am loving my writing class!
Oh and by the way, the curriculum is complete but you can easily add your own teaching style and favorite writing activities. I love feeling like I know what I am doing and that I am doing it well. Watch out for those 4s, 5s, and 6s on our end of year writing assessment!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What an incredible week in first grade! My firsties are so cute, smart, and creative. I can already tell that we are going to accomplish so much this year and have a great time along the way.  It is a world of difference from kindergarten. This year my students came in knowing how to "do" school. We were able to get started right away, we just jumped into our routines and curriculum and made a splash. I am so impressed with how Whole Brain Teaching impacts my classroom. By the end of the first day my students knew all of my rules and the hand gestures that go with them. I was able to say to them Class (Yes), rule # 2 and they would say the rule (in chorus) while using the gestures. It was so beautiful. When a student momentarily forgot the rule about asking permission to leave his seat I  just said "so and so, remember rule number 3" and he did the gesture and said the rule to himself and went back to his seat to raise his hand. This happened over and over again. I never had to raise my voice to get the attention of my students. All I had to do was say "Class" and they would respond with "YES". It is so simple, yet powerful. I guess that is why they used to call it POWER Teaching.
I am really happy that I did not fall into the usual pattern of handing out tangible rewards for expected behaviors. My go to management trick used to be giving skittles or some other candy to my students as rewards for good behavior or a job well done. In my heart I never liked the idea of doing this for a few reasons. The first reason is that it establishes a model of unhealthy choices -- "when I do something good I get to have something sweet to eat." The second reason that I never felt comfortable with handing out candy as a reward is that it teaches the students that "when I do what I am supposed to do I will always get something in return." Life does not work that way. We should do our tasks and follow social protocols to the best of our abilities because that is the best way to live in society. In short, giving out candy and other tangible rewards (as a policy) sends the wrong message and I am so glad that I never have to resort to that way of running a classroom again. FREEDOM!!!
If you are wondering what I did instead of giving out candy I will tell you. I used the scoreboard. On my white board I drew a T-Chart with a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other. I simply told my students that if they have more happy faces than sad faces they would get to play a game at the end of the day (fun academic review). They totally bought into this idea and loved the fact that they could shout "OH YEAH" every time they got a happy face and could groan loudly when they got a sad face. If I saw that the students were making smart choices (rule #4) and on task they got a happy face. If any of the students were not following the rules or if they were not participating they got a sad face. This system is based on a collective effort. They all benefit from each other's successes and are effected when someone strays from the rules. This creates an environment of Positive Behavior Support, because the students are encouraging each other to do well. My class is not a class of Teacher vs. Student it is a class where everyone works together to accomplish a collective goal: Success.
I was able to set up many of the WBT strategies this week including Teach/Okay, Ten Finger "Woo" and It's Cool. I will be sure to write about those strategies in future posts because they too are amazing. If you are interested or curious about Whole Brain Teaching go check it out, its FREE!

Here are the promised pictures of my finished classroom. Remember, I did not spend any money this year to get my room ready. 
FACE board for reading strategies

From Giraffes Can't Dance our first book study of the year.

Smart Board, Calendar Math wall, Letters, and Meeting area.

Math wall for math vocabulary and symbols.

Teacher corner for work groups, student computers, science wall and my Ginger Bread Man Collection.

Cubbies, birthday wall, student work table, and behind the green curtains are telephones for partner reading.

Language Arts wall with High Frequency words, Vocabulary words, Book/Author study info, Reading Theme and books. The book shelf is very messy after the first week. Next week  I will have to spend time establishing procedures for "checking" out classroom books and keeping the area clean. :)

Class schedule, bathroom, and Ms. King's sink. The students use the bathroom sink to wash their hands and the water fountain just outside of our door to drink from. Also they are allowed to keep water bottles in their cubbies. This is my effort to not get sick this year, we shall see.

Turn it in baskets. The pink one is for notes and pictures that the students make for me.

Table buckets. One side is for reading books and the other side is work work folders, pencils and crayons. They caught on so quickly and each day they stayed organized and clean. Hope that lasts!

Portable Center Buckets

Class rules from Whole Brain Teaching

Score Board

Class rules and WBT signs. My Ginger Bread Man Collection.

Our Colorful Caterpillar helps us count the school days.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

 I have spent the last week in my wonderful and bright new classroom. I arranged the furniture, put up bulletin boards, created center areas and a variety of other small things that make a class room a classroom. It was so nice to be able to go in to my room a week before planning week and get a jump on things. I find that the more preparation I have invested in a project the less stress I feel later. I know that next week will be busy but I don't have to worry about that because I have already done all the heavy lifting.

I am so excited about this coming year. Last year I discovered two awesome movements that really work well together. The first one is Whole Brain Teaching. I was frantically looking for better ways to manage my classroom full of outgoing personalities and I just didn't like the "change your color" approach. In fact I distinctly remember disliking that approach in college.That is what is done so that is what I did, until I found WBT. Whole Brain Teaching has changed my teaching life. Where I was getting tired of constantly being the kindergarten police, I can now enjoy students making positive choices and policing themselves.

At this point I am sure you want to know more about Whole Brain Teaching so I am going to add a link to their website. I encourage you to check it out. It will revitalize your teaching life and encourage you to be more creative and fun in the classroom. Not to mention you will be able to teach more content because you will have more time and your students will be primed with base knowledge. It is awesome and I get so excited every time I talk about it. My family is probably tired of hearing about it but it rocks the house! Oh and by the way all of the information and most of the materials are FREE and you know I love that!

The next amazing movement that I discovered is The Daily Five. I have seen a lot of postings about The Daily Five and CAFE and I love that so many teachers are using this. I am sure that I "discovered" it by blog stalking. So, The Daily Five teaches students to become independent and self evaluating during reading/language arts time. The cool thing is that they learn the word stamina and it carries over to every other part of the school day. Before I started using TDF my students couldn't sit still for 5 minutes before someone had to use the bathroom or get water or was bleeding (from a book I have now idea how). After I began to use The Daily Five my students were able to sit for at least 20 minutes reading to themselves. I am talking about kindergartners here! It was so amazing that I knew The Daily Five would become a permanent part of my teaching tool box. It doesn't stop with reading to self, after that you implement read to someone else, then work on writing, work on words/spelling or listen to reading. These five things become your center time and the beauty is that every student is engaged for the entire time and the teacher can conduct meaningful small groups. Ahhh, doesn't that feel good!

So because of those two movements I just can't wait to get started and to see how far my students can go. I love teaching, but it is so much more fun when you have solid tools that work for you and that you can be consistent with. Check out these two sites and let me know what you think!

Hallway wall where I will hang student work.
Welcome to Ms. King's Room!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ok. I have just a few days until I move into my new room. I am going nuts with all the ideas swirling around in my head. Not being able to do anything about it is hard and I am getting impatient. Today I found myself looking in a store for classroom stuff and filling my basket full of fun goodies. Then it dawned on me that I have no idea what I need. I haven't been in my classroom yet, I haven't met with my new team yet, and I have not a clue as to what is in my new mystery closet. I do this every year. I get so excited about "back to school" time that I shop and shop and shop for my classroom and future students. Well, as I was walking down the isle with my heavy shopping basket I decided that I would try something different this year. I put everything back and began to develop a plan. My goal for the next two weeks is to really dig through my boxes of "teacher stuff" and determine what I can use for this year. I am going to try to spend nothing, that's right zero dollars, on getting my room ready. As soon as I decided this I got panicky and started thinking that I need to amend the zero dollar bottom line for the important things like fabric. Can we say shopaholic? I had to calm myself down and tell myself NO. I hope to stay strong in this endeavor but we shall see. I see it as a treasure hunt and when I put it that way it sounds kind of fun and challenging. This will cause me to really think through everything I have in my room and to be really creative with what I already have (and what my family and friends have).Oh yeah those of you in my immediate circle we aware that I might be calling on you to donate that fabric if it comes down to it. :)

Here is a list my top 5 favorite ideas for this new school far.

1. Babbling Abby's opening act (morning work) bulletin board
2. Erica Bohrer's list of things for students to do when work is completed
3. Mrs. Vandyke’s Hollywood classroom theme
4. From The School Bell - Having an interactive words wall. Songs, chants, cheers, and lots of fun repetition.
5. Whole Brain Teaching Homework Model – students may chose to do 1, 2, or 3 star homework. Each star adds a level of difficulty (emphasizing writing). The next day the whole class receives 1- 3 points for each completed homework assignment. On Friday if the class has enough points they get to play “mind soccer” which is a fast paced review game. I can’t wait to try this!

Monday, August 1, 2011

The journey to now.

This past school year I was one of those new-ish teachers that was not offered a new contract before school ended. These are strange times in the world of education. I never thought for an instant that being a teacher would not be a stable career. I always imagined that I would find a job at a wonderful school and stay there for years and years. I imagined that my former students would come back to visit me just like I visited my old teachers. So far that has not been the case for me. This year will be my fourth year teaching and each year has brought with change, experience and growth (not always easily I might add). When I graduated, I could not wait to get into a classroom. I searched high and low for a teaching position and finally found one in Central Florida, so I moved away from my hometown and embarked on my new career. My first gig there was to be the ESE inclusion teacher for kindergarten through fifth grades. Yikes! This was a large task for a brand new teacher, but I enjoy a challenge and met it head on. The next year though I asked to be moved into the ESE self contained room for K-2. I loved those precious children and was so excited every time they would demonstrate academic or social growth. They are still in my heart. However, I was not content in Central Florida (even though my besties live there) so I moved back to my hometown to be near my family. My next teaching job was in kindergarten. It was so much fun and I learned so much about my teaching style and classroom management. I had some great mentors, thanks Jan and Alba.
This year I will be in a new school teaching first grade. I am over the moon excited about this new placement.  I loved my old school and probably would have reapplied after teacher transfer day if I had not already been hired. I know that God arranged it all for me because if I had not already been given the new job I would have wanted to go back to where I had been and was comfortable. This new thing is going to be an adventure for sure but I have such a peace about this year. I know it's gonna rock!
We have 3 weeks before the students come back to school and I am so anxious to get into my new room and get started. I have been pouring over other teacher blogs and have learned about some great ideas. I will post my top five favorites soon.