Monday, August 21, 2017

Reclaiming My Weekends

After school on Friday, I stayed late to hang my bulletin board. It's a two person job and I'm grateful my hubby came in to help.  We tackled a few other chores (labeling books, stapling letters to the wall, setting up folders) before calling it a day and picking up take out food.  

I took very little work home with me this weekend and it felt great.

On Friday's prep, I finished the lesson plans for the next six days.  On her prep, Ms. H finished the copies.  Team work there.

My weekend tasks for school included:

1) Purchase a new book bin from Joann's.  I had coupons and already needed to stop by the neighboring Bed, Bath, and Beyond for a wedding gift.

2) Put names on clothes pins for the data board.  This is easily (mindlessly) accomplished while watching TV.

3) Put washi tape on the bottom of markers and colored pencils to color code by table.  Annoying, but necessary for keeping order.  Full disclosure, I only did the markers this weekend. Oh well. We aren't using colored pencils today anyway.

4) Make a new seating chart.  I let them sit where they wanted the first week and now it's time to make some adjustments. I have 2 tables of 6, 1 table of 5, and 1 table of 7.  It's been bugging me for a week.  I have one student at the back of the room that I just got a medical alert for that states the student needs to be up front.  Oops.  Another student was having trouble with a neighbor and told family, who then told me what happened.  And some boys just got too cozy with their best friends and while school should be fun at times, they were having a bit too much fun.  Time for some changes.  

I do have them write to me about where they'd like to sit.  For the first time, I had them tell me a classmate who might help them learn and if they speak Spanish (I have a very new to country kiddo who is just learning English and needs translations).

That was it in terms of school work. I'm okay with this because I'm reclaiming my weekends in the name of work-life balance.

I'll have a late night this week to get ready for Open House (which is Thursday) but am looking forward to my classroom being fully set up so I can leave around 4 each day.

So what did I do instead of work this weekend? 

Friends marathon with my hubby

Slept in while he made a breakfast casserole

Went shopping and got some jeans and wedding gifts.  Lids also had a buy 1, get 1 half off sale and since B couldn't find a second Broncos one he liked...

I got a new Cardinals one!  I also practiced making funny faces while I spent more time than I cared to looking at cleats at Dick's Sporting Goods with the hubs.  He suggested we get a kayak.  I am horrible at kayaking. 

Had date night at Dave and Buster's with 2 other couples.  

This drink was too overwhelmingly Fireball, but I got to keep the sea monster.

Took a dear friend out for a champagne tea for her bridal brunch.  She gets married in 2 weeks!  

It was fun to get dressed up and have girls time.

I feel as well rested as I can be and ready to start another week of school.  Next weekend is already planned, so it's nice to have something to look forward to at the end of a long week.  But to be totally fair, I'm also looking forward to the eclipse mayhem being over.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Bulletin Board, round 2

Ah, bulletin boards...

They look beautiful once they're done but are certainly quite the pain to put up!  (Read more about the process {here}).

On the first day of school, I had my students select a cactus to color:

I put their names on the potted part and then laminated them. 

I used a hot glue gun to attach the laminated cacti to clothes pins:

Which would then hold their work:

The banner says "our class is sharp" and looks better in person.  We (the hubs and I) finished up late Friday night and the lights to the pod were off.  

I have three kiddos that never turned in their "all about me" forms, so I guess they'd better get that done before Thursday's open house.

First Week of Third Grade

There has truly been no greater meme then the one above.

I survived the first day of school.  More importantly, I did it without the aid of coffee or Mountain Dew.  That's right folks, you're looking at a teacher who went caffeine free the first week of the school year. Granted, a nap happened after school.  To be totally fair, a nap happened most of the first week.

I had every intention of coming home each day and blogging about what happened.  But those good intentions didn't get fulfilled.  I'll do my best to recap the whole week at once.

Monday, August 14th

Without an alarm, I woke up at 12:18 ready to start the day.  However, there was still a good five hours before I actually needed to be up and luckily I was able to get a little more rest.

I left early to grab Starbucks on the way to school.  Last week the front of the school and the nearby roundabout were torn up with construction, so I gave myself extra time.

I got to work and after finalizing my first day plans (which ended up taking three days to get through), I set up my photo booth:

We took a pod picture, but I spaced on getting a grade level one.  We ended up taking that picture on Tuesday. I also set out water bottles for their first day treats. 

Officially I have 23 third graders on my roster, but I have a push in student all day from the autism room.  24 is a great number.  Granted, I keep feeling like I've lost a good dozen students because I'm used to fifth grade numbers.  But nope, I just have two dozen kids to keep track of and it's a rather nice feeling.  (Right now, one of the fifth grade classes is sitting at 41 students.  I am so glad I switched.)

I went outside, met students and families, then we came inside to start our day.  Some teachers wanted to jump right in to teaching cursive and silent worksheets.  

We went a different route.  I explained breakfast procedures and had them write about how they were feeling.  We then watched {this Kid President} video to lighten the mood.

Afterwards, we talked about how we were going to help each other out and make this year awesome.

The first day was a combination of get to know you team builders and procedures.  We incorporated movement and practiced talking with one another.  One of  my favorites is "Find Someone Who":

Kids get up, introduce themselves to one another, and ask get to know you questions.  It incorporates movement in a controlled way, which they need after hearing about school procedures and class rules.

Lunch will be an adjustment this year.  I'm used to 12:15, but alas, lunch this year is at 11:25.  The kids get 20 minutes to eat and 20 minutes to play, but teachers are only contracted a 30 minute lunch.  I spend the first 10 minutes in the lunchroom on duty with my kids.  As a trade off, this means I no longer have morning crosswalk duty, which is a blessing.

For those of you who have never experienced the joy of lunchroom duty, it looks a little something like this:

And is best described in this {video}.

But in all seriousness, I spend half the time separating classes into two lines and walking around passing out sporks, napkins, and ketch up packets.  I often fight with sealed fruit cups and have spilled on myself every single day.  I have a new hatred for capri sun juice pouches.  

By the time my ten minutes of duty is up, I've lost most of my appetite.  Watching several hundred kids shovel food into their mouths will do that.  Still, I'd prefer the duty at the start of my lunch period because most of the other teachers have outdoor playground duty and well, it's hot outside.

We did read First Day Jitters on the first day of school and practiced procedures.  I allotted forty minutes for filling out agendas for the first time and going over back to school paperwork.  It was barely enough time.

There weren't any tears the first day, I got hugs goodbye, and as soon as the bell rang, I was ready for a nap.  

I stayed an hour and a half after school getting ready for the next day, grabbed take out (B had softball and I hate cooking for one), and was asleep by 8 pm.


I spent before school prepping these treats:

I ended up passing them out at the end of the day, but still. It's the thought that counts.  I'd also like to thank Costco for having the box of 54 rice krispies on sale for under $7.  Smaller class sizes means the hubs now has a lot of rice krispies to enjoy as a snack for softball.

We did a classroom scavenger hunt the second day (because we ran out of time on the first day of school).  It was a great opportunity to embed voice levels, team work, appropriate movement around the classroom, the location of extra clipboards (if they didn't bring their own from home), and challenges.  Plus involving students in this process means not only are they more likely to remember where something is because they discovered it, but also have a higher sense of shared responsibility and ownership in the classroom.  These feelings of ownership mean that (hopefully) they will take pride in our room and treat things with respect.

 They did a really good job with moving around the classroom appropriately:

They also worked quite well as a team:

To further practice team work, they learned how to do a sort with "No Way Jose! That's a Fact Jack!"

I created several dozen statements about third grade.  Some of them are true (that's a fact, Jack!) and some of them are false (no way Jose).  Students worked together to sort out the statements and explain their thinking.  The point of the activity was to dispel some myths about third grade and to practice team work.

After each table sorted their cards, they went to investigate how another group sorted theirs.  They couldn't touch the other team's cards, but had to practice complete sentence stems:

I agree with ___ because ____
I disagree with ____ because ____

We'll eventually post more, but for the first week, we're using just these two sentence stems.  I have a few kiddos that are ELL, so these sentence stems are a great way for them to practice and structure their responses.

We also managed to take a grade level photo (since that slipped our minds day one):

This is the first time I've ever worked on a predominately male team. It's an adjustment. I've also taught all the men about a few different technology components, so that feels nice to be helpful.  

We've split up planning responsibilities this year and I'm really excited about it.  Almost everyone is on board.  Our two newest teachers are planning math because the Engage NY curriculum is already scripted.  It doesn't mean they get off easy because of how copy intensive this program can be, but rather they get to read the scripted lessons and narrow them down to create lesson plans for us to use.  Two others are planning writing and I'm planning reading with Ms. H.  We moved down from fifth together and are quite used to sharing the responsibilities.  Language will be shared between us and the writing team.  We haven't talked about science or social studies yet, but have a grade level meeting this week. 

We also did a few gallery walks, where students use markers to answer questions that I've prepared on big butcher paper.  I use this as an opportunity to practice using markers, whisper voices, sharing ideas, agreeing or disagreeing appropriately, and moving around the classroom.

After each group visits each question, we talk as a class and make our class norms.  

We used math manipulatives in the form of cubes to practice solving math problems in a hands-on way.  I gave them five minutes of free play to get it out of their systems, then we used the cubes to solve problems.  Ms. S happened to stop by during the five minutes of exploratory free play and was delighted to see their towers:

Three tables built towers, one table built fidget spinners. 

We did actually do some math with the cubes as well:

It was a great chance to embed Number Talk norms and quickly assess some of my students' background knowledge.

This problem was awesome:

It was nice to see how they worked with numbers.

I also had student helpers solve problems on the board:

I didn't know all of their strategies (the ribbon strategy?!) but got it after they explained their thinking.

The rest of the week was a blur.  I napped almost every day after school.  We read the following picture books:

Ms. Nelson is Missing  

This classic tells the tale of a teacher who brings out her alter-ego when the kids are misbehaving.  Not only did we practice coming to the carpet, answering questions, and being good listeners, we also did a gallery walk about how we should treat each other and our teacher.

My Mouth is a Volcano

This is newer find for me and quickly became one of my favorites.  It tells the story of Louis who has a problem interrupting (erupting) others.  The tables turn when he realizes how it feels and how being interrupted hurts feelings.  His mom helps him with strategies for not blurting out.

First Day Jitters

This book goes through the typical struggles of getting ready for school, not wanting to start at a new school, being anxious about making friends, and is quite relate-able for students.  But *spoiler alert*, the main character is actually the teacher!

Thank You Mr. Falker

It's always a struggle to not cry with this one.  Patricia Polacco tells of her own childhood struggles to learn to read while dealing with family deaths, a cross country move, and bullying.  We talk about perseverance, bullying, and asking for help.  We also used this book to learn about writing summaries, which we practiced as a class and with table teams.

We practiced fire drills, took a STAR test on the computer, worked on our reading stamina, set up our daily response journals, and had some talks about choices. We learned about Class Dojo and they helped me create the categories for positive and negative choices.  Granted, I already knew what categories I wanted, but they were so excited to participate in making classroom decisions.  That buy-in from students is important.

They got new book orders:

I always give a few weeks between passing these out and having the orders be due to allow for pay day and students to do extra chores to earn books.  I put our class code and the due date on the book orders to make it easy for families.  I also gave them time to explore and get excited about books.  It's important and I get to see what books are on the "must have" list so I can use Scholastic dollars to stock up on things they want to read. 

(For non-teachers, every order placed earns teachers points.  I think if I place a $25 order this month, I get $10 free to spend on books.  It's quite nice to help me build my library.  Plus Scholastic's prices are quite low to make books affordable for kids.  It's a great system.)

We talked about how to care for dry erase markers and set up classroom supplies.  I print their names on sticky labels and use packing tape to secure the labels.  I usually do this at home and can go through the class set during an episode of Friends.

Alas, I do not do these classroom chores alone.

We made a T chart about what constitutes a nurse visit:


We learned about stamina and practiced independent reading:

We had a busy, busy, busy week.  I've gotten two love notes so far and lots of hugs.  Third grade is off to a wonderful start!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Labeling Books

 I take a lot of pride in my classroom library.

I have been blessed with several funded {donors choose} projects which have added new books to my classroom.  I've also scoured gift shops, spent a lot of money at Scholastic, and raided my own childhood book collection.  I want my students to have a cozy, literature-rich classroom.

I did have to do some shuffling of books. I looked through my library and removed any books that might not have third grade appropriate content (boy/girl relationships, middle school issues, etc).  Those books are living in my garage.

We use AR testing as part of our Reading Ranger program, so {ar bookfind} has been my best friend.  It's a free website that lets you look up the book level, quiz number, and summary of over one hundred thousand different books.

I record this AR information on sticky labels that I put on the inside cover of my books.

With Reading Rangers, we also have books color coded by level.  These levels are grouped together and we all use the school's assigned dots.  Luckily our school provides the dots for us:

I also have my library organized by grouping similar books together. While I respect the Reading Rangers program (even though it's not perfect because nothing is), I feel it's my job to create real readers.

When I go to the library, I don't go in looking for a 4.1 level fiction book that's worth 2 points.  I might go in wanting a book on animals.  

So that's how my library is organized: bins with themes.  Inside there are books with a wide range of levels to best meet the needs of all my readers.  To help my students remember where the books go, I put sticky labels on the outside of the books that match the book tubs:

I've had conversations with other teachers who love to tell me that my organization system is wrong.  It's not wrong, it's just not what they're doing.  

One of the benefits of working at home means I can do a few books on commercial breaks.  One of the unintended consequences of working from home is help:

I've had a productive week labeling books and these beauties are ready to get into the hands of my students:

Happy reading! Show me your class libraries!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Process

Bulletin boards might be the bane of my existence.

Tip 1: Measure Twice...

Make sure you buy fabric in the correct size:

I thought I snagged a twin sheet at Goodwill, but it appears I bought a table cloth.  Oops.  Luckily I'm only out a few dollars (and hopefully my mom can reuse the fabric for some quilts).

Tip 2: Teamwork 

It's just easier this way.

Tip 3:

Use fabric.  It's more expensive, but doesn't fade.  I was able to grab some inexpensive fabric (under $10 for three yards) for attempt two.

I used green mesh (Joann's clearance center) to make the border.

To make the cacti arms, I cut up manila folders and wrapped them with mesh.

I attempted to create a quasi-envelope layer and stuff mesh inside, but it was time consuming and only moderately successful.  I eventually switched to just stapling mesh right to the wall to cover the manila folder. 

I added pipe cleaner spikes and the tops of fake flower bouquets to make my cacti bloom.

I decided both sides of the bulletin board needed traditional cactus arms, so I repeated the process.

I bought pastel colored card stock and printed mini cacti to glue on clips.  


It's on our first day plan to color these and write their names on the potted portion.  I'll then laminate and attach to the board.

I snagged these precut banners and stickers at Target:

It's slowly been a work in progress.  The banner will say "Our class is SHARP!" when I'm done.  My goal is to finish it today, but we will see if that actually happens.

Not pictured: The cats aggressively smelling everything and knocking glue sticks on the floor.

I'll be finalizing my bulletin board by Friday, so stay tuned.