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.