Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Classroom Almost Done

 I got A LOT done in my room yesterday and today. I would have gotten a lot more completed if it weren't for the earthquake?!? I'm just glad I was in my room without students and that everyone is safe!

Here is a picture of my whole group area from the door. I'm so excited for this carpet because I am going to assign each of my students a seat according to their class number. I just love how the carpet has squares already on it, which makes it easy to define personal space and send children back to their seats. ("Everyone sitting on a purple square may go back to their seat.")

I have also moved my word wall to the front of the whiteboard. I rarely write on the whiteboard so I figured this would be a better use of space. I love the mini red pocket chart attached with velro on the front of the big book/chart paper stand. I plan on using this when I introduce whole group sorts.

The main feature in the front of the room are my student mailboxes. I am embracing student numbers this year, which has allowed me to pre-label a lot of things in my room before actually getting my class list. Hopefully I will finish up on Thursday, before teachers must be back for training on Monday. More pictures to come!

Teacher Talk Tuesday!

I'm joining the Linky party over at Blog Hoppin'. As a teacher entering my third year teaching first grade, I'm not sure I'm the best person to ask for advice; on the other hand, it's amazing what you can learn in a relatively short time! And I'm so happy to help new teachers because I was just there. Here are my words of wisdom to a new teacher:

1. It is easier to start the year off with a stricter face, and then back down later in the year then it is to start off too nice and have to tighten the reigns later in the year. I'm not saying you need to be mean, but I have found it useful to be direct, clear, and business like from Day 1. 

2. It is important to build trust with your students. Take the extra time to do a Morning Meeting each day and don't cut out the team bonding activities. I find it useful to do a few of these games throughout the week, especially in the beginning of the year. It is crucial that your students trust you as well as each other. I tell my students I trust them (until they give me a reason not to) and love them all the time. The First Six Weeks of School is a great resource for new teachers because it gives example lesson plans for the first 6 weeks of school. These 6 weeks are the crucial window where you need to spend a lot of time teaching routines and procedures. I highly recommend this book for all new teachers!

3. Sit down and right out your policies and procedures for each part of the day before school starts. Over at Clutter Free Classroom you can find a great resource to help teachers think about all of the different elements in a day that require specific procedures and expectations. After you write your own procedures manual, take the time to plan out direct lessons where you model and reinforce each of them. It takes some front loading, but I promise it will make your life easier!

4. Laugh with you students! I have found kids love to see their teacher's true personality. I'm big on sharing feelings so students see that their actions affect those around them, even their teacher! It's amazing how good a child feels when their teacher smiles at them!

I have loved writing this entry because it is nice to reflect on the things you have learned. It's easy to get bogged down in all the aspects of teaching you have yet to perfect. But I suppose "perfect" may never happen! 

To see the other linky entries hop on over to Blog Hoppin!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

These are a few of my favorite things!

After spending the better part of today revamping the look of my blog, I figured I should post something to make my time worth while! Yesterday I received my alumni magazine from JMU. I usually flip through it causally and then toss it, but the cover story for this issue immediately caught my eye. It read "Resucing Young Readers: How one JMU grad student, a professor and an elementary school faculty are removing roadblocks." I read the story, which outlined how one professor is working with a local school district to implement RtI (Response to Intervention) across the district. I began researching the professor mentioned in the story and of course ended up a million clicks away from where I initially began. {Side Note: I'm a research junkie and love to see what people are studying and consequently finding out in real classrooms. We are all researchers in our own studies every year as we look at different problems in our classroom and try to find the most effective way to solve the problem.} Anyways, back to what this post is about. Here are some of the resources that I found while I was checking out the JMU study. It prompted me to write this entry about some of my favorite resources, both new and old,  as we embark on a new school year.
  • I am currently reading Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire by Rafe Esquith. Although he teaches 5th grade, he understands and is very up front about the challenges that teachers are facing today, especially in urban school settings. This is a great book for a younger teacher to read because he illustrates through his own teaching experiences that becoming an effective educator takes a great deal of time and in fact a good teacher never feels like they have reached perfection. It's okay to do things the wrong way before you figure out the more effective way. He says, "That's the beauty of the job: You can learn from your mistakes. You can get better. In the process you may even stumble upon precious moments that can allow your students to soar higher then they ever thought possible." Last year I often let my failures get the best of me. As frustrating as this can be for a young teacher with a Type A personality like myself, it is important to remember to focus on the small moments of success. Based on my three years of teaching I can definitely see how eventually these moments add up into a rich collection of experiences. And experiences just take time. I am loving this book right now and feel it is a must read for new teachers as we start a new school year!
  • Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning {Vanderbilt University}I found the "Teachers/Caregivers" tab to be especially helpful. There are scripted stories for teaching certain social situations, tools for working on emotions and tips for developing behavior support plans. If you read my earlier posts, then you know that I am desperate need of integrating a social skills program into my daily lessons. I think this website out of Vanderbilt combined with my Making Meaning program might be a great combination!
  • While I'm posting about helpful websites I've come across this summer, I figured I would also share this document created by my aunt. She is a fantastic veteran teacher and created this quick guide to routines that can make transition time and management a breeze. She reviews some basic attention getters, especially great for newer teachers. This was helpful for me to read over and remember how explicit I need to be. 
  •  I LOVE the Florida Center for Reading Research site. Do you all use this? It is a great resource with tons of ideas and printable reading activities. They have activities that are great for student centers and hit on phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. I like this site because on days when I'm not feeling super creative, they already have materials prepared for just about everything. Just print on colored paper, laminate and voila!
 That's all for now. Up tomorrow... writing my policies and procedures manual!