Thursday, August 30, 2012

Inquiry & Science Professional Development

As some of you know I recently was lucky enough to attend the NSTA's conference in Indianapolis this past March. To read more about the sessions I attended, including the great one I mentioned at staff development yesterday (where the anchor charts came from) here.

Yesterday I presented at our district-wide professional development. The big buzz in science right now, both at NSTA and the Virginia Department of Education's summer institute is inquiry. Teaching science as inquiry can be very exciting for the students, but often overwhelms teachers. Especially elementary teachers who may already be pressed for time. My presentation touches on a few tips to move your science classroom more towards inquiry:

1. Consider starting off each science unit with an inquiry lesson. This will not only hook your students and make the rest of the unit more interesting, but you will also get great data on where your kids currently are with that standard.

2. Encourage dialogue during science. Children often learn best from each other, so give them a lot of opportunities to move around and talk their ideas out with each other. This may require some modeling, especially for K-2 classrooms.

3. Teach children how to use their evidence (or data) to explain what they have learned. In other words ask children why they think what they think and model how to back up your answers with what you experienced in the inquiry project.

4. Remember that inquiry is not appropriate for all standards of learning. Also, just because something is hands on, doesn't mean inquiry is happening.

If you'd like more information on inquiry and science or you were at my presentation and wanted a copy of the slides and resources, you can download them here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Room Reveal (Part 1)

I finally got into my room today and I got so much done. Here are a few pictures I snapped before I left...
View from the back corner looking towards the front of the room
Classroom Library: Work in progress
View from the door looking towards the back of the room
Math Wall: I love the space for anchor charts, pennant title and minute labels on the clock!
I made this bulletin board larger and love how it came out. I still need to make the rest of the calendar pieces.
View from the door of my teacher corner back there
LOVE LOVE LOVE my transportation chart and birthday board (From Erica Bohrer)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Day 1 Classroom Project

Well I went back into my classroom today all ready to get the furniture set up and start on bulletin boards and what did I find ... much to my dismay all of my furniture was still in the hall and our floors hadn't been waxed. So I moved on to plan B... and at least started on my bulletin boards. I actually think it might be easier in the future to do all my boards first, before moving furniture in the way of them. Here is my new word wall. I used painter's tape this year to make boxes and hopefully provide a little more structure for my first graders when they use the word wall. It only took me 3 tries to get the painter's tape even!


I didn't get a chance to finish the left side of the board, but I plan on continuing the paper onto the white board to make that side bulletin board larger. Then I will use that space for my calendar wall...

I'm thinking of going with something like this...
From The Lesson Plan Diva

So when I got home I finished up some other projects that I didn't need to be at school for. I loved how Mrs. Wills tried to embed learning everywhere, even in how you label your tables. Here are my work collection containers, labeled for each table. Grab her freebie here

I am almost done with the birthday board, and also cut the felt pieces that I will secure to the bottom of the chairs with rubber bands to cut down on noise. I am starting to think there is not enough time to get everything done on my list! But I'm also getting to the point where I can't plan out any more details or I'll drive myself insane. I can't think about color combos or borders or colorful baskets any longer. Guess it's time for school to start!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

How to Make a Teacher Binder

Binder cover courtesy of Teaching in Flip Flops.

Phew! This Sunday has flown by...a little church, lunch with the hubby and my latest obession, creating my teacher binder. I got this idea last year from Ladybug's Teacher Files. I even used her freebie tabs which were great for my first run; however, after using the binder for a year, I realized I needed to come up with different tabs. I'm on a limited budget (who isn't) so I wanted to complete this project with things I had at home already (aka use up some old paper and a cheap Target binder etc.) So here is my own version of how to create a teacher binder.

Step 1: Make a list of what items/resources you keep or think you will keep and need to reference frequently throughout the year. Think of this binder as your "teacher bible" that you can take home if you need to and still be able to plan, grade etc., without lugging home a bunch of binders or folders. For this purpose, I chose a 1 1/2 inch cheapo binder. (I take out my lesson plans after every 9 weeks, so this binder is big enough for me).

 Step 2:  After you come up with a big list of resources you think you need to keep in your binder, group them into major headings. My headings are Planning, Behavior, Grades, Meetings, and Info. Then using Powerpoint, I created circle tabs for each of these headings. I printed them on colored paper and cut them out.

Step 3: I attached the circle tabs to a piece of blue card stock. Before attaching the tag I listed and printed the sub-sections of each tab. For example, under Info I have "Student Information," and "School Information," under Planning I have smaller tabs that say "Lesson Plans," "To Do Lists," "Calendars," and "SOLs, Pacing Guide Etc."

I taped the circle to the card stock before laminating.

Here are all the things you will find behind the planning tab.
Then I used tape to secure the tab to the card stock and ran it through my laminator...homemade, totally customizable binder tabs! (The edge of my tab stuck out of my laminating packet a little bit, so I just used some scotch tape and covered the exposed parts.)

Then after each of the larger tabs were laminated, I 3-whole punched them and repeated a similar process for the smaller tabs that go behind each main section. So behind each of the 5 main tabs are a few sub tabs. It took a while but I know it will be worth it judging on how beat up my binder is from last year. There are so many great teacher binder resources that I have pinned... and a lot of them are free. Check out my Pinterest boards here. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Fantastic Friday Finds!

I can't believe it's August already! With a week before our next vacation (to the beach this time instead of a farm), I figured I'd better get moving on the to do list I posted about last time. Today was a great day. It took me all summer to "pin" all my ideas, but I finally feel like I know which ideas I'm going to create. I spent the morning printing, cutting, laminating and cutting. My guestroom/office has been transformed into craft one point I had the laminator, hot glue gun and printer all going while I was Mod Podging...needless to say my husband left me alone for the day. He knew I was in my element!

Then I visited every teacher's favorite places: The Dollar Tree, Target and Michaels. I stuck to the Dollar Spot and clearance aisle for the most part and found some great things. (These are just the Dollar Tree finds)

 Here are the projects I completed today and can now cross off my ever growing "to-do" list!

Pinterest Project # 1: Pencil Management (adapted from or here)

Pinterest Project # 2: Welcome Banner & Math Wall Banner (adapted from or here)

Pinterest Project # 3: New Word Wall Letters (adapted from or here). You can see the letters in the picture above.

Pinterest Project # 4: New Work Station Icons & Signs (adapted from Mrs. Jones' Creation station or here)

I also made these cute signs that I plan on hanging on 3M hooks somewhere in my room. I found the printables here. While I was at the Dollar Store I picked up 2 black frames and some colored ribbon and the whole project came together for $4! 


I stocked up on bright colored plastic bins for the classroom library and table book baskets. My students only have a few minutes before they go to resource in the morning, so I have found that having them read from the book basket is enough to keep them quiet in the morning (and easy for me!)

Tomorrow's Projects:

1. SOLs with ribbon
2. Writing station 
3. Transportation Display
4. Job Chart
5. Birthday Board