Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A nice refresher

Besides conquering both laundry and an exciting day at Chevy (recall on my car, nothing major), my other goal for the day was to get started on my first week lesson plans.

While emotionally preparing to open Curriculum Engine (the site where we make & store our digital lesson plans), I got distracted on pinterest by preparing for your first week articles.  Most of them weren't that helpful, but I found this {one} that had some good points. 

Here are my favorite take-aways from the article:

#1: "Set up your classroom in an active learning format"

Fingers crossed the rumors are true and my projector got ceiling mounted over the summer!  I was spoiled with a ceiling mounted one for years and forgot how much I'd missed it.  Not having a desk or table in the center of the room really clears up space.  Not to mention I'd get to skip the daily (okay, several times each day) frustration of when a child accidentally (or sometimes on purpose) would bump the projector, causing the smartboard to need to be recalibrated.  Without the desk and cord set up (hello tripping hazard), I would be able to teach from the center of the room and strategically move closer toward off task students.

#2: Starting the day off with something other than roll call

We have our morning procedures (unpack, papers turned in, backpacks hung up, pencils sharpened, etc) and class jobs (lunch cards, attendance) but then we do our morning meme.  

Yup, we start our day off with a meme and it just sets everyone off on a good day.  Laughter is always good thing!  You can follow my classroom meme pinterest board {here}!     Plus if you've got a funny classroom meme, send it my way!

#3: Make Up work:

I've done the orange "while you were gone" folders and I haven't decided if I want to keep it again.  I already have them made, so that's a plus.  (Apparently I don't have a picture, but it's a florescent orange folder that says "we missed you".)
I like the idea of using a tub and putting a file in for each day in the month (1-31).  All extras would be filed there (minus one for me to use as the master copy if needed).  With this system, I'd only have to clean it out once a month :) 

#4: Class Norms:

Preach! This is one of our first week activities with a gallery walk.  I remake the class norms poster each year and have them sign it.  It helps with our buy in and provides a nice link to the US Constitution (when we get there in social studies).

#7: Noise

We are near a kinder classroom.  We do our best.  Sometimes there is just loud shouting, crying, and other unidentifiable noises so I just shake my head, try not to laugh, and remind them that I teach fifth grade for a reason. 


We don't do questions stems per say, but rather accountable talk stems.  I want my students to answer in complete sentences and know that it's okay for them to disagree with one another as long as they do it in a respectable manner.

It started like this:

But has evolved to this:


I have these in my classroom at the front of the room.  They are color coded to help students know how to phrase their comments.  Accountable talk stems also help students listen to one another because I expect them to give credit to one another for ideas.

#11: Encouraging risks

I want to do more of this, but I'm not sure how.  Wheels in my brain are spinning, stay tuned!

#12: Self-reflection

I have them reflect on their learning throughout the day and we have class discussions after we try something new (particularly if it doesn't go exactly as I've planned).   I don't know if my fifth graders could handle a written reflection daily, but I like when they reflect upon their learning (which should happen often).  

#17: Blog

We've got a weebly and I hope I have more parent communication with it.  I'll be doing class dojo as well to foster communication with families.  I do want to turn some of the responsibility of blogging over to my students.  I think it'd be a great venue for collaboration as well as authentic writing.  They have an audience: their classmates and their families, so I think they'd do a good job trying to impress one another.  It'd also be a great way to imbed those mini-lessons on technology that are so important. 

#18: Class jobs

Again, amen! My first few years in the classroom, I tried to do all these things myself.  But fun fact: kids want to help!  Fifth graders are not too cool to be motivated by a high five or a sticker.  They want to feel in control and help, so I might as well turn some of the smaller tasks over to them.

I have 36 different classroom jobs and it helps me stay sane.  Obviously I can't have them grade essays, but I can have them remind me to take attendance, file nurse notes, lead the class in the pledge, pass out lunch cards and papers, and other small time-consuming tasks.  I like to set aside the last five minutes of the day (during our "pack and stack") for class jobs and tidying.  Another "negative Nancy" teacher has commented time and again that her students don't need classroom jobs and that things just magically get done.   I like structure and I don't think that's a bad thing.  We switch up jobs every month and I have students vote on their top five choices.  

#20: Learning Styles Assessment

I try to shape my lessons to hit multiple learning modalities (auditory, visual, kinesthetic) but it's nice for my students to realize what type of learners they are.  Most of them have never really thought about this before fifth grade, so it's nice for them to think about themselves as learners.  I stress that it's okay to be a combination of styles.  Knowing what "type" they are empowers them to take charge of their learning and that's never a bad thing!

What were your take aways from the article? Any "ah ha" moments?

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